Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas thoughts....

Thinking (for obvious reasons) a lot about Christmas lately -- I know I said it last  year, but I'm going to say it again this year -- we work really hard to make Christmas about the "reason" and not the "stuff".  No one in our house lacks for anything (although they might beg to differ with you) -- if they need something, they get it (and oftentimes more than they need).  So, we try to focus on why we celebrate Christmas.

I shared with you last year what we were doing with our lists, and I want to share again -- lots of people have asked me recently what that was again, so I feel it's worth bringing out again!  When our kids make their lists, we ask them to group them in these four ways:

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
Something to read.

Simple.  They can make lists within the lists, but those are the four categories (of course Abby's list includes a Kindle under 3 of those categories, thinking that might help her cause!).

For a long time, we tried to stick with three gifts (an unwritten rule, just in case!).  It was hard sometimes when the kids were real little, because many of their gifts weren't valued at much.  We do not really try to spend the exact same on each kid (I would go insane) -- but I do try to make sure that if someone has an extraordinary Christmas one year that they do not the next year.

What are your traditions?  I love this time of year -- everyone is so excited!!!

Finally, I found this the other day and think it's perfect:

May you and your family be blessed through this Holiday season!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wedding......Colorado style!

Jim and I were invited to his cousin's wedding in Colorado in September.  I blogged about the weekend prior, but wanted to wait to blog about their beautiful wedding until I had a chance to talk about our CCD class about marriage.  I wanted to talk a little about this wedding because it touched me so deeply.

The groom was Jim's cousin. There is a fairly large age difference between Jim and his cousins on his dad's side, because Jim's dad and his brother are something like 10 years age difference. So, when I met Greg, Lisa, and Mike, they were all little people running around -- sitting on Santa's lap and such. It's been fun to watch them grow up from being the cutest kids to being absolutely amazing adults. 

Their parents taught their kids to be go getters, reach for their dreams, and think independently (pretty sure that's why they would never listen to me and go to OSU :).  This has proven to be an awesome game plan for all three of them -- with the exception (for me) that they now live all over and we don't get to see them as often as we would like!

Greg and his sister Lisa had both been dating people for a little while (how would I know how long?  LOL).....when one weekend I got a call that little Greg (haha!) had gotten engaged to the beautiful woman he had introduced us to at Christmas, Cat.  I couldn't believe it!  How exciting that they were getting married.

A week or so later, I ran into Ed at Subway one day and he told me he had something fun to tell me.  When I asked what it was, he said that Lisa had gotten engaged as well!!!  Well, goody!

These two both grew up near us, but chose to have destination weddings as they were getting married in the cities that they now called home (is it called a destination wedding then?)  Lisa was getting married on Labor Day weekend in Seattle and Greg two weeks later in Colorado. 

One look in our checkbook and around at our kids quickly made up our minds that we would only be going to one of the two weddings.  We talked it over with the rest of Jim's family, who all agreed that we would divide and conquer.  It ended up that Jim's brother went to the Seattle wedding (which I heard was beautiful!) and Jim's mom, brother and his wife, and Jim and I would go to the wedding in Colorado.

Silverthorne is a newer town -- a ski town that is growing at a very rapid pace.  Because of that, they were building a brand new Catholic church in town.  With any luck, the church would be done for Greg and Cat's wedding (which it was).  They did finish a little later than expected, though, so although it wasn't planned that way -- Greg and Cat's wedding was the very first wedding to take place in the new church.

We drove past the day before to get our bearings and figure out where the church and the reception was.  We noted that it was at the foot of a mountain -- with a gorgeous Rocky Mountain backdrop.  Breathtaking.

When we arrived at the church on Saturday, we got our first glimpse inside.  What we found was a BEAUTIFUL church -- with a beautiful crucifix as the centerpiece of the altar.

However, the sheer beauty of the church could not have prepared us for the beautiful ceremony we were about to witness.  Not having been around Greg and Cat much, I had not had the opportunity to watch their love grow -- but let me tell you, it was beautiful to watch them express their vows before God and all of us.  I always tell people that I LOVE to see the groom see the bride come down the aisle and see the huge smile come over their face (and Greg certainly didn't disappoint -- it was as if his nerves calmed down as soon as he caught sight of his beautiful bride!).

The thought that they gave to every little detail of their wedding was so impressive -- they left no stone unturned.  However, the thing that touched me most -- dare I say brought a tear to my eye (surprise!) -- was at communion.  Greg was given the body of Christ, and then the blood of Christ -- but then took the cup, and, as his first gift to Cat as his wife, gave her the blood of Christ.  What an awesome gift!  In the end, Greg distributed the cup to his family/side of the church, and Cat did hers.  What a fantastic idea! 

