Wendy Stewart is a native of Baltimore and an adult convert to the Catholic Church. As a life coach and personal trainer, she works with families, children, and singles to bring together all aspects of their lives to be happy and healthy in body, mind and spirit. You can contact her for individual or group coaching at http://wendystewartwellness.com or nutritioncoachwendy@yahoo.com.

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Hope you had a great birthday, Wendy!

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Very good read indeed. Thanks so much Wendy. God bless.

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The Healthy Spirit

Are we slaves to consumerism?


As I roamed the aisles of my favorites stores over the last couple of weeks (good prices require research), I noticed something peculiar. In one store, though we were still almost two weeks from Halloween, something against the back wall caught my eye. No, it wasn't the fall harvest decorations I was hoping to see; rather it was shelves stocked with Christmas lights.

Huh?

Wait, it's only mid-October! We don't even have a World Series champion yet and Christmas lights were already for sale!

It's part of a disturbing trend many of us have noticed over the past few years: holiday and special sales occur earlier and earlier each year. Don't believe me? Do you remember seeing school supplies for sale in your favorite big box store in July or clothing stores beginning to stock school uniforms?

When I saw those displays I got a little sad. I love school and school supplies (yes, I'm that kind of nerd), but many kids had only been on summer break for less than one month before parents, teachers, and care givers had to start worrying about the next school year. And because we want to stick up and get the best deals possible, we go along with the sales when they occur. But is that the best thing to do? If we continue buying in this particular economic pattern, does that encourage retailers to push merchandise on us whenever they please?

I fear the answer might be yes.

For example, take Starbucks. Right around Labor Day, Starbucks told us it was fall by introducing classic fall drinks and flavors, along with new drink ware to match. One problem, it was still technically summer. We were reminded of that by some pretty warm days that month. Shortly after reading this, if you haven't already, you'll see the winter holiday drinks and signature red Christmas hot cups at Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks does dictate our seasons.

Now don't get me wrong, I love it when Peppermint Mocha espresso is back on the menu, but I felt a little guilty drinking it when it was only the end of October.

Soon, in Target and other stores, Halloween items will be offered at a steep discount, there will be a few things around for Thanksgiving, but the emphasis and space will be devoted to Christmas and Hanukkah. And, as we all know, that retail train doesn't stop until after the new year when we will be encouraged to shop for the next major retail holiday: Valentine's Day.


So what does all this mean? Have we become consumer zombies and victims of our own desires to beat the competition and get the best deals? Maybe, but it doesn't have to be that way. I have a couple of ideas to keep the consumer monster at bay:

1.         Stock up on holiday décor and other items that can be safely stored until the next year. The best time to do that is right after that particular holiday when prices are at there lowest and on clearance.

2.         Make a decision about when you and your family will start to purchase holiday items.

The retailers can't tell you when and how to spend your money. Get wise and plan for each holiday so you are not compelled by sales or last minute purchases because you failed to plan. After all, these same holidays occur every year, so there is no surprise!

3.         Keep track of sales cycles.

Though this may sound harder than it is, it's really simple to keep track of when things you might need will go on sale. Need fitness gear? January and February are great for buying new items as people are still fresh on their resolutions. The beginning and end of seasons are good for clothing, accessories, and shoes. If you're a little nerdy like me, keep a spreadsheet of the items you're saving for and note each week your favorite store has it on sale. That's what I'm doing while I save up for a new computer and iPad (Target gift card with purchase). If that's too much work or you just don't have time, check out the ladies who run the site http://thekrazycouponlady.com. They have articles and videos to help you know what goes on sale each month of the year. It's been a huge help to me!

4.         All great deals don't happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

While it's nice to take advantage of offers on those days, most of the better deals come in the categories of electronics, gaming, etc. Kudos to you if you want to brave those crowds, just remember to take time and celebrate Thanksgiving with your family first. Also, if you've been paying attention to sale cycles, you may notice some Black Friday prices aren't the lowest of the year. I know it's easy to get caught up in the excitement, but cooler heads will prevail in this case. Another good way to do this is to purchase gifts as the year goes on!

