Put On Your Big Girl Pants!

brooke-lark-194253-unsplashPhoto by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

“Mom? Does this match?”

“You can NOT do white socks with black dress shoes.”

“Harumph.”

“Mommmmy! I can’t find my hairbrush!”

“Can we PLEEEZ get doughnuts after church?! Pleeeeeeeease? It’s been weeks!”

“We had them last Sunday.”

“Yeah, but they obviously weren’t that good… because I don’t even remember them. Pleeease?!”

“It’s 8:17! We need to be in the car 5 minutes ago…”

“Did you brush your teeth?! Get in there and brush your teeth!”

“Why are you crying?!”

“He kicked my purse. It’s ruined!”

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

“GET IN THE CAR!

In the mad scramble before leaving for 8:45 mass, I grabbed a pair of black dress pants to put on. When I went into the closet I had thought, “It’s Mother’s Day. I should wear something festive. Perhaps a dress…” Instead, I grabbed a nice, but a very plain pair of old black pants. You might say they picked me since they’re certainly not what I had in mind as “festive,” but I didn’t have time to dawdle so I just went with it. Before kids, I used to spend gobs of time painstakingly considering each color coordinated, name brand garment before I went anywhere. Now I grab and dash! 5 minutes and I’m ready to meet the Queen. Take that Meghan Markle! Can I get an AMEN from all you lovely moms out there?

It wasn’t until the very end of mass, when I bowed my head for a special mothers’ blessing, glimpsing the familiar crease in the pant legs, that I remembered the significance of this particular article of clothing. They are the bottom half of an expensive suit I bought about 12  years ago in anticipation of a big job interview. I remember when the suit arrived in the mail. I unwrapped the JCrew packaging and breathed in the newness of the as yet unwashed fabric. The stylish suit exuded good things to come, a promising new job on the horizon.

I proudly wore the pants to the interview and proceeded to nail it!

But, God had very different plans for me… A day or two after my successful job interview, I found out I was pregnant. At a seasoned 34 years-old, and pregnant for the first time in my life, I could not have been happier. My potential employer invited me to meet to discuss the terms of the job. I was going to find out how much they planned to pay me. I again suited up with the stylish black ensemble, but this time as I stepped into each pant leg, I thought about how this brand new suit, in short order, would probably not fit me again for a very long while. The idea of my expanding girth made me giddy.

I turned down a lucrative offer that day. I told them I had a bigger job in my sights, motherhood. An exciting career change was not the easiest thing to say no to, but it felt right. Truthfully, I never once wavered. I knew it wouldn’t be fair to take the job if I intended to quit in a matter of months to assume the role I had looked forward to since I was a young girl.

They could not have been more gracious in accepting my news, and dare I say, disappointed. That felt good. But the hope of what was looming in my husband’s and my future felt even more promising.

Twelve years later, I’m wearing those pants on Mother’s day with my husband and my three children happily sidled up against me in Church. I’m reminded of all that has passed since I first slipped them on, oh so many years ago. The passage of time since motherhood is like everything else, wonky but beautiful. Has it only been 12 years? Sometimes it feels like 50. Other times it feels like the span of the blink of an eye. Either way, it has been sacred, holy time. It has been a chance for me to appreciate my own mother and all she sacrificed. A time to draw closer to my Blessed Mother who has gently guided me to her son’s Sacred Heart filled with His limitless love and mercy. And a time to lose myself in order to find my true identity. I’m a mom. Not because I chose to be, but because God ordained it. Through gritted teeth, I am so grateful for every tantrum, every late night feeding, every awful anxiety-inducing virus and head trauma and every time I’m certain I’ve ruined my children forever. With His help, I stagger across the finish line of every evening. Sometimes it is with serious dark circles of fatigue and worry around my weary eyes. Occasionally, it’s with a self-satisfied smile. But it is always with His grace!

To the casual observer, this pair of plain old black pants is exactly that—plain and old. No one else would ever know the significance of what they represent in my life’s journey. But that’s ok. I’m proud to say I still fit in them. Yay! They’re not as on trend as they once were and they’ve gotten a little worn near the cuff. But I will continue to treasure them. To me, they are a sign of an incredible gift. Neither deserved nor something I worked to achieve. Grace abounds! These pants are part of the uniform I don every day as a brand new creation of God.

God be with all of you Moms on Mother’s Day! And a blessed Feast of the Ascension. I’m wearing my pants. Christ is sporting His crown.

Deep sigh of satisfaction.

Fantasy Mom

Today is the 25th anniversary of my mother’s sudden death, a singular event that undoubtedly forever changed me. While the sting has lessened over time, I still struggle with the profound loss almost on a daily basis. It informs my thoughts and dreams, which may explain why I wrote this essay.

gabriel-sanchez-265726-unsplash (1)(Photo by Gabriel Sanchez on Unsplash)

Don’t tell anyone, but for quite a long time I’ve had a Fantasy Mom. Just as four-year-olds will gleefully gush about their imaginary friends, I’d like to brag about my Fantasy Mom. She’s the most loyal, loving, funny, kind and of course, wise mother who ever did NOT exist. Fantasy Mom is an intricate combination of my real mom, and every warm,  maternal character I’ve admired over the years.

