Julia's Guardian Angel Fund

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe Breakfast Muffins - Egg free, Dairy Free, Wheat Free

We were looking for a special recipe for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.  The kids love starting out our day with a recipe for the Catholic Saint 'o the day.  Since we are back to no wheat, these looked like a recipe I could easily modify.  What a hit!   They loved them so we had them, again, today.

Egg-free, Dairy-free and Wheat-free Mexican Chocolate Muffins
Prep: 15m 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin tins or line with paper liners.
3/4 cup canned lentils or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. chia seed meal mixed with 1/2 hot water (or equiv. egg replacer for 2 eggs)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa

I combined the beans and chia seed/water mixture in the blender until it was smooth.  I added the rest of the above ingredients and blended until well combined.

In a separate bowl I combined:

1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. hemp seed (or you can add 1/4-1/2 c. nuts here...we're allergic)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

Add the wet ingredients from the blender to the dry ingredients and blend until combined.  Pour into prepared muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool 10-15 minutes for easy turn out.

Dust tops with confectioners sugar, if desired.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

So much for good news...

I'm sorry to say that I no longer trust the medical professionals.  My last post was to announce that the allergist cleared my 5 year old of his wheat, egg and possibly even dairy allergies.  She prescribed slowly introducing wheat into his diet, followed two weeks later by egg, then dairy at the beginning of the year.

Fortunately, I trusted my instincts and went slowly.  One month after slowly introducing wheat back into his diet, he erupted in a serious case of eczema all over his body.  Nothing else has changed.  The poor kid is miserable.

That is because an allergic reaction, an IgE response, is different from an IgG response.  He may not be allergic (no IgE response) but he is definitely still IgG sensitive.  And that stinks.  So, we're back to no wheat, still no eggs and definitely no dairy.

The worst part is that I feel like I wasted my money.  I feel let down by the medical professionals, again.  I wish I had unlimited funds to have him tested for more foods than the five or so we had him tested for two years ago.  I would have a full panel done so that I can see what else might be causing his growth issues and his skin problems.

Back to the drawing board...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

We interrupt this blog vacation for a major announcement!

This is good news for me, bad news for those with wheat allergies!  My little man has grown out of his wheat allergy!  Praise the Lord!  So, we're still re-introducing wheat slowly so his intestines don't freak out. 

We found this out on November 9th.  So, over the last three weeks, we have been slowly adding wheat, a few crackers and macaronis at a time and voila!  no reaction.

However, he still is positive for dairy (high on skin test, low on RAST).  The other interesting news is that he did not test positive in the RAST test for egg, but the skin test was mildly positive.  That's the next thing to try.  Dairy won't be tried until the new year.  So, after a month of introducing wheat back in, we can try egg.  Then after a month, we MIGHT try dairy.  He had dairy accidentally last week and had hives around his mouth, so I'm dubious that he's safe, but we'll see.

So, that's my good news.  Here's one way we celebrated yesterday.  At Thanksgiving, my 13 year old daughter made pumpkin pie tarts.  To humor me, she made them without eggs.  We made a double batch of egg-free pumpkin pie filling because she was going to make a pumpkin pie for another Thanksgiving celebration, but ended up not, so we had extra.  I ended up using the extras with a 5 star Paula Deen Pumpkin Bar recipe to make these:
Egg free Dairy Free Pumpkin Bars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First - combine in a medium sauce pan: (This can be used as an egg-free dairy-free pumpkin pie filling.)
 1 15oz can pumpkin
3/4  cup  brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2  cup  water
6 1/2  Tbsp  cornstarch
1  tsp  allspice
1/2  tsp  salt
1/4  tsp  ground cloves
1/2  tsp  ginger
Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat.  Mine was cool.  Allow to cool a little.  Put in mixing bowl and  add:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cut into bars.

These bars received HIGH marks all around from my kids who don't normally like pumpkin bar.  They were almost a little gooey and oh-so-yummy.

