Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Years Resolutions

The year ends and a new one begins. Its time for resolutions. We went to a friend's party this evening as a family and on the way home I told the kids that usually when a new year begins people make resolutions. So here is what the kids came up with:

Stella - the big kids agreed that she is to learn to walk and talk in the new year.

Helena - she said she would get her own cereal bowl in the mornings

Ephraim - that he would get his own cereal bowl and spoon in the mornings,

Ben - To say Helena correctly.

And for the adults:

Keith: Read 20 books, blog 15 times

Kiera : journal or blog at least weekly. Read 20 books. Celebrate the little things more as I got the word Toast as my word of the year. I think this is a really good word for me as I need to work on thanksgiving more and this feels like it is in that realm. I also got the Saint Wenceslaus as my saint for the year so I am hoping to learn from him and to invoke his intercession often.

The kids love saints and so I think tomorrow I will generate a Saint for the year for each of them too. For those of you interested in a Saint name for the year or an inspirational word head here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I'm just going to write.

I originally wanted to keep this blog as a record for my daughters to look at and not feel alone in their motherhood when or if the time arrives.  At least perhaps in their adulthood, God willing. I have been having a lot of ideas pop into my head and then I would drop the ball when I got to writing. I even set a day and time to write and that just fell through.  But I want to write.  So I think for 2018, I will make it a goal to write at least twice a month. It can be about the day or what life is having me thinking about. A lot of times, what I wanted to write about I couldn't share on the internet so much because it was too new and well it involved loved ones so I didn't feel right.

So here goes, Christmas at home with the kids has been enjoyable. If I have any advice it's to have good inlaws. But seeing that you don't get to choose your inlaws, only your spouse. Well I pray that you have the grace of having some family or friends that surround you in love somehow. And that is what my inlaws are to me. I think its taken time and that the relationship has had its bits of strife but I think we are growing to understand one another in a way that its okay that we are different in how we carry out things but we still can be ourselves and laugh and love together.  Its good, and it makes for enjoyable Christmases and holidays all around.

And then today, today was a pajama day. The chaos of the outside world just didn't come into the house and instead we built with legos and played DDR and finished a movie and colored and just were. We made a cake for Jesus and Helena and Keith made cake pops with her cake pop maker and it was good. I think sometimes its really hard for me not to think of all the things to do in a day to keep a well oiled machine of a family going but today we just were in each other's presence and we all needed it. It was good.

I think that is all for now. If I try for more it won't get published, so here goes. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A few attempts at mini podcasts

About 10 years ago,  we podcasted under the name, The Contranauts, this is our attempt at a revamp in a different style.  There's less equipment needed these days and we are dull learning the ropes of it all.  So polished we are not.  But its fun so I think we will keep it up. 
Here's our first two official 5 minute segments.
"On why this podcast is called Squall and Lucy" on Anchor:

"Where we recommend the book The Secret Horses of Briar Hill" on Anchor:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Post holiday visit

I keep starting posts but never finishing them. So here's to hoping this one actually gets completed. I went to my childhood home for the Thanksgiving holiday. I hadn't been there fore 2 years. That isn't a huge amount of time in the realm of life, but at the same time, that's a good chunk of time. I needed the break and I'm glad I took it and can now come to things returning to the place of my childhood with a new perspective.  I don't need things from there that I once thought I did and that helps a lot. It just took a long time to get there, but I think I needed that as well.

My oldest child is such a dynamic child. He can be intense and he can drive one crazy quickly if you aren't up for all he has to give. However, at the same time he has the absolute biggest heart and just does everything to the fullest. He is unabashedly himself and I give him props for being so. When it came to this holiday, he was stoked about the whole thing. He would have time with cousins, he would get gifts, he would have time with his aunts and uncles and grandparents.  He would have free reign of a large yard in the country, something we don't have in the city so much.

He ate every single minute of it up when we were visiting despite having a terrible lingering cough that just would not go away. He did have a few setbacks when he didn't get what he was wanting in his Christmas at Thanksgiving gifts until very late in the gift giving, but still I cheered him on.  I knew that he had inherited my terrible gift recipient trait, darn extreme honesty and wearing our heart on the sleeve bites us in the butt here.

On the last night there, he was pretty quiet on the car ride back to our hotel we were staying at due to overcrowding in my parents house and my middle guy's severe allergies to dust mites and pets. I asked him if he was okay. He said he was having a lot of feelings at the moment. He then said he didn't think it was worth it to come all this way to just have to go home again and that he was just so sad about doing so. I said it was okay to be sad and that this sadness comes from your love for these people. And that's actually a very big thing. I gave him a hug and he was just sad for a little while, but like the sanguine he was he was able to go to bed happy and it didn't dampen breakfast the next morning with his relatives either.

It's interesting watching your child grow from being thing oriented to caring about spending time with others. I know he's still little, only being 7, but sometimes I feel like he's got a bit of an old soul and its interesting how it comes out in things like this. It makes me realize that its such a gift of grace to have him be part of my life. That maybe I could learn a bit more from him if I stopped and pondered who God made and is making him to be. Perhaps I could use a little more enthusiasm like him instead of my cynicism, and perhaps my heart could just be a little bigger and see more of the good in people like he does. I am truly thankful for this opportunity to be his mom.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Baby struggles

I think sometimes I am more high strung than I give off being. I guess its because I have a lot of balls to juggle and really mostly by the grace of God I do okay. But I am currently struggling. And I know in the realm of things its a minor struggle, so I'm not saying that its tragic, but instead its simply where I am at.  I remember when I starting this blog I wanted to be more candid about things, but then I realized that people were reading and I became self conscious. But I want to be authentic, so here goes.

You would think that by baby number four that I would have this baby thing down. But most days I don't feel that way. I will factor it under the each child is different and they really are. I want to say that this little lady is like Ephraim, but then she's not. She's completely herself.  I've been frustrated lately with her not being able to go along with the big kid chaos that surrounds her. Any time I take her out of the house, she refuses to nurse. So I can't be gone long and the big kids kind of require being out longer than a few hours sometimes. She also refuses to nap solo yet, so teaching some days is tricky. And if I take her out to an event that has a lot of people, well she kind of freaks out.  Sometimes she will simply pass out amongst the chaos when she's just had enough. Church is probably the one place that she likes because its rhythmical and methodical, so if she gets fussy in the pew as long as I'm standing with her in the back she's usually okay with it.

And the thing is that I love this baby girl so very much. She is sweet and is the best cuddler, I guess what I am saying is that I am struggling to figure out how I can best serve her needs and also everyone else's needs. Some things we have learned to be creative about, she seems to love (or at least not mind) to hear stories being read and so we read or listen to audio books a lot, and this goes over well with the big kids too. Recently she has transitioned to being back carried and if out will take a nap for me if she is on my back. She won't nurse when out, but we make sure we nurse as soon as we return. As for getting out, outside things or people's houses work best.

Today's homily was talking about humility and children have definitely helped me with humility. I know pride runs deep in me, I want to prove that I can do it and be who I need to be in any situation. But kids, they are helping me to see that it isn't me who is in charge. Most everything and everyone is out of my control. I don't get to say if I will have an easy baby or a more challenging one. I can't predict if everyone will be in a good mood or a bad mood that day or if we will have lots of joy or lots of tears. I can't know that my child is going to blurt out about someone being pregnant that is not one bit pregnant or if someone is fat or thin or short or tall.

Honestly, I am glad I am not in control because I am an awful manager. I feel like the only way my kids learn anything is by the grace of God or that it was innately in them. I am their guide and I am trying to get them to heaven, but wow do I suck at it on my own. On my own me is mean and yells and get frustrated easily. On my own me wants to give up when its hard.

