Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Saturday, January 26, 2013

March for Life 2013

Picture taken by John Brehany, Executive Director CMA
I've warmed up and caught up on sleep so I can tell you a little bit about the March for Life 2013. It was so cold! But in spite of the frigid temperatures, an estimated 500,000 people joined in this march to mark the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, making abortion legal in the United States at all stages of pregnancy.

This March for Life is young. The vast majority of the marchers were under 30. This should bring hope to those of us who look at our culture and often wonder "Where are we going and why are we all in this handbasket?" The tweens, teens, and twenties are passionately pro-life. I think they see themselves as survivors. They know they are missing siblings and friends because of the holocaust of abortion.

The March for Life is joyous. People were cold and tired, but there was a joy pervading the March. Certainly, there is sadness and even anger over the way our culture cavalierly disposes of human life at all stages. But at the March, you realize you are not alone. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder to proclaim the dignity and sanctity of human life. Joining with so many to proclaim the Gospel of Life is a joyous experience and it shows in the faces of the marchers.

If pictures are worth a thousand words, then the main stream media is guilty of a thousand lies. They refuse to show the aerial pictures that depict the massiveness of the crowd. Instead, they show close in shots of marchers with counter protesters, implying that there is an equality in the numbers of each group. Here is the truth: when we reached the end of the March, there were maybe six signs that read "Abortion on Demand and without Apology". There was one woman holding a homemade sign with obscenities. So less than ten counter-protesters to the hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers. And if you read the news story, it will describe us as anti-abortion protesters or anti-abortion activists. Well, we are that, but we are so much more. Yes we were marching for the unborn. But we were also marching for the elderly, the disabled, and the infirmed. We were marching for everyone that our culture deems is disposable.

Now I have a favor to ask of you. The woman holding the sign with the obscenities was probably in her early twenties. She was shouting "Ho Ho Hey Hey, Roe v Wade is here to stay". She looked like a young woman who must have experience some great pain. I suspect she had an abortion at some point. I am sure many of you pray for the unborn, pray for the pregnant women considering abortion, and pray for the conversion for those who support abortion. Right now, however, I am asking you to pray specifically for this young woman who was willing to stand in the frigid temperatures and falling snow to spew such vitriol. She is hurting. She needs someone to bring the healing message of the Gospel into her life. And while I may not be able to do that personally, I can offer prayers that someone will. Please join me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I have never been so scared

Last night I had a most harrowing experience in which I am sure my guardian angel was very busy. I met my daughter and her fiance in Rockville, MD to check out a caterer for the wedding. We decided to have dinner after the meeting since none of us had eaten and looking at all that good food made us hungry. We headed for the nearby TGI Fridays and enjoyed a tasty (though a bit noisy since the bar crowd was watching the Ravens vs Broncos game) meal. We said our goodbye's and I went one way to my car which was parked not too far from the restaurant entrance and they went the opposite direction to their more distant parking spot. As we left I noticed a young woman, dressed in what looked like  TGI Fridays waitstaff clothing, smoking while leaning up against the restaurant building. I remember thinking it was odd that employees were allowed to take their smoke breaks at the front entrance. 

My Prius has keyless entry and push-button start so I never fumble for keys. I got in my car and immediately fired up the engine. Actually, I pushed the power button and engaged the battery. Firing up the engine sounds a bit dramatic for a Prius. In any case, as I am getting ready to back up I see the same young woman coming after me, actually waving at me. My first thought is that I must have left something at the restaurant. As she gets closer, though, I see that she is not a Fridays employee. I fumble to lock the door. I am too slow. She opens the driver's side door. Initially, I think she is screaming "Why did you hit my car?" I respond that I did not hit her car. I have no idea what she is talking about. Then as she keeps yelling at me, I realize she is saying, "Why are you  in my car?" She is claiming that I am in her car. You want to know what is weird? For a split second, I doubted myself. I glanced around to make sure I was really in my own car. But then my racing thoughts reminded me that my key had opened this car and my key had started this car. This woman reaches in the car and starts trying to drag me out of the car. While I had not immediately locked the car, I had buckled my seatbelt. I wrest my arm from her grasp and start screaming. I am screaming at the top of my lungs "Help, help me!" I am laying on the horn. You know what happened? Nothing. There were at least twenty people in this well-lit parking lot a little after 9:00pm and nobody came to my aid. I could see people looking at me, but they just stood there and watched. For all I know, someone was filming it on their smart phone hoping to have crime video to sell to a news outlet.

