12.28.2017

Blog Jump Start: Week 2


This week's topic for the Blog Jump Start, hosted by Donna at What if God Says No, is: Remember When? Christmas is in a week. What are some of your favorite memories?

39 Christmases to remember, and I'd like to do it in a nice, neat flowing narrative, but they seem to be coming at my memory all out of order. I think I'll just do a little bit of a stream of consciousness bullet list for this one. 
  • I don't remember Christmases too much before my parent's got divorced. The year they separated (at Thanksgiving), I remember that originally they had told us that my Dad would be at our house to spend the night on Christmas Eve to be there when we woke up on Christmas morning, but then those plans changed. I suppose it was to avoid confusing us, but I remember being so upset and disappointed when they told us it wasn't going to be that way.
  • Going to my mom's best friend's house one or two years on Christmas Eve (when we still were waiting for Santa) and watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (links to full show on YouTube)
  • Once we were no longer waiting for Santa, and my mom switched from a shift work nursing role to a Monday-Friday role, we started joining my extended Italian family on Christmas Eve. We filled whoever's home we were in (my Nan and her 2 sisters rotated hosting) and enjoyed snacks, cookies, and the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Lots of Manhattans for the adults to drink. Piles of presents. My big Grandma watching midnight Mass at the Vatican while we opened gifts. So much fun.
  • When my parents divorced, Christmas Eves were spent with my mom, and Christmas Days with my dad. My dad's parents lived on the west side of Pittsburgh and mom mom's on the northeast side, so after Mass with mom we'd meet in the middle and head to see my Dad's family. There was also a big family there, only here the cousins were all close to my age and so it was full of fun and playing. 
  • One year driving home after Christmas Day, it was just me, Dad, and my brother still, so before he remarried, I remember a horrible snow storm. I took my role as my dad's "navigator" very seriously and took great pride in staying awake while we drove home in the dark and snow. We used the phrase "that's an accident waiting to happen" a lot that drive as people would fly by us. I still think of that trip and that phrase anytime someone goes driving past me in a big hurry on snowy roads.
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I got interrupted by the end of naptime as I finished that last memory and I didn't get a chance to come back to this until now.  Since that means it's now over a week late to post AND I still have to post this week's prompt, I think I'll just post this as is and move on. 

Merry Christmas!

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 7th - 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.

9.18.2017

Invites Sent

I think I have sent invites to everyone who would like to follow the private blog. If you didn't get it OR if you requested it via a comment on my last post but I do not have your email address (if you don't have it connected to either your Blogger or Google+ account, I can't access it), please either comment again below or email me with your email address and I'll add you.

There is a new post up over there today, as well.

9.12.2017

A Private Path

I have so many half-written and completed drafts that I want to share, but I find that a public blog just isn't the place to do it. There are a lot of reasons behind this. So, I have started a private blog. If you would like to read it, please leave a comment or email me at rebeccawvu02 (at) gmail (dot) com and I will add you to it.

I am still going to be blogging publicly - in fact, I think by having a private place to blog, it will free up some of the things that I can and want to share here. I know how hard it can be to follow a private blog, so I will post reminders here when there are new posts there for those who choose to read both.

7.18.2017

11 Months

Sugarbeet placing a golf ball at my dad's grave on Father's Day, 2017.
When I wrote my recap of 2016, I shared how 2016 will always be a year of both/and, of joy and sorrow. One of the joys was that, despite my dad's death in August, it will always be the year that he was last on this earth and so a year of joy because of the moments spent together.

As August 18 creeps ever closer, one month from today, I find myself realizing that the ability to say 'last year, dad and I..." or to look at the calendar and remember a day shared with my dad just one year ago is something I'll never experience again. That no longer will he be as close as 'a year ago'. That time will move forward and he will forever move farther away from this life. As Memorial Day approached, the anniversary of Dad entering the hospital due to inability to feel his feet because of tumors pressing on his spine...only to not leave the hospital/rehab again until his last trip home to say goodbye.

It catches my breath when I think of all he has missed this year, and all he will miss in the years to come. And of course, he hasn't really missed it, but rather I have missed the experience of sharing in this earthly life with him.  And it is in this realization that while he moves farther away from this life, I move closer to seeing him again.

Before Dad died, I never really understood why people visited cemeteries, nor exactly what one should do when visiting. In the last year, though, I have found myself drawn there. Most often on the 18th of the month, and for holidays or other special days. And, as so many times before, I have found so much comfort in the treasury of prayers offered to us by the Catholic Church. Whether it is a simple recitation of the St. Michael prayer, an offering of our family litany of saints, or the rite of prayers prayed for the dead when visiting a cemetery. I take such comfort in the prayers and am reminded that while I do not know if he is in heaven or purgatory, dad and I can continue to pray for one another. The relationship doesn't end with death.

