Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

For This I am Grateful


Mary Ellen is grateful for having to slow down and enjoy each other’s company, and now with clarity, looks forward to new challenges and bright beginnings.

November is a favorite month of mine, the late fall color and briskness appeal to me much more than does the blistering humidity of summer, and the bitter cold of winter has not yet settled in to make me miserable.

November is also my birthday month, which is finally becoming a thing again since I have older children now and they seem to enjoy celebrating their old mom. November is the month of my wedding day, the day I forever become one with this wonderful man God chose for me.

All these things inspire gratitude. The Thanksgiving holiday, celebrated this month in America, calls upon us to reflect on those things for which we are grateful and share the celebration of them with family, friends, and feasting.

In many ways, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. To me, it’s a no-pressure holiday that requires only good food and gathering with friends and family. There is no insistence on anything else, and our traditions for this holiday are simple. We eat turkey, we invite a crowd, we welcome all, and we do not sweat any kitchen mishaps.

Then Came 2020

This year of everything we know about hospitality and shared experiences seemed to go away. It became the year that gratitude was suddenly a little harder to find. In my case, it began early in the year with my father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, a shocking turn since he had been perfectly healthy–until he was not. While he was with us in-home hospice, a five-dollar piece of equipment broke off the water heater, resulting in a flood causing thousands of dollars in damage.

Soon after my dad passed away and there was no wake or funeral to celebrate his life, months of construction started, until my contractor had a heart attack and that held up repairs while he recovered. Hurricane Isaias took down three trees and a shed in my yard, again resulting in several thousand dollars in cleanup and damage. All this while living under the quarantine that will not end. To say gratitude is difficult to come by is an understatement. In fact, each morning is approached with trepidation, “What is going to go wrong today?” being the first thought that pops into one’s head.

“All this while living under
the quarantine that will not end.”

This year may require some deep digging to find gratitude. We have all been challenged and stretched in ways we have never been before. Yes, historically this pandemic has been less significant than others (the bubonic plague wiped out half the population of Europe in the Middle Ages), and people have suffered greatly in other ways (invasions, famine, holocausts), which puts into perspective not being able to go eat at the corner bistro or to hang out at homeschool co-op drinking coffee with other moms.

However, that doesn’t mean that the loss of these things has not been significant to us and to our culture. To be unable to have funerals or weddings, to have missed Mass for months, all sports on hold and a million other things that make our lives our lives—these things are to be properly mourned and celebrated when they return.

“…let us focus on what
we can be grateful for.”

In the meantime, let us focus on what we can be grateful for. Homeschooling is now cool. No longer are we the crazy moms who are harming their children by keeping them out of government-run schools. The world suddenly sees the advantages of keeping children close to their parents and siblings by homeschooling, and the hard work and sacrifice made by homeschooling parents is now given the proper due.

Seton, long at the forefront of the Catholic homeschooling movement has stretched to accommodate thousands of new families and sought to help them navigate these unknown waters as easily and efficiently as possible. I know I am grateful for our new Seton Support Community.

A Springtime of Family Time

As difficult as it was, I am immensely grateful for a spring that focused entirely on family time. Our usual spring schedule is chaotic with travel, performances, and family commitments. This past spring was quietly filled with backyard barbeques, 1000 piece puzzles, board games, movie nights, lingering over meals, and, yes, sleeping in. Truly things to be grateful for.

The bonds my family forged during this time together will remain forever part of us, and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. God truly used this time to draw us closer, and this Thanksgiving my prayer will be that those bonds hold us tightly together as we look toward a new year, new challenges, and bright beginnings.

About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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