12.12.2017

Blog Jump Start: Week 1



Donna over at What if God Says No is hosting a link up for those of us who would like to get back into a regular habit of blogging. I love the topics she has picked already and am looking forward to joining in each Tuesday for the next few weeks. Donna, thank you so much for hosting! Please be sure to stop over to What if God Says No and read (and comment on!) the other posts included in this week's link up.

This week's topic is: We all write for some reason.  What's yours?

Given that today is also my 9th Blogiversary (and it's Donna's 6th - Happy Blogiversary!!!), a reflection on why I write seems like a great way to jump start things.

Nine years ago when I first sat down to write out a blog post, I really didn't think it would last a month, let alone 9 years. I had never been a journal or diary keeper and really didn't think I would keep up with it. I wonder if anyone ever really thinks it will last - did you? I am not even sure exactly why I wrote when I started - I had been introduced to the blogging world by Kristen of No Small Thing, who is the mom of a former student of mine. I had never heard of a blog before but before long I was headed down the rabbit hole of clicks that introduced me to this world.

When I first started writing, it was mainly to share every day things that were happening in my every day life. I ventured into some controversial topics now and again, but for the most part it was just life as it was happening. Slowly, as I experienced my reversion to my Catholic faith and for the first time in my life truly embraced what it meant to be Catholic, I began to write more about my faith and the experience of it. This space was the first place I was comfortable truly being 'me' and sharing my faith.

Then infertility became a part of my story and for the better part of four years, I blogged about the experiences I was having. I wrote as an outlet for all of the feelings I was having. I wrote to let others know they weren't alone. I wrote as a way to document my process of clinging to God with white knuckles, a God who I had just only really gotten to know and was determined to not lose sight of again.

Then infidelity and pregnancy and divorce came and here I am, somehow, still writing. I have often wondered these past couple of years why I still write - and I think it is evident in the scarceness of posts that I've struggled with it as well. For so long this was my safe space and then in the blink of an eye, when being brutally honest and baring my soul, my underbelly, it became not safe at all. It became a place I of which I was afraid; a place where known and unknown people wrote at me instead of walking with me; a place where my words were shared across the interwebs when I had not been widely shared before. Somehow great suffering wasn't worth passing on, but failure and the thrill of scandal was.

So, why do I write now? What is my reason?

I write because what goes here is a part of my processing of all that happens in my life. Never before a person who journaled, I am now. This blog taught me how to do that and the words that don't get publicly shared are either in drafts or handwritten in a stack of journals that I hold dear.

I write because I find comfort in reading another's words and relating to them. I write because I find value in reading another's words and being convicted and challenged by them. I write because I hope that this space provides that for others. I write to let someone else know they are not alone. Not because *I* am with them, though in shared experiences there is immense value in human solidarity, but to remind us all that we are not alone because God is with us....Emmanuel. It is as much a reminder to myself each and every time I write the words "He is trustworthy and so I trust Him," as it is to anyone who is reading. I write to share the realness of this life, this road home, of mine.

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

12.08.2017

Seven Quick Takes


~One~

I have about three or four posts started on the topic of what it is like to be living in an "irregular situation" in a post-Amoris Laetitia world. However, they are all really long kinda-rambly posts that boil down to this one thought:

I am extremely grateful for the wisdom of the Church in not backing down on the teaching that those who are divorced without a Declaration of Nullity and living in a new union (whether civilly married or not) must make a choice to either live chastely according to their state in life (as understood by the Church) OR to abstain from receiving the sacraments. It is precisely being faced with this choice, choosing the latter for a time while I wrestled with the first, that held me close to the sacraments and ultimately led me choose the former. I am confident that had I decided I knew better than 2,000 years of Church teaching and presented myself to receive Eucharist when not properly disposed to do so it would have done damage beyond that which I can fully comprehend.

It's not mean. It's not unjust discrimination. It is Truth. When we follow Truth, we find God - the One who actually exists, not the one we try to make Him be in our heads. We then weep with joy when we encounter His Divine Mercy.

