I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom lately. It would have been her 76th birthday this October. She died nearly 25 years ago. While it’s been too long since I’ve heard her laugh, she has left me with a bounty of wisdom that sustains me. In fact, there are simply too many lessons to enumerate. She was a Catholic school teacher by profession, so it was in her nature to instruct and impart knowledge. But there were also things she most certainly did not pass down. There are some worldly teachings she decidedly left by the wayside. And for that, I am even more grateful and bolstered. Continue reading “Lessons My Mom Never Taught Me”
The beginning of the school year, fraught with the usual worries and tension, arrived this year with the potential for even more social and logistical land mines. As transfer students, I worried whether my kids would adjust to their new school. Would they meet nice kids who wanted to be their friends? Would our decision to move them while they were comfortably situated at their last school result in lasting psychological scars? We’d probably have to pay the piper for this somewhere down the road. Would our beautiful Catholic faith be presented to them in a way that captivated and excited them? Would the classical approach of education engage their nimble little minds and would they be as prepared as their peers at other schools? Would the staff cherish them as children of God? And let’s not forget those pesky practical concerns. Could they find the bathrooms and the cafeteria? And what about navigating car line? Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Principal of Our New Catholic Classical School”
When I was a kid, my mom and dad did not fight often. Though rare, I still remember those instances with crystal clarity. I recall the deep dread. There wasn’t a lot of shouting, but there was a chill that seeped into every room in the house and ultimately it took root within me. How would this shake out? Would they split? I felt angst-ridden and wanted to flee. Yet, where would I go? I had no other home and I didn’t want any other family. I desperately craved harmony but felt helpless as to how to achieve it. I didn’t feel safe until I knew they were once again in accord, which gratefully was generally pretty quick. Except for that time my mom went on strike so my dad would do more around the house. I think that lasted an interminable three days. “Mom, can you iron my school uniform?” “Sorry, honey. Ask your dad. I’m on strike to improve working conditions.” “Huh?” Continue reading “How the Children Suffer”
Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons. (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2113)
At the cellular store, ten people were ahead of me. Drat! Never mind the fact that I had checked in at 10:06 precisely, mere minutes after the store’s opening. The friendly clerk informed me of the wait time. With a dozen fellow technology addicts in the queue, I took a seat and began scanning the faces of the rest of the sorry saps who were experiencing problems with their mini-wonder/ fun boxes. I saw a lot of agitation. Or perhaps I was projecting my experience on to them. Maybe. But I could swear there was some serious “jonesing” going on. Continue reading “The Idol In My Back Pocket”
“but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
There were two—two of our babies that did not make it to term. My first three pregnancies went relatively smoothly, resulting in little wrinkly-faced wonders. When we conceived baby number four we were hopeful for the same. I was 41 years old, not exactly a spring chicken in the fertility department. The two pink lines on the pregnancy test signaled more transition. My body would change, our family circumstance would change and our finances would undoubtedly change. Honestly, I felt a little dread. But deep down I was also really excited. A fourth baby! The big family I had wanted since I was a small child was happening. Yet, I remember remaining consciously subdued outwardly. I am a natural “glass-half-empty” kind of gal, so part of me already understood the fragility of the pregnancy as I did with each one previous. I practiced the classic, “don’t get your hopes up…” not ever comprehending what actually awaited me. Up until that point, my children’s gestations were medically routine as my OB/GYN would acknowledge after the birth of each kid. The only personal knowledge I had with miscarriage was the explanation my mom and dad had passed down about their difficult experience before I was born. Continue reading “The Babies We Lost”
“Be still and know that I am God!” -Psalm 46:11
My kids don’t nap anymore. It all ended a little over a year ago. The realization struck me recently. My daughter had a crummy virus, so I kept her home with the understanding that she would at least try to nap. Once I shut her door, I nearly skipped to the couch with unbridled eagerness. This was the first time in a while I’d get to enjoy a nap as well. As I nestled under a throw, I lay there recalling how this had been part of my routine as a new mom. It was the sweet spot of my day; a treasured time that resulted in peace, rejuvenation and a fresh outlook—three things seriously lacking, yet in high demand during this span of my life.
