Thursday, February 28, 2013

Goodbye and Hello

Its hard to believe my Mom has already been gone for a week. Time is a blur for me currently, full of strange feelings and old memories, mixed in with my normal life's daily work. I know its harder, it simply has to be,  on some of my siblings who spent so much time caring for my Mom these last few years. She was a daily part of their existence and my siblings are wonderful generous souls. Never did their hearts shine as well as when my Mom really needed them. It humbled me ( and still does) to see the devotion they showed her.

Mom's memory had been failing for a few long years. Conversations grew limited, and circular, and gentler. My brothers and sisters grew  so very patient and as a matter of fact, so did all their children who tenderly understood my Moms changing needs and silently adapted themselves to it despite the young ages some of them were. 

But the last few days for me have reminded me of how happy I am to share be able to speak to her again. Isn't that funny? The dementia forced us all to let go of pieces of my Mother through the years slowly, almost imperceptibly at first. Then it built momentum. I know it was hard on her too. But my Mom also had a great sense of humor and she never lost that. An evening, when she was with me last summer she mentioned the struggle one night:

 "Ellie, its hard to get old." I hugged her and replied

 "Yes, it is, but don't forget its hard to be young too Mom. Life is just hard no matter what age you are."

 And she chuckled and said "Yes, you're right but do you know what I think is hard about getting old?"

 "What Mom?" I asked

There was a long pause and she sighed.

I waited a moment longer and said "Well?"

And she looked back up at me startled and said :

"Wait a minute, what was the question again?"

 to which we both burst out laughing.

The last two days I have caught myself beginning to speak to her in complete thoughts all over again. I talk to her about more then the weather. I don't even think to ask her about her health. I speak to her about my children, and my wonderful husband, about my amazing siblings, and about my life. I don't keep things from her any longer that might worry her. My heart feels free with her once more. I said goodbye last week, and I am learning in my sorrow and  in prayer to say hello all over again. 

I am so grateful my mother was a woman of faith. I am so grateful to share that same faith which carries me back to her even now.   

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Catholic Stuff

Michael made his first confession tonight. Gosh he's cute. He was so nervous going into the box. We took him for ice cream afterwards to celebrate his pure little soul. Confession can be a daunting thing if you've been away for a while, or if its your first time, or if you need to go. Actually its always daunting. But boy is it nice to drop the past behind you and move on!

And our Pope abdicates tomorrow. He gave his final Papal audience today. I will miss Pope Benedict XVI. We're praying his successor is filled with tremendous wisdom and grace. If you want to see some cool graphics on how the Pope is elected click here. And if you are looking for a particular Cardinal to pray for during this time when we are without a Pope click this link to adopt an eligible one to pray for.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Family

My children and Fred are a great blessing to me these past few days after losing my Mom. No matter how much I want to sink inside myself, they still need me, and talk to me, and stop me from too  deep a sadness. Dinner still has to be made, and clothes washed, and school taught. I really love this part of my life, where my routines actually keep me moving in the right direction. Its all so comfortable and familiar to me,so that I can do it without much thought, and still be useful. And who couldn't smile when little Sophie shows up at the side of my bed in the morning saying she is going to go and get a cup of coffee? (Yes, she seriously does that).

My kids and Fred are trying to work their through grief too, and so we are all being gentle with one another. Otherwise, it would be easy to forget I am not the only one missing my Mom. I am sad for them, but also glad for the shared feelings that need no explanations. There is so much to be grateful for- a long life well lived, and generations going forward. But there is never a good time to lose your Mother.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Grieving My Mom

When I was a very little girl, I once had laryngitis. My Mom knew I was feverish and sick, and  since my Dad was away on a business trip for a few nights, she carried me into her bed to watch over me. When I woke  in the night, I found myself sleeping beside her and I tried to tell her I wasn't feeling well. But the words  simply would not come out. Try as I might I could not utter a single word loud enough to rouse her from her sleep. Being so little, I was terrified I would never be able to speak again, and the more I lay there the more the fear of it gripped me. How would I ever be able to go on without being able to speak to her, or tell her what I needed, or thought, or felt, or wanted?  Over and over again I mouthed the silent words "I love you ". And though its unlikely it was more then  a few minutes, it felt like an eternity to my small soul. Eventually my Mother woke on her own and seeing me lying next to her trying to tell her I loved her so  very desperately,  she pulled me very close and whispered "I love you too", and then blissful sleep engulfed my still feverish body, and there,  the memory  ends.