So I surrender that this baby is going to be who I want her to be and instead be who she is meant to be. Somehow I am learning and growing into God wants me to be being her mama.  I know she is an amazing child of God and that she is growing well in her own way despite me and my failures. I know she won't always be so needy and I'll miss it. I am praying for the grace to be the best mom I can be for her and to have joy in doing it. I've been grumpy for too long trying to fit her into a square peg when she is definitely a star. And that star peg is beautiful, I pray I don't miss the chance to really see it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

He's SIX!

I wrote this on an Instagram post.

And we have a six year old! Buddy, you bring us so much joy with your enthusiasm and your creativity. We never know what you will invent or make next. You get an idea and follow through to the end. You are determined to be the fastest and aren't afraid to try new things. Happy 6th birthday, Ephraim Gerard!

I would say its all very true. There are things that just appear with this one, like, lets make a paddle out of a stick and duct tape or we apparently needed a tree on our wall for some scenery because there it was. A profile of Mario is methodically made out of Lego bricks or a map of the local aquarium is drawn out in scroll form. My hope that his creativity never goes away we appreciate it despite never knowing where the scissors or tape are in the house without an inquiry from Ephraim. 

He has the biggest heart for his baby sister, probably because everyone tells him he looks like her and he loves that someone is like him.  He will make the silliest of noises or a crazy stunt and make Stella laugh uncontrollably.  There is definitely a neat bond there that I hope matures with time and lasts for the rest of your lives. 

You pick up things quickly but can be fierce in resistance when its something you don't want to do. You are adventuresome in what you do as you declared to me yesterday that you touched 10 sting rays at the touch tank while I turned up my nose at the fish scrap infested waters. You keep us moving and you are always up for a good race. You even are willing to rise early to voluntarily watch your mama play soccer at 8am and then also be the ball boy on top of that. 

May you never stop running a million miles an hour or creating worlds upon worlds. 

We love you so much Ephraim Gerard! Here's to another awesome year in store for you!

Photo credit : Grace Lyons

Photo Credit : Grace Lyons

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Maybe I'm not entirely broken anymore

So, I don't have it all together. I really don't. I may seem to flawlessly take on the job of mama with four kids that home schools, but there are many bumps and bruises along the way. Last week we spent most of it being sick, this week it seems we are recovering, though at the same time we are still not 100%.

I think what I'm referring to is that right now, I don't feel like I am at a place of a major breakthrough or drama piece. Life is what it is, I'm not in near mourning and I'm not figuring out what to do with a new baby, nor am I pregnant or trying to piece together something huge of what I thought was but isn't or even planning for a crazy excursion. Instead I've got ho hum life going on, and its wonderful and messy and I yell probably way more than I should about doors being left open and legos being within the baby's reach. I think I'm learning what it is to be in a routine and to see who I am when I'm not in crisis. I am still chock full of sin and I can't hold my tongue to save my life, but I think its nice to be here in this brief lull of everyday business.

I have been doing a lot of forming the community that I need around me in the last 7 or so years, or however many I've been in this house, which I think technically is now 8 years (Wow! Time is going fast). I say that because I think I had to learn that because I couldn't really count on my past being my current social set up. I had to create the community I needed. I had to be the one to make calls to set up play dates, sift through the dead ends, form groups and just say hello or linger to listen when a person had something to say. And while I know really this wasn't me doing it, but God's grace and the abilities he gave me to do so, but I know I still had to say yes and be open to whatever his will was for me.

There have been moments where I wasn't my finest or was completely awkward in everything I said or did, but thing is, people didn't give up on me. So maybe I am not so terrible as I tell myself. Perhaps I am a little bit likable and not maybe the pretentious know it all that I see as myself. Or maybe that is the sinful me but the me that lets grace be part of her can be pretty okay. Whatever I may be, I am thankful for this journey and I'm thankful to be here in tis place with this husband and four kids of mine if full reality that the only chaos I can control is to keep kids out of the road and perhaps keep the lego bricks away from the baby for another day.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

When to slow down

Today we went apple picking. It was late in the season so the apples were scarce, but overall it was an enjoyable experience. However, my oldest went along and he really shouldn't have.  Because when he got home I checked him out as having a 102 deg F fever. The thing is, I didn't realize he was not doing well until we were almost there, and at that I just thought he had got the cold the majority of us had had last week that seemed to be lingering in parts. I was the event planner for this event for the homeschool group, so I needed to be there, at least with that late of notice. I limited what he had to do, and his brother was a super helper with helping me cart B around and being adventuresome despite circumstances. And when he got home B fell asleep for a good hour and then he actually seemed much better after resting.

So who knows what it was, but I felt bad for having him out, even though I didn't know beforehand and I probably should have just gone home. I guess perhaps I struggle at knowing where to draw the line. Fever is usually it, but he wasn't acting feverish all morning and he decided he wanted to go. He would have been allowed to stay home with his dad because he works from home now, and so it would have been okay. But he went. I guess I need to stop beating myself up about perhaps not the best decision, to stay, but also that I couldn't predict what happened. What would friend me say to me? That I didn't know, that he seemed okay in the morning before we went, that the fresh air was going to be good for us.

The rest of us enjoyed picking apples, my middle guy enjoyed it the most because he could climb the trees as high as he wanted. My middle girl enjoyed climbing as well and S enjoyed sitting amongst the orchard. Next time we go apple picking remind me to go in September as apparently that is the best time for it. It somehow seems off though because of the fall connotation to apples, but oh well. Goodnight.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Weekly writing

I have been reading the book, "She's Still There" by Crystal Evans Hurst. And its amazing. I think honestly if you frame it right it can help you to work towards bettering any situation if you have the intention that you want it to be better and are willing to do something about it. I picked it up under an Elizabeth Foss recommendation and because well I do sometimes think that I have lost me along the way of the craziness of life. Let me tell you, its held up to its esteemed recommendation.

I know everyone seems to be talking about self-care these days, and I think this was one of my means of achieving how to know how to do that for me. There are the usual healthful diet and regular exercise, of which I try to adhere to, where I struggle is with up keeping regular habits that are beneficial in thought so as to change the outlook of things around me.

So in trying to figure that out, I realize that writing helps me tremendously in my mood and I had gotten away from it for so very long. I blamed the baby and the homeschooling and just about everything. I guess I wasn't really ready to own up to the fact that I needed it. But I finally decided that this was my one habit that I needed to continue and so here I am.

As for today, today I'll tell you how my children truly amaze me. I shared on twitter how the children decided to make a lemonade stand this afternoon. And they did it. They cleaned my drink pitcher, they made the lemonade, they made a sign with the price and product, they hauled out the table and chairs, they found the cups to distribute and they even brought out extra quarters for change. They did this all while I was hauled up in my bedroom with the nursling that wouldn't let me go. Their dad was nearby watching from a far, but still, they did it all by themselves. It made my mama heart proud.

Apparently, Ephraim "read" a book that featured a lemonade stand in it, so he then got the idea and carried it out. This guy has a born initiative that I did not teach him and I love it. It seems to work well with his brother's personality that smooths out the kinks with the conversing with people and the knowing the exact proportions of things. But honestly I am still amazed. They actually had customers too. And Helena told me that she said thank-you and she said that customer was like Maui and said "You're Welcome".  Her little personality makes us laugh so much at times.

Tomorrow is Stellamaris's feast day, so we shall see what that brings. Sweet dreams.

Cincinnati reflections part 3

I realize its been months since we took our trip to Cincinnati, but I think I am a slow processor. I would not work well as the latest iPhone model for sure. I'm more like my 4 year old android holder phone that has to be poked 5 or more times to load a page.

