Love What You Have…

On our most recent snowy day, Miss Abigail started to make out her birthday list. Eight items, because she will be turning eight. (As if that’s not hard for me to believe!) I was presented with a perfectly organized list, with not too many crazy demands; she did not really ask for anything unreasonable. However, I was shocked that she had undertaken such a writing exercise…because her birthday is in AUGUST! However, she already has her eyes on the prize(s), so to speak and I have to wonder why.

Perhaps it is because, in our daily society, every single thing is marketable and marketed. Young girls, still wearing bows in their hair, are the “target” audience for lip gloss, bath bombs, makeup sets, cell phones…the list can go on and on. What happened to baby dolls and paper dolls, and Barbie? I did not even own a cherry Chapstick when I was seven years old and if I asked for nail polish, I got clear only painted on by my mother! Times have changed and unfortunately, if we are not careful, the way young women think as they move toward adulthood will change as well.

It’s not a just a case of growing up too quickly. It could become a case of raising a generation that sees the gift, whatever form it takes, as more important than the giver. And that is a real hazard in this world; the idea that things count more, are valued more, are more important than people. And that mindset is seemingly starting at a younger and younger age, and, even worse, it is emulated by older women in the spotlight; via social media, television and of course, the internet. When children as young as seven or eight see all the fuss that is made over a celebrity’s engagement ring or an actress’s multi million dollar wedding or an actor’s sprawling mansion complete with every accessory on the earth…then perhaps they start to want more “things” too. After all, if they see that “splurge” taking place all around them, then why wouldn’t they expect to be constantly splurged on as well?

This is dangerous, murky water for impressionable girls. ( Boys too…but as I have a girl, my concern lies deeply there!) For, while we want young women to feel confident, sure of themselves and empowered, what we don’t want is for them to feel as if they deserve everything, regardless of sticker price because, as commercials are so apt to say “you’re worth it!”. There’s a catch phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it and one I think we should be wary of all of our daughters hearing. Because, what message does it send, really? That if I don’t buy all 8 items on that birthday list, than I don’t think she’s “worth it”? That if you don’t buy the thousand dollar prom dress for your senior in high school, she’s not “worth it”? And it goes on and on, the older we get…if someone does not get down on one knee with a 3 carat ring…do you see how this mindset grows more and more harming as girls grow into women?

We all show the girls we love how much they are worth to us, how much they mean to us. We do it with bedtime stories and kisses on the forehead and early morning hugs, and small gestures of affection…some of which are probably unnoticed on a day to day basis. We stay up late baking cupcakes for birthdays, fathers bring home flowers for dance recitals, cards are slipped into tiny lunch boxes…the little things we do for those we love are what truly show the people we love how much we value and appreciate them. Grand gestures are beautiful at times, but only if we don’t feel we are entitled to them.

What should we be raising this generation of girls to do? We should be raising them to be thankful, to be appreciative of the special people in their lives. We should be sending forth the message that when love is given…love is enough…material things are not needed or necessary in order for a person to show how much another means to them. We should be daily reinforcing the message that “when you love what you have, you have everything you need.”

And, as February comes to an end, a month bathed in celebrations of love, we should remind our daughters that it is love that truly makes the world go round and makes the world a better place. Let us all, young and older, remember that things are secondary to the gifts that come from the heart.

Checking In With Caldwell…

As we celebrate President’s Day weekend, I wanted to share with my readers just how essential President Lincoln and President Washington felt their mothers were. Washington’s words about his mother were as follows: My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am, I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. Lincoln’s words were briefer, but no less beautiful. All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.

And that made me think…not just about our own mothers, but about the women who have supported the Mission of Saint Dominic Academy from 1878 to today. We owe our successes to the women who answered the call, who felt the flame inside of them, and followed in the footsteps of Saint Dominic to become Dominicans…preachers of his word, bearers of his light. We would not be where we are today at SDA without the guidance, kindness and support of the Sisters in Caldwell.

Yet, within the day to day hustle and bustle of the school year, we sometimes forget to reflect on just how they impact the lives of all they reach, in many ways. And so, I want to share with my readers a link to The Flame, which spotlights the good works of the Caldwell Dominicans. I call special attention to Sister Pat Hogan, O.P., featured on the cover, as she has tirelessly served not only the students under her care, but the young ladies of Saint Dominic Academy as a member of the Board of Trustees. I encourage my readers, take the time to read this magazine, and then, take the time to say a prayer of thanks for all that these women to do help shape the lives of those under their care. We are truly blessed with wonderful women at the “Motherhouse” in Caldwell and they deserve our admiration, praise and prayers.

Love is in the Air…

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The second week in February … and one event looms large. There are heart shaped boxes everywhere, chocolate roses in every single store, florist trucks clogging up the road, pink and red envelopes being delivered by mail carriers…what an outpouring of love we will all see this week, leading up to Thursday, February 14th. It’s challenging to even type the date without adding a little heart after it…so ingrained it is in our culture to profess our love for all we hold dear on this one day in February.

