God is a Sports Fan

On Sunday, Gabe’s football team—which hasn’t lost a game in five years—was down 18-14 at halftime of their playoff game.

We’ve only been on this team for a season so the mystique of the Undefeated is new to us.

I was proud of how they all handled it. Coach kept his cool. The parents kept cheering positively, with the exception of me and Shea and AJ’s mom–but to be fair, Gabe and AJ were being held for twenty plays before the refs actually threw a fricking flag.

Still, Gabe’s eyes were wide and his eyebrows were floating around his hairline, which is family code for “I’m freaking out.” He kept looking at me, but the league frowns on parents doing pep talks on the sideline so I just gave him a thumbs-up and a smile.

Thirty seconds before halftime ended, it hit me: between Mass and Sunday School and pre-game practice, we hadn’t prayed. So then I did get up and walk down to the sideline. He saw me coming and when I said “We didn’t pray” he stood on his tiptoes and reached his hand up to the railing. I grabbed it and we prayed this prayer:

Dear Lord,

In the battle that goes on in life,

We ask but a field that is fair

Give us the strength to meet the strife

The courage to do and dare.

If we should win let it be by the code with our faith and our honor high.

If we should lose let us stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by.

His eyebrows went back to their normal place and in the second half the refs found their flags and the offense got their feet under them and we won the game 28-18.

Afterwards he came to me and said “It’s because we prayed.”

Oh buddy. He comes from a long line of athletes who pray. In high school, we hit the quiet cool of the church for a decade of the rosary before every game. When we made the play-offs, it was a full rosary. Then we prayed the Memorare on the court before lining up, along with a shout-out to St. Therese: Little Flower, show your power, help us in this needy hour. The end of every huddle went like this: Our Lady, Queen of Victory…pray for us…St. Anthony…pray for us.

When I coached, we did the same, except I replaced the Memorare with the prayer I say with my kids. You ain’t heard nothing in a huddle until you’ve heard high school boys pray to “cheer as the winners go by”, although one later admitted to me that he crossed his fingers every time he said that part.

But it was never superstition. It was what we did, but not what we needed to do to win, like wearing lucky socks or sitting in the same seats on the bus.  I think that’s a really important conversation Gabe and I will have. His team didn’t win because Gabe and I prayed. My teams didn’t win because we prayed. God doesn’t work on a pray to play basis.

But did we play better because we took those moments to be centered in the presence of God first, to lay down our cares and worries? To remember that win or lose, we were beloved children of God? I did. I looked forward to the empty, darkened church and the murmured prayers of my teammates. As a coach, I wanted my players to know that peace.

I loved our voices raised in prayer together. I loved Gabe’s dirty, reaching fingers in my hand as we prayed in the rain. And the sweet bowed heads of Kate and her teammate Jo as we prayed in the gym. I loved watching high school players pray over each other on the sideline of their public school game a few weeks ago. I love how Tim Tebow—that’s right, I said it—leaps into the stands to pray over fans in distress.

And that’s how I know God is a sports fan.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

                                                                                                                                                Matthew 18:20

Reading to Win

Gabe and I are reading this book series about twins who travel into stories. Alex and Connor are caricatures of 12-year-old tweens at the beginning—sister Alex is a smart book worm with few friends and brother Connor is the jokester who doesn’t like or do well in school. But then Connor discovers that he likes to write stories of his own. Books later, they travel into his stories to save the day and that’s when they discover that spelling counts.

Instead of being served rotisserie chicken by an all-girl pirate crew, they are served a live and squawking chicken with a rosary around its neck. Rosary Chicken has now become a bit player in the plot, showing up at the oddest of moments. That’s our joke: Actions have consequences. Rosary Chicken.


From Land of Stories: An Author’s Odyssey, page 130. Illustrated by Brandon Dorman

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer is the third series of books that Gabe and I have read together, following the seven Wings of Fire books by Tui T. Sutherland and the five (and counting) Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull.

Tween literature has come a long way since the days when teachers begged boys to read the sports page of the newspaper. Turns out boys like to read about more than sports. And if the stories are good, they will keep reading them, as many as the author can write. Like Erin Hunter, author of the Warrior books, a series about soldier cats. There have to be 40 of those things. And they are never available at the library.

Gabe is not the only boy in his class who reads. They ALL read. They share books with each other. They meet on Clash Royale and talk about books. They stand around at football practice and soccer practice and talk about books.

They have conversations like this on the phone: “Meet me at the park. Bring nerf guns and the football. And a snack. And the next Warriors book because I finished the other one.”

I’ve never had a 5th grader before, so maybe this is normal for 5th grade boys to read like crazy.

But I don’t think so.

Here’s what they do around here to support reading.

