For those of you who have not heard, Sarah Harkins, a young homeschooling mother of five, was tragically lost (along with her unborn daughter) when she suffered an allergic reaction after having been stung by yellowjackets.
Prayers are necessary for the support and comfort of those she leaves behind.
She was a graduate of Steubenville University, and the whole community banded together quickly to pray and offer financial support. I saw the call to prayer as she was being rushed to the hospital and have been following the updates ever since.
Today, however, my online reality coincided with my real life reality. I found out Sarah hosted a blog and followed the link. Sarah is the Clay Rosary Girl. Her rosaries are, by far, the most unique and colorful rosaries I've ever come across (and I was only too happy to tell her this). I always toyed with the idea of asking her to come to Jersey and do a presentation for my craft circle. Given the fact that my craft circle is full of non-Catholics, I was pretty sure the idea would never actually fly, but a girl can dream.
Anyway, I never imagined that blog would pop up when I followed that link. It never occurred to me that I could know the person in the picture... that I could have some connection to her outside the natural empathy that comes with caring for my fellow human being.
Upon realizing my own oblivion, I felt the air go out of my lungs and a small cry escape my lips.
It was a plea, a prayer, a demand for God to retract His Will and restore to us the light He reclaimed to Himself.
I never met Sarah personally, but I knew her and her family as I know those other bloggers whom I've followed all these years. I've shared in the trials, joys and prayers of those in this circle of bloggers I've grown with and learned from. She, just as so many of you, opened the doors of her heart and mind to me. She gave of herself and asked nothing in return. She simply wanted to share her time and talent with those of us willing to journey alongside her.
And now she has journeyed to Heaven. If computers existed in Heaven, can you just imagine the entries she'd grace us with now?
Oh Lord... this was already a heartbreaking situation. Having names, faces and memories to put to this tragedy renders me an uncontrollable, sobbing mess. However, it's made me that much more empathetic towards the family and friends she personally interacted with on a routine basis in real life. How their hearts must ache for the light she brought forth.
Please consider donating to the fund set up for the children she left behind.
Also, let it be known that I love you guys. Each and every one of you, whether you comment or not, are appreciated, loved and prayed for by me. For those of you who blog, I mean that in a very special way. I'm able to appreciate, love and pray more deeply as a result of the life you share with me through your own pages.
So I’d like to take a quick moment to thank those of you who messaged, commented and e-mailed regarding the situation between my father and myself. As many of you have noticed, I removed the entry detailing the situation. That being said, there have been so many of you who reached out with similar stories and concern that I wanted to allay confusion and answer folks all at once instead of responding on repeat via message/email/comment.
You don’t have to play the game forever. Believe it or not, the person most in control is the person who no longer wants to play. From the sounds of it, that power belongs to a lot of you out there. So many of you have written in to sound off, and I wish to remind you of this. YOU have the power to end it. YOU have the power to say “Enough” and demand better for your family and your children.
I’ll admit that my son was my catalyst.
I foolishly thought I could shield him from The Game. I assumed it couldn’t touch him because he was too young to understand. Vincent’s single, tiny question took a sledgehammer to my blissful ignorance and I saw the awful truth for what it was – we cannot protect our children from such pervasive, tacitly accepted dysfunction. Inevitably, they pick up on the inflections, the whispered mockery and the practiced eye rolls; they hone their situational awareness on barbed comments, stony silence and seething disdain.
I did not want that for my son. I know many of you want better for your children as well. It seems none of us are sure how to break the cycle. Some of you have cut off family ties altogether. Some of you have continued playing The Game hoping the injuries sustained will eventually heal. Still others of you have confronted the issue only to be turned away and ostracized for your refusal to participate. How my heart breaks for you and your families. I understand the tightrope you walk. On the one hand, you want to protect your children and on the other, you want to keep familial relationships alive and well. It’s so hard, though, when you're scorned for rocking the boat.
I wish I had some good advice to give you. Unfortunately, I haven’t stumbled upon a good way to handle this myself. Every time I try to sit down and attempt getting my thoughts in order, I’m overcome with anger and a sense of hopelessness. How can I even begin to fix something so irreparably damaged?
The answer is that I can’t. I know that I can’t, and I think that’s what prevents me from trying. Sadly, I think that’s the same rut my father got stuck in decades ago when he realized just how badly he messed up. Why bother attempting to fix the puzzle when the shards of glass turned to dust long ago under such strain?
