I had to leave Vince in an after school program for the first time since he started school in September. He's actually been asking to do go to this program since he found out some of his classroom buddies take part in it, so I was hoping he'd have a good first go at it.
I got a phone call within a half hour.
The entire way there, my mind was a mess of anxiety. Thankfully, I was already en route to pick him up when I got the phone call. However, what if I'd still been at work? What would I have done if I needed to leave early to get him? I'm still new at the office, and while I know they're all understanding of a mother putting her kids first, there's only so much of that which they can be expected to tolerate before wondering why I don't have a "Plan B" in place.
Problem is, there is no "Plan B" for a child like Vince. Why, you ask? Well, this program is a perfect example why.
John is away so he's not able to pick Vince up. Both sides of the family are either working or live too far away to help. Ditto for friends. Thus, my only recourse was the program, and I got a call 30 minutes in telling me that they were unable to accommodate him on account of his special needs.
So like I said, luckily, I was already en route to pick him up. However, what happens on Monday when John is still away? I'll be working which leaves Vince with no where to go for 2 hours but the school program. Problem is, the head of the program doesn't feel comfortable with him being there because she's not staffed to handle him (a situation for which I do not begrudge her). Do I leave early - AGAIN? Do I risk eroding confidence in my bosses that I do actually think my job is a priority or do I just force the school to take him anyway and make their lives (and Vincent's) absolutely miserable?
And then I worry about next year. Inevitably, I always wonder about his future. He's got an incredible teacher now, but she is his for kindergarten only.
And given how far she's gone to learn about Vince's condition and work with him at his level, I know in my heart that she's a diamond among even the prettiest of gems. There will be very few teachers willing to do what she has done for Vince - to see him as I see him.
And that breaks my heart, because it takes a special teacher to reach a special kid. With all his struggles with motivation and confidence, it's only going to get harder when the teacher doesn't have the capacity to do what Mrs. Sweeney has done.
And then I travel further into the future and worry about how I'm going to be able to handle him as he gets stronger and more self-aware of his unique challenges. He's recently started hitting himself - a characteristic trait of Autism. When he's frustrated, he'll begin slapping his head over and over... almost like he's trying to jar his brain into doing what he wants it to do.
And now I'm crying because I know that one day I'm not going to be there to stop his hands from reaching for his head, and even if I am, he's going to be strong enough to push me away. Worse, he might even be self-aware enough to figure out how to extricate himself from my presence so he can self-harm away from perceived judgement.
Unless you're the parent of a special needs kid, you really just don't "get" how all-encompassing this is. Every time I get a phone call from another parent or the school, I instantly get a knot in my stomach that they're calling to complain about what a nuisance Vince is because they've become overwhelmed / disgusted / frustrated by his various challenges. I brace myself when I do pick him up, because I know that no matter how good the day was, something went awry and needs to be addressed. When I get home from work and ask how his day has been, I have to make sure I don't let my fear of what he's going to tell me creep into my intonation. And finally, when I talk to folks who ask about how he's doing, I scramble to come up with the easiest way to either side-step the conversation or downplay the difficulty because I can barely soothe myself let alone the anxiety of other people.
God, this is so hard. And I don't even care that it's hard for me; I care that it's so hard for Vincent. No child should struggle as hard as he does and still feel inferior that his best tries are not good enough. And he's starting to feel that way. I can tell he's starting to feel that way because he's beginning to verbalize it, which, ironically, is a huge accomplishment for him.
I know that God's got a plan and will take care of Vince in the end, but I hate having to see him go through this, and I hate feeling like a failure because I am not smart enough to know how to help. I feel angry that I've constantly got to consider putting Vince (and even Nate) into less than ideal situations so that I can keep all my priorities from shattering on the floor.
It's a constant juggle, and it's felt VERY pressing as of late. All throughout January, the boys and I were rotating illness. I forced myself to go to work even though I should've stayed home because I knew I'd need to take time off for the boys and they needed it more than I did. I also knew that Vince had an upcoming field trip that I needed to chaperone because - again - they don't have the staff to handle him, especially off-site.
Which, I just realized, the stupid trip falls on the date of a meeting I'm supposed to be running. Ugh. There wasn't a conflict before, but now there is because the meeting had to be moved on account of someone else.
