Monday, July 25, 2016

Are You Going Uptown Or Downtown? Our Lives Here On Earth End In One Place Or The Other

“We are an uphill people!” my cycling instructor cried.  Sweat poured from my forehead and I felt a surge of nausea from all the intense pedaling.

My insides screamed, “No, I’m a downhill person!  I’m an eat rocky road Haagen-Dazs in my bed while I peruse reality TV shows kind of person.”

I wanted to hop off my bike and hurl in the hallway.

Instead, I decided to contemplate the profound spiritual metaphor the instructor inadvertently communicated.  I decided to think about how I desire to be an uphill person, a person who rises above my basest wants (like hopping off the stationary bike and into my bed) so that I can act according to God’s will.  I want to be the kind of person who walks up the mountain in search of Someone Great, not down it in search of myself.

Full disclosure:  I struggled during cycling class because this past fall, I gave up the exercise regime to which I had been very dedicated to for almost two years.  I got burnt out and decided exercising was taking up too much of my time.

It’s almost like Screwtape himself was whispering, “See?  You’re good now.  You don’t really need to walk those 10,000 steps.  Why don’t you take it easy for a while?”

Sadly, I listened and now, ten pounds and no stamina later, I’m back to the physical education drawing board.  Incidentally, I’ve been reading Dante’s Inferno.  I’m not perusing this great work of art on my own, of course, because like my lack of motivation to exercise and eat well, I’m also not motivated to dive into difficult masterpieces on my own accord.  My book club selected The Divine Comedy to read and so in the past few weeks I’ve been walking with Dante through the dregs of hell.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Four Reasons People Avoid Counseling (And Why They Don't Hold Up)

( image credit here)

I went back to counseling recently.  I’m not seeking therapeutic help because some severe addiction plagues me.  I’m not going because I’m a serial adulterer or because I’m facing an epic marital crisis.

The main reason I’m attending is because sometimes, when I’m stressed or tired or when the sky is cloudy, I lack the self-control necessary to hold my tongue. Instead of responding to my husband and six children, I sometimes react harshly to them, thereby making an already trying familial situation even more difficult.

Meeting with someone who helps me create strategies to combat this personal weakness has already had positive effects.  CEO’s come up with business plans all the time to improve their financial performance.  Since I’m the co-CEO of the Duggan Corporation, it can’t hurt to create a performance plan of my own.

I’ve noticed some Catholics are weary of counseling and for good reason. It would not be helpful, for instance, if a counselor suggested I get on the birth control pill and quit homeschooling as the solution to the stress I experience in family life.  I’ve already discerned that the birth control pill and full time school won’t really solve my problems, but coping skills for emotional volatility actually will.  I don’t want to have to defend my faith or my lifestyle to someone who doesn’t understand.  Even if I did quit having babies and put all my kids in school, I’m still going to struggle with my temper.  I need some tricks and tips to help me manage myself in challenging life situations, not quick fixes. 

Read the rest at Aleteia.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Want To Save The World? Start With The People You See Everday.

In June, I started a mother’s ministry at my 10,000 person parish and the response has been overwhelming.  Though we began meeting over five weeks ago, every week I receive more requests from women who have heard about us and want to join the group. 

Here’s the thing I already knew, but my experience has confirmed:  women are hungry for community, for support, and for friendship.  Women feel isolated and alone.   

At the end of almost every session, someone approaches me and confesses a private pain.  There are marital issues, parenting challenges, the death of children and spouses.  I pray to hold back my tears as these women tell me their stories.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but these women I’m befriending?  I’ve been sitting next to them in the pews for years.  Until recently, I didn’t even know their names, let alone their sufferings.  Though I’ve seen them almost weekly for the last six years, my efforts to get to know them have not exceeded a polite nod and a weak smile as we file into and out of Sunday Mass. 
Isn’t it strange I would never forget to leave my iPhone at home but I can’t be bothered to ask the woman sitting next to me at Mass every Sunday her name?
Isn’t it strange that I live in a über technologically connected society, but I remain so emotionally disconnected from the people around me?

Read the rest at ICL.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Spaghetti Dinners

Right now, there is blessed silence.

John just took five of the kids to evening swim team practice.  The noise produced and energy required to get that stampede of elephants out the door would make the Ringling Brothers sweat.

