Monthly Archives: December 2015

Compassion FTW!


A few years back, my parish had a priest from India, in residence. Though his English was hard to understand at times, he gave wonderful sermons, once you figured out how to listen to him. I used to pretend he was singing. One sermon came after the Gospel reading about Jesus performing the miracle of feeding 5000 people. If you recall, his disciples approached him with one basket containing a five loaves of bread and a two fish. After saying a blessing over the food, Jesus instructs his disciples to pass the basket around to feed the masses, which they do and return with twelve baskets filled with leftovers.

This is a pretty popular bible story in the Christian world. Jesus performs a miracle and shows compassion in doing so. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve heard many a homily or sermons in regards to this story, but none has touched or stayed with me like the one Father Sam told. Paraphrasing it went something like this….

There was a woman in India, who repeatedly begged for food from anyone she came into contact with. On a regular basis, she would approach Mother Teresa and ask her to share with her family any leftovers, any scraps; but there simply wasn’t enough to go around. Yet Mother Teresa remembered the woman, after receiving an extra shipment of rice. Gathering enough rice to fill a small bag, she delivered it to the woman, apologizing there was only enough rice to feed a family of four for one day. Gratefully, the woman took the rice but did something which intrigued Mother Teresa. The woman portioned out the rice, re-sealed the bag, walked over and knocked on her Muslim neighbor’s door and handed them the bag. After a brief interaction, the woman returned and thanked Mother Teresa once more. “My child, what have you done? I brought this food for your family, to help you,” the small nun inquired. “Yes, but Sister, they are starving too,” The woman replied and was blessed for her deed.

So what does this have to do with a Mean Mommy Blog?

My theme with my children this year is Compassion.

How about we try and make 2016 the year we show compassion to every person we meet: black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim. We are all living in the same small boat and wouldn’t our lives be that much better if we were all a little kinder or understanding of our differences and one another?

Happy New Year Friends!


puzzling content…


Life is one big puzzle, isn’t it? I mean, teenagers, one minute they love you like no tomorrow, the next, they seethe in your presence. Oh wait, maybe that’s parents to teenagers… Well, in either case, I think our lives, how they intertwine, how we react or overreact to one another and life in general, is one big massive puzzle. Which jigsaw piece fits into the next or why that round peg, with work, will fit into that square hole?

Why do we even make an effort to unravel the mystery, work the puzzle, figure things out?

My doll puzzles me that she likes coffee, because, we’ve never had coffee here to offer her. I mean, how did she discover a taste/love for coffee? At the same time,  she’s puzzled by the fact that I love black licorice and orange pekoe black tea. “Mom, I don’t understand how you can eat that, it’s gross!” or “Mom tea it’s so bitter…” I’ve heard her say. Nevermind I could say the same to her about coffee. She doesn’t get it or rather, refuses to understand. For me, both those food items remind me of when I was younger; either searching for an Easter basket filled with black jellybeans or sitting at the kitchen table, sharing a conversation with my mother, over a cup of tea.

Perhaps someday she’ll put the pieces to that puzzle together  while her own daughter scolds her for drinking coffee…

Another puzzle that hurts my brain is the boy and his brilliant encyclopedic-like brain, which, with the absence of common sense really isn’t as brilliant as he’d like you to believe. Case in point he likes to spout “facts” that pop into his head when triggered by something he finds interest in. The doll and I one day were discussing our menstrual cycles propensity for happening at the same time. Overhearing a quip, he entered the kitchen and announced, “Mom, it’s been scientifically proven that two girls living in the same household may have periods that occur at the same time”. The doll and I simply looked at him with amusement, before I said, “Bay, someday you will be working with several women, who, because of their schedules and proximity to one another, will have cycles that sync up and when they do, God help you if you open your mouth and inform them about something they’ve known most of their lives–because they are women!” Which caused the doll to laugh and the boy to then apologize. “I just like to convey interesting facts…” He tried and began to back out of the kitchen. “Bay, I’m 51 years old. I learned this neat “fact” when I was seven-years-old and shared a house with three older sisters.”




Ten years gone…


Yesterday morning, I found myself at yet another funeral (the third) with Mrs. K. The difference being, this one felt oddly reminiscent to my life ten years earlier: three funerals at the end of the year. Seated on the other side of Mrs. K was an old family friend of my parents, Evelyn. When we took our seats, she leaned over to me and said, “It was nice seeing your dad at Christmas Eve mass.” I nodded my head in reply. My Dad at 94 no longer ventures to mass, instead relying on my sister or I to bring him home the eucharist. “I know how difficult this week is for your family, ” She added. Smiling back to her, I replied, “Yes, but it’s been ten years…” Trying to hide the obvious pain that still gnaws at my heart.

In 2005, at the end of November, I accompanied my parents to the funeral of a family friend. A week or so later, I accompanied them to another funeral, this time, our long time next door neighbor. They say deaths or funerals come in threes, but if someone had predicted to me the third funeral would have been my own mother’s, I wouldn’t have believed them. But that’s exactly what happened. Ten days after an official diagnosis and four days after Christmas we said goodbye to our mother, changing our lives forever.

“I know,  my husband died in February, two months later. I can’t believe it’s been that long already” Evelyn remarked. Watching as the family walked in behind the casket, I turned back to her and said, “Grief is a crazy monster. For me, grief actually drew me closer to God, because I needed to believe there is a heaven and that she’s there, with Him,” I said before pausing “I’m not sure I had that faith or belief when she was alive and I’m constantly struggling to keep myself close to Him,” I added, the funny thing being I wasn’t sure if I was actually talking to Evelyn or to myself, at that point. Then Evelyn looked back to Mrs. K and then to me, before she replied, “God has you where you belong Marsha and you do very good work.” Smiling back at her, trying to brush off the compliment, Mrs. K chose that moment to jump in and add, “Yes you do!”


Last month my eldest sister, the queen, sent out a text message to her siblings announcing the wonderful news that her daughter and husband was expecting their first child, a girl in June. As one would think, we were all quite excited and happy about the news. Then, the other day, my older bro Tim sent out text, exclaiming joy and happiness at the news that his eldest daughter and husband were also expecting their first child in July. Immediately, like before we all texted back congratulatory replies and then marveled at how our family continues to grow. 

Without mom.

In the ten years, she’s been gone, one grandchild and eight great grandbabies have come into the world–the eldest great-grandchild was born on her birthday (a few weeks earlier than planned). As such, we believe Mom used him to send us all a sign and has since met with each child (in heaven) and left an imprint of herself upon them, prior to birth. That may explain why one is a little messy or the other very sweet, etc. Regardless, the cycle of life has moved onward, carrying a piece of her in our hearts and in all of our DNA. While mom may not be physically here with us, she’s usually not very far from our thoughts.


shared lives Christmas….


img_2330As you may have surmised over the last several years of reading my blog, I’m from a large, Irish Catholic family. How large? As my name atop this blog suggests, I am the eighth child out of nine born to my parents.  In contrast, my hubby is the second born of three. When my five brothers, their wives and children along with my three sisters, their husbands and children meet up with me, the hub, doll and bay–all in one place, the number usually reaches somewhere to around sixty people (give or take a few).img_2353

The only time we ever get close to 100% participation of all families is Christmas.

This year, our family decided that since we have become so big, putting the burden on one family to host and then clean up was too much. Instead, the decision was made to rent someplace and work together to ensure no one person/family was left to clean up after us. So this year, our annual celebration of love and family took place inside a downtown art gallery aptly named, The Shared Lives Studio.

img_2387The number one rule when my entire family gets together is chaos usually rules and believe you me, there was plenty of chaos present that night. My older sister Terri, whom we affectionately and aptly refer to as “The Queen”, noticed a smell coming from the foyer and discovered a gift bag, apparently discarded by one of the kids during the gift exchange, smoldering atop tealight candles.

Disaster, thankfully averted.

My nephew Ben, who recently graduated with a degree in Music-jazz, invited a couple of buddies with nothing else to do, to come and entertain us with Christmas jazz, while we mingled, visited and ate our buffet style dinner. How many other families can say that?

The adults in the family do not exchange presents, but kids under the age of 18 do. This year however, my nephew Patrick approached me at Thanksgiving and asked if he could give the boy his old Xbox 360 system, he no longer played including all the games. To say he was surprised and happy, would be an understatement. Already, I am regretting my decision to allow the system, based on the amount of time the boy has spent (happily) playing the games.img_2367

During our annual family white elephant exchange, while the boy and my doll played along, I snuck away and began gathering  the many discarded paper plates and empty bottles to throw away, so the families who volunteered to stay late and clean up, wouldn’t be there too late. When the exchange had come to an end, my doll and niece Jessica were declared the big winners, each coming home with something they both truly wanted…? A Superman robe, cape and underwear (Jessica) and Bunny pajamas a la The Christmas Story, for the doll.

img_2363Shortly thereafter, the annual cheesy treats were passed out and we all complained of the additional calories we are adding to our already full bellies. Then Ben and his buddies resumed playing and over the next hour, the crowd slowly began to thin out.

I have to say, this year was one of our better Christmas eve celebrations if you ask me, surrounded by our mutual respect and shared loved for one another in the beautifully decorated and aptly named, Shared Lives Studio.





so this is what…?


Well, the weather outside isn’t very frightful and Frosty the snowman is stuck somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, Christmas time is here. Talking with a friend of mine from Australia this morning, she exclaimed how wonderful Christmas is while wearing beach attire. I suppose if I were on holiday I might tend to agree, but having grown up in the Midwest, cold temperatures and snow are kind of what helps make Christmas, Christmas—at least in a cozy romantic kind of way.

