Tag Archives: love

Falling In Love

Well, in keeping with my Lenten theme the past couple of posts, I wanted to share a beautiful quote by Father Pedro Arrupe. It’s about Love and it really spoke to my heart. So for all of you who aren’t following Matthew Kelly’s daily Lenten messages, here’s something to noodle on.

“Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in love in a quite absolute way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Always B E L I E V E !

Oh, one last thought — check out Father Pedro Arrupe’s Wikipedia page. What this man experienced in his lifetime was nothing short of amazing.

Groovy Anyone?

Until last night, I’ve always had a very limited picture of the 1960s in my head. I was born in 1967, so I really don’t remember the sixties at all. The images in my head are from home movies and the way things were portrayed in the Kennedy era or through reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. The fashion was mod, and I love the retro style that Mary Tyler Moore and Twiggy wore. I didn’t really think of the sixties as the revolution that it really was. I mean, it was more than just a psychedelic fashion — it became a subculture.

PeaceLast night Tom and I watched a program on the hippies of the sixties. A quick history — it all started in the mid-1960s in San Francisco and moved throughout the world in other major cities, like New York and London. The hippies were teenagers who used drugs, especially LSD and weed to attain an altered state of mind. Their philosophy was love, peace and community — basically the idea of creating a socialistic society the way they saw it. They had no authority, no rules and no responsibilities. Imagine that. The hippie movement of the sixties started the sexual revolution with 1967 being called, “the Summer of Love,” where teenagers could basically make love to whomever they wanted without recourse. They were looking for a higher level of spirituality, yet not in religions with morals and values — as those went out the window with their rules. I’m guessing if you’re higher than a kite, you’re finding all kinds of “spirituality.”

Besides peace, love, communal living, and an altered state of mind, part of this subculture was to bring awareness to protecting Mother Earth. I look at the trash the hippies left behind in Golden Gate Park in January of 1967, before “the Summer of Love,” and it sickened me. It was more than piggish — it was disrespectful to the earth. And the same thing for Woodstock that came only a couple of years later. The trash left behind was appalling. And then I remember that it was a movement by a bunch of kids. No authority, no rules and no responsibilities. But I guess it sounded good to say they respected the earth. Oh, and to think of all those thousands of sweating people — half naked and filthy with strong body odor and sewer stench —drinking and doing drugs — the filth and the disease — both Tom and I found it absolutely repulsive.

I can see why my parents didn’t think highly of the hippy generation. And by the way, where were these kids parents?

Was there good that came out of it? I do like the music of the sixties and seventies. I like that it really did influence clothing trends — opening a new world of fashion more than ever. Was that generation really empowered? I’m sure they approached problem-solving very differently after that experience. Could I have sat in Golden Gate park, completely naked, making a spectacle of myself openly on the lawn? Not in a million years. And would I judge this today? I just did.

So let’s flash forward to 2015 — about 50 years after the influence of the sixties. These hippies would now likely be in their 70s — some of them part of the baby boomer generation. It’s amazing to think about the comparison of the hippies and the “millennials” of today. Many of today’s teenagers are anti-social, hiding behind the technology that was the vision of the hippy generation. Many of them don’t communicate and the idea of living in a commune would probably make them more than uncomfortable. Their thoughts and feelings become public knowledge through online news feeds. I guess it’s just a different kind of community. But I do believe many teenagers are more empowered today than they ever were. They’re smarter, sharper — they know what they want out of life — and what they don’t. My nieces are more social than I ever was. And I love that they live by their faith — what strength that is!

The 1960s tested my morals and values above all, which is why I am not a big fan of the sixties subculture for sure. But for me, I’m just looking in from the outside, not have ever been exposed to what the movement really was (or anything even remotely close to it). But with that movement came the belief that maybe things could be looked at differently. What I believe today — to be able to do anything I want if I just have faith and hard work — may not be the case without the sixties revolution. Who knows. I just know if I had the opportunity to experience the sixties in my own life now — or to go back in time — I would politely decline.

Always B E L I E V E !

Above All, There Was Love

One day we got off the school bus and Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson’s car was in the driveway. Oh, we were so excited that they were visiting!!! As we got closer to the house, we realized there had been a big fire out by the burn barrel that sat next to the compost pile on the other side of the garden. We ran to the scene where a half an acre or so of tall pine trees stood smoldering like ominous black poles with charred sticks of all shapes and sizes. The same pine trees we played in as kids — they used to be so plush with evergreen branches. My Mom was holding a shovel and hitting small flames as it still burned, and Grandma and Grandpap and Aunt Mary were there helping her. They were covered in soot, obviously fighting the fire all afternoon. She smiled at us and told us that she was burning trash in the burn barrel, and next thing she knew the trees were on fire. We were fortunate that the fire department was able to get it out as quick as they did. I think three different fire departments came to the scene that day. I was probably 10 or 11 years old.

It was devastating at the time, but that’s where my Dad cleared the trees and built the barn. Once the barn was built and the pastures created, the signs of the fire began to diminish.

Dad was an amazing engineer!!! He could build anything and do anything he put his mind to. I admired that about him — he was so full of ingenuity and creativity. And he told us we could do anything — that everything was within reach if we worked hard enough for it. He was from the city, but always dreamed about raising a couple cattle and having a farm. The Goehring family from South Beaver talked to Dad about joining the Beaver County 4-H Stockman’s Club and it was on!

