When I was a kid, milk was milk. It came in a glass bottle from the milkman, by way of a cow. Simple. There was skim milk, which my mother bought when my grandmother visited. It was watery and not exactly white, more like a sickly blue. My grandmother took a splash of it in her Sanka. (She a…

You may know her: the church lady (or gentleman) who gives her all to the church community. She volunteers with seemingly every ministry group. She is on multiple committees. She may even have a paid position with the church. She is everywhere. She is a pillar. She is a servant of God extrao…

Prison is not the place I ever expected to learn anything about God. But I have. The God of Surprises is always evident in my workplace, gently reminding me that every person, no matter how guilty, is a gifted and beloved child of our God.

The beloved and timeless heroine Dorothy Gale learns an important life lesson when she travels to Oz and back: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again,” Dorothy says, “I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” It’s wisdom from the Wizard.

A lovely Christmas picture book I used to read to my children was “The Donkey’s Dream,” written and illustrated by Barbara Helen Berger. In it, the little gray donkey carries on his back the Virgin Mary, on the Holy Family’s arduous journey to Bethlehem. I remembered this book with its beaut…

If you have ever been subjected to sexual harassment, abuse, or assault — and if you are female, the chances are excellent that you have been — you know why it has taken so long for so many women to come forward with allegations and personal stories about men in power.

A trip back in time: My brother’s friend Stephen got the news on a Sunday in 1967 that his father was Missing in Action (MIA) in Vietnam. Stephen’s dad was a fighter pilot, and for two years our whole Catholic grammar school prayed for his safe return. Then my family moved to another state, …

Fire can be a blessing or a curse. It can cook our food or destroy our neighborhood. It can save our lives by warming us in the cold or kill us if we get too close. Fire has captivated the human imagination ever since Prometheus stole it from Mount Olympus. (A similar theft appears in many o…

Six plays in four days. That was our plan upon arriving in Ashland, Oregon, in August for the annual Shakespeare Festival. I’m happy to report: mission accomplished. My husband actually saw seven plays, when a last-minute ticket for a sold-out matinee became available. Shakespeare penned fou…

My youngest daughter is engaged to be married. The wedding date is nearly a year away, but she is already making arrangements. I get it. She wants to know that things are handled, and I understand, because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. She and her fiancé have already secured the …

An impending move prompted my family to go through several dusty storage bins of photos. It was not always a pleasant stroll down Memory Lane, like when my twenty-something daughter held up her school portrait from sixth grade. “How could you even love me?” she demanded. “I was so ugly!”

Flashback two decades: We are all in the car, ready for one of our family camping trips — four daughters, two parents, trail mix and water bottles, pillows and blankets, an amazing amount of overnight bags and camping gear that my husband always manages to pack into the car and still maintai…

The feral kitten joined our family after he’d been separated from his mother. I had met his mother on occasion, and although she was prolific, she was not especially maternal. I thought the kitten would be better off with us. Now I’m not so sure.

Today is the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, but we Americans are hardly feeling celebratory. The current mood worldwide, in fact, is more tinged with trepidation than hope. That is because, in the United States, progress on environmental restoration is slamming into a political brick wall er…

On New Year’s Day 2017, I was drowning in dread. I was totally not looking forward to hanging up the new calendar, because for me this year was to be the Big Six-Oh. I only had until March to think of myself as still being in my fifties. Every changing of the decade prompts a period of sober…

The ashes that mark our foreheads on Ash Wednesday only last for a day, but the ashes on our hearts are meant to endure for the entire 40 days of Lent. The ashes are drawn on us as a sign of repentance, of our yearning for God’s forgiveness, of our intent to live our faith more truly in the …

My parents, God rest them, knew I was an odd child when I preferred to be indoors after school reading a book, rather than outside playing with the neighborhood kids, as my siblings did. I was also, at the age of 11, immersed in politics, which was weird. My folks didn’t really know what to …

The dust has settled on the Women’s March, which took place around the country and around the world on the Saturday after the presidential inauguration. It has been praised and maligned in the weeks since, called everything from an important, unprecedented movement to a hissy fit, a hormonal…

When we learn to pray as children, we usually memorize the proper, traditional, well-thought-out prayers of our particular faith. We say our piece, we make the motions, blessing ourselves or folding our arms or kneeling down or prostrating ourselves, and then we are done. We aren’t necessari…

The image of birth is a powerful one, whether physical birth or a metaphysical rebirth. Birth, the force of new life, transcends culture and geography and time. While giving birth may be a more visceral concept for women than for men, some Christians refer to their spirituality as “born agai…

Thanks to my husband, we recently reconnected with a friend from college, a fellow drama major. He was performing in a summer season of musicals at Tuacahn, a theatrical venue outside St. George, Utah. Three plays ran in repertory, and we got to see our friend portray Captain Hook in “Peter …

For those of us women who came of age at a time when we were still expected to be secretaries until we were moms, or, if we were troublemakers, maybe nurses or teachers, being able to vote for a woman to be president of the United States is heady indeed.

September feels like a good month for resolutions, as it is a kind of a new year, at least for anyone whose daily life is affected by the school calendar. In September, our babies go off to kindergarten, kids start new grades, teens move up in the high school hierarchy, college students retu…

Retirement, once an impossibly far-off concept, has become distantly imaginable for my husband and me. We have read that we should do some serious research before making the big decision. The most impactful aspects of retirement are probably income and health care, but smaller lifestyle cons…

One of the most frequent death-bed regrets voiced by Catholics, says a priest who has anointed many sick and dying people, is this: “I didn’t really know how to pray.” This surprised me, as I expected to hear the usual one cited as the top regret of the dying: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much …

When browsing for summer beach reading, do not choose “A Mother’s Reckoning,” by Sue Klebold. If her last name rings a bell, it’s because her son Dylan was one of the teenage shooters at Columbine High in 1999. Sue Klebold’s son murdered 13 people and injured more than 20 others on that grim…

Dear readers, you may not like me, but here’s the deal: We are in this adventure of life together. No matter how much we may rub each other the wrong way, the fact is that we are passing on the same world to our children and grandchildren. We who are the elders of society, the teachers, the …

The death penalty is like many a hot-button issue: Your mind changes when you know someone. When your neighbor gets married and comes out as gay, for example, your mindset on same-sex marriage is altered. When you are full of strong opinions about the childrearing techniques of others, and t…

After a long and multi-layered illness, my mother died on the morning of March 1. She left us softly, a peaceful exit after years of storm and unrest. At her funeral Mass, we sang a simple, haunting echo of a song called “Come Home.” Father Mac, my mother’s longtime friend and priest, spoke …

Each month in the library where I work, we set up a display of featured titles pertaining to a particular theme. January was “Get Your Life Together.” February was “Black History Month.” Our current theme for March is “Women’s History Month.” Since my library is in a male state prison, I fee…

When I was in the primary grades at Catholic school, I wanted to be a nun. Maybe every little girl in Catholic school goes through this phase. I wore my Rosary on my belt, just like Sister, and I wanted to be a teacher, just like Sister. I too wanted to be the bride of Christ. My father, alt…