It's hard to believe that I let three months pass by without a blog post! Like the rest of the world, COVID interrupted life. Not only were schools shut down and distance learning implemented, but I saw baby Andrew (who is now 22 months old) through his second surgery. On top of that, we packed up a U-Haul and drove across the country for the summer. Sometime during all of this, I spoke to a coach who helps public speakers refine their image and promote themselves.
In our discussion, I told him that about my Thinking Catholic business and that I could speak on any topic from veteran's issues, to the pro-life movement, Down syndrome awareness, or all things Catholic. He told me that I should only stick to one topic and advised me to stay far away from speaking about Catholic topics. He strongly encouraged me not to speak at churches or private schools if I wanted to make any money. I was informed that speaking about Catholic topics wouldn't get me very far and that my business would not be profitable. WHAT!?!
I told him thank you, and hung up the phone. I am a person who is grounded in morals and strongly values the Catholic faith. I cannot go out and speak on anything if I cannot interweave the Catholic faith. I just won't do it. This speaking coach gave me two options. One, choose money. Or two, choose Christ. I have, and always will, choose Christ.
However, maybe I didn't choose Christ after all. Perhaps, He chose me. John 15:16 says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." I am beyond humbled to be called to not only write blogs and freelance articles, but to have the opportunity to speak to so many via EWTN shows or on stage. This is definitely not the plan I had envisioned for my life. Good grief, I thought I was going to grow up and become an astronaut! God certainly had other plans for me and I am so grateful. I hope the fruit that I bear is one that will win hearts for God. This is my prayer. This is my mission in life.
When the country shut down because of the Coronavirus pandemic, so did the churches. I remember crying on baby Andrew’s shoulder. Then I remembered that WE are the Church. You and I are called to bring God’s Word into a hurting world. We are called to check on our neighbors to ensure they have enough food - and toilet paper. You and I are called to be Christ’s foot soldiers, acting as He does, by loving and supporting others. When the country shut down, Christ rose up.
Because of the pandemic and concern for others, my neighbors courageously organized a food collection site and delivered thousands of pounds of pantry staples to local food shelters, all while parenting and educating four young children. They also made hundreds of sandwiches and organized an online sign-up sheet for other families to take part in their mission. The sandwiches were delivered to the local Martha’s Table. This is one of the many examples of how I have witnessed Christ taking care of others by inspiring His foot soldiers. My neighbors chose Christ and have established “Be The Good Project.”
"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." - Deuteronomy 31:6
p.s. Here is more information if you would like to support the “Be The Good Project.”
My friend, Amber, posted this on Facebook.
Welcome new friends!! 👋 Sterling & I started this project in the beginning of June after reading a lot about food insecurity during the pandemic. As the parents of four young kids, we are especially concerned about the impact on families and young children in our area.
All you have to do is Google “food pantry” and you’ll quickly learn that food banks nationwide are seeing an unprecedented surge in need during this crisis, and the burden on children is especially troublesome. Prior to covid, food insecurity affected 1 in 6 children. Feeding America now estimates 1 in 4 children will experience food insecurity in the next year.
In addition to the increased need, there are reports of decreased grocery donations. Stores that can typically donate to food pantries are reporting they can spare less because prices are rising and people are purchasing more groceries while they’re home.
With the help of our generous friends, family, and neighbors, this project has donated almost 2,500 POUNDS of food and water for families who need supplemental groceries in our area. We’re also on track to provide more than 1,800 sandwiches to Martha’s Table in July.
If you’re interested in helping us reach more people who are experiencing hunger in DC and VA, there are a few ways to help!
