Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – A VERY BELATED THANK YOU!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 – A VERY BELATED THANK YOU!

About 17 years ago, as a new assistant principal,  I asked my boss if I could go to a workshop entitled, “Powerful Communication Skills for Women”. He laughed, cracked some kind of joke, and said something along the lines of, “Yes, just don’t come back talking even more to me!”

I am forever grateful that he said Yes. It was probably the best workshop I have ever attended. Many parts of it have stuck with me for years. One part has truly always stayed in my mind.

At this one particular point in the workshop, the woman had us complete a self rating worksheet that gave us a number for 5 different areas in our lives: relationships, emotional, career, finances, and spirituality. After we scored it, we ended up with a number that was supposed to correlate to the “UN-DONES” in our lives.  The higher the number, the more attention in that area of life was needed. She explained to us that the purpose of the exercise was to point out the areas of our personal lives that needed “cleaning up” so that we could feel more “complete” and have the emotional energy to move forward to pursue our goals. The belief was that it is these “UN-DONES” that drain us and preoccupy us to a point where we sometimes feel “stuck” or we remain “negligent” to the parts of us that really are meant to make us whole. When this happens, we can stop living “intentionally” and just keep struggling to “get by”, until we clean up our “un-dones”.

For me, I think this part rang so true for me because I have never liked that feeling of something being “un-done” or ‘un-finished”. I am the Queen of Self Imposed Deadlines! I LOVE when I can cross things off my “TO DO LIST”.

SO, that experience 17 years ago has inspired me to complete many of the tasks I start and to prioritize my personal goals so that I can feel more complete, which completely fits into this year’s focus on living more intentionally!

So, it is not a mystery to me that I have felt vey incomplete for one thing that still remained on my personal “TO DO LIST” from two years ago.

Two years ago, on March 30th – it was MONDAY of HOLY WEEK that year – my mother-in-law, Jo, passed away with many of us there at her side. Two days prior to that, on the Saturday, the hospice nurse called someplace for assistance to have my mother-in-law brought down from upstairs to the living room so that she could be comfortable and with all of us in her final days. In a very ironic twist in life, in her final days, my mother-in-law was gently carried down the beautiful, curving, grand stairwell of my sister-in law’s front entryway and gracefully placed onto the hospital bed that had arrived earlier in the day. My mother-in-law’s final escort in this world involved 8 of the kindest men I have ever had the pleasure of watching. They rolled her into a blanketed cocoon, wrapped it around her, a slowly lifted her. One man took the lead. With only his voice talking, that man directed the others down the stairs at an even and careful pace so that she would “feel no pain”. I am sure  Jo would have had something to say to those firemen from Broad River station who were wearing their tan bulky pants, blue iconic shirts, suspenders and boots, and had parked their full blown fire engine in Nancy and Joe’s driveway. Yes, if the day had been different for her, with HOLY WEEK starting just one day later, she would have had something to say about her grand entrance into a new “promised land” being escorted by firemen instead of donkeys and palm branches!

From that moment on, and through her last breaths, and the following week while we waited for Holy Week to end, I thought about that image. My mother-in-law was buried the day after Easter, Easter Monday. I knew in my heart that I should do something to thank the firemen of the Broad River Department, but for two years I hadn’t done anything. I could have written a note, but I didn’t. I could have written to the newspaper, but I didn’t. I could have just zipped in and said thank you since I pass by there almost weekly, but here it is two years later and I hadn’t done anything to thank them.

SO it was Wednesday, April 12, 2017,  during HOLY WEEK this year, that I decided it was time to honor my mother-in-law by thanking the men who so carefully carried her to her final entrance into a family space that year. That morning, I got up, made cookies and brownies, placed them on a platter and called my sister-in-law Nancy to invite her to come with me. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the station, just as the truck was pulling away to help someone else in need. I said a quick prayer, hoping they were not going to be carrying a woman to her final place, but if that, in fact, was where they were going, I knew they would do it with respect, dignity, deep love, and concern for everyone involved.

Nancy and I presented the tray to the two guys who weren’t on the truck; they simply answered the doorbell. They didn’t know us and were likely not there two yeas ago at Nancy’s house. Yet, I know I intentionally and purposefully completed one of those “UN-DONEs” from my personal TO DO LIST and my heart feels lighter.

I have never stopped into a public service building to say thank you, even though I have probably thought about doing it in the past. I just never did it. Wednesday,  April 12th was a first for this action and it just felt like it was the right time to say, on behalf of our family, THANK YOU TO THE BROAD RIVER FIRE DEPARTMENT, especially during HOLY WEEK.

