Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Countdown to Graduation: 18 months

18 months to go until Andy graduates... that's not so long is it? But it seems SO long. I'm trying to have a better attitude and more patience about the waiting process. And meantime, I'm getting more tired and less capable of processing information, especially at work. I'm trying to make peace with the likelihood that I will not be dropping below full time though I so long to.

Instead, I need to find ways to get through the next 18 months... and to try to not only survive it but to enjoy it - to enjoy the boys and my husband, to enjoy work, to enjoy my friends and extended family, to enjoy the beauty around me. This is time I will never get back.

I need to simplify and slow down. I have decided I will stop teaching CCD, and Andy is going to finish teaching this year then take a break from teaching next year. We are also going to look at cutting other things out of our lives, though there are not many other things we can cut out. I need to spend more time in quiet, even if it's just sitting in the car after work before I drive off or going to bed 15 or 30 min early. I am thinking about seeing a counselor for 3 or 4 sessions just to go over some strategies for developing a better attitude, having less stress, and enjoying the next 18 months. Besides, I know staying home is not easy either, and if I can't enjoy this time in my life, will I really enjoy staying home?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Isaac's train cake

In addition to the train table, I also had a good idea for a cake for Isaac, which a client at work had given me a couple years ago. I was thrilled to create two things for my little guy as I don't often get to use my creativity.

I baked the cake the night before in large and small springform pans and let it cool overnight. The next day, I began by putting one on top of the other and cutting a piece in the smaller, chocolate, cake to look like a tunnel. I also cut a ramp up the wider piece of cake.



I also whipped up some cream cheese frosting (yum... the boys and I ended up eating quite a bit of it out of the bowl after I was done... ok, I snuck in several helpings as I was frosting also!). I frosted the cake, creating a path up the incline and an arch over the tunnel. I used sugar wafers and brown frosting the create the tracks.



You can see I'm not very neat when doing this kind of thing... and that picture was taken after I tidied up a few things.

Isaac loved his cake. I just added a train that I gave him with his train set and a couple candles, and it was complete. Notice how his little lip is covering his upper as he blows out his candles... luckily he didn't have a cold that day because we all would have gotten it just by eating the cake!



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Isaac's birthday train table

We celebrated our 3 year old's birthday earlier this month. He loves trains, so the theme this year was trains. (I'm not usually together enough to create a theme, but I had a couple great ideas for his birthday that just sort of fit together).

I had wanted to make the boys a train table for some time, and a friend of mine had some wooden tracks she no longer needed for her son, so I was able to buy them from her and find a 48 inch round table at a local second-hand store:



So I set out putting together a track. It took some time, but I enjoyed every second of it. It reminded me of building tracks for my little brothers when they were young. And I was just so excited to give a track to our two boys... uh, to Isaac for his birthday. After a few adjustments, I had a great layout that fit perfectly on the table!



Andy suggested I nail it down rather than screwing it down as I was going to do, since nailing it wouldn't take as long. But I found that I still had to drill holes in the wood as the railroad pieces were more dense than I would have ever imagined. I set upon doing that the next night. After nailing the flat pieces down, breaking two of my husband's drill pieces in the process (actually, he was responsible for one of them breaking), and gluing down the bridge pieces, it was done. I had to find a good place to hide it until Isaac's birthday. Luckily they never suspected that hidden beneath a sheet and behind a couple boxes and rolls of toilet paper and paper towels was this table.



When Isaac finally opened it, it was hard to tell who was more excited: Blaise or me! Isaac was pretty thrilled, of course, but Blaise was the one who was jumping up and down, as you can see by his blurred image on this picture:



They have really been enjoying playing with the track and the trains Grandma and Grandpa gave them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Countdown to Graduation: 19 months

One more month down, nineteen to go, until Andy's tentative graduation date and until I can be home with the boys.

I mentioned in my post a month ago that, while I have a good job, it does significantly affect me and the boys in that we are rushed in the mornings to get out the door, and transitions in general are difficult for my high-spirited 4 year-old. Even the transition from sleeping to being awake in the morning is difficult for him. I would love to have the time to sit and rock with him in the mornings. I had time for that this morning, and it really did help him. He, more than the nearly-3-year-old, also has a difficult time in that he doesn't feel at all in control of the situation and feels that he has no say in what he does on any particular day. I know he is frustrated. As am I, especially when I come home exhausted and with no energy to give them what they need and no energy to deal with their high level of energy.

So, since quitting work is not an option, and since I cannot be with them as much as I would like to to work with them along a path to holiness and happiness, I have begun to offer up my working days for their holiness and happiness. And, on the days when I drive the boys to the sitter, we say a prayer together of offering my working and the boys' spending the day at the sitter's house. Blaise is not yet sold on the idea, but Isaac enjoys saying the prayers with me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Mom's not happy... nobodys' happy, But...

But when Mom is happy, everyone is happier!

In all honesty, our family has been struggling. I have had a very difficult nearly 3 years and have really struggled. And I know my struggling has been very difficult for Andy and for our two young boys who don't understand why Mom is often so tired and in such a bad mood. I had severe postpartum depression and anxiety after Isaac was born, and I don't think I had ever adequately recovered from that... but recently (the last month or so), I have finally been feeling like a "normal" person again (with the exception of 5-6 weeks of bronchitis and catching a cold a week ago on top of that, which completely drained me). But about 5 months ago I began to see a local doctor who works with hormones and fertility, as well as chronic fatigue and stress, by the way of research and treatment utilizing the Creighton method of NFP and working with our bodies' natural responses and needs. This is beginning to work wonders for me!

First, she put me on vitamins to give my body the nutrients it needs and to regulate my digestive system (apparently, you can't have a "happy" brain if you don't have a "happy" gut, and my gut was not happy). I did also start back on antidepressants to give my mood a little boost. But what has made the greatest difference has been getting on two things about 1 1/2 months ago: prescription progesterone (which I found I have to take as a suppository to avoid the side effects... but it's worth it) and a vitamin specifically to help my adrenal glands to function. Apparently, when people are stressed chronically, the adrenal glands become tired and don't do their job adequately. The adrenal glands, in addition to the ovaries, produce progesterone and use some of the progesterone to make cortisol (yes, the stomach fat hormone), which calms our bodies and relieves the stress response. Cortisol is also partially converted into cortisone, a natural anti-inflammatory (since starting on this stuff, I have also noticed less mid back pain and hip pain). Lack of progesterone production also contributes to worse-than-necessary PMS. And many people in our country are apparently estrogen-dominant, having often too little progesterone in comparison to the estrogen their bodies produce, likely due to diet and environmental factors, as well as stress. My progesterone was off-the-chart low by peak +5 (an NFP term), and I suspect I have had low progesterone my whole life, contributing to moodiness, especially during "that time" and depression, also contributing to my horrible postpartum anxiety and depression.

So what it comes down to is that I feel great! And except for being sick last week, I feel consistently good. And Andy and the boys all seem happier for having a happier mom. What a wonderful blessing! I am so grateful.

In other news, I have found a writers' group in the small town in which I live. I am hoping to be able to meet with them soon. The person who started this group gives writers' conferences at times also at local colleges and such. It has the potential for being a really good thing and getting me back into enjoying writing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mazes

I had a moment of inspiration this morning and remembered how I used to make mazes for my two younger brothers when they were around 5 and 7 or so. I used to really like doing that. As a pre-teen, it was a challenge for me to create these mazes, and it was fun for the boys to find their way through them. I have a 4 year old who likes mazes and too few mazes around here for him... and the ones we do have are way too easy. So I took out some old computer paper - remember those ones with the holes on the sides that help to feed the paper through the printer - and created some mazes. He really liked the first one and did pretty well with it:



He asked me to make another maze. I suppose I made this one a bit harder, and he became a little impatient:



So I tried one more time, but he doesn't know it yet... I'll wait until tomorrow to show him. Hopefully this one will work well for him. Maybe I'll put together a book of them for him and Isaac. I'll put that on my list of projects...



