For those of you who may be interested in my son Paul’s story, I’ll be interviewed on Real Presence Radio this Monday, November 4th, at 10am. I hope to speak of God’s greatness in allowing us to suffer this trial. May He be glorified and adored forever!
For those of you who may be new to Musings From the Home, click HERE for more pictures and a brief account of his suffering.
And Just For Fun
And lastly, just for fun…HERE is a video of some men destroying Pachamama with explosives. Not kidding.
The other day, when the twins and I were stranded in St. Paul, we decided to tour the old James J. Hill Mansion. I was of course wearing my usual attire: black shirt, gray skirt, and black boots.
And naturally I was minding my own business during this tour, politely listening to our Tour Guide in his ponytail, pink button-up shirt, and skinny jeans.
As we were entering the bed chamber and bathroom of the Mr. James J. Hill’s wife, our Tour Guide commented on the lack of a shower.
He glibly remarked, “You’ll notice, if you look into Mrs. Hill’s bathroom, that you will not see a shower, but rather only a bathtub. In fact, none of her daughters’ bathrooms have showers either, but all the boys do, as well as James Hill. This was because it was thought that if a woman were to take a shower, she may suddenly want to wear…”
He dramatically paused and then smirked, “pants.”
At this point, the Tour Guide grinned and looked directly at me, the only woman wearing a skirt in our group, and then remarked, “You probably don’t have a shower in your home?”
He winked at me and went on, “Watch out for those showers, ladies!”
Honestly, it took all my self-control to hold back an eye roll. Instead, I just interiorly rolled my eyes, for he meant his comment as a slight to any woman who would be backwards enough to prefer the chains of feminine attire.
Well, I do prefer dressing in a feminine way. I like skirts, and I like dresses. And I can really think of two main reasons why this is so:
I am a woman after all, and I like how skirts and dresses make me feel. I like feeling feminine. Why is that such a bad thing in our culture anyway? Why must we all be the same?
I’ve noticed that when I do “dress up,” I feel better about everything. My morale goes up. I’m happier. I’m a better wife and a better mother.
For the record, I do own one pair of jeans and one pair of black pants, which I do wear from time-to-time…even though I don’t like them.
Today, however, in honor of my Condescending Tour Guide I want to offer a challenge to any ladies out there who may have never given skirts or dresses a chance. I challenge you to a 30-Day Skirt-Wearing Fiesta. (Or Dress-Wearing Fiesta.)
30-Day Skirt-Wearing Fiesta Guidelines
Wear a skirt (or dress) for 30 days in a row.
Notice how it makes you feel. Uncomfortable? Pretty? Frumpy? Feminine? Whatever.
Does anyone treat you differently because you’re “dressed up” in a seriously “dressed down” culture?
Write these things down daily. Keep a journal.
At the end of 30 days, review your thoughts, and let me know what you think. I’m genuinely curious, for I realize that skirts and dresses are not everyone’s cup of tea.
I Did Not Grow Up Wearing Them Either
By the way, I never used to wear skirts every day. It just sort-of grew on me over the years, but I suppose it began about 15 years ago in grad school. I had a friend who consistently wore skirts, and she always looked so well put-together. Later she married and everlastingly wore the same thing: a black pencil skirt and a collared, button-up shirt. I can tell you, her presence commanded more respect and awe than if she had chosen to wear sweatpants and t-shirts.
In any case, I’ll close this post with photos and comments of my 4 skirts that I wear every single day. (I’ve also got a few nicer skirts and dresses for Mass…but I don’t feel like trying those on right now.)
This is my newest skirt, which I bought at Christopher and Banks for about $45 earlier this year. (It’s still available HERE on their website.) I like the jean material because it’s stiff. I don’t like flimsy material of any kind. The buttons that you see running down the front are deceiving, as they don’t actually unbutton. I also like this skirt because of its length. It’s great for any season. You’ll notice that all my skirts are this length, which is intentional.
I purchased this skirt for a few dollars at Clothes Mentor, a second-hand store. I’ve had it for a few years, and I still like it, even though I’m not a huge fan of brown.
I bought this skirt probably 7 or 8 years ago at Christopher and Banks. I don’t remember how much I paid for it. It’s also jean material, like the first skirt. (I clearly like jean material, even if some may think it nerdy.) I realize that when I wear this skirt, I’ve likely got “Homeschool Mom” tattooed on my forehead, but I don’t care.
Lastly, you’ve already seen this skirt. It was also purchased at Christopher and Banks 7 or 8 years ago, and I still like it, in spite of Condescending Tour Guides.
If you’ve got any other clothing-related questions, be sure to ask! Or, if you’d like a tour of my closet, click HERE.
