Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Here is my New Year's Resolution. I found this quote while searching for something for a New Year's card, because we didn't quite get the Christmas cards out in time.

I will seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion. I will seek to be worthy more than respectable, wealthy and not rich. I will study hard, think quietly, talk gently, and act frankly. I will listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with an open heart. I will bear all things cheerfully, do all things bravely await occasions and hurry never. In a word I will let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. William Ellery Channing

If I can manage to live by the words of this quote I think it will be a good year indeed.

Also, I think I like the surprise of a card arriving in January. Since the advent of Facebook and email and blogs it seems Christmas is one of the only times you get real, personal mail anymore. That makes me sad because there is nothing more beautiful than a hand written letter.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mourn with those who mourn

There is a bible verse that says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) I never actually understood this verse. I am by nature an extrovert and more than slightly co-dependent. So, in my world, why would you weep with someone? Wouldn’t you want to brighten up their day, perk them up a bit? I want everyone to be happy. People should feel better when I am there. In the past I always felt I needed to do something.

After today, I think I am getting a better grasp on the verse. Our neighbor Jack Guerin died of cancer complications at the age of nine. We have lived on the same street for about five years and he has been sick for two and a half of those years. We have been praying hard for him but this week, he just couldn’t hang on any longer. He passed away quietly at his home. His wake was this afternoon.

Any time you have to go to a funeral home is hard; when you have to look at a once vibrant, little boy in the casket - it is devastating. This is not the time to try to lighten things up. Jokes seem wrong on so many levels next to a child’s casket.

As I knelt down to say a prayer in front of the casket all I could think was, “Breathe, breathe you can do it. We will all be scared witless, but we get over it in five minutes when we realize you are okay, just wake up, wake up, wake up!” Of course he couldn’t wake up; I think the embalming process puts an end to any hope of that. So, what do you do? You mourn with the parents. I just had an overwhelming feeling of sadness, sadness that empathized with Mike and Mandy, sadness at this cruel ending to a beautiful life. There was nothing, absolutely nothing to say which could possibly help. So, I hugged and I cried and I hugged and cried some more. I was also desperately aware of the injustice that I got to leave with two healthy children.

I also realized later that I didn’t feel awkward or uneasy. I wasn’t searching for something to do there. I wasn’t trying to dissipate any tension or sadness. This verse from Romans was rattling around my head until I put two and two together. This is what mourning with those who mourn is all about. It’s not about lightening their load or making them feel better or heaven forbid cheering them up. It is about just being there in the grief. It is admitting you can’t change the hurt and you can’t change the circumstance, but you share in it. You say to someone, “I will be here right here in the middle of all this sadness and I will sit with you as long as it takes.” Maybe just maybe it isn’t about doing anything, but just about being with someone. I hope so, because my presence is all I have to give.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Great Pumpkin Caper

After a whirlwind conference weekend (more on that later), we awoke to find something amiss. The girls went outside to play this morning and noticed that the largest pumpkin, which was set right next to the window on the porch had been stolen. The girls have watched too much reality crime TV because they examined the crime scene before I got there and determined it was too large to be carried away by an animal. Smaller pumpkins have little gnaw marks on them but Maeve and Hilde figured if an animal ate the big pumpkin it would have needed to chew into and then would have left a mess. I am surprised they didn't rope off the area so that it didn't get contaminated.

So, incredulity lead to indignation and Maeve created a sign to post in the yard. (Maeve often communicates to the world in signs, especially when she is indignant. Signs on her bedroom door, signs in the school room and now signs on the mailbox.).

I am not sure what think about the stolen pumpkin. Most of our neighbors have lived on this street longer than I have been alive and I can't really fathom Mr. K sneaking down the road in his Mercedes to steal a pumpkin or Mr. Arch taking the pumpkin to his part time security job at the local outlet mall. Miss Jane may have taken it as a model while she decorates cakes at Shaw's but if this was the case it would be home by now. We also did not find any evidence of smashed pumpkins. Which if a teenager had stolen it, I would assume it would be to smash it on the road. I hear that's a good Halloween pastime.

