Monday, September 23, 2013

Profile Overhaul Part II - Routine, Reality, and The Scarlet Letter

We've been public schooling in lieu of homeschooling for a month.  Because hubby and I never do anything the easy way, this switch involves an hour commute for the kids, and sometimes requires both Emre and I to drive out separately to handle pick-up times.  We wake the kids up at 5:45, launch them through their morning routine, and out the door at 6:30.   They get to town around 7:30, board the yellow bus at 7:50, and arrive at school around 8:30.  Their school days end at 3:30, at which point one of us picks them up, and barring traffic, we get home around 4:45.  Cue dinner, homework, maybe half an hour for t.v. or play.  Then it is time to get ready for bed, select outfits for the next day.   I pack their lunches between 9 and 10 pm.  The amount of patience and discipline this requires from all of us is crazy.

Crazier still: this routine-on-steroids, the public schooling, the imposed structure, all of it is working.  Let me be absolutely clear: it is working in a way that homeschooling was not working, and could not ever work for my family.  In fact, I can say this now:  Homeschooling was failing my family.  This is not hyperbole.

We'd expected John Paul to be below grade level; so Emre and I held him back a grade.  His many fine motor/gross motor/vision issues have always kept him behind where we should be in the curriculum, and running him to all of his therapies, and all of them to their many activities, consumed precious chunks of instructional time.  Therefore, over the summer we enrolled him in the second grade instead of the third grade, thinking that it would make for less stress in his transition, that he would be able to handle on his own a "re-do" of the second grade.

We didn't expect his reading to be even lower than second grade level.  In two days of testing, without me or  his dad there to coach him through a book, it was ridiculously clear that his reading was far lower than the second grade.  Miserably, frighteningly low.

The hard truth is that John Paul has special needs.  While I addressed some of those needs privately and at home without labeling him, I could not ever possibly address everything with him.  Every year I sacrificed some part of the curriculum because there just was not time for me to get to everything for everyone, especially when met by his resistance.  One subject I could never stick with was spelling. We could work phonics, but I could not get him to memorize spelling lists. Yet in three weeks time at this public school, John Paul has learned his spelling words rapidly and proficiently.  His first quiz grade was a 90%.

Part of my profile overhaul is to say that my son has special needs.  I am relieved to say that at his school, I can call him "special needs" and not feel judged or condemned.  On the contrary, the teachers and staff at his public school have gone out of their way to support him, and me, even without the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that awaits us all once we've moved to town.

My child is being well cared for at his public school, by people who are more qualified to help him than I could ever hope to be (unless I go to school for such specialized education myself).  His teachers have been schooled; they have done the research, they have worked in this field with many other students and they have the background to help John Paul.  These people are godsends, and I give thanks for every one of them.  I wish every student in America could have access to these kinds of professionals; one fact that I am very much aware of is that if we lived someplace else, we might not have this type of a resource for our children.

A scarlet letter of sorts must also be picked up and worn by me, not an "A" but an "F," because here is where (and who) I failed.  Gianna, who has no special needs, must redo kindergarten.  Her math skills are fine, but she could not identify more than a handful of the fifty sight words the reading specialists presented her with.  She confused several of her letters and phonics sounds, too.  She is six, and will turn seven next month.  We had thought she would be OK in the first grade, but the first week of class revealed to the teacher (and on some level, to Gianna as well) that she was not at the same place the other students were.

Folks.  I am a literature teacher by trade.  And yet, and yet, my youngest school-aged children, who are six and eight, as of last month could not read alone.  Do I need to say more on this score?  Can I trust you to understand this very specialized hurt that I've had in my heart this month as I've been forced to confront the reality and scope of the failure of our homeschool?   Have you ever wept so hard that you've made yourself physically ill?

I don't wish my experience to be a condemnation of homeschooling.  As always, I offer my experience, however embarrassing and raw it may be, as a touchstone that might help others.  I am putting this out there as a reality check for those other mothers who right now have a suspicion, a nag, a gut feeling that something is off.  Such a mother is right now surfing online as I often did, looking for the affirmation and the encouragement to keep going, because she is too afraid of something else to stop.  And that fear leads her to conclude that homeschooling is her only option.

Someone we all know once said, "Do not be afraid."

I know many of my readers have zero trust for any area the state is involved in, and that the phrase "public schooling" rings for them like a death knell.  You know something?  I was afraid too.  However, I am finished with parenting from a place of fear.  That is an emotion that needs careful evaluation before allowing it to guide a decision.  I had to ask myself, 'Is the fear rational?'

It is good to be cognizant of the fact that I send my kids into a secular space, but I should not fear doing so as if God Himself is not there, as if man-made rules could ever drive His Spirit away from my children.  True, their faith must become internalized to a place where they function by feeling God's love, and not rely on hearing me preach about it.  Sending them into a secular space without me at their side requires me to trust in God and trust in my child.  It also requires me to trust my fellow man.  It requires me to model virtue more consistently, and in my case, it gives me the breathing room to pray, to preserve myself for the battles to come, and not just hop from melt-down to melt-down.  To my mind, these are all pro's, not cons, in my decision to school in the world again.

God gave us our feelings for a reason.  If I'm going to be honest, let me be all-out: my feelings around homeschooling have always been complex, and have rarely felt comfortable, especially when under scrutiny from others.  Scroll back through my blog and you'll see it, too.  My emotions here should have told me something: homeschooling can be the best thing in the world for someone else, but it was no longer right for my family.  The irrational thing, the insane thing, the damaging and dangerous thing would be to continue doing what I'd been doing.

I have carried a weight of uncertainty and worry each academic year, a burden that only grew heavier, no matter the homeschool groups with which I associated or curriculum to which I switched.  This weight  lifted the moment we decided to put our kids in school.  Even as the sad reality of their less-than-proficient reading settled on me, even as I had to tell Gianna she was not ready for the first grade and had to change classrooms and teachers after her first much-loved week of school was finished, the weight of uncertainty and fear that I'd lived with for twenty-four or more months did not descend on me again.

Already this red mark, the "F" on this moment of homeschooling Motherhood, and its concurrent chasm-ing open of my heart has wrought good in me, in a way that only God's hand can design.   I am treating with the reality, and I now have direct experience with the adage that "The Truth shall set you free."

Friday, August 30, 2013

Getting Out the Door

After solely homeschooling my brood these last five years, this morning I not only packed them up and shipped them off to school, I shipped them off to school an hour away from me.  My days as a homeschooling mom had become less and less inspiring, or Christ-centered. My children in total required far too much differentiation than I, in my anxiety-ridden, recovering Co-Dependency, am capable of handling well, especially given the arrival of our baby in June.