May our firefighters always be protected and continue to live a life of service for all of us! THANK YOU!

 

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Sunday, December 28, 2014 – St. Peter Church – Bridgeport, CT

I went to Mass on my own this morning in the pouring rain. What I didn’t know was that it was a SPANISH Mass, which was fine……gave me time to just sit and breathe…for an hour and 20 minutes!!! The church had a very cool Nativity scene complete with running water and (fake) fire!! The fake rocks climbed the wall leaving little landings for the sheep, camel, Wise men and shepherds! Simply gorgeous!

The altar was decorated with the “He is the GIFT!” theme with lots of red, green, and sparkles!!

I think the coolest things about sitting there while everyone listened to the sermon was the fact that if I closed my eyes I could have been in any Spanish speaking country in the world…hundreds of miles away from home. It was very liberating! In my mind I could go from Spain, to Peru, to Chile, to Puerto Rico or any number of other places for the holiday season.

I also realized in that moment how narrow my world view is! I would love to travel more, see more places, go anywhere my heart desired, and yet, I get the sense that I won’t go to everywhere I want to go in this lifetime. This same Mass is being spoken all around the world in languages I had never stopped to listen to, simultaneously, and here I was in Bridgeport, CT on a rainy day three days after Christmas hearing the same story of a Holy Family. I could pick out enough parts to know that the priest was holding the Holy Family up to us all as a model for every family in Bridgeport and around the world!

As I wind down and complete my Church Tour 2014 I am proud to say that I only have 4 more churches in the Diocese to go…and have attended a mass in every language offered: English, Spanish, Haitian, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, Hungarian, Vietnamese. I attended the Lithuanian Mass, but no Lithuanian was spoken! AND…I tried for the Korean Mass….but it is no longer offered. I was inspired to go to Haiti to do service to others…..saw beautiful parts of the Bridgeport Diocese, admired hundreds of statutes and paintings, met some lovely people, heard some awesome and powerful homilies, at times felt like I was in the grandest cathedrals and other times I felt I was in a friend’s living room. I sat alone, sat with friends, sat with strangers and reached out to say “peace be with you” and heard back “Pace”. Simply an amazing little New Years’ Resolution that turned out to be a thought provoking and inspirational year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014 – St. Joseph Parish – Brookfield, CT

Liz, Lisa and I went off for an early Mass in Brookfield this morning. I actually was thinking it was Sunday and was confused when there were only about 3 cars in the parking lot.
As we entered the church, the priest let us know that only a small part of the altar is used for the daily masses. That made sense since there were only about 14 people total for Mass. It was a beautiful one though!

I enjoyed the sermon, which we later found out was Fr. O’Neil who said it. He talked about Faith as being the place where God’s reach meets our need. He went on about how God knows our true needs (not the ones we believe are our needs) and that when the time comes, His reach comes to us to meet us at the right moment of need. Kind of a cool concept. The image is a powerful one for me….makes me think of all those times where I thought I might be “falling” down in something (physically, emotionally, professionally, personally, etc) and yet then felt somehow that I was pulled back up and everything became right again. The image he gave me made sense…God’s hand (either through His actual energy or someone else’s hand physically) met me at the right moment and put me back on course for something else…a new opportunity, a different opportunity, an unknown need that became clearer for me…..just something else.

At the end of Mass, Fr. O’Neil and the participants in the Mass said a prayer of Adoration. It was lovely….with a few changes in the words it becomes hard to know who is “adoring” who….Us adoring God or God adoring each one of us:

An Act of Adoration

O, Jesus, my God and my Creator,
I adore you because from Your hand I came.
With you I am to be happy forever.
Dear Jesus, I love You with all my heart.
You know that I wish to love You more and more each day.
Receive my poor offering You give Yourself to me;
Let me give myself to You.
I give You my body that I may be chaste and pure.
I give You my soul that I may be free from sin.
I give You my heart that I may always love You.
I give You every breath that I shall breathe and especially my Last.
I give You myself in life and in death that I may be Yours forever and ever. Amen.

O, “Debi”, my Child and my Creation,
I adore you because from My hand you came.
With Me, you are to be happy forever.
Dear “Debi” I love you with all My heart.
You know that I wish to love you more and more each day.
Receive my offering and let Me give you myself:
Let Me give myself to you. I gave you My body so that you may be chaste and pure.
I gave you My soul so that you may be free from sin.
I gave you My heart so that you may always love Me.
I gave you My breath so that you shall breathe in Me, and especially in your last.
I gave you Myself in life and in My death so that you will be with Me forever and ever. Amen.

