Memorial Day

Let’s take a moment today, to reflect on the following numbers:

American Soldiers Killed In War 

American Civil War 1861-1865:  755,000 lives lost

World War II 1941-1945:  405,399 lives lost 

World War I 1917-1918:   116, 516 lives lost 

Vietnam War 1961-1975:   58,209 lives lost 

Korean War 1950-1953:  36, 574 lives lost 

American Revolutionary War 1775-1783:   25,000 lives lost 

War of 1812 1812-1815:  15,000 lives lost 

Mexican American War 1846-1848:  13, 283 lives lost 

Iraq War 2003-2011:  4, 576 lives lost 

Phillipine American War 1899-1902:  4, 196 lives lost 

Spanish American War 1898:  2, 246 lives lost 

War in Afghanistan 2001- Present: 2, 216 lives lost 

The Gulf War 1990-1991:  294 lives lost 

Together, let us pray for the 1, 438, 509 men and women who died serving and protecting our country. 

Today, Memorial Day – they live on in our hearts and their service is not forgotten, 


“All Powerful God,
We honor today those men and women—
Our sons and daughters,
Husbands and wives,
Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers—
Who have laid down their life for their country.
Whether weary or emboldened, quiet or defiant,
Vulnerable or ready when You called them home,
Their sacrifice is too humbling for words
except these uttered in prayer.
Loving Lord, bless them forever in Your eternal peace…
Cherish their spirit, honor their commitment,
send them our love,
and will never forget the service that they gave.”

A look back…

I knew this video was coming; when it arrived in my inbox on Friday afternoon, I was ready for it. I had some tissues next to me and Abby curled up against my side. As soon as those baby faces flashed across the screen, I had tears on my cheeks. No, I was not watching old family movies- I was watching a video, designed by Nicole Borrero class of 2020 and the Saint Dominic Academy Yearbook Staff. It showcased our beloved seniors from 9th grade until now. Their 9th grade year was my first as Head of School and I can look back and reflect how much growing and maturing has taken place, both on their part and my own. 

Four years ago, I was sending a child off to kindergarten, and their mothers and fathers were sending these graduating seniors off to their first day of high school. Four years ago, I was nervous and unsure as I sat behind my desk with that title of Head of School on my door. Four years ago, they were perhaps just as nervous as they sat in ELAN with Link Crew members, getting ready for the start of their freshmen year. We made it through- they and I and after four years have grown, become more confident, and have had many life changing experiences- some that made us cry and some that made us stronger.

I’ve said it often over the past almost 70 days- these young ladies in the class of 2020 are the strongest young women I have known and these obstacles that were hurled into their paths this past March would have made many people just break down and weep. I know I’ve done just that, late at night, on more than one occasion from March until now. Perhaps many of them have as well- but you’d never know it from their dedication to their classes, their spirited Instagram posts, their energetic emails to teachers and administrators, and most of all their continued love for each other and for the sisterhood of Saint Dominic Academy.

As I heard the end of the slide show, one thought hit me so hard I was almost knocked off my stool. As photos of Disney came on the screen, I realized- these are the last photos of the class that will appear in the show- at least photos of them together in large groups. And if I had not already been crying, that would have done it. What I have to believe, and what the class of 2020 has to believe- with all of our hearts is that those won’t be the last…not really. We will find a way to gather again- although we’re unsure when it will be. In the meantime, the memories captured here in this video will, I hope, make you smile, make you laugh, and I’m sure make you cry. And if the group photos contained within it end in the most magical place on earth, then that’s not a bad place to hit “pause” until we are all together again.

My love and congratulations to the class of 2020 on finishing all of your classes at Saint Dominic Academy…consider this blog a virtual hug from me to you.

Let us remember…


Over the past two months, if you haven’t looked at, posted, recieved a text featuring, or laughed over a coronavirs themed meme, then I’m going to assume you either have no internet access or you are a more focused person than I am. They’ve been making the rounds pretty much since the stay at home orders began and there’s no sign of them stopping anytime soon.