Since my husband is a public school teacher, we are sending them to his district, and selling our house to move closer.  His commute these years has been far too long, too draining on him.  And so, over the last few days, Emre and I have brought the kids to Meet & Greets to see their classrooms and meet their teachers.  Two weeks prior to that we'd met with their principals.  The week before that, I'd put them in the local Catholic church's Vacation Bible School, so they could start to make friends and feel comfortable in the new community we hope to call home.

When we made the decision to stop homeschooling and send them to public school, I was elated.  A little nervous yes, but it felt right.  Peace descended on me, and so I knew this had to be God's will. Homeschooling no longer cultivated that same feeling in my soul, and so I saw that to continue to do so was not His will, no matter how Domestic-Church-y my motivations may have been.

I have a lot of fears, and I know the move to a traditional school will not be a panacea.  I worry that Anna's uncertainty might come across as "slow" or "inattentive" to her teachers.  She is so scared of making  a mistake or  doing the "wrong thing," and that fear slows her down.  I fear that she is way behind her classmates in math; family health problems, the birth of my son, and John Paul's increasing therapeutic work for low tone and vision cut into my instruction time with her, and that subject may be what suffered the most.  It is certainly why I said, "Enough" with regard to our homeschooling. I am afraid that John Paul's weak handwriting will cause others to judge him as slow-minded or sloppy.  I fear that his unusual gait, unique viewpoints, eagerness and effusiveness in talking, will cause him to stand out as "different" in that way that kids and culture tells us is "bad."  I worry he will be bullied, unfairly reprimanded, made to internalize a poor view of himself.

This morning was not perfect, either; the kids didn't like breakfast because we'd run out of maple syrup, and so didn't finish their waffles or their sausage.  And then...

Then my son had a full-voiced, teary melt-down over his shorts, which I'd bought at Target, about which he bellowed, "MOMMY I WON'T WEAR THESE! THEY ARE NOT COMFORTABLE!  NO!  THEY HURT AND ANNOY ME LIKE THOSE LANDS END PANTS!" (Yes, we bought and had to return, pants from Land's End because he didn't like the fabric or the pockets.)

I wish I could say we handled  this smoothly, but we didn't.  He talked disrespectfully, and we reacted. I was the first to have my fuse lit, because I have been so diligent in trying to work with him on this newly-emerged issue of clothing and comfort, and I was over-tired and exasperated and desperate to get everyone out to school without a hitch.  I threatened to keep him home, withdraw him from school, and go back to homeschooling him if he didn't wear what I'd bought and like it!  My husband was right there with me.  Pretty terrible, eh?

Recall my fear that at school he'd be "bullied, unfairly reprimanded, made to internalize a poor view of himself," and  savor the irony.

This rant on my part was anxiety-driven.  My soul was a tumultuous mess of un-peace, so I knew in the moment that we were not handling the issue right.  Therapy has taught me to be aware of my emotions, and Dr. Popcack advises parents never to discipline when one is at a 6.5 on a 10- point scale.  I was past the 6.5, so I walked away, breathed,and prayed myself down.

Immediately, I saw how my/our reaction was a parenting fail in at least three ways: my words were threatening, they were impossible to follow through with, and they were not disciplining the behavior but punishing the behavior.   I was not helpful in working towards a solution, either.  I consulted with my husband about what I discerned and then returned to our son to say, "Because it is the first day of school,  I want you to be comfortable and not stressed; you may wear a pair of athletic shorts.  Your father is correct that you need to learn to wear non-athletic looking pants again.  We will work on that, so when you get home tonight, you will practice wearing the shorts I bought at Target.  Can you agree to this?"

Our son agreed to this compromise.  His mood improved, and I breathed a sigh of some relief... although I feared what the next upheaval might be.  Would he ever act this way in school?

I don't know if this is a sensory issue; he used to love wearing Dockers to church, and oxford shirts with clip-on ties.  This new sensitivity around clothes began last April; my attention to it seems to make things worse, not better, so my husband suspects it is a control issue.  Does one discipline through a control issue?  Can sensory issues present themselves later in childhood?  How can I get him out the door anywhere on time and presentably?

Still, despite the fear and uncertainty, there is peace in my soul as I sit in a quiet house, having unleashed my brood on the world.  My/our anxieties are temporary, emotions that will spend themselves out and pass away.  My children will get to school and something new will happen.  This new life will be challenging, but they will meet those challenges and they will adapt.  They will learn. They will grow.

And by the grace of God, so will I.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Profile Overhaul Part I


I've arrived at a decision that will alter my identity label once again: I am not homeschooling this year.  We are enrolling the brood in a public school system; I have discerned that I am not meeting my own standards for my kids' education.

This admission hurts because it is a blow to my pride.

It took a while to face this fact, partly because I feared that in "quitting," I would validate the countless voices who poo-poo-ed, naysayed, and all out dissed homeschooling whole cloth.  One pediatrician told me outright that I'd make my kids "weird;"  one member of the clergy, without knowing me, insinuated that I might be "neglecting" my children because he'd "seen it before;" myriad people, strangers and family alike, peppered me with cliched questions about "socialization" and state standards.   If I listened to that nag, out of stubbornness I might just continue, because damn it, they can't be right/I can't be wrong/ I just need *one more year* and I'll have it all together.

Only one year is a long time in the life of a child.  And I said the same thing last year...

My pride be damned.  These are my kids, and I want what is best for them.

This is not a condemnation of homeschooling.  I see other moms out there who manage larger households than mine, who meet high standards in math and language arts and have their kids learning Latin and completing weekly social studies units and regular science experiments and get them to worthwhile extra curricular activities.

 In contrast to the homeschooling supermoms, I found that I increasingly lived on the "survival mode" of bare-bones three R's.  Gianna is gifted in art, Anna in language arts, and John Paul in history and theology.  I was not getting enough of what they thrive on into them.  And learning was no longer fun.

Other moms are getting it done, but I am not "other moms."  What has been working for them is not working for me.  Given that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, I have chosen to embrace sanity and admit that I am not currently cut out for this homeschooling thing.

Furthermore, John Paul needs  help to discover his talents. competence, strengths that are latent inside of him.  He is an intelligent and sensitive boy, and I was butting heads with him, hard.  Getting him to his myriad therapies was draining on me; I had nothing left to then move on to the academics with him.

I need help, and that of the professional variety.

I have always loved teachers.  I married one.  I worked as one.  The profession is awesome, and often unjustly maligned.  While I am sure that I will miss my children during those first days, and even as I feel a sentimental, "if-only" twinge as I've packed up or parted with homeschool material, I also know with certainty that I look forward to working with my children's teachers this academic year.

