2015: A Year of Healing

Posted December 31, 2015 by DCM
Categories: Catholic Faith

With 2015 coming to a close, it’s a natural time for reflection.  You can’t always see what’s going on when you’re in the middle of things; you have to look back to see the bigger picture.   I can see now that God has used 2015 as a year of healing for me.  He used two of his favorite tools:  truth and love.

Going into 2015 I was still being swallowed up by lies.  There were the lies I told myself and the lies of others that I had accepted and internalized.  Just as a physician must sometimes cut open a festering wound in order to clean it out, God allowed some of my wounds to be cut open in order for them to be cleansed and replaced by truth.  Sometimes this hurt like hell, but finally having these hard truths revealed made me stronger and healthier.

And then there was a lot of love.  There were all of the hugs and kisses and snuggles and special times shared with my kids and the unconditional support of my parents and sister.  My closest friends laughed with me and cried with me and prayed with me and sometimes picked me up off the floor when I was a total mess.  My neighbors and our school/church community have had my back over and over again, agreeing to help whenever I requested it and offering help sometimes when I didn’t even realize I needed it.

Every act of kindness was a balm that soothed deep-seeded feelings of unworthiness.

God also sent me a healing love in a way I never expected.

Back in May I realized that I really wanted to reconnect with one of my dearest friends from college.  The last time we had seen each other had been a brief dinner four years previously, and then we had lost track of each other yet again.  It took me a few days to find him, but once I did, we started catching up on all we had missed in each other’s lives.  Then we started talking with a raw honesty about deeper things within us, and we saw how we had each grown and been shaped by the joys and sorrows of our separate lives.  And then we realized in August that we cared about each other as more than just friends and began a long-distance romantic relationship.

As my friend and as my boyfriend, he has helped me uncover another layer of lies that were weighing me down.  His unconventional points of view often (unintentionally) make me re-evaluate who I am and who I want to be and what I want in my life.  His sense of humor and general goofiness sometimes have me laughing to the point of tears.  His total acceptance of me, quirks and all, have restored my sense of self.  His kindness, generosity, tenderness, and love (philia and eros) brought me back to life.  And in the two weeks he visited me, a whole slew of happy memories were made to replace a lot of bad memories that kept haunting me.

I am not completely whole again yet.  I still have work to do, things to figure out.  But an amazing amount of progress has been made this year.  And I can see God’s hand in all that has happened:  the good and “the bad”.  Sometimes it was very direct and sometimes it was more subtle and unexpected.  He knew what I needed, and He made sure I got it.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:25)

So, what was God’s purpose?  I think that’s what I’m about to find out in 2016.  I suspect that 2016 might just be a Year of Promise.  I don’t know what all lies beyond the bend in the road, but I sense there are some big things waiting just out of sight, good things.

3 Months at a Time

Posted November 7, 2015 by DCM
Categories: Uncategorized

The biggest lesson (among many) that I learned over the past summer is that life can turn on a dime in the most unexpected ways.  In the past I used to make all of these grand plans for “next year”, and then when everything would go kabloohey I would get extremely dejected.  I have been learning to live more and more in the moment, learning to let go of the past and accept the future as it comes.

So, I’ve really been trying to focus on no more than 3 months at a time.  With five kids I can’t just throw caution to the wind and not make plans at all.  But a three-month plan seems to work out just about right for doing what I need to do and not getting as freaked out when the unexpected happens to shake things up.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have ideas percolating in the back of my mind for further out, but I don’t start focusing on those things or getting set on them.  If I do have a long-term goal (such as career plans for next year), then I either add specific tasks towards it that I can work on over the next three months to my master to-do list or I just decide to put it on the back burner for now.  I let it go.

November, December, and January are just about all I can handle right now:  planning my oldest daughter’s 13th birthday party, Christmas shopping, and looking forward to the next time my beau’s job will allow us to spend time together after the New Year.

So, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me again for three months.  Even with only three months of planning, life is pretty full and busy.

One Year Later

Posted August 6, 2015 by DCM
Categories: Divorce

Today marks exactly one year since my divorce was final.  The thought had crossed my mind from time to time over the past month that it was coming, but it wasn’t until I woke up this morning that I realized it was here.

I don’t even know how to describe the past year.  The images that comes to my mind are detox or rehab.  The kids and I have just been healing…which can be a painful process in itself.

For some of the kids, the loss of the constant stress and tension in the house was as much of a cause of distress as the loss of their father living in the house.  It seemed like they needed to act out regularly just to recreate the former conditions of the home.