After Mass ending, Fr. O’Neil met the 3 of us in the back, introduced himself to us and gave us each a prayer card with the Adoration Prayer. It was very sweet of him. I felt very welcomed in this church!!

Then, of course, the three of us met Liz’s friend and daughter at Rickyl’s Diner….for corned beef hash!! Delicious!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 – St. Michael the Archangel Church – Greenwich, CT

The priest, who will be leaving and going to a parish in Fairfield, had such a nice speaking voice. He had a pleasant voice and was so easy to listen to. I am not sure if it was a French accent or not, but it sounded like he could have been French.

After Mass, I said hello to him and shared with him what my New Year’s Resolution is about. He never let go of my hand that he had been shaking and looked at me with a real intentional intensity. It was as if, I was the only person that he was focusing on, even though some women were saying good-bye or waiting for him. He truly gave me his “undivided attention”. It was intense, but not creepy in any way. It was very genuine and calming for me.

The women who spoke to him before me, following the Mass, were telling him how sad they were that he is leaving. I can see why. I think he has a really nice way about him.

The priest announced the mass was being said for Michael Hess. I thought he said Michael Ness at first. Michael Ness, a young man who passed away last Fall, is the son of my friend, Liz. I couldn’t help but think of how beautiful and graceful Liz has been throughout these very difficult past several months as I sat in these beautiful and peaceful surrounding. As it turned out, the mass was for Hess, not Ness, but that did not make me stop thinking of this beautiful love story between Mother and Son. To me, Liz is living “Mary’s story” and through her grace and example, I realize how interconnected the story of Mary and Jesus is to all of our relationships.

The sermon was all about actively living the gospel rather than just speaking about it. Maybe with Liz on my mind, the sermon made me think about how often I have the opportunity to be more Christ-like. Usually, I try to say nice things to people or have nice thoughts about doing something special for someone, but I often don’t follow through. In the meeting last week for my Haiti mission trip (coming up soon!!!) we talked about “being God through our hands and feet” without any words. Interesting idea! I do know it, but don’t always do it! That old adage, actions speak louder than words is definitely one that I should keep in mind; and actually wish many others did too!

The church itself was very “earthy”. It was pretty with wide big windows. The grounds were beautifully kept and flowers and outdoor statues surrounded the church itself. It was a peaceful setting and I was so happy that I got up early to share a 7:45am Mass with about 8 other people.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 – St. Thomas The Apostle Church – Norwalk, CT

Today was a rough day at work. It seemed like everyone was cranky about things that just really are not that important. I needed a little piece of quiet, so I decided to go to church and just breathe for a little bit before going home. Lisa came to join me.

I have been to St. Thomas many times, but I guess I have just never looked closely enough to see how pretty it actually is. The stained glass was really pretty! And I never really paid attention to the wooden ceiling beams! Very nice.

The new pastor said the Mass. I didn’t really tune into the gospel, but something in his homily struck me. He spoke about the fact that the Catholic Church is being undermined and taken over in all parts of the world. He specifically spoke of the insurgence of Muslims into Turkey and that the churches are now mosques or museums. He begged us to “pay attention” before we lose what we know of as our Church.

I should pay attention to what is happening in the “church world” more, I suppose, but a parallel image of “being undermined and taken over” has occurred in the world of education as well! My school world seems so upside down. Laws have been suggested and passed by people who are not educators. Testing is being based on curriculum mandates and changes that are not always right for kids. And, teachers’ voices have come too late to the party to turn things around quickly. It is all so overwhelming. A few years ago, a colleague left education completely. He is a very smart educational leader who I so enjoyed working with. In his “good bye” letter, he spoke of the fact that education was changing in a direction that was “against his moral compass”. He could not stay true to himself and his educational values, in light of the direction education was moving in. That line has rung true to me in almost every aspect of my day today and for the past 2-3 years!! I admire him for having the courage to say it out loud as the rest of us just stood there, chugging along, hoping for the best.

Perhaps, I ended up at this mass just so I would hear the words……PAY ATTENTION!

I have been going through the motions, head down, chugging through the day to day stuff, and not really paying attention to the big picture as closely as I should have been. But, the scary part is I am not the only one. The tides shifted quickly on so many of us educators, while we weren’t really looking. If it can happen in our educational world, it really can happen in the “church” world too! The shift is happening in both worlds!

I really need to figure out a way to pay attention and keep my moral compass focused on the right things.