Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adoption Process: The waiting dance

Matisse, "The Dance"
Brace. Embrace. Brace. Embrace. And around we go.

International adoption, the process: It's a dance, in many ways.
Not always an elegant, pretty one though. Not when I do it, at least.

But it has the same rhythms in some respect: reel them in, embrace, push them back, spin them off, oh! Catch them back and pull in again. I suppose it would be only fair to tell you to brace yourself: long post, sorting through the thicket...

A dance. But this dance is particular and it has several partners. It's the waiting dance of imagining and fantasizing and then catching back to reality and both aching for it and wanting to seize it close, but also to push it back, spin it away because it's just too big. And that's just on my side, not even on this young girl's part. She is my partner in this, as is Coffeedoc and all the kids here at home. But of course, this post is a rambling glide through the things I've been stewing about. So this dance, in this post, is mine. It is like this painting below, I am whirling with my own shadow at the moment, or the imagined ideas of life with my new daughter.

"Dancing with my Shadow" by Edward B. Gordon

And really, it's all about the wait. And it's different waiting for an older child. Because they have more a partnership in this whole process, in a way...even though you are strangers to each other, you are already inextricably connected in this bizarre dance of the process.

Hmm, I'm so jumbly, let me try to sort it out.
See, when you are waiting to adopt a child, a baby, domestically, you go through all the hoops and then you wait, seemingly endlessly, for that phone call. That part is much the same as international. [And yes, there are many ways to adopt in the States that might follow a different path (foster-adopt etc) but the basic process of domestic goes along these lines for the most part.] But with domestic adoption, you get that call, you world changes and you arrange to go get the baby. Wow. Hoorah! And it's awesome!

With international adoption, you jump through more hoops and shred through more paperwork, wait longer for federal approvals and then wait for that call. And then the hard waiting begins. Because you are tied to a child. You have committed in your head and heart and on all sorts of papers. But you wait, on another country to approve and say, "Done. Come get your child." Wow. Hoorah! And it's awesome!

And when you are adopting a baby or toddler, internationally, you fret and you worry about them because they are so vulnerable and so needy and they just need to be held by you, to smell you and see your face again and again and grow into security, into family. And you race to get there because every day is precious and they are changing by the minute and you want to see and be part of every fleeting expression of wonder or worry.

But when you are adopting older, you do all the same things, really truly, of those adoptions above. But there is more. They have a whole life that has made them who they are, already. When you adopt an older child you know they know what is happening, to some degree, but don't know how much they understand. They know you said you'll be their mom and dad forever, but you worry, do they wonder where you are, why you haven't come? And seemingly, they do. They write you a letter now and then, in brokenly translated English, and it says, "please come soon, I miss you!" And you know. You know, they don't miss you, they don't know you. They miss family. They miss a mom. They miss a home. There is a wrenching desperation under the sweetness of their letter. You want to pull her in, tightly embrace her, ache to whirl her into your arms.

And that's when you remember. You remember being there. In this beautiful country, Ethiopia, the one that gets under your skin, forever. And you remember the smells and the sights and the tastes and the air and the light. And you remember, it's indescribable, really. And then it hits you again, that this is the land, the home of your daughter, your new child. And she has to leave it.

And you try to imagine how to do that.
And you can't.
You can't even begin. So you push it all away, it's too big to think of, fully and well. You spin it back, across the room.After all, there are plenty of spinning twirling things to catch your attention as you wait: packing lists, clothes to buy, rooms to arrange, donations to sort through, other families traveling, fbi lists, cheering for families, praying for others...not to mention, oh, daily chores and the minutiae of daily life with six kids in the house now and another calling from college. So you can do the daily two-step of your hectic life and kind of put the wait on the side burner. You have a month to court. You are in wait mode, right?

But then, usually for me, when I am staring at another 12 letter Amharic verb and trying to conjugate it and figure it out, it hits me again. Or, even more, when I get a letter from a traveling family and new friend and it is thrilling and then terrifying, all at once. It hits me.
I am reminded of Rebecca's post on "it." I stop. I am all but frozen in step. And I don't know whether my gut reaction is to brace for it, for this huge change, for us, but more for her...or to embrace it close and let the achy push to go get her pull at me, even more.

