The World You Inherit

To the Children,

As a child, I remember seeing the “Special Report” bulletins show up on my television screen accompanied by their serious sounding music.  My heart would pound a bit as I waited to see what was happening in the world that would disrupt my television show.

Most I’m sure turned out to be pretty inconsequential, at least to my small world.  But I do remember a few that scared me — usually they would involve airplanes, sometimes crashes, sometimes attacks.

As a result, I always had this idea in the back of my mind that airplanes were dangerous.  I felt solace in the idea that as long as I was on the ground, I would be okay.

These days everything we watch is streamed, so I have more control over which of these Special Reports you see.  And for that I am grateful.

In your cartoon worlds, there is good and bad, and the good always wins out in the end, and the bad… well, it’s not really that bad to begin with.

But when we flip the channel to the real world, things become more cloudy.  The bad is worse than your minds could comprehend, and sometimes it wins.

And while I feared airplanes as a child, there is a whole lot more to face in your world.  It’s hard to find a safe corner here.  It can’t be found in offices or government buildings.  It can’t be found in high schools or in grade schools.  It can’t be found in restaurants, and it can’t be found in churches.

You don’t have any place to go where you can think, surely no one will go here.  Those illusions are gone.

And that’s what I was thinking about as I sent you to your rooms to read while I watched a few minutes of the news.  I was thinking about the light in your eyes and this cold, dark world that wants to turn it into fear.

And it’s not fair.  It’s not fair that you are inheriting a world so much more dangerous than the one I grew up in.  It’s not fair that in addition to tornado drills, you also have to practice lock down drills, and it’s not fair that one of these days you will start to understand what those lock down drills are for.  It’s not fair that you will understand way too early that some people want to kill others solely to destroy what is good and what is innocent.

But the world never promised you fair.

And so as the years progress, and you start to understand what has started to seem like a biweekly occurrence of guns mixing with innocent life, I hope that you are able to rise above where I am.  I hope you are able to embrace love and light and hope.  Feel the fear.  It’s only natural that it is there at times such as these.  But then pack it away and rise above.

Because regardless of the motive or the perpetrator, the real cause of such events is evil.  And the way to defeat evil is to reside in good.

The best hope we have resides in the hearts of those who refuse to fall into the darkness.

You all are our hope.

I just wish we had better to offer you.

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I love Thanksgiving.  It gives us a year to look back on with gratitude, but it also allows us to look forward into the upcoming season of hope and joy.

So when I picked Magoo up from school yesterday, I was particularly excited.  Not only did I get my kids home with me for four days straight, but I have so very much to be thankful for this year.

As we drove over the river on the way home, I looked over and saw the “Peace of Earth” sign that they display on the bridge every year.  Accompanying the sign were remnants of snow and ice and my memories from a few years back.

It was this time of year when everything changed… for the better.

I was reminded of our life before we moved into this house.  Before, when we lived in a deteriorating neighborhood in a house I wasn’t comfortable in, and we were desperately trying to sell our home to move out and move on.

The last couple of years in that house left an indelible mark on me.  They taught me that things can get really rough.  They taught me what it feels like to have a house but not a home.  They taught me how empty so many things can feel if you have no place that can act as a respite.

But in all that was lacking, I learned what it really means to be blessed.  I learned that as I was a chicken holed up in a  hotel room with my girls because a big evil mouse was in my bedroom at home that all I truly needed could be contained in one small room.

And this morning, I find myself sitting in my living room listening to Christmas music while my kids strew toys everywhere and leap across the floor and across my vision to the sound of the music.

Sometimes life still gets overwhelming.  But thanks to those years when things weren’t so great, I can see the beauty in the chaos now.  I can look past the toys and the clothes, and I can see the love and the peace that this house holds.  I find joy in decorating for holidays and in making beds and in preparing meals because I know that these are the things that make this house a home, and I feel so grateful to be able to give my children the peace that comes from a nest that nurtures.

