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Recently, a student brought a loaded gun to the high school my son attended. Cole’s in college now, so we weren’t directly affected; still, it was unsettling to hear of such a thing so close to home.

The next day, I received word that a threat had been made to a teacher, so all township schools would be closed. A follow-up text said the incident had not happened in our town of Franklin, which is in central Jersey, but in the other Franklin in our state, which is in north Jersey. Oh. Okay! No problem then. Why didn’t I feel any less tense about it?

Everything is in your neighborhood now, isn’t it? You’re not directly affected, yet somehow, you still feel directly affected.

As I look at the student coalition advocating for gun control after the attack on their high school, I’m experiencing something I’ve never felt before: I’m both encouraged and discouraged at the same time.

The student movement’s leaders are capable young people with convictions and confidence, ready to take on the world. What about the kids who aren’t being heard? The ones who show up for class in worn-out sneakers, who eat lunch alone and get picked on in gym class? These are the young souls who end up folding in or lashing out.

Gun control, yes. Mental health background checks for gun purchases, okay – provided you define your terms. Does that include people with depression? Anxiety? On medication of any kind? How about Asperger’s? Who decides?

But also, a call to arms of a different kind: working together to remind each other that words and actions have impact. To encourage each other to honor the humanity in every person they meet.

How we get there as a nation is anybody’s guess.  Until then, we pray.


Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Sometimes in my quiet moments, I feel God is putting words on my heart. Things I’m sure I already know, but just needed that small reminder.

It’s a gift. It’s to help you. It’s to help others. It’s to help you help others. It’s to help others help you.

These words have come to me in many situations recently.

Thinking about my hinky eye, which I now call my “energy eye.” I can’t see you clearly, but I can still feel your energy. Sometimes I feel I can sense more of what you’re not saying when I don’t look at you with my left eye (which is myopic, but can see you) and use my right eye (legally blind, but can still feel you.)

Thinking about my brain, which my neurologist tells me has areas of white lesions. I’ve come to realize that my brain is a train, and it can only ride on one track at a time. When new information is introduced, it takes a minute to sink in. Often, I find I have to back up the train to get to that connecting track. It means I sometimes make mistakes or forget things.

Thinking about my life in general. I don’t seem to be one of those people who sets the world on fire with great accomplishments and new ideas. But maybe people like me, who may only have a kind word to any child of God I meet on the road of life (i.e., everybody), are the ones who form the connective tissue of the universe. We hold things together just by being there and being kind.

What may seem like impediments are sometimes gifts in disguise. I may not quite understand it, but I’ve learned to trust God and always listen to my heart.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

In years past, when I had extra, I found many creative ways to spend it… on things I didn’t even want or enjoy. I’ve been on three cruises in my life. Yet. I don’t swim, I can’t be in the heat due to my medical issues, and I hate crowds. Complained the whole time. Spent a boatload (see what I did there?) of money. Didn’t like it one bit. Well, the food was good. Overall? I could have, and probably should have, stayed home and socked that money away for a rainy day.

Tell you what’s true: it’s been raining lately. Money’s been tight, but we persevere, and wait/pray for better days to come. We all need certain staples to live on, but sometimes, there’s just not enough to buy some of the basics.

When “enough” returned, I actually said out loud to my son, “This is the best slice of toast I have ever had in my life!” Toast. Just made me do a happy dance. Although I did have other food in the house, I was out of bread and there just wasn’t enough in the budget as medical co-pays and deductibles came up early in the year. When a simple piece of buttered toast finally came back to my plate, I was over the moon!

Tell you what’s true: when I had too much I used too much; still, I wasn’t satisfied. Now when I have just enough, it’s manna. I’m content, though eager (if Someone upstairs is on the line listening) for the next batch of bread from heaven! I feel God’s saying, Do what you can. It gets better, and there’s more than “enough” on the way. Grace is always right on time, and that’s good enough for me.


Since I stopped driving a couple of years ago, I really don’t get out and about as much as I’d like. Some days, it might seem as if I’m a hermit. I’d love to get out more, but I have to work around my health and visual issues, and I’m on a budget.  I know I’ll be able to go to the movies and “impulse shop” again one day, but for now, and I’m grateful for every meal, every clean pair of socks, every hot shower. Even if I don’t get out much, I make the best of what I’ve got right here at home.

I came across a story about a Coptic Christian Priest who re-defines the term, “hermit.” He scales the face of a sheer cliff every single day to get to his church, of which he’s the sole member. It’s really just a cave on a mountain.

