Friday, November 21, 2014

SQT: On Edel Monkeys, Grown-Up Dining, Four Year Old Shots, Snowvember, and Holy Cows

I'm going to Edel 2015! I think that sums up my first take quite nicely, and will avoid a post like this next year.

Maybe just a bit more on a quick Edel note. Jen mentioned on her blog that we could send in recordings of ourselves announcing that we were coming to Edel, but to be natural including background noise. Every time I went to record, my little people were so mesmerized by what I was doing that they were silent. (This gives me an idea - I should record things more often.) To get them to "act natural" I told them  mama needed to record something, but they should just play like my normal little monkeys. Enter monkey sounds. So...if you listen to Jen's radio show, you may have heard my little monkeys acting a fool. THAT, my friends, is normal. 

We've been very slowly getting the house back in order after the great flood of 2014, and part of that reorganization and redecoration has involved our dining room. I don't have a "before" picture because, well, it was just too embarrassing and borderline problematic. Here is our beautiful after, though. 

The table has six drawers, three on each side, which now store crayons for each of the kids, coloring books, prayer books as it is our morning prayer spot, napkins, and the fancy placemats when not in use. Aren't we all growned up?

There are new pieces up at the shop! Christmas cards (both print and digital format), new 8x10s, and ornaments (coming sometime today). Also in the works - a little something for the kitchen! 

As an added incentive to go take a look, from now until Thanksgiving, everything is 10% off with the code GIVETHANKS14.

Speaking of giving thanks, I am so thankful to be working for an organization that truly uses a holy lens to decide its direction, as well as the best fit for their employees. We've recently been going through a little upheaval with our staffing, and with great wisdom, the Board of Directors has restructured some of our positions to best fit the needs of the organization with our gifts/talents. I can't really think of any other organization I have worked for that has taken the time to do this, or views each employee as a gift to the organization worth working with to find a good fit. It is truly a blessing. 

With that, my position (as of Monday) will be changing to Director of Volunteer Services (and some other duties as with any job). I'll get to focus on building up our volunteer base and creating a training for them, as well as taking the lead on the spiritual development of staff and residents. More importantly, I am able to hand off all supervisory and facility responsibilities to another person. A metric ton of stress just offloaded, and so much excitement about being able to use my gifts and passions to help grow the ministry and its program. So excited. Many things are still nebulous, but overall it is a tremendous gift.

My sweet firstborn is so very 4 years old. We just had her checkup today and she is almost 3 1/2 feet tall! It is clear she is lanky since all her pants are loose on the waist and short on the leg, but my goodness. At this rate, she will be taller than both of her grandmas very soon. She passed every test at the doc's with flying colors. As for the shots, while she went in with every intention of being strong and brave and not crying, I don't think her sweet mind wrapped itself around the fact that a mean old nurse would be sticking a sharp needle in her limbs. She was very brave in allowing them to give her some lollipops to make her feel better.

Gia is also beginning to read - she has picked up the habit like a sponge, and tries to sound out every little combination of letters she sees. Even acronyms. She knows how to tell time on a digital clock and is obsessed with it. I am not exaggerating. She is OBSESSED with time and alarms. It's a little unhealthy. No, really. She does love her numbers so who knows - maybe there is a budding coder or accountant in there somewhere. Or a clockmaker. Gia has just been blossoming at school and I just cannot believe that only four years ago she was small enough to carry on my chest. Now she has to wrap her legs around me or they may as well walk her where she is going. 

Holy global freezing, Batman! Now, I'm not complaining, lest my friends in Buffalo or the western side of the state hurl a few snowballs my way, but BRRR! I know, I know, I've seen the meme - I live in a state shaped like a piece of winter apparel. It's just so ... early ... for this already. This from the girl whose Halloween costumes were fashioned around the ability to wear them over a puffy winter coat and snowpants because she grew in Iowa, and yeah, Halloween = snow. It's a whole new ballgame when you have to get kids up and ready to go to school in this. I was absolutely unprepared, which makes this "J" very uneasy. Very, very uneasy. Thankfully the boots from last year still fit and we have enough warmer clothes out and ready to make it through the two school day week. I sure hope all the snowboots aren't sold out already since apparently they are "back to school" items and not "the snow is coming" items. 

I've been working on a few more posts that give readers an idea of my life growing up and how a little Indian girl came to be devoutly Roman Catholic, because...kind of crazy, right? I don't have a St. Paul moment, no flat on the ground epiphanies, so the the story is a bit long and winding in nature. I also cannot restrain my inner Sophia and might have a lot of the "picture it - India 1960" moments...which ironically is where I begin. The first installment is up on the blog, and the next ones are coming. I'm a little stumped by my plan for the second installment, but I'm hoping it will be posted sometime in the coming week. The series is called "From Holy Cow to Holy Spirit." If you want a long story requiring some patience with the writer, check it out!

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Monday, November 10, 2014

From Holy Cow to Holy Spirit: {Loved Into Being}

{I had mentioned a few weeks ago that I would begin sharing a little more of my personal story here on the blog. This is the first in a series of posts regarding my life story and own journey of faith. Full disclosure, this post is a little longer than the rest may be as it is the first chapter of a book I began writing last year at the prompting of the Hubs. Working title: From Holy Cow to Holy Spirit. Too much? No matter. So far, this is the only chapter.}

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“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;” Jeremiah 1:5

“For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.” Psalm 139:13-16

[Excerpt From: Bibles, Harper. “NRSV Catholic Edition Bible.” HarperCollins, 2010.] 

