Sunday, October 23, 2016

Marry Him and Be Submissive: Radical Advice from a Real Woman About Marriage, Love, Kids, Work, Play & Everything Else by Constanza Miriano

I cringed when I first saw the title of this European sensation. "Marry Him and Be Submissive" sounds like it might be the title of a book based on a loosely translated, Cliff Notes version of Ephesians 5:22-33 by someone who took part of the verse out of context and ran with it. Yikes!

I'm sure it's not news to you that some people have tried to use this Bible passage to condone unacceptable behavior, such as letting one's husband be verbally, physically, or sexually abusive.

Fortunately, being a doormat to your man is not at all what this international bestseller recommends!  (FYI, I don't endorse books or movies that suggest abusive behavior is normal, acceptable, or something womenor anyone elsedeserves or should resign themselves to living with.)

Author Costanza Miriano writes truthfully and with an ironic twist about what it means to be a W-O-M-A-N, daughter, friend, wife, mother, caregiver, employee, volunteer, church-goer...while maintaining a great sense of humor.

Ever since reading Pope Awesome and Other Stories by Cari Donaldson, I've been on the lookout for some other books written with the same sound Catholic doctrine that espouses the benefits of marriage and family life, while simultaneously taking an approach that includes being willing to laugh at yourself (and with the members of your household) in order to keep the faith and maintain some semblance of sanity.

The epistolary style of this book makes it delightfully approachable and entertaining.  In a series of letters to friends and family at different stages in life, Constanza Miriano writes brilliantly and boldly about Catholic theology using wit and humor.  She's a woman after my own heart, who still takes the time to write personal letters to loved ones about some of the heavier, meatier topics in life.  I found myself wondering what her letter to me would say.  (Maybe, someday I'll find out.)

At long last, I've found the type of book and author I'd been hoping to encounter, again.  Now, I have yet another reason to go to Italy some day.  Costanza Miriano is a wife, mother of four, a journalist for Rai (Italian public television), and a freelance writer on education and relationships, who has worked with the Pontifical Council for the Laity.  Her wildly popular blog has had over 300 million readers in two years, and she's sold over 70,000 copies of her book in Italy.

Marry Him and Be Submissive has had feminists around the world up in arms.  Living out Biblical values in a way that is respectful of the dignity of women and sacrificial on the part of both husband and wife seems scary and completely against our modern culture.

Protests have been staged from Italy to Spain over this book.  I can understand why women who thought this was a treatise on why it's okay for men to be emotionally or physically abusive to their wives would feel the need to protest such a work.  I would be upset and inclined to rip the pages out of such a book, too.

Does the call for a wife to 'be submissive' mean it's okay for a man to be cold-hearted, mean, abusive, or vindictive?

Absolutely not!

Does this passage from Scripture give a man the right to use his wife for his own selfish purposes rather than honoring her in mind, body, and spirit through a loving covenant and commitment that is meant to last for life?

No, not at all!  Not now, not ever!

I highly recommend reading Marry Him and Be Submissive by Costanza Miriano.  If you are a woman, are related to or married to one, then I'm certain you'll glean something essential from this book that will help improve your insight into the feminine genius.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I genuinely believe that both secular feminists and conservative Christians will find some truths that they can not only identify with, but also agree on in these pages.

Below is a brief video of the author talking about her book and when and how the virtue of submission makes sense in light of Ephesians call for husband and wives to treat one another with love, humility, and support:

As always, I'm open to friendly debate and discussion of this topic by any who have taken the time to read the book (in English, Italian or one of the other languages it's been translated into). Feel free to leave a comment below and/or e-mail me directly.

I received a free copy of this book from TAN Books in exchange for an honest review.  For more information about Marry Him and Be Submissive and/or to order your own copy, click here.  Of course, it is also available for purchase on Amazon.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

September 2016 Chaos Carries into October and a Silent Retreat Scheduled This Week Lends Much-Needed Relaxation and Rest

Our lives in the past few months, have been way too much like a soap opera/HBO movie special, or an episode of the Twilight Zone (not Twilight with vampires and sparkles, but this series of TV shows).  We've managed to survive a ridiculous number of crises, some medical emergency firsts, trouble with the neighbors that involved suspected prostitution happening in the apartment sharing a wall with ours, and the usual family conflicts, emotional upheaval, and health issues that typically plague the Potter household.

It will take me most of the next week to process all that has happened, much less start to write about all that has occurred.  Suffice it to say that Kevin and I have prevailed through some harrowing times and, as always would greatly appreciate your additional prayer cover for each of us, our marriage, our family and loved ones.

