Being Catholic, Family

finding boundaries when life happens

img_4696.jpg

The tears flowed silently as the rain fell on the windshield; the air in the vehicle subdued.  In my mind I wondered, where did I go wrong?

I question my boundaries in parenting my sons.

This week had been especially busy and stressful with deadlines looming at the end of-the month.  This year one of my resolutions is to put myself outside of my comfort zone.  I had been complacent in my personal growth and like to stay within the confines of things I know; things I know I can do well.

With the new year I didn’t waste any time and I am already feeling the discomfort and struggle.  I was careful to not stretch myself too thin but did not account for any other issues along the way.  Assuming all other things remained the same, the new roles I’ve undertaken were manageable.  I hadn’t anticipated any hiccups outside of this plan.  From life.

I have always been a creature of habit and routine.

Most of my life has been planned out.  When I met my future husband I  had been very clear.  We were to only be friends.  I was uninterested in relationships because I had my career path planned out.  We had two years of friendship together when this conversation took place, both aged twenty.

bridge close

I had a fifteen year plan.   After graduation I would apply to medical school.  Four years after that I would be in a three year residency.  I would then take my exams and settle into a practice for a few years and at age thirty-five, I would then have some time to become involved in a relationship.

It was this man who drove me two thousand miles, a year after graduation, to begin coursework in a a medical school.  He suggested a navy recruiter, to offset my costs in joining a flight surgeon program and to our surprise, they readily took me.  I spent the year in my studies and found myself in a professor’s office regarding me across his desk.

Why are you here? he had asked.

I had visited the lieutenant commander and he had plotted where my path would take me.  It would take me away from my boyfriend, whom I was beginning to realize, I had fallen in love with.   He shared the reality of his life, both he and his wife serving the navy.  There were no naval installations close to Bethesda, Maryland and the likelihood of being stationed together, given our paths, were not likely.

I had left the base feeling angry that I was being distracted from my career path by some stupid emotion called love.

And so I pondered the question by the professor.

Each student had to pass through his office as we concluded our first year.  He questioned my ideas of what my life would be and why I thought medicine was for me.  He didn’t question my aptitude in my studies but probed my mental state.  My ideals were not what the reality of the profession was.  And though I knew the answer of why I was there, I was not willing to acknowledge it.

How does one decide to walk away from the pathway set-in-stone, from age fourteen with thousands of dollars invested, to go with where your heart lies?

I would not be able to delve into the psyho-social mental state of my patients with end-stage cancer; there would be no time.  I had red tape, policies and time constraints that would hinder the real reasons I chose the medical profession.  I essentially would be a body mechanic; nothing more.

And so I walked away to the shock of my family and friends.  I have never regretted this decision.  But it has shaped the way I parent my sons.  I do not lock them onto a pathway because it is rare to find the teen that knows exactly what he/she wants do with his/her life and follows it through.

Life happens.  When it doesn’t pan out the way you expect it to; you feel the failure.  The not adding up.

I am now a parent of a high school junior.  I have mentally prepared myself as he embarks on the college admissions season.  I seek resolutions on underlying issues from my past.  My own life choices were exhausting, stressful and expensive and I try not to impose these pressures on my own son.

I had taken my path at the wishes of my dying father; in the end-stages of colon cancer.  I would find a cure.  I would talk with families and patients to mentally help them through these difficult times.  It was the reason I chose my pre-med major, undertook opportunities in research and hospice.

It had been my driving force and I was well on my way.  I never stopped to consider if these were my own desires and I truly believed this was my calling.

The swish-swish of the windshield wipers brought me back to the present.  I had been blind-sided by the anger emanating from my sixteen year old in the dark, quiet car as we drove home from a restaurant.

img_4568

As a family we had decided to dine out, on this Friday evening, prior to dropping off this son at a weekend retreat.  He was allowed to choose the restaurant as we picked him up from his friend’s home.  We arrived just prior to the busy dinner rush, obtaining a table quickly in a rapidly filling restaurant.  But in the waiting area our son’s simmering anger bubbled to the surface.