You might say I'm a bit of a Ross Gellar. No, not a character on Friends or a paleontologist, but a modern medical marvel. At least that's the way my mom would have you believe it when she is telling the story. An only child of immigrants, the story would be oft repeated, as though they were earning bragging rights with the rest of the immigrant Indian families who often had more children.

My parents were born in the late 1930s in a British occupied India. That sets the framework for much of the way I was raised. Dad was the eldest of eight children, born to a doctor who worked away from home at a tea plantation and his fourteen year old bride. My grandmother would be only sixteen when my father was born. With my grandfather away for work much of his life, dad would become like a father to his siblings, who somehow happened to come in rather regular intervals. It would seem my grandfather was not always absent.

Regardless of how one might think a doctor's family would live, my father's family was actually not well to do at all. With eight mouths to feed, and the standard of living not the best in the Calcutta area, dad did not know luxury or excess. (I can't imagine what it was like when he was growing up, but even as I would visit in my childhood the family home did not have running water or reliable electricity.)

As he got older, my father went to live with his cousins to go to school, and eventually went onto college to earn a degree in engineering. When I think of my dad, I have no doubt that God created him to be an engineer - more on that later. He worked his way through school, always supporting himself and working to support his family. This truly formed the core of my father's being. To his dying breath, he was always responsible for the welfare of his family.

In contrast, my mother grew up the daughter of a wealthy international businessman. It wasn't always that way, especially when she was young. They used to live in a little village in what is now Bangladesh. In her childhood before one of many "wars," it was East Bengal. Her father, my maternal grandfather, grew up quite poor, but had a knack for people and a head for business. He moved his family to Calcutta while my mother was still young to make a name for himself and provide for his family.

Growing up in Calcutta, my mother attended a private school, presumably run by a Catholic order, as I remember hearing many stories about the nuns who taught her. She feared them, but she loved them. They saw a potential in her and encouraged her at a time and in a culture when women were not to be educated too much. The second oldest of five, my mother had a vastly different childhood than my father.

My grandfather being a businessman, would always have foreign clients visiting and staying with them in their home. Let's call it what it was in its glory days - a mansion. Not only did they have running water and European bathrooms (showers and toilets), my grandfather eventually had a room installed that had air conditioning. We are talking about the lap of luxury here. She was most certainly spoiled, but she would say not rotten. The other trait my grandfather possessed was unabashed charity. There are many stories I remember being told of him bringing home people off the street - for a meal, for a bed, for a bath - random strangers he had met during his day. That played a large part in my mother's childhood and perspective of the wealth they had. It was never to flaunt, but always to provide for themselves and others.

As I mentioned, my grandparents were rather progressive allowing my mother not only to complete her education, but also to obtain a graduate degree. However, they were not quite as progressive as she would have liked. She was planning on flying the coop and going to Europe to become a Montessori teacher upon completing her degree. My grandfather had other plans for her.

A few months before she would be sitting for her comprehensive exams to complete her Master's Degree, my grandfather informed her that he had found a young man that he would like her to meet for the purpose of marriage. Yes, that is correct. She was planning on flying away. He was arranging her marriage. In some twist of events whose details I never quite remember, possibly because they change a little every time, my grandfather had run across my dad and knew that he was the husband my mother needed. He knew the family was poor. He knew they were from different worlds. However, he saw in him something that told him he would take care of his beloved daughter.

My grandpa on the right long after the aforementioned story.

My mother has a lively personality. I can only imagine the look she gave her father and the words that were exchanged. This was a different time, though. Out of love and respect for my grandfather, she agreed to meet this man who would be preventing her from what she had dreamed of doing at the time. (I should tell you, the fact that she was able to meet him at all was still quite progressive at the time, and in some instances even today.) Her analysis? "He was so serious!" Like I said, my mother is spirited. She mentioned her concerns to my grandfather who only asked her, "Do you trust me?" This my mom did - implicitly and wholeheartedly. My grandfather went on to tell her about him, that he was kind and responsible, that his seriousness would balance out her spiritedness, that he really felt he was a good man from a good family that would treat her well. So, in 1960, instead of flying off to Europe, my mother married my father in an epic celebration that I still hear about to this day.

Dad and mom on their wedding day.

Indian culture is not unlike Judeo-Christian culture. First comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage. For these two crazy young people who were learning to love each other (as my mother noted, in an arranged marriage, love did not come first), a baby did not come. For five years, a baby did not come. They consulted doctors. For ten years, a baby did not come. They lived and they loved, they embarked on many adventures and lived life to the fullest, but a baby did not come. After ten years, they decided it was time to try something else. The doctors there could do nothing more, so they secretly decided to move away from India. They wavered between Australia and the United States, but at the time Australia had strict racially based immigration policies and quotas. The United States would be their new adventure where they would make their home.

My mother couldn't keep anything from her father. When they were having some trouble getting the appropriate paperwork and clearing red tape, my grandfather with his business contacts and networks stepped in to help them jump the hurdles they had to jump. He did all of this with not a dry eye. It would be no small feat. They were moving half a world away with no family, and few connections. When they finally told all the family, there wouldn't be a heaping handful of enthusiasm for them there either. They were leaving, and in his family that just wasn't done. I would feel the impact of that decision in my own childhood years later.

