Monday Morning Chocolate

The Plight Before Christmas

Here’s another blast from the past–a popular column I wrote back in 2009 but it’s still relevant today!

‘Tis the month before Christmas and all through the house,

Our two teens leave gift lists for me and my spouse.

They scribble and write, compose and compare,

In hopes that St. Nick has some big bucks to spare!


But Dad with his wallet and I with my purse,

Realize things have taken a turn for the worse.

Their lists once contained things that we could afford,

But as they have grown, so the prices have soared!


Tinker Toys and Legos have all been replaced,

And items like Play Doh are simply erased.

Where once there was Elmo, and Big Bird and Pooh,

There’s now a cell phone, and an iPod too.


Gone are the days of toy cars and doll beds,

When visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

Now they dream of two laptops (one’s hers; one’s his),

And something called a jump drive– who knows what that is?!


It’s CDs, and sweaters, and watches and rings,

Computer and Play Station Games of all things.

A DVD burner will do just the trick,

Do they think money grows on trees for St. Nick??


More rapid than reindeer the items ring up,

We’ll have to get second and third jobs to keep up!

The deadlines draw nearer, the panic sets in,

I won’t get it all done! Where do I begin?!


Away to the bank I will fly like a flash,

To get an infusion of much-needed cash.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a bottom line that’s already too bottom-near.


There’s a twitch in my eye and an ache in my head,

Will my checkbook emerge alive or dead?

Which things do I get, for whom and how many?

Excess cash? I sure don’t have any!


So I think for a minute, and then start to smile–

The answer’s been with me, there all the while.

I take a deep breath and I slow myself down;

I cancel more plans to go into town.


Then I gather my children and with hugs and a kiss,

I remind them it’s not about presents and lists.

It’s about friends and family, and laughter and love,

And the blessings we’re given from God up above.


No matter what’s wished for or what gifts are sought,

Christmas is not about things that we’ve bought.

In the midst of the frenzy and the lure of the mall,

We shouldn’t forget….the greatest Gift of all.


So our presents get pared down to just two or three,

We’ll wrap them with love and place them under the tree.

And then I’ll exclaim ‘ere I turn in for the night,

“Happy Christmas to all, and…..

may we all get it right!”









Catholic Treasure Chest

The Need to Kneel

When I returned to the Catholic Church in 2013, it truly felt like a homecoming. I was back in the once-familiar sacred environment I hadn’t even realized I had missed. Back among the statues, the artwork, the stained glass windows, the choir music and all of the sacramentals that add layers of beauty and meaning and value to our faith. And it was as if I saw everything with a fresh set of eyes. I was drawn to the mystery of the tabernacle. I studied the face of Mary in the Pieta. I learned (for the first time?) that the mammoth stained glass windows in our church actually depict the mysteries of the rosary. And I filled a bottle with holy water to take home for my newly-purchased font, like I had when I was a kid (and which, btw, would often have a thin layer of ice on the top of it on the extra-cold winter mornings in my unheated upstairs bedroom!). None of these holy elements were present in the Protestant churches I had attended for 25 years. And my soul had missed them dearly. It puts a grateful lump in my throat just to write about it five years later.

But do you want to know the most surprising item in Church that I never knew I missed and craved and needed in my spiritual life all those years away?

The kneelers.

That’s right. When I came back to the Church, I also returned to the custom of kneeling on a regular basis: Kneeling during Mass. Kneeling during Adoration. And kneeling to pray every morning before the crucifix that hangs near my prayer chair.

I missed kneeling to worship my God. When I was a lukewarm cradle Catholic, using the kneelers was an automatic response to certain words and moments in the liturgy. I put no thought into it (other than when the kneelers would slip and make an embarrassingly loud crash on the marble floor!). I took it for granted. And the Protestant church we attended had no kneelers whatsoever, so the practice simply faded away.

But, oh, my dear friends, how we need to kneel.

That thought came rushing back to me this morning as I read Laura Kelly Fanucci’s reflection in the Blessed is She Advent Journal, “In the Beginning.” She was pondering the visit of the three wise men, and their instinct to fall down and worship the infant Christ Child when at last they found him. She surmised it was an overwhelming mixture of awe and wonder and joy that compelled them to fall to their knees.

I can name several times in my life when I fell to my knees, but it was not in awe and wonder and joy. It was in desperation: When my father-in-law coded after his heart surgery. When my dad died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. When my first baby was lost to miscarriage. Those are times when we involuntarily kneel because we can no longer support ourselves and we need the arms of Jesus to hold us, lift us, carry us.

But now, in this holy season of Advent, as I consider anew the coming of the Savior of the World, I want to fall to my knees more often. In awe and wonder and joy. But also in utter thankfulness. And in surrender. When I am on my knees with my head bowed, it is a posture of humility and surrender and reminds me that this is what my Lord wants from me.

“All He wants is us—not our wealth, or achievements or status or power. Just the open gift of ourselves. We can give Him this. There is nothing to achieve this Advent. There is only ourselves to surrender. He only wants you,” says Laura in the journal. “Sink to your knees. Turn to wonder and worship. Bow your head and let your heart rest in His in joy.”

