Friday, December 31, 2010


A new year...the chance for new beginnings.

I have some big changes planned for 2011.
I'm ready for all its challenges, struggles, joys, love, and laughter. gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that Jesus commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don't want to do it." -Stephen Colbert

Wow. Thanks to my friend D for posting this quote today. It is the challenge. The Catholic Church teaches a "preferential option for the poor," but the practicing what we preach? In our every day lives? In the Church's every day teaching?

It's that fallacy of the American Dream, as I tell my students. We want to believe that if we just work hard enough, we can have "it all." It makes us feel proud when we do get "it all"--job, housing, spouse, kids, etc. But it also lets us look at the poor and say, "Clearly, they're just not working hard enough." "I worked HARD for what I have...they should too." It negates privilege. It lets us point finger instead of accepting that we have a responsibility to the other.

It's hard to admit that the world is accept that the system is flawed. But it is. And so we need to try to do what's be recognize the divine in the other, the struggle in the other, the good and the deserving in the other.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Shortest Day

(sleep enveloped me early again last night. this illness, whatever it is, has sapped me of all energy. i head to the doctor today to try to diagnose it.)

For today, a poem by Susan Cooper on this, the Shortest Day:

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You're asking me to believe....

You're asking me to believe in too many things
You're asking me to believe in too many things

I know this child
Was sent here to heal our broken time
And some things are bigger
Than we know
~~Joseph, Who Understood; the New Pornographers

Still sick. Today brought the chills, the achy-ness, the hit-by-a-truck feeling. This will be short.

I love this song...from my friend Bill's '08 Christmas mix. First off, it's gorgeous. Second, there's an irony to a band named The New Pornographers writing their own Christmas-y song.

Joseph so often gets lost in the story of Christ. He's barely mentioned in the infancy narratives, then he disappears (except for Luke, who gives us the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple story). Today's reading was about Joseph's doubts. Oh, Joseph...the only true human in that Holy Family. But his doubts don't scare him away. Ultimately, his faith saves him. Ultimately, he knows that some things are bigger than we know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

finding your voice

I've been sick for the last few days...head cold with that nasty post-nasal drip. Today, I woke up with that heavy feeling in my chest like the cold had moved to my lungs. I tried to shake it off and headed to a quick dentist appointment. I entered the office, opened my mouth to give my name, and no sound came out!! Lost my voice.

It's nana used to lose her voice when she got mom loses her voice, too. It's ironic, as all 3 of us rely/relied on our speaking voices so heavily. Illness takes one of the biggest and best tools in our virtual toolboxes.

It causes me to be more deliberate though, this lack of voice. I have to get resourceful. When I taught elementary school, calling in sick was really not an option. We had no subs, so the computer teacher would cover and then everyone else's schedules were totally thrown for the day. We rarely called in sick--we needed to be fainting, puking, or dying. A little thing like the inability to talk? You could work around that. I'd clap to get their attention--and they'd clap back and then get eerily quiet. At 7, they didn't try to take advantage of my deficit...they adapted.

I need to transfer some of that deliberate action into other parts of my life. These days, I feel like I have no voice some of the time. I feel like I won't be heard, and so I say nothing at all. And this silence leads me to do the opposite of what my kids used to do...instead of rising to the occasion, I shrink. I freeze. I refuse to act, refuse to adapt. I throw up my hands in frustration. Yes, this instinct has done a great deal to help me--to make me realize I need to change courses, take another path...but for now, in these next few months while I am still in this city and at this job, I need to find ways to clap my hands. I need to find my voice and make it heard.


That's apparently what I needed last night. I arrived home after a full day--half-day of teaching, faculty Christmas lunch, then drinks and laughs with teacher friends at our favorite bar--and promptly fell asleep. I'm fighting a pretty nasty cold too, so only added to my need for sleep.

Sleep before blogging! I will try to post something extra-long this afternoon to make up for it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I have no gift to bring...
That's fit to give a king...
~Little Drummer Boy

I've been running reflections on Advent and gifts with my girls. The 9th and 10th graders hear the story of The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell...which is a fantastic little story that parallels the Little Drummer Boy in a lot of ways.

The Littlest Angel doesn't "fit in" in heaven. He can't quite figure out how to be angelic and be a little boy at the same time. He makes a request for a box that he left at home under his bed, and when it arrives in heaven, he is suddenly a model citizen.

