Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Irena's Vow

 I had the privilege to preview a great new movie, "Irena's Vow".  While I'm a fan of books and drama that took place during World War II (Despite the dark nature that is naturally encompassed in it, this was a fresh take.  I had to look up to verify it was actually based on a true story.

The story is about Irena, a young Polish woman training to be a nurse.  Through a series of circumstances, she finds herself working as a housekeeper for a very powerful Nazi.  She also finds herself trying to preserve all human dignity, through all stages of life.  The film is definitely best for older teens/adults.  There is violence, and two specifically horrific scenes.  There is also discussion of how when you have two choices and they are both bad, how do you do make the best choice.  The characters are complex and while some of the scenes seem absurd, (A nazi dinner party where the hidden Jews are helping the heroine keep the party together) the story is amazing.

I also really appreciated how at the end of the movie, they tell you what happens to each of the characters. This is a good movie about the power of human dignity and moral conscience.

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Fertility of Women

 Often when we think of fertility, women with many children come to mind.

This spring, I had an experience when I was at a basketball game and a Mom made a comment to me how, life was harder for her, because she had 3 children.  It was not the most charitable comment.  Little did she know that I was grieving that we had tried adoption for 5 years, unsuccessfully.  We were open to many different types of children, and with multiple diagnoses, and it just wasn’t in God’s plan.  I also had just had a miscarriage.

I was feeling kind of like a failure.  You see, as women, I think we all have a calling from God to be fertile.  Fertility is part of our feminine genius.  I was feeling pretty lousy because I was feeling called to be fertile, but thought I just wasn’t able.  It was a gift I longed for and didn’t have.  All around me I had been seeing fertile women for the past 10 years, and some of them were even now becoming grandmothers.  I am always joyful to see a pregnant woman or hear a pregnancy announcement, but there is a feeling of grief that I experience with it.

With sorrow, meditation and prayer, God was able to focus my perspective further on what His call to fertility means.  “Be fertile and multiply”.  It actually applies to all of us, particularly women.  While not all of us have the gifts of numerous children, we all have the gift of relationships.  Women are especially called to be strong in their relationships.  If you just look at young kids, often the boys are playing and the girls are talking.

God showed me fertility when my husband got a flat tire and I was on the other side of the state- he needed help and I was over 2 hours away.  My fertility in relationships helped him to get help with getting a ride and getting my son to school.  Our roots, and the roots I had nurtured with friendships helped hold my family strong.

God has shown me fertility in multiple women in multiple stages of life- teachers, principals, wise women in the knitting group.  These women all continue to be fertile.  They continue to plant, spread and fertilize God’s love.  I have a wonderful biological mother and I’ve also been blessed with many spiritual mothers and sisters who have helped me to grow into the woman I am called to be.

I saw fertility in the relationships my family is moving away from.  Our family entered a difficult discernment that it was time to move closer to family and away from our solid friendships here.  I think of it much like my bionic raspberry bush that I’m moving from.  The shoot is nourished, grows and made strong and then can be transplanted.  We are going to miss our friendships, but hopefully will stay in touch.  Our families have grown, been through difficult times and have accepted each other’s quirks.  We’ve been there for each other.  My son has learned what it is to have a strong Catholic community all around him- he fortunately knows nothing else.

I see my fertility in the young women I work with at work.  It may not be known, but other than the DVM’s, most vet offices are composed of a lot of employees in their early 20’s.  I’ve made them laugh over the years and according to them I always bring a joyful attitude to their environment.  Apparently I’m diplomatic with a self-deprecating sense of humor.  Or, the time recently when overwhelmed with moving and trying to live out of a garage because our house was staged with items that did not belong to us, I showed up to work with 2 different shoes.  At least they were black.  Although 1 had stitching visible and the other didn’t.  Also, one was shorter than the other (fortunately my guardian angel positioned the shorter heel on my longer leg and vice versa).  I laughed at myself and showed them how an intelligent doctor who can save lives sometimes has difficulty dressing herself…. Sometimes, it’s not until we switch seasons or locations that we realize what a difference we make in other’s lives.   The fertility of women is much more rich than what you might first think.  Sometimes we are called to plant seeds, many of us are called, at one season or another to fertilize, nourish and strengthen each other.  We are to provide the fertile ground.  For a seed that is not planted in fertile ground….Matthew 13

Sometimes, I see our fertility in compost.  Sometimes our struggles don’t have a rosy ending and sometimes we don’t make the right choices.  These struggles though can provide compost for others.  I think as I switch seasons in life I will still bloom, but also provide compost for others, and I will rejoice that this may be God’s will for my journey.  I laugh and think how rich the compost will become as I age and I will be content with that.

