Wednesday, December 7, 2011

X Factor

You talked me into watching the X Factor.  I'm glad.  At first I didn't get it.  All I could see were the performers facing criticism and weeping as they failed.  It seemed falsely dramatic and rather cruel.

Listening to you talk about what you see changed my mind.  Now I see these (mostly) young people taking a huge risk on a huge stage.  They face their fears and failure.  These performers are talented and have the nerve to think they can out-talent the talented person standing next to them.  Or do they out-work that person?  Or see the mystery, or luck, of it all?

Now I see the attraction of this competition, hard work, giving your all, suspense, failing, surviving, and sweet victory.  Stuff we all face.  Those still standing seem to be enjoying the ride while it lasts.  And we're enjoying the ride with them.  


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Souls and Thanksgiving

The month of November flew by and I didn't post. But I really wanted to.  So here are the most important points that come to mind (backdated.)

Each November we ponder All the Saints who have gone before us and are cheering us on to heavenly victory.  We pray for the souls who have gone before us, who are suffering.  We give thanks for all the good we experience on this earth, especially good people.  Remember them.

November is about remembering...thanking...thinking of ends and preparing for beginnings to come.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Scary Teens

Just in time for Halloween, here's my top 10 list for why some adults find teens scary:

10.  Teens can dress funny.
9.    Teens can be opinionated.
8.    Teens can walk around in big groups.
7.    Teens can be silly.
6.    Teens can be big.
5.    Teens can be disrespectful.
4.    Teens can be loud.
3.    Teens can be impulsive.
2.    Teens can be apathetic.
1.    Teens tell their truth.

Most of these behaviors aren't that scary, except for the telling their truth part.  So the vast majority of teens aren't really scary.  Those teens who do the scariest things need brave adults in their lives (to love, support, and provide direction) the most.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Beautiful to Serve

The cantor sang, "How Beautiful" at Mass.  You and your brother were altar servers.  I was struck by your willingness to publicly serve and be a part of all who love God. No easy task., you risk the ridicule of peers and enjoy fewer mornings to sleep late.  Clearly the only gain is the privilege of serving God in this special way.

More teens would be happy if they could find a way to serve their family, church, and community in meaningful ways.  Giving to others, especially when no prestige is gained, is beautiful.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Be Your(best)self

"Just be yourself."  I hear this advice given via media and passing conversation, especially among teens.  I'm not quite sure what it means.

Looking at it from one point of view, it might mean, "I really love you and think you are great.  Don't get discouraged by those who are trying to cut you down.  You do so many wonderful things that only you can do in your special way.  You don't need to change to fit some arbitrary standard."  This is sweet, reassuring, and hopefully true.

Looking at it from another point of view, it might mean, "Do whatever you want to do."  This is wrong advice when speaking about serious matters, no matter what.

If I ever advised someone to "Just be yourself," it was a long, long, time ago.  Now I would be more clear.  I would say, "Just be your best self.  God made you one-of-a-kind and has important plans for you.  Be sure to share your time and talents well.  Know right from wrong and keep striving for what is good."


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Think About These Things

With many conflicting, confusing, and contradictory messages to sift through, I find the following passage to be helpful, practical, and reassuring:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8
Truth.  Honor.  Justice.  Purity.  Loveliness.  Graciousness.  Excellence.  Worthiness.

These things.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Are You Serious?

I wonder if teens and young adults feel compelled to tease, joke, and goof around so much as a way to balance out the discouraged, disheartened, and uptight adults they encounter.  I'm an adult who needs to be serious about my responsibilities but I shouldn't use this as an excuse to be anxious, negative, or grim.

Thank you for teasing me (just enough) about my old, dull eyeglasses to help me loosen up and get a cute pair.

Thank you for joking (just enough) about my shortcomings and mothering missteps to show you love me even when I fail.

And thanks for goofing around with me, the family, friends, and others.  You lighten our loads and fill our space with laughter.

The next time you ask me, "Are you serious?"  I'll likely reply, "Yes.  Finish your homework."  But I'm less discouraged, disheartened, and uptight because of you :) .


Monday, September 19, 2011

It Was Me

A common answer to "Who did it?" is "It wasn't me." But was it?

If you tend to be talkative, outgoing, or powerful, have you ever demanded others to do wrong? "Hey, Joe, go trip that kid."  Or have you ever provoked someone?  "Go ahead, just try and hit me."   Have you ever participated in wrong? "Ya, let's skip school." Or have you defended something that is wrong, as if it is right?

If you tend to be quiet, introverted, or influential, have you advised someone to do wrong? "Just tell your dad you're going with me." Have you ever gone along with others because you couldn't say no?  Have you praised someone doing wrong. "You're so cool."  Have you hidden the wrong of others when it involved big harm or big damage?

It is easy to be, intentionally or not, an accessory to another's wrong.  You may not have done the wrong, technically, but in a way, "It was me."


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tell and Not Tell

I hate tattling.  When you and your siblings were little, I helped you to not tattle by teaching a few rules that apply to young (and old) adults, too.

1.  Big harm.  If your 4 year old brother is about to jump off the patio roof expecting to fly in his Spiderman pajamas - TELL (an adult) because he could get badly hurt.

2.  Big damage.  If your 6 year old brother is lighting a plastic cup on fire in the garage - TELL (an adult) because fire spreads quickly and could burn down the house.

3.  Concerned.  If there is no immediate harm or damage but you are concerned - TELL the person involved.  "I'm concerned about you.  This could really hurt you or someone else, or cause costly damage.  Please stop and go tell (an adult who can help.)  Or I will."

4.  Trying to get someone in trouble.  If there is no immediate or pending big harm or damage - DON'T TELL because that is tattling, trying to make yourself look good or build yourself up at another's expense.

Drunk driving? TELL (someone who can help) because there is a big risk of physical injury and death to self and other as well as costly damage and legal consequences.  Teammate is late for practice?  DON'T TELL (unless coach asks) because there is no immediate concern.

I love your efforts to tell and not tell, well.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Virtues and Values

Virtues are qualities within a person that can grow and produce good behaviors. When you grow in generosity it shows in your increased giving to others. Values are things to which we give high worth that is relative and changeable.  When you were young, you valued your bike and now you value your car, and perhaps the freedom connected to both.  When I was young my neighborhood valued church picnics and now my neighborhood values privacy, perhaps a reflection of diminishing unity.

I prioritize growing in virtue over giving value.  Our Catholic faith helps us by defining virtues, teaching priorities, and showing them impervious to personal and cultural mood swings.  The highest virtues are faith, hope, and charity as love, called the Theological Virtues.  Prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude are Cardinal Virtues.  The Seven Heavenly Virtues are humility, generosity, chastity, meekness, temperance, brotherly love, and diligence.
The mass media "Pass It On" spots from currently highlights 83 "values" to include: appreciation, believe, caring, character, common ground, compassion, compliments, courtesy, do your part, encouragement, friendship, generosity, good manners, gratitude, hard work, helping others, honesty, hope, including others, inspiration, integrity, live life, live your dreams, love, making a difference, opportunity, optimism, patience, reaching out, right choices, sharing, sportsmanship, spread your wings, teaching by example, true beauty.  While each has worth, the swelling list and blurring of virtues and values doesn't help anyone to prioritize and live out what is most important.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Love Where You Live

It is common for teens to want to leave their hometown.  It is understandable to want to encounter new places and challenges.  But waiting for the future can cause unhappiness now.  Finding ways to love and enjoy home in the present is key.

