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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Poetry is a photograph with words

Photos of the week…or…

Due to some technical issues, my photos of the week are tucked away, safely on a device where they will not be disturbed, until my husband returns from his musician’s retreat.

I offer you this instead, a day late.

How did I become a writer? Because the idea of taking a photograph with words fascinated me. Poetry is a photograph with words. It goes deeper than a photograph. Beyond the scene, it seeks to capture one moment of the emotion.

Let’s see if I succeed:

When I awake and see the rain my mind goes to sleepA dull sound echoes throughout the dayNot fierce enough to be a stormNor hopeful enough to bring a rainbowbut the steady downpour that covered the sky and house in s.png

And then…

a little hand between the daffodilsa small voice asserts her willdefying grammarimploring eyes intent to controla gentle cuddle restores my roleas s toddler's mother.png

 

In the House of the Great Girl

I might venture into kid lit soon. Below is my working draft of a story about a girl in a race of giants. I cannot take full authorship. All of the dialogue was imagined by my co-author and daughter, Regina. She can neither read nor write, so her creativity is exceptional.

Girl Giant

Once upon a time, a medium girl sat at the big table eating bones. She dipped the bones in good blood, not the bad blood of her cup, but the good, red blood, as she watched her father eat a soft chicken man. “I will turn into a great girl,” she told her father, looking at him admiringly.

It was more successful than the meal the night before with her mother. “I’m sorry, mommy,” she said, her voice full of sincerity, “I can’t eat this.” The great girl dissected a caper. “It has little snakes. If I eat it, they will get all over me. Then I will turn into a big snake, and I will get around you. I’m so sorry, mommy.” She stroked her mother’s arm.

The mother and father were surprised when their great girl told them, “my heart is in my belly, and two babies. One is named Celeste and one is named Peter.” Her parents nodded their heads. “They will come out when it is snowing, first Peter will get out, then Celeste. When it is snowing…” she mused.

Amazing things happen when it snows in the land of the great girl. “When it is snowing, we will kill the dragon,” she informed her princess and boy farmer. It was a dark day when it snowed. When the great girl struck the tree, she announced to the word they were killing the King of the Jews.

The mother and father did not know what would become of their great girl.

A Clothesline Way of Life

Published this week in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

I just saw an advertisement for a washing machine with two washers in one machine so you can wash light and dark at the same time. Let us pass over the fact that you can wash light and dark together on an energy-saving cold-water setting and consider what this means. How many housekeepers face the mountain of laundry in that one spot that always seems susceptible to the plate tectonics causing its growth? Do we really need to do more laundry at once? It is time-saving, so instead of spending all weekend doing laundry, you can spend one full day doing nothing but laundry.

I’d like to propose a different way of life. I discovered it through my clothesline.

Lack of financial resources during a particular period of our life had me searching for whatever ways I could to be conservative with our money. Though we owned a drier, our rented home sat atop a large hill with a massive clothesline shared with our adjoining neighbors.

Combine this set up with the wisdom gleaned from A Mother’s Rule of Life and I discovered a slower way to live. Her recommendation is to set a structure for each day, an order of events that may or may not be on a timeline, that follow a similar approach as a monastic order. The routine stays the same. The sequence depends on the family. It may be wake up, dress, breakfast, school lessons, chores, lunch, rest, hobby, dinner, clean up, bed; or wake up, dress, breakfast, leave for school, errands, return home after school, snack, homework, play, dinner, clean up, bed. A simple routine spelled out in more detail: clean a different room each day, wash a different load of laundry each day. Never more than one load of laundry per day. Otherwise, the day can become consumed with laundry, neglecting other areas of life.

Over the past wet winter, at our home-in-town with our average-size fenced-in yard, I gave up using the clothesline and used the dryer instead. When I finished one wash and put it in the drier, it seemed so simple to add another load to the wash. Soon I was completing three loads in one day and had a great deal more laundry to fold, with more places to deliver it to. Even though I did laundry on fewer days, it felt more exhausting. Like having to deep clean once a week rather than clean small, quick messes daily.

Winter passed, the clouds dried up, and I took out my clothesline once again. I am back to one load or one type of laundry a day (sheets) and at least two days a week without washing anything. I make sure to have one day of rest from all chores. For us, as Christians, that day is Sunday. There is something fulfilling of going out into the sun, hanging the pieces with care, and folding that fresh-smelling crisp wash at the end of the day rather than after the huff of getting it all washed and dried within three hours.

We have to guard our lives. Faster and time saving may be better, but what do we fill the time with? Do we just end up doing more? Do we end up losing the time to social media or some fabulously written Netflix show? It can be good and necessary to spend a day doing laundry, that’s true. Not all lifestyles allow for a slow approach to chores. Still, I would like to advocate for the effort. The effort to slow down, do a little less and enjoy a little more. Whether it is with a clothesline, a slow cooker or a storybook, I think it is worth a try.

A Wandering Professional

I arrived home from the funeral to find an email inviting me to take online courses through my alma mater to complete the licensing requirements to become a therapist. Through investigation, I made contact with someone from the Board of Behavioral Sciences who confirmed what I had not expected.

The moment when I read in her email, “your degree would not be eligible” I felt the relief of one question answered. I would not be licensed in California. It would not make sense for me to obtain another master’s degree. I could not commit to a doctoral program. This was it. This is my life. What does that mean?

What can I do, I asked myself. I’m sitting in this hospital room with my son in the bed thinking that the period of frequently, long and dangerous hospitalizations is not over. I thought it might be over, otherwise, I would not have taken these steps to finally make something of my degree.

My degree program changed my life. It changed my husband’s life. It formed our marriage in beautiful and inexplicable ways because it altered how we relate to each other. My degree formed my parenting style and helped me navigate the throes of coping with grief and helping my children express their grief at the death of their baby sister, who was born without a brain. Yes, I know intellectually my degree was not worthless, but I never wanted to be one of the many with a personally enriching degree and a mountain of debt I’ll never be able to pay.

I continue to probe these thoughts and try to understand. What can I do? I can write. And the moments come to me that I have spent writing each morning in that hospital room while my child still sleeps. The moments were enlightening, relieving, and, in truth, fun. So my heart fills with light and joy as I describe this as the direction I’ll throw my energy.

For close to two years I have been a columnist for our local newspaper. This decision meant looking for new publications, sending out samples and pitches, reworking my resume. I felt the grace of not fearing rejection. I’ve learned enough through past publishing that sometimes the piece just is not right. I can learn. I can write something different. The key is finding places to submit.

This morning, I am very excited to share with you the first fruit of this new search. You can find my letter, here, at The Catholic Woman. I hope you enjoy it!

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day.

There are debates surrounding relationship awareness days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. I think any ire against Mother’s Day generally goes quiet most people acknowledge many mothers work without thanks. It seems fitting they should be celebrated. Who wants to be the cad saying, “let’s not celebrate mothers”? At the heart of the complaints, is often disgust for commercialization or personal pain associated with the thing celebrated that day.

With any holiday, we can complain of commercialization.

Anna Jarvis founded Mother’s Day, as we know it, in 1908 with a national campaign to put it on the calendar. It began as a well-intentioned celebration in a Methodist church, financed by and widely celebrated in Philadelphia retail stores. Florist shops helped promote the day as part of the petition for a national holiday. Is it any wonder, with these roots, that Jarvis would find the holiday usurped by the commercial process? She spent the latter years of her life fighting the commercialization of this day intended to honor all mothers everywhere, with or without flowers.

As a popular holiday, Mother’s Day is unique is how new a holiday it is, and how it was founded apart from religious observance or patriotism. That it is one of our most popular holidays, and one of the biggest for consumer spending, speaks to something deep inside us as a nation and a culture.

For whatever struggles women have in society, on a personal level, we can see our indebtedness to mothers. Even those with emotionally or physically absent mothers, or oppressively present mothers, feel the lack so much because of what it should be. If mothers did not matter so, no one would care if their mother were absent. But motherhood matters, not only biologically, but the relationship with one’s mother follows throughout the individual’s life. Healthy attachments affect later relationships. Through his mother, the child learns the world is a place where it is safe to explore. Mother acts as a home base. They are more commonly the primary caregivers. As such, they often responsible for teaching children healthy coping skills. In Mother’s relationship with Father, children witness problem solving and cooperation between two very different individuals. A mother becomes aware of the baby’s every move in utero and maintains that awareness even as the toddler seeks out mischief in the house. She is the first word learned by an infant and the last word spoken by the soldier on the battlefield.

Not everyone has this family structure. Not everyone has a mother of whom they can say they owe everything. Not every woman can be a mother. Not every woman wants to be a mother.

However, you observe the day, make it personal. Take time to reflect on the wounds and graces of motherhood’s impact in your life. Resolve to do better or to imitate, whatever the case may be. While biological motherhood can be quite limited in scope, the concept of spiritual motherhood, a motherhood that transcends biology providing us with “mother figures” in our lives, is quite remarkable. To mother is to care for, ahead of oneself, in an intuitive and judicious way.

Give praise to a mother in your life, be she your biological mother or spiritual mother or someone else’s mother. In your reflection, spend time with old photographs, videos, and memorabilia from the days of parental monitoring or personal crisis in which a mother cared for you. Consider and write down what words come to mind. What are you grateful for? What lessons were learned, what passions or hobbies acquired, what qualities admired? Thank her for them. It can be written on a post-it note or a fancy card. That you see her and recognize her in her motherhood captures the spirit of the holiday.

It is okay to have holidays to raise relationship awareness. Mothers seem to be around, wherever we go. It is quite human to need reminders. And, after all, it is our humanity we’re thanking them for.

Easter Joy

I took care of myself yesterday. I exercised in the afternoon, walked in the evening and read at night. I walked three laps around the park in order to clear my head from the afternoon onslaught of crying and screams from hell-bound ruffians, I mean, my blessed little children. Emotional survival is such a process until the very exciting comes along. And the exciting has come along.

One year ago ’twas Easter. We abandoned our plans and our menu to try to make it work in San Francisco. Peter had been there so long already. By the generosity of the Mark Hopkins hotel company (Intercontinental, I think), we were going to stay for free in a fancy hotel for Easter.

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Kyle and the kids came. That week the kids decorated baskets with Grandma and everything came together.

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I bought delightful little goodies at Williams-Sonoma combining retail therapy with indulgent motherhood. It all felt good.

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It is difficult to stay in one room with a bathroom from the 30’s with five bodies, three of which move a lot. It was cramped, but we would be positive! This was such a gift after all. The kids went to bed. Kyle and I stayed in hallway waiting for them to fall asleep. We filled the baskets and went to bed. We thought, surely in a place like this, nothing will happen to those baskets.

Naive little out-of-town small town country folk. The kids woke and the baskets were gone. I went crying to the hotel management and she apologized, sent security to search the halls and came to our room with a basket filled with cookies, candy and teddy bears. They found the kids’ baskets and we made quick work to tell them the Easter bunny had gotten confused because we were in a hotel. Their ages made this possible.

Easter mass at St. Dominic’s was beautiful. We sat in the choir loft and saw such a view of that grand Church. As positive as I tried to be, I felt heart-broken. For whatever we did with the kids to make the day feel special and like Easter, it was incomplete. Peter was not with us. I cannot remember the rest of the day. I felt tired of trying, tired of pretending we could make this day anything other than a spiritual reference in our heart to the meaning of it all.

I would not be caught off guard again. I made plans for every holiday and every birthday should any of the rest of them take place when we were in the hospital. When did we return? Lots of times. But around the holidays?

Shortly before Miriam’s birthday party (I missed the party but we were together on her birthday). All Souls’ Day (November 2 = home for Halloween). The day after Thanksgiving. The week before Christmas (returned home on the 23rd). The first half of Holy Week.