I am excited that my children have this opportunity.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Packing it In

The rippy-screeech of packing tape stretching across cardboard frequently startles the baby from his nap.

I am boxing up my life. 

It feels like slow going.  At this point, our bookcases are bare.  Sixteen cardboard boxes are now back-wrenchingly heavy with the books that loaded them just three days ago. Hemingway, Dickinson, Shakespeare; Norton Anthologies, American Poetry, U.S. histories; Anton Chekov, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor.    The Beauty Myth. The Hours.  Theology of the BodyBless Me, Father For I Have Kids.

 Paperbacks, hardbounds; several are inscribed with well-wishes from friends and former students; all have survived several major purges and book sales over my life.  In total, these boxed books chronicle What I've Valued in different points of my life.  Some titles I keep for future reference, others because I have not read them yet but hope t o someday.  Others I keep just to remember myself from another point in time.

We are planning a Move, in more ways than one.   The house will be on the market (we hope) next month. I'll no longer home school the children; my reasons and feelings for this are vast enough for several posts (which I hope to get to writing eventually).  To sum up: we are enrolling our kids in the school district where my husband works, which is an hour away... and so we are selling our house (and a lot of its contents) because we have discerned that all of this is what this family needs to do to thrive. 

Much of this summer has been one of transition: new baby, new education plan, new financial goals, a new path to take toward all of it. 

With so much change I would be freaking out, but I feel God's hand is moving us, and this gives me peace.  I know we are doing the Right Thing.

Even in those moments when my anxiety and desire for control knock me down for a time, His grace pulls me back to my feet.  This time of boxing up, sorting out, and parting with things is admittedly daunting at times;  there is so much to do, and life does not pause to accommodate it all.  The fact that we can keep our chins up is evidence to me of His carrying us to a better place. 



Sunday, July 28, 2013

C'mon, Catholics...

... admit it:  I'm not the only one singing that Barry Manilow tune today.


Question: What do you call three million people attending Mass at the beach?

Answer:  Son worshippers.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

7 Posts in 7 Days, Part Deux: I Should Say Something

I have several deep thought posts in the pipeline that I want to get to this week, but how does a momma type one-handed with a baby on her breast?

Or, an hour later. having fed, bathed, and again fed that baby, how does that mamma, now poised with uncorked wine to embark on a"date night" at home with the hubby as our baby sleeps in his infant car seat in the middle of the living room (for what, an hour?  two hours?  30 minutes?  15??), how does she forge those eddies of deep thoughts that flow from her sleep-deprived psyche?

It is a rhetorical question.  A rambling rhetorical question at that.

You know the answer: those thoughts are shelved for tomorrow.  But damn if I don't post anyway, even if it is just to say: life is good.  Messy, jam-packed as ever with responsibilities and uncertainties, but good.

Do you remember Ferris Bueller's Day Off?  That is how I'm living right now, as I am at this keyboard, posting.  Because life really does move too fast; I really must stop and look around.

So I don't get to blog on deep stuff tonight folks, but there'll be a season for that, too.

And as far as seasons go, this is what I know:




Monday, July 22, 2013

7 Posts in 7 Days: Introducing, George Thomas

One month ago, George Thomas joined us on the outside.  He is the embodiment of joy;  I am awed by the blessings he brings to this family (even in my nearly sleepless nights).

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the reason why I have not posted anything in the last several weeks.  It isn't (just) that I am only getting a modicum of sleep, dealing with shared thrush (and can I just say: ow!) and attachment parenting an infant; I get lost looking into his baby-blues; I've pressed "pause" on life to just kick back in my rocker and breathe in his baby scent as he snuggles against me; I live in that glow on the faces of his older sibs as they bend to kiss his head or eagerly ask, "Can I hold George now!?"





There are thoughts to share from this season, however.  I am grateful for Jen's summons to get up from my chair and post a few.  Stay tuned.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What It Takes



A few days ago, my eight-year-old, John Paul, called Emre to the bathroom as he was getting ready for bed.  "Dad, watch this!"  At which point John Paul, standing still and stone-faced,  rolled his eyes in a zany manner: back and forth, up and down, around... Typical child silliness, right?  The type of thing most of us take for granted or may even grow annoyed with from our young'uns?

Not so this night, in this instance, with this child.  Once done with his eye-socket aerobics J.P. eagerly asked, "Did you see my whole head move or just my eyes?"  Emre  answered, "Just your eyes!"  John Paul countered, "When I was little I couldn't do that; my eyes were too dry and they stayed stuck.  I'd have to move my whole head, like this."

Victory.

You see, John Paul was diagnosed with Convergence Insufficiency last February.  Convergence Insufficiency is a disorder which interferes with an individual's binocular vision, and is often undiagnosed as it is possible to have 20/20 vision and still suffer from CI.  (If you have never heard of this disorder, I encourage you to follow this link, particularly if your child has been diagnosed with or is suspected of having ADD, ADHD, or exhibits difficulty or reluctance in reading.)

I'd suspected that John Paul had visual perception issues; I found a Behavioral Optometrist, and she was the one who diagnosed the problem.  (Prior to this, he had passed the vision exams at his pediatrician's office, and he had scored in the average range for visual perception when an Occupational Therapist tested him.)  Since February, I have been taking him to Vision Therapy each week.  We start each day with his homework from said Vision Therapist.

As in all things, some days there are battles of wills between my son and I over this need.  I have come to understand that the work is difficult for him, and requires a lot of effort and energy on his part.  Typical of me, I've struggled with guilt for having not caught this sooner,  for teaching him at home and growing frustrated at his distraction and his oft-outright anger if asked to read.  I have learned that when his eyes leave a page as we read, it isn't because he was "unfocused" or blandly "uninterested" or intending to be defiant.  It is because the written words on his page looked like the examples shown here.  

He has always tired quickly doing school work.  In his first grade year, I began to believe the lousy O.T. I'd had him visiting (the same one who dismissively said his Visual Perception score was fine), and blamed myself for not pushing him hard enough, for not conditioning him to act like kids in "real" schools (like the one she worked at, part-time).  That O.T. was gravely wrong (not to mention biased against homeschooling).  John Paul's fatigue was real, not imagined; it was an obstacle he needed help to overcome, not an "excuse" to be disciplined out of him.

 I have squandered a lot of energy beating myself up for not knowing these things sooner, for not teaching him better, earlier.  This week's bathroom conversation with Emre assuaged my deepest fears: I am getting the job done.  We are getting the job done.  John Paul sees improvement in himself, and his confidence is increasing. 


