The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Grace.

For the one who should be here, but isn't.  For the one who I have to grieve for in the shadows.  The one who no amount of presents under a twinkly tree can make up for.  I am still learning how to grieve for you and how to love you without hurting myself.  Just put your sisters to bed...wishing you were here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Breath of Heaven

No, the ornament is not on the tree yet.  Not sure what I'm waiting for.  I'm not sure if I want it to be just a Christmas ornament.  The funny part is my one child saw it sitting on my nightstand and asked why it was there, and why isn't on the tree, it's so pretty - it should be on the tree!  I can't believe Christmas is only days away.  This year is kind of difficult in that I won't be seeing any of my extended family until after Christmas so I will be somewhat homesick which doesn't always help matters.   As I've talked about a few times on this blog - music is usually what soothes my soul when heading in to rocky waters.  This song was played at my Rachel's Vineyard retreat.  How appropriate for now.  It's called Breath of Heaven and it's about Mary's questions and doubts and fears and how she keeps calling on the Lord for help, to just hold her together, to lighten her darkness, to be with  It's a powerful song and haunting musically.  I have a feeling it will be in my iPod rotation heavily for the next week or so.

Breath of Heaven ... hold me together...

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Angel, Grace...

Yet another case study on the mind of a postabortive woman.

When I attended my Rachel's Vineyard retreat about a year and a half ago, I received this little angel.  It's kind of a handmade ornament and very pretty.  One of the suggestions at the retreat was to put it up on your Christmas tree as a memorial to your unborn child who you lost (lost? killed? allow to be taken? sigh....)

At the time it sounded like a good idea.  What I didn't realize when I left my retreat which was mid-summer, was that for the next year - I would be confronted with each and every holiday and milestone now with Grace fully present in my mind.  Like anyone who has lost someone they love, or lost someone and later had regrets about, etc., holidays and other important milestones can royally suck.  I came to realize I had a slew of them on the horizon but I was determined to find a way to have Grace in my mind and memory and take a few moments at each one and remember her in my own way, allow myself to feel the grief I never addressed before, and then move on because that is what I believe she would want me to do.  I often feel as though she doesn't want to look down on me crying and miserable, I like to think she's up there looking down with great excitement and happiness.  When I allow my mind to go to the place where I'm thinking she has to hate me for what I did, I have to talk myself out of it and remind myself that I wasn't in the decision to abort alone - in fact I wasn't part of the decision at all.  And, if Grace is in Heaven - where there is to be no more pain or suffering or sadness, then she has to be looking down on me and my family with joy.  I digress...  I'll blame that discourse on doubt on the Catholic forum I frequent where more than one person was trying to convince other people that babies who die without baptism cannot possibly, under any circumstance be in heaven due to the "rules" and basically labeled PJII a heretic for saying as much in an address to postabortive women.  Can't we all just get along?

Back to the angel... last Christmas, which was the first when I was to memorialize Grace in some way since it was the first Christmas that I was outwardly recognizing her and all that happened to me over 20 years ago, I completely forgot about the angel ornament entirely until after Christmas.  When I was taking the tree down while the kids were at school it hit me, that it was sitting in my nightstand drawer in a box with all my other little treasurers from the retreat. 

What ensued then was what postabortive women go through constantly, for the most part, for their entire lives (much like exhibited in this very post).  A constant battle of wills, good versus evil, self assurance vs. self punishment, belief in God's mercy versus despair.  I'm not sure I'll ever fully win any of these battles to the point where they don't rear their head at some point in time, but I do handle it much better for the most part.  Kind of depends on the day, the moment, the circumstances. This morning, I'm okay with it emotionally.  It's there in the back of my mind.  I'm alone at home now but luckily I have errands to run and things to do to keep my mind off of it.

A friend reminded me that the "enemy" who I'm assuming is the Devil will take every opportunity to screw with people.  He's been screwing with me a lot lately, a whole lot and I'm not sure how to stop it.  How many people have to tell me that aborting Grace was not my fault?  How many times do I have to ask for some sign that I'm forgiven?  How many times will I have to stomp down these doubts? I fear that it will be as many times as I stomped down the sheer thought of Grace for over twenty years as some kind of punishment.  I know in my heart that the smallest of prayers could stop this screwing around with my mind but I won't take a moment to pause and do it which leads to more mind screwing.

I'm hoping that having the courage to bring the little angel down and place it on our beautiful Christmas tree would be the perfect way to end this particular battle, but I hesitate even still.  It's still sitting upstairs - alone.  Tucked away for no one to see, but I know it's there.  Hidden from the world like I've hidden this shame for so long.  What if I put it on the tree and someone asks about it.  Just about all of the ornaments on our tree have a story or some special or sentimental meaning.  My kids for sure will notice and wonder where it came from, where did I get it and why didn't I get them one - which if you have children you know that's usually the next question.  This is one thing I hope they never get. 

And if I put it on the tree - what's going to happen next.  Will it throw me into a tailspin every time I see it, opening presents on Christmas morning with no presents for Grace.  How many Christmases has she missed out on?  What could I possibly give her to make it up to her?

It sounds so stupid when I think about - just put the angel on the tree!  I wonder if anything will be that simple for me?  Here's to courage and hopefully the angel doesn't spend another Christmas in a box. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Talk to Little Girls

Though not usually a fan of the Huff Post and most of the time when I visit the site it's typically to fuss and fume and leave nasty comments.  However, this time, they got something right without the usual ultra-feminist mumbo jumbo.  I'm guilty myself of negative self talk and constantly compare myself to ideals I will never obtain without a full time airbrush artist, glam squad, personal trainer, private chef and plastic surgeon.  I hope not to pass my insecurities on to my daughters.  It gets a bit more complicated with my emotional baggage from the years of teen angst (how's that for downplaying it) that follow me still, so any way I can find to counteract it in any small way is a good find for me.

