Evening Glory

Tonight I had a mom’s night out with other mom bloggers in a beautiful venue. We all dressed up and chatted and had fun. Besides the sweet baby whom I brought along to charm everyone, the kids stayed home and had banana splits and played games and did crafts with their babysitter and had a great time instead of just watching a “boring movie.” Then they even went to bed for her nicely! Glorious!

It felt like a double miracle: one, that we busy moms made time to get out and be together (looking quite fabulous with not one pair of pjs or yoga pants in sight) and two, that many of us are writers…that we find that time to nourish our creative spirits and connect with other people…to reach out and share our stories and do good by supporting each other.

Of course the number of children people have came up in small talk, and I’m happy to report that while queries of my family size (8 kids) did cause several near heart attacks, there were no fatalities! 😉

Rock on moms, it’s an amazing full time job to give someone else life, whether it’s one kid or ten…may you be showered with blessings for all the generous, sweet things you do to serve your family and by extension your community each day!

Prairie Fire Under Snows

There is a flame the cold can’t quench

and so we joy-filled fill

this giant wooden teepee with song

We reach for the hand of one

whose wounded one reaches for ours

Sheltered in this house of God

by a cone of boards bound with nails

like a teepee sewn together

—holes through pierced skin—

protecting us from the winter storms

Like the people of Jerusalem we process with palms

but instead of hot sand the snow swirls around us

a soft spring snow

full of hope of future harvest

as the fire-golden wheat fields lie hidden

under the cold kiss of a blanket of snow

the way you lie hidden

the fire of your divinity

submerged in the wheat coloured wafer

we receive

We remember

We hope

We live in the shelter of his love

the humble king of glory

Tapestry

  
There is the famous image of life
as a a tapestry which we view from behind—
all the messy bits and loose threads
funny bumps and rough edges—
until we reach Heaven
and see things as they really are.

But there is one thing I see already
even here below—
that the threads are not all mine,
that there are streaks of beauty and colour
which come from my friends.

That the fabric that holds me together
is woven from the love and courage
of women who have suffered
and hoped again,
who have lost everything and dared try again,
who have laughed and cried with me,
who have shared my deepest pain
and greatest joys. 

You make me strong.
You carry me forward.

You are forever woven
into the fabric of my heart.

Nesting, nesting, 1, 2, 3…

 
It’s nesting time in the Eastland household, with less than a week to go until baby! I’m really happy to report that I’ve been able to do some of the normal things to prepare for baby…and that I’m actually feeling generally ok. After losing little Josephine in labour last time, I haven’t been able to even let myself imagine this baby too much…but I’m starting to! I think the prayers of loved ones have lifted some weight from my shoulders, and I’ve managed to do a bunch of things on my baby preparation list:

1. Stock up the house with groceries. My dear friend Cheryl watched the kids for me (and cleaned the kitchen!) while her husband took me grocery shopping. He kindly put up with my crazy preganancy shop and helped me fill two enormous carts of groceries, and bring them all home after. They just had their own rainbow baby a few months ago, and wanted to do something concrete to help support me as I prepare for mine. Doing this normal pre-baby thing made me feel more calm and optimistic.

2. Clean the house. I know it sounds like a funny thing to do so far ahead, when my house is a constantly evolving circus of art projects, blanket forts, and imaginary castles, but what I mean is that I stayed home from mom’s group to help my paid cleaners do a little extra…pull out the beds to vacuum and mop underneath, replace light bulbs, dust the window ledges and lamps etc. Many dust bunnies and long lost objects were found!

3. Pack the hospital bag. This was a big one. It meant acknowledging that this baby is coming for real. And soon. That it’s not all a dream, and that I’m actually going to need his little outfits to come home in this time. That I will get to use my nursing cover this time…that there will be a baby who suckles and cries instead of being silent. The fact that I could prepare the hospital bag without getting upset was for me a surprise and a tiny miracle. 

4. Get out the newborn clothes and diapers. This was also a biggie. I’m really happy that I actually enjoyed sorting through the little boy clothes, and filling the drawer with cute things for 0-3 months. “Why did you do it, Mum?” my 9 year old asked me, “We might not need the newborn diapers. We might get two saints.” “I know honey, that’s true, but I’m hoping for the best. And didn’t open the package of diapers, so we could always give them away if we had to.”  Gotta love the brutal honesty of children. My 5 year old told me cheerfully, “After the baby comes, we will have a party at Holy Family, right? Either a baptism or a funeral?”  “Yes.” My four year old was sweet at bedtime prayers…”I pray baby brother will come out and snuggle us and suck on my finger.” She knows what babies like!

