3.29.2017

Remembering ~ 30 Years

This is a post I've started to write probably 30 times since I started blogging. Heck, as I start it, I'm wondering if this will be the time I actually finish it and hit publish or if it will be added to the scrap pile. Interestingly, this is not a post that gets started and saved as a draft. Each time I've started, I've hit delete. Maybe this one is just too raw. Still. 30 years later.

And what it is about this day that has me sitting down to write again? I could come up with a list of things, but each time I've thought it was time, it hasn't been. So I suppose the only way I will know if it is time or not is to write it all down again and see if I tap "publish" or "delete" at the end.

What do I think has influenced me this time? Perhaps it is the passing of St. Patrick's Day - the day that was the hardest day yet since my Dad died, as it is a day full of memories and when being Irish meant I was my Dad's daughter; perhaps it is all of the hangover of burying one parent and finding it extremely odd and unnatural to be comforted by the other parent, to wonder why she is even at the funeral home; perhaps it is my dear friend Michelle of Endless Strength writing her own story of her parents' divorce today and acknowledging that in so many ways our experiences are so very similar; perhaps it is finding out via social media that one brother flew in to WV from TX to celebrate the other's 21st birthday and that the only communication I had with either all day was to text a happy birthday message and receive a thank you; and perhaps it is CD1 and the emotions are always strongest when the hormones are going crazy.

Whatever it is that has brought fingers to keys here in this place today, all I can say is that I'm still understanding and processing what the impact of being a child of divorce has been for me.

30 years ago this month my parents' divorce was finalized, I was just about to turn 8. I remember the months leading up to the separation - it happened at Thanksgiving, my brother, mom and I went to my grandparents and while we were gone for the long weekend, my Dad moved out of our home and into his apartment across town. Those months before the separation were characterized by many late night fights. The kind that probably started as a hushed, tense conversation and eventually ended in shouting. I remember hearing the shouting. I remember one night my Dad saying {again} he was going to leave and coming into my bedroom and getting his suitcase out of my closet (where all the suitcases were kept). As he sat on my bed to extract it from the others, I sat up and put my arms around him, asking him not to go. He stayed, that night.

I remember the morning in the fall, it must have been an unusually warm Saturday morning for mid-fall, as my brother and I were chomping at the bit to go out and play, but our parents kept putting us off. Finally, we sat down at the table and they told us, my Dad spoke, "Your mom and I are getting a divorce." I shouted "NO!" and ran off to my room. I don't remember anything else specifically about that day. When I think about the years since that day, there are things I do remember and now can see better just how those things impacted me.

I remember everyone always asking how my mom and my brother were and commenting on how well I was doing. But no one ever asked how I was.

I remembering lying to teachers to get attention in 4th grade. And seeking attention from boys, from 5th grade on. Of being used and discarded and still seeking more. All the while desperately wanting my Dad to notice me.

I remember wanting to live with my Dad in 6th grade and how both of my parents manipulated me through that process - and I how ended up staying with my Mom.

I remember being the messenger between my parents for everything from child support checks to re-arranging weekends to changing pick-up and drop off times.

I remember years and years of insisting that it was for the best that my parents divorced. That it was better because they weren't fighting any more. Except they were. They never peacefully co-existed. Not really.

I remember saying how lucky I was to have not 2 but 4 parents who loved me. Only, I never really fit in. There was always this other life, with this other family, that both of my parents had. I didn't realize the impact of that until much later - within the last decade. There were in-laws who weren't my grandparents, nieces and nephews who weren't my cousins, and traditions I didn't understand and in which I wasn't able to fully participate.

I remember hearing the rumors of why my parents divorced. Of seeing evidence for myself of the rumors. And of denying them. Of defending my parents. Of refusing to believe or admit what was right in front of me. Of living a lie for more than 30 years.

I remember feeling victorious when my parents were civil to one another at my wedding - that seemed the greatest achievement of the day. And then, my brother did something to set them off and the brief glimpse of peace I thought might come disappeared and never returned.

