A Tale of Two Octobers

I usually try to keep it light here because I think it takes a special talent to write about serious and deeply personal things in a respectful, eloquent and helpful way.  I know I don’t have that talent.  I’ve been avoiding writing on the blog for a very long time because I couldn’t not acknowledge that I had a miscarriage in March. It’s so personal and delicate a topic to me, but it is also such a sadly common thing for women to experience.  I don’t think it’s right to feel like you have to keep such a heartbreaking thing to yourself out of an old fashioned sense of propriety, but at the same time, I hardly know how to talk about it because it’s left me rather raw. I also have so many friends and relatives who have dealt with pregnancy and infant loss and who, quite frankly, had much more traumatic experiences than I had. So I’ve kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, it’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day today, and that seemed as good a time as any to break my (blog) silence.  For three weeks in February and the beginning of March, I thought we’d be having another baby just about now.  I looked forward to October as new baby month, albeit briefly.  I’m also sad to say that I looked forward to October with apprehension. That baby was a surprise.  Not unwelcome, of course! But a surprise that I needed a bit of time to wrap my head around.  And then when I had finally wrapped my head around it and started to feel excited, I went in for the first ultrasound and found out that there was no baby, that our baby probably didn’t make it much past conception but my body just continued on thinking it was pregnant and not feeling too hot.  It felt like such a sick joke.

Now that it’s October, I still have complicated feelings about it all.  Part of what makes it complicated,though, is that this October has brought me reasons to be joyful. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt the first jabs and flutters of a new little one.  At the end of the month is my 20 week ultrasound, at which we will hopefully receive some tie-breaking news.  (Although, to be completely honest, I can never look forward to ultrasounds in a 100% positive way anymore.)

I do think about the what-ifs, but I can’t think about them too much because then it erases the reality of right now.  But at the same time, the reality of right now feels very fragile.  I’m having a hard time being joyful and hopeful about this baby.  I struggle with not letting the negativity overtake me. Ultimately, I know that I have so much to be grateful for. There’s no neat, positive way to wrap this up.  I’m still in the middle of it a bit, as you can see.  I guess, despite my questions, sadness and anxiety, there are a few things I know for sure.  My baby(ies) came from Love and they are loved and that makes this all worth it.

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Not coincidentally, we found out about our baby on Valentine’s Day. I’m so glad I thought to take a (upside-down) picture of the test.

 

 

 

Siblings

A friend of mine who is due with her second around the same time as I am asked me the other day if I was anxious about SK not being my baby anymore.  I had to really stop and think about it.  I am anxious about a whole-lotta stuff lately; hardly a day goes by now without me melting down into a big ugly wet mess of tears and hormones about something.  But anxious about Sara becoming a big sister?  About her not being my baby any more?

Photo on 2013-09-15 at 12.00Honestly? No.  I’m sentimental about it, of course.  I’m trying to soak in these last few weeks, knowing that once the baby comes she’s going to seem HUGE. But mostly I’m so excited for her to be a big sister and to introduce her to this nebulous presence in her life: baby brother.  She seems more accepting of the fact that he really is in my belly, I guess because the belly is getting out of control lately.  But really, she has no idea.  And I can’t wait!

Part of the reason why I’m not worried I think has to do with her personality.  Sara has an independent streak a mile wide and she gets more and more bossy every day.  SK’s got this big sister thing in the bag!  I suppose another reason why I’m not worried is because she is already two, so we’ve had a nice stretch together and she really isn’t a baby anymore.  But you know what?  I don’t think there’s some magic-perfect space between kids and frankly, I think we Catholic moms are too hard on ourselves about spaces between children.  My first 3 sisters are really close together in age and then I’m 3 1/2 years younger than Claire and 5 years older than Mary.  Jim is 4 years younger than Mary and Joanie is 4 1/2 years younger than Jim.  But we’re all really close (and have been/will be) in different ways and at different times.  The important thing is not how close or far apart we are in age, it’s that we have each other.