We had met Goehrings when we joined the Blackhawk 4-H Club, and my parents became leaders of the organization. Raising steers, sheep and pigs was a far cry from our sewing projects and flower gardens, but Dad was determined we could do it!

He built the barn using the sides of an old chicken coop that someone had torn down — he could do a lot with a little. It was a work-in-progress for some time, as the barn was only about two-thirds complete when the first animals arrived. The back of the barn was completely open. Little by little, my Dad finished the barn — then continued to enhance the functionality over the years with things like the installation of automatic waterers. What a major improvement that was in itself!

The life that barn brought to our family was nothing short of stupendous. The life it contained within its walls, as well as the life lessons that we learned over the years of hard work and responsibility — truly shaped who we are today. There were moments of pure elation and profound grief. There were frustration and tears, laughter and joy. And above all, love.

It's so sad to see the barn that was the center of our lives for so many years, be torn down and taken away.

It’s so sad to see the barn that was the center of our lives for so many years, be torn down and taken away.

And last week, Mom had the barn torn down. It was a decision she made as it was unsafe in its current condition. Mom called me that night, after it was gone, and I could hear the sadness in her voice. All the memories. All the memories of my Dad — he not only built the barn, but he created what became the center of our family for many years — living his dream, teaching us so many things about life.

It had been almost 20 years since the barn had any inhabitants. Well, any inhabitants that we wanted in there.

This is where the sheep lived. The back wall was completely gone.

This is where the sheep lived. The back wall was completely gone.

My sister Debbie took pictures just before they tore it down. The pictures looked like a ghost of a barn with broken walls and an open roof. They were able to salvage to the automatic watering system and take the copper piping out for scrap. The rest of it likely became someone’s bonfire.

So tonight I was thinking back on some of the things that happened in that barn.

I remember the very first auction we went to and Dad bought a steer — weighing only about 450 pounds! It was a Hereford and Bob’s first steer. He was such a cute little calf. Oh my gosh — we were really going to do this! And the barn came alive!!! Then we went to more auctions where we bought lambs. We had no idea what we were doing, but we were being coached by various 4-H leaders and friends of my parents. I couldn’t believe it — Dad bought me two lambs at an auction — a truly heart-pounding moment — waiting to see if we got the little babies we picked out!!! And we did!!! One was a Dorset lamb — completely white, and the other was a Dorset/Hampshire mix. Debbie had two lambs — both were Suffolk lambs with black legs and black faces.

We had wood pallets that lifted the feed barrels off the ground to keep the bottoms of the barrels dry. To get the feed for the steers, sheep or pigs, you had to step up on that palette and scoop the grain into a pail. Sometimes a little grain would slip over the sides and fall under the palettes. One night, I swung open the door to the feed area and stepped up on the palette and heard a loud hiss!!! Below my feet, between the wood in the palette, was a fierce opossum. All I remember seeing were those red beady eyes and flashing teeth — yes teeth. I think I screamed for several minutes — totally flipping out. My Dad came running and went into the feed area with a pitchfork. I was standing about 20 feet away, and I heard a crunch and squeal — my Dad had stabbed the opossum with the pitchfork. He had it upside down as he took it out the back of the barn.

Another time when my Dad worked and lived in Michigan (during the weekdays), we managed the chores without him. In the winter time, it was dark by 5 pm, but we did have lights in the barn. One night I got the feed for the steers and started to dump in the chute that distributes it in their feeder and I heard a hiss — another opossum. It ran back and forth in the feed bin like a caged animal. My Mom and I stood there trying to figure out what to do — neither of us what going to stab it with a pitchfork! So, since my Mom worked for the township, she knew the policemen in the police department well. So without having to officially call the police, she called the police chief and asked him to come over to help us. Danny came over and shot the opossum right in the feeder. I had to clean up the mess before we could feed the steers.

There were mostly good times in that barn, though.

I loved all the sheep!!! These were new additions shortly after the auction.

I loved all the sheep!!! These were new additions shortly after the auction.

Every year we brought home baby animals — lambs, pigs and steers to raise for the fair. After a few years, my Dad had cemented the floors to all the pens so they were much easier to keep clean. Every night I would clean the pens and put a layer of fresh straw over the cement. That way the little sheep could curl up in the fresh straw or the steers could lay down in a fresh bed. Sometimes I would sit against the wall of the sheep pen and talk to those sheep. I can still smell the straw. And my hands would be so soft from the lanolin the wool. Sometimes Debbie joined me, and we would sit in those pens playing with the sheep for a long time.

Me showing my white Simmental steer for 4-H. He weight 1250 lbs and that year I won the weight gain trophy.

Me showing my white Simmental steer for 4-H. He weighed 1250 lbs, and that year my steer won the weight gain trophy — for the largest gain during the season.

In the winter, it was cozy in the barn. The lights were soft and it was actually quite a bit warmer inside than outside. We would close up the windows to keep the wind from whipping in. I loved it in there. The sheep were always talking — baaaaaaaa and mehhhhhhh — and they rarely stopped. The steers had these big noses and you could see their breath in the cold air. Bob usually cleaned the steer pen. But sometimes we took turns. He didn’t pay much mind to the other animals. He took care of his two steers. I only raised one.