Another case in point: we'd spent all of last month writing thank you cards for his First Holy Communion (and I am embarrassed to admit that no, I still have not mailed them; they sit on the bookshelf, waiting for stamps).  To say this project was an undertaking would be an understatement; he could not write on a regular glossy-card; as a leftie, he smudged the words he'd written, and the cards were too small for him to properly and neatly fit his words.  (He also works with an Occupational Therapist, now a far better one, to improve his fine and gross motor skills.)  He was immediately frustrated and despairing when we tried the traditional card approach. 

Rather than argue or cajole him into using the Thank You Cards we'd bought, I gave him the option of using lined paper and decorating that like stationary.  This was the approach he settled on.  We worked out a system in which he wrote 2-3 notes a day, an unprecedented amount of writing for him.  It took over 3 weeks, but in the end he'd written a card for every gift he'd received.  Wrapped into this commitment were lessons on manners and gratitude, how to show love... and how to not quit.

The fruit of John Paul's labor. 

We have discovered what it takes. 

Endurance. Perseverance. Fortitude. Hope. Faith. Forgiveness. Charity.  All of these virtues and possibly more, on both our parts, but perhaps sometimes more so on mine; he takes his cues from me, after all.  Children are not innately born knowing how to be these things.  At day's start and day's end, I am the model he looks to in learning how to react.  If I give up, he will too.  If I grow disheartened, so too will he. 

All of this is more than I am capable of on my own.  The virtues are not strong in me; I lean on God to grant the grace I need to grow in each one.  So in counting our successes, I am quick to count my blessings and say: God's grace is sufficient. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Where Have I Been?


Life has caused me to put this blog on the back-burner for a while; I’ve had a couple of inquiries about what's going on/where I’ve been.  This is going to be a chatty and un-inspired catch-up, for anyone else who may have noticed my internet silence and wondered where I’ve been. This entry serves as a much needed diagnostic self-check for me, too, so I might as well indulge myself.  

I have been in stasis.  

After weeks-- months-- of proclaiming, “No way I am going to make it to my due date, I was stunned to find that I made it to June 9th... then missed it... and now George and I are well past it!  If I were superstitious, I’d truly believe that I’d jinxed myself.


George, still in utero, just before our due date.

The past several weeks have been emotionally challenging for me and my husband.  May kicked off with John Paul’s First Holy Communion, which was wonderful but the preparation for which I’d agonized over and stressed over, because in all honesty, as the third trimester progressed, I’d felt increasingly overwhelmed in trying to get through my regular obligations to the family: homeschooling academics, getting to extra-curriculars, improving my relationship/parenting/discpline techniques, John Paul’s therapies, and basic household management.  Plus Emre had just resumed graduate school, and entered the most hectic time of year in his profession: concert season/end-of-the school year.
I was staring down long hours on my own with the kids, and entering the “labor-could-be-any-time-now” stage.  I was anxious.

A week after J.P.’s Communion, Emre’s mom fell seriously ill and needed to go to the ER.  She was admitted for a gall bladder surgery, and had several complications.  Happily, she has recovered and is home now, resuming her normal routine, but for two weeks solid my husband, her only child, was at her bedside.  She had a bad reaction to the morphine post-op; he rode out her confusion and mania with her.  The kids and I saw him briefly at the end of each night.  He bore it all well, but after two weeks of worry about her needs and my own impending labor, I started to come undone.   Thankfully, her sister drove up from Florida so that my mother-in-law could return to her own home to recouperate; this was a relief to us all.  

Then my doctor thought perhaps George’s kidney was dilated, that he might be a tad underweight, that I had too much fluid in the amniotic sac.   He said it was “probably nothing,” and “just a precaution,” but he scheduled me to have an ultrasound and the hospital and be seen by another OB, to discern whether or not George would require extra care at delivery.  I worked hard to not stress about it, but yes: I was stressed.  Luckily, the other OB (whose manner and style bore an uncanny resemblance to  Dr. House) assured me and Emre that the fluid was still in the normal range, that George’s kidney was slightly dilated but may clear up at delivery, and would not preclude me from delivering at the smaller “less sophisticated” birthing center in my local hospital; he’d just need an ultrasound in his first two days outside the womb to verify that there were no blockages.  Furthermore, my own doctor's office had his weight off; he was bigger than 6lbs 10oz; he was more like 8 lbs. 5oz.   

Relief.  Except, George was already so far down that Dr. House didn’t think I’d make it to my due date the following Sunday.  This was on Thursday.  My girls’ dress rehearsal and dance recital fell on the same day as my due date.

Anna was looking forward to receiving her third year trophy, and she was worried about what would happen to her partner in the show without her.  Every co-dependent, desire-to-please/fix/make OK alarm sounded in my body; I wanted my girls there even if I was sweating it out and pushing George into the world at that very moment!  I did not want to disappoint them... but if Emre was with me as labor coach, was that feasible?  Practical?  Prudent?  Yes, I had a dance mom on standby, willing to come and pick them up and do their hair... but I don’t know her well, neither do my girls, and while Anna would be old enough to handle this upheaval in stride, would little Gianna manage?  What if one of them got hurt or fell ill while backstage?  What to do!?  My husband helped me to discern that I was stressing out  over the possibility of separation; the actual separation into unchartered territory would  create more anxiety for me during labor and that was exactly what I didn’t need.  Furthermore, my concerns were not entirely paranoid.   

I saw he was right.  We took a “play-it-by-ear”approach.  As it turns out, my worrying, plotting and planning was unnecessary.  On Sunday morning, I made it to the rehearsal and took some stunning pictures.  This totally exhausted me.  In the evening, Emre brought his mom and the girls to the recital; I stayed home with John Paul.  I ordered the DVD and will watch it with my own mom when it arrives; I hadn’t wanted my own family to travl here from Massachusetts, because I’d figured out months ago that would be too much stress for me to co-ordinate.  

Have I mentioned that my husband is a band teacher?  That week he’d had his end-of-year concert.  The following week he had a small ensemble concert, and a field trip to perform at a local senior center.  Have I mentioned that he works an hour away?  That sometimes traffic makes the commute longer?  That we have had several massive rainstorms in the past seven days, the type that makes driving really slow?  Is it just me, or is that a recipe for uneasiness?  

And in all of this my hormones have raged, painful memories of past events and regrets have spilled from cracked open memory drawers; I have wept, raged, and wept some more.  No wonder poor George seems so steadfast in staying put; why would he want to emerge to all of this?

Where have I been? I have been humbled.  I have had to turn to others for help: watching my kids, unloading my frustrations, fears and angst on friends.  There have been no game faces here these days. 

