Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Leap Year Baby 1935

Lenten Reflections #4

Mi Madrina

On February 29, 1935, my Godmother was born.

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This is my baby book given to me by my Godparents. The picture of me (above) was placed on the first page by my Godmother.

In Leap Year math terms, she’s had 21 true birthdays. So today is especially busy for her. Let’s just say if an angel got their wings every time her phone rang today, the halo business would be booming. I was among her callers who sang the traditional Happy Birthday and a few lines of Las Mañanitas, her favorite birthday song.

I filled her in on the kids and our treks from swim meets to tennis matches, and then baseball games. In lockstep, she reminded me to enjoy every moment of their childhood, because it goes too fast. “What are their ages?” she asked. When I said, 17, 15 and 14, she jumped in and as if reading from a mom script, said,  “Oh college is coming up, that’s expensive.” She continued, “It’s when they go away that’s hard.” I knew she was referring to the outrageous cost attached to out of state tuition, but

I also knew from our previous conversations that her statement meant more. She’s always been candid and honest about being a mom.

When we chat, her kind, subtle NM accent reminds me of home. I listen to how she recalls life as a mom…and I can hear how quickly life’s pages turn, the moment you’re suddenly not going to baseball games or PTA meetings anymore but airports to pick up your kids who are “just visiting”. I can’t help but think of how she felt the first Sunday morning when she stopped looking for a large section on a church pew, but instead, was able to slip in at the end of a row because she was alone.

She tells me she prays for me every night and every morning. When she says it, I feel my body relax. Somehow simply knowing someone whose faith is at their core is thinking of me, makes me feel cloaked in love. To me, she’s like one of the saints Catholics have for everything. We pray to them when illness, accidents or when a loss occurs and we know they have our backs. That’s my Godmother. I know her prayers for me are deep, no-nonsense and true.

Chances of being born on a leap day are about one in 1,461, according to the BBC. In fact, some astrologers say leap year babies may possess special talents and luck. I agree. When I look at the picture of the day I was baptized, I think about all my Godmother has taught me: to cherish time with my family, knowing they will eventually live under different roofs; keep faith at the forefront; and hope our kids will thrive with credence, compassion, and kindness.

Gracias, Madrina.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Lent’s alarm

Lenten Reflections #3

I was thinking about the backstory of Lent. The “Why”.

Not how it all transpired. Moreso, how it changes us and makes us better. Or not.

So I turned to two of my favorite writers for words of wisdom: Pope Francis and Anne Lamott.

When writing about Ash Wednesday, Lamott said,

So God bless you all today, GOOD. Whether you celebrate Ash Wednesday or not, it is always a day for awakening. Don’t hit the snooze button. Wake up, right now, spritz yourself with a plant mister, look around, gape, give thanks, help the poor…

Pope Francis also connected Lent with an awakening:

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.”

Our long winter’s nap ends as we embrace the change in mind, body, and spirit Lent freely provides. 

Make a change. Make it positive and make it now.

FAITH Challenge: say a quick prayer every time you hear a siren today.

FITNESS Challenge: Go for a walk or run.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Holding each other up

40 Lenten Reflections – #2

I love writing about my parents. However, every time I start, I never finish as there is so much to share. Instead, I sit and stare at 17 blog drafts about mom and dad and keep writing. 

But today when I was working on Venn Diagrams with first graders, thoughts about my parents escalated. As we discussed characteristics that make us unique and similar to each other, the kids wrote things like “Bella likes Barbies and I like the Braves, but we’re BOTH crazy at recess!”

We discussed what makes each of us special and why it’s important to respect each other even if our friends root for the Braves while we cheer on the Yankees. We also talked about what connects all of us…being afraid of the dark, liking pizza and loving PE. Then one slight, wide-eyed girl said, “My mom and dad don’t live together anymore, that makes me different.”

That’s when my heartstrings started tugging. I couldn’t help but think of my own mom and dad. They have been married nearly 60 years and were both born in the 1930s into Hispanic families with simple, humble beginnings. Their similarities indeed outnumbered their differences.

