Our Halloween Plan this Season

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

The autumnal festivities are quickly approaching

Hughson’s Truck-or-Treat event at Lebright Fields on Halloween night, the Trunk-or-Treat generally held at the Assemblies of God Church, the Harvest Festival at the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This year, we have to consider our schedule carefully as we are no longer residents within city limits. 

Halloween decor on a brick fireplace

We are planning an early dinner-snack of fruit, veggies, and possibly some homemade butternut squash soup before donning costumes. The costumes this year are simple and nearly complete. My four children will dress as Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and with the star, our youngest, Peter Rabbit. We have bunny ears leftover from Easter, khaki pants, white shirts, red capes for the older three and a blue shirt with brass buttons for Peter, hoping it fares better than it did in the Beatrix Potter classic. 

The greatest challenge to costumes for us is inspiring them to pick a theme and stick with it. We’ve had failed pumpkins in the past, a train conductor accompanying Cinderella, and a missing Macbeth because he needed to go to bed. 

Boy in Halloween Jack-o-Lantern costume

This year, everyone is on board, though I question if their ears will last the night.

Our Plan

We plan to hit the Harvest Festival for free corn dogs, chili, and games. Then haunt our old neighborhood, frightening old neighbors with how much our children have grown in the six months since we left. 

As my tolerance for sugar-drugged children is low, we are not too strategic about Trick-or-Treating. We will hold as out as long as the youngest can, and with a young, bearded version of Mr. McGregor by my side, I feel we will make great strides this year. 

After dark, when toddlers go to bed, we will build a bonfire outside and try to focus our littles on why we celebrate Halloween: that death and darkness have no power over us.

In the morning we attend mass for All Saints Day to celebrate the souls who have gone to Heaven. During the following day, All Souls’ Day (also known as “Dia de Los Muertos”) we visit the cemetery to honor and pray for our loved ones who have died.

Life is cyclical

Small black kitten on a table with wheat in pitchers just in time for Halloween

As I plan all this, we have a little black kitten prowling about our house, looking for a piece of furniture, a set of toes, or a baby blanket to attack. In the front, a tree company cuts down an 80-year-old Deodar cedar perilously close to the power lines and road. We have a daughter whose gravestone decorates St. Stanislaus Cemetery, and I feel the pulsing kicks of a 27-week old baby inside me. Our garden bed now teems with bulbs and our mulberry trees’ overgrown branches look at us ominously. All around us, there is new life and life passing away.

Photograph of tree being cut down

It is sad, but it is as it should be. There is something cyclical to all things nature. The seasons change, circling back. The earth turns. The moon waxes and wanes. We grow older and new babies arrive. 

I like this stage of life when I live with both realities. Death is real but does not crash into my world the way it did when I was 13. As parents of a child with a chronic medical condition, we live with an elevated level of risk every day. 

Yet he grows taller and more willful and wilder. 

If we isolate ourselves with only those in our circle, only those with whom our lives mirror, who are in our age group, marital status, have the same number of kids or same career responsibilities, I fear we miss something of the richness available to us.

So what do we do?

For our part, we’ll knock on strangers’ doors Thursday night, say trick-or-treat, thank you, and explain our costumes. We will drive carefully, mindful of the children dashing across the street, enjoying the independence we had as children. We will smile at parents hanging back on the sidewalk because we are not ready to let our littles loose (because of that whole “dashing” risk). Halloween is not a spiritual event for everyone but it is a community event, a valuable event, and an event I wouldn’t want to miss.

Children sitting on a felled cedar log

The Column Continues

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

…as such, this piece refers specifically to my time reporting for the newspaper and my column, Here’s to the Good Life!

The day begins at 6:00 a.m. with my toddler singing “Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.” Some mornings I hide my head, hoping he will fall back asleep until my husband goes after him in sweet spousal sympathy. Other mornings I muster up the energy to usher him out of his room in the hopes of preserving the sleep of his siblings. 

