Monday, December 31, 2012


Winter running is magical. There are so many reasons I love running during the winter months but the first long run of winter is always the best. The cold air filling my lungs. I breathe in icey air and breath out the warm air. I breathe in fresh feelings and breathe out stress.

A Blanket of white covering the land looking so clean and fresh after a good snow. Cleansed of all that ails it... Like me. The soft sound of my footfalls in the snow. Music to my ears.

My running buddy leads the way dipping her snout into the snowdrifts flipping the snow into the air and trying to catch it as we run. She is in her element.

As I run I can smell that someone has a fire burning. Another is making bacon for breakfast and someone else is doing laundry. The smells waft through the air like snowflakes drifting to the ground.

It is a lonely run but the fact that it is just my running buddy and me makes it all the better. The quiet envelopes us as we go. The sounds of her panting and my breathing a rhythm all it's own. No music needed.

We arrive home sweating, cold and tired. She collapses on the floor and I collapse on the radiator. All is good on a winter morning.



The Saturday prior to Christmas the girls and I worked for the parish. We got up early an I thought I would hear complaints but they quietly got dressed and ready. 13 bundled up and forewarned 14 who didn't listen and ended up cold after on.

We headed to school to help the parish disperse food and gifts to the less fortunate.

I thought this was about us helping them. Boy was I wrong. When we arrived on this bitter cold morning there was a line of people already waiting.

We positioned ourselves as they opened the doors. I was in the gym assisting with 'shopping' and the girls acted as Sherpas, lugging bags to cars.

Families can register for gifts, food or both. They pick up gifts first and then head to the gym to 'shop' for food. I carry the bags as they fill them with oranges, potatoes, cookies, and other goodies.

As we shop, we chat. The gratitude expressed by these folks always amazes me.

A few of our guests stood out to me..

First there was a lady that came in for the first time. She was about 50 or so. She started crying from the moment I said hello. She cried and thanked each helper filling her bag. She continued to cry and hug people as she left. My girls took her items to her car and 13 said she was given the tightest hug... One she would not soon forget. A hug that made 13 cry too.

Then there was The the lady in the red hat. She was so nervous. About 65 or so and did not want to take too much food. She said that there were others who needed it more than her. We got to the end of the line where the guests are offered a ham. I admit it is huge but can be shared or frozen as it it's fully cooked. She didn't want it and left. A short while later she came back saying she changed her mind. So we went to get the ham. She was so nervous that her hands were sweating and I noticed she was rubbing them together hard enough to break the skin. She was so unsure about the ham. I reassured her and gave her suggestions as to using it all ( Sharing with a friend, freezing, packaging it in smaller potions, etc) but I could see that this was so stressful for her. She then whispered "I am so scared."

"Of what?"

"The ham. It is so big"

She went on to tell me a few times how scared she was as I tried to comfort and reassure her.

"We just want you to have food but if it is too much, how about I just cut you a small piece to take home?"

She looked as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders! She showed me exactly how much he wanted and I went to the kitchen to cut it for her. I returned with her small portion and she placed it in a bag, thanked me and left. As it turned out there were a few others that did not want an entire ham and took the leftover smaller portions. Everyone was a winner in the end.

There was the lady who did not take much food because it was not organic and there were too many processed foods.

There was a lady who came in dressed to the nines... She looked so stylish but when you got close enough you could tell that everything she had on was well worn or ill fitting. She had an air about her though that caused us all to stop and take notice.

There were folks that wanted to get through that line as fast as possible in order to leave. Embarrassment? Pride? Not sure but with us was the last place they wanted to be.

There was the lady that had taken the train to us. We had no idea until one of our teen helpers was missing for a while. We thought he had decided to hide out and take a break. Little did we know he had walked her and her food to the train station (3 blocks away) wearing only a sweatshirt. He came back a teen Popsicle.

There were so many more faces and stories in the over 140 families we served that day. Faces I see each time I shop. Faces I see each time I look at my full fridge. Faces that I see each time I pray.

