See this silly little face poking through the branches? This is Lucy, one of my three fur babies. Anywho, today we decided to take her to the park with us, and as usual, she found herself a nice tree to climb.
Just wanted to share cause it made me giggle that my middle aged tabby girl still has spunk. ;)
This is a photo I took last year at some point while visiting the Basilica in Philadelphia. On the left is a painting of the Ascension. To the right is the Assumption. Pretty awesome, right?
Today, I took Vince into Philly for their 12:05 Mass. We were in for a treat since Archbishop Chaput was the main celebrant. His homily consisted of quotes from Pope Benedict's previous sermon on the Ascension several years ago.
Anyway, when we entered the Basilica, Vince and I sat up towards the front as we typically do. I like him being able to see what's going on. Today he was incredulous. It was his first Mass at the Basilica, and woooooooo - his eyes were in Heaven!
When we sat down, I didn't realize that we were directly in front of the painting of the Ascension. Vincent looked up and said, "Mommy, Jesus is going to Heaven! Look!"
I followed his line of sight and smiled at the good fortune of having been steered to our particular seats. I snapped this picture with my cell phone (so it doesn't look nearly as nice as the one above):
I said "Vincent, that's exactly why we're here today! We're celebrating that Jesus went up to Heaven!"
He said, "Yeah!" as if he'd known that all along.
I said, "Do you know why He went to Heaven?"
And again, as if I'd asked the silliest question ever, he replied matter-of-factly, "To make lunch for everyone."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Right on, grasshopper. Right on.
I realized while clearing out my photos that I'd completely forgotten to share this one of Vincent.
The day after Mother's Day, he presented the Blessed Mother with this rose. This little setup is in his bedroom. The dresser (and thus, the Blessed Mother, St. Michael, Holy Family, etc) overlooks him while he sleeps.
Anyway, I thought it was so sweet, because he kissed the rose and put it in front of her statue saying, "I love you, Mary."
My little munch. :) May the Blessed Mother claim him for her own.
I have been having a very rough time getting Vincent to pay attention to directions. Because he's all over the place, I need to be very firm with him sometimes.
"Vincent, look at me. Look at me in the eyes, Vincent. VINCENT."
Then he'll finally realize I'm talking to him and look at me for a split second before turning his attention elsewhere.
"Vincent. Mommy is talking to you. You need to look at Mommy."
He looks at me again for about two seconds. When I think I've got his attention, I begin to tell him to get on his shoes. No dice. He's not paying attention again.
"Vincent, put on your shoes or we're not going outside."
Begins to move towards shoes, but clearly only discerned the word "shoes" because once he gets to where his shoes are, he makes no move to put them on.
"Vincent, you're not listening to Mommy. Look at me in the eyes."
He looks into my eyes.
"Put. Your. Shoes. On or we're not going outside."
UUUUUGH. Then the process all but repeats itself if he needs to put on his jacket or take a back pack with him. It's enough to drive me bonkers sometimes.
He's also having issues with impulse control.
"Vincent, stop smacking your stick against the slide."
Not two seconds later, he's smacking at the slide again.
"Vincent, look at Mommy in the eyes. Did I just tell you to stop smacking the slide?"
"I don't know."
"Vincent, stop smacking the slide. If you smack the slide again, I'm going to take away your stick. No more smacking the slide, 'cause if the stick breaks, you might get hurt."
He stops smacking the slide, but maybe two minutes later, he's at it again and I need to take the stick away.
All day, every day, this is what I sound like. I'm trying to splice together the negatives with positives ("Good job being gentle with Zoey!" or "I'm so proud of you for playing so nicely with your friends!"), but I've been feeling really overwhelmed by his inability to really listen and process directives (an ability he HAS to have for a productive experience in school).
I'm beginning to worry that I won't be able to prep him in time for school in July and that I'll be faced with him being removed again. I realize that's not likely, especially because this school had worked with him for two years successfully, but I can't help but worry.
And then there's his litany of "I'm Sorry."
Since he hasn't been listening to directives, I've had to punish him (taking away the stick, for example, or not letting him go to the park because he'd thrown a temper tantrum that morning).
When he realizes he's about to be punished, he immediately says "I'm sorry" because he knows that's what is expected of him. However, he's not usually sorry. He'll say "I'm sorry" and in the same breath, "I'm really angry with you" because I'm taking away a toy or something. He's not sorry he didn't listen. He's sorry he's in trouble.
I was about to say to him "I don't want to hear 'I'm sorry' from you ever again" until I stopped myself. Why? Because I saw myself in him. Painfully so.
How many times do I have to apologize in the Confessional for the same stupid sins over and over and over again? I have to wonder - am I really sorry at all? If I were, wouldn't I stop myself from getting into the same trouble?
And if God were to shirk my apologies, what would I do then? He even accepts my miserable contrition and extends mercy. How much more, then, should I work to extend that to Vincent so he has an example of what God's mercy looks like?
So I stopped myself from giving into my own frustration and sat him on my knee. I said, "Vincent, when you say "Sorry" to Mommy, it means you're not going to do the bad thing anymore. Sorry means you're going to work really hard at listening and doing the right thing, okay?"
He instantly shook his head "Yes" because that's what he thought he was supposed to do. I just sighed and let him loose. I imagine that's how God feels sometimes when He sends us forth from the Confessional.
I'm going to try a lot harder to be more steady in my resolve to "sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin."
A lot harder.
Sorry, Lord. Really. <3
I took Vince to the Aquarium today. We're season pass holders, so for rainy days like this, it's a perfect "outing" that keeps him active, learning and indoors.
As usual, we headed straight for the string rays. Vince never wants to pet the sand sharks, and he doesn't care about sea stars or cucumbers or anything else. He just wants to pet the sting rays. All the time.
So he was supremely happy when we got to the sting ray exhibit to find we had the whole thing to ourselves. The lonely guide was so excited to have people present that he launched into a very enthusiastic explanation of string ray anatomy. *Grin*
Vince didn't care. He just wanted to pet the sting rays.....
