Humility, Gentleness, and Patience

ephesians 4

I wake up in the morning and as I begin each day, I start thinking about how I’m going to spend my time. What work needs to be done? How much laundry will I need to wash and fold? What will I cook for dinner?

This morning I woke up and those same thoughts started spinning through my head. And then they were interrupted by a new question:

How will I bless my family today?

Living and working in close quarters, limiting or eliminating trips outside the house, dealing with the uncertainty of it all: we are going to need to bless our families by living out Ephesians 4:1-2 to the best of our ability.

We need to ask God to give us the grace to do this.

We are all going to need every bit of humility, gentleness, and patience that we can muster.

We are going to need to remember that this is hard on everyone. (I’m fully aware that I’m just as hard to live with, if not more so, as the one in the household I’m most exasperated with at any given moment.)

While we are deprived of some freedom right now, we are not, and can never be, deprived of God’s grace. He will shower it upon us. Let’s lean on that grace and bless our families with humility, gentleness, patience, and love.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Encouragement for moms of growing-up kids: “Giving Thanks and Letting Go”

 

Before my oldest became a teenager, I found Danielle Bean’s writing, tucked each day at the bottom of a newsletter for a Catholic electronic-greetings service. I looked forward to those newsletters and the little stories about family life, paired with some food for the soul, that Danielle included each day.

It never even crossed my mind that there was a possibility that one day we’d even meet: but here we are, with our then-little kids grown — and growing — up, working together. Originally the publisher of Today’s Catholic Teacher, Danielle is now the brand manager at CatholicMom.com, so I’ve worked with her in two places, and that’s something my 2004 self could never have imagined.

After all these years, I feel like I know her kids … from what she says on Instagram, her 17-year-old sounds an awful lot like mine. And her new book speaks to my heart right now, in this emptying-nest season of life.

giving thanks and letting go

Danielle’s newest book, releasing today from Ave Maria Press, was written to encourage us moms of growing-up kids. In Giving Thanks and Letting Go: Reflections on the Gift of Motherhood, Danielle doesn’t sugar-coat the tough stuff, but reminds us that yes, it’s worth it; it matters; we’ve got this.

Can this small work, unseen and unthanked, wiping up spills and cooking macaroni, really matter? … God tells me yes. And it’s him that I meet in that gap, that space between what I know and what I feel. It is God who sees me there in that space and calls me to trust and to grow closer to him inside my suffering. I just have to remember to look for him there. (46)

I don’t know about you, but I definitely need to be reminded that I’ve got this — and that God’s got this — when struggles get me down.

Getting used to new seasons in life can be hard. In Giving Thanks and Letting Go, Danielle acknowledges that, and gives us permission to grieve (a little) for days gone by and missed opportunities, but calls us to look forward in hope and joy to what life will bring.

Find Danielle:

The Catholic Momcast (CatholicMom.com)
Girlfriends podcast with Danielle Bean (Ascension)
The Gist (CatholicTV)
DanielleBean.com

DBrelease

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#Worth Revisit: On Her Birthday

On what would have been her 101st birthday (and she’d be furious at me for divulging her age), a tribute to my grandmother, revisited from 2 years ago.

word by wordI wrote more about my grandmother in my chapter of Word by Word; her witness was a huge influence in my life.

We called her “Nanny.” (She hated the nickname, but once a little kid learns it, you’re stuck with it.) Today she would have turned 99 years old.

Only two of my kids remember her, though we do have a picture of her with all 3 of them. She passed away when Little Brother was about 7 months old.

Nanny lived 2.5 miles away from our house. I know this because when I was in middle school (and high school) I used to ride my bike there, and my dad made sure we all had odometers for our bikes.

Nannys HousePictured here is Nanny’s house as it looks today. She lived on the second floor. When I was in middle school, I received my own key to her house. By that time she was recently retired from her job as a secretary in the courthouse in Paterson, NJ–and she was tired of going down the stairs to let us in when we’d show up to visit.

