Author Archives: ginny

The vulnerability of being a parent

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“It was a few months after the birth of Matthew that I kept thinking of a well-known quotation from Elizabeth Stone, one I’d heard years before becoming a mom: ‘Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.’ Bingo, I thought as I toted Matthew around in his infant seat.  That’s exactly how it feels.  Matthew is outside of me now, in that big scary world, and that is a very vulnerable place for a heart to be.

One day I thought back to those pictures of Mary’s immaculate heart.  For the first time ever, that image made perfect sense to me.  Like me, Mary was a mom.  Like me, she had a beloved child who was out there in the world, where any number of things could assail him.  Like me, she must have felt as though the dearest, most vital part of her — her very heart — was exposed and vulnerable.

Once I made that connection, I could no longer dismiss those images as creepy or perplexing.  I realized they were, in fact, a perfect way of showing how visceral this maternal-love thing really is.  It’s not just something you feel in your head or in your soul.  It’s in your very organs, in every cell of your body, in the mechanisms that make you tick. Like any other mom, Mary felt that love, in all its exhilarating and terrifying depth.”

– from Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood (Loyola Press, 2013)

 

The beauty below the surface

This coming Saturday is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  As Mary feast days go, this one has a special place in my heart.

For one thing, I’ve a bit of an affinity for France. And, unlike most Marian apparition sites, I’ve actually visited Lourdes. In a very indirect and surprising way, that visit changed my life.  It was in Lourdes that the first little inkling of a “new Mary” entered my mind.  Thanks to Lourdes, I could start to see her as more than just the glacially perfect woman in the statues.  I started to see her as a woman who actually lived.

The Lourdes story is about Mary putting herself in the middle of the rock and grit, and finding what’s beautiful there.  I love how Mary appeared to the little shepherdess, a person no one ever thought was holy or special enough to have such a visitor.  Mary’s coming revealed that there was more to Bernadette than anyone suspected, including Bernadette herself.  Mary’s coming also tapped into the latent faith of the people of Lourdes, just as Bernadette tapped into the healing waters of the spring.   In a way, one could say that the Lourdes story is really about venturing below the surface, finding the beautiful depths that exist  there,  and harnessing them for good.

And that’s a lesson that never grows old.

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This is a rerun of a post from 2010.  (I guess I’ve been blogging for a long time, haven’t I?)

Online workshop this Friday — join me!

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Are you a Massive Mary Fan, the kind who brakes for pictures of the Madonna and Child and who can sing all verses of “Hail, Holy Queen” by heart?

Are you someone who thinks, “I know everyone always talks about how great Mary is, but I’ve never really had much of a connection with her”?

Wherever you are in your relationship (or lack thereof) with Mary, I’ve got an invitation for you.   I’ll be giving an online workshop this Friday, January 27th at 9 pm Eastern Time.   The topic is Mary and Modern Women, and I’ll be looking at Mary from five angles that speak to women today.  It’s put on by Blessed is She, a great website to check out every day of the year.

If you are a member of Blessed is She, it’s totally free. If you aren’t, it’s $15.  Check out the details on the website.

Hope you can make it!  (and if you can’t join in live, check the site — you can watch them after the fact, too).

A life well-lived

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Here’s a truth: you can plan all you want, but sometimes, life just doesn’t deliver what you expect.   We certainly learned that this year, when the Christmas we got was very different from the one we wanted.

The boys and Scott and I flew out to upstate New York a few days before Christmas, planning to spend the holiday with Scott’s dad Bob, and Scott’s sisters Terri and Kathy.  Ever since Scott’s mom’s death in 2014, Bob’s health had been declining, but he was hanging gamely on.  But when we arrived on the 21st – his 84th birthday – he had a bad cold and cough.  The next day the doctor recommended that he go to the hospital.  He died there early the next morning.

It was not the Christmas we meant to spend.  Instead of family time together, doing the classic Moyer Happy Hour – drinks and snacks about 5, one of Bob’s favorite traditions – we met with a funeral home, packed up his apartment, and sifted through the many photos and clippings to figure out how best to capture his life in an obituary.