Most recently, after submitting to a procedure to strip my membranes to start labor, I had child care in the form of a friend's two daughters, here for two days, overnight.  What began as promising, with eight hours of sporadic contractions that grew closer together and seemed to further effacement, ended with disappointment when said contractions all but disappeared before dawn.  The best laid plans of mice and men, awry again.  I felt guilty for Emre’s having missed two more days of work, again.  I felt foolish for needing help, asking for help and then having no baby to show for it.  

You know something?  I've concluded that this is good for my ego; it keeps me from being inflated by pride.  These situations remind me that I am. not. perfect.  I never have been perfect.  I am human, like everyone else.  God has once more shown me that I am not the one in control here.  I need to stop striving to take those reins away from him.

This is where I have been: stuck in a continuum of emotional anxiety, balanced out by a logical gratefulness as life works itself out, entirely aware that God’s grace alone sustains me.  I couldn’t keep on without Him.  I have learned, with humility, to open myself up and accept the help of others.  Furthermore, I have learned to ask for the help of others.  I have shared my ugly and honest struggles with my husband and my friends.   


All of this has been draining, time consuming and a lot to process.  I am better for it; I think I am more real for it all.  I'm sure I've linked this tune here before, but it is, once again, fitting for where I've been, so here it goes:


Sunday, June 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The Sacred and the Profane

1.  I'd forgotten Friday was the Feast of the Visitation until our dear friend and very real spiritual father called me that morning, to share the day's Magnificat reflection; he told me he'd thought, "Who could need to hear this at this moment more than you?"  Heather King's reflection was about the difficulty and humility that is called for in receiving. The very fact of my receiving his phone call bore out what she said as true: to stop and sit, to quiet myself enough to listen and hear the wisdom this friend sought to impart, required a great deal of effort; I had to disengage from action long enough to just be.  That stilling of self can be excruciating.

2.  Here again is proof of how sometimes God just intervenes in my life; I'd resolved to live Friday as a quieter, more interior time to finally pray at leisure and to write. Yet at that point my morning routine was already distracting me away from my resolution.  As a result, I'd almost missed time pondering my favorite women, and the best conversations the world was ever privy to:

"And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:43-45).

3. One reason I'd neglected my writing this month was because I couldn't sit still.  I have been driven by anxiety and family drama, including: my mother-in-law's frightening health crisis (gall bladder & poor reaction to post-op morphine)  that took my husband (her only child) 2 weeks of solid effort to help her through; my own freaky-odd-hormonal roller-coaster ride through this pregnancy, now entering its 39th week; my husband's most stressful time of year at work (i.e., concert season); my kids' several activities at fevered end-of-year-pitch; and for the record, with all of our doctor/teherapy/activity engagements, this is what May looked like on my calendar:

Is it just me... or was this slightly insane?!

Then, when you flip to June, the first week looks kind of the same, the punchline being June 9th:  "Dance Rehearsal 9am, Dance Recital 6pm & George's DUE DATE."  Oh, that kills  me.

4. On Friday, Gianna perched on my knee as we scrolled through my photos on FB. Seeing this one, she stopped me and said, "When was this?!" I answered, "Last summer." 
Oh my gosh, I'd forgotten what its like to see my toes!

She then asked, "Hey, where's George?" To which I said, "He wasn't made yet; he wasn't in my belly then." At that point she turned, looked down and addressed the audience in my belly by excitedly saying, "Hey George, did you hear that? Did you know there was a time when you weren't here?" 

This struck me as the perfect and unabashed illustration of Faith: "the Confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction of the things we do not see"  (Hebrews 11:1). Gianna has not seen her brother, but she already knows and has a relationship with him!

5.  After our night time prayers last evening, Gianna engaged George again, this time as follows:  "Hey George? Could you please not be born tomorrow? You see, my friend's birthday party is tomorrow, and if you are born then, I don't know what I'm gonna do. So you can be born the day *after* tomorrow, OK?"

6.  Let me say that Cari at Clan Donaldson had what I at first thought was an inspired idea: selfies for Theme Thursday.  She even the led the charge by not putting on make-up for her own.  What the heck,  I figured, full steam ahead!  I took five different shots, and uploaded them.  Looking at them, I almost cried.  I still expect to see 23-year-old-me in photographs.  Reality check: I am 39 and I have wrinkles. I also have broken capillaries under one eye and on another eyelid, from delivering each of my girls.  Ugh.  But... Whatever. Here I am, barely caffeinated on a Thursday at 8am, sans make-up and owning it:
Seeing these pics really did not fill me with the sort of empowerment those Dove ads promised.


7.  Thus, yesterday and today I had to live in opposition to the pregnant-momma-in-comfy-pants-sans-make-up mode. I'll write up something about this and post it to the Fine Linen and Purple link-up... but for now, here is the picture to balance out #6, and salvage my feelings of femininity:


My husband shared this picture to his own Facebook page and captioned it, "My beautiful wife," at which point my pain from #6 was wiped completely away, and I felt immediately and terribly bad for all the hormonal mean-wife comments I've barked out at him in the last seven days.

He is such a sweetheart.

That's it for today, folks.  I'm late to the game, but I played!  Check in with Jen if you haven't already.


7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

Monday, May 13, 2013

W.I.W.S... Again.

This is what I wore Sunday.  I also wore it for my son's First Holy Communion on Saturday,  and for our homeschooling group's annual May crowning the day before that.   And this is the outfit I'd worn last Sunday (when this picture was actually taken); come to think of it, I posted on this outfit already!

The most comfortable dress, given my belly and the weather, wins.

Last Sunday, revisited.
Dress: mystery maternity, because the tag was removed and it came to me via my friend, Christina
Sweater:  Obviously maternity, but I left it in the car and can't check...
Black Sandals (not pictured): Marshall's purchase, super comfy
Same dress, sans sweater, Saturday.


I went to Mass alone for Mother's Day.  The kids' final CCD class and rehearsal for next week's Children's Mass fell too crazy-early for me to deal with after two days of non-stop-on-my-feet-ness, so my husband drove them to an earlier Mass (8:15).  Thus, they could indulge in all of the goodies they wanted at their class parties afterwards, and I could stay home with my feet up, put the prescribed cold compresses/cream/ spa gloves on my rash-riddled hands, and then take a 90-minute nap.

Best and most needed Mother's Day Gift, ever.

The girls came home and presented me with the roses they'd gotten on their way out of church.  Since I am too big & burned out to rummage around for one of our nice bud vases, I used a Bud vase of another sort.  Because this is how I roll these days.  And I look forward to a post-delivery brew, you know... to aid in let-down and all of that.  (The Mama's know what I mean.  If you have to ask, you don;t want want to know.  Or Google it.  Just sayin'.)

