Sunday, March 31, 2013


So hard to celebrate when people you love are suffering.  Here's a prayer for you:

My friend, who has a daughter managing an ectopic pregnancy;
My friend, whose mom is suffering dementia;
My friend, whose brother is unavailable;
My friend, who is starting a new job on Monday;
My friend, who is deciding between two forks in the road;
My friend, who is dealing with the scary, exciting life after retirement;
My friend, who struggles with her busy household;
My friend, who has been missing her dad for many years;
My friend, whose health is declining;
My friend, who is a caretaker;
My friend, who does everything for everyone.

You have had your Lent. May the promise of Easter sustain you today.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's Not About Me

My brother, Dan, has a lot of sayings, and one of the most instructional ones is, "I't's not about me."  It's become a great tool for me, especially when I'm worked up about something happening to me personally, which usually involves some version of my hurt feelings.  Examples?
  • When someone doesn't reply to a text or email
  • When I'm excluded or misunderstood
  • When I'm treated rudely
It's not about me.  None of it.  And because it's nothing I can control, I know what I need to do.  My response to the situation is my very delicious choice - it's all mine.

And on this Good Friday, reflecting on "It's not about me" seems very appropo.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Quote on Leaving

“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn't want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Get Along without Going Along

Sheryl Sandberg has the nation talking about the capabilities of her hypothetical Heidi and Harry and gender bias.  I've got a post brewing about leaning in, but today I'm thinking about another workplace battle, age bias.

It's official, I'm an older worker.  I'm getting along but refuse to give in.  There are cultural assumptions that, because I'm aging, I can't possibly be creative.  Truth is, I might move slower, but that is just my intentional way, as I'm also more thorough, more exact, and often see the answer far outside the box.  As an IT professional, I'm supposed to react quickly and embrace change - and the technology field, in general, is a youthful culture.  But let's remember that having fresh ideas and doing things correctly are not mutually exclusive pursuits.  Older workers provide different advantages as we can leverage our years of experiences and call upon successes, and failures, when making new decisions.

Hang on to your mental youthfulness, physical fitness, etc.  (I read recently that we are more concerned about the fuel we put into our cars than the junk we put into our bodies.)  Keep learning new things to build broader connections and expand your mental capabilities.  (I'm paying more attention to The New York Times crossword puzzle each Sunday, especially because I find it so challenging.)  The natural self-confidence you will gain from these extracurricular pursuits will convince you that you are still in the game.  It also doesn't hurt to carry a backpack, prefer a Mac to a PC, have a smart phone - and if you must wear a watch, make sure it's trendy.  More visual cues you can manipulate?  Only my hairdresser knows!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Table for One

Hard to imagine now, but I was actually nervous in 1994 when my friend Liz gave me a gift certificate for a massage - my first ever.  Back then, hugs and sloppy kisses from my children meant everything to me but I missed the sensation of touch, the taking that comes with intentional human touch. My tense body never totally relaxed in the first session, but I learned the stress-relief benefits of slowing down my racing mind so I could think clearer. . . that deep relaxation and renewal that comes wtih slow and stable breathing.  The happy hormones awaken (serotonin and oxytocin) and nothing feels big enough to become an issue because body, mind and spirit are interconnected, at least for a bit, and you feel whole, and very much alive.

So fast forward, and Shawn and I value our indulgent time on the table, when a trained professional guides their hands over our dehydrated skin and pamper us.  It's a treat best served when not feeling on top of your game, when you might need a fleeting hour of someone else taking care of you.

I had been flirting with the idea of getting a table, and learning a few styles and techniques - to take care of our own physical vitality, mental clarity and emotional balance.  Even though our nest is quiet (and darn clean!), we still deal with stress and all the pressures of our little lives.

So we bought a table (thank you EBay)!  And we're learning basic massage techniques (thank you YouTube!).  This isn't weird or kinky - this is physiology!  And while I don't know that I will get my LMT (licensed massage therapist), because I'm not sure I want to devote 600-1000 hours of precious discretionary time into formal training, I'm a learner and there's much to discover!  We're having a blast, learning some basic reflexology (there's a spot on the bottom of the foot that alleviates headaches) and ways to relieve chronic muscle tension in a way that invigorates blood flow, detoxifies the body, improves circulation. 

