Life is Worth Living

Airing My Dirty Laundry: Room Tour

As any mother knows, there must be a method to the madness of laundry.

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My Laundry Room.  I even left some clothes out for you to see, with a dirty pile of whites on the counter.

It just so happens, however, that the chore of laundry is one of my favorite things to do.  And why?  Because the machine does all the cleaning.  All I have to do is calmly shut the laundry room door and fold the clean clothes in peaceful solitude.  So, I hog this chore all to myself, and then I make the children put their clean piles away later.

Of course, someday soon, I will have to make sure the children know how to open the lid, put the clothes in, and press the correct button.  But I can go over that process later.

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So back to the laundry room.  Now this is the first year of my life that I’ve actually had a laundry room.  When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a beautiful, old craftsman-styled house in Duluth.  This house was lovely, but it had the scariest, creepiest dungeon of a basement that I’ve ever seen.  Of course that’s where the washer and dryer were.  I made my husband douse the place with Holy Water before I even set foot down there, and I shudder to think of it.  I don’t know how I made it that year.

Then in our second home, the washer and dryer were in a closet.  This wasn’t so bad, especially since there were two shelves above the machines, and I was just happy to not be in a dungeon.

Our third home featured a shared laundry room/bathroom.  Now this was almost worse than the dungeon.  Almost.  Because every time I wanted to shut the bathroom door and fold clothes in silence, someone had to use the toilet.  It never failed.  And then this bathroom/laundry room was right by the back door, so the children were constantly in and out of it.  With dirt and mud everywhere.  Just thinking of it makes my stomach queasy.

But finally, in the 13th year of our marriage, God saw fit to provide an entire room, dedicated to blessed chore of laundry, and I will forever be thankful.  It’s my favorite room in the house.  Now I can fold clothes, gaze at my Virgin Mary pictures, and drink my wine in peace.  The only thing that’s missing is a lock on the door.

So without further ado, I’ll post a few more pictures, for those of you who might be interested.

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These are the cabinets above the machines.  The bottom right shelf features piles of socks, missing their matching pairs.  Amazing how that happens.
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These lower cabinets store extra toilet paper that I buy in bulk.  The drawers above have gift-wrapping paraphernalia in them.

Opposite the machines, there is a closet.

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This side features coolers on the bottom, our extra blankets that the children use for forts in the middle, and my sewing box on the top shelf.
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This side has more sewing stuff on the top shelf, our extra “puke” towels in the middle, and my ironing board down below.
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The cabinet under the sink stores all the basement cleaning supplies.

That’s all for the laundry room.

Advice About Doing the Laundry?

The best piece of advice about actually doing the laundry, however, I think I picked up from Holly Pierlot, years ago.  (If you’re looking for a great book on how to order your days, click HERE.  This book changed my life.)  Pierlot said something about waking up and immediately putting a load of clothes in the wash.  Then, after lunch, switching it out to the dryer.  And finally, folding it after supper and doing this every single day.  Our days must be ordered.

It’s genius advice though – having a routine for laundry.  I’ve been doing it for years.  I put a load in right away in the morning and so forth.  I used to only have one load a day, with Sundays off.  Now, however, I do 2-3 loads a day, depending on the season, always with Sundays off, and I’m never behind.

Parting Trifle

And this is what we ate for supper tonight, in addition to a pork chops and lemon noodles.  It has nothing to do with laundry per se, except that after supper, when all the children were doing their chores–washing and drying dishes, sweeping the floor, chattering away–I hid in the laundry room and folded the clothes with my glass of wine.

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Avocado, red onion, blueberries, and feta over spinach with a homemade lemon/olive oil dressing.
Book Review

New Biography of Michael O’Brien and Some Novelties of Summer

If you’ve ever read any of Michael O’Brien’s books, chances are you’ve wondered, just who in the blazes is this man who writes so well?  As soon as I discovered that his biography, On the Edge of Infinity, was for sale, I bought it and was not disappointed.

I couldn’t put it down.

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You need this book written by Clemens Cavallin.