Tommy took care of the pigs. He would spray their pen down with water and the dung would go out the back of the barn. Dad had built that wall with a gap so that it was easier to clean the pig pen. And it’s true what they say about pig pens — pigs love to be messy. They love to roll in mud and muck and be sprayed with the hose! They’re not so cuddly and not so cute, so I stuck with the sheep and the steers. 🙂

In the winter we carried water. Later after Dad put in the automatic, heated waterers, we didn’t have to lug giant pails of water from the house to the barn. The steers basin was stainless steel, and I would shine that bowl until it sparkled, making it so fresh for them. All they had to do was the push the button with their nose and it filled the bowl with fresh water. The sheep and pigs had spigots that they would lick and when the lever was pressed, water came from the spigot. The water was always clean and always fresh.

Just a few days after the lambs were born — they could barely stand.

Just week or so after the lambs were born — they could barely stand. (Love the hair by the way).

Dad showing Debbie how to sheer her sheep before the fair.

Dad showing Debbie how to shear her sheep before the fair. He always taught us — he never did it for us.

My ewe Amanda had two baby lambs on Easter Sunday. It was the event of the year and all my family was there to watch, perched on the walls of the pens and sitting on bales of hay. Our cousins, Teresa and Matt were in town from Parkersburg, WV and their whole family was there too — and Aunt Mary and my grandparents! There were at least 13 people there for the event!

We had never birthed any animals! My Dad did what instinct told him — and two little lambs were born that night. I remember kneeling at Amanda’s head, talking to her softly, coaching her through it. My heart was pounding with excitement! One lamb was completely black — I named him Buster and the other was white with black spots — I named him BoBo. I stayed in the barn with the newborns most of the night before my Dad made me go inside to bed. You couldn’t keep me from the barn after that. I would go out as soon as I got home from school every day. Debbie’s ewe, Cassandra had just one lamb a couple of weeks later, and she named her Christina. The ram that fathered the baby lambs was named Sam. He was a peculiar bugger with his big lips — he would open the pen gate and the sheep would get out in the pasture — we couldn’t figure out how the gate was getting opened. When we caught him in the act, we couldn’t believe it. He even had a mischievous look in his eyes.

I miss all those sheep. I loved them all so much!

That barn was home to lots of cats. One time I counted 23 of them. Most of them were extremely friendly, and you could pick up a cat almost anywhere around the barn. I remember we were stacking hay off the back of the truck near an area where we had stacked straw just a week before. And out popped a cat. I climbed off the truck, suspecting she had a litter of kittens in that straw — and yep, there were four tiny fur balls all cuddled in a nest that Mama cat had made. My Dad was saying something under his breath, but I made sure we didn’t disturb the nest. The next day, she had moved them, and I couldn’t find them for three weeks!

We had an old pony named Turk for a short while. Someone had given him to us and my Dad thought it might be good for us to have a horse. The problem was that all us kids felt too big to ride him. He required a lot of attention, brushing and fussing. And he got extremely lonely without any other horses. Our barn just wasn’t big enough for us to add anymore to it, so we gave Turk away to a good home.

There were mostly good times in that barn, until we lost an animal.

We tried not to cry in front of Dad and Mom, because they felt bad enough themselves. But when I was alone, I would weep for them. Buster and Bobo got a disease that killed Buster first. I found him lying in the straw one day. I sat next to him in the straw for some time with tears streaming down my face, sobbing. My sister ran to get my Dad. We called the Vet, but lost Bobo two days later before we even knew what they had. I was completely and utterly devastated. The disease killed our entire flock of sheep, and my Dad was so heart broken that we never got anymore.

Ahhh — the old barn. The sights, the sounds, the smells. The days of being literally covered in poop, sweat and who knows what else. Would I do it all over again? Yes, in a heartbeat — for Dad I would do anything.

Life changes and we move on. Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye — tearing down that barn somewhat signified the end of a perfect time in our lives. A perfect time when we were all happy and healthy, and we had Dad with us — who was the source of all that love.

Always B E L I E V E.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Magic

Our wedding invitation

Our wedding invitation. It was an accordion-folded piece with the rainbow colors of our wedding (click on image to enlarge).

Today is our 12-year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years. It seems like it was just last year. I think about all the things that has changed in the past 12 years, but one thing remains the same — Tom and me. The vows we made meant something to us and no matter how difficult things may have been, we found our way together. And we’ve always celebrated all the moments of joy in our marriage — ever thankful to God.

God has been a big part of our marriage since day one. We turned to God after being diagnosed with cancer a couple of months before our wedding. You can’t imagine the total devastation and despair we felt during that time. You can’t imagine what it felt like to be just eight weeks from our wedding day and be faced with the knowledge that we would never have any children together — and my future was so uncertain. I was scared — more scared than I ever knew I could be — for the first time, I wasn’t invincible. Plus, we were in the middle of everything — it was simply overwhelming. I started wondering if I should release Tom from his obligation — I was feeling incredibly guilty on top of everything else.

Leaving the church — we were just married on July 7, 2001.

Leaving the church — we were just married on July 7, 2001. We were overjoyed in celebrating life.

In such a short time, we had so many dreams. We loved each other — and I couldn’t imagine my life without Tom in it. And the truth was, Tom couldn’t imagine his life without me either. He showed his true character when I needed him the most. And I believe our vows meant something even more when we said them on this day, 12 years ago. It was a beautiful gift that God gave to us — joining us in holy matrimony.

My brother Bob talked to us numerous times throughout our marriage, but his initial conversation gave us clear direction in the middle of the chaos. His words of wisdom gave us the strength we needed and our path became clear — we were following the path that God had planned for us. Bob told us that we could make all the plans we wanted, but in the end, it’s God’s plan we follow. And if we can let him lead us in our lives, we will have fulfilling and happy lives. That was the moment that we learned to trust God. This was life changing for me.