After breakfast and chores, the homeschooling day begins.

Two children working on school work at the coffee table.

I am pregnant and rejoicing, but I am also spent. 

Recently I wrote about the willingness to let go of the beautiful things offered to us in each season when their time comes. This is no retirement letter, but an admission of tiredness, and a need to step back and do the thing I always recommend: pause, take stock, savor, and make a choice about the next right thing. 

For me, the season seems built for rest and homeschool, which has made attending local events for the newspaper tenuous. I am going on leave sooner than expected, but this column will continue. 

Four years ago on September 14, 2015, I submitted my first column piece. 

 After four years, though the tone has changed somewhat, each piece still circled around the tenant to live the life you have to its fullest potential possible.

It began with life coaching and positive psychology concepts. There were conversations about virtue, goals, manners, emotions and coping skills. It was advice-driven and much informed by some lengthily-titled graduate courses. 

Personally, during that time, my life coaching business hit the ground running and I awaited the birth of my son, Peter. That season, we learned during an ultrasound he had a cleft lip and palate.

In 2016,

the topics remained heavy on the psychology and philosophy, incorporating new discussions on the value of making your space beautiful. Many of these articles came about while sitting beside my sleeping son in the hospital.

The words shifted from advice out of books to the words I needed to hear: the goodness of routine, hobbies and making your environment inviting. In the strangeness of a hospital setting, those were concrete coping skills I used to get through. That year my daughter Celeste was diagnosed and I took time off to prepare to say goodbye to her as my pregnancy neared its completion in March.

The column continued, even though the life coaching business did not. In writing, I found the words that connected me to life. And I wrote hoping to offer some inspiration for you to look for and choose those things offered in all circumstances that are life-giving, inspirational and fulfilling. 

Photocopy of newspaper column "Here's to the Good Life!"

In September 2017

I began freelancing for this publication, going out to events, meeting you in the streets of town festivals and city-wide yard sales, telling your stories after drive-thru dinners and fundraisers.

With 2018,

our family’s life rebuilt. I dabbled in book reviews, writing about home-life and the seasons, searching for that right focus. The stories continued and this town inspired me to a love of community I have only ever known in theory. Like those I interviewed, I could say with sincerity, “this is a great town.”

From the stages of change to invigorating life to waiting well, I hoped to keep the column fresh and interesting. In its process, I stopped wanting to tell you what to do in weekly advice sessions. Often enough, we already know what we must do. In many cases, we are already trying our best to put it into practice. 

Instead, I looked to share the reflections and things inspiring me, thinking perhaps, inspiration spills influencing others to take stock and consider. The words are more personal, less pragmatic.

Telling your stories through community events has been the sincerest joy and it will be difficult to stay away and keep my nose out of others freelancers’ business (we have two wonderful ladies taking over for me). Returning in the spring cannot come soon enough. 

The time away is necessary, but it does not make it easy, because the things that I hear from you, the things that inspire you to give, to be part of this community, to love your neighbor, inspire me. 

The column continues.

Now, I ask for your advice. What do you want to hear about? How can it best serve the readers in our community? What has been like for you to read this weekly column? If you have ideas to share, email me at writer@kathrynannecasey.com.

Until next week.

The Casey Family’s Love of Fall Traditions

I spend a good deal of time discussing the importance of savoring the moment, the season. There no greater time than Autumn for this in my family. We create environment, educational activities, food favorites, family festivities, and add our own Catholic spin by accessing the old traditions.

Environment Full of Fall

Living room with golden yellow walls and banner reading beautus autumnum, Latin for Blessed Fall

The environment of one’s home affects well-being for people in different ways. The decor of my home is a place to rest mine eye, to pause, breathe, and find delight in the every day moments as they go by.