A little while back when I was visiting my family, I had a talk with my Grandma about her relationship with her brother.  She said that they had really grown closer in recent years since she had lost Grandpa in 2009. Now Uncle Bill is the one who has really known Grandma for most of her life. I had never thought of siblings that way before.  I had always viewed Dave as my life-partner, and he is, primarily.  But my siblings, too, are my companions on this journey.  Mary and I will always be able to joke about the PBS shows we watched as kids. Rose and Jane will always hearken back to their ridiculous fights as teenagers. Jim and Mary will be able to reminisce about the lego and playmobile creations they made. While we are all very different people, we’re all cut from the same cloth, raised by the same parents, and experienced much of the same things growing up. What an incredible gift God and our parents gave us in our siblings!

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I hope and pray that Sara Kate and her little brother are joined by more little siblings as time goes by.  But that’s all in the future and way out of my hands.  Right now, I’m anxiously (yes, anxiously!) awaiting this little boy’s delivery and praying for his health and safety.  But I’m also joyful and excited for Sara to meet her brother and for them to have each other.  VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Are you the 2 Percent?

You’ve probably heard the statistic: 98% of Catholic women do not follow the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. It’s a number that’s been thrown around a lot lately, between the controversy about the HHS mandate’s birth control coverage and the upcoming synod on the family and the issue of bishops allegedly “polling” Catholics about their practice of the Faith. As usual, we’re feeling pretty misrepresented around here. Really, only 2% of us practice NFP? In the various circles of my little Catholic bubble it sure feels more like that statistic should be the other way around sometimes!
So, are you the 2 percent, too? If you are part of that supposed minority who embraces the Church’s teachings with joy, albeit sometimes with difficulty, would you consider signing and passing on this open letter to the bishops that my husband wrote? There’s a link at the bottom to the petition form, although it’s really not a petition — it’s a show of support, and a way to make sure that our bishops know that some of us are grateful for what the Church has given us, and would love to see her message taught more effectively to more people. Spread the word!

Gender Reveal & Happy Birthday Mom!

Apparently, Kate and I are pregnancy twins because we both had our big ultrasounds yesterday, with similar but opposite results.  Her little guy is getting a little sister, and my little gal is getting a little brother!

Image drastically cropped to preserve my poor son's dignity.

Image drastically cropped to preserve my poor son’s dignity.

I wish I had a sweet little profile shot to share with you, but this is the only picture they sent me home with, can you believe it?  Usually I have a veritable CVS receipts worth of pictures after ultrasounds but for some reason they held out on me yesterday.  I guess they got wind that this is my second.  Here’s an exterior shot, just use your imagination: IMG_2170

It was a really long, crazy day yesterday and I ended up going to this ultrasound alone because Dave has been pretty sick, so I instructed the ultrasound tech not to tell me the news, but to seal it in an envelope to share with Dave when I got home.  We were both so surprised!  We didn’t really discuss gender before hand but I think we both assumed deep down that we had another girlie on the way.  I would note every difference in this pregnancy and think “Maybe this means boy…” and then talk myself out of it.  Really, it hasn’t been a drastically different pregnancy over all, except that I have an insane craving all the time for guacamole!

Sara, of course, is blissfully unaware of everything, but always reacts appropriately because she is a people pleaser like her mama.

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Little brother?!?

In other very happy news, it is my beautiful Mom’s birthday today!  We wouldn’t have a new McBoy to celebrate if not for my Mom and her openness to life.  Now that I know I’m having a boy, I’m sure some people (hopefully not too many!) will assume that we’re “done” because I have my boy and girl.  That makes me think of my mom who had 5 little girls underfoot before she had a boy.  I don’t know what kind of fun comments she got when we were little but I do remember at least one comment being made to her while we were grocery shopping and Jimmy was a baby.  Surely, she would “stop trying” now because she finally “got her boy”.  I’m glad she didn’t!

