Busted Halo
 
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February 13th, 2014
Tales from a pilgrimage to Lourdes

Last fall, needing a break from the regular distractions and hustle of daily life, I jumped on a plane and hightailed it to Paris with a fabulous friend. I was excited about the trip. However, I remembered thinking that I hadn’t been on a religious retreat in more than seven years. I had gone through a lot of transition — multiple cross-country moves, new jobs, earning my graduate degree, and lots of love gained and lost. So, clearly, I was overdue. When I discovered how easy it was to get to Lourdes from Paris, I decided that it would be great to get some QT at a place where the Blessed Mother had been — where she appeared to St. Bernadette and where miracles have officially been recognized by the Catholic…

February 12th, 2014

One of my new “guilty pleasures” is grabbing the Magazine section of the Sunday Boston Globe and going straight to “Dinner With Cupid,” which my husband has rechristened, “Dinner with Stupid.”
It is a microcosm of the dating game. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Globe, this feature pairs people (mostly young, mostly straight), matching up their list of attributes and interests in the hopes that they might promote a match of some sort, or at the very least, an enjoyable blind date.
Contestants fill out forms stating what they like to do on a Saturday night, who would play them in a movie, what is their favorite way to spend downtime, and more. The magazine shows pictures of the two people, usually…

February 10th, 2014
On Valentine’s Day, celebrate love and also reflect on what’s holding you back from loving more fully

Imagine getting a Valentine’s Day card that reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” (on the front) and “What are you afraid of?” (on the inside).
Yes, I know. That is single-handedly the worst and scariest Valentine’s Day card. Ever.
Though it might seem ironic, I love all the Valentine’s Day hoopla. That’s right: I love going to CVS in the month of February. I love the cheesy gifts, the dozen roses, and the candy hearts. Yes, I’m that person who makes all the plush toys sing in the seasonal aisle. For many years, I found myself agonizing over which Hallmark greeting card to buy in the card aisle: Funny? Sappy? Romantic? Heartfelt?
However, now at age 28, I genuinely wonder if we are really getting anywhere…

February 6th, 2014

This February brings about a very special time in the sports calendar that comes around only once every four years: the Winter Olympics. The coastal resort town of Sochi, Russia, has been selected to play host to the world this winter. There will likely be much fanfare and media attention given to the medalists and other contenders whose prominence transcends their own sport. Over the years, Kristi Yamaguchi, Peekaboo Street, and Shaun White have become names familiar to the U.S. Olympic enthusiast. Additionally, athletes competing in sports particularly popular during the Winter Games have become household names and a part of the pop cultural landscape, sometimes for the drama beyond the sport itself (think:…

February 5th, 2014
The connection between faith, writing and waiting

I just read a really terrific short story, and now I feel myself bobbing like a cork toward a deep dark cataract of despair. On the one hand, part of me truly delights in this well-crafted, mysterious piece of prose by a writer of growing renown. At the same time, though, the marvelment I feel is coated in a very thick layer of, not envy exactly, but a sense of comparative professional inadequacy. I stare at the pages in my hands like I’m trying to decipher hieroglyphs, and I ask myself: How did he do that? How did he write something so subtle and memorable and complex? Why can’t I do that? When will I be able to do that? Will I ever?
I say that I’m floating toward a deep dark cataract of despair — deep and dark, yes,…

February 4th, 2014
A Q/A about handling delicate family dynamics

Question:… My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. Within our first year together, and prior to meeting his family, he received a Facebook message from his older brother, stating that I was no good for him, and that I was going to break his heart and leave him wounded. Shortly after that, when I went home with him to meet his family, his brother would not look at me and barely said hello. Ever since then, whenever we have been in the same room or building, his brother completely ignores me … Moreover, when my boyfriend attempts to speak to his parents about the situation, they act as if they have never noticed it and immediately dismiss the problem. What should I do? If we are eventually going to be family,

