Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feast of St. Jerome

Painting by El Greco, “St. Jerome, cardinal”, c. 1587-1597

Today is the feast of St. Jerome!

He is a the famous curmudgeon of the bible - by which I mean, he is a Doctor of the Church, and famous for his translation of the bible from the original Greek into the vernacular of the day: latin. He was a noted scholar with a keen mind and a sharp tongue as well as gifted in languages.

'Saint Jerome and the Angel' by Simon Vouet, 1625

If he was alive today he, who knows how he might have put all our instant mass media to use....he was well known for his scathing letters and commentary on all sorts of goings on in the culture and even the church at the time. He was not a mushy feel good sort of guy, he was grouchy and reportedly ill tempered and critical, with ascetic leanings. Sort of like an old, holy version of a modern day James Carville maybe, but OH so so much better.

Painting by Joos Van Cleve, "St. Jerome" c. early 16C

And that's the thing that I tend to take away from St. Jerome. Not only is he the patron saint of librarians, students, school-kids, translators (and hey, I should be hitting him up for prayers daily, what have I been thinking?), archivists and so on. I think he just might be the ticket, the patron and go to prayer guy for grouchy critical folks like me! He shows us (ok, me) that even us grumps can get to heaven and God can work even through the grouchiness and beyond. It gives me hope, I tell ya!

Painting by La Tour, "St. Jerome"

Happy Feast Day!
St. Jerome, Pray for us!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Bday BuddyBug! TWO decades!!?!

This is pic from his 13th bday.
The last time I could hug him, head to head.
He now towers over me.

Happy Happy Birthday to my first baby, now TWENTY years old.
I cannot believe it.

You all know BuddyBug, sort of, virtually at any rate, if not in person.
What can I say? I'm his mom, he was my first child, I gave birth to him two weeks early in a scheduled c-section because he was upside down and wouldn't turn around. I had no idea, a hint maybe, but really, NO clue he would forever turn my universe upside down. I had NO idea then how deeply you could really love a person; how being a mom completely transforms who you are at the very core.
But, enough about me.
Today is about him.
He is almost officially an adult.
But he has changed so much in the past few years that I see much more the adult in him than the little boy that once was.
But now and then I still get a glimpse of that shy observant happy kid.

His music bridges his whole life, from his toy piano in our front alcove way back in the the living room (called the "piano room") that is filled with music of all stripes: piano, multiple guitars, stands, old second hand violin, cords, picks, sheet music. A strewed reminder of my boy.
He is steady. His demeanor and personality even as a small boy was to be calm and observant, thought-full. Maybe too much so, overthinking simple things, commonly struggling with decisions (ahem...Buddybug!).

A rabid sports fan, favorite channel ESPN, period. Ever.
Sports, music, liturgy, graham cracker cream pie...these are his top loves, in no particular order.
Faithful. In all ways. Loyal to his friends "to a fault" as they say.
Tardy, terrible time manager.
Distractable and optimistically procrastinating, always, perhaps forever.

Ah. This is my son.
My twenty year old son.

All the cliches ring true:
"How did this happen so fast?"
"Time flies!"
"He was just my baby a few days ago, wasn't he?"
"He's still my baby boy."
"He's a fine young man."
"I'm not quite ready for this."
"I SO like who he has grown into."
"We are so very very proud."

Happy Happy Birthday BuddyBug!
I so wish I could give you a birthday hug in person.
But you have all my thoughts prayers and wishes today.
We all love you, so much, all twenty years of you!

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's all about the hair. Always.

I now have four, count them, FOUR girls living in my house.
Four daughters. Four girls who's hormones are in full kick...even the younger ones.

Think about it. Really. Think what this means: four teenage girls under one roof at the same time. I can feel more gray hairs sprouting even as I type.

And that is how it goes, because really, it's all about the hair. All the time. It's the hair.

This concept baffles Coffeedoc. But it's true. For girls, it's all hair, all the time.

An inordinate amount of time attention and expense is put to hair. Discussion, comparison, griping, squabbling over products and tools, dreaming of styles, pondering changes or's all hair. Consuming. The mere mention some days can bring on grins or tears....again baffling Coffeedad.
But there you have it. This can be considered a public service announcement.
For a teen, or preteen girl...when in doubt or confusion about what's going on - it's the hair.
You're welcome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Yesterday was Super Hero Day at Boo Boo's school.
Super Mario, that is!
(His best pal was Luigi. Fun silly boys.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Feast of St. Matthew

Painting by Caravaggio, 1602

It's the feast of St. Matthew today!