My siblings and I buried our Mother this past weekend. She had been suffering the last few weeks in the hospital and all of us knew the end was near, though we were desperate to push it as far from us as possible. But there was no going back. Once the breath had gone, that awful disorientation gripped our hearts. What will the world now be like without our Mother? How will it be? Can it even be? Everything feels different, and strange, and sore. The instinct to curl up and sleep gets so strong. 

And then wakes, and masses, and the blur of arrangements take hold and carries you along like a current on the ocean. Familiar faces reach out to catch your hand and steady you and push you into the next day, and the next, and the last. Black clothes and dusty photos make their way to the front of the room.

And the grief reveals us. Both to ourselves and to others. Relationships are laid bare- a daughter, a son, a cousin, a brother, a friend, a neighbor. Dreams and stories are spoken and shared and the meaning of my Mom's life begins to take shape to me. Not simply in my own life, and that of my siblings, but also in the other lives she touched. In who she was

 I just wrote was. Past tense. She was. 

I have been itching to write for days. It is how I cope. This first wave of grief feels the hardest as my fingers and heart struggle to find the words. I know I cannot get it all on the page in one night, but I also have to begin. Don't mind too much if the pain spills out here for a while.   

I began my prayers today and after speaking to sweet Jesus for a time, I tried to speak to my Mom. Strangely, I felt once more like a child who was feverish and sick and had laryngitis. I struggled to tell her I wasn't  well and wound up saying 'I love you' repeatedly though no words came out, just tears. 

I think she heard me. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I love Lent. I know that must sound crazy, but I actually do.It is such a good time in the liturgical year to take a deep breath and assess where you are at and what direction you need to be heading. Its a fresh start for the soul, and who doesn't need that?

The last few years we have done all the regular traditional Lenten things in our house, and we like to pass the traditions along to our kids so they take root. But I also have found that I have a different perspective on Lent lately. Having a good Lent for me this year will not be so much about making sure I  rev  my prayer life, or renounce something I like too much,( plenty of room for those things too) but instead, being attentive to the regular sufferings we are all offered on a daily basis due to that condition we all suffer from called life. 

Suffering is all around us. Small and large. Learning to look at it with eyes of love or patience  or compassion can not only change our perspective, but also change our hearts, and those of others. So that is what I will try for. Whatever Jesus offers me over the next 40 days I will attempt ( and undoubtedly fail) to say Thank You for it, whether it seems to be a good or an evil that befalls me- I will do my best to be grateful, knowing it has come from the hands of a Father in heaven who loves me, knows me, and desires it for my good- even if I am unable to understand why. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Testing, testing,...123

I have been buried in standardized tests since bright and early Monday morning. The kids were supposed to have this week off from classes for Winter break, but I also am required to do standardized testing every other year for all the elementary school ages, so this is our week. It is grueling.

The tests shouldn't be grueling, in fact they are pretty straight forward and easy to administer.Grab your  No.2 pencils, scrap paper, and you're off! Of course most 'proctors' haven't birthed the children, and nursed the same children, and spent countless hours in the classroom with those children, who now sit poised to give the real thumbs up or down on how the whole homeschooling project is going compared to kids in the rest of the country.

It's difficult to fathom how utterly exhausting it is to sit for two hour clips each with a first grader, then a second grader, then a fourth grader, then a fifth grader, and finally a seventh grader that you have solely taught- while reading directions and questions out loud to them and giving them choices to answer from  which ultimately all point out if you are or are not a failure at teaching them. The  exercise of practicing even tones in my voice so that I don't give away an answer by my pitch, gently saying "I am not allowed to tell you the meaning of that word, that is the question you are being asked- do your best",  the utter indifference , and in fact lack of cringing, at the wrong answer they give is about as heroic as I can possibly get. I am mentally fried. 