August is a great time to put my proposal to the test.  In this desert it is hot as Hades, dry as straw, and a constant haboob in the making.  Nasty.  It would be really, really, easy to hate this place and pine for someplace cool, wet, and storm-free.  Yet, with a little imagination and the habit of gratitude, there is much to love here.  Swimming pools and water parks abound offering relief and fun.  Museums and restaurants offer new experiences.  Malls and libraries have free air-conditioning.  The Arizona Diamondbacks are winning!  Lines are short at most places.  Coupons and great deals are everywhere.  Plus, in just a few weeks, we'll be back to paradise.

I've learned how to love tough-to-love places; the remote town that was thrilled to get a Walmart, the quirky town that built tunnels for toads, and a city closely linked to the sitcom, The Office.  It is a real confidence builder to know I can love challenging places.  Reminds me of the New York, New York song lyric, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."  You can make it here, there, or anywhere when you learn how to love where you live.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Birthday!

When one of us in the family celebrates a birthday, we have a sweet and corny tradition of telling the birthday celebrant all the things we love about them. That's a lot of love to tell you on your birthday, son.

You are...

smart, especially people smart.
handsome, and some day you'll be grateful for your youthful good looks:)
happy, always ready with a smile.
funny, lifting the spirits of others.
confident, doing what you know is right.
athletic, working crazy hard to meet your goals.
generous, giving to others in need.
manly, truly, no need for false props like foul language.
fun, able to layer and layer a good time.
hard-working, in sports, academics, relationships, life.
strong, having suffered seriously in your young life.
humble, in spite of the accolades you receive.
trustworthy, having earned it.
faithful, a natural witness to God's joy.

You will show me the path to life,

abounding joy in your presence,

the delights at your right hand forever.

Psalm 16:11

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear son, happy birthday to you! And many more.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Recovering from Shock

As a young woman, it can be shocking when a young man is forward, bold, and aggressive. A woman can freeze in her shoes from shock when this behavior is physical.

Some boys and men do really stupid, insensitive, and even criminal acts against women. Most women experience some situation where they are on the receiving end of unwanted advances. I wish this wasn't true. But here are a few things I've learned that might help move from shock to wisdom.

No one gets a free pass. Each person must earn your trust over time. This doesn't mean to be cynical, fearful, or harsh. It means it is OK to be cautious and street smart as you grow in experience and wisdom.

Time takes care of even the biggest hurts. You'll feel out of sorts for a while but, in general, God helps heal our hearts within a year of shocking events. Be patient with yourself. Keep talking and processing this event with your loved ones.

Bad behavior is shocking. But your ability to recover is ASTONISHING!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Vacation Love

Vacations are one of the glues that hold a full and sometimes difficult life together.  These extended breaks from routine offer many opportunities to have fun, build relationships, and rest.  Vacations are also for doing favorite things like eating delicious food and eating more delicious food. 

I have so enjoyed vacationing with you over the years.  When you were little, you mainly enjoyed having the undivided attention of me and your dad.  It didn't really matter where we were as long as you could play in dirt and water.  As you've grown in sophistication, so have our vacations.  Now the dirt is beach sand and the water is the Pacific Ocean or resort giant water slides and lazy rivers. 

This year was special.  We were able to gorge ourselves on the Major League Baseball All Star Game and many related events.  Knowing this may be a once in a lifetime experience, we slid into home at Fan Fest, hurt our necks watching home run after home run at the Home Run Derby, and cheered the National League onto victory.  I smile whenever I think about the fans in from Montana, the balls we retrieved (and just missed), and the full house in our home away from home, Chase Field.

Thanks for being such great company during these special times.  I look forward to our next vacation.  And the one after that.  And the one after that...


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spotify Collection

You obtained a much coveted account with Spotify. Even better, you are sharing it with your parents.  Off the top of our heads...

The Call - Reconcile. Tears for Fears - Head Over Heels. Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms. Placido Domingo - Perhaps Love. Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman. Harry Chapin - Cats in the Cradle (how embarrassing.) Hall and Oats - Bigger than the Both of Us. Dave Mason - We Just Disagree. Neil Young - Thrasher. Bob Dylan - Shelter from the Storm. Elvis Costello - Allison. Thin Lizzy. U2.

Bruce Springsteen. Dire Straits. Aretha Franklin - Respect. B52s - Love Shack. REM - End of the World. Tom Petty - Won't Back Down. Journey - Don't Stop Believing. Al Green - Let's Stay Together. Sly and the Family Stone - Dance to the Music. Rod Stewart. Supremes. Diana Krall. Jose Feliciano, Santana. Van Morrison, Johnny Cash, Beach Boys.  Bonnie Raitt.

Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Corelli. Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert. Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Brahms. Sousa, Foster, Gershwin, Bernstein, Ellington.  Barbershop, Polkas, Broadway. Bluegrass - Bill Monroe. Cowboy - Riders in the Sky. Patsy Cline. Sinatra. Bocelli. Chieftons, Irish Rovers. Gilbert and Sullivan.

A good start.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Nacho Cheese

Need a ballpark nachos fix? For your next snack attack, consider making your own nachos with this easy Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe from
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 7 slices processed American cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and stir in flour. Pour in the milk and stir until the mixture thickens. Stirring constantly, mix in cheese and salt. Continue to cook and stir until cheese has melted and all ingredients are well blended, about 15 minutes.               

    Keep it classic or add one of the following: chili powder, drained Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies, black olives, chopped spinach, chili, or whatever you like. Yum!


    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Dress for the Occasion

    You dress well, and I appreciate your effort.  It must be tough, considering how little cultural consensus there is on how to dress.  Being older and from the northeast, I had an advantage growing up.  I rarely claim "the good ole days" argument, but we definitely knew how to dress for an occasion.

    For school and work, there were uniforms or dress codes.  For church, we wore our "Sunday Best."  For weddings (arguably the biggest of occasions) we wore several outfits; one for church, one for day, and one for night - the most formal and fancy outfits.  For funerals we wore black. Men wore suits and pants. Women wore dresses.  Kids wore shorts past our fingertips in length.  For winter we bundled up.  For gym class we wore sneakers.  For sleep we wore pajamas.  No mixing.

    Some decided this was too confining, boring, stuffy, or costly.  Not me.  Coming from a humble background, having different clothing for different occasions meant our life was full of variety and not a monotonous stream of casual days in jeans.  Because we were practical, I never found myself in high heels walking through a muddy baseball field or at a lake wearing a dress unprepared to swim.  My clothes never made a statement as much as gave me opportunities to show different aspects of myself and positively engage in my community.

    I cheer you on as you buck current trends of skimpy, elite, droopy, androgynous, effortless, and misfit clothing.  Be practical, appropriate, and let your personality shine.