I am blessed with daughters who are as smart as they are beautiful - a fantastic combination when used for good.  But, they still can use any boost possible against the onslaught of hypersexualization in their world that is only going to get worse I'm sure.

How to talk to little girls...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Mom, did you wait?"

I can only hope to be this brave and truthful when the question is asked of me by my children.  I hope and pray that I give an answer that echos in their heart and soul.  I hope that I am able to tell them how very precious and worthy they are.  I hope that I can tell them all of this without being resentful for no one having told me the same when I wondered about it. 

From a wonderful resource.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I think I just found some courage to witness at the abortion clinic this Saturday...

Life has been busy as of late in good ways and not so good ways.  I find myself struggling to nourish my soul in some fruitful way.  When floundering, I usually have to find a way back to the basics of what's important to me and whittle down from all the things I want to do to the few things I want to do and am actually able to get done.

I've been feeling lately as if I've been neglecting Grace, putting her off because it's been too difficult to think about her even though I know that she doesn't want my thinking about her to be difficult.  The unresolved issues with my Mom make thinking about her difficult because it all ties together.  I can't compartmentalize Grace, and my Mom, and my life now.  This mostly happens when I'm busy with my children and I push down the thoughts of Grace that come up because it hurts too much.  But, sometimes, I am able to pause for a moment, acknowledge the grief I'm feeling, remind myself that I've been forgiven and keep going.  I know that my Lord does not want me to wallow around in my self pity but to rest in the knowledge that Grace is with Him and is just fine and dandy, thank you very much.  Oh ye of little faith. 

One of the things on my revised to do list is to go back to the abortion clinic and participate in a peaceful and prayerful witness with a group of people that do so every month.  On a grander scale, I've booked out the date of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. this year, we'll see how that pans out.  The last time I went to pray outside the clinic was a few months ago and it was very difficult. I was alone as in I didn't know anyone there personally, but it's not essential that I have a buddy to go with me.  Also, there were a lot less people that time.  The first time I participated, our Bishop was there so obviously a lot more people showed up.  I figured if I could stand close enough to him, or just kind of hide behind him, then I'd be okay.  What's difficult is that it takes a lot out of me to participate, emotionally, mentally, and physically as I fight off the panic attack and the urge to punch someone - namely the screaming banshees down the sidewalk (not part of our group).

Tonight, however, catching up on the blogs I normally visit, on Fr. Z's Blog - What Does that Prayer Really Say, I came across a post with the transcript from Archbishop Chaput's address at the University of Pennsylvania entitled, Being Human in an Age of Unbelief.  I do hope the good Archbp. proves out to be all bark and bite.  In his address, he puts into words what needs to be at the heart of the prolife movement, at the heart of all the good that the Church does.  After all the Fr. Pavone drama, I needed to hear something ringing true through all the noise.  And just when I thought I was reading about the Church globally, Archbp. Chaput made it personal.

"What makes abortion so grievous is the intimacy of the violence and the innocence of the victim."

Therein I found the necessary courage to show up Saturday bright and early, rosary in hand.  I won't ever know if my witness there has any affect at all, but I have to be there.  I know what is going on behind those ugly walls and that chain link fence.  I know what those clueless escorts are leading those women into.  I know what's going to come afterwards...10 minutes after they leave that ugly building and what will come 20 years later.  I know what is coming and I know that it will never be left behind. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finding Forgiveness

     I’m wondering if I can’t, won’t, refuse to even entertain the idea of sitting down and really consider forgiving my Mom – why aren’t I?  

     Is it because if I resign myself to forgiving my Mom, then there is nothing left?  I’m done.  My journey is over?  Now what?  The circumstances surrounding forgiving my Mom are complicated because I will never, ever be able to actually tell her that I forgive her.  I will never, ever be able to ask her any questions about my abortion.  Because of these impossibilities – I’ve hit a road block.  I know that I can write a letter, prayerfully contemplate forgiving her, imagine what forgiving her would be like and the words that I would say and imagine the words I would want to hear in return.  Part of my counseling is to not only write a letter to her if possible, but write one from her to me with the things I would want to hear from her.  The idea of that makes me feel like I’m 5 years old and I have no right or authority to speak for my mother. 

     I’m not sure it will be enough.  I’m not sure if an imaginary, one-sided forgiveness is going to be enough to chase my past away.  There is a small part of me that wants to pick up the phone and ask her what the hell was she thinking.  Does she have any clue of what my life has been like since having an abortion?  Does she realize the pain that I’ve carried around for 24 years?  Does she ever think about it?  Has she gone to confession for it?  Has she told a priest that she handed her daughter $300 to have an abortion because she was too selfish to do anything else?  Every time abortion is mentioned during intentions at Mass, every billboard she sees, every news debate she hears, every time she hears the word – abortion – does her heart skip a beat for the grandchild she doesn’t have here on earth?  When she takes my girls out to lunch – does she think that there should be one more? 

     Or did she really think it was the best thing to do and her heart was really in the right place?  Was she operating under a set of circumstances that time and experiences were guiding her toward?  Were there other factors involved that I don’t know about?  Had she ever have an abortion?  Why didn’t she go with me to have it?  Why has she never mentioned it to me in 24 years – not once? 
     Quite honestly – the answers that I imagine her offering to me don’t offer much help or healing for me.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.  I’m quite certain that she would completely deny the abortion ever happening, completely deny her part in the abortion, or completely twist the history around to argue that I was the one who wanted the abortion and not her.

