Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Sad. Mark the good.

I've had a few posts on "marking the good."
This is another.
I think it's important, for me personally, but also in general to mark the good.
When you're talking about older child adoption and/or working with kids from hard places or with hard needs, I think it's absolutely critical to mark the good.
Because if you don't you might just drown.
Marking the good is a lifeline.
It is a critical point of reference that must be indelibly inked in your consciousness, lest it flees from the mire.

That said, I want to mark the good.
This is one of those small but huge ones.  Most of these are really.  Because with these kids  you don't usually have the brass band events of good to let you know, "hey, this is a good one, this is progress, file it away."  You get these tiny fleeting moments that might even pass you by in the actual moment…until you think back on it and get that 'aha!"
I love an "aha!"

Anyhow, this is all to preface another tiny but huge good we've come to here in the coffeehouse, and with our Miss Marti.
We've just passed through the minefield commonly referred to as "The Christmas Holidays."
We managed to tiptoe through it fairly well, with only a few tripped landmines and a minor loss of limbs and scorching.  Overall, really, it was much more successful than we anticipated or hoped for.  (I still feel the need to kind of whisper that, just in case somehow it jinxes it.  I know, I'm Catholic, not supposed to fall for that kind of superstition…I told you this was tricky stuff…)  

But then, along came Christmas night:
We had done the vigil Mass. We had done the giddy hysteria of opening presents.

We had done the excess of birthday on top of the excess of Christmas.

 Finally, we were at that ebbing tide of the day: evening.  Everyone was tired, but a happy, sated tired.  The kids were roaming quietly, fooling with new toys or gadgets.  New pj's had been donned, dishes done.  My eldest, Chris did what he usually does and  made for the piano.  Tom joined him to sit and listen.  Marta quickly found her way to snuggle up next to dad.  I donned my goofy christmas pj's, in solidarity with the girls (and to show them that there is a certain wonderfulness in super soft flannel warm pj's despite the old fashioned print…. if not because of it).  I had tucked the small boys in, at last.  So I too, was beckoned down to listen to my son play and sing.  By this time, he had gone through his own choices of warm ups and tunes and he had begun taking requests.

Now, let me be clear..this is always a dicey time for me.  I love listening to my son play and sing more than I can say.  Truly. At this point however, it is a tough thing for me to do, as it  makes me cry…it pulls those tears from the depths of my inner heart.  They are so sweet, and bittersweet and just a salty mess.
I am careful, very careful, about my tears…if at all possible.
Because Marta has radar, or sonar, or whatever you'd like to call it.  But if she sees me crying she cries.
Every. Time.
And so, to even step into that room and sit, knowing that I couldn't stem the tears well..was an act of …I don't know. I'd like to say faith…but maybe it was sheer stupidity, or tired or resignation.  I don't remember.
But I did. I gave her a big smile when I came in.  She gave me one back and hugged her dad.
Dad made a few requests…..I could feel the tears pricking but busied myself looking at book spines.  Blinking hard and fast, head turned.  Marta was intent, watching Chris.  All good.
Then, she called out, "Chris.  Marta song, pleeeasseeeee!?"
Chris looked at me, looked at her, looked at dad.
He chuckled. Dad chuckled. I held my breath.
It had been a long day.
Tom nodded at me. It will be ok.  I gave him, "the look." You know that look, the one that says, "do you know what you're doing? It's been a long day and I went to sleep at four and woke at six and I don't know if I have the reserve to deal with any meltdown, really…?"
He nodded again.
So Chris played it.  It's this song:

That is Chris playing "All will be well," By Gabe Dixon.
It's the song we  used for our "passing court" video on blog. Marta considers it her song, she is QUITE proprietary about it.
And so he played it.  He gets better and better all the time.
I held my breath and closed my eyes.  Then I opened them and glanced her way.
Sure enough, she was crying.
She was rubbing her eyes and nose, mouth kind of grimaced.
I felt the tension immediately, in my gut, my neck.
She came over to  me, and climbed on my lap, spilling over it.
I hugged her and said, "You ok? It's ok."
And she said……wait for it…….."Ok mom. Happy Sad."
And she hugged me.

Happy sad.
These two emotions haven't been able to be pieced together by this young girl, since she came home.  There was no such thing as happy tears.  Tears  have only been sad. Ever. Even when I've tried to tell her and show her and she's seen me cry them at, oh, every birthday and holiday.  And tears and/or sad always have led to deep running grief.
But this Christmas, we got a gift.
And I'm marking it down.
Happy Sad.
She was crying, but happy. She knows what that song  means and she can feel that pang of deep happy that makes you cry.
She LOVES to have Chris sing and play that song.
She makes me turn it up if we hear it on the radio.
And this Christmas, in the quieting of the evening….she hit another marker.
Tears, happy tears.
"Happy Sad."
Healing goodness. Happy Sad.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dumb Ox

Now there are many reasons to be fond of St. Thomas Aquinas, especially here in our little/big family.  First off, of course, there is my dearest Coffeedoc, who, as we all know, is really named Thomas.  Such a great name.