Before I truly understood the possibilities for this magic time, I thought my kids’ nap would be best utilized in getting more tasks accomplished. I’d try to pull off all sorts of things while creeping around so as to not disturb my little sleeping cherubs. Not exactly a practical endeavor when your modest, ranch-style home means all major activity, TV watching, talking on the phone, cooking, cleaning, happens within mere feet of the bedrooms. Even flushing the toilet at the designated sleep times was a big no-no. How I longed to give a piece of my mind to the obtuse architect of my 1960’s track home. Inevitably, the clang of a pan, a creak in the floor, a loud stomach growl or an annoying postman who ALWAYS rang the doorbell, would close the proverbial window of productive time with a clatter. No doubt someone would wake up, completely shattering the chance to get anything done. Continue reading “Rest for the Weary”
My oldest brother is not a cook. His idea of homemade is the “take & go” rotisserie chicken from Costco. When he’s channeling his inner Bobby Flay, he shreds it, adds some mayo and voila—chicken salad!
And this guy can put it away! His bean-pole stature is very misleading. You’d think he got by on a steady diet of saltine crackers and water. In actuality, his appetite is legendary, at least in the circles of our extended family where a hearty appetite is a highly-sought accolade. When we were teenagers, I recall an instance after a gluttonous Thanksgiving feast. While my mom bustled in the kitchen doing clean up, the rest of us sat immobile, just staring at each other, eyes glazed over, contemplating the vast amounts of food consumed. Tim, however gleefully walked up the stairs and shouted, “I’m getting hungry again. Can anyone go for a Big Mac?” He was already strategizing his next culinary chess move.
Continue reading “Can I get fries with that?”
Photo by Zoe Anderson
There are many times when I’ve walked out of mass, or out of a Catholic school function and thought to myself, “Hmm… that person doesn’t seem very Catholic.” In truth, I’ve thought it about whole rows of people, complete sections, even. (Oh boy, now no one is ever going to sit next to me.) I point out my sinful and serial tendency because I suspect I’m not the only person in the world who has judged a fellow Catholic and found the person in question considerably lacking in terms of their Catholicity. As if there’s this invisible yardstick by which everyone is measured to gauge whether they’re Catholic enough. Oh no, they don’t have a rosary hanging from their rearview. They fall short. He loves the guitar mass. Seriously? He’s practically fallen away. She’s seeking more fellowship at her church. Please! Why doesn’t she just head over to the Lutheran place around the corner?
Of course, the inverse is true as well. Someone knows all the Latin words to Salve Regina, or they can quote scripture like the general population quotes Seinfeld, and I think, “Whoa! Now, that’s a devout Catholic.” I can’t lie—when I spy a scapular peeking out from underneath someone’s shirt collar, I’m convinced the person has serious “Catholic cred.” Or when I see a priest in a full black cassock, I think, “Now, he’s holy!” Continue reading “I’m more Catholic than you are!”
My oldest son is a good speller. Many might even say, “a great speller.” As the woman who bore him, I put him squarely in the “great speller” camp. Heck, I’d even classify him as:
Last winter, he took part in the Denver Archdiocesan spelling bee for 4th and 5th graders. He was in the 4th grade and had never been in a contest in his life. (Unless you count the times he and his brother and sister test their skills to see who can make the loudest armpit farts. And these challenges never result in a clear winner—their fit of giggles and my shock and horror put the legitimacy of the judging into serious question.) Continue reading “Bees & Beads”
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12; 6-7)
Recently, my husband and I officially changed parishes. We had been on the books at a very large church, which someone informed me was so large it actually classified as a mega-church. Several years back, we signed our kids up for the school and once we registered as parishioners, I set to the business of trying to make connections and build community.
My faith history as a post-Vatican II baby, growing up in the 70’s and 80’s groomed me to have extremely low expectations from my neighborhood parish. As a kid, it was the place we went to celebrate mass. The word celebrate here is even a stretch as there was never much exuberance at all. But we went to mass. And that was literally it. Not even a donut Sunday in sight. I say this with certainty because I remember there was no actual place to gather- short of a very cold, (this was Cleveland after all) impersonal hallway that led to the sanctuary. There was no narthex. (Even the term narthex is fairly new to me, a cradle catholic of 46 years!) There was a nice school gym on the other side of the parking lot, but it must have been in full bingo swing, and unavailable to parishioners who indulged in fried fats rather than gambling and smoking. I understood that our church was a stop that was necessary. Once the obligation was checked off though, you were expected to bug off, preferably in an orderly, polite fashion, a goal not often achieved. Hello church parking lot road rage! Continue reading “To Be Known”