Category Archives: Motherhood and Family Life

Mother's Day

The Gift You Might Need This Mother’s Day: Permission to Grieve

Mother's DayI love the idea of Mother’s Day: families taking time to honor those special women who have given so much of themselves. My own mother did so much for my siblings and I, that celebrating her generous love for only one day seems inadequate.

For many people, mother’s day can serve as a painful reminder of loss. Perhaps some will be mourning the passing of their mother or grandmother for the first (or even twentieth) time. In other cases, the day serves as a reminder of the child unable to join the celebration through death or separation. Some struggle as they mark another year childless. Maybe, most painfully of all, the day harbors the regret of motherhood lost through abortion, or childhood lost to abuse or neglect.

It is at these times when presence and love are most anticipated and desired, that their absence is most keenly felt.

This mother’s day, perhaps the most important gift you can give yourself or a loved one is permission to grieve. No one wants to feel sad, especially on a day when happiness is expected, but feigned happiness is not very helpful in the long term.

In order to deal with emotions properly you have to give yourself permission to recognize them, and accept that they are there for a time. It is so important not to shame yourself for what you are feeling. Telling yourself, “I shouldn’t feel this way” does nothing to resolve the situation and only adds the burden of guilt. Find healthy ways to express these emotions, perhaps through writing a letter, creating a work of art, or talking with a loved one.

Although I am blessed that my mother is still living, my husband is not so fortunate. Mother’s Day has become one of the most difficult days of the year for him. A day when he needs to take time to grieve.

I have to confess in years past, I was not very supportive of this. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t choose to focus on celebrating me as mother of our growing family and his grandmothers, both of whom are still living.

Frankly, I was being selfish. He shows me in so many ways throughout the year how much he admires and respects all that I do as mother to our children – I was not in any way suffering from a lack of appreciation. I needed to recognize that he was unable to celebrate in the way that I expected and that he needed space to grieve. He needed me to take a step back and truly listen to what he was saying and give him the space to process all that he was feeling. Sometimes it is so difficult to show true compassion.

Broken down into its roots, compassion literally means “to suffer with” someone. Often we focus on doing whatever we can to try to make a person feel better, when in fact what they really need is someone to suffer with them. Suffering alongside someone reveals great love and can foster deepened intimacy.

One of the few good things about grief is that it is a sign of love. No one mourns what they are indifferent about.

I hope that tomorrow is a day of joy and celebration for you and your loved ones. But if it is not, I hope that you are able to mark the day in a way that is full of peace and connection with the loved ones around you. Take time to enter into the day according to whatever season of life you are in. Allow yourself and other’s to be fully present in whatever commemoration the current stage of life requires, even when that is out of step with others. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

This Mother’s day, I pray that any sorrow you may experience can give way soon to a time of profound joy.

P.S. Here are a few links to ideas that have been bouncing around in the back of my head, while writing this post:

Letter to Ana 3.0

Dear Anastasia: A Letter to My Daughter on 50 Shades of Grey

Letter to Ana 3.0

I have a custom of writing letters to my children when they are young.  In general, these letters are very personal and a gift that is only shared with the recipient.  Due to the alarming popularity of the “50 Shades of Grey” book and upcoming movie, I decided to make an exception in the case of this letter.  Please note that I have not read the book, nor do I ever intend to.  My understanding of it is derived from a fairly brief summary, and that degree of detail has proved more than sufficient for me.     

My Dearest Anastasia,

Hello, my daughter.  Right now you are just a baby sleeping on your father’s lap, totally at peace in his arms.  Someday, though, you might be in another man’s arms and I wanted to pass on a few suggestions for how to find someone worthy of that honor.

You see, there is a book that is quite popular right now.  I won’t bother to name it since I am sure that by the time you read this it will have long been forgotten.  This book tells the story of a young woman’s sexual relationship with a sadistic man.  Normally, I don’t give such filth a second thought, but while reading a critique of the book, I learned the young woman’s name: Anastasia.

Then the book changed.  Instead of seeing it as just another smutty story, it became personal.  It began to represent a future that I hope you will never have to experience.  It led me to think of some things to suggest for you to avoid in future relationships, as well as qualities to look for in a potential husband.