So this holiday season, say a prayer of thanksgiving for all you have that allows you to make a home for your loved ones.  And then say a prayer for all those without.  This is their season of hardship and trial, and the very least we can do is use our prayers to accompany them on their journey towards hope and peace.

God bless and Happy Thanksgiving.

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Post Surgery Recovery — For Mom


So I have been freakishly calm lately.  Calm enough that I know it’s disfunction because calm is just not synonymous with my nature.

I’ve been scheduling 752 appointments for my girls with ENTs and speech pathologists.  I’ve been trying to learn everything I can to figure out the best path for each of them.  I’m thoroughly ignorant on the issues before us, and so becoming a lay expert has been an uphill and thoroughly exhausting battle.

But through it all, I’ve talked calmly about it and have been, as I said, freakishly calm.

I also haven’t been writing.  And I think the two might be related.  See, if I sat down to write, all of those feelings that I have been hiding from would have come out.  They say writing is like opening a wound and then bleeding out over the page.  I think somewhere deep inside I knew if I let that wound out, it would never close.

But I didn’t know that.  I thought I just had nothing to say.  I thought I was taking it all in stride.  I thought the slightly obsessive control over the things I could control was just me evolving.

And then Magoo had her surgery today, and she came out perfectly fine on the other side.  And now I feel like I’m losing it.

I remember when she had surgery as an infant.  It was just a very brief procedure to have her tear duct unclogged.  It was horrible.  Having the nurse take her away screaming and then bringing her back a few minutes later with her eyes open but unconscious and screaming was traumatic for us all.  It’s less traumatic with a seven year old… I thought.

Before the procedure, she sat on the bed and crocheted with her new Care Bear from Grandma and Grandpa.  She laughed at the nurses’ and doctors’ jokes.  She had no questions.  We had already gone over the procedure a few times, so she knew what to expect.  She only looked slightly like she was going to cry as they wheeled her back.

While she was gone, I knitted.  Fiercely.  I wasn’t worried, I told myself.  I just needed to keep busy.  The two Xanax I took would surely do the job.

And then finally it was over and they wheeled her back, and all I wanted to do was crawl into the bed and lay with her.  I wanted to stroke her hair and cry.  I didn’t.

Then we came home, and I just wanted to sit next to her and cuddle her and never leave go.  That’s what we did this evening.  I could barely talk because I would choke up every time.  She was just happy stroking her new Care Bear because the fur really is exceptionally soft.

And now she is in bed.

She said she wanted to sleep with me.  I told her to please crawl into bed with me tonight if she wakes up.  I don’t think she will.  She likes her space.  But secretly I hope to have her by my side tonight.

And now that she is asleep and safe and peaceful, I am sitting down here shaking and I can’t stop the tears from threatening my eyes.

They are telling me the truth – that it wasn’t a freakish calm I was experiencing.  It was a fear so deep that I couldn’t face it.  It wasn’t calm – it was a complete shut down.

I tried my best not to think about her surgery yesterday.  When I did, all that popped into my head was what life would be like without her.  How I couldn’t handle it.  How I couldn’t go on.  How as her mom she needs me, but how as her mom, I need her so much more.

I know it was a routine procedure.  I know every day countless numbers of kids have it done.  But it’s not my kid every day.  It’s not my little Magoo.  It’s not the baby who brought so much light into our lives that it was blinding.

Ever since the day she was born, I thought she was too perfect for this world.  It’s a mother’s delusion, I know.  I didn’t understand how something so perfect could come from me, and as such, I’ve always had this fear in the back of my head that it would all be taken away.  Days like today intensify that fear.

It’s over now, and she is safe and has mostly recovered.  Now I just need a few days to nurse my own wounds.

Being a mom is hard.  There are no bandaids to cover our scars.

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Sometimes I get sad, and I don’t really know why.  I’m not crying or depressed.  Just sad.

Last night I started a new book with Magoo.  One of my absolute favorite things in the world is hearing Magoo read.  She has read with such inflection since she was three.  It’s adorable.

