Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blessed John Paul!

Sunday is a special day for the world, not only is it a relatively new Feast Day in the Church, that of Divine Mercy Sunday, but it is the day that the late Pope John Paul II will be made Blessed on the road to Sainthood. Not a shock for many of us who knew even as he walked the earth that we were in the presence of a man whose imitation of Christ was so beautiful that it inspired a new generation of young Christians, the JP II era. I consider myself so fortunate to have been from that generation.

Personally I saw him several times in my life, the first time when I was just a small girl in my hometown of Edmonton. He came to the Namao air force base in a throng of crowds. I was much too young to have remembered the whole thing, but the experience, the excitement, the long walks, the eager anticipation of that moment struck this young girls heart with a love that has only intensified through my life.

The second time I would see the Pope was perhaps one of the most pivotal moments as it represented a solidifying of my faith at 17 years old. World Youth Day, one of the greatest inspirations that God gave our late Holy Father. It was Denver 1993, I had just graduated High School and a friend mentioned he was going. I got in on the trip rather last minute and through it not only had a wonderful religious experience but made a group of friends that carried me through my 20's and supported me. We all dated and married within this little group and I went on to see many of my friends marry and have beautiful families.

In Denver my Catholic Faith was deepened and many of the questions we often have about the Catholic faith were solidly put to rest. I left with a deep understanding of the rich treasures of my faith, the beauty of Catholics belief in the actual presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, and a proper understanding of Mary's role in God's plan.

I would go on in the Jubilee Year 2000 to spend 6 weeks studying my Catholic faith in Rome with 50 other young women. I had no idea what awaited me there or the close contact that we were given to John Paul II.

One of our guest speakers, who lived with us for a 3 day period, was one of John Paul II's closest and best friends from when he was a parish priest and led a youth group. She and her husband met in the youth group and the Pope, then a young priest was their spiritual mentor. She dined with the Holy Father during the day for lunch and spent the mornings and evenings with us telling us that she had been filling him in on us and our studies and that he sent his love.

In this visit we saw the Holy Father countless times in different venues, perhaps one of the most memorable being at Castle Gondolfo, his summer home, where if you are lucky enough you will be among one of only a mere 1-200 people who are within feet of the Holy Fathers small balcony. It was needless to say life changing.

On my last visit to Rome, Christmas and New Years at the end of that same year and the beginning of 2001, I had what I would consider to be a spiritual experience that I cherish to this day. To begin with, we saw the Holy Father about 4 times on that visit, the above pictire is very dear as he is kissing a little boy who we knew, his Mother, Wendy was a friend from Saskatchewan and we picked up the photo for her as we were staying in Rome longer than she was.

The bottom photo is very dear to my heart. I took the photo, I was perhaps 6 feet away. That in itself was dear, but its what happened to me in those moments that I will never forget. I find it hard to talk about or write about, it seems to take away from the beauty when I put it into words. The Holy Father when he passed by me was somehow transfigured in my eyes. He hunched no more but stood strong and tall almost instantly, his face changed as though years shed away and what I was looking at was the Holy Father that had come to Edmonton when I was a little girl, one almost 20 years younger, stronger, taller. The strength and the radiance were almost blinding to me and all I could do is breathe and tell my then boyfriend standing next to me "He is really is here, he really is a Saint" it seemed as though time stood still in those moments, and then the moment had passed leaving me speechless, breathless and utterly changed forever. It wasnt a trick of my eyes, it lasted much too long and I rubbed my eyes during it to be sure! I knew I was in the presence of something great, something, someone very close to God.

I still don't know what really happened that day or why, but it doesn't surprise me, I guess for me I felt the great comfort in Christ's strength in a person who really allows Him to work. It told me no matter how frail or decrepit one might appear, the power of Christ is ever strong. I am weak, I am nothing, I am dying, but I am not the one who matters, it is the one who loves me, created me, wants to work through me that I need to let live, breath and take action.

This is the legacy of Blessed John Paul, he truly laid down his life for Christ, and Christ on Divine mercy Sunday, a Feast that he instituted while Pope, is now holding up the Pope in heaven as yet another of the many great examples, big brothers and sisters if you will, who have followed the way, the truth and the Life of Christ. They are not the way, Christ is, the Church has always made this clear. They are however sign posts, lights on the path, examples of others to support us on our way, but more than just fellow supporters, they are ones in whom Christ has chosen to show his power and love in a unique way that God may be glorified even more through our weakness.

Before his death I was able to see him one last time, again in my home country of Canada at the last World Youth Day I was able to attend in 2002. It was there at the final Papal Mass where many of us witnessed a mini miracle and I would have to say it was almost eerie in a quiet way. Rain poured all night as we slept in the mud.