I remember being at a conference on adult children of divorce and having the tears fall while trying to keep my composure. Hearing others say what my head had been screaming for years, but my heart didn't want to hear. Having my rose-colored glasses ripped away. And forgiving. Forgiving my parents for all of the things for which I would never, and will never, hear an apology.  And realizing that that has to be enough. I watched my heart soften towards both of my parents and the relationships become so much less stressful as I quit trying to fit myself into places I didn't belong.

This place of memories seems a good place to stop for for today. A glimpse into what life looked like. Perhaps this is why I don't ever publish when I write on this topic, because I try to make it everything all in one. These are just memories, but the impacts of what they meant for me are much greater. Other themes related to my parents divorce, that I have reflected on in recent years are: belonging; God as Father; Mary as Mother; and what family means to me now. I think it best if rather than trying to condense all of this into one post, I write about each of these separately from this.

For today, it seems the time is finally right to hit publish and begin sharing this part of my road Home.

3.01.2017

Living the Vocation of the Domestic Church

I used to give a talk with that title at marriage prep. And most days now I struggle so hard with it, well, at least by my own standards. If I'm 100% honest with myself, what I do is what I would tell others they were doing a great job by doing, and I would mean it. But that's because usually I was trying to get engaged couples to just do one small thing to connect their hour at Mass on Sundays into their daily life.

But...

I used to go to Daily Mass every day.
And I had most of the mysteries (and their fruits!) of the rosary memorized, not from trying to memorize them, but from familiarity of praying them so often.
I read Church documents and the writings of saints daily.
And...and....and...I feel like I could make a list as long as I am tall of all the things I used to do, in addition to what I'm doing now.

Then...

I have to remind myself. I worked for the Church. My office was right next door to the Cathedral and Daily Mass was at Noon. Traveling? No problem, I was going to be at a parish and could schedule most meetings for just before or after their Daily Mass.
And working for the Church means a freedom and responsibility to read Church documents and faith based books during the day.
I also remind myself I had a 90 minute one-way commute and prayed a lot of my rosaries at 70 mph. Or, I was traveling and away from home and had the time completely to myself to do with as I pleased.

Also...

I now live 45 minutes from our parish with an 8:00 am Mass and a toddler who is not an early riser, not even close. (For things other than Mass, this is great, not denying that.)
Praying a rosary during any other time than nap or sleep time means negotiating to get my rosary guide back, and explaining repeatedly "that's your rosary, this one is mine".

And so, 18 months into being a SAHM I'm still struggling to find the balance of a healthy prayer life and parenting and keeping the house clean and making meals and grocery shopping and everything else.

I'm grateful for the push of Lent to help continue to work on this balance (that I'm starting to realize will never really be achieved). I am figuring out which of the above are excuses and which are legitimate obstacles. For the excuses, I need to exhibit self-control and not accept them. For the legitimate obstacles, I need to discern whether I need to work to remove the obstacle or adjust my goal temporarily.

I've been getting the Magnificat magazine again and it's helping with the rhythm of daily mass, and so I'm going to continue with that. It's not the same as going to Mass, but they rhythm of the lectionary has been and continues to be a great source of comfort and support to me. When I think about what I'm missing the most, it is my daily conversations with Mary through the rosary. I still talk to her always and I probably pray 50 Hail Mary's per day at different times, but I miss the 1:1 times of a rosary.

I also need to keep working to find the balance between down time and getting household things done during nap time and after bed time. I'm on point with this some weeks and other weeks - hahahahaha.

And so for Lent, my prayer, fasting, and almsgiving will be taking the form of doing better at living the vocation of the domestic church, as I expect for myself, not the standards I would accept for another.

Prayer:
One individual rosary per day (in addition to our family rosary times).
Keep up with the Daily Mass readings using the Magnificat. Attend Daily Mass once a week.

Fasting:
I'm taking a 'self-denial' in general approach to fasting versus a strict food approach to fasting. Before I use social media, play candy crush, blog, watch TV, etc. etc. etc. during naptime, I must complete my daily 'household' chore.

