Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Magic ears

Today I thought I’d share one of my “Tiny Stories” about one of the four-year-olds I teach. It was one of those days when the student — becomes the teacher. 

As I dismissed my students from Spanish class, I had each child say “Gracias, Señora” before they lined up – an “exit ticket” type dismissal for four-year-olds. Florence, who had mentally and physically checked out of the lesson sometime during our song about an owl that shush’s everyone so they can sleep at night, had had enough of the nocturnal bird and buried her head in her lap, peeking over her tiny hand. 

Thinking perhaps she missed the “exit” words during her siesta, I gently reminded her, “You just need to say, “Gracias, Señora” and then go line up. And just like that, she flopped to the floor like a limp inflatable balloon guy at a car dealership. She peered up with a seemingly forced face of exhaustion, and said, “I am WAY too tired to do that…AND! (she paused dramatically as we locked eyes), “My ears are magic and I turned them off… so I don’t know what you said.” 

As a big David Blain and card trick fan, I loved magic – so I dug deeper.

“Magic ears?” I queried. “Yes, magic ears.” She repeated glancing up at my run-of-the-mill ears with a touch of disgust. “They don’t work at school” she added. Always thinking I could crack the kid code and figure out what makes them tick, I tried it all, “What would your mom want you to do? Should we call and ask?” to which she replied, “Yes, let’s call her. I’d like to go home and play with my little sister” Strike One. 

Then I jumped into my four-year-old self and told her my ears were magic too and they can only hear the word, “Gracias”. As she stoically sat criss-cross-applesauce looking at me she started mouthing the words, “I don’t know what to say” and then slowly and barely audible as if testing out my own magic ears, she whispered, “Gracias”. We quickly stood up and walked back to class. 

On our walk down the hall, I said, “Florence, as you left the room, your remote control for your magic ears fell out of your pocket, but I’ll look for it for you.” She glanced up and said matter of factly, “No, my fairy holds the remote for my magic ears and she has it!” 

And just like that Florence made me a believer in magic ears. It just goes to show, no matter the age, we are all going to choose to listen…or not. 

What I learned:

We all do it. During a conversation, we half listen, thinking more about what sage wisdom we can inject into the discussion, or we glance down at our phones because clearly the weather app or tik tok can’t be left alone for a minute.

I heard a story the other day about a wife who for the first time in several years of marriage listened, really listened to her husband tell the story of when they met. She said she typically interrupted him with her rendition of their first meet-up, but when she heard his version of the story, it helped her realize special moments she missed or had forgotten. Moreover, from that moment on, she made a vow to herself to listen to others. Truly listen.

So maybe Florence wasn’t into listening on that rainy Wednesday, but she was into creating and imagining and messing with her teacher and for that, I say…thanks for “not listening” Florence, you taught me a lot.

Thanks for joining me!


Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Rethinking D.E.A.R. Time

My son’s first summer baseball game was last week. In a big boisterous voice edged with kindness, the umpire yelled at the start of the game “Good Afternoon boys. Enjoy your summer on the baseball field!” Perfect message. It was a warm, windy, beautiful day. In fact, I may or may not have dozed off for a minute as I pictured the lazy days of summer approaching. But just how lazy should summer be?

This brings me to my campaign to bring back D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read) time —- with a twist!


In the 70’s I loved SSR Sustained Silent Reading time when I was in grade school. It was a chance for me to take a break from classwork, and escape into the world where young Encyclopedia Brown unraveled complex mysteries in his garage… you know one of those stories where kids are more observant and adept at problem-solving than the adults surrounding them? 

But honestly, in today’s world, it’s hard to picture any of us doing anything sustained or silent without a device in our hands. Maybe you can relate.

On sustained…Currently, classrooms use the term “D.E.A.R Time”. A specific portion of time during the school day when kids sit quietly and read. Most programs include the teacher also participating in the scenario…a nod to modeling good behavior.

On silence…I remember when the kids were younger, if I heard absolute silence, I knew something was awry. Walls were covered in Sharpie; young, wispy hair was being cut; or sugar was discovered. Now the silence in our home means a screen is being coddled and cared for as much as dolls used to be nurtured and matchbox cars coveted and lined up for races. Yes, devices are the new play dough, so colorful and interactive needing only simple swipes and pokes.