Last year at this time, I was preparing for our annual beach trip. Dad had little to no appetite and was moved from a rehab facility to a nursing home where he could focus on healing and receive some therapy. Looking back, and having more knowledge of end stage cancer, I see that his body was losing its fight. I think I'm glad I didn't know then what I know now. Yes, I was worried upon leaving for vacation, but I didn't really think we only had a month left. And when we got back, Sugarbeet and I took the laptop along with us for our visit and he enjoyed seeing the photos of her first trip to the beach. He was so proud of her willingness to play in the waves and loved her enthusiasm for miniature golf. So many of my best beach memories growing up are with my dad - sand castle building, ocean wave jumping, raft wave riding, mini golf playing, and roller coaster riding. I only hope that Sugarbeet remembers these vacations with as much joy as I remember my childhood beach vacations.

And so, this week, this year, once again I am packing for the beach. Only this year, I know that when I come back I will be facing August 18. This year, I'll know what that date will mean to me, for the rest of my life. And on August 19, no longer will there be 'last year with Dad'. Yes, everyone says the 'firsts' are hard and just making it through them is important. Somehow though, it seems that instead of things getting easier, as time moves on further away from 2016, they get harder.

As this year of firsts comes to a close, I will cling to those moments of peace and hope I had as Dad passed from this life to the next. I will continue to offer prayers for his soul and ask him to pray for me, for that is how our relationship remains in this present time.

Almighty God and Father, it is our certain faith that  your Son, who died on the cross, was raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.
Grant that through this mystery your servant, Michael, who has gone to his rest in Christ, may share in the joy of his resurrection.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. 
Amen.
(Closing prayer from "Order for visiting a Cemetery")

4.15.2017

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday has always been a day where I've 'felt' the emptiness of Jesus' crucifixion and death. Yes, Good Friday, knowing that no Mass is celebrated and the tabernacles are empty while marking the Passion and the Death of Our Lord with the Veneration of the Cross, carries it's weight. But, it is Holy Saturday - the day when Christ lies in the grave. There is no intensity of the walk to Calvary and the crucifixion. Just the quiet knowledge that for one day The Son was dead.

Today, two pieces spoke to this feeling of emptiness I feel every year. The first, a piece of prose in the Holy Week Magnificat and the second, a poem shared on Facebook.

As we near sundown of this Holy Saturday, my prayer for you is that you always remember in our darkest, loneliest times, Christ is with us. He has descended to the dead, and He is with us. Always.
Holy Saturday is the day of the 'death of God', the day which expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him... Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness; in his Passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there is He. Hell is thereby overcome, or to be more accurate, death, which was previously hell, is hell no longer. Neither is the same any longer because there is life in the midst of death, because love dwells in it. ~Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Limbo
by Sister Mary Ada, OSJ
The ancient grayness shifted
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred
All souls.
They wondered if they dreamed –
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?
A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed
Or apple trees
All blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that He wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue –
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When the embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”

3.29.2017

Remembering ~ 30 Years

This is a post I've started to write probably 30 times since I started blogging. Heck, as I start it, I'm wondering if this will be the time I actually finish it and hit publish or if it will be added to the scrap pile. Interestingly, this is not a post that gets started and saved as a draft. Each time I've started, I've hit delete. Maybe this one is just too raw. Still. 30 years later.

And what it is about this day that has me sitting down to write again? I could come up with a list of things, but each time I've thought it was time, it hasn't been. So I suppose the only way I will know if it is time or not is to write it all down again and see if I tap "publish" or "delete" at the end.

What do I think has influenced me this time? Perhaps it is the passing of St. Patrick's Day - the day that was the hardest day yet since my Dad died, as it is a day full of memories and when being Irish meant I was my Dad's daughter; perhaps it is all of the hangover of burying one parent and finding it extremely odd and unnatural to be comforted by the other parent, to wonder why she is even at the funeral home; perhaps it is my dear friend Michelle of Endless Strength writing her own story of her parents' divorce today and acknowledging that in so many ways our experiences are so very similar; perhaps it is finding out via social media that one brother flew in to WV from TX to celebrate the other's 21st birthday and that the only communication I had with either all day was to text a happy birthday message and receive a thank you; and perhaps it is CD1 and the emotions are always strongest when the hormones are going crazy.