By this point, at 28 years old, I had taken a group of 20 kids with me and I was beginning to think I'm really too old for this kind of living, the mud was really getting to me, I was freezing but at least I had a great spot, right at the front next to all the cardinals chairs. It rained all night and all morning and the wind was a howling mess. The Holy Fathers chopper started making circles and then a landing. I remember feeling bad that I didn't care it was the Pope, I just wanted to be dry and warm. I also wondered if he could even land, and how on earth his hat would stay on.

The moment the chopper landed, and I mean the moment, the sun shone down and not a drop of water fell again until the Pope was gone. Ok, we hear about this happening, but what was eerie to me was the fact that the wind had instantly stopped when he stepped out, and it had been a vicious sort of wind. It was memorable for me in that it was the last time I saw him on this earth.

I hope many of you friends and family do the same, reflect and share the stories you had of him, and I hope that you will also be inspired to live like this great man did, ever close to Jesus.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I watched the Royal Wedding

No I didn't get up at 1 a.m. though I had been tempted. Why? I am a Canadian by birth and now recently also an American citizen. Very proud to be both. I was kind of surprised to hear how many people thought we are silly to watch a Royal Wedding :) I can understand. It's probably hard to see its significance if you haven't been raised with it culturally. We Canucks are raised with it moderately though, not to the degree of the Brit's.

As children we poked fun at the Royalty, and of the people who were obsessed, heck all Canadians probably do it, but I guess we dig our heels in when others do it. I ask myself why, and then beyond the jokes I get it. There is more to the royalty than pomp and ceremony. There is tradition, culture and above all national pride. Something we all have in our home countries. Lets not mock it in others, it is something to be respected. If you are a lover of history as I am, you will not miss this moment and its significance. Yes it is significant. The most amazing thing is the timing of when it has occurred, so closely tied in with a different kind of feast, a heavenly one, that of John Paul II and the greatest Beatification of our times.

I felt it important to pray for Prince William and Kate. Many of us hope and pray for them as England is hurting emotionally and economically and desperately needs to believe in the bond of marriage again. Though the cultural love some have for the monarchy may not be respected by all, at least the love and prayers we have can go to this young couple. For them to be faithful to each other and God would be a huge example, and it does lead, example always does. Pray for them to be good leaders. Pray for them to be faithful in Marriage. They need our prayers desperately.

Pray for the intercession of our late Holy Father John Paul II who is to be beatified this weekend. Of course this takes precedence. But in no means does sharing joy for the Royal Wedding today take away from that. So many people I think were comparing it, some Catholics perhaps feeling the need to shun the wedding because it fell on the same weekend. I for one thought it was a beautiful thing, thinking back of course on the similar timing of the deaths of Diana and Mother Teresa. God has his reasons.

Lastly the royalty is not Hollywood. which with all its facade, easy living and immorality should be shunned much of the time. This isn't Lindsay Lohan goes to jail coverage or what Paris Hilton is wearing. I think few understand the ramifications that this kind of positive boost can have economically and morally in Europe. I think John Paul II if he were here today would most definitely been cheering them on in the hopes that they would turn the tide, perhaps even come back to Catholicism, bringing unity to the British isles. Lady Diana Spencer's mother is Catholic and Lady Diana was buried with a rosary that Mother Teresa gave her.

Regardless, I pray for Prince William and Prince Kate now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, that they can be a witness to love in a world so in need of that witness, as our late Holy Father was. What a wonderful weekend this is, starting with the Royal wedding and now on to Mercy Sunday and the greatest Beautification of our time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Joseph and his girl

I have no words for the love developing between Joseph and his service dog Lily.


We have been quiet in the blog world for some time. One word can describe these past 2 months and that word, yes "the" word in fact of the day is TRAUMA.

Stomach flu's for all kids, lab testing on baby to the point where phlebotomy has now become a specialty being studied in our homeschool, broken arms, and a mouthful of dental work for all.

Mama drove it home with her 20th root canal, and little boy James is right behind with his recent surgery.

James broke his arm 2 weeks ago and will have his cast on a full month by the time it comes off on March 10.

In addition to his broken arm, he went in for surgery at the dental office. He went under a general anaesthetic for a 4 hour stint. In it he had 5 root canals, 5 crowns, 18 cavities and 1 tooth pulled.

In March Therese and Joseph will have be evalutaed for some of the same things, we will see:)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Life is good!

Well our new life with Lily the North Star service dog has been quite a blessing.