The fertility of women is a beautiful gift.  I’m so happy that I’ve had the opportunity to witness, be strengthened, fertilized and supported in this beautiful garden of so many women.  Either nurturing with consolation, inspiration or sharing of beauty we are called to give and grow together.  Some of us are dandelions, some of us are orchids and roses, we are all called to be a special one of a kind flower in God’s beautiful garden.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Service Dogs

 When you hear the word “Service Dog” does your mind immediately go to a Seeing Eye Dog for the Blind?  This is probably historically the most common type of service dog.  There’s a whole lot of categories for what is considered a “Working Dog”.  These are highly trained, highly skilled Canines who are exceptional at their work and perform priceless rescues and support.


Whether it’s protecting our service people overseas as military dogs (I once treated a dog who had saved a whole platoon by alerting them to danger) or a dog who rescues people from being buried in an avalanche these dogs are COOL!  There are many different types of rescue dogs, search and rescue, lifeguard swimming dogs and more.


I would like to focus on the medical service dogs though.  These are different than what people call “Emotional Support Animals” which can be a somewhat more controversial topic (I will avoid it for now).  Medical service dogs can help a blind person, help a deaf person be alerted to a doorbell or alert to other noises.  They can also help support people with PTSD and anticipate an anxiety attack or a situation that could be threatening.  They can also help predict a diabetic crisis and anticipate a seizure coming on.  Dogs can be used for epileptic children to allow them to go to school so teachers can be alerted when a seizure is happening and provide assistance.  This works due to their amazing sense of smell.  They can actually smell metabolic brain changes that lead up to a seizure.


Dogs are amazing (and no, I don’t think this is a bias).  Their sense of smell is extraordinary and most dogs have a high capability for relationship.  So the next time you are in a store, or somewhere else and you see a working dog be open to knowing that you may just be looking at a hero (chances are if it’s growling or showing bad manners, that’s probably not the case).  Service dogs are supposed to have impeccable manners and this is part of why you do not pet or distract a service dog when they are wearing a harness.  When they are wearing a harness, they are doing their job, when their handler takes the harness off, they can be a “normal” dog.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Sometimes you find yourself saying things your parents say...

 Finding yourself repeating to your children things your parents used to tell you can be rather cliche.

A while back though, I found myself saying something I think our Heavenly Father may have been telling me.  I heard it through my own mouth telling my son.

"My job isn't to make you happy.  It's to make you good."  Now obviously, God wants our happiness and parents want their children to be happy.  But the primary objective is that happiness is the fruit of goodness.

My son was advocating for video games as a way to happiness.  Unfortunately our family (and I will go ahead and indict all of our family) fell into some bad habits during the pandemic.  Whether it's social media, video games or just scrolling the phone (thankfully my son doesn't have his own phone yet), we were losing our way.

I explained to my son it was for everyone's good that we got re-centered on what mattered, and our time is valuable.

I'm not sure how much my son actually processed, but I processed my words.  I ask God for things that make me happy- that's a pretty natural thing for a child to do.  I need to understand though that just because He says "No" is not because he doesn't want me to be happy.  It's because he wants me to be good.  I am meant to be Holy, as we all are.  Sometimes wonderful blessings are not given to us.  Sometimes suffering is a part of our journey.  It is not because the Lord wants us to be unhappy.  He has greatness in store for us.  We need to rely on his paternal wisdom and the faith that some day happiness- eternal happiness is the fruit of our goodness.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Some more good books...

I meant to share these this summer, but things have been busy and I've been trying to keep up with my reading.  For some reason I'm really drawn to historical fiction.  Although the times can be dark, I love the stories or romance and heroism and it reminds me no matter what difficulties we are dealing with, humanity has gotten through many difficulties before.  I think my favorites on this list are the Codebreakers Secret and The Last White Rose.  The Last White Rose might make it to the top of my recommendations as it's the first time in 40 years I actually understand what the War of The Roses was about!

The Last White Rose

By Alison Weir

Well written historical fiction. Great way to bring history to life, shows the complexity of the characters and of the time. This is a very enjoyable read. It's not a quick read, it has a lot of detail and suspense and political intrigue. This book caused me to look back and see what the real history of the times were. It's fascinating the murder, mystery and political intrigue that were common in those days. I'd always heard about the "War of the Roses" but now have a greater grasp of it. This is a well-written book that is intriguing and a good read. 

The Codebreakers Secret

By Sara Ackerman

Great book!  Engaging, once I got into it, I couldn't put it down.  It seems like there are two different stories between wartime Hawaii and the wartime 60's, but of course the stories are interwoven.  A little bit of mystery, a great love story, throw in some suspense and murders this is a great book and I would read it again.  I also love all the details and language from Hawaii as well as the strong female characters.  I look forward to reading other books by this author.

