Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Teens Who Rebel

Today is the feast of St. John Bosco. What a beautiful life and example he was for all of us who are parents, or who deal with children in any way. St. John Bosco was a teacher in Italy in the nineteenth century, who made it his business to reach the hearts and souls of his students. His motto was "Reason, religion and kindness".

As he has long been my inspiration, I would like to take this opportunity to copy here what I wrote yesterday to the Catholic Charlotte Mason Yahoo Group regarding teens who rebel. I don't remember the exact question now, but it was something about how one could homeschool, or raise one's children, in such as way that ones' teens would not rebel. As one of the "older parents" in the group, I felt impelled to comment. I think the email I responded to was entitled something like, "Teens who rebel", so that is my title, although my subject goes a bit beyond teens. For those of you from that Yahoo group, I know this is a repetition, but "stay tuned" because my next post will be a book review of Melissa Wiley's Little House book: Down to the Bonny Glen.

Before I begin the post from yesterday, I'd like to pass on a request for prayers from a friend of mine: for herself and her adult son. Hmm, please include me in your prayers also, as I have some decisions I'll be facing in the next months. Thank you so much.

My reply to the questions about teen rebellion:

I wanted to reply to the questions about teen rebellion. As a sixtie's rebel myself; and a convert, as a teen, from a non-Catholic faith to super strict traditional Catholicism; who has since mellowed out, and who has raised three kids (with three more, not yet adults); and a person who has observed many families grow from marriage to having adult children, I would like to make a few comments. I hope they will be helpful.

First of all, we must raise our children for God, the best we can, with the knowledge, graces, etc. that we have at the time. Sounds like I'm preaching to the choir, doesn't it? Everyone here knows we raise them for God! But, what I mean is that we don't raise them for our own satisfaction; hence, we don't fret if they don't turn out exactly as we had hoped. Not an easy principle, that! But it is reassuring, nevertheless, because what I'm leading to is this: If at some point in his or her young adult life, a child doesn't follow our teaching, we may and undoubtedly will grieve; but we should not waste our time blaming him, others, or even - perhaps I should say, especially - ourselves. Mother Guilt is a strong impulse but it accomplishes little. Not that we can't analyze and make some changes if we have other children to raise...but even then, we must make those changes carefully because what works for one might be different from what works for another; and it's easy to swing the pendulum too far. The bottom line is that God endowed each individual with free will and as our children become adults, they make their own choices. God is the ultimate Father, yet He did not force Adam and Eve to obey; He did not force St. Peter to be faithful and not deny Him; and He will not force our children, nor does He expect us to force them, when they become adults.

Okay, but most of you reading this are young parents looking for reassurance. You want to think that if you homeschool your children, then they won't go wrong. Nothing is a guarantee, but it's my bet that - in most families - by homeschooling, we're increasing the odds tenfold (or is it a hundredfold?) that they won't go off the deep end. I also believe that the Charlotte Mason approach is another way of increasing the odds in one's favor.

Several years ago, there was something I read in a Catholic family magazine (Faith and Family, I think.). The author of the article stressed the importance of talking about our faith with our children. In other words, we don't just talk about "The Faith", but about our own personal faith in God and His goodness, and how He works in our own lives. To some, that might be a no-brainer ("of course!"). But it is easier for some people than for others to share something which might seem rather personal. But I think it's worth the effort to grow, even if it doesn't come naturally.

The next thing I would like to comment on is just what IS "rebellion"? I think we need to examine what we require of our kids. While they are (underage) teenagers, are we, for example, requiring them to conform to a certain mode of dress and hairstyle so that our peers will respect us? I'm not referring to modest dress that doesn't invite sin, but to style; for example, does it matter if our son wears a polo shirt or a t-shirt or a Hawaiian shirt? Does it really matter if his hair is short or a bit longer, or if a girl wears make-up or chooses not to? I just picked this one area as an example. Where morals and dangers are concerned, we have to be stricter than in other areas, and of course, if their dress would mark them as being a part of a dangerous group, we might have to have some serious discussions, and perhaps the last word. The old adage comes to mind: "Pick your battles."

