My parents have kind-hearted friends. When they need anything, every call is answered, meals are made, hair is cut, flowers delivered. This loving response is testimony to the fact that our parents have served and loved and given water to those in need.
May we all think like Jesus and focus each day on serving one another.
From the Runonmom.com Lenten archives, here’s one of my personal Friday Favorites…thanks for reading.
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 that first, 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. And kids? Kids really need their “thing”. Kids need to get out and experience. Whether in an organized sport or class or just playing with friends on the playground. They need 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, so was I. We had two practices a week, ate dinner together and always went to each other’s games toting sliced oranges and water wearing our reversible 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, dinners are eaten at different times, homework sits on the back burner simmering patiently and Justin and I feel like we are constantly driving somewhere.
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 where we can relish in our children’s successes, see them win, lose, fall, get up and be there just in case they need us or a Bandaid.
My first-grade friend who is simply too busy to bother with tying shoes figured out what makes him happy as all kids should.
Spiritual Workout: Go to confession –
Confession flashback! Remember when we would state all of our sins and at the end, were taught to say, “I am sorry for all my sins and those I MAY have forgotten? Was that a confession loophole?
Workout: play with your kids today, they will LOVE it.
There are times in life when we can succumb to stress or strive for serenity. Our reaction sets the sail for calm waters or a squall.
For me, stress rears its head during the tireless mask-wearing moments all the way to the day my best friend told me her husband has prostate cancer. It is in these snippets of time when I scour my soul for strength and wisdom to know what I should do or say, but paramount — what I should pray.
And it is always the Serenity Prayer. I reminds me I cannot and am not at the helm of life. That’s not the plan. Control is not always the answer. We have to leave a little milk in the container for the next guy and let go of our side of the tug-of-war rope.
Author, Anne Lamott said,
“Why couldn’t Jesus command us to obsess over everything, to try to control and manipulate people, to try not to breathe at all, or to pay attention, stomp away to brood when people annoy us, and then eat a big bag of Hershey’s Kisses in bed?”
At some point, we just need serenity, courage and wisdom.
Here’s some cool history on the Serenity Prayer:
Back in 1943, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this Serenity Prayer.
In 2003, Niebuhr’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton wrote a book titled “The Serenity Prayer”.
In 2008 Fred Shapiro an associate library director and lecturer in legal research at Yale Law School “made the front page of The New York Times by asserting that the greatest American theologian of the 20th century probably did not originate the most famous and beloved prayer of the 20th century.”
Personally, my mind is constantly wrapped around family and writing. Lately, I’ve been focused on my parents.
I love sharing stories about how mom and dad hold each other up emotionally, physically and spiritually. I think of them when I close the door on selfishness and gluttony and throw the welcome mat out for perspective and gratitude; faith and blessings. I love celebrating the dusty street I came from in Albuquerque’s South Valley, having green chili nestled in between the salt and pepper at the table with dinner every night, and stacking wood on the woodpile until it looked like a perfect MC Escher painting.
I love opening a letter with a butter knife — it reminds me of when mom and dad would get the mail and use the letter opener to whoosh through the top of the envelope. I love that they taught me delayed gratification by having my sisters and I open one present at a time on Christmas Day and write down who gave us what so thank you notes would go out promptly. I like thinking about them when I pour my coffee in the morning, knowing they are at the table, unfolding the the Albuquerque Journal after Mom has placed the rubber band holding it together in a small Ziploc bag, because everything that can be recycled or reused is. There is no waste.
Some days I feel I’ve made some decent parenting choices, others I feel I’m misfiring endlessly…because parenting is hard. It is packed with daily moments of failure, joy, wonder and exhaustion. But it’s what I think about every day, and I am so grateful I can.
Write your own prayer…what are you grateful for?
Today focus on drinking plenty of water. Hungry? Have a glass of water. Tired? Rehydrate with a glass of water. Hot? Water time!
I did two things this morning after my alarm went off 12 times and my husband reminded me 17 times that I wanted to get up and ride the spin bike before work.
