Monday, May 25, 2020

A Downton Abbey Birthday

About a month or so ago, Mary and I started watching Downton Abbey.  I realize we are a little behind since the series debuted in 2010!  I had heard so much hype about it back then, but as my mother used to say, "I don't care much for period dramas", so I never had much interest to watch it.

But quarantine can make you watch things you never thought you'd watch.

I was hooked in the first 5 minutes.  We fell in love with every character.....yes, even Barrow and O'Brien!  We would mostly tune in early in the morning and watch 1 or 2 episodes before everyone else in our house was awake.  Soon after, we'd catch an episode in the evenings while Bill and Matthew would sit and watch with us.  Even they enjoyed it.

Mary and I would text each other gifs with characters from the show, sip tea from fancy china cups, and play the theme song throughout the house.  I think I even walked a little taller, used words like "rather" and "perhaps" more frequently, and decided undoubtedly that I must go live in a castle somewhere. We lived and breathed it for a whole month. (#quarantinelife).

We sadly finished the series, but excitedly looked forward to watching the Downton Abbey movie that came out last year.  We decided to watch it on Mary's upcoming birthday and make the whole day a Downton Abbey themed day.

I used everything I already had on hand.

First, I set up my desk in case she wanted to write some 'correspondences'.  The little gift you see is a pen set, a stocking stuffer that I forgot to give her last Christmas and had been saving.

Next, I set up the bar in the foyer.....or should I say, the Great Hall.

that's iced tea in there

For lunch, I set up the dining room like this.

We had crackers with jam, and tea sandwiches (cucumber and cream cheese/cream cheese and jam) that Ann helped me make, and (iced) tea.

Around 4 pm we dressed and came down to the Drawing Room.  It was time for Afternoon Tea.

I set the dinner table and had found a Downton Abbey Trivia on Pinterest.

Dinner arrived around 7, courtesy of Lord Bethlum. 
The Footmen (Billy, Tommy, and Matthew) were excited to serve us. (and *THAT*, my friends, is the greatest form of sarcasm you've ever read)

Mrs. Patmore had the night off. 😉

Only Mary, Bill, and myself actually
watched the movie.  We enjoyed it and it was a fun day all around.

Not to be forgotten are the usual birthday events....morning doughnuts and cake and ice cream.

Happy 19th birthday to our very own Lady Mary.

And an extra special thanks to all of our good sports for playing along - Children AND Dad alike.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Burn The Ships

Last year, after the unannounced departure of our two foster children who we raised since their births - one for 18 months and her brother for 6 months - I felt so many emotions that I had never experienced so deeply.  Since writing about it would mean reliving it, I don't really want to do that.  So I'm not going to.

Just know that:

* It has been a full year since the babies left our home.

* We didn't get to say goodbye to them.

* Some people in the children and youth business are wolves in sheep clothing.

These incidences left me in a downward spiral emotionally. I was filled with such hatred it was scary, and I walked around in an angry fog for months.  Even though  I had so much support from Bill, family, and friends, it didn't take away this overwhelming feeling that a huge door had been slammed shut in my face, taking away something that I believed was a true calling.   

At one point after many months of feeling this way,  I was telling my brother-in-law how I hadn't been coping well and was in a full-blown funk.  He listened to what I had so say, nodded as if he understood, and then gently posed this question:  

"How long are you giving yourself to feel this way?"

And there it was.  Something about that phrasing opened my eyes.  His words had given me both the permission to feel the way I was feeling, but also an unstated challenge to move on for the greater good.

I started focusing on the positives.  One big one was getting re-acquainted with my own kids.  Life at the house with two infants had taken a lot of my time and attention away from them.  It was a blessing to be able to sit uninterrupted and just talk again and to be fully present for them.

I also started to think about forgiveness.  I've heard it said that not forgiving someone is only keeping yourself prisoner.  Honestly, I find it difficult to forgive someone who isn't asking for forgiveness, so that will be a work in progress for me.  

My heart still aches to help children in such great need, but my fear of dealing with those I can't trust has been holding me back.  Even as I write those words my heart breaks that I would put my own stupid fear above those of children who live in situations far worse than anything I'm experiencing.  I don't know if that is the devil speaking or a real sign for us to move in a different direction.   

There is a  beautiful song by the contemporary Christian group For King & Country called, Burn the Ships.  This song has helped me heal after the hardest ordeal in my life.  The song speaks about hardships and isolation, prayer, then moving on and not looking back. 

Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye

Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon our heartache, yeah
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships

And don't you look back
I am moving on, in a slow but forward direction - I think.  We'll see.  Only by the grace of God will I know for sure.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 4, 2019

A Wedding In Pittsburgh - Part 3

The Main Event was here and we were ready.

Blurry, but ready and excited

St. Paul's Cathedral was breathtaking and brought a tear to my eye with it's beauty.

St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh, PA

The program asked us to keep phones and cameras away and that was the best advice.  We took it all in without worrying about taking pictures.  We were in the moment.

