>How to love much

>One of the great examples we have of how to love much is St. Mary Magdalene.
Yup, that’s right, this woman, reviled as an adulteress and worse, shunned even in Jesus’ time, loved with all she  had.
Wish I could say the same.

She was a beauty, and she knew it and used it…but when she met Jesus, she recognized the Christ.  She came to him, weeping, and washed his feet with her long gorgeous hair.  And what did Jesus say to her? He said, “Her sins are forgiven because she has loved  much.” Whoa.  Loved much.  Meaning, loved Him much.  Because only in loving him can we even begin to love anyone else.  If we don’t love him first, we will only love ourselves and then we can’t love anyone at all.  But she saw him and her heart new, knew she was called right back to him, him who made her.  And she came to him and wept, abject at the hurt she knew she had caused him by her separation.  And he forgave her, he took her love right back.

How much hope does that give rotten ol’ selfish me?
Well…a lot.

St Mary Magdalene went on to be one of the ones left at his crucifixion, one of the ones who stayed with his mom Mary.  She was faithful, her love didn’t fail.  She was the one to see him first at the tomb; imagine her amazed joy after such grief and hurt.  But this is the key, once she knew him – her love didn’t fail.

Wow.  Her love didn’t fail.
She didn’t go back to loving her beautiful self.
She ignored the certain gossip and whispering about her and her reputation and focused on the truth of real love that she had found.
She didn’t say, “Now what about me?”
She did the next thing: loved him.
And then she did the next thing: loved him.
And then the next:…..love him.
See the pattern?
Me too.
And still I stumble and go back to loving me first, not him and thus not others.  Not enough.
So today, I rejoice for the example of St Mary Magdalene, one of the most hopeful of our saints.  And I ask for  her prayers, to help me love him (and thus others) better, truer, and more.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Pure gift



It’s pure gift. All of it.
I don’t always have the eyes and clarity to see it as such. But sometimes, in this rare sparkling days in the sun, I do.

We are at the beach,still. Visiting family this weekend, intensively. My oldest dear friend, a sister, really, has come down to visit and hang out with us. My sister and her three big boys plus one of their lifelong buddies has come, her husband arrives today. My folks even came up and we had a loud big old crazy beach supper. The big boys are so physically large, just big ol’ men, that they take up enormous space in this tiny old simple condo. Six of them sprawling around. Plus of course, the rest of my not small at all clan. And then my sister and I, handing out plates of salad and slices of pizza, reaching over heads and across sunburned backs as bbig guys forage for more. My dear friend tells stories of us as girls, making my boys laugh at me, my folks embellishing to hoots. I worry about how Marta will handle the commotion but she does fine; she withdraws to the balcony for a few minutes here and there for a breather, then comes back in and sits near, then goes and laughs at the big boys antics. Big guys head out to surf and ride waves, again, its dusk, we all watch, footballs are thrown, we stay on the beach until the tourists (I know, that is us, but this feels like home too, so we don’t count ourselves as such) go home and the cold chases us in. Finally, my folks make their goodbyes for the night, my sis and sis head down to stay at my folks house…big boys go to call girlfriends and walk into town for ice cream. I tuck small sandy boys into eternally sandy beds.

I wake first; pad around the house picking up stray shirts, flip flops, legos, sunglasses. I make another pot of strong coffee. I go out and gaze at the empty beach, tide low. And I breath deep and whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, my entire self twinges with gratitude for this time.

It is time out of time. It is gift. I’m taking pics, but more, I’m searing it into my heart and soul and memory as best as I am able.

Thank you tom for making this happen. We are all missing you and Hannah. But it is oure gift. Every moment. I feel a touch guilty for not seeing my other friends who live near (sorry Clyde) but this is what this time is. It is time to imprint all of this, it’s a special weekend. My nose keeps twitching here and there, feeling the tears press in suddenly….I’m outing them back and instead choosing the grinning sparkly skittly joy of it (yes, Courtney, skittley). Gabey just woke, he pads iver and snuggles next to me, then he’s up and checking out the ocean. He turns to me and says, “Can you believe Nancy is coming back today?” Yup. She is, they all are. It’s gift. Every sandy salty funny loud messy moment of it.
It glitters.




