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

Time for church! In the living room…

Lenten Reflection #21

This morning at 10:00 we all gathered in the living room for “mass”.

Our dear Irish priest live-streamed (or whatever the past tense of live-stream is) mass for the parishioners at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Since we’ve been dipping our toes into the homeschool pool, I thought we were definitely ready for mass at home. The increased cushion in the seats and pillows as kneelers was a welcome change, but what stayed the same was the kid chatter and nagging.

There was constant shushing coming from our daughter, and at one point our youngest was doing push-ups as we were praying for the sick. In retrospect, the one thing we should have banned was holding hands during the Our Father. Not only for social distancing purposes but why…WHY! do our kids have to try and crush each other’s hands while ironically praying God will deliver them from evil?! Every Sunday. 

I remember when the kids were little and we practiced going to church during the week aiming to be the model family on Sundays. It didn’t work. But they were comfortable in church, perhaps a little too relaxed?

When we first moved to Georgia I thought I’d walk the kids to Lowe’s…it was less than a mile away and we loved walking. So as we were checking out, an older couple initiated a conversation with the classic “you’ve got your hand’s full” line as they stared at me pushing a double stroller with our youngest strapped on my back like I was backpacking through Europe.

We chatted for a moment, and as we turned to leave, they candidly asked: “Does your family have a church-home?”

Wait. A what?

Oh! I broke it down in my head contextually and said, “Yes, we’re Catholic.” That’s all I had. Yup, Catholic. They invited us to their church and I said thanks and began the longer than anticipated journey home.

My take away from our at-home-mass was the fact that our kids are just as comfortable at church as they are at home. I’m going to call that a win. Sure they poke at each other, always have the church giggles, and get antsy once their 45-minute internal alarm goes off, but they are there. We are there. Together.

Yes. We found our “church-home”…at home and church.

 

 

 

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

“Best Lent Ever”

Lenten Reflection #10

The last three years I’ve watched many of the “Best Lent Ever” episodes by Mathew Kelly, a Catholic Guru.

Here’s a snippet from his first reflection this Lenten Season:

In our journey with God, there are many different seasons. There are some times in our lives when we’re hungry to pray, we’re hungry to learn, we’re hungry to be with God. There are other times in our lives when we’re not. There are times in our lives where certain types of spirituality engages us, and there are other times in our lives where those very same things that brought us great enthusiasm and great passion leave us dry and desolate. And so it’s important to recognize the seasons in our spirituality.

What are your spiritual seasons?

May they be fruitful and plentiful.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

After 18 years, a mom’s job never ends – even when our children journey from home

Lenten Reflections: #9

“I clock out in 90 days.” her words hung in the air as we watched her son play one of his last high school tennis matches before entering college. With one son graduating from college, a daughter prepping for an exchange program to Europe and now her youngest son graduating in 90 days, her full-time mom job seemed to be winding down, if that is at all fathomable.

I remember when her eldest started college and she told us their family’s 5-top at a restaurant became a 4-top…no chair to place at the end of a booth, no hassle of pushing two tables together, no reservations needed. Their five became four, then three and is gradually circling back to the once newlyweds that started at the altar.

This dear mom has been my sage. She’s a friend who has helped me maneuver from elementary school sock hops to middle school PTSA fundraisers…parlaying my way to high school sports and now she serves as my go-to for all things college.

I often think about the advice I received from SO many experienced mothers years ago when they announced: “enjoy your kids while you can…time flies.” At the time I wanted to hand them my crying son, ask them to change my newborns’ diaper, and have them read Dr. Seuss’ Go Dog Go to my daughter for the 3,468th time. But instead, I logged their words into my mom-brain, apparently, so I could blog about it years later.

Our kids will be graduating from high school soon so it’s natural (to me) to catch myself wallowing every now and then. But this time, dug a little deeper. I thought about the content of our children’s character.

Who were they becoming?

Would they hold the door at church for the family running late or help someone’s grandmother grab her luggage off the carousel at the airport? Would they pick up trash when no one was looking or continue to write thank you notes to their grandparents?

I know they’ll be moving on, finding their passion, and God-willing, loving their lives. And for the first time, ever, I felt a sense of relief, a comfort, a joy that our three children are REALLY good kids.

No need to clock out moms, although the memorable nurturing years are waning, new chapters will reveal joys we never dreamed of…

as George Bernard Shaw said,

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”

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

Puzzles: why seniors benefit from these brain boosters

Lenten Reflections #6

Nowadays, the thump of a newspaper hitting porch steps is about as rare as hearing the beeping drone of a telephone’s busy signal.

Up until a few months ago, you could hear both sounds at my parent’s home. (They have caller ID now which they completely ignore).

Every morning, nestled under coffee cups and bowls of Cherrioes lies the Albuquerque Journal spread across the large table (which once sat six) as if poised for a large art project. Dad takes the front page, Mom pores over the local news, they both rotely read through the obituaries. Then Mom starts “the puzzle” as they call it. She nearly completes her half of the daily crossword effortlessly (depending on the day) and passes it to Dad. Inevitably they finish it together.

Crossword puzzles, jokes, riddles, and intermittent episodes of Jeopardy are a huge part of my parent’s lives.

According to wordwealth.com,

“When it comes to senior people, the daily crossword puzzle is a game-changer. The benefits of solving puzzles for the elderly are innumerable, including enhanced memory, better cognitive skills, improved concentration, and much more. It can even reduce the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly.”

