Monday, December 10, 2012

Game On!

      Last night a friend mentioned reading one of my posts on here.  "Oh yeah," I thought, "I have a blog."  I started this blog after a confession when a priest told me to take the time to do something for myself.  I can't say that I love to write, but I do find it therapeutic, so this blog is what I came up with.  I am not exactly sure what my purpose of my blog is, but it has served as a good place for me to reflect on some of the things that dominate my crazy world, and I do find sorting those things out to help bring peace.  I am also certain that some of the same struggles I go through, others have gone through, or know someone who has gone through, and it helps to know you are not alone.  So here it is.  It has been so long since I have even written anything, that I don't know where to even start.  So you 1 or 2 people who happen to stumble upon this, can sit back and prepare for a ramble, I guess.
     I got a little too personal in my last post and the thought of writing again made my stomach turn.  Most likely because I was shining a giant spotlight on my own sins.  Pride.  It's lovely, isn't it?  I am happy to report that all is still going well on THAT battlefront.  Unfortunately the enemy has changed his tactic and is now attacking from another angle.  I've been hit by the lazy bug.  "Hit" may be too light of a word.  Stampeded, is probably much more suitable.  A few weeks ago my husband woke up one morning, looked up at the sun shining through our bedroom window, and said, "We're in a snow globe."  It was a great joke around here for a few weeks.  I tried desperately to make up for my weeks of neglect which had caused the "snow"storm to rear its' ugly head.  Eventually I threw in the towel, or rather the dust rag, and decided the snow globe was actually quite beautiful.  Or so I tried to convince myself.
     So my gluttony has been traded in for sloth.  As for all of my efforts in limiting my internet time by deactivating my facebook account...well, that worked very well, for a short time.  You see, what comes with a change in dress size?  New clothes.  Online browsing/shopping is my latest internet addiction. With all of the great sales going on right now, it does make financial sense to buy what I really do need, for a discount.  I am almost done.  Just some dress pants, and I am good to go.  So I am hoping that the fact that I am on to his little game, will help me to get back on track soon. 
   Praise God!  Sloth and internet addiction:  Prepare for battle!!  After months of praying for help, today was the day He decided to step in and let the sun shine brightly in my soul.  I am guessing His mother had something to do with this.  Thanks, Mama!  :)  Today I am filled with energy, peace, and patience.  The laundry is almost ALL done.  Seriously, that does NOT happen in this house.  The dishes are done.  The kids had a great school day.  The floor is swept.  AND, the biggest hurdle of all...I am NOT freaking out and feeling overwhelmed by all the other areas of house keeping neglect that are proof of my sin.  Game on!  I am ready to tackle those sins, because the troops have arrived!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Facing My Own Addictions

