Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simple Sunday Snapshot: August 17 {For the Dogs}

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.” 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
Matthew 15:21-28

Two things came to mind as I was praying on this Gospel passage at Mass today. Part of the homily broke open the intention behind Jesus's harsh words to the Canaanite woman. While it seems that he is being rude, it may instead be that he was doing so intentionally, so as to hold a mirror up to the faces of the Jews as a reflection of their own ugliness toward the Gentiles. That got me wondering, who are our dogs? Who are those we feel are not worthy of the banquet table of Christ, and might we be holding back even the scraps from their souls? 

The other thought that came to mind was whether I was willing to risk rebuke, ridicule, and scorn to seek out Jesus for the dogs...not for myself, but for those who are dying (body, mind, or spirit) and cannot seek the Lord themselves. What do I do to intervene, and do I take action even when it may not be easy?

If the Lord encountered me on the road today, would he walk on by as I was busy with my life, or would I be bold enough to stop Him that He might say of me, "O, woman, great is your faith!"  Praying the week ahead provides us ample opportunity and boldness to seek after the Lord for those on the margins. 

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Friday, August 15, 2014

SQT: On Floods, Suffering, Surrender, Insanity, 6 Degrees of RobinWilliams and Songful Dreams

Did you hear we had a flood in Detroit? It's about all we can think about since we are still in the midst of cleaning out.

The clean-out has been exhausting, but it wasn't until we took the old infant carrier to the curb that I actually cried. Yes, I know we could never use it again anyway as it's likely about 8 years old since we were gifted it from a friend. It doesn't really matter. It was what carried my babies home from the hospital. Visions of my now-almost-in-school Gia at a few days old, dwarfed by the then-giant seat, memories of the drive home {especially hitting bumps and wincing in pain}, the first moment we brought her in the door and the panicked "what do we do now?" that fleeted through our minds. All of that came rushing back. And I might have cried a little. And that is okay. Goodbye little seat. Time really does fly.

One side effect of disaster, at least in our neck of the woods, has been that more people are out and about in the neighborhood. Sure, they're hauling their sewage drenched basements to the curb, or still pumping out water, but they're out there. And people are talking. And helping. It has cemented something I suspected all along. Suffering unites us in our humanity, and more deeply it unites with Christ who is the source of our truest humanity. In our suffering, God surprises us with His grace and glory, making good out of everything, even s%!# filled basements.

The surprise I came home to dropped off by a friend to help
sweeten the blow of the basement stank. Now she found
out they have a ton of mold in their basement. Prayers for them please!

I've also been thinking about what a difference a day can make... Sunday we were enjoying a tasty brunch and hanging out the kiddie pool, and Monday we had more water than we ever wanted in our basement.

Ok, enough about the water woes. Today we had a staff in-service and I was asked to find a prayer on surrender. There was a prayer of surrender to the Holy Spirit I was thinking of, but when I asked my pal Google to locate it, old Googs one-upped me and found me this prayer instead, which now is at the top of my list of favorite prayers. Given that today is the Feast of the Assumption, it seems fitting to share a prayer about total surrender of self, that we might offer our whole yes to the will of God as Mary did.

Dear Lord Jesus, it is my will to surrender to you everything that I am and everything that I am striving to be. I open the deepest recesses of my heart to you and invite your Holy Spirit to dwell inside of me. You are the salvation of my soul; I hold nothing back from you.

I offer you my mind, heart, body, soul, spirit, emotions, all my hopes, plans, and dreams. I surrender to you my past, present, and future problems, habits, character defects, attitudes, livelihood, resources, finances, occupation, skills, vocation, and business endeavors. I surrender everything unto your compassionate care. I give you my home, marriage, sexuality, relationships, friendships, and children. I surrender all my weaknesses, strengths, fears, and insecurities to you. In sickness and in health, in the good times and bad, I belong to you. Please transform my life into whatever most pleases you. Transform me into the child of God that you have intended me to be.
In your most holy name we pray. Amen. 

School starts soon for our first born. I got a letter from her pre-school about a new-family orientation. It begins. It was such a welcoming letter, and part of their welcome to new families is to pair them with an established school family for the year to ease the transition. What a lovely idea and great way to build community. I might have come close to shedding a tear. It's been an emotional week.

Once I got my head above water from all the muck in the basement (hahahah, head above water...get it?), I was pulled right back under with all the chaos on my newsfeed. What the what is going on with the world? I don't honestly even have words for what is going on in Ferguson, MO, or in response to the Walmart shooting. I really don't right now, but thanks to a friend I did read a post by someone who I feel nailed every issue right smack on the head.