    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Absolutely Judge

    "Don't judge me or others" is an unreasonable and misleading request.  Confusion hinges on the word "judge."  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
    Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act.
    We absolutely need to judge concrete acts (behaviors) in order to grow. To judge well we must have a well-formed conscience to better know ourselves and to love others.

    How does this look in real life?  Let's say there is a teen attending Mass in a revealing outfit.  It is correct to judge objectively that the outfit is revealing and not appropriate for Mass based on the expectation of semi-formal wear, "Sunday Best."  My judgement allows me to dress properly, avert my eyes, to say a prayer for the young person, and to give a warm welcome, being rightfully pleased by his or her attendance.  I can't judge her intent or the state of his soul, which God alone judges.  If I grow in relationship with the teen over time, we may discuss appropriate dress.

    If "don't judge" means to give benefit of the doubt and to be loving, courteous, and respectful, I'm in.  If it means, "There is no right or wrong," I disagree.  If it means, "I'm shutting down discussion," reconsider. If it means, "I want to do what I want to do and I want you to approve," then that conscience is immature, limiting one's ability to love others and judge reasonably.


    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Leading Cause of Death

    Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16 to 20 year olds.  Having earned your driver's permit, I need to tell you so much.  I'll begin with...I still remember, like it was yesterday, attending the funeral of my dad's friend's teen daughter. She was a passenger in a car full of her friends "driving around" at night. The driver took a curve too quickly and rolled the car. Driver lived. Passenger, this sweet girl, died. Just. Like. That.  I expect and please do:

    Wear your seat belt. Make this an automatic habit.
    Be alert. Be well-fed, hydrated, and rested, especially after athletics and working many or odd hours. No chemicals that impair judgement and reaction time.
    Avoid distractions.  Just drive.  No cell phones, food, make-up, loud friends, music.  Nothing.  Just your eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.
    Be considerate and non-reactive. Other drivers will be rude, make mistakes, or disrespect you.  Who cares. 
    Stay humble.  Don't underestimate your inexperience.  Avoid speeding, purposeless driving, and driving at night.

    We don't control everything, but we do control all of the above.  For the rest:
    Sacred Heart of Jesus, grant me
    a steady hand and watchful eye,
    that none be hurt as I pass by.
    Thou givest life. I pray no act of mine
    take away or mar that gift Divine.
    Protect those, Lord, who travel with me
    from highway dangers and all anxiety.
    Teach me to use my car for others' needs
    and never miss the beauty of Thy
    world through excessive speed.
    I pledge to drive with loving concern
    to my every destination,
    offering each travel hour to Thee
    in a spirit of reparation.
    Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
    my auto Companion,
    have mercy on me.
    Be safe, kid.  Your life is precious to me.


    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Pleasant Company

    Being with you this summer is wonder-full.  Whether we go to a party, ballgame, or Mass, I can count on you to be pleasant company for me and others.  I love when adults compliment me on your courtesy and am pleased when you are rewarded with equally pleasant friends, opportunities, and tootsie pops. 

    It's also sad to consider how little common courtesy is shown to adults by many teens.  I've been on the receiving end (sulking, eye-rolling, silence, arrogance, boredom, isolation) and wonder how discourtesy became so acceptable and excusable.  I don't expect perfection, but I do expect effort.  If we don't expect young people to behave properly in social settings (make eye contact, shake hands, smile, engage) we do them a major disservice.  Sure it can be tough to listen to a dull story, eat a lackluster meal, accept a hug, and hold the door for an elderly man.  Yet, these are exactly the little ways we live out God's design to love others. 

    So keep showing up, smiling, hugging, chatting, laughing, and listening.  Keep bringing your famous caramel corn, playing with the little kids, and talking baseball with the dads.  I...we...appreciate it!


    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Love of Country

    I love my country. Through patriotism I show gratitude for the sacrifices of past patriots and hope for our future. Love for my country contributes to my happiness. The good, beautiful, and excellent shine, warming my heart. E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust bring tears to my eyes.  Cynics, critics, and entitled are chronically unhappy because they don't see the spacious skies, brotherhood, and Liberty in our American home.
    O beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of grain,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited plain!
    America! America!
    God shed his grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea!
    On this 4th of July while wearing red, white, and blue; wave the flag, thank a veteran, watch baseball, attend a parade, celebrate with friends, eat yummy picnic food, read the Declaration of Independence, ooh and aah below fireworks...and sing:
    God Bless America,
    Land that I love.
    Stand beside her, and guide her
    Thru the night with a light from above.
    From the mountains, to the prairies,
    To the oceans, white with foam
    God bless America, My home sweet home. 

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Truth Is

    I wonder if Bob Marley would be surprised to know that teen girls find his following quote touching enough to spread like wild fire across social media:
    Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.
    My best guess is that hearts touched by this quote have suffered connected to someone they have loving feelings toward. And that does hurt. But here's some consolation.

    "Everybody" isn't going to hurt you. Most people (your mail carrier, neighbor, and cousin) are pretty decent and many people are surprisingly kind (the surgeon who reset your nose, the professor who gave you a break, and the driver who gave you room to merge.)

    Who is worth suffering for? This isn't as mysterious as it sounds. In order of priority, husbands and wives are to suffer for each other and their children. Children are to honor, and suffer for, their parents. In the nuclear family we are to suffer for our siblings. From there we are to suffer for the truly vulnerable to include:
    ... care for orphans and widows in their affliction... James 1:27
    Truth is...never found in emotionally misleading words.


    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Love Notes from Therese

    Thoughts about love...

    "The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness."

    "We have merely to love Him, without looking at ourselves, without examining our faults too much."

    "Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love."

    "Merit does not consist in doing or giving much. It consists in loving much."

    "Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness."

    "Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk."

    "Trust and trust alone should lead us to love."

    "It is love alone that counts."

    ...from St. Therese of Lisieux.


    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Not Invited

    How awkward. You are surrounded by, and overhear, peers making plans...without you.
    True charity consists in putting up with all one's neighbor's faults, never being surprised by his weakness, and being inspired by the least of his virtues.      St. Thérèse of Lisieux
    Don't take it personally. Perhaps they don't know it is rude to discuss private matters in public. There's a lot of that going around, unfortunately. Or maybe they know exactly what they are doing. That is a poor reflection on them, not you. Either way, it is good to wish others happiness. With or without you.


    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    An Urge to Scream

    When I read this from Fr. Lovasik in Hidden Power of Kindness:
    The saints were saints because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient, silent when they wanted to speak, and agreeable when they felt an urge to scream.
    I thought, yes, difficult work doesn't always look difficult and often goes unnoticed.

    Many today are being encouraged to behave in angry, impatient, and loud-mouthed ways at the expense of their happiness and of those around them. They are, at times, also called brave for behaving in selfish, pushy, and dramatic (so, so, easy) ways. But bravery, by definition, is difficult.

    Every time you are cheerful, patient, thoughtful, and agreeable, I'm impressed. Let's save our screams for baseball victories and lizards dangling from little boy's fingers.


    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Compliment or Creep?