Whatever it is that has brought fingers to keys here in this place today, all I can say is that I'm still understanding and processing what the impact of being a child of divorce has been for me.

30 years ago this month my parents' divorce was finalized, I was just about to turn 8. I remember the months leading up to the separation - it happened at Thanksgiving, my brother, mom and I went to my grandparents and while we were gone for the long weekend, my Dad moved out of our home and into his apartment across town. Those months before the separation were characterized by many late night fights. The kind that probably started as a hushed, tense conversation and eventually ended in shouting. I remember hearing the shouting. I remember one night my Dad saying {again} he was going to leave and coming into my bedroom and getting his suitcase out of my closet (where all the suitcases were kept). As he sat on my bed to extract it from the others, I sat up and put my arms around him, asking him not to go. He stayed, that night.

I remember the morning in the fall, it must have been an unusually warm Saturday morning for mid-fall, as my brother and I were chomping at the bit to go out and play, but our parents kept putting us off. Finally, we sat down at the table and they told us, my Dad spoke, "Your mom and I are getting a divorce." I shouted "NO!" and ran off to my room. I don't remember anything else specifically about that day. When I think about the years since that day, there are things I do remember and now can see better just how those things impacted me.

I remember everyone always asking how my mom and my brother were and commenting on how well I was doing. But no one ever asked how I was.

I remembering lying to teachers to get attention in 4th grade. And seeking attention from boys, from 5th grade on. Of being used and discarded and still seeking more. All the while desperately wanting my Dad to notice me.

I remember wanting to live with my Dad in 6th grade and how both of my parents manipulated me through that process - and I how ended up staying with my Mom.

I remember being the messenger between my parents for everything from child support checks to re-arranging weekends to changing pick-up and drop off times.

I remember years and years of insisting that it was for the best that my parents divorced. That it was better because they weren't fighting any more. Except they were. They never peacefully co-existed. Not really.

I remember saying how lucky I was to have not 2 but 4 parents who loved me. Only, I never really fit in. There was always this other life, with this other family, that both of my parents had. I didn't realize the impact of that until much later - within the last decade. There were in-laws who weren't my grandparents, nieces and nephews who weren't my cousins, and traditions I didn't understand and in which I wasn't able to fully participate.

I remember hearing the rumors of why my parents divorced. Of seeing evidence for myself of the rumors. And of denying them. Of defending my parents. Of refusing to believe or admit what was right in front of me. Of living a lie for more than 30 years.

I remember feeling victorious when my parents were civil to one another at my wedding - that seemed the greatest achievement of the day. And then, my brother did something to set them off and the brief glimpse of peace I thought might come disappeared and never returned.

I remember being at a conference on adult children of divorce and having the tears fall while trying to keep my composure. Hearing others say what my head had been screaming for years, but my heart didn't want to hear. Having my rose-colored glasses ripped away. And forgiving. Forgiving my parents for all of the things for which I would never, and will never, hear an apology.  And realizing that that has to be enough. I watched my heart soften towards both of my parents and the relationships become so much less stressful as I quit trying to fit myself into places I didn't belong.

This place of memories seems a good place to stop for for today. A glimpse into what life looked like. Perhaps this is why I don't ever publish when I write on this topic, because I try to make it everything all in one. These are just memories, but the impacts of what they meant for me are much greater. Other themes related to my parents divorce, that I have reflected on in recent years are: belonging; God as Father; Mary as Mother; and what family means to me now. I think it best if rather than trying to condense all of this into one post, I write about each of these separately from this.

For today, it seems the time is finally right to hit publish and begin sharing this part of my road Home.

3.01.2017

Living the Vocation of the Domestic Church

I used to give a talk with that title at marriage prep. And most days now I struggle so hard with it, well, at least by my own standards. If I'm 100% honest with myself, what I do is what I would tell others they were doing a great job by doing, and I would mean it. But that's because usually I was trying to get engaged couples to just do one small thing to connect their hour at Mass on Sundays into their daily life.

But...

I used to go to Daily Mass every day.
And I had most of the mysteries (and their fruits!) of the rosary memorized, not from trying to memorize them, but from familiarity of praying them so often.
I read Church documents and the writings of saints daily.
And...and....and...I feel like I could make a list as long as I am tall of all the things I used to do, in addition to what I'm doing now.

Then...

