Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A New American Citizen

This is an addendum to my last post.  Previously, I mentioned the author and Rwandan genocide  survivor, Immaculee Iligabiza.  Today, Immaculee pledged allegiance to the American flag for the first time as a US citizen.  Below is some footage of her proud moment.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Remembering Rwanda

This week commemorates the nearly million lives lost in the genocide that tore the nation of Rwanda apart. This African country experienced a brutal bloodbath that started on April 7, 1994.  Two major tribes, Hutus and Tutsis, had recurring struggles of power dating back to the 1960s.  Tensions mounted and the Hutu run government decided to cleanse the country of the Tutsis. It ordered all Hutus to massacre their friends, their neighbors and even family members who were pro – Tutsi. You may remember the acclaimed film, Hotel Rwanda that shined some light on the atrocities against innocent victims.

Rwanda is thousands of miles away from America and the genocide didn’t impact my life much back then. Years later, this horrible event shook me when I read a book about the genocide.  A survivor, Immaculee Iligabiza, hid for three months in a tiny bathroom along with 7 other women. She recounts the experience in her first book, Left to Tell. I remember weeping with her throughout her story.    

For 100 days, terrorism attacked this beautiful country and over 800,000 lives were lost.  Hutu who loved their Tutsi friends and neighbors extinguished that love and mutilated them without a thought. The Hutu people snubbed out the lives of fellow countrymen without mercy. 

It is inexplicable that a nation could rise up and turn on its own countrymen.  In our country, the tragedies of Sandy Hook, Chardon and other school shootings offer a miniscule glimpse of innocents being slaughtered without a thought.  These senseless tragedies leave me longing and praying for simple love, justice, respect and dignity for all.

Although the Tutsis made desperate attempts to save themselves, it was impossible to escape the vengeance of the killers.  Desperate parents hid their children, hoping that their little ones would be miraculously spared. Three of those children did escape the savage machetes of the Hutu and spent their post genocide childhood in an orphanage in Rwanda.

Through the efforts of an organization called Orphan’s Prayer, these young survivors arrived in Ohio last year and now enjoy a home life and new families. Two girls live with a family that grew to 6. And one boy became a son to a childless couple in their 50s. 

The past year has challenged the young Rwandans to embrace enormous cultural change and a language barrier in exchange for unconditional love and security.  Their once bowed heads are lifted high and joy is their sweet song. 

The bold move of the American families changed them too.  They said “yes” – a simple word that changed a life, a family, and an entire community. The generous courage of a few families enabled many in the community to participate in the lives of these former orphans and be part of the change that is love.

The presence of these young people changed my life too. Knowing them is a blessing. Offering my love to them is nothing compared to the ocean of love that they have washed over me.  I thank our local families for sharing these precious lives with me. I thank our young Rwandans for being courageous and taking a chance on love. It’s truly a beautiful thing!
I pray for my new friends, for their loss and for the healing of their nation.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Check out this APP -ortunity!

For those of us who were born with a silver spoon in our mouths instead of the computer flash drive that kids are born with today, I have good news.  Check out TheGrannyApple blog.
Author, Mary Ryan,  is burning up the airwaves with her savvy expertise in the APPS  world.
I have already downloaded a few of her suggestions and appreciate getting the low-down on cool apps without having to trial and error them myself.
Go to and see what fascination awaits you.  Then impress your kids with apps they may not even have yet.  Awesome!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Will Come - Right?

Yesterday, this rolled off my tongue.  “I’d be happy with temperatures in the 40s and call that Spring.”   Now I know that “I’ve arrived” as a Clevelander.  How could this be?  I was just planning to stay for a few years...

Seventeen years later, I profess that I’m not here because of the weather!  When we left the South, I wondered why people stay in this climate.   The warm and tender hearts I’ve met along the way answer that question easily.

 People living in the Great Lakes Regions know the perils of Lake Effect Everything!  As we wait for the PROMISE OF SPRING to arrive in Cleveland, here are a few tips to push us through.

Ten Things to do While Waiting for Spring in Cleveland, Ohio

1. Go South  - until July.

2. Stare longingly at your spring and summer wardrobe.

3. Dance a spring ritual in your kitchen. Make sure someone is watching.

4. Take a retail therapy road trip –preferably in the South.  South Akron does not count.

5. Get a jump on spring-cleaning.  Ignore this idea – too ambitious.

6. Hide your fabulous boot collection.

7.  Recall the names of your neighbors who have been hibernating too. They’ll be out walking as soon as the thermometer climbs and you will want to remember them.

8.  Try on a swimsuit – or not.

9.  Visit a microbrewery. Cry in your beer.

10. Embrace your down parka and wear it proudly. You might be wearing it to the Memorial Day Parade.

Happy Spring  - whenever it gets here.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Easter Bunny Lays Eggs?

