Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sticks and Stones

In 2004, I joined Weight Watchers and lost a whole lot of weight
By 2013, I'd gained back a fair amount of that weight

So three weeks ago, I rejoined Weight Watchers
I go to meetings Wednesday nights at 7pm
And I'm one of those people who needs to attend meetings - I need to go for the reinforcement, for the honesty of the scale  and yes, for the approval and support of the other members and in my meeting

So this past Tuesday night, Fat Tuesday, I was in a minor state of panic as Wednesday was approaching
I was not panicked about weighing in
I was in a state of panic because it was not only my meeting night, it was also Ash Wednesday

And I could not find a  Church that was offering ashes at a time I could make
There were 9:30am services but I knew I could not duck out of work
There were a couple noon services but I could not remember if Wednesday was the day one of the girls was leaving early or if it was Thursday
The only other service was at 7pm ...same time as my meeting


Then I realized hey wait! Immaculate Conception!
No, not THE Immaculate Conception, but Immaculate Conception...our (old) Parish in Malden/Medford...they have a 6:30am service

So bright and early Wednesday morning, I set out to get my ashes
It was a lovely service and I forgot how much I enjoy being at IC
The new Priest was at the pulpit and I  enjoyed his brief yet insightful homily
I even more enjoyed seeing a few familiar faces and realizing they recognized me as well

I left feeling a bit renewed...a bit lifted...

As I drove to work, I found myself lost in thought.....

See, I've been in a funk of late
At work, I'm struggling
Not with my work, I have a handle on that
I've just been struggling with being there
I've been struggling with the Universe trying to figure out where it is I am supposed to be, what it is I am supposed to be doing
Is this all I have to offer the world?
Can't I give and do more?
Is this really it for me?
I've been struggling with relationships
Am I giving Lucy and Sean all I have?
As happy as they make me, am I making them happy?
What about friends? What about the people I've pulled away from?
What about people I've turned my back on?

Then I looked in the rear view mirror (as I had just cut someone off on Roosevelt Circle...all my fault, forgot what a hellatious roundabout that one is and I wanted to throw up a hand to say Sorry! My Bad!) and caught site of the ashes on my forehead

My instinct was to wipe them away, like I had missed a spot while I was washing my face
And even though there is no "rule" that says you have to wear them all day, most Catholics I know do

People choose to wear their ashes for the remainder of the day as a reminder of their mortality and  devotion as a follower of Christ
The ashes are a symbol of the start of a season of examination and abstinence

Yet for some reason, on my way to work, I felt like I should wipe the ashes off
But I did not

When the ashes are placed, in the sign of the cross on your forehead, the Priest says
Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return
Or, he may say
Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel
Whatever he says, however he says it, the ashes serve as a reminder; as a symbol of repentance, of mortality, of the day we will stand before God and be judged
(by the way, I am pretty scared of that day for a number of reasons)

The ashes mark the beginning of Lent - and simply put, Lent is a season of self-examination, fasting and penance in preparation for Easter
Lent is a renewal

And right now, I need that reminder
I need to this period of self examination, of penance and sure, even fasting
I need to reconnect with some of the morals and values I have lost sight of
I need, right now, more than ever, I need to believe, to have faith and I need some renewal

So off I went, ashes on my forehead, a new sense of wonder and a slight spring to my step with a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth

And then, at some point yesterday, I was openly mocked by two people for having ashes on my forehead
And to make matters worse (in my opinion) these two people were not kids
Had it been kids, I may have been able to take it with a grain of salt
But they were not kids
They were adults
In their 30s if I had to guess

And they actually "made fun of" the ashes on my forehead

I could hear them making comments about the "dirt smeared" on my forehead and "does she really think that makes her better than us?"

One of them said she's about as Catholic as I am and you should have have seen the meat sandwich I had at lunch
They both laughed

And I watched as the other one made the motion of picking their nose, or wiping their mouth, it was hard to see, and then the gesture of the sign of the cross on their forehead
That same person then made a not so nice gesture with their hands
The other person laughed and as the first person made the sign of the cross on their own forehead with what I think was the middle finger

And it made me sad

It made me sad because I can't believe people, adults, actually still behave this way....and by this way I mean like those kids in Jr High or High School that made fun of the chubby kid who wore glasses or the teachers' pet or the kids wearing a Members Only Jacket

Then it made me angry - but not really
 If I were being honest, I was just sad and a bit hurt

I probably could handle it better if I thought they were just making fun of me
But their actions tell me they were also making fun of what so many, 1 billion people last I heard, believe in

And who are we kidding?
I could handle it no better if they were making fun of me or making fun of my ashes and what those ashes stand for
I'm more sensitive than people realize - and contrary to popular belief, I do have a heart and I do have feelings...and sometimes, both get hurt

