Monthly Archives: March 2016

Easter Basket Evolution.

Bubbles, cardboard bunny books, cutesy stuffed animals, alphabet games, beach balls, sand buckets, plastic eggs.

Sidewalk chalk, coloring books, kites, paddle balls, water color paints, puzzles, storybooks, marshmallow peeps, plastic eggs stuffed with jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and one large hollow bunny from the Dollar Store.

Picture frames, sketch pads, charcoal pencils, deodorant, razors, tennis balls, plastic eggs stuffed with jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and one large hollow bunny from the Dollar Store.

Socks, Starbucks’ gift cards, journals, mind puzzles, jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and one large hollow bunny from the Dollar Store.

This year, because they don’t have cars, we picked Bethy and Kevin up in Chicago before taking them to Grandma Scannell’s for Easter brunch and then to Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary Pat Neylon’s for dinner. Like the old days, the kids got to see both sides of the family. Unlike the old days, the kids received a new twist on the Easter basket.




What Do You See? Part II.

Dwarfed by the large wooden art table, nine-year-old Kevin and I slide into desk chairs across from his fourth-grade teacher as she looks over her gradebook.

With dread, I review the latest report card and quietly ask, “What happened in math?”

“Kevin doesn’t turn in his homework,” she replied with conviction. 

I bravely proceed, “What about English?”

“Kevin doesn’t follow directions.” She pointed to the circled verbs on a quiz that called for underlined action words.

Puzzled, Kevin looked up at his previously regarded mentors, and gently commented, “You’re only looking at the bad grades.”


Let Me Tell You.

My friend Maria Rodriguez used to dream of a book she’d write called It Worked for Me. She’d brainstorm brilliant ideas about parenting, and each chapter would include a scenario and a solution that worked in her house. She’s a soulmate and mentor, and now she’s writing Rock the Cradle: Rule the World, a book about the leadership role of mothers in society. You have to hear Maria speak on this topic. Put it on the list. 

I’d like to write a book called What Not to Do. In it, I’d share specific episodes of parental goof-ups, phrases worth swallowing , and knee-jerk reactions to avoid. Not filled with remorse and regret, this guide would being loaded with what I see as anecdotes of tremendous learning experiences. My credibility is based on a long list of “whoopsies” and “oh shoots” and moments of “oh boy, shouldn’t have said that.” I’d like to blame it on having five kids leading to more personalities, more school committees, more teams, friends, interests, complicated dynamics, and opportunities to react. If I lived in a convent, I’d surely have less to sweat about unless those darn nuns got on my nerves. Thank God for my mom, for funny friends who make me feel like I’m not alone, for our kids who revel in telling childhood stories, and for Tim , a constant supporter with a knack for remaining on the outskirts of every crisis.    

This brochure would recap actual conversations with friends discussing dilemmas along with my usual response, “Well, I can tell you what not to do.” Reflections of other options would follow because believe me, I’ve thought of them. This mini-guide would be designed to make mothers feel better about themselves and grateful for their ability to zip it – hence, the pamphlet idea.

Headings would include Potty Training Strategies (deep in the memory archives),  Grocery Cart Abandonment Policies, Attempts at Dinner, Variances in Academic Perspectives, Wardrobe Consultation, Vehicle Collision Negotiation, Hair, Driver’s Permit Endurance, Alcohol Trojan Horses, Hot Baths Don’t Cure All, Teenage Conspiracy Theory, Young Adult and Furniture Relocation, and Generational Differences in Infant Care.

I marvel that Katie, Bethy, Brendan, Brigid, and Kevin were once under mine and Tim’s exclusive care. Did I really rely on Market Day chicken patties and hot pretzels to feed them instead of kale and quinoa?  I rejoice in remembering and delight in looking ahead.  I’m thrilled to have made it through times when I needed the wisdom of Solomon, and he wasn’t available. And I thank God for those five incredible blessings of mine called children and for my angel baby granddaughter Eileen who will never eat white bread at my house.

If I ever publish this flyer, I’d pray that the readers’ children  would know that their parents will always love them and be there for them, forever.  Amen.

Easter Week.

One week to go in the Lenten journey. Bishop Don Hying said that St. Francis Assisi used to go on elaborate 40-day fasts in preparation for Easter, and St. Francis would deliberately goof up near the end – just to remain humble, just to ensure he didn’t get big headed. Bishop Don said that he struggles with his Lenten pledges, and he said the key is to start each day anew.

Now we’re down to seven days, each day an opportunity for more spiritual growth, a stronger relationship with God, and a greater commitment to glorify God with our lives. Whatever it takes – reading scripture, daily prayer, contemplative reflection, Reconciliation, the Stations of the Cross, mass, sacrifice, generosity, hospitality, kindness, patience, understanding, charity, love – give it all you’ve got. We’re in the home stretch.


