So. Many. Feast.Days.

October in the Catholic Church is like harvest time for the garden: look! Here’s some awesomeness! Ooh, here too! Look at this one! I love this! There’s just so much!  It is absolutely chock-full of feast days for a great many wonderful role models that were real, authentic people.  And if I were the type of woman I want to be (meaning I would actually celebrate these feast days in a meaningful way), then I absolutely would; but as it is right now I have very little time & energy to do more than just note them on the calendar as I’m doing the dishes and checking the school snack calendar that hangs right above it.

But there’s always next October!

So let’s review.  October 1st: St. Therese.  I’ve written about her here before, and in thinking about her life what I love the most is how hard she worked at refining away all of her selfish, (and self-described) bratty tendencies.  There’s hope for me yet!

October 4th: St. Francis.  So I’ve never read Harry Potter and only saw the first movie about 15 years ago, but as I remember it, there are times when a wizard can conjure up a feeling or an animal or something and it appears as a symbol of what they want or need or whatever.  And if I were to have such powers and wave my wand and conjure up such a symbol for myself, it would be St. Francis. When I was in college and thought about becoming a nun all the time, I went on a discernment retreat at a Franciscan convent and loved it.  There is so much that is attractive to me about his philosophy of living and life. I might have more seriously pursued it, though, had I heard about these ladies before deciding to not go that route with my life.

October 5th.  St. Faustina Kowalska.  Mystic.  Stigmatic.  Vessel through which the (much needed and) important message of MERCY was directly given to us.  MERCY.  It’s there for you, right now.  Yeah, you.

October 7th: Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Back when I was in college and part of a campus ministry retreat team, I was put in charge of saying the rosary every day at 2pm (and inviting the rest of the campus to join me.  I was usually alone.) I learned how to recite the rosary very quickly, and I didn’t appreciate the calmness it brings to me as an adult.  When my babies were little and I had long times to nurse them before bed I’d pray it, and I mostly didn’t fall asleep myself.  I’d highly recommend this for those with anxious, fearful minds that like to obsess mercilessly over things for hours (or days) at a time.

October 15th: St. Theresa of Avila.  What I love best about St. Theresa was that she was a reformer, and the way she reformed was she returned (and encouraged others to) return to the basics of Jesus’ message: help the poor and the suffering. Pray. Serve, serve, serve.  And become poor (at least in spirit) in order to remember the most least among us.

*(There are seriously so many saints that we honor in October, so I’m going to skip some in order to go to bed at a decent hour.)*

October 22nd: St. John Paul II.  Guys.  Guysssss.  I have seen a saint with my own eyes.  Up close, and by up close I mean like a quarter of a mile away on an enormous Jumbotron, in an even bigger field that held nearly one million other young people my age.  But he was there and I was there and distance means nothing at all really! I stood during his homily for World Youth Day in Rome in the year 2000 and I did absolutely nothing but cry, because there really is nothing else you can do when you’re in the presence of an actual saint.  So.

October 28th: St. Jude Thaddaeus.  You know this one.  Patron saint of desperate, lost causes.  He was one of the original 12 apostles but he was largely ignored by the faithful as someone to turn to since he sort of had the same name as, you know, that other guy, and so people didn’t want to get confused and end up praying to the man who betrayed Jesus and started all the trouble in the first place.  I myself have prayed many, many novenas to St. Jude for things and homeboy does not disappoint.  I mean, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup this year, so there you have it.

There are many, many more saints to celebrate this month and if you’re looking for ways to honor their days in your home (the way I want to every day but never get to, because – I’ll keep it 100 – there is laundry to do and weddings to attend and politics to fret over) check out Hayley’s fantastic ideas over at Carrots For Michaelmas.

Until next time!

 

Currently…

Reading: I just finished Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.  I’ve loved her for years, and was so excited when her book came out I hauled the kids to the library the moment it opened last Tuesday to make sure I snagged a copy.  Her greatest gift is making it look effortless – taking moments that seem so mundane and transforming them into magic.

