Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

One Mom’s March Madness

#5 Motherhood — the moments, the madness, the profound joy, the heart-breaking sorrows

Last week, my son’s baseball team won in extra innings. We had a runner on third base, and one of our players hit a ball to right field. As the ball rose and fell, the right fielder missed the ball, and our runner scored. As happiness ensues for one team, the other packs up. I was elated for our team, but my mind shifted to the kid who missed the ball and…his mom.

After the game, my son said, “You felt bad for that mom didn’t you?” “Fine. Yes, I did…it’s empathy” (Naming it something made me feel better). I know how it plays out – son misses ball – team loses game – blame is assigned, emotions run wild and the ride home is painful!

But whose emotions are in the balance? The player, the coach, the parent? Or “D – ALL OF THE ABOVE”.


Friday night we went out to a local pizza place, sat in our regular booth, chatted, and stared up at the outdated TVs watching any team play basketball. It’s March Madness. With so many teams playing, stakes and drama are high – it’s truly a basketball binge-watching dream for fans.

I watched the teenage workers pace back and forth delivering pizzas to booths, clearing tables, and refilling their own clear cups with colorful flavors at the soda fountain machine. I saw one new employee stop and stare at one of the screens, riveted. I looked up. Wrestling? What? I hadn’t seen wrestling since high school…and on a March Madness night? Turns out it wasn’t just any match, it was the Division 1 Wrestling championships, and Iowa’s three-time national champion, Spencer Lee, was in the depths of competing for a chance at a possible fourth straight title. In the end, however, Lee lost in the semi-finals to Matt Ramos from Purdue, cementing one of the most historical upsets in D1 wrestling.

Why did it matter to me? Spencer’s mom…

As notable as the loss, Spencer Lee’s mom was shown reacting to her son’s defeat, and it was remarkable. As soon as the winner’s arm (which was NOT attached to her son) was lifted by the referee, Lee’s mom tore her glasses off of her face and smashed them up in her hands, not one, not two, but three times, hurling them to the floor.

Now that’s mad! Mad at the ref? The opponent? Her son?

Or is it passion? Or sadness? Or frustration?

My mind reeled. Sometimes as parents we are overly invested emotionally and financially in our children’s activities, sports, and school progress. That is to say, we may fail to recall who is swinging the bat, writing the essay, swimming the mile, and solving the equation. Hint: It’s not us…something I forget quite often. Our (sometimes unreasonable) expectations of what our kids can and should do are clear in our heads – run faster, pitch harder, and study smarter. Easy for us to say.

Is it the “happiness” we want for our kids? The joy of winning the race or getting into their number one college? The accomplishment is kinda like a Prime package at our doorstep where underneath the bubble wrap sits all the justification you need for your investment of time, money, and heartache. Until the next thing and the next. Perhaps, as parents, we conflate passion and perfectionism. Let’s face it, seeking perfection is a fool’s errand. We are all messy and cluttered and muddling through the days. Maybe the lesson here is the fact that sometimes other kids are going to do a lot better than our own kids on the field or in the classroom. Sounds like real life doesn’t it?

I recently read about Esther Wojcicki, author of “How to Raise Successful People”. She is best known as the “Silicon Valley’s godmother” and mom to three very successful daughters: Susan, the former CEO of YouTube, Anne, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, and Janet, a professor at UC San Francisco. By implementing her personal parenting philosophy, which Esther refers to as TRICK: trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness, she feels she was able to raise capable, successful children. As far as being a parent, Wojcicki suggests focusing on your own behavior. She says, “Parenting gives us perhaps the most profound opportunity to grow as human beings.”

As parents, we dim our own internal light to brighten that of our children.

Carl Jung said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” 

What I learned this week:

Real life is all I know. Real joy, real feelings, real pain. Sundays I sit at church and gaze at the Stations of the Cross on the walls, and I see our own journeys to Calvary. Falling some days, getting up the next. Being carried and lifted, scorned and loved. Some days we need to carry each other on the path. Mr. Rogers’ mother used to tell him in times of tragedy, Grace will always show up in the helpers. Be the helper. Be there for the mom who hurls her glasses, the kid who misses the fly ball, and your own child who needs your presence, not your commentary. Not today anyway.

