Monday, November 28, 2011

The Centurian...

It must have been easy to believe if you lived in the time of Jesus. I imagine if you met him...looked into his eyes, you would just know and believe. Course if you were wrong, you got et by lions... so there was some risk.  But the opportunity to really believe in Jesus. Lay everything out for him. I would have loved to have a chance to believe like that. It must have been an exciting time...biblical times. I love the stories in the bible, like the lady who touched his cloak because she KNEW that is all it would take to get healing from him. Or the disciples who risked everything to walk with him. Or the Centurion...a gentile, like us, who wouldn't even trouble Jesus to come to his home...told him, Just command it, and it will be, unshakable, and true. faith...

I pondered this on my way home from Mass this morning. I was a little worried. I am planning a visit home to PA for Christmas. Matt will be spending Christmas with his birth mom, Shawn is taking 8 of the children to Austin to see his sister and Shamu ;o) not in any particular order. And I get a break, driving to PA with just two kids. Tina is planning a birthday party with her biological siblings. Mariah just wants a break from whole foods. And me, I just want to enjoy some quiet with my family. But yesterday Shawn noticed my mouth is drooping...weird, right. But this morning my eye felt odd. I suspect its an MS exacerbation. Sure, just when I have so much going on. So much I need to do and get done. The kids have a few weeks left in school and I really want to begin homeschooling. We have so much on our plate and that kitchen is such a mess! And Shawn had to get the biggest tree at the tree farm...all the ornaments are all over the foyer and James and Tina have home extensions due by the 30th and I haven't even begun to shop for Mariah's birthday gifts--I know she gave me a list, but I thought it was NEXT week...where does the time go...And now this. My brother called...super grapevine we have in the fils-aime family. Sue has a friend who had something like what you are experiencing...bells palsy? Who knows, you should see a doctor. And now my eye won't close...God, really. Can you help me out here...

just command it and it will be done...strong, unshakably,

Matthew 8: 5 - 11


5 As he entered Caper'na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him

6 and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress."

7 And he said to him, "I will come and heal him."

8 But the centurion answered him, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.

9 For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,' and he goes, and to another, `Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,' and he does it."

10 When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.

11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,

The Best Mother

So I have never claimed to be the best daughter often says I am, in fact, the absolute worst mom. I don't defend that...I realize motherhood isn't my strongest suit. When the new 7 children get upset with me and tell me that I'm not their mom and I'm mean, I say, "I never claimed to be...daddy and I are just people who were trying to keep you kids together...that is the only thing we promised." At parenting, we are all just trying to do our best--it is all we can hope for that we get it right some of the time; we are human. When I think of great parents, not even my own come to mind, though they weren't too shabby...I try to aim high and I think of our heavenly mother, Mary. I mean, she was without sin, so that has to count for something, right. She probably didn't yell at Jesus for bringing home his friend's yak without permission (did they have yak in the Holy land...that is just stuck in my head cause it was on someones facebook post this week...). But I digress, so when Jesus would come home with someone else's sandals or Joseph yelled for the fifth time that day she needed to get the water before it runs out...She just smiled serenely and carried on. That is a super mom!

The other morning on EWTN, I heard a priest giving an advent reflection which challenged that thought...I have never given birth, but have been present at one or two. I have had my arm clenched tightly by my sister enough to know that the nurses don't give enough care to the coach. I have seen the mess my cat made having kittens---I am not entirely naive. But this priest said, Mary, the mother of our Lord, a woman without sin, put her baby in a manger. A wooden barrel that has held mice and their excrement, been drooled on by hungry animals, and scratchy hay that had been, um, only God knows where. That is not the scene I envision. In the story in my head, Jesus is viewed by his travelling Shepperd friends and kings alike, in a somewhat cozy rustic room. He may be in a manger, but it is an adorable, rustic manger, perhaps covered by some royal cloak from a passing king. Certainly not smelly and NEVER dirty. Maybe I am a little naive...

