From Darkness to Light

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” 
― Albert Camus

When tragedy falls upon us, how do we respond? When tremendous joy is off-set by excruciating trials, which wins over your heart? When your faith in God is tested daily and you feel your mind darkening and your heart hardening, how do you bring yourself back to a place of light and peace?

Lake Michigan's rocky shore.
Lake Michigan’s rocky shore.

These are the challenges of my current days. This year has been filled with the joy of welcoming a newborn son—the most joyful, sweet boy, and the pain of The Girl’s myriad of disorders, special needs, and past traumas affecting her ability to function in a normal place—one far away from our loving reach. My silence on this blog is time spent away caring for my family in a way I never imagined I would have to do, facing enormous decisions that debilitate me on my strongest days, and inviting forgiveness and healing into my heart and home, often, on a moment-to-moment basis.

Always in the back of my mind is my  commitment to writing and what’s pulling me away from my writing goals. So, I’m figuring out a way I can continue to write about this whole mess of a year–wading in the murk and turmoil, despite the incredible challenges, changes, and triumphs, amidst the melancholic tragedies–and trying to not forget or dismiss the golden moments, too. My hope is that I can discover a new way to write it all down in order that my words will count for something and resonate with a kindred spirit living a similar dichotomy of joy and pain; that my wordy reflections bring about peace and hope, shedding light and love back into the world.

Sunset on Lake Michigan
Sunset on Lake Michigan

Why My Forehead is Clear of Ashes Today

“Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

~ Pope Francis

Today is Ash Wednesday. The Christian’s forty days of Lent has begun as it does each and every year. As Catholics, wearing the mark of a cross of ashes on one’s forehead represents the start of our most sacred time of year, preparing ourselves for Easter, and moving ourselves personally from darkness to light.

Today, I had good intentions of attending Mass with my son and his first grade class at our home parish. Instead, he is with Baby Girl and me, resting and fighting off a chest cold. To be quite honest, I’m not fasting today, either. At 35 weeks pregnant with another son, I’m finding it difficult to do much of anything these days but eat, rest, repeat. I’m making my sacrifices in other ways, however. Such as giving up social media, praying more whenever my anxiety levels kick in, going to bed earlier rather than staying up late to watch a show or read a novel.

This Lent, I’m slowing it down and taking each day as it comes. During the first six weeks of 2015, God has thrown my family quite the curveball and we’ve been carrying a heavy cross upon our hearts and shoulders ever since. In moving towards acceptance of some horrific realities as of late, I’m trying to leave the future in His hands, trying to let go of the guilt I feel, and trying to embrace this new normal for our lives. In my heart, I pray that the isolation we’re feeling is only temporary—no matter how long a time we must endure the pain.

The days have been long, tedious, heart-wrenching, and unimaginable–much like the beating, gripping, wretched journey Christ, himself, traveled. Even though it feels like our family is being pulled apart in too many directions, that we’re unraveling at the seams, I know God has a plan for our lives—and especially for the lives of our family members experiencing the most pain, facing the greatest challenges, carrying the heaviest crosses of their lives.

This Lent, I’m taking the advice of Pope Francis, quoted above, and trusting more in God. I must. I see no other way.

Born to Write

“If a story is in you, it has to come out.” ~ William Faulkner

Remember my little blog post last week about setting and keeping writing resolutions for the new year? Well, 2015 got off to a rough start. A family member was in the hospital. Wicked weather caused us to have two snow days the week the kids returned from Christmas Break. The Girl’s incessant inability to self-regulate her moods equaled a string of rough days turned into even worse nights wrought with constant monitoring, counseling, and emotional drainage for all of us to deal with and decompress from. To cap off the hectic week, Baby Girl suddenly became stricken with a stomach bug yesterday afternoon not five minutes after I left her and The Boy with a brand-new babysitter so I could get The Girl to a much-needed appointment with her therapist. Although the worst, I hope, is over, I’m still in care-taking mode.

How many words did I actually write this first week of the new year, you ask? Not many, but some. More than I thought I would get done given the upheaval around here, to be truthful. I’ll take that as a victory despite the fact my good intentions and scheduled writing time were thrown out the window.

On a brighter note, today I’m able to make up for last week’s lost writing time. Since I’m (gladly) stuck at home caring for my sweet baby, (it’s freezing outside anyway), I’m writing at a leisurely pace and have already logged well over my daily word count goal!  Additionally, I’ve been able to research upcoming writing contests and submission guidelines for a few pieces I’m intent on polishing for possible (hopeful!) publication.  The Girl is with her caring and capable respite provider all day, so the lack of chaos is helping me to think more clearly even with a head foggy due to lack of sleep from staying up with Baby Girl throughout the night.

This is life–chaotic, unpredictable, often cold and tiring. Much of the same can be attributed to the motherhood journey, personally. I’m learning to live, write, and parent better despite the trials that smack me in the face. My writing will follow-suit. It may be a bit fragmented in the beginning, but I’ll get there in the end. This I know, I was born to write.

I think if you feel like you were born to write, then you probably were.
—  Lena Dunham

In keeping with the theme of writing goals for 2015, The Writer published quite the motivating article about how to be successful at keeping your writing resolutions this year. Well worth the read, you can check it out here.

Happy Writing. Happy Mothering.

A Renewed Commitment to Writing for the New Year

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.

Melody Beattie

Most of the writing that I do, you do not see. Even when I don’t update this blog nearly as much as I need or want to, I am writing. Notes are scrawled inside my blue journal and most of my daily thoughts I pound away on my ruby-red laptop. Two years ago, I decided to keep an electronic journal due to a wicked case of tendonitis in my writing hand that plagued me for the first time over twelve years ago. Nowadays, I can write in my preferred paper lined journal only for so long before the fatigue of the tendonitis settles in and I have to take a break, hand cramping with searing pain. I remember the days when I could write letter after letter, pen page after page of stories and poems, scribe non-stop notes in my classes. I’m thankful for new technologies that allow me to continue writing without relying on a pencil grip.

I have simple goals related to my writing this New Year:  to write daily in my electronic journal, to keep a gratitude journal beside my bedside table, and to write 3,000 words per week. Toward the end of 2015, I’d like to be published—just one article or essay—and to keep plugging away at my book. In the immediate future, I am facing a myriad of personal challenges that will undoubtedly throw obstacles my way and disrupt my scheduled writing time. Nevertheless, I’m planning ahead, committing to my daily word counts, and prioritizing myself and my writing this year.

What are your writing goals for 2015?

One Lovely Blog

courtesy of mysupercrazylife.com
One Lovely Blog Award

A special thank you to Natalie of http://mysupercrazylife.com for the nomination of the One Lovely Blog award. Do yourself a favor and read her blog! Faced with a ridiculous amount of challenges in a relatively short time-frame, her lovely writings are filled with humor, truth, and light.

To continue the nomination, here are seven random facts about me:

  1. I grew up thinking I must be adopted given my strawberry-blonde locks and hippie name—an outcast stuck in the middle of an Irish-Catholic family of dark-haired relatives all with Irish names.
  2. The Husband and I have known one another since 1986 (when I was in fifth grade, and he in seventh). I harbored a secret love for him since I was 14. I finally won him over in 2001.
  3. I love classical music and wish I still played the violin and trombone.
  4. When I began writing, poetry was my prose of choice. Currently, creative nonfiction is my favored genre.
  5. My favorite Pandora stations to write to are “Downton Abbey” and “Sarah McLachlan”.
  6. Twice in my early twenties, I worked as a nanny/mother’s helper. Both experiences shaped my vision of love and parenting. I’m forever grateful to those wonderful families for trusting me with their precious ones and teaching me through their unique familial ways.
  7. I still yearn to open a quaint bookstore of my own.