Not only do I consider Michael O’Brien the greatest Catholic novelist since J.R.R. Tolkien, but I also wonder about this man’s sainthood.  He’s got an amazing conversion story, going from such things as Ouija boards and seances to being attacked by malevolent spirits and spontaneously reciting Psalm 23.

This book is not boring.  And the neat thing is, as one suspects from reading O’Brien’s fiction, many of his stories come straight from his own life.  For example, has anyone ever read O’Brien’s A Cry of Stone?  This book features the story of Tchibi, a boy who experiences abuse from his headmaster at his private school.  O’Brien modeled this boy on his own experience of abuse at Grollier Hall in Canada.  It’s excruciating to read.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Back to On the Edge of Infinity.  Clemens Cavallin begins this biography of Michael O’Brien (born in 1948) with stories from Michael’s parents and grandparents.  Then Cavallin moves into detailing O’Brien’s childhood in the Canadian arctic and then chronicles the turbulent years following the Second Vatican Council wherein suddenly altars were stripped and destroyed, statues of saints disappeared, and families were discouraged from praying the rosary.  O’Brien’s family was deeply affected by these radical changes.

Naturally the book goes on to relate Michael’s conversion, his meeting of Sheila, their marriage, and his momentous decision in 1976 to devote himself wholly to God and to art – specifically icon painting.  (Writing fiction would come later.)

Probably what fascinated me the most in reading Cavallin’s biography, however, was Michael and his wife Sheila’s utter trust in God, to the point of downright poverty.  Seriously, at one point, Michael and his eldest son had to push the wheelbarrow to the local convent, because they didn’t have a working vehicle, to get the leftover vegetables from the sisters, just to eat for the week.

The other thing that I greatly appreciated about this book was its focus on art and beauty.  I’ll never get tired of this subject, because in our culture it is of extreme importance that we get it.  Art ought to be beautiful because it’s a reflection of the Divine.  Beauty matters!

Finally, if any of you have children and homeschool them, you will probably enjoy hearing about the trials and experiences of the O’Brien family.  Michael and Sheila homeschooled their 6 children.  And it wasn’t easy.

The Novelties of Summer

  1. I hope you’re all enjoying summer.  We are.  Normally the children start a little Summer School by now, but we haven’t yet.  For we’ve had this to contend with:
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This is our backyard.  We’re in the process of planting grass, trees, bushes, and a garden.  Oh, the work!

2.  We have had time for ice cream, however.

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3.  And we did just recently make a little pilgrimage to a beautiful rural church in Strasburg, North Dakota, named Sts. Peter and Paul.

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Here are the children on the front steps.

Even though this church is in the middle of nowhere, people still go to see it.  Why?  Because beauty is attractive.  The following is what one sees when walking in.  I apologize for the lack of lighting.  We didn’t know how to turn all the lights on.

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Check out those sweet confessionals flanking the sanctuary.

Of course you can see the high altar behind that newly inserted wooden table altar from the 1970s.  Here’s a closer look of both altars:

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And an even closer look of the high altar:

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Just look at that detail.

Question of the day:  Which altar speaks to the greatness of God?

 

Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-like Minimalism: The Beauty of Hooks

Many of you know that I’ve got a large family – 7 children – which requires living minimally with a great amount of organization.  So for the most part, I like the rule, “You Get One” or “The Rule of One.”

For example, in the wintertime, each child gets one pair of boots and one pair of tennis shoes.  They also get one pair of snow pants and one winter coat.  (The three older girls do have a nicer Mass coat…it’s the exception to our Rule of One.)  In the summer, they get one pair of rain boots, one pair of flip-flops, and one sweatshirt.  They also get one swimsuit and one beach towel.

But the question is, how in the world do I keep track of all that stuff – 7 pairs of boots, tennis shoes, coats, sweatshirts, beach towels…  Just where does all that stuff go?

My solution is hooks.

Thankfully hooks are possible in our new house, as there’s room on the garage walls.  And since it’s summer, the children keep their life jacket, beach towel, and swim suit on their appropriate hook out there.  This way they always know where to find their things, and these things stay off the floor and out of the house.  (Mostly!)