I may have touched on this all before, but one thing I think Cincinnati did for me was stretch me in my thoughts of how we live. I used to think that since I lived in the city that I was an urban dweller, but really I still have a yard and a driveway and a whole house to myself. My kids don't have to go to a park to play outside they can run around in the yard or just walk to a neighbors house around the corner. When we were there I realized that even though this is the city of Cleveland, we are still spread out a ton. There is so much freedom and green here and I appreciate that immensely because of my experience. Now if we could only get rid of the mosquitoes so I could go outside and not be bitten 5 times in 5 minutes we'd be good. But we do live in a city that doesn't have a budget for that and in the end that's okay.

When we came back we were actually sad that we couldn't walk to everything, that things just felt more car oriented here and it was a bit of a letdown. But maybe we were also more adventurous when there and honestly Over the Rhine isn't as easily maneuverable by car as here is. There are a lot more smaller streets and a lot more one ways there, while Old Brooklyn, despite its million pot holes is pretty driver friendly. It's also pretty bike friendly too, and that we appreciate living here and liking to bike.

I am going to say that I may say this all very badly because I don't usually talk about race on the blog, but one of the major learning things from being where we were in the city compared to where we normally live was that we were no longer the majority race. My kids noticed it right away, and it called to mind that whole issue of being color blind. We really aren't color blind. Being different colors doesn't make one of us better than the other, but we are different colors. So my kids noticed that. And I think it was good for me to have to discuss that with them. I think also, even though I consider myself not to be prejudice about someone of a different color, I think I had to come to grips with what my comfort level was with being around people that were different than me. I think I learned that part of me was scared, and I needed to adjust that and get over it. My kids on the other hand made friends with whomever would willingly play with them and that pretty much meant everyone at the playground that was willing to run circles with them or run the slides backwards. My oldest even made friends with the playground attendant because she was super friendly, to him it never seems to matter if someone is different. He's going to ask you about those differences and in that form a bond with you in doing so.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


I'm 34 officially today. I think overall it was a good little day. The kids were sweet in their birthday moments of wrapping up toys of theirs (H), making me a lego creation (B), or creating a print card (E), or sleeping better finally (S). But even if these graces didn't happen, it was just a good day. I think I realized that one of the things I really enjoy is baking with my kids. So we made some brownies from scratch together and just made them be our celebration cake.

I also went to the craft store, which is another favorite of mine, and I enjoyed that a lot. I like art and making things. Even though I don't think I have the time or talent to be an Etsy shop lady, I do enjoy it. Honestly, its my favorite thing in the world to get a kiwi crate with kids and just see what they create. 

My children, are well, themselves. Helena is loud and emotional about a lot of things and today was no exception. She fought playing soccer with her team, even though she begged to play with her brother last spring. If I ran around with her, and this meant with a baby in the Boba, she would do it, but otherwise she flailed. And maybe this means she's a bit young to be playing, and probably she is. But I think to some extent it's good that its hard for her and even if she gets 30% of what's intended out of it, that is something. (That's her in the pic running in that orange flash.) 

I think its hard to be everything she needs. She's in this phase of I can't. And I wish she wasn't, but she is. I think its her wanting more of me because she has a baby sister that gets a lot of attention and her brother's get a lot of attention with their schooling. I try to make a point to take special walks with her, but sometimes that's not enough and she wants more. And I get that, I do. Sometimes its just hard to give. I do want her to know she is loved though, and I hope she does. 

And I didn't mean for that to be about H but that was where my mind was. I think a lot about my relationships with my girls, just because my own relationship with my own mom is a struggle at times. I want these girls of mine and my boys too, to know they are loved just the way they are. And for some odd reason birthdays make me think of this. 

So here's to 34. I'm hoping for more patience and more I love yous. I am praying for more peace in my restless heart. I want to remember more that I am okay and it's going to be okay. And just to smile at noticing the little things, the way the kids play together, the way the flowers grow, the way my husband walks down a street to meet our crazy crew when we've been at the neighbors. 34, I'm ready. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A terrible blogger I am..

I haven't been blogging lately. I've been journaling more and that's okay. For me it's hard to be able to be open about a lot of my stuff that I am going through currently because well it's other people oriented and while I will share with you in person, I'm not sure the it needs to be documented on the internet just now.

I remember in a blogging conference about 2 years ago that the one presenter said that no one is balanced and that occasionally you have to drop a ball. And as long as its not something that is essential that its okay to do. I think that's me right now, I think with the baby I am just not able to keep up with this blog right now and that's got to be okay. I mean it is okay. It may be dissappointing but I'm living life as full as I can and trying to not sacrifice sleep over these extra things.

I wanted to talk more about our Cincy trip, but I just didn't get to do it, and again that's okay. Just know that it was excellent and stretching and we hope to do another month trip next year. I think Indianapolis is the front contender for us to live. Anyone live nearby that would like to visit?

Photo credit: 

I want to end with a reflection that I had yesterday post confession.  As I was looking up at the cross, I just kept looking. I guess you could say that I was staring but in thought I guess too. Our church has a crucifix that is centered behind the alter and then has golden beams coming from behind it. It made me think of how tragic and how terrible the cross was really. We think about how terrible anyone innocent dying is, and we cry. And then we think of Jesus dying, completely innocent, dying for us. I mean the actual dying, the suffering is pretty terrible. And yet from that is light, from that is something greater, that we can be redeemed. And maybe I needed that yesterday because there is a lot of heavy in life, and a lot of suffering and a lot of just yuck. But there is light and there is hope through it all. I think I need to remember that, and maybe you do too.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cincinnati Part 2

So uprooting the family for a month wasn't all fun and games, there was definitely a learning curve and I felt it a lot that first week. We had to learn how to deal without a yard and how deal with less space and less things.  We had to learn the best way to get around the neighborhood.  We had to learn what was the best place for us to go to as family just to get energy out as my three bigger kids have a lot of it. And we had to get used to just a more urban living style than we were used to in Cleveland.

Surprisingly, we didn't actually eat out more than a few times there in an actual restaurant.  But honestly, our family isn't in an eating out in a restaurant state.  We have a baby that barely lets you sit down and a toddler who doesn't really eat full meals and bigger kids that get restless if there isn't somewhere to run immediately after eating.  So we did eat out I think 4 times, and one of those was to Jimmy Johns. We did however, do a decent amount of take out, much more than we would normally because we usually like to keep the budget in tact on a normal month, but we wanted to experience the food the city had to offer, so we did.  I'd like to say I had a particular favorite, but I think we are dessert people so Holtman's Donuts on Vine, and Graeter's Ice Cream, Green Man Twist and Brezel were our favorites for sure. Maybe its just that its easier to do a treat from a shop and eat it in the park for us that these were our destinations of choice.

Being where we were a grocery store like we were used to wasn't in the neighborhood.  There was a small Kroger however, and an open market.  The open market was great for fresh produce and we used it often for that, and fresh baked bread. I think my one regret was not using the open market more for things like meat and cheeses. I have a routine to shop on Mondays and the market was closed on that particular day each week. A lot of things were closed Mondays in Cincy, it was interesting learning that for sure. I probably could have broken my routine, but for some larger buys we checked out Jungle Jim's or went across the river to Newport, KY to where a newer shopping area, containing all the standard box like stores, was.

