Lab Work

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A few mornings ago, I took Christopher to get some blood work at a lab in town. It’s been wicked cold in these parts and the temperature on this particular morning was maybe 5*. 

John, before he buckled him into this car seat, had convinced four-year-old Edward that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hat Santa brought was indeed a good idea. Edward kvetched only a little before agreeing to put on the hat.

Christopher, being a few years older, was diligent about his cold weather gear so when we finally arrived to the lab, we did it laden with hats, mittens and puffy winter coats.

As I settled the boys, I smiled at an elderly married couple beaming over at us. I could tell right away they enjoyed seeing Christopher and Edward.

The older lady said to them, “Boys, how is the weather?”

Christopher looked at her, wide eyed, and didn’t know what to make of her comment. 

He is a young man of very few words and so he said,

“It’s good…cold.” 

He shoved his hands into his winter coat and looked at the ground.

Edward fussed with his Teenage Mutant Turtle cap before I finally took it from him and shoved it deep into his zipped up coat. 

I rolled my eyes at the old lady and she giggled.

I sat down across from the boys and right next to the couple.  

They immediately told me they had two grown children of their own, one great grandchild, and another great grandchild on the way. They both mused about when their boys were the same ages of mine and we talked about the joys of life with small children.

When his wife was called back for her blood work, the older gentleman shared that just a few short months ago the doctors took 32 ounces of liquid off of his wife’s stomach because she was having some kind of heart issue. 

His eyes filled with tears. 

“She looked pregnant there was so much fluid,” he said. 

“She looks wonderful now!” I told him. 

We found a terrific physician who calls us all the time to check on her. That doctor saved her life. We love that doctor,” the man explained.

I told him a good doctor was hard to find and I was glad they’d discovered one. He shook his head in agreement.

Then the man switched gears and told me about how, in the last few weeks, his wife’s best friend died suddenly early one morning. They were devastated by the loss. 

“My wife was laughing and cutting up with her on the phone the night before she died! The next morning, she was gone,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

His eyes filled with tears again when he told me about loosing his friend and the trip they were all planning to take together in the spring.

Before I knew it, we were talking about marriage.

“We will be married for 58 years this summer,” he said. (Though his wife corrected him later and told me they’d been married for 59 years.)

“I’m not gonna lie, I spent some of that those years sulking out in the garage but it kept me from yelling at her,” he joked.

“I went to my nephew’s third wedding this summer. I asked my wife if we could get the gifts we gave him for the first two marriages back!” he said. 

I laughed at his comment, but I think he was serious.

“People don’t stay married anymore,” he said.

“Marriage is hard and I don’t think people know how to endure hard things these days,” I countered.

“Maybe,” he said. 

“If you aren’t willing to compromise, you need to probably stay away from marriage, he said.  “ That’s my advice.” 

“I think I’m going to take your advice,” I said. “If you’ve stayed married for 58 years, you know what you’re talking about. You’ve got some weight behind your words.”

At that, his wife came out from getting her blood work done. 

I thanked them both for visiting with me and told them to have a nice day and off they both went into the bitter cold.

Later that evening, when I huddled under my heating blanket hoping the warmth would penetrate the cold that had permeated down deep to my bones, I opened my examination of conscience book and I read the question, “Who wore the face of God for you today?”

And I thought of that old man and his wife, who in just a few short minutes schooled me in the ways of life.

Five Random Things After The Christmas Crazy

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Flexing my writing muscles and getting this blog tuned up again.  I've been writing daily but I've neglected updating my own house.  Here goes:

1. School was called off yesterday because of inclement weather. My children’s tutors sent along work for the kids to so homeschooling was in the cards for all of us.

Still, when you do an educational hybrid like we do (two days of school attendance a week and the rest of the week schooling from home), a snow day is not a snow day like it is for kids who go to school full time.

Although I’m just like the parents of those kids who go to school full time because my first thought when I learned school was closed was:

WHAT WILL I DO WITH THESE PENT UP PINT SIZED PEOPLE ALL DAY LONG???

2. While I wrote a book, John Duggan dutifully took over certain duties, but the biggest one he took on was the laundry.

John had to adjust to an involved task he wasn’t used to taking on and I had to detach from how that large task accomplished--like when, where, and how he did it.

For all my weaknesses and failures, one of the things I do well is creating systems to run and manage a household. With 8 people here, I definitely need a system for laundry. Abandoning my system and allowing someone else to take over and do it a different way was a little challenging at first. 

What do you mean you don’t sort?

You do realize the six year old can’t fold her laundry, right?

If you hang the clothes up right away after taking them out of the dryer, you know you don’t have to iron much of anything…

I quickly realized, however, if John was to continue with the task so that I could write, I couldn’t critique the way he did the job. The important thing was the job got done. 

So I overcame the temptation to micromanage the laundry by not paying attention at all to how the laundry was completed.

I didn’t look in drawers, I didn’t look in hampers, and I didn’t walk into the laundry room.

Problem solved.

But I’ve finished my book and for the first time in well over a year in a half, I found myself staring down overflowing laundry baskets and hampers. So after Mass on Sunday, I resolved to attack the beast.

It took me all day long to create some kind of logistical flow and order to the laundry situation in this house and it will take me all day today to continue what I started.

After a few hours of being back in the laundry saddle on Sunday, I realized two things:

The first is that I was absolutely CRAZY to offer any kind of critique to anyone who willingly laundered the clothing for this gang of people.

 The second was this:  God needs to send me a new idea for a book ASAP because I’m officially retiring from the laundry and going back to book writing. 

I like book writing much, much better.

3. When John and I bought our house almost two years ago (CRAZY!), we promised each other we would immediately paint the master bedroom which was a beautiful shade of lavender, accented by a chic deep plum color in the master bath.

But life happened and other things needed attention and it’s been almost two years since we made that promise to each other. We’ve lived with lavender walls and I’ve hated every minute of it.

My generous mom and dad gave us both some money for Christmas so we decided to pool our resources and update the bedroom.

We finally painted over the lavender. I ordered an inexpensive bed from Amazon and I bought new bedding. I found a huge throw rug at Home Depot, some new to us lamps at the Goodwill and I’m going to spray paint our old nightstand to give them a facelift. 

I also went over our allotted budget.

John is definitely the one who keeps me honest when it comes to spending what we have, not what we don’t, but he hasn’t argued with me about springing for the extras (like he normally would.)

He’s not stupid.

4. John and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary in December and he took me to Jamaica.  It rained almost the entire time but it didn’t ruin the trip. 

I loved so many things about Jamaica but a few of my favorites were the coffee (so, so delicious!), the people (like the old man I buzzed by one morning and told me, “You’re in Jamaica, man. You’re going way too fast. Slow down, man. Slow down!”), and the steel band of teenagers who played ‘O Holy Night’ on their drums and made me cry.

We also went to great lengths to secure a room with an ocean view, which I documented with a photo and which I now review everyday while I’m at home suffering through ice storms.

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5. If you are still reading this, blessings upon you for enduring random factoids of my life.  Have a wonderful day!

Your Catholic Parenting Problems Solved...Mostly

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You guys, I have an announcement: 

I wrote a book for you. 

It’s called Good Enough Is Good Enough:  Confessions of An Imperfect Catholic Mom and the release date is April, 2018 from Ave Maria Press.

You can preorder the book here.

What’s the book about?

As a child, I smoothed over the jagged edges of my difficult home life with good grades and perfect behavior. By the time I was an adult, my drive to constantly be in control was my only way of life. It was only when I began raising my family that I realized how damaging this compulsion was for both me and the people around me.

That’s when I began my faltering journey toward letting God be in control.

In Good Enough Is Good Enough, I share my heartaches—learning my child has a genetic disorder that might lead to cancer; realizing that my drive to do and be everything for everyone strained my marriage; and struggling with feelings of worthlessness after leaving her job to become “just” a stay-at-home mom. I also share parenting difficulties we’ve all faced—trying to keep my kids quiet during Mass; wondering whether I’m giving them enough opportunities for growth; and balancing time spent on myself, my kids, and others. With each story, you’ll feel the brokenness I tried to cover by being a “perfect” parent and the eventual realization that I needed to find healing.

Through the saints, the sacraments, and Catholic traditions and literature, I found the Church a place where God’s love and healing grace embraced me. I invite you, the reader,  to the same conclusion: whether we are dealing with everyday frustrations or life-changing tragedies, it is in the heart of the Catholic Church that we are finally free to let go of our facades in order to embrace our brokenness and find healing.

Benefits of the book:

Before I became a wife and mother, I had a lot of stupid ideas and expectations about my roles.  Then I got married, had a few kids, and life slapped some of those ridiculous notions right out of my head.  I made mistakes, lots of them, and I had some toxic notions about marriage and motherhood. 

I’ll be honest, what I wrote in the book is painful to admit.  No one wants the world to know their failures as a spouse and parent, but the truth is, I’ve failed a lot…and from those failures, I’ve learned a lot. 

And guess what? 

I’ve come to recognize that most people fail in the same ways I have.  What I wrote about my journey isn’t neat and tidy and beautiful, but it is true and it’s authentic. 

In a world full of Pinetrest perfect and Facebook insights, if you need some real discussion about the challenges of Catholic parenting, then this book is for you.

If you’ve ever wondered if you are a complete screw up as a wife and mother, then this book is for you. 

If you’ve worried about the dysfunctional nature of your family life and how anyone is going to make it out alive given your weaknesses and the weaknesses of those around you, then this book is for you.

If you aren’t sure why God entrusted you with this husband and these kids, then this book is for you. 

If you are 100% convinced you are probably creating a huge disaster out of everything, then this book is for you.

More reasons to pre-order the book today:

·      In the book, I reveal five parenting confessions (or struggles) that I face and how to tackle those issues head on

·      At the end of each chapter is a closing prayers and reflection questions

·      I wrote a companion small faith sharing group companion study, which makes Good Enough Is Good Enough an excellent group or individual resource

·      This is a book that reassures you that you are not alone

·      It makes an excellent Christmas gift for your best friend

What people are saying about Good Enough Is Good Enough:  Confessions Of An Imperfect Catholic Mom:

"I am thrilled by Colleen's honesty. Her transparency about the challenges she has faced in her own faith walk invites us into a deeper consideration of our own imperfections." --Lisa M. Hendey, Founder of CatholicMom.com and author of The Grace of Yes

"Every mother has experienced that awful moment when she discovers that no matter how hard she tries, she will never get it all right; she will never be a perfect parent. Colleen Duggan has written the sane and sensible way to refine on that impossible goal." --Elizabeth Scalia, US editor of Aleteia and author of Strange Gods

"A soothing balm for your soul and a cheery cup of tea for your weary heart. Know, moms, that there is hope for you, for your family, and for eternity." --Sarah A. Reinhard, Catholic author, blogger, and coeditor of The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion

"An honest, soul-searching reflection on motherhood. Colleen Duggan reminds us that God's grace perfects our always-imperfect nature if we are honest with ourselves and God." --Tim and Sue Muldoon, Authors of The Discerning Parent

"This book shares in the greatness of all books that tell the truth. People who long for depth in our superficial culture will find refreshment here, and people who suspect social media doesn't always tell the whole story will find genuine companionship." --Grace Mazza Urbanski, Author of Pray With Me

A Special Pre-Order Discount Code, Just For YOU!!!

Pre-orders are a huge factor in a book’s selling potential—they help me, they help the publisher and I promise, the book will help you too!  J  Those early orders build buzz, which helps sales, and they count towards the first weeks’ sales when the book is published. Use this special discount code DUGGAN to receive 25% off the cover price from Ave Maria Press. 

Launch Team:

Would you like to help me launch this book into the world? Members of the launch team are asked to do 4 things:

  1. Read the book before release date. (Woohoo!)
  2. Spread the word online (blog, social media, etc) and offline (word of mouth) before and after launch.  Take a picture of yourself with the book and post somewhere!  J
  3. Submit an honest reviewer on your favorite retailer site (Barnes and Noble  or Amazon).
  4. If you have a blog or online community, we’d love to see you review or share the book there.