A few years ago I took a yard or two of orange fabric, cut into rectangles and with graphite paper traced festive lettering onto the fabric to spell the words, “Beatus Autumnum.” This means “blessed autumn.” With a hot glue gun I affixed the rectangles to kitchen twine. Its appearance marks the beginning of fall in our home. With pumpkins, a piece of Halloween art by Patricia Palermino and autumnal colored throws to the living room the scene is complete. The emergence of seasonal decorating adds to the anticipation of things to come and sends the message: there is a change here.

shirts and onesie for kids that read Blessed Autumnum, Latin for Blessed Fall
Custom made shirts by Melissa

Fall Education Activities

This is my first year fully engaged with the homeschool process. Whether in school or homeschool the opportunities seem limitless. There countless are songs, coloring, crafts and storybooks, set to the seasons. This year we are singing a German Folk Song, “Autumn leaves are a-falling.”

Kids with their dad carving pumpkins

Favorite Fall Foods

Human beings have elaborate practices created around the preparation and consumption of food. We have our favorite flavor seen in every food and spice since Starbucks debuted it in latte form in 2003.

While the world around us raves for pumpkin spice we fall in line as my husband adds pumpkin pie spices to my morning home-brewed latte. When Trader Joe’s brings in their fall favorites, we purchase spiced apple cider and butternut squash. The squash becomes soup. Acorn squash may be churned to homemade ice cream. In fall, more than other seasons it is easier to find those special recipes that are had only at that time of year.

Family festivities abound. Pumpkin picking (or buying) and carving, in the past running our own little roadside pumpkin stand (to resume next year, we hope), buying granny smith apples from my parent’s neighbor, planning Halloween costumes, an Oktoberfest gathering, and watching films like “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” are things we look forward to each year. Traditions, however simple, become rituals that one can rely on, stability in an unstable world.

table setting with lemons, pumpkins and fall foliage

Fall’s Catholic Spin

To all this, there is the Catholic spin. I love the religion to which I belong in part because of her many traditions. Some families are rediscovering the old ones, still practiced in other countries but largely forgotten here, such as Michaelmas (September 29) to mark the change of season.

My family leans heavily into All Saints Day, the second day of a triptych of days inviting us to focus on the last things. In this vein, Halloween is not so much about making ourselves afraid, but reminding us who we have to fear and that death was conquered. All Saints Day (November 1) turns that focus towards the reward of a life well-lived. All Souls Day (Dia de los Muertos, November 2) implores us remember those still striving and to pray for our beloved dead. Further explanation goes beyond this post, but these beliefs allow my family to lean in instead of reject the surrounding culture, and engage it in a way not contrary to our faith.

Painting of Danse Macabre 2, a medieval theme set in fall months
Danse Macabre 2 (Koper Regional Museum)

From trick-or-treating to setting a place of remembrance, these are high holy days for our family, and a crown leading us to the month of Thanksgiving.

What are your favorite fall traditions?

Ten Years of Marriage

It is the eve of my wedding anniversary.

Three 85-inch wood tables stand foot-to-foot along the pavement of our backyard, forming a line from mulberry tree to mulberry tree. The rich tones of the wood play in my mind as I mentally, meticulously, lay pomegranate blossoms, English ivy, and boxwood together to form a garland runner. I place candles, but not too early, lest the California sun melt the beeswax into an unburnable mess oozing out upon that rented wood. I plan the menu, the plating, rearrange the seating, all within the comfort of my bed, waking too early, too full of excitement to sleep any longer.

Now we come to ten years, a less common milestone in a society today. “Doesn’t it feel like it was just yesterday?” a stranger asks.

Photo of bride and groom holding hands at the kneeling during Catholic wedding mass
Kyle and pregnant Kathryn Anne Casey
Father holding up his first born triumphantly
Toddler girl with baby brother on Easter
Toddler brother grabbing baby sister's chin
Three siblings paying with baby Peter with midline cleft lip/palate and SPINT2 genetic mutation
Kathryn Anne Casey at her daughter's funeral, sitting in front of casket at cemetary

No.

