Lessons from the Elves…

Last weekend, my niece, (the daughter of an SDA graduate!) was in a production of ELF Junior in Toms River, NJ. Abigail is a huge fan of ELF and so we were happy to see Ellie in the production- she did an outstanding job! Of course, after watching the musical, the movie was on a non-stop loop on the TV in my house and has been on frequently all season long.  It makes me laugh, but as with most movies, after a while I tune it out.  

And then, it struck me- some of the most important lessons of Christmas come from holiday classics that we are so used to seeing, we forget the important messages that they impart upon children for generations to come !

So indulge me if you will in some holiday cheer. At just one week before Christmas, let us review some of these classic Christmas messages to truly get into the spirit of the season!

From ELFThe best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! & There’s room for everyone on the NICE list!

From Home AloneThis is Christmas, the season of perpetual hope!

From How The Grinch Stole Christmas Maybe…Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas is a little bit more.

From The Polar ExpressSeeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see. & There’s no greater gift than friendship.

From Miracle on 34th Street Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to!

From It’s a Wonderful LifeEvery time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!

From A Christmas Carol God bless us, everyone!

And with these words of wisdom in our hearts and minds, let us enter into those final days before Christmas, looking forward to celebrating with family and friends. Remember always, the true spirit of Christmas lies within your heart.

Deck The (SDA) Halls!

December is upon us at last! For many of us, it is truly the most magical and wonderful time of year and no matter how many late nights of wrapping or afternoons of baking we have, the joy of the holiday season makes every Christmas chore seem merry and fun.  From sun up till  moonrise, all month long, I have no doubt that many of you will be as busy as Santa’s elves- with shopping, wrapping, exchanging, and all that comes with the joy of the season.

At Saint Dominic Academy this December, every so often I need to peek out my office door and make certain our young ladies are not elves themselves!  Fresh from their fall production of The Sound of Music; many of our most talented voices are singing at Tree Lightings, Holiday parties, and of course at our very own Christmas Concert  on December 10th. The Glee Club and Dominoes are busily spreading Christmas cheer, not only within SDA, but within the entire Hudson County community.

Our athletes are involved in a bit of hustle and bustle as well; basketball and indoor track have practices, games and meets that last into the wee hours, when houses are lamplit and there is frost in the air heading home.  Never growing tired, these dedicated young women are committed to their studies as well as their teams and bring pride to SDA, not only in December, but all  year long.

Our Peer Ministers are preparing for our Christmas Liturgy, Dominican Youth in Action is sponsoring a Giving Tree, French, Spanish and Asian Interest clubs are planning Christmas parties for the school, Student Council raised enough funds to buy 15 coats for children, and the Class of 2018 is hard at work on their Christmas play.  And the fun doesn’t end with the students; faculty and staff are making ornaments for their prayer partners and our Alumnae Association is hosting an Alumnae Christmas Party on December 15th.  

With all the merriment in the air, it’s not hard to see why I sometimes wonder if each of our young ladies is not just a bit magical.  And then, I remember…they are!  For the love of God is with them always, and perhaps, during this month, it shines just a tiny bit brighter and gives them the extra sparkle that I see daily!

The Hills Were Alive…AT SDA!

This past weekend, it was my pleasure to welcome parents, donors, alumnae and friends to Saint Dominic Academy’s production of The Sound of Music.  This breathtaking show, which began its journey here at SDA in June of 2017 and has continued until late Saturday evening, was full of talented and heart stopping young men and women. The ladies of Saint Dominic Academy, together with students from Saint Peter’s Prep, Hudson Catholic High School, Eastern Christian Academy and All Saints Catholic Academy as well as faculty members from Saint Dominic Academy worked tirelessly, after school, evenings and weekends, to perfect the performances that were held over the weekend.

I am certain it is a story most of our audience knew very well; a heartbroken father finding new love after the loss of a mother, a young woman searching for her place in life, and a brave family facing the Nazi takeover of Austria in the days preceding World War II. The emotions in this show are as wide ranging as the ages that were seen on the stage, from the tiniest Von Trapp child to the most decorated Nazi Officer. The cast and crew’s dedication to the performance had the power to transport viewers to Austria before it fell to Germany,  to lighten their souls with the songs “your heart wants to sing…” and to celebrate the joy that is family as we moved into December and the Christmas season.

What was interesting for me to share with our young students in the cast, some of whom were not aware, was that the story of the Von Trapp Family was a true one; the story of an empowered woman who embraced the twists and turns of her life, until it took her to where she belonged; as the wife of Captain Von Trapp and stepmother to his seven children and later, two of their own.  

Maria Von Trapp, who worked to keep her family together, both as they left Austria and then again in Switzerland and finally in Stowe, Vermont, may not have always been as cheerful and happy as our own Maria, but she did survive, thrive, and bring her family to success.  She was a leader, in a society that was falling under a dangerous regime. She was a brave and protective mother, putting the safety her stepchildren and children before her own at all times.

In short, she was the very portrait of a Saint Dominic Academy girl; empowered, spiritual, and dedicated to doing the right thing.

It was an honor for all of us at Saint Dominic Academy to tell her story and the story of her family!  My sincere thanks and love to the cast, crew, Director and supporters of The Sound of Music.

November Prayer #4

The magic of November…the ongoing prayer of Thanksgiving between each of us and God.

 

For the month of November, I encourage those who read this weekly blog to find here a prayer of Thanksgiving- reminding us that each day, not just Thanksgiving Day, is a day to celebrate all we have to be thankful for in life. Please pray with Saint Dominic Academy all November long.