What happened almost immediately after this video was taken will give me laughs long into Vincent's adulthood.
Because the sting rays were so playful today, Vincent fed off their energy. He started getting just as excited as them and that made the sting rays get even more excited. They kept coming higher and higher over the tank to "say hi." Vince would then bounce around super excited and reach his hands further and further into the tank (with the guide's blessing).
Pretty soon, I had to escort him from the room and calm him down with a hot dog. Still laughing, I made this video for John to let him know what we were up to:
Yup. He half jumped-half slide right over the edge of the tank and dove head first into the thing.
The guide and I were immediately by his side to pull him back, but it was still startling to see him just dive in like that. He was perfectly fine, of course, as were the stingrays, but whew. That'll give you a heart attack!
So since his top half was soaked, I pulled his jersey off and took him towards the gift shop to buy a new one. On the way, I saw a chance to calm him down with a hot dog and was rewarded with an instantly compliant child. Given how much he was freaking out about being wet, I marveled at how quickly a hot dog and some fries cooled his nerves.
Pretty soon, I'd gotten him fed and changed into a Shark Shirt from the gift shop and he was back to pleading for the sting rays again. This time, I let him go in, but I removed the new shirt. Good thing, too!
It's nice to know the sting rays are good sports about everything. *Grin*
Good day today. We both had a lot of fun.
I have no idea if you guys have seen this or not, but when I read this article, I felt sick to my stomach.
Some anonymous women got together and petitioned the Vatican to allow priests to marry because they are already in relationships with priests. They basically played the victim in crying over their secret lives as mistresses.
Ya know what, ladies? You're not victims. There is no real way to "accidentally fall in love with a priest."
You see a collar, you move on. That's common sense. However, much like those women who ignore wedding rings and then complain when their lovers don't leave their families to continue shacking up with them, common sense doesn't really come into play, does it?
Obviously the priests who participate in these sorts of relationships are also at fault, but as a woman, I am always so angry when I hear of other women being stupid enough to do this sort of thing (with married men, priests, etc).
I mean, c'mon now. This is like running a red light because you thought the cops weren't looking. You've officially caused a five-car pile up because you were too selfish to care about anyone else, and now you're demanding that the officer change the law so that the injury and pain you caused is somehow no longer your fault.
My mind is officially blown by such arrogance.
In their letter, they wrote "Very little is known about the devastating suffering of a woman who is deeply in love with a priest."
Actually, quite a lot is known. Ya know why? Because your ridiculous sob story is the same exact one that's played out in every other marriage plagued by adultery. You are "the other woman." Just because he's a priest doesn't make this fact any less true. You purposefully went after someone who was off-limits. Maybe he even made it easy. Maybe he pursued you. I don't care. You're still wrong for allowing yourself to become entangled in such stupidity. You are no better than the woman who knowingly sleeps with a married man (or the man who sleeps with a married woman). You're both committing adultery and you're both causing one another to be unfaithful to yourselves, your communities, and God.
You will find no sympathy from me in this regard. What you are doing and what you have allowed to happen is evil. You are a pliable pawn being used by satan to take down God's representatives on earth. You should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.
Maybe one day the Church will allow Her priests to marry. Until then, be mindful of the incredible sacrifices that these men make on your behalf and be charitable. Do not let yourself be a temptation to them- no matter how innocent your supposed intentions are.
Ugh. Seriously. Just... ugh. You love him, you say? Then respect the fact that he took vows and support him upholding every last one of them.
Pray for your priests, people. And pray for women like this.
While going through Vincent's toys to either donate or sell at the flea market this summer. His massive collection of Mr. Potato Heads was on the chopping block. However, this collection is one of those things I didn't think I could bring myself to part with.
So I put them in front of Vincent. We ended up playing with them for a while. Then John took over and things sorta exploded from there. It was a Mr. Potato Head night. These aren't going anywhere. In fact, I might have to add some more to the collection. :)
My friend and I were discussing wedding attire since we both had celebrations to attend this weekend. When I pointed out I'd be wearing a long dress, she asked me why (especially because it was supposed to be hot).
I pointed out that I typically choose to wear longer dresses to weddings because it feels proper to me. I like shorter dresses. They're fine for folks to wear. I'll wear them to weddings, too, especially if I know it's going to be unbearably hot. However, I tend to prefer longer gowns if I can suffer through the heat because I believe in the Presence of God that participates in a very special way during weddings.
She shrugged and said, "But isn't your wedding outside? It's not in a Church."
I affirmed she was right, but it doesn't really matter where a marriage takes place. The couple makes their vows before God and man. God is intrinsically present during a marriage because sacramental marriage is one of His most precious gifts to humanity. It is through marriage that a husband and wife most closely resemble the Holy Trinity - God, Himself. This is even true of a priest. A priest is not "God-like" even during Consecration. In fact, during Consecration, he hands his body over to become a vessel for Christ. For a married couple, however, their charge is to emulate the Trinity. That's huge!
Just as the Father and Son are one, so too are husband and wife. Just as the Father and Son bring forth the Spirit through their Love, so too do husband and wife bring forth children through their love. The Trinity is, quite truly, a family. Obviously Theirs is a divine relationship that we cannot begin to fathom, but through the marital bond, we come to understand this relationship a bit more.
Because this Sacrament is calling us to such a holy and divine emulation, God is joyously present at the union of two souls.
Do not think for a second that just because you see two bodies still before you after vows that their souls are not linked. What God joins at the altar through the free consent of his children, no one can separate. It would be easier for you to melt two white candles together into one only to separate them once again.
God takes delight in the souls who find joy in one another. So of course He is present when two souls take the step of coming together in such a sacred way.
Thus, I take care to dress in a way fitting His Presence. Long gown with shoulders and back covered is typically the route I go. The dress I chose fit her color scheme (spring-ish) but since it was a bit more showy of my shoulders and back, I wore a shawl throughout the ceremony and blessing. Only after these parts did I dare remove the shawl.