Other reasons run from loving the Dominicans, in general, and these ones, in particular, and also the fact that he is a patron of scholars and academics, he was underestimated and considered to be slow; dim even.  Why yes, perhaps that's why I personally have always been extra fond of him, now that you mention it!

 Our wonderful Nashville them!

Little did his contemporaries know, he was a genius.  A future Doctor of the Church; by which I mean, he is an "authorized teacher" of the Church.   You want to learn good solid doctrine? Go read up on some St. Thomas Aquinas! Anyhow, this silent genius was also made fun of, just like so many of us, he was, um, larger than the standard....and between his silence and his bulk he was often called the "Dumb Ox."  Awwww.  That's just mean.  And at University!  Sheesh!

Anyhow, the point being: he is a saint for us all.  If you a hyper intellectual, a struggling student, someone struggling with their excess girth, ahem, someone who is underestimated, bullied, teachers, Italians, aficionados of name it.  In our house we will have a particular devotion to St. Thomas, asking him for prayers for our Buddybug as he ventures forth, and might well need St. Thomas as a patron after graduation.  Ok, we all do, so that settles that.
But really, almost any way you look at it, or him, St. Thomas Aquinas is a good egg, all around.  
St. Thomas Aquinas is a saint to learn a bit more about, and one much needed in our confused post modern times.  

Happy Feast Day!
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Real Love: Happy Anniversary

It's my mom and dad's 55th Anniversary!

I know! I'm so impressed too!
It takes quite a bit of something to be able to stay married and love each other after so many years.
Heck it takes quite a bit of something to do so for the first  year...much less the other fifty-three!
Of course, I hope to be able to celebrate such an anniversary someday myself.

I'm so proud of them.
Because I know it's not always been easy; life isn't set  up that way.  But even so, they made the commitment and followed through and the rewards, I would say, have been great.
They are still companions and healthy enough to live together, read, go out to dinner at their favorite spots, fuss at the dogs, and yak about their kids together.
They know each others quirks and weaknesses and strengths.
They take care of each other, in small ways and big.
And really, it's a gift and example to all of us, their kids.
Because we get to see how love can look over a lifetime.
And what we see is that it's beautiful.
Because it is.
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!
I love you!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Knock me off my

 The Conversion of Saul
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
**I'm reposting this from last year, because I'm still resistant to change and I'm still thinking hard about all this stuff. I guess that's why this feast is on the liturgical calendar: so we will keep revisiting it.  And so, I am:**

Now, we all know St. Paul, he's a big fish - so to speak.  No matter your denomination, he's a 'heavy hitter.'  But I kind of like that today we are not remembering just him, but specifically his conversion.  And really, this IS one of the really fascinating things about Paul, for me anyhow.  Maybe because I am SO resistant to change.  And Paul, he should be (if he isn't already) the patron saint of change, of stubborn people, of opinionated strong-willed folks.  Oh gee, maybe he's been one on MY patrons all along and I am only now figuring it out.  Doh!

But I digress.  Anyhow.  Paul's conversion fascinates me.  It resonates with me.  Not because I'm all about persecuting innocent folks (I hope. Hush, Jon, I heard that!).  But rather, it's because he was SO sure he was right, and filled with such pride and anger and intent about it all.  It was his mission to search out and imprison Christians-followers of Christ.  He HATED them.

And I find that really so intriguing, and so telling, and apropos of today.  Isn't that just what is going on today? In our modern, oh-so-enlightened, world?  We all do the same darn thing.  Sometimes even to the same levels of persecution and self-righteous surety.  Even the hate.  But the point is just this: Saul/Paul (he was born Saul, of course, and renamed Paul by Christ at his conversion) didn't KNOW.  He thought he knew it all, all about those Christians, all about what they were about.  But he was wrong.  He didn't KNOW them.  His hatred of them was manufactured from his own pride and ignorance and misguided ideas.

Oh.  Ouch.

How often do I do that?  Too often.
How often does the world, the media, the shouting commentator, do that?  All the time.

And I think that maybe we all need to get knocked off our horse now and then.  I know I do.  And really, literally, Saul was KNOCKED off his horse (which I just love, such a great real life thing to happen, sorry Paul, but I do, love that).  Blinded by the light of Christ.  And that light, really SEEING him, and being called by name by changed everything.  It was Saul's conversion.  It converted his whole self, down to his very name.  And he let it.

He let it change him.

That's the second part of this that I have to just sit down and contemplate, for the rest of  my life.  Every day.  And still it will boggle my mind.  Because isn't that the hardest thing? Ok, for me, I think it is.  Change.  I struggle with it, all the time, every day just about.  I resist the big changes, drag my heels through them, or pretend I'm not resisting and steamroll through them to find the new (as close as possible to the old) normal to get back to my comfort zone.  I hate being out of my comfort zone.  Hate it.  But Paul embraced that, in a humbling yet total all-in way.  And in doing so, he changed the world. Whoa. That's something for me to think about.

So, enough blathering.  Enjoy this feast day.  I think it's a cool one, hip and modern in its own way.  Timeless.

