Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The "luxury" of being a woman...

"A woman is capable of more sacrifices than a man. Man is more apt to be a hero, through some great passionate outburst of heroism. But a woman's love makes a thousand small sacrifices, sprinkling them through the days and the months; their very repetition gives them the character of the commonplace. Not only her soul, but her body, has some share in the Calvary of Redemption; furthermore, she comes closer to death than man, whenever she brings forth a child." Fulton J. Sheen, Life is Worth Living

"A catholic mom is a universal woman who transforms herself daily with dignity and knows where it comes from, her loving Father in heaven. " - a friend

I've been thinking often about the concept of womanhood and/or femininity recently.   There has been a lot of media talk regarding these subjects over the past few weeks, with the whole manufactured "War on Women" and then Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney.  It seems that everywhere I turn, I'm seeing someone else talking about what it means to be a woman, how much a woman is "worth," and how productive a woman is/isn't to our American society.

The bitter working moms vs stay-at-home-moms is battle is back in the foreground of every magazine or news article or Facebook post.  

I'm honestly getting tired of it.  I want to take a moment to address all of the women out there in the internet world.  So, get a cup of coffee, sit back, and let me talk directly to you for a minute.

Dearest Woman Reader,

I want to get up on the rooftop and scream out a little TobyMac at the top of my lungs in your direction.   

"The paparazzi flashes, and that they think that it's you,
But they don't know that who you are is not what you do."

Guess what, everyone?  What you do does not determine your self-worth.  You are not MORE of a person because you stay at home with your kids.  You are not MORE of a person because you choose to enter into the workforce.  Want to know what gives you value?  Want to know where your self-worth comes from?  Here, let me tell you:

"Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead." Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 357 

 That's it.  That's where your dignity and self-worth come from.  You are valuable and worthwhile because you - yes, YOU - have been made in the image and likeness of God the Creator.  You are not a something, but a someONE who is, by your very nature, worthy of respect and love and compassion.    

Not because you stay home with your kids.

Not because you work full-time.

Not because you have a college degree.

Not because you have oodles of life experience.

Not because of who you are married to.

Not because of the number of kids you have.

Because you were created in the image and likeness of God.  You are worthwhile because you exist.   You are valuable because you - yes, YOU - reflect God.

You are valuable because you are, not because of what you do.

(Now, I can only speak to the direct experience of being a woman, but please be assured that men, you too have this inherent dignity and self-worth.  I'm focusing more on women at the moment because of all the media talk/blitz recently, but do not for one moment think that I see women as more valuable as men.   We are equally created in the image of God).

But back to the women.   Can we all please stop arguing over who has the "luxury" in life?    Let's be totally honest here.   It doesn't matter if you stay at home with the kids or if you spend your days in the work force.   Neither one is really a luxury, when we're talking about the daily experience.  

According to Merriam-Webster, a luxury is:

  a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort : sumptuous environment 
something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary 

Now, maybe I've not worked the "right" out-of-the-home jobs, or maybe my kids are little terrors or something, but I've been on both sides of this debate, and I can state with absolute certainty that neither one meets the true definition of luxury.
Every job choice - whether it is in or out of the home - necessarily requires a sacrifice of some sort.   Either you are sacrificing the comfort of added income, or you are sacrificing the time spent with your children. Being a mother requires sacrifice.  It requires pain, sweat, and tears.   It is not luxurious, by its very nature.

Can it have moments of luxury?  Sure!

Can it have moments of sheer bliss?  Definitely!

Can there be moments of abundance, great ease, and comfort?  Most certainly!

But, by its very nature, motherhood is a vocation that requires service.  Fulfilling the vocation of motherhood requires - at the very core - the ability to put someone else's needs in front of your own, and to work for the betterment of that other person.

Motherhood is a blessing.  Motherhood is the opportunity to grow in virtue, and with that, to grow closer to Christ.   Motherhood is something that I will never ever regret entering into, no matter how hard it may get.  The rewards far outweigh the challenges.

But you know what?

It's not luxurious.   By assigning that label to one path that motherhood can take (typically, whichever one the person assigning the label does NOT belong to), we are instantly giving it a demotion in value.  We instantly move their role in life from the "necessary" to the "excessive."   

We have just moved them from valuable and with inherent dignity to unnecessary and disposable.

We need to stop and remind ourselves of the basic fact that who we are is not what we do.

