Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aerobic Mass, part two

Another Aerobic Mass today.

{I should'a known, really.
We went to the later mass,
since we had to say an early goodbye to Buddybug this morning.
So, I
prayed the "humility prayer" to try
to settle my moody self this morning.
What was I thinking?
It works
every time, doggone it.}

But even so....You know it's a peak day when you get these comments:
"Oh, I see it's one of those days!"
"I heard him."
"He's sure a handful!"

Or, my personal favorite:
"Well, I hope you can have a good week!"

Sigh.
Good thing he's so cuddly the rest of the time!
And one more thing, while I would have LOVED to be there...
probably best we weren't at Mass or Vespers here.But, oh to be there for this...
the new liturgical year begins today. Go, see. (h/t to American Papist).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent of Advent

So, it's coming. No, it's almost here.
Advent, I mean.
Tomorrow, tomorrow begins Advent: the season of Advent.

And I love this season.
And so of course I have a jumble of thoughts.

Some say that Christmas is just not the same anymore. Lights and stores are too fast off the mark. I get that. I like to have my holidays separate to themselves. I want to see Halloween decor in October and Turkeys, pumpkins and pine cones in November; rather than red tufting and elves already. However, in a way, these holidays connect. I think Thanksgiving is sort of a "pregame" for Advent.

Thanksgiving is a coming together of family, very often a literal arrival of family. There is a flurry of anticipation and preparation; a making ready. For thanksgiving, we make ready for our loved ones to come home, to visit, to be with us and for us to welcome them. We work ourselves silly, we talk and sit together, we feast together. It's a bounty; of time, of food. We celebrate the love of family and friends and how no matter our differences or the old scratches and hurts....that family is still there, no matter what.

And that is exactly what we do for Advent too, but not only on a personal domestic scale, but on the global human eternal scale. We prepare for the coming, the advent, of our most real family. And that is why the holiday of Christmas is even more important. It calls to deep recognition of the beauty of that gift: of family, of incomprehensible love. It gets skewed, yes. It gets distorted, yup. Just like what is important in our immediate families all too often gets distorted, skewed, spun by unmet expectations.

Advent is our chance to prepare, fully, inside and out, for the coming of what is most real and the truest love. We get four weeks. Christ is coming. And while every year, I mean to be mindful throughout this season.....almost every year I blow it. But even so, it's worth the effort. Living this season, in preparation and anticipation of this birth, this family, is worth the effort. It is more than challenging in our modern warp speed times. {For those of you modern hipsters, here is a link just for you (ahem: coffeedoc this one is for you!)}

But that's why we have candles. We light another one each week, each Sunday night. And each night of the week during dinner. It is the glow of it that reminds us as dark falls outside and we sit, or plop, around the table to eat once again...that there is more here. There is more beyond us and we breathe in and can prepare our homes and hearts and selves. It's Advent. Go to the Anchoress, she says it better than I can.

We've had our pregame. It was great. Filled with the usual crazy tired, too much food, resolutions to really now get in shape for pete's sake, and the glances across a room, the raised eyebrows and the belly laughs. It was Thanksgiving.
And now, tomorrow, it's Advent.

So, today I will get out the candles, find my purple tapers and my celtic advent wreath to hold them on the table. We begin to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. It's here, it's time!

Get out the candles.
Slow down.
Careful: don't miss the beauty of this season
(I have, too many times)
.
It's Advent!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday

He got back at 12:30 this morning!
My boys are all back in my house -
I am thankful!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gratitude

This week is already a jumble for me. I have been making lists and checking them twice...no not christmas (please, no way am I ready for that!), but thanksgiving lists: lists of to do, to clean, to shop, to cook. And today they all start in earnest, the happy slam-o-rama of cooking and baking and prepping for guests and for a feast. But so many thoughts are distracting me that I figured I'd better try to get them out, and in keeping with my mode of the week, the best I can do is a jumbled rambling, talking/listing of sorts. I am organizationally challenged...please bear with me.

So, here we go.
This is the week of thanksgiving. But I want to feel, and do feel, more than thankful. I feel grateful. Grateful seems to me, somehow deeper, fuller. It's not only a feeling of "thank you" to someone for a gift of time or assistance or a thing - although it is so very often certainly that as part of it. Gratitude, for me, is more pervasive, a fuller recognition of the gifts, big and small that I have and see and know. It is what I need to remember when I am swept up into another one of my selfish moods or fears, it is what drives me when I am at my best. It is, ideally, a foundation (all too often, forgotten). The blog Holy Experience keeps a list of 1000 things to be grateful for, always good for some perspective.

