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Way back before I was a mom, we lived in another part of town and I took the bus to work at the University.  One day I was standing at the bus stop when a group of preschoolers on a field trip joined me.  One little boy marched up to me and through his arms around me.  “I love her and I’m going to marry her.”

I chatted with one of the chaperones but now I don’t remember what we were discussing.  It was small talk but at some point I revealed that I had no idea who this kid was.  She expected me to lose my cool but really? Wouldn’t I have done it when he first attached himself to me?

In truth, it was a spectacular way to start my day.  How often are we greeted with such unconditional love?  I can’t help but think that this is why Christ told us to come as children.

Leave behind your preconceived notions, your conditions, your check lists.  Take a seat.  Open your heart and mind.

When you do, you can approach others with this level of joy.  “Hey, I know you!  You carry a spark of the Divine, just like me.”


Kids can be really, really good at this.  This past weekend, our church hosted a breakfast with Santa for our preschool crew.  One hundred and seventy-five people attended.  It was a little nuts, but in a good way.

As always, I sat in one corner with our pastor and painted faces.  I painted snowflakes.  I painted gingerbread men.  I painted one star and one package.  And I painted at least a dozen reindeer.

I had to smile at two little girls who came up to me wanting reindeer.  They both had on the same dress, red and velvety with white trim.  Super cute!  According to one girls older brother (or maybe cousin, I don’t ask), they dress alike so that everyone can tell they are together.  “Twins,” whispered one little voice.  Big brother didn’t say fiddle but he was waiting for me to object.

One little girl was blonde and curly with big blue eyes.  The other girl, his sister, had straight black hair and big brown eyes.  Superficially, they couldn’t have been more different.  But that’s not what they were looking at.  In their hearts, where it truly mattered, these little girls were clearly twins with one big brother to keep an eye on them.

Kids have a lot to teach us if we will listen.  I’m glad God set this reminder on my path.


Isn’t it funny when your kids echo you and don’t even realize that’s what they are doing?

As a lifeguard, my son often works with young swimmers.  The other day boys from a group home visited the pool.  As a former scout, my son slipped into his older-scout mode.  These are my rules.  They seem strict but they will keep you safe.

He admits that he is much stricter than other guards who don’t explain things and then have to get on the kids.  But he was also surprised that the kids really like him.  When he goes on break and comes back, they get excited.

What he doesn’t realize is that he’s mirroring his father’s parenting style.  He always complained about his Dad’s rules but they’ve always had a great relationship.  And really? They get up to a great deal of mischief together it just happens to involve safety glasses and sometimes even hearing protectors.

But it also seems like a good reason to spend time in prayer.  If we are going to mirror what we are exposed to, it seems best that we mirror light and love in a world that so badly needs both.



I remember my sister giving me the news (she always was dramatic): Cat Stevens had changed his name, converted to Islam, and given up music — his reasoning being that his new faith did not approve of it. I’d grown up loving Cat Stevens’ music — “Moonshadow,” “Oh Very Young,” “Wild World,” “Peace Train” — how could any child of the seventies resist him? I totally dug (to use the parlance of the times) the gentle, fairy tale quality of his lyrics, his reassuring voice, his seeming gentleness. And here he was, taking all of that back and calling it somehow wrong.

Yusuf Islam (as Cat Stevens is now known) has since seriously softened his stance, and has been performing and releasing new albums for a while now. He also contends that his rejection of music had much to do with feeling burned out, a state I can relate to. But at the time, that’s not how I heard it. At the time, someone’s religion broke a kid’s heart. That’s something religion should never do.

I didn’t grow up feeling disheartened about women not being able to join the priesthood, as it was something I never aspired to myself. But I know now that some little girls were disheartened. They grew up, and certainly some of them took their (religious) business elsewhere. Which makes the Pope’s announcement that he is putting together a committee to look into the reinstatement of women into the deaconate so important. I say “reinstatement” because women were, for many years, deacons in the Church, until the day they were suddenly and (let’s face it) inevitably deemed “not godly enough.” If the Pope makes good on this beacon of hope, it will be a sign of true inclusion for women in the Catholic Church. Not an end point, by any means, but a good start.

If I can be a part of something that undoes or prevents the breaking of a child’s heart by religion, count me in. God loves children — Jesus made this abundantly clear. Nothing that purports to be “of God” should damage, dismay or disconcert a child. Not ever. Just as someone who claims to be a person of God should do his or her level best to never cause anyone — least of all a child — hurt or sadness.

The Church has not always been good in this regard. I now know that an abusive priest called my childhood parish home, and when our pastor found out about it and went to the bishop, the bishop merely sent the offending priest elsewhere. I am certain this brought terrible sorrow to our pastor, a good and moral man. It also must have brought a lifetime of hurt to many children, who, as altar servers, trusted priests implicitly. Although I admire Pope Francis for being vigilant about this abuse, there remain hundreds of scarred hearts out there, the hearts of children who once trusted the wrong persons. Nothing can make up for that.

It makes the defection of a pop star seem silly in comparison, I know. But kids are fragile, their hearts easily bruised. It remains up to us grown-ups to remain on guard against this misuse of faith. Here’s to a future full of hope, a day when religion offers only (as a hymn Cat Stevens once covered notes so beautifully), “Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning.”

Oh, son.  Angel I love. Light of my life!

Mom here. AKA, the Noodge. The Inquisitor. The Eye-roll Evoker!

Son, it’s about time that you and I have a heart-to-heart. Before you get all verklempt, no.  I’m not talking the Birds and the Bees. (Or, as we say in Joizey, da Boyds n da Beez.)

Nah, we’ve already done that.  Earned myself a good dozen eye-rolls with that lovely little convo. I’m talking about a serious sit-down about Big Stuff. Like, What You Want Out of Life. Every young bird has to leave the nest eventually, and once they do, they learn how to fly.

You’re going to have to support yourself someday, so here are your options:

□ Marry into Money. (Just joking. We mustn’t be so shallow! Unless you are and you do. In which case, buy me a little cottage with your wife’s bags of dough. XO♥)

□ Invent an App for Gullible People with Expendable Cash, like Stripper Name Roulette (using the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on.) Mine is Sheena Orchard.

□ Take aptitude tests online and figure out what you’d like to do for a living, with this one caveat: it should be something you love to do. Keep in mind that the old saw is true (no, that’s not me, shnookums. I’m the old bat! An old saw is a cliché.) If you love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Remember to treat people the way you’d want them to treat you. This is called “the Golden Rule” and you’ll recognize when others do it by the way they shine and sparkle. Respect yourself as well. Always do the right thing.

Treat your body as the temple it is – you’ll be driving that vehicle for the rest of your life. So fuel it up properly and maintain it so it lasts a good long time. A healthy body and a positive attitude will take you far.

Now remember: no matter how old you get, you’ll always be my baby boy. And no matter where you go, I’ve always got your back. I believe in you. Believe in yourself.

Go out and conquer the world now, son. And don’t forget to call me every once in a while! If I don’t pick up, I’m probably at Bingo, so just leave a message. Remember always, you are blessed, beloved and believed in. Be about it now.

You’ve got this.

Love, Ma.

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

You know I hold my Faith close,
and personal,
and quiet.
Sometimes probably too quiet.

Help me to share my beliefs with others,
especially the children
I am responsible for shaping.

But help me to do it in a way
that lets them bask in Your Presence
and glory in Your Love.

Let me lead them
as You
have always led me.




Have a Mary Little Christmas

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