I think I'll also make one or two really easy ones for my nearly 3 year old.

I can't wait to do other things with them. I remember how I used to make treasure hunts for my younger brothers. And they're nearly to the point of being able to play games in a semi-organized manner... I hope! We have some fun times coming!

Friday, October 16, 2009

5 Years

Yesterday, Andy and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Well, celebrated is a relative term since I caught a cold and basically spent the evening lying around and blowing my nose.



But it was still a time to realize once again how blessed I am to be married to such a wonderful man. I am blessed to be married to a faithful Catholic man who loves God and loves me and the boys dearly. A man who is working hard in school so that he can someday soon provide for our family. A man who lives according to what he believes and knows to be right. Andy and I both agree that the last five years have been by far the best years of our lives, despite the struggles and arguments we have had at times. God brought him into my life, and me into his. And, as it should be in marriage, we realize we are gifts to each other and, often successfully, live accordingly.

Thank You, Lord, for bringing Andy into my life!

My Simple Prayer to Mary

"Blessed are you among women!"



Mary, you truly are blessed: you who have been called to be the mother of God! You who have been called to be the mother of all humanity! You who have been called to be my mother! You who have received countless graces and blessings from our Father in Heaven! Our Lord has truly looked upon you with love and generosity. He has called you to great things, and you have answered His call.

Mary, you are gentle and pure of heart. How beautiful you are! Please guide me to also be gentle and pure of heart, and please pray that our Father may also send His graces and blessings upon me that I may be more like you. Pray that I may be more loving toward my children and may gently guide them as you did with Jesus. Pray that I may give all of myself to my husband, and through him to God, and may be more pure of heart as you were in your marriage to Joseph. Pray that I may be attentive and may answer God's call for me as you answered His call.

Thank you for being present among us and for continuing to gently guide us. Thank you for being such a wonderful model as a woman, wife, and mother. Thank you for the love you have poured out for us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pieces of Summer in Pictures

This summer, we were able to do some fun things with the boys.

I took a week off in late July and took the boys to their first baseball game, meeting my brother and sister-in-law there. We enjoyed our time, and the boys were excited for their first game in a "big big park."







We also went to a wedding and stayed over night in a hotel. They didn't enjoy the wedding reception as we thought they would. Maybe it's because we attempted to allow them to sleep together, and so they were very tired the next night. But they did enjoy lying in the same bed for a while... a little too much, until we moved one of them to our bed. Even then, they were too wound up to sleep until an hour after our bedtime. This picture is from early in the night when they were both relatively calm.



This summer they also became more accustomed to being in water. We went to several lakes, including at my parents' cottage. Eventually, they would both allow their shoulders to go under... sometimes. This took some time and gentle encouragement. But unfortunately, they are still afraid of hotel swimming pools and water parks, as we also found out this summer. Perhaps we'll tackle that this winter or next summer...



This fall, Blaise started pre-school. He seems to be blossoming in school. He has met new friends and is doing great with a bit of structure and with following directions. His first day, he was able to ride the bus from the "big school" where he has speech therapy to the "little school." On his first day, Andy, Isaac, and I waited for him to watch him get off the bus and go into the little school. He walked right in with Miss Ann, barely looking back. Normally, that would make me feel a bit sad, but I was proud, especially since Blaise is my hesitant little boy.





Blaise is in school Monday and Wednesday mornings, and, since I'm off on Wednesdays, this gives me time to spend with Isaac. It really is a gift to be able to give that time to him. I am discovering he likes letters, as well as puzzles. I found an alphabet puzzle in the basement in which each removable letter is on its own square and has a matching picture which is also removable. He really enjoyed putting his "ABCDEFG puzzle" together and singing the alphabet song. I am excited to work with him on those types of things.



I hope you all had a great summer too!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Countdown to Graduation

I started a countdown to the time Andy will be graduating a four months ago. The beginning of October unofficially marks 20 months until graduation. Likely, he will graduate the spring of 2011.

When there were two full years left, I figured out how long it would be in years (that was very easy), months (24), weeks (104), and days (710). Two years sounded like a long time. So did 104 weeks and 710 days. But for some reason, 24 months sounds do-able. So I count down in months. Now we're at 20.

I have to admit I am impatient. I struggle every day I have to work (4 days a week) with leaving the boys or dropping them off at the sitter. I hate the rush of the mornings and not being able to sit in the rocking chair with them to calm them down when they are whining or frustrated or just too wild. The older child, especially, craves this time and suffers when he doesn't get it. He also feels strongly the need to have some control over the situation rather than succumbing to the events of the day, which are different each day of the week. They both need cosistency and are really not getting it for that reason either. I struggle with that, and I struggle with how tired I am at the end of a long day, running from room to room, showing my patients/clients exercises, pushing on backs, stretching legs, pulling on necks. I am physically and mentally exhausted before I return home, often after 7 pm. I have no energy left for the boys. But Andy told me that I can stay home once he graduates and has a job. I long for that time, and so do the boys.

But I do realize I am greatly blessed by a caring and supportive husband and two wonderful children. I am blessed by the fact that Andy does to dishes, laundry, cleaning, bills, etc. I am blessed by the fact I do have a job and work for a very good company. I am blessed that I am able to make enough for our family working 30 hours a week. We have so many blessings; yet, I don't like to see the kids or I struggling so, or Andy for that matter.

I don't know yet whether I will quit working completely. Right now, I'm leaning toward talking with work after Andy lands a job and offering to work prn so that I can keep my hands in physical therapy and because it really is a good company I work for. But that may change. And for now I'm trying not to think about it too much as God may have other plans for us that I don't know about yet.

For now, I continue my countdown. Twenty months left.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prayer goals

Following the retreat/girls' weekend, I made a list of 5 goals incorporating what I learned over the weekend and what I feel called to do as a response to the graces poured out upon Katie and I, and in hopes to grow spiritually and be a better wife and mother.

1) Read the Magnificat, Mary's prayer, daily. In this way, I hope to realize better that Mary not only said "yes" to God's invitation but rejoiced in it. She rejoiced in it despite the difficulties it would pose for her in being a young, unmarried pregnant woman who would traditionally be outcast and stoned.

2) Try my best to concentrate better when praying the Rosary.

3) Treat the boys, and Andy, as if they were Jesus Himself, and as Mary would have treated Jesus, her own Son, according to the Gospel from a couple weeks ago: "Then He took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in His arms, He said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not Me but the One who sent Me' (Mark 9:36-37).

4) After reading the book I'm currently reading (though I haven't picked it up in over 2 weeks), read The Secret of the Rosary by St Louis de Montfort, since we have that one at home, in order to begin studying for consecration to Mary.

5) Talk with Mary more often about my own struggles and joys, establishing a better relationship with her, and asking her for her motherly help, comfort, and guidance.

I have to admit, I have not been as good at following these goals as I would like. I have read the Magnificat once and meditated for a very short time on the first two verses. I have not concentrated well on the Rosary (though better than I usually do) and actually skipped the Rosary on Wed unintentionally. I have become impatient with the boys and with Andy. I have been talking with Mary more, though. But these are goals, and I will strive to work toward them. I share them here in an attempt to be more accountable to them.

