Saturday, March 25, 2017

There They Go

Yesterday, I attended a pep rally at the school where I work, and my attention kept being drawn away from the dancers and the flags and the DJ to the students near me.  They were teenagers, but they had disabilities just like my son who is only eight.  Some had gone down to the festivity and been cheered for their sports, some were part of the announcements, but these students, they were each of them, alone in a crowd.  They didn't sit, but they didn't socialize either.

I saw my son in six years.  Or rather, I saw how it could be.

Inclusion is easier in elementary school than anywhere else, and I've witnessed it first hand, but it should be the goal for the upper grades, for middle and high school.  Not that we'll sit with the kids who have disabilities, but that the kids with disabilities will be sprinkled amongst the various clubs, the poms and the tennis, the Korean Pop troop and the flags, the fans and the grades by class, and seamless. I want it not to be inclusion, but ordinary to the point of being the invisible taken for granted baseline of how we will be as a people.

Some might point out that some teens pull away from the crowd, they aren't joiners and in the disablied community, this is no different.  I would say yes, if I thought those teens I saw Friday milling about, not engaged in the pep rally were enjoying their aloofness.  Teens working to not fit in, relish their isolation.  I did not see this in those students.  I saw them engaged in self stimulation, in trying to figure out how to be where they were and fit in, and having neither a plan or a purpose for themselves, not being able to settle, stand, sit or cheer.

At home, my son has the protection of his siblings who constantly teach without teaching, how to get into a group and engage.  They've taught him how to play brawl such that I've learned not to start worrying if I hear him saying, "Help." if he's in the basement with his siblings.  It just means his character is getting beaten and someone needs to give him an assist.  At his school, he has friends across grades, across the spectrum of ability.  I know this because when we've come to events, kids come up to visit with him independent of a club or assignment or a teacher, high five him and visit.  It isn't a long convesation, it's usually "Hey Paul, what's up?"  Paul gives them a "Good" and the high five, and the other kid says something like, "See you on stage." or "Cool science project." or some such, and Paul shows them or says "Yeah" and tries to say the same back, and they know it.

Inclusion isn't easy, but it has to be more than the Compassionate Student Organization will sit with the Special Needs Students for lunch.  It has to be that there are actual relationships being built.  The kids at my son's school know he loves dinosaurs, flags and playing outside.  They bring him toy dinosaurs and books about it to read with him.  (Not as a club, as individuals).  Relationships aren't, I'm doing good for you because I'm good; relationships are I will the good for you, and I enjoy spending the one commodity we all have in limited supply, (time), with you and on you.

These sort of organic inclusion moments are something a mom of a kid with a disability lives for, and always at the same time, can't quite enjoy until after the fact.  We hold our breath when they take place, because the moment can be so fragile.  The thinking goes something like, "Please son don't do something that drives the other kid away.  Please other kid, don't ignore my son.  Please, somehow interact without super sweetness or baby talk, please please please be real."

Going back to the pep rally, I admit, I want a society where interactions between the mentally handicapped are neither artificially created nor imposed.  The kids with the handicapping conditions have a reason to be there, it's a pep rally for their school.  They don't have a reason to be in isolation, because they are freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.  It wasn't that the teachers or the school were doing anything wrong, only that as a Mom, and as a member of the Education community, I want more for the kids I saw, for they are just like my son.  I know we can't teach "How to act at a pep rally" through task analysis or breaking it down, but we could take a cue from the elementary school and the neighborhood model of friendship.  We need to learn how to be willing to spend time, wasting time with each other.

What does inclusion look like?  Every morning while waiting for the bus, all the kids put their feet together and do "one-potato-two-potato" to start.  My son gets mad if people don't tag him or don't let him be it sometimes, because he knows, as I do, it has to be real.  He has to be it sometimes.  When he's touched, he puts his hands out, giggles and begins to moan as he lumbers toward whoseover he's declared the newest target.  He doesn't need any guidance, he's immersed as they all are.  It isn't a case of "there he goes" to play with the other kids or "there they go to play with him."

It's look: "there they all go to to play.  See how they love each other."

Friday, March 24, 2017

Over at the National Catholic Register

I have a piece over at the Register addressing how we respond to God's love.

Here's a taste of it:

 "My children came to me because they felt lonely and needed reassurance, tangible and emotional. When we come to God, we are asking the same thing."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We're in Week Three of Lent

Tuesday, I took all the petitions with me when I attended a healing mass celebrated by Father Dan O'Leary.  If you read yesterday's piece, you got day one of his talks.  Here's the podcast version of his Day 2 talk.  Father Dan has many spiritual gifts, and one of them is his devotion to the sacrament of confession.  I've seen him see a person leaving because the line was too long and stop whatever it was he was doing, to invite them back.

Standing in line to receive a blessing, waiting became an opportunity to engage in a litany of sorts, for all those I've ever hurt, both by co-mission or omission, and all those who I've nursed hurts against.  I've been to healing masses before, (not often), but I know they bring with them great graces.  It's a sort of oasis in the midst of this Lenten journey, a greater feast than getting to indulge in whatever surrender we've made up to now in our normal appetites.

This past week, I began to reflect on what these first three weeks of Lent have brought.  While considering the purpose and process of Lent, I stated how I started Lent wanting God to give me friends.  I was praying for friends.  Now, I find my desert is full of friends for whom I am praying. This thought germinated into a piece over at the National Catholic Register.   It is a great blessing to be part of all of your lives.  Thank you for honor.  

May I pray for you today?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trisomy 21 Day

It's World Down Syndrome Day, so it's fitting that Paul is the inspiration for the piece which ran today over at Aleteia.  How I Learned Being a Saint is as Easy as Bedtime.  Enjoy.  And if you're curious, we're still battling him on getting to bed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Woman at the Well

I bring this up because the Woman at the Well keeps showing up or more accurately, Jesus keeps meeting me at the well, and since I didn't come to the well, he keeps moving the well.  It was there on Sunday in the readings.  It was there Monday with Mark Shea and Connecting the Dots.  To top it off, I saw a link to the priest who challenged us to enter more deeply in, Fr. Dan O'Leary.   

Now I love Fr. Dan. I've loved his theology, his homilies, his thinking and his faith ever since he burst into our lives when I was pregnant with Faith. I met him on Easter in 2002. He'd been through the busiest week of priesthood there is, and came to the hospital to anoint me.  I also love him because he was willing to risk our friendship when he saw me holding onto a grudge.  He warned me, I could hold on and be destroyed, or give it over and find peace.  When the Holy Spirit hits you over the head three times with a reading, it's clear if nothing else, you need to go back to it, to consider am I holding onto something, am I keeping myself from the living water?

It was a reminder.  Jesus is there, seeking a relationship with us, breaking down the walls we've created through false gods, through our sufferings, through all the failures we've held onto over the years.  We all are the woman at the well, going to find something that would satisfy, because we've tried everything.  We are all the woman at the well, wanting something more and knowing what we've found up to now, wasn't it.  

So we go again, hoping this time, we'll find the living water.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Because We Should Stop

As writers, we're supposed to take everything in, and pull from our memories, from our heart, and weave together associations through sentences that bridge the gap between the experiences we've all had, and the ones only some ever endure.  Yesterday, a friend on Facebook announced her son battled demons and lost.

I know countless mothers who hold their breath at such stories, because thus far, their children have won, but there's always the chance tomorrow, it will be them taking down the body of the child they carried, because they weren't there at the right moment to make sure this horrible moment didn't happen. 

The internet makes us voyeurs into each other's lives, it can even create real relationships, but it won't let us be flesh and blood to those friends when flesh and blood is what aches. Her heart's cry pierces the internet, because it cannot be answered. It cannot be comforted, not by anything here.
Suddenly, the internet revealed in addition to being a community, it is dust and amusement. We can be cheerleaders and encouragers, we can even be provocative, but what we can't be, is anything other than virtual in this moment when tangibility means everything, because death is such a tangible, bodily thing.