But a year later that seems to have finally dissipated.  They still have their moments (they’re only human after all), but others have been able to observe the change in how they carry themselves and act and react to others.  When my parents have come to visit the past few times, they’ve noticed that the kids aren’t having as many temper tantrums and emotional meltdowns.

As for me, it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride.  Overall I am happier and healthier, and wonderful things have been happening.  The downs have usually corresponded with me falling into the same old emotional and communication patterns with my ex-husband.  With the distance of not having to interact on a daily basis, I’ve been able to take each blow up between us as an opportunity for self-examination and learning new and healthier ways to behave.

There’s been a lot of introspection in general this past year.  With the help of my priests, my spiritual director, my therapist, my parents, and my wonderfully, awesome circle of friends, I’ve been able to start to find my center of gravity again.  I’ve been examining the roots of my codependency issues, looking at my personal strengths and weaknesses, and determining how to use that information to move forward to become the person that God wants me to be.  It has not been easy, though, having to expose my own seedy underbelly and poke at wounds that are still more tender than I realized.

One often hears about how healing the annulment process through the Catholic Church can be, and I have found that to be extremely true.  The 20+ pages of answers they requested made me really think about the patterns in my past that led me into my marriage, and the mandatory evaluation by a psychologist helped me to gave me some new focus and perspective.  The annulment has already been approved by my diocese and is currently under evaluation for due process by a second one; I should be hearing the official word by the end of this month.

Financially, I’ve recently hit a bump in the road.  At first I was upset and worried, but God has really sent me an abundance of blessings through the support of my friends and family (I’m talking direct intercession, y’all.)  I’ve come to realize that God is using this to help me overcome some long-time personal, stumbling blocks that I’ve had in order to get me where He wants me to be.  Through all of these ups and downs, I’ve been reassured of His constant presence and love for me.

Upon the heels of the divorce, it was tempting to try to turn back time and imagine that I could be the person that I was before I got engaged to my ex-husband (which is when things first started going off the rails) or that I could turn our family life into the kind I imagined it would be if the marriage hadn’t always been so dysfunctional.  It took me a little time to realize that I am not that person anymore and that I can’t keep thinking about what might have been.  So, then I began trying to build a life for me and my kids moving forward from where we are right now, only taking those things from the past (positive and negative) that will aid me in doing so.

On the practical end of things, I will be staying home with my kids for one more year.  The older three will all be in our parish school this year.  I’ll be homeschooling the kindergartner and taking care of my now 3-year-old “baby”.  In a providential turn of events, I’ll also be taking care of the youngest child of friends from church and school.

In the next few months I’ll be applying for my early childhood education teacher aid license through the state, with the intention of trying to secure a full-time work position at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.  But I know that  lot can happen in a year, so for now I will just do what I can do to keep us moving forward and leave the rest in God’s hands.

Vacation 2015 Travelogue

Posted June 10, 2015 by DCM
Categories: Family Life

We just got back from spending a week back home in Kentucky.  While some pictures were uploaded to my Facebook account, I found that a lot of the time I was too busy actually having fun to be constantly be messing with my phone, even to take pictures.  These are just some random thoughts and memories that I want to preserve for when I want to look back on our trip.

*Our drive down was pretty smooth.  The weather was great, and there was no construction or wrecks.  I’ve learned to start off with a movie in the van; that instantly gets us about two hours down the road.  We stopped in Indianapolis to visit a friend from college and her family.  The kids stretched their legs on the swing set in the back yard and pop sickles were consumed before we hit the road again.

*The first morning in Kentucky I was sitting on the bench swing in my parents’ back yard and all I could think was that it smelled like “home”.  Then the thought crossed my mind that I was crazy since Louisville is not that exotic or far away from the Chicago suburbs; the air surely couldn’t smell that different.  It wasn’t until I was driving down the main road that runs behind my parents’ house and abuts Iroquois Park that I realized how much the green and loamy smell of the woods permeates the air.

*On a trip to get gas later that first morning I cut through the adjacent neighborhood and was struck by how almost every porch that was big enough included some combination of a porch swing, a glider couch, or rocking chairs.  It’s not something I’ve ever noticed in my current location, and I ended up spending a large portion of my time with my parents sitting on their front porch reading or watching the kids play in the front yard.

*Our townhouse has a paved courtyard with sparse grass but a lot of trees in the front and a large driveway in the back.  We do have a grassy side yard, but we really have to watch for garbage that that been thrown or blown there.  When my kids saw the fresh cut, clean grass of Memaw’s and Papaw’s front yard, they went rolling around in it like they’d never seen grass before.  (And then they itched the rest of the night.  LOL)

*The kids spent 90% of their time at my parents’ house completely barefoot, inside and outside of the house.

