Thanksgiving and other holidays like it can be stressful. Check out my suggestions on how to manage it, recently published at Mind & Spirit.
We left early. 8:30 somehow felt much earlier than it ought to have but that is EST v PST. Miriam was unhappy to wake. After loading bags and snacks aplenty into a five-seat sedan, I squeeze into the back seat beside the car seat, rotated my hips to accommodate Miriam’s booster seat, helped buckled her in and we went on our way. After an hour I recalled that I packed only one bag of supplies, I may have forgotten the nighttime supplies necessary for connecting him to his TPN. We pulled over to a gas station and searched his ice chest. I packed the night time supplies but left off the day supplies, also a necessity.
Should we drive back or find an alternative in Detroit? I hated the idea of the extra hour of driving in what would already be an immense day on the road. I paged FLIGHT, our care coordination team and when our doctor called back, immediately I said, “It’s not an emergency.” He understood the situation and we brainstormed our options. The best choice was the Emergency Department in Detroit. With GPS rerouted we continued our journey. The next hour we pulled over to unhook his TPN. Fortunately, the ubiquitous coffee shop of our country was there and I have a gift card. Reset with espresso, trips to the bathroom, and an unhooked toddler, we hit the road again.
Our first stop was the emergency department at the Children’s Hospital, where we went through the old routine with a healthy baby. We administered what we needed and were on our way. What would seem wild and stressful felt routine for us. There is nothing unusual about a stop at the ED.
Driving through Detroit, the old buildings amazed me. I saw large houses, large buildings all made of brick. The rain poured. I asked the gentlemen in the front seat to deliver me to where the handicap drop off stood while they attempted to maneuver traffic towards the reserved parking garage. I took the shortcut through security, thanks to our little guy, forgot his friar outfit and realized I had no way to access the digital tickets. “They really only work when the group is all together.”
After thirty minutes, the men responded to which gate they would enter. Ticket Specialist, Kendell walked me across the stadium to said gate where we waited for those masculine figures to pass through the security gates. They came through after a time. After standing an hour, I was ready for action and with printed tickets in hand, led the way about three-quarters the stadium in the direction the volunteer pointed us. I did not pause until we found our seats and could settle in, with five minutes before mass began.
The stadium and crowds were incredible. As the organ swelled, a long line of priests and bishops processed in.
The beatification took place first with a letter from the Holy Father, an acceptance of said letter and unveiling of the picture of Solanus Casey.
Our hearts swelled as well while they played the hymn of my life soundtrack, “O God Beyond All Praising.” This was the hymn I heard the Sunday I found out I was pregnant. This was the hymn they played the Sunday after I miscarried. This was the hymn we chose for our daughter’s funeral.
“Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favour
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we’II triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.
And in our hearts, we believed that what God had promised he would also do. God would grant us a miracle for Peter.
I felt the same movement in my heart at the reception of Holy Communion.
There were moments of awe, humor and devotion throughout the mass.
As we left and found we could not go to the altar to venerate the picture, we made our way to the exit, happily pausing to speak with CFR friars and ask for prayers. Fr. Benedict Groeschel began the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (the CFR’s) and Fr. Benedict Groeschel first taught me about Solanus Casey. We planned the name Peter Solanus for our first son (after using John for our miscarried baby). Yet at the sonogram and discovery of our first son’s sex, it did not seem right. We chose James Thomas instead. Then came the pregnancy with Peter and somehow, discovering his cleft in the same ultrasound appointment, we felt this to be right. Our son would be Peter Solanus Casey.
Blessed Solanus Casey played the violin (poorly). He had severe eczema. His birthday is the same as my brother-in-law, who tragically died last year. Solanus was a simple, hardworking, humble man on who the light of God shined. It has felt more like Fr. Solanus has looked after Peter more than we have looked after Fr. Solanus.
This trip has been a pilgrimage. It has been emotional and trying at times, but filled with the generosity of others. We return home soon, to be united again. The separation from our other children was the greatest pain for me. Having missed a few days of our novena, we’ll pray the prayer for a few extra days and are grateful for those prayed with us and for us.
Whatever God has for us and for Peter, be it a miracle of physical healing or a miracle of a life well lived despite suffering, we open our hearts to accept it joyfully.