First, if a man tries to control you or coerce you into being the perfect partner for him, run away from that relationship and don’t look back.  Love isn’t about controlling another person in order to maximize your own satisfaction.  It is about giving generously of yourself, and in so doing becoming who you were meant to be.  Love doesn’t force another person to conform to his or her own standards of perfection, but rather provides gentle guidance in trying to become more like Christ.

Another thing to beware of is a man who refers to virginity (either his or yours) as something to be taken or lost.  Virginity is a gift of oneself to another.  If any man talks of taking it or asks you to “lose” it to him, he does not understand the value of the gift you have to offer and is not properly disposed to receive it.

From what I understand in the aforementioned book, the main male character requires Anastasia to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that his various sexual exploits will be kept confidential.  I presume he thinks that this will provide him with the means to engage in a more “liberating” sexual encounter.

It should come as no surprise to you that your father and I have entered into a formal agreement of a sexual nature.  Ours goes something like this: “I take you to be my lawfully wedded spouse, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”  It is only in this type of an agreement that one can experience the true freedom that comes from giving oneself to another completely and unreservedly for life.

The reason that the male character desires Anastasia to sign the non-disclosure agreement is because he is a sadist.  He derives pleasure from causing her pain.  My daughter, I hope and pray that you will never find yourself in a relationship with such a man.  No matter how convincingly he may profess to love you, it is a lie.

Love never finds pleasure from inflicting harm on the beloved.  There can be no true union of persons when one is using the other as an object to satisfy their lust.

Some proponents of such a lifestyle argue that the pleasure doesn’t come from the inflicting of pain, but from the trust that the victim places in the aggressor not to permanently injure or kill them.  At this point words fail me.  Hoping that the man who is abusing you for his own pleasure won’t kill you hardly seems like trust to me.  Rather, true trust is pledging your life and your heart to another, come what may.

Finally, my daughter, please know that no matter what choices or mistakes you may make, I will always love you.

Nothing you can do or say could ever change my love for you.  If you ever want to talk about anything or need a safe place to run to, I will always be here for you.  Your father and I love you more than life itself, we would gladly die to save you.

As much as we love you, there is one who loves you even more.  He has already died to save you.

Should you ever fall, run back into His arms in the Sacrament of Confession.  It is there that He will hold you close to His pierced heart in the most loving of embraces.  If you ever need a model of true, selfless love, look to Him my daughter.

In Him I Remain,

Your Devoted Mother

Do you ever write letters to your children?  What are some pieces of advice that you want to impart to them on the expression of love in a relationship?  What are your thoughts on the “50 Shades of Grey” saga?  

Due to the nature of the post, I ask that all comments be kept discrete and charitable.  Thanks!

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7 Things that are Saving My Sanity

7 Things That Are Saving My Sanity Right Now

7 Things that are Saving My Sanity

Like most people, I have to fight the urge to complain.  When things get more and more difficult, I just want to vent about all of the things that make me feel like I am going to lose it big time.  

Lately I have noticed something: venting doesn’t help all that much.

Now don’t get me wrong, it is super important to have friends and family to confide your troubles to, that is healthy.  What I have found to be counterproductive for myself, however, is searching for opportunities to vent to my husband, or mentally writing Facebook posts (that I never publish) about how dang hard life is right now.   These type of mental habits are essentially negative feedback loops which are training my mind to be on the lookout for more things that suck, driving me even more nuts.

Instead of building such negative mental habits, I would rather take inventory of the things that are saving my sanity right now.

Reading: I’ve made no secret about it, I LOVE to read.  Immersing myself in a good story, or learning new things feeds my soul and recharges my batteries.  Fiction can offer a wonderful escape from the never ending dance of laundry, dishes, cleaning and diapers, while non-fiction can offer me tools to better understand the world and others.

Writing:  Perhaps even more than reading, writing puts me in a state of flow where I am completely absorbed in the task at hand and deriving great enjoyment from it.  Shaping words and phrases, molding them into the form I desire, its rather like being a child at play, totally engrossed in their work.  I may not always like the end product, but the process is very relaxing.

Side note: Does anyonelse have arguments with characters that they are creating in their heads?   I just started a short story yesterday, and one of the characters keeps being a real snot.  I keep scolding her, but unfortunately she don’t seem to be listening. . . that’s not how her character is supposed to play out!