It was like a someone flicked on a light switch. I had resolve that my life now had a new purpose. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what happened. I remember my new doctor — an oncologist named Fred Price, called me on a Sunday night to talk to me. My surgery was scheduled for the coming Tuesday. I’m sure he didn’t know what to think of me — I was my usual outgoing and happy person with him on the phone. There were no tears, I was ready to move forward. I replaced fear and anxiety with trust in God. And we did that throughout our marriage during all the difficult times.

I know it’s my anniversary, and I’m reflecting on the things that surrounded our wedding 12 years ago. But those things directly impacted our marriage and shaped it to what it is today. So I decided to put together my list of things that has kept us strong.

  1. Give it to God. By putting complete trust in him, we are able to stay positive and know that we are following his plan for us. Plus, God gives us both hope, peace and unimaginable moments of joy. No matter how hard things may get, we know that he is always with us, and we are never alone.
  2. Laugh together. At the stupid things, at the funny things — at everything you can. Sometimes, in the middle of a project, when things were just not going right — we would laugh instead of getting angry at each other. Sometimes we would get angry too — but laughter is always the best medicine. And with a husband like Tom, it’s not hard to do. He’s also joking and goofing around.
  3. Respect each other. I never say anything that would hurt Tom’s feelings. And he does the same for me. It’s kind of a silent rule that we are kind to each other even if we’re angry. Oh — and the going to bed angry advice you get on your wedding day — it’s okay to go to bed angry. Sometimes you just need some time to think things through and see things differently tomorrow.
  4. Lean on each other. When bad things happen, you deal with it the best you can, and you have each other to make it through — you do it together as a team. Sure, there are times during my illness that I feel completely alone, but those are my trials. And then are times that I am so thankful I have such a wonderful partner.
  5. Celebrate the good, even the smallest of things. We celebrate as much as we can for all kinds of reasons — with our family and close friends — we love you all!
  6. Count your blessings. The past 12 years has blest us with so many things. It’s so easy to focus on the things we don’t have. Our gifts are so abundant and we’re ever so thankful to God.
  7. Find time for just the two of you. We do so much with family and friends that sometimes we need to schedule some time for just the two of us. Like having date night once a month or scheduling a couple of long weekend trips somewhere romantic. It gives us time to reconnect and just enjoy each other.
  8. Look for magic moments. Realize that sometimes the simplest things can change your whole day. It’s those little moments in time that can pass so quickly that if we’re not looking, can miss something very special.
  9. Never stop dreaming and do something unexpected. Tom and I are always making grand plans of some kind. That keeps our marriage exciting and the future filled with life and love. Doing something unexpected takes us out of our routine — like the jet ski we bought this summer. Okay — unexpected!!! Yet exciting!
  10. Curl up with a cat. Okay, this one is completely therapeutic! Besides the fact that Benny completely annoys me while I’m trying to finish my blog post, I love that little guy, and he or Sidney can brighten my mood anytime. And the same for Tom. For as much as he says, “kick the cat,” he really means, “my life would have less joy without those two little fur balls.”

Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky. Today Tom washed the bed sheets, the towels and whatever miscellaneous laundry we had. He helped me clean the kitchen by taking all of the furniture out of it. He then swept the floors before swiffering it. He helped me clean the stainless and all the surfaces. He made it so easy for me to clean the hardwood — he did all the prep. And while I did that, he put the bed back together and vacuumed the entire house. He took out all the trash and made countless trips up and down the stairs. And then he asked me what else he could do to help.

We truly are one and tackle everything together, side-by-side. We rarely do things without each other. We took vows before God, and we live those vows with such conviction. Our love is truly a once-in-a-life love. Our life is filled with that once-in-a-lifetime magic.

Happy Anniversary Tom. I will love you forever and eternity.

Always B E L I E V E !

Frozen in Time

I had one of those “magic moments” last weekend when Tom and I went boating at Shenango Lake with my family. We truly had one of the most enjoyable and memorable days to kick off summer! There were a few minutes during the day that I stopped to take it all in — and it literally took my breath away.

It was the Saturday before Father’s Day, and I was already feeling a bit of melancholy without Dad here. We had planned to take our new wave runner out for the first time of the season — and our first time ever — it’s a 1996 Seadoo — we purchased from good friends of ours. We couldn’t take it out the weekend we bought it, because it was too cold. I had gotten a kidney infection on Wednesday night and missed two days of work from the fevers and pain — I was miserable. We figured our chances of going out over the weekend were pretty much not happening. But Saturday I got up with no pain, no fevers, feeling on top of the world before 7 am — which is a miracle in itself for me on the weekend! I made Tom a big breakfast — pancakes and bacon, and we sat down to watch the morning news — and learned that this day was going to be 83° — and quite possibly the most perfect day of the summer for us. We decided to take it out.

We met up with my brother, Tommy, my sister Debbie and her girls, Megan and Tara. Debbie’s husband, Scott came as well, but he didn’t join us on the water — he fished from the shore. Tommy has a pretty big recreational boat that he wake boards with or pulls someone on a tube. Not my thing to ride the tube, because it’s so jarring — nor something my doctors would probably ever approve, so I go along for the ride and enjoy the day under the sun. And as I think about it, I’m not sure what my doctors would think about me on a wave runner either — but I think they would approve of me enjoying life to the fullest — and being as active as I’m comfortable, while knowing my limits.

