Friday, December 19, 2014

{SQT} The Holiday Hustle, My Sincere Gratitude, and a New Family Mission

I keep meaning to sit down and tickle the ivories letters on this keyboard to fill everyone in with what's been happening here, but I've been too distracted by what's been happening. Here is a quick glimpse of life in our very own fast lane!

I am still getting used to having a child in school. Yes, it is only preschool. Yes, it is only two days. Yes, it is only half days. No, I'm still not on the ball. Things I forget on a regular basis: take notes and reminders out of her folder, let her pick out an outfit for the day on the night before, put her homework (yes, they have "homework") in her bag before the morning, recycle the "change of outfit" in her bag (I think she has had the same clothes in there since the cooler weather hit). I'm hoping next semester I might get into a school mom routine. We are a people of hope, right? Right?

In case you somehow missed this
cuteness on Facebook or Instagram.

Also new this year, Christmas concerts and school parties. I can handle the parties - the teacher has made signup super easy online. The Christmas concert details sent me over the edge. I am trying very hard not to be "that mom," but I fear a note to our principal may still escape my outbox. Why? The concert started at 6, which is okay, but the kids had to be there at 5:30. Why, you still ask, might this be a problem? Oh, I don't know. I may be one of those parents who works until 5:00. The Hubs may be the one with a second job and working that night. I understand that it is hard to balance convenience on the start time with convenience on the end time. Still it seems like perhaps it is a burden to expect parents to take time off work when there is a concert to be had. Also, it is a little bit crazy to have the preschoolers perform the first song and then go to their class to wait out the rest of the concert so they can perform during the LAST song. We are talking 3 & 4 year olds. It was a beautiful evening, but all too insane for my taste. There is some room for nixing a bit of the chaos. I fear that email is escaping...

Next on the "new to me" list: teacher gifts. Yes, I have seen everyone's posts about them for eons. It just didn't dawn on me that YESTERDAY was our last day of school. Because Christmas is NEXT week. There is no school, of course, because those lovely teachers deserve to bask in the restful peace of the season have to catch up on their personal to-do lists after they've dealt with newbie unprepared parents like me. I then realized that her first day back falls on the actual feast of the Epiphany (not the "hey let's just do it on the closest Sunday because no one will come" feast day). It seems like God has smiled on my unpreparedness with His perfect timing. Or something like that.

In my effort to not get caught up in the hustle of the season, it seems I may have been taking it too easy. My apologies to Amazon and UPS. Our final gifts were just ordered. I will be wrapping it up into the wee hours of Christmas Eve Eve methinks.

Our Christmas cards have also not been sent. This one is quite intentional. I prefer to send them the week of Christmas so they arrive during the Christmas season. So, if you usually get a card from us and haven't yet, rest easy. You have not been snubbed! At least not as of now.

Lest I forget, I wanted to thank all of you who have supported my new wee shop over the past few months. Thank you especially to those who featured the shop (Jenna at Call Her Happy, I'm lookin' at you!) or allowed me to publicize it via their virtual space (this one's for you, Simcha!). Thank you, grazie, and all that jazz!! We were totaling up the sales and closing up for the year, and it was humbling to say the least. The shop was something I started on a bit of a whim to give it a go, and you have all helped to confirm that it should maybe be less of a whim and made more of a focus of my time...and so I shall in the coming year. I'll be experimenting with some new projects and products, so stay tuned!

{SIDENOTE: I also have to say I so appreciate the way Simcha features Catholic art and artists. I think there can be a tendency, especially in Bloggyland, to get bogged down with the written and spoken word when it comes to evangelizing, and we forget that beauty and art can often draw the soul to seek its Creator. So thank you, again.}

This is a handwritten presentation of
the first letter of John done by a freshman
student of my husband's for extra credit,
inspired by the St. John's Bible.
The Hubs and I are also working on a new project to start in the new year. As I was praying on a recent short retreat, his love of Scripture and my desire to "do more" came together in a new family mission. I know you will be waiting with baited breath (please someone leave me a comment explaining that phrase before I consume myself with Google), but it will involve a weekly feature on Scripture including study (him) and prayer (me) as well as uniting "rescued" Bibles with new owners. Prayers for us as we begin this little mission in addition to our family rosary offering would be appreciated. It is daunting to take on more, but when the Spirit tugs, you let Him drag you, right? 

