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9/11: Remembering like it was yesterday

Here’s the Life Lines column I wrote 15 years ago, in the days following 9/11. So much has changed since that time. Our world has changed. My family has changed. And yet, for me, this column still resonates with things that feel very much in tune with our world right now. Here’s wishing all of you, all of us a future of peace — peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace on our planet. Read more

Holding my breath and letting go

My latest Life Lines column, running in the current issue of Catholic New York:

Fourteen years ago this month, I wrote my very first Life Lines column. It focused on my then-4-year-old son, Noah, and a summer nature program we had attended together and how in his own little way Noah was forcing me out of my comfort zone and teaching me new things about myself and the world around me.

This is what I wrote back then: Read more

In fear I faced the real question: “Why not me?”

I am typically a “Why me?” sort of person — when my computer crashes, when a recipe flops, when I come home from the store without the one thing I went there to get. So you can only imagine how I might kick that attitude up a notch when something significant is at stake. But last week, when my 18-year-old son, Noah, was facing the possibility of serious and permanent heart damage, when we had no control and no way to help him as we watched him suffer through painful attacks, the “Why me?” slowly started shifting to another place. Read more

Healing hearts, medical marvels, the power of prayer

It has been a long five days, and we thank all of you for being there with us. We believe with all our hearts that you made a difference — for Noah and for us. We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers, love, and support we have received from family, friends, and complete strangers both close to home and around the world. I have been getting emails, text messages, Facebook messages, Twitter messages, and phone calls from people who want to pray and help in any way they can. So let me tell you a little bit of what happened to land my son, Noah, 18, in the Critical Care Unit at St. Peter’s Hospital earlier this week.  Read more

Prayers for my son, please – UPDATED

UPDATE (3/3/15): Noah’s MRI showed no damage to his heart valves or pumping function due to the inflammation in his heart (myocarditis). He still has a long way to go and is still in the Critical Care Unit, but this is a huge step forward in terms of his recovery. Please keep praying for him — and us. We can feel the prayers of so many people pouring over us. It has made this difficult journey much easier to face.
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A Lenten Valentine: How do I love thee?

I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, never have been. Not sure why. I guess it’s mainly due to the commercial craziness of it and the push from retailers to give extravagant gifts as an expression of love. I’ll take flowers for no reason over roses on a forced holiday any time. Can I have two Ash Wednesdays instead? I know, weird, right? That’s why you love me. I’ll be expecting an extravagant gift by lunchtime. Read more

A different kind of labor on my baby’s 16th birthday

Sixteen years ago today — right now — I was in labor with my firstborn. It was a moment in time that would change me forever, a day that would usher into my life a new definition, a new vocation, a new and fierce kind of love. Today, as Noah stands on the brink of adulthood, Read more

Happy Birthday, beautiful boy

Noah will officially turn 15 at 7:11 p.m. (technically that’s Central Time). I cannot think of his newborn days without thinking of this song. The two of us danced around our Texas living room to the beautiful words and melody by John Lennon, with me crying the whole time. Even now, tears are rolling down my face as I listen to it while posting. It reminds me of those early days, my first days as a mother, and it reminds me how quickly life passes us by if we’re not careful to pay attention, and even if we are.

Happy Birthday, darling Noah. Here’s our song. (I’ve threatened to dance to it with him at his wedding some day.)

Unexpected moments of grace

A few things have happened in these first few days of 2011 that make me believe that either a.) This is going to be a very good year, or b.) I am looking at the world through gentler, more welcoming eyes.

First was New Year’s Day, the day Noah, our oldest, was born 14 years ago, which also happens to be the day that my paternal grandmother, affectionately known to all as E-ma because of a nickname I came up with when I was little, was born 98 years ago. But, for various reasons, I couldn’t be with my grandmother on her birthday, so I felt a little sad over that.

We decided to go to 5 p.m. Mass on New Year’s Day, but I was handling hospitality, so Olivia and I went over to church early, set up and figured we’d meet up with the rest of the gang inside. Minutes before Mass was about to start, we tiptoed up the center aisle to our usual spot in the one of the first few pews. I saw Noah at the end of the pew and Dennis and Chiara toward the middle, but who was that old lady sitting between them? Dennis shrugged his shoulders as I approached.

I sat down and smiled at her and she nodded, still not aware, I don’t think, that she was sitting in the middle of a family. Then Olivia climbed over her and Chiara tried to get to me and she had her “aha” moment. She asked if she should move, and I said, “No, you can be part of our family tonight.” Dennis whispered something to me and the lady looked at me and said, “My name is Mary too.” Another big smile. Mass began and Mary was singing her heart out beside me. A few minutes into the opening prayers, I found myself alternately smiling and on the verge of tears. I had my birthday boy on one side and there, on my right, a surrogate grandma filling in for my own.

The woman’s actual granddaughter showed up and sat in the row behind us and, at the Sign of Peace, I reached over to tell her how happy I was to have her grandmother sitting with me and why. (I can squeeze a lot into the Sign of Peace.) I think that made her happy, and maybe made up for the fact that she was supposed to attend Mass with her grandmother and ended up sitting behind her? Anyway, that was one of my first moments of grace this year.

The next day I went back to my first yoga class in a long time. I knew I was taking a chance because it was not a beginner class and I was too out of shape to be attempting anything more intense. But I settled onto my mat. Within minutes of beginning the class, I felt my shoulders relax and tension melt and peace flood into my heart, and I knew I was home (even in a sweaty YMCA studio). I wax and wane when it comes to my yoga practice, but standing there on that Sunday morning with 50 other people, I felt — for the second time in 24 hours — that deeply spiritual sense of community that comes when people join their hearts and minds, and, in this case, bodies in an effort to move forward physically, mentally, spiritually.

My next moment of grace came the next day when yoga class did not go as well. Obviously I was right when I guessed that attempting the athletic yoga class after months away was too much, and my body was rebelling. As I attempted a simple stretch, my elbow screamed in pain. Not being one to want to admit defeat, I struggled through the class, wondering what could be wrong. (The friend who came with me reminded me that it could just be because we’re getting old. Thanks, Michelle. The truth hurts.)

I came home and iced it and rested it on a pillow, admitting that I would have to skip any exercise the next day. And I could feel the tension beginning to rise as I fought back disappointment over my scuttled plans. But slowly, maybe during the night and certainly by this afternoon, I felt a realization that it was okay. (Thanks, Scott, for reminding me that listening to my body is more important than striking a difficult pose.) My body is telling me to slow down, forcing me to focus not on being “the best” or even at the top of my class but on the journey at hand. Gains don’t have to be made all at once. In fact, they rarely are. Bend with the obstacle, rather than break trying to beat it. So, here I am, in a little bit of pain — especially when typing or writing — but at peace with my middle-aged elbow and the fact that I just can’t do all that I once did with as much ease. Then again, it’s not all about the physical stuff, is it?

Finally — And it’s only “final” in this post. I’m hoping for many more grace-filled moments this year — I began reading a book that seems as though it was meant to be placed in my hands at precisely this time. “Prayerfulness: Awakening to the Fullness of Life” by Robert Wicks (Ave Maria Press) came to my attention by accident, or so it seemed, as I flitted around Facebook one day recently. My publisher sent me a copy (Ave also published my Walking Together book), and I just began reading. It is a perfect fit, considering where I was spiritually at the end of Advent and where I am now. It’s filled with great stories, sage advice and practical spiritual suggestions. I plan to post more on the book once I finish it. Still, as I read it and nod my head, I feel more and more grace and peace and stillness settling in. And that’s a very good place to be at the start of a new year.