     It’s only been a couple of years that I’ve allowed myself to feel anger towards my Mom and feeling that anger towards her has a payoff for me.  I can hold onto it towards myself for just as long.  And if I’m angry and resentful, there’s little room for joy and happiness.  Depression is easy for me.  Happiness is hard.
     Being angry at my mom over the abortion has proven to be the tip of the proverbial ice berg.  Many of the mistakes of my youth I’m angry over and I’m angry that my parents allowed for a lot of them to happen when they had the power to prevent them.  The biggest of these is promiscuity beginning at such an early age.  Yes, I made the decisions to do all the things that I did, but why did I make those decisions?  Why did I think it was okay?  Why did I think that giving away my body and saying okay to things I didn’t want to do was my only option?  My parents never tried to stop me.  My Dad is off the hook, sort of, for the abortion because he wasn’t aware of any of it until a couple of years later, but where was he during my teenage years?  Where was he when I was deciding to have sex at the age of 15? 

     I don’t want to throw my parents under the proverbial bus because in a great many respects actually, they were really good parents – they still are.  All the good things that I am I owe to them for laying the foundation.  My Mom always told me that I could do anything I set my mind to.  My Dad encouraged my education and pushed me to study harder and to never stop learning.  He’s 74 now and for only having a high school education and one year of college, he remains one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.  My Mom is no dummy either.  She was ahead of her peers as well and skipped a grade or two in her education because of her intelligence at a time when girls being smart wasn’t in fashion.
     My father greatly valued and encouraged my music education and with each instrument I picked up and mastered, his pride grew.  I’ll never forget the first talent show he attended where I sang solo and he was utterly blown away because he never heard me sing by myself before.  He was actually speechless afterwards.  The look on his face and in his eyes – I’ll never forget.

     But then there are other expressions and reflections in his eyes that I’ll equally remember forever.  I remember his disappointment over me packing up my instruments and leaving the marching band because I wanted to be a cheerleader.  This was a bone of contention for a long time. It remains a running family “joke.”  I remained in concert band and choir and participated in district and regional orchestras and choirs – but since I chose to also pursue something that seemed fun to me – but frivolous in his eyes – he never got over it.  But, instead of sitting me down and telling my why he was disappointed and challenging me to rethink my decision – he just let his condemnation be known in belittling and hurtful ways.  It hurts even more now, because to this day – I see that he was right all along. 
     I got further and further away from music.  I still every now and then will pick up my flute or clarinet just to see if I can still play, and I can.  It saddens me to think of the applications to colleges I passed over because they were for music. I have a guitar in the back of my closet that I long to learn to play – at least more than I already know from self instruction.  I think in the back of my mind of how great it would be to help with Youth Groups and maybe retreats, guitar in hand and touch people with music and song.  But now, it seems so far removed from who I am presently.

     It seemed there came a point when I was about 13 or 14 that Dad just washed his hands of me.   He didn’t agree with me being a cheerleader for football so he stopped coming to games later on in high school.  So, he wasn’t there when I left after to go be with a boy or run with my friends with no supervision.  I would come home late and my parents would be asleep.  Sometimes my Dad would be awake reading, but he wasn’t up waiting for me, he was up because he hadn’t finished his chapter yet. 
     Sometimes I want to pick up the phone and call my Dad and ask him what the hell was he thinking.  How could he be such a good Dad in so many areas but then completely fail in others?  I want to know what he thought after he found out about the abortion.  Was he angry with me or with my Mom?  Did he let her have it and defend me and scold her for failing as a mother?  I doubt it.  My Dad will and has always defended every action my Mom has ever taken, good, bad or indifferent, to himself or to anyone else.  He’s so steadfastly loyal to her that I would find no closure there either.  Does he ever think about the grandchild he is missing?  When he sits with the girls on his lap reading to them from the newspaper or telling them which political pundit is an “idiot” is he missing the third one that should be there? 

     In their defense, it was a different time and my parents are of a different generation with vastly different child rearing practices than I practice myself.  Maybe they didn’t ask questions because they didn’t want to hear the answers.  They gave me freedom as a reward for excellent academic performance and proper choices in extracurricular activities, but they had to know what other activities I was up to. Or they knew but didn’t care.  Or they knew and they didn’t care enough to stop me, or even to try to get me to slow down, or at least ask me what was going on.
     There are few conversations with my Dad that I remember like they were yesterday and one was shortly after I broke up with my boyfriend for the umpteenth time.  The weekend came and I had a new boy coming to take me out on a date.  Before he arrived, my Dad came to my room which in and of itself was a rare event.  But, he came in and looked me in my eyes and told me that he knew I was sad about the breakup and that he could see how much I cared about him, but I was young and this was the time to date and have fun and that boyfriend wasn’t going to matter one iota later on.  He said he also saw how my boyfriend didn’t always treat me in the nicest of ways and maybe I need to give someone else a chance to treat me better.  I guess he was paying more attention than I thought.  The new boy came to the house, rang the doorbell, met my parents, offered me flowers, and off we went.  I had a new hope in my heart that things were going to be better and that I would be able to put away my Air Supply records until the next heartbreak. 