We all know of course that St. Matthew is one of the authors, divinely inspired, of the four gospels. So, a biggie, a bona fide, called by Christ, apostle. He was one of the shocking picks of the day, a hated tax collector for the hated Romans, and yet, Christ saw his interior heart.

But, beyond even that, Matthew is a great saint to remember, oh always, as he shows us how to set aside ourselves and, in the modern ad lingo of the day, "just do it."

Who knew, he was the first Nike athlete? Just a spiritual one! But do it, he did. When Christ called him, he didn't dither or hedge or ask for the fine you might expect from a villified tax collector. Nope, he just said, "Ok, I'm coming with you," and he got up and went. Done.

Painting by Rembrandt, St. Matthew and the angel, 1655

St. Matthew is of course the patron of bookkeepers and accountants and tax guys, but really, maybe he should be hit up as a patron of those of us who have a hard time making decisions, or those folks who's bumper stickers read "He who dies with the most toys, wins." Because St. Matthew walked away from all of that, without looking back. He gives me hope because it helps me know that even those of us who get mired in the worldly cares of the day, the trap of fretting over or wishing for money/lifestyle, those who are unpopular and even scorned (rightly or wrongly)....there is hope for us all. Whew!

Etching by Jacques Callot, c 15 century

And on a personal note, I love St. Matthew for two reasons in particular. On a tiny "small world" note: he is thought to have possibly worked and lived in Ethiopia for a time (so hey, gotta love that...). And he is the patron to my dear nephew Matthew, now a big old sophomore in college out east, who doesn't come see his aunt often enough (hint, hint Matti). But I count on him to watch over my nephew, especially as he sets forth into the world. He's a terrific patron, and I'm glad he's praying for my Matti.

So, happy feast day!

St. Matthew, pray for us and for our Matti-mo!

Painting by El Greco, c 1610-1614

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A WIN! Changing Lives, Families!

For all you families waiting to travel and about to travel to go get your kids from Ethiopia, there is great news! The kids are coming home! If they are 10 or under, they can come home. No more waiting for cultures, now they can come home. Wahoo! Read below for the particulars.

As you all know, this is an issue close to our hearts. Our daughter Marta was stuck in Addis and not allowed to come home for eleven weeks, waiting on a TB culture. We fought, screamed, pushed, shoved, and prayed. And still we waited. Many others have done the same, causing much anguish and many problems. However, times are changing!

Many people have been working very hard to get the Technical Instructions changed and get our kids home. It has taken much work and pushing and researching and talking and meeting by many amazing dedicated people: lawyers, adoption professionals, doctors, families, all sorts of folks. And now, change has happened, for good! This is a big darn deal and while it would not have helped us in our situation, it will help the vast majority of most of the families who might otherwise be stuck. It is a huge step forward and worth a big cheer and shout of joy, even clapping for the CDC, who agreed to make the changes. So, without further ado:

2007 Technical Instructions for Tuberculosis Screening and Treatment Addendum: Instructions for Applicants 10 Years of Age or Younger

September 18, 2009

CDC has developed the following addendum instructions for travel clearances for 10 years of age or
younger. The criteria described in these addendum Technical Instructions are based on physiologic
aspects of childhood tuberculosis disease and children’s ability to transmit tuberculosis disease.
These criteria do not apply to adults or children with tuberculosis disease associated with higher
levels of transmissibility.

Applicants 10 years of age or younger who require sputum cultures, regardless of HIV infection
status, may travel to the United States immediately after sputum smear analysis (while culture results
are pending) if none of the following conditions exist:
 Sputum smears are positive for acid-fast bacilli (AFB). If the applicant could not provide
sputum specimens and gastric aspirates were obtained, positive gastric aspirates for AFB do
not prevent travel while culture results are pending.
 Chest radiograph findings include―
o One or more cavities
o Extensive disease (e.g., particularly if involving both upper lobes)
 Respiratory symptoms include forceful and productive cough
 Known contact with a person with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) who was
infectious at the time of contact

For applicants 10 years of age or younger who travel to the United States while results of cultures
are pending, panel physicians should―
 Give the applicant a Class B1 TB, Pulmonary classification
 Document that culture results are pending on the Chest X-Ray Worksheet (DS 3024 [until
September 30, 2009] or DS 3030 [beginning October 1, 2009]
 Forward culture results to DGMQ “Quality Assessment Program” via fax at 404-639-4441
so that DGMQ can forward the culture results to the receiving health departments

Panel physicians should provide the DS Forms based on the date of intended travel. If an applicant
10 years of age or younger will not travel until after culture results are to be reported (assuming they
are negative), the panel physicians should wait until that time before completing the DS Forms. If
the applicant 10 years of age or younger will travel while results of cultures are pending, the panel
physician should provide DS Forms while cultures are pending.