So that's what I tend to keep in mind when dressing for weddings (aside from the obvious "Don't Wear White and Don't Wear a Tiara" rules). God is going to be present, and He's going to be SUPER giddy that two of His beloved children are vowing to live the rest of their lives in a way that more closely resembles Him.
He's coming decked out with Divine Graces. The least I can do is be somewhat presentable, ya know? *Grin*
I was honored to attend a beautiful wedding this past weekend. I was asked by this couple to do a blessing before the meal in addition to a reading at the ceremony.
Now, before any traditionalists reading start wagging their heads, relax. These two didn't get married in a Church, so I didn't set off any atom bombs by making my way to the pulpit.
However, when I was trying to write out the blessing, my friend poked over my shoulder and said, "Are you even allowed to do that?"
I laughed and said, "I'm not trying to preside over the marriage, if that's what you're asking. I was asked to lead prayer before lunch. You say grace before meals, right? This is exactly the same, only it's in front of a bunch of people there to tie one on in honor of the marriage."
He laughed and shrugged his shoulders. I think he was somewhat scandalized that anyone but a minister would be asked to do such a thing. The fact that I - someone he related to as a "super traditionalist" - would consent to do something so "modern" threw him for a loop. So I explained it again.
"Mothers are called upon to bless their children. Friends bless one another through prayers and works of charity. Wives can bless their husbands. Priests aren't the only ones capable of speaking words of blessing. I mean, when someone sneezes, should I keep my mouth shut because I don't have the proper anatomy?"
There is a difference between attempting to play priest by offering the words of consecration (or even the blessing of the Church) and being a loving friend who offers words of blessing before their wedding luncheon.
In that analogy, he finally understood. I wasn't doing anything improper because I wasn't attempting to inflate my position. It was a simple leading of prayer - and I say "leading" because my words were likely those that were on the hearts of many present (my atheist husband not included - ha).
So while composing this prayer, I felt I should keep two things in mind: the Truth of Marriage (it being a sacramental gift that calls us to emulate God) and gratitude for both the meal and the couple, themselves. This is what I came up with:
Let us begin as we should all things...
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Lord, we thank You for this feast. Moreso, we thank You for the couple that this feast celebrates. Their sacramental marriage is a reflection of You - unifying, creative, self-sacrificing and unconditional. Thus, we thank You for joining together S** and B**** so that their love can forever be a beacon of Your Love.
We ask that you bless this meal, for it is through this meal that we all partake of their joy. Bless our drinks which we raise in their honor. Finally, bless all of us present here today - expectant witnesses of the multiplication of love their marriage has already brought forth and will continue to bring forth for years to come. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
Pretty non-heretical, right? So yes - a woman can most certainly bless. We are called to. A blessing is not simply the words of Consecration. A blessing can be listening to an upset friend, offering a ride to your coworker who just missed her bus, or even leading Grace before a wedding feast.
I dropped off a few items at Goodwill this afternoon. While I was there, I figured I'd peruse the aisles for educational toys now that I was home. Divine Providence rained down on me something fierce, and I walked out of the place with a treasure trove of goodies for less than $6.
Prepare to be astounded.
First up is a set of multi-colored monsters. Instead of attempting to explain them, I made a quick video showing how they work. Lucy, one of my tabbies, makes a cameo:
Adorable, right? On the back of each monster is a number. They go in order of increasing difficulty, and as you make your way to the "highest level" you get into digraphs like "ch" or "st." SOOOO creative, and the fact that he'll be able to check himself means he can practice on his own if he likes (a mother can dream, right?).
Next up on my Booty List is a Bingo game focused entirely on sight words. I firmly believe in a strong foundation of Phonics, but sight words have their place as well, and I think as he gets better with his phonics, this will be a welcome change of pace for him.
This was only 99 cents and has EVERYTHING. It seems the game was rarely used as all the parts and "boards" seem in almost new condition. Nary a tear or smudge anywhere!
After I found the sight words game, I noticed a volcano of sorts on the top shelf. It glows in the dark and shoots little beads to look like lava bubbles. I thought it would be a nice addition to his bedroom at night given how much he loves glowing things. It's made by Discovery Kids and is called an Animated Volcano Lamp. Check it out! I took the footage tonight after Vince had fallen asleep.
The last item on my list was actually the first one I found. That being said, it is the motherload of thrift store finds. Seriously. This alone would have made the trip worth it. I found a brand new Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten Edition pack. BRAND NEW.
Originally this was something like $40. But check out the two tags that were stuck to the box. One is from Goodwill and the other is from JCPenney.
I was only charged $1.97 for this. Can you believe that?! I still can't believe it! Look at all the stuff it comes with!
Zoey, my miracle kitty, did not come with the Hooked on Phonics set. That being said, everything else you see DID. And it's all unused!!! Stickers, workbook, progress charts, flash cards, CD-ROMs, coloring books and reading companions - ALL INCLUDED! And none of them have been cracked open!
I was so excited by this because I've been working on the Hooked on Phonics program with Vincent for the last week or so on his iPad. My friend gave me a heads up that the program was free through the App store for 24 hours, and I was lucky enough to snatch it up for nothing. Recently, Vince read his very first book to me - by himself - but it was on the iPad. A friend of mine said "Make sure you keep that book!" not realizing I didn't have a physical copy. Now I do! These lessons are slightly different than the iPad app which means I'll be able to use them both to supplement one another. How exciting!!! I cracked this open and used it with Vince already today and he got a kick out of it. I am SO pleased!
Apparently Piper was, too, because she came over to investigate what had Zoey so intrigued. When she didn't spot any treats, she promptly turned her nose up and left us to ourselves. Lucy, as you can see in the next photo, just casually kept watch over everyone on the sofa. This is her still hanging out after I'd packed everything away into the convenient storage box that came with the set.
