Thoughts on Cell Phones, Social Media and Our Kids…

And of what should we be afraid? Our captain on this battlefield is Christ Jesus. We have discovered what we have to do. Christ has bound our enemies for us and weakened them that they cannot overcome us unless we so choose to let them. So we must fight courageously and mark ourselves with the sign of the most Holy Cross.” –St. Catherine of Siena

As a child, I attended a small Catholic school where we attended mass three times a week. Candidly, I enjoyed the experience mostly because of the fact that it ensured one hour LESS of classroom time in my day. Also, I liked the music. For those of you who may also have spent a few years in Catholic Schools back in the 70s and 80s, those were the days of guitar music from the Glory and Praise book. The Franciscan sisters who ran the school informed me that I would be playing the guitar at these masses when I entered maybe the 5th grade or so. We’ll call that being “voluntold”. It mattered not to them that I had no skills and didn’t play an instrument or read music. They simply said, “You’ll come after school and Sr. Helen Ann will teach you.” Filed under “useless information” in my brain to this day are all the verses to songs like “Be Not Afraid”, “Though the Mountains May Fall”, and “You are Near”.

The old people (aka daily mass attendees) barely tolerated our guitar tunes. I considered their clear preference for traditional hymns a skosh out of touch, but on the days when the pre-historic organist was in charge, I had to admit that “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” and other such hymns weren’t so bad, ha? I called those folks the “church people”. It was not a compliment, ha?

A conversation I had over lunch a couple of months ago has been working on me for a while and it made me think of those people. While I already knew our children live in a world that barely resembles the one I grew up in, this gal I met woke me up to the depths of that reality. A faith-filled woman with a sweet little voice met me for lunch, and I confess I was not prepared for an expert on predators to look and sound like one of the old church ladies from St. Lawrence back in the day. She spoke at length about the scourge that is human trafficking and the ways that her (Protestant) church is helping. Carolyn’s words and knowledge were stunning, and also not just a little bit frightening. I have since followed up with more questions for her.

One of the hats I wear at my parish is that I am in charge of the Gospel of Life Ministry. We concern ourselves about all aspects of the dignity of the human person. I decided I needed to dig in a bit more. So, several weeks after that, I had a chat with a local law enforcement officer who deals with online predators in his daily work. His bright smile and warmth stood in stark contrast with the serious nature of his concern about the present (and future) dangers the world holds for our young people. He had strong convictions about how social media affects kids negatively, causing them to be more insecure, anxiety-filled and even callous. Its use has deprived children from learning social skills they would otherwise have learned through face-to-face communication, he has observed.

The Child Mind Institute echoes his concerns saying that “Teens miss out on things like body language and facial expressions. They have become uncomfortable with live interactions and social media and text messages have become so integral to teenage life while promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem in profound and measurable ways. Survey results found that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness.”

The good news is that ALL the experts agree that families can help lower the risks.

My parish actually hosted an event last week, led by Catholic Charities, that discussed how to keep children safe from online exploitation and human trafficking, which are both absolutely rampant across the country but also right here in Hamilton County, Indiana. At that event, attendees learned what I had recently been told, which is the fact that social media and gaming apps are the number one way that children are being groomed and sexually exploited.

Another disturbing truth shared was about how our teenagers engaging in sextortion is now the fastest growing crime among the group– through blackmail, threats and coercion.

My personal plan is to keep working on this issue. It seems to me that what we can do for each other in this life is step in and help where we can. In this case, education and awareness seem extremely important. Pretending that this is not a big deal or that it is not happening here is naive. I know many of you are worried about the issue of mental health. Where are children are concerned, I’ve learned from my conversations and research that this particular challenge is made much more difficult because of our electronic interconnectedness. Our phones, computers, and all the tools they offer can and certainly are used to do lots of positive things. They are also used as weapons.

Talking about problems and offering no solutions seems unproductive, so I’ve compiled a list of simple ideas I’ve compiled (from folks much smarter than me) that might help other parents as it relates to social media. I need to put several of these to work over here at the Thieme house, and I hope you find them useful.

Ten Ways to Keep Your Teen Safe on Social Media

  1. Set clear guidelines: Establish rules and expectations for your teen’s social media use, including what type of content is appropriate and how much time they should spend on it.
  2. Teach privacy protection: Help your teen understand the importance of protecting their personal information and privacy settings.
  3. Follow them: Regularly check your teen’s social media accounts to ensure they are not engaging in risky behavior or being targeted by online predators.
  4. Encourage open communication: Make sure they feel it’s safe to talk to you about any concerns or issues they may encounter on social media or otherwise.
  5. Teach the Golden Rule: Teach them to share about others what you would like them to share about you. Discuss the negative impact of cyberbullying. And if you catch them being a bully, there should be a serious, immediate consequence.
  6. Model positive behavior: Show your teen how to use social media in a positive and responsible way.
  7. Make Rules Together: It’s important to limit access to dangerous sites, for instance. Consider using parental controls to limit your teen’s access to certain apps or websites, but discuss them together. Alternatively, let them know there are certain sites that are simply out of bounds.
  8. Discuss the consequences of inappropriate content: Make sure your teen understands the potential consequences of posting inappropriate content, such as damaging their reputation or future job prospects– or losing their phone privileges.
  9. Share the data: Encourage your teen to engage in other activities besides social media to promote a healthy balance– show them the research about why this is important. Hard facts help back up the reason for guidelines like “putting the phone in time out”.
  10. Stay updated: Keep yourself informed about the latest social media trends and potential risks to better protect your teen.

P.S. Did I ever tell you my confirmation saint was Catherine of Siena? She’s a true badass if one ever existed, and she’s absolutely correct with her words above. Fight courageously, friends!

My Delivery Guy Drives a Porsche…?

Life is confounding.  For instance, I frequently order things on Amazon.  It might be underwear, batteries, shampoo…you name it.  One recent delivery contained hairspray.  It was delivered by a man driving a Porsche.  He pulled up in said car and popped his trunk, revealing a Segway.  Carefully lifting it from the vehicle, he climbed aboard and rode the 10 feet to the end of my sidewalk.  Then, he jumped off and scurried to my door where he left the aforementioned hairspray.  Finally, he rode that Segway the 10 ft back to his car, placed it in the trunk and drove off. 

Miguel, the guy fixing my closet, just looked at me.  He said, “There are just so many layers to that, I just can’t begin to understand.”

I glanced back and said, “You’re too young to understand a reference to Candid Camera, I’d bet?”

He replied, “Yeah, No clue what that is, but I was looking for a camera too!”

At that point, we were just two total strangers, standing in my entry laughing.  Irresistibly contagious laughter is such a gift from God.

What struck me a little bit later was how remarkable it was that so shortly after this big belly laugh, I got a series of texts from a faith-filled friend with a sour attitude.  There are no coincidences in my supernatural world.  I know God’s hand is in all things.  She furiously sent me a series of messages to tell me that she “hates that it’s now Lent” has always dreaded its arrival because it’s just a pitiful, gloomy time of year where no smiles can co-exist.  While I at least partially understood her perspective, I had to disagree.  I mean, my makeup was still messed up from laughing so hard at the delivery situation. I was still grateful I had a witness too!  It’s hard to enter into misery if the tears from a good hearty laugh are still staining one’s cheeks.  Also? That feeling of doom about the season of Lent never really has been the experience of my own (very) Catholic life.  Perhaps it’s because I love birthdays so much and mine always falls during Lent?  So, as a kid, I had that special day plus Easter to look forward to during those weeks of dirges sung during mass and Lenten sacrifices. 

