Girlfriends, God’s Will and the Gulf


Have you ever checked out Like Mother Like Daughter? Leila has a wonderful post about knowing God’s will for us.

This is particularly apropos for mothers who are busy taking care of detail after detail every day and who sometimes wonder when they got on this Merry Go Round and when does it stop and is God’s will really getting done amidst all this.

Leila’s discussion is also relevant for those of us who are beginning or about to begin a new stage of life. Someone about to leave school for the working world may have those questions – or at least we hope they do! I also find I am asking those questions in a new way, as after 27 years of hands on mothering, my youngest child will start school full time in the fall. No more 11:00 pre-school pick up, no more companion on errands, no more “helper” around the house.

If I still lived in Ireland I would be referred to “as having been made redundant”. (what they call “being laid off ” in the US) Pretty descriptive terminology, huh?!

I’ve spent some time lately with a good friend who is a lawyer by profession, but who stayed home for many years, raising her 4 children and giving considerable time to our Catholic School System. Her youngest is now is HS, but she has not gone back to work full time – in order to remain available to her kids, her aging parents and to  contribute voluntarily. She is someone who’s opinion I value and someone who made a wonderful transition, it seems to me, from professional woman to mother,and back around again, while maintaining the focus of her life where God intended.

(It would be OK to picture spinning plates here, or juggling in a three ring circus. I’m pretty familiar with her life and routine, and she with mine. The phrase “balancing act” was coined to describe a life like my friend’s)

Anyhoo…OK…I can say it now, cause by the time this gets around the internet we’ll all be home…but some of our family are in Orange Beach, Alabama with my friend’s family this week. More about that later. We’ve had the chance to have some long talks and I’ve shared my ambivilence with her about this new stage in my life.

She’s a good friend, as I’ve said. So she was able to refrain from bursting out laughing at me being made redundant. She is very sure that I have a full engaging life ahead – so much so that editing will be my first challenge, she thinks. She is aware of what has kept me engaged over these years in addition to my 8 children, and she spoke about…well… here’s Leila’s version at “Like Mother Like Daughter” My friend Lisa is a pretty intelligent lawyer, mom and friend, but she doesn’t have a blog, so we’ll just say that we think Leila is spot on. Here’s a taste – go read the rest.!

“What would you think if I told you that you could find out right now what His will is? That it’s a “problem” of a day, not years? His will for you, specifically? (And I’m not going to trick you by saying that God’s will for you turns out to be “love everyone,” or “work for world peace,” or “lock and load”!)

It’s not really a secret, and it’s so simple that it seems like it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s just this:

Trying to do all the stuff you have to do, today, with a loving heart.


Not all the stuff you could possibly do.


The stuff you have to do.”

Did you catch the part where she says – with a loving heart? I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure that’s key. If we do the stuff we have to do today with a loving heart, it will fall into place and God will be pleased with us.

I think I’ll just roll that around my noodle  for awhile.

Which is easy to do when your background noise is the waves in the Gulf of Mexico.


The Torch has Been Passed

I’m really bad at taking photos, nor do I have the patience to read the manuals involved and figure out how to download stuff. Bad combo. Thank you Santa, who brought 9 year old Michael a new camera. I am going to be putting him to work,because clearly, the boy has talent! (not to mention we need someone to document something around here.) Stay tuned, cause any day now there will be awesome, inspirational photos just like the one above, which he has titled (Yes, really.)

“Um, Its Bright, But Not Scary Out Here With Mom”

One of Our Own, By God

I came across this little story and would like to share it here.

Yes, the topic is clerical abuse in the Church, an ICK topic if there ever was one. Wouldn’t you rather read something bright and springy? Yep, me too, but don’t be put off by the subject matter.

Take a look at Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and what he has to say about a recent  airport encounter. It is short – go ahead a grab yourself a cuppa.

See? As my countrymen might say “Amn’t I just after tellin ya?”

Archbishop Dolan presented the facts beautifully, but that is not all that strikes me about his account.

The Archbishop  has the reputation for being a amiable fellow, as many Irishmen do. But Irishmen also have the (not undeserved) rep of never turning down a good skirmish when the opportunity presents itself. The first gem here is how we can see the skirmish averted, a contentious moment turned on its tail. The fellow “who was raised Catholic” put up his dukes, right? By the end of the conversation his dukes were down, as was his guard. Don’t you just wonder about his cab ride home? A “PS” to this story, about this guy returning to the Church after this encounter would not surprise me in the least.

That is where I stand in awe and say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The other thought I can’t escape is what that conversation cost the Archbishop. The man was shaken to his core. Shaken. On one hand, we as a people can say “Good”. Good that one brief random sentence from a stranger still has the power to affect a man who has risen in the ranks of the Church. The Archbishop has not insulated his heart and soul, and to that we can nod our consent.