     Sadly, I only had one date with the new boy.  We had a nice time and a fun night, but at the end of it, when he brought me home, I about attacked him in the car and pretty much let him know that I was a sure thing if he wanted it.  That one pep talk from my Dad wasn’t enough to undo what I thought of myself or what I thought I needed to do for a boy or what I was supposed to do.  The only thing I thought I had to offer was physical.  My Dad said to give him a chance, but I thought that making things easy for him was giving him a chance.  That was the only thing that any boy had responded to for me in my young life.  So even though I remember that talk from Dad and have carried it with me – that I deserved better – I should have heard it a lot earlier and a lot more often and I should have heard it from both my parents. 
     To this day, my mother can un-do me with a turn of a phrase.  Hell, a look from her can send me into a swirling storm of self doubt and second guessing. 

     It sounds so cliché to blame your mistakes in life on your parents and I hate to even go there for a millisecond. I feel like it’s a cop out.  Having been taught my whole life that I could do or be anything that I wanted, having failed at so much and made so many mistakes has to be only my fault because I was the captain of my ship and no one else.  But, that’s where I’m wrong and I have to keep reminding myself.  My parents did drop the ball in some areas and this was a doozey.  I carry the wounds from this screwed up thinking to this day.  My husband constantly has to remind me that in this life, we are in everything together.  Whereas I will go down the road that it’s my fault that this happened to us, or my fault that that happened, or where we are in life is because of my choices and my decisions, he is quick to remind me that since we said our vows it has never been just me – it has been us.  But I can’t seem to let go of the feeling of isolation for the negative parts of my life.  When I’m happy – it’s all of us.  When I’m not – it’s all me.
     Even with this journey, he’s held my hand all the way through.  He’s made himself available whenever I needed  to talk and has pushed me to talk when I didn’t want to and rightfully so he’s been frustrated when I shut down and don’t talk for weeks because I feel I’m all alone in this.  What an insult to God for not using the most perfect gift he gave to me in a spouse.  Will forgiveness of my Mom and my Dad and, therefore, myself, bring me back to joy?  Since I can’t pick up the phone and offer my forgiveness and I don’t expect a call from Jesus reminding me of my being forgiven – where am I to find it?

     If I refuse to forgive, if I refuse forgiveness, the pain remains.  I’m still in love with the pain.  My journey has brought many wonderful and grace-filled things into my life, I’m afraid that if the pain goes, I have no more right to them. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Child of My Heart

I've carried this song around for a while and it really speaks to me and all that I've gone through.  It captures how I feel about Grace and where she is now, where she's been since all those years ago, what I picture her to be know and how my journey has gone since losing her.  I can't write much more about it right now.  I'll let the music and pictures speak for me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I've lost my joy in the shadows.

     Through all of my counseling over the last two years I’ve learned so much. I’ve revisited a lot of my past and tried to make sense of most of it. I’ve tried to accept the things that I can’t make sense of or have no control over. I worry though – as I seem to be reaching some kind of precipice in my healing journey – if I have truly lost a part of myself that I may never get back. Of course there were circumstances and events in my life beside the abortion that have picked apart my confidence and self esteem, but I’m not sure if any compare to the abortion as far as the complete obliteration of any sense of true happiness. It has picked away at my ability to feel sheer joy.  

     I’ve had a long struggle with recurrent depression and now more than ever I’m able to recognize the cyclical nature of its appearance and dormancy, but before the depression moved into to my mind and heart to take up even part-time residence, I was happy. Now, I find myself waiting for that happiness to return and so far, nothing. I keep thinking that someone is going to come along and say, it’s okay to be happy now! 

    It’s as if I’ve sealed myself off from any pure feeling of happiness. I find myself stifling the feeling when I can on purpose so I don’t feel it. My personality has changed over the years – probably the last ten in particular – from outgoing and gregarious to the point of almost having a panic attack in a room full of people. It’s not all the time and I’m able to manage it for the most part – but I’m different and I don’t know if I’ll ever return to a happy and carefree person and that is kind of scary because I want to be happy. I miss that person.

     Typically my husband and I are pretty good at balancing each other out. When I’m down, he pulls me up. When he’s down, I provide the pep talk … but not so much as of late. It’s become quite unbalanced in that I’m the one that seems to be always down and I’m afraid I’ve left him feeling as though he needs to walk on eggshells around me. I’m not sure if it has to do with my drudging up so much of my unpleasant past. All of the bad and horrible things in my life took place before my husband even entered my life and it’s caused me to feel that I’m still back there in that time and space and now I can’t shake it off. I tried so hard to forget so much and I’m afraid I won’t be able to forget it again.

     What if this is my punishment? What if as a trade off for searching for recovery and healing and forgiveness, I’ve had to turn in my joy card? What if now I have to make up for the 20 years that I didn’t feel horrible about my past? From the day I met my husband on, I was happy and joyful and little by little that joy has eluded me.

     We had a few stressors in our young marriage, but we made it through and our relationship never once faltered. If there was one constant that I knew I could cling to through it all – it was my husband and my marriage. I wonder if seeking out this healing and recovery from my past has now cast a shadow over my marriage that didn’t exist before. I’m afraid that my past is now creeping into the last bastion of goodness that I have left. I’ve forced myself to confront this head on and in that confrontation, my husband was by my side for every step but now I’m afraid that it’s become part of him too. What if I’ve robbed him of happiness in the process?

     Or is this just another mind game to make me think that I’ll never be okay? Just another issue drummed up in the darkness of my soul so that I will never, ever escape the shadow of my past and just to make sure of it… it will now overshadow my husband too so don’t get any ideas about trying to be happy myself – it won’t work. My mother-in-law used to always tell me that I had a light inside me…I’m afraid it’s gone and it won’t ever be lit again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What do I know of Holy?