But when we were about to start last night, she got a bit sad, and she told me that sometimes when she reads at school the kids laugh at her.

As I think any mom would, my blood pressure went through the roof, and it took every ounce of will power I had to let her air her feelings without instantly trying to fix them with praise and hugs and every positive word I could think of.

So she told me how it made her feel, and then I asked her why she thinks they laugh.  She told me that it’s whenever she reads a word like “poop” or some other word of that sort.

Now I’m not sure how often the word, “poop,” comes up in school reading, but instantly I recognized the problem.  Kids weren’t laughing at her.  They were laughing with her at funny content.  I explained this to her, telling her how it’s just like when we laugh when something funny happens in a book we are reading together.

This was a simple one.  I actually could fix it.  I could explain how no one really is laughing at her.  She might still be embarrassed, but I think she understood the important distinction.

And yet my heart still stayed heavy.  Every day she goes out into a world that doesn’t care so much about her feelings.  At this point, she’s surrounded by friends and teachers who truly care about her, but in the end, the world doesn’t exist to cater to her feelings.

And it shouldn’t.

And we’ve been dealing with some problems with Goosie.  At the point, she doesn’t know a problem exists.  But we do, and we are trying to figure out ways to make it better and help her through it, hoping it will take care of itself in due time.

While the odds are in her favor, sometimes it doesn’t clear up.  Sometimes it becomes a life long issue.

And I look at her.  I see her unbridled excitement.  I see her passion and her joy.  I see how very much that passion has to offer this world, and my heart breaks.  Because I know the world doesn’t look highly upon passion.  It honors reserve and coolness and detachment.  And she lives in a world of fire.

I pray that she maintains that fire even when the world tries to douse it.

I can’t fix the world.

And I think that’s where the sadness comes in.  I’ve always said that I’m not worried about my children’s weaknesses.  They, like us all, can learn to manage them.

No, what breaks my heart is their strengths.  Those little aspects of them that are sent pure from Heaven.  The parts that make them unique, special, perfect.

I always used to listen to people who told me that I can’t protect them from the world.  I have to help them toughen up to cope with this world.

And in some ways that’s true.

But I’m also starting to think that it’s equally important that I help them maintain that purity of spirit and personality.  They are gifts from God, and they need protecting.

I can’t protect them from everything.  I can’t shield them from a world they will spend their entire Earthly lives in.

But I can build them up.  I can celebrate their uniqueness.  I can create a refuge in myself that they can come to when the world gets too cold and the storms blow too strong.

In me, they can find the unconditional love this world will not give them.

I want to keep them mine.  I want to close our doors and let their beautiful little lights shine, unhindered and untainted by the world around us.  But there’s no point to a light shining in a box.  That light is made for the world, and to hide it is just as much of a crime as to stifle it.

So I sit here and walk the line between nurturance and exposure, knowing that the line cannot be perfectly walked and we will often fall too far to one side or another.

And perhaps that’s why I’m sad.  I’m an imperfect mom parenting in an imperfect world.

That’s tough to know sometimes.

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Who We Allow In

I think a lot about who I let into my life.

I think as Christians, we are taught to be open and welcoming and accepting of people’s faults.  We try to see the good in them.

But what about when that doesn’t work?  What about when people are corrosive and abusive?

I’ve never been good at protecting myself from those influences.  I’ve never felt like I deserved to say that I am worth more than that.  That my being and my soul deserved protection from forces looking to turn me away from myself.

But then I did.

It wasn’t myself I was protecting.  I was protecting my family.  I was saying I want more for them.  And I was admitting that we had vulnerabilities that would allow those negative forces to seep in.

And now, partially removed from that decision, I see the moral imperative in it.  I now understand that we are not made of steel.  That we have vulnerabilities and that darkness will try to infiltrate through those vulnerabilities.  And to keep putting ourselves in situations or relationships that exaggerate that vulnerability isn’t being responsible to ourselves or those we most care about.

