Radio-Active (my national radio interview!)

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Last week I was on the radio! And I didn’t even have to get out of my bathrobe. My recent post about the etiquette of speaking to those who are grieving got the attention of a national Catholic radio show. A producer from “Morning Air” on Relevant Radio contacted me via email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed about my essay, “I cried with Michael Jordan.” So, I peeled myself off the ceiling and quickly replied yes. A couple days later, after gravely bribing my children to remain silent in the background, I was live on the air with John Harper of the “Morning Air” show. I can’t help thinking my parents were smiling down on me since I finally got to use the Radio part of my Radio/TV/Film degree from the exorbitantly priced Northwestern University. Thanks, mom, and dad! (My mom used to urge me to apply wherever I wanted. “If you get in,” she’d remind me, “I’ll clean toilets to cover the cost if need be.”) Such parental sacrifice they modeled for me.

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I Cried with Michael Jordan

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Certain iconic sports images of epic underdog wins and poetic last plays witnessed over the course of my life remain imprinted on my brain. Consider Tiger Woods dramatically donning the green Masters’ blazer as the first person of color, Michael Phelps shattering the record for the most gold medals, the Chicago Cubs’ curse-breaking World Series triumph against my beloved Cleveland Indians. I could easily go on, but there’s one memory that is even more enduring. Yet, I suspect many of you probably won’t even recall it.

For me, the moment crystallized not just a legendary sporting achievement, but an encounter with sadness and mourning in the midst of victory. It was Father’s Day, 1996. Michael Jordan had just won his 4th championship for the Chicago Bulls. His win was rendered even more momentous after a brief retirement and triumphant return to the sport that made him a household name. Also notable, this marked Jordan’s first major career win without the support of his father in the stands. Jordan’s dad had been murdered three years earlier.

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Fantasy Mom

Today is the 25th anniversary of my mother’s sudden death, a singular event that undoubtedly forever changed me. While the sting has lessened over time, I still struggle with the profound loss almost on a daily basis. It informs my thoughts and dreams, which may explain why I wrote this essay.

gabriel-sanchez-265726-unsplash (1)(Photo by Gabriel Sanchez on Unsplash)

Don’t tell anyone, but for quite a long time I’ve had a Fantasy Mom. Just as four-year-olds will gleefully gush about their imaginary friends, I’d like to brag about my Fantasy Mom. She’s the most loyal, loving, funny, kind and of course, wise mother who ever did NOT exist. Fantasy Mom is an intricate combination of my real mom, and every warm,  maternal character I’ve admired over the years.

Fantasy Mom firstly derives from the foremost matriarch, the very real Blessed Mother who quietly, yet staunchly remained at her son’s side during His greatest suffering. Despite doubtless unimaginable dread and fear, she never wavered. I’m confident she journeys alongside me too, especially as I navigate life’s more dodgy roller coasters. Her presence offers such peace and calm. She’s certainly my gold standard for all mothers. So how do you improve on sinless perfection? I mentioned this was a fantasy, right? 

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Weeping on Easter

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Photo by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Without fail, the tears start welling up at almost the exact same time. It’s always Easter Mass. I could set my watch to it, but I’d never dare because the annoying alarm would draw even more attention at a time I’d prefer to simply disappear. Like it or not, there’s no stemming the tide of my mounting emotions. I bow my head and clench my eyes shut hoping no one around me notices. Usually, I get by without drawing too much attention to my red nose and watery eyes. But occasionally my reaction is so intense, a series of muffled involuntary sniffles gives me away. The kids or my husband will look at me with startled questioning eyes. My children especially probe my face with their intense, troubled looks. To lessen their worry, I flash a huge toothy smile and roll my eyes to let them know I’m fine—not only fine, I’m overcome with sheer joy. These are tears of complete happiness.

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Blessed Are the Forgotten

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.

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Lessons My Mom Never Taught Me

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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 Babies We Lost

“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)

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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”