As octogenarians, my folks give more than they take, pray for others before themselves and cherish family. Sure there are differences. Every phone call, dad says he feels “GREAT!” no matter what because he’s “just happy to be here.” Mom will candidly tell you if she’s not feeling well. And I chuckle every time she says “Okay, I’m done,” when she’s exhausted from talking/listening to me on the phone. On the other hand, if she held a plank in Pilates longer than her classmates, she’ll definitely stretch the conversation.

I am constantly awed by my parents.

As in the photo above, they literally and figuratively hold each other up physically, emotionally and spiritually.

You’ll hear more about them throughout these 40 days and more.

Celebrate what makes you special, but remember in the Venn Diagram of life, the big chunk in the middle shows just how similar we really are…

Pray for others…and please be kind.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

40 Day Challenge – what will you do?

40 Days of Raw Refelctions

Day #1

The season of Lent is underway. Forty days dedicated to almsgiving, sacrifice, commitment and since the world is desperate for more of it, kindness.

We arrived at Ash Wednesday mass tonight and parking was sparse. During mass, my daughter returned from the bathroom and told me in her loud church whisper that the sacristy (church lobby) was full of faithful Catholics waiting for the next mass. “It’s like Black Friday out there!” she said.

And why wouldn’t it be? Lent is like a do-over or second chance scenario.

Pope Francis said,

Lent…is a time of grace during which we can change our lives by letting God gaze upon us with love.

The Pope noted that the ashes on our foreheads should influence the thoughts passing through our minds.

He said we should ask ourselves,

“What am I living for?”

If we live for fleeting, worldly realities, then we spend our lives chasing after dust, moving backward from life to ashes. But, he said, if we live to love and make God’s dream a reality, then we allow the fire of love to be kindled in our hearts.

We are all broken and flawed, yet we are also wildly unique and extraordinary. Together, let’s take the next 40 days and find more of who we are and how we can make a difference in our world. 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Reuse and recycle it all!

REDUCE

I grew up in a no-waste home. Bones were given to our dog Dusty, and our “compost” was a bucket filled with the wilted iceberg lettuce and corn cobs which we dumped into the lamb’s pen. Every stray branch was used as kindling for the fire. And newspapers with nearly completed crosswords were laid out and used for serving hot popcorn while we watched Jeopardy or Johnny Carson’s monologue.

RECYCLE

Water is priceless in New Mexico. In the summertime, water drips from the side of my childhood home where the swamp cooler runs. Alongside the brick, my mom has nestled a small McCoy planter in the gravel to catch the water. This oasis serves as a resting spot for what might be the most robust toad in New Mexico. When the planter is filled, mom shares the water with her tomato plants and returns the toad’s tiny home to its spot to refill.

REUSE

I’ve picked up a lot of these no-waste habits from my conscientious parents and yesterday found myself practicing another one of their tricks.

Here’s how it goes:

It may sound crazy, but I try to vacuum daily. We have two dogs. TWO. That’s one away from crazy. And, they are NOT the purebred, never shed, well-behaved type. They are the insanely lovable, loud, shed-like-crazy mutts that are so cute you can hardly stand it. So I vacuum and vacuum and then I do it one more time.

Yesterday I was about to go over the carpet and realize I had completely surpassed the mark on the vacuum bag that says DO NOT FILL OVER THIS LINE. The bag was so full, the vacuum itself felt significantly heavier. I glanced down at the carpet and saw mud from someone’s shoes they “forgot” to take off and spots where the dogs decided to roll so they could spread the dirt in the neglected areas.

Time to clean up the mess…

Unfortunately, I thought I was ahead of the game and gleefully opened the closet and saw every type of bag EXCEPT what I needed. Of course, I did the logical move and tried to force a Hoover bag into a Riccar vacuum. It didn’t work last time, but I had to try again.

In this case, one size did NOT fit all so I thought…what would mom and dad do?

Well, if they had not picked up extra Electrolux bags at Sears or the last yard sale they went to, it would be DIY time.

I reluctantly fished out the used vacuum bag I flippantly tossed in the trash barrel and knew what I HAD to do. With no time to go to the store or use Amazon, I pulled up my sleeves, stood over the trash bin and removed all the yuck (and one missing sock) from the bag. The garage looked like a scene from the Grapes of Wrath.

After emptying the bag (and dusting myself off), I finished my job and marveled at how well the vacuum worked with the “new” bag.

My parents continue to teach me so much about reusing, recycling, saving, and being a smart consumer. From watching This Old House with dad growing up or using YouTube now, I am convinced DIY jobs are worth a try and recycling is ALWAYS the right thing to do.

I know this vacuum hack produces a lot of dust, but I saved a few dollars, found a sock and saved one more bag from going into a landfill.

Do you have any clever recycling/reusing tips? Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

BONUS INFO:

I later researched a clever way to empty and reuse vacuum bags.

Here’s what I found:

To empty a vacuum bag multiple times here is a suggestion from the  Do It Yourself Website.

  1. Get a strip of duct tape and tape it vertically along the back of the bag (the opposite side of where the bag opening is) that covers about 2/3 of the bag’s length. Cut a slit through the tape and through the bag, taking care not to cut all the way through to the other side of the bag. Leave about an inch or so at either end of the tape uncut. Empty out the bag.
  2. Cut another strip of duct tape long enough to cover the slit. Add another inch and fold over the end of the tape onto itself about ½ inch from the end. This will provide for a handy little non-sticking end that will make it easier to pull off. Affix this new strip of tape over the slit.
  3. Replace the bag in the vacuum. Next time you have to empty the bag, merely peel off the top strip (using the end that has that neat little handle) and empty out the contents.

Happy cleaning…

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

From pre-k to the president – why we all need a pacifier

When I was working in a pre-k class last week, I noticed a behavior pattern among the students. As soon as the cleanup bell rang, little Nathan caught my eyes and defiantly dumped all the dinosaurs out of their bin. Knowing it was wrong, he instinctively stuck his thumb in his mouth.

His eyes said he was sorry, and his thumb squelched the potential protest looming. His four-year-old brain was cued to know just when to pacify himself in lieu of screaming.

Hand over hand, we put the dinosaurs away together.

It happened again with a kindergartner. I could see in her gulf-coast blue eyes her struggle to decipher why she is suddenly ONLY spending Saturday and Sunday with her dad and the rest of the week with her mom.

When she approached me for a hug she pulled the end of her “Be a Unicorn” t-shirt out of her mouth to say hi. After the squeeze, she grabbed the comforting seam of her shirt and ran off to play.

Any other day she would have told me something about her and Emma having the EXACT SAME strawberry yogurt at lunch or how she collected the shiniest rocks EVER during recess…but it was a Monday and transition from dad to mom was exhausting on her little heart.

What struck me about these and other kids was their ability to know when to stop. When not to complain, or rant, or argue. I’m not saying they shouldn’t share their worries and wonders, but somehow these two knew it was not the right time.

Their little minds told them to listen instead of talk. Move on instead of stall.

I find in today’s world, we each have our own pacifiers. Maybe it’s not a thumb or shirt we’re using…it’s more likely to be a cell phone or earbuds drowning out the noise.

Unfortunately, when I listen to the news I notice most people forget or neglect their pacifiers and still spew out hurtful, divisive, and hate-filled words. When I drive down the road, bumper stickers scream at me and tell me who NOT to vote for, how they define the word “great” or how I should feel about guns and whales.

Freedom of Speech is priceless, but all of us, whether we’re president or in pre-k, need to know when to pop our thumbs in our mouths and search our hearts for kind, appropriate words to use.

Like my dad says, “even if you think it’s a LITTLE wrong, don’t say it…(and mom would chime in)…and DEFINITELY don’t write it down!”

Bottom line: Use your inside voice, think before you speak and be kind to others.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Daily blogging – keep reaching, keep writing

In my home, there’s a “blogging season” as my husband calls it. For the last few years, I’ve been blogging during the 40 days of Lent. I’d tell a story and include a prayer and workout at the end of each post. It was rewarding. It was hard. It was what Lent should feel like.

At the beginning of 2020, I started blogging every day because life seemed to be moving faster and since I still haven’t located a PAUSE button, I knew I’d better share my story. Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“A man is what he thinks about all day.”

I think about writing and the sunny feeling I get when I help others or touch their lives. (With three kids going to college soon, perhaps I should think a bit more about tuition money).

Let’s just say I’m like a Border Collie with a constant head tilt completely engrossed in 50- shades of everything, and the nuances of nothing. I think of stories constantly. Not in an Emerson “Self-Reliance” kind of way, more in a Seinfeld “show about nothing” kind of way.

I am always thinking about how all of us are linked and how sharing our stories helps us celebrate our milestones or hold each other up in our toughest moments.

Maybe it’s commiserating on how tricky it can be to shuttle three kids to three different practices starting at the same time.

Or maybe it’s about trying to help your children with homework as you pretend to remember what ‘slope-intercept’ or ‘rhetorical writing’ means.

Or maybe it’s listening to your own 80-something parents on speakerphone as they recount their day going from church to the doctor and then the grocery store, all the while wishing you were there to drive them, hover over them and hold their hands for balance and warmth.

Perhaps it’s a middle school story about our kids being too shy, too needy, too weird.

Or maybe like me, it’s when you hear the news about a mom you worked with for years on PTA who died in her sleep and how she was too young and won’t get to see her children graduate.

Blogging reminds me of writing my fears and favorites in my childhood diary. It had a green satin cover and that little tiny key I hid and lost, and used a bobby pin instead. Writing to me is a chronicle, proof, opinion, and vulnerability…the more I do it, the easier it is.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, he claims the way to achieve world-class mastery in any skill is to repeatedly doing something correctly for 10,000 hours. It’s this deliberate practice that leads to expertise.

I’m certainly not an expert — and 10,000 hours of anything sounds just awful. My goal instead is to help, share, connect, and tell the funny, sad and wacky moments I know I’m not the only one out there experiencing.

So I’ll try and write every day and build my muscle memory. I may not press PUBLISH daily, but I trust there will ALWAYS be something amusing or amazing to jot down and share with you.

What’s your daily practice? Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Are parental decisions laced with selfishness?

Our kids didn’t attend pre-school. There. I said it.

We did, however, visit one in Virginia back in 2006.

It was off of Columbia Pike, a big commuter thoroughfare in Falls Church. The fancy, stone building looked more like Hogwarts than a preschool. SUV’s and minivans loaded with all the latest screens and cushy car seats lined the parking lot. Once inside, children’s Picasso-inspired artwork lined the walls and kid-sized water fountains dotted the hallways. Outside each doorway stood joyful, young pre-school teachers greeting students and when we visited the classrooms, they were filled with building blocks, endless art supplies, and dress-up costumes so kids could pretend to be whatever they could imagine.

After the tour, we figured we had to do it. We couldn’t possibly deprive our children of the chance to play and learn with kids in this amazing setting.

Or could we?

Back then, the thought of packing up my three pumpkins in the car, driving in rush hour traffic, unloading all three, leaving one and turning around for pick up in a few hours sounded as fun as running barefoot over a lego laden floor.

Simply exhausting. For me.

But as parents, don’t we sometimes lace our decisions with a little selfishness?

For instance, the other day I bought ‘cheezy’ pretzels “for the kids”…but I secretly love them and could eat the entire bag. Another time I signed all of the kids up for year-round swim tryouts slyly knowing my daughter would be the only one who MIGHT want to join the team. Deep down, I knew there was no way she would have put one toe in the water unless her brothers were suffering alongside her. Now she’s on her way to the High School State Swim Meet. Yet another decision made for the good of the group. (Ha!)

Turned out before we had the chance to try the stone-covered kid sanctuary, we moved to Georgia and much like DC and Virginia, most kids attended preschool.

