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Nine Words We Must Say Everyday

love is never having to say you're sorryWhen I was young child growing up in the 70’s,  I remember seeing greeting cards and cheesy home décor with the quote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” an oft quoted line from the melodramatic film, Love Story. It never made sense to me.  If that is indeed true, I would tell myself, then there is something terribly wrong with me.  I stumble frequently, saying and doing things that hurt the ones I love the most.   In the film, the quote is actually used to hurt someone they love.  Think about it.  When would you say that to someone?  Probably right after they attempted to apologize, right?  That is exactly when it is used in the film. Twice. So, really this cheesy quote that is supposed to define love is actually anger in disguise.

As a mother of five, I want to teach my children the proper relationship between love and having to say you are sorry.   It is an uphill battle.  It’s not that I am raising hellions, although it feels like that some days.  While my darlings can be loving and cooperative most of the time, they can also become hostile and hateful towards each other.  When they are, I take them aside and tell them that they need to apologize.  And, when they do, they make their “sorry” sound like an attack. The word rolls out with no ownership accompanied by an eye roll.  Sometimes they drag the singular word out melodically with annoying facial expressions.  That is not loving.

My mother noticed one of my children using the half-hearted “sorry” after being scolded and told to apologize. She saw my frustration and she gave me a simple suggestion.  She shared with me something she remembered Mother Theresa had said.  Tell the children to say, “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive me.”  These are nine words Mother Theresa said we must say each day.  My mother and Mother Theresa are so right.  I immediately put this into practice and I have noticed a real change in the way my children interact and in the way they take responsibility for their actions.

I was wrong. I'm sorry.

I have discovered that the reason saying all nine words makes a difference is because it makes them practice the virtue of humility.  By taking ownership of their wrongdoing instead of murmuring a weak “sorry,” they lose their prideful stance and assume a humble position.  Being the fallen children that they are, they have ample opportunity to put humility into practice.  This will serve them well in adulthood where true humility is rarely found.  My husband and I have also made an effort to make a frequent apology.  We notice how this helps us to develop a contrite heart and prepares us for a sincere confession.

Why do we need to say these nine words every day?  We are human.  We fail.  We hurt others.  We are weak.  This is just who we are and how we are made.  If you get to the end of the day and you have not said these nine words, you must not have had any interactions with another human being.  To quote Mother Angelica, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.”  We are people and we are going to mess up.  We are called to be holy.  We are also children of God and by the gift of His Grace, we are able to express love.  And, very often, love means having to say, I was wrong, I am sorry, please forgive me.

How do you think your life will change if you add these nine words to your daily conversations?

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Ordinary Family, Extraordinary Circumstances

We are just an ordinary family.  A dad, a mom, some kids, and the token yellow lab.  We live in a normal house and do normal things.

And yet, in June 2011, the most abnormal thing happened to us that changed our lives forever.

I found out I was pregnant again by the end of January 2011.  Of course I was a nervous wreck until we reached that 12 week mark, because of my miscarriage that previous Fall, but luckily my OB was very supportive and even gave me an ultrasound at 13 weeks so I could see that everything was perfect.  From that point on, we were flying high with the excitement of a new baby and were looking forward to our 20 week scan.  No matter how many times we’d been through it, those ultrasounds were so incredible each and every time.  Little did I know,this 20 week scan would be different than any other I’d had.

When we arrived the morning of the ultrasound, we were very excited.  We had chosen to keep the sex of the baby a surprise again, and were looking forward to seeing all his/her perfect parts and the profile of our newest baby.  The scan went great, but at the end the Tech told us “I’m going to have to send you to a Specialist because the baby has some fluid in the brain and you will need to be monitored. Your baby hassevere Fetal Hydrocephalus.

Enter: Knife in heart.  What? What did this mean?

This news would send us on a whirlwind of emotions, research, and a journey into the unknown.  So much unknown, that we decided to go ahead and find out the sex of the baby… it was another girl. We chose to name her Meagan Theresa.

