Category Archives: Musings



Man, sometimes life seems so complicated and stressful and dark.  I’m all for modern technology that enables us to communicate quickly and effectively, but it means we have more information coming at us than ever before, and a lot of the time that information is just too much.

I listen to the news far less than I used to, not because I’m an ostrich with her head in the sand, but because as I get older I find I’m more sensitive to the harsh stuff.  Even a few minutes on Facebook can inject all kinds of conflict into my day; people argue about politics and religion and red cups at Starbucks, and while I believe in healthy discourse and disagreement, a lot of the information streaming at me these days doesn’t feel healthy.  It just sort of wears me down.

You too?

So I thought I’d compile a list of moodchangers. These are things that can help me push the mental “reset” button on those days when there’s just too much conflict or stressful stuff coming at me.  They work for me; they just might work for you, too.  (And please share your favorite moodchangers below.)

*A brief walk, especially morning or evening when the pace of life seems a little different (slower).  It is meditative and renewing, even if it’s just around the neighborhood.

*A baby to hold or admire or smile at.  (And if the baby smiles back, well, that’s just the best.)

*Sitting at my prayer desk with a scented candle burning and a rosary in my hand. I  don’t even have to be praying the rosary; in fact, I usually don’t pray it the conventional way.  Just holding onto it grounds me.

*The ocean.  I don’t get there nearly often enough, but when I do, it puts a new spin on everything.


*A cup of tea.

*Flowers, in a vase on my table or in a garden outside.  Even a photo of pretty flowers can make me feel better.



*A song like this one, by John Goodall (it happens to be the theme song from the British series “The Vicar of Dibley” — another thing that can instantly lift my spirits).  This melody has soothed me and calmed me I do not know how many times.

*A butterfly, or a hummingbird.  Catching a glimpse of these little winged creatures make me stop whatever I’m doing to watch, and makes me instantly happy.

*Hugs from my boys.  I love it, the feel of their skinny arms and little bodies.  I think it’s the best moodchanger of all.


Tea and spirituality



“Do you take coffee or tea?”  Some people are firmly in one camp or the other, but I believe in the power of both.   If I want to get out the door in the morning, I rely on a commuter mug of joe,  but if I want to take a quiet reflective pause in the evening, I put on the teakettle.

I guess it’s fair to say that coffee fuels my body, but tea fuels my soul.

Tea and prayer really are a perfect pairing.   Something about this drink seems to invite and create a powerful, contemplative frame of mind.  I think there are a few reasons for this.

1) Brewing tea is a ritual, and I’m big on those when it comes to prayer.  Filling the kettle, plunking it on the burner, hearing the catch of the gas as it lights, picking a teabag from my extensive collection (my husband wonders how I can possibly have a whole shelf devoted to tea), waiting for the whistle, pouring the hot water and watching the water turn to amber … it’s something I know by heart.  In all the things life throws at me (Sick kid! Big change at work!  Car trouble!), it is lovely to have a constant.

It’s one of the reasons I love the Mass, in fact.  We need some things to be as familiar as breathing.

2) Tea makes you slow down.  You can’t gulp it; it’s not Gatorade or beer.  You have to sip it at a leisurely pace, especially if you take it black as I do, without the cooling properties of milk.  You can’t rush a cup of tea, and since life makes me rush almost everything else, I love this forced pause.

Pret-tea tin, isn't it?  (the taste is amazing, too)

Pret-tea tin, isn’t it? (the taste is amazing, too)

3) Tea involves the meeting of multiple senses.  There’s the sound of the boiling teakettle.  There’s the heat of the cup in my hands.  There is the fragrance curling up to my nose.  There is the taste of the tea on my tongue.  There’s the gradual darkening of the tea as I steep it.  Sometimes there is even the visual feast of a floral teacup or a particularly pretty kind of tea packaging.  And savoring  these senses is a potent prayer to the One who gave them to us in the first place.

But enough writing;   I’m going to put the kettle on.  Care to join me?

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


IMAG7064 (1)

“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.