It's that simple and that complicated. But I am so exhausted of having situations like mine bantered about in the media (Catholic and secular, alike). I am especially exhausted by those who uphold a situation like mine and try to claim that it is unfair to us, and yadda yadda yadda.

~Two~

Related to number One. There is SO much more we can do on this topic besides just debating over random and removed examples and situations. This is what Pope Francis means when he talks about the Church being a field hospital - walking with people is messy. Really. Really. Messy. It took me months (and I have plenty *head* knowledge needed to be able to make an objective assessment) of wrestling with this teaching and being able to accept it. Months of asking why I was having such a hard time yielding to what I knew to be true. No amount of spouting canon law or treating me like a black sheep was gonna make that time go faster. Also, no amount of false 'mercy' and acting like my sins were somehow not was gonna make it go faster, either. Sitting in the tension of it with me and letting me process it was the only thing that was gonna make it happen faster. I know I keep coming back to this theme 'round here, but honestly, I feel like I could write the next hundred posts about the need to authentically have compassion (to suffer with) and it still wouldn't be enough. So while I will try to not write one hundred consecutive posts on this topic, I'm willing to promise this won't be the last one.

Moving on :).

~Three~
Well, that got a little more serious that I intended....hmmm...something fun, maybe? Do you like Star Wars? What about Calvin and Hobbes? If yes - enjoy this gem, and then (after reading the rest of the takes, of course!) click here and go enjoy the rest :).

~Four~

Growing up Christmas was all about (well, maybe not all about, but mostly) family and food and presents. Yes, we went to Mass and I knew we were celebrating Jesus' birth, but other than that there wasn't much focus. We also always had an Advent wreath. Other than that, though, the focus was on getting the meal and presents ready. During my years of infertility, Advent often correlating with some fairly intense times of suffering and for that I am grateful. It taught me to focus on what Advent and the Christmas season are truly about, and in doing so, it has made this time of year look oh so much different than it would have otherwise. There is a quietness to our home, an anticipation that was lacking for most of my growing up and early adult years. There are many experiences and lessons of infertility that have nothing to do with now being a parent for which I am grateful, but this one might be one of the ones I appreciate the most. I see the world rushing around, it's loud and busy, and my home and my heart are not. It is refreshing. I don't have it all figured out and we've had a few days of 'way too much', but overall I do think we are on the right track and I'm looking forward to enjoying the fruits of this quiet during the Christmas season.

~Five~

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! If you are a Catholic, don't forget today is a Holy Day of Obligation - or better yet - Opportunity. And remember, today's feast celebrates Mary's Immaculate Conception (without original sin) in the womb of her mother, Anne NOT the conception of Jesus, which is celebrated March 25 on the Feast of the Annunication.

~Six~

I am working on a plan to keep the momentum of a regular running routine going. Sugarbeet and I have ventured out together on local roads (with sidewalks, of course!) instead of just the rail trail system. The rail trail is great, but requires a car ride to get there and gets kind of boring. It's so nice to just head out our front door. I have a list of supplies (Under Armour for Sugarbeet, a weather cover for the stroller), and I'm hoping to be able to keep us both warm on these colder days. It's so hard to judge other than just stopping to touch her if she's warm enough, and I can't judge based on how I feel because I'm running, not sitting getting wind in my face. Do any of you run with a jogging stroller in cold weather have any tips for successful winter training?!? I'm planning on a half marathon in the Spring and maybe...MAYBE...a full in the Fall. Definitely a half, though.

~Seven~

If you are a follower of the private blog, there are a few new posts since the last time I mentioned it here. I promised to keep you updated using this blog, so consider this your update :).


11.14.2017

Divorce vs. Death (From the Perspective of an Adult Child of Both)

(A note: I am not intending to start a debate...death of a parent and divorce of parents are both awful things for a child to endure, at any age. This isn't a competition, just an anecdotal comparison from my experience, that supports the research I was presented. I don't mind good conversation, this isn't intended to be the final say on divorce vs death of a parent, but please know I acknowledge that there is a unique, painful story for each divorce and each death of a parent.)

