SST # 5: Thank You, Grazie, Merci BEAUCOUP!!

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330On March 1 we welcomed our precious daughter into the world. It goes without saying that it was an incredibly joyous day and the days since have been full of moments of perfect beauty. There’s something about looking into the face of a newborn, especially one sleeping on your chest, happily drunk from having consumed her fill of milk…I don’t know the words for it. It’s almost as if you catch a glimpse of eternity. She embodies peace and happiness. Total dependency, yet complete autonomy. Immortality encapsulated in a fragile human body. All of time and the meaning of existence shines forth from that innocent little person. It’s incredible!

Because of the gift of new life in our house, I feel like every moment is a great big success. Granted, some moments are sleep deprived and some moments are a juggling act as I adjust to being a mommy of 5, but, overall, holding that precious gift that we named Sophie eclipses any of the struggles that come with being a new parent. Since I’m floating on cloud nine, I thought I’d dedicate this entry to all the people for whom I’m incredibly grateful. I won’t be detailing any of my own small successes, rather I want to thank and acknowledge all the people who have been such a gift as we have transitioned into life as a family of 7. (Brace yourself, this entry is a little long.)

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Sophie. 1 day old.

1. My husband, my fabulous labor & delivery nurse, Wendi & Kevin O’Brien, the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth, and St. Colette. Sophie’s birth day was simply beautiful thanks to this incredible team of people. After 5 deliveries, 2 of which were all natural, I feel like I have some good notes for comparison about what to expect on “D-Day.” This was, without a doubt, my best delivery ever, despite it being my second longest. Wendi and Kevin are great instructors and prepared me, and, most importantly, my husband well for the big day. Despite this being baby number 5, there is a lot to learn if you want to have a successful peaceful natural birth, especially in a hospital setting. I keep meaning to write a whole post about all the reasons why I am in love with Dr. Bradley and so very grateful for his books and our fabulous instructors, but today is not that day. Suffice it to say, I am so very grateful for them! My L&D nurse, who was also incredible in so many ways and so very supportive of our desire to birth naturally, said that she had never witnessed a natural birth go as smoothly as mine  in her 19 years of delivering babies. That is completely thanks to the Bradley Method and my husband’s fidelity to assuming his role as coach. He did a phenomenal job, and I truly could not have gotten through without him! My husband is THE reason that I was calm, cool, and collected throughout my entire labor, but especially during the hours we spent laboring at the hospital.

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Josh and Soph, 2 hours old

Above all, I have to credit St. Colette, my sweet daughter’s patroness (Colette is her middle name) and the patroness of expectant mommies. After our last less-than-stellar birth experience, I was quite nervous about this one. I spent a lot of time begging her to help me out on D-DAY. And she did. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I fully credit her with our awesome nurse (Who was called in on her day off because L&D was swamped. And who sacrificed her daughter’s volleyball game to answer that call and come in to work. And who was weirdly connected to us in a strange 6 degrees of separation type way.) and with the fact that we got THE LAST L&D room (had we arrived any later, we would have been laboring and delivering in a busy triage room) and with the fact that a new mommy room just happened to open up for us, despite the fact that we weren’t supposed to get one because they were all full. Thank you, St. Colette, for interceding on my behalf!           

2. My husband. (yes, I already thanked him, but this is for a different reason.) Josh works for an incredible company. One of their many benefits is that fathers get a two week paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a new baby. This leave is granted ON TOP of any existing vacation. While I think our growing family may make them question this lovely policy, we are so grateful it exists. Josh was home with me for the last two weeks and he did a stellar job keeping the house running. I was blown away! He even kept up with the kids’ school work, so we weren’t behind at all when he went back to work. He cooked and cleaned and cared for all 4 of the other kiddos. All I had to do those first two weeks was sleep, eat, and snuggle my sweet Sophie. It was amazing!

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One of the beautiful meals we received.

3. Kate and all the people who signed up on the Care Calendar. My sweet friend Kate made a Care Calendar  for people to sign up to bring us meals. It started on Tuesday when Josh went back to work and is still filling up with our incredibly generous friends and acquaintances from Church and our homeschooling coop. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am not to have to worry about dinner. These first few days alone with the kiddos have been challenging, so it is such a gift to just have to open the door and say thank you before having a beautiful, home-cooked meal on the table. And let me tell you, these women can cook. Everything has been so delicious! On top of being generous enough to make us dinner, these women have even been kind enough to adhere to our new dietary standards. These women have their own large families and struggles and pregnancies and whatever else to deal with, yet they took the time from their hectic lives to make us dinner. I am so grateful to them all for their incredible generosity!