This works for me.
I was relieved and liberated to read Calah Alexander's blog post about Mother's Day. This is how I have come to feel about the day.  Admittedly, I struggled with some co-Dependent guilt about our not doing anything for my mother-in-law; in fairness to myself, I'd pushed my body hard for two solid days (and also for two weekends running) and needed to stay home and rest.  Sound boring?  Nah.  I call it serene.  But my days of fantasizing/desiring brag-worthy gifts are long gone.  I realize I am just often a burden as a blessing in how I live out this vocation as wife and mother. 

There was also an awesome blog that showed up in my FB newsfeed earlier today (I'd thought it was Calah but I don't see it in her blog), and I am kicking myself for not sharing the post, because I want to revisit it again and now I can't find it.  This particular mother blogger was having her "most difficult pregnancy;"the title had something to do with Contemplating the Incarnation on My Kitchen Floor.  Hence, my google search for said topic is yielding flooring adverts. Help! Anyone?  Because I have shed more crazy-anxious-sad-weird tears in this pregnancy than during any other, and so I totally relate to this woman's experience.

Furthermore, my husband needs to know he is not alone in having to shoulder the cross of his ever-weepy wife.  For instance, last night I wept before falling asleep.  Emre, startled and concerned, asked me what was wrong, if I was OK, why was I crying...  And as I paused in the darkness, trying to find words to express my sadness and fear in that moment, what came out was, "I am afraid of 'failing at labor.'"

What does that even mean?!  I dunno.  Wait and ask me to explain when that feeling sweeps over me again.  Its been about five hours; I'm thus overdue for another crying jag, so you should get the opportunity soon.

Here I am at week 36, huge in the belly, feeling all those fun full-term-now physical sensations that our Creator wisely wired up for us to get us to actually look forward to what lies ahead to get that baby out and in our arms.  (Again, in sensitivity, I shall leave it at that.)  Emotionally I have never been this anxious/fearful/uptight about the start of labor.  I have read that its in the realm of normal to feel this way, which is a relief.  (And why I'd like to rediscover that blog post!)

All that said, I'd best stop here and amble waddle to bed.  One never knows when labor will begin (tonight?  tomorrow?  next week?  June?), and I have noticed a direct link between my ramped-up feelings and late hours on the clock. 

I've also digressed way off topic.  Mea culpa!  Check back with Fine Linen and Purple to get yourself back on the fashion-minded track. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Reflections on Floors, "Car Guys", and Leonard Nimoy


--- 1 ---
One of the selling points to this house we bought when I was young (read: naive) was that it had hardwood floors throughout, which the elderly owners had covered up with wall-to-wall carpet. 

I remember my life pre-K (pre-Kid), when I would be on hands & knees with hardwood floor cleaner, particularly before Christmas Eve dinner or another family function, working to get the wood to shine. Heck, I think I managed that tradition into the toddlerhood of Anna.

It has been a long time since Anna was a toddler.

I just spent an hour-plus mopping the diningroom and part of the livingroom.

To the untrained eye, it now looks like I never even touched it.

Three kids who school at home without a paid janitor really do a number on the floor. Nothing short of an Act of God is gonna get these floors clean!  

While I would never trade my four kids for *anything* I would gladly wave a magic wand and get rid of hardwood floors if I could.

Well played, former owners. Well played.

--- 2 ---
My Son't First Holy Communion is tomorrow.  He, and all of us, are super excited.  The fact of the reception being at my house, paired with my biological urge to nest, compelled me to get on my hands & knees with a butter knife to scrape- yes, scrape- unrecognizable bits of melted-in-foods from the aforementioned diningroom floor.  Please note: week-old Go-gurt is every bit as adhesive as crazy glue.  So too are once-dipped-in-milk-now-dried-and-petrified graham cracker bits.  3M's product development team should get on this, fast.
--- 3 ---
My husband is a trekkie and a "car guy;" he hipped me to this link, and it made my week (not that we can afford an Audi mind you; our cars are over ten years old.  He often works on them himself.  He can do his own brakes, shocks, plugs, etc., and in his self-taught learning process developed a fascination with automobiles of all kinds, hence his title, "car-guy").  I laugh every time I watch it, because I am a big. old. dork.   


--- 4 ---
For those of you who are not dorks, the brilliance of the commercial is how Nimoy references himself while singing in the car.  Didn't get it?  Here, this will help:
Tolkien fans, no need to thank me.  I blog to serve.
--- 5 ---
And now for something completely different:
I had Anna take photos, but I still missed the link-up At Fine Linen & Purple last week end.  Here is me on Sunday, at the start of 35 weeks.  I keep losing track of where George and I are at gestation-wise, so I'd thought this was the start of week 36...  The  OB set me straight the next day.  I was actually relieved, because I was nervous that I'd go early and miss J.P.'s Communion.  (And yeah, OK, that still could happen, so prayers please, people!)
--- 6 ---
My nerves have settled down considerably since packing my hospital bag, by the way.  There is a lot to be said for the urge to nest.
--- 7 ---
On a serious note, I would like to ask prayers for a dear family.  Our friends' daughter, Briana, recently died after a three-year battle with leukemia, three days after getting married and two weeks shy of her 24th birthday.  She was beautiful, brave, and vivacious.

Years ago, this young woman unwittingly encouraged my husband to begin his own "Car Guy" journey, when her dad had proudly disclosed how his then-college-going daughter changed her own brakes.

Once it was clear that all of her treatment options were now exhausted, and that the disease had settled into her liver, her doctor asked  if she would like him to explain what was going to happen to her.  She smiled (as always) and said, "No, thank you.  I've already talked to Father Joe; he's told me what will happen to me."

Would that we all had such beauty and hope within us.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, April 29, 2013

W.I.W.S.- Thoughts from a Nesting Mom


I have not posted regularly lately because I am an anxiety-driven, nesting momma. At 35 weeks gestation, feeling Baby George's every shimmy, shift, and kick, I am increasingly aware that I've hit the home stretch, and although excited, I don't feel mentally or materially prepared to have this dude on the outside with me yet. I have cleaned a lot more, parted with a good amount of clutter, and had the girls' room re-arranged by my husband.   Still, none of George's gear is unpacked, set-up, washed or organized.  I have a random hives-looking rash on both wrists and arms which my doctor is treating while admitting that he does not know what it is... and I'm now ingesting prescription drugs with George still in utero (the OB assures me none of this is harmful to the baby).  Still.  Freaking out.

Pregnant or not, itchy or not, ready or not, the world of family life continues to swirl around me.  My son's First Holy Communion is in two weeks, my daughters' dance recital falls on my due date, and between now and then I have way way wayyyy more appointments (mine & theirs) and activities scheduled than I sanely should have at this point.  I should be home with my feet up.  I should be washing with Dreft and folding baby clothes.  I really should go out and buy that infant car seat.  You know... on top of the daily homeschooling, feeding, and general maintenance of this family.  And getting ready for a First Holy Communion.  I should probably buy the boy a suit that fits, for instance... (sigh).

