Tag Archives: love

Looking Back at Missed Opportunities

At Mass today, I couldn’t help but notice her. She sat by herself, nicely coiffed, with her dark black curls fixed just so and her petite size 4 designer clothes immaculately pressed. Her posture reminded me of a ballerina, except that she had a humility that is hard to find in a dancer. I’m guessing that she is in her late 70s or early 80s.

The reason I couldn’t stop seeing her was because she was by herself. Many years ago, when my children were young and I was hopeful to attend daily Mass, she and her two sisters would always stop and talk with us. Over weeks and months, we got to know them better, and they each had their own sweet personalities. They had such a similar look and mannerism that my children may have thought they were triplets. It was like having three Grandmas cooing and adoring my passel of children. Even though they were not related to us, they knew how to love and my family basked in their warmth.

As life goes, we moved away and moved on. We haven’t seen these ladies in years. Today, we went back to celebrate Mass for Mother’s Day with my husband’s mom at her church. That’s why I saw her. So many questions I wanted to ask. Were her sisters still living? I hope they had just moved into a nursing home. Was she the youngest? Did any of them have children? What is life like when your best friends and also your sisters die before you?

As Mass ended, and we headed out the door, I turned to see if she was in the crowd. That’s when another friend and her family spied us and interrupted my thoughts. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she said and gave me a hug. I smiled and hugged her back. When I remembered to look back, my elderly friend was nowhere to be seen. I hope she has a lovely Mother’s Day and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

 

 

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50 Years of Motherhood + 40 Grandchildren

I’ve been thinking about my mom and what an unsung hero she is. First of all, my mom may never have been born, if my grandma didn’t have tremendous faith. My grandma had at least 14 miscarriages. Her doctor told her that it was no use trying to have children, and that is was actually unsafe for her to continue. My grandma is a bit like me–when someone tells her “no,” she digs down deeper and busts through. That’s when she had my mom, and the next year, my aunt. Two women who would not have been here without a very strong-willed, faith-filled grandma.

A couple of decades later, my mom marries my dad and one year later gives birth to my oldest sister. The next year, she has my next oldest sister. A year and a half later, she has my next oldest sister. Then she miscarried during that next year. The following year, she has me. To sum up: 10 kids in 13 years, then a 7-year gap, and the baby of our family is born. That’s a 20-year range for the math challenged!

Here’s the kicker: my mom was having babies when everyone around her was “burning their bras” and “going to work.” She was home with preschoolers and toddlers and babies when the whole world was screaming, “Don’t let them keep you at home. You can be everything you want to be.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. My mom is a brilliant lady. She had a business degree and could organize the world. She managed to have us all fed, dressed and to school early with hair combed, matching socks, and complete backpacks. Laundry in our home was like a small business. There was no room for error because we actually wore all the clothing we owned. Shopping for food was a weekly exercise with two grocery carts full. Thankfully, the grandparents on the farm provided the beef. Home-cooked meals were all we could afford and the only thing my dad wanted. So, we ate together every night at 5:30 p.m. around a long kitchen table.

Because my mom stayed home, we had a huge comfort zone. We knew she was there for us. The other working mothers called her regularly to provide rides for their children to various activities and events. They never seemed to include her or befriend her for anything else. She did have a group of friends who were stay-at-home moms, too. They became the monthly bridge group. Although some of them ended up working part-time, mostly they rallied around each other. It was not a popular time to have a large family. In fact, the over population myths that are still around today started during that time.

My mom was telling me a few years ago when I was complaining about how much weight I had gained with my last pregnancy and that nothing fit that she only had 2 maternity outfits total. That’s all. Boy did I feel selfish. When my husband had to travel three days a week for a few months, I called her to cry on her shoulder a bit. She reminded me that our father traveled for his job for weeks at a time, even months sometimes. She gently helped me see that I would make it through this.

My mom is confined to a wheelchair now. I think all those pregnancies just sucked the calcium out of every bone. She has both knee and hip problems, and probably won’t be walking anytime soon. Her memory is starting to slip a bit here and there. She can no longer cook or plan family events. Much of what the world outside our family loved about my mom is slowly fading away.

