Meet Rita Buettner:

“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” After struggling with infertility, my husband and I were blessed to adopt our two sons from China. I’m a working mother who writes about family fun and faith. Oh, and I own hundreds of flyswatters. Join me on Twitter, say hello at openwindowcr@gmail.com, or follow me on Facebook

Archive

March 2017
February 2017
Go

Email Subscription

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

You're welcome, Joy! We're still enjoying the new Pokemon too!

VIEW POST

It's so very hard, Kim! Oh how well I remember some of those terrible Mass experiences. I'm so sorry! Hoping you have a better experience next Sunday!

VIEW POST

Categories

Adoption catholic charities children chocolate world christmas family guangzhou memories papa john's perry hall high school pizza Recipes religion
Open Window

Baking cookies for Advent


It’s Advent, and I should be doing more to mark this season.

But lately I am feeling pulled in many directions. So many people are clamoring for my time and attention. Everywhere I turn there is a fire to put out, or at least one smoldering.

It’s a wonderful thing to be needed, and I know how blessed I am. But no matter which project I begin, I can’t seem to complete anything. Even when I think I have finished something, I discover two more things to do.



So tonight I’m baking cookies.

I take flour and sugar and butter and eggs and vanilla and fill a mixing bowl.

I roll out the dough and cut it in shapes.

I place them on a cookie sheet.

I turn on the oven to 350.

I set the timer.

When it beeps at me, I open the oven, take out the cookies, and they are done.

Just like that.



The house smells amazing. There are warm cookies sitting on my kitchen table to cool. I have something to show for my work.

No wonder people bake in these weeks leading up to Christmas. We have shopping to do and cards to send, loose ends to tie up before the end of the year, plans with family and friends to arrange, excited children to coax through the school days leading up to Christmas break. It’s a hectic time.

When I went to confession last weekend the priest said, “No one can be everything to everyone.” Do less this Advent, not more, he told me. He didn’t mean go home and bake cookies.

But as I mix and bake and count the growing pile of cookies, I realize that tonight—for once—I am not everything to everyone. I am simply someone baking cookies.

And somehow, in this moment, I have to believe that is enough.


December 08, 2015 11:20
By Rita Buettner


Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…


The morning of our son’s first reconciliation arrived and he admitted he was nervous.

We had finished the religious education book, talked about the sacrament many times, and practiced what he would say.

But being ready didn’t mean he wouldn't be nervous. Looking around the chapel, I could tell his classmates were, too.

Of course you’re nervous, I said. It’s your first time. It’s natural to be nervous. Any time we are doing something that is important and that we care about, we get a little nervous. That’s OK.

Besides, I told him, I don’t know how many times I have been to confession, and I still get a little nervous every time I go. But the good news? I am always so happy afterward. I always feel relieved. I feel closer to God. And I always walk out wondering why I don’t go more often.

Before the children got in line outside the confessionals, the parish held a simple but beautiful prayer service. And, as I sat there in the pew, I suddenly realized I had spent so much time preparing him that I hadn’t thought to prepare myself for my own confession.

I found myself thinking of how on the airplane the flight attendants remind you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help your child with his. This second-grade year is an important reminder of that for me. To prepare our son for his first Reconciliation and first Eucharist, I need to make sure my own spiritual house is in order.

Fortunately I had time to do an examination of conscience before I went in to kneel at the screen myself. And my experience was everything I could have hoped for and then some. I left, as I do so often, renewed and at peace, with tears in my eyes. We are so blessed that Our Creator is so merciful and that we have this wonderful way to encounter His mercy through Reconciliation.

This week the Church begins the Year of Mercy. I don’t know yet what that will mean for me and my family. I do know, however, that now we have another member of the family who will be seeking grace through Reconciliation. And I hope he always finds the joy he found at his first Reconciliation, when he walked out with a big smile and a plan for how to complete his penance.

It’s such an amazing moment in our son’s life, a true moment of maturity and adulthood for our not-so-little boy. Making his First Communion in some ways will be simpler. From a very early age our children have understood that the bread and wine becomes Jesus’ body and blood. But learning about God’s mercy and grasping a deeper understanding of sin and forgiveness does not come as easily.

Yet here he is, taking this significant step in his faith journey. And we, his parents, will be at his side, trying to strengthen our own faith as we help him grow in his.

December 06, 2015 11:33
By Rita Buettner


Praying for Paris and for peace


Tragedy strikes and my heart goes out to the victims and their families.

As someone on the other side of the world, I feel helpless. What can I do? Only pray. As the news unfolds, as the information sounds bleak and scary and horrific, prayer is the only instrument I have.

So, in fear and sadness and confusion, I turn to God.