I know I need to do something. Though it’d be relatively easy to cut him out of our lives, I know that’s not the right response. My father and I are both broken people. For me to cast him aside would be both unfair and hypocritical. It would certainly be a lot easier, but you and I both know that’s not the Christian way.
Besides, I guess it's not my job to fix him or this situation. It's not up to you guys, either. God doesn't expect us to fix things like this. What He asks is that we be open to allowing Him to fix things.
Thus, I realize I need to reach out to my dad so God has something to work with, ya know? While He's easily able to work miracles without human intervention, He likes to work with us. He could've healed the paralytic man without his buddies going through the trouble of getting him onto a roof and dropping him through it, but God allowed them to come halfway so He could take their effort and magnify that offering of faith down through the ages.
I think I’m going to carve out time this week to go off by myself, grab some paper, and physically write out a response. I don’t think I’m able to have a face-to-face conversation yet; I’m too bitter. In a letter, I can edit and re-edit, softening language and sacrificing vitriol for clarity. When face-to-face, I tend to spit fire with the sole purpose of seeking mass devastation. Situations like this bring forth a fight-or-flight response in me, and I’ve never been one to flee. Thus, writing a letter is how I’ll begin this journey.
Prayers would be appreciated as I attempt to pull one together.
Please know of mine for all of you who struggle with similar situations. May we be given wisdom, clarity and a pervasive sentiment of charity.
I saw this on my Facebook newsfeed today and decided to share it with my friends. I have several Pro-Palestine friends, but I've got vast swaths who simply don't know / don't care about what's been going on in and around Gaza.
I think this is a succinct and creative way of explaining some recent history behind the current problems.
Later on, I saw this article come through my newsfeed courtesy of Katherine at Having Left the Altar.
Seeing the photos instantly brought to mind an event known as the "Kristallnacht." Translating to "Night of the Broken Glass," the Kristallnacht occured throughout Germany in November of 1938. Nazi guards raided Jewish businesses, arrested Jews for trumped up charges, and destroyed so many Jewish homes and places of worship that the streets were covered in broken glass (hence the moniker).
Apparently the same thing is happening in France as Palestinian supporters are attacking Jewish homes and businesses to protest what is happening in Gaza.
This is an incredibly sad and truly frightening chain of events. We must pay attention to history as it begins cycling back to rewrite itself. We know the story... we need to do a better job of holding ourselves to higher standards. We cannot stand idly be as we did before. We MUST speak out against this.
Several of my gal pals got together to celebrate my birthday last month.
Since my birthday last year was a bit of a farce, my friends - led by Faith - decided to make up for it by going all out for my 31st.
My best friend, Mary, drove all the way from Warminster to pick me up. She and my coworker, Emily, drove me to meet up at this placed called Canvas Mixers. The concept behind this place (and others like it) is fascinating.
Professional artists offer classes on various paintings and spend three hours teaching you how to paint a particular piece step-by-step. Plus, you get to drink wine and eat cupcakes. What's not to love?
Faith chose Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night class for us because she was either insanely confident in our collective artistic abilities or rip-roaringly drunk. Regardless, we found ourselves in what looked to be the most difficult art class any of us had ever taken part in.
We ended up having a FANTASTIC time. Though we were all super intimidated by the masterpiece, our instructor calmly led us through the directives that took us from stark white canvas to refrigerator-ready-Mom-I'm-awesome artwork.
I think we were all pleasantly surprised by our inner Van Gogh. Unfortunately, two of our friends are missing from this picture because they were doing a few touch-ups to their paintings. Theirs were great, too! I highly suggest classes like this to anyone looking to boost their artistic self-worth. It was so much fun and such a great way to bond with my friends. I'd never done anything like it, but I hope to go again soon (maybe with a piece that's a little less scary).
Have any of you ever done something like this?
So I was a terrible mommy last night. I reacted out of frustration to something Vincent did and he got so frustrated in response that he actually started crying.
Seeing him scrunch up his face and cry like he'd been wounded through the heart made we wish I had a medieval flaggellant on hand to smack across my back a hundred times.
I'm his mom. It's my job to keep calm and show him the type of mercy God has in store for all of us. If he doesn't come to recognize compassion in me, how will he ever come to recognize and emulate compassion in the world?
So I immediately pulled him close to me and apologized. I sat him on my lap and cuddled him to my chest saying, "Mommy was very wrong to be so mean. You are not a bad boy. You are a very good boy and I love you very, very much. I'm sorry for being mean and I am going to try really hard to be better for you."
Still crying, he nestled his head into my neck and said, "It's okay, Mommy. I still you're best friend."
