Home of the St. Pat Warriors

Bailey + My Vet =Advent

B6A0424C-0EF3-4563-B098-D55095C1BEFE

During the Advent and Lenten seasons, we prepare to take all of our students to confession. I will put a short prayer service together that includes a Gospel reading, an examination of conscience, and a short reflection that I give. Preparing and giving a reflection for 2nd – 8th graders is anxiety producing for me: how do I say something worthwhile to that range of ages? What will my focus be? What will be meaningful and help kids prepare for the sacrament? What message will they take with them? I began thinking about what I was going to say for Advent back in August. For months, whenever I would think “what is my focus for the Advent Penance service going to be?” I would come up with nothing and move on to the next thing – I had plenty of time to figure it out!

372C5996-6815-4EBA-81E8-F3C86A65D810

Fast forward 3 months – Last week I started to enter the panic stage since the prayer service was one week away. I had one little thought – maybe I would focus on St. Joseph? Good, but I just was not really excited about it. Then a thought came to me while I was walking Bailey one day after school – Bailey – she was my idea – she would be my focus for the Advent Prayer reflection coupled with the Gospel passage of Matthew 22: 36-40 – “You shall love the Lord Your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Bailey 005

How did I get to this crazy conclusion? Here is the inspiration I received: Bailey is 14 years old – she is an old girl with arthritis in her back legs and hips and weak kidney function. Her ailments mean that I buy her a specialty food, renew medicines on a regular basis, pay vet bills, and help her up the stairs at night. Sometimes when I get home from work the last thing I want to do is change clothes and go out for a walk, but Bailey always wants to go and so we go. When I am sitting on my couch relaxing with a book or catching up on a recent Grey’s Anatomy or This Is Us episode and Bailey wants to go out, I will get up and take her out. I will do whatever I need to for Bailey no matter the cost or inconvenience.

Bailey 006

So, this got me thinking – Love the Lord Your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Do I do whatever God wants me to do? Do I take time to pray even when I don’t feel like it? Am I patient with people when they are on my nerves – the honest answer is NO – but I will do whatever Bailey wants – whenever she wants it!

IMG_2227

Hmmm – something is a little off here – so, my Advent focus is to have a better balance – to be more attentive to God and others – to Love the Lord Your God with all your whole heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Blessings during this Advent Season!  Go Warriors!

Advertisements

Remembering

History and remembering are a wonderful way to enlarge the experience of being alive. This thought came to me as I was thinking about writing for Veteran’s Day.

In my family, my sisters and I grew up respecting our flag, our National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and our military. I had 5 uncles and my dad serve in the military: my dad and 2 of his brothers served as Marines – one of his brothers losing his life at the age of 18 at Iwo Jima. His other brother served in the Army. On my mom’s side, one brother was career Air Force and one in the Navy. I also have 2 cousins who served our country in the military: a Major in the Air Force and an Army Ranger while another cousin is a civilian employee of the Navy who designs the electomagnetic launch system to launch planes from the air craft carriers.

IMG-0205

This Veteran’s Day, I want to write about my dad’s oldest brother, my Uncle Eddie. He just turned 93 years old and is a World War II and Korean War vet. He also served as a Drill Instructor for the Marines at Parris Island. My Uncle Ed’s story is amazing.

In March of 1943, Edward O’Donnell joined the United States Marine Corps in Wilkes-Barre, PA. He was sworn in in Philadelphia, PA and sent to boot camp in Parris Island, SC. He was assigned to 19th Company 3rd Marine Division. After training and a few stops along the way, he eventually ended up in Guam where he worked on construction projects and unloaded mortar shells. He sailed out of Guam on the U.S.S. Hercules and arrived off of Iwo Jima-Volcano Islands on February 19, 1945.

USMC_EGA_250

While my Uncle Ed was awaiting transport to the island, his ship was attacked by Japanese Kamikaze pilots. Eventually he and his division were transported onto the island and he immediately began hauling supplies from the beachhead to the combat units. He told me his main job was to get ammunition up from the shore areas to the plane drops on Motoyama Airfield.

d895f185e740e67033a91bc52ded0376--us-marine-corps-marine-mom

Knowing that his brother Tom was also on Iwo Jima, my Uncle Ed asked his Commanding Officer, Captain Thomas, if it was possible to find out where his brother Tom, 5th Marine Division, was. The CO gave my uncle a pass, keys to his Jeep, and the location of his brother Tom’s unit. My Uncle Ed found his brother’s unit and was told he just missed them by a few hours – many of men from Tom’s unit had moved up on the lines but that they would be back in two days. He returned two days later to this news – his brother was missing in action. Tom was 18 years old and died leading his unit closer and closer to enemy lines.