A few years ago I went to a conference on adult children of divorce. It was the first time I realized that the thoughts and feels I'd had about my parents' divorce were shared by others...and that there was research to document them. In my case, so often my parents' divorce was presented as a "blessing" and the "best situation possible" and any attempt to express that while it may have been the right decision, it was still hard and, quite frankly, sucked was brushed aside.

One of the points discussed at the conference, however, was that research showed that children of divorce had more negative outcomes than children who experienced the death of a parent. Why? The reasons presented were because with a death there is an expectation of a mourning period, and an allowance for that mourning period. Rather than the support system being fractured by a {real or perceived} need to "take sides", the support system comes together to support the children and remaining parent. There isn't a sudden need to not talk about your dad when with your mom's family and vice versa. With death, there is a general acknowledgement and acceptance of this loss and the tragedy that it is for the remaining moments of that child's life. With divorce, there is rather an expectation to feel grateful for what things there still are and the 'blessings' that will come from the divorce - you still see your dad every other weekend; you have even more people to love you (i.e. stepparents and their families); you don't have to hear your parents fight anymore; etc.

Secondly, there is a finality to death that isn't present with divorce. With divorce, the parent who moves out/is not custodial parent is still present, but leading a life separate from the family. With death, the parent is gone. There is no hope of him (or her, but I will use the male pronoun because it was my reality and for simplicity in writing) coming to a sporting event, or running late or early for pick up, or how he will respond to mom remarrying, or how mom will respond to his remarriage. There isn't angst and tension leading up to every. single. holiday. (big or small) over who I will spend this day with and how I will let the other parent down gently.

There is a finality of death that, for me, after nearly 30 years of the unknown of divorce, was in an odd and horribly sad way, a huge relief.

For example, nearly every day something happens that I want to call and share with my dad. Now, I can't. I accept that loss and grieve it. (Yea, it's not quite *that* simple, but it's the process of things.) Prior to my dad's death, examples of other responses to something happening and wanting to call my dad and share it were:

  • This has to do with mom (or anyone on mom's side of the family or a friend of mom's), I can't really talk to him about this without it being awkward
  • I do call, because the subject is one that has nothing to do with my mom, and when I ask what he's up to find out his in-laws (my stepmother's parents, who I only ever called Mr. and Mrs. W...because I was never invited nor instructed to call them anything else) are over for a game night, and realize I'm interrupting a normal family event - that I barely remember even having with him
  • I need to remember to call Dad during the day tomorrow, when he's working, so I won't intrude on his time at home (his home, that I have never called home and am merely a guest at when I visit).
I could make a list as long as my arm, and then some, but I think you get the idea.

On one hand, there is this huge aching hole where my dad should be - as both my dad and as grandfather to Sugarbeet. In many ways it is and will be for a very long time, the most difficult thing I face. On the other hand, there are so many less landmines that I'm constantly trying to avoid that it almost feels relaxing and peaceful to just rest in the aching hole.

There isn't total finality - my mom is still living, and all who were part of my relationship with my dad are as well, so there is still a line between my 'two families' that doesn't get breached. Another part of the finality is that my stepmom and half-brother no longer speak to me, and so there is no need to consider holiday time or sharing of information - or else the constant struggle and feeling in the middle would have continued, in a different way, but it would have still been present.

No one still walking the earth wins in divorce or death - but in my experience, the research presented to me has certainly proven to be true. With this odd feeling of finding peace in an aching hole, I may just be finally finding healing that has been denied to me these last 30 years.

I want to end with a piece of unsolicited advice to anyone who may be reading who is a parent or stepparent to a child whose parents are divorced:

Please, let them hurt. Let them cry. Let them say how awful it is. Find a way to be comfortable when they talk about their other parent. Don't force them to see blessings where they see pain. Have true and honest compassion - suffer with them. Follow their lead, wherever it may take you - no matter how painful it is for you, so it is also for them.