Here are fifteen bloggers I admire and nominate for the One Lovely Blog award:

http://foreverforalwaysnomatterwhat.com/

http://motherhoodandwords.com/

http://mysnoopygirl.blogspot.com/

http://mumfullness.blogspot.com/

http://motheringthemanic.com/

http://heidihesssaxton.wordpress.com/

http://bottledponderings.blogspot.com/

http://readinginterrupted.com/

http://rosemaryandreadingglasses.com/

http://snoringscholar.com/

http://strokeofgrace.blogspot.com/ and http://hannahshopebook.blogspot.com/

http://karenedmisten.blogspot.com/

http://www.mybrokenfiat.com/blog

http://www.truthbeautyandgoodnessintheworks.blogspot.com/

http://realcatholicmom.com/

It’s a simple, kind act to pass on the honor of the One Lovely Blog award. Here’s how it works (courtesy of Natalie):

  1. Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  2. Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  3. Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
  4. Nominate about 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

 

source: quotespictures.com

 

Choosing Love in the Tough Times

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
― 
Lao Tzu

 

I’ve been working on being content with what I have. Trying to fall in love again with my home. Trying to be happy with what I own, and being fine living without accumulating much more than what we already have. It’s a tough war going on inside of me. I see friends with bigger homes, houses cleaner than mine, their kids better dressed and well-mannered, enrolled in the greatest of sports opportunities, their lives seemingly soaring with perfection when my own seems a jumbled puzzle of trying times. I struggle with the balance of being fine with what has been given to me and what we work hard to maintain; what is being asked of me and what I feel I can manage with grace and balance, and it isn’t much.

I’ll admit my tendency toward selfishness gets the best of me many days. In realizing this awful truth about myself, I try to combat the inner-greed by turning my attention toward the practice of giving thanks daily. Over the years, I’ve retrained my brain in a way to instill a sense of gratitude, not loss. At first, I thought my efforts fraudulent; now I know that’s farther from the truth. What contemplation of blessings brings is a perception of will and a renewed mind, body, and spirit. A peaceful place of heart and a contentedness of spirit grows with practice. Amazing what a simple, “thank you for my good health, thank you for the kids I finally have, thank you for the husband I can’t even believe is mine, thank you for the goodness all around me” can do for one’s overall emotional and physical health.

What I’ve garnered from the practicing of minding grace is that my environment is affected by my natural discontented spirit. My home is a large source of contention, in this game, I’m afraid. Too often, I’m nervous when new friends are invited over for the first time, when family gather, even. My inner-critic feels fear of being judged for our ancient couch covered in a decade-old, faded Pottery Barn slipcover, the discount pillows strategically arranged to camouflage red marker and juice stains, all of the bargain Craigslist finds. Years ago, I used to be proud of my frugal nature, the knack I possessed for scoring the hidden gems at consignment shops and Goodwill. Deep down, I know I have nothing to be ashamed of, for this is who I really am—a delightfully frugal, sort of crunchy-kind of woman concerned with too much excess. Honestly, I’d be a nervous wreck having much nicer things than we own since my kids are still in that exploring stage, hard players, not too careful with a red marker in hand. They don’t care if our things don’t impress. So, I shouldn’t either.

“We need much less than we think we need.” 
― 
Maya Angelou

If I’m completely honest with myself and you, my patient readers, I’m not—at all—that unhappy with our place of residence. There have been countless wonderful memories made here, certainly some major heartbreak, but mostly the inner-workings of a family trying their best to live and love together inside the confines of a relatively small home. Most days, I like that we live among one another, that there aren’t too many places to hide away, that The Husband and I are teaching our children to be happy together. After all, what matters more than those we love?

What is restless, truly, is my heart. And when this cracked, pumping vessel of mine becomes restive—as it is now—I realize that the unease is due to a level of great imbalance within our family, something is off-kilter inside the four walls of our home. An imbalance that I can’t seem to tip back to level. Discontented in spirit is a personal defect I struggle with each and every day.