Panel physicians should not delay treatment on applicants 10 years of age or younger for whom
there is high suspicion of tuberculosis disease and who would benefit from therapy being started
prior to departure to the United States. Consistent with other applicants started on tuberculosis
treatment prior to travel, if therapy is started for an applicant 10 years of age or younger, the
applicant is Class A for tuberculosis. A Class A Waiver petition can be filed so that the waiver
petition could be reviewed and the applicant can travel to the United States before completion of
therapy. CDC supports the filing of waiver requests for young children with tuberculosis disease so that the waiver application may be reviewed and adjudicated in a timely manner.

Friday, September 18, 2009

For a Friday

Pope Benedict XVI, photo from the Times Online.

This is shamelessy cribbed from Deacon's Bench. But it is OH so worth reading, and yes, taping to our bathroom mirrors, or oh, tattooing on us somewhere if you're so inclined. And it's from Il Papa: Pope Benedict.

"We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help.

Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following one's inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path.

Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who "risks the fire," who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. As we have said, it is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving."

And, while Pope Benedict was speaking of vocations to religious life here. I believe this applies to us all. Especially moms, families, marriage....heck, life in general, heck: ME. It's just so hard to remember and harder to actually do, isn't it? Ah, don't I know it. Sigh. I'm taping this to my mirror, so I can see it each day....and try again...

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I am a "Type A" person. I know, this comes as a huge surprise to you all, a shock no doubt.
But, its true. I am fairly high energy, intense, and feel guilty if I am not doing something productive, or at least something that I can indulge in and justify. I have a constant "to do" list scrolling through my a bizarre gerbil mill on speed: spinning spinning spinning. Fun, no? Not always.....

Why, you ask, am I indulging in this tedious reflection? Well, it is hitting me smack in my forehead that this very trait is a huge link, or broken link, in the process of adjusting. I know, I hear you: "Doh!" But there you have it.

Every time I allow myself, ok, force myself, to sloooowwwwww down and just, um, BE, with the kids (particularly the one newly home, now, years ago, whenever, tho this is just key with teens too) it is better. It can be just hanging with them, spending time next to them. But really, too often I tend to kind of slot that into MY agenda of work and errands and so on and consider that, that "downtime", checked off my list. Yup, done. Well, kind of. But the beauty and value of downtime unfolds when the downtime is really, um, down. By "down" I mean, of course, chilling out. Hanging with them, talking easy and slow. With, and this is key for us Type A's, NO AGENDA.

I know.

Sounds so easy and yet, so not. But when I can smack myself and allow myself to do this, to just let it be them directing the conversation, talking slowly, thinking, is so rewarding. And I like to think its rewarding for us both. If its with a baby or toddler or little one, you know its a great thing because they practically giggle or purr with contentment. But with an older child, ok, our new older is just so important I think. I have been able to find and carve out a couple of these times in the past few days. They have been much needed; issues are arising of late. But those times, sitting on the deck in the late afternoon being lazy and answering any question that Marta lobs....sitting together in the art room, sorting pins (of all things, sounds weird, a spill), and then just yakking in two languages as lazily as possible.....those times feel so much better. They are building connections I believe. For both of us. And for that, that downtime is worth gold. Even my type A gerbil mill mind can be shushed and relish that.

We goal oriented moms (ok, sigh, me) tend to want to build the family, piece by piece, dinner by dinner, laundry load by car load. But what it is too easy for me to forget, is that the goal is not just the shell of the family to be in place, but the heart of it.
And that takes the downtime. That takes the willingness to just be there: lazy, accepting, quiet. It's a tough thing to do, too often. But now and then, we luck out, I remember, we grab that time.
We've begun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

A new haircut.
Loving it, she still likes it pulled back best....but I think its beautiful down!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today is the day we remember Our Lady of Sorrows.

Let me say just this: As a mom, this tears me up. No matter the denomination...moms will understand this concept of the sorrowful mother. She is every mother....

Drawing by Kate Kollwitz, Woman with dead child, 1903

So, as I cannot begin to sufficiently address this day and all that could be said,
I will let this most famous hymn do it instead.