I'd like to share with you something Dr. James Dobson said about raising teenagers (from his book, The Strong Willed Teenager). He spoke of our teen being in a boat, riding down the river. He said that many parents picture a big falls that they are heading for. But in reality, for most kids, the water just gets very turbulent somwhere around 17 or 18, and then as they reach 20 or 21, the river starts running smoothly and calmly again. He says, in the meantime, not to capsize their boat. I have seen parents capsize their teen's boat by over-emotional reactions, by talking about their child to people who consequently don't treat the child well, or even by refusing to speak to the child themselves. (By the way, I'm not sure of the exact ages that Dr. Dobson mentioned.)

I believe that the one very most important thing we can give our children is unconditional love! Even if your children are still small, you can start now by deciding that you will love them, not only love them inside but SHOW them love, all their lives, no matter what. I am not talking about permisssiveness. And I'm not saying that when they grow up, we can't ever advise or admonish them. It's just that it's important for them to know that we love them NO MATTER WHAT...that we respect them for who they are, the good that is in them, and for who they can be. I do know a family where the father would not permit one of the grown children to come to the house because that child had left his Faith and the father was concerned about the example to the younger children. The mother decided that she would meet him for lunch once every week. In due time, the son returned to his Faith. Would he, had his mother abandoned him? Who knows. She followed the example of St. Monica. St. Augustine was converted not only by his mother's prayers, but also by her love.
And incidentally, how long did she pray and have patience with him? Some accounts say forty years. As Winston Churchill once said, as a speech to a group of graduates, "Never, never, never, never, never give up."

To return to the question about how you homeschool in such a way as to help your children keep their faith and morals, and to begin to sum up, I would say we need to try to have a balance between discipline where necessary and a relaxed atmosphere. In one Catholic book by a priest (Christopher's Talks to Catholic Parents by David Greenstock), the author says, "It is better to err on the side of leniency than on the side of strictness." Of course, this was written many years ago, before some of the dangers of the world that we have today, but I think of another thing he said, "Never make religion odious to the child," and I would like to think that he would have approved, especially, of the Catholic Charlotte Mason style of education.

Have you ever heard of the difference between, "we are here to save our souls", and "we are here to know, love and serve God so that we may be happy with Him forever in heaven"? The one looks at the bad, bad, bad; how can we avoid this and that evil; look how bad these other people are. The other looks at what we can do to serve our neighbor for love of God; how we can pray well; how we can let beauty lift our hearts, and minds and souls to God. Let us teach our children, by prayer, by example, by word, and by love to know, love and serve God so that we may all be happy with Him together in heaven.

God bless.

Margaret Mary

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My God, in him will I trust

Uh, oh, they say that this blogging can be addicting. This will be my fourth post this month, and my second in just a few days.

Just wanted to share a Psalm that I opened to this afternoon. I'm not going to put a mystical interpretation to the fact that this is where I opened, because this just happens to be the middle of my Bible, and the binding is broken right at that spot. So, you open it, and presto. (Hmm, I hope "presto" is not inappropriate for Bible reading. smile). At any rate, whatever the reason, it's become one of my favorites: Psalm 90 (I think in some Bibles it might be Pslam 91. This is the Douay-Rheims translation that I'm using.).

"He that dwelleth in the aid of the most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob. He shall say to the Lord: Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust."

And verses 14-15: "Because he hoped in me I will deliver him: I will protect him because he hath known my name. He will cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him."

Hmm, "because he hoped in me". That hoping is really important, isn't it? As someone said about Faith (who was that saint?), "I believe. Help thou my unbelief." It could be paraphrased to include hope: "I hope, O Lord; help me with my doubts and fears."

May the hope and the blessings of Our Dear Lord ever be yours.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What's in a Name?

Isn't the internet a wonderful tool? Just recently, an old high school friend found me via the internet. It's been nearly 35 years since high school...30 years since we've communicated. God is good! Thanks, JoAnn, for getting in touch!!