God in His infinite Wisdom inspired me to sign up for a silent retreat several months ago.  I had no idea how desperately I would need it by this time in mid-October.  It begins this evening Sunday, October 16, at 5:30pm and will go through to this Friday, October 21.

Please pray for me and all of the participants on the retreat.  E-mail me or text any specific prayer requests you have.  I'm not sure how often I will have my phone on, if at all, while I am there, but if/when I do check it, I'll look for prayer intentions.  

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Unusual Developments, the Plight of the Potters, or What Contest in Hell Did My Husband Win to End up with Me?

This photo was taken by Michele after Laura and some other willing friends helped me figure out what clothes, make-up, hairstyle, and jewelry I should wear to Mass in celebration of renewing our marriage vows on our 12 year anniversary.  Kevin's response to seeing me all dressed up can be seen in the 2nd and 3rd frames.  After that, and not pictured here was his whining, sighing, huffing, and puffing that if I looked like that he'd have to wear a suit.  I love my husband, but there be days when that man drives me up the wall, and I don't mean that in a sexy way.

Our (Mostly) Impromtu Dress-up, Make-up, Jewelry, and Glamour Shots Session at the Stapletons

The above photos were taken by Michele Morris after Laura Stapleton and some other willing friends helped me figure out clothes, make-up, hairstyle, and jewelry I would wear to Mass in celebration of renewing our marriage vows on our 12 year anniversary.  

A dinner party at Laura and Jeff's house turned into a rehearsal dinner and bridal party of sorts.  The women all helped get me dressed up, made-up, and looking presentable while Kevin and Jeff hung out listening to music in the "man cave."  

Everyone had fun, and Kevin was happily surprised with the end result of what Michele called a session dressing up "Catholic Barbie."  I, personally think Catholic Barbie should actually be a wife and a mom, maybe not have such glaring blue bags under her eyes or unattractive varicose veins at the age of 35, but at least I'm a little closer to normal size and more anatomically correct than the plastic version made by Mattel.  


September has been absolutely, positively insane for Kevin, me, and the residents of the apartment building we have lived in for the past 12 years (as of today).  Until last week, we've talked about moving somewhere else, but we haven't really researched it.  Nine 911 calls in one week from our building, and suddenly, I'm ready to get out of here right quick!

The offending parties next door have been evicted, thanks be to God and some really caring building owners who knew I could not handle the circus next door after I'd just had surgery, was moving significantly slower than usual, and was desperately in need of some peace and quiet.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Glorious Glory Bee Reunion, Two Pairs of Silly Slipper Socks, and an Amusing Sister/Friends Footwear Photo Shoot

Michele insisted that we get some photos of the pillow glory bee posed
with our bee-themed footwear.  We perched rather precariously on
the back of our sofa to get this particular shot.  We laughed at the thought of
Kevin walking in right then.  I'm sure he would have rolled his eyes at us.  
Michele and I can be pretty silly when we get together sometimes, especially after a longer-than-usual absence.  

After weeks without seeing each other, my reunion with Michele naturally included a period of merrily rejoicing. 

We were apart while Kevin and I were up in Rochester for a desperately-needed vacation at the cottage his family owns on Lake Ontario, then Michele was out of town for a bit, and I was facing some very unexpected medical emergencies that included, among many other things, a visit to the ER and ultimately surgery. 

One of the traditions my family and I have when we go to a cool local gift shop in Rochester called Parkleigh.  It used to be Parkleigh Pharmacy back in the day.  Now they’ve dropped the pharmacy part and turned the space into an upscale shop for buying gourmet candy, an assortment of fine housewares, eclectic artwork, fancy toiletries, special stationary, high-end toys, fancy clothing, and fun footwear.  I spotted some knee socks with bees on them, but the moment I spotted these slippers, I knew I'd found the perfect gift for Michele.  

I kept the special slippers at our place rather than mailing them because I was looking forward to seeing Michele's reaction when I gave them to her.  She was absolutely delighted!  I told her I'd gotten her a little something while we were on vacation, but I didn't tell her what it was.  

She'd picked up a fun gift that made her think of Kevin's love of Minions and said she'd keep the box of Minion Band-Aids in the car, so she'd have it the next time we got together.  

When Michele had gone out to Carmel, California with the intention of becoming a permanent member of the cloistered community there, she found a pair of knee socks with bees on them she insisted her mother send me.  I have worn them on some special occasions and when I’ve had Michele on my heart or in my mind more than usual.  

2 Loved
+ 2 Bee

Friday, September 16, 2016

Feeding Your Family's Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

After reading a number of Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle's other books, meeting her in person, and watching some of her TV appearances, I knew to expect a great deal more than a dry commentary on the importance of eating dinner together as a family when I agreed to read and review this book. 

