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Personally, I’ve never felt a desire to give birth to children (although I’ve always said that if I’d marry, I wouldn’t deny my husband the joy of biological children.) However, since the 2nd grade, when I learned what adoption was, I had felt a strong desire to adopt children in the event that I would marry someday. Eleven years ago I married a wonderful man, but motherhood is looking less and less likely a possibility as time moves on. Recently I came across an article on Facebook titled “Spiritual Motherhood“. Perhaps I should take Dr. Alice von Hildebrand’s advice:

“From now on your daily prayer should be, “God, send me spiritual children and I will never turn any one of them down. The more the better.” Simple as that. Pray for the gift of spiritual children. It might very well be that in your beautiful desire to be a biological mother you have overlooked cases where you could have become a spiritual mother….

You are called to motherhood right now. Not next week, not next month. I’m absolutely convinced that God has placed people in your path and called you to motherhood. Your task is to love those that are weak, unhappy, helpless, and unloved.”

I’m posting this ahead of Mother’s Day for all the women out there who, for whatever reason, have not been blessed with biological or adopted children. Sometimes a sadness and depression can set in, a mourning if you will, when this happens. But, perhaps God has a different sort of motherhood in mind for you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the biological, adoptive, and spiritual mothers!

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Society’s Downfall

Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with the TV show Scorpion. I like to talk about it, and could talk about it, the characters, and the plot for hours if given the chance (which I never am). Somehow the topic came up at dinner with my in-laws yesterday and my mother-in-law commented that it’s shows like that, that show geniuses in such a totally unrealistic way, that are basically leading to the downfall of society. According to her, shows like this cause people to think that all geniuses/academically-minded people are inept socially, not “normal”, whatever. My guess is she’s hinting that if people see academically-minded people in such a negative light, most people would not want to be educated. A mass of non-educated people in a democratic society will lead to its downfall. I agree that a section of our population sees education as a non-necessity. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I did read in a local paper a few years back that a huge majority of people in the area I grew up in believed that a college education was not necessary to getting ahead in life. People skills are seen as more important. This trend has been decades in the making, long before Scorpion or even The Big Bang Theory appeared on TV sets. I’m not here to debate that.

I’m writing to say that when one delves into the characters themselves, the geniuses of Scorpion are not portrayed negatively or unrealistically in my opinion. They are portrayed as human. Yes, they have extraordinary abilities and they think more logically than “normals” (this even my mother-in-law concedes), but I’d argue that their emotional well-being, or lack thereof, is because of the circumstances that they’ve grown up in and not because they are geniuses/academically-minded. I’d argue that if “normals” were put in the same circumstances, their emotional well-being would be influenced negatively too. Perhaps the “normals” would also have the same problems.

Take Walter’s life. He never had a good relationship with his father. His father didn’t understand him. He was bullied in school, including by his teachers (or at least one teacher as shown in one flashback episode). Thank goodness for his sister, but she’s currently dying. When he was 10 years old he met Cabe Gallo, a government agent. Throughout his pre-teen and early- to mid-teen years Cabe was like a father to him. He was someone Walter trusted. Cabe would have Walter work on projects for the government. Cabe understood that Walter wanted to do good things and needed something to keep his mind occupied, to keep learning new things. Then, Walter hears on the news that the software he created to drop aid packages was actually used to drop bombs, killing 2,000 innocent people. Trust was completely broken and Walter now has to live with that on his conscience. He hasn’t been able to sleep well for the past 16 years, having nightmares. Is it any wonder he has closed himself off to the world emotionally? Shunned by his parents, his peers. Opens himself up emotionally to someone who he thought would be like a father to him only to have his heart broken in a major way. What “normal” person could go through that in life and still come away unscathed?

Then there’s Happy.  First, her mother dies in childbirth. As someone who personally experienced losing a mother at a young age (3 years old), I can tell you, you never really get over the abandonment issues totally. Then when she was 3 years old her father got her a doll house. She wired it for electricity (she’s a mechanical genius). I’m sure she was very proud of herself. But, rather than being proud of his daughter and her abilities (or teaching his daughter the right way to do things if she did it wrong), her father ripped all her wiring out of the doll house. She rewired it. Her dad took away the doll house. Happy then became less talkative and more quiet. Is it any wonder why she can’t stand to be judged? As for a fear of getting close to someone that also probably goes back to her father putting her into foster care. Being moved from foster home to foster home, while always looking out the window to see if her dad is coming back, didn’t help her abandonment issues. Logically, there would be no point in getting close to someone when that person is just going to hurt you and leave. In these circumstances, what “normal” person would be fine emotionally?

I could say more about Sylvester and Toby, but essentially, they’re the way they are emotionally because of their experiences early in life too. Personally, I admire Sylvester. Despite his anxiety and fears, he has the courage to do what needs to be done to help those he loves and the greater good. Quite an inspiration for me.

