The beautiful message and beautiful voice of Caitlin Jane….
Someone sent me a video about George Dennehy’s family- a big, beautiful, adoptive family overflowing with love and generosity. I watched the original video and was so touched by it that I posted it here to share. Then, I tooled around You Tube, watching the other videos posted by George.
I couldn’t believe what I saw.
George has an amazing story. According to his father’s account, George weighed about nine pounds at one year of age, and was languishing in a Romanian orphanage, sickly, with no arms, and expected to die soon.
But George was chosen, adopted, loved anyway. His parents taught him that life is beautiful, and worth living, and that just as it is a gift to him, he is a gift to life. They encouraged him to develop his talents to the fullest, which, in his case included learning to play many instruments….with his feet.
Would you like to see some of George’s talent? Click below. Then, if you would like, subscribe to his You Tube page to receive updates from this talented young man. Be inspired. And pass it on. We all have something special to offer to this world. What difference can YOU make when you love God, follow His will, choose generosity and develop your own gifts?
Share that with me, if you will at TheresaThomasEverydayCatholic at gmail dot com.
Enjoy this below and have a wonderful day!
George did this:
which drew the attention of the Goo Goo Dolls, creator of the song. So, George was invited to sing with them:
Here’s an interview with George:
And here is the story of the family, as told by the father Mike, “How God Can Form a Family”:
HERE is my latest post over at Suscipio, entitled A New Year’s Look at a Mother’s Work. I hope you will pop over and read it. Jenny, who runs Suscipio offers much encouragement for moms. I am sure she would love to have you look around. Consider this your personal invitation to do so- God bless!
I would like to introduce you to my new (second) book with co-author Patti Maguire Armstrong- BIG HEARTED: Inspiring Stories for Everyday Families. Inside the pages of BIG HEARTED, you will find uplifting, faith-filled amazing accounts of REAL families who experience God’s grace in their lives. You will read about strong sibling bonds between a brother and sister almost a generation apart, a woman who discovers what it means to be the most successful woman in the world, a large family who unexpectedly adopts two AIDs orphans and discovers surprises that await them, what it’s like to grow up in a family with 13 children, and how a young teenaged pregnancy helps a young couple make amazing choices that affect their lives forever….
I hope you will laugh. You might even cry. I bet you will relate-
I can hardly wait to share this book with you! It’s not quite ready yet, but the cover is above. Keep posted for details….
Our family spent a difficult week last week as my husband lost his father and friend.
George Thomas was a man bigger than life. Born in Lebanon in 1924, he moved here as an infant and was naturalized many years later. He briefly spent time in an orphanage, came home when his widowed mother remarried, was a standout athlete in high school, and left high school early his senior year to serve in World War II. He parachuted out of a shot down plane, landed safely in Belgium, gave chocolate from his flight suit to the children who surrounded him, and the parachute made of nylon went to the ladies who wanted it to make pantyhose.
George returned home safely from the War honorably as a second lieutenant, attended Purdue University on a G.I. Bill and with an athletic scholarship. He earned a degree in pharmacy and while working as a pharmacist, also worked as a PGA golf professional. He was a loving and devoted father to four wonderful sons and a daughter. He went on to have an illustrious career, playing golf, teaching golf, and coaching golf, most notably for 13 years as head coach at the University of Notre Dame. A complete biography is here.
My husband spent a lot of time with his father his entire life, particularly the last few years. He was his father’s legal guardian, but more than that, they had a very close and special relationship. When his father was diagnosed with kidney cancer, then Parkinson’s disease, David was a loyal and loving son. No one but David could possibly know all the small, kind things David did to try to make his father comfortable, during his final years, months and days, from talking to him several times during the middle of the same night when he had something worrisome on his mind, to, in the end, feeding him applesauce with a spoon, and sitting with him at the hospital, gently adjusting his position regularly so he would not get bed sores. Other things are too personal and private to post, but will be treasured memories forever, providing comfort during this difficult time.
It’s always difficult to lose someone we love, but Gido (‘grandfather’ in Lebanese) was especially hard to lose. He was my second father, my buddy in pondering life, a source of motivation and inspiration, and someone with whom I could talk in depth with about anything. George died just as our family was traveling to another state for an opening ballet performance- with four daughter dancers in the production, as well as my husband and me. It was horrible timing, but death is never convenient, and the grief that is intermixed with joy for separate things makes up the fabric of life itself.
In reflecting over the difficult week I realized several things that my relationship with my father in law has taught me. These are in no particular order but I would like to share them with you:
(Photo credit: Diane Freeby Click her name for recent article on this)
Ann Manion (President Women’s Care Center), Dr. Janet Smith (founder) and Jeanne Thelen (an original counselor)
The establishment of the pro-life Women’s Care Center in South Bend, IN may at first glance seem like a simple, spontaneous response to a local abortion clinic. And indeed perhaps it was. However, like a small seed can grow into a large tree, the organization’s growth was huge, its evolution into multiple centers has proven to be providential, and its success across state lines has exceeded all expectations.
More than twenty five years ago, Janet Smith, then a professor at the University of Notre Dame, used to pray in front of the South Bend, IN abortion clinic in her spare time. She had a nagging thought, that ‘someone’ should open an alternative center, which would offer pro-life counseling for women who found themselves in crisis pregnancies. Eventually, she realized that she was the ‘someone’ and with donors’ help for financing, a little blue house, the new Women’s Care Center with life-affirming options, opened in April, 1984.
Shortly thereafter Ann Manion, a University of Notre Dame graduate, certified public accountant, and senior audit manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers, joined the board of directors at the Women’s Care Center. When Smith left Notre Dame for another teaching position she asked Manion to step in as chairman of the board. In due course Manion assumed the role of president/executive director. Under Manion’s leadership, the Women’s Care Center has grown from one to seventeen centers throughout northern Indiana, as well as Niles, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio, and Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
It’s been an unbelievable success. In St. Joseph County, IN, the venue of the first Women’s Care Center, the abortion rate has dropped 37% over the last ten years. In Marshall County, the venue of another WCC, the abortion rate has dropped by 30%, and in Elkhart County, by an astonishing 44% since the inception of its Center.
In 2008, the Center served 10,700 women who made more than 56,000 client visits to the centers. Center services include pregnancy and one-on-one goal counseling, parenting skills education classes, which are taught both in English and Spanish, and the Crib Club Incentive program, which provides cribs, car seats and other infant necessities to young mothers in need who meet certain criteria– attending parenting classes, for example. A conservative estimate of the number of diapers given away each year is 350,000.
Manion recalls joining the board simply because she was attracted to the mission. “I was young, newly married, professionally employed, and looking for something meaningful to do in my spare time,” she said.
In 1988 she decided to stay at home with her first baby, and this also enabled her to spend more time at the center. “(Working at) the (Women’s) Care Center provided a way for me to use my business skills to a very good end, and because I was a volunteer I …had the flexibility to be…with my children most of the time.”
Working 20 to 40 hours a week and never drawing a paycheck for her Care Center work, Manion didn’t anticipate the eventual scope and impact of her “hobby”.
“I think this (success) is because God had the plan and not us. We simply said “yes” to new opportunities as they came along, “she said. “And we are supported by some very generous individuals and families who truly become our partners in the mission. Without these (primarily Catholic) supporters, we would never be able to say ‘yes’ to so many new opportunities.”
As president, Manion oversees new initiatives and projects. She writes proposals, fundraising letters and newsletters, and she assists with the development effort. Manion also uses her accounting background to make sure there is enough money for payroll and bills, and she performs bookkeeping, as well as acknowledges donor gifts. Finally, she provides a sounding board for issues that come up from the counseling directors. The Center employs a full-time foundation director, Bobby Williams, whom Ann calls, drawing upon her accounting background, “an amazing asset”.
The Women’s Care Center has several unique features which distinguishes it from other pregnancy help centers and models. First, while the Center has explicitly Catholic roots it welcomes all clients regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, and its workers strive to be loving and non-judgmental in approach.
“Nearly all of the centers I have encountered over the years are evangelical,” said Manion, “Also, our founder, Janet Smith, had the foresight to realize that women in crisis don’t want a sermon or a lecture but just someone to love them unconditionally. Many of the women we serve have never experienced this unconditional love and support before. This can be such a turning point for them…and is the reason why so many young women choose life.”
Another distinguishing feature of the Center is that it employs paid counselors. According to Manion, having paid professionals allows longer hours of operation and consistent follow-up with clients. “Paid professionals make it possible for us to be open full-time and not just when volunteers are available,” she said.
The final difference between the Women’s Care Center and many other pregnancy help centers across the country, according to Manion, is that proportionally the Women’s Care Center spends more of its budget on strategic facilities and signage than advertising. “We have found that centers which do best are those that are strategically located (near abortion clinics if possible), on busy streets and are highly visible and accessible. We also like bright, prominent, pretty landscaping and a homey environment. We do not seem to need a large advertising budget as the facilities themselves (and word of mouth) become a magnet for the women in need.”
The pleasant and welcoming appearance of one Care Center is something that Jessica H. knows about first-hand. She was a 19 year old student when she faced a crisis pregnancy and had plans to get an abortion.
“All my friends were telling me to get an abortion. I just wanted to stop by (WCC) and get another opinion,” she said. Jessica admits she was “scared to death” the day she visited a Fort Wayne, IN Women’s Care Center. “I was shaking. I was nervous. I was telling myself, ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this’,” she recalled.
She had been to the abortion clinic the day before, put $200 down for an abortion, and was treated rudely. Her fears melted, however, as she entered the Women’s Care Center.
“The (Women’s Care Center) building is cozy and nice. There were flowers, comfortable sofas, and nice décor. It just made me feel comfortable,” Jessica said. “They welcomed me in, were real friendly, “she continued, “They were the complete opposite of the abortion clinic (workers).”
The Care Center workers offered Jessica an ultrasound, which was ultimately what changed her mind about getting an abortion.
“They showed me there was a life in (me) when I thought there wasn’t,” she said, “They never once told me not to do it….They just shared their opinion…That’s what I needed. Someone positive to tell me it was going to be okay. “
Jessica stated she didn’t feel judged at all by Care Center personnel.
“The lady I worked with was in the same situation (that I was in) when she was 17, like 20 years ago, so she understood. I felt, for once, comfortable talking about this to someone.”
Jessica was touched by one particular generosity: Care Center workers were able to secure donations to replace the $200 she had put down on the abortion she never had.
Fr. Kevin Russeau, C.S.C. first volunteered at the Women’s Care Center when he was a seminarian in 1997. “I loved this work,” he said. He answered phones to direct women to the centers and did ‘intakes’, special questionnaires designed to identify what services a woman needs. Later he participated in outreach to the schools, doing abstinence training. He helped with a phone-a-thon and in opening the Elkhart, IN center. Today, Fr. Kevin still assists when needed. He recently led a prayerful gathering for counselors and works with post-abortive mothers who seek spiritual healing
Fr. Kevin believes that the most important aspect of the Women’s Care Center ministry is the way it treats each person with radical dignity. “(It) cares for (the women’s) health. We help them financially, and we educate them.” He continued, “It’s not enough to convince people that abortion is wrong. We must also help them through the process of choosing life and raising the child. The Women’s Care Center does this, and makes every effort to follow up with the women they see. “
In fact, Jessica and her son Mason still visit the Care Center frequently. After Mason’s birth, Jessica wanted to meet other young mom friends and the WCC workers helped her connect with other young moms. They also helped her make her bill payments, through donations from friends of the Center. Mostly Jessica visits now, however, because she views some of the workers simply as good friends.
Manion, who was named an Outstanding Notre Dame Alumnus in 2007 for her Care Center work, isn’t surprised by the multiple blessings that stem from this special pro-life work. She states that being involved with the Care Center has brought numerous blessings to her own family.
“It has deepened my faith, and that of my children,” she said, “They are all strongly pro-life, pro-abstinence and faith-filled. In fact, my college daughter Mary (who first started visiting the center as a baby with her mom) is training as a counselor on a volunteer basis.”
The future for the Women’s Care Centers is indeed very bright; however Manion states that it is no longer feasible simply to continue to add centers in new communities. “Both from a structural and funding standpoint,” she said, “(adding centers) would be unworkable. We are however, looking at a franchising model, whereby we can help start enters that will be managed and sustained by the local community. Over the next five years we hope to write a book, create a training manual, offer free training programs and provide start-up funds for (new) centers. If the funds present themselves, we will do it. “
Below are photographs of various cozyWomen’s Care Center outreach centers- in Columbus, OH, Mishawaka, IN, and Niles, MI, all from WCC websites.
(This article originally written 2/2010)
I came across this yesterday and wanted to share it with you~
It is a beautiful, FREE, Catholic -home/school/liturgical year- planner download-
This Catholic mother offers her beautiful planner FREE and asks simply that the link be provided – that others download from her site directly- and if visitors are so inclined (no requirement) to make a donation, to do so for the orphans in Bulgaria where she adopted her children. You can also purchase a hard copy if you prefer, for $21.95.
I will be talking with Brian Patrick on the Sonrise Morning (radio) Show tomorrow, Tues., Sept. 18 at 8:40 a.m. The topic is dealing with difficult people, a spinoff from this article I wrote. If you are interested in listening, you can click here . I would love emailed comments or questions if you have any!
TheresaThomasEverydayCatholic <at> gmail <dot> com
We all have them in our lives-people we don’t like. People who rub us the wrong way, who push our buttons, and sometimes more seriously, people who truly are dangerous to our mental or physical health. What should we do?
Annette cringed running into Mrs. B in the grocery store, which happened nearly every week. The older woman always pried into Annette’s business and asked questions that made her feel uncomfortable. “ Oh my, you’re pregnant AGAIN?” Mrs. B would say with a feigned gasp, as though she didn’t expect it from the faithfully Catholic mother of five little ones already. “Yes, Mrs. B., we talked about that last week, “ Annette would reply, “Tom and I are thrilled. Remember?” Then Mrs. B would talk on and on about her own grown children, sprinkling sentences with “in my day” and “I never”. With an earful of talk about the old days of impeccably ironed bed sheets, children that were seen and not heard, perfect home-cooked meals, and how “this generation” doesn’t do it right, Annette felt her shoulders droop. She excused herself because the ice cream in her cart was dripping. And, frankly, so was her spirit.
Mark couldn’t stand the new guy at work. He was younger than Mark and less qualified for his position but the new guy bragged on an on about his accomplishments and liked to tell everyone how it is and what to do. Mark found himself closing himself off in his own office whenever the new guy came around. Secretly, he stewed and felt resentment rising against him.
Amy’s mother in law criticized her constantly. Bill’s neighbor took verbal jabs.
What’s the Christ-like response to these kinds of difficult people?
Jesus tells his followers to forgive 70 times seven (Matthew 18:21-23) but how?
St. Therese wanted to obey Jesus’ commandment to love one’s enemies. She shared that in Carmel, there are no enemies, but there were some annoying people to her. Think of that- People can even annoy saints! There were some nuns whom St. Therese did not like but Therese set about going out of her way to treat them lovingly just as Christ would. This should be our response to the difficult people in our lives-simply to treat those people with love, regardless of our feelings.
“But the Our Father prays ‘lead us not into temptation’ and this person is a huge temptation for me!” you may say. And indeed that very well may be true. God doesn’t ask us to seek out difficult people just treat them with kindness and patience when we do come in contact with them.
Do you have difficulty forgiving an offense? Picture the difficult person as a baby, untainted, needy, innocent. Now imagine some injustice being perpetrated on the child, because likely that is what has happened that has made him difficult. Perhaps he was ignored, neglected, abused or ridiculed by someone who was supposed to love him. You’ve heard the old adage “Hurt (adjective) people hurt (verb) people”? Well, there is much truth to that. Before this difficult person hurt you, he was likely hurt by someone else. This does not excuse his sin, of course, but if you view the person as God created him, an innocent soul before he was swayed by sin, it is easier to forgive.
Once we have forgiven should we forget? Yes, and no. Yes, we should not dwell upon the offenses against us. We should pray for and wish the best for even those who do evil to us. However, we should not feel compelled to put ourselves in a situation where we ‘forget’ the offense occurred and thus can seriously be hurt again. If someone has mentally or physically abused or hurt our children, our spouse or us, for example, it is not only okay to avoid that person but it is imperative that we do so. In some circumstances we absolutely must maintain the smart reaction of keeping a safe distance. Recognizing this nuance is important.
What about forgiving when the perpetrator is not penitent? Kindness should be offered, but again, no risks taken.
When thinking about dealing with difficult people, it helps to categorize them into two groups- those who are harmless and those who are dangerous. Dangerous people should clearly be avoided, but what about harmless ones? They can be some of the most annoying.
Harmless, difficult people are like Mrs. B in the example above. She probably does not mean to come off as judgmental or critical. She likely is lonely and wants to offer her ideas to feel that she (or her opinion) is valued She might be pining for her younger years.
Handling harmless, annoying people like Mrs. B is not hard. When contact is unavoidable, approach them rather than wait to be approached. Ask their opinion before they offer it. Validate them with a sincere compliment. Be firm in your boundaries and don’t feel badly about leaving when you need to do so. Don’t dwell on what annoys you about them. Brush off the annoyance by chalking it up to the differences in personalities that God has created and leave judgment of them to Him. Decide not to do to others what’s been done to you and you don’t like. Realize that you probably come off as annoying to others at some point too.
What about the know-it-all, younger co-worker? He is also probably harmless. The same strategy applies with him. Work is a competitive situation, and total avoidance generally doesn’t work in the office. The best way to handle the know-it-alls at work is to keep things professional. Pour your energy into your work and outshine him in that way. On a personal level be friendly and sincerely warm. Be Christ-like and kind. You don’t have to socialize beyond your working hours. View the challenge as a motivating factor to perform better. And retreating to your cubicle when you just can’t take his pontificating any more is much more desirable than making a snarky remark, so yes, you still do have that option.
What if the difficult person is family, a harshly critical in-law or sibling?
Similar strategies can be applied: Listen, smile, be kind, and excuse.
Listen to what the person is saying, not just the words but also his tone and the body language. Is he frustrated? Does he simply want validation of his own skills or value? Sometimes just listening softens people. It also helps you develop patience.
Smile. Smile because smiles generally disarm people’s meanness and anger. Smiles demonstrate confidence. They show empathy. Smiling also helps you develop a joyful spirit.
Be kind. Be kind because you are a Catholic Christian and the difficult person standing in front of you is also one of God’s Divine creations. Jesus also died for the salvation of this difficult person and out of respect for that, you must be kind. Being kind helps you develop feeling kind. Think about it.
Excuse. Excuse the behavior by thinking of the most empathetic reason she could have said or done what she said or did. She might have a headache. She might have just learned her husband lost his job. She might have gotten a traffic ticket for speeding. She might have had no sleep the previous night. Give difficult people the same kind of justification you would like for yourself when you have said or done something annoying or stupid.
After listening, smiling, being kind and mentally excusing the behavior of a difficult person, sometimes you just have to turn away. God does not ask us to be human punching bags or ‘take’ mean or frustrating behavior. You value yourself and that’s good. You have dignity and we all have our boiling points. Sometimes you simply must utter a quick prayer and walk away from difficult people, and if done while truly trying to do God’s will and exude God’s love, there is nothing wrong with that.
But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you
I was continuing an interview yesterday for my next book, talking to an amazing young mother who has endured so much- she was raped at age five, almost died giving birth to her firstborn child, and the child, because of a strange and unique set of circumstances, was born severely handicapped, a handicap she deals with every single day of her life. This mother could have only seen darkness, but she chooses life and love. Every day, she wakes up and chooses not to wallow but to embrace JOY!
This is not to say she ignores or downplays the seriousness and crushing effects of the challenges and tragedies she has experienced. This is to say that despite those, she knows there is a loving God who is leading her. She sees this love reflected in the darkness through her husband, through her children, and through every day beauty in ordinary life.
“I thought that if I was good and lived according to God’s ‘rules’ I would have a perfect life the way I wanted. That does not happen. There is evil and tragedy in this fallen world. It is not God’s doing. He doesn’t will evil or sorrow. That comes from the fallen nature of mankind. But we are made for more than just this world. While I am here, I choose love and I choose life.“
“I choose love and I choose life.”
These are powerful words.
What painful memories, what sorrows, what dire circumstances, what demons are you challenged with today? Do you choose love and life?
We all know the domino effect. We naturally tend to pass along what has been passed along to us. But we don’t have to live this way. By deliberating controlling our own attitude, by deliberately channeling our thinking in a positive and faith-filled direction, we can find happiness and joy in life’s most difficult situations.
Some events in our lives are so traumatic that we should seek outside medical help (dealing with depression or an assault such as rape), group support (dealing with a loved one who has an addiction or disease), and spiritual guidance such as a trusted priest and confessor (learning to forgive and also keep a cautious distance between ourselves and those who inflict pain in our lives). In addition to that, we can make a conscious decision to reject being a slave to our circumstances, to let go and to choose life and love.
Some events in our lives are not nearly so stinging as the serious traumatic ones, yet they can still rob our lives of joy. Perhaps we are dealing with a passive/aggressive in-law . Maybe we are coping with an ill-tempered boss. It could be that our own child, whom we love with all our heart, is challenging us with his behavior. These lesser events still have the possibility of robbing us of our full potential and the joy and love we can experience and reflect to others in our lives.
As a Catholic, I find that going to Confession regularly helps to keep me on the right spiritual track, and helps me focus on goodness and the blessings in my life. Other strategies to avoid being sucked into negativity and despair when confronting difficult circumstances can include:
-Living ‘in the moment’ (also known as not dwelling on the past)
-Making a conscious effort to think of and count blessings (Look at the good in front of you- start with your children and spouse)
-Choosing to forgive those who have hurt you in the past (This is not the same as forgetting as in allowing them close enough to you to hurt you again. Once burned, shame on you. Twice burned, shame on me. It is possible to forgive and yet maintain a safe distance from people who continue to be destructive.)
-Tackling the task in front of you and pushing worry about the past and future into the back of your mind.
-Surrounding yourself with positive people. Our environments make a huge difference in our attitudes. To some extent we are all chameleons, of a sort. We absorb from those around us. “He who touches pitch blackens his hand.” (Sirach13:1)
-Exercising daily to reduce stress
-Making time for enjoyable activities with those you love. Put people before things. Be responsible and do your daily duties, yes, but don’t let your responsibilities squeeze out simple pleasures such as a walk with your spouse or throwing the ball with your toddler.
Hopefully, soon you will be able to read all about this inspiring young mother in my new book with Patti Maguire Armstrong. In the meantime, I hope it will be helpful to employ the strategies mentioned here to live today in joy and happiness. I hope that you too will choose life and choose love!
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