Summer Time Device Diversion…

Years ago I would have had lists of chores posted on the fridge by the last day of school. I would then deliver my annual speech to a very inattentive audience expressing how important it was to contribute to the upkeep of our home during the summer months, to read, read, read, and play, play, play. Outside! Mind you, none of the chores were earth-shattering. No chickens to feed or gardens to tend. The jobs were entry-level: clean bathrooms, change sheets, walk dogs, and make dinner once a week. I wanted them to be busy, to appreciate the work that goes into making a house a home, to learn to prepare a meal, and maybe do a load of laundry. I even designed reward coupons for completing their jobs, and created “Chore Bingo” with prizes, and advertised screen time incentives like “5 minutes of extra IPad time”. One year I even purchased the “Summer Workbooks” sold at Barnes and Noble only to sell them the next year at a yard sale with a sign shamelessly reading “Never Used!”

We decided 8th grade was the time for phone disbursement in our home — I know very Ma and Pa Ingalls – trust me the kids appealed our decision and it was overruled. Before single-ownership phones existed in our home, our kids were somewhat driven to finish their chores. Yet as their ages waxed, their motivation waned. It was time for them to work.

This summer I am grateful our kids have jobs, however, I am constantly worried about the social media intake they will turn to during their downtime. And they are not alone. As soon as there is a lull — a moment to sit on a comfy chair or lean on a fence while watching a ball game or even stand in line at Kroger, we pull out our phones and begin the scroll. I’m guilty.

Even as passengers in cars. Personally, I was raised to be an annoying yet helpful backseat driver and foolishly, I thought I raised a few myself- but when I drive, I’m on my own, with no extra people to yell “It’s clear to the left, Look at those cows! Police car ahead!”

That brings me back to the new and improved D.E.A.R time:

In an effort to curtail the use of devices in our home, we (when I say we, it means anyone who brought our kids into the world) decided to have a new DEAR time. As you’ll notice, we have cleverly replaced the E for “everything” with “electronics”. Here are some of our new ideas for DROP ELECTRONICS AND…

  1. Drop Electronics and Read: go old school sit and read – sustained and silent.
  2. Drop Electronics and Reboot: find an exercise for the family you can all do together. Make it under 5-10 minutes to keep everyone interested.
  3. Drop Electronics and Run: whether it’s 10 minutes or more, just run. Exercise will make your day happier and if you pass something on your run you may have a good story to share.
  4. Drop Electronics and Rest: take a power nap-ample sleep is as crucial to good health as exercise and good nutrition.
  5. Drop Electronics and Recycle: clear out your closet and other extra “stuff” you have that can be donated to those in need – it’s cathartic.
  6. Drop Electronics and Reorganize: “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”― Benjamin Franklin
  7. Drop Electronics and Reacquaint: Get together with friends – go out for coffee or a walk. We all need connections – take the time to call someone and make plans.
  8. Drop Electronics and Resist the temptation to turn to your device for constant output.

What I learned:

I can preach about screen time all I want to my kids, but they are older – adults really. Heck, they didn’t watch TV until they were nine – I remember Cora coming home from kindergarten one day talking about a “Little Mermaid” they saw in a movie on the TV hanging from the ceiling in their classroom. Another time she came home crying about a pig commercial shown during the Superbowl. “Everyone was talking about it at school! Everyone knew about the pig but me!” Holy therapy! Sign us up. I tell these stories to the students I teach today and they are amazed and utterly appalled.

But as parents, we make decisions and regret about 75% of them but forge ahead weather be damned. I continue to preach to my children, a lot. The majority of what I impart soars off into the atmosphere much like a balloon that a child has let slip out of his hand floating off into the great beyond. Nonetheless, I proclaim my word, not Thy word, but whatever the topic of the day is, from kindness to nutrition to using devices. Mostly, I pray they are happy whether they are scrolling, socializing, or just surviving in this world of ours.