I forwarded her a quote I read online from a priest which said the following: My birthday is always on Ash Wednesday or after to I could never celebrate it.  We are supposed to be ‘miserable’.  But that’s not Lent.  It is also a time of joy.  It reminds us to change and be better and we are called to do it with joy.  So whatever you do this Lent, do it with joy. 

Hmm. There’s some good food for thought with which I quite agree! Also, his parents must never have given the “local solemnity” treatment to his birthday that mine did over the years. Bummer.

If this were a birthday photo, it would be ideal. That would make sense with this post. The best I could find was this one of me drinking a key lime colada with my friend, Ange, on Fat Tuesday in Ft. Myers. it will have to do. It was ALMOST Lent?

For me, Lent at this moment in my life is a lot about honest self-examination, and about making positive changes because I screw up a lot. I want the Lord to know that I realize I’m a big dork who is up to her eyeballs in bad choices and sins that need forgiveness, but more importantly that I am HIS dork, and that I love Him.  So much. 

“If you examine yourself honestly, you’ll be able to say, ‘Well, I’m uncharitable.  I’m caustic.  I’m critical.  I’m jealous.  I’m without compassion.’ All of these things you can’t get to Heaven with.  It’s very simple to know and to judge yourself before you die.”  –Mother Angelica

Ouch.  That woman, Mother Angelica, was a force of nature.  Her words always hit me where I live when I read them.  So, the question is this.  What kind of person do I want to be?  What sort of world do I want my children to inhabit?  Goodness and kindness are contagious.  That’s who I want to be, but how do I get there?

For me, the first step is a more intentional, more disciplined prayer life.  I’m praying the Liturgy of the Hours this Lent.  The Liturgy of the Hours is the daily prayer of the Church, and its intended to sanctify the day with prayer.  The two most key hours are Morning and Evening Prayer, and I’ve chosen to also pray the Midday.  Each of the hours offered daily include selections from the Psalms.  The prayers vary according to the hour one prays.  Thankfully, like most things, there’s an app for this!   I felt I needed the discipline and that focusing intentionally on Christ throughout my day would be a worthy Lenten promise.  I didn’t know a thing about this spiritual practice, and I found upon trying it for the first time that it was (and still is) quite confusing.  A friend who prays it daily helped me through the first attempt.  I was urged not to concern myself with praying it perfectly or understanding it thoroughly, but to simply hold myself accountable to being diligent and let God work out the rest.

Slowing down and making time to listen to God speak to me has led me to a few early conclusions this Lent.  First of all, it confuses me why I can and do choose to be unkind and uncharitable sometimes.  Why am I critical or short-tempered?  Those discoveries are easy to see when one is examining her conscience each evening.  However, I have to be cautious.  Thinking about my own sinfulness and failure too much can make me feel pathetic and gloomy.    The thing is, I remembered joy when I was helping my friend with her view of the Lenten season.  Whatever I do this Lent, do it with joy.  That’s what the good Padre with the childhood birthday issues suggested.  I find the key thing I must remind myself is to be OTHER focused.  Realizing my weakness is good, but spending my time being self-critical is counter-productive. 

It’s as confounding as a guy in a Porsche delivering hairspray, this Lent thing.  Be penitent, but do it with a heart full of joy.  No explanation would have made this seem logical to 6th grade me.  I can hear myself now.  “I’m supposed to eat tomato soup for dinner AND be joyful about it?”  My own 12 year old voice is loudly playing in my mind and she’s full of smarminess and sarcasm. 

The answer I offer to “middle school Shelly” is a simple YES.  Sacrifices help us shed bad habits and self-love.  They aid us in refocusing on Christ and being His hands and feet to others in our lives.  The goal is to love Him enough to offer your sacrifices in a spirit of genuine love.  My interior voice said, if you have to, Fake it til you make it, sis.  If we have holy desire, God’s grace will soon overflow. 

There are people in life that feel like sunshine.  They laugh and make others feel seen and love without reserve.  They celebrate your success and you can text them at midnight when you need encouragement.  To get there, those folks have done some work.  They know to whom they belong, and how deeply they are loved without condition.  That’s how we do it joyfully. 

Then, we can’t help but get excited!!  If we know about darkness, we offer light.  If we understand unworthiness, we offer love.  If we’ve felt invisible, grief-stricken, unknown, or unnoticed, we offer presence.  A few authentic words of love, care, and compassion can go a very long way towards helping someone remember who they are and that they are precious.  NOTHING is more perfectly fitting than this brand of Lenten optimism and fervor in preparation for Easter!

We’ve all got some magic to share.  It might be the passion with which you work or speak.  Perhaps it’s the way you smile at the bank teller or see the lady at the dry cleaner and ask if her son is feeling better.  It could be that you know the deep value of the gift of life, so your calendar is a mess of birthday names written in all the margins because you like to say “Happy Birthday” on the special day of those around you.  Are you the one who shows up at the funeral and brings a crockpot full of soup to the kitchen of a sick friend?  Don’t think that goodness fails to make waves.  We can leave a trail of sunshine and a mighty wake of kindheartedness when we leave the room,  if we choose.  Lent is about prayer, penance and giving alms.  No age or circumstance renders folks unable to participate in glorifying God.  Where there is a will, there’s a way. 

My friend with a distaste for Lent?  She told me a bit ago that our conversation last week was helpful.  It turns out, she gave up a dour attitude this Lent, and that while she doesn’t have a lot of spare cash for the basket at church, it doesn’t cost her much to make extra soup for her neighbor who’s going through a tough time.  I’d say she’s on her way.  Jesus is smiling at her loveliness, of this I am certain.

I’d like to do a better job of walking that sparkly path, so I am trying to join her.

We don’t need to understand or agree with the circumstances of another to be the hands and face of Jesus this Lent. We don’t need lots of material resources or time.  We don’t have to understand the Lord either, in all honesty.  We just have to desire to love Him and do his will.  Isn’t that crazy?  Life is confounding, and God is always good, even if things seem to make no sense at all. When your delivery driver uses both a Porsche and a Segway to deliver your hairspray? I guess I just accept the giggle and keep going. Confusion without explanation is the Lord’s jam.  He’ll help us get there from here if we simply ask. Trust in Him. He has a plan for you, and one for me.  Facts.

Here’s the beautiful “Litany of Trust” I love that is so helpful with this challenge of trusting our lives to God.  If I can pray for you in some way, just say so.  I’d be honored to have you ask.  Smiles, all! 


From the belief that I have to earn your love
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute
Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You
Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will
Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future
Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past
Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment
Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands
Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement
Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me
Jesus, I trust in You.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings and transforms me
Jesus, I trust in You.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You are with me in my suffering
Jesus, I trust in You.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church
Jesus, I trust in You.
That Your plan is better than anything else
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You always hear me and in Your goodness always respond to me
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked
Jesus, I trust in You.
That my life is a gift
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You will teach me to trust You
Jesus, I trust in You.
That You are my Lord and my God
Jesus, I trust in You.
That I am Your beloved one
Jesus, I trust in You.

Turn the Page

Are we confident that this is the best solution, or are we still exploring alternatives?  That’s a great sentence, I think.  It’s the kind spoken by articulate, “pc” types.  I’m the sort of person who would, in the same context, blurt out, “That’s a horrible idea!” 