Inhale, ahhh, exhale: fresh air.

So, the Fresh Air Fund is a great program that gives city kids a two week breather in the country…or burbs. I’d love to put up a video or some of the pics from their site but I’m computer challenged right now due to my location.

But think about it. The program isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you and it’s worth a thought, just in case.

“If you or someone you know is able to host, please sign up now. In 2010, The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences. “

Worth thinking about. They need Hundreds more families for this summer. Go, see.


American Girl: second year

Today is the second anniversary of Marta’s arrival on American soil. Today she is an American Girl, two years ago today she became a citizen. Now, you might wonder why we make a big deal of this…it’s because it’s a big deal to her. We don’t do “gotcha days” for all our kids who were adopted….I’ve got conflicted feelings on that. We stop marking every homecoming and such. Gabey has been home three years now and we didn’t do his American Boy day. But it doesn’t have the same meaning for him, as he was 18 months old at the time. But for our Marta, it has huge meaning. Almost as much as coming into our family – and yeah, I could do multiple posts on that concept. But I probably won’t.

Anyhow, you might wonder why we make it a big deal. Well, a couple of reasons. First, is because it’s fun to have some hoopla; especially if we are out of the birthday seasons. Second, this one is a big marker for her and one that she can understand fairly well. She remembers her fear and nervousness going through customs. She remembers how hard it was to get permission to leave Ethiopia. She remembers her relief when we said, “We are in America and it was all ok, done.”

Why don’t we celebrate the family gotcha day? Well, because that is a bit more conflicted for her; some days that’s something to celebrate for her and some days, not so much. Going from an only child, losing both parents, and then launching into a big ol’ family is no picnic. And if you have some challenges and delays, it’s exponentially more difficult. Processing all that, the challenges, the grief, the trauma, the attachments, the good, the new, the better, the worse…is all so much. And so much harder lacking language and cognitive maturity and ability. So. We don’t really make a fuss about any family or gotcha day.

But American Girl day can be just good happy fun. Not as loaded. Something to smile and grin and talk about, simply. Easy remembering and easy looking ahead. And here we are at the beach..across America….my favorite spot in the world and, I think, soon enough one of hers. Last night she told me, “Every summer, California!” You betcha honey, sounds perfect to me too. And yes, in case you were wondering…any celebration worth it’s salt still must involve cake. And so we will have it: an American Girl Cake. {And no. not like the dolls of same name. Just a festive cake will do.} She’s already reminded me four times, and it’s only eight a.m.

Our Marti: our Ethiopian, Teen, American Girl.

{I have pitiful net here and can’t load new pics. Its the cost of doing biz at the beach}

The Chair

I looked across my room to my son, sitting in the armchair by the light of the lamp.  I wished I had my camera, not only the grainy phone camera.  I wanted to freeze that image, keep it.  But even as the wish whizzed through my brain, I knew I wouldn’t.  I knew this was one to try to see, really see, all the details and sear into my brain.

I really looked at him in the lamplight: his face, now settling into his manly face and features and structure.  No longer the softer baby-child face of the boy, but filled out now, settled into a thicker stronger man face.  His long tall self spilling over the chair, feet beyond even the recliner footrest, big feet.  His computer on his lap, the light from the screen also filling his face with a glow, reflecting off his glasses.

I gazed at him, he didn’t notice.  He was seeing the faces and bios of his novice class-mates, his soon to be brothers, for the first time.  He was intent and focused on reading them, his first intro to his ‘new family.’  And I, the matriarch of his old family, his first family, could only look hard at my son, and send out a silent prayer for his happiness, for the goodness of these new men in his life, for him to find joy.  His dad, snoozing next to me after a long day, unaware that his boy was looking first glimpse at his future and new, possibly lifelong friends…brothers of a kind.

I’ve been trying hard these past weeks and months to step away from  the tears that come unbidden…because those tears are for me.  They are a selfish yearning to grasp what I don’t really have anymore…and to hang onto the known that I do.  I have been trying hard to trust in the joy that I have been told and that I hope is just on the other side of this goodbye.  Some days I do better and I can simply laugh and enjoy his company. Some days I have to walk away and do laundry or some automatic chore so that I can sidestep the sharp stab in the middle of my chest, and blink back the tears that are springing again, leaking.