Wishing you all a most peaceful conclusion to Advent and the greatest joy in the Christmas season. An early Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

From Holy Cow to Holy Spirit {What's In a Name}

But now thus says the Lord,

he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine. 
Isaiah 43:1

I have spent many hours mulling over in my head how to pull together the random thoughts floating through my head about my name. You see, I had this great idea based on what I was told my name meant. Then...oh, then I did the unthinkable and went to Google to get more details. Wretched Google with it's balloon bursting intricacies that more fully explain that perhaps your parents glamorized or romanticized what your name means.

Rakhi. Growing up, my parents told me my name meant "gift of love." I presume you can imagine what growing up with a highly-unusual-in-this-country, ethnic name that phonetically sounds a lot like the name of a famous boxer and mountain range might be like. Let me tell you anyway. Kids can be cruel. When you are one of the few non-white, non-"normal" kids in the class, kids can be cruel, despite well meaning teachers and parents. It wasn't the brown skin that got to me. Truth be told, even to this day I sometimes forget I'm not white. That's a story for another day.

It was the name. The name was the source of many-a-tear for me. Rakhi. Rocky. Yo, Adrian! Did your parents think you were a boy? You look like a boy. What, are you super strong or something? Are you gonna beat me up? Yeah, some kids are cruel and just dumb. (I won't go into the highly inappropriate pick-up lines I was on the receiving end of in college.)

In the midst of such teasing, I must have asked my parents why they gave me such a hideous name. Of course to them it was hardly hideous. It's apparently not such an unusual name in India, after all. It was related to a nickname my father had "Rakhal" whose meaning I don't actually know at this time. One thing about names in my family - not one person went by their legal name. Until Facebook, I had no idea what most of my cousins' actual names were. So while my dad's name was Ganen, much of his family called him Rakhal. Enter the name suggestion from his side of the family in India - Rakhi. 

This could have been an entirely different story if my mom had gotten her way back in California in the 70s. No, they weren't flower children, so no Apple or Rosepetal. Michelle. My mom wanted to name me Michelle. Sometimes I dream of what it might have been like to have a common name, to blend into the roll call of children at homeroom. There is an eerie calm that comes over me, but then I quickly snap out of it to realize that just in that one small detail, I would be someone completely different. 

You see, I am a big believer in the idea that names are meaningful and carry weight. Identities are formed in names. God allowed man to name all the creatures and to this day we identify them by their names. Names bring to mind images and defining characteristics. Now, that isn't to say that one's destiny lies in one's name. I'm not making that leap. Nevertheless, I believe names are important. We took great care in praying over our children's names before settling on them. 

Back to Rakhi. What does it actually mean? While it could be interpreted as a "gift of love," what I found after my foray into Google is that it actually means a "bond of protection." The "rakhi" is a string bracelet that is exchanged as a bond of fraternal love/protection between siblings. While I had to mull this all over for a while, I realized that it simply added greater depth to what I already believed about my name. 

I have always believed that I was born out of great love, and as such, born to share great love. Sure, there was always the pursuit of the great romantic love. When I would come out of that fog, though, there was deeper within a desire to pursue something that would do more, be more for others. Whether a doctor (because what Indian kid isn't meant to be a doctor, after all?) or a lawyer, or a politician, or eventually in education and ministry, I had an inner desire to fight for the other. 

It wasn't until more recently that I could give a voice to that desire - a desire for every living thing to know how greatly they are loved, their worth, their dignity - to know they belong to God and He to them. 

With a name like Rakhi in a small Iowa town, knowing its meaning...or an interpretation of it...gave me some consolation. A gift of love is what I was told, and a gift of love was all I wanted to be, and to receive. To belong somewhere, to someone other than my parents, to not be on the outside, to know that great love. All that desire lay in my heart, growing more torturous as the years progressed into adolescence. Love created longing. 

