Shades of Gray

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill

What do you see? Are your eyes drawn to the darkness of the clouds? Maybe you are worried about a torrential downpour or a tornado. Both are valid worries given the look of those clouds. Even here in Pennsylvania we have had some unusually wild weather with hail, flash-flooding and even a few stray tornadoes touching down. We have had some tragic loss of life and destruction of property.

Or are you drawn to the brightness peeking through the storm clouds? You can look at the sky with hope and trust that even if it does rain, the sun will appear at some point.

This can be a metaphor for life. Sometimes we are hopeful and looking for the spots of sunshine each day, and other days we are caught up in the swirling storm clouds. They are not mutually exclusive. We can experience a little of both, but what we choose to focus on depends on our frame of mind.

In my life, not many things are black or white. I tend to always think in shades of gray which isn’t always helpful when I am trying to make a decision, yet I believe it makes me more thoughtful and compassionate.

How do you see things?

Tiger Lilies

Life is like a flower. It can die and wilt at any time, but with a little tender love and care, it will bloom for what seems like forever.

Elizabeth Sanders

Be more like the tiger lilies –

who open wide to the bright new day,

who bend and sway under the weight of gusty winds,

but do not break,

who gently close each evening to rest,

preparing for the next new day.

Legacy of a Leader

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

One week ago, I attended the funeral of Sr. Mary Ellen O’Connell. She was my principal for 13 years, the principal I had worked with the longest during my long teaching career. Sister Mary Ellen was an amazing woman who continued her mercy mission until shortly before her passing at the age of 81.

Her viewing and funeral was a true testament to the impact she had on her teachers, staff, students, and parents. It was heartwarming to see so many former students and parents gather to celebrate her life. While there was some sadness and tears, there was also laughing and reminiscing.

She led with strength – she held her teachers to a very high standard and herself to a higher one while empowering her teachers to find and hone their own strengths.

She led with determination – spearheading a push into the world of technology, enlisting the help of parents to get projects completed while rolling up her sleeves to pitch in as well.

She led with balance – like a momma bear, she protected her faculty and students yet handed out corrective measures as needed.

She led with compassion – supporting teachers, students, and families in times of sorrow (and she had more than her share of opportunities to comfort and console),

She led with appreciation – never taking anything or anyone for granted but always taking the time to send a handwritten thank you note – often with a little gift that was just perfect for the receiver.

She led with joy – celebrating the accomplishments of her students – present and former and sharing in the happy life events of her teachers and staff – hosting parties at the convent.

She led by example – her Catholic faith was the most important thing in her life, and she helped all those she came in contact with to know God’s presence and His unending mercy.

The last time I saw Sr. Mary Ellen was in July of 2018 at a St Catherine of Siena faculty and staff reunion. It was a little shocking to see her come in using a walker with a portable oxygen tank, but that did not deter her. She sat and talked to each of us catching up on what we were doing as well as what our own children were doing. She asked about my children by name even though she hadn’t seen them in over 25 years. That was not unusual for Sr. Mary Ellen; she always remembered her former students by name!

Sr. Mary Ellen was a woman of honor and grace who dedicated her life to Catholic Education in a most unassuming and humble way. She will certainly be missed, but her legacy will live on through the countless number of people whom she inspired to “dream more, learn more, do more and become more.”

Painted Skies

Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, every day can end beautifully. ~Kristen Butler

As the sun sinks below the horizon
at the close of day,
the last vestiges of sunset
stretch across the evening sky.

Nature's brushstrokes,
in shades of pink and blue and touch of gold,
pull pigments over its canvas
creating a watercolor mural.

The Summer of Small Moments

Sometimes you will never know the value of a small moment until it becomes a memory.

Dr. Seuss
Hatboro Gospel Hall Tent Meetings

Each year, at the end of May, this Gospel Tent would appear on a large open field that I passed several times a week on my way to and from various places around town. The meetings took place each night in June, and as fast as it appeared, it disappeared at the end of the month. My kids would love to see it erected because it always signaled that the end of the school year was fast approaching.

Once my kids began to drive and have cell phones, seeing who could spot the tent first each year became a game. Each of us would hope to be the lucky one to get a red light at the intersection, so we could take a picture and send it to the rest of the family in victory!

Now my kids are grown with kids of their own. They don’t live in Horsham anymore, but darn didn’t my son spot it first last summer! This year I am the victor!