So feel free to ask me about whether or not I am working on these goals!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gone too long!

I have been gone too long from the world of posting... primarily because inspiration has not been striking, and I have been feeling that I have nothing to write about (and honestly no time to write).

But perhaps I am again being inspired... only time will tell whether the inspiration bug continues to bite or not. Perhaps the reason for inspiration is a wonderful "retreat" my good friend Katie and I gave ourselves (with the support of our wonderful husbands, who watched our kids).

We had a wonderful time meeting with another friend of ours Friday night and having a great discussion with her over dinner. Sat was filled with wonderful conversation, support, and prayer, followed by a much-deserved nap, dinner, and dying of hair! Sun was Mass and another wonderful conversation as we drove to Katie's car and parted.

The amazing thing was that we went into it with only a preliminary plan, but Mary provided a better plan. Throughout the weekend, she made it clear that she was drawing us to herself with several little coincidences. My mom had a CD from a talk she had attended. Through a twist of fate, I was not able to get this CD until the Monday before the retreat. The CD was about Mary's motherhood and how she can help us in the joys and struggles of our motherhood. Second, I had been looking for a Bible study book in my basement to use for the retreat. But I was unable to find the one I was looking for and instead found one about Mary. Third, there was a conference at the church we had gone in part to visit. We missed the talk we were thinking of attending Sat morning but were able to make it to the Mass, and the homily was given by Fr Larry Richards, who was hosting the conference, and was about the importance of dedication to Mary and the Rosary. Fourth, Katie randomly picked up a holy card in the church gift shop which held a picture of Mary which she particularly likes. On the back was a prayer of consecration to Mary. It was clear to us by the end (well, really by the middle) of the retreat that we were to increase our devotion and prayer to Mary, calling on her in the midst of the struggles and joys of our own motherhood, and likely study further regarding consecrating ourselves and our families to Mary, and, through her, of course to Jesus.

It's amazing what God will do when you give Him a chance to work.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Goggles and glasses, hats and helmets

The boys love goggles, glasses, hats and helmets... I guess it's their version of dress up. So I thought I'd share a few photos of them, "dressing up."












If I would sleep this way....

If I would sleep like this, I would wake up in so much pain!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mistakes and New Directions

About a week and a half ago, I read an article in Reader's Digest. While a bit simplistic, it had an interesting message. The author claims there are two types of people: those who see life situations and personalities as static or unchanging and therefore see mistakes that they make as having a negative reflection on their own lives or persons and those who see situations and character as changing and evolving and therefore see mistakes as opportunities for learning and for growth. I have to admit, I typically fit more into the first group than the second.

This last weekend, I was at a four day course in which the instructor detailed a specific way of evaluating and treating low back problems and radiating pain into the legs. The entire system of evaluations and treatments involves looking at things through a new set of eyes and in a different way than I typically do. I was skeptical at first, but as the course went on, I could see the logic in it and was able to see that it does actually work, and quickly. I also learned, in this system, that sometimes we have to temporarily make things worse in order to learn how to make them better. Making the radiating symptoms worse is not a failure in that it teaches us something specific about the direction in which we need to go in order to make the symptoms substantially better. So we turn around and move in the opposite direction, continuing to monitor symptoms and learn further about the nature of the problem as we work in that direction, continuing to make adjustments to the procedure based on the feedback we receive.

I see a parallel to life in this. We cannot be afraid of trying something, moving in one direction, and of the possibility of making mistakes. We may never know what is the right direction for us to move unless we try one direction and monitor the outcomes. If we make a mistake, that will teach us something about the direction in which we are not to move so that we can turn around and move in a new direction. Life is not about sitting in one place, hoping the answers will come to us. It is about moving and learning and growing. It is about exploring the possibilities and taking some chances, about finding joy in the process. Life is constantly changing, and we must allow ourselves to change and grow right along with it, all while being deeply rooted in a system that does not change and that helps us to make some sense of it all... that system is faith.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Gratitude

Inspired by Katie's blog, I thought I would make a list of 10 or so things I am grateful for. Here it goes:

1) Kids songs. The boys have been singing and singing together. "Take me out to the ball game", "Down by the station", "Twinkle, twinkle", etc. Isaac is funny in that he will sing it just like his older brother (just as he does when he talks), misplaced sounds and skipped words and all! I am grateful that the boys are singing and playing together more and more.

2) Andy's 17-credit semester is finally over!!! What a long spring! And because of that, he has more time to do things around here, so the cars are clean inside and out and the garage is clean and organized, not to mention dishes and laundry getting done! Granted, he's starting summer classes on Tuesday. They'll run for 7 weeks. But it's not 17 credits!

3) I am grateful for a husband who sees things that need to be done and just does them! For a husband who is capable (and knows he is capable) of taking care of two boys himself while I work or so that I can get out of the house for a little me time. For a wonderful, loving, supportive husband who loves me even when I am in a crabby and irritable mood and not acting lovingly toward him.

4) For finally being able to put the manger scene away (5 months after Christmas)! And for being able to start organizing the basement so that we can have a play area down there by this next winter (or earlier for rainy days!). For having time to post on my blog!

5) For friends and readers who check back on my blog even when I have not been posting and have not been good about keeping up with their blogs and lives or posting comments. Thank you! I hope all is well with all of you and that God is continuing to bless you! I will start checking back soon!

6) For green leaves and grass, for warm weather and evening walks. For a 3 day weekend to enjoy it with my family!

7) For a name for what I have been feeling. Adrenal fatigue, which apparently is similar to chronic fatigue syndrome and can also lead to fibromyalgia and other chronic painful illnesses. I saw a doctor a few weeks ago who started me on a regiment of vitamins and gave me a book to read and will follow up about a month from now. I'm already starting to feel a bit better.

8) For the ability to act! I want my children to know joy. When my 3 1/2 year old son asks me regularly, "Mommy, what's wrong?" or "Mommy, why are you crying?" when nothing is really wrong and I'm not currently crying but just because he has seen me cry and upset too often, something is definitely wrong! I'm starting to get some energy back and so I have the ability to act happy. And I figure if I start to act happy, maybe I'll remember how to be happy!!! And my boys will know what it's like to live a joyful life filled with faith in God! I recently read that "if you do not teach your children to find joy with you in your home, they will go out into the world looking for it elsewhere." I want the boys to know the true Source of joy instead!

9) For puzzles and games. Blaise is nearing 4 years old and really enjoys playing games and putting together puzzles with me. And he is beginning to learn to play by the rules which makes it more enjoyable for us to do together, and a good teaching tool for him! Isaac will pretend to join in sometimes too. I have been looking forward to this stage for a while! I love having an almost 4 year old, at least most of the time!

10) For two boys behaving well at Mass this morning. For the last three weeks, Andy and I have brought the boys to church separately. The first two weeks weren't great. Today, I took Isaac with me to 8:30 Mass, and Andy took Blaise to 10:00. They both did very well. Usually they are very poorly behaved, and their energy will rub off on the other so that by the end, they are ganging up on Andy and I and have completely worn us down. So I thought we'd take them separately and teach them what we expect for 1-2 months then bring them, more aware of how to behave in church and used to behaving that way, back together. This week gave me hope that that plan would work!

I have to add one more: 11) For friends! I have some wonderful friends who share my commitment to faith and to family. Several wonderful friends I have met over the last several years, blogging friends, and others scattered in many places. We are getting to know a great group of friends around here also, a thriving Catholic community of families! I am thankful, especially this weekend, as we were with many of them at a potluck on Friday, and I was able to meet some of the moms out for breakfast on Sat also. How blessed I am with such great friends and also with a great family (whom I can also call friends), both immediate and "extended."