Now, back to my blog vacation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Unexcused Absence

Renamed - Unexcused Absence.
I apologize for my absence.  Life has, I'm afraid, caught up with me.  After my surgery in August, complications that followed, school starting and me, not feeling better, blogging has fallen to the back burner.  I must admit that I really haven't had the gumption.  Want to know something?  I'm behind on everything:  school, reading, writing, teaching.  Everything including email.  Before surgery, I had a few unread emails in my inbox.  Right now there are 789. Yup.  789.  And, since I'm not still not feeling quite up to par, consider this my notice that I will be only blogging over at my other blog only for a while.  I'll try to shoot back here around Advent.

Take care!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wheat Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Chocolate Chip Bars

This are called "Breakfast Bars" or "Friday Bars" at our house because they are the breakfast the kids get on Friday.  I don't eat them because of the rice flour, which I use to prevent me from eating them (I'm allergic to rice...weird, I know.)  These are YUMMY, so say my kids and others who have tried them.

Wheat Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Chocolate Chip Bars
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray or grease a 9x13" pan.
2 Tbsp Chia Seed meal with 6 Tbsp hot water

Cream together:
1 stick Earth Balance or 1/2 Dairy Free Butter Substitute
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar

Chia seed mixture
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Mix until emulsified.

In a separate bowl, combine the following then add to wet ingredients:
2 c. oat flour (I use rolled oats processed in the blender)
1 c. rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup dairy free chocolate chips

Spread batter in pan.  Bake 22-27 minutes.  Cool and serve.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tears That Make a Mom Happy

Today we made a long overdue trip to the library.  We got there late due to several extenuating circumstances such that we only had 30 minutes to pick out books and check out before the library closed.

Now, I had told all six children we were going to the library this morning.  We had planned for other errands we were running today before the library, but no one remembered their library cards.  So, with 3 minutes left before the library was going to close, six children lined up behind me to check out their items on my card.  By the time we got to the sixth, we had reached the 30 item limit.  My twelve year old daughter only got one book.  She went and put her other books back and met me in the parking lot, eyes full of tears.

She said she felt so ridiculous for crying.  But, I hugged her and told her I was happy that she was crying over not being able to check out books.  That not being able to get new books makes her cry makes me happy because this is a girl that thirsts for knowledge.  Our home library is large, but never large enough for my darling daughter and I'm happy about that.   I'm happy the library is one of the most sought after destinations on our days out.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

TV Viewing

I post this risking that I will be viewed as Puritanical.  So be it! But we are not.  We have two TV's.  But we make very specific choices about how we use them.

Parental choice is just that, choice.  We made a choice over 12 years ago to not let our kids watch live TV.  Even way back then, in 2000, we were seeing things on TV that made us, the parents of a toddler and an infant, cringe.  Now sometimes, yes, we do watch live TV, like when there are weather events that require our attention. 

Then comes this report:
New Study Nudity on Prime Time TV Up 6,300% Over Last Year

Nope, that is not a typo.  6,300%.

My daughters recently attended Schoenstatt Camp, a Catholic Camp for girls run by a beautiful order of secular Catholic Nuns called the Schoenstatt Sisters.  One topic they cover is "Media Choices."  One thing they provide to the girls is a nice little tent to put next to the TV that says, "What Would Jesus and Mary Watch?"  There were some camp missionaries there that reminded the girls that watching things that might be "just a little" offensive desensitizes our brains such that eventually, the kids can't remember what was offensive in the first place.  A lot of things work that way.

Pornography also works that way with boys.  They become desensitized to girls in bikinis.  Then, that's not offensive anymore and they move on.  And on.  At our last local homeschool conference, the keynote speaker also talked about this.  I was pleased to see that psychologists, two of them, who commented on the results of the research in this article agreed and even commented how pixelating body parts and bleeping swear words was just not enough.