I'm reusing this picture from last year's Mimi Birthday post because I love it.

I’m reusing this picture from last year’s Mimi Birthday post because I love it.

Thank you for everything, Mom!  We love you!

The Story of ED, Part 2

At last! Back to my magnum opus.  Part one here. {And ED = Ellen & Dave, in case you were scratching your head.  Our friends Sara and Pat used to call us that, but that’s a story for another day}

I left off when we started dating in Steubenville where we met up for homecoming weekend. We had our “define the relationship” talk on Friday night after I got in (really Saturday morning) and we had all of Saturday to spend time together before Dave flew back to Minnesota at 6 am on Sunday.

{Again, it’s amazing to think of the sleep we very willingly didn’t get back then.  Makes me sick to my stomach!}

The point of me blathering on about this weekend is that I had to wait a whole day for Dave to seal the the deal with a kiss!  I know, I know… poor me.   But it was excruciating!  Finally on Saturday night, we were hanging out with friends off campus and we decided to go outside for some air (well, I decided and Dave followed).  Our friend’s apartment was this really dingy, crappy little place right on Sunset called “The Virginia Apartments”.  My fellow Stuebie alums are well aware of what a seedy strip Sunset Boulevard is; not very romantic at all.  And recall that during twilight and dawn, the air in Steubenville is heavy with pollution.  It’s alarming as a freshman but as an alum coming back it’s very nostalgic and comforting.  Not.

Crappy apartment building+sketch Sunset Boulevard+pollution stench=sweetest first kiss ever. Love always elevates the mundane and shabby. 🙂

Ok, just so I don’t lose you, here’s the bullet point version of our dating story:

-We started dating at Steubenville in October.

-He visited me after Christmas and we went to Time Square for New Years Eve.

-I visited him in Minnesota in February.

-He got into SUNY Albany’s PhD Physics program and moved to Albany in May.

-We got engaged in August.

Pretty fast, I know, but we just knew.  So cliche. We spent most of our time dating long distance and that forced us to just talk about important things.  Very rarely I would have periods of self-doubt. I have always cared way too much about what people think of me, and more accurately, what I think other people think of me.  Most of the good couples I knew (especially my older and wiser McSisters) had been together for several years before they got married, or at least, they knew each other and were friends for a long while.  Our relationship moved so fast!  But I had dated before and had experienced what didn’t work.  Dave and I never fought and we were on the same page about everything.  What were we waiting for?

Dave started planning our engagement in April, before he even moved to New York from Minnesota. First he started looking into rings. You have to understand, Dave is a researcher.  It’s how he got his masters and PhD in 5 years flat, you know? Anyway, he decided that in order to get a high quality ring, he would have to buy the diamond separately.  He found the perfect diamond and then he found a jeweler who would make a unique ring with it.  The ring was ready sometime in July, but he had to sit on it for a while.

In the meantime, he hatched an elaborate proposal plan. Dave put soooooo much effort into this proposal!  If I hadn’t already decided way back in September that I needed to marry this guy, the proposal clinched it! In the beginning of August, I went on a two week trip to the Outer Banks with my friend Angela and her family.  I knew Dave was going to talk to my parents while I was gone, so as much as I was enjoying the relaxing vacay, I was anxious to get back home.  Not as anxious as Dave was, though!

As we were driving back home, I got a call from Claire.  She needed me to babysit Jude the next morning at 9 am.  I said ok, of course.  I missed my wudgie baby nephew!  I showed up the next morning with wet shower hair and needing coffee.  No one was downstairs so I called out to Claire and her muffled voice called back “We’re up here!”  When I went up, this is what I found in Jude’s room:

jude

 

Claire was hiding in the closet video taping my reaction.  It finally dawned on me what was going on!  But I thought he probably was hiding somewhere else in the house and would pop out with a ring.  I opened the envelope and realized that it wasn’t going to be that simple!