Lord, I hand it to You. I've only got two hands with which to juggle. Send some angels to help keep these plates spinning, and please strengthen Vince's guardian angel to be a real light for him. Please keep his teachers in Your sight and send the Spirit to give them a greater understanding of Your Love for Vince. If only others could see him as You see him... oh what a blessing they'd know he is!
Nope, this is not a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. Can you guess what it is? The little pin at the top might give you the hint you need.
It's an enormous base to what I assume must have been an incredible monstrance. This base features scenes from the Gospels (most notably the Last Supper and the Multiplication of the Loaves). The "paws" that hold up the ark portion seem to be those of a lion, and I don't know that you can really see them, but framing each scene are a pair of cherubs. The entire thing is gold-plated. Shiny, right?
In this gallery that housed this, I found all sorts of liturgical goodies:
This is one of the chalices Pope St. John Paul II would have used. It has four Polish saints engraved around the base (including St. Stanislaus who is pictured above). To give you an idea as to how big the actual bowl of the chalice is, take a look at the one that follows after it. A beautiful chalice in it's own right, that one is less than half the size of the first! Even the patens give you an idea of the size difference. The other chalice was given to the Vatican by Pope St. John Paul II and has an image of the Last Supper around its bowl. Fitting, no?
Next up we've got a few interesting artifacts:
And this is a gilded Roman Missal. Imagine carrying this to and from your daily Mass. Ha!
The next gallery was devoted to the missionary work of the Church. There were a few things in here that caught my eye:
The two images above are from a letter to the pope from a local Chinese bishop. This bishop wrote to the pope on red silk (which was typically reserved for messages sent to the Chinese Emperor). I can't even begin to imagine how long it took to craft such an exquisite letter on fabric. I just kept wondering if he had to start over and over again because of "typos." It was such a long letter! I imagine it was about 2 yards long, and each "character" only about the size of a nickel.
There was also a gorgeous blue tapestry that I knew wouldn't come out nearly as beautiful on my phone:
The exhibit also featured something akin to the Hall of Presidents. Instead of presidents, however, it was a gallery of popes. While I love sacred art, I don't believe that portraits of popes constitute sacred art, so I breezed through this area with barely a glance. That being said, I did enjoy the closing room which focused on modern saints like JPII and Mother Teresa.
In addition to these paintings of Pope St. John Paul II (the one on the right which I just love), there was an impressive statue of Mother Teresa that likely served as the model for the familiar ones we've seen of her cradling a small child. I took a few photos because the details were just so striking:
In this same room was a votive lamp which, if you look closely, features the Holy Spirit and other symbols of our Faith. The Theotokos is also present at the base, and the quartz stones that surround the triangles are so surprising! It was a gift to Pope St. John Paul II.
Finally, since this entry is getting a bit long, I'll end with the very last piece in the exhibit - a bronze cast of JPII's hand. And me putting my hand into it. Special appearance by a gorgeous bracelet made by Cam over at A Woman's Place. :)
Vincent's class does something called "Star of the Week." Every week, a new student is chosen to be the Star, and a bulletin board is dedicated to photos of the student, the student's family, things the student likes, etc.
It's going to be Vincent's turn very soon, so I asked him what sort of things he wanted to bring in to decorate the bulletin board. He mentioned Minecraft and Pete the Cat, and of course pictures of Nate and his cat, Zoey, but he also asked for something that I could not give him.
He wanted pictures of Myla.
It always amazes me how often he thinks of his little sister. He'll bring her up out of the blue while we're driving and during story-time before bed. In the middle of eating a sandwich he might ask if she's eating lunch up in Heaven, or while I'm bathing Nate he'll ask who gives her baths in Heaven.
These questions make my heart smile and sigh at the same time.
I told him that while I didn't have any picture of Myla, we could include her name somehow.
Also, I do have a few things for her that I've kept in a special music box that he might be able to use. I've been trying to figure out ways to softly incorporate her in ways that wouldn't solicit questions because he's in a kindergarten classroom. I wouldn't have included her, myself, but since HE asked, I'm trying to figure out how to best do that.
It's a blessing that he feels connected to Myla in such a way. I'm so grateful that his little heart recognizes his sister in ways the rest of the world does not. In ways their father does not. God bless my perfect little boy.
And today, as I was dropping Nate off at daycare, a mother brought in her little girl who is about the age Myla would've been. Probably still stinging from my memories of her, I had to fight the jealous urge to pull that child onto my lap. I wanted to nuzzle her neck and breathe in her hair and know what it'd be like, for even a moment, to have my little girl with me.
