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.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Jesus picks teams

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

No. 37

I can picture Jesus standing in his strappy sandals on a hot, dusty day holding a big red playground kickball, stretching his legs amid the blowing dust, and picking teams. “I’ve got Simon, but – by the way – we’re going to call you Peter – and I pick his brother Andrew, plus James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot.”

Grumbling came from the first eleven picked, as they kicked the dirt around them trying to look nonchalant about Judas joining the team. But — Jesus was known for being a sharp judge of character – so they let it play out.

But why Judas? WHY?

Turns out, the old number 12 was ready to play, but not by the rules. Oh, Judas!

Judas was sneaky. On the day Judas betrayed Jesus, the masses believed his poor choices led him to be a spy. Thus the name “Spy Wednesday”. Spy means “ambush” and Wednesday of Holy Week was the day he chose to betray Christ for 30 pieces of silver.

Here are some Gospel theories on why Judas went down the path he did:

  • Mathew’s Gospel tells us he was motivated by the 30 pieces of silver he was offered
  • Mark and Luck were convinced Satan “entered into Judas” to plan Jesus’ arrest
  • John’s Gospel says his motive was money, money, money.

Perhaps the reason was that Judas, like a lot of us, felt better making God in his own image rather than the other way around.

Knowing the sneakiness behind Judas, I wonder if Jesus would rethink his kickball team.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

just another manic tuesday

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

No. 36

At midnight I realize it’s already tomorrow but my head is still in today. I know the new day arrived because I missed my Wordle window and the old word is like the newspaper The Sun to Virginia O’Hanlon’s dad, yesterday’s news, but still relevant. “Yes Virginia, if you see it in The Sun, it’s so”.

Google tells me my alarm is already set for today at 5:00 a.m. Google tends to know more than most under our roof. The hour it will start and stop raining, schedules – sports, school, my son’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, directions to the tennis match, and the fact that I love cleaning the kitchen to the song MMMBop!

The early morning gym crew was alert. I saw a man reading The Bible in his car after working out. Starting the day with a clear mind and strong heart seems right.

The panic of traffic is rekindled. Always thankful for safe arrivals. Yet, I hear five minutes to spare is never enough to start the workday right.

Tuesday trickles by like a leaky faucet. Is anyone listening in class? Have they learned? Is the day spent blabbering about behavior rather than teaching?

Kids climb into cars as we open and close their doors.

I chat with a colleague. “You are so brave” I tell her…to go out and start a new career. We have but one wild and precious life. One-shot. One chance. Changing course is okay, starting new is valiant, and believing you can is priceless.

Home again. Dinner – thank you crock pot, make tortillas – check. Announcing at the baseball game – check, PTSA meeting (ugh…5 minutes late) – check, dinner together – check, doing a lot – probably too much none at 100%…maybe 70.

Midnight trickles in again. Our son asks how to get rid of acne, and another asks Alexa the Braves score. Dogs are asleep.

I missed Wordle again.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Bring them water

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

No. 35

Yesterday, in Vatican City, the somber Palm Sunday celebration returned to the square, outside of St. Peters’ Basilica. The National Catholic Reporter wrote, “Tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists clutched olive branches and braided palms emblematic of the ceremony that recalls Jesus’ return to Jerusalem.”

Pope Francis called for an Easter truce in the hope that leaders would “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.” His homily asked for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting, no! A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”

“When we resort to violence … we lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” he said.

The suffering of Ukrainians is devastating and beyond belief.

On Palm Sunday I am reminded of just how human we are. Imagine Holy Week, the original, the first take. The excitement when healing happened – all the hailing and joy, then suddenly someone’s faith waned and their hosannas faded away. Hope was lost, nails were hammered.

Would you have come running to help when Jesus cried out: I’m thirsty as he hung on the cross?

Who will bring the Ukrainians water? Who will walk among them with Jesus?

Bring your neighbor water, cling to your faith, and pray for peace.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

some optimism

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

No. 34

I like to think of myself as a glass-half-full gal. As soon as a game is lost, a tear falls, or feelings are hurt, I swoop in with lessons from the field, a tissue, and empathy. Although sometimes my swooping is way too much.

You see, after a 10-run rule baseball game, I might say, “Great swing! That pitcher looked like a 20-year-old senior!” Then there’s the swim DQ, “Nice dive! Wowee! You’ll get them next time!” or a lost tennis match 0-6, 1-6, “Seriously, that game you DID win was fierce!!”.

In return, I’d get – Maaama! Did you even WATCH? “Oh, yes I did, and the team really seemed to gel! You’re going to have some fun memories, for sure!” My words fade in their ears like the light on a fall evening, going, going, gone. Thank goodness I married a realist.

A Journal of Experimental Psychology: General study reports that optimism is particularly prevalent among children, and declines as they grow up into adolescence. As they grow older, children learn more from negative outcomes, lose their hyper-optimism, and become more realistic. “We found that children were much more optimistic than the adolescents. All groups of young people had an optimism bias, as they over-estimated how much they will earn, but the younger children were particularly hyper-optimistic, and thought they would get the most treasures.”