Have you seen the one that jokes about the summer and shows Godzilla walking across the ocean?

How about the one, that came out early on, saying we’re three weeks away from knowing everyone’s real hair color? ( I personally have passed that point..I am in need of some dye, ASAP).

How about the ones showing Tom Hanks from Cast Away and giving us a countdown to when a volleyball will become our new best friend?

Or the ones with the home layouts, renaming every room so it seems as if you’re going somewhere other than your house?

Then there’s the memes that joke about cruise prices going down, about people going to Zoom meetings from their beds, about dogs loving their humans being home and cats hating it.

For Disney fans, there’s the one that changes the lyrics to the Gaston song, and just try to read it without singing it in your head! Or Elsa has the school nurse, freezing kids coming near her because they might be carrying the virus. Or the Monsters Inc spoof…instead of a 2319, we have a COVID- 19. 

The fake diary entries detailing how people are eating their stockpiled snacks, the ones that tease about the panic over toilet paper and hand sanitizer… the ones where women list the things that are driving them crazy about their husbands….chewing, snoring, basically existing. 

And then of course there are the myriad of “Home Schooling” ones. You know, the things such as “ don’t worry if my kids are in the same pjs every day, my home school has a uniform.”  ” Don’t worry if you see me talking to myself, I’m having a parent teacher conference.”  ” If you see my kids locked outside, don’t panic, we’re having a fire drill.”  “Alexa…homeschool my children.”  ” How do I get my child transferred out of my class?”  The list is endless…there’s a new one every single day. 

My personal favorite was one that I sent to the SDA faculty and staff a week or so ago. I’ll share it…

personal assitant meme

I’ll admit it; I’ve texted the memes, I’ve laughed at the memes, I’ve posted the memes, I’ve shared the memes. Why? Because we all need to laugh a little bit and because some of them truly do capture the reality of this almost unreal situation. We need to smile, we need to find a reason to laugh, we need to not focus on the internal frustration, stress and anxiety that each one of us must be feeling on a daily basis.

However, there’s perhaps one more thing we need to do. There’s a time, every day when, at least in my house, I get very serious. It’s every day, when our Governor announces the death toll for NJ.  8, 952 people in New Jersey have died from COVID-19 since March. That’s a high number, a serious number, and a number that will hit 10,000 before this week ends. 

And so, perhaps in the midst of our frustration, in the midst of our smiles, there should also be the following:

Moments of prayer– for our essential workers, for those suffering with the virus, and for the families of those who have lost someone.

Moments of silence– for the over 8,000 people in our state alone who have lost their lives and for the lives lost all across America and the world.

Moments of mourning– for all the things, big and small that have been taken from our daily lives- lunches with friends, hugs from grandparents, First Communions, Graduations, Weddings, and even the ability to go lay flowers on a family member’s grave as they are laid to rest.

The Bible tells us:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace…

At any given moment over the past two months, it has been each of those times for each of us at some point or another.

Let us all, remember, each and every day to pray…prayers of thanksgiving that we are still healthy and safe, prayers of sorrow for all those we have lost, and prayers of petition, that the days and months ahead get brighter for us all. 

Every day, let us remember to find time for God.

Sisterhood

This past Friday our seniors were surprised with a beautiful “gift” from their alumnae sisters. The work that went into this, the words of encouragement, praise and positivity, and the thoughtfulness behind the 15 minute video truly exemplify the SISTERHOOD that is Saint Dominic Academy. Is this time of year ideal for our class of 2020? Of course not, but they have over 140 years of sisterhood holding them up, bracing them against this current crisis, and embracing them virtually, with love, with good wishes, and with prayers from heaven. 

My thanks to Gigi Correa Diaz for putting together this gift for the seniors…I hope all of you enjoy it as much as the young ladies did.

