Monday, February 15, 2021

Much Ado About Lent

Here we are mid February and on the cusp of entering into the Lenten Season. Lent brings about a lot of different feelings for people...and, depending on the year it stirs up different emotions for me too. This year, as reminders of Lent's impending arrival showed up in my inbox from different sources starting in mid January, I found myself feeling anxious. (and deleting many of the emails without even reading them.)  I wasn't ready to face another season of penance. 

In a lot of ways, it feels like Lent 2020 never really ended.  There are still lots of restrictions.  Places that are open have capacity limits, mask rules, and table limits. There is still a lot of fear. You can't travel freely between states and you need a covid test for everything. Peter has a somewhat hybrid schedule with one day of home learning...which for kids with significant special needs is kind of a joke. He does not work independently no matter how much his wonderful teachers work on it during school days. And thanks to two Mondays in a row with snow, he had even shorter weeks with an extra "home learning" day. Lucky me!(insert eye roll here...or maybe two!)

Luke and Kate go to a local Catholic School that has been in person since the beginning of the year. There are some families that have chosen to do home learning, which they accommodate, but the majority of kids have been in school. For the last two weeks, Kate and Luke have been home learning because of an uptick in covid numbers at their school. It was an unpleasant reminder of how hard the end of last year's school was. I'm grateful that we've made it this far into the school year without any major problems, but as many parents are experiencing, home learning has its challenges. 

A year ago at this time, our little space in the world was still "normal". Coronavirus was something that was far away and I don't think anyone could have imagined how it would change our lives...and continue to affect us so greatly almost an entire year later! I think fear and burnout have been the two biggest stressors for me over the past year...and I still haven't recovered from either. This has been such a hard 11 months...and I don't feel any motivation to give things up and enter into a time of penance after all the turmoil we continue to live through on so many different levels.

Even during Advent, I felt more connection to standing with Mary at the foot of the cross on Calvary than sitting in a stable with a newborn Savior. 

Yet, Lent is starting on Wednesday and I'm trying to be open to the areas God wants me to work on. It's a challenge because I'm already feeling stretched thin...especially after the last two weeks of home learning and now having the kids home for vacation week. The bitter cold and snow we've been having doesn't help, either! I feel trapped inside and, with all the restrictions in place, there's not much to outside the house anyway. I daydream about escaping on a plane to Florida...where the weather is warmer and the restrictions are lighter...but with twin grandbabies arriving sometime in the next 5 weeks, travel seems selfish right now. (But, I have to admit, that I might have looked at available Southwest flights a few times!)

I know that while some of my desires to escape are for good reasons, not all of my motives are healthy. While I'm sure a week in Florida would feel amazing in some ways, it's not going to fill what's really missing inside of my heart. Only God can do that....and getting away would just be me trying to fill myself. Unfortunately, I know from past experience that it won't work. It's just a distraction and keeps me from focusing on the issue(s?) God wants me to address. In the short term, distractions can seem a whole lot more attractive.

I'm in the midst of a traumatic season. In my heart, I know I need to simplify.What does that  mean to me? It means working on the basics: sleeping, eating, exercising, and praying....not necessarily in that order. I plan on using Lent to focus on these four area.

1. Sleep

I have been sleep deprived for years. The majority of my kids have been lousy sleepers. Luke still wakes up a couple times a week because of nightmares.(he's 11) I've been struggling with my own nightmares and vivid dreams for a while, too. I know I need to stick to a better schedule so that I have time to wind down at night and give myself an opportunity to get the amount of rest I need. For me, that means no more mindless scrolling after 9:15. Jay and I usually relax together on the couch once we get Kate and Luke in bed around 8:30. We tend to watch Hallmark, The Food Network, or a football/Celtics/Red Sox game depending on the season. At 10, we put the dog out one more time, lock up, put Peter to bed, and head to bed ourselves. I like to read until 10:30ish and recently made a personal rule not to start a new chapter after 10:30! I recently found a couple of new to me authors I'm enjoying, Rachel Hauck and Katherine Reay.(good reads, nothing too traumatic, and clean!...if you have any author recommendations please leave them in the comments:) 

I also give myself some time to rest most afternoons. I try to give myself 30-60 minutes to read something enjoyable and take a 15 minute power nap if I need it. 