Happy Feast of Conversion of St. Paul!
St. Paul, pray for us!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Marching today

It's the annual March for Life.
 Of course, Doc and the big girls are there.
It's their thing, they love to go. Ok, Marta loves to go because she gets to be one on one w/ dad.
 {all pics in this post are from last year...of course}
Hannah loves to go because she has the heart of a warrior and this is one of the causes that gets her she goes and marches and adds her presence and her voice.
Plus she gets a weekend in DC with her BFF, Anna.

They are marching for life.
It's crazy cold, they are exhausted after staying up to the wee hours at the vigil....beautiful and exhilarating but exhausting.
 I want my kids to be courageous enough to stand up for what they believe, I want them to have the courage of their convictions. 

There are many ways to make a difference in this cold world; this march is a good one for life.  Every life  has value.  Always.
So my dear ones are out there....they are bundled up, they are marching and I'm proud of them.

Intro to the Saint of the "Devout Life"

It is the feast of St. Francis de Sales!
He is one of my of the ones I turn to when I need to get back on track, or discern, or remind myself how to pray better, more fully.  Thus, I'm reposting this from last year...he has been a favorite and a biggie for a heck of a lot longer than I've been blogging.  And some things don't change, happily so.  Therefore, read on for a reminder of this super saint:

This saint, this man has been deemed one of the Doctors of the Church, meaning one who's writings and ideas are formational; the depth and understanding of their faith and the orthodoxy of their theology is held in highest esteem.

His book, "Introduction to the Devout Life" is a classic and a challenge - to my way of life and thinking and being. It humbles me: when I read (or reread) it, I tend to hang my head and think, "dang, right, gee whiz....oh, very good, man!" (It is initially difficult to get past his literary device of addessing his writing to "Philothea" {student} but once you do, you're good to go/read/soak it in.) I recommend it to anyone, it's very well worth the effort.

This saint is one of my favorite writers and a gentle soul. He was known for his gentle kind ways
and his simple clear explanations. He was great friends with another saint I love, St. Jane de Chantal. He taught her to be a saint 'where she was', in her station in life....she didn't have to go be a desert hermit or do heroic acts, but rather quietly live a holy life, where she was (which is of course, SO much easier said than done!).

Although he earned degrees in both law and theology, he realized he had a vocation to the priesthood and ultmately even became Bishop of Geneva. He is the patron of writers and journalists, so he is also a timely saint, in this era of crazy media and bloggers all taking up their own little mini me. This prayer below, from his Treatise on the Love of God, shows why he is so good, and why I hang my head and see, once again, just how far I have to go. sigh.

Prayer of Dedication by St. Francis de Sales

Lord, I am yours, and I must belong to no one but you. My soul is yours, and must live only by you. My will is yours, and must love only for you. I must love you as my first cause, since I am from you. I must love you as my end and rest, since I am for you. I must love you more than my own being, since my being subsists by you. I must love you more than myself, since I am all yours and all in you. Amen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Life Stats

Politics, life....gosh wouldn't it be great if we could just separate the two?
Why do they have to get all tangled up so badly?
I know, I know...what a pollyana's one for my philosophy student to spout about over coffee at the java bar on campus.
Anyhow, it's the anniversary of Roe v. Wade today. It's the doc's annual trek to Washington for the March for Life. And sometimes I hesitate to even put this stuff up on blog, because it's inflammatory and controversial and I just want us all to 'get along."
I have that Sally Field part of myself that wants to 'be liked."
But the fact is, our family is pro-life.
Doh. What a surprise, eh? Um, yeah, right...
Of course we are!
We are Catholic, first and foremost. So, right there: done. Pro-life.
I've written about this before, oh, every January 22. So you know all this.
But this year I'm pondering the stats, especially one that is newer in my consciousness....
It's the stats man....they are brutal. Literally.
The two that give me the most pause are the abortion rates for black children: over one third of black pregnancies end in abortion. Oh my. Now, I know that is a reflection of so much more: the economic and social ills of our day, the huge seemingly insurmountable difficulties of having and raising a child for so many. I "get" the layers, I do.
But even so.
This stat is close to home for me.
I look at the faces of my beautiful children and I wonder and I weep a bit at the loss of so many others and the hurt to so many women and the frustrations and rages against the machine of our culture that panders to this statistic...and I say a prayer of thanks for my children and my fortune....

Then I ponder the next, fresher to my mind stat: that over 90% of downs syndrome babies are aborted. 90%.
And my mind can't let it go.
I wonder, are those babies unwanted due to simply the stigma of Downs?
Are they so because they look different?
Or is it, as I suspect, because their intellectual ability is so often compromised?
It's the fear of course, it's always, every time the fear...on every level, it's always the fear.
But in this case, I suspect, its the fear of difference, of disability...of the other.
And now we are hitting closer to home, again. Again, with the 'other."
Marta does not have Downs Syndrome.
But Marta has intellectual disability, developmental delays.

And it was a surprise to us, as this always is, and is still something we all are learning how to work with. So, I get the fear of disability and the fear of "Can I handle that??"
But those things are just part of who she is.
Do we wish it was different? Yes, things would be easier for her and for us.
But then again, some of her sweetness stems from this part of her, some of her silly funny grins and ours are part of this too. Just as if she was at genius IQ levels, her quips or insights and sweetness might stem from would be part of who she is.
But, and this gives me pause, if she had an extra chromosome, here in America, she might not have made it.