“Blessed be God in all his designs!”
In the morning my body ached from the emotional weight of the day before. I felt out sorts, as though I had been through the ringer of a full day at the emergency department followed by transport and admission. On edge, away from home, I awoke and dressed in the full light of day during the late hour of 9 a.m. I know what to do when I feel this way. I would go for a walk and write. That was all we had planned for the day.
I left when only our hostess was awake and our son made his signature cooing sounds seeking to lull himself to sleep. Bundling up (though not enough) I got the general direction of the town square and headed downhill.
I love to walk. It is my remedy to life. If I can walk and explore and discover, I feel my equilibrium restored. Perhaps I put too much expectation on one small act, but I came back feeling alive with the burn of cold cheeks, the sight of the old courthouse framed with falling leaves and the pleasure of finding my way back without the written or digital assistance of directions.
I stopped at a tidy Goodwill where clothes are logically sorted by sex and size, as opposed to our local Goodwill in which they are only sorted by color, missing the entire point of treasure hunting and shopping in general.
After perusing the dishes for any from the set Currier and Ives by Royal China, I continued my way to the courthouse, then passed the church and then returned home, lest the burden of changing Peter and restoring his freedom should fall solely on my husband. My daughter, our host and a child she babysits were the only persons awake. I drank coffee and we discussed breakfast plans. Soon Kyle came wandering down and soon we went wandering up to see what the little boy doth need.
The house is 110 years old. The door and window casings stretch from the opening six inches across the wall. Downstairs they are a rich cherry stain. The hardwood floors are walnut color. The carpets in the bedrooms, hallways and stairs are new. The tile is well-installed in the bathrooms. Sink fixtures are new. Ceilings are old. Instead of popcorn they exhibit a drip technique reminiscent of spelunking or meringue, whatever sounds better because they do not look too bad, just very interesting.
Little else happened yesterday. We dined on cheesy potato soup and homemade sourdough bread. We ate meatloaf with mash potatoes in the evening. I missed my lattes and craved hot chocolate because of the chill air, but found the soup to hit the spot.
I chatted with our host about family life and expectations. I explained Peter’s medical condition in greater detail which somehow always feels easier in person, likely because I can see when I have lost the person along the way.
Kyle tuned and appraised their grand piano and planned new wind chime designs for Mod Shop. I wrote and read Little Woman, having abandoned Moby Dick to live his life somewhere along page 200. We took a short walk but the cold turned me off. It seems to me Miriam missed her siblings. She amused herself well enough and is not accustomed to looking to me for entertainment. She sleeps in an attic with three little beds tucked behind playful shower curtains and paper lantern string lights along the ceiling. Books are her company. She read, slid down the carpeted stairs, swung on the swings outside and crafted in the afternoon. A play date was planned then canceled due to colds on the part of the playing family. In the evening when Kyle’s cousin came home from work, I could feel the delight rise in him in the presence of his oldest and best friend. I went to bed early to read and be alone, going to sleep more adapted to EST than I intended.
It was the third night without sleep. On the first two nights, I woke around 2 a.m. and after an hour of trying to sleep again, my mind accepted this reality and began to make to-do lists. On the third night, the blame went towards excitement, the joy of taking my daughter on an airplane, on leaving California, on having another adventure.
We left on time. There were many bags packed. After deciding the night before I did not need to do a trial run of packing refrigerated bags of IV fluids for my son, I discovered they did not fit in one vessel but must be spread between two. We loaded the van and left, on time, to deliver two beautiful children to my parents for safekeeping during the course of six days. Six days without my littles. Six days playing on repeat in my mind the trauma of forced separations by hospitalizations. They were excited. At four and six years old, little else matters but being at the great vast space of Grandma’s house with boxes of Legos, trains and books at their disposal to dump out and play with all day with interruption only for meals shared on barstools and countertops.
We journeyed. My seven-year old’s bright smile at my presence in the back of the van carried us for the first hour. The two hours after that were spent in debating tiredness and mind wandered. I was wound too tight for my mind to wander, to create brilliant possibilities. All I could see was what lay ahead of me.