Of course, then every two seconds we hear about Robin Williams' suicide. How very truly tragic. What saddens me the most is how surprised everyone seems to be that someone who was a comic by trade and brought such joy could be so very distraught himself. It saddens me that we have become so focused on the surface that we forget how deeply the waters of our spirit run within, sometimes in quiet turmoil. I won't even get into my disappointment with the judgement running rampant on every angle of his death. A man has died - this is not a story, this is not a cause, this is a man who brought joy to those around him but deeply suffered. A man. With a family. With friends. With a kind heart. Yeah, those stories are making me cry. While I never knew him myself, I will throw one more log on the fire that was the generous spirit of the man.

My Godbrother was an actor (sometimes struggling) in Cali in the late 80s/early 90s. He happened to get a role as an extra on the set of Hook back in the day. We tend to think of extras as just faces in the crowd, blending in, going unseen. Somehow, Stevie met Robin, and made enough of an impression that Mr. Williams remembered him a few years later when he passed from AIDS related complications. I don't remember all the details, whether he attended the funeral or just sent a long note to the family, but I remember my Godmother was so very touched that he had remembered her son. He spoke of Steve's spirit, his soul, his kindness, his beauty as a fellow human being that he'd had the privilege of coming across. Stevie was an extra, and Mr. Robin Williams, a lead actor, knew enough of him to know he had passed and know how to contact his family. He took the time to offer his condolences. This was the spirit of the man who was tormented by his own demons. I hope, as his spirit and legacy is remembered, that the generosity of his spirit will set an example for others who achieve the same success. For Mr. Williams, it seems that people were just people...and by that I don't mean "just" in a diminutive sense. Rather, it seems that his legacy is one that shows us how it looks when a man, regardless of his stature, views all people with the dignity they deserve. That loss is a great one in our world today. May God grant him mercy and eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

EXTRA (because why end on sorrowful note when you can end with joy?):
I have this great dream. It will likely NEVER come to fruition, and may be not the most reverent of dreams. Yet...I have this dream. One day, I will be at a Mass honoring Mary, and THIS will the version of Salve Regina that is sung. If we are honest, it's the version that's in my head no matter which rendition is sung, however slowly. You know what this is. You do. Now sing to the rafters, clap those hands, and hit it, girls!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Great Flood {Part Deux} - Lessons in Gratitude

In the last installment, I regaled you with my incessant whining about how we had a great rush of water engulf our basement like in the days of the Great Flood. Now that I have gotten that required boo-hooing out of my system, on to the surprises the whole ordeal has held for us me so far.

Gratitude. Lots and lots of gratitude. Sure, the whole situation stinks (again, literally). Given a choice, we would much rather NOT have a flood in our basement, especially one involving sewer water. If we said we enjoyed this, I would give you full license to have us thoroughly examined by the nearest mental health practitioner, which in this case is my brother in law. Ethical, schmethical.

However, while we were struggling through the emotions and the necessary detachment both for our sanity and spiritual growth, God provided so many moments where my heart was filled with gratitude - for His providence, for His timing, and for those He has placed in our lives. {Let me be perfectly clear about one thing before I dig in. This is how I see the hand of God in the events as they unfolded for me and for our family. Just because events did not unfold in such a way, or led to more trouble, for others, does not in anyway mean that the hand of God abandoned them or gave them less. Not. At. All. God worked in so many ways and through so many people as we hear the stories come pouring out. This is just my story, capish? Phew. Glad I got that out there.}

Let's talk about providence first. Both the Hubs and I (and numerous others) have commented on how providential it was that we cleaned out a large part of our basement earlier this summer. Had we not, I'm not sure we would have been able to recover anything on the unfinished side of the basement - it would all have been enjoying a good soak. We were able to salvage many of the bins and some baby gear. If only we had finished the job. C'est la vie.

His timing. The flooding came Monday evening, not too long after I got home from work. On the way home, I heard news of flooding on some of the local highways, but nothing major had hit yet. It wasn't until I tried to go out for supplies and reinforcements after we saw the mess in the basement that I realized how badly the roads were flooded, even in our 'hood. I was gone for a half hour and got absolutely nowhere fast. After seeing people getting stranded in the middle of a busy road, I turned my swagger wagon around and high tailed it back home. I'm so glad I did after seeing the aftermath. Y'all, it was like a zombie apocalypse had hit the streets and people were dragged from their now haphazardly abandoned cars. Cah-razy!

People, oh my, the people. I'm not even sure I can put into words just how grateful I am for all the people who God has placed in our lives in such a wide variety of ways.

First, there is my mother in law who immediately agreed to have the kids come stay with her for an indefinite length of time while we clean up (but oh, how I miss them even with their crazy ways!). I can't stress how indefinite this is, and how much energy our children have. Such a great blessing that we not once had to worry where they would go.