Because some think that having that difference, that cognitive difference, is enough to not be "worth it."
Worth...what? A chance. Life.
And looking at my girl, learning to love her, as she is.....that idea makes me wince and rebel.
Because all life is worth it....all of us, with or without fitting into a pre-pressed, predefined, mold of 'normal,' are worth life.
We each and every one of us have an express inalienable right to be here.
We have a right to life.
It's sacred.
And, that is worth fighting for.
Shouting for.
Marching for.
Whether or not you agree or it makes me popular or unpopular.

At one point in my life, back when I was a different person really...I was in my twenties and basically unformed in so many ways (I had yet to become me as I am meant to be, with my own thoughts and values and beliefs)....I was pro-choice. Yup. Me. I wasn't really living the Catholic life then, I was religious but more as a general concept, not a daily lived faith (whole 'nother round of posts that). I didn't want to tell anyone else what to do or think. I was afraid to say anything else out loud maybe.
But I grew up.
And I learned and formed.
And now I believe that no decision should ever be based out of fear. Politics should not be run out of fear. And too often life issues and decisions are made based on a platform of fear...of the unknown, of difference, of unknown futures. And even now, I can only say what I think and believe and know and hope to encourage others to think wider maybe, or tell them what I have learned because it blew my mind.....
But now I know this is true:
If anyone wants to tell me that ANY one of my kids shouldn't have had that right to BE...well that is when I will push up my sleeves and push back my glasses and get political after all. That's when I will get all up in their face and tell them that they are flat wrong. Period.
No matter the hardship, no matter the skin color, no matter the intellect....every one of my kids and any kid has the right to be.
That's it, life is sacred, no matter how small or little or grand or simple or brilliant or annoying or sweet.
Each one of us has a right to life.
Always and from the start to the last.
No matter what.

From Mother Teresa, National Prayer Breakfast Speech Against Abortion - 1994:
Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by deliberate decision..... And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today - abortion which brings people to such blindness.

And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere - "Let us bring the child back." The child is God's gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things - to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Little Lambs...

St. Agnes by El Greco
It's the feast of St Agnes.
She is one of the early martyrs, and one of the young ones.  One of the lambs, really.  The innocent. One of the ones who even at the young age of twelve or thirteen, could stand up for her faith.  Immediately after a Roman imperial edict against the Christians (they did that sort of thing in the 300's), she stood up and claimed her faith as a Christian.  And then was, despite her youth, taken, tortured, and executed.  Now, I can only presume her family (nobles) tried to shield her and protect her...but then again, perhaps not.  Imperial edicts were nothing to sneeze at.  I'm sure there was much more drama involved than the various accounts lead us to believe....but the result remains.  A young, young girl was martyred for her faith.  It happens even today, it happened way back then.  Because it does, we need to mark it and remember those who stood strong, knowing the truth and standing by matter what.

From evening prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shuffling shoes in Oz

I wrote, not too long ago, about being mom to a large family and how humbling it can be trying to keep all the pins and schedules in place.
I didn't, at that time, write about the shoes.

Van Gogh, "Shoes" 1888.

Oh, my goodness, the shoes.
I mean, really, think about it.  We are a family of ten.  We each have two feet.  If we all have only ONE pair of shoes then that is twenty shoes, right there.  I know, I know, you're saying "Hold up, shoes are counted in pairs.  So twenty should be twenty pairs." (So, follow me, in my house that would be forty count - to be precise you know.) Well, um, nope.  Not in MY house.  In my house we count SHOES.  Single shoes, usually unmatched, in no proximity to each other.
Sounds kind of disorganized, I know.
That would be because it is, disorganized,....that's how we roll, er, or perhaps I should say "march?"

You all know we have more than one pair each, we are most fortunate that way.
Heck some of my kids are growing so fast that I swear they need a new pair about once a month, not kidding....

Shoes are gonna be the end of me. 
Or, more precisely, shoes are going to be the blessed downfall, eventually and until I can finally let it go, of my endless stubborn pride.
Shoes are, almost daily, my "mom fail moment."

Let me illustrate what I mean, another "so not the great and powerful Oz" moment:
A week or so ago, I was being getting ready to take kids to another Saturday basketball which I mean, I was settling down at my computer to read some emails and surf some favorite blogs.  I had just poured my first fresh cup, ok maybe my second, of coffee and had waved my hands at the kids telling them we would go to basketball in an hour or so.  See, on top of the job....

The phone rang, a number I didn't recognize, but local so not a salesperson (which I would have ignored), so I picked up.  Turns out, it was the mom of one of my first grader's classmates.    Now, let me clarify, this mom is one of those moms that I am  not, nor can ever be.  She has two children (there might be a .4 in there somewhere, I'm not sure) and she is practically perfect in every way.  She is very pretty, she has great hair that is low maintenance, she has cute clothes, she is  young and fit though not an amazon type that you can write off just because they are freaks of nature.... Her car is clean and tidy (I've seen inside at pickup, even the cargo area is organized. I covet this.  Not that I'm snooping, those rear doors open right in front of you when you're in line, ok? But I digress), and what's more, she's always on time.  Plus, she's nice.  Really.  So, you know what that means: yup, I'm kind of intimidated.  Heck, she probably crafts too.  I'm pretty sure she's been the room mom before and will be again.  You see what I mean.  She IS "the Great and Powerful Oz!"  But that is supposed to be ME, right? Ha, never.

