Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Let Him Lead


Sometimes when you hear stories about God’s works, it’s kind of hard to believe.  Even though you believe in God, and trust in Him, sometimes it seems alien to try to comprehend some of the mysteries and miracles. 

Our priest shared a vision he had while he was on sabbatical.  It somehow seems hard to believe, and yet I trust our priest in every way. 

Erin and Phil were blessed by God on the first day they went back to the Church after a long absence.  Their Florida parish priest told a story of a lost dog in Fairbanks Alaska, and how he found his way back.   What you may not know is that Erin and Phil had just moved to Florida from Fairbanks!  Now I believe it was God’s hand that gave that story to that priest in that church on that day.  In fact it gives me chills sometimes just thinking about it! 

Last weekend my sister and her husband traveled 8 hours west on I-80 from her home, which is 4 four hours east of mine, to visit our parents.  Also, last weekend my husband and I traveled 2 ½ hours west on I-80 to visit his parents.  On Sunday morning my sister and I texted back and forth, letting each other know that we were on our way back to our respective homes.

We were about 40 minutes from home and decided that we couldn’t wait until we got home to use the bathroom.  Since there are no rest stops between that point and our house, we ramped off I-80 and went to a gas station. As we were walking out of the building my husband pointed and said, “Look who’s here!”

Sure enough, by God’s good grace, my sister and her husband were pumping gas!  Think of it…. 8 hours times 70 mph equals 560 miles.  And  2.5 hours times 70mph equals 175 miles.  This reminds me of the old algebra story problem of  “when will the 2 trains meet?”  It’s like finding a needle in a haystack!  It’s not a coincidence that we chose the same ramp, same gas station, and same time to stop. It’s not. We hugged and kissed and talked and were thrilled to see each other and knew it was God’s hand at work.

So when my priest saw his vision, why did I not have the same feeling?  What makes one mystery or miracle easier to believe?  God’s “level of miracle” ?? That’s a silly thought.  That’s like saying a flood is not a flood at 5 feet, but that it is at 10 feet.  Like saying someone has “a little” cancer or is a ‘little’ pregnant.  It is or it isn’t.

There is no “gray area” in miracles, is there? 

Believe or believe not, says Yoda.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Little Love and Understanding...

Pope Francis came to the United States today!  It’s a big day for Catholics because he is the leader of their church.  But really, it’s a big deal for everyone.  Pope Francis is a role model and a leader-in-change.  He looks at things differently.  He is a man of acceptance and love.  He sees globally.  His ideas are to some, radical, to others, freeing. 

A while back, one of my students shared with me (through much broken English and back-and-forth pantomime) that she was fasting and that she would fast until dark.  This particular student is Muslim.  I did a little research and found that Muslims fast for Ramadan.  During Ramadan Muslims take time to pray, reflect, and worship.  They do this in part by abstaining from food and drink from dawn to dusk.  Big meals are prepared and eaten before sunrise and again after sunset.

I shared with her my religious practices surrounding Lent. Lent is a special time for Christians to pray, reflect and worship too. I told her about our Friday fasts and that the very old, the very young, and sick were exempt.  She shared that that was her religion’s practice too.

Today is the eve of Eid-al-Adha.  It is the Feast of Sacrifice.  This holiday commemorates Abraham’s willingness to follow God’s command to sacrifice his own son.  This story is well-known to Christians and Jews also. The Bible and Torah tell of how God stopped Abraham from performing his sacrifice at the last moment and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead.  My Islamic students are filled with anticipation and excitement for tomorrow-- like Christmas to Christians.  They will go to their church, probably in new clothes, and then gather with friends and family for a meal.

I have been lucky enough to learn that, in general, people- no matter what their county, nationality, or religion- are not all so different from one another.  We all want freedom to think and do.  We want our families to be safe and happy.  I guess my adult ESL students are having a big impact on me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015



What is home?  Webster defines home as ‘the place where one lives.’

Is it a place?

Tim and I are thinking about downsizing.  I look around my house and wonder if I can really leave this place. The thought of moving someplace new doesn’t seem so bad, but the thought of someone else living in this house bothers me.

I shared these thoughts with our daughter, Erin.  She said, “Once your stuff is out, it will be just a house.  It’s your stuff that makes it your home.”  I think she’s on to something here.