5.         Remember the small businesses.


All businesses had to start somewhere and your community stores are a great way to break free from some consumer madness – especially going into the winter holiday season. Reinvesting money into your community is why Small Business Saturday exists the day after Black Friday. Take some time to shop in your neighborhood, meet your neighbors and build communities. Charm City Run is always one of my favorites!

Those are my best five tips for helping you break the chains of consumerism and send a message to companies that you value time in your community and with your family and no sale or early display of merchandise is going to change that. That's how we affect change – one day and one person at a time!

Leave a comment and share how you will break the bonds of consumer slavery and take back the holiday season!

November 03, 2014 03:39
By Wendy Stewart


To myself on my 35th birthday


Depending on when you read this, my 35th birthday may have already come and gone, but the lessons still remain year after year.

Turning 35 isn't really a milestone birthday, in my opinion, but it's a good number to take time and reflect on what I have done thus far and if I am where I thought I would be. The problem is, other than living the life of a religious, I really didn't know or plan what I would be doing at 35.

If you know me now, you'd be surprised because I plan everything and love making lists and learning how to make and achieve my goals. So why didn't I ever give thought to what I would be doing right now, as I embark on my 35th year of life?

I think, like most people, we let ages like that sneak up on us. This was especially true when I was in college at the Naval Academy. When I graduated at 21, I had no idea what I was going to do 14 years later! Now let me be clear: I have enjoyed everything I have done and relished in the fact that all of these experiences have contributed to the person I am today. So what am I really lacking? Just the conventional answer to what I'm going to do when I grow up!

Even in the last 10 years since leaving the military I have done so much it could make your head spin. But in all that time, I have learned so much about myself, how to interact better with other people, and how to really embrace the quirky person God created me to be, that I can't say there have been too many wasted moments.

I get to be with my family, write this blog, and have fantastic adventures and experiences. I get to spend more time in prayer and adoration as I learn how to heal my body and mind from my military disabilities. I get to be a resource for people when I have the blessing of being able to use my skills and gifts to help others.


While I am at the point where I can no longer hold a traditional job, I remember that "freedom" gives me a chance to be around for other people and help in a way I couldn't before. Perhaps it's not official, but I feel like I am starting to live the life of a religious!

I have learned to accept that people may not be able to give me what I think I need, but, as I grow closer to God, I am able to find more and more peace in meeting people where they are and seeing them as God does. Sure there are more earthly things I wish for, but I know those have to be put in the proper perspective with my highest priorities.

While I am not where I thought I would be at age 35, I believe I'm in a much better place. I look forward to what is to come and how I can give all of me in the service of God for my fellow human beings (that's about as sappy as I get).

And for everyone who reads these words, I hope and pray that you will live your life according to your highest priorities, for it is only there you will find fulfillment and contentment. It won't always be easy, but it will be worth it!

 

 

October 24, 2014 05:02
By Wendy Stewart


Baltimore Orioles show us how to win with grace


As they head into the American League Championship Series between our Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals, it's time for our town, and our team, to, once again, show the media and the country, what's so special about Baltimore.

It's easy for baseball accomplishments to get overshadowed when football season starts. This is especially true when this current NFL season is so littered with scandal and questionable player morals. But when the Orioles were heading toward clinching the AL East title, I told my friends and family to remember it's still baseball season and we have a winning team! They need our support!

For some reason, Baltimore-based teams are considered underdogs when national media does the reporting. Even as I listen to the pre-game show before Game 1 of the ALCS, with statistics in our favor and home field advantage (no town has better fans than us), we are still an "unproven" team. I'm pretty sure that securing the AL East by a 12 game margin halfway through September without big names like Manny Machado (injury), Matt Weiters (injury), and Chris Davis (suspension), means we have done more than prove our worth as a team, but also as worthy opponents in the postseason. Just ask the Detroit Tigers and their 3 Cy Young Award winners that we swept!

Despite all of the pressure and a trip to the World Series on the line, Orioles manager Buck Showalter knows how to keep the team focused on the task at hand and not lose their minds! In interview after interview we see players who are humbled by how far they have gone and excited for what lies ahead. Although they need to be confident each time they take the field for a game, it's never come across as something they are entitled to; rather, each step in the postseason, and getting here, has been about teamwork, having fun, and doing right for fans who give their hometown teams so much.