Something that we looked for right away being the practicing Catholics that we were, was a church to worship in for Sundays. We ended up trying four different churches, there were at least 5 within walking distance of 20 minutes or less, so about 1 mile or less radius of where we were. The first Sunday we ended up at St. Francis Seraph, which was church attached to a friary. It was the closest church to us so we figured why not. Ben enjoyed it the most because there was little boy the exact same age as him and he is a people person to the max. I was sad there wasn't any kneelers in the pews anymore, though the church besides that was beautiful architecturally. The next week we ended up at the cathedral St. Peter in Chains, it was a Saturday mass so it was low key and not very chatty parishioners, but again a beautiful building. The third week we ended up at Old St. Mary's which was by far our favorite church, and we realized that we had attended here a year ago on our passing through.  This time, however, we attended a mass in German.  I thought of my dear friend who just moved to Germany the whole time and how we really are a universal church being Catholic. I highly recommend this parish if you are ever in Cincinnati for a Sunday and need a place to go to mass. The last church we checked out we actually drove to, because it came recommended in its beauty by a friend.  But honestly, I don't think we saw an ugly church the whole time. There was so much richness in the architecture of the churches there, architecture nerd me was pleased to say the least. The last church was called Mother of God Catholic church and it was in Covington, KY. It was covered with art on the inside and was gorgeous, we even had a Stellamaris sighting in it. The only thing I wished we were able to do was go to the earlier mass because somehow we ended up with a contemporary mass, which when Catholics do contemporary means its 1980's all the way with he music. It really didn't fit the grandness of the place and I kept thinking about the great organ not be touched while the guitars in the front took its place.

So I'll leave it at that. Tomorrow is our tenth anniversary, so I'll want to post on that for sure. Peace.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cincinnati part 1

Here goes!
We decided to live in Cincinnati for a month. Keith had recently taken a fully remote job and well, we were planning on the adventure even before that happened. Keith has never lived outside Cuyahoga county in his 34 years of life, and I've lived in at least four different states and in multiple locations inside some of those states. We wanted a bit of adventure, but also more of an experience of something else, but my safe playing husband wasn't ready to pack up on a whim and move us all permanently just yet.

So we settled on a one month stay on the edge of the Over the Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. Basically I searched for AirBNBs that could house a family of six in a walkable area. This was that. What I didn't know was the history of the area or really what it would be like. I tend to be a jumper in those things, my husband the opposite.

We had a three bedroom first floor apartment in an older row house. It probably was built mid 1800's. I'm a sucker for old houses so I loved it instantly, the uneven floors, the block door stops, the beauty of the street appeal of the brick. They modernized a good deal of the inside, which is fine, but the old charming bits are what I liked. Here's a tour of it all.

So we learned being on the edge of Over the Rhine, that this neighborhood is very divided between rich and poor and has a history of racial riots as well.. And where we were was the edge of the renaissance of the neighborhood at large. Many of the original housing structures were being preserved and renovated to be reused Amongst the renovations, they were creating government subsidized housing right next to much more pricey houses, though you really couldn't tell the difference, at least from the street view. It seemed like the people in the area weren't trying to completely gentrify everything but just make things more livable again. Within the area, there were many things that were made for all no matter what status in life one was. 

Originally our trip was to be a Sunday to Sunday thing, a full four weeks, or approximately a month. However, it got moved up a bit due to the job change and Keith needing to meet his co workers on retreat. They agreed to meet up in Cincinnati, so it just moved up departure by 4 days. Which all in all was fine. The only thing was I was completely on my own for those first three days. So it was the four kids and me, ages 7 through 2mos getting to know the city on our own. There was a sharp learning curve but we did it somehow, by the grace of God most likely. I packed the baby in the carrier and the middles in the stroller and Ben walked or scootered along.
Here are a few photos from those first few days, all from Smale Park on the riverfront.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thoughts from Stellamaris's baptism

On Sunday, Stellamaris was baptized into the Catholic Church. It felt good to have this little one be so celebrated in entering the church and being freed of original sin. But something else struck me with this baptism. The people present at it, all of them were with us through the heartache of the loss of our last year with Noel around this same time of year. They showed up, they showed up in ways I didn't know we needed, they brought meals and ice cream,  offered child care and cards, sat with us in dark moments and offered hugs and just patiently loved in so many ways.

And then on Sunday, they showed up again, this time in joy for a new baby that came as a surprise out of the heartache and they cerebrated with us. And it was good to have them there.

As I sat out on our patio at the party after the baptism, the same tree and bush were flowering that flowered in the grief of last year, the ones I clipped to make bouquets to put on Noel's grave last year. It had me remembering but at the same time there was joy there, as much as I didn't want to have Noel die in the womb, I wouldn't have had a Stellamaris, or the growth of this past year. I don't understand why it had to happen this way but I am thankful for the grace to be able to embrace it.

So little Stellamaris, we welcome you to the church and once again we are so glad you are here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The birth of Stellamaris

I wrote a post about her birth a while back but somehow Blogger didn't save it or my computer messed up. I wrote and then napped, so I could have magically deleted it as well. But nonetheless here is another go at writing her story.

Most of you know that Stellamaris was a rainbow baby, and that came with a lot of anxiety during her entire pregnancy about everything being okay. It still manifests itself sometimes in little ways here or there, but for the most part the fact that she is a live baby in my hands is amazing thing and I am trying my hardest not to take that for granted because I understand how much more at this stage in my live how everything is not a guarantee.

I am thankful for her and her sweetness, and just the moments where all her siblings are crowded around her wanting to hold her or interact with her or help with her. It keeps me going in the tired moments.  But back to her actual birth story.

The day before Stella was born, I was having mild contractions, nothing to write home about and I had been having some days and evenings with this for a while, so I didn't think much about it all. I took the kids to their homeschool class at the library all the while having contractions, but again, I could completely function with these, and I figured if it did get bad, I'd call my husband and he would come get us.

But then I took a nap, and by the end of the nap everything stopped. But this was later in the afternoon and I was at the point that I needed to have dinner done and I had nothing for dinner. So I packed the kids in the car to get some groceries. I was hungry for specific things that take out wasn't going to cure.  I should have thought twice about this, because it was awful.  My two older children were crazy in the store and especially the oldest.  It culminated with my oldest thinking that rolling a watermelon at full speed down the bagging isle of Aldi a good idea, which resulted in a broken watermelon, me in tears and grocery store employees taking pity on me saying I could get another and the security guard telling me it would be okay.  I was a hot mess along with my kids. Me on another day would have never attempted this, so I blame hunger and end of pregnancy craziness. I felt like at the moment that this fourth child was a very bad idea because well I couldn't even handle my seven year old.

I texted some close friends and they said to be gentle to myself and the kids and I ate dinner and Ben had consequences for his behavior. We all went to bed with no expectation for the following day to happen.

I woke up a bit after 4am with contractions, looking back it seems that the indicator for me to be in this is it labor is to wake up with contractions. It was enough that I could no longer sleep. So I did what I do in labor, I binge watch TV.  This time I watched Girl Meets World and hung out on the birthing ball downstairs. The house's pint sized inhabitants were still all sleeping soundly, so I thought it might be good to keep it that way.

I called the midwife at 6am to tell her what was happening, and then decided to take a shower, I was having a decent amount of back labor and showers have helped me in the past greatly with that. Post shower though I decided to call the midwife again because while it felt good to be upright in the shower, I quickly went to hands and knees which meant I was closer to transition. The midwife got here at little after 7:30am and she told me while that position felt better it was counterproductive because baby girl was on the opposite side from what she needed to be.

The kids woke up around this time but Keith shooed them downstairs and they actually complied. The only thing was that my MIL was running late to pick them up so they didn't get picked up until about 8:30.  For me, if my kids are present I tend to struggle to give full focus to the birthing process even if they aren't needing me.  Before they left they made sure we had our "It's a Girl" balloon we had gotten at the school baby shower, but afterwards I knew I could fully focus again.

