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Miscarriage: love and loss 22 years later

My annual tribute to the baby I lost 22 years ago today, the baby I call Grace:

For the past few days I’ve been looking at the numbers on the calendar, growing more and more introspective as we inched closer to August 6. It was 22 years ago today that I learned the baby I was carrying, my second baby, had died 11 weeks into my pregnancy.

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Sometimes children know best

Dennis and I were sitting around the kitchen table one morning talking with our son, Noah, who is home from college for the summer and working full time for the Diocese of Albany. Although he lives away more than he lives at home these days, when he does return for visits or extended stays, Dennis and I tend to revert to the parenting mode we favored when he was younger. Read more

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

Miscarriage: Love and loss 18 years later

Usually I run the same annual post in this space on August 6, the day I lost my second child to miscarriage. But this year feels a little bit different. As always, I became aware in the back of my mind that the anniversary was approaching a few days out, and last night I intentionally remembered by baby as I went to bed. Then this morning, when I opened my eyes, the baby I call Grace was incredibly present in my heart and mind, and so we had a little silent mother-child talk. And I told her that even though I call her Grace despite the fact that I have no way of knowing whether she was a boy or a girl, the name fits, because she was all grace and for the brief time I was allowed to carry her in my belly, I was filled with a little extra grace because of her.

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Talking everyday prayer, grief, friendship and more

I had a great time on today’s episode of A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras of Reconciled to You. We covered a lot of bases, including three of my seven books: Everyday Divine, Parenting a Grieving Child, and Walking Together. It was a smorgasbord of my writing with a lot of fun and serious conversation mixed in. Thank you, Allison, for being such a wonderful supporter of Catholic writers and of this Catholic writer in particular.

If you missed the show, you can catch up here. And if you go to Allison’s website, you can catch an entire week of shows devoted to my books — Everyday Divine on Tuesday, Parenting a Grieving Child on Wednesday, and Walking Together on Thursday. Here’s the show:


Miscarriage: loss and love 15 years later

My annual post in remembrance of the baby I never got to meet:

For the past few days I’ve been looking at the numbers on the calendar, growing more and more introspective as we inched closer to August 6. It was 15 years ago today that I learned the baby I was carrying, my second baby, had died 11 weeks into my pregnancy. Read more

My Ebenezer Scrooge moment

Today, in the midst of my absolute craziness, I was given the gift of a little sacred moment in an unlikely place. And, as far as I’m concerned, those are the best sacred moments, and usually the ones we need most.

After my haircut this morning, I ran into the library to grab a book waiting on hold for me, the whole time thinking about how I didn’t have a spare minute for any of these errands and activities. As I headed back out, I looked down the side hallway in the library’s entry and stopped short.  Read more

Being an older mom has its benefits

I’m used to being the oldest mom in a crowd, at least when it comes to spending time with my youngest, Chiara, who is only 6 years old. Having had her just before I turned 43, I am closer in age to some of her classmates’ grandparents rather than their parents.

Although on the surface that might seem to be a negative, when I am willing to look beyond the inevitable challenges of being an older mom — like not having nearly the same energy level I had when I was running around with my first 15 years ago — I think being of an “advanced maternal age,” as they say in the OB/GYN industry, has it benefits. Wisdom is the obvious gift that comes with age, but also a deeper appreciation for making the most of the moment when you’re in it. As I approach the half-century mark, I have become all too aware of how fleeting this life is, how quickly my 15 years of motherhood have passed and how quickly the next 15 years are likely to fly by. Read more

The upside of being a geek

My son, my oldest child, will graduate from our parish school in a few weeks and head to the public high school. The very large and intimidating (but excellent) public high school. And I have to admit, the thought makes my stomach do little flips. Not good flips.

