Category Archives: Faith

All Saints Day

All Saints

St. Zita, Bl. Luke the Contrary, St. George, St Ursula (All Saints Day, 2006)

It’s impossible for me to celebrate All Saints Day without a deep sense of gratitude to my aunt Linda whose faith informed my own.

She introduced me to Mary in a way that made her seem motherly, approachable and real rather than holy and separate from us. I’ll always be grateful for that.

My aunt always had books on her shelf about certain favorite saints and the classic “Butler’s Lives of the Saints“. She also sent the kids books and cartoon videos about saints for Christmas and birthdays.

She loved hearing about how the kids celebrated feast days.

The kids were in charge of planning and preparing lunch (sometimes dinner-woot woot) on feast days.

Not gonna lie, the “feasts” looked a lot like “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”. Popcorn, toast or cheese sandwiches and Kraft macaroni and cheese when they got older (there was a lot of cheese going on). Just about anything they could handle on their own.

Thinking about it, there were probably just a couple of things on the table but back then, it seemed to take hours and looked like a real party on the kitchen table and everyone dug in like it was the last supper (pun intended). They used the good dishes because they were special occassions.

To all the Saints whose intercession I implored over the years….Thank you! For any new Saints in heaven (wink, wink) Pray for us! We love you!

Crisis Mode

hospital-room

I WISH Mark’s room had a desk like that!

Mark blew out both knees last week. He’s a full-time tennis teaching pro. Yes, that’s his real job.

Truth be told, I can’t believe something like this hasn’t happened before this. He really wasn’t doing anything nutty or risky. He’s pretty conservative because his joints have always ached. He dislocated both shoulders before he graduated from college. Plus, teaching on a hard surface 8-10 hours a day for 30 years might lead to some wear-and-tear.

Here’s how I react to crisis:

My brain goes into hyper-efficiency lock-down. Do the bare minimum. Prune the unimportant, take care of only what’s necessary. The kids are at an age where they’re pretty self-sufficient and can help each other get where they need to go. I also have lots of family and good friends around who can help. (S/O to my brother John who took care of details at home when it happened).

The other thing my brain does which makes me hopeful and positive is to think about how much worse things could have been. In a weird, backwards way, it helps me be grateful even in what seems like a catastrophe.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

  1. Mark had just returned from taking Luke to a tournament in Boston. He easily could have been walking fast or running for a flight and this could have happened. I can’t imagine how traumatized Luke would have been on top of managing this type of crisis long distance.
  2. I’m glad it happened at work because…worker’s comp.
  3. I’m grateful I don’t have the stress of managing a job outside the house on top of this.
  4. I’m grateful I didn’t get the car crash call or the heart-attack-on-the-court call.
  5. My mom can care for my aunt at her house while we get our bearings again. That means Mark has a hospital bed and a bathroom on the first floor because he won’t be able to bear weight on either leg for a while. My brain hasn’t quite caught up to that concept but we’ll deal with it.
  6. Mark ran up to our cabin by himself the weekend before this happened to take care of some things. It’s remote and even if he remembers to take his phone with him, reception is sketchy. The nearest neighbor is not visible through the woods. Shudder.
  7. Most surgeons haven’t seen a bilateral rupture of this type but it is repairable and they’re confident that he will be better than he ever was.

So, that’s how my brain works. You might think it’s pathetic denial but I’m sticking with it. It has given me a better outlook on what’s ahead.

Why I Care for My Elderly Aunt at Home

How to care for elderly relative

The only thing I expected from my (maybe impulsive) decision to invite my 78 year old aunt to live with my family was the unexpected.

The only thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t proceed without substantial amounts of Grace (as in from God). I also knew that I couldn’t possibly envision what changes it would bring. It might be the scariest thing I ever did willingly. I refused to focus on that, though and trusted that each day would be o.k. That’s how I continue to approach it.

This kind of move happens when you simply don’t want to see a person suffer.

I barely consulted my husband who has been incredibly supportive and trusted that I could make it work.

My mom and I flew by the seat of our pants and put a plan together in a matter of what seemed like minutes but in reality was about two weeks. That term “plan” is used in the loosest sense possible. I should give credit here to my cousin who, in the eye of the crisis, helped my mom formulate the plan to get my aunt admitted to the hospital then hopefully to therapy to give us time to get ready in Pittsburgh.

Truth is, you can’t plan for this.

Rosaries

Familiar Rosaries on a familiar table

You can only manage as you go.

You can only try make the best decisions possible… with the facts at hand… as they relate to the primary person(s) and go from there. The information can change daily or hourly and you adjust (as best you can).

