Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Combat Prayer

Every so often, I fall into these moods that I can't shake. Sad, depressed moods. Irritable. Everyone bothers me. And yet, I don't want to be alone.

I had one of these moods again over the weekend. I felt discouraged with my dog business (or the lack of it), my new empty nest and just life in general. I can honestly say that I gave it all I had to shake the mood but I was completely powerless. Like moving a mountain that I couldn't budge.

And then, out of the blue one morning, this prayer that I had heard before just popped into my head:

"Blessed be God, blessed be His Holy Name..." and that was all I could remember. Funny how this prayer came about when I was feeling anything but blessed. And yet, I couldn't get it out of my head.
Every time I was inclined to feel moody, I would begin saying those two lines over and over. I couldn't remember where I had seen this prayer, although I remembered reciting it a few times before.

On Sunday morning, I passed Lucy a prayer book as I normally do while we are waiting for Mass to start. No sense in just sitting there. Then I got my own rather worn out prayer book. I was still feeling depressed. Mass was the last place I wanted to be. I hoped the Father would have a short sermon. I felt guilty for all these thoughts, but the last thing I wanted was to be crammed into a pew with people.

But even more than that, I wanted to shake my depression once and for all. "Blessed be God, blessed be His Holy Name, blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man..." popped into my head again. Where was that prayer?? It was driving me crazy. I had to find it so I could complete the prayer; even those few lines I had memorized helped me not feel so depressed.

I leafed through my prayer book, back and forth and back and forth. I could not find it. And yet, this was the only prayer book I had. So how did I know this prayer then?

And then, I just happened to look over at Lucy, who was sitting beside me. She too, was leafing through her prayer book (though with more reverence than I had), and as though on cue, she paused on a prayer that caught her eye:

"Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name...."

I couldn't believe it. The prayer that had been stuck in my head and which I couldn't find for days just happened to be right in front of me at the moment I casually looked over Lucy's shoulder! I felt that God must have put this prayer in my heart--and also right in front of me--to help me combat my depression.

Like a good mother, I snatched the prayer book out of a surprised Lucy's hands and tossed her my old one and began to read...

Blessed be God. 
Blessed be His Holy Name. 
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, 
Blessed be the Name of Jesus. 
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart. 
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. 
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the paraclete. 
Blessed be the great Mother of God, 
Mary most holy. 
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption. 
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. 
Blessed be St.Joseph, her most chaste spouse. 
Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints. 
May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. 

The depression doesn't magically disappear after saying this prayer. But the prayer does give me strength to want to listen to other voices, rather than the dismal voice of depression and discouragement. It makes me want to fight depression and fight self-pity. To remember to be patient with things in life, with things that don't always go the way I want them to. To bless God often. Because its' hard to be depressed when you are praising God, isn't it? So funny, this prayer is exactly opposite of how I want to pray when I feel depressed, and yet, it is exactly what I need to pray to fight it.

I call it my Combat Prayer.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Loving the family

Today at adoration,  a list formed in my mind. How do I prioritize my life? What order do I place my roles to others? Immediately, my list went like this"

  1. Christian
  2. Wife
  3. Mom
  4. Dog Trainer

But then, with more pondering, it went more like this:

  1. Dog Trainer
  2. Mom
  3. Wife
  4. Christian

Not that I try to live my life in that order but it is what is important to me right now. Dog training is still an exciting new adventure and it's hard not to get caught up in it. My kids happiness is important to me so it comes second in my priorities. My marriage comes third because I take it for granted and don't take care of it like I should. And my Christian duties, my attitude, my prayer life, is in fourth place.

Thank goodness for my adoration hours. That, and the Mass are all that keep me grounded lately. When I come back to Jesus each week, it is so hard to get my thoughts under control. They swirl around with to-do lists and reminders and dogs to train, kids to take care of, what we should have for dinner, ect. It is so hard to focus on the little white Host sitting right in front of me.

But by the end of the hour, all I can think of is Him. With the help of the Holy Spirit, of course, who helps me get my thoughts under control. And then I wonder, how could I think of anything but Him? How can I leave this church, where I can escape the chaos of my life for one hour? Do I really need to go back? Can I just hide here forever?