How do I brace for her, with her? Or to embrace; it, her, all of it.
How do I do that so she will accept it?

Ack, I'm sure I'm not making sense. Unless, maybe you are in process, and it does make a little sense. But, an older child's smile is much more complicated than a baby's smile or a toddler's smile. Not to diminish the trauma's for those little wee ones. I have adopted four of them, I know. But, when a baby or even a toddler, gives you one of those bright open grins, and shines their gaze on you, it's clear. It's open. It's simple. It may be hard earned, but once you get it, ah, it's real.For an older child, I suspect it's different. Not that that her smile or any of their smiles are less real. But there is more there in a way. When I stare at my girl's pictures, I see her beautiful smile (And as objectively as I can be; she has a gorgeous smile!). But I know, I can't begin to guess what is behind that smile. She has a life behind that smile, one that I've not been part of. I can imagine, I can wonder and worry; I cannot ignore what might be there. What will her smile for me, for us, be? How will it change, will it change? It's so much to wonder, it's so big. But once we are together, certainly at first, but maybe forever, I will have to do a flash judgment: where is she now, her heart and feelings?

And so we will dance. And hopefully we will be the best of partners. And we will anticipate each others shifts and turns. And I will try to push off that freezing wait fear and worry. And soon, soon, I will embrace her in my arms, brace with her, and embrace her for good.

But for now, we whirl and spin here, we brace for this huge change; anticipate bracing her - embracing her - and reach for her, from afar.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mostly Wordless Wednesday

It's Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
There is much to be said about this day,
but Deacon says it better than I ever could,
here,
and for a roundup of Lenten thoughts on this day,
here.

"Oh, God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Luke 18:13

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday - Shrove Tuesday

Oh yeah, it's Fat Tuesday!
Or, our personal favorite: Shrove Tuesday.
Or, many other's personal favorite: Mardi Gras.
Or, Fasching.
Or, Carnival.
You get the idea....

Yup, it's the day before Ash Wednesday, the eve before the fast. The vigil before the beginning of the season of Lent.
It's the only day where I am inherently, bodily (of late, for me) thematic. (Kidding, sort of).

Now some of us love those Mardi Gras celebrations, floats, beads, revelry....and it is our biggest American Carnival tradition. I've never been a big one for the real Mardi Gras. Maybe because I'm not from the Big Easy and I am simply a foreigner to it all. Maybe because I could never hold my liquor, or maybe because I've never been a night owl, or maybe because those masks (like clowns) just tend to creep me out. I don't know.

But I do like the tradition of Shrove Tuesday and even more so with children. It's a minor thrill for them to have pancakes for supper, it's a fun and positive start to a challenging season. It's nice to sit around the table and go over all the Lenten resolutions and discuss what we'll each work on individually and also as a family. The kids look forward to this and remember it, each year, and it's a good way for them to understand the richness to be found in both feasting and fasting. It's a tradition, it's bonding, it's literally sticky (kids, syrup, 'nuff said).

So, Happy Shrove Tuesday. It's not an official Church feast day, but it certainly is, unofficially, a popular and traditional day of feasting. And really, a little cheer right now is much welcome and how can you not grin at an image like this?
Enjoy your own Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday. Let's go eat some pancakes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I couldn't resist....

Archbishop Timothy Dolan leads a procession following a mass at the Missionaries of Charity home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With support from Catholic Relief Services, the home serves more than 1,000 children and adults who are orphaned or ill. Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS.

A few of my favorite things, together:

Go see this, a bit on another side to this man: a man with a heart for the needy, for orphans, for the poor. And even for Ethiopia. He's been chairman of board of Catholic Relief Services since 2007. No wonder he's got a joyful heart!

What's not to like? A holy faithful man, a new Archbishop, and his trips to Ethiopia and Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity - one of their home for orphans, and Catholic Relief Services..... Let's count: that's three, or four, no, five (?) of my favorite topics, all in one picture. Now, that's a photo op, in my book!

h/t: American Papist

Books books books

Ok, I've been trying to finalize my plans for Lent. No, I've not decided totally yet, still dithering.
Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, after all and Wednesday, you got it: Ash Wednesday.

