The simplicity of a straw

Faith walks simply, childlike, between the darkness of human life and the hope of what is yet to come

Catherine Doherty

There’s is something so fun about a straw! Maybe I’m crazy but I just love the simple joy of using a straw. Earlier this week, I bought these cute little “cocktail straws”, perfect for wine, tea, etc. They’re silicone, reusable,  and colorful. It’s the little things that make me happy. Due to losing facial movement at a young age,  it is pretty difficult for me to drink from a glass because my lips are not able to close. So using a straw is just infinitely easier for me. I can drink without a straw but it usually results in choking or dripping all over myself. Maybe some think straws are childish but I could care less. Most people grab their keys when they leave home,  I do too but also straws just in case. 

This past week, was the anniversary of when I started to experience side effects from radiation treatments and became physically disabled. That probably doesn’t sound like something you celebrate to most people but I felt extra grateful that day. 

Thinking back to that time honestly is a blur. I remember certain moments but I think mostly my brain told myself to forget other things. As I was reflecting on that time in life and the years since, having childlike faith and wonder kept popping in my mind. There’s a window in our church of Jesus and the little children, sometimes I like to imagine what it would be like in that window, to be part of that story. Full of simplicity, joy, and love. So often, I think we underestimate the power of childlike faith and wonder. Because of these traits,  children are more intuitive, grateful, trusting, resilient, and forgiving. Upon hearing my story,  people can’t get over how young I was and yet so strong. My age was aa blessing because I don’t know if I’d be as strong today. I owe it all to having childlike faith and trust. 

As we get older, I think we lose that childlike faith. We become jaded, we form grudges, create unfair bias, we get hurt and build walls to protect overselves. I am a professional at building walls when I get hurt but slowly I’m learning to approach those situations with the simple perspective of child. Sometimes I think we all need to let go of what we’ve learned or our negative past experiences. Instead, we need to embrace having childlike faith, hope, and develop an attitude of gratitude. 

Using straws may seem childish to some and I’m sure there are wine connoisseurs who would disapprove but everyone has a right to their own opinion; I like straws and not choking. 

Childlike in faith means the daily acknowledgement of utter dependence and that I owe my life to another

Brennan Manning

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Enjoying the shallow end

What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.

-C.S. Lewis

Sometimes I worry being a very simple person, someone content with what they have, causes me to be shallow at times. I am a firm believer in seeking the truth but don’t need to know everything, understand every little detail, or ask a million questions in order to be happy. I believe there are many things in life we have to take for face value, not try to force change or worry about always having the answer. My approach is very much like that with my faith, there are plenty of things I don’t understand completely but I believe and trust.

The other day, I was listening to a friend go on and on about a topic, having to over-analyze and complicate it by forcing deep thoughts on what is actually a simple idea. I just thought “Why are over-thinking and over-complicating this? Why in seeking to better understand, are you trying to force change and choose to focus on the negative instead of the positive?”

Sometimes I think in seeking the truth, we end up getting even more lost. By over-analyzing and over-complicating, we allow anger, fear, hate, and other unpleasant emotions to enter the equation; developing opinions and creating division between others. We get sidetracked by all the little details and lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes I wonder why we can’t be more like children? Why can’t we approach life with wonder, awe, and simple childlike trust? Why must we over-complicate our lives? This week, I’m going to focus on being childlike not childish, care to join me?

“A childlike mind in its simplicity practises that science of good to which the wise may be blind.”

Friedrich Schiller

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Raise your hand if you’re a control freak

“The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s control”

Richard Rohr

I stumbled across this quote weeks ago and it resonated with me. I am guilty of being a control freak. My mom jokes that it runs in the family but honestly, it’s just my desire to want to be in charge, to get things my way, in my time, and to remind myself and everyone else that my opinion is right and everyone else is clearly wrong. 

The way our society has developed, it tends to breed control freaks, people who feel as though they need to have an input on everything and anything. People with opinions on everything and if their opinion is not heard or respected then they will easily walk away from a situation or give up on a person. What about understanding, trying to find a middle ground, or agreeing to disagree?

When it comes to our time and day-to-day lives, sometimes I think we try so hard to control life a specific situation that we suck the joy out of it because we’re so focused on being in control. We tend to overlook the small, simple blessings because we’re too busy trying to control the big things, worrying about tomorrow, or stressing about a little comment someone made on social media that you don’t agree with. 

