Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In the struggle...

It is in the struggle that we are made holy. 

My spiritual director reminds me of this regularly.

These are truly words to live by.  They are words that sustain me MANY days.  

But, I hate that they are so true.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A season of LIFE!

            This weekend was the official beginning of Fall!  Of course, in my neck of the woods, that doesn’t mean a whole lot.  After all, it is 87 degrees out as I write this at 7 p.m.  Fall in Florida doesn’t necessarily mean cooler weather and it doesn’t ever mean beautiful Fall colors on the trees.  Maybe that is why I am not thinking about the changing of the season so much anyway.  I find myself thinking more about the upcoming election and the changes that might mean for us.  And, I find myself thinking about the issue of abortion in this country.  

I do not know how the election will go.  I honestly try not to think about it too much lest I lose sleep and/or cause myself an ulcer.  As I try to avoid all things political for the next 7 weeks or so, I will be focusing on more positive pursuits instead.  Because two important things come in the Fall that should set our minds and our prayers on the sanctity of life and the importance of fighting for it.

            First is 40 days for Life.  The kick off in my diocese is this coming Tuesday.  We will begin with a prayer vigil at my Church and the prayers will then continue for 40 days in front of the local abortion “clinic” where volunteers will stand every day and offer their heartfelt prayers for an end to abortion and for the many victims of that sinful “choice” in this country.  40 days for Life has become an annual tradition for my family and this year will be no different. 

            Then, October is respect life month.  A whole month, probably not coincidentally the final month leading up to the election, we will focus on promoting a culture of life and spreading the word about respecting the gift of life from the womb to the tomb.  A message this country REALLY needs!

            In honor of this season of promoting and celebrating the gift of life, I want to share a little excerpt from my novel.  Normally, I do not use my blog posts to plug my book but because this issue is so close to my heart and because I want to do all I can to fight for a culture of life and because my novel is ALL about living out pro-life values, I think it is only appropriate…..  So here is just a tiny peek at The Life I Dreamed,  a pro-life Catholic story that will hopefully warm your heart and inspire you to spread the message that life is a gift and children are a blessing:

“Emmy, I am afraid she will have an abortion.  She doesn’t want her mom to find out.  I was thinking maybe if we went with her to tell her mom.  Maybe if she felt she had some support she would make the right decision.”  

“When are we going to do that?” I asked thinking realistically about the logistics of such a talk.  “When do you think we can find the time to sit down with this girl and her mom and have a long heart-to-heart about her future?  And, really, do you want to get in the middle of this family’s tragedy?  It isn’t really our place, and besides we have the kids, and they certainly can’t tag along for that.”

“I don’t know Emmy, but she needs somebody to be on her side.  She needs somebody to help her out and I don’t think there is anybody else.”  Now it was Jason's turn to shrug his shoulders.........

I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind as best I could.  At the store, I concentrated instead on filling the grocery cart without emptying our bank account.  I added up each item on my pocket calculator just as I did every week, and carefully chose my purchases to stay within our budget.  When Marie asked for pop-tarts and Jane begged for the cereal with marshmallows I explained impatiently that those things weren’t on the list but the whole time I shopped my mind was on Kaila Noble.  I still could not really picture her yet in my mind, I imagined a young blond girl alone, scared and worried, and still trying to pretend everything was fine in front of her mom and her friends.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe she did need someone; though I was quite sure we were not the best ones for the job....

 The book is available in its entirety from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle edition
If you live in the Tampa Bay area and can get the book from me personally, I also have brand new paperback copies available at a discounted price.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Taking over my whole house

            Before I started home schooling, I talked to a lot of people.  I had one friend who I talked to the most about the realities of home schooling.  Her family was in their second year of school at home.  They were giving it their best shot but my friend was struggling a little with the challenges of it all.  She ultimately sent her children back to school halfway through that year.  Even though home schooling did not work for her family, my conversations with her about it were valuable and thought provoking.  One of the many things she struggled with and warned me against was that home schooling took over not only her time and energy but also her home.  “I never get away from it,” she said pointing to the cluttered book shelf in the corner of her kitchen and the two little school desks next to their dining table.