At first, I thought this was an example of a man going the extra mile – and then some – for his faith. Then I wondered: is this really what God wants him to do? He’s got no parishioners. He has to make a death-defying climb to get to this “church.” And there’s a chance that this is really just his version of a (literal) man cave, and is just an excuse to get away from the missus back home!

So I came to the conclusion that while I may not understand why people believe or behave as they do, there’s always a back-story. I’ll represent my own faith in the best way possible, by giving them the benefit of the doubt, and an encouraging word when our paths may cross.

We may see the world differently, but at the end of the day, we all walk the path of life together.


I’ve wondered on occasion if I’m really just a cat in God’s garden. I mean it. I’m not a go-getter like SueBE, or a sacred poet like Lori, but I feel I contribute in my small way to our little eco-system. If I can add a light note of levity or spin a yarn about my KitKat, I feel that I’m adding leavening to the loaf of bread that we bake together.

When I noticed that I’d started to give myself a hard time one day as I looked at SueBE’s goals for her writing day (her to-do list is chock full of action items) and mine (find the right word for that one poem I might submit to some unspecified market at a distant time in the nebulous future) I had to pause. Hold on. Her point is to share her process, and the goal is to help other writers as they find their own way. Not to say, I can do it all! Why can’t you?!?

Still, I thought it would be nice to have a little of the zhoosh she has to get it all done. I wondered how to go about this, and sure enough, she answered my question without realizing when she started posting her “5 minutes a day” series. That’s how you do it. A piece at a time.

Then I wondered why I stopped writing prayer-poems for our blog, and I realized it was partially due to the fact that it seems to come so easily for our Lori and she does it so well. For me, it takes a whole week of revisions, total re-writes and second-guessing before posting.

Neither one of them had judged me and said, why can’t you be like me? It was my own Negative Naysayer steering me away from what my friends do so well.

So I called in my Yes-you-can Yaysayer (opposite of Naysayer) and she said: We’re not supposed to all be the same. Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.

As for me, it’s time to stretch, yawn and take a catnap. Later, I’ll find the right word for my poem. It’s a small goal, mind you, but it’s a start!


“Inartful” is such an inartful word, isn’t it? It sounds as if somebody was just sitting around, chewing the fat with a bud, and asked, What’s the word for something that doesn’t have any aesthetics to it? No artistic merit at all?

His pal – let’s call him Art – replies, Inartlike? Unartley? Then they both land on: inartful.

Same thing with “impactful.” I’ve seen it an awful lot lately, and every time I do, my mind says, That’s not a word! Somebody just tacked “-ful” onto the end of “impact” one day in a meeting when they were grasping for the right word.

But that’s the beauty of the language. It really does change with the times. Mind you, I’ve had issues with some invented lingo on the web, such as “life hacks.”

Still, that’s what should happen. Our way of speaking should reflect our way of living.

That may not hold true for religions, I realize, but there should be some consideration given to the fact that times change. You can’t change the tenets of any given faith because you don’t agree with them, but they were founded so long ago that some updating wouldn’t hurt. The role of women should be honored, and everyone should be made to feel welcome, no matter who they love, where they’re from, or how much money is in their pocket.

Forgive me if I’m being inartful, but my faith has been so impactful, it’s more than a life hack. It’s the solace of my soul. Grace. Now that’s a real word.


Faith took root in my heart at the end of a deep, dark time in my life.

One day about ten years ago, I realized that there were always good things and bad things going on, every day. When I focused on the bad things, I felt bad. When I focused on the good things, I felt good. It may sound simple, but this is the actual thought process I had at that tumultuous time. It occurred to me: Somebody’s in charge. I believe that somebody is a positive force and I’d like to be aligned with that somebody, because I believe it will improve my life.

When my son was younger, I used to pray for so many things that I hoped for his life, but I realized they were things that I would have wanted, not what he might want.

So I had to amend it to include whatever would make him happy. I couldn’t make assumptions about what that would look like in his life, so I encapsulated it by kissing his head like a benediction and saying to him, “I wish you every good thing.” I had to take the leap of faith, dial down the anxious petitions in prayer and leave it up to him to fill in the blanks.

If I had to sum it up, I’d say that God is the yes of the universe. Every good thing you think about and smile. I really don’t know if God is male/female/both/neither. I don’t know if God exists as a being or is the electrical current in every atom. It doesn’t really matter. Just as I know that I love my son so much that I can smile till I break my face just thinking of him, and at the same time, a tear may tinge my eye, I know that some things are beyond words and yet still comprise the basic, beautiful stuff of life.


With all of the allegations against men in power in the headlines, I’ve come to realize that the malignant negativity targeted by the MeToo movement is everywhere. It’s not just perpetrated by men, and it’s not just in the workplace.