We were always welcome in her home, even unannounced. And she always knew we’d been there if we showed up and she wasn’t home. We started leaving her little notes on the kitchen table so she wouldn’t worry about someone breaking in.

I inherited my grandmother’s supersonic ears. She could always tell when we were raiding the glass bowl of M&Ms she kept on the dining-room table. (I inherited that table.)

I wish I’d inherited her crossword-puzzle skills. Every Sunday she bought the New York Times, removed the magazine so she could do the puzzle, and threw away the rest of the paper. She’d sit at the kitchen table and work on the puzzle while her Sunday chicken roasted and the potatoes boiled. If I rode my bike over there in time for dinner, I got the wings. And sometimes she’d let me take a crack at the puzzle after she’d gone through it.

Nanny’s house was four blocks from the Catholic school where my mom taught and where at least 3 generations of my family (including me, my brother and sister) were educated. Maybe 4. My great-grandfather might have gone there too. On sick days, Mom would drop us off at Nanny’s house, where we’d be set up on the couch with a crocheted daisy blanket and a book to read. (I inherited that blanket too.)

Nanny was a daily Mass-goer and Rosary pray-er. She always went all out in decorating for Christmas–INSIDE the house–right down to the fake snow on the mantelpieces in the dining room and living room. One year for my birthday she gave me a big box of art/office supplies:  new crayons, scissors, pencils, stapler, art paper and more. I was thrilled.

Hands down, Nanny made the best roast chicken, mashed potatoes, turnips, and tuna-fish sandwiches (on Wonder bread, with butter. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.) I don’t ever remember her baking anything, but she knew where the good bakery was, and when she went there, she’d bring you back a lemon cupcake or blueberry tart. You could always find Coke in the fridge and Mallomars in the cabinet, and the Milky Ways were kept in the vegetable drawer.

I miss Nanny, and more than that, I wish that my kids had what I’d had:  the chance to grow up with anytime-you-want access to your grandmother.
worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Order Word by Word at Amazon and support Franciscanmom.com with your purchase!

Family First: Why I’m Not at the World Meeting of Families

family first missing wmf2015

I didn’t think, when I first heard about it, that I’d want to go. I’m not into crowded places, big cities, traffic nightmares.

It’s the company I’m missing: the fellowship; the chance to see, in person, the smile that’s attached to the author/reporter/speaker/Sister/priest I follow on Twitter. The chance to get acquainted with several writers whose work I admire–my amazing coworkers in the vineyard that is CatholicMom.com.

And it’s the fact that it’s right across the river. It’s closer than the hospital where TheKid sees his endocrinologist. It’s only about as far as Middle Sister’s university, and just a little bit past Big Brother’s rented home in Fishtown.

It’s right here. And I’m not there.

When I saw tweets from my boss as she crossed that bridge that stands between me and the city, it hit me: there’s so much I’ll be missing this week.

Screen capture of tweet by Lisa Hendey.
Screen capture of tweet by Lisa Hendey.

Monday morning, while my coworkers and friends and people I’ve admired from afar for a decade tweeted about picking up their press credentials, I stood in the car line at TheKid’s school, where I was substitute teaching for the day. I opened minivan doors and helped four-year-olds gather their lunches and backpacks. I greeted fifth-graders and chatted with the principal and the PE teacher about my daughter’s rugby game. I stood next to the Paper Pope that the pastor pulled out of the church vestibule, and laughed at the little kids’ faces when they realized they weren’t looking at the real thing.

That’s as close to the Pope as I’m going to get this week, and I’m going to need to be OK with that.

This year, family circumstances do not allow me to attend the World Meeting of Families that’s happening right in my backyard. At this stage of my mothering journey, I can go hours at a time without being needed–but it’s those times when I am needed that count, and diabetes being the random disease that it is, I never know when those times will happen. Right now I don’t see my way clear to be more than 20 minutes away.

