Last month, for Mother's Day, I shared with you some of the wisdom
my mother has passed on to me and my sisters and brother.
This month, I'll share the comedy stylings of my father. Although he passed away in February 1998, his zany memories are still alive and well!
Petty Officer 1st Class Odell Stewart, United States Navy
1. He knew everyone and they all owed him $5.
No matter what historical figure I learned about in school, my father's response was always the same: "Oh, yeah, Abraham Lincoln! I knew him when he grew up in Cherry Hill. He still owes me 5 dollars!"
2. "Trying don't make it, making it makes it."
This one confused me for a long time. He got this unique saying from back whether was in the Navy. I take it he didn't really understand it either! But if you think you can figure it out, let me know in the comments section!
3. It's okay to talk to the television.
We've all done it at some point. Usually when watching a game or game show, but we have all talked and yelled at the tv. But for the longest time, he was the only one in our house that did, so it was a little unusual to me. After all, they can't hear you! Luckily we have all carried on this crazy habit with my mom being the worst offender during a Ravens game!
4. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
I suppose if he thought you had to be serious all the time, he would not have referred to himself as "Odell Marshall Stewart, King of the World."
Yes, he really did call himself that. I think that's all I need to say about that!
5. The car driver is in charge of the music.
Okay, this was one of those rules to keep my sister and I from asking to listen to something other than Magic 95.9. And since there were no iPods back then, we weren't allowed to listen to personal tape players or radios either.
My how times have changed! Now, even though I may be in charge of the radio, someone's iPhone is probably tuning out my awesome playlist or Radio Disney.
So, although we lost my father early, his memory is still very much alive in what we say and what we do.
Tell me about the crazy things your dad has said and done!
My father's coffin flag and medals.
June 14, 2013 05:31
By Wendy Stewart
We all get to those times in our lives when we wonder if our work is really our life’s purpose. You know that feeling - like maybe you missed the memo that said you were supposed to be a doctor, teacher, or whatever you’re not doing now. Where does that come from? The inner desire to live our lives according to God’s will, if we only knew what that was!
Unfortunately, in our technologically-driven world, God doesn’t send email, call, text, message or tweet. And God doesn’t have a YouTube channel to watch the perfect video to answer our questions.
That’s fine, because the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts.
The other day, my next door neighbor had some visitors on her porch. After observing me interact with the kids in the block, one of the visitors asked what I did for a living. She saw how good I was with the kids and thought I must be a teacher or some professional who deals with children on a regular basis. Not anymore, but I was flattered at the thought.
Her comment got me thinking about all of the times people asked if I had kids because I deal well with them. No kids for me because you may already know I’ll be a postulant in the fall with the Servants of the Sacred Cross. But I have loved all my previous jobs with kids: cheer coach, substitute teacher, computer teacher, and dance teacher.
My 2011-2012 Tap/Jazz class at their spring recital
The next logical step was to figure out if that comment was meant to be a prompting from the Holy Spirit to head toward my life’s work. I don’t know. That requires more prayer. What I do know is that working with kids is fun and gives me joy. If that is my calling, all I need to do is fuse it with my other passions to have the most fun ever! That may mean fitness for kids, more dance classes, and even bike tours and hiking.
Whatever God has in store for me, I know He will not call me to do work of which I’m incapable. I pray that you will continue to seek God’s will in your life, even if it’s different from what you thought it was!
June 01, 2013 12:43
By Wendy Stewart
It’s no surprise Pope Francis
has done many things in his short time as Pontiff that have never been done before (not living in the Papal apartments was a big one). But Pope Francis, even before becoming Pope, was a man out to serve God’s people the best way he could.
In a homily on Wednesday, Pope Francis used the Gospel of Mark to remind us that “we must meet one another doing good.” And that includes Atheists. “The disciples,” Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant, closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.”
To be fair, I only learned of this homily when someone on Facebook reacted negatively because this did not fit her definition of how God works. And I remember a time, before I was Catholic, that I might have reacted negatively as well because we all know to be saved you have to be born again and have a personal relationship with Jesus, right? Or is that how it really works?
In my time studying and then converting to Catholicism from Protestantism, I can see where her concern is. I used to think that way too! But God has since opened my mind and heart to see people around me in the way He does. Is it easy? No! But does that mean we stop doing good and prevent others from doing good? Not at all!
Here was my response to her: “Having read the article and parts of the sermon, what the pope says makes sense. As Christians, and Catholics like me, we don’t have a monopoly on doing good things. Good deeds are usually a manifestation of a deeper belief someone has, whether or not they say they believe in God.
But it starts really with the premise that Jesus died to redeem us all. So, we have all been redeemed by Christ. Then what? We do as God commands: love God with your entire being and love your neighbor as yourself.
We have free will to believe as we choose. But rather than look for ways to exclude people, I believe the Pope is urging us to find that common ground and build relationships from there.
Loving your neighbor, all of your neighbors, can be very difficult at times, but that’s when we see others as God sees them.
Being “born again” is simply being born of the spirit. But that’s in our hearts and who are we to say that hasn’t happened for someone? Could it be they are being prompted by the Holy Spirit but do not recognize it?
In any case, this isn’t to tell you that you’re wrong in what you believe, but only to encourage you to take a step back for a moment and re-examine what is truly being said. After all, there was a time when I would have had the same reaction as you! So, I do understand! I just pray you’ll take this as an opportunity to deepen your faith and encourage others to seek the truth.
In the end, I want people to see more of what they have in common, thanks to God, rather than monopolizing who gets to do good things. Jesus came to reconcile us back to God. His sacrifice was for us all. For that we should be forever thankful and desire to share that grace with each other.
May 24, 2013 02:19
By Wendy Stewart
Today I celebrated my 4th annual participation in National Bike to Work Day. In case you aren't familiar with this awesome day, it occurs every year, on the third Friday in May. May is also National Bike Month.
So, to celebrate Bike to Work Day, "pit stops" were set up around the city and a few places in the counties. This is to encourage you not only to bike to work, but find alternate and commuter options to get to work and your other destinations.
Many times, my commute or travel by bike also includes the subway or the light rail. This allows me to get to so many other places and still get in some exercise (always a good thing).
It's no coincidence my involvement in Bike to Work Day
came shortly after the death of my car four years ago. I found that with my bike and mass transit, I'm a little freer than when I was trapped in my car alone. I've seen places I didn't know existed, been to different parts of the city, and met a host of new and different people on my travels. I really call them adventures.
Biking, walking, sitting on the bus and train give me an opportunity to minister to people, but also to sit and ponder about this world God has created. I've developed more patience, charity, and tolerance as a result of my car-free travels. And, as a bonus, I've been blessed to see Bike to Work Day grow each year.
When was the last time you got on a bike? Or took a walk with God? Try it and you'll start to understand the peace that comes with spending time with the Lord.
(Bike to Work Day pit stop at McKeldin Square sponsored by Race Pace Bike Shop)
May 17, 2013 12:12
By Wendy Stewart
My mother, Tonia, is not much for giving lectures on what a person should do. She never taught us lessons that way. Her method of teaching was more conversational. You talked to her about something on your mind and she gave her opinion. But it was always clear that her opinion did not have to be your opinion. So, luckily, I grew up confident in my own opinions and thought processes.
Though her advice was never obvious as saying, "Here's what you should do," if I paid attention, I would get some good rules for living. The following are the three top pieces of advice I've received from my mother.
1. "It always comes back to you."
That was my mom's way of saying you reap what you sow. In other words, do what you're supposed and treat people right. She has always believed people
should be treated with respect. We should do the same.
2. "Don't let people talk to you any way they want."
Again, my mom is big on treating people right. If she heard that you let someone treat you badly and verbally disrespect you, this may be the one time she gives you straight out advice. Stand up for yourself and don't let people walk over you. Nothing good can come of that and you deserve better.
3. "Be a good neighbor and help out, especially when kids and the elderly are involved."
This wasn't something she ever said, rather, this is the way she behaves daily. My mom has modeled for all of us (4 of us children altogether), that we are supposed to take care of our neighbors -- rejoice with them, grieve with them, spend time with them -- because that is what people are supposed to do. And in her job as a school cafeteria manager, she loves to be able to help kids on a daily basis. I can tell you that, at every school where she has worked, her name elicits one of two responses: elation or fear. Most of the time, the kids know my mother's good and serving side, but to the kids who misbehaved, she is the one person you don't want to anger. That's just a matter of respect.
My mother has taught me a lot about life and I continue to learn from her. I'm grateful that her best and most frequent advice revolves around treating people well and having a healthy amount of self confidence and respect.
(By the way, I didn't include a photo of my mom because I value my well-being. She'd get me good if I published a photo of her!)
May 10, 2013 02:18
By Wendy Stewart
The Gospel reading from the 4th Sunday of Easter had many messages for us. Here is the text to jog your memory:
“Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’” (John 10: 27-30
from the USCCB website)
While there are many nuggets of wisdom we can gain from this simple passage, I was intrigued by the first line, “My sheep hear my voice.” On the surface, I understand that when we are close to God, we know and hear His voice, making it easier to know what is of God.
Then came my brother’s opening day youth baseball game on Saturday, and it popped into my head again.
Anthony Keene pitches for
the Oakland Athletics
during the James Mosher Baseball League Opening Day.