There have been too many children, too many losses and too many homes for it to feel like just yesterday.

Were it just yesterday,

I would still be in that blushing stage of the bridal wreath. Timidly approaching conversations with my husband in order to be tactful, caring, and gage his responses, adjusting my responses accordingly, should I need to call him out or call him on, as wives are apt to do. Instead, after ten years, life sometimes demands too much from me to give all my energy to these conversations. I do my best to be charitable; and it falls upon him to be stronger, tougher, and more proactive than I gave him credit for in the beginning. We are partners.

Were it just yesterday, I might feel the insecurity of being a new mother, wondering if this or that approach to parenting will make or break this child of mine. Instead, after ten years, I know that parenting is an ongoing task, one that is not determined by the individual interactions but the sum of our lives with these children; that apologies can count sometimes count more than getting it right all the time, and that when I am in need, the little people in my life can show their quality as tender individuals capable of loving others and not just receiving love themselves.

Were it just yesterday, I might look on a future full of plans, linear plans, in which we decide what we want, we lay out the steps on how to get there, we create action plans and we celebrate our successes. Instead, after ten years, I see a future full of possibility knowing that no matter how much we plan, things could change radically. One job, one unexpected viewing of a home, one particularly special child can bend the road in such a way that everything we imagined would happen is no longer on the map.

Yet in those unexpected twists and turns of life, new possibilities emerge.

Things that seemed like childhood dreams or the dreams of just yesterday become reality; a home with five children, configured a bit differently than I imagined; a place in the country that provides a new opportunity in patience because there is not one bit of grass seed in that massive yard; a connection to my spouse that comes not just from attraction, interests and values in common, but in the glory of having lives built together through shared suffering. We have built a world around a commitment for life in which our children are the fruit and our home is the physical space, where we hope to invite others to visit and hopefully find some good that they can take from it.

The invitations mailed and tables outside in their setting under the mulberry trees stand as a symbol of how our lives have evolved and expanded.

I do not present these ten years as a time to boast, but rather with gratitude in the face of a life begun and a life continued on this shared journey where happiness cannot be sought for its own sake, but two partners in love can go on this path with laughter, dancing, classic movie quotes, and the understanding that we do not have to do it alone.

Photo of the six members of the Casey family on Easter
Previously Published at the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

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The Essential Challenge of New Things

 

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

 

This week I found myself reflect on the importance of challenging ourselves with new things.

When we only offer our children that which is familiar or comfortable, they do not grow. As a parent (speaking of my own parenting philosophy), it is my responsibility to seek out or loosen the reins for them to experiment in age-appropriate ways with new things. Age-appropriate for some will mean their number of years, but on the whole, it is a matter of discerning their personal readiness.

As a mother, it is my responsibility to show my children adventure is out there, good food that might look strange is out there, good books that challenge us are out there, good music that we have not yet learned is out there, answers to our deepest questions are out there. As a mother, it is my responsibility to introduce my children to this beautiful world, the gifts and inspirations among people, our culture and the cultures of those with whom we share this space. It might be unfamiliar. They might balk at a meal or clamor for a familiar song, but as I introduce them little by little too new and valuable things, they grow and their culture develops.

I have to be intentional about it because of what has taken place culturally in the United States. Within a society heavily focused on pleasure and entertainment, many receive their culture passively through media. This leaves them open to use by corporations seeking to market and sell products. Marketing reinforces the passivity of the senses. Thus, religion has diminished in the public square, holidays of virtue like Thanksgiving diminish and Black Friday takes its place as the national focus. In my parenting, I proactively introduce my children to important things like literature (storytelling), art, music, and the traditions of our religion, because that is the only way to transmit culture. It begins in the home.