I have held new babies...after the nurse has cleaned them off, of course. There is a purity about them. I even held my nephew, who was still-born, for several sister didn't want him leaving the room; we were in shock. But even in his stillness...his death, there was an air of purity and innocence around him. No, I could not imagine putting him in a manger described by the priest. It makes no earthy sense. But I believe it to be. The Priest posited that Mary's partner, the Spirit, let her know that this baby's life would not be easy. Yes, he is a king. But his soft flesh will be torn by much worse than straw.  Don't let him get to comfortable in this life...he has a hard road. Don't coddle him...I believe the priest may have been correct. I am sure that was a part of it. But I have to think that the best mother, the one without sin, would not have thought that her boy needed to learn to get used to suffering. Can we even do that? For Christ to suffer for our sins on the cross would he need first to know the love of his parents, both earthly and heavenly or did it just need to be another day in his life of suffering starting with the manger? I don't think that I will know the answer to that question on this side of heaven, but I have a guess...

All through the bible, we are told that we have to be childlike. What does that mean? Our priest gave me one explanation this week when talking about Mary and Advent. What is the first thing you notice about a childlike child...they are full of wonder and awe and they look to their father to explain it and give direction. Mary did that. When God asked to be his handmaiden, she said, "I don't understand and I am not worthy but thy will be done." And when she was led to a stable to give birth; that cave that smelled like animal and worse...I know I would have been screaming, "haven't I done enough...people are talking about me and Joseph. I rode that animal all the way to Bethlehem. And now you want me to have the baby here...without a doctor, meds, and water...Really!?" Childish, not childlike. But Mary, she just smiled serenely and said, "thy will be done, not mine..." Because her Father said to, she put that innocent boy...the king of kings, her baby boy...she put him in that manger and let his visitors behold him. God made man...the word made flesh...shivering on the hay in the smelly manger. The best mom...

photo from pintrest :)

by meditating on these mysteries of the most holy rosary, we can imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise...
 To get into the Kingdom, we all have to become childlike. To listen to the Father, we have to hear the Father. We are approaching the busiest season in our year, the winter holidays. I am having my family step back from the noise and we are making time during Advent to try and really hear what He has to say to us. We are using the Best Mother to help us; we are saying the rosary daily as a family...sometimes only the family that is present--whoever is home. We have moved out of our comfy living room, saying it sometimes during the busy evening meal prep time...whoever isn't working joins us on a couch and we pray...expectant...trying to hear what our Father has to say to us.

What are you doing to try to block out the noise of the world this Advent? Do you have customs and traditions you can share?

Lord, it can be so hard to hear your voice. Our family is tying faithfully to pray together during this season of waiting and listening for your voice. Tell us what you need us to do during this season. Always remind us to remain childlike and to ask you, our heavenly father, in all things. Help us to choose to do your will, not our own. Amen...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Our Different Dream

I sit here on Thanksgiving Morning 2011, thanking God for the life he has given Shawn and I. When I reflect on Thanksgiving, 1987, our first as a married couple, I had just left my full time job as a social worker in anticipation of motherhood. We had discussed and decided we wanted a family early--while we were young enough to enjoy them and large...probably 5 children. It was scandalous!  :o) Now, an almost 50 year old mom of 11 adopted children, can see somewhere it wasn't any longer our dream but His. We just listened and agreed to go along with His plan. It hasn't been easy, but I feel incredibly blessed today in ways I could never have imagined in 1987!

Many people plan the life they imagine. And then God throws them a curve ball. The blessing that they receive are often much harder than they thought up, but His rewards always surpass anything we are capable of imagining if we just say "yes" and do our part. In doing our part, there is so much to navigate. As a social worker for many years, I though I had it all figured out :o). I wish I had a resource such as Jolene Philo's Different Dream Parenting. A treasure trove of resources and lists, I would recommend it to any parent. In fact, I will write a post talking in depth about it along with an excerpt from the publisher. In the meantime, I will let Jolene, herself, tell you a little about it. But for your Thanksgiving shopping pleasure, minus the mall crowds, here is a 10% off retail code from the publisher for Different Dream Parenting. Also, I have a copy of the book to give to one poster today. You can get one chance to win the book by posting a bit about their different dream. It always helps to talk to others in the same situation. You can get a second entry by subscribing to my blog. I will draw a name on Monday. And thanks to Jolene for allowing me to participate in this blog hop...I begged her for a chance to review the book which her publisher provided, along with the giveaway book. The opinions of the book are my own! Now, in her own words, Jolene...