     A while back I wrote about my brother's drug addiction click here.  Several people contacted me privately and commented on how they had never thought of the spiritual dimension of addiction that I proposed in the post.  Well, I have a confession to make.  The reason I "get" the ins and outs of his addiction is that I struggle with my own addictions.  My whole analogy of the game the addict and the devil play, came not from me trying to figure out his problems, but first from looking at my own sins and trying to wrap my mind around what I continually keep allowing myself to go through.
    Hello, my name is Little Catholic Mama, and I am addicted to eating too much (junk food in particular) and the computer (facebook in particular).   The computer addiction is a little easier to deal with than the eating so I am going to focus on the eating in this post.   After all, as St. Augustine said, "Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation,” and you HAVE to eat!  As for facebook, I have simply deactivated my account! 
     I have gone up and down the scale with every pregnancy, birth, and in between, for the past 10 years.  I realize this does not sound uncommon, and most likely to most people looking at me from the outside my addiction is not really that noticeable.  After all, I have had 5 pregnancies in 10 years.  Most women's body's DO change a lot during these years.  However, anyone who has paid close attention will note that unlike most women, I LOSE the weight very quickly after pregnancy and GAIN the weight back until I get pregnant again.  Just the opposite of what happens to a "normal" woman's body.  To put things into perspective, 6 months after our second child was born, I was a size 2. By the time I was pregnant with our 3rd child I was a size 12.  While my friends are worried about gaining weight WITH a pregnancy, I am worried about how much weight I am going to gain if I never get pregnant again.  I know.  Pretty messed up.  I take care of myself and my babies when I am pregnant, and it all falls apart when it's just me, taking care of me.
     So, while my food addiction is perfectly legal, it is ever bit as damaging to my soul, to my body, and to my well-being in general, as my brother's drug addiction.  I began our last pregnancy at my highest non-pregnant weight ever.  Having gone through a previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes, and knowing that I had put on a lot of weight between pregnancies, I started testing my blood sugar right away.  I was in tears and complete misery and remorse because the numbers were so high.  I couldn't believe what I had done to myself and possibly to our baby after PROMISING myself that I would eat better after the gestational diabetes.  So there's that rock bottom with the pathetic addict begging for help, and I was.  I was begging God, "PLEEASE, please, just let this baby be healthy, and I WILL NOT eat the junk anymore."  With God's help, I did great with my diet and the pregnancy.  I counted every carb and after the 1st trimester my blood glucose numbers were lower and a bit easier to manage.  In fact, when the 28 week glucose screening came along, I passed it.  Barely, but I passed.  I continued to carefully watch everything I ate, our baby was born healthy, and I quickly started dropping the pounds.  I also quickly forgot how enslaved I had been to the sugary foods and it wasn't long before I thought I had it licked and every now and then I would allow myself to indulge in an extra piece of cake, or ice cream.  Before long, every now and then turned into everyday, and everyday turned into, "I NEED THIS NOW...I DESERVE THIS."  My pants and skirts got tighter and once again I pulled out my "big me" clothes, and I was/am now at that point where I was/am in so much bondage to the sin of gluttony that it even becomes difficult to ask God for help.  It is difficult because I KNOW He will help and I am so attached to the sin and don't want to let go. (Notice how my conversations became "me" centered.  I was no longer asking for God's help, but seeking what would satisfy ME).
     This IS the devil's game, and even though I realize this, even though I am hitting back with the Sacrament of Confession, Mass, daily seeking God's help, the understanding of what I am up against, and knowing I can't do this on my own, I am still losing the battle.  I have the Sacraments, I have the knowledge that I need to seek God's help, and still I am losing.  How much more difficult must it be for my brother, who has none of these things?  He does not even know what he is fighting.  Both of us are trying to fill some sort of void, and I know the only way either of us will ever overcome our addictions is total surrender of our hearts and souls to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and on top of that, this is a lifelong battle.  We must continually remind ourselves of how little, weak, and helpless we are, and learn to fully rely on God's mercy and love to fill all the voids in our souls, and in my case remember that I don't DESERVE anything, or NEED anything other than food to fuel my body.
      While my brother spends the next 5 years in prison battling his addiction, I have resolved to spend my time battling my own, and any graces that I receive I am asking Our Lord to shower upon him as well.  How can I tell my brother to stop indulging in his addiction, if I cannot stop indulging in my own?  How much better of a witness can I give to my brother about God's healing power if I myself allow Him to heal me of my own addictions first, rather than looking to be a great hypocrite?  This is a HUGE hold the devil has over me.  This is currently his main tactic in moving me to self loathing, and despair.  I fall into these dark areas, despite my knowledge that God's mercy is endless and His love greater than any sin.  I can only imagine how much darker the darkness is for someone like my brother who has not yet witnessed His great love. 
     Sharing all of this is a big deal for a couple of reasons.  Number one, right now I am doing better.  I've been exercising regularly for over a month.  This means I am gaining confidence.  Unfortunately, this also means it's about time for my head to swell and start thinking I'm doing something grand.  Not true.  Everyday is a struggle and I need a constant reminder that I am only going to beat this with the help of God and the second I let go of Him, I'm going to fall.  Oh, and I will fall.  I already have.  I need to remember to be thankful for the falls, because they allow me to remember how difficult this journey is, and that really, it's NEVER going to be over.  This post is a reminder when I do fall, that it's not that big of a deal and I just need to crawl to Confession, and get back up.  Secondly, I need prayers.  Prayers for me, prayers for my brother, and prayers for anyone struggling with any sort of addiction.

And a little perspective (and I think motivation) from Matthew West:


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ramblings to Our Son

                                                                                                                July 5, 2012
Dear Sweet Michael Maximilian,
      Five years ago today, my alarm sounded for daily Mass, I rolled over, took my temperature, and thought, "Huh...still high."  We had been trying unsuccessfully for months to conceive you.  I decided to take yet another pregnancy test, pretty much just for fun.  I was not expecting anything other than another negative result.  I went through the routine of peeing on the stick and then squinting every which way to see if I could make out any sort of double line.  To my great shock, as I tilted the strip to the right in the morning sun, I saw it.  I saw the faintest hint of a second pink line.  I frantically began tilting it in other directions, rubbing my eyes, and checking to make sure I wasn't just  making this up.  Nope.  It was there.  Barely visible, but there.  I was pregnant.
     I continued to get ready for Mass and let Daddy know the good news before I left.  He was still asleep and I kissed him and said, "WE'LL be back."  I waited and after a few seconds my words penetrated through the fog of sleep and a giant smile spread across his lips.  We were so grateful for the gift of you.  At Mass I was overcome with gratitude and imagined all the wonderful graces you were going to be receiving in the womb since you would be accompanying me to daily Mass, rather than just Sunday Mass as your older siblings had done.  As it turned out, we did make it to Daily Mass and I am certain that the graces received during those Masses are what carried me through losing you. 
    When we found out you were gone I was devastated.  I felt guilty.  I knew I had spent much of our precious 20 weeks together moaning, complaining, and praying for the days to pass so I would not be sick anymore.  I am sorry for all of the time I wasted when you were with me, and for all the suffering I wasted. I took you for granted. I am sorry.   I realized this about a week before I learned you had died.  I remember driving over the bridge realizing that I had been wasting all of my suffering and wondering if I could offer up suffering that had already passed.  I made a mental note to ask Father, when I got a chance.  I started thinking about how easy I had it, having to have c-sections and wondering if I was somehow "cheating" the burden given to Eve after the fall.  I was wondering if my easy deliveries were to blame for all of my morning sickness.  Within days I no longer had to worry about not having enough pain in childbirth, or about any wasted suffering.  God gifted me with an enormous cross in losing you and in the pain of going through my first real labor and delivery, knowing that at the end of the pain, there would be no joy, only more sorrow.  There was a fearful anticipation about that moment.  I desperately wanted the pain to stop, but at the same time I never wanted it to end, because I knew that once you were delivered that was it.  I would truly have to face the fact that you were dead.  I could no longer hold onto any sort of wild fantasy that this wasn't really happening.  It would all be real.  I was petrified at the thought of seeing you and at the same time wanted nothing more than to hold you and meet you before we laid you to rest.
    I remember laying in bed the night before your ultrasound and being struck with guilt because I had been so busy worrying about worldly problems that I had not been focusing enough on you, or praying enough for you.  I remember I committed to do more praying for you that night, but it was too late.  You were already gone.  I am sorry for all of the times I ignored your presence and neglected your needs of prayer.
    I remember the week I learned of your death and the days when I waited to deliver your precious body.  I woke at the same time shortly after the 4:00 hour each day.  I would lay there and pray and cry thinking of you.  When your body was finally free from my womb the time was shortly after 4:00 AM.  I knew immediately that it had been you waking me on those days, allowing me some time with you, to mourn the loss of you, and to pray for you.  It was a confirmation that God is in charge of all things and that this was a small gift to me, from Him, showing me that He has worked out every detail.  Thank you for those visits.
    When you were in me, I did not feel a great connection with you.  I worried about this on that same night before your ultrasound.  After I learned of your death my relationship with you changed.  I felt a very strong connection with you, and no longer did I feel like someone who had failed in taking care of your needs, but rather I had a realization and a knowing that it was I who now needed you.  I do not think of you as my little baby.  I think of you as my mighty warrior.  Someone far above me.  Someone far wiser than me.  Someone much stronger than me.  Sometimes I do wonder what you would look like with each passing year, and think of what kind of personality you would have, but nothing I can imagine could possibly compare with the reality of who you are.  If this faith that I cling to is for real, which I know it is, than I trust that you are in His Presence, and therefore, much more beautiful and perfect than I can even begin to imagine.  You are His.  You have always been His, from the beginning, you were just on loan to us, but it doesn't change the fact that I still mourn the loss of what would have or could have been.  This is my human nature, but when I look at things through the eyes of faith, I know that I should not mourn any loss of you, but rather rejoice because I trust that you have already made it home.  He created you (and all of us) to be with Him.  We don't all make it there.  In His mercy, He allowed you to bypass all the worldly temptations and opportunities those of us left here have to battle on our journey to Him.  You made it!  You are already with Him, or at least in His care.  So, my sweet Mikey, pray for me, and for all of us, to keep our eyes on Christ, and our feet along the narrow path, so that someday, in His perfect time, He will allow us to enter into His Presence.  May we all become the men and women, boys and girls, that He created us to be.  May we complete our missions here on earth in ways that please Him, and may we someday enjoy the rewards of heaven.  I love you, I regret the times I took our days together for granted, and I look forward in hope, to meeting you again someday.  In the meantime, keep tugging on your Mama's skirts and prompting her to watch over me and guide me, leading me always closer to her Son.
With Love,

“I give thanks to Almighty God that He has not considered me unworthy to be the mother of a child admitted into the celestial kingdom. Having quited the world in the white robe of his innocence, he will rejoice in the presence of God through all eternity.”  St. Clotilde

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Growing up in the Shadow of a Drug Addict