But what I see is a lady who has been an amazing mom for the last 50 years, who is facing major changes in her life with grace. She has gently suggested that maybe my dad needs a break once in a while. She knows she will most likely need to transition to a care setting soon enough. Yet, while she can she still enjoys her grandchildren. The extended family gathers tomorrow to celebrate Mother’s Day with grandma and grandpa. It will be a large affair. And Mom will be there, sweetly smiling and loving on the little grandbabies, and thinking of names because number 40 is on the way!

 

 

Making All Things New this Easter

I awoke this morning with this thought:  “See, I make all things new.” I knew this was a Bible verse, but I just didn’t know quite what it meant for me. Since God knows I can be a hard-head, these words just kept popping up in my mind all day long–during Easter Mass, at brunch with Grandma, on the porch with the children, and praying tonight as a family. So, I finally pulled out my Bible to see in what context these words were said and found the passage:

The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”He said to me, “They are accomplished. I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. (Revelations 21: 5-6)

I immediately recognized so many of these words, but not from Revelations. Do you remember what Jesus said from the Cross? I turned to John 19:

28After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” 29There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.30 When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (John 19:28-30)

32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs,34 but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (John 19:32-34)

How amazing and appropriate that St. John would be God’s choice for writing the Book of Revelations. John was the only Apostle who stood at the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother and heard first hand Christ’s final words and was an eye-witness to all that transpired during these most holy moments of all history.

But what’s even more awe-inspiring is the message of Hope this passage of Revelations gives us all. Only God can make all things new again. New means God can take suffering and defeat and anger and sadness and loneliness (also known as the Cross) and transform it into life and hope and love and laughter and joy and peace (also known as the Resurrection)! And the life-giving water mentioned above comes from the side of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. He spoke of this with the woman at the well:

13Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 13-14)

This Baptism of Water and Blood converted many of the everyday people who were employed at that time to carry out the Crucifixion. Just simply being touched by that precious water and blood from the side of Jesus changed them forever. Today at Mass, we repeated our Baptismal vows and through the “sprinkling rite” received that precious water as a reminder of the Promise of our Baptism.

Tonight, my family prayed the Divine Mercy novena. This is a special devotion started by St. Faustina, who was told to create an image of Jesus which shows the blood and water flowing from him. He “thirsts” to give His mercy and graces to souls, if only they would allow Him. Oh my, such great Hope along with such great Love!

I cannot find the words to express what the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday means to our souls. It is a love without limits. It is hope beyond hope. It is an ocean of mercy. Hmmmm, perhaps the Word says it best: “Behold, I make all things new.”

 

Moving in with Grandma

About 8 years ago, my family uprooted and moved to a new city to care for my husband’s elderly mother. When my children found out that we were going to live with Grandma, they thought they had died and gone to heaven because Grandma pretty much kept a never-ending supply of ice cream and treats around the house. In kid world, this was definitely an upgrade situation.

But in reality, combining two households was challenging to say the least. Grandma had been living a solitary life by herself since my husband’s father’s death almost 4 years earlier. Meanwhile, we had rambunctious children ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old.  Also, Grandma had a very strong personality, plus liked to “favor” one of the children.  She didn’t seem to understand that when we were parenting our children, she couldn’t insert herself and have it work out very well.

Living with a octogenarian who has increasing dementia keeps life interesting. If you think toddlers are challenging, you are just beginning to understand what this is really like. Layer in a few of her adult children who are in denial about their parent’s condition, and who also conveniently live out-of-town, and you begin to get a picture of some of the fun we have experienced. Our family has definitely grown in many virtues because of choosing to serve Grandma.