I pulled him back to look at him. His little tears streaked down his face, so I wiped them away with my thumb. I kissed his cheek and said, "Mommy is not good enough for you, Vincent."
He looked back at me and he said, "Mommy, I love you. You a good girl. I still love you. You love me. I want to serve you. You serve me. That is love, right Mommy?"
I was stunned. Where did he get that from? I never compared service and love before. For a second, I wondered if he understood what the word "serve" meant and tried to figure out where he might've heard it before. It's just an odd turn of phrase for a 4 year old.
I laid him down on his bed and asked, "How'd you get so smart to say something like that?"
He just giggled and said, "I a smart cookie and you a smart cookie!"
I then laid down next to him and realized that he showed me exactly the sort of compassion I'd mentally chided myself for withholding from him. He was Jesus in that moment, showing me what true love looks like - forgiveness and an instant willingness to rejoin the circle of service that is indicative of care and compassion.
I'd made a mistake, I'd apologized, and I'd been forgiven - all in the span of 60 seconds. I failed as a parent, but God used my failing as a teachable moment. I learned something of what true mercy and love look like, and my son was able to exercise his mercy-muscles. I really don't deserve my son. He's such a good, wonderful little boy. I wonder sometimes how I got chosen to be his mother.
Then I realize the poor kid was sent precisely because I needed a teacher to guide me into becoming a better human being. I'm not molding him; he's molding me.
Again, the adage comes to mind: Adults do not make children; children make adults.
I love you, sweetheart. Do you know Mommy thinks about you every day?
Every single day.
And I know you think of Mommy, too. I know you're praying for your big brother and Daddy, right? Are you praying for your cousins, too? I bet you are. What a sweet little girl. I'm sure you make your guardian angel smile all the time.
One year ago today you entered Heaven. Mommy is celebrating your happiness with you!
For Vincent's first birthday, I wrote a letter to him explaining how much he was loved from his very first moments in Mommy's tummy. I want you to know Mommy loves you just as much. In fact, do you wanna know a secret? God created you in a special way for a special reason!
Mommy and Daddy love each other so much that our hearts filled up with love. That love would've spilled out, but God doesn't waste love; sacramental love is special. So to keep that love growing, He created a brand new heart to catch all the love that overflowed from Mommy's and Daddy's hearts. It was your heart God created, Myla. Your beautiful little heart was able to capture all the love that poured over from our hearts.
That's right, sweetie. You were born into a sea of love. Your very first moment on this earth was a reception of love. And for a few weeks, you drank up that love. Then, for reasons you and Jesus will have to fill me in on later, you decided to give that love back through sacrifice and an eternity of prayer.
I think about that every day. Sometimes I get a little sad because I want to hold you. I get a little jealous of the angels and saints up in Heaven who have gotten to meet you before me. I wonder who is with you. I'm sure Grandmom and Grandpop Rizzo take turns cradling you in their arms. Grandpop Joe and Grandpop Auggie might tease each other into who can woo a smile from you fastest. Is Karen playing with you, too? Aunt Loretta? Great-Grandmom Evelyn? Aunt Pat for sure!
I'm not jealous for long, though. You're happy in a way earth could never have given. And you're so close to Jesus up there. You will forever know joy because of how much you loved Daddy, Vincent and I.
Your earthly life started in the acceptance of love and ended in the giving of love. Your entire brief existence was bathed totally in love, and now, you live in the Presence of Love.
And our lifeline, sweet one, is love. The litany of kisses Mommy sends in the hands of her angel to yours... take them and shower them back upon me when I finally get to hold you in Heaven. Myla Therese, you are my gift of love.
I'm finally rounding out my Cistercian Monastery series with the Glorious Mysteries. Whew!
Jesus knows how I feel:
I like how the sculptor made His robes look like they're billowing. It's stone! How do you carve stone into something that looks like it's fluttering in the wind??? If I could high-five the artist, I would.
The next two mysteries are different from all the other sculptures in that they are done in mid-relief style. I thought it was an odd choice given all the others are statues, but it was probably a lot cheaper to go this route than creating individual statues for all the saints present for these two events.
First up is the Ascension.
Five apostles are chosen to represent the lot of them. Again, I'm pretty sure this was done to cut down on both space and expense. The image of Jesus is almost exactly the same as the form used for the Resurrection and the apostles are in various states of adoration.
You can't really tell from the photo, but this is actually a very tall relief. When you're standing in front of it, you have to look up at it, and it does seem as if it's stretching up to the sky. Given how blue the sky was that day, it seemed that Christ was ascending right off the sculpture.