Last night was a moment, in the lamp glow, frozen in time and marked in my brain and heart.  It was a still long look at my son, on the very cusp of a new life, “meeting” his new brothers in the Dominican Order, the new novices who will spend next year with him, and very possibly beyond.

And I blinked.

Then, I took a deep breath, smiled, and asked him if I could “meet” them too.


**Again, written earlier, a few weeks ago.  The timing of this process has been lifted out of real time to protect the privacy of this time, in a small way**

Measuring tape

Mom, can you bring a measuring tape?”

“A tape measure? Um, ok, but aren’t you packing up?” 

“No a measuring tape, you know, to measure.”

“Right that’s what I said.  Ok, if you need it, don’t you have one, a tape measure? What a measuring tape? Right, that’s what I said…..”

Who’s on first?

That’s how that conversation felt like.  I didn’t get it.

Not until a few days later. Below is the entry from that day, a few weeks ago:

Today I measured my son.

It wasn’t the standard – the heels against the wall, book on the head, marking of height that we’ve done since he was small.

No, it was a once in a lifetime measure…and one that is not so common, perhaps.


Today I measured my son for a habit.


I took the measuring tape, and he sat in front of me in the kitchen on the counter stool.

I pulled the tape along his shoulders, left to right.

I gently pressed it to his clavicle and circled the tape to measure his neck.

I laid it on his shoulder bone and measured to his elbow, then wrist.

He stood then, I had to measure his chest, his waist.

I had to measure from the base of his neck to his heels.

The tape wasn’t long enough.

I had to measure from his clavicle to his feet.

The tape wasn’t long enough.

We laughed and teased about it all.

But I could feel my heart thumping as I did it, at first.

Then it just all got kinda still, one of those “time out of time” moments.


I measured my son for his habit today.

It was kind of surreal, kind of hard, kind of funny, kind of wonderful.


They don’t ask for a measure of his heart though….that is what this coming year is for.

This year he and the order will measure his heart and parse out where it is to go.

But I don’t need to do that, so I can let him go to find that out…..

Because I measured his heart so long ago.


Today I measured my son for his habit.

Troop movements

So, how do you get a humungous big old family ready for a vacation?

First you hire security: your familia big brother with anger issues and 200+ pounds of pure muscle is asked to stay at your house, manage your viscious guard dog and keep a sharp eye out for anything unusual.  You alert your state of the art security company to be, um,  on alert.

Second, you make endless runs to Target and Walmart for all the last minute forgottens: snacks and plane trinkets and coloring books and shoes and underwear.  Yes, we need new underwear to travel it seems, because the old ones just won’t do.  Go figure. It’s a “big family mystery”, but it’s real.  I’ve got the Hanes action figure boxer receipts to prove it.

Third, you make sure that mom has a minor rampage of overwhelmed tearing through the house the day before, trying to remember everything that needs to packed, prepped, labeled, and stowed.  Laundry churns without a break for a few days running, in order to pack what few clean socks and underwear we do have.

Fourth you direct all smalls to deposit all bags and backpacks to foyer, for counting and for corralling, so that the exit tomorrow is smooth and without that exciting last minute, “Wait, I can’t find my________!”

Fifth, you buddy up.  You plan out seating arrangements on the plane in advance.  It’s as serious an  undertaking as planning a State Dinner.  Just as certain countries and their ambassadors might need to be seated far apart in order to quell tension; the seating of siblings on a plane must too be undertaken with great care and concern for underlying tension and tendencies to snarl and/or wail.  Hard ones are paired with easy, bigs with littles and Mom and Dad are separated for maximum parental real estate coverage.  The seating arrangements on the plane is a big crapshoot  gamble as well; if we are on our game, we will get different boarding groups and have two go ahead to score seats as the rest of the tribe shuffles aboard.  Worst comes to worst, we pull out the trump card.  I hold the one with the runny nose (there is always one with a runny nose) as Dad leans in and asks a passenger or two if they wouldn’t mind moving so we could sit together…though if not, we think this one could probably be ok on his own next the passenger.