Dave planned a scavenger hunt for me!  The first destination was St. Mary’s in Albany.  He printed out google maps and manipulated the program so that he could put specific, minute directions for me to a certain statue in the church. He even put quarters in the envelope for parking meters! And down on the bottom of the map where Google usually provides a disclaimer, Dave changed it to read:

These directions are for proposal purposes only.  You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather, poor planning by your future husband, or other events may cause conditions to differ from the map results, and you should plan your route accordingly.  You must obey all signs or notices regarding your route.

Shaky and excited, I went on my way.  When I got to St. Mary’s I sought out the specific statue of Mary, and at her feet was another envelop and red roses.  Inside was a sweet letter and more directions!  This time I had to cross the Hudson to Troy and go to St. Joseph’s church.  I hit a snag with this destination because the church was locked!  No problem though, my future husband left his note and bouquet of lilies on the steps of the church.  Of course, there was a another set of directions, this time to Immaculate Conception Cathedral, back in Albany.  The directions led me to a statue of the Sacred Heart, underneath a huge stained glass window of the Holy Family.  There was another note & directions and more flowers. Dave wrote in his note that the stained glass window was a gift of St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s to the Cathedral.  Fitting, huh?  I looked at the directions.  It said simply, look behind you.

There he was, all dressed up in a suit and tie. :)Well, you know the rest.  We went back to Claire’s house where she snapped some pictures.

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Woops, I forgot, he changed before we went to Claire’s.

ring

We got married on the following July 4th.  Man, it was a long 11 months!  wedding photobooth

One little bit more… So, we ended up going to the Outer Banks for our honeymoon.  The year before when I was there with my friend, we camped on Hatteras Island but one day we took a trip down to it’s neighbor, Ocracoke.  I was immediately enchanted by it.  The island is only accessible by ferry, and it’s home to a herd of wild horses! The town is so sweet and quiet.  There are no big retail or restaurant chains, no huge beachfront mansions.  We passed this beautiful B&B that was right on the harbor called the Castle.  I knew when I looked at it that I had to go back and I had to bring Dave!  So that’s where we went for our honeymoon, and we stayed at the Castle.  And in two weeks, we’re going back to Ocracoke as a family!

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Well, that’s it folks.  Thanks for hanging in there. 🙂 And thank you to Grace for hosting the link-up.  I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s stories and marveling at God’s Providence.  Simon’s parents are Grace’s Godparents?!? Kate almost switched colleges?!? Tim was Lisa’s friend’s brother and he was a monk?!?  Wow, it really reminds me of God’s goodness and how His plans are always better than our plans!

The Story of ED, Part 1

I kinda started this story a while ago when I wrote about how my relationship with Dave was divinely inspired.  Ahem. Anyway, I’ve been loving everybody’s love stories in Grace’s Love Story Linkup and it’s making me nostalgic about how Dave and I got together.  And! The 6th anniversary of the night that we met is coming up on Saturday so…. what the heck?!

Dave and I met at a wedding of mutual friends.  I mentioned in my other post about how he and I had the same friends in college but we never knew each other.  I was really good friends with his cousin Therese who talked about him and hung out with him all the time! It’s so weird, we never knew each other.

Leading up to the wedding, I was newly single and pretty depressed about that situation.  I was also very bitter about men.  That year, Carrie Underwood’s song Before He Cheats came out and it became my man-hating anthem.  Now, I don’t like country music, and no man had ever cheated on me, so it was nonsensical of me to latch on to that song.  But latch on I did! Anyway, I flip-flopped between being angry at all men, and being sad and weepy about being single.  In my sad and weepy moments, I thought of Kyle and Sarah’s wedding coming up and tried to figure out what single guys would be there.  One of the first guys that I figured would be there was Dave Johnson.  “He’s nice” I thought. “And he’s really tall.”  This was a must.  So that settled it.  I was going to go to the wedding, have a good time, and check out Dave Johnson.  My girlfriend Pam flew in for the wedding and we drove there together.  I told her my plan and she approved like a good girlfriend.