When Grandpa gets here on Wednesday we will ask him to dust for prints but for now we are living with the great pumpkin caper. If you have seen a tallish, oval shaped pumpkin of medium size, Maeve really wants her pumpkin back.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vacation in Vermont

We just spent a few, and I mean a few, days visiting Vermont. We have lived in New England for twelve years and have never made it there until now. It took our friends from Texas going there to escape the heat to get yes to make the trip.

We stayed at a very cute Inn, The Hugging Bear ( , in Chester, VT. The innkeeper Georgette was hosting us and her family for the days we were there. So, in the whole inn, it was us and her daughters' families. It really made us feel like family. We were even included in a private concert by her grandson Brendan Thomas ( . Very cool.

There are few things that amazed me about Vermont. It really is green all over. It is really way out in the middle of nowhere. I am sure Vermont has cities, but I didn't see them. People are nice in Vermont! You may think this last one is a no-brainer, but let me explain. When I say "nice" I mean welcoming and hospitable. I have come to love New England, but these two words don't really describe the every day experience here. However, in Vermont we were greeted by people on the street, we were welcomed into shops and inns and the people at the amusement park were accommodating! I was overwhelmed with kindness and it really threw me for a loop. Now that I am home, I kind of miss it. I am not saying that New Englanders are rude, they are just not usually outgoing.

The most amusing thing for me was staying in a small town. Just after we checked in to the room, I looked out the window to see a "vicar", a woman in a dress and straw hat and a man in a tie crossing the green headed to tour the town cemetery. It was like being in a BBC masterpiece theatre. I just didn't want to be the suspicious outsiders accused of a crime. I wanted to be one of the stalwart townspeople. I have always wanted to live in a small town and live right off main street and be a "townie". Alas, not yet to be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saying Good Bye to a Friend

When I started blogging I made the semi-conscious decision to blog about anything and everything. Well, that decision is backfiring on me today. What happens when something happens that is big moment in your life, but writing about it is both painful and exhausting? Not writing about it though would be worse, because you want to get the moment down on paper. You need to remember it, but more than that you need to lay it out in the correct arrangement in your head.

My good friend Bret Smith died last Saturday June 7, 2009.( He was a pilot, who had built his own plane. He and his wife Alex were at a party and he was giving airplane rides. Sharing the love of flying was one of his favorite things. The plane went down during one these rides, killing Bret and a passenger.

Bret and Alex were two of the first people Daniel and I met when we moved here to Rhode Island. Daniel and Bret worked together at CVS. Bret and Alex made my first year bearable. Bret was always having fun and play-dates with Alex and the kids helped drag me out of a period of post partum depression. It’s hard to hide post-partum depression from a psychologist but I did my best.

I remember hearing about great Friday night parties at his house; his barn actually. Bret had built his own barn and upstairs was a little sport bar-like nook. I keep wondering when we would get invited to these get togethers. Eventually, somehow we did all become friends. There was a little group of what I called “expatriates” Four families working for CVS, not originally from Rhode Island. Bret was from Tennessee, his wife; Alex is from Wellesley, Massachusetts, Daniel and I from Virginia, Jeff and Amy from Washington State and Jeanne from Walpole, Massachusetts. We shared kid’s birthdays, holidays and fun weekends together, because we didn’t really have family in the area. It was nice to have someone to talk to, who understood what trying to assimilate into Rhode Island felt like and it was nice to have friends in a place that did not yet feel like home.

The amazing thing was Bret never did assimilate into life in Rhode Island. He just took all of what he knew of Rhode Island and made it assimilate into his life. Somehow, he managed to find the only piece of Rhode Island that looks like Tennessee and he bought the land and made it his. When I drove there for the first time, my first thought really was, “What just happened? One minute we were in Suburban RI and now we just entered the back woods of TN?!”

He and Alex had restored this great farmhouse and filled it with cool stuff and lots of love. They had this library ladder that was the stairway to the play loft for the kids. It was totally cool and totally nerve wracking at the same time. We all had kids under the age of six and they all had to get up and down that damn ladder. It caused severe mommy panic for me but my girls loved it.