Thank you, Lord, for this and all other things you give us! Thank You for your presence in our lives!

God bless you all this week!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blaise's puzzle

First of all, happy Mother's Day to all you moms!

Blaise (3 1/2) has been excited about the "Scary Monster Movie," AKA Monsters, Inc since my mom brought it for Isaac and him to watch a month or so ago when she came over to take care of them for a day. And he had was able to put a 24 piece puzzle together with only a little help soon after he turned 2 1/2. So when I saw a Monster's Inc 60-piece puzzle at a garage sale, I bought it.

I took it home and tried to put it together while he was having quiet time. I struggled with a couple pieces almost right away, since the puzzle is so dark and so many pieces look the same, so I boxed it back up and put in on the basement stairs to bring it down to the basement. I planned to bring in out again in several months. Before I could hide it in the dark recesses of the basement, Blaise found it on the stairs and asked to bring in up and put it together. Though I thought putting the puzzle together would lead to quite a bit of frustration on both our parts (Blaise because he wouldn't be able to do it, and me because Blaise would be frustrated), I bit the bullet and brought it upstairs. To my pleasant surprise, he did great!



It also turned out to be a great learning opportunity for him. First, we sorted the pieces into ones with a straight edge and ones without a straight edge. By the end, he had the concept down. I placed the first few around the edge then helped him to match up the pieces so that he continued the "edge" around the picture, looking at other clues to help find the right pieces.



Then we sorted the rest into pieces with Sully's fur and pieces without. He got the sorting idea down right away this time. Again, with some help, he learned to match the shapes of the puzzle pieces and the colors to create Sully.



He was nearly done with Sully when it was time for bed. The next morning, we finished Sully and put together Waternoose. He did even better the next day and needed fewer cues. All together, he placed every piece except the initial three or four at the top edge of the puzzle.



He was pretty proud of his creation.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Refreshed!

My goal every night is to get to bed by 10:00. Since it is now 10:23, this will not be a long post. My one day off during the week, Wednesday, always fills up quickly, and I don't want to take any more time away from the boys by posting on my blog.

This last weekend was wonderful for us. Not only were we able to witness our wonderful friends' marriage, but Andy and I were able to get away for 4 days alone to enjoy our own beautiful marriage. This last semester has been a long one, and so time away was much needed for both of us.

We came home refreshed and with some great memories. But not only do I feel more appreciation for Andy, but I also feel more appreciation for the boys. A good friend and I were talking yesterday and both agreed that, as mothers, we at times need time away from the kids so that we can truly enjoy them and appreciate them more. If they are always vying for our attention, we don't have time or space to miss them and thus lose appreciation for them.

Today was a very enjoyable day. The boys were doing well, and I actually had energy to bring them to daily Mass, something I was hoping to do nearly every week when we moved over here. But usually as 8:30 comes up, the boys are whiny, not dressed, and I'm already exhausted. And Grandma (my mom) came over, which was wonderful for all three of us. Isaac also surprised me. He is 2 1/2 today. We have a car puzzle in which the wood cars are slightly different shapes and fit into particular places in the wood board (a basic kids' puzzle). But this one doesn't have any pictures under the slots for the cars. He would pick up one after another and, barely looking at the car, would point to the spot where it goes. He went 12 for 12 a few times in a row before losing interest! My mom and I both commented that we have to think harder about where the cars go than he seemed to have to!

It is now nearly 40 minutes past my bed time. I hope you all have a blessed night and wonderful, blessed day tomorrow!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's going on around here

Just a quick note... I haven't been avoiding blogging, just too busy.

1) Andy is almost done with his spring semester... just 2 more weeks!!! He'll be taking summer school classes until the middle of July, but it won't be the 17 credit load he is currently taking.

2) We are packing to leave early tomorrow to catch a plane to Louisiana to witness a beautiful, sacramental wedding of one of my dear friends and her wonderful fiance. May God bless their marriage!

3) The boys are staying with Andy's parents... which means time away for Andy and I. We will miss the boys and are sad to leave them even for a long weekend, but this is sooo needed. Thank you Sarita and Eric for giving us this opportunity! And please, Lord, bring us safely back together Monday night!

4) Two more wonderful young Catholic moms, and wonderful friends, joined the blogging community! Please check out their sites: http://krissyfruitfulvine.blogspot.com
http://fallingupwardholly.blogspot.com

God bless you all! May you all have a wonderful, joyful weekend!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Falling on His Grace (what's in a name)

Though it has taken many forms or fallen under many names, I have dealt with some form of depression and/or anxiety for as long as I can remember. It has become a kind of cross for me, one for which I am always looking for ways of setting aside and moving beyond but one that I just cannot seem to shake. While still looking for ways of moving beyond depression and anxiety, I am making peace with the fact that it is a part of my life and am even beginning to see it as a sort of gift. That is, until I fall deep into its lairs once again and find myself struggling to make my way back from the darkness of despair to the light of hope and peace. Praise be to Him who, when I reach my hand out in prayer, reaches back and pulls me out of the darkness with a whisper of encouragement.

I have reflected quite often on this cross I carry as this scenario has repeated itself many times over. When I am standing in the light of hope and in prayer, I can clearly see that this cross of depression and anxiety is really an opportunity and an invitation to rely on God. Because I know despair I also know my deep need for Him. I know that I cannot live my life without Him, and I am learning to rely on Him more and more as I travel through my days. I am learning to rely on Him especially in my questions, in my busyness, in the anxiety-producing times. I am learning to reach out my hand to Him often as I have found that, when I don't, I too easily become overwhelmed by the daily grind of my busy life. I am very aware that, left to my own devices, I would quickly destroy myself, whether emotionally, spiritually, or perhaps physically. In this way, also, our Lord is truly my Savior.

I am also finding that this cross of depression is an opportunity to learn about our Lord, to learn about His love and His patience, and to grow in faith and love in Him. I am finding that not only should I not hide from the Truth that He is but that I must also embrace it, for His Truth is absolutely beautiful. I find no greater joy than in those moments when He reaches out and reveals something of the simplistic beauty of His Truth and draws me closer to Himself, out of my narrowness and selfishness, out of my despair. I am grateful for all those little lessons He has given me along the way and, therefore, for the need to open myself up to those lessons and to that love that depression lends to me.

I see depression as an opportunity to fall on the grace of God, to fall on His love and mercy. I see depression, and any kind of trial or cross, as a sort of tightrope or balance beam. We who are suffering, who are alive in this valley of darkness, are on this balance beam. We cannot stay balanced on the beam forever of our own devices alone. There will come a wind or a tremor that will knock us off our beam. For some, the beam is wide, and it is more difficult to knock them off; for others, such as myself, the beam is more narrow. Whoever we are, when that wind or tremor comes, we have a choice. We can either fall into despair or fall onto the grace of God. I choose to fall onto His grace. I hope you will join me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A small gift

I went out to meet a few mothers for breakfast this morning. As I said bye to Blaise this morning, he handed me a Hot Wheels race car. "Here Mom, bring this with you." It was a favored race car of his, one he rarely gives up or allows his younger brother to play with. Yet he insisted that I bring it with me to breakfast. I thanked him and told him he was very thoughtful and left.