2. Eating

Does anyone not have issues with food? Between too many months of "comfort eating" combined with being in my mid 40's has left me in a place of not being comfortable in my own skin. I have also found that some food...particularly packaged snack foods....tend to give me headaches. For Lent, I usually give up snacking but this year I want to also focus on eating more whole foods. It's never easy to focus on healthy choices, but my body needs it. 

3. Exercising

This part isn't as hard for me. My parents gave us a recumbent bike they never used much last year and I have used it consistently since then...especially in the winter weather when I can't walk outside. My goal is 5 days a week. I also want to add in daily stretching exercises and some simple ab exercises a couple times a week. I don't love to exercise...quite the opposite really! I do love listening to podcasts, so when I use the bike I distract myself with my favorite speakers. I'll share my favorites in #4.

4. Prayer 

What's one problem area that has come up multiple times in the last month or two that highlighted a weakness or brokenness in your life? Try making a sacrifice or adding something in based on that. 

Have more than one? Me, too! If I had to pick the most prominent issue, mine would be hopelessness. It's been a tough year. So, I need to work on trust. I'm thinking about rereading The Life of Faustina Kowalska....because trust and Divine Mercy go hand in hand...and adding in a Divine Mercy Chaplet at the 3pm hour each day. 

I want to go to daily Mass as much as I can...which is dependent upon the kids being able to attend school. Having some time before or after each Mass to read scripture, a spiritual book(like St. Faustina or my current read, Falling Home by Hallie Lord), and spending a little time journaling is a goal as well. On the days I can't do the reading in Church, I will set aside time to do at home.  

Part of my plan for Lent is to not plan everything. Sometimes what I think I'm supposed to work on is very different from what God has planned. When I allow God to lead, He presents me with opportunities to grow that I didn't plan on. This way, I don't look at things, (like home learning), that I wasn't planning on as distractions to "my" Lenten plans, but as opportunities. I want to resolve to offer up the unplanned struggles, frustrations or suffering for whoever God puts on my heart at those moments. Let's face it, there are plenty of people in our lives that could use extra prayers and grace right now!

Need some ideas for good Podcasts? Here are some of my current favorites:

The Bible in a Year...I'm learning a lot from this one with Fr. Mike Schmitz. It started January 1st, but you can start any time. Definitely a good one for Lent.

UMD Newman Catholic also Fr. Mike...he shares his Sunday homily every week. Always lots to ponder.

Abiding Together...my favorite podcast I listen to every week. It's almost always my Monday morning workout go to!

Poco A Poco...a newly found favorite. I love the banter of the CFR brothers who host this podcast. There's a lot of good conversation and camaraderie between them and in every episode, there are 15 min where one of them shares something incredible deep and meaningful that I find myself rewinding to listen to and write down.

Blessed is She, Girlfriends, Called and Caffeinated, A Seeking Heart, and Not Lukewarm are also podcasts I enjoy listening to. 

Have any favorite podcasts to share? What are your plans for Lent? 

I would love to hear...please share in the comments.

P.S. Can I make a plug for community?!? Many of us are feeling isolated and we can't be a part of the regular in person groups we have been missing for a long time now. Find a friend or two (or three) and meet regularly in whatever way everyone is comfortable with. Share your Lenten journey together...because, in this crazy time, we all need connection more than ever. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

We Plan, God Laughs(a.k.a. 2020)

 I haven't linked up with Kelly or done Seven Quick Takes in a while. It's a good way to catch up with some of our bigger news. Although I should probably call it "Not So Quick" Quicktakes!


1. We Plan, God Laughs

That could have been the theme of 2020! Like many people, we had a family wedding that got postponed, rescheduled, and then rearranged to follow the state guidelines of what we could and couldn't do! At the end of June, my son, Jon, married our lovely daughter-in-law Marisa in a beautiful ceremony that didn't happen when it was originally planned, with a fun reception that wasn't held where it was supposed to be originally held, but was perfect just the same. (You can get all the details of their wedding and Covid backup plan  backyard reception here.)

We joked with them that the theme of their marriage was going to be "unexpected" after all the craziness of planning and replanning all of the events surrounding the wedding!

That theme continued quickly when, only a month after being married, they found out Marisa was pregnant!  #honeymoonbaby! They told us the day the pregnancy was confirmed at the Dr's office and they were both pretty shell shocked. After all the ups and downs during the spring with all the wedding issues, finally getting married and just getting started with married life, they had been through a lot of changes! Now they were faced with another happy...but very big life change....to adjust to!

