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Friday, July 25, 2014

Hope Didn't Die With the Baby, Dimitri's Legacy

Nineteen years ago today, when I was twenty-four and my husband twenty-six, we made a mad dash to the midwife Annie's office. The hot southern July sun was just beginning to heat up the air and the morning traffic rush was under way. My concentration was centered inward (in a kind of hypnotic state), but I remember distinctly watching the cars moving outside the window. Feeling my face contort now and again, I wondered if anyone could see me.

By the time we arrived in the parking lot, my body felt heavy and awkward so I refused to budge. It took two pleading assistants to extricate my bulging frame from the vehicle and escort me through the waiting room passed the lineup of scheduled patients. The midwife's brief assessment revealed the reason for my stubborn inactivity, I was in active labor and the baby was nearly ready to finish the journey.

With no time to waste, the nurses pushed my big self back into the passenger seat of that blue, VW wagon right after the midwife had climbed in the rear. Thankfully, our next destination was just a stone's throw away. While my husband parked the car at the hospital, Annie wheeled me upstairs. Feeling like a giant melon had formed beneath my lap, it was difficult to resist the urge to leap out of that moving seat.

Soon after my husband rejoined me, a brief power struggle ensued as the triage nurse insisted on following protocol against Annie's advice. That second assessment confirmed what the midwife already knew, so I got a ride (similar to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) down the corridors on a mobile bed.

Less than thirty minutes and a few position changes later, I reached the peak of the mountain. With gentle grunts and groans, I focused all of my strength below and pushed my firstborn beyond the protective cocoon of my body. The all-consuming rush of physical relief washed over me as Annie laid that little, naked, wet body on my chest.

A boy! It was a boy! Our hearts were beating fast in excitement, the joy was palpable.
his footprint on the quilt I'd made

That day will be forever burned into my memory bank. More babies would follow through the years, but that July 25th nineteen years ago marked a pivotal point from which all other points would extend. Maybe all mothers can recall their first births with the greatest clarity, but I'd have even more incentive to etch that morning's event deep into my gray matter.

How sweet were those first moments. We counted his tiny fingers and toes and marveled at his eyes which seemed locked in an intense gaze. Taking a full inventory, I studied his features and rubbed his soft, bare skin against mine. Longing to feel his suckle on my breast, I was only mildly disappointed by his seeming disinterest. He was perfect.

Dimitri Mikhail Brelinsky celebrated his birth day.

Having moved far from family, we'd chosen to relish this time alone. Perhaps, it seemed selfish or unwise to others, but we wanted the first days of our threesome to remain shielded. We wanted to figure it all out on our own. To set our own schedule, make our own decisions and hog that delightful newness for ourselves. Five hours after our baby boy completed our plans, that decision would make more sense. Unbeknownst to me at the time, those blissful hours, after our umbilical connection had been severed, would be the last untethered, living memories we'd have together.

A dire diagnosis, two surgeries and a little less than a month later, we held our now bloated, pale son and said goodbye. Consumed by the stinging reality of death, I spent those early months fixated on all the never-will-be's. The first Christmases and Easters, the first portraits and steps, first smiles and words, first spoonfuls and nights slept through that would never be. Would we ever speak his name again? Would time steal away our vision of his angelic face? Would he simply become our invisible, forgotten child, like a childhood doll stored away in a dusty, attic trunk that no one remembers is there? How could I concede to stuffing his memory, to allowing his life to disappear into the abyss as though it had never happened?

I could not.

I've written before about my dance partner, grief (HERE), who swiftly grabbed my hand that August day when our son died in our arms, so I won't retell that portion our our story here. No, today is about happy memories and the legacy of a life lived.

My son's life, while brief, impacted the world. On this day nineteen years ago, he not only opened my womb, he stretched wide my heart. He taught me how to love, to abandon myself for the sake of another. His life unraveled my plans and caused me to loosen my white knuckled grip so that in time I could learn the deep value of trustful surrender in all things.

his quilt hangs above our bed, along with other special momentos
That firstborn son paved the way for every one of my brood to follow, most especially the son whom we would adopt a year later. I see him daily in his siblings' faces. And his name crosses their lips at least once a year. We honor this special day by sending him a birthday balloon marked with love messages. My other children never had the privilege of meeting their big brother, but each one of them carries on his memory.

Like the great saints and influential people of past generations, every life bears meaning and his was no less significant. There is no hair left uncounted by the Creator, Who inspires all being with eternal purpose. So why should a mother forget her child, if his Father never will?
the memorial shelf I keep in my bedroom

My prayer is for every life to be as cherished as his. For every child to be honored, regardless of the length of their time on earth (whether born or unborn, abled or disabled). My son, Dimitri Mikhail, may not be here to blow out his candles today, but his legacy continues to fan a flame of love, hope and faith within our family. A flame which I have no doubt will radiate out into the world.