Here are some of the facts:

1. I love my aunt and she needed help.

2. She was unable to care for herself (personally or financially). When she was admitted to the hospital (after a minor fall out of bed which only resulted in a lost big toenail), she was severely dehydrated, had a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, open raw sores on her belly and a heart situation likely related to her compromised health. In short, she was a hot mess and likely wouldn’t have survived more than a few days or a week without intervention. To be honest, we knew she had declined considerably over the winter but having been independent her entire life, navigating the intervention stage was tricky. How do you convince someone who feels fine that she really isn’t? The signs were there but it was a delicate matter broaching the subject and our concerns. That minor fall was what saved her. Proof positive that what seems terrible can be a blessing in disguise.

3. I have the space in my house because we recently rearranged things here to allow my getting-bigger family to spread out a little. This recent rearrangement repurposed a living room into a bedroom on the main floor…perfect for Aunt Linda-NO STEPS!

4. I don’t work outside the home which gives me the flexibility to make things work as best I can. It’s tricky but we’ve managed so far. Sure, my life has changed drastically (and I knew it would, I just wasn’t sure HOW). I’ve tried to make the transition as easy on Mark and the kids as possible. They all have been supportive and in spite of the sacrifices, are glad that she’s here and safe.

5. I love my aunt like a 2nd, (3rd, 4th) mother (I’ve been blessed with many women who have mothered me-including my own “Mummy”).

6. She deserves to be taken care of.

7. She still knows me (It would be hard to take care of her if she were scared of me and didn’t really know me or the family).

8. She’s not mean. (I don’t know that I could bring a mean person into the house, even if the meanness was due to dementia).

9. She still knows and loves my children (in particular, she is smitten with my youngest, who’s only too happy to have the extra audience-God Help Us!-Sorry future wife). In spite of her short-term memory loss, she is very engaged and engaging (much improved since she’s been here) and is very interested in the kids’ comings and goings and enjoys their company.

10. My mom lives three houses away. (A big factor in my thought process), so does my cousin, the nurse.

11. My 4 brothers and 2 other cousins (who also love her like a mother) live in the same town or close by.

12. My mom couldn’t manage her sister’s care from 4 hours away. Believe me, she tried and it was exhausting-we made three or four trips in as many weeks and my mom ended up just staying for the duration of my aunt’s nursing home stay.

13. A nursing home wasn’t a good option when my home was available. My aunt was in one of the better ones and it was short-staffed. In 3 short weeks she became nighttime incontinent. Luckily I was able to convince her to wake me through the night to regain it but it was just one effect of understaffing. You always have the risk that a few employees can be rude or indifferent-even one of my aunt’s friends who volunteers there admitted that there were a few bad eggs. That’s intolerable in any situation but especially with a person as vulnerable as my aunt was.

14. This aunt should be canonized. (I tease her every time I cut her toenails or fingernails that I’m collecting relics- she laughs every time I say it-except when I draw blood then she tells me I’m making relics. Jokes never get old to a person with short- term memory loss).

So, those are the facts which led to the quick turn of events that resulted in moving my aunt into our home.

I didn’t anticipate how much I would worry about her minor health issues. When a kid gets a cold, the coughing might keep you awake at night, not necessarily the worry that it might lead to pneumonia.

I didn’t anticipate the resistance by some to a plan to place a never-married, 78 year old woman with no children of her own in a loving home surrounded by family that she still knows rather than a nursing home 4 hours away from that family.

The one person who I expected the most resistance from, a lifelong friend whose life would change the most drastically by the move and who is dealing with her own crisis was and continues to be so selfless and supportive, I am still humbled by it.

I find myself balancing options and outcomes often. A good life lesson.

I try to remember what I did expect when this plan began to formulate:

I thought there was a good possibility that my aunt would be bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound (thankfully she’s not).

I didn’t know whether removing her from her home would add to her confusion. We tried to minimize that by decorating her room with things from her own home. Even a few furniture pieces fit.

Since my aunt spent her days for the previous two to three years sitting at her table watching TV, reading spiritual books or praying for people, I thought she would be doing that here.

As it turns out, Aunt Linda spends very little time in her room, which I think is great but also adds an element of responsibility to keep her occupied and engaged.

Since my aunt spent no time outside, I didn’t expect that she would enjoy sitting on my back porch so much. Thankfully, the summer has been relatively temperate (even cool) and it’s her favorite place to be. She can see my mom’s place from there and she loves to see her white head bobbing down the walk toward our porch.

One challenge has been her need for companionship. I just didn’t expect it since she’s lived by herself her entire adult life. When someone isn’t visiting, I feel responsible to keep her company most days. The kids are also around and will visit with her. I know it isn’t absolutely necessary and she understands that I have things to do but I think it brings her a measure of security so I accept it and am grateful that I don’t have many obligations that take me away from the house for long periods of time. Also, when I think of the alternative (worrying and trying to visit her in a nursing home here or 4 hours away), I’d much rather have her here.