Allow me to provide an example.  On Christmas eve, our resident (and self-described family “Scrooge”) came out from the bedroom with a big cheesy grin, wearing a teal-colored quarter-zip. It was unzipped to reveal a bright orange T-shirt underneath, over a pair of white and black gym shorts.  My face immediately got this quizzical, swished up kind of confused vibe, and I was honestly wondering if Tom was trying to make us laugh by putting on an outfit which clearly did not match itself?  So, I believe I poured forth with something witty like “What on earth are you wearing…” just seconds before I realized that he absolutely thought he was wearing festive red and green.  Oops.  Thankfully, he was in good humor and received it well. 

When I hear myself speaking, that’s me processing out loud.  I keep talking until I’ve found the proper edits and my actual position is clarified.  Extending my heart before realizing I should guard it a bit is also a charming pattern of behavior.  Trusting my own judgement when my vision is cloudy because I’m unwell, blue or just extremely fatigued is another among my great volumes of work.  Non-verbally, I’m a billboard on I-465.  These are qualities I loathe, and which seem to me to be virtually impossible to rectify.  It’s almost like God got His wires crossed when He created me.  Maybe He was tired that day and forgot to add the proper helping of tact and He totally left out the volume control panel?  Those flaws are just my opening act.

Here’s the thing.  I’m nearly 52 years old.  Tick. Tock.  The Lord of life is whispering sweet nothings.  They sound a lot like, “Stop screwing around. I made you to travel this journey just the way you are—loving loudly and with your whole heart.  Quit thinking about yourself so much and get to work!”

That’s just it, am I right? 

All this insecurity. We all suffer it. Some of us struggle more than others. It’s pretty much universal with young people, especially teenagers. I’m in year 12 of 14 with at least one teenager living in my midst. Of late, he’s been struggling a bit as ladies and gentlemen of this age bracket are pretty much required to do. Adolescent angst is practically a right of passage.

My sons (l to r): Zach, 18, Drew, 23, and Nick, 25.

It might seem like I wrote today’s entry to just share with the world that I’m still a hot mess and I need to FIO, but really, I wanted to write down some pieces of advice for my kid, and the other high schoolers who are in the middle of a rocky part of their own adventure.  So, here I go.  This is my Top 10 list for Teenagers on Friendship.  Use it or toss it.  Hopefully, it helps someone.  Thank you to my mom squad, who are chiefly responsible for sharing their wisdom as we’ve navigated parenthood together the last quarter century. I know I could have used some of these golden nuggets myself in 1987 or so.

  1.  If you have to walk on eggshells around them, they aren’t your people.
  2. You get to choose your friends, so choose the ones who choose you back.
  3. God didn’t screw up when He created you. Be Yourself.  You’re a big scoop of AWESOME.
  4. Bad day?  Be intentionally kind to someone. Anyone. It will be a blessing to you both.
  5. Show up for your people—even if they don’t ask.  Apologize when you screw up, and be there when they need you, even if it feels inconvenient or awkward.
  6. Don’t say something behind someone’s back that you would not say to their face. 
  7. Put NOTHING on social media that you would be embarrassed to read aloud to your mother- or your pastor!
  8. Notice, smile, say hello.  BE THE LOVE. These kindnesses are Christian joy– and are always free.
  9. Some people aren’t going to like you and sometimes you’ll be left out.  It’s okay. You are not responsible for their version of events or perceptions. You know who you are, and so does Jesus.
  10. WHEN you get hurt, and you will, take some time, talk to someone you trust, and sit with Jesus.  Your worth doesn’t come from others, it comes from the Lord.  You, are the child of the most high God.  Don’t you dare shut down that beautiful heart! God has BIG plans for you. TURN THE PAGE.

“Christian joy is contagious because the Gospel makes us go beyond ourselves to share the beauty of God’s love.  We cannot keep Christian joy to ourselves.  It multiplies once we start spreading it.” –Pope Francis

Stop Talking So Much!

“If mess ups were pushups, I’d be ripped.”  Bob Goff

Good grief, I love Bob Goff.  No one says it more accessibly than he does.  This quote is a recently discovered gem.

Less is more, it turns out, and it’s likely a path I should explore.  I recently met a friend I’ve been worried about out at McAllisters for a bowl of chili.  Those stolen moments are precious, and instead of being a good listener, I was a self-absorbed fool talking silly nonsense about the stove not working (again) and the basement being a mess from a burst pipe.  Honestly, WHO CARES?  I truly wanted to find out about the mental health of my friend, but I had diarrhea of the mouth that day.  Sigh.  I have fouled up many encounters which could have been lovely simply because I stubbornly refuse to practice what I know, which is that I should NOT say every stupid thing I think as it scrolls through my mind.  I want kind, caring, supportive relationships.  I want to know how my people are doing.  This requires a decision to be other focused.  Stop talking so much, Shelly!

This is just one example.  I think it’s possible I might be having a little midlife crisis, and God is in the middle of showing me how God He is.  God is over here doing God things.  How do I know?  Well, because lately I feel like all I do is screw up.  It probably started with all the menopause symptoms.  Nothing proves how much God is in control like out of whack hormones.  Candidly, I didn’t know that’s what was going on, I just knew that I had a growing list of unexplainable and suddenly chronic “ailments”.  Like most things, I am absolutely NAILING the menopause game.  In a brief conversation with a nurse practitioner, I expressed my concern.  She asked me to describe the symptoms, and I spoke for about 5 minutes.  She then said, “Well, Shelly, menopause has 34 key symptoms and most women suffer from about 6-10 of them.  You just named 29 of the 34 without a prompt.”  Yeah, me?  I’m crushing it.

The bad news here is that I haven’t figured a way through this particular maze yet that doesn’t involve extreme amounts of Excedrin and propping my eyelids open.  The flip side, though, is that as we age, the Lord gives us many unexpected gifts.  Right now, the one I’m hearing loudest is, “Shell.  I’m not messing around.  It’s time.”  What is the fundamental purpose of my life?  What does the Lord want me to do?  I’d better get busy with it, because time is ticking, my friends.  It makes me giggle that by putting me to sleep, God’s waking me up.  He’s full of irony and creativity.

Life is scary.  It’s full of madness, frustrations, danger, and so much desire to feel worthy of love and belonging.  The world needs hope.  People need to experience true care and an example of joyfulness.  They need light in their darkness.

Not so coincidentally, the most-used phrase in the bible is “Be Not Afraid”.  It’s purported to be in there 365 times—once for every darn day of the year.  I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m fairly confident that was a signal you and I were meant to live and love fearlessly.  I mess up. Every. Single. Day.  Do you know what I thought I was supposed to feel about those failures (for years)?  Shame.  Self-doubt.  We are at our weakest when we are fearful and shame filled.  That’s when the devil does his thing.  My fear of getting things wrong has kept me from some important work over the years.  My guess is that some of you have at least had similar moments where that little voice said, “keep quiet, don’t do it, you’ll make a fool of yourself”…and so on.

Here’s what 51-year-old me wants to share today.  It’s very possible I’m just typing this for myself, as a reminder on a day that I have less clarity, but I’m going to post it all the same.  The Holy Spirit is turning my thoughts inside out and what I think on this day is that the kind of shame I am talking about is a self-absorbed, inward focused demon.  God can’t fill me with Him when I am full of myself, concerned mainly about my own feelings and angst.  My BIG feelings, turned outward, are an invitation from the Lord of the universe to spread some of that overflowing love, courage, and hope to the others in my path. What a freaking awesome invitation!

I can’t live my life worried about what other people think, full of fear about getting hurt.  You can’t either.  We can’t let a bad day make us believe we have a bad life.  God wants us to speak life and love.  The world has never needed us more.

Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair.”  -CS Lewis

I see Christ every day.  I really do.  He blows my mind with His love.  I spot Him in the Walgreens cashier who always says hello in a genuinely friendly way, and in the orange leaves outside my window.  I met Him at a talk in the parish hall in the face of a truly sunny Nashville Dominican named Sr. Peter Marie who shared the reason for joy and the brightest smile.

Over my recent fall break, I was making myself a very mediocre cup of coffee when my friend Renee very excitedly showed me how to froth my milk in such a way that I could make a “fake latte” with a piece of kitchen equipment I already owned but had never used.  It struck me that what gave her the most joy was doing something simple and kind for me, her friend.  How graced am I to have such a person in my life? 

When I got home from my trip, we celebrated the first “memorial” birthday for my father-in-law, Tom, who died in May.  I went over to SLDM to an evening mass that was said for his soul, and my friend Julie showed up to pray alongside.  The next morning, I was back in the same pew for another mass, also thoughtfully offered for him on his birthday.  There she was again, not 12 hrs later, right next to me.  Julie’s not a bystander.  Neither is Renee.  They love large in simple ways.  That kind of life is contagious, and it sprinkles Christ around like a handful of glitter. I’m crazy about them both, and grateful for their reminder that I am deeply loved—and so are you!  It doesn’t matter that I’ve got a headache, my hair is falling out and I am constantly tired.  As my husband reminds me, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”  You and I are still here, and we have a job to do.  We need to get busy! 

Don’t tell someone who’s struggling, “hey let me know what I can do to help.”  If a person’s wounded or hurting, they don’t know what they need.  Just do something.  Drop off Chick-Fil-A, take them for coffee,  sneak in the back door and empty the dishwasher, send a card, say a rosary.  It doesn’t matter.  Just be the face of Jesus.  Be love.

Yes, the world is a broken place.  It’s full of chaos.  Truth is in short supply and the news is full of despair.  We don’t have to take on the energy of the room, folks.  For most things, “this too shall pass” is a good thought to have in one’s back pocket. If we are to obtain true joy and happiness, we need to discover (or re-discover) what will truly complete and fulfill us. 

Today, on All Saint’s Day, I yield to the great St. Augustine for the answer to that one.  “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  That “you” is the Lord, of course, the ultimate source of all love and all that is good. 

Peace Out, friends.



Holiness grows fast where there is kindness.  I have never heard of kind souls going astray.  The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness.  –St. Mother Teresa

“When you leave your stuff on the floor outside the shower like that, I lose the spa vibe I was hoping for when we built this master bath, Shell.”

Those words, spoken to me a while back, were a gently filed (but valid) complaint being lodged against yours truly.  I still recall that particular fraternal correction by my husband because of the humor and kindness with which it was spoken.  It made me roll my eyes, but I laughed.  I do fail still, but I have made a concerted effort to keep that particular area relatively tidy since then.  Honestly, it’s because he was candid, but respectful and funny.

Here’s my point.  It takes less effort to grumble than it does to be thoughtful in how we speak to others in our path. We honestly have zip for a clue what most folks are up against today.  Do you know what’s powerful?  A sense of humor is compelling and persuasive, of which well-intentioned smartassery is my personal favorite variety.  Basic compassion and kindness are also pretty magical.

Days we encounter might be difficult, even tragic.  There might be sad anniversaries, grief, health challenges…or a million other mountains you’re climbing.  Still, let’s work on not being a thorn in someone’s side, huh?  The world is so freaking hard and full of insanity.  You can choose to be positive even if you don’t love the day, because I truly believe there’s something good in each one of them if you keep your heart and your eyes open.  You are important to more people than you know.  It’s tough to remember that sometimes, but it’s true.

Here’s what else.  It’s better than okay to apologize when we screw it up.  I love this quote by Kelly Hayes who said, “There’s no shame in admitting you were previously speaking from a less informed place.” A to the MEN, Kelly!

I’m mostly running on lattes and Jesus most days.  My hair isn’t really long enough for the ponytail I constantly shove out the back of my baseball cap.  There are 55 boys on the GC tennis team, and I’m a team mom just trying to keep them fed and hitting tennis balls that still bounce.  My father-in-law passed away 3 months ago, we’re nowhere near closing out the estate, and his son to whom I’m married has had zero chance to properly grieve yet given the endless mayhem that tends to befall anyone to whom the word “executor” applies in these matters.  Our lives are blessed in many ways, but I could keep adding to that list of stressors for a while yet if I chose to continue on like this in today’s post.  We all have our hands full.  A whole spectrum of emotions cover us up each day.  It’s okay to feel all those emotions.  That’s what it means to live life.  None of us has a perfect one.  You are who you are because of your life and experiences.  And you, my friend, are flipping awesome.  You’ve trudged through thunderstorms people can’t see.  You’re still here, and you are okay.  God sees.  You are not alone.  You are loved. 

Who are you really??  Ask yourself if you are living authentically, because that’s the whole ballgame.  Let me tell you who I am.  I’m the kind of girl who wears my heart on my sleeve.  I burn too hot, and I cry too easily.  I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe and tears fall down my cheeks.  I’m menopausal and my hair is falling out, so I try to hide it.  I love hard and am overly dramatic.  I don’t have an inside voice and patience isn’t my virtue.  “Calm down” doesn’t work at all with me. I’m obsessed with leggings that have pockets and I hate story toppers, being late and diet Pepsi.  Most importantly, though, I believe it’s important to be honest and forthcoming, but considerate in the way we treat others. When I fail at that last part, I am hard on me.  These things are who I am today.  If I was pretending to be someone else, I couldn’t possibly have what it takes to do the work God calls me to do today, and neither could you.  Today, He asked me to remind a few folks about the power of kindness. I kind of wasn’t in the mood to type things this afternoon, but He asks and so I answer.  Maybe someone needs to hear something in this ramble?  That’s not my business, I suppose.  That’s up to the Lord.

Because giggling is good…

The thing about kindness is that to the many people who feel the cruelness of the world overwhelming them, your little gift often has an impact you might never realize.  Do the obvious.  Be kind to your family, friends, and the total strangers in your day.  Show grace even when others are casting stones.  Be a person who chooses to love. If you have something legitimate to correct, go with Tom’s tidy bathroom method and do it with a smile.

Say nice things to each other.  Thank the darn barista, because she’s probably spent 8 hours busting her rear.  Offer to pray with or for someone.  Send a funny meme.  Hold the door.  Tip too much.  Don’t look aways when someone is hurting.  Look him in the eye and tell him he is not alone.  Empathy is powerful!!  HOLD EACH OTHER UP.

Only people who are dissatisfied with themselves are unkind to those around them.  If you notice that’s you, ask for the grace to turn it around starting…right now.  Ask for a heart like Jesus.  Some days are so hard we have to brace for impact.  It’s just one day. Tomorrow is a new one, full to the brim with all the grace and mercy you can imagine.  We are going to make it.  It’s easier when we lean on Jesus and work together. 

You don’t have to be a superhero to save the day.  For the right person, your intentional kindness can change everything.  People like that make the world beautiful. 

I’m going to close by sharing a prayer that was recently shared with me by a holy, affirming, and hilarious friend named Deanne.  It’s my new favorite way to end the day.  I invite you to try it before you close your eyes tonight! 

PLEA FOR THE NIGHT (Ignacio Larranaga)

My Father, now that the voices have hushed and that cries have ceased, my soul rises to you to say: I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you with all my might. Glory to you, Lord.