Occasionally, when times are stressful or the environment too unsettling, we might rely on familiar things to get us through, but that is only when so much is already unfamiliar and the child needs the comfort of familiarity or when I have become incapacitated in some way as an educator. In times of relative comfort, we push them a little to expand their horizons. We do this not just with words, but their environment, their actions and their tasks within the home.

If I shelter my children whether it be with food, with experiences, with music, with entertainment, and offer only what they already know, their development will be stunted. Some of the adventurous ones will still want to try new things, but the more reserved among them will rely too heavily on the familiar and never want to take risks, never try new things, the natural curiosity of childhood will diminish and in some cases, die. How many adults no longer feel curious about the world in which they live! How many no longer ask questions about other cultures, life, existence itself!

In the 1994 Letter to Families, Pope John Paul II wrote the family is the school of love. I have the opportunity form my children not only in the love and recognition of other persons in their lives but the love of life itself, curiosity about the world and joy in the good things this world has to offer. By my own interest and vitality, I model it. By my encouragement, I invite them to share in it. And at times, by my insistence, I push them a little when they might hesitate to jump in.

 

And so, following in this grand tradition of parenting, pushing ourselves to grow —in addition to chickens, cats and children— we now own a dog.

 

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The Power of the Positive Press

I sat down on the rattan sofa with its blue and white stripe upholstered cushions in my backyard, two years ago, the long-awaited funeral of my daughter Celeste then behind me. For months, my days were absorbed with the emotional preparation, the material preparation, the familial preparation of a life-limited diagnosis, a child who would not live long outside the womb, who indeed, did not live at all beyond the safety of my body. “What will I do next?” I asked myself.

 

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The writing world is full of best-practice advice. The advice almost always includes social media. If you read here regularly, you’ll notice the change in frequency in posts, and how these days, we see just a weekly post of a reprinted column.

I am living life. I cannot analyze alongside Google. I cannot pour my heart out over MailChimp. I cannot fret over whether or not this is the best blog layout.

I want to notice the feel of the breeze in my backyard. I want to stop and observe the beauty of my children’s faces. I want to focus when I ask them to focus on school work.

I want to be here. Alive.

This does not mean I have not been writing.

The weekly column continues, and along with that, the front and back pages filled with the news stories I have been fortunate enough to cover. I write for the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch. We are the positive press. We celebrate community. You get enough bad news. I come into events ready to learn others’ stories. I always wanted to know what motivates people. That is why I went into psychology.

Now I not only get to learn, but I get to share those stories as well.

I’m limited by a word count (or column square inch if you will). I do not get paid very much per photo. But I love it.

Each week, lately, I’ve been writing on seeing the bigger picture. My job presents me with a world to discover, to go in and uncover, and then report, shining the spotlight on the folks who might go unnoticed, counteracting the skepticism of our time, showing there really are people doing what they can to do good and help others, without looking for accolades.

 

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Below is one such story, and if you’ll permit me, while town events and graduations continue at full speed and my column is on hold while I take photos of kids eating ice cream and interview veterans serving their community, I’ll share a handful of these stories in lieu of the regular column. I hope you enjoy it. I know I do.

 

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Stations for Kids – Free ebook

New season, new strengths.

 

Every year, our family improves a little in our Lenten devotions. It’s been ages since I could pray the Stations of the Cross in the church. Between mealtimes, bedtimes, meltdown times, it just didn’t work.

Dissatisfied with the offerings of geometic art, self-centered meditations, and dumbed down language, I began creating station booklets for my children and me to use as we prayed around the living room.

I’m offering it to you today…no charge…lots of change.

 

You can download it here 

(after a few clicks…we’re GDPR compliant here…)

 

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Facing Monsters Under the Bed

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

I have a friend who is afraid. Trauma in her life likely primed her to view the world with caution, assessing the danger. When a man tried to break to into her house, she huddled with her family in the hallway, calling the cops, hoping the man would go away. She said it was the thing she had always feared…and it happened.