In this moment, I am grateful for prayers that already have words. More than ever, I need the Hail Mary, the Our Father, prayers I can say while my mind and heart are full. Because I have no words to voice whatever those suffering might need.

As I pray, I watch my children, playing together, arguing and then working it out. I think of them—the present and the future—and I feel helpless all over again.

How can I possibly raise children in this world? How can I prepare children for life when there is hatred that is so strong it leads to this—to so much death, to terror in a city?

The truth is that I can’t.

Even with my husband as my partner in parenthood and in life, I am not able.

I don’t have the knowledge or the strength or the courage or the ability to combat the hatred and tragedy that came to Paris yesterday.

So we will try to raise our children in a home of faith and love and hope. And we will rely on God to do the rest.

“Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him,” said Saint Jeanne de Chantal. “That is all the doing you have to worry about.”

Please join me in praying for all those affected by yesterday’s events and for peace in our world.


November 14, 2015 07:36
By Rita Buettner


Thinking of Georgie on All Saints’ Day


Halloween is always fun around here.

There are costumes and games and way too many pieces of candy.

There are trick-or-treaters coming to the door, and we’re falling over one another to hand out the treats.

Halloween is fun because it’s Halloween.

But Halloween is also a day with some sadness. Two years ago on Halloween our nephew and cousin Georgie’s heart stopped beating in utero, just a few weeks before we expected to meet him.

The boys were wearing their costumes when I got the news. I told them as directly and gently as I could. We went trick-or-treating in a haze.




So losing Georgie will always be part of our Halloween memories. This Halloween, in the midst of all the fun, we had conversations about Georgie. And we had some of the same questions we had two years ago. Some questions don’t have answers. I can try to explain, and I certainly do, but only God really knows why Georgie is in Heaven.

Especially because of the timing, Georgie—our little saint—is also on our minds on All Saints’ Day. And he’s also always part of All Souls’ Day, the day my sister and brother-in-law finally held him, and when they gave me the extraordinary gift of holding him myself. I will never forget feeling him in my arms and kissing him and wishing he would be here to grow up with his cousins.

Two years later the pain is not the same. There is still a hole.

There’s also joy. We celebrate Georgie. We are so, so grateful that he is in our lives. We talk about how he is our special friend in Heaven. And he is. And we are blessed.

Halloween is a day that seems to be created for children. Strangers open their doors to children who are dressed as their favorite characters, holding out buckets and bags for their favorite treats. Our children enjoy practically every minute—and we enjoy that time with them so much.

But every Halloween my mind also turns to a child I haven’t met on earth, a little soul, a little saint, a little boy we love who’s dressed in Heaven’s light, perfectly beautiful and perfectly loved in Jesus’ arms.

I hope as we celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day that you, too, are able to find time to pray for and think of your loved ones who have passed away. This is such a special time in the Church year, a time when we can feel especially connected to those who have gone before us, those we look forward to seeing again—even as we miss them now.

All you holy men and women, pray for us.

If you are interested in reading more about Georgie:

Missing Baby Georgie

A Visit to the Cemetery

20 ways to support loved ones as they grieve the loss of a baby

A Book to Remember Baby Georgie

Why We Visit the Cemetery


November 01, 2015 04:26
By Rita Buettner


Why we visit the cemetery


Autumn is here. The trees are starting to change color and everywhere we turn there are pumpkins and signs of Halloween.

This is a beautiful time of year, a vibrant season of abundance and color. It’s also the season when we said goodbye to our nephew and cousin Georgie two years ago when he was stillborn at 34 weeks.

I’m not surprised that when Daniel and I stop at the grocery store for something else, our 5-year-old is the one who suggests we should pick out a pumpkin to put at Georgie’s grave. Then he picks a little balloon on a stick and a bouquet of dyed daisies.

At the cemetery we park in our usual spot and walk to Georgie’s grave.

We talk to God. We talk to Georgie. We talk to each other.

We make sure Georgie’s grave looks beautiful. Daniel fills the vase with water, places the pumpkin just so, and he asks me to take a picture of it for his aunt and uncle. We know that even if they happen to visit tomorrow the flowers might be eaten. And we want them to know how lovely it looks right now.



We watch a man sitting near a grave not too far away. He looks sad, and Daniel wants to know why. So we talk quietly about why he might be sad.

We are sad, too. We miss Georgie. We also feel honored to have a special friend—a family member—in heaven. We talk about how he must watch his cousins play and think what fun it will be for him to meet them one day.

A few years ago I didn’t imagine making the cemetery a regular stop for our family. In fact, I didn’t bring our boys to Georgie’s burial because I thought it might be too distressing. But since then we have come many, many times.