Want to join?  Shoot me an email @duggancolleen1@gmail.com and let’s talk. I hope you’ll consider joining the launch team. I can’t wait to talk to you about the book and hear your thoughts. I’ll be eternally grateful for your help, too!

Thank you for subscribing and thanks for reading the book!

 

 

To Whom Are You Listening?

 
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I stood at my kitchen sink, dousing dirty dishes from dinner.  Steam rouse in bursts from the hot water as I recalled the ugly moments from my day.  I had been harsh with my children, impatient and reactive. 

Why was it so easy for me to snap at small people, to be so easily burdened by their many needs?

I gazed at my picture of Mother Mary, the one I keep at eye level at my sink, and I contemplated her peacefulness and generosity with others. I silently requested she form me into herself.

Then, something strange happened. 

While I worked, my mind wandered from my prayer. Suddenly, I had this thought,

You are wasting your time.  This work is pointless, abandon it now and do something important.

I shuddered and quickly recited the St. Michael prayer, begging him to dispel the darkness.

The sinister thought alarmed me because it echoed a sentiment with which I had been struggling—the search to find meaning in the monotony of motherhood.  When I became a parent,  I wasn't prepared for the tedious nature of the job—around the clock feedings, diaper changes, the insurmountable Vesuvius of laundry, and the cesspool of need from my precious, yet tiresome peanut gallery. The care and feeding of little people was important but I couldn't feel the gravity.  The work felt redundant, time consuming and even boring.

Wasn’t there something more exciting and worthwhile waiting for me?

What about my hopes, dreams and desires? 

Had my passions vanished in childbirth?  

Although I intellectually recognized the importance of parenting my children, after a hard moment it was easy to feel as if I was wasting my “talents.”

That evening at the sink, darkness preyed upon my weakness.

The next week, I went to visit my longtime spiritual director.  I told him about what happened and I said, “I felt like a spiritual attack.”

“It was a spiritual attack, Colleen,” Father said.  “Whom does Satan hate more than a mother? Mother Mary was the only person Satan couldn’t get to because she was the only human outside of original sin.  Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, but Satan couldn’t get his claws into Mother Mary.  He despises your vocation and wants you to abandon it.  You are engaged in a holy work. Yes, you sin but in embracing motherhood you are embracing the will of God.”

Father’s words encouraged me to pay more attention to the lies Satan whispers about my vocation.  French Jesuit and spiritual director, Father Jean-Pierre De Caussade, writes:

“…distinguishing the true inspirations from God from those which come from the devil, namely, that the former are always gentle, and peaceful, and lead us to confidence and humility while the latter are agitating and suspicious or even to presumption and the following of our own will.”

The voice of God and the voice of the demonic are altogether different and their inspirations lead to vastly different outcomes.

Satan's voice says:  "You'll never change.  What's the point?  Why bother trying?”
The voice of God says:   "I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)

Satan's voice:  "Your work, your service?  It's pointless.  No one cares."
The voice of God:  "I use the small, the weak and the sinful.  Do you love me?  'Feed my sheep.'" (John 21: 17)

Satan's voice:  "You're not working hard enough, trying hard enough.  Harder, faster, better, stronger--that's the key to success."
The voice of God:  "...and make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just asI commanded you." (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Satan's voice:  "No one ever listens to you."
The voice of God:  "I hear what you have to say.  You mean something.  You are important." (Isaiah 43:1)

Psalm 44 verse 15-16 describes the taunts of the evil one:

All day long my dishonor is before me
And my humiliation has overwhelmed me,

Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles,

Because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger.

Compare that to psalm 29 verse 4-5 which describes the voice of the God:

The voice of the LORD is powerful,
The voice of the LORD is majestic.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

The devil’s words are evil, turbulent, and embittered, filling the mind with discouraging thoughts that rob us of our peace. But Jesus’s words? They are gentle, calm, kind, and loving.

To whom are we listening?