He refused to order or eat.  He was feeling the stress and pressure from his AP homework workload that he was unable to begin until his return on Sunday evening at 7 PM.  He was due to be dropped off at 8PM on this rainy, Friday night and it was 6 PM.  He was adamantly opposed to attending this church retreat; a requirement for his Confirmation in his Catholic faith, this upcoming May.  To our server’s surprise, we cancelled our order and walked out of the restaurant.  It was on the drive home that I cried.

The questions circled and spiraled as I stifled my sobs.

Am I pushing my son into a faith, knowing, that there is a 60% chance he will choose to leave it anyway?  Am I wasting his time?  The stats are that 40% of Catholic teens remain Catholics as adults.

My mind circled back…

When my hubs asked my mother for my hand, in marriage, she had only one request.  We must marry in the Catholic church.

My husband was not brought up with religion but he acquiesced to her wishes.  As we prepared for our wedding with a Pre Cana Catholic marriage counseling program, the first question the priest had asked, my then fiance, was if he believed in God.  The silence had been deafening as my very, science-oriented partner, mulled this over for a a few minutes.

It had felt like hours as we waited uncomfortably for his reply.  To my relief, he had finally answered yes and presented the priest with a list of thoughtful questions about Christianity and faith.

The priest had then asked us both if we would agree to raising any children we had, in Catholicism.  To this, my future hubs instantaneously answered yes.

Guiding my sons, spiritually, is not an easy task in a world of distractions.  When work, school or extra curricular activities get in the way, church or religious education is the first thing my hubs and sons want to take off our schedule.  It is not a priority; mostly a chore.  But once they are immersed in the environment, they are happy they went.  But it is always a fight to get my hubs or older sons there.

altarservers130317 altar

Years ago, my hubs chose to serve as an usher in hospitality.  He had been inspired when our young sons chose to become altar servers in 2010.  But these seven years have changed their alacrity as hormones and life happens; distracting and pulling them away.  When my son’s upcoming Confirmation ceremony conflicted with a mandatory jazz festival weekend, he angrily asked to move his his church obligation to choose jazz.

As a parent, I try to stay attuned to the pressures on teenagers today.  I am not naive in thinking my sons will continue to choose the faith in which they were raised; or in any faith at all.

It is my obligation, as their parent, to guide them and expose them; to lay a foundation of values and morals so that my boys will have a code of ethics on being a responsible human being.

And sometimes, when these boundaries are questioned and resisted, it’s difficult.  I had already felt the strain of the past week and this unexpected attack had been the last straw.  Instead of arguing back, to defend, I quietly sat as the tears began to fall.  This same fight has already begun in my middle son as he questions why we must have faith.  Only my eleven year-old’s mind and heart remain open, still enjoying serving in our church and accepting blind belief versus science.

Where did I go wrong?  I’ve done all the things I was supposed to?  

Being a parent, sucks.  I want the manual with the checklist that tells me that I am on the right path and am not overstepping my bounds.  I want clear boundaries.  But none of life is clear and my expectations of smooth sailing and perfect, complying children is a fallacy.  I need to get over it and accept that life will always throw wrenches in my way and all I can do is give them my very best.  I can’t make their choices for them and soon enough they will leave my nest.

All I can do is give them my very best.

atoz

I am currently reading the book, The A to Z of You and Me  by James Hannah and the line jumped out at me as I felt the adrenaline rush, my heart skipping a beat.

“What you don’t get right, you can always put  right.  Don’t be afraid to change your mind.”

And though I’m not sure how to put things right I know that I must be steadfast on this path.  This had not been on my radar on my parenting checklist.  I have been accustomed to my family accepting my beliefs. But it time to let this assumption go; to know that these boundaries must be crossed in order for my own sons to grow.

I must prepare myself to accept the choices my sons will make when they venture outside of the nest.  The choices they will make will be their own.