 We are valuable because we are His.  We are worthwhile because we reflect Him.  We - all of us - carry an inherent dignity because we are someONE not someTHING.

It would be good for us all to remember this.

And since TobyMac always makes me feel happier, today I suggest remembering it in song:

With love always,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hiding behind the couch......

It's been a long time since I've updated on my whole "getting healthy" plan.

That's kind of because I fell off of the wagon.  

*hiding behind the couch now...*


Okay, I'm coming back out from behind the couch.   Yes, I kind of fell off of the wagon during Lent.  With the craziness surrounding our adoption paperwork and appointments, and then the onslaught of constant sickness, I kind of gave up on the whole working out and eating right plan.

I didn't completely fall off the wagon, I suppose.  It's more like I just went to the back of the bus and tried to hide from everyone else riding with me.

I stopped blogging about it.  I stopped posting about healthy living in my mommy group.  I just kind of avoided everything exercise or weight loss related for a good two months.

Well, as of yesterday, I had climbed back up to my spot on the front of the bus.   I had tried to run over the weekend, and was thoroughly disgusted in my lack of running ability that I'd worked so hard to improve over the past eight months.   It seems that the minute you stop working out and working towards a goal (a 5K in my case), your body just decides to regress a bit.    Starting back up again is HARD WORK, but I have to do it.  I came so far....I can't give up now!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that I must have done something right when changing my eating habits.  I had one really bad week of bad, processed, convenience foods (the week of the stomach bug) when I didn't want to cook.   I will NEVER again do that on purpose - that food and the huge increase in sugar/carbs did things to my body and psyche that I never want to happen again.  I felt gross, frumpy, groggy, and depressed.  Physically, my hair and skin became SO MUCH oilier, it was unbelievable.  My clothes - in a mere week - became snug.   And rust me when I say that sugar in your bloodstream changes your pH in ways that you don't want to happen  (pretty sure you women out there will know what I am referring to).    It was not a fun week, or a fun week following that one.

Even though it was not fun, that week did have a bit of a highlight:   my body's physical and emotional reaction to the not-so-good food reaffirmed to me that I've managed to change my habits, as well as even my taste buds and cravings.  More affirmation of this came in the form of no weight change on the scale when I stepped on it this morning.  I must be doing something right with my habits if I can maintain my weight loss without even really trying. 

But just maintaining isn't what I need to be doing.  Is maintaining weight loss good?  Sure!  Sometimes it's even great....but it's not where I need to be right now.  Right now, I need to be still in the weight loss mindset.  So, as of yesterday, that's where I'm heading again.

Back into making working out a priority.  I will run my first 5K this July.  Run it, not walk it.   That's going to take some training, and I started back up again yesterday.

Food - good quality, mostly fresh produce, unprocessed food - will again become a priority.   I'd gotten lazy and unmotivated with food preparation.   That must stop - all of us feel better and interact better when our food quality is higher.  Back to promoting all-around health with our food choices and habits.

So, here goes.  I didn't completely fall of the wagon, but I was getting kind of close.   

Not going to fall off this time - let's get this bus going again!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Photo Update

It's my birthday, so I'm not going to be too wordy today!  :-)  We've got a fun celebratory challenge happening over on our adoption blog (Matching donations, today only!!)

So instead of talking too much, you all get a photo update!  Remember that you can click on the pictures themselves to see a bigger version!

The boys dyeing Easter eggs

The finished products
Our fearless leaders at the zoo

Pretending to be flamingos. Haha

After playing at the splashpad FULLY CLOTHED.  :-)

Graham and his favourite goat, Scrambler

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Falling asleep....

Be still and know that I am God.
- Psalm 46:10

Be still.  

How long has it been since I tried to sit still?  To be quiet?  To listen?

It feels like all of Lent was this huge rush just to get to the finish line.  I started with such good intentions, shortening our school weeks, stepping back from my book group, trying to minimize my commitments.  But yet...the pressure just kept pounding.  I feel like I was never really able to catch a breath, much less be still.

All of my good intentions to pause, to add prayer time, to spend more time preparing for Easter all seemed to end up in failure.  None of those actually bore any fruit.  Once we hit the point where we all managed to get sick....and then get sick again....nothing went according to my plan.  

So, if I couldn't find time to be still, how could I ever find time to know God?  How could I ever know that He is God....if I couldn't even be still?