My initial reaction—when life becomes so overwhelming that it can’t be ignored—is that if I could just escape the confines of the instability here then the discontent will release its hold on my family and me, and we will be able to break free of the confines of the pain, the source of disruption, and all the troubles will disappear. In my right mind, I know that these issues we are grappling with will follow no matter the place and space, no matter what the numbers on the mailbox say, despite the size of the mortgage payments. Though, the fantasy of someplace fresher, cleaner, brighter, untarnished is a pleasant divergence from the reality of our messy lives. And so today, I remain stuck inside the walls and look for a resolve inside myself. For, we all know that the only control we have is over ourselves and our own choices.

During quiet times of reflection and prayer, I can change my outlook on the muck before me and merely choose love, stillness and calm, patience, and tender care no matter the trial set before me. It’s my choice. And the choice is yours for the taking, too, if you are brave enough to change.

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” 
― 
Pema Chödrön

The focus now needs to be keenly set on love. And not just the mushy-gushy type of heartfelt sentiments, but the difficult, tough-love kind—the talking myself into loving when my heart feels like a stone, when my stubborn nature builds walls around me, when I’m just plain tired of caring. When The Girl retaliates by ingesting foods with her allergens that she knows will make her sick, yet deliberately sneaks down to gorge herself on these intentionally, I need to find the love to deal with her terrible choices and the patience to remain calm when she is sick and wheezing all day long—she, yelling at me, as if I’m the one who made her so allergic and sick, as if it’s all my fault. These challenging times are the times to have compassion for her, to see the plight in her eyes from the slight stance where she stands before me, too often screaming in my face, her pain and anguish shooting daggers at my heart. Even in these trying times, I choose love.

The focus now needs to be on remaining still—right where I am, exactly where I’ve been planted—because any slight movement might erase the magic in the moment—imperfections and all. For, when Baby Girl slides into bed beside me every night lately because of her fear of the dark despite a nightlight in every outlet, and the rising fear she feels of losing her almost-four-year-old self to the baby she once was not so long ago. Even when I feel the anger  in losing precious sleep because of her beside me tossing and turning, snuggling up to every inch of me like she’s going to lose me in the intensity of her fears, I choose to be still beside her in her fear. Even in the middle of the night when I have been awaken too many times to worsen me for the wear—most definitely then—I must find the love for Baby Girl in the morning as she remains cuddled next to me, so innocent and happy, and kiss her sweet porcelain cheek despite my wretched grouchiness. I choose calmness and love, because who knows how long my Baby Girl will want to remain so close by my side?

The focus now needs to be on patience and tender care—the kind that can mend hearts, minds, and moods—the type of uplifting calm and true presence of Love itself. So, when The Boy stays out late with his dad for a Cub Scout camp-out and at 11:00 PM comes home hyped-up on the thrill of Halloween excitement, animatedly describing the fun he had that night with his buddies, too jazzed-up to fall asleep, then suddenly, quickly resorting to full-on meltdown mode, startling his sisters awake—this is when a mindful patience is necessary. Certainly, when The Boy wakes up at his usual early bird time, clocking only eight hours of sleep last night, uncharacteristically grumpy during breakfast, head-strong and groggily resolved to build Legos this morning, speaking only in whiny retorts to his sisters who are annoying him a little too quickly today because of his sleep-induced edginess—this is when I still remain patient in loving him in the rough moments together and all throughout this jolted day. For my son, I choose love because he needs to know that he is deserving of my love despite his having a bad day, and that I will always love him no matter what.

Folks, my dad said it best when he turned to me, just before he walked me down the aisle to be married to The Husband, with tender concern in his eyes and stated, “Remember, LOVE IS A CHOICE.”  My late father’s words have remained within me, and make more sense now than ever before.

“All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.” 
― 
Johnny Cash

Going forward, my focus remains inward with the intent of turning all the interior reflection outward realizing the swirl of imperfection in my family’s less-than-ideal traits are so delicately mirrored as my own personal deficiencies, though it can all be overcome in time by choosing love. Humble mom moment.

 

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.” 
― 
Henry David ThoreauWalden

In Loving Memory, A Wave of Light

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind—
But how could I forget thee?—Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.
IN LOVING MEMORY
October 15, 2014
Wave of Light