I’ve been on the receiving end of countless awkward comments. Unfortunately, I’ve uttered plenty of them too. Navigating social situations is a bit like dodging roadside IED’s while blindfolded. The obstacle course often gets more treacherous at family gatherings during the holidays. Christmas get-togethers are already rife with turmoil and stress. Merely sharing surnames and relatives doesn’t mean anyone will agree on anything: faith, politics, diet, fashion, or even what’s funny. Why would anyone want to pile on and make an already difficult situation more strained? “Pass the green bean casserole, Uncle Ned, you pony-tail wearing, commie-loving hippie!” Obviously, not appropriate. But what about the more veiled remarks delivered with the best of intentions? These little conversational nuggets are the dirty bombs of small talk. The gift that keeps giving—like my father-in-law’s homemade sugar-free cranberry sauce which packs a bitter wallop upon first taste, but the memory of that punishing, mouth-puckering sharpness lingers a lifetime.
Continue reading “DON’T STEP IN IT! 5 Things you should NEVER say at a Family Gathering”
What’s your take on fasting? If you’re a well-adjusted God-fearing, healthy individual, it’s always a good thing, right? Recently, God the Father surprised me by His answer.
Why am I even thinking about fasting now?! According to the liturgical calendar, we are squarely in a season of feasting. Woohoo! Lemme at the goodies! Yesterday we marked the joyful feast of the Epiphany. Our family joined another family at a doughnut shop after Mass. And what says feasting better than greasy fried cakes covered with icing and sprinkles? Nothing in my book. While I did manage to refrain from partaking in the sugary treats this time, the truth is, ever since Christmas Eve I have taken to the feasting principle like a portly duck to buoyant waters. Who doesn’t enjoy all the great foods that accompany our jubilant holy days during the Christmas season? I single-handedly made enough pizzelles to supply the Italian World Cup soccer team for a good year. Santo Cielo!
Continue reading “Feasting, Fasting & Perfection”
I secretly cried after Mass yesterday. My kids told me that one of the new altar boys that they served with had his grandparents in town for Christmas. The enthusiastic Nanna and Papa were so gleefully proud, they couldn’t refrain from snapping photos to memorialize their beloved grandson’s biggest moments. Clearly, their hearts swelled with pride for their daughter’s treasured offspring.
On the drive home, I told my boys that if Grandma Maureen and Grandpa Jerry were living, they would have taken loads of pictures too. How proud they would be. How proud they are. “Maybe they’re taking photos from heaven…” I mused. Then the quiet tears.
Continue reading “Crying as We Rejoice: The Bereaved at Christmas”
It turns out, for most of my life I’ve had Advent all wrong. Caught up in the whirring consumer machine, I often couldn’t wait to kick start the celebration of Christmas. I’d barely make it to the end of the Thanksgiving meal and I was breaking out the decorations, singing the songs and scrounging at the stores. December 1st signaled the beginning of that most magical time of the year known as Christmas, right? Actually…
(Insert record scratch here.)
Advent is not party time. It’s prep time. What helped me to better understand and explain to my kids was this analogy: Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas. You wouldn’t plan to party it up during Holy Week. (Those of you thinking, why not?… allow me to direct you to some great agnostic sites.) The minute Lent begins, we don’t start celebrating Christ’s glorious resurrection. We work on our spiritual lives. We train in order to get our souls in shape. Then on Easter, it’s the big reveal, the greatly anticipated end to all that work. He is risen! OFFICIAL party time. Now pass the doughnuts!
Continue reading “Advent Life Hacks to Help Your Family Grow in Holiness”
If fun could be measured in dirty kleenex and cough drop wrappers, our vacation has been a real blast. Look no further than our overflowing trash receptacles. While everyone else was watching the ball drop on New Year’s eve, we watched the thermometer rise. It all started the day after Christmas. My husband was the first to fall. When he coughed, his whole torso shook sending reverberations across our home’s creaky floor boards.
“Was that an earthquake?” “No. Daddy’s just a little sick, kids.” Continue reading “That Time Christmas Break “Flu” By”
To all my We’re Late For Church readers and followers, a heartfelt Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday is filled with the beautiful peace of this holy season. And I pray there are plenty of laughs to go around at your Christmas gatherings. While the holidays can be stressful, I always try to make time for some comic relief. Mother Angelica understood the Herculean effort required to be a good Christian during the holidays. She once sagely quipped, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.” In an effort to spread some Christmas laughter with all of your people, I’ve created a game that has the potential to create some good-natured tomfoolery at your table. Thank you to my lovely group of “Sisters in Christ” who helped me road-test the game at a recent get-together.
I hope it brings lots of laughter to you as well. In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Laugh and grow strong!” Lord knows he was a real wimp.
Christ’s blessing of laughter and strength for you and your family!
Introducing: The Saints and Sinners Game. It’s a twist on the game of Balderdash. You will need to print the two, easy-peasy PDF documents I’ve created to learn how to play. Enjoy! And may you experience one of the greatest gifts of all, laughter!
Saints and Sinners Game
Saints and Sinners Rules
If you feel so inclined, let me know in the comments section how it went over with your brood of holiday revelers… unless it didn’t go well. That you can keep to yourself so I can blissfully go on thinking it was a good idea.
A dear friend came for a visit recently to spend time with the family and me in the lead-up to Christmas. She hung out with the kids and noted their individual personalities. Though distinctly different, she also keenly observed that all three children seem to be equally preoccupied with the concept of fairness. When dessert was doled out, she remarked that they all became very concerned with the exact, precise amounts that each person received. Most people don’t approach their taxes with such painstaking deliberation. In fact, she picked up on a recurring theme in our household.
I don’t think my children are odd birds in this case. The issue of fairness seems to be a common concern among most kids. I remember sizing up Christmas gifts when I was young, measuring exactly how much my brothers got verses my own pile of booty. If I figured on the lower end of the gift scale—oh what a blow! A greater injustice could not be imagined. Continue reading “Do You Think God Is Fair?”
“I don’t need anything.” That was the standard response my dad would supply every year when asked what he wanted for Christmas. If I was insistent, “C’mon, Dad!” He’d usually follow up with, “Just love one another…” No doubt he truly desired that my brothers and I got along, but he just wasn’t getting it. For goodness sake, I was looking for something to spend my money on. I was a successful babysitter with cash burning a hole in my Jordache jeans pocket. I wanted to feel a part of the whirring consumer machine at the mall like everybody else. I planned to prove my love for family with a dazzling gadget or name brand clothing item. As much as I’d like to blame it on being a silly 15-year-old who coveted her subscription to Seventeen Magazine more than her Catholic school education, I still feel that pull to commercialize Christmas today. More than 3 decades later it’s just as strong—that allure to buy the perfect hostess gift that will make everyone at the party oooh and aaah, or find the greatest new anti-aging skincare product for a friend which makes me more influential than Oprah.
Continue reading “I Don’t Need Anything”
There are a total of eight beatitudes. I know because I’ve counted them. In case you’d like to confirm that for yourself, knowing my spotty scriptural knowledge as a cradle Catholic, have at it. Check it out for yourself in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 5 to be exact. As perfect as I consider Jesus’ sermon on the mount, if I had my say, I’d suggest that the Almighty add just one more. Yep, I’m about to try and improve perfection by adding to one of Christ’s most powerful and stirring proclamations on the Kingdom of God. That takes guts. I know. But bear with me.
Continue reading “Blessed Are the Forgotten”