God showed Himself to me in other ways this Lent.  It wasn't my plan, but it seems to have been His plan.  I came to know and love Him more in ways I never ever could have contemplated before Ash Wednesday this year.

A friend of mine recently stated a bit of regret for what she saw as a failed Lenten season.  In her words, she "fell asleep" during Lent, referencing the apostles who fell asleep while Jesus was praying in the garden.

At first, I agreed with her.  I mean, I had failed at every single Lenten resolution that I had made, save one.  (I made it to Confession before the end of Lent).  I definitely felt a sense of failure, a sense that I had fallen asleep.  

But then I realized something.  Often in our spiritual lives, we experience an "awakening."  We become aware of something, or something is revealed to us.  We are "woken up."

But .... you can't wake up unless you fall asleep first.  That would be impossible.  Waking up before you fall asleep is illogical....disordered.  It's just impossible.  

Once I realized this, my sense of falling asleep seemed to make sense.  God had allowed me to fall asleep precisely because He wanted me to be able to wake up.  

What I saw as my failures were instead opportunities to release myself from the world, from this need to be in control....and to give God the room to bring about an awakening in my spiritual life.

I had started Lent asking God to help me learn to trust Him and to fall more deeply in love with Him.   He did exactly allowing me to fall asleep.

No longer was I in control - which was shown time and time again this Lent as I broke another Lenten resolution, often due to a factor seemingly out of my control.  I was asleep, unable to control what was happening around me.  I floundered in a dreamlike state for most of Lent - - just trying to make it through the day.

With incredible clarity, I began to see things about myself, my life, and what God was asking me to change.  The sun was starting to rise, and rays of light were slowly peeking around the blackout curtains I'd hung up and illuminating areas of my life that I'd been trying to keep in the shadows.  In my bleary-eyed, half-asleep state....God was showing me how to begin to trust Him.

He was allowing me to be still and know that He was God.

On Easter Sunday, the Son rose and woke me up from my Lenten slumber.  

It's a new day.  My world has been illuminated with the morning sun.  I'm stretching, yawning, shaking the last bit of sleep from my body...and I am standing up.

It is a new day.  I am finally awake.

I'm ready to step forward, renewed and refreshed by His love.

I am ready to begin again. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday!!

I made it!  I didn't keep all of my Lenten resolutions, and Lent did NOT shape up at all like I had planned it to....but I did manage to keep my promise of capturing a blessing a day in the way of a photograph.  Yes, some days may have been delayed with the "publish" button....but they're there.  All of them.

And today's blessing?'s Easter Sunday!   Today's blessing is the Resurrection.   Today's blessing is the ability to celebrate our redemption with my family.  The giggles.  The smiles.  The music.  The homily (Fr Oliver was ON FIRE TODAY!).  The shared meal with good friends.   The hugs.  The cuddles.  The adorable little boy dress-up ties that my children wore to Mass.

Today was a blessing that cannot be defined in human words.   

I don't think pictures will even be able to express today's blessings.  I'll try.  It will take more than one.

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday, for Catholics, is a time of waiting.  We believe that on the days following His crucifixion, but before His resurrection, Jesus descended into the realm of the dead to free those who had died before He came. 

This is a quiet time, a time of anticipation.  We're waiting for Him to rise.   

On Holy Saturday, late at at night, we come into the church to celebrate the Easter Vigil.  This is the highest Mass of the year, the vigil of all vigils, really.   We start in darkness, and the liturgy is absolutely beautiful.    We use every sense possible to experience the Resurrection, and by the end of the is Easter.  He has risen!  We can finally say the "A" word again (alleluia, for you non-Catholics).  It's amazing.

At this vigil, all those who have been preparing to enter into the Catholic Church, or to come into full communion with the Church (by receiving a sacrament that they had not previously received), are initiated into the Catholic Church.  It's beautiful.

Today's blessing comes in the form of an amazing Easter Vigil service at our parish where SEVENTY people were brought into full communion with the Catholic Church.

It was awe-inspiring.

It was beautiful.

Moments were achingly beautiful.  Tears flowed.

I was blessed to experience this.

Good Friday

I'm playing catch up again, thanks to taking the weekend off to focus on Easter.  Friday was Good Friday, and blessings came in two forms.

First, we had a brief playdate at a friend's apartment complex and pool.  This was a blessing because it gave me a chance to spend some time with my "girls" (prayer group) and then relax with my family in the sun.   I even got to watch this little boy - who's been terrified of swimming without a life jacket - bravely venture into the pool to try and learn to swim.  He's almost got it!