So back to the birthing ball I went and before long I was fully dilated and ready to push.  There was an issue though because she was on the wrong side and so to push her out she needed to turn and she was sitting higher instead of actually descending like my other babies did.  I had to work ridiculously hard to fight against what I wanted to do to what baby needed me to do to get her out and it was seriously the hardest time I had every in the pushing phase post first baby. I remember after a push feeling like I was getting somewhere but then feeling her head go back up and I screamed "That is not okay." But somehow I got through it and 15 minutes later she was on my chest and healthy and alive. I think honestly I was stunned that all this had resulted in a live baby because last time it didn't.

It actually took me a few days to process everything and to realize how much I was holding my breath through her whole pregnancy. I think I questioned everything that probably I normally wouldn't have thought twice about.  But Stellamaris has been an amazing light to us after the darkness, and while she is a baby and does baby things, somehow I think I am more amazed this time around because it feels like a gift, something that I wasn't expecting but am so happy to have here and to hold her each day.

So, here she is:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A name

I believe back in December I was first talking about names for this new baby girl of ours. 2016 was a year of many losses for us, two of them being grandmothers that were dear to us. One was named Florence Elizabeth and the other Mary Ann. And oddly my last remaining grandparent, my maternal grandmother is Mary Elizabeth. For a while we thought that two middle names would be the way to go. We wanted to honor those loved ladies in this new life but also wanted to give her something that was her own. 

I started calling baby girl Kat as in Kateri, but for some reason the double K was bugging me, I had a double K in my name and always it feels tongue twister like. And then Keith stumbled upon the name Stella Maris. A Latin title for Mary, which means star of the sea. It seemed too fitting to not use it. It honors get great grandmother and yet is flared with her own bit of self and gives light to a devotion to the blessed mother, someone who through this year of loss has given me hope and light. 

We played around with what order it should all be and if it should be a double first name or be put together as one. Over all nothing else seemed to fit as well as this name. 

And so we have a Stellamaris Elizabeth. A beautiful baby girl that I'm so happy to have in my arms and be able to get to know day by day. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My thoughts on the book Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

I had been seeing the book "Different" pop up in my Amazon things you should buy and in a few blog feeds, and it seemed like something I needed to read.  For me I had been struggling most recently with my oldest son's tendencies toward ADD/ADHD. I wanted to get him tested, but I never did because its a new year and well, I have to ration out the money in the HSA and so its not something in our budget at the moment.  So, I thought reading this would at least give me perspective, but then I started actually reading.

When I dove into the book, I led me back to where I was told I was difficult and different when I was growing up.  As an adult, pretty much every therapist or person I have come in contact with tells me that I am super quirky and well, different. I felt like I could identify with both authors of the book at various times. The mom, Sally, while she loved her mom, always felt off as a kid. And I think that was definitely something that I dealt with, my brain just seems to work differently than my siblings did.  I think that probably was hard for my parents to deal with and I caused a lot of strife, but I don't think I could have changed me in that way to fit in if I had tried with all my might, at least not with some major issues.

One of the main points that I took away from reading this was how even though she was human and failed a lot, Sally tried to truly love her difficult child unconditionally, and to strive to be positive about who Nathan, her son, was as God made him. I think for myself I can so easily see the flaws in myself and in my children, but it takes effort, at least for me, to see them and myself as a beautiful child of God. I mean I know it, but I sure as heck don't act like it at times.  I think I mentioned on twitter that there was one day where I just decided that I was going to tell my kids affirming things that day and not focus on the things that needed correcting.  It was a good day. And while we definitely need to be refined as humans and to keep growing, we also need to know how much we are loved. And maybe this is easier for you to do than me, but I think I just needed this reminder.

Another item that stuck with me was in seeing these children as gifts from God, that they really are their own people that will make their own mistakes and have their own free will.  I think its so hard as a parent to not be embarrassed by your own kids behavioral habits. Sometimes it makes me not want to leave the house. I mean the last time we got haircuts, one of my kids almost punched the hair stylists in the jaw because it was too intense of an experience for him. Of course that was embarrassing.  And its not that kids should be without guiding and disciplining when necessary, its just that they are their own people.  Ultimately, you cannot control them.

I think the last thing is that it feels like we do live in a world where we want to know and be what is normal, this is where I identified with Nathan and his struggle. In wanting to be normal so much, we can miss out in who God really made us to be. While there are definitely times when medicine is useful to psychologically help us function in society, maybe there's a little too much emphasis on being happy all the time. Maybe we just need to feel things and process things and that be okay. Its a weird world to live in where our bodies aren't being used in the same way they were 100 years ago and so perhaps our minds are troubled a bit more, but maybe some of these responses are there to make us be us. Maybe they are there to show us how to love, especially in the difficult times with the difficult ones. I am not by any means saying that medicine isn't helpful to those that need it, I'm just thinking through my own life, processing with help, though slow, seemed to help me in my differentness. So maybe that's just for me, because a lot of times I do not feel that I fit in, but maybe that's what I need and that's okay.

Shannon Evans posted something on St. Valentine's Day about how there is a sense of loneliness that we have that comes from the lack of being understood. Reading "Different" reminded me that while we can do better at trying to understand one another and to love deeply, at the end of the day there is still going to be a hole. A hole that only God can fill and really only fully when we get to heaven where we will be completely understood by all there. So perhaps, that is what I realized through reading this, that it is good to love, that it is good to be understanding, to be patient, to be kind, to be affirming and to strive to do these thing well.  All of this is good.  But there isn't a formula that is going to get rid of suffering along the way, because as painful as it is suffering redeems us through Jesus.  It can point us to love more, to open our broken hearts to grow bigger and point us to Heaven.

Do I often wish that I had had someone growing up like Sally who wanted to understand me more? Yes, definitely.  Would I be me though if I had this? No. And so I'm thankful for the hard and for the fact that my parents tried their best with what they knew to do. I'm thankful for not fitting in and being outside the box. And perhaps my kids will feel this unconditional love of God a little more than I did.  I pray they do, I pray that I can be that example to them even in my failure by humility. I do want them to know they are loved and by God's grace I will try to love them best as I can.

Friday, January 27, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 7 of 7

I am struggling to wrap this up because I'm sure I've forgotten something that was important or that it will be misunderstood if I don't say it just right.  But I think knowing that I am going to try and let grace be present here and just go with it. It's been 10 years after all, and while some things are clearer now, others are not. A lot of my conversion story continues post the actual moment of becoming Catholic, as I think this is true for most people in their faith walks. God doesn't give up on you after you are claimed but keeps the refining process going if you'll let him. But this story isn't about that, though maybe I should write another series on the next ten years post conversion some other time. :)

So, let's back to the story. Just a few short weeks before Easter vigil, one of the other catechumens and I met with a woman who had recently gone through the conversion process. Because both of us were struggling with a lot of outside pressures against us and also were wondering about all the things we just didn't quite get yet. It was almost a reassurance thing, and it was really needed because to see someone that already did what you are about to do and survived and is thriving on top of that a few years down the road, it gives you hope. Especially when you realize how big this is what you are doing. Part of me wonders, if I would have waited another year, and came into full communion after I had gotten married,  if I would have had all the strife going into it. But maybe for me it needed to be so uncomfortable from the outside that I knew I had to do it from the inside.  That even though it wasn't easy to go against my family or origin's wishes, the tug to do it wasn't going to go away and maybe it would have just gotten that much worse if I did wait another year.

Easter vigil came. It was a day full of snow and it was terrible weather, but despite that people that were important to me came out to support me in this process. It was so very great to have my roommates there and some friends from graduate school and K and his family as well.  I was so thankful for their presence and support.  They were troopers in the weather. I loved that it was snowing, not because it made it difficult to get there but snow is my favorite thing. It washes away the yuck of the world and paints it new again. It just felt like a symbol of a new beginning with the fire in the barrel light on a snowy night. It was a special night and while Easter vigil is long, every bit meant something and it was good to finally feel at home in my faith at the end of the night.  The rest could wait.