Overall, I’m happy to report that she is much more alert and lucid than she’s been for a couple of years. A few people have commented that they feel like she’s back to her old self (before any signs of dementia were apparent) and I agree. She’s witty, alert, engaged, thoughtful and I’m getting into the habit again of asking for her advice. When I run something by her, the answers have been thoughtful and spot-on.

The rythym of our days has added enough variety to hers that there’s something worth remembering. The relatively constant stream of visitors has also given her a life of her own that’s worth remembering. Where two or more are gathered…she thinks it’s a party and she enjoys it. It’s even more fun when she can look forward to it (like when we celebrated “Hugh Twyman Day” along with Mark’s and my mom’s birthday last week).

I know her being here is divinely orchestrated and an incredible gift to our family. The hard parts (getting up through the night, the extra laundry, feeling responsible for her engagement and worrying about her health issues) haven’t really been that hard. I’m surprised that I’m not dead tired all day but I’m not. I have an incredible support system and really feel that I can ask for ANYTHING I need. I promised everyone close to me that I would do that.

I’m learning so much about the dynamics and logistics of elder care that I hope to pass on some strategies and tips.

 

An Unforgettable and Wonderful Mother’s Day

Bringing Aunt Linda Home

Mom, Aunt Linda, Me

For the past month, my mom and I have been involved in the details of bringing her oldest sister to live with me. It has been an odyssey, to say the least, and a journey filled with grace, love and also some unexpected trials.

My mom and I didn’t do all the work. This was an effort that required many helping hands, including my cousin, Linda’s, who helped me pack, purge and organize 78 years of a full and blessed life into a minivan and a couple of cars in less than 48 hours and helped me get Aunt Linda’s car serviced to make the 4 hour trip safely so my mom didn’t have to try to deal with it. Linda also relieved me to stay overnight in the nursing home to reassure Aunt Linda when she couldn’t remember why or how long she would be there. My mom couldn’t have done it and by the time my mom returned for the duration of the rehab stay, my aunt was able to make it through the nights unafraid (as long as my mom was returning in the morning).

My brothers were ready to bring Aunt Linda home at a moment’s notice. Including my youngest brother, John, who ended up making the round trip with my youngest son, Mark, and my mom’s roommate to help my mom on the 4 hour drive.

I have been blessed by many mothers in my life. My own mom has always been a model of strength, courage, patience and unconditional love. She only confirmed that these past few weeks and it’s been so nice to make this happen together. This transition has the mark of divine orchestration all over it. Most notably in Aunt Linda’s acceptance of the move in spite of the sudden life change and having to leave behind her lifelong friend who is facing her own crisis from a fall.

I’ll write more about Aunt Linda another time as I really don’t want to forget some parts of this journey (like the selflessness of the above-mentioned friend).

One treasure Linda (the cousin) and I stumbled upon were decades worth of letters, notes, report cards, school photos, drawings and the like that anyone sent her over the years. I have a stack from my immediate family (and children). They’re adorable, hilarious, genuine and sometimes heart-breaking (like a couple from my brothers on the back of collection letters).

Although Aunt Linda lived away from us our entire lives, she loved us well. We’re all so happy to return that love by caring for her since she’s unable to manage on her own any longer.

Happy Mother’s Day! I know mine is!

 

Immaculee’

I’ve written before about Immaculee’ Ilibagiza, the woman who survived the Rwandan holocaust in a 4 X 4 bathroom with 7 other women for almost 4 months while nearly everyone in her immediate family was murdered. It’s an incredible story and if you haven’t read “Left to Tell“, you should. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Just kidding.

I’ve read all of her books and am looking forward to reading her latest, The Rosary The Prayer That Saved My Life. For whatever reason I haven’t picked it up yet but I’m so thrilled to be able to buy it tonight and get it signed by Immaculee’. She’s speaking at a local church and I was lucky (blessed) enough to reserve 2 tickets. I’ve seen her speak before but Mark hasn’t and cancelled a few lessons to go along with me.

If you ever get a chance to hear her speak in person, you should go. Whether your Catholic or not, her story is incredible and her faith is inspiring.

 

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase on Amazon through the links, I’ll make a small commission at no additional cost to you. I appreciate it.

 

Triduum

The Last Supper by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli

I’ve been quiet here during Holy Week. I’ve been trying to post more regularly just to get myself to write, not this week, though.

Holy Thursday will always be different than it used to be. Last year, my dad had a stroke on the Saturday before Holy Week and passed away on Thursday. I was so comforted that he died during the holiest of times. We were grateful for the break before the funeral busyness. So today I’ll be thinking about him more than usual I guess. I miss him.

With his big brother, Jack, who passed away 6 weeks later

Have a wonderful Easter.