Ed returned home to begin work on the railroad but eventually re-enlisted with the Marines. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and became a Drill Instructor on Parris Island, SC until 1951 when he ended his military career.

IMG-0204

My Uncle Ed is 93 years old and still very active with the Marine Corps League. He serves breakfasts, attends parades, and has been honored for his military service. The picture above is a Marine thanking my uncle for his service to our country. This took place while we were attending the Wreaths Across America event in Arlington Cemetery. Each year we place a wreath on my Uncle Tom’s grave – it is always an emotional and powerful experience.SKMBT_C36417110715120_0001

This Veteran’s Day make sure you honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Consider changing one light in a visible location in your home or office to green, and keep it glowing every day as a symbol of support and appreciation for our veterans. Thank you, Uncle Ed, for your service to our country – I love you!

 

 

 

From as far back as I can recall, I always followed my father around – I can remember having my own Play School wheelbarrow, shovel, and rake. I can remember sitting on the couch and asking him a million questions about the rules of football. I can remember being in the garage with him watching him check the oil in the riding mower, change a bike tire, and wax the car. I learned a ton of things from my dad, but the one I treasure the most is learning how to appreciate and care for the Earth – to respect creation – to marvel in its beauty. I know he would have loved Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si – Caring for our Common Home!

I have been writing this piece since the early spring – when the plants began to emerge from the winter soil and the sun burned longer into the night. I began writing this in my head because each and every year I am in awe of the miracles that happen in our gardens at my parent’s house in New Jersey. I never tire of watching the buds turn to flowers, never tire of watching the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds feast on the pollen in those flowers, never tire of thinking of all the lessons my father taught me about planting, watching, pruning, composting so we could nourish the plants the next season, listening, protecting – enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

 

It is my extreme delight to get my hands dirty and work and sweat in those gardens – to build up a few callouses due to pruning, trimming, shoveling, and raking – not to mention the ever present weeding! I find that this time alone in my father’s gardens is pure gift – it allows me to be with him, to listen, to remember, to smile, to wonder if he would be happy with how all his plants are doing,  – to pray.

 

This time also allows me to cherish all the time we spent together working in these gardens – our conversations about life, family, plans, relationships, work, friends, service, but most importantly, faith. My father was a wonderful Master Gardener – he took classes, did the helpline at the agricultural center, went to people’s houses to give them advice on flowers and bushes – he loved it! The reason he was so great at this was because he knew who the real Master Gardener was – he knew who was really in charge of those gardens and he passed that onto me – a gift I will always cherish.

 

It has been 4 years since my dad left to meet the Master Gardener – 4 years of missing him every day – and yet, I feel his presence – I hear his voice – I see his smile – as a person with whom I respect very much always tells me, “it is a very thin veil between heaven and Earth.” Thank you to both of the Master Gardeners in my life – thank you for the gifts of Creation and most importantly, for the gift of love.

Life Wins

 


During my run on this Holy Thursday morning I was noticing all the daffodils alongside my favorite creek and road. I was amazed thinking that some of these bulbs were submerged in inches of water just 2 weeks ago because the creek overflowed from all the snow and rain we have had. In the midst of these thoughts and this beauty, I started to cry. Why? because I have to confess that I have a love/hate relationship with daffodils.

Love – because they are one of the first signs of Spring here in the northeast. Love – because they are pretty, hardy, vibrant, and engaging. Love – because we have hundreds to them in my family’s yard in New Jersey. Love – because my dad loved them and planted every single one in our yard.

Hate – because my father loved them and planted every single one in our yard. Hate – because they remind me of him and every Spring they make me cry my face off when I first see them. Hate – because I want him here to see how beautiful and full of life they are. Hate – because we will never talk about them again – never stand and appreciate how pretty they look – never talk again about where he can plant more for next year.

IMG_2685

Here I am – almost 4 years since my dad died – and the life he lived, the life he loved – is still surrounding and embracing my family and me. His faith, his love of his family, his embrace of each day, his love of talking and meeting people – all this is wrapped up in these Spring daffodils. Like those bulbs that were covered in water a few weeks ago, I could have been swallowed up with loss, pain, and sorrow, but my dad would not have wanted that – he would have wanted life and love to win – he would have wanted the toughness and tenacity of these submerged daffodils to bring smiles not tears – life not death – laughter not sorrow. LIFE WINS! Happy Easter!

