Category Archives: Musings

When do you find time to pray?

Prayer is sort of like exercise.  I don’t really have time to do it, but I’m not a healthy person  if I skip it.

So I make time.  Not enough, admittedly, but enough to keep me at a baseline level of spiritual fitness.

It occurred to me that it might be helpful to share when I manage to squeeze this prayer into the mix of my busy day, because my busy day probably looks a lot like your busy day, and the more we moms can share tips about how we keep healthy and happy, the better off we all are.  So here it is, my answer to the question When do you pray? 

And I do hope  you’ll share your own answer in the comments below, because I want to learn from your wisdom and experience!

Mornings, Before Work (otherwise known as Prayer By Stealth)

A while back, I realized that if I sneak a cup of  morning coffee back to my bedroom and close the door, I can actually manage to work in five minutes of uninterrupted prayer.  My  kids see the closed door and assume I am spending the whole time getting dressed, so they leave me in peace.    It is sneaky but effective.

During that brief time, I usually look at the Mass readings in Give Us This Day, and/or pray with a daily devotional (two I’m into at the moment are The Ignatian Book of Days and WholeHearted Living).  I might also read the daily devotion on Blessed Is She.   It’s a nice little ritual that helps me start my day on a good note.

Drive to Work: Praying with Music

On my commute — which is a half-hour — I sometimes listen to music that gets me in a prayerful space.  Sometimes this is the local classical radio station, and sometimes it’s a CD of more “churchy” songs that actually mention God.

And sometimes I just listen to stuff that doesn’t feel prayerful at all but simply wakes me up. ABBA fits in that category (though with a name like that, can’t I make a case that they are a churchy group too?)


Nighttime: Prayer Desk and candles

Okay, I don’t do this prayer every night; sometimes the siren song of the couch and TV is just too strong.  But often I retreat to the prayer desk in our bedroom, light a candle, and take a few moments to sit in quiet and peace.  I might pray the Examen, or run through a litany of requests and concerns, or pick up the rosary and finger the beads in a sort of wordless prayer.  I might just stare at the candle flame and feel the presence of God.  There is something precious about my prayer corner at night; it feels so holy and unhurried, somehow, with the shadow of the candle flame flickering on the closed blinds.

It is always better than watching TV.  Funny how easy it is to forget that.

Random Times During the Day

Someone famous once said to pray without ceasing.  St. Ignatius of Loyola said you can find God in all things.  Both ideas point to the reality that prayer can be instinctive, and informal; almost a way of being as opposed to a specific action or practice.

Much of my prayer ends up feeling like that: a wordless recognition of the goodness of God all around me.  This feeling might come on me when I see my kids playing together in the front yard, or when I see a man helping his elderly wife across the street.  It might come upon me when I walk past a fragrant honeysuckle bush on my Sunday morning walk, or when my family does a group hug.  It might come upon me in the sight of the sky the other night, admiring the moon on the rise as it peeks through the strands of pink and blue.


So how about you?  When do you find time to pray?

Many parts, one body


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“After you receive the body of Christ, you should return to your pew, kneel down, and pray,” said my second-grade teacher as she prepared our class for our First Holy Communion.  Those moments after receiving the Eucharist are a holy and special time, we were taught, a beautiful time to pray.

As a child, I followed her directions carefully.  Back in my pew after receiving Communion,  I would kneel, hands clasped, eyes usually closed as I mentally ran through a list of things I wanted God to do for me or for people I loved.  (I’d throw in some thank-yous, too, just for balance.)

But now, as an adult, I often find that my post-Communion prayer is something quite different.  Instead of closing my eyes and offering a laundry list of requests, I often keep my eyes open and watch the people filing down the aisle.

Yes, in part, this is a writer’s curiosity at work;  I love to watch people, whether in the airport or at the mall or at church.  But it’s more than that.  I think of my watching as a kind of prayer in and of itself, a way to recognize the many many people who make up the body of Christ.