I know, I know, sticks and stones but seriously, it still hurts

Funny thing is, I'm guessing in 6 weeks, they'll be sitting down to a dinner table on Easter Sunday with mounds of food and baskets of candy
They may or may not go to Mass.......
But I'm pretty sure they won't give a passing thought to the day except for Peeps, an egg hunt and ham

I bet they do the same on Christmas....
But what is Christmas except a commercialized holiday celebrating Fisher Price, Mattel and Santa right?
Its not like its an important birthday for anyone or anything

Look, I am not perfect
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect Catholic
I don't even know if I am a good one
I don't even know if I qualify as a cafeteria Catholic

I swear, I make fun of people, I lie (to myself and yes, sometimes to others)
I've been jealous of what others have, I've been gluttonous and greedy
And sometimes, I have been downright mean

There are lots of things I've done in my life that I am not proud of
There are lots of things I have done and said I wish I could take back
There are times I did not do what was right; and times I did things for purely selfish reasons

But there are things I've done that I am proud of
And there are times when I have done the right thing no matter how hard it was
And I know what I believe in

I believe in God
I believe in a higher being
I believe in Jesus Christ the only son of the Father
I believe that regardless of all my shortcomings, of all my mistakes, of all my sins, God knows at the end of the day, my heart is in the right place
I believe I wake up every day with good intentions and when I stray, I believe I know enough to admit my failures and limitations

And I believe in starting over the next day

I believe in my husband and my daughter
I believe in myself
I believe I will try - try to be a better person
I believe I want to be a better person

I believe I need this Lenten season; I have some serious renewing, repenting and almsgiving to do
And I believe I will take what I need and need what I take

I forgive those two people for what they said, for what they did
But it still hurts -
Sticks and stones all you want, words sometimes hurt way more
But I forgive

So my Lenten season begins
I hope I make the most of it - I hope you do to
In the meantime, I'll say my prayers, put my pennies in the Rice Bowl, repent and ask God to continue to love and guide me no matter what

And, I'll be sticking with Weight Watchers - I'm down 12.2lbs in 3 weeks

Maria the Mum

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Don't Drop the Baby

I’m usually pretty prepared for what I hear people say to me
And I usually know how I’m going to react

I may be caught off guard or a bit shocked or surprised but I can usually process things pretty quickly and know just how I’m going to react

The first time my husband, then boyfriend, told me he loved me, I was totally prepared to hear it
My heart and head processed it with relative ease and comfort

The first time Lucy said I love you, I knew my heart would melt; I was totally prepared for the emotion it elicited

The day my mother called me to say your Dad has cancer…well, though I was not prepared for it, I handled it with nary a tear, I saved those for later
I simply asked what do you need me to do? What’s next?

When Mum called to tell me my grandmother had passed, and a year later, when Grampy passed, I was ready for it – I knew their lives had been long and fruitful and it was time for them to go

When Sean asked me to marry him, though it was a total surprise, I knew how I would react (of course I would say yes!)

I know someday, Lucy will ask to borrow the car and I’ll have a small stroke and hand over the keys (and then follow her in the other car)

I know someday, she’ll ask me if she can go to a boy/girl party; she’ll ask me if she can date, she’ll ask me where babies come from

I know someday, Lucy might, God forbid, call and say Mum, I’ve been in a car accident or Mum I’m in trouble

Someday, she’ll call me because she’s been dumped and her heart has been broken; she’ll call because she did not get the job she wanted or she’ll call to say I’m moving away

And I hope someday, Lucy calls and says I’m getting married! I’m having a baby!

And someday, she may even say out of anger I hate you
I remember saying it to my Mum and Dad and still regret I did but I think at some point, most kids have yelled this out (weather they mean it or not is another thing)

I think of what I have heard and seen up to this point in my life and though sometimes it surprises and shocks me, rarely am I rocked to my core and rendered completely speechless and incapable of an intelligent reaction

But there have been two times in my life I can recall this happening

Where I witnessed or was told something that rendered me incapable of having any reaction except to either go into a silent retreat or just mutter the same thing over and over and over again until I was brought to tears

The first time was October 27, 2004
That was when the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years

I was at my youngest sister’s house
We decided to stay home and watch Game 4 – there was no way I could be in public, I needed to be in a “safe zone”
If I remember correctly, I was on the floor on my knees (yes, for most of the game)
My sister was on the couch and then next to me also on her knees
We were both muttering “please, please, please”
We may or may not have genuflected a couple times
When the final out was made, I believe I let out one whoop and then went quiet
I remember looking at each other for a couple minutes and one of us said

Holy shit, did we just win?
Yeah, I think we did
The Red Sox just won the World Series
(In unison) Holy shit!