My cell phone buzzed in my pocket during Mass this morning: it was the school nurse. TheKid’s been battling a stubborn high blood sugar (plus seasonal allergies) all night, and he just wasn’t feeling good at all. So I went over to school to pick him up, and he’s parked on the couch now with a fresh insulin-pump set and a huge water bottle.

That’s my reality right now. I am grateful that TheKid is doing as well as he is. But I can’t let that lull me into a false sense of security, because diabetes is a 24/7 disease.

My first job right now is to be available for my family. I can hobnob another time. And during those times when I’m not needed right this second, I can watch things unfold on TV, on Twitter, on Facebook and on CatholicMom. I can pray for the success of this week’s events and for the safety of all involved. And I can try as hard as I can to be genuinely happy for everyone who is blessed to be able to be there.

#WorthRevisit: Old Neighborhood

I’m breaking the rules for this week’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday (hosted at Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.) You’re supposed to find an old blog and reblog it.

But yesterday I attended my great-uncle’s funeral, in a day that was all about revisiting.

On June 9, 1979, I graduated from St. Bonaventure School, part of the 100th 8th-grade class. I’ve been back in that church only a handful of times since I moved away from that area as a young adult. It’s almost always been for funerals. Yesterday, on my graduation anniversary, I was back for another funeral.

Nannys HouseI arrived early today, because I live 100 miles away from St. Bon’s and I didn’t want to be late–you never know what the traffic on the NJ Turnpike is going to be like. On my way to the church I took a 3-block detour so I could see my grandmother’s old house. It’s changed in the past 13 years. But I have many great memories of time spent there. Those won’t change, no matter what the new owners do to the door and the siding and the front porch.

My memories of St. Bon’s Church are all tied up with my grandmother. So, since I was early, I revisited the attached Shrine of St. Anthony. Nanny was a regular visitor to that shrine, and I honestly didn’t realize that all churches didn’t have those. (Then again, I was probably in 8th grade before I learned that not all priests wore brown habits.)

I couldn’t take photos in church because I wasn’t alone in there, but I did grab a few shots of the shrine (inside and out).

St Anthony Collage

This wasn’t my old neighborhood but I spent a lot of time there. Quality time. It was good to go back, even for only a 2-hour visit.

 

Menu Monday: Dinner for 3

menu Monday

I’m joining up with Mary Ellen’s Menu Monday feature. I used to publish meal plans, way back when, and I do miss that!

IMG_0237-0This is no guarantee I’ll stick to this plan, but that’s why I do my menu plan in pencil. I have everything I need to make all these dishes already on hand except for the rolls and provolone for Tuesday’s dinner and the fresh produce.

My biggest cooking challenge right now is Dinner for 3. It’s been a whole month since Middle Sister left for college, and over 6 weeks since Big Brother moved to a townhouse near his job. I haven’t yet gotten the hang of cooking in smaller quantities. When Middle Sister was living here, I usually just cooked for 5 even if she wasn’t home for dinner, because she’d eat the leftovers at midnight while working on homework, or for breakfast, or after school. I’m trying to scale back, but I’m still eating a steady diet of leftovers for lunch every day.

Here’s the plan:

MONDAY:  Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans. I’m still in the habit of buying the biggest Oven Stuffer I can get. We’ll eat the drumsticks, thighs and wings tonight, and the white meat will be frozen for future dinners. Based on the size of this chicken, we’ll get 4 meals out of it, and I’ll use the carcass to make some broth, too.

TUESDAY:  Roast-beef sandwiches with provolone on Italian rolls and a salad on the side. Easy dinner before Little Brother’s soccer practice.

WEDNESDAY:  Spaghetti and meatballs (we have this almost every Wednesday! It’s folk-group practice night, and this is easy to cook and clean up before we have a houseful of musicians. I host folk-group practice AKA Music Therapy; people bring their kids, we celebrate birthdays, and, oh yeah, we practice Sunday’s music, too!)

piccata bites 3THURSDAY:  Chicken piccata bites with rice and a vegetable to be named later.