* We are accepting funds to buy more food in bulk. 💪 Every dollar goes directly to purchase food for families who receive supplemental groceries at local food pantries. https://www.paypal.me/InfiniteJests
* I’m drawing custom doodles for the food drive! Check out Instagram.com/rooscribbles to learn more — all proceeds raised from portraits go to buy more food! ✏️
* We’ll be listing more dates to make sandwiches in August! 🥪 All sandwiches are delivered to Martha’s Table in DC. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20F054BACA62AAAFB6-sandwich
We are so grateful for your continued willingness to help, and we can’t wait to see how God uses this project moving forward. As a result of your time and generosity, we know that you are directly helping people and their families who are experiencing hunger during this unprecedented time. 🤟💛
The world certainly has dramatically changed over the course of the last week or so. Schools are shut down for an undetermined amount of time. Public Mass and houses of worship are cancelled or closed until further notice. My son's speech therapist and physical therapist are no longer able to do home visits and have switched to tele-health. His feeding therapist's office is closed until further notice. I cancelled my daughter's 7th birthday party before I even had a chance to send out the invites. Restaurants are not able to do dine-in service and have moved to curbside pickup or delivery only. Most major sports, such as the NBA, have been cancelled for the season. "Social Distancing" is a new term in our vernacular and the only social distancing sport that I can think of is golf. With so many indoor play places closed, my family has taken to hiking deserted nature trails, away from people and possibly infected surfaces. All of my speaking engagements have been cancelled, as has my children's after school activities. And the economy.... oh, that economy! It looks as though we are headed into a recession.
Stores are left with bare shelves as consumers have been "panic shopping." 2020 will be remembered as the year that the toilet paper went missing at the same rate that hand washing increased. Online delivery of goods has severely increased and Amazon has said that it will add a huge number of new jobs in order to keep up with the demand. Yet, I still can't find flour or cleaning supplies in-stock on the retail giants website... nor, toilet paper.
We have seen the Coronavirus (COVID-19) shock not just our beloved nation, but the entire world. Italy has all but shut down and other nations are following suit. Who knows how many of our own citizens will lose their jobs because of this virus. It seems as if the world is crashing down around us.
It's God's reset button. There have been other viruses with a greater risk of dying; remember the good ol' flu? How about H1N1? Yet, COVID-19 is different. It is as if God has hit the reset button. He did promise that he would never flood the earth again during the time of Noah. Though not with water, it seems as if our Almighty is flooding the world again. He is forcing us to spend time with our families. He is forcing us to reign in our spending. He is forcing us to die to self so that we can unite as one. We have seen Republicans and Democrats unite. We have seen over 100 countries suffer through the effects of COVID-19 and, for the most part, provide guidance to one another. We have seen families and friends support each other more frequently through group text messages and social media. I have seen my neighbors checking in on each other, all while keeping a distance of at least six feet. Could it be that God has truly reset the entire world?
In my opinion, God has absolutely hit the reset button and is calling us to die to self and to die to sin, all during the time of Lent. Coincidence? I think not. One of my priest friends posted on Facebook, "I didn't expect to give up this much for Lent!" My uncle, also a priest, responded with, "That's okay. Just give up sin." I couldn't agree more. Just give up sin. We may or may not have access to Church and confessionals, but we do have access to our own self-control. We do have the choice to give up sin.
During this challenging time I urge you to give up sin, practice extreme patience, pray for persecuted Christians around the world and put on a brave face of hope and courage. Cling to the virtues, prayer and Sacred Scripture. Remember that this is a time in our children's lives that they will always remember. Help them learn hope and courage. Help them learn self-control and the choice of refusing sin. Allow God's reset button to truly sink in; allow Him to reset your spiritual life so that you may be brought closer to His heart.
My dear readers, I pray that all of you stay strong, healthy, hopeful and full of courage and patience during this trying time. I challenge you to pray a daily Rosary for our world. If you can only manage a decade, then that is okay too. Pray for healing of our world, its people and the economy. Pray that you use God's reset button in ways that you never thought possible.
This is the time that He will transform your life.