My father, being the protector and provider, had decided he would move first and then have my mother follow once he had settled in and gotten established. My grandpa would hear nothing of it. The man who saw their complementary natures when he arranged their marriage knew they would need each other to survive the transplant into a different world. Besides, he knew my mom's experience with his clients and her spirit would be instrumental in helping them to establish their new life. So, in 1970, with $600 and two suitcases, they came to the United States and settled into New York City.

Mom and dad in Central Park circa 1970-71 (ish)
While a lot could be said about why they moved, my mom is really quite clear. They wanted children and wanted better medical treatment to exhaust all the possibilities. While my dad worked and took classes toward a Master's Degree of his own, my mom went to work on Wall Street. The woman had moxie! Upon door after door closing on her due to her lack of experience (never mind that she had a Master's Degree in Literature), her "spirit" finally broke through when she retorted in an interview that she would never have experience if no one ever hired her. Apparently that got her a job as an executive secretary on Wall Street. Moxie.

Once they were settled in, the search for medical treatments continued. From the stories, it doesn't sound like it took terribly long for a doctor here to figure out the problem. Having spent ten years in heartache over their inability to have a child, my mom for one wasn't immediately hopeful. In fact, she admits that though the doctors had found what they believed to be the issue, she had really given up and was now thinking about the possibility of adoption. Why get her hopes up when everything in her life had pointed to the impossibility of pregnancy? She didn't know the God I know now.

Within a few years, the company my dad worked for would be transferring them out to California. At this point, there was still no baby, and hope was dying. Shortly before they moved, at what would likely be one of her last visits to the doctor, he told her that he predicted she would be pregnant within a year. I'm pretty sure she rolled her eyes if I know her. So they packed everything up, which by now was more than just two suitcases, and off they drove across country to San Diego, California, where I would be born about a year later. Apparently doc knew his stuff.

Two young Hindu kids, from totally different backgrounds, brought together in an unlikely marriage, childless for fifteen years until they moved halfway across the world. What in the world did God have in mind for me?!?

Stay tuned for the next edition, "What's In A Name,: coming next week if I stay on schedule!

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

WIWS: Adorning the Temple

After what seems like roughly 3.14159 million light years, I am back with a What I Wore Sunday post and linkup with the ladies at Fine Linen & Purple. Without further ado, here is what I wore to Mass:

Sweater: Target clearance
Scarf: Florence, Italy on our honeymoon
Skirt: Thrifted
Tights: really old
Boots: DSW
Glasses: Costco
Hair: Waved ... it's my new thing.
Porch Decor: Still Halloween, though a squirrel took a bite out of Raphael there.

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“It doesn’t make sense to call ourselves ugly, because we don’t really see ourselves. We don’t watch ourselves sleeping in bed, curled up silent with our chests rising & falling with our own rhythm. We don’t see ourselves reading a book, eyes fluttering and glowing. You don’t see yourself looking at someone with love and care in your heart. There’s no mirror in your way when you're laughing and smiling and pure happiness is leaking out of you. You would know exactly how bright and beautiful you are if you saw yourself in the moments where you are truly your authentic self.”
– Unknown (shared by Hallie on the Moxie Wife FB page)
That quote popped up on my Facebook feed this morning and made me cry. Thanks, Hallie. :)

It has been awhile since I have really taken the time to intentionally dress for Mass. Last week I got tired of just throwing on clothes and running out the door, and this week, I connected the dots of the transformation that had taken place in me since I had last participated. Oddly enough, the lightbulb went on when I was in Target and was uninterested in accessories or clothing for myself. That Target is a magical place...

While some of that disinterest is from a place of craving more simplicity, some of it really is borne out of frustration that I feel frumpy or dowdy in most anything I wear. I do not feel good about myself when I look in a mirror, and so I simply throw on something that looks okay and move on about my day. I've been so focused on the outside that I didn't stop to think about how it was connected with what was going on in my heart. 

In my last post, I talked about the chaos that seems to be ruling the day. It is unsettling for me to live in chaos, and to be so unsettled interiorly quickly leads to a downward spiral into apathy. It becomes all too overwhelming and I begin to shut down. I stop putting in effort on myself, on my home, on my dreams, and even in my prayers. It is a dangerous place, but faced with exhaustion mentally, physically, and spiritually, I go into bare minimum mode. 

It is also amazing how bringing something into the light and laying it at the foot of the cross truly begins another transformation. Things are still chaotic, but we are making progress on that front. As things in the home become more orderly, and I make more of an effort to provide the tiniest bit of structure to my prayer life even if it doesn't quite appear robust, I begin to see again how the exterior can influence the interior and vice versa. Sometimes it is precisely when I feel the worst that I need to make an effort to look my best so I can remind myself that I am the temple of a living God. God is alive in me even when I feel like death warmed over. As such, I must adorn that temple in a way that reminds me and everyone else that the Holy Spirit is alive and well...and not a frump.

Brothers and sisters: You are God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. 1 COR 3:9C-11, 16-17

I owe the One who gave everything for me everything I have. That includes my misery, my unrest, my sadness, and my frustration. It is in those things that I am most united with my Jesus on the cross, and it is in that unity that any suffering, real or perceived, is put into perspective. It is in those moments that I am reminded that I am a stranger in a strange land and that my true home will be in heaven. 