     Along my journey I’ve learned a lot that I never knew before.  Being a cradle catholic and a product of the 70’s and 80’s catechesis does not lend itself to becoming a properly and well-formed Catholic adult.  There is no syllabus available that I know of or a guide on how to get started on getting your spiritual groove back.  I read a lot.  I read a lot on line and visit the Catholic blogosphere.  There is a lot of great information and great writers out there.  But sometimes even those forays can be exhausting and frustrating.  I never knew there was so much division in the Church.  Can’t I just be Catholic?  Do I have to be a traditional Catholic or an orthodox Catholic or a NO Catholic?  Sometimes I feel as though no matter what I do at Mass, I’m doing it wrong according to somebody.  Sure, I have my preferences for what I like when I go to Mass. I have those things that make it feel more authentic to me.  Give me an old, Gothic church with real candles, tons of them.  And I’ll take a reverent and holy priest that takes 15 minutes to do the dishes over someone who whips through like he just picked up a cheese tray at a cocktail party.  But, you know what, I’m not in charge and I’m not there to police how it’s done.  I’m there for what I hope is the right reason.  But, of course, those kinds of statements make me sound just like the people I’m complaining about I suppose. 
    I try to remain focused on my spiritual growth and that of my family.  Just because I’m coming to terms with my past and am healing, I don’t want to stop the spiritual journey that I’m on, I’m just not sure where to go next. 
     I try to keep my spiritual world a nice little “neighborhood” where I don’t have to worry too much about what’s going on the other side of town because if I do that I lose sight of what I need, what my soul needs, what my family needs.  So, I try to learn as I go.  Now that I have some free time on my hands, I’m looking for classes I can take or spiritual programs at nearby retreat houses and the like.  Even though I’ve learned a lot, I still have times when I feel like I’m at my confirmation Mass and I’m trembling with fear over being asked a question by the Bishop and not knowing the answer.  (I did get a question by the way, and I knew the answer!)
     This post abortion journey has become what I hope to be a lifelong spiritual journey overall.  Sadly, often, I just feel like I don’t know a single thing about God, or Jesus, or my religion or how to be a good Catholic.  At those times I just have to give up and give in that sometimes I don’t know anything.  I just have to be at peace to just be, because I can only be what I far.

I am so much more than this...I am so much more than this...I am so much more than this...

     I have had a lot of change in my life over the last month or so.  For the most part it has been positive change, the kind that the march of time makes inevitable.  At the same time, some things remain the same and some of those stagnant things are not very positive at all.  So, I’ve been frustrated and overwhelmed lately by both good and bad and trying to keep my head above water in the process.  Some days are better than others.  Some days I just hit the auto pilot button and mechanically go throughout my day.  Other days, I’m overscheduled and my to-do list is much too ambitious which leaves me scrambling and exhausted and frustrated at my failure at not doing it all at the end of the day.  The payoff for muddling through either of these ways though is that it doesn’t leave much room for feeling anything good, bad or indifferent and sometimes that’s just the way I like it. 

     I think most of my floundering with the recent life changes was caused by my belief that I was prepared for it when the reality is I was poorly prepared, if at all.  All of the day-to-day and big change turmoil threw me into a “I have no idea what to do next” panic.  But, a wise and gentle priest reminded me one time that there is grace to be found in the times when I have no idea what to do next.  The grace may come in something unexpected that I hadn’t thought of or it might come from taking good and effective time to flush it out.  Or more possibly, it may come from His revelation to me and I just have to be patient and wait.  Patience is definitely not one of my virtues. 
     It’s often in these times though, that I become confused and misguided.  I try so hard to do everything that I can’t focus on one or two or a few things.  Then I become weak in mind and spirit.  I begin to feel as though I’m tackling everyday demons and real demons.  I will have vivid and brutal nightmares that intrude on my sleep and shudder me awake.  I will have impulsive thoughts when I’m alone that are scary and seem to come from nowhere.  The kind of thoughts that if you utter them aloud, you’re sure to buy yourself a nice little vacation at the local mental rest home.  Those thoughts are difficult for me to talk about with even those closest to me, because I’m afraid that I will shatter the image they have of me. 

     Most people who know me would probably describe me as confident and self-assured, not afraid of a fight and not easy to back into a corner, loyal to a fault and brutally honest.  Most of these attributes I would agree with and own.  However, the tragedy of my past makes all of these qualities somewhat of a uniform that I’m able to put on to face the world.  I’m also able to remove it – or have it removed for me – in the places where I feel safe enough to do so or at least when I’m vulnerable and hurting enough to allow someone else to take my guard down for me.  This is sometimes not an easy task, as my husband will tell you.  I will often put up walls around my heart that no one has a chance of getting through.  It is at those times when I’m at my weakest and my most hurting and sensitive, when all shred of confidence is long gone and I can’t even raise a hand to shoo a fly.  This is what the circumstances of my past life and my abortion have done to my soul and I hate it.
     Surprisingly, even at the depths of this hopelessness, I have never really lost the ability to love or to give love. I can do that.  I can pour it out on other people and never reach the bottom of the well.  It’s the receiving of it that I sometimes am completely unable to do.  I simply will refuse love.  I refuse it from my husband.  I refuse it from my children.  I refuse it from God.  Why?  Because even though I’m healing on this journey, along the way, there remain pieces of time, some small, some not, when I close off my heart, refuse to see good, refuse to feel joy, refuse to luxuriate in the precious life that He has given me. 