We learned my son’s medical care and risks three years ago. There was one potential emergency yet to happen. I warned my mom about it; trained the babysitter on what to do. We experienced it in the safety of the hospital, but never at home. And then it happened.

The thing we feared the most happened…and we survived.

It seems to cause a great deal of panic when it happens. The mind has been tuned into the particular fear with each evening alone or each medical moment. The anticipation seemed to build quietly without us knowing it. We faced other emergencies before. But when this happened, it was as if the roof caved in.

And no one was more worried than me, not the doctors, nor the nurses, nor triage.

For my friend: not her husband, not the police.

Our imagination grew our fears. They were scary things. They were real emergencies.

Children perceive fear in all kinds of places: in the dark, in the overgrown brush, in the waves, in the dog.

My children are afraid of dogs. We spotted a chocolate lab made famous on Nextdoor and lured the dog to the yard with ham, securing him until his owner could pick him up. I invited my daughter to come closer, as I rubbed the belly of the friendly Labrador. “What are you afraid will happen?” I asked.

“That he will bite me,” she admitted. Nevertheless, with some fear and trembling, she approached and pet him, a dog bigger than herself.

We watch as the child’s imagination grows the fear, unaware that we act in the same way. “Don’t be afraid,” we tell the child. “It’s fine.” “Nothing to be afraid of here!”

The monster under the bed or in the closet, instead of being a nighttime inconvenience, could be an opportunity. “Don’t be afraid,” won’t prepare us for the thing that really is scary.

It is scary to be corned by a German Shepherd (or a rooster). It is scary to hear the bone snap. It is scary to hear someone pounding on your back door. It is scary to see your child bleed.

“Don’t be afraid,” doesn’t cut it.

“What are you afraid of?” Get to the heart of the matter.

“I’m afraid he will bite me.” I explain about the dogs’ relaxed ears, his open mouth and panting tongue, his exposed belly, his wagging tail, Labradors’ reputation for friendliness.

The doctor explains the risks and safety precautions, why those precautions make it a little less emergent.

Some evidence soothes the fears. Some situations remain just scary. Where evidence cannot reduce the fear, preparations begin: a home alarm, an exit plan, a form of defense.

We do what we can to cope. A child calls for his mother. “Look under the bed!” “Can I have a night light?” “Stay with me a little.”

The parent reassures, supplies a low wattage bulb and the child drifts to sleep.

The child seems to know what will make the situation better: someone in his life who always makes the situation better, the parent who magically has the answers, whose comfort scares the monsters away.

It is okay to admit some things are scary. Evidence is helpful. Preparations are important. But sometimes all we need is to ask for a nightlight, and that’s okay, too.

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Generations

Time and again she glanced to her side, lifting her eyes up, a broad smile pouring into her expression. This new bride, 24 years old, with a mass of curls pinned to the side, holding a fingertip veil in place. Her skirts floated along with as she walked, trustingly locking her arm into his. The day was filled with promise.

 

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In most lives there comes a time when it feels one wedding follows another for a season of a few years. Then it passes. Babies are born, single friends feel alienated because everyone is having kids, milestones are met. In a new season, illnesses begin and funerals become more frequent than weddings.

But how important it is to still attend those weddings! I fought with my mother over inviting her friends at mine. Now that my friends’ daughters are marrying, I see why the day is as much a celebration for the mother and father as the bride and the groom.

We are not meant to isolate ourselves in a world with only our age group. Old must meet the young, and young the old. There are stories to be told, jokes to be made, drawing techniques to be taught. If children never know illness or suffering, they will have had no time of preparation in the safety of a stable family for when they meet their own illness or suffering later in life.

We do not need to hide the realities of life from our little ones. They need someone to usher them gently through before they must face it alone.

The older generation can be reminded of the good things of youth while feeling value in the contribution they make as a sign of a life well-lived or lessons sorely learned. They need not work or “be productive citizens” in the commercial sense of value to be a gift to the generations around them.