This blessing was followed by some down time at home, and then a chance to go to church to remember the events of the very first Good Friday.  In the Catholic Church, this typically is a service during which the Passion of our Lord is read, and then we, as a congregation, venerate the Cross.  It was beautiful.  I was brought to tears multiple times, which is a blessing on Good Friday.   

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Simple Things

Today was supposed to be a day of resting and recuperating after a hard day and night with the stomach bug, but Mike got called into work, so that plan was not to be.

The boys and I managed, even though I had very little energy.   We pushed through, watched a bit more TV than normal, and everyone managed.

But today's blessing came in the form of our dinner.   It wasn't anything exciting (just leftovers out of the fridge), but I had managed to sneak in a loaf of potato bread into our bread machine earlier in the afternoon.  I love the person who invented the bread machine.   Seriously.  It takes me 5 minutes to dump in all of the ingredients into the bread pan, and voila!, three hours later the house smells amazing and we have a piping hot fresh loaf of bread to enjoy.

So today, my blessing came in the form of a simple loaf of bread, still warm from baking.  It was delicious.

The Village

(Delayed post from Wednesday)


I seem to have come down with the dreaded stomach illness, so sorry for the delay!  I'm starting to feel better, though, so I'm hopeful that it won't be as bad for me as for the littlest rascal!

It's a day late, but yesterday's blessing came in the form of what I've started calling the "village."  

You see, we're on this crazy journey called adoption, and are working incredibly hard to bring our little boy home from Hong Kong.  You can read about that on our adoption blog.  

We've been incredibly blessed by this community of people who have seemingly come out of the woodwork to shower us in support from the moment we announced our adoption journey.  It's been crazy, really - completely overwhelming.

Yesterday, it really hit me when I watched bidding start to really pick up on our online fundraising auction.   Watching people that we didn't even know come forward to pay full price for items we were auctioning off (people usually go to auctions to try and get cheap deals, not to pay full price!!) really hit me.  We are truly blessed to have been welcomed into this village of support!  Thank you all!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

School Time Fun

Today's blessing is two-fold (again, sorry!  I don't know how to be brief, apparently!).  It was captured quickly, with my phone, so sorry about the quality!  

To me, this picture represents the blessing that home schooling has brought into our lives.  Things are more relaxed, there is more laughter, and the relationships being fostered between the boys are amazing.    Oh yeah, and they are thriving academically, too, which is so much fun to see!

Today's picture represents the blessing that is home schooling....and the blessing of having three little boys that can create anything out of construction paper, some tape, and a few props.   After being told they could use a box of random art supplies to create a costume depicting anyone they warmed my heart to see my middle rascal dressed up as Abe Lincoln.   Their creativity, their love of history, and the giggles I heard while they were planning out and creating their masterpiece brightened my morning immensely! 


Monday's post (sorry, a day late!):

A long time ago, when our oldest rascal was only 8 months old, he was very very sick and became severely dehydrated.  We ended up having to admit him into the local hospital for rehydration.  The doctor made a joke that they called dehydrated babies "Insta-babies" because once you added water, POOF! they were back to normal.   

We had an insta-baby here today.  Rascal #3 appears to be back at full strength.  He's eating everything in his path, running and playing (and pushing his brothers' buttons).   In other words....he is back to normal!

So today's blessing was a cute little 3 year old who finally feels better....because I actually got TWO loads of laundry done, tortillas made, a house cleaned, and a WHOLE DAY OF SCHOOL DONE!  Woo-hoo!

He was sooooo happy to be back at swim lessons this week!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Well, the littlest rascal perked back up a bit today, which meant we actually got to go to Mass as a family.  (If he had still been refusing to walk on his own or eat or drink, we would have had to go to church in shifts...).  This made me a very happy Heidi - Palm Sunday Mass is one of my favourites,  and I know from past experience that being on my own during the very, very long Gospel reading with little boys is not exactly the definition of a good time....

But it didn't matter - rascal #3 was close to his normal self by the time 5 pm rolled around, and so the entire family headed out to church.   After a beautiful Mass, we headed home to grill our dinner and relax on the back patio.

The weather was perfect, the kiddos were happy, the smells delicious.....and the sunset was beautiful.  Today's blessing was definitely the end of the day - enjoyable in every way!