And that's one thing I think about often, despite how hard it was to get there with a lot of searching, I finally feel at home in Catholicism and this feeling hasn't gone away.  There are so many instances where I'm in mass and I just smile for the love that is there that is present in Jesus that is present in his sacrifice and in those around me despite coming from so many different backgrounds and at so many different stages in life.  There is a oneness, which I didn't feel before and there are so many other things that just keep me growing more and more in my walk with Jesus.  I recall one thing said in RCIA that was emphasized in our learning about the faith. It was simply that everything that Catholicism holds is there as something to bring you closer to Jesus. Every bit of the mass, every bit of the sacraments, every bit of prayer and devotion should draw you to Jesus. Not every devotion within Catholicism is for every Catholic or for every time in your life,  but they exist as means to lead to to Jesus. For in the end our goal is to be in communion with Christ, something for which every Christian strives. The vastness is there in Catholicism but it only accounts for the fact that each person needs something just a little bit different to reach the finish line. I am no where near the finish line yet, but God continues to meet me everyday where I am at and particularly now as a Catholic.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 6 of ?

When official RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) started, I think I was well on my way to knowing I was going to be Catholic. And a lot of it was review in the first bit because it gave basis of Christianity in general. My sponsor was K and sometimes my one roommate would come with us too because she was a cradle Catholic and thought it would be good for her as well. I think one of the thoughts that I had through it was that it felt like such a long process.  RCIA wasn't a one class deal, but a good year of instruction, and it was hard to be patient.  I was often jealous of K's easier return through confession ordeal.

Along side of doing RCIA, I was in my second year of grad school which meant qualifiers and teaching lab to the freshman on top of normal classes and attempting to do research in the lab.  It was a lot even at that. So why not add more, right? Because I did. K proposed in late September and I added marriage prep and wedding planning to the mess of everything already happening in my life.  I want to say that I handled it gracefully, but there were a lot of tears shed and it was rough stress wise. I ended up at my thinnest during this time and had a mouth load of cavities, because for some reason with stress goes my teeth.

But I was happy to be marrying K and I was happy to be growing in my faith, I even liked creating my qualifier projects, but it was a lot to be doing at once. Maybe I should have slowed down just a bit, but then this story wouldn't have been what it is.

There were the normal steps along the way in RCIA, the Right of Acceptance, and the Right of Election. I did not really enjoy the first one because I remember it made me feel very vulnerable and exposed, and I think I wasn't quite ready for that.  But maybe this should have also been a sign of my introversion to me, whatever it was, it was a bit uneasy for me.  I did however enjoy the Rite of Election where every Catholic that was converting or coming into full communion with the church met together for the Rite. It made me feel like I was part of something so much greater than myself, and it gave a sense of the universality of the Church.

Looking back I think the one take away from RCIA that happened was the one day the parish priest talked about how conversion worked.  How in each facet approached we go through first an intellectual conversion than and emotional one and then a spiritual conversion.  I think through most of RCIA and early Catholic days I was still in the intellectual conversion. I think we have to wrap our minds around things first to even grasp what lies ahead for us, and then if you are me and tend to overthink most things it takes a while for the rest to happen. Maybe this is why I am not a charismatic Catholic.

I feel like Catholics get a lot of flack for something such as confession, but if you remember that I struggled with accountability within my Protestant walk. So even though I was nervous for my first confession, it felt like one of the most natural things to do, despite having to recount 23 years of sin. That was hard, I think I wrote down at least a couple pages of things. But the idea of confession agrees with me, it feels like a checking point to say you are human, and you screw up but also to say I want to do better and grow deeper and to do better I need to truly say where I've been and not in just a half hazard way that I was used to doing. Its hard to admit you screw up but to know that grace covers you and Jesus gives you countless opportunities to start new again, that is amazing.  Maybe there was something about these outward signs of grace that were pulling me closer to Jesus in ways I couldn't even understand at the time.

Read Part 7 Here

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 5 can be found here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 5 of ?

I left off last in my post, at the point where I knew I wanted to figure this out, this Catholic thing, because figuring that out decided whether I would let K go or not. So I decided to attack what objections I supposedly had or more likely things I didn't understand. All the while I was attending mass. I remember making a point to bring my Bible with me to mass. That's at least what I had always done, one always took a Bible to worship, and to try to participate more, I wrote in the Nicene Creed and pasted it inside the front cover. Missals (for the non-Catholics reading, it gives the weekly four Bible passages and other prayer and mass order info) were present, but I felt lost with things jumping out of the whole and so I would bring that Bible each time and look up the readings my comforting way. I  think I needed at the very least to hold on to something familiar as it felt like most things weren't.

I read and listened to a lot of Catholic answers during this time. I think I tried to figure out why there was so much of Mary in this church, and why it felt like there was a lot of apathy or lack of daily living of faith amongst the members of the Catholic church.  That latter one makes me realize how pretentious and self-centered I was at this time, because I kind of thought everyone should be like me at this point. But I do think when you grow up protestant especially in small congregations, there is a difference in the way people approach their Faith.  Its at lot more in your face and individualistic to each person, versus a collective whole made of many parts at many different stages in their faith walks. I almost feel like its a bit like praise music versus a hymn, in one it feels like a focus on how God relates to you, in the other its God being given to the whole in his greatness. I struggled with these for a while, and sometimes still can shy away from Marian devotion to this day. But with time more understanding came.

I remember visiting a friend out of state, in the summer, and going to her Baptist church. And it was a fine service.  But somewhere in the middle, it kind of hit me that something was missing, not even that I was Catholic at this point, there was still the better half of the year to go, but just I could sense something was missing, the Eucharist.  Its funny, because I don't even think I understand transubstantiation at this point, but because there was no outward sign of Jesus, there was also a difference in how everything played out.  I think this was the point where I knew I had to be Catholic, there was no turning back.  I needed this more, this Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus was calling me to him.

I don't know when I actually shared that this was my decision, but it was met with a lot of flack, a lot. And I cried a lot at the hurtful words and just felt really isolated a lot of times between where I was and where I was going.  There were however a few key people from my pre-Catholic decision days that stuck by me that were beacons of light amongst the darkness.  People I still feel like I can share my heart with even though we haven't made all the same life decisions, and overtime walk away feeling respected and loved. I am so thankful for these people because for one they gave me a greater sense of family and two they oddly helped me to recognize more truth within the Catholic faith.

One of these people was a friend who sent me a Baptist ministers take on Theology of the Body.  And  while one would think that perhaps this guy would hate it, he actually didn't instead he loved it and he was pretty great at relating it to someone like me who had these Protestant roots, but needed this truth found within Catholicism. Honestly, for the first time I felt like I as a woman was dignified and that I wasn't a lost cause as I thought before. I didn't have to hate being a woman, or make my identity as someone who was a victim but could show with my body, with me being me of God's love. Being a woman wasn't just my reproductivity or my lady parts, but was so much more powerful than that. I so needed that.

Read Part 6 Here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Part 1 can be found here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 4 of ?

At this point, K was trying to find a way to discredit the Catholicism that was plaguing him and  found Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism. He thought it would at least explain the differences between the basic beliefs of Protestantism and Catholicism. Instead, it logically validated Catholicism for him mainly seeing the faults in sola scriptura and the showing the objections of Catholicism as things that were not really truth but were just misinformation.