     A new strength found on my journey is the ability to recognize this refusal of love for exactly what it is and where it comes from.  It’s my Achilles’ heel that, though scabbed over, will sometimes be torn open once again leaving the wound as raw as it was the day I walked across that bridge. 
     Living with the shame of having had an abortion can permeate everything about the woman who has one.  I’m trying to learn how to not let it permeate me so much as integrate it into and with my life.  It will always be a part of me, but I can decide how it will be part of me.  For so long it was a part of me that was pushed deep down and often bubbled to the surface nearly destroying me from within.  Now I still carry it with me but I know what to do with it, most of the time.  Now that I acknowledge having done it, and have dissected all of the circumstances around it, and believe that Grace is in Heaven watching and waiting for me, I try to find ways to let all of this be part of me but not consume me.  [Interesting choice of words here still... “it,” “it,” “all of this,” as opposed to abortion, abortion, abortion – like I said, a journey.]

    In my now days (as opposed to weeks, months) of refusing to be loved, I begin to realize all the more quickly that I am hiding from no one really. No one important to me anyway.  And how utterly ridiculous of me to think that I was really hiding out from He who knows my every move before I make it and my thoughts before I have them.  More quickly do I feel the gentle nudge to go to Adoration, to visit Church, to pray.  My being a postabortive woman is not the only thing that I am.  Some days it feels like it is, but I’m so much more.  Maybe if I say that enough I will start believing it and the doubt will finally and forever be gone. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lil-Wayne's Prolife Message from

Can't say I was ever a Lil Wayne fan b/c I'm just too old to "get it."  However, came across this link on the Liveaction blog... had to share.  Wow.  That's all I've got.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On the Ravages of Abortion

In this enlightening article by Meg Matenaer on - Fr. Matthew describes the ravages of abortion.  Personally, the embedded conflict rings true as does the despair - which has to be the most insidious part of being post abortive.  I don't know if the despair will ever fully and completely go away.  The rest of what Fr. Matthew lists could serve as a checklist for a lot of my life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stay focused on the road.

     August 22, 2011 was the 24th anniversary of my abortion.  This was only the 2nd year that I actually acknowledged the date that I lost Grace.  It remains difficult for me to talk about it in concrete words like, “lost.”  Did I really lose her?  No, I allowed her to be taken.  Actually, if you get down to the nitty gritty, I allowed her to be killed.  It remains painfully difficult on some days for me to acknowledge any of this and there are days when I hate the fact that I do at all.  I hate how weak and vulnerable facing this fact of my life makes me feel.  I hate how pathetic and ridiculous I am about it sometimes.   Faking strength and wholeness was much easier than this.  I hate even more that a lot of it wasn’t even my fault.  I hate making what sounds like excuses for what I did.  If all of it was my fault and I was the one person 100% responsible for my getting pregnant and having an abortion, I think I could deal with it better.  I would have one person to hold accountable and answer to.  I would have one person to take out my anger and rage on.  I would have one person to blame and one person to answer my unresolved questions. 

     All of these mitigating factors and the surrounding circumstances leading up to that day complicate my decision to allow myself to grieve the loss of Grace.  After almost 2 years of therapy, I still continue to carry most of the burden of my abortion myself, even though I was 17 years old and had no wherewithal to not do what my mother told me to do.  It was a different time.  Getting knocked up was still scandalous and brought shame to your family.  I literally had no one to turn to for help or a differing opinion about what I might be able to do instead of having an abortion.  But with one sentence, one order, one command from my Mom that we were never to speak of it again, the event of that day was swept under the rug and into the deep recesses of my soul.  I remain amazed and overwhelmed that His Mercy also dwells in the deep recesses of my soul.
     I can’t speak to what my Mom did with the memory of that day.  I can guess, but I’ll never know.  It’s not something that I can ever talk to her about or find some resolution for, for a number of reasons.  I will never, ever have the kind of closure that I would like to have or need to have.  So, I try instead, to pray to not need it.  I pray that I can remove some of this guilt and burden from my shoulders because it was never mine to fully bear. 

     As the anniversary date approached, I wanted to find some small way to honor Grace that wouldn’t make me fall to pieces.   I decided I would visit the retreat house where I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend.  After a rough weekend filled with all of the usual drama and every day catastrophes and ups and downs, I anxiously awaited my husband’s return from work that day so I could go out alone for a few hours.  I stopped and bought a pretty bouquet of flowers.  When I arrived at the retreat house, I carefully separated the bouquet into two bouquets.  I had brought two little cards and some ribbon and on each card I wrote, Grace Anne, 8/22/87.  I placed one bouquet in a little Mary Garden at the retreat house.  There is a statue of an angel that looks kind of like what I picture Grace to be, a young woman with angel wings.  I stayed for quite a while in the silence.  I wrote a bit.  I cried a bit.  I even laughed a little because as I looked over the little garden, I noticed a randomly odd little menagerie that accompanied Mary in her woods.  In the garden also were two dragonfly stepping stones, a little “thinking” turtle, an owl, and a few chubby cherubs.  I chuckled as I tried to figure out if there was some meaning behind their placement that only some higher minded individual could interpret.  The only hidden message I could figure out is that it’s all random and none of it makes much sense to any of us mere mortals. 

     The 2nd bouquet of flowers I placed on the Memorial to the Unborn at my parish.  This was done under cover of darkness and is quite a big risk for me as I’m always afraid someone I know will see me.  My husband suggested we go and plant a bunch of flowers there…in broad daylight.  I told him he was nuts.  Someday, maybe…not yet.  I quickly placed my bouquet there and drove home.  