To me -- starting out your married life so ingrained in your faith can only prove to make your commitment to Jesus and each other that much stronger.

The reception following the mass was equally well-thought out.  From the beautiful talks from Greg and Cat (they are right -- we DID want to hear what they had to say about the wedding!) to the nice gesture of handing the bouquet (as opposed to tossing it for any random person to catch) to the next bride to get married.  What a beautiful day!

(As a side note -- the appetizers, dinner and dessert were fabulous.  And while Margaret and I loved trying a few new drinks, we LOVED the water that was on the table at dinner.  I don't know if it was fresh spring water or not -- but I drank a LOT of it and would have bottled it and brought it home if I could have!)

And in case everything else I've written doesn't help you to think this is a beautiful couple, here is one of their wedding photos.  Absolutely breathtaking!

Congratulations Greg and Cat! 
He's come a long way from the little tyke I met so long ago -- but one that has grown into such a wonderful human being.  And, since likes attract, married someone equally as wonderful as him.  I absolutely cannot wait to see what life brings the two them.  One thing is for certain -- there will be lots of adventures!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A few thoughts about marriage -- our CCD classes

My sincere apologies -- this post is WAY overdue!!!  I've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately, so I decided to slow down on my writing here and concentrate on the things I needed to get done.  Now, they are done (at least I FEEL caught up!  :) -- so here I am.  I wanted to give this one all I have because I think it is so awesome.

We started our new CCD year in September (see how far behind I am???) -- after a couple of introductory weeks, I, along, with my friends, Steve Pulskamp and Amy Fullenkamp (I have to admit they are the brains behind this operation!), planned a CCD class around the SACRAMENT of marriage.  We were discussing our goals and all of us felt very strongly that we as a society are getting away from the SACRAMENTS and protecting them.  We wanted to talk about the beauty of being married (vs. living together) and how it enhances the marriage once you are married.  We also wanted to exemplify married life as the beautiful thing that it is, while also discussing the trials and tribulations we come across along the way.  Finally, we also wanted to talk to them about while they will probably all have beautiful plans of their lives and how they want them to go, that God has the ultimate plan and will sometimes take you along paths that aren't necessarily in your plans.

Our first class was truly about the sacrament of marriage -- reading scripture to discover what it says about marriage, have group conversations (basically about the Family of Origin and how people figure out how things will work in their marriage) -- and finally, a discussion with Father Tom about how he and the church view marriage.  I have had him give this talk before, and always love it -- he is very frank about what he sees when people who have been living together come in to meet with him before they get married vs. people who have not.  One thing is he sees freshness and newness and more excitement with those who have not lived together.  They are ready to start a whole new life!!!  So exciting!

The second class was really fun.  We invited three couples to come in and talk with the kids about their marriage.  We had newlyweds (since March), a couple who had been married 25 years, and a couple who have been married 50+ years (I would remember how long, but that was so long ago.....LOL).  We started the evening playing our own version of "The Newlywed Game" -- asking them questions such as where was your first date, what kind of car was he driving on your first date, when was your first fight as a married things like that.

Our third and final class was a very touching class.  There is a couple in our parish who, between the two of them, have been through more than any one person should have to experience.  But, they have taken their crosses and showed them for all to see, making shining examples of what Christ's soldiers truly look like.  Their story is way more than I can write here, but the shortened version is that they both lost their spouses to cancer, he right after his wife gave birth to their second child, and she a year or two after.  They were neighbors and acquaintances but found themselves there for each other.  Eventually realizing they were meant to be together, they got married, formed a new family and a new life together.  They are super neat people who I have known WHO they are for a long time, but am just now really getting to know them.  And man, do I feel blessed!  Such awesome people.

These classes were fantastic.  And it had nothing to do with those of us that planned them.  It had everything to do with those who came in to talk to the kids.  One mom said her 17 year old son came home and relayed the last couple's story to her turn by turn.  They were touched.  They were listening.  I hope that they are able to remember those words when it's time for them to find their partner and realize it's always God's plan, not their own!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Perfectly Imperfect Women Retreat

Ah.....a couple of days just for ME -- and my friends -- and other women from throughout celebrate nothing more than being the very best imperfect women we can be......

I spent last evening and this morning at a retreat at the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein at a retreat titled "The Perfectly Imperfect Woman".....what a wonderful retreat!

I have always loved retreats -- you take a few things out of your life for a bit and focus on a few other key areas -- this weekend it was removing husbands and kids and replacing them (temporarily!) with prayer, reflection, and laughter!