February 3rd, 2014

Lonely blue jays and cardinals mark the days of midwinter, spreading color sparingly with their fretted flights above browned lawns and bare, grey trees. Even silver-haired snowbirds are growing weary of southern hibernation and long to return to the blooming laughter and hustle of families and children along street corners, park benches and backyard barbecues.
The world moves with stiff joints and shallow breaths through mornings where the step from bed feels like an arctic swim, while our motivation to change seems as stuck as a Prius on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in an ice storm. With many weeks of cold still ahead, we are already growing irritated with wool coats, early evening’s darkness, frosted windshields…

January 31st, 2014

Brrrrrr! It’s cold this winter, so we’ve chosen an appropriate snow-covered image for this year’s February wallpaper that includes a lot of (weather-related) days to look forward to.
Of course, Sunday is the Big Game day, but it’s also Groundhog Day, when the shadow of a common earth rodent (basically a large squirrel) determines if we’ll have another six weeks of this cold nonsense or not.
Don’t forget about the Feast of St. Blaise on February 3 — if you’re under the weather or have had to miss work (like some of us unfortunately have,) you should be looking forward to this saint’s feast day where you can head to your local Catholic church and receive a special…

January 29th, 2014

January is drawing to a close, which means football season is as well. For some, this is a bittersweet time, full of Super Bowl fervor followed by a hollowness that cannot be filled until the draft starts up in May (or at least until SportsCenter begins avidly discussing new prospects later in February). But for others, myself included, the Super Bowl is a time of dread. This year, with Super Bowl XLVIII coming to my city, I cannot be less enthusiastic about a bunch of burly men rolling around on some fake grass. And with a snowy polar vortex in full swing, I think we already have enough to worry about without traffic jams, crazed fans, and the “NFL Experience” taking over the New York metropolitan area.
If you’re…

January 27th, 2014

We often hear of things being super, but how super are they really? Superstorm Sandy was not any fun for people in the Northeast. Superman isn’t even a real human person, only a character of comic and film fiction. And the Super Mario Bros. don’t have anything on me and my two brothers. (Please… we can jump higher and grow better mustaches.) But the Super Bowl? That might actually be worthy of being called “super.”
It’s Super Pop Cultural
Although the Super Bowl is really just a football game, is it so much more than that. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched athletic events on television every year. It carries with it many pop subcultures. Super Bowl commercials are often more watched and talked…

January 22nd, 2014

When I was diagnosed with pericarditis — an inflammation of the fibrous sac around the heart — while volunteering in Peru, the reaction of a number of people surprised me. Until that point, most of my Peruvian friends had demonstrated no medical proclivity whatsoever. Suddenly, I had no shortage of people anxious to share any tidbit of therapeutic information they could.
“You’re lonely,” said some. “You need a girlfriend. Or more male friends.” While I appreciated their concern that I was living with four female roommates, this theory seemed to fall short in explaining how my heart’s membrane swelled to unhealthy proportions.
“You are so skinny,” offered the cooks at the parish…

January 15th, 2014
Making the most of a day off courtesy of Mother Nature

When I was a teacher, I used to view snow days very differently. Each time school was called off, I’d feel like I was back in my twin-sized bed, under flannel sheets, in my Garfield nightgown, with my mom peeking through my bedroom door to deliver the good news before going to work. Few experiences could transport me back to childhood so quickly in my adult life as having a snow day, even if I was the one, now, in front of a room full of squirrelly students saying, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll have to listen to the news tomorrow morning,” secretly praying for school to be called off and just as excited.
In my years after teaching, I started working another job and began commuting to work. Snow days quickly…

January 14th, 2014
An examination of letting go and surrendering to God even when you’re terrified

Imagine a moment of complete free fall.
If you have ever experienced that jolt in your gut, that razor chill throughout your body, that overwhelming instant when everything pauses in a moment of pure terror as you let go of the edge … you know what I’m describing. This is the body kicking into survival mode. I feel it when I go cliff-jumping in Muskoka, ride the Drop Zone at Wonderland, and every time I endure a major life transition. Can I reasonably compare a physical free fall to an emotional one? Yes. Yes I can.
Recall a moment of surrender of your own: waiting for that phone call, letting go of a breakup, not knowing if you’ll pass a class, finding out you or a loved one is ill, wondering where your life will go…