I cannot base my parenting abilities solely on my sons’ choices.  It is easy to judge, to blame the parents for the outcome of their children.  But this is not fair.  You cannot value a person’s life on their resume in black print.  We must read between the lines in the white spaces and illustrations; the stories and memories that remain.

I shared with the sixth graders in my youngest son’s class how Egyptian pharaohs had artists draw happy illustrations of their lives on the frescoes of their pyramids and tombs; believing their ba and ka spirits would bring these pictorals to life after death.  As the students boisterously created sarcophagi out of modeling clay, I pondered what stories would remain in my life’s book and what words would be shared in my obituary.

The things I hope to be remembered by are not tangible ones.  They aren’t the numbers and formulas of science, the facts of history in what I did.  I want to be remembered by the things intangible and immaterial; my love for my family and friends, my strong faith and ethics, my service to help others and my appreciation for the outdoors, art, history, literature and music.

I push my boundaries outwards; my barriers becoming porous as my mental alignment shifts.  Life happens and I won’t always get it together.  But I can always change my mental state to progress; to put it right.

In a distracted world, a nation divided, it was empowering to observe over a hundred teens  pursuing their faith even when life happens.  As we heard testimonials I realized I was surrounded by parents going through this same struggle.

wp-1485157012302.jpg

On a cold rainy Sunday eve, in a church filled with teenagers returning from retreat; my sense of hope remained.  I hope they continue to pursue…even when.

Advertisements
Family, friendships

the words and silences that matter

IMG_20131125_122421_resized

This morning, on my morning jog, the car making a right turn didn’t stop.  It hit me.

The angry words spewed from my mouth; my adrenaline spiked high.  What were you thinking?  Did you not see me?!!  (I was hard to miss in my white fleece jacket and bright pink cap.  I was within the crosswalk and just about to step on the opposite curb).

Sometimes it’s not the words you say, that matter.

One of the character traits I appreciate in a person is the ability to communicate honestly and openly.  I am a woman of words.  But lately I’ve come to realize the wisdom in the adage that some things are better left unsaid.

  • I stood at the office door; the opportunity opening to share my angst when the director asked how he could help me.  It was on the tip of my tongue.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a social group of friends, co-workers or volunteer groups like PTA and booster organizations; drama and power struggles exist everywhere.  When the student stood behind me, I allowed him entry first.
  • When my dear friend shared the words that I was being thrown under the bus, in a social dynamic between two former bffs, the words came to mind, ready to deploy.   I am not afraid of confrontation and always advocate for transparency.  This would be a welcome conversation since I tire of those who don’t own their words, judge behind people’s backs and deflect on others.
  • I hear the family chatter about finances and wills; feelings of exclusion and rejection.  There are favorites and black sheep.  Long held resentments and actions that can never be undone.  After the headstone arrives and the financial obligations are met, doors come to a close.
  • I gaze at the hubs across the table, listening to him share newfound discoveries in web page design.   He explains the various statistical data from testing the time it takes to load a website, the process of upload speed and data transfer in programming language and military acronyms.

I sat across from the girlfriend I’ve known since aged seventeen for coffee.  I reside in my current suburb because of her.  She stood in my bridal party when I married my husband and held my hand with calming words to “push” with the birth of my youngest, my almost eleven-year old son and our middle children are in high school classes together.

I ate lunch with my bubbly girlfriend; the one who left her position to stand up for what was right.  She never received affirmation for her time and dedication and felt discouraged and alone.

Catching up with my girlfriends the common theme revealed itself in the scenarios we shared.  We walk similar paths.

wpid-img_20140620_092010.jpg

When parents get too involved in their children’s dynamics and live through their lives; drama enfolds and relationships are destroyed.  Parents who serve for PTAs, booster or religious organizations revert to the social capacities of their children’s ages…queen bees and wannabes.

There are always favorites and black sheep in family dynamics.  Our family members, whom we expect to be our biggest supporters, sometimes become our biggest liabilities.