Fantasy Mom firstly derives from the foremost matriarch, the very real Blessed Mother who quietly, yet staunchly remained at her son’s side during His greatest suffering. Despite doubtless unimaginable dread and fear, she never wavered. I’m confident she journeys alongside me too, especially as I navigate life’s more dodgy roller coasters. Her presence offers such peace and calm. She’s certainly my gold standard for all mothers. So how do you improve on sinless perfection? I mentioned this was a fantasy, right? 

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Boasts & Pot Roasts

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Remember when you were an insecure teenager/ young adult and a new song came out that no one else had heard of? You made sure everyone was keenly aware that you were in-the-know about that super cool, very underground tune, while everyone else was tragically and pathetically in-the-dark. Your cool factor would go up a few points that day as you revealed this well-kept secret that was on the verge of going mainstream but definitely hadn’t yet. All of you shaking your head and thinking, “Nope, not me,” you must have been in that elite group that was simply too cool to care. Wipe that smug smile off your face! The rest of us sorry souls, who were squarely in the not-so-popular plebeian crowd, we cared A LOT. Despite my braces and acne, I wanted to share with the world the things that I thought were going to GO BIG. And I most certainly wanted credit for those prescient recommendations.

Continue reading “Boasts & Pot Roasts”

Stalked By A Saint

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I noticed her eyes immediately. They seemed to be following me. I was in a meeting, explaining something when mid-sentence—Zap! Poof… everything I was saying magically evaporated.

Awkward silence. “I’m sorry. I just had a senior moment,” I heard myself saying to excuse my inexplicable, abrupt absent-mindedness. She responded with mild laughter, but I just swallowed and tried to reorient myself.

The Parish staffer with whom I was meeting had a smattering of photos on her wall, some I recognized as famous 20th-century saints, others not at all. But there was one black and white headshot of a young woman that seemed to be imploring me to look back. As I gained my composure, I found myself continually drawn to those familiar, heavily-lidded eyes. Each time we experienced a lull in the conversation, my gaze landed on that photo. While I had undoubtedly never seen the young woman before this moment, I was strangely convinced I knew her.

Continue reading “Stalked By A Saint”

Weeping on Easter

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Photo by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Without fail, the tears start welling up at almost the exact same time. It’s always Easter Mass. I could set my watch to it, but I’d never dare because the annoying alarm would draw even more attention at a time I’d prefer to simply disappear. Like it or not, there’s no stemming the tide of my mounting emotions. I bow my head and clench my eyes shut hoping no one around me notices. Usually, I get by without drawing too much attention to my red nose and watery eyes. But occasionally my reaction is so intense, a series of muffled involuntary sniffles gives me away. The kids or my husband will look at me with startled questioning eyes. My children especially probe my face with their intense, troubled looks. To lessen their worry, I flash a huge toothy smile and roll my eyes to let them know I’m fine—not only fine, I’m overcome with sheer joy. These are tears of complete happiness.

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Punch Him. Kick Him. Crucify Him!

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Every year with the arrival of Holy Week, I endeavor to place myself in the unfolding drama of our Lord’s incomprehensible and arduous path to Calvary. It is an extremely fruitful and therefore established devotion of prayer in preparation for the Holiest day of the year. And no doubt, the Church in Her wisdom understands our need to unite in Christ’s suffering especially at this solemn time leading up to Jesus’ resurrection. So, during Lent we pray the stations of the cross, we meditate on the most sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, and during the Holy Mass on Palm Sunday, we even play a role in the gospel’s Passion, interjecting vitriolic phrases like, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him!” Were more cringe-worthy words ever uttered? As a child, I remember only whispering those lines because they were just too ugly to say with gusto. As much as I hate reciting them to this day, I now understand the importance of trying to be present with Christ and feel the onus of my own sinfulness. Like it or not, we actually play a part of that fateful scene 2000 years ago. Continue reading “Punch Him. Kick Him. Crucify Him!”

Just Say “NO”

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Pope Francis is quoted as saying, “Every time we give in to selfishness and say “no” to God we spoil His loving plan for us.” Wise words indeed. But when we say “no” to someone in our community does that necessarily mean we are also saying “no” to God? This is a conundrum I think many earnest Christians grapple with, myself included. We try to banish the word “no” from our vocabulary. Or if we do say no, (SHOCKING!) we are racked with guilt. Is this healthy Christian thinking? And exactly how often are we required to say yes? Are there times when it is perfectly OK to say no? What’s at the source of this prejudice against no? Scripture has something to say about the concept of avoiding selfishness. Jesus has set the bar a teensy bit high.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.                                       —Philippians 2, 5-8

Then, He ratchets it up. 

This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.                                     —John 15, 12-13

It’s right there in black and white. He expects us to lay down our lives for our friends. With those seemingly incriminating scripture passages in mind, the panic sets in. As the thinking goes, if the Almighty wants us to be willing to martyr ourselves, what would He think of us saying “no” to helping out with some random Church ministry? It’s hard to even equate dying for someone, with contributing to the cleanup crew for a Lenten fish fry. Yet, this is the reality of the daily grind and if you’re human, which my husband regularly confirms I am, you have to say no occasionally, right? Before further investigation into the Land of NO, let’s consider its inverse territory, YES-ville. Continue reading “Just Say “NO””