I'm not so sure how much we talked about this particular book together, but it made him want to go back to a mass. I had never been to a mass and ironically this was around Easter, so instead of mass, we ended up at a good Friday service. The only day there isn't mass in the Catholic church.  Preparing to attend something at a Catholic church, I was freaking out. I called the one Catholic I actually knew, my brother's college roommate, and asked all about how I should dress and act.  I didn't want to look out of place and honestly at that point I only had literary information on Catholicism. 

At the service, in an awesomely old church with great architecture, there came the point of kissing the cross. This felt very weird to do, I had never had such an external sign to do to demonstrate my faith before, and as it wasn't communion, it was open to all to do.  At least I hope it was because I did it, even if I felt weird about it. I still struggle with these external signs of faith times at the church, like ash crosses and processions, but I do them anyway because somehow I know they are pulling me closer to Christ. 

After this K wrestled with Catholicism more and more and we talked about this. It had me thinking that maybe I should start reading more about what Catholics believe because honestly I never had a healthy view of them before.  So I got ahold of the book Catholic and Christian.  I figured if anything I could support this guy along his journey if I understood more about what he was doing.  And then one day he called me that he just couldn't take it anymore and was going to go to confession and become Catholic again.  I mean I guess he always was Catholic, but I didn't understand how the lapsed thing worked at the time, so I was kind of at a loss in many ways.

I remember crying to my fellow first year grad students about my dilemma, and they admitted that it was hard. They knew that I was someone that took my faith seriously and they felt like this was a rough hand being thrown. I remember calling my mom at some point and her declaring that if this was the case for K, that maybe this wasn't the guy for me. This wasn't very helpful, but this is how she viewed Catholicism, something that wasn't to be entertained with joining. I on the other hand knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to marry this guy, but for me I had to be on the same page with him about religious beliefs. I wanted to be able to share in my struggles with him about faith matters and with future children and their faith and just be able to feel comfortable in those types of issues that I had to figure out that now that he was Catholic, could I be too. 

I contined to read my book,  Catholic and Christian, and the more I looked into it, the more I found I had in common with Catholicism and on top of it, some of my long posing questions were being answered.  There were loose ends however to tie up at the Assemblies of God church, I had agreed to run part of their vacation bible school, though this time I was the sports coordinator so I wasn't being conflicted in theology anymore. So I finished that up but also went to mass with K at times. I learned that they were having a group meet in the summer as kind of a pre-RCIA.  I had no idea what RCIA was, but I wanted to know more about this Catholic faith, so I thought I should go. 

In the meantime, I was changing living situations. I decided to live in a house with three other girls that was super close to campus. I knew the one girl from playing soccer with her, and since I was adventurous, I decided that it wouldn't be a big deal to not know the other two beforehand so much. Little did I know that they were all Catholic themselves. And on top of that, the church that was having the summer pre-RCIA was just a few blocks walk away. 

I was trying not to let myself get too involved too quick with the idea of this all working out, that I could be a Catholic and marry K someday. Because besides K and a few friends, I had little support in this endeavor. I didn't even mention it to my family at this point, because I was just trying to take it as something I was inquiring about. The first evening I walked into the group and I was supposed to share about who I was and from where I was coming faith-wise. I cried ridiculously along with my words. I knew this was going to be a big deal, I knew I didn't have any familial support and I wanted to do this anyway.

Read Part 5 Here.

Find Part 3 here.

Find Part 1 here. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 3 of ?

I left off having found a church in Cleveland that felt familiar and homelike. I met a lot of Case Western students at the church or recent alums still in the area that first Sunday that I visited. Though I know it wasn't, it almost felt too easy to be welcomed into a group of thinking individuals that also valued God.  After all,  I was no longer in the Bible belt but was back in yankee territory where people tend to be a bit less open to strangers. Nonetheless, I was welcomed and I was so very thankful.

Amongst the group of new acquaintances was a boy, who actually happened to be the drummer in the praise band at the church. (Musicians always cause problems, is what I'm saying. :)) Maybe because I wasn't really looking, or maybe he was just that different, but somehow I let my guard down and we started dating a little over a month of knowing each other.  He apparently liked me from the beginning, and I, well, I was won over by his heart in playing tennis together.  Because I was an athlete, but I was an athlete who loved people who maybe weren't born with all this natural talent but tried their absolute hardest in every situation. He was this guy, and he still is, but also he absolutely respected me in every sort of way. A gentleman that didn't live in the south but in the north. Anyway, I am probably digressing here, but he was and is an important figure in this conversion story of mine.

At this church I got involved almost right away.  I was put into a small group, which I would define as a bible study group that was also supposed to keep you accountable on your faith walk. This idea can work to an extent, except that for me, I usually have my guard up in situations like this, and let the extroverts run the show and just say what is minimally required of me. It isn't until I talk to someone one on one that I really open up. Maybe this is why confession works for me now in a positive way besides the graces of it and everything.  Nonetheless, I kept going to the small group and I did learn from the others.  I think at this point I got a glimpse that Assemblies of God was a bit charismatic (not a bad thing, just not me) but at this point there was no doctrine presented to me and I wasn't held accountable to following a set of rules or even joining the church I believe.

I got involved even further in the church, I signed up to help teach their version of Sunday school, which I don't think was on Sunday but on a weekday night. It wasn't until I did this that I started to see a little more of the charismatic flavor of this denomination, something I was not familiar with in my mainline Protestant upbringing. It made me a bit uncomfortable, not because it was wrong, but it challenged me to examine what I thought about about this type of theology, and really what this church I was going to was really about, I just didn't know.

All the while, I'm dating this guy, this guy that seemed to actually like me and my quirks.  About seven months into our relationship, we had a talk about discerning marriage, and both of us were a little restless about the theology of our current church home. Some of the material for the men's group wasn't sitting well with him and as I said my teaching material wasn't sitting well with me. We decided to examine other churches and see if any of these seemed to fit us more. And on an important note, K's grandfather died in January of 2006.  This gave him a glimpse of his old Catholic life as he attended the funeral mass and burial and it stuck with him, though he didn't say much about it at the time.  The man takes a while to process things and it just wasn't factoring in at the time.

We tried all of one other church, a Presbyterian Church of America variety, which, get this, met in the basement the annex of a Catholic church. Where I grew up, I was mostly of the Presbyterian Church-USA variety but I was struggling already with women pastors because I felt like while women have amazing gifts, it always felt off to have them being in that particular role. I didn't have any other reason to why this was important, just that it didn't feel right. And yes, I know I am sounding 100% anti-feminist but truly I am not. I was simply observing what was. So a PCA church was somewhat familiar, but didn't have women as pastors. It wouldn't be for a while that I would actually be able to understand this as more than just a feeling. It was a little bit odd attending there, because it was so small and we didn't know anyone, but it was more liturgically based than what were currently attending something we both apparently were being drawn to more so. K commented that they said the Nicene Creed there, and that he remembered that from being a Catholic.  I thought that it was weird because in my Presbyterian upbringing we always said the Apostle's Creed, but it didn't go any further than that at the time. We didn't go back there again.

One day in perhaps March of 2006, K mentioned that he wanted to understand what Martin Luther really did in the reformation? It started a hunt for a book to explain this, not because I was thinking that much about this, but maybe I could learn something and also be a good girlfriend by finding an awesome book for him too. I think in K's mind his Catholic roots were plaguing him at this point and he wanted to read something that would dismiss Catholicism, obviously it didn't work.

Read Part 4 Here
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 1 can be found here. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 2 of ?

Between my junior and senior year I interned at NASA in Cleveland.  I was a very determined girl to find a church to go to during the summer because I greatly enjoyed my college church and wanted to continue that source of love and understanding, but I struggled greatly in this endeavor. It was a very different place than the South when it came to religion and I wasn't under my parents' wing at this point.  So I hopped around for a while and near the last month of my 3 month internship finally found something that would work. I wasn't in love with it though and since it was mega church set up I honestly felt like a number more than a person in it, but it would do for a month in my mind.