Almsgiving:
Part of my feeling overwhelmed with household chores and tasks is the amount of stuff that needs to be worked around when something needs done. So, each week I will make one trip to drop off donations from cleaning out and getting rid of things that are not being used.

I am hopeful that these are goals that I will be able to continue after the season of Lent is over, having established a healthy pattern and better balance during the season of Lent.

2.13.2017

My Medicaid Experience

I knew that at some point during my pregnancy I would have an insurance switch. I had been covered under my former spouse's plan and once our civil divorce was final, it meant there would be a change in coverage. As I was only working as an occasional substitute teacher and R was looking for a job, we qualified for state-sponsored health coverage/insurance (Medicaid).

There were both positive and negative experiences with receiving Medicaid while pregnant and with a newborn. I think the best way to go through them would be in categories.

The Application Process

Because we knew the insurance change would be coming, and that I was pregnant, and that we were now required by law to have insurance, we started the process before my insurance was dropped.
Both R and I are educated people, with post-graduate degrees. We are used to paperwork, forms, formal processes, and red tape. We filled out all the paperwork online as requested (R initiated it). We received a notice back that proof of income was needed, and how we could submit it. Before we submitted the required paperwork, we received another packet in the mail that looked like we had been approved. We were both skeptical of this. We hadn't completed our application as requested, and yet we were being sent another packet with additional instructions to complete - which included creating online profiles. We were also skeptical of this. There was nothing that stated that we had for sure been approved, just a seemingly random packet of information. We put the information in a file and, in all honesty, forgot about it for a month or so. There was a lot happening and it was one thing that didn't make a lot of sense to us, nor was of highest urgency, yet, and so it sat.

As time went on, we revisited the process, this time I initiated it, and we received the same notification that proof of income was needed and where to take it. I also needed to submit proof of pregnancy, and so I called my OB office and asked them to fax the proof to the Assistance Office. At the time, there was something that I needed to take in person to the office (or thought I needed to take in person) and so we headed out. And so began our experience at the assistance office. It was our one and only experience, but boy was it eye opening.

The Assistance Office

In the course of 4 months I was in the Assistance office once, the DMV once, and the Social Security office twice. I'd have gladly taken 3 more trips to the DMV and 3 more trips to the SS office before I ever went back to the Assistance office. In fact, I opted to deal with the hassle of having to return calls the benefits office after each appointment to verify that yes, my last name had changed, no I had not changed it at the assistance office yet, so that the visit could be processed. (After the 2nd time, I wised up and started telling the check-in receptionist at each appointment about the last name difference and didn't have to deal with the calls anymore.) Anyway...the Assistance Office.

The Scene:

An initial check in point where you tell them why you are there. They give you about zero information, a number, and direct you to a tiny waiting area with more people than chairs. Chairs that are miserably uncomfortable. People come and go with varying degrees of urgency (from their perspective) and the person responds exactly the same to them all. It's freezing in the room. It's also dirty. The walls are scratched. There are giant signs, that have been written on, that state no food or drink. There is no bathroom in the room, only out in the main lobby of the building and if you miss your number being called, you go to the bottom of the list. There is a long row of windows with about 1/4 of them occupied by someone working and a 1/4 of that 1/4 are seeing clients. The rest are working away at some unseen task on a computer. There is a "security guard" who does nothing that we can see except stand there and chit chat with the receptionists.

Did I mention it was dirty? There were no pictures on the scratched, beaten up walls, nothing to engage people who are waiting - no tables with magazines, no area of toys for small children (we saw at least 3 different moms come in with children and endure the long waits). No water cooler - only big signs that say "no food or drink" with scribbling on them and the wall under them.

The other people who came and went to receive 'assistance' had varying degrees of a chip on their shoulder. Some, it was painfully obvious were trying to circumvent the system and not interested in honesty. Others just looked worn down and resigned to the process.

