Memorial Day

I want to thank all our troops (and their families!) who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. During your festivities, please take a moment to say a prayer for them. Don’t forget those who are still mission in action or prisoners of war. May God’s mercy be on them all.

Happy Memorial Day

Should Your Teen Watch “13 Reasons Why?”

13 Reason Why is a Netflix T.V. series based on the book by Jay Asher. It is about a teenager who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes explaining  why she made the decision to end her life.

Should Your Teen Watch "13 Reasons Why?"

Talk about this series has been going on all over the place, online and offline. There has also been some questioning and debate as to whether it is appropriate for teens, and if so, how young is too young?

In full disclosure, I have not personally watched the show, nor do I plan to watch it. It is not the subject matter, per se, that is the problem; it is the graphic nature of the show that keeps me away. Still, I think I have read enough and talked to enough people to lay out some pros and cons so that you can come to you own conclusion as to whether the show is appropriate for your teen or not.

PROS

1. It Explores  Important Topics

Over the last few months, I have been hearing about suicide more and more. It feels like it is becoming an epidemic of sorts. In fact, I recently heard of an eight year old who took his own young life because of bullying. This is heartbreaking. It needs to be discussed and the underlying reasons behind the suicides needs to be addressed. People must learn the warning signs and get those in danger some help!

Each week of this series is centered on one tape and one reason why the young girl decided to kill herself. And in doing so, it touches on other important topics such as bullying, rape, etc. These are things that must be talked about and we must help our young people find ways to deal with them in healthy ways.

2. The Characters?

Truth be told, I had a hard time coming up with another positive, other than the fact that it covers important topics. I decided to add the characters as a “pro” because several people have told me that they found the characters to be relatable, if not stereotypical. Other people have told me that the characters are too stereotypical and not really relatable at all. Go figure. I guess you will have to make up your own mind with this one. 🙂

CONS

1. There is no mention of God

Yes, this world has become so very secularized that God is taken out of almost every area of life, especially T.V. Thus, it is no surprise that it is the same here. I mention it here, though, because faith (or lack thereof) colors a person’s perspective and that is particularly true for people who contemplate suicide.

Life with faith is still difficult but a life without faith is near impossible. God doesn’t promise a perfect, easy life, but He does promise us heaven. And He does promise us a life where He is with us every step of the way. When a person of faith faces difficulties, hopefully he or she can lean on God and get the help to work through those problems.

Therefore, when a person doesn’t have faith, they don’t have that layer of support. They don’t always know who to turn to for help because they feel alone. I know for myself, before I turned to the Lord, when things were hard, life became very, very dark. I turned in on myself and there were times when suicide was an attractive choice. (I do thank God I didn’t make that choice!)  For a person without faith, every little thing can get compounded in the mind and internalized by the person.

I get the sense, from people I’ve talked to, that this is similar to the girl in the show. Even when she went for help she felt misunderstood and there is  no faith baseline to guide the girl.

2. It is Very (Too) Graphic

It shows everything. Many adults that I talked to had to turn their heads during the rape scene and the suicide scene in particular because they were just too “in your face.” One woman I talked to said she wasn’t sure if she was going to watch the last episode or not because she didn’t want to watch the suicide scene.

3. It is one-dimensional.

A couple of moms that I talked to mentioned that, although the show covers important topics, it is superficial. It doesn’t go in depth, especially in regards to the girl who killed herself. One mom in particular said that there is no discussion about the girl’s mental state or any kind of mental illness that came into play in regards to her decision. Apparently, this is also an issue with several mental illness and suicide prevention groups.

My Recommendations

1. Watch the Program Yourself First

Only you can decide whether or not your child is mature enough to handle the nature of this show (or the book). If you do decide to let your teen watch the show, feel free to fast forward during the graphic scenes or skip specific episodes altogether.

2. Watch the Program WITH Your Teen

Even if you think your teen can handle the show without you, please watch it with her. They may have questions, or they may not be able to handle some of the situations as much as you may think.

3. Talk about each episode

Don’t just watch the show and leave it at that. Ask questions. Go deep. Even if your teen is hesitant, don’t shy away from discussing what is going on and why they are going on. Talk about the characters’ reactions to various events. Talk about the mindset of the individuals, especially the young girl who committed the suicide.

One other note: be prepared to let your teen react the way she/he reacts. Your teen may open up and share things that may surprise or shock you. Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit and allow him to work/speak through you to your teen. Who knows, maybe this series – and the discussions that flow from it – may wind up being a time of growth for you and your teen (and strengthen your relationship with each other)!

Have you watched the series? What do you think about it? Have you let your teen watch the show? Why or why not? Please share in the comments. I am truly interested in other’s opinion about this series. More importantly, I am very interesting in learning how this series may (or may not) help our young people sort out the complicated issue of suicide.

P.S. For the record, my son is 12 so I won’t be letting him watch the show. Of course, that probably doesn’t surprise you. If I’m not going to watch it myself, I am not going to let him watch it. {smile}

Saint Damien de Veuster

Also known as Saint Damien of Molokai, Saint Damien is a missionary priest who spent years caring for people with leprosy.

Image by William Brigham (1889) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain (Photo taken shortly before his death)

His Life

Saint Damien (Jozef de Veuster) was born in Belgium in January 1840 as the youngest of seven children. At the age of 13, he was taken out of school to help out on the family farms. His heart, however, was set on religious life and eventually he was able to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Although considered uneducated, he was ordained a priest in 1864 – two months after arriving at Hawaii. Saint Damien spent the rest of his life serving, caring, and ministering to the people in the leprosy colony of Hawaii. At that time, leprosy was still considered incurable and very contagious so people with leprosy were often ostracized and quarantined off by themselves.

After 11 years or so, Damien discovered that he, himself, had contracted leprosy. He died in April 1889 at the age of 49. He was beatified in 1995 by St. John Paul II and canonized by Pope Emmertis Benedict XVI in 2009. His feast day is today, May 10.

What We can Learn from Saint Damien

One of the things that is  most notable about Saint Damien is that he does not shy away from the marginalized. Whereas most people avoided the “lepers,” Saint Damien embraced them, loved them, and selflessly took care of them. Thus, his life becomes a challenge to us :

Do I (can I) embrace those who others push away or ignore? This can be something as simple as visiting the homebound or elderly. However, it can mean standing up for the unborn by joining a pro-life organization or other type of ministry. Still, it can also just mean being present to our family and taking the time to ministering for their needs!

Another thing about Saint Damien that stands out is his perseverance. Saint Damien suffered much in his life and had to deal with a lot of obstacles and difficulties. However, he never let those difficulties make him lose sight of God’s purpose for his life and he never gave up. He pushed through, trusted in God, and was able to do a lot of good for the people of Hawaii. In this too, Saint Damien’s example is a challenge to us:

Do I let myself get discouraged when I face difficulties or do I trust in God and work through them? It is not a matter of if we will have troubles and problems. It is a matter of when we will have troubles and problems. The important thing is how we respond to those problems. Unfortunately, I don’t always handle problems very graciously. If I am being honest, I don’t handle problems very graciously most of the time. Anyone else or is it just me?! Still, Saint Damien’s example encourages me. I am a work in progress and that’s okay. 🙂

So, let us pray to Saint Damien that he will intercede for us and help us have a great love for every person and to persevere in all of our struggles. Saint Damien, pray for us!

Other Resources

To learn more about Saint Damien, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

EWTN

Wikipedia

 

If You Could Change One Thing in Your Life Today…

What would it be? It can be anything: personal, relational, work/job. What would that ONE THING be?

If You Could Change One Thing

What is ONE THING you can do today – right this minute even – to make that change happen. Or to at least start the process?

**BONUS POINTS and some Accountability if you dare to share that one thing either publicly in the comments or privately through email/message!

You see, Big changes and outcomes in our lives can happen if we take small consistent action, one step at a time. Wishing, hoping, and grumbling only leaves us stuck in the same place but little action steps keep us in the right direction.