She stressed that the pixilated or blurred nudity does not give the networks a free pass.
“The impact is virtually the same as actually showing it. Just as ‘bleeping’ an ‘f-word’ or ‘s-word’ is virtually the same as airing the actual word,” Henson continued. “It just calls attention to the thing that has been edited out.”
L.A.-based therapist Dr. Nancy Irwin agrees.
"Simulated or blurred nudity can be just as titillating as real nudity in the human brain. Upon any stimulus, the brain searches for anything remotely similar or familiar, and reacts in a similar manner," she said. "If something is missing -- as in pixelization -- the brain will fill in the blanks from the existing storehouse of knowledge. Indeed, it will work harder to do so than if the real image were there. This explains why fantasy is many times better than reality. It triggers our imagination, which is endless."

Isn't a girl wearing a bikini, in essence, just pixilating out certain portions of her body?  But I digress...

The truth is, there isn't much left Mary and Jesus could watch.  What we, as parents, consider worse are the commercials.  Live sports are wrought with commercials geared at young hormonal men.  It's not just the shows.  The commercials are just as bad or worse. So we hold fast to using the TiVo and prerecorded content to control our kids viewing because our choice is not to expose them to that.  Again, there are exceptions, but they are very few.

The sad part is, that when innocence of any kind is lost, it is lost forever.  You can not replace it, correct it, restore it.  It is replaced by experience.  Not all of those experiences are good or appropriate.

One of the great things about reading great literature and Great Books is that their meaning is timeless.  William Blake, a poet and artist from early 19th century England wrote a beautiful poem.  I hope you can appreciate it's beauty and truth.

From Songs of Experience
By William Blake

A Little Girl Lost

Children of the future age,
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time
Love, sweet love, was thought a crime.

In the age of gold,
Free from winter's cold,
Youth and maiden bright,
To the holy light,
Naked in the sunny beams delight.

Once a youthful pair,
Filled with softest care,
Met in garden bright
Where the holy light
Had just removed the curtains of the night.

Then, in rising day,
On the grass they play;
Parents were afar,
Strangers came not near,
And the maiden soon forgot her fear.

Tired with kisses sweet,
They agree to meet
When the silent sleep
Waves o'er heaven's deep,
And the weary tired wanderers weep.

To her father white
Came the maiden bright;
But his loving look,
Like the holy book
All her tender limbs with terror shook.

'Ona, pale and weak,
To thy father speak!
Oh the trembling fear!
Oh the dismal care
That shakes the blossoms of my hoary hair!'

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Pride and Prejudice Marries Sense and Sensibility

Edward Ferrars
Meet Edward Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility, the sensible and friendly third child of his family. Edward develops a close relationship with Elinor Elizabeth Bennet and ultimately marries her, after he is freed from a four-year relationship to someone else.

In the real Sense and Sensibility, he loves Elinor, the sensible one.  He is honor-bound, however this Mr. Ferrars is far more articulate.  In this story, he loves Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth Bennet
The second daughter in her family, Elizabeth is the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice. Her admirable qualities are numerous.  Nevertheless, her sharp tongue and tendency to make hasty judgments often lead her astray; When Pride and Prejudice Marries Sense and Sensibility is essentially the story of how she (and her true love, Darcy Mr. Ferrars) overcome all obstacles—including their own personal failings—to find romantic happiness. She must  overcome her own mistaken impressions of Darcy humankind.  As she gradually comes to recognize the nobility of Darcy’s character kindness of the human heart, she realizes the error of her initial prejudice against humanity, thanks to Mr. Ferrars.

This is a love story, really.  So, now you know the two main characters, here's a summary.

Elizabeth finds she has some medical conditions (several, actually) that require her to have major surgery.  Unfortunately for the last year, Elizabeth has been suffering from a great deal of medical maladies, underwent batteries of tests.  Finally, she was referred to an OB/GYN.