I’m not advocating the dismissal of all difficult relationships.  I’m most surely not saying that people aren’t worth fighting for.  We need to see the good in people and allow them grace and show them mercy.  We must be Christ in the world for people.

But sometimes we also have to know our limitations.  And we have to hold people responsible.  Sometimes staying in a relationship is merely enabling poor behavior for the sake of something that isn’t really benefiting anyone in the first place.

So hold your loved ones close.  Fight for them with everything you have.  Grant them the mercy you hope God will grant you.  But also remember that your soul and those of the ones closest to you are your number one priority.

And sometimes you just have to learn that the most loving thing you can do is walk away.

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And then we come to the child’s greatest defense.

After 24 hours of yelling and crying and being an overall stink, they stand in the middle of the room on the ottoman, swaying their hips back and forth, singing in toddlerspeak “raining drops keeping falling down me head.”  Then they giggle, throw themselves at you, and whisper, “cuddle me please.”

And that’s where they have it.  That is why they have the upper hand.  That is why we give all that we have and then we wake up and give it all again and will continue to do so until they one day get out of bed and say they need to fly.

Because children are the best of us.  They are the parts that are pure and holy and innocent.  They show us a glimpse of what we all maybe could have been if only.  They are joy.

So when your kid makes a mess today and hits her sister and spills milk all over the dog and draws a self portrait on the wall, just remember that tomorrow will come and then you will see the beauty in this crazy life once more.

They say non parents are happier than parents.  I don’t know if that’s true or not.  But what I do know is that no other gift can bring the joy that a child can.  Messes and all.


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The Other Days

And some days I completely lose it.

Some days, I decide at the last minute to go to morning Mass.  I do this because Magoo likes it.  I do this because I believe it’s important for the little two to learn to be respectful and reverent during those times.  I do it to pray for my family and ask God to bless us all.  And I do it to find peace.

But some days when I go to that Mass, Mae spends half the time screaming about poop.  Then she takes off around church and gets what seems to be about a quarter of a mile away before I catch her because it looks inappropriate for a two year old to run screaming through church, but it looks much worse for a 37 year old to do so.

And then we go to the grocery store.  I do this to feel on top of things.  So I can get what we need early in the day so I don’t have to worry about it.  But the little two spend the whole time asking over and over and over again if they can ride the horse.  And I tell them that they cannot because they did not behave in church.  Apparently this does not register in their cute little ear canals because they just ask again.

And then we get home, and I cave in and put them in front of the television (you might see smoke coming out of their ears from their brains that were fried from too much television) so that I can sit in the kitchen in peace and have a cup of coffee.  During this brain frying, I put on an inspirational podcast about making my home environment conducive for peace and spirituality.  I bark whenever anyone comes in the room.

And then I finally get up from coffee and I mad clean my house.  I do this to make myself feel better.  But I quickly realize that cleaning a house that isn’t too dirty doesn’t actually make it look any different, and as such, I feel no better.  I ignore the bathroom which is the one room that really could use some cleaning.

So it’s time for lunch.  And I make my kids orange chicken thinking they will thank me for this.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think those screams and tears were coming from joy.  I could never be sure because I couldn’t make out words through the gnashing of teeth.  At least the dog is enjoying it as I am sure she is currently standing on my kitchen table eating out of their long since abandoned bowls.

All I know is that instead of eating their lunch, they are now following me around telling me that their heads are too cold and that they really want to clean the ottoman instead of eating their chicken.

And I want to be graceful and kind.  I want to show them mercy.  I want to sit down and give them the hugs that they probably need.  It’s when we act the least loving, after all, that we need the most love.

And I know I will do those things in about thirty seconds after I hit post, but right now, I just want to take a moment to say that I don’t want to.

I am tired.  And I just don’t want to be the bigger person.  I don’t want to turn the other cheek.  I don’t want to give until it hurts.  I don’t want to dry tears that were spawned from anger at me.  I don’t want to start to prepare a dinner no one will want.  I don’t want to clean a floor they will just mess up again.

I just don’t want to.