At the heart of all of these things is that we just want to belong; to feel like we are needed.  To not be rejected.  To know that we have meaning in our lives and that we are loved and accepted for who we are.

Years ago when we moved from one duty station to another, I met various groups of women in military spouses’ clubs.  As an only child it was my first introduction to group dynamics, not of my choosing.  As our husbands deployed we relied upon one another for information, support and camaraderie in a new place.   When the commander’s wife pulled rank and caused drama for us, as well as our husbands, I had been rudely awakened to the subtleties of human nature.  There are always those who want to control everything and have the power; to prove their self-worth.

I learned the mistake in saying my words.  To speak the truth.  My husband got an earful on the aircraft carrier half a world away and for six months he endured.  It brought me no pleasure to share that when this commander came home, my words had rang true.  Years later, when the hubs ran into his former commander; he learned he was divorced and unhappy.  The commander genuinely had been happy to know that we were one of the few couples, that made it.

vet c2

One of my unfavorable traits is in using my words without sorting and filtering them.  My hotheaded, need-to-be right, type A personality allows my mouth to pick and shred; to defend without listening or thinking.  I am finding that it’s not always the truth that matters.  I shared this with the priest, in confession, and to my surprise, he readily agreed.  It was one of the best and honest conversations I have ever had as we talked of child molestation in the Catholic church, hypocrisy in people of faith, abortion/ right to life issues and rituals that are archaic and unrealistic.

We may not always agree in our points of view.  But we came to an understanding and respected the other’s stance and life choices.

That’s what matters.  The ability to empathize and connect.

  • I waved at the director when he peered past the student; trying to decipher what was bothering me.   I smiled and walked away.  I cannot push my need for transparency in the organizations I serve if others are not willing to see or hear it.
  • I thanked my dear girlfriend for sharing what was being said about me.  I have been blessed with her friendship as she’s undergone big transitions in her life and let the toxic words roll off my back.  I am grateful to finally realize which friends are true and which ones are not.
  • I keep my thoughts to myself regarding family matters; ready to share if ever asked.  I have not walked in their shoes and cannot place judgment on other people’s choices and actions.  This would not be how I choose to handle relationships but I must respect other perspectives and find my own way based on my personal relationship; not others’ points of view.
  • I affirm my husband.  Does he need to know that my to-do list runs in my head and that I have no idea what he is saying?  No. Not really. I am happy he has found his hobby in programming, once again, and nod in encouragement.

In teaching my sons to say their words, I also have to teach them how to filter and sort by modeling this on my own.  When the car cuts me off, the words that come off my lips aren’t ones I want my sons repeating.   They readily tell me so.

But every once-in-a-while you realize your kids hear them, the words that matter.  Each Friday, after school, my son and his four high school buddies converge on our home to hang out.  Later that evening, as I cleaned up the empty soda cans and mess, this son quietly approached and without preamble, murmured, “Thank you.”   I straightened as he walked away, too stunned to respond.

wpid-img_20140701_095215.jpg

When the words are sincere and genuine, their weight settles upon you, making the daily, mundane every day routines worth it. 

I had picked myself up, off the road, and continued on my jog; too angry to think.   The car stopped alongside the heavily traveled road and to my irritation, the driver stepped out.

Are you okay? she shakily had asked and immediately my questions snaked out.  How could you not have seen me?  You had a red light! 

It was then that I noticed the shaking.  The tears in her eyes.  Her windshield had been fogged up and she had been distracted and I saw the truth in her words.  The angry diatribe disappeared and instead, I gave her a hug as she shook like a leaf; a mother dressed for work, close-in-age, to myself.  After several more assurances to her frenzied questions and apologies, I let her vent her fear.  I silenced my words, hearing her,  and I eventually sent her on her way, urging her to drive safely.  I still needed to jog and get home to awaken my own household; to merrily send them on their way.

I was okay.

I continue to filter and sort and choose the words that have meaning and matter.  The peace wraps itself around me, like a warm, fuzzy blanket.