Anyhow, so she started talking to me about Anthony and her son and shoes.  My mind was racing ahead as she talked, trying to figure out what this meant and what my kid had done and how could I fix it?  I heard her say something about different sizes.
What? Different sizes? Same shoes?
OH! As my dear goddaughter would say, "I've got this!"
So I breathed a quick sigh of relief and interrupted her, "Oh! Well, hey, if X has my Tonio's shoe I can give you the other one.  Tonio just grew out of them over Christmas! I've ordered up a size, no problem!"
And I blathered on about how funny it was that his feet were so big so fast and he's a size 5 now and Marta wanted his shoes because they fit her and they were the unisex school shoes and she thought they were cute...until I realized that phone mom had fallen silent.  Oh.  Dear. Then I realized what she had been saying: shoe mixup at school somehow, the boys brought home each other's single shoe.
OH! "No, ok, right then.  You want me to FIND your son's shoe and bring it to basketball?!! Of course! Of course we will! Sorry, not enough coffee yet today, doh!"
I hung up quickly and even more quickly went to make an espresso to wake up my soggy brain cells.  Doh, indeed.  And of course, then began the great, loud, furious (because now I was totally embarrassed) hunt for the shoe.  Which gave over to much drama and loudness and gnashing of teeth, because said shoe was NOT to be found.
Finally, it was time to leave.  No shoe.  Oh, we had Tonio's shoe in a plastic Target bag, all right.  NO, I don't know what I was thinking I just somehow felt the need to bring it.  What can I say, I'm a dolt.
I knew what I had to do...hope like mad that we'd find his shoe in the afternoon and bring it school.....
Until my Chris, deciding to go with us to the game at the last minute, broke the news to me.
He asked me about the odd bag with the single shoe.
I told him my tale.
He said, "Uh oh.  Is it a brown shoe with a velcro strap?"
Oh dear, my heart sank, I knew before he said it, what he was going to say.  I sighed, "Yes."
"Well, I found one of those all soggy and wet when I was cleaning the backyard.  I threw it in the truck and took it to the dump.  Later I found another......" and we both looked at the bag.
Yuh.  We had thrown away this boy's shoe.
And I had to tell the mom.
You might guess, I dreaded going to that basketball game.

But I did.  And I saw her in the stands, so I squared my shoulders and took a deep breath and went right up to her.
I blurted out before it hurt too much, "I'm so sorry! Please please give me  your address so I can send you another pair of shoes, I can get the same shoe at zappos, you will get them Monday."
She looked at me, and looked at the bag and said, "No, it's ok, see there's the shoe." 
I choked out, but fast, "No, this is still the wrong shoe, wesentyourstothedump.  We sent yours to the dump.  I'm SO sorry.  Tonio left them outside, they got rained on, snowed on, Chris was cleaning and saw it a mess and took it to the dump. I'm sorry! Please let me replace them."
And, because she is practically perfect in every way, she smiled over her bewildered gaze and said, "It's no big deal, don't be ridiculous."
Which of course just made me feel worse.  I am ridiculous, our house is ridiculous...because we leave our  many mismatched single shoes out in the yard to get snowed on and ruined even when they are not ours.  Because I didn't even know any of this until she called me. Because I cart single used shoes to basketball games in Target bags even though no one wants his old shoe.
She refused to give me her address. 
I'm pretty sure she thought that was a safety move.

So, any of you who might think that I think that I've got it together.....I so know better.  I am the mom who is NEVER behind the curtain.  I won't even begin to describe the random plops of unmatched shoe or shoes that we trip on here there and yonder in our house, or my nagging to pick them up or how often or how quickly they wander out of their closet or cubby .... But just let me say "Do the math."  Mom fail - think of the shoes, people.  And have pity. 
Still dreaming of those magic ruby slippers....

Monday, January 17, 2011


Ordinary time, liturgically speaking, began a week ago.
Ordinary time, mom speak, did and then again did not begin a week ago as my kids are still home and not in regular ordinary school time: holidays, in-service days, snow and ice days have still botched up our routine days.  Much griping on my part in my heart (and more than I should out loud) ensues.

Confused? I know, me too!
Sigh...let me begin with the beauty of it, that's always best.

Ordinary time in our liturgical year is the "regular" or "Ordinary" days of the year; the days not of a special season such as Advent or Lent or Christmas or Easter.  See? They are not marked or bracketed, they are ordinary, normal, routine, whatever you like to call them.  They are the stuff that make up the warp and weft of any given life.
I love them so.
It took me a long time to learn to love them so.
My younger days had me always yearning for the next thing, the next exciting event or season.  I think that is so common, especially when young (By which I mean, shockingly enough even to myself: under forty anymore...yeah, mark that youngsters, I mean  you!).  It feels and/or seems just more fun, more interesting to be immersed in or on the brink of "The Next Big Thing;" even if that thing is simply the next holiday.  It's exciting.  It livens up our dull mundane lives that are filled with the same ol' same ol...the chores and the must do's.  Right?