I rode the spin bike – because every day is better if you start with a workout.
I listened to daily mass – because prayer and meditation play second fiddle WAY too often in my life.
I suppose I was multi-tasking. Lately, this act of doing multiple jobs at the same time is less respected and thought to be counterproductive as the brain is not designed to focus on several activities simultaneously. In fact, MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller says multitasking causes inefficiency and lack of productivity.
But this morning, I needed both. The physical boost to help me through the day and the spiritual levity to focus on teaching and serving others.
So as I rode, I was transported (on my phone) to a small historic chapel in Toronto called the Loretto Abbey Chapel. In response to today’s world, the lovely Father John Bertao, suggested focusing on the Lord’s Prayer and how it can guide us. “Give us this day our daily bread” is a plea to give not only to our own families but to share what we have with others.
He referred to Professor Tom Wright’s book,God and the Pandemic, and the need for all of us to lament. Wright charges us all to turn inward during this most challenging time, and ask ourselves: who is most at risk, what needs to be done, and who shall we send? As we long for peace and prayer, we are called to serve others and lament for the world. Wright says as we lament for the world, and “When we have done all we can — reflect on our helplessness and remember God is still in charge.”
Even though I multi-tasked and didn’t necessarily get my heart rate high enough or kneel during the mass, I started the day right and felt both spiritually and physically nourished.
On faith and fitness…walk and pray. Get outside distance yourself, take off your mask, and just breath.
I married a prompt guy. He’s the kind of person who arrives to doctor’s appointments, work, and our kids’ games and practices early. Way early.
There are two qualities he possess that are the key contributors to his affinity for timeliness and abhorrence to tardiness.
He was reared with a deep respect of time, especially other people’s time.
He is a baseball player.
Respect – Respect of time is a clear reflection of your respect of others. My husband is a loving guy who is always thinking of others and never wants to impose on anyone, especially by being late.
Baseball – In baseball, timing is paramount to everything – swinging, pitching, catching, diving, stealing, and especially–when arriving to a game or practice.
Over the years our kids have always played sports and with each sport, every coach had their planned arrival times. For lacrosse and soccer, 6:00 pm practice meant it started at 6:00 pm. For tennis and swim 15 minutes early for practice was requested. Then came baseball. 15 minutes early was expected, but really 15 minutes before the expected 15 minutes was even better. All this promptness and prep made for a tumultuous timeline, and a lot of math.
Here’s an example:
Our son’s baseball team is in charge of covering the field with a tarp in anticipation of rain. So a few times a week, the players have “tarp duty”.
Coach tells the players tarp duty starts at 7:00 pm. Our son insists we leave at 6:30 for a five-minute ride to school. “They’ll be finished by 6:50, so we have to leave early” he says. He was right! Luckily we did arrive 25 minutes early because tarp duty was over and we were LEAVING THE SCHOOL at 7:01 pm. Why would they ask to meet at 7:00 pm when we were rolling out one minute later? Because arriving early is the key to a successful start.
According to Dr. Robert Bell, a mental toughness coach,
A simple way to instill trust, discipline, and excitement is to address the difference between arriving and starting practice.
ARRIVING to practice or a game, takes on three levels. Coaches are able to connect with players with players on an emotional level by checking in; the players are able to prepare physically with warming up and stretching; and players prepare themselves mentally by conversing with teammates.
STARTING on the other hand, says Dr. Bell is when the team should be “focused and dialed in”.
Once the start of practices becomes commonplace and energetic, the start of games, matches, and meets will also become more consistent. And who doesn’t want that? If the arrival has been taken care of, chances favor that the starting practice will be effective as well.
Bottom line. Arrive early (or marry someone who is a good influence). You’ll be glad you did.
Bishop Robert Barron founded the Catholic ministerial organization Word on Fire, and is widely known as the Bishop of social media. During the first portion of the pandemic, Bishop Barron said daily mass on his website and now delivers relatable and thought provoking sermons every Sunday. He has a calm, measured, and concise delivery of messages we should all heed.
This week he focused on the opportunities we all have during Lent. Chief among them are prayer, fasting and alms giving. As with all behavior changes, there must be something driving the alteration. According to BJ Fogg’s book, Tiny Habits, There’s got to be motivation to do the behavior. Second is the ability to do the behavior. And the third is a prompt. The prompt is anything that reminds you or says, “Do this behavior now.” And when those three things come together at the same moment, a behavior happens.
Bishop Barron tells us to “pick up our game” when it comes to prayer. Dig through the drawer with all the prayer cards and pencils and find that Rossary. Kneel, sit, stand, whatever you prefer, just TAKE THE TIME to pray.
Fast. Find what is dominating your life and limit it. As kids we gave up Coke, not sure why because we rarely had it, but we did it. Should you fast from Tik Tok? Sugar? Salt? You know what it is. TAKE THE TIME to curb your habits.
Give alms. Bishop Barron suggests helping anyone in need, and show our love by sharing what we have. Make the sacrifice. TAKE THE TIME to give freely.
This Lent, take the time to Pray, fast and give alms and listen to the full sermon here: Word on Fire
“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”
-John of Damascus
Pray the Rosary, say a few Our Fathers, or meditate for 5 full minutes.
As I thought about the great divide between being a stay at home parent to working full time, all I could see was a chasm with “DO NOT ENTER” and “WRONG WAY” signs obstructing the path. Even though there’s a good chance I posted those signs, this jump seemed impossible to land.
I started asking myself and others how one knows when it’s the perfect time as a stay at home mom to catapult back into the full-time working world? It’s tricky.
Sure, we sacrificed financially over the years, but honestly, who would have documented our children’s lives with 44,317 photos and 3,224 videos mainly with my finger blocking the lens? When would I dive head first into the pool of the “outside world” walk away from the PTA Board, Sock Hop committee and click “LEAVE MEETING” on the HOA Zoom?
I thought…maybe it’s kind of like when you take your elderly, ailing dog to the vet and they give you the “you’ll know when it’s the right time” line with the side head tilt. So you leave with IV bags and needles to ensure your best friend will have enough fluids. Because she’s been right there from your first real job in a cubicle to working 12-hour days in a bar and kindly catching the falls of your toddling kids as they learned to walk.
You just don’t know and you won’t know. Until it happens.
But here’s what we do know:
Whether your a full-time stay- at-home mom, work part-time, work full-time, work at home, or commute an hour both ways, it’s all hard. Throw a pandemic in the mix and the arduous moments multiply.
When you’re home, there is always something to do…Rewashing the laundry that spun endlessly with an escaped Sharpie or finding one more dinner recipe for your Costco rotisserie chicken. There is always someone to help…like trying to solve for x in a liner equation or simply figuring out what a linear equation is – or showing your son the printer will only work if you press the “OK” button 7 times. And bar none, there is always the chance to listen to our kids. Stories about how they built the bike ramp, stole the base or how a sly student hacked your daughter’s class on Zoom successfully kicking off the teacher.
Over the years, there have always been critics of stay-at-home parents. In fact, I’m sure most of the outside world peeking in thought all I really did was go to the gym and maybe one other thing. Years back, I remember walking my son to his kindergarten class one morning (I’m that mom) and the principal passed by saying, “Oh how nice, to have the rest of the day to yourself…that will be me in eight years.”
Yup, I was living the “Life of Reilly” as my mom says. The simple squeeze-in-a-bonbon-between-spa-treatments-life. That was me.
The principal (not so much of a “pal”) comment weighed on me.
I’m not sure why we do that to each other. Why we bring each other down when all we need is to build that village and grab the other end of the sheet and fold it together.
When I started working part-time, I could not figure out how working parents did it. How were dishwashers emptied or bills paid? How were homes refinanced and WHO sat on the phone with Xfinity for four hours trying to cancel their service after a 12-month contract just ended and the bill doubled?
Then I did it. I started working full-time. Now.
During this horrific Global Pandemic.