Not us. We were new in the suburbs and stuck together…at home, the library, book stores, museums and lots of parks. We kept our kids home until kindergarten so they could “bond” i.e: fight, cry, laugh, play, nap, sing, learn, grow, read and just be together. Was it always easy? Heck no. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Plus, I could barely find my way to the grocery store much less a preschool.

In retrospect, best decision ever. For ALL OF US.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings, Uncategorized

Substitute teaching and recess: learning in the field

I’ve worked as a substitute teacher at my children’s former elementary school for years. It’s a good gig. Flexible, most tough moments are healed with a hug or a shiny sticker and there’s recess every day.

Working at the school was especially nice when my children attended. One of my favorite memories was peeking over at my son at lunch when he stealthily said his prayers before he ate. He bowed his head and mastered the speedy 7-year-old sign of the cross touchdown style without the pointing-up-to-heaven and chest bang parts.

Simply said, substitute teaching is like being the crazy-fun aunt who visits every few months, has secret dance moves and always has gum.

Kids like a new face once in a while and most students already know I love recess so it’s a win-win. I actually thought about contacting Meghan Markle and asking if she’d like me to be her substitute Duchess of Sussex. I have the experience, I can pull off a crown and a good cockney accent (I sang an Eliza Doolittle song for Jr. Miss in high school) and being an old soul, I think the Queen and I would really hit it off.

This week I was lucky enough to substitute in a 2nd-grade class. My primary job was to shadow Maddie, an invincible gal who needed a little bit of support, physically.

My favorite moments of the day were during recess…where invaluable lessons are digested into their little souls.

Once in the recess “field”, Maddie dashed directly to her dear friend Keegan whose toothless smile seemed to say I’m glad you’re here. I pegged him as one of those friends you could sit with when you’re 40 and tell him your messy and sweet stories and he would listen with wide eyes.

My gal continually asked Keegan, “Do you remember when we met… SHORT PAUSE…it was in the hallway in first grade…SHORTER PAUSE…do you remember the face you made?” She told him he smiled when they met. She relished the memory.

Keegan gave her a quick side hug and said, “Let’s play portals!”

He orchestrated a game where each section of the field served as a “portal” (safe place) and we had to RUN from one to the next BEFORE the doors closed. I love to move but gee whiz the portals were really far away from each other. Maddie was quick and determined to keep up with her classmates and I jogged alongside like a cicada bug arms outstretched blocking flying soccer balls and tag games.

After we arrived at the fourth portal, Keegan announced there was a monster coming and we had to run! I was trying not to interject my ideas in the game, but craving a little break, I told everyone I packed invisibility cloaks in my back pocket and we could hide. That worked for about one minute. On the next GO! we followed him to the next portal and as he ran off he said, “Don’t worry, Maddie, we’ll keep the door open for you!” 

Breathless, we jumped in the invisible doorway and a new portal player said,

“Okay, huddle up! Here’s a big cauldron (he pointed to a grassy area), and if we put one of ANYTHING inside, the cauldron will give us ONE MORE…(he stuck his hand in)…see, now I have three hands!”

They went around the circle and announced their superpowers which ranged from strength to crystal transformer. Then they took turns reading secret messages written on leaves and wrote notes of wisdom with sticks in their own language.

We heard the jingle from the handbell across the field which signaled it was time to go inside. One boy hugged his friend and said, “I doubled you in the cauldron so I’ll leave you here and take one of you with me.” They all giggled as he ran off with his hand outstretched hugging his invisible friend. Maddie and I decided we should walk to the line and just like that, we were back inside – invisibility cloaks stuffed in my pocket for next time.

It’s true, most days I learn more from substitute teaching than I can ever give. In just that 30 minutes I was reminded:

  • as we age and our souls callous, deep in our hearts lie our 2nd-grade superpowers.

  • someone is always holding that portal door open for us so why not take a risk and jump over the threshold.

  • 30 minutes of play is priceless.

  • be the crazy-fun aunt.