Happy 19th birthday to our beloved saint, 
Dimitri Mikhail Brelinsky!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This Is The Building That Cried Out To God

This is the building.
This is the building we used to drive a half an hour to get to.
This is the building that we used to park our big, pro-life stickered van in front of.
This is the building that drew us down to our knees.
This is the building which beckoned us to pray.
This is the building where I encountered my first real taste of venomous words (shouted at my children and me).
This is the building that reduced me to tears.
This is the building where babies were slaughtered, ripped, suctioned and incinerated.
This is the building where women went in whole and came out broken.
This is the building that cried out to God.

God heard the cries.

This is the building now.
This is now the building that people will travel hours if not days to reach.
This is now the building where couples will proudly walk hand in hand through the front door.
This is now the building that will call people off of their knees.
This is now the building in which prayers will begin to be answered.
This is now the building in which words of encouragement are spoken.
This is now the building which will inspire tears of joy.
This is now the building in which the hope of babies will be restored.
This is now the building where women will go in broken and come out whole again.
This is now the building that glorifies the Lord. 

Formerly this building bore the duplicitous name of Raleigh Women's Health Organization. It was an abortion facility. Several years ago it became a focal point for the 40 Days for Life campaign in Raleigh, NC and that is when my family and I first became aware of its existence. Participating in the 40 Days for Life, my brood of then seven children, my husband and I stood more than a couple of hours before this edifice praying for the souls lost inside.

A worker, angered by our silent praying one bright afternoon, stopped her car at the end of the driveway and let me know how stupid I was. My prayers, she advised were useless.

Another day, one of my little ones was full of questions which inspired me to paint him a visual picture. “Consider the angels,” I said. “Think of them, they must be surrounding this place. The angels are here with us praying for an end to abortion and they're escorting all those precious, unborn souls back to heaven with them and interceding for their hurt mamas.”

A friend emailed me this picture of the building as it stands today and I couldn't help but consider those angels again. I imagine they are still there, but now their mission is changed. Now they must be singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, offering petitions for patients' healing so that new souls can be planted.
The address now houses Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center and its two extraordinary physicians, who are making it their life's work to restore women's reproductive health through tubal ligation reversal and corrective tubal surgery. Drs. Monteith and Berger claim that, 
 "Together they have performed more successful tubal ligation reversals and tubal surgeries for blocked tubes resulting in the birth of more babies than any other doctors in the world." 

We know Who triumphs in the end, but it is always a blessing to see the Hand of God so overtly at work.

They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm20:8

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stepping Through Our Doors To Minister to Those On The Outside

With a ten month old at hip, I'd taken up my usual place at the rear of the sanctuary so as to distance my noise-maker from the attentive audience. It was Pentecost Sunday, the Church's birthday, and Monsignor was traversing the aisles between pews. A pine branch in place of the aspergillum, he was dotting his parishioners with holy water blessings.

He seemed to take an extra long time, weaving through the maze of pews, all the while dipping and flicking that broken, wet branch. Just when I thought he'd direct his path towards me, he turned again done another row. Of course, paying attention to the details and taking extra care in sacred matters wasn't surprising, this was Monsignor Williams after all. And while not exactly as dismissive of time as St. Pio of Pietrecina (who was known to celebrate three hour long Masses), he wasn't in the habit of curtailing the Lord's Holy Sacrifice in order to satisfy forty-five minute man-made quotas either.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Delicious Veggies On The Grill via Chef Cheapo's Sous Chef

My 17 year old son, Nikolai, helped Mr. B (aka Dad) cook up some truly delicious grilled veggies this week and he jotted down the simple recipes. Grilling brought out the vegetables' sweetness and gave them each a nice, tender texture. They make a lovely compliment to burgers, chicken, or fish or you could just enjoy them as the main course.

Today is the perfect summer day here in Brelinskyville.
Iced sweet tea, lemonade, fresh cookies, and dad fired up the grill.

So let me get right to the point.
Here's some epic recipes for grilled veggies!
Mostly they involve prepping the veggies, seasoning them, and tossing them on the grill.
There are simple and taste amazing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Did You Hear The Whippoorwill? Protecting Our Senses

Did you hear that bird last night?” The question rolled off the tongues of sleepy, eye rubbing pilgrims as they made their way down the hill toward the breakfast line. Talk of the noisy whippoorwill would not only rattle around the chow line, but it was the hot topic dominating the men's mid-morning break-out session.