After having a few days to digest the diagnosis and do hours of research on our own, we had adjusted…well, as much as you can adjustWealways felt open to whatever child was sent into our life, so we just had to pick up our pieces, and keep going.  The diagnosis had a name – but we soon realized the prognosis was completely up in the air.  We had found several helpful websites, and through those, found other Hydrocephalus parents’ blogs.. who then invited us into a private Hydocephalus message board online.

We gained a wealth of information and knowledge. We found out that her brain was being squished by the fluid against the back of her skull… that there was nothing we could do for her while in utero … that she would need brain surgery after birth to insert a shunt (“fake” drain) into the area her body had failed to form correctly.. that she would need this device for life… and that there is NO guarantee or predictor as to how our daughter would be when she was older. Some kids have multiple surgeries because of the failure rate of the shunts… some get lucky and have one.  Some kids are slow to ‘catch up’ but then are ‘normal’ by age 4 as long as the shunt keeps functioning… some kids have severe special needs…from eating, to gross motor skills, to mental issues.

There was literally no way to tell what we would be dealing with until we actually lived through it.

We had to see a Perinatologist due to our daughter’s condition.. One of the first things we were asked upon our first ultrasound with their office was… “And would you like to continue this pregnancy?” It really shocked me.. I was 21 weeks pregnant – were they serious?  And yet, we were asked again by the doctor, “I just have to ask this to do my job…but are you thinking of terminating the pregnancy?

This initial appointment really stung.  The words of the doctor and genetic counselors hung over me like a black cloud. Why would they ask this of parents ONE day into a devastating diagnosis…and how exactly is asking “just doing his job?

Isn’t the Specialist’s job to treat my baby in the womb… not offer to abort her like she’s worth nothing?

Isn’t she his patient?

I’ve always been a pro-life woman.  But now it was personal…and it really got me thinking about the issue.  I couldn’t believe I had been asked to terminate my pregnancy at all…let alone at 21 weeks. And that’s not even the worst. I was asked again at 23 weeks, 25 weeks, and 28 weeks pregnant.  Abortion takes women in my situation, a distressing, devastating diagnosis of a child, and preys upon the woman’s emotions before there is any time for logical and rational digestion of that issue.  Too many lives are lost to abortion due to these ways that the industry ‘attacks’ women.  The apathy surrounding the abortion issue doesn’t help either.  When people say “I would never have an abortion, but it’s not my choice to make for others,” it disregards any human responsibility we have for compassion towards others and valuing our fellow human citizens.

As we continued our journey, I read more and more stories of mothers contemplating termination for a Hydrocephalus diagnosis.  Without trying to sound insensitive, I didn’t understand this logic.  For us, our options to “deal” with a pregnancy (good or bad) ended when we became pregnant. I’m not disregarding the fact that a diagnosis such as our daughter’s was tough… it still is.  It is devastating, sad, and uncertain.  It can (and frankly, should) make us, as her parents, upset, worried and even angry at the world. However, how.. HOWdoes this translate into thinking it is then ok to end her life? What if my oldest daughter, born perfectly normal and healthy, was in a biking accident at 8 years old and had severe brain damage? Would we end her life because it would be “better for her?” How is this any different than Meagan, who happens to have a condition from birth? The answer is, there is no difference.

This is why I hate the term that was thrown around so casually to us … “Termination for Medical Reasons.” That isn’t mercy – it is a nice way of saying “I chose to kill my child  because I did not want to deal with the hardships she may bring to MY life.”

I know it sounds blunt, but, it is the TRUTH.

Why are we teaching our children of this and the next generation to give up on difficult situations?

Or that life with hardship means that life is not worth experiencing?

What kinds of lessons do we give our children and grandchildren?

How will they handle life, then, when it DOES get hard?

How can we expect good children…when from the beginning we tell a mother it is ok to kill her child?

Who are we to decide what quality is when it comes to life?