 

Family, Marriage

pursuing adventures of a lifetime

table chairs

The hubs and I found ourselves sitting in the little kid chairs in the crowded room; intently staring as the numbers flashed upon the screen.  My number soon appeared and in I went.

Within five minutes I returned and the hubs and I walked out into the bright light and heat beyond; the weekend beckoning.  He proffered his arm, as all military men do, and I looped my own within.  Three days later I walked into our offices; the piles of work awaiting.  I quickly logged onto my computer and the Valentine’s screensaver filled my screen; replacing the Windows login.  And then the phone rang and my day began.

The week ended with another phone call; one I kept missing and not really wanting to receive.  In the midst of a task, the hubs heard my questions and sat alongside; my notepad filled with squiggles and doodles.  I thanked the nurse and replaced the phone on the cradle, turning to my hubs and sharing what I had suspected.  I matter-of-factly told him of the scheduled tests and appointments; only looking away when his eyes filled with liquid.  Life happens I say to him; the busyness of our business erasing the moment.  He stood and quickly strode away.

said I can’t go on, not in this way
I’m a dream that died by light of day
gonna hold up half the sky and say
only I own me
and I feel my heart beating
I feel my heart underneath my skin
oh I can feel my heart beating
cause you make me feel
like I’m alive again
alive again
oh you make me feel
like I’m alive again

turn your magic on, Umi she’d say
everything you want’s a dream away
under this pressure under this weight
we are diamonds taking shape
we are diamonds taking shape ~ Coldplay

structure

I sometimes feel like I go up and down stairs not really getting anywhere; stuck in-the same place.  That deja vu feeling stayed with me these past few days as I finally completed the last of my unwanted financial tasks.  The audit now sits complete and packed away in a bag; ready to hand-off.  It is done.

I crank up the Coldplay song and let it fill me, as only music can; filling the void.  Life has hardened me to its ability to take things away and at a young age; I had journeyed alone.  The bff across the miles understood this as we continue to live our parallel lives and it was only when my paths crossed with my future husband; that I shared the adventure of a lifetime.  There were years where our paths diverged as he served active duty and I remained home raising three young sons.  But being an only child taught me to be comfortable in solitude and I found strength in being able to do it alone.  We’ve weathered our storms, over the years, but I know this man always has my back.

walking

It’s Lent and so each day I receive an email on “What to Give Up.”  My goal was to discipline myself to not take second portions.  I fought the physician’s orders to take the med which will, most likely, cause weight gain.  I read the bff’s text, and all that it implied, from 2,000 miles away; from a gym as her daughter scored another point at her basketball game.

Vanity is a small price to pay.

I stood in the crowded courtyard, silently watching as my eldest huddled in a group of teens and leaders in prayer after a weekend confirmation retreat.   I was surprised, on Tuesday morning, when he wore it to school; this son who only wears solid colors and polo shirts.  To Pursue.  Romans 14:17-19. NLT.

pursue grouppursue Nate

17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

The message:  To continue to pursue his Catholic faith in a society that doesn’t value it.  To pursue his dreams in a world of chaos and instant gratification.

The definition of the word pursue is to follow, catch or get involved with something over a prolonged period of time.

Our children have been raised in a world where everything is instantaneous and now.  My sons are not accustomed to having to look up words in a dictionary, search for topics in an encyclopedia or use cards in a library.  They build relationships online via gaming, texting or Skype.  Gone are the days where you see teenage boys with arms around one another; working together and most definitely not in prayer.  The Catholic faith has taken a beating in this last decade and as a parent I struggled on how to keep my sons in my faith.

It was as he walked out the door to leave for school that my eyes welled up; heart overcome.   He chose to wear his t-shirt.  I hope he continues to pursue who he is, his faith, and his dreams.

dreams

b :  to follow up or proceed with <pursue an argument>  “Pursue” Def. 4b. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

I found myself in another office, in a discussion I had hoped to resolve last fall.  To my surprise, my opportunity had come to pursue this sensitive topic once again, at his request.  I quickly mentally weighed the pros and cons; pondering if this discussion would provide closure for myself or for the person involved.  I chose harmony and building him up versus words and details that were unproductive and would wear him down.  I am a person full of words who yearns to share them.  I fought the urge to let them fall where they may.