Anyway, this is how love and grief work. You can be going about your day when a little love creeps in to punch a hole in your heart. Even though you flinch from the pain, your heart sings a song of thanks that you have someone you love enough to miss. And that grief makes you a better person, because you want with all your heart to live your life right so you can meet again in Heaven.
Oh Myla. Mommy misses you every day and can't wait to hold you up in Heaven. Kiss Grandmom Ida and Nanny Lena, Grandpop Rizzo and Uncle Chris. Cuddle up to the Blessed Mother and ask her to protect your brothers here below.
One of my nearest and dearest friends has accused me of being pig-headed. She's right, of course, but for the wrong reason. She thinks my refusal to forgive John stems from a reluctance to show weakness. In fairness, it's my fault she thinks that because I've done such a horrid job explaining to her why this particular problem is so insurmountable to me.
You see, when I speak to her, it's typically before I've even had a chance to process my thoughts through writing. When she asks me a question, my unorganized thoughts just spill out and spread, forcing me to spend more time cleaning up the mess than actually communicating my true thoughts.
Again, that's completely my fault. I should probably just steer clear of talking about anything until I've had a chance to write out my thoughts.
Anyway, because of my jumbled mess of an explanation, she thinks I refuse to hand my brokenness to God because I feel like I need it as one might need a security blanket. I refuse to acknowledge that God demands forgiveness from me because by forgiving John, I might lose some of the steam and anger I believe he deserves directed in a constant stream at him (which is partly true).
She accused me of trying to shoulder everything entirely by myself when I should be going to God for help carrying the burden.
She's not entirely wrong. I SHOULD be doing that and I SHOULD be handing everything over and I SHOULD be forgiving him.
However - and this is a big however - I can't. Not yet. I just can't. And I'm okay with this.
When I tell her that I'm okay with not making any move towards God, my friend's poor heart wrings itself out because she knows I'm in a bad place that will only get darker if I don't figure out my way home soon.
Again, she's right.
However, it's not that I am too stubborn or too strong-willed or too confident in my own strength that's keeping me lodged firmly in place. It's actually the exact opposite that's keeping me in place. I'm stuck. I've given up. I am too weak. I have no confidence in my ability to make the moves necessary to forgive him because the scorn and repugnance I carry have created a thicket of thorns that has completely ensconced me.
Have you ever seen a sheep stuck in a bush or gate? While I was in Ireland, it was common. Sheep got stuck EVERYWHERE it seemed. Some would kick, buck and bleat, but others (likely those that had been stuck longer) sorta just chilled in place. They knew that, eventually, someone would find them and free them.
I'm like the latter sheep. There's no point in bleating, kicking or bucking. I haven't any strength left to try, anyway. The only thing I've strength to say is "Alrighty, God, you know where I'm at. Come get me."
And He's coming. He sent Our Lady ahead of Him to soothe me. He sent the Holy Spirit to sustain me. Soon, He'll arrive and pull the thorns from my wool. At this point, He's the only one able to do so.
That's why I seem so content to remain in the state of sin. However, that's like saying the sheep is content being stuck in the briar. I don't LIKE being trapped, but I recognize that no action on my part is going to make it better. So all I can do is trust that my Shepherd is coming for me and wait to see how He manages to free me from the thicket.
As a complete aside, this incredibly gorgeous painting was done by an anonymous student in a German art school around 1917. It's an oil on tin painting. Isn't it absolutely magnificent?!
Special thanks to the lovely ladies who shot me over pics of their polished nails!!!
A woman in my Catholic Moms group mentioned that her daughter (who self harms) has recently channeled her compulsion to cut into picking at her nail polish instead. To celebrate her success (and to motivate her to continue channeling her feelings in this manner), I purchased a bunch of polishes in different hues and finishes.
That got me thinking...
This young woman chose to pick at her polish instead of cutting herself in the same manner that a smoker might choose a stick of gum over a cigarette.
Is it possible, then, that other young women (who are statistically the highest at risk for self-harm) would benefit from raking (using your thumb to scrape away sections of nail polish)?
So I started asking around and the responses I got surprised me.
First of all, self-harm apparently happens a lot more than I'd originally thought. It also happens in ways that differ from person to person. Since I have no self-harm experience, I was only familiar with what gets shown on TV: razors, hair pulling, and smacking your head/face. Through the kind (and brave) messages that got sent from various people, I learned that scratching, burning, stretching and even stabbing at one's self are forms of self-harm.
