11:11

Remember when you see 11:11 you are in the presence of peace.

Willowsoul.com

My mom passed away on 9/20/18.  As the first anniversary of her passing approached, I began seeing 11:11 on my cell phone, the cable box, and my clock radio.  I was missing my mom terribly, and the first anniversary seemed to make me more emotional than I was when she passed.

I don’t know what made me start searching the Internet about the meaning of seeing 11:11, but  I did. I have never put much stock in astrology or numerology, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  There were so many different possibilities to explain why I was seeing 11:11, from it being an opportunity portal, that everything is a result of my thoughts and feelings, I am on a path to awakening, or that I am supposed to make a wish. 

[On a side note – I was clueless about the 11:11 wish and how many people actually make them.  That is until I started my search, then one day I won a signed copy of The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic by entering a Twitter contest.  More about this later.]

The meaning that hit home for me though was the one that said a deceased loved one was sending me a message.  Now that was something I knew could be true. You see my mother’s birthday was 11/11/27. Whenever anyone asked her when her birthday was, she would rattle off the rhyme with a smile.  

11:11 has a new twist.  Now when I see those numbers appear, I take it as a sign that my mom is with me, letting me know that things will be OK, and reminding me that I am strong enough to handle whatever life is flinging my way. She was always so positive and peaceful no matter what she was facing, never complaining, never forgetting to celebrate each day.  She was my biggest cheerleader and confidante. And although there is a running family joke about who was her “favorite,” we all know in our hearts that she loved each of us just the way we each needed to be loved and was proud of the adults we had become and lives we made for ourselves.We don’t need a number to tell us that.

So today, on what would have been her 92nd birthday, I am sad that she is not here physically, but I will celebrate knowing that she is always close to my heart and still guiding me and cheering me on. 

[I won a copy of the book when I retweeted the tweet and told the author 11:11 was my mom’s birthday.  Thanks Kim!]

The Christmas Jars

Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.

Kathy Calvin – CEO & President of the United Nations Foundation

Last night I went to see The Christmas Jars movie with six  members of my book club, The Chapter Chicks. I don’t usually go to the movies on a school night, but this was a “one night only” event. We read  Christmas Jars by Jason Wright many years ago. If you are not familiar with the story, “Christmas Jars shares the story of Hope Jensen, an aspiring journalist who uncovers the remarkable secret behind a holiday phenomenon: money-filled glass jars anonymously given to people in need.”

While the plot has the potential of being a Hallmark movie, (Those of you who are regular readers know how much I love those!) the twist is that although the novel is fiction, the Christmas Jars are fact.  Author Jason Wright did this exact thing with his family in 2004 when they started collecting coins in a jar and anonymously gave it to a family in need at Christmas. His experience was the force behind the novel. It was published in 2005 and became a worldwide phenomenon.  People who read the book began collecting coins (and cash) and delivering it anonymously to a family in need at Christmas.

The Chapter Chicks have done this almost every year since we first read the book. We collect our change at home, turn it into paper money then anonymously place our cash in an envelope, so no one knows how much anyone else is giving.  We place the cash in a jar and decorate it with a bow. The jar goes in a gift bag along with a copy of the book. Then one of us gets “tasked” with delivering the jar to our chosen family under cover of darkness, or in the early morning hours before most people are awake, or in even brazenly in the middle of the day.  We ring the bell and run. (Well we use to run – now we need to give ourselves a little more time to make a getaway.) I can’t explain the feeling of sheer joy we all feel when the mission is completed.

Over the years we Chicks have all had our ups and downs, job losses, health issues, floods, fires, deaths, weddings, and births of grandchildren, and we are all in different places financially, yet it doesn’t matter if you place $10 or $100 in the envelope.  The feeling of giving to someone else in need is so satisfying. It makes you take a look at life from a different perspective. You begin to look at your world and see the wonderful gifts you have been given instead of the challenges you face, the goodness in people instead of the evil in society, the power of small gestures instead of the seduction of commercialism.   

If you haven’t read the book, I highly suggest it.  If you have read the book, I hope this a reminder that it is never too late to start a Christmas Jar of your own and make a difference in the life of another.  This is not a religious movement; it is a kindness movement, so if you don’t celebrate Christmas perhaps you can start a “Holiday Jar”, or a “Kindness Jar” or a “Generosity Jar.”  No matter what you decide, don’t miss the opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone else.

Making New Friends

Wherever there are beginners and experts, old and young, there is some kind of learning going on, some kind of teaching. We are all pupils and we are all teachers.

Gilbert Highet

I am the NJHS adviser at my school.  Last year our chapter began cultivating a relationship with residents living in a local assisted living facility. Today was our first monthly visit, and it never ceases to make my heart sing.  The students made paper pumpkins decorated for Autumn (not Halloween – that way the residents can keep them up until Thanksgiving).

The 8th graders broke into three groups and went to three different areas of the facility armed with Halloween picture books, trivia, and jokes.  I went with six students to an area where about 10 seniors were awaiting their arrival. I had to break the ice a little for the students and help them feel comfortable, but once they got going they were great.  They opened with The Night Before Halloween, which garnered chuckles from the “crowd.” In between trivia, which the seniors were very good at, and jokes, which were groaners, the students had conversations with the women and men. The kids asked the seniors what Halloween was like when they were kids, what they wore as costumes etc.  In turn, the seniors asked the kids what sports they played and what they were studying in school. Each were geniunely interested in the stories of the other. We ended the session with a few rounds of Fisher Price basketball. You can’t believe how competitive those ladies were!

As we walked out to awaiting parents, students were all talking about their ideas for the next visits – charades, rhythm instruments, and more seasonal picture books.  The kids and I set out to perform a service, but I think we were the true benefactors. Looking forward to next month!

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!