 

God of light and hope,

Look upon us in love.

Fill us with the Spirit of Jesus,

So that, as Advent approaches,

Our hearts and minds become ready to welcome

With love and joy,

The Spirit of Jesus.

As we move toward December

And await The Light of The World,

May we be filled with the many blessings

You grant to us daily,

And may we look to You with Thankful hearts always.

Amen

November Prayer #3

The magic of November…the ongoing prayer of Thanksgiving between each of us and God.

 

For the month of November, I encourage those who read this weekly blog to find here a prayer of Thanksgiving- reminding us that each day, not just Thanksgiving Day, is a day to celebrate all we have to be thankful for in life. Please pray with Saint Dominic Academy all November long.

 

Lord God, as Thanksgiving approaches this week,

We ask for Your blessings on family and friends.

We ask for Your blessings on our homes, our schools, and our world.

We thank You for this time we spend together,

And we keep in our hearts all those who are not with family on Thanksgiving.

While we celebrate the joys of Thanksgiving,

We continually stay mindful of the sorrows in the world.

We pray for peace in our hearts.

We pray for peace in the world.

Help us to know always that Your love is constant

So that w may share in Your glory.

Amen

November Prayer #2

The magic of November…the ongoing prayer of Thanksgiving between each of us and God.

 

For the month of November, I encourage those who read this weekly blog to find here a prayer of Thanksgiving- reminding us that each day, not just Thanksgiving Day, is a day to celebrate all we have to be thankful for in life. Please pray with Saint Dominic Academy all November long.

 

God, throughout November, be with me

Help me to be mindful of all I have been given.

Allow me to count my abundant blessings instead of my small burdens.

Allow me to see all the beauty in life, and look away from the negativity.

Allow me to celebrate joy each day, and face sorrows with the hope of a better tomorrow.

Allow me to share my smile with others, and to dry tears of sadness.

Allow me to feel Your presence when I grow fearful and to gain courage.

Most of all, allow me always, to call upon You, to take comfort in Your presence,

And to count on Your love for all.

Amen

November Prayer #1

The magic of November…the ongoing prayer of Thanksgiving between each of us and God.

 

For the month of November, I encourage those who read this weekly blog to find here a prayer of Thanksgiving- reminding us that each day, not just Thanksgiving Day, is a day to celebrate all we have to be thankful for in life. Please pray with Saint Dominic Academy all November long.

 

Oh God, when I have food,

Help me to remember the hungry.

When I am overwhelmed with work,

Help me to remember those seeking jobs.

When my home feels messy and cluttered,

Help me to remember those who have no home.

When I have a sniffle or a headache,

Help me to pray for those suffering from long term aliments.

Be with me God, this November

Ignite my compassion for others,

Motivate me to help with both word and deed,

And never allow me to take my blessings for granted. Amen

Hocus Pocus…Let’s All Focus!

I don’t know about you, but for me October has been a month of spooky good fun! I’ve been twilight pumpkin picking, to Six Flags Fright Fest (for the kid activities only; I am not on board with being chased by zombies), October camping, Sesame Place for The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular, and of course, Abby and I spent a quick and magical mother daughter weekend in our favorite place at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! All this, and Halloween is not until tomorrow! Abby has had several costume changes over the  month; from Tinkerbell, to Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas and for tomorrow, her “dream” costume; the one she has been excited about since the middle of July when she first saw it advertised…Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus.  And while I can say hands down that my time in Disney was my favorite Halloween activity, I am looking forward to taking her trick or treating tomorrow and then sitting down to eat candy and watch Hocus Pocus with her. (There’s a marathon on Freeform, but Abby watches it all year round!)

And then, it will happen…this quick change that throws off more people than daylight savings time does.  For just as Mary Sanderson will utter the onscreen words “I smell children”, I can hear myself saying “ I smell peppermint mocha, evergreen, and holly!”  And faster than you can say Hocus Pocus, not only will Halloween be over, but fall itself with all its beauty and its calendar life really running to December 21st, will be swept under the rug along with the fake cobwebs that decorate gates and doors. Maybe you might see one or two Thanksgiving themed decorations in stores, but entire aisles will be cleared of Halloween candy and stuffed with wrapping paper, bows, tape, and ribbon almost overnight.

That’s a shame; it truly is.  November is a beautiful month in and of itself; truly the “sweater weather” time of year.  The trees are still colorful, the leaves still crunchy on the ground, and the weather is still truly fall; a time of harvest, a time of celebration and a time to be thankful.  And while I love Christmas, and, if I am being honest, will tell you that my tree will be up the day after Thanksgiving,  it does not mean that I am going to just ignore November and expand the Christmas season so that it runs from November 1st to January 1st.  

So today, on this day before All Hallow’s Eve, let me wave my magic Head of School wand and cast a tiny spell over the members of the SDA family; students, parents, alumnae, faculty, staff and friends. Close your eyes while I say…

Hocus Pocus…Let’s all focus:

 

  • On the beauty of November.
  • On the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration of family.
  • On all we have to be THANKFUL for this year.

 

All throughout November, I will be keeping track of what I am thankful for, each and every day.  Many people do this very same thing via social media, it’s one of the nicest things about Facebook and Twitter in November, people are being happy and positive.  And I invite each of you to do the same; to take five minutes at the start of a new day or at the end of a long and tiring one, and just think about what you are thankful for and how being thankful can truly bring you closer to God.

After all, that’s the magic of November…the ongoing prayer of Thanksgiving between each of us and God.