Veteran’s Day Prayer

The Head of School asks for prayers for the loss of her grandfather, Nicholas Carmen Fargo- a veteran of World War II. We pray for him and all the veterans who have gone before him, today, on Veteran’s Day.

Dear Lord,

Today we honor our veterans, worthy men and women who gave their best when they were called upon to serve and protect their country.

We pray that you will bless them for their unselfish service in the continual struggle to preserve our freedoms, our safety, and our country’s heritage, for all of us.

Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced, for the sacrifices they made for their many different contributions to America’s victories over tyranny and oppression.

We respect them, we thank them, we honor them, we are proud of them. We pray that you will watch over these special people and bless them with peace and happiness.

Tricks of the Trade…

Those of us in the education “game” know well that there is more to teaching than just the three R’s. (reading, writing, rithmatic…as the old rhyme goes!) For those of us who teach to truly motivate and inspire the young minds gathered before us each day, we have to do way more than merely quote Shakespeare or recite the periodic table or place the Pythagorean theorem on the chalkboard. (Do we even have chalkboards these days?!) It’s no longer enough to know what the green light on Gatsby’s dock symbolizes, or who won the Battle of Yorktown, or the theory that early birds were descended perhaps from dinosaurs. Knowledge is, of course a gift that we who teach have, but our job is not only to turnkey that knowledge over to our students, but rather lead them toward the vast connections that can be made both across a genre of study and inspire them to want to learn more about a myriad of given subjects.

Within the walls of private education, we have been given a gift- the gift of NOT having to “teach to the test.” I know for certain that the men and women teaching in the classrooms here at Saint Dominic Academy are gifted educators, grateful for the opportunity to make their daily lessons and yearly curriculums active, engaging and most of all interesting to the young ladies sitting before them. I am in awe of what I see in our classrooms during the year: an Escape Room based upon A Midsummer Night’s Dream!, a crime scene worthy of CSI set up in ELAN!, robots that walk across the science labs! Cross curricular hikes between English and Science class! Connections between classic novels and contemporary music! Day of the Dead altars in Spanish Honors! Trips to French restaurants where only French can be spoken! The list goes on and on…seemingly endless in its creativity, its desire to tap into the minds of the students, to attune them not only to the lessons found between the pages of a text, but rather, the connections those lessons have to the larger world around them. 

I applaud the teachers at Saint Dominic Academy; their bold and engaging classes, their embrace of the unconventional teaching methods, their desire to have students truly develop a love for learning and an appreciation for every subject they are exposed to during their years of 7th -12th grade. Our young ladies are being given more than just a paper and pen education when they come to SDA; they are being given a thought provoking and creative educational experience- one that they will never forget and one that will serve them well all the days of their lives.

Cheers to the faculty and staff at SDA! May their creative juices never run dry and may their classrooms always be filled with energy, excitement and engaging lessons. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you do for our students!

The Eve of the Ring Ceremony…

Tomorrow night, the members of the class of 2021 will officially become upper class women at Saint Dominic Academy. They will gather at Saint Aloysius church and prepare to receive the school ring, a symbol of their “official” transition. It is an exciting event for our juniors; coupled with their Ring Dance which will be held on November 7th– just a few short weeks away. Today, as they reflect on their past two years here at Saint Dominic Academy and look forward to what the future holds for them, beginning tomorrow night, all of us here at the school will keep the young ladies of the junior class in our prayers. It’s a big step- the beginning of the end of high school. 

Tomorrow night, I will use my brief remarks to encourage the girls to use the rest of their time with us at SDA wisely, and then, go forth and change the world for the better. After all, although it seems impossible, the members of the class of 2021 only have about 19 months before it is time for them to head to Saint Aedan’s Church to graduate from high school. 

In reflecting on what I want to say to these young women, I did a bit of thinking about the symbol of the ring in regard to the ring ceremony. Rings…very important things, are they not? These little circles. We all wear at least one, at one time or another, right? However is the ring ceremony event really about the ring inside the box? Or is it about something more…something that the circle represents? That eternal circle, no beginning, no ending, unbreakable…a circle that can never be destroyed. 

The true meaning of the Saint Dominic Academy Ring Ceremony is not for the young ladies to go home with a new piece of jewelry. Rather it is for all of them to move forward as upper class women at Saint Dominic Academy, after two years of forging friendships, of getting to know each other, of having ups and downs, petty disagreements, moments of angst, joys and tears, to finally reach that moment of maturity where their circle is fully forged…unbreakable…no beginning, no ending…just the bond of the class of 2021- the memories already created and the ones they will create over the next 19 months. 