     Today I mourn the loss of my brother.  He didn't die physically, but in reality he's been dying for many years.  When he was only a 12 year old boy he started using drugs.  Today he is a 40 year old man, with two small children, sitting in a jail cell, awaiting a prison sentence.  I remember watching the movie "Blow" a number of years ago, and being filled with a profound sadness at the end, knowing that is where the life of my brother was heading, and here it is.  He had fun and always had a beautiful girl at his side, and plenty of friends to cheer him on, but now here he is, left with nothing, but two heart-broken children.
     The first time I realized my brother was "bad" was in kindergarten when I proudly announced that I was his sister and the teacher's reaction was vastly different than the one my best friend got when she announced who her sister was.  If I had any doubts, my high school principal made it perfectly clear when he made me stand up in front of the entire freshman class and asked how I was related to (my brother).  He certainly put me in my place.  My brother is 6 years older than me and I grew up living not only with these things happening at school (there were many good teachers who did NOT do this), but at home I dealt with the rage and hatred a drug addict carries, and he seemed to especially like to release his emotions on me.  For whatever reason, he did not like me.  All I ever wanted was for him to give me an approving nod, or acknowledge me as his little sister in the way all of my friends' older siblings did.  Perhaps it was for this reason that I grew up torn between being "good" enough to prove I wasn't him, to teachers, and "bad" enough to prove that I was cool, to him.  I never succeeded at either.  My good grades and accomplishments in school earned me names like "puke" and "suck-up" at home, and my rebellious high school years of drinking and never missing a party only led to moments I now regret with all of my heart and soul, and no matter how hard I tried, there were always a few teachers, and especially the principal, there to remind me of who I was, and my attempts at rebellion only proved their point.  People often wondered why I usually dated the "bad" boys.  It's easy.  In the rougher crowd my brother was an asset.  I didn't have to be embarrassed about who I was.  Eventually, I got tired of getting hurt and prayed that God would lead me to someone who would treat me well.  My husband and I were both seaping in mortal sin when I prayed that prayer, but our marriage is a testimony to the fact that God truly does meet us where ever we are.  
     I don't have a relationship with  my brother.  As you can see from above he has never been very fond of me and the abuse has caused a great deal of resentment in me (although I think inside a part of me is still that little girl looking for his approval).  I have done plenty of forgiving though, and I love him with all my heart.  My prayers for him must be powerful, because they are the kind that make your heart ache.  In the past 16 years he has had a couple of periods where he cleaned up.  During those times I see him a bit more and he has allowed me on several occassions to pray over him and use a few sacramentals, such as blessed oil, salt, and holy water.  These moments give me hope that his heart is not fully closed to God's saving grace.  Most often though, when we are in the same room, awkwardness fills the air, and no one speaks, or we speak through the children. 
    This enslavement to drugs has wrecked his entire life.  God gave him so many gifts.  He is very personable (well not to me), smart, and talented, especially in the arts.  After all of these years his mind has been preserved, and he did HARD drugs.  Physically, he hasn't lost any teeth, etc.  He almost lost his life and his arm, but really that is small when you put it into perspective that he has used for so long.  I have seen pictures of people who use meth for a year and lose all their teeth.  God has His hand on him, right there waiting for him to grasp on.  It is frustrating, because I KNOW the only one who can save him is Jesus Christ, and He wants to.  I do trust that he will convert and allow God's grace to work in his soul before his death, but it is taking him (my brother) a long time to recognize the need for that grace. 
     Each time he cleans up, the next fall is a little bit harder.  Each time, my parents (and him) say, "Oh, he really learned his lesson this time."  But they don't get it.  He can "learn" the lesson a million times, but he is still in bondage to the sin and the ONLY one who can set him free from that bondage is Jesus.  Satan is just toying with him when he allows him to clean up for these short periods of time.  Satan lets him off the hook and sits back and watches as the pathetic soul sitting at rock bottom, begs for help and his soul moves to trusting in God.  He watches as God helps him back up and gives him the will power and strength to resist temptation.  He waits and doesn't tempt much, so it gets to the point that the soul starts to think, "Hey, I did this...I'm clean.  I don't need the help of God.  I'm good now.  I'm strong enough to do this on MY OWN."  BOOM!  The devil sits back and laughs.  He's now got him right where he wants him.  Pride has set in.  The soul is no longer seeking God's help.  The soul is full of pride thinking HE had the power to defeat the addiction.  Soon it will be time to strike, but not just yet.  After awhile longer as the confidence begins to build, the addict thinks he is doing so well, that going out and partying would probably be something he can handle, and he'll just be there...he won't partake.  Again, the devil sits back, smiling, waiting.  He doesn't tempt.  He makes it easy.  The soul slowly begins to immerse himself in the "old" lifestyle, dabbling here and there, until one day he opens his eyes to see that he has thrown himself into the pits of hell once again.  THEN, Satan steps up and brings on the temptations once more, in full force, harder than before.  Until my brother realizes the game he is playing, he will never be free.  For this reason, today I weep.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for drug addicts.  Bl. Matt Talbot, pray for addicts.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homeschooling: Answers to the Interrogation