Then there’s Ralph. A 10-year old genius, but someone who’s learning to come into his own living in a world of non-geniuses. Walter and the other geniuses teach him to understand his mind and his abilities, give him a safe place to realize his potential. But, at the same time, Ralph wants to know how to interact with is peers, how to make “normal” friends, be as “normal” as possible. And, with the support of Walter and Ralph’s mother, especially, but also Happy, Toby, Sylvester, and now Ray, he feels comfortable enough to do just that. What if Walter, Sylvester, Happy, and Toby had that type of support growing up?

What I’ve learned in my 45 years on this planet is that “normal” doesn’t exist. Everyone has some quirks. Sure, society dictates what is and what is not normal, and many know how to play the game of appearing normal in society, but most, if not all, have their obsessions, fears, opinions, points of view, ways of dealing with life that perhaps may seem out of the mainstream.

What if society would create a safe haven for those of all abilities and talents, without judgement and ridicule? I bet most of the troubles experienced in this world would disappear and we’d get closer to what God intended for our world and His children. As Pope Francis said in his address to Congress earlier this year:

Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.

 

 

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In my attempts to de-clutter my e-mail (a monumental undertaking since I’m an e-mail hoarder!), I came across this sage advice. Maybe hoarding e-mail is not so bad after-all…?

A little background. This is part of an e-mail I wrote to a then-pen pal of mine. Most of my life I’ve lived in Michigan. When I wrote this I was in New Jersey. I moved there after I became engaged to a man who lived in New Jersey. I originally met him on an online dating service. I went to visit him and his family in May 2000. He came to visit me and my family in October 2000. That’s when he proposed. I moved to New Jersey in December 2000.

Before I took the leap and got on that plane to move out there, I wrote this poem:

The Road of Life
We all walk down
the road of life
blindly
having faith
that through the
twists and turns
and forks in the road
the path we choose
will lead our souls
to an ultimate happiness
unbounded.

In March 2001, my fiancé broke off the engagement.

This e-mail excerpt was written in June 2001.

The e-mail to my then-pen pal (later we dated some when I got back to Michigan) was an attempt at a “get to know me/my family/where I’m coming from” kinda thing. A previous paragraph expressed the negativity of my family after they learned of our relationship (my then-pen pal was Brazilian-American, but as far as my family was concerned he was a “dirty Mexican” Sigh!). Another paragraph expressed the attempts by my ex to give me dating advice. (Yes, really!)

Here’s the (edited) excerpt:

Before, yes, I was the type to cave in to my family and did what they thought I should do and think. After all, when you get negativity all your life, you think that your feelings and ideas don’t matter. But, getting away from that, and living on my own, and handling xxxx, and the rest on my own gave me a re-newed sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. I took my life into my own hands, and well, I did pretty good, if you look beyond the narrow “xxxx’s a jerk and I was crazy for falling in love with him” thing. (Which I know that most of my family members can’t see past.) xxxx was a means to an end. An end that I can’t get to if the detour didn’t take me away from my family and to New Jersey. I truly believe that. And truly, my heart, God, and my life took me here. It’s not like I’m starving, it’s not like I’m homeless, it’s not like I’m penniless, and I still have a secure job*. Like I’ve been saying all along, I gained much more in the walking of the path, than I would’ve by staying cooped up, miserable and alone, …. And, even if no-one else in my family sees it, I know that I am a better person for all that’s happened and that I shouldn’t be afraid of wisely following my heart.

I was reading in my Oprah Magazine an article that expresses my past year’s life so “right on the nose” so to speak. It’s amazing. It even brings up those people in the author’s life that criticized her for following her heart and taking a risk, and she brings up some pretty good perspective on the matter. She writes:

“Whatever your circumstance, people will start to give you advice as soon as you disturb the status quo. That advice is likely to be bad. It will be bad because they are seeking not to understand and further your calling but to preserve the world as they know it. And yet, in the midst of the shouting and the falling masonry you will know with an unusual quietness that it is happening in the only way that it can, and that whichever way it turns out, no matter what suffering you endure, it will be all right. There in the midst of the cyclone, is the peace that passes understanding.”

She also says that … if you try to tend to your needs, you are looked on as selfish. (That was [a certain family member’s] argument for me not moving out here, that I was being selfish). But, I agree with this statement she says: “Far from being a display of selfishness, this is the most compassionate act you can do for anyone: to stand by the truth of your own life and live it as fully and passionately as you are able.”

This is actually the entire poem that she wrote, which brought tears to my eyes, because this literally is my life. And, it began that day that I stepped on the plane for the first time in May 2000:

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But, little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

*Thanks to Monique and Arsen for letting me follow my heart!

And, thank you to my friends who stood by me throughout it all!