IMG_2687

Exits and Entrances

l

This past weekend we celebrated my youngest sister’s 50th birthday – I am the oldest of 5 girls! As she exited the 40’s and entered the 50’s, I began thinking of all the exists and entrances we do during our lives.

At the beginning of our lives we exit the womb and enter the world. During our lives we exit and enter a number of relationships – some friends come into our lives for a short amount of time and leave, while others remain with us forever. We exit elementary school and enter high school, we exit college and enter the work world.

IMG9575551

There are some exits and entrances that are more significant than others. We exit single life and enter married life – pictured above is my first niece to be married. We exit being childless and enter parenthood. We exit being young and enter into the “golden years. “We exit being healthy, limber, and, carefree and enter into physical decline and worry about ailments, falling, etc. We exit just being a parent and enter into becoming grandparents. We exit living and enter into death.

Shayleen 001

Exits. Entrances. Change. These are part of our entire lives and I have come to realize that there are two constants throughout this whole process – my faith in Jesus Christ and my family. FAITH and FAMILY give me a sense of peace and joy even in the midst of difficult exits and entrances. FAITH and FAMILY ground me and allow me to trust the process of change, even in the midst of deep pain and suffering.

Thanksgiving 2016 001

I know I still have many exits and entrances left in my life – and I know that with my family and faith – it will be an exciting adventure until the end!

A New Attitude

Ash Wednesday 038

As any of my friends can tell you, I have not been a lover of the Lenten Season – I kind of felt like the above picture of one of our students – …do I really have to do this?…is this really fun and good for me? I love Advent, I rejoice in Easter, and I relax in the rhythm of Ordinary Time, but Lent just never really did it for me. I did not like that I felt this way, but I did not put any effort into changing this attitude and I was very good at coming up with excuses about why I did not have to “do” Lent.

Ash Wednesday 035

In February I decided this was going to change – I felt this inner nudge that I needed Lent (maybe it was really me who decided?) Tired, weary, and feeling a little disconnected from my faith, I found myself craving this season that gently invites me to return in a very intentional way. However, I was feeling stress over what to “do” for fasting, almsgiving and prayer. I decided to tell God that if He wanted me to “do”something, he better give me some hints, direction, suggestions.

Ash Wednesday 036Ash Wednesday 033

Guess what? He responded in a very clear message! His response: take a specific time each day for quiet, prayer, and reflection. To help me with this, I am listening to Matthew Kelly’s “The Best Lent Ever”and writing in my journal. Another part of the message was to fast from television and aimless scrolling through my devices – so I have decided to do that on Wednesday’s. Finally, and what I am most excited to do, is to walk around my neighborhood and pick up trash that is laying around from all the windy days we have had this winter. – ask and you shall receive!!

Ash Wednesday 032

This Lent I am trying to stand still and be astonished by the beauty of creation, the gifts I receive each day, and the blessings that are endless and make me smile. May we all learn to see and may we move towards that which brings us true life and happiness. Go Warriors!

Ash Wednesday 034

The Junk Drawer

Although I consider myself to be pretty neat and organized and believe that everything has a place – some close to me would say crazy obsessed with neatness and organization – I do admit to having a drawer that I throw in all the stuff I am not sure how to organize or do not know where the correct place is for that “stuff”. Over time, this drawer can get full and packed with mementos, pictures, cards, opened packs of gum, chip clips,phone chargers, rubber bands – you get the idea.

img_2563

When I can’t take it anymore – usually when I can’t open and close the drawer – I sift through the drawer and usually end up getting rid of most of the contents – only to begin a new cycle of filling it up. One recent drawer purge caused me to stop and reflect. As I was looking through all my drawer treasures, I found, from previous drawer purges, a few notes from a few very good friends – notes that I just can’t get rid of – notes that I don’t look at every day, but when I do, they make me smile, inspire me, and encourage me to be a better person.

img_2564

What treasures are in your junk drawer/s? Do you have something in there that you just can’t get rid of – a family heirloom, an old key to your first car or house, something that inspires you, makes you know you are loved, helps you to grow, challenges you, lets you take a walk down memory lane? Give yourself some time to rummage through your drawer and see what you find! Happy hunting and remembering. Go Warriors!

Tag Cloud