Fast forward 8 years. We had to transition Grandma to a long-term care facility last year for a whole host of reasons. My family has been mourning the loss, even though she is only 1 mile away. We visit her often, but not many people seem to understand how it feels to embrace someone into your daily life like we did, then have to “let go.” I think that has been the hardest part of this transition. We love her dearly and she was part of our immediate lives for 8 years. She turned 90 years old last week, and we celebrated with her at the center. My children played piano and she sang along. We all ate way too much pie. Half the residents stayed and listened to the recital. One even claimed my children as her grandchildren, too. She also had a birthday next week. She thinks she is turning 92.

Grandma taught us many lessons which I want to share with you today. I hope you can learn as much as we did!

  1. A positive attitude is everything. Grandma lived through the Depression, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc…She knew what it meant to face difficulties. Her approach was to always keep a positive outlook. When she went into the long-term care facility, she never looked back. She takes “the bus” on outings once a week. She doesn’t have any idea where she went, but she sure enjoys it. She cannot get over how lucky she is to have such a loving, caring staff who she works with! I see that her loving attitude attracts the loving, caring staff.
  2. A simple faith to know that God loves you. Grandma was blessed to have many holy people guide her throughout her life. Some of the people who she had for direction are now famous names. She could recall all kinds of examples of how God opened doors for her. I noticed that she was always willing to step through them.
  3. Never, never, never give up. Grandma is like the Energizer bunny–she keeps going and going and going. She has more energy in one day than I will probably have in a lifetime. She keeps active and is persistent in what she pursues. Although, sometimes that would mean finding her dangerously perched on top of the patio table trying to open the umbrella over her head. I see that she was simply overcoming any obstacle in her path, even to her own detriment.

Grandma taught us many, many more lessons. She continues to show us how to live with dignity. She shines brightly around all of her neighbors and the staff at the center. We sure love and miss her in our lives, although we still get to visit. Thank you, Grandma, for showing us how to live. Happy 90th Birthday!

More or Less Love

I never realized that there was more than one view on love until I was talking with an acquaintance about children. She had a toddler and was pregnant with her second. She was wondering if she could possibly love this second child as much as her first. I think my jaw dropped opened. Hopefully, I was kind enough to hide my surprise. I seriously had never thought that way. But maybe you do? Here are two views of love:

View #1 – Limited and Diminishing
Real people have shared this view with me. If you carry this view of love in your heart, you see a finite amount of love to go around. So, if you are a mom, you think loving one child means having less love for the second child, and even less for a third child. You may even run out of love if you have too many children. If you are a spouse, you think that having a child is going to make your spouse love you less. It becomes a battle over who do you love more? Me or our child? This view flows over into the workplace, the neighborhood, everywhere you go! If you have had to work with someone who shares this outlook, you will know what I mean.

View #2 – Abundant and Growing
I personally prefer this view. I like to use the analogy of a candle. If I light a candle, it brings light to the whole room. Now, if I give each of my children a candle, every time I light their candle, my candle doesn’t run out of light. In fact, it really doesn’t change. And they now have a candle that could  light a whole room and a whole bunch of other candles. This candle lighting and room lighting could go on for a very long time (limited only by the fact that my analogy is based on a finite object like a candle!) This view also flows over and it just brings tremendous joy with it.

I hope your heart prefers to love with abundance! This gift of love will overflow and double back like a tidal wave. Try it sometime!

 

He Waited 16 Years to Get Me

On our 16th anniversary, I had an out-of-town business trip. Not a whole lot I could do about it, so my husband and I planned to celebrate when I got back. Little did I know that my calm, cool and collected husband had other ideas.

After riding the airport bus from the cheap parking spots, I made my way to the ticket counter, then boarded the plane. Right before the flight was getting ready to depart, over the intercom I hear my name and “Would you please press the flight attendant button over your seat so we can locate you?”

Immediately, thoughts of horror entered my mind. Are my kids okay? Was there a death in the family? When I push the button, the flight attendant says, “Does everyone see the lady with her hand up? It’s her 16th wedding anniversary and her husband wants her to know that he loves her.” I turned 20 shades of red. But, that was just the beginning!