When someone you know dies, I think it is human nature to review your relationship. I guess it is our feeble attempt to store up memories and try to hold on to ones too important to let go. One of those memories about Bret is that he was always smiling. Really, he was always smiling and he loved life. People say that about everyone who dies, but Bret really did live life to the fullest. He was always having fun and pulling other people along, so they could have fun too. He loved people, he loved parties, and he loved music and flying. He was the kind of guy that thought anything was possible and because of that he really did accomplish most of what he dreamed. He also made you feel like you, too could do anything. Nothing was out of reach to Bret. I remember the day he told me that he had gotten a magazine article published. It was a great piece about flying with Alex. I was so jealous. Here I was trying to scratch time to write and he just met and editor, submitted and they printed his piece. Just like it was the easiest thing in the world. Then I read the article and it was a really good and I realized I couldn’t be jealous of him, it just wasn’t possible. I was just happy for him because there he was doing one more thing he loved.

He loved his family. His wife is an amazing person is her own right, but together they formed Bret and Alex, the dynamic duo. Adding to that Georgia and Elvis, you had a most amazing family. I think this is the most heartbreaking part, that Georgia and Elvis will have to grow up without him and that he will miss out on their growing up. He would have loved teaching them to drive, seeing them date, sending them off to college and hosting weddings. He would have been the most awesome grandpa on the block. How cool would it be to have your grandfather fly planes?

He was also a great storyteller. When he told stories from his childhood, he would have a room full of people laughing so hard they were crying. He was the friend everyone wished for. He was fun, he was thoughtful, and he was generous. He just made life better; which when you think of it we should all be trying to do.

When he and Alex moved back to Clarksville, Tennessee, they left a hole in neighborhood. I loved getting Bret’s e-mail about the Smith adventures in Tennessee. Now that he is gone from this world it feels like a crater. Who could ever fill his shoes? He was one amazing person, who touched so many lives.

I have spent the last week thinking and praying for his family, I can’t imagine the sadness they must be feeling. How do you get past this or are you supposed to? I honestly have no answer. This is one of those times in life when you just have to breathe and get up in the morning and do the same thing tomorrow and hope that hurts less. These are the times when I let go of whatever my finite mind can come up with and let God in His infiniteness take over.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Some Quotes from Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry is my favorite poet. I love that he is a farmer/poet, like I am a homemaker/poet. It gives me hope that I too may one day be able to put together a collection. His lens on the world is unique and beautiful. His poems entwine generations of humanity with nature and both of these with God. After sitting and reading from his works, I feel refreshed and renewed and re-purposed.

Here are some quotes:

“We clasp the hands of those that go before us, And the hands of those who come after us. We enter the little circle of each other's arms And the larger circle of lovers, Whose hands are joined in a dance, And the larger circle of all creatures, Passing in and out of life, Who move also in a dance, To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it Except in fragments”

"It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.”

How To Be a Poet by Wendell Berry

(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

To The Holy Spirit

O Thou, Far off and here, whole and broken,
Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pictures that Maeve took

Here are some pictures that Maeve took this Spring. She received a camera as a Christmas gift and has been clicking away ever since. She takes some really good shots for a ten year old. I love the tree, how she managed to get it completely centered I don't know. The photo of Hilde is also very cute. One of the best things about my girls is how much they love each other. They even share diaries. Maeve gave Hilde a key to her diary and Hilde gave Maeve a key to hers. I was touched when I found this out. Then I asked for a key and they both rolled their eyes at me.

Getting started

I am in the middle of creating this blog, while arguing with my husband about it. Welcome to my normal.

He has been saying for years I need a blog. This morning when I was in process of creating one, he says, "What do you need a blog for?" Thanks for the support dear. He was actually asking what I think I will blog about. Apparently, everything and anything wasn't specific enough for him.

The main intent of this space is for me to put my thoughts and essays somewhere and keep the people I love up to date on the conversations in my head (and the get those conversation down on paper). I like the idea of centralizing and giving form to my writing. Up until now it has been snippets on the laptop and submissions to magazines all spread out all over and in various stages. To me. a blog gives structure and the oh-so-needed accountability to actually sit down and write.

The name Sacramental Mothering, is well, sacramental for me. I believe that everything I do as wife, mother and human being somehow should bring life to others. I also think that even the mundane things like laundry, cooking and rearing children are sacred and worthy to be written about. I believe God meets us best in our everyday ordinary life and living in gratitude is the best posture to take. We will see if you agree.