My brother Tommy testing the limits of the jet ski.

My brother Tommy testing the limits of the jet ski.

Before lunch, everyone managed to ride the jet ski either by themselves or in a duo. Tommy was the crazy one, driving it at top speed and then turning sharply 360°, causing the nose of the wave runner to plummet down into the water, kicking the back-end up with water gushing all around him. I knew that was something I would never even attempt — even on my bravest day! My husband took it out the most, taking each of my nieces on it. Everyone in my family, except for me, had their boating license already, so even my nieces were allowed to drive it alone. I had to get mine before we took it out.

So, I had managed to pass my boaters safety course earlier in the week. It took me over six hours online, and I kept getting confused on the same things — the night time lights — it was like one of those old math problems, “if a train is traveling from Seattle to Pittsburgh at a speed of 72 miles per hour…” This test had questions like, “If you see one white light on a boat at night with a red light is it: a) a sailboat; b) a sailboat with a motor c) the back of a motorized boat or d) did you actually study for the test?” That’s how it felt anyways, I would seriously get confused. Not to mention when I studied online, I kept skimming over the areas that weren’t super relevant to me — after all, my “PWC or “personal water craft” doesn’t have any lights as it’s put away well before dark. So I don’t really care what color the lights are! Anyways, I passed and Tommy kept asking me things like, “Ok, so you know what to do if you flip it over…?” and I was like, “that is NEVER going to happen.” LOL. I guess you never know, but for me, it’s highly unlikely.

Tommy’s boat has these big speakers mounted to his wake boarding tower. It’s a major set up that was pretty foreign to me as he kept describing it all winter on Facebook. He managed to rig up the sound system to stream music live from the internet through his phone using some bluetooth device he found online. And, that’s when the moment happened…

Left to right: Tom, Debbie, Tommy, Tara and Megan.

Left to right: Tom, Debbie, Tommy, Tara and Megan.

Tommy and Tom had tied the jet ski to the boat and we were going to have lunch together. Nothing fancy, but Debbie pulled cold cuts out of the cooler and everyone was chattering about as they fixed their sandwiches, trying to get a seat in the shade under the canopy. The song “Highway Don’t Care,” by Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban was blaring out of his speakers, and I was sitting in the back seat so I could get the full affect. The moment just reminded me of us sitting in my Dad’s fishing boat as kids as my Mom pulled out cold cut sandwiches, cookies and soda. I took a picture of everyone and in that moment, my eyes welled up with tears — it made me so happy — it doesn’t get any better than this — these are the magic moments in life! These are those fractions, those seconds, those moments in time that if you’re not paying attention, will just pass you by — a missed opportunity. Tom had to ask me twice if I wanted ketchup or mayonnaise — and the word, “ketchup,” caught in my throat, but I quickly recovered — thankful that I had my sunglasses on so that everyone wouldn’t wonder why the tears. It’s been over a week since this moment happened, yet I remember it like it just happened seconds ago — frozen in time.

I pray that I am able to realize one magic moment every day. Sometimes I think that I can’t experience them if I’m too busy or too stressed — or simply because I wasn’t looking. I think the formula is pretty easy:  family/friends + love + faith = magic moments. For me, maybe a little nostalgia mixed in as well. I also pray that everyone is able to take time in their busy lives to make note of all those little moments that touch their heart.

Always B E L I E V E !

God’s Blessings For All!

It’s no wonder everyone is angry about things today, because it’s so easy to get fired up every time you go online and attempt to read the news. I’ve learned to just ignore articles around specific subjects, because I’m just happier that way.

But today, I read an article on Yahoo that spoke to me directly — as a female CEO. It was the biggest piece of bullshit that I have ever read — I really don’t know why I let it upset me — it’s because this guy was so offensive to me as a woman.

So this guy named Peter Heck, some renowned “religious” public speaker and author (that I never heard of) — was speaking at a high school graduation about the balance of family and work — and turned his discussion to the females in the crowd. He said, and I quote, “I challenge you to devote yourself to your families and your children. If you choose to have a career, God’s blessings upon you. But I challenge you to recognize what the world scoffs at, that your greatest role in your life will be that of wife and mother. The greatest impact you could ever contribute to our world is a loving investment in the lives of your precious children. To solve the problems plaguing our society, we don’t need more women CEOs. We need more women as invested mothers.”

Wowwwwwza. What a male chauvinistic, egotistical jerk this guy really is. “your greatest role in your life will be that of wife and mother.” Hmmmm, let me think about that one. While that’s indeed a great role in life, it doesn’t pertain to many of us — especially those of us that cannot have a baby — didn’t think about that one, did you Peter? You assume that God blesses all women with babies. And husbands. And good marriages. And all the other things needed to fit into your perfect family. Maybe he has a different plan for some of us! Maybe you need to open your mind just a tad outside your 1950’s comfort zone.

“To solve the problems plaguing our society, we don’t need more women CEOs. We need more women as invested mothers,” Oh, so that’s it — thanks Peter! I just couldn’t figure out how we solve all the problems in this world. You’ve made it so simple in your little mind. Of course, let’s leave it up to a woman, because if anyone can actually do it, it would be a woman. So I guess what you’re really saying is that all these men who are going on crazy killing sprees in our society were neglected as little boys or something. Hmmm, yes, that must be it.