No, I am not healed from whatever is plaguing me at the moment. I am sick, and I am exhausted. I still feel like a bit of a misfit in my body and in my life despite the fact that I really do recognize just how blessed I am. I love my husband and my children - God gave me all I had been desiring. This isn't a plea for pity, though I will take prayer. I am, however, recommitted to offering everything to the One who is everything to me...and to making sure He remains everything to me. He is the air I breathe, He is my joy, my energy, my blessing, my hope, my direction, my dream, my consoler, my source of the love I want to feel and give. I surrender all to Him, over and over and over until it becomes second nature, which may take eternity for this little control freak of a mama!

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

SQT: Princesses &;Turtles, Sweetness & Sass, Chaos & Calm, and Christmas Before Thanksgiving (Oh MY!)

Well Halloween sure was a crappy night. Cold and drizzly, we decided not to take the kids out around the neighborhood. They still haven't really started that tradition, so they weren't any the wiser. Gia did have her first school party, and the school that the Hubs teaches at has a trick-or-treat for younguns every year, so they still had their Halloween fill. I had fully intended to dress them for All Saints' Day too, but ran out of time and ended up with food poisoning to commemorate the day this year. #catholicmomfail Thank goodness there is always next year. I'd like to work with them more on learning about the saints too.

Being sick with littles is a big bummer. Not only am I robbed of what little energy I normally have to begin with, but on top of that I am so paranoid about getting them sick. We are in a pretty sweet stage right now in the early morning where they both want to snuggle a lot. This is new for Gia, who hadn't been much of a snuggler until recently. She insists on it now, and with a bad headcold, there's no way I will get into bed with her, which makes her (and mama) sad. Same for the little dude, except his version of snuggle is "smother mama and pull her hair." Still. So much sweetness that doesn't last for terribly long I hear (but I do hope). Little dude melts my heart with the big hugs, kiss on the cheek and a "I love you so much." Swoon. The girl is picking up on his affectionate ways, I think, so the snuggles have increased. #momwin

The first batch of Christmas cards are in the shop! Two designs are already on backorder. Crazy! Granted I ordered very limited quantities to start because I wasn't sure which ones would sell, if any, and the sales have been to a close friend and my mother in law (whose idea it was for me to even design Christmas cards), but I'm shocked to already have items on backorder. The digital images will be hitting the shop today or tomorrow along with a few new prints and and giveaway featuring some new items. Whew, this is fun, but it is a lot of work!

Comparison is the thief of joy - I know. And yet... I was reflecting on the temperaments of different munchkins I know in comparison to my own (not for the purpose of comparing the little people). I struggle with these two, not because they are bad children, because they truly are not - they are amazing. Lately, there has been a lot more loudness and selfishness from the older, and the younger mimics everything because, hello, he adores his sister. I realized I truly need to work on my own peacefulness if I am to encourage it in them. There is a sweetness of disposition in both the children and mamas who I was thinking of that I want for myself. That has to start with me, and it starts in prayer. It starts by asking for the walls that have been built up in my heart to be torn down. I want that sweetness of temper, I want to love unabashedly, but I know I'm still playing it safe. I know the heartaches of my past keep me from laying it all bare before Jesus and offering Him all of it for the good of those He sends me. I know those heartaches and disappointments breed a need for control that feeds the harried-ness of my life and lead me down the path of frustration and anger. Knowledge is not always power.  

If I had to pick one word to describe my life right now, it would be "overwhelming." Or "chaotic." You know me. I can't ever just pick one. To that end, an email came through a couple weeks ago as I was waving the white flag to Jesus asking for help with my prayer life and life in general. It highlighted two books. One was A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot, and the other was Everyday Meditations by Blessed John Henry Newman. I am still working my way through both, but between soaking in the concept of having a rule of order to this vocation of wife and mother and having a new supervisor who also is big on having an order to the day, I think maybe...just maybe...God is sending me relief. I've had "chore charts" at home before, which were helpful. In the newness of a new baby and a new schedule at work, that now hangs on a board in a dark corner by the fridge. This idea of creating a whole order to my day, similar to a monastic rule, is liberating...and frightening all at once. I know if I can conquer my lack of discipline and exhaustion, it will be tremendously helpful. I fear that the variation to our weekly schedule is a stumbling block to coming up with a systematic order to our days. There truly are not two days of the week that are the same in our home between our work, school, and outside obligations. I'm certain we are not alone, but it also makes it hard to wrap my mind around creating a consistent order to my day.

I know a great deal of the my chaos is influenced by the chaotic appearance of our home. While the exterior reflects the interior, the interior is fed by the exterior. We are slowly getting things back into the basement, and the studio has been set back up which is wonderful. Now we just need to get the empty boxes to the trash (they never seem to make their way out), the new dining room set up, and Judah's nursery cleaned out and his "big boy" room set up. I know I can be a bit of a taskmaster, but it really is frustrating that this whole process is moving so very slowly. Getting sick over the weekend most certainly did not help speed anything up, of course. I truly hope that by Thanksgiving we can say that we have dug out of the mess. I'd love to be able to have people over again one day. Forget that, I'd love to be able to not feel like I am lost in my own home.