Well, yeah, to a point.
But just as you will burn out any fine tuned machine by always keeping it revved to the max, so to I believe we burn out our very selves (Fine tuned machines that we are or should be) if we live on high alert at all times.
 Now, don't get me wrong.  I do this.  Some might say (Hsssh, mom, John, I hear you) that I do this (still) all or most of the time.  I have more than many times been accused of being "kinda intense."  Sigh.  I guess I am.  Even when I don't try to be.  I like to be busy, I am high energy, I like to "have things going on." Or, I used to, I know it.  I still do, I admit it, but now I am learning to see and mark and soak into the beauty of the "ordinary."  It's the simple things, stupid....oh dopey Me.
The wisdom of the Church is that we are given this Ordinary time to settle and soak in that.
To remember and touch again that simple self that we are, that really is under all that stuff, all the noise, all the hurry. 
 It's under the chaff, if we but blow with a settling breath....ah there it is again: me.
And when I settle again, I can listen and I can hear God himself whispering to me again.
I can do better. 
...pray better.
...see better.
...listen better.
...give better. better.
I can be a better mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, lover, thinker, helper, pray-er, me.
Not that I do so...which is why I so need and have learned to love and exhale with ordinary time.

So, there, that is the beauty of it all.  Right there, in the ordinary day before me.  If only I can stop and slow and soak in it.  And therein lies the test, eh?
As goes the liturgical year, we are living in Ordinary Time.
As goes my household and the lurching four different school systems of my kids, we are not.  Not yet.  So, my challenge, which I fail, oh, daily, is to stop and see that even this lurching "school on, school called off" calendar still is part and parcel of ordinary life.
I tend to think it's not.  But when I do that, I am lifting ordinary life right out of it's pocket and trying to make it something it's not: something like a perfect glistening glowing photo spread.  That's a mistake.
  Ordinary life is by definition, kind of a mess.  It needs so much: constant endless tending.  It is this very tending, this ordinary work on a perpetual basis, that forms it's core...again, the warp and weft of the weaving that IS ordinary time.
Even the snow days.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Success! a la Goldberg....

What do our modern healthcare industry via the insurance companies and Rube Goldberg have in common?
Cmon...think about it...
Ok, I'll tell you: EVERYTHING!

That said, I'd like to crow and shout a success.  We did it!
See that post, just below? Go ahead, look at it, scan it over if you haven't, read it's a tale to make you shudder.  I'll wait.

Ok.  Now that  you're caught up.
We did it!
I am at my desk looking at the letter - the one that says they are gonna cover Sarah's Lamictal.
We did it!

We jumped through those hoops and swung through the pits and climbed the piles of bureaucratic machinations....and out popped this letter, weeks later.
More precisely, perhaps we fussed enough at the right people we waited for their "process," dotted the "i's," crossed the "t's", pestered the managers, bothered the doctors, chatted with the secretaries, and then fumed on blog.
So, I'm not sure it was due to any of our efforts; rather it might well have been simply the right turn of the right cog of a cumbersome machine.....
But I feel like, for once, the little guy, or, to be precise, THIS little girl...won.

She won the right to be kept safe and sound and on the meds that work.
I could just about cry....
except I'm still more than peeved at the cumbersome ridiculousness of the process and the bureaucratic morass that is health insurance coverage.
And we still have at least two other letters sitting on my desk to pursue and leap into the machine of prescription review.....but those letters are not about life threatening changes, they are just about trying to pinpoint who has the right to, um, prescribe: the doctor or the bureaucrat.
I betcha you can guess what MY vote is......  But that's a whole 'nother post, or  not, and it's not what I want to shout out today.

Today, this young girl gets her meds.  Ok, she gets 'em every day, regardless, but today, the coverage we've had and paid dearly for, will actually continue to cover those meds (at least a decent copay) instead of getting pulled.
I'll take any victory as it comes and celebrate it, life's too short to not.

To switch my analogies: I feel a bit like Charlie Bucket.

Not that I should.
I shouldn't, but I do.
I hate soulless miscreants and bureaucratic Goldberg machines......but I love a win.
Even if it's one that should be a given.
I'm a happy mom tonight.  
Score one for the common girl!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blog Interrupted.......

My blog is usually a place for my own scrapbook of the family, for my free therapy pondering of mom issues, and talking about my fav subjects: my kids, catholic life, adoption issues and so on.
But today I would like to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a minor rant against the infernal health insurance industry... or as I prefer to refer to them: those soulless miscreants.
Recently I got in the mail one of those blasted letters stating that the insurance company will no longer pay for my daughter's seizure medicine, the name brand version.  It said we must switch to the generic.
Now I'm not one to be all snooty about name brand anything.
I may love a name brand snooty fabulous purse, but I don't buy them.  My sister gives me them for birthdays and I swoon with joy.
I may love certain names in oh, wine, or chocolate.  And I do buy them because they are so ridiculously much better.....
But I am all about getting t-shirts and whatnot at target or wherever, to save a buck and have almost exactly the same product.
I love a flea market and haggling for a deal; one my son's favorite sports is haggling for generic goods with street vendors. 
I "get" the generic concept; we live it when it works.
Unless it comes to the concept of a medicine that can save a life.
Especially if that life is my daughter's.