MEATLESS FRIDAY:  Vodka pasta and a salad. (Pre-soccer-practice fuel!)

SATURDAY:  Takeout pizza. This is our one weekend a month when we play at the 5:00 Mass, and we’re busy ALL day.

LaSalle explorersSUNDAY:  “Miss Jill Chicken” with potatoes and a vegetable. This is a quick and easy dish, which is not usually needed on a Sunday, but we’re going to Mass and brunch for Family Weekend at LaSalle to see Middle Sister. Big Brother will be there too!

On Her Birthday

We called her “Nanny.” (She hated the nickname, but once a little kid learns it, you’re stuck with it.) Today she would have turned 99 years old.

Only two of my kids remember her, though we do have a picture of her with all 3 of them. She passed away when Little Brother was about 7 months old.

approach to nannys houseNanny lived 2.5 miles away from our house. I know this because when I was in middle school (and high school) I used to ride my bike there, and my dad made sure we all had odometers for our bikes.

Pictured here is Nanny’s house as it looks today (thanks, Google maps!) She lived on the second floor of the tall house in the center of the photo. When I was in middle school, I received my own key to her house. By that time she was recently retired from her job as a secretary in the courthouse in Paterson, NJ–and she was tired of going down the stairs to let us in when we’d show up to visit.

We were always welcome in her home, even unannounced. And she always knew we’d been there if we showed up and she wasn’t home. We started leaving her little notes on the kitchen table so she wouldn’t worry about someone breaking in.

I inherited my grandmother’s supersonic ears. She could always tell when we were raiding the glass bowl of M&Ms she kept on the dining-room table. (I inherited that table.)

I wish I’d inherited her crossword-puzzle skills. Every Sunday she bought the New York Times, removed the magazine so she could do the puzzle, and threw away the rest of the paper. She’d sit at the kitchen table and work on the puzzle while her Sunday chicken roasted and the potatoes boiled. If I rode my bike over there in time for dinner, I got the wings. And sometimes she’d let me take a crack at the puzzle after she’d gone through it.

Nanny’s house was four blocks from the Catholic school where my mom taught and where at least 3 generations of my family (including me, my brother and sister) were educated. Maybe 4. My great-grandfather might have gone there too. On sick days, Mom would drop us off at Nanny’s house, where we’d be set up on the couch with a crocheted daisy blanket and a book to read. (I inherited that blanket too.)

Nanny was a daily Mass-goer and Rosary pray-er. She always went all out in decorating for Christmas–INSIDE the house–right down to the fake snow on the mantelpieces in the dining room and living room. One year for my birthday she gave me a big box of art/office supplies:  new crayons, scissors, pencils, stapler, art paper and more. I was thrilled.

Hands down, Nanny made the best roast chicken, mashed potatoes, turnips, and tuna-fish sandwiches (on Wonder bread, with butter. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.) I don’t ever remember her baking anything, but she knew where the good bakery was, and when she went there, she’d bring you back a lemon cupcake or blueberry tart. You could always find Coke in the fridge and Mallomars in the cabinet, and the Milky Ways were kept in the vegetable drawer.

I miss Nanny, and more than that, I wish that my kids had what I’d had:  the chance to grow up with anytime-you-want access to your grandmother.

We are all losers here

With a disease like dementia, there are no winners. Except maybe the people who make the drugs that cost a small fortune and don’t even work, but which people buy because it’s better than having no hope at all.

In my mother-in-law’s case, those drugs seem to be making matters worse. After a rough few days at the end of last week, my husband moved her in with us. It’s no longer safe for her to remain in her own home, even with a part-time caregiver.

There is a lot that I need to write about, just to get my mind around all this, but which I don’t want to publish here. This disease is cruel and embarrassing. The limits of my patience and capacity for mercy are definitely being tested. I am caught in the middle right now–stuck between what she wants and what she needs, and that’s hard when you’re talking about an adult.

So I guess that while I will continue to process this experience through writing, it’s going to have to stay unpublished. That’s OK too.