I was asked a few months ago to be a speaker at this weekend's retreat.  I was thrilled!  I love to talk (lol) -- especially in front of groups -- I enjoy helping people find the best version of themselves! 

I have to admit that last night I was shaking in my shoes for a bit!  I was speaking directly (and I mean directly!) after my friend Kimi, and as she was speaking I was trying to figure out ways to get out of speaking.  I thought of holding up a sign and saying, "Keep going Kimi!" -- or leaving the room :) -- or any number of other ways I thought of to get out of speaking. 

Why did I want out?  Because as Kimi was speaking, I watched her shine shine shine -- she is such an eloquent speaker who was really getting her points across -- she knows the bible inside and out and was quoting scripture verse after scripture verse, reading from her very organized index cards (which were clipped together in I sat and held my few scraps of paper I had scribbled a few notes on.  The more she spoke -- I kept reorganizing my talk --- still trying to hatch my escape plan.

But -- I was foiled again -- because, before I could get the heck out of dodge, she introduced me and it was my time.  Yikes!  I was so worried I was going to fall flat on my face.  I even pointed out Kimi's beautiful note cards aside of my scraps of paper!   LOL

I love speaking at retreats, though, because women are there to listen -- to whatever you have to say.  They are eager to listen, and to learn, and to grow from their experience.  Might I even say they are hungry for their fairth -- and to nurture it.

So I didn't get booed out of the room and everyone seemed to enjoy it -- even the part where I told everyone about my sister-in-law taking my young children to their very first bar!

The other parts of the evening were just as wonderful -- with mass, celebrated by my friend, Rev. John Tonkin, always a beautiful way to celebrate any occasion - -but even more beautiful last night.  I had the gift of getting a "communion/sign of peace" hug from my friend, Mary, who had come in from Cleveland for the weekend -- and who brought me to tears by the sight of her.  Mary and I were Resident Assistants together at Ohio State, and then lived together for several years after college.  Since that time, our only really chances to be together are when we run into each other at the Ohio State Fair when our kids are competing, so we really only have a few minutes until one or the other needs to get to be with our kids.

I have said it before and I will say it again -- the true test of friendship is when you can be absent from one another for long periods of time and still pick up without missing a beat.  We were able to do that this weekend.  And we laughed.  Boy, did we laugh.  (I'm pretty sure the wine we were "tasting" helped out a bit, too!)  Our friend, Joyce, was there as well, and she had some fun memories to share, too!  I truly have not laughed that hard and that long for a long time......and it felt so good!

I told everyone during my talk that it occurred to me that Mary was one of those people I sought out at the beginning of one of my years at school to go to church with me -- I tell my kids, and also my CCD kids to do the same -- find other Catholic kids at the beginning of the year to go to church with you and "keep you honest" :) -- so it was an amazing thought to me to think how far we've come -- from going to church and breakfast during college, to celebrating this weekend.  What a wonderful gift!

I "roomed" with my friend Melissa, so we got to chat at other times.  I love sharing my faith with my friends -- it really brings your relationship to a whole other level.   She is such a gift in my life and I appreciate her so much!

When we finally rolled into bed (around 2 am, which is late for this girl!) -- we set our alarms for 7 am -- breakfast was at 8!  I wondered how this was going to work -- I'm not used to these hours!  But, I was on autopilot because it was a "special" time -- and hit the snooze once until Melissa yelled at me to get out of bed......and we were on our way!  Dressed and in search of coffee to start the day!

A couple of speakers in the am -- my friend Jamie Schmiesing, who has such a brilliant way of making her super busy family life seem so doable for anyone (I couldn't do it!) spent a few minutes reflecting on morning times at her home; and Joan Kiser, whom I have written of before -- she runs the Neurological Center in Fort Recovery -- brought her client, Rick, with her to share their story of how God sometimes has other plans for your life.

All in all, a super spectacular weekend celebrating with friends old a new.  I can't wait for November 1 & 2 next year, when we will do it all over again!  I hope that you will take time now to mark your calendar and join us!

Mother Teresa Quote from the Retreat

I had several requests for the quote from Mother Teresa that I used last night in my talk.  I told you I would post it, so here it is!  I will write more about the retreat later.  :)

“I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”


Friday, November 9, 2012

A Post-election Reflection

I've been wanting to write this for a couple of days, but have not had the chance.  I wanted to give my thoughts on the election that the United State just held, the results, and general meanderings.

However, I want to start with a caveat:  I don't mind discussion about this, as long as it is respectful.  It is my blog and I reserve the right to remove your posts (not in a fit of censorship) if you do not treat others with respect.  We are all friends here and while these are my thoughts and you may not share them, please be nice.

