Thursday, May 31, 2012

Poem to a Former Friend

Months ago, I lost a friendship - or what I had thought was a friendship. Today, in an effort at closure, I thought I would write an angry letter.  After all, how could someone be friendly and then shut me out of her life?  Maybe if I could write an angry letter - not to send to her, you understand, but only to shred - maybe it would help me. 

But alas, my plan for an angry letter was an epic fail. Instead, I sat down and wrote a free verse poem. The words just flowed onto the screen, all the way to the end; but they were not what I had in mind when I sat down.  I don't feel I should send it to her, because it might appear, yet again, that I was trying to get the friendship back. So I will share it with you.


Look up. God will help you every step of the way.

Look up. The stars are shining on you with God’s love.

Look up. The blue sky shows God’s love for you.

Look up. One day you will be with Him, wrapped in His gentle embrace.

Look up. One day you will be with your loved ones who have gone before.

Look up. They are smiling radiantly down at you. 

Look out across the horizon and see that God sees the rest of your life.

Look out across the fields or skyscrapers and know that, with Him, all will be well.

Look across at your family and know that God loves them even more than you do.

Look at me and know that I love you in God’s love, not just selfishly because I liked you.

Look at me and know that I love you in God’s love, not just gratefully because you were there for me.

Look at me and know that I love you forever, like a sister, however distant we may be,

And I will love you in heaven, in His love, for all eternity.    

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Life Lesson I Learned from Homeschoolers

I homeschooled my six children from kindergarten through 12th grade.  In the beginning, we were very structured.  I enrolled my children with a homeschool program that had once been a school. I spent my life monitoring them doing their "schoolwork".  Watching them produce this much schoolwork ( some of it 'busy work') every quarter, every week, indeed, every day.  If we skipped a day, we would get behind.

Keeping up the house. Cooking.  Taking care of babies and toddlers.  And grading, grading, grading.  After we had moved from one state to another, we once went back "home" for a visit, and another homeschooling mom asked me how ours was going.  I said I was behind on the grading, and she said with a laugh, "Margaret Mary, you are always behind on the grading!"  That was the reputation I had left behind.

On weekends, my husband would want me to do things with the family - and all I wanted was to go off by myself.  But I would go...or do...with the family.  I think sometimes I did go off by myself, without ever leaving the house or the room, whether it was by reading or writing, planning the weeks' meals, or just thinking or spacing out.  Sometimes I was present physically, while I wasn't really present in the moment.  I look back on those days and I wonder what it would have been like if I had had the internet then, as we do now.  Would I have ever been truly present...or did I spend just as much time "away", anyway?  

As time went on, I lightened up a bit.  While I continued to get materials from the same school, I stopped having my younger kids enrolled.  Then more time passed and I began planning my own curriculum. I learned about literature-based learning and that resonated with me.  Whenever I had felt the need to do something with the kids and didn't feel I could spend much money to do it, I would take them to the park or the library.  And sometimes we would talk about their books.  Now I was meeting women online who not only talked about their kids' books with them, but actually read them to them.  Even though the children could read!  Wonder of wonders.  How do you do that?  When I learned about that, my kids were older, but I was so impressed.  Family reading time.  Wow.  Although I didn't do that, these same women also talked about talking with their kids...that it was okay for their kids to question things.  That it is through questioning that we can address things, and grow, and grow together. That wasn't the era I was brought up in.  It wasn't the air my older children had been brought up in.  And I learned to discuss things with them, more openly.

Because my husband insisted on family trips; because I had my children cook with me; because I discussed my kids' books with them; because I lightened up over the years; and then finally, because I learned to listen to my kids even when I disagreed with them...I believe that, enough of the time (whatever "enough" is), I was "there for them" or "there with them".  The homeschooling helped...but it wasn't just that I homeschooled them.  It was because I learned to set aside the slavery to a pre-planned curriculum and accountability, as well as my slavery to my family.  I could work hard for my family but I eventually had to learn to put them ahead of all the tasks that I did for them. I also learned to deal with my own issues, instead of sweeping them under the rug, so that I could better help them deal with theirs (okay, maybe that wasn't the reason I dealt with mine, but being better able to help them was part of the result). And I learned to have some time to myself, so that when I have time with them, I can be there for them and with them.

Whether you homeschool, or you run a chauffering service to school and soccer and dance, whether you're a parent or a spouse, or a single person, I would like to invite you to learn a lesson that I learned, a lesson that I am still working on learning, every single day.  Be present in the moment. By that, I don't mean you should never deal with past issues; dealing with them may help you to live in the present.  I don't mean you shouldn't have dreams and goals for the future.  That may help you to be happier, as well as to have more "moments" in the future.