Prayer:  Though I haven’t been doing enough of this as of late, it has helped immensely in calming anxieties.

Babysitting:  My sister has been staying with us for the past few weeks.  It has been so nice to be able to do things like grocery shopping without two little ones in tow.  I swear they tag team sneaking things into my cart.  In addtion my husband has been watching the kids for an evening about once a week so I can get together with friends AND have conversations with complete sentances.  It has been wonderful.

UPDATE: The kids and I have a GI bug today.  Help has been indispensible.  On that note, lets add disposable diapers to the list of things saving my sanity.

Date Nights:  Man are these helpful!  I crumble quickly without enough time with my beloved.  It is hard to make the time for these, but man are they worth it!

Counselling: This one can be embarassing to talk about, but I wanted to share in case it helped others get the push they needed to seek help.  About once a week I have been going to a counsellor for treatment of moderate chronic depression and a mild anxiety disorder.  For months I was too proud to seek help, thinking that because I haven’t been through any huge trauma, that I should be able to handle my problems just fine.  I was wrong.

At counselling I have been able to get an outsider’s perspective, learn techniques for controlling my biological reactions, and work on changing the negative mental scripts that I have been using for years.  Slowly but surely, things are getting better.

Friends:  I have been abundantly blessed with a group of close friends.  Most of us have few (if any) family members in the area and we have become each other’s support network.  These are friends who know they can stop by whenever, to share a beer or glass of wine and just hangout.  They are ok with the toys strewn all over the floor and the half naked toddlers running around.  They even help me clean things up!  We can and do call each other when we need a hand, or emotional support.  I can’t imagine life without them.

Hat tip to Anne from for sharing the idea a few months back in her newsletter about looking for the things that are saving your sanity.  I had started writing this post back at the begining of the month.  I am glad I didn’t finish it when I had planned, because Anne is hosting a linkup today for people to share what is saving their sanity right now.  Check out her post and the link-up at her blog!


What is saving your life/sanity right now?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Also, on a personal note, I would appreciate it if you could spare a prayer or two for me tomorrow.  I have a doctor’s appointment where I will get some test results back; it is most likely nothing too serious, but the possibility of a thyroid tumor or Hashimoto’s disease was mentioned at the last appointment.  Thanks!






Am I going to

“Am I Going to Die Mama?”

That was the question that my almost three year old son asked me over breakfast this morning.  I paused for a moment, taken aback.

“What makes you ask that, honey?” I said.

“Am I going to die?” He responded, more insistently.

“Yes, you are Sammy.  So am I. Every one dies at some point in their life.”


“Well, honey, everyone is born with sin on their souls.  Do you remember Adam and Eve? Well, they disobeyed God, they told Him that they didn’t want to serve Him.  They sinned and that sin has been spread to everyone in their family.  We are in their family.  Everyone you know is in there family, that is why people get sick and die.”

“Oh.” he said, pondering what I had just told him.

“What made you think about dying, Sammy?”

“Because Mary told me, mama.  She asked me to be on the cross for a few minutes.”

At this point, I am completely taken aback. . . stuttering for words I ask him, “What was Mary like?”

“Beautiful . . .she is like . . .  she is Jesus mommy.”

“Yes, she is.”

“Will, I die soon, moma?”

“I don’t know Sammy.” I said fighting back tears.  “I am going to do everything I can to keep you healthy and happy.  I want us to have a long life together.  Sometimes accidents happen and people get really bad boo boos, or get really sick.  But do you know what?”


“You have God in your soul right now.  When you were baptized, God came to live in you.”

“Fr. W——– baptized me? And I have God in my soul?”

“Yes, Sammy.”

“When I die Mary and Jesus will be there, she told me.”

“That would be very beautiful.” I say, unable to stop the tears welling up in my eyes. “You don’t have to be afraid.”

“Can I go play?”

“Yes, baby, you can go play now.”

A moment later, I am standing in the kitchen.  Holding his sister close to my heart, feeling her head against my chest, tears roll down my face into the sink full of dirty dishes.

I don’t know if I have a toddler who is a little mystic, or just has a very active imagination.  But I do know that his words have reminded me that our time together is passing by.