Marisa and Jon told our older crew about the pregnancy a week later but wanted to hold off telling Kate and Luke until Marisa had her first OB appointment a couple weeks later. Their siblings were VERY excited for them. Marisa and Jon were just starting to adjust to the shock and get excited at the idea of being parents when God threw another level of "unexpected" in for fun.....


2. (Hint: Because the Number 2 is Appropriate)

TWINS!!!

(and the shock came back full force!)

TWO sacs, TWO heartbeats, and TWO very surprised (and overwhelmed) parents! 



3. Expect the Unexpected

Once the second shock wave wore off, there was a lot of excitement. Since they have had enough surprises  for one year, Jon and Marisa wanted to find out the baby’s genders. Thankfully, the babies cooperated! We did a tiny reveal party with just the immediate family that Marisa's parents hosted with some pizza and homemade cakes made by Jon and Marisa. 

Marisa’s parents cut the cake for Baby A and Jay and I cut the cake for Baby B. 

And........ Jon and Marisa are having.......





TWO BOYS!!

4. The Name Game

Jon and Marisa had a short list of baby names they both liked. It didn’t take them long to choose!(they are both planners:) 

Baby A’s name is Ambrose Thomas. Thomas is Marisa’s Dad’s name. :) Ambrose is proving to be the calmer of the twins in utero. He is much more of a chill baby. In the 3D ultrasound, they got a really good pic of Ambrose. Marisa thinks he looks like Jon.


Baby Ambrose<3
Sweet little Ambrose<3


Baby B’s name is Leo Jason. After Jay:) Leo is much more active than his brother and is already causing mischief. Leo is always getting under Marisa’s ribs and making her uncomfortable. Leo did not stay still enough to get a good pic during the 3D ultrasound. It looks like a Picasso! You could see Leo’s mouth pretty clearly and it looks just like Marisa’s mouth. So I think that Ambrose is going to look like Jon but act like Marisa and Leo will look like Marisa and act like Jon.(who has always been the tease and mischief maker of the family!)


Wiggly Leo!



In this week's regular ultrasound pic, they finally got a profile of Leo(Baby B on the right) 
Ambrose has his little arm in front of his face.

After several months of tough morning sickness, Marisa feels good but uncomfortable. The babies weigh about 3 1/2 lbs each and are growing well. The goal date is March 25th. We are praying they stay in long enough to avoid any NICU stays. We are getting very excited to meet these two little blessings!

5. And Speaking of Blessings...

What’s better than two grandbabies?? 

Well...three grandbabies of course!

In early November, Andrew and Liz surprised Jay and I and Liz’s parents with a very happy pregnancy announcement! Andrew and Liz invited the four of us for dinner...which they have done before so we weren’t suspecting anything. They made an Asian inspired chicken dish and served fortune cookies for dessert. These were special fortune cookies they had ordered to announce their news! 


 

Photo credit to Liz's sister, Victoria

Andrew and Liz’s bundle of joy is due on July 6th. 


Baby Hamel at 8 weeks<3


In another week or so Liz will have her 18 week ultrasound. I can’t wait to get a clearer peek of this precious blessing! Liz wants to be surprised when the baby is born, so we will be guessing for a while whether we will get a granddaughter or another little grandson. I can guarantee that I will be found in local stores buying clothes in the appropriate colors the day after their baby is born...or the hour after depending on the time this little one arrives!


6. Picking a Name...For Us

It’s a little surreal that we are grandparents! Kate’s only 9 so it wasn’t that long ago that I was pregnant myself and nursing little ones. It’s a big shift...a happy one but still a little hard to get used to. We’ve gone back and forth about what we want the babies to call us. I’ve thought about it occasionally over the last few years when grandbabies were just in my imagination. I had been leaning towards Mimi. Marisa’s sister had a sweet little girl last year and Marisa’s mom, Cathy, chose to be Mimi. (whomp whomp) And both our husbands are boring and just want to be called ‘Grandpa’ so it will be too confusing for the twins to have two sets of grandparents with the same names!

So I think I want to be called Grammie? or Grammy? Idk if the "ie" just makes it seem that I'm trying too hard to stay young!?!  Thoughts? Suggestions?