In the Communion line, I see people I know.  I see people I don’t know.  I see elderly men leaning on canes and newborns carried in parents’ arms.  I see women in tailored clothes and men with tattoos for sleeves.  I see people who are short, tall, thin, broad, male, female, smiling, serious, slow, fast, peaceful, restless, distracted, focused.  I see people whose struggles are written on their faces and people who seem to have no struggles at all, though I know that’s not true, and that everyone in that line has some need they are bringing to God.

And, most of all, I see color,  every skin tone that God made.  I see six continents represented in the communion line, a small world filing down the center aisle and around the sides.  And that feels right to me.  I don’t think I could trust a church where everyone in the pews looks exactly like me.  Such a church would feel incomplete; even wrong, somehow.  But my church – my church with its wonderful wide variety of diverse humanity, speaking different languages and wearing different clothes and eating different foods and yet facing the same human struggles, and finding the same source of solace and love at the end of the communion line – this is the church I believe in.  This is the church I love.

And remembering that?  Often, that’s the best prayer I know.

Prayer of the mom who works outside the home


Dear God,

It’s me, and yes, it’s been a while.  Sorry to be so incommunicado lately. But it’s been One of Those Weeks, the kind of week that every mom who works outside the home knows all too well.

It’s been a week of dreading the alarm clock.

It’s been a week of cursing the traffic on the morning commute.

It’s been a week of rushing from work meetings to my kids’ school to soccer practice, always running late.

It’s been a week of feeling guilty that I’m not available to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms.

It’s been a week of rifling through my closet, praying that I have some clean work clothes that match.

It’s been a week of rifling through the teetering laundry basket in the hall, praying that the kids have some clean school clothes that match.

It’s been a week that passed with no chance to exercise.

It’s been a week of coming home exhausted and having to shift dirty breakfast dishes out of the sink before I can even start making dinner.

It’s been a week of feeling like I have two full-time jobs, and like I’m not doing either one of them particularly well.

It’s been a week of feeling like I am giving my first fruits to my job, and not to my own kids.  That, God, is the hardest thing of all.

I’m not sure what I’m hoping to get from this prayer, God, except that somehow I feel like this all needs to be said.  Sometimes I feel like a fragile little raft in the waters of this busy life, and any wave could capsize me.

But no wave has, as yet.

I guess that’s something.  For all my exhaustion and mom-guilt, my family is staying afloat.  So, too, is my job.  And I’ve had some good moments, in all of this.

For one thing, it’s been a week of beautiful scenery as I drive to work.

It’s been a week of dark delicious coffee, which I’d drink even if I didn’t have to get up so dashed early.

It’s been a week of two boys giving me lavish hugs as I leave the house in the morning, and running to me with smiles when I pick them up at after-school care.

It’s been  a week of work colleagues who make me laugh when I need it most.

It’s been a week of other working parents sharing their own struggles, showing me that I’m not alone.

It has been a week of being home with my boys in the evening, reading them stories, tucking them into bed, praying for them, watching them as they sleep the sleep of the young and unweary.

It’s been one more week in which I’ve managed to stay afloat, and if I’m honest, it hasn’t been all bad.  It has had its moments, Lord, more than a few.

Maybe the answer is to talk to you more.  When I do, I come away different than when I started.

Because taking time for you is, through some magical process, the same thing as taking time for me.  Not just for me: prayer has a ripple effect of peace through my little family of four, through my job, through my colleagues.   It calms the waters underneath this little boat.  It makes me steadier and happier, less worried about capsizing.

Because it helps me remember that, for all the daily grind and stress and mom-guilt, I am blessed.

Really and truly.



What I want my sons to know about periods


Not a paid endorsement, by the way.

I blame Michael Keaton for this particular awkward family conversation.  It was the evening of the Oscars,and Scott and I were reminiscing about past movie roles.  We were laughing about his role in Mr. Mom, and that great scene where he goes to the grocery store to buy tampons for his wife, when my son — whom I did not know was listening — broke into the conversation.