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Everyone has their name on their beach towels too.  That way there can be no doubt about ownership.  If Johnny decided to leave his beach towel out in the yard to get muddy, then that’s his fault.

This is my first year of not allowing beach towels in the house, and it’s been lovely.  There are no more wet children tramping through the house to find a towel only to use it once and throw it on the floor.  Done with that.

We also have hooks on the other garage wall for their sweatshirts.

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Obviously the hooks lower down on the wall are for the younger children, who cannot reach very high yet.

Of course during the 9 months of Never-Ending Winter, their winter coats hang in those places.  But for now, it’s sweatshirts.  You’ll notice that the winter hats and gloves are in the basket sitting on the top shelf.  The boys also keep their Mass shoes up there too.  The gray bin on the floor is for their one baseball hat.  My husband’s winter gear, however, does stay on those hooks off to the right all year round.

Here’s a shot of both walls.

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There are two things that make this possible for us:

  1. We have the extra space in the garage
  2. We put cheap carpet down, so that the children do not have to stand on cold concrete to put shoes and things on.

As an aside, do you see the pencil sharpener above the white garbage can?  This was a genius move too.  No more are the children allowed to sharpen their pencils in the house.  Inevitably the little ones dump that container of pencil shavings all over the place.  Now, they can sharpen away, and spill it, and I don’t care.

Lastly, where do I put their winter gear?  Well, I don’t have a storage “room,” but I do have a little space under the basement staircase where we put more hooks.  (And dressers.)

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Here they are, waiting for the return of colder seasons.  Their snow pants are hanging underneath their coats.

In the background you might notice a few dressers?  I’ve got 5 of them hiding back there, which is were I keep the children’s clothing that is currently not in use.  Each drawer is labeled as either “Girl” or “Boy” and is also marked with a particular size.  This makes it very easy to find whatever clothing I might need.  It’s a lot easier to pull out a labeled drawer than to dig through a large tub.  In fact, I’m constantly in and out of these drawers every single season, and it’s lovely to be able to get in there so easily.

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Here’s a shot looking out of this storage area.

In the end, there are definite challenges to having a large family.  To all of you out there, living in the midst of it, I encourage you to keep at it!  Try to institute your own version of “You Get One.”  And experiment with some hooks.

Motherhood & Parenting

A Mother’s Heart During a Miscarriage

I just recently miscarried our 8th child.  I had only been pregnant 5 weeks, which is to say, that I had only known I was pregnant for about a week before the baby died.

Backing Up a Bit

Now let me back up a bit.  In case you’re new here, you may not know that our family has had one wild year, with the most stressful thing being the health of Paul.  In particular, we have spent the last few weeks making multiple trips to Mayo in Rochester, resulting in two surgeries.

In the midst of this, I became pregnant.  Now I know some of you will think this is irresponsible.  Some of you will shrug your shoulders and scoff at the effectiveness of NFP.  Some of you will think we’re just downright crazy.

And so we are.  For we knew what we were doing.  It was not a reckless choice; rather, it was a decision of love.

Because I do chart according to the Creighton Model, I knew I was pregnant before I took the test.  And truthfully, in spite of it all, I was struggling with feelings of doubt, of stress, and of, well, craziness.

In fact, I spent an hour with Jesus in Adoration, discussing these very things.  After I poured my heart out to Him, I opened my Bible to read my passage for the day, which happened to be Isaiah 61.  Knowing my passage was coming from Isaiah, I fully expected to read something about fire and brimstone and years of exile.  Instead, I got this:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called the oaks of righteousness…”

A Year of the Lord’s Favor

I read and reread that passage.  A year of the Lord’s favor…garlands, oils, mantles of praise…  I let it wash over me, and I left Adoration feeling light and full of hope.  This was going to be a year of the Lord’s favor.  I mean, that’s awesome!  Who know what’s in store for me?  Whatever it is, it’ll be great.

A few days later, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions.  I’d be lying, however, if I said that I was all jumping jacks and high fives.  No, I was worried.  My pregnancies are never easy after all, and how was I going to handle this?