Oh our way to the reception.  Lip gloss: check.

Oh our way to the reception. Lip gloss: check.

It took a little while into the reception for me to really set the plan in motion.  If I remember correctly, Pam (who is more gutsy than I am, especially with guys) started dancing with Dave and I was dancing with another guy who I already knew, and Pam did that old movie dance partner switcheroo thing.  And bam! There he was! So that’s how we met.  Dave knew the guy I had been dating but Dave had graduated the previous year so he didn’t know the status of that relationship.  This is why his first words to me were, “So…. How’s ____?” I kind of grimaced and shook my head and he said “Sorry. Didn’t mean to be that guy.”

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The night we met

But he wasn’t sorry.

And that was it!  We hit it off and hung out the rest of the night.  It was so exciting! We didn’t end up exchanging information at the end of the night, but I waited anxiously for him to friend me on facebook over the next few days.  That is, until Pam said “Hey, isn’t he your friend on facebook already?”  Duh! After that I think I might have made the first move on facebook, but it didn’t take much.  We started with just wall posts, then we went to messaging and then to e-mail.  Our correspondence was the highlight of that summer for me.  I can still feel the intensity of the butterflies in my stomach when I would check facebook and see he had written.  I was increasingly smitten with him as we corresponded because I saw that a. he could write well (growing up in this McFamily, sloppy spelling and poor grammar is highly deplorable) b. he was really smart in a way that I couldn’t understand (science! math! eek!) and c. he was really really funny. In the meantime, I was setting up my classroom and nervously trying to prepare for my first year of teaching.  Dave’s messages and e-mails grounded me and helped me to face it all with extra spring in my step.  At the end of the summer, right before Labor Day, I finally squeezed an admission of affection out of Dave.  And then he promptly went on a long weekend excursion with friends and said we should talk on the phone when he gets back.  It was the longest weekend ever!!

When he got back, he put off calling me for a day or two because he came down with a really bad cold.  It was torture!  But when we finally talked, it was after my first day of teaching.  It was wonderful.  We talked effortlessly for about an hour.  I told him about my nightmarish class and he told me about his weekend and more about his life as a grad student.  Finally, when the conversation hit a lull, Dave addressed the elephant in the room.  We were both interested in each other, but we were looooong distance.  He was in Duluth Minnesota and I was in Albany New York. Dave was reluctant to start a relationship over the phone so he proposed another meet up.  Homecoming weekend at our alma mater, good ole’ Steubenville, was coming up on the first weekend of October.  Many of our mutual friends would be back there for the weekend so we decided to meet up then.

September seemed to last forever!  But it was great.  My first class and my first year of teaching were awful.  Truly, it was terrible, and that first month was the pitts.  But we talked every night and on the weekends, we talked for hours at a time.  Our phone calls and the anticipation of the upcoming trip to Steubenville kept me alive that first month.  Then finally, it was time.  I scored an amazingly cheap flight out to Pittsburgh and Dave borrowed a friend’s car to pick me up when I landed at midnight.  [Ha! Back in the day when I could keep my eyes open past 9:30!] We went back to campus and there were lots of friends there to say hi to, so after a couple hours of that, Dave and I decided to take a walk.  We walked all around campus, and checked out the new Louis and Elizabeth dorm with the fancy-pants fountain out front.  Then we sat on a bench and talked.  It went something like this.

D: So, you wanna…?

E: Yeah.

Picture surreptitiously taken that weekend by SK's godfather.

Picture surreptitiously taken that weekend by SK’s godfather.

Ack. Imma gonna two part this beast.

 

Celebrations, Cravings, Carsick {7QT & Womb Service}

It’s Friiiiiiiday, Friiiiiiday.