Stabat Mater:

At the cross her station keeping,
Mary stood in sorrow weeping
When her Son was crucified.

While she waited in her anguish,
Seeing Christ in torment languish,
Bitter sorrow pierced her heart.

With what pain and desolation,
With what noble resignation,
Mary watched her dying Son.

Ever-patient in her yearning
Though her tear-filled eyes were burning,
Mary gazed upon her Son.

Who, that sorrow contemplating,
On that passion meditating,
Would not share the Virgin's grief?

Christ she saw, for our salvation,
Scourged with cruel acclamation,
Bruised and beaten by the rod.

Christ she saw with life-blood failing,
All her anguish unavailing,
Saw him breathe his very last.

Mary, fount of love's devotion,
Let me share with true emotion
All the sorrow you endured.

Virgin, ever interceding,
Hear me in my fervent pleading:
Fire me with your love of Christ.

Mother, may this prayer be granted:
That Christ's love may be implanted
In the depths of my poor soul.

At the cross, your sorrow sharing,
All your grief and torment bearing,
Let me stand and mourn with you.

Fairest maid of all creation,
Queen of hope and consolation,
Let me feel your grief sublime.

Virgin, in your love befriend me,
At the Judgment Day defend me.
Help me by your constant prayer.

Savior, when my life shall leave me,
Through your mother's prayers
receive me
With the fruits of victory.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of your dying Son divine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In His very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awe-full judgment day.

Savior, when my life shall leave me,
Through your mother's prayers
receive me
With the fruits of victory.

While my body here decays
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally. Amen Alleluia

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Piece of the titular of the Cross, found by St. Helena,
photo by Coffeedoc, Santa Croce, Rome

Its the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
This seems to many like a weird feast, a remembrance of unspeakable suffering...why would anyone do that? However, it is through the Cross that we find our truest selves. Obviously, in faith we know that without the Cross all would be lost. We would be lost. Without the the Cross and Christ's saving action, the world as we know it would not be as we know it. That's Christianity, 101. But too often that part of it all is forgotten in the felt banner, Hallmark card version of pop culture Christianity that is so pervasive. Who wants to be a downer, anyhow? Right? it, really? Not so much. I, myself, don't think I could get out of bed most days if not for this and my faith in it. Period. So, today I celebrate the Cross, with gratitude.
Painting of St. Helena, mother of Constantine, who found pieces of the true Cross, 326.

"We adore you O Christ and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world."

From the Liturgy of the Hours

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Adjustment: Marking the Good

So, you all know we are at two months now. And I've written some, or a lot, about the difficulties and unexpected strangeness of it all: this process of weaving in a new, older child into the family.
I want to be honest about it all, because it helps me to process it and because I want others to know the real stuff: the good, the bad, the tough, the surprising.

But its too easy to focus on the surprising and the tough stuff and too easy to let the good slip. And so, to that end, I want to take a page from Mary's blog, one of my heroes, and make sure to mark the good. Publicly. So I don't forget and so you can be sure to see that there are good moments too. Little victories, in a way, no matter how small. Because in this process, even small things matter....sometimes much more than you might imagine.

Mary did this about a year ago: making posts to mark the good things of the week, so she would record them. And if I've got my memory and timing on track, I believe she too was adjusting to bringing older children to the family. I too, need to remember to do this. So, I will shamelessly steal her idea, with a hat tip to her for leading the way. And I will throw up one or two good things, when I can steal the time to load the picture and post it (not on a schedule or set number, I'm just not that organized, folks...I know my limits!).

So, here goes - with the caveat for you readers that these will all seem like minute dreary nothings to you perhaps. But in the world of weaving a family, they are milestones: happy important markers. And I want to remember ours.

While we had a very rocky end of the week with that whole "honeymoon" concept being clearly swept away....we finally ended the week on a note of laughter. And I am grateful. I think it was a relief to us all. Last night was a casual chips and sandwiches Friday night. Everyone was a little punchy after a long week, friends were over and it was a little wild and crazy overall. Somehow they starting making faces and rolling tongues and vying for who could make the "better" face, giggling and challenging each other. I thought Marta might be baffled by it, but then she joined in with her own, laughing, wanting a picture. The faces got goofier, wilder, the silly factor skyrocketed. And for a few minutes, it felt like a normal doofy family on a tired wild messy Friday night. Fun. I'll take it. Savor it. This face, this laugh. I will mark it.