“Sadly, many of the things that undermine our joy and happiness we create ourselves. Often it comes from the negative tendencies of the mind, emotional reactivity, or from our inability to appreciate and utilize the resources that exist within us. The suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can. We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people.” –Dalai Lama

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

How to care for those who cared for us…


I am one of four sisters. The youngest and the furthest away from our parents. Growing up people would refer to me as “the baby” and mom would swoop in like an eagle – wings flapping and correct them in her unyielding tone, “Nooooo, she’s the youngest”. At the time, mom was busy raising four independent girls, and the term “baby” was reserved solely for those in diapers, which we were all out of by age two.

As in most families, we each had our textbook roles as siblings: the oldest – reliable and overly cautious (as kids we barely glimpsed at the Grand Canyon as she herded us like a Border Collie away from the edge), the middle sisters – a tad rebellious, with large social circles (probably helped that they had a cool 1957 Ford truck to drive), and me fun-loving and easy-going perhaps a bit lazy. Now that mom and dad are 84 and 87, respectively, (AMAZING! I KNOW!) life has changed a bit and we have adjusted our roles.

That being said, when it came to caring for them as they waltz hand in hand through their later years, I was not the daughter to step up to the helm and guide the ship. There’s something called “Seagull Syndrome” where the sibling who lives furthest away tends to visit, poop on everyone’s ideas about caretaking and fly home. I try not to do that, but rather be the “fun uncle” type daughter who says yes, to everything (“Yes, cookies for breakfast counts…yes, we can binge watch Blue Bloods until midnight”) and then I head home. 

Thankfully with three sisters, and the Catholic faith as our north star, one of my sisters retired from her job and moved back home to care for them. With a Master’s Degree in psychology, 30 years of experience managing engineers, and a heart of gold, she was clearly qualified and has made what is possibly the noblest of all jobs look easy. She’s the Helen Keller of caretaking. She knows where mom hurts and how to heal, she knows when dad needs to go for a drive or use the wood splitter, and she knows exactly when they both need a nap. Although they both say they “don’t nap”.

As a bunch (think Brady’s with attitude), we each contribute what we can. My oldest sister is always on call and will drop anything to be present. Outsourcing as needed, and sending Pedialyte, Boost, or whatever is needed via amazon. My sister closest to me in age will jump in and clean, manage all outside work, call daily, and do more between 10 pm and 2 am than most people do all day. We all have our jobs, whether it’s calling to tell them stories of our day, making sure mom takes her medicine or dad sits down to rest. But my sister, the primary caretaker has developed a skillful management of self and our parents and for that, we are all grateful. 

How does she do it?

Always reading and learning, she finds the perfect balance between caretaking and respecting our parents’ need for independence. In the book, Being Mortal, author Atul Gawande posits that whether a teen or a senior, they both value autonomy and crave the feeling of purpose and worth every day. So, when Dad, who recently stopped driving wants to drive the truck from the front yard to the back, we let him buckle up and go…better to help him remember he still can, even if just a little bit.

Equally, when mom wants to give the next-door dog, Ned leftovers through the fence (even though he’s been fed), she takes care of dear old Ned. I read a story about Bill Thomas, director of a nursing home in NY who brought in pets for the residents to nurture because he says giving people something to care for makes them more active and alert. Thus my parent’s surplus of suet, bird seed, dog bones, and corn.

Being part of the “Silent Generation” our parents are workers. Raised in the Depression Era, everything is recycled, reused, repurposed, and appreciated. Growing up wood piles were (and still are) precious commodities, prom dresses were made by mom (!) and going out to eat at “The Royal Fork” Buffet was a big deal.

Luckily Dad starts each morning by saying “Another good day, right Mom?!” Mom replies in her realistic tone placing her coffee in the microwave again, “Okay, Dad”. They do this, call each other “Mom and Dad” the titles God bestowed on them that they cherish and will use day after day until there are no more days.

During my visit this past week, I wrote down some notes. As they are specific to my parents, I believe the lessons can be applied to taking care of any senior or otherwise. I wrote this list for my sisters, so it may read like a journal, but thought it might help someone out there.

I strongly believe “everyone needs a destination” 

  • Respect what I call “the triangle”: Church, the doctor’s office, and the grocery store. These are their familiar stomping grounds – weave in a few other outings (restaurant, casino, a walk) and it gives the day purpose.

Note: If you have to reschedule a doctor’s appointment, do it. Better to take them when they are prepared and feeling okay than stressed and apprehensive.

Listen to their stories – it connects them to a familiar time

  • My mom’s stories about boarding school and all the nuns who served as her family when she moved away from home at 14 years old are formative years that are the spotlight of her daily memory.
  • When mom talks about giving up the St. John’s College scholarship offer she received, I think about the huge sacrifice she made for her family by working and supporting them when grandpa was sick. 
  • Mom will remind you of the way grandma and grandpa warmed water on the stove for their baths and how they sang songs like “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain” in perfect harmony.
  • Dad will tell you stories in Spanglish as vividly as if you were there.

Speak loudly

  • Especially if you are reading a crossword clue to dad or the jumble letters, or driving and mom is in the back seat, or telling a story, or or or.

Diet and meals – let them eat cake!

  • Mom will eat more and digest better if the food is cut into small pieces.
  • Gatorade powder (more economical per dad) is rejuvenating. Stir thoroughly or he’ll tell you there is “perfectly good wasted sugar at the bottom of the glass” and refill it.
  • Happy Hour is sacred, respect it. Open a beer for dad and poor mom’s Pedialyte. Place cheese, gluten-free crackers, and fruit on a plate and enjoy.
  • The “Big” meal is at 3:00 pm.
  • Dove Bars – we bought eight boxes at the commissary – it’s a highlight of the day…and a fair bribe to get mom to eat.

Outdoor ActivitiesEmerson said that the happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So walk outside a lot.

  • Mom will always have things to show you around the yard, enjoy the tour. Upon my arrival, she said, “Come meet our new family members.” I went out back and was greeted by 24 cranes who began squawking at me as I approached the fence. “If we go to the poor house,” mom said, “it’s because Dad and your sister keep feeding these guys so much corn”. 
  • Watching Dad move wood from the ground to the truck to the splitter and stack it is as exhausting as doing it yourself. 
  • Dad will work harder than any 20-year-old you’ve ever met and wonder why “me duele de todo” (everything hurts).
  • Later, talk Dad through why “todo duele” (everything hurts) and gently remind him he is 87 years old and must pace himself.

Indoor Weather – Dress for summer

  • It will always be warm inside mom and dad’s house. Our brilliant sister has the thermostat programmed to plummet to 72 degrees. (Highly Recommend!) To set the thermostat, press the bottom button on the left once, then walk away nonchalantly. Mom will later turn it up to 81 degrees. Once you are drenched in sweat, repeat the process.
  • The fireplace will be used if the weather is 70 degrees or below.

Indoor Activities

  • Mom thinks her hearing is excellent, but according to a hearing test, it’s not. So, before watching Jeopardy, Mom will ask you to “turn up the volume because Dad can’t hear!” 
  • Mom’s filter has gone from almost there to MIA so when watching Jeopardy be ready for a roasting of Ken Jennings who “acts like he knows everything” …ummm…he did win about a million times. 
  • With Dad’s macular degeneration, he is still able to enjoy and make out the scenery on Alaska shows “Good hard workers!” he says. He also loves “Nat Geo” “The History Channel” and “The Weather Channel”. The more drama the better with the weather.
  • Puzzles for mom…have one set up and another on deck at all times. This is her quiet space.

The Newspaper

  • Holding the newspaper in their hands brings comfort, familiarity, and joy. Even if Dad can’t see enough to read it.
  • Let mom read the paper to dad in the morning while he slurps his way through the coffee and pastries or cookies. Tread lightly, this is their time.
  • When Dad shakes out the newspaper he’ll say “Let’s see who’s left and let’s see who moved out of town.” Then he’ll hand me the obituary section to read aloud “slowly”.  I announce the names as if they were crossing the stage at a commencement ceremony, or rather, St. Peter’s gate.
  • The crossword and Jumble are great mental gymnastic exercises and keep their minds active.

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Don’t do laundry. That’s mom’s gig.
  2. If Dad is struggling with something DO take over and help.
  3. If mom is struggling with something, leave her alone. She “CAN DO IT!”
  4. Don’t move the scissors, pencils, coffee, Kleenex, or blankets. Life is now done by feel and rote memory. 
  5. Do agree more.
  6. Do let dad cheer up mom. Dad equals levity. 
  7. Do help them remember: Dad may not remember what he ate the night before – i.e.: “Oh we ate enchiladas last night? Did I enjoy them?” “Yes dad, you loved them.” “Oh good!”
  8. OR “Did we watch Blue Bloods last night?” Yes, dad, you fell asleep the last five minutes. “Did I enjoy it?” Yes, Dad – you loved it.“Oh good!”
  9. Do answer the phone, mean people prey on the elderly.
  10. Don’t ask them, “do you remember when…” just retell the story.

What I’ve learned:

Being far away is hard. Wondering if this is the phone call is hard hard hard. Saying goodbye to them at the airport when I leave is hard…homesickness in my fifties looks a lot different than it used to and I mentally prep myself for the lifelong homesickness yet to come.

But I love that God and Grace and Mercy exist. I love that when I cry and truly let out my fear of their absence that the tears feel like a Baptism. I love that I have my sisters. I love that we are like a pit crew, repairing what is broken, filling up our parent’s tank with all the love we possibly can because we’re on the clock. I love that we take care of each other.

Thanks for joining me,


On writing…

“You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born.”

Anne Lamott

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Finding home – on the bike trail


Community and relationships are as important as anything else on earth. Last weekend I discovered a priceless, strong, fit, and unrelenting community. 

When our kids began college I quickly slowly learned to listen more, encourage their own decision making and be grateful anytime they told us where they were going.

So when our son said, “I’m going to Jarrod’s Place this weekend.” I gave my default reaction: “How fun!” and began running through my mental Rolodex of our son’s friends and scoured my brain for a “Jarrod”. No luck.`

Well, if it’s not someone’s home, it sounded like a great place for a hoagie and a cold beer, nope Coke, or maybe a place you’d stop on a long drive to grab a cup of coffee and rest.

Turns out it’s better.

Sitting on the side of a mountain in Summerville, Georgia, is  Jarrod’s Place. Not a diner or coffee shop, but a shuttle-serviced bike park, the location of our son’s Enduro Race and home to one of the strongest, trusting, and daring communities around.

The only way I can describe this group is to have you think of the feeling you get on a snowy day when everyone seems to get along and life seems a little easier, or the feeling of home where there’s no need to explain who or why. You can just be you.

First off – “shuttle-serviced bike park” sounds like an oxymoron, so let me explain. There are a few definitions of “Enduro racing”. If you are a parent of an enduro rider, it is basically code for “Insanity”. If you are an enduro racer (any age), it is the thrill of a lifetime. 

According to the Liv-cycling website, Enduro is a form of mountain bike racing, with an influence from European car rally racing and motorbike enduro racing. 

“The concept was simple: get yourself to the top of a mountain and race to the bottom time-trial style. In general, modern enduro races involve anywhere from 3-6 timed stages. The timed portions of the race are mostly downhill but can vary in steepness, length, and difficulty depending on location. Between each stage, there will be untimed “transfer stages” that are mostly uphill. Depending on the race, transfer stages can involve sections of hike-a-bike, a chair lift, and/or good old-fashioned pedaling. Enduro combines elements of all racing disciplines from the physical fitness necessary for cross-country racing, the mental stamina necessary for XC-style stage races and the bike-handling skills to navigate technical gravity-fed singletrack.”

We arrived on Sunday after he had started the race which involved five “runs” up the mountain. The riders take the shuttle for the first run, and for the next four runs, they pedal up the mountain which takes 20-25 minutes. They then double back down in approximately 2 minutes, yes 2 minutes!. 

If it wasn’t enough to see our son fly down the mountain with leaps and bounds, it was just as shocking to see multiple-aged riders zoom back to the bottom, take a swig of water, grab a hotdog or banana, and pedal back up. 

One by one, they came down: each covered in mud and each with their own animated story.

One barreled down the mountain and announced to all of his teammates (at least 10 times) as they descended behind him, “Dude! My gears broke, let’s do it again!” 

Followed by a group of high school kids whose lead rider yelled “I landed a huge whip!” 

Then there’s the nine-year-old boy who slid into the finish down the mountain, declaring he “hauled a–!” “I mean, did you see me? I completely dominated and hauled a–!!” (There’s poetic license in this community – what is said on the mountain stays on the mountain – no matter the age.)

Or the 50-something dad who declared he “cased it!” (back tire clipped the top of the landing).

It was clear every single rider had conquered whatever comfort zone they had and pushed on to the next. They tweaked their technique and seemed to almost thank mother nature for the remote unforgiving terrain. With no phone service at the top of the mountain and watching the riders, each made me feel more humble about my own place in the world. All of them help the other no matter the issue.

Friends fix each other’s bike chains, patch their tires, share bikes, and stick together. As I observed, I thought cycling may perhaps be the answer to all divisions between age groups and cultures. Trails don’t care about differences, pain will come, problem-solving will happen, and they will all find an alliance beneath it all. Because truly, if we don’t have each other and community to cling to, what is there?

I’ve heard riders say when you are nailing a section of trail, the feeling of flow comes and you barely have to think. The ride heals worry and exhaustion from the world.

So is you’re longing for community and true connection, grab your courage and head out to “Jarrod’s Place”. It feels like home.

What I learned: 

The idea that we are all self-reliant is bogus. Social connections are all related to happiness and satisfaction and good health. So when you discover a community you love, dig in, even with people that make you nuts – maybe…just maybe…you can find common ground on a bike trail.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Should we all get playing time in life?


There’s an old saying, “Don’t try to remove the obstacle from the path, the obstacle is the path”. In other words, focus on the journey, no matter the potholes or rerouting of the GPS. The lesson is in the struggle.

There is truth in this advice, however, the other day I got caught in what I call the parenting muck. This is when I mentally trudge through the tribulations of our kids’ experiences. This particular Thursday my youngest was at his second baseball game of the week and once again he leaned over the dugout wall…observing. Translated into over-parenting terms “observing” means “not playing”.

Game Changer Display

I knew he wasn’t playing because before I left work, I glanced at the Game Changer app on my phone – a magical tool that affords you the chance to watch your kid’s game from anywhere. Simply sign in and wait for your child’s last name to move around a field, court, or rink…or NOT. Think “Where’s Waldo” with a uniform. Since I didn’t see his name on the baseball diamond, I assumed he was the guy warming up the outfielders while humming the line “Put me in coach” from John Fogerty’s song, “Centerfield”.

According to the Game Changer website, their mission is to “Help families elevate the next generation through sports.” Although I love the app to keep track of scores and time remaining…I find as it “elevates the next generation…” it also elevates my blood pressure while I watch names blink on and off the screen, none of whom I carried for nine months, potty trained, or helped with homework last night.

Then I stopped myself. I slammed on my emotional brakes and redirected my focus. I thought about all the days our son comes home from practice raving about hitting the ball in the gap or bunting straight down the third-base line. Or the time the players helped their teammate reach his goal of a 7:30 mile by running alongside him, my son’s hand on his back, keeping his pace up, yelling, “You can do it!”. Those are the times that matter. Would I prefer to see him reap a little game time for his hard work? Of course. Is he still learning, growing, and becoming a better version of himself? Yes. I convinced myself. 

My sideline hustle…

After years of watching my kids play various sports, I’ve learned to TRY not to complain or blame. To scoot away from the drama in the stands, leave the umpires alone, keep calm, and trust the coaches.

My “calm” sideline training began early on. I remember watching my son’s 8U soccer games (the age when kids only cared about the Oreos and Capri Sun at the end of the game). As he zigged and zagged on the field, I hollered his name followed with sage (ha) advice like, “Ruuun!” “Go!” or “Shoot!” much like all the other crazy parents.

Inevitably, a loud shushing would come from my daughter, then nine. She would glance up from her Babysitter’s Club book, glasses perched on her nose, and bellow, “Mama!! Remember the coach said not to yell from the sidelines!” So every game I practiced shushing my outside voice, failed frequently, and eventually mastered the calm.

However, as our kids grew up, sports became a more significant monetary and emotional investment…

When we traveled around the zillion counties in Georgia with the kids and their teams, I noticed when their playing time was lacking, and my Mama Bear instinct appeared as a little devil on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “Why is he not playing? I mean, seriously, how can anyone get better at anything without experience?”

From my spot on the bleachers, I see the same people jog onto the field each game. If they strike out – they get another chance. If they make an error – it’s only one – so they stay on the field. If someone is called out to the field after sitting in the dugout and given their shot to play, they have one chance. One ball to field or hit or throw. The error will look worse with the new player and the strikeout more prominent. There is no redemption because someone else is on the bench waiting for his chance. Experience begets success.