And everything that I previously was occupied about suddenly seems so bland. Not to say my life as wife and mother are not fulfilling, but let's face it, those two roles are hard to play sometimes. It is hard to go back and love.

Which lead me to my second thought. Loving my family. I would die without them. I would never want to lose any of them. And yet, I love them with a selfish kind of love. I love them most when I'm in a good mood, when I feel loving, when I feel I can put up with them. But the times when I can't deal with them, it is hard to love them. It is when I want to escape.

I felt like God was sending me away with an assignment. Not that He spoke to me in words, but this is what I felt He was saying to me: "I only want you to do one thing--love your family, and love them well."

I do not have to run to Puerto Rico and give them clean water and fresh supplies, though that would be easier and rewarding.

I do not have to go to Las Vegas to pray with the families that have lost loved ones.

I do not need to go to Africa to give them fresh water.

All I have to do is love my family, those closest to me. And yet, it is the hardest thing in the world. And yet, this is all He asks of me to do.

Why don't we do this? The ones who are closest to us are often the ones most unloved.

My mission in this life is to love my family the best I can. I don't know when I will die, but when I do, I hope they will know they were loved. I hope they will always know it in their hearts. I hope they will come to recognize God's love for them through me.

It is such a simple mission, to just love your family. And yet, the hardest thing to do. A way to heaven, and how often we escape it and look for another way--away from our family.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Six Months later (or so)

It's been six months or so since Luke's health scare. Maybe longer, maybe shorter, I haven't done the math. But it's been a while. Luke continues to thrive.

Thrive. I remember using that word a lot last year when trying to explain what I saw going on with Luke: "He's not thriving anymore". That didn't seem to bother anyone else but it sure bothered me. Shouldn't we all be thriving? Not just surviving? If we're always in constant survival mode then something is wrong. Nine year olds are too young to stop thriving. That should be a red flag to everyone, not just the mother.

And then that terrible tic--so bad that he was diagnosed with Tourette's. So bad that I couldn't send him to school for three weeks. All because of stress.

And so I continue to marvel--every day, actually. Even if I don't mention it in my blog, it's always spoken in my prayers: "thank you for getting us out of that school." I watch Luke continue to come back to life; I am seeing the Luke I haven't seen since he was six years old. Playful, energetic, teasing. Even the times when I have to scold him for joking around at a time when he should be down to business, I am secretly happy. Happy that I have a reason to scold. It's been a long time since I had to scold him for laughing too much. Smiling, laughing, happy. Speaking about the future and what he would like to be when he grows up. Looking forward to tomorrow and instead of just getting through today. Asking others to play with him, instead of trying to get away. It's hurts my heart to think that all those years we had misunderstood him, he was just depressed and miserable. I try not to think about it though.

I don't mean to keep going on about Cologne Academy like it's a terrible school. I still think it is a decent school and if it ever comes up in conversation, I tell people that it's great for academics. But it wasn't a good place for us. For some reason, it didn't work for us. I don't know if it was the rigidness, teachers or what. I can't really put a finger on it. It just wasn't where we were supposed to be, even though it seemed like the practical choice.  Like feet trying to fit in a wrong sized shoe. You can wear that shoe all you want, but you're going to be miserable! Which leads me to my reason for posting this today.

It hit me like a bolt of lightening while I was doing the dishes (I get all my spiritual work done during the dishes, it seems.) Luke and Henry and Anna had just gone downstairs to play Legos, and I was thinking again that only a few months ago, Luke would have preferred to play alone, and here he was, cheerfully inviting them to play with him. That sort of thinking always leads me back to those dark days of his regression and health scare. I don't think I've ever shed so many tears for anyone before, or prayed so hard. Makes me sound saintly or something--all that praying and being on my knees--at least, this is what I would think of people who prayed so fervently during their trials. I would think, "wow, they are so strong in their faith!"

 But I wasn't saintly,  I was just scared. Scared and lonely. I went to God not because I was strong but because I was weak. My weakness showed in my tears and prayers. Only God could stand this sort of weakness. Only He seemed to understand. I also knew that He was the one who had the answers. And I hate to say it, but I went to Him only after all the doctors had no answers for me.