5. Order new homeschool supplies. I thought it would be a good idea to order some new books now, so that a few weeks after that baby comes, fun parcels will arrive in the mail, and the kids will be excited to read new books and work on new workbooks…even if Mummy is still generally horizontal with baby!

But the icing on this layer cake of baby nesting activities was certainly a special pre-baby party my awesome friend Kate organized for me last Saturday, called a blessingway. Rather than a big early birthday party with tons of baby gifts and funny games, this was a beautiful evening of good company, nice food, emotional support and special prayers for baby’s safe arrival.

I got spoiled with beautiful flowers, as Kate had the idea everyone should bring some at reminded them of me. Most were gorgeous coppery red ones, rather like my hair and glasses…cheerful gerberas and  feathery tulips, but also a poignant white rose from my friend and midwife Terry-Lyn, and a white and greenish bouquet from Kate…with cabbages in it for her veggie friend!  

Fancy chocolate, nice coffee, cosy slippers, homemade lavender bath salts, a cosy homemade crocheted blanket for baby, and generous gift cards also arrived with sweet cards full of encouraging words. This beautiful quote was in Terry-Lyn’s card: 

It’s not just the making of babies, but the making of mothers that midwives see as the miracle of birth.

Barbara Kate Rothman

Can you see why I love my midwives so much? I even wrote a piece for the anthology Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood about midwives and the mystery of motherhood.

There was also a special appearance by my dear old friend Fr. McDonnell, whom I’ve known for nearly 15 years. We used to go to Tim Hortons and Boston pizza together to chat with friends after Mass and compline evening prayers when he was still ‘just’ Brian. It’s so lovely to have him back in town again as one of our parish priests. He made everyone laugh by showing them old pictures of nearly teenage me on his phone. “She never changes,” he said sweetly. 

Fr. McDonnell came to give me the beautiful blessing for a safe labour, and to bless the candles and holy cards of St. Gerard that everyone would take home to light and pray for me these coming days. It is a comforting thing to have special traditions for expectant mothers, and to even have a patron saint for them.   

Thank you to everyone who has helped me prepare for baby so far, and who is holding me close in prayer as the big day approaches. Because of my usual late pregnancy liver condition, colistasis,  we plan to deliver three weeks early, on November 2nd. This is safer for the baby, as this condition has a slight correlation with stillbirth which increases as time goes on. Happily in an ultrasound a few weeks ago, the cord was no where near the baby’s neck like last time, so that is at least a huge relief.    Starting this Friday, the midwives will do stuff to get things going, like a stretch and sweep, and on Monday morning I’ll be downing a charming labour cocktail of protein smoothie with castor oil, and which has always worked in the past to get babies out. Then another sweep. If baby needs more coaxing to come out, my OB goes on call Monday night so she will do the rest. 

Sorry for the rather long update…but I finally found some quiet moments, deep in the night, with only my iPad and heartburn for company, so I thought I’d seize the chance to write before there is a little nocturnal creature wiggling in my arms! Less than a week to go!

Monique Les, “The Hard of Hearing Mommy” creates a community of understanding through writing.

  

Here is an interview with fellow Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood author Monique Les. Monique shares with joyful candour her journey of becoming a mom, and overcoming her insecurities about parenting as a person with hearing loss. I am so happy to share this with you today, and to have had the chance to get to know her better.

Please tell us a bit about yourself…

I’ll start by saying that I am the type of person that values spending time with people, learning new things, new ideas, and drawing inspiration from the simple things in life. My parents -immigrants from Hong Kong, brought me up to be Catholic, but it wasn’t until my University years when I became involved with Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) that I really started to fall in love with the Catholic Faith. Since then, I’ve never looked back

In addition, I have a profound hearing loss and affectionately call myself a HoH (Hard of Hearing)! Combined with a good sense of humour, a passion for travel and a positive attitude, I can say that I truly have an awesome life.

Why do you love to write? How does it help you be more yourself?

Shortly after becoming a mom, I felt trapped in the four walls of my house. It was a particularly alienating experience for me, given that I like to socialize quite a bit! Prior to becoming a mom, I worked on high level research and writing projects, and when that phase of my life was over, boredom set in. With that boredom, came a sense of loss of personhood (in my case anyway!). Writing has become a cathartic exercise for me to channel all the frustrations, joys, challenges and whatever comes to mind. I chose to share all these stories with the public because there is always someone who might be going through the same experiences – whether it’s being a mom, hard of hearing, or both. In truth, my goal was to create a community of understanding, support and a diary of sorts for my daughter (and future children) to read when she’s older.

 What made you want to be part of this project? Why do you think it’s important? 

I’ll be honest with you, being the last person to be invited to this project – I felt overwhelmed! Initially, I took it as another awesome opportunity to get into writing again, as my blog started only a few months prior. During my time in developing articles and reading the other articles, I realized that motherhood itself is a community that needs to be nurtured, supported, and encouraged. In all the jobs that I’ve held, motherhood has to be the most challenging one – and to be a part of a book that goes against conventional society’s idea of motherhood fit with my Catholic values. So… in a nutshell, moms rock this world and this book affirms it!

  
 What benefits do you think people will gain from this book? Could it be used in a mom’s discussion group or book club?

I can’t speak for other people, but I have gained so much from this book already! As a first-time mom, I felt a sense of camaraderie from other moms – even though I’m only reading their stories. That kinship gave me the assurance that I was doing everything “right”, and that my heart was in the right place where frustrations are concerned. To be honest, I feel my pieces are mediocre compared to the other stories provided! Being a hard of hearing mom meant that I had to overlook some of my personal shortcomings (i.e. feeling guilty for not being able to hear my baby), and that could be a good topic for moms or book clubs to discuss how their shortcomings aren’t actually shortcomings at all. They’re just little puddles to muck through. To date, I’ve learned that focusing on my faith and positivity makes me a stronger mom.

 Why is friendship with other moms so important? Is there a friend who has made a big difference in your journey as a mom?

In the beginning, when my daughter was first born I went through periods of mummy tummy. I didn’t know if I was doing anything right or wrong, or both! Having friendships with other moms helps to reassure me that I’m not about to ‘mess’ up my child. In fact, they’ve told me that as long as my daughter is happy, then I’m doing something right. Simple, and yet much needed advice to hear in the early days! My mom is the one friend who has made a difference in my journey. She’s supported me through the thick and thin, the times when I was absolutely sleep deprived, or when I didn’t know what to do. I no longer think of my mom as just “mom”, but someone that I can go to for counsel. She was there when I had my meltdowns, the moments when I had sheer awe that I had a baby, and even the mundane times.

 Tell is a bit about your pieces in the book…what is your main message, or best piece of advice for moms?

Never give up hope. My message is that obstacles can be overcome, no matter how insignificant they may seem to others (or to yourself) or how big they are. I had to get over the obstacle of insecurity. Having a hearing loss tends to test my self esteem often, and that was a hurdle I had to get over in order to be the best mom for my daughter. The best piece of advice I can give at this point is to have a great sense of humour! Poop happens, and if we take it seriously all the time, then life becomes less fulfilling.

 Who was your favourite author growing up? Was there someone in literature who modelled for you how to be a woman or mother?

That’s a loaded question ha! Wow. I seriously don’t know where to start. The most obvious answer would be Our Lady and my mom! I would also say that Kimberly Hahn is a great example. I’m currently reading her book, Graced and Gifted: Biblical Wisdom for the Homemaker’s Heart; she has helped me embrace the extraordinary within the ordinary confines of daily life. I no longer see my chores as ‘chores’, but rather a gift of self-service through God’s calling. This is all very recent, mind you!

 Can you tell us a little about your blog?

Oh, it has a bit of everything! From parenting, to humorous stories about what it’s like to be a hard of hearing mommy, to my plain frustrations laid out for the rest of the world to read. I do focus on the hard of hearing things, because that’s the stuff that makes the blog unique. There are moments when I wonder if parents with hard of hearing children wonder if their children will ever grow up to have families of their own, or if hard of hearing people wonder what it’s like to be a parent. It covers hearing loss from a social perspective. Our world is so social, and hearing loss really cuts off that experience. My husband knows this all too well, and our daughter is (thankfully) not going to have to experience that same isolation. I get emails from friends of friends who have recently found out that their children have been diagnosed with a hearing loss, and it’s a devastating time for them. Through faith and support, the blog gives them some encouragement that it’s not the end of the world!

  

A big thank you to Monique for sharing her experience with us all!  Visit Monique and read more of her humorous and encouraging posts at:

The Hard of Hearing Mommy

How small I am, Lord

How small I am, Lord,

like a little toddler stumbling along 

and insisting on doing it “self.”

But when I get so exhausted that

I have to sit down and cry,

I find myself scooped up in Your loving arms.

You’ve made me this small so You can carry me

tenderly and cover my scrapes with kisses….

gestures of affection from all those around me,

whose warmth and wisdom protects me

from the silliness of trying

to travel this journey alone. 

I am tiny

so others can have the chance

to be messengers of Your mercy—

angels of Your love.

Help me always to trust

that every time I fall

You’ll be there to comfort me

with a love even sweeter than before.

  

“Love Rebel” up and rolling!

I’m excited to see our book “Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood” on Amazon!

We have been blessed with some really beautiful reviews. It’s so great to see women responding with warmth and joy to our collection of essays, poems, and experiences of motherhood. This is anything but a ‘know it all how-to’ book…it’s more like a bunch of good heart-to hearts with girlfriends over coffee…sharing laughter and tears, and feeling encouraged to not be alone in the bumpy adventure that is motherhood. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor Glynis Belec said in part of her wonderful review:

As I was reading, I started jotting down notes – joy phrases; sage advice; brilliant quotes. I was barely halfway through before I realized I had almost two full pages. Something rings true as each author ushers me into her life. Perhaps it is the vulnerability and the frankness of the authors. The stories are all different yet share a common thread -mothers are vessels for the miracle of life. A good reminder to our society where motherhood is too often considered secondary or not as important as career and climbing the corporate ladder.

I think Bonnie Way said it best in her story – “As I gave myself permission to just be a mom, all the little daily tasks of motherhood became a joy, instead of a chore.”

My sweet mother-in-law, one of my chief cheerleaders, noticed that you can now see inside on Amazon! This nice feature means you can read our editor Roberta’s intro to the book, see the table of contents, and also read the other reviews inside it. This all gives you just a little more of a taste of the book before you decide if it’s somthing you’d like to have next to your bed, on your coffee table, or at your mom’s group or book club. Happily the $10 price for a print book makes it quite accessible. Buying it as a Kindle e-book is another option, and is $2.97 American or $3.78 Canadian. 

Brenda J. Wood wrote this about reading “Love Rebel”:

What a charming book. I cried, and laughed (sometimes both at the same time!) The authors wrote their hearts on these pages and speak of loss and stress and every crazy emotion that occurs when you are a mother. They speak up for a dying art, the art of motherhood and the difference it makes to a child when it’s done right. It is ‘technically’ a Catholic book but don’t let that put you off. Highly recommended because it is heartwarming indeed.

A warm thank you to all the women who have reviewed our book and taken the time to give our stories a place in their hearts. Cheers to all my fellow moms! May we always support and encourage one another, and never fall prey to the danger of comparing ourselves to others and feeling we should try to be anyone else but the best version of ourselves. 

  

Check it out Amazon!

Honouring International Bereaved Mother’s Day

May 3rd is international bereaved Mother’s Day. It is an important and beautiful opportunity to acknowledge all the mothers around the world who have suffered loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, child loss or painful struggles with infertility. 

It is a chance to share grief and hope, to reach out and be vulnerable, to connect, to encourage, and to honour the women whose mother’s hearts are suffering deeply. 

 
Every baby is, in the words of Still Life Canada, “a unique and irreplaceable individual.” It is fitting that we honour their passing with our whole hearts. Sometimes sharing your grief is the first step to allowing others to share theirs, too, and beginning to heal. Let’s break the silence with gentle words of love.     Also, the Mothering Your Heart program is a lovely way to connect with other bereaved moms, be encouraged and supported in your journey of grief and healing. There is a Facebook page to share with other moms if you like, and a series of helpful emails you can receive each day leading up to Mother’s Day, with gentle ideas on self-care and nurturing your wounded heart, honouring your baby and seeking the stillness in which to discover the still, small voice of hope….    Wishing you all peace, strength, healing and hope…

With all my heart,

Anna

Mummy of Josephine, my little star in Heaven 

Mothers of the world, unite!

I’ve just spent the weekend immersed in inspiring talks from an online conference for moms and what struck me most as a common theme was the need to support and encourage each other. A kind of professional solidarity, but without the competitive spirit. More like a sisterhood of moms.

In order to live this, we need to set aside our performance anxiety and quit comparing ourselves to other moms. It is not a competition. 

How much grief we could spare ourselves and others if we let this need to measure up go. If we instead tried to really believe that we are enough for our kids, and that’s all that matters. They are a gift, and they were given to us for a reason, because of all the women in the history of the world, only we are meant to be their mother.

In other words, we don’t have to earn the right to their love. We should, of course, do all in our power to love them, but knowing that our brokenness is simply part of being human, and that they weren’t meant to be raised by angels. Angels wouldn’t know how to teach them to be human: to struggle, to make mistakes, to sacrifice, to forgive.

If we could quit trying to outperform ourselves and others, we could be more open to responding to other moms as friends, as sisters who share a common life. We could stop being afraid to be vulnerable with each other. And in this atmosphere of support, of friendship, even of encouraging mentorship, we could grow…far more than in a place of isolation, comparison and fear.

So I challenge you all to take a moment to reflect on how you support the other mothers in your life right now. Do you call them just to check in? Do you do little kind deeds for them just to make them smile? Do you make time to listen when they need a heart-to-heart? And above all, are you brave enough to be vulnerable with them, thereby giving them the freedom to be authentic with you as well?

This is what friendship is, and this is what all moms, and in fact all people, need. It think when it comes down to it we all share the common goal of making the world a better place for our children, and a better place because of our children. How about supporting each other in it? If we do, we can bring each other such joy!

Mothers of the world, unite!

 

Lent: A Season to Grow in Love

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As we feel spring breezes shaking us out of the slumber of winter, and see little signs of new life popping out of the ground, we all feel the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. This is one aspect of Lent, examining ourselves to see which areas of our life need revitalizing, and praying for the grace of the Holy Spirit to blow away the cobwebs and bring us to new and deeper life.

Trees teach us so well. They know how to strip themselves bare and stand naked before God, honestly revealing all their bumps and scrapes, and asking to be healed and covered afresh in a robe of spring blossoms.

When we look at ourselves without excuses and pretence, we can all see areas in which we need to grow. Faults we have that cause others pain or inconvenience, like being sloppy, indiscreet, insensitive or impatient. Lent is a time to move forward with hope, choosing a few small ways to try to improve ourselves, with the help of grace, so that we are better able to love.

We should be humble enough to realize that rather than sudden showy or impressive changes, it is the small steps taken consistently that usually lead us to improvement. (Stinker! Fast and flashy sounds much more fun! 😉 Where’s the fairy godmother’s wand when you need a makeover…)

Ultimately whatever we decide to give up or take on this Lent, should have this goal in mind: to become better versions of ourselves, to grow interiorly, to make amends for our mistakes, and to grow in our ability to love God and love the people we encounter each day. Perhaps we can smile at a stranger and ask how they are, or take time to speak to a lonely co-worker instead of eating lunch alone with our iPhone. Let’s push ourselves to reach out to others in love, and fight, as Pope Francis calls it, “the globalization of indifference.”

Many of the little acts of denial we might choose may seem very mundane, like clearing off the table and doing the dishes before getting distracted on the internet, reading the kids their bedtime story or calling a lonely relative, even when we are worn out from a long day. Yet it is in these little things like cheerfully serving others, finishing what we start, and doing things on time, that make our homes run more smoothly and harmoniously, and less like chaotic zoos (trust me, living with 5 little monkeys, I know about zoos!). With our example we can foster an atmosphere of generosity and concern for others in our families. Happily kids do copy the good things we do as well as the bad.

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It can be hard to keep giving, remembering that all these little acts, when done consistently and with love, add up to a quiet heroism. At least, it can be hard alone. Which is why I think community is so essential, for everyone, but also for moms, who tend to work long hours as the sole adult aboard ship Kidalot. Having community with other moms to laugh, cry and share stories is so healing and helpful. It makes life so much more full and rich, and reminds us we are not alone on this journey. I couldn’t do it without my mom buddies or cheer me up and cheer me on!

If you feel like you could benefit from the encouraging company of fellow moms who want to remind you of the depth and beauty of your calling as a mother, and to encourage you to grow in your faith, please check out the upcoming (March 6-9, 2015) online conference for Catholic moms (or anyone else interested, of course!). It’s free and convenient, and once you register you can view any of the talks online, from the comfort of home…perhaps while your little ones take a nap or have an outing with daddy.

If you enjoy the talks you’re able to see, and want to view them again, or see the ones you missed, you’ll be able to purchase the entire conference package afterwards. This is not part of registering, but an option afterwards. The talks will be a great resource for discussion at your parish or mom’s group, and give you a chance to be a leader in fostering community among mothers in your area.

Having looked myself at the extensive panel of speakers, many mothers, writers, bloggers, foodies, etc, I can’t wait! Hope you’ll join us online!

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