Work From Home Adventures Pt. 3

Here we are in the last week of April and I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite sure how we got here. Oh, I know how I’ve been spending the days: Zoom calls, constant emails, “teaching” third grade, overseeing at home ballet class, cooking so much I feel like I could be the next Rachel Ray, checking temperatures “just in case” and basically trying my best to stay positive, for my students and staff, for my daughter who is handling this like a rockstar, and perhaps most importantly, for myself. I know once I lose the ability to get up each morning and find something new to make me smile, something new to learn how to do, or even some elaborate recipe to prepare, then I will have given up and that would let the sadness that has our country in its grip triumph over me. I’m not about to let that happen.

So, what did I learn this week? Oh, a few things…how to make brownies from scratch, ( not bad), how to make pulled pork in a slow cooker, ( excellent!) how to teach an 8 year old how to read and draw bar graphs for math class, ( challenging) and how to make cave art drawings ( I won’t share a picture!). I also learned a very important lesson- children are so resilient and able to see the fun in situations that drive us as adults out of our minds most of the time. Now, I have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney Plus, Broadway HD, Boomerang…at the touch of my fingertips there are literally thousands of things I can watch to unwind at the end of the day. Yet, in the weeks since March 12, I have watched exactly ONE new show- The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. ( Perhaps a mistake…I had nightmares for at least 3 nights!). I just can’t relax and unwind enough to really enjoy anything- no new shows have caught my interest and I even get frustrated at my old go-to shows. 

I know, I know, I started to say something about kids…and I brought up all of those channels to help illustrate my point. ( I do have one, I promise!) I got an email from Netflix this week, explaining how to set up a Watch Party. Basically, I pick a movie, send a link to friends and then we all can watch movie together. A little chat bar opens on the side of the movie so we can text back and forth in a big group discussion. Now, I have no interest in doing this- I don’t even like it when people talk during previews at the movies, but Miss Abby was so interested in the idea, I thought I’d let her try it out.

Abby picked The Grinch, had me invite some of her friends, and asked that they wear Christmas clothes and have snacks. I figured the fun of this “watch party” would wear off quickly. After all, they can’t see each other, and they have to type to communicate. Was I ever wrong! What a huge hit this was, not only with Abby but with her friends too. In fact, they begged to do it again the very next day. Now, all of her friends don’t know each other, but that did not stop them from chatting away and discussing, amongst other kid topics, the movie itself. As a Film teacher, I can’t tell you how proud that made me. Kids as young as 7 years old, talking about movies together and just finding yet another unique way to be in each other’s company.

Kids are resilient, and what I’m seeing from these young kids is amazing. It’s fun to go to virtual theater, taking dance classes via Outschool is something to look forward to every day, a remote book discussion club on an American Girl book is actually encouraging Abby to read more, and a Netflix party for 2 hours is a cause for day long excitement among her and her friends. Do they miss each other? Very much, I know. However they are adapting, and most days, adapting much better than I am.

I feel inspired when I see them “interacting”, my daughter and her friends. I feel excited even if just for a few moments at the fact that she can still have fun during all this. Most of all, I feel a sense of pride, as the mother of a strong little girl, one who will not let anything halt her day to day life. She may have to change the way she does things a bit, but she’s still going to play and laugh and hang out with her friends and find ways to cajole me into giving her more snacks ( what’s a movie party without snacks??). In short, she’s still going to be “her”…the girl I have loved for almost 9 years now. Many of you readers also have girls, older than mine, but also just as strong in your homes right now. Look to them daily when all of this seems to be just too much to bear. Look at their faces, as they log into TikTok, as they FaceTime, even as they talk to teachers via Zoom. 

Is this ideal? Not at all. Is this the life we want for our girls? Not by a long shot. But we can and should learn from them, to stay strong, stay smiling and stay positive in the face of this pandemic. We should, as they are, look for the silver linings that are offered to us (not just from Netflix) and to take advantage of them. In short, we should all embrace the “virtual party” until we can celebrate family and friends together in person once again. 

Post Break Thoughts

Easter is over, and today we at Saint Dominic Academy are back at our remote learning platform. We know now that this will continue until May 15th at least, and that the days after that are “uncertain” to say the least. The COVID- 19 virus is life changing for us all, in ways we never could have expected. The struggle to stay motivated, to stay positive and forward thinking, some days I am sure the struggle to just get up and face another day amid this pandemic, takes all of our energy and our goodwill. I’m not above admitting that there are days when being motivated is extremely hard and I have to “fake it till I make it” for the sake of Abigail. I know many of you must be doing the same thing for your children as well.