Nonetheless, my default is to keep quiet. Sure I text understanding moms and vent now and then, or mumble prayers, complaints, and a few regrets: if only he had played travel ball since age five, if only I was taller – he would grow faster, if only. He puts in hours of extra work outside of practice and always gives 100%, so he’s due. He’ll have his chance. Of course, my main concern is our son’s morale. Kids are resilient, I’ve heard. But that doesn’t make it any easier for them when they continue to lean over the dugout wall, “observing” and longing to play the sport they love.

What I’ve learned:

Sports are a microcosm of life. Even on the hardest days, we have to work hard to get a job, promotion, or starting position. None of us are guaranteed anything, certainly not “playing” time.

Success will eventually come and for the most part, effort, preparation, and resilience are rewarded. Right now our son is building up his buoyancy and optimism. He is navigating his path and embracing the obstacles…meanwhile, I’m keeping my mouth shut.

Wish me luck.

Thanks for joining me,


Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Diving into a new journey

February 15, 2018, I began sharing this blog during the 40 days of Lent. Each year I would set up my computer on Ash Wednesday and write a story about my day. I did this every day, for forty days until Easter Sunday.

For five years.

Then, forty days would pass and…I stopped writing.

Subsequently, I would fill the other 325 days listening to podcasts like Hidden Brain which taught me about unconscious patterns of thinking and relationships or Ask Lisa Damour whose parenting podcast reminds me I am not the only mom that takes forgotten homework to school or says the wrong thing to their teenager daily. And I read and reread books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which remind me to tell my story…

“Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked.”  – Anne Lamott

In fact, I’ve always had a passion for writing. At nine, I filled the lines of my diary with trips to Disney and life-changing walks home from school. In middle and high school, I packed numerous pages with poems. During and after college, I chronicled my travels to placid beaches in Mexico and being witness to newborns in India gently held over the smoke of hot coals to promote circulation. Additionally, 21 years ago, when the pink line on the little white stick silently announced motherhood was on deck in my life, I slid my mouse over the word “File”, clicked “New Document”, and 20 years later I pore over hundreds of records of family life — the wild and the wicked.

When the idea of blogging was planted in my head, I loved the thought, but as I typed my stories, the mere inclination of becoming transparent with the world (or my three followers- thanks to mom, dad, and hubby), fear, and apprehension enveloped me.  I asked myself and continue to ask: Why should I share my thoughts? What if I offend or hurt someone inadvertently? Who would want to hear what I have to say? Frankly, I can be a little snarky.  Uh oh, people will hate me!

Putting yourself “out there” is scary. It’s unsettling. It’s a risk…and somehow, concurrently, it is transforming, cathartic, beautiful, and emancipating.

This leads me to right now and a new goal.

Every Sunday morning I will post my stories right here and include links to interesting people or podcasts which I am hopeful will enlighten and entertain you.

I would love for you to join me on this journey through Lent and beyond.

Please send any comments below and thank all of you for subscribing and sticking with me over the years.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Darkness and Light…Happy Diwali!

In honor of Diwali, the festival of lights which signifies light over darkness, I am reposting “Darkness and Light”. Diwali represents new beginnings…so I thought:

Isn’t every day a new beginning, whether it is called Easter or Diwali or Monday, every day is a new chance to celebrate our lives, walk through the darkness and light, and embrace our families.

Here is “Darkness and Light”…

Yesterday at the Easter Vigil mass, Monsignor walked around the Narthex saying, “darkness, darkness, darkness.” He tends to use these mantras often. Sometimes he’ll see a parishioner and repeat their name loudly, “Peter, Peter, Peter!” And follow up by completely enveloping them with strong, loving hugs.

No lights were on in the church, candles were being passed out and the pews filled up slowly. It was similar to the darkness of the closed-up tomb where Jesus’ body lay on Holy Saturday. The stone propped in front of it. Not a sliver of light entered. A dark void.

There are days we too sit in this utterly dark space. Unsure of what tomorrow will bring or why today was filled with angst. Holy Saturday is a reminder of our reality. The beginning and the end. The alpha and the omega. The darkness and the light.

My mom has always been able to walk in the dark. She knows the path, never stumbles and has faith in her every step. There is strength in the darkness for mom. She is one of the strongest women I know. Speaks her mind and fears very little.

There is that time of evening when the dusk descends uneasy despair in me and I flip every light in the house on, dimmers way up. That middle moment when the darkness steals the light, taking me on journeys back to places and times when fear was at the helm so I push through and focus on the light.