I, like many others, sat on my couch Tuesday evening listening to the results come in.  I was full of hope that "my guy" (Romney) was going to pull off a win and start steering this country back in the direction it needs to go.  The direction our forefathers wanted it to go.  A God centered nation, that was fiscally responsible, but also cognizant of the rights and needs of the citizens (both born and unborn) of this great nation.

I did my homework (although, truthfully, there wasn't much to do for the Presidential election -- our current President could not be veering farther from my ideals if he tried).  But I read, as I always do, about plans, and ideas that each candidate brought forth.  I like to consider myself an Independent voter -- I don't vote straight party lines, but rather vote based upon the candidate who best represents my ideals.  I was raised a Democrat -- my father was a farmer and a union worker, so we didn't have much choice -- but have honestly found over the years that the Democrats don't represent my values any longer.  My father, in his later years, had voted Republican himself due to the changes within the party.

But I digress.  I prepared myself.  I tried to watch many newschannels to get a well-rounded view of both candidates -- which I quickly found was impossible.  I remember a time when the news channels gave the news -- now what we see is a skewed view of the news -- showing their bias toward their particular side.  It was maddening at times -- I'm sure from both sides, but especially from my point of view -- MAJOR stories were not released or even discussed (Bhengazi comes to mind).  I hope (probably in vain) that there are some changes in the way stations handle the news in the coming years to balance the storytelling a bit.

I even attended a rally in Mitt's honor -- at the Shelby County Fairgrounds -- home of many great memories for me -- and now one more.  There were so many people there that I could not even get close -- which was ok with me because I felt it was a strong showing and a great "problem" to have!

So, in the weeks leading to the election, I saw many great things -- I saw three Presidential debates, in which one candidate looked very presidential and had positive answers to many of the questions -- and our current sitting President relying on the Press to haul him out again because he wasn't used to speaking for himself.  

I saw a Vice Presidential debate that certainly told me which candidate I wanted to run the country in case the President couldn't.  There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted Paul Ryan to be the back-up.

I voted on Tuesday.  I waited until after work, because Will really wanted to go along.  And I wanted him to have the experience.  He asked lots of questions while I was voting -- first and foremost, he asked (very loudly) where I was going to vote for Mitt!  I heard a few chuckles around us, and showed him, then explained to him that we don't announce who we are voting for -- it's frowned upon.

As we watched the returns Tuesday night -- I had this sinking feeling early on.  I don't know why -- I hadn't heard any exit polls -- but I just didn't have a good feeling.  And, apparently, I was right.  The further the night went on, the sicker to my stomach I felt.  What is America thinking? is all that went through my mind.  We have a failing economy, a horrendous & scary proposed healthcare system that does not protect life (and, as I found out today -- also does not cover infertility treatments -- so it will pay to destroy life but not to help create it -- which begs to ask why it doesn't just support adoption?)....and, most scary to me, a President who does not appear to value God and family.

I am fearful.  I am scared for our future as a county.  I am scared for my children's future.  I am scared for Jim and I.

So I went to bed.  And I prayed.  And I prayed.  And I prayed.  All the while thinking and wondering what I could do.  How could we handle this?

And, as always, He came through.  I have been hearing the word "time" for quite some time now -- and heard it again loud and clear Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning.  

It wasn't time.  We need to wait.  All will be revealed in His time, not ours (totally the hardest thing for me!). He has a plan and is waiting to enact it.  Eventually, it will all make sense (I hope so!).  

I found it interesting that one of Wednesday's readings was:

1 Phil 2:12-18

My beloved, obedient as you have always been,
not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent,
work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose,
works in you both to desire and to work.
Do everything without grumbling or questioning,
that you may be blameless and innocent,

children of God without blemish

in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life,
so that my boast for the day of Christ may be
that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
But, even if I am poured out as a libation
upon the sacrificial service of your faith,
I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.
In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.

He does ultimately have a plan.  He's telling us that!  We just need to wait.  And pray.  We need to pray for President Obama and the entire administration that they lead this country in a direction that will ultimately enhance our lives (everyone's).  We need to ask God to give him the grace to do his job and work with the Senators and Representatives to come up with some resolutions.  We need to ask God to help him realize his mistakes when it comes to religious freedoms.

But I'm impatient.  Did you know that?  And, it's very hard to pray for someone that you rarely agree with.  Maybe that's His point?

I leave you with these parting words:

I'm comforted to know that things didn't look so good when Christ was hanging on the cross. (from Brittany Brown, daughter of my friend, Kimi) 

Great point, Brittany.