Anam Cara

an Irish soul friend

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Feeding Reindeer

Grandchildren provide some of the most enjoyable, amusing and enchanting moments in life. This moment comes from little Miss M, a four year old who has the vocabulary of a twelve year old and the temper of a banshee.

Following a lovely Christmas Eve, the kids are getting ready for bed. I have offered to tuck them all in which is a special joy for me. As I come into Miss M’s room, she is chattering away about Christmas, Santa, presents and candy. All the stuff of a four year old’s delight.

In the midst of the chatter, she suddenly announces that she cannot go to bed yet because she forgot to put out the reindeer food. There were almost 20 people at the Christmas Eve gathering, and the conversation about reindeer food had passed me by. Apparently, there was critical information that was unknown to me. I had seen her older brothers put out cookies and a carrot, so I told her that J had already done it. WRONG. COMMENT.

She jumped straight up with a roar that would drown out a 747, screaming that J could not put out the reindeer food. It was HER reindeer food that SHE was supposed to put out. J had “no right” (direct quote) to take her special food from school to put out for the reindeer to eat.

The indignant wrath of this little sprite was as surprising as it was intense. Generally she is a very easy-going little person. Clearly, this was very important. She continued to screech about her reindeer food and added that it sparkled so the reindeer could find it. Aha! Now I get it. She had something other than a carrot to feed these reindeer. I quickly explained that J had only put out a carrot and that he would never, ever disappoint her by putting out her special food. I suggested that she run downstairs and put out the food quickly because Santa must be getting close.

She eagerly dashed off, grabbed the food and heads out the door. Aunt Bee sees her and tells her she cannot go outside without shoes. Miss M, who has had quite enough frustration for one four year old, huffily tells Aunt Bee in no uncertain terms, that she HAS TO FEED THE REINDEER. NOW! BEFORE SANTA COMES! Shoes were of no concern.

Aunt Bee, being much wiser than Grandma, says, “Okay, girlfriend, we’ll go together and I will carry you so your feet won’t get too cold.” Miss M spreads her reindeer food with it’s glittery sparkles very carefully because it was important that the sparkles  let the reindeer know where to find the food.

Reindeer food spread successfully, she races back up the stairs to settle in before Santa arrives. Amazingly enough, she is sleepy and ready to doze off even after all that energy and emotion. This was a very special encounter and will be a precious memory to share over the years. And honestly, I had no idea she had such a temper. I guess her Irish heritage is demonstrated there. Hopefully, the reindeer found the food and devoured it!

Grandchildren are one of the greatest joys in life and little Miss M is surely Anam Cara!

brown deer

Photo by Sohel Patel on

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The Homily You Didn’t Hear in Church on Palm Sunday



This week I have been thinking a lot about the Marches across the country and the young people demanding change. Along with that, I have wondered about the (non) coincidence of the marches occurring immediately before the start of Holy Week.

As I pondered, I was seeking the thread that made them part of the same cloth. I am certain my thoughts never made into any Palm Sunday homily, but how sad it is that it didn’t.

The people who followed Jesus weren’t just simply following a charismatic preacher now were they? Those people saw something in him that gave them hope. They were desperate for a glimmer of hope and real change in their situations. They were a people oppressed. Their lives were lived in cruelty, degradation and uncertainty. They sought safety and certainty.

The students who stand up today are following their hearts. They live with fear. They have seen the horrors of slaughter in their schools. They wonder daily if their school is the next one, if their friends or even themselves will be the ones to die. They live with anxiety, fear and uncertainty. The people who should be protecting them suggest they be armed with rocks and safe rooms. These students know this is not what they need. They call “BS.” They want safety and certainty. They want a world that makes sense.

The people who entered Jerusalem waving palms and crying “Hosanna” thought they had found safety and certainty in the one they called teacher. His presence gave them courage to take a chance. His inspiration allowed them to speak. He knew the change they sought would not end with him.

Our young people have found the courage to speak. Their inspiration came from death and the recognition that their leaders were not fulfilling the highest ideals our country claims. Our children do not call “Hosanna,” they call “BS.”

Unlike their ancestors in faith, they enjoy the freedom to openly seek change and speak their truths. They have walked the path to Golgotha as they ran from a spray of bullets. As the women at the foot of the cross watched their beloved die, the kids of today have seen the blood of their friends leaking across the floors of their classrooms.

I don’t know how the story ends. I can’t fully explain the connection, but I know it is there. What these children are doing is important. That there were international marches supporting them says they have touched something deeply needed and necessary throughout the world. They seek leaders to offer hope, safety and certainty. Sounds kind of like that guy from Nazareth hmm?

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Say Yes!