But, let's keep on trying to be present to those we love.  If you have children, I would encourage you to read to them. Listen to them read to you.  If they know how to read and you are not comfortable with introducing reading aloud together at this point, then read some of what they read, too, and discuss it together, in a friendly way.  Sit side by side if you read together, or while you help them with homework.  Sit side by side on the sofa and look through photo albums (Am I dating myself? Okay, look at pictures on the laptop?).  When your teens say things that you find outrageous, you may want to ask them to talk about those things out of earshot of the 'littles', but find a time and place that they can discuss them - and be willing to hear them out.  Give your own views gently, not as though it's as simple as them being wrong and you being right because you are the parent, but truly listening, and then give them valid reasons for your position...or do research together on the topic.

After all my years of parenting, I would never presume to tell anyone how they should school their children (away, at home, or how), but if there is one thing I have learned to be aware of - one thing I should probably work on, all my life - it is the need to be present to those we love, not every minute, not without our own hobbies, our own friends, our own life but, at least some of the time, to take the time and energy to just "be there"...truly and openly "there". 

God bless you. 


Saturday, May 19, 2012

How We Can Help Those Who Grieve

Last night I stumbled upon a blog post at National Catholic Register entitled Grief is Messy, where Jennifer Fulwiler talked about having recently been the first one to a motorcycle accident in her neighborhood, and what she learned about helping people with grief.

I agreed with the things she said: You want to suggest: In grief, do this to be supportive.  But then again, maybe it would be better to do that.  It's hard to know.  I would say that it does depend very much on the individuality of the person who is grieving, and what is most helpful may also depend on their mood (if you will) of the day, or of the hour, or of the moment.  So, yes, it's difficult to know.

As some of you know, I had two back-to-back losses: My sister, my only natural sibling, died suddenly, this past December 8th of a brain aneurysm.  And then, six weeks later, my 26 year old son died unexpectedly in his sleep, on January 19th. Just stating that - stating it for those who may read this who didn't know - is a brain stopper and makes it hard for me to go on writing. I get up and put in another piece of toast and water the plant before I can write some more.

Both my mother and my mother-in-law died years ago, so we cannot turn to them for support. And I feel like I should "be there", more than I have been, for my brother-in-law and my nieces, but it's still hard to find the emotional energy to reach out to others, especially those who have suffered some of the very same losses I have and yet live geographically distant.

Here are some do's from my own experience:
1) Do show up if you can: at the visitation with a hug, at the funeral with your presence, at the door with food, in the mail with a check, at Facebook or email with kind words (no one person need do all those things; do what you personally feel inspired to do). We are so very grateful!
2) Do offer your prayers.  Again, we are very grateful for them!
3) Do be willing to just listen if the grieving person is willing to talk. Nod, encourage, show you are listening - if it's on the phone you can say a few words of affirmation that you are there - but don't worry if you can't think of anything to say.  It's okay to just listen.
4) Do respect that everyone will grieve in their own ways, at their own times. Sometimes we may be laughing as though nothing happened, because we are resilient beings & because we should not put away all thoughts of joy in the midst of sorrow. Other times we may be crying when you might have thought we would be "back to normal" by now.  (I smile a lot, but on Mother's Day - four months after my son's death - I cried through the entire Mass.)

Here are some don't's from my own experience:
1)  Don't ask for money. If the deceased owed you money, could you - would you - just suck it up and write it off?  If there is any money in the deceased's estate, it might take "forever" for even the family to have access to it...and for bills to come out of it.  And if you don't have an agreement with the deceased person in writing that it was a loan not a gift, then it's not recognized in probate, anyway.  Don't add to our worries, and don't add to our pain or make us add to yours when we get defensive or angry.
2)  Don't try to push religion on me right now.  It comes across that I'm not religious enough for you, not quite good enough. The family is religious enough to choose the Gospel to use at the funeral (we were at a church where the family chooses the readings).  Don't tell me why God "took" my son. We will have to figure out the "why" of the death for ourselves...or not figure it out.  One of the best bits of advise I have been given was to not try to figure out the "why".
3)  Don't try to "one-up" me and my family, or to one-up the deaths of my sister and my son.  In the beginning, in my world it was pretty much all about me and my family.  Actually, I still felt very compassionate about your sorrows and challenges, but I wasn't really interested in the details of your brother who died twenty years ago of an aneurysm - and he was only eight years old. You can tell me your brother died of an aneurysm.  Just don't tell me the details quite yet or say "he was so young!" (was my 63 year old sister "old"?).
4)  Don't expect me to return to normal. I have to find a new normal. But don't be afraid of me, either.  (I used to be afraid of people who lost someone and so I would avoid them. I wish I hadn't.)  If you think you may have said something that hurt my feelings, you probably didn't.  You're probably just feeling my pain or distraction, and it's not your fault and you can't solve it. But you can be there for me and it means the world to me. And even if you happen to say "the wrong thing", I'm probably going to get over it quickly because I'll just be grateful you were there for me.