In the book Learning to Walk in the Dark, by author, teacher, and Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, she says, “Darkness is shorthand for anything that scares me–either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out.” In her book, she guides us on a journey to understanding darkness — and reminds us of all the times God shows up at night. Because God does.

Some evenings fear is consuming when the darkness arrives. Then I remember, fear is normal. Fear needs breath. Someone said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

So I embrace courage, say my prayers, and thank God for another day and night.

P.S. Happy 87th birthday Dad! My biggest fan.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Darkness and light

Yesterday at the Easter Vigil mass, Monsignor walked around the Narthex saying, “darkness, darkness, darkness.” He tends to use these mantras often. Sometimes he’ll see a parishioner and repeat their name loudly, “Peter, Peter, Peter!” And follow up by completely enveloping them with strong, loving hugs.

No lights were on in the church, candles were being passed out and the pews filled up slowly. It was similar to the darkness of the closed-up tomb where Jesus’ body lay on Holy Saturday. The stone propped in front of it. Not a sliver of light entered. A dark void.

There are days we too sit in this utterly dark space. Unsure of what tomorrow will bring or why today was filled with angst. Holy Saturday is a reminder of our reality. The beginning and the end. The alpha and the omega. The darkness and the light.

My mom has always been able to walk in the dark. She knows the path, never stumbles, and has faith in her every step. There is strength in the darkness for mom. She is one of the strongest women I know. Speaks her mind and fears very little.

There is that time of evening when the dusk descends uneasy despair in me and I flip every light in the house on, dimmers way up. That middle moment when the darkness steals the light, taking me on journeys back to places and times when fear was at the helm so I push through and focus on the light.

In the book Learning to Walk in the Dark, by author, teacher, and Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, she says, “Darkness is shorthand for anything that scares me–either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out.” In her book, she guides us on a journey to understanding darkness — and reminds us of all the times God shows up at night. Because God does.

Some evenings fear is consuming when the darkness arrives. Then I remember, fear is normal. Fear needs breath. Someone said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

So I embrace courage and say my prayers and thank God for another day and night.

I thank you for joining me on my Lenten journey and hope you will follow me as I tackle my next writing endeavor.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Thank you, Jesus…on Good Friday and every day

40 Reflections: 40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season

No. 39

My student teaching took place in a small elementary school plopped right in the middle of Georgetown. A red brick building with old wooden doors and a ton of character. My mentor teacher, Sister Maureen was a kind, quick-witted nun, with the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). The SSND order is a group of educators whose mission is to transform the world through education in the broadest sense. A stellar teacher, Sister Mauren arrived at school early, donning her signature long, pleated skirts paired with either a freshly pressed blouse, or a teacher-themed sweater, a silver cross on a chain laying on her chest.

Sister Maureen was not a traditional habit-wearing nun – she had the pizzazz of Whoppi in Sister Act and the care and open heart of Maria VanTrap. In fact, I have her to thank for introducing me to my handsome, happy husband, a teacher at the same school. During our time teaching together, Sister Maureen taught me two significant life lessons:

Never do anything for a child that they can do for themselves.

Thank Jesus often.

  1. Never do anything for a child that they can do for themselves: We worked with special needs children at the time, and I remember the exact situation when she said this. Matas, a second-grader at the time was packing up his bag and the struggle to fit it all in caused him to yell and become frustrated. I instinctively jumped in and started packing up for him until I felt Sister Maureen tap me on the shoulder and say, “He can do it. Just wait”. After a few minutes, Matas remembered the strategies we had taught him to pack up. First, put in lunch box, next notebooks, and finally place the jacket on top. The smile of independence that ensued was unforgettable.
  2. Thank Jesus often. Anytime a lost jacket, homework, or a document was found, meetings were canceled, or a student finally understood why or how or what, I would hear Sister Maureen say, “Thank you, Jesus!” A proclamation that fit itself perfectly in the nooks and crannies of every day. I worked with Sister Maureen for several months and came out a believer in thanking Jesus, all day.

Typically, my outward cries of “Thank you, Jesus!” come after close calls like just missing the red light camera as I go through the intersection; or my son clearing his concussion test and yes, I know it could have been worse.