My favorite oil -
Lavender Lemon Zum Oil
There are many health benefits to receiving massage therapy on a regular basis:
Relieves stress
Encourages relaxation

Improves circulation
Improves posture
Lowers blood pressure
Helps manage pain
Relaxes muscles
Improves flexibility
Improves breathing
Relieves tension headaches
Strengthens immune system
Decreases depression

In an effort to further cut costs, here's a recipe I plan to try soon:

Stress Relief Massage Oil Recipe
  • 10 teaspoons grapeseed oil
  • 10 drops Petitgrain essential oil
  • 10 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
Combine the ingredients in a bottle or small bowl and shake gently until well blended. Pour into a small bottle and seal it.  Warm the oil before the massage.
Our Table for One -
Earthlite Harmony DV Portable Massage Table

Friday, March 22, 2013


A healthy person welcomes edits from their trusted sources, interactions that involve mutual respect and honesty.  There's no room for resentment because a healthy person realizes that corrections are not a personal attack, no reason to act defensively. 

We should seek out edits - er, feedback - and also offer them - it's a way to perform at a higher level.  Wanting to improve is not a weakness.

These are some of the thoughts I've had this week, as the campus emptied out due to Spring Break, and I had more time for trusted friends and reflection.  The value of candor, the caring criticism, is important for growth and the pursuit of excellence.  I like the details - and sometimes that is all I have, the words, and proper edits can make those words pop.

My wonderful DIL2B and son asked me for some wedding edits this week.  Nothing much at all - but it was such a gift to have their trust as I corrected a grammatical word or two.  When someone asks for your edits, they trust you and that "gift" they give when asking for your help feels less about getting the answers and more about knowing they can be vulnerable with you.  We know that the most important thing to consider when writing is the various perspectives of the target audience.  But what about your proofreaders?  The message you send when you ask for an edit is that you are willing to share your very best with someone and all you ask is that they improve it. 

Oatmeal is Good For You

It happens, as they say, when you least expect it.

This morning, as I was draining the last of the cereal from box to bowl, it came on and shook me to my core.  They're gone.

They packed up and left, one by one, and it seemed as natural as breakfast at the time.

They should be here, in this cold dark kitchen, fighting over the empty canister oatmeal box - Matt grabbing it to pound like a drum, mimicing an Indian warpath dance.  Kate snatching it, planning to use it for her ribbons, to cover it with construction paper and decorate it with stars.  Joe should be in the highchair, generally amused, giggling and screaming for more raisins.

It's twenty degrees on the third day of Spring and, almost as unexplainable, is that they are far from this place - foregoing breakfast, no doubt; rushing to work, living their lives.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Another Plea for Us

Another plea, for us - if you have a couple of minutes, I believe this is a powerful read, from the Op-Ed page, The New York Times, 3/20/13:

AFTER serving as a Roman Catholic priest for 40 years, I was expelled from the priesthood last November because of my public support for the ordination of women.

Catholic priests say that the call to be a priest comes from God. As a young priest, I began to ask myself and my fellow priests: “Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not?” Isn’t our all-powerful God, who created the cosmos, capable of empowering a woman to be a priest?

Let’s face it. The problem is not with God, but with an all-male clerical culture that views women as lesser than men. Though I am not optimistic, I pray that the newly elected Pope Francis will rethink this antiquated and unholy doctrine.

I am 74 years old. I first felt God calling me to be a priest when I was serving in the Navy in Vietnam. I was accepted into the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in New York and was ordained in 1972. After working with the poor of Bolivia for five years, I returned to the United States. In my years of ministry, I met many devout Catholic women who told me about their calling to the priesthood.

Their eagerness to serve God began to keep me awake at night. As Catholics, we are taught that men and women are created equal: “There is neither male nor female. In Christ you are one” (Galatians 3:28).