There are no words to give to a mother who found her son hanging in the garage other than, "I'm so sorry."

These sort of moments, the only appropriate response is to give some tangible form of a hug. Food. Watching her little ones. Offering to help with the mass, anything. Instead, I'm here, my thoughts churning over the children I work with, my own children and their trials, and over her. The rosary in my fingers feels inadequate, and yet I know she holds to it too, along with her other children who must also weather this terrible pain. They hold to it like a safety rope, and I want it to be for them. I have to hope it is.

Everything feels too new, too raw, too simple, too pat to be real. This unreality feeling, facing the deepest and worst we can face, will even make the sounds of cars and doors and phones and the television feel alien. Music will cut the air, and conversations buzz through without leaving an impression. As I feel the round beads in my hands, the realness of her raw reality works against allowing me the comfort of doing the familiar. It must. It is immediate. It is too soon. It is too near.
Her pain cannot be rushed or wiped away or easily healed; it must merely be endured. The rosary too, cannot be rushed, not if it is to be prayed. She will grope through the grief. We will all grope through prayers, hoping to add to the graces she receives, and lighten something of the hard cross she carries. So I'm praying for all of the trials to come, for her to feel as she should, and for the whole rest of the world to stop, and be gentle as it can for as long as possible, to give her leaking heart time to be bound.

My friend Simcha has details on how you can give tangible help. Please keep their whole family in our prayers.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Day Without Sunshine*

by Guest Blogger, Marc Antonetti.

Today March 8, 2017 is "A Day without a Woman" day; and like a day without sunshine, your regular columnist--Sherry--is nowhere to be seen.  

The corporate big wigs at Chocolate for Your Brain however would not shut down the operation in solidarity with the movement and threatened to fire her if there was no column. So she asked for a ghostwriter (that male in her life who is rarely seen or heard from in public) today.

So how is our day without a woman going?  Well, we got up late and the kids had bratwurst and beans for breakfast. Immediately the chorus of "Where's Mom?" began. I answered with my typical straightforwardness, "Not here."  And "Somewhere else." and in homage to that great bedtime book, Owl Moon, "Maybe a fox got her."  

When they saw they were getting yesterday's left overs in their lunch boxes, a second round of "No really Dad, where is Mom?"  I replied, "Go brush your teeth, and your hair."  

I thought I was doing fine until I had to find socks and some sort of remotely matching outfit for each of the youngest two five minutes later. By then the yellow school buses had rolled past our house. It was now 9:10.  After dropping them off at school (itself operating on minimal efficiency) I headed home to telework.  

I put on a continuous loop for the "Hunt for Red October," "A Bridge Too Far" and "Crimson Tide." The day without women was looking up.  I could indulge in films without girls in them (and Gates McFadden and Liv Ulman have too few lines to count in the first two films).  I reprogrammed all the radio stations in the car from Mix 107.5 and the other pop music channels from the "80's, 90's and Today" to SportsTalk 980, the Sports Junkies, and the new AC/DC channel over on Sirius/XM.

Of course, this reverie lasted until I saw it was already 2:30 and time to make the first run out to pick one kid up from school, race home for the next four to arrive by bus and then out again to get the oldest two from after school activities.

By the time I got home, the chorus of "Where's Mom?" started up.

"Can you sign this?"
"I don't understand my homework!"
"I need something for the bake sale."
"My brother did this to me."  "She started it!"  "What's for dinner?"  "I'm hungry." 

The high of watching Sean Connery for the better part of the afternoon wore off, leaving me with the distinct desire to say "Calgon take me away!" or at the very least, "Where's Sherry?" 

On one more serious note, I will be continuing Sherry's prayer requests, so if I may, Can I pray for you?  I would also ask that we all give a prayer, of thanks for all the women in our lives without whom we wouldn't be where we are today, and for greater unity among all of us, no matter what the gender,

Sherry Green Antonetti will Return with Small Success Thursday tomorrow.  I hope.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mom Myth Buster

"You have a lot of kids so the older ones must help out a lot right?"  I get this bit of folk lore from well meaning people and I know other moms of more than two do as well, particularly if there's any sort of gap.  It's not that the older kids don't help out.  It isn't that they can't help.  It's that the presumption when people say such things, is that once children hit twelve, they become something other than teenagers, they become reliable staff.

I can only presume the people or person who created this bit of commonly held wisdom never knew a single twelve to twenty-one year old, and never experienced being anywhere close to that age themselves.  They just skipped all of adolescence and immerged on the scene at twenty-five with a full Wikipedia approved understanding of how to raise multiple children which they generously impart to anyone who has them but doesn't seem to grasp how to do it properly. (Meaning me).

Here are just a few samples of where I've been told, the older ones should pitch in, and where I've found, for various reasons, it's not happening.

Homework:  "The older ones help the younger ones." No. This does not happen.  Not because they can't. Not because they won't.  It's that they have homework too.  Besides, I don't blame them.  I wouldn't want to do one of my younger sibling's homework either.  None of us liked it the first time around and it hasn't become any more beloved a task as part of somebody else's responsibility. Also, the older kids had to put up with my inept support in math, I suspect they've banded together to 1) ensure I maybe one day master 5th grade fractions and 2) no one younger gets out of having to figure it out for themselves after being told the next day by the teacher, they did it wrong.

Laundry:  Despite having a machine which does the washing and another which does the drying, this task remains a labor of either the desperate or me.  No one likes their clothing co-mingling unless they're the squatter adding in, in which case they can't see what the problem might be.

One caveat:  Everyone will very helpfully point out, so and so needs to do laundry, or so and so needs to put away their laundry.  They are also quite willing to serve as nag-o-ramas whether asked or not, to the child who needs to catch up on their wash.

Dishes: I've been told by helpful strangers, to assign each task to two children.  Like all things proposed, it works in theory.  Whenever I try to do pairings to have an older kids work with younger ones, either the older one masters the art of exploitation, the younger one becomes a ninja, incapable of being discovered, or both collude to find something so mommy-tear-jerkingly-beautiful to do I won't insist on the original task.  This third ploy, though seldom used, always works.  I've caught them playing cards, reading stories and practicing music together.  They've made castles, puzzles and colored together.  The result (I'm a sap) is I see this precious moments facade, fall for it every time, and wind up finishing the task for them.  

So yes, the older ones do help the younger master the art of the dodge.  But what will the younger ones do when they mature and there are no younger ones to use as  human shields to avoid work?  Probably collude writing "How to Parent Properly Such that Your Kids Do Chores Books" and offer to sign one for me provided I pay an additional fee.

Day 4 of Lent

May I pray for you?

I'm rotating between the blog and Facebook to make sure I ask every day, and to keep from sounding like a nag. 

The first thing I've come to know, is there are a lot of hidden crosses.  It is an honor to be allowed to share in such stories of strength, courage and fortitude.  My heart rends for some of these individuals.  It feels inadequate to simply pray, and yet it is all any of us can do given what some of these people face, and in reality, it is what we are asked to do. Also, I know, God's heart rends more than mine, and He can and does act, and is acting. 

Today, I read several posts by people who declared themselves emancipated from organized religion because they wanted to be more in connection with God.  Maybe they have that grace, but going to adoration, I cannot get closer, and I know absent the sacraments, (as I know even with them), it is easy to drift. It is easy to fall into talking to myself.   It is easy to fall asleep. 

However, the names help me anchor.  I have a red book in which I write every name of every person and every intention each day.  Leave your name and/or intention in a like, the com box or email.  Every day but Sunday, the offer will be given.  

So may I pray for you?  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Over at the National Catholic Register/Day 2

It was a pleasing surprise to discover this piece over at the National Catholic Register. It's called 5 Ways to Go Deeper and Deeper Into Lent. I would argue, it is a process and all five steps are necessary.  We're always in need of going deeper and deeper in, and whatever gets us to wade further into the waters, is good.

It is Day 2 of Lent.  Thank you for helping me with my observance.

The other day, I felt the weight of everything (Fat Tuesday), and asked for comfort.  My son who is eight, would not let me alone for the next hour.  Everywhere I went to be alone, to nurse the hurt I felt, he came.  I locked myself behind three doors.  He picked them.  I shut myself in my bathroom. He knocked on the bathroom and I could hear him outside calling me.

I didn't want to visit with my son. I wanted to be comforted, so I put on a coat. When I went outside, he put on a coat and came out. Three times I took him back in, and went back out to allow myself to keep asking for comfort, and three times, he found a way out to come and climb a tree next to me.

It seems obvious and yes,  I figured out, he was part of the answer, as was a phone call from my brother, a text from my oldest son, and an unsolicited hug from a daughter, and the unasked for purchase of a Dunkin' Donut by another daughter.  I also received an email from a complete stranger about an article I'd written, and an invitation to get together with another friend for Thursday, all of which came in short succession.  God hears. God answers, and He's even goofy about it, like encouraging my son to come outside three times to climb trees next to me, coaxing me with donuts and visits from friends.  It was a lavish response to a momentary dark mood. One might even say overkill, except it wasn't.  It was the more, the little extra that let me know, it was God saying over and over again what He always says, "I love you." and "I am here."

So know, I am praying for all of your intentions, and I hope, you get showered with answers.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

May I Pray For You?

May I pray for you?

I've been thinking hard on what to do for Lent.  I know one part of Lent will be the 40 bags in 40 days, but I also know, that is a physical discipline and God knows, I need to become more mindful in all things.

Part of Lent is to go deeper into prayer.   My own prayer life has been one big distraction, so I'm seeking to take my own wandering brain out of the equation by giving it others to focus on instead.

This year, this is part of my Lenten observance, to pray for others before the Eucharist.  Each day. Every day.  The offer will be made each day on this blog.  I will take any and all petitions to prayer for the day.   You can email, private message or put your petition in the com box. You are invited to be a prayer warrior for all petitions you see.

What will that prayer be like? It will be simply presenting whatever is received, probably in the course of the Rosary or Chaplet since those are my two favored ways to try to delve deeper into relationship with God.   My brother made a comment to me, which frightened me and at the same time, I didn't argue the matter, because that's what we're supposed to seek when we talked about the purpose of prayer.  Everyone is supposed to seek to have something as close as possible to being able to walk with God in the cool of the day.  He made a comment about my prayer life being direct.

His comment was coupled with a discussion held online where I asserted what I believe, prayer always works.  Not how we plan, not as magic, but it always opens us to going deeper into relationship with God.  Between my brother's comment and the discussion on prayer, I felt the tug to ask, and so I ask again, "May I pray for you?"

The reality is, we all should be more comfortable asking this question but for some reason, I am not.  I can't figure out why, but I am not.  I know it has something to do with how intimate prayer is. but that's not quite it.  I know there is more.  I know that more is the great unknown, the deeper ocean which isn't safe.  It is the desert where everything is vast and I am small.

God doesn't want us to have a safe relationship with Him, God wants intimacy, infinite intimacy and that always requires us to move toward the infinite.  I didn't know until I wrote this, that this idea frightens me, exposes me, somehow unnerves me.  It shouldn't, but it still feels as if it does.  I do so not like and yet love and appreciate how God lets me write until I discover, how the soul clings to the haven of an oasis, staying where I know, staying where it's safe.   Lent is not about being safe.  It helps to have that smear of ashes on the head, again outing us as mortal, and as Catholic.

So if you wish, if you want, may I pray for you?  

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!