Wendy Stewart poses with the Oriole bird before the Oct. 10 pep rally.

I've lived in many places during the time my father was in the Navy and when I also served as a Naval Officer and there are no baseball fans like Orioles fans. We are, indeed, the best behaved fans in baseball, and we have respect for the game. We expect the same from our players. You can see it in the amount of time players choose to stay in Baltimore and which players come to Charm City. It isn't about having the most expensive roster, but a roster the town can rally behind no matter what.


Announcer Ryan Wagner and the Oriole bird at the Oct. 10 press rally for the Baltimore Orioles.

The Orioles are a gracious team and the way they handle themselves season after season can be an example all of us, athletes or not, can carry into all areas of our lives. It means we don't give up because of setbacks. It means we don't give up because some of our team members aren't there that day. And it means we don't let the negativity of others cloud our perception of ourselves and the world.

That's how you stay humble. That's how you stay happy. And that's how you can say, "We Won't Stop," and still be gracious.

October 11, 2014 01:20
By Wendy Stewart


Ray Rice's firing draws attention to how we value humanity


That's right, how we value humanity. What Ray Rice did was reprehensible and criminal. His use of domestic violence and the resulting consequences underscore what I often say in this blog: We need to value human life.

I won't judge his wife, Janay, for staying with him or marrying him. Domestic violence situations are more complicated that just telling someone to leave. Leaving isn't always an option. For more insight, see these eye-opening tweets under the hashtag #whyIstayed .

When I watched the video, I saw two people on a dangerously violent path. Rice pays the public price because he has a contract in place, while Janay becomes the subject of victim-shaming for her actions. I'm not sure which punishment is worse at this point.

Domestic violence comes in many forms. And just like when I wrote about the suicide of Robin Williams, there are signs we can all look for to help prevent more victims. I will share these at the end so you can find more information and resources.

Domestic violence, much like sexual assault, is about power and control. The abuser gains that control in various combinations of emotional/verbal and physical abuse. To break free of this is a monumental and dangerous task for any victim (and there are male victims as well) and often requires outside help and continued support. Imagine how much harder that would be if there at children in the relationship as well.

But I'm not here to join the bandwagon and bash Ray Rice, Janay, or the NFL. I'm here to remind all of us that, when we see signs of domestic violence or abuse, that we take the appropriate action.

I'm willing to bet that someone in there lives saw these signs before the incident in Atlantic City. I hope that person spoke up. Maybe there was no one to speak up, but that usually isn't the case.

We've become afraid. Although we claim to want to protect certain groups of people, we are still afraid, sometimes, to do the right thing. I get it - we're human and not perfect. Fear is a great paralyzer. Some of us are afraid to get into someone else's business; that it's a problem only between the couple fighting. We are afraid of being wrong and having people mad at us.

All of the above thoughts are valid fears but we must put them in perspective when it comes to the safety of another person. Your action or inaction may mean the difference between life and death. Yes, it's that serious, and, in my opinion, worth someone getting mad at me for making sure someone is alright and safe.

Yesterday, someone in the neighborhood, who knows I write this blog, asked my opinion on the situation. He was expecting an opinion and the Ray Rice's firing and who knew what and when. Instead, I asked about before Atlantic City. I asked about what the video doesn't show and what we couldn't hear. I asked what would he have done if he had seen signs of domestic violence as a friend of Rice. I asked him what our responsibility is to each other in community and as human beings.

In the end, this man decided he was only willing to step in and call the police in certain situations. While a little disappointed with his conclusion, he reminded me of just how unaware we are and how we can easily rationalize minding our own business. But, more than just giving me an understanding of his mindset, he said, out loud, what he was really thinking and I got to see how that was based on traumatic, violent events of his own childhood watching his parents show violence toward each other.

I know it's hard to overcome fear and take action, but isn't that something to pray about? Do the thing you fear and it will, eventually, go away. God doesn't give us more than we can handle, so that tells me if I'm in a position to help in some way, that I can handle it.

It all starts with a basic agreement that all life is sacred and we are all in a position to help keep true to that belief. And if that is what we truly believe, then we should take that seriously and start looking out for each other. Remember Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan and we will have a place to start. Pray God gives you the strength to overcome fear and do what is right, though it may be hard. And pray for not only the victims, but the abusers.