Thanks for joining me,

Lucretia Cahill

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

May – emotional and extraordinary

The process of accepting and acknowledging the end of a chapter, life, or even a moment helps build the resilience necessary to navigate our lives and all those entangled feelings. But man, it’s hard.

I had big plans for this post back on April 28th when I began writing…it was going to be all about the month of May — and how every year it bulldozes in, knocking April flat on its face, seemingly declaring itself the boss of all the other months.

And then I blinked. May began. Playoff games, PTSA meetings, traveling to colleges to help pack up our kids for the summer — all good things (thank God), but nonstop. So I wrote a bit here and there yet to click “Publish”. Nevertheless, I am going to press on and let all of you know —you are not alone. Once May hits, things become real. Only twelve days in and I’m emotionally exhausted, and as I glance around the room – faces are tired, bodies a bit slumped, thoughts and feelings swarming like mosquitos in the summer. Stupid May.

The days…

The days of this extraordinary fifth month are packed — mind you, not the regular busy— groceries to buy, laundry to fold, and lawns to mow—but milestone moments —graduations, last days of school, finals, new jobs —greetings and goodbyes —multiple transitions steeped with growth and oozing with emotions – all of them. Some days it feels like all of it is just too much, and guess what? It is. It’s a lot. But that’s life’s prescription – a nasty rainstorm then a double rainbow, rush hour then empty roads, yin and yang…we can only control so much. Or rather so little. But all moments, even the hardest ones that make you want to scream —matter in a true and remarkable way.

Here’s one of my May moments…

The other day I cleaned the kid’s bathroom – the room I purposely avoid. A better mom would say “Yup, my son scours the bathroom from top to bottom!” But I’m not, and he doesn’t. Once, after asking about 34 times he made an effort, but somehow, forgot to look in the mirror (shocking at 17)! So, he did not see that Clorox wipes smudge the mirror making the reflection appear like a fuzzy photo. Anyway, I cleaned it, grumbling along the way about two – two! toothpaste tubes being open, both squeezed from the middle, tips crusty with what looked like spackling for drywall, and lids nowhere to be seen. The towels and washcloths were bleached with the acne soap no one tells you has peroxide in it, and seven bottles of various body and hair products lined the tub, each nearly empty, toppling over. I’ll spare you the toilet trauma. 

As I cleaned and complained my mind wandered in a “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” kind of way from: What’s for dinner -to what time is the game to- uh oh I have a PTSA meeting. It settled there. PTA. My mom calvary — a group of moms who lean on each other and are crazy enough to volunteer for the PTA. I immediately thought about one amazing friend – I’ll call her Mary here. Mary was one of those business-minded, tenacious moms who not only toted around important law documents for work in her bag, but everything any kid needed from Band-aids to Benadryl as well. The kind of mom who could manage an office, PTSA, home, and bustling kids with grace. She once told me she and her husband stayed up and stitched (needle and thread stitched) memory books together for their daughter’s first-grade class, 25 of them. She was that mom. 

So one morning back in 2017 after a PTSA meeting – we all sat, chatted, and compared notes on our latest parental screwups, worries, and wonders. Mary jumped right in, “Yup, only 104 Fridays left with my daughter before she graduates.” Whoa! Back then I was daunted by the thought, 104 didn’t seem like much…eight dozen eggs, or the number of pages in the thin spiral notebook I used for taking notes and doodling. But it was just like her, carefully quantifying this thing called parenting, ensuring each day was special, and calculating the remainder. She went on to tell us she counted them because the days slip by so quickly, she had the oldest child in our group. Her kids are what she valued the most. Not work. Not volunteering. Not managing. Parenting. I remember going home and flipping through our family calendar. I jotted on a pink post it:156 more pizza nights with Cora. 

As my dear friend said time does fly. Then it did.

One blustery Tuesday in January, a friend called to tell me Mary had died. Just like that. Entirely too soon and way too young. Not only were the Friday nights but every night she had with all of her kids was gone. Just gone.

As I finished scrubbing the floors, I thought about what Mary would give to be here, to pick up her son’s socks, to see her reflection in a fuzzy Clorox-wiped mirror, help with homework, or witness her daughter graduate. I placed the Windex under the sink, turned off the bathroom light, counted my blessings and thanked God for letting me see another day and another month of May.