            When I began home schooling a few years later, I remembered my friend’s words and set up a classroom in our spare bedroom where we could put all our books and our own little desks.  Our classroom worked out nicely.  When it was school time we would retreat to our room and I could block out any distractions like dishes to be washed or laundry to be folded and concentrate only on teaching my children.  When school was over for the day, I could close the door and shut the school clutter away out of sight.
            When we welcomed our beautiful fifth child, I vowed to keep my classroom as long as possible, figuring our three girls could share a room for years to come.  Things did not work out as I had planned.  Our baby did not sleep well and we decided that “extra” room would be put to much better use as a bedroom than a classroom.  So out came the school stuff and in went a bed and dresser for our oldest daughter, while the little one took her place with our middle daughter.  

            All of the sudden, I was in the place my friend had warned me about.  The back of our family room became our school room and I no longer had a door to shut away all the clutter and supplies that go along with teaching 5 kids at home.   The walls of my family room have slowly been taken over by the children's art work.  The books and papers we use during school time find their way to the end table and the couch and are often underfoot on the floor too.  The kitchen, right next to our family/class room, is full of papers and books and pencils as well.  Our school stuff is everywhere, all the time.   

            When I attempt to entertain adults at my house, I wonder if I should apologize for the school books and worksheets that try to pass for décor and the construction paper and glue pictures that masquerade as great works of art.   Should I pretend that I meant to decorate in the style of “early American first grade classroom”, or should I admit I just have no control over the constantly multiplying school stuff that encroaches on all areas of life these days?

            The funny thing is- I don’t actually mind it all so much.  Our life is education and home schooling is our life.  I don’t really mind the kid’s art projects on the family room wall or the books they are currently reading mounting in unsteady, tilting piles on the end table.  Actually, I love that our home is a place of learning and if evidence of that abounds, that is okay with me.  

I have found that, for us, it is convenient to have school in the family room and there is something very cozy about washing the dishes or folding the laundry while the kids work on their assignments nearby.  My decorating has always been much more functional than picturesque and my home has always been just a little bit lived in anyway.   So, though that old warning from my well-meaning friend has certainly proven to be true, it turns out, I did not need it after all….never getting away from my children’s learning doesn't really bother me a bit.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another year....

            Tomorrow my first born child will turn 14 years old.  I am not usually the overly emotional weepy type, but for some reason the anniversary of my first child’s birth always brings tears to my eyes.  For me, there is no day, no moment, more significant in life to measure the passing of time, than the day I first became a mother.  It was on that day that I finally looked into the eyes of my own child and on that day that I first held in my arms a tiny vulnerable little person who would depend completely on me to care for her.   That was the first day of having to rise to the challenge of daily sacrificing my own wants and needs for that of another.  I’m pretty sure, it was not until that day, that I truly started to grow up and mature, though I had already been an adult for several years and married for nearly two.

             I think about how utterly unqualified I was for the job of mother and how naïve I was about what it truly meant to be my daughter’s mother.  I think about how I held that little baby in my arms not really realizing the enormity of the task before me of raising her to be a good, godly young lady and teaching her about life and the world around us.  

I think about her infancy and her toddler years and the day she went off to pre-school.  I remember all the mistakes I have made and the moments I have lost my temper and been impatient and then I remember how young we both were- my daughter and I, and how we have learned so much together over the years.  She has often been more patient with me than I have been with her and she has forgiven my many mistakes and shortcomings countless times over the years.  Perhaps the thing I have done best was to be imperfect, showing my daughter that we can only do our best and rely on God to make something good of us.  

At 14, my daughter continues to be a beautiful, sweet young lady with very little teenage angst.  It was this past year that, finally, she surpassed me in height.  I can still not always believe when I look at her, that in such a short time, the blink of an eye really, that tiny baby I once held in my arms, that once grew within my womb, is now bigger than I am and looking down on me.  Parenthood is so surreal and if I hadn’t really been around for every moment of it, I am quite sure I could not really believe it had happened, that my baby girl has grown up so quickly and so beautifully.