"Faith doesn't make things easy, it makes them possible." -Luke 1:37
I was scrolling through Instagram the other day when I saw this image with #Catholic. If you are reading my blog, then chances are that you are dedicated to, or at least respect, the catholic doctrine. This post will shred apart the side-by-side comparison that the creator made of Jesus v. Satan. I will serve the creator of this meme a heavy piece of humble pie. Read on below the image. Before publishing this post, the meme had 5,354 likes. That is 5,354 lost souls.
The figs: Jesus curses the fig tree in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 11. Let’s make it clear, Jesus doesn’t hate figs. He knows that the Jewish people see it as a symbol of themselves. He curses the fig tree that doesn’t bear fruit to mean that he does not approve of the Jewish people who bear no spiritual fruit and are, in return, in spiritual apathy. Hahn’s Study Bible says, “...he announces his curse on the unfaithful of Israel- i.e. those who refuse him as the Messiah and lack the fruits of repentance.” Again, Jesus doesn’t hate figs as this meme creator asserts. Instead, he hates the lack of repentance. He loves us and wants us to be free from our sins. In opposition, Satan loves the spiritual apathy and lack of repentance. Which side will you choose?
Impregnated a virgin without consent: Jesus did not impregnate a virgin without consent. This assertion is barbaric. Jesus is the fruit of the womb from our Blessed Mother. Let's talk about Mary's fiat. "Fiat" is Latin for "Let it be done." When the Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, he told her that God wanted her to bear his Son in the human form in order to save the world. Read Luke 1:26-56. Mary said, "yes." This was her consent. She was not impregnated against her own will. God gave us free will and respects our free will that was given by His grace. Mary consented to bear the Son of God by saying, "be it done to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38) God favored Mary; she is the Ark of the New Covenant. Because of her "yes" the gates of Heaven were eventually opened upon the crucifixion of her only Son. Her "yes" changed the world. Her "yes" was consent to play a major role in salvation's history. Will you say "yes" and open your heart to God?
Boring Robes: Jesus was born into poverty. He is the Son of the Most High King and he is the ruler of Heaven and Earth. Yet, he chose to enter this world as a humble infant in the lowliest of economic welfares. He chose to do this in order to connect with people from all walks of life and to show that he came to save us all. Had he descended from Heaven with flashy robes and crazy pomp and circumstances, then that would have signaled that he was only the savior for the rich and mighty. All three persons of the Holy Trinity are exceptionally humble and full of love. Satan can keep his fancy robes, etc. My savior doesn't need them. They have no place in Heaven. Jesus made friends with the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors. He shows mercy on all who ask for his forgiveness. Satan only cares for himself and is the sole definition of selfishness and self-love. Which side will you choose? One of selfishness and cool robes or the side of humility, service, love and forgiveness?
Dedicate your weekend to singing hymns: Yes, Jesus certainly does want you to dedicate your weekend, and every other day, to praising him and spreading his Good News throughout the world. "To sing is to pray twice." This quote is attributed to St. Augustine. Absolutely- dedicate your time to singing hymns of praise. There is so much more freedom in this than in "smoking weed" as the meme creator suggests. We can become a slave to our own selfish desires. When we relinquish ourselves to Christ, there is a new found freedom. Personally, I feel as if I can breath better and feel as a weight has been taken off of my shoulders when I choose to follow the straight and narrow path. At times, I have done things without prayerful discernment and it has never ended well. In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul tells the people of Thessalonia to "rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
In conclusion, be on your guard and remain aware of the spiritual attacks that Satan presents. He's sneaky. He will show up everywhere and anywhere, including Instagram. Always be at the ready with your own armory of spiritual weapons: attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, praying the Rosary, reading Sacred Scripture, taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, blessing yourself with holy water. Satan hates these things. Always have them at the ready. As a veteran, believe me when I tell you that having your armory fully stocked and loaded is the best way to prevent attacks by the enemy. Satan is surely the world's biggest enemy.