The cemetery is a place where we feel very close to Georgie. It’s a place where we talk about dying and heaven and love and family and God and life and sorrow and joy. It’s a place of sadness, but it’s also a place of comfort and peace.

We have good conversations here. Our children aren’t afraid to talk about death. They know that death is a gateway to life in heaven. And, although they still feel cheated that Georgie is in heaven and not here—because cousins are just so much fun—they feel so connected to him. And I am so very grateful for that.

Georgie has a baby sister now. We love her dearly. She’s almost 1 and she thinks our boys are terrific, which they are. Our boys, though, never forget her big brother—and I imagine they will help her remember him, too. They are the ones who during prayers ask God to give Georgie a hug from us.

As we climb back into the car, I glance back at the little painted pumpkin we placed on the grave. At the store Daniel had asked me to lift him up so he could pick just the right one—and he found it.

“This one,” he said. “He’s looking up to heaven.”

So he is. And so are we.

If you are interested in reading more about Georgie:

Missing Baby Georgie

A Visit to the Cemetery

20 ways to support loved ones as they grieve the loss of a baby

A Book to Remember Baby Georgie

October 10, 2015 09:58
By Rita Buettner


Reflecting on an unforgettable experience at the Pope’s Mass in Washington, D.C.


I had the opportunity to attend the Pope’s Mass on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C., with 25,000 of my closest friends.

If you were there too, I’m so very happy for you! If you weren’t, I wish you could have been, and I wish we could have crowded together against the barricade as we waited for the Popemobile to pass.

For now, I thought I’d reflect on how the experience has made me think about the beauty and richness of our faith.



~1~

Our Catholic Church is truly universal. I know that, but I don’t always think about it. As we were waiting for hours for Mass to begin, I met people not just from California but from Panama—who traveled in just for this Mass.


Not everyone around me was speaking English, and yet we all came together in prayer—in Spanish—and with intercessions read in different tongues.



~2~

I love the Mass—and all the traditions. We had incense and bells. The ceremony was extraordinary. The music was incomparable. Even though the Mass was in Spanish, I was able to follow along easily. Even though it was more than two hours long, the time flew. I hung on every action on the altar, the participation of each person selected to have a role in our prayer. Every movement exuded reverence and love for the Lord.



~3~

Thank you, God, for vocations. Hundreds of bishops and more than 1,000 priests came to the Mass.


They gathered in front of the altar hours before the Mass, smiling at one another and engaged in what looked like a giant reunion. They were a diverse group and an excited one. I loved thinking of each of them joining the Pope in celebrating the Mass and then heading home to tell their parishioners all about it.



~4~

Confession is such a gift. Before the Mass began, I walked around the area where the congregation was gathering. I noticed that lines of people were waiting to approach the area where the priests were, and I thought for a moment they were waiting to take photos. Then I realized they were in confession lines. Priests were standing on one side of the barricade and quietly hearing confessions one by one.

~5~

It’s a small world. Now I hadn’t traveled far from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. So you might not be surprised that I managed to bump into friends—a former neighbor, a former babysitter, a fellow blogger, a colleague, a former colleague—unexpectedly in a group of 25,000.

Patti and I went to the Mass together.


The most astonishing encounter, however, happened when I spotted a priest getting in line to buy lunch and I realized he was the priest who had baptized my niece at a church that is hundreds of miles north in New England. When I met him at the baptism, I joked that I would see him in D.C. I wish you could have seen his face when I hurried across the grass to reintroduce myself and say hello. It was a mixture of shock and who-in-the-world-are-you-and-how-do-you-know-my-name?

~6~

Receiving the Eucharist is always so, so wonderful. You actually take Jesus into yourself. What a miracle! So receiving communion shouldn’t have felt different at this Mass.


But I couldn’t help thinking that the Body of Christ had been consecrated by Pope Francis, the direct successor of St. Peter. Jesus is Jesus. The Eucharist is the Eucharist. But as I received, I was overcome with the beauty of the tradition and the link we have to Christ through our Church.

~7~

Being part of a huge group of people who are united in faith is extraordinary. During Mass everyone was focused on the actual Mass. Before Mass we all waited for the Pope together. Some people jockeyed for a better position, but for the most part people were polite. They were Christians. They were respectful and kind. I had several interesting conversations with people I will likely never see again. But we were united as friends—at least in that moment.


When the Pope came past us in the Popemobile, I had no plan for what I would say. I didn’t need one.


As one voice, the crowd yelled, “Papa! Papa! Papa!” And I was yelling with them, tears in my eyes, touched with the emotion of the moment, rejoicing in the gift that the entire experience was for me—and so many.


Joining Theology Is a Verb and Reconciled to You for Worth Revisiting Wednesday on Sept. 21, 2016.

September 24, 2015 11:43
By Rita Buettner


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single baptism invitation


Before I tell you what we did last weekend, I should probably explain that I grew up with a skewed understanding of what a day trip is.

I have a vivid childhood memory of the Easter Sunday when we woke up, went to Mass, jumped in the car, drove 5 ½ hours to New Haven, Conn., had a picnic lunch with my two older sisters, who were in college, climbed back into the car, and drove home.

Now let’s fast forward 20-ish years to this past weekend.



Our niece, who was born a few weeks ago, was being baptized on Sunday. And John is honored to be her godfather.

Of course we would be there. The only question was: How?

The church was in New England. If we hit no traffic and barely stopped, we could make it in about seven hours—one way.

And John had to work until late Saturday afternoon.

Even though the situation wasn’t ideal, we were determined. I requested couch/floor/bed space at my sister’s house, which is sort of a midpoint, for Saturday. We drove four hours on Saturday evening and our boys were overjoyed to arrive at their cousins’ house—complete with a Wii, a luxury they only dream of, and a cage full of rats just waiting to be petted.

We finally fell asleep, woke up early Sunday, and drove three hours to the church.



When we arrived, I said to Daniel, “This is your first time at this church, so don’t forget to make your three wishes.”

“All I want,” our kindergartener said, reaching for the church door, “is to find a bathroom.”

Well, at least that wish came true.

We went to Mass, watched as our niece and cousin became a child of God, let our boys play tag with their cousins in the grass outside the church, and then spent 90 minutes partying at my brother’s house with a delightful group of family and friends.


Then we climbed in the car and headed home.

It was a long drive. We stopped once to change drivers and once to get food that wouldn’t be considered edible if there were any other options. My usual policy is to stop fairly frequently so we all can stretch our legs. But we just wanted to get home.

Seven hours after we left New England, we pulled into our driveway. The entire 750-mile trip took 29 hours. It was exhausting.

It was also so, so worth it. We met our precious baby niece. John held the candle at her baptism and promised to help her grow in her faith. Our boys had the chance to spend time with eight of their cousins—and we were able to be with family we don’t see often enough. We made some great memories. And we learned that we will never consider Connecticut a day trip from Baltimore, but our children handled the long ride remarkably well.



As one final bonus, during the endless hours in the car, as our children gobbled their way through a smorgasbord of snacks with scarcely any nutritional value, we spent some time reading the two-page study guide for our second grader’s religion test on Monday. The topic? Baptism.

Let's hope he aced it.

September 16, 2015 11:13
By Rita Buettner


Hellos and goodbyes and other thoughts inspired by butterflies


Our first butterfly emerged while I was cooking a can of soup in the kitchen. The second one came out while we were at Mass and a picnic lunch. The third and fourth shed their chrysalides while we were at work and school.



Now we are waiting to meet our fifth and final butterfly.

Part of me wants to sit by their cage waiting for it to break free. This is, after all, our last shot at seeing one of these butterflies climb out of a chrysalis.




But my schedule doesn’t allow for this. The magic may just have to happen without us here—as it has four times before.

Besides, if there is one thing I have learned this week, as we have waited for and welcomed our butterflies, it’s that nature has things well in hand. My role is to be an observer and to provide a few flowers, pieces of fruit, and some man-made nectar for our guests.



For the most part, though, I am not needed. Somehow—and I can’t figure out how—these caterpillars become chrysalides and then butterflies.

No one teaches them what to do. They just know.

And then they come out of the chrysalides, leaving the husks behind. And they are gorgeous.

They are delicate but strong, colorful on one side and more muted on the other.

They can be still for long stretches and then suddenly very active, flying and flapping their vibrant wings.



At the end of the week we will let them go.

“We should have a butterfly release party,” I say to Leo.

“Why would we do that?” he says. “We love them.”



Why, indeed, would we celebrate saying goodbye to these treasured little butterflies? But they will be ready to go. And, even though we will be sad, we will also be happy for them.

Today at work I also said goodbye—to a friend and colleague. He, too, has to fly. It’s hard for me to understand. I want him to stay—and so do many others. He is a source of strength to many, and over the past few years he has been there through some of my happiest and most difficult moments.

Still, he is a Jesuit priest and he has a calling that transcends my wants and needs. He explained it to me quite simply. The easy choice for him would be to stay. The more daring choice is to go.



He is an inspiration to me. He makes me wonder whether I am challenging myself enough.

With gratitude and genuine happiness for him, I wish him well. But unlike with the butterflies, I know we will stay in touch.

