Up Until Now

The Laundromat life....

The Laundromat life….

I believe I have shared before that the “house” part of “housewife” gives me a fair amount of trouble.  So, when a child fails to meet my remarkably low standards for cleanliness, it suffices to say things have gone far past messy and landed squarely in the middle of just plain “ick”.

This is the predicament my oldest son landed in over the weekend.  He had already had a rough week having injured his back at practice, he was hobbling, a bit broken and I just didn’t have the heart to get grumpy.  When his father used the word “disgusting”, I figured it was time for an intervention.

“How did you do this to yourself?” I asked my 15 year-old.

“Well, I wish I had some exciting story to tell you, Mom, but my room just got away from me.  I’m kind of a disaster. ”

Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.  –Richard Bach.

As we ate breakfast, I began noodling about how to handle this one.  Then, I told my sons that they needed to gather all their dirty laundry.   While I did the dishes and danced around the kitchen to my favorite Pandora channel, I heard the scurrying overhead.  A few moments later my incredibly bright middle kiddo, Drew, expressed fairly articulately the serious concern he had about the amount of laundry in his brother’s room.

That’s when it hit me.

“Boys, listen up!  I want you to put all your laundry into large trash bags and bring it downstairs. “

“Ok, Mom.”

As the trash bags filled my kitchen, I was warned that their numbers were going to be disturbing, and I admit, I didn’t realize Nick had that many clothes.  In all, more than 6 large trash bags were assembled.  Wondering if the Irish in my heritage might show itself, the boys searched my face looking for signs of an imminent temper tantrum.  They needn’t have worried this time.  I had devised a plan.  My spirit was calm.

Here’s what I know from plenty of first-hand experience.  We all have well-worn patterns of defeat in our lives.   It was time for a little lesson on how the past doesn’t have to dictate the future and that we must take responsibility for making good choices.  Language can be powerful and words have the power to transform us.  We needed to invoke the power of “UP UNTIL NOW.”

I instructed the boys to put the back row of seats down in the van and told the uninjured teenager who had warned me earlier about the volume of dirty clothes to load up the heavy laundry bags.  An act of Christian charity was about to be performed by all of us for the benefit primarily of my oldest son, but hopefully the lesson would resonate.

“Guys, I need you to bring me every quarter you can find.   And, Zach—grab a deck of cards.“

“What’s going on, Mom?”

“Boys, we are going to the laundromat.”

The Kwik Kleen Laundromat in Carmel, Indiana is what I would deem typical as these places go.  It was adequate.  However, the rows of washers and dryers were an unexpected delight to my three laundry novices.  They seemed a bit giddy in amazement of the place, which I estimate was last renovated perhaps in 1982.  Who knew it could be so much fun to load clothes and coins into washers—13 washers!!?

Zach and I played ourselves into a 5-6 euchre deficit against his older brothers while the washers did their job, and then the completely “awesome” complimentary wheeled baskets whizzed about the place at the hands of the Thieme boys as we dropped quarter after quarter into dryers all over the building.  We were operating so many of them at the same time that my 8 year old worked off his breakfast checking the timers on them all and providing play-by-play.

There are no mistakes. All events like this are blessings from which we can learn.  God clearly tells us that our challenges and problems are not unique.  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all.  (1 Cor 10:13).

When we had finished washing, drying, and folding all these loads of clothes, I looked around and realized that my guys were all smiling from the experience.  We had giggled our way through the laundromat afternoon, mercilessly teasing Nick for the hole he had dug for himself, but with our good temperaments undamaged.  We had freed him to begin again.

Smiling and loading up the van was the perfect time, I thought, to underline today’s lesson.  Surrendering negative thoughts and changing poor patterns means looking to God for a new way.  It’s news I wish I had assimilated years ago, and so, as I learn it myself I want very much to share the lesson with my sons right away.  Waiting until age 42 is a touch pathetic, so I am trying to save my boys a long ride on the “struggle bus.”  How do I explain what we’ve just done?  I have about 2 sentences to impart some hard learned wisdom, since that’s the attention span of 8-15 year old boys.  Hmm.  Choose your words carefully, Shelly.

Come, Holy Spirit. That was my silent prayer.

Then, I said, “Nick.  Do you remember telling me this morning you’re a disaster?”


“Up until now.”


“UP UNTIL NOW, you have been a laundry disaster.”

“And now, I have a fresh start and I will do a better job. “

“That’s exactly right.  You can do this better.  I know you will.”

This is what God tells us.  You must replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  We can screw up in ways small and large, but His advice is filled with common sense.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9)

In other words, think positive and positive change is possible.  When tempted to fall back into old patterns of unhealthy thinking or behavior, add the words “up until now” to your sentence.  I’ve been trying this of late and I think it’s brilliant.

“Up until now, I have been a laundry disaster.”

“Up until now, I have failed in exercise.”

What about you?  Up until now, what have you done??

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. – Mother Teresa

If Jesus is Batman…

“Are you kidding me?  You’re telling me when we put the Flavor-ice popsicles in the freezer THAT is condensation?  You put them in the FREEZER to FREEZE them!! This is ridiculous!!  I am not going to help you if you aren’t even going to try!”  — Me, to my 8 year old son

Suffice it to say, the brilliant and patient science teachers of the world need not fear I am coming for their jobs any time soon.  Further, my general homework/studying philosophy to date has gone something like this, “I already passed the 7th grade, now it’s your turn.”

Have I helped renovate a science fair board, or given myriad spelling pretests, or assisted in researching the culture and political situation in Azerbaijan?  Heck yeah.  Have I edited essays and worn a path to our local CVS on endless supply runs?  Absolutely.

Here’s the thing.  On rodeo #3, I seem to have fallen off the horse.  This is a horse of another color, you might say.  We have only just begun, and I am frustrated, and I am worried.

Here’s my inner dialogue.  A good mom would know what to do.  A loving parent would have patient and loving answers and interactions. A God-filled mother would know how to close the gap caused by frustration and insecurity and would persevere confidently in the direction of success with her child.

Me?  I yelled.  I lost my patience.  I wanted to do something else, anything else.  I shared this with a friend this week, and then confessed I prayed, asking Mary for assistance.  My non-Catholic friend said, “Mary?”  I said, “Yes, Mary, The mother Jesus?”

“Ahh….THAT Mary!  You Catholic girls.  I don’t get the Mary thing.  When I need a filling, I don’t dial up my Dentist’s mom, Shelly.  Can you talk to me about what the story is with Mary?”

I wanted my friend’s consolation.  Affirmation was the goal, then I wanted to head to Marsh for decongestant.  Apologetics was not on my mind.  I instantly recalled a great comment made by a friend several years ago at a CRHP meeting and I flippantly replied, “If Jesus is Batman, then Mary has the Bat phone.”


“Shelly.  Why not just pray to Jesus to help you be the mom you want to be?  That I would get.”

Then, we proceeded to have this surprising interaction.  I asked her why it is that she asks me to pray for her, for her parents, and for others in her life who are struggling.   We talked about how lots of people ask others to pray for them.  Why do we do that?  Why not just talk to Jesus?

I think there are a couple of reasons.  First of all, we don’t live on an island.  We need our friends.  Others have compassion that we need to help us through this life, they stand in the gap for us—they intercede.  Our friends, family members– all can be helps in our relationship with Jesus.

Second of all, and this is a new revelation to me.  My Lutheran friend said to me “Well, I don’t pray to dead people.”

Here’s where the conversation ended for today, but I have been thinking about it ever since.

I should have said, “People in heaven are alive.  This is what I believe.”  It’s a fundamental belief that I mistakenly took for granted entering into the chat.

I think of Mary as the original prayer warrior.  She doesn’t say much in the bible, but she does tell us that her role forever to the end of the ages is to magnify Jesus.

Let’s keep in mind here that like most good cradle Catholics I have encountered, I know virtually zero about scripture.  BUT…..I am familiar with the Magnificat.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness, behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  The Mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich he has sent away empty.  He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

So, reading this, which is just lovely and beautiful playing in my head as a song, it seems self-evident to me that praying for her intercession isn’t worship and it cannot take focus away from the one who saved us—her son!  In eternity, her sole job in my simple mind is to lead us to Him.

Does it diminish our relationship with Jesus to have devotion to Mary or enjoy Marian prayers?  If it’s useful for our friends on earth to pray for us, then isn’t it possible those in heaven are even more equipped?  I mean, who do you ask to pray for you when you REALLY need prayer?  The holiest people you know, right??  Devotion to Mary doesn’t deify Mary…..it simply indicates incredible respect.

Writing this post about Mary was my way of making amends to her son, who I love, for the flippant initial response when I encountered the opportunity to chat with my friend about the queen of heaven.

We do not slight the son when we honor the mother.  –St. Louis de Montfort

I feel like its possible God wasn’t really all that interested in consoling me about my poor behavior or soothing my bruised little feelings.   I concede it’s more than probable that all of this was God’s way of pointing me to the greatest example of motherhood that exists.

Lucky for me, the greatest mother ever always takes calls from her children outside normal business hours.

Hail Mary, full of grace…..