On my way home, I stopped at church to spend a little time with our Lord. As I reached into my pocket, I felt the race car and pulled it out. "Thank you, Lord, for Blaise's thoughtfulness and ability to share such a special toy. Thank you for such a wonderful, caring boy."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thanks in Advance


The retreat I had gone on two weeks ago was at a Franciscan Capuchin retreat house. One of the Capuchins opened up the retreat with a prayer similar to one a fellow deceased Capuchin, Solanus Casey, would often pray: "Lord, thank You in advance for all the blessings You will grant us during this retreat" (paraphrased). I found it instantly opened me further to the plans God had for me during that retreat, rather than my own, more narrow plans.

I've been praying that prayer daily since: "Lord, thank You in advance for all the blessings You will grant me today" or "...for all the blessings You will grant me this evening with my family" if I'm on my way home from work, or another phrase as appropriate. I find it opens me up to the blessings He does have in store for me that day and helps me to be more joyful as it does remind me God is constantly sending His graces upon us all. It helps me to let go of the narrowness of my plans, of the anxiety that I feel when I think of all that I need to get done and to open up to the vastness of God's plans and His wisdom.

Lord, thank you in advance for the blessings you will grant my family and me tonight.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thank you, Lord, for the awesome gift of redemption



After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone.... The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.'" (Matthew 28:1-2, 5-7)

May God bless you all this Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

To my Holy Mother

Mary, as I am waiting for Easter, I wonder how you must have felt waiting, after your Son had been put to death on the cross. And I wonder how you must have felt during the events leading up to His crucifixion. Were you startled when He was arrested and being sentenced? Were you praying that Pilate would excuse Him? Were you surprised at all that was being said against your innocent Son? Did you understand all that was happening and why it must happen this way? As He was being scourged, did you feel every whip blow? How you must have wanted to run in and hold back the hand of the man so brutally beating Him! As you saw His bloodied body carrying that wood to Calgary, how much sorrow you must have felt! How did you feel as He gazed so lovingly into your eyes with the love only God can give? When He fell, did you try to rush in against the push of the crowd to pick up your Son as you had when He was a child? Did you picture Him as He had been when He was just learning to walk, run, and jump?

What could you have thought as they drove those nails into His hands? How you must have jumped at every hammer blow! I can only imagine your sorrow and feelings of helplessness as they raised Him onto that cross, as you saw your beloved Son being crucified. How final that must have felt! Did you recall Simeon's words so many years before, "A sword will pierce your heart?" Did you know that He would rise again, or did you wonder how this would possibly turn out and what God would do with His own Son's death? As Jesus turned to you from the cross, John at your side, and said, "Woman behold your son," did you understand that you were to become Mother to all mankind? What were your thoughts as He took His last breath? And after they lowered Him from the cross, and you looked at His beaten and blood-smeared face, holding the body of your grown and crucified Son in your arms, did you wonder how humans could be so cruel to another man, and to God? Were you relieved that the His torture was over and that His body had been removed from that horrible cross, or did you long to be looking into the eyes of your Son once again?

And how was your soul? Having been redeemed by Jesus' death and resurrection even before your own conception and birth, being without sin, did you feel anger? Were you easily able to forgive His persecutors and those who sentenced Him to death? Were you frightened by all that had taken place, or did you feel complete and total trust in God the Father? Did the same Holy Spirit that had come over you after your holy "yes" come over you once again to comfort you? Did you feel the fear and the anger that was in the hearts of people surrounding you through the ordeal?

And, as you look at us, at our world, at so much sin, is your heart pierced again and again? As you see the sin we humans are still committing even after God had come down among us, that we may know Him, and had allowed Himself to be crucified for forgiveness of our sins, rising again that we may be redeemed, are you deeply saddened? Mary, I pray that I may provide some comfort for you with my own life, that I may grow in holiness and give you a small matter that may brighten your smile in the midst of sadness. Help me, guide me, pray for me in the midst of my sinful tendencies, in the midst of my pride, that I may be made more holy for your Son who gave of Himself for us all.

Friday, April 10, 2009



Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Cup


I have always been intrigued by the Agony in the Garden. Jesus, sweating blood, asks His Father, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done." How He must have suffered, knowing the trials and pain He would undergo. What strength and love He showed in willingly allowing Himself to be brutally beaten and hung on the cross so that we may all be reconciled to God. Jesus says, in Matthew's account, "Do you think that I cannot call upon My Father and He will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?" (26:53-54). I am thankful He did not do just that. He knew He must drink of this cup, and His Father was not going to take it away from Him, but "to strengthen Him, an angel from Heaven appeared to Him" (Luke 22:43). He who had the strength of God was sent an angel to strengthen Him in His trials.

I used to naively think that if I just follow God closely, trials and sufferings would just melt away. He would take care of all my problems. As I grew older, I learned that clearly this is not true. There are many cups I would like God to take from me, but that is not His Will that my cups of suffering be taken away. He uses my trials to accomplish His Will in my life and the lives especially of those close to me; He uses my crosses to draw me closer to Himself, to teach me how to live, and for my redemption. But, though He will not take our cups, our crosses, away, He does provide us what we need when we look to Him. A Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus contains this prayer: "Divine Heart of Jesus, we come to You seeking rest in our weariness, patience in our trials, peace in our troubles, strength in our temptations, and light in our darkness" (Apostleship of Prayer pamphlet). Instead of taking our cups, God gives us rest, patience, peace, strength, and light to endure them and promises He will be with us always.

Lord, I pray that I may always look to You for the rest, patience, peace, strength, and light I need to endure my trials and sufferings. I thank You in advance for providing this for me and for walking with me down my own road and as I endure my own crosses. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering You endured on the way to Calvary and on that cross. That You for drinking of that cup and giving me the gift of redemption, opening the way to eternal life with our Heavenly Father. I will never be able to express enough gratitude for that gift You gave in your willing suffering.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Opportunity of the Cross

"Paul does not regard the cross from the perspective of its horror, its hardship, or its hurt. He sees it as a chance. The cross is the way to break out of our crippling self-reliance so as to depend fully on God. Without the cross in our life, how comfortable we would become - how complacent and self-content.... The cross is the way that God persistently calls us back to Him, moment by moment, detaching us from all our secret supports by which we would connive to become autonomous and self-serving."
Peter John Cameron, OP; Magnificat, September 2008; Vol 10, No 7.

Thank God for our crosses, or trials, then. If not for difficulties, we would never know our need for Him. We would simply go through our lives, content and comfortable, though unfulfilled. It is in our crosses that Christ calls us back to Himself.

Our trial are opportunities to turn to God and to grow closer to Him. They are opportunities to look to Him for all that we need and for guidance, so that we become less self-reliant and come to know our dependence on Him.

Lord, please help me to make use of these opportunities You have given me in my trials and difficulties, in the cross I carry, to rely on You, to trust in You. I pray I will remember I cannot do it all myself. Help me to learn to more easily come back to You moment by moment, especially in my difficulties, and to rely on you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ok, ok, I get the hint.

You know how sometimes you hear something in church or you read something that you know was meant just for you? Well, that didn't happen this time. I was too busy. But God wanted to make sure I paid attention and got the message. I have heard this Bible verse several times and a couple reflections on it over the course of the last couple weeks, and then it was part of the theme at the retreat I was at this weekend, when I actually had time to listen. Ok, God, I get it. I'll pay attention.

As they continued their journey He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10:38-42, emphasis added)

As women, we spend too much time in both the literal and the proverbial kitchen of life. We work hard, caring for our children and husbands, doing housework, and often working or volunteering. We give and give some more, often becoming burdened by all the tasks we have before us. We can easily become anxious and often worried.