What I’ve learned:

Next year Justin and I will plan our last high school graduation party for our brood. We’ll watch each of them drive off the driveway in the used cars we pray are safe. God willing, all three of our kids will be headed down the road they chose, not afraid to take some detours along the way. Now we give them space, let them find their groove. The access to their lives will be limited to a phone call on Friday afternoon or a text from wherever they are at that moment they think of us. 

The logistics can dominate our emotions and time if we let them. I think John Lennon said life happens when you’re busy making plans. So stop for a minute and look around, plant a reliable perennial like a hydrangea, or sit down and chat with your kids. I’ll leave May alone for now and be grateful I’m here.

Thanks for joining me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!


Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

We all need a little help

Be curious. Ask why. Be brave. Ask for help.

My son and I have good discussions. Great discussions. Hard discussions. I remember lots of knocking and kicking when he was in the womb, no doubt he was crafting scripts for the endless questions he had for us. He was the kid who taught himself to tie his shoes, ride a bike, and construct the perfect paper airplane. Once he figured things out, he taught others. I distinctly remember when our youngest was potty training, and I heard him holler, “Come on Zavy, I’ll teach you how to hook your heinie to the potty!” 

So his questioning for us did not involve actually needing us, but rather knowing what was behind the “why” for all things. Yes, way before Simon Sinek started excavating WHY, our guy had the word turned inside out. 

Here’s a sampling:

Age 3: “Why do you and Papa get to stay up and we have to go to bed?”

Age 5: Second day of kindergarten: “What?! Again?! Why do I have to go again? I already went to kindergarten yesterday?”

As he got older, the questioning was focused on trying new things… “Can I play baseball and soccer, then give archery a try, and why not gymnastics and tennis? Maybe mountain biking and guitar?” Unicycling sounds fun and the saxophone – let’s get one! Swimming grabbed his attention for a minute as did basketball and even church retreats. Chess was fleeting…too much sitting. Then came badminton, ping pong, rollerblading, skateboarding, Ripstick, scooter-riding, cross-country, and frisbee golf. He asked and we said yes.

The mess that is Middle School kicked off with the classics from our son (and daughter): 

“Why can’t I have a cell phone in 6th grade? EVERYONE else has a cell phone, Mama…I – mean – everyone!” My daughter chimed in, “LITERALLY EVERYONE!!!” 

I answered as candidly as possible, “First off, because we are not everyone.” AND (my go-to answer for all injustices questioned) “Everyone does things differently.” 

High school hit me with: “Why can’t my curfew be the same as all my friends?” My answer: “Simple. Because nothing good happens between 11:00 pm and 3:00 am…NOTHING! AND everyone does things differently.” 

I was learning to arrive armed with answers and time to process the reasoning because there’s not a teenager out there who accepts your first response. Unless of course you were born before 1975…then “Because I said so.” was the final answer.

At our son’s conferences in 8th grade, his teachers each applauded him for asking great questions. “Not the off-the-wall questions either.” one teacher stressed. “He is content-driven.” Apparently, all that inquisitive training at home prepared him for school. He mentioned later that in elementary school he hesitated to raise his hand for fear of getting the wrong answer. We do that…worry about being wrong, embarrassed, or judged. 

“More importantly” one teacher continued, “He asks for help if he needs it.” 

Whoa! This coming from the same kid that hollers for the universe to hear, “No! I don’t need help with my homework!” Maybe my barrage of “Do you need help, now? Now? Now?” was exhausting.

I have always been intrigued by the reasons some people ask for help and others don’t. There is the number one worry the answer will be “No” – but also, Stanford social psychologist Xuan Zhao, flat out says people are worried about inconveniencing others if they ask for help. Others may fear that asking for help would make them appear incompetent and inferior –even children as young as seven years old believe this. At some point, all children struggle to ask for help, but kids are not alone, adults also have a fear of exposing themselves to the need for help. It takes courage and vulnerability to ask.