My Great-Aunt Beth’s family traveled the world and moved from place to place because of her husband’s job. Nearly thirty years ago I was about to move from my home-town across the state with my husband and newborn son. I was worried about moving so far from home so I asked my Aunt Beth how she did it. How did she deal with moving all the time?

Aunt Beth looked me in the eye and said, “Your home is where your heart is.”

Knock me over with a feather!

She calmed my fears with that one short statement.  My heart was with my husband and son- no question about that.  My home would be where they were.  Easy-peasy.

I think about my refugee students.  They can never go ‘home’ ever again.  They left what was and are starting anew in America.  It’s mind-boggling for me to think of this country’s state becoming so horrible – or this country treating me so badly - that I would ever leave it.  My heart is in America.  But what if…?

Suddenly moving my shit across town doesn’t seem too tough.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Communication 411


Friends, the old saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” is not true.  Words can hurt. And that hurt often lasts longer than a bruise or broken bone ever would.  I think we can all agree on that.
As a writer, I’m always trying to find the right words to say what I have to say, the way I want to say it. Communication is complicated.

Sometimes people intentionally try to hurt others with their words.  Anger is the enemy of communication.  In the children’s Disney movie Bambi, Thumper the rabbit gives some good advice: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” 
Adult movies have communication woes too. From Cool Hand Luke the famous “What we have here is failure to communicate,” line that puts the problem right out there, doesn't it?  In Taxi Driver Robert De Niro’s character asks “Are you talking to me?”  And Jeff Daniels character in Dumb and Dumber doesn’t have it figured out yet either: “Yeah I called her up, she gave me a bunch of crap about me not listening to her or something. I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention.”

But what’s worse than name calling or not paying attention to one another is when we think we’re communicating well and the other person takes what was said completely differently than how it was meant.  That particular communication problem, to me, is the most devastating because what was initially intended to be a positive somehow becomes a negative. Knots in communication cause emotional responses that make the tangle even harder to straighten out.

Think about it.  When you’re attacked through communication you can fight back, but when miscommunication happens it’s so much more devastating. Getting back on track is a delicate undertaking.

Would you rather be mad or upset?

Please don't interrupt me when I'm asking rhetorical questions.” -  Laurence Fishburne: Mission Impossible III

And finally, the Real Word about all of this he-said-she-said:

“…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  Matthew 12:37

Quotes courtesy of,, and The Bible

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Give Me Some Space!


A few months ago my husband, Tim, suggested I turn one of our spare bedrooms into an office.  I guess he was getting tired of seeing all my reading and writing materials scattered on the dining room table.  Or maybe he just thought I’d like a space of my own.  When he made the suggestion, I didn’t even need time to think about it.  My response was, “I know exactly what color I’m going to paint it!”

I think, as a mom, you never really contemplate having a space of your own.  Most men I know have  man caves, shops, or garages to call their own, but I’d never even considered having my own space.  Once the idea was planted, it grew like Jack’s beanstalk (and was as demanding as Seymour’s Venus Fly trap!) I covered my daughter Erin’s turquoise walls- that I helped her paint ten years ago- with a warm grey.  I went Pinterest crazy by refurbishing old furniture and DIY decorating. Finally, the room was ready… all except one thing: perhaps the most important thing- a desk!  We’d been all over our city looking through thrift shops and resale furniture stores for just the right desk, with no luck.

I was ready to set up a card table, just so that I could get busy with my writing when Tim mentioned our weekend odyssey/adventure/trek to our son, Nate. Nate said, “Let me talk to Mom.” So I got on the phone and Nate told me to send him a picture of what I wanted and he would make it for me.   I was so surprised and excited.  I said, “You can do that?” (Duh on my part.)

Several weeks later, I was presented a beautiful wooden (oak?) gray-stained secretary’s desk to call my own.  It is the crowning touch to My Office.  I love my office.  It gives me a happy place to think, dream, and create.  It’s filled loving touches from each member of my family-- the desk Nate created, some of Erin’s art work, some of my craft projects, and two pieces from my husband: a professionally framed autograph I got from astronaut Alan Bean some twenty years ago, and a brilliant snowy photograph on canvas that he took last winter.

We all need our own space sometimes.  But it’s really special if that space reminds you that you’re loved.