I wonder what kind of meal Martha was cooking. Was she cooking a five course meal? If someone famous were coming to my house, I would be tempted to prepare the best meal I know how to make, to clean the house top to bottom, and to buy fancy napkins and a new tablecloth. Was Martha doing the same? And what was her attitude toward serving? Obviously, she wasn't finding joy in her preparations for dinner. Of course, with so much to do and with her sister reclining at her guest's feet, I can imagine why Martha had taken up the bad attitude. It's the same attitude I often have when I have finished a long day at work and come home to screaming kids and housework waiting to be done. So I really can't blame her.

But we also have to make a point of stepping out of the kitchen often in order to sit at the Lord's feet and listen to Him speak to us. We need to talk with Him and tell Him our difficulties and our burdens and place them in His lap, for He also says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." We have all heard, and hopefully experienced, that when we take time to pray, our days go more smoothly and we are more at peace and less anxious. It is not easy to do this since we are so busy; it can seem like just one more thing on our to-do list. It may not be until days or weeks later when we feel our stress level growing that we realize we have not sat down to read scriptures or to do an examination in a while. St. Francis de Sales has said, "Half an hour's meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed." Well, that is just not possible in my week, but I get the point. Prayer and meditation are absolutely necessary, especially when we are so busy. So we have to make a point of setting aside time to pray. When it comes to the general direction of our lives and family, and when it comes to eternity, there is "only one thing" necessary for us to do. Spending time with our Lord in prayer and getting to know Him is that one thing. Without that, all that we do has no purpose.

I am finding I need to schedule prayer time into my day. A walk and rosary at lunch on Mondays and Thursdays, stopping at church after working on Tuesdays and Fridays, a prayerful run on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Mass on Sundays. And dinners, bedtime, and other random prayer time I hope.

Lord, help us to be like Mary. Help us to step out of the kitchen often to take time to sit at Your feet and talk with You and listen to Your wisdom rather than constantly working so hard and giving ourselves away. Amen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New blog... please read!

One of my very best friends just started a new blog today. She is an absolutely beautiful woman, devout Catholic, wonderful mother and wife, and fantastic friend! Please visit her.

HuMAMAe Vitae

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Update

I have not posted anything in a week or so, and so I thought I'd write a bit of an update.

I am still struggling with what I wrote about a week ago, but I suppose that day last week was my low. I know that will be a struggle for a while longer and that life is not easy anyway. But I also know I can learn to appreciate what I have been given. What I find difficult is that I take one step forward with learning to find joy despite the difficulties and busyness of life, then I take two steps back. Once I feel I am doing well, life hits me like a ton of bricks. But spring will be coming to Wisconsin soon, and the weather is one piece of the puzzle, so that will help.

I will be going on a retreat this weekend, which I believe will also help. The theme is "The Freedom of Letting Go" and is about meeting the challenges of our day. I think it is not only the perfect timing but also a wonderful topic for me. This is one place I certainly can see God's hand in my life. Please say a quick prayer He will guide the weekend and give me and the other retreatants what we need.

This last weekend, we went to visit my parents and had gotten a babysitter for the boys so that they, my husband, and I could go out for my birthday. When we got there, my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Katie were there. What a wonderful surprise! Later, my brother Brian and other sister-in-law Katie came with my niece. And then early afternoon, my other brother Dan came with his girlfriend, Beth. Everyone had come! So we had a very nice afternoon together, then all ten of us went out for dinner and enjoyed a little time afterward back at my parents' house. It was the most special birthday I had ever had! I was so appreciative they had all driven over to come for my birthday.

I am finding this second half of Lent, God is wanting me to work on giving up my pride. Pride is something I have struggled with in some ways my entire life. I am still trying to recover a healthy sense of humility following times in my life when my pride has been badly bruised and when I've tried to hold too tightly to its torn strings. It seems to me that pride is a funny thing. The less control we feel we have, the more we cling to our pride and cling to control. But that keeps us from the embrace of God and from He who is in control and can give us fulfillment. True humility is a difficult thing to grasp, but so beautiful!

God bless you all!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Need of a few Prayers

I have to admit, I have been struggling quite a bit lately, off and on, mostly on, this winter and spring. I feel like I give and give... I give the my patients at work then I come home and give to two toddler boys. And I feel bad because after work I am either too exhausted to give to the boys or just simply don't feel like it. Everyone tells me I'm a good mother, but inside, I know I short change them. At work, people come to see me looking for answers. Why do they hurt? Why can't they do this or that? What is wrong with their shoulder, knee, back, etc? What can they do to get better? When is it going to get better? Overall, I like to answer these questions. It's like putting together a puzzle... like a mystery that needs to be solved. I enjoy being analytical. But sometimes I can't come up with the solutions. And I know that's ok. And sometimes I get tired of being so analytical. Sometimes I get tired of hearing about other people's pain. And when I'm struggling myself with exhaustion, I can't let that on. Work is not about me... it's about the patient. Which is fine.

But I want answers myself. I know joy lies in giving. If I give more to my boys, will I be happy? Or am I already giving too much and draining myself? And the same questions my patients ask: why do I hurt? What is wrong? What do I need to do to feel better? When will I feel better? Will I ever really feel better?

What I enjoy so much... reading and writing. I felt so alive when I was writing last summer. I felt so close to God while I was writing. Ever since Andy started school, I haven't been able to do much of that. There are too many things that need to be done around here. We're always behind. And Andy has 17 credits. He's having a hard time and has less patience with the boys. Even now as I'm typing this, I hear his patience growing thin with them. I can't leave for long. And when I do try to write, the words don't come anyway, so what's the point? I stop at church to pray and spend some time with Our Lord, often feeling better for much of the day, but it doesn't take long to lose that. I believe in trusting in God, that He helps us through it all. I know He is here with me, though I feel so far away from Him now and am having difficulty praying at times. Sometimes I wonder if having a job in which I need to have "all the answers" is of detriment to my soul. In life, God does not expect us to have the answers. We are not God. My analytical nature works both for me and against me. But I think my analytical nature is also why I enjoy writing so much, and writing for me is prayer.

Sorry about the huge "splat" of complaints (especially since I had giving up complaining for Lent). Just want to be honest. This is what I'm going through. I hope I don't sound crazy. I am grateful for any prayers. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It is Jesus

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts you most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

-Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day, Rome 2000 (quoted in Theology of the Body for Teens, Ascension Press, p 14)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Laetare, Rejoice

Please forgive me that this post is not timely. I should have posted it this morning.

I bless the Lord who gives me
counsel;
in the night also my heart
instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because He is at my right hand, I
shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my
soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see
the Pit.

You show me the path of life.
In Your presence there is fullness
of joy;
in Your right hand are pleasures
forevermore.

(Psalm 16:7-11)

This Sunday, Laetare Sunday, marks approximately the halfway point as we journey through our desert experience of Lent. During Lent, we do well to keep in mind that we are a people in need of redemption. We are people in need of the grace of God since, left only to our own devices, we would likely fall deep into sin. And no matter who we are, without God's grace, we could not reach eternal life. But Laetare Sunday gives us a chance to remember, within our desert experience, that we do have a God who has redeemed us and who always longs to reconcile us to Himself and to draw us closer to Himself. Laetare means "rejoice." On Laetare Sunday, we have a chance to celebrate the gift of our redemption, the works that God is performing within us this Lent, and all that He has given to us.

