The Truth About Femininity – It’s Not What You Think it Is

old-woman-1077121_1920 crop A fellow writer put out a challenge for March: to “Spring into Femininity.” She has the goal to write daily about femininity. The challenge is to see our femininity, to acknowledge it and to make it work in our lives. Though I don’t plan to write daily about this, I am intrigued by the concept and want to explore my thoughts and feelings about the word and the meaning behind it.

Merriam-Webster defines femininity as “the quality or nature of the female sex.” The Oxford Living Dictionary definition differs slightly: “Qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women.” And Urban Dictionary gives us: “Feminine means ‘What pertains to a woman.’ There are no qualifications. Whatever a woman does is feminine, because they are a woman, and they are doing something that pertains to them.” They then go on to add, “The only thing that can really be called “feminine” are ovaries.”

Of course this is not what most people are thinking when they use the word feminine. If pressed to come up with synonyms, most people would use words such as soft, delicate, gentle, and dainty.

But these words don’t really work. Think about women’s role throughout time. The one thing that women can do that men cannot is give birth. Anyone who has been through or witnessed this knows that this experience is difficult and painful and frequently includes sounds and actions that would be seen by most as very “un-ladylike.”

washing-41825_1280Consider jobs that are traditionally seen as “women’s work.” Though smart men do not dare to use this term today, think of the daily lives of our great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers. I think it is safe to say that most of them spent their days at hard manual labor: scrubbing – floors, clothing, dishes; hauling – wood, water; and preparing meals (which may have included harvesting and slaughtering). This was all done while also making sure that their children survived to adulthood. Are you picturing a dainty, delicate damsel in distress here?

While I was a child who hated all things “girly,” I grew into a teen who appreciated her softer side and actually enjoyed opportunities to put on a pretty dress. While my early experiences with feminism made me believe that the movement was anti-men and therefore not something I wanted any part of, I have grown to see that true feminism benefits us all.

As defined, femininity is complex, as women (and men for that matter) are. We are much more than what we wear, say or do. We can be both tough and soft, both strong and vulnerable, both adventurous and refined, just not all at the same time.

I think this will be an interesting topic to ponder this month. I hope it will start a conversation. I, for one, am starting to think about it differently already.

Are Readers to Blame for Sensational Journalism?

newspaper-1595773_1920Shortly after the election, a young woman I know requested help with a media ethics class assignment. Her task was to find examples of bias in the news that was of concern to readers. Since this is someone I am fond of and the topic is in my field, I was happy to help. Besides, remembering that I saw quite a few stories that would fit the description, I thought this would be easy.

It wasn’t. The challenge was that the articles in question had to be “news” stories. Opinion pieces didn’t count. I did a quick search on controversial topics and realized this was going to take a while. I tried to narrow things down by thinking back to which stories particularly irritated me and searched those topics. As it turns out, the ones I remembered were opinion pieces.

Undeterred, my next strategy was to go directly to the news sources traditionally thought of as biased: Fox, CNN and the New York Times. (To clarify, I used the online versions of these outlets in my research.) To my surprise, when scrolling through the news departments of these publications (and others as well) all the stories I found were objective and based on solid journalistic principles. The inflammatory, biased statements were in the opinion section or woven into feature pieces.

Having been critical in the past of modern day media and the seeming lack of journalistic integrity today (what happened to the concept of confirming a story with three sources), I was happy to see that this is not in fact the case. So then why the disconnect? Why is the general view that the media is biased and cannot be trusted?

The answer is simple. News outlets are businesses. Sensationalism sells. The more outrageous, the more negative the headline, the more attention the story gets. As readers, we don’t always want what is true, we want the latest gossip. We don’t share the feel-good news (unless we have a direct connection); we talk about the catastrophes, the violence, the scandals.  This has always been the case. I remember as a child hearing, “All you ever hear is the bad news.” Again, why are we certain that the media has changed? Why do so many say it is corrupt?