For those of you who may be new here, I’ve also got some other thoughts on clothing and modesty HERE.
Anyone remember this photo that I posted awhile ago?
At the time, we thought it might be a bull snake, but we were wrong. That is definitely not a bull snake. It’s a fox snake.
The boys and I recently made this discovery while we were in Rochester last week. During one of Paul’s good days, I took the twins to Quarry Hill, which features some scenic trails and a little nature center. This nature center happens to house a few snakes (yuck), and a staff worker kindly let the boys hold their fox snake (yuck, yuck, yuck).
Now this is obviously disgusting, but the boys were undaunted by it and had no problem holding a live snake. Me? No. Way.
The point is, is that I was gravely mistaken about the difference between a bull snake and a fox snake. In case anyone is wondering, a bull snake is fatter, and while the colors of both are nearly the same, their patterns are not. See below.
As it is, when my husband and I were hiking this last summer on some nearby trails, I believe it was a bull snake we came by. But all the other snakes we have seen this year have been fox snakes. Like this one I snapped a shot of towards the end of summer:
And here it is, trying to get away from my boys:
There. I’ve made my correction. My conscience may rest in peace. Science class is over for the year. May I never see a snake again. Amen. Alleluia.
P.S. For those of you wondering about Paul…he’s doing well. He is having daily headaches, but they’re “small,” which means that both of his shunts are working. We travel back to Rochester at the end of November. If both shunts continue to work, but he still has daily headaches, then likely he’ll be in for that big, complex surgery. St. Jude, pray for us.
P.P.S. We’re just kind of hoping the headaches disappear all together. But in the meantime, this last week has been nice, as these headaches are not the scary ones, and he can fully function with them.
Well, the good news is, Paul, Michael, and I are on our way home from Rochester at last! The bad news is, we’re stranded in Fargo because of a big snow storm that’s been raging across North Dakota for a few days now. The interstate is still closed between here and Bismarck.
Fortunately, Fargo is a great place to be stranded in, however, because we have family here. In fact, I don’t mind at all. We’re staying at my husband’s aunt’s house, and it feels like a spa! Check out my room:
And right now, I am sitting in a quaint sunroom:
But here’s a closer look at the snow out my window:
To really get an idea of the nasty weather, however, you must look at a few photos my husband sent of the other side of the state. Here’s my backyard:
Those of you in warmer climates, eat your hearts out! We’re committing a sacrilege and listening to Christmas music. According to my husband, there’s only one thing to do in October weather like this:
Go, grab a beer, and send the children outside to make snowmen.
P.S. For those of you who like wintery poetry, see THIS post. It is very fitting.
P.P.S. Paul is doing well. He is still having headaches, but they’re “small.” Hopefully we can get a few weeks at home before he gets worse again… Or maybe, they’ll just disappear all together. In the meantime, we’re hoping to be together again as a family sometime tomorrow, if the interstate opens up.
I want to begin by soberly thanking every one of you who has offered a prayer or a sacrifice for Paul and our family. Again we are deeply thankful for all the kind words, meals, money, and most especially, the prayers and sacrifices. God works in mysterious ways, and please know that we feel His love through you all.
Unfortunately after another shunt revision surgery last Friday, Paul is still hurting. His head is aching, in an ebb and flow manner, and he isn’t eating well.
Because we were able to secure a house within walking distance of the hospital, however, Paul was allowed to join us. This has been a great blessing for our family. It cheers him to be around all his brothers and sisters.
Yesterday we took the whole family and attended a Latin Mass at the shrine in La Crosse, WI, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. During his brief homily the priest paused and said quietly, “One of two things happen, when one begins to pray the rosary every day. He either quits sinning, or he quits praying the rosary.”
Put so starkly, those words gave me great hope.
Incidentally, we were able to make this pilgrimage to the Shrine through the generosity of some friends. But also, on a practical level, we were able to take Paul because the Shrine offers rides on a golf cart to those individuals who are unable to make the ten minute hike up the wooded hill to the church. Our Lady was surely interceding for us!
We prayed for Paul, but also for a friend of ours suffering from cancer and for the Amazon Synod. We lit a candle in this small chapel on the hillside:
It was a beautiful day, even if our hearts were aching for our son.
Tomorrow Paul has more appointments, to determine what should or should not be done. Every day we live in uncertainty as to whether he’ll get better or not. It is agonizing. But we continue to trust in God. We want to be loyal to His will, no matter the cost.
Tomorrow is also Paul’s 11th birthday, which he of course shares with his twin brother, Michael. (I wrote about their birth HERE.)