I have to remind myself. I worked for the Church. My office was right next door to the Cathedral and Daily Mass was at Noon. Traveling? No problem, I was going to be at a parish and could schedule most meetings for just before or after their Daily Mass.
And working for the Church means a freedom and responsibility to read Church documents and faith based books during the day.
I also remind myself I had a 90 minute one-way commute and prayed a lot of my rosaries at 70 mph. Or, I was traveling and away from home and had the time completely to myself to do with as I pleased.

Also...

I now live 45 minutes from our parish with an 8:00 am Mass and a toddler who is not an early riser, not even close. (For things other than Mass, this is great, not denying that.)
Praying a rosary during any other time than nap or sleep time means negotiating to get my rosary guide back, and explaining repeatedly "that's your rosary, this one is mine".

And so, 18 months into being a SAHM I'm still struggling to find the balance of a healthy prayer life and parenting and keeping the house clean and making meals and grocery shopping and everything else.

I'm grateful for the push of Lent to help continue to work on this balance (that I'm starting to realize will never really be achieved). I am figuring out which of the above are excuses and which are legitimate obstacles. For the excuses, I need to exhibit self-control and not accept them. For the legitimate obstacles, I need to discern whether I need to work to remove the obstacle or adjust my goal temporarily.

I've been getting the Magnificat magazine again and it's helping with the rhythm of daily mass, and so I'm going to continue with that. It's not the same as going to Mass, but they rhythm of the lectionary has been and continues to be a great source of comfort and support to me. When I think about what I'm missing the most, it is my daily conversations with Mary through the rosary. I still talk to her always and I probably pray 50 Hail Mary's per day at different times, but I miss the 1:1 times of a rosary.

I also need to keep working to find the balance between down time and getting household things done during nap time and after bed time. I'm on point with this some weeks and other weeks - hahahahaha.

And so for Lent, my prayer, fasting, and almsgiving will be taking the form of doing better at living the vocation of the domestic church, as I expect for myself, not the standards I would accept for another.

Prayer:
One individual rosary per day (in addition to our family rosary times).
Keep up with the Daily Mass readings using the Magnificat. Attend Daily Mass once a week.

Fasting:
I'm taking a 'self-denial' in general approach to fasting versus a strict food approach to fasting. Before I use social media, play candy crush, blog, watch TV, etc. etc. etc. during naptime, I must complete my daily 'household' chore.

Almsgiving:
Part of my feeling overwhelmed with household chores and tasks is the amount of stuff that needs to be worked around when something needs done. So, each week I will make one trip to drop off donations from cleaning out and getting rid of things that are not being used.

I am hopeful that these are goals that I will be able to continue after the season of Lent is over, having established a healthy pattern and better balance during the season of Lent.

2.13.2017

My Medicaid Experience

I knew that at some point during my pregnancy I would have an insurance switch. I had been covered under my former spouse's plan and once our civil divorce was final, it meant there would be a change in coverage. As I was only working as an occasional substitute teacher and R was looking for a job, we qualified for state-sponsored health coverage/insurance (Medicaid).

There were both positive and negative experiences with receiving Medicaid while pregnant and with a newborn. I think the best way to go through them would be in categories.

The Application Process

Because we knew the insurance change would be coming, and that I was pregnant, and that we were now required by law to have insurance, we started the process before my insurance was dropped.
Both R and I are educated people, with post-graduate degrees. We are used to paperwork, forms, formal processes, and red tape. We filled out all the paperwork online as requested (R initiated it). We received a notice back that proof of income was needed, and how we could submit it. Before we submitted the required paperwork, we received another packet in the mail that looked like we had been approved. We were both skeptical of this. We hadn't completed our application as requested, and yet we were being sent another packet with additional instructions to complete - which included creating online profiles. We were also skeptical of this. There was nothing that stated that we had for sure been approved, just a seemingly random packet of information. We put the information in a file and, in all honesty, forgot about it for a month or so. There was a lot happening and it was one thing that didn't make a lot of sense to us, nor was of highest urgency, yet, and so it sat.

As time went on, we revisited the process, this time I initiated it, and we received the same notification that proof of income was needed and where to take it. I also needed to submit proof of pregnancy, and so I called my OB office and asked them to fax the proof to the Assistance Office. At the time, there was something that I needed to take in person to the office (or thought I needed to take in person) and so we headed out. And so began our experience at the assistance office. It was our one and only experience, but boy was it eye opening.

