Deer on the Move

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.

George R. R. Martin

When the calendar flips to August, the days of summer are numbered – literally and figuratively.  Now as we are in the last week of the month, the signs of “Back to School” are really ramping up. Summer camps have ended, ads for school supplies are more plentiful both on TV and in print, and there is talk of getting those last beach days in over the Labor Day weekend.

When you live in Southeastern Pennsylvania you need to keep your eyes peeled for another sign that autumn will soon be upon us – deer on the move.  I took this picture of some young deer taking in the sights of a local neighborhood one recent August afternoon.  There was one male and two females scampering down the sidewalk and up into a driveway and backyard.  One little lady must have been camera shy because she hid behind that large tree. 

Seeing the deer, reminds me that my mostly unscheduled days are coming to an end. While others may be sad and lamenting the end of summer, I am feeling renewed. I am looking forward to setting off on an academic adventure with my new students, cool days and even cooler nights, sweatshirts and scarecrows.

I am so lucky to live in an area where I get to experience the changing climate of all four seasons. When I see the deer on the move, I know we are moving closer to my favorite season of the year – autumn.

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.

Ode to My Fellow Slicers

“Endings are not always a bad thing, it just means that something new can begin.” ~ Unknown

We have come to the end of the 31 day Slice of Life Challenge. It feels good to have accomplished this feat, yet a relief that it is over. Being a part of this challenge and interacting with so many kind and thoughtful writers is a gift I give myself each March. I hope that this is the beginning of a year filled with writing and building on the ideas I have found or started this month. Thank you for your support, kind words, and fine example. Hope to see you on Tuesdays!

Ode to My Fellow Slicers

The month of March has come to an end,

to my fellow Slicers my thanks I send.

Challenged to write a post every day,

when I was blocked you showed me the way.

You inspired me to stretch and grow,

learned more from you than you’ll ever know.

With your feedback I have seen the light.

I’m sad to say that it ends tonight!

Riding the High

#SOL19
William Tennent HS Jazz Ensemble (left) & Lower Moreland HS Jazz Ensemble (right)

“Music is a safe kind of high.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

I am still riding the high from last night’s concert. It is true that I am very proud of my son and the work he does with his music students, but it’s more than that. Being a music teacher myself for 23 years, I know the hard work and dedication it takes from students, parents, and teachers alike to put on a concert or show. In an age where kids get a bad rap for constantly playing video games, lacking grit, or having extremely short attention spans, musicians smash that stereotype.

The young men and women on that stage last night have spent countless hours in rehearsals and even more time practicing on their own. They have listened to guest clinicians and seriously taken the critiques given to them and used the tips to improve their technique and sound. They are counter-culture crusaders who revere the history of jazz and work to keep the standards alive.

What I was most struck by last night was the sheer joy on the faces of the musicians, the directors, and the audience. As each ensemble performed the members of the other group looked on with rapt attention and admiration for fellow musicians. The video above is the last chart of the evening which was a combined effort. The ensembles rehearsed this for about 15 minutes, which is incredible when you see and hear the result.

Jazz gives musicians the opportunity to express themselves through improvisation. These brave teenagers stepped out of their comfort zones and stood tall and proud as they took turns improvising. You could see the satisfaction in their body language and hear it through their instruments. I am still smiling today.

These dedicated teens have learned so many skills by being part of a musical ensemble. Some of them will go on to musical careers, some will continue to play for fun, and some may not pick up the instrument again after graduation, but one thing I know for sure is that none of them will forget what they experienced on that stage last night.

Bravo!