Everyone looked beautiful, of course.  But the ceremony was so much more than that.  One thing I like to do when the bride is about to come down the aisle is turn around and look at the groom and the mother of the bride.  I just love watching their reactions to the joy about to take place and imagine what might be going through their minds.  So much depth in the perception.

Mass was wonderful.  The priest, the music, the cantor, even the altar servers made it a reverent, beautiful sacrament.  The love in that church - both the human and Divine - was palpable.

After mass, I got a quick hello in with Billie Jo!!  And then we were off to the reception.  It all took place in the lobby of the hotel and the adjoining rooms.  It was transformed from what we had seen the night before at check-in.  There was a pianist and a violinist to welcome us there.

Before dinner, many in Madison's and Nicolas' immediate family gave little speeches.  This was one of my favorite parts of the evening.  Standing there listening to the two families and their heartfelt memories along with their wishes for the couple, you couldn't help but realize this marriage had a strong foundation that it was going to build upon. 

My first order of business, however, was to find and meet Danielle, another blog friend of Billie Jo's who I had heard was going to be there. (you can find her sweet blog here ) She and her husband and son were so nice to get to know in the short time we had together before dinner.  Such nice people!!  Next, I just had to meet BJ's mom and of course, Marian!!! She is so nice and easy to talk to; no wonder she's BJ's BFF. How wonderful it was to meet all of these people I had read about for years on BJ's blog.

My one and only pic of Billie Jo 🙄...2nd from right. She looked amazing!!

At dinner, we sat with Madison's Aunt and Uncle who, as luck God would have it, introduced us to their daughter and son in law, who are also foster parents. We met Nicole and Andrew soon after dinner and it is a gift to find new friends who understand our journey.  We have since gotten together and met each others was wonderful.  Lovely, lovely people.  Ironically, they were the family we had seen the night before when we checked in.

Here is the gorgeous happy couple.

And this is how nice Madison is....after we took her picture, she insisted on taking one of me and Bill on my camera just so we'd have one together.

Billie Jo and Steve made us feel so welcome. And all of their children-- The Newlyweds, Peyton, Rhett, and Flynn all greeted us with open arms and smiles galore. Considering we had only met once before, they made us feel like a part of their family.  It takes some really special people to make someone feel like that.

The circumstances that brought us there was nothing short of divine intervention, I believe.  A wish on my heart became a reality thanks to a feeling placed on BJ's heart.  And now, we have new friends because of this.  Friends who have already brought us inspiration and strength on this journey called foster care.  It is truly amazing.

Sunday we left bright and early to head back home.  One last picture.

I wish Madison and Nicolas much love and happiness and a very big thank you for allowing us to share your special day with you.

For more amazing pictures, check out Billie Jo's blog here and Madison's blog here.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Wedding In Pittsburgh - Part 2

Our house was clean, schedules were written, dinners were prepped, and our bags were packed.  My in-laws were arriving in the afternoon the day before the wedding.  We were staying in Pittsburgh for two whole nights.  Even though the anticipation was half the fun, I was still excited to get in the car and GO!

We arrived to our destination around 10:30 that night.

Oh, the hotel!

Mansions on Fifth/ Photo: Craig Photography

Because we were taking the place of a family member who at the last minute couldn't make it, we had a room right at the venue where the wedding reception was taking place. It is called Mansions on Fifth.  Fifth Avenue was home to the elite in the early 1900's.  The Mansion was commissioned by a prominent lawyer back then.  A 20,000 square foot home was to be built for his family.  Large for a family home, the hotel now has twenty cozy rooms available for guests. 

When we checked in we were greeted by a grand staircase, a fire in the fireplace, and a baby grand piano.  There was also a side room with a small bar area,  another fireplace and one family, sitting quietly and chatting.  The ambiance was to die for!!

As much as I wanted to get a glass of wine and strike up a conversation with them (all the guests of the hotel were guests for the wedding), we decided to get some shut-eye.  Mostly. 😉

Because Madison and Nicolas' wedding wasn't until 4pm the next day, we could sleep in and then do a little sight-seeing in the morning.  I gloried in a shower that I didn't need to rush through before a baby cried.  It's the little things.

We decided to have breakfast in the strip district at a little place called Cafe Raymond.  Delicious.  I gloried in the fact that I could eat slowly and not be distracted before a baby cried.  It's the little things.

I enjoyed just how nice it is to be with Bill, sometimes talking, sometimes in a comfortable silence.  We walked through a huge antique shop,  stopped in for a wine sampling, and walked the streets that were wall to wall with Steelers and Penguins gear. Being from Philly, I still didn't mind.  The people here were so nice and it was great to see the love they show for their city.  Until I saw this t-shirt!

You're killin' me, Pittsburgh.  But I forgive you.

We also got to do this cheesy tourist attraction called the Duquesne Incline.

At the bottom of the incline

Great views from the top.
We checked in with Mom and Dad to make sure all was well at home.  They were doing an amazing job taking care of everyone there.  They sent us these pics.

How grateful we are for them!!

Before long, we had to head back to the hotel.

It was now time to get ready for the Main Event!!

To Be Continued......

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Wedding In Pittsburgh - Part 1

"I love how God strategically places people in your lives at just the perfect timing."

That was a recent comment a new friend of mine wrote on her Instagram page.  I thought it was the perfect way to start off this post, because without a doubt, God was in all the details I'm about to write about.

Billie Jo has been follower of my blog since I started back in 2011.  In fact, if not for her and her faithful comments on each and every post of mine, I may not have stuck with These Joyful Mysteries for very long.  She was a positive influence and silently encouraged me to continue to write and journal about my family and faith.

Our families had the opportunity to meet a few years back.  They were lovely.  I felt so fortunate to be able to meet them in person and see just how awesome they all were. (You can read about that meet-up here.) Unfortunately, we live about 4 hours away from each other, so that was our only visit.

BJ and I continued to keep in touch via our blogs, text messages, and Christmas cards.  I had been following her updates about her oldest daughter Madison and her fiance' Nicolas in recent months.  They were going to be married in February.

I frequently joked with Bill that I was going to drive out to Pittsburgh (5 hours away!!) and crash the ceremony.  I had so badly wanted to see Madison get married.  I heard she was in love with a great man, has an eye for elegance, and that the entire wedding would be a class act.  I even thought about having my whole family do a weekend trip to Pitt just so I could catch a glimpse.  I probably would have done that if not for the little babies making travel a bit difficult.  Furthermore, I dreamed that it would be perfect if Bill and I could get away from all the crazy of our lives and go to Pitt by ourselves.
No joke.

About 3 weeks before the wedding, as I sat in my family room watching Avengers: Infinity War with Bill and the kids, I got this text from BJ.

I must have stared at the screen for 5 minutes straight.

I passed the phone over to Bill so he could read it.  I had tears in my eyes asking if we could make this happen.  He called his parents.  They said yes to watching ALL 7 kids.  God bless them and their generous, giving hearts.

This was actually going to happen!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

My Long Hiatus

Hello, Friends.

It's been a long time.  I have missed being able to sit down and write.  Even if I found the time to do so, I was afraid it would be all negative.  Instead of hashing out my feelings on here, I've taken a liking to food and have deemed myself an emotional eater.  The lbs on the scale can concur.

It was back in mid-July that we found out that Baby J's mom was expecting another baby in October.  Within days we were also told we could take in a second foster child because our oldest child, Billy, had turned 18.

From July until October we thought of nothing else.

What to do.  What to do.

On the bright side, both Bill and I were on the same page of confusion.  It wasn't like one of us was pushing to take in the new baby and the other one of us wanted nothing to do with it.  We both knew the pros and cons.

We wanted Baby J to have her sibling with her.  One who would be close in age; a playmate to grow up with if she were to stay with us.

On the other hand, we just had 11 months of not sleeping thru the night. We feel it in our bones everyday that we aren't as young as we used to be and it is taking a toll. We also knew, after experiencing it twice with our own kids, that having 2 babies so close in age is....well, a nightmare.

My mind would not relax in those months between July and October and I was beside myself emotionally.  I was under the impression that there was only one way to look at the situation.

Take the new baby: Good Person
Don't take the new baby: Bad Person

We met with a priest friend who, thankfully, put that terrible thought to rest.  From there we were able to look at things more objectively.  Once the end of October came, we made a decision:  We would be a back-up to another foster parent who was willing to take the new baby.

Fast forward one week - mom goes into labor, the call from the county caseworker comes, and I tell her, "We will be a back-up; go ahead and call the other foster mom."

In that hour that followed all I could feel was a terrible hurt in my heart that we had made the wrong decision.  We called back and said "We will take him."

On October 29th at just 3 days old, Baby JJ came to us. We feel that he is where he needs to be.  The adjustment has been difficult.  I shed a lot of tears.  It is HARD everyday.  When they are awake at the same time all my mind can think is, "This is the hardest thing I have ever done."  And then I think what a brat I am complaining that this is hard.  But still....

There is no real update on what will happen to either Baby J or JJ.  Their endings will most likely be different, unless they end up with us, which is unlikely.  The system is an ugly place; you hear that all the time and it is true.

I worry about my own kids.  This has been the most selfless act on their part, thrust upon them by me.  My guilt is real.  And hard to bear.  But they are championing this cross like you wouldn't believe. I pray when it's all said and done, that they will come out on top of this with more fulfillment than regret.

And I can't forget the man of the house.  By my side every step of the way. Always ready to do the right thing, even if it means doing something that might break his own heart. He fights for the underdog, whoever that may be at the, the babies, even their mom--who is a victim of circumstance and not a bad person.

Count your blessings.

I hope to get back to blogging on a regular basis.  However, showering must come first 😉 I am on Instagram now so please feel free to follow me at kathleensweeney5.  There I post some family happenings with heart emojis that hide the beautiful faces of J and JJ, which makes me sad. I wish you could see how cute they really are.

I wish you much love and happiness in the New Year and I hope to be back soon.....