For me, the bottom line of gratitude is also relational. Because, for me, while I am and should be grateful for the abundance of material goods and things (and I do appreciate and love them, I do, I am a consumer with the best of them - sadly enough). There is the level of tremendous material thankfulness, for things, for goods, clothes, food, a house, cars, medicine, good shoes, soft beds, the list can go on for a long long time. Thankfulness for money, it is the currency of the material world. But there is another currency, of the world that is the most real, the truest and really the eternal world: and that currency is relational. It is the relationships with the people in your world, the big and the small, the old deep family relationships and the new modern friends and even acquaintances. Even in this blogosphere I have "met" and made so many important friends and I am deeply grateful for these relationships and their ongoing support and connections. The Anchoress writes a post here about community, this is the same track for me and it's worth a read, go look.

So for me, I need to remember that it is gratitude at work, or should be. Thankfullness is critical but it feels more attached to the material currency (which is not to devalue it). But gratitude is deeper and fuller and for me attaches to the relational currency, the realest world.

Every year, Coffeedocs extended family has always come to our house. It's a crazy exhausting week, every time. But it is always memorable, always a little crazy, but I love it. Some years we have had over 20 for Thanksgiving. This year will be our smallest ever, only three extras (but that still means 12). Grandma passed away last winter and so this year will be bittersweet, but still I hope very very good. She is still with us in so many ways and so we will play some cards and think of her. I taught the girls a new card game (Blink, a good game) because Grandma always played cards with them and this way, she's with us just a little closer this week too.
So, we are preparing for Thanksgiving.
And I am grateful and always need to be more so.

Fair warning: list ahead:
I cannot possibly list them all but a smattering:

My family, each child, my dear husband.
My siblings and parents and nieces and nephews and sisters and brothers in law, grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles.
For my dear wonderful friends young and old and new and near and far, in person or on net.
For my faith, my Catholic church and the richness it adds to my life.
For prayer.
For great food and the ability to make it.
For the Eucharist.
For my health and the doctors who keep my family healthy and the meds and science that do the same.
I am thankful for the chance to bring the family together again this year with a warm house and good food favorites and silly card games and time together.
For the Mass.
For the music that fills my house, especially when all my boys are at home.
For the blooming of this toddler who now gives and asks for kissses and is learning to say our names, who squeals with joy when one of us returns home, no matter how long we've been gone.
For a beautiful sweet girl who is half a world away, but now knows we are here too and that we will be together as soon as can.
For a big loud messy family.
For the struggles and tired exhausting days.
For the trials that have taught us/me so much and forced me to grow beyond my hard small shell of self - and for the repeated opportunities to keep breaking that shell as it keeps growing back (ack).
For the endless chances to learn more patience.
For the community that I have learned to see and know.
For the monastery caramels that I cannot resist.
For the saints and their intercession and help and example.
For my son, coming home tonight so all but one of my kids will be under my roof (but soon, I pray, soon).
And of course, ever, good strong hot coffee, preferably with a shot of espresso!

As I said, I could go on and on, but I've already bored everybody. This list however, is for me.
Now you can be thankful I have quit. See, one more for your list. Happy to help!

Now it's time for me to get to work for real. So, I'll leave you with this, he'll shoot me, but I don't care. (I think it was shot w/ one his buddies phones or something so the quality is not so good, but well, I like it) It's one of my biggies for grateful, it's on my list, above. It's from over a year ago, so he's changed but he's coming home tonight and I'll have music of all sorts in my house all week long. I know he'll play some of my favorites too, hint hint.

Monday, November 24, 2008

We have lift off

Our dossier is on the way!

It is flying to DC for final federal authentications and then on to Addis Ababa for translation and then down to work. I know, this is all still about waiting. But as I said before, the way for me to get through the long haul of any adoption process is to celebrate, mark, and be happy for each little step ahead. This is one step closer to our daughter. We'll take every step we can get in this marathon! (Why yes, I am task oriented, why do you ask??)

So, I have "Up, Up, and Away" (yeah, the 5th Dimension, yeah, I dated myself again..sigh) as my soundtrack of the afternoon.... It's one more thing to be thankful for in this holiday week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Awo!

She said yes!

I feel a bit like Sally Field right now: "she likes us, she really likes us!"

Yesterday Ryan introduced us to our new daughter. As she is an older child, she has the right to decide if she wants to be adopted, and if so, if she wants to be adopted by us.

But, she does!!

It's so exciting! Ryan read her our intro letter, with pictures (and we didn't scare her off! wonders!), and Tafesse translated. And she smiled and was excited and said yes! Awo! ("yes", in Amharic, I'm learning...).

So this is a joyful day! We've 'met' from afar. And though it is a nonstandard meet, that is the nature of adoption, it's all different and yet it works in it's own way. And yes, we still have so much longer to go: official referral papers, Ethiopian paper chase, court petition, court date, travel.....

But this was huge...we've been waiting for this day. And you know, it makes it so much more real. It feels so much more connected. It made me cry (I know, not much of a surprise, that). We were lucky enough to get a few pictures too, the best ones we have so far! I wish we were there in person to hug her tight. But for now, we will print these out and hang them in the usual places: fridge, bathroom mirror, etc, to keep imprinting this sweet face on our minds and hearts and family. And we'll celebrate these landmarks as they arrive, because that's how we get through the process...so:

We've met each other for real! What a day!
Wow!

Awo!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Here!!!!!

JUMP FOR JOY!!!!

We got it!
We got our CIS amended approval letter!

This is a huge hurdle for us, one to jump over with glee. Last time CIS took four months, this time it took four weeks (more on that in a moment).

What does this all mean, you might well ask??

It means that our dossier can travel to Addis Ababa (right after I get the copy of the letter notarized and authenticated, hopefully winging it's way to Addis by the end of this week or early next).
It means the official referral paperwork/legwork on the Ethiopian side can be begun.
It means once that is all done they can petition for a court date.
It means once we pass court we can fly to get our daughter.
{For those of you doing it on the second go round, it means you DO get another letter to amend the approval, something that was in great question around here}


It means they can tell her about us, introduce us to her, like a matchmaker.
It means we need to write the most important letter of our lives. (no pressure, huh?).
It means that a young girl is going to be asked to join a family, and hopefully she will say yes too.
It means that we, all of us, just stepped on to surf a tsunami of change.

It means that these saints below? They ROCK!
It means that once again I have found help from the intercession of saints, say what you will, I know it.
This guy? This is a painting of St. Jude, patron of impossible causes.
This gal, below? This is a painting of St. Rita, also patroness of impossible causes.

I know, you scoff, I can hear you.....the CIS approval is not impossible you say, perhaps.
HA! I say. Because in my part of the country, USCIS works on it's own time frame, known to no man. So we were hunkered in for the not very patient wait. And, yes, being impatient, I asked these saints, implored them, to pray for a quick return of our approval, to help us get this young girl home to a warm house, to a family.
It's cold in Ethiopia now. There is no heat in many places. In her orphanage, she has no heat when she is cold at night. She needs to come home. Our house, thankfully, is warm. It is cluttered but we like to think it's cozy. It is ready to wrap her in warmth of all kinds. We just took a giant step forward on our way.

Thanks be to God. Thank you St. Jude and St. Rita!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Sunday Trend

Yeah, that's right, we are talking about "Aerobic Mass."

Yup, babywrassling in the back, toddler take down,
"you want a piece of me?" protests, "just try and catch me!"...

That "30 day shred?" Grace?
Hey, I'm in the middle of it already: 60+ mins this morning!

Jane Fonda? She's got nuthin' on me!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Adoption. Why? Ever? Now?

Today I sat with Gabe. And for a long time, I held him. And I kissed his head, like this. Like I did when we were in Addis Ababa. When he was just learning, from scratch, that I was his mom and that I would be there - no matter what, forever.
And I had the time to think.

It's National Adoption Month. A month dedicated to raising awareness of adoption. And in one quick way, that makes me laugh because just by walking into a restaurant, my family raises awareness of adoption! And maybe not always as the best reps, if we are having a bad day, eh?

But as I said, today, as I had time to hold and comfort and kiss my baby boy, as he recovered from a small procedure, I had time to think about the whole concept: adoption, National Adoption Month and the whys of it all. Coffeedoc too was with me and we had time to talk around this, one more time.
Obviously, adoption is a topic dear to our hearts. And the concept of raising awareness through a month dedicated to it is a grand idea. Typically it is fleshed out and presented as a (falsely) 'noble" thing or a great service to waiting kids, another option for unplanned pregnancies. And that is all good. This month of PR gets the faces of kids out there into the media and world of the forgotten ones, the ones who just need a family.
But, the high concept begs the smaller question.
Why?
Not why in the big societal picture (that's still big question 'why').
That is well documented and presented.
But, smaller:
Why? Why me? Why you? Why now? Why ever?
Why bother? Why risk? Why struggle, spend, split open your life?
And as I smelled his head and felt this sweet boy's weight in my lap, breathing easy and still deeply sleeping, I thought about why adoption is so important on a small intimate level. I thought about one of the real deep reasons "why" for me.
Because raising these kids, loving them, working for them, fussing at them, doing for them, breathing in their smell at the top of their head as they sleep is everything.