While Christ did not ordain any priests himself, as the Catholic scholar Garry Wills has pointed out in a controversial new book, the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, stressed that the all-male priesthood is “our tradition” and that men and women are equal, but have different roles.

Their reasons for barring women from ordination bring back memories of my childhood in Louisiana. For 12 years I attended segregated schools and worshiped in a Catholic church that reserved the last five pews for blacks. We justified our prejudice by saying this was “our tradition” and that we were “separate but equal.” During all those years, I cannot remember one white person — not a teacher, parent, priest or student (myself included) — who dared to say, “There is a problem here, and it’s called racism.”

Where there is injustice, silence is complicity. What I have witnessed is a grave injustice against women, my church and our God, who called both men and women to be priests. I could not be silent. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against others, in the end, it is not the way of a loving God who created everyone of equal worth and dignity.

In sermons and talks, starting in the last decade, I called for the ordination of women. I even participated in the ordination of one. This poked the beehive of church patriarchy. In the fall of 2008, I received a letter from the Vatican stating that I was “causing grave scandal” in the Church and that I had 30 days to recant my public support for the ordination of women or I would be excommunicated.

Last month, in announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict said he made his decision after examining his conscience before God. In a similar fashion, in November 2008, I wrote the Vatican saying that human conscience is sacred because it always urges us to do what is right and what is just. And after examining my conscience before God, I could not repudiate my beliefs.

Four years went by, and I did not get a response from the Vatican. Though I had formally been excommunicated, I remained a priest with my Maryknoll Order and went about my ministry calling for gender equality in the Catholic Church. But last November, I received a telephone call from Maryknoll headquarters informing me that they had received an official letter from the Vatican. The letter said that I had been expelled from the priesthood and the Maryknoll community.

This phone call was one of the most difficult and painful moments of my life. But I have come to realize that what I have gone through is but a glimpse of what women in the church and in society have experienced for centuries.

A New York Times/CBS poll this month reported that 70 percent of Catholics in the United States believed that Pope Francis should allow women to be priests. In the midst of my sorrow and sadness, I am filled with hope, because I know that one day women in my church will be ordained — just as those segregated schools and churches in Louisiana are now integrated.

I have but one simple request for our new pope. I respectfully ask that he announce to the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world: “For many years we have been praying for God to send us more vocations to the priesthood. Our prayers have been answered. Our loving God, who created us equal, is calling women to be priests in our Church. Let us welcome them and give thanks to God.”

Roy Bourgeois is a former Roman Catholic priest and the author of “My Journey From Silence to Solidarity.”

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lenten sugar blues

Some Lenten practices are easier than others.  For me, there isn't much sacrifice in refraining from eating meat on Fridays, for instance.  But the self-renunciation that comes with giving up sweets, well, I'm trying to embrace the good with the bad.  I know I've been an average Catholic for a lot of years, so no self discoveries there, but wowza, my sugar addiction is more troublesome than I had realized.  It's not that I'm craving, relapsing, bingeing.  I've given it up, and it's gone.  Done deal.  But geez, it's kinda a big deal!  And Lent is not just 40 days, people.  I got out the calendar and counted.

I was nearly sugar-free a long time ago, back when I was free of most challenges, back in my early twenties, when my focus was on baking bread, weeding the backyard vegetable and herb gardens - always barefoot, working in cutoffs or overalls.  I had read a book, Sugar Blues by William Dufty (a book John Lennon mentioned in an interview and therefore it caught my attention). It argues that sugar is as addictive as nicotine and as dangerous as other white drugs, namely cocaine, morphine, heroin.  It's difficult to kick, and it's pervasive, especially sucrose, found in almost everything here in the USA. It is so entrenched in our lives, so hidden, Dufty blamed white sugar for most of our diseases and illnesses. He contended that a sugar-free diet can change lives, maybe even save lives and he often said that the fastest way to do damage to your body is through the consumption of refined sugar, because it messes with your pancreas, your adrenals, your insulin receptive cells.