My copy of Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality by Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle came at just the right time.  I had recently become aware that my life was not nearly as grounded in prayer as it ought to be and has been at other periods.  I knew being diligent and faithful when it comes to saying grace and blessings before meals would be a great and super-simple way to reignite my prayer life.

If we do not allow ourselves to be fed and willing to seek out and/or accept nourishment, we will not have what we need to share true sustenance with others.  It’s along the lines of the, first put on your own oxygen mask before helping the people around you with their advice.  If you need to HALT because you are, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, then it's time to take care of your own needs before you can adequately and reasonably meet those of another person.  

I developed what I called "grace on the go" when I was nannying for little ones.  Once everyone had been served food they would probably eat, I would often forget to say a blessing before everyone started chowing down.  I, therefore, used this adapted version of grace: "Blessed, oh, Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are already receiving from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."

The inspiration to add some additional prayer, catechesis, and faith-based discussions at the dinner table as a family is definitely of the Holy Spirit.  It's so easy to skip over grace or to rush through it when the food's hot and everyone's hungry.  

When I was growing up, our family traditionally prayed two variations of grace.  The good old default one was, "Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord.  Amen."

When my youngest sister was still under the age of five, sometimes we shortened the meal blessing to a very exuberant chant: "Thank You, God, for giving us food! Thank You, God, for giving us food!"

To be honest, family dinners at the Niermeyer residence could be quite fun and/or exasperatingly nerve-wracking.  We would have nights when we'd laugh so hard we almost choked.  There was more than one time when mashed potatoes or some other edible item hit the walls during an impromptu food fight.

Certain remnants of one particular food fight were unwittingly taken into public.  My sister went out with a slice of toast caught in her hair.  After leaving the house post-food fight, she was browsing at a bookstore and noticed a handsome young man staring at her.  She brushed her hair away from her face.  A piece of toast fell out of her blond locks.  Suddenly the intrigue of this possible suitor staring intensely at her dissipated.  She quickly scurried out of the bookstore, resolving never to leave the house with bread in her hair, again.  Her friends heard this story, and the next time they had a party for her, they all clipped pieces of toast in their hair.     
Gabriella, a friend of ours we met through St. Benedict's and 40 Days for Life, always ended the meal blessing with “and may the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.”  Kevin and I thought that was a great addition to grace and now pray that each time after blessing the food.Such a small addition to a prayer can really add to the depth of meditation and consideration of others.  Suddenly, not only the people present but all of those who have gone before us in the faith, are lifted up in prayer.  

Feeding Your Family's Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality is a perfect guide for infusing dinner prayer time with more depth, a brief, but meaningful lesson about the Catholic faith, the saints, and the fundamental teachings of the Catechism in a way that is approachable for families, practical in terms of time required, and uplifting in nature.  

I highly recommend Feeding Your Family's Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality for any and all Christian families interested in a closer walk with Christ and a more intimate connection with the members of their family.

For more information, or to purchase your own copy of this book on Amazon, click here

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Are You a Princess?

Kevin, Me, Jess, Carl, and the three silly sisters at church
after Kevin and I renewed our wedding vows
during Mass in celebration of our 12th anniversary.
"Who are you?" the four-year-old who had been sitting on my lap asked me.
"I'm just Trisha," I told her, thinking we were playing some sort of game.  After all, this question was coming from the youngest of the three silly sisters, who I have known since birth.

It wasn't until later that I realized she'd been asking me who I was dressed up as.  As in, what Disney princess are you supposed to be?

This seemed a legit question considering I was wearing the tiara I wore for our wedding and was dressed much fancier than she'd ever seen me.

I had makeup on, a necklace, earrings, a bracelet, my hair done up, and new silver sandals that sparkled.

After going up for Communion, I sat on the other end of the row with Jess and their youngest daughter.  This time, she approached me carefully and whispered into my ear, "Are you a princess?"

I laughed at the question.  I can't remember ever having been asked that in a sincere tone of voice.  I honestly can't remember if I ever disabused her of the idea that I'm a princess, but her mom and I have discussed how this could be to our advantage.  In the event Mommy and Daddy are unsuccessful in conveying some important rule, I can come over dressed up as a princess and lay down the law as prescribed by her parents.                

It was neither the first time or the last that a fictitious character helped intervene in matters of family health, safety, hygiene, and overall wellbeing.  I have used princesses, superheroes, action figures, little ponies, Mr. Potato Head, and a large array of talking animals to teach important lessons about interpersonal relations and how children are to speak to and interact with their parents and other adults.