It saves me.
It saves me from myself.

When I am doing it right, and that is really not nearly often enough, adoption, the mothering, saves me from myself.
{It's almost a prayer: "Save me from myself O Lord!"}

And that's a good (ok, it's critical)enough why, for me, for now, for ever.

Almost Wordless Wednesday

So long ago, but still, a blink. Just a blink ago.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dorothy Day

Today is the birthday of Dorothy Day.
Dorothy Day is a complicated gal. She is a controversial woman, some have called for her beatification, some have decried the thought. She was an atheist and then a convert to Catholicism; a lifelong social activist who lived with and served and advocated for the poor. She was no 'goody two shoes' who floated among us, she got cranky and was tough. Her politics were controversial; but really they were simple - they were the politics not of a machine but of Christ and His Church. She was devoted to her faith and the Church and the sacraments, her daughter and grandchildren; she struggled to live a life of humble service to others.

In this, she is a good role model, she tried to persevere even when she was ill or irritable or filled with worry. Like the more familiar Mother Teresa, she struggled to see Christ in those she encountered. She was the founder of the well known Catholic Worker Movement, and frankly, was known and still has the reputation of being something of a troublemaker.

She is in good company. Many of our great saints have been irascible, difficult people. I have read of, and spoken with, people who have met Mother Teresa and they too have said, she was a "pistol" and was a force to be reckoned with. It is a saccharin stereotype to think all saints are or were sweet, kindly, easy, and compelling. Sometimes, I suspect God calls those who are willing to be less popular, who can take the heat, with determination. It gives me hope for us pushy folks.

Dorothy was a voracious reader, something else I like about her. I have been reading her diaries, "The Duty of Delight," (see below) and they are worth your time - though they are slow going. Slow because they are the sort of reading where you scan the entries of everyday life and then a line jumps out and sears you; you have to close the book and catch your breath and think, soak it in for few minutes.

She has a number of famous quotes. But here are one or two of my favorites:

Dorothy quotes Dostoevsky (from the Brothers Karamozov): "Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams." (By Father Zossima, in Bros Karamozov) and then she goes on to say:

"Love is being cut away to bear more love."

"Our lives must be a pure act of love, repeated many times over."

"Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair."

Dorothy Day searched for Christ in the men and women she served and struggled to love. Mother Teresa did the same. This is the appeal of these women to me: how they spent their lives in the struggle to serve, to love, better and more; and how in that very attempt, despite failures, frustrations, and frailties, they found their purpose and joy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Autumn

Ahh, this is when I know it's autumn, for real. This is when my heart lifts and sings - no matter how crazed the week has been or how hectic, stressed or moody.

When the maple outside my window turns to flame, my heart and soul, too, set on fire with dizzy color saturated contentment. I love autumn.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Basketball season starts today.
All three girls, for the first time.....
Which means of course: the hunt for carpool begins!
Go SJV!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Souls Day

Today is All Soul's Day.

This is the day we remember the other souls who have gone before us.
Yesterday we remembered the saints, those who have lived lives of holiness (sanctus) and give us examples of the many ways to grow into the people, the saints, we are made to be.

Today we remember all those who have died and need our prayers. Yes, this is where the Catholic doctrine makes many nuts again, where the rubber meets the road. Yes, we are talking about purgatory. First let me say that there are many who explain this and speak about it so eloquently and clearly, like Deacon Greg. I am not one of those people, so please go read some of them for a clearer understanding. {Catholic Catechism: 1030-1032}

However, I find this idea of purgatory so comforting; not weird or wacky, but a great sensible, sigh of relief.

I think it might have been Rosalind Moss or Father Groeschel who put it best, in my mind. They likened purgatory to a foyer, or (as in my house) a mud room. You can't enter heaven, the Beatific Vision, without being utterly pure and holy.

Only the pure can enter heaven. And at the moment of death, we leave this world, simply human, often unprepared. Being human, even those of us with the best of hearts and intentions are always prone to concupiscence. We are inclined toward sin, by our nature. So we might have a few unkind thoughts or actions or hurtful acts still marking us, so to speak. You simply can't be in the presence of the utter holiness of God himself without being utterly pure, as He is.

Thus: purgatory. A sort of 'mud room' where those last bits can be purified in order to stand before God Himself and bask and praise in that Beatific Vision. There is talk of the suffering in purgatory. The pain is from this separation; from being admitted to heaven, the foyer, and knowing that Christ, God Himself, awaits with unspeakable love and joy unlike any of our ability to know or understand, here.