When our beautiful newborn boy was transferred to a regional hospital, my husband and I felt lost at sea. A few hours later, we learned that our baby required immediate surgery at a university hospital 750 miles away. Without it, he would die. That news threw us overboard. We longed for someone who could come alongside and pull us out of the water. A book to chart a map through unfamiliar waters and assure us of God’s presence.

But our son was born in 1982 when pediatric medicine was a relatively new field. Families like ours were hard to find. Parenting books hadn’t been written. The Internet didn’t exist. Over the next twenty years, even after the surgeries and medical procedures that corrected our son’s condition were over, my search for parenting resources yielded scant results. Eventually, I sensed God nudging me to come alongside young parents lost at sea like we had been, to create a map they could follow.

Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs is that map. It’s a map for parents of kids living with medical special needs as well as conditions like Down Syndrome, juvenile diabetes, developmental delays, and autism, and those facing a terminal diagnosis. It guides parents by providing tools and resources they need to become effective advocates for their kids.

The book features interviews, advice, and resources from more than fifty families and two dozen professionals. With their help, the book addresses the situations parents face every day. Things I wish someone had told me, like:
      Asking questions after diagnosis.
      Dealing with insurance companies.
      Preparing a child for a hospital stay.
      Accessing financial resources and government monies.
      Accessing special education services.
      Determining optimum level of care.
      Mobilizing volunteers at home.
      Supporting the sibs.
      Preparing a child for death.
      Planning a funeral.
      Participating in community and church events.
      Creating a special needs trust for adult children with special needs.
 In addition to practical advice, Different Dream Parenting tackles spiritual questions families are often afraid to ask. Questions about:
      God’s sovereignty
      Parental guilt
      Setting and maintaining spiritual priorities
      Grieving for children living with special needs
      Grieving the death of a child
      Passing faith on to children with special needs

Thirty day prayer guides in the appendices are for parents too exhausted to form their own prayers.
I remember what it’s like to be lost at sea, thrown overboard by an unexpected diagnosis, and drowning under a flood of care giving demands. My goal is to put Different Dream Parenting into the hands of floundering parents so they have a map and know they’re not alone. To order the book, visit and click on the “buy the book” tab.
Thanks, Holly, for this opportunity to guest blog and tell people about Different Dream Parenting at Dwell in Glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

We Are...still Penn State; just a little less shiny...

I know that I promised you a book review...lets just call this a preview. I still have a book (or a few) I want to tell you about. But I have an apology to make...and maybe just one last, last word on this situation.

I am like my grandma. Took her to the funeral of her sister with my father. I don't speak creole so I missed a lot of the drama (note to self, don't go to any Fils-Aime gathering without learning creole). What I saw was my little, almost 100 year old grandmother ,argue with her nephew, the deceased son, and then, sniffling, be led out of her only sister's funeral by her son, followed by her only grandchild in attendance, me. I was also at a perfect vantage point to hear said nephew murmur something to which my grandmother executed a perfect 360 degree turn and launch all 100lbs of her self at him in the same movement...After catching grandma, carrying her out of the funeral home, and buying her donuts (another note to self, as I self-consciously push the tootsie roll wrappers off my desk...sugar really does not help in times of stress...) We settled her in her hotel bed and I googled "learn creole." I relate that story just to let y'all know that I come by it honest. If you have known me for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that I like my causes. And can get loud. Am totally not afraid of getting loud. And have had to be held back by people who know and love me when certain things are triggers.
searching in the photo for my friends and family in state college and my loved ones in the State College Police Dept..I love JoePa, and I pray for the people of the city of State College. This is a nightmare

This week has been one long trigger. But as a mature almost...sigh...50 year old and mother of 11, i need to begin to take responsibility for myself. My behavior has been unconscionable. I am as guilty of those students having tear gas fired at them as any other adult who engaged in the debate of Joe Paterno's guilt in the legal proceeding going on in State College. A legal proceeding we don't have any business engaging in...we are not called to judge our brother. Just call him on his behavior. Done. But so many of us feel the need to blog, write, give our learned opinions, hear ourselves talk. Its the American way. And it was a trigger.