The Assistance Office

In the course of 4 months I was in the Assistance office once, the DMV once, and the Social Security office twice. I'd have gladly taken 3 more trips to the DMV and 3 more trips to the SS office before I ever went back to the Assistance office. In fact, I opted to deal with the hassle of having to return calls the benefits office after each appointment to verify that yes, my last name had changed, no I had not changed it at the assistance office yet, so that the visit could be processed. (After the 2nd time, I wised up and started telling the check-in receptionist at each appointment about the last name difference and didn't have to deal with the calls anymore.) Anyway...the Assistance Office.

The Scene:

An initial check in point where you tell them why you are there. They give you about zero information, a number, and direct you to a tiny waiting area with more people than chairs. Chairs that are miserably uncomfortable. People come and go with varying degrees of urgency (from their perspective) and the person responds exactly the same to them all. It's freezing in the room. It's also dirty. The walls are scratched. There are giant signs, that have been written on, that state no food or drink. There is no bathroom in the room, only out in the main lobby of the building and if you miss your number being called, you go to the bottom of the list. There is a long row of windows with about 1/4 of them occupied by someone working and a 1/4 of that 1/4 are seeing clients. The rest are working away at some unseen task on a computer. There is a "security guard" who does nothing that we can see except stand there and chit chat with the receptionists.

Did I mention it was dirty? There were no pictures on the scratched, beaten up walls, nothing to engage people who are waiting - no tables with magazines, no area of toys for small children (we saw at least 3 different moms come in with children and endure the long waits). No water cooler - only big signs that say "no food or drink" with scribbling on them and the wall under them.

The other people who came and went to receive 'assistance' had varying degrees of a chip on their shoulder. Some, it was painfully obvious were trying to circumvent the system and not interested in honesty. Others just looked worn down and resigned to the process.

The Process:

You check in at the initial desk and are given a number. No asking of why you are there - just get your number and sit.
You wait nearly two hours, and are then called to another desk, right next to the first desk and you try to explain why you are there, we were just trying to drop off a form. The person at the desk has no idea what we are talking about, has no idea if the other information had been faxed. We show here that we were asked to provide the information we had, and she, without comment, gives us another number and sends us to another group of chairs further back in the room to wait again.
Here we wait for another 2 (or maybe more) hours. While waiting we hear the workers dealing with some of the other people while we wait. One man is so mean to the people he is talking with that I begin to pray, no beg, God that we do not have to be served by that man. I was literally scared to go back and talk to him.

Finally, it was our turn. Initially the woman we spoke to was cold and disrespectful. I, having sat in a cold, uncomfortable chair without food or drink or a bathroom for 3+ hours and being 24ish weeks pregnant had pretty much had it. I somehow was able to stick up for myself without losing my temper, and R was able to fill in the gaps and somehow in that process we must have shown to the lady that we were not her 'usual' clientele and her whole tone changed. From being unable to help us (the default response of all the workers it seemed) to doing some research and giving us the answers we needed. We also found out that we had already been assigned a case worker (who we NEVER heard form or even received that person's name). And that we were good to go.

We were told that the information we had received that seemed skeptical was, in fact, valid and that all we needed to do was go in and select our provider and primary care doctors. That the initial process R had started (despite our not sending in the documents we were told we needed to send in) was, in fact, completed and just waiting on us to make our selections.This still baffles us - how it was possible to not provide all the "required" information and still have a case opened and active AND that when we filled out a second application process there was no recognition in the system that our information was already active. It wasn't until we spent our day at the Assistance office that any of this was clarified.

Once home and logged into the system, we were able to select our provider and chose one that was the Medicaid branch of the local Healthcare system, that was also a large hospital system (UPMC).

As we walked home, we reflected on our experience at the Assistance Office and commented how we felt like our soul was slowly being drained from our body while we sat there. How disrespectful of human dignity the whole environment was. How it would be so simple to put a few pictures on the walls, put a water cooler with cups, allow for a trip to the bathroom without fear of losing your place in line, treating people with a default position of respect, not suspicion and rudeness.

We realized that in some sense, it is a bad circular pattern, with those that come in to seek assistance not necessarily respecting the environment (perhaps there had been a water cooler at one point, but was vandalized?). But, the conclusion I came to was that those who know better should do better. Create an environment with expectations for behavior, respectfully insist those expectations be met and treat people with full respect of their human dignity.

If this is what social services and assistance in the United States looks like, and I have only reason to believe this is the norm, not the exception, then we, as a country have a lot to be ashamed of. And prior to personally experiencing this, I had no reason but to believe that it was more akin to a trip to the DMV or SS office - annoying, frustrating, but ultimately your needs are met and you are typically treated with a decent level of respect. (Not that it should be that way there, either...) The 'assistance' provided, and the manner in which it is provided only perpetuates the problem. The dignity of the person is not respected - from their time (you would need to take an entire day off of work in order to go to the Assistance office, and if you try to call, the phone rings and rings and rings and then you are given a message that says everyone is busy, call back later - not even an option to leave a voicemail) to the way they are treated (with a default position of suspicion and annoyance) to the environment they are expected to wait in.