When the time comes for Jesus to be born, all the angels are asked to prepare gifts for the Savior. The Littlest Angel is stumped...but eventually lays the rough, scratched up, wooden box among all the other gifts:

And what was his gift to the Blessed Infant? Well, there was a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright summer day on the high hills above Jerusalem, and a sky blue egg from a bird's nest in the olive tree that stood to shade his mother's kitchen door. yes, and two white stones, found on a muddy river bank, where he and his friends had played like small brown beavers, and, at the bottom of the box, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap, once worn as a collar by his mongrel dog, who had died as he had lived, in absolute love and infinite devotion.

And the Voice of God spoke, saying, "Of all the gifts of all the angels, I find that this small box pleases Me most. Its contents are of the Earth and of men, and My Son is born to be King of both. These are the things My Son, too, will know and love and cherish and then, regretfully, will leave behind Him when His task is done. I accept this gift in the Name of the Child, Jesus, born of Mary this night in Bethlehem."

God wants nothing more from us than the most precious parts of ourselves. What we love most, God loves most. The very best way to serve God, to give back to God, is to offer that which connects with us at the deepest level. That which brings us joy brings God the most joy.

We want to make it so complicated, so difficult, so that we can more easily throw up our hands and say, "It's impossible. I can never be perfect, I can never please God, I don't know what God wants from me." But in the end, it's simple. God gives each of us a unique set of gifts to offer our world...and all God asks of us in return is that we share these gifts, that we live into them to the best of our abilities.

Simple, right?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Thrill of Hope, The Weary World Rejoices

Oh, are we weary. This world we live in...the constant motion, the constant connection--and yet the constant disconnect, the constant all becomes overwhelming.

We long to throw off all of that weariness, all of that pressure, all of that struggle and stress and sadness. We long to revel in joy and love, in grace and peace. We get glimpses--precious, precious glimpses. Moments, evenings, weekends, lunches where everything else melts away and we are simply present to the moment. We rejoice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Venite Adoremus

I love Christmas music. It's hard to narrow down the list, but near the top, if not at the top, is Adeste Fideles. Don't get me wrong, I love O Come, All Ye Faithful. But I remember learning the Latin when I was 7 years old. I remember the choir director teaching us to say "benite" even though the word started with a V. It is a beautiful, beautiful song, with such beautiful, beautiful words and meaning: joyful, faithful, triumphant, behold, adore...

...venite adoremus...

Let us adore Him...

I love that word. Adore. I have a dear friend who uses it from time to time. It is somehow bigger than love. It is to gaze upon with love, affection, understanding, acceptance; to see and to recognize the divine within.

Who do you adore? Who do you look at and simply see into their divine selves? Do they know it?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fear Not

They give me "Fear not, for behold" to read
A glass of wine, their daughter playing
Tonight that's everything I need.
~Christmas Carol, N.Nields

And the angel said to them,
“Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news
of great joy that will be
for all the people."
~Luke 2:10

Fear not. Easy for an angel to say! There is an implication in that command. Trust me. Trust. Believe me. Everything will be OK. This is everything you need.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Love, Love, Love

She was his girl; he was her boyfriend
She be his wife; take him as her husband
A surprise on the way, any day, any day
One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love
Love love love
Love love is all around
~Christmas Song, Dave Matthews Band

I think this is going to be music week here on the ol' blog. After all, today is Gaudete Sunday--Rejoice! And there is joy in music, and there is so much music to be loved at this time of year.

I have strong memories of this song by Dave Matthews, tied inextricably to my college experience and our chapter of Pax Christi. I close my eyes and I am surrounded by friends, huddled together on couches and the floor, a few candles lit in the middle of the room...

Love. It is the gift of this season. And, to play off an earlier post, it's Radical Love (a term coined by a dear friend from Pax). It's beyond unconditional, beyond deep, beyond infinite, beyond our imagination. And it is a challenge put before all of love one another, to love this world, to love our neighbors, love the strangers on the street, with that Radical Love.

We'll fall short every time.

But are we willing to try?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lessons and Carols

When I was in college, and then again when I worked at my beloved alma mater, my favorite event of the year was the Festival of Lessons and Carols. I can close my eyes and see the huge Advent wreath suspended in the sanctuary by 3 purple ribbons and 1 pink ribbon. My dear friend and mentor Kim would lead us in prayer, donning an alb and looking every bit the minister that she was. The choir filled the altar space, dressed in tuxes and long black dresses. Members of the student body, faculty, and staff read scripture passages ranging from Genesis to John. The choir interspersed the readings with ancient hymns as well as familiar ones. O Holy Night could bring tears to my eyes, and Adeste Fideles made me smile and sing loudly.