Part of this process is really purging. We have more clothes, books, toys and other little items in our home than we need by far. It's time to really sift through things and decide what we are keeping and what other people could be using while we decide whether we may ever want it or fit back into it again. Gia is old enough now that she is part of that sifting process (unless mommy just loses it when they leave all their toys out). I've had some trouble getting her to understand that it is wrong for us to have so much when so many have nothing. Apparently everything in this house is hers. It all belongs to her. Everything. Today we had a breakthrough. Be still my heart. "Mama, we can't get rid of ALL our things. Just some things, right? We will give some of them away, but not everything okay?" Okay, honeybear. Deal.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Life in the Toddler Lane

Do you ever think that if you took the random thoughts that ran through your head during the day and put them onto paper, you'd have quite the screenplay for some crazy sitcom? No? Right, me neither.

School mornings around here are sheer chaos as the darkness creeps into the day longer and longer. The electric candle just doesn't do the trick some mornings, and my mom is having a good laugh at her wish that my children would give me back in tenfold everything I dished out to her. Gia takes roughly FOREVER to eat her breakfast, which puts us very much behind schedule many days. She would much rather rifle through books and toys and whatever was left on the table, sing songs, make her brother laugh, and stare off into space than eat. I get it, kid, I do. I just need you to get a move on, and I don't want to be the mom that sends her kid to school hungry.

From our family photo shoot with Katie Fifelski -
didn't she do an awesome job capturing these goofballs?

This morning we were especially late which puts me in a F-I-N-E mood when we head out the door and hit all kinds of unexpected traffic because - RAIN! (Not of the acid variety, either, that I know of at least.) I was pleading with our dear sweet Lord to clear the roads and part the way. Alas, His idea of showing me grace was letting me see other parents walking their children in even later than us...oh, and sending an angel of a preschool teacher who is always filled with joy to see our children and fixes any foul mood by her enthusiasm and kindness. She always finds a way to engage Judah, too, who desperately wants to stay at school with his big sister. Ok, you win Jesus, you win. I guess they won't kick her out of pre-school for being five minutes late.

Other things I learned this morning include the fact that John Ritter is one of the voices on the Clifford cartoons. Kudos to Netflix for filling me in on this little minutia of information. Now all I can wonder is if the Regal Beagle is named after the giant red dog. Sadly, the Jude-ster did not want to watch the show long enough for me to find out if Clifford gets into sticky situations filled with hijinks and hilarity.

Get it? Regal...? 
I did, however, get to enjoy the sweet sound of a two  year old boy singing his heart out to some Third Day. In fairness, both he and his sister love to sing, and it is so beautiful to hear them at this age singing out praise alongside my favorite bands. Third Day, incidentally, was both of their first concerts (in-utero). When Judah was with us, Mac Powell (lead singer) happened to walk by where we were sitting while the opening band was playing. I was almost 8 months pregnant at the time I think. The Hubs did not confirm my suspicion until long after I saw him, mostly because he didn't want to have to explain why his wife was detained by security for running after Mr. Powell like a crazy stalker. I assured him I would not act in such an unrestrained manner. He wasn't so sure. I wouldn't. Honest. To be completely truthful, I don't even know what I would say to him if I were to meet him. So there we go. No crazy stalker lady here, especially at 8 months pregnant.

In other news, the toddlers got to see a forklift deliver our cement steps when we got home from school. That may have been the highlight of their day, though I am once again disappointed with the "orange store." Twice now their staff have hurriedly answered my questions without listening to the details and rushed this little lady out of their section, and both times, it has resulted in us not getting what we needed for the projects at hand. Luckily, this time I ordered a few extra items for another project that will help us complete the new steps for now. Otherwise, we would be stair-less and the city would be even less happy with the state of our front porch steps than when they were appearing to crumble!

Let's just say this "little lady" will be patronizing the blue store and locally owned businesses from now on. It just happened that they did not have what we needed on hand to finish the project in a timely manner (timeliness determined by the city).

Now, I'm going to sit back with my new prayer book and enjoy what is left of naptime. If they indulge me with a longer than usual nap, I may even work on a few more drawings to finish up a new project and update the shop. (They woke up early - before I even finished uploading photos. Sigh.) Christmas cards are hitting the shop next week, by the way - here's a sneak peek!

Riddle me this: do you send Christmas cards? If so, do you like to have some with family photos in them, religious art, or quirky/humorous cards? I love getting all the cards in the mail and seeing what people have chosen to send. Love it!

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Friday, October 24, 2014

SQT: When a Month Flies By, Birthdays, Zombie Bunnies, and Hades

Blogger tells me I haven't hallowed these halls for over a month. I knew it had been awhile since I've had the chance to sit and write, but I surely didn't think it had been over a full month! Where, oh where, has that time gone? 

Perhaps it is that every time I sit down to write, I lose inspiration, even if I was brimming with words in my head. Perhaps it is that on days like today, where I sat down to write while the kids were playing quietly, they heard the first click of the keyboard and lost their lovely little minds and then the gates of hell tested their fury trying their best to breeze in here for the day. I don't know. 

I'm giving this the old college try...well, maybe more effort than my old college try...and away we go!