Kate also took my older boys to coop last week which was a gift for them, Josh, and me. They were bummed about the prospect of missing coop, but, thanks to her, they didn’t have to. Josh had been wrangling the four older kiddos by himself for several days at that point, so I’m sure he was grateful to have his duties cut in half. And I was super grateful for how quite the house was while they were gone. Thanks again to my dear friend! You are such an amazing gift!

So that’s it for me. I’d apologize for this post being so long, except for even this doesn’t fully express my gratitude to these individuals. What about you? What are your successes this week? Link up over at Catholicmom.com

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Help! Facebook is Taking Over My Life.

facebook-notesA lady I know from Church was lamenting on Facebook today. She said she was considering deleting her account because it wastes her time and because she often feels stressed or inadequate as a mother thanks to the rampant advice polluting her newsfeed. Despite the 75 comments her post had collected, it seemed inappropriate to offer my two cents when she just stated she was overwhelmed by unwanted advice. I think what I would have said is helpful, at least it has been for me, so I’ll share it here, where she won’t have to read it unless she wants to.

If she is feeling as overwhelmed as she stated, and if her daily priorities are out of whack because of the time she spends on facebook and/or articles she links to from facebook, it is most definitely time for a break. I know this because I have been there – multiple times. There have been times when I have allowed my children to sit in front of the tv for hours on a perfectly beautiful day while I perused the internet. I find this unacceptable. My children deserve more than that. For me, that is a sure sign that my priorities are way out of whack. Truthfully, I probably ignored many signs prior to that big glaring realization.

There have also been times when I have been drawn into debates of one kind of another. These are a big no-no for me. When I find myself arguing with the stove-top while I prepare dinner, I know I’ve let facebook get the best of me. I’m all for conversation and sharing opinions, but let’s be real: no one wants to consider my opinion (or anyone else’s) when they’re on facebook. They only want to share their own. Loudly. And repetitively. I’d have better luck debating my 2 year old with his fingers stuck in his ears. One simply can’t take the bait. It won’t be a real conversation, it will never truly be resolved, and you’ll just end up shouting at yourself in the shower. From what I’ve seen in my newsfeed, my church friend not only takes the bait, but she dangles her own. Facebook is not an effective platform to resolve the worlds problems. Save yourself some stress. Don’t debate on facebook. Block your friends that dangle bait from your newsfeed. Life’s too beautiful to put that much effort into something so incredibly ineffective.

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So, here’s my advice for my friend, take a break. It’s the best way to gain some perspective. For me, I fast from Facebook every Lent. When I come back after the 40+ days (because I don’t log in on Sunday’s either) I am shocked at the drivel in my newsfeed. It is such a wake up call for me. Then I am able to start cleaning things up. I unlike or hide pages that aren’t offering me fulfilling information. That helps immensely. I have a really bad habit of liking pages. Any time I see a yummy recipe or a good blog entry, I like their page, envisioning all of the future entries that will enhance my life. It rarely works out that way. After a year of accumulating new likes, they desperately need to be cleaned up. The time away from facebook allows me to see my newsfeed with a fresh perspective. Over time I become desensitized to all the crap. When I come back from my fast, I am able to see with new eyes, and quickly discern what needs to go.

Next, I don’t allow my friend list to grow larger than 300 people. There’s nothing magic about the number 300; it’s simply what I decided was a realistic number of acquaintances. This decision has two components.

  1. My primary motive for having a facebook page is keeping in touch with friends and family that are spread far and wide. As such, I often post pictures of my kiddos and family updates. Although I never post anything extremely intimate, I don’t believe it is appropriate or necessary to share these details about my life with someone I used to run into at parties in college. Therefore, I try to make sure everyone on my friend’s list is someone I actually communicate with (or want to communicate with) in some way.
  2. When I started cleaning up my newsfeed like I mentioned above, I starting “hiding” a bunch of “friends.” This caused me to think about the nature of these “friendships.” In most cases, these were people who were sharing facts about their life that weren’t really intended for me. An acquaintance from 10th grade can’t possibly be posting pictures of her kid for me. Quite frankly, I didn’t care about the pictures of her kid because I never knew her all that well in the first place. As a result, my general rule of thumb is: if I’m going to hide them from my newsfeed, I should probably just unfriend them. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like family members who want to dangle bait, but, for the most part, if I don’t want to read what you have to share, we’re probably not really “friends.”