Author Brene Brown says, “When you cannot accept and ask for help without self-judgment, then when you offer other people help, you are always doing so with judgment…when you don’t extract worthiness and you think, ‘I’m just helping you because one day I’m gonna need help’ — that’s connection. That’s vulnerability.” So mustering up the courage to ask for help is dependent on how we see ourselves and others.

What I learned:

My son leans in the direction of calculated answers. His brain craves knowing why – like a flower covets the sun. Raising kids who ask questions is a challenge because we don’t always have answers. I scoured Barnes and Noble shelves looking for a “what to say when your child asks…”. No luck. Thinking back, if I could tell my 16-year-old self one thing it would be to ASK! Ask for help on the physics test, ask someone to go to prom, ask why the point was taken off on your essay, or how you can get your grade up. Ask if you can go to the Braves playoff game or skiing with a friend. ASK!

Moreover, there comes a point when we all need help. Someone to take your daughter to swim practice, help find your dog, move a couch, take you to the airport. Then suddenly AARP starts sending us magazines reminding us how old we are and our need for help increases. Maybe it’s a ride to the eye doctor or church – maybe we need help fixing a fence or simply someone to hold our hand when we are disoriented with grief.

The good news is –  when we ask for help, it is absolutely cathartic for those who say, “Yes, I can.” The gift of time gives us a sense of meaning and purpose… 

For it is in the giving that we receive. St. Francis of Assisi’s words ring true.

We each had a cavern in our souls filled with wonder and curiosity…all we have to do is set aside our fears…and simply ask. Ask why? Ask for help. Ask.

Thanks for joining me,


“And when you’re done, you may take a long, quavering breath and say, ‘Help.’ People say ‘help’ without actually believing anything hears that. But it is the great prayer, and it is the hardest prayer, because you have to admit defeat — you have to surrender, which is the hardest thing any of us do, ever.”

 Anne Lamott –Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Watch him take the shot!

I’ve heard kids spell love——-T–I–M–E.

Every day in backyards, schools, and playgrounds the words “Look!” “Watch this!” bounce through the air carrying the excitement kids get when they MUST have a witness to watch them succeed — just one set of eyes to see them weave through the monkey bars, jump off the swing, do their first back walk over, hurtle over anything or make the shot.

In fifth grade, I was unstoppable on the monkey bars. My signature move was the “cherry drop”. It was risky and exhilarating, and I did it nearly a zillion times. Here’s how it works. Pull yourself up to the bar. Sit and balance on the top, point your hands straight out in front of you, fall backward quickly, hook your knees to the bar, flip your body over, and land in front of the bar in the soft, warm New Mexico dirt (at my elementary school anyway). That’s a cherry drop. 

Fast forward to today and simply stepping off a curb feels like Everest with my old ankles, so the thought of purposely falling backward while on a small metal bar and landing in the dirt is completely terrifying. Although – when you’re a kid, the feeling of landing such a feat – sticks with you forever. 

But what left an imprint on my 10-year-old heart more than anything else, was having someone there to watch me land – or not land – the flip. Someone who listened when I said, “Look!!” …someone who swiveled around caught my eye and took TIME to be there…someone who was awed that I even tried.

Isn’t that how childhood and — well — life works? Someone stops, wedges out of a moment of their day, and listens to you, believes you can, or helps you get back up and try again. 

Maybe it’s a parent, who shows up locked and loaded with love, support, optimism, and tons of faith that we can do IT. 

Whatever IT is…

They believe we can…then we believe and suddenly – little tiny seeds like on a dandelion float through the air planting confidence, a connection, and a conversation for later. I recently read there is an increase in the number of children needing speech therapy due to the lack of interaction between the child and the parent. Imagine that, this one free commodity we have called time slips away and our focus bends toward money, status, and stuff rather than being truly and sincerely present for our kids and families.

What I learned:

I can still remember when the kids would play out back all day and if my attention was scarce, inevitably I would turn my head and see my son’s eyes peering at me through the window…waiting. If I missed the shot, the goal, the jump, or the flip, there was always an instant replay, either spoken or delivered in slow motion. Thankfully, like in most sports today, the replay counts for inattentive parents.