God bless us all, in all our trials in life. May our compassion guide us. And may Our Lord comfort and strengthen us all. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Winner of the Book: My Peace I Give You

My son just drew one name out of the hat for me - one name among the names of all the people who left a comment this week.  And the winner is (drum roll):  MER.   Congratulations and I hope you find it as enlightening and helpful as I did. 

My Peace I Give You - Book Give-Away - Last Day

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy." John 16:20

For children of abuse (of any kind of serious abuse, I would think), their little world around them rejoices, while they sorrow.  We often say their 'childhood innocence' has been stolen from them. This doesn't mean they are any less innocent in their own goodness - God forbid anyone should think such a thing! - but that they have lost a certain freedom to view the world as a good place, a safe and a happy place.

Worse, they may have lost the vision of themselves as good people, who are valuable simply because they are, simply because God made them.  They may come to think they are valuable only because of what they do.  If they were valuable to someone for their sexuality, then they can become even more valuable to others - and in a good way - for their accomplishments, or for being the go-to person who makes others happy, or the guardian who keeps others safe from various dangers.  (Just to clarify, there are also others who have these lofty goals who were not sexually abused.)

But all this doesn't mean that victims don't have some normal childhood fun times, as well as establish some good memories.  People are very resilient.  God programmed us for survival.  It's not only criminals who compartmentalize, but some victims do as well.  And those good memories often help us get through life and establish an identity we can fall back on...and that we can build on later in life.

For someone who was sexually abused as a child, hearing that we need to "just leave our past behind" may do more damage than good. It's not that we need or want to go back to the bad times.  Indeed, some people even have emotionally painful flashbacks.  But there is a need to process its effects, to clarify our innocence and our value, to learn to nurture ourselves.

In her book, My Peace I Give You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, Dawn Eden shares a prayer from the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass, which includes these words, "Deliver us, O Lord, from every evil, past, present, and to come..."   She also says in reference to this prayer of the Mass, "The evil of my past is still evil, but it no longer has any power over me. All that remains of it are my wounds..."

As we find healing, as we work on regaining our identity, we begin to realize the words of the Scripture, "...but your sorrow will turn into joy."  


Today's post comes from my own decades of experience and from counseling I've received, as well as from wisdom from Dawn Eden's book, My Peace I Give You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the SaintsToday is your last chance to win a free copy of this book in my drawing.  I will have a family member draw a name out of a hat at approximately 6 p.m. tonight...that's 6:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (and yes, I'm on the East Coast but I wanted to give you the earlier time, so no one misses the "deadline". If you are east of that time zone, you can figure accordingly.)  Again, if you would like to win the book but you don't want to go public with your name, you can create a fictitious name. Just be sure you email me to let me know what that name is, so that if you win, I will be able to find you in order to send you the book. 

Whether you are a victim or you know someone who is, or you just want to learn more in case you ever do know someone, thank you for reading, and may God bless you with much peace - the peace that passes understanding - and with much joy, now and always.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Peace I Give You - Book Give-Away - Day Four

Whether we have suffered from childhood sexual or physical abuse or bullying, or whether as an adult we have suffered from subtle humiliation or quiet exclusion by our peers, or whether we have had to deal with a difficult boss...regardless of degree or type, there is one thing in common in all these types of suffering.  They result from someone's misuse of free will...someone else's misuse of free will at our expense.

We sometimes look for excuses:  That person must have been abused himself and that's why he abuses others.  Maybe this boss is treated badly by her superior and that's why she treats her subordinates badly.  Maybe. But no excuse gives someone permission to treat another person as an object for his or her own pleasure or advancement, instead of with respect for the other person as a whole person.

But where does God and His will fit in here?  As someone who was sexually abused as a child, I've always cringed when I hear someone say that everything that happens is willed by God...especially if they say it in the presence of someone I know has been abused in some way, especially someone who was abused as a child.  God's will is a mystery. But we do know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God is good and that all good things come from God.

