2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Today’s Quote

new year's eve

A New Year’s Eve Blessing
~ Teo Bishop ~

May you look back on the year,
and feel a sense pride.
May you remember the strength of your character,
the resilience of your spirit,
and the inherent worth of your being.
May you know that you are a part of an ecosystem,
and that your life is sustained
by countless other living things.
May you have gratitude for what has been;
for all that you have lost,
and all you have gained.
May you laugh at your mistakes.
May you forgive yourself, and love yourself.
May you be resolved to be more fully alive in the year to come;
more present in your body, in your mind, and in your heart.
And most of all, may you be blessed with unexpected joys,
undeniable happiness, and unending compassion in the year to come.

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Monday Meeting — Sportsmanship at Its Best

 

You might have heard about “the Ohio miracle,” when freshman Lauren Hill got her dying wish to play in a college basketball game. But did you know that her fairy godmothers were a bunch of young ladies she didn’t know?

Sometimes life is ugly and unfair.

Lauren Hill was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. She was about to start college.

Her dream was to play in a college game.

She felt like a superhero when she put on that jersey.

As the Mount St. Joseph University freshman practiced with the team leading up to the game, her condition got worse.

Her coach worried that she wouldn’t be well enough to travel from Cincinnati to Hiram College (near Cleveland) for their first game — let alone play.

Hiram College’s Lady Terriers offered to switch the game location.

They ceded their home court advantage to play in a sold-out stadium full of Lauren’s supporters. They also moved the game up two weeks.

The Mount St. Joseph team treated the Hiram players to dinner the night before the game and got to know them. When the tipoff came, everyone was rooting for Lauren.
Even after “the shot heard round the world,” the spirit of camaraderie and support continued.

Even their coach was impressed with their genuine caring and the kindness on the court that day.

Lauren is a brave and dedicated young woman. But she couldn’t get her wish on her own. It took a dozen or so young women who should have been her rivals to grant it.

And that’s what college sports should be about.

sportsmanship

 

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Alisha Huber — upworthy.com
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Thursday Re-View — “An Adolescent’s Christmas…”

christmas tree
Working with college students is great.

Before anyone gets into that type of work, however, it would be wise to warn you about the college student brain. Studies have shown that “late adolescence” may actually extend until 25 years old. The scientist in me wants to explain that until then, the neural networks that regulate behavior don’t reach full maturity, making the person subject to sensation-seeking and increased risk-taking, as well as more vulnerable to impulses, emotions, and the effects of alcohol and other drugs.

Still want to work with college students??? (You should. It’s energizing!)

When I explain that to the students themselves, in trying to help them understand the developmental changes during their college years, their reactions – after the shock – divide into two different camps. The first group sits up straighter, usually with an affronted look on their face – “Hey, just one minute! We’re adults, not adolescents!” The other group slouches a bit, eyes glazed, wheels turning, and you can hear them thinking, “Sweet! When I get drunk tomorrow night, I’ll have a great excuse. I couldn’t help it; my brain made me do it…”

My point being that it’s hard to transition from high school to college, and a common problem is the “emotional disconnect” that so many young people seem to have with their parents. Communication is not their strong point (one only has to look at the texts and twitter feeds to see that; while I’m on that topic – Rule #1: Never break up by texting or on Facebook! Man-up or woman-up and do it in person.).

facebook

Which brings me to Kristy… Together, she and I worked through a nasty break-up with her boyfriend, a charge of plagiarism by a professor, changing her major, feeling left out as a commuter, drinking too much on weekends, and the struggle with going to college and working a part-time job at the same time. All in an average day in the life of an adolescent. (One good thing – students who commute are spared the drama of roommate issues that flare up with alarming frequency).

But – and there’s always a but – no matter how hard she tried, no matter how much role-playing we did together, Kristy could not seem to reach an uneasy peace – or even a truce – with her mother. There was no father in the picture; only Kristy and her Mom. Finances were, of course, a huge issue, and Kristy’s only ticket to a better life was to keep her grades up in order to keep her scholarships and find some middle ground with her mother. Most times, they didn’t even speak to/with each other.

One day right before Christmas break, Kristy came in with shoulders slumped, looking dejected. (Uh oh – probably another incident with Mom.) I asked her what was wrong. Kristy grabbed a tissue (uh oh, uh oh – Kristy never cries) and started to explain what happened the night before.

She and her Mom were in a particularly tight spot with money, and were behind on rent and other bills. It was bleak enough that they couldn’t even afford to put up a Christmas tree. Last week, we had already discussed that not having money for a gift for her Mom didn’t matter; we Moms love a hug or a hand-made card – nothing else needed. But Kristy felt strongly that if she could only get her Mom something wonderful, their relationship, in this season of joy, would suddenly be terrific – wonderful – like everyone else’s (if Kristy only knew…). So what happened, with a child wanting nothing more than to please her hard-working, single mother?

Kristy had noticed in the past that her Mom cherished a statue she kept all alone on a coffee table in their apartment. Kristy wasn’t supposed to touch it, in case it broke. Sometimes, after coming home from her 2nd job, Kristy would see her Mom take off her sneakers, put her feet up and just stare at the statue, lost in thought.

“That has to be so very special to your Mom; what/who is the statue?”

Kristy struggled with this. “Well, it’s a small boy – looks kind of weird with something like a crown on his head, and his hand is held up like he’s agreeing with Mom – stay away.” She sighed. “Oh, and sometimes she dresses it up in clothes that she made herself, when she still had her sewing machine; you know, kind of like I used to do with my Barbie.”

