I've worked in the nonprofit world, professionally, for more than 10 years. I've worked in the for-profit world as well, but nonprofit work has always called out to me, demanding my attention.
For the last year+, I've worked in an emergency shelter for adults in one of the "most dangerous areas of the country." It's hard work, but it's incredibly rewarding.
Most days, I genuinely love my job because I can see- in real time- the transformative effects of how my staff approaches breaking the cycles of poverty, homelessness, and addiction.
A few months ago, I was privileged to attend a graduation for gentlemen who had gone through a course we offered that focuses on building up men into better husbands, providers, and fathers. One particular man (I'll call him Joe) stands out to me:
Joe arrived to our shelter struggling with addiction and poverty. His child's mother kicked him out of the house and cut off all communication for him as a means to protect their daughter from his addiction and general inability to be a functioning adult. It took a few months, but slowly, Joe began to trust us and finally began to take advantage of the services we offer at the shelter. Fast forward about six months, and Joe completed the Fatherhood course. At his graduation ceremony, he received a few gift cards that were meant to celebrate his achievements and growth.
I think of Joe's story all the time. He's since moved on from our shelter and into a place of his own. We were able to help him with job placement and a housing voucher, and he's been sober for about 5 months now. His story is repeated in others every day here, and it's amazing to see. The work we do doesn't just transform the individuals we serve; it transforms their families, friends, and colleagues.
Unfortunately, not all stories end like Joe's; I really wish they did. Today, I walked in to see several of my coworkers standing around a computer screen looking through security footage. This isn't entirely odd- there are often incidents that need to be tracked or cataloged given the area in which we serve. However, I could tell by the atmosphere of our normally jovial lobby that something terrible had happened.
One of the people we serve- I'll call him Michael- had been hit by a car. Unfortunately, we didn't capture the accident on camera, but we were able to see the aftermath of police cars and ambulances that raced up the street, just off-camera, that responded to the scene. It took us all day to locate him. We called hospitals, morgues, even the police station, but due to HIPPA regulations and various policies (and the fact that we aren't considered guardians or family), we weren't given any information. Luckily, one of our social workers had backdoor access to the hospital that we were able to locate him at. News was grim; Michael was pronounced dead on arrival.
Michael had a history of addiction and serious health concerns. Poverty prevented much of his ability to see to those health concerns, and he walked with a cane. However, he was always very pleasant and polite, greeting me every day with a "Good mornin', Miss Gina" and "How's that baby of yours, Miss Gina?" He'd also poke his head into my office now and again to ask me if I'd wanted to share lunch or a snack. He didn't have much family left as he, himself, was approaching being a senior citizen. He reminded me of a sweet grandfather who simply got dealt a bad hand and was doing what he could to make the most of it. It kills me that he died steps from our shelter and none of us could do anything about it.
And to add insult to injury, I opened my inbox to find a heartbreaking SOS from two sons who were trying desperately to find information on their mother. It turns out that she had been deceased since October, but could only be identified recently through fingerprints. They were trying to piece together her last months and hoped we had come into contact with her.
Upon seeing the name and photo of their mother, of course we recognized her. I will call her Linda.
Linda was a recovering drug addict who also experienced a significant amount of trauma from multiple sexual assaults. She had been a member of our shelter family back in 2021 before we were able to find her placement in a rehabilitation program. Upon completion of the program, she began rebuilding her life, but unfortunately, suffered a setback and found her way back to the streets. Luckily, she knew she could return to us for help without judgement, because we all know just how hard it is to break these cycles. For a couple months, we worked with her to help her regain control over her life. Unfortunately, she relapsed and overdosed about 2 miles from our shelter. She left one day and never came back. It wasn't until we got the e-mail from her sons that we learned how Linda's story ended.
I struggled a lot today with myriad emotions. Obviously there is intense sadness, but there's a lot of anger and despair as well. My whole staff was feeling it. These are really hard pills to swallow, but they're the reality of nonprofit work, especially nonprofit work that deals directly with the most vulnerable members of society. We work so hard trying to prevent these tragedies, but the truth is, no program can magically make these systemic problems vanish.
It would be so wonderful if we could. Alas, we are but humans.
I was driving back from the bank, just thinking about the conversation I had with Linda's sons. I had to remain calm and compassionate for them... an anchor in a storm no child should find themselves in. And so I stuffed my emotions away until I was in my car where I could rage without causing more harm.
Because when this happens, I can't help but think of all the other Lindas and Michaels that we could not save. I tick them off, one by one, and castigate the world (but really myself) for allowing their stories to end without applause. I walk arm-in-arm with Despair, and I allow him to lead me, for a time, to the Sea of Futility. I contemplate leaving... walking away... because how can I look myself in the mirror when I have failed so many?
And yes, I do take each loss personally. How can I not? I am directly tied to the success of our mission, and our mission is to transform lives. Each loss brings about intense introspection: Could I have partnered with another business to secure funding for extra social workers? Did I miss an opportunity for partnering w/ police to increase safety around the facility? If we had just done more training for CPR, Narcan, or even DV awareness, is it possible we could have caught warning signs sooner?
And as always, the Holy Spirit quietly alights on my shoulder and whispers the names of those who have benefited from our programs. Chris. Pat. Kim. Ernie. Doris. Tai. So many more. Countless others. And their faces slowly come into focus, turning the Sea of Futility into a Sea of Hope. Their faces blot out the dark, inky waves and visions of their happily ever afters cause Despair to flee. I'm instantly reminded of the Starfish story, and while I can't "save them all," I can save some and to those individuals (and their family and friends), that's enough.
But I'd be lying if I said days like this were easy. It NEVER gets easier. It's ALWAYS gut-wrenching and makes you second, third and hundredth time guess yourself.