I know how easy it is to get steamrolled by the day-to-day craziness of life – but there is nothing as priceless as simply watching your child play or better yet, tossing the football or slamming the Hungry Hungry Hippo yourself. Our kids are older, but there are still insane bike jumps to watch, swim times to marvel at, amazing trick shots to video, and brave back flips I’m summoned to watch.

It might be a three-point shot or a monkey bar miracle but some kid somewhere is pining for their moment to be seen.

So right now. Just stop. Stop swiping and texting, streaming or tweeting, cooking or cleaning. Just stop and watch him take the shot. Watch the look on his face when he does it. Watch him keep trying when he doesn’t. Watch now because too soon he’ll stop asking.

My apologies for the late post on this tax day.

Thanks for joining me,


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

An Easter Reflection on Sacrifice and Change


As Holy Week ends, and the Easter season begins, I’m reminded of how things change over the years. Growing up, Holy Week was a quiet time. Usually, we would have Thursday and Friday off from school and prep the menu for Easter Sunday. Somewhat of a nod to Thanksgiving dinner, Easter had a few unique dishes thrown into the mix. One vivid memory is my Aunt Eugenia’s salad.

Always toting items from her Amway inventory, she was the aunt who rode a motorcycle, brought her bird “Bonita” to visit, and played the accordion for Sunday mass. I’ve been told I have the same sharp-slanted nose as her. She’d arrive carrying a big bowl and tongs likely from a recent Tupperware party. She had a knack for chopping everything in the salad super-tiny like a Cuisinart before they were a thing. There were little bits of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and other minuscule items that even my keen 10-year-old eyes couldn’t identify. The salad dressing was made in one of those glass containers where you drop the Italian seasoning powder in and shake it up with vegetable oil. Partially hydrogenated? Who cared? It was delicious.

The salad sat alongside ham, mashed potatoes, and red chili (in lieu of gravy). Another headliner was Mom’s pineapple salad. Made with cream cheese, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple (canned – likely in the cupboard alongside several boxes of Jello), and topped with shiny maraschino cherries, it was a Dad-favorite. Maybe because it was a dessert disguised (if only by the name) as a “salad” or maybe because it was a once-a-year wonder. I’m always amazed when we stumble upon a gem of a recipe and it’s only made once a year. Perhaps that’s the formula. It always tastes good…but only once a year.

The pineapple phenomenon reminded me of one of my volunteering gigs at NPR. During a break, a talk show host named Rose with a cool, smooth voice and long dreds said, “I love your blouse!” Thrilled with my outfit choice, I told her my husband gave it to me. “Great taste!” she replied. After that day, I wore the heck out of that shirt holding on to the compliment as we do. Then one day one of my students probed, “Is that your favorite shirt ‘cause you wear it ALL the time.” And so it happened, I had worn out the beauty of the blouse. That could be the pineapple salad’s story. Better to pace the good stuff.

I digress…

The menu was ready. Then, on Holy Thursday as we loaded up the station wagon and headed to St. Anne’s Church, Dad leaned over the seat with his annual reminder: “Today’s mass is a long one!” This, coming from the man who, when Father Gallie’s sermons would go over 10 minutes would circle his hands in the air as if tying a bow on an invisible gift while whispering, “Let’s tie it up now Father.” We’d all giggle secretly praying Father got the hint.

Typically, Dad would deliver the readings as a lector, and Mom would play the organ. I had a choice to either turn pages for Mom or try to sit still with my sisters for the two hours of feet washing and the Last Supper. Up the stairs, I climbed to the choir loft for my bird’s eye view.

Under the cloudy Good Friday skies, we would attend services at 3:00 pm sharp every year. I still remember the cold, empty altar and solemn sentiment inside the Church. Mom reminded us, “This is the one day we don’t need to genuflect and we don’t call it a mass. It’s a service.” An all-knowing Catholic, she went on to explain why and I said “Ohhhh….” holding out the word as if I was listening, but knowing I wouldn’t remember. Although back then I knew I could ask her anything, anytime I needed to – – you know, that time of life when you think your parents are going to live forever and moments stand still like lighthouses shining bright. 