In spite of my ruckus,  the woman keeps pulling at me and telling me to get out of the car. She then tells me to produce my driver's license to prove it is my car. I make no move to comply with that. I just keep screaming and honking the horn. Finally, this tall lanky guy who looks like your classic gang-banger comes over. My heart is racing. What if he is her partner? But this guy distracts her long enough for me to find the phone button on the steering wheel and get the screen up to allow me to dial 911. The guy tells her he knows it is not her car because I have the keys. I see both of them walk away and head into the restaurant.

At this point the 911 operator answers. I am shaking, crying, and having a tough time speaking slowly enough for the operator to understand me. I explain the situation. He tells me to stay put, they are sending a Montgomery County police car. I ask if it is really necessary. Nothing was stolen. I am not hurt. I just want to go home. I am told that an officer is on his way and they need to talk to me. I do not want to go back into the restaurant because I saw my attacker go in there. I am terrified, sitting in the parking lot. I call my daughter and ask her to come back. She and her fiance are back in the parking lot in about ten minutes. The police have still not arrived. I call 911 again and the operator can only tell me that the officer has been dispatched but can give no estimate of when they actually will arrive. I have no desire to spend another moment in the parking lot, so my daughter's fiance drives my car and we all head back to my daughter's apartment. My son drives my husband over to the apartment so that he can then drive me home. I am just too shaky to trust myself on the road.

At first I thought I had managed to run into a woman who was just crazy. As I think about it, though, I think this was just her purse snatching or car theft MO. She dressed like a TGI Fridays employee so I hesitated. She tried to get me out of the car so she could hop in and drive away or snatch my purse and run. When that didn't happen easily she tried to get me to pull out my wallet and show my driver's license. That was probably so she could make a wallet snatch.

So what did I learn? I have one heck of guardian angel. I am in pretty good physical shape, but I would have been no match for this much younger woman. Yet, other than trying to pull me out of my car, she did not physically threaten me. She did not have a weapon.  My car has power locks, but not automatic locks. I need to lock the doors every time I buckle my seatbelt. A well-lit crowded parking lot is not as much protection as I thought.  Police response time is much slower in real life than it is on television. I have a wonderful family who did everything they could to make me feel safe and loved after the ordeal. Whether she is mentally ill, just a thief, or a little of both, the woman who attacked me needs lots of prayers.

Friday, January 04, 2013

An imprint of God on the soul

There will be no film crew or drama (at least I hope no drama) but today my daughter will begin her quest in earnest to find a wedding dress. Her bridesmaids and her future mother-in-law will join us as we head to a couple of boutiques today and two more tomorrow. I think we are both a little excited and a little nervous. I have never done this. When I got married I wore my mother's wedding dress. We pulled it out of the cedar chest a few months ago and after more than half a century, it just doesn't sing like it used to. With a little rehab it could probably be used again, but it just isn't my daughter's style so I am happy to let her try to find a dress of her own.

I am grateful that our parish has put down some firm guidelines. No strapless dresses. No spaghetti straps. No plunging necklines. All reasonable and my daughter has no problems complying with these parameters. However, if you have viewed the TLC show "Say Yes to the Dress" or browsed the wedding dress web sites, you know that there are more dresses that fail those standards than meet them. Our pastor is serious about the importance of marriage. He has also declared that there can be no elaborate wedding for cohabitating couples. The bride and groom must live apart for at least three months prior to the wedding. If this is impossible, the bride and groom may be married in a simple ceremony. This simple ceremony means no white wedding dress and veil, no music, no Mass, no big wedding party (only a maid of honor and best man), and no procession.