But I can say that I don’t know how to handle some things in the most kind way possible. For instance, making her coffee. Hubs gives her the cup of hot water, the jar of instant, the packets of blue sweetener. Then he has to remind her how much to measure in, and that she has to open the sweetener packets, not just throw them in the cup, paper and all. I just make her the cup of coffee and deliver it. It’s not like we can ask her which she’d prefer.

It’s a lose-lose situation.
Posted with BlogsyPosted with Blogsy

Say “Uncle”

Tomorrow I will head “up north” to attend the funeral of my dad’s oldest friend, my brother’s godfather, “Uncle John.” They’d been buddies since the first grade.

Uncle John was one of only two people whom we called “uncle” although they were not blood relatives. The other is my godfather. I can only guess that this is because my dad considered both of them to be as close as brothers to him.

When I think of Uncle John, I think of laughter. He found joy in the simple things–his family, his friends, a backyard picnic, a funny joke, a childhood memory that he’d spin into a story that would leave everyone in tears from laughing so hard.

kuvaszWhenever Uncle John told a story, you were never quite sure if he was serious. On a whim yesterday, I looked up a dog breed that he’d frequently referenced. I don’t know why he talked about this type of dog so much; maybe he just found it fun to say. But in the back of my mind, I always thought that he’d made it up. Turns out that the Kuvasz really does exist. That makes me smile.

Uncle John had the biggest heart of anyone I know. I’m sure that Aunt Mary, and his children and grandchildren have a huge treasure of happy memories of Uncle John. I’m sure that most of them involve lots of laughter. I pray that these happy memories will console them in their grief. Uncle John was one of a kind, and I am blessed that my dad knew him as a friend and an honorary brother.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

They Held Down the Fort

I’ve got to hand it to my kids. Because TheDad is absolutely swamped at work (and has been for about a month now, with a bunch of unrelenting project deadlines) they were largely left on their own this week while I was at the writing conference.

There were a few “distress calls” in the form of text messages from the Big Kids, but the issues were minor ones.

I’m going to reproduce some text messages/exchanges exactly as they happened–grammar and spelling issues notwithstanding.

Big Brother:  “How do i use dishwasher” That was the simplest one to handle.

Middle Sister: IMG_0728

I’m pretty proud of myself for not losing my mind over that. To be fair, I will admit here and now that one time I poured the bleach in that “middle thing” that is supposed to be for fabric softener.

Which reminds me. I need to go run the washing machine with vinegar in that “middle thing” right now to rinse out the rest of the soap.

Big Brother cooked dinner for two nights. That’s not really newsworthy in itself, since he cooks at college all the time. But he outdid himself this time–he served edamame one night as a side, and apparently Little Brother “destroyed” it.

calphalon panOn Thursday we had quite the detailed textversation about whether (and at what temperature) he could put my Very Favorite Skillet into the oven. I told him exactly what kind of pan it was–it’s my one piece of *really good* cookware and I’m obsessively kind of protective of it–and sent him off on a Google search to find out. (Apparently, it’s good up to 500°.)

Later, I got a text during dinner to let me know that dinner had been a success:IMG_0729

That was quite entertaining for everyone in my table.

Middle Sister announced, upon my arrival, that she will make a good housewife.

There were no dirty dishes in the sink and the clean ones were put away.

I do need to teach my kids how to properly load a dishwasher, as I’m obsessive particular about that (and I have mad Tetris skillz that translate well to dishwasher-loading).

And all 3 of our cordless phones had gone AWOL. I’ve been home for over 4 hours but I’ve only found two so far.

But all in all, they did a great job. They ate well, kept the place just about as neat as it is when they’ve got adult nagging supervision, got Little Brother to and from our town’s recreation day camp and one soccer practice, and dealt with him when he wasn’t at camp or soccer. And Middle Sister’s doing a show at the same time.

I’m gratified to know that I’m not obsolete yet (as evidenced by the small difficulties they encountered) but that they’ve proven themselves to be quite independent when they need to be.