    Recently, two different men told you that you're beautiful. One well known to you needed to further explain that he wasn't being superficial. The other, a shaggy stranger downtown, needed to assure you that he wasn't a creep.

    I'm old enough to remember when men didn't feel the need to qualify their observations of feminine beauty; the elderly man who tipped his hat and the construction guy who whistled. I also remember knowing full well, intuitively and through experience, when a man was sharing a compliment or being disrespectful.

    Recently you asked, am I pro-compliments? Yes, when they are sincere and selfless, smooth or clumsy. Do I support compliments? Yes, they are sweet forms of verbal kindness. Will I give and receive compliments with (discerned) reckless abandon? Absolutely! One of the perks of my motherly presentation is that I can compliment others from a non-threatening place. I compliment moms on their darling children, the plumber on his timely and quality service, and the sales clerk on her pretty hair style.

    Know that there are creeps but more importantly, know that they are far outnumbered by good men. Give and accept compliments with respect. are beautiful.


    Wednesday, June 15, 2011


    Four years ago I miscarried. You named the baby, Catherine. Four years later, we still cry a little.  We think about the suffering of that day and the loss of what could have been.

    Yet, now we value...

    Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.  Jeremiah 1:5
    After we have suffered, the God of all grace will restore, establish and strengthen us. God promises us that our suffering will ultimately be followed by glory.  Peter 5:10  
    and the promise of eternal life...


    Catherine may not need us as we want to be needed.  But we need Catherine:)


    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Hopeful Heart

    Wishing, upon stars and before blowing out birthday candles, is a sweet nod to hope.  Wishful thinking, though, produces poor decisions, frustration, and heart-ache.

    John Wishful Thinker takes a test, not having studied and with fingers crossed, then is shocked when he fails.  John Hopeful studies for the test, braces himself for difficult questions and grading, and is grateful when he receives a good grade.  Wishful thinking is based on what is emotionally satisfying and pleasing to imagine.  Hope is based on reality.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes:
    The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.
    Susie Wishful Thinker, on a whim, leaves her American life behind to follow an Italian boyfriend to Italy and is shocked when he eventually dumps her.  Susie Hopeful develops a mutual friendship with a man, becomes engaged, and marries.

    Wishful thinking is childish.  Hope is from and in God.


    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Side Bar Notes

    I've added 3 links to my side bar.  10 Short, Spontaneous Prayers That Really Work is to the point.

    Twenty and Engaged shares:
     With my 21st birthday just a few weeks away, it is expected that I plan a blowout party with copious amounts of alcohol, as my friends compile a list of 21 dares for me to complete while downtown... Instead, I’m planning my wedding.  [Pause for disapproval.]
    I'm not disapproving!... and respect Elizabeth Hanna's clarity.

    On a much lighter note, see fatherly love for his teen in action at Wave At The Bus.  This blog shares photos of a dad making a mundane task memorable.  Knowing your sophisticated sense of humor, you'll get a laugh out of it ;-)


    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Kindness Rules

    In this post I referred to a reckless driver acting as a selfish fool.
    "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.'  But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment...and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna." Matthew 5:21-22
    Name-calling is easy, wrong, and can lead to suffering, now and forever, for all involved because it breaks the rules of kindness.  Fr. Lovasik, in his book The Hidden Power of Kindness summarizes:
    1. Don't speak unkindly of anyone.
    2. Don't speak unkindly to anyone.
    3. Don't act unkindly toward anyone.
    At least once a day...
    1. Do speak kindly of someone.
    2. Do think kindly of someone.
    3. Do act kindly toward someone.
    For any unkind act, ask forgiveness from God, make amends if possible, and say a little prayer for the recipient. I did say a prayer for the reckless driver...and hope others pray for me when I, regretfully, am unkind.


    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Lifelong Friends

    This weekend I watched you freely choose to go out of town with family instead of staying home with friends.  You attended four baseball games to cheer for brother #2 and his teammates.  You played card games with brother #3, letting him win and making him laugh.  You verbally sparred with brother #1 with good humor.  You found ways to include all the siblings in fun.

    Little makes me happier as a mom than to see you all happy together.  These relationships will likely be the longest of your lives, bridging childhood and adulthood.  When you choose to invest your time into these relationships, to sacrifice for each other, and to enjoy being together, you are building a strong foundation for a great future.    

    This weekend I watched you freely choose to go out of town with...lifelong friends.


    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Not Sticks and Stones

    Yikes, there has been a lot of public name-calling lately; NBA sidelines, talk radio, and congested roads near you. We know name-calling in general is easy when you're angry, frustrated, thoughtless, and inarticulate. It's wrong when motivated by hate or power over the weak, when it is a lie or makes something sacred, profane. What we may not know is that well-intentioned efforts to rid our world of name-calling through huge fines on professional athletes and loss of jobs for public speakers, may inadvertently be shutting down important discussions and undermining personal strength.

    Christ Himself called out some pharisees:
    Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Matthew 22:18
    and he called out Peter:
    "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Mark 8:33
    We need to be able to discuss that there are hypocrites and evil. We need names that capture a thousand words in one word and to look at each for the truth or falsehood it represents. When Mr. BMW aggressively doesn't merge properly onto the highway, putting me in danger, at that moment he is a selfish fool.

    We need to see ourselves as strong and resilient. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" is more truthful and helpful than "Name-calling is crushing under all circumstances." Being thick-skinned is a desirable and practical trait to foster. The stronger we become, the more we are able to defend truth and those who are truly unable to defend themselves.


    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    The End is Near?

    Another doomsday has come and gone. We're still here. What to make of this?
    But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone...So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
    Matthew 24:36, 44
    Anyone who identifies and plans for a specific doomsday of this sort is mega-prepared, but foolish. He has no authority to make such a claim and has no credibility when proven wrong. He misleads the vulnerable, instilling fear or false expectations.

    Anyone who mocks the doomsayers is proven right, but foolish. He minimizes the reality of an end time and misses the opportunity to reflect on what is most important in life. He sucker punches those who do.

    We're fortunate to know we need to be ready for an unknown end time. We also behave foolishly sometimes. Hopefully, when the next doomsday is announced, we will reflect on our preparedness, be kind to those having a foolish moment, and have a peaceful day.


    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Take a Great Break

    You've finished strong and now you have down time.  There is a great temptation to swing between a frenzy of doing all the fun stuff you missed while you worked hard and a slug-fest of inactivity.  A little of this all-or-nothing can be absorbed but when this coexistence of extremes fails to bring steady happiness, consider that breaks are great for: 

    Getting extra rest, eating decent meals, and getting back to fitness plans.

    Getting together with family and friends who you miss.

    Organizing your room, home, stuff.

    Giving back to those in need and those who give to you.

    Reading, writing, and thinking more deeply about God.
    He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. Mark 6:31,32
    Once you finish something tiring, hard, and structured, it's understandable to crave rest, ease, and sleep in, stay up late, and go as you please in between. But extended sloth will undermine your body, character, and future hopes.  The same discipline and structure that helped you to do well, can also help you to have a great break that is refueling, engaging, uplifting, refreshing, purposeful, regrouping, and fun.  You've earned it, kid.