That’s what the Ring Ceremony really about; the substance behind the symbol; the event is not about the ring, but about all the ring represents- it’s this class’s own unbreakable bond of sisterhood, a sisterhood that has been rooted in the Catholic Dominican tradition for 141 years, a sisterhood that will live on in their hearts long after the class of 2021 leaves Saint Dominic Academy. That’s the purpose- for these young ladies to forge that circle together and after the ceremony ends, that circle can never ever be broken or destroyed. I know you will join me in welcoming the class of 2021 into the role of upper class women at Saint Dominic Academy and commend each of them on the lasting bond of friendship they have forged with each other.

Remarks from the Mother Daughter Brunch…

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Saint Dominic Academy Mother Daughter Brunch and to spend some time celebrating that bond between mothers and daughters with my own little girl at my side. I’d like to share today my remarks from that event…

Good morning and welcome to the Mother Daughter Brunch. This event, coupled with the Father Daughter Dance are, hands down my two favorite Saint Dominic Academy events each year. I love sharing in these events with you and your daughters and also important to me is the fact that I am able to have my daughter here today, and my dad at the dance each year. It really brings home the message that our SDA community truly is, at its heart, a family.

Most of you, in fact I am fairly certain, all of you know that we are putting on Hairspray! at SDA this year. What a fun show it is…so it’s kind of strange that every time I assist with rehearsals (yes, I wear many hats!) there is one song that has me in tears. Well, I guess that’s not too shocking, as most of your daughters know I am often moved to tears and/or overcome with emotion, but it’s a happy song, a funny song and so, why am I crying over it as I watch our girls- yours and mine perform it onstage? 

The number is called “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now!” and it’s just that age old mother-daughter argument, set to a catchy tune. The teenage daughters in the song are begging for their independence- they want to date, they want to spread their wings, they want to do what all teens want to do—if not cut the cord, then stretch it as far as they can, while still knowing that Mama will be there when they need to come home. And the moms in the song, well, they only sing three words over and over “Stop! Don’t! No!” The effect is humorous, to say the least; and our audience is meant to sympathize with these poor teens whose moms don’t let them have any fun. And of course, we’ve staged it that way, for optimum laughs. However, when you come and see the show, I am willing to bet that my eyes won’t be the only ones filling up and spilling over onto my cheeks…because it’s oh so hard to see your little girl grow up to be a “big girl now”.

And yet, moms, that’s whose sitting next to you today; your teenage daughter, no more ribbons and Mary Janes and stuffed toys they need to take everywhere. All of a sudden, you have a companion- a friend one moment and at other moments, you may very well feel as if you are Burr and Hamilton at their final showdown—that’s the daily in and out of life with a teenage daughter. ( From what I remember…I am still only entering into the tween phase with my own!) I know, as a mom myself, that when you look at the young lady with you today, you can still see a brand new baby, a toddler, a 5 year old heading off to kindergarten, and all the stages that brought you here, to this day, to sitting together as not only mother and daughter, but as friends sharing an event together. 

I don’t know how your morning started before you got here- perhaps there was a little bit of “Stop! Don’t! No!” going on at your house as you both got dressed and ready to arrive. Goodness knows there is always a little bit of that going on at my house in the morning. That’s ok- that’s the way it is with moms and daughters…what matters is you’re here, you’re together, and you’re making a memory that you can look back on during those more “trying” moments in your relationship. It’s so hard, moms, to do as the daughters ask in the song and “ Give a push and watch me fly…”, but we know we’ve made raising our daughters to become radiant, successful, and empowered young women, beautiful inside and out, and so we can truly find the means to both carry them close to our hearts and let them fly out into the world.

And daughters, know this- it’s so hard to be a mom and to watch your baby girl grow up. It’s the hardest thing we have to do- and it starts happening the minute you come home with us. So, go easy on your moms; give in a little, every once in a while skip time with friends to hang with your mom. Don’t say your day was “fine”, sit down and TALK to your mom about it. And, every once in a while, give her a hug, for no reason other than she deserves many more hugs than you can ever possibly give her…she’s your mom- your friend for life…and even if you are all “big girls now”, you’ll always be her little girl.

October Horrors…

For many of us, October is that “scary time of year”. Jack o Lanterns on porches, Halloween lights in windows, witches flying across doors, ghostly apparitions on lawns…it’s endless. And let’s not forget TV; a parade of horror films, both good and bad, are on 24/7. Here at Saint Dominic Academy, the new Film Studies class is embracing “the horror” of the month, watching Psycho, Jaws, Poltergeist, and Scream.