It was always a holy night...and it marked, for me, the beginning of the Christmas season. I sat in a packed chapel, surrounded by friends, bursting with gratitude. I could feel the Light. I could see it coming.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Sometimes, you just have to let yourself drown in the joy...shake off the sadness, the despair, the confusion, the frustration, the darkness--and simply let the joy take hold.

Tonight, I let it happen. I let the joy wash over me, surround me, fill me up. I spent the evening in the company of 4 wonderful children...we jumped on beds, pretended to be elephants and Maasai warriors, played instruments, laughed until it hurt, read books, and snuggled down under the covers.

It is a season of joy...the twinkle lights, the trees, the carols, the family, the food, the friends, the snow. If you look for it, you'll find it everywhere.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

preparation and gifts

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In spite of the fact that I spent the morning joking that this is one of those made-up events that is not scriptural and only exists to make sure we know that Mary was PERFECT and EVER VIRGIN and impregnated by GOD and GOD ALONE, there's actually an aspect to the feast I appreciate.

Advent is about preparation. And then Christmas comes and it's about the gifts we give and receive--and I mean that in the least materialistic way possible. To say that Mary was conceived without sin is to say that God chose her, and *prepared* her from her first moment of existence for her...wait for it...radical yes. Come on. An angel of the Lord appears to you and says that you, a random peasant 13 year old girl, will be the mother of God...conceive a son without "knowing" a man?! Come on. And yet, that brave girl--so the story goes--said yes. Because God had prepared her in a special way, because she had been given a unique set of gifts that allowed her to live into the life she was meant to into the person she was meant to be.

We've all been prepared that way. We've all received gifts, some with ease and others with great difficulty, that help us achieve all we are meant to be. My current colleagues roll their eyes and recoil at the thought of teaching the littles. To them, it's all snotty noses, untied shoelaces, crying, and frustration. They don't have what I have (and I don't have the ability to be patient with teenagers in the same way that I am patient with the under-10 set). My unique set of gifts make me an elementary school teacher. I am meant to be that person, meant to live that life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

--The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

Not that I needed the reassurance or reinforcement anymore, but last week I came across letters I received from my first ever 2nd grade class. I still remember standing in that classroom for the first time...22 years old, 31 little faces before me. I had to teach them. It wasn't all fun and games, there was this HUGE responsibility. They trusted me completely--they didn't know I was clueless! They followed my directions, they laughed at my jokes, they came to me when they cried, they looked stunned when I lost my temper, they said hello and goodbye with hugs. They made me real.


Dear Miss McGee,
You are a good teacher.
You are very funny.
You show us math
and love us to mush.
Went we fell you take
us to the offese.

Dear Miss McGee,
You are a good teacher. You are very nise. Some time you are silly. I like when you read to us. We see you play Basketball. You teach us lots of thing.
from Aaron

Dear Miss McGee,
you are a good teacher. you are very funny and you lete me off of the binch when I am on binch for the hole recsses. and lete me lurne beter in math

Dear Miss McG,
you are a good techer you Love us! so we Love! you funy techer! I will do wate you tell me to do! We miss you! I am glad I am dowing this!
student (backwards S)

Dear Miss McGee,
you are a good teacher you are very tunny and you are nice to me. Some time you play basket ball with us. You love us and we love you to. You teach us good every day. Some time you are silly and you are silly too. Some you are chalk monster because you have chalk all over you.

Dear Ms. McGee,
we all love you for teaching his all of us would trie to lisen to you we wunl to be Bead nevr agan.
Love, Kevin

And now I know...the Skin Horse was right...once you're real, you can never go back.

Monday, December 6, 2010

closing time

every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

I have been reading the Percy Jackson books--a young adult series that puts a modern spin on the Greek myths. In the 4th book, Janus--god of doorways, beginnings, endings, choices--appears in the Labyrinth.

And here we are...Advent. The beginning of the liturgical calendar and the end of the modern calendar. The doorways are in front of me. Choices lie ahead. There will be an ending, and a beginning.