What made it harder this past week for me personally was the loss of a friend to COVID-19. I realized truly that wakes and funerals are for us, the living to come to terms with loss and to say a final farewell to a beloved family member or friend. Absent that opportunity, all we are left with is our hurting hearts, our memories, and the words we would have shared with others at that event- words that seem to choke me when I think them, as if they are lodged in my throat. Me, many of you, people across the globe are experiencing this awful sensation- the inability to truly mourn the loss of a life as well as the ability, if not to formally in front of a gathering eulogize that person, than to at least share some memories of the dearly departed in a gathering of those who loved him or her.

Everyone deserves those words, those exchanged memories, those fond glimpses into the life of one we loved. Every single life lost to this awful virus deserves an eulogy that the world should hear and yet, the eulogies play only in our heads…unwritten and unheard. My friend, a friend of my family since I was a tiny child, deserved one. And today, I hope you can bear with me for a few minutes as I just briefly capture her essence in words as best I can, and try to say goodbye.

She was a hummingbird, less than five feet and endlessly fluttering…shiny bobbed hair swinging, dangling earrings swaying, hands waving as her lilting voice went a mile a minute. From subject to subject she flitted, much like a bird going from flower to flower…a swirl of neutral linens topped with jewel toned scarves that flowed and heavy eclectic jewelry that gleamed as she sparkled with life and energy. Barely able to stay in her seat, she bounced joyfully through every event I shared with her, and her voice, as sweet as music, was peppered with “lovey” and “sweetie” and “baby” and each of those words came out as warm as a hug and as comforting as a warm cup of tea. She was beautiful, this friend who filled the lives of my parents, my brothers, and I for over forty years. She was our breath of fresh air, our whirling dervish and had we known she would whirl out of our lives so soon, our hearts may have been more heavy than they are now. Her spirit will live on, in the colors of jewels, in the blue of the sky, in the tinted glow of the sunset…and she will always be missed and loved. 

Thank you, readers, for indulging me in that tribute…to my friend and in some ways, to all who have lost a voice in their lives, a voice we each hoped we’d hear one more time. The mourning process has changed drastically right now, but we must all still remember to mourn, in our own ways and to pay tribute to those who loved us well and whose life was taken away from us long before we were ready to say goodbye.

I will keep you all in prayer- this week and in the coming weeks. May you find solace in your memories, the strength to continue moving forward amid this life shaking pandemic and the hope that God gifts us all to see the brighter days ahead. 

Holy Week Prayer Service

As we entered into Holy Week yesterday, with Palm Sunday masses on our televisions instead of in churches, many of us may feel as if Easter and the joy it brings will not fully touch our lives this year. Amidst all this fear and sadness and frustration- we must remember all that Jesus suffered during this week. Betrayal from a close friend, denied by another close friend, teasing and mocking, beatings and whippings, the passion of his death on Good Friday and the despair his mother and friends felt when His life was over. We think all too often these days of our own sadness and suffering, however we know deep in our hearts that nothing we face can ever be as hard as the fate Jesus knowingly faced and carried out, in order to save us all. 

Normally, the school would gather together this week and pray before recessing for Easter break. We’d plan a mass of celebration for the week we returned from break. Although we cannot gather together physically, the students, faculty and staff will gather together to pray this Wednesday, April 8th from 11 to 11:30am. Each member of the school community will have a copy of the prayer service, and our remote classes will cease for 1/2 hour, so that we can all pray together. Additionally, the prayer service, led by four senior young ladies, and their mothers, who are all SDA alumnae, will be posted on our social media via a You Tube link. While the school prays together, they will use this link to see the prayer service led by thier SDA sisters, past and current. 