Regardless, I came back to the shelter renewed and made sure my staff was also reminded of all those who have found their happily ever afters here. It is so important, especially on days like today, that we combat the despair with stories of hope. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is really good at that sorta thing, and we spent the afternoon sharing our favorite "success stories" with one another. We did not do it in spite of what happened to Michael and Linda... we did it as a means of honoring their memory and the memory of all those we lost.
May they be at peace, and may those who work within the nonprofit world- taking on untold emotional, psychological and spiritual warfare- be blessed with that same peace.
God is good, folks. I've been keeping busy with work, family and a few little side projects and it's taken me away from blogging, but I needed to pop in to yet again sing of God's faithfulness. You will never be able to outdo Him in love, people.
This past year, I've seen my oldest son grow 3.5" taller than me (!!!), my middle son develop into a true social butterfly, and my youngest blossom SO QUICKLY into his daddy's little twin. My husband has excelled with work, I've gotten comfortable in my newest role, and together, we've created so many wonderful memories for ourselves and our boys.
God is so good!
And it turns out He wants to keep raining blessings down on our little family. In June, Chris and I found out we were expecting again! Chris' face upon realizing there was another little one on the way... my heart still melts.
I should probably print this out and post it somewhere. This was the very moment he realized I was pregnant. It's impossible for me to look at it without falling in love with him all over again. His response to children is lightyears different from John's. When John found out about Vince, he was annoyed (I still have the video of him stomping off, angry). When he found out about Nate, he claimed he was "fine" but clammed up for 20 weeks only to say he didn't actually want more children and instead wanted divorce.
Chris on the other hand... you can see from his face how overjoyed he is to be bringing another child into the world. He is SUCH an amazing father to not only Nico, but Vince and Nate as well. He genuinely enjoys spending time with them, answering their endless science-y questions, and exploring the many facets of boyhood with them. He enjoys the family trips we take, and he never pushes off his responsibilities. He is a fully active parent and it's never something I have to coax or drag out of him. He just IS these things, and I can't articulate how much I appreciate that.
Anyhow, we are expecting our newest baby in February. So far, our peanut is healthy and wonderful in all the ways. The pregnancy hasn't been terribly hard this go around, but I'm definitely showing much sooner than in previous pregnancies. I know that tends to happen the more children you have, but even I was surprised at how quickly I developed my little bump! Not that I mind. I love showing off the blessing I carry. It was a grace denied to me for many, many years.
Vince and Nate are hoping for a baby girl this time around. Poor Vince has been wanting a sister since before Nate was born. Nate, I think, is hoping for a girl because he still looks to Vincent for cues in most things. *Grin* Nico, being so young, doesn't realize he's already a big brother! I cannot wait to see that relationship. He and this newest baby will be close in age- something I always wished for Vincent and Nate. They'll have a built-in best friend. Again, God is good.
So what about the title of this post? What is my decade-old prayer that God has answered?
You might just be thinking that God answered my prayer for more children, and you'd be half right. God has ABSOLUTELY answered that in a big way! I had honestly resigned myself to having Vincent for so long, and rejoiced when Nathan arrived because he was truly a miracle of miracles! Then Nico... geez. God is beyond generous with me. And now our newest baby... having a husband who is not only open to life, but actively excited about having as many as God will allow... they're overwhelming blessings.
But there's a much more specific prayer that my heart had uttered almost 10 years ago exactly. It can be found here, in my archive.
That's right. Ten years ago this month, I ran into a father with two sons: Vincent and Luca. Something unspeakable stirred in the depths of my soul upon hearing Luca's name... an impossible knowledge that Luca (not that Luca, but A Luca) was meant to be mine but had been cruelly denied to me.
As I said in my "Darkest Secret" entry, I believed I was the mother of children I would never meet. And while that was a terribly heavy cross to bear, I never once turned away from it. I embraced it as best I could and trusted in God's Providence.
Ten years later, and He answered my soul's prayer.
In February, we will welcome our fourth son into the world- Luca. God is SO GOOD. My heart couldn't possibly be happier!
And what's doubly crazy is that Chris and I arrived at the name Luca separately. We were listing off "Italian names" for both boys and girls when we came across "Luca." Immediately, I was transported back to the moment I wrote about in the blog. I didn't say anything for a moment, because I was too busy feeling all the emotions that almost-forgotten memory brought back. Chris, though, quickly said "I like that one!" and it went to the top of our list.
This weekend, we received confirmation that we were expecting a son... Luca.
Luca. I still can't get over the myriad miracles God continues to bless us with... this most recent one ten years in the making.
God is good, folks. Impossibly, unfathomably good. Trust Him. In all things, trust Him.
Update: Poor little Squidward (who is still actively leaving comments on this blog that are all going to spam) has been successfully flagged by Twitter as engaging in abuse and harassment. He's still on Twitter, but moved himself here.
As all cowards do, he tried to hide his misogyny by deleting comments, changing his name and his header/profile photo, but I have the receipts. #SorryNotSorry
Squidward did end up contacting my work, and, God bless him, my boss laughed at how ridiculous his assertions were. Squidward thought he'd be able to scare me into backing down, but each idiotic move just makes the circle of people who know he's pathetic grow larger. I also alerted my husband's company who noted, as military vendors, they'd take care of the issue if we'd like, but why waste resources on cowards?
Just the same, my husband suggested I file a police report, so I did. I said to the officer "I realize you can't do anything about this, but my husband wants a paper trail in case he needs to shoot someone this week." The officer laughed and said, "Noted."
Chris has been excitedly polishing his newest toy all weekend, but we all know Squidward is impotent; I am wholly unconcerned, especially given how quickly he turned tail and tried to hide the evidence. Ever since Twitter flagged him, he's only left messages on this blog (and since my settings now send him directly to spam, he's not having much luck there, either).