I always do like to have a few books set aside to thoughtfully read for Lent. I mean, I always have books set aside to read, and I like to think that I am thoughtful....but for Lent, I prefer to get a little more um, intentional, about it all.

To that end, I have been sifting through our bookshelves and setting aside some choices to start, or start again, and finding a few of the good books I have read. And, so, in the spirit of the season, I thought I might throw a few choices up in a post, in case anyone else is doing the same sort of last minute browsing. These are all really worthwhile reads for Lent, from a Lenten perspective, as are of course any saint's bio etc. Not all the books are explicity Catholic, though, as you know, I do have a bias. But many bridge denominations, they are after all primarly about deepening your faith and spiritual life, moving closer toward God. So, take a look, you might find some interesting, I can vouch for each of these!

So, here goes: Reading possibilities for Lent:

Fire Within, by Thomas Dubay : One of the best books I've read, especially for Lent. Deep, challenging, powerful stuff. One of the ones at the top of my list of great books, for years and years. I Believe in Love, : Great book, a mini retreat in a book. Very powerful. Simple but very good. Don't be put off by the simple title, it is still full of deep richness to dive into, especially this time of year. Prayer Primer, Igniting a Fire Within, by Thomas Dubay: Just a very good oversight book on prayer, perfect for this season and for deepening your prayer life. I can't listen to him on tape or audio, I can't do it. But his writing is excellent. Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales: Awesome book, life changing. You need to get used to the literary device of addressing the reader as "philothea" (I kept thinking, "who?" for the longest time...yes, I am slow...). But then, it's just so so good.Journey Toward God, Fr. Benedict Groeschel: A great overview of spiritual writing. Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox writers, all reflecting on man's ongoing journey toward God. 'Tis the season,that's what Lent is all about.Lenten Companion, Magnificat: Another daily reader to help you walk through Lent, mindfully. Magnificat's resources are always terrific, beautiful and one of my favorite things!Mother Teresa, A complete Authorized Biography: Kathryn Spink: This would of course fall into the saint's bio category of Lenten reading. But well worth it, anything on Mother Teresa, one of my all time fav's. And any bio of any other saint as well, they always show us great examples of trying to live and love God, despite circumstances and their all too human selves. I love that. The King, Crucified and Risen, by Fr. Benedict Groeschel: A daily reader, short meditations for each day of Lent to Easter. Fr. Greoschel doesn't mince words, he's a priest from Brooklyn who started the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He's terrific.Heaven in our Hands, Fr. Benedict Greoschel: another good one on the beatitudes, daily life. He considers them revolutionary, if you live them daily. No small feat, worth considering for Lent.He Leadeth Me, Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.: Just an amazing true story of his life, faith, imprisonment in Russia, and the challenges to and depth of his faith to make it through.In Conversation with God, Francis Fernandez: This is a set of daily mediations, an awesome resource. The full set covers the entire liturgical year, in seven books, and isn't cheap. But you can buy just the book for Lent/Easter and use it for Lent. These are always most excellent.Happy Are You Poor, the Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom, by Thomas Dubay: One of the most challenging and humbling books I've ever read, particularly as our lives are anything but simple and this book challenges most of the ways we (our household) live. Very difficult, but perhaps just right for Lent.
Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI: Well, the title says it all, doesn't it? Haven't made my all the way through this one, maybe it's on my list!
Journey to Easter, Pope Benedict XVI: Again, another on my to read list, but again, he writes beautifully and clearly. Well worth a read.The Lord, by Romano Guardini: On Coffeedoc's list and table. I will read it after he finishes. He says it is very good, perfect for Lent.
So, these are a few of my book recommendations, if you have a mind to do some Lenten reading. Take the recommendations for what they are worth: you know me, you know I am a distractable middle aged mom, Catholic, and one who struggles daily with all sorts of moods and chores and bad habits. I'm no scholar and no expert, but for whatever it's worth, I did enjoy each of these and am in the process of enjoying the others. And I wish us all a fruitful Lent!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Confession

image source: SQPN
So, there's been a lot of talk about confession, different kinds of confession and different ideas and feelings about it. And of course, Lent begins in a mere few days, so...if there ever IS a season for confession...we are there.