Speaking of Hades has been one of those days. The early morning was glorious. G-L-O-R-I-A glorious. My new little 4 year old climbed into bed and snuggled. Snuggles are the best. Both kids quietly and preciously snuggle d for a good half hour, letting me rest well past when I should have been up. I'll take it. I know those days are preciously numbered and I will take every last snuggle I can get in the morning as long as they do not involve pulling my hair out or sitting on my face (or full bladder). Oh what a sweet morning! They proceeded to get up and play nicely together, ate breakfast without hassle...I should have known. I should have KNOWN, but I was hoping beyond hope that today would be a fully and gloriously harmonious day. Sigh.

This happened.

Which led to this.

Because when a drawer won't shut, it is necessary to clean out all the cards that have been stored and subsequently fallen behind the television stand only to breed an army of zombie dust bunnies that could attack at the slightest disturbance. Wouldn't you know, our DustBuster has been broken for a while (like the plastic is cracked and it wont' stay together broken, not that it doesn't work). Today, my friend promised to have a new one to me by next Tuesday as long as I leave small unmarked bills in a nice briefcase for them at the drone landing.

Of course, my first instinct was to say to heck with all of this and pitch it all in my great desire to get rid of all the clutter. If I hadn't read these cards in the last five years, it ain't likely I will read them in the next five, right? Well, I didn't, and I came across a few very special reasons my better sense told me not to just make haste and haul to the nearest dumpster.

In the midst of all the din, the kids were cordoned off with caution tape behind the police line to keep them from returning to the scene of the crime (read: they were playing in Gia's bedroom once Judah was permitted to be released from his place of restricted activity aka highchair). I was free to shake my fist at God, and then ask the devil what in tarnation he wanted with me. Was he afraid I would have gotten the laundry done? Was he afraid that I might have had a remotely peaceful day keeping me from being locked away at the closest sanatorium? Did he simply not want me to share my angst or tell you that I have been praying about what direction to take the blog, and that we may be heading down a slight turn in the road? What? What did he want with me??? 

For the time being, things have calmed down a bit, and we have arrived at the promised land, otherwise known as naptime, where my new strategy is to let Judah sleep and just close Gia's door so I don't have to hear her if she chooses not to cooperate. Now I am free to tell you that I have been praying about the writing, since it has been so difficult. I've realized now that more than a handful of lovely people have asked how a Hindu gal growing up in Iowa ends up a devoted Catholic living in Detroit. I realize that the enormity of the story, mixed with its underwhelming tones in my mind, make it difficult for me to understand why anyone would care. And yet, it seems at least a few inquiring minds want to know. Along with that, I have realized in watching all the bickering unfold about the nuances of the doctrine as relates to {enter topic here} that I do not have the stomach for breaking it all down in philosophical detail. I don't have the patience, time, or knowledge to sit here and pontificate on the intricacies of the issues, their historical evolution, their magnitude among the entirety of Catholic teaching or scripture, etc etc etc. 

I have come to realize that I have a lived story, much like every other person out there. More importantly, that lived story with all its struggles and joys is the way God intends me to share Him with the world. No, I do not have empirical evidence that states that Jesus has transformed my life, but I do have the stories of my life to tell you how He has. I know the pain I have experienced, the peace He has brought, the prayers He has answered and not answered to His glory and my good. So this will be a place of storytelling. Some preaching might enter in, because well, you can't always break old habits. For the most part, I want this to be a place where we share our stories, where I can enter in with you to know your stories, to help discover the abundant love of God and the opportunities He gives us to know and love Him more deeply, so we can live out of that love and transform this world around us. It sure needs a lot of transformation, don't you think?

That was all very serious and deep. Now to come up for air in the shallow end a bit. This summer we visited the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids for a hot second, and the kids enjoyed a short time in the Children's Garden. Shockingly {I jest} I took a "few" pictures of them. Well, I tagged 'em, and this week Meijer Gardens contacted me to share one of them. It isn't that big a deal, but I thought it was a fun little highlight to our week. 

Saving the best for last, our Gia turned four. FOUR! 

What a crazy week it has been - between a couple of events the Hubs was coordinating with the folks from the St. John's Bible, trying to get some things completed in the studio, and the general busy hum of life, we barely got to celebrate! Here are a few photos, though, no shocker there. I did my best amidst the craziness to give her a few special moments and memories and maybe start some new traditions for us now that she and Judah are old enough to notice.

L-R: Birthday eve dinner, birthday tiara, birthday balloons, & treats for school

Gianna's birthday falls on the feast day of St. Pope John Paul II which is so special to us. I shared this quote from him on Facebook as one of my favorites, and it, along with the other quote, are two that I pray our children embed into the very fiber of their little beings. 

"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal."
And from his address to the youth in Toronto, this gem:
"We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son."

That we might all come to know those things in the deepest corners of our souls...

There was so much more on my list, but when a day like today hits, I let the old fingers clickety clack away and see where it goes. There's always next week for more takes out of this corner of the virtual world. For more Quick Takes this week, visit Conversion Diary! Oh - and if ya'll would keep a few friends in prayer who are preparing to give birth in the next week (hopefully), that'd be swell. You're the best!

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Simple Sunday Snapshot {9.21.14}

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:15-16

My first and immediate response whenever I read and hear this passage is a sigh of relief. Procrastinators still have hope!! 

In all seriousness, I was once told by a "cradle Catholic" as I was trying to learn the intricacies of the faith and the reason behind its teachings that really, I'd never actually be Catholic since I wasn't born into it. 