It feels as if I just put all of the Christmas decorations away. I blinked and St. Valentine’s Day flew by. Now I see store shelves filled with Easter candy and we haven’t yet celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Time has flown by yet again.
I took a look at my oldest child this morning and noticed that his school uniform pants are about an inch or so too short. Didn't I just have the hem taken out over Christmas break? My middle child also hit a major growth spurt and I had to immediately replace all of her school jumpers with the next size up. Little Andrew, our youngest, is growing at an alarming rate and will take his first step any day now. How is it that we can figure out how to put a man on the moon or code a new app that will go viral, yet we can't figure out how to slow down time?
Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, with it, brings the first of the 40 days of Lent. Scott Hahn says, "We love Lent because it's distinctive. It sets us apart as a Christian people. Fasting and abstinence are always countercultural, but especially in a land where marketers harvest desire from our emails and urge us hourly on social media to indulge ourselves. By observing Lent we opt out of that. We take up our cross daily ,as Our Lord told us to do, and we carry it forward over the course of weeks. At the end we have a sense of satisfaction. We fell we've accomplished something through God's grace. For forty days we've conspired, cooperated, and collaborated closely with God - intentionally and intensely. And we like that feeling. We love Lent."
It's true, Catholics truly do love Lent. Go to church tomorrow for Ash Wednesday and marvel at the turnout. However, don't let these 40 days get so busy in the daily grind that you miss out on delving into a deeper relationship with Christ. Have a plan. Implement the plan. During Lent, we participate self-denial through fasting and abstinence in order to develop a sweet and loving relationship with our Almighty Creator. I challenge you to make this year's Lenten season purposeful.
Will you add a daily Rosary to your abstinence and fasting? Or, will you say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. each day in order to commemorate the time that is recognized as Jesus' death on the Cross? Will you do more spiritual reading and partake in Sacred Scripture? Perhaps you will volunteer to help your parish by washing and ironing all of the altar server robes? Or, as a family, you can volunteer to clean the Holy Water founts. These are all just suggestions. The point is this: don't be so busy that you forget to add Jesus and your Lenten practices into your daily routine. The more purposeful you make Lent, the sweeter the satisfaction will be on Easter Sunday.
I pray that all of you will have a very purposeful Lenten season that will end in a more purposeful relationship between you and Jesus Christ.
I have been on a Sugar Fast for the past two weeks. I have been craving sugary baked goods and sugary lattes. I have been scrutinizing nutrition labels and finding new ways to cook in order to not consume refined sugars. I am doing this fast because I want to draw closer to Christ. Some people would call it a detox. The difference between a fast and a detox is this: a fast is done for the purpose of drawing your soul in unity with Jesus Christ and a detox is purely physical. I have found that sugar is sneaky. It sneaks into canned tomato sauce and dried fruit. It causes you to have a high and then crash. Sugar reminds me of the culture of death.
"The culture of death" is a term that was coined by then-Pope John Paul II during the 90's when abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia (assisted suicide) was on the world stage. If you have been following my blog and my story, then you know that the culture of death snuck its way into my most recent pregnancy.
About two years ago, I was facing enormous pressure from my perinatologist, a doctor that specializes in high-risk pregnancies, just because there was a 99.9% chance of my baby having Down syndrome. I fought her pressure and accusations at every appointment. Disclaimer: while having a different viewpoint and putting me under enormous pressure, she still provided excellent medical care.
It was exhausting to have full-blown discussions with my doctor to convince her that my child's life was worth living, and for that matter, ALL life was worth living! She provided her viewpoints on why babies should be aborted, or "terminated." I countered her with logic, reasoning and Sacred Scripture, trying to help her understand that life begins at conception and that we have NO authority to end another person's life. I pray that my words had some affect on her views and that she has or will have a conversion of heart.