Perhaps you might think I'm being overly dramatic.
Perhaps I am.
But look at this face:

If this face was your precious might feel a little dramatic too.
You too might feel like strapping on your gear and going on the warpath for your girl.
Your sense of right and wrong may have just taken a slap, no, a right hook, in the face.
And you too might know that this needs to be pursued, or at the very least needs to be shouted that others will see when the insurance industry once again is caught out being hypocrites who only care about the bottom line, despite their ads with deep voiced comforting announcers, Norman Rockwell settings...oh so poignant .

This girl of this beautiful face had a seizure that could have killed her eight years ago.
It was a Status Epilepticus seizure.
Yeah, wikipedia that one, read it and shiver.
Hers lasted for HOURS.  Yes, that's not a typo.  Hours.
She spent days in the PICU.
We were told she should never be put at risk to have another seizure like that again.  Status seizures are serious biz.
Seizures beget seizures and so we needed to make sure we found the right seizure med and stay on it.
Easier said than done, that.

After hacking through the medicine jungle for months and years...we finally did settle down on one seizure med. Others had allowed her to have countless absence seizures which we were unaware of (because you couldn't tell they were happening, they weren't physically dramatic like the first big one).  But then we got smart.
We got a better pediatric neurologist and he figured it out and switched meds to one that finally worked.  Seizures = controlled.  Our doc, who we love, has said for eight years, don't use the generic as the quality control can vary between makers and the name brand is the only way to go. With seizures and this medical history, you must insure the coverage - medically speaking.
So that's what we did, because it worked.
Breath a big sigh of relief.

Until now.  And now, I'm incensed.
Because now an insurance company, some drone behind a desk crunching numbers, is telling us, AND her doctor, that they flat WILL NOT allow him to prescribe the name brand seizure med for my daughter.
Wait, I should clarify: They WILL allow it, of course, they cannot stop that.  But they will NOT pay for any part of it.  Not until it fails.
Read that again:
Not until it fails.
Only after failure will they allow coverage for the name brand. 
A failure in this case can only mean a seizure, which - sure - might be no big deal.
Or it might be a bunch of small invisible to the eye seizures we can't know about until we are baffled by why things are not doing well with her.

Or it could be, maybe, one of the rare Status seizures.  Which, yeah, the odds are low, granted.  But, it happened as her first ever seizure...and ya wanna know the odds of that? I haven't looked it up, but I'm guessing it's something along the lines of astronomical.

After getting this letter, I immediately was ticked.  But I laid it down, breathed, and decided to "do the right thing." I followed the steps to disagree politely.  I called the doc's office.  They said they will talk to the insurance company, they "were getting a lot of these letters." (!)  Then my pediatric neurologist called me back.   No go.  What? So I called the insurance company myself, asked for a higher up, was told how to step through the dispute process, ask for a preauthorization (Despite that we've been using this med for EIGHT years) form.  They faxed a questionnaire to her neurologist.  He duly answered the questions and then it went to review.  And now, I have the letter, another one, in my hands saying that they WILL NOT pay for name brand.  She has no history of FAILING on the name she must try generic.

Let's think about that: the name brand medicine WORKS. It prevents my daughter from having seizures.  So, by all means, we'd better switch to one that is untested and cheaper.  One that is impossible to ascertain quality control as multiple sources may manufacture it.  We must switch away from a medicine made to protect my daughter from having seizures, because it hasn't failed yet.
Is this what medicine and health insurance/health care has come to in our country?
"If it works, lets switch it".....?.

 If we were talking about medicine for something minor, not life threatening or impairing...say, bunions, I wouldn't make a fuss.  Heck, I take generic meds to control my wonky blood sugar: metformin. I've taken the generic for so long I can hardly remember it's name brand.  It's not the generic plan in general I'm objecting to here, let me be clear.
It's the risk to my girl.
It's the principal of the thing.
Because this policy in this case is wrong. Period.

So my option now, thank you greedy giant corporate insurance company bigwigs, is to pay a small fortune every month for the proven safe meds for my daughter.... or take the calculated risk and let her try the generic.  Now, I realize, the odds are that the generic will work fine.  However, it simply galls me that we have to take that risk when the risk outcome is so great...all due to the number crunching of corporate, and despite the ridiculous (and bumped up over 20% increase this year) insurance premiums that we pay for our large family.  I had thought that is why the premiums were so high in the first place.   Can  you say there is no FACE in  healthcare, insurance level, anymore? I can.  It's all about the stats babeee.