This morning, I was reading about the meaning of meek in the Bible. First of all, meek is not weak, if you are part of the few who’ve mastered meekness, kudos to you. Second, what stood out to me was meek is self-control, as in controlling how we respond to a situation with gentleness, understanding, and kindness instead of trying to control everything around you. 

This week, I’m going to work on being meek, self-control, and seek understanding instead of grasping for control. It’s easier to lash out in doubt and anger when we’re not in control but instead try being meek, having faith, and surrendering. 

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Maya Angelou

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Grateful for today

“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do love prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…gratefully.” 

Maya Angelou

Lately I’ve been trying to be very conscious of living in the present moment. I have a terrible habit of wanting to control everything in my life. Wasting my time worrying and planning for the future only to find those plans change.  

The other day, I was talking to my mom while driving somewhere and discussing plans for the week. I forget what exactly was said but all of a sudden, our nice, calm conversation became a heated debate because her plans did not match my plans and her opinions did not match mine (which is very odd for us). Finally, I just said “Let’s focus on today, today and worry about tomorrow when it comes. “

Maybe this isn’t practical advice for every situation but I feel like it is so easy to get caught up in the struggle of planning for and wanting control of tomorrow that we forget about today.  We forget to be grateful for what little we may have because we’re so concerned about what more we can get tomorrow. Also, I’ve noticed how planning and desiring control brings about anxiety and stress. Planning is essential in some aspects but it often takes us away from enjoying the present moment and in order to get to tomorrow, we have to embrace today. How are you letting your plans for tomorrow keep you from today?


Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

Mother Teresa 

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Laundry inspired gratitude

When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.

Ellie Wiesel

Why is it so easy to be ungrateful sometimes? I feel like gratitude is a constant struggle some days, where choosing to be Oscar the grouch seems like a better option. 

The other day, my mom and I were picking up laundry detergent, pretending the bottles were weights, and doing arm exercises. (Don’t pretend like you haven’t tried it at least once) Anyways, when I lifted my left arm, the left side of my face started to smile. Years ago, when I was 9, I underwent 2 facial surgeries in attempt to restore movement in my face. Surgery for each side of the face was slightly different. For the left side, the doctors took part of the muscle that makes the shoulder shrug and put it into my cheek with the idea that when I went to shrug my shoulder I would smile. Well, both surgeries never really worked as hoped and as I recall, the recovery time in the hospital was pretty rough compared to my other surgeries. Years later,  I eventually ended up having several other procedures that did work,  bringing movement back to my face. As a result though of that one surgery, my shoulder slumps a little and is slightly weaker. But long story short, 23 years later, the idea behind the surgery is finally working. I’m thankful for smart people who think of these kind of solutions and are willing to give their lives to help others. 

Summer brings back a lot of random memories like this, memories of surgeries and radiation treatments considering these things all occurred in the summer. Some good, others not quite so pleasant. It was a blessing in disguise that I was so young because my memories are spotty and my knowledge was limited so I had no reason to fear.  Plus, my parents always told me everything would be fine and never projected their worries onto me. I remember awful things like being fitted with a mask for radiation treatments that caused terrible headaches, my little 7 year old body having to wear a lead-weighted vest during treatments, and dealing with the heat of summer while already feeling dehydrated from vomiting all day. But I also remember the smiling faces of the doctors and nurses, the compassion they showed me, and the constant support and encouragement from family and friends. Thinking back to that time in my life, I’m grateful to be where I am. 

The other week I read a passage that referred to trials as a “happy delight ” and it stuck with me. I had been in a mood all day and that thought just shifted my perspective. I am thankful not to be where I was many summers ago. My little worries of the day didn’t disappear but it really is amazing how a little gratitude can change everything. This week instead of letting my anxieties and fears get the best of me,  I’m going to try to at least find 10 things I’m grateful for.  How are you going to work on an attitude of gratitude?

Stop thinking gratitude as a by product of your circumstances and start thinking of it as a world view

Bryan Robles

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You know what assume spells

We can get so wrapped up in our own misconceptions that we miss the simple beauty of the truth.

