God in the Surf


For a fourth year in a row, Shelby surfed at Surfers Healing’s camp for children with autism spectrum disorders. Storms threatened us all day and the heat was oppressive, but Shelby came to surf and surf she did.

This year our surfer was local surf instructor Jack Viorel, Jack is a personal friend and awesome guy all-around. He was a teacher at our former parish’s school before stumbling across a Surfers Healing camp that changed the course of his career. He was out surfing that day when he came across the camp and it inspired him. Inspired him to leave a career in teaching to run a surf school full time and start a global surf charity. Through his global surf charity, Indo Jax Surf Charities,  he has surfed with orphan girls in India, blind children with the Helen Keller Foundation, children with AIDS and those with autism (in addition to offering his and his program’s services at Surfers Healing allowing for more children to surf on that day). 

Shelby has surfed with many wonderful surfers over the years but it was special this year to surf with a local who gives so much back to our community and the world because he knows what surfing has given him. Plus, he gets to teach and through surfing still fulfill that vocation. 

Jack and Shelby had numerous great runs yesterday. She is a tough cookie to crack but Jack and every surfer who’s ever had the joy of surfing with Shelby have cracked that code. Shelby cannot speak but her face tells the story over and over on each wave she rides in. God gave Shelby surfing so that she could show us what is possible: the overwhelming joy that comes out of an act of kindness, the love of embracing who you are and being who God created you to be, experiencing God in all his Majesty. Even the dolphins came out to celebrate the gifts of these children as they surfed yesterday (didn’t get a pic, they were pretty far out!). 

Yesterday we saw again what many parents and spectators were seeing for the first time. The joy and blessing of our special children as they get a special experience. For me, it’s impossible NOT to see God in the surf as Shelby and her fellow-surfers ride in. To see His power in the waves and His joy in their faces and His mercy and over-flowing love in the faces of the (mostly) men who donate their time, talent and treasure to be there to make it “one perfect day” for the children and their families. Outside of receiving Him in the Eucharist, this has been the most profound feeling of the love of God I have ever received. 

Mahalo to Izzy Paskowitz (founder of Surfers Healing) and Jack Viorel for Shelby’s perfect day. And the biggest mahalos to God for giving us the chance to experience His love in the surf.


“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them;a otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.

“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them;a otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:1-4

These are the instructions Jesus gives for almsgiving. One of the benefits about not participating in social media on a personal level is not getting myself bent out of shape about the moral and ethical implications of the latest fad. Even when that fad is considered charitable.

Yes, I’m talking about the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. Lots of friends and family are doing it as we speak.Not being able to see so many personal feeds means I can largely ignore it. Letting people know I’m not checking in means I’m not forced to hurt someone’s feelings when I tell them a) I’m not participating b) why I’m not participating and c) why the whole thing is so misguided. I know they are good people who are trying to do something nice. I don’t like being the buzz-kill, but with this kind of thing, I am. 

If you’re not on social media or somehow have missed this, the idea is to raise funds for ALS by challenging friends and family to either pour ice over their head or write a check for $100 to the ALS Association. Ethical and moral concerns have been raised by Father Michael Duffy here and Deacon Greg Kandra here. Read those articles. I’m not going to sum them up here for you.

Some people have suggested in light of those concerns to do the challenge but mention in your video that you are not endorsing or supporting the ALS Association but showing solidarity or remembering a loved one or in honor of those suffering. Others have offered alternative ALS organizations such as Team Gleason. 

ALS is a terrible disease. And my prayers are with all those suffering and those who care for them. Just as they are with those suffering from cancer. The moral and ethical consequences of this are just part of the reason you won’t find me dumping ice over my head.

While millions in donations have poured in, the truth is, this is a short-term solution to a long term situation. ALS is known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease because the ball player known as the Iron Horse was diagnosed with it all the way back in 1939. The year that World War II started. Read that again, this disease has been killing people since before Hitler invaded Poland. Lou Gehrig put the first public face on this wretched killer. He stood up in Yankee stadium and said he was the luckiest man on the face of the planet. And for many years, that has been the enduring image people have had of ALS. It is touching and moving. But not moving enough to open your wallet in most cases. More recently, former NFL safety for the New Orleans Saints, Steve Gleason was diagnosed. His public image and his frequent public appearances with the band Pearl Jam and in various forms of media have shown people the tragedy of a young, vibrant, healthy man confined to a wheel chair typing with his eyes. His voice generated by a computer. He has a young son he cannot even hold. These compelling public displays of ALS motivate people to think they have to DO SOMETHING! NOW! Or at least til October rolls around and they need to buy everything with a pink ribbon on it and burn bras on facebook or tell people where they put their purse.