Therefore, for the next 30 days, ask yourself what action step can you take today to move forward. Then, after the 30 days are up, savor the progress you have made and look to see what you have accomplished!

So, again: What is the one thing you want to change in your life today? What little step – what concrete action – are you going to take to begin the process of changing that one thing?

 

He is Risen!

Happy Easter! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend! We went to the Easter Vigil for Mass and it was beautiful and spent Easter Sunday with my husband’s side of the family.

How was your Easter? I hope it was a wonderful day. BUT, don’t forget, Easter isn’t over. It is just beginning! In the Catholic Church, the Easter season is 50 days. Lent, the penitential season, is 40 days but Easter, the rejoicing season, is 10 days more. 🙂

Therefore, during this glorious time, let the joy of Christ’s resurrection penetrate your heart and soul. 🙂

Resurrection

Image by Didgeman (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

For God So Loved The World…

As we head into the Sacred Tridium tomorrow, I want to encourage you to take some time (even just a few minutes) to reflect on God’s love for you.

For God So Loved the World

It is a powerful thing to realize the deep love that God has for us – for you – and not just in your head but with your heart. GOD LOVES YOU with an infinite love. A love that surpasses all understanding. Jesus suffered horribly and died on the cross for YOU. He wanted so much for you to be with Him, in the Blessed Trinity, for all eternity, that He was willing to do anything to make that happen.

And guess what? It doesn’t stop at the Crucifixion. Jesus rose and has forever conquered death and hell! He did all this for YOU. He wants YOU to have an abundant life! He doesn’t promise that it will always be easy but He will always be with YOU.

May you and your family have a truly grace-filled and blessed Sacred Tridium and Easter!

Do You Need Some Encouragement & Accountability?

If so, I would love for you to join me in my new Catholic Women’s Encouragement and Accountability Facebook group.

Encouragment & Accountabiity FB Group

The purpose of the group is to offer a community of like-minded Catholic women to meet and support each other as we live out our daily lives as faith-filled women. It is intended to be a safe place for you to ask questions, post (confidential) prayer requests, and get accountability in various areas of our lives.

The group is new, and admittedly, there isn’t much there yet. However, I plan to do regular Facebook Lives, theme days, and offer resources and encouragement on a daily/regular basis.

Of course, I also encourage you to contribute! Ask questions, start topics, and engage with other members. My prayer is that this group become a thriving community of women helping women!

See ya there!

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Next Steps

Join the FREE Facebook Community.

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My Miracle Baby is 12!

Please indulge me a bit as I get a little emotional: Tomorrow is Andrew’s 12th birthday! My heart is full as I think about life with him all these years. I keep telling him to stop growing up but he just won’t listen. :/

Andrew Certificate

This is Andrew when he was 5 years old.

Did I ever tell you the story about his birth? I was looking through some old posts but didn’t see anything, which is strange because I could have sworn I’ve written about it here.

You see, the doctors said Andrew wasn’t going to make it so “technically” Andrew shouldn’t be alive. Sometime (probably within 24 hours) before his birth, Andrew swallowed meconium (“baby waste”). Then, after laboring for 24 hours, I gave in and decided to get an epidural (I wanted to go natural). When I got it, Andrew’s heart plummeted and I had to have an emergency c-section.

As soon as he was out, he was whisked away to be worked on. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t see him; all I saw as a big blob. He was on 100% oxygen and the doctors said it didn’t look good. BUT, God had a plan. Michael got everyone he could think to pray. His best friend from college, who was also the best man at our wedding, had the prayer request added to the prayers of the faithful during Mass at Franciscan University.

So, obviously, he made it! In fact, he was able to come home from the hospital with me! Also, there were no residual effects from his trauma at all. He is smart, sometimes a smart alec!, funny, caring, and growing into a lovely young pre-teen. 🙂 I look at him now and I am amazed at God’s goodness.

Andrew when he started 6th grade this year.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in God’s plan that we have another child and that sometimes makes me sad. I wish Andrew had a brother or sister to play with and grow up with; however, I am so grateful for Andrew. I can not image him not in my life – even on those days when I want to pull my hair out because he is having one of his tantrums! He is such a blessing and I can’t wait continue on his journey with him as he grows up to be a man. 🙂

My Life with Cerebral Palsy

Did you know that March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month? Me neither, and I’ve had cerebral palsy my whole life!

My Life with Cerebral Palsy

Having cerebral palsy isn’t something that I usually write/talk about and I’m not sure if I’ve even mentioned it on this blog (and I’ve been blogging here about 5+ years). However, because 2017 is my year of courage, I am kicking fear in the butt and sharing a little about it.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

The Oxford Dictionaries define cerebral palsy (CP) “as a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination (spastic paralysis) and/or other disabilities, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth.”

I remember being told years ago that my CP was caused to a lack of oxygen to the brain either before, during, or after birth. However, it is now believed that only a tiny fraction of people get CP from a lack of oxygen. Most people get CP from some type of abnormal brain development or brain damage while the brain is still developing, again, usually before, during or shortly after birth.

One thing about CP is that it is not degenerative. In other words, the condition does not get worse over time. Particular symptoms related to CP may get worse over time but the brain damage itself doesn’t get worse.

How Cerebral Palsy Affects People (Me)

Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.” (Cerebralpalsy.org)

The effects of Cerebral Palsy can range from the very mild to the very severe. A lot of people with CP have other conditions and/or complications related to having cerebral palsy. Some people with CP need total care and help in functioning and some do not need any help at all. In fact, cerebral palsy is as individual as the individual who has it.

Cerebralpalsy.org explains cerebral palsy perfectly. It is NOT contagious, curable, progressive, hereditary, or life-threatening. It IS chronic and permanent but it is also manageable.

As for me, I have a mild case of CP. At first glance, no one would ever know that I have cerebral palsy, until I start walking. I have a deeper arch in my spine than most people and my right leg is turned in at the hip all the way down to my foot. It is not as bad in my left leg. I walk “funny” and have balance issues. Sometimes my leg gives out and I fall. :/ Besides this, my muscles are weak, I don’t have the best coordination, and my muscles contract and spasm a lot, especially at night or if I sit or stand for any length of time. I also have other issues related to the cerebral palsy but I won’t bore you with the details!

The one thing I want to make clear is that people with cerebral palsy are not “retarded.” I hate that word on so many levels. It is true that cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by damage to the brain. BUT, that doesn’t mean a person with cerebral palsy can’t think for herself, or is “stupid.” Even people who have more severe cases of CP can be very smart.

The other thing I want to make clear is that people with cerebral palsy aren’t to be feared, avoided or ignored. Or mocked and made fun of. I can’t tell you all the names I was called growing up. We are people just like everyone else. We have feelings. We have our own feelings, gifts and challenges just like everyone else. And we deserve a chance – just like everyone else.

Living with Cerebral Palsy

I am not going to pretend that life with cerebral palsy was (or is) easy. From being sent from one doctor to another, the exercises and therapy, and everything that comes with it, life was a struggle. I was (and to some extent still am) almost always in pain, especially in my legs. I was almost constantly bullied school which made me terribly self-conscious and lonely. By the time I was in high school, my self-esteem was virtually non-existent. I have struggled with anxiety and depression.  Truly, the only place I really felt safe was at home (or Church, but that’s another story!).

Having said that, I am not going to pretend that life with cerebral palsy was (or is) that hard, either. I was blessed with a crazy, loud, and close family with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins! My parents gave their all to us, and to me. They are the ones who dragged me to all the doctors appointments. My mom had to deal with my screams and resistance to the eye patch and exercises I had to do. Best of all, they didn’t treat me any differently than my sister and brother. I got in trouble and they put up with my *very* stubborn streak (I prefer the term persistent)! They made a good life for my siblings and me. I AM normal and I WAS normal to them. It didn’t matter to them that I walked funny or had no balance or couldn’t see well or any other issue I had. I was me and that was enough. And, although I didn’t have a lot of friends, the ones I did have were GOOD friends, and I am still friends with them to this day.