Some days, this whole motherhood thing seems like more of a cross than a blessing, though I suppose it is both.

So often, I wish away my time with them, counting down the hours till bed time, or the years till they will be older and I will have more time for myself, to read, to write, and just sit and think in blissful silence.

Then I realize it all could be gone in a flash.  I could have all the time in the world to spend on whatever pursuits I want, but instead will spend it longing for the blessings I currently enjoy.

Our time together is precious.  And exhausting.  But it is so worth it all.

And so, for the rest of the day I choose to live in the moment, and savor the giggles and smiles, and drink in the excitement and energy that these little ones exude.  And I am grateful and happy, just to have another day to be their mama.

photo (14)



Have you ever had an experience of realizing you could loose someone you love and it makes you realize how grateful you are to have them in your life?  Have you kids brought up any existential conversations lately?  Please tell me about it in the comments!

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I wrote this article last week, on the day it happened.  Also, heads up with November being the month we Catholics remember the faithful departed, I will probably be writing a few more posts on Death (and life) in the upcoming days.  I am not obsessed with death or anything, it is just on my mind a lot at this time of year.  

Sacred-Heart-of-Jesus Greatest is Love

Death’s Revelation of True Greatness

February was a hard month.  In addition to the bleak skies and restlessness that generally accompany the winter season, this year brought struggles of a decidedly more permanent nature.

Towards the beginning of the month, a friend from college died suddenly.  When you are only in your mid-twenties, it is quite a shock when someone younger than you dies.

In the following weeks, my grandfather passed away from cancer.  Thankfully, we had the comfort that he had lived a full and blessed life and the ripples of his legacy will continue to reach many.

In the next few days, I learned that the child of a dear friend had passed a way.  The silence of this absence shouted volumes.

I found myself pounding the counter asking, no, shouting a single question to God: “WHY?!” I remember telling Him in no uncertain terms what I , the clay, thought of the Potter’s plan, knowing full well I will take back my words some day.

My thoughts, too, turned to memories of the sort of lives my grandfather and friend lived and the legacy they left behind.  Naturally, when confronting death one begins to ponder what sort of legacy they will leave behind.

When I am called before the throne of God to give an account of my life, how much wasted and ill spent time will I have to address?

How many wasted minutes and hours will have been spent aimlessly scrolling through my feed on facebook, while my precious children look up at me with eyes pleading for my attention?

How much effort will I have poured into decisions of such import as which particular shade of gray I should paint the bedroom?

How often will I have sought to find happiness in a carton of ice cream knowing full well that it is not going to fulfill me.

Now I don’t want to come across as condemning social media, decorating, or ice cream.  These are all things I do dearly enjoy and believe can have a place in a well lived life.  It’s just a question of how big of a place.

Facing the deaths that February brought reinforced my desire to examine life in general and try to discover what living, really living, looks like.  I needed a reminder that this gift of life I have been given isn’t meant for complacency, but for greatness.

Up till now, I thought that greatness was illusive at this stage of my life.  Here I am, a young mama to two little ones who demand so much of my time and energy.  I yearn to do great things with my life, yet my daily duties often leave me confined to my home.  How am I supposed to do anything important, when most of time is spent in childcare?

Filled with frustration, I turned my thoughts back to my deceased friend and grandfather.  What was it about their lives that made such an impact on me?  By the world’s standard’s neither had done anything astounding, yet their impact on others was profound.  What they lacked on their resume of professional accomplishments, they provided in their quiet virtue and great love.

Their lives are my reminder then, that greatness is not achieved through intellectual accomplishments, athletic prowess, or artistic creation.  It must be fought for on the battlefield of the will.

This variety of greatness is possible for me to achieve in my hidden life at home, albeit with more struggle than I should like.  It is a type of greatness that the world often does not recognize or acknowledge.

These loses provided me with the powerful reminder that whatever goals I may hope to achieve, which one must take priority.


Sacred-Heart-of-Jesus Greatest is Love


Have you ever had this realization driven home?  Did it take the death of a loved one, or did it come in a more gentle format?  


P.S.  It took this post ( ) from the ever insightful Anne of modernmrsdarcy, and the TED talk she referenced, to finaly clarify my thoughts enough that they could be distilled into this post.

P.P.S. Check out the fantastic five minute TED talk here: