Originally posted on November 17, 2017 via P&P.
I went to a Catholic grade school. There were about 40-50 of us split between two classes.
Through the years, my class gained the reputation of being particularly troublesome. Detentions, demerits, revoking class trips, barring us from dances and even threatening explusion did nothing to fix the problem we collectively had with authority.
It's no surprise, then, that during finals in 7th grade, a history test (complete with answers) was stolen from the teacher's desk. He had stepped outside to speak with his sister (who happened to be the principal) and while he was in the hall, someone walked up to the podium, grabbed the final, and hurried back to his/her desk. I did not see this happen as I was reading a book on Greek mythology, but from the giggles and high fives being shared by the class, I had an idea someone had done something stupid.
When Mr. Walsh stepped back in, he checked over the papers on the podium, confused. It was clear he knew something was missing. He said aloud that whoever grabbed the "papers" had one shot to return them before he went to the principal.
No one stepped forward.
At this point, my interest was piqued because it was clear something of importance had been taken. I shot a look over to the likely culprits who were shuffling in their seats. I sighed and went back to reading my mythology book, knowing full well they wouldn't step forward and we'd likely have yet another class punishment as a result.
The next day, Sr. Walsh (the principal, and our teacher's sister) entered the room after morning announcements. Having grown sick of punishing us en masse, she decided to get creative and punish us individually in addition to as a class. One at a time, she called us out into the hall to see if anyone would confess or give up the name of the thief. She didn't make it more than ten students in and she discovered the culprits (there were three). Unfortunately for the class, it turns out they were only too willing to divulge the plan and admitted to making copies of the test (and answers) which were then passed around to everyone in the room.
However, one of the culprits did something that still baffles me to this day. She defended me. After confessing to stealing the test and making copies for everyone, she specifically told the principal that even though everyone else in the class was aware that a cheat sheet was made, I hadn't had anything to do with it.
I had absolutely no idea this conversation had taken place. I was likely still trying to steal time between lessons to make it through my mythology book and saw the 1:1 grilling as a means to that end. When Sister called me out into the hallway, I assumed it was just my turn to be grilled. I wasn't concerned. Everyone in the school knew me to be a good student and a relatively honest kid, so I figured this was all for show.
But then Sister told me what happened, neglecting the part about me being singled out. She said, "Because this is a class-wide problem, the whole class is going to be punished, and since the transgression is so severe, the punishment will be equally severe."
She didn't say it because she didn't have to; 7th grade would not be attending the school-wide field trip to Clementon Amusement Park, nor would we be allowed to attend our class field trip to the aquarium. We likely wouldn't be allowed to the end of year dance, either. Those were the only things she had on the table to take, and she was taking all of them. It also meant letters would be going home to the parents informing them of precisely what had happened, and let's be real... THAT punishment was the worst because it meant my mother would think I was cheating! Sister might be able to take a good many activities from me, but my mother could and would end my life. So I had a pretty good idea that I was about to be screwed over a barrel.
But then she said, "Claudia said that you didn't know they were planning to steal the test."
I was incredulous. I'd figured out what had been stolen and by whom at that point, but to think Claudia would defend me with absolutely nothing to gain stupified me. She was a popular kid and I was decidedly not. She lived across the street from me, and we played together on the weekends, but in school? In school she didn't know who I was because she was much too cool for me. But here she was, going out of her way to protect me. I honestly didn't know what to say.
Sister then asked, "Did you know? Did you know they'd stolen the test?"
I had to be honest. I said, "I knew that something was taken, but it wasn't until Mr. Walsh got angry that I realized it was probably the test."
She then asked, "Did you know who took the test?"
I said, "I had a pretty good idea who it was, but since I didn't see them take it, I couldn't be sure."
She then asked, "So if you knew the test was taken, and you had a good idea who had taken it, why didn't you tell Mr. Walsh?"
I said, "Because I wasn't sure. After school, everyone was talking about it, so it wasn't hard to put the pieces together."
So she asked again, "Why didn't you tell him this morning? Why didn't you come to me?"
And I replied, "It doesn't have to do with me. I didn't take the test and I wouldn't have used the cheat sheet. So yeah, I knew they took it, but I wasn't going to do anything with it."
This contradicted Claudia's attempt to get me out of being punished. Obviously I was just as culpable as the rest of the class, and I owned my part in it. Remaining silent is just as bad as participating, and I learned that lesson in that moment.
But I also learned something about myself, and I learned it because Sister Walsh saw it in me and explained it. She said, "Gina, do you know what integrity is?"
I shook my head. I'd heard the word a few times, but it was a hazy concept for me. Something about respect and George Washington cutting cherry trees...
She got closer and looked me in the eye. I was uncomfortable with this level of intimacy and leaned against the wall as I shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. She said:
You had the chance to walk away without punishment. Claudia said you didn't know anything, and I believed her. Instead of just going along with that, you decided to tell me the truth. You told me the truth knowing that you'd be punished just as harshly as the rest of the class for enabling this to happen. THAT is integrity. You are taking responsibility for a choice you made and I am proud of you. You must always remember to hold on to your integrity, because one day, it won't just be a cheat sheet. The decision to keep your integrity will get harder and harder, and I want you to remember this moment. You are brave and you are honest and you are strong. Never let anyone take that integrity away from you.
I was in 7th grade, so that was back in 1994. Wow. This conversation took place more than 25 years ago and I remember it as if it was yesterday. It clearly made a strong impression on me, and I've tried to heed that advice ever since. I think she'd be just as proud of me today as she was then. No matter the circumstance, I refuse to allow anyone to siphon off my integrity. Not no way, not no how.
I've been dabbling in Twitter since coming back to blogging and I've frankly been horrified by what I've seen.
It's such an angry, snarky, petulant place! There are some golden nuggets now and again (@Br0therBrother, I'm looking at you!), but Catholic Twitter seems to be so divisive anymore.
Pope Francis, liturgical music, politics, even the liturgy itself. Whew. It's never-ending. I don't know how anyone keeps up with it (or WHY anyone would keep up with it).
What I can say is that we must look like an incredibly confusing, chaotic mess to those on the outside looking in. We're supposed to be united in our love of Christ, but instead, it seems we're trying to outdo one another in spiritual wokeness.
But I'll keep poking along because there are definitely some gems to be found. Be a gem. Better yet, be a saint!
While God put up the original sign, I didn't exactly bound down the path with reckless abandon. Instead, I fought against the idea of getting romantically involved with Chris. I didn't know if he felt the same way, and even if he did, he lived in Kansas. I LOVED our friendship, and I wasn't sure I was willing to risk that friendship for something that wouldn't pan out.
But as the weeks went by, we kept finding more and more reasons to message each other. I had no idea what to do with any of this, so I said to God, "What am I supposed to do with Chris?"
The next day, He responded with an impromptu trip to St. Louis.
(Moral of the story: Ask and you shall receive.)
I texted Chris and told him I'd be headed to STL if he wanted to join me. He quickly responded and we started making plans. I sent him a list of possible activities and he countered with some ideas of his own. I offered to do a helicopter tour of the city and he offered to come to the Cathedral to check out the sacred art.
I arrived to the hotel first. I had booked our hotel room with TWO BEDS. There was a booking mistake, however, so our room had only one king. Clearly God wasn't suggesting that Chris and I sleep together, but I have to admit laughing when I walked into the room and realized the error. Just another neon sign to add to the list.
I asked the hotel to switch our rooms (for two beds). Chris arrived a few hours later and we went out for dinner. We also grabbed some wine and beer before heading back to watch TV.
The next morning, after breakfast, we did the helicopter tour, a museum and began to head to the Arch.
Alas, on the way, we got into a pretty intense fender bender. A careless truck took out the entire side of Chris' brand new car! Thankfully, neither of us was injured, but his car was wrecked. We got into a rental and didn't let the wreck slow us down. We hit the Arch next and I can honestly say it blew me away.
Before going, I didn't see the point of the Arch. It just seemed like a silly tourist trap. However, after seeing the Arch through Chris' eyes (and how excited he got over all the engineering marvels that went into creating it), I understood. We had a really good time!
The next morning, we set out to figure out lunch plans before heading to the Cathedral. Somewhere during those plans, Chris decided he was going to answer the question that seemed to plague both of us: Is there anything between us?
So he kissed me. He leaned in, tilted my face up to his, and he kissed me. And I most certainly kissed back. *Grin*
So that's how Chris and I became Chris and I. What a reason to rejoice when I entered that Cathedral later in the day!
God is good. In all things, God is good.
Back in 2014, I wrote about some sacred art I found while wandering the chancery of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I was working in the Development Office at the time, and had no idea that just a few years later, I'd get the chance to work with the well-loved and incredibly gifted artist who'd painted those pieces: Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS.
Fast forward to 2018. I was now working for the Diocese of Camden as their Events Coordinator. My colleague, Rod, had volunteered our diocese as the host of a national (that grew to be international) conference aimed at professionally developing Church personnel to identify, respond to, and account for the protection of the children and at-risk people in its care. It was a massive undertaking and one of the first orders of business was to come up with branding to promote the annual conference.
Rod, being the brilliant man that he is, tapped local artist Brother Mickey who lived in-residence less than 50 feet from our office building.
Since Rod and I were running point on the conference, we met with Brother Mickey to discuss the conference, its intention, our hopes for a Marian logo, and possible design concepts. It was all I could do not to completely fan girl out, guys. It became a running joke between Rod and I anytime we'd have to schedule a meeting with Brother Mickey. Ha ha.
Anyway, Brother Mickey took everything in, digested it, and used it to create the collaboration I'm most proud of in my time with the diocese... this gorgeous image of Our Lady:
Just take a moment to breathe this in. I swear... each time I look at it, I walk away with something else to love.
The theme of our conference was "Full of Grace." Mary is holding the Christ Child who, in turn, is blessing the young boy/girl to either side. The Holy Spirit is present, but you'd blink and miss Him if you weren't looking. The little boy holds a candle of wisdom and truth while the little girl holds a flower denoting innocence and purity. The rays behind Our Lady are so full of color and vibrance! Everything is so symmetrical and flows together brilliantly. I just... I love this so much. As such, I plastered it onto everything from letterhead and notebooks to travel mugs and reusable bags. I've still got stickers leftover that I use to adorn my personal books and diaries.
*Swoon* It's beautiful, isn't it?
Rod, because he's amazing, had Brother Mickey sign the original which he then mounted and framed for me. I am not exaggerating when I say it is one of my most treasured possessions. And the fact that Brother Mickey actually knows my name and waves "Hi" at me when we cross paths... it blows my mind. It felt like such a gift getting to work with someone so talented.
God is good. In all things, God is so, so good.
Several years ago, I posted a bit about how my faith in God as Father banishes fear. I've never worried about the future or how the dust would settle because I knew He was directing things and would point me in the right direction.
He put up a giant, neon sign in July of 2017.
For those of you who hadn't been following along, a quick synopsis.
For the rest of you, the story continues with a 10-day vacation over Fourth of July weekend. It was my first holiday without the boys and I knew I needed to pack my "vacation" with as many things as possible to keep my mind off that fact. I decided to travel and see some old friends.
I had friends in upstate New York that I hadn't seen in a while. I also had a friend from high school who had recently moved to Kansas with her family. Interestingly, if I was able to swing Kansas, there was a third friend who had ALSO just moved to Kansas, but on the other side of the state. Being the ridiculously efficient person I am, I tried to knock out all of them during the same 10 day period.
I carpooled to NY with the first set of friends and spent several days enjoying games, hiking, and food, then came back home. Early the following morning, I hopped on a plane to Catherine's house (my friend from high school). Finally, after being spoiled rotten by her incredible family, I took a 4-hour bus ride across the state to see Chris, a recent transplant from North Carolina (and before that, New Jersey).
While I missed my boys those 10 days, I filled my heart with so much love and laughter that I couldn't help but be grateful. In all things, God is good.
This entire time, the Tribunal was still waving at me from the shadows. I wasn't worried about it, but I wasn't thrilled about not having a decision, either. Limbo isn't a fun place to be.
Anyway, to the good stuff:
Chris and I have known each other for about 15 years. He was in my wedding party, I had visited him a couple times in Carolina, I was (and am) still friendly with one of his ex-girlfriends, etc. There had never been an inkling of romance between the two of us and this trip was no different. We hung out as we normally would, visited some fun places, caught up on each other's lives and had some great conversations.
The night before I was to leave, I anxiously tried to prepare myself for the airport. At the time, I was still very scared of flying and never slept the night before boarding. Knowing this, he put on The Count of Monte Cristo and we settled onto his couch for the next few hours. By the end of the movie, it was after 3AM. I was WIRED, excited to talk about a movie I'd never seen before; he was exhausted.
I turned to look at him as the credits rolled and I was shocked at how bloodshot his eyes were. Utterly sapped, he pushed himself to stay awake and watch a movie so I wasn't anxious and alone the night before my flight. He had to work the next day, too!!! In that moment, I was overcome with gratitude that God had blessed me with such an amazing friend.
It was as if someone flipped a switch that opened a dam directly to my soul. I was flooded so quickly with love, affection and appreciation that I almost reached out to touch his face. I then experienced emotional whiplash as I realized this flood of emotion was directed at Chris.
CHRIS? My insanely intelligent, witty, musically gifted and goofy friend Chris? THAT CHRIS? No. Clearly someone got their wires mixed.
So I blurted out "I'm gonna go brush my teeth!" and ran to the bathroom. I had to take a minute to sort myself out. My brain was yelling:
WHAT WAS THAT?! Did I just experience feelings for CHRIS?
NO! That's not possible. I mean... right?
No. Absolutely not.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
I'm sleep deprived. I can't possibly be attracted to Chris. It's not possible.
But he stayed up with you because he knows you're scared of flying and you didn't even have to ask. He didn't want you to be alone! *SWOON*
NO! YOU STOP THAT. Now go back out before he starts to wonder why you're taking forever.
I went back out to the couch where he was still half asleep, trying to soldier on. I was fighting myself internally and couldn't focus on anything other than stifling the "KISS HIM, KISS HIM NOW" scream ringing in my brain.
I sent him to bed. He protested, because he didn't want to leave me on my own, but I was genuinely amped and he was ready to pass out. I laid on the couch, and I heard him collapse into bed. I could hear him rolling around, seemingly discontent, himself. Finally, he settled and a few hours later, we got up to head to the airport. I flew home, and fitfully slept that night as I mulled over what all these psychotic feelings were about.
The next morning was July 6th. I went into work and groaned when I saw the pile of mail waiting for me at my desk. However, a large envelope caught my eye; it was from the Tribunal. I anxiously opened the packet and quickly scanned the letter; a decision had been reached. The Tribunal ruled that I was free - FREE!!!
I then caught the date the letter was addressed to me: July 5th.
During the Hour of Mercy on July 5th, a switch got flipped and my heart directed itself almost instantaneously towards Chris. Just as I had said to the countless people who told me to "move on" or "date around," I knew it wasn't right and promised God I'd let Him sort out the details of when and who.
And sure enough, He set up a giant neon sign for me. That's not to say I immediately bounded down the path towards Chris.
In fact, I actively fought against it for a few months as I argued with myself over the insanity of seeing Chris as anything but a good friend. If I'm being honest, it still feels a bit crazy to me, but when have God's plans ever made sense to us?
So that's how Chris and I (started) our journey. On the very day the Tribunal sent its ruling to me, God pulled the veil from my eyes and I saw my friend of 15 years in a new and unimaginable light. It'd be a few months until we were ready to actually DO something with that, but the barrier had been removed and we were open to seeing where the road would take us.
Trust in God, folks. He's always got a plan and I assure you... you will never be smart enough to figure it out. Had you given me a million years and a library of the wildest possibilities, I couldn't have come up with this one.
So sit back and enjoy the ride, because in the end, God's got you.
I married John in 2007. At our 1 year anniversary, he said he didn't think he wanted children for several years. I flipped out, because I had been very clear about wanting children. I compromised and agreed to wait a year after marriage and got upset that he was changing the agreement.
He apologized and we got pregnant 6 months later. I gave birth in 2009. John decided, against my wishes, that he didn't want more children. I accepted a forced sterility and our marriage tanked. Throughout 2014, he was unfaithful, repented, and as an apology, rescinded his "no more kids" clause. We got pregnant late 2014.
Halfway through my pregnancy, he told me he didn't actually want another baby and instead wanted a divorce. He openly wished for me to miscarry, put me into preterm labor at 30 weeks, ignored that I was to be on bed rest, and generally neglected our special needs son, myself, and the unborn child I was carrying. I kicked him out of the house, lawyered up, and told him to do the same. I then gave birth to my youngest son in 2015. The day our divorce was finalized, I walked my annulment paperwork directly into the diocesan Tribunal and awaited its decision.
I'm a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage; that hasn't changed. However, I came to a very clear realization while I was laying in a hospital bed, hooked to a million angrily beeping machines as doctors tried to stop my labor from progressing at 30 weeks: my (now ex) husband is not actually capable of consenting to marriage because he is not capable of truly loving another person. He's able to appreciate what they can do for him, but simply love them for who they are and put his needs aside to raise them up? Not so much. The entire time I was in the hospital, he was texting me, demanding to know when I'd be home so he could leave for a trip to NY, knowing full well he'd be leaving me (who was supposed to be on strict bed rest) with a highly-active, sensory-seeking 5 year old.
This, mind you, is the tiniest sampling of the litany of thoughtless, self-absorbed and intentionally neglectful things I'd put up with over the years.
So, armed with that realization, I started my annulment paperwork that weekend - MONTHS ahead of him finally (at my persistent request) getting his lawyer to do the divorce paperwork that mine had already completed.
In the months and years after the divorce, I had many people suggest I start dating again. I never liked that advice, especially because I didn't have an annulment ruling. If I started a romance with someone and received an unfavorable ruling from the Tribunal, what then? It'd be a huge disservice not only to me, but to the guy I was with.
So I steered clear of romance and relationships until late 2016/early 2017. I started accepting date proposals from a few men I thought were worthwhile. Even then, I wasn't looking for romance so much as a shift in paradigm, and I was honest with each man regarding my goal in "dating" them. I wasn't looking for love; I was looking for balance and insight. I needed to adjust my worldview, and I trusted their integrity enough to help me do so.
One man skirted romance with me briefly, but I ended that soon after it started because, again, with no ruling on the divorce, it was unfair to both of us to walk that path. So off I went on my own. I trusted that God knew what He was doing and once the annulment ruling was finalized, I'd see the path more clearly.
I got the giant neon sign I was waiting for in July 2017.
I am REALLY excited about my new logo. I sent out an SOS to several graphic artists (some personal friends, some through Fiverr) detailing what I was looking for. Once the drafts started rolling in, one Fiverr artist stood head and shoulders above the rest. He really seemed to understand what I was looking for and implemented my feedback while offering suggestions that got me to where I was going.
I LOVE collaborating with talented, savvy individuals. If you're interested in working with him, you can find his page here!
Anywho, we went back and forth more than a dozen times on everything from design to color to font. In the end, we have an open book from which faith, hope and love pour fourth, all centered on Christ. We've got our blue/gold Marian colors while keeping the deeper red from the old MBF page.
I'm genuinely pleased with how it turned out!
I've kept the old blog entries in what is now dubbed "The Archives." However, if you've got feedback on the new template, please share it via the Contact form! I'd love to hear from ya!
Top Rated Posts
My Darkest Secret
Do Animals Have Souls?
10 Things a Parent of an SPD Kid Wants to Say
Fun and Easy Lenten Crafts
Blessed Mother as Intercessor
Loss of Life
Women Priests II
Render Unto Caesar
The Godparent Poem
NYT Anti-Catholic Ad