Okay. The picture in my head is taking shape.

infant-prague-statue-8-inches-2007991

“The statue – was there something like a globe in the little boy’s left hand?”

“Yeah – how did you know?”

“My Mom had the same statue. But what happened?”

Kristy explained that the 2 things her Mom loved most were costume jewelry and this statue. So, thinking of surprising her Mom with something even better than an expensive Christmas tree, Kristy got some of Mom’s favorite, chunky jewelry out of her bedroom and draped the statue with it, Mardi-Gras style. “Lots of bling, you know?” When the statue looked blinged out enough, Kristy draped a string of lights around the statue, too, so it blinked in color and blinged at the same time. “I thought it looked good.”

Now I am trying to keep my “listening intently” look, and not show my concern about where this might lead. “What did your Mom do when she saw it?”

Kristy looked down for a long moment. “She didn’t say a word. She just kept looking at the statue, then at me, then the statue…and she started to cry. So I just went up to my room. Why didn’t she like it?”

Okay. So – how to explain. “Well, I know you meant well, and I’m proud of you for wanting to make your Mom happy with her 2 special things, but that statue… that’s the Infant of Prague – the Child Jesus – and the hand He holds up, like He wants you to stay away so you won’t break Him – that’s the Child Jesus blessing you.”

Kristy’s eyes had that “deer in the headlight” look, horrified and scared at the same time.

“Some might think what you did was sacri – (no – skip that word) disrespectful.”

Her eyes got even bigger. But then she got a twinkle in her eye and covered her mouth with her hands. Remember the high emotion and mood swings in the adolescent make-up? We were there. For only the second time in my work as a therapist, I lost it (for the only other time, see my post “The Welcome Angel.”).

Kristy started to laugh, then I started to laugh. She choked out, “I put bling on Jesus? And Christmas lights???” She alternated between being horrified at what she had done and being proud of herself for rendering her Mom speechless. I laughed right along with her, as I pictured the Infant of Prague decked out for the 21st century.

I tried to explain when I quieted. “You know how you don’t know how to feel right now – upset, but a bit of you thinks it’s funny? That’s probably what happened with your Mom; she was upset with having something other than “proper” clothing on the statue, but happy that you tried so very hard to give her something that would mean so much to her, and maybe even put a smile on her face. It’s okay, Kristy; it will all be okay. Your heart was in the right place.”

What do you think? Was the new appearance appropriate? It sure was! Was the Child Jesus angry with Kristy? Absolutely not. In fact, I think He must have smiled while He watched her face, so intent on dressing Him in something special for her Mom; so intent on pleasing her, so intent on trying to show her that deep down, there was love.

Kristy’s intention was pure; her adolescent love – fickle but piercing in its strength – was on display, her heart vulnerable. And what better time than at Christmas, with the birth of Jesus and a Mother’s love. Who knew that something so innocent could be so wondrous?

You did good, Kristy. You saw with the eyes of your heart, and Jesus smiled with love and understanding; He offered His blessings to you and your Mom.

Indeed – you are a blessing to me as well.

There’s a lot to be said for that adolescent brain, isn’t there?

And the heart – don’t forget the heart.

heart III

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A Winter Blessing

National Geographic

National Geographic

A Winter Blessing
Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr

Blessed are you, winter,
dark season of waiting,
you affirm the dark seasons of our lives,
forecasting the weather of waiting in hope.

Blessed are you, winter,
you faithfully guard a life unseen,
calling those who listen deeply
to discover winter rest.

Blessed are you, winter,
frozen and cold on the outside,
within your silent, nurturing womb
you warmly welcome all that longs for renewal.

Blessed are you, winter,
your bleak, barren trees
preach wordless sermons
about emptiness and solitude.

Blessed are you, winter,
you teach us valuable lessons
about waiting in darkness
with hope and trust.

Blessed are you, winter,
season of blood red sunsets
and star-filled, long, dark nights,
faithfully you pour out your beauty.

Blessed are you, winter,
when your tiny snowflakes
flurry through the air,
you awaken our sleeping souls.

Blessed are you, winter,
with your wild and varied moods,
so intent on being yourself,
you refuse to be a people-pleaser.

Blessed are you, winter,
when ice storms crush our hearts and homes,
you call forth the good in us
as we rush to help one another.

Blessed are you, winter,
your inconsistent moods
often herald spring’s arrival,
yet how gracefully you step aside
when her time has come.

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Thursday Re-View — Chrysalis

My soul sighs as it waits in the darkness.
No light, no sound. Simply being.

What is this waiting?

I inched along, plodding through my life,
minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

Joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain,
hope and despair, darkness and light.

Then, I chose the darkness
as I spun my cocoon, my chrysalis, my womb.

What is this waiting?

It’s the in-between time, between where I was
and where I will be, between my past and my future.

My soul sighs as I trust in the darkness, in the patient hope
that I will emerge from this cocoon stronger, smarter, better.

That I will no longer plod along minute by minute,
hour by hour, day by day, but that I will fly.

That I will soar toward the heavens each moment I take a breath,
toward my destiny that was written before I was born.

I will see more clearly, live more authentically, love more fruitfully.

I lived, I died, and I will become again.
I will not pass through this transformation unaware.

I will touch and love and hope and be present,
and alight upon the shoulders of giants.

I will look to those brief rainbow moments that shine
when the sun comes out after the rain.

I will live, and be mindful of all that is.
I choose to be born anew, and I relish this freedom.

What is this waiting?

It is a gestation, a creating, a longing,
a whispered promise.

My soul sighs as it waits in the darkness.

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