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Dear Mama

I don’t often repost other blog posts, but this one was just too powerful not to share. It is written by a woman named Colleen Duggan, and the link is here:
http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2014/04/duggan-encouragement-for-struggling-moms/

It is an open letter to all of us mothers and women in the world. I see myself in many of these descriptions, as I am sure most of us women do.

In today’s day and age, more than ever, mothers feel pressured to do it all and to be it all for their families. More moms need to work outside of the home than ever before, all the while balancing house work while trying to successfully care for their children and husbands. Many mothers also care for their own ailing mother or father, as I do.

At times, it can get very overwhelming. At times, the duties that are expected of us feel or seem impossible to accomplish. We can get depressed or filled with anxiety. We can feel hopeless at times, not knowing how we can “do it all”.

For me, the grace, love, and peace that I have received from actively practicing my Catholic faith has allowed me to let go of many of those fears and anxieties.

It has enabled me to embrace the joys, as well as the struggles, giving me the peace of knowing that I am never alone in my trials. As long as we have each other, and the love of God, we will never be alone.
Here is the letter:

Dear Mama,

I’m talking to you. Yes, that’s right, you:

–the working mama who feels sick on Sunday afternoon because you report for duty Monday morning at 8:00 am and the thought of leaving your baby makes your heartache,

–the mama sitting in the oncology ward next to your sick child, helplessly watching while toxic chemicals are pumped through your baby’s veins,

–the mama whose husband just left you with a slew of hungry mouths to feed and a mortgage you know you can’t pay,

–the nursing mama who is so tired you fall asleep sitting up because that baby eats and eats and then eats some more,

–the overwhelmed mama with a house full of kids and school work and laundry and dirt and dishes,

–the mama who drives hundreds of mile a week to and from sporting events because God gave your kid a gift and you want him to use it,

–the addicted mama who wants to quit but can’t find the will or the way,

–the widowed mama who misses her best friend, especially when you look into the face of the child, who looks just like him,

–the mama with the handicapped child, who has learned more from your kid with “limitations” than from any “normal” person,

–the mama who longs for more children but knows you won’t have them,

–the dying mama who knows you won’t see your child’s next birthday,

–the estranged mama who can’t or won’t forge a new relationship with your child,

–the old mama who somehow found room in your heart and space in your house for just one more, and the young mama who has no idea that you are in for the ride of your life,

–the homeschooling mama and the mama whose children attend private or Catholic or public school,

–the worn-out, burnt-out, bedraggled mama who loves your littles so much it hurts, but admits they drive you crazy too,

–the worried mama with the Prodigal child you can’t stop praying for,

–the mama who buried your child, but yet can’t seem to bury the ache,

–the mama who grew up poor or abused or abandoned or neglected and is determined to break the cycle,

–the mama who conceived a child or many children but lost them to miscarriage,

–the mama who has no biological children of your own, but counts the blessings of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of spiritual children,

–the mama guilty of hurting your child with words or fists or neglect,

–the desperate mama who couldn’t see a way out so you aborted your baby,

–the mama who couldn’t have your own so you adopted and now your heart overflows with a love you didn’t think was possible,

–and the physically ill mama who wants to keep up with your kids but who is limited by your body.

You, mama, I’m talking to you. Here’s what you must know; here’s what all of the mothers of the world must know and why we should refuse to participate in those vicious mommy wars:

You are good, so very, very good and you are loved, so very, very loved — not because of what you do or how you do it but because of who you are. And you are a child of God, created in His image.

The care and concern you feel for the children entrusted to you?

All of that pales in comparison to the care and concern your heavenly Father has for you. His love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3). He has called you and you are His (Isaiah 43:1). How can you question your significant worth when He remembers to feed even the tiniest birds of the sky (Matthew 6:26)? You are precious to Him; He has counted the hairs on your head (Matt 10:30).

He has written your name in the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16). He formed you in our mother’s womb, knew you before you were born, and foresees all of your actions (Psalm 139: 13-16). Nothing can keep you from His love — not death, not life, nor principalities (Romans 8:38). If this isn’t enough, He gave you His only Son to save and redeem the world (John 3:16). You have a God who loves you passionately and intimately.

Those imperfections you worry about it, the moments when you fail with your kids, the burn out you often feel?

God knows. He knows all of it and yet, He loves you anyway. He never asked you for perfection, He asked for you — your heart, your mind, your soul, and yes, even your children.