Next, there is my mom who has offered to help with costs if/when we know what we need, even though she's got her own expenses ahead of her. While we may not take her up on that offer, it is a solace to know that we have some options if we want to explore different avenues to restore and refurnish.

Then there were the kids themselves, who somehow knew something was up (maybe because mommy told them to chill their grills while we worked) and miraculously slept through all the din of Operation Rescue Books and Monsters.

There are the friends who offered their home and their laundry if we needed somewhere to go.

There are the numerous friends who have offered their prayers, diversion, mental/spiritual support and sympathies.

Then there was Dwija. Dear, sweet Dwija, who is "far, but not too far" from us and offered to let us escape to her slice of heaven. Don't get me started on the beauty of the interwebs. Don't you tell me it is a waste of time! No interwebs, me no meet Dwija, who astounds me with her kindness and grace and joy every single day...even the worst one.

When we found out from the restoration contractors that we would have to haul all the trash out of the basement ourselves because they just didn't have the manpower for it now (and let me tell you that saves us some cha-ching!), I sent an SOS to a friend who came and worked with us for several hours no questions asked. Without his help we'd still be sludging in the basement instead of clean and tucked nicely in bed. We've got pals including the bro-in-law lined up to help tomorrow afternoon too. Dear sweet friends who don't mind the muck... THANK YOU!

Last, but definitely not least, there is the Hubs. He often works through exhaustion, but nothing like Monday night, where exhaustion was mixed with the emotion of loss and helplessness.  He continues to work tirelessly as we chip away at the clean-out. We may have wanted to crumble at times, but never at the same time. In so many ways this has brought us closer together. His loss is my loss, and my heart breaks that we didn't finish the basement cleaning so we could have brought more of his books to safety. {I have to mention that as I was cleaning out the bottom shelf of all the shelves, I inadvertently stumbled upon one that was completely dry. It's a book on the Eucharist. Completely dry people. Not one drop of water. No, it was not in plastic - simply sandwiched between other books. And paperback. Bone dry, pages perfectly swishing as I flipped through it. Tell me the Eucharist ain't something miraculous, even in print. I need to take a better photo of it and where it was on the shelf so you understand just how impossible this is. Sorry for the digression. Back to the regularly scheduled programming now...} 

In all the turmoil and uncertainty, I never in a million years thought that the one emotion that would overwhelm my heart was one of gratitude - deep, abiding gratitude and trust in God's provision. I don't particularly care for His way of helping us finish our cleaning out of the basement, but I know He will make good out of it, hopefully sooner rather than later. I have grand visions of a pretty basement - I'm pretty sure I'm wearing a different pair of glasses than God right there... Hey - we've all got work to do, right?

Stay tuned for future editions as we have updates of our recovery from Floodgate Detroit 2014.

May you and yours have a restful night!

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The Great Flood - Part One

In case you hadn't been following on social media, we are in the mix of those who were affected by the torrential downpours in metro-Detroit on Monday afternoon. Our basement had close to two feet of water from a sewage backup, and the roads around us are still closed from damage due to flooding. We live just a few blocks north of the I-75 / 696 interchange in the metro area, and while they have done some amazing work toward getting that cleaned up, it was and still is a bit of a disaster.

Looking south on the intersection of I-75 & 696 on Tuesday morning.

An embankment that gave way at that interchange, taking with it a pump,
which was part of the problem. They are reporting that part of the issue
now being discovered is that the copper from these pump stations was
stripped by thieves at some time in the past, contributing to major flooding.

In the grand scheme of things, it may not be much that we flooded. Others had far more water and lost far more things. One neighbor said they had at least $50,000 worth of damage to their basement. At the end of the day when the numbers come in, I have no idea what the financial estimates will be. I know the husband lost a whole library section of books that were stored down there, though we instigated a mass exodus of what we could get to as water was filling in on Monday night.

There is some damage to the little studio I had just set up, but thankfully I was lazy in taking down some finished products and new supplies. In the grand scheme of things it is small - but it is OUR small. Our mementos of life that are washed away and damaged, though we decided not to even look through some boxes so we would not actually know what in totality was lost. Now comes the task of trashing. Trashing what could have been given to others, like an old bed and old clothes now laying in ruins and stinking it up. Trashing old memories that, for the sake of our mental well-being, are better left un-recovered.

That lovely sheen on the floor? Not a new paint job - that be a foot of
backup from the city sewer line. Awe. Some. And yes, that is my new studio.

A memory box of cards from our wedding was in a desk downstairs,
which we luckily DID discover. I managed to sift through them and
rescue a good handful, especially those with sweet handwritten notes.
More on those emotions in a future installment.