Luckily my kids are older, responsible and willing to take care of each other or at least keep each other alive while my husband and I work. Clearly, they are still mercurial teenagers wading through their world of virtual school, showing up to sports practice every day, and preparing their mostly-snack lunches…maybe even eating a piece of fruit.
When I started teaching full-time again, my loving, supportive family has been a blessing and has made my transition so much easier than I ever dreamed. This was my right time to switch from home to work, and although I stumbled at least 17 times on the landing over the chasm, I made it.
Just recently, my kind-hearted, astute principal who has paved such a welcoming path for me told me, “I am so glad you joined us this year. It was just what we needed when we needed it.”
Now she puts the “pal” in principal.
“Love actually is a great act of the will. It’s when I say, “I desire your good, not for my sake but for yours”. To love is to break out of the black hole of the ego and say, “My life is about you”.” ― Bishop Robert Barron
Walk or run for 20 minutes, do 20 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 20-second plank hold. Sit quietly for 20 seconds.
Growing up, our Saturdays were reserved for hair washing and curling, ironing, and (a personal favorite) changing earrings in my newly pierced ears. No, it wasn’t the 1950’s. It was the 1970’s in our very traditional, Catholic home.
All of this prep was executed by my very measured Mom and was orchestrated to ensure a seamless and calm drive to the 9:00 a.m. Sunday mass the next day. For Mom, it made complete sense to have everything ready so we could arrive to mass early, shuffle into our left side of the altar pew spots (bride side, naturally), kneel and say a prayer before Father Gallie appeared like Oz from behind the large altar.
To Mom, “late” was not acceptable. Especially to church. Dad, on the other hand, with five minutes to spare before “go time” would pull his boots on, stomp around abruptly as if he was ready, and covertly slip into the bathroom minutes before our departure, Albuquerque Journal in tow. My sisters and I would crowd in our bathroom wincing as we pulled stubborn wire curlers out of our otherwise straight hair, and placing bobby pins in recycled Sucrets boxes.
With five minutes to go, Mom would flip her wrist to check her thin banded, tiny faced watch (which she always remembered to wind), and said once and only once, “Let’s go”. With the donation envelope packed securely in her roomy purse, her clicking heels headed out the door.
Then the frenzy began.
Dad would start the car, someone would lose and find their glasses and we’d load up. My spot was the middle front seat with the lap belt. The girls sat in the back and WAY back and more often than not, one of my sisters, would dash out the door, shoes in one hand eyelash curler in the other howling, “I’m coming!”
Finally, we’d make it to church, but never as early as Mom wanted…because on time is late, right? Or is arriving on time simply on time?
Whatever it is, I do know as grown adults, we are better at making it to mass on time… especially if we are watching from our living room.
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
Go for a walk outside today. Put your phone in your pocket, walk briskly, and count the different sounds you hear…maybe that sound will be your own breath.
Although the year 2020 was riddled with ragged edges, I try to focus on the moments of joy…the extra walks for the dogs, family dinners at the table, organized closets (if only for a week), endless games of double solitaire, and weekly meals prepared by our teenagers.
It’s hard to believe that prior to Lent last year, our “old normal” was still at the helm. In fact, here’s how my 2020 Ash Wednesday post began:
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.
Today, it’s nearly impossible to remember squeezing into a pew or sharing a kneeler with a total stranger. Today, we did not attend church, nor did we receive our ashes, other than the fireplace ashes my son crossed on his head while we all said “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”. Our daughter – ever the rule follower – proclaimed, “It’s not a Holy Day of Obligation, so we’re fine.” – ah, the on ramp to heaven remains open.
So ready or not, another Lenten season is upon us. As always, I turn to Pope Francis to guide me towards moments of solace. He has said in order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be
Let’s allow kindness to break the barriers indifference presents.
So whether you wear a mask, or not – listen to NPR or Fox News – or believe in God or Ganesh, let these 40 days be yours to grow in faith and love for yourselves and one another. Please join me as I reflect on the next 40 days of Lent. I’ll share stories, prayers and words of encouragement to keep your mind and body sound.
Now is the time to accept life as it presents itself and do good anyway.