Again, ladies, don't fear sad little boys like Squidward. As soon as you shine a light on the roaches, they scatter. Keep shining your light and if need be, ask friends to amplify.
Being a woman, dealing with fragile male egos is something I'm well-versed in. Every now and again, however, the perfect specimen of Incel comes across your feed, and you realize you're about to be treated to a plethora of amusement.
Enter @yona_stan. For easy reference, we're going to call him Squidward.
My friend had been innocently commenting his experience to a nun on Twitter when Squidward accused him of lying. I simply pointed out I knew my friend IRL and could vouch for him being a real person who did, in fact, share a true experience. At this point, I didn't realize I was dealing with a man. Squidward's photo, after all, was the image of a woman and the bio listed info about a female poet. I shrugged and went about my day.
When I got back, I saw that Squidward had spent hours (HOURS) combing through my old tweets to leave ridiculous comments. I also saw a LITANY of direct messages from this person (I think I'm up to 50 or 60 at this point) calling me a "whore," referencing my divorce, and making all manner of ridiculous statements. I then saw my e-mail (which is linked to my blog) and was treated to dozens of "blog comments" and several form entries from this same individual.
See just a sampling:
And here's a screenshot of the wall of DMs he kept sending to me. I couldn't even tell you how many there are at this point as I'd been ignoring them and sending the e-mails directly to spam. But it's all the same garbage that always gets sent out by guys who think their opinion matters more than it does. It's a giant temper-tantrum centered on the fact that he is impotent. LoL.
THIS was when I realized Squidward was a man.
After all, this is what men with bruised egos do. Normally, I let the stupidity roll off because I don't typically have the time or desire to engage, but every now and again, I decide to have some fun knocking these weirdos down a few pegs.
I called him out for being a man using a woman (who I later found out was a dead poet) as his profile photo. Not as if hiding behind a woman's photo was enough to disguise the stench of desperation wafting off him, because women deal with petty little boys like this all the time. We can recognize clowns without a second glance precisely because each and every one of them resorts to these same idiotic tactics each time their little egos are bruised.
I spoke to my original friend (a man) and sure enough, Squidward didn't bother sending him any messages. That's because Squidward knows that friend is a man. Squidward won't play in the sandbox with men. Squidward is scared of men.
Instead, he chooses to attack women, and he does it like every other incel has ever done in the history of incels: he first attacks her appearance. When that doesn't work, he attempts to attack her character. When that doesn't work, he attempts to scare her.
Little Squidward followed the textbook to a tee. First he started in with the "You're fat" nonsense (grammar, as expected, was wholly incorrect). He immediately reminded me of a guy from college who, after I turned him down for a date, told me I was fat. This photo was taken about 10 minutes after I turned the guy down. I'm legitimately the skinniest person in the picture. LoL!
Anyway, what Squidward and other incels like him fail to realize is that attacks like this will never, ever work. Why? Because in order for their words to carry any sort of meaning, they, first, have to carry some sort of meaning.
Squidward is meaningless. He's a random little boy on the internet who can't spell, can't articulate logical arguments, and can't handle a woman. He presents as someone who legitimately has never had a positive interaction with a woman in his life (must be his winning personality). Instead of doing what normal people would do and shrug off the thread and move on, he became so enraged that a woman would dare to call him out that he legitimately spent HOURS and HOURS of his life trying to make me care about him.
Then, when even that didn't work, he spent God only knows how many more hours combing through this blog leaving comments and messages pretending to be various people (my brother, a colleague, Chris, Chris' colleague, etc) all in an attempt to scare me because he knew "private details" about my life.
Alas... all it did was make me laugh.
Squidward Super Sleuth thought he could intimidate me because he can read information I have readily posted? Ha ha ha ha ha!
My name is no secret. My husband's name is no secret. Google exists. It's not like I run around hiding away under a dead female poet's photo (*ahem*). So him posting these things in an attempt to make me feel unsafe only made me laugh at how ridiculously obsessed he'd become with "putting me in my place."
Oh... what a sad, sad little Squidward.
He even went so far as to cite my place of business and title as if it would bully me into fearing him:
For anyone wondering, I work for a homeless shelter. Great place filled with some amazing people. Pretty sure any one of the people we serve here would have no problem taking out the trash on my behalf. The folks I am privileged to serve come from places of genuine strength and honor. They've fought the demons of addiction, mental illness and gang violence (some for years!) before finding themselves again here at our shelter.
The idea of a sniveling little Squidward showing up to make problems here? Ha ha ha ha ha - oh Lord above, this guy is funnier than Dave Chappelle!
My husband, also, had a good laugh at this. Chris is a very large, muscular and no-nonsense man. He works hard, trains hard, and takes his role as protector seriously. He almost got giddy at the idea of someone presenting himself for target practice. LoL!
Alas, we all know what happens with Squidwards. They vent their hot air into the atmosphere feeling confident that they've squashed another female who dared make him feel like the insignificant loser he is.
So why am I sharing this?
I'm actually sharing it because of a recent situation springing up with Nicole Arbor and Black Rifle Coffee Company. I won't bother w/ details, you can see the stupidity for yourselves in the link above. Suffice to say she spent years in fear of people like Squidward.
I am here to tell you not to. Squidwards are a dime a dozen and only know how to bark, not bite. The best way to deal with them is to publicly call them out and laugh at them for the clowns that they are.
Men like this are not men; they are boys parading as men (and in some cases, like dear Squidward, they're not even parading as men but as dead female poets who, had she known him in real life, would have recoiled in horror and likely would've eternalized him as the reviled subject of one of her poems).