While still a pup at 8 monthes old, Lily has come with a lot of built in training. Some of it is natural to the temerment she was selected for from her litter, and some from her excellent trainer in Philedelphia to whom we owe much gratitude.
Now a great deal of it will rest on us and the local trainer to whom we will be assigned.
Currently Mom is her main handler, attending a weekly training class with her in the basic commands, which will be followed up with 2 more courses and then on to some agility training for which we want Joseph to become the main handler.
In about a year Lily will be able to take her final public access exams, but for now she can still go pretty much anywhere with us with her service dog in training vest. I think tommorrow will be her first time attending Mass with us.
Lily has a way of drawing a crowd which gives us a lot of joy. She is being groomed to serve children and so we take every opportunity to allow children to be around her and she loves it. She gets a little excited at first but settles quickly after a sit command and introduction is made. We are happy that she has never tried to jump, this tends to be the most unsafe behavior around little kids.
So what has it done for our kids? We are just begining to scratch the surface for what is becoming quite a beautiful thing. Joseph's ability to demonstrate compassion and to think of her needs before his own has been one of the most amazing things to witness. For those familiar for autism you know, compassion is one of the main things that needs to be worked on.
Secondly the confidence that we see in him as he walks her and gives her commands, its wonderful to witness.
Third, Lily really is a bridge for communication for Joseph. Although he is by nature a more freindly outgoing kid with autism, he still has difficulty choosing appropriate conversation starters, well...Lily has become that. He walks up to nearly everyone with her, "Hi, this is me Joseph, this is our service dog Lily, do you want to pet her?"
Another beautiful situation begining to unfold is for James who is also dealing with several autism issues. He has become one of our greater concerns as of late. James so needs affection and tenderness. He loves burrying his face into her fur and caressing her. He is starting to learn appropriate ways to handle her. Our biggest thing will be attending Mass with Lily to attempt to help James who has great difficulty in crowds due to the auditory and visual overload. Having her by his side, we hope will give him somethig comforting to focus on when Mommy can't always be a snuggle bunny.
The girls also love Lily. It goes withot saying that Lily obeys Therese more than any of the other kids. Therese has a way of making anyone do what she wants, and if you dont, you will pay, and poor Lily gets put in her place from Therese if she steps out of line in the least. Therese is strong and bold, at least at this age, and has no problem commanding her in a load clear voice, "sit, stay, no" someone has been watching too much dog whisperer!
Vincent takes Lily for 2 walks a day, one around 7:30 in the morning for about 45 minutes and one at night for another 45 minutes. Vincent has really enjoyed that quiet time to be walking with her. Occasionally Mommy gets to break away to walk Lily and she enjoys it just as much and finds it oddly therapeutic!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

Merry Christmas to all of our dear family and friends! We hope this letter gets to you before the end of the year!

We have much to be thankful for this year and writing our annual letter is always a time for us to reflect on that. The best news by far that we have to celebrate this year is that some of our dearest friends who have been trying to have a baby for over a decade are now expecting a baby girl. God is so good and miracles are so precious. Thank you for the gift of life!

Vincent is still in tech, he has enjoyed getting into a new role at work as a project Manager. Though it’s been a challenge, Vincent always knows the challenge to learn something new can only help him to grow. We are really proud of him.

Vincent has done a great job exercising a few times a week and keeping up with his good eating habits. He is looking fit, and feeling great. His heart hasn’t given him much trouble this year.

Eileen’s trying to keep it together, some days feeling like super Mom and other days feeling like social services might come knocking. Despite our awkward looking photo which is making her look deceptively large in that wide striped sweater (no not pregnant) she has done well to lose all her baby weight and is enjoying the extra energy she has. She has been following the simple diet Vincent uses. Cut out bread and sugar and increase protein and water intake. That’s all, no calorie counting. Needless to say the sweater is not going to be a future fashion choice! Getting another chance at someone taking a photo of all of this for this letter, well that just is NOT going to happenJ

Eileen is running a small universe with the help of Super Man Vincent, but what you really want to hear about is the little super hero’s who inhabit that universe:

Joseph turned 6 in March. He makes us so very proud. He was diagnosed this year with high functioning autism after months of extensive testing with child clinical psychologists. Knowing more about how our child thinks and reacts has only been a blessing to us in getting to know this little boy. We have so much yet to learn, but we have enjoyed studying more about autism and how best to engage with Joseph.

Because he is high functioning, at first many people may not notice anything, while others may notice right away, but spend some time and you will get to know his loving and unique little personality and you will understand more about it. It keeps us on our toes. We have a little saying when things go awry in the house; we just turn to each other and sigh saying “Ahh…life with Autism”

Joseph is in Grade 1. Eileen is homeschooling the kids. This has been the first official year in grade school ages and we love it. Being able to take such an active part in their learning, while also being able to partake in activities a little “outside of the box” has been such a great ride.

We are under an ISP here in California called the Almaden Valley Christian School which specializes in helping parents who have special needs kids and want to homeschool.