Though people were concerned and sympathetic, I knew that they didn't understand why it hurt so much. What was scaring me so much. All I knew deep down inside was that something was wrong, terribly wrong.

"It's just a tic," I heard that more times than I could count. I got pretty good at smiling and saying, "I know." But that's about all I would say to those people who used the word "just". They were the people that didn't get it, and so they didn't get to see the depth of my pain either.

But for me, that terrible tic, the never ending sound of "eh, eh, eh", never stopping to give Luke a moment of peace, was something symbolic to me. This sound that kept forcing it's way through Luke's voice was the same to me as a baby's cry that never stopped, a baby that couldn't be consoled, a baby that never gave his mother a chance to rest until she could find out what was wrong.

And today I realized that had it not bothered me to the degree that it did, I would never have transferred Luke to another school. Simply because that wasn't the plan. The plan was to switch only Lucy--because she was having such a hard time with friendships and we felt she needed a new start. But to take Luke out of school was unthinkable. He was already going through so much. He would be teased all over again about his tic, and the stress of a new school could make his tic worse or even create more tics.

But isn't God good, by allowing the pain to force us to move from what seems "logical and practical?" It made no sense to switch all the kids at once--rather extreme, really. And yet, Dennis finally put his foot down (he was trying to stay out of the school drama) and said rather firmly that if one kid was going to switch schools, then all the kids were going to switch.

Once the decision was made, I felt peace and even excitement over switching schools. I couldn't wait to be done with the old one. I wish I had allowed Luke to skip the last few weeks of school like I had wanted. But instead, I listened to his teachers and kept him with "familiar routines". More and more, I'm learning to listen to my own heart instead of the logic of others.

But he survived. Not thrived, but survived.

Now, he is thriving. God had used all that pain for good. All those days of pain prompted me to seek another way out. And he is thriving and alive! Taking on new interests in life, asking to be involved in groups, proud of his work in school and asking me to hang them on the refrigerator.

God uses pain to prompt us sometimes I think. Pain is an extreme; a signal to our body that something is wrong and needs to be cared for. Pain in our souls is very much the same thing: a symptom of something that needs to be addressed. Whether it's a change in our lifestyle or a change in our heart, pain is there to help us, not hurt us.

And when finally listened to rather than avoided, look at the good it has done. Happier, stronger, and more resilient. Ready to live our life.

 Until the next time, when pain must enter into our lives once again.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


This past week, I worked with an 11 month old, Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, named Molly. It's the first time I've worked with a pure bred since Cuba (aka "the dog from hell". Kind of regretting giving him that nickname now.)

Day 1. That Gentle Leader was the only thing that kept Molly sane.

The first couple days were a little rough, as to be expected, and yet, it always takes me by surprise by just how hard it can be. It's like letting a delinquent move in with you for a few days. All this crazy behavior just happens out of nowhere and you never know when it's going to come or what will happen next.

Owners learn to live with it for so long that they almost become immune to the problems. They learn to live around them or adjust their lives to it. Only when things get really bad do they finally get help.

I was told that Molly counter-surfed. I was excited about this because it's a common problem that many people have with their dogs and I have yet to really experience it. Once in a while, Ace goes through the garbage, but that's about it. But it wasn't until they dropped Molly off when all the horror stories began to come out..."she literally jumps onto tables and walks all over them...I've had full meals disappear....I found her once on the counter eating all the lemon bars I just made." And then they say, "Well, good luck!" and leave her with me.

Molly is not a little dog. Not as big as Ace, but taller than Joey, and only 11 months old. I was beginning to wonder just what I had gotten myself into.

Other than counter surfing, their other complaint was Molly's jumping. She jumped on me, she jumped on Henry, she jumped on Anna, she jumped on all of us. For the first couple days, we learned to defend ourselves with knee blocks and "hey!" or "oof!"  We even discovered that Molly jumps on the trampoline. At first, we thought it was funny until she got so crazy that she grabbed onto Henry's arm and wouldn't let go.

Molly was hyper nearly non-stop. She grabbed things out of your hand, played tug of war with just about everything, stole food and harassed the kids. I found out from her owners that they "rough housed" with Molly as a way of getting rid of her energy. All that taught her was how to play aggressively. By day 2 I was seriously considering driving her back to her owners.