For me, college was a wonderful time. One big party punctuated by the occasional class. Yeah, when I did my masters at Marywood, it was about grades. But Penn State it was about parties and football. And Joe was our hero. I say that not to glorify alcohol and drinking, but to give you my point of reference. Didn't care what my major was. It was the 80's. We were as free as the kids in the 60's, but smarter. And we had a national winning football was good. And even back then, JoPa was old. He walked the streets with us and didn't let his boys off the hook with grades. Get an Administration of Justice degree but get good grades!! That is how I knew Joe. I was an Administration of Justice major and so was much of his team. Joe wanted his boys to be the best on and off the field. And they loved him. Now many years later, I know as sure as I am sitting here that Joe wouldn't let a little boy be raped in his locker room and not do everything he could to ensure the boy was OK. I am completely sure, and interviews posted on the Internet bear it out, that he would not let any question of his wrong doing tarnish his team and his school. He would resign. But he would not bail on his boys at a crucial game. We all have to process that, let our conscience guide us. But every adult who entered into that debate helped fuel the turmoil that fed that riot. And our kids having tear gas sprayed at them.

A trigger. For me this wasn't all about a beloved coach though. The thing I am most passionate about is kids, our kids...I was a social worker before I was a mom (had to do something with that AdmJ degree and didn't want to carry a gun ;o) I have to wonder why that boy was in a locker room, with a man who was not his father, brother, or uncle, in the first place. My son would not have been. I wish this was hypothetical, but unfortunately, it isn't. One of my children, when they were 3 and still a foster child, was sent on a court-ordered home visit with the biological parents. On that visit, the child was molested by a sibling. I knew within literally 2 minutes of the kids getting back in the car there was a problem. Back at home, I called Children and Youth and had it reported, had collected physical evidence and was on my way to the hospital. I did not blame the boy who abused my child; he was small himself. Had been hurt. And he was sorry...I wish I could have told him we forgive him, but don't know where he is. I did not blame the caseworker, though he was, in fact, negligent. I blamed myself. I told my child that I was sorry I let them be hurt. I did that so they could heal. Ultimately, it was my fault. I was that child's parent. I eventually went to the caseworker supervisor. I did not go to the head of children and youth in that county who was at the time a close family friend. I went to the supervisor because that was the protocol. Actually, Shawn did, because he is the father and head of our household. He wondered aloud if the children's birth mother was supposed to complete a parent class but hadn't and had consistently failed drug tests while on probation but after her probation ended, they stopped testing, and wow, instant recovery. Not making light of a mom's pain. I liked the kids birth mom and spent a lot of time with her...but really. The agency made a decision, and with that, visits were stopped until she would comply with parenting and testing. She never did and we adopted the children.

It would have been very easy for us to come down on the agency and say they weren't doing their job. But it wouldn't have made it any easier for my child. And that is my gripe. My trigger...Yes, maybe Joe could have done more. But where was the child's parents. Why weren't they aware?

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
1 Thessalonians 5: 1 - 6

We send our children to school earlier and earlier. We release them to the preK teachers and retire our obligation to be our child's teacher of education. And social skills. And moral responsibility. Emotional temperature...people, where does it end. We are our children's teachers and we are responsible for each and every aspect of their lives. I have been angry that the government has been trying to erode parental responsibility for years but maybe they are just assuming it by default...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We are...Penn State!

If you are a Penn Stater, its been a roller coaster weekend...

I have been accused of talking too much but saying too little. I will make this long story short.