At the airport, I felt a nauseating feeling rise up inside as the anxiety of our next steps presented itself. We checked our bags. Witnessing our debate and the agreeableness of Peter’s cheeks, the gentleman asked if the smaller suitcase had baby things and told us we could check that for free. Gratefully, we unloaded one more bag.
“I’m a beast of burden,” my husband said, with three duffle-type bags around him and one rolling ice chest full life-saving nutrition for our boy. Miriam carried the coats. I pushed the stroller and carried my own bag of books.
Next, we came up to the security gates. With 90% uncertainty in my voice, I called the number provided by TSA. “We…uh…have medical supplies…liquids…I’m supposed to call.”
“Do you have a reference number?”
“Yes!” As I gripped the papers with shaking hands, that much I knew. I had the reference number. The person on the other line transferred me to Brandon, a supervisor. He said he would come out, and to look for a tall Asian man, 6’5, long hair and very handsome. I relaxed a little with his humor, particularly when he greeted us with a smile, possessed by a short, bald man with a great personality.
He moved ropes for us to help us through security. As he searched Peter’s medical supplies, I felt our private life on display, as if my underwear had just fallen out of my suitcase. I danced around supervising the supervisor.
“I understand,” he told me, “my brother was just like your son. We lost him when he was 21. I understand.” While anxiety still remained, his words and intention warmed my heart.
We found our gate, spent $5.09 on the water to make us smart (or so it says by calling itself “Smart Water”). Soon it was time to board the plane. I waited anxiously to see who would sit on the aisle. The man came as one of the last stragglers. He was uncertain about taking my husband’s window seat because he preferred bathroom access to the view.
The flight attendants helped, “we’re trying to get this family together.” She said as they moved people around.
Miriam volunteered, “You’re right, mommy, they are really nice.”
I explained all I could ahead of time to Miriam. During the drive, she asked questions that made logical sense following all the explanations of how security checkpoints operate. At the end of her asking what happens if someone brings dangerous things on the airplane and neither the flight attendants nor pilots nor good people on the plane can stop the person, what happens? I cut to the chase I learned from the Child Life Specialist and said, “No matter what, we will do everything we can to try to keep you safe.” I did not tell her about the 9/11 planes or all the shootings at public events that kept me up at night a week ago while we prepared for the trip. With that last reassurance, she moved on to other topics, which meant I hit the mark.
We received the good news that conditions were favorable and our plane would land one-hour sooner than expected. At hour 3.5, Peter was done with the sedentary lifestyle and began to cry angrily for freedom. Kyle stood him in the aisle while we made our descent and picked him up each time a person passed, so close to the bathrooms as we were.
Upon landing, we gathered our belongings and made our departure. The emotions continued in a swarm around my heart while we gathered his supplies, collected our luggage and used syringes in the airport which was, fortunately, quite quiet at this late hour. After a long drive and Big Boy Burgers, we reached our destination in a 15-passenger van with a cousin and his wife, desperate for sleep and happy to settle in.
Recently published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.
In my childhood room, directly across from my bedroom door, were units of cabinetry and shelves that spanned the length and height of the wall. As long as I can remember, those shelves were filled with books. I picked out the copy of the Bible and thumbed through the strange Old Testament stories. Three hundred The Saddle Club books filled an entire shelf.
In my parents’ remodeled barn, there stands a double-sided bookcase, as tall and wide as the wall of a room (or wider), overflowing with books. My dad and I stood out in the barn as he showed me books in Greek and Latin, leather-bound 100-years ago. Behind the bookcase, I discovered boxes of Mad Magazine and “Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher,” along with the rest of my sister’s Bruce Coville books.
We regularly traveled to the Modesto and Turlock branches of the library (prior the Hughson branch’s existence). Before I could read, I rotated through the “Oz books” with their wild and original illustrations.
The Saddle Club gave way to Dickens, Bronte and Austin. The wall unit was eventually removed in the spirit of remodeling. My memory is haunted by a book I repeatedly checked out of the library about a unicorn that sleeps in a cave to recharge her magic. I will never remember the title.