The bridled bird sang away the full-mooned night. Bellowing its repetitive chirps across the old Craig Springs resort, nestled in a Virginia mountain side. Its constant calling broke the country silence and caused more than a couple of travelers to lie wide-eyed in their bunks fantasizing about clever and violent ways to end the bird's seemingly relentless serenade.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Supporting Creativity - Log Your Vote

Elizabeth & Tim #557
While meandering around the hallways at the national Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Home School conference, I was approached by an agent (of sorts). She was working the crowd, handing out 3X5 fliers. Her sincerity and warm smile hooked me, so I listened to her case. She was soliciting votes for her son, who is trying to win a scholarship contest.

He and his friend are participating in the Duck Tape Stuck at Prom contest and so they created these incredibly original outfits from Duck Tape and soda can pop tops. Accepting the little handmade flier, I promised to do my best to get the word out and promote her son's endeavor on the blog.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Picturing Parties, Peacocks & the Perfect Beach Day

Just another week in Brelinskyville I say. And by that I mean: traveling to celebrate our first graduate, hosting 86 of the world's most awesome party guests, a stray peacock, field tripping to the beach and an extra blessing to count.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Run Chicken Run: Choosing the Narrow Gate

Holed up in the nursery, the baby had just drifted off to sleep in my arms. It was that blissful moment when eyes finally took rest behind their lids and slumber won out over a fussy little one. The tides of peace and calm had just begun to rise in my mama brain. Yes, that four-walled, pale blue sanctuary was fulfilling its purpose- quarantining us (baby and me) from the bustling household long enough to give rest a chance to settle in.

Friday, May 16, 2014

7 Quick Takes: A PSA, a home remedy, DYI, a library must-have & the Big Fibber

                                                 My Public Service Announcement

Well, after Pio's accident I was freaking out about our basement door. Every time I turned around someone was forgetting to close it inspiring nightmarish visions of a repeat performance. I made three trips to two different big name hardware stores and purchased two different door closing devices, but all that merited us were holes in the door.

My mother owns a rental building and the law in her state requires that all the entrance and exit doors from each apartment close automatically, so I knew there was a simple device to accomplish the mission of kid-proofing our doors. Thankfully, my husband put an end to my city by city wide search and found the solution on Amazon. This simple spring fits over your existing hinge (no holes required) and voila!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Miracles Abound, God Is Still Moving Mountains

Spying her from across the room at least half a dozen times in recent months, for some reason the connection was short-circuited each time. Either she was heading toward some other business or I was, or one of us was engrossed in conversation with some other confidant.

She'd been on my mind and in my prayers, this beautiful mother of six who is currently engaged in a fierce battle against breast cancer. I merely wanted to check in on her, but the timing made it difficult.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Fall, An Accident Inspires Gratitude

Doing the baby jig at the rear of the adoration chapel, I glanced down at the book of thanksgiving. Perusing the list of gratis for health and healing, family and friends, my eyes were drawn to two lines in particular. The familiar scratching of P. I. O. called my attention. Truly this wasn't the first time my nine month old's name has been sprawled in childish print in that book, but on this day he was mentioned in two consecutive entries.

Thank you God for protecting Pio.

For keeping Pio safe.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Home schooling 101, Stuff In Our School Cabinet

our generally organized school closet
We've opted to keep our home schooling supplies in a relatively small space, so as not to turn our home into a school house alone. Early on, my husband expressed his concerns that our house should be a comfortable place to live and entertain and not just a warehouse for kids' toys and books. I tend to agree with him. Additionally, as the primary teacher in the house, I like the feeling of “being done” (with at least one job) for the day which means all textbooks, cubicles, pencils and school boxes get put away (out of sight).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My First Home School Graduate

To-do list:
wash laundry
scrub toilets
wipe counters
make bed
graduate son
mop floors
pay bills

Hey wait, did you catch that? I just ED off an item on my to-do list FOR-EV-A! Unlike the laundry which will never be finished or the crumb piles that will only reappear five minutes after I've cleaned them up, my son will never again require me to re-home school him (okay I will probably have to remind him of his manners and to pick up his wet towels, but that's a different kinda schoolin'). That's right, I'm doing the happy dance now that my numero uno son has completed his last assignment, making him a high school graduate.

Friday, April 18, 2014

When Our Candles Are Extinguished, Keeping The Faith

Passing through the narthex doors, the balance on my kids' excitement meter tipped far right as they spied the ushers with those thin, white, paper-circle sheathed candles in hand. Of course, my meter headed in the opposite direction as I considered the possibilities ahead (think of two little balls of constant energy armed with flaming torches one inch away from flowing brunette locks and loose shirt tails). Ah, yes, a procession was in our immediate future on this Holy Thursday evening.
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