    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Love Notes from Francis

    Thoughts about love....

    "You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves."

    "Those who love to be feared, fear to be loved."

    "It is to those who have the most need of us that we ought to show our love more especially. "

    "We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear."

    "Perfection of life is the perfection of love. For love is the life of the soul."

    ...from St. Francis de Sales, 1567 - 1622.


    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Like Derrick Rose

    Mother's Day is a pretty sweet holiday set aside to remind us to say, "Thanks, Mom, I love you" and to have a bright, light, celebration.

    Yet, one of the sweetest love-my-mom moments I've ever witnessed, didn't happen on Mother's Day. It wasn't bright and light, but rather, it was deep, tender, and intimate, in spite of the fact that millions were watching. It happened when Derrick Rose accepted the National Basketball Association 2011 Most Valuable Player Award:

    We moms don't expect or want a big show for doing our mothering work. But I can't deny that whenever you tell me you are grateful for my efforts and that you love me, my heart fills and overflows with pride and love. Just like Derrick's mom.


    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Not All That Special

    It is right and truthful to tell every little child that he or she is special.  Each is special in relationship to loved ones and based on God making each one-of-a-kind.  A child's potential is untested and wide open.  Once a foundation of unconditional love is set, growing children and teens benefit from being challenged and supported to learn that being an adult also includes accepting that most of us aren't all that special.

    Not being all that special is a relief.  There's less pressure and scrutiny when we accept that there is always someone smarter, more athletic, kinder, more popular, cuter, more handsome, funnier, more spiritual, better dressed, more achieving, etc.  Not being all that special puts things into perspective.  Not everyone can be President of the United States but God has a perfect plan for each one of us.  Not being all that special encourages being humble and kind.  If we think we're too special, we will look down on others and miss opportunities to improve.

    "You are special" rings shallow, naive, and disrespectful if discussion stops there.  You want to actually be special because you love God and treat others with respect.  You own and handle your short-comings and are striving to fulfill your potential.  Then you become special, in a more adult-like way, because you don't need to be all that special.   


    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Landing the Job

    I couldn't be more proud of you!  You did it!  You got the job!

    Getting a job is concrete proof that you have done some things right in the past and you have potential to learn and do more things right in the future.  Someone gave you the job because he or she thinks you have the skills to do the job and meet the needs of the company, group, or team.  He or she thinks that you have good character, that you will show up on time, work hard, and finish what you start.   He or she thinks that you are likeable and good company.

    Think about what got you to this point.  You didn't get some jobs but you kept applying and interviewing.  You faced rejection but you kept confident and didn't take rejection too personally.  You were humble, asked for feedback, and learned what you had to do better, how to improve, and what to expect.  You did lesser jobs well and suffered through rotten jobs, trusting that somehow they would help you to prove yourself in the future. 

    There is little in life that is as sweet as landing a well-earned job!  Enjoy this moment and make the most of this opportunity! 


    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Finish Strong

    Coming to the close of this year's academic and sports season, let's finish strong! How?
    I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4:7
    Compete well. Being able to say, "I did my very best," brings personal satisfaction and helps to avoid regrets. Show up, work hard, avoid shady shortcuts, and be courteous to others.

    Finish the race. Finish the test, the class, the practice, the game. Finish the quarter, the semester, the season, the year. By finishing, you are automatically ahead of those who quit out of weakness or from tragedy.

    Keep the faith. Everyone faces tragedy, falling, injury, slumps, failing. If you see failure as a type of test, a test of character and faith, this too becomes a race to finish strong. Be humble. Figure out what didn't work and fix it. Grieve. Heal. Regroup. Cooperate.  Ready yourself for the next opportunity. Pray.

    Life is made up of races, sprints and marathons, intertwined. Practicing the hard work of finishing strong now, will help you to grow strong and know what it takes to finish strong in the future.

    I'm here on the sidelines, ringing the COWBELL, whistling, and cheering you on to the finish line!


    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Happiness Is...

    ...2 kinds of ice cream, finding your skate key, telling the, la, laaaaaa.  This old song lyric floated through my mind this morning which prompted three more thoughts.  1. Where did that come from?  (Answer:  "Happiness" lyrics from the 70's Broadway show, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" and FYI a skate key adjusted the size of an old-fashioned metal-only roller skate  attached to shoes.)  2. Be careful what you get plugged into your brain.  (Way too many 70's and 80's kids sang drivel in school plays.)  3. What is happiness?

    Happy are the poor in spirit: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
    Happy are those who are sad: for they will be comforted.
    Happy are the gentle: for the earth will be their heritage.
    Happy are those whose heart's desire is for righteousness: for they will have their desire.
    Happy are those who have mercy: for they will be given mercy.
    Happy are the clean in heart: for they will see God.
    Happy are the peacemakers: for they will be named sons of God.
    Happy are those who are attacked on account of righteousness: for the kingdom of heaven will be theirs.
    Happy are you when men give you a bad name, and are cruel to you, and say all evil things against you falsely, because of me. 12 Be glad and full of joy; for great is your reward in heaven: for so were the prophets attacked who were before you.
    Matthew 5: 3-12 (Basic English Translation)
    Most translations of these Beatitudes use the word blessed in place of happy, to perhaps move the reader beyond thoughts of simple pleasure and contentment to more confidence and satisfaction. While I can be momentarily happy eating a treat of ice cream, deep happiness is a byproduct of having good purpose and right meaning in life.


    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    An Easter Basket for You!

    Here is an overflowing Easter basket for you filled with peeps, Jelly Belly beans, gummy bears, licorice, Swedish fishes, Big League gum, caramels, Skittles, Starburst, and Junior mints.  Ooooo, and lots of chocolate; bunnies, eggs, crosses, gourmet bars, and kisses.  And all those eggs...colored hard-boiled, Cadbury, and peanut butter.  Awwwww and check out the new to us Mallo-Licious jelly filled sour peaches.  A stuffed animal, bubbles, hopping chic, sidewalk chalk, and other favorites and surprises, too.  This Easter basket is over-the-top because Easter Joy knows no limits!

    An overflowing Easter basket reflects my overflowing love for you!  Even more, it reminds us of God's infinite love for each of us!  Accept this love!  Enjoy this love! And share this sweet, sweeter, sweetest, love with those around you!  Can I have a peep?


    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Dark Before Light

    I watch you struggle. Failed tests, relationships and attempts. I watch you lash out in anger, cooperate with trouble, or sink into despair. These are dark times.

    I wait this Holy Thursday in darkness and ponder The Last Supper. I will walk through the night to church, to adore Him among dim flickering candles. Tomorrow, Good Friday, I will pray the Stations of the Cross. How can injustice, pain, and death be good?

    The Light comes. With Him, you will pass tests, have good relationships, and succeed. The Light always comes. And we wait in the dark.

    ...what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled...the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen."      Matthew 4: 14, 16

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Favorite Book?