There are times in life where we need to know when we need to pursue and when to let things work themselves out.

The adventures we live are sometimes not of our choosing.    My life isn’t always full of joy and peace or goodness.  It is our attitudes, on how we choose to deal with life’s obstacles, that makes life worth pursuing.   To those who always have my back, I thank you.

if we’ve only got this life
this adventure oh then I
and if we’ve only got this life
you get me through
and if we’ve only got this life
in this adventure oh then I
want to share it with you~ Coldplay

Family, friendships, Marriage

choosing right

I am Catholic.  I am accustomed to guilt.

As an adult whenever the topic of religion came up, particularly amongst non-Catholic Christians, I felt inadequate.  Other Christian denominations read and touched their Bibles, often, whereas Catholics read from missalettes and heard verses only at Sunday mass; if and when they went.  My Bible-thumping friends constantly quoted and lectured; questioning why I chose to remain in my faith during the years when the priest molestations became public.   As an infant I had been immersed, not of my own choosing.  Soon after my father died I chose to walk away from my religious upbringing; aged 18.  It was several years later, dragged to an Easter Sunday mass with grad school classmates in a city 2,000 miles away, that I slowly made the choice to return.    I had silently wept and grieved for my father’s passing the entire mass; my friends unsure what to do.

151101 candy

I drove to the local supermarket, Halloween morning, and bought three bags of Halloween candy; the guilt eating away at me.  My eldest son’s schedule currently rules our household and so the younger sons’ Saturdays are filled with high school field competitions.  Various parents offered to have my younger boys trick-or-treat with their families this Halloween; sharing how awful it must be for them to have to sit in a stadium and miss out.  When I offered these choices to the thirteen and ten year old, neither answered right away.  As a parent, balancing the load (between work, school volunteering, social commitments) and being equitable with my time is a juggling act.  If I spend more time with one child’s needs than the other, I constantly question how I can make thing fair.  I feel guilt that some of my sons require more maintenance and attention than others.

I think of my bff as she learned the passing of her late father a month later; this man the epitome of guilt after making selfish choices.  She pondered what we did to the universe to deserve the lot we’ve received.  Both of us are only children, both of our parents deceased.   It is the reason I dislike my birthday; the reminder my parents no longer are with me.  The holidays hit her the hardest…Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Between the two of us we have seven kids and two loving spouses who prop us up.  They hear the gripes and issues; sometimes our only connection with our husbands as we struggle to balance the hectic every day.  We harbor escapist thoughts or fantasize crushes.  We feel guilt that there is no time for them, our roles as mothers trumping our spousal ones.

151101 drink

I feel the guilt as I decline invitations to meet with various groups of friends; my schedule busy balancing just my family.  We constantly look at our calendars, finding a day when our schedules align.  I’ve discovered that the friends who understand this are the ones that remain.  The ones whom I can go for periods of time without face-to-face contact but, once together, can catch up and fill each other’s cups.  The ones who are always hospitable without conditions such as the state of their homes, the mess of their lives or their skeletons in their closets.  The ones whom I can inconvenience at any time.

The thoughts weigh heavily on my mind, in one of the organizations in which I serve, and I ponder how to resolve them.  I feel guilty that I want to wish them away, to deal with on another day; telling myself this is not my battle to fight.  Is my self preservation stronger than my moral obligation?

Time is my enemy and I must sacrifice & prioritize to choose how & where to invest it.   I must find a way to balance my load.

I  push the thoughts to the back of my mind; working hard to solely focus on the present things before me.  But when left alone to my own devices, my mind runs in circles considering all of the above.  Thankfully  there is not much time to think, these days, but the guilt never goes away; returning to pursue my sanity another day.  The choice is always mine to make.