Instead, I am pounding away at this crazy-stupid, frenetic pace... Thankful for every minute (even when exhaustion, apprehension about labor [It has been six years; why didn't' I take a Bradley Method refresher course!?] or late-night insomnia cause me to burst into tears.)  Really.  It is all good.   I just still have big issues with letting things go, and with accepting that which is outside of my control.  I will sometimes miss an activity.  I will not always have a house that is swept.  Dinner is going to be soup & sandwiches some nights.

I am going to have to swallow my pride and accept help from people.

Thank God for my husband, my increasingly helpful, growing children, and the support of good friends.  Furthermore, words don't quite convey what healing and relief I got from a much overdue   confession with a wonderfully pastoral priest.

ANYWAY, enough venting.  I'm here to post about what I wore on Sunday (do you see what is happening in this brain!?  Chaos!  Disorder!  Ack!!)

Without further ado, here is how I looked for Mass.  We're up by 6:45 am, and we leave the house at 8:15, to get to CCD on time.  I had to search unfolded piles of clean laundry to find my one pair of (ugly) pregnant-momma tights. Thus, I had no choice but to skip makeup and earrings to get to the church on time... This is another "Lee needs a full-length mirror in her room" shot;  my buttoning of the blouse is less-than-ideal.  I am not including feet in the shot on purpose, because my choice of shoes = a big ditto on the full-length mirror.



For anyone who doubts that make up and earrings drastically improve an outfit/demeanor, I present to you "how I dressed up for dinner guests later that evening:"

A little less severe, right?

35 weeks: This baby bump is getting pretty big!
Dress: Take Nine Maternity via my friend, Christina (Thank you!!)
Shirt: No Boundaries (non-maternity) via Marshalls (seriously like 4 years old)
Necklace: You've seen it
Earrings: I've had since high school, via my mom, but never ever wore them as a youth because I found them too conservative/old-fashioned (???!) Whatever.  I guess I've grown into them.
Boots: forget about it.

We have lately taken to singing the Stevie Wonder tune, "Isn't she Lovely?" to our daughters, who of course had never heard it before.  (Again, as a young person I'd hate hate hated that song...  Boy does life change a person!)  Anyway, Emre decided to remedy that yesterday; he downloaded the tune and played it for Gianna on the iPad.
Gianna's impression: "That sounds like a chicken."
Let's just say they both have momma's taste in music...


Emre had already changed his church clothes in favor of get-work-done-outside-clothes.  John Paul, on the other hand, maintained his dressed-up style for all of Sunday.
John Paul "helps" mow in style.  
I fully admit that my first feeling upon realizing Daddy let John Paul share a ride was,you guess it: anxiety.  I was raised to be anxious about everything.  Anything could be dangerous, so just stay inside and play with your dolls and be safe...  Not exactly healthy.  I buttoned my lip, put trust in my husband, and let the boys have their moment.  I am so glad that I did.

Such intensity! 

What they wore Sunday: Smiles.  Big ones.
For more fashion and less pregnancy-driven anxiety, click over to Fine Linen and Purple!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thank God for Boys...

I would not be the woman I am without these guys; they teach me how to be a better and more whole human being, just by sharing this home with me.  They challenge me, love me, and rely on me.  They call out my better attributes.  Sometimes, they bring out my worst, when I didn't know my worst was there.  Always, they bring me into a better awareness of what it means to be a wife, mother, and trusted friend. 
I do so love these boys.
Words can't convey what it means to see this boy cozied up with a book.
 
J.P. is a gamer and lover of Star Wars, like his daddy. 
George Thomas: the active little boy who is my ever-present companion.

Emre and John Paul, building Star Wars legos. 

The finished project is handled carefully...
Imagination.  Family.  Love.  (And Porkins.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

{Pretty Happy Funny Real} These Are Not the Treats You Are Looking For

{Pretty}
I never buy myself flowers or plants for inside the house.  The kids, the cats, or my own neglect would just kill the lovely blooms;  I am too practical for sacrificial plants.  We did buy Easter Lilies for both grandmothers and my sister.  However, when my family couldn't make it here for Easter, I found myself in possession of two plants.  (I swear, I could almost hear them weeping at their fate.) I then planned to give both away to elderly neighbors, but John Paul begged to keep one of the plants.  We did.  I decided to photograph them before my non-green thumb took its toll on ours.
If  lilies could talk: "Psst... I hear she isn't so good with plants.  Can we just leaf now?"  


{Happy}
Easter weekend itself is so busy that I never have the time to try all the fun, Christian-themed crafts or recipes I find online.  I try to incorporate something from Catholic Icing... but this year being pregnant had sapped my energy.  Luckily, Easter is a season, not just a day!
Thus, during the Easter Octave we tried our hands at making the Rainbow Resurrection Rolls I'd seen on Lacy's site.  Marshmallow Peeps, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, melted butter & some cinnamon.  This sounded easy, yummy and fun!  (Also like a great subject for blog photography!)
The kids were really into this project!
Anna prepares "Jesus' body" for burial with "oil and spices" (butter & cinnamon).
Gianna places "Jesus' body" into the Crescent-Dough "tomb."
{Funny}
John Paul loves his sister.  At least, I think that's a hug and not a half-nelson...
Finished with the wrapping of the Peeps & eager to get these into the oven!
{Real}
So after all this fun and anticipation, and our really trying not to leave gaping holes in the crescent dough, are you ready to see how these super-simple Rainbow Resurrection Rolls of ours turned out?
Good!  First, check Lacy's link (above) to see what we were expecting.
This is what came out of our oven:
Somehow, Lacy's looked much neater than these.  
John Paul had suggested that we skip the cinnamon for these.  I should have listened; I think we overdid it on the "spices" and kept the dough from staying sealed!  Ah, well.  They still tasted delicious, and the children were thrilled to have made their own dessert!
The eyes of a satisfied customer.
Now that you've seen what I managed to do to the resurrection rolls, I will leave it for you to imagine the havoc I've wreaked on our plant.

Head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter, where you'll find some pretty, happy, funny, real pics that flaunt a bit more elegance than my own non-rising Easter Season treats!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Do Not Be Distracted...


I never cease to be amazed.

Already the alarmists are hinting (if not outright alleging) a government conspiracy in the wake of yesterday’s explosions in Boston.

This was brought to my attention by a smarmy meme in my Facebook newsfeed which
calls yesterday’s attack a “distraction” from what is being debated in Congress today.