As promised, here are some resources and information for you or anyone you may know in a domestic violence situation:




 
Questions to ask in order to determine if the relationship is safe (the warning signs I mentioned) from TurnAround's website:

 
1. Has this person ever hit you, pushed you, thrown objects at you, or otherwise displayed violent outbursts directed toward you?

 
2. Has this person ever been violent toward former dating partners?


3. Does this person become verbally or physically abusive when under the influence of alcohol or drugs?


4. Does this person often berate you or put you down (even in front of others) in order to feel superior?


5. Does this person become extremely upset when you do things without his (or her) permission, or when you reject his (or her) presumed authority?


6. Does this person resent you for having friends of your own or try to control your friendships?


7. Does this person threaten to harm your friends if you continue seeing them or if they try to help you?
 

8. Does this person hold in low regard members of the opposite sex, but say that you are special?


9. Does this person seem to feel better when you fail?


10. Has this person ever forced you or manipulated you into having sex when it was against your wishes?


*If your partner displays any of these behaviors, chances are you are not in a safe relationship

September 11, 2014 02:24
By Wendy Stewart


Doctor Who’s season 8 premiere asks us to look deeper



Hello again, my fellow readers! As many of you know, I am a fan of the long-running BBC sci-fi hit show, “Doctor Who.” The show follows the adventures of a time-travelling Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey and his human companions.

One of the reasons the show has been able to continue for nearly 51 years is a very cool loophole which allows the show to continue with a new actor as the Doctor. The loophole is regeneration - something all Time Lords can do. When the Doctor is upon death, he can regenerate into a new Doctor. Same memories but a different face, personality, mannerisms, and way of approaching the world.

The appearance of a new Doctor can be just as confusing for the Doctor as his companions who witness the regeneration. The new Doctor is a stranger and the companion must relearn to trust the Doctor.

The season 8 premiere brings that point home quite well as the current companion, Clara, isn’t sure she knows who the Doctor is anymore. To be fair, neither does the audience as this is the first episode for the newest Doctor (actor Peter Capaldi).

The wonderful thing about the companions is they often represent the view of the audience as we are also trying to figure out who this “new” Doctor is and if he can be trusted.

What appealed to me most about this episode was the constant call to look beyond the surface and into the heart of the person with whom you interact. While that is not always possible when you encounter strangers, the episode calls into question whether anything or anyone remains the same if all that has changed is their outward appearance.

We know it is difficult to really know a person based on what we see on the outside; but if we are honest with ourselves, we will realize our clothes, hair, grooming, mannerisms, etc., are all meant to convey a particular message. Our appearance lets us decide if we want to fit in or stand out.

So what does this mean for us Catholics and others who may read these words? I think its just that we cannot go by appearances alone. We must avoid assumptions about people, which keep us from really getting to know them. We must show compassion before criticism and judgment. We must look at people the way God sees them - beyond what they may be trying to mask.

(All 13 regenerations of the Doctor./tvtropes.org)

August 29, 2014 03:21
By Wendy Stewart


Robin Williams’ death leaves one unanswerable question

 
By the time you read this post, you will have heard, from various traditional and social media sources, about the death of actor Robin Williams. At the age of 63, his death is suspected to be a suicide. 


Suicide? Well, that leaves one question we will never be able to answer when something like this happens: Why?

A couple of days ago, my neighbor’s daughter was shot in the side with her two young kids nearby (also covered on the news). The shot caused her to lose a kidney, but, thankfully, not her life. I saw her five-year-old son last night and his face and demeanor told me that he was starting to understand the gravity of the situation. I asked if he wanted a hug, he said yes, and that was the best I could do for him at the time. This is the same little boy who has seen his uncle arrested and hear about his father being shot in the arm. He’s a tough little kid; too tough for only five.

Just as we can’t say for sure why his mother was shot, we can’t say why Robin Williams decided to take his own life.

I know Mr. Williams has had some trouble in life and he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (a treatable mental illness) as these facts have been discussed in the media. But, with suicide, we who are left behind never really know why such a horrible thing happens.

I don’t want to write this off as an insignificant question of life, but, at some point, we have to stop asking why and start living again. I know. I lost my father to suicide in 1998. There is anger, frustration, guilt, and, of course, sadness and regret for those left behind and I went through all of those emotions. Not every family member comes out on the other side with their faith in tact, like I did.

I had to make a conscious effort to eliminate the question of motive and ask God what I could learn and take from this. I already knew God would take care of my family and me; I wasn’t worried about that. I was concerned that others would miss the signs and be too afraid to ask such a very personal and hard question: “Are you thinking of harming yourself?”

If you’ve read my posts before, you know I am a firm believer of ingraining in people a respect for life. I believe this respect for life, which comes from loving others and seeing them as God sees them, is key to resolving many human issues. But it is also an important key to understanding how we see ourselves. In the song “Seasons Change” by Christian artist Crystal Lewis, she sings, “Are you going through a dry spell? I was there a while ago. Now I’ve come to a place where the rain falls, where the trees bear fruit and grow. Where I find a refuge in my God, it’s a place of surrender I know. I look at God and see what I want to be, He looks at me and sees His own.”

Lyrics like this remind me that no matter how awful I think of myself that is not the person God sees when He looks at me. It is the same for all of us. Give yourselves a break and look at yourself the way God does.

When God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king (whose identity was unknown to Samuel), the prophet looked on Eli’ab and thought God chose this man. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7, RSV) We must always remember God knows our hearts and loves us all. God doesn’t make mistakes, which means he didn’t make a mistake creating any one of us. Anyone suffering from depression, as I do, needs to remember that daily. But it is a truth we should all keep in mind.

So, while we will never really know why Robin Williams died, we can take this time to reach out and help others who may be facing a similar situation. Remind them of the love that is there for them every single day. And if you or someone you know is in emotional crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also chat online via their website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

One final set of lyrics to meditate on, also from Crystal Lewis. These are from her song “Beauty for Ashes:”

“When sorrow seems to surround you. When suffering hangs heavy o’er your head. Know that tomorrow brings wholeness and healing. God knows your name, just believe what He said: He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.”    

August 12, 2014 07:54
By Wendy Stewart


Declutter and destress


You could say I’ve always been an organized person. My notebooks for school were always neatly divided and every paper had a place to go. I made detailed lists and schedules. Back when JCPenney and Sears still out Christmas catalogs, my list was so detailed, you wouldn’t even have to have the catalog in front of you to order as I had already given you all of the information necessary!

Many of us did the annual spring clean and waited just a bit longer to put those cold weather clothes away. What was I doing? Having dreams about how I needed to declutter my room!

I have to give a little back-story. In my mom’s house, paper is the enemy. There are piles of paper for everything including permission slips, fliers, mail, schedules, etc. If it’s paper, there’s probably a pile for it.

Mind you, these piles aren’t random. It’s more like controlled chaos. And now that I’ve tried to make it sound better than it is, I will admit my room has fallen victim to the paper monster.

Well, to be perfectly honest, my room didn’t stand a chance back in 1993 when I started boarding school. I accumulated things and they ended up in my room. Every once in a while I would get rid of something, but it never amounted to much. Now add another four years of being at the Naval Academy and you can imagine my stuff just piling up.

While stationed on my ship in Bremerton, Washington, I lived alone in a minimalist apartment. No stacks of paper. Nothing out of place. I didn’t have much and I liked it that way. Which is why it’s all the more perplexing why I have so much stuff now!

There is so much clutter I have dreams of getting rid of this stuff because I have to move and nowhere to put everything. I’m no dream specialist, but I’m sure there is a correlation between the two. I have also been known to look around my room and feel a little trapped by the stuff. That left only one option for me: it has to go!

Now if you remember my previous blog, you know I don’t have a car. So, I can’t just fill a bag or box and stick it in the trunk and drop it off later. Nope, getting rid of things that can be donated requires a bit more planning on my part. Luckily, the Internet is a wonderful place to find that help.


As I got excited about starting to declutter and give away things, I needed to know which charity would come and pick up donations in an inner city neighborhood off of North Avenue. Even I wasn’t hopeful about that one! The first place I tried didn’t pick up in my zip code. The next place didn’t have an opening until early August (I was preparing for this about a week and a half ago) and that was too long. Third time was a charm when I hit upon Green Drop.