Give those things to Him. Give it all to Him. He’ll make good what you can’t.

He sees you trying. He sees you fumbling and falling and He sees you getting back up. If you clapped and cheered and celebrated when your baby took her first steps, He’s cheering for you because He knows what it takes to get up from the mud and take another step.

Like you, He’s so proud.

Mama, he knows the heavy burden on your heart and He has not abandoned you, even though others might. Turn to Him; beg Him to be your food, to comfort you in your pain and your worries because He will.

Don’t listen to the voice, taunting and tormenting with lies:

“You are a bad mother.”
“You are worthless.”
“You are lazy.”
“You’ll never change. “
“It’s all your fault.”
“Your work and service are pointless. No one cares.”
“You don’t work hard enough, try hard enough.”
“You’re family uses you, manipulates you to get all they can. “
“They never listen. No one ever listens.”
Lies. These ugly words are all lies. The Father speaks love; listen for His voice.

Beg His mother, the only Perfect Mother there is, to help you. She loves the child most in need — you. She bleeds for her children when she sees them cut open and gushing–you. When she hears your voice, she won’t be able to stop herself from running to her Son and begging His grace for — you.

I’m praying for you, Mama. I’m praying you experience God’s love in a way that transforms you forever. Please, pray for me, too?

With much love from another mama in the trenches,

Colleen

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When I Leave the Room

My mom’s home now for the last six years has been a little room that consists of a bed, chair, two dressers and a bedside table. The world of a person with dementia becomes smaller and smaller as the disease progresses. Memory falls away for the places and people that he or she were once attached to or dearly treasured.

At first it bothered me when mom lost her memory of her beloved lake home, where she lived prior to moving to the care center. She remembers her childhood home well, which is often the case with dementia.

It took me a long while to adjust to her new cramped physical space and call it “home” (she does not, as she frequently tells me “please take me home”.) I went through all the regular grieving stages of loss (still do) of denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, & depression as each new major change occurred.

Every time she would fall, get lost, need to change rooms etc I seemed to repeat the cycle. I find myself staying in the acceptance stage these days for longer periods of time. It’s not true that “time heals all wounds”, but it certainly helps in lessening the sting and intensity of emotions.

I have come to accept and appreciate my mother for who she was, is, and will become. I recognize the many important lessons I have learned throughout this hard journey, and feel very grateful for the grace God has given us along the way.

Most of all, it has taught me humility. The bottom line is that none of us are perfect, or ever will be this side of heaven. We are all pilgrims on a journey, who are just trying to make our world a little better with the tools we are given.

Some of us are not as equipped to handle the stresses of life as others, for whatever reason. But no matter the reasons or circumstances, we all deserve dignity, respect, and most of all, love.

Amidst the confusion, there still comes days and moments of clarity; and with that comes gratitude. I am grateful for the wisdom and compassion that I have acquired, allowing me to better empathize with others going through struggles of their own. I am grateful for the angelic nurses and aids who patiently care for my mom every day. They lead her, feed her, dress her, and care for her when we can not. Without them, she would not be here with us.

The following is a song that reminds of both my children and my mother. When I leave my kids’ rooms at night after tucking them in, I often reflect on how fast time has gone and I wonder, “When did they get so big?” Some days I wish time would go faster, and other days I wish I could press a pause button to slow the time down.

Similarity, I often leave my mom’s room and think, “How long will I have her?” “Will she remember less the next time I see her?” I reflect on how the time as flown by throughout this journey, and how painfully slow it crawls on certain days.

What both circumstances have in common is the love that floods me as I close their door. I stand there feeling amazed that we have made it this far, and amazed at the amount of gifts that we have been given. And I pray for the continued strength to persevere and appreciate each peak and valley along the way…

When I Leave the Room

Good night,
Looks like we made it through the day
The moon sighs and I know that we’re okay
Sleep tight,
I love to watch you drift away
I would come with you but on my knees I’ll stay

Good night
Five little fingers holding mine
Take flight
Into your dreams and lullabyes
There’s nothing more that I can do
But just fall more in love with you
And ask the angel armies to stand by
When I leave the room

I’m gonna fail you
I already have
Ten thousand times
I will fall down flat
You’ll have a seat in the front row
of everything I don’t know
And all I’m trying to be
You’ll see

Good night
There will be storms that we come through
In time
We will slay dragons me and you
I’ll always wanna hold you tight
Keep you safe with all my might
So I will leave Jesus next to you
When I leave the room