But, amazingly, it all worked out. I have no idea how. I started with her jumping behavior and then I realized it was due to her constant hyperness. So I decided she needed more exercise so I played tug of war with her (something her owners played with her often) and realized that she got over-stimulated too easily. So we put that off and focused on more walks and even bike rides.

Amazingly, her jumping ceased. Once in a while, she continued to jump but most of the time, she was too wore out. With all the exercise plus the mental training she was going through, Molly was too exhausted to be hyper.

I also discovered Molly needed leadership. Before I met Molly, I never really saw what a dog looked like with no leadership before. With Joey and Ace, we've practiced it since they came into our home, but with Molly...she seemed very lost. She had no rules or boundaries and so she was just everywhere, constantly going, going, going...

So, being Norm Daoust's daughter (and discovering along the way how much I am like my strict dad), I became Molly's leader. And then Dennis became leader and even the kids. Amazingly, Molly calmed down. She no longer jumped on us or even had the desire to jump on the trampoline. She no longer stole food. She never once jumped on the counter or table.

The only time I had a problem with Molly was when I took her to the lake. She turned into a wild thing and took a mad dash, dragging me behind her, causing her leash to snap into literally three pieces. All that was left of that leash was the clip that was hanging from her collar.

But, you can't take the hunting instinct out of a hunting breed, and Molly was all about the lake. Thankfully, we cornered her on the pier and dragged her by the collar, choking and wheezing, back to the car. Still, it left me shaken up. The memory of chasing Cuba around is still very fresh in my mind. It's one thing when it's your own dog taking off on you, but quite another when it's someone else's dog that has been entrusted to your care.

I'm going to bring Molly back home tomorrow and I can say that she is my first fully trained dog. The Molly that came to us is totally different than the Molly that will be leaving us. I can honestly say I will miss this dog--she is so sweet, once she is totally calm. Very submissive and listens well. I remember the first day she went after every stuffed animal she could find and we could never get it back without a tug of war contest--and now she drops it the minute I say, "hey."

Leadership. It's so worth practicing. I believe this more now than ever. Obedience commands are good and important but it's only part of the recipe of having a well behaved dog. Dogs need a leader. Just like people.

I will miss Molly. I've learned a lot from her. But I admit, I'm looking forward to some normalcy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Empty Nest

I remember I used to hear moms lament about their "empty nest" and I used to wonder what they were complaining about. More time on their hands sounded good to me! And yet, now I get it.

I have been having a hard time with my empty nest as well--although, it's only been two days since Henry started Kindergarten. I thought I would be fine but I've been surprised by the depression that has come over me. Since I dropped him off yesterday, I've had bouts of tears that don't stop. I can't go anywhere until my puffy face calms down and then just when I think I'm ready to get some errands done, one look of my empty house sets me crying again.

I have dishes to do but I don't want to do them.
I have tons of laundry to catch up but haven't even started.
I should work on marketing materials and getting ready to promote my business but I don't even feel like training. It's like a dark cloud has descended over my head.

With the kids, I'm Mom, Cook, Nurse, Problem-Solver, Spiritual Director, and even SuperMom sometimes. When they aren't here, I'm nothing.

Yes, I know I'm still mom but you know what I mean. I feel useless. I look around and just feel empty. I hope it won't be like this all year.

Contrary to my feelings, I am not moping around (well, not too much). Now that I have actually have some quiet around here, I can start my daily prayer time again. And today I've walked the dogs which I haven't done in months. (Usually Max walks them.) And I always have cute little Ruby to train.

The truth is, I have plenty of things to do. I just am not used to having the time to get them done. You would think this would make me happy....I still don't really understand it myself.

When Henry was going to start Kindergarten, he was saying how nervous he was and how much he was going to miss me. I had told him that if he wanted, I would stick around in the parking lot for a while, just so he knew I was still there. Of course, I was joking, but yesterday I was tempted to do just that. Not for his comfort, but for mine.

Me and Henry have never been separated since he was born. Not for one day! I love all my kids uniquely but me and Henry have had a bond since I was pregnant with him. Maybe it was because in the beginning, I didn't want to be pregnant with him. But by the end, he and I were best buddies even though I had never seen his face yet.