This week I stumbled upon a blog by an author I hadn't known about. (Well, okay, I didn't stumble onto it. It was recommended on the Catholic Charlotte Mason egroup). Anyone heard of Little House on the Prairie?! Of course. Well, Melissa Wiley is the author of The Martha Years books and The Charlotte Years books, newer childrens' books about Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother and great-grandmother. I was so excited! I had to go (virtually) to my library and to a bookstore to check this out; and yep, there the books are. Available for all the world. And she's a homeschool mom just like me. Wow! Almost forgot to tell you: Here's the link to her blog: http://melissawiley.typepad.com

Speaking of writing, since I was in the fourth grade I wanted to "be a writer". (Are we there yet? :) ). I used to toy with possible pen names. I liked my name, but I always figured I needed a special euphonic pen name. God provides...sometimes in strange ways. Or is it that He brings good out of strange circumstances and muddled decisions, in spite of ourselves? If you're wondering what I'm talking about, I'll tell you. Okay, here's the million dollar public confession: Margaret Mary is not my birth name. But, it's not just a pen name, either. It's my real legal name; but there's a story behind it.

I grew up in the sixties (need I say more? But of course, I will say more.). Born in 1953. Graduated from high school in 1971. In my late teenage years I decided I wanted to become a Catholic. I read some good books: The Autobiography of St. Therese, The Imitation of Christ, Our Lady of Fatima by William Thomas Walsh...and I started praying the Rosary. All was going well until I got an invitation to a week long summer seminar in Idaho. Or was it ten days? Who knows? The first thing they did was take our watches. Confusion abounded. Talk about brainwashing techniques. The head of the group was named Francis Schuckardt. It was a cult! Woops.

Well, since it was a cult, I soon found myself moving up there. While I was there I studied the faith and by God's providence the person who prepared me knew her Faith very well...at least as far as doctrine and the catechism. But I think she wanted to make me into a "religious" (for non-Catholic readers, read "Sister", or at least missionary), and I think she got confused...because she told me that when I was baptized a Catholic, I would need to take a new name, a saint's name, a "Christian name" as she put it -- and I would need to be called by it rather than by my birth name. Inside, I rebelled. But I didn't think I had a choice.

However, I did think I had a choice as to what that name would be and I exercised that choice. Since my name was Peggy Ann, and since Peggy is a derivative of Margaret, I naturally decided to take the name Margaret in order to stick as close as possible to my real first name. There was one problem with that! Although I had a cousin named Margaret whom I admired very much, I just didn't care for the name itself. Problem solved: I would honor Mary, the Mother of Jesus, by taking her name, too. And I would then have the name of the saint who preached the great love of the Heart of Jesus for us, St. Margaret Mary. But I saw no reason to drop my middle name, so I became Margaret Mary Ann, called by my new friends, "Margaret Mary". By the way, just for the record, the missionary priest who baptized me, who was only visiting the group (unaware as yet that this was a cult) didn't know that I was changing my name. He just thought I WAS Margaret Mary.

Now, let me say I don't recommend changing your name!! But what was done, was done. And since it was done, I decided when I got married, and was changing my last name, that I might as well make the first names legal too. So Peggy Ann Roesler disappeared and Margaret Mary Myers appeared...on my driver's license, my social security card, and so forth. (The Ann is still on my baptismal certificate and in my heart.)

Yes, I do sometimes mourn the loss of my birth name, like an old friend that I've lost. But I love both names and besides not wanting to confuse the people in my world, I wouldn't even want to give up my name 'Margaret Mary'. And after all, who could know when I was baptised (but God) that my last name would become Myers? I didn't even know what alliteration was until recently, but there it is in my name, three words beginning with the same letter. And of course, as a Catholic writer, it's nice to have a distinctively Catholic name.

But for those who knew me "when", I don't expect you to call me something new. As a matter of fact, it's kind of nice not to completely give up the heritage of my youth!

Speaking of youth, I came across a quotation that mentions youth. (Thanks to Melissa's site.) The quotation is about hope in middle age. Since I'm halfway through my life (hey, I knew a lady who as 106), I wanted to share it. Besides, we can always use quotations about hope!

"It is currently said that hope goes with youth, and lends to youth the wings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is pre-eminently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged: God has kept that good wine until now."
by G.K. Chesterton in Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Man.

God bless, and, young or older, keep on hopin'!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Only to be where He puts me

How does that poem go? "Only to be where He puts me, only to do His will". Hmm, I wonder what the name of the poem is and who the author is. I guess I should put it into a search and probably I would find it! But not right now.

Being a Sunday afternoon, I've been reading blogs, websites, and e-newsletters of some of my favorite personalities on the web...many of whom I now count as my friends. Among the ones I've visited today is the blog of my friend Sarah, who has wonderful resources both for spiritual support and for knowledge about blindess; Michele, who has an encouraging website about doing medical transcription at home...and other home businesses; Maureen, who writes about Catholic homeschooling; Danielle, whose homey, humorous style makes one smile as she shares her experiences raising her seven young children; and Nancy, a Catholic mother who writes romance books.

As I've been reading lately, I've been feeling a twinge of envy at something so many people seem to have that I don't seem to have. No, it's not something material. It's simply focus. My son (to be more specific, Paul, the one who is my webmaster) agreed with me the other day that I would probably be able to drive more traffic to my website if I had more of a specific direction.

But then I started thinking, "This is me; my website is an example of who I am." As I often say, "I am a jack of many trades and master of none". I follow where the Spirit leads me...or where the wind leads me, or where my desires lead me. (I hope that much of the time it really turns out to be where the Spirit is leading me.)

Here is how my Mothers Almanac came to be what it is today: When my children were little, I read lots of books, keeping a list so I would have ideas of good books to get at the library for them. I always thought that some day, in the distant future, I would share that list with others, and I would call it Mothers Almanac. In the meantime, my kids reached school age and I began homeschooling. Over the years, I would meet people - at the park or a doctor's office - who would ask me how they could get information about homeschooling. I would ask them some questions: How old are the children? What religion are you? ...and so on. Then I would go home, gather up some old homeschooling magazines and information, and mail them a little care package. When I had the opportunity to make a website, I thought I could save having to gather all that information each time I talked to someone. And I could make my book lists available, as well. Little did I know at the time that the new information revolution would enable people to look up all that information on their own quite easily. But I continue to keep the information there, at my website, in case someone can use it.

And then along came our son's vision loss, and I decided to include resources that helped us with that, and resources that might help others. And so the site has grown, "busier" and more diverse all the time...just like my life.

Today I realized that others may have a central theme but apparently variety IS my "theme". And God uses us just as we are. I pray that He will use me to help others in whatever ways He sees best.

By the way, here are the websites I visited today:
Growing Strong, Sarah Blake http://www.growingstrong.org
Medical Transcription at Home, Michele Miller http://www.medical-transcription-at-home.com

Catholic Homeschool Writer, Maureen Wittmann http://www.maureenwittmann.blogspot.com
Catholic Mother and Author, Danielle Bean http://www.daniellebean.com
Romance Author, Nancy Brandt http://www.nancysbrandt.com

Here is a link to the poem! (I found it!)
Only to Do His Will, http://cvhope.20m.com/godpoems.htm

And of course, last but not least, here's the link for my website, Mothers Almanac:

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Last night I had hoped to write something profound for New Year's. But instead I relaxed and enjoyed family time. And maybe that should be my first resolution: to strive to balance work (even work that is fun, such as writing) with relaxation. So, here are my five resolutions for the New Year of 2006:

1. RELAX. Spend time just sitting around, conversing with family. And in the midst of stress, especially on the job, remember to relax by taking deep breaths. Perhaps between each customer, just take a deep breath or two.

2. EAT RIGHT. Back to the South Beach Diet. I might start with Phase Two. Is that cheating? I think Phase One might be too hard with the other stresses, and I think I can jump into Phase Two, because I've been there before so successfully. Lose twenty pounds...gradually, of course.

3. EXERCISE. Yes, walking from the car to the store, or across the store to check on whether or not something is on sale, or up and down the stairs of our home, are all forms of exercise and not a sedentary life. But who am I kidding? They do not constitute healthy, sustained weight-bearing (for osteoporosis) or cardiovascular (for heart health) exercise. Walk every day...on the treadmill or outside.

4. DECLUTTER HOUSE. As in, purge, purge, purge. Begin with papers, move up to books, and then on to the rest of the stuff.

5. CLEAN HOUSE on a regular basis. Scrub, dust, and vacuum all the main areas weekly.

Now, we all know that when we make too many resolutions, we don't necessarily keep them. So...although I should already be doing all of the above, I am going to focus on one per week, starting with number one. :) Ha, ha. How about that? My first resolution is to sit around and relax!