The endings used to scare me. The goodbyes, the fear of loss, the unknown, the letting go--they were things to be feared. I can remember graduating from college and feeling this deep sense of dread and loss...that these relationships would disappear, that I would crumble without the *place.* I underestimated myself, of course, and underestimated the people I loved. They came with me to Los Angeles, in spirit if not in body, as did all the lessons I learned. There are things I choose to carry with me, and things I choose to leave behind. My first trip back east from L.A. was a hard one. Only a month after September 11, I was reeling and lost. I found myself back on my beloved undergraduate campus. I felt safe, grounded, whole and home for the first time in 4 months. I didn't want to leave. A trusted mentor and friend took my shoulders in her hands and said, "God didn't drop you off at the airport and wave goodbye. You aren't alone."

I am the product of my beginnings and my endings, a product of my choices, a product of the doorways I've closed behind me, and those I've walked through with confidence or caution. Janus stands before me, his two faces asking me what's next...and this time, I'm not afraid. God is with me, especially as we wait in Advent.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


A friend of mine posted on her blog today about the significance of the age 33...about how it's often used in literature as an age of transformation and rebirth. And, of course, it is the age at which Jesus reached the end of His ministry and was crucified. I am fascinated by this observation. I'm not 33 yet...but Jesus began His public ministry at the age of 30. These three years were absolutely transformative...Jesus came into His own. He became the person He was born to be.

I'd like to think that's what's happening to me in these years. That I've recognized the divine in me, the gifts of the divine, and I'm choosing to follow those gifts, choosing to embrace and realize that part of me, choosing to be the person I was born to be.

It's a journey. For Jesus, it took Him from a stable in Bethlehem to a cross on Calvary. But it's what happened in between that inspired change. The transformation was the key.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

the radical notion of "yes"

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they replied. (Matthew 9:28)

I read a reflection on Advent tonight, and loved the phrase "radical notion of yes." It brought to mind Friday's reading...these blind men say yes. They believe in this man, in his ability to heal their brokenness.

Yes is scary. As a few friends have reminded me over the last couple of months, saying YES...being brave enough to embrace the radical notion of YES, means saying no. Accepting a path means leaving other paths behind, means letting go, means trusting the yes.

I'm going to try to embrace it. Be radical. Love the yes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

a Friday quote

Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time.
-Edward Hays, A Pilgrim's Almanac

Thursday, December 2, 2010


"and, when he shall die,
take him and cut him out in little stars,
and he will make the face of heaven so fine
that all the world will be in love with night"
--romeo and juliet, william shakespeare

I was supposed to go home for a wake tonight. A family friend died on Monday and I was heading home for his wake. I got a late start to Penn Station and, thanks to the Christmas season, sat in a cab for almost TWO out of the cab, called home and realized I would miss the wake. I'm sorry I missed it. Mr. L was a good man--I haven't seen him in 15 or so years, but I have memories of his big laugh and bigger smile. Memories of setting off fireworks in his driveway and running around his pool deck.

A good friend at work got word this morning that her sister passed away. She'd been ill, but as of last night, she wasn't dying anytime soon. My friend, obviously, is here in NYC...her sister is back home in Ireland. They're having sucky weather...when I texted with G earlier, she was at the airport and hoping to get on a flight tonight. I'm hoping she's arrived safely, if not soundly.

Crappy time of year to lose the people you love.

"we're gonna laugh and we're gonna dance
i'm gonna hold you like my only chance
we're gonna meet again in the kingdom,
that's good news"
-n. nields

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Real Reason

There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good.
Story People

We spend a lot of our lives doing things because we think they're the right things to do, the right roads to follow. We try to do the things that "make sense" from the outside. We try to do the things that make money, and line up with the things we're "supposed" to want. We don't want to be judged, we don't want to be wrong, we don't want to be weird, we don't want to have to explain ourselves.

But in the end, it really is about loving companionship, right? Happy being an accountant? Awesome for you. Want to be a teacher? Go for it! Love the law? More power to you. Have the need to cut people open? Don't let me stand in your way (but please go to medical school first). It's how we treat our fellow accountants, teachers, lawyers, and doctors that counts...and how we treat the doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, janitors, baristas, cab drivers, and IT folks in our lives. WHO we are and not what we are.

Isn't that what this season is about? We aren't waiting for a what, we're waiting for a who...a Savior, a Messiah who came to us in a most unexpected form--baby, born in a stable, born to young, ordinary parents. But we still talk about Him 2,000 years later because of how He treated His neighbors, friends, disciples, enemies, and strangers. The power of His story is that He came, loved, ate, and said it was good. We're good.

And that's enough.