Then I thought of all the things I’d have to say “no” to.  No to a silent retreat.  (I’d be too sick.)  No to running and biking and even walking later on.  No to fitting into my clothes again.  No to wine and lemon martinis.  No to sleeping ever again.  No, no…no.

Thankfully, however, I have great friends who reminded me of my silliness and then, I also remembered Isaiah  61–a year of the Lord’s favor.  After I hyperventilated for one more minute, I stopped and laughed out loud.  A year of favor from the Lord!

Yes, suffering and pregnancies and children are great blessings from the Lord.  All one needs to do is read Psalms 127 and 128 to know that.  In fact the Bible is replete with passages about children being a blessing.

As a couple of days went by, my husband and I began to be excited.  8 kids!  Under the age of 13!  Wow, we’re so blessed!

St. John Marie Vianney’s Heart

During this time, the heart of St. John Marie Vianney happened to be at the Cathedral for two days of public veneration, so I loaded the children up and braced myself for long lines.

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This is the holy card that they handed out at the door of the Cathedral.

When we walked into the church, however, almost nobody was there.  I held the baby, grabbed the hand of the 3-year-old, and led the children straight to the kneelers, which were placed directly in front of St. Vianney’s heart.  We knelt and prayed.  We touched our scapulars to the glass of the reliquary.  Then I handed the baby off to The Eldest and prayed some more.

I prayed that my guardian angel would somehow take the heart of St. Vianney and touch my heart with it.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my cousin, who suffers from alcoholism.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of a certain priest I know.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my husband, my children, and lastly, the little baby growing inside of me.

My heart swelled with emotion, as I knelt there with all 8 of my children surrounding me.  God is so good, so good.

Afterwards, we stopped by a friend’s house, and I mentioned my pregnancy and the Isaiah passage about a “year of favor from the Lord.”  She said, “You know, that reminds me of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with, ‘Hail, Favored One.'”

How beautiful!  To connect a year of “favor” and pregnancy to Mary, Full of Grace, and certainly favored.  My heart was full.

My Heart Breaks

Two hours later I began bleeding.  At first I couldn’t believe it.  Maybe the baby would still be ok?  I called my doctor, but I couldn’t get in to see him until the next day.

And that night the baby died, as I bled and bled.

In the morning, my husband and I stood before the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and my soul cried, My little baby!  I will never hold you in this life!  Did I tell you how much I love you?

My husband held me.  We prayed Morning Prayer and knew that the baby needed a name.  As I had mentioned Isaiah 61 and the Annunciation to him earlier, we named the baby Gabriel Marie.  We thanked God for his life, and we commended him to Jesus and Mary.

We told the children too, as they joined us for Morning Prayer, and we answered their innocent, concerned questions as best as we could.

Then my husband had to go to work, and I had to take care of the children.  It was an emotional day.

My Heart Grows

Life must go on.

A few days later I was in Adoration again, and I was overcome with a spirit of doubt–doubt about my feelings, doubt about naming the baby, doubt about the existence of the baby himself.  Maybe I was just being ridiculous?  Overreacting?

I soon realized, however, that these agitating thoughts were not from Jesus, and I cast them aside.  But still, in a place of fear, I begged Jesus, Please will you give me a sign about little Gabriel?  Jesus, I am weak.  If my Gabriel was real, let me come across someone named Gabriel today.  But not my will, only Your will be done.

I left Adoration feeling a little down and drove to the grocery store.  As I pushed the cart around, I forgot all about my prayer and moved to a checkout lane.  I zipped by an empty one, because I was looking for a particular clerk that I always go to.  But she wasn’t there, so I backed up and entered the empty lane and began unloading my groceries.

When I glanced up, I noticed a new clerk, someone I had never seen before.  His name was Gabriel.

I was stunned.  Could this be a coincidence?  No, for there is no such thing for those who believe in God.  Oh, how my heart swelled again!  How weak and fickle I am, but Jesus is so good to his little ones.  I felt His love in that moment and knew that my Gabriel would be ok.

I continued unloading my groceries, and I smiled at Gabriel the clerk.

When I got home, these greeted me:

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While I was away, someone had anonymously sent me these beautiful flowers with a quotation from the Bible which reads,

“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia.”