In fact, when my divorce was final and my name legal changed back to my maiden name, I opted to not return to the Assistance office (because that was the only way to do it) and to just deal with it as described above. As I said to R: "I can't stand another day of that." Only, I am all too aware that I was able to make that choice...that there was not a NEED to return to the office, unlike so many others who must return.

I am not sure what the solution is, but what I keep coming back to is that 'those who know better, must do better' and that it is responsibility of those providing the services to preserve the dignity of those they serve.

Switching Doctors
While we were living in Pittsburgh, our initial preference was to keep my doctor in WV and deliver at the small hospital here as well. My mom worked at that hospital and while I didn't want her (or anyone besides R) present while I was in labor, I was familiar with the hospital, loved their L&D unit and their philosophy. In fact, most things that we would have requested on our birth plan were standard practice. Not to mention switching OBs at almost 30 weeks pregnant.

So, I called my OB and let them know my insurance was switching and asked if they accepted out of state plans. The lady I spoke to was rude (which was unusual) and stated that they do not accept any out of state Medicaid. She didn't offer any other options (a private pay, which we were willing to consider if the hospital would accept the PA Medicaid), and seemed annoyed that I didn't already know the answer to this question. Being that Morgantown is less than 10 miles from PA, and the closest hospital to lots of small communities in SW PA, I was surprised at the rudeness and shortness with which I was responded to. It was hard not to wonder if it was because I was a Medicaid patient now. I'd only ever been treated respectfully when I was a private insurance patient.

And so, we switched doctors. From a practice with OBs and midwives to a full midwife practice at a large women's hospital. Looking back, I'm so grateful for this. I loved the midwives, even though I only met each one once, and was introduced to 3 different ones throughout my labor, they were all wonderful. Some I liked better than others, but all in all, it was a great switch and now I find myself in the opposite situation where I want to keep them as my provider instead of the local doctors here in WV (there was a lot of turmoil at my OB practice just after we switched and I would be switching to yet another practice anyway).

Actual Care/Benefits Received

In this category, once we switched doctors, I have nothing but gratitude and positive experiences. I realize that may not be the same for everyone, but this was our experience. Maybe it was because our insurance and our hospital/doctors were all the same network. After my first visit, I didn't even have to show my medical card anymore, I was in the system.

We did have the lack of consistency regarding my last name, as described above, but each person I spoke to in that process was polite and easy to work with (all were associated with the hospital system/insurance).

As far as I could tell, I was not given any different treatment than any other patient as a Medicaid patient. I have no idea if our chart was flagged or anything like that. Never was our insurance coverage brought up in the course of treatment.

My entire pregnancy care and delivery, as well as post-partum care and all of Sugarbeet's pediatric needs until she was 6 months old, were covered completely. There were no random bills or mix ups. Everything went smoothly, and removed a great source of stress for us.

Final Reflections

We returned to private insurance coverage when R started working last year, but for the time that we needed Medicaid, I am grateful it existed and will always be an advocate for providing support to those who need it. The process was unnecessarily complicated and disrespectful and needs to be changed. I have a new level of empathy for those with less educational and emotional resources to navigate the system, as had I not been pregnant and knew we needed help in covering the care, I would have thrown my hands up in frustration and been so tempted to take the risk of not having insurance and paying the fee for that decision.

I am not sure what the solution is. I realize there is a bad cycle happening with lack of respect on all sides. Some things that would have helped us:

  • Consistency in logos and labeling would be helpful - if the paperwork we had received matched the online information, we would have proceeded.
  • A reliable way to turn in and manage paperwork - why we needed to spend half a day in the office to turn in a piece of paper makes no sense to me (and the fax my OB's office sent never got there, even though it was sent to the number we were given) - and communicate what is still needed and how/where it should be submitted.
  • Respectful treatment by those facilitating the government assistance - from the environment to the interactions with others.
I also realize that our experience with government assistance was limited, this is but a small snapshot of the true experiences of thousands of thousands of people every day. I would hope that those receiving additional benefits and receiving the required services of a case worker have a better experience, I'm especially thinking of those of you who are Foster Parents...I am hoping that the social workers facilitating the foster placement are able to help navigate the services you receive. 