And guess what? I am stronger and better for having cerebral palsy. I have the faith in God that I have now because of it. Cerebral Palsy has made me who I am today, and that’s a good thing!

Why I am Sharing All This

First of all, like I said at the beginning, March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. I want to bring awareness to CP, not just because I have it, but because it is important. Everyone wants to be “known” or “seen” for who they are and not what the stereotypes or what misguided perceptions say they should be. People with CP are no different. Well, I can’t speak for everyone who has cerebral palsy but I know what I believe to be true.

Secondly, I wrote this for YOU. I want to encourage you. If you are going through struggles, no matter what they are, you can and will get through it. If I can, you can. I have come out of my struggles a better and stronger person and you will too. There is no doubt about it. Trust in God and trust in yourself!

Never forget: YOU matter. YOU are necessary. YOU are a gift. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.

UPDATE A great resource: Cerebral Palsy Guidance. I was recently contacted by the editor of this site and as soon as I started reading it I knew I wanted to share it. It has tons of great information plus personal stories that are so inspiring! Definitely check out this website. 🙂

Another great resource is the Cerebral Palsy Group. In particular, it gives a good overview of the history of cerebral palsy and causes of cerebral palsy.

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P.S.

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The Impulsive Life of St. John of God

Today is the optional memorial of Saint John of God. I first heard of him through the Little Sisters of the Poor because the congregation has a big devotion to him. He had a great love of the poor and would do anything for them.

Image by Comunicacion.curia (2011) via Wikipedia, CC ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

What I didn’t know until recently was that he had a rebellious and wild streak to him. In fact, he was so impulsive that he was deemed insane and committed to mental institution for a while!

His Early Life

St. John was born in Spain and his propensity for living on the wild side manifested itself when St. John was eight. According to Catholic.org, St. John heard a priest give a talk when he was 8 years old so he ran away from home so he could live an adventurous life traveling with the priest.

After a few years, St. John became sick and was adopted by the family who cared for him. However, as John got older, the wild streak kicked in again and he ran off to fight with the Spanish army against the French. While a soilder, he lived a life of drinking, gambling and of sin.

Sometime after quitting the army, St. John turned his life to God. However, different accounts assert different stories as to when and how he converted. Some say it was while working as a shepherd, and others say he converted when he heard the preaching of St. John of Avila.

Living for God and the Poor

St. John’s impulsiveness did not disappear after his conversion. I think it actually grew worse! Apparently, after hearing a sermon from St. John of Avila, St. John went running through the streets crying, pulling his hair out, and ripping his clothes. Because of his strange behavior, he was forced into a mental institution for a time.

He also had such a love for God and for the poor that he would do anything for them. He would beg for food, clothes and other items to give to the poor. Catholic.org tells the story how St. John grabbed a bowl of food to give to some starving people he came across and almost got arrested, ran into a burning building (the very hospital he spent time in) to rescue the patients, and jumped into a flood to save a drowning man – which became the cause of his death. St. John of God died, while kneeling before the Crucifix, on March 8, 1550 due to complications related to a sickness he caught after saving the man.

What Can We Learn From St. John?

At first glance, the life of St. John of God seems nice but bears no relevance for our lives. Not true, that. First, we can learn what it means to love God. Like all the Saints, St. John committed his whole self to God and was willing to do anything for Him even if it meant ridicule, rejection or misunderstanding. How about us? Are we willing to do anything for God even if it means being misunderstood or accepted by others? Living a life for God today is a real challenge. Society is so backward in so many ways and if someone shows a commitment to God they are almost instantly labeled a fanatic or weirdo. Am I willing to be a weirdo for God?

Secondly, even though St. John was sometimes too impulsive he acted on what he believed were inspirations of the Holy Spirit. How many times have I heard the whisperings of the Holy Spirit to help someone in need or to offer encouragement or a kind word to someone going through a difficult time but failed to follow through? Too many times than I would want to admit, for sure. We can imitate St. John by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit and his promptings. And even more importantly, we can imitate him by acting on those promptings.

Resources

To learn more about St. John of God, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

Catholictradition.org

Catholicsaints.info

Next Steps

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