But today…today we thank God for his most lovely and fair mother. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Paul is unexpectedly back in the hospital. (For those of you who are new, click HERE for more details and pictures.)
We are choked with grief, as we watch him suffer. He’s been vomiting for two days now, as the doctors are deciding what to do. As it is, they are going to tap his spinal shunt, to see if fluid will come out. If no fluid comes out, then Paul will have another shunt revision surgery. If fluid does come out, then that means the shunt system is “working,” but it’s not helping him. In this case, he’ll have a cranial reconstruction surgery on Monday or Tuesday. This is where they cut and peel back his skin from ear to ear, take apart his skull, and put it back together, allowing for more space. (St. Jude, pray for us.)
In the meantime, his doctors will do everything they can to get him through the weekend. They can go in, open up his cyst, and drain fluid to release pressure, but again, they won’t do the cranial reconstruction surgery until Monday or Tuesday because it requires more doctors and planning. It is a complex surgery, to say the least.
We should know later tonight which surgery to expect.
This is very painful for all of us. It’s heart-rending.
Just now, we’ve booked a house within walking distance of the hospital, and the children and I are leaving tomorrow morning to join my husband and Paul. Our whole family will be together.
Please remember us in your prayers.
P.S. A friend sent this to me. I feel it in my heart. Thank you, dear friend.
I have a tomato problem. I didn’t think it would come to this, but it has. There are just too many tomatoes in my garden. Every day the children are bringing in buckets of them.
I thought that having six tomatoes plants would be manageable because I treated them so poorly. In fact they’re just lying all over the ground in a tangled mess.
But I guess one can mistreat tomato plants, and they’ll still produce.
This is a problem because I don’t “can.” I don’t know how to can, nor do I have any desire to can, but I do hate wasting good produce, so lately I’ve been making fresh salsa every day.
But that still didn’t get rid of all these tomatoes.
So I sallied forth and made my very first pot of homemade tomato soup. I did this by roasting a bunch of tomatoes, onions, and garlic first.
Then I blended them all in batches with basil from the garden.
My husband loved this soup, but the children thought it needed a little cream cheese. Me? I don’t care, I’m just trying to decide what I’m going to do with these:
In the meantime, what have I been listening to while chopping tomatoes? The Patrick Coffin Show. Have you heard his September interview with Joseph Pearce? It’s soooo entertaining! He and Pearce talk books for an hour and a half. It’s delightful, especially because they’re mentioning such great books like Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Belloc’s The Path To Rome.
Speaking of good books…if you’ve never read Joseph Pearce’s autobiography Race With the Devil, you should. I have a tremendous respect for that man. He went from being the leader of white supremacist group to writing Catholic biographies and editing a series of literature books for Ignatius Press.
Incidentally, my local Saturday Morning Book Club will be reading Pearce’s book Unmasking of Oscar Wildein a few months. I can’t wait for it.
I can’t wait to get at it. Fr. Z has pulled some tantalizing quotations HERE. When I get a chance to read it, I’ll be sure to let you know my thoughts. I have no doubt that this will be an excellent read. His other two books were.
I did notice that Sarah’s new book begins with a Part 1 titled “Spiritual and Religious Collapse.” He quotes Luke 18:8, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Indeed, will he?
Paul is Recovering
We are now home again after two more surgeries and a week-long stay at the hospital in Rochester. Paul’s doctors are now experimenting with two shunts. He’s got one that sits in the arachnoid cyst on his brain, and the other is in his spine. The hope is that these two shunts will better regulate the fluid in his brain.
We hope this works, as it’s a difficult strain on our family to be separated so much–to say nothing of watching Paul tremble in pain during periods of incredibly high levels of pressure. I really cannot describe the agony one experiences just watching him. I have a new respect for Mary at the foot of the Cross.
In any case, thank you all for the prayers. Truly, we are grateful.
We cannot thank you enough for your kind words of encouragement and more importantly, for your prayers.
We have good news today.
After 5 surgeries, and ever since late last Thursday, the Feast of the Assumption, Paul has steadily been getting better. His heart rate and breathing are normal. He hasn’t vomited. He hasn’t had any seizures. His head does not hurt very much. He sat up, and he smiled. He ate and is gaining weight. He even went for a little walk around the ICU.
And he lost a tooth.
A good friend of ours drove 8 hours to bring Paul’s two brothers to see him yesterday. This was a great boost to his morale, which had been waning after 3 and a half weeks in the hospital.
If he continues to feel well, the doctors will remove the tubing in his spine, and he may get to come home sometime later this week. We certainly hope this will be the case.
Again, we cannot thank you enough for praying for him and for our family. This has been the most difficult trial we’ve ever experienced.