First, they run reading like an Olympic competition. It’s fierce. Accelerated Reader (AR) points are a BIG DEAL. There are free lunches and medals for every 100 points. The medals get handed out at assemblies. The whole school claps. The beauty of this is that anyone, regardless of reading level, can amass AR points.

Next, the state of Oregon runs a tournament for reading called Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB). Kids form teams and read books and then answer questions to advance all the way up to state finals. You can read all about it here. Two years ago I was the scorekeeper for the regional high school competition. More boys than girls on the teams, and two of them were great big hulking linemen.

The release of the OBOB book lists usually happens at the beginning of summer, which means kids go to the public library to get the books to read over the summer. They go the first day of summer. I know this because when we got there the second day, they were all checked out and had six people on their waiting lists.

Barnes and Noble carries them too, they just cost money there and our monthly book budget is already a tenuous negotiation.

Now let me tell you what I learned about reading a book with your son. It’s magical. All kinds of conversation starters and access points. That one character who kind of does what he wants because he thinks he’s smarter than anyone else and he gets his sister killed (not really, but he doesn’t know that)? Yeah, that kid was a learning moment for us.

And Rosary Chicken. Gabe’s active imagination extends to his spelling, so when I came out of my room to laugh about Rosary Chicken, he said what I was thinking: That’s totally something I would do. But what he really learned from Rosary Chicken is that just because you can’t spell doesn’t mean you can’t write.

And what 10 year old boy doesn’t need to hear that?


Reap What You Sow


Women have a wound of fear in our spirits. We have it because we are from Venus. We carry it with us, generation to generation. It’s not about men.

This is not the fault of men.

But we have this wound, from whispered family gossip and front page tabloid stories. We have it when we are large with child and when we are middle aged and when we are 13 and our bodies already don’t look like the lies on the cover of fashion magazines.

I can’t explain it. It’s primal. When we make a family with our bodies and our hearts we step out in faith and fear. We put it all on the line. And we need to believe that the partners we choose for this most amazing journey are faithful, loyal people.

But we’re scared they aren’t. And we hold that fear so tightly, for so many reasons, that it creates a wound.

I know women whose partners have betrayed them.

Some of them have stayed. Some of them have not. None of them have asked my opinion, which is as it should be. I can know and love them as friends, almost as sisters. But I can never know the truth of someone else’s relationship. No one can.

I told my one of my friends who stayed that I thought she made the harder decision and I admired her for it.

I told one of my friends who left the same thing.

Both were true, and my way of saying: “I don’t know what I don’t know, but I know you and I trust you to know what is best for you and yours in this moment. And I know that tomorrow, it may all look different but the point is, I see you trying to work it out and whatever that means, I am praying for you all.”

The most basic part of my womanhood rose up in rebellion against what Donald Trump did to Hillary Clinton on Sunday night.

It was despicable, to line those women up in her face. And not just for her. For every woman who has walked in her shoes.

It spoke directly to our fear: This was your fault. And you will never escape it.

I was amazed by her calm and grace. I would have been a screaming banshee.

Perhaps that’s what Mr. Trump forgot when he played such a vile trick just days after speaking about women in the most disrespectful of ways.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

See you at the polls.


This is Alejandro.alejandro


He’s ten.

We met him last year when he and Gabe played together during basketball season.

He’ll be mad at me for saying this, but he’s adorable. And a baller. Plays mean defense with his good buddy Alex.


Oh boy. I’m going to be in trouble for this. She was tall. He took her on anyway.

But he was gone a lot from practice, and he missed some games. When I finally saw his mom Kyndra again I asked her “Is he ok?” And that was the first time she told me.

Alejandro was born with Stage 4 kidney disease. From Day 1, the doctors knew he would need a transplant.

Since then, they have lived their lives as normally as possible. Kyndra is a single mom and Alejandro has a little brother and sister.  He’s been sick a lot, but they make it work.

Last May, they found out his kidney function was nearing the 20% threshold for the kidney transplant list and doctors told Kyndra to prepare. Family members are being tested in the hope of finding a living donor. Insurance will pick up the estimated $500,000 cost of surgery, but there will be significant other costs.

They have to go to Portland for surgery and then stay there for 5 weeks. Then they’ll head up one weekend a month for treatments. Kyndra will need to stay home full time for four months to care for him. Estimated costs: $50,000.

You know why I’m telling you this. Alejandro needs us. He needs our prayers and our good thoughts and yes, even our money.

They are selling t-shirts for $15 and every one of those dollars goes into the fund. If you buy one, I’ll pay your shipping.

You can also visit his fund-raising page at the Children’s Organ Transplant Associatioor visit the Facebook page to offer support.