Vincent tried to give one of the apostles a high five because of how his hand was sculpted. That was funny. The lake also stretches out behind this one.
The next relief is a large image of Pentecost. I admit to being a fan of this one. Here's a detail of it:
I love how Our Lady is both centered and raised above the apostles. Given her status as Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God, it's fitting that she's got a large halo and is so obviously set apart from the men who she gently guided as they began building the Church her Son began. Here's the full image:
The next statue is probably my least favorite, but I think it's just me being picky. She's looking up into Heaven, but she looks resigned. I'd imagine she'd looked over-joyed... not just transfixed in a "I'm ready, come get me!" type stare. I almost feel this would have been her calm, reflected pose when she said "Fiat" to His Incarnation. But I digress. Here she is in all her Assumption-y glory:
Finally, the next statue is my favorite of the Glorious Mysteries. The Coronation of Mary looks like Our Lady of Mount Carmel. See for yourself:
She's officially Queen of the Universe (you can see her standing on the moon, planets and earth. She's enthroned upon a gorgeous detailed throne and hands are open in welcome. She's so regal, gentle and beautiful. I love this one!
And that, my friends, is FINALLY the end of my Cistercian virtual tour. I hope you enjoyed!
My poor kid was so sick last week! His fever just wouldn't quit. I ended up taking him to the ER late Friday night because his breathing was so awful. He had some fluid in his lungs. My poor little munch!
He missed a whole week of school. This is the first time he's actually registered that he wasn't feeling well. When the doctor asked him where he hurt, he replied, "My esophagus!"
Ha ha ha. That anatomy app I purchased was totally worth it. The doctor got quite the chuckle out of that one.
I made this diaper cake for a coworker's baby shower. I always enjoy putting this sort of stuff together. I'm not a baker by any stretch of the imagination, but you'd be amazed at the things I can do with a few diapers. Ha ha ha!
This is our first office baby, so we're all pretty excited (at least the women are). I can't wait to meet her! This is my coworker's first child, too, so keep her in your prayers. She's due in a few weeks and is nervous (as all new mothers are).
The shower was so much fun. I think Carla (the new mom) was surprised. She was definitely super appreciative that we organized the event for her. Good times!
Had a REALLY disturbing experience on Friday night before taking Vince to the hospital. I went out with my friend, Theresa, to a brewery for dinner. Great food, nice service, REALLY ridiculous dining neighbors.
While Theresa and I were enjoying our food, an older woman (45-50) and a younger man (maybe 25?) sat next to us at an adjacent table. Their table was likely a foot and a half from ours. The woman was obviously inebriated, and apparently they were on a first date. She kept smacking him across the table and repeating, "You're so HOT! You don't think I'm gorgeous. Tell me that I'm gorgeous again!"
It was embarrassing. If that wasn't bad enough, she slipped off her shoe and placed her foot against his lap (we were outdoors, no table cloths, and again... we were less than 2 feet away). I started giving Theresa the "We need to get out of here NOW" stare, so she started pounding back her drink.
The woman then suggests they take a selfie (REALLY, lady? A SELFIE? Just stop). She threw herself into his lap and put her hands where her foot had just been. She then said, "This would be easier if you'd open your legs" and then loudly declared, "I'm going to bed you tonight." (WHO SAYS THAT?!)
I immediately paid the tab and left. I couldn't stop balking about it the whole way home. It's almost a week later and I'm STILL balking about it! Who DOES that?!
That guy was young enough to be her son, and she was acting like a tweeny-bopper fawning over One Direction. I was so incredibly embarrassed for her. As for the guy, he didn't seem to mind anything her aggressiveness nor her inebriation (for obvious reasons). I just can't...
They were in a VERY public place during the dinner rush. They were in VERY close proximity to us and the table on the other side of them. The woman was loud and obnoxious, and the guy did nothing to point that out. I almost felt like looking around for Candid Cameras because the situation seemed so ludicrous.
Ick. Please never let me turn into that when I get older. Ick. Please never let Vincent allow himself to be as degraded as the yahoo with that woman. IIIIIIICK.
What are you even supposed to do in that situation? "Excuse me, folks, but could you take your lustful stupidity down a notch? Normal people would like to enjoy their dinners."
When did it become acceptable to act like this in public?!
I got the opportunity to take Vince to see Medieval Times. We had SO MUCH FUN! At first he was terrified due to the over-stimulation, but after we got him focused on his own shouting (cheering on the black night you see us standing with).
There were nine of us altogether. The three kids had a blast and us parents were getting giddy just watching them enjoy themselves. Definitely one of the best nights we've had in a long time.