And you will run ahead
As if you know the way
And I will pray more
Then once you’d have to pray
There will be words we can’t take back
Silences too
And I’ll be on my knees
You’ll see

One night
When I am old and unsteady
You’ll want me to fight
But I’ll tell you that I’m ready
When there’s nothing left to do
I will still be loving you
Then you’ll fold your fingers into mine
And I will let Jesus hold you tight
When I leave the room

http://youtu.be/npKnkTaywSI

IMG_5303-0.JPG

You

She is the brightest in the room,
and always has been.
Wearing the bright yellow sweater
I took from her home closet,
still in it’s package.
Passing it off as new,
not wanting to remind her
of home…
where ever that may be.
We stroll &
repeat our stories
again and again,
trying to pretend
that these things
have never been said.
I embrace our time…
these second
and third chances…
Grateful that she
still knows me,
and our lives.
God closed a few doors,
but opened more
windows wide…
And I am basking in
those breezes
that His peace brings…
And I will stand
tall, strong
and true,
Looking out on
the horizon,
with no worries
of  impending storms…
Only hope
for the day
and the truth of who
I am,
you are,
& we are
In Him.

 

Sandwiched

Sometimes it eats at me…the sickening anxiety producing guilt & dread that comes after a couple weeks of not seeing mom. I usually get there about once a week, but ocassionaly I let life get in the way.

I  know it’s been almost about 10 days, when I feel myself getting more distracted, tense, & sad. By day 14, I know it has been to long. So I go…mostly out of duty, or so it seems. But really, once I get there, I am so glad I went. It feels right & fulfilling, especially if I bring the kids. We always make her day…& week. No pressure in being someone’s everything, all the time. Ha ha.

It feels sort of like excersise. It is hard to get over all your silly self sabotaging  mind blocks to actually get your but to the gym, but once your done with the workout, you feel pretty good. Well, most times. Because Sometimes, it really sucks. You know, to exert all that time & energy, & then not have anything to show for it (externally or immediately,  anyway)
When you are a “sandwich” generation mom, like me (a term for those of us who are caring for young kids and ailing aging parents) you get used to dealing with various feelings of guilt & stress. It is difficult to maintain a balance of caring for ALL, not to mention, trying to successfully care for yourself.
After a couple of really great, productive fun weeks or week with my kids, I continue to carry around that nagging dark  little voice…ignoring it the best I can. “Mom is fading away…& you’re not there” “She is dying of disease &loneliness, where are you?” “What if she dies this week, & you didn’t even find the time to visit. Nice.”
The voices vary in degree of intensity, depending on my mood. I know part of it results from being an adult child of an alcoholic. As a ACOA you learn to master (so you think) the rough waters of blame & self loathing. You learn to ride through the dark waves with your protective armor of truths guiding you. The little self manta encouagments reasuring me, “You are doing what you can” You are a good mother…NO, you are a GREAT one” “You are giving your kids what she never could…the truth” and on & on & on & on & on…
I tend to stick with the eternal truths though…as they are more lasting & calming. Like, “Do not be afraid, I am with you”, “You can do all things through Him who gives you strength” & of course a time tested favorite,
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
And of course, being a Catholic, the Divine Mercy Chaplet & the Rosary are my saving graces (literally).
“For the sake of his most sorrowful passion, have mercy of us & on the whole world…”
Repeated over & over  again, 10 times in between saying,
“Eternal Father,
I offer you the Body and Blood,
Soul and Divinity,
of Your Dearly Beloved Son,
Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
in atonement for our sins
and those of the whole world.”
It is recited using Rosary beads.
Here is a link to how to pray the whole thing (takes about 10 min)
At times I go through my “whatever, it’s just to much work” stages with prayer, like I do with excersise, & pretty much most everything else in my life, that requires a ton of discipline & focus.
That is when I try to make it simple…like repeating, “Jesus, have mercy” or during really awesome times with my kids & husband I silently tell God, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. For this. Right now. Things tiny but huge gifts in my life.”
Or I will go & just sit in the chapel & be. No formal prayers…just me and Him & all that I give Him. And the peace I always get in return.
Hands down , every time, when I feel distant from God or others, it is because I haven’t prayed,  or have not searched out enough quiet time to meditate & reconnect.
WelL, I am off to do a little more procrastinating, avoiding “the home”, appease my guilt & buy a too expensive bouquet of vintage roses for mom (she LOVES flowers),  feed my kids (myself if I remember), workout (ha ha ha),
then visit mom!
Oh…& try to squeeze a bit of prayer time in there to 🙂
Have a blessed day

Facades

 

Your brilliant, colorful silks

and delicate luxuries

build up dust

and have greatly faded

in the relentless,

harsh sunlight.