Feeling threatened Peter? Not happy as a child Peter? Living in the wrong era Peter? It’s not about defining gender roles and keeping the woman in her place as you believe. The only thing that’s going to help solve the problems in our society is faith — bringing God back into our lives and making him the center of it.

Women are proving to be very effective in companies today, because they have those intangible skills that many men don’t. They lead by their intuition and are guided by their faith. They know how to nurture and care for a group of people. I have never been a huge feminist or even close, but I believe that workplace balance is achieved by both genders contributing equally — just like a good marriage.

Women play a great role in our society. Women who have found that work-life balance are some of the happiest women I know — and I know quite a few of them! I would never want to tell my nieces that their purpose on this earth is to worship some egotistical guy, have his babies, iron his laundry and cook his meals. My nieces can do whatever they want to in this world — only limited by their imaginations! If it’s God’s plan for them to be a wife and mother, then that’s wonderful! But his plan may be something entirely different — and that’s just as wonderful!

And Peter, as someone in the public spotlight, it’s your job to inspire our younger generation! To speak of how hope, faith and love can change the world — not filling people’s minds with your prejudices. Go out and look for a family that does it well — and I know some of them! And, for all those graduating high school women out there — if you choose to have a career, be a wife and mother or none of that, God’s blessings upon you.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Miracles Do Happen Everyday

This weekend was my friend, Jen’s baby shower. So back on February 6, I posted that “miracles happen everyday,” and I had a secret. Well, the secret has long been out that Jen and her husband Mikey were having a baby. And while a baby is always a miracle — for Jen and Mikey — it was a long time coming. I was overjoyed at the news — and just as much overjoyed when she told me they were having a baby girl. A daughter. A sweet, precious little girl. Sigh…..

The shower was nice, because I got to sit at a table with old acquaintances — two from my previous employer and two who have left MarketSpace within the last year. And it didn’t take long for one these friends to tell me about the last few years and her bout with ovarian cancer. I didn’t know — and it wasn’t like Jen to gossip, especially when it involved something personal with someone she cared about. She went on to tell me her story — about her surgery and how she went through chemo treatments for an entire year — completely clean and cancer free after that time. But then there was a scare recently where spots showed up in her abdomen on her CT scan. It would mean treatments directly to her abdomen. It meant starting this all over. And I know better than anyone the defeat that comes with this kind of news. The defeat, the fear, the panic, the resolve, the strength and the courage to move forward. That’s kind of the process that happens within a very short period of time.

She prayed. I wished I had known, because I would have prayed too. She lit candles — and she went to a healing mass with her sister.

I’d be a little timid of a “healing mass” too, as she was when her sister first brought it up. You see it on TV and think, “this is all for show.” But, I believe. My aunt when to a healing mass in South Carolina — with Father Fernando Suarez when she was very sick. She needed to have surgery and we were all praying for her. She went to this healing mass and when Fr. Suarez laid his hands on her, she fainted. Just like the shows you see on TV, she dropped to the ground and they moved her to the side of the stage with others that had also fainted. When she came to quite a bit later, she couldn’t believe she had actually passed out. She had this feeling come over her body that caused her faint. That next week, she went in for her surgery, was prepped and in the operation room when her doctor realized she no longer needed the surgery — a problem that had escalated over two months and there was really no way for it to heal without surgery. When she was brought to from the anesthesia, the doctor talked to her about how this was quite impossible — and she asked him to pray with her — and together they prayed aloud in the recovery room. It was her miracle — her healing miracle from God.

And for my friend, it was the same story. While she didn’t have hands laid upon her, she prayed during the mass — and her sister prayed — and together their faith was so strong, and there were so many prayers offered for the sick — that she had her own miracle. The spots were just gone — and the doctor had no explanation for how that could happen.

I think it’s interesting that she said to me, “I have always believed in miracles — I just didn’t think they could happen to me.” I think we all feel that way. You hear stories and you think it happens to other people. If you truly believe — and you open your heart to the love of God — you can have your own miracles. And not only that, you are rejuvenated by the miracles happening all around you, everyday. You see miracles in the simplest of things and miraculous stories find their way to you. I had no idea I’d walk into Jen’s baby shower and hear about a wonderful miracle.

I sat there as Jen opened her gifts, watching her smile and hold up the cutest little baby girl outfits. She absolutely glowed! This miracle couldn’t have happened to a more wonderful friend — what a great Mother she will be. And next to me sat someone I hadn’t seen in eight years — and she too had her own miracle in that time.

God shows us miracles everyday.  Just  B E L I E V E !

St. Francis of Assisi

St_Francis_of_AssisiOn Thursday night, I had planned to go to bed by 11 pm. I was so tired from the exhausting week, and I was looking forward to my White Space Friday — A good night’s sleep is what I really needed. I was still wide awake at 10:45, and as I scrolled through the television channels, I came across a movie on TCM network — St. Francis of Assisi. It had me intrigued, because I had never seen it before, and St. Francis has always been one of my favorite saints — he believed in true peace and loved all animals. When our new Pope took the name of St. Francis, I was overjoyed.

