Monday, October 31, 2011

Guess I Need To Get Used To It

Here are my oldest girls who found the need to try on some of Target's Halloween costumes and "Yes" I cracked up that they would climb into these outfits right in the aisle in the middle of Target. Many years have passed since I actually made the girls' costumes, whether a simple black cat or Peter Pan or an angel. Nowadays I just let them pick out something from one of the stores. I did paint a vest onto a shirt for my youngest this year and cut up some fishnet hose for her use on her arms as well as her legs. But, and here's the kicker, for the first time in 20 years, I did not take a child out for trick-or-treat. All three went with friends and the youngest spent the night out or I would have been with her. Ugh! I guess this is something I will need to get used to. My kids are growing up and do not quite need me for everything and I take that as a compliment. The oldest two can act crazy without me and the youngest ones can go out with their friends. They make their own lunches and almost handle their own homework and the oldest two run their owns lives. Mostly, they're comfortable being themselves and although it will be difficult for me as they each venture out and no longer need me, I'm good. Whether as hot dogs or odd birds or just themselves, I'm good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Final Pumpkin Globe

Our journey began 13 years ago when our oldest daughter was in 4th grade and was assigned to turn a standard 38" diameter pumpkin into a globe, labeling the continents and the oceans, the prime meridian and the equator, the north and south pole, and of course, Nashville, TN. We learned with the first one how important it was to take the tape measure with us and get as close to 38" and as round as possible. That year two pumpkins were purchased. We also learned the importance of not doing the project too early. In this case, the early bird would have a bad case of mold before the project returned home. But, it has to be done early enough for all the paint to dry well. The first half of the family had to purchase real pumpkins but now the children are allowed to use plastic. Not us! In this family it's all about tradition. Julia must have asked me six times as we worked together was this what I did for the other kids. "We can use a plastic pumpkin." "What did the others do?" "I can trace the continents while you paint." "Did you do that for everyone?" "Do you want to type out the labels?" "Did everyone else type them out?" And so on. So as our 6th and final pumpkin globe project went, it was purely done as it had been done in the past with a few lessons learned by the project manager.
All in all, it's fun to work with the kids on some of their projects and it's very rewarding seeing parents learn to let go of perfection with each child that comes along. That first and second and third globe, I wiped around the edges of continents making sure the kids stayed inside the lines. I balanced continents and oceans and made perfect lines for the equator and prime meridian. But as time passed, I realized that the pumpkin globe was not about the paint or the lines. The pumpkin globe not only taught Julia about our continent, even our own city and state, in relation to other continents, but it taught her a little something about our family and the importance of traditions and the importance of learning from previous mistakes and the importance of change and of difference. She obviously looks up to her brothers and her sisters and wants to be like them in many ways. I like that. I like that she gets it. I like that she knows she has choices but may still want to do what was done before. I like that she understands a little about family traditions. I like working with her. And, I have to admit, I like that this was our final pumpkin globe.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Last Act

I don't remember exactly how the story goes but I'll try to get as close as possible to the truth.
Several weeks ago I went to the funeral home for the visitation of a woman I have known since I was in grade school. Her daughter took the time to tell my friend Betsy and I about the beautiful powder blue knit dress she was wearing.
While her mom was in the hospital, a box had been delivered to her house and one of the children simply put it inside for her. "She loved to shop" and having a box outside the door seemed to be a norm. "I told dad not to take anymore magazines to the hospital." We laughed. Not too many days passed and her mom died and the children met at the house to plan for her funeral. Across the bed in the back bedroom lay the powder blue dress with the silver belt that their mom had ordered for herself. "Definitely not something we may have picked and yet absolutely perfect." We both agreed. To me, this was the one last caring act for these children as their mom. Who knows if this woman ordered this dress for her funeral? Who knows if this woman thought that it would be better for her to take care of the details so her children would not have to struggle over agreeing what would be best or what she might prefer? Who knows if this mom was sparing her children time and energy that they could be spending with one another in stories and memories and friendship? I felt at that moment as the story was told that all these questions could probably be answered positively. One simple act. One lasting memory.
The daughter went on to tell us that when she would visit her mom in Florida, she loved to wear her mom's accessories. There were plenty of choices and many pair of black or gray pearl earrings that she particularly loved. She realized how perfect a pair of those earrings would be for her now but could not find any at her home here in Nashville so she gave up her own pair. She told us how happy she was that her mom would be buried with a little piece of her. One simple act. One lasting memory.

Friday, October 14, 2011

St. Augustine said

Our homily today was on this brilliant statement by St. Augustine:

"Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence."

Now if I could just live as if all the junk from the past has been forgiven and God is in control of all that is to come, so for today all I have to do is live in His Infinite Love and in return pass that on to others. Wow, our God is good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Memory of Sr. Diane

Yesterday afternoon I attended the funeral of my 8th grade teacher, Sr. Mary Diane, O.P. As everything out at the St. Cecilia Motherhouse, it was beautiful. I had the pleasure of being taught by this sister at St. Henry School, the same school my children now attend, 37 or so years ago and reuniting with her through St. Mary's Bookstore and becoming good friends over the past 20 years.
I met Lisa at the front of the convent and we went toward the Chapel. In the foyer before entering the Chapel, the sisters and Sr. Diane's family were all gathered around her open casket talking and celebrating her life. As Fr. approached, Mother Ann Marie pulled Sr. Diane's scapular up over her face. The sister standing next to me explained that upon first vows they lay prostrate with the veil over their face symbolizing the beginning of their vows and at their death the same action is repeated to symbolize the end of their vows. All of the sisters then processed through to the Chapel, almost in order of oldest to youngest, and we followed. Sitting in the back throughout the funeral allowed me to drink in not only the beauty of the Chapel but also the feeling of complete peace and joy. Fr.'s homily was somewhat lighthearted as was Sr. Diane. He said as he was called to give Sr. Diane Viaticum in her last week of life, he informed her that she was on the last of her road and she informed him that he was not too far from the last of the road himself. She was just that way and that is one reason we were good friends. At the end of the service in the chapel, Fr. read the farewell prayer and suddenly the entire chapel filled with light from the sun and I mean an overpowering bright light. I looked over at Lisa as she spun her head to me and her eyes were wide and a smile came across both our faces. Whata moment!
At the cemetery right their at the Motherhouse, one of the sisters asked if I had any Sr. Diane stories and I just laughed and said probably nothing I could repeat but truly I have many stories and they are all filled with times of laughter and happiness. She had a good time and I had a good time with her. In 8th grade, I was always in trouble and she made us copy dictionary words as we sat in from recess or were denied time on the back hill just basking in the sun with the others from our class. She loved taking us outside on that hill. We got caught lifting her desk onto the back cabinets on April Fool's day and mimicking her with her pointer at the blackboard and the only time she really got angry was when we turned her Blessed Mother statue backwards. She could take fun and games but not disrespect and I held that lesson close all these years. She was tough on me. Cranky and quick with sarcasm. She called the store occasionally and asked, "When ya comin to visit me? What's going on with you right now? How's your poor husband?" Finally, a couple of weeks ago, when I got a call from the infirmary about a crucifix they needed, I asked, "How's Sr. Diane?" "Not good." "I should come see her." "Better make it quick." Thank our good God I went the next day. She was in a bed but talkative and sassy just the way I loved her. We talked about the old days and about the store and my kids and of course, my poor husband. She struggled with her breathing but seemed to enjoy our last time together.
Sr. Diane was always teaching me, always challenging me, always pushing me whether with sharp comments or cold, blank stares. She wanted me to give and to get something more and we understood one another. She was bold and brass and didn't hold back on what she thought. She taught me off and on for 37 years in and out of the classroom and I couldn't be more grateful for the times we were together. She made me laugh and I will truly miss her.
May her soul rest in peace.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On the Journey

One week ago today I was setting up a store inside a small house at the base of the hill that led to Living Waters Retreat Center and then farther up to St. Margaret Catholic Church. After 5 hours of unloading books and putting together clothing racks and hanging chasubles and albs and displaying chalices and mass kits and pictures and crucifixes, I was exhausted but my "store" looked wonderful. The next morning I woke early enough to go back to the store and fine tune a few things and then hike up to Mass. As I huffed and puffed up the hill to church, I had to stop half way to catch my breathe. The hill was steeper than I expected and the need to stop and look out at the incredible view of the surrounding mountains was quite the reward. The leaves were turning and the mountains were developing their patch-work quilt covering. The crisp morning air actually made my throat hurt as I gasped. "I'm fat and out of shape" I thought with each possible last deep breathe. No breakfast had left me light-headed but after a few moments I continued, finding my way to the top, to the church, to the view from above. I fully expected to see a church filled with priests and it wasn't until after Mass when I stopped by the office for a schedule that I realized their Mass was at 10:00. But, what a wonderful Communion Service with the deacon presiding. There were 4 men, the deacon with an altar boy and two in the pews, with us seven women. Eleven people. Was this normal?
I had no idea but what was unusual, or amazing, were the words from my morning prayer in the Magificat that met me in that pew in that church in those mountains of Maggie Valley, NC.

"Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. We are a pilgrim people, journeying through the varied landscapes of life, on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us travel light, unburdened by useless baggage - material or spiritual - and sing this pilgrim psalm to the God who has given us such a glorious goal in life."

And in the personal intentions, "...let us rejoice in the springs of living water which refresh us on our way."

All I could do for three days was just sit and drink it all in. God is good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Careful, People Do Read These

I sat last week in our church between my daughter and my friend Ellen at the funeral of one amazing man. My friend Ellen leaned over and told me how much she enjoys my blogs. I thanked her thinking to myself, ahhh! a reader. How nice! A family filed into the pew in front of us and as the boy knelt I leaned over to Ellen and pointing to the back of his suit coat simply said, "Clip that." The young man had left the white thread that held together the slit on the lower part of the back of his navy jacket and from further review I noticed the large paper tag was still on one sleeve. Ellen leaned back and simply said, "Just keep your eyes down." Okay! Okay! I had just posted about curbing curiosity and not lifting my eyes except to help another or to ask for help. Touche! I'd like to say that I was trying to help but really I was wondering how no one in that family had noticed the thread and the tag! I smiled and thought immediately how we who write or even sometimes just speak truly put ourselves out there and how we have to be careful to practice what we preach or at least try to practice. I loved that Ellen reminded me of my own words and what I had said I was going to work on for my own spiritual growth. So, I say to all who write or teach or parent or preach, "be careful", people really do listen and read and take notice and expect.