My unfriending principle lead me to a realization. There were many people that I wouldn’t really consider myself friends with, but whom I didn’t really want to delete. Their lives were simply too interesting. When I stepped back and thought about it, I realized just how creepy that really is. I was watching their lives the way people watch the lives of celebrities, a trend which I find disgusting. As such, I have to make myself follow this rule: if I don’t feel comfortable liking or commenting on their posts, I have to unfriend them, no matter how fascinating their lives are. Otherwise, I’m just using them for my entertainment, which is not something I want to do, even from afar.

I guess the point of all of this is that I have finally resolved my turbulent relationship with Facebook. I now realize that my disdain actually stemmed from the unchecked and often times inappropriate place it held in my life. Now that I have created some much needed boundaries by defining the role I want Facebook to play in my life, I’m much happier with it. I would like to encourage my friend to do what is necessary to accomplish the same.

Finding Time to Love

While reading an article about the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I came across the most simple and profound quote. Jim Caviezel, the actor, quoting Ivan Dragicevic, stated

“Man always finds time for what he loves. If somebody who doesn’t have any time finds a girlfriend and falls in love with her, he will always find time for her. People don’t have time for God because they do not love Him.”

I love it when something so simple rings so clear and true. Even though I didn’t come up with this on my own, these are my favorite kind of epiphanies. Furthermore, this is such a fitting statement to summarize some of my Lenten experiences.

As you may recall, one of my Lenten epiphanies was about being called to tithe our time. Most days during Lent, I probably did a decent job of doing this simply because of what I chose to do for Lent in terms of prayer. Added on to my regular daily prayer time, by the end of the day most days, I’d probably shared about 10% of my awake time with God. But what about now that Lent is over? And what about the fact that it was kind of happening by default, not because I had a burning desire to spend as much time as possible with the Lord in prayer?

I think Ivan’s statement sums it up perfectly. Even though I’ve grown SO much spiritually, I still have such a long way to go. Yes, I love the Lord. But do I love Him with the same passion that I love my husband? Or greater for that matter? I’m always a little emotionally high maintenance, and during my pregnancies it can amount to downright neediness. Recently, I’ve found myself almost daily begging Josh not to go to work or to come home early or whatever else will get me a few more minutes with him. Where is that same passion for more time with the Lord?

One thing I’ve been praying for a lot lately is for our marital love to become the love that Christ intended for it to be. In Ephesians Chapter 5 we’re told that wives should submit to their husbands as the Church does to the Lord and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. That’s pretty powerful stuff. It really moves me and its something I greatly desire for our marriage. (Although I’ll be quick to tell you, I hope Josh never has to hand himself over for me in the manner in which Christ did for his bride, the Church.)

What I find so funny is that I’ve been asking to grow in this kind of marital love without really understanding what it even means. My actions show very clearly that I have more passion for my husband than I do for the Lord. That being the case, I think it’s laughable that I pray for Christ to teach us to love each other as He loves His Church and vice versa. Thankfully, God loves me just the way I am, despite my many imperfections and ignorances. I’m confidant that through continued prayer I will grown in both martial love as God designed it and love for God himself. I have no doubt that He can work on more than one part of me at a time.

On a less serious note, this quote also called to mind my Lenten Facebook experience, or, more accurately, experiencing life without Facebook during Lent. There are several people I keep up with on Facebook. There are many more that I am “friends” with, read their status updates, look at their pictures, but never actually communicate with. Regarding the later, I’d say I am not actually friends with those people, regardless of what I’d like to think. All relationships take effort to sustain and reading about someone’s life on Facebook doesn’t count. As for the former…well that’s the question that really got me thinking.

Previously, I would have told you that I rely on Facebook so much for communication because I’m too busy for other forms of communication such as lunch dates or even phone calls. Taking into account Ivan’s statement, which I wholeheartedly agree with, if I am too busy for time with these people, am I even really friends with them?

Being out-of-state from many of my closest friends, the ease and convenience of Facebook for feeling involved in each other’s lives is unparalleled. I don’t dispute that. But what if its come to the point where Facebook is all you have left? With few exceptions, I didn’t talk to or communicate with the people who I keep up with most on Facebook at all during Lent. I’m actually not even sure if I knew I missed some of them until I “saw” them again on Facebook. I was really excited to “see” them, but it never even occurred to me to get in touch with them without using Facebook. That may just mean I’m selfish. But if the same is true for them, are we really even friends to begin with?

I don’t have an answer to that question.

My point is that love is a verb. For those of you struggling to remember, verbs are words that show action. If we can’t take even the smallest, simplest action, whether it be for our spouses, our friends, or the Lord, how much do we really love them? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Ivan is exactly right. When we love something, we make time for it. It’s not uncommon for Americans to move their whole schedule around to ensure they don’t miss some particular hour of TV. If we can do that for a show that we “love,” why is it so hard for us to make a little time for the people we love and for our God? After all, people and most definitely God have so much more value than anything you could possibly find on TV.