Deb Caletti

As much as I try to never judge others, it can be such an easy trap to fall into. 

The other day, I was on a walk with my mom and we saw a beautiful German Shepherd and his owner on the trail in front of us. Since our dog is part shepherd, part husky, we had to at least say hi and comment on how we love the breed.  Dog owners are weird like that but it’s kind of like sports teams, you have to stick together. 

Anyways, as we got closer to the two and started to say something to the owner about our love for German Shepherds, we realized the dog had a muzzle on it. As the dog quickly walked the trail, the owner said hello, mentioning how he loved the breed too but how his dog was acting crazy that day. As we walked away, my mom quietly said “No wonder he is hard to control while walking, he probably doesn’t like that muzzle.” Seeing the dog with a muzzle just broke my heart and made my stomach turn, it’s not right to treat anyone like that, animal or human. There were little kids around and Shepherds are known as aggressive breeds (which I disagree with) but maybe the owner was trying to be extra cautious. 

We spent the rest of the walk judging the owner, accusing him of being inhumane, cruel, and most likely a terrible person. The dog obviously didn’t trust him based on how he dragged the owner along. As we headed for the car after our walk, the dog and owner were on the other side of the park in a fenced-in area. The dog was now happily running without his muzzle and kept going over to his owner wagging his tail and giving him kisses. The dog was extremely loyal to his owner and the owner obviously adored his dog. We both stopped to watch the pair, realizing how wrong we were. Maybe the dog bit someone in the past and the owner wanted to prevent that from happening again instead of having to give him up. Maybe he adopted the dog and the previous owner said he wasn’t good around strangers so the muzzle was just a precautionary measure. Maybe he was actually protecting the dog. Within minutes, our thoughts went from “what a terrible owner ” to ” what a loving, caring owner and how happy that dog is”. 

It’s crazy how easy it is to misjudge or to create misconceptions based on what we perceive as true. So many times the gossip we hear or assumptions we make becomes true in our minds. Take text messages for example, because we can’t hear someone’s tone of voice or read their body language, a simple reply can be totally misunderstood. Or like with social media, an opinion can be easily spread around and create misconceptions among a large number of people to the point where some start to believe that opinion is true. But until someone takes time to understand, dig deep, and find out the real truth, that opinion is still just an opinion and only tends to create lies, prejudice, and misconceptions.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people assume I’m  developmentally disabled based on my appearance. There have been times when I’m helping out with an event and someone says something to me in passing, causing me to perceive something else or read too much into their comment. Based on past experiences, their tone of voice, or choice of words I assume they think this. As a result, I become irritated, angry, and generally avoid that person. I also assume they are ignorant and rude when really they don’t know the truth and only need me to respond with kindness and to help them better understand. This is something I’m working on because unless we respond with kindness and charity towards one another we cannot find the truth and we only continue to build more misconceptions.

Don’t judge without having heard both sides. Even persons who think themselves virtuous very easily forget this elementary rule of prudence.

Josemaria Escriva

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Wait for it

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

–Mother Teresa

Maybe it’s a personal problem but sometimes I get such an itch to write. Writing has been something I’ve always enjoyed and comes naturally to me. But lately I’ve been busy grant writing and with life in general that I haven’t really had time to write. 

But speaking of itch, the other day I recalled a time during a MRI scan when I was 6 years old. During the scan I had such a terrible itch on my nose but had to lay still so I couldn’t scratch it and it was so bad that I started to cry. Not because I was in pain but after minutes of trying to scrunch my nose, my eyes started to tear up. If you think about it, all those nerves are connected so it was difficult to control the tears. Thankfully there was a panic button the technicians placed in my hand and within a short time, they pulled me out of the MRI and I could scratch my nose. Never have I been so grateful to itch my nose! I took pride in never needing that panic button but that day I needed it.

I was talking to a friend earlier this year about goals. How some people have every year, every day, and every minute planned out for themselves. And how many times, the goals we set for ourselves or plans we make don’t always work out the way we expect. Personally, I have goals for myself but planning every moment of my life out quite honestly stresses me out and I know from experience that my plans often get changed. So many times God laughs at my plans and says “wait, I have something else in mind. ” So my approach to goals is not always the most serious or practical according to those around me.