And even so, I think that there is a yearning for this practice, no matter your faith tradition, or lack of one. Deacon has an interesting article on the rise and desire for confession, as evidenced by the long lines outside the old fashioned/refurbished confessionals in a New York church.

So I've been stewing on whether to write about what I think about confession, or not. There is SO much there and I can't even begin to do it justice, and I would simply bore you all if I tried because I'd just mumble on. Like now...erk.

So, I'm gonna try to give you my quick, personal gloss on confession, my Catholic take on the Sacrament of Confession. As I mentioned, I think our culture craves this. Now, my use of the term 'confession' is quite a different thing from dear Becca's confession Fridays. She has been doing a post on her Friday confessions each week, and encouraging us all to speak up if we are so inclined, to 'confess,' so to speak. Don't get me wrong, this idea of owning up to our weaknesses and imperfections is hugely important, liberating, and also a relief.....it gives us all the evidence that none of us are supermom out there. And that is a great gift, so don't stop Becca, you help us all when you put yourself out there!

But when I think of confession, I am meaning the specific Sacrament of Confession, or Penance, or, most accurately (and modern, but not my 'old dog' term): the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Because in the Catholic use of the term confession, we are really going to reconcile, with Christ himself. Many of us think, why do I have to go sit with a priest to do that? I can just tell my sins to Jesus in prayer and He will forgive me. Well, yes.

But it is utterly healing to do it with a person, and in the Sacramental nature of Confession, it is Sacramentally healing - meaning actual Grace (capital G grace, divine grace) comes to us through the priest's absolution and gives us strength to do better and forgives our sins.

It's a radical thing, don't you think? Of course, it has to be, it's biblical:
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." John 20:21-23
Now, that's just breathtaking to me.

I am a cradle Catholic, but a poorly taught one for most of my life, certainly my formative years. And I never knew, I never really knew, the depth and the amazing power of this sacrament. And I avoided it, scandalously, for years and years; my lapsed Catholic years, if you will.

Ever so long ago, I was called out, so to speak, on some of my (gravely) sinful college behavior, by a priest in confession. I was shocked and upset and wanted to be patted on the head and told, it's ok, you have the best intentions and your heart is in the right place. Well, he pointed out that my heart might be in the right place but my behavior wasn't and called me on it, called it for what it was: sin. Serious sin. I was, correctly, horrified. However, since I was an ignoramus, truly, I fled from the 'rigid, archaic" Church rules and regulations and skipped confession for many years. Because I was hurt and upset, angry and finally, kind of terrified. {Just like a kid who's gotten on the wrong side of their parents, but doesn't really fully understand why.}

Finally, some long time ago, a kind wonderful young priest said, "Um, that was a tough experience, though he was correct. But, you need to trust again." Oh. My. I am really bad at that whole trust thing. I don't do that well at all. But he was right. So I worked on learning more, about the church and confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And so, with heart racing and feeling like I might get sick, I tried again. I went to confession. For real.

And it was electric.

I mean, I had, for all those years, prayed and never left my faith (I thought). I apologized in my prayers for my failings and my sins. But when I actually returned to the Sacrament of reconciliation...well, I finally felt it, I felt, um, reconciled. Doh. But it felt like the world made real sense again, better and truer, more hopeful.

I kept, and keep, screwing up. My life is like a briar patch, and I get caught on my own thorns and snags every single darn day. But now, I have this sacrament to help me out. And it does, unspeakably so.

It's like that itchy, uncomfortable, out of sorts kind of feeling that you have when you've been fussing with someone, or when you said the kind of wrong thing or something was taken the wrong way. It kind of stays with you and makes you have that very low, underlying out of kilter feeling...until you make it up with that person and/or sort things back out with them. That's confession. It's a reconciliation, after all. But with the most important person of all.