Nevertheless we feel God’s love, and we thank Him.
Well, I am back at it, after taking a 3 week break. During this break I had intended to vacation with my family, attend my brother’s wedding, and enjoy some carefree timelessness.
But nothing has gone as expected.
Rather, two days before we were to leave for South Dakota, my husband and I had to rush our son, Paul, to our local ER. His incision from last May’s surgery had become infected. And before we knew it, he and my husband were driving straight through the night to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.
And thus began 3 weeks of the most excruciating suffering I’ve ever known–watching a child suffer.
Paul Endures Surgery After Surgery
During these last 3 weeks, Paul has undergone surgery after surgery, with almost everything going wrong that could go wrong. His shunt tubing became blocked. His heart rate kept dropping dangerously low. He quit breathing for 10-15 seconds at a time and would struggle for breath, for hours upon hours. Blood leaked into his brain. One shunt malfunctioned. Another shunt slipped out of place. His left ventricle collapsed. He hasn’t eaten for days upon days and is losing weight. He is suffering seizures. And then there’s all the vomiting.
All of these things have been happening in addition to the most excruciating head pain. And we sit helplessly by him and watch and pray. I’ll never forget the terrible day and night I had to watch his heart rate slow, his breathing cease, and then the trembling of his body to grasp a breath. It was terrible.
And it’s still going on. I beg of you, dear Readers, to remember him in your prayers. But remember the other children too. They are suffering in a different way. They wonder, where is Paul? Why can’t Paul just come home? Why can’t the doctors fix him?
We don’t know the answers. We only know that for some mysterious reason God is allowing this suffering, and we can choose to accept it, or we can drive ourselves mad with endless, unanswerable questions and blame God for ruining a perfectly healthy little boy.
But we choose to trust in Him. He who is the beginning and the end of all things. He who created the heavens and the earth. He who loves us so much that He died for us. And His name is Jesus. And all knees on earth and in heaven will bend to Him at the end of time. May His kingship reign forever and ever.
Paul Prayer Intentions
In the midst of his suffering, Paul has been praying. He has been asking Mary to hold him. And he has been praying for Ex-Cardinal McCarrick and for my cousin, Tony. Up until today, Tony had been in psyche ward of a hospital. All within a few years, his brother died in a motorcycle accident, his wife died from cancer, and his father just died last week.
Tony was released this morning. He drove to his father’s house and killed himself.
Please, Jesus, You have a most merciful heart. We pray, that in those briefest of moments before his death, Tony in his agony turned towards You.
I will be taking a break from this blog for about 3 weeks. Firstly because we’ll be doing some traveling in the tropics of South Dakota, and secondly because I have a few books that I’d like to get through.
Firstly: A Wedding
My brother is getting married on the Feast of St. Martha, July 29th. He and his fiancé have a devotion to this great saint, hence a Monday wedding. We are very excited for them both and will be traveling down a few days prior to and then staying a few days later. I am looking forward to toasting glasses of wine and visiting with my family.
After the wedding, we’ll be driving to my parent’s lake house to watch the children splash around, and then after they go to bed, we’ll play endless card games. It promises to be a lovely few days of no internet.
Anyway, All Things Bright and Beautiful was such a charming and entertaining read for summer that I decided to check out every book I could find at our library. I can’t wait to get at them. If you need something light and bright, then definitely read some Herriot.
Lastly, A New Book Club
Lastly, I’ve started a new book club for moms in my area. I had been thinking about doing this for awhile now, but I just never did for the logical reason that I already belong to a book club–a good one, too. My current book club follows the reading suggestions of the Well-Read Mom website. They’re generally great reads, but even better are the women in the actual group. But the meeting time is very difficult for me, and so I’ve done it.
Saturday Morning Book Club
Yep, you guessed it, we’re meeting on Saturday mornings, once a month. I chose Saturday mornings because this is when I happen to have free time. In fact every Saturday morning, once I finish my cleaning chores, I leave for the day, and so I thought, why not see if other mothers would like to join me to discuss books?
I didn’t think there would be much interest, as many families tend to be busy. In fact, I really thought I’d only have one to two other moms interested. But I was wrong. I’ve got 12 moms on the email list.
For those of you who might be curious, I’ll list this year’s selection of books below. I chose these books for the simple reason that I wanted to read them, or reread them in some cases. I’ll try to post a word or two about the books, when we get to them. Maybe you’ll want to read along with us?
August: Michael O’Brien, Father Elijah
September: Taylor Marshall, Infiltration
October: Gertrud von Le Fort, Song of the Scaffold
November: Cardinal Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent
December: Sigrid Undset, Ida Elizabeth
January: Joseph Pearce, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde