Thursday, November 29, 2007

Would you do it again?

Today I got an email from my "little" cousin Joe (his stage name is J. Maxx). That was a cause for rejoicing in itself because we don't really correspond much. Joe must be about 38 or so now, a grown up - imagine that! He married last December, so he's coming up on his first wedding anniversary, and he obviously was reflecting on that event, because here is what he sent me. He also sent it to his sister (Goddaughter #2), his female cousins that he grew up with and one of my first cousins. The photo above is of my seven sweethearts - my seven "little" cousins, and he sent the email to them and me and one of my other cousins that we are all very close with.

"Okay, ladies-Got a question for you (looking for honest answers here): if you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you have kids? J. Max"

This is the reply that he got from his sister, Goddaughter #2, the lawyer - but I promise you, she's a NICE lawyer!:

"absolutely, no questions asked. My kids are the very, very best that has ever happened in my life. They bring me the most joy I've felt in my life. Of course there are days that you want to rip the hair out of your head, but that in no way even comes close to the love you feel.

It is the hardest and I mean the hardest job you will ever undertake and you have no idea how hard it is until you do it, but the rewards always outweigh the turmoil. LikeDina said, the first few months are so hard and because the baby can't tell you what's wrong it's very hard, but that time literally flies away and in no time it is a distant memory. Those first smiles, those hugs around your neck and the head that rests on your shoulder for comfort and support, you can't beat!!!"

Then I got this one from him:

Denise- I had your wrong e-mail address. Care to weigh in?

J. Max

I thought about it. Would I do it again? Would I be willing to do it again now, knowing all that went before? Here is my reply:

"Dear Joe,

I've been through a lot. When Jerry and I got married, I had dreams of the little house with the white picket fence, 2.2 children, a cat, a dog and a rosebush. Nothing special, just an ordinary, normal life. After the first year of marriage, we decided to try to have a baby. A year after that, I was 25 years old with a diagnosis of infertility. I was devastated. I mourned children I had never even had until I had Elisabeth in the 11th year of my marriage. By that time, I was 34 years old and felt my biological clock ticking... and remember, Jerry is 9 years older than me, so he was already in his mid 40s. I felt like the window for having a child was closing.

Then, miraculously, I was pregnant! Happy happy joy joy! But at 12 weeks, I was having a miscarriage. I'll spare you the gory details, but we really thought we had lost her. I remember sitting in the ER waiting for the infertilitiy specialist to show up to tell me that I was having a miscarriage, and I thought to myself.... at least I had the opportunity to be pregnant for a little while. At least I had the opportunity to have a doctor tell me I was pregnant, and I had the joy of telling my husband, and my mother, and my Auntie Anna. At least I had these experiences and it will have to be enough.

DD had other plans, though, and was born healthy. But you know the rest of the story - a 14 month old with cancer is pretty ugly. I really thought she would die during the surgery. I remember thinking, throughout that whole awful time, that at least I had the opportunity to know her and love her and nurse her and change her diapers, and nibble her toes for a little while, and a little while was a whole lot better than nothing. Then came the divorce and being a single mother which is pretty difficult. Add in two sick and elderly parents, death, nursing homes, never enough money, lost jobs..... life has been very hard. But the one consistent bright spot has been DD.

Now she is almost 18 and getting ready to fly the coop. She is a wonderful, wonderful young woman: kind, generous, understanding, sentimental, thoughtful, smart, funny, talented, beautiful inside and out. I couldn't ask for a more wonderful child. I'm so proud of her.

Was all that sorrow and pain and anguish worth it? Were the years that I spent on my knees begging God to let me be a mother worth it? Was the fear of screwing her life up worth it? The fear of her dying (I still have nightmares once in a while) worth it?

You bet it was worth it, Joe. Every second, every minute of every day was worth it, even the bad stuff. I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, even at 52, even knowing all I know now that I sure didn't know then --- yes, I'd do it again. I'd have a whole houseful.

I have never felt such intense joy. I have never been so fulfilled. I have never been so challenged to mature and develop. My life has been so enriched. Watching your child grow and leading her in the way she should go has provided me with the most intense joy and fulfillment--- more than I could ever have dreamed of. I have grown so much. My faith has been strengthened - I *know* that God exits - I see the pattern of His love and care for me and for DD every day.

Go for it, Joe! You would make a fantastic father. I just know it!



You know, Joe was the most beautiful baby I think I've ever seen. He almost didn't make it - his mother was in a car accident and had him about two months early. He had a few problems, but he was the sweetest, most loving child. And brave! He was/is an actor/casting director in NY - I'm always amazed that he has the guts to get up in front of people like that. He was the only boy in the house - there were six girls. He learned to deal. All in all, he was an amazing kid, and now he's a wonderful man. His wife got very lucky when she met him.

And he would be a wonderful father. He would be patient and fun as a father, but he wouldn't be afraid to be strong enough to train his children the way they should go. He's got a lot of depth and a lot of class.

I don't know whether he and his new wife will have any children. I guess he doesn't know that yet himself. But, he'd be a great father. I just know it. And it would be worth it. Every minute of every day would be worth it. I really wanted him to know that.

Here is his reply, which just shows you how tenderhearted and loving he is:

Dear Denise- I am at work right now, and trying not to cry, as that was the most beautiful endorsement for parenthood I have ever read. If I am blessed with children, if I can be half the parent you are my children will be very lucky indeed. I love you and miss you. -Joe
J. Max

Oh ya, and he loves his big cousin Denise! The reason he loves me so much is because I gave him drums for Christmas when he was four. His mother still isn't talking to me! Grin.... that was BEFORE I was a mother of course!

Guess which one in the photo is Joe! And guess which one is Goddaughter #2 that I love so much and talk about all the time!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Autumn Reading Challenge: The Jesus Prayer - A Monk

This thin little book took forever to read - not because it was so difficult, but because I kept falling asleep. Now, don't think that the book bored me until I was comatose, because it was very interesting, but it was totally different from what I expected. I expected lots of how-tos regarding the Jesus Prayer and lots of mysticism. I would say the last 15 pages or so tackle the nitty gritty how-to of the Jesus Prayer. The rest of the book is an exposition of the history of the veneration of the name of Jesus. The monk author (Lev Gillett) starts with the names of God in the Old Testament, moves on to Jesus in the New Testament, and continues throughout history, showing the development of the prayer into its present form: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

I don't think I'll be rereading this one, as interesting as it was. I need something on the more practical aspects of prayer, rather than the historical development of this prayer through time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


What am I truly thankful for? On this day of national Thanksgiving, I wonder.... what am I thankful for?

1. That my daughter's cancer is still in remission and she is healthy
2. That she has grown into a thoughtful, intelligent, principled, kind young woman
3. That my father is still "himself" in a strange way, even though the Alzheimers has taken its terrible toll
4. My sister/cousins Rosanne and Ethel who I love and admire so very, very much, without whom I would have no one left to remember what it was like for us growing up
5. My family - my wonderful, crazy, loving, loud, raucous, opinionated, bossy family - which can be summed up in one word: B Street Kids. That includes Lisa with Olivia and Vanessa, Goddaughter #2 with Jeff, Jeffrey and Isabella, Andrea and Julia, Dina with Todd and baby George Anthony, Georgene and Erin, Joe and Sheilagh, Jen and Steve.
6. A long life with my mother, though I miss her so much
7. My church family who have become truly my family and who have brought so much in DD's and my lives, especially Uncle Ken and Auntie Janice, Baba and Papa, Joan, Cindy and FJ
8. In a weird way, I'm thankful for the last five years -- so much has happened, so much tragedy and angst, so much pain -- but still, I've learned so much that I wouldn't trade this terrible time
9. Noa perfume. I'm thankful for Noa.
10. That I had the opportunity to carry a child, to feel that child move within me, to give birth, to breastfeed that child - everything I wished for and dreamed of and prayed for came true.
11. That God made lobsters
12. That I've had so many opportunities to travel, to be exposed to great art and literature and music, to different cuisines, to meet new people. What a wonderful life I've had!
13. That God finally allowed me to be a mother, and to mother this particular child, who has been through so much but has emerged as a beautiful, deep, trustworthy young woman
14. That my ex and I have remained friendly for our daughter's sake
15. That here in the US, I have the freedom to express my opinion, worship God as I choose, vote as I see fit, pursue an education as I choose, and work as I choose. So far, my civil liberties are mostly intact. I pray that they remain so.
16. Gardenias, my favorite flower, and my grandmother's favorite flower as well. Whenever I see a gardenia, or smell its fragrance, so many memories are triggered. I'm thank for those memories of life and love with so many family members, all gone now...
17. My little house in RH. I love my little house, and I'm thankful that I was able to purchase it.
18. That I have had the opportunity to love a man deeply
19. Email. I'm thankful for email, without which I would have lost contact with so many friends and extended family members
20. Most of all, I am thankful for God's faithfulness to me, even when I was not faithful to Him, even when I railed against Him, even when I ignored Him, even when I blamed Him, even when I was utterly unloveable. How amazing His constant love for me is!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On True Fasting

It is necessary, most of all, for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourselves in the present week. This is true fasting.

St. John Chrysostom

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Meme

On another note, Mimi at had an interesting Meme for bloggers that I’ll do. Here's how it works: I will answer some questions about you, if you want to play along.

1. Tell you why I friended you or put you on my Bloglines
2. Associate you with something - fandom, a song, a color, a photo, etc.
3. Tell you something I like about you.
4. Tell you a memory I have of you.
5. Ask something I've always wanted to know about you.
6. Tell you my favorite user pic photo of yours (or something about your avatar I like)
7. In return, you must post this in your blog.

That's it! So, if you want to play along, just leave a comment to this post and I will respond.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Three Quizzez

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to good manners and elegance.
In love, you feel the most alive when your lover is creative and never lets you feel bored.
You'd like to your lover to think you are loyal and faithful... that you'll never change.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.
Your ideal relationship is open. Both of you can talk about everything... no secrets.
Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.
You think of marriage as something that will confine you. You are afraid of marriage.
In this moment, you think of love as something you thirst for. You'll do anything for love, but you won't fall for it easily.

You Have A Type A- Personality
You are one of the most balanced people around. Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want. You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.
When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back. Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love! You live life to the fullest - incorporating the best of both worlds">Do You Have a Type A Personality?

What Color Is Your Personality?

Your Results:
Blue Violet
Blue colors your world with emotion. You seldom jump right in, preferring to stand back and watch people and situations closely. Blue people are calm, but can also spiral into sadness. With so much emotion, tears of happiness, sadness, anger, or frustration are quite common.
View all LifeScript quizzes.
See how you rate against everyone else.
Email this quiz to a friend

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Uncle Ken

Two nights ago, dear daughter and I were talking about her boyfriend. For the record, I like The Boy Friend very much - I think he is a fine young man from a wonderful family, and I said so. We both remarked how much he reminds us of Uncle Ken, and then DD stated that if TBF turns into half the man that Uncle Ken is, he will be a fine man and she will have done very well. Then she got teary eyed and decided to tell Uncle Ken what she really thinks of him. She dialed and asked for Uncle Ken and she told him exactly that. He was touched, and little embarassed. He didn't know quite what to say. They chatted a little bit, he gave her advice about life and boys, they said they loved each other and they hung up.

What is unusual here is that Uncle Ken is not her uncle at all. He is a family friend. In fact, we haven't known him all that long - we met him our first Sunday at St. Mary's on November 16th, 1997 - just ten years ago. I clearly remember driving home from that first liturgy with my then 7-year-old DD, talking about our new parish and the nice people we met that day, and she kept talking about Uncle Ken and Auntie Janice. I didn't have a clue who she was talking about, and had to wait for Wednesday night vespers to find out. It was the subdeacon and his wife, and they seemed like really nice people, but Uncle and Aunt???? It was obvious, though, that DD and they instantly hit it off and felt sympatico. The next week they invited my family, including my elderly parents, to their home for Thanksgiving, where we met Uncle Ken's father and mother and youngest sister, and were instantly adopted by the whole family.

But this is not the main point of this story. A year or two later, DD was acting up a little bit, and I was having a hard time figuring out how best to handle her. I was getting advice from all sides and my head was spinning. One Saturday evening after vespers, Uncle Ken came to me and said that he knew I have having a hard time with DD, and that if I didn't mind, he would like to give me his opinion. I told him go ahead, because by that time I already knew that he was going to give his opinion one way or the other - one of the things I so love about him! He said that since the ex lived a continent away, he felt that DD needed a strong man in her life beyond her elderly grandfather who was more like a playmate than a father figure. He felt that need was part of what she was going through, and that he loved her as if she was his own, as did his wife, and he volunteered to be that man. In fact, he said that it was a life-long committment for him, one which he and his wife had discussed, and that they would be honored if I would accept this offer. Wow. I bawled my head off to think that somewhere in the world there are people who are so kind and so generous. I accepted. From that point forward, Uncle Ken has been wonderful, as have all of his family.

Now, what is amazing to me is that DD recognizes how rare it is to find a man and a family like that, and she is grateful, as am I. In the intervening years, Uncle Ken and Auntie Janice have added K to their family, who is DD's little sister and my niece. K hasn't quite noticed that although they are sisters, they don't have the same parents, though they do share Uncle Ken's parents as grandparents. Its hilarious sometimes, the way that K mimics DD.

So, the other night, DD recognized that Uncle Ken is a rare, rare man, and if her future husband is half the man that he is, she will have done well for herself, indeed.