I won’t go so far as to say that I’m having flashbacks, but the thought of my baby standing in the Ground Zero of teenage cruelty known as the cafeteria — or even worse, phys ed class — is almost more than I can bear. I was not among the “cool” kids in high school. I was anything but, wearing so many uncool labels it was hard to keep track: twirler, folk group singer, honor society member, CYO president. Add to that the fact that I never went to a party at the bleachers and spent most of my free time at my parish church and, well, you probably get the picture. Last one picked for the team. Any team, from field hockey to square dancing.

So when I saw this story in the New York Times today, I ripped it out and left it on the kitchen table for my son and my tween daughter to read. Alexandra Robbins, 34, author of “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” is a former “power dork” who has made a career out of helping teenagers realize that being unpopular in high school is often a good indicator that you’ll go far later on. Her book chronicles the lives of high school archetypes — the Loner, the New Girl, the Nerd and the Band Geek.

From the story in the Times:

Their stories beautifully demonstrate things we know intrinsically: being popular is not always the same as being liked, that high school is more rigid and conformist than the military, and that the people who are excluded and bullied for their offbeat passions and refusal to conform are often the ones who are embraced and lauded for those very qualities in college and beyond — what Ms. Robbins has dubbed Quirk Theory.

As anyone who’s seen movies like “Heathers” knows, the social agonies of high school are nothing new. But the Internet has magnified those feelings of alienation for the oddballs. Partly it’s the relentless exposure to celebrity culture, to images of perfection and roaring success with little discernible talent. (Hello, Kardashians.) But it goes beyond issues of appearance.

“Facebook is now the online cafeteria,” Ms. Robbins says. “It’s this public space, largely unsupervised, and it mirrors the cafeteria dynamic where you walk in and have to find a place to belong. At school, you have to pick a table. Well, on Facebook you not only have to pick a table, you have to pick who’s at your table and who’s not. And then kids feel they have to be publicists for themselves, maintaining their photos and status. It’s exhausting.”

Also exhausting is the care and feeding of popularity, which Ms. Robbins has discovered is not so much about being liked (some popular teenagers are liked, many are not) as about being known. “Popularity is a combination of visibility, influence and recognizability,” she says. “If you’re someone who engages in studying or practicing violin, these are not activities that put you in front of the student body. So these kids aren’t in the popular crowd, but it doesn’t say anything other than the fact that their talents are not visible.”

In other words, the president of the chess club may have more real friends than the cheerleader, but still be considered unpopular.

As a former geek (and perhaps a current geek who just doesn’t realize it), I can attest to Ms. Robbins’ theories. The very things that made me “odd” in high school made me “interesting” in college. My willingness to walk to the beat of a different drummer served me well once I was out of the popularity-is-everything world of high school. I attribute a lot of that not only to my family but to my involvement in CYO, which was — at least where I lived — the very best version of youth ministry, a powerful combination of service, spirituality and social events. We sang in nursing homes and planned liturgies, but we also went to dances and hung out together at church when many of our classmates were getting into trouble.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve been pushing my son to get involved in our own parish youth ministry. In fact, the two of us are heading to Indianapolis in November — along with about 25,000 other teenagers — for the annual National Catholic Youth Conference. I want him to see that he is not alone in his thinking, his values, his beliefs, even if he finds himself alone now and then in the cafeteria at school.

And as Ms. Robbins points out in the Times story, knowing who you are and being willing to break from the crowd is critical:

Ms. Robbins has many deeply comforting words for these teenagers; and one story speaks in particular to those who’ve been right there with the high school outcasts. It’s about an experiment performed by the late-19th-century French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre on caterpillars that were hard-wired to follow each other in a long head-to-tail line.

“Fabre set them up in such a way that they were following each other around the rim of a flowerpot — with their favorite food only inches away,” Ms. Robbins says. “For seven days they followed each other around until they died of starvation and exhaustion. They couldn’t see how a simple deviation from the path would get them to the food they needed right away.”

Geeks are many things, Ms. Robbins suggests. But one thing they aren’t are caterpillars.

To read the full Times story, click HERE.