Besides, as C.S. Lewis said, “Christians never say goodbye.”


June 09, 2015 11:12
By Rita Buettner


As a pro-life church, let's consider how we talk about adoption


During the homily last Sunday our deacon was speaking about spiritual adoption. He told us we should consider God’s love from the perspective of a person who has been adopted.

Prior to being adopted, the deacon said, that person feels rejected. That person feels that no one has ever loved him. Then after adoption everything changes.

Sitting there in the pew, I started to get upset. Later that evening, John and I discussed the deacon’s words. He reminded me that not everyone has been educated in how to speak about adoption. He is absolutely right. I can’t expect people to know how to approach adoption with sensitivity and understanding.

But the truth is that my frustration with the comments had less to do with our children and more to do with a larger issue for the Catholic Church.

If we are a pro-life community of faith, and I believe we are, we must approach adoption with a pro-life view.



If we are concerned with the child, we must also be worried about the mother. We must acknowledge that if she chooses to place her child for adoption instead of abortion, she is not rejecting the child. She is, in fact, embracing her child with a love so deep that she would carry her little one, give birth, and then entrust her child to someone else’s care.

Go ahead. Tell me I’m reading too much into the deacon’s words. Tell me I’m misconstruing his meaning.

Maybe so.

But if we can’t speak of adoption as a form of love—not just on the part of the adopters but also on the part of the birth parents—we are perpetuating the myths and stereotypes about adoption that make it seem like a negative. And a woman in a crisis pregnancy needs a positive option. Let’s help her see it for what it is.

Placing a child for adoption is an act of love. As adoptive parents, we don’t love our children more than their birth parents loved—and continue to love—them. We are merely adding our love to theirs.

If the Church is on board with that, let’s say so. And let’s use the right words.

Related post: A Letter to a Woman Considering Abortion


June 07, 2015 10:18
By Rita Buettner


Why I blog: How writing is part of my faith journey


Lately I have been thinking about why I blog.

I write to reflect. I write to remember. I write to connect.

I also write because I love words. Words help me make sense of the many thoughts I have swirling through my mind. Words bring order to the mostly wonderful chaos of my life. Words can bring tears and laughter. They can transport you to a different place or give you a new perspective. Words build a bridge from me to you—and sometimes back again.



I also write because sitting down to think and type in the quiet of the evening helps me focus on what matters most: my faith and my family. It helps me appreciate all I have been given. It forces me to recognize the many ways I am falling short as a wife and mother—and celebrate a few successes, too. In a way, this blog is my personal Examen.

I don’t always write openly about my love for Jesus, my deep affection for our Catholic faith, the wonder of being connected within a communion of saints, the miracle of receiving the Eucharist, how humbled I am that John and I are able to share our faith with our children. Maybe I should write more intentionally about what I believe. Still, even when I don’t talk about faith, I feel it is in the background, a little whispering wind, perhaps, or a ray of light.



When you look at a tree you know that it didn’t just appear one day. It takes sunshine and rain and fertile soil and time and maybe even caring people to make it grow. God offers me the foundation that makes it possible for me to see the world through this lens, to embrace each day with joy and hope. And He helps me reach deep within myself to find words.

As Mother Teresa said—and my friend Erica shared at a blogging conference a few weeks ago—“I'm a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

Oh, to be God’s pencil.



Many nights, as I’m trying to write, I have to tuck our younger son back in bed every few minutes. He always has a reason for getting up. He’s scared of a shadow. He wants to take a toy to bed. The hall is too bright. The hall is too dark. He needs another hug. He’s hungry. He’s thirsty. He’s giggling. He forgot to tell me what his friend said on the playground. He wants to call Grandma—again.

Tonight I realized that I am so much like our little boy. God places me somewhere and I try to wriggle out of it. He says it’s time to sleep and I tell Him I have something better to do. He offers me what I need and I complain. I want a toy. Not that toy! I want it dark. Not that dark!



Again and again, God tucks me in, knowing His plan is better than mine, but also knowing that I have free will—and might make the same bad decision again and again.


My faith is far, far from perfect. I am no better a person or a Christian or a Catholic than anyone else. I don’t write here because I am trying to teach you how to live your life. I’m still trying to learn how to live mine.

And I’m so honored we are on this journey—separately and together.



I’m participating in The Credo Project. If you want to learn more about the Catholic Church, please feel free to reach out here or by email at openwindowcr@gmail.com. I am no expert, but I’m more than happy to chat.

Joining The Koala Mom and many other great bloggers for the Bloggers Fete!

May 27, 2015 11:08
By Rita Buettner

« Older Entries