We all know that there are tons of distractions at most sports events, just like in life. And during those events, we expect the players, professional or not, to ignore the insults, coaching from the sidelines, and anything else, and still focus their best efforts on the game. But is that fair?
Let’s take my brother’s game - and other youth sports for that matter - as an example of how this really plays out.
As I said, my brother is 12 and plays baseball. In fact, he plays for the James Mosher Baseball League. The league has many teams for kids ages 4-15 in Baltimore. Anthony is a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. Well he plays other positions as well, but mostly pitcher.
During the games, there are two coaches from the fielding team out to help; one at first base and one at third base. Only one of those coaches gives the pitching instructions. But you would never know that based on the number of parents and spectators who designate themselves as coaching and shout advice from the sidelines. That’s a ton of instruction for a kid to filter through. It’s hard for adults as well.
I asked my brother about this and he admitted that it’s tough to hear his coach’s voice among all of the other voices. In time he’ll learn to filter out the other noise, but that takes practice.
In the same way that my brother has to practice hearing only his coach’s voice, we must also practice filtering out the noise of the world and hearing only God’s voice.
How do we do that? Prayer, meditation, study, and fellowship with the faithful.
Seems easy enough to say, but not easy to do every day. So we take baby steps. We pray and ask questions. We read the Bible and meditate on the message. We find answers to our questions and recharge with mass, the Eucharist and the fellowship of the faithful.
We get to know the voice of God by spending time with God, just as my brother will get to know the voice of his coach better as the season progresses. The same way in which we instantly recognize the voice of our child, our parent, our teacher and vice versa, in the same way we learn to recognize the voice of God.
April 30, 2013 01:17
By Wendy Stewart
For those affected by the bombings and aftermath from the Boston Marathon two weeks ago, things will forever be different. Now there is a new normal. No more business as usual.
We have all experienced a tragedy that will forever color the way we view our lives, our world, and our place in it. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
At some time in our lives we have all had life-changing moments and we had to trust God and figure out how to live in this new reality. Whether it’s a career-ending injury, a car crash that left you disabled, cancer, death of a parent, etc., your life was forever changed.
You’ve no doubt heard about Towson preschool teacher Erika Brannock
who was injured while waiting for her mother to cross the finish line. Erika suffered two broken legs and eventually had to have the left one amputated below the knee.
The world is now a very different place for Erika.
Other papers, such as USA Today
, told us of 38-year old Heather Abbott, a human resources manager from Rhode Island, who decided to let doctors amputate her foot when it was clear it could not be saved.
The world is a different place for Heather as well.
But there is one constant through all of this turmoil an tragedy: God. In fact, Hebrews 13:8 tells is “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (NASB) That’s a pretty strong statement on which to hang our hats of faith! I don’t know about you, but that’s powerful! The God of the universe is always here for us.
Of all the things in the world that can change our “normal,” God remains the same and we must take solace and rejoice in that knowledge. If we don’t, what do we have to look forward to? Where do we get our help because we aren’t strong enough on our own?
Look to God. Love God. Remember He’s in your corner and has your back. That way, you’ll always be able to return to the new “normal.”
April 27, 2013 12:00
By Wendy Stewart
week, I wrote about a very special episode of “Glee,” where the subjects of gun policy and school violence were
explored. I urged you to talk to your kids and students concerning the issues
and how to stay safe.
brought Patriot Day and the 117th Annual Boston Marathon, one of the largest
marathons in the country. I’ve never run the Boston
Marathon, but it’s on my list of life goals. It’s that big of a deal among runners and non-runners alike.
There’s a certain prestige to
running the Boston Marathon and I’m sure the city of Boston and
the surrounding areas beam with pride at this time of year.
all, the Boston Marathon isn’t something you just sign up
and train to run. With the exception of charity teams, individual runners must
qualify during a window of opportunity. And the standards were raised even
higher for Monday’s race. In a recent article on
Competitor.com, a running website, it took a
woman named Catherine Young 15 attempts over the last 18 years to earn her
first trip to Boston. That’s how serious this is.
does that leave us with Monday’s tragedy?
I don’t watch the news much, but I get updates of breaking news
on my phone. When I checked my phone and saw updates about an explosion at the
finish line, I couldn’t believe it. What astounded
me more was that one of the headlines already claimed an 8-year old boy had
of any life is sad, and we must remember that there are other injuries than
simply the physical ones. As prayers pour in from around the world and our own Archbishop Lori urges us to remember Boston in our prayers, we are still left
with lingering questions about safety and how to talk to kids about yet another mass tragedy where there are no answers. Surely Cardinal O’Malley, OFM, Cap., has a huge task ahead of him in the
Archdiocese of Boston.