*Louisville has really developed the waterfront since I moved away.  Recently they converted an old train bridge into a walking bridge that crosses into southern Indiana.  We took the kids across the Big Four bridge to an ice cream shoppe and candy factory/museum for lunch.  The weather was fair, but the sun beat down on us pretty hard.  So, the kids made full use of the splash pad and playground on the Kentucky side of the bridge.  (And Sabrina has been talking about the stinky, gross “skunk” bathrooms she had to use there for days.)

*We took a trip further out into the state to visit the girls’ paternal great-grandfather (currently 89) “in the middle of nowhere”.  The kids spent a few hours watching humming birds, cardinals, golden finches, and blue jays and chasing butterflies before robbing Grandpa Jack of many of his possessions with his encouragement.

*As a semi-spontaneous side trip (I had researched the possibility but put it up to a vote in the moment) we ended up going to Mammoth Cave and taking the most basic tour (1 hour and 15 minutes).  Piper didn’t believe me when I warned her to bring her jacket even though it was a hot day, so she faced the natural consequences when we entered the 53 degree cave.  Actually, the blast of cold air hits you as soon as you turn the corner for the steps leading down to the entrance.  Cassidy was a little nervous about the whole thing, but all of the other kids thought it was awesome.

*One night I went out to karaoke with my sister for a few hours.  It had been so long since I had drank an alcoholic beverage at a bar that I didn’t even know what to order (the last time I did so they were still selling Zima).  I ended up getting a sex-on-the-beach, a favorite from the summer I turned 21.  The seedy pub near my parents’ house was dead, so we each got to sing four songs.  But there was this 70+ year old woman who started shouting obscenities at anyone who passed her direction (including us) and a host of other seedy south end of Louisville characters, so we cut out after a couple of hours.

*I had to get my Skyline Chili, so I met up with an old friend that I hadn’t had a chance to really hang out with in over 15 years.  Our lives are very different, but I had forgotten how much we always had in common.  I could have spent all day catching up with him and discussing a wide variety of topics if I hadn’t had other obligations.

*Even though my favorite part of Iroquois Park is shut down for renovations (the northern lookout), I took the kids to the new playground and splash pad.  Unlike their previous splash pad experience in the week, this time I had them all in swimsuits.  We used a lot of sun screen on this vacation.

*On our last evening in Louisville my parents had a cookout with family and friends.  It was great catching up with people I hadn’t seen in person in a few years (or as in the case of my best friend from junior high, several years).  Then we presented Sabrina with a cookie cake and sang her an early “Happy Birthday”.

*Scattered storms were predicted for the last day of our trip when we were supposed to go to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.  My mom stocked up on ponchos for everyone, but thankfully we only really needed them when we rode the River Rapids ride (7 times!).  Other than some heavy rain on the drive, the day was overcast and moderate.  And the lines were so short, that the attendants would often let you ride repeatedly without getting off.

*At first I balked at the $15 stroller rental, but it turned out to be worth every penny.  It gave us a great place to store our jackets and ponchos when we weren’t using them.  Sometimes we even set our free sodas in them while we were on the family rides.  It was big enough to hold the 4 and 7 year olds together or one passed out toddler.

*Piper had really wanted to ride The Raven roller coaster, but it was closed indefinitely when the park first opened.  So, we went on The Legend instead.  At the first turn after the first gigantic hill, Piper declared that she didn’t ride The Raven or any other roller coaster if we survived this one.  I was in agreement, because I had forgotten how jarring wooden coasters can be.

*I had been a little worried about if I would get motion sick.  It’s been 20 years since I was season pass holder at Kentucky Kingdom.  There were a few rides I made it through once but refused to ride again due to nausea.

*The kids had a blast at Holiday World. Their favorite section was definitely 4th of July (with the Holidog part).  Bailey and Piper (ages 12 and 9) were tall enough to ride everything alone.  Katie (7) was tall enough to ride a lot of things alone, but there were some things she had to have an adult (like the Turkey Whirl).  Sabrina (4) had to have an adult for most things.  There were also a small number of rides that Cassidy (2) could do with an adult.

*By the time we got to the hotel, everyone was tired and getting cranky. I put everyone to bed as soon as possible, including me.  In the morning, we took a quick side trip over to St. Meinrad Archabby.  Even though the kids were ready to go home and a little whiny, I couldn’t resist taking them and my parents over there to see how gorgeous the architecture and natural landscaping is.