Ch. 1:
Elizabeth finds out from her OB/GYN after more tests she has several conditions which need to be addressed.  Many of those conditions can have the symptoms relieved, to some extent, through the use of Artificial Contraceptives or other methods of sterilization.  However, there is one condition for which the only correction was major surgery.  Elizabeth tells Mr. Ferrars of the diagnosis, the medical advice she's been given and his response?  Pray.  Very typical Mr. Ferrars type advice.  He does, after all want to become a clergyman!  So, pray Elizabeth did and she consulted her parish priest. This recommendation feels like it is in conflict with her faith, feeling that this will result in her turning away from the Church's teachings on being open to life.  She and Mr. Ferrars are the happy parents of six beautiful children aged 3-14. The gentle priest, whom after listening to the medical diagnosis and advice of the doctor for a total hysterectomy, advises her to follow her doctor's recommendations.  That given the conditions she has, the procedure was medically necessary.  The priest also thanked Elizabeth and Mr. Ferrars for her openness to life, which she really needed to hear.

Ch. 2:
Scheduling such a procedure with a very busy Mr. Ferrars and so many children caused Elizabeth to delay.  Partly because she was still working through all the mental issues with no longer being able to have another child that she had to resolve and partly because the very handsome Mr. Ferrars would be away for a week in July because he's a Scoutmaster, Elizabeth delayed scheduling the procedure.  After many heartfelt conversations with Mr. Ferrars and a very few close family members and friends, Elizabeth scheduled the surgery, trying to balance family commitment with the need to have recovery time.

Ch. 3:
As summer progresses, Elizabeth secretly harbors prejudices that she will be judged on her and Mr. Ferrars decision to have a total hysterectomy.  She begins to feel judged, even for other things, which is her weakness.  Her sharp side comes out and she declares to Mr. Ferrars that the information about her surgery should be on a need-to-know basis.  He, because he is best husband in the world, respects her wishes.

Ch. 4:
As the surgery date approached, Elizabeth lived her life to the fullest, enjoying every moment, mostly because she harbored fears of not living through surgery.  She did everything she could to enjoy every moment with Mr. Ferrars and the children and didn't regret a moment of it.

Ch. 5:
The surgery date approaches and Elizabeth can't bring herself to kiss the children in the morning for fear it would be the last time and she didn't want to give into that horrible fear niggling at her.  She and Mr. Ferrars arrived at the hospital and went through all the motions.  The physician met with them prior to the surgery explaining all the procedures that would be taken and gave Mr. Ferrars an estimate of the time it would take for the surgery, two hours.  The anesthesiologist met with Elizabeth and Mr. Ferrars and discussed the possibility of trying a medication during surgery to which Elizabeth previously had an apparent allergic reaction.  They agreed that in this environment, it was the best medication to use and Elizabeth was in the safest environment should a reaction actually happen.  Elizabeth secretly feared she was done for.  Mr. Ferrars, ever the cool husband, kissed Elizabeth.  That is the last thing she remembered as they wheeled her to the OR.

Ch. 6:
Elizabeth wakes up in recovery desperately itchy and struggling for breath.  Gasping, she tells the nurses she can't breathe and the regular routine happens, benedryl, oxygen, close monitoring.  She still can't tell what time it is and feels so groggy she can't come up out of the medication.  Finally, she wakes up and is told that her Mr. Ferrars will be waiting for her in her room.  She barely remembers the ride up to her room.  He's there smiling, with a card.  Ever the comedian, the card says, "Thank You" on the front.  Inside it says, "For pulling through..."  Laughing hurts.  He explains that the reason it is 3:00, much later than she expected to be out was not because of the medication or allergic reaction, but because the two hour surgery lasted over five hours, not two.  He explained, as best he could, all the reasons for the delay, then explained that the OB/GYN's parting message was this was something that really, really needed to be done.

The good doctor knew that a part of Elizabeth, the prideful side, was still hanging on the the possibility that this was not a medically necessary procedure.  The same prideful side of Elizabeth that also had worried so much about what others would think of her having a total hysterectomy at the age of 45, so much that Elizabeth wasn't willing to tell many close friends.