Today it’s ALS, tomorrow it’s something else and the ALS Association’s donations will even out. 

And still, we aren’t to the whole reason I’m not participating. Jesus’ instructions are CLEAR. You don’t perform stunts, you quietly do the grunt work. You make the donation and you don’t film yourself for the world to know. You don’t allow your vanity to overshadow the good work. You just don’t. “LOOK AT ME, MA! I’M DOING IT! I’M MAKING A DIFFERENCE! I’M RAISING AWARENESS!!!!” is not Christian. It’s not following in Christ’s example of telling those he cured not to tell anyone of what had been done for them (obviously someone who had been blind from birth suddenly being able to see wasn’t going to go unnoticed, but Jesus had very specific instructions). 

Jesus did the work. He healed. He instructed. But He did not send his disciples ahead to announce his arrival and set up shop for people to come and see Him do all of this. And so to it must be with us. Donate your money, or your time to a local family suffering through this illness with a loved one, or your prayers if that is all that is possible. Do all that you can, but tell no one. God sees you doing it and that is enough. 

In two weeks, is anyone going to remember who dumped ice and who didn’t? You’re not a bad person if you participate, but for me, the reasons to not participate are more than there are to do it. 

Happy Where God Leads You

I have to say, I was a little bit apprehensive even if I was sure it was where God wanted us when we switched parishes. I’m good like that. Follow God but second-guess Him all the way.

Upon announcing our parish change, a wonderful friend and mom of seven contacted me. She has a son with autism as well so we’ve known her for sometime. She is a huge fan of both Shelby and Shelby’s Godfather. She told me to check out faith formation for Shelby at our new parish. She knows the Director of Faith Formation (DFF) for young children there.

I got her message was we were on the cusp of beach week, so I didn’t get in touch with the DFF right away.

This weekend, I finally located William’s baptism certificate and so decided to sign the boys up for Faith Formation after mass this morning. Shelby and William both had rough nights last night, so Jeff stayed home with them and Joseph and I went to 7:30 AM mass. 

After mass, we made our way to the room where sign-ups where. We were the only ones signing up after that mass, so we got some great one-on-one time with the DFF. I explained our situation with Shelby to her and she had an opportunity for us. And it was…CATECHESIS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD. Wha-what? The Montessori program? Why yes! As it turns out, before being our DFF, she was a teacher in the public school system for exceptional children AND she was a certified Montessori teacher AND certified for CGS! She said she had worked that program with children of varying abilities and was certain it was at least worth a shot to try for Shelby. And since kindergarten faith formation occurs during mass anyway, she offered it as an option for William as well. And it’s at the vigil mass which is our preferred mass during the school year. I couldn’t believe it. Something designed with children like Shelby in mind!

She told me to think about it and get back to her. I came home and told Jeff. We decided to ask if Jeff could accompany Shelby the first few classes to get her situated and hopefully it will work out. What do we have to lose? 

I am so happy God led us here. Initially I figured it was just to give Shelby and her Godfather more time to get to know each other. But now,I realize God is drawing all of us closer to Him in His word, the sacraments and the community as well. Especially Shelby! 

When Nothing is Wrong…but everyone thinks something is

So, word keeps traveling back to me from friends, family and so on and so forth. People are saying things like, “So-and-so is so worried because you deleted your facebook account!” (Actually, I only deactivated, not deleted!)

Sheesh! You’d think I’d run away and joined the circus.

Recently a friend deactivated temporarily. She let everyone know in advance she was taking a break that lasted, eh, roughly a week. Privately she told several of us it had to do with one particular issue and once it blew over, she would be back and better than ever. And once it was over, she would also delete everyone who’d been party to the drama in real life.

No such thing for me. Nope. I just couldn’t deal with the deluge of information that was making me care less. I also couldn’t handle the stress of a new school year, a house on the market and a lot of drama being kicked around fb of late. Drama I want no part with but somehow people keep shoving it in my face. Boo. If my face ain’t there, ain’t nothing being shoved in it.

I felt like I had 700 children in my face yelling “Pay attention to me! Care about me!” And right now, I only want to care about the three children who physically live in my home.

But it is telling that so many people immediately jump on the bandwagon of assuming something bad has happened when they realize someone has gotten off social media. My next door neighbor has told us many times that he comes and goes as he pleases and people always assume something awful has happened. He has battled cancer in recent years and had some personal struggles, so, in his case, for some people those fears are probably well-founded. But I know I’ve gotten messages from people about friends who’ve deactivated just so no one would contact them while on vacation for four days freaking out that “so-and-so is off facebook for good and wahhhh!!! what does this mean?!”

We’ve become a connected society so used to having instant access to people whether by facebook, twitter, text message, email or whatever, that when we suddenly find a channel blocked, we assume the worst. I remember when I was first starting my corporate America job, a co-worker told me about her worst night at a previous job working for Corning in their fiber-optics division. She was on her night shift rotation and employees would only get phone calls if it was an emergency. One night, she got two calls. The first was from an aunt stating her grandmother had gone missing. Thankfully, her grandmother had just gone to a store with a friend and didn’t think to tell her aunt who she wasn’t expecting to pop in that day. The second call was from someone letting her know her mother and step-father had both been arrested  for domestic violence. I think back on this story and think, “wow, there was a time when we didn’t  have cell phones for 900 people to text us or message us the instant something happened anywhere we weren’t at that time.” It doesn’t seem possible that terrible night happened just over 10 short years ago.

Lately, the spread of news in social media has become a source of major discontent for a lot of my friends. When my dear friend Dawn passed away earlier this year, friends of hers began posting on facebook before her siblings knew. I knew early on but thankfully the person who told me did it privately in a text message and told me there was some difficulty contacting some of the family. I realize that many people had no idea and did not intend harm but it happened nonetheless. It was a crazy, crazy time, for sure and left a lot of us thinking there was much to be desired with this much connected-ness.

I would have thought that my exit (however long it may be…much yet to be determined) would have been much less noticeable since I hadn’t been posting as much or commenting as often of late. But, it’s caused a minor panic (which sounds so silly as I type it) and I take some responsibility for that. Although, once upon a time when Jeff deactivated his facebook account (which he never re-opened) he gave fair warning and there was a firestorm of speculation, so I guess there’s just no winning (disclosure: he did it for his job, he didn’t want to be a teacher with a facebook account).

So, I guess I’ll keep telling people the truth: things are fine, really, they are. I need a break. Perhaps I’ll be back at some point, but I dislike amateur prognostications, so…you know…til then….

No, we’re not like every other married couple you’ve ever met

Have you ever seen a couple and thought, well they look made for each other? They look like they just “fit.”

Yeah, we ain’t that couple. 

In fact, early on and even now, some of Jeff’s friends have been vocal about how mismatched we seem/are. A lot of them just never pictured him marrying a yankee, a Catholic, a younger woman, a brunette, or, you know, whatever. 

I can easily explain that by saying I don’t fit in well anywhere, which is the truth. God made me a little different, and after many years of fighting it, I know it’s how I’m supposed to be. I was a writer and dancer born into a family of athletes. I was the only girl with a bunch of boys. Even in my own family, I was a little different. Not black sheep or anything, but just not like everyone else. They all kind of fit together and I sort of stood out. 

I honestly spent most of my life before meeting Jeff pretty much convinced I would never get married because I was just always the girl no one was interested in. Romantically or otherwise. People knew I was there and that was about it. I made attempts at a social life that I hoped would bring me a relationship and possibly a marriage. I joined groups in high school and a sorority in college and even spent a lot of time early on at the Newman Center (I operated on a popular myth of my youth that all young Catholic women seeking marriage would find said man at the Newman Center). But nothing. Connections just did not happen.

I met Jeff because of a wrong number phone call. (He called me.) I guess, like everything else in life, God had a very different plan for me. It was a plan that involved meeting someone in a place and way I could never have predicted. 

Eleven years into marriage, eight years into parenthood. We don’t look like most other couples. Physically and otherwise. Jeff made a career change at the same time I got pregnant with Shelby. So, he’s here a teacher, I’m working in a grocery store as a cashier. I remember when I got that ridiculous corporate America job and thought I was moving up and so much better off than I would have been working retail or service industry. And yet, this is by far the best job I’ve ever had. We haven’t done much of what we set out to when we got married, but what we have done has been better than what we planned.

A lot of my friends tell me they admire our marriage and relationship to which I think, “why?” I mean, we have exactly zero date nights. Not even the “put-the-kids-to-bed-and-watch-a-grown-up-movie-while-eating-popcorn-in-the-living-room” ones. Because we don’t just have kids. We have our kids. The ones who are every bit as stubborn as both of their parents combined with some extra thrown in because they are their own people and if they are going to stay up and interrupt well, they just are. Oh, and how dare you have popcorn when we are clearly in the house! And yes, Shelby is a big part of that equation but there are other reasons too.

Like, in our cases, being Jeff and Kristen and husband and wife and mama and daddy have become so intermixed I can’t find where one ends and the other begins. I can now hear mothers across the land screaming and slamming lap top covers shut and thinking, “NO! THIS IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER!” And for a lot of people, it probably is, but for us it’s not. It’s where God led us and where we’re happy.

And we just drafted a non-retirement-retirement plan that involves us both still working full time and living in a trailer near the beach with Shelby. Because we can’t imagine the future any different than that at this point. And we’re okay with it. (And if you’re wondering about the trailer, it will be more of a small house that is mobile while not looking so and give us the freedom to travel and leave it to go overseas with the girl. The living off the grid part is totally optional.) 

I was perusing blogs this morning and found a pic of a blogger, her husband and baby and thought, “yeah, they totally fit.” And then I thought about my mismatch-match and realized, it doesn’t matter if it’s obvious to the rest of the world because it’s completely obvious to God. This man, this marriage, this life, this home, these children–they are all part of His plan and if the “world” at large can’t see that, well, maybe that means I’m doing it right. For once. I fit where it doesn’t look “right” and that’s okay. 


1970’s summer? Well, maybe…


I spent a lot of this summer still plugged into 21st century technology. But, we did our nature walk (total disaster!) and a couple of beach trips. We did our week at the beach and now, now that we have one week left of summer officially, I’ve let go of a lot of technology.

This week, I did all of the Sophia the First puzzles my parents gave Shelby for her birthday with her. I worked on handwriting with William. Joseph and I got quality snuggles in.

This summer has been odder than odd. First of all, the rain. Yes, it rains here during the summer and yes we get thunderstorms and yes tropical storms and hurricanes (have you been where I live before?!) but the endless days and days and days of rain? We could have fully hydrated California with half of what we got and still been well over seasonal norms here. Our beach week was a week of epic rain both at the beach and at home.

So, we’ve spent un-Godly amounts of time watching movies and youtube videos because we ran out of stuff to do and the beach wasn’t an option and with that much rain, flooding became a major concern so going a lot of places (all the indoor ones cost money too!) was not really a great idea. 

We have read books. We have played board games. When it was not raining but awfully darn hot outside, we ran through sprinklers. 

One week left and we’re finally getting dry weather that’s not so humid you can’t breathe when you step outside. Which is perfect for walks around the block and for the boys to help Daddy clean up the yard. 

I wouldn’t call my 1970’s summer idea a fail, maybe misguided at points, but never a fail. Because we don’t live in the 1970’s. We live now. So while pushing my kids out the front door (except Shelby because: SHELBY!) sounded so awesome and appealing, summers when I was a kid were never as hot as they are now. And the idea of them getting struck by lightning is not a pleasant one. 

We’ve gotten the summer we’ve gotten and that’s okay. It’s better than okay.  It’s great. We spent time together and enjoyed each other. I got lots of hours at work. We have no plans to squeeze out every crazy second of the last week, it’ll just happen as it happens. And that part, well, that part’s a lot like a 1970’s summer.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

— 1 —

After this weekend…one week left of summer. And I’m officially doing the happy dance.

— 2 —

Oh, yeah, in case you missed it, I have a facebook page for the blog now. It’s about all I can handle at the moment. 

— 3 —

Apparently Constantine the frog, the least scary villain I have ever seen, scares the bejesus out of my almost seven-year-old who’s had nightmares since we got Muppets Most Wanted from Redbox. Sigh.

— 4 —

That last take feels like some kind of huge parenting fail. I mean, first of all, I rented a movie I thought the kids would enjoy and instead it scared one. And then, my gracious, a not-at-all-scary villain scared my kid! Am I raising scaredy cats? Am I not sensitive enough to how sensitive my kids are. Yes, these are the ravings of a mom getting ready to leave summer…

— 5 —

I’ve tried three times to write this take and everytime I’ve felt like meh. Not so much. So…moving on.

— 6 —

And now wordpress is going to drive me crazy with fonts. Such is my life.

— 7 —

Jeff goes back to school next week too. On Thursday. And so, here we go again. And again. At least I only have two days not a whole week this year right as everyone is getting sick of each other!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!