*The drive home was long and exhausting.  I made it through on Extra Strength Tylenol and coffee.  A wreck 90 miles out from our home in Illinois and the need for a bathroom break led us to detour from I-65 completely and rejoin I-80 further west.  While everyone really enjoyed the trip, we were all really glad to be home.

Coming to the End of an Era

Posted May 21, 2015 by DCM
Categories: Homeschooling/Education

I wrote my first post about homeschooling in January of 2008.  At the time, my oldest was learning first grade at home, #2 was a toddler, and #3 was on the way.  In those days there were two things that I could never imagine:  1) I would end up having five kids, and 2) someday all of my kids would go to regular school.

Three years ago Bailey entered our local parish school two months into her 4th grade year.  I was overwhelmed with trying to homeschool her and first grader, to take care of preschooler and toddler, and recover from the very recent birth of baby #5.  It also had started to become apparent that Bailey had reached a point where she needed the structure and discipline of “real school”.  It ended up being a life-changing move for her and for me.

Since then I have continued to homeschool and care for my four younger girls at home, even after coming through a divorce.  But the fact is that I have to start preparing to reenter the workforce.  Homeschooling has become very time and energy consuming for me.  I need that 3-4 hours per day for other things.

I had originally planned to put Piper into our parish school last year, but in the midst of the divorce, I realized that she really needed the consistency of continuing to homeschool.  Regular school would have just been one change too many for her to handle.  But over the course of this year, I think she has begun to realize that school might be the better option for her.  Frankly, she is starting to get bored at home.  At almost 10, she’s becoming less interested in playing with her little sisters, and most of our homeschooling friends have younger children.  So, Piper will be entering our parish school for 4th grade in the fall.

Katie will also be going off to the parish school next year for 2nd grade.  She has been a delight to teach these past two years, but if she’s going to have to go off to regular school anyway, next year will be a great year for her to start.  The teacher is a wonderful Dominican sister who will gently help Katie into the school setting and prepare for her First Holy Eucharist.  And Katie can not wait!  She is literally counting down the days until the next school year begins.

Next year I will only have a kindergartner and a preschooler at home.  It will be completely surreal to only have two kids with me during the day.  And I know that the next school year will mean a major lifestyle shift for us, which is both exciting and terrifying.

I know, though, that this is a necessary stepping stone to prepare us for the day when all of my kids will have to go to regular school while I work a full-time job.  I am thankful that my kids and I have been able to make these changes gradually rather than having our entire lives turned upside down in the wake of the divorce.

We have only a few days left in this school year.  As Piper and Katie finish their books, I am hit with the realization that this might be my last time teaching 3rd and 1st grade.  If I could control the future I would homeschool my last two children through first grade.  After the next school year, though, I need to be prepared to take a full-time job if the position I want opens up.

This means that Sabrina would start school in 1st grade, and little Cassidy may never experience being homeschooled at all.  That idea makes me kind of sad; I might not be the first one who sees all of those lightbulbs go off inside of her little mind like I was privileged to do with her sisters.

My original reasons for choosing to homeschool my kids are just as valid as they were when I wrote them down 8 years ago, and I have no regrets about the decision.  However, I have had to face at times that my realities for homeschooling have at times fallen short of my ideals.  I have had to humble myself and admit that homeschooling is not always a good fit for every kid or every family, including my own at times.  I have learned that both homeschooling and regular schooling have their pros and cons.  And I have had to learn to trust other people to make up for my limitations as a mother, a teacher, and a human being.

I’m not finished with homeschooling just yet, but graduation is looming before me.  And it’s kind of bittersweet.

Recognizing Obstacles and Switches

Posted March 7, 2015 by DCM
Categories: Family Life

As you know, my goal this year has been to find a better balance between work, prayer, recreation, and self-care.  Therefore, I’ve been trying to integrate a new schedule that will reflect new habits and attitudes.

Consistent change is not something that comes easy to anyone.  And the longer you’ve been in a rut, the deeper it becomes and the harder to get out of.  Therefore, as a I slowly try to make changes in my own life, I’ve had to think about those bad habits (aka obstacles) that make it easier to stay in the rut and what are little changes that I can make in order to make big changes easier (aka switches).

For instance, one obstacle I recognized is starting a new television show, particularly on Netflix.  In the past I would do really well at pacing myself for about the first ten episodes, and then I would start binging, watching as many as six episodes in a day.  Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially me!!