All in all, I'd say this is the best haul I've ever scored at a thrift shop. God was certainly very kind to us this afternoon. It's like it was all gift wrapped for us. Truth be told, I'm pretty sure it was.
Thank you, God! You're so wonderful! :)
Alrighty, prayer warriors, I'm begging your prayers tonight for the aunt and godmother of my friend, Samantha.
Her name is Debbie, and she has been waiting three long years for a lung transplant. That transplant is slated for midnight tonight.
As you can imagine, Sam and her family are in quite a state right now. They are joyed to see her given this opportunity, but they are fearful of what the outcome of this 6-8 hour procedure will be.
Prayers are necessary. They are vital.
I ask that you pause for a moment and say a prayer for the person who died, enabling Debbie to have her lung. May that person's last act of charity safeguard their entrance into Heaven.
I ask that you pray for that person's family and friends who are no doubt grieving this loss.
Have you done this? Great!
I ask that you now pause to pray for Debbie. At barely 90 lbs soaking wet, she is in a precarious place right now with her health. May her body be strengthened and tempered by Divine Grace so that she is able to use her new lung to sing praises to God for His Mercy.
Pray, too, for the staff of doctors and nurses who will be tending to her tonight and in the coming weeks of recovery. May their hands be guided by the Lord of Healing.
Finally, pray for Debbie's family. This is an incredible ordeal that requires a quiet, patient strength... an inner strength that relies on hope and mercy. May their guardian angels surround, protect, enlighten and encourage each one of them. Above all, may the Blessed Mother, who so loves each of us, her children, send her Son to grant His supreme peace.
My deepest appreciation for your prayers. Sam does read this blog from time to time, so if you are adding your prayers / sacrifices / daily offerings to the spiritual bouquet, please don't hesitate to let her know in the comments.
That goes double for any of you who have encouraging stories to share of family members who have undergone transplants such as this.
Again, my deepest appreciation. As always, I'll remember you guys and your intentions in my prayers tonight as well. It is a blessed thing to be members of the Body of Christ.
UPDATE: Thank you for all the prayers! I know you guys had some questions, but I don't know her personally so am unable to ascertain the answers at this juncture. That being said, Debbie was unable to undergo the transplant last night. She is now back on the waiting list. Continued prayers for this setback would be appreciated.
This, my friends, is how Catholics combat evil. We draw together as one Body and proclaim the Divinity of the One Who Loves Us. We adore our God within the humble Eucharist and refrain our thunderous "AMEN!" as the demons tremble in their hellish shackles.
THIS is the Church Militant as She armors Herself in the Blood of the Lamb.
Special thanks to Justin Bell (@ajustbell) for giving me permission to use the above photo for tonight's entry. He was present for the Procession and took some really incredible photos. Looking through them, my eyes truly began to well up with gratitude for the outpouring of love for Christ within the Eucharist.
Lord, You are loved. Forgive us for neglecting to show our love like this more often.
By now, you've all heard of the repugnant event that was to be hosted on the Harvard campus. I, like many of my Catholics, joined my brothers and sisters in Boston in a national show of solidarity through prayer, fasting and sacrifice.
There is nothing more I can possibly say on this matter that hasn't already been outline hundreds of times by others who have written about this. I will say, however, that I was incredibly hurt by such an event being promoted. Physically, painfully hurt.
So from 7pm until 8pm, I locked myself away and offered the hour in union with the entire Church. I offered it in reparation for the mockery of Christ, I offered it for the conversion and repentance of those responsible, and I offered it for the strength and clarity of those with the power to stop it.
There were no adoration hours available to me locally, so I chose to unite myself by reading about the Eucharist in a little booklet I picked up about a year ago. It's been sitting in my drawer waiting for this day. I pulled it out and spent the hour in prayerful reflection of the lessons contained within.
The booklet is titled The Most Blessed Sacrament and is written by Fr. Stephano Manelli, OFM. I thought it fitting. Fr. Manelli creates a quilt of reflections patched together by various saints who were entirely devoted to our Divine God hidden in the Eucharist.
Folks just don't understand how Catholics can adore what - to them - amounts to be a cracker. God would never, in their minds, appear as something so insignificant. God is majestic - divine! He would not stoop so low as to appear as bread and wine.
And yet this is exactly who we know God to be. This is precisely why we praise Him, honor Him and love Him. The Divine and Unencompassable God consents to become the most base staple of nourishment so that He can mercifully feed us in an intimate and personal way. That is how loving our God is. He is not this mythical creature who is too self-important to care for His children. Instead, He bends over backwards to be near to us. He cares not for golden ciboriums or tabernacles encrusted with jewels; He years to take refuge within the depths of our soul. He wishes to enjoin Himself to our deepest, truest essence so that He can fashion us to Him and make us more like Himself - divine.
This is why Satan hates the Eucharist. He can't stand that the Divine God humbles Himself so basely for the likes of humanity. It is why he seeks to mock and sully the truest, most blessed gift ever given to humanity.
St. Augustine once exclaimed of the Eucharist, "Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give."
Why is this? Because in the Eucharist, we are given God's Incarnate Son. Jesus comes to us fully (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) to feed us and nourish our souls with effusions of Divine Grace. God cannot give more than the gift of Himself in this humble form. This blessed gift is the summation of His promise to be with us always.
Methinks I'll be doing a lot more meditating on the Eucharistic Lord in the coming months. The media still isn't entirely sure if the mockery took place or not. Some reports are saying it happened in a Chinese restaurant across from campus, others are reporting that it has been pushed off indefinitely. Either way, evil is beginning to get increasingly brazen, and a more constant meditation and show of Christian love is necessary to combat this treachery.
Did any of you participate in the 7-8pm vigil?
Words cannot even begin to express their heartbreak and sadness. Doctors have cautioned them that little Ben has only days left on this earth. So while they are comforted that he will soon be in Heaven with Jesus, their hearts are crushed to know that they must go forth without his smile, his laugh, his curiosity and his physical presence.
