Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

The moment you realize you’re on your daughter’s group text…

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

No. 26

Throwback Thursday – true story – the day I felt like a rockstar!

As I sifted through my email today, unsubscribing from Groupon, Domino’s Pizza, and DSW for the 37th time, I heard a ping on my phone. I glanced down and saw I was added to a group chat.

Let’s see…is it a bunch of moms from the PTA meeting last night? Uh oh, what did I volunteer for? Maybe it’s the 8th-grade dance committee.

Clearly, my choices are limited and telling.

Wait…the top of the text said APUSH…where have I heard that…APUSH…APUSH…APUSH.

Oh! AP United States History. That’s right, teenagers are “SO TIRED” they’ve given all their classes nicknames. APUSH, AP Psych, AP Calc, AP Bio, LIT.


Suddenly, “APUSH me OVER A CLIFF!” with a smiley emoji lit up the screen.

Now that’s funny, I thought. Oh good, it’s a fun group.

Maybe I signed up for updates for Cora’s history class?

After a few minutes, I realized I didn’t recognize anyone on the list UNTIL I saw Cora’s name float across the screen.

Uh Oh. It turns out I was inadvertently added to the APUSH study group text. What happened was this, back in middle school, when Cora was “the only one in the ENTIRE world” without a phone, her friends used my phone number to call her. So she was listed as: “Cora’s Mom” which of course was my phone number.

Cora told me as she was laughing about this with her friends at school, another long-time friend who used to call me “Cora’s Mom” said, “don’t delete that number, she’s a good resource!”

I love being “Cora’s Mom”.

About 30 seconds later I received a message:

You have been removed from the group. 

Well, I guess I was APUSHED out…good thing, that class is WAY too much work. 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

The humility of Mother Teresa

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

No. 25

Some days I overthink, overspeak, over everything.

I judge, talk over, infuse WAY too much passion, and forget to listen.

Then the guilt sinks in…and somehow my mind shifts to my days living in India. The string of animals in the street, the beautiful flowers adorning rickshaws, and the people. The lovely, lovely people. The calm in their souls is something to beseech.

Then there is the relentless, selfless giving of Mother Teresa…eye-opening and always worth mentioning.

In the 20th century, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a missionary nun and one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century. Known for her charity work, she founded the Missionaries of Charity – a religious organization dedicated to helping the poor. In the Catholic Church, she is also known as Saint Teresa after she was canonized by Pope Francis in 2016.

Mother Teresa was passionate, quiet, tiny, and humble. Personally, I have the tiny and passionate parts down and am slowly working on the other two. She spent 50 years working among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta and founded an order, the Missionaries of Charity. Active in 133 countries, its mission is “to give Wholehearted and Free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Mother Teresa is an inspiration to the world and I pray every day for a sliver of her positive passion and humility.

Please pray for Ukraine

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Illusion of Choice

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

No. 24

What is the illusion of choice?

When the kids were little I made the decisions on the biggies: diapers: Pampers or Costco—Lunch: mashed peas or sweet potatoes—Naptime books: Good Night Moon or Bears on Wheels. As they got older they matched their plaid shorts with striped t-shirts for school and none were the wiser. It was THEIR choice. They were at the helm as the drawers squeaked open and closed.

Then I moved to the either-or choices: we can go to either the library or the book store. Playground or zoo? Success! As the kids got older, the onus was theirs. Soccer or mountain biking? AP or Honors? Baseball or lacrosse? Bus or drive? Kidding, driving always wins.

Making decisions is tough. But what about the time when we think we are involved in the decision making process but it turns out to be the illusion of choice?

When defined, according to best-selling author, David James Clarke IV, “The illusion of choice is a psychological mental model that states humans are happy if they believe that have control over their own actions and can exercise free will. If free will is deprived, or seemingly deprived, from an individual, they will become resentful or rebellious, even if the choice forced upon them is identical to the one they would have selected of their own accord.”

My Dad always says, when it comes to the kids, let them decide their plans for college, trade school, etc. “It has to be their decision” he reminds me. There has to be buy-in. In any situation, most people want control. When that control is relinquished, you lose passion, interest, and connection.

At home, work, school, or the ice cream aisle, if free choice is indeed the goal, rules should stay flexible and maintain the integrity of the framework.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Mondays with Mariana – Grandma

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

No. 23

My grandma on my mom’s side was a teacher and a hairdresser and my grandpa was a rancher. On my dad’s side, grandpa was a store owner and grandma taught school as well.

My parents grew up with daily outdoor work, and deliberate, simple living. Love of thy neighbor was doctrine, sharing with their neighbor was expected, and counting their blessings was what one did.