Ch. 7:
Mr. Ferrars took the week off to help Elizabeth recover, and even when he went back to work, made sure he took on all the extras, from removing the children from Elizabeth's room when they were annoying or tiring her, to removing them from the house when she just needed quiet.  Mr. Ferrars has gone on countless errands after long, long days at work because Elizabeth, while cleared to drive now, still has NO energy and was told by the doctor that it will take another three to four weeks for that to return.  Mr. Ferrars has accommodated his schedule to run errands and switched vehicles so she doesn't have to climb into a full sized van, while recovering from major abdominal surgery.  Mr. Ferrars, the real hero of this story, understands that Elizabeth will probably not be able to lift more than 20 lbs for at least the next eight weeks and possibly forever.  And he has never complained.  Not even once.

While Elizabeth has snipped about her children not helping quickly enough with chores because her pride insisted her house stay the way she kept it.  While Mr. Ferrars did everything she asked and more, she sniped about how she doesn't know or can't guess how she'll ever get ready for school.  He never has complained.  Not even once.

Perhaps it is because he said that their love, sex life, marriage can withstand anything. Perhaps it is because he reminded Elizabeth there is always adoption.  Perhaps it is just because they were meant to be.  So, here Elizabeth, in the final chapter, is remembering and thanking the good Lord above for her beloved Mr. Ferrars and hoping she can learn to be more like him. 

Partial credit for the character summaries goes to Sparknotes.com.  The rest of the credit goes to Jane Austen for creating two characters I love and to whom I can relate.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Remembering John

Last night, we drove to Wisconsin to celebrate.  We were celebrating the short, but beautiful life of my brother-in-law, John, who passed away on April 6, 2011 at the age of 45 as a result of complications of Type 1 Diabetes.  Yesterday, my sister hosted a memorial walk/run to raise money for Type 1 Diabetes research.  It was a hot, but beautiful event.

Two of my kids are not present because they ran, instead of walking, and placed in their age category!

Here are the details of the race:
The family and friends of John Brunstad invite you to join them for the John Brunstad Memorial run  on Saturday, July 14th at 6:00 p.m.  along the beautiful Red Cedar State Trail in Menomonie, WI.   John was an avid runner whose runs often included part of the Red Cedar Trail.  He took up running in his twenties because he knew it would benefit him in many ways.  One of the most important was to better manage his Type 1 Diabetes.   John was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) in 1980 at the age of 14.  He chose to control the disease and not let the it control him.  He took good care of himself managing his T1D very well for over 30 years.  This care included testing his blood glucose multiple times a day, using an insulin pump, eating well and exercising regularly.  However, it was this disease that caused his life here with us to be too short.  John passed away in his sleep on April 6, 2011 due to severe hypoglycemia.  Hypoglycemia is the sudden drop of glucose in a person’s blood because too much insulin is present in the body.  When glucose is too low for too long the brain cannot function.
John was a wonderful, loving husband to Beth and father to Rachel, Becca, Nick, Abbie and Phil, son to Loyd & Fern and brother to Barb, Debi, Sandi, Tammy, Jim & Laura.   He had a great sense of humor, loved running, gardening and spending time with family and friends.  He is dearly loved and deeply missed by many.  It is our hope this will be an annual event that will benefit worthy causes.  Proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Stepping Stones of Dunn County and Friends of the Red Cedar Trail.   The John Brunstad Memorial Run fund has been established at the Community Foundation of Dunn County and is owned and managed by the Comunity Foundation of Dunn County.  All gifts to the fund will be distributed from the John Brunstad Memorial Run Fund in accordance with policies of the Community Foundation of Dunn County.
The Races

Starting at the head of the Red Cedar State Trail, you’ll enjoy  the flat, fast  crushed rock coarse.  The  rail parallels the Red Cedar River.  Participants enjoy some of the beautiful features of the trail including limestone rock formations, wildlife (possibly a bald eagle)  and lush woodlands. 
10K—This out and back race will take participants south to Irvington where they will go past the 3 mile marker, turn around and return. Enjoy the lush woods and interesting geological features.
2 Mile Walk/Run—This out and back walk/run will take you to the 1 Mile marker on the beautiful Red Cedar State trail.  Enjoy the views of  Gilbert Creek and the Red Cedar River as you enjoy this section of the trail.
Perhaps next year I will have the where-with-all to post this before the event in case you would like to attend.  It was a beautiful event.

Male Bonding

Today is the last day of the Air Expo.  Here are my boys enjoying some vintage aircraft in 90 degree weather.  Thankfully Dad is an Eagle Scout (Be Prepared) and they are well hydrated, well sunscreened and thoroughly happy.

Us girls?  We're working on potty training the littlest person in the house who has announced she is wearing diapers forever.  We'll just see about that!

Here are a few more "male bonding" pictures.

Friday, July 13, 2012

One last thing on your Calling...

I had place-marked several items in the Living Your Strengths - Catholic Edition  but missed one:

The last chapter in the book is Discovering a Calling.  The authors reflected on the call of Samuel from the Old Testament (1 Samuel 3:15).  Samuel didn't recognize the voice of God at first.  He thought it was Eli.  Finally after the third call, Samuel heard, responded and went on to become one of Israel's greatest prophets.

We often don't hear God's call because we think it's someone else.  And remember, those calls are not just for the devout and holy.  God has called each one of us.  We just need to discover what He wants from us.  The voice usually isn't thundering from above, but in whispers deep from within ourselves.  God wants nothing more from us than to live the life for which we were created.  He wants us to be ourselves.

So, as we learn more about ourselves, and yes, Strengthfinders and other personality tests are helpful in doing that, we begin to discover our calling.  When we build and apply our strengths by making the most of the talents He gave us, we fulfill our calling.

And, remember, there is a 1 in 33 million chance that someone has the same strengths in the same order as you.  That's why people may misunderstand you (and you them.)

I just had a conversation with a good friend-of-the-heart about my social absence lately.  Actually, I've probably been socially absent for about five years.  Because "Achiever" is my top Signature Theme, I have been busy (when am I not?)  Busy doing things I feel my vocation is calling me to do.  However, that means that sometimes, I put everything else on the back burner, like doing things with friends.  I don't view my friendships as being at risk when I do this, because in my world, friendships, like God, are faithful even in absence.   I see my vocation having a higher priority.  If Connectedness or Relatedness were in my top five Signature Themes, I probably would make relationships a much higher priority. 

It took me several years to figure out why I felt guilty about leaving my vocation of being a wife, mom and home educator to go out and have "fun."  My drive to do my vocation is so strong (because of that Achiever theme), when I finally listened to the little voice whispering to me and did what I was called to do, I was blessed by many opportunities and was allowed to bless others in ways I had not planned.  About five years ago, I listened to that little voice and decided to make opportunities for my kids to have "social" education activities (like book clubs, in home classes, etc.) at my home.  I made that my priority.  This fits my needs because I get the opportunity to plan activities, write curriculum and share it with many kids.  This means my five Signature Themes, Achiever, Communicator, Ideator, Input and Strategic themes are ALL at work here.  I opted to put aside many play dates and outside activities so I could do that and homeschool my kids well.

I've gotten a lot of ribbing and some serious sideways glances for my choices.  One mom, who was also a mentor of mine from way, way back were talking at a mutual practice where her child and my kids were.  She told me I was making a serious mistake, and the reason we should be homeschooling is so we can do MORE outside activities.  I smiled and said, "Yes, but someone has to plan and execute them.  That's what I feel I'm called to do."  This friend, and many of my other friends are Sanguine (Read The Temperament God Gave You) and I am as about as Choleric as they get.  Get it done then have fun.  And, can I tell you, the amount of joy I derive out of the book clubs and classes I do is so great.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

Lastly, in this call, we need to recognize that we are all not called alike.  If themes like Arranger, Discipline, Consistency and Harmony were my strengths, this blog (and I) would be a lot different.  If Relateness, Connectedness or Woo were in my top five, this would be a very social blog.  If I had other signature themes, then my house would probably be cleaner and I would probably be more interested in organizing my homeschool supplies.  But those are not the gifts God gave me.  I also shouldn't feel badly He chose not to give those gifts to me.  I think it important for us to embrace the strengths we have been given and use them to give Glory to God while not coveting the strengths of others.  My dear friend Margaret gave a very good talk about keeping your eyes on your own work a couple of years ago at a homeschool conference and it applies here.  Many of us take a lifetime to figure that out (or at least 40 years or so).  Others figure it out later.  I hope you have already figured out your gifts.

Being Comfortable With your Calling

I'm a personality test junkie.  Since I took my first Myers-Briggs personality test back in 1989, I've been hooked.  I love learning about myself, helping to explain my idiosyncrasies, and learning more about others so that I can better understand how to relate to them.

By far, my favorite personality test is called Strengthfinders.  My husband introduced me to it when, as a manager at a corporate retail company, he was required to take the test along with reading the book Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.  Since then, I have read several books on using our strengths for success.

I found this book while doing a Google search.  It's Living Your Strengths - Catholic Edition.  It was just the book I needed to read this summer.

Now, let me tell you about how this whole Strengthfinders test works.  You answer a series of questions (so this is self-reported) in an on-line test.  What is revealed to you are your "Signature Themes."  Donald Clifton PH.d. , who created the test, had a very optimistic philosophy.  Instead of working really hard at correcting our weaknesses, we better serve God and humanity by using our strengths (or talents).  There are 34 signature themes.  Statistically, the chances of meeting someone with your exact themes is 1 in about 275,000.  The chances of meeting someone with your exact themes in exactly the same order is about 1 in 33,000,000.  So, while God made us in His likeness and image, He gave us a wide variety of strengths with which to work.

At a used book sale this summer, I also picked up another Strengths-based book, StrengthsQuest, which is for students.  It takes the 34 signature themes and shows how they apply to working in school and determining a career that would best match your strengths.  I bought this because I think our kids are failed by our schools (and us, too, sometimes) in career guidance.  Just because someone is interested in something does not mean it would be a good career for them.  As my eldest approaches high-school, I hope to use it to help him find his strengths and use them for the greater glory of God.

Here's a personal confession:  I am not always comfortable in my own skin.  Strangely enough, I am most uncomfortable with my strongest strength.  Actually, I think it might be fairer to say most people are uncomfortable with my strongest strength upon which I become uncomfortable.  People become uncomfortable with my busy-ness. 

So, I will just lay out my signature themes in rank order, just in case you want to understand me just a little better:
People especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

People especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

People especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

People especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

People especially talented in the Input theme have a need to collect and archive. They make collect information, ideas, history, or even relationships.

Perhaps, for me, one of the biggest realizations I had in learning these things about myself, was that discontent is the norm.  The other big ah-ha moment I had was realizing that because Achiever is my top theme, I put work before everything.  Things need to get done, in my book.  So much so, that I often add things to my to-do list that I have completed, that weren't there so I can cross them off, giving me a sense of "achieving."  Here's the wierd thing...that theme is my theme, not one I necessarily expect of my kids or husband.  Anyone who has seen my house can attest to the fact that I also do not apply "achiever" to my homemaking skills!