That's all for this edition. Shakespeare I am not, but if you want to continue reading, I'll be back with another installment!

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Hail, Full of Grace

Painting by Cano.
The Immaculate Conception is by far one of my favorite holy days of "obligation" in the Church. I think for me the wonder and the possibility of that moment captures every corner of my imagination (as though my imagination was a box with lots of corners). Can you imagine? From the beginning of time, God had already had in mind the role He had for Mary in the history of salvation. 

Hail, full of grace. 

Painting by Rubens
Mary had to be created in a special way, set apart from all other human creation. She would bear God in her womb. She had to be created immaculate to carry the Christ child, the Savior, our Redeemer and hers next to her heart. 

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,and you shall name him Jesus.

Painting by Antolinez
Mary, the mother of God, created without sin, didn't simply bow her head and say, "You got it!" She was taken by surprise at the news of the angel. She was in awe of what was being said to her and asked of her. In her perpetual state of grace, she met that awe and bewilderment with reverence and docility to the work of the spirit. But she appeared to be taken aback just the same. "Do not be afraid," the angel said to her. "You have found favor with God." In her stupor, what immense faith Mary had to even think this possible. In her undefiled soul, God had prepared her from the time she was even thought of for exactly this, to be receptive in this moment, to believe in this moment. 

As it was with the virgin mother two thousand plus years ago, it is with us. While we have not been prepared immaculately to bear in our womb the Savior of the world, we have each been prepared for some specific purpose by God from the moment we were thought of by Him. He says to us what the angel said to Mary, though perhaps it begins a little differently. 

Perhaps to me it sounds more like, "Hail Rakhi, with a bit of grace..." 

Yet, He says the same thing to each one of us. "Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. Behold, you will..." That's the challenge isn't it - to be docile to the Spirit that is calling us to cooperate with God's plan? To discern how God has prepared us to participate in the work of salvation is a lifelong endeavor. Some days the whispers are difficult to decipher, and other days the angel is loud and clear. Sometimes we hear that call and cower in fear. "Not me, I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not holy enough, I'm not {enter disqualifier here} enough, I'm not enough."

That angel says to us, "Be not afraid. You, yes YOU, in all your mess, in all your sin, in all your brokenness, YOU have found favor with God and He has a plan for you. A beautiful, wonderful, seemingly daunting, fulfilling plan just for you. You will not know all the details, but you can trust that at the end of the day it will play a part in His plan to redeem the world and draw you back to Him for all of eternity. You have found favor with God."

Happy Advent!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Through Works of Mercy This Advent (Oh, and It's Giving Tuesday)

Rumor has it that it is Giving Tuesday once again. Once again, I have an innate problem with designating one day for us to put on our charitable hats and in our great benevolence bestow our prized attention and gifts upon a source who has won our affection. After Black Friday...and Small Business Saturday...and Cyber Monday. Thank GOODNESS for Giving Tuesday. I mean...what would we do with all our leftover money otherwise??? Just imagine!

All ranting aside, I have been working on an Advent gift-giving series that focuses on places to shop and items to purchase that help us to live out the works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. Today seems as good as any for the first edition of that guide!

5 Ways to Give Through the Works of Mercy This Advent

1) Purchase some spiritual reading for a prisoner: Faith@Work bookstore in Troy is founded on the works of mercy as a non-profit Catholic bookstore. In the time that it has been open, Faith@Work has donated all profits to local organizations working to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, ransom the captives, instruct the ignorant, and all that jazz. This season, they are giving customers a chance to participate in their works of mercy by purchasing a Christian book for an inmate in the Oakland County (MI) Jails. You can make your purchase online, or go visit the store at 1977 E. Wattles, Troy, MI. If you are local, I highly suggest making the trek in to the store. You'll fall in love. Really. 