Saturday we buckled in for another “long one”. I really loved that mass. Maybe it was seeing a lot of babies being baptized or because I was kept busy turning pages for Mom as she switched from organ to piano. But I highly suspect it was the fact that we could officially indulge in whatever we had “given up for Lent” immediately after mass.

One Easter weekend, we visited my oldest sister at New Mexico State University. That was the year I gave up soda for Lent – I admit, it wasn’t a HUGE sacrifice, as we rarely had soda in the house except for Dad’s RC Cola and a 7Up if we had a stomach ache. But after Holy Saturday Mass that year, I remember going out for pizza right after mass and getting the coldest most delicious Shirley Temple ever. It was served in one of those big red plastic cups, a staple all pizza joints had. I even got a refill.

Over the years, my view of Lent became less soda and more sacrifice. In college, a friend of mine and I vowed to say a Rosary every day, together. During the long drive to San Diego for spring break we prayed, after going out with friends we prayed and even before watching Shamoo jump through hoops, we prayed the Rosary. Yup. I was wild and crazy then too. 

What I learned:

Today, unless kids attend a school starting with the word “Saint” it’s likely they will be in class during Holy Week. Even Good Friday. Because times are different. Holy Week just seemed holier back then. Calendars are filled with games, practices, and activities with church fitting into the gaps. 

Like anything else, age readjusts the lens on what matters. What we sacrifice, what we lack, what we share, what we just don’t need. For some, Lent might be about giving up chocolate, complaining less, serving at a homeless shelter, and maybe even blogging.

Perhaps we all need an annual reminder of what we overuse, underdo, and ignore. Something that forces us to stare sacrifice in the face and see who blinks first. 

Whatever I do, EVERY DAY, Lent or not, I pray it will make a difference.

I often think, if I could pass a little Post-It Note on to God about my writing, I would say, “Please let my stories help others realize they are not alone in this one wild and precious life you’ve given us. Help me to offer them a little chuckle, a tiny connection, and a chunk of hope when it’s just too much. And God (not yet!), but please save me a seat up there …I’ll bring you a special pineapple salad you’re just going to love!”


Thanks for joining me.

See you next week,


On justice and sacrifice:

“We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice…Ms. Parks leaned back smiling. ‘Ooooh, honey, all that’s going to make you tired, tired, tired.’ We all laughed. I looked down, a little embarrassed. Then Ms. Carr leaned forward and put her finger in my face and talked to me just like my grandmother used to talk to me. She said, ‘That’s why you’ve got to be brave, brave, brave.’ All three women nodded in silent agreement and for just a little while, they made me feel like a young prince.”

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

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

When the nest empties…

we never forget when it was full


I said something for the first time today. 

In pursuit of a pen, I reached into the junk drawer (grumbled about cleaning it out) and picked up a mechanical pencil with no top, wrapped in tape, and the cylinder was empty. Harper, our 8-year-old neighbor was over and said, “Why does the pencil look like that?” I held up the plastic pencil remains fiddling with them in my hands and said, “Well, when my son lived here, he would recycle these and use them for projects he would build.” 

Whoa…Past tense. “…when my son lived here …” I heard it. 

Then I felt it. My heart did that sinking thing when it secretly knows the past is, well, past…and life within the walls of our home will never be the same. 

That was then…

I thought back to when the kids were little. We’d set up obstacle courses in the backyard with logs to balance on, hula hoops to maneuver through, and barriers to tackle. My husband managed the stopwatch narrating along the way, and I held the video camera–because in my mind documenting meant the moment wouldn’t (couldn’t) go away. 

Our oldest son would go first, his eyes planning the most efficient, logical, and fastest path, no ladder too tall, no tunnel too narrow, no risk too great. Our youngest son would follow, arms flailing, adding cartwheels, leaps, and spins along his path to ensure the most fun could be had on the journey. Finally, our daughter, the oldest, would lean out of the screen door, Harry Potter book in hand “What’s the fastest time?” she’d ask while slipping on any shoes that were handy and pushing her curls away from her face with the back of her hand the way she does. She’d quickly survey the course, hustle to the starting line next to her brothers and yell, “READY Papa!” Up, over, in, and out, she dashed through the course with her signature audible breathing making it clear she was working to win. Once she held the new record, the screen door closed with a bang, book, glasses, and our current winner once inside again. The boys would then clamor to surpass her time and the cycle continued.