As Christians, we know from the words of Jesus Himself how he views the mistreatment of our neighbor.  Jesus said that it would be better that a millstone be hanged around our neck and we be drowned than that we scandalize a little one.  I used to think - back when I was sweeping my childhood sexual abuse under the rug - that this meant things you did in the presence of a child.  For example, if you swore or left explicit magazines lying around...or stole something at the store, that would scandalize a little one.  It hadn't occurred to me how much more scandalous it is to devalue someone to the level of an object. That, I think, is the ultimate scandal.

Jesus also said that what we do to the least of his, we do to him.  And that, at the last day, He will say, "I was hungry and you gave me to eat"...or "I was hungry and you did not give me to eat." What if we were hungry for wholesomeness?  What if we were hungry for genuine love and respect?

Now, I'm not saying there is no hope for abusers, who indeed can repent and be forgiven.  The young man who murdered St. Maria Goretti is a shining example of  true and humble repentance. (He repented in prison, after Maria appeared to him in a dream.)

What I am saying is that God does not will that one person hurt another.  So, if we were abused in some way, that was not God's will.  Or, as Dawn Eden says, "God never positively wills evil."

Yes, God's will is a mystery.  Yes, He allows evil in this world -- because if He didn't, then we would not be able to love, because love must be freely given, from our free will.  God allows evil and He brings good out of it, although sometimes that good is hard for us to find.  He comforts us and strengthens us and guides us to find the help we need.  Sometimes, if we have been abused, it may be difficult to find him at times.  Where was He?  And yet He was there, caring, being "hungry", as He pointed out in the Gospels...hungry with us that we might feel wholesome love.

As Dawn Eden points out in her book, My Peace I Give You, Saint Bernard said, "God cannot suffer, but he can 'suffer with'."

He was always there, 'suffering with' us and loving us. And He is always here, helping us to heal. 


I've enjoyed sharing my own thoughts with you today.  If you were sexually abused or you know someone who was, or if you were abused in some other way, I highly recommend you read  Dawn Eden's new book, My Peace I Give You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.  And you still have time to put your name into my drawing to win a copy of the book.  If you would rather not include your name, you can make a fictitious name and then be sure to email me privately, so that I can find you if you win.

Remember, God loves you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Peace I Give You - Book Give-Away - Day Three

I had an idea!  I'm thinking that some people might like to win the book My Peace I Give to You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, some people who might not want to give their names in public blog comments. Okay, how about this?  If you would like to win the book, but you would rather not give your name, then you can create a make-believe name (a name of a fantasy book character, for example) and use that, and then - be sure you do this part! - send me an email privately, telling me what your pseudonym is, so that if you win, I can email you to get your address in order to send you your book.

Today I have another video, Dawn Eden speaking with LifeSite News. It only lasts a few minutes and it's well worth the time.

She talks about the book, a few of the saints, and her plans to use the summer speaking about Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. 

Here, you can see where Dawn is already scheduled to speak. You can find links on that page if you'd like to find out how to invite her to an area near you.

Be sure to leave a comment here on my blog, if you'd like a chance to win a free copy of the book.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Peace I Give You - Book Give-Away - Day Two

Enter the drawing to win My Peace I Give You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, by Dawn Eden. Just leave a comment at the end of this blog post. You can enter again any day this week.  I will have a member of my family draw a name from a hat on Friday, May 18th.  Please be sure to check back Friday evening to see if you won, in case I need your contact information. 

Today, I'd like to share with you an interesting seven-minute interview between religion correspondent Lauren Green of FOX News and author Dawn Eden. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Peace I Give You - Book Give-Away - Day One

My Peace I Give You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.  What an eye-catching title!  When I saw this title some weeks ago, I immediately pre-ordered this book.  I'm glad I did and I want to share it with you. I have one copy of the book to share, as well as some thoughts.

Do you know someone who was sexually abused as a child?  You might think you don't, but I'm betting that you do. You just might not know it, that's all.  Or maybe you do. Or maybe you were.

You see, it's often not something that people talk about...unless they have a reason.   Dawn Eden shares, that she might help others to find healing. I share, that I might help others find her book. It's the first time I have come out publicly to say that I was sexually abused as a child. It wasn't until I was in my forties that I first told my story privately to my husband, older kids, and a few close friends.  Still, my father doesn't know.  (And if you know him, don't tell him.  My father isn't well; I'm not recommending that you don't tell family members.) 