With Deepest Sympathy and Heartfelt Condolences

Dahlia Sympathy (1)I “heard” from a college friend yesterday (via a facebook status update) that he lost his sister. I am honestly heartbroken over the news. I knew his sister, though not well, and at one point I was really close to his family. I am slightly stunned by the emotions this situation has brought up. All I want to do is give them all a big hug. I want to be there to help make food for the husband and children she left behind. I want to help manage all the guests that are likely dropping by to offer their condolences to her parents and brother. I want to help make this as easy a process as earthly possible. I want to be able to hold their hands and in some small way offer peace, consolation, or understanding. I want to stand beside them as they say goodbye to their daughter, sister, mother. I just want to help with the pain. I suppose this is a fairly normal reaction to death. Still, it seems weird for me to feel this way. With one recent exception, I haven’t seen or spoken to this family in something like 5 years. It leaves me feeling awkward because, the fact is, I’m not a part of his family anymore. He’s married; I’m married. We have very separate, different lives.

I tried explaining my feelings to my husband. Being a man who’s truly in touch with his feelings, he very eloquently said something like, “I’m sure it’s normal to feel that way.” Bless his heart. He tries to understand me. He knows I don’t what him to solve my problems, but he’s a man; that’s what he does. When he is unable to be the solver, I get a reassuring statement like the one above. I know his intentions and I love him for those intentions, but, as a woman, I need to sift through my feelings with someone. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

All I know is my heart is breaking for this family and that I apparently still love them despite time, distance, or circumstance. Ever since I heard the news, it’s all I can think about. I even dreamed about it last night. I feel helpless, but I also feel confused. I don’t even know if these feelings are appropriate considering the time, distance and circumstance that do separate us. I sent a sympathy gift to the family and notes of condolence to a few of the family members. That helped a little. At least I feel like I did something.

I just don’t know how to reconcile the way I feel with the reality of our situation. I’m not sure why I feel the way I do, but I desperately want to reach out to them. I just don’t think it’s my place. But, then again, looking at it from a Christian perspective, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ and it’s only natural for me to reach out to the family. I just don’t know what to do. Obviously, I’m constantly praying for them. Maybe that’s all I should do?

As I type this the visitation is starting. I can’t begin to fathom what those boys are thinking and feeling as they look at their mother lying there in eternal rest. Or her parents as they look at their daughter. Or her brother as he looks at his sister. Or her husband as he looks at his wife. My constant prayer is that the family is granted peace, comfort, and understanding, that they are brought closer to Christ and to each other through this tragedy, and that family and friends wrap them in a blanket of compassion and support. I just wish I could tangibly help with those things instead of merely praying for them.

So…umm…you wanna get together sometime?

Driving away from Chick-fil-a with my boys the other day, I found myself wishing I had more experience in “picking up” men. Laughably, the reason I found myself thinking this was because I would have loved to exchange contact information with a woman I met on the playground. Before you jump to any conclusions, I am neither looking for an opportunity to stray from my husband nor am I having a crisis with my sexual identity.

For quite sometime now, I’ve found myself wishing for more “mommy friends.” There’s just some things that my “non-mommy friends” can’t relate to. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. It  just leaves me feeling as if I need to branch out a little and make some new friends. Now that we’ve moved, that need is glaringly obvious.

So, driving away from a perfectly lovely chat with this other mommy on the playground, I started kicking myself. Why didn’t I invite her out for a playdate? Or at the very least exchanged contact info with her? How hard could it have been? All I would have had to say is something along the lines of “You know, I’m new in town and don’t know many people yet. Would you like to get together again sometime and let the kids play?” There’s nothing hard or intimidating about that. But I didn’t do it. The worst thing that could have happened was she said no. So what? If she had said no, I’d be in no different position than I’m in now. BUT, what if I had asked and what if she had said yes? Our kids were getting along smashingly. We even had very similar ideas about what’s acceptable for kids to watch on tv and whatnot. She could have been a really good friend. Maybe we could have even taken turns babysitting for each other! Oh well. You know what they say about regrets of what you didn’t do being worse than the regrets of tings you did do…

I guess the moral of the story is I need to work on my pick up lines…or something to that effect. :)

New Beginnings

sunny beginningsWhen I was younger, one of my favorite times of the year was back to school or the beginning of a new semester. I relished shopping for school supplies, often coordinating my pens and folders by color or theme, and the potential for success that lay before me. I made similar resolutions each time usually related to organization, time management, and procrastination (or more specifically, not procrastinating). I absolutely adore new beginnings of any kind. Naturally, celebrating New Years and making new year resolutions is something I really enjoy.