But Tim Dolan is still a boy, we know. He’s someone’s boy. He’s someone’s brother. I’ve always thought that there is a cool payoff to our celibate clergy. That is, that the Church is no one’s family business. Every priest and bishop in the Latin Rite comes from a home just like ours. The bricklayer’s son, the doctor’s son, the teacher’s boy from down the street.

We have friends who farm not far from us. They have raised their kids the way we all raise our kids. With enough deliberate intention and plenty of best as we can. Their sweet boy who captained the football team and worked their farm is in the seminary. He is, I’m sure, as mystified by his vocation as is any happy, healthy, fun-loving boy. That this dear child “of ours” would be the target of such ill will pains me as if he was one of my own.

He is inheriting the same backpack that the Archbishop and every priest carries. It is weighted down with past transgressions and future expectations – some realistic, some nonsensical. The grace conferred on ordination is supernatural and extraordinary, to be sure. It better be. They have to deal with the likes of us and that backpack. The one shaped like a cross.

Comments like the one Archbishop Dolan fielded can shake a man to his core. I guess the fact that a man can be shaken by mere words proves something. He’s a man. Someone’s boy, not with a heart of stone, but with a heart of flesh. For every one of us that adds a bit to the weight of that boy’s backpack, I hope there are 10 of us who can do a bit to lighten the weight of that load.

7 Quick Takes

I came downstairs last night to find John, our HS senior, sprawled in the family room chatting on his cell phone. I know. How retro is that? Who talks on the phone anymore? He wasn’t texting, but was talking, so animated, laughing, doing an accent here and there and I knew in a second that he was talking to either Caitie or Tommy. I’m only just beginning to appreciate what is happening to my older kids – they’re becoming close friends.

Close friends. I am thankful. We came here 20 years ago, put our kids in a Catholic school as total strangers. I told Mike (sniff, sniff) “If I died right now there would be no one at my funeral.” Pathetic, but there you have it. I still miss my family all the time, and still feel lonely sometimes. But we really do have friends here. Once this week, I had the chance to visit quickly with one of them and we were probably funny to look at – both of us just inches apart chatting so quickly and intently, asking about the kids, some words of encouragment…we only had a minute before a meeting began and yet I felt like I’d had a quick visit with my sister. One minute of good-friend chatting can last a week. (It better!)

I spent last Friday at Wabash College, where Brian attends, and John may go this year.  For those unfamiliar, Wabash is one of the only all-male colleges left in the USA. I thought the idea was interesting in principle – I went to an all-girl HS, and can see the value of single-sex education.  But wouldn’t have predicted what this school can do for young men. It is an amazing place. What is amazing is that they take boys just like mine – good boys, smart boys, but maybe boys who could give a little more attention to their future…and turn them into articulate, engaged, respectful, honorable gentlemen. Really. The only thing wrong with Wabash College is that they don’t hold a class or two for some women. Just moms, you know, who would kill for that kind of education. Thank God for YouTube. I’m getting a little value added there. You can check it out at YT “Wabash College Chapel Talk”. I listen to these weekly lectures and feel smug at my free Wabash education! Wabash may make a mockery of our bank account, but I can’t hide my hope that John chooses the “Harvard of the West”. Will keep you posted.

Caroline had 3 little friends over yesterday afternoon. This is not the first time this particular group has gotten together, so now we have a routine. They change into each others’ clothes while I make lunch. I listen to them chat and wish I could stop time. Yesterday’s chatter was about grandmas. These 5 year olds were comparing notes on grandmas the way new moms talk about their babies – each so engrossing and interesting, details about each so compelling…”My Nana’s favorite color is blue.” “What! You are kidding me! So is mine! No way!!!”. Can we stop time?

I regret to report that my 8-year-old daughter and her friends talk about Justin Bieber in the same way. I do not want to stop time, in this case, but the next stage is no bargain either.

I just went to the mailbox and yeah!  There was a glorious handwritten envelope and UK stamp that means a real letter from family! It was my mom’s cousin Peter – maybe aged 70 or so. He writes “I’m wondering how my grandson got to be 21, when I am only 17. (in my head). I thought I’d better nudge my little cousin into writing while I’m still here to write to. You see, I’m not above the guilt and sympathy method to try and squeeze a letter out of you.” How can I resist? Esp. when in someone’s world I can be thought of as the little cousin. That just doesn’t come cheap these days.  He ends the 4 page letter with “Well, Flower, I’m closing now, my batteries are getting low. Take good care of yourself. Don’t worry about answering my letter. Just do it!”