While we are upset with the loss of many of our things, and let's face it, for the Hubs his books are like his babies, we also know they can mostly be replaced, apart from some of the mementos. What was the worst feeling was watching it all happen and realizing we could do nothing to stop or impede the coming of the water, the ruining of the things. It was such a mix of emotions. I kept going back and forth to realizing that they are only things, to crying because we had worked so hard to clean so much of it up and begin to use the space we are blessed with having. And now - what a mess! I wavered between realizing that we didn't have the worst of it and wanting to scream when that wave of adrenaline-fueled stress would rush through. Yes, I had made it home safely and seemingly just in time before the waters rushed over the expressway. So many were stranded or on the road for multiple hours. And yet there was sewage bubbling into our basement with no relief in sight. If only the water would stop and give that poor sump pump a break.

Monday night, by the time our heads hit the pillows, we were in a mixed state of exhaustion and utter alertness, lest more water start gushing in and requiring a more concerted rescue effort of things. Our home looked looks like a flea market, with piles of goodies strewn about. No fleas yet. Also no market - don't come with your quarters.

I sat in bed as my mind raced between comparing notes with everyone else via social media and thinking about all those who had experienced loss from natural disasters. If this little bit of flooding created such a battle in our own souls, how must those who experienced losing everything, even loved ones, in flooding or tornadoes - how must they have felt! How much loss and heartbreak and struggle. The magnitude here is not catastrophic, but loss is loss. Pruning is painful. We realized our attachments, though not un-noble in nature. The books the Hubs lost are all theology and Scripture related.

Yet...they are things. We had a lot of things we lost. It is not a small thing to realize that part of that is maybe because we have too many things. Things others could use. (No, Hubs, I'm not speaking of your books. You may keep breathing.) If this is the worst loss we go through in our lives, then we can truly consider ourselves lucky.

Now we begin the task of cleaning up and trimming down. There are still lessons to be learned and frustrations to be managed. In the end, this whole ordeal definitely stinks - quite literally - but we have a lot to be thankful for most certainly. More on that in the second installment.

You know your jealous of my newly found style. J to the Lous.

The start of the great dump. We've already had pickers come through,
some from our own block. You've gotta be kiddin' me... Well, hey,
if you want sewage infested goods, go right ahead, knock yourself out.

For now, it's time to get back to business.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

SQT: Bizarro World, ToddlerStrong, Bathroom Talk, Breakfast, & the Quest for Simplicity

I'm going to start with what is making me speechless. These headlines:

Report from Iraq: families throwing children from a mountain to keep them from terrorists.
ISIS Beheading Children in Iraq
I can't. I just can't read it anymore. So I hear we are taking action finally. I wish I were more optimistic about the outcome of that. For now I just join in prayer for our truly persecuted brothers and sisters. It looks like the US Bishops have chosen August 17th as our national day of prayers for Iraqi (and Syrian) Christians under attack. Let us continue to pray every day and join together as one body in Christ with all our Christian brothers and sisters to pray the devil back to hell. We know God's promises are lasting, so let's grab on and go forth with bold expectations of what He will do for us if we ask in faith.

We had family photos taken on Wednesday. Did I mention that our children do NOT like to simultaneously look at the camera and smile on command? Poor Katie. I do believe that we witnessed a miracle as she got more than one photo with everyone looking at the camera. Now to sit down with the Hubs and decide which of those two maybe three photos will the winner!

When we pulled into the church where we had our photos taken, there were the most beautiful sunflowers. I'm a sucker for sunflowers. Unfortunately, the lighting and the toddlers did not cooperate for a family photo with them.

I"m not really sure what led to a meltdown of epic proportions Wednesday night (I blame ridiculous bedtime antics by all little creatures). Let's just say there was a baaaad episode. The kind where one half of my mind is diving into the darkest, deepest waters and the other half is smacking that half around saying "get it together - you know better!" There were moments where I was simply just upset with myself for not having moved past all this and wondering whether there would ever be a time where I would just keep it together. Through the sobs, I started reading my devotional which pretty much hit right where it hurt, but in a good way. I couldn't tell you now what it was that I prayed - I'm not sure there was any conscious and calculated prayer at all. I just know that while I was still a bit on the funky cold medina side the next morning, I also kept coming across things that served to remind me that there is struggle on this wild ride we are on, but that God remains with us. As I was driving in to work, what popped into my head was that it was not such a bad thing that I am a mess. It's better that I get frustrated with myself than simply coast through live without a care. It is actually good that I am restless, even if I'm not all that young.