As I discovered, the big news outlets continue responsible investigative journalism. They search for the truth and report on it. Sometimes they get it wrong; reporters are human after all, and when they do, retractions are provided. Of course with the way we consume news today, sometimes the damage has been done. In today’s world, the responsibility to check facts is more important than ever, since information and worse, misinformation spreads at lightning speed.

Perhaps this is where the problem lies. We simply have too much information at our disposal. This should be a good thing, but we are not using our resources well. We need to be more discerning about what we accept as fact. We need to stop and think before we react. We need to question outrageous stories before we spread them. Although there have been numerous articles that list reliable (meaning objective)  news sources versus right- or left-leaning sources, being selective about the news agency isn’t enough. We also need to look at the section each story is placed in.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees us a free press. That does not mean that it costs nothing. Saying our press is free means that our news is unfettered. The government does not control the press. This is intentional. The press is and should be separate from the government. Of course this has caused consternation and embarrassment for some politicians, but it is part of the system of checks and balances that we have come to depend on.

To maintain the independence of the press, it is not government sponsored. However, someone needs to pay the bills. As consumers, we need to shoulder some of the blame for the state of the media today. Which stories do you click on? Which do you share? Which outlets do you financially support? Sometimes you get what you pay for.


What Would Our Revolutionary War Veterans Think?

statue of liberty

I am saddened by the fact that many people are willing to so easily accept Friday’s executive order on visas and immigration that dramatically changed the lives of hundreds of people with the stroke of a pen. This is not who we are as Americans. Few of us can claim heritage going back to pre-colonial times. In fact, there are not many who can go even that far back. While I have traced some of my ancestors back to the time of the Revolutionary War, I also have those who immigrated in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Speaking for those who fought in that first American war, I doubt that they would be proud of the direction our country has gone.

While I agree that we need to keep our country safe, this may very well prove to do the opposite. I am not alone in this opinion, several Iraq war veterans as well as Senator (and war veteran) John McCain have expressed the same view. Further, detaining and deporting people who have spent years working through the proper channels and who have sold everything they have to move to America (as our ancestors did) is cruel and inhumane. Traveling to a place where you are not fluent in the language is intimidating at best. Moving to such a place when you have been assured of your welcome and then being detained, questioned and in some cases put on a plane and sent back into a war zone, with nothing, has to be terrifying.

As of today, citizens of 38 countries can enter the U.S .without a visa and stay here for up to 90 days as a tourist or a business traveler. All other countries are required to apply for a visa for a visit of any length (with some exceptions). The visa process takes time and can be complicated, but I agree it is necessary. (The image below explains the steps involved in obtaining a visa to the U.S..)

The new executive order has suspended all new visas to seven nations without reasonable justification.People already in the process have been told to not schedule nor to attend scheduled interviews.Further, the order has invalidated already issued visas, even to those who have been working or going to school in the U.S. and were traveling outside the country. (A direction to also include green card holders in the ban has since been rescinded.) These people have established a life here (whether temporary or permanent) and are now not allowed to return home. They went through legal channels; they were not a danger a week ago, why are they a danger today?

information on obtaining a visa to the U.S.
Source of image information: U.S. Department of State



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Why I, as a Catholic Christian, Felt the Need to Attend the Philadelphia Women’s March


When the idea of the Women’s March was first presented, I was conflicted about the idea. The cause was fuzzy and seemed scattered. I believe in some, but not all of the stated causes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to take a chance I would be labeled and attached to a cause contrary to my personal views.

As the event got closer, things became clearer and though it still didn’t have a single, clear focus, I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate but I supported the idea: we need to take a stand for what we believe in and need to speak for those who for a variety of reasons can’t speak for themselves. Yes, there were too many causes attached to effect rapid change in any one, but the sheer size would get attention, it would be a start. Though we do not all agree on everything, there are some things we do all agree on and our voices are more powerful together than apart.