The Process:

You check in at the initial desk and are given a number. No asking of why you are there - just get your number and sit.
You wait nearly two hours, and are then called to another desk, right next to the first desk and you try to explain why you are there, we were just trying to drop off a form. The person at the desk has no idea what we are talking about, has no idea if the other information had been faxed. We show here that we were asked to provide the information we had, and she, without comment, gives us another number and sends us to another group of chairs further back in the room to wait again.
Here we wait for another 2 (or maybe more) hours. While waiting we hear the workers dealing with some of the other people while we wait. One man is so mean to the people he is talking with that I begin to pray, no beg, God that we do not have to be served by that man. I was literally scared to go back and talk to him.

Finally, it was our turn. Initially the woman we spoke to was cold and disrespectful. I, having sat in a cold, uncomfortable chair without food or drink or a bathroom for 3+ hours and being 24ish weeks pregnant had pretty much had it. I somehow was able to stick up for myself without losing my temper, and R was able to fill in the gaps and somehow in that process we must have shown to the lady that we were not her 'usual' clientele and her whole tone changed. From being unable to help us (the default response of all the workers it seemed) to doing some research and giving us the answers we needed. We also found out that we had already been assigned a case worker (who we NEVER heard form or even received that person's name). And that we were good to go.

We were told that the information we had received that seemed skeptical was, in fact, valid and that all we needed to do was go in and select our provider and primary care doctors. That the initial process R had started (despite our not sending in the documents we were told we needed to send in) was, in fact, completed and just waiting on us to make our selections.This still baffles us - how it was possible to not provide all the "required" information and still have a case opened and active AND that when we filled out a second application process there was no recognition in the system that our information was already active. It wasn't until we spent our day at the Assistance office that any of this was clarified.

Once home and logged into the system, we were able to select our provider and chose one that was the Medicaid branch of the local Healthcare system, that was also a large hospital system (UPMC).

As we walked home, we reflected on our experience at the Assistance Office and commented how we felt like our soul was slowly being drained from our body while we sat there. How disrespectful of human dignity the whole environment was. How it would be so simple to put a few pictures on the walls, put a water cooler with cups, allow for a trip to the bathroom without fear of losing your place in line, treating people with a default position of respect, not suspicion and rudeness.

We realized that in some sense, it is a bad circular pattern, with those that come in to seek assistance not necessarily respecting the environment (perhaps there had been a water cooler at one point, but was vandalized?). But, the conclusion I came to was that those who know better should do better. Create an environment with expectations for behavior, respectfully insist those expectations be met and treat people with full respect of their human dignity.

If this is what social services and assistance in the United States looks like, and I have only reason to believe this is the norm, not the exception, then we, as a country have a lot to be ashamed of. And prior to personally experiencing this, I had no reason but to believe that it was more akin to a trip to the DMV or SS office - annoying, frustrating, but ultimately your needs are met and you are typically treated with a decent level of respect. (Not that it should be that way there, either...) The 'assistance' provided, and the manner in which it is provided only perpetuates the problem. The dignity of the person is not respected - from their time (you would need to take an entire day off of work in order to go to the Assistance office, and if you try to call, the phone rings and rings and rings and then you are given a message that says everyone is busy, call back later - not even an option to leave a voicemail) to the way they are treated (with a default position of suspicion and annoyance) to the environment they are expected to wait in.

In fact, when my divorce was final and my name legal changed back to my maiden name, I opted to not return to the Assistance office (because that was the only way to do it) and to just deal with it as described above. As I said to R: "I can't stand another day of that." Only, I am all too aware that I was able to make that choice...that there was not a NEED to return to the office, unlike so many others who must return.

I am not sure what the solution is, but what I keep coming back to is that 'those who know better, must do better' and that it is responsibility of those providing the services to preserve the dignity of those they serve.

Switching Doctors
While we were living in Pittsburgh, our initial preference was to keep my doctor in WV and deliver at the small hospital here as well. My mom worked at that hospital and while I didn't want her (or anyone besides R) present while I was in labor, I was familiar with the hospital, loved their L&D unit and their philosophy. In fact, most things that we would have requested on our birth plan were standard practice. Not to mention switching OBs at almost 30 weeks pregnant.