St. Joseph, pray for us.
Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for us.
St. Thomas Moore, pray for us.
St. Margaret of Cortona, pray for us.
St. Helena (Helen) of Constantinople, pray for us.

10.19.2017

What I Didn't Plan For

Yesterday my Dad would have turned 67.

Sugarbeet and I stopped by the cemetery in the morning to give him a birthday gift (a paint-your-own-pottery pumpkin she painted) and then she got to stay up after her usual bedtime and have pumpkin pie for dessert (in her PJs). My Dad loved pumpkin pie - and he preferred his birthday candles be put in a good pie than in a cake and so for many years I had the privilege of making him a pumpkin pie for his birthday. It was always the first pumpkin pie of the fall season I made - and sometimes the only one.



I shared this with friends in a FB Group last night:

Somehow, as the time passes and I experience all of life, and especially Sugarbeet growing, I only miss him more. Some of my darkest moments during my 4 years of infertility were when I'd allow myself to imagine my Dad never being a Pap. And though each moment they spent together is a treasured, precious gift, I can't help but feel this is just as bad in many ways. Yes, she is here and they will, God-willing, have eternity together, but he isn't watching her twirl her dresses and signal "touchdown" when the Mountaineers score, and...and..and...the list seems infinite. I know he sees her, and it feels selfish to say, but I want to get to see him, see her. She gave him some of her very first full body belly laughs, and today I'm clinging to the memory of him loving that and saying "she is the best medicine for me."

And this morning as I was thinking more about this, I realized. I didn't plan for, or even consider, this outcome.

I worried so much about my Dad not being a Pap (and all the other roles that might not be realized), but I never worried or thought about having a granddaughter (son) who didn't have him as a Pap. Even when he was diagnosed with melanoma, and when it came back - the sorrow was always over him not ever having a grandchild. Even when we were visiting him in the nursing home, I didn't plan or think much about the future of him not being here. It was necessary to live and be in the moment, and by some grace of God, I realized that and I did it. She laughed and played with him, she showed off her videos of playing in the beach the first time, she shared snacks and toys and some of the biggest smiles I'd ever seen. And so, I didn't plan to have moments where I have to fight back the tears because I want to tell him something about her, and realize I can't. Or to have experiences with her that I can almost hear his enjoyment or his grumbling and feel the loss of a person so tangibly that I actually feel it.

Of all the outcomes my mind imagined, of all the dark possibilities, I never expected that one where there is a child growing up in my home could be so painful.

Last weekend it was the WVU Homecoming parade. Yesterday it was pumpkin pie. Tonight it will be the Night Glow for the hot air balloons that will be launching all weekend in our town. There will always be something. Something of him that I want to share with her, honoring the tearful promise I made him as I sat by his bedside the day before he died - that she would know him, always.

I hope when she looks back, she remembers that it was with joy I shared all of these things with her and that despite not experiencing them with her Pap she somehow, beyond understanding, knows him. And I most of all hope that the lumps in my throat and the tears that pool in the corners of my eyes don't leave marks of sadness for her, that somehow she learns and understands that sadness and joy can exist together, both complete, in the same moment.

No, I didn't plan for this.

St. Michael, pray for us.

10.06.2017

7 Quick Takes




1. One of my goals for this year was to read more actual books. I do a lot of article and blog reading online, but I've missed diving into good books. I set a modest goal of 12 books using the Goodreads challenge feature and I'm crazy excited to say I met that goal last week - with 3 months left to go! I've read a variety of books and I'm currently trying to decide how many books to set as a goal for next year. I've really made good use of the Goodreads 'shelving' feature and when I finish one book, I immediately go to my 'to read' shelf and pick the next one. It helps me to avoid 'book hangover' to which I so often fall victim.

What books do you recommend adding to my 'to read' shelf?