“What’s a tampon?”

You take this one, Scott’s eyes seemed to say.

“Well,” I said cautiously, “it’s something ladies use.”

“But what is it for?”

“They use it once a month.:

“But why do they need it?”

“Well, once a month, ladies bleed.”  He looked disturbed.  “They bleed from their private areas.  It’s part of the reproductive cycle.”  I waited for his response.

“That’s really creepy,” he said.

Yes.  Yes, in a way, I guess it is.


As the mother of two boys and no girls, I have realized that there are some kinds of conversations I will have in my parenting life, and some I will not have.  I am not at all looking forward to shepherding boys through puberty ; I actually intend to divert many of the accompanying questions to my husband, just as I do with all queries about computers and space travel.

And, without a daughter in my life, I will not be faced with explaining the practical  aspects of periods, and how to insert a tampon, and what to do when your period comes for the first time ever in the middle of the school day (I have some personal insight into that one).

But I am realizing that, even though my boy will never know the experience of “the monthlies,” odds are good that at some point in their life, they will be living closely with a woman who does (someone other than myself, I mean).  And at some point — not now, but when they are older – I feel that I need to give them a little bit of insight into what this all means to a woman.

Which means, first of all, that I need to figure it out myself.

I guess I can say this: Having a period is a study in wild extremes.  Nothing is worse than being the first girl in your group of friends to get it, unless it’s being the last girl in your group of friends to get it.  It comes a few days early and you curse; it comes a few days late and you are in agony.  There are months when its arrival is met with profound disappointment, and then there are the months where its arrival is met with weak-kneed relief.   And, in my early forties, I’m getting to that stage where I’ve spent three decades complaining about the pain and mess and expense of it all, but when that day comes where Aunt Flo says goodbye for good, I kind of think I just might miss her.

How do you explain all this to a man, though?  I am not sure any guy can really grasp it, just as there are things about being a guy that I will never ever be able to understand.  That said, I think maybe we can teach our sons to have a certain kind of awe in the face of this phenomenon that was in part responsible for their very existence.  At the very least, we can tell them not to make dismissive comments about Woman X being crabby because it’s her time of the month.  (As any woman will tell you, only one person in the room actually knows whether her moods are due to PMS or some other reason.  She gets to be the one to say whether or not there’s a connection.)

I am fearfully and wonderfully made says the psalm.  I will be honest that, when it comes to periods, I tend to lean more towards “fearful” as being the appropriate adjective.    If I were in charge, I sure as heck would not design the female reproductive cycle this way, if for no other reason than that I don’t like carnage in my bathroom (or anywhere else).

But maybe I’m getting a little older and wiser,  or at least a bit more philosophical.  Having had a few rounds of the conception/pregnancy game, I can’t deny that I have a respect for the reality of female menstruation.   Two pregnancy losses and two births have led to an appreciation that, like it or not, I did depend upon that system to bring my two little boys into the world … boys who enrich my life in so many ways, including asking me questions that get me thinking about the role that my periods play in my life, in all their messy mystery.  I may not like the experience of a monthly period, but I am grateful for what it has brought to my life.  In that way, I guess it’s like most good things in this world: some sort of pain or sacrifice inevitably goes into the creation.

So in the end, I’d say that my son is right — menstruation is somewhat creepy.  It is fearful and, I guess, also wonderful, at least  in some sense of the word.  But whatever else my boys learn about this phenomenon that is so intimately a part of most women’s lives, I hope they at least learn this: It’s part of what got them here, so it’s something that they — and all of us, really —  should treat with a certain amount of respect.


“Poldark” finale: Do I really have to wait a whole year for Season Two????

Say it ain't so, Ross.

Say it ain’t so, Ross.

Scott and I just watched the finale of “Poldark.”   I was on the edge of my seat the entire two hours and when the credits began to roll I was reduced to the  inarticulate sounds I always make when I have just seen something absolutely gripping on TV and realize I have to wait an entire year for the next season.  It’s the same sound I make at the end of “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock,” and I can best describe it as somewhere  between a growl and a cry of pain. (Tell me I’m not the only one who does this?)