The mothers and fathers who changed dirty diapers and shuttled children back and forth to school may meet a time when their children or caretakers must do as much for them. The lives of those who served are enriched as ours have been as parents.

It is terrifying to thinking about needing, about vulnerability, about being a burden to society or those around them, but if those who are in need feel themselves a burden, the burden is of the pain of obligation that knocks against a hardened wall closing around the heart that will not serve. It is not easy to be a caregiver, but it is necessary to see the wholeness of life, the cycle, if you will, of where we come from and to where we go. As we make peace with this by the witness of others living the different stages from the glowing bride to the frazzled parent to the beaming grandparent and the tired retired.

All this is imagined in a world with whole families and generations. But when it cannot be found in one’s own family, when wounds cannot be healed, or debts paid, there are others around us with a similar need of love, care, and attention.

Let us give our best to the needs of those in different seasons whom we encounter. Once passed through, it cannot be lived again. Those who lived through it can smile at the anxieties of youth, knowing how good they have it, reminding them to count their blessings. The reminders, though not always received graciously are blessings in themselves.

Those reminders are vital to a life well-lived. The bride and groom are just starting out. Let us cheer them on rather than warn them of doom. Let their period of promise remind us of the hope from which we first began. If it brought more disappointment then answered prayers, let find power in renewal and gratitude…and dance the night away.

Happy New Year!

I do not want to look back. I do not want to count my blessings from the past year because it means 2017 is even further away, that the time in my life when Celeste was alive is even further away.

One year ago, my husband and I looked back in 2017 and thought, “O God, we hope next year is better.” We sat in silence when it was time to recollect the good things from the year. Our daughter died. Our son was very, very ill and moved to the PICU that July. Everything was survival. Everything was gray. Everything was the crawling out a hole, a foxhole, perhaps. We were alive, but what else did we have?

I spent the second half of the year living at home instead of the hospital as our son turned the corner in his condition. I spent the second half of the year writing up a storm, published here and there, building wonderful connections about town and feeling moved to tears by the stories I heard during interviews. I searched for my place at home, in my children’s lives, and in ministry. Everything we developed shifted during 2018. It did not diminish; it grew.

The writing continues but shifted in focus to a book to be published this year: a dream come true. Ministry continues and is changing in surprising ways beginning with cantering mass for the first time with my organ-grinding husband: his dream come true. We have an offer and accepted contingent on the sale of our current house for a property with 1.2 acres of land and lots of building space for our office and studio and who knows, a jazz club, in the future; two dreams in one.

How can all this happen?

Marriage strong. Older children emotionally stable. Peter strong. Friendships strong and in those friendships with less strength, at least there is greater clarity than in the past.

How can this be?

“There would come a time when God would fill what he had emptied…”

I read those words, copied in Mother Teresa’s writings, collected and published in Come by my Light. Those words were my light, although I never knew how it could be possible.

But here we are.

We do not deserve it. At that expression, one of my dearest friends said, “don’t apologize for God’s blessings!”

And it is true.

God answers prayers. Peter’s condition was worse than expected when he was diagnosed in utero. Celeste was not born alive. Peter was not healed physically following the Beatification mass we took him to in 2017 to pray for a miracle. But a miracle occurred before we even could have been aware of it, bringing into his life our personal hero, a woman, a friend who dedicated her whole heart to his care.

I live in the awareness that tomorrow everything could change. And yet, even then, God provides.

Two years of trial. It feels like we are back to living in the world of roses, but I grasp that it is only that way because of perspective. We still have a dresser full of medical supplies and appointments in San Francisco this week. In a week I will struggle to meet deadlines (I am struggling right now with something due tomorrow!). I will return back to a state of exasperation when Kyle returns to work and our homeschooling vacation ends.

But it is good. It is full. It is greater than anything we ever could have hoped for.

God fulfilled his promise.

And now, I’m wishing you all a very happy New Year.

 

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