If you have had a different experience, I would love to hear it. I am not interested in a bashing of the system or only a negative reporting. This is just our experience, one small piece of the puzzle.

2.10.2017

7 Quick Takes


1. Trying to be a better blogger, and there seems to be lots I want to say, but I'm having trouble finding my grove, so I thought I'd start with 7QT again and see if some short posts and thoughts help get the flow going again. These will be true Quick Takes, without much to connect them.

2. Lots of things I want to blog about - maybe if I make a list here, I'll be able to find a better rhythm? Worth a try, I say. So, what are some topics...the experience of receiving Medicaid while pregnant with Sugarbeet; living in an irregular situation in a time when there is so much discussion of divorce and remarriage happening in the Church; being a child of divorce and the impacts it had on me; Sugarbeet; some reflections on what I've learned about myself and my own shortcomings in the past couple of years; the mommy wars and how moms are treated and encouraged in society; the current state of our country; the struggle of truly living the life of the domestic church now that I no longer work for the church; and a few more things, I'm sure.

3. Half-marathon training starts next week. When I first started running, I struggled to find time to fit it in - as with anything new being added to life, I suppose, and I'm finding the same struggle, just for different reasons now. I am facing a similar challenge to when I first started running (jeans are getting a little tight) and I am choosing the same option - eat less or move more? I'll move more thankyouverymuch. I like food. So, I'm motivated and looking forward to a training routine.

4. One thing I am changing up is how and where I track my runs. I used Daily Mile (DM) before, but in an effort to simplify the process, partly because Chrome and Garmin do not play nicely, I am going to just use Garmin's site where my watch will upload information for me. It's similar to DM, but doesn't require the extra step of importing the information from the Garmin site. The good thing is, it does have all of my past data since I got my watch, so my previous records for pace and distance are still there...and they are actually easier to find than on DM.

5. I've tweaked the blog layout a little...resetting everything but the header back to an option within Blogger's template personalization options. This allows me to tweak and change things as I go without needing a designer to do so for me. I loved working with Kelsey and definitely recommend her, and I've kept the header she designed for me.

6. I'm pleased to say I've been doing more reading lately (which wasn't hard to do if you didn't count reading blogs, internet articles, and the newspaper). Currently I'm reading The Handmaid's Tale and Persuasion. I read both in high school and decided to revisit them for different reasons. Hulu made an adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale and I wanted to reread before I watch it. And I want to read more Jane Austen, and of all her books, Persuasion was the one I had selected to read in high school and thought I'd start there to reintroduce myself to her writing style. Finally, R and I are reading Mary of Galilee as a spiritual reading/discussion topic in the evenings. While only Mary of Galilee is a paperbook, the other 2 are on my Kindle, my Kindle is only a very basic, not even Paperwhite version, Kindle and so I am not tempted nor distracted by the shiny world wide web and it's nice to unplug that way. I don't feel nearly as guilty when I've spent nap time curled up reading a book as I do if I lose 2 hours on the interweb. My kitchen floor may still not be clean, but my guilt is less.

7. I'm starting to get a little worried we may find ourselves in Spring without having had a really good snow. Yes, we've had some snow. And yes, I do NOT like the cold and much prefer hot hot hot summer days to winter, but if it's going to be cold and winter, one big snowed-in-for-days-snow a year is always nice. We've had tons of rain and I've said more than once "if only it were a bit colder..." and just last week when I went for a run and it was 70 degrees out I may have said "I love global warming" (KIDDING...mostly), so it's definitely not been a normal winter. I'm hoping for at least one good snow where R can build Sugarbeet a snowman or two!

That's all for my randomness today. Be sure to check out This Ain't the Lyceum for more Quick Takes.

1.03.2017

2016 Highlights - Bullet Point Style

For so many 2016 was an awful year.

As the year ended, it seemed I agreed, it was not the best of years. I mean, my Dad died, so yea, not a great thing to remember a year by.

But, as December 31 drew nearer, I found myself anxious about turning the page on the calendar. And I couldn't quite put that anxiety into words.

Then, a few of my friends started sharing how 2016 was such a blessing year for them, and I found myself recalling the good things that happened last year.

So, what were the highlights, both happy and sad, by which 2016 will be remembered?