My maternal grandmother’s name was Mariana – Marian. Born April 17, 1911, her parents were married in 1902. Her father, Nazario was a sheep farmer and freighter (he picked up and delivered products for the family store). Her mom, Clara died of the flu in 1918. Then in early December 1922, her father, Nazario rode out to routinely check on the sheep. Ill-prepared for the unexpected storm that arose, he headed home with what appeared to be a cold but quickly turned to pneumonia. Three days later, he died.

Marian and her three siblings were left orphans, ages 15, 12, 9, and 21 months. At eleven years old, she and her four-year-old sister were sent to be boarders at the Loretto Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After finishing 8th grade, she returned to Arizona.

A devout Catholic, grandma became an entrepreneur before it was all the rage. She attended Beauty School and owned a beauty salon in a small Arizona town in the 1940s with a friend from the Morman Church, an unlikely partner at the time. Although discrimination lingered in the town, Grandma looked at everyone as good and worthy. She was 4’8″ and strode through life in size 4 1/2 high heels with optimism and “loads of love” – the same way she signed her letters.

Grandma taught us to sew, quilt, embroider, and most importantly how to give a great manicure. She and mom cut our hair and gave us perms we really thought we wanted at the time. We relished the quality time spent and the strong fumes made for good company.

Mom called grandma, “mother”. They had a very loving and comforting relationship. It seemed easy. She was mom’s go-to…always had a secret ingredient for her tortillas (add a teaspoon or 2 of sugar and powdered milk – it makes the dough an easy conversion to sopaipillas). She always knew where to hem the pants, how to sweeten lemonade (maraschino cherries), and how to make mom smile.

My sweet grandma was a gem. From the tips of her well-kept nails to the curls of her perfectly set hair.

God bless you, Grandma, thanks for the many, many memories, and please keep watching over us.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Pray for the children of Ukraine

According to UNICEF: “The war in Ukraine is having a devastating impact on the country’s 7.5 million children. Humanitarian needs are multiplying by the hour as the fighting continues. Children continue to be killed, wounded and deeply traumatized by the violence all around them. Families are terrified, in shock, and desperate for safety.”

Please keep these families in your prayers all day.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

What if you wake up and…

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

No. 22

What if you wake up and you never wrote your book, jumped off the high dive, answered the phone, said yes, said no, or waltzed? What if you never asked the hard questions or really said how you feel about that thing? What if you never realize we all walk around with back pain and regrets? What if you never took a chance?

Ever feel like you’re constantly making mistakes and wonder…what if?

In 1960 Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks’ p.255, 1960.

Every day these “What if” questions herd my mind into a corral like an overzealous border collie with a flock of sheep, then day flies by and I’ve botched it all again. Or have I? Maybe I did something right. As moms we have to forgive ourselves, trip, fall, grab onto something, stand up on our arthritic ankles and keep going one day at a time.

Here are my “WHAT IF’S”…

  • What if I went all day without saying one negative thing to anyone?
  • What if I didn’t complain to my kids about being on their phones?
  • What if I trusted more and criticized less. A lot less?
  • What if I invested more in what piques my kids’ interest or makes them laugh so crazy hard on their phones?
  • What if I walked by a half-made bed and thought of it as a glass-half-full?
  • What if I didn’t complain once about my own appearance all day?
  • What if I focused on one task at a time and did it well?
  • What if I never asked about homework, grades, or tests?
  • What if I sifted through my 42,644 digital photos and only kept my favorite 200?
  • What if I donated everything we haven’t used in one year?
  • What if I knew a magic word to rid my kids of their worries?
  • What if I planned ahead for dinner, or had just bought the darn Instapot?
  • What if I helped my kids learn to study and discussed The Renessaince rather than use Quizlet?
  • What if I never shamed and reminded them how special they are?
  • What if I told them I know being a teenager can be awful these days, but it will get better?
  • What if I was as proud of myself as I am of them?
  • What if I had to drive for the first time again?
  • What if I listened? Really listened? Looked them in the eye and listened?
  • What if I counted my blessings instead of yelling at them?

Would I be a better Mom?

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Go, Girl. Go!

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

No. 21

Mom preschool. Home. Puzzles. Play dough, Picnics. 

Reading time Go, Dog. Go! one more time...Pleeease...
Naps. Exercise. Stepping on legos and stray cheerios that crumble into 300 pieces.

Room mom. PTA. Plan, organize, meet moms. Any moms. Wait. Are they rowing the boat with you? Swap stories. Throw their stories at the wall and see if they stick. 

Four-year-old ballet classes. Tears. Why am I the only mom inside the studio wagging my legs in the butterfly motion next to pink clad toddler grads? 

She's nervous. No preschool. I crushed her social life and now dance career. 

School years. Cafeteria years. Bus years…who will she sit with? Will she talk about recess? Whisper or yell? Thank the bus driver?