I am BLESSED to be pro-life and to have a husband that is just as pro-life as I am. We are BLESSED to have a family that supports us. We are BLESSED to have three children who bring so much joy to our lives. I pray for those women who don't have the support of a husband, for those who are not strong in their convictions and give in to the pressure of doctors such as these. I pray for those who can no longer bear children because they sustained an infection during a previous abortion. I pray for those who have had abortions and who regret them. I pray for those who support abortions and advocate for the pro-choice movement. I pray for our legislators to protect the sanctity of life. And, I pray for you.
Today is the 47th annual March for Life. Today, we acknowledge the sad anniversary of Roe v. Wade. But in sadness, light shines forth. The March for Life has been a peaceful, joyful and loving march supporting life in all ages and stages. I march for all life, especially for those who have a surprising prenatal diagnosis. I believe and stand for life- from womb to tomb. This March for Life is historic because it is the first time a president will join the March for Life in person. After arriving during the song, "God Bless the USA," President Donald J. Trump spoke in front of tens of thousands of marchers and delivered an inspiring message. Here are some of my favorite quotes from his historic speech:
May we all continue to march, every moment of every day, being the voice for the voiceless. May we never cease and never tire of defending the sanctity of life- from womb to tomb- from conception until natural death. Life is precious. As Mother Teresa said, "if abortion isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong."
Today is the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the legal right to vote. During the upcoming primary and general elections, I urge you to exercise your power to vote for those who support the right to life. If we don't have life, then what else matters?
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." - Jeremiah 1:5
I love a good deal, especially around Christmas time! I had my online shopping cart ready to go and when Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit- boom! My Christmas shopping for a family of five was complete! A couple of days later, I was resting on the couch recuperating from surgery. My mom has been in town for the past couple of weeks to help out. I can’t lift more than ten pounds while I am recovering and my baby is close to 18 pounds. So, grandma to the rescue!
While I was resting on the couch, I heard a lot of rustling noise in my garage. I knew that nobody else was at home. My husband was at work and my mom took the baby to go pick up the older kids from school. I couldn’t figure out what in the world was clattering in my garage! I went out to investigate. Lo and behold, there was a tower of brown boxes stacked neatly and nicely in my garage right by the door to the house. For a moment, I thought Santa Claus has visited my house! Then it occurred to me, that I had a very courteous UPS driver that day.
I’m quite sure that it took extra time and effort, and more than one trip, for the UPS driver to bring all of those boxes up our long driveway and deep into our garage. I was so grateful for his thoughtfulness and yelled a “thank you” to him across the cul-de-sac. The UPS driver inspired me to examine my first couple of days of Advent.
On the First Sunday of Advent, I was two days post-surgery from having a likely benign breast tumor removed. This was my 14th surgery, and probably the easiest surgery I’ve had. So, I didn’t feel the need to use it as an excuse to skip Mass. After all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of worship and worshiping Christ is abundantly healing on so many levels. During the first week, my family and I have dutifully read from Holy Scripture each night about Christ’s lineage and the foretelling of John the Baptist. We have read about how light will always overcome darkness. We have decorated our house in preparation for Christmas and have even hung our stockings. But have we really devoted our time in preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ?
You may ask, hasn’t Christ already come? Why bother wondering if He will come again? Brothers and sisters, Christ comes to us each and every day! We owe it to Him to start our day in such a way that every morning, the Devil says, “Oh crap! She’s up again!” Let’s live our days giving each and every moment to Christ. Even when you feel burdened with the mundane stuff, remember that “Christ is in the pots and pans.” St. Mother Teresa was adamant that we recognize and give glory to Christ no matter how simple our task may be or how large our mountain is to overcome.
On this feast of St. Nicholas, I wish you a very blessed Advent as you prepare your hearts and homes to receive the. Christ child.
This week is National Vocation’s Week; it is a week-long celebration in the Catholic Church in the United States that is dedicated to praying for and discerning one’s vocation, particularly to the Priesthood, diaconate or religious order. This week, I have an opportunity to speak to over 500 students from kindergarten through 8thgrade about the vocation of marriage.