However, a “spirited” celebration of all things spooky is not the only important issue of October. For women, from young to old, October also calls our focus toward two serious issues, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. These two situations, much scarier than any spectral sighting should be the focus for most of October. And at SDA, that’s just where our focus is…

On October 18th, we will raise funds for Women Rising, a Jersey City based organization that supports women and children who are experience domestic abuse. On October 22nd a speaker from that organization will address the young ladies in grades 9-12. Her focus will be not only the early warning signs of a potential abusive relationship, but how to take steps to prevent being in that situation, as well as, sadly, how to get out if you are indeed in on. 

On October 20th, SDA will raise funds to combat breast cancer by participating in the “Making Strides” walk. The link to that event is on the homepage of our website and, as in years past, we do have students and teachers working hard to raise funds to support this endeavor.

2 timely and essential issues; both that need the focus and attention of women, not just here at SDA but across our extended community and our nation at large. And so, before we focus on the “paranormal” aspects of October, let’s work to end two real horrors for women; horrors that many women suffer at the hands of, not just during October, but all year long.

Like Dreamers Do…

Friendship is a funny thing sometimes, and the deeper the friendship the more complex it is. Friendships formed during the heady days of youth can last a lifetime, this we know. However, that is not to say that they are not fraught with tension and turbulence, hurt feelings and times of estrangement. It’s a hard lesson to learn, that the person you feel closest to at one point in your life may be the person you are most estranged from at another point in your life. The level of trust, of understanding, of intimacy that grows and flourishes in a strong friendship can sometimes become almost too intense- leading to one or both of the parties to have to take a “step back” for a while. Friendship, in its variety of forms is truly the best gift each of us can have in our lives. However, the gift of true friends, friends for a lifetime, is a gift that comes with great responsibility and each of us have to be ready to take the joys along with the tension and sorrow.

I’ve been lucky enough to have the same best friend since I was 17 years old and from that time to today, the friendship is strong and true. But it takes work; quite a bit of work on both of our parts and there were times over the course of over 2 decades were tensions were high enough that it could have easily fallen apart. It’s a choice, always, to stick with a relationship that you feel is truly enriching your life, or to walk away when there are times of trouble. It’s hard – to be a good friend and to have a good friend, because both of those things require you to give up a little bit of you to become a little more attuned to them. When people describe friendship as “give and take”, it is the most apt description one can give. 

Friendship cannot be defined solely gifts given or hours spent in each other’s company or how much two people have in common. In fact, some friendships work best when there is distance – I know my best friend would agree that if we lived close to each other, instead of NJ and TX, the friendship might not be as strong, as loving and as long lasting as it is now. Our personalities, so well suited to forming a life- long friendship, could not always withstand being in the same room at the same time. And that’s perfectly ok- normal even. Your best friend might not be the person you can spend 24/7 with. It might be the person who, through deep conversations and even differences of opinion, helps shape you into the best version of yourself. And you might be that person for someone else- and that’s a great gift to bring to another’s life. Time, space, distance- none of these will be a debilitating factor for those great friendships that are destined to survive.

A case in point- a huge Beatles fan, I had the opportunity to listen to Paul McCartney being interviewed by Stephen Colbert in late September. Nobody who is a fan of rock music is unfamiliar with The Beatles, their glorious time together and their seemingly insurmountable discord that eventually dissolved their partnership as musicians. From their earliest time in The QuarryMen, Lennon and McCartney had that type of friendship that comes along once or twice in a lifetime, at the most. From the late 60’s onward, there was always a level of tension between them, but the bond of friendship was never truly broken. And so, I was moved to tears when I heard Paul McCartney say:

The thing is when you’ve had a relationship like that for so long—such a deep relationship—I love it when people revisit you in your dreams,” the singer said. “I’m often with John, just talking about doing something, and I go to get my half of the bass, and it’s covered in sticky tape….when Lennon’s around in dreams, it’s always good.” 

That’s friendship, pure and simple- and the truly the most beautiful expression of it I have heard in quite some time. Nothing, can come between a friendship that runs so deep; it seems not even death. All of us have the gift within us to forge friendships like that- friendships that transcend all of life’s barriers, friendships that are, of course, rocky at times but are in perfect harmony at others. I’ve heard, during my time at SDA countless alumnae tell me of friendships made in these halls that have lasted for decades and have maintained their strength even when spread across the country. You women know of the bonds of friendship that I am writing about today…you know that your friendships will be part of you for as long as you life, and if you are as lucky as Paul McCartney is, longer than that even.