My son said the strangest thing to me en route to daycare yesterday, and I was so caught off guard that I almost pulled the car over to allay my own confusion.
He said, "Mommy, I'm peach."
He was referring to the color of his skin because he uses the peach crayon for his face and body (also known as circles 1 and 2).
I said, "Yes."
He replied, "I want to be brown."
Curious, I asked, "Vincent, why do you want to be brown?"
He replied, "All of my friends are brown."
I said, "Vincent, is your heart good?"
"Do your friends have good hearts, too?"
"Yes, Mommy. They are very, very nice."
"So it doesn't matter what their color is. It doesn't matter what color you are. What matters is how you treat people. If your heart is good, YOU are good, okay?"
He seemed content with that, but I was so caught off guard! I honestly didn't think a thing about skin color until I was closing in on 8th grade. I was a minority in my elementary school, and that fact never actually dawned on me until someone from high school brought it to my attention when he looked at my graduation picture. He said, "You only had 5 white kids in the whole class?"
Looking back, I remember feeling instantly defensive and incredibly stupid. It had NEVER occurred to me that I was a minority until he pointed it out, and I felt stupid for never making that connection. Then I felt doubly stupid for thinking my color-blindness was something to be ashamed of.
It makes me sad that Vincent is already aware of color. Granted, he obviously doesn't think about it negatively, but the fact that such a thing is on his radar at all surprises me. I asked his teacher if they did a lesson on differences or something, but she was just as surprised as I was.
His class is a good mix of kids, and I like that. I grew up in a diverse community and I want the same for Vincent. He's got friends of both genders, of several ethnic backgrounds, and doesn't care if you collect Star Wars or Star Trek memorabilia. He loves everyone regardless, and I love that. I'd love to know what spurred that comment, though. I really would.
Ah well. At least he seems satiated for the time being. Dunno what I'll say if it comes up again, though.
My SIL just posted this photo of Alliya and I. As soon as I saw it, I recognized the setting. This was taken as John, Vince and I were leaving our cousin's wedding. I sought out Alliya and knelt down to give her a big hug. I wanted to thank her for giving me the rose out on the dance floor. I'm so glad my FIL caught this moment because to me, it conveys so much more than Aunt Gina smiling at Alliya. It's me - on my knees with gratitude - beaming up at my source of Divine Providence and Consolation... my hands around her waist and her hands on my shoulders.
I love that she's in Blessed Mother blue to boot.
We had a loud thunderstorm last night that got Vince all sorts of upset. He didn't want to go to bed, and I can't really blame him. The thunder was so loud it shook the house, and the lightning looked like it was going to strike our tree any second.
So I told him the same thing I used to tell my students who were afraid of storms: Say "Cheese" and smile for the angels!
The lightning is the flash from their cameras and the thunder comes from their drums as they tried to get his attention.
As you can see from the video above, it ended up working pretty well. He wasn't scared anymore and he ended up enjoying having his picture taken so much!
The garden leads you directly from one mystery into another, which I like. There are areas for you to sit or kneel for prayer, but the path simply continues to follow in the footsteps of Christ on the road to our salvation.
I really like that.
This set of mysteries is my favorite of the bunch. I just love the expressions of Christ. The artists did a fantastic job. They really, really did.
The Scourging was a little sad and confusing for Vincent. He couldn't understand why Jesus ("a good guy") had His Hands tied up. Vincent went behind Him and tried to undo the rocky tethers that bound Him. I explained that Jesus wasn't trapped anymore, but that when He was on earth, He took the beating so that His friends didn't have to. That made Him a hero to everyone. Vincent understood that, but it left him kinda quiet for the next couple minutes.
The Crowning with Thorns is simply Christ seated with with a simple robe, His Hands still bound, and a sad (and regal) expression on His Face. The way the artists placed His Hands enables the faithful to leave behind flowers as a sort of scepter. Of the mysteries, I think this is my favorite. It's nothing like the Coronation of Mary, but the way the artists created the two, they obviously parallel one another.
Next was Christ taking up His Cross, and again the expression on His Face is remarkable.
Walking along the path a bit father I saw a huge chapel-like shed which stood directly across from the Nativity "stable" from the Joyful Mysteries. Obviously drawing yet another parallel, the Crucifixion placement and artistry again highlights a theological truth. Christ was born to die on a Cross. He came into the world to die saving it. Incredible.
Stay tuned for the Glorious Mysteries. Hopefully it won't take me a month to cycle back through and update you! :)
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