Middle School mystery. Wonder or fear? Orchestra or band? Tennis or swim? Or, Gasp. Nothing. Lunchtime friends?

Press on sweet girl, the bandaid pulls off quickly.

High school. AP classes. Not Econ. School bus for one more year. Summer jobs and save money. She’ll drive old, new, big, small…maybe not a van.

Hang up the tutu, grab the swim goggles. Compete. Compete. Compete.

College looms. What will sustain her? Friendships? Reading? Connections?

What will her version of life be on and offline? Will she recycle mean words, turn them inside out until they are kind and true? Will she sit in the quiet of the fuzzy boundary time in the early morning and listen to her breathing and her heartbeat?

During her late-night studying will she slip into a softer headspace and realize she’s writing her own story and she gets to choose her own ending?

Go, Girl. Go!

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Once the teenage years hit, don’t blink!

Throwback Thursday. This post is from 2020, time just flies by, savor the moments and build your stories.

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

No. 20

It wasn’t long ago when I could still pick up our youngest. He’d nestle his head in the cozy crook of my neck and we’d sway back and forth like a pendulum.

Then one sunny day after picking him up from baseball practice, I looked into the rearview mirror and there it was…adolescence.

Oh, you’ll know it when you see it.

It looks a lot like the top of a teenager’s head. Yes, all I could see in that little rectangular reflection was a blue screen shining up at my son’s face and the curved top of a baseball cap.

Where was my little guy who would yell out the make and model of every car that passed and guessed how long it would take for every light to turn green? Why wasn’t he singing “Wheels on the bus” loudly or recounting his slick baseball moves play by play?

He was changing by the minute. One second we’re holding hands walking home from the bus stop recounting recess triumphs and the next he can’t wait to start weight lifting class and drive to high school with his brother and sister. Ugh.

Honestly, my son is a teenager who is quite independent. But he’s still just a kid. I mean, out of habit (and my keen sense of smell), I still have to remind him showering is not optional. And like a broken record, I futilely encourage flossing and turning clothes right side out. Luckily his love of play supersedes all. He still asks me to be his quarterback, play Yahtzee, and read together…I’ll hold onto those moments as long as possible.

Time ticks by without even asking. So as I file the snuggly moments away in my heart, I remind myself to make every minute count. He may have passed me in height, but I still get my hugs — that’s usually when I whisper…”time to shower”. 

Here’s a great blurb I found from The Center for Resilient Leadership. I love the way it describes adolescence:

Adolescence is a period of transformation, not unlike a chrysalis changing into a butterfly. If you have never seen this process, it can be painstakingly difficult to watch. The butterfly gradually breaks free of his cocoon, pulling and pushing, stretching and contracting for what seems like an eternity before he finally emerges. If a benevolent onlooker decides to help the process along, the butterfly will likely die, because it is only through the struggle of metamorphosis that he gains the strength to survive on his own.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Meaningful Connections

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

No. 19

I love connecting with people, young and old. Conversations spark memories, stories shared signal similarities among us, and spending time with others is just good karma.

Typically when I’m at a field, court, or pool waiting for a game to start or practice to finish, I follow my “workout while I wait” philosophy. I usually just go for a run. Yesterday, however, I arrived at my son’s baseball game about 45 minutes early, found a stadium seat in the sun, and settled in with a cup of coffee and my computer. I’ll write. I thought. That’s a workout for the mind, right?

I greeted a few parents who nestled themselves under blankets with snacks, phones, and their classic cast of characters surrounding them. Some had grandparents, siblings of players, or friends. I instinctively started a conversation in Spanish with a player’s grandmother who is originally from Texas. We exchanged our philosophies on life in Spanglish for a bit. The flow of our conversation was similar to chats I have with my parents. Sing-songy with a lot of joking and English words woven in, yet said with a slight Cheech and Chong accent as to blend in with the Spanish. No explanations on colloquialisms, no apologies for not knowing a word in Spanish, just conversation. 

She talked about leaving her hometown years ago, following her kids to Georgia so they could be together. Then back in 2010, their son got a job in San Antonio, so they assembled dozens of moving boxes and moved with them to help care for their grandson. Feeling like minimalists, they parsed down their belongings to whatever would fit in the rented moving truck.

Three months later they repacked the Uhaul and returned to Georgia because “Sometimes jobs don’t work out.” She paused, “but it was fun and we were together.”

Once the game started we all found our spots, phones ready to record at-bats and base running. I opened my computer once again, took in the setting, and began cobbling words together.

“Looks like you’re taking score today?” I heard from the gentleman sitting one seat away from me.

