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‘Shining like the sun’: Merton goes to the prom

I was standing in the dressing room of Lord & Taylor recently, waiting outside a closed stall door as Olivia tried on dress after dress in the elusive search for the perfect prom attire. As I scrolled through Facebook while she ran through her costume changes, I was surreptitiously eavesdropping on a group of high school girls who had taken up residence in the other four dressing room stalls, sequins and taffeta spilling out each time one of them peeked out to ask for an opinion. They ran back and forth between stalls, giddy with excitement and generous with compliments as they gushed over each other’s choices and encouraged each other to be bold and wear something outside of their typical fashion comfort zones. Read more

Grace finds beauty in everything

“She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings

“Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

“Grace finds beauty
In everything

“Grace finds goodness
In everything.”  – U2, Grace

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Brokenness lets us see where true beauty lies

My “Soul Seeing” column, running in the current issue of the National Catholic Reporter:

If you look around my office prayer space or on my bedroom dresser, you’ll notice one constant: broken conch and whelk shells everywhere. Small and blue-gray, large and sun-bleached, twisting, turning, spiraling in that gorgeous and mysterious way that seashells do. Although I have one perfect channeled whelk shell that I purchased in Cape May, N.J., years ago, my prized possessions are broken shells of every shape and size because, as far as I’m concerned, they are far more beautiful than the ones that are perfectly intact and so lovely on the outside. Read more

The truth hurts, but do I have to pay for it too?

So I went to get my hair cut yesterday and, as is becoming more frequent these days, have a little color dabbed on those grays that are starting to spring up in greater numbers. As I sat in the chair, my stylist said she wanted to darken all of my hair, and I said, NO!” And then she said: “Well, you can’t leave it like this! This color just doesn’t work with your skin tone.” To which I replied: “I was born like this.” She was unimpressed by this fact and told me without question that I could not continue to wander the streets in such a state. Okay she didn’t say it exactly like that, but it was implied. So apparently for 50 years (I was bald for my whole first year before the springs sprung up) I have been walking around with hair that didn’t match my skin tone. Like I was wearing mismatched socks but on my head.  Read more

Broken and beautiful

If you look around my office prayer space or on my bedroom dresser, you’ll notice one constant: broken conch and whelk shells everywhere. Small and blue-grey, large and sun-bleached white, twisting, turning, spiraling in that gorgeous and mysterious way that sea shells do. Although I do have one perfect channeled whelk shell, which I purchased in Cape May years ago, my prized possessions are the broken shells because, as far as I’m concerned, they are far more beautiful than the ones that are perfectly intact and so lovely on the outside. Read more


A sign? An omen? A “God breeze,” as one Facebook friend suggested? I don’t know if it’s any of these things, but this butterfly certainly made my night last night. The doorbell rang around 9 p.m., and, when I answered it, this beauty was fluttering around under one of our Adirondack chairs. As I took the manila folder full of medical forms my son’s Boy Scout leader was dropping off for our weekend camping trip, the butterfly flew out from under the chair and landed smack dab in the middle of the folder I was holding.

I was thrilled, calling for the kids to come look before it flew away. No worries there. It flew right into the entry way of our house and landed on the slate floor. Olivia gently picked it up, which is when I snapped that picture above. We brought it outside but it didn’t want to leave. We had to pry it — ever so softly — off Olivia’s hand and back onto the arm of the Adirondack chair.

I have to admit that it’s hard not to think of this little God moment as a good sign. I’ve never had a butterfly land on me, much less fly into my house. And at this time in my life, when so much is changing and expanding and challenging me, it feels like a very good omen. “Metamorphosis,” as another Facebook fan wrote.

Curl Power: A Ringlet Manifesto

I don’t know how you feel about your hair, but for most of my life I have had a love-hate relationship with my curls. When I was younger, I desperately wanted straight Marcia Brady hair. Alas, that was not to be. My nickname as a toddler was “springs” just to give you some indication of just what I was dealing with. No amount of blow drying, straightening, and sewer-pipe curlers could take out what God put in, especially after gym class on a warm rainy day.

Then, in the Big Hair 80s, I had it made. I had exactly what everyone else was paying someone to do to their hair. I actually rediscovered (since I hadn’t sported springs since toddlerhood) my hair’s true curliness by accident, caught in a rain storm after a Styx concern (yes, I said Styx) and unable to find the car. As my hair dried on the eventual drive home without the aid of any straightening accessories, ringlets began to form all over my head. And that was all she wrote. I was sold.  It was even better when I became the lead singer in a rock band because big hair was sort of a requirement back then.

Although I’ve mostly worn my hair curly as an adult, there have been times when I’ve tried to straighten it or loosen it. And there have been many, many days when I’ve just flat out hated it. Often times other people unknowingly reinforced my feelings by suggesting I straighten my curls or do something to get them under control, thereby implying that wearing them natural was unacceptable, at least in polite society.

Recently though I made a decision to embrace my curls again and for good. After trying out a semi-straight short hairstyle that required either Keratin treatment or flat ironing, I realized I missed my curls. That’s a major realization for someone like me. In fact, when I decided I wanted to go back to my naturally curly hair I was devastated to find that the Keratin had left portions of it unable to curl. I was in a curl-less panic. I think that’s when I had my Aha! Curly Moment. I never had to doubt my curls before, and, suddenly, as I stared at lifeless strands in the mirror, it was as though someone had taken away a piece of my identity. Fortunately, with regrowth, the curls came back with their usual bouncy, springy, insanely cork-screwy personality.

I think all of this has something to do with the Big 5-0 looming out there in less than two months. As I approach this half-century milestone, I find myself reassessing things, and my hair is one of them. To pull out my curls is like hiding a part of my true self, and I want to embrace all of my true self. Despite what others may think (and, surprisingly, sometimes say to my face) I actually like it when my hair is a little tipsy, verging on wild, and pushing the hair envelope. It’s like my personality coming out through my hair follicles.

I am as unpredictable and funky and mysterious as the crazy curls I am blessed to have popping out in all directions. After 50 years of battling my springs, to finally see them as a blessing is truly a revelation to me. A glorious curly, sometimes frizzy revelation. Sure, I’ll still get annoyed when it’s August and 150 percent humidity and my hair takes on a life of its own, but, hey, straight-haired people have their own bad hair days, so who am I to skirt that issue.

So if you see me bouncing along, curls askew, rest assured that my hair is supposed to look that way, not because it’s the latest fashion, not because I’m trying to please someone else, but because for once, finally, and I hope forever, I love my curls, and, in this particular matter, I’m the only one who counts. Curl power.

Feel free to show your hair some love in the comment section. Unleash your true self — curly, straight, wavy, whatever. You are perfect just as you are.