Women, do not be afraid of men like this. Stop allowing them to say and do these abhorrent things. We so often take the abuse and silently move on, but the best disinfectant for germs like this is sunlight.
Put the little incels on blast, because at the end of the day, they have absolutely no power over you and it drives them bonkers.
PS - since I've already gotten about 100 notifications while putting this blog together, I know you're still visiting, Squidward. I will doubtful ever think of you again, but I do hope the penthouse you've set up for me in your brain, rent-free, is a nice one! *Grin*
I posted this to FB yeterday:
Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents… the infants (newborn- 2yrs) Herod ordered killed in his attempt to murder Jesus.
I was happy to see some interest on this post! Folks were curious to know more about where I got this information, if I had more information, and if I'd be willing to share that information! I love it!
Since folks who don’t know me are now invested, a little bit about how I come about knowing things like this: I have an insane process when it comes to Sacred Art and stories in the Bible. It’s an insatiable curiosity, really, and it tends to force me down fascinating (if time-consuming) paths. I don’t stop researching until I feel my curiosity is sated.
My blog is replete with these expeditions, so feel free to peruse.
Anywho, that all being said, this journey started with The Life of Saint Joseph, written by a nun (Sr. Maria Baij). For the sake of transparency, this book, while stamped with a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, is not considered dogma and the faithful are not bound by anything in it. That said, it started me on the path to researching more about Herod and the Holy Innocents, so bear with me!
The Life of Saint Joseph only briefly mentions Herod and his plans to kill Jesus. I thought it interesting, given how detailed and foot-noted the book is, that this particular event was almost seen as a footnote itself. It felt wrong, somehow, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Thus began the quest to learn more...
I sought out a few articles/documentaries on Herod, one of which was, I think, The Real King Herod. Believe it or not, this documentary actually seems to dispel the notion of the Massacre altogether, but again, bear with me. Lots of what was raised by this documentary led to me to accounts from Josephus (a 1st century historian who happened to be Jewish).
Fun fact about Josephus- this dude mentions NOTHING about the Massacre. Nothing. This threw me for a loop, because he was Jewish. You'd think a Jewish historian would mention the slaughter of a bunch of babies, right? In his defense, he also doesn't mention much about Jesus who, hindsight being 20/20, was pretty darned important, but we'll get to that in a minute...
So I turned to where I always turn when utterly stumped (and I recommend you guys all do the same). If you ever want to understand something that just doesn't quite make sense in the Bible, talk to a Jew. Being our Big Brother in Faith, it is impossible to truly understand the Catholic Faith without grasping the Jewish Faith as well.
So off I went to read what Jewish scholars had to say about the Massacre. I specifically sought out Messianic Jews (Jews who believe that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah). While it was many years ago that I did this, I can pretty much guarantee these are the folks I would've gone to: Rabbis Jacob Neusner, Eugenio (Israel) Zolli and David Rosen as well as Eitan Bar. I can't definitively say which one of them led me to the following information, but I guarantee it was one of them that put the pieces together for me.
Big piece of the puzzle for me: Why is Matthew the only one who mentions the Holy Innocents? According to one of the guys above, it was likely because of who he was and the lens he was writing under. He was a Jewish tax collector who had access to records detailing births and deaths and would have noted the similarities in Jesus' story and that of Moses (whose peers were also killed off by Pharoah). He would've been the one most aware of the fact that two Bethlehems existed in the ancient world (they still do, today, actually). He also would've been privy to the Jewish significance of Bethlehem of Judea being the birthplace of King David and the importance of establishing the lineage of Jesus to King David.
The slaughter of the innocents did not happen all across the Jewish world. Herod specifically asked the Wise Men WHERE Jesus was to be born, then gathered all his scholars (priests among them) where Scriptures indicated He would be.
This part is important and was something the documentary pointed out to me. Herod had to ask Jewish scholars what the Scriptures said about the coming Messiah. Any Jew would have known that Scripture (Micah 5:2, in fact) said that Bethlehem would produce the Eternal Messiah. Matthew quotes it, himself, in 2:6. HEROD WASN'T ACTUALLY JEWISH- not ethnically, anyway, which is why he was detested and basically went crazy trying to prove himself a legitimate Jewish king. He was Arab and so was constantly under threat of losing his authority.
Again, if you watch the documentary, while it poo-poos the idea of him slaughtering the innocents, it absolutely highlights documented cases of him murdering anyone who threatened his power, up to and including his own wives/children. Augustus Caesar, himself, remarked that it was safer to be Herod's pig than son (a joke because Jews don't eat pork).
Moving on, the documentary notes (again, with historical evidence) that Herod was well-known to have a silver tongue. He was very creative at finding palatable solutions to serious problems. For example, when his BFF Mark Antony (who put him in power) was ousted by Octavian, Herod very quickly made his way to Rome to pledge his loyalty to Octavian. Did Herod actually care about Octavian? Of course not. Herod just wanted to keep his head in-tact, and he used his brilliant strategic mind to ensure he kept it. He won Octavian to his side and not only was forgiven for being in cahoots with Antony, his lands were EXPANDED.
So it should come as no surprise, then, that Herod was capable of putting together a strategy like the one I listed above that would have people unwittingly participate in the murder of their own children.
Annnnyway, in my continued search for more details on the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, I came upon visions from Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (I'm linking you to her vision of the Slaughter, so be prepared, ok?). Again, take this with the same grain of salt as mentioned above with The Life of Saint Joseph. Emmerich's visions have been collected into a book that contain the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur noting it free from doctrinal error, but as they are considered private revelations, the faithful can wholly disregard them if they so choose, even with her being a beatified (not yet canonized) saint.
This was the first explanation of the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents that FINALLY made sense to me and answered the plethora of questions I had surrounding the "how" and "why" of things. The little bread crumbs that had led me to this point were all necessary, because in order to recognize the validity of Emmerich's vision, I needed to first understand the historical facts behind the players (Herod, Matthew, Josephus and even the historical location of the event).
Now obviously, no one is bound to believe ANY of the above information in order to memorialize the Holy Innocents. We, as faithful Catholics, believe that these events took place because the Church has, through Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium, confirmed the Holy Innocents existed and were cruelly sacrificed by Herod and his son (also Herod). HOW they took place was always a bone of contention for me, and after scouring the above resources for what was probably a total of several months, the above summary is what I arrived at.
The only thing my summary differs on is number. Sr. Baij does not list a number, and Blessed ACE lists two numbers over 700. Again, taking visions with a grain of salt (especially Blessed ACE's whose numbers are often symbolic in nature), I went back to the historical evidence of populations back in the time of Jesus, and most historians seem to agree the number was anywhere from a few dozen to 200. Given that both Herods continued to seek out children in the years the Holy Family was in Egypt, I feel confident the actual number is between 200-300 (but hey, I could totally be wrong).
So to those of you wondering how I came about this summation, I hope that clears it up for you! You're welcome to do a deep dive like I did. If you do, please report back because I love hearing from folks much smarter than I!
PS - Welcome to the page.
This is a fun story I was reminded of tonight...
I am a serial monogamist. When I am in a relationship, I am committed and have zero eyes for anyone else. I do not date around - I'm pretty sure it's physically impossible for me.
After my divorce, I spent a solid chunk of time refusing to date. I needed to sort myself out and I couldn't do that with random men floating around. When I did decide to start dating again, I had clear boundaries and codified a plan to follow for weeding out would-be suitors.
One of those would-be suitors, Rick, made it far enough through the plan to be considered a "boyfriend." So when a prospect hits that milestone, all other would-be suitors go straight out the window. It's just how I work.
So Rick and I had been dating for maybe a month or two when a colleague of mine (let's call him Steve) invited me out to dinner. He and I worked together- very well, in fact- and I genuinely enjoyed our relationship. We both had similar senses of humor, and while he was much more reserved than I was, his values aligned with mine and we challenged one another to excel in our given tasks.
Anyway, Steve invited me for dinner one night, and because I already had dinner plans with Rick, I suggested we do lunch, instead. At the time, it didn't occur to me that Steve wanted to do anything beyond catch up. I've got plenty of colleagues (male and female alike) who have met up with me for lunch/dinner. So I put him in the books for lunch knowing I'd still have enough time to get home and dressed for dinner with Rick.
Steve picked the place to eat and it turned out to be a cute Italian place between both our homes. About halfway through our normal banter, I noticed he was being more shy than usual. The word "bashful" popped to mind, and I suddenly realized I was on a date. He then said something that confirmed we were on a date, and...
...I cannot tell you the mortification and guilt I felt in that moment.
Looking back, it's super funny now because I didn't do anything wrong, but Ms. Serial Monogamist was suddenly juggling two men on the same day and I felt like the biggest hypocrite in the universe.
As soon as I realized that lunch wasn't just lunch, I did my best to casually wrap things up as amicably and quickly as possible. I didn't want to make him feel embarrassed or anything, so I didn't mention my dinner plans with Rick later, but oooooo boy. There's not enough limoncello in the world to make that experience less awkward. Ha ha!
I made it clear I wasn't interested in anything more than friendship and to this day, we remain good friends. He's a great guy and I enjoy his company so much. He and Rick ended up becoming buddies, too (oddly enough), but I never mentioned what happened to either one of them. It's not like Steve knew I was dating Rick at the time, and there was exactly zero reason to share with Rick what had erroneously happened before our dinner.
Anyway, that happened. Best part? My current husband has met both Steve and Rick and gets along splendidly with both of them. God is good, friends. What could've been a train wreck of embarrassment turned out to be a funny story of how blind I can be sometimes.
Whomp whomp. LoL!
About a week ago, a good friend of mine sent me the following message:
When you have a moment, can you... translate this beautiful icon for me? You may or may not know we are in the Ignatian Year commemorating the 500th year of Saint Ignatius’ conversion.
So, fun fact... I did NOT know that the Ignatians were celebrating such a big anniversary! Now I do, so thanks, Rod! Happy anniversary to any Ignatians who stumble through this blog.
As for the icon- WOW. There is so much about this icon that I love that I hardly know where to begin. The name of this icon (as seen on the reverse of the prayer leaflet) is the Missioning of Xavier. It was written by iconographer Kathy Sievers who clearly knows a thing or two about traditional iconography.
To give you some context, this icon depicts the moment St. Ignatius sends his good friend, St. Francis Xavier, on an evangelization mission that would take him to India, China, Japan, Malaysia, and even Sri Lanka! As my friend, Rod, would later point out, he was second only to St. Paul in his missionary endeavors!
As this icon is about St. Francis, we'll begin with him as our focal point:
He is seated in a boat and is focused intently on the directive being offered to him by Ignatius. The directive, familiar to any Ignatian (or old school Catholic who had to write "AMDG" atop their homework), is "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam," meaning "For the Greater Glory of God." Being so focused on this directive while grasping it in his left hand indicates that Francis accepted this mission both in thought and action.
Rather than coloring his robes strictly black (which, in iconography, indicates death/evil), she chose a very specific blend of colors. However, before I can discuss the colors of his robe, I must explain the boat dear Francis finds himself in.