And yet, it begs the question, why is it so ingrained? I know that there are those among us who call Valentine’s Day a “hallmark holiday”, one pushed upon the public to make money during the winter months. While I am not quite that cynical, I do wonder why the same flowers that cost one price online in January see a sharp spike in price in February and whether chocolate actually tastes better because it comes in a heart shaped box. But no, I am not so cynical that I refuse to celebrate…I helped Abigail with cards for her class, cards for her friends and even sent a pastel colored envelope of my own off in the mail. Of course I have a small gift for her to show her how much I love her on the morning of 2/14…but then again, I have tiny unexpected gifts for her every so often, just because I love her.

So do many of us, of this I have no doubt. For every time we do something unexpected and surprising for those we hold dear in our hearts, aren’t we in fact celebrating the concept of Valentine’s Day? Doesn’t each one of us, on a daily basis work to showcase that most important rule ~ that “golden rule” taught to us by Jesus himself. Matthew 7:12. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. I remember learning a childhood version of this maxim in elementary school “love one another as I have loved you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Never once in my life have I forgotten those words.

Now, that’s not to say it isn’t challenging. Of course it is. We get tired, we get frustrated, we don’t always treat people the way we want to be treated or speak to people the way we want to be spoken to. It’s a hard maxim to live by, day in and day out. But we try, each of us in our own way try daily to live up to that golden rule and to truly love one another, even if it is harder on some days than on others.

And so, my readers, that is why I cannot be cynical about Valentine’s Day in all its pink and red, hallmark holiday, sentimental hoopla. Because, on 2/14 of each year, I can say with some assurance that almost every one of us will spend the day treating those we love the way we want to be treated, and showing them how much we love them. Should we do this more often, not just on 2/14? Of course we should. However, if love is what makes the world go round and love is what can make the world a better place, then Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to start showing our family and friends just how much they mean to us.

Love can change the world. Remember that, always! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Remarks from the Father Daughter Dance…

As February begins, I wanted to share with you the words I shared with our young ladies and their fathers at the 37th Annual Father- Daughter Dance, which was held on January 25th. At this time, I want to thank our chair Joe Anderson and his daughter, senior Meghan Anderson for making the evening so wonderful. My dad and I had, as always, an excellent time together! And so…here is the advice I offered our young ladies…about dating!

Good evening everyone…it is my pleasure and honor tonight to welcome you all to the Father Daughter Dance. For the past few years, as long as I have been at Saint Dominic Academy, my father and I have attended this dance and it is one of my favorite events here at SDA. I know I usually get up here and entertain all of you dads by sharing with you all the ways in which my dad helps me out…many of the same ways each of you helps your daughter out daily…but this year, I want to take just a few moments to talk to the young ladies about something else. So dads, if you can bear with me…it’s a touchy subject I know for dads and daughters, even when the daughters are as old as I am, right dad?…I want to talk for just a few minutes about…DATING!

There’s that word girls, the one you probably dread uttering in front of the guy sitting next to you right now, am I right? I know I did when I was your age. I’d make my mom tell my dad when I was going on a date! It’s hard to tell your dad you’re dating someone…hard to let him know that there’s this other guy around who might, just might, capture a little bit of the heart that has always belonged to your father. It’s hard for us to say and I am sure, it’s hard for dads to hear…that’s why I used to have my mom do it for me! But I got older and I grew up, and I’ll admit it…my heart got hurt…more than once…and when that happened I needed my mom of course, but I needed my dad too…just like each of you will need your dads when that day comes for you. And ladies, it will come, because it always does.

But, with age comes wisdom and with years of dating experience comes LOTS of wisdom…and I got wise, and got out of the dating game for a good long while. So, for a long time, as an adult, I was in the seat that you are in right now…my dad was my “go to” date for everything. At weddings I danced with my dad, I had dinner with my parents on weekends, etcetera, etcetera…and that was good. It was what I needed, what all of us ladies need at times, a step back, to pause and reflect and to take stock. And so I did that…for a very long time. And someday girls…you might have to do that too…and when that time comes for you, I want you to take a very close look at the guy sitting next to you right now.

Because, the man sitting next to you right now, is …without a doubt…the most PERFECT guy you will ever know! No guy on earth loves you more than your dad/your father figure. No man cares about your well being more, no man will put you first time and time and time again like the man sitting next to you right now. Nobody will ever, ever make you feel special as your father can. It’s the truth…I’ve had 41 years to gain that insight and I know I am 100% correct on this. And what I have learned is this… when the time comes for you to pick the “right guy”, the so called, man of your dreams…you need to find one that reminds you of that man you brought here tonight.

Trust me…it took me such a long time to learn this lesson. I will be totally honest with you, I learned it less than a year ago. But I am so glad I did and I am so glad I gained that knowledge and can pass it along to each of you this event. So, before I ask my dad to join me on the dance floor…I want to tell you this and I want you to remember it always…long after you forget everything else I have said to you as Head of School. If you cannot utter the following sentence about the man you love…then he’s not the one. “You remind me of my father!” What I wish for all of you is that as you grow up and grow wise like I have, you are able to say that. And what I hope you do, when you are finally able to say it…is thank your father, for always being the perfect guy! Thank you Dad…I love you!