She knows it. The three wise men knew it. And after decades away, I figured it out too.

We need to kneel.

Sink to your knees–at your bedside, at Mass, during a walk in the woods–wherever!–and give yourself to your Savior this Advent. It’s the best gift you could give him.

Catholic Sistas Post

Everything is an Invitation

If it was possible, I believe this particular wedding invitation would have arrived with a slew of royal trumpet-players in its wake.  Or maybe twelve doves carrying satin ribbons would have gently deposited the invitation in my hands before floating off into the clouds.  Or maybe Ed McMahon would have knocked on my door and showered me with confetti and balloons as he hand-delivered this envelope.

This was a one-of-kind, no-holds-barred, attention-getting invitation for sure. There was no overlooking it among the stack of otherwise-mundane mail. It wanted me to see it. I had to see it.

It got me thinking: wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything God invites me to do was this obvious to me? Yes, I would appreciate that kind of in-your-face notification from my Creator, thank you very much.

Read the rest at Catholic Sistas HERE!

Tiny Revelations

Holiday Hallucinations

In my former life, I was a family humor columnist. While I was rooting through some old Word documents, I uncovered this gem from eight years ago. Some things never change! I hope you enjoy this little Throwback Thursday!

It’s that time of year again. The fall decor gets pushed aside by all things red and green, the holiday music kicks in over PA systems everywhere, and the gift catalogs jam the mailboxes. And I, as I do every season, get overtaken by a rush of sentimentality and initiate grandiose plans to create lovely and personal gifts for everyone on my Christmas list.

Let’s see. Will I make some aromatic homemade candles this year? Yes! I’ll buy some scented oil and wax tomorrow. What about the pretty layered brownie mixes in quart jars, all tied with ribbon and a hand-stenciled recipe card? They’ll be great gifts for the teachers. And as soon as I can, I need to cut and dry the perennials from my flowerbeds, so I can make beautiful wreaths and pressed flower arrangements for my sisters.

There’s just one problem with all this: I am not what you would consider a domestic goddess. I rarely bake, unless you count Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls on Sunday mornings. When my kids need something sewn, they know they have to call Grandma. I don’t even own a sewing machine. And my attempts at anything craft-y usually end up in the garbage can. I was just not blessed with those skills. But still…

I can’t stop myself. There’s something uniquely motivational about the holiday season. All those home and garden shows touting the many ways you can decorate a home using only chunks of coal and pocket lint are enough to rouse my usually-dormant homemaking genes from their deep sleep. The magazine covers shout at me to bake seventeen kinds of cookies and share them at a cookie swap with neighbors I don’t even know. Yea, I must traipse over the river and through the woods to cut real greens in order to bring the authentic smell of Christmas to my home. That nativity scene hand-carved out of soap doesn’t look too tough to handle, does it?  And of course it’s time to sit down and make elaborate, time-consuming mini-houses out of terrible-tasting dough and a variety of hard-to find-candy (so the cats have something enticing to shove off the counter tops tomorrow). Where’s the gingerbread?? My children scatter when I start posing these questions and my husband suspects I’ve been prematurely nipping into the eggnog. They try to talk me out of these attempts, but it’s too late. I am in a holiday planning frenzy and have already purchased yards of raffia ribbon and brown paper that I can hand-stamp for gift wrap, Martha-Stewart-style.

Now, I know in my mind that most of these projects will remain undone and un-created. It will get to be December 23rd, and with the clock ticking away, I will resort to gift cards and overnight deliveries from Amazon to round out the gift list. The raffia and quart jars will be stored in a basement cabinet, right next to last year’s “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” cross-stitch undertaking and the unfinished manger made entirely of pop can tabs. But in my heart, I know I am creating something greater: a genuine sense of anticipation and joy that comes from thinking about the ones I love and the many reasons I have to be thankful that Jesus Christ came as a baby to redeem us. And that’s more than enough.

Except for maybe a pan or two of homemade fudge shaped liked Christmas trees…

Happy Advent everyone!

Praying with a Pen

An Attitude of Gratitude Radio Interview

Gary Zimak did it again! I was invited to return to Gary’s show “Spirit in the Morning” on Holy Spirit Radio in Philadelphia and somehow he made me sound coherent. On the day before Thanksgiving, we discussed being intentional and practicing  thankfulness by writing down things for which we are grateful every day. And where’s the perfect place to practice daily thankfulness? A prayer journal, of course! 🙂 Click here for the interview: my section runs from 18:00-28:37.


Catholic Treasure Chest

An Advent Journal

Here’s a peek at what I plan to use as a prayer journal prompt for the upcoming Advent Season. “In the Beginning” is published by Blessed Is She, one of my favorite groups of Catholic sisters, and is written by the talented Laura Kelly Fanucci of I can hardly wait to dive in! It covers the beginnings of all four Gospels, and walks us through an Examen-like approach to read, reflect, respond, act and pray. I anticipate learning a great deal and, as the journal says, preparing my heart “for the One who is waiting to transform our lives.” There’s still time–order one for yourself today!