Never Off Topic

I spent Monday as a substitute teacher in second grade at the parish school. As my training is in secondary education, I’m used to students trying to derail any discussion in order to avoid doing work. Seven-year-olds don’t generally display that level of guile, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stray off the subject during our school day.

Children that young just want to share. As soon as you mention anything, they make a connection and need to tell you–and the whole rest of the class–about it. Every once in a while, that can be a good thing, if you can manage to capture the moment.

raised handWe were in the middle of a language-arts lesson based on the story of an injured child riding to the hospital in an ambulance. Up goes a hand. “My mommy says that when you see an ambulance you should say a Hail Mary.”

Me:  “Yes, a lot of families do that. It’s a really good thing to do. When you see an ambulance, you can pray for the person who is sick or hurt and for the people who are helping.”

Student:  “And police cars too.”

Me:  “Right. That’s another good time to say a prayer.”

Other student:  “But just for the police. Not for the bad people.”

Me:  “We should definitely say a prayer for the bad people. Do you remember that Jesus told us we should do that?”

Class:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Jesus said that we should pray for people who hurt us, not just for our friends and family. Maybe the people who hurt us need even more prayers.”

Moments like this are why I love Catholic school. Our faith isn’t confined to the schedule block reserved for religion. It can (and should) pop up at any point in the day. I love that the children in this class feel free enough and comfortable enough to bring up the subject of prayer when the thought enters their mind–even during a story about a fictional ambulance ride. I pray that these lessons will be put into practice during a real emergency.

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Say “Uncle”

Tomorrow I will head “up north” to attend the funeral of my dad’s oldest friend, my brother’s godfather, “Uncle John.” They’d been buddies since the first grade.

Uncle John was one of only two people whom we called “uncle” although they were not blood relatives. The other is my godfather. I can only guess that this is because my dad considered both of them to be as close as brothers to him.

When I think of Uncle John, I think of laughter. He found joy in the simple things–his family, his friends, a backyard picnic, a funny joke, a childhood memory that he’d spin into a story that would leave everyone in tears from laughing so hard.

kuvaszWhenever Uncle John told a story, you were never quite sure if he was serious. On a whim yesterday, I looked up a dog breed that he’d frequently referenced. I don’t know why he talked about this type of dog so much; maybe he just found it fun to say. But in the back of my mind, I always thought that he’d made it up. Turns out that the Kuvasz really does exist. That makes me smile.

Uncle John had the biggest heart of anyone I know. I’m sure that Aunt Mary, and his children and grandchildren have a huge treasure of happy memories of Uncle John. I’m sure that most of them involve lots of laughter. I pray that these happy memories will console them in their grief. Uncle John was one of a kind, and I am blessed that my dad knew him as a friend and an honorary brother.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Relief

Did you hear that deep, deep sigh yesterday around 11:30 AM Eastern? That was me and TheDad after we met with the very personable surgeon at the cancer center. Under the circumstances, we got the best possible news.

The tumor (what’s left of it) is in a place that is easy to access. It is not in, on or near any organs and it has not spread anywhere. Next Friday he will have it removed in a same-day surgery.

After he recovers from the surgery he will begin radiation treatment. There will not be chemo because chemo doesn’t work on this type of tumor. Beyond that he will just need regular imaging to see if anything has returned but with this type of tumor the chances of it returning are pretty slim.

I am ever grateful for your prayers and support. I feel like the really hard part is over now. We have a game plan, and we have assurance that the tumor is contained.

Quite a Ride

So I need a nickname for the gang of teenagers that hangs around my house.  The little guys are the Street Urchins.  The sixteen-year-olds?  What do I call them?

It’s been a rather difficult week in Teenage World.  Parenting teenagers definitely resembles a roller-coaster ride.  You’re strapped in for the duration (7 years, give or take time for those rocky pre- and post-adolescent stages).  There are the ups and downs, twists and turns, and occasional spins that turn you upside down.

In the past week, we have experienced

  • curfew battles
  • playing one parent off another
  • sulking
  • plenty of eye-rolling, stomping up the stairs and slamming of the bedroom door
  • The Silent Treatment
  • and an ill-fated trip to the mall.

They’ve got nothing to do and way too much time to do nothing in. The bunch of them went job-hunting–together–after swimming at my house yesterday.  I’m not sure that the best way to look for a job is to show up as a Six-Pack at the pizzeria or Edible Arrangements with wet hair, wearing short shorts and flip-flops.  I asked the kids if any potential employer had wondered if he was expected to hire the whole crew.  (They didn’t get why I thought that was funny, or even worth wondering about).