Rev. Christopher M. Mahar has a wonderful reflection on what this means on his blog:

"This Laetare Sunday we are reminded that even in the midst of our desert experience, even in the middle of Lent, we have great reason to celebrate and rejoice: Jesus Christ has come, He has suffered and died for us, and is risen from the dead. Even now we anticipate that joy of Easter."

and

"Christ comes from heaven to earth, into this icy world, to suffer and die on the cross and to break the curse of sin and death which has touched us all. He has come to reconcile us to God and to each other. He comes to inaugurate what St. Paul, in our second reading today, calls the Ministry of Reconciliation. He says: 'God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation'(2 Corinthians 5:19).... That’s the reason we rejoice this Laetare Sunday: because we have received and been given the Ministry of Reconciliation. That’s the reason we can sing for joy in what God has done and in what He is doing in the world around us."

Lord,
Thank you for the goodness You are producing within us this Lent. Help us to stand afresh this second half of Lent, giving You our sacrifices, trusting You will continue to create good from the sacrifices we give to You. May we allow You to reconcile us to Yourself and give us the opportunity to make use of Your Sacrament often during this season. Let us rest secure, knowing that You have redeemed us and do love us, and knowing that You will teach us to walk by the right paths and will help us on the way.
Amen.

Will the Real Isaac Please Stand Up?



The boys had finished their bath, and it was time for them to get out. The problem, of course, is that they did not think it was time to get out. I had already given the two-minute warning ("Two minutes until you get out") about 5 minutes earlier.

Me: Time to get out. Who wants to get out first?

Blaise (3 1/2): Isaac does! (points to his younger brother)

Isaac (2, and unable to say Blaise's name, so he regularly calls him Isaac): Isaac! (points to Blaise)

Blaise: No, Isaac! (points to Isaac)

Isaac: Isaac! (points to Blaise)

etc, etc.

Me: Alright, Isaac, you first. (I scoop up the real Isaac since Blaise is being more insistent than he is and since Isaac is usually the more happy-go-lucky one. He more often than Blaise gets the short end of the deal for that reason, I'm sure.)

Still me, to Isaac: You can pick which towel. Do you want to be a puppy or a froggy?

He quickly picks the favored puppy with the big floppy ears.

Blaise, jumping out of the tub: No, I want to be the puppy! No! Isaac be frog! I be puppy!

I wrap him in the frog towel. I should have known. This is very typical of Blaise.

Me: Blaise, next time you get out of the tub first and pick the puppy towel.

Blaise continues to kick and scream as I carry them both to their room to dress them. I momentarily think about switching the towels but don't do it since Isaac does have the right to the puppy towel and would be upset if I take it from him and since Blaise needs to know that Isaac does have as many rights to things as he does. I can't help but laugh to myself, though, as I dress them. I love how Isaac calls his brother Isaac!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wanting advice on layout

How do I further customize the layout/colors/wallpaper on my blog beyond using the sample layouts Blogger gives us? Is there a good way or a good place to look for pictures to accompany my posts? Are there any other fun things I can do with the look of my blog, or any other advice on attracting readers to my blog?
Thanks in advance!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Grateful for Lessons Being Learned

I started Lent giving up complaining. Lately, I have had a greater tendency than usual to complain, whether with my words, with my actions, or with my simply moaping around and general impatience. I can't say giving up complaining is always easy, especially when the boys acted up during Mass on Sunday and completely zapped my energy... is that complaining? I hope not! Let's see... they were teaching me patience and love. And they also afforded me an excuse to go back to church to pray that afternoon, since I needed to let go of my frustration. Thank you, God, for difficult children!

As you can see, this is not easy for me, but I am TRYING! But I gave Christ an inch in this, and when you give Him an inch... He'll make use of it! He is teaching me not only to not complain about my circumstances but to instead find JOY within them. He is teaching me not to look for the hassles and difficulties of my life but to instead look for the ways in which He is present in my life and in my family, to look beyond that which is not perfect to Him, who is perfect, and to the beauty He creates. He is teaching me to trust Him in all circumstances, that He has a plan and will bring about good from anything and everything. He is teaching me not only to be grateful for the gift of today but to REJOICE in that gift and to CELEBRATE the little things given to me each day. He is teaching me not to put off my joy until Andy graduates and the kids are old enough to pour their own milk without spilling and dress themselves, but to be joyful NOW.

Lord, I am so very grateful for this lesson of joy. May we all forever look to You for all that we need, remembering that You are the source of all that is good and all that is holy. May we remember that You are present in our lives at each moment of every day and look for your presence, rejoicing and celebrating when we see Your beauty shining through into our world. Help us to shift our focus from the problems and difficulties we encounter and keep our eyes set upon You, handing over those problems to You that You may help us through them and perhaps even create joy in the midst of our struggles.

Are we too busy?

Tonight, I asked Blaise, 3 1/2, if he wanted to read a book before bed. So he picked up his Thomas computer and a book and sat on my lap, handing me the book. He turned on the computer and started playing. He insisted that I read the book as he was playing his games. He would look over at the pictures as I finished each page then turned back to his computer. Is this what he sees Andy and me doing? What am I teaching the boys with all the multi-tasking? To be as busy and constantly working as what I am?

I was talking with one of my patients today. He grew up "before the war," as he says. Things were simpler then, he tells me. People went visiting after church on Sundays. They had 10 cows rather than 200 or rather than jobs with long hours, and they spent their time after dinner sitting around and talking or playing cards around the lamp until they decided to turn it off. People were not so busy. They kept in touch. They knew their neighbors. There was not so much busy-ness and less worry and stress. What has happened??? And why is it so hard to live that way today?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prayerful Ponderings

As a mom, I wish to give all I can to my kids. But sometimes they take it all from me before I can give it to them, draining every last ounce of energy from me. I wonder if this is how Christ felt as he hung on the cross. But, unlike me, He gives of Himself so willingly and unreservedly, no matter how much we continue to take. Yet, I need to remember that I am not God. I do not have an unlimited supply of patience or energy; I need to continually allow Him to refill me so that I can continue to give, and to give so lovingly as Christ gives to us.

Depression often occurs when we look to the things of this world for our happiness rather than looking to God for our joy; when we look through eyes expecting to meet hassles and difficulties rather than through eyes expecting to see the works and grace of God; when we look to ourselves to provide the answers rather than looking with trust and confidence to God for all we need.

My hope is in the joy I find in giving all to Christ and in learning from Him as I look to Him and place His yoke upon my shoulders; my hope is in the love He so abundantly pours out; my hope is in the promises He gives us that He will be with us always and in His promise of salvation. My hope is in Christ Jesus.

When I ponder the life of Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus, and especially their escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23), I wonder what Mary's reaction was to their fleeing to Egypt. To flee with an infant to a place where they know no one, are unfamiliar with the language and customs, and flee to escape harm to God's Son could have been such an occasion for fear. Yet I can only believe that Mary, in her beautiful faith in God, trusted and found joy in His providence all the same. What a role model! Through everything, her faith never wavered, even when she saw her only son being hung on a cross. When I have run into snags in my life this week and have been led to do things I don't necessarily want to do, I have been looking to the Holy Family's trip to Egypt, remembered my faith, and attempted to find joy all the same.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Follow up to "Prozac Nation?"

I've had several wonderful replies to my last post, and so I'd like to follow up with them.

My wonderful friend, Katie, said in her reply: "I have one thought regarding your points 3-7: all these are factors which can (but not always) affect brain chemistry. I think that what keeps these factors into play is that our society acts as though or believes that there is no sense in suffering; that nothing can be learned or gained from it. As a result, the first response is to medicate to change the chemical imbalances and naturally working to adjust the chemical imbalances or deficiencies is completely overlooked because it takes effort, time, and discipline. (examples of naturally changing brain chemistry: changing behaviors, eating habits, thinking patterns, etc.)"