I remember when things were especially stressful with the pregnancy, I would go lay down in my room, and Henry and I would breathe together. I would watch my belly expand up and down and I knew that Henry was doing his "practice breathing." Those were special, healing times for me, and I'm certain that God gave us that special time intentionally.

Then he was born and grew up a little and he was always there. Always! Stuck by my side, which could be smothering, let me tell you. And just when I would feel like I had enough of him, he would sing that song that I still play in my head: "Me and Mom, best buddies to-gether! Me and Mom best buddies for-ever!"

So now I'm crying again. You see, I have to get out and do something. I need dogs to train. Where's a dog when you need one?!?

It is just hard, this new phase in my life. With all new transitions, they take time. Then you finally get used to it, and another one comes along. I'm assuming the next will be college, oy.

Yesterday, when I was dropping Henry off at Kindergarten, I was holding back tears, trying to be cheerful for Henry's sake. I could see all the parents were doing the same (because they all started crying when the kids went in the school, no lie!) There was a moment when I felt I wasn't going to make it with my brave face and I said a quick prayer to the Blessed Virgin: "Dear Mother, please hold my hand!" Then I thought for a moment, and I said, "No, don't hold my hand--hold Henry's." 
And maybe it was just my imagination or me just trying to comfort myself, but I heard a voice say, "I will hold both of yours."

So you see, as silly these tears might be, our Lady knows. I've taken much comfort in her as I ponder especially on the Presentation at the Temple. She knows all about giving things up for the glory of God. That I might be a little more like her and less attached to my children.

I need to go now. I've got things to do and kids to pick up, eventually. :-)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Last ones to start

The kids (finally) start school tomorrow. They are the last school to start, as most schools have started either last week or the week before. The kids are ready but they are nervous.

If you can remember, can you say a prayer for the kids tomorrow? Each one of them will be "the new kid." That is a lot of stress on a mom's heart. And then you've got the empty nest, not ready for this! I will go home from dropping the kids off and the house will be quiet and empty. I know that sounds like a dream to most people, and maybe in time I will appreciate it but for now, it makes me sad.

And pray for Luke. He is so nervous. His tic has come back and is nearly constant again. We have been expecting this but still, it's hard to hear. He keeps saying he's "worried" or nervous. I wish I could calm his fears but I can't.

Actually, I have found a way. The other day when I was at adoration, a woman gave me a little pamphlet about calling on the name of Mary. And so we have been calling her name all day. I've tried to encourage the kids to adopt this practice and make it into a habit....it's said that the very name of Mary chases demons away.

Luke asked me what Mary has no idea which "Mary" he's calling on. :-)  I told him that just like a kid shouts his mother's name in a crowd of people, and half of those people turn their head (because many are mothers as well), only one mother recognizes the voice of her child. I take comfort in this in Mary's role with us. I told Luke: you are her child and so she responds immediately.

So we will continue to call on the name of Mary and you can please also call on her too, for Luke and all the kids. They are all a little nervous--excited too--but nervous. Let it be an easy year for once. No drama, no regression, no sicknesses.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Max's Room--update

Max asked me since his room is painted and "decorated" (in his opinion), added a door, and I've added a bookcase, if it is now considered "finished". Oh, Max. It is far from finished.

But we're making some progress.

I know these pictures are nothing to brag about. I know about the mess and the clutter on the floor. I can only do a little at a time when it comes to his room, because it's so small with so little space to put things.

My camera does not like this lighting! 

We added a string of flags of different countries to use as decoration. This was Max's idea. I thought it was a good one and I was glad to make it a little more personalized to his interests. Plus, it didn't cost much!

And yes, I added a bookcase with lots of little cubbys to put things in. It was a relief to clear off his dresser and put some of this stuff away!

All of this was previously scattered across his room or on his dresser. Religious items mixed with books and toys and no where to put things. This little bookcase was only $20 at Walmart (they are made to be stackable--you can add more bookcases onto it to make one bit bookcase. I'm considering it!)

So, no, we're not done with his room yet. We still need more shelves and/or bookcases for some organization. A carpet. A doorknob. The usual.

Tilll next time.