I remembered getting some post cards in the mail before from the Purple Heart talking about a truck coming by to pick up donations. Since I didn’t have anything ready, I always ignored the cards. Lo and behold, Green Drop is the business that handles donation pickup for the Purple Heart (and the National Federation of the Blind). The best part? They could come and get my donations the following Monday! Yea!

After that successful pick up, I scheduled another and I’m going to keep scheduling them weekly until my room is the way I want it to be: minimal.

Just the knowledge of knowing that I’m getting rid of clutter has brought my stress down because I don’t have to find space for things. And I had to establish ground rules. The rules include: unless they are specialty shoes, in order for me to buy a new pair, I have to get rid of an existing pair. I had other things to consider, like wardrobe. For that I have a nice selection of fun shirts and interchangeable bottoms. My shoes are usually multifunctional and there are some items you’ll just never see in my closet (I’m talking about you mini skirts and short shorts).

I know some people get weirded out and stressed out just be doing the things I find calming such as making lists and getting organized. How do you get around that? Get some help and make it fun! Swap items with your friends or make it a family game to see who can fill up a bag of donations the fastest. However you choose to declutter, remember it helps clear your life of unnecessary items and, best of all, there is so much less to clean! Sounds like a win all around!

Here are links to the three organizations I looked at, including Green Drop:



Green Drop (serving the Purple Heart and the National Federation of the Blind) https://www.gogreendrop.com

 

July 03, 2014 12:25
By Wendy Stewart


The joys of public transportation


OK, so I know that living here in Baltimore, the words “joy” and “public transportation” aren't usually found in the same sentence or even the same breath. As a frequent user of the MTA, I have often found the opposite attitude on a daily basis. The reasons are obvious: lack of consistency, a complicated system, no cohesive way to understand how the entire system works, timeliness, and, of course, the people.

Mass transit exists to serve the people of a given community. Some organizations do it better than others, but I assure you, it could be much worse. Many people are worried about safety at certain stops after dark, crime on the transit lines, and just the amount of extra time it takes to get from one place to another.

Four years ago, my Jeep died. I mourned the loss quickly and moved on to catching the MTA. I didn’t think four years would go by before seeing another car in my possession (I still don’t have one), but I found some surprisingly good things over the years that I don’t want to miss when and if I do get another vehicle.

You have to understand that much of taking mass transit is a very social thing. And even for an ambivert (half introvert, half extrovert) such as myself, I don’t always enjoy being social. Some days I just want to put on my earphones and listen to some music, the Divine Office (I have an app for that), or an audio book. I’ll admit to tuning people out.

Light rail pictured in Baltimore (Flickr, James Willamor)

But then there are those special days when you get to connect with people on a level that would not have been possible if you had been zooming through town in a car. You may not have even met that person. These are the people we meet through our travels on mass transit who have stories to share, praise to give, complaints to be heard, or who are on their first journey. There are workers, disabled people like myself, school kids, college students, and everyone else you can think of. Mass transit is a great equalizer. If we are all traveling together, we can have a great ride together or we can complain together (I’m in favor of the first one).

And because there is so much diversity on public transit, you just can’t find the same drama and hilarity but on a public form of transport. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you see and experience something new – good or bad. That is how life is; we have to take the good with bad. But what do we learn from this?

I used the word “joy” in the title of this post because there are days when I know I’m privileged to be able to leave the house and get anything done. To see another person on the bus stop sweating it out in the hot summer morning can be a relief. I’m not alone. But it’s so much more than that. It’s knowing that I get to be a part of someone’s life in a good way or a bad way with every decision I make. I mean, we all know that somewhere deep inside, right? We know our interactions with people are important, as we want people to see God and not us.

So think about this for a minute: how many people do we miss as we go about our days in cars, with our heads down, just trying to get through the day? What if we had to slow down, wait, and, sometimes, engage with the kind of people we’ve never talked to before? How would our lives change? Could we, then, truly start to see the love of God in each person and truly feel compassion and the need to be faithful to our fellow man?

These may sound like lofty goals for some people, but I think, if we allow ourselves to see others as God sees them, what I mentioned above might be a little easier and give us a new perspective on the world.