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Watching: Now that this season of Mr. Robot is over (long sigh), our Wednesday nights are for American Horror Story: Roanoake.  It’s all right so far; not my favorite season, but watchable.  We’re also watching Fear the Walking Dead.  We recently cut our cable in favor of Playstation Vue, which we really enjoy, and we’ve been trying to make room in the week to catch up on some other shows.  We’re still two seasons behind on Homeland, and I’d love a Northern Exposure rewatch.

…I’m going to miss Mr. Robot. So much.

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Listening to: Mix CDs in my car, as usual.  The kids have been digging my Vince Guaraldi Trio / Audioslave / Sting mix these days.

Proud of: The essay I wrote for Coffee + Crumbs, “When She’s Gone.” (Published today!) I’ve been very humbled by the warm response it’s received, and I’m glad that sharing my story of losing my mom resonated with other people.  (Welcome to C+C readers who found me this way!) Also, I’m proud of the fact that I recently assembled my son’s Hot Wheels track all by myself, like a grownup, no husband help needed! (Hey, it was hard! Those things are no joke.  It had a loop and everything.)

Hoping to: Get my house more clean these days!

Looking forward to: Starting some fires…in our fireplace! We’re getting firewood delivered this weekend and I’m excited to start getting toasty.

Laughing at: Hillary Clinton’s appearance on Between Two Ferns.  I don’t know how his guests go on the show without hysterically laughing the entire time.

As always, recommendations are welcome!

Some Thoughts On Kanye.

So I guess as a disclaimer I should say right off the bat that I haven’t listened to a Kanye West album since 808s and Heartbreak.  But since his beginning, Kanye West has fascinated me.  I believe he is a genuine artist: extremely talented, astute, and gifted. But I also believe he’s a person who is trying to be as self-aware as they can be in an environment that is never stable.  He’s not a port in a storm; to me, he comes across as the piece of flora caught in the storm a piece of nature powerless against the incredibly strong wind that is determined to blow however the hell it wants.

Kanye West is probably the most apt representation right now of what it’s really like to be famous: constantly bewildered; knowing you have a platform and knowing you want to say something but not knowing how to present it in a way that will be relatable; trying to manage the deluge of coming from nothing, where very few people on Earth care who you are to being something that has become a commodity.

It would be an adjustment (to say the least) for anyone.

I think he’s still trying to be real.  I think he’s still trying to be himself, whatever that is. Others who are famous and successful and beloved (and not viewed – at least right now – as mentally unstable) have become that way because they either 1) focused attention on issues other than/larger than themselves; [e.g. Bono]  or 2) they’ve surrendered who they really are, either putting on a show or becoming the one who orchestrates it [e.g. Beyonce].

All of this makes me sound like a major Kanye West apologist, and I’m really not.  I think I’m most interested in the idea of fame as a construct. The larger issue, one we can really all relate to, is what our authentic lives look like.  Who are you? Underneath the labels of what you do for a living or how many kids you have, who are you? How would that change if you were famous? And if you are somebody with a platform of some kind – and you might be – what do you have to say? What is your reality?

Poem: Breastfeeding, 3 a.m.

Because you had set the precedent
I was promised hours of sleep,
Instead receiving minutes strung together
like cheap Christmas lights,
plastic orbs of color that burst into light
and immediately fade.

I love you, sweet thing, and everyone wants
to be needed, but this is so scraping, so garment-rending
in its urgency.  Young lovers are desperate too, in their desire,
but your need is much more carnal: I am food,
I am comfort and warmth.  I am tired,

but that word, too, is different, wrong.
There is no real word for it,
And for you, tiny girl, lips flayed against the thin skin
of my left areola, your impossibly small hands
kneading the flesh that spreads above it.

Your babyhood will also flash and be gone –
and that burns, too, like the sacrificial holiness of my sleep,
my comfort, my sanity.

