Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Woman's Walk with Jesus & Who IS Veronica?

I love the Stations of the Cross. Even if I can't get to any other service during Holy Week (other than Easter Sunday mass) I try to make it to the Stations of the Cross.

If you've never heard of them, it is a spiritual meditation on the final moments of Jesus' life, broken up into (typically) fourteen events - from being condemned to death to laid in the tomb. Typically on Good Friday if you go to a reading of the Stations (many churches, including mine, have them every Friday during Lent), one reader will read the text for each Station, followed by "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you." Then the congregation says, "Because by your Holy cross, you have redeemed the world." The priest and altar servers will process around the church and stand in front of each station as it is read. On that note- if you're in a Catholic church and you see stained glass or wooden images with roman numerals under them, chances are, you're looking at the Stations of the Cross!

They date back to the 4th century when Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land would recount the walk that Jesus took to Golgotha. When Muslims captured Jerusalem and it became too dangerous to make the pilgrimage, Christians brought the concept home and viola! They are also knows as the Via Dolorosa, Way of the Cross or Via Crucis.

There is something so sad yet beautiful about walking with Jesus on this road. To reflect on these 14 moments and think about how long and arduous that journey was and what it did for us is the perfect way to close out the Lenten season and get my mind and heart ready for Easter.

Thanks to CatholicMom.com I came across A Woman's Stations of the Cross. Now these aren't going to be read in a formal setting at church, but that doesn't mean you can't take them and sit in church by yourself and do a little quiet reflection. Or how great would it be to bring these to your next women's bible study?! I'm sure everyone would appreciate it & grow from it.

On a separate but related note, a couple of years ago a dear friend of mine accompanied me to a Friday night Stations of the Cross. She is not Catholic. She asked me about Veronica. The sixth station is "Veronica wipes the face of Jesus". I said, uh... it's Veronica. I was baptized at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee. Of course there's a Veronica! She's not in the Bible? I figured she was mentioned in just a verse or two and I had missed it. So I did my research. Here's the gist (source, bustedhalo.com):

Regardless of how much you search and how closely you read the text, you won’t find an account of what we know of as the sixth station of the cross, Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, because it isn’t in the Bible. It is one of our Catholic legends that grew up after the Bible was written. The sources of the legend are varied, but it is noted in some medieval texts and includes the detail that after Veronica gave Jesus her veil to wipe his face as he walked to his death on Calvary it bore an imprint of his face. In the 1800s, a Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St. Peter, reported a vision of Veronica wiping away the spit and mud from Jesus’ face. The name Veronica itself is sometimes said to derive from “Vera Icon” meaning “true icon.”

Stations of the cross numbered three, seven, and nine — recounting Jesus falling three times — are also not to be found in the Bible although they, too, have become part of the popular imagination around Christ’s Passion.


I encourage you to join me (and more importantly, Jesus) before Lent ends. You'll be glad you did!

Money Laundering?

It's a crime how much we spend on laundry detergent. Isn't it? (That's the end of the pun. No more money laundering associations possible.) The other day a friend posted on FB that she just completed a new batch of DIY laundry detergent that would last her family of four like, eight months! Come again? Eight months?

There's little more painful than going to the grocery store for a quick in-and-out trip and remembering you're almost out of laundry soap. $16.99? Seriously? So when I saw that this concoction was supposedly going to last 2/3 of a year and not cost much more than a single bottle, I was willing to take the bait.

I mentioned it to my housemate/landlord/mother and she asked if it contained lard. Ah... no. It's not quite THAT DIY.

Here's the "recipe". And before you even ask, it says it's safe for HE/front loading washers.
The only tricky part is the Fels-Naptha. I started out by grating it and then put it in the food processor. It didn't get as fine as shown in the "Happy Money Saver" pics. In fact, I don't know how she got it that fine. When you put it in the processor, even on pulse, the heat causes the Fels to melt enough that it became little balls. I put some of the Gain in and the dryness helped a tad. Bonus - it only takes 1-2 tablespoons per load, and the Oxi Clean comes with a scooper that is slightly more than a tablespoon.