  • As I was contemplating the both/and of good and bad of 2016 it occurred to me what the anxiety was. Yes, 2016 was the year in which my Dad died. But, turning the calendar over from 2016 into 2017 felt kind of like leaving him behind. For, in 2016 he was here, alive and our relationship was healing. But now, in 2017, he's not here. It was just one more experience of mourning that I have not experienced prior to the loss of a parent. So, yes, in 2016 my Dad died and all the sorrow associated with that will also be associated with 2016. But, also, 2016 will always have a special place of joy because in it is also my Dad still on earth.
  • 2016 also brought with it a new home, and settling into being a stay at home mom. For nearly the first 6 months of Sugarbeet's life, R was home with us while he was job hunting. In February, he started his new job just days after we moved into our townhouse. And suddenly, he was gone all day. For a year we had spent our days together; for 6 months he had also been a full-time parent to Sugarbeet. We both missed him. Sugarbeet and I quickly settled into our routine and, much to my surprise, I really enjoy being a SAHM. I always went back and forth between thinking I'd love it and thinking I'd hate it, and so came the test. Certainly there are days, I count the hours until R gets home, but they are few and far between. We have our weekly and daily routines and with a good balance of staying home and getting out of the house and it's working for us. I find myself realizing how fast time moves and it seems like she'll be off to school tomorrow and I beg time to please slow down.
  • 2016 brought a return to running, and I'm planning to continue that return this year. I am signed up for the Pittsburgh half marathon in May and I'm looking forward to a training schedule again. Soon after Sugarbeet was born, I heard or read somewhere that it takes a year for the body to recover from pregnancy, and just based on how I felt as I started and failed to get moving again a couple of times, that was my experience. As Sugarbeet turned 1 and also dropped almost all of her daytime nursing sessions, it seemed my body changed drastically and suddenly, while I was running I recognized my body again.
  • 2016 also brought with it Sugarbeet's first birthday, and the beginnings of her personality shining through! One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was from an NFP class I used to teach, in which new parents were encouraged to ask "Who are you, little one?" and get to know their child instead of imposing strict schedules or routines upon him or her randomly. For me, asking this question daily, and just getting to know this sweet child. For example, she takes time to warm up. She does not like to jump into new situations head first, she'd much prefer to sit back and watch and then engage on her own terms. This makes doctor visits very challenging, because the doctor does not have time to play with her gently for an hour before looking in her ears, and so we do our best to get through them quickly. This, also makes new toys fun, because she explores them and learns to play with them in more complicated ways as the time goes. Each day our schedule is "whatever it will be today" and on days I am able to remember this and follow her lead for eating and napping, stress for both of us is much lower. On days that it isn't possible to follow her lead, whether because of appointments or other things that need done, I am {usually} able to be more patient and aware of what may trigger a meltdown. All things I knew as a teacher, but with the added intensity of needing to maintain the awareness 24/7. 
  • A return to Confession and Eucharist in May, are certainly other wonderful blessings of 2016. Another was going to Midnight Mass by ourselves while my stepdad stayed home with a sleeping Sugarbeet. While I have loved being a SAHM, I miss Daily Mass so much. Our parish is 45 minutes away with Daily Mass only offered at 8:00 and a toddler who sleeps in until after 8 most mornings, it just doesn't work. But, through prayer and spiritual direction, I've come to realize just how important the rhythm of Daily Mass is for my spiritual life and renewed my Magnificat subscription to be able to participate in the Daily Liturgy that way. And it was at Midnight Mass that I realized just how much I miss being still during Mass. I am frequently reminding myself of 2 things during Mass - 1) that even if I don't hear a single word, I'm there, participating as fully as I can and therefore receiving the graces of the Mass and the Eucharist as I receive (even though some Sundays I'm surprised to find myself in the communion line, feeling like I've missed everything since the Processional Hymn started) and 2) that I prayed to be the person wrangling a child during Mass for so many years, and then, in turn, to offer it up for any one in the church who may be watching my child wiggle and squirm and thinking to her(or him)self "I would give anything for that". And so, somehow attending Mass with a wiggling toddler has become so much a source of dying to self for me, more than I ever expected. Sacrificing being still and being able to be attentive, it is certainly not a cross of motherhood that I expected. I am grateful to have the Magnificat to be able to not only prepare for Mass by reading the Sunday readings ahead of time, so that when I do catch snippets of the homily it makes sense, but also to be able to read the Daily readings and reflections. I feel that rhythm coming back and I am grateful for it. 
So, yes, 2016 certainly had its challenges and there will be a sadness associated with it unlike the sadnesses of any other year, but somehow, with the sadness there is joy. Not happiness or a feeling, but rather, real, true, joy that is only found in knowing and believing that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; joy that somehow remains present despite deep sadness.

Happy New Year, friends! May your 2017 be full of joy.