Friendship, true friendship is eternal, it’s a constant, never ending example of perfect love, even if at times we only visit with each other in our dreams. The Beatles put it best, as they often do:

I get by with a little help from my friends!

Jinkies! What Happened to Velma Dinkley?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the summer of 1969- 50 years ago this year. In September of 1969 audiences met for the very first time the truly now iconic Scooby Gang, in the form of a Saturday morning cartoon show. This show, with the same premise, main characters, van and even wardrobe has been on television in one form or another for fifty long years! A favorite of mine when I was growing up, and now a favorite of my daughter’s, I think I have seen every version of a Scooby Doo syndicated cartoon, including the brand new 2019 reboot : “Guess Who, Scooby Doo!”

I am certain I do not have to explain the premise of this cartoon to anyone, one would have to live under a rock not to know the antics of Shaggy, Scooby, Fred, Daphne and Velma…but because I have seen so many versions and variations of it ( And am looking forward to the new full length cartoon coming to theaters in the spring!) I have had occasion to observe something much more troubling than the far-fetched plot lines, the fact that these teens are roaming around the country (and at times the globe) basically unsupervised, the fact that we never see them go to school and that it’s quite possible they all sleep in that van together! All of those things can be mildly unsettling but what has been bothering me over and over again as I settle on my couch with Abigail to watch the newest stories (read: recycled plots from 1969!) is poor Velma Dinkley!

Take a look at those photos at the top of this blog…the one on the left is Velma, who we fans know as the brains behind the operation, from 1969. The one on the right is Velma in 2019. For what reason was she given such a “drastic” re-drawing? In 1969 she was adorable; not tall and curvy but self confident, intelligent, and sure of herself. And now, 50 years later she is still written as all of those things, but she’s been given some additional “dialogue” that speaks for itself every time she is drawn. In short, the artists have made her tiny, thinner and way curvier and there’s no way that anyone who has watched the show for more than one season does not know it! My 8 year old posed the question…”why did Velma get so skinny? Is she sick?”

Sick indeed- somebody is and it isn’t the two dimensional brainiac cartoon. Its, as it almost always is, the brains ( or lack thereof) behind the movement that in order to be happy or successful or desirable, women have to conform to a certain body image. Oh, it’s pushed everywhere- on TV, in makeup commercials, in weight loss advertisements that are on every channel and pop up on every internet search engine. It’s in the daily increasing number of diet plans that call out to us on supermarket checkout lines, it’s the home meal delivery kits that are always handed over to some size two, perfectly proportioned Mommy, who looks as if a bowl of lettuce would be enough to satisfy her for days. 

And what do we do when someone speaks out against this? When someone who is not , goodness forbid, shaped like a cross between Kate Moss and Jessica Rabbit hops on social media to promote positive body image for women? Well then, the internet trolls come out in full force- attacking this woman, who is happy with herself and knows that other women need to come to love their bodies and not despise them, as if she has no right to exist because she’s not conforming to society’s definition of what an ideal woman is. Well, listen up cartoonists who took liberties with Velma’s waist size and width…I think I can speak for many women when I say “ We DON’T appreciate it at all!”

Not all of us are meant to be 5’9, with a teacup chest and narrow hips. Not all of us are meant to wear crop tops and low cut jeans. Not all of us are meant to wear strapless dresses, or even strapless bras. And…THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! If God wanted every single woman to be shaped the same, I am sure He would have made us that way. So, why does our culture continue to insist that all women should be shaped the same? Why are you “drawing” us all from the same brush? Why are designers labeling clothes size 6 but cutting them with a size 2 pattern? Why on earth are you taking a classic, if cartoon, empowered young teen- one that girls who were NOT shaped like Daphne Blake growing up could admire and relate to, ( and goodness knows, I’ve ALWAYS been shaped like the 1969 Velma), and giving her what amounts to plastic surgery before another set of youth gets to know her.

Jinkies! It’s enough to make me angry! And it should make all of us women angry- tall or short, thin or curvy, size 8 or size 18, it’s who we are and what we bring to the table that matters! It’s the size of our hearts not the size of our waistlines that matter…and it’s about time all of us, each of us, started saying that aloud, over and over and over again until this seemingly endless body shaming of innocent young girls finally stops!