If tears were prayers, I'd have an ocean of supplication on his behalf... on his mother's behalf... on his father's behalf. No doubt the true can be said - moreso - for Andy and Mindy, Ben's loving parents.
Please join your prayers with mine for this family.
Blessed Mother, who understood this pain so acutely, please gather them under your mantle. Soothe their hearts with a legion of angels and protect them from despair. Send your Son to comfort them with His Mercy and Peace. Amen.
UPDATE: Sweet little Ben has flown off with Jesus. Please continue to keep this family wrapped tightly in prayer.
As I told my friend, allow your tears to flow freely. It is a work of mercy to cry with your brother and sisters. I truly believe that God gifted humanity empathy so we could share each other's grief. One person cannot cry the tears that mourn a child lost. Through our own empathy, however, we are able to share the grief and ease the burden on this heartbroken, grieving family.
Your tears are a gift. Never be afraid or ashamed to gift them freely.
This is my favorite image of my grandparents. Every time I look at it, I feel love. It radiates from this picture.
These are my maternal grandparents. My mom was lucky enough to have them for parents. I was doubly lucky because I got 'em as grandparents.
Grandpop was the quintessential "sweet old man." He doted on his grandchildren and was always very patient, kind and loving. He always watched either baseball or Westerns, and though quiet, could light up the room with his laughter.
My Grandmother was his polar opposite. Loud, unabashed, opinionated and direct, she might not have been as patient, but she was just as loving. Growing up, Grandmom was my favorite person in the whole world. I loved hearing her voice. I loved smelling her vanilla perfume. I loved her laughter and the way her skin felt.
One time, she laughed at how mesmerized I was by her skin. She thought it was because of her wrinkles. In truth, her skin was so silky that I was trying to decide if she was wearing some sort of super thin silk. (Give me a break - I was a kid!)
I also paid very close attention to her earrings. Grandmom must've had a hundred of them. She was big into costume jewelry, but I was only fascinated by her earrings. She knew it, too, so she'd always let me look at and touch them if I was super excited.
God, how much I loved her. How much I still love her!
I was thinking about her today. I always told her that when I "grew up" I wanted to be just like her. She'd laugh and say, "What? An old lady?"
What I meant was I wanted to have her spirit. I wanted to have the same sort of spark she did. I wanted to be a person who knew herself and didn't apologize for it. I wanted to love fiercely and fully, and I wanted to keep a stash of change in the cupboard to dole out to my grandkids "just because."
So I was wondering if I was like her. After all, I'd always envisioned myself fashioned after her. Her answer hit me all at once.
When I was about this old (fifth grade-ish), I was full swing into Middle Child Syndrome. I had it all worked out. I knew exactly who my mom favored amongst the kids and why we were "loved" in the order I had placed us in.
As the resident "bad seed" I was constantly getting into trouble for... well... getting into trouble. As a result, I planned to run away (like every other kid in the universe). However, unlike other kids, I was organized enough to make maps, lists of necessities, and an escape route so no one would know I was missing for an optimal amount of time.
I figured my family didn't want me around anyway, so I would run away and start a life on my own. Ah... gotta love the blind faith in myself.
So I ran away and was gone for about 30-40 minutes before anyone realized I was missing. Gave my family a scare. I walked for over an hour to my best friend's house. God was good, because He made sure she and her mother were driving off their street as I passed by (having missed the turn). My friend, Mary, rolled down the window and yelled, "Gina? Is that you?"
I trotted over to the car with a half-assed smile on my face. When her mom asked me why I was walking around - in the rain - by myself, the half-assed smile was quickly replaced with tears. She had me get into the car, and together, the three of us went to her Nanny's house where my mom was promptly telephoned.
Mary and I stayed in Nanny's basement awaiting news of my fate. I knew I was in BIG trouble, and I was finally starting to realize that maybe running away wasn't such a brilliant idea after all.
Fast forward to the next weekend. I don't remember why, but Grandmom and Grandpop had come over to our house. Grandmom pulled me aside (like EVERYONE had done the previous week) to reprimand me for running away. However, Grandmom didn't reprimand me. She just said, "Why did you do that?"
I responded that it was because my mom didn't love me as much as she did everyone else and that I thought she hated me sometimes.
Grandmom didn't get annoyed with me, roll her eyes or poo-poo my childish insecurities. Everyone else did. Everyone else fed me the same "A mother loves all her children equally" line that I'm sure all of you have heard a billion times. I hated that line. I knew it wasn't true, and Grandmom, to my relief, knew it, too.
She said, "Gina, your mother loves you. But it's true. Sometimes mothers do love some kids more than the others for different reasons."
I was actually stunned into speechlessness. Grandmom UNDERSTOOD! She even AGREED with me!
However, the realization that I was right... that not only were mothers capable of loving one child over another but that my very own mother likely loved everyone else more than me... it hurt! It was like a confirmation of my worst fears.
That being said, it also felt incredible good. My fear was validated and my feelings were soothed. Grandmom didn't make any excuses and didn't give me reasons for why mothers loved some kids more than others. She didn't need to. She was honest, and in that moment, it was exactly what I needed.
I needed to feel validated; I needed to feel heard. I needed to know that there was someone else who understood exactly why I did what I did. Grandmom was that person. In that moment, I felt empowered by her honesty. It seems silly - insignificant even - but to me, it was everything.
And even though I felt incredibly hurt, I recognized the healing power of her blunt honesty. Grandmom said it so matter-of-factly that it was almost a challenge: "So what if your mom loves one of your siblings over you? Does that alter the fact that you're loved? Does that change the fact that she bends over backwards and sacrifices just as much for you as she does for them? Does the lessening of favor somehow give you the right to whine and excuse your own bad behavior?"
Grandmom didn't say any of those things, mind you. None of them. However, the tone of her voice when she spoke to me said all of this and more. It was more than any reprimand could have done; it completely changed my entire paradigm.