But I will because I am Mom and that’s what moms do.  Even when we don’t want to.  Even when we really, really don’t want to.

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What About Hope?

For me, the opposite of depression is hope.

Depression, for me, is a miles deep crater that I believe I will never crawl out of.  It’s disillusionment born of an unfulfilled longing for peace.  It’s fear that hope will raise me up just to drop me even further down.  It’s a cocoon of despair snuggled all around me doing its best to keep me from breaking when the inevitable fall comes.

The irony in all of that is that it precludes me from living and dreaming and hoping and praying.

But I hold on to it so strongly at times, as if my life depends on it.  Because sometimes it feels like it does.

But I sit here today, decently removed from the worst of those moments of despair, and I feel myself longing for hope.

I find myself wanting to take all my pain and turn it into strength.  I want to take in all the pain of this world around us, and I want to turn it into prayer, and I want to pray for the beauty that comes from the darkness.

I want to shine a light.

The past few weeks haven’t been easy.  I’ve been anxious, more anxious than usual, dealing with intrusive thoughts and the panic that accompanies them.  I’ve been trying to shut off my brain so as not to think.  I’ve been trying to hide from myself.

But I’m reminded that beauty comes from pain.  Change comes from heartache.  The good that is done in this world is done by hands and by hearts that have been broken and beaten  and mangled but have also been chiseled down and perfected through the fire of this life.

Life gives us all hardships.  It gives us all crosses to carry.  It asks so very much from us.

And sometimes we can feel ourselves screaming into the wind, begging God to answer us, “why?  why me?”

But when the wind calms and the screaming ceases, we can often hear an answer back, “because you were chosen.  because you can make it beautiful.”

So at the risk of sounding corny, I wish I could whisper into every soul out there and urge you to take your pain and use it to transform.  Use it to ease the pain of others.  Use it to soften your heart.  Use it to open your eyes.  Use it to quiet the judgments.

There is pain and there is heartache, but there is also beauty and there is holiness.  Eventually, we all have to pick a side.

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I Will Not Be Hardened

Hi friends,

I’ve written about this before, and perhaps I’ll write about it again after tonight, but in the meantime, I would just like to say that I will not be hardened or toughened up or made to be less sensitive.

I’ve had my share of difficult relationships in my life.  I’ve had my share of people who just don’t fit well with my soul.  People who don’t treat me in a way I deserve to be treated.

Every now and again, I’ll be questioned about this.

Why do you let people bother you?

Why don’t you just ignore it?

Why do you let people’s feelings and actions and words make you feel bad?

And the answer is because that is who I am.  I am not a tough person who can stand heaps of criticism.  I’m not someone who can absorb abuse and move on.  I’m not someone who can be surrounded with negativity and not let it affect me.

People affect me.  The weather affects me.  Music affects me.  Words affect me.

I am open.  And I am vulnerable.  I am easily hurt.  I am easily wounded.  And I am easily moved to joy and by beauty and purity and simplicity and honesty.

We have a lot of people in this world with fences around themselves.  They are sure of themselves.  They are able to remain steady in the face of all sorts of storms.  We see them frequently – they are the leaders, the first responders, the emergency personnel, the ones we turn to when we are unsure.

They are all over, and our world is safer and more orderly and efficient because of them.  We desperately need them to survive.  They are our protectors.

But there’s also another group of people.  We aren’t necessarily out there on the front lines.  We aren’t always speaking loudly.  We are the ones who notice the little one in the corner who is too shy to speak to others.  We are the ones who see the woman in the meeting whose eyes just look off, and we are the one she confides in.  We are the ones who feel the tenderness in a moment, and we are the ones who take it in and absorb it and then we write or sing or draw or dance about it later.

The world needs people like us too.  The world needs the easily broken because we are the ones who know how to put others back together.  It needs people who have been wounded so we can share our pain with others.  It needs our tears to wipe away a world of indifference.

So many people tell me to compartmentalize myself.  They tell me to be open but not when it hurts.  They tell me it’s okay to feel but not if it makes people uncomfortable.  They tell me that sensitivity is a gift, but I should dishonor it by being around people who will use it to break me.

