“I am in the Aleph, the point at which everything is in the same place at the same time. I'm at a window, looking out at the world and its secret places, poetry lost in time and words left hanging in space...sentences that are perfectly understood, even when left unspoken. Feelings that simultaneously exalt and suffocate.” –Paulo Coehlo
The “Aleph” for me is my daughter who has in 2 short weeks changed my entire perspective on meeting with others through grace and meeting gracefully with God. Aurea has enabled me to place an experience to the words that I teach in my classroom, “God must be intelligible to humans beings and must be wholly experienced in tangible ways- We need only to look at the example of doubting Thomas to know that human beings must experience Christ’s mystery versus it being solely an intellectual exercise- True faith must be experienced in the beauty of the world which points to its inherent goodness and the Truths about God that can be physically touched.” When we can begin to touch God in our lives tangibly everyday, Sunday becomes an everyday experience versus an event at the ends of our weeks.
Aurea, who depends on me for now, is also on loan to me to nurture and teach love to. I participate with her in Coehlo’s Aleph, and in small ways begin to participate in the Aleph with others as well. There is a power in the meeting of eyes that connects souls and allows humanity to experience the Kingdom here on earth now. There’s no reason to wait to find your Aleph, but rather create it through habits of care, nurture, and time for the glory of God and the purpose of the incarnate nature of Christ being placed within reach on earth through us.
When God dares us to taste and see the goodness of his love, this means to reach out to others who need our help, it means to invite strangers to our tables, and most of all it means looking deeply into the eyes of the people all around us and celebrating their joys as well as delicately participating in their suffering; just as Jesus did on his journey to Jerusalem.
When I am in it, I am in it. I know it, my husband knows it, and my daughter, without really knowing what IT is, knows it.
It is a dark and lonely place. The old adage “you could be in a crowded room and still feel alone.” Yeah. That is somewhat true. It is lonely in the people sense. No one understands, no one gets me, my body is present but my mind is not. In that sense, yes it is extremely lonely. What makes depression a tad different is that you’re not truly alone, your inner monologue that plays over and over like a broken record keeps you company, and OH what company it keeps!
When you have lived over a decade with this voice in your head it can easily become the one you trust the most. These last few weeks this voice and I have had our regular love affair. The hard part is, just like any love affair you tend to tune everyone else out, have your blinders on and focus solely on that one object of all your affection.
This is getting weird, I can feel you shifting in your seat saying “what the heck is this? This chick is off her rocker”. You would be right sir. I am off my rocker.
Setting the love affair analogy aside for a minute, let me describe the physical effects depression has. Have you ever run a full out marathon, like the full 26 miles? Yes? Well, look at you, aren’t you the epitome of health and fitness! I bet you like to casually bring it up in random conversation. Like, we could be talking about cheese and you say, “yes, this Gouda reminds me of the smooth pavement in the 26 mile marathon I ran last week.” And I would go on eating my cheese loathing you.
As you can guess, I have not run a full marathon, but I imagine the pure exhaustion I have is similar to that of having just run one. How would I know? Well, there was a study that said if you are pregnant, you use up as much energy as that of a marathon runner. At least I think there was, or maybe I just read that in PEOPLE, but I would like to believe it’s true. It makes me feel like a super hero. “OH, you ran a marathon? I grew a LEG!”
When I am in it, the very thought of anything exhausts me. It really is a true feat to just get my kids food. Every step throughout the day, from the moment I wake up, every decision, every movement, feels as though I am wading through 4 feet of thick goopy mud, and when it gets really bad, it’s 5 feet… and that‘s how tall I am. Yes, I am short. It gets hard to breath, and it gets hard to think of anyone else. With great difficulty, I will admit, a lot of those days, it is hard to think of my children first, and then not get annoyed that Ezzie needs a diaper change. This may seem selfish, this may seem like I am a terrible mom, or person. Trust me, that is what I am saying to myself already in those times.
My long term companion that I have been with for over a decade has convinced me that I am that. I am a terrible mother, I am a terrible spouse. What is the point? Why do I try? Why am I here? What good am I? You look awful! Why did you eat that slice of cheesecake? Oh dear GOD, why did you eat the WHOLE cheesecake?
I can hardly believe that anyone would say such things, but this is what the big D says to me. This is what I believe, for days, weeks, sometimes months at a time. So why then would I not just break up with this companion, why would I continue this abusive relationship?
Here is the simple and sad answer. It’s familiar. I know it so well. I know the ins and outs of this relationship; therefore, it can’t really disappoint me. Colm teases that I like to burrow. When I am cozy and tired. I burrow. That is what I do when I am in it. I burrow. Quite frankly, breaking up with someone you have lived most of your adult life with just can't be easily done. Have you tried it? There has been way too much investment of time. It is not a switch you turn off forever. Like any long term relationship you've had, there is a permanent imprint. Unlike a real relationship though, depression is lurking around a hidden corner trying to win you back. This relationship is one that will probably be on and off again for years, maybe my whole life. It is ingrained in every fibre of my being, and only those closest to me know when I am going through it….well now those I am closest to and all those who are reading this, in my head it’s thousands.
So, the truth is, I guess, between God, Colm, and depression, I am a polygamist...
Now my point. Where is the solace, the glimmer of hope, in an otherwise depressing post? My solace and my hope is when I break up with my companion, and get through the mud, come up for air, and see the light again, I think to myself, “how, how can anyone, how does anyone get through that without faith?” The same time that I am being told how awful I am, and how there is nothing but sorrow, I am screaming out “Where are you GOD?! Why is this happening?” Through the mud, through the dark, when I have doubt, by some miracle, I still fight with Him. Even when I become complacent and burrow in my depression, I can still take comfort that He hears me. My relationship with Him is just as pronounced as my relationship with Depression. When I am in love with depression I am fighting with God, and when I am in love with God, I am fighting depression. Whether you are fighting or loving, you are still in a relationship, at least that’s what my priest says.
Along with being the creator of Deep Thoughts Big Red Chair, in which she exploits her children for laughs, Sharon is also proud to be the co-creator and illustrator of the Saint of the Day for Kids app. Having attended film school, giving her life for two years with NET ministries, being a former parish and school youth minister, writing and playing music on the side, working for the Diocese of Saskatoon, and being a wife and mother, Sharon’s skill in NOT knowing what she wants to be when she grows up has allowed her to venture into exciting territory. She does not plan on changing that any time soon. With all of the gifts, projects, and talent, the main focus of it all has been evangelizing in a unique way.
Colm and I have decided to homeschool Jacinta, or at least try it out. We are taking it year by year with the hope that we will always make the best decision for our family. That is usually what is behind every decision we make, what is best for OUR family.
We get that homeschooling is NOT for everyone. We get that we are NOT “normal”. We also get that every family and every person is different. Homeschooling may work for our daughter Jacinta, but it may be a bad idea with Ezra. Who knows until we get to that bridge
I wanted to, in writing, finally put out there what Colm and I have discussed with many friends and family. How on earth did I go from being completely against homeschooling to now being the excited and over the top Pinterest homeschool parent? Well, let me tell you.
The conversation started 2 years ago when Jacinta was just 3, early I know but you will understand in just a moment. I am a HARDCORE introvert. I like my personal space. I like being in control of my environment and schedule. I truly dislike schedules and working around them. I am the type of person who, on a Friday, will begin to slowly panic knowing that in just 2 more days I HAVE to be at work. Now if you know me, you know I love my job. My job does NOT feel like work. I love the people I work with and I love what I do. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to coordinate a very flexible position so that I can be home with the kids, so the fact that I panic has NOTHING to do with the job, but everything to do with the words HAVE TO BE…..I have been this way since elementary school. As I read this it occurs to me that I should probably seek out some help.
ANYWAYS, so rewind to two years ago when, uh oh, I realize that in 2 short years my daughter will be starting kindergarten. That means Monday to Friday my days were set. 8:45 to 3:20, every day for 10 months out of the year. This feeling did not settle well with me. Colm and I travel a lot between Calgary and Winnipeg to visit family. Weekend visits are hard, so we extend them for a few extra days. This would not be possible with Jacinta in school. Birthday parties would now occupy every weekend, which means I would have to engage in social activities more than I care to. Yes I know there is a lot of I, I, I statements. This is just the crazy panicked thought process I went through.
A few weeks after this panic attack, I happened to come across a blog post similar to this about why this woman decided to pull her children out of school to homeschool. Now, I have encountered the entire spectrum of homeschoolers and I can say this, if the child is odd it’s not just the child. I have met some really cool and interesting kids whose parents were also the same. This woman; however, wrote in such a way that was not bashing the school system but simply stating the positive effects homeschooling has had on her family. I really appreciated that and from the get go Colm and I have tried to base the decision entirely on the POSITIVES for our family and stay away from any negatives towards school. The reason being if we decided homeschooling was not working out we wouldn’t be so tainted by our decision making.
We have some amazing Catholic schools nearby, so right off the bat keeping a positive on school was easy. Now for the positives of homeschooling. Here is our list.
I will admit, I am FREAKED OUT! I was a little sad when I heard the school alarm go off this week, and seeing everyone’s first day of kindergarten pictures and hearing their stories. I was sad because there are wonderful moments I experienced that she won’t. But then I looked back on our day. We woke up and went to mass as a family, had a back to school breakfast at Smitty’s, went to the Homeschool picnic, etc. Our day was full of time. Time that I am so grateful to have. Just a disclaimer: There was actual learning involved this week too.
What do I hope to gain from writing this? Well one, when I get a message or email asking why we are homeschooling I can send them this link first, and two, if there is a parent out there feeling as I was feeling, then maybe this can get them thinking as the other article did for me.
- Sharon Leyne
I have been involved in Youth Ministry in one way or another since 2006. My current journey to becoming a teacher has shown me the importance of reflection. As I reflect on my Youth Ministry experiences and the wonderful people I have met over the years, one issue seems to always come to the front of my mind, and I feel the need to talk about it and speak to youth about it as well. This issue is Living in the Shadows.
This issue doesn't appear where you may think. It happens within those amazingly faithful, well-put-together Catholic families. You see them in Mass all the time. I have a lot of respect and admiration for them. For the most part, they are the token model of what I would like my family to be some day. They usually have more than four kids - two or more have graduated. Usually one or two of the kids has gone off and done some sort of 'Catholic God Stuff' - whether it be joining a ministry like CCO, FOCUS, or NET, heading to bible school, or entering the seminary. These kids are usually celebrated by the Catholic community for their openness to God's will in their lives, and their service of the Church (as they should be). They are giving up a year or more of their lives to discern God's will and serve His people. This is very noble and admirable.
My question is: What about the other kids?
Living in the Shadows
What about the other kids? What about the younger children? The siblings? Yes, they have amazing role models to look up to and aspire to be like, but I think that more times than not they feel like they are living in the shadows of their super holy brothers and sisters, and feel like if they don't follow the same path as them, they will be looked at as failures.
Now, I know for a fact that in most cases, this would never happen on purpose. No parents that I know would ever feel that way about their kids... ever!
The problem is, the kids can still feel this way themselves. And some of them do.
Every time I have spoken to youth about this topic, the younger children of these amazing families seem to connect with it. They can relate. One talk touched on how they shouldn't be so hard on themselves because God loves them no matter what. The conference I was speaking at had a lot of youth from very strong Catholic families in attendance, and as I was up there, I felt moved to touch on this topic. I mentioned that for those in attendance who have brothers and sisters who have gone before them and done cool stuff for God like join a ministry, take the pressure off yourself to live up to that and figure out what God wants for YOU. Some youth came up to me after the talk and thanked me. One young man in particular said, "before your talk, I hated myself". That hit me like a ton of bricks. I saw many students shake their heads in agreement with me. They can relate to this stuff.
What can we do?
Sometimes I think we forget about these children and assume they're fine because they come from stable, well-established, faithful homes. But the truth is, they are searching for purpose, meaning, and identity just a much as the rest of them. Sometimes they can be easily forgotten.
We need to encourage them and let them know that they don't have to follow the same path as their brother or sister who seem to have it all together.
We need to tell them that there are so many ways to holiness - That they don't need to do the same thing as their super holy brother or sister - That they can be holy in their own special way... their own quiet way.
We need to tell them that they have a purpose.
We need to encourage them in the fact that God has an amazing and unique plan set aside for them, and empower them to find it, own it, and embrace it.
We need to remember those youth Living in the Shadows of their family members and invite them out into the light of their own legacy, their own story, their own journey with Christ, and their own purpose.
We need to.
- Lance Rosen
By: Colm Leyne
In less than 12 hours it will have been a year since my son was born. As I watch our campfire go out at St. Joseph's Island on Lake Huron - I gaze to the stars. Earlier I gave my daughter some lessons about the stars and now I'm pondering the meaning of life (a good camping tradition).
I started my reflection with my family and what they teach me. Here's what I got so far.
Sharon teaches me humility, sacrifice, service, joy, passion and truth in beauty. I married up. Big time (irony aside). There's enough for a lifetime to enjoy ... Funny how that worked out?
Jacinta came to remind me my role from Father to becoming a Dad is as much to nurture as protect and provide. To nurture quiet strength, self confidence, and to have a servant heart. She taught me to fail the right people and love her better than anyone else on this planet could. The best part; she knows it beyond a shadow of a doubt! #daddydaughterday isn't trendy or cute - it is strategically loving my child. Patent pending on that word association bombshell. You're welcome.
Ezra. You're name means "Helper"
Call it the whole #Manventure thing, but you've helped spark my desire again to be fun. For me to live a life worth being told at Christmas dinners over tea and dessert. You've taught me about legacy.
What will be my legacy? Who will come to my funeral? What will my eulogy sound like? If we have grandkids, what of me will they carry on? All good questions to pray about under the stars.
I don't know all those answers. But son, I know that along with your mother and sister - you are already the best of me.
Happy Birthday Buddy,
Father’s Day… one of those last minute, almost forgotten about holidays for teachers. Honestly, what teacher is able to think of some cutesy, genuinely thoughtful gift for their students’ fathers while they are busy preparing report cards, field trips, and year-end slideshows? Well, I thought I had a gift that at least adequately fit those descriptors. We were going to make cookies and decorate cookie jars just for dad! It was going to be fun and my students were going to love it!
The first thing I hear as I pull out the jars… “Those jars are ugly!”… “Do we seriously have to paint these jars? Can’t we just draw with Sharpies?”… “Those jars are so small! How are we even going to fit cookies in there??”
Yep… there go my dreams of a positive and fun assignment. Fly away little dreams, fly away!
This past year has been a rather trying one in terms of keeping things positive. Not too far into the year I had to start up a “positivity jar” where students would earn marbles for every (genuinely) positive comment I heard. Let’s just say that the jar stopped, as it was the slowest earning jar we had ever seen. After every negative comment I heard, I would attempt to model an opposing positive comment or try to get the student to come up with their own positive comment (which would almost always end in an eye roll).
Now, I’m trying not to complain here, and I’m really trying to stay positive, but where have all the positive children gone?? I have to ask myself how these 10 year old's have managed to become so cynical and pessimistic. The only answer I have come up with is, well, it’s us adults. On to story number two… (which happened later that day).
On my long drive home I came up to a rather busy intersection during one of Lethbridge’s few rush hours, and traffic was stalled a bit. As it slowly got moving, I was on my way to the next set of lights, when they turn yellow. I had enough time to stop and wasn’t exactly up for running a red light, so I stopped. I look behind me in my rear-view mirror and see this lovely elderly gentlemen cussing me out and waving his hands frantically at me just begging me to keep going. This goes on for another 20 seconds. I merely smile back at him.
Now, this gentleman looked like he was on his own, but how many times has something like this happened when there were small children around? How many times has a child witnessed mom, dad, aunt, or uncle, come home and do nothing but complain about their day? How often do children get to witness an adult criticizing the waitress or meal at a restaurant? I don’t know about you guys, but I think it’s time as adults we need to step up and actually think about what we say around those sponge-like minds around us. We need to start thinking about how we can transform the negative circumstances into positive ones. How can we show that we are grateful for those opportunities that challenge us to greater growth? Isn't it in the bible that it says "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We need to teach our children to give thanks in all circumstances instead of complaining and whining. God doesn't promise us an easy, trouble-free life, He promises a "future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11), and to care for us through our anxieties (see 1 Peter 5:7).
Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people who go around whistling a happy tune with a 100-watt grin on all day… I can definitely get into a complaint mode. I need to vent. We all need to vent. Otherwise we’d all explode! But maybe, just maybe, we need to keep those times for when we can share it with another adult who can handle it, instead of sharing it around those who are still forming their personalities?
Just a thought.
Kids these days. A common phrase I had never DREAMED of using when I was younger. Today I find myself saying it more and more as the gap between me and High School graduates grows significantly larger.
Now that I am a parent I dub myself an expert at child rearing and shall offer my opinions and judgments freely to others parents…just kidding! I am NO expert, far from it. Everyday I learn something new from my kids and other parents around me. This post is simply an observation, an opinion formed from A) having once been a kid, B) working with youth/young adults, and C) the smallest bit I have learned being a mother to a 5 and almost 1 year old.
Back in the day, in my parent’s time, children were workers. They worked on the farm, worked in the shop, the family store, etc. When they were done their chores they could play. They also knew HOW to play, use their imagination, resolve conflict, quickly learn about action and consequence, and finally you were NOT entitled nor deserved anything, you earned it.
Now many decades have passed. There are a VAST amount of studies and articles about the effects of too much technology. I will not delve into that. There is also the sad and disturbing reality that our world is not safe. The increase in abductions, molestations, child abuse etc. has led to the sad state where we can no longer send our children off to the park unsupervised to play until supper. Even at the tail end of my childhood that was coming to effect.
So what is the point of this article? Well, somehow with all the changes that have happened we have gone from raising well-adjusted, self-reliant adults, to over grown children. There are a MULTITUDE of factors that play into this, but I am going to focus on the easy fixes as well as the LESS offensive…..
RESPECTING ADULTS (age FOREVER)
CLEANING ROOM (age 3 - forever)
Raising a Child
Do it for them. Allow them to whine and complain until you do it for them. Don’t teach them to do it properly or punish them for not doing it properly and end up redoing it for them.
Raising an Adult
MAKE THEM DO IT. MAKE THEM DO IT PROPERLY.
DISHES (age 5-forever)
Raising a Child
Refer to cleaning room.
Raising an Adult
Refer to cleaning room. Obviously adjusting to their capability and age. Even just starting out by helping, and learning how to clear their dishes.
LAUNDRY (age 10-forever)
Raising a Child
Doing their Laundry for them…even when they are in college….and Married….and then doing their children’s laundry.
Raising an Adult
Teach them how…and cut your laundry load in HALF!
PLAY TIME (age: forever)
Raising a Child
Technology overload. Tell them what, when and How to play. Helicopter parent so as not to let any hurt or conflict touch your sweet innocent child. Immediately tell the other kid’s parent how bad of a parent they are because their child pushed your child.
Raising an Adult
LET THEM PLAY. We call it LAZY parenting. I actually heard a 6 year old say they didn’t know what an imagination was the other day! WHAT? Let them get dirty, stop watching every second. Let them get hurt. Let them solve their own conflict. This is why most of the world is SO passive Aggressive and doesn’t know how to receive criticism. Allow them to make mistakes.
SCHOOL (age 5 to graduation)
Raising a Child
Your child is the perfect Angel that never does anything wrong. The teacher is just a hard ass, and doesn’t know what they are talking about. They can never be failed, so who cares if they actually do the work. Do the Volcano project for them because it takes less time. Think it’s just a phase and they will get over it.
Raising an Adult
This is a big one…. SIDE WITH THE TEACHERS….Unless the teacher is a total BEAST…I have met VERY few of those. If they say your child is NOT doing their homework, being a disruption in class, or is disrespectful, chances are ITS TRUE! If your kid got a low grade in class, chances are they deserve it. (I could go on about the whole school institution and how it’s DEFINITELY NOT geared towards a LARGE number of youth, but that is a WHOLE other article.) I am also mostly focusing on JR. HIGH/HIGH SCOOL here, unless there is an actual issue in terms of learning, OR the entire class is doing really badly because of a poor teacher, then chances are they did not EARN a higher grade and fighting the teacher on that is just teaching them that hard work is unnecessary if you know how to bully in the right way. In which case refer to RESPECTING ADULTS. Children, youth, adults are NOT perfect. They have to learn. If they are NEVER disciplined for their actions they turn into the jerk next to you at work you CANT stand!
School age is NOT just a phase they get over, it is actually their most FORMATIVE years. Treat them as such.
And just because this is a Catholic blog…. in the words of my husband, Catholic jerks are just Jerks…please don’t have a hand in raising one.
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