There are so many beautiful nuggets I could share with you from the Catholic Edition of Living Your Strengths but I just don't have the room or time.  But, I will leave you with two things.  If the statistics  gave you weren't enough, here's what St. Paul had to say about it in Romans 12:6-8 (from the USCCB website):
6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; 7if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; 8if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 
 And second, the parable from Matthew 25:14-29 (which I won't quote here for brevity) that Jesus told his disciples before his passion, death and resurrection about the master who entrusted "talents" to his servants while he was away.  Of course the word "talents" here represents money, but because this is a parable, you can think talents.  The point of the parable, which some people find harsh, wasn't about investing huge sums of money but rather about using the talents God places within each one of us.  God expects us to develop those talents and use them wisely.  In the parable, not every slave was given the same amount of "talents"; each was given "according to his ability."  So, it is with God and the distribution of talents and gifts among individuals.  In the parable, the master was furious with the servant who did nothing with their talents.  The master wanted the servant to take a risk and grow their talents.

Developing our talents into strengths requires risk.  We must step out, try new things or take a chance by doing something we may fail at, at first.  But if we do not take some risks, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, we will never grow.  God expects no less from us.  So, get out there and serve the Lord.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


fides - Latin - faithful, loyal
I was sitting in church today, listening to our new priest, whom I like very much.  He spoke about faithfulness, which was the topic of today's readings and many things occurred to me and he pointed out some very obvious things that I had truly missed.

First of all, I had never thought about the priesthood being like an arranged marriage.  He, in his faithfulness to the Church, obediently moves to the parish assigned to him by the Archbishop.  He doesn't get to court the parish.  He doesn't get to choose or have a say.  It is arranged.  And yet, he is faithful.  How beautiful!

This had me musing during church.  I catch myself "apologizing" for not going to our "other Parish" very much.  You see, I have been a brat.  I would rather attend Mass up at the really beautiful church a couple of suburbs away where the music is more beautiful; the Mass more orthodox.   I always seem to be explaining to my "more Catholic" friends, "Well, we belong to both parishes.  We just don't make it up to the other one very often."  I have not been faithful to either Church.

Now, I know that that kind of obedience is not required.  We are not forbidden from attending Mass at another church.  In fact, the preference is to go more than not, and it doesn't seem to matter where.  The more we're at Mass, the better for us.

We ended up at this parish for several reasons, mostly proximity to our home. You can't beat being five minutes from church, especially when you have six kids.  The main reason we are there, though, is Boy Scouts.  My husband decided that the group most of my son's Cub Scout friends joined after crossing over from Cubs to Boy Scouts just wasn't the group for us.  It was too far away and honestly, they are in an extremely prestigious suburb and saw that they do things like go to the Caribbean and out West for troop activities.  We can't afford those kinds of activities.  Remember?  We have six kids.

So, we opted for the Boy Scout troop at the parish five minutes from our house.  And it was a good thing.   My Eagle Scout husband fit in with the group and filled the role as Outdoor committee chair and Assistant Scoutmaster for a couple of years.  The parents got to know him and so did the adult leadership.  Last year,  my husband was recruited to become the Scoutmaster.  My son wishes there were more homeschooled boys in the Troop, but he's at an age where we think it's really good for him to see a little more of the world and learn to get along with others not homeschooled, not the same orthodoxy, not the same world view.  It's all good.  He and his dad have had some really good conversations about music, movies, video games, life, school, athletics that have all resulted from experiences at Boy Scouts.

So what does this all have to do with fidelity?  Well, I have supported my men in the Scouts, without question.  However, until today, I have been underhandedly unfaithful to my parish.  Maybe it's the new priest.  Maybe it's the realization that my husband has been right all along.  And, finally, the talk from Dr. Ray Gaurendi, "Why Be Catholic?" has all finally settled into my big thick head.  It doesn't matter where I go to church.  I have the Church right here, five minutes from home.  And instead of longing for the other church, I can be content with it's faithfulness to me.  Just like God, my Church is right there, waiting for me to come.  It's not going anywhere.  It's there.  For me.

I won't be dropping the other parish.  I just won't be so discontented.  I like our new priest.  If I feel this inspired after every Mass, I may need to attend daily Mass more often!