As I write this, my first load is in the dryer. I checked out a piece of my 1 year old's clothing that had... how should I say... leakage on it and it came clean, but I have yet to look at the entire load. I was a little concerned that there might be a film or waxiness on it and from what I've seen it looks good-to-go.

Worst case- I put this aside and only use it on loads that aren't super dirty. All the materials were about $22 at Publix, so in my budget's opinion, it was worth testing out.

Happy legal laundering!
(Okay. I lied. One more laundering pun)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Holy Week in Handprints

Catholic Icing - such a great website for moms of compact to mid-sized kids (yes, I size up the kids just like rental cars)! I love this idea to help bring Holy Week to life and give them another way to connect with each day. It's $2 for the download - for a limited time only! :) Check out the site here.




Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thomas the Tank Engine is Rolling into Town!

We are thick in the world of Thomas the Tank Engine at my house. My big guy loves him and you can often hear my little one shouting, "Choo! Choo!" Boys and trains. I don't get it. I have to say though, I am good with sitting down for an episode (or two) of Thomas. It's relaxing, smooth and instills good morals, which is more than can be said for a lot of the other shows out there.

All this week we've been giving away tickets to Day Out With Thomas at The Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish. The event stretches over two weekends, March 14-15 & 21-22. There are two more giveaways - one tomorrow and one Friday. Here's the inside scoop - tomorrow's (Thursday's) giveaway will be between 8:10 and 8:20am!

The gist of the giveaway: You listen in on a conversation between me and Liam and then I quiz you on something he said. So it's a little bit of listening comprehension. Yikes. To be honest, as he's pointing to characters in the Thomas book we are looking at, I HAVE NO IDEA what he's talking about. He can see one episode and know the characters' names. I'm still figuring out the difference between Thomas and the other blue one!

For more on Day Out With Thomas click here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What is She Waiting For? What are We Waiting For?

I had a handsome lunch date on Tuesday. After a visit to check out a preschool, Liam and I sat across from each other at a two-top at Chick-fil-A, swapped one grilled nugget for one fried (because I needed to at least TASTE the fried sweetness that is Chick-fil-A chicken), chatted about ketchup... it was noontime perfection!

As we pulled out of the parking lot, he noticed a woman standing in the grass holding a sign. The conversation went something like this:
L- "Mama, what's that lady doing?"
Me - "She needs help."
L - His response could fuel a political debate, "Why is she just standing there?"
Me - "Because she is waiting."
L- "What is she waiting for?"
Me - "For someone to give her money."

And before the words came out of his sweet little mouth I knew what he was going to say, "Why don't we give her money?" 

My response - "I don't have any cash." Lie. I had $2.

The truth was, I didn't want to give her my last two dollars- I never have cash! I didn't want to reach over to the other side of the car - What if I couldn't reach? That would be awkward. I didn't want to hold up traffic coming out of the parking lot - I don't want to make the people behind me angry!

I am full of it. Excuses that is. And they need to stop.

If I remind myself of the gospel of Matthew where Jesus says in the parable, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me., I would realize that Jesus is saying to me, Abby, you made a lot of excuses for why you didn't help me. A lot. 

When we make the excuses, we are basically telling God that those obstacles are bigger than him.

But I think my son's response is another great example of having faith like a child. He doesn't think of the obstacles. He doesn't make excuses. He sees someone in need and says: They need. We have. Let's do it.

What are we waiting for?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Spirit of Honesty

Graham, the puke-eater.
He's hungry. Again. 
In the spirit of being honest about parenthood, I'll confess that my son ate a thrown-up cat treat today and I didn't even budge to get it out of his mouth.

I shared that on Facebook on Monday and received more comments than any of my posts over the past few months. Why?

It made people smile, but so do funny memes and videos of us making bacon roses.

It was a cute kid thing, but c'mon. Facebook is dripping with cute kid stories.

I think it's because we want honesty. We are craving the comfort that comes from knowing we are not worse parents than the next person or that "worse parents" is even something that is possibly measurable.