The task this week is to say yes to everyone and everything that happens. The goal is to resist the desire to disagree if the issue is not critical to rid ourselves of self-centered views and to recognize our opinion is not always the important one. It also gives us the awareness of how often we might be resistant which leads us to distress and a drain on our personal energy. The cultivation of an internal attitude of “yes” to life and all it brings is supposed to bring a lot of energy to us.  Okay, I’m ready, here comes a positive week.pexels-photo-414860.jpeg

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True Compliments

images-6In honor of St. Patrick’s Day a little green for you and a wish for a true compliment to come your way. I’ve been away for a wee bit, vacation and other important business. However, during this time I’ve had the chance to really focus on offering true compliments to people with whom I’ve come in contact.

One was a young lass at McDonald’s who took my coffee order. She had a lovely voice and I suggested she consider a career in radio. The surprised smile on her face brightened my day, and I hope hers. Several CNA’s were recipients of grateful and genuine compliments as they wove their magic in a difficult situation. They too, seemed surprised as they “were only doing their job.”

A good friend flushed in surprise when told of my appreciation for the friendship and support and my husband beamed when I thanked him for being such a great guy.

In each situation, it was meaningful for me to notice and offer the positive statement. I hope if it was equally so for the recipients. I think it was most touching to see the reactions to people working in the service industries. I guess it’s easy to complain if they take too long filing our orders, or mix things up. It also seems they rarely receive positive encouragement especially when they are only doing what is expected of them.

This is a practice that I resonated with and I will make a great effort to continue. It’s as much for my effort to be the best person I can; but I know it is also important to those on the receiving end. How do I know that? It’s because of the great big smiles!pexels-photo-774909.jpeg

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Anyone who knows me. knows that patience is a virtue that bypassed me.Thus when I pulled this card from my mindfulness pile, I was dismayed thinking it would be a terrible experience. However, it wasn’t at all. Oddly enough, I found it to be quite easy. Granted, I did not have to wait too often with the exception of early morning traffic.

Each week, I get up early to head northward to care for my little granddaughter. Getting to her house requires I  grapple with the frustration that is prime-time morning rush hour. On these morning trips a 30-45 minute trip easily becomes 75 minutes and the speeds drop from 70’s to 30’s.

Ten years ago, I would have been one of the lunatics screaming at other drivers, pounding on my steering wheel and using language that I would never want my grands to repeat. These days though, I practice deep breathing, sing along with the radio and realize that I have plenty of time and will not be late.

It is really surprising to me that I have been able to accomplish this and I have to say I genuinely like it. Losing that negative mind state and focusing on the positive carries through to the entire day which is not only a gift to me, but probably even more to the people I encounter throughout the day.

Next up: compliments. Will be heading for some sun, back in two weeks.pexels-photo-210182.jpeg


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The Wind

This week’s challenge was to “become aware of the movement of air, both in obvious forms, such as wind, and in subtler forms, such as the breath.”

Being in the midst of a Midwest February, It is quite easy to be aware of the wind and its effect on the temperature. It is not positive! As I trudged to my car in new snow, I found myself bracing against the wind and yearning for a gentle tropical breeze instead of the bone-chilling gusts of the day.

Each night as I went to bed, I was aware of my breathing and focused on taking some deep breaths, holding them for a bit and exhaling fully before taking in another breath. I read somewhere that this exercise should bring on sleep quickly. Mixed results on that, but it was relaxing and my thoughts became gentler and restful.

In the midst of this I was thinking about the many people with respiratory illnesses from the flu to long term diseases like COPD, IPF, lung cancer and asthma. The very act of taking in a breath can be difficult. The air we so easily suck into our lungs can be nearly impossible for them. The life-sustaining oxygen is unable to reach the lungs and therefore, the body. Anxiety provoking? Absolutely! Imaging how it must feel to live with such limitations. Some people have described it as trying to breathe through an ever narrowing straw. It makes one grateful for the breathing and air we so take for granted.

Next up? WAITING. Whoo boy, this will be an interesting week! My card tells me that what usually produces negative emotion, can be transformed in to a gift. We shall see!

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This Person Died

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, my mindfulness card had been titled, “This person could die tonight.” It was particularly  apropos since I had two friends who were sick and actually could die.

One of those friends has since died. The last three visits I had with him were meaningful in that I made sure there was nothing left to say. The last night I was with him and his family, I knew the end was near. His family was all gathered keeping watch and there was a lot of activity in the house. Stories were being shared, there were tears and laughter, moments of quiet and visible love in the room. It was a blessing for them to have this time and although he was unconscious, I like to think he heard at least some of the banter and expressions of deep love.

His funeral was lovely. The church was filled, the readings meaningful and the reflections appropriate to his character. He had chosen the music and a cantor and that was just right for his celebration. The level of faith and hope was clearly evident and it was bolstered by the deceased’s unwavering belief that never wobbled even once through out his illness.

I am grateful that this particular mindfulness exercise occurred when it did. It made the time more precious and being mindful of the death occurring any moment allowed me to be grateful for the little time we were able to share in the last weeks of his life.

Next up: The Wind – more to come next time.