    There are predictable questions adults ask.  "What is your favorite book?" is one that covers a lot of territory, acting as a job interview question, small talk, and a quest to find something in common.  Answers that will not reflect well on you or help build relationships include:

    1.  I don't like reading. 
    2.  Books are dumb.
    3.  Book?

    Answers that show you are smart, employable, and interesting include:

    1.  A classic novel.  Pick a Great Book and get to know it well.  Which book?  Choose one with a character that you share things in common, such as age, gender, location, nationality, or ethnicity.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a good pick for a humorous American male.

    2.  A current work about your interests.  Love baseball?  Read the most recent biography about Henry Aaron. Love cooking?   Eat Tweet connects new cookbook format and current social media.

    3.  A book that shows your complete package.  An athlete can show smarts through a WWII book.  An academic can share their outdoorsmanship through a camping book.  An artist can share their physical discipline through a book on running.

    I look forward to hearing more about your favorite books!


    Thursday, April 14, 2011


    Are you hungry?  Angry?  Lonely?  Or tired?  If yes, then it is time to stop. 

    I first read about using the acronym H (hungry) A (angry) L (lonely) T (tired) to deal with stress when I was in my early 20's.  I have developed the habit of thinking "HALT" to help me to stop.

    A definition of "halt" is to pause or stop.  When we HALT, we pause, regroup, collect ourselves in order to proceed with improved clarity, kindness, and credibility.  It is hard to stop. 

    Stopping to eat and rest takes care of our physical needs.  Stopping to deal with our anger and loneliness takes care of our emotional needs.  We are more inclined to feel in control of ourselves and to avoid drama.  For your own sake, stop. 

    When our basic needs are taken care of, we are less likely to lash out at others.  We are more inclined to see the situation clearly, to be patient, and to be concerned for all involved.  For the sake of others, stop.


    Monday, April 11, 2011

    When Adults Fail You

    Adults have rightful authority over youth.  This principle is good because it is based on the truth that adults have more life experience on which to make good decisions.  But sometimes adults don't make good decisions.

    It can be confusing, frustrating, and sad when an adult makes a decision that hurts you.  A teacher who is burned-out at his job and his wife has recently left him, can give you a low grade and not offer support to improve that grade.  A coach who is disgusted with losing several games in a row and is up all hours of the night with a baby, can demand you stay in the game even after you report an injury.  A parent who wasn't raised right, can struggle to do right by you.

    Consider that you have options: harder.....ask for help.....walk away......make a plan.....ignore bad behavior.....offer help.....keep your around it.....consider their hurt.....avoid feeling sorry for them.....pray......avoid revenge......find sympathy.....focus on something else......acknowledge what is right.....keep it proportionate.....don't repeat their wrong behavior.....prove them grateful for what is good.
    When adults fail you, find your success by doing what is right.  You can do it!


    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    A Sweet Treat for You

    If I could hand you a freshly baked cookie from my oven right now, I would, and it would be your favorite - sweet, warm, and begging for a glass of milk or a cup of hot chocolate.  But since I can't, I'll share a quick recipe for a sweet treat that you can make.

    Melt about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave (and a microwave safe bowl) for about a  minute until melted.  Stir.

    Mix in about 1/4 dried fruit, 1/4 rolled oats, 1/4 cup nuts.  Spoon or scoop onto tray.  Chill.  Eat.
    Try different flavored chips, like peanut butter; different fruit like raisins, dried cranberries or cherries; different cereals. 

    A sweet treat to cheer...for my sweetheart.


    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Better Than a Job

    It's odd how much emphasis is placed on teens to prepare for getting a good job. Paid jobs, or fancier, careers have their place in life, and hard work is always commendable when directed toward good. Yet, there is so much more to the fullness and dignity of each person.

    The Catholic Church uses the term "vocation" to describe our purpose that is deeper and more meaningful than any payment or particular skill. "Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being" Catechism of the Catholic Church 2392. Pope John Paul II adds:
    However within this common vocation that calls everyone to be conformed not to this world but to God's will (cf. Rom 12:2), there are different states of life and numerous vocations and missions.

    The gift of the Spirit is the basis of everyone's vocation. It is at the root of the consecrated ministries of the Bishop, priest and deacon, who are at the service of ecclesial life. It is also he who forms and moulds the soul of those who are called to a life of special consecration, configuring them to Christ, chaste, poor and obedient. In the Spirit himself, who through the sacrament of Marriage surrounds and consecrates the union of the spouses, the mission of parents, called to make the family the first and fundamental expression of the Church, finds its strength and support. Lastly, the many other services oriented to building up and giving life to the community are nourished by the gift of the Spirit - Christian education and catechesis, care of the sick and the poor, human advancement and the exercise of charity. In fact, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7).
    Have a job?  Good.  Be grateful, do well, and use the income to provide for your needs and the needs of others.  Have a vocation?  Better!  Consider that each day prepares you for your adult life commitment.  That's priceless.


    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Sorry + Big = Amends

    "Sorry" is for little things or little people.  If we bump while passing in the kitchen, a quick "Sorry" works.  If a little kid destroys a one-of-a-kind autographed baseball that was snagged at an out-of-state Major League Baseball game while on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, "Sorry" is the most one can expect.  Since you don't want to be seen as a little kid and you will make big mistakes, be ready to do more, to make amends.

    Show remorse as soon as possible.  If you aren't really sorry, consider why.  All people make mistakes.  It's what you do about your mistakes that matters.  If a big mistake is made that isn't fully your fault, own the part that is, even if small in comparison.  Be brave and be first to make amends. 

    Say, "I'm sorry" and add details of what went wrong.  Avoid adding, "if", because making amends is about owning mistakes.

    No:  "I'm sorry if you think I called you a jerk."  Yes:  "I'm sorry I called you a jerk."

    Make it right.  Say, "I won't (describe mistake) again.  I will (explain how you will make it right.)"

    Yes:  "I won't borrow your stuff and damage it again.  I'll replace this broken ipod this weekend."

    Ask for forgiveness.  Say, "Will you forgive me?"  Give the person as long as they need to forgive you.  Don't expect forgiveness.

    Admitting mistakes can be hard work and feel embarrassing.  Yet, asking for and receiving forgiveness is worth the effort because of the rewards it brings: relief, peace, clear conscience, confidence, and positive relationships.

    Feeling burdened? Feeling distant from people you care about? Consider making amends.  You can do it!


    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Be Confident

    Be confident.  Sounds like good advice, but I suspect it is too broad, vague, and confusing.  I may be confident in my ability to eat breakfast, but I'm definitely not confident in my ability to throw a baseball without looking like a fool.  Confidence in oneself alone doesn't magically bring about wanted results.  Consider all the contestants on Wipe Out who lose. 

    I find it more realistic, and less burdensome, to look for specific ways to place confidence, much of which is outside of oneself.  Be confident in love.  Be confident in good character such as being trustworthy, respectful, responsible, and serving.  Be confident in talent and interest combined with skill and hard work.

    God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior.  Isaiah 12:2
    Ultimately, be confident in God.

    And know that I have great confidence in you.