I know, I know. This has been blogged about before. Facebook is just a highlight reel. Don't compare your life to the lives that are presented through photos and 180 words or less. Yadda yadda. But here's what I've learned: When all we share on social media is the perfection that is captured in the 24th photo we snapped, the stories of how Michael or Emily got the award for "Most saintly kid!", or (if I'm really being honest here) the rejoicing at how our relationship with God is so perfect (because sometimes, don't you really want to say- "I'm not feeling it today, God!") we miss out on the Spirit moving through us to our friends.

When I shared about my divorce on the morning show, I got so many calls and emails from listeners saying they love me and are praying for me. Several emails came from people who had been through it or are going through it and they felt comforted and connected. One call in particular resonated with me. It came from a woman who had called dozens of times before and we almost always exchanged a laugh, but that day she said, "If you hadn't shared about what you've been going through for the past 8 months, our relationship would've stayed at the surface. But now I feel like I can tell you that I've been through..." and she shared about her own struggle.

The pain we go through carves out a path like a river bed for the Spirit to flow through, but the facades put up a dam. Letting our guard down and sharing the hurt, the confusion and the struggle lets the Holy Spirit move. We are thirsty for this. Don't let your insecurities keep you from being honest. You have no idea how God might use that honesty to move in the heart of another.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Soooo Addictive!

I'm pretty sure the day we talked about a Candy Crush addiction recovery program on The Big Big House Morning Show folks in the cars could hear my eyes rolling. Seriously? There are people who are THAT into a silly game that this type of thing actually exists? "That's REEE-diculous" I said!

And then I downloaded Candy Crush.

Hello. My Name is Abby and I'm a Candy Crush-aholic.

Okay, maybe I wasn't that bad, but I understood the appeal of the game. It was downright fun and strategic and totally addictive!

Have you ever noticed that in the reviews under an app the understood indicator of a good game is the phrase, "Totally addictive!" or "So addicted!" You can even search "addictive games" in the iTunes app store (for those of us who aren't in denial). Or when a new series hits TV if no reviewer says, "I was addicted after one episode!" then as a collective viewing audience we assume it's not that good.

In other words, if I am not rendered powerless by this thing I'm engaging in then it's not worth my time. Sure, it's really just our way of hyperbolically saying  - this show/game/app is really good, but why do we see addiction as something to be desired?

Is it for the same reason that we sit in front of the TV with a pint of ice cream and mindlessly eat, paying no attention to the fact that we are one spoonful away from consuming over 1000 calories in a single sitting? (hypothetically speaking, of course) Or we head to the mall and engage in some retail therapy taking a breath of fresh air with every cute shirt or pair of shoes we try on?

There is so much vying for our attention that we find solace in the ability to tune the rest out and just zone- could be with a game, a ice cream binge or a shopping trip. We want to avoid reality, the problems, the chores, the bills so we allow ourselves to get pulled in. We lose control. We let the things that turn off our brain become the things we crave - that we are "addicted" to. The addiction comes from the need to not think, not worry.

But is turning off and tuning out the way that God wants us to spend so much of our time? And yep, I'm going to say it- What if we took some of that time that we would normally scroll through our Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feed and sit & listen to Him. Sit in silence. Read the Bible. Meditate on one verse.

Lent starts in less than 48 hours. What if, over the next 40 days, we attempted to be more mindful of those moments when we feel ourselves slipping into zombie-land and cut it off before it take us over, before the addiction grabs us and zaps the time that we can give to God.

And on a side-note, I would love, just once to see in the reviews under a Bible app, "So addictive!" Truth.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do I Still Get Dessert?

My guys love food. Shocker, I know. The other night, Liam ate 3 fish sticks, then asked for two more. So I slaved over the hot microwave and gave him two more. Yeah, not only do I serve them fish sticks, I microwave them instead of bake them in the oven. Don't hate! He said he was still hungry, so I gave him one more. His dinner consisted of 6 fish stick in all + haricot verts (he doesn't eat green beans but if we call them haricot verts he gobbles them up) + tomatoes + polenta, which in the same vain as the green beans, we called "rice" to get him to eat. His little brother ate almost as much, but only managed to put away 4 sticks.