Do you have any entertaining stories about how you got a point across with the help of Superman, Batman, The Avengers, a Disney Prince or Princess, or a popular cartoon character?  I'd love to hear about it!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Rummage Sale is TODAY Sat. Sept. 16 from 7:30am-12:00pm at St. Michael the Archangel Church: All Proceeds Go to Haiti Ministry

As always, there are some amazing finds at the Rummage Sale at St. Michael the Archangel Church.

Here are some photos of my finds. Don't miss out on the biggest sale: clothes, coats, scarves, books, movies, toys, jewelry, furniture, housewares, holiday decor, shoes, handbags, stationary...if you're looking for a bargain that's better than Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any thrift shop, this is where you want to be!

I picked out some really nice gently used, second hand clothing, along with some brand new stuff. As those who know me well are aware, I do most of my clothes shopping at Goodwill.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Partial Update on My Current Health Challenges, Medical Treatment Plans, and Uplifting God Incidents

It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for our family.  I found out I need to have surgery.  The doctor I trust most to do my surgery is no longer in town.  After months of pressure to see more patients and provide a level of care inferior to that which she is comfortable with, she and her family moved from Richmond to Louisiana.  

I was supposed to have my first appointment with a local surgeon on Thursday, Sept. 8.  I've been told I need to have the 6cm dermoid/mass in my right ovary removed.  

I've never had major surgery outside of having my wisdom teeth removed, and I'm rather scared. 

At this point, my most fervent prayer is that they will be able to preserve some of my reproductive system in case God decides to bless Kevin and me with miracles that we have yet to experience within our marriage.  

On top of everything else, while Kevin and I were at an appointment with an ob/gyn surgeon at St. Francis Hospital, my husband received an e-mail from ITT Tech that they are closing their doors. Here's one of the articles about the debacle.

 We have so many people to thank for their roles in helping us make it through two crazy weeks!  Friends and family have   

Those Who Have Provided Me with Taxi Transport are: Julie, Carl, Leslie, Jess, Laura, Matt, and Pam

Moral Support from Lovelines Family: the Baab family (who several years ago adopted Kevin and I into the fold), Leslie, Jeannine, Gwen, Laura, Holly, Michele, Jess, Madrine, Natarsha, Venita, Claire, Darlene, Margaret, Julie, Danielle Rose, Mary, Theresa, Karen, Ronnie, Doreen, LaDean, and countless others both in town and across the country.  

We know without any doubt that God is carrying us right now, though at times it has certainly felt as though we are being dragged kicking and screaming.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kevin Starts His New Job Just in the Nick of Time

After a really challenging couple of years back in the wacky world of retail, Kevin has been so excited about starting his new job at Team Fishel.  It's a dream come true, more like a major prayer answered, that he's already gotten a position in the field he'd like to work in though he's only one year into the Drafting and Design Technology program. 

Kevin took his final exam for this past semester on Monday evening after his first full day of work as a CAD Operator for Team Fishel.  We’re not sure how he did, yet.  He received some rather baffling and disturbing news merely hours before sitting down to take his Physics final.

Since it was his first day, I didn’t let Kevin know about anything going on with me so he could concentrate on and relish in his new position, meet his co-workers, and get a feel for what he’ll be doing there.  That explains why we had a rather unusual conversation when he texted me that afternoon to ask how my day was. 

“What the hell are you doing in Charlottesville?!” Kevin asked the moment I answered my phone.  “You were supposed to stay home today and rest!”

“Well, there’s been a change of plans, so I’m in Charlottesville now waiting to see the doctor,” I explained.

“Why Charlottesville?” Kevin asked.

“Because Dr. Hemphill is now based in Louisiana and this is the closest doctor who I'm sure will consult with her,” I explained.

After my appointment, I called Kevin to give him a brief update of what the doctor had discovered upon examining my ER records from the previous Wednesday.  The doctor ordered blood work, which they did right away, and she gave me an order to get ultrasounds once I was back in Richmond. 

Poor Kevin.  Right before he took his Physics exam, he found out some unexpected possibilities that could explain why I had ended up in the ER the week before. 

Kevin’s gotten straight A’s in all but one of his classes so far.  I hope he won’t be too hard on himself if he gets a B in this class after whatever he got on the exam.  He’s gone from being a high school drop-out to the top of his class.  Nothing is impossible with God!

FYI, as of yesterday Kevin still hasn't gotten his grade for his Physics exam.  This is highly unusual.  They've usually had grades back to him within a couple days.  I'm not sure what's going on there, but those are more test results we still don't have back.  That seems to be a theme for us this week.