Now, to clarify, this is also not to say that we cannot in any way pay for these meds. It is to say that maybe,  just maybe, our insurance premiums that include prescription coverage should pay for it or for a good chunk of it...that's what we were told and that's what it's been.  Our premiums are to cover the burdensome expenses of medicine, no? Should we just bolt it all and go to catastrophic coverage? Seems so maybe.
Fortunately, we can pay for meds...but every dollar we do pay for meds that should be covered, and WERE covered under insurance before is one less dollar to go to oh, tuition, charitable donations, and so on.
It's a poor use of our resources, considering it's like a double payment (not poor use to pay for meds for my kid, don't flame me that's not what I'm saying).  
In fact, it's a kind of gouging.
And that's why I object; why and am simply angry, indeed, incensed.

This change in policy goes to line the pockets of the insurance execs, their stockholders, the bottom line of their plush corporate coffers.
Despicable them.
It doesn't go to make the health care coverage better or more comprehensive or fact, it makes it less so.  

I think I'd like to go and have a nice civilized sit down with the head of this insurance company.
I'd like to ask them if they have a daughter.
I'd like to ask them if they've life-flighted that little daughter to a hospital.
I'd like to ask them if they've sat vigil bedside not sure if or how their girl would wake up, or in what shape.
Then I'd like to ask them if they'd like to take that risk.
I'd like to ask them how SURE they are that generics are "just exactly as good."

Are they willing to bet their kid's life on it?
I've gotta wonder if they would......

My sweet Sarahbird.  
Her fourth birthday, 
about one month before her Status seizure. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Down to the water....and the heavens opened

 It's the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord!

It's a biggie, folks.  It's the end of the Christmas season (No, really, it is.  Some say Christmas day - pshaw.  Some say Epiphany...well, kinda.  But this is really it.  Unless you have an artificial tree and are truly old school and want to keep it up to Candlemass...that's like the very beginning of Feb.  And then you are hardcore.).
But it's a Solemnity and feast where we remember and meditate upon Christ's baptism by John the Baptist, in the Jordon.  Yeah, the really cool baptism, the first one that really counted.  The one that makes all the others count for something; actually count for everything.

Christ being baptized is a representation of his death and resurrection, and ours as well.  When we get baptized, we die to our very selves and human nature and are reborn in Christ.  He did it first, so that we can do it too.  It's the penultimate Christmas gift in every way.  From the penultimate Christmas Gift.  Yeah, meditate on that for oh, the next few thousand years!  The richness of our faith and the liturgical year frequently has me waffling between laughing and weeping with joy.  Really, it's just cool.  And this solemnity is one of the examples why.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

Song: "Isaiah 61", by Matt Maher. "The spirit of the lord is upon me..."

From morning prayer, of course:
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came out of the water and the heavens opened before him."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Now he is four.....

Happy Birthday to my Gabey!

I would say, "Happy Birthday Gabey Baby!" but I'm not entirely sure I'm allowed to anymore.
Because this 'baby' is FOUR.
Well, as the mom, I retain certain inalienable rights, so I'm gonna shout it anyway (and probably will to his great chagrin, for the rest of his life):
Happy Birthday Gabey Baby!

I love this boy.
He IS the baby of the house.
But he is NO baby.
He is a big boy now and he knows and he relishes it.

Because at four:
Gabey goes to school, just like the other kids.
And he loves it.
He cries when he wakes up and it's not a school day.
He grins and does a little actual jump for joy when he wakes up and it IS a school day.
He tells me about his best friends at school.
He proudly shows me his "green card" for being good, the daily stamp.
He looks for me in the pickup line and grins and hugs me tight.

Gabey loves his big brother Anthony more than anything;
they are best buddies through and through.

Gabe loves to play with cars and trucks...
....and balls and sticks and bikes.
And, thanks to his big brother Jon, nerf dart guns. 
He loves to watch tv and read books.
He has been sucked into the recent zu zu pet fad, oh dear.
He loves to play games and insists even on playing bananagrams.
And so he does.

Gabey is a good eater.
He loves cookies beyond anything else that there is to eat.
Unless it's cake.
But that really means only the frosting...
He loves hot dogs.
But not the buns.
He loves ketchup on anything and everything, from fries to eggs to pumpkin bread.
No kidding.
Yes, it kind of grosses us out too.
His drink of choice is water.
Which kind of baffles his mom, knowing his penchant for unhealthy goodies.

He loves his dogs.
Sometimes too much.
They have learned to hide if he looks like he is in head hugging pulling tight like mad mode.
He will grow into a good dog buddy.
Perhaps the puppy and my boy will all grow into calm together?
It may take a bit; wild fun is the name of all games right now.

Gabey is learning to love books.
This makes me, his mom, do my own little jump for joy as I love them too.
His favorite time to read is bedtime.
It makes my  heart swell up, watching him read to himself in bed, kinda lazily perusing a chosen book.
But it can't last long, because Gabe is no night owl.
He likes to think he is, never wanting to go to bed.
But if you can just get him IN the bed, and things quiet for a few minutes...
he settles down fast. 
We sing our song, ending with a quiet soft "yay."
And then he lays back, his eyes drifting and then a flutter; to sleep.

But today he is up!
He will take cupcakes to school, oh boy!
And he will have his requested hot dogs for supper.
And we will have another Mickey Mouse cake after.
And we will sing and laugh with my big sweet four year old boy.

Happy Birthday My Gabriel!
We love you so much!!!
And today you are FOUR!