Why was I fighting for some intangible emotion that could so easily sway? Why was I blaming my own unhappiness on my mother who, in all honesty, was only responsible for my joy? I felt so incredibly, incredibly stupid. I really did.
Why do I bring this up?
Because I realized that in that moment, Grandmom taught me about the part of her spirit that I most wanted to emulate. Honesty and dedication to the truth, even if that truth makes you uncomfortable and even if it makes the person you're sharing it with uncomfortable.
The discomfort is a worthwhile price for honesty - the price for truth.
If folks know me for anything, it's for my blunt honesty. I try never to be rude, mean or uncharitable, but I don't apologize for speaking the truth, even when others feel uncomfortable or threatened by it. Personal life, personal relationships, business dealings and yes, Catholicism. Honesty really is the best policy in my book.
I realized this was because of Grandmom. That tiny snippet of my 5th grade life set the tone for all future conversations. I didn't realize that until today as I prayed to her for Mother's Day.
"Grandmom, I always said I wanted to be just like you when I grew up. Here I am. I wonder if you'd be proud of me."
Instantly I was transported back to that moment, and I realized that I'd most certainly followed in her footsteps. I value truth and honesty, which is probably why I found myself coming back to the Church. Methinks she'd give me a passing grade.
Love you Grandmom. Give Myla lots of kisses for me. She's so lucky to be spending eternity with you already. <3
A blessed Mother's Day to mothers everywhere.
From the moment of conception, we strive to make all the best choices to nurture our children's growth - what we eat, if we'll take medicine, what we will and won't drink...
Motherhood does not begin with the birth of a child. It begins the moment a woman opens her heart up to the possibility of life taking refuge in her heart.
So again, to all mothers out there... natural mothers, pregnant mothers, adoptive mothers, godmothers, grandmothers and mothers yearning to meet their little saints in Heaven...
Be blessed. May we be granted the grace to walk our paths with love through the intercession of our Most Holy Mother.
Does anyone else feel a bit like characters in a Chicken Little book? Instead of the sky falling, I am constantly hearing "The Church is falling! The Church is falling!" from a swelling underbelly of paranoid Catholics and a growing army of gleeful anarchists.
If you take a look at the media, you'd think the Church was at death's door!
Relax, folks. I assure you, the Church isn't going anywhere. Remember that whole business with Peter getting renamed in front of the giant cave that devoured infants?
Let me refresh your memory, then. Since all four of the Gospels were pretty clear about this, it's obviously important enough for folks to understand.
Once upon a time, Simon (meaning "reed") was following a cool guy named Jesus. Simon wasn't super smart, he certainly wasn't very rich, and he didn't hold major sway in the community. That was okay. He wasn't interested in being the smartest guy in the room. Money didn't hold any power over him, and he didn't aim to have folks do his bidding. He was just a guy who loved Jesus and was willing to follow Him wherever He went - up to and including the Gates of Hell.
That's right, folks! Simon followed Jesus to the Gates of Hell! Believe it or not, this place actually existed in his time. It was located in Caesarea Philippi, and today, it looks like this:
What you're looking at is a giant cave that was carved into a massive chunk of stone. In fact, this giant stone mass housed several caves which, at the time of Jesus, would have been temples dedicated to various deities.
This particular one, however, was dedicated to Pan, god of desolate places (being a lonely little farmer / herder dude isn't the best diety-gig to have). Because his temple had a bit of water running through it, folks would come and sacrifice their infants over the cliff to him where they would either drown or die of blunt force trauma. Thus, because of the grisly sacrificing of such innocence, it was likened to the gates of Hades (even by the Romans).
So Simon followed Jesus all the way to Caesarea Philippi to stand before this giant stone structure that signified death and complete desolation. It was here that Jesus asked a series of silly questions. I'll let the Bible talk from here:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Good old Simon. His birth name meant reed, something easily bent or even broken by the passing breeze.
Now, however, Jesus blessed him with the name that translates to "large rock." Jesus didn't change Simon's name because He was impressed with Simon's knowledge of Scripture. He didn't change his name because He liked how sinless Simon was. He didn't even change his name because of how faithfully Simon followed Jesus all around the known world.
Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter because name changes signify divine inspiration - a deep, spiritual change that dictates a person's destiny. It's part of the reason we are given new names at Confirmation, too!
Jesus specifically changed Simon's name to Peter because He asked a question with an answer that only could've been arrived at through divine inspiration. Simon was open to the movement of the Spirit, and this is why he was chosen as the cornerstone of the Church.
On Peter's shoulders the Church would be built. When Jesus goes on and explains that He will give him (after the Ascension) the "keys to the kingdom," He was referencing Isaiah 22:22-23.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder;
For those unfamiliar, the "key" wasn't just a symbol of power the king bestowed onto his most trusted servant. The key was an actual key that could open or lock all the doors in the kingdom (grain storehouses, vaults for gold, even the very temple doors). Whoever wielded the key was given the king's authority (with his approval, of course) while the king is absent. The servant then went about doing the king's bidding by opening grain storehouses for the hungry, the vaults to pay for kingdom necessities, making pronouncements, etc.
Jesus was telling Peter that his openness to divine inspiration announced him as this highly trusted servant. And thus, on Peter's shoulders, the glory of his ancestors (the Jews) and his descendants / offspring (the Catholic Church / various sects of Christianity) will hang on his leadership. PETER is the cornerstone on which Christ's Church is built.
If you continue reading Isaiah (and I love this), the original servant spoken of is named Eliakim. Verses 24-25 speak of Eliakim's eventual downfall and the institution of another servant. This servant is Peter, and when the Lord speaks, it is Jesus who does the speaking. How awesome is that?
Anywho, Peter is set as the everlasting servant. The gates of the hell (Death) shall not prevail against the Church set forth under his guidance. Jesus entrusts this destiny to Peter because he has proven his openness to divine inspiration. Peter proves himself as the faithful, humble servant who does not put his own "wisdom" above that of God the Father.