Bite your tongue. I surely did. Let's not even get into that whole go to all the nations, preach the Gospel, and baptize everyone business.

While that is an extreme example, I do think that we all risk being lured into a trap of spiritual superiority. I notice it in myself at Mass. Someone STILL doesn't know the new responses. Look who's waking in right before the Gospel. 

Here's the kicker. Jesus came to offer the gift of salvation to all of us, whether we've been following from the beginning or whether we are walking in at the 2 minute warning or sneaking onto the field at the final buzzer. So that person who just doesn't get it? If they're still drawing breath, they've got time, and we'd better be in the business of helping them instead of pointing fingers.

Sure, it doesn't seem fair some days. We struggle to stay faithful for all our days and someone had a deathbed epiphany of repentance and they're offered the exact same mercy and grace as the rest of us. 

That's just what we hear in Isaiah. We aren't supposed to get it. His ways are not our ways. Instead of trying to understand His boundless and timeless mercy while our eyes are still veiled in a fallen world, we do better to trust that He treats us all with equal mercy, even when we stumble in our foolishness. Instead of comparing our piety and worth with those around us, we do better to simply get to work in the business of the Kingdom so when He comes to pay us, we are there, and not at the water cooler rolling our eyes. (Do they even have water coolers anymore?) 

So let's get to work this week, and remember, if we are a bit sluggish or late to the game, Jesus is still there waiting with the fullness of His mercy, His love, and His grace.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

What Dreams May Come

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. It was a pretty famous dream. Most of our dreams don't achieve that kind of notoriety. Sadly, many of us can't even articulate our dreams anymore.

When we were little, dreams were big. Sure, it was dreaming of getting the latest Barbie (or Hot Wheels), dreaming of summer, dreaming of junior high, then high school, dreaming of our first love, our first kiss, our dream jobs, planning our weddings after watching Maria walk down the aisle and wed the Captain, wondering whether we would live in a mansion, apartment, shack, or house. We dreamed. We dreamed with abandon. Then we grew up.

Dreams turned into goals, planners, to-do lists, and keeping up with life. Soon we were no longer dreaming about what may be, but frantically trying to achieve those goals we set and reach the expectations set upon us. Somewhere, dreaming took a back seat and achieving took over. Love may have come and gone, or have yet to come and worn us down to believing we could live without it. Wedding planning turned to career planning. We began to embrace the practical, the achievable, the here and now that would lead to the next thing tomorrow. Life handed us some hard knocks and we forgot how to look it in the face with childlike awe and limitless wonder.

Weariness threatened to take over, but then we heard that still, quiet voice in our heads - "there is more," it said. "There is the life you dreamed of when you were guided by your heart and the desires planted there."

Something happens when we take on adulthood according to the world's terms. We lose that element of faith that as children was wholly unspoiled for many of us. We lose that belief that anything is possible, that we can save the world, we can reach the stars, we can be an astronaut or rock star or prima ballerina or doctor or medical researcher who finds the cure for cancer or any number of those childhood dreams. We get consumed by the to-dos and forget to beWe forget we are Spirit powered and get tied up by our own chains and failings. 

We see cancer. We see war. We see failure. We see greed and poverty. We see hunger and homelessness. We see cheating, stealing, and deceit to get ahead. We see the hurt of tainted love and abuse. We see brokenness...a world full of brokenness, and more glaringly, our very own kind of broken life.

God reminds us to break free of those chains. He reminds us that with Him, all things are possible. He promises us that He has great BIG plans for us. We forget, as we are wont to do, but He remembers, and His Spirit whispers to us - "there is more."

Never is this truer than after marriage and having my own children. I watch my family dream. I dream for them. I want the world to be limitless and full of every good possibility for them. If I have forgotten how to dream, they remind me. My own dreams blossom and take on new life. My dreams become their dreams - I see the world through my children's innocent and joyful eyes. As I dream for them, I learn what it is to dream again for myself. I begin to listen to that still, small voice that tells me "I am still here, and I have more. Do not be afraid."

So I begin to try new things, to follow my heart and take a few risks. I may do it with teeth clenched and eyes closed, still fearful of falling flat on my arse, because...well...we've all been there, right? The important thing, though, is that I try and I follow that voice that leads me. I find that desire that God has planted in my heart. I notice what gives me life and do it more often.

You know what? It is scary, but it is exhilarating. Truly, the best part of taking off those chains and learning to fly again is watching my biggest fans follow suit. They dream big when I dream big.

As I sit atop my mountaintop year and look ahead to 40, my dreams have certainly changed over the years. In so many ways, I am living my dream. I have found my forever love, walked down that aisle like Maria, started a family and am building a home with them. I haven't become a prominent doctor or found the cure for cancer or AIDS (mostly because chemistry broke my heart and my GPA). I'm not famous, and thankfully not infamous either. It took me a long time to discover that the secret wasn't so much doing big things, but dreaming with wide horizons.

I've got big dreams for 40 and onward. I'd love to have my own studio. I'd love to be home with my children more. I'd love to have this house truly turned into a welcoming place where we can open our home to those who need us more. More importantly, I want to be a wife, mother, and friend who helps others discover their dreams.