Life is Worth Living

First Communion, Mud, & Tulips

Our fourth child, Johnny, just celebrated his First Holy Communion this last Sunday.  He was very happy and proud.

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Johnny

This was the first time we’ve had one of our children receive First Holy Communion at a Traditional Latin Mass, and it was simple and beautiful.

The two first communicants knelt at the altar rail while Father lifted the host and said, “Corpus Domini Nostri Iesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam.  Amen.”  This means, “May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting.  Amen.”  Then they received Him on the tongue and were forever changed.

I’m often quite distracted at Mass attending to the children or foolishly forgetting what I’m doing.  But that day, after I received Jesus and was kneeling in the pew, I was so thankful.  I felt the love of Jesus surrounding our family.  As the chant schola moved into the Communion Antiphon, my heart soared.  He is so good to us!

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Here we all are.  It’s impossible to get everyone to look at the camera and smile!  Johnny’s twin brothers, Michael and Paul, were 2 of the 9 altar boys serving at this Mass.

Lately it’s been a little difficult to be thankful, as I seem to be falling into this trap again, and it only seems to rain around here.  My yard is a muddy mess!  Seriously, we can’t get even plant the grass, because it just rains and rains.

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My front yard.  The backyard is worse, trust me.

But my tulips are beautiful.

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And my children are too.

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Watching the rain.

If you’ve been experiencing some hard times, you might want to listen to Sterling Jaquith’s brief 20 minute podcast, “Hardship & Discomfort.”  It’s part three of her “Less Stressful Summer Series.”  Click HERE for it and scroll down a bit.  It was just what I needed the other day.

May God bless you this Spring!

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Book Review

How Did Ex-Cardinal McCarrick Happen Anyway? Infiltration Book Review

I’ve been wondering, just how in the world did we get such a character as Ex-Cardinal McCarrick serving in the Church anyway?

Furthermore, why do we have a pope that refuses to speak clearly and won’t defend traditional orthodoxy?

For that matter, why do most Catholics not even believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?

About a year ago, my husband and I stumbled upon Dr. Taylor Marshall’s YouTube videos, wherein he and Timothy Gordon began exploring these questions.  It was refreshing.  They were asking all the same questions that my husband and I were asking.  The only difference was, they actually did some research.  In fact, Dr. Taylor Marshall did a lot of research and has recently released a book titled Infiltration.

Infiltration*

I just finished reading this book, and I think you should all buy a copy and get at it.  Click HERE for it on Amazon.

I will warn you, however.  Marshall doesn’t spare the likes of Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict the XVI.  This might upset those of you inclined to think that neither of these men made any mistakes.

Nevertheless…

Top Ten Reasons to Read Infiltration:

  1. This book is essentially a history book.  Now I went to public school, and I didn’t learn a thing in my history classes, so I really appreciated Dr. Marshall outlining the last 150 years of popes, freemasons, the Second Vatican Council, and the Church.
  2. Ever heard of Bella Dodd?  She was a former communist agent who worked tirelessly to to infiltrate the Catholic Church in the 1930s, and boy did she succeed.  She testified before the U.S. House Committee in 1953 that in the U.S. alone, they put   1100 of their men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.  Four of those men eventually became cardinals.
  3. Incidentally, she later renounced her Communism and was received back into the Church by none other than Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  That whole chapter is unbelievable.
  4. Anyone ever wonder about those individuals responsible for creating the Novus Ordo?  Marshall does great work showing us what these guys were up to.  Annibale Bugnini…not a great man.
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien will always be dear to my heart.  Now I’ve heard of his response to the Novus Ordo before, but any book that highlights it, is a must-read.  For those of you unfamiliar with what Tolkien thought of the New Mass, be sure to read Chapter 23.
  6. Tolkien wasn’t the only famous person not enthusiastic about the changes after the Second Vatican Council.  Novelist Agatha Christie, who wasn’t even a Catholic, lamented the destruction of the liturgy for cultural and literary reasons.  And Pope Paul VI granted an indult to the Cardinal of Westminster because of her.
  7. Most people ignorantly brush off Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of Saint Pius X as a bunch of crazy whackos.  In reality, the real situation is much more complicated.  Marshall does a great job of detailing this movement.
  8. Have you ever wondered about Our Lady of La Salette?  Or the third secret of Fatima?  Mary seems to play an important role in these last 100 years of history.
  9. And how about Communion in the hand?  Where did that come from?  Did you know that the Protestant reformers–Luther, Calvin, Cranmer–all insisted that people receive in the hand because it signified that the Eucharist was just ordinary bread?  Which is why, as Catholics, we say Lex orandi, lex credendi.  Our actions and postures matter.
  10. Finally, you need to buy your husband a Father’s Day gift anyway.  So click HERE for it on Amazon.
*Notice who wrote the forward??  Yep, none other than Bishop Athanasius Schneider.  Now there’s a man!
Book Review

