Wednesday, July 17, 2019

When Education prevents us from being truly present

I remember those mornings when we'd step into our puffy snowsuits and walk into the frosty air, our gloved hands packing snowballs or scooping armfuls of delicate snowflakes that we pushed and stacked into forts. Later, we'd crowd back into the hallway of that creaky Victorian house and lay our wet hats on the radiator as we rushed to sip mugfuls of hot chocolate.

I remember those afternoons when we'd breathe in the crisp air as we drug the rake across the yard, forming piles of leaves. Yellow, orange, and red would mix and tumble as we jumped and flung leaves at each other. I recall when once, a man stopped his car and walked over, and after talking with us raised his camera-and soon after, we excitedly stared at our picture in the local newspaper.

I remember those early mornings when I'd sit at that long kitchen table and write, write, write till the side of my right hand was gray from when I'd rest it against the page of the fantasy story I was creating.

I remember those leisurely, long hours at the library, when I'd lose myself in the shelves and pages upon pages of books. I remember the hiking trips, the field trips, and the peaceful weeknight evenings of fellowship and relaxation. The days and nights of simply being present with other human beings.

Then, the Educational System blasted into the calm.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Communion rails could be a good thing, practically speaking

It's funny how these words can ignite tremendous passion or disdain: 

Communion rails. 

Some people will smile and nod with pleasure, a dreamy smile lifting their faces. Yet, horror will cloud the faces of other people as they begin talking about the benefits of Vatican II and how we shouldn't try to go back to the way things were in pre-conciliar America. Instead of being a simple feature of church architecture in the West, Communion rails become the catalyst for emotionally charged debates.

Can we please take just one moment to discuss Communion rails without all of the deep passions associated with Vatican II and its (intended and unintended) effects? 

Putting aside aspects concerning history or spiritual significance, let's think about the sheer practicality of Communion rails. Speaking from my experience as a practicing Catholic and as a parent (who is always wrangling at least one child while going to receive the Eucharist), I've recently begun mulling over some practical benefits of Communion rails. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

An Open Book: What's been taking me through summer

It's time for another literature roundup! In the past few weeks, I've read about farming, death, space zombies (sort of), and prayer (among other things). Head on over to Carolyn Astfalk's linkup at An Open Book for more bookish blog posts :) 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Blank slots on the calendar have never looked so wonderful to me

I don't want to seem overly dramatic, but this has been a wild summer for our little family. Most people I know always have crazy lives and schedules. But us? We're a bit like hobbits. We have some scheduled activities each week, but for the most part, our calendar is rather empty (and I like it that way). However, for the past several weeks, this has not been the case. It's been lovely and wonderful, but exhausting!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The gift of a car: Musings on being a "one car family"

I have to confess that I feel a little silly writing about how our family only owns one car. There are many communities worldwide where I'm sure that owning a car-just one car-is a luxury! However, here in the middle of America, in cities of two-car garages and families where every licensed person has a dedicated vehicle for his or her use, being a "one car family" seems a little offbeat.

This has been downright challenging at times; yet, even in the tough moments, it has opened my eyes and helped me grow in many ways. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Morning Run

The alarm slams me out of peaceful sleep. My hand reaches to turn it off as my heart begins to murmur: Angelus Domini nuntiavit prayers trail off as sleep claims me once more. 

I jolt awake. Thirteen minutes have passed. I need to go now. Flinging on clothes in the dark, slipping my feet into the unfamiliar enclosure of running shoes, I slide into the cool air that is lit by touches of sunlight. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

An Open Book: Welcome to Summer!

It's summertime, and I have not been reading as much since I've gotten swept up into the busyness of various activities. I've also been reading several books at once, which means that none of them get finished! But, there are a few fascinating books that I have read lately, and I just NEED to tell you all about them. 

Make sure to check out Carolyn Astfalk's An Open Book link-up for even more reading recommendations! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Overwhelmed by the stress of motherhood? Here's four questions we can ask ourselves.

We are sick and tired of "doing it all." We're exhausted at caring for our kids 24/7 and meal planning and grocery shopping and cleaning and being contributing members of our parishes and society. We know that we're supposed to fit time in for that elusive "self care" we hear so much about, not to mention spending time to nurture our respective marriages. Oh, and running a side hustle would be beneficial, too. After all, it would show that we aren't just lazy freeloaders who sit at home all day. We can earn money! Because THAT is what proves our value. Right? 

And as we cook, clean, entertain our children, run errands, chauffeur our children to playdates galore, and fill orders for the Etsy store, we become weary. Admirably, at some point we decide that we will chug back another cup of coffee and open our eyes to the chaotic and tiring life that consumes us. We take our gaze off the Instagram feed and place it on each other as we talk. We share our struggles and grief, and we find solidarity-yet we fumble for solutions. What can we do? we ask each other. We don't live in a village or "the good old days" anymore, but we don't want to live in this insanity any longer. How can we change?

I don't know.

I don't have a one-size-fits-all solution for the expectation that we need to "do it all." I don't have an instant remedy for the burnout and desperate loneliness that so many stay-at-home mothers face. I don't know when or how we can fix these problems, but I do know that we need to do something. We can't just expect that the problem will magically go away. When you've spent the past 16+ hours being touched and/or barraged with questions by small humans, I'm sure that the last thing you want to do is sit around for a brainstorming session. But, dear fellow mother, we need act. Here are just a few questions we might ask ourselves:

Monday, May 27, 2019

From Baby #1 to Baby #2: What's changed the second time around

As the second oldest of six kids, I recall different phases that my parents went through throughout the years. They'd try various techniques with different kids, trying to find the best way to discipline, educate, and love us. Every kid is different, so going through phases seems normal to me. It's something that I've expected to go through myself as I work with my husband in raising our children. However, I've been astonished to see that even though we just had our second child at the end of last summer, I've already been changing things up. When my firstborn was a baby, I learned a lot about myself and my assumptions of what motherhood "should" look like. The mental adjustment during that first postpartum period was a bit challenging. So, as I prepared to birth my second child, I knew that some things would be different.

The baby is now nine months old (how????), and looking on these past several months, I think it's fascinating to think about what is different with caring for a baby the second time around.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Tornado Watch

My eyes routinely shifted to the laptop screen, where little red icons showed several confirmed tornadoes. Red light emitted from the weather radio, and words scrolled across the screen declaring "Tornado watch."  One child lay asleep in his bed, and the other curled close to my chest, hugged by a woven wrap. Refreshed from a lengthy walk outside-which we took between downpours of rain-I put away dishes, picked up the floor. Watched a few episodes of Parks & Recreation. Looked over at the weather radar again. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

To Let the Grass Tickle Your Toes

Socks can be really fun and whimsical. They-along with shoes-can keep our feet comfortable, warm, and protected. For many people, putting on socks and shoes (or sandals) is a normal ritual that is performed before stepping outside of the house. It's so typical, so routine, that we may not always be cognizant of our actions. 

Yet, what if we didn't do this every time? What if, instead of encasing our feet in layers of fabric and rubber, we stepped out with bare feet? As our flesh touches the soil, the grass, the pavement, we  feel the world that God has created. Watching where we step (to avoid walking on garbage or broken glass) we are aware of our surroundings in a whole new way. When we do not wear our shoes, we open ourselves up to the possibility of getting hurt-of stubbing a toe or walking on a rock or twig-but we also open ourselves up to a tremendous experience of God's beauty. 

We feel the squishy, moist earth caress our feet. 
We feel the slightly rough sidewalk massage our bare feet. 
We feel the prickly, soft grass tickle our toes. 

We are insulated, aren't we? In our temperature-conditioned homes, our sturdy cars, our normal circles of acquaintances, we relax in the comfort of familiarity, of safety, of predictability. Our homes, cars, and acquaintances aren't necessarily bad. They are good. They are blessings and gifts. Yet, if we only surround ourselves by that which is comfortable, we can cut ourselves off from the wider world. 
"Nor can foot feel, being shod," reflects the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. 

The luxuries that 21st century America offers are plentiful and wonderful, but if I continually keep myself comfortable, in an insulated environment, I will never be struck by the searing beauty that lingers just outside of view. It, however, I dare throw of my boots of comfort and luxury, I open my eyes to the possibility that people and events beyond my typical realm of comfort matter.

I open myself up to caring about people, situations, and causes that I may have long ignored. 
I open myself up to the possibility of being hurt in a profound and painful way. 
I open myself up to a greater beauty, to more tremendous empathy and compassion. 
I open my eyes to the reality that God's gifts are abundant in the world.  

It's easy to stay within our comfort zones. If we keep our feet tucked inside of socks and shoes, if we stay sheltered inside of our homes and normal routines, we'll likely stay cozy and safe. And yet, if we step out into the wider world-unrestricted by cars and shoes and expectations-we may experience the indescribable wonder of God's glory in other people and in the created world. 

Will you dare to step out? To feel the breeze brush your face, to notice the suffering people in your city, to observe the glory of God in the people down the street? Will you embrace the courage to let the grass tickle your toes?