January 13th, 2014

Today, January 13, marks the Feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers. (Go ahead and say “Poitiers” a couple of times. It’s delicious. I’ll wait.) St. Hilary was born sometime around the end of the third century in the city of Poitiers in what is now France. The son of pagan parents, he possessed a profound longing to understand the meaning and purpose of human existence. Hilary had an unquenchable desire to contemplate life as a gift and to discover its Giver. His lifelong spiritual journey took him to the great philosophers and he became a Neo-Platonist. By what St. Hilary described as chance, he stumbled upon Sacred Scripture. Within those divinely inspired words, he encountered the Gift-Giver he had been seeking.…

January 13th, 2014

Then came The Fall, which is what I like to call what happened when I was 26 and my metabolism turned on me like Benedict Arnold — or Judas Iscariot if you prefer to keep things biblical. I didn’t realize it right away; I never weighed myself and I ignored the pleas of the waistlines of my jeans and khakis, while stuffing myself into them until the buttons inevitably popped off in exasperation; at which point I would just curse shoddy workmanship and dig through my closet for yet another pair of pants whose seams I could stretch to their farthest limits.
It was only after my doctor gingerly informed me that I was clinically overweight that I began to consider the idea that I was … well … clinically overweight.…

January 9th, 2014

I am a little ashamed to tell you that I cannot recall what my New Year’s resolutions were three-hundred-sixty-some days ago. My forgetfulness reminds me of high school, when I had a part in a skit for a New Year’s program that was modeled after Saturday Night Live. My favorite was “Mr. Short-Term Memory.” The original character was played brilliantly by Tom Hanks and written by an up-and-coming comedian named Conan O’Brien. I loved the episode where Tom Hanks went to dinner and kept having moments of exasperation where he would question who put food in front of him or what was just said in the conversation. I’m not sure our high school version lived up.
I took the kids when they…

January 8th, 2014
Don't make just another New Year's resolution. Change a daily habit -- and improve your physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Lately, New Year’s resolutions have been getting a bad rap. And sure, the ubiquitous weight-loss goal is easy to ridicule, since it always seems to fail.
The essential problem is that New Year’s resolutions are big, dramatic, turning-point goals. But our health is not a matter of big dramatic choices we make. Instead, it’s all about the habits we slide into.
Yet a “new year” still holds so much inherent appeal — the feeling that things can be different, that we can make a fresh start.
You can have the best of both worlds. Why not apply the momentum of the new year to a realistic habit change?
After all, when you find ways to improve your physical well-being, your mental and spiritual well-being will…

January 3rd, 2014

Back in December of 2003, about a month before I travelled to South Africa to work in schools as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years, I found myself watching Malcolm X…, Spike Lee’s fantastic 3-hour biopic on the civil rights leader. Much to my surprise, the end of the film cut from a scene in an American classroom with a teacher and her students to a classroom in South Africa, filled with young learners, and helmed by none other than (former at the time of my viewing, future at the time of the film’s original 1992 release date,) President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. I was a little shocked to see this great man standing in the middle of a classroom that looked nearly identical to ones I would be spending

January 2nd, 2014

“I’m no beauty. I’m no genius. I can’t sing. I can’t dance,” Marcia Wallace said years ago at a speaking engagement in Indiana, “But, it was clear to me early on that I had a couple of things that have held me in very good stead as I have approached life’s challenges, that is tenacity… and a sense of humor.”
Bellowing that unforgettable “Ha!” trademarked in both of her major character roles, this self-possessed, big-haired and big-eyed wag proudly sprung from Creston, Iowa, taught us to believe in the healing and motivating power of laughter.
She celebrated an enduring career in television that spanned more than 60 years and bravely…

January 1st, 2014
A Christmas surprise for the next 12 days!

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