Slowly the healing to my angry interrogations came with parenthood; the desire to choose how to raise my sons and discovering what it meant to be fully responsible for another human being.  But my guilty conscience returned when it came time to enroll my young sons in religious education.  If I chose to raise them by this faith, the onus would lie upon me to be equally educated in it.   And so, the avid reader, I tackled reading the Bible as a textbook, myself an academic or philosopher.  The guidelines gave instructions on how to read the entire tome in one year.  Muslims read the Koran and Jews studied the Torah…I could do it too.  I asked questions and tried to reconcile my answers; which didn’t always agree.  The priest answered my queries which I carry with me to this day.  When we stare at the black and white page, we forget to look at the gold gilded edges or illustrations; the bigger picture.

Sometimes life is not so black and white.  The words were only a guide, not the answers.  We must seek our own truths.

151101 serpe

My younger boys chose to remain with us on Halloween.  I repeatedly asked the youngest if he was sure and after the fourth time, he pretended to consider his answer.  This son easily asserts his opinions and in clear language answered, “Mom.  I have plenty of candy and would rather be with you.  Halloween is just not my thing.”  I recalled giving the same answers to my own friends at their ages.  Halloween wasn’t really my thing either; my guilt at dragging him to another competition making me nag my sons to do what most of their peers chose to do.  He’d rather be with me; with us.  

The night before I had watched from afar in the football stadium as the teens and tweens mingled by the water; surprised that my two elder sons sought one another, without prodding, when the middle son’s junior high band joined the eldest’s high school program.  Were these the same two boys who fought not an hour earlier?   As I wistfully snapped the shot I realized that my sons get complete access to the hubs and I, when needed, and that being fair and equitable isn’t always in the amount of time spent.  It is always in the quality.

151101 game

I sat in the hard pew last Sunday as I watched my three sons serve as altar boys; holding their breaths as the incense smoke rose within the church.  I heard the sermon about mercy and remembered that day long ago at the Easter mass as I grieved the if onlys.  I had been angry with the world, with a God who stole my father…placing my trust in things I, alone, could control and choosing to study the sciences.  I reasoned that I must’ve been a bad person to have my father taken away from me since for every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction (Newton’s Third law of Motion).   I understood my best friend’s lament as she currently ponders these same questions.  If only we had done (fill in the blank), maybe the outcome would have been different.  It’s easier to accept the blame and guilt; thinking we can control our lives and the people who reside in them.  But alas, the truth of the matter is, we have no control of those things; only our reactions to them.  We need to let our guilt go knowing that the bad things in life happen, sometimes for no reasons at all. 

I am reminded to not take my husband, my partner, for granted as I daydream of other things.  I take the effort to make some time, however short, to affirm him.  I have a fuller life because he resides in it.  It is with him that I am most transparent as I share my escapist thoughts and he shares his own; the guilt overriding.  It is this open communication, unconditional love and respect for one another, that we can share our issues and compromise or work towards resolution.  We both discovered our thoughts were normal; cajoling one another and pondering how we’ll journey together into old age as our time at home with our kids grows short.  We hope we won’t drive each other crazy when we become empty-nesters and make the time for date nights together sans kids.  The friends who remain walk this same journey alongside; sharing the ups and downs without judgment.  We catch up when we can and it is enough.

151101 bday

I continue to seek my own truths as I consider that there may be no resolutions to my endless questions in the organizations to which I serve.  I always have a choice as to how I invest my time and my life.

I must choose what I love and love what I choose; for all the right reasons.

 

Family

being a good disciple

wpid-IMG_20140305_114951.jpg

For the past few days I have been contemplating what to give up for the Lenten season.  Most years I choose to give up the indulgent and addictive drink I need and crave the most; coffee.   As I drove into work I thought of this sacrifice; dreading having to do it.   Most of my socializing is meeting people at the various local coffeehouses that are within walking distance of my home.  But the thought struck me that giving up coffee does not, a good Catholic make.  Does being a grump bring me closer to God?   I changed course as I noted the traffic piled up on my freeway on-ramp; grumbling under my breath.  Maybe I’m making excuses.