    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Look Up

    Looking down on another person is weak, selfish, dramatic, and dumb.  The person looking down can often look strong, important, popular, and smart.  Look again.  The act of looking down on another person - their personhood (dignity, soul, mystery) is objectively wrong at all times.  Looking down is weak because it is easy.  Looking down is selfish because it builds one up at the expense of another.  Looking down is dramatic because it is often unnecessary public posturing.  Looking down is dumb because the list of reasons to be looked down upon is often arbitrary and superficial; skin color, grades, weight, clothes, neighborhood, team affiliation, articulation, quirks, physical limitations, style of worship...really?

    It takes a lot of strength to be kind to, and respect, others; especially those who are different from us, those who we disagree with, and/or those whose behaviors are awful.  Thinking beyond oneself to see the other person is hard, especially when their behaviors are hurtful or wrong.  Taking garbage from others while holding firmly to personal dignity is courageous.  Sifting through the differences between the person and their behaviors, objectively knowing right from wrong, and prioritizing behaviors worth addressing is really, really, smart.  To pray for those who act as our enemies is heroic.  

    Dr. Suess tells us, "A person's a person no matter how small."  The bible tells us, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  We are each perfectly small and of infinite worth to God.  Whether we're being tempted to look down on someone or someone is looking down on us, God is above it all.  He is the one who will love and guide us, strengthen our character, and comfort us in our suffering.  We simply need to look up.


    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Very Funny

    I'm convinced that God gave you to me to ensure (among other things) that I laugh. Your sense of humor is refreshing, silly, biting, and blunt. Seeing humor in life through your eyes lightens my load...when I let it.

    It is with some relief that you are no longer the child that I must constantly guide in what is right and wrong. When you were little I corrected your attempts at humor gone wrong (mainly bathroom humor - do you remember when "underwear" was a funny word without compare?) I would listen with a straight face, hoping I wouldn't laugh out loud. Now I'm not so obliged to guide and worry. Sometimes you still miss the mark of appropriate humor, yet it is worth the mistakes for the majority of time when you hit the mark. Sometimes truth via humor isn't completely appropriate or comfortable.

    Shockingly, there was a time when I was funny...or at least funnier than I am now. With a strong desire to do right for you (and God) I became serious. Sometimes too serious. You are laughing me back to what is true; that life is difficult and choosing to laugh in the face of fear, ridiculousness, and adversity, is a way to allow God's grace and light to flow into and out of our hearts. Very loving. Very funny.

    Thank you! and Love,

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Good Morning!

    Good morning! 

    Before I said "Good morning!" to you and everyone in the house and the neighbors and the UPS guy and the little kid at the store and the store clerk and my friend...I said "Good morning!" to God.

    A cheerful "Good morning!" pours love into those I know, builds relationships with those I'm getting to know, and offers common courtesy to those I don't know at all.  I've shouted out my door, "Good morning!" to the UPS guy so often and for so many years that I came to know him by name and now we can chat about baseball, our kids, and how I sure do purchase a lot of stuff online.  You know that neighbor who drives by you daily but you've never officially met?  Or that kid you see regularly but who always seems to be on the other side of the room, hall, cafeteria, gym, or church?  A way to start a relationship is to make eye-contact and give a quick nod, smile, wave, "Hi," or "Good morning!"  Over time, you may become neighborly or develop a friendship.

    To build a relationship with God, a "Good morning!" is a great place to start.  It only takes a second.  Consider it, at least, a common courtesy to the Creator.  When you feel distant from Him, no worries; by saying "Good morning" to Him each day you will grow closer.  That's just how it works.  Have a few more seconds to build the most important relationship of your life?  Start talking to Him.  Tell Him what you are sorry about, what you want, what you're thankful for.  It's just between you and God.

    Catholics can consider learning a formal Morning Offering.  Here is one example:
    O Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, the reunion of Christians; and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
    Rise and shine and thank you for saying, "Good morning!" to me.  I'm praying for you and your day, every day.


    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Conditional Love

    Unconditional love is rare on earth. Ideally an infant should be loved without condition because he or she is completely dependent upon the ongoing tenderness of adults who should be able to delay their own gratification for the sake of the needy child.  Infants are super cute and attracting, but they cannot be independent and personally responsible.
    Heavenly speaking, God in his infinite mercy, loves in a way that is mysterious - not to be pegged down, contained, or limited. "You love everything you created and you despise nothing of what you have made" (Wis 11,24). He loves you because you are His.  He also shows and tells us how to love Him and others, for example, through the Bible.  He loves us perfectly, both unconditionally and conditionally.

    Conditional love is respectful and responsible love between maturing people.  When two people avoid selfishness and want each other's well-being, they are willing to place conditions on their relationship for the betterment of both.  For example, when we agree that you will arrive home by curfew, our relationship grows stronger because a reasonable curfew gives me peace of mind (and a decent night's sleep!) and gives you the opportunity to prove your trustworthiness (and get a decent night's sleep!)  Loving conditions and limits set us up for success.

    I love you because you are mine.  I respect you enough to encourage you to live within the responsible conditions of family, the just rules of society, and the full truth of God's love.  With God's help, we can learn how to love perfectly.


    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Choose Well Suffer Well

    Emotionally speaking, I don't want you to suffer.  I want to protect you forever.  Will you consider Safety Tip #7 from Officer Buckle and Gloria and wear a helmet at all times, for my sake? 

    There is much suffering in our hearts, bodies, relationships, and world that is out of our control. There are some who choose to inflict gratuitous suffering upon themselves wrongly. Yet, there is a way to choose to personally suffer - to do what is hard - for good reason and purpose. Athletes choose to suffer physical pain to improve their skills and strive for victory. Academics choose to suffer mental tension in order to delve more deeply into subject matter and/or to get good grades. Workers choose to suffer when they smile at a cranky customer, follow the directions of a bully boss, or allow a subordinate an unearned mercy, in order to earn income. Patients choose to follow treatment plans to heal. Each suffers and sacrifices, gives up, something less important in order to gain something more important.

    As we begin Lent, we are asked to sacrifice, let go, or give up something - to do something hard in order to draw closer to God.  Lent is a perfect season to learn how to choose and suffer well.  From EWTN:

    Give up complaining - focus on gratitude.
    Give up pessimism - become an optimist.
    Give up harsh judgments - think kindly thoughts.
    Give up worry - trust Divine Providence.
    Give up discouragement - be full of hope.
    Give up bitterness - turn to forgiveness.
    Give up hatred - return good for evil.
    Give up negativism - be positive.
    Give up anger - be more patient.
    Give up pettiness - become mature.
    Give up gloom - enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
    Give up jealousy - pray for trust.
    Give up gossiping - control your tongue.
    Give up sin - turn to virtue.
    Give up giving up - hang in there!
    Reasonably speaking, I know you suffer.  My love, prayers, support, and encouragement to hang in there are with you.


    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Your Extraordinary Smile

    Thank you for smiling at me today.  Your smile reassured me; told me in a small way that you were OK and that we were OK.  Your smile let me know that you could see I needed feedback; you saw beyond yourself to see me.  I remember the first time you smiled at me.  That smile came at just the right moment, when I was tired and wondering if I could be a good mom to you as a baby.  After so many years, I'm still often tired and wondering.  I appreciate even more now than then, the reassurance that your smile brings to me.