Pope Francis I

We watched as the new pope was announced and then addressed the people. Did you catch the plenary indulgence for praying with or being blessed by the new pope?

I am enjoying learning about him, I’m encouraged. My first impression was that he seemed gentle and humble and that’s being confirmed by reports of his beginnings and his leadership in Buenos Aires.

Take a minute to watch this interview by Cardinal Timothy Dolan with reporters after the election.

 

Lent-Trying Something

This photo has nothing to do with the post. I’m shamelessly poaching Hannah’s photography because I prefer blog posts with photos.

Hi, you two (or three maybe). I’m determined to use this blog to keep me writing and to help me be accountable.

I am trying something for Lent. Inspired by Elizabeth Foss, (scroll down to crafting in the kitchen and you’ll see her thoughts about making changes for herself while caring for a big family-comments are interesting, too). I’ve been reading about eating Paleo. What appeals to me about it is cutting out the sugar and grains and eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Cutting dairy does not appeal to me (I love cheese) and the meat! Yikes! I like meat but really think I could cut it out altogether and not miss it.

I’m still researching it and am not convinced that it’s entirely possible without access to clean meats and fish. I wouldn’t mind eating more fish but if all I can get is farm-raised or Asian caught, I’m not good with that. Grass-fed beef is possible but expensive and not readily available. I’m thinking the same thing for the fruits and veggies. I can’t buy totally organic but I’m thinking non-organic has to be better than boxed mac and cheese, right? I’m really thinking a limited amount of grains and dairy will be the right balance for me in the end.

Physically, I’m hoping that my rosacea calms down. My face actually hurts when it is full-blown and I’m wondering if this is an inflammatory reaction to grains. (I grew up with 4 boys and currently have a 14 year old one in the house so if you were going to say “Your face hurts me, too” or something along those lines…your hilarious). While I am not overweight, I am weak, stiff, achy and fearful of injury which keeps me from trying things like weight training, boot camps and spinning. Even when I walk, my hips ache afterward. My energy is pretty good, but I’ll accept any improvement in this area. I sleep really well, so that’s not an issue.

I’m not imposing this on anyone else in the family. I will cook for them as I usually do and try to modify my meals. Luke wants to try it, too. He is always hungry and filling that need with cereal, toast and things like Ramen noodles. He understands that none of those things is nutrient-dense. Mark is easing into a change. I completely get that. I refuse to be the Paleo police.

While Lent is not a time for superficial experimentation, it is a good framework for discipline and self-denial.  Although I don’t crave sweets, I do enjoy bread, cheese and pasta. We all agree that the biggest challenge will be a practical one. This change will take some planning and prep. I’ve only prepared for the first few days and only loosely. I feel like I can wing it for myself but not for Luke. He thought it would be more practical to eat grains when we’re not having some sort of seafood for dinner. I agree with that.

I had to jump back in here to add that the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday always admonishes against broadcasting a fast. I realize that posting this could be viewed as a violation of that guideline but that isn’t my intention. First of all, as I mentioned above, I think I only have a couple of readers. I wanted to put it out there as a way to hold myself accountable and record my reaction to this change if I have time. To the extent that I throw myself into the paleo conversation (pro or con), that’s fine, too. I think that might require a broader readership, though.

In addition to (sometimes instead of) giving something up for Lent (in this case sugar, grains, dairy, beer and wine and my sunny disposition-just kidding) I also try to add some spiritual practice. I’m looking forward to reading “Consoling the Heart of Jesus“based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Apparently, I’m supposed to be a Saint by the end of it. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Merry Christmas!

A dear retired priest celebrates Midnight Mass every year at our parish. His homilies are always succinct, relevant and meaningful. Tonight, he reminded us that the birth of Jesus brings light and hope to the world and to our lives. I appreciated having that to think about.

 

Us, too (St. Andrew Novena)

Hail-and-blessed

 

St. andrew

 

We’ve been praying this for about 4 years. I love the calm cadence of this prayer. Somehow,  the words make it very easy to meditate on circumstances of the Nativity. One of the kids made a chaplet similar to the sliding St. Terese’ sacrifice beads and sometimes we still use that to keep count of the 15. One of my favorite things is to begin the final chaplet on the way to midnight Mass and finish it on our way out in “piercing cold”. I’d love to hear stories of answered prayers. Join Elizabeth if you have any. Or you can comment here, too.

One thing I love about St. Andrew is that as an apostle of St. John the Baptist, he met Jesus before his brother, Peter. Having recognized him immediately as the Messiah, he introduced Peter to Jesus yet he must have humbly accepted Peter as the one chosen to lead the Church. I could be wrong, maybe Andrew did have a temper tantrum over it but I’m thinking not. Refreshing.