     Although the idea of a rabbit laying eggs always baffled me, I never stopped to examine the origin of the Easter Bunny.  As a child, I was swept up in the tradition of Easter baskets and the clever bunny that would deliver them. And though I hate to admit it, I merely passed the practice along to my own children without any true thought as to why we sustained the ritual. I regret not knowing more about the history behind it.  So, for my children and any others who never knew …

      In pre-Christian times, the hare symbolized fertility.  In Northern Europe, Eostre was the goddess of fertility.  (Note the similarity of our word, Easter)   Legend tells us that Eostre cast a hare into the sky and created the constellation Leper.  Once a year, Eostre empowered the hare to lay eggs. 

     It all sounds sketchy to me!  For those parents (like me) who were clueless when their kids asked how a bunny could lay eggs  - vindication! 

     So now I have an answer, but it gives me the willies.  This discovery triggers my guilt - be it Catholic, Irish or maternal.   Here we were, trying to be good Christian parents; yet, we passed on a pagan ritual to our kids.  OY! 

     Thankfully this one hasn’t denied me sleep – yet.  My kids would say,  "Give it time. If mom doesn’t have something to worry about, she isn’t happy."

     I find one redeeming aspect to this whole bunny/egg issue -  the fertility thing.   Is not our glorious Easter Sunday but a rebirth of our lives in the Resurrection of Jesus?  The symbolic fertility hare translates into our renewal of life in Christ.  And while the pagans never intended to assume a place in Christian celebration, its very meaning aligns with the beauty of Christ saving souls for new life in His Creation. While maybe a stretch, it is a reasonable explanation for parents who want to keep Christ in their Christian holidays.

     Just a thought about the Easter egg.  I love the meanings hidden in the gifting and the coloring of eggs.   This simple food makes a strong visual for Easter Sunday. The egg’s outer shell represents the coffin or the entombment of Christ.  The interior is the birth of new life.  When we give eggs, we symbolically give Christ to one another.  When my children were little, we adopted an activity that came from my husband’s childhood.  Between the hours of 12 and 3 p.m., we would color Easter eggs, as quietly as possible. It was a time of reverence and fun.   Most people equate spring with bursts of color and new growth. What better way to symbolize the emergence of new life but in the shades of color on each Easter egg!

     I will continue in some of our family bunny business, but I’m grateful to have a good history lesson to share when “the birds and the bunnies” question comes up with the next generation.

     May the risen Lord renew us all!

     Hop on to EASTER JOY!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Here we are in Holy Week - the "high holy days" of the Catholic Church.  It saddens me to think that I spent most of my life "robot -ing" through this time - eyes firmly fixed on the end of Lent and towards that chocolate I denied myself - almost every day for 40 days.  What a pity! In later years, thankfully, I grasped the importance of the sacred week, the fasting, the rituals etc., and it astounded me. Our church is so full of symbolism!  It is so sensual!  I feel this time - intensely.  I pray that I  live it - intentionally.

Processing into church on Palm Sunday yesterday,  I grew self conscious, not wanting to wave my palm so as to draw attention to myself, yet wanting to wave it wildly so as to pronounce the arrival of the Son of Man.  There I was  - caught between two worlds.  And that is where I spend life - caught between  heaven and earth.  I pray the right one wins out!

During my reflection time yesterday,  I read about the centurion who pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross.  I didn't realize that he's a saint - Saint Longinus!   Although nameless in the Gospels,  Longinus is referred to in each of the 4 Gospels. The accounts describe a man who had a conversion. He was born into new life the moment Christ breathed his last.  That incident draws significant parallels for me.  Just like the centurion,  I remain entrenched in the ways of this world - hanging n the balance of life and death with every decision I make. 

Longinus performed his typical duties pertaining to the crucified. He brutally clubbed the legs of the dying to speed the process along - so thoughtful.  :( Believing that Jesus was already dead, he pierced Jesus in the abdomen instead.  Out poured the symbolic blood and water -  death and life. (Symbolically, the priest mixes a little water into the wine during a Catholic Mass.)  Sacred legend describes this moment for Longinus as a conversion.  Apparently, he was blind, and the mixture of the precious blood and water dripped into his eyes, restoring his sight.  It was Longinus who proclaimed: "Truly, this was the Son of God." Matt. 27:54

It's sad that it takes that kind of proof - even for believers - though not surprising since we live in a fallen world. Our very nature is flawed. We are masters of the flesh, but not of the spirit  I see how easily I'm drawn to the stuff of life. But standing at Calvary, albeit at a distance sometimes, I am urged to learn from St. Longinus.  He got it! And although he got it later than sooner - the point is - he got it.

As Jesus proclaimed, "My Kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36. We are destined to make our way in this madness we call life and hold on to the proof that Jesus died and rose so that we could live eternally.  Holy Scripture reveals the truth of Jesus to us.  It also holds hidden gems throughout - stories of sinners turned saints, I pray that each Sinner turned Saint joins us on our journey through this Holy week and all the way to sainthood.

 May we all have an intentional Holy Week!