I went to confession this morning. And I had to kind of drag myself there. I knew I needed it, it had been a few weeks since my last confession. And I was getting over a week of sick in the house and a killer migraine last night, so had a "migraine hangover." I was not feeling too great, exhausted and ridiculously irritable. But I did make it to church. And when I got there who did I see arriving but our own dear Bishop! Bishop Choby. Special, unscheduled surprise visit!I love this man. He is my spiritual Father. He used to be our pastor and is now our Bishop and he is a holy man, period. He is utterly kind and good. I almost cried, just saying hello to him, I was just SO happy to see him! (Yes, I'm a doofus like that, but I haven't seen him in a while). And so I made my confession. And he gave me absolution and my penance. And then I did cry, as I sat in the pew to pray, I couldn't help it. Not because it was horrible and I was still scared, but out of love and sheer gratitude for the beauty of this Sacrament.

Because this is what it comes down to, for me. If I am SO glad to see this man, my spiritual Father, my Bishop, how electrified and lit up with jubilation will I be when I get the chance to stand before Jesus himself, God, my heavenly Father? OH, I can't imagine, but I know that this is but a shadowy glimmer of the real thing.

And that's the Sacrament of Confession, for me.
It's often electric.
But not always.
But it's always strengthening, and comforting.
It brings me back to the person, after I stepped away in my selfishness.
It's a reconciling.
It heals.

Here are a couple of books that are great:
A pocket guide to Confession


Pardon and Peace
So, erk, I did it again. A long ramble. You know I can't help it. And that's a Becca confession: "my blog posts are long and rambly and boring"...but it's Saturday and not Friday...so I'll have to add it to hers next week!

But, I love confession. I went from being terrified of it, to finally knowing the great peace and real strength and comfort it gives.

It's worth a try. It is, literally, out of this world.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fast Friday?

This is our fast and wild Friday afternoon....

But wait, look closer...... Yup. It's a perfect afternoon.

Update: Praying for Court Families

They passed! They all passed!And we are so happy for them all, each and every one!

Go congratulate them and see the pics of their beautiful children!
The Clevingers, the Ivy's, Sarah and Davis, Laura and family, and also congrats to the McG family (no blog but still the same joy).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not so Wordless Wednesday: Praying for Court Edition

This is the picture from this week's monthly letter to our waiting daughter.
This having your kid across the world stuff is tough, strange, and trying.
It's difficult to write these letters and to know what to say and how, to a young girl that you don't know, really, but have tucked into your heart and head as your new daughter.
It's odd. But cool too. So this is the pic from this month's letter, out on Monday: her new mom (me) and her two new little sisters. We hope she likes it and that it makes her day like her letters make ours.

On another note, please pray today for court, for successful passing for five families who got the great surprise of their court dates being moved up again, after they had been cancelled and rescheduled into next month. What great news! Tomorrow is the big day {which in real time means tonight, once you factor in time diffs}: their new court date and I know they'd appreciate your prayers for a pass. They too are more than ready to go get their waiting kidletts. Go, see: the Clevingers, Sarah and Davis, Laura B, the Ivy's, and the T.McG family (who doesn't have a blog, but would still surely appreciate the prayers). The court dates are always nerve wracking, but we will pray for good news and peace. High hopes...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Preparing to connect: Lent approaches: part 2

Fair warning: it's long. Again.
The desert. Ok, it's one week away. Lent that is...well, actually, technically, Fat Tuesday is one week away, Ash Wednesday, one week and one day. But you get my drift. A week, one more week left to sort through, sift and ponder so many ideas and ways. So, I thought I'd give you all some lists to help the process, or, ok, at least to help my process {because yes, as usual, it's all about me! And yes, I'd give it up if I could, for Lent even, but apparently, I cannot.}.

First and foremost, for a megapost, with mega links to all things Lent, go to Aggie Catholics, they've already done all the work: the faqs, the links the ideas, lists, history, resources. They have done such a great job that there is not much need for my measly post, except to list those ideas that came in the comment box to this last thread/post (part 1) and those of my near and dear who don't ever post or comment (You know who you are and it's ok, but see, I still find ways to bring you in, aw.).