(P.S. Jon says that Cathy and I are being “extra”. Lol)


7. One More Addition to the Family

I bet you thought I was going to say I’m having a baby too! Nope! I’m too old and tired for that!;)

But our family is growing again...Sarah is engaged! Her fiance, Mike, is serving as a Marine in Japan. (You can find out about how Sarah met him here.) He was finally able to come home on leave after being gone for over two years in October. (thanks Covid) Mike and Sarah spent the almost month he was home together every day. Towards the end of his visit, he proposed.

Photo credit to Ellie...Mike brought her along as official photographer:)








Mike won't be done with his time in the military until August, 2022. They are planning on getting married sometime in September, 2022. (I needed a few months off from wedding planning after this summer, but Sarah and I have started having conversations about what she would like her wedding and reception to look like and we will probably start researching options next week.)

Of course, like I said at the beginning, we plan and God laughs. So we will do our part and just see how it goes. Thankfully, I have lots of experience planning, unplanning, and replanning large events now!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Remember To Look Up

Back in the Fall, Jay and I went through a difficult week with one of our kids. There were big life decisions being considered and details that deeply concerned us. There were lots of discussions happening that seemed to be having the opposite effect of what we were trying to accomplish; open and honest dialogue just seemed to end with more hurt and confusion. It was a struggle that was compounded by the emotional burnout we were already experiencing after the trials and crosses from the spring and summer months. 

We didn’t have much to give and another emotional battle was threatening to drown us as a family. I wasn’t sure we had any fight left after everything we had gone through and, to be honest, there were moments that I just wanted to give up and stop trying to find a way to fix it.

Is there any situation(s) in your life that have you nodding your head right now?  Keep reading...maybe the advice that helped us will encourage you.<3 

Jay and I did a lot of talking and praying over the course of a few days. We knew we needed help to work through it all and we sought that help. We spoke to a therapist and each of us spoke to the Deacon at our parish, who we are immensely blessed to have. As hard as it was to work through all the emotions of what I was feeling, my constant prayer was, “Please, God, don’t let me make the situation worse.” 

I approached Deacon Dave after daily Mass during this tumultuous week. I had a lot of grief and a lot of anger that I needed help to work through. Deacon did a lot of listening in the hour + I spent with him that morning. He also shared some stories from his own parenting days which helped to remind me that I’m not alone in my parenting struggles. It also gave me hope because his children are all adults with families of their own that they are close to. There are certainly benefits to talking to parents who have survived the trenches!

There was one thing that Deacon said that really struck me and allowed my perspective to change very quickly. Deacon said, “You need to pray....what does God want in this situation?” In that moment, God reminded me that I was not in control. It wasn’t my job to convince said child about the negative consequences that could come out of the decisions that were being discussed. It wasn’t my job to change anyone’s heart. That was God’s job. Having that responsibility lifted from me took away the anger I had been struggling with. Being able to respond to the situation we were working through without anger was very important to not further damage relationships or cause deeper rifts and unnecessary pain to occur. Not causing more brokenness for myself or anyone involved was important to me....it’s much easier to fix a cup broken in a few big pieces than one that has been shattered. 

The situation still hurt, but my focus had shifted. I was no longer just looking at the hurt and trying to figure out a way to fix it. I was reminded to look up and remember Who it was that could truly fix the situation. I prayed for openness for Jay and I as well as for our child....for all of us to see what was best and to have the grace to accept it. I didn’t just pray for our wishes and desires to be followed....I’ve learned that, even though we love our kids more than anything, what we want for them isn’t always what God has planned.

We took a deep, unsteady breath and tried again. It took a few more days, but God finally provided an opening. There were difficult conversations...and a few tears...but the confusion finally lifted and we all realized that so much of the hurt that everyone was feeling was based on miscommunication and misunderstanding. And even though it took several weeks to start to feel “normal” again as everyone worked through their own thoughts and feelings about how this situation affected them, I know that everyone involved learned a lot. (Hopefully enough so that we can avoid any similar situations in the future !!)

Despite the hurt, that tough week provided a blessing through Deacon Dave for me...the reminder to “look up” when things are too hard and too heavy and to remember to ask: “God, what is your will?”

“He reached from on high, he took me, 

He drew me out of many waters. 

He delivered me from my strong enemy, 

and from those who hated me; 

for they were too mighty for me.

 They came upon me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my stay. 

He brought me forth into a broad place;

 he delivered me, because he delighted in me.” 

Psalm 18:16-19



Monday, December 14, 2020

Leaning In

This has been a hard year.