We are in full toddler swing around here. Heaping helpings of "no!" and "I do it MYSELF!" and screaming followed by flopping on the floor. I wish I could tell you which child it was, but I am afraid it is both of them. We have started simply giving them five minutes in isolation, but I don't know how well it is working. The house is such, that these end up being in their bedrooms many times, and I know I don't want them to associate their bedrooms with punishment. Any thoughts out there? Tried and true solutions that have worked? As long as I'm in the asking mood, how about battling potty training? We are mostly there with the three year old, but she will NOT, I repeat NOT, sit on the toilet and stink it up, if you know what I mean. Our bathroom is really too small for her to have her own potty seat, and she has gone on more than one occasion before. She just will not do it now. Ever. Without all antics mentioned above. Oh, and school starts in three weeks. To quote the Beatles, "HELP!"

While many of you are in a panic with the start of another homeschooling year, we are biting our nails as we approach creating a new routine when Gia starts pre-school. Hubs is back to work on Monday, and she starts after Labor Day. I'm exciting and nervous at the same time. We are not early risers around here, and school starts at 8:15. Also, this makes me feel like I need to ante up as a mom. So far it's been small potatoes. Now begins that phase of classroom treats, teacher conferences, possibly school friends and parties...much bigger stakes! I can't wait to see how she blossoms as she enters the classroom. We are raising a nerd, fo' sho'!

Looking ahead to earlier mornings and possibly better habits, I have one word: breakfast. I have a hate/hate relationship with breakfast. I'm more a fan of second breakfast. (Can you have a second breakfast if you didn't really partake of the first?) So...I need your help again. What are some easy peasy lemon squeezy (but not real lemons) savory, healthy breakfasts? It is a rare morning where I can wolf down the sweet stuff. I've been thinking about getting some quinoa and keeping that in the fridge like a savory oatmeal-ish dish. Maybe mixing in some eggs and spinach. But variety. I needeth variety. And simplicity. Mama is not at her best in the wee hours of the morn (which is defined as anything before 9 a.m.). Grazie!!

Last, but not least...well kind of least...I have finally dug into Jen Hatmaker's book, 7. I had started it months ago, but was clearly not ready. Now, I am ready. Well, more ready. Have any of your read her book? Have you followed suit with her exercises in curbing excess? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences! In the interest of full disclosure, I'm still in the middle of the first chapter on food and only a few days into reading. I'm intrigued though. Much praying and discerning, but I am ready to start climbing out of my excess. I haven't broached this with the Hubs yet to extend it to the whole family. Oh, husbaaaand.......!

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

It Is Good That We Are Restless

I'm not sure where along the way I was sold the idea that to live a happy, successful, meaningful life, it would be a life of ease and constant peace - that there would be no moments of disappointment, of failure, no dark nights of the soul, no torment, no toil. Yet somehow I have realized this was the lie I was sold, or bought hook, line, and sinker. This is the lie that makes it possible for the enemy to take the smallest interruption, the tiniest frustration, and unsettle my soul enough to listen to the rest of his lies and become distraught.

This is the lie that makes us believe that we are so far beyond God's help, God's desire, God's love - the lie that there is nothing redeemable about us because we are such a hot mess most of the bloody time. This is the lie that feeds on the sugar of comparison, comparison between what we perceive to be others' lives and comparison between our fantastical expectations and the real-reality of our lives. 

And yet...that restlessness that we sometimes feel might pull us under and drown us once and for all? That restlessness is such a good thing. That restlessness, that struggle, that toil, that dark night - it all means we are in a good place. We are longing for something more, something better, and that is so very good. A placid complacency is a sign of spiritual death, of the death of an abundant life. These torrents, these storms? While they are undesirable in the moment, and can often display our own spiritual immaturity or human fragility, they are gleaming signs that we desire something more. We desire that constant peace. We desire tranquility. We desire to choose good all of the time. We desire to act in love with every breath. We desire Him.

This is the tension of a life separated from the one who created us. This is the tension of living in a fallen world. St. Augustine knew it so well and forever immortalized his words that would echo truth in the heart of every person seeking that eternal union for all of time - "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." 

We strive to lay our hearts at rest within His, or rather to make a home for His heart within our own. In the trials of life, in the moments of darkness, we fail. It is not the end of the world. Sometimes it is embarrassing, but it is not fatal as long as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, or know to reach out to have someone help pull us up and clean us off. Eyes on the cross and not on the others on that same road to Calvary - comparison is not only the death of joy, it is also a dangerous steep edge on the brink of a downward spiral into darkness. 

So we struggle arm in arm with those who God has put along our path to help us along, all a beautiful dance. Sometimes we pull ahead, sometimes we are the ones behind, sometimes we are lifted high, sometimes we are dragged along the ground, but arms linked, we head into the rest of the One who made us all. 