I did not speak for the next 24 hours

The second time was the other night

February 6, 2013, 9:30pm
I know it was 9:30pm because the phone rang and my eyes instinctively darted to the clock

Our house phone never rings that late – and if it does, it is never a good thing

When I saw my youngest sister’s phone number on the caller id, my heart skipped a beat

I grabbed the phone, hit talk and blurted

What’s wrong?
What’s wrong? Are you okay? Why are you calling me?
I didn’t call you, you called me
No I didn’t! What’s wrong?
I’m just teasing, I called you
Mikel! What’s wrong?!?
She paused
Then she yelled

For the second time in my life, I could not react

My baby sister just called and said she’s having a baby…she’s having a baby!!!!???!!!

Holy shit

I know I said congratulations to her and Winston
And I know poor Winston tried to say something but I could not even process what I was hearing…I don’t even think I heard him
My baby sister is having a baby!
I kept babbling I’m so excited; I’m so excited for you
I’m so happy for you
And after three or four minutes of that, I started to cry
I remember sort of saying it’s the best thing ever, I can’t wait for you to be parents you guys, it is the best thing that will ever happen to you
And then I think I again started babbling about how excited I was
And I was still crying
Even when I hung up, the tears were still rolling down my cheeks

I immediately called my Mum
Just a quick call; I think I just need to confirm what I had just heard
The next morning, I called my Mum to ask when we could have the shower

I can’t even believe my sister, my baby sister, is going to have a baby

I always knew someday she would have one, I just did not know I would be so….that I would react this way….that is I would be unable to react

That news like this would render me speechless because it is the best news I have heard in a long time… has actually pulled me out of the funk I have been in for the past month or so

My sister, my baby sister I took care of, the one I adored and thought of as mine, is having a baby

I am so over the moon for her and her husband
I can’t wait for them to be parents….to get to experience the thrill, the frustration, the fear, the joy, the unconditional love of being a Mum, of being a Dad, of being parents together

I went to bed and I remember my last thought being I can't even believe Mikel is having a baby...I am so excited, so happy....she gets to be a Mum!

Lucy woke up at 2am this morning
She padded into our room and whispered
Mumma, I love you
I love you too baby, what’s the matter
I have to go potty
We went potty and then Lucy was wide awake
So we went and snuggled in the second bedroom so as not to wake Daddy and Ziggy up….and we talked as we sometimes do when she wakes up in the middle of the night

We talked about school and how much she loves Miss Barbara and can Miss Barbara always be her teacher?

We talked about the snow that’s coming this weekend – we can’t wait to make snow angles!

And then Lucy reminded me we forgot to talk to God before we went to sleep (and by that she means saying our prayers)

So we talked to God for a spell

Lucy asked him to take care of everyone we love and to help Lucy be a good listener
She also told God how the letter of the week is Q and Q is a big circle with a tail

And then Lucy says

God, did you know Queen begins with Q and I went to the Queen’s house in England? (true, in 2010)
Can you please take care of her too? I like the Queen…..and the pretty Princess (she is of course referring to Katherine)

After we were done talking to God I said

Hey Lucy, guess what?
What Mumma
Auntie Mikey and Uncle Win are having a baby!
What Mumma?! There’s a baby in Auntie Mike’s belly like I was in yours?!?
Sure is Lucy
That is so crazy Mumma!!! And that makes me so happy!
Me too Luce
Mumma! I can teach the baby to go pee pee and poopie on the potty ‘cause I’m a big girl and I know how to do that!
That is really nice of you Lucy! I’m sure Uncle Win will appreciate that
No problem Mumma, I’m here to help

Conversations like this are why I am rendered speechless when my sister tells me she’s pregnant….because this is what she has to look forward to and how do you tell someone how happy you are for them that they too get to experience this amazing thing called parenthood?

Hey Mumma?
Yeah Lucy
Will the baby live with Auntie Mike and Uncle Win?
Yes honey
Not with us?
No honey…but the baby will be your cousin and we can visit your cousin whenever you want and the baby can come see us
Oh, okay…..what is it Mumma?
What’s what honey?

Is it a boy baby or a girl baby?
Well, we don’t know yet
Does Auntie Mike know?
Nope, no one knows yet
I bet God does Mumma; I’ll just ask him tomorrow night when we talk
Oh, okay Lucy
Can I have some pretzels and some water now?
Sure Lucy

And can we get a puppy?