I’ve noticed as my own kids get older, their optimism wanes. Pandemics, rejection letters from colleges, and “best friends” who shifted titles to simply “good friends” are likely contributors to the skepticism that takes over.

I am reminded of the natural optimism kids have when I see one little guy in kindergarten at school. He starts every sentence with “Guess what!” The words that follow typically involve an amazing cartwheel he just did during recess or a really beautiful picture he drew for his grandpa who is sick and will for sure make him feel better. In fact, we were counting in Spanish the other day, and he had to stop at Ocho (eight) because “Guess what!” My brother’s favorite number is ocho and I just love my brother.” Joy and optimism envelop him and fortify everyone around him.

a bit of pessimism

In all honesty, when it comes to my kids’ grades, I still tend to see the 78 before the 98 and the unfinished project in the garage. I then proceed to pepper them with, well what did you miss on the test? Did you study? What is your homework? I mean, high school grades count! All useless questions I just want to grab back, toss into the air, and hope a skeet shooter blasts them.

So I try and focus on Winston Churchill’s famous quote that “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

And I still feel every sporting event my kids participate in is great…maybe not for them, but for an optimist like me…they are fantastic!

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

What do you think about every day?

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

No. 33

I’ve heard we are what we think about every day.

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 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.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

All mic’d up on opening day…here’s Joey Votto

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

No. 32

When players at my son’s baseball games congregate at the pitcher’s mound to chat with the pitcher during a game, I often wonder what they are saying. Are there words of encouragement being exchanged? Maybe tips on the hitter? A rant about the umpire? The weather? Whatever it is, it looks like a solid phoneless conversation between teenagers.

Tonight as we watched the opening day game for the Braves I heard Joey Votto, first basemen for the Cinncinatti Reds talking to the announcers. He wasn’t in the dugout, wasn’t leaning over the fence with other players casually blowing bubbles, he was ON THE FIELD. On first base! No glove covering his mouth to hide the baseball babble. Joey Votto was “mic’d up” as they call it.

According to Forbes Magazine, “When ESPN and Major League Baseball recently aired a series of all-access games in which players were mic’d up with ear-pieces, allowing them to converse with the broadcast team, the games were brought to life with a color palette the game has rarely seen. Player personalities jumped out as plays were broken down with real-time insight not by the analysts in the booth but by the players in the middle of the action. Suddenly, lulls in the game became must-see moments: It was no longer a guess whether the runner was thinking of stretching a single into a double, and a mundane walk became something close to electric.”

Back on first base, Joey Votto was personable and seemingly relaxed, although he did mention how his heart was pumping out of his chest. As the game was played, he explained each situation – and what his reaction would be if the ball soars down the line or flies up or goes foul. He connected with his audience, mentioning being in a “mid-life crisis” and how he was considering getting a gold tooth, “bling in the mouth”. He turned to the runner on first, telling him he was “mic’d up”. The runner was not surprised, as mic-ing up becomes more common.

It was fascinating being inside a player’s head as he narrated play-by-play. Maybe mic-ing up more professionals would serve us well. The cranky butcher at Publix would be fun to listen to as he thinly slices our steak while swearing, or the receptionist at the pediatrician’s office who has set up and changed approximately 56 appointments over the years. Maybe if we talk through our days and share how we’re feeling, the tough times will be a little more bearable and the joyful will be celebrated by all. Vulnerability isn’t that scary…for Joey Votto.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

What is your content diet?

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

No. 31

I grew up with the newspaper on the table every morning and another local paper would hit the steps in the afternoon. We ate fresh tomatoes from our garden, apricots from our trees, and ensured we ate clean, healthy food. In our home, what we consumed, was paramount to who we were. Healthy food and quality news mattered.

One of the most well-read people I know, Polina Pompliano, founder of The Profile takes a deep dive into content diets and how we can improve what we consume. She believes, “What you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become…While most of us are willing to invest in our health, we often neglect our ‘content diet,’ which refers to the type of information we choose to feed our brains on a daily basis.”

The key is to first take a good look at what content we consume. TikTok? Youtube? Podcasts? The Atlantic? National Geographic? The options are endless.

We are all at the mercy of whatever lands in our inbox each morning. Will it deplete our energy and precious time?

If so, it is time for a content cleanse! Rid yourself of the mindless scrolling and focus on what will increase your knowledge and help you contribute to and elevate conversations. Be intentional about how you fill your mind.

NPR’s Clay Johnson said, “The question is, can we make enough people go: ‘Hey, you know what? I’m done. I’m done with the sensationalism of media. I’m done being taken advantage of by media companies so that I can have ads sold to me.’ … If we want to make media better, then we’ve got to start consuming better media.”

Only we can control our content intake and decide how much we will consume. We have the power to fill our bodies with essential nutrients and our minds with nourishing content. Let’s spend our time wisely.