Holocaust Memoirs: Book Review

I recently finished reading Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz.  It’s the real-life story of Rena Kornreich and how she survived 3 years living the Auschwitz Death Camps.  It’s gruesome, shocking, and sad.

It should be required reading for anyone mature enough to handle it.  (Maybe as young as 17.)

In the last year or so, this is the third book that I’ve read pertaining to survivors of World War II.  All three books are worthy of your consideration and your library shelf.  I’ll list them below:

  1. Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Kornreich
  2. The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
  3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I’ll also mention that all 3 books are very complimentary.  Rena’s Promise chronicles the life of a young Jewish woman, bereft of faith, but suffering tremendously for it.  She certainly lived an active Jewish life prior to the war, living with her family, but at the death camps, and without blatantly stating it, she loses her faith.

In fact, one wonders if hate hasn’t crept into her heart as she participates in the beating of a superior.  Throughout her time in Auschwitz/Birkenau, she wonders, “Where did God go?”  She’s grappling with the question of a good God allowing evil.  And she has no answer.  She can only rely upon herself to survive, which she does against all odds.

It’s truly miraculous how she and her sister survive such torture.  (Note that I used the word “miraculous.”  She wouldn’t use that word.)

The second book on the list is one that I previously reviewed for these pages last year.  (Click HERE for it.)

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is also the story of how a young Jewish woman, Edith Hahn, survives the war, but her story is dramatically different than Rena’s.  Hahn does end up in labor camps, but then is able to hide and take on the identity of a gentile, thus avoiding the death camps.  Eventually she marries a German officer.

This book is so valuable for not only her personal story, but for a close look at the German Thing from the inside.  It’s so eerily close to what’s happening in our culture that it makes your skin crawl.

Since I am always interested in the question of Faith, I can’t help but compare Rena’s story to Edith’s.  Even though Edith does not practice her Jewish faith, she has more hope.  She notices something is missing.  Rena’s is much darker by contrast.

Lastly, I read a book called The Hiding Place a few months ago.

While I’d rate the previous two books as a 10, this book gets a 10+.

At the outset of World War II, Corrie Ten Boom was a middle-aged spinster, helping her father fix and sell watches in Holland.  They were devout Christians who helped Jews hide and escape, but the Ten Booms were eventually discovered by the Germans.  This book tells about the horrific (and heroic) suffering of Corrie, but more importantly, it shows her immense love of God in a dark, dark place.

This is the stuff of saints.  You need to read it.  In fact, you should read all 3.  Why?  Because if we don’t get it, then history will repeat itself.  This evil and tragic event has eternal consequences.  We cannot in fact understand who we are today, without understanding that horrible war–it’s beginnings and aftermath.  We are still suffering the consequences of those driving ideologies.

Final Question

Has anyone read any other good, first-hand accounts of Holocaust survivors?  I’m especially interested in the men.  What was their experience?

If you’ve read any, drop a line in the comments box.

Of course I have read Fr. Goldmann’s account of his miraculous survival in his book The Shadow of His Wings.  Truly, that book is one of the best books ever written, and by a Catholic priest serving in the SS no less!  I’d review it, but it’s been years since I’ve read it.  Probably many of you are already familiar with it?