The job of being a mother, I have learned, is not to make it as easy on us as possible.  It is not to alieviate our child’s suffering by ever crossing those deep moral boundaries of taking an innocent life.  It is simply to LOVE the childPeriod. End of story.  Anything else that comes along with it is just part of being human.  It is part of our humanity to have human suffering. As mothers, this is difficult to see when it is our own children – but – we must understand that it is not ours to take into our own hands.  That is why we must try our hardest to accept what we have been given, and help our children in whatever hand they have been dealt, because, ultimately, we are trying to get our children to heaven.  We cannot accomplish this by hiding behind the “termination for medical reasons” excuse.

WE do not decide if and when our children enter heaven.  We need to accept them, hold them in our arms, and walk the path withthem no matter how hard. This is how we are truly fulfilling motherhood – as Mary did on Jesus’ path of suffering. This is how we truly help our children to reach heaven and live God’s intended promise for their life.

I believe I was chosen for a reason to have a child who will need me so much.  God knows that women like me, who go through such devastation of a bad diagnosis/prognosis, are stronger than the “what ifs” and the negatives.  He has looked upon us and said “YES! You are strong and loving. You can do this, so I will give you this special child.” I think about this everyday and thank God that Meagan was given to us…because with another family, she may not have even made it to her birthday. They may have chosen to “terminate for medical reasons.”  She is here now – with her ups and downs, and worries and scares. And she is not even 3 weeks old. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is a woman who was contemplating aborting her Hydrocephalus baby who came across my blog and then decided to keep her baby girl. Meagan is already changing and saving lives…and she doesn’t even know it yet.  We cannot continue to let doctors scare women out of being what they already are with that child in their womb: a mother.

Our whole situation with Meagan made me think of one of my favorite quotes, from one of my favorite people: Mother Teresa. I think she sums up best the attitude we should all strive for, especially in such times of despair:

“Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted…”

 

**You can follow Molly’s online journal of Meagan’s story at Priceless Little Pearl**

 

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Fatherhood Ink Slingers Marriage Motherhood Saints Shiela Vocations

Family Vacation: A Survivor’s Guide

Here we go!

It’s packing day or, should I say, packing week, here at the our house.  We are getting ready for our annual family vacation to  Catholic Familyland.  In anticipation, hubby puts in extra hours at work, the kids cram in extra play dates as if they are never going to see their friends or cousins again, and I do an unbelievable amount of laundry.   Communication between my husband and I is limited to what he can scribble on a piece of paper as he heads out the door at dawn.  Usually, it is a trip reminder or an addition to the packing list.  When he comes home from work, we exchage a quick kiss as one of us loads up the swimmers for a swim meet and the other hunkers down for an evening with the little ones.

We seriously need a vacation.  We need to sit together and hold hands as we watch the sunset or sit poolside watching the kids frolic.  We need to completely unplug and play Uno late at night with the kids when the only sounds we hear are crickets chirping.

I know I should be looking forward to this, but, I sit here dreading the process.  Perhaps, it is because I recall  the tension in years past between hubby and I as we load up the car arguing over whether we really need to pack this or that.  And, as we journey on, we comment on each other’s driving habits.   He goes too fast, and apparently, I go too slow.   It’s called a speed LIMIT, sweetie pie.   I also recall babies screaming from the back seat when their level of excitement and anticipation is outdone by their need to burst free from their car seats.    And, the older children reach a point where they can no longer stand to be that close to another human being for another moment.  You know, that point in the trip where you have to drown out the sound of the kids by singing Rolling in the Deep at the top of your lungs.  Sounds like fun, huh?  You want me to sign you up?

We had these stupid arguments when we were engaged and when we were newly weds, too.  Any time we were going to do something out of our comfort zone, we had what can best be described as a row.   So, it is not having a bunch of kids that brings out this charming side of our family life; it’s facing change and uncertainty.  And, it is ubiquitous to the human condition, otherwise I would not be sharing it with you.  I would keep our little secret locked in a closet and smile and pretend everything was happy-happy all the time!