So this movie was made in Italy in 1961. It was quite basic by today’s standards, I watched for a few minutes and figured I’d go to bed. But a half hour later, I was so engrossed in the movie, there would be no going to bed now. It was a very simple view of the life of Francis Bernadone. The story goes that he was born to a wealthy merchant in Assisi, Italy. He left his father to go and fight in the crusades with his friend Count Paolo of Vandria with the dream to become a great knight. While traveling with the soldiers, he was called by God to leave them and give up all his worldly goods and dedicate his life to God. Even though the movie was quite elementary, there were some really beautiful scenes. I especially loved the scene when the two cheetahs were unleashed on him in the desert on his way to see the Muslim sultan. He tamed those cheetahs and by that, gained access and respect from the sultan.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

There was another scene while on his journey with his 11 followers to Rome to see the Pope to establish a new order, when a white bird (which I assume was a dove), landed on St. Francis and was not afraid. He told it to then fly into the sky and the flock of birds led them to Rome. This reminded me of a recent picture I saw being shared on Facebook (to the left) of our new Pope, Pope Francis.

The movie goes through St. Francis’ life in how he rebuilt the church, grew the faith across Europe and taught the message of peace. I found it so relevant to today’s world — it was amazing to realize that the struggle in Jerusalem in the early 13th century were the same battles of today — Muslims against Christians, both fighting for the holy land. There is still no peace, and it has grown into even more violence as we’ve seen in recent years/days with terrorism. It makes me think that we need a man like St. Francis today — with the ability to draw others to him just by his simple faith — but realize that peace seems so unreachable with such extremists and terrorists in this world — the task would be too great for any one person. Or would it, if it was God’s will?

The movie’s basic theme was to give up all possessions and follow God by trusting in him. But, I felt that St. Francis was a very sad and lonely man in the movie. This is the only part that I think was poorly done. I would have thought that he should have been portrayed with such great joy with his amazing faith in God — to listen to his calling and leave all his worldly possessions behind. But instead, they showed him just very drab and unemotional. Not to mention, to gain followers by his simple message would require a very approachable and generous man. There was one scene that I felt he had that warmth and love — the one where the children came to him with all their animals to be blest. There had to be 40 or 50 children, carrying ducks, lambs, dogs, cows and other animals with bows tied around their necks — it was beautiful. But other times and in other scenes, like the one where his aristocrat woman friend became a nun — it was dark, and you felt the great sacrifice she was making by the solemness of the ceremony.

When my brother, Bob was ordained a priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh, it was a great day of celebration for us all. Bob was ordained with two other men and this was the first time I had ever been to an ordination. As Bob came down the aisle, tears streaked his face — and I’ll never forget that moment — I truly saw the love he had for God — it was pouring from him as he was filled with so much joy. And that is how I would see St. Francis — someone with much joy to share with his followers.

I think this movie also demonstrates that human nature hasn’t changed since the time of Christ. St. Francis had a lot of resistance from his friends and family on his desire to seek God — and this was a constant struggle throughout the movie. Something that we would all face if we were to take up the cross for Christ.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it worth watching. And if nothing else, it will make you more curious about the life of St. Francis.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I Believe

ChristianityI started to write this post, but then I decided I shouldn’t write it. I’ve thought about it for the past two nights. But then I realized that I started this blog to share the journey of my faith and what wonderful things remind me to always believe. So here I am, sharing this post.

So it goes, I got caught up on reading my magazines that have been sitting on the counter for a couple of months. The February 11, 2013 issue of People magazine, featuring Tim McGraw on the cover, had a story, buried pretty far back in the magazine, featuring a new book called “Beyond Belief”. The title of the article was called “Escape from Scientology.”

The story is a memoir of Jenna Miscavige Hill, who grew up as a child at the Ranch, a San Jacinto, CA boarding school for children of Scientology executives. Jenna is the niece of David Miscavige, the church’s head honcho. The article goes on to describe how they were brainwashed by intimidation and fear their entire lives. They didn’t watch television or interact with anyone on the outside. As children, they were treated like they were in a military boot camp with drills and physical labor.

She met her husband, Dallas while still part of the Scientology community. Dallas had worked at the Scientology Celebrity Center in Los Angeles. So he could attest to how well celebrities were treated — with gorgeous accommodations. There was no risk from someone from the outside seeing the “child labor camps.”

As I read this article, I couldn’t believe that a cult such as this is operating right here in the United States. And the concept behind the organization is so ridiculous that it’s truly amazing that anyone with common sense would believe it. There’s nothing to substantiate it. But Jenna didn’t have the option to choose, she was born into it.

In the article, Jenna says, “I am no longer a believer. It was a huge adjustment to realize that the life I am living may be my one and only.” I lost two hours of sleep over that statement. My mind kept going over it — she was no longer a believer of Scientology — excellent — but now, she doesn’t believe in anything. And she doesn’t believe there’s anything more than this life. How disappointing and what a sad life.

How much I wanted to tell her to find Jesus and follow us that she will be healed. But can you imagine what she thinks about the Catholic Church or any organized religion of any kind? As I think about it from her perspective, how would you find that faith after all that you’ve been taught to believe? And it disturbs me that someone could easily say that my Catholic faith is really a cult. It’s not that I haven’t heard that before. I hear things all the time, even from people that are close to me, questioning their faith, asking me to justify my beliefs.

Did I have a moment of doubt? My Catholic faith is based on the Bible and years of history, as are other Christian religions. My Catholic faith teaches us love and compassion — there are no child labor camps. We teach our children to be kind to each other. We teach our children to know Jesus and to have faith in him. And to call on him when they are in trouble. Sure, we give money to the church, but the church needs money to operate. It’s not a profit center. And all are welcome, regardless of income, social status, where they live or how they dress. My Catholic faith is the foundation of my philanthropic efforts and that is good in this world.