I went back to school in my senior year taking more of those core classes, and two of classes included  study of Old and New Testament. The OT class opened my eyes to the connection between our Jewish roots and our newer Christianity. It renewed in me a respect for the liturgy and ritual aspect of worship. The NT class, while taught like a Bible quiz class, had some influence from the professor that got me thinking.  In it he stated that it was important to him that his church were he was a pastor celebrate communion every Sunday. This was the first time I had ever come in contact with a church that would do that. Every other church I had been part of, communion was at the most done monthly if not less or only as the spirit led. I listened to a lot of his sermons, or at least the required ones for class and it prompted a lot of questions. I didn't act on anything at this point, but I think this was a key factor to the beginnings of my conversion, if this intelligent man that I respected thought so highly of communion, why was that?  In the end, I think that it helped me to have more respect for the worship the baptists took part in, at least the kind that my professor was.

After I graduated from undergrad, I ended up deciding to go back to Cleveland for grad school in chemistry.  I had been part of a joint project with Case Western and NASA in my internship and if you know anything about Case's campus, its filled with some really fun architecture and so I applied got a really good deal to go and decided this was my school.  I thought that I would start getting acclimated to grad school in June by working in one of the labs there for the summer, so I did.  I chose a random roommate for the year from the school classifieds and well, that was very interesting in itself, the only relevant part to my conversion was that because she was already established and living in the apartment, there was no need to set up everything as a new account. I had internet. I had basic utilities. I had the ability to protestant church shop, because knowing the unsatisfied feeling I had the summer ago, I was determined to find a home.

On the first weekend I was there, I looked up churches, first a Baptist one, because remember I had a really good professor experience and actually came away with a large respect for the establishment as a whole through my college experience.  However, it was a dud.  I went home after the service, no one really welcomed me and I just felt empty.  That wasn't the feeling, I wanted to take away my first Sunday back in Cleveland.  So internet searching I did, and I stumbled upon an Assemblies of God church that had a great website, it was a little further away, but it met at a high school and this was familiar to me so I went. And it was a good thing I did. I felt like this was going to work, and work well.  It was like going back to my college church days and I was so thankful. Also, little did I know that amongst the welcoming people I met that day, I also met a lapsed Catholic amongst the church goers. A lapsed Catholic who ended up my husband a few years later.  But we will stop there for today.

Read Part 3 Here. 

Read part 1 Here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 1 of ?

I wrote a story long ago in 2006-2007 of how I arrived at Rome. It's since been lost so I thought I take another stab at it here, as I'm 10 years in, and maybe in those 10 years I have gained a bit of insight.  I at least hope I have.

I grew up protestant, my mom and dad had me baptized in a Methodist church when I was a baby and  we moved to PA and we tried the Methodist church again, but the kids were horrid to my sensitive older sibling, and so we became Presbyterian.  It was close to Methodist and it had kind people in it, kind people are always a good thing. So most of my memorable childhood was spent being Presbyterian. But my parents never seemed to care if we did things with other protestant churches, and oddly in the small town of 5,000ish people that I grew up in there were at least 20 different protestant church varieties to choose from not to mention the even smaller surrounding towns with their 3 or 4 protestant churches each.  So many varieties, and honestly, as a kid I didn't think anything of this division except that these made for lots of variety of vacation bible schools and camps.

I had a good friend who was a member of the Church of God congregation who invited me to church summer camp at least twice, and for the most part I enjoyed the rock walls and the zip lines and the pony rides but then there was always an evening of alter calls. Alter calls where something in which you were supposed to commit yourself to Christ in that moment.  It always felt so strange to me, that this definitive moment was supposed to be the point at which I was a Christian and everything would magically change. Maybe I was a child skeptic and I just didn't know it.  But so many alter calls later I was jaded by this action and thought it felt like it was missing something. To me it didn't mean that I was not a Christian, but I just didn't get this type of theology.

Having a naturally inquisitive, deep diving personality I did a lot of spiritual reading unprompted. On top of this I actually wanted to go further into my faith and so I asked to go to yet again more camps, of the Christian Leadership variety because the alter call ones weren't doing it for me anymore and so I convinced my parents to send me to my aunt's camp at least twice who had such things. I even convinced my mom to take my brother and I to Mexico for a mission trip since I was too young to go on my own according to the folks making the rules. (I was apparently very persuasive as a young one.) It was probably a good thing that my mom went on it because the girl who bunked next to me, who was a young college student, was bitten in the middle of the night by a deadly spider (local doctor knew the antidote but it totally made this girl delirious) and I probably wouldn't have been able to communicate well if this happened to me with my parents many thousands of miles away.

So I was seeking and wanting more and just trying to figure out what this whole Christianity thing was at its core. Along the way there were some bumps, I was sexually molested as a pre-teen and it sent me into an anti-boy/men tirade of years where I felt pretty worthless in the eyes of God. It oddly later led me to block out emotion that came with anything sexual and made for some pretty risky situations. Granted I had principles guided only by fear but I figured I could do anything but and yet I still felt horrible the next day post these situations. By the time I was a college student I had convinced everyone that I was never getting married and hated men, yet honestly I was just a jumbled mess inside. I had a habit of declaring my love of someone who just wasn't even a possibility because then I didn't have to actually have to act on anything. Secretly, I wanted to be loved but just didn't think I was worthy of it.

I ended up at a Southern Baptist college,  mainly because I ended up with a sports scholarship/academic scholarship and it was a place that felt safe and yet was far from home so I could make a new start. My freshman year I tried going to churches in the area but the Presbyterian churches around there at the time were terrible and felt like everything was dying. I was one of the few non-baptists around a campus filled with PKs and MKs and kids brought in to be missioned to. Most baptists pretty much thought I was Catholic, especially when it came to mentioning things like Lent.

A fellow cross country runner, introduced me to a non-denominational church with a South African pastor.  Honestly, probably part of the draw to this church for me was the accent, but also the church was alive and growing in contrast to the dying southern Presbyterians. I stayed at this church from at least sophomore year until graduation. I went on a mission trip with them to Honduras to help build a school and it was just very great in that helping others sense. They were good people once again and I liked being in their presence.

I had a lot of questions at this point, none which I felt like were being answered.  And of course there was that weighty question of my worth being defiled and all.  I was a little strange in my college course work and took all my hefty major stuff early and then left the core freshman classes for my junior and senior years.  I first took an Arts in Western Civilization class.  It was the best, because I loved art and I loved relating art to God. On top of that there was an architecture project and well, I am a complete sucker for old churches and their beauty. The professor, I don't think he knew the impact of his words, went on and on about the cathedral in St. Louis, MO. He stated, "If you can't worship there, I don't think you can worship anywhere." College me was like 'Okay, you know that's a Catholic church you are talking about, right? You're Baptist." Hmm.  But architecture lover me, well she made a special trip during winter break convincing a friend to accompany her there since it was near her home. MO is very far away from PA, but, you know, architecture! So I went and it was beautiful, it was pre me having any decent camera, so I believe I took pictures with a disposable camera but none the less it stuck with me that this was somewhere worthy to worship. After all the non-denom I attended met in a school assembly room a very big contrast indeed.

My brother was dating a Catholic girl at the time, and my upbringing led me to believe that Catholics were wild. I totally dismissed him in his inquiries about Catholicism thinking if he ended up marrying this girl that she would just become what he was because we were the actual church going people.  Little did I know what God had in store for me. Oh life is funny sometimes, and I think I will end there today.

Read Part 2 Here