As a homeschooling mom I am frequently confronted with questions about the way we have chosen to educate our children.  Sometimes the questions come from those who are considering homeschooling themselves, or from those who respect homeschooling and genuinely want to learn more about it.  More often though, the questions come from those who cling tightly to their own interpretations and misconceptions of what homeschooling is and they aren’t so much asking to gain an understanding, but rather they are seeking to point out what they believe is a problem or concern.  The questions are almost always the same so I thought I would address them here.  If you are reading this and aren’t familiar with homeschooling, maybe you can learn something.  If you are a homeschooler or are supportive of homeschooling, this will reinforce what you already know, and serve as a reminder that you are not the only person who has to answer these questions!
1.       No, I am not worried about socialization.  Homeschooled children learn to interact with both adults and children of all ages through playgroups, co-ops, scouting programs, sports, church groups, etc.   

2.      No, we do not feel isolated, or cooped up within our homes.  Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers do get out!   While their peers are spending 7+ hours in a classroom, homeschoolers may finish their day before lunch and spend the afternoon going to various activities, having a play date, visiting the library, etc.  In our own home, the only day that is consistently free of outside activities, is Thursday.

3.      No, I am not worried about socialization.  In fact, socialization is one of the reasons we chose to homeschool.

4.      No, a parent does not have to be a certified teacher to homeschool their children.  In our case, I do happen to have a teaching degree, so I am often given a pass on this one.  I will hear, “Well, that is good for you, but I could never do it, I’m not a teacher”.  Listen carefully; you do not have to have any special training to teach your children!!!!   Statistics show that home educated students score higher than their public school peers in standardized tests, REGARDLESS of the level of education reached by the parent/teacher.  Who cares more about your children, you, or an outside teacher?  Who has more time to work with your child until they are 100% certain he/she understands a concept, you, or an outside teacher?  Who has time go over each and every mistake until an assignment is correct?  Who understands how your child learns best and can accommodate that individual learning style? 
*Certainly there are many school teachers who also do these things!

5.      No, I am not worried about socialization.

6.      Yes, the state checks up on us.  Each state has different laws regarding homeschooling. In our state they know what curriculum materials we are using, how many days we are schooling, and they keep track of the progress of our students.
7.      Nope, still not worried about socialization.

8.      Sure, sometimes I worry that I might be missing something.  What good teacher doesn’t evaluate whether he/she is lacking in any area?  What good teacher doesn’t assess how their year is going and make changes as needed?  Of course we want to make sure our children are receiving everything they need, so yes, I do worry about these things.
9.      Socialization is not a concern.
10.   There is no shortage of homeschooling resources.  In fact, there are so many great resources that it can be intimidating and overwhelming trying to decide which materials will best suit your learner(s).  One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that every family looks a little different.  Some parents pick and choose different materials from various resources, while others purchase a packaged curriculum.  Some families school online, or use unit studies.  There are options for every learner.   Our family has chosen full enrollment in an accredited school.  We receive all of our materials, including lesson plans, quarterly tests (which they grade), and report cards from the school.  Many families switch materials from year to year as they evaluate what works for each individual learner in their family.
11.   I  DO think our kids will be properly socialized.
12.   No we do not get tired of, or go crazy spending so much time with our children.  In fact, in our family having more time with the children was a huge factor in our decision to homeschool.  We appreciate the extra time we spend with our children, as well as the extra time they have with each other.  If our oldest was in “out” school she would see her baby brother only a few hours a day.  As it is now, they are together the entire day, and we view this as a beautiful thing!
13.   Regarding socialization:  Will my kids stand out as different in a group of their peers?   I will answer with my own question.   Is it really a bad thing if they do? 
14.   No I do not believe that EVERY family should be homeschooling.  I do not think that homeschooling is superior to any other form of schooling.  It just happens to be the path that God has led our family to, and it works well for us, so I am going to talk truthfully and positively about our experiences with it. 

As a final note I want to add that the pert nature of this entry is not meant to offend anyone.  It should be read with the understanding that while I do get irritated when it is clear that the intentions of those questioning me are not sincere, I absolutely love to answer the questions of those who are truly just curious…AND I can usually tell the difference pretty easily.