The Girl From Guernica 

By Karen Robards

This was a great story.  A little romance action and suspense.  A, strong intelligent female character and an engaging and unpredictable story line.  I overall really enjoyed reading this book.  The book started fast and then slowed a little, but the great start helped get me engaged and want to keep reading.  A enjoyable read, one caution would be there are some parts of the book that are intense and show the gruesomeness of war, so not for people who are sensitive to that.

Raising Emotionally Strong Boys

By David Thomas

This book seemed to come to me at just the right time!  I love how its a fairly easy and quick read, but has lots of nuggets and tips.  The chapters are organized well with action items at the end of each chapter.  This book actually prompted us to go out and get some boxing gloves for my son (for him to box the couch when frustrated).  I think this is a book I will read and re-read.  Great for parents of young kids all the way up to young adults.  I love how this also incorporates Christian teaching and morality throughout the book.  It would be helpful for secular and non secular readers, but it's great to have a modern parenting book that has a Biblical anchor.

These books were provided as advance copies in exchange for my honest review.

“I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

Friday, November 4, 2022

Remembering to ask for help...

 I don't typically think of myself as someone who has a problem asking for help.  As a short person, I'm always asking tall people for help.  I also have to ask for help when I'm working.  Handling a dangerous animal, working fast to save a life, you learn to ask for help for everyone's sake.

I'm not too bad at asking for help from my husband or son either, but when it comes to other people, I'm less likely to ask for help.  I tend to feel guilty, or know that other people are just as busy, or busier than I am.  I like to offer to help others.  My husband often sees how my effort to help others will sometimes put our life off track momentarily, but I like to think of it as happy chaos.

A friend of ours last night asked if we could pick up her son, ( a good friend of my son from school) as she had an unexpected meeting.  She was apologetic.  I told her, "Why don't we pick him up and keep him for a playdate?  My son would love to have a playdate with him."  This worked out well and his Mom is getting to work uninterrupted this afternoon.  We have some other family friends, that in the past couple years, I'm more likely to ask for them to help with pick up from school, etc..  For a while, we were paying the older sister in the family to babysit (even though the parents were driving, etc.).  The family told us we didn't need to pay for a babysitter.  Our son had become like family to them and they were happy to help.  They are used to having the benefits of extended family in the area, whereas our family and our friend from last night are not.  I was thinking today that, for a lot of people and especially my generation and before, picking up other peoples kids, having them go to other people's houses, asking for last minute help was pretty normal (in some communities and situations, I'm sure this is still normal today).  But sometimes we either aren't comfortable with the community around us, don't know them that well or don't want to inconvenience others.  I think the worry about inconveniencing others is something we should try to let go of.  

Yes, we need to be respectful of the time and needs and situations of others.  Yes, some people have trouble with boundaries and saying, "No".   So maybe don't ask people if you know they would say yes to anything.  For those friends though that you can, ask.  I asked someone who I have a budding friendship with if she'd help me with my son's Halloween costume.  She totally could have said no.  I was half expecting it, or for her to charge me for her time (I did offer to pay).  Not only did she do a wonderful job, she told me she prayed for my family while she was working on it.  I was able to offer her some consolation and practical support, as we were able to be prayer partners for each other.  She was grateful to help out, to do something out of the ordinary for her and to give of herself.  Her kids are growing older, and my son's Halloween costume was her "opportunity to have someone wear a Halloween costume I made."

When we help and give of ourselves to others, we receive so much.  I think sometimes we need to allow others to give to us as well.  It benefits both the giver and the recipient.  Don't feel guilty about asking for help.  The worst that can happen is they say no.  The gifts that could happen are numerous.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

What it all boils down to....

 I went to go to Confession the other day and no sooner had I started (don't worry, I'm not going to share the juicy tidbits) when the question of why I have one child came up.

Now, I know what priest I chose to go to.  He is a holy man and he is a man who adores large families (which I currently don't have).  I tried to head off this topic by saying, we have been praying for 10 years, we have been awaiting adoption for 5 years.  The priest tried to be helpful and tried to suggest various resources (which my husband and I already had known about and gone through).  He recalled various saints and centers and all sorts of things.  I think he was actually in more pain about the situation than I was at that exact moment.  Trying not to forgot my list of sins I had come to confess, I headed him off.  "What it all comes down to is surrendering our will, and being ok knowing that God's will may be different from ours."  The old priest paused and said, "Yep, that's about it."

It was touching how much this wise and holy man wanted to help and it was probably refreshing that those words actually came out of my mouth (because that's a hard pill to swallow).

May the healing sacrament of Confession help us all boil it down to surrender.  What a coincidence that this happened on the Feast of St. Therese, the Little Flower, who was perfected in her surrender.