1. I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July yesterday.  We enjoyed our double celebration of the Fourth and our anniversary.  We all went out for a nice lunch together and then later we went to our friend’s house for a delicious BBQ. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You know, when we set July 4th as the date for our wedding, we weren’t absolutely thrilled with it because it seemed kind of kitschy, but in retrospect it was a really good decision.  Dave always has the day off from work and there’s always fun to be had.  Hence it’s always a really special day.

2. We were relieved to make it to our friend’s house (which is about 40 minutes away) yesterday in one piece because we’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties with car travel lately.  It all started last week when we decided SK was ready for a big girl forward facing car seat.  She seemed pretty excited about this transition too!  That is, until we took our first 10 minute car trip to Costo.  We barely made it to the parking lot before she ‘sploded her snack all over the beautiful new Graco Nautilus.  I was in a panic. Was she sick? We had a date that night!  Was this carsickness?  Couldn’t be! We were in the car for 10 minutes!  Well, we very cautiously took very short trips all weekend and watched her like a hawk.  She never got fully sick again, but most car trips, even the quickest ones, made her very upset and she would cough-gag by the time we got to our destination.  Since we stupidly got a seat that only faces forward, we decided we would get another car seat that had a rear-facing option in hopes that it would help her nausea.  So far so good! But I’m feeling mostly cautious, not so much optimistic though.  Especially since we have lots of car trips planned for this summer.

3. Well, it’s a terrible segue, but I figured since I was writing about nausea, I could join up with Katrina’s Womb Service link-up and reminisce about what foods kept my nausea at bay when I was in the “family way”.  In some ways, I was totally that pregnant woman.  I loved pickles!  I always love pickles, especially a good bread and butter pickle, but when I was pregnant, it was only dill pickles for me.  Dill pickles with slices of sharp cheddar.  Dave loved a smooch after I had that snack! Towards the end, I had a terrible horrible no good very bad eating habit.  I had some frosting left over from making St. Patrick Day cookies and I would eat the frosting with ritz crackers!  It was awful!  And I wonder why SK was 9 1/2 pounds!  That’s all I can remember specifically.  I wish I was one of those ladies who craved fruit.  I never crave fruit, pregnant or not.  And I wonder why I’m ____ pounds!

Pregnant women don't get free beer at the Sam Adams brewery :(

Pregnant women don’t get free beer at the Sam Adams brewery 🙁

Oh, and speaking of beer, I think Rose has her current cravings to share for Katrina’s link-up too!

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Teehee. Don’t kill me, Rose.

4. Our garden is doing so well!  IMG_1521 IMG_1522We’ve had snap peas for the past 3 weeks or so, so of course I made this dinner with them.  So delicious!

5. I wish I had progress to report about our chair reupholstery project.  It’s kind of in limbo right now.  Dave still needs to finish stripping and re-staining the wood and I need to start cutting pieces, making new cording and sewing the cushion cover.  It’s just not on the top of our priorities and wants now that summer is here.  The last thing I want to do in the summer is spend hours inside sewing! It’s shameful though, I know.  I’m going to make weekly chair goals for myself so that we have a little progress soon, I promise!

6. You’re not going to believe this but we are far from being done celebrating birthdays and anniversaries this month!  Next up is Miss Ruthie’s birthday on July 7th, then Jack’s on July 8th. Our Grandma’s birthday is July 14th, Jane and Brandon’s 13th wedding anniversary is the 15th and Lucy’s birthday is the 16th!

7. And on top of all that, Coming up next weekend is the long-anticipated McFamily reunion.  My Mom and Grandma have been working non-stop on planning this shin-dig for at least a year and it’s finally almost here!  Along with descendants of our beloved late Grandpa McMahon, there will also be descendants of his siblings in attendance, making for a very merry McFamily get-together.  And get this.  We get tee shirts!  Jane and her brood are coming so almost all of the McSisters will be together; we’ll be missing our Sister-sister Mary though.  Maybe someone got around to making a Sr. Theresa cardboard cutout?