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Five Favorites: Glitter, Glam, & The Holy Family

It has been a long, long while since I've been tickling the electronic not-so-ivories for a five favorites post. Since we have been soaking in all of our short summer vacation, I haven't really been in search of or just stumbled across anything worth mentioning. Now that we've had a whole summer worth of bumming around, I've collected enough new favorites to join in the fun again!

Sally Hansen Orange Glitter Nailpolish
Target Clearance

I'm not usually a fan of nailpolish on my hands, but it's summer vacation so I threw all caution to the wind! Plus it was on clearance so if I hated it, I wasn't out a five or ten spot. I love it. It's just the right blend of semi-sheer color with complementary sparkle. Almost looks gold, but it is orange with iridescent glitter. Very fun for vacation, though not the most durable for extended wear - the tips started to fade pretty quickly with all the activity. Still love it for a fun change of pace!

Purple Sequin Kicks
Meijer Clearance

$10! I just couldn't say no - I JUST COULDN'T! They're an off brand, but really quite comfortable. Brainiac me wore them out of the box on our first day of vacation where we walked around town for a couple hours. The only thing that was uncomfortable was the friction on the back end of the shoe, and that's my fault entirely for not breaking them in first and wearing higher socks. Other than that, they are really comfortable to walk in, so that was another clearance win!

Antique/Vintage "Turquoise" Earrings
from mom's jewelry box

These have been sitting around our jewelry boxes for decades, just waiting for someone to wear them. I went through my "I don't wear garish jewelry, mom," phase and swore them off, but she left them with me a few years ago, and I've been eyeing them ever since. Now that I'm quite comfortable with "louder" accessories, they don't seem garish at all. I paired them today with the orange dress mentioned below and a jean jacket.

Contemporary Icons 

We put up an icon wall in our home, and it's been at a standstill since a few months ago. Clearly we cannot keep getting icons ad infinitum, but it still looks like we need a little more variety up there to fill up the space (as was intended when I designed it!). When we were at Baker Books in Grand Rapids, a friend of the Hubs who works there was giving us a tour of their Catholic section and while the Hubs was perusing all the Bible aids and books, mama's eyes went directly to this and the rest of the artwork they had. Teresa Kogut is a Michigan based folk artist, and the pieces they had were ah-mazing. I'm forever looking for pieces that stray from the traditional icons as we build this space, and her work fits the bill and is beyond affordable.

Crochet & Knit Maxi Dress
from Target

I love the little detail of the crochet on this dress. It actually hits high enough on the neckline that, while a tank or cami would make me more comfortable, it's not entirely necessary. The back is a slight racer-back, though, so an appropriate bra would be called for if you don't want to cover with a jacket/sweater and don't want straps showing. I covered with a jean jacket for our family photos today and think it worked well. We will see when the proofs come in, of course!!

Find yourself some more gotta-have-'em favorites as well as some warm wit 'n' wisdom over at Hallie's!

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Confessions of a Non-Edel-er

I have a confession to make. It's not a secret confession if you've followed my lately not-so-active blog. I really wanted to go to Edel (an in-person gathering organized by Hallie & Jen + company in Austin for Catholic mamas and bloggers). I didn't go. My whole affair with the Edel Gathering read something like a 12 Step program. Get ready to enter the crazy in my head!

Step 1: See mention of possible gathering and feel like that high school nerd again, super excited for even a chance to go hang out with the cool kids.

Step 2: See actual details of Edel and then see price tag.

Step 3: Lament as to why airlines cannot still have round-trip, cross-country fares for under $200 like back in the good old days.

Step 4: Try to figure out total cost and see if there can be any possible justification for spending $500+ on a mini-vacation for one.

Step 5: Decide it is too selfish and way over budget to attend given the cost. Besides, tickets are sold-out by now anyway, because you know - everyone wants to hang out with the cool kids.

Step 6: Forget about Edel for a while...mostly.

Step 7: Find out that there are some mamas who are trying to unload their tickets because things came up and they cannot attend.

Step 8: Work through all the numbers and possibilities again to see if there is any chance to find a last minute way to get to Austin at minimal cost. Realize that you cannot justify shortchanging one of these mamas who paid full price and trip will still be way too much and now on short notice to the family.

Step 9: Make other plans for that weekend so as not to become a crazy Edel-attendee stalker with moderate success.

Step 10: Peruse #edel14 tag on Twitter and the 'Gram. Feel heartbroken when you hear "it is good that you are here," because, well, you're not. Throw a mini-pity-party with the world's smallest violin. Get angry with self for not going.

Step 11: Read recaps of the weekend and cry on the inside, because your soul really needed that. Alas, also realize that "it is good that you are here" relates to wherever you are, because God is working his glory in those moments too. But still...

Step 12: The light bulb pops on. Realize that because your soul really needed that, it probably was in reality less a frivolous use of money on a short self-vacation, and more an investment in yourself as a wife, mother, and woman in an isolating world. (Thanks Cate for your recap - it definitely helped me reach this little "aha!" moment.)