I completely agree. I do believe, primarily through experience (so correct me if you know otherwise), that stress from such things as being too busy, expecting too much, trying to do too much, having too many expectations placed on us, being too tired, arguments and fall-outs, etc triggers some kind of response in our brains and contribute to feelings of depression and/or anxiety.

I do also believe that some people are more prone to stress and that, given similar circumstances, two different people will react completely differently. One will take everything in stride, while the other will become so anxious he/she will be unable to sleep. There may be chemical reasons for that as well as personality differences. Some people are more prone to depression and/or anxiety for whatever reason (like me :) ), but even those people don't need to be as symptomatic as they may be; I believe societal influences push them further into depression or anxiety than they would otherwise be. With all its hardship and stress, I wonder if the Great Depression produced so many people who had depression as these decades are producing.

Take this week, for example. On Monday and Tuesday, I was so incredibly anxious. On Monday, I was running late to work because the boys were not cooperating... and, I'll admit it, because I was being my own disorganized self. Then at work, both days, I was trying to do too much, putting too many expectations on myself to give everyone I worked with 120%. When I came home on Tuesday, I had nothing left to give my family, and I was a BEAR! I spoke with a friend of mine who helped me to put things in perspective and, like others have done, encouraged me to take time for myself and to allow myself to give what I can to each person but no more, etc, and also gave me a daily devotional book, for which the lesson today (the first day) happened to be about finding joy in everything we have been given NOW... not in a few days or a few years, a message I really needed to hear (I'll explain in my next post). I also enjoyed my day off yesterday with the boys and went back to work today with a new perspective, putting no unnecessary expectations on myself and taking everything in stride, with joy and gratefulness in my heart. I came home from a 10 hour day with energy to spare and with a positive attitude and gratefulness for my life and my family! What a gift! I have learned how to put that kind of pressure and those kinds of expectations on myself through the society and environment in which I grew up and no live, and I hope to unlearn that. But I also have a personality in which I am prone to that. And I live with another factor that makes me prone to that.

That brings me to reply to the second post. There are physiological issues that also lead to depression. The one I am most familiar with is hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone contributes a significant amount to our bodily function, especially in energy levels, metabolism, and brain function. Tiredness, cloudiness of thought, and depression often occur, as to a number of physical symptoms. Hyperthyroidism (too much hormone) can also affect energy levels and mood. I have congenital hypothyroidism, which means I was born without a thyroid gland. Luckily, I was born the year neonatal testing was first done in Wisconsin and was diagnosed on day 1 or 2 of my life and was placed on thyroid hormone immediately. Otherwise my life would be completely different than it is. I am so grateful that I was diagnosed when I was. God is good! Even so, I am sure this contributes greatly to my tendency toward depression, though I am learning ways of lessening that. I would be happy to explain if anyone is interested (but this post is getting too long already).

God bless you if you read all of this (and God bless you if you didn't!). I'm going to bed!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Prozac Nation?

A friend of mine had several ladies over to her house last Wednesday evening. It was a very enjoyable time. While there, I caught the tail-end of a conversation about Prozac and other antidepressants, as a group, being the most-prescribed type of medication in the U.S. Having chronic depression myself, I have often wondered why depression and anxiety are so common in our society and have been thinking about that again since Wednesday. While there may be a link between a chemical deficiency in the brain and depression or anxiety, I have a difficult time believing that is the primary reason for such a large number of cases of depression and anxiety, and I wonder if a chemical deficiency may be often caused by the stressors our society daily subjects us to.

Just in brainstorming on this topic, here are some of my thoughts as to what contributes to the large numbers of people with depression:

1) Lack of faith in God. This is a theme that will come up in many of my arguments. As a society, we are eliminating God, whether directly or indirectly, from our daily lives. Praying is now outlawed in schools, and most people rarely mention God in their conversations. "God bless you" is commonly shortened to "Bless you." Indirectly, our busy-ness is also eliminating God from our lives. We do not have time to pray. Many, if not most, people on some level feel that God is not a large part of their lives. Even if we have faith, we often live as if we don't.

2) Lack of hope. If we do not have God in our lives, what do we hope in? And what more is despair than the lack of hope? Hoping in things ultimately leaves us feeling empty. A new house, a job promotion, a vacation, while great things, cannot satisfy us. It is not long before the vacation is over, the newness of the house wears off and maintenance becomes mundane, or the job promotion leaves us busier and more worn out than we had been. And all things are passing away. The only thing that truly remains is our God and our hope for eternal life. We also cannot put our hope in other people. As wonderful as a good friend or a loving spouse is, they are only human and cannot satisfy every need we have. Our only true hope is in our God.

3) Our fast-paced lives. We generally don't have time to sit back and enjoy what we have been given and to enjoy the simple things in life. We don't have time to take care of ourselves. We don't have time to pray. As soon as we are done with one thing, we are moving onto the next, if we're not multitasking already. And even when there's nothing pressing to do, we often find ourselves so accustomed to hurrying about that we feel we are forgetting something and that there really must be something we need to get done. I think this is especially difficult for people who are introverts, who need quiet time to think, reflect, and recharge more than others do, for we run out of steam quickly and soon find we have given so much that we have nothing left to give. We live in a world that values productivity and does not value time for reflection, often seeing it as a waste of time and, sometimes, as a sign of weakness.

4) Living up to expectations. As I said above, we live in a society that values productivity. Jobs often require us to make a certain quota or to maintain productivity standards. People also have higher expectations for products bought or services rendered and are able to shop around to find the "best bang for their buck." Instead of just doing the best we can and building on that "best" at a self-managed pace, we push ourselves to, and sometimes beyond, our limits as our competition does the same in order to win over the consumers. This then begins to drive us, rather than the joy and "pride" of providing the best products or services to the benefit of those we serve. We also become exhausted and, again, give until we have nothing left to give. Internalizing these high expectations can also quickly lead to depression. When we develop such high standards for ourselves that we are unable to live up to them, we can see ourselves as failures whether we really are or not. When we don't look to God, we can get a hopeless view of ourselves and our situations. We know that God will not give us anything that we can't handle and will help us through the difficult times. We also know that He doesn't expect any more from us than for us to use the gifts and resources He has given us to the best of our ability, with His help as well. But it is easy to lose sight of this in the middle of our busy-ness.

5) Our own expectations. When we look around us at what other people have, it is difficult not to want much of that for ourselves as well. From the outside, another's house or family may look perfect, whether or not it looks that way from the inside. We may also expect our own future to look a certain way and spend much of our time and energy looking forward to the future only to find a few years down the road that the future is not as perfect as we had hoped. We don't appreciate what we have when we are so busy thinking about what we don't have. We don't live in the joy of the moment or express thankfulness to God when we feel we are missing something. But God gives us what we need when we need it. God provides, especially when we put our trust in Him, though He may provide in a way different than we may have wanted ourselves.

6) Our need for control. Because of much of the above, we often feel out of control and attempt to influence the path of our lives or attempt to control our spouses, children, employees, co-workers, or other people in our lives. When we find we cannot control those things adequately, we feel more hopeless and more as if our lives are out of control. What we can forget easily is that God is in control. He has a plan. When we are trying to control our own lives, we are taking control out of God's hands.

7) Poor diet, inadequate exercise, etc. Good diet and exercise can act as natural antidepressants. And, yes, I do believe that there are some cases in which chemical deficiency does play a primary role in depression and anxiety.

Any other thoughts? I welcome any discussion or comments on this topic.

God bless you all!
Kim