So, without futher ado: lists! (oh boy! and um, disclaimer: these are all just suggestions people, by regular joes like you and me, no official judgements or ranking, it's just a mere perusal).

Fasting and Abstinence Idea list:
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence, meaning two small meals, no snacks and one regular meal in the evening (w/ 2 small meals not adding up to more than the regular meal), plus no meat. All other Fridays are days of abstaining from meat (fish doesn't count as meat). Again, go to Aggie Catholics for all the good background on the details and the why's and hows of this, but these are the basics.
[And just as a reminder: this is not about somehow "working" to earn something or by "doing" chalk up enough points or merits or whatever to get God to reward us or anything remotely of that nature. It is to work on stripping ourselves of the things that keep us from really living our faith and loving Christ better; it's to get past the things that take our attention and eyes and focus off of God alone and onto, as usual, ourselves. It's not a second chance at New Year's Resolutions and it's not at all about extra benefits other than growth in love and holiness, Sister Mary Martha, as usual, makes a good point, clearly. Just saying....] So, onward:

Ethiopian Fast: no food before three p.m., no meat, dairy, fats, all the days of lent.
Half, eating mindfully less/half as an end to mindless gluttony
Alchohol
Chocolate
Sweets, sugar
Treats in general
Snacking
Fried foods
Hamburgers, fries
Cookies, cookie dough
Sodas
Coffee
Starbucks
Fast Food
Breads
Meat(non-food items):
Shopping
Internet
Blogging
TV
Excessive phone time
Novels
Comments on blogs (closing comments)
Computer
Facebook
Complaining
Gossip
Speeding
Yelling at kids
Eating out
Liver simpler

Additions: Another classic way of observing Lent is adding something to your normal daily life, but in a positive mode. So that the tone is not only of stripping away, but of improving and finding the worth in some other activity that we've put off or not considered before.

Cooking for shut-ins, those needing a lift
Visiting elderly regularly (once/twice week)
Calling parents twice week
Biting tongue when wanting to be snide or cranky
Doing something daily for benefit of X (specific person)
Doing one extra something with your kid, daily of course
Practice extra patience
Taking on an extra chore, unseen
Daily compliment to stranger
Forgive the little hurts and big old grudges
Practice the "Little Way" of St. Therese (much harder than it looks)
Heroic Moment (get out of bed when you're supposed to, not those extra five minutes...ow)

Prayer/Spiritual Effort/Additions: The second facet in the tri-part effort in observing Lent, obviously, the most important on so many levels. And sometimes the most challenging, even though on a practical level, seemingly easiest.

Daily rosary
Daily mass (daily or a few extra)
Extra Holy Hour (adoration)
Scripture study, organized or private
Daily time w/ bible reading
Get up early to pray, read (quiet time)
Daily offering
Vespers weekly
Liturgy of the Hours
Spiritual Reading (another list to come)
Confession (more, weekly, whatever is an increase)
Stations of the Cross
Join an ongoing church ministry
Legion of Mary
Pray for those who bother you, or is an "enemy", regularly
Focused, slow prayerAlmsgiving: The third in the trifecta of Lenten observance: payer, fasting, almsgiving. So so many options here. Of course we have our personal favorites, seen in the sidebar and the main subject of this blog (orphans, adoption). But really, our world is literally crying out for more charity, so this one won't be hard to figure out.Give to the poor, period.
Give the money you would have used for those Double Vente Lattes to a food bank.
Start tithing.
Up your tithing.
Clear out your change, purge those drawers, purses, car seat pockets - give to a shelter, your favorite charity etc
Purge your closets of those unneeded, unworn clothes and shoes and stuff.
Make a pledge to a charity, those small monthly bits add up to miracles.
I could do just an endless list of all the great charities and ways to support them out there. But most of you are already wayyyy ahead of me. So I won't.