As we were talking, something that stuck in my head “Do you think St Francis of Assisi had goals?!” I can’t speak for him but I doubt he had many. Personally, I’d like to be remembered as St Francis is, as a joyful, peaceful, loving, and gentle soul. As someone who made a difference, wasn’t judgmental, and radiated Christ. Those are my only goals in life. 

Sometimes I think we all have the itch to achieve a certain goal within a specific time in our lives but sometimes we have to be patient, not force life to happen but instead let things play out, and wait to be pulled out of the MRI before we act. Sometimes our goals get in the way of achieving something greater or what is truly meant for us.

The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.

George Elliot

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Do “I have to” or do “I get to?”

“Do not free the camel from the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel.”

GK Chesterton

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparison; comparing yourself to others and wondering why you are not as successful, creative, or more like your peers. The temptation to compare yourself is everywhere, in news, on social media, what you read, and even the people you interact with. We all have experienced this before when we get so caught up in the accomplishments or lavish lifestyle of others that out of nowhere self-doubt shows up in your mind and all feelings of self-worth go out the window. Sometimes I feel as though our culture has a tendency to reflect a mirror onto us and if we don’t reflect the image everyone else does then something is wrong with us.

The other day, I was reading something, trying to be educated, maybe learn something new, and I fell into this age-old problem. I thought because I am not like “them”, I must be amounting to nothing. This led into a spiral of not so great thoughts but mostly into thinking of the burden I am on others being physically disabled. Years ago, I was talking to someone and they made this tiny comment that had quite a negative impact on me and sometimes still floats around in my mind.  Just goes to prove words can be dangerous if not used correctly and above all, just be kind.

Anyways, as we were making casual conversation, discussing life with disabilities, and caring for those with disabilities, they said “Oh you know, you guys with your disabilities can be such a burden.”  At the moment, I felt personally attacked and wanted to tell them to please take the knife out of my back that you just stabbed me with. Instead, I simply replied “Yes, there are often many obstacles we face much like everyone else in life but there are also moments of happiness, laughter, and joy, it all depends how you look at it. And when you truly love someone, you’re willing to make that sacrifice for them”.

That one, small comment has haunted me for years and echoes in my mind anytime I feel an ounce of self-doubt. I’m blessed to have a family and friends who never even consider me a burden. Growing up, the thought of being a burden was never a question. Life is challenging and burdensome at times but what is a burden can actually be a blessing in the long run. For example, it was a burden to my family to push me in a wheelchair around Disney World but it was a blessing to get to the front of the lines because of me. Okay, maybe not the best example but you get the point. 

Like many things in the world, I think the idea of burdens requires a shift of perspective. Maybe the real burden is your attitude and point of view? Do you approach a situation as “I have to” or “I get to”? 

“If your judgement is clouded, you must be carrying too many things which are being a burden to you.”

Yoko Ono

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Outlook on a new sole

“Resentment is like drinking a poison and hoping it will kill your enemies ”

Nelson Mandela

It is time to retire one of my favorite pairs of shoes and not to sound like a typical female but I’m kind of bummed. They were broken in, comfortable and went well with every outfit. But after a series of stumbles/falls, it is time to part ways. Although they were broken in, they no longer provided support and there were several occasions where a shoe fell off mid-step and flew across the sidewalk. Thankfully, I had a backup pair because as I mentioned once before, shoe shopping is not my thing. Between the lack of sensation on one side of my body, dealing with foot drop, and other issues,  shopping for shoes is actually frustrating. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to walk and not constantly worry about falling on your face.  Or wonder how new shoes could affect your balance. It’s such a struggle! Okay not really in the scheme of things but it’s one more thing to take into consideration and quite honestly, an inconvenience.  

Sometimes it’s the little things like buying new shoes, those little what ifs, often make me resent my disabilities and become angry at myself because my stupid feet, weak legs, and lack of balance cause so many issues. It’s frustrating! How easy it is to throw a pity party for ourselves. But what is more frustrating at times is it not my fault I’m disabled. I usually tell people I’m physically disabled as a result of my cancer because it’s an easier explanation which is true but not the whole story. The truth is the doctor in charge of my radiation treatments gave me 8 times over the limit I should have received. 