Mom and Dad are no exception to this rule. So when my sister sent the above picture of our parents with a beautiful puzzle they had recently finished, I had to share it with you all. The text attached, read “FINISHED!” Yet another successful puzzle solved and completed by Mom and Dad.

These jigsaw cardboard conundrums remind us to take time to sit and search for the tangible corner pieces, edges and crazy pieces we try so hard to force-fit into a spot, but also, help us to weed through our own lives and piece together who we are, what we are destined to do, and how we can gracefully arrive where we belong.

Thank you kindly for reading.

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’s 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

Holding each other up

40 Lenten Reflections – #2

I love writing about my parents. However, every time I start, I never finish as there is so much to share. Instead, I sit and stare at 17 blog drafts about mom and dad and keep writing. 

But today when I was working on Venn Diagrams with first graders, thoughts about my parents escalated. As we discussed characteristics that make us unique and similar to each other, the kids wrote things like “Bella likes Barbies and I like the Braves, but we’re BOTH crazy at recess!”

We discussed what makes each of us special and why it’s important to respect each other even if our friends root for the Braves while we cheer on the Yankees. We also talked about what connects all of us…being afraid of the dark, liking pizza and loving PE. Then one slight, wide-eyed girl said, “My mom and dad don’t live together anymore, that makes me different.”

That’s when my heartstrings started tugging. I couldn’t help but think of my own mom and dad. They have been married nearly 60 years and were both born in the 1930s into Hispanic families with simple, humble beginnings. Their similarities indeed outnumbered their differences.

As octogenarians, my folks give more than they take, pray for others before themselves and cherish family. Sure there are differences. Every phone call, dad says he feels “GREAT!” no matter what because he’s “just happy to be here.” Mom will candidly tell you if she’s not feeling well. And I chuckle every time she says “Okay, I’m done,” when she’s exhausted from talking/listening to me on the phone. On the other hand, if she held a plank in Pilates longer than her classmates, she’ll definitely stretch the conversation.

I am constantly awed by my parents.

As in the photo above, they literally and figuratively hold each other up physically, emotionally and spiritually.

You’ll hear more about them throughout these 40 days and more.

Celebrate what makes you special, but remember in the Venn Diagram of life, the big chunk in the middle shows just how similar we really are…

Pray for others…and please be kind.

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, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Goodbye Carpool Line…

When you’re a mom, job security is still a thing.

A few years ago, I worked in a Pre-K Special Needs Classroom with one of my favorite people in the world, Debbie. When daylight savings time came around, she teased that she was the ONLY one who knew how to accurately adjust the time on the classroom clock. “Job Security” she declared, hoisting herself on a chair to take down the clock.

So when my two oldest kids drove off to school in our “new to us” car, I saw a bit of my mom-job security circle the drain. No need to take them in early or pick them up after meetings. IMG_1115.jpegThe “always late” bus complaints will be a thing of the past. Here’s the bus today…guess they’re right.

Wait, should they be out there on their own? I’ve heard discussions both ways…there are those parents who are SO excited to have their kids drive themselves to school, practice and “to the store for milk”.

Not me.

Since the get-go, I’ve been the mom who lugged everyone everywhere…storytime, grocery store, soccer. Outings just made the day better. On our drives to elementary school, we built our stories. There’s the time I accidentally rolled over a rabbit and told the kids, “Yup, missed it!”

Sorry.

Or during morning prayers when we’d say, “Good morning sweet Jesus our Savior…” and our young Zavier would laugh and laugh thinking we were praying to him.

Even now that the kids are older, I relish our time in the car.

Fine.

I despise the arguing, poking, seat adjusting, music changing craziness that goes on, but the conversations can be pretty good, the singing mostly on key, and the stress level relatively low…since I’m at the helm.

Over the years, I’ve discovered change truly is our only constant and it’s up to me to loosen my hold and afford them the chance to share their experiences with each other.

Wow, those words really sound better than they feel.

Naturally, I worry as I stare at the bouncy faces I see on the Life 360 App zooming down roads, and I am crazy stressed about the late-to-work-speeders, moms-on-the-phone, and texting-teens circling them like sharks. But now it’s their responsibility to figure out the best time to leave in the morning. It’s their turn to find the most strategical place to park to avoid long carpool lines, and most certainly their turn to watch the gas gauge closely.

As I stand on the other side of the driver’s door in the morning, I give Cora the international “roll the window down” sign by moving my fist in small circles. I kiss her again on the forehead, reminding her to be careful and to let me know when they arrive. “If you need anything, just call.” They drive away and I feel anxious and proud like I’ve just handed them the keys to a Nissan and the world.

This is the cross-country course of parenthood. Full of roots to stumble on, downhills to relish and inclines to power through. I suppose if there were operating instructions for  kids they would say:

  • care and coddle when they are young,
  • provide a cozy, loving chrysalis as they grow, and
  • eventually, release them and let them fly — THE SPEED LIMIT!

So what if my job security was threatened this week? Thankfully being a mom has about 3 million other duties — ha, I’m suddenly reminded they are still just kids as I imagine them belly laughing as they blurt out, “You said duties!!”

I suppose the DMV can continue to issue permits and licenses to our teenagers but my kids know my “helicopter mom” license never expires, so I’ll be watching.

 

 

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.