If more parishes took such a serious approach to weddings, I think more Catholics would realize that this is not just a cultural event but a solemn sacrament. Catholic writer (and fellow Virginian) Elizabeth Foss's son was just married. On her blog she offered a quote from the early 20th century  Belgian priest Jacques Leclercq :

The sacrament of marriage is the imprint of God on the souls of the married couple, not merely in order to deify their life in general, but in order to deify their union . . . The sacrament of marriage is thus not merely a religious act sanctifying a human one, it is a seed sown in the soul and bearing fruit through the whole of married life, giving life to all its acts and sentiments . . . it is a predisposition to holiness placed in their souls by God on the day of their wedding.

Marriage is an imprint of God on their souls. That is so profound. I wish that every couple planning marriage could be given this quote. They need to see that marriage is more than an extravagant party followed by endless romance. Romance doesn't go away. It does change. Being handed a freshly made cup of coffee on a cold winter morning may make your heart sing as much as a dozen roses. Lifting each other up during the hurdles of parenting is worth more than any diamond. Kneeling together in prayer is sometimes more unifying than a night of dinner and dancing.

So today we will be joyous and giddy as we celebrate the upcoming nuptials. But along with the preparations of a dress, flowers, music, and food, I pray that my daughter and her future husband are also preparing to join their souls in an offering to God.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A handwritten touch

I enjoy electronic communication. I email, blog, tweet, and facebook. But you know what I realized this Christmas? I absolutely love snail mail. There is still something magical about going to the mailbox and finding real communication. Something that is not a computer generated missive with my name electronically inserted into the salutation. Something that has a hand written signature. If I am lucky, there will be a newsy note with the loops and whirls of a friend's unique penmanship. I have to admit that I have succumbed to the typed Christmas letter but I try to include a personal comment or two and I always sign my name.

Maybe that is why I have always insisted to my children that thank you notes must be hand written. An email will do in a pinch, but I think if you really want to show gratitude, take the time to select the stationery, write a note, address the envelope, and find a stamp.

Maybe this year I will send a few snail mail notes just to say "Hi!". Then again, that may go the way of many other New Year's resolutions. Still, in our cold electronic world, there is something very warm about a hand-written note.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


One of the great things about being a grandparent is the opportunity to return to happy memories. I have so many treasured remembrances of reading to my children. "In the great green room there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of..." will be forever linked to having one or more of my children snuggled in my lap. What is interesting, though, is the power of smells to evoke memories. As a teacher of anatomy and physiology I know that the olfactory neural pathway is different than our other senses. It has more connections to areas of the brain associated with memories. Yet I am still amazed when a smell transports me to a moment in my past.

I had one of those experiences while playing with my granddaughter. We opened up a canister of Play-doh. Oh my goodness! This was a smell from my own childhood as well as my children's younger days. We rolled and shaped and cut with cookie cutters and just had a grand time. I hope in years to come when she pops the lid of a Play-doh can my granddaughter associates this familiar smell with happy times and Gramma.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Cozy Chaos Bursting with Joy and a Hint of Sadness

Haven't been blogging much because I've been too busy living life to write about it. Just returned from an amazing Christmas in Missouri. All my children, grandchildren, and my dad gathered under one roof at my son's home. Ten people and four dogs made for cozy chaos and lots of love and joy. Four generations celebrating the Incarnation and Nativity of our Lord was the best gift I could ever receive.

This was the second Christmas since my mother died. Last Christmas did not seem as difficult as this one. Last Christmas my oldest son was in Afghanistan, my daughter-in-law and grandbaby spent Christmas with her family and my father stayed in Texas so there were only five of us at home. This Christmas we were all together and it seemed very strange not to have my mother there. All day long I had this impulse to give her a call and share the day with her. Then I would remember that she was out of my cell phone's reach. So I prayed. I said many Hail Mary's on her behalf Christmas Day.

I hope your Christmas season continues to be filled with the Peace of Christ. No earthly sadness can dim the awe and wonder that God so loved the world, that He sent Christ to be our Savior.

Blessings to you and your families in the upcoming year.