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The child … makes the wife a mother. Man more commonly cooperates with nature, but a woman cooperates with God; she is the bearer of the gift of God to man. The word of woman is “Fiat”, submission, surrender, cooperation with life. A woman’s unhappiest moment is when she is unable to give; there is hell within when she refuses to give. Bearer of the cosmic plentitude, she fulfills her mission when she brings a child into the world. Looking down at that babe, a new paradox is revealed: it is the only time self can be loved without selfishness. A mother now loves a non-self in herself as her body becomes the ciborium of the new life, and her arms become its bearer as she passes on culture to ages yet unborn.

I’m currently reading the book Life is Worth Living, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. It includes the transcripts from 44 episodes of his television show of the same name. This particular quote was taken from an episode entitled “Children: Burdens or Joys”. I thought it quite appropriate to share this quote with you at this time, Mother’s Day being Sunday.

I think that this quote not only speaks to women who have given birth, but also to women who, for whatever reason, cannot: “a woman’s unhappiest moment is when she is unable to give.” I wonder about some women’s consciences, if there is truth to the statement “there is hell within when she refuses to give.”

Some reading this will be put off by the phrase “she fulfills her mission when she brings a child into this world.” But, in context, there’s no disputing the fact that God made Woman to bear children. This is what Bishop Sheen is alluding to.

I can empathize with the “unhappiest moment”. I can ponder the “hell within”. I was struck with awe, however, by the statement: “A mother now loves a non-self in herself as her body becomes the ciborium of the new life, and her arms become its bearer as she passes on culture to ages yet unborn”.

Slowly re-read that sentence. “…her body becomes the ciborium of the new life….” Just think what our society, what our human race, could become if each and every person took this phrase to heart and treated the gifts from God with the respect and care that they deserve.

————————
Full citation for the quote above: Sheen, Fulton J., Life is Worth Living: First and Second Series, Ignatius Press, original copyright 1953 and 1954, p. 173.

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Gift Suggestions

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

Originally published in something called “Wood Chips Newsletter,” I cut this out of a church bulletin years ago. I ran across it today in my nightly attempt to unpack and get things organized. Yes, we’re still unpacking and organizing after living here more than a month in our new home. At least once a week I make the comment “we have too much stuff!” This after taking yet another load of stuff to Goodwill this past weekend. And, in thinking about it, how much does our stuff make us happy and how much of it gets in the way of making us happy? That’s something to ponder…

So, in this season of giving. And in this season of getting more stuff that we may or may not want or need, the above quote seemed appropriate. While we may ponder whether all our stuff makes us happy or not, if we all gave and received the gifts suggested in the above quote, chances are we wouldn’t have to ponder whether we are truly happy or not. We would feel it from the depths of our souls.

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Love means to reveal to a person his or her own beauty.
Jean Vanier

I know I’m a bit early in wishing my readers a Happy Valentine’s Day, but we plan early in my household. A couple of years ago we gave up celebrating holidays such as Valentine’s day in what has become the traditional (i.e. commercial) way. Instead, for all holidays except Christmas my husband and I pick a special entree and special dessert and then we cook a nice meal together. Just so things are fair, we switch off. One holiday I pick the entree (and he cooks) and he picks the dessert (and I cook) and the next holiday, we do the process in reverse. This takes the pressure off finding the “perfect” gift (who needs more stuff anyway) and it gives us some time together enjoying each other’s company. And, we do enjoy this time together. Invariably, no matter what kind of day we had, we always end up laughing and in a good mood.

Of course, I was not always married. And, perhaps like some of you reading this, I would sometimes get depressed when days like this rolled around. Everyone seemed to be part of a couple, except me, I’d think. But, who says Valentine’s Day has to be about romantic love? Even if you are single you can celebrate Valentine’s Day. Just do it in a non-traditional way. Love comes in many forms and everyone is loved by someone (even if the only someone is God). So, use this day to express your appreciation to all those that love you. And, I’m guessing that most everyone has someone that they love (brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, children, friends,… and perhaps God?). Valentine’s Day can be one extra special day in which you express your love to these people (in word and in deed). My guess is, once you show your appreciation for the love you are given and then give love to another, the depression you felt will lift and you’ll be able to say to yourself: “How Blessed I Am!”