Today, I invite each of you to mark the day and time on your calender, look for the link Wednesday am on our social media and join the young women of Saint Dominic Academy and their teachers as we pray together during Holy Week. I call to mind today what I was taught during my elementary years at Our Lady of Mercy. CHURCH is not a building, but a community coming together. So please, come together with us, pray with our school community, and together we can look toward brighter days ahead, gifted with God’s love.(Prayer service is below!)

Prayer Service Program

Work From Home Adventures Pt. 2

Here I am, another Friday afternoon and its the end of our second full week of remote learning. Our second full week of me teaching 3rd grade (I’m getting better at the math!!), of no dancing school, no playground, no play dates with friends, no date nights, no mom hangouts…I know the list is endless and each of you could add to it. It’s been so hard, and in spite of the warm sunshine today, I have a feeling it will just get harder before it starts to get easier.

Each of us must be missing so very much the things we used to take for granted. I miss the hour of downtime with my friends while our daughters went to dance class on Wednesday nights. Just that one hour a week where we could talk without cutting up chicken tenders, or monitoring how many toys were pulled out of a closet now seems to have been an hour of pure bliss. I miss going to a restaurant and having someone there do the cooking and the cleaning. I miss looking at a wine list and picking a new and interesting wine to pair with dinner; even though prior to this, I almost always ordered the same type of meal and same glass of wine when I went out to dinner. I miss the ability to go to the store: T J Maxx to browse around, Costco for bulk supplies, Michael’s for seasonal decorations, and I even miss hearing Abby beg and beg for a toy every single time we walked into any of those stores. All things I took for granted before; I miss now.

And then there’s those intangible things as well. I have not gone this long without hugging my mother or my father in my entire life. It’s making my heart literally hurt. I can’t go put flowers on my grandfather’s grave. I can’t go to church and exchange a smile and a sign of peace with total strangers. I can’t buy Abby an ice cream cone from an ice cream truck and then scold her when it drips on the floor. It seems, right now, all of our lives are just too full of “ We Can’t” situations and although each of us is trying so hard to stay strong and positive, it can truly be a struggle.

I am writing this not to whine and to bring people further down, but just to give you some examples so that my upcoming statement sounds “impressive.” Until yesterday, March 29, at 4:15pm, I had not cried about all of these “I Can’t” issues. I’ve worked hard to get up, be positive, teach Abigail, and try to help her and in so doing, help myself, adjust to this new normal until it goes away. I’ve smiled, I’ve sung songs, I’ve learned new dances via the Apple TV, I’ve played Barbie and with our new Star Wars DROID, and together she and I have used up an entire box of Crayolas. I’ve been a “strict” 3rd grade teacher and made her complete each and every task each day- even when she’s tired and losing interest. I’ve held my own classes at SDA to that same standard as well. All this, I’ve done and each of you have lists like this as well. The one thing I had not done was cry. What was the point? Yes, I’m sad, yes I’m frustrated, yes I miss my friends and family so much it hurts, but what good comes of crying over it?

My readers know that Abigail has been doing Theater since she was five years old. She does SDA theater and has been very active in a Theater Group in Bayonne. Earlier in the week, parents got email from that theater teacher, saying there would be “Virtual” Theater Group on Thursday afternoon. Now, after a day of virtual learning with Mom and being made to eat her vegtables and clean her room, and so on, I was not sure how Abby would feel about having to go to this remote activity. But, I told her I wanted her to go and that it was important, I thought, to try and continue the activity she loves so much, even if it was in a new way. I logged her in on the IPAD, downloaded the script on my phone and prepared to clean my floors while she went to Theater.

Then, I heard voices, the voices of kids as small as six and as old as thirteen, singing together in this Zoom meeting. And the tears just spilled down my cheeks and I cried and cried. I’m crying now as I write this. It was the most beautiful moment of this whole mess thus far. These kids coming together, because they WANTED to, and trying to learn something new and keep up their routine of performing, even with all this chaos in the world around them. I cannot fully express in words how beautiful it was, and how it gave me so much hope that I didn’t even know I needed.