     The rest of the evening went as most of our evenings do and I’m sure I did a good job of seeming okay.  My hubby tiptoed around me a bit as he often does when he’s not quite sure what I need.  Admittedly, I had been pretty emotionally shut down for the week or so before this anniversary so I can’t blame him for steering safely clear.  But, as he often does, he found a way to touch my heart from a safe distance and had left a letter for me in my car with instructions to read it when I got to where I was going.  I won’t share all of his words to me because they are ours alone, but I will share a part of it and it’s the part that titles this blog post. 

     He told me how proud he was of me and my journey of the last two years and though it will always remain somewhat forever incomplete, that I could take solace in the fact that even though my steps have been fraught with distractions, self doubt, pity and loathing, that I had, for the better part, remained on the road that had always been there from the beginning.  I had remained for the most part on the lighted path and had only side stepped a few times into the misery and despair that darkened the other pathways. 
     He also took care to remind me that even though I may sometimes still feel like the scared girl that walked across that bridge 24 years ago, I have now become a gatekeeper of sorts of that same bridge, able to give others pause before taking the next step.  These are the words I hold onto as I stay focused on the road. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Psalm 51 - The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness
in your abundant compassion
blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt;
from my sin cleanse me.

For I know my offense;
my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned;
I have done such evil in your sight
That you are just in your sentence,
blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty,
a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.
Still, you insist on sincerity of heart;
in my inmost being teach me wisdom.

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my guilt.

A clean heart create for me, God;
renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence,
nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit.

I will teach the wicked your ways,
that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from death, God, my saving God,
that my tongue may praise your healing power.
Lord, open my lips;
my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice;
a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit;
God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No words...for the moment.

I find myself approaching this, the 24th anniversary of my abortion, at a loss for words, at a loss for actions, at a loss...

But, I'll find my way back to it. Even though I'm shut down now, I can't and won't remain this way. So for the time being, I'll let song and music and prayer, the laughter of my children and the light in my husband's eyes carry me through my "change in the making."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Do not depend on the hope of results..."

When I first had the idea for this blog… I had my list of pros and cons ready to discuss with my husband.  We had lots of pros, very few cons.  Among the cons: the nut-jobs, whack-a-do’s and other assorted just‑plain‑crazies that would undoubtedly find my blog and attack it or me personally, or both.  So far, the nut job contingency has been relatively silent.  I thank God for the delete button that I am able to press in a matter of seconds, resisting the urge to fight back or worse, be thrown into despair because of something some idiot in cyberspace feels the need to say to me. 

The pros list was quite long – but the biggest pro for my blog was the one I most likely would never have a measurable outcome for.  I had to be sure that I was okay with that.  I can sit and try to analyze my “stats” page all I want but, really – I pray more about those who read my blog who I have no idea about.  I pray that just one 17-year-old girl out there is reading my blog and finds the courage to show it to her mom after  two lines show up on the pregnancy test.  I pray that just one Priest will find some small morsel of insight from my story to help one of his sheep that come looking for forgiveness and mercy.  I pray that just one woman who thus far has told everyone to “keep your rosaries out of my ovaries” has just a twinge of a change of heart.
I have been blessed with feedback and comments from a variety of sources and I remain completely overwhelmed by the receipt of them.  In the moments where I wonder why I started this in the first place, I look to them for reminders.  I have to admit that I do print out all the comments I receive and do an old-fashioned cut and paste job into my paper (yes, I said paper) journal. 

A glimpse of some of the blessings bestowed…

“May you know God's mercy and love in an intimate way and rejoice in the reality of his Resurrection. May our Lord give you the strength you need to carry your cross with love and patience, and give you his peace.”
“My friend, this is what I needed to read! Make today beautiful!”

“I am so glad that the Holy Spirit prompted you to put your blog back out there today!  God loves you so much and I so appreciate you offering your blog to help others!!!!!”

“God Bless you, dear.  God met you in the road with tears in His eyes and ALL of Heaven rejoiced.”
“Saw your sign on the Groups wall (I regret My Abortion), just wanted you to know I think you must be a very strong person and that God loves us no matter what. We all make mistakes we regret or are forced to do things because we can't find another way.”

“God bless you!”

“Your blog is so beautiful; it's almost made me cry. Your post about adoration especially is wonderful.”
“When we receive absolution God wipes us clean of the guilt of sin and does not remember it at all. It is Satan who wants us to doubt the efficacy of God's grace through His sacraments.”

“You are not alone. The reason I don't ask God to take my suffering away, or to take my memory away is that I want to suffer those moments (not wallow in them) in reparation and penance for myself and others. I give my suffering to Jesus, place my little cross next to His, take a hold of Our Mother's hand and then move forward again. I hope this is of some small help to you. May you be blessed with deep knowledge of His Mercy.”
“What you have gone through is a terrible thing. But even an abortion is not bigger than the love and mercy of Jesus (or His Church).   And you are valuable to the Church. And we need you.”

“The Devil hates growth in holiness, because it moves the person further from his corruption. When starting on the path towards evil, Jesus simply waits for you with open arms. When starting on the path towards holiness, the Devil becomes rabid with fury - and a war begins. The battlefield is your soul, and the holier you seek and strive to become, the bloodier the battle. The holier you become, the harder the Enemy will try to drag you down - because you are closing yourself off to his temptations.”
“Place your trust in God and Pray for St Michael's help.  But ultimately, who should you fear? He's on your side because you are on His. If you truly only want God's will to be done who should you fear?   Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.  I love the story of one saint (I don't remember which one), but the devil came into her room and started a ruckus. She rolled over and saw him and said, "Oh, its only you." and then rolled back over to go to sleep.”