THAT is the sign of a great servant.
So why do I bring this up at all?
Because for all the bellyaching folks are making about Pope Francis, they need to keep in mind that he is a servant. He is a servant hand-selected by divine inspiration to "keep the keys" until Christ comes back for the 2nd Coming.
You trust Jesus, right? You trust that what he said 2 millenia ago still rings true today, yes? Then quit your bellyaching and trust that when He said He wouldn't let His Church crumble, He's not gonna let His Church crumble.
The Church is His eternal bride. He's not going to forsake us. We'll be persecuted and crucified, this is true. We must, after all, follow faithfully in His Footsteps. But we must remember that with a death fashioned after Christ's comes a resurrection as well.
We have been told that the time is coming for this great persecution and crucifixion, but we're not there yet. Even if we were, your job isn't to head for the hills or apostatize. Your job is to keep your oil lamps filled and burning brightly. Your job is to be a beacon of Christ to others. Your job is to continue praying for and supporting the Church.
I am deeply saddened for and shamed by those Catholics who are renouncing the faith simply because this pope doesn't do things the way they expect. Our faith goes beyond a man in a white cassock. Our faith is the Resurrected God-Man who consents to give Himself to us as food in the Eucharist... as mercy in the Confessional... as divine royalty in Heaven.
I'm also saddened for and shamed by those who are gleefully dancing over the tears of those Catholics who mourn the loss of faith in their communities and families. Things may look bleak from where you're standing. You might delight in the passing of laws that deride the Church and force Her members to face fierce punishment and humiliation, but we know better.
We've witnessed Our Lord upon the Cross. We've seen His Divine Face, even as blood and spittle made Him almost unrecognizable. We've recognized that through this torturous sacrifice, evil was conquered and hope for our eternal inheritance was restored. Laugh now, but we are no strangers to persecution.
Know this. We are the Church that Christ founded. We are His Body, we are His Bride. He will not allow us to be destroyed.
So to you Catholic Chicken Littles running around freaking out about the state of the Church, relax. Do your part by praying, sacrificing and being the person God meant for you to be. Do not worry about the pope shirking his mantum or the local priest singing One Bread, One Body. Unless you witness an actual sacrilege or liturgical abuse happening, try not to freak out and just turn to Christ in prayer. Don't spread paranoia and upset by lamenting the terrible state the Church is in because Father So-and-So allows women to distribute Communion.
You folks know I hate that. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. But ya know what? I don't deny myself participation in the one, true and Catholic liturgy because of bone-headed mistakes. Also, even if the priest in question did it PURPOSEFULLY KNOWING he was in the wrong, I'm not going to let his sin cut off my avenue to Christ, because even if he was stained with a thousand mortal sins, Father Pro-Women Eucharistic Ministers is still Christ's representative on Earth and is able to consecrate whereas I am not.
To you Christian Chicken Littles hoping beyond hope that the evil Catholic Church is finally crumbling, sorry. You guys are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We still pray for you at every.single.Mass. You are our offspring. Do not neglect your Mother.
To those of you who are foaming at the mouth waiting to ravage the remnants of a Church on fire, don't hold your breath. Seriously.
John, Vincent and I attended the surprise birthday party of a friend of ours this past weekend. It was really nice of Vincent to be invited, too. Several children were in attendance with Vince being the oldest (and most active!).
Unfortunately, John and I didn't know there would be a pool at the house. Had we known, we would've gone out of our way to find a babysitter. Vince, like every other child in the universe, can't be near a pool without wanting to dive in head-first.
It was still too chilly for a swim and we hadn't brought bathing suits anyway. That didn't stop Vincent for begging, bartering and pleading to go for a dip, though. When he realized John and I weren't going to budge, he placated himself by zipping around the edge of the pool, successfully giving John and I enough agita to last us the rest of our lives.
I had to put him into a time out for disobedience. He wouldn't stop running around the edge of the pool even though I'd asked him not to three times. So I stuck him in time out.
My friend, Leo, made a well-meaning comment. He said, "What's the worst that can happen? Skinned knee? Soaked pants? Just let him be."
Oh Leo. How I love Leo. He's a new parent, himself. He's got a little princess named Maggie who is about 8 months old. He hasn't had the pleasure of her testing boundaries yet. He hasn't tasted the anxiety of seeing her (in his mind) tumble head-first into an ice-cold swimming pool. He can't even imagine what that's like until she takes those first precarious steps into toddler-hood. It's all fun and games until your kid discovers how much fun dangerous situations are. LoL.
Anyway, Leo didn't realize that aside from me trying to teach Vince obedience (and actions having real consequences), I was also trying to prevent, specifically, soaked clothing. Most people don't like sitting in wet clothes, but for an SPD kid, that's akin to being water-boarded; it's torture.
Vince sometimes freaks out if he feels even a spot of wetness on his pants or shirt. Imagine, then, the freak out that would occur if ALL his clothes were soaked through and clinging to him.
Leo doesn't think it'd be a big deal, because to him, it wouldn't be a big deal. To Vincent, however, it'd be huge.
John was getting increasingly agitated, so instead of leaving, I took Vincent inside and away from the temptation. The poor kid was over-tired and frustrated by several things:
The fact that he hadn't had a nap that day (because the party started when he usually goes down) only added to his upset. After I had him sit and settle for 15 minutes to regroup, he was able to sit on the couch and watch a game being played without issue.
It's funny. I don't fault Leo at all for the comment he made. Several of our friends waved off my attempts at wrangling Vincent as overprotective. They didn't realize I wasn't worried about him bumping his knee or even going for a swim. I was aware of a bigger problem that would come should the latter accidentally happen.
My guess is that's how God feels sometimes. So often, I look at a situation and figure "Eh, this isn't really such a big deal" while God is shaking His Head and saying, "Gina, put down the extra slices of bacon. You don't think it's a big deal, but you've been eating like a glutton recently and are increasing your risk for heart attack. I want you to die saving orphans from a burning building, and you can't very well do that if you're dead of a bacon-induced heart attack."