Joseph has been getting piano lessons from our good friend Hanna. He loves it and has been picking up Christmas carols by ear!

Joseph is learning to read and picks up new words very fast. He is also a very talented artist as many of you know. He and James are in a weekly horse riding lesson which includes Occupational and Speech Therapy work.

Recently, friends honored us by asking us if we were interested in taking Joseph to Lourdes, France with a group of the Knights of Malta who do a yearly prayer pilgrimage. Lourdes, where the Blessed Mother appeared in 1858 to St. Bernadette has long been a place of healing and prayer. Please pray for Joseph that he would be accepted on the trip and that we can raise the funds to send Vincent. We think that this is a beautiful opportunity to actively put our trust in God for whatever he wants from our entire family.

James our happy little boy, he is in Kindergarten homeschool and is always ready with a hug and a squeeze. He turned 5 in November. He is a wellspring of affection, what a joy he is to his parents and those who know him. He is making us very proud as he is growing, learning his letters and doing great at Math. He loves to sing and when it comes to dancing he can really cut a rug!

When deciding to evaluate Joseph we knew that James was struggling as well, though a year ago the issues weren’t as apparent as they now are. So both boys went through many months of appointments and testing, it was a very expensive and arduous task but we know that we needed to do it and we don’t regret it.

James didn’t get the official diagnosis of autism; though it is highly suspected that he will as he gets older as he is right on the borderline and some things couldn’t be properly evaluated at this time, so we can see more this year. Right now they see many autistic tendencies and traits and sadly our little guy is years behind in most areas, testing at more the level of a 2 ½ year old. It was a little heartbreaking for us to hear, as he is not thriving like a happy little 5 year old usually does. Both James and Joseph will be tested for dyslexia in separate evals this year as the psychologists felt this was most likely an additional thing they have on top of the autism spectrum issues.

Vincent just says, “We know how to make em babe” really though it is very common, when there is one child with autism in the family, many of the siblings present some degree of spectrum like qualities such as sensory issues etc…

Therese our little princess, or Queen she would say, is a doll, a beautiful strong little person who we are enjoying immensely. Eileen loves having girls since she had no sisters growing up. Therese is miles beyond her tender age of 3, which she just turned in October. She fits in 4 and 5 year clothes, looks about that size and talks about that age as well.

Therese has presented some typical autism issues that siblings generally have and so we need to help her along with some of those things, particularly sensory issues. She had taken to twisting her hair so badly that she only has a full head of hair on one side, needless to say she looks quite lop sided! We bought her a little bean bag ball to hold at night instead of her hair. Sometimes she whips it at us as we walk past the door. Ouch.

She has also the very typical autistic “my way or the highway” outlook, she and Joseph share many similarities! Or is that Mommy she gets it fromJ We are enjoying helping to form her and have high hopes that her leadership qualities will become a benefit to the family. She adores mothering her baby sister Celine.

Baby Celine… aren’t babies such a blessing? We are so grateful to be able to have our kids, they are such a gift, and we never tire of her antics and her little toes! She is delicious in every way. It was such a hard pregnancy, yet such a wonderful gift. She turned 1 this Dec and it has been a marvel watching her grow. She has been so different from out other kids in terms of milestones. All our kids were walking well before a year but Celine only began crawling 2 months ago! She is bright, affectionate and happy to go to anyone.

Lily, our autism service dog, a black standard poodle was added to our family Dec 11 and though it’s only been a few weeks, we are all truly in love with her. A heartfelt thank you to many generous friends and family who helped us by raising the needed funds with the North Star foundation. She is so gentle and intelligent. She came already with a lot of training, but she is still a puppy, she is only 7 months old. She will continue in the New Year with a local trainer working with us in order to pass her service dog exams. Right now you may see her around town wearing her service dog in training vest, please pet her, she loves the affection. It’s a great way to engage our kids in conversation.

The highlight of the year was attending Vincent’s brother’s ordination to the Priesthood in Alabama and New Orleans. Father Anthony S.J. is a wonderful new priest and a great example to our kids.

We also got to be at a Wieck Thanksgiving at the farm in Oregon with all the siblings and cousins. Christmas is quiet for us, we don’t have any visitors this year but we plan on a Canada trip this summer for a month. There will be a family reunion on Eileen’s moms side of the family in honor of it being100 years since moms Dad, Francis (Frank) Carson cleared and homesteaded the land in Warspite, Alberta. Vincent will work from his laptop in Edmonton. We haven’t been home since right after we were married, almost 7 years. We have been lucky that Eileen’s parents make it down once or twice a year to visit. We are very much looking forward to seeing our long lost family and friends in Alberta!

As usual, don’t be strangers. We love company, please do visit.

With much love, Vincent, Eileen, Joseph, James, Therese, Celine and puppy Lily.