I commit into your hands the fatigue of the battle, the joys and the disappointment of this day which has ended. If my nerves betrayed me, if self-centered impulses had the best of me, if I allowed resentment or melancholy to invade me, forgive me, Lord. Have mercy on me.

If I have been unfaithful, if my mouth spoke idle words, if I was a thorn for someone, forgive me, Lord. I do not want to fall asleep without feeling in my soul the safety of your mercy, Lord, sweet and unbinding. I give you thanks, my Father, for you were the refreshing shadow that shielded me all through the day. I give you thanks because all along these hours you surrounded me– invisible and affectionate– you watched over me like a mother.

Lord, all around me is silent and calm. Send the angel of peace over this house. Relax my nerves, appease my spirit, set my mind at rest, flood my being with silence and serenity. Watch over me, beloved Father, when I surrender to sleep, confident as a child happily sleeps in your arms. In your name, Lord, I will rest peacefully.


This Makes Me the Dog

I know Ann, I gotta go because I am at the grocery now, but I don’t know what she’s thinking letting her daughter go to that school next year with all those backward, elitist Catholics!

Several years back, I overhead these disquieting and decidedly unchristian words spoken in a local grocery store.  During the last few weeks, the memory of that morning continue to find their way to my mind and heart as I take in giant ladles full of moral relativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. 

Back then, I spoke up (albeit not in the moment) about why it’s okay to be proud to be Catholic.

At the time I heard them, I said nothing and simply turned away. It felt like a very personal blow all the same. To be fair, I arrived at the grocery store in a bit of a bad head space, not unlike the one I’m in now. Therefore, the longer I thought about it, the more annoyed I became with this stranger. To call me BUGGED would have been considerably inadequate at the time.

I watched a similar encounter between two friends just this past week (over six years later) that has me similarly riled.  One can choose silence as a response to uneducated attacks on the Lord of life, or the state of the world. Or, we can speak up.   My head is right in the middle of the muck coming across my Twitter feed and TV and I am certain many of you are right here with me.  Allow me to share what I know to be right and good about our collective Christian community by using the example of my own parish as I begin.

I’m an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, at which the 13,000 sq. ft. Merciful Help Center is located.  Jayne Slaton, the amazing woman who runs the operation, would literally be the last person on earth to say, “Hey, look over here!  We’re amazing!”  Truth be told, THEY ARE.  The center houses a large food pantry, the Trinity Free Clinic, and serves thousands annually. They meet the needs of marginalized people from all walks of life every single day. Their network of volunteers from doctors and dentists to retirees, as well as housewives and their children, is astounding. 

Above: Food packages prepared by Merciful Help Center Volunteers is ready for delivery to Hamilton County families in need of assistance.

Guess what? I know you good Catholic people with your sleeves rolled up all over your own community, and I know you don’t really give a rip how much “credit” you get for who you help. Largely, you simply want to be the hands and face of Christ to those around you. You inspire me. You make me want to be more and do more!  You are literally EVERYWHERE.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 17,000 parishes that serve a large and diverse population just here in the United States.  The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of education and medical services in the world.  Catholic Charities, for instance, serves over 10 million individuals annually.  Some of its more well-known partner organizations include Habitat for Humanity as well as Catholic Charities Disaster Relief. In short, they work hard to reduce poverty and provide emergency relief throughout the US and well beyond. It’s hardly an insignificant contribution.

To understand the social services impact of the Catholic Church, though, I think, one needs to understand that our country is home to a vast network of Catholic hospitals and health systems, and that the University system in our country was largely a Catholic invention, and that our thousands of parishes ALL contain ministries similar to the ones I mentioned at mine.  Each contributes in its own way and within its own capacities to combat hunger, domestic abuse and poverty.  They provide resources to families struggling with elder care needs, children in foster care, to pregnant mothers, those in mental health crisis, and so much more. 

The Church runs 5,500 hospitals, 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, with 65 percent of them in underdeveloped and poverty-stricken areas. 

Now, add up the smaller scale charitable works of the Catholic parishes I mentioned, and be sure not to leave out those undertaken by individual religious orders like the Missionary Sisters of Charity, the Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, and many others I’m forgetting. 

You see, we Catholics know that Jesus was never indifferent to the sufferings of others or the dignity of life.  So, when someone yells “You Catholics don’t even support [insert social concern here], so we know you don’t really care about life”, they are just ill-informed.  I’ve heard it said this way. A dog barks if his master is being attacked.  I guess this makes me the dog.  If hunger were easy to fix, or abuse, or poverty…then they would be solved already.  Georgetown professor J. Brennan recently stated it this way on his May 3, 2022 post on social media.  It says, “I am against Russians killing Ukrainians, but I might for all sorts of reasons oppose the US government aid to Ukraine.  I don’t think my neighbor should murder his kids and yet that doesn’t mean I believe I am obligated to feed his kids.”  This particular academic admits he sides against Catholics on many issues but acknowledges that some in his camp misunderstand some of the pertinent issues at hand.  What I’m trying to say is, the argument is not only an invalid one, the premise is also completely false. 

There are more nuanced conversations and smarter arguments out there for why being authentically Catholic and proudly so gives great glory to God.  Pope Benedict XVI called us “an expert in humanity.”  I quite agree.

To those in who cry out in anger, who are suffering, or who are searching, I offer the following invitation in all sincerity.

When you are down on your luck, come find us. We are literally EVERYWHERE. We’ve got nuns that will help care for your Uncle Henry who needs a hand up, priests who will tend to his spiritual needs, and pastoral associates who will help his daughter find a counselor and a great gal named Jayne who will get her a bag of groceries.

We’ve got Universities who help underprivileged young people get a college education who couldn’t otherwise afford one—and college students filled with so much heart they are building houses for people on the weekends and tutoring students in your local public school for free.

We’ve got hospitals. We’ve got grade school kids making PB&J’s who will pass one to you to take along for the road after you leave the food pantry. We’ve got HS kids taking their day off after finals to come rake your leaves. We have thousands of those little old “church ladies” and countless Catholic prayer groups who will pray for you– and if you need help with food for your brother’s funeral–we’ve got your back.

Stop in and see us.  Find out who we really are.

When you call us names or tell us we’re backwards, we’re human. It makes us sad. When you think it’s okay to disrespect our beliefs, and especially where it relates to ending the lives of the most vulnerable, it makes our hearts weep. Broken hearted people don’t always think straight or articulate well. For those times when we have failed, we ask your forgiveness. We will work on our behavior. It doesn’t change the fact that we are right here and we want to help—no matter who you are or where you live.

Catholic friends, when did disagreeing become something that must express itself venomously? WE, as a group, need to do a better job understanding that people weren’t exactly a big fan of Jesus either (and we are CLEARLY NOT HIM), and rest in the Lord. That’s all. The anger and defensive posture are unbecoming.

As my youngest son often says, “We’re a good family.” Like all good families, we are full of flaws. But don’t be led astray. Our church is born of Christ Himself, and it’s okay to be proud to be Catholic.

With God’s help, we’ll keep trying to respect one another and do better. We must.

If I have the chance to talk sometime directly to the heart of folks like the woman I overhead at the grocery a few years back, or the one filled with venom this week? I would say this. “I’m worried about some of you guys. Some of you don’t see how BELOVED YOU ARE. Hey you! Yes, you! God loves you. He’s better at loving than any human being could ever be, and He sees everything amazing about you.”

My faithful friends, if you know that, really KNOW THAT, in your heart, then you are blessed beyond words. I’m asking you to please join me in prayer for our country? It’s full of angry people who do and say evil things which means they don’t know God loves them.  It breaks my heart. I’ve been there. It’s a really crappy place to be. Let’s ask God to use us to be His face and His hands to show them what love looks like.

When you feel worn out or lack the courage to speak life and be a proud Catholic, remember these words spoken by St. (Pope) John Paul II, “Never tire of firmly speaking in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination.  Christ is with you:  Be Not Afraid!” 

I’m No “Sermonator”

After you have made a decision that is pleasing to God, the devil may try to make you have second thoughts. Intensity your prayer time, meditation, and good deeds. For if Satan’s temptations merely cause you to increase your efforts to grow in holiness, he’ll have an incentive to leave you alone. –St. Ignatius of Loyola

A couple of weeks ago, a total stranger reached out to me. That, in and of itself, is fairly ordinary. Usually that sort of introduction comes at the behest of a mutual friend who wants me to use my powers of persuasion (and maybe a caffeine-laced latte) to help said beautiful soul feel a little more comfortable in his or her own skin. Life is full of battles. It’s easier to stomach them over Starbucks, some affirming words, and a smile.

Generosity of spirit is what I aim for, in general. This time, I hesitated. You see, the request was for me to come and speak to a Mom’s prayer group at a nearby parish. After I thought about it for just a few minutes, I decided it was a bad idea.

Allow me to walk you through my excuse-laden brain. First of all, I’m not a speaker. Secondly, the event was in just a few days. Thirdly, I’m not a speaker. Did I already mention that? It’s not that I am afraid of speaking. I used to do it as a regular course of action in my job. However, that was a million years ago and also I was definitively not speaking to those folks back in the day about Jesus.

So, the event was a no go. I mean, also THIS parish? My mind began to wander to the most comedic and ridiculous places to avoid this assignment. These poor women are probably super nice ladies but I guarantee they aren’t even aware that Jane Mullin issued sanctions against them and their cheater pants 4th grade CYO coach 15 years ago. Allow me to explain. The whole parish lost their sainthood. Yep. Stiff penalty, I agree. We took away the word “Saint” in front of their parish name and referred to them henceforth with just the name of the Apostle after whom the parish is dedicated, ha? Very mature, am I right? I don’t know if those were lifetime sanctions or not. I’d have to check with Janie about that one. Maybe it’s time to let it go…? Ha? As I read that back, I’m not sure that our 15+ year grudge over a 4th grade CYO basketball game feels so classy? I mean, it was the championship game…but still?

I’m joking because that’s what I do when I’m in the middle of making bad decisions.

Interiorly, I was angsty. I’ll be as elegant with my diction as I was able at that moment. I freaking love You, Jesus. Where I was compared to where I am now is the epitome of pure grace. It’s just that I’m not right for this particular job, Lord.

I confided in a friend who never lets me off the hook. Clearly, I’m mentally unwell. He replied by telling me that when it comes to speaking about faith, the important thing is that we love Christ. He went on some rant about a guy called “Herman the Cripple” who had cleft palate and cerebral palsy and all sorts of daunting disabilities and limitations but evidently, he was a remarkable man who achieved much, and who wrote one of the most beautiful prayers ever conceived– The Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina).

I think I just texted him back and said something like, “Come on. Really? This is total BS!”

He texted “Hahaha! Google him! It’s possible other people can see your gifts more clearly than you?”

Yep. You can bet your sweet hind end the guilt trip worked and I said yes. I might be confused about why I am being called, but once I’m fairly certain what God’s will is, it’s very challenging for me to say no. The Lord speaks to all of us, but I personally think His voice and methodology is a little different for every person. I mean, I’m not sitting by a bush waiting on the God of the universe to catch it on fire and talk to me like He did Moses.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t think the Lord is into confusing me. He already knows I confuse easily. We’ve chatted about it. We have a relationship. He does know I love Him sincerely and I ask Him every day to help me love Him more. I want to do what pleases God. I mean, I fail to do it…like a lot. But I really do want that.

The (very) senior associate at my parish is a joyful priest named Fr. Dan Gartland. He won’t like the adjective I put in parentheses in that last sentence one bit. He told me the story of a parishioner bringing him a t-shirt that said “SERMONATOR” on it. The man is a gifted speaker. We all know it, and he does too. He’s entertaining, accessible, and just a guy who makes me laugh and want a piece of whatever he’s got. At a daily mass recently, he told a very hilarious story about a bunch of high school kids he used to torture a little during his years in Lafayette, but then he always finds a way to pivot to a meaningful conclusion. On this day, he implored us all to “do what is right as a sacrifice to the Lord and then trust Him with the rest.” A to the MEN, Padre.

So, I’m no “Sermonator”. I wish I could speak with ease like Fr. Dan. I was marginal as a speaker. Actually, I do think my message was solid. Thanks be to God. It’s simply that I talk too fast and I read from my notes a lot.

However, these are challenging times we live in. People need to be reminded that they are deeply loved by the Lord of the universe and that our faith matters. Our little kindnesses aren’t little at all. Jesus uses us to be His hands and feet. If He calls, He’ll provide the grace. I stood there living the message I was trying to share. So, at the very least it was genuine.

Naive and foolish that I may be, I didn’t give in to the temptation to forget God’s call to serve Him that night last week with the lovely ladies and their prayer partners at their end of year dinner. For that much, I am proud.

I did what pleased God the best I could– nothing less, nothing more. When given the chance, I hope you will too. It might be as easy as taking the trash cans up the driveway for the old lady next door! Goodness is usually available and simple.

This Holy Week, I am feeling called to remember that the cost of my sins is more than I can pay. His gift of love for our sake is so much more than we can imagine. This week, I pray I can be a touch more still than normal so that I can hear Him whispering “I did it just for you.”

The only response that makes sense to me falls very short. It’s all I’ve got. THANK YOU, JESUS. I LOVE YOU BACK.

Holy Week is a privileged time when we are called to draw near to Jesus; friendship with Him is shown in times of difficulty. –Pope Francis


The too much in me…honors the too much in you!

That was the response I received today when I thanked a treasured friend for her over the top kindness to me during my birthday festival.  I love birthdays—yours and mine.  I think they are a great opportunity to celebrate the great gift of life.

Mitigating factors are at play, I admit.  For instance, I was raised by a birthday loving mother who has a long-stated wish to be “on the water” for her birthday each year.  Some years, that means we have been at the beach on August 10th.  Other years, it has meant a pontoon boat ride, or even just lunch outside overlooking Morse reservoir.  We make it work—because her life is one worth celebrating in a big way!!  She always made the rest of us feel extra special on our day too. As kids, I recall her making us our favorite dinner, for example.  I remember she always went out of the way to make me my favorite angel food cake.  If you’ve ever made one, you know it’s something you only do when you love someone.  It’s a hassle!

Yesterday, I received a lovely birthday message from my friend Jenny.  She might be the most genuine and affirming person I’ve ever met.  She’s a beautiful soul and pure sunshine.  That’s why it surprised me when we had this text exchange after the birthday love.

Me:  Life is short.  And sometimes so hard.  We must celebrate whenever possible!

J:  Remind me that when I turn 50 next month!!  Hard to celebrate that.

So, I did some digging and I learned from a mutual friend the date of her birth.  However, I was warned that she absolutely does not want it to be celebrated. Hmm. 

Listen.  I’d never want to upset anyone, and we all have our quirks and “isms”.  Here’s the thing.   I’m speaking to all you people who are anti-birthday and using Jenny in an anecdotal way here. I respect your right to feel how you feel, folks.  You’re just so wrong and I’m right….ha?!