Ham Or Eggs…

Recently, I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy via Amazon. It’s so over the top; I doubt I can commit to hanging in there for the 15 (!?!) seasons, but so far I’ve been interested in most of the story lines. As is often the case, while I was watching a few nights ago there was a scene with dialogue that made me stop and think…and ponder the idea being presented for a blog. That’s how inspiration strikes me most of the time—it’s just a question of whether I pause the Firestick and reflect on the spark! ( Some ideas have never grown to fruition- because I am so involved in what I am watching!) This time, ( lucky for you, readers!) I did hit the pause button and think for a bit and then, jotted down some ideas. And over the course of the next few days, they sprouted into a line of thinking that led to this blog. So, if for no other reason, I should be thankful for the good doctors at Seattle Grace for giving me my inspiration for the week! Here’s the excerpted dialogue that led to my thoughts for the week…

Greg: You’re either ham or eggs. You gotta ask yourself in every situation are you the chicken or are you the pig?
George: So its pig or chicken?
Greg: Look you gotta play the ham and eggs. Now, the chicken is involved in the meal, but the pig, the pig is committed, so the question is are you involved or are you committed.
George: Ham or eggs!
Greg: Ham or eggs.

–Grey’s Anatomy, “Let The Angels Commit”

What a great analogy! I thought so anyway. And it made me think of our young ladies in grades 7-12 and their everyday situations. For your daughters, with the myriad of classes and sports and activities they belong to…it is next to impossible for them to be the “pig” in every situation. Most of the time, they have to be the “chicken” and there is nothing wrong with that, especially as they grow and experience new things. 

High school affords students the opportunity to be involved in almost anything they want to try: Glee Club, Soccer, Tennis, Art Club, Student Government, Theater Arts, Softball…the list is seemingly endless. And while one of these activities might lead to a stronger commitment later in life: playing competitive sports, a career on the stage, a future as a political leader, for now these are choices we offer our students so they can begin to learn what makes them feel successful, what makes them feel empowered, what makes them feel like the best version of themselves. And, once your daughters, our beloved students get a sense of what they enjoy being involved in, then they can start to make a strong commitment- to a field of study, to a sport, to a talent. 

And that’s an important lesson for young women to learn while in high school- long before they have to apply it to both matters of the heart and career choices. Hopefully, if they get a sense of what it means to be involved as opposed to what it means to be fully committed when they are young, then they will turnkey that in their life experiences as a young adult- and be able to identify which is which when it comes to following a career path, deciding to marry, and ultimately, what will make each of them truly happy for their adult lives.

If we, as their parents and educators, can model the difference between involvement and commitment; if we can show them that it is okay to choose to be involved in different athletics and activities at different times in their lives; that every first date does not have to lead to an instantly committed relationship- that it’s okay to walk away, then we are doing them a service that will benefit them far into the future. At different times, in different stages of life every one of our daughters will be the pig or the chicken, the ham or the egg. Let’s work together while they are young to show them that it’s okay to be either, depending on circumstances and that each of them will know when the right time comes to make a true commitment: in work, in love, and in life.

Forget Your Troubles…

This week, it is my pleasure to share with you the words of reflection on the theme for the 2019-2020 school year that I shared with the young ladies in grades 7-12 at our Opening Mass this past Friday. I hope you all will “sing” with us this year and forget your troubles, come on, get happy! It’s going to be a year full of excitement and wonder at Saint Dominic Academy! 

Good morning ladies and welcome to the 2019-2020 school year. Those of you who are not new to SDA will well remember that each year, we have an overall theme for our teachers as well as our students. Last year, we took inspiration from the film Moana and made our theme “ Find Happiness Where You Are.” And what a joy filled year it was!

This year, I want our theme to springboard off that idea and celebrate the mindset that Saint Dominic Academy is a place where we come together with friends and teachers and administrators and find ourselves, at different moments on varying days, being truly happy.

 It is easy to arrive on a Monday morning, or depart on a Friday afternoon feeling as if we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. You and I both know well how bogged down we can get in issues both great and small and on those days, our happiness is diminished.

 And, if we cannot be happy, truly happy, for just a few moments each day then after awhile that has an effect on our relationships: with our friends, our loved ones, our parents and yes, even our teachers! What we want, each and every day here is to be filled with joy, to forget our troubles, and to just celebrate whatever happiness, great or small, comes across our desks each day. And so…our theme for the year is quite fitting and even set to music. Each one of us has chosen to spend the upcoming school year together, with each other at Saint Dominic Academy and so, together, we are going to do the following: 

Forget your troubles, come on get happy! 

I’d now like to invite Rachel Perrie, class of 2020 to the front to truly get us in the spirit of the theme for the year. Rachel will sing this iconic song for us, and very soon this year, I hope you’ll all learn to sing it too! 

1 2 3 16