Try this: if you normally commute to work by car, take a day or two and plan a way to get there all or part of the way by public transit. If you normally work from home, venture out to a new spot but you have to at least walk to get there if you don’t take public transit to a new spot.

I promise you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn about our city and each other.



In the meantime, if you need help figuring out how the whole transit thing works, check out the following links:

Maryland Transit Administration (MTA which includes local busses, commuter busses, light rail, subway, and MARC train) 


Next Bus (College Town Shuttle, Circulator, Howard County Transit) 


 

July 01, 2014 10:30
By Wendy Stewart


Lace up your shoes for fallen and wounded Memorial Day weekend


In case you forgot, today is the first day of the Memorial Day weekend and also graduation day for the Naval Academy class of 2014 (my alma mater).

What you may not know is there is a one-mile run tomorrow that not only honors the fallen we set aside Memorial Day for, but also, for veterans like me, who have come back as Wounded Warriors.

The Coppermine Memorial Mile in Canton is run in memory of fallen soldiers and a benefit race for the Wounded Warrior Project. Though this is the first I've heard of a race of this kind, I encourage you to lace up and run or come out to support those who do. You can register on race day tomorrow and find out more details about the race here.

Why support a race like this? I would love to believe the answer is obvious and needs no explanation, but I know that isn't the case. A couple of weeks ago I was in my favorite gaming store and somehow we got to talking about the military and how many veterans, like myself, just want a "thank you" every once in a while. A young man standing at the counter, perhaps in his early twenties, asked why. His point was that we didn't do anything special and we have an all-volunteer armed forces.

Hmmmm.

Well, I could have gotten offended but I've heard stuff like this before. The same attitude colors the contributions of first responders and anyone else who dedicates their life to service. So, in its essence, it troubles me but doesn't offend me.

As Catholics we see so much service to the poor and marginalized. We have donated money, goods, and time. We have watched others give up earthly families for the Church as they become sisters, brothers, priests, and live out other forms of single, consecrated life. We watch missionaries go off to do the work of the Church in domestic and foreign lands. What they all have in common with our veterans is that they have chosen to make a deep sacrifice for a greater good, whether that's for country or for God.

Does that mean no one else makes sacrifices? Absolutely not! But no one really questions celebrating special days for moms, dads, grandparents, nurses, teachers, etc. What they do is difficult as well.

So what's a Catholic to do? How do we respond to those who take such people for granted? Take a deep breath and pray before we speak. This is not something to argue about, but it is good for us to remember we all need prayer and maybe the person being negative is hurting in some way. We pray for our enemies. We bless those who persecute us and we rely on the Lord to do what we cannot.

Even if your prayer is a quick Hail Mary or an Our Father, I bet that would go a long way to help you deal with these situations.

As I said earlier, if you can get to Canton tomorrow, great! But don't forget the real purpose of this holiday weekend. And, again, congratulations to the United States Naval Academy class of 2014. Good luck, shipmates!

Let me know what you think? Do veterans and first reponders get too much attention? Not enough? Share your thoughts so your voice can be heard as well!


This plaque hangs in the memorial corridor of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and honors alumni who were involved in the country's most recent conflicts and wars.

 

May 23, 2014 04:39
By Wendy Stewart


Harvard Student Black Mass: A personal Catholic response


Via social media sites such as Facebook, I heard there is a student club at Harvard planning a “Black Mass” for today. When I first heard of it, I didn’t think much about it except to pray for all involved, on both sides of the issue.

Then, as today approached, I started to see more in my feed about this “Black Mass,” and I wondered if someone had penned a response, official or otherwise.

You see, I’m not looking for official guidance on how to respond to a group of students exercising their first amendment right to free speech, especially if they change venues and go off campus. I was looking for someone to give a response from the average Catholic; from the perspective of someone who isn’t personally involved, but, as a Catholic, has an opinion and a reaction.



Some of you may remember I have a degree in history from the U.S. Naval Academy. My unofficial specialty was religion and I continue to spend a lot of time researching more about my Catholic faith and learning about the faith traditions of others. I’m a history/religion geek, what can I say?

One of those I happen to be a bit familiar with is Satanism. Oddly enough, despite the name, they don’t actually worship Satan – at least not in the way we worship God. Satanism, according to its official website, espouses much of the opposite we value in the