The “too much” in me that I am always warned about is kind of twitching interiorly.  This gal?  She’s the face of Christ to literally EVERYONE in her path.  She’s human sunshine.  Honestly.  In my head and heart, celebrating her life is quite literally honoring the Lord and an opportunity to be grateful for the gifts He has bestowed on us all through her presence.  It’s the same reason I say things to my husband like “we can celebrate you in a low-key way if you prefer, but if you think I’m skipping your birthday, you must be high!”

I’ll never convince some of you about my birthday fetish.  I get that.  Nevertheless, to me it is just the best kind of pro-life activity.  Plus, every single one of us needs a day to be reminded that our lives matter, that we’re worth it, and that we are infinitely loved by the God of the universe.  He does that largely, by the way, using us humans to be His face and His hands.  In fact, (and I say this constantly) He loves us more that we love our kids, our parents, our dearest friends…because He’s better at loving.  He’s God and we are not.

Yesterday, I started my birthday early at 6:30am mass.  Afterward, I snuck in a quick confession.  Sin-free is a great way to start the day, am I right?  Then, I went to get my nails done as a special birthday treat to myself.  When I arrived, the owner of the salon presented me with sunflowers.  You see, the friend I mentioned in the opening paragraph here?  She had gone over and delivered them and paid for my manicure so that I’d be surprised.  Later, I had lunch with Mom and Dad.  Best of all, Nick drove over from Cincy and Drew and Erika drove home from Purdue to have dinner with me.  You guys.  Tom even went to the MALL DURING TAX SEASON to get me a couple thoughtful gifts. Tax season Tom doesn’t shop, you all.   This was an act of love.  He says he knew from the visa bill that Athleta was the move.  That made me laugh. How blessed am I?  How much does God love me? 

Birthday number 51 with my guys!

Every birthday isn’t as life-affirming as this one, I’ll admit. The thing is that 2022 is a tough moment in history and I’ve had some discouraging moments. Haven’t we all? There has been some struggle and loss in my life recently, just like a lot of you. Going to the gas station is even depressing, and I wish I had never heard the word “hospice.”

Yet here was this beautiful, joyful day where I turned 51.  God made me for this moment in time and He also needs when I need fresh air.  He chose you for this moment in history too.  I know we’re up to it, even when we don’t feel like it.  I know this because I trust the Lord.  I’d like to trust Him as well as Mary. I’m not there yet. Today is the day we are reminded of her FIAT.  “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.  Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

It’s an important day, the Annunciation.  I’ll be honest.  I feel like in Mary’s spot, I’d have had another reply.  Something like this, “Umm.  Pregnant by the Holy Spirit?  Are we confident this is the best solution, Mr. Angel, or are we still exploring alternative ideas?”

See the thing is, God knows what He’s doing.  That “YES” to God was the world’s greatest ever unplanned pregnancy. 

I propose this solution for the anxieties of living life right now.  Let’s do our best to be fully present in each day, attentive to the desires our Creator has for our time.  Sometimes, that means He wants us to eat tacos with our family and blow out the candles on a birthday cake your kid picked up at Kroger, grateful as heck for your own life!  More often, it means visiting someone you love who’s nearing the end of life after a brutal battle with cancer, or taking a meal to a sick friend, or stepping into the gap for someone in need.  However, make no mistake. ALL of these are holy acts.

God is good all the time.  All the time, God is good.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for Us.  

Author’s note:  To all of you who reached out to wish me well on my birthday, I’m incredibly grateful.  For those who apologized for sending belated messages, there’s no such thing.  It’s a festival.  I pray I never lose my joy and enthusiasm for life and for celebrating it big.  For those who want no celebration at all?  I can’t make promises, but I’ll make an effort to tone it down.  That said, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are too much.  You are just exactly the right amount, I promise.  God knows what He’s doing, and He made you. 

He’s NOT Wearing Green

Life is beautiful; It is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances.  It is always a gift.  (Pope Benedict XVI)

One of my rarely broken rules of this blog involves not invoking stories which include what could be construed as unflattering tidbits about my husband, Tom. You see, I’m pretty into harmonious marriage. For the sake of making a point which I feel is valuable, I’m letting that one go today. He’s working so many hours right now, maybe he won’t notice, ha?

Tom and I, at our anniversary dinner. It wasn’t 6:45am when this was taken. Ha!

As you likely know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. I got up a few minutes early so that I could dig out some appropriately green clothing item and still get to 8am mass on time. Like any sane long married couple, we usually start our days best when NOT sharing bathroom space first thing in the morning. I like sleeping in and Tom likes seeing zero other humans, so it usually works out.

 Use of blow dryers is frowned upon in the wee hours, as is casual conversation.  Tom is NOT a morning person.  In fact, my irritatingly cheerful “Good morning!” used to be greeted with “Is it, though?”  I outed my handsome guy on that one, and he’s curtailed it.  I’m proud of him, as I know it’s not easy being married to me, especially at 6:45am.

Today, my mistake was pointing out that he wasn’t wearing green.  “Do you think I give a rip about wearing green?” he barked. I retorted by pointing out that his Irish grandmother is looking down disapprovingly at this move and steered him to the area with the green golf shirts just begging to be chosen.  My idea was summarily and immediately rejected. 

Transparency is important here.  It’s tax season for my favorite CPA.  When I went to bed well after 11pm, he was still in our home office working.  Also, we’re on the verge of WWIII, it costs $100 to fill up a tank with gas, the pandemic refuses to end, and his Dad has end stage colon cancer.  This moment in history is a difficult one for so many of us.  Some of the reasons we share, and some are our own crosses.

Voracious.  That’s the word I’d assign to myself where reading is concerned.  I definitely read my fair share of beach smut, but I am also drawn to historical works—fiction and nonfiction.  Many of my favorite books are based on the stories of ordinary heroes who stepped into the gap for the sake of others at some of the most cruel and terrifying moments of World War II.  For much the same reason, I am inspired by the stories of the saints.  The tie that binds the most inspiring people I’ve read about is hope.  They were hopeful folks, which allowed them to be fully present in the moment.

Hopeful people show others the light.  They are sacrificial and kind.  They raise money for one small family fleeing the Ukraine.  They show up with Starbucks on a rainy day.  They clear a stranger’s sidewalk of snow or offer to take a friend to the airport.  Hopeful people are upbeat, cheerful, sanguine and they keep the faith.  Interiorly, there is something inside these heroes.  I’ll call it grace.  This grace allows folks to somehow intuit that they start the world spinning again towards peace, towards compassion.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. (Colin Powell)

The Lord isn’t calling most of us to do something as dramatic as say, St. Maximilian Kolbe.  He was a polish priest who volunteered to die in place of another man (who had a wife and children) at Auschwitz.  However, Jesus might be calling you and I to be beacons of hope. 

Are you feeling down?  The absolute best solution that exists is to be present in the day you’re living and think “what can I do to make someone else’s day sunnier?”  Then, just choose one small, optimistic thing.  Call your Dad.  Buy coffee for the fireman you see at Panera.  Teach a first grader how to play “crazy 8’s”.  Pray a decade of the rosary for a friend—then tell her!  These signs of hope send goodness into the world, and it is transformed.  The same goes for your own heart. 

I’ll give you a personal example.  At the beginning of the year, I was having a particularly blue week.  I then learned that several of the regular volunteers at the Merciful Help Center (a food pantry and so much more) near me were all out with Covid.  I offered to fill in for a day doing whatever was needed.  The hours that I spent that day simply making phone calls to folks in need were nothing special—or so I thought.  The truth is, that day left my bucket filled.  When we focus on what we can do for someone else, the Lord has a magical way of using our compassion for the good of folks in our path to other ends as well.    