But I’ve learned to realize the error in that.  When I face a place or a person that is filled with darkness, that darkness enters me and it damages my soul.  And that’s not okay.  That’s not acceptable.

If I want to be a light in this world, then I need to fill myself with sunshine.

So I’m not going to apologize for being what the world calls weak.  Because I know something that the world doesn’t – people like me are needed.

We all are needed.


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So Very Near to God

At the expense of bragging, I have to say that I am almost always in awe of my eldest.  The child can remember anything she has ever read.  At seven, she already knows more about some topics than I do, and I’ll ask her how she knows such details and she’ll just tell me about a book she read it in once.  Needless to say, with a memory and comprehension like that, we are careful what we give her to read.

She is in American Heritage Girls which is a scouting program.  She is currently working on earning a religious medal.  There are about 18 different steps she has to complete in her workbook, and then she gets to earn her medal in a couple of months during a special Mass.

She has off today for Columbus Day, and since the little two are sleeping, I figured now would be a good time to get some more of the requirements completed.

One of them asked us to read John 6:1-15 which is the story of Jesus feeding the crowd with the loaves and fish.  I had heard this story multiple times, but I wasn’t aware that she had.  She heard which story it was, and she started reciting it.  She was giving me the exact number of loaves and how many people were there.  I asked her where she learned of this story, and she said she read it once in her children’s Bible.

She had actually decided she didn’t want to do this requirement and instead wanted to do another, but since I had been looking forward to this, we completed it just for fun.

After reading through it, we talked about it a bit.  We talked about why reading about miracles is beneficial for us.  We talked about how the people who were there at the time probably felt.

We ended by talking about ways we could grow in our faith as a family.  We talked about how before she was born her father and I wouldn’t always go to Mass.  (Well, really never went to Mass.)  She was surprised, but I told her that people get confused and make mistakes.  I told her we went to Confession and she obviously knows now that we always go.

I wasn’t sure if I should tell her about those years when we were lapsed.  But I kept it short and simple, and in the end, I wanted to be open with her, and I want her to know from the very beginning that when a person falls away (and I think we all do either physically or perhaps just spiritually) that we can come right back and that the door is always open.  And it’s also extremely important to me that she knows that I make mistakes frequently.

But as we were having this discussion, I couldn’t help but stand there in awe of her.  Her faith is so simple.  And with faith, simplicity is where beauty is found.

She believes in God.  She believes He loves her.  She believes He wants to help her.

We talked about making mistakes and how every single person in the world makes mistakes, but some people think they don’t or they think they can handle them on their own.  We spoke about how it’s so important that we remember that we are imperfect and the only way to be truly forgiven for our sins is through God.

And we spoke about kindness and how we really and truly try to be kind people.  But we also spoke about how all that kindness comes from God.  We spoke about how many people think they can do good things on their own, but we know that all goodness and kindness comes from God.

And she trusts in it all and believes in it all.  And I’m sitting here struggling.  Struggling for humility and faith and trust.

Children are so close to God.  I never realized just how much until I held them in my arms.

As we age, our faith matures.  There are bumps in the road.  We take two steps forward and one step back.  We overthink.  We undertrust.  We get distracted.  We get discouraged.  We get arrogant.

And it’s all inevitable.  It’s part of our nature.

But when I look at my children, I can’t help but long for their faith.

And I know that the simplicity is fleeting.  It won’t last forever.  One day they will be in the same messy boat that I am.

My hope though is always to set them off on the right track.  Protect them as much as I can from the traps of this world.  Help them stay as pure and as faith filled as they are at this moment.

This world will try to break them.  And the odds are that it will at least succeed at creating substantial cracks.

But they have their mama on their side, and as much as so many people disagree with me and this logic, I will continue to try to protect them and shield them.  They have their guardian angels, and they have God to protect them.  But God also gave them a mama, and we must be their fiercest guardians.

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