At my hotel, they informed me that I had been upgraded. In my fancy room, there was a bottle of champagne and a huge bouquet of flowers with a love note from my husband. I immediately called him to thank him and also tell him he was in big trouble for pulling this one over on me. He assured me that he had waited many years to be able to pull this off without me “sniffing” it out. I had to admit, he definitely managed to do just that.

As the meeting began at the Conference Center, the PowerPoint screen read: “Happy 16th Anniversary” to me! In front of all the Conference attendees, the speaker had me come to the front of the room and told me that my husband wanted me to know just how much he loves me. She had all the attendees clap for us and even gave me a gift he had wanted me to receive. This was really getting out of hand!

Later, I learned there were many more “love notes” that I missed, like a giant sign at the cheap parking spot that I simply drove right past. Even today as I write this, I cannot believe what effort and work he went through for me on our 16th wedding anniversary. And all I had gotten him was a lousy card!!!

This experience made me realize just how much I love and appreciate my husband and how much he loves and appreciates me, even after our many decades of marriage. Now, I just have to plan a sneak-attack anniversary for him over the next decade or so.

Who Needs a Mirror When You’ve Got Kids?

Who needs a mirror when you’ve got kids? In some ways, children are better than a mirror. Let me share three ways:

1) Children let you know things you already know but don’t want to remember, just like a mirror. For example, “Mom, you’re belly is pudgy.” When I respond with a distressed look, they reply, “But we like it because it’s soft when we snuggle with you!” Now, that’s better than a mirror!

2) Children repeat what you say and act exactly how you do.  When I was in a bad mood the other day, I grumbled at one of my children. As soon as I was done, that child turned and grumbled at his sibling, who then grumbled at her sibling, and so on, and so on. It was horrifying to watch! Also, If you just “say” things to them, but don’t do them yourself, they will never follow suit, just like a mirror would never reflect what you do not do. This is especially true if you have a bad habit–like biting nails or losing your temper or rolling your eyes. Stop those habits now so your children do not reflect a “not-so-wonderful” you. Plus, you’ll be much happier when you look in your “new” mirror (aka see how your children behave.)

3) Children often reflect your love even greater than you gave it. When children know they are loved and are shown how to be honest, how to share, how to forgive and how to obey, their actions often show such great love that it can melt even the most hardened heart. Have you ever been approached by the most adorable child with curls and big eyes who waves at you from their wheelchair and just wants to shake your hand? That happened to me yesterday and I knew that this little child was well-loved. It just radiated from her. Children reflect love so brightly when they are gentle, kind, patience, humble and full of hope.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
whose the fairest of them all?
-or-
Mirror, mirror in my house
reflecting truly both me and my spouse!

I highly recommend that you think through your choice of mirror — they can be brutally honest, but well worth the investment.

Tiny Teacups

It’s not every day you get invited to a tea party. One of my dearest friends spontaneously invited me to join her for tea. I love her tea parties because you never know what you will be served or who she will invite to join us.

When I arrived this time, I noticed a new tea set. I also quickly sized up the other guests: a well-loved but older gentleman whose clothing looked a bit rumpled, a younger blonde who appeared to have an unkempt appearance, and a very easy-going chap who had an interesting accent.

Once everyone was settled, the hostess began to serve. This time, she served banana-nut-raisin tea with “yummy” cookies. I learned that the honored guests’ names were Teddy, Dolly and Scooby Doo.

As you may have guessed by now, my hostess was a toddler. Don’t be fooled by her age. Within 10 minutes, she had taught me quite a few lessons:

When I asked for my tea, she reprimanded me, “We must say our prayers before we eat!” Thank you for the gift of gratitude.

When I slurped down my tea quickly and asked for more, she gently reminded me, “Let’s wait until everyone has had some before we ask for seconds.” Thank you for the gift of sharing.

When all was done and I made my excuses to leave, she looked at me with such sweet eyes and said, “You can have some more while we let the others finish.” Thank you for the gift of love.

It was hard to pull away from such a wonderful hostess and guests. My hostess even offered to let me make tea the next time! I just wonder who will be at the party and what they will be there to teach me.