After all this food, Liam asked if he was getting dessert. How could I say no? He did such a great job with dinner.  But there was a back story on this dessert - for their afternoon snack, the boys had pudding. I told them they could have that instead of fruit or pretzels (the normal snack) but that meant nothing crazy-sweet after dinner. We settled on pudding at 3:30 and planned for mango after dinner.

After dinner & bath my boys got bit by the energy bug and would NOT STOP MOVING! That's normal but man, they were amped up on something this night. I kept trying to get Liam's attention to get on with the post-bath process- "Liam, go grab a pull up." "Put your foot in your jammies." "Come here." "Stop running" "Settle down" "Don't clothes-line your brother". I said each of these phrases a number of times and each time - no exaggeration - he asked me, "DO I STILL GET DESSERT?"

Annoyed, I grabbed his face (I'm getting better but I'm still working on patience) and told him, "I don't lie. I told you you're getting dessert but you need to stop asking me that." And because there was something about the way he was looking at me each time he asked "Do I still get dessert"  that led me to believe he was testing me, I then said to him, "Why does it feel like you are trying to do as much misbehaving as you can up to the point where you get dessert taken away?" Maybe I didn't say it in those exact words, but that was the gist. And I know it went over his head, but I had to say it anyway.

The "event" ended there. The boys sat and watched Curious George and ate their diced up mango in silence. Side note -  I might name my next child George as an homage to that monkey because I am so grateful to him and the Man in the Yellow Hat.

The next morning I was thinking about the evening's happenings and realized I do the same thing with God that Liam was doing with me. In my heart, when I choose to sin, I am saying, "If I do this, do I still get dessert?" Can I still get to heaven? Is this sin really that bad? Can I get away with this and still be okay?  For those parents of teens and young adults they might be saying: How far can I go physically in this relationship and still be "in good standing". It's this silly gamble that we take. I know it's not necessarily theologically sound, but you get my drift.

What I wanted my three-year-old to understand is that I had a wonderful treat ready for him, not because he earned it by eating 87 fish sticks and half the produce aisle, but because I wanted it for him. I wanted him to obey and be "a good boy" not so he could maintain his dessert status, but because he loves me and wants to honor me as his mother.

I guess tonight I should treat him to dessert for teaching me another lesson...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Here am I, Lord?

I had to laugh. The Responsorial Psalm at mass yesterday from Psalm 40 was "Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will." Imagine this: I have the little one on my lap and he was so wiggly that not once but twice, he threw his head back and popped me in the mouth. Felt GREAT! Then the big one was not happy not getting my full attention and was fighting to push shut the book that I was "reading" to the little guy. It was not a banner day. On days like this, the best I can do is try to catch every few words that the priest says and glean something worth hanging on to. On days like these I find comfort in the words of a dear friend, "Your kids are your prayer right now".

Still, when I started singing along to "Here am I, Lord" I thought, "God is probably laughing at me and asking- Where are you?" My mind just happened to focus on the mass for that moment and I chose to participate, but seriously, was my heart really speaking the words my mouth was saying? Nope. Then I got to thinking about all the distractions we have in our lives and how even when I don't have two toddlers vying for my attention, I'm still a pretty sorry example of attentiveness.

Thankfully, God knows our hearts. He knows when we want more of Him but are pulled in two or three other directions. He knows when we are just babbling and when we are really sharing the desires of our hearts. BUT (and here's the kicker) we can't rest on that. We can't say, "God knows I WANT to spend more time with Him so it's ok if I keep this same routine and keep giving Him the last five minutes of my day or one hour on Sunday."

From today's Mass - Mark 2: 22, "Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins." When we feel the Holy Spirit inspiring us to go deeper or devote ourselves more fully to our faith, we can't continue the same habits and lifestyle. The good news - small changes can make a difference. Set that alarm 5 minutes earlier (It's not going to kill you!) so you have a chance to start your day in prayer or read the psalm for the day. Start praying before every meal, not just dinner. Try to make it to daily mass one more time per month. Join in a Bible study or download one onto your phone. If the wine is new on the inside, change the skin on the outside!