So, the first rule I made for myself was:  No new television shows in 2015.  I have plenty of current shows filling up my DVR on a regular basis, or I can watch reruns of previous favorites if I want something different every once in a while.  In the same vein about time wasters, a second rule that I made for myself for this year was:  No multi-level or social online games.

A second obstacle I realized was getting sucked into the computer first thing in the morning.  Catholic motivational speaker Matthew Kelly talks about not checking his e-mail first thing in the morning because it immediately throws off his mood and the pace of his day.  This lead me to make a switch in which I no longer get on the computer while I drink my first cup of coffee.  Instead, I use that time to say Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

Not only do I avoid getting annoyed by stupid posts on Facebook, but starting the day with prayer can’t help but be a positive.  I’m not saying that every morning I am struck with some great spiritual revelation, but even when I am going through the motions in a partial daze, I can still feel it recalibrating things inside me for the better.  Also, it helps me stay on schedule because I don’t get caught up in online discussions or correspondence.

One rut I am still struggling with is getting back on schedule in the afternoon.  I find myself still wanting to take too much recreation time.  I keep racking my brain to think of one little switch that I can make that will jump start the rest of my day.  I know that I will figure it out if I can just step back and discover the obstacles that are making it more difficult.  But at least I am starting to make some progress in the right direction.

Balance and Discipline (2): Work

Posted February 13, 2015 by DCM
Categories: Family Life

It seemed in the past like I would be really productive for a day or a week, and then something would derail me and I would just zone out while the house fell down around me.  Or I would only do the work that I wanted to do (like homeschool prep) rather than the work I needed to do (like staying on top of the checkbook and bills).  I now know that part of this was probably a low-level of depression that I lived with for years, but that is (hopefully) all in the past.

So, as a reminder this is my new schedule that I’ve been trying to assimilate:

Morning Prep
Coffee & Morning Prayer
Dressed for the Day
Schoolwork (8:30)
Lunch (11:30)
Chores (12:30)
Cassidy Nap (1:30)
Coffee & Afternoon Prayer
Dinner (2:30)
Recreation (3:30)
Chores (4:30)
Evening Prayer (5:30)
Bedtime Snacks (8:00)
Bedtime Prep (8:30)
Bedtime Routines (9:00)

If you notice, I have two hours slotted for chores at 12:30 and 4:30.  By chores, I mean housework or other things necessary to keep the household running (bills, phone calls, homeschool prep).  Now this doesn’t necessarily mean these are the only times that I’ll be doing chores.  Part of my Morning Prep is unloading the dishwasher while I wait for my kettle to warm up my coffee water.  Part of my Bedtime Prep is loading up the last of the dishes and running the dishwasher.  And I spend at least two hours each day homeschooling.

There are times during schoolwork when the kids are working quietly, and they don’t need me hovering at the table.  I try to use these times for switching out laundry, cleaning out the sink, or other easily interrupted chores (if I’m not having to use that time dealing with the preschooler and toddler).  And if we happen to finish all of the schoolwork before 11:30, then I expect myself to work on chores until 11:30.

Another part of the equation for balancing work is setting up realistic To Do lists for each day.  There are some things that are just a given for everyday (like dishes).  Laundry usually takes 3 to 4 days during the week.  Then there are the things that come up that are time sensitive, like appointments that need to be scheduled or garbage that needs to go out.  There are also the things that ideally would get done, but life will go on even if they don’t.

I also need to be aware of how much time each chore will take.  Preparing for the next homeschool quarter can take at least 2 hours of work, so that’s not a good day to plan on switching out the kids’ seasonal clothes (another multi-hour/multi-day chore).  Some days might have four big chores on the list, and some days might have ten short chores on the list.

It is really easy to get over-whelmed with the amount of housework waiting to be done at any given time.  I could do nothing but clean my house for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there would always be something that still needed to be scrubbed.  With five kids in the house (most of whom are home all day every day), keeping the house at a basic level of cleanliness is a Sisyphean effort.  I have also had to accept that my goal right now is just to keep things from getting too gross.

Disclaimer:  My kids are spoiled and do not have regular chores (other than putting away their laundry).  It is something I have tried to institute from time to time, but I haven’t had the energy and strength to be consistent.  However, there are times over the course of a week when I expect them to help out.  And in general, I try to teach them to become self-sufficient and clean up after themselves.

So, my goals for balancing my work load on a daily basis are to have realistic expectations for my To Do list, to plan on about 2 hours of chores per day, and to not allow myself to get over-whelmed into trying to do everything or to feel guilty for the things that don’t get done.


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