This year I put a lot of thought into what my resolution would be. I’m not really a fan of the generic goals like lose weight, get finances in order, get healthy, etc. All of those are great, but they basically predetermine your failure. They’re just too generic. There’s nothing measurable or concrete about them. Yet, I kept coming back to the same generic statement. I just want to be a better person. I’ve been hovering around this thought for a little over a year, but haven’t done much about it. Why? My guess would be because it’s too generic and I never formulated an action plan. So, to make my new year resolution, I decided to break down this concept of being a better person. If it goes well, perhaps I’ll continue expanding and elaborating on the same theme each year. For now, year one of becoming a better person, here’s what I’ve come up with.

I took a look at my life and picked out the major pieces that define who I am as a person. After all, how could I improve who I “am” if I don’t know who I am to begin with. I came up with these subheadings to “me”: spiritual, personal, wife, mother, entrepreneur, friend. I ultimately decided to sufficiently improve me, I would make a small, daily goal for each of these categories. In effect, instead of making one broad resolution, I’ve made several small daily resolutions.

  1. I will pray the Rosary each day. (This will probably require getting up a little earlier so I have the time to myself.)
  2. I will read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month. For example, today is the second so I read chapter 2. Following my chapter I will play a round of “Bible Roulette” to allow the Lord to speak to me/learn a little more about the Bible.
  3. I will read at least one chapter of something I enjoy each day. (This one kind of stresses me out. I have no idea when I’m going to sit down and read for pleasure, plus I’m really bad about not taking time out for me, but I think this will be a much-needed daily “recharge” time for me.)
  4. I will greet Josh with a smile and a kiss and tell him I’m glad he’s home each day. (This sounds obvious but after several years of marriage and dealing with kids all day, Josh doesn’t usually get the welcome he deserves when he walks in the door.)
  5. I will spend individual quality time with each boy each day. (Research shows that just 15 minutes of quality one-on-one time with a child does wonders.)
  6. I will do one proactive activity for my business each day. (I’m not focusing so much on building new business right now, since the baby will be here before we know it. However, I definitely don’t want to lose all my momentum in the meantime, so this is what I’m starting with.)
  7. Each day, I will attempt to brighten one person’s day.

So those are my 7 daily goals. I got a new planner (the kind with both a monthly and a daily view) to help me track my goals. Each day, as I complete each goal, I will write the corresponding number in my planner. This will allow me to see which goals I’m struggling with and help me get back on the proverbial horse after I fall off. For me, tracking it the most important part of goal setting. It’s really easy to set goals, but sticking with them and eventually achieving them all comes down to the tracking. I think I’ll also report my progress here in my blog, since its important to have some accountability. It’s much to easy to make excuses to myself, but if I have to tell someone else what a slacker I’ve been, I’m much more likely to stay focused.

It takes 21 day to form a habit, so if I find I’ve accomplished (accomplished meaning successfully made it a true daily activity…like eating) one of these goals, I may replace it. I may also modify these goals as needed. My tracking sheets will speak for themselves.  But, for now, this is my plan to become a slightly better person this year.

Here’s to a great 2010!

Russian Roulette

Despite the arrogance of my last post, it really does hurt to watch people I care about suffer. I get so angry with them because I honestly believe they choose to be in the situations they’re festering in. Nevertheless, it breaks my heart to watch them slowly and almost systematically destroy their lives. Believe it or not, that is not an overstatement. People seem to have so little comprehension of the fact that the choices they make today will most definitely affect the rest of their lives. At the very least, every choice has the potential to do that.

Lately, I feel as if I’m the one who’s trapped. Trapped in some viewing room watching people I love slowly torture themselves. And, somehow, they don’t even seem to realize they’re doing it. How is it possible to sabotage your own future and not see what you’re doing to yourself? How is it possible to be so blind to your own situation that you can’t hear the truth that a trusted friend tries to share with you? How is it possible that when I reach out to try and help, all they see is someone who “acts older than she should,” someone who just needs to “lighten up?”

There was definitely a time when I was “lighter.” A time when I too made insanely stupid choices. But, you’d be a fool to assume that I would go back to that time if given the opportunity. I have no idea how I managed to escape primarily unscathed. Don’t think for a second that I don’t realize how lucky I am to merely have a few emotional scars from that period of my life. I just don’t understand how so many can be so blind. Sometimes it feels like everyone around me is playing Russian Roulette with their lives. I pray everyday that they also emerge unharmed, but the thought of what that chamber could hold terrifies me.