Please.

I am as wary of our elite “ruling class” as the next person.  They, in turn, mostly look down their noses at religious/bigoted/closed-minded folks like me, we raging Catholics types.  

No matter.  Moments like these call us all to transcend ourselves.

Minimizing and denying tragedy to fuel our own fears (even if such fears had their seeds in reality) is dysfunctional and precisely what the Prince of Darkness wants to see.

This is the kind of self-focus that can arise from anxiety and despair.  This is what happens when we are so well-meaningly bent on “winning” a culture war in this world, that we forget that God calls us to be salt and light.

This is the kind of self-obsession which leads some folks to allege that Sandy Hook was merely staged by actors.  (I live down the road a piece....  It wasn’t.  I know people who were shot there.  I have a relative who hid her class in a closet.)

This is the kind of reaction that is at its heart, fueled by anger and hate.

Satan is real, and this is what he wants.  He is not targeting only one type of person; he is not merely after “those people.”  He is gunning for those who would claim the deepest allegiance to Christ.  

He wants you, dear reader.  He wants me.

He will use this event to tear us away from the rest of humanity, our brothers and sisters who right now need our prayers, our kindness, and our very blood.

He will whisper and stir our fears, our hurts and our passions to do so.  He is a tricky bastard.

Whether it is the initial explosion and violence itself, or this latest wave of conspiratorial wish-fulfilling denial...

Do not be distracted by the darkness.  

Be a light in it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Faith Journey Back Story, Part I (Warning: This Gets Weird)


A page from my college scrapbook: I loved this daily walk.
As I'd said some time ago, my conversion to Christ is an on-going event that has rarely been entirely “comfortable.”  Like most post-modern Catholics, I spent several years outside of the Church, trying to discern whether I would break free from it and disavow it, or just try to hunker down and make the best of being this Thing that everyone, Catholics included, seemed to be rather down on...

In my high school, college, and my newly-married, post-college years, I would never have guessed that I would have chosen to don the label of "Orthodox Practicing Catholic."  How the heck did that happen, anyway?

To sum up: not easily. And yet, paradoxically: it fit.

However,  my return to the faith was gradual, not sudden.  Hindsight reminds me of a few pivotal experiences that eventually led me back.  This post details one of several "biggies."

In college, a well-meaning friend I was enamored with began reading into and experimenting with Wicca.   I am now fuzzy on the details,  but at some point during my junior year, she invited me to join her as she stepped up to offer her first-ever moon worship. (Seventeen years later, I am not even sure this is the proper term, but that is the gist I remember.)

As supportive of my friend’s New Age explorations as I’d been, as interested in and receptive of her emerging Wiccan exploits as I’d been, Something held me back from giving her my own assent.  

I was also a New Age-y type; I'd been crafting my own "personal" religious paradigm for four or more years.  I'd freaked out roommates with my Ouija Board, had recently embarked in Tarot Reading, was interested in the power of crystals, interpreting dreams, and I was working my way through A Course in Miracles.  Oddly, I did all of this with a rosary in my pocket, even though I was ignorant of anything about that prayer (for instance, I'd never known that meditating on the Glorious, Sorrowful, Luminous, or Joyful mysteries were part and parcel of the rosary).  I looked at my rosary as special for having been blessed, as a kind of talisman against evil.  They were my insurance policy, my "just in case."

I had not been to Mass in years, had not espoused much of anything the Catholic Church teaches, was in fact actively striving in my personal life to sever the spiritual umbilical cord which tethered me to Her Moral teachings vis-a-vis “Catholic Guilt,” and yet... And yet... This invitation to take those things I'd mulled over and step into outright pagan worship gave me pause.

This was Big.  This was parting company with Christianity completely; this was no longer worshipping and professing God the Father or the Son.

Part of me was highly attracted to the idea.  Not one to succumb to irrational traditions when there were human relationships and friends’ expectations in play,  I tried to find a way around the First Commandment.  I asked myself: 'If wiccans are not even worshipping a deity, but all of nature, how is this bad?  Would calling “God” a “goddess” even truly matter?  Is that really sinning, denying Him, or  worshipping a false God?  I mean, if there is only One Creator, then isn’t it all just the same God in the end, no matter what you choose to call Him?  My mom had always told me this was so...'

Luckily, I didn’t just ask these questions of myself. 

Even in the midst of all my build-my-own-religion activity, I’d never stopped talking to Him about anything and everything, everyday.  

This day was no different.  As I walked along Lower Lake, watching ripples reflect back the light-dappled landscape I daily thanked Him for, I cast my question to Him, as if I were tossing a rock into that pond, “God, you know I’m wondering: If you’re a Spirit, without a body and so without gender, would it matter to you if I call you “Mother” instead of “Father,” “She” and not “He”?  Doesn't mankind just create religions around you, anyway?  I don’t understand how a name or manner of worship could matter to You, as long as I am giving you thanks and praise... but I don’t want to do anything that would hurt or upset you.  Please let me know.”
A different year and season, but no matter; here is where I conversed with my Creator.

Seriously.  That was my prayer.  I was a radical feminist, wanna-be New Ager.   I also believed in a Creator who knew and loved us all in a deeply personal, parental way.

Some time later, as I settled into sleep in my dorm room, the ripples from my afternoon stone's-throw prayer lapped across the hours and reached me.  

Was I dreaming?  Because I heard a voice say to me:

What do you do about Jesus?

Cue prickly skin.  Cue sudden, wide-awake lucidity.  I stared into the darkness, and no one was there... but I wasn't alone, either.  Oddly, I wasn’t freaked out.  I was glad to have been heard, just puzzled by the question.   

I whispered back, "What do you mean?"

What do you do about Jesus?  If God is only a Spirit, then there is no man who is also God... To say that is to say that He did not love, did not suffer for, and did not die for you.  To say that is to deny all he endured.  Are you saying Jesus isn't God?  Are you joining the crowds against him? 

As a young child, I used to imagine myself standing by the route along Christ's way to Cavalry; His walk with the Cross, His Passion, were familiar to me.  The thought that I might leave his side to be counted among the jeering masses, and not among his friends...  How would that feel to Him?

In a moment, I remembered with clarity what I knew: this omnipresent God is three persons in One.  His love surrounded me everywhere, always.  I knew it.  And I knew, trusted and believed in His love on a level that is akin to breathing without having to think about breathing; Jesus was not just some guy, or some myth, but a fact.  A presence.  God Himself.  A reality in my life.  

He was a person I would never purposefully betray, because I loved Him too much.  And I knew without question how deeply He loved me.

My throat ached and my eyes were wet.

I never went to that Wiccan thing.