Early in Christian art, the Church was symbolized by a boat (the Barque of St. Peter). That tradition is happily kept alive in this icon. The mast is a Latin Cross and its white sail (indicating purity) is tied at seven distinct points (5 visible and 2 hidden by Ignatius). These seven points are, in fact, the Seven Sacraments that the Church inevitably brings with Her wherever She goes. The gold band encircling the edge of the sail (like a wedding ring!) is reminscent of white chasubles edged in gold for special feasts. The boat, itself, is painted with notes of deep red and gold. Red is the color of the Holy Spirit (fire) and blood (sacrifice). Gold indicates divinity (or sanctity which is why halos are gold). The red and gold from the boat seep into Francis' cassock which is highlighted in blue, the color of Our Lady.
[Fun fact: Ignatians were known to tie blue sashes around their waists for special missions or Marian Feasts ala knights who tied the kerchief of a lover to their armor as they rode into battle. Ignatians were deeply devoted to Our Lady, so seeing hints of blue in Francis' cassock is an homage to being under her protection (similar to how those who wear the Scapular are considered under Mary's special protection).]
Thus, we see in Francis' cassock all these colors combined and it's almost as if Francis and the boat (Church) are one. Gah - I just love it!
Moving on to Ignatius, you'll see that he, too, doesn't have a strictly black cassock because in iconography, black is the color of evil/death. To skirt this, a very deep blue is used with white highlights, hinting at Ignatius' purity. He is standing above Francis, indicating the clear hierarchy between them. His hand is raised in blessing while he entrusts the mission to his dear friend. All around them is a dazzling gold that almost shines through the computer screen (I can only imagine how gorgeous it must be in person). The gold symbolizes God's Divine blessing over the men, the mission, and the Church.
Finally, there's a little stack of rocks in the bottom righthand corner, just behind Ignatius. Believe it or not, this little rocky structure is my favorite part of the entire icon!
In order to get to the boat, both men had to come "down the mountain" so to speak.
Both are brilliant, lofty saints who could have easily continued to strive for God "in the clouds" (meaning all philosophy). Ignatians, though, aren't known for being strictly philosophers, though, are they?
No. They're known for coming "down the mountain" to be among those most in need of help. While spirituality is very much central to the Ignatian order, recognizing God's Presence in all things necessitates going out to meet Him where He is. The hint of rocks to the right is a subtle reminder of that.
What a brilliant, inspired touch! I love it so very much!
So Happy 500th Anniversary, St. Ignatius! I'm sure all the Jesuits who have followed after you these last few centuries appreciate your change of heart!
And to Rod, as always, thanks for sharing these bits of Sacred Art with me!
IMPORTANT UPDATE 12/6/2022:
The Pillar just released an article (by JD Flynn) regarding Fr. Marko Rupnik. I wanted to purge this piece from my blog altogether out of disgust for Rupnik's actions, but I chose to leave this up, instead, with a header that directs people to who and what he really is.
He is a predator.
Yes, he's a priest. Yes, he's an artist. Yes, he's clearly favored by the Vatican. None of that trumps the fact that he has victimized women and used his status as priest and artist to be a more effective predator.
We absolutely MUST call out this evil, priest or not.
So yes, I left this blog entry up, but not because I actually want to celebrate this man - this entry still remains a popular one due to being one of the few to provide an in-depth analysis of the official 2022 WMOF icon. Thus, leaving it up w/ this header should actually help more people see him for what he is rather than pulling it down.
The Vatican released the official icon for World Meeting of Families 2022, and it was created by artist (and Jesuit) Fr. Marko Rupnik:
I genuinely hope the Vatican minds me resharing this icon for this blog!
When I opened the article to see the image firsthand, I was stunned.
I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. The longer I look at it, the more I like it.
The first thing I noticed was the Blessed Mother clinging to Christ. Something jarred me, and it took me a moment to realize it was the fact that Our Lady and Jesus shared an eye. I then drifted over to note that His hands were outstretched- He was Christ Crucified. Our Lady held a chalice under His Heart as if having caught the blood and water that would, eventually, gush forth from His side.
My eye fell down upon a figure that I immediately recognized as St. Paul. I was confused, then, because why was St. Paul in an icon depicting family with Jesus and Mary? Doubling my confusion, I realized that St. Paul was hunched over, pouring wine into another chalice. But what was that other hand doing? Oh yes- he was pushing back a gauzy veil. Wait a second! Who are those shadowy figures behind the veil? It was then that I realized I was looking at an image of the Wedding Feast of Cana. I was STILL super confused as to why St. Paul was there, but at least the image made more sense for why it was chosen for World Meeting of Families 2022.
So I read the article and found out Fr. Rupnik chose to portray the servant from the story as St. Paul due to his revelation in his letter to the Ephesians about the Sacrament of Marriage being a reflection of Christ and His Church.
With that foundation in mind, onward to the analysis!
The icon is made of primarily red and yellow paint, creating a sepia-like effect. In iconography, yellow is often indicative of joy and blessing. As the most visible color on the spectrum, yellow tends to be attention-catching (think of a yellow highlighter or common road signs). Red, on the other hand, is indicative of sacrifice, specifically of blood/life. The fact that both of these colors are intertwined to create the image underscore the immutable Truth of the Sanctity of Marriage in that it is both an all-encompassing sacrifice (red) and all-encompassing blessing (yellow).
Here we have the Blessed Mother holding her Son close. Presumably, this is the moment she tells Him that the newlyweds are out of wine. As I wrote in a previous entry, Our Lady is our best intercessor ("Mediatrix of All Graces" is one of her titles) and her actions at the wedding are proof of this. She recognized the shame that would come upon the family should the guests realize they ran out of wine, so she asked Jesus to step in before He planned to start public ministry.
And of course, because Jesus can't deny the heart that never denies His Will, Jesus begins His public ministry early by miraculously transforming water into wine.