It just puts on different hats. In school, it would be labelled bullying. In the workplace, it’s harassment. On the highway, it’s road rage.

It comes, in every case, from a deficit. Something essential that is lacking, so some other, darker energy shows up instead.

There are so many people in pain who inflict pain that they can’t all be summarily dismissed. At some point, some brave soul is going to have to talk about – for lack of a better term – Monster Management.

What do we do with all of the people who have committed acts so monstrous, even their names evoke revulsion? If we put them all together on an island in quarantine, don’t you think they’ll all just get more monstrous? Wouldn’t they, in their deviousness, find a way to secretly infiltrate society again, only this time, in deeper disguise?

It seems to me that they shouldn’t be exiled or executed, but studied. How did this pathology set in? Could it be anyone was born with such depraved impulses, or was trauma or abuse a factor? As hard as it is to sympathize with such individuals, they do exist, and some are in your shared cubicle, the house next door, or even the church pew right next to you.

If we pretend this problem doesn’t pervade every stratum of society, we’ll never find a way to resolve it. Now the task is to find research scientists willing to gird their own souls and look into the minds of monsters, for the sake of humanity.


God has been so good to me.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

People always seem surprised to hear me say that. I’ve got progressive MS, walk with a cane and I’m partially blind. A surgery intended to correct a macular hole did exactly the opposite and left me without usable vision in my right eye.

Afterwards, when I asked the surgeon’s partner if I’d ever see again in that eye, he shrugged. I persisted, asking why my eye wasn’t healing. The doctor literally, actually, honest-to-God said this:

“Bad luck?”

As if it was a question. I pondered: could it be that when they were offering “bedside manner” class in medical school, he’d called in sick that day?

For years, I stewed about that surgery, imagining what it would be like to sue the pants off of the doctors in that practice. To take ownership of their Bentleys, their Labradoodles, their Rolexes.

I wished ill on them for a long time, until I realized that if the doctor had made a mistake, there’s nothing I could do to reverse it. By that point, it had been years and the statute of limitations had passed. Both legally and spiritually.

The surgery had taken its toll on my eye. The aftermath of anger took its toll on my psyche.

It wasn’t until recently that I was able to let go of my anger.

I have to re-phrase that.

Let go of my unforgiveness.

This is even more toxic than anger.

When you get angry, it’s usually a temporary state. Almost a form of insanity. You snap, you yell, you throw the remote. You get over it. You come back to your senses.

But with unforgiveness, you’ve set your anger into stone.

Wishing ill on someone who’s done you wrong is like saying, “Smite them, Lord! Break out that lightning bolt! At the same time, give me a life sentence of misery, obsessed with vengeance when I could have had joy. Kay. Thanks. Bye!”

That hole in my eye had led to a hole in my soul.

You can’t say “bless me” and “curse you” at the same time.

What’s different now? Well, I still live with physical limitations. The vision in my eye never returned. The most important thing that changed was my focus. The lens through which I see the world, if you’ll pardon the pun. I’ve learned to keep my eyes on the good in life and never look back.


Photo by Jiyeon Park on Unsplash

Journalist Ann Curry appeared on a news program to promote her new project, which focuses on feel-good stories of people re-connecting with those who have had a positive impact on their lives.

But first the anchors wanted her to talk about a dark day from her past. They kept asking her about being let go from NBC’s Today Show. It was reported that Matt Lauer, now accused of sexual impropriety, had had Curry fired.

Even though she was clearly uncomfortable, Curry spoke in generalities about her experience, hoping to get back to her current project. It occurred to me. Isn’t this also the creation of a hostile environment? If she keeps stating she wants to look forward and not talk about a painful event and that boundary isn’t being respected, isn’t this a form of abuse as well?

And I wondered if #MeToo is not just about men in power, sexually harassing or abusing women. It’s also women, in a conversation, not hearing another woman saying, This is something that makes me uncomfortable. I’d prefer not to talk about it.

There’s an orthodoxy forming that could become just as exclusive as the boys’ club has been. I noticed that the women who started Time’s Up didn’t include the earliest voices of #MeToo, such as Rose McGowan, who was vocal in her criticism of Meryl Streep.

There’s a danger that a genuine groundswell may become another party that only a few are invited to attend.

I’d like to propose another hashtag: #YourTime, which is to say, tell your story in your time. When you’re ready to speak, we’ll all listen. If you don’t feel like talking, or even offering an opinion on these issues, that’s your prerogative, as well.

Advocacy is a lot like faith. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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