But we’ve also got a teenager who dissuades her younger brother from styling his hair like Eddie Munster, who “takes” me grocery shopping so she can do all the heavy lifting, pushing and loading that I can’t do, who takes 3 AM phone calls from friends in despair over a family member’s bad health and questioning the existence and benevolence of God.  While I’m not thrilled over a 3 AM phone call, I am so gratified to know that when her friends have crises like that, they turn to her.  That says a whole lot about my daughter, right there.

I’ve got to take the bad with the good here.  A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  Ultimately, I think I’ve got a good kid, and maybe her friends are good kids too, but I don’t know them well enough to really determine that.

Today is the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron of teenagers.  And they need his intercession and inspiration more than ever.  So today, I prayed for that bunch of teenagers (and they still need a nickname).  And I’m on my way to the supermarket, driven by my very own teenager, to stock the fridge with sodas so her friends will find something cold to drink when they show up later.

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It’s Good to Know

I first started working as a home-instruction tutor when Big Brother was about 3 years old.  I’m still listed as a tutor with one of the 3 districts in which I worked; the other two have contracted out the home tutoring.  While I’m not often assigned students anymore, I do enjoy the one-on-one work with a student who is too ill/injured/postpartum/pregnant/anxious/depressed to attend school.  (Yes, I’ve had students in each of these categories–as well as a few discipline cases and a couple of malingerers.)  There are students I’ve only taught for 2 weeks or so before they return to school.  Most of them, I never hear about again.

Every once in a while I run into one of my students, who lived here in town and had a baby girl during her senior year of high school.  I was paid to be her English tutor, but I also did a good bit of informal encouragement; this young mom was breastfeeding her daughter, keeping up with her classes, and handling quite a bit of the housework.  She later married the father of her baby and they have another child as well; now she’s a stay-at-home mom, although she did work quite hard when her little girl was young, managing a Domino’s Pizza.  Her resilience, determination and dedication served her and her family well, and it touches my heart that every so often, SHE recognizes ME.  She is eager to tell me how things went for her family and I love to hear how well they are all doing.

Today’s local paper features a story about one of my former students.  I taught her for an entire spring, when she first became ill during her junior year of high school.  I remember cancellations due to specialist visits and medical tests.  She never felt well but she tried hard to stick with the schoolwork.  She’s 27 now, married, and recently received a kidney transplant from her older sister.  There are complications with her disease, though.

If you read down to the end of the article, you’ll see that she recently attended a Mass of Healing at the Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia–and her family welcomes prayers.  It’s lovely to see that in the paper, and my former student Christine can count on mine.  It’s good to know how things are going, and it’s good to know that although 11th-grade English is long over, there is still something I can do to help.

Pray for your Children Today!

This psalm comes from Evening Prayer for Friday. Every Friday, for years and years, I have prayed this psalm. And it just struck me this past week that this is an excellent psalm for parents to pray for their children. I am including the prayer at the end for the same reason.

PSALM 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains: from where shall come my help?
My help shall come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

May he never allow you to stumble! Let him sleep not, your guard.
No, he sleeps not nor slumbers, Israel’s guard.

The Lord is your guard and your shade, at your right side he stands.
By day the sun shall not smite you nor the moon in the night.

The Lord will guard you from evil, he will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going and coming both now and forever.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, you have prepared a quiet place for us in the Father’s eternal home. Watch over our welfare on this perilous journey, shade us from the burning heat of day, and keep our lives free of evil until the end.

A Beautiful Prayer for Our Friends

One of my forum buddies posted this beautiful prayer today. I couldn’t resist sharing it with you here.

May God be with those who need comfort and hold you in His arms; may His wisdom prevail for those who have tough decisions or just don’t know what to do; may He guide those travelling and surround them with safety. For each of us may we see with His eyes and love with His heart and show compassion and grace to all ~ we never know when we will walk in their shoes.
May each one of us finish today closer to God and His word than we started and may we be aware daily of the blessings He pours out on us, and the grace He extends to us daily.
Amen

To Honor One Who Gave All

Please leave a note of condolences and prayers at this post. It is a virtual sympathy card for the family of a young American soldier who gave his life in the Middle East.
I don’t know this young man or his family. Probably you don’t either. But we all owe him a lot. Pray today for the repose of his soul and for consolation for his loved ones.