By the time I was 7 years old, I had undergone two major surgeries to remove a brain tumor that proved to be as stubborn as me. After the second surgery, my doctors seemed pretty optimistic but then an MRI just six weeks after the procedure showed the tumor came back and was bigger than before. So instead of doing surgery again, my parents and chose to try radiation treatments to destroy the cancer. The radiation destroyed the cancer but left me physically disabled and nearly killed me. It was like an atom bomb went off in my head, I know really awesome, right? The thing was my doctor overdosed the radiation and with that intent too. The radiation I received was new technology at the time and I was the youngest patient to ever receive this type of radiation so it was pretty risky. If all went successful, destroying the cancer and leaving no major side effects, my case would have been famous in the medical world and my doctor would have been famous too. Before the radiation treatments were even finished, he had written papers about me to present in conferences. My parents and I found out he rushed my radiation treatments for his own good; not out of a desire to heal, but out of a selfish desire for glory. He caused me to become physically disabled, and changed my life forever.

As you can imagine, this definitely caused some angry issues at a young age, to basically have to let go of things I hoped for my life and future and totally start over. Because of this, I really struggled with accepting my disabilities and myself for awhile. I didn’t like who I was and used anger and bitterness as a constant defense mechanism. As a result, I was an awful person to be around, always grumpy, negative, and constantly irritated. But as time went on, I realized this anger wasn’t healthy, it was weighing me down and infecting every part of my life. One day I came to the conclusion that I could either stay angry at my doctor or have the courage to forgive him and move on with my life. My anger and resentment was keeping me from accepting my disabilities. It was also a catch 22 because technically the radiation destroyed the cancer and I was alive, it just wasn’t what I expected. As I slowly forgave him, I started embracing my “new” life. I started to think that this whole being disabled thing wasn’t all that bad. It made me become a stronger person, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Being disabled gave me a completely different perspective on the world, one I never considered before. I realized through my disabilities I could help so many people, inspire so many lives by my example, and maybe even change how people view others with disabilities. I know most people think I’m crazy for saying this but I am thankful for my disabilities. They make me who I am and are part of my identity. For the first time, I started to actually feel thankful that my doctor messed up my radiation. It was with the realization of this that I started to forgive him.

Forgiveness is not easy, it is so much easier to hold onto resentment and grudges but when we forgive, it is like a breath of fresh air comes into our lives, creating a new attitude on life and letting go of what happened in the past. Even if you don’t think someone deserves your forgiveness, it is better to forgive instead of holding that hatred inside for all your life. Holding onto anger and resentment only creates a rift or brick wall between you and another but through forgiveness, we can truly love one another like we are called to do. Forgiveness allows us to say goodbye to anger, to let go of what happened, and start over anew. So as I said goodbye to being angry at my doctor, I say goodbye to my shoes and hope to start fresh with a new pair. Where in your life do you need forgiveness and a fresh start?

If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.

Mother Teresa

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Random thoughts on hope

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

-Desmond Tutu

The year my dad passed away, it just happened to be Easter Sunday so Lent always brings back memories of those final moments with him. From the music in church to the crazy weather in Maryland and all the Lenten traditions, it’s hard not to think of him. 

In his 8 years of having ALS, I think my dad really struggled with his disease, the prognosis of dying early, and leaving a family behind. Being so young, we never discussed those things but as I get older, I can only imagine the constant worry, questioning, and fear that ran through his mind. Like “what will happen to my family?” or being angry/frustrated with himself and the disease. 

In the last year of his life though, something seemed to switch in him and he was less concerned with the future or needing to be in control of everything. He seemed to rely more on hope in the unseen, to trust that something better was yet to come, and to have found peace in surrender.

As I was thinking about this earlier today, along with other memories, I thought about how difficult this is for me. It’s so easy to get caught up in our fears, anxieties,  and dwell on the uncertainty of things we cannot predict.  It’s so easy to feel defeated and helpless when we are hopeless. Hope is such a simple concept that we often overlook it and choose to get rattled by the world around us and things we cannot control. It is in hope that we find peace. Sometimes hope may come easily, other times we might have to stubbornly cling to it, forcing it into our lives.  And when we stop hoping, the very thought of peace and trusting God tends to go right out the door. But when we choose hope, even when hope seems like a lost cause, we allow ourselves to find peace and the ability to trust in someone besides ourselves. 

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

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