I'm not sure there's anyone in the entire world who doesn't share that sentiment in 2020. Since March, life has gone up, down, and sideways at a rate that has completely crushed any semblance of "normal". Fear, grief, loneliness, and loss have piled up in abundance. Hope and encouragement have often been as elusive as finding a package of toilet paper in April.

Nothing fits the way it should. (And I'm not just talking about the effect of stress eating and the dreaded "quarantine 19".)  




I mean that life doesn't "fit" the way it used to. Nothing is the same. School is different, work is different, getting together with people is different, shopping is different....it's all just so different. 

For just about everyone, the holidays look so different this year. We missed out normal Thanksgiving traditions and the extended family we usually see. Christmas will be more of the same. While I'm grateful that our families are healthy and doing ok right now, it's still sad. Grief has many different intensities, but after the year we have gone through, everyone is grieving on some level.

This has been the hardest year of my life. Covid, stress, personal struggles, and trying to help each of my kids navigate life through it all has just been so.very.much. Part of being a mom is trying to take care of everyone but there is just so much beyond our control. This year certainly highlighted all of that. 

2020 was a year of "leaning in". In March, I was leaning in on myself through making sure my family was fed and provided for despite how difficult it was to find groceries at times. I tried to understand what was happening through news outlets and online media. I tried to manage the home learning schedules and the extreme duress that our special needs son was experiencing and the behaviors that were manifesting because of the stress. I was praying, but I was still micromanaging as much as I could. (and it was exhausting)

By summer, there were so many things out of my control and understanding that leaning in on God was the only option. 

Seeking hope and not drowning in despair was my focus for many months. I know I'm not alone. So many people are hurting and struggling this year. Maybe the reasons aren't the same, but the feelings are.

There were scripture verses and lines from books I was reading that gave me life lines to hold onto during this difficult year. These words, that somehow managed to touch my heart, helped to give me some small hope...and hope has been a struggle.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse of mine: 
"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, 
plans for welfare and not evil,
 to give you a future and a hope."
This year, Verses 12-14 also touched my heart:
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 
You will seek me and find me; 
I will be found by you, says the Lord, 
and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations 
and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, 
and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."

So much hope in those verses...He has a plan for us, will hear us, we will find Him, He will restore us, and He will gather us. 

Galatians 6:9:
"And let us not grow weary in well-doing, 
for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart." 

Isn't is so hard to not lose heart during seasons of trials and suffering?

Psalm 27:13-14
"I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
 Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; 
yea, wait for the Lord." 
Waiting is SO hard!

I hope if you're struggling right now, that these verses will bring you hope.  Knowing that we aren't alone in our heartaches opens the way for grace and healing. Our lives are more than highlight reels posted on social media. This year has brought several very big blessings that I look forward to sharing soon. Celebrating blessings is a good thing, but so is supporting and encouraging each other in times of struggle. 

I'm going to end with a quote from St. Mother Teresa: 
 
"So, if you're in a season of life that seems bleak and void of God's presence-don't give up or believe the lie that God has failed you. He is all around you, in control of all things, and working for your good and His glory."

Praying that we can all see His Hand on our lives...especially on the hard days.

Monday, November 2, 2020

A Life Well Lived

 My grandfather, Pepere, passed away at the end of August. He was 97, and while it certainly wasn't a surprise that he passed....once people get to their 90's you know they won't be with us forever...his decline was very quick and unexpected. One day, he seemed to be struggling more with confusion than usual. He was sent to the hospital for some tests, which found nothing wrong, but he still continued to decline and in a little over a week we had to say our goodbyes. 

I've written this blog post in my head so many times, but never seemed to be able to get it onto the screen. Pepere's birthday was on October 31st and, with today being All Soul's Day, he's been on my mind and heart in a special way. So I figured it was now or never to share a little bit about a special man who was part of America's "Greatest Generation". 

Pepere is my Mom's stepfather. My Mom's dad passed away when she was a teenager from heart problems. My grandmother, Memere, worked with Pepere's wife as a seamstress. When my parents got married, they lived in a tenement house on the 3rd floor and Pepere and his wife were on the second floor.  Pepere's wife passed away of cancer.  Pepere and my Memere ended up getting married over a year later. All that happened before I was born, so Pepere was always in my life and he was always my family.

Pepere was the foreman at the local landfill and worked hard all his life. My sister and I liked to go visit him at work because all the garbage trucks that drove by would honk for us. He knew a little about everything and was always ready to lend a hand. He was always tinkering with something in the basement!

