Monday, March 21, 2016

Before I Leave

A while ago I wrote 'When Grammy Goes Away,' a children's book explaining loss of a loved one in terms youngsters could internalize and understand. It's dedicated to Brady, the first of my grandchildren, who is now a teenager. When it was published, he wanted to know why his book dealt with death. I told him since he was the eldest of the seven, he would be the one who could best comprehend my message. Brady has since come to terms with my decision, but doesn't like to think about the day when his grammy won't be in his world. I don't like the idea either.

My youngest grandson, Gabe, who will be three next month, is now obsessed with this book. He insists his mom read it every night, and knows if she tries to shorten it by skipping pages. The best part for Gabe is to get to the end and see my face smiling back at him.

With each passing year, I get closer to the end of my journey. Oh, don't get me wrong, I have no immediate plans to leave this world. As a matter of fact, I've set the number of my existence at 102! If I make it, I still have 30 more wonderful years to go.

Oftentimes my family asks what I want for Mother's Day, my birthday, or Christmas. I usually pick something both my hubby and I could enjoy together like a favorite restaurant gift card, or a replacement for an item that has bit the dust during the passed year. Lately though, I've been thinking what gift would make me the happiest I've ever been. And believe it or not, I actually have come up with an answer.

Before I leave I want to experience peace and harmony in the world with my children and their families. To me that means there would be no more war, no more hatred between races, no more senseless killings over petty issues, no more lying to achieve selfish goals, no more bullying others for the sake of self-indulgence, no more negativity in the media to up ratings, not more ugly words exchanged between neighbors, no more familial estrangements, not for one more day, not for one more minute.

And I've found the simply answer to making my dream a reality. Start with the young! Teach your children from the get-go that difference is beautiful, that diversity is to be embraced, not feared, and that living together in peace and harmony will bless them in every way, making their lives heaven on earth. Youngsters are like sponges, they sop up every word you say, every feeling you convey, every message you send.

My newest book, 'Preschool Friends A-Z Around the World' is a little contribution to helping you and your children explore diversity in a fun and factual way. In this story,  you and yours will meet 26 children who come from all parts of the world with strange names and different physical appearance. But what's the same is that they all attend preschool, do the same things like playing dress-up, building with blocks, swinging on the playground, and using their imaginations to make glorious creations. These activities bind children together no matter what creed, color, or culture they've been born into. When you expose children at an early age to difference you become the conduit through which their understanding is solidified. You give them the unique opportunity to be facilitators of peace and harmony in their preschools, their homes, their communities, their workplaces, and most importantly, their world.

You don't know me,but if you start teaching your children now to embrace diversity, you'll be gifting me with what I want most in life before I leave,the chance to witness everybody living together in peace and harmony throughout the world.

Hey, I believe you'll do it, after all, you still have 30 years before I plan to kick the bucket!

Coming this April to Amazon

Monday, March 14, 2016


It's that time again when all there is on TV is basketball. They call it 'March Madness' and I must confess I'm mad about it! No, not mad that all you can watch is basketball for the next two weeks, but mad, like crazy about it, can't get enough obsessive, out of my mind possessed with it!

I've loved this sport since I made the first-ever girls' team at Vincentian High in 1959. In those days there were six players on the court which was literally divided into two sections, one for the three offensive players, and one for those on defense (3). Neither group was permitted to cross the center line. I was a defender since I couldn't hit the side of a barn when it came to scoring points. However I was a scrappy player who fought like mad to steal the ball and throw it to the other side where the shooters were waiting patiently for their chance to make a bucket.

Sounds weird to you, doesn't it? Actually the game had its highs and lows just like it does today. Taking the ball away from the opposing team and heaving it to my teammates was just as exciting then as it it now. The fans in the bleachers howled with delight, knowing their team had another chance to put two more on the scoreboard. When points resulted, we, the defenders were elated that our efforts made it possible even though those on offense took the bows.

Girls' high school teams didn't look like they do now for another reason, too. We didn't wear the cool tank tops and silky shorts that they jump around in these days. Ours was a one piece cotton suit that zipped up the middle and showed as little skin as possible. I think the shorts came down to our knees, and we wore socks that stretched almost to our knees, so the only body parts showing below the waist were our knee caps! But we weren't embarrassed since that was the look of the times, and we were just proud to be wearing the coveted uniform of the Vincentian girls' basketball team.