So instead of writing a 7th Quick Take, I think I’ll write to cousin Peter in Wales. For more good stuff check out my favorite blogger, my daughter Caitie!

Don’t forget to check out Jen at Conversion Diaries for more Quick Takes!

Serve and Turf

How about this blog, huh?

Last week and this looked to be pretty involved – meetings and other all-day events. Another reason I like Lent. In any other season, I might have bungled along, but it being Lent, I decided to say no to the blog and yes to…being sensible. How’s that for lofty hard-core Lenten discipline. I’m aiming for basic common sense.

I knew that given what was on the schedule, I needed to spend every available minute keeping up with the house and kids. That’s  what God asks of me in this stage of life. Keep up with the laundry. Feed people. Serve. So this blog went dead for a while, but we all have clean clothes and there is something to be said about that.

So what, exactly have I been up to? Well, somewhere out in blogland- maybe a comment on someone else’s blog – I forget – is me yakking something about from now on when someone asks what I have been up to I’ll just say “the usual” or something. So what has kept me from my laptop? “Oh, the usual.”

When you ask a friend how she’s doing, do you often hear “OH! Crazy busy!! Crazy, crazy! Busy, busy! 5 Committee meetings, 4 soccer games, 3 birthday parties, 2 field trips…” (Are you waiting for …”and a partridge in a pear tree”?)

We begin to think there’s a competition here. What if your answer is “I talked to my teenage son for 2 hours.” “I got up in the middle of the night with the baby and stayed up for 2 hours looking at the stars and the baby.” “I finally bought all my husband’s favorite foods and made them for him for dinner.” How does that stack up?

Most of the meetings I’ve had these few weeks have had to do with the Catholic schools here in our hometown. There is very strong involvement among the lay people here, which is great.

We’ve had some interesting discussions about what is our purpose here. To lead? Almost always. To serve? Always. Always.

If being a leader means to be of influence, then clearly, we all have the potential to be leaders. We influence the people around us almost always, though not always for the good.

What about serving? If we have the slightest aspiration to follow a Christian path, then to be of service is all in all. To serve. However God calls us.

We had some humorous discussions about some of our “helpers” who want to be involved, but don’t want to serve. That makes things tough. On them, mostly. They know something is missing, but can’t figure out what. “I’m sure not feelin the love!” said one. Maybe he’s not giving the love.

When dealing with a group of people who are trying to live a faithful life, trying to do God’s will…well, as imperfect as they are, they still know God’s voice when they hear it. His voice never sounds like a sales pitch. They know God’s voice when they feel it. It never feels like a  2 X 4.

So this poor guy is feeling a disconnect because he’s not connecting. He’s trying to outman and outgun, impress and maybe even bully. He’ll figure it out, cause he really does want to do something. He’ll just have to figure out that when he wants to do what God wants him to do, others will buy in – they will recognize God’s voice speaking in him. He’ll be able to lead when he figures out that he first has to serve – serve Someone Else’s agenda as well as the someone else.

We’re all supposed to be doing what God wants from us. We know there is no happiness outside that, so that doesn’t seem too much of a problem. Where we often get into trouble is when we compare what God is asking of us with what God is asking of the other guy. Let the games begin! If our friend seems to be working waaay harder than we are, we like to critique that and poke holes in her commitment. If she seems to be living the high life, we’re not crazy about that either. Too busy? Too involved? OR Too fluff chick? Too high maintenance?

We envy our friend’s ability to juggle things, then privately question her commitment to her “priorities”, or we scoff at someone with a little too much free time and throw out a catty “must be nice”.

UGH. Maybe we could just agree to serve. Period. At different stages of our lives that will look different. We may wear a nursing bra for 15 years and then a suit for the next 15. Who knows. Who, besides God, should care? When we ask “How are you?” maybe we ought to encourage the real answer to that ? from our friends, instead of the presumptive laundry list of today’s accomplishments. How are you?

7 Quick Takes

These are Late Takes.  It is Lent, you know. I’ve been busy making homemeade pizza. Do drop in.