The premise of the book “Bored and Brilliant,” by Manoush Zomorodi, is that we need to allow our minds to wander in order for them to work to their vast potential. Technology and social media pull us in, triggering shots of dopamine so we feel a fleeting sense of accomplishment with each ping and “like.” Photographing endless numbers of images with our phones saves brain space when we want to remember something, but makes our memory-function lax, so we become less skilled at remembering in general. We lose time and deep conversations. Relationships suffer when phone addiction grows.
For all the benefits technology offers, and they are many, nothing beats the charm of an old-fashioned book.
For children who are bored, books are a gateway into a world of wonder. My 7-year-old aches to escape her noisy siblings, so she picks up a book curious to discover its contents. Under interrogation, her clearest understanding of why she loves “Charlotte’s Web” is simply, “because I like it.” Indeed, it is only looking back now as an adult that I see books were my escape, my world away from the world. They opened horizons and foreign lifestyles before me. And they filled the time.
According to Richard Norquist at Thought.co “Deep reading is the active process of thoughtful and deliberate reading carried out to enhance one’s comprehension and enjoyment of a text.” While most internet reading aims for 5th-grade level comprehension and promotes skimming or superficial reading, reading long works of increasing difficulty flexes parts of our minds, requiring more from us.
In this demand for our effort, the book moves our thoughts from the oft-inward focus to an investment into something external, to a degree, risk-free. Focusing outward can reduce the habit of ruminating common to anxiety and depression. The risk the reader runs in this investment is care for the created characters (because it hurts when the book ends or the characters suffer). That care develops empathy. Increased empathy enhances real-life relationships.
It doesn’t sound easy, does it? With the world at our fingertips, in order to grab hold of the benefits of delayed gratification and hard work, we have to learn to say no to some things in life. I choose to shop at the fruit stand not only because the produce tastes better, but because it is good for me to have to wait for peach season. I choose to read because I know I will ultimately enjoy it more. I choose to close my laptop and get offline because I know it dulls my mind. I have to allow myself and my children to get bored enough to become curious about the world around us.
Reading regularly is like exercise. When you exercise you feel the benefits even when you are not engaged in it directly. Perhaps you are sprightlier when you get up from your chair. Maybe your shoulders hurt less. When I read regularly and deeply, I feel a mental spark throughout my day. I am learning to cherish that spark enough not to let myself fall back into the mindless internet skimming between books.
Some would say the love of books is hereditary. My father valued books. For the generation before him, books were not easy to come by, because of their cost. I value books. We have a wall of books in our home, continuing the tradition. “Why do you like to read?” I asked my daughter.
“Because I’m a book bug,” she chirped.
Let’s start by dipping into heavy today:
So grateful for this deeper look at grief by Verily.
Here is a novena to St. Louis Martin Novena: For depression, anxiety and mental disorders. Beautiful.
Fr. Dwight LONGENECKER considers what invisible forces (be it mental illness, meaninglessness or demonic influence) may have motivated the killers in two recent massacres. We ask that question in the face of senseless violence. I do keep turning in my mind Viktor Frankl’s psychological approach, that finding meaning in what we do is the answer to everything. Fr. Longenecker writes, “If this is the case, then the natural causes are exacerbated by a worldview and philosophy that is nihilistic. If these men had no religion and no belief in an afterlife, then there was no hell to pay and no heaven to win. If that is the case, and after death there is nothing, then human life is expendable.”
This is on my mind as we travel next week, “How to protect yourself during a mass shooting.” Barricade or run, do not hide and stay there. “Talking about these attacks can be difficult and heart-wrenching. But we can’t avoid preparing ourselves just because the topic is disturbing.” One of the survivors of the Las Vegas attack knew his exit route ahead of time, not because he anticipated a shooter, but because he is trained to consider what to do in an emergency, look for a route out, in case of any type of emergency, such as a fire or medical. We can be prepared without being paranoid.
And then go light:
Thank you to all Veterans for your service! I was privileged to cover the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Wall in Hughson yesterday for the Hughson Chronicle.
I think this list is really good. These are the basics for the kitchen, yet we’re drawn into to buy sets of things, which has stuff we do not need, and then we must replace the one or two items from the set we used regularly. Thinking about my kitchen, I think we are getting close to replacement time for some items. Not listed on the website, we have been very happy with Ikea items for the kitchen.