At these times, I need to discern whether my perturbation is due to righteous indignation or just plain ego.  Speaking for myself, nearly 99.9% of the time, it is ego.  I want things to go a certain way.  I want everyone to be happy…according to my definition of happy.  And, when the speed limit says 60, anything over that causes my face to twitch and saracatic comments start flying about who has the better driving record.  I do, if anyone is keeping tabs.  My husband thinks we need a large selection of books on tape to be happy travelers.  I think we can wing it and I don’t want all those library materials floating around in our car and getting lost.  We’ve had this discussion a dozen times.  Guess what’s on his list before he heads home tonight?  Library.  You know what that means.  Here we go again.

I am happy to report that during very serious times of change in our life, like getting married and giving birth, we were drawn closer together and fights were at a minimum.  So, what is the difference?

Without a moment’s hesitation, I can tell you.  Prayer.

We entered into marriage with a great deal of mindfulness and prayer.  We knew we were entering into a permanent bond and we knew we could not do it alone.  We needed the supernatural gifts of the Holy Sprit to get us through.  We knew that we would have to put our ego aside and let the Holy Spirit lead us.  And, as a result, our wedding day was completely stress-free.  We were both amazed at our level of confidence and joy on that day.  We had been warned about all the angst and fretting.  There was none.

While we have made it through some major changes, I know my family has not been tested as gravely as some of my friends and loved ones have been tested.  I know that our day will come.  And, these little exercises in handling the unknown can be instructive, if we are wise.  Yet, when it comes to the everyday problems, how quickly we forget that it is still all out of our hands and we need to reach out to God and ask for his assistance, strength, and wisdom.

To survive lifes little changes, we have adopted a family mantra that we gleaned from our prayeful retreats years past at Catholic Familyland in Ohio.  It is something we found in the writings of Jerry Coniker, co-founder of the Apostolate for Family Consecration.  He and his wife, Gwen Coniker, had thirteen children.  Mrs. Coniker was involved in a car crash where the other driver, also a mother, died.  This led to their decision to redefine their family mission and they uprooted their entire family and moved to Portugal.  There, they studied the message of Fatima, made contacts inside the Vatican, and ultimately had audience with Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa.  They returned to the states and started an Apostolate with the permission of the Vatican.  So, in a nutshell, they know what they are talking about.  We call the mantra the 4 C’s.  We remind each other of the 4 C’s when things get tense.  They are calm, confident, cheerful and compassionate.  When traveling, we need to be confident in God’s providential care and not get caught up in stressing over the details.

Gwen and Jerry Coniker meet with Pope John Paul II

I think of Gwen, who passed on in 2002, when I struggle in my duty as a wife and mother.  Her example humbles me.  I like to think of her as my survivor’s guide.  The Vatican has opened a case to consider her status as Saint.  This is good news for married men and women who need role models who have walked the path to sainthood through the vocation of marrage.

So, thanks to the fact that I had this blog post due and had time to reflect on the error of my ways, I am going to suck it up for the sake of the family. And, If I were to be completely honest, I would have to agree with my husband, that the Magic Tree House series does keep our children distracted from the fact that they are elbow to elbow with each other for hours at a time.   Even though, we still have a Junie B. Jones loaner overdue for like 2 years.  I’m surprised they have not sent a collection agency to our door.

Don’t tell my husband, though, I want him to be pleasantly surprised by my calm, confident, cheerful, and compassionate nature.  I am even going to try shutting both eyes and nodding off while he drives.  Please note that I will have a rosary wrapped around my hands folded in prayer.

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Breeding Power

Idiocracy, 20th Century Fox Film, 2006

A few months ago, a movie rental named Idiocracy arrived in a familiar red envelope to our home. It features Luke Wilson as perfectly average Private Joe Bauers who is selected for a military experiment to be kept in a state of hibernation, which accidentally lasts 500 years. When his little time capsule opens up, Joe hatches to a very, very different culture, as you would imagine. Joe finds himself to be, by far, the most intelligent, educated and civilized person on the planet. The movie compares two schools of thought in the early 2000’s by contrasting a well off, educated, career driven couple to a particular man, living in a trailer park, not so well off, not so well educated, and utterly unrefined. The couple is interviewed several times through their lifespan, each time agreeing that it’s just not the right time to have a child. They have many different reasons for postponing or preventing pregnancy, whether their goals are in the way, or the world just doesn’t seem fit for bringing forth a child. The couple goes on to never have children. Meanwhile, their counterpart, the man in the trailer park, proceeds to have many, many children with his wife, and with his mistresses, presumably because he just can’t seem to control himself. Therefore, Private Joe awakens 500 years later to a world populated by the offspring of the man and his many partners, which results in a movie displaying mostly crass and disgusting behavior.