So today as I struggled with my thoughts around this, I read today’s reflection in my Little Black Book for Lent and found my clarity:

Jesus said to the devil in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’” Luke 4:8

The tempting of Jesus in the desert is told in three Gospels and it represents the temptations that also confront every disciple of his… it goes on to say…

Temptations come at me from things I see people do and hear people say. They come at me from what I read and watch. All temptations are not equal. Some are stronger than others, but there is an even greater difference. Some temptations deal with superficial elements of my life, while others aim at a more foundational level.

There may be times when I am tempted to question whether Jesus’ whole way of life makes sense, whether these basic teachings are believable, or whether this whole Christianity thing is worth it after all.

Wow! I feel like Jesus himself wrote this reflection for me to read on this day after being conflicted, because of the Scientology article. I was being tempted to question my faith and reaffirm it. But not until I read this did I have the courage to write this post.

As for Jenna Miscavige Hill, her husband and her two beautiful little boys, I hope she finds Jesus in this lifetime. And I pray that she is able to heal from what she burden she came into this life with. And I pray that she is able to teach her boys about Jesus’ love and forgiveness. For that is what will heal her.

The Zombecks are Reunited

Heaven_soarMy Mom called around lunch time today. We’ve been catching up on Saturdays ever since she’s been working all week at the township building — she’s too tired to talk in the evenings. Hopefully her replacement will be trained soon as she officially retired December 31st!

Anyways, she called to let me know that Aunt Helen passed away this morning. She had been sick for about a month and about three weeks ago, she left the hospital to stay with her daughter, Nancy. Aunt Helen was my grandma’s youngest sister and the last of the Zombeck siblings — there were seven of them. She died at the age of 90. And my Mom was sad, but she was very happy that all of them were together again. She told me that Aunt Helen had been seeing things all week. Arlene (another one of Aunt Helen’s daughters) told my Mom that on Thursday evening she was calling out, “Laura, Laura, Laura…,” who was my grandma. She had passed peacefully with all of her children around her. And I know my grandma was there to greet her if not the angel that carried her to Heaven.

Aunt Helen was seven years younger than my grandma. What I remember most about her was that she was so beautiful. Even at age 80, she looked to be no older than 60, and her face was always so perfectly made up and wrinkle-free. Her hair was always blonde, and she never let it go to white like my grandma. I remember as a child when I learned she was my grandma’s sister that I couldn’t imagine it — she looked just so much younger — more like her daughter. She was polish through and through and spent Saturday evenings at the dance hall, dancing the polka all night long, drinking beer. Yes, the Zombeck women were beer-drinkers all the way. Aunt Helen always wore bright red lipstick every week to church. As she got older, the lipstick was not always on her lips — I guess she should have put her reading glasses on to apply her lipstick! She belonged to St. Rose of Lima, and we saw her often, sitting in the back on Saturday evenings.

My grandma and Aunt Helen looked the most alike, but you could tell that Aunt Annie was their sister too. Aunt Annie had passed in 1993, Aunt Celia in 1999,  my grandma in 2008 and now today, Aunt Helen. They were all crazy little polish women with giggles that matched their somewhat broken English. It’s the way they emphasized their words… Pam would be spoken as Paaa-am, and Carol (my Mom) would be Kaaay-roll. They came from Poland and their parents were unable to speak English well, so the children had a limited vocabulary. The brothers were the same.

All of Zombecks were very superstitious. My grandma and her sisters would quote superstitions to us all the time, “don’t do this…oooooooo — Paaa-am, don’t do that…,” my grandma would say. My Dad called them “all the crazies,” but I was fascinated by it. To this day, I remember all those superstitions and “don’t do that, ever.” They could see spirits and talk to loved ones that had passed. There were always so many miracles in the family, and they shared them with all of us that believe — even miracles when Glenda passed away last year. A few of us have some of those gifts, more so than others. When I was younger, some things happened that scared me, and I learned how to block it out. And I truly believe that the Zombeck women were very gifted women and not “the crazies.” My cousin, Barbara, Aunt Annie’s daughter is one of those with the gift. When I see her at the funeral on Monday, I know she will have talked to Aunt Helen, even though she lives in Erie, PA, two hours away. She will have known that Aunt Helen passed before anyone called to tell her.

Aunt Helen was absolutely the caregiver of the family. When my grandma was in the nursing home, she visited her several days a week if not all seven. When her daughter, Glenda was sick with cancer and living in a more permanent hospice facility, she visited her every single day, even during bad weather for more than a year. When Glenda came home, Aunt Helen nursed her every day. When my Mom had her heart attack, she was the first one at the hospital and visited every day. And this was for all of the family — she was there for everyone. She gave of herself freely and her time, and her heart was full of love for all those she knew. She lived a humble life with simple, yet deep faith.

Tonight as Tom and I went to Communion, they played “On Eagles Wings,” and I smiled at Tom. For this song represents those of who have passed in our families. And I knew at that moment that Aunt Helen had made it safely to the other side, where she is dancing the polka with her sisters and drinking a freshly poured draft beer. For they are celebrating that they are all together for eternity.

On Eagle’s Wings
by Michael Joncas

Verse One:
You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in his shadow for life, say to the Lord: “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!”

And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.

Verse Two:
The snare of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear: under his wings your refuge, his faithfulness your shield. (REFRAIN)

Verse Three:
For to his angels he’s given a command to guard you in all of your ways; upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. (REFRAIN)