As of Saturday morning, I still had not made the decision to go. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time. Home was comfortable. If I were to go, I would be going alone as everyone that I knew were heading into the city had already left and I thought it unlikely I would be able to meet up with anyone in a sea of thousands. I spent a couple hours pondering, but couldn’t shake the feeling that this was something I NEEDED to do. After all, the day before, our president took steps that may lead to many vulnerable people losing life-saving health insurance. These include the poor, the disabled, those with pre-existing conditions such as auto-immune disorders, autism, asthma, and mental health issues (all of which in the past have been a cause for denying health insurance completely). There are indications that there are plans to move quickly to make more changes, many of which I feel will be harmful, especially to the disabled and to our environment (which will affect us all).

Many are arguing that I am being alarmist, that the worst won’t happen, but if I have learned anything in the past year, it is that anything can happen; there are no assurances, there is no longer a status quo when it comes to the U.S. government. I also know that rights are much easier taken away than restored. We cannot be complacent and take a “wait and see” approach with the lives of our most vulnerable citizens at stake.

In Philadelphia, the crowds were polite and attentive to the speakers onstage. Mayor Jim Kenney was the first to speak. He affirmed his support for women, and encouraged the crowd to do more than simply show up at a rally, telling people to find a cause they believe in and “go volunteer somewhere.” Donna Bullock, a state representative from Philadelphia, was insistent that “we must continue to listen to each other” that working together and learning from each other is important. Overall, the message of the day was a positive one:  we need to stand together and watch out for each other. We need to be aware citizens and make sure our elected representatives know where we stand on issues.

On Saturday evening, I saw coverage of the many marches throughout the world, both on TV and on Facebook. I was hurt and baffled, then angry that so many misunderstood the point of the day’s gatherings. Friends made angry accusations, saying things like “Get over it, Trump won. Just move on” and stated that the marches were a waste of time, with the assumption that the point of the protest was to unseat Trump. Others condemned the demonstrations as pro-abortion rallies. Some talked about violence and destruction (there was no report of this at any event on Saturday). None of these things are true. I couldn’t understand why so many chose to make assumptions, rather than ask a question or do a little research.

I spent much time thinking about the responses I saw and I wondered how many people were really considering what Jesus would do. I thought of His words, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” If we turn our backs on the disabled, the poor, the mentally ill, what does that say about us? We cannot just turn a blind eye to policies that dismantle programs that provide assistance. As Christians, we are called to spread His word, not to sit by and watch as others’ rights are eroded.

In last week’s gospel, Matthew told us the story of Jesus calling His disciples to follow Him. In the homily, our priest expanded on that, talking about how extraordinary it was that Jesus called fishermen to come join him in his mission. He could have chosen “experts” in areas such as finance, business and law, but instead he chose men with no experience in public speaking, calling them to be “fishers of men.” We were reminded that there are no special qualifications needed to follow Christ, we need only to look to His example and take action to make a difference in the world.

I have long believed that it is all of our responsibility to work to ensure fair treatment for everyone, not just for those who can afford it. In October 2014, Archbishop Auza said, the “responsibility to protect is a recognition of the equality of all before the law, based on the innate dignity of every man and woman. The Holy See [Pope Francis] wishes to reaffirm that every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights.”

This is not a new concept, in 1961, Pope John XXIII said, “As for the State . . . It has also the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of the workingman.”

“The Catholic bishops of the United States believe building a just economy that works for all encompasses a wide range of issues, including food security and hunger, work and joblessness, homelessness and affordable housing, and tax credits for low-income families, as well as protecting programs that serve poor and vulnerable people throughout the federal budget.”

The Catholic bishops are specific about this and “have established three fundamental criteria for discerning the morality of budget decisions:

  1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
  2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects the lives and dignity of “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
  3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.”

I argue that given these tenets, we are obligated to speak up. It is our responsibility as citizens to hold our elected representatives accountable. As Catholics, we need to stand up for what is right, to speak up when we see injustice, to do what we can to right wrongs. There is no place for complacency.

As Pope Francis said in his Address at the World Meeting of Popular Movements, Bolivia, The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change.”  