We’ll stop here because why ruin this beautiful moment by telling you how Lucy, who by now has been up since 2am and it is now 3:30am, proceeded to spill the entire bottle of water in the bed (by accident, totally my fault, I was half asleep and left her alone with an open bottle of water) thereby soaking the bed
So Lucy climbed into bed with Daddy and I went into her bed but could not sleep and lay awake until almost 5 am when I finally fell asleep only to be awoken an hour later by Lucy yelling out she was ready to get dressed for school


But I would not trade it for the world
I get to be a Mum
And now so does my little sister

So to my sister and brother-in-law, and old Irish proverb because I could never put into words how happy and how excited I, and Sean and Lucy, are for you:

For the new baby:
May you always walk in sunshine
May you never want for more
May Irish angels rest their wings
Beside your nursery door
And for the proud parents:
May God grant you a wee bit of heaven
To cradle in your arms
A sweet bonny baby
To hold close in your heart
A newborn babe
Brings light to the house
Warmth to the hearth
And joy to the soul
For wealth is family
Family is wealth

We wish you years of health, happiness, hugs, love, laughs, kisses and cuddles with the newest addition to the family

And I leave you with this from your Goddaughter and niece:

Mumma, tell Auntie Mike I can show her how to change a diaper
Oh, you know how to do that Lucy?
Yeah Mumma!
From watching you, when I was a baby – and I know what babies should eat
Really? What should they eat Lucy?
Broccoli, cauliflower and kindness kisses (Hershey kisses) and maybe some pasta but not all together, just one at a time
Really…any other words of advice for Auntie Mike and Uncle Win
Hmmm, finger on chin as she looks up at the ceiling deep in thought
Then, she holds her finger straight up in the air and says with great authority:

Don’t drop the baby

Good advice Lucy, good advice

Maria the Mum who is going to be an Aunt again!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Good Times

Lucy loves hearing stories about herself

I used to make up stories about she and her stuffed dog Puppy Jack
The stories would be about she and Puppy Jack wandering for the day and meeting other animals (like when Lucy and Puppy Jack met a hippo who took them for a swim down the river)

And when she tired of those, I made up stories about her living in the jungle
Mumma, can I live in Africa instead at the watering hole? There are more animals there I like
Sure Lucy, the watering hole it is.....

Lately, she likes to hear real stories about herself as well as Sean and I

She loves the stories about her and her old pal Cora at Puddle Duck
She giggles every time I tell her the story about how she and Daddy played tag while she was still in my belly (he would poke my belly, she'd kick, he'd poke, she'd kick...they actually still kind of do that)
She loves even more to hear stories about us when we were little but has not quite worked out we did not live together when we were kids

So the other day, we were just sort of hanging out, I think making dinner, and she says

Mumma, tell me the story of how Daddy and I brought Ziggy Boy home
So I told her the story about how I went to a Wedding Shower and brought home cupcakes for she and her Dad and they brought me home a 17lb cat

Mumma, tell me the story how you and Daddy got married
So I told her the story of how we got all dressed up (yes honey, Mummy wore a dress) and went to Church and got married in front of God and Noni and Papa and Granny and Grandpa (yes honey, Noni and Papa and Granny and Grandpa knew what we were doing)
And then how we had a big party in a barn and we ate hamburgers and hot dogs and had cake and danced

Mumma, tell me the story of how I was born
So I told her how I stayed at the hospital until the doctor said OK little baby, time to come out!
And then, the doctor held up this little crying baby and said it's a Lucy!
And then Lucy started to cry and Daddy ran his finger across her forehead and said there there Baby, its OK, Daddy is here...and you stopped crying!
That's a good story Mumma
Yes it is Lucy

Mumma, tell me the story about the day I came home
So I told her the story of how we had her whole outfit picked out and then realized we did not actually know how to dress we had to ask the  nurse if we were doing it right!
And then we drove home so slowly in the rain and when we got home, Noni threw open the door and said Welcome Home Lucy!
And then Daddy went to meet Cooper and Papa and you stayed asleep in your car seat and when you woke up, Noni and I did not know how to get you out of your seat! And then, when we finally got you out, we put you in your crib for another nap and while you were sleeping, Noni vacuumed your room and you never even woke up!

I love those stories Mumma
Me too Lucy

Hey Mumma?
Yeah Lucy
She stifles a giggle
Mumma! 'member when I used to live in your belly?
Uh, yeah, I sure do Lucy
Giggles some more....
That was so crazy Mumma!
Full blown laugh,
That was such a crazy time Mumma! So crazy when I lived in your belly!
She walks away shaking her head laughing and muttering
Was that so crazy Ziggy Boy?!? she asks the cat who is lounging on the chair
Was that so crazy I lived in Mumma's belly?!?!

 It sure was Lucy, it sure was

Maria the Mum