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Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the value we put on our possessions. What brought this to mind? A few projects that I’ve been working on. In some cases, like the inventorying and pricing of my baseball card collection, I wanted to know the monetary worth. In most other cases, monetary worth was not as important as sentimental, family-historical, or practical value.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier postings, I’ve been going through old papers and possessions from my parents and old papers and possessions of mine. My father’s old army papers and newspaper clippings. Family-historical. My mother’s Bible and a couple of books my parents received when they were preparing to get married in the Catholic Church. Practical mostly, tinged with sentimentality. My mother was Lutheran; I’m Catholic. Her Bible is a good comparative reference. The book about saints, definitely a good reference. I like to read inspiring stories. The other book, mainly a magazine really, is interesting because it’s a magazine from close to 45 years ago. I find it fascinating to see what was important to people back then. These things will be moved out of the box and put on my bookshelf.
My possessions. Well, I’m still going through them. Unfortunately, one sentimental piece I haven’t been able to find. A charm that a friend of mine gave to me when I was confirmed (and had my First Holy Communion) at Easter Vigil in 1996. Of all the invaluable things I could’ve lost, why did I have to lose something valuable to me? But maybe it’s still here somewhere. I still have hope, though diminishing. After all, since then I’ve changed residences 4 times. As a last resort, I could always pray to St. Anthony. He hasn’t failed yet.
As a part of this cleaning-out, I decided to clean out my jewelry box. Now, cleaning-out isn’t really the word for it considering most of my jewelry has been given to me by various people. In a few cases the jewelry was made by a beloved (and multi-talented) aunt of mine, now deceased. Those items that she made carry the most value of any possession that I have.
So, this cleaning-out of my jewelry box was mainly taking an inventory of what I have and thinking about all those who gave these things to me. In this process I came across two rings that I forgot I had. These actually I inherited when my father died. As a kid, they were in my father’s dresser. Occassionally I would look at them and admire them. I don’t think I ever asked where they came from. I think I always assumed that they were my mother’s.
As I grew up, I had no time for looking at rings. Then, when I was boxing up my father’s stuff after he died, I was again introduced to these rings. I put them in my jewelry box and there they sat until November of this year. Still in my practical mindset, I decided that it was time to find out about these rings. Where did they come from? What are they worth? And, more practically, I wanted them sized so that I could wear them. After all, why should they just sit in a box for the rest of my life?
Where did they come from? This was a mystery. They were obviously old rings. Well worn (well-loved, as I like to say). One was small enough in size that it would’ve in all likelihood fit my mother’s finger. The other, however, was way too big to fit. Maybe my grandmother’s? I asked my aunt (my father’s sister). She didn’t know where they came from. Neither were from her side. I asked my mother’s sister. But, it still remained a mystery, though it was not definitive that they didn’t come from my mother’s side of the family. So, I concluded (with at least some certainty) that the larger one must’ve been my grandmother’s.
I took the rings to a jeweler. This was not going to be a simple job. The jeweler confirmed the age of the rings, putting them in my grandmother’s generation. But, one could not be sized, in their opinion, because it was too worn; the other needed extensive work. Unfortunately, the jeweler that I took it to could not do the work, though he did tell me of a place about 50 miles away that could. Now I had to figure out what to do. The one ring that I knew with 99% certainty was my mother’s (sentimental), could not be sized so that I could wear it. The other which I had no history on (sentimental only if it truly was my grandmother’s) I would have to spend a lot of money on so that I could get some wear out of it. And, there was a possibility that what I’d be spending would be more than the ring is worth monetarily. So, I had to ask myself, what value do I place on these? I decided that even if the ring was not my grandmother’s, even if the ring itself wasn’t worth much monetarily, that it would be worth the expensive work if I could get years of wear from the ring (practical).
But, I didn’t want to drive 50 miles to get the work done. Not if I didn’t have to. Basically, I wanted to find a jeweler that had experience dealing with estate jewelry repairs. I enlisted help in my endeavor. Finally, I decided on a local jeweler. It took some time, but both rings are now back in my possession and both, yes both, are sized to fit my ring finger. And, as I had suspected, the monetary worth of the ring was considerably less than what I spent on it. But, I still think that getting the work done was worth the effort.
And, not only from a practical standpoint. Recently I learned the story behind these rings. My father’s sister talked to her son who was very close to my father.
Both of these rings my father bought for my mother. My father was a very generous soul. He liked to make my mother happy and give her nice things. He always bought her nice clothes, and made sure she got her hair done nicely (pampering!). My father was not a rich man, by any means. But he knew women liked pretty jewelry. He couldn’t afford brand new jewelry, so he had to buy used. One ring fit my mother. The other didn’t and he never got around to actually getting that one fixed and sized. So, after knowing the true story on these rings, their sentimentality value just shot up. These rings are symbols of my father’s love for my mother. A symbol of his kind and generous heart.
When we acquire possessions, however we acquire possessions, some have practical value, some have monetary value, and others sentimental value. Sometimes a possession has more than one value. Sometimes possessions we thought were valuable, don’t really have true value. In my quest to lead a simpler life in the New Year, I’m praying God will guide me as I discern which possessions have true worth and which no longer have any value in my life.
Oh, and the picture above? Painted with love by my beloved, multi-talented aunt many years ago.

May all my readers have a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year!

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