Lord, thank you for guiding Kevin to return to school that he might thereby apply to Team Fishel and be able to begin a new job in the field he wants to go into.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Celebrating our 12th Wedding Anniversary of LAUGHING TOGETHER

It still seems unreal at times that the man who I met when I was just sweet sixteen became my best friend, then when I turned 18 my boyfriend, and later my husband. We're 17 years apart in age, lived 500 miles away from each other, had vastly different lifestyles and dating relationship experiences. Plus,I wanted God and faith to be first in my life while Kevin wanted nothing to do with the Catholic Church in which he was raised.

So how and why did we make it this far together? NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD! We've been shown countless times that God is for us, for our marriage and commitment to helping each other become saints, so hell, high water, sickness, surgery, financial woes, unemployment, diabetes, depression, disappointments, and assorted types of suffering are no match for those who love Him and are loved by Him...

Romans 8 is engraved on the inside of our wedding rings because, throughout our friendship, dating relationship and marriage, God has proven his love for us over and over. When we've been ready to give up, He's reminded us that He can take whatever circumstances we are facing and use them for His greater glory in time and eternity. "All things work for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Time for New Beginnings

Late August, early September are popular times for new beginnings.  When Kevin and I first met and began dating, I was still in high school.  He later came to visit me at Hollins University or met me back at home in Richmond when I was on break. 

September is the start of a new school year, the month when Kevin and I tied the knot, and has been the season when we’ve started some new chapters in our careers.  One week after we got married, I started nannying for “my two little guys.”

September 2008 is when I first started working at RMS.

Last year, Kevin had taken a step he thought it was too late for.  He enrolled at ITT Tech and began studying for a degree in Drafting and Design Technology.

This Saturday was his last day working at Best Buy.

Queue drumroll, please.

Tomorrow is the start of another exciting adventure for Kevin.  It will be my husband’s first day as a Team Fishel employee.  The official job offer is the news we’ve been waiting for all summer.  He’s so excited I want to let him give our family and close friends the details in person before I share them here.

Suffice it to say he is seriously stoked to be starting his new work as a CAD-Operator at one of their Richmond office locations.

Please keep him and us in your prayers as we adjust to new things like having weekends off together and rediscover what holidays are like when no one in our household is working insane retail or extended nannying/childcare hours.  While you’re at it, you might pray for the many who will miss him a great deal.  Thanks.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why I Am So Ready for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to Be Over, Seinfeld's Best Bit on the Olympics, and the Top Ten Reasons I Will Never Be an Olympic Athlete

The TV’s on (Again?!): I Can’t and Won’t Compete with That!

There are few programs, shows, or reasons that I will concede to Kevin watching TV for hours on end whenever he feels like it, which truth be told, would be pretty much whenever he is home and not doing homework.  We have a two bedroom apartment, and the dining room table, our only couch, and main sitting area are in the one room where we have a big screen TV. It's the only TV we own.

I don’t mind the TV being on sometimes, but it drives me crazy when it’s on for hours on end.  I’m absolutely convinced that having the TV, computer, or gaming console on all the time are detrimental to real life conversations, interactions, and spending quality time with loved ones. What can you do if you would like a better relationship with the Lord, your spouse, your children, your friends?  Spend quality time with them unplugged.  

I have no doubt this frustration with the TV being on all the time came, in part, from when I was growing up and my dad would always watch whatever sports were on.  To me, having the TV on, especially when it was football, meant that I would not get my dad’s attention and would only be a hindrance to him seeing the game usually while drinking beer.  Being treated like an inconvenience or burden merely by being present in the room is confusing and painful for children (or anyone else for that matter).  That's one of the main reasons I didn't have the TV on when I was nannying for my two little guys, but there's also plenty of research that supports unplugging  is important for everyone.  Here's one of my favorite books addressing the topic.

Don’t get me wrong, Kevin and I do watch some TV together.  Last night, I considered it a major victory when I talked him into watching a movie about faith rather than turning on the Olympics for several hours.  We both really got a lot out of God’s Not Dead 2.  I was so inspired to draw closer to Christ and make prayer time a priority, I drove out the Abbey for Eucharistic Adoration last night.  It was wonderful spending quality time with Christ, always infinitely
more precious than gold medals.

I realized most of our time together at home recently has been with Kevin glued to the TV watching all sorts of different Olympic events.  I’ll get into watching occasionally, but more often than not, my main thought is: “I can’t compete with that!”  Of course, my swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, running, basketball, tennis, and soccer skills are such I could never compete with those who have made it to the Olympics, but I also feel that I can’t compete with the TV being on.

If someone really loves and cares about spending quality time with me, then they will be willing to turn the TV off so we can talk, share a meal, talk about our day, and perhaps even pray together.  Sure, we can enjoy watching some shows, catch a movie, or laugh at some hilarious Youtube videos, but sometimes we need to give other people our full attention and need others to give us theirs. Okay, I'm finished with my rant (for now).

Speaking of Youtube videos, this is Kevin and my favorite bit about the Olympics Seinfeld style:

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Will Never Be an Olympic Athlete: 

1. My body doesn’t adjust very well or very quickly to time changes. If the games were held in a place that was several hours or even a day ahead or behind Eastern Standard Time, it would not go well for any roommates, teammates, or travel companions who are scared of zombies. 

2. If you see me running, then you can be fairly certain that I’m either chasing someone or someone is chasing me.  If I am moving at high speeds, I’m most likely trying to intercept a child who is about to get hurt doing something dangerous.  Basically, the only performance time I care about is how quickly I can move to prevent an incident requiring EMTs.    

3. I’m not disciplined about exercising.  By this I mean, I’ve never had a gym membership, don’t work-out regularly, and often count chasing kids at school and dancing with them as my daily exercise.

4. If I finish doing anything that leaves me gasping for air and someone with a camera and microphone gets in my face to ask me the same stupid questions they ask everyone else, I’d be far too tempted to given some snarky sarcastic answer or stick out my tongue, roll my eyes, and walk away. 

5. I have put on a bathing suit and gone swimming only once this calendar year even though Kevin and I spent two weeks at his family’s cottage on the lake.  Swimming is not my thing, and it’s been probably seven years since I have even attempted to do a cartwheel.

6. I can’t currently call to mind any time in my life that I would have been comfortable enough with my physical appearance that I’d be okay with billions of people around the world seeing me in a bathing suit or leotard. Yikes!    

7. My personality and memory are such that I already have plenty of embarrassing footage of my screw-ups and failures in life on instant recall.  I certainly don’t need to have them digitally recorded, intimately analyzed, and obsessively replayed from now until the end of time.

8. I’d be much more interested in exploring the beautiful places and taking photos than sitting inside a stadium in a city, country, or continent I’ve never visited before.

9. I’m kind of an introvert and love to read, so a pair of noise-cancelling headphones wouldn’t be enough to help me get in the zone.  I’d need a quiet little room all to myself where I could stretch out and read a book, have some silent prayer time, and journal without cameras, commentators, reporters, or spectators.

10. Kevin and I have too much fun doing our own commentary while watching the Olympics on TV.  I strongly believe that other people would be highly amused by our assessments of what is happening in certain events and/or that they would be entertained if they actually listened closely to the announcers.  A few phrases uttered at the Potter residence recently:
“She lowered the bar!”
“I don’t feel very confident in this guy.  He doesn’t even have shoes that match.”
“In some cases, white men don’t jump high enough.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Men Who Have Affected My Faith and Life More than I May Ever Realize This Side of Heaven: My Dad, My Uncle, and My Godfather

Rich, Bob, Dave, and Jim Niermeyer at our wedding reception.
 I went to Mass at the Pastoral Center today in honor of my dad, who died seven years ago this morning; my uncle Dave Niermeyer, who passed away last month on July 24th which is my mom’s birthday, and my Godfather Richard Vivacqua (aka Stitch), who’s birthday is today, but who went to be with the Lord December 8, 2015. 

Interestingly enough, my dad’s oldest brother, Robert J. Niermeyer, passed away in 2008 on August 22, the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, and my dad James Niermeyer’s funeral was held on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2009.  My dad and his brothers have had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.  My Godfather did also, so it struck me as significant when he passed away this past December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as well as the beginning of the Year of Mercy.
This photo I took at St. Mark’s Church in Rochester during our vacation this summer is how I like to imagine Mary welcoming her sons: my dad, Dave, and Stitch into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wednesday after Mass then lunch with my mom, I went over to St. Michael Church where our family and friends gathered for my dad’s funeral. I prayed, took a few photos, and wrote by the columbarium where Dad's remains have been interred. 

A light breeze jostled the flowers.  I sat on a marble bench in the shade, looking over the fountain in the center of the courtyard.  I went there knowing that my dad isn’t merely contained in a small repository of ashes, but that he’s in and around me. I’m grateful for the blessing of faith, the promise of mercy, and the possibility of spending all of eternity with God, enveloped in unconditional love, perfect peace, and unadulterated joy.

I reflected on what a gift it was that I had been in a position and time in my life that I could do some of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy for my father during his final years.  Decades of feeling totally inept at taking away or even alleviating his pain in body, mind, or spirit, was softened by being able to get him groceries, bring in his mail, take him to doctor appointments, bring him the Eucharist, and assure him of God’s love. 

So much of the external elements of my dad’s life got stripped away.  No status symbols left. Near the end of his life, he had a weak body, a troubled mind, a broken spirit, an average car, and a one bedroom apartment, but the essence of who he was, part of which contained his desire to care for and provide for other people, stayed with him to the very end.   

I’m fairly certain my dad would have wanted me to grow beyond where he did, that he’d want all of his loved ones to develop an acceptance that we are God’s Beloved children. 

Did my dad love people the best way he knew how?  I believe much of the time he did.  His love was never perfect, unconditional, or without limits, but it was there even during the many years when I refused to let any of it in.  To watch a brief video (under 15 minutes) in which I talk about how God turned my NEVER going to have a loving relationship with my dad into something much better, click here.

Today, I considered going to the grotto to light three of the candles that are supposed to remain lit for seven days, but I slipped into the chapel instead.  I’d completely forgotten that there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesdays. I sat in the second to last row.  I prayed for dad, and I thought about how he died only 16 days after his 54th birthday.  (Yes, it’s rather sobering that Kevin just turned 53.)  We never know how long we have left. 

After praying for the loved ones who have gone before me, I again offered the Lord my mind, body, and spirit to use however He wishes.  It's still a kind of scary prayer for me to pray considering the of suffering I've witnessed and/or experienced. However, I know letting go of my pride and agenda are the best way to serve the Lord and love others.  

I take comfort in praying the Hail Mary for my dad, Dave, and Stitch knowing that they have prayed many such prayers for me and our family.  It is true that Our Blessed Mother watches over us now, and "[prays] for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Another Pillar of the Niermeyer Family Has Gone to Be with the Lord: The Life and Legacy of David A. Niermeyer

Another pillar of the Niermeyer family has passed from this life into the next.  On July 24, 2016, my dad’s brother David A. Niermeyer died unexpectedly early in the morning.  Days later, I’m struggling to wrap my head around the news. 

The Memorial Mass was held Saturday, August 6, 2016, at Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal, New York.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it up there for it, but I’m absolutely certain the church was filled to overflowing with family and friends.
Ann and Jim (my parents) Rich, Linda, me, Kevin, Florence, Dave,
Patty & Bob (my dad's brothers and their wives)

The last time my dad and his three brothers were on this earth together was at our wedding September 4, 2004.  (The top left and bottom right photos in the above collage were taken then.) The final visit we had with both Dave and Florence together with their three children took place in August 2009 on the occasion of my father’s funeral.  (The photo on the top right of my collage above is of their family that weekend.)  The last time my mom, sisters, and I were with their whole family was for Aunt Florence’s funeral back in October of 2010.       

Here's a recent photo of Dave
with is mother-in-law Ruth Meyer.
I can’t fathom the loss and grief his children Annie, Eric, and Dave and their families must be experiencing right now.  Ruth Meyer, their maternal grandmother, only just passed away 14 days before their father’s unexpected death.  She was 98, and she’d lived a full life.     

The world doesn’t seem right without Uncle Dave in it.  A measure of safety and security have been yanked off, exposing the tender wound beneath the bandage.  My dad passed away seven years ago this week, but as long as Uncle Dave was alive, I felt certain there remained a protector/advocate for my mom, sisters, and me from the Niermeyer clan. Dave always looked out for my dad and our family, made sure to keep in touch, and expressed concern and love for all of us. 

Rich, Jim (my dad), Dave, and Bob Niermeyer, the fab four.
Since my dad was fifteen years younger than his brothers, and Pa (their father) passed away within a few years of my dad becoming a parent, Dave and his brothers were in many ways more like father figures to my dad than just brothers or one of his peers.  Uncle Dave influenced my dad a great deal.  Dad worked hard, played hard, and gave generously, in part, because he watched his three older brothers do the same.  

Pa passed away around the time my sister Mary was born, and my maternal grandfather died within the next decade, so my dad’s older brothers were the men we looked up to, spent time with, and saw my dad strive to imitate.     

Uncle Dave with grandson.
When I was in high school, we had to write an essay about someone we admired.  I wrote about Uncle Dave, comparing him to a knight in shining armor: brave, generous, chivalrous, bold, relentless, driven to help other people, fiercely loyal, eager to save and welcome into their family a very young damsel in distress (the daughter they adopted from Korea).  Uncle Dave had so much determination and such a strong will, tempered by a devout Catholic faith and a love big enough for family members, friends, children, and young people from all over the world. 