So, I called my OB and let them know my insurance was switching and asked if they accepted out of state plans. The lady I spoke to was rude (which was unusual) and stated that they do not accept any out of state Medicaid. She didn't offer any other options (a private pay, which we were willing to consider if the hospital would accept the PA Medicaid), and seemed annoyed that I didn't already know the answer to this question. Being that Morgantown is less than 10 miles from PA, and the closest hospital to lots of small communities in SW PA, I was surprised at the rudeness and shortness with which I was responded to. It was hard not to wonder if it was because I was a Medicaid patient now. I'd only ever been treated respectfully when I was a private insurance patient.

And so, we switched doctors. From a practice with OBs and midwives to a full midwife practice at a large women's hospital. Looking back, I'm so grateful for this. I loved the midwives, even though I only met each one once, and was introduced to 3 different ones throughout my labor, they were all wonderful. Some I liked better than others, but all in all, it was a great switch and now I find myself in the opposite situation where I want to keep them as my provider instead of the local doctors here in WV (there was a lot of turmoil at my OB practice just after we switched and I would be switching to yet another practice anyway).

Actual Care/Benefits Received

In this category, once we switched doctors, I have nothing but gratitude and positive experiences. I realize that may not be the same for everyone, but this was our experience. Maybe it was because our insurance and our hospital/doctors were all the same network. After my first visit, I didn't even have to show my medical card anymore, I was in the system.

We did have the lack of consistency regarding my last name, as described above, but each person I spoke to in that process was polite and easy to work with (all were associated with the hospital system/insurance).

As far as I could tell, I was not given any different treatment than any other patient as a Medicaid patient. I have no idea if our chart was flagged or anything like that. Never was our insurance coverage brought up in the course of treatment.

My entire pregnancy care and delivery, as well as post-partum care and all of Sugarbeet's pediatric needs until she was 6 months old, were covered completely. There were no random bills or mix ups. Everything went smoothly, and removed a great source of stress for us.

Final Reflections

We returned to private insurance coverage when R started working last year, but for the time that we needed Medicaid, I am grateful it existed and will always be an advocate for providing support to those who need it. The process was unnecessarily complicated and disrespectful and needs to be changed. I have a new level of empathy for those with less educational and emotional resources to navigate the system, as had I not been pregnant and knew we needed help in covering the care, I would have thrown my hands up in frustration and been so tempted to take the risk of not having insurance and paying the fee for that decision.

I am not sure what the solution is. I realize there is a bad cycle happening with lack of respect on all sides. Some things that would have helped us:

  • Consistency in logos and labeling would be helpful - if the paperwork we had received matched the online information, we would have proceeded.
  • A reliable way to turn in and manage paperwork - why we needed to spend half a day in the office to turn in a piece of paper makes no sense to me (and the fax my OB's office sent never got there, even though it was sent to the number we were given) - and communicate what is still needed and how/where it should be submitted.
  • Respectful treatment by those facilitating the government assistance - from the environment to the interactions with others.
I also realize that our experience with government assistance was limited, this is but a small snapshot of the true experiences of thousands of thousands of people every day. I would hope that those receiving additional benefits and receiving the required services of a case worker have a better experience, I'm especially thinking of those of you who are Foster Parents...I am hoping that the social workers facilitating the foster placement are able to help navigate the services you receive. 


If you have had a different experience, I would love to hear it. I am not interested in a bashing of the system or only a negative reporting. This is just our experience, one small piece of the puzzle.

2.10.2017

7 Quick Takes


1. Trying to be a better blogger, and there seems to be lots I want to say, but I'm having trouble finding my grove, so I thought I'd start with 7QT again and see if some short posts and thoughts help get the flow going again. These will be true Quick Takes, without much to connect them.

2. Lots of things I want to blog about - maybe if I make a list here, I'll be able to find a better rhythm? Worth a try, I say. So, what are some topics...the experience of receiving Medicaid while pregnant with Sugarbeet; living in an irregular situation in a time when there is so much discussion of divorce and remarriage happening in the Church; being a child of divorce and the impacts it had on me; Sugarbeet; some reflections on what I've learned about myself and my own shortcomings in the past couple of years; the mommy wars and how moms are treated and encouraged in society; the current state of our country; the struggle of truly living the life of the domestic church now that I no longer work for the church; and a few more things, I'm sure.