But Christmastime has arrived regardless of the weather and nothing will stop us from celebrating the love brought into this world to save us. Not war, not death, not even a sixteen year old boy telling his mother he no longer believes in God. Why? Because taking the time to celebrate true all-encompassing love for one another makes this life worthwhile.

At least for me….

So whether you’re gathering with family to celebrate the day or find yourself alone this Christmas holiday, remember you are loved. You are and always will be loved.

Case in point: My friend Judy’s family, in Oklahoma, who are celebrating Christmas with a boy whose family abandoned. As I write this blog, Judy’s daughter is picking him up from a boy’s home where a lonely Christmas weekend awaited and instead are welcoming him into their home, to share in the joy, warmth and fun of their day. Not to mention, the love that he may have felt was missing…but clearly isn’t.

This is just one point in the hundreds of thousands of millions of points you may find this weekend. Trust God is with us, for us, in us. God, Emmanuel.

Merry Christmas!

Marsha, hub, the boy, the doll and the pain in the butt dog…

catch up!


When last seen, the boy was exiting my car Friday morning, prepared to complete his final two examinations of the semester and welcome Christmas break. Since then, he’s been with his Grandmother, helping to ready her condo for the onslaught of Christmas revelers. or namely, us. In the meantime, the doll has loved being an “only child” , having the house to herself, not having to raise her voice telling her brother to get lost. In addition she hosted the first of two Christmas exchange sleepovers with her friends and attended a dance workshop at her future high school.

Rumor has it he’s coming home on Wednesday with a fresh hair cut. I’m a little worried I won’t even recognize me own boy.

Since the weekend, my house has been rather quiet.  Monday evening the doll stretched out her arms and declared she was bored. “Well if you had done something today…” I began. “What? I had an orthodontist appointment and we went to the library,” She insisted. “Uh, in between your laying on the couch all day. It’s a wonder you can still walk at all…” I snarked back in reply. “Why not call friends and see if they want to wander around the mall or do something? Surely you’re not all spending your days in front of the tube watching Netflix.” I tried. Nodding her head in faux agreement she said, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll bake something…”. “Among doing other things, I hope? I added and was largely ignored.

Yesterday in between lying around all day being bored, she baked chocolate chip muffins from scratch with Martha Stuart icing (cream cheese, confection sugar and butter) which are deliciously rich and extremely fattening. “How do they look and be honest!” She implored. “Like ten pounds…” I said before taking a taste. “They’re good tasting, but not good for me…” I added. “Mom, it’s the holidays. Everyone gets fat around this time of the year. That’s what makes resolutions so fun…” She tried. “Doll, you stick to baking and eating, I’ll stick to being mad at you for making foods to tempt me away from my clean eating program…” I said and we both laughed.

I wonder what she’ll concoct to expand my waistline today? Hopefully a plan that doesn’t involve sugar, chocolate, cream cheese and chocolate morsels…


Spider webs….


This morning, while busily running around like a chicken without a head; moving inbetween point A and B inside my home, I brushed up against something that instantly reminded me of a spider web. A sticky, feathery light draping, full of dread (if you’re my doll or husband).  Instinctively I brushed my hand down my arm, in hopes of removing the web and then wiped that hand on my pant leg hoping to clear the web from my hand, all the while continuing on without interruption.

But a brief thought popped into my head during that exercise,  “How many different “webs”, inside my life have I brushed off without thinking?” Not having time to think, I stowed the thought into my memory for later examination and then finished rushing around to get to an appointment on time.

On my drive, the car radio played music in the background while my mind was occupied with last minute Christmas shopping and other errands needing to be run. Then the song Spiderwebs by No Doubt, began to play and my mind jumped back to the question that had popped into my head earlier, “How many different webs in my own life have I brushed off without thinking?”

“God, are you trying to get my attention or something?” I asked as I drove along and giggled at the non response. “What a tricky question with hard answers posed to me this busy morning,” I thought to myself. As the next song on the radio filled my car I decided, “Let me get back to you…”


The other night the doll confided she had begun to see a shift happening within her class. Kids who had ordinarily had hung out in one group were now gravitating toward her group and a general feel of separation among them all had begun. “I thought this would happen more over the summer as we prepared to go to different schools,” she said. “Doll, that light at the end of your Grammar school tunnel is coming into sight. As such, some are hanging on, some are ready to move on and some are beginning to separate now so when the actual time comes, it won’t “feel” as difficult.” I said. “I know, I just thought this time would be different”. 

“Shedding the webs that have held you together these last nine years is a necessary end to your eventual growth. However, no one said it would be or should be easy–hence the term growing pains” I explained. “I guess you’re right…” She said.


Back to my “spiderwebs”…too many to remember, but thankful for the time they held me and then when they let me be released.