2) Purchase a book for a high school Catholic apologetics class: The Hubs teaches at a Catholic high school, and he would like to use a new text for his apologetics class. As school budgets are set and tight, they have given him permission to conduct a "tin cup collection" (as Mark Shea would call it) to allow others to purchase the books as a gift to his class. Yes, it is set up under a baby registry on Amazon right now because the Wifers was too lazy/unmotivated to look beyond the standard registries. No, we are not expecting a third child. Do consider donating to "instruct the ignorant" so they can be formed to share the light and love of our faith with the world as they graduate. [UPDATE: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Because of so many generous donations, including one from Ignatius Press, books have been purchased for the whole class! Thank you!]

Photo from Noonday Collection webpage
3) Shop at Noonday Collection: A friend of mine introduced me to this shop, and I love both the pretties and the purpose. She writes, "As you begin to enter into the next holiday season, please strongly consider giving a gift that gives *twice* this Christmas. Noonday Collection uses fashion and design to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. When you purchase jewelry or accessories from Noonday you join in supporting 28 artisan groups across 10 countries (think 88,000 family members!) You have the opportunity to treat a loved one to a beautifully handcrafted piece, to honor the artisan's craftsmanship, and to bless an individual, family, and community. This Christmas give...
  • Dignified jobs
  • Sustainable income
  • Long-term trade partnerships
  • Emergency assistance
  • No-interest loans
  • Job training
  • Scholarship programs

Please consider stopping by the shop and supporting their work.

Photo from the Artful Giving website.
4) Make a habit of Artful Giving: This one is a twofer that can be carried on throughout the year. This Advent, why not make it a practice to send a handwritten note of encouragement, love, forgiveness, prayer, etc. to people in your life? Or perhaps you can adopt a pen pal who is elderly, imprisoned, or alone. To make it a twofer, consider purchasing notecards from an organization that gives back to the community like Artful Giving in Arizona. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their cards and artwork currently go to support UMOM's Child Development Center. UMOM is the largest homeless shelter for families in the state of Arizona. Every night they provide safe shelter and supportive services for over 170 families through their continuum of services. They also offer nearly 300 units of affordable housing across the Valley, each community with Program Centers for residents. 

There are many others out there who are selling their crafts and cards to benefit different charities (if you are in the metro-Detroit area, Faith@Work has cards that benefit Mary's Mantle). Find one that tugs at your heartstrings and watch your heart grow more than the Grinch's this Christmas!

Photo from the PIME USA website.
5) Support the PIME Missionaries: If you are a follower of this blog, you may have seen me write about the PIME Missionaries on occasion. Their North American headquarters are located in Detroit, and we have had the privilege of working with them during our stint in Campus & Young Adult Ministry with the Archdiocese. PIME has several ways for you to participate in the works of mercy through their organization. They have a little shop with items you can purchase, you can sponsor/foster a child, or you can simply make a donation to support the work of missionaries throughout the world, especially in some rather dangerous and troubled areas now. In their most recent publication, Fr. Ken Mazur (the Regional Superior) wrote an article sums up for me the shift in perspective the world so desperately needs. It is not dispensing with our traditions and festivities, but grounding them in their source through prayer. Here is an excerpt which I hope he will not mind me sharing:
"Then the rush begins, the time for the preparations leading to Christmas. Each year in my words, homilies, and letters I always urge us all to take some time to prepare ourselves and our hearts as well as our homes and celebrations for Christmas. Before we realize, it will be upon us. For each present we buy, try to say a short prayer for the person you are buying for. For each cake, cookie or other delicacy you bake, say a short prayer for those who will be enjoying them, and for those who won't be having enough food at Christmas. For each Christmas wreath, tree and decoration you hang, pray another short prayer for our missionaries who are far away from home at Christmas. And as you string the lights inside and out, remember that each one brightly announces the birth of Jesus into our sometimes dark, harsh and hostile world. Don't get caught up in the rush."
Also taken from the PIME USA website. Sorry, Fr. Ken! You know where to find 

That's it for this first edition of the Giving Through Works of Mercy. If you have other shops, organizations, or ways to live out the works of mercy as you shop this holiday season, please let me know.

Happy Advent!

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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.}

------------------------- ///\\\///\\\ ------------------------

“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.

--------------------------------- ///\\\///\\\ ---------------------------------
“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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