“Yes, sir” I replied knowing he was joking. “I’ll have all the answers if you need them.” I closed my computer again, a natural instinct when I’m around anyone who strikes up a conversation or is over 70. Something I wish all teenagers would do when speaking to adults. He went on to tell me how tired he and his wife were because they just walked up a long hill to a baseball field, only to realize they were in the wrong park. They sat, exhausted and thrilled to watch their grandson. “Which is yours?” he asked. “Shortstop”. “Ahhh, he’s a sly one! Quick hands, quick feet.” I sat up a little straighter, honored someone noticed our guy.

We went on for the next few hours chatting about how the wind was “whipping and storms were brewing”. He lumbered back from the snack bar balancing two hot dogs wrapped in foil and steaming white cartons filled with mini churros sprinkled with white powder sugar. I pictured him at the snack bar chatting up the teenagers saying something like “You kids sure are working hard! Do you make those hot dogs yourselves?”  

He unloaded his dinner delivery and announced to his wife and anyone listening, “You can’t say I didn’t take you to dinner!” They shared their meal and insisted that I “help” them eat the churros. I had one, knowing it’s just plain rude to say no to something so greasy and delicious.

We continued our visit, scrolling through pictures of his grandchildren and listening to stories about volleyball games they attend and the cakes baked together in their kitchen.

The wind picked up and in his jokey grandfather tone he reached for his vest on the seat in front of him and said, “I should go ask my daughter if she can get me the sleeves for this jacket she bought me!” I laughed, channeling my father and father-in-law and joining in on the conversation…” Maybe she’s saving up for the rest!” we laughed.

The game ended and he pulled a well-folded paper towel to wipe his eyes out of the back pocket of his creased Levis. Again, I connected the sight to all the handkerchiefs I ironed when I was young.

The 1930 and 1940’s babies are so similar. They are conversationalists, conscientious, grateful, and simple. Honestly, I love sitting with grandparents at games, helping them locate the Ovaltine at the store, or complimenting them on their haircuts in the checkout line. It always brings me comfort hoping someone is kind to my parents or in-laws. Maybe a child smiled at them as they waited for an appointment or a teenager held the door for them at church or a neighbor stopped by for coffee and conversation. So I pay it forward and try to make meaningful connections with grandparents. After all, family is family – and my parents love hearing stories about the people I meet and the fact that we take the time to enjoy each other’s company.

On the way out, the grandmother from Texas and I caught back up to each other and her husband told me it was her birthday, so I sang “Las Mañanitas” to her and she sang along, blushing. She let out a deep sigh, “Ai, ai, ai, I haven’t sung that in years. Gracias. Muchas gracias.” It reminded me of when I’d sing it to my Godmother over the phone every year until she passed away.

Reach out to one another and make meaningful connections. Just listening is a true gift.

Now for a cup of Ovaltine. I’m such a senior citizen.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Moving on…

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

No. 18

When we were mentally planning our move from DC, I pictured our moving truck loaded with exersaucers, onsies and boxes of photos heading either north or west toward grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I saw all of us swapping stories around a big, full Norman Rockwellesque table for holidays, cousins living down the street on deck for fishing, playing ball, or exploring, and aunts and uncles ready to solve all the “trains traveling in opposite directions” word problems with our kids. Instead, after a 15-hour-drive we pulled into a driveway even further from family, the 108-degree weather making me want to rewind the whole event.

We were going to be fine, I convinced myself. Because you go where the jobs are. We have three kids. It’s the right thing. It is. Immediately after we moved, my dearest of friends sent me a 1,000 thread-count periwinkle set of sheets and a handmade card that read “Bloom where you’re planted!” written in her jaunty script. But I did not love where I was planted, (there was red clay everywhere!) I wanted to go home and three of the four people I knew were being potty trained. I desperately wished she could drop by with a bottle of wine, her funny stories, and a hug.

As time went by, we adjusted, and each summer we’d pack up the crew and head to one of the grandparent’s homes. We’d alternate years, and try and make 2-3 weeks stretch like a long summer day. Waking up early for coffee and walks, telling stories, and playing games late into the night.

As our kids get older, the time they spend with family lessens each year…and in a blink, their adulthood begins to bloom. College, church, clubs, teams, work, and commitments seep into every moment. In a flash, they know how to work with people, look them in the eye, shake hands, maybe even have a joke in their back pocket if needed. Their schooling, interaction with the real world, and appreciation for others has taught them to have bottomless faith in themselves.

Although Facetime is a gem, I still imagine what it would have been like if the kid’s grandparents could have seen this day-to-day, witnessed them in their element, watched them navigate friendships, given advice, and watched them bloom.

But it’s okay. Our visits to see our families are priceless. Our friends here become family as well and the kids have become fiercely independent.

Stay tuned for more on this topic…