In preparation for the Beatification mass, Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap. sent this out to the email list:
“I’m leaving on a jet plane!”
We leave Wednesday for Ohio and ultimately Detroit, MI, to attend the beatification mass of Fr. Solanus Casey on November 18. Two of our littles will be left behind with grandparents, so that causes some anxiety, but it will be okay. We’ve done it before!
For those who missed the last post, we have decided to take our son on pilgrimage to this mass to pray for his healing. You can read about that here.
What is a beatification. Please see the cute graphic:
It took some searching but I found a prayer for Fr Solanus Casey. A novena to him starts today. A prayer for Fr. Solanus canonization is a prayer for Peter because we are praying for a miracle.
I did not pray for my daughter Celeste to miraculous have a brain or for Peter to be born with a complete lip and palate. I prayed for the strength and peace to accept the will of God for what we will face. My heart has been moved to pray for this. A miracle of healing could be a miracle regarding his genetic mutation, his sodium channels, his oral aversion, his speech, or his heart. He is so young that should God choose to apply his grace to Peter’s life in some way we cannot see, that too is an answer to this prayer.
Please consider praying alongside us. If you are not Catholic, perhaps you would consider praying the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father for these days leading up to the mass. If you are not Christian, we are grateful for your well-wishes and kind thoughts. Whatever we can do lift our hearts together.
The novena starts today! November 10 – November 18.
Did you see this piece of news? Russia created fake Facebook groups and advertisements to divide America during the election.
Russia was building on something that already existed, our tendency to sit back and get angry scrolling through our newsfeed. They exploited that weakness in Americans to make relationships among people worse. Here are the numbers.
I like that this will force those involved to take a stand for something. We cannot be values-neutral because someone with values will come in and stand for something or manipulate that neutrality to work for their gains (see inclusivity issues on college campuses which leads to restraint of free-speech).
O blessed reality! I love crafts but hate the idea of doing with children. We are all human, mostly! Here a mom dishes on her “lazy” way of celebrating the liturgical seasons with her brood.
Fascinating article about baby’s needs for a mother to be present in the early years. Unlike many pieces out there, I like the balanced perspective of this article. It argues a single point (that babies need to their mothers present for early development) but acknowledges potential arguments with straight wisdom like “motherhood isn’t about perfection,” “we don’t want to send women back 50 years” and not everyone is capable of being home with their babies because of mental health of distraction. Rather than shut down the conversation about what is best for children, we need to separate our feelings from our grasp on reality. I can acknowledge what is best for my children even if I also acknowledge I can’t give it to them. I need to be able to look at my life and not fall apart at that realization…because I am not perfect. And neither are you.
I came across this beauty on facebook. Our trip is coming up. We are feeling the pinch of the sacrifices associated with pilgrimage, but we will not give up. To review, we are heading to Detroit to join in the mass for Fr. Solanus Casey, who is on step 3 or 4. He is considered by many to be “the Padre Pio of Detroit.” We can thank Fr. Benedict Groeschel for spreading his name around the country.
Is anyone still under the impression that Disney is about making children happy? It’s about profit. So now they are demanding too much of theaters and some smaller theaters are choosing to say no.
A calm explanation on the economics of why Disney would do that.
Fashion may be in the 1990s but film is stuck in the 1930s/40s with the murdering act of franchising to death anything that does remotely well the first time around. Although modern filmmaking is capable of juggling more complex characters, more characters and more complicated plots than its primitive beginnings. So you get the convoluted mess of these comic book superhero movies. I am ignorant of most comic books so I will direct you to Stephen Greydanus’ insightful review of the most recent rendition, Thor: Ragnarok. Like Frozen, the roots are fascinating and would make for brilliant, modern storytelling, especially with some retrained CGI. But they bump it all to tell the story they want to tell because they believe it will sell more.
If you are ready for Christmas head over to any store, anywhere (except for very small number who may or may not advertise they are waiting until after Thanksgiving). Some actually find the holiday creep helpful. Imagine completely all your Christmas shopping and prep so you can really focus during Advent. That makes sense, except that holiday smells and bells activate our internal celebratory response, so it is really hard to feel like it is not time to celebrate yet. For me, I’ll probably avoid the stores in November, do some online shopping, make Christmas cards and the annual photobook and think about Thanksgiving centerpieces.