But what is my point?  Mostly this: If you think you don't know anyone who was sexually abused, you probably do. And also this: If you yourself were abused as a child, but you haven't told anyone, no one is asking you to tell the world, as Dawn does to write this book, or as I am doing to promote it.  But it's not shameful, because it wasn't your fault (as hard as that concept may be to internalize).  And personally, I'm going to suggest, if you have never told anyone, to please tell someone...someone you can trust to respect your feelings and whatever confidentiality you may desire.   

What I'm saying here - and what this book is about - is not about current abuse.  If you are currently being abused, I would just say: Get help.  And don't give up. Ask for help until you find it.

But this book is about the wounds we may have from past abuse, and how we can find healing for them through Christ and through the saints.  For decades, I have meditated on the passion of Christ and admired the lives of the saints. And yet, in one book, Dawn Eden brings new insights, helping me better understand how all this can apply to my own life.  Her book has also helped me to understand something which, for me, was very consoling. In becoming a Catholic, I thought I should be healed ("presto, chango", as we used to say as kids)...and yet there are problems in my heart, in some of my friendships, that I can trace back to my childhood sexual abuse. Dawn enlightened me with this statement in her book, "Now that I know my identity is to be found in Christ, I realize the importance of avoiding acting from my pathology.  But there remains the challenge of learning how to act from my wellness, for my wellness co-exists with my wounds."

If you are Catholic - or if you are Christian and open to reading a book that talks about how we can find healing for suffering, in the wounds of Christ and through the saints - then this might be a book you want to have, regardless of the kind of suffering you have experienced in your life.

And this week, one lucky person can get it for free! All you have to do to get a chance to win this book is leave a comment on my blog this week. You can just say hi or ask to be entered in the drawing.  Be sure to sign in, so I can find you if you win. You do not have to have been sexually abused to enter this drawing.  You may also enter because you know someone who was, or simply to understand better those who were, or even to find help in understanding and dealing with other kinds of suffering in your life. And of course you don't have to tell me why you would like the book.   

And you can enter again, all this week, in the comments of my future blog posts.  In subsequent blog posts, I plan to share links to some of the things others have said about Dawn's book, and to post a link to an interview with her. 

Thank you for stopping in today, and God bless you.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Catholic Family Fun -- A Cool New Book

 If you've ever wanted to know how to have more Catholic Family Fun in your family, Sarah Reinhard spells it out for us in her new book, Catholic Family Fun, A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless.  That pretty much covers everyone, doesn't it? 

Where was this book when I was raising my children?  When my idea of fun was baking cookies or a trip to the library (fortunately, Dad took more initiative in the fun category).  If ever I have grandchildren, I'm definitely gonna' be needing this book.

Here I found a guest post from Sarah on Karen Edmisten's blog that makes me want to buy the book even though I don't have children who are "children" anymore.

You can enter to win the book as a Kindle book AND win a Kindle  Since I don't have young children and I do have a Kindle (even though it's so "last generation"), I'm  sitting back and watching you younger parents have fun with this one. 

The give-away ends on May 11th, but I recommend you hurry on over, so you won't forget.  You can enter here at Kindle Touch and Catholic Family Fun Giveaway on

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

My Peace I Give You -- Book Review

As a Catholic adult who was sexually abused as a child, I pre-ordered My Peace I Give You, waiting eagerly to receive it. To say I was not disappointed would be an understatement. If you are a Catholic who was sexually abused as a child, this book is for you. Even if you were not, if you have suffered from other abuse or neglect...indeed, whatever you suffer, there is much that you, too, can learn from this book. And if you are close to someone who was sexually abused as a child, it will give you a greater understanding.

It took me nearly fifty years to understand that my having been sexually abused as a child affected me in more ways than one. Dawn Eden explains, offering both affirmation and hope. She speaks of one man suffering also from his "family's failure to provide him with protection"...and she speaks of our need as children for belonging and identity...and of "the lonely sense of isolation that is the result of having one's self-image disfigured by abuse".

Dawn applies her knowledge of theology and the lives of the saints to the suffering we have in our own lives in ways that I hadn't understood in my forty plus years of being a committed Catholic. Even though I already knew many of the saints whose stories she included, she presented them with fresh clarity and insight.

Dawn does not minimize either our past suffering or the effects of past abuse, as she shares her story and the stories of saints with delicacy and compassion. Yet, at the same time, she shows us God's great love and how he heals us through our wounds.

My emotions in reading this book were relief in understanding more clearly, and overall, a sense of hope and joy.

If you find this review helpful, you can vote that you do, at Amazon reviews, if you'd like.