The moral of the story - I am saving my pennies starting now to make it a possibility to attend in the future if I can score a ticket. Not because my friends and family aren't enough, but because sometimes you need the community of kindred souls who aren't engrossed in your daily life to help lend a hand and draw you out of the mire. Thanks to all of you who have shared how God moved in your spirit during the gathering so those of us far away could experience the fruit of the weekend as well.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Simple Sunday Snapshot: August 3

Brothers and sisters:

What will separate us from the love of Christ? 
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? 
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us. 
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

What a reading to take into the week with us. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from God's love through Christ Jesus. This is one of those passages that was a "love at first sight" verse, but not until I just sat with it to prepare my heart for Mass tomorrow did the magnitude of this promise hit me. {Yes, I have finally started pre-reading and praying with the Scriptures now - chasing/shooshing two toddlers at Mass doesn't really provide much time for deep reflection, after all, so necessity has led me to what I should have been doing all along.}

I digress. Back to this reading - God loves you NO MATTER WHAT. God's love is there, waiting, regardless of our response. If we believe, His love is there. If we don't believe, His love is still there. If we don't believe He could possibly love us because of our fears, faults, and failings, His love remains steadfast for us. Nothing can separate us from His love. All we can do is turn away from it, and even still, His love waits for us faithfully. 

Sitting with this reality presents me a challenge. In my own spirit, it is a challenge to lay aside the magnifying glass that amplifies all the reasons I am not worthy of God's love and just accept Him at His Word. He has made me and He loves me. In my actions, I am challenged to love without strings attached. In the face of disrespect, betrayal, hurt, and anger, I am challenged to continue loving. I am challenged to remain open to allow Jesus to love with abandon through me. That is quite the tall order for this all-too-human gal some days. Two steps forward and one step back is still forward progress, though, so we keep trying in faith. 

Here is hoping the week ahead is filled with ample reminders of God's undying love for you, and grace to keep loving as He does.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

SQT: Drive-Through Confessions, Demons, and Diving into Summer Vacation Without a Stop at Edel

Why is it that I have the most inspiration to write at times when it is nearly impossible? Like at 3AM when the kid is up and my mind starts racing. Or in the shower. Or really any time except the moments I have to clickity-clack away at the keyboard. Here's this week's edition of quick takes from Casa McCormick!

Nothing like a little confession for the soul on a First Friday. We are fortunate to have the Solanus Casey Center near our home where confession is served 6 times a day, 7 days a week. Unfortunately, my last two experiences have been more like a drive-through than a seven course meal of forgiveness and reconciliation. The last time I went, I had to interrupt the priest who had started in on the rite of absolution before I had actually finished my confession because I paused for one second to think. This time I barely got everything out (and didn't get to the whole "any anything else that offends God that I don't yet recognize" part) before the priest began. I'm thinking I might have to suck it up and start going to a parish, if only they had convenient times for the Sacrament. Saturdays a half hour before Mass really doesn't cut it for us regulars, yo.

It would also make sense that the minute we leave the confessional, the devil starts in on us, this time in the guise of adorable little children who have lost their bleeping minds. They were SO GOOD in church and while we were praying and in confession. The minute the warm summer breeze hit their little bodies, bam! Toddler antics ahoy! Senses of hearing are lost, vocal abilities leading to whines and screams and choruses of "no!" are not. Ok, so maybe it was mostly the three year old, but somewhere in there the two year old lost his cool as well. A lovely older man offered him a cookie from his shop at the farmer's market, though, and all was well again. God bless him and all those who get it and make life a little easier with upset children.

Speaking of the devil, Sherry Weddell shared a post by Fr. Dwight Longenecker about treating demonic infection that I found to be most helpful. First, I LOVE the reference to this as "demonic infection" - it isn't the gore and drama of possession and exorcism, but rather points to a spiritual sickness that can be caused by the pestering of evil, such as a sin we just can't seem to kick to the curb.