I don't necessarily regard it today as poison, but I also try to avoid the Standard American Diet (SAD) - I don't consume 150 pounds of it a year.   It's complicated, but even if we just watch our ADDED sugar amounts daily:  40 grams is the aboslute most any non-diabetic should consume in a day.  6 teaspoons a day (24 grams), that's the goal for women (9 tsp/36 grams for men) - most Americans today consume about 22 teaspoons (88 grams) per day!  And we wonder why we feel rotten and can't lose weight. 

Once Holy Week ends, I hope I remember all this.  I'm definitely looking at anything with a barcode differently - checking not just the usual calorie and fat counts, but looking at grams of sugar closer than ever before.  It needs to be a once-a-week treat—something for special occasions—instead of a once-a-meal diet staple.  My new best flavor friends, Stevia, raisins, cinnamon and vanilla - well, they are here to stay.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dear Pope Francis

First off, congratulations!  No small wonder you just accomplished, being the first non-European pontiff, bishop of Rome, a successor of Saint Peter, the leader of the worldwide Church.  And you're a Jesuit, so you get extra points from me - you are one of God's Marines, as they say, and promote social justice, world peace, and work on behalf of the poor.  I like your humility  - a lot - it's very impressive that you gave up additional earthly pleasures, such as chauffeurs and chefs, and seem to be a man of the people.  I'm hopeful!

My favorite part of today's news (followed by my second favorite moment, when everyone standing on St. Peter's Square was chanting, "Habemus Papam!") was what you said before you gave your first papal blessing.  The English translation is something like this:  "Before I pray for you, I want you to pray for me. I want you to bless me."  And then you grew quiet.  And then you prayed to Mary.  THAT was moving!

I'm not sure what your election means for the Church, for us, but I have my hopes and expectations.  World peace and working on behalf of the poor, I'm all for that.  Yes, of course!  But also, Holy Father, can you remember the women and children?  We have been neglected.  I try not to think about the widespread sex abuse scandals (and cover-ups).  It brings me down; it's so sad, so shameful, so embarrassing.

But let's consider women, soon, please?  The all-male priesthood, well, it's a bit offensive.  I know, long standing 2,000 year old traditions, Christ was male, etc, but really?  I know it's a huge doctrinal change, and you are called to protect it, but please consider it. If not women ordination, consider that we can't even become anointed as much-needed deacons, the priest-assistants! There are lots of ways women can bring value, I understand, but what about the women who really want to lead?  We've fought for equality, we are able, we are ready, we want to serve, too!  It was challenging to watch those 115 holy Cardinals march into the Sistine Chapel the last couple of days.  Men deciding the fate of our next Pope, men deciding the direction of our Church.  If women were represented and involved administratively and pastorally, I honestly believe, we would not be dealing with these crimes, these cover-ups, the bankruptcies.  But right now, we are not welcome in leadership roles.  There's a ceiling.  Bless me father, but I gotta say, sex discrimination is no longer allowed in my workplace - why, oh why, must it be tolerated, er, supported, in my refuge, my Church?

Hugs from here, from a woman with a mind, a heart, a voice.  Best of luck.  I'm saying prayers.

God Bless You!

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8

My friend, my mother-in-law, Phyllis, died on March 8.  Back in 1994.

I didn't really understand her importance, or the impact she had on my life, until after she was gone.

As she lay dying in the hospital, I juggled dual roles.  I was helping simultaneously as honored birth coach, on another floor in the hospital, helping my friend, Lisa, through the birth of her first child with the assistance of my friend, Liz, the doctor involved.  It was a crazy evening and the birth/death dichotomy was smacking away my uninvited tears.  I remember taking the stairs by twos, back and forth between the patients and their hospital floors, and thinking, "This is BIG stuff."

Have you ever had the devilish thought:  "How can I miss you if you never go away?"  Phyllis was like that for me and I probably uttered that under my breath more than a few times over the years as she pulled into our driveway, unannounced.  She knew she wouldn't be interrupting, that we would be outside, that she would find me with the children, playing four square, or catch, or working in the yard.  She didn't have to call ahead, and much later, that thought came as comfort to me.

