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, Parenting/Running/Pets

How do I manage my mental health during the Coronavirus?

Lenten Reflection #35

Experiencing and processing our emotions during this time of uncertainty may be new for some of us. Personally, running and exercise provide the daily respite I need to keep my sanity.

Luckily, there are several ways for all of us to manage this new inevitable stress seeping into our lives.

According to the CDC:

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Here’s what they recommend:

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

  1. Take care of your body.
  2. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  3. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  4. Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
  5. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  6. Make time to unwind. 
  7. Do other activities you enjoy.
  8. Connect with others.
  9. Sleep – it will improve your brain health.
  10. Know the long term effects of social isolation.

With the spread continuing and the fear of what lies ahead looming, we must continue to optimize our human resilience. People throughout history have made it through terrible times and as their descendants, we will too. a955307432ce1e28b4c6c3ff966169cc.jpg

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Lent’s alarm

Lenten Reflections #3

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

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

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

When writing about Ash Wednesday, Lamott said,

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

Pope Francis also connected Lent with an awakening:

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

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

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

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

FITNESS Challenge: Go for a walk or run.

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

Cokie Roberts: a mom & legend

A few years ago, I was volunteering at 90.1 WABE, in Atlanta, during an NPR spring fundraiser. I glanced up from my seat and spotted Cokie Roberts leaving after an interview. Without hesitation, I quickly placed my phone on unavailable, pulled off my headset and dashed over to say hello.

She was absolutely lovely.

We spoke for a moment about Washington, DC, and the coincidence that we were both members of Blessed Sacrament Church off Chevy Chase Circle. In fact, Father D’Silva, a tender-hearted priest who married Justin and I also married her children.

As she picked up her bags to go, I asked an elderly gentleman who was exiting the building, to take our picture. His hand wiggled when he held my phone WAY out in front of him pointing it more toward the sky than at us, but somehow he managed to get a nice blurry photo.

I was elated. 

It’s been almost four months since Cokie Roberts died from breast cancer complications, but the legend of her spirit, her unwavering support of women and her passion for politics still grace the halls of the U.S. Capitol. Equally valued was her voice on being a mother and raising children.

In her book, We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters she says,

Caretaking–that’s the common thread that runs through these stories. No matter what else women are doing, we are also “mothering” –taking care of somebody or something, and, for the most part, doing it joyously. That’s what women have been doing from the beginning and, I believe, will continue to do. I think we’ve been doing it awfully well for a very long time.”

Cokie: a mom and a legend.

I keep her picture on the desktop of my computer to remind me what a true model of poise, integrity, and professionalism looks like.

It was an honor to meet such a stellar woman and as a mom and “writer” I value what she stood for and cherish that brief moment she took to chat with me.

IN THE WORDS OF COKIE ROBERTS:

A lot of women have come to understand that you can’t just show up and say I’m unhappy, you have to then go out and do something.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

4 Things I learned today

Sometimes we have to peek in between the lines in our life stories and learn from even the smallest moments. Here are my four life lessons for today…

LESSON 1: It’s true, I really do have to put on my glasses so I can hear better.

LESSON 2: If your child wants to change a class, never underestimate the power of self-advocacy:

Day three of the new semester and for the 37th time our son reminded me how much he REALLY wants to switch classes from Family and Consumer Science – (the souped-up name for Home Economics) to PE. As you may have read in The lost art of writing, my sage advice to him was to write a letter (email in the case). So he crafted a note to his counselor stating his case, succinctly saying, PE would give him a break from having seven academic classes and the respite, “would let me reset and do better in school.”

Bam! Self-advocacy in action.

LESSON 3:  Turn off the stove before you go outside to pick up dog poop and/or play with the dogs:

After taking my son to school, I pictured myself sitting down, having a cup of tea and writing for a stint. Ha! Then reality hit when I opened the door and our dogs barked incessantly pleading to go play fetch. Honing my ability to multi-task, I grabbed a few empty Target bags (best for home-made pooper scooper bags) and threw tennis balls for about 35 minutes, while the dogs zoomed back and forth. After they were both somewhat tired, they darted inside and I smelled that burning scent that presents itself one too many times in my kitchen. Thinking it was the rice I overcooked last night, ugh…I realized I had left the kettle on for the tea and the water inside had evaporated leaving our vibrant red teapot a smoky charcoal black. Not my best morning.

LESSON 4: Buy an OXO BREW Anniversary Edition Uplift Tea Kettle, Brushed Stainless Steel or any OXO teapot!

Following my not so bright moment, I decided to call the OXO Company and ask them about their warranty policy on the OXO reddish-black teapots. I let them know the paint was chipping off the due to it being on for too long. After sending them a picture of the blackened teapot, they said we would receive a new one in 7-10 days. What a great company. It pays to ask about warranties.

I hope you learn something from even the smallest, fleeting moments of your day.

 

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

Holy Saturday…then and now…

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #40

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

Always toting items from her Amway inventory, she was the aunt who rode motorcycles, named her bird “Bonita” 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 from a Tupperware party. She had a knack for chopping everything in the salad so tiny, it was on the verge of being a really dry Gazpacho soup. It was like a game of I Spy with little bits of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and other minuscule items that even back then my keen 10-year-old eyesight couldn’t identify. The salad dressing was made in one of those glass containers where you drop the Italian seasoning in and shake it up with vegetable oil. Partially hydrogenated? Who cared.

The salad sat alongside ham, mashed potatoes, red chili (in lieu of gravy) and the other usual Thanksgiving/Easter suspects. Another dish that was a hit was mom’s pineapple salad. Made with cream cheese, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple 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 one-hit wonder, or rather 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. Otherwise, it’s “overuse syndrome”.

Once, I was volunteering at NPR and a talk show host said she loved my shirt. Thrilled with my outfit choice, I told her my husband gave it to me. “Great taste!” she replied. And so it happened, I was immediately struck with “overuse syndrome”. I wore the heck out of that blouse. So much that one of my students at the time probed, “Is that your favorite shirt ‘cause you wear it ALL the time.” That could be the pineapple salad’s story. Better to pace the good stuff.

I digress…

On Holy Thursday as we loaded up the station wagon and headed to St. Anne’s, Dad would remind us that mass “would be a long one”. Typically, he would say one of the seven 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.

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 St. Anne’s Church.

Saturday we buckled in for another “long one” and I really loved that mass.

One Easter weekend, after Holy Saturday Mass, we went to visit my oldest sister at New Mexico State University. That was the year I gave up soda for Lent. 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 it seemed all pizza joints use.

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 together every day. 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.

Today, unless kids attend a school starting with the word “Saint” it’s likely they will be in school during Holy Week. Even Good Friday. Because times are different. Holy Week just seemed holier back then. Packed calendars are filled with games, practices, and activities with church fitting into the gaps when there are some. But it’s all priority-based.

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 or serving at a homeless shelter, maybe even blogging.

Blogging for 40 days isn’t a lark. Nor is parenting, or being a woman, a daughter or sister.

What we choose to do with our 40 days is up to us. Will it make a difference?

We pray it will. If I could pass God on a little Post-It about my blog I would say, “Please let my stories help others realize they are not alone in this flash in the pan 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.

Amen.

My humble thanks for reading.

MENTAL EMOTIONAL PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL WORKOUT: WALK. PRAY. REPEAT.