The message I heard over and over again on Saturday is that as mothers, sisters, daughters, it is up to us to watch over each other. Traditionally, we are the caretakers. It is our responsibility to speak up and be heard.




A Final Hail to the Chief

100_1078-1edYou know that list of top people you would want to invite for dinner? The Obamas (and the Bidens as well) would certainly make my list. As we prepare to say farewell to someone who will certainly have more than a brief mention in future history books, I feel compelled to offer a thank you. I have never been prouder of my country than I was that day in November 2008 that a black man was elected to the presidency. I believed in his message, but honestly I wasn’t sure that our country was at the point that they could look past color and see just a man. I consider the nation fortunate that they did.

It is not my job to record his legacy; that I will leave for the historians, but I am confident that future generations will see him in a favorable light, even though his critics are in abundance today.

What I will remember most about the past eight years is the image presented to the world. President Obama has been well respected in other countries and has shown grace in the face of opposition at home. He has a dedication to family that I greatly admire and a willingness to be real, in a city that often isn’t.  He demonstrates a willingness to hear other people’s views and is not above meeting them at their level (even those who are too young to vote) His love and respect for his wife and daughters is obvious as is his genuine concern for all people.

Also unlike many in Washington, he shows respect for others, even when he holds opposing views.  When he spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton, he was quick to suppress boos or derogatory comments, defending the rights of those who were there to voice their opposition. Likewise, our First Lady refused to trash talk, insisting that “We go high.” Throughout a divisive and at times very ugly campaign, Barack and Michelle Obama maintained standards of decency and showed class and grace.

There has not been a family in the White House in my memory that has had such a complete absence of scandal or for that matter any tinge of social impropriety. After the past few decades, it has been refreshing to have the confidence, especially in this day and age, that our president would not embarrass us on the world stage. It also has been a pleasure to watch the “Dad-in-Chief” interact with his children as well as the antics of the most high-profile bromance in our country.

President Obama has been true to his role, right to the end. He has worked to encourage those who are discouraged or fearful and has continued to express the vision of hope which came to the forefront of our nation almost a decade ago. He has committed to the principles our nation was founded on, calling for a peaceful transition, while reminding us that we are a government “of the people.”

Change is never easy. Dramatic change is even more difficult. To say that I will miss this president is an understatement. President Obama and his family have shown us how those in power can and should behave. They have served as role models for those in public office and hopefully some of our elected representatives are paying attention.

President Obama, thank you, not only for being a good president, but also for being a shining example of a good man.


Click here to watch the video of President Obama’s meeting with Kid President.



We Have a Problem to Solve – Not Every Vote Is Equal

Each dot represents a block of voters with red dots for Trump votes and blue for Clinton. In most states, each dot represents 10,000 votes, however due to the size of some states and the total number of voters, in some states a dot represents 20K, 25K or 50K votes. This is uniform within states in order to keep the proportions.


Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength. It is a color associated with wisdom, dignity, creativity and independence. It is the color our nation has chosen to indicate bravery.

I have seen too many gloating posts, proclaiming that the voters have spoken, that we have a consensus, that we have a clear winner. Besides being insensitive and unsportsmanlike, these claims are simply not true.

Those of you who are proclaiming that your candidate won and you are in the majority, take another look. Putting aside that the losing party in this election won the popular vote, the votes were largely split across almost every state. In only 16 states did one candidate get 60% or more of the vote. In many states, it was close to a tie. In one state, only 2732 votes separated the candidates. That is less than half the population of my very small town. Looking at maps at the county level, the voting result in many cases was even closer. Shading one county or state red or blue based on a simple majority can discount up to half of the population.

I understand the concept of the Electoral College and why it was put in place. It makes sense to not give all the power to one or a couple states. But in a way, isn’t that exactly what the system has done? Much of our country believed that their vote didn’t count. I heard many people in non-swing states say that no matter how they voted, the outcome was already known, their state’s candidate was decided even without a vote.