2. Running. Ah, running. It continues to be a struggle to find and settle into a groove. Fortunately Sugarbeet loves to put on her 'running clothes' and settle into the jogging stroller pretty much anytime I offer it to her, so that helps. We've run a few races together now and, despite the fact that while running instead of cheering 'go Momma' from her stroller she cheers "Yay Daddy!" (probably because she knows he'll be waiting for us at the finish line), she's a great race buddy. She's also participated in a few Toddler Trots and loves to get her medal at the finish line.
After the Steelers 5K and before the Toddler Trot
With her medal after the Steelers Toddler Trot
3. There is so much swirling about Pope Francis, and Amoris Laetitia, it seems a week doesn't go by without someone taking an extreme position one way or the other. R and I spend many evenings discussing whatever the latest headlines are - and typically getting very frustrated at either the bad reporting OR the dishonest twisting of the Holy Father's words. Then, last week, as a little gift from the interwebs, I found this article (written last year), Why Doesn't the Pope Answer His Critics and I found it balanced and within it, aas the person who shared it simply stated, "Sanity." I am sorely tempted to just start sharing the link anywhere I see a conversation related to AL and leave it at that. In fact, R and I were having another discussion about it last night and we just said "that article though" and were able to move on to a new topic. It was refreshing and I'm grateful for moments of clarity and sanity on the interweb these days.

4. I am proud to say that whenever football is on the TV (whoever is playing) Sugarbeet proudly says "Let's go Mountaineers!" We took her to a game a couple of weeks ago - she loved the band, doing the first down cheer, and the frozen lemonade! The game was a Noon start, which is usually also the start of naptime. She made it until the 3rd quarter to get her picture taking with our cousin who is in the band this year and then we headed back to the tailgate tent to watch the end of the game on TV so she could get a nap in her stroller.

5. My Nan. Oh, it seems so hard to write this one. Her dementia continues to progress. Fortunately she is well cared for and loves living at the Suites (a residential care apartment, right near our house). Unfortunately, she now needs a 1:1 aide each morning to help her get dressed and get to breakfast and lunch. Fortunately, she has accepted this need happily and isn't giving anyone a hard time about it. She loves visits from Sugarbeet and we try to get there often. I will admit that sometimes I handle this by avoiding it. It's a stressful visit for me, trying to make sure a 2 year old and an 88 year old with dementia have a nice visit together - especially since Nan just wants to hold Sugarbeet and Sugarbeet just wants to run and play. More often than not it works out well and they enjoy their time together. Anytime Sugarbeet pretends she's calling someone it's always Nan - which I find especially beautiful since Nan is the one person I never call on the phone (she gets very confused if you tell her things on the phone). One big difference is that Nan has reached a point where she doesn't get as frustrated by her memory loss, and doesn't seem to be aware of it as much, leading to less frustration. Yes, this indicates a progression, but it also means she's happy to ask the same question over and over again and receive the same answer without being frustrated that she can't remember. So long as those of us around her remember to just answer with a smile whether it's the first time or the tenth time, our times together seem to be much  more enjoyable.
Nan and Sugarbeet snuggling on the couch watching Curious George together.
6. I use Feedly to organize the blogs and sites I follow. I've had it sorted a few different ways over the years, but recently felt like I needed to change it up. There are a lot of places I read that I mostly just lurk, but there are other places where I'd like to comment regularly, but it isn't always easy to comment using my phone or I'm reading while rocking Sugarbeet or cooking dinner and it's not really a great time to try to leave a comment. So, I now have 2 separate groupings - "Comment" and "Lurk" - where I can select whichever group is appropriate for the time. It may seem silly, but this simple switch (that took a ridiculous amount of time to complete) has made it so much easier to comment where I want and to just read where I want. This is one of those things I wish I'd figured out a long time ago, so I'm sharing in case anyone else has this same struggle!

7. There is a new post from last week at the private blog. I've sent invites to everyone who requested one, I think. If I've missed you, I'm sorry! Please email me.