There’s no such thing as other people’s children  ~ Hillary Clinton




Life, Interrupted



How many times could that be the title that best describes our lives?


We’ve been interrupted. Not by anything particularly significant but by a series of things–the start of the school year, the change in weather (or not, in So Cal), a glitchy computer. We work hard to keep so many balls in the air that it’s hard to stop them all when one drops.

My writing dropped. But there were kids to pick up and events to volunteer for and a football season that isn’t quite going the way we expected, plus two-fifths of my family was in physical therapy twice a week at the same place, but of course not the same time.

So I didn’t have the balance to lean over and pick my writing up.

One day I was on the school’s website putting money in the kids’ lunch accounts and I saw the Jobs tab. I clicked it, for fun. There they were, a list of jobs I could do without having to plan a lesson or grade a paper. Hourly. Minimum wage. None of the responsibility but all the fun.

And I thought…Is it time?

This stay at home mom gig was never meant to be forever. Just a season. I had no idea how long the season would last, but in the last six months, I have felt a restlessness. Annie goes to full day Kindergarten next year. I know that I can keep the house and run the finely tuned engine that is our family schedule and still work at least part-time.

This was the question that interrupted me the most. It’s age-old, isn’t?

What am I doing?

I gave it my full attention. The Holy Spirit helped me out by crashing my laptop spectacularly last week. She didn’t send the Blue Screen of Death. No, no. My screen went RED. I don’t even know.

I couldn’t write, even if I wanted to. I had no idea how much noise my computer inserted into my daily life until there was only silence.

Into the silence came a decision to attend a conference and an invitation to a retreat. There was a friendship issue with Kate where the other mom and I have been able to have really good, supportive and thoughtful conversations about how to help our girls navigate their feelings. Shea and I talked about my going back to work and decided not yet, not until Annie is in full day school.

Something is happening though, swirling around my head and heart. The tide is turning, the season is changing. Something wonderful and inspiring this way comes.


In the meantime, I am still Here, rooted and growing.







Land of the Free


I have said before that my Facebook friends are a carefully curated lot. So what I’m seeing regarding the football protests during the national anthem is pretty reasoned, rational stuff.

But I know from some of them that what’s out there in the general population is pretty scary stuff.

It’s all over the news that while most of the teams found ways to protest injustice by standing together, the fans in too many stadiums booed the president on the jumbotron when he made a special 9/11 speech, much as Bush was booed during his term.

Or that a local pastor in Alabama made this statement before a high school football game Friday night:

If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you

And the crowd cheered wildly.

I am proud to be an American and stand for the Pledge and the Anthem.

But I can stand while those who protest kneel. There is room for us both. I see them. I know their concerns are real. They are doing what they feel called to do, and for 240 years Americans have died to defend this very freedom.

We can’t decide who is worthy of the sacrifice. It doesn’t work that way. The blood was shed. The price was paid.

Sound familiar?


Sunday at Church, where there are no coincidences, the theme of the Scripture readings was Mercy.

Exodus 32:7-14. 1 Timothy 1: 12-17. And Luke 15:1-32, the Prodigal Son.

Maybe that’s the problem, on both sides. We’re too much Self-righteous Older Brother, too linear, too worried about the scoreboard. We have to be more Forgiving Father and recognize that those who are taking themselves outside the circle are hurting, hungry, desperate to be seen and loved.

Outside the circle is never the solution. Too easy to say “Hey, they left!” Too easy to say “Hey, they pushed us out!”

The truth is somewhere in the middle, like it always is. And that’s where we meet to heal.

The Mother Becomes a Saint


When I sit at Mass and listen to the scripture readings, I try to quiet my mind and be led.

But things pop up anyway. Like Sunday, I got stuck on Paul’s letter to Philemon. Onesimus?? Who’s that guy???

But then we got to the Gospel and I was swept into the concept of “pick up your cross and follow me”.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Sunday marked the canonization of St. Teresa. The woman knew a thing or two about leaving everything she had behind to follow God’s call on her life.

In her obedience, she faced down suffering so profound that it could not be conquered—not by her work, awards, recognition, celebration or even her sainthood. She served it anyway, in confusion, depression and spiritual darkness. I wonder if that was her cross, having to accept that God had not called her to save the starving baby, the mother with leprosy, the child bride laboring to bring forth a child, but only to witness and love.

Maybe it was to carry the criticism of those who wanted her to do more, to change the very fabric of human nature and condition.

Or maybe it was that she believed God called her to this service and then abandoned her there.

But here’s the thought that humbled my soul on Sunday. What if it was all three?

My God in Heaven…How did she do it?

Could I?

Teresa is named after Mother Teresa. She wrote a beautiful reflection for her company, MySaintMyHero. You can find it here