But I (because I am a nervous weany) sometimes need to be reminded of this, especially in these dicey economic times (and no one is untouched, really): You can't outdo God in the generosity contest. Period. Ever. He's already won. Look around you, all that stuff? Pure gift. You may well have worked your fanny off for it, but even so...pure gift: the job to work at, the stuff to have. So, try to trust. It's Lent. It's the time to remember how much can and has been given.

So, again...SOOO much here to think about, to ponder and pray about. Again, go to Aggie Catholic, they have all the good background and history and links. There are probably more posts coming.... I think I might put up a post on reading (because I love books) for Lent. Oh, and the Stations, love those, did my senior show on those! OH, and kid stuff too...they don't have to do the fasting and all but I have found that they really do get something out of trying. And yeah, they blow it, but no more so than I do! Again, it's the effort, the struggle that is where I find the changes in me.
I really DO love Lent and want to have a mindful Lent. I need it SO much, especially this year. So there will be Lenten posts. For those of you not interested, sorry! Skip 'em. Otherwise, maybe some of you will find some new ideas. I already have; I've just not yet decided on what will be best to undertake.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fun with Presidents

President's Day: a la Coffeefamily!
(I know, I put this one up many moons ago...
but it's just so perfect for today!)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ok, so this is one of those holidays that have loads of different pieces to it all.

Of course we all know the Hallmark marketing blitz version, replete with buckets of kitschy figurines and teddy bears and flowers and chocolate. Don't get me wrong, I like being remembered as much as the next gal!
Will I turn down flowers or champagne?
Not me!
Chocolate or raspberries?
Never!
Hugs and kisses?
Never ever!!

But there's more to this day than just marketing. And you know I love those multi-layered bits! There is also documentation of an actual St. Valentine, three actually.

Most often St. Valentine is depicted as a priest of Rome and a martyr...which (not to fuel any flames on the misguided meaning of this term) is, really, an event which cannot be defined without the concept of Love. By which I mean, if you didn't really, truly, utterly love your faith, well, then you surely wouldn't be martyred for it now would you?

Happily, most of us never have to go anywhere near that far. Though some of us like to pretend that those chores really do have the same effect....ahem (not me, nosirree). But I digress. Below is a fun book to read to the kidletts today, for you moms out there who want to enrich the day without fat and sugar.
So, similar to St. Nicholas and St. Christopher, St. Valentine is a real guy but which one we are actually remembering on the calendar....well, let's just say we can remember them all!

And so we get to remind ourselves to remember all those around us that we love so much, chores of martyrdom or not!

It's a fun day, it's winter, we need a break:
a happy bright red googly heart sort of day.
It's here in the nick of time, if you ask me.
So go have some chocolate and smooch someone already!
Love the ones you're with!
Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Look Who's Reading Now!

Little Man is reading!
As a mom, not to mention a homeschool mom, this is a pretty big deal!
These are a couple of the books he got for his bday, in the new amazing Leapfrog Tag system (how do they do that?). No, he's not really reading those yet, it's just a cute pic.

But he is actually reading - decoding letter sets into understood words and short sentences.
Yes, it's just the "Bob" books, but we are all pretty thrilled.Anyhow, this is one of those things that kids come to on their own time frame, I'm convinced. Some do it sooner, some do it later...but only when they are ready. But no matter when it happens...even these tentative baby steps, it's just exciting.
I told him "Reading is power, if you can read, you can do anything!"
We both think that's just cool, and true.

Now, if only they made the "Bob" books in Amharic.....then maybe I'd be reading too!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Preparing to connect: Lent approaches

Ah, it's that time again.
Into the desert.
That time of year when Lent approaches and you start stewing over how to observe it, mindfully but productively.
Or at least I do.

I actually really love the season of Lent, although of course part of me cringes at it's approach. I remember how many times I've had a difficult Lent; but in the wrong way. I mean, it's ok for Lent to be difficult, in many ways, that's the point, after all. But when I state, "I've had a difficult Lent," I mean, rather, "I've screwed it up and missed the point once again and made it all about me. Again."

As Lent closes in, I usually start polling those near and dear about what they are "doing" for Lent. I nosily ask what are they giving up? Adding in? Working on improving?
Anything? What, why?
Nothing? How? Why?
I know. Shame on me. What a nosybody. But I don't mean it like that. I mean to gather ideas and inspiration. Surely so many are so much more clever than I and have come up with some really worthwhile efforts.