The beauty of dreaming with our eyes open is that we don't do it alone. We can lift one another up, push one another on. So here, from on top of my mountain, I say to you, dream big, hope big, love big, live big. Take that class. Right that wrong. Encourage that friend, child, spouse, parent. Throw caution to the wind and trust that you might just fly. Tap into that Spirit power and in the words of Mother Superior,
Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
'Till you find your dream.

NOTE: If you are looking to set out on a new path and aren't sure how to make it work, there are so many avenues like that provide small business loans, and help people achieve their dreams and goals. Dream big, my friends, and know you're not going the road alone!

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Friday, September 12, 2014

SQT: On Children, Mary's Mantle, Beauty Experiments, & Not Alone

I started this post a little after 8. Here's how the hour before that went:

2 time outs
Several "I need juice"s
A smattering of "I need milk!"
Multitudes of "I do it myself!"s
A handful of sad "I don't WANT to sit down"s from the sicky boy.

Welcome to a Friday morning at Casa McCormick!

In other news, our Li'l G is a schoolgirl AND she has a bestie already. After running into her bestie's parents at school yesterday, it seems the feeling is mutual. As the Hubs said, this could be a lifelong friendship in the making. How sweet is that to watch! Their topic of conversation yesterday? Toilet tales. Let's hope that's a phase, or the teenage years are shaping up to be highly awkward.

For those of you stopping by who don't know, my paid gig is a part-time stint as house manager at Mary's Mantle, a Catholic residential program for homeless, expectant mothers (read: maternity home). The women who come through our doors have stories that I cannot imagine living. Some are recovering addicts, some are recovering from the scars of past abortion, some have been prostitutes, some have been in pornography, some have been victims of domestic violence, many have extremely damaged relationships with their families, and all have been broken by abuse, whether emotional or physical. One thing I love about this ministry is that the majority of our budget is funded by small, individual donations. We take no money from the government and our grants are limited as we are committed to fidelity to church teachings. From $5 to $5000, individual donors are the lifeblood of keeping us afloat.

Every September, donors are invited to participate in our 30,000 in 30 Days campaign, which challenges us to find 1,000 people to donate just $30. I ask you to prayerfully consider making a small donation - the link can be found on the website, or a check can be mailed to Mary's Mantle (please note 30,000 in 30 Days in the memo) at PO Box 115; Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303. Even more importantly, I ask that you consider keeping our ministry and the women who come to us (and those who we cannot take) in your prayers. Thank you in advance!

With the crisper, cooler weather that has hit in the last day here in these parts, it is clear that autumn is on its way. It seems every purveyor of tasty treats has also predicted an early arrival of fall with the influx of pumpkin spice everything hitting the stores. This girl is not a fan. The hubs is, though. No one is perfect. *wink*

As autumn approaches, I'm also working on a few new pieces for the shop. If you follow the shop on Instagram, or the blog on Facebook, I am doing monthly giveaways of some rough sketches as well. I still have to figure out just how to promote everything, but baby steps, right?

With us in the thick of ToddlerTown, we are also in the thick of the older one goading the younger one into saying words that will get him in trouble. The word of choice right now is "stupid." The more he says it and gets reprimanded, the more the other one laughs. As we approach the risk of her permanently being banished to her bedroom, any thoughts on how to curb that little minx?

As I argued with my mom about what to get me for my birthday, which incidentally I hate precisely because of such arguments, I arrived at an option that was acceptable to us both. A salon day for haircuts for us together, and I decided to take the plunge for the first time and get highlights. It was a bit of a harrowing experience, mostly because the owner of the salon decided I would actually like lighter and brighter highlights than I said I did. "Subtle" did not have the same meaning for the two of us. I tried to politely say they were lighter and orange, when I had asked for darker and reddish, when what I really wanted to say was "WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO MY HAIR - THIS LOOKS RIDICULOUS!" I refrained. We did finally arrive at an agreement that they would just do what I first had asked for and voila!

I'm not sure I'm in love, though. I think it may be a one-time deal. Turns out I kind of like my original, plain-old-boring color. Plus, I might be having PTSD and flashbacks to some rather questionable color-out-of-a-box experiences harkening back to my collegiate days. Let's just say a friend called me Barney for a while after a "rosewood" mishap.

Apparently, last Saturday was a gettin-your-hairs-did kind of day, as I discovered Heather and Jen's post-do photos on the old Insta. Speaking of Jen, if you don't follow her blog, you should head over there! I'm so proud (that sounds weird, doesn't it?) of the work she and Morgan have been doing with their Not Alone Series for single women.

I remember how hard that struggle was when I had discerned my vocation and was waiting for it to find its fulfillment in marriage. I'm so thankful that she and Morgan have found a way to encourage women in the single life, not as an until, but as an important part of their journey to, the altar. They are on CatholicTV today being interviewed about their work. Hooray for them!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

PS - If anyone local is looking for some newish, free toys this weekend, and you're not afraid to dumpster dive, there may be a purge going on at the Casa if mama hears "THAT TOY IS MINE, NOT YOURS!!!!" one more time. Time will only tell if I am serious.

PPS - This conversation just happened:

G: I'm never going to leave you!
Me: Really?
G: Mama, when I get BIGGER. I will live on my very own!!
Me: You will? You will leave me?!?
G: Don't worry. When I get bigger and live on my own, I will get you a NEW....BABYSITTER! I will get you a babysitter.

I'm so glad my daughter already has my old-age plans made. She's still only three...thoughtful girl. :)

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