  • I Heart Stations. One of the loveliest things we’ll ever  hear – a priest saying “We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee” and a bunch of little kids responding, by heart, “Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” Those squirley kids will be very, very old someday, and they will always remember those words. Those timeless words.  Awesome. Go see Sr. Mary Martha for a great post on the Stations.
  • How to handle Lent with teenagers? That’s a work in progress, my friends. Some are more coachable/ approachable than others. One of ours picked a virtue to “tackle” and is working on it. We had a nice conversation about that today, but unlike some of our little kids, this kid can read. I’ll say no more. We’re making a dent in it, anyway.
  • How to handle Lent with the 20-somethings? This is uncharted territory for us – suggestions welcome! I guess we can hope that we have lived it ourselves while they were at home. I do not like to ask about whether the kids were observant. I will ask if I think I need to – if I’m concerned about them for some reason, but I don’t like to. When both of our big kids mentioned casually that they had been to Ash Wednesday Mass, well…I admit it. Thankful, happy…and confident – that’s how I felt. Confident, I guess, that they were on the road to having the calm, peaceful and happy life I pray for them to have.
  • I have two virtues to work on. First is humility. Bigger brains than mine give fair warning – be careful when you ask God for humility. He will answer your prayer. I have had a few experiences already which have humbled me. Not a pretty kind of spiritual humility, a kind of humiliating humility. Like giving an important person a lift in our filthy Suburban. No. Not like your car after a 2 week road trip with 6 kids…no…no…no… Like our Suburban after it has been used as both dining room and locker room for 6 months. I hope this woman’s shots were up-to-date. Twenty bucks says she’s coming down with the plague as we speak, and she’ll know who to blame.
  • Which brings me to obedience. I knew that Suburban needed a good cleaning before Christmas. I didn’t do it, because it is one of those jobs I don’t feel like doing. I needed obedience. Now I don’t have a direct supervisor, really. I need to be obedient to that voice that lives inside my soul that says “Hey. Moron. You are a grown woman. You know what it takes to be calm, peaceful and happy. Do it.” When I resist that voice, life becomes stressful. And humbling. And even humiliating.
  • I am calm today. And peaceful. And happy. Why? Well, today I helped someone out. And got humbled. I prayed the Stations with my kids. I exercised hard and ate healthy food. Hung out w/ the fam, enjoying their company. Decided to let some petty stuff go. Stayed focused and worked hard. That’s really how the day went.  I made some good decisions, obedient to the voice  inside me. And I am calm, peaceful and happy. This is the liturgical season known in the trade as “Lenten Honeymoon”.
  • The rule that will help me most with the above, is the one I just made up this minute. “Have you exercised yet today? No? Then the your laptop is in TimeOUT!”

Go see Jen @ Conversion Diary for more great takes!

Lenten Training With a Little Cake.

Well, Lent is finally  here.  It arrives, no matter what you do. Kinda like Christmas, except without the presents. And cookies. And candy. And cake. (Hmmm…wonder what I need to take a break from…?)

We had a lovely Mass as always, at St. Boniface this morning. Fr. Tim was praying the preface to the Eucharistic prayer (I think that’s where we were, but you know me…) Dang if I can’t remember the entire text, but it was “…something, something, and when we lost our way to You, You loved us even more.”

OK,  just try to tell me something nicer.

There are lots of thoughtful treatments of how to approach Lent with our kids – check out Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter. She is a jewel and has strong insights, both spiritual and practical. bearingblog also put a call out, with help from Jen at Conversion Diary, for discussion – some good comments there as well.

For once in our lives, we prepped for Lent before Ash Wednesday.  Yeah, I know…once every 25 years we get it right around here. We have 3 generations of kids, sort of, which requires different approaches of course.

Our little kids, ages 5, 8 and 9 are at that wonderful eager sponge-like stage. We began with the idea of “What’s up?” Why did Jesus go to the desert for 40 days and nights? So He could pray a lot and get spiritually stronger, like if He was training for the State Football Final. (Pardon the comparison, but our big boys have gone to the State Final the last two years, so these little kids know that is one big challenge.) Except this was for His soul, we said. What if your very best friend was in the desert going through this hard time, what would you do?  Would you say “Bummer about you being hungry and thirsty and lonely. Good luck, we’re going to DQ for a Blizzard.”? (speaketh the 9 year old)

Mary must have known Jesus was in the desert all that time. Bet she stayed quiet and prayed a lot, we thought, keeping her mind on Him all the time, hoping He knew she was with Him, and wasn’t alone.

We began thinking about how hard Jesus was “working” to get ready to give His life for us. We want to be a friend to Jesus and let Him know we would stay with Him in the desert if we could, the kids said. Once we got to this point, they responded with their own ideas.

They figured that they would be able to remember Jesus and be closer to Him if they stayed away from the XBox.  If we didn’t eat extra stuff. If we tried to act more kindly toward each other. The kids felt they could “help Jesus feel less lonely” if He knew they were trying hard to be good.

Being able to comfort Jesus by leaving behind our “not-so-nice” ways was a concept they took to right away in this context. A more heavily penitential, getting-spiritually-ripped concept is one we’ll save for the big boys.

So, that’s how things got rolling with the little ones. Piece of cake.

Rice cake, of course.

A good time as any to quote Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter

“Don’t expect observable results right away, in fact get used to plowing ahead with your simple vision, seeing no outcome whatsoever.”

Next stop, the teenagers.