Pepere was a World War II veteran who forged his mother's signature so that he could enlist in the Navy when he was only 17. Pepere experienced a lot during his years in the Navy. He was at the battle of D-Day and helped to transport soldiers to the beach from the ship. That was a traumatic experience for him and he seldom talked about that day. Occasionally he would talk about a few of the details, and even after over 60 years you could tell that, as he spoke, it was as if he was back in that moment experiencing all the horrible pain and death all over again. Pepere had a sensitive soul and a very big heart.

At another point in the war, Pepere's ship was hit by a kamikaze plane. Some of his friends lost their lives that day. Pepere survived but completely lost his hearing in his left ear. Thankfully, he returned home safely but always carried the emotional scars of living through war.

Pepere lived a lot of life in his 97 years and had lots of stories to tell. As he got further into his 90's dementia started to set in and we got to hear some of these stories quite a few times. :)

One of my all time favorite stories that Pepere told happened on D-Day. At one point in the battle, another ship had run aground and Pepere and some of the crew on his ship were trying to help them out. As they let out the cable to attach to the other ship, they heard a peculiar sound. Every time the mechanism would go around, they heard "clink, clink...clink, clink". Once the cable was out, Pepere reached in and pulled out Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Months earlier, before they had left America, some of the sailors(Pepere included) smuggled cases of beer onto the ship and hid the bottles all over. Apparently, this one was forgotten. So, right in the middle of D-Day, Pepere opened the bottle and the sailors that were helping with the cable all took a swig! Pepere always said that he wished he had gotten the names of everyone that drank that beer so that he could have sent it to the Pabst company. He thought they would have enjoyed hearing that their beer was a tiny part of history that day. 

Pepere lived in an assisted living the last 5 years of his life. He had macro degeneration that accelerated quickly in his 90's. He ended up being legally blind. He also struggled with hearing: he had one deaf ear from the war and his one "good" ear wasn't really that good. Even with his hearing aide he struggled. 

Pepere was always a very social man. Even after Memere passed away when he was 82, he would go to the local Dunkin' every afternoon to grab a coffee and shoot the bologna with whoever was around. He developed a lot of friends, and was especially popular among the widows. They would ask him for rides, which he gladly provided. But he always told us that he had loved two women in his life and that was enough.

As his eyesight deteriorated and his hearing got worse, he started to withdraw socially. If people didn't talk loudly on his right side he wouldn't even realize anyone was talking. Dementia was starting to become an issue as well. It was hard to watch such an independent, outgoing man become a shell of himself. He struggled with confusion at times and would obsess over items or ideas. It was hard trying to please him...especially when he would adamantly insist on wanting something specific for days, like a blanket of a particular color. Yet, after a day of having said blanket he would say it was too thick or too thin, that he didn't know why we brought him a blanket and that he didn't need a blanket. We would just sigh and take it home. 

Pepere would go through stages when he couldn't remember his age. We got him a white board and wrote a giant 97 on it. Even though it was in the room, on the days he would obsess about it he would call me and my mom several times a day. I would answer the phone and Pepere would say, "Yaaah!", (he never just said hello:)...and he would ask me, "What's my number?". And I would tell him, "97". And he would repeat it. An hour later he would call me back and ask the same question.:)

Pepere was very excited last October leading up to his 97th birthday on the 31st. He talked about it every day....and called multiple times a day to check on his age!  On his actual birthday, my Dad picked him up and brought him over to have dinner with the family to celebrate. Halfway through dinner, Pepere looked up chuckling and said, "I just remembered that it was my birthday." We all laughed hysterically. 

I miss his smile and the twinkle in his eye when he was teasing someone. I miss sitting with him and hearing his stories. I even miss all the phone calls. Whenever the phone phone rang for the first month after he passed, I would think, "Must be Pepere". Then, a second later I would remember, and it would make me sad.

Pepere had very little of material worth in this world. The one thing he had an abundance of was faith. After retiring, he always started his day with Mass and then a visit to a local coffee shop to enjoy some conversation. His statue of Mary traveled with him to the assisted living, and he faithfully "prayed his beads" every day. Towards the end, he would forget how to say his prayers. I would have to rely on Google to try and help him...not because I don't pray the rosary, but because he always prayed in French! I always assured him Mary knew what he was trying to say. Thankfully, those prayers always seemed to come back to him. The prayer in his soul had a deeper grip than the dementia that tried to steal it from him. 