3. Half-marathon training starts next week. When I first started running, I struggled to find time to fit it in - as with anything new being added to life, I suppose, and I'm finding the same struggle, just for different reasons now. I am facing a similar challenge to when I first started running (jeans are getting a little tight) and I am choosing the same option - eat less or move more? I'll move more thankyouverymuch. I like food. So, I'm motivated and looking forward to a training routine.

4. One thing I am changing up is how and where I track my runs. I used Daily Mile (DM) before, but in an effort to simplify the process, partly because Chrome and Garmin do not play nicely, I am going to just use Garmin's site where my watch will upload information for me. It's similar to DM, but doesn't require the extra step of importing the information from the Garmin site. The good thing is, it does have all of my past data since I got my watch, so my previous records for pace and distance are still there...and they are actually easier to find than on DM.

5. I've tweaked the blog layout a little...resetting everything but the header back to an option within Blogger's template personalization options. This allows me to tweak and change things as I go without needing a designer to do so for me. I loved working with Kelsey and definitely recommend her, and I've kept the header she designed for me.

6. I'm pleased to say I've been doing more reading lately (which wasn't hard to do if you didn't count reading blogs, internet articles, and the newspaper). Currently I'm reading The Handmaid's Tale and Persuasion. I read both in high school and decided to revisit them for different reasons. Hulu made an adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale and I wanted to reread before I watch it. And I want to read more Jane Austen, and of all her books, Persuasion was the one I had selected to read in high school and thought I'd start there to reintroduce myself to her writing style. Finally, R and I are reading Mary of Galilee as a spiritual reading/discussion topic in the evenings. While only Mary of Galilee is a paperbook, the other 2 are on my Kindle, my Kindle is only a very basic, not even Paperwhite version, Kindle and so I am not tempted nor distracted by the shiny world wide web and it's nice to unplug that way. I don't feel nearly as guilty when I've spent nap time curled up reading a book as I do if I lose 2 hours on the interweb. My kitchen floor may still not be clean, but my guilt is less.

7. I'm starting to get a little worried we may find ourselves in Spring without having had a really good snow. Yes, we've had some snow. And yes, I do NOT like the cold and much prefer hot hot hot summer days to winter, but if it's going to be cold and winter, one big snowed-in-for-days-snow a year is always nice. We've had tons of rain and I've said more than once "if only it were a bit colder..." and just last week when I went for a run and it was 70 degrees out I may have said "I love global warming" (KIDDING...mostly), so it's definitely not been a normal winter. I'm hoping for at least one good snow where R can build Sugarbeet a snowman or two!

That's all for my randomness today. Be sure to check out This Ain't the Lyceum for more Quick Takes.

1.03.2017

2016 Highlights - Bullet Point Style

For so many 2016 was an awful year.

As the year ended, it seemed I agreed, it was not the best of years. I mean, my Dad died, so yea, not a great thing to remember a year by.

But, as December 31 drew nearer, I found myself anxious about turning the page on the calendar. And I couldn't quite put that anxiety into words.

Then, a few of my friends started sharing how 2016 was such a blessing year for them, and I found myself recalling the good things that happened last year.

So, what were the highlights, both happy and sad, by which 2016 will be remembered?