That’s all she wrote.  And it’s quite enough! Linking with the beautiful Katrina and Jen today because that’s a-what-I-do 😉

Ode to the McHusbands {wiwsunday best}

I already wrote (by McFamily standards) a sappy post in honor of our Dad the other day, but I couldn’t let today go by without honoring the other fathers in our family.  I can’t really wax poetic about each of my brothers-in-law (because that’s weird), but I certainly can share sweet pictures of them with their kiddos.

So! Happy Father’s Day, Brandon,

brandon

Paul,

paul

DJ,

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and Dave. 🙂

Photo by my good friend, Melissa.

Photo by my good friend, Melissa.

We love you!

Over here in the Commonwealth, we’ve been celebrating Father’s Day weekend with all of Dave’s favorite things: picnic at Houghton Pond Park, after dinner walks, beer, sausage, donuts with breakfast, open house crashing after Mass and (currently) marathon Star Trek Voyager watching.  I’m being very generous with that last one.

But, I owe him.  See, Dave hates when I do What I Wore Sunday posts, which is why I don’t do them often.  Today when I asked him to snap a picture he said it shouldn’t be called “What I Wore Sunday”, it should be “How I tortured my husband Sunday.” I guess someone needs a tripod. 😉 Happily, though, some sort of Father’s Day miracle occurred and it only took 4 pictures to land a winner.  Whew!

Dress: Target Cardigan: Target Necklace: Amazon Shoes: Payless

Dress: Target
Cardigan: Target
Necklace: Amazon
Shoes: Payless

And yes, this is my interpretation of that awesome outfit from my 5 Favs post a few weeks ago.  What do you think?

Happy Father’s Day, all ye fine gentle men.

Linking up with the hostesses with the mostesses:

 Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday

& Camp Patton for Sunday Best

Speaking of Sisters…

SK and I are staying here with Mimi this week while Dave travels and we’re greatly enjoying everyone’s hospitality and the fun there is to be had with McCousins!  By chance, Sister Theresa Joseph, our younger McSister, called Mom the other day and I was able to talk to her for approximately two seconds to say hi and bye and MISS YOU!  It’s on my to-do list to solicit her to write a little something for this blog, maybe about the Little Sisters’ charism of hospitality.  In the meantime, here is an article, written by a Little Sister, that does describe the importance of their ministry to the elderly and their mission of love and hospitality.  Please check it out and pass it on!

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Match Made in Heaven (or Steubenville)

Have you ever had one of those moments when, in retrospect, the hand of God was so obviously present in your life?  Today is the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe and it’s also the anniversary of one of those moments in my life.  If you have patience and a stomach for the silly and saccharine, feel free to read on. 🙂

First, let me set the scene.  It’s early December at Franciscan University of Steubenville, towards the end of finals.  Oh finals… that time of high drama and magic.  That time of senseless procrastination followed by frantic bursts of intense studying and productivity.  That time when the dorms were deathly quiet inside and outside, but you could still find random pockets of shenanigans as students tried to let off steam. Inevitably, you or someone you know is getting together or breaking up with a boyfriend or having that super exciting or super sickening RDT (relationship defining talk).  Or if you were me, you were having a silly college girl existential crisis.  See, in December of 2005, I was a junior and single and when you go to Franciscan, if you reach junior year without a boyfriend, you might as well start getting cats and letting yourself go because you’re basically an old maid.  (See what I mean?  Silly.)

Well, it was more than that, I guess.  I had been feeling very anxious and restless and I had actually started a novena to St. Therese just to pray for peace.  I have a hard time with novenas because I don’t feel comfortable asking saints for specific things and for special signs.  I knew that St. Therese often sent roses in answer to prayers sent her way but it had never happened to me and I didn’t expect it to.  Besides, I felt that my petition was a lousy one.  I just prayed for peace in my heart (very much a Steubie phrase) about all the things that were bothering me.  I think it was a combination of boys, finals, jobs, real life looming after senior year.  All that fun stuff.