Grandpa Bob and Matthew

Grandpa Bob and Matthew

But as awful as it was, we all agreed that there were blessings there, too.  We were all in town when he died, not in various parts of the globe as we usually are.  We’d had a chance to see him and celebrate his birthday.  And it was a chance to process his life and our loss together, instead of separately.

It’s quite a life, too, by any measure.  A native New Yorker – from Glens Falls – he loved the East, and knew a great deal about local history.  He and Joan raised their three kids in Oneonta, a small town in Otsego County.  Over the years, he became involved in banking, eventually serving as  CEO of Wilber National Bank and, later, as director of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.   He served on more boards than you could name, donated his time to countless volunteer organizations, and believed passionately in the power of community.  He loved Oneonta and being in a place where you know people and they know you.

Bob was also a man of deep principle.  I remember Scott telling me years ago that his dad, before retirement, used to get mildly frustrated with some of the federal regulations affecting banking.  This was because Bob himself would never do anything remotely unethical, and he tended to assume that other bankers were the same.  Regulations are not necessary if everyone has the customers’ best interests at heart, as Bob always did.  If only there were more people like him.

Bob was also a military man, a member of the Air Force who also flew Air National Guard missions in the 1960s and 1970s.  I remember him telling me about the years he was stationed in France in the 1950s, and how his name – Robert Moyer – was pronounced by the French people he met, with the accents moved from the first to the second syllables.  (“Ro-BEAR  Moy-YAY.”)  I often use his name as an example when I talk about poetic meter with my students, explaining the difference between trochees and iambs.

I wish I’d talked to him more about his time in France.  It must have been quite a difference place in the 1950s than the France I knew in the 1990s; I suspect he had some good stories to share, and I regret not asking him.  I guess we always think we’ll have more time.  I should know better by now.

Bob loved talking, reflecting, thinking.  Up until the day he died, his mind was sharp and curious and he was always “noodling,” as he’d say, over some world problem and how to solve it.  In the last years of his life, after he lost his beloved wife of 54 years and was dealing with the resulting grief, he settled into the habit of lying in bed at night and reviewing the many blessings and gifts of his life.  They were many, and I suspect Joan topped the list.  He was crazy about her, as is evident in photos of their early years and their later ones, too.

Bob and Joan

Lovebirds Bob and Joan

One of my favorite memories of Bob is when they came out to visit us back in 2008.  The two of them went out for a romantic dinner one evening at a restaurant near our house.  It’s a place up in the hills, with an impressive view of the Bay Area city lights. After they returned back to our house, I asked if they liked the view.

“Oh, it was beautiful,” said Joan, her face lighting up.  “I sat facing the windows.”  She talked for a while about how much she had enjoyed the ambiance, the food, the service.

As she spoke, Bob was looking at her with a smile on his face.  When she had finished, he said one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard.

“I just looked at Joan,” he said simply.  “That’s my favorite view.”

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Three days after Bob’s death, after a day of sorting and organizing and the arrangements that follow a death, we all took a break and watched “The Sound of Music.”  I thought not for the first time about the wisdom of the Mother Abbess’s words, when Maria is worried about her feelings for Captain von Trapp.  “Maria,” she says, “The love of a man and woman is holy too.”

Bob got that.  He showed us the holiness of being a good husband, and good father, and good grandfather.

And for all his many accomplishments in the public sphere, for all the influence he had on his community and on the lives of his clients at the bank, I think his greatest achievements are his three children. And I know my life has been forever changed, and utterly blessed, because Scott had a dad like him.

Bob and his kids

Thank you, Bob, for everything.

 

WAY more than three wise men

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My family subscribes to the theory that you can never have too many nativity scenes.   The nesting dolls, the little Peruvian one, the set carved out of wood from the Holy Land: they’re all on display this time of year.

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If you have to have a surplus of something, this isn’t a bad thing to have, is it?

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Happy-almost-Christmas!

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