The striking choice of the Blessed Mother sharing an eye with Jesus in the icon is indicative of their unity in thought and will (AKA, the Divine Will). She holds a chalice of wine under Jesus' breast, and since Christ is presented Crucified, the image is meant to harken to the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Our Lady, with her left hand, embraces Jesus Crucified, and with her right, holds Him in the Eucharist. The Blessed Mother thus represents the Church.
At first glance, it seems Jesus' garments are painted sloppily, with the red spilling over Mary's fingers. I believe this was intentional and again highlights the transformative power embedded in the story of the Wedding at Cana: Jesus' stole-like garment is, in fact, the blood-water that spilled out after His Crucifixion.
Again, it is interesting to note that stoles (pre-Vatican II) were associated with the Passion of Christ. Priests wore (and still wear) them hanging open in the front while deacons tie them off to the side (helpful during early liturgies in which they were doing more manual labor). The stole was supposed to remind priests of their vocation to sacrifice themselves for the Church as Christ had done, and so they "yoked" themselves at each Sacrifice of the Mass in which they emulate Jesus, in fact acting in persona Christi.
Jesus is dressed here as a priest, and His stole has transformed into the Eucharistic Sacrifice that is imperceptible to human eyes.
The only reason we are able to see this is due to St. Paul's right hand pushing back the veil, a common theological symbol denoting a separation between Heaven and Earth, sacred and profane. Speaking of St. Paul...
We see him doubled over not only in an act of service, but humility and reverent awe. In the foreground, we see the six stone jars filled with water (that has yet to be transformed to wine). In St. Paul's hands (St. Paul who was an ordained priest!), the water is turned to wine not by his own power, but by the Power of Christ who is with him (just as He is with all priests at Consecration). This theological truth is hit home by the color of Christ's stole flowing out and covering St. Paul.
In fact, St. Paul's hand and the jug, together, look like a tongue of fire, right? And any Catholic school child can tell you that a tongue of fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit! St. Paul is afire with the Spirit which is why he's able to "push back the veil" between Heaven and Earth to see with spiritual eyes that which human eyes cannot comprehend- the ineffable mystery of Christ's union with the Church that is hidden within the Sacrament of Marriage.
St. Paul could not have come to that realization alone; the Holy Spirit inspired him to recognize the transformative power of Matrimony. The husband and wife vow their lives to one another and become "one flesh" just as Christ and His Church are One Body.
Back to the water for a second, because the water is just as much a "character" in this icon as any other. Water was also important for Jewish weddings due to the practice of mikvah immersion. Women were expected to immerse themselves three times as a means to cleanse themselves and ask for God's blessing on their marriages. Sound familiar? It should, because mikvah prefigured Baptism.
Just as Jesus transformed the water into wine, He also transformed water for ritual cleansing into Baptismal waters that ushered in the New Covenant, sealed by the Eucharistic Sacrifice inherent within the newly blessed wine.
This is all symbolism at this point. Obviously at the Wedding Feast of Cana, Jesus had not yet endured His Passion nor offered the First Mass on Holy Thursday. For the purposes of this icon, however, all these themes are tied together so beautifully that it's impossible not to note them.
Finally, we have the newlyweds, still hiding behind the veil, barely perceptible. The husband has his head bowed while his wife looks lovingly at Jesus who has His Hand raised in blessing over them.
I like this choice because it is a complete inversion of what we experience with our human eyes. When we attend weddings, we witness the bride and groom share their love and we celebrate their union. What we don't see is the mystical union of Christ and His Church that is inherent within Sacramental marriages. In this image, it is the reverse: we see clearly the union of Christ and Church while the married couple is obscured.
The table (or altar!) St. Paul is working on is huge, round and almost planet-like. I can't help but feel as though St. Paul is indicative of priests, bringing Christ and His Church to the whole world.
I really like this icon. And the longer I stare at it, the more things I find to appreciate. Given the very real battles raging in the Church, specifically regarding the Sanctity of Marriage (I'm looking at YOU, Germany), this icon is timely. It affirms marriage as being between a man and a woman because that bond is indicative of Christ's bond with His Church. Marriage also reflects the Trinity- God Himself . Just as the Father and Son are one and Their love brings for the Spirit, so too does the love between husband and wife bring forth children.
This Divine mystery seems to have been forgotten by many, so it is remarkable to see this truth (and the beauty of the priesthood) highlighted so perfectly. Mary's importance as Mediatrix and Mother of the Church is also a welcome spotlight. Finally, just as the Wedding Feast of Cana was a story of transformation and blessing, I hope this icon serves to be just as transformative to all who see it.
I belong to two groups for mothers on Facebook, both of them Catholic. I appreciate them both for vastly different things, and as such, I end up interacting with the two groups differently as well.
Anyway, in the larger group, I noticed that posts were taking a rather dark turn. Many moms were experiencing so many challenges and were voicing very valid concerns within the group over everything from work to child-rearing to general mental and physical health. My heart ached for many of them, because I could feel the frustration/depression/worry bubbling through the posts.
I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to drop a reminder of God's Faithfulness into the feed. I posted:
Praise post, 'cause my heart is singing.
As you can see from the snippet below, the response was overwhelming:
I am 100% in support of utilizing social media to vent among trusted friends, solicit the "hive mind" to problem solve an issue, or ask for prayers when things seem "too much."
However, I ALSO believe it is important to recognize the many ways God is good to us as a means to bolster others who are struggling. We need these reminders of God's goodness, so please, don't be afraid to share that joy with others. Many women on that thread responded that they "needed to hear this" or that they were "glad to be reminded" of God's Faithfulness. Praising God openly and without shame is salve to the weary soul.