And so, amongst the file purging I went online and discovered a great website, What to Give Up For Lent.  http://www.whattogiveupforlent.com/

wpid-IMG_20140305_135441.jpg

For those of you unfamiliar with the Catholic Lenten season, today is Ash Wednesday; the first day.  We abstain from eating meat today and all Fridays during the forty days of Lent (Sundays are not included in the forty days).  Most fellow Catholics flock to the church and receive a black cross upon their foreheads.  Last year, as the boys and I patiently waited in line, I heard grumbling from those leaving; complaining that it took so long.  Amongst the Christian denominations Catholics get the worst rap; and sometimes rightfully so.  The dutiful one hour of time on a Sunday (which most leave after receiving the Communion host) allows parishioners to return to their secular lives.  I mean, if you’re going to cuss out your fellow parishioner to beat the traffic jam in the church parking lot; that’s not very Christianly now, is it?

Sadly, most of my brethren rarely touch the book that defines our faith; The Bible.   In 2007 when my eldest son was undergoing religious education for his First Holy Communion, I needed to know what I was committing him to.  The hubs was not raised in a church but, in agreeing to marry me via my beloved Mother, had to wed within the Catholic church.  As we began our pre-Cana counseling my heart had pounded when the priest had asked the hubs if he believed in God.  Those were the quietest sixty seconds in my life.  Had he not answered yes, we would never have been married in the church.  The caveat; he had to agree that our children would be raised Catholic.

Unfortunately in 2007 the church was reeling with the molestation allegations and so the hubs was hesitant about giving our son this faith.  Amongst the heated arguments that year he had challenged me.  What kind of a Catholic are you anyway?  Have you ever read the Bible?  You don’t regularly go to church!  And so in the year of 2008, armed with a daily Bible reading plan, I read this book of my faith.  Every.  Day.  I finished it by Christmas of that year.  The hubs had been deployed for six months and I had remained home with three young boys.  But during this year I had also been cajoled into joining a book club.  I had rediscovered the joys of reading for pleasure.  I had never made the time to read for years.  I had been busy working, then birthing then raising young boys.  Amidst my chaotic life I finally made the time.

Epic as The Bible is; it is not an easy read.  It wouldn’t be the book I’d have chosen to read for pleasure.   But in taking on this project I was able to find the thing that allowed me to reach my goal.

Discipline.  : 2. a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders.  4. training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. 5b.  orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.  Definitions from merriam-webster.com.

As I drove to pick up my younger sons from school; a car cut-me off and I began to gesture.  But then I stopped myself.  I realized what I needed to give up this Lenten season.  The raging, raving lunatic behind-the-wheel needs to get a grip.  If I can refrain from gestures, angry mutterings or horn honking I am practicing mental discernment and discipline.  If I want to grow in my faith I better start acting like it.  When the boys entered my vehicle I asked the boys if they knew what I would be giving up for Lent.  The tweener immediately replied, “Coffee!” but it was the youngest that surprised me.  “Bad words?”

wpid-IMG_20140305_114402.jpg

I am that transparent to my sons.  Shocked I turned to the boys.  “You need to keep me accountable,” I tell them. Darn.  How’d they known!?

“That means not making hand signals or yelling or calling people names Mom,” the middle son stated. “Otherwise, you lose five minutes of computer or phone time!”

I had to laugh at his statement.  Our boys lose computer time when they behave inappropriately.  They are holding their Mom to the same standard.   While waiting for our fish tacos the youngest held my hand in moral support; playing with my bracelet.

wpid-IMG_20140305_131953.jpg

Driving back to work, boys-in-tow, I hissed at a truck on the freeway to which my sons immediately held me accountable.   Sadly, this behavior is ingrained and natural.  I am in for a very long forty days.  But at least, I’ll have some coffee in me for fortitude.  I need to make the time to be a better driving citizen, a woman of faith and Mother.

Be a good disciple.