Before they left, I told Christopher, the seven year old, no less than ten times to find his flip flops, put them on, and get in the van.  For at least eight minutes, that child wandered about the back yard and then into the house, staring at the ceiling, making small explosive sounds, and simulating bombs with his hands. 

He still had no shoes after eight minutes of pacing, but no actual looking. 

We’ve reviewed this difference, he and I, at least one thousand times.  I’ve told him that wandering is not the same as searching, but he stares at me like I am an odd creature speaking in a language he’s never heard.

My lectures don’t work.  The boy can never find his shoes when we need to leave. 

But right now, there is blessed silence and I don’t have to worry about teachable moments or Christopher’s flip-flops.

Camille was wearing nothing but a bathing suit just minutes before John corralled the kids.  In a moment of weakness earlier this afternoon, I agreed to let the lot of them turn on the hose to cool off in the summer heat.

Cursed hose!  Harbinger of fights and catastrophe!

For the next hour, I sat in my rocking chair referring arguments and inappropriate hose dousing.

I did convince Camille to put on some clothes before she left, though.  She chose a mismatched ensemble of bright yellow and orange, splattered with spaghetti stains.

Speaking of which, we’ve had spaghetti for dinner for two nights in a row.  Half of me feels guilty that I’ve completely abdicated summer meal planning, but the other half can’t be bothered.  And so, most evenings for the last few months, we’ve dined on sandwiches and quesadillas, and….yes, spaghetti.

So far, the kids are all fine.

And for now, there is this blessed silence; the only sound the pitter-patter of my keyboard.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Kids Will Be Fine: On Putting Marriage Before Parenting


This past Sunday, I arranged for my parents to babysit so my husband John and I could attend an all day anniversary party for some friends.  We anticipated the event for weeks and when it finally came, we dressed up in our Sunday finest and left the house, sans kids.  We were early to arrive so John suggested we park somewhere and make out. 

“We aren’t that early,” I said.

We went to Mass instead, where we sat together, holding hands, and praying, like we did before our brood of babies introduced a level of chaos we didn’t know was possible.  After Mass, we wandered over to the building where our friends hosted an elegant dinner party.  We sat at a candle-lit table, sipping adult beverages and telling raucous stories to other adult friends. 

We laughed. 

We drank. 

We ate good food. 

Later, we drove to the harbor with some more friends and we all hopped on a boat for a sunset cruise.  John and I held hands and took a boat selfie.  I felt like a kid again, a young careless twenty something without the daily responsibilities of life pressing in on me.  It was the most fun my husband and I have had together in a long time.  Days later, I still feel high from the day off of work and the time spent with John and our good friends.

John and I have been married for almost fourteen years and we are not the lovesick puppies we once were.  We still love each other, of course, but it’s not the infatuated, needy kind of love we experienced when we first married, when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other and we flitted our weekends away napping in the warm sun or lounging on the couch all afternoon reading books, unfettered by responsibility.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Be Not Afraid: A Lesson From The Deep End

“Your fear is not the boss of you, Christopher,” I said to my seven-year old son, attempting to channel Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights.

“You’ve got to tell that fear to get in the backseat because you are driving the car.”

Christopher slouched in front of me. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Getting My Kids Into Harvard Is Not My Endgame: I'm Aiming Higher

I received an email from my nine-year old daughter’s dance studio, which stated if she missed any more ballet classes, she would not participate in the yearly recital.  I did my due diligence and typed up an explanation for her absence coupled with an appropriate apology.  It took sincere effort, however, to refrain from reminding the director that Mary is not a professional dancer.

Nor is she an Olympic athlete. 

Mary will not grace the stage as Baryshnikov’s ballet partner, but finds great enjoyment in the fundamentals of dance.  Her pleasure is enough for me to continue with lessons.   I don’t care if she isn’t the lead in the Nutcracker Ballet or occasionally misses practices because of legitimate family commitments. 

I live in an area where children’s extracurricular schedules run parents.  Moms and dads across my state spend their time outside of work toting kids from music lessons, to dance classes, to robotics clubs, art, soccer, baseball, horseback riding, lacrosse, etc.  There is no time for family dinners or throwing the football or read alouds.  There is not time for children to foster creativity.

Read the rest here.
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