Each face a reminder of my blessings. Each face the face of God. Each face changing my perspective.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


After the massacre of 27 people, mostly children, I am struggling. I am struggling with so much right now. I am struggling with my own insecurity in my profession. I am struggling with the safety of my children. I am struggling with my qualifications to help others.

Since Friday, many people have asked me for my advice and assistance in dealing with their own children. I feel so unqualified to help these people as I am not sure I am even doing the right thing with my own children. Every family is different and what is right for my children and our family, might not be right for others.

There is no real explanation for what happened or why it happened. The shooter is dead thus we can only speculate as to his motives. Our nation will forever wonder why. Our nation will forever mourn.

So what now? Do we lock our schools and make them more like a prison than a learning environment? Do we change the laws that regulate guns? Do we alter how we deal with mental health issues in our nation? How will we respond? How will we remember these babies and the adults who gave their lives to protect them?

How we move forward from here will be the real memorial to these victims. I still don't know if I have the right answers. I still feel unqualified.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Give until it hurts. Who does this?
I was supervising lunch recess for my students when I saw a man walking across the playground (really a part of the parking lot that it roped off at lunchtime). He was dressed a little strangely and walking directly through the boys playing football so I walked over to him to escort him safely to the other side. As I got closer I could better see what he was wearing... worn out shoes, well worn jeans, a 1/4 zip fleece and a fleece bathrobe with a wide leather belt holding it closed. On his head he was sporting a baseball cap.  He was carrying a holiday gift bag as he shuffled slowly towards me. I asked if he was lost and he said he was on his way to drop off the bag at the Rectory so I walked him to the rectory door. We soon realized that the rectory was closed for lunch.  I offered to take the bag and deliver it later that afternoon. I looked inside to find a pair of very well worn and duct tape repaired soccer slide sandals... something any one of us would have thrown away long ago. He explained that he loved these shoes and they were"expensive" but he was willing to part with them because someone needed them more than he did. He was donating them to a Christmas service project for the poor of the parish.  We came upon our Maintenance man who offered to place the bag in the Rectory for us. He looked inside as I did then looked at me as we shared a knowing smile. This gift of the heart would get delivered.
I walked the gentleman back across the lot and back to the safety of his car....which was a rather nice newer model vehicle. He got in and drove off.
We never know the circumstances of others. I know nothing about this man but was as surprised by his generosity and caring as I was by his attire. I do not know where he went when he left. What I do know is that he made me think...

How many of us feel the pain when we give? How many of us give from the heart? How many of us give of ourselves and our time? How many of us give at all?
 How many of us judge others by appearance? How many of us just judge?

Thank you, gentleman wearing the robe. You gave me the gift of giving.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Holy cow!  That's me!
A surprise can be a good thing or a bad thing. It can take your breath away or make you feel like you were sucker punched. It can make your smile as wide and as bright as the sun or bring torrential tears of sadness.

Today I got a surprise that stunned me to my core.  I woke up to a notice of a photo of me posted on Facebook. Not only was it a photo of me.... I was the front page of the Shamrock Shuffle Website! The photo was one that I had never seen before and made me smile from ear to ear!

When I ran that race, it was my first race wearing a tutu. I have since run every race wearing one and love that I am keeping a promise to my Girls on the Run. I wrote a post after tat race about what it means to me to run wearing a tutu. Tutu Spirit is what carries me through each and every run. what began on that day was a surprise. The feeling of being a powerful princess continues to surprise and delight me each time I put on my tutu. 

After i recovered from the initial shock of the photo this morning, I realized that several friends had shared this with others on FB. One of my favorite running buddies posted this:

"One of my running mentors and great friends is featured on the Shamrock Shuffle sign up page!!! This woman pushed me through so many miles when I ran my first marathon, has seen the smiles and seen the tears that running has brought me. Sign up is open today for one of Chicago's greatest races."

I was moved to tears. It is my goal to motivate people to be their best self and push themselves beyond what they think is possible. I want to encourage people. I want to empower people. I want people to believe in themselves...and I will believe in them until they can do it on their own. If I can do it anyone can!

Surprises. Life is full of them. Surprise yourself today! Peace.