On the pro-early decorations perspective, here is a thoughtful piece. “Acknowledge the hunger for joy and peace that Christmas represents, and share how Jesus and the Church can help you find those things. Consider the struggles that person might be facing in life and how Christmas offers them the tiniest break from their anxiety.”
Summary of other news
More Hollywood superstars are being accused of sexual harassment/assault/abuse and are quickly being ostracized. It is good that women are coming forward. I wonder if it will become the witch hunt we’ve seen in the Catholic Church, “guilty until proven innocent” which can lead to tragedy for the innocent.
There is a potential case against Weinstein. What if the blacklisting is a sort of martial law because people have lost all faith in the system? This is a new thought for me. Comments?
Before the project begins:
Some days, the laundry room feels like my office. When friends-of-the-family moved, they gifted my parents with Bosch front loading washer and dryer. As they did not fit in my mom’s laundry closet, she offered them to us.
If we’re going to move out the washer and dryer we have, then I ought to paint those unpainted ugly brown spots behind them. If we’re going to paint the ugly brown spots, why not replaced the linoleum floor that is coming up already? After all, under that sheet of linoleum, there is a rock.
Avoidant of heavy investments, I felt this the time to roll up our sleeve, DIY, and try out peel-and-stick vinyl tiles in the pattern of my dreams, black and white check.
To me, laundry speaks of the history of woman.
A look at the before-state of this tiny room
Beige sleet of linoleum, a KM’d closet using what I had on hand. We removed the closet doors as we do everywhere in this house because they get in the way.
Day 1: Remove washer and dryer. Lots of water ended up on the ground. Let it sit longer than it ought to have (mistake). Pull up old laminate flooring…realize it doesn’t just peel up like the edges appear, the whole thing is glued down. Consult Google. Buy adhesive remover, apply. End day.
Day 2: Buy more adhesive remover. Scrape, scrape, scrape. Mop up debris (mistake). End day. It rains that night.
Day 3: Buy latex primer. Paint floor with primer. End day.
Day 4: Consider primer seems a little sticky. Install floor tiles anyway (mistake). Marvel at how good it looks. Wife is over the moon. End day.
Day 5: Realize every tile is coming up. Experience heartbreak and avoidance. End day at parents’ house.
Day 6: Children start running out of underwear, baby used his last sheet, cry out at the stars, feel agitated at the growing bins of dirty laundry, begin fantasizing about doing laundry again. Pull up all the tiles, scrape minimal amounts of the uncured primer off the floor to put in a washing machine (still trying to observe the Sabbath here). Set up a ramp to move the ridiculously heavy machine. Realize the inside smells. Realize it requires HE detergent. Move it aside. Put in the old machine. Experience love feelings for the machine. Begin laundry.
Husband takes setback better than the wife. Retreats to play the organ. Wife goes shopping.
Day 7: Resume scraping paint.
Day 8: Husband goes to Lowe’s to ask questions. The primer purchased at the local hardware store was the wrong kind, hence Days 4-7. Purchases correct primer.
Day 9: Take washer out again. Pull off baseboards (why not?). Apply Citristrip to the floor with a cheap paint brush. Order lots of supplies so we can stop going to the hardware store every day. The description on the bottle is correct: it has a light citrus scent.
Scrape, scrape, scrape. Continue the process of heating and running the vent in the laundry room.
Day 10: Apply primer. I wonder, did I apply too much? I have never painted a floor. Install vinyl tiles. Breathe a sigh of relief as husband states it was different from before.
The final project?
Yes, that is laminate flooring.
By the next day the corner of every piece curled up and we were out of vinyl tiles so we could either order more, pouring more money into this quick DIY, or figure something else out. Wood laminate “floats” so the base does not have to be perfectly perfect. And my parents have a stockpile of it.
What went wrong? There are several possibilities, but we were ready to throw in the towel. While I do not love laminate, I like that the quirkiness of have two tones of laminate flooring (the rest of the house has dark brown).
And one morning of work, with teaching from my parents on how to install, ended three weeks of laundry misery.