That said, I hate that we are so scared to talk about demons, as though mere talk of them will bring about their presence . . . To quote Hermione, "fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself." Or worse yet, we hesitate to admit a truth that culture seems to ignore - demons DO exist, regardless of how much the modern world would like to believe they do not.We all know in the Christian life there is a battle between good and evil. That means evil exists. We should also know with certainty that Christ has defeated the enemy - the war has been won, though the battles are ongoing in this life. Why enter into battle with blinders on, or with fear, when we have Christ on our side? Here is an excerpt from his post with concrete steps I found to be extremely helpful when you find yourself with a pesky demon on your shoulder or in habitual sin that you just can't shake:

One of the simple ways to deal with the problem is for an intentional use of holy water and the Lords’ Prayer. I instruct individuals to pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly with an emphasis and focus on the phrase “Deliver Us From Evil”. If the issue is an overpowering temptation to continue in sin then also pray the Lord’s Prayer with a focus on “Lead Us Not Into Temptation.”
Wearing or displaying a St Benedict Cross (a crucifix with the St Benedict medal embedded in it) is a sacramental that can have strong effects. Seeing it and remembering and reciting the Latin phrase “vade retro satana” (Get Back Satan) which is engraved on the medal helps to counter the infection.
When they enter church and cross themselves with holy water I encourage them to repeat quietly, “Deliver Us From Evil.” or “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”. It is also helpful to give a name to the difficulty and imagine it as being an infection and the prayers and holy water as being a kind of medicine that fights off the infection. Just as an infection is battled with a course of antibiotics and the doctor tells you to take the whole treatment, so demonic infection will often take a period of time to really take effect. If the sin is deeply rooted because of a long standing habit, then the cure will also take some time to take effect. If the roots are deep in a person’s life they are not pulled out quickly and easily.

On a MUCH lighter note, we are cramming the fun into our summer vacation! We got a bit of a late start with the Hubs having some commitments the few weeks after school got out and a family reunion over the July 4th weekend. Nothing wrong with a little late blooming, right? Last weekend, while many of you mamas were whooping it up at Edel (more thoughts on that later), we were on a train. Not to Clarksville, mind you, but  short jaunt on a local railroad. It was the kids' first time on a train outside of the zoo, and while we had window seats, we landed in the outdoor car as our seats were taken. This ended up being far more fun for the kids, and gave me a chance to get some photos for Judah's 2 year old photos, and some unplanned portraits of Gia as well. If you're looking for a fun little outing in Southeast(ish) Michigan, we would definitely recommend the Southern Michigan Railroad!

After a little locomotion, we headed off to Grand Rapids for a quick overnight vacation. We both know people in and from the area who rave about this little city, and I am happy to say that they are not fibbers! Our first stop was at the Fredrik Meijer Gardens, which were on our way into the city. They have a fantastic Children's Garden, where the kids can enter through a small "mouse door," play with boats on a miniature Great Lakes, dig up some treasures in a great sand pit, enjoy story time, climb a treehouse, and navigate a labyrinth just their size with hidden treasures among wrong turns. We were only there for a couple of hours, but I could definitely see spending an entire day there, and if we were in the Grand Rapids area, many a day.

When we checked into our hotel, we were surprised with a "kids eat free" policy at their restaurant - jackpot! So we lunched up and attempted a horribly failed attempt at naptime at the hotel. Calling it a fail, we headed downtown to walk around and on up to St. Andrew Cathedral, which was beautiful. One thing that really struck me was the interesting juxtaposition of the revitalization that Grand Rapids has experienced - we were clearly walking through an art district with galleries and studios - and a population that is still very much in need, as evidenced by the homeless sleeping on stoops and free clinics and ministries to the homeless that were interspersed along our walk. It was fascinating to experience. I'm sure there will be more that comes from reflecting on that.

We also happened to roll into town on Meijer Free Tuesdays at the GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum), so we were able to meander through there quickly before meeting up with a friend of mine from high school and part of her clan for dinner.

Last year was the 20th class reunion of the class I would have graduated with had I not made a beeline on out of high school a year early. We didn't make it due to a late start on our bathroom renovation and I'm not sure what anymore. Mostly the remodel delay, I think, though undoubtedly there was a little social anxiety of returning to high school that factored into that decision.

I am so thankful that I got over my social anxiety enough to see if Jill would be in town and wanted to meet us at some point when we were visiting Grand Rapids. My anxiety, of course, made me feel like we were imposing, but she made it clear that wasn't the case. We enjoyed a great dinner and the kids enjoyed being kids, filled with silliness from all ends, and mooching off plates from our child. Our apologies - we really are not raising wolves. Really. Thanks for making us feel like "old" friends (not indicative of our ages, of course).

My children have yet to master the "pose & smile" portion
of taking photos.

Speaking of social gatherings, I was not able to attend Edel this year. And by "not able," I mean, I didn't go because I thought it was too expensive. As I've been watching all the photos and posts pop up, there have been many emotions rolling through me. I'm still trying to figure them all out, but to Jennifer and Hallie - I think the reach of what you have created has extended far beyond the walls of the Omni, no doubt by designing something that involved the virtual being brought into the physical realm, only to be sent back out to the virtual. I have more thoughts, and will hopefully be able to articulate them over the next several days. Here's hoping for a second chance to attend in person next year, and thanks to all you who did go for sharing your experiences so openly!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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