I thank Jesus for the plane landing safely, and for my parents having each other. For helping me unfold the emotions of kids moving on and the fear of what they will face. I thank Jesus for carrying them and bringing them home. For convincing the hydrangeas to bloom an extra week, for helping remove the tumor from my friend successfully, and thank you Jesus for the support you surrounded my two friends who lost their husbands in the last month. Thank you Jesus for the job and the scholarship and the frugal soul you built me with. Thank you for friends and siblings who know when to bring soup, or chocolate or wine…and when to agree with you even if you’re unreasonable and crass. Thank you Jesus for faith, for mercy, and for grace.

Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for us and for your Divine Love.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Why all kids need their thing…

Throwback on Holy Thursday…

I am constantly reminded that kids need their thing. ANYthing. Diving, journaling, football, video gaming. Something that is theirs. Somewhere to build their stories. A destination. Camaraderie. Right now, more than ever, kids need connections — with places, with activity, and with each other.

Here’s my Throwback Thursday Post:

40 Reflections: 40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season

No. 38

Today at work, I walked with a first grader to the classroom. The tousled-hair blonde with sweet, aqua eyes looked down at his untied sneakers and uttered, “I still don’t know how to tie my shoes…I mean, I just don’t have time, you know (dramatic pause) now that I play baseball.” He caught my eye to make sure I fully grasped the play ball part. I gave him an understanding, “I KNOOOW, you’ve got a lot to do!” response and he gave me the kid nod that said, “finally, someone gets it.”

Clearly, he was a busy guy. Way too busy to mess with shoe strings and all that tying. Baseball was his priority now and talking about it made him beam. He wanted to share who he was and by letting me know he was a baseball player, he was pleased with himself and satisfied I heard it from him first.

We all need our thing. Something that drives us. Something that makes us jump out of bed and start the day with a spark. Does it define who we are? Maybe. It certainly tells more of our story.

Ever notice the one question adults ask when they meet your children? 

“What DO you DO?”

When our children were younger, they would say things like, “play outside, build obstacle courses, read The Babysitter Club books.” Or they would say nothing – because being a kid is what they did.

As they got older, sports trickled in and gave them new experiences and opportunities for socializing and developing who they are and what they love.

Growing up for me in the sports world, it was soccer or soccer. As the fourth of four girls, you just follow the pack and my sister who is closest in age to me was a soccer player, therefore, I took my spot on the field as right-wing. My sister and I had two practices a week, ate dinner together, and always went to each other’s games toting sliced oranges and water wearing our reversible orange and white mesh uniforms.

Nowadays, there are so many choices for kids. From soccer to fencing, mountain biking to curling. Practices for us end as late as 9:00 pm. Some nights, dinner is eaten at different times, and homework sits on the back burner simmering patiently. As parents, we feel like we are constantly driving somewhere…but boy do I love it.

Thank God. Thank God they found something they care about and enjoy.

Naturally, over the years our kids have dabbled in a lot to find out what makes them tick. In the process, we’ve had: acoustic guitars, bass guitars, ukeleles, soccer cleats, keyboards, lacrosse goals, baking tools, chorus, piano music, gymnastics, basketball high tops, hockey pucks, baseball gloves, frisbee golf goals, shuttlecocks, tennis rackets, catcher’s gear, football helmets, swim goggles, orienteering shoes, toe shoes, tap shoes, ballet shoes, running shoes, metal cleats, turf cleats, unicycles, mountain bikes, skateboards, Ripsticks, bows, arrows, quivers, fishing rods, dart boards, ping pong balls,  and more I may have forgotten.

I certainly am not complaining. I am so grateful they have WANTED to try so many things and happy we’ve been able to afford them the chance. They’ve settled on (but are not limited to) swimming, baseball, and mountain biking (and now tennis!) plus cello, saxophone, and trumpet…a well-rounded crew.

So let them try. Let them fail. Let them know they have to give it more than a week. Tell them to power through the whole season because there is a team or group depending on them and life is about teamwork and persevering.

I know we’re busy, but as I say, it’s a good busy. It’s a time when we can relish in our children’s success, see them win, lose, fall, get up and be there just in case they need us or a Bandaid.

Trust me, we need this activity and connection with other parents as well. Where else would I find out which t-ball team has the coach who squats down to the four-year-old size of his players and says “boys – everybody have fun tonight, everybody Wang Chung tonight!” – to which parents and kids roar in laughter, or which teacher takes away recess for not finishing first-grade homework, or if Instapot really is all that?  Parent connections are priceless. 

My first-grade friend who is simply too busy to bother with tying shoes figured out what makes him happy as all kids should.