Uncle Dave being goofy
at our rehearsal dinner.
True to the Niermeyer name, he had a great sense of humor and was known as a bit of a troublemaker.  Uncle Dave would go to outrageous lengths to make others laugh.  His stories, his antics, and cleverness made him rather notorious in certain circles.  I’m genuinely surprised they let anyone else in the Niermeyer family on campus at St. John Fisher College after some of the stunts he and his brothers pulled while students there.

Uncle Dave and Aunt Florence were always welcoming people into their lives, into their home, and into their hearts.  Their hospitality and compassion for others knew no bounds.   Dave didn’t do things halfway.  He threw himself into his work, his family, his faith, and his numerous philanthropic undertakings.  He had a soft spot for those who were suffering, particularly children, and worked hard to provide many with the most basic needs: food, shelter, clean water, love, education, and hope for the future.   

Rich, Florence, Dave, Patty, Linda, Jim (my dad), Theresa,
Bob, me, Kevin at our fabulously informal rehearsal dinner.
My uncle and his three brothers could be every bit as exasperating as they were endearing.  My dad had trouble maintaining his composure when he talked about some of the pranks, practical jokes, and ingenious schemes Bob, Rich, and Dave carried out.  The four Niermeyer brothers have always had a penchant for the mischievous, an appreciation for the ridiculous, and a relentlessness that had them running circles around their competition, sometimes quite literally. 

Not too long ago, my cousin Dave and his wife Lizanne met us for dinner in Richmond on their way south for a family vacation.  Dave is every bit as goofy, endearing, incorrigible, charming, and full of himself as his father.  We spent much of the meal laughing hysterically.

Uncle Dave and me.
Growing up, we spent a good chunk of time with Uncle Dave, Aunt Florence, Dave, Eric, and Annelisa at their house in Binghamton.  I remember attending a really nice catered dinner party my uncle hosted in 1992 in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary.  One memorable aspect of the evening was when Uncle Dave dressed up as a Viking (Florence is Norwegian.) 

That same year, Dave and Florence made their first trip to Kenya for a safari as part of their quarter-century marriage celebration.  During their 17 days there, they met up with a man from near their hometown in the United States who was doing missionary work in Nairobi with people in the slums.  Peter Daino showed them the horrible living conditions and circumstances of the poor in that area, and it changed the course of their lives.  They returned home deeply moved and inspired to do something significant to make a difference.  That trip was the impetus for them creating Boystown at Ruai, a residential school program for Kenyan street children.  To read more about the project and impact they’ve had, click here.  

Dave with daughter Annie and grandchildren
Will, Claire, and Garrett.
Feisty, stubborn, just like his mom, who we called Nana, Dave wasn’t interested in following the rules.  In fact, he took great pleasure in breaking many of them with a flourish.  I’m not sure how accurate the story is, but my dad once told me that his brother was only in second grade when he came home smelling like liquor and smoke.  His mom asked what he’d been up to, and he told her he’d been drinking some alcohol and smoked a cigar at his friend’s house.  I wouldn’t be too shocked to have it confirmed that this actually happened.    

Dave with my sister Theresa.

Some remember my uncle Dave for his success in business, devout faith, for the finesse with which he made the most of going bald at a fairly young age, for the trouble he had hearing, his deathly allergy to peanuts, his penchant for alcohol and love of ice cream, his knack for numbers, his bone-crushing hugs, misty eyes, and/or his passion for helping people.  

I remember all of these things about him and so many more.  One essay, article, or obituary isn’t enough to capture the magnitude of this man’s life or anyone’s life, really.  I will write more as I continue to process his life and the impact he’s had on me, our family, and on our world.  
Claire, Will, Lucas, Alex, and Garrett.

My Prayer: Lord, please grant Dave's soul a peaceful repose. Be with Annie, Eric, Dave, Chuck, Melanie, Lizanne, Garrett, Will, Claire, Lucas, Alex, Tiffany, Scott, Ashley, Aarika, Nathan, and Sarah as well as all of their children and grandchildren, and the many who are mourning the loss of this man. 

A great man doesn’t seem sufficient to describe David A. Niermeyer, but remarkable and amazing seem too trite.  He certainly left a legacy, made his mark on the world, and touched the lives of a number of people.  His most beautiful and lasting gifts to this world are most definitely the love he gave to his family. They are by far his greatest blessing to this world, and he knew that very well.

To read Dave's obituary, click here.  If you would like to help continue Dave's legacy, donations can be made to The Niermeyer Foundation, 224 Meeker Rd., Vestal, NY, 13850.
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