The Electoral College does not accurately reflect the will of the people.  We all saw the map, which made it look like the country had overwhelmingly voted for one person. This is not the first time the popular vote has not matched the electoral vote and even when it has, this visual has been skewed, making it appear that everyone in a state agrees on a single candidate. Perhaps this has contributed to some of the unrest that has festered silently for years and is now spilling out and dividing our nation. I question the wisdom in giving all the electoral votes in a state to one candidate. If these votes were divided between candidates in all states, how close would it be? Who would win? When you look at the popular vote, even within states, the results were extremely close.

I am not arguing the results of this election. I believe in our democracy and accept that we won’t always agree. We have rules and procedures in place and need to work within the framework we have. But I believe that is is time for this to change. I also believe that when change is necessary, it needs to come about through the proper channels and unfortunately this is usually a slow and sometimes painful process.

If nothing else, we are now certain that our country is broken. Without a doubt, there are many changes ahead. If we are going to remain United States, we have  to work together. Our government relies on compromise in order for our system to work. We need to look past the labels to ensure that the changes are good not for just the red side or the blue side, but for everyone.

Personally, I think purple is a fine color.








Today I Am Wondering, Is This a Test?

sunset-1591599_1280There is a saying, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

This is something I have lived by. When things get dark and scary, I remind myself of this. Of course there have been days I have looked to the heavens and said, “You put way too much faith in me.”

But guess what? He has always been right.

Last night I went to bed, just before the election was called, reasonably certain of the results.  This morning I woke up to what I have expected for weeks: Discord and anger. Facebook is still being monopolized by politics and the election. As the vote was split pretty evenly, half of our country is disappointed by the results. Because of the way the votes ultimately swung, many are also frightened.

I am proud to live in a diverse community. I feel blessed that my kids went to school with people of many faiths and ethnic heritages. My children have friends whom they consider family with ethnic heritages very unlike our own primarily Irish and British roots.These kids have been welcome guests in my home. My kids have helped them celebrated their religious ceremonies and have been accepted into their families as they have been into ours.

This morning, my children are worried about their friends. They are all adults, so it is not in an abstract, childish way. They have seen racism, sexism and homophobia. They see the fear in their friends’ eyes. They have witnessed bullying and harassment. They have seen how some people treat others as “less than” due to superficial differences.

I worry about this too. I have from the time my children were small. But I know that worry doesn’t inspire change. But prayer does. Speaking up does. Acting on one’s belief does. Practicing all three magnifies the impact.

If this year taught us anything, it is that we need to teach love. We need to fight the darkness. We need to be an example to our children of how to make a difference in the world, in a positive way. We need to watch over those who can’t fight for themselves and make sure that they receive the care and respect they deserve. To effectively do these things, we have to work together. We have to extend a hand to those who have disagreed with us and agree to work toward a common goal. (Without a doubt, we have some common goals.) This won’t necessarily be easy, but things worth fighting for rarely are.

Today the challenge looks daunting, but a group of people working for good can accomplish amazing things. We have seen this over and over again throughout history. We need to keep the faith. He wouldn’t have given us this challenge if we couldn’t succeed.

The Absolute Uncertainly of an Unsettled World

torn flag and barbed wireAbsolute uncertainty. This perfectly describes the upcoming election for U.S. President.

The outcome is uncertain. The acceptance of the outcome is uncertain. The future of the country I love is uncertain.

These are uncertain times. Never before have I felt so unsure of the future. Never before have I been seriously concerned about the world my children and their children will inhabit. No matter which candidate wins the election, the country will be in turmoil. If Trump wins, I worry that we will take many steps back. Many individual rights are threatened by Trump’s stated goals. Of course, many of the things he promised cannot be fulfilled, at least not with the system as it is currently set up. But I worry that even that is uncertain. If Clinton wins, Trump has indicated that he will challenge the results; that he will not concede. Either way, a large portion of the population will feel that they have lost after this election and I am not sure how or even if we will be able to feel united again.