I want to know; I don't want to be stuck in a Lenten rut, if you will.

So, to that end. I have decided to expand my nosy prying. Heck, I've got a blog! I can throw it open to the cybersphere! So I am. If you observe this liturgical season, if you feel it's not too nosy, tell me how you observe it...maybe we'll all get some new ideas or inspired effort.

I know, that sounds so pathetic. I don't want to give the impression that Lent is a tired chore. It is a beautiful season. I love the readings, the prayers, the liturgies. It is rich and deep. That is the main reason I want to see what it means to others. I think it helps us connect. It helps me connect. It connects us to Christ: praying and fasting for forty days in the desert; tempted, tired, but stripped bare to pray most fully, least distracted. I need that SO much too. So I welcome Lent. I embrace it.

In our family Lent is both personal and communal. We each try to give up something (food, a bad habit) and add something (a devotion, prayers, patience) and we also gather for devotions particularly suited to this season (Stations of the Cross - yeah another post on these later, I love them). We observe the official fasts (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, no meat on Fridays of course). But each year we often switch it up, individually.

Over the years I have given up, foodwise: wine/drinks, sugar, meat, sodas, among other things. Not all at the same time, don't be ridiculous! I'm just not that good. Never coffee, that's just insane, possibly criminal (yeah, think about it...). I have tried to improve bad habits: television, worked on not cussing, not gossiping, not complaining. My sister once gave up shopping.

Some of these efforts were more successful than others. However, even failing and blowing it and finding a candy bar half bitten before you stop and think, "Oh yeah, it's Lent, I gave that up."...is an opportunity to humbly pick up, shake your head in recognition of your (ok, my) reflexive thoughtless need for that and shamble onwards, with resolve to try again.

Lent is not a faux "New Year's Resolution Part II." So it's not done with an eye to lose those stubborn ten pounds or to finally quit that smoking. It's deeper than that. It's important to not have the family suffer due to your effort (again, ok, me...and look back up to that coffee idea...). It's to be more mindful. To strip yourself of those things that take you, your "eyes", away from living solely for Christ. And for me, there are SO many things. So, you would think my mind would be reeling from the dizzy array of choices before me.

I guess it is.

So I'm calling out to you all. Do you observe Lent? How? What has been especially mindful and helpful in the past? What has not? What are you thinking about for this year? I've got not a few ideas I'm pondering....I'll post on those more after I read yours, maybe I'll put some of them up too and we'll have a Lenten list post. Maybe not, stop groaning. We'll see.

And so too, my mind swirls around how fitting it is that we enter the season of preparation. Yes, this post is about preparing for the start of Lent. But Lent is a preparation for Easter. And this Lent, we will also be preparing, in earnest, for the arrival of our waiting daughter. With any luck, we will be in Ethiopia for their Easter! How amazing would that be? But, I am getting ahead of myself again. Those are all maybe for posts to come, for my mind to savor.

Lent approaches. Ash Wednesday is Februrary 25.
But before that, of course, we've got Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival!
Yeah, I love this season. I really do. I love the richness, the historicity, the cultural variations that are so textured and colorful but still, at their root, the same liturgical root. Ethiopian Orthodox fast for 56 days before Easter, not eating before 3, no meat, fats, dairy. I love the smudgy crosses emblazened on foreheads on Ash Wednesday; seeing them all day long at the market and the coffee house.

I will be using this daily reader, for a start.

There are so many books to read that are amazing, favorite prayers and hymns (Stabat Mater), so many parts and traditions to Lent. I love tradition. I love learning about traditions. There is so much to this coming season, so much to think, pray, talk about. Start by telling me about yours!

(And yes, the insecure dork in me now will beg for my friends and family - this means you Buddybug - to make up names and post multiple times so it will look like I have at least five folks who might stop in and read, ok? thank you very much....however, it would be a perfect Lenten exercise now wouldn't it??? But take pity on me, it's not Lent yet...)