It burns the flesh away to reveal the bone,
something stronger, underneath.

Shawshanking It

I didn’t want to go.

I had other plans; I meant to run a few errands before the upcoming festivities of my daughter’s Baptism this weekend, and the logistics of rushing to meet anyone anywhere seemed impossible.  But I wanted to see my friend and when she suggested spending some time walking around K-Mart and letting the kids loose (this K-Mart doesn’t pull in a lot of foot traffic), I agreed.

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It’s not easy, rounding two kids up to go places.

I’d known that before I had the second one, but it’s really not easy when one of the kids is being potty trained and we have to sit him on the potty before we go anywhere.  Because it’s not really ever an easy sit.  There’s the bribery, the whining, the carrying, the tears, the biting, scratching and pinching, and even if he successfully goes on the potty, there’s the inevitable fight over the pulling up of the undies.  All of this while the baby is crying to be held in the other room.  Trying to get anywhere on time is a nightmare; and we were a few minutes late when we pulled into the parking lot.

I was frazzled.  I have been, lately.  My mom’s not well.  We found out in April, and the little time I had to really think about it before the baby arrived was stuffed with hysterical crying and the thought that it would just be too hard.  It is hard, but I can do hard things.  With the baby here in all of her newness, it’s easy to push the thoughts of my mom’s inevitable passing aside, but up they bubble, here and there.

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My friend asked how my mom was doing as we cruised the store, walking past the too-early aisles of Halloween candy set up facing the on-clearance rows of poolside plastic lawnchairs.  I told her how she’d had her PET scan to determine if she’d continue treatment, about how short her breath was getting, about how she slept all the time and barely could eat.  By the time we’d gotten to the toy aisles, the stomachache I’ve acquired when thinking about my mom for extended periods of time had set in, but we kept talking about her.  I wanted to talk about her.

“She wants to be cremated, I know that,” I said.  “Wants the ashes buried in the park near where she grew up.  In Manhattan.”

“You going to do it?”

I shook my head.  “My brother will, probably.  I don’t think it’s legal.  It’s human remains.”

“Why doesn’t he Shawshank it?” my friend asked.  I was confused.  Like, did she mean dig a tunnel, or…

And she mimicked Tim Robbins’ character walking through the prison yard, hands in his opened pockets, letting out the pieces of concrete wall he’d hammer-rocked through onto the ground.  “You know,” she said, “Putting the ashes in your pockets.  Shawshanking it.”

It was what I needed to hear.  I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time, and my eyes brimmed with the kind of tears I was pretty sure from the laughing and not just the intensity of what was going to come sooner rather than later.

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Knowing someone with terminal cancer – especially a family member – propels you into a vortex of grief early.  You get familiar with the idea of “first times” after the person passes (the first Christmas after, the first Thanksgiving after), but you also get pushed into an awareness of the “last times” you will have.

I don’t know how long she has left.  My birthday was two days ago; was it the last birthday I’ll have with my mother still alive?

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It helps that my faith dictates that there’s a Heaven and a time we’ll see each other again, but statements of faith like that have to be made for real.  Do I really believe this? Do I really believe in God and Heaven and Jesus dying for us on the Cross?

It’s strange that I have to ask myself that – it surprises me that I do, but it’s so near now.  These were just ideas before, and the reality is that I have to decide whether or not I think it’s true.

And yet I do believe it.  I do believe in all those things; I believe that it’s true.  And in those moments I have in between shoving my son towards the bathroom or strapping my screaming daughter in the car seat, I find myself believing and being comforted, even if it’s just for now.

Momnipotent

My parish is running a monthly gathering for Moms beginning in October, and I just signed up.  It’s called “Momnipotent,” and is a discussion group focused specifically around motherhood and finding God through the challenges and joys it brings.

Here’s the trailer for the study:

I’m excited to check it out! I’ll let you know how it goes when it starts next month.

🙂