Coat of Arms for Boston's Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley
(Image from BostonCatholic.org)
I don’t know all the answers, but I have a couple of suggestions:
1. Limit the amount of news
coverage your kids see based on their age and maturity.
and teens can handle more than others, but only you know that about your
children and students. As an adult I can only handle so much news coverage, so
be aware of constant news feeds such as Twitter, Facebook, 24 hour news
networks, coverage that interrupts regular programming, and potential gruesome
photos on Instagram.
2. Ask them what they think.
It’s possible they haven’t given it much thought other
than this is a really sad thing. What you want to look for in this discussion
are signs they may be overly concerned, especially if your child is a runner or
other athlete. Check for signs they may see threats that do not exist and have
trouble sleeping or concentrating.
3. Remind them of God’s love and grace.
It’s so hard to remind people of God’s love and grace when terrible things happen. People wonder
where God is when they are scared, hurt, and dying. God has not abandoned
anyone, but we live in a broken world. Unfortunately, sometimes we get caught
in the crossfire of those who wish to do evil things and hurt people. It’s during these times we may wonder why evil seems to be
winning, though we know God always triumphs in the end. In his letter to the
Galatians, St. Paul says this:
“Do not be deceived; God is not
mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his
own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit
will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing,
for in due season we shall read, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have
opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the
household of faith.” (Galatians 6: 7-10, RSV)
words, bad things are going to happen, but we are called to always do good and
not lose heart in the process. It may seem like tragedies are more frequent,
closer to home, or just that there is no end to the evil to surrounds us. We
can’t lose heart.
That’s what we take away from Monday’s Boston Marathon: don’t give up, don’t lose heart, and remember to do good to everyone.
Preparing to field a child’s questions about tragedy
April 16, 2013 06:29
By Wendy Stewart
two week hiatus, Fox's hit show, "Glee," was back on the air with a
new episode. However, it wasn't just any episode. Before the show began, a
warning came on the screen to warn viewers that this episode would deal with
school violence and to use discretion.
surprised. After all of the topics the show has dealt with over the past four
seasons -- teen pregnancy, premarital sex and cohabitation, gay and lesbian
issues, eating disorders, homelessness, and the list goes on -- that this would
be the episode that gets a warning.
I get it.
Gun control is a hot-button issue and school
safety, in light of many recent school and university shootings, has increased
vigilance and sensitivity. I remember Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, the
shooting of Congresswomen Giffords, Ft. Hood, SandyHook, and a host of other
incidents and tragedies over the years. But it seems like things are coming to
a head now, and "Glee" has chosen to throw their hat in the ring.
Glee Cast (Image from Keith McDuffee, Flickr)
of where you stand on gun control, school safety, and mental illness, one thing
is for sure: there are no easy answers. In an effort to show what young people
think on the issues surrounding gun policy, the non-profit organization, dosomething.org, conducted a survey and has
made the results available to the public. You can get your report here.
want to stress here, on my available forum, is to talk with your kids and
students about what's going on. They want and need to know that the adults in
their lives care about their safety and well-being in and out of school. I also
urge parents and educators to speak with kids and teens to develop a plan of
action in case of emergency. Cover where to meet, how to communicate, what to
do if something happens at school, and how
to best use their cell phones to communicate vital information to you and law enforcement.
(Photo from Dosomething.org)
thing anyone wants to see are more of these tragedies. But if we all take the
time to have these frank conversations, we can start to develop real solutions.
leave your thoughts and questions below in regards to the current gun control
debate, school safety, and how the media deals with such events. And, as
always, feel free to email me!
April 12, 2013 02:00
By Wendy Stewart
I've lived most of my 33 years in Baltimore. I was born here and so were my parents. I don't have much memory of the Colts leaving, but my parents made sure I got to expert all that is the Baltimore Orioles. It didn't take long for them to become my favorite team and for baseball to become my favorite sport.
Now, just two months after our Ravens won the SuperBowl and months after a phenomenal post-season with the 2012 Orioles, we are poised to start again. We start again with fresh hope and renewed enthusiasm for the potential of a new season.
How often do we do this in our everyday lives?
When a door closed or an opportunity passes, do we eagerly await what God has for us next? Or do we bemoan what could have been?
I once heard someone say that when God says no to something, it's because He is going to say yes to something much better for you. After all, God has plans for us. We find it in Jeremiah like this, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB). With a promise like this in mind, we are called to trust in The Lord even more.
So, while I am very excited for what the Orioles will do this year, I am also excited for what God has in store for me in this new season of my life.
Are you excited?
Becca and Roger, devoted Orioles fans from New Jersey
April 05, 2013 03:05
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By Wendy Stewart