Cool Moments.

They happen all the time. The poet Mary Oliver shares, “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

This morning while on the trails with Watson, a young male speedster dressed in black tights and neon orange shorts whizzed passed me and commented, “Nice jacket.” In a flash, he was gone. 

Curious, I looked down to see “Boston Marathon 2002” stamped on my left chest. Fourteen years. Really? Boston. Really? I never think about the logo on that cold-weather gear. My hamstrings crick-creaked up a grassy mound, my drudging lead legs muttering that these flat feet will never venture up Heartbreak Hill again. I stooped to pick up Watson’s latest load and was relieved for the breather.  

Hopefully, the next time I see that whipper snapper young man, he’ll be wearing a Boston jacket. It’ll last him a long, long time.

Staying Strong.

“We will run and not grow weary, for our God will be our strength. . ..” This morning’s Communion hymn resonated with me on so many levels. As I sang the words to “We Will Rise Again,” I was struck by the strength I receive from my faith-filled, ever-resilient running friends, Molly, Maggie, and Teresa.

Maggie, Teresa and I  run on Thursdays at 5:30am, and Molly and I run with our dogs on Wednesdays and Fridays. For longer than a decade, these runs have enlightened me to God’s bountiful beauty and sustained me through tough times. I love learning that one of their kids got a great job or a fabulous opportunity or another degree or an invitation to travel to an exotic place or a chance to have an amazing learning experience. We genuinely radiate excitement when we share in each other’s good news. And when we make mistakes, we listen with love and encouragement. Yesterday, I told Maggie and Teresa that Eileen took two steps on her own, and they literally beamed. They don’t just tolerate listening to these tidbits; they really enjoy them. Maggie, Teresa, and Molly are gifts from God, and they help me recognize that His Light is everywhere. They tell stories of hope and humor, remorse and redemption, and they always endure through faith and love.

As we grow older, there is a temptation to walk instead of run, and I find myself milking out Watson’s pit-stops when I am in the trails with Molly and the dogs. But rest assured, we are not growing weary; we are growing more relaxed and at peace – euphemisms for stiffer and slower. And we chat, laugh, and tell stories as we round corners, side-step puddles and leap over curbs all under the guise that we’re out for exercise.

We know that God is present in the people we encounter, and no matter what happens in life, God is there for us. Sometimes I think God gave me so many great friends because I need more help than most people. I’m okay with that.


Begin Again.

I’ve had an exceptionally humbling week. Maybe you know what that feels like. You decide you’re going to be brutally honest about your feelings and let them all out, even if they are completed tainted and whacked. Then you discover that you’ve caused tremendous pain. Suddenly it doesn’t feel so good to speak your mind, to tell it like it is. Because you learn that the way you see it isn’t the way it is at all. Your self-absorbed view was way off, and you’re left feeling sheepish and sick. Humbled, that’s a better word. It implies that something good may come of this. You’re knocked off your high horse and left in the manure. . . where you feel you belong.

I spoke up vehemently, and at the time, I was on a roll. Spitfire Irish bite minus the humor and wit, just plain ugly. I look back, and I can’t believe it. What the hell came over me? I think the point is that hell did indeed come over me. I apologized profusely. Did I destroy relationships? Will things ever be the same?

Seeking peace this morning, I randomly opened Marianne Williamson’s Illuminata to the following prayer:

“Dear God, The burden that I carry feels too big for me. I’m so scared that this situation is going to fall apart and blow up in my face. I have done the following things that I regret: (say your own). I failed to do the following things I should have done: (say your own). And now, dear Lord, I feel so guilty. The situation is out of control and I am so scared. Please God, I need a miracle. Please give me the chance to begin again. . .”(p. 95). My lists came tumbling out of my mouth, including the failure to put others first and to thank God for life’s many blessings. 

“I forgive you.” Those words set me free to start anew. Now it’s my job to trust in that mercy and in the love of others who really do forgive me, who don’t hold those damn Irish grudges. I’ve learned that I can’t trust others if I can’t trust myself. And when you hurt someone the way I have, you wonder about yourself, so you pray for guidance not to do it again. Lately, I’ve been praying my head off, and God answered with Williamson’s prayer. Flipping to that page today a was mini- miracle for me.

Years ago, when I picked my kids up from Saint Paul Catholic School in Valparaiso at the end of the day, I could hear the principal reciting the Act of Contrition over the loud speaker while the children prayed along. I was always struck by the beautiful reflection, and I still am.