 

To much of a good thing, I guess.

 

Part museum,

part mausoleum,

frozen in time.

 

The dates

on boxes and cans

are marked 2005:

when you were last here.

 

Just hiding out

in those beautiful

intricately detailed

custom-made

facades…

 

Ironically, similar

to how you once lived.

 

By the World’s standards,

you once had 

everything

 

Rooms galore,

intense, blinding beauty

all around…

“The Good Life” on 2 shores.

 

Yet, all that outward glamour

and perfection

couldn’t save you

from what was

eating you inside…

 

Your painful fears,

dark doubts,

and dangerous pride…

I watch this video, with its upbeat tempo and the good music, and think “facade”.  Amy is singing about her failed attempts at getting sober, clean, and healthy. But, you would hardly know that by watching the dancing crowd and band players. All I see though, as I have lived a long life as a daughter of an alcoholic, is despair and pain. Money, power, fame, even talent, can become facades to hide behind…if we are not careful and discerning. There is a reason why “The Serenity Prayer” is the main prayer read at AA and Al-Anon meetings! We can not do it without our God!

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

Like an Onion

 Español: Cebolla siendo cortada.

They say

grief

is like an onion

You shed

your tender layers

with

copious tears,

one 

by

one

by

one.

The anger comes

as you try

to gain control,

and fight

the urge to run.

A whirlwind

of emotions

spinning

you sick…

Making you feel

at times

like you

just want

to quit.

But you know

it’s a pain

that is

washing 

you clean…

And peeling away

what you

don’t

really need…

Your fears,

doubts,

and endless worry…

Allowing you to see,

that it’s with

His loving Grace,

You can be free…

Dreams and Feelings

We had dinner the other night with mom in the Care Center Deli. The kids and I love their cheeseburgers and shakes. Mom talked of her very strange dreams that she has had lately (over and over again). One of them was not actually a dream, so I had that familiar feeling of not knowing how to accurately respond when she suddenly exclaimed, with that incredulous look in her eyes,

“Another dream was REALLY crazy! Someone was there telling me that you are in charge of me! Is that true? It can’t be, can it?!”

I got that deer in the headlights feeling again, like I need to respond ultra quick with the right action or words to escape danger or unnecessary drama. A part of me wanted to say, “No, mom that was no dream. It was probably the nurse the other day, when you snuck in another resident’s room to call 911!” I also wanted to laugh, because she often surprises me with truths you could never predict her remembering.

So, I responded with, “Umm…well, yeah, in a way, I am. (I am her legal guardian) I make some of your medical decisions and things like that.” To which she angrily responded with, “What?! Well, don’t DO that anymore! I can do that myself!”

Often, when communicating with a loved one who has dementia, you can find yourself feeling trapped in a conversation. Your faced with the dilemma of, Do I tell the truth, a portion of the truth, or just make it up altogether? You are constantly assessing the mood of the situation, and predicting what your loved one’s reaction may or may not be in any given moment. I am getting more skilled at knowing when to elaborate or just changing the subject entirely, without creating too much upheaval. Well, on most days anyway, because on certain days those moods of hers can turn on a dime.

The other day, we came in and she was waiting in her wheelchair at her door looking out anxiously. As soon as she caught a glimpse of us coming down the hall, she burst into emphatic tears, and expressed in between hot sobs over and over,

“Oh….I am so glad to see you…you just have no idea….how happy I am to see you…..”

It is very hard to not get choked up at times when I see her so vulnerable. I had 4 young kids (my 3 plus a friend) with me, so I tried to pull it together and tried not to tear to much in front of them. We immediately cheered her up, and she was able to carry on a pleasant conversation with me. The kids, however, usually get restless and like to get a little to wild in the hallways, which the nurses and aides are always very patient about!

When I witness that raw emotion and vulnerability I am always reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou,

      “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Because, in the end, mom won’t realistically remember any of these conversations that we now have with her. Rather, it is the love that she will feel, and the care that was continued to be given that will live on in her heart, and in ours.

Anna and Nana