    Technically, smiling is ordinary and easy to do. But in actuality, smiling is extraordinary and difficult.  It is hard to smile when you're tired, hungry, angry, lonely, overwhelmed, bored, hurting, or confused.  Yet, you chose to smile your one-of-a-kind smile.

    As we leave the Liturgical Season of Ordinary Time to enter Lent this Ash Wednesday, it seems fitting to consider the act of ordinary smiling and how something ordinary can be full of purpose, meaning, and love. Consider your extraordinary smile as proof!

    Thank you for smiling at me today. Can you see me smiling back at you? :)


    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Love Songs to Sing

    Whether in a great book or film, the scene of a heroic man serenading his beloved woman strikes the heart as gutsy and intimate. And the greatest love songs of all time, aren't found on a billboard chart or music video.  They are found in the Book of Psalms. Here are a few examples chosen from 150...
    Test me, LORD, and try me; search my heart and mind. Your love is before my eyes; I walk guided by your faithfulness. 26: 2-3

    I will rejoice and be glad in your love, once you have seen my misery, observed my distress. 31: 8

    Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your kindness. 31: 17

    But I shall sing of your strength, extol your love at dawn, For you are my fortress, my refuge in time of trouble. 59: 17

    Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you. 86: 5

    Good indeed is the Lord, Whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age. 100: 5
    Be gutsy and sing, talk, pray, and love God "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27) He loves you intimately. Your voice is music to His ears.


    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Rise and Shine

    Getting up in the morning is a chore for many...maybe most.  You may or may not be a morning person by temperament.  Maybe you didn't sleep well because you were sick, worried, or distracted.  Or did you struggle to go to bed on time?  You may be dreading the day because you aren't prepared or are afraid.  And there's the teen phenomena of high levels of melatonin (sleep hormone) swimming in your veins until around 8:00 a.m., providing an additional challenge to your start.

    Commit to getting up anyway.  Figure out a doable morning routine, one that is motivating and gets you off to a good start.  Use alarm clocks, take a shower, eat and drink something healthy and yummy.  Time your routine to make sure you know exactly how long it takes; you may be surprised to find what you thought took 5 minutes, takes 15.

    I can't promise that today, each day, or every day will be all sunshiny or to your liking.  But I can promise that the day is uniquely yours.  You will make choices that will direct your life and affect the lives of others.  Your first choice of each day doesn't need to be a daily answer to, "Should I get up?" because tired minds often choose, "No...zzzzzzzzz"   Right now, while you are decidedly awake, commit to getting up every day - for a week, a month, or a semester.  Reward yourself when you do and recommit to another stretch.  Today you may have a good laugh, tackle your shyness, have your heart broken, or hear your new favorite song for the very first time.  You and your day are worth getting up for.

    Good morning, sunshine:)

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    In a Flash

    You know that scene in movies when a character faces danger and probable death and his life "flashes before his eyes" and ours?  We witness years of time in split second pictures.  I've had this experience in real life; thank goodness not connected to my impending death.

    There are times when things are hard between us, or when I watch you struggle from afar, and I plunge into surreal time.  I can see your anger, saddness, confusion, pain.  Then, all of a sudden, I see your baby face.  My heart softens.  I remember you; sweet, innocent and new. You were cute beyond belief and brimming with the personality of the one and only you. Yes! Even when you were a baby I could glimpse the teen you would become. I don't know how to explain it, something about that look in your eyes and the way you showed me what you needed. Then you are a toddler, a pre-schooler, school-aged.  Now you are, shockingly, a teen and young adult in the making. 

    Mothers tell their children, "You will always be my baby"...and my softened heart is why being my baby is a good thing. I am not disrepecting you as a young adult...just letting you know that sometimes, your life flashes before my eyes.

    Love you babe,

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Good Night

    Do you find it hard to go to sleep at night?  Are you distracted by games, friends, TV, or studies?  Do you simply not "feel" tired?  Research (Carskadon, 2006) shows that melatonin (sleep inducing hormone) levels rise later at night for teens than they do in children and adults -- and remain at a higher level later in the morning.  Though times vary for individuals, levels of melatonin start to rise in teenagers generally between 10 and 11 p.m. In other words, you may not "feel" tired until 10 or 11 p.m which may collude with other distractions to keep you from getting the sleep you need to think straight, act well, and feel  happy.

    Getting to bed at a reasonable time is a test; one you want to pass.  Although you may not feel tired, you can act in ways to prepare for sleep.  Avoid TV, computer, cell phones, caffeine, loud music, exercise, and thinking to hard.  Replace them with small routine tasks like brushing teeth, setting out clothes and school or work material for next day, taking a bath (not shower), and dimming lights.

    Most importantly, pray.  Talk to God about what you did well during the day.  Apologize for your mistakes and consider ways to improve.  Ask God for His help for yourself and those you are concerned about.  Thank God for big and little gifts.  Ponder God.  This is formally called an examination of conscience.  Here is an example of a more thorough and formal Catholic examination of conscience for teens , from Catholic Education Resource Center.

    Good night, dear.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Know Yourself; Love Others

    As if being a teen isn't hard enough.  Part of the suffering of being a teen in 2011 is the very high probability that the adults in your life have a fondness for the 1980s.  Singing and, even worse, dancing to music from the 80s is a sure-fire way for a  mom to tease and bother her teen.  Take this #1 song, from 1986 for example (emphasis mine):

     "Greatest Love Of All"
    I believe the children are our are future
    Teach them well and let them lead the way
    Show them all the beauty they possess inside
    Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
    Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
    Everybody searching for a hero
    People need someone to look up to
    I never found anyone to fulfill my needs A lonely place to be
    So I learned to depend on me

    I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
    If I fail, if I succeed
    At least I live as I believe
    No matter what they take from me
    They can't take away my dignity
    Because the greatest love of all
    Is happening to me
    I found the greatest love of all
    Inside of me
    The greatest love of all
    Is easy to achieve
    Learning to love yourself
    It is the greatest love of all ....

    And if by chance, that special place
    That you've been dreaming of
    Leads you to a lonely place
    Find your strength in love 
    The lyrics of this song are more embarrassing and confusing than any mom's good-natured teasing.  Yes, the teen years are about figuring out who you are, your relationship to others, and your place in the world.  Yet the answer isn't to see yourself alone at the center of your experience.  Keep your thoughts simple and true.  Put God and His guidance at your center.  Get to know yourself, both good and not-so-good.  Love others.  Now, that's worth singing and dancing about.

    I love you,

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    What does Valentine's Day mean to you?  Is it a day to wait in hopeful anticipation of receiving a valentine?  Is it a day to avoid as too romantic, too silly, and way too RED and PINK

    Valentine's Day to me is a day to ponder the sweetness of love, to enjoy some Sweethearts candy, and to tell those who show me love, that I love them.

    Today I will ponder...
    1 Corinthians
    Chapter 13

    1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
    And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
    If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
    3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
    it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
    it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
    It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
    For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
    but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
    When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
    At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
    5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  
    Know that we can think, feel, and act lovingly no matter what is-or isn't- happening around us; we can love even if we don't receive a valentine or must endure pink construction paper hearts beyond our comfort zone.