 

Motherhood & Parenting

Paul’s Surgery is Done

For those of you who are following Paul’s plight, here’s an update.

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On Monday we began the long trek back to Rochester for a second surgery, which lasted about 3 hours.  His doctor reopened his incisions from 7 years ago and made a thorough examination of his old shunt system, beginning with the shunt itself, down to the valve behind his ear, and finally snaking all the way down his neck into his stomach cavity.

The doctor was hoping that he’d discover that it was malfunctioning, which would be an easy explanation for the incredibly high levels of pressure in Paul’s brain during his migraines.  But he did not.  The old shunt was functioning.  Nevertheless, he replaced it with all newer equipment, in hopes that even though the old equipment was functioning, perhaps it wasn’t functioning optimally.

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Here’s a closer shot of two of his incisions.  There’s a third on his stomach, where the tubing ends.

And how was Paul during this four day trial?  Physically he was as well as could be expected, but emotionally and psychologically, he was down.  Very down.  As a mother, this was the hardest thing to watch.  He didn’t want to be in a hospital anymore.  He didn’t want to have wires and tubes sticking out of him.  He didn’t want to wear a hospital gown.  But he didn’t cry about it; he just looked terribly sad.

So we prayed through it.  This time he chose to offer his sufferings for our family.  We prayed rosaries.  We prayed morning and night prayer.  But really, I think he was just exhausted, as we all were.

Finally the day after his surgery in the afternoon, he picked up a little, as the beautiful water fountain out of his window was turned on that day, and he could watch it from his window.

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When he could move around, he sat up in the window and watched the courtyard fill with people enjoying the fountain and warm weather.

My mom and I also walked him down the hall to a pottery class for the children on his floor.  He didn’t want to walk out there in his hospital gown, dragging an IV cart along, but he did.

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Here he is, painting a mug.  The local company that sponsored this activity will fire it and mail it to him.

We also found other things to distract him with.  We watched the Twins play baseball.  (Paul’s a big fan of Rosario, and it was neat to see him hit a few home runs.)  My mom bought a lego set, which he put together, took apart, put together…  We read a few light books, you know, like Frog and Toad.

In the end, it is our hope that this new shunt will somehow alleviate his migraines, and they will disappear.  High levels of pressure in one’s brain is a very serious thing.  Children with hydrocephalus die or go into a coma with the same levels that Paul was experiencing–levels into the 40s and 50s.  But because his levels are cyclic, however, he manages to be ok, and has not had any damage to his brain, yet.

Paul’s doctor has said that if this shunt doesn’t work, then we’ll have to think about another surgery wherein he’ll take apart his cranium and reassemble it with a plastic surgeon to allow for more space, in an attempt to alleviate those pressure levels.

Lastly, a Thank You

Truly, my husband and I are very thankful for the great help of the staff, doctors, and nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.  They’ve all been so helpful and kind.

We’re also greatly indebted to our parents who have done so many things for us over these last four weeks–watching children, cooking meals, paying for hotels and gas and food, allowing us to use their reliable car, and indeed accompanying us on these many trips.  How could we do it without you?  We couldn’t.  May God bless you for your generosity and love.  We love you all so much.

Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has prayed with us during this difficult trial.  As prayers and sacrifices are hidden things, and we may never know about them, we pray that God, who is a great Father, will reward you all abundantly.

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Here he is on the way home.  The doctors gave him some gear to show his siblings.  He’s also sporting his new Twins Rosario t-shirt.  Thank you, Mom!
Motherhood & Parenting

5 Reasons Why I Love My Mom: Post Revisited

Awhile back in January, I wrote the following post in honor of my mom.  Today I am highlighting it, in honor of Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!*

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This is my mom and me.