I play the kids’ childhood moments in my mind’s Viewfinder all the time–clicking through the first days of school, family trips, awards won, races lost. I think about who leaves toothpaste in the sink, who can tolerate “all that crunching” and who will empty the top rack of the dishwasher. One common thread – as if running the backyard course, they have all become unstoppable-each blazing their own trail, no matter the obstacles. 

This is now…

We had our kids 15 and 18 months apart. Total 3. So…in the last two years, we’ve had two high school graduates and in 2024, our youngest will flip his tassel as we say farewell to all of the high school pomp and circumstance.

And as quickly as they graced our every, single day for 18 years, off they go.

As our first two started their journeys outside the context of our family, it was beyond hard. But all I could picture was our unstoppable daughter out in the world discussing the current issues and immigration policies with peers, laughing heartily at her friends’ jokes, and making Spotify song lists with her new people.

She is right where she needs to be. But boy do I miss her.

Then our oldest son who always came out to greet us, carry in the groceries, and asked SO MANY “Can I?” questions – the stamina of a cheetah, he never tired of hearing, “No.” He’s the guy to call when the car won’t start, the path needs clearing or the couch won’t fit through the awkward doorway. He follows Mark Twain’s words, “ I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” 

He too is right where he needs to be. But boy do I miss him too.

Our youngest is our mainstay. The traditionalist. He knows where the holes are in the wall to hang the birthday banner draping the kitchen window five times a year, where the angel food cake pan is kept (and how to use it), and is always clad in workout clothes as if a “sporting” emergency could spring up anytime, he’s the kid that will be there on your happiest or loneliest day and come loaded with snacks and goofy jokes. 

Soon he’ll pack up and our nest will be very empty. 

Boy, I’m going to miss that nest.

I recently read an article about a killer whale mother who, instead of having more offspring, decided to take care of her one son for over twenty years. Male orcas are massive, not as nimble as their moms, and require a lot of food. This particular orca mom would typically dive down for salmon, bring one up and split it with her son. Once the male relies on his mom to supply him with the extra food, his dependency becomes too great to survive on his own. Therefore, in these situations, it is said when an orca mother dies, her son will also die within the next couple of years. 

This story resonated with me as I thought about how much I would love for our kids to all be here, at home, together again. Playing outside, laughing, competing, and crushing obstacles. Sure, I’ve done my share of enabling by bringing the forgotten saxophone or “co-writing” an essay or two, but I’ll be damned if these kids aren’t ready for this one shot at life. Therefore, unlike the mother orca, I am NOT splitting my salmon with them anymore, I don’t care how much protein it has!

What I’ve learned:

Back in August, when packing up the kids for college, I stopped and really listened to the sounds of our morning. I held onto them with clenched fists because somehow through the cacophony of yells and stomps, blenders and constantly running water came the harmony of our home. But eventually, even the best of bands have artists who seek standalone stardom. Simon split from Garfunkel and still performs today with a little less hair and a lot of notoriety. So as they should, our family paths have split. I struggle to marvel at the space between us because letting go is really, really hard. Thankfully we have our stories, love, and of course, Facetime. 

Thanks for joining me,


“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

Ann Landers

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

One Mom’s March Madness

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Or is it passion? Or sadness? Or frustration?

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

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

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

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

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

What I learned this week:

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

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

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

How to care for those who cared for us…


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

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

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

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

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

How does she do it?

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

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

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

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

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

I strongly believe “everyone needs a destination” 

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

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

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

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

Speak loudly

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

Diet and meals – let them eat cake!

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

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

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

Indoor Weather – Dress for summer

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

Indoor Activities

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

The Newspaper

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

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts

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

What I’ve learned:

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

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

Thanks for joining me,


On writing…

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

Anne Lamott