“Wow. Tears are flowing as I type. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it touches the hearts of many confused girls out there!  You're in my prayers!”
“Don't give up. 

“If anyone out there 'knocks' what you're doing, what you have shared, it is irrelevant to the purpose God intends, and any opposition may quietly draw in persons who need the site.  You have done a good thing.”

“You have a beautiful blog. The background reminds me of the infinite ocean of Mercy that Jesus spoke about to Saint Faustina. God bless you! You will be in my prayers.”
“What a beautiful post! Adoration is so powerful, and yet so gentle and personal. No one could be worthy, and yet His Love makes all of us worthy. So glad you are on the front kneeler now!”

“I loved reading this! I remember that part of my retreat too and it felt wonderful.”
“Perhaps a good way for all of us to evaluate where we are as Christians is to ponder, ‘This is my body.’ How do we follow that statement? Is it with ‘and I will do with it what I please’ or with ‘which will be given up for you?’ It seems to me that you have moved a long way on that scale.”

“Thank you for writing this blog. Those of us who never had an abortion still have friends and relatives who have- even if we don't know about it- and your journey is eye-opening.”
“My baby was killed in Pittsburg[h], too, in 1973. I have told a few people, but I've never really talked about it. I was 17 also.”

“Thank you for carrying this cross with patience and dignity. May you have Veronica to give you a bit of comfort and affection when you need it and Simon of Cyrene to help when you just cannot do it alone and may the presence of Our Blessed Mother and her prayers give you strength.”

“I too am a Rachel's Vineyard graduate. I lost my child to abortion when I was 18 years old. It was the saddest day of my life. Please continue to keep speaking out so that others will never know the pain that we have had, never experience child loss the way we have. God Bless you”

“Thank you for starting this blog. Please keep writing. I'm looking forward to following. I think you have a very important message.”
I believe God led me to your blog today. Thanks for putting it out there.”

“I saw you link on the Catholic Answers Forums. Your posts are very poetic and moving. Good luck with you site!”
“God's blessing is with your blog even if you never or seldom see the results. I will keep you and those who need the grace God wishes to offer through this blog and through prayers, in my own daily prayers. May God continue to bless you and your family, and others through you.”

“Thanks for the blog link … Know of my prayers and Christ's forgiveness for you. Pray for my brother-priests who minister uncharitably. God Bless.”
“I've been blessed working with a woman who's been heavily involved in Rachel’s Vineyard and other Pro-life organizations that [has] helped me be more attentive and gentle, particularly with women who are post-abortive.”

“Glad that the initial priest didn't harden you from finding someone who would more accurately reflect Jesus' love for you.”

“I like the element of discussing the upcoming Sunday Mass readings, which can really help folks live the liturgy a lot deeper. God bless you!
“Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this... the thing about publishing is that you never know how much good your words will end up doing. I'll share it on my blog this morning...”

"Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything."  ~Thomas Merton

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sink or swim, or walk as it were… (Part II)

        I am a huge fan of music – of all kinds of music.  Most popular music typically holds ulterior meanings for me in the lyrics.  There is a song by the Indigo Girls called “Ghost.”  It’s a song about being in love with the ghost of a past love, what appears to be a romantic love in the song.  For me, the haunting lyrics speak to me in my struggle over being in love with the ghost(s) of my past – the ghosts that allow me to wallow in self pity and keep me from my full potential because, let’s face it, being good all the time is hard work.  For me, it’s about being in love with Grace’s ghost, being in love with the sound of the machine that took her from my body – and not in love with who she really is – my daughter living in His presence.  Which Grace I choose to love plays out in large part on my daily life.  I thought of this song when reading tomorrow’s Gospel because there is a line in the song that goes, “And I guess that's how you started, like a pinprick to my heart, but at this point you rush right through me, and I start to drown.”  I have to remind myself that being in love with ghosts causes me to drown, but my faith in what’s really true allows me to stay on top of the water, holding hands with Jesus.

There's a letter on the desktop
That I dug out of a drawer
The last truce we ever came to
In our adolescent war
And I start to feel the fever
From the warm air through the screen
You come regular like seasons
Shadowing my dreams

The Mississippi's mighty
it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across
With five steps down
And I guess that's how you started

Like a pinprick to my heart
But at this point you rush right through me
And I start to drown

And there's not enough room
In this world for my pain
Signals cross and love gets lost
And time passed makes it plain
Of all my demon spirits
I need you the most
I'm in love with your ghost

Dark and dangerous like a secret
That gets whispered in a hush
When I wake the things I dreamt about you
Last night make me blush
(Don't tell a soul)
And you kiss me like a lover
Then you sting me like a viper
I go follow to the river
Play your memory like a piper

And I feel it like a sickness
How this love is killing me
I'd walk into the fingers
Of your fire willingly
And dance the edge of sanity
I've never been this close
I'm in love with your ghost

Unknowing captor
You never know how much you
Pierce my spirit
But I can't touch you
Can you hear it?
A cry to be free
Oh I'm forever under lock and key
As you pass through me

Now I see your face before me
I would launch a thousand ships
To bring your heart back to my island
As the sand beneath me slips
As I burn up in your presence
And I know now how it feels
To be weakened like Achilles
With you always at my heels

This bitter pill I swallow
Is the silence that I keep
It poisons me I can't swim free
The river is too deep
Though I'm baptized by your touch
I am no worse than most
In love with your ghost