5 Reasons Why I Love My Mom

  1. She doesn’t mind that I call her obnoxiously, like every other day.  I’m a natural chatterbox and like to talk.  Who better to call?
  2. When she visits, she likes hanging out with me.  I mean, she’ll actually ditch the grandkids and willing do something with just me.  She’ll even go to a coffee shop, even though she–gasp–hates coffee!
  3. She’s sacrificial.  Like I just said.  Furthermore, even though she despises onions–horror of horrors!–she’ll feign to eat them for my sake, for I can’t live without them and put them into practically everything.  She just smiles and nibbles away at them.
  4. She also hates running, but guess what?  She’s ran a few road races with me.  And one time, we even convinced my sister to run one too.  But that was awful because she complained the whole time that she was going to die, which she obviously didn’t.  (Speaking of, want to do another one, Mom?)
  5. Did I mention that she’s seriously sacrificial?  When she visits, if my dishes need washing, she’ll wash them.  If my cupboards need cleaning, she’ll clean them.  If my toilet needs scrubbing, she’ll scrub it.

I’ve got a lot to learn from my mother.

Thank you, Mom!  I love you!

Final Note

Today, since it’s January 22 and the anniversary of that horrible Supreme Court decision to allow for abortion in this country, and since you’re obviously alive and reading this, give your mother a call and thank her for giving birth to you.  (Especially if you were born after 1973, the year that satanic law went into place.)

Secondly, pray for an end to the Scourge of Abortion.  Do an act of penance.  Today our family will be eating plain bread for breakfast.

*The funny thing is, she doesn’t read my blog!  Technology is not her thing, nor mine either for that matter.  So, I’ll have to send the link to her phone, or have my husband do it…
Motherhood & Parenting

The Plan For Paul

For those of you interested in my son, Paul, here is another update.

Last night he finally slept, and as you can see from the photo below, he woke up with a little more pizzazz.

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Here he is, feeling better.  

As an aside, the other day, when the nurses wheeled him in for surgery prep, one of the nurses asked him, “Do you know any jokes?”

With a twinkle in his eye, Paul politely answered, “Yes,” and calmly asked, “Have you seen the new movie called Constipation yet?”

“Nope.  Never heard of it.”

“Well, that’s because it hasn’t come out yet.”

And that, my dear readers, is my son’s favorite joke.

The Plan, In Short

After two days of monitoring the pressure in his brain, his doctors have determined that his existing shunt is malfunctioning and possibly sucking in bits of his brain.  So next Tuesday, Paul will have another surgery to remove the existing shunt and to place a new one in.

One more week of this!  Oh, please pray for me too!

And a Thank You

Lastly, we want to thank Fr. Kasel from the archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul for traveling to Rochester to anoint Paul.  Truly, we are very grateful.  He not only anointed him, but prayed with him, heard his confession and played cards with him.

May God bless you,  Fr. Kasel!

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Paul, my husband, Shawn, and Fr. Kasel
Motherhood & Parenting

Update on My Son, Paul

Dear Readers,

I write this morning asking for prayers.  Our son, Paul, is currently in Rochester, MN, being monitored at the hospital in the ICU.

My husband and father-in-law drove down a few days ago for an Intracranial Pressure Monitor to be placed under his skull.  This device monitors the pressure in his brain to determine if there’s too much.  For example, the doctor explained, when you have a bowel movement, the pressure levels in your brain reach 30, but only briefly.  Normally the levels of pressure in your brain do not exceed 20 mmHg.

One cannot sustain high levels of pressure for extended periods of time without eventually doing great damage to the brain.  In fact, one of the first things to go are the eyes.  Blindness will result from high, extended levels of pressure.

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Paul, after surgery yesterday with the Intracranial Pressure Monitor

In any case, Paul’s doctors are concerned that his existing shunt, which was placed in 2012 to drain an arachnoid cyst, might be causing problems.  The only way to determine if this is the case, is to monitor it.

Immediately upon placing the monitor on his brain, the doctors immediately noticed elevated levels of pressure of around 40.  Obviously, this is not good.  After a few hours, however, it did go down, when Paul’s migraine went away.

Last night, though, was a rough night.  Paul had another migraine and spend the night intermittently vomiting.  The pressure levels in his brain reached into the 50s and did not return to normal until around 6am.

Later today, we should know more information, as to what the doctor wants to do.  He’s only seen a handful of these cases – children with existing shunts experiencing dreadful migraines.  We are praying that the angels will guide the doctors into making the right decisions.

Please, remember Paul and his doctors in your prayers today.