God is able to see so much more than we can. He knows more than we do. He's experienced more than we have. So when He repeatedly throws up roadblocks to our own ideas of satisfaction, my guess is He has good reasons. Just as I had reasons that went beyond Leo's understanding, God has reasons that extend well beyond mine.
On April 29th, Philadelphia came together to honor my husband's uncle, Wild Bill Guarnere.
The Kimmel Center graciously hosted us. Several hundred people showed up to honor his memory with many being veterans, themselves.
Vince Papale was the emcee for the event. He didn't really know Uncle Billy well, so he asked my husband to write something for him to say as an intro for the event.
John was terribly anxious about it. I understood. I mean, he's spent his entire life loving and respecting Uncle Billy for so many things - how was he supposed to sum up his reverence for his iconic uncle for a brief blurb given by a guy he had no affinity for?
So he asked for my help, and I gladly went to work. I took John's great (if jumbled) ideas and created the opening message delivered by Papale. It was an odd feeling hearing my words spoken from the stage of the Kimmel Center. I was grateful that I could've played even a tiny role in paying honor to this man's life and legacy.
After the intros, we got a special treat (arranged by our family friend and work associate, Mike D). The Quaker City String Band came out and played a set in honor of Uncle Billy. Being from South Philly, Uncle Billy loved the string bands, especially when they were out in full costume for the Mummers Day Parade. Sweet Lord how the Guarnere family loves their Mummers Strut!
Anyway, they came out and played for us and the most adorable thing happened. After they played their opening tribute, they closed out with the Mummers March, complete with one of the band members doing the strut with a parasol. Don't ya know, Aunt Barbara (God bless her hilarious self) got up and began dancing the Mummers Strut in the middle of the aisle!!! I turned around and caught the scene with my phone as the guy onstage caught on and came down to dance with her. It made me laugh, and Lord knows everyone else was caught up in that momentary spot of joy. Here's the video. You might have to turn your speakers up to hear it:
It was glorious. I'm not one for the Mummers (mostly because I find parades to be incredibly cold, long and boring), but I can't help but delight in how much joy the Guarnere side of my family gets out of the tradition. Somehow, at every family event, someone busts out the Mummers Strut and everyone - I mean EVERYONE - hits the floor strutting. Ha ha ha!
After the string band, Dom Giordano came out to give a personal tribute. I was blown away by his speech. He'd interviewed Uncle Billy several times and spoke of how the entire city came together when a bureaucratic nightmare threatened to remove the handicap parking sign in front of his house. Within minutes, several hundred people had been amassed to hammer the sign back in place themselves. However, word quickly traveled to city council and new legislation was passed regarding handicap parking for veterans. Even at 90 years old, Uncle Billy was STILL effecting positive change for the veterans he cared so much about in the city he loved so dearly. What a tribute!
He then said that there are plans in the works to erect a statue in his honor overlooking S. Philadelphia where we can all see and feel his protective presence. That solicited a standing ovation. What love this city has for him! What comfort that is to my family. That being said, I think most of us would rather see such money raised used for wounded troops (as Uncle Billy, himself, often donated his money) instead of a statue, but such a thoughtful gesture is incredibly touching.
From there, Councilman David Oh and two of his colleagues presented our family with a City Council Resolution honoring Uncle Billy's life and legacy. Hearing them read that resolution was pretty amazing.
From there, we heard tributes from other folks who knew and loved Uncle Billy: Dale Dye, a highly decorated Vietnam vet who personally worked with Uncle Billy during the production of Band of Brothers, Justice Seamus P. McCaffery of the state of Pennsylvania, and letters from Admiral Joe Sestak and Tom Hanks, executive producer for Band of Brothers. Between these presentations were video clips from others who wanted to send their well wishes but were unable to be present. It was a truly moving set of tributes.
The thing that kept bringing me to tears was the notion of heroism. Speakers, time after time, mentioned that for Uncle Billy, heroism was only earned by laying your life down for your country. He didn't consider himself a hero. He considered all those fallen brothers left behind heroes. The rest of his life was spent honoring their memory and reminding others just how important their sacrifices were. Not his; never his. His beloved vets, though... he shepherded them time and again through legislative challenges, hospital stays, reunions and personal tragedy. He was their champion, and they loved him for it.
What an absolute honor it was to be beside them last night. Seeing them come out to hold flags, share "Wild Bill stories" or even just supporting his family as Uncle Billy so many times had supported theirs... these brave men and women were honored again by Uncle Billy's legacy. Even if death Uncle Billy managed to turn the spotlight away from himself and onto others. God bless him. God bless all our servicemen and women (active and retired).
At the end of the night, a final tribute was paid by my faither-in-law. His tribute was incredible. I only captured a clip of it here, but I'm glad I caught what I did:
Again, you might have to raise your volume a bit (after the applause). The sentiments were spot on, but what amused me was how much he reflected Uncle Billy in his mannerisms. He was feeding off the energy in the room and growing bigger and more charismatic as he went. He was jostling himself back and forth, becoming super animated. He was shuffling his head up and down for emphasis, and I turned to John at one point and said, "My God, he's just like Uncle Billy!"
When we got into the car that night, I said, "John, I caught video of your dad's speech, and it was great. All the things he was praising Uncle Billy for he's totally got going for himself. I dunno if he even realizes that!"
He probably doesn't. For as much of a character as Uncle Billy was with his humor, charism and charm, he was also deeply humble. To a certain extent, it seems like my FIL picked up that trait alongside the more flamboyant ones. *Grin*
Ah well. The entire memorial was well done. It was a fitting tribute for someone so iconic. I'm so glad I was blessed to attend. I'm so proud to be part of this family that has given of itself so much. We'd all do well to follow Uncle Billy's example. He was a great man. May we all strive after such selfless, humble heroism.
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