Because even though I have read the  books and knew how the season would end, the screenwriter did a fabulous job of pulling me into the story.  I was lost in the episode and those final credits felt like an abrupt forcible ejection out of Cornwall and into a world where I don’t get to see what happens next.  And oh, what a finale it was.  Don’t read ahead if you haven’t seen the show yet — spoilers await.

*First of all, I was somewhat dreading this episode because I knew from the books (seriously, SPOILER AHEAD) that Julia was going to die.  And I wasn’t sure I could handle it, especially being a mom, because it is all too awful.  The sight of Ross carrying her tiny coffin across the cliffs and into the churchyard — oh, it was gut-wrenching.  There’s nothing else to say; it was just too painful.


*Demelza was already such a lovable character, and she just rockets off the charts in this finale.  To go and take care of Francis after his utter awfulness to her … well, it’s forgiveness at its finest.  Who says this is not a spiritual show?  I think she’s a model of Christian charity and selfless love.  And oh, alas, she pays a dear price for it.

*If she is the paragon of goodness, George is the polar opposite.   You could just see him playing Francis like a fiddle, feeding the flames of his suspicion about Ross and cagily getting Francis to reveal the names of Ross’s business associates.  As bad as Francis is — and he does call Demelza some awful things in this episode, including “trull” (sp?) which is a new one to me– at least his awfulness is not as premeditated as George’s is.  There is something about coldly-calculated evil that is so much worse than crime-of-passion evil.

*Speaking of crimes of passion, the Mark/Keren subplot ended about as well as one would expect.  You knew that was disastrous from the start.  Any woman who can make Ruth Teague’s eye daggers look like foam darts is surely headed for trouble.

Making Ruth look like an amateur.

Making Ruth look like an amateur.

I didn’t like Keren — I guess we’re not supposed to — but I sure would not wish her fate on anyone.  And it was interesting that the TV show makes her death a little more ambiguous, like Mark was just hugging her a little too hard and whoops!  Her neck ends up broken (kind of like Lennie in Of Mice and Men).  The book is much more clear that it was  a CRIME of passion, and I am not surprised that the screenwriter went with the “accidental” scenario.  We do want to feel sympathy for Ross, after all, and can we have much sympathy for a man who loans his oars to a cold-blooded murderer?

By the way, let’s all remember what Mark said about how he was hiding out in the old abandoned mine and saw what looked like copper there. My spidey-sense tells me that this may be important in future seasons.

*Is there any more disgusting name for an illness than “putrid throat”?

*Dr. Enys messed up by getting mixed up with Keren, but to his credit, he makes amends by staying in the community and caring for the sick miners.  In fact, so much of this episode seems to be about people wanting to make amends, like Demelza wanting to undo the disastrous chain reaction she unwittingly set into place by getting Verity and Andrew back together.  And we have Elizabeth at the end, caring for Demelza as she recovers, because Demelza saved her child.

*By the way, when Ross tells Elizabeth to pray “that I don’t lose the love of  my life,” it was so emotional and romantic that I started getting teary-eyed (again).  I just love the Ross and Demelza love story.  It is not a love story that ends with marriage, as so many of them are; theirs begins with marriage and gets more interesting as the series goes on.


All in all, I loved “Poldark.”  Aidan Turner played the part beautifully — edgy, restless, brooding, good at heart, sensitive, loyal.  Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza is the perfect foil to him, and captured all the fineness and goodness of the character in the book without making her saccharine.   The scenery was as beautiful as could be, and the scripts honored the novels while still making the story feel suspenseful.

Most of all, the series incorporates so many big themes, themes that I may dare to call spiritual.  Loyalty, social justice, forgiveness, choosing one’s own path in spite of social expectation, seeing people for who they are inside, resilience, love — it was all there, and more.

What a great way to spend my summer Sunday nights.  I miss it already.