On the morning of December 12th, I think I had one final left so I was at the library with my wonderful roommate at the time, Monica.  Towards lunch time, she asked me if I wanted to go to noon Mass with her and I said sure.  It’s wasn’t just a mindless sure, though. I remember thinking that was exactly what I needed at the moment; Mass!

{Before I go on, let me explain that throughout the next 2 hours while all this stuff was happening, I was kind of walking in a haze and being led very strongly through it all.  It was like I was being steered through these events and I had no control over what I thought or felt or even did.  It was weird at the time and looking back on it, I still feel weird.  I’ve never had this happen to me since.}

So off we went. When we got there and knelt down to pray before Mass, a very powerful feeling overcame me.  I got a very strong sense that I needed to really pay attention at Mass that day and offer it up for my future family.  This seems like a really stereotypical desperate Franciscan girl thing to do, doesn’t it?  Sure I was guilty of letting my eyes and mind wander during Mass and looking at different guys and wondering “Is he the one, Lord?” (Shoot me, that’s really embarrassing to admit) But no, this feeling was different.  It wasn’t flighty or silly, it was a really serious sense that it was important for me to pray for my future spouse and future children. So I did!  When Mass began, the priest mentioned that it was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I love the Blessed Mother, and Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the unborn so, it was perfect! I really prayed and focused on the Mass and afterwards I felt so refreshed and blessed.  Just going to Mass and having that experience was enough to shake me out of my funk and help me relax about my future.  But that wasn’t the end of the story…

When I got back to my room after lunch, there were two red roses outside of my door with two Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer cards and a simple print out of Our Lady’s words to Juan Diego:

“Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”

I was stunned!  Here was a rose, an actual real rose, with the answer to my novena petition, in the Blessed Mother’s own words! I had never before had such a blatant, can’t-deny-it encounter with the divine!  It was such a gift and I knew I’d never forget that day.

Later in the day, my household sister and good friend, Therese, asked me whether I’d received a rose and told me it was her cousin’s household that had put the roses outside of every girl’s dorm room as a service project.  She laughed as she recalled how she borrowed his car the day before and it was filled with roses and she couldn’t see out the back of the car!  “Isn’t that nice?” I thought.  “They are sweet guys…”  and I left it at that.

Story.  Isn’t. Over.

I actually started dating someone the next semester and I really thought he was part of the answer to my prayer.  I had to have that amazing spiritual experience before my heart was ready to actually meet my husband.  It was kinda true… BUT, we dated for a year and then broke up in our last semester of college.  If there’s anything worse that being single in your junior year at Franciscan, it’s breaking up with your boyfriend right before graduation.  Big bummer. Cue another Ellen existential crisis.  But, the good Lord knows I don’t handle these things well, and that summer I finally met Dave and the rest is history. 🙂 I kinda knew Dave in college, but not really.  You see, he was my friend Therese’s cousin.  That’s how I knew him.

!!!!!!!!

It was a couple of months before we happened to put all the dots together.  Dave was reminiscing about being his household coordinator and he mentioned a service project that they had done back in the day. His household had a big surplus in their budget so they wanted to do something nice with their money.  Dave had the idea of getting roses for all the girls on campus on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  He figured it was finals and everyone was stressed and it was a nice way to honor and lift up all the women on campus.  But it was supposed to be anonymous.

“What!!??!! Wait!! That was you??  That was your idea???”

This picture illustrates two things: 1. Dave has been and will always be the biggest doofus and not afraid to ruin a picture. You should see his license picture. Ooof.  2. Dave and Our Lady have always been tight.  He affectionately refers to her as Guadie.

So there you have it!  The story of how my husband gave me a rose and the answer to my novena, 2 years before I met him, right after going to Mass and praying for him and our future children.

It’s a nice story, don’t you think?