I have no idea whether or not we ever played in a championship game, but my guess is we didn't. But what was important then was that I got the chance to play the game I loved. Just being on the court representing my high school gave me such a high, one that if I close my eyes now, I can still remember with pride and satisfaction. Being part of the team gave me such a feeling of belonging, and the opportunity to form bonds with the other players that existed long after the wins and defeats were in the history books.

I suspect that the teams going into the NCAA 2016 Tournament experience similar emotions. Every player truly loves the game because if they didn't they wouldn't put themselves through all the grueling practices and travel that basketball demands. They wouldn't expose themselves to possible injury and humiliating defeat. The sense of belonging and the ties that bind forever are much more important than what the score columns show. Yes, winning this year's NCAA tournament would be a dream come true for any of the participating teams, but basketball provides so much more than winning the final four, it prepares you for life and supplies you with friendships and memories that will live on in your heart long after the lights on the courts are dimmed.

Of course I've filled out my brackets and am hopeful the team I've selected to win it all will succeed. However I'm not going to reveal my choice to you at this time. You'll just have to wait and see.

Go __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __   __ __!

Monday, March 7, 2016

The 'Spotlight' On SPOTLIGHT

Last week my hubby and I decided to see an afternoon flick, and since it won the Oscar for best film this year, we chose SPOTLIGHT. Now we knew about this movie's content, but as Catholics were still very interested in the facts of the Boston Globe's 2004 investigation into child abuse by priests. What they exposed was a horrific cover-up by the church's leaders that went on for decades, and sadly continues today.

Although the statistics presented were staggering, only about 6% of the clergy from around the world are known abusers. Please don't think I'm trying to minimize what these children have had to endure at the hands of the sexual predators, because I'm certainly not. What is critical though is that we understand the facts and be fair in our judgement.

I'm not going to reiterate what SPOTLIGHT so skillfully depicted because I could never do it justice, and if you are so inclined, you can see it for yourselves.

After the movie, my hubby and I discussed it at length. Again I won't impose our views on you, but we concluded that the best action the diocesan bishops could take would be to have every parish priest offer his congregation a time to get together to discuss this matter honestly with no holds barred.

And as if by divine intervention, the very next Sunday, it happened!

Because of our own pastor's failing health, a visiting priest had the Mass we attending. The gospel was the story of the Prodigal Son. It's one most known for the unconditional love a father has for his children no matter who or what they've become. To make a long story short, one of this man's son's leaves home, lives a life of debauchery, while the older son stays by his father's side doing what is expected of him. When the wayward boy returns, his father accepts him with open arms, calling for a great celebration to be held in his honor. The loyal son is disturbed by his father's generosity, asking for an explanation. You have been with me always and for that I'm certainly grateful, but your brother has come back, has asked to be allowed to lie down with the pigs to make reparation for his unsavory deeds, and for that I'm also grateful was the gist of this father's comments.

Although the celebrant never once mentioned the movie, his sermon hit right to the heart of the matter regarding sexual abuse in the Catholic church. He invited us to picture the father, God, standing in the middle between those of us who have greatly sinned much like the predatory clergy, and those of us who though sinners as well, have tried to walk in the way of Christ to the best of our abilities. As we approach Our Father from both ends of the spectrum, He extends His loving arms and offers forgiveness and compassion to all. Having been cleansed of our wrong-doings, God celebrates our return with food and drink by inviting us to partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

His sermon put everything into perspective for me. No matter what horrible actions we're guilty of, God will always forgive if we only ask. I'm not saying that the abusive clergy shouldn't be held accountable because they definitely should be. Their actions were and are criminal, and they must take responsibility for them and suffer the consequences. Long jail sentences and stringent rehabilitation are certainly in order for these offenders. Their priestly duties should be terminated, never being allowed to celebrate Mass, hear confessions, or be in contact with children again. Those who were involved in the cover-ups should be stripped of their powers so they may never be instrumental in the continuation of these horrific atrocities.

But as far as our judgement of these priests, we are not without sin and therefore do not qualify to make them. Only God, Our Father, is both judge and jury in this matter. And only when these sexual predators sincerely ask for forgiveness at the foot of the Cross, will they be welcome back to the Father's home.

What we can do is evident, keep an open-mind and pray for not only the leaders and priests of the church, and the abused and their families, but for all congregations who are appalled and confused by what they've seen and heard. Mostly we need to pray that we refrain from judgement lest we be judged as well.