Growing up, I thought my vocation was to join the religious order. My uncle was, and still is, a Franciscan priest. I remember visiting him at his monastery in New Mexico while I was growing up and was amazed at how the friars worked together to form and serve their community. This had a great impact on me. As time unfolded, I joined the Air Force when I graduated from high school. After I left the Air Force, I went to college and that’s when I met a really cool guy.
It was when I met Jason that I knew my vocation was not the religious order but was marriage. Jason and I dated for a year, were engaged for a year and then married. Eleven years later, we have three children who fill our days with laughter and joy. I still have that yearning to be a part of a community and to serve a community. Instead of being part of a religious order, I have a domestic Church. This means that we serve God and the Catholic Church through prayer life and living as active Catholics in our own home. By having our own domestic Church, we are helping to serve our community by raising children who are and will carry on the Catholic faith.
For the past five years, Jason and I have been a part of Teams of Our Lady. Teams of Our Lady is an international movement of the Catholic Church that was started in 1939 in Paris, France. Through the decades, Teams of Our Lady has worked as a movement to make “Good marriages better and to spiritually enrich marriages.” You see, in every marriage there are three people. A man (the husband), a woman (the wife), and Jesus Christ. All too often, Jesus is left out of the picture. Mary is the Patroness of Teams of Our Lady. According to the first chapter in the Gospel of Luke, we get to Jesus through the heart of Mary, hence, “to Jesus through Mary.” She is our guide for our relationship with Jesus and therefore, is our Patroness of marriage.
Mary is also a perfect model for answering our vocations that God has set forth in each of our own lives. Mary was approached at a young age by the Archangel Gabriel and was told that she would have a son that she was to name, Jesus. When Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me according to His will.” This meant that Mary offered the perfect “yes!” to God! Just look at how she has been glorified by God all for saying, “yes!” Mary knew then what her vocation was, and she accepted it without hesitation.
While we may not all have an archangel coming to visit us and let us know our vocation, we do have the Holy Spirit that will help us discern our way to mimicking Mary’s “yes” and answering God’s call in our lives. He made each of us unique and we all have a separate road to travel on the path of life. Perhaps your vocation is marriage; or, perhaps it is the religious order, the diaconate or the priesthood. Whatever it is, I urge you to model Mary and never forget to include her and her beloved son, Jesus Christ, in your plans. For surely, God will not fail you nor will He ever forget you. What is your vocation?
If Jesus had social media, what would it look like? What would He have for a profile picture? Would He use filters? What would He say, share, post and like? How much time would He spend on it? These are questions I asked myself when my 13 month old woke me up at 12:30 a.m.
It has amazed me that we have such fast access to photos and online information. Our cell phones have replaced alarm clocks, computers, planners, maps and address books. If Jesus had a cell phone and social media, would He be on it all of the time? Cell phones have replaced so many things in our lives, but has it replaced our face-to-face conversations?
The things that trend on Twitter get attention. What would Jesus have as His Twitter handle? Perhaps it would be, "@theone" or "@thetruth." Would Jesus spend countless hours tweeting His message, or would he go door-to-door to spread His message? #believe #fourmarks #oneholycatholicapostolic #evangelization #roman #catholic #theway #thetruth #thelife
Personally, I think He may have used both methods. There is nothing wrong with social media and the use of technology to spread the Gospel message, so long as it is done in moderation and it doesn't replace the human contact.
Last week, I was honored to be a guest at the Priests for Life headquarters where I saw their TV studio and used their broadcasting studio for a live broadcast with Janet Morana, the Executive Director, over Ave Maria Radio. Priests for Life streams a daily feed from the Grotto in Lourdes, France with an audio Rosary. They also have near-daily videos from Fr. Frank Pavone, the founder and National Director. Not only does Priests for Life tap into major technology advantages, but they come together for meals, fellowship and prayer on a frequent basis. This organization certainly maintains the balance of technology and human contact. I have to believe that Jesus would have done the same.
So, what do you think would happen if Jesus had social media? Perhaps he already does. He uses you, doesn't He? Do you use your social media accounts to proclaim the Good News?
The extra, magical chromosome was intricately wound through my son’s body more
than a trillion times. It was not put there by accident. It was not forgotten. The extra
chromosome is intentional. Andrew is one year old and has Down syndrome. Over the past 12
months, I have witnessed his strength, resilience and beautiful smile. He brings joy to me, my
husband, and his older siblings. He is the child that I dreamed of. I am in love with my son and
his extra chromosome.
The month of October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. This is the time of year in
which one will notice more information about Down syndrome through the media and other
organizations. This is the month that we celebrate people with Down syndrome! Why do I refer
to this extra chromosome as magical?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “magic” is defined as “an extraordinary
power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.” The full or partial extra
chromosome provides “extraordinary power” in those living with Down syndrome. John
Franklin Stephens is a man living with Down syndrome whose speech to the United Nations
went viral. In it, he tells his audience that the extra chromosome is a “blueprint for medical
research in areas that include soft tissue cancer, heart disease, immune system disorders, and
Alzheimer’s Disease.” But the extra chromosome is so much more.
Those living with Down syndrome experience the same emotions as their counterparts;
they can be happy, sad, frustrated and scared. However, they are known for radiating joy.
People who have Down syndrome can be married, live independently, attend school with their
counterparts, be employed in meaningful jobs, and can contribute to their communities.
Recently, we have seen the first Gerber baby with Down syndrome, the first D.C. lobbyist with
Down syndrome and there have been many models.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS,) there are three types of
Down syndrome: trisomy accounts for 95% of cases, translocation accounts for 4% and
mosaicism accounts for 1%. Approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born
with Down syndrome- about 6,000 each year. Many people have told me that my son is lucky
to have me as his mother. I feel quite the opposite; I’m the lucky one. He has greatly enriched
the lives of his family members and our friends.
Over the past year, we have had health challenges with Andrew. He had surgery for
Hirschsprung’s disease when he was 15 days old and was hospitalized when he was six months old for complications with the flu. For the past year, I have driven him, almost daily, to many doctors’ appointments. He has a speech therapist and a physical therapist in our home every week. Managing his appointments, healthcare and development has been exhausting. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. His toothless smile and his big blue eyes fill my heart with love and renewal to face the obstacles and to rejoice in his triumphs. His personality is full of love, silliness, energy and compassion. Looking back over the past year, I am thankful for how far we have come.
At the time that John Franklin Stephens was preparing his speech for the United
Nations, I was learning that I would receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. I was
overwhelmed and confused. So, I turned to Google. I googled “Down syndrome” and stumbled
upon Mr. Stephens speech to the U.N. From that point on, the confusion left, and I was
inspired. I continue to be inspired every day. October may be Down Syndrome Awareness
Month, but in my world, we are aware of Down syndrome every day. Fortunately, there is a
plethora of resources available for adults and children living with Down syndrome.
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to
significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care,
education and advocacy.” It supports the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome which is
dedicated solely to researching Down syndrome. Dr. Fran Hickey is with the Sie Center for
Down Syndrome, located in Denver, CO. He is one of the leading pediatricians for children with
Down syndrome and sees patients from around the world. Another dynamic resource is the
National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS.) The NDSS works to bring public awareness to society about Down syndrome. There are many local support groups, or Down Syndrome Associations, across the country. These associations provide playgroups, life skills classes, education, and resources.
Everybody walks along their own path of life. Those living with Down syndrome bring
their magical chromosome with them on their journeys. They are able to be contribute much
to their communities. Their magical smiles and compassion can, and will, change the world.
20 years ago, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Wow... the time certainly has flown by. I still remember the day I flew from Denver to Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX. My mom told me, "there's nowhere in the world that I can't get to you." My dad told me, "if they make you a toilet cleaner, then be the best darn toilet cleaner there is." Oh boy, did their words ring true. I was assigned to an initial career field of logistics and completed tech school at Lackland AFB before being assigned to Spangdahlem AB, Germany. My time in Germany was my longest assignment. During that time, I dealt with 9/11, celebrated my 21st birthday at Oktoberfest, was on a country line dancing team that toured fests all over Germany, presented to American and Ukranian Generals, had my first (of four) knee surgeries, picked up foreign objects from the runway, hauled F-16 parts across the base, built a rudimentary database for supply parts, and made many close friends who I still keep in touch with today. My parents were by my side through it all. My brother even joined me for Christmas and New Year's one year and we toured Paris and the Czech Republic together. I took my years in Germany by the horns and held on for the ride before being transferred to Scott AFB, IL.
At Scott AFB, I was still in the logistics career field, but there wasn't a runway with F-16's. I merely had a desk job. This wasn't enough, so I was also on the Honor Guard and covered six states for military funerals and other events, this included singing the National Anthem for various events. I joined YAM, or Young Adult Ministries. It was during this time that I started to deepen my relationship with God. I was retrained out of the logistics career field and was sent to Alabama where I went to JAG (Judge Advocate General) School to become a paralegal. After JAG School, I was transferred to Langley AFB, VA. At Langley, I found yet another Young Adults group and organized Theology on Tap after working hours. Langley was my last assignment in the Air Force.
My mom flew out to Virginia to help me drive my car full of belongings all the way back to Colorado. We took a very circuitous route all over the place visiting family and fun destinations. It took us over a week, but it was what I needed to transition from military life to civilian life. I moved back home with my parents while I went to undergrad. My parents were instrumental in helping me re-learn how to be a civilian. They were, and still are, my strong and unyielding backbone. During my time back home, I was involved with the Catholic Young Adults of Colorado Springs. Here, I spent some time as the Spiritual Director and organized Theology on Tap for the Diocese, as well as organizing service opportunities. Today, many of these CYACS members are still my close friends. Fellowship always produces close bonds that cannot be broken.
During my time back home, I met a really nice and funny guy named, Jason. We dated for a year, were engaged for a year, and then married in 2008. I will never forget when Jason proposed to me. I was at a destination family reunion in Italy. I had no idea that Jason was there, too. One night, I was sitting next to my brother at a dinner when violinists came in and serenaded us. At the end of the song, one of the violinists gave me a ring box, and in walked Jason. Before I received the ring box, I literally heard God telling me, clear as day, "he is going to propose and you will say yes." It was an order from God. An order that I was more than delighted to follow through with.
Jason and I have been together for a long time. We have been through the ups and downs of life. Births, deaths, celebrations and defeats. I cannot imagine a better partner in my life. Jason makes me laugh every day; I firmly believe that laughter and joy is a gift from God. Other gifts from God came in 2010, 2013 and 2018. Those gifts are named Alexander, Abby and Andrew; my "A Team."
This morning before school, my children were asking me if I worked. I cited a recent study that said how all mothers work 2.5 full time jobs, plus I'm teaching CCD, plus I'm helping out with the school board, plus I blog and am a freelance writer, plus I'm trying to break out as a public speaker. I summarized to them that I work about 6 jobs. So, yes. I work. Abby, ever the wise child, said, "Wow, mommy. God has something special planned for you!" From the mouth of babes.
The past 20 years have flown by. They were enriched by the love and support from my parents, husband, brother, extended family and friends. My relationship with Christ has deepened over the past two decades, it has become more personal. It is a calling from God that I evangelize. I have seen and been through so much, that I firmly believe it would be a waste to not share the love of God with others. As Abby pointed out, God does have something special planned for me; but He also has something planned for YOU! God loves you and will meet you right where you are. Right now. Just answer His call.