Covid definitely accelerated his dementia. The isolation was not good for him. We missed out on three of the last five months of his life. That hurts...and I wish I had been able to ease all the loneliness he felt. I'm so grateful that the rules loosened in July and that I was able to visit him several times a week for the last month and a half of his life here with us. 

I can say that I'm very grateful to God for Pepere's love and example. He will be missed, and even though I'm getting to this blog post late, he will never be forgotten. 



Pepere with Kate and his namesake, Luke Arthur, on his 97th Birthday:)



 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Part 3...The celebration

This will be the wrap up of the whirlwind of events that surrounded Marisa and Jon's wedding! You can read about the rehearsal dinner and wedding here if you missed it. :)

After the wedding, we headed on the trolley to take pictures. There were lots(!), but here are a few....



I love that Jon's holding the bouquet lol

Kate made a very pretty flower girl:)

Marisa was a beautiful bride:)


Jon is ALWAYS teasing Marisa's sister Bridget! Turnaround if fair play...and made for a fun pic!

After pictures, it was time to celebrate. I owe an incredible about of thanks and appreciation to my friends, Carol and Mary, who helped me to design, decorate and pull off an amazing party! I wanted to create something really special to help make up for the disappointment of not being able to have a "real reception" with dancing and everyone we had hoped to celebrate with. Carol and Mary far exceeded anything I could have come up with on my own! 

A little side story before I get to the pics.....

During the pictures after the wedding, the skies looked pretty dark and ominous. I was nervous....we had done so much to create a beautiful backyard and our house couldn't really hold all the people waiting to celebrate. While Marisa's dad gave a toast before dinner, I heard a distant clap of thunder. Yet, the weather stayed clear despite the dark clouds. Later, we saw on the weather channel that all around us were bands of thunderstorms all evening, yet the clouds seem to part right over our town until they continued to the east of us.

There were so many struggles with planning a wedding during a pandemic. The several months leading up to the wedding were filled with discouragement, unwanted changes and tears. After lots of rescheduling and replanning, I gave everything over to Mary. I spent several weeks praying to Mary and thinking about the wedding feast at Cana. Mary interceded when there was a need, and her Son provided something better than the couple could have ever planned!

I didn't realize it, but Jon and Marisa had chosen the Wedding Feast at Cana as their Gospel reading for the wedding. When it was being read, I got a little teary eyed and felt very grateful for all the ways Mary helped us to pull everything together despite all the obstacles we had to face. She even provided for us to the very end of the celebration by giving us a summer night we could all enjoy!

And now onto the pictures.....:)

Here's what our guests experienced as they arrived at our home....





Even the septic cover got a pretty makeover!




The hearts were from the bridal shower and had advice from the guests for a happy marriage:)





After one of the tents was destroyed in the rain storm after the rehearsal dinner, I sent out an SOS text
to the company we rented our chairs and tables from. Thankfully they had a tent available last minute
and were willing to come by early Sunday morning to set it up! 

Our cool "lounge area" by the bar:)









The triumphant entrance!!!








I didn't get pictures of the food, but we had the event catered by On the Go. We enjoyed the food very much! Jon does not love cake, so we settled on ice cream sandwiches....bc Jon is an ice cream fanatic! Jon's close friend Amber, who he has known since tball when they were four!, recently purchased a local ice cream shop named Captain Bonney's. She gave us a very generous discount and we ordered three different ice cream sandwiches: vanilla, coffee oreo(Jon and Marisa's favorite), and cookie dough. They were enthusiastically enjoyed by everyone! Check out the cute labels Amber made!


Yum!

We strung lots of lights...which looked amazing after dark! The pictures don't really do it justice.


I should have shut off the spotlight before I took the picture...but it was the end of the night and I was tired! lol


Even the tomato stakes got lights:)





Since we couldn't have dancing, Andrew ran a marriage themed trivia game after dinner that was so much fun! Everyone got really into it and the friendly bantering between teams made the night extra special!

Jon and Marisa were supposed to go to Hawaii for their honeymoon, but, again, plans had to be changed. They ended up in California for 10 days, starting in San Diego and driving up some of the coast to visit many of the mission towns as far as San Jose. After everything they went through with the wedding, one more change didn't phase them. I sense a theme for their married life.....but God's plans tend to work out better than our's anyway.

Just ask the married couple from Cana;)