She was always, just, "on the way to the library" or "returning from the bank" and always, ALWAYS, had some little thing for me, for Kate, for the boys.  A paperback, a magazine article, Legos, hair ribbons, a ball, a casserole, peach pie.  She was always short on advice and long, long, long on loving gestures, offers to help, to listen, to walk.

We talked, regularly, about the antics of her only son, my first real love, the father of my children.  She always understood me, shared my frustration, schemed to make it better, pushed forward, withheld judgment.  And she never made excuses for him.

One day she told me, flatly but firmly, that I had a right to be happy.  Although other loved ones tried (thank you) she was the only one who had the key to unlock that blocked epiphany.  We were on our way to McDonald's, my three beautiful, blue-eyed and blonde, precious children singing and yacking in the back seat.  I finally heard her, and turned around and saw them in all of their potential, and decided that day to end my formal relationship with her son, and also, on some level, with her.  She drove me to the lawyer's office, and later to the courthouse when I committed her son for substance abuse treatment.  She waited with the children in the car.  She gave me a strength I wouldn't accept from anyone else. 

There are many family members in my life that I similarly treasure.  Each plays a role and the older I get the more I recognize the gifts they give me.

God bless you, PDM.  On behalf of my children, and mostly on behalf of the child I was when I knew you . . . thank you.  I will never, ever, forget the gift of you.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New kid on the book club!

Happy snow day! I felt like a school kid when I looked out the window this morning and saw the forecaster's predictions coming true - the snow was blasting to the ground which only meant one thing for me - that book club would cancel and I didn't have to have the following book read by 4 pm today!  I was recently invited to join this book club, established a while ago by leaders in the college, and I immediately recognized the invitation as that uncomfortable nag in my heart as exactly the thing I should answer with a hearty "yes please!" because it's good for me.  I've been trying to get through this month's reading - but I admit to falling a bit short.  It's a good read, but it's not like an easy Nicholas Sparks story or anything.

Here's what I've learned thus far (about 1/2 way through):

1.  Effective leaders tell stories full of imagery to influence and motivate.  The answers, er, your strategies, of course, are hidden in the story you share.  For instance, if someone says "Paris" to you, you might respond with something about the Eiffel Tower, or the Louvre, the Seine, or the Arc de Triomphe.  Typically, no one would reply with facts about population or GDP.  Human memory is sensory and we respond and remember that.  If someone asked me about Paris, incidentally, I would mention baguettes and long meals and political discussions...and fabulous coffee...and of course, wine.

2.  So the story I probably need to encourage is - "We support people who use computers and thereby help with the learning, teaching, research mission of the university!"  That's more appealing than "we fix computer problems!"  With this mindset, it's way easier to authentically lead others to places they may not want to go.  While maybe not realizing it, most of us want, after all, to live purposeful lives.

3. DWYSYWD - Do What You Say You Will Do!  I can think of a few "leaders" I've worked with who don't ever follow through!  Leaders who talk out of both sides of their mouths aren't really leaders at all.  It's all about the VIDEO matching the AUDIO.  You can wax elegant all day long but if you don't make decisons, and then put decisions into action, your truth is meaningless and your authenticity eventually suffers (regardless of your magnetism).

4.  If you don't believe the messsenger, you won't buy the message.  Credibility is so important to successful leadership - practice what you preach, walk the talk, follow through with your promises.

If the craziness ever quiets, I might get the rest of this book read.  Maybe next week . . .

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Weekend bliss

This was bliss:
  • Staying up late, just because
  • Fireplace time with Shawn and an Argentinian Malbec (thanks kids!)
  • Chilled at Starbucks with honey
  • Clothes on clearance!  Yes please!
  • Learning Windows 8 (insert forehead bang here)
  • Played with two very adorable precious children (Harper and Grant)
  • Facial with Nic
  • Hair with Rachel
  • Outside walks, crispy but sunny with honey
  • Helped Joe get Stata for his project
  • Pandora playlists 
  • Fr. Vu lesson on procrastination (needed that!)
  • After church beers in Fairfax
  • Even "The Master" didn't get me down
I'm betting all this bliss on a great week ahead.  Stay tuned.