When I asked for their various coping mechanisms, they ranged from rubber band snapping to painting to crocheting to using a punching bag. One person even stands under an ice cold shower! However, when I mentioned polish raking as a potential channeling medium, almost none of them had tried it.
I've reached out to a few local clinics that deal with young women who self-harm and a couple said they'd be interested in trying nail polish as a potential channeling medium. If it's something that DOES prove beneficial to their patients, I'll look into expanding the ministry further.
I imagine this would be very beneficial to at-risk young women, and nail polish is a relatively cheap coping mechanism. Something like this should be able to garner a corporate partner (I'm thinking OPI through it's OPI Cares charitable fund) and I can even see an annual Cut the Stigma event that would raise money and awareness for these folks.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'm looking for feedback from those of you who are more experienced / smarter than I am in this regard. That being said, I feel like someone has lit a fire under me and I can't settle down until I see this through.
The Franklin Institute has been hosting the Vatican Splendors exhibit for the last few months and I was finally able to check it out this weekend! Included throughout 11 galleries are more than 200 pieces of Church history.
I will be honest that I wasn't super psyched by the majority of what I saw, but I did enjoy a few gems that they thought to include.
First up on the docket is this replica of a tomb decoration. Wanna take a guess as to what it's depicting?
If you said the Magi, you get a cookie! Indeed, this is an image depicting the 3 Kings delivering their gifts to the Child Jesus who sits on His Mother's Lap, offering what appears to be a wreath. Given the fact that this was used in tomb decoration (and a wreath, even back then, symbolized eternal life and glorification), it's not surprising that the Child Jesus would offer this Gift to His servants.
Anyway, the fact that this artifact exists dispels the notion that the tradition of the Magi is a modern invention.
The next piece is depicting St. Peter's crucifixion. The detail is pretty stunning:
Those are two small children (and a collared dog) watching the crucifixion unfold! Granted, that would have certainly happened given the public spectacle of it all, but it made me so sad to think of the violence we still subject our children to (even though it seems more sanitized these days).
After making my way through the early tomb art, I found myself surrounded by reliquaries. This part was pretty epic because I got to one of the most intricate reliquaries I'd ever seen before, and it belongs to St. Teresa of Avila:
Wow, right? And my stupid iPhone does it very little justice. I believe it is made of bronze, gold, and enamel. It's just magnificent, is it not? The one for St. Hildegard wasn't nearly as pretty, but it was definitely just as ornate and certainly made with more gold than St. Teresa's:
There was also a cope that belonged to St. Charles Borromeo:
There was a large portion of the exhibit dedicated to explaining the architectural changes St. Peter's Basilica went through under various popes (which was interesting). I didn't take too many photos of that stuff because for as interesting as the tug-of-war was between the brilliant minds of Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini, I didn't find the actual trinkets of building materials / tools to be much to look at.
That being said, I did find some gorgeous paintings to share with you!
I was excited to find this one because I had just done some research into another similarly dressed painting by a Flemish painter by the name of Jan the Elder (hat tip to Dymphna for sharing the original!).
What's interesting about these paintings is that they were many times collaborations between artists. One who specialized in nature would paint the garland while one who specialized in figures would paint the interior scene (or vice versa). I thought that was a pretty cool concept given that most painters prefer to have their work solely their own.
Anyhow, this one was painted by Daniel Seghers and it depicts the vision of St. Philip Neri.
This next one is just too magnificent for words. It's my 2nd favorite painting in the entire exhibit and I'm still left a bit heady from it!
It's a Resurrection piece, but instead of depicting Christ as the confident victor over death, it portrays God the Father coming down to His Son and helping Him up. If you notice, Christ's Body is pallid and still encumbered by death. His eyes are still closed and He leans against His Father, having no power to move on His own.
But in truth, there is a very deep theological truth here. Jesus certainly has His own power over death, but His power lies in His complete and total trust in the Power and Plan of His Father. God, in turn, repays that trust with His Divine Strength.
And the way this artist chose to paint the Father... almost as a mountain! His cloak billows behind Him, making Him appear twice as large and the alb is brown like the land. It's all just so incredible. It's such a tender, loving moment between Father and Son that even the Holy Spirit (always present) takes a backseat.
Anyhow, I'll leave you with that for now. I took well over 200 pictures, though, so expect one or two more of these before I'm through!
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