I realized that each time I see the tent pitched in that field it brings me back to the years when my kids would be so excited to see it and count the days until the beginning of summer vacation. I have three days left of school, and I am looking forward to summer vacation.

This summer is my summer of small moments. I am going to look for the small things that make me feel happy, or make me wonder, or make an impression on me. It is the little things that become special memories if we take the time to notice them.

Happy summer!

May Devotions

Today was the annual May Procession at my school. It brought back memories of my days in Catholic school and the May Processions I took part in as a student. In those days, the May Procession was held on a Sunday afternoon, and you would see hundreds of children from grades 1-8 processing and reciting the Rosary around the large city block that was our church and school campus. Someone would be on a loud speaker leading the prayer so that we would all be in sync with one another. Each girl had on a little chapel veil or “beanie,” and every child carried a set of rosary beads. Parents and neighbors would line the sidewalks to catch a glimpse of the students. It was a very special day.

The procession would eventually lead to the church where we would sing songs and recite prayers praising the Blessed Virgin Mary and honoring her for the courage she had to say, “Yes,” to God and become the mother of Jesus. It was a big deal, and to be given the honor of being the May Queen, the girl who would crown the statue of Mary, was a huge honor.

Today some of the hymns included Latin words which had me feeling a bit nostaglic. Latin was the language I used to say the responses at Mass when I was in 1st and 2nd grade before the changeover to English.

Today also got me thinking about my mom (not that I don’t think about her everyday) and her deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. I may have mentioned in an earlier blog post that my mom would pray a 52 day Rosary novena. That meant that she would pray a rosary every day for 52 days. Whenever anyone in the family was experiencing a particularly challenging time in their lives, Lucy would put them on the novena list. Those prayers were powerful. Sometimes we thought she had a pipline to heaven.

While my mom’s devotion to the Blessed Mother was a year round practice, the month of May was different. May is Mary’s month. On my mom’s dresser was a rather large statue of Mary. During most of the year, Mary shared that dresser with jewelry, random socks, bills, with a little dust thrown in. In May, however, there was a wonderful transformation which took place. The once cluttered dresser would be cleaned and polished and covered with a starched lace runner. Mary would have a prominent place in the center and there would be a small bud vase carefully placed at her feet. Some days there would be Lilies-of-the-Valley, which grew in front of our house, or violets, or small pieces of lilacs nestled in that vase. Often those same flowers would be woven into a small crown that rested on Mary’s head.

I have lost count of the number of May Processions in which I have taken part, but the hymns and prayers never cease to refresh my spirit and renew my faith – a faith instilled in me by mother, Lucy. My hope is that my mom, a most gentle and humble servant, is celebrating with the Blessed Mother in heaven.

A Time to Rest

Rest is by no means a waste of time. ~ John Lubbock

Yesterday was my last day of the Easter break. I was off on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Monday. I had been looking forward to these five days off in a row for the longest time. Besides going to church and baking ricotta pie, Easter bread and pineapple stuffing, I scheduled a haircut for Thursday, and a massage for Friday. Easter Sunday we ate dinner at my brother and sister-in-law’s newly renovated home (another slice to write). It was lovely. I enjoyed spending time with my nephews and their significant others. My grandkids had a great time hunting for eggs. While I did enjoy all of those things, those “days off” became quiet busy.

So around rolls Monday. I had planned to go to an Aqua Fit class at 9:00 AM, but at 7:00 AM my phone binged with a message from the gym informing me that the class was canceled (oh darn). So I rolled over and went back to sleep. I eventually awoke at 8:30 when my husband got home from the gym. We had breakfast together and watched some morning TV, and I read.

Once Chuck left for work at 11:40, I thought I would go up and shower and get my day “started.” Well, I had to read just one more chapter, and then one more chapter, and then one more. I ended up sitting in the recliner for a few more hours finishing my book with a little nap in between.

I finally got out of my pajamas around 3:00! I showered and felt really great. I got so much done in the few hours I had before Chuck returned home around 6:30. I changed the sheets on my bed, did several loads of laundry, folded and put away laundry that had been hanging out in a basket for several days. I did all this while watching a Hallmark movie that I had recorded on my DVR (so much more efficient since you can fast forward through the commercials).

Giving myself permission to stay in my jammies and read gave my mental health such a boost! I felt accomplished in so many ways – finished a book, finished some laundry, finished a movie. I felt renewed. It made getting up for school this morning much easier, and that good feeling stayed with me all day. Maybe I need to “rest” more often!