The show WILL go on…for all of us. This show we call life WILL go on…of that I have no doubt. We’ll emerge from this changed in ways that we may never be able to fully articulate and more appreciative of things we took for granted before. In the meantime, the amazing director of Abby’s Theater Group and those little voices have given me the hope I need to continue on in these scary days. They reminded me that no matter what “show” we each participate in: work, sports, dance, school…THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

Work From Home Adventures Pt. 1

I wondered all week, was there even a reason to write this blog? In the grand scheme of things right now, who is going to be looking to me for any words of insight, wisdom or even just matter of fact information? All week I had a debate with myself in my head and here it is Friday at 3:00pm and I’m sitting down to type. Why? Because, for the past week all of us have had to adjust to the “new normal” and if we are going to go to school remotely, have meetings remotely, and even see our loved ones remotely via social media apps, then there’s no reason for me to not continue to do what I have done since I became Head of School, and reach out remotely on a weekly basis to share some thoughts.

What has this “new normal” looked like for all of you? I can only imagine, but I can share what it’s been like for me and how quickly my child has adjusted in the past seven days. Her new “teacher” is Miss Mommy and she understands that sometimes the teacher needs an extra few minutes to “review” the math lesson before it is taught to the student. She understands what a virtual tour of a museum is, she understands how to submit work online via a laptop and email and she even knows how to log onto her school website and see what tasks she has for the day. All things my 8 year old did not know how to do a week ago. She’s having “library” each day with a book selected by yours truly and music class this week involves learning the score to “Wicked.”. Even with all this change in routine, she is restricted to one hour on her tablet daily for fun on the internet. 

This week, I’ve seen Barbies having a pool party, Fisher Price toys stowed away long ago come back out for a full afternoon of Disney themed fun, and American Girls go camping under a bed. I’ve seen snowmen built out of Play- Dough and countless pictures colored in intricate detail. I’ve played Clue and Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit and Mad About Movies. I’ve taught a different “princess” each day- no uniforms means costume time at “school” and it’s been fun to teach Princess Leia, Princess Belle, and Princess Mulan so far. ( We had a visit from Hermoinie one day- Harry Potter styles and she rocked green on Saint Patrick’s Day of course!) I’ve seen hard work from an 8 year old- 4 plus hours daily on all her subjects.

What I haven’t seen perhaps is what surprises me more than all that I have seen this week. I have not seen whining about the work. I have not seen foot stomping, door slamming, or frustration at the fact that her new teacher is not always as quick to understand some of the lessons and the requirements of the 3rd grade classroom. I have not seen arguments about bedtime or refusal to brush teeth or a desire to sleep until 10am. She’s adjusted- quicker than I have as an adult and she seems to know that this is the way it will be, until it isn’t anymore. Complaining will do no good. Crying will do no good. We have to try our best to adjust to the new normal until we can go back to our old ways of life.

It’s been a hard week, of this there is no doubt. And we have harder weeks ahead, you and I- as parents, as employers and employees and as the home school “principals” of our daughters’ educations. We have opportunities as well- to draw closer to our loved ones, to really see what our children are learning each and every day, and through that process, learn some new things ourselves. I’ve learned in just 7 days, to be more patient, to be more creative, and to set up a daily routine that makes my daughter feel secure in this new, scary world we are inhabiting right now. I’m sure you have all learned that as well…and I’m interested…

What has your first week been like? Email me: sdegnan@stdominicacad.com and share your wisdom, your insights, and your experiences. This blog will benefit from shared stories right now and I’d love to have your voices heard when I sit down to write next week.

Be well, be safe, be healthy. And try, every single day, to BE HAPPY. Hug your children, kiss your spouse, and just thank God for the days together. You are all in my prayers. 

Blog Post #169

This week, I’m taking a short break from blogging.

I am in the “most magical place on earth!”

Our Disney Youth In Education series students are here!

Our Dance Team is competing in Nationals here!

Our Seniors are on their senior trip here!

And I  had the chance to join them. 

Warm Wishes from Walt Disney World!

Sincerely,

Sarah Degnan

Head of School 

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