When a major political party, the party who years ago pushed for family values, elects as their representative a man who lies and cheats and then says he “never said that” (in an era when everything public figures say and do is recorded and reported on), I believe we can be certain of nothing. When people then defend these statements and say that his opponent is crooked and parrot his soundbites, instead of doing their research to determine what is true, I am confused and question my long-held belief that truth and goodness will always prevail.

I am baffled by the argument: “He is a good businessman and will surround himself with good people to get the job done.” I have seen no evidence of that. If anything, I think his judgement is getting worse. A good businessman knows how to handle himself in public, he is respectful, he encourages, not disparages. A good businessman listens to others, especially when they don’t agree with him. A good businessman puts together cohesive, intelligent arguments, he doesn’t stomp his feet and call names when someone disagrees with him. A good businessman takes pride in what he does and encourages press coverage, he doesn’t banish those who may write negatively about him. A good businessman doesn’t regularly insult more than half the population.

Conspiracy theorists have been given an abundance of fuel as well. Trump has left little tidbits in his wake at almost every appearance. Though this is nothing new, his paranoia of the establishment has fueled more fear and hatred than I have ever seen. Yes government has its flaws, but his suggestions that everything is rigged will only polarize people more. Is it possible that the system our forefathers put in place, with multiple checks and balances, could have gotten so corrupt that it is possible to rig everything? I don’t think so.

Politicians promise things they can’t deliver. Election seasons are full of lofty goals and visions of an ideal world. Our political system is set up in such a way that people must work together to make anything happen. This is of course the great flaw in our system, since today people can’t even agree to talk about making a decision, let alone work to find a solution that will benefit all, even a little.

We are living in a time of absolute uncertainty. We are becoming a nation of us and them. We are not listening to each other, but are reacting to what we think others are saying. The future is always unknown, but up until recently, I believed that it could always be made better. I now worry that we may be going a direction that cannot be reversed. I am absolutely uncertain of anything except that if we could all set aside our differences and find a way to work together, that maybe, just maybe, we can save our country from ourselves.


There IS a Dish Fairy, and Other Lies I Have Convinced My Family Are True

little-girl-626114_1280Sometimes one can do a job too well. Since I quit my full time job to stay home with my kids, I have seen most household responsibilities as part of my job. Taking care of their health and well being has been my top priority, but the everyday maintenance that comes along with living in a house with a group of people is also part of what I do. Since I accepted these responsibilities, it is perhaps unrealistic of me to expect others to take them on, just because they see that they need doing. (Although that has been part of the problem, they too often do NOT see that these things need doing.) Over time, they have come to see these things as my responsibility, but I also have inadvertently convinced them that certain things are true.

There is a dish fairy

Unless you are willing to spend extra money on disposables and contribute to filling landfills, you have dishes. Dishes need to be washed, generally after each use. (And let’s not forget the pots and pans used before you put the food on the dishes.) With a family of six, the sink fills up. Sometimes I have other, more pressing things to attend to, and the pile sits. I have taken to casually mentioning that we really need the “dish fairy” to show up. This is usually met with a chuckle and life’s busyness goes on. At some point, I empty and fill the dishwasher (which seems to take less time than when anyone else attempts it) and the problem is solved.

Now, I could have started when the kids were little and insisted they do the dishes. In my husband’s family, each child had a dish night; in mine, my sister and I would trade off – one did the dishes and the other the pots. Instead, once my children were tall enough to reach the sink, they also had a crushing amount of homework. Doing well in school is important, so I made the decision that school is their “job” and they could help with dishes and other chores on occasion. They are expected to get their dishes to the sink, but for the most part, their responsibility ends there. (I do have the rule that no food is allowed in bedrooms, so I thankfully have avoided needing a “dish collection fairy” as well.)

I guess this makes ME the dish fairy. (Honestly, most days I don’t mind as the window over the sink provides entertainment with the variety of birds that frequent our birdbath, I just wish sometimes the dish fairy would visit before I get there).