Lastly, you make arrangements for troop movements to airports, in multiple cars.  That’s right.  When you are a large family, you can’t get to the airport in one vehicle.  NOPE, it’s gotta be a minimum of two, sometimes three, depending upon the suitcase situation and the length of trip and the possible addition of friends and/or nephews.  Happily, one of the upsides of the ridiculous and obscene airport luggage restrictions is that it cuts our vehicular caravan down to a more reasonable two, most of the time nowadays.  You have to beg godchildren and best friend to drive you to the airport and return the large vehicles back to the house, because big angry brother and  his family will be needing them as well.

And, if all goes well, you all make it onto the plane, on time, and take off without tears or fuming and a minimum of rolling eyes.  It’s rare, but it can happen.  If you hit the jackpot, two or three kids will fall asleep (and not just the teens).  Yes, we are that family.  The one that gets the goggle eyed looks and stares, that is asked if we are a school group, and sometimes even gets actual sneers.  We have learned to smile and look those folks directly in the eye.  We are as polite as we can be, we deplane last, we actually have some skilled little travelers.  But, man, we look alarming when we roll through the terminal and onto that plane.   And, until we get there and hit the beach, it’s go mode, baby.  That means, the tribe is on the move.

Verso L’Alto!

It’s the feast of Pier Giorgio Frassati.

This is the young man that inspires my son in so many ways.  Like him, he aspires to go higher and higher.

Go here for a good round up on this remarkable young man: Blessed Pier Giorgio.

And, to know a bit more (from todays Office of Readings): From a Fr. Stanislaus, a Dominican Bishop, on Blessed Pier Giorgio:

“He only had time to be a student; but already the man he might have been one day was presenting itself in him: not precisely an intellectual, that is a man capable of putting all of his life at the service of his thought, but rather a man of action, resolved to put all his thought in service of life.”

Happy Feast Day Buddybug! 


Well, I don’t want to beat this to death.  But I think for me to really, honestly, track this process from the parental standpoint, ok, the mom angle, I’ve gotta just put a quick blip up on blog.

This is hard.

This giving your son to God, it’s kinda hard. Oh yeah, it’s joyous and deep and profound and all that…. But the clear hard fact is that we are saying goodbye for reals, and he is not only moving far away, he’s giving up his worldly life.  Which means, learning to detach from us too in many ways.  And it means us learning to detach from  him.  And I type that and feel the hot tears.  I hold myself tighter as I blink hard to keep typing, fast, get it out before the flood hits and/or to let me blink even FASTER to push that tide back, again.

And I know, this is all a personal pity party in many ways.  It’s all tangled, happy sad proud amazed worried:  I am truly deeply tap dancing happy for him as he enters, for  this beckoning call, his ability to recognize it and respond.  And I know that many a mom has said goodbye to her son to go to war across the world, with legitimate fears for his safety. I get that.  Utterly.  I mean, I’m sending by son to Cincinnati, for heaven’s sake. Not Afghanistan.  The irony is not lost on me.  My dork factor and wallowing ability makes duck my head in shame even as I can laugh at the/my stupidity of it all.  I know that my fears for his times of lonely and spiritual struggle are something each of us go through, no matter our circumstances in life. Some of the loneliest times can be IN a marriage.  So, I cannot protect him from any of it.  Nor should I try. And while I want to, I know that I can’t and really, shouldn’t want to because it’s part of the process he, we all, must go through.

But anyhow.  I’m bad at goodbyes.  We are in the countdown weeks now.  And I’m feeling the pressure, brittle, tired, leaky.  I can still savor these days and  hours with him, and I do.  But, another part of me wants to drive him straight up to the Novitiate house right now so I can get him there safely.  It feels like battles are afoot.  Spiritual battles, even.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post and I just heard the few  readers I have click away anyhow, because now they know I”m a nutcase.

But, I  need to say, for any mom going through this too….it’s amazing but it is hard.  And it’s a loaded few weeks ahead.  And I’m a bit brittle and holding tight, carrying myself carefully as I walk through these days so I don’t fall to pieces.  I’m leaking…feels a bit like the little dutch boy……holding back the dam.