  • As I was contemplating the both/and of good and bad of 2016 it occurred to me what the anxiety was. Yes, 2016 was the year in which my Dad died. But, turning the calendar over from 2016 into 2017 felt kind of like leaving him behind. For, in 2016 he was here, alive and our relationship was healing. But now, in 2017, he's not here. It was just one more experience of mourning that I have not experienced prior to the loss of a parent. So, yes, in 2016 my Dad died and all the sorrow associated with that will also be associated with 2016. But, also, 2016 will always have a special place of joy because in it is also my Dad still on earth.
  • 2016 also brought with it a new home, and settling into being a stay at home mom. For nearly the first 6 months of Sugarbeet's life, R was home with us while he was job hunting. In February, he started his new job just days after we moved into our townhouse. And suddenly, he was gone all day. For a year we had spent our days together; for 6 months he had also been a full-time parent to Sugarbeet. We both missed him. Sugarbeet and I quickly settled into our routine and, much to my surprise, I really enjoy being a SAHM. I always went back and forth between thinking I'd love it and thinking I'd hate it, and so came the test. Certainly there are days, I count the hours until R gets home, but they are few and far between. We have our weekly and daily routines and with a good balance of staying home and getting out of the house and it's working for us. I find myself realizing how fast time moves and it seems like she'll be off to school tomorrow and I beg time to please slow down.
  • 2016 brought a return to running, and I'm planning to continue that return this year. I am signed up for the Pittsburgh half marathon in May and I'm looking forward to a training schedule again. Soon after Sugarbeet was born, I heard or read somewhere that it takes a year for the body to recover from pregnancy, and just based on how I felt as I started and failed to get moving again a couple of times, that was my experience. As Sugarbeet turned 1 and also dropped almost all of her daytime nursing sessions, it seemed my body changed drastically and suddenly, while I was running I recognized my body again.
  • 2016 also brought with it Sugarbeet's first birthday, and the beginnings of her personality shining through! One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was from an NFP class I used to teach, in which new parents were encouraged to ask "Who are you, little one?" and get to know their child instead of imposing strict schedules or routines upon him or her randomly. For me, asking this question daily, and just getting to know this sweet child. For example, she takes time to warm up. She does not like to jump into new situations head first, she'd much prefer to sit back and watch and then engage on her own terms. This makes doctor visits very challenging, because the doctor does not have time to play with her gently for an hour before looking in her ears, and so we do our best to get through them quickly. This, also makes new toys fun, because she explores them and learns to play with them in more complicated ways as the time goes. Each day our schedule is "whatever it will be today" and on days I am able to remember this and follow her lead for eating and napping, stress for both of us is much lower. On days that it isn't possible to follow her lead, whether because of appointments or other things that need done, I am {usually} able to be more patient and aware of what may trigger a meltdown. All things I knew as a teacher, but with the added intensity of needing to maintain the awareness 24/7. 
  • A return to Confession and Eucharist in May, are certainly other wonderful blessings of 2016. Another was going to Midnight Mass by ourselves while my stepdad stayed home with a sleeping Sugarbeet. While I have loved being a SAHM, I miss Daily Mass so much. Our parish is 45 minutes away with Daily Mass only offered at 8:00 and a toddler who sleeps in until after 8 most mornings, it just doesn't work. But, through prayer and spiritual direction, I've come to realize just how important the rhythm of Daily Mass is for my spiritual life and renewed my Magnificat subscription to be able to participate in the Daily Liturgy that way. And it was at Midnight Mass that I realized just how much I miss being still during Mass. I am frequently reminding myself of 2 things during Mass - 1) that even if I don't hear a single word, I'm there, participating as fully as I can and therefore receiving the graces of the Mass and the Eucharist as I receive (even though some Sundays I'm surprised to find myself in the communion line, feeling like I've missed everything since the Processional Hymn started) and 2) that I prayed to be the person wrangling a child during Mass for so many years, and then, in turn, to offer it up for any one in the church who may be watching my child wiggle and squirm and thinking to her(or him)self "I would give anything for that". And so, somehow attending Mass with a wiggling toddler has become so much a source of dying to self for me, more than I ever expected. Sacrificing being still and being able to be attentive, it is certainly not a cross of motherhood that I expected. I am grateful to have the Magnificat to be able to not only prepare for Mass by reading the Sunday readings ahead of time, so that when I do catch snippets of the homily it makes sense, but also to be able to read the Daily readings and reflections. I feel that rhythm coming back and I am grateful for it. 
So, yes, 2016 certainly had its challenges and there will be a sadness associated with it unlike the sadnesses of any other year, but somehow, with the sadness there is joy. Not happiness or a feeling, but rather, real, true, joy that is only found in knowing and believing that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; joy that somehow remains present despite deep sadness.

Happy New Year, friends! May your 2017 be full of joy.