Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dinner Date

Just when I have had enough of the talking back, the insolence and the general challenges that come with parenting “an almost tween,” my son turns around and does something so sweet and special that all of those bad times melt away. I have to admit I am a softie anyway but he really got me this time.

My husband was leaving town on a Saturday night for a conference so I decided that we should go to five o’clock mass and then out to dinner. The argument for the defense began. “Mom, I hate going to church, they say the same thing every week and it is so boring.” He started.

“Well, it is my job to make sure that you have good values, just like it is my job to make sure that you eat your vegetables. Going to church just reinforces what we believe in.” He bounced the basketball hard on the pavement of the driveway and thought about his next argument.

“Mom, we already have good values, we don’t need to go to church! Please mom!” I was finished with this banter and I was not going to give in. “Inside in fifteen minutes and then shower and change.” I said as I went inside to cajole my daughter into doing the same. In the background I could hear, “Come on mom!” But I chose to ignore it and stood my ground.

Dutifully, fifteen minutes later, he came inside and showered and changed into his khakis and polo shirt. “Mom can you help me?” he pleaded. Okay, I thought, he probably needs socks. “Can you help me put this wallet in my back pocket?” I helped him with it and didn’t really think about why he wanted his wallet with him. I guess I just thought he was trying to be like his dad.

We went to mass and then walked through Wayne deciding on a restaurant. We sat down for dinner and ordered our drinks. Then the big surprise came. “Mom, since we are going to Hawaii this summer for a vacation, I want to buy dinner to help you save money for the trip.” I was truly taken aback. Was this the same self entitled boy who had insisted I make his bed because he was “just too tired?” No, this boy was the boy I had hoped we would raise; a caring, empathic and thoughtful person. I was proud to know that all of my work here daily is not in vein and something actually managed to get through. As parents, we have all had these moments. On this particular day, all I could think is, “One day he will make a fine young man,” and that is all I want.

Monday, April 12, 2010

On Grace

I was raised a Catholic but I have never been an overly religious person. I went to church under duress as a child and my father actually called me “the little Pagan.” Years later; however, when my brother was diagnosed with cancer, I turned toward prayer as a way to alleviate my anxiety about his recovery and the future. Interestingly, I began to pray for Grace.

I am not sure why I did because I did not even fully comprehend the meaning of my prayer to God. Grace, in the Catholic religion is defined as unearned merit bestowed upon a person by God. Then there is the more complicated notion of sanctifying grace, this is the grace that communicates supernatural life into the soul. In Catholicism, the soul in its natural state isn’t fit for heaven but if you can reach a state of sanctifying grace you are in fact fit to enter the pearly gates.

So how does the soul actually achieve this state of sanctifying grace in the Catholic religion? The soul must first go through a process of justification which includes preparatory acts. During this time the soul must endure great spiritual suffering such as fear and contrition. At last the sinner is transformed from the state of sin to the state of sanctifying grace and the soul is in a state of holiness and is one with God.

What in fact was I praying for? Certainly not this, but truth be told this is what I got; pain and suffering and the transformation of my soul. In my ignorance, I forgot to put the “ful” on the end of grace. I really wanted God to help me curb my opinions, keep my voice down and help me not to laugh so loud. Instead, I have been grappling with this notion of sanctifying grace ever since my brother got sick. Next time I make a plea to God, I will certainly make sure that I get my terminology right.

Is this a testament to the power of prayer? Perhaps it is. My friend Katie just called and I explained my revelation to her. “Katie, I can’t believe I was praying for something I didn’t even understand and sure enough I got it.” Her response was interesting. “Jeanne, I totally believe it. My mother used to pray for a cross to bear and sure enough she got it. My dad died in a terrible car accident a year later and the next year my brother died from a brain tumor. I tell her to pray for joy now.” Good advice. Thanks Katie.

Now I wonder if I am in a state of grace. It would follow, from these teaching, that I would be, although I don’t feel that way. I feel more connected to the universe and closer to God but I certainly don’t feel like I am in a state of holiness. Maybe that is “the Little Pagan” coming out again. I would, however; say that I am transformed. Hardship of any kind transforms people. Illness makes you view life, and death for that matter, differently.

I suppose that most of all through all of this I have learned that we need to be joyful and playful in our endeavors and try to remember to be GRACEFUL towards one another and perhaps we will reach a state of grace.

Friday, April 9, 2010


I saw Kelly Corrigan speak the other day about her new book, “Lift.” Not only is she charming and funny, she is quite profound. She described why she chose the title and I thought it was so interesting. She explained that lift is a hang gliding term that describes the thermal lift that hang gliders use to move the hang glider higher. They try to move from one thermal lift to another. As the hang glider moves through the air, it collides with air molecules which slow it down. The faster the glider moves the more drag it creates. The pilot’s job is to find lift to get through the areas of turbulence in order to soar.

I love this metaphor. I guess it is because I have been having one of those weeks. There seems to be so much turbulence in my atmosphere. I am searching for a little bit of lift to help get me through. I crave the ability to soar above it and fly away. Since that clearly isn’t going to happen, I will try to muddle through as best I can and keep in mind that it is all about the journey.

Kelly inspired me to write this blog with her wise words at a book reading many months ago when she had just published her first book, “The Middle Place.” I again find her words to be an inspiration. Hopefully, I can soar above it all with a little bit of lift.