I have nothing to do with my time

Once all the kids were in school, I arranged my daily routine around the school day. They would leave, I would run errands, do household chores, make phone calls, plan events, and hopefully squeeze in some “me time,” like meeting a friend for lunch (and usually running errands before or after). When they got home, I was available to hear about their day, help with homework, and drive them places. After dinner, I tried to minimize personal obligations that did not directly impact my family. Weekends were likewise set aside for kid-centric events or whatever someone else in the family needed or wanted to do.

I realize now that by doing this, I have made it look like I don’t have anything important to do. When they are around, I am there, for whatever is needed at the time. They don’t see all the mundane things I regularly get done while they are away from home. Even when they hear about my day, they have no true concept of how much time it takes up. On unscheduled days off, I have heard complaints that I am “too busy.” Well, that is my “job,” every day.

I have their schedules committed to memory

I have always had a mind for dates and times. I am frequently the go-to person when someone needs the date for a birthday or anniversary. I have four children, spanning ten years, with different interests. The family calendar is color coded, by individual and sometimes by activity. Thanks to the way my brain functions, for the most part, I could keep track of all the comings and goings without too much difficulty. Since kids often need it, I made a habit of providing a warning that “soon” we had somewhere to go.

As they got older, I realized they could be responsible for keeping track of these things themselves. I stopped giving warnings and they managed just fine. Since I no longer had this responsibility, I wasn’t paying as much attention to their calendars and sometimes would forget they had anywhere to be at all. When I showed surprise that they were leaving, or that it was time for me to take them somewhere, they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I was supposed to remember these things. After all, isn’t that Mom’s job?

I know where everything is

This, I know, is a common mom phenomenon. Almost every family I know looks to Mom when something is missing, whether it be keys, library books, or shin guards. It is reinforced when, more often than not, she tells you where these items are (usually where you left them). When I am scattered myself, and don’t have the answer, I get a strange look and, “But you’re supposed to know, you’re the mom.”

I know when they are out of anything

Things run out, like shampoo, deodorant, clean underwear. I am expected to know when these things are close to running out and make sure a replacement is at hand. This, unfortunately, is something that I have mostly been very good at over the years. I notice details and have a strange sense of when things should be purchased again. I don’t keep written notes (if I did I would likely put them in that elusive “safe” place), sometimes it is as simple as a bottle falls over and I notice it feels light, or I am making a list or looking at coupons and remember to ask, just before something is needed.

On occasion, I have messed this one up, and there is whining and gnashing of teeth. I protest that it is not my job, that one should know when they are using the last ____ , and to let me know so it can be replenished. This is something that they all got better at, especially once they got to college.

Clean clothes magically appear

Laundry is one of those dirty words (pun fully intended). This is one of the chores that is NEVER complete. Again, I have taken this task on, of my own free will. Everyone in my house knows how to do laundry – how to sort it, and how the washer and dryer work. They also know that complaints about something not being clean will result in them being told to do it themselves. Therefore, they have also learned to not complain and to do without.

Like the others, this is a chore I chose. Yes, I could make each child do their own laundry, but then I would lose control of the washing machine. My main argument is that if everyone did their own, we would use more energy as we would be doing more partially full loads each week. This is true, but my hidden agenda is that by letting them all use the washer and dryer, it will likely be full when I want to use it. I really don’t want to have a laundry schedule, where everyone would have assigned times. I don’t want to manage such a schedule, and I want to use my machines when it is convenient for me.

Some people have told me that I let my kids off too easy, that they should have had more responsibilities around the house, starting at a younger age. There may be some truth in this, but I think we are all doing okay. They know how to care for themselves (even though they sometimes pretend they don’t) and are well on their way to becoming productive members of society. I am fortunate to have been in a position where I could do these things and possibly reduce the amount of stress in all their lives. They know that everyone has to pitch in to make society work and are among the first to volunteer when they see a need.