As always, God is good. Drop your own Praise Posts in the comments or link back to your blogs so I can multiply the joy!
Being only a few weeks PP, I wanted to catalog what I've found helpful while it's all still fresh in my mind. Most of these items are likely things you already have!
I'll break the list down into 3 categories: Hospital/Recovery, Breastfeeding, Basics
These items are those things you'll want both in your hospital bag as well as stocked for use at home. While most hospitals provide some of these items, the quality is frustratingly low and you don't want to be struggling with ripped mesh panties while you're juggling utter exhaustion, blinding pain, and ah yes... an hours-old newborn.
I have personally used these items and have frequently put together postpartum baskets for new parents that include them. This is not an exhaustive list, nor does it include things like Tucks Wipes, a belly band or peri-bottles (because the hospitals provide those for you).
We're often so preoccupied with making sure we have everything for the new baby that we neglect to make sure we've got things for ourselves. Take a little time to focus on you so that you can better focus on baby.
That's why this list focuses on things that the postpartum MOTHER needs most, and are often overlooked. I hope it helps new moms (and dads looking for things to support moms). Speaking of dads, I'll be dedicating my next entry to you, because you are frankly the most important part of her postpartum survival kit! <3 But more on that soon.
Anyhow, if there are things YOU have found personally helpful, please drop a link in the comments. Would love to learn from other moms what worked for them!
Less than 24 hours after writing that last blog post, I welcomed our newest son to the world.
This beautiful boy is named Dominic, and we're calling him "Nico" for short.
I'd been having contractions for weeks leading up to his delivery, but Tuesday morning, I could tell the real ones had finally arrived. Since I hadn't slept much the night before, I figured I'd try to lay down for a bit as they ramped up, catching at least a little rest before the marathon I knew laid before me.
I texted Chris my plans and got into bed. Our cat, Piper, immediately climbed under the covers and nestled against me as a new contraction hit. I realized then that it was go-time. I texted Chris again and let him know to start making his way home. I got plans for Vince and Nate in motion and also messaged my friend, Sam, who generously agreed to come and photograph the festivities.
I hopped into the shower one last time when I noticed bright red blood. I hadn't had that experience with Vince or Nate, but knowing that every pregnancy is different, I called the OB to give them a heads up that I'd be arriving to the hospital with this symptom as well. No one could tell me if it was normal or not, so I crossed my fingers and hoped OB triage would have some answers for me.
Chris arrived home in record time. I was out front talking to our neighbor, Jake, when he came peeling around the corner. Clearly he was excited to get us to the hospital!
On the way there, my contractions continued to ramp up. From about 8A-9A, I only had maybe three that whole hour. From 9-10, they moved to every 10 minutes. By the time we got to the hospital at 11ish, I was only about 5-6 minutes apart. It wasn't long before they were coming in waves and I was calling for an epidural.
Funny thing, though, is that I had originally toyed with the idea of not having an epidural at all. I'd had a failed one with Nate and I'd somehow survived. Having been warned there could be some problems with Nico, I thought foregoing the epidural would ensure he got here faster. However, once the contractions really kicked into gear, I worried my heart rate and breathing would cause problems as well, so called for the epidural to calm things down a bit.
Alas, the triage nurse didn't think I was progressing as quickly as I was (mostly because she hadn't set up the monitor properly to check me for contractions). However, when the second nurse came in and confirmed that I'd doubled my cervical opening within an hour, that should've clued her in to the fact that yes, my body was doing exactly what it was meant to do.
Alas again, I don't think she much cared. She didn't get me sent up to labor and delivery until I was already ready to pop. I felt the urge to push while I was sitting in the wheelchair on the elevator, and again when I used the bathroom before getting on the delivery bed. I think I was in the delivery room for all of 15 minutes before I started shouting that I HAD to push. Again, the nurse was telling me I'd need to wait for another hour before they'd be able to give me an epidural, but there was absolutely no way that was going to happen. Having gotten her notes from the triage nurse who clearly didn't know what the heck she was doing, she thought I had way more time than I did.
Chris confronted her as I started shouting that I needed to push. The man has the patience of a saint, but a line was crossed and I knew he was doing what he could to protect me. I can't overstate how much I appreciated his advocacy in that moment, because it felt like no one was taking me seriously. After he confronted her, she immediately called for the anesthesiologist. I knew it was too late, but it was still nice to know that Chris had forced her to listen. She dropped the bed, did a quick check on where I was, and from the look on her face, I knew I was right. I said, "He's crowning, isn't he?" She didn't bother to answer.
Suddenly there were five people in the room talking to me at once. I couldn't focus on any of them- I could only feel the overarching need to push. Chris was to the left of me, and I think Sam was somewhere to the right but had gotten shuffled away by the sudden barrage of nurses. One of them (I later learned she was the midwife) said, "On the next contraction, you're gonna push!" and I said, "He's coming!" So I pushed. She counted to ten and told me to stop pushing, but I couldn't... the next contraction was already starting, so she said, "Okay, push again!" and I did. His head came out and with one more push, the rest of him followed. They laid him on my chest and oh... my heart.
Chris and Sam were somehow on either side of me, bending down close to say I'd done it. He was here. He was safe. God is so good...
My doctor walked in a few minutes later and threw her hands up saying, "So you had a baby, huh?" LoL. Yes, I guess I did.
She got gloves on and went to work helping finish the postpartum work with the midwife. I honestly don't know where everyone else went. I'll spare you the postpartum details, but suffice to say that it wasn't fun and I don't recommend it to anyone, especially not without an epidural. Ha ha!
So yes, at 1:41PM, Dominic Angelo arrived earth-side with 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a nursing reflex that would put Dyson and Hoover to shame.
God is good. In all things, God is so very, very good.
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