We went Regina’s birthday in San Francisco. The lesson came home to me that day. The imperfect moments become perfectly imperfect, when we are all together. It does not matter that it is cramped, or undecorated, or improvised, so long as we are together. We are connected to Celeste by the invisible string. Tomorrow is Easter…and we are all together!

A Girl and Her King: Turning the Corner

She reflected on the events of the past week, how close to the precipice she had been. It was first a fever, than inconsolability. Yet her child still tried to play. Then he became tired. Like those days one year ago. She had no energy to fight with the king in these days. She wished she could muster up the mental energy to share with him what happened.

What had happened? There they were, her baby on the bed, lying so very still. He was so tired. He only slept. Her child, whom a week before she could not pin down, as fast as any of his siblings, lay so still, asleep. She rested her head beside him, stroked his arms and legs and feared to think, “Would I lose him, too?” She could go mad with fear.

And then, with the visit from a friend, a new trial of medicine, he sat up. An hour later he stood. An hour later, he sang and swayed. A day later, he was himself again. They turned the corner now.

She thought perhaps she could tell herself they were off they edge, that they now moved toward the meadow again. It seemed best to let those thoughts wait for tomorrow.

Yes, Philothea’s child had come through again. They were turning the side of the mountain. They might see the meadow again. She breathed with excitement as she traced her finger along the pencil curve on the wall. Soon, she could think of it. Soon.

Happy New Year!

It’s actually very difficult for me to stir up excitement about the New Year. Thanksgiving packs a punch with gratitude for the past year. Christmas is a time of reflection, it being the anniversary of the night my husband and I began dating. Then comes New Year’s. My family did not celebrate it much. I had a few great dates with my man before we married, but along came children and out went New Year’s Eve celebrations. I love the idea: the revelry, the reflection, new chances. I just can’t stir up the excitement.

Putting that downer aside, there are some life improvements in the works. We’re about to have another baby, which is always an improvement on the status quo, albeit a chaotic one.

I purchased a monthly planner from Target, which is beautiful. My loving husband bought a fancy fountain pen for me. I believe in the richness of the sensory experience tied to reading books. I believe it engages our minds in ways that digital world just cannot. So with that philosophy in mind, I thought I’d give a printed calendar a try. It will help with scheduling new business clients and as I do not use an internet phone, I’ll be able to access my calendar without needing the internet. Revolutionary, no?

One of my proudest moments is from last part of 2015, I took stock of our finances. I enjoy crunching numbers, paying attention to details, getting caught up in the minutiae. So while my husband is the main provider, I do the finances. While we never racked up credit card debt, it felt like each bill took me by surprise. Savings was going down and stress going up. We fell into the mindset of using the credit card to spend the money we’d earn the following pay period.

Again, while this wasn’t detrimental to our security and lives, it wasn’t healthy. I felt that they key was the abstract nature of using the credit card. I dug out an accounting pad I received from my father many years ago (I took an accounting class in high school) and began recording everything: cash spent, credit card purchases, debit card purchases, income, income from store returns. Every transaction.

To any one who ever balanced a check book, this will not sound amazing. But really, with online banking, how many of us let that practice go completely? And even for those who did or do it, what about cash purchases?

I put the numbers on paper. I add and subtract with each transaction. Credit card bills are no longer a surprise because they are already accounted for.

This process created the mindfulness needed to really get on top of our spending. The problem was not so much a problem for my husband, but for me, and this was the solution. So while, we still have things we can do better (saving more from unexpected income), I’m so pleased to say that now, at the end of the pay period, instead of nail biting, we have double the amount we would have had two months ago.

It’s a little lesson, but I’m proud of it. Writing it down, being able to glance at it any time without going on the computer, adding the numbers myself all adds mindfulness to the practice of spending and receiving.

It’s a small personal triumph. What, in the past year, have you found works for you, has solved a problem, has made you feel proud of your accomplishments?