To be fair, my family takes care of me as well. Several years ago, when I sprained my foot, badly, they wouldn’t let me get out of my favorite comfy chair except to go to the dining room table, the bathroom, or to bed for four days. That is how I learned how well the human body can heal itself, if you let it. (I have had not a twinge from it since.) More recent illnesses have also had them stepping up and taking care of the most important, basic needs (the stuff they KNOW I do), while insisting that I rest and get better. At these times, I know that what I do every day is noticed and appreciated. Once I am again healthy, though, taking care of the house and them, well, that is my job.


This article first appeared on There IS a Dish Fairy, and Other Lies I Have Convinced My Family Are True


Each Year I Feel the Horror

img_7120I awoke this morning and decided to turn on the television, to try to catch up on current events. I have been too busy with other things to pay much attention to what is going on in the world (and have been avoiding the constant coverage of politics). Since it was early, and I had not yet had my coffee, I had forgotten the date (which to be honest, I hardly pay attention to anymore).  I was quickly reminded.

Today is a tough day. It has been for the past 15 years. Though no one I knew was lost that day, I have not gotten through an anniversary of the day without tears. I remember the morning clearly and now understand the question “Where were you when…?” For my parents’ generation, it was the day was Kennedy was shot. For mine and my kids, it was September 11. No year is needed, it is simply September 11.

I remember (and relive each year) the emotions of that day. My older kids were off to school, I had just showered and put the TV on for some light entertainment, yet it wasn’t Regis and Kelly I saw on the screen, but an image of New York, with smoke coming from one of the towers. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were discussing breaking news: apparently a commuter plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Moments later, a plane flew on to the screen and crashed into the other. I felt sick. It was obvious that this was intentional and the reports began – we were under attack. Then they went to DC were an explosion had rocked the Pentagon and then were reports of another plane going down in central PA.

Now we know what happened, but at the time, one could only speculate. I was afraid. The hows, the whys, even the who was unknown. I couldn’t step away from the television. I watched the World Trade Center smolder. I had been there on multiple occasions. Like many tourists, I stood at the top and viewed the city below; I had been to the restaurant at the top, celebrating an anniversary. That morning, I called my husband, multiple times. I asked him if the tower would fall over. He reassured me, no, it was built to withstand just about anything.  Then, just seconds later, the towers crumbled.  I couldn’t breathe.

Then I had the uncontrollable urge to collect everyone I loved and get them close. I called the elementary school and told the secretary there (which whom I had developed a relationship) that I was going to pick my kids up (from three schools). She convinced me that they were safe there and it would be best for them to stay. I contacted family members throughout the country, ensuring they were all safe. Though I could not reach those in New York, other family members were able to and assured me they were safe.

I continued to watch the coverage. At this point, my three year old was wondering where Mommy was and came looking. This is what finally pulled me away. No child should watch that. When the older kids got home, I didn’t have to tell them what was happening. They had heard about it in school (and despite a news blackout ordered by the administration, one had seen some of it on TV).

I felt helpless. I didn’t know if anyone I knew was involved and felt guilty that all my loved ones were accounted for. So many others could not say the same. Then the stories started coming out. Stories of loss and of heroism. They all made me cry. Though the kids knew what had happened, they couldn’t understand why. How do you explain this kind of evil to a child? Our church announced a prayer service and Mass that night. No one else in my family wanted to go, but I had to. I was too emotional to stay for it all, but going helped me.

The days that followed were also difficult. One of the kids spent time building block towers and knocking them down with a pretend airplane. I tried to not talk about it around them and limit the television to kid-friendly channels, but they needed to talk as well. It was eerily quiet. The lack of air traffic was a dramatic difference since there were several airstrips nearby. When a military plane flew over, we all jumped in fear.

As the first anniversary approached, I planned to avoid media altogether. It was too much. I couldn’t handle my emotions. I understand why we memorialize these things, but there is no danger that I will ever forget. Our community lost a few people and there are ceremonies each year. My children attend; I still can’t. I wonder if I ever will.