Hopefulness expressed outwardly is a big fat “Get behind me, Satan.” 

The world is full of overwhelmed people.  The danger of surrender to the collective consciousness, to the attitudes that surround us have long been a warning siren.  Mark (chapter 8) tells us “Do not go into the village” for what I personally think is this exact reason.  The polarization created by technology is absolutely an existential threat to us as well in this same way.  We can no longer agree on truth. 

The solution I propose is this.  Focus on being the best friend you can.  Don’t wait to be invited.  Notice.  Listen.  Smile.  Give more than you take.  Make the time. 

This past fall, I heard a great talk from a Dominican Sister.  My takeaway from that talk was the pairing of these gems spoken by our Blessed Mother.  They are out of wine…do whatever He tells you.

In other words, if you spot someone whose eyes are are dead today, if it’s your own heart that’s battered, (or even if it’s just that your husband doesn’t even have the good sense to put on a green shirt on St. Patricks day, because life is just A LOT) first, notice who’s “out of wine”.  Then, listen to Jesus and do what He says. 

My solution for Tom was pretty small. It won’t solve what ails him that I ran a couple errands specifically for him today or that I have pork chops waiting for him when he gets home (because no tense German guy wants corned beef after working a 14hr day) even if it is St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe, though, a little part of him will be assuaged by love.

Trust in Him.  In defiance to all that is difficult or even evil, be hopeful today.  In optimism, there is victory. 

St. Patrick, Pray for Us!

Curious Minds Wonder about Catholic Education

Celebrating Catholic Schools Week 2022 with a Long-Winded Open Notes Tribute

As a freshman in high school, I received a phone call from a mom with whom I was somewhat familiar.  I didn’t really know her daughter, but her name was Dawn, and she was a year younger than me. The family was contemplating a move to my Catholic high school.  They had a lot of questions and pre-conceived notions and worries about Catholic schools, yet they were drawn.  Some were correct, by the way, and some of their assumptions and concerns were utterly without merit.  It was the first time I received such an inquiry, but the next year, a similar call followed from a long-time family friend.  That trend has continued almost non-stop throughout my life.  I was 15 then, and I’m 50 now.  That’s a lot of years of clarifying, explaining, and offering my two cents.

Pandemic experiences have rendered many folks a touch fragile. Worries about our children, their mental health, and the quality of the education they are receiving are absolute reasonable, in my view.  This has led to me to many more conversations than usual on this topic.  Here are some recent parent questions I thought were especially interesting, and the answers I have shared.  These are merely one gal’s personal perspective, mind you.  However, as this year’s Catholic Schools Week has largely been spent snowed in, it seemed a good way to honor both the phenomenal educators and the faith tradition I hold dear to share these in a more open format. 

Q.  How much time do the kids spend on religion classes, mass and stuff like that?  I guess I’m worried they won’t get all the skills they need.

A. You’re not asking the real question. You already know the education is solid or you wouldn’t be considering a move. What you’re asking yourself is, “How Catholic is it?” There are other options if what you want is a private education. Do you want a faith-based education for your child? Do you want them in an atmosphere that is saturated with the Catholic faith all day long, everyday? Kindness, charity, service, prayer, faith formation and intentional discipleship are at the heart of Catholic schools. Also, you should show up for one of those masses you’re worried about. They will cleanse your soul and renew your spirit with a wholesomeness you had forgotten existed. Have you ever heard or seen 750 kids singing worship music, at the top of their lungs like they’re at a rock concert? You have to see it to believe it, but it will melt your heart.

Student section fun at the football game this fall.

Q. I’ve heard Catholic Schools are just really over the top with rules and I wonder if my son will be frustrated?

A.  Heck yes, your son will be frustrated at times.  He maybe won’t like having to wear khakis with a belt, and he definitely won’t like the no hoodie rule, and he’ll be annoyed that he’s required to do 30 hours of community service.  But do you know what you’ll like?  The same guy who sent him to detention because he didn’t have a belt on is likely to also be the guy who notices he needs a little extra love because he’s struggling with self-doubt, or a family situation.  His guidance counselor will know his name and will ask him how football season is going for him when she spots him in the hall.  The music teacher will notice he’s great with younger students and share that with the Campus minister one afternoon and before you know it he will be helping to lead a retreat group, or tutoring a struggling freshman in math.  Catholic schools are big on accountability and bigger on love.  Students and teachers in this kind of environment are encouraged and empowered to express their care and concern for one another in a way they simply cannot do in other schools.  The public schools in our area are phenomenal in many ways, but in a school that has winter break instead of Christmas break, Christian community isn’t part of the equation. Here, everywhere they turn they will find prayerful support.  Faith is alive in the hallways.  So, are there a lot of rules?  Sure there are.  He’ll live.  He’ll learn.  He’ll grow.

Q. What is your favorite thing about the Catholic School experience?

A. The community of faith-filled people!  Let me explain.  My mom is an incredible, caring human being. She was an amazing grade schoolteacher—a Golden Apple Award winner!!  I know she made a huge difference in the lives of her public school students and I am so proud of her.  That said, she never took her class to the chapel and skipped math class for the day because one of her 4th graders had a mom who was terminally ill and the youngster needed to be prayerfully supported.  Here’s another example.  My son and his high school tennis team gathered a couple hundred others and after school one day last fall, they prayed the rosary together at the grotto for their tennis coach who was in Boston to remove cancer from his brain.  The friends that surrounded my children throughout their school experiences were amazing kids and had families who were like-minded.  We knew they were safe in each other’s care.  Many of those folks remain our closest friends to this day.  That Christian community is one of our greatest blessings! 

Q.  What is your least favorite thing about the Catholic School experience?

A.  It’s expensive.  It’s also PRICELESS.


I hope in these questions and answers you will hear authenticity and genuine gratitude for my Catholic faith and the amazing gift of Catholic education in my own life and that of my children.  Its value is inestimable. If you’ve played a part in the Catholic School experience of our family as a teacher, pastor, administrator, or friend…THANK YOU! We love you.

Lastly.  The fine print.

I was asked (in a grocery store checkout line) to “qualify myself” on the matter of Catholic education.  So, for the sake of a stranger named Scott, any anyone else who cares to know, here’s my resume.

I am the product of 12 years of Catholic school.  I attended grade school (1st-8th grades) at St. Lawrence Catholic School, followed by 4 years at Central Catholic High School—all in Lafayette, Indiana.  My husband, Tom and I met in high school.  He attended grade school at nearby St. Mary’s and middle school at St. Boniface in downtown Lafayette, before I met him at LCC.  We have three sons, ages 24, 22, and 17.  Next year when our youngest, Zach, graduates from Guerin Catholic High School, that will conclude 40 (individual) school years of tuition payments. Whew!  St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers, IN graced our family with 24 of those blessed school years, twelve will have occurred at Guerin Catholic, and four were logged by Nick (our oldest) at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Nick now lives in Cincy and works for Fifth Third Bank. Drew, who is 22, graduated early from Purdue University and will finish his master’s degree in May before starting his career with a local accounting firm in Indianapolis. Zach, 17, will be a senior at Guerin Catholic in the fall of 2022. Someday, I’m hoping they bring me armloads of grandchildren to babysit, but for today, I’ll settle for someone to help me shovel the snow out of the driveway. Be safe out there, everyone! –ST