Idiocracy, however, did get one thing very right. Our world is indeed changing demographically, generation by generation, due to the birth control mentality. There are two mentalities working to change the population 1) post-poning, preventing and terminating pregnancies due to less than ideal circumstances (finances, convenience, career, desires, fetal medical issues) and 2) embracing fertility by having several to many children. The philosophy of those in the first camp are literally practicing themselves into endangerment. Sure, world wide, our population is at an all time high of seven billion, but certain groups are dwindling none-the-less.

“Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present.”

Pope Benedict XVI

In New York, home of Planned Parenthood, 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion. However, it is not 40% across every race, 60% of all African American pregnancies end in abortion. Just think about how the demographics of daycare centers and schools are changing because of these numbers. And think about how much older the city is getting as those who have been allowed to live are living longer due to amazing medical advances, yet the pre-born are being avoided or snuffed out. Planned Parenthood gets to sit by and watch these chilling statistics (as they help eliminate not just people, but races of people) with the excuse this isn’t eugenics, it’s “choice”. Now, these are only abortion statistics, just think of the number of children across all races that are never conceived due to other methods of birth control.

Europe seems to be a leading example of a culture practicing themselves into extinction. A birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is accepted as the replacement rate for a group of people to remain at the same population, to account for the woman, a man, and to make up for others who never have children (by infertility, by choice, by vocation or by death). However, parts of Europe have a birth rate that has plummeted to 1.3 births per woman. This rate is leading Europe into endangerment as, within our lifetime, their population will be cut in half and the damage will become statistically irreversible. Towns have already become desolate, and government incentives exist for simply having a baby.

Photo by David L. Ryan, The Boston Globe 2005

A third example I would like to site is the decline of “Mainline Protestant” churches. The leading factor for the trend is the low birth rate due to their teachings on contraception and abortion. They simply aren’t having enough children to replace themselves. Meanwhile, conservative Evangelical/Fundamental churches, and the Catholic Church are maintaining and and even rising in population, in part, due to higher birth rates. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has always taught a married couple is to remain open to life, and that it should only be under grave circumstances a couple avoid or delay pregnancy. While certainly not all Catholic couples adhere to this teaching, enough couples are such that there is a correlation between teachings on openness to life and birth rate.

I once read a quote from Mother Teresa where she said the way to end abortion is to have another baby. I didn’t really get it at the time, and thought she was just being a sweet holy lady. But no, this advice is profoundly wise. She’s pointing out the power of people, the power of human life, especially the power of a future activist and voter.

The populations that are embracing abortion and contraception are not having enough babies to pass along their population control teachings to. They are championing for reproductive rights, yet their practice prohibits contribution to future generations who should “benefit” from those rights. Just how good is a philosophy if it works against someone in such a basic way? Here’s where the Idiocracy movie comes back in. As the generations continue, we’ll see the results of all the birth controlling. Those controlling their reproduction will have left a small, dwindling legacy behind, while the descendants of those open to life will have gained more than the majority’s share and will be taking over, so to speak. Just think about how common the name Duggar will be in Arkansas in just a handful of generations (even if all 19 kids don’t go on to have 19 of their own). Meanwhile where did the Joneses go? What will the world look like, demographically, in the future? As Idiocracy pointed out, the future does lie in the hands of those who are having (and teaching) the most children. Opponents of openness to life degrade the philosophy as “breeding” in an attempt to devalue the very thing that will triumph over them. Yet, the future undeniably lies with those who embrace the power of the human fetus.

P.S. I do not encourage you to watch Idiocracy, it’s not worth your time.