Honestly, they do just fine. But of course as their Mother, I feel every mistake much more keenly. Thankfully, there are just so many questions that pretty soon you just fall into the rhythm and lose track of how they do until the grading comes weeks from now. Fred came into the classroom at one point and after listening for a little while, broke into a cold sweat and walked out. He then decided we all needed to go out to dinner for pizza and blamed it on Mardi Gras. But I knew he saw that I was about to crack and was saving me from the demise. Tomorrow we finish testing and begin Lent. 

I am really looking forward to Lent. 

Monday, February 11, 2013


Waking up and finding out your Pope has abdicated the throne doesn't make for the best start to a day. What can a Catholic girl offer her readers in regards to  this momentous impending change on such short notice? I suppose the only thing fresh I can put out in front of you is the first thing that came to my mind  after I read the news. Two words:

St Malachy.

This is an Irish saint  who had visions of all the Popes. He made a list of 112. We just finished lucky # 111 in Pope Benedict the XVI. I don't know about you but this is how that makes me feel-


His track record is notable for its accuracy. (Seriously-the Mayans had nothing on this guy). Some not-so-great-things go along with the last Pope and all.  Things like persecutions, and beasts, and thirds of stars falling from the sky.You know, all that fire and brimstone stuff. And no,  I am not linking anywhere, I'll let you do your homework yourself tonight.

I am not given to prophecy or superstition ( well, OK- I really AM ) but this one is pretty intriguing regardless.  I intend to have the best Lent EVER. Does anyone know where to pick up a good hair shirt?

Gosh, all of you GO PRAY!

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Snowstorm in Spirit

My whole family is becoming encapsulated in the New York snowstorm for the next few days. I figured there was only one way to remain united to them all properly,and that was to join them in spirit. Tonight we are 'snowed in' here at Four Gables, despite the lack of snow on our ground. We ran out for last minutes supplies ( Peter is making seven layer bars in case we lose power).
We have our favorite books near-by ( looks like Treasure Island gets a second run for the boys), and I am renting The Count of Monte Cristo for our evening viewing. 

We'll spread some blankets on the floor, make some cocoa, and enjoy this time that Winter forces itself so strongly on us, it makes us sit home and simply be, with those we love most. There is something to be said for having to sit and wait patiently while all sorts of storms in life pass us by. What can seem so frightful in the moment, can often be transformed by mornings light. The snow that was menacing, leaves behind a dazzling brightness making all things look different and beautiful still. Glad to be with all of you wonderful NYers, even if it is only in spirit for the moment. You are all so close to my heart!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Superbowl Sunday

We're not really big football fans at Four Gables, but we do watch on Superbowl Sunday. Doesn't everybody? Mostly we make a party of it, by making way too much food. And mostly the food is the kind that is only meant for an occasional treat, and yet- we serve it all together as dinner. And who am I kidding- we snack on it the rest of the night as well.

starting early on potato skins
jalapeno poppers that your mouth will remember all night-fire!

 Fred and Peter did the kitchen work this year. fresh jalapeno poppers, baked potato skins, creamy cheese dip, steak tips, garlic mashed potatoes....yeah- we're eating too much. Since our good friend Christine and her entire adorable family, pretty much subsists on football, gardening, and Downton Abbey we simply had to watch and root for the Ravens hard this year. It would be a cardinal sin against our friendship if we didn't. For all you die hard football fans, have a wonderful night and I hope your favorite teams wins!

Oops- Sorry Christine! I meant to say :


Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Grand Scheme

Sometimes I take myself too seriously. We all do I suppose. Life comes at us hard and fast, and we get too stuck in the individual moment to step back and see we are just a piece of the giant puzzle called life. Thankfully, my faith and family bring me back to reality most days, and ground me in what is, and is not truly important. 

There is not really a whole lot most of us can do to change the universe, but we certainly can and should affect the small parcel God has placed us on. We can bring more love to those around us, and if love is too much, maybe just a few smiles, and if simple smiling is still asking a lot- maybe just a wink or a nod. How you do it is entirely up to you, THAT you do it- is pretty important.
And for those days when your life seems just so hard to take and you think the decisions you make are so vitally important- here is a wonderful graphic to help you see things in their proper perspective once again. Play around with this one for a while, it's really eye opening. Just click on the link below to begin your journey- have fun!