Fonticulus Fides

Thursday, October 30, 2003

If you have a moment, I'd love if you could offer a prayer up for my husband. Stress from his regular job, coupled with stress from his side business, combined with the general stress of having an exhausted wife with lingering morning sickness who can't keep up with the kids most of the time, let alone the house, is wearing him out. He's not sleeping well or eating well and he's had some bad headaches. The poor guy needs some serious refreshment to his soul.



Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Over at Notes to Myself, there is some good suggestions for activities, prayers and recipes for All Saints and All Souls days this weekend, including information on plenary indulgence. I'm going to ask my husband if we can go to the family cemetary on Sunday and put out some flowers or something. It's on a hill overlooking the original duggout that his great-great-grandfather built when he first claimed the land. That parcel actually belongs to my father-in-law's second cousin, but it's where all the family so far has been buried. It's about a quarter mile from the family farmhouse, as the crow flies. I haven't been there since Grandma was buried there last October, and I've never once put flowers on anybody's grave or tidied up a cemetary. But no time like the present, is there?


My comments are being wacky. Sorry, trying to fix it. In the meantime, I guess it's a good thing that I don't have much to blog about right now.


Monday, October 27, 2003

Today's noon Mass at our parish was offered on behalf of my grandmother, Lillie, on the day after what would have been her 97th birthday (the October 26th Masses were all "taken," so I arranged for it to be today instead).

I know precious little about Lillie's faith in God, much to my regret. I wasn't Catholic when she died 5.5 years ago, and she never said much to me about it -- probably because my mother made her promise not to say anything to us children about Catholicism. I actually learned most about my Grandma's faith at her funeral than I did while she was alive.

I've always been told I'm the most like Lillie between my mom and my two sisters and I. I can see some of it -- I have the same stubborn sense of self-determination that causes me to think, "Then I'll just make it work" when things happen that aren't to my liking. I have the same level of creative impulses, I think -- until her arthritis got the best of her, Grandma was always working at one needlecraft or another, mostly knitting. Most of my endeavors are mental schemes that don't ever seem to come to fruition, but that's mostly due to lack of time and money for supplies, not because I don't want to.

What I lack from Grandma was her shrewd financial planning ability. She was raised on a poor family dairy farm in Wisconsin. Once she moved to Chicago and became a working girl, she planned well for the future. She retired in good financial shape and even had enough to pay for expensive medical and nursing home bills in her last few months after a series of strokes rendered her unable to live alone. She was enormously practical about money things, and I wish I'd learned more of that from her...or inherited that particular gene if that's how one acquires such wisdom.

She was also practical about other things, including planning and prepaying her funeral. That was some funeral, too. On her 91st birthday, she called the funeral home that had handled all her family's arrangements for the last century plus and told the current manager, who was just a little older than me, that it was time for her to get things settled.

He went to her apartment to make all the arrangements. He told us later, "Your grandma drove a hard bargain." She asked for the cheapest casket on the list. When he suggested she might want her final resting chamber to be a bit more comfortable, she just glowered at him. He wrote down the cheapest model.

"You sing at the funeral," she said, knowing he wouldn't take money for it. He reminded her he wasn't a professional. "I've stood by you in church. You're good enough," she insisted.

She refused to pay for a hearse, even though she was to be buried in a country cemetary in the next county, 30 miles away. "What do you want me to do, Lillie?" the funeral director had asked, "Put you in the back of my Suburban?"

I can picture her setting her jaw the way she did. "Write that down," she told him.

"But Lillie, people won't understand!"

"Write. It. Down." He did.

No flowers, Grandma had insisted. She never did like getting cut flowers, because they died. She preferred plants that went on living. That was one request that my mom overturned, but there was only one arrangement to go over the casket.

No headstone, Grandma had said. The temporary marker was enough for her. My mom overruled that request, too, and had a headstone made to match the other family members' graves.

A few other details were worked out. Satisfied, Grandma wrote the funeral director a check to cover the total cost.

Grandma died about six months later. By then, most of her family and friends had gone on before her. My mom was her only child, so it was my parents, my three siblings and I, plus my husband. A sister-in-law and a couple nieces also attended, and a few friends...or maybe they were casual acquaintences from the parish who knew Lillie always came to Mass alone and had few friends and family around her.

The parish priest was young and fairly new. He admitted that he had never had a face-to-face conversation with Lillie, but he knew her well because if he ever said anything in a homily that treaded too close to overstepping the bounds of Catholic theology, he was sure to get a letter from my grandmother.

Had she been able to, she probably would have written him a letter after her funeral Mass. The priest, knowing that none of us were Catholic but my older sister, bent some rules for our sake. He let my older sister and I each read a passage of Scripture. He let my brother say a few personal words about Grandma after the homily. I didn't know this wasn't orthodox at the time -- I just remember feeling grateful that the priest was behaving so compassionately toward Grandma's woefully non-Catholic offspring. Maybe it wasn't the right thing for him to do, but it was one of the small memories that enabled my husband and I to entertain the idea that we should become Catholic some years later.

Until I did so, I never much thought about the souls in Purgatory or what might have been my grandmother's situation. I wasn't able to attend Mass today like I wanted to, but it felt good to know that my grandma's name was being spoken today, and that maybe we've helped her in some small way.


Friday, October 24, 2003

Lots on my mind lately.

One of the items is how miracles come to happen. Always, there is clearly something wonderful that happens in the spiritual realm. But regular people can play a part, too.

Like with Terri Schiavo -- not just our prayers, but the many people who wrote Jeb Bush and Florida legislators helped prod them into action.

And there was a story in our Diocean newspaper a while back about a woman who went to the local Crisis Pregnancy Center for a free test and sobbed when she found out she was pregnant. "We can't afford a child. My husband's been out of work for so long. We're barely making it. We're already getting help for rent and utilities and food." She thought for sure she would have to have an abortion. An hour later, a second woman showed up with a carload of baby supplies -- clothing, toys, bedding, you name it. Everything a family needs when they first have a baby. The CPC accepted everything from that woman and put it in the hands of the despairing mother-to-be, who is now continuing in her pregnancy.

That was a miracle. Where a mother had no hope, she was suddenly given an answer to all her needs. But all that other woman had done was clean out her basement.

That's the kind of miracle we can all participate in. Probably every single one of us owns something we aren't using that could be an answer to prayer for somebody else. And if you're like me, you can probably think of a few items right off the top of your head. Don't wait -- tomorrow is Saturday, so maybe you can spare a few minutes to get that item into somebody's hands who will know who to give it to. There are a lot of options in my community -- St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Crisis Pregnancy Center, Catholic Social Services, a shelter for battered women.

I really want to do something meaningful, even if it's just a tiny little thing.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Why is Michael Schiavo keeping Terri's parents and siblings away from her now? What does he have to gain by this? I'd lay money he's not going to see her. Why deny her the comfort of having her family around? Why deny them the opportunity to talk to her, stroke her hair, etc.?

I seriously do not get it!


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

President Bush also given opportunity to save lives today!

The Senate passed the partial-birth abortion ban. Read more here. Unbelievably good news. I don't doubt the President will sign it.

So much to be thankful for today!



From the AP wires, the Florida Senate also passed Terri's Bill! Governor Bush has signed it and has ordered Terri's feeding to be resumed. An attorney for the Schindler family notes that Terri will need IVs to rehydrate before nourishment can be provided. I pray to God that no irreversible damage was done to this woman by this terrible ordeal.

Michael Schiavo's attorney filed an injunction, but amazingly enough, Judge Greer kicked it back "on a technicality." I expect he will refile. Prayers still required, of course.


Update of Florida Legislature's Moves to Help Terri

The Mighty Barrister posted this link to a breaking news story that a Florida Senate panel approved the bill in the first round. The entire Senate is to consider it "this evening" -- oh, how many precious minutes are being ticked away as we wait for the government to do its business! The story also notes that a federal judge in Tampa is to rule today whether the feeding tube can be replaced while abuse allegations are investigated. Two possible reprieves for Terri -- I'm praying for either or both to happen quickly. Please join me!


Update on Terri Schiavo:

Times Against Humanity reports that the Florida House has given Jeb Bush permission to intervene in Terri's case, looks like by a 3-to-1 margin or so. The Florida Senate takes it up today. Godspeed to them -- may they make the decision quickly this morning so that Terri can again receive food and hydration by the end of today. Pray!


Monday, October 20, 2003

Prayers continuing for Terri...

Also praying for the Florida Legislature, which is meeting in special session this afternoon and will hopefully vote in favor of Terri's bill. I saw the link at numerous blogs this a.m., can't remember which one was first, so thanks to everybody and especially Terri's Fight.

They're Always Listening More than You Think

Yesterday, we were running a bit late for 9:30 Mass at our home parish, so we went to a neighboring parish for 10:00 Mass. This one is actually physically closer to our home, but we're just over the boundary line. Anyway, Fr. G spoke about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (assuming that's the right title for her now) a bit during homily and told a lovely story about how she tended to a very ill woman the only way she could, by lovingly putting her into a comfortable bed, where the woman died shortly thereafter, "with a smile on her face."

Zooey suddenly whispered to me, "Who killed Mother Theresa?" (He's only four, remember. I don't know why he thinks she may have been killed.) I whispered back, "Nobody killed her. She was very old and she had done all the work God wanted her to do here with us, so it was time for her to die and go to heaven."

That may not be the most theologically correct way of putting it, but it's hard to find terms that a 4-year-old understands that aren't scary. We said the same thing when my husband's grandmother died last year.

Zooey immediately responded, still whispering, "I'm not going to heaven." My "mommy radar" went off the chart -- has he begun to think that heaven and/or dying are bad?

"Not yet. You still have work to do down here, for God."

Zooey thought that over for a minute. "Mother Theresa died with a smile on her face?" he asked.

I put my arm around him and brought him in close. "Father was telling a story about another lady whom Mother Theresa was helping. But I think Mother Theresa probably died with a smile on her face, too. Time to listen to Father, now."

Boy, there's times when all I can do is hope I'm doing the parenting thing right.

Trivial Stuff

Halloween, All Saints and All Souls events are coming up fast.

My attempts to coax Zooey into dressing up as a knight like St. George were all in vain. First he wanted to be a bat, then he agreed to be a knight. Then he decided he'd rather be a pirate, and I got him to segue into being one of the Veggie Tales Pirates Who Don't Do Anything to make that less icky. One too many Homestar Runner cartoons later (courtesy of my husband), and he wanted to be Strong Bad. I tried to change his mind, but he was adament that it was to be Strong Bad or nothing. I ignored him for a few days and he suddenly switched to Charlie Brown. Still not a saint, but relatively harmless. And since he's not going to be in the All Saints parade at school after all (no preschoolers), I'm not going to try to change his mind again. Besides, I have to have time to get the costume together.

We found a yellowish polo shirt on clearance at the store & I bought some black fabric paint on sale. We painted the front zig-zag stripe on it this weekend (the back will be done this week). It looks pretty good. Toss on that and some black paints, and he's instantly Charlie Brown. We're also going to cut a gazillion holes in a old sheet like Charlie Brown did in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Adults will get the joke, anyway. And it's not like all that many people are going to see him in a costume anyway.

The pumpkin is to be carved like Charlie Brown's head. I need a nice round pumpkin for that, don't I?


Friday, October 17, 2003

How to Kick a Man When He's Down

My brother-in-law was laid off yesterday. Yeah, same guy whose wife left him.

He is reportedly doing okay with the situation, although I believe he's acknowledged that he will have to sell the house they just bought after all. He's refinished all the floors and redid all the ceilings, and I believe he was about to start on a major kitchen remodel. Maybe he'll just paint now instead.

No other plans for the moment. Your prayers for him and his 3-year-old daughter (who has enough instability in her life without this) are more than welcome. And if anybody knows of somebody who needs a hard-working mechanical engineer who is a nice guy, please let me know. We'd prefer him to stay here in Nebraska, where we can offer typical family-style support, but jobs are scarce and I don't think he has the luxury to be all that picky.

Siiiiiigh. I'm getting tired of these "all we can do is pray" situations.


Thursday, October 16, 2003


I have good reason to believe in miracles. I owe my very life to miraculous intervention, and I share this with you today because it is the feast day of St. Gerard Majella (besides being our Pope’s 25th Anniversary).

When my mother was about three months pregnant with me, her abdomen suddenly swelled to the point where it looked like she was about to deliver. X-rays determined that a fast-growing tumor had appeared on her womb, a tumor the size of a football.

It was 1964, and back then tumor = cancer, and cancer = death and the best hope offered to patients was to go in and cut out every bit of that tumor and as much tissue around it as possible, right away, before it was too late. This is what my parents were told. Immediate surgery was required to save my mother’s life.

My parents were "casual Catholics" at that point. Dad had converted from being an Easter-and-Christmas-only Lutheran in order to marry my mom, who was raised Catholic. But they were never particularly faithful to the Church. They didn’t attend Mass regularly and weren’t teaching their older children much about Christ at all, let alone Catholicism.

But faced with the news that she was about to be operated on to remove both the tumor and her entire female reproductive system (a total hysterectomy was part of the deal), my mom refused. She said she couldn’t have the surgery because she was pregnant, and she believed that it was more important to save her baby’s life than her own.

The doctor told her that the baby very likely wouldn’t live, the tumor would crowd the womb and prevent the umbilical cord from doing its job. Plus the baby might already be infected with the cancer. Mom maintained her reluctance.

My dad was furious. They already had two kids, a boy and a girl. This was an unexpected pregnancy, so it’s not like they ever really wanted this baby. Her other kids needed her. He needed her. She had to have the surgery.

Finally, she asked for two weeks to think it over. The doctor warned her that it might be too late by then.

She went to her mother and asked for help. Together, they did a Novena to St. Gerard Majella, patron saint of mothers and difficult pregnancies.

At the end of the two weeks, the tumor was completely gone. X-rays showed no sign of it. My mom continued in her pregnancy – lots of morning sickness, but no other complication. And I was born on October 15, 1964, the anniversary of St. Gerard’s death and the day before his feast day.

Six weeks later, the tumor grew back, this time the size of an orange and attached to an ovary. My mom had surgery to remove both tumor and ovary, and tests proved the tumor was benign. She and my dad went on to have one more child, my sister Michelle.

Oddly enough, I was never told this story until I was in my late 20s. My mom said she didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

I’m not sure how a couple who experienced such an extravagant miracle could, but my parents did not take the Christian faith more seriously afterwards.

When I was little, we went to Mass on Easter and Christmas, and sometimes we would be read a page out of our Catholic children’s Bible to make up for not going to Sunday Mass. But I never had any formal instruction, and by the time I was in grade school, we didn’t even go to Mass on holidays any more. Eventually, my parents openly rejected Catholicism.

But I believe in miracles. Learning the story of how my very life was saved by miraculous intervention and the prayers of my mother, my grandmother and a Saint I’d never heard of before was very powerful to me. I didn’t become Catholic for quite some time afterwards – more than 10 years – but when I did, I knew there was no reason to doubt the communion of Saints and the continuing existence of miracles.

Yesterday, I turned 39, the same age as Terri Schiavo. Yesterday, her feeding tube was removed. But I believe a miracle can happen for Terri. I believe God can feed her heavenly food. I believe God can restore her brain function. I believe God can change the hearts and minds of the people who would see her starve to death. I believe something miraculous will happen.

Please keep praying. It’s not too late for Terri to experience a powerful move of the Hand of God.


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Now I read at Terri's website that her parents have been denied visitation! They can't comfort her as she starves to death...they cannot even say good-bye.

Pray, pray, pray, pray, PLEASE pray!


I can't think of anything other than Terri Schiavo today. Please, Lord, intervene!


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Read the latest on Terri Schiavo here.

And please, pray, pray and pray some more. For the life of me, I can't understand why the Florida courts are so determined to see this woman starved to death. They ought to make those judges sit in her room every day until the end.

But, by God's mercy, maybe this will never happen. Lord, please answer our prayers and save Terri!


Thanks to Summa Mamas for the link.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Please pray!

A whole bunch of blogs on St. Blogs have linked to this, but just in case you haven't seen the notices, Terri Schiavo's life is at stake as the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube will take place in less than 48 hours. Please, please, please pray for this woman! Read more and see photos/video of this very ALIVE woman right here.


Various updates for today.

Drought Update

We've had enough rain that we've moved into "first stage drought" for now. Much better than "extreme" or "serious" drought. But we still need continuing moisture all fall and winter to replenish the water table for next year.

Harvest Update

They're bringing in the soybeans these days. My father-in-law's were harvested last week, and he averaged 24 bushels an acre. National average is about 40-42, but my father-in-law notes that his average has been more like 35 in the past five years or so, what with the drought and all. Luckily, the price of beans is up -- over $6 a bushel, last I heard, which is more than a dollar higher than last year. This will help offset the lower yields. Corn is to be harvested in the next week or two.

By the way, a lot of city dwellers never think much about the price per bushel for crops like corn. (Although I have heard some people complain about the price supports that keep the price-per-bushel of certian crops from falling below a certain level.) Corn has been averaging less than $2.50 a bushel for a long time. Now, I don't know how many boxes of cornflakes you can make out of one bushel of corn, but it's a lot. Let's say 50 for the sake of argument -- although that's very likely underestimated. A box of cornflakes is at least $3.50 these days. So if the manufacturer makes 50 boxes from one bushel, that's $175.00 in revenue, from which the manufacterer pays for processing, workers, shipping, utilities, etc.; the grocery store pays for checkers, utilities, etc; and so forth. The farmer's share in the gross profit is only 1.4%. Probably less, since I'm pretty sure my boxes-per-bushel estimate was low.

I always think about this stuff, now that I'm (remotely) part of a farming family.

Brother-in-Law Update

We gathered for our nephew Chase's birthday yesterdays. My brother-in-law and his daughter were there, but his wife wasn't. And no, we didn't expect her. Our understanding is that he has their little girl full-time now, and she only sees her mom for visits. Counseling has produced no changes of attitude yet, but it's still early in the process. We also have been given to believe that my brother-in-law is supporting his wife financially as she lives apart from him, though we don't know if that means she's rooming with somebody or has a place of her own. Some folks in the family are concerned that she's just going to take and take and take from him as long as he's willing and still dump him in the end. But we're not given many details about things, so everything is mostly speculation. He isn't giving up hope yet, and I want to support him in that.

For a guy in his situation, my brother-in-law seems to be holding up really well. He tossed a football around with the kids, and I could tell that he is trying to make things as "normal" and consistant for his daughter as he possibly can, despite the pain, frustration and sorrow that must weigh so heavily on him. You know, he is a really great guy. I hope and pray that his wife will realize this before it's too late...whenever that is. I have no explanation for why she might feel differently about him. Or maybe she does recognize it and feels like she's not worthy. There are so many possible reasons for her current behavior and so few details. Your continuing prayers are welcome.

Norm's Update

Tests on my brother's father-in-law, Norm, came back negative for a stroke. So they are testing him for Lyme Disease and something else (my mom couldn't remember when she called me). He improved tremendously on Friday and over the weekend, to the point where they were all assuming he could go home as early as today. Thursday, he couldn't even remember his own daughter's name. Today, he's chomping at the bit to get back to normal activities. Anyway, thanks for all prayers said on his behalf.

Teething Update

If you've ever had a teething toddler, you don't need the details. If you never have had a teething toddler, you don't want the details. Suffice to say, four regular teeth surfaced in little Edyn's upper gums last week bringing her up to eight on top and two on the bottom. Then she struggled with a lower left molar all weekend. We think it's finally broken through and we are alternately thanking God and praying for strength to help her tackle the next three. Which should arrive momentarily. Siiiiigh. No other way to get them, though. And molars will help her eat a better variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, so I shouldn't complain.

Oh, and thanks to all the comments (below) about praying for our dead loved ones and all the other souls in Purgatory. I had votives lit for my husband's grandmother and his uncle Larry, who both died a year ago last week. I'm going to have a Mass said for my grandma Lillie on the 26th of this month, which was her birthday. I just have to call the parish to find out how that is done.


Friday, October 10, 2003

Please increase your prayer efforts for Terri Schiavo. The judge has ruled that there will be no delay in removing her feeding tube despite appeals and Gov. Jeb Bush's attempts to intervene. Which means we only have until Wednesday!

I found the link at HMS Blog.


Having come from the Protestant faith tradition, the whole concept of praying for the dead is really new to me. I suppose between the anniversary of my husband’s grandmother’s death and the coming All Soul’s Day (my first as a Catholic), I’ve been thinking about this more.

As a Protestant, I was taught that a person’s eternal state was determined at the moment of death. If, as that person died, he/she was "right with God," he/she immediately went to Heaven. If he/she was not "right with God," he/she immediately went to hell.

I have grown to find the concept of Purgatory quite comforting, in light of this. I mean, who can count on being "right with God" at the exact moment of death? Right or wrong, I look at Purgatory as a time to finally shed "the old man" that I struggle against –- that all of us bound by the flesh struggle with, I suppose.

Certainly, the concept of Purgatory is a mystery. There are certain questions that can’t be answered -– like what must a person experience in order to get through Purgatory and into Heaven, how long a particular person is there (if linear time even applies at all), etc.

For me, I have been wondering how much prayer to devote to the specific people I know who have already died. I mean, I understand praying for all the poor souls in Purgatory, but when I think of my husband’s grandmother -- who was not Catholic but who was very devoted to Christ, prayer and serving others -- I wonder should I pray for her soul daily? Should I pray for her soul for the rest of my life? Is there any way of being assured that her time in Purgatory is completed? Or will the souls in Purgatory never be released until the final Judgement Day?

And I wonder about my own Catholic grandmother, who died about six-and-a-half years ago. I don’t think anybody has been praying for her soul in all this time -– my mother was her only child, and my mom isn’t Catholic. My grandma outlived all her siblings except one, who was a nun, but Sr. Margaret Mary already suffered from dementia by the time my grandmother died, and I’m not sure what her mental capacities were. Would having a Mass said for Grandma help make up for the neglect? It pains me to think that nobody has been praying for my grandmother’s soul. I want to – I try to, but honestly, it feels really awkward and I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing the boat somehow.

I’m sorry if these are silly questions. We did study a lot about the Catholic faith before and during RCIA, but this just didn’t seem to be a huge issue at the time. As I’ve said before, Catholicism is so very rich, I still have much to learn. And likely always will.

Input welcome, of course.


Thursday, October 09, 2003

I have things I want to blog about -- just trying to get the issues sorted out in my head a bit. And do a little prayer and study first, but alas, time is in short supply these days. Hopefully my head will clear soon, so I can write something meaningful.

In the meantime, happy birthday to our nephew Chase, who is four today.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A year ago today, my husband's grandmother died. I was very fond of her. She was always especially kind to me -- maybe because she understood what my future in the family would be someday. After all, she and I (and my mother-in-law) each married the oldest son of the Hansen clan. Grandma must have thought that sort of made me the heir to her legacy, as the matriarch. Though I doubt things will work out that way, as the family becomes more widespread geographically and philospophically. I can't see us taking over the farm someday. Actually, I can't see anybody in our generation taking over the farm someday, cousins included.

But back to Edith. She was an amazing woman. The only child of a small-town grocer and his very timid wife, she grew up in a tiny apartment over her father's store, where it was easy to keep tabs on the entire community. At the age of 16, she graduated from high school and went to work for the local newspaper, setting type and proofreading and writing an occasional obituary or birth announcement. She lived a good life, a simple life in a small town. She was industrious and friendly, and she took good care of her aging parents.

Ten years later, she was singing in the church choir on Easter Sunday when a tall, strapping farmer in a navy blue suit entered with a nearly-as-tall woman on his arm. Edith assumed they were man and wife, and thought to herself how lucky that lady must be to have such a nice-looking man take care of her so devotedly. She found out later that Andrew and Daisy Hansen were brother and sister...and that Andrew had had his eye on Edith for quite some time.

They were married quietly a few months later, and Andrew brought her home to be a farm wife. Being a town girl, Edith was never very comfortable around the cows or crop machinery, so she continued to work at the newspaper to help pay for a hired hand. A few years after her wedding, she had a son...and then another and another and another. Then a daughter arrived, quickly followed by the littlest sister -- six children in 8 years time!

Still, she worked at the newspaper during the day, bringing her babies with her and propping them in the corner of paper crates while she set type and proofed the galleys. She was writing her own column in addition to handling all the wedding/birth/graduation/military announcements and obituaries. In the late afternoon, she'd drive back to the farm in the DeSoto and help with the milking. During harvest, the newspaper only came out weekly, so she had plenty of time to help in the fields.

Her children grew up, all of them tall. Edith saw two boys off into the military during the Viet Nam war, including her firstborn (my father-in-law) and prayed for them constantly until they returned home safely. Another son opened his own carpentry business, and the other children went to college and launched successful careers. All the kids married and had babies -- six grandsons born within three years, then five granddaughters followed, born within 4 years.

Edith continued to work for the paper all this time. There was not a wedding or baptism or graduation or funeral that she was not invited to. When the local high school football team went to State, Edith made the trip into Lincoln to sit in the stands and cheer for the boys. She never did learn how to type on a computer, but she understood the paper's "newfangled" automated printing process and explained it to many a grade school class when they came for a tour.

Throughout her life, Edith suffered the usual course of trials and tribulations that are common to us all. Bad years for crops, strife in her beloved Protestant church that caused a split, illness, debt, two divorces among her six children. The newspaper business grew tight, and several other communities consolidated their papers with hers, but Edith still wrote her own column about local events.

Andrew died in 1989 and was buried in the family cemetary that sits on the ridge over the original dugout that Great-Great-Grandpa Andrew built when he staked his claim in the still-wild Nebraska prairie. Six years later, Edith buried her oldest daughter alongside Andrew -- Clara Beth had succumbed to breast cancer at the all-too-young age of 45. Heartbroken as she was at this tremendous loss, Edith clung to her faith in God and used her grief as a means of getting closer to Him and learning more about His will.

Meanwhile, Edith's grandchildren grew up and married and started having babies of their own. First came the boys -- fourteen of them now -- then the three girls so far. There are two more babies due in January, including my own, and I so wish Edith was here on Earth to hold them.

In 1997, Edith moved into town because driving in from the farm in bad weather was just too treacherous, and she had to get her column done. She finally retired from the paper at the age of 87 -- less than a year before her death -- after 61 years of service. Her health had begun to fail her, and she was worried about her accuracy in names and dates. She spent her last months hosting Bible studies in her home and crocheting doilies and attending various town functions as an honored guest. And praying for all of us, of course.

When we saw her a week before she died, she was blissfully happy and perfectly content with her life. Our baby girl smiled at her, and she said to me, "How wonderful, how wonderful!" It occurred to me then that she was saying goodbye somehow, but I put it out of my mind.

On the night of October7, 2002, she had a stroke as she sat in her armchair, crocheting. My father-in-law found her when he drove into town to see why she hadn't answered the phone when he made his nightly call. In the early afternoon on the 8th, as her five living children and several grandchildren surrounded her, she quietly and peacefully slipped away from us and into the hands of God.

She was a wonderful, hard-working, generous, loving mom. She was wonderfully devoted to our Lord and Savior. She was a really great person, and her family still misses the strength of her presence.

I sure wish everybody could have known her.


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Family update...

I talked to my husband's sister over the weekend about the whole issue with her 8-year-old son. She and her husband had spoken with Branden who said the report from school was "No big deal." At this point, they think the guidance counselor overreacted, and they were going to try to set up a meeting with the school to find out exactly what is going on. So, no real information yet. From my perspective, I can see how violent behavior would be in keeping with Branden's life and various issues so far, but I wouldn't have expected it at this young age. Maybe things have been blown out of proportion. I kind of hope so.

Regarding my brother-in-law and his wife, they went to a counselling session last Thursday, but Heidi insisted on choosing a new counselor -- not sure why. I'm getting all this second-hand through my mother-in-law because my brother-in-law doesn't want to go over it again and again. My bil doesn't think the new counselor has enough background, nor does he think Heidi provided enough information during the session, like how she suddenly left for two weeks. He told my mil that there was a "95% chance" that things were not going to work out, but he's still shooting for that 5% of hope. Heidi told him she wasn't going to do the bar scene any more, but then she unexpectedly left their daughter with him on Thursday and Friday nights, both notorious "party nights" around here. Of course, it would be only speculation to assume that's why. No word on where Heidi is living or how their little girl is coping with all of this.

My family entered the fray a bit, too -- my brother Mike's father-in-law suffered a stroke late Sunday night. Norm is 73. Too soon to gauge the extent of the stroke or his ability to recover from it, but his family is obviously distraught. So prayers welcome for Norm, too, if you have a moment to spare for that.


Monday, October 06, 2003

With all the tough family stuff we've been dealing with, I'm surprised at how happy I am to hear that the Cubbies finally did it!

I've been a Cubs fan my whole life. It's something you inherit, I guess. My paternal grandfather passed it on to us. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Cubs fan so vocal, for years he corresponded with Dallas Green and tried to influence how he ran the club. After my grandmother died, we found a shoebox full of letters Grandpa had received from Dallas Green, most of which told him he was an old coot who didn't understand baseball management. Seems like they both enjoyed the correspondence, though.

Too bad Grandpa didn't live to see this day -- he very likely remembered the last one, though. I never asked. As children, we were too used to the Cubs never winning the play-offs to think that it ever happened.

Hmmm...maybe we'll celebrate with Chicago-style hot dogs for supper tonight, complete with yellow mustard, bright green pickilli, and celery salt, of course. I'll have to hide the ketchup, though, since both my husband and son tend to practice that brand of heresy.


You could experiment with this but I don't know why. A walk in the woods would probably have a much better effect, body and soul.

And you all thought that the town I live in isn't terribly progressive. I'm sorry to say it's more progressive than I thought.


Yesterday, we popped into a bookstore so my husband could buy George Weigel's biography on Pope John Paul II. We recent converts don't know near enough about the Pope as we should. The young clerk who helped my husband find it lifted up the heavy book and noted, "Wow...he must have done a lot."

Seeds sown for another Catholic convert? Please, Lord, let it be so!

I've toyed with the idea of reading it myself, but I only seem to get short snatches of reading time now -- I'll never finish before the baby arrives. I'll have to settle for the "Cliff's Notes" version at the dinner table as my husband recounts it to me.


Friday, October 03, 2003

More begging for prayer on my part...

My mother-in-law just sent out a prayer request for our nephew, Branden, who is 8. This is my husband's sister's oldest boy, and he has been exhibiting some violent tendencies of late, in the form of fights at school and also, yesterday, self-strangulation. Branden has not had a particularly peaceful or consistent childhood -- I'm not up to explaining all the details for the moment. Not sure if any of this is at all related to the other family strife between my husband's brother and his wife. Honestly, I think some of this behavior is to be expected, all things considered. I just hope Branden's mom & stepfather can get him the help he needs. And I pray to God to help us all!


Please pray for Fr. G, a pastor from our Diocese who has left his parish suddenly to go on sabbatical due to a private personal crisis. Also, please pray for his assistant, Fr. P, who is currently the sole priest responsible for a quite large and vibrant parish, for all the parishoners, and for our Bishop who is overseeing this situation and is probably looking for ways to fill the void both in the parish and at our local high school, where Fr. G was one of the instructors. I've not met Fr. G myself, but I know serveral of the people in his parish and I hear he is an excellent pastor and will be sorely missed.


Question for you all -- what's the scoop on First Fridays? I've seen notices up about Mass and special offerings at our parish, but I don't know anything about the particulars. Why are First Fridays considered special?



Thursday, October 02, 2003

It's my brother Mike's 43rd birthday today. I'm praying that God will bestow heaps of blessings on Mike and his wife, including a solution to their perpetually leaky roof.


Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I'm pretty much a get-off-your-butt-and-do-something person. I don't like it when bad things happen to people. I want to be able to fix things.

Being in a situation like this, with my brother-in-law's crisis weighing on me, is especially hard. I know that I can't meddle. There's nothing I can say to him that would make everything okay. Even if Heidi would talk to me, I don't have much to offer. And I don't think she'd listen to me even if I did. I can't fix things for their little girl, either. All I can do is pray.

In my head, I know that prayer is a wonderful thing, a powerful thing. But in times like this, prayer feels like it's nothing. Maybe because it's so easy to do. Maybe because I have this old Prostestant carry-over notion that the only thing prayer changes is the person who is praying. Maybe because I know deep down inside that I am such a novice at prayer. Maybe because I'm impatient -- it seems like prayer leads to long-term solutions when I want so much for an immediate answer so all the yuck can come to an end now.