As we celebrate the gift of our first born tomorrow, my heart will be filled with both sorrow and joy.  Sorrow that the years go way too quickly and joy that I have been given the blessing of not having to miss even a minute of them.  Sorrow that I have not been a more perfect mother and joy that I must have done some things right along the way, because my child is truly a blessing to many people. Sorrow that I can no longer hold my little girl in my arms and that she doesn’t need me in the same ways she used to and joy that she is still willing to hug me and hang out with me and turn to me for advice and companionship and that she still recognizes her need for me in many ways.

I have learned that motherhood is often about letting go, and I hate that- 

but as each year I must let go a little more…..

I realize anew how privileged I am 

to see my beautiful child grow a little more 

and blossom a little more

and every year she continues to impress me and remind me 

                how blessed I am to be her mother. 
 photo credit: <a href="">Pink Sherbet Photography</a> via <a href="">photo pin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


This past weekend we took our VERY first family vacation-- just for fun, just the seven of us.  All our previous vacations have been either to visit our extended family, or with our extended family.   This time, we took off for a long weekend, just our own little family, across the state of Florida to see St. Augustine, the oldest city in the country.   Preserving our family memories is one of the main reasons I started blogging in the first place.  I figured if I am going to record our memories anyway, I might as well share them.

The kids and I prepared for the trip for weeks ahead of time, reading stories of old St. Augustine and looking at old maps.  As a home schooling family, there was no way we could let the trip pass without turning it into a hands-on learning experience.  As I hoped, our trip turned out to be part history lesson, part relaxing vacation- and, most importantly, all family fun!

We got to visit the Castillo de San Marcos fort built in the late 1600’s of coquina stone to protect the Spanish settlers from attacks by the British, unfriendly Indians, and pirates.  The fort has stood the test of time and the kids LOVED checking it out so much that we ended up there three times- stopping in each day of our trip.   The kids were able to earn Jr. Park Ranger badges and certificates, experience the “soldiers” firing the cannons twice, and see where the settlers lived, worked, slept, attended Mass, and more when forced to retreat to the fort for safety when under siege.   I have a million pictures but will only share a couple.

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, FL
Tim and the kids found a place to sit and work on their Jr. Park Ranger packets
Firing the cannon!
We also got to visit the Mission of Nombre de Dios that includes the Shrine to Our Lady of La Leche.  Tim and I had visited it once before, back in 2009, just weeks after finding out we were expecting our fifth child.  That first time we went, it was a very spiritual experience being there and hearing about the story behind the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche while newly pregnant myself.  I felt that going back in 2012, and taking our now three-year-old “baby” along, was almost like a pilgrimage of thanksgiving for the blessing of our beautiful youngest girl.  The children enjoyed seeing the 208 foot cross erected at the sight of Menendez’s landing back in 1565 and seeing the rustic altar that commemorates our country’s very first Mass. 

There is so much I wish I could write about how I felt visiting the Mission and seeing, first hand, so much of the beginnings of the Catholic faith in our country.  I would even just love to share what a gift a family vacation was for us, but there is so little time to just sit and write and so much thought that I would want to go into such a post… here is an overview of the rest of the trip…….

We went to Mass at the nation’s first parish in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. The kids got to play on the portion of the town wall that still stands and walk through the old city gates.  We spent some time on St. George Street- checking out the touristy shops and the old buildings.  We even got a personal tour of one of the old houses- the Pena-Peck house, run these days by the St. Augustine Women’s Exchange.  We got to go to the Ponce de Leon hotel built by Henry Flagler and now a part of the college that bears his name.  We got to visit the St. Augustine lighthouse and Tim and the older children went all the way up the 219 steps to the top to enjoy the gorgeous view of the city.  My children, who have all lived in Florida their entire lives finally got to see and stick their toes in a real ocean (the Atlantic Ocean is not very different than the Gulf of Mexico which we see almost daily but still everyone should get to see an actual ocean!)  We toured the Whetstone Chocolate factory (my oldest daughter’s very favorite part of the trip); we swam in the hotel pool, laughed and giggled together over silly little things, and enjoyed and appreciated the fun of being together, seeing a little more of our home state, and having a break from our busy schedules. 


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