A long time member of Joe Paterno's coaching staff has been charged with sexually abusing children on Penn State property. While no charges were brought against him, there has been talk for years. Sandusky, the ex-Nittany Lion player and long-time defensive coach had allegedly been "grooming" boys for abuse by bringing them to games and buying them gifts. Allegedly, because, no one has proven anything. Sandusky makes a good case for being the injured party. He is an adoptive father, married, church-goer...foster parent.

The media speculates that there have been eye-witnesses in the showers. The students are upset because they see their thousands of dollars investment in education being tarnished. The fans are upset...JoPa is a legend. How could he not do more. How could he just do the minimum.

Lost in all of this is the larger issue...where were the parents. We are called to be the first teachers of our children. We are called to protect them. We need to be more aware...we are falling asleep.

Yes, a man who takes an interest in a child...a good man who is a football coach with access to one of the most revered coaches in our country at a football program that is respected not only for its talent but also its integrity, wants to take my son, by himself, to the school for a visit. NO!!! Big coach man can get a few tickets and my husband or almost adult son with accompany them. People, wake up. We are responsible for our children...their education, their livelihood, their souls. We do not let them go with people we don't know.

Yes, an adult who spends a lot of time working with children might be a very good person. Or they could be a pedophile. We cannot afford to know how they operate. According to Childline, the national registry for abuse of children, about 6 million children are sexually abused each year. More than 90% of juveniles know their abuser in some way. The really successful abusers (the one's who don't get caught) don't just snatch the child out of their yard. They groom the child. Get to know the parents. Buy them gifts. Earn their trust. Eventually, they might try to get the child to do something illegal...have a beer. Do some drugs. Makes the children reluctant to tell on the abuser if they might get in trouble, too.

This Sunday's first reading is from Proverbs and it talks about the wife and her duties.

Proverbs 31:10–13, 19–20, 30–31
10A capable wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
19She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20She opens her hand to the poor,
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
30Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.
When I read this and thought about what on earth I could write...I don't clean. I direct the children and put away laundry...even that, I have them help. Shawn won't let me shop. I am a little scattered; he is much more efficient. Lately, he has taken to preparing dinner during his lunchtime from his very stressful job...less food waste that way. I am pretty much the anti-good wife. What do I bring to the table...why does Shawn, bless his heart, still love me. I am the information person. In this world, we need one. I am the one who knows that we don't need to check the sexual abuse registry for the perp on our block...there are plenty and they aren't registered or caught. There just are. Shawn deals in business world and then he just takes care of his family. I have seen the ugly and don't hide from it. I will help him protect the babies. And I will teach them. I will find books that they will enjoy reading and I will teach them to learn. God brought us together. He knows our strengths. We are learning to love each other because of the different things we bring to the table. We didn't know that I had multiple sclerosis when we were married. We didn't know that we would be incapable of having children together. We could have become disappointed in each other. Honestly, we probably were/are...but we are working through that. Instead, we adopted this nest of beautiful brown babies and brought a few families together...and it works.

So I promised I would be should know me better than that by now. What am I saying...Sandusky probably hurt the boys. We need to learn that if a child is crying in the other room and someone walks out, he probably wasn't comforting her. Believe your eyes. Look at the statistics. Millions of children are being hurt each day. Look at the sex trafficking of our kids. Look at all the people and institutions that are trying to erode our rights as parents. Tomorrow I am going to review a book my counselor recommended (before he passed out during our session...are we facebook friends!!? I really blab there!!) It talks about the peer culture of our society and addresses bullying and attachment. Our children are in trouble and we are the only ones who can save them...even us handicapped moms can have our children rise up and call us blessed if we can save them from the Sandusky's and the bully's and the tormentors...and show them lots of love :o)

As for JoPa...he really isn't God. Sometimes it just seems that way. He told the police. Leave him alone. I personally hope he doesn't abandon his team while this is going on...though I certainly wouldn't blame him. Joe, do what you need. We still love you!!

And finally ;o) the lawyer I did my internship was noted as Sandusky's lawyer in a news article. Joe Amendola...if this gets back to you, remember the advice you gave me the first time we went to court...if someone starts shooting, get under the seats! Keep that in mind as you move forward and I'm praying for you!!