There are three states after death: heaven, purgatory, hell. Purgatory is not a "maybe" or "could go either way." You're in. You're just taking off your muddy boots and straightening your tie, to look and be your best - the most YOU, that you have been made to be - in order to go and join the saints with Christ forever. To be in His Father's house, for eternity.

So yeah, for me, I know I need a mudroom. I am so grateful for a mudroom! I am nowhere near pure or holy enough to be able to just go hang with God. Even Moses hid behind a bush, trembling in fear and awe at the visible glory of God. And I pray I can exchange my muddy boots there, and I will ask all I know to pray for me so I can do it quickly once I've passed from this earth.

And so, we pray for all the souls in the mudroom, in purgatory. They can't pray for themselves, though they can pray for us too. And ever so, the system still works best when we watch out for each other.

So today, pray for your loved ones who've passed. Pray for those who have died who have no one to pray for them. All the souls in heaven, pray for us too. It's a comfort we can give each other.

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Dead Drive

Our hard drive is dead.  Dead.  We have another older computer to use for posting (whew) and the basics but the drive with ALL our photos and data and documents is dead.  It was not a fun day yesterday.  ND lost in the longest game in their history, 4 overtimes.  And our hard drive crashed dead.  So tomorrow we go for another, but don't know if we can recover anything (oh those pics!).  I even had just put our  halloween pics on the computer and now even they are lost too.  Tough lesson, again, to backup.  

So the posts might be weird for a bit.  I'll hit up my boys for their photos and  hope for duplicates of some (Africa, especially).  I fear the old ones are the goners though and I must say it's kind of heartbreaking.  Another lesson in detachment I guess.  

I've been reading Dorothy Day's memoirs (and really, so much wonderful stuff in there, but it's not a quick read) and she speaks often of the "duty of delight."  I'd better go reread that part again.  So, this Sunday, I will ponder that instead of the data loss, I will work on detaching from my control panic and instead on how to find and practice the joyful duty, a la Dorothy Day.  

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Feast Day: All Saints Day!



It's All Saints Day today!

And while I might be calling on all the saints to intercede for me to save my computer...then again, I might not because I'm not sure that would be right. Tempting, yes. But I really don't want to be a pest.

However, this is a fun happy feast day, a solemnity and one of the biggies historically in the Church. We just got back from Mass as it's officially a Holy Day of Obligation (though Mass hardly feels like an obligation, but rather a gift).

Today is the day the Church celebrates and honors all the saints in heaven: the big hitters like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Jude, and St. John of the Cross, but also the smaller saints that are less well known like St. Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan Martyrs, or St. Felicity, and the saints in heaven that are not officially recognized or known here on earth. So I'm thinking that is some big party up there and it's a happy day. Everybody gets a ribbon!

So I do love this day, it's a cool weekend trio really. You've got your Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead of course) on All Hallows Eve (Halloween, of course) and then All Saints Day and tomorrow, All Souls Day. Because we Catholics, we still feel connected to our loved ones once they are gone. Often more so because the physical restraints of our bodies are removed in heaven and thus they can be closer to you in prayer now, than when these loved ones might have been states apart on earth. That gives me great comfort. These are the days to be reminded that the veil between this life here on earth and the next can be awfully thin at times - and we can only marvel and wonder.

So today say thanks for the saints, the holy ones, {"sanctus"}. Because they show us the way, in all their own individual unique lives, how to strive for holiness in our own. So have a chat with your favorite saint or go meet a new one; they are great pals, supports and even cheerleaders for us on our way.

All the saints, pray for us!

Copmuter Crash, trying not to panic....

Ok, our main computer seems to have had a hard drive crash. Perhaps this is a left over trick from last night?? But hey, I would have given out the treats, I've got bowls of candy left over!

So I'm trying to breathe: hoo ha hoo hoo ha, and to wait for Coffeedoc to get back from his morning outing and help recover it. This hard drive had everything: pics, documents (adoption ones) emails forever....hoo hoo ha, breathe. {And please, no lectures, yes I know about backing up, and we haven't well enough and we are bad at maintenance...I don't need the stress right now, thanks though}

This computer is a MAC for pete's sake! I thought they didn't crash! For the moment, I am off to surf the net on this old computer and hope to find some simple easy "press these two buttons" recovery prescription. Good thing I have all that candy, this is stressing me out, I might need some help from Baby Ruth.

If any of you out in blogdom have any experience and a quick simple fix, please email me (I can get it on my cell).