Kindred Spirit

It’s been a year since I came to visit you.

It feels far too long,

but I can’t afford to fly to Saskatoon

every time I want to see you

(which is kinda always).

So thank God for the telephone

because speaking with you

gives my spirit wings.

Over my morning coffee,

and your morning tea,

(though several provinces apart)

we share, ponder and discuss

problems and triumphs,

and celebrate our awesome things.

God in all his wild and tender beauty,

feels closer to these little bits of his creation

–two busy moms laughing in their kitchens–

when we are together.

So bosom friend,

enriched by your wisdom and humour,

your sense of adventure and joyful openness to others,

I have treasure enough to fly around the world!

Crushed

Father, will you forgive me

for being crushed under this weight?

No, My daughter,

there is nothing to forgive.

It is no sin to stagger

under such a heavy burden.

Did I rebuke my Son when He fell three times?

No, there was nothing to rebuke.

But I could hear the entire creation rejoicing with Me–

mountains echoing with thunder

and seas roaring with triumph–

every time He got up again

to give Himself completely

in the full freedom of love.

Therefore be still, my daughter.

Calm your wildly beating heart–

I never asked you to do this alone.

You’re being held up by angels,

but you must close your eyes to see them.

When things are heavy,

rest in their embrace.

Some long days…

Some long days the baby cries

and the toddler screams

and the 5 year old seems to have

ants in his pants

and a megaphone around his neck.

Some long days

the toddler won’t nap

and the phone rings five times

during the quiet-time movie

and it seems nothing can wait

for you to just chill out and relax

for just an hour…even half an hour!

Some long days

the boys fill your kettle with pencil crayons

and draw on the bathroom door

and the baby wakes up

as soon as you begin the math lesson

and everyone moans and groans

and forgets how to round to the nearest ten.

Some long days you hit dinner time

with a sense of desperation…

“How long till bed?!”

and sing along to “The Muppets” soundtrack

in an attempt to feel that you’ve got

“Everything that I need, right in front of me.”

Some long days

the smartest thing you do

is have a glass of wine with dinner

and veto everything but laughter

as you listen to stories from the Vinyl Cafe

with the kids

who delight in the one

when Dave gets trapped in a sewer

after dropping down his keys

and gets mistaken for a monster by a little boy.

Some long days

the greatest relief is the feeling of your toddler

drooling on your shoulder

as you rock him to sleep early, to prevent any more fits.

Success! The little beast is quiet…

and you can actually read the others

“The Never-Ending Story” about Atreyu and Bastian,

the luck dragon Falcor and the childlike Empress,

until their eyes close and their breath gets deep and even.

Despite all the chaos,

all they’ll probably remember about today is

listening to stories with you

and falling asleep on the warmth of your lap.

Some long days

when the hours drag on,

remember you’re not alone

and try to end them with a smile…

Just keep picturing diving into bed

and sinking into the sweet relief of sleep!

Some long days, mamas,

you gotta keep your eye on the prize!

Mothers aren’t victims—they are warriors!

I get a lot of comments walking about with 7 kids. They’re usually not very original. “Oh, you’ve got your hands full!” “You must be busy!” “How do you do it, aren’t you tired?” “Do you have help?” etc. But one comment that stood out as a pleasant surprise was by a fellow mom who got on the bus after us one day. She had black spiky hair and tattoos and one young toddler in her stroller. I wasn’t sure what she’d think of me, taking up a quarter of the bus with my crew.

All yours?

Yeah.

You’re a warrior!

I have to say this really made my day. Yeah! A warrior is someone strong and brave, who is willing to make sacrifices for what they believe in. A warrior is to be admired, not pitied. Instead of thinking I was either crazy or some kind of poor victim, she honoured my decision to have children as an intentional life choice, and gave me a verbal thumbs up.

Moms are soldiers for love, fighting the battle against selfishness, affirming that life is worth living, that love is more precious that personal comfort, that heroes exist, that love is unconditional, that life is beautiful.

To pity a mother is disempowering and belittling. It acknowledges only the difficulty of her task while failing to see its sublime importance for society. Motherhood is the make or break place for people’s futures. The world 20 years from now depends on the mothers of today. This isn’t to put more pressure on mom’s who already always worry about doing enough. It’s to cheer them on, and say, “Hey, all these sacrifices are worth it! You truly make the world a better place!” A world without mothers would be cold and empty, literally and figuratively.

But we forget this. Sometimes at the end of a long day of caring for kids, worn out from all the giving, a mom can feel inadequate, and only focus on the things that went wrong, the things that didn’t get done, or how incredibly hard it was to do what was done. But finding a challenging job hard doesn’t mean you’re bad at it. Think of a soldier in the trenches, fighting all day to keep his ground, surrounded by chaotic noise, inching forward through the mud. If at the end of the day he is messy and exhausted, it’s because he has done his duty…and fought bravely without giving up. He should be, if he had the energy, happy and proud. It’s the same with a mom. If at night you’re tired from caring and feeding and cleaning your troops and your shirt is covered in milk the baby spat up, know you’re doing it right.

Perhaps the only medals you’ll receive are stickers the toddler decorated you with but you’re not in it for the glory. You arrive at the end of the day empty, but not because you’re poor or worthless, but because you’ve spent yourself so generously, and have given so much. Someone once said that the only things you truly keep are the ones you give away…so also in this irony of self-giving you find yourself, stronger and braver and more generous than you were before this adventure began.

But hopefully by having a better appreciation for the dignity of your task, you will also realize the importance of taking care of yourself as well. No one would think of telling a firefighter or a police officer to wear a dirty uniform and skip breakfast in order to focus more on saving people, for they need to be alert and properly equipped for their jobs. So do we! So hop in the shower, make your favourite meals, go for sanity dates with your mom buddies, and keep doing an awesome job bringing up the future citizens of the world.

How I attended a conference while cleaning my bathroom…

 

I’ve been having a great time today listening to talks on my iPad from the free online Catholic conference for moms…while folding laundry, cooking dinner, and yes, even cleaning the bathroom..my evening office! 😉 It’s like having awesome, interesting friends over for coffee to keep you company while you go about your work.

I highly recommend this encouraging conference for moms, which still has three days left. The theme is “Beyond Survival, Into Revival.” Once you register with your email, you’ll be sent the link and password to the talks for that day. Then you just watch whichever ones you like, when you like that day.

So here are few quick notes I jotted down after I finished scrubbing the bathtub…while speakers on my iPad cheered me on from the bathroom stool! 😉  Just to give you an idea of a few of the talks..these aren’t comprehensive.

“Nothing steals a mom’s joy more than comparison.” Stephanie Wood Weinart.

I loved Stephanie’s talk about the three things that rob mothers of joy: comparing ourselves to other moms, isolating ourselves, and getting addicted to the internet as a form of escape.

She stressed the importance of accepting ourselves as we are, as the ones God chose to raise our kids, without beating ourselves up with self-doubt.  She also encouraged us to pray for close, supportive friendships from a few fellow moms who can be our kindred spirits, the ones we lean on. And finally she reminded us of the joyful freedom that comes from putting away our smartphones and really playing with our children, looking into their eyes and rejoicing in them.

Sherry Antonetti spoke on the question “What is a mom?” She said the essence is loving people. Yes, there’s endless work but it’s not a sacrifice to be surrounded by people who love you. Don’t be burdened by the minutiae or the isolation, or become a taskmaster.

Reach out, spend time with your kids, ‘waste time’ with them ‘waste time’ with God. Put those things on your to do list. Waste time taking kids to the park, reading them books or painting your daughters’ toenails…it means the world to them because you are spending time with them. At the end of the day, those “wasted” moments are the real measure of success.

Mary Stanford spoke on the theology of the body, and the importance of being truly present to each other. She said the body is a gift which represents the presence of our person. It’s a bit like the way the bringing cookies to someone represents our friendship, being a physical embodiment of a spiritual reality.

We come to truly know ourselves only in relationship to others. When we reveal our inner selves to those we love, we come to know who we truly are. This kind of deep self-revelation can only really be done in person, and helps prevent objectifying others.

Don’t let electronic deceives remove your presence from those you’re actually physically with, the ones God has placed by your side. Be an example to your kids of being present, looking in their eyes, truly listening with your whole body, and not while half scrolling the latest Facebook feed.

The body is like a moral thermometer…while not the source of shame, it is the place shame is expressed, for example by blushing. It is where we feel if something is right or wrong. When people communicate primarily on social media, they can’t read the cues on other people’s body’s, and trample through delicate matters without realizing.  That’s why young people share intimate things online, or bully others as they wouldn’t in person. It’s as if their moral sensor is turned off.  To mature and develop ourselves, we need to have friendships where we see people face to face.

Overall I was very happy with these great talks and with my day, and felt encouraged that besides some cleaning and homeschooling, I also “wasted” time in laughing with my kids, playing outside with them and reading lots of Narnia before bed. Hope you’ll join the conference tomorrow (and until Monday) and be encouraged that you, too, despite all your struggles, are a great mom. 🙂

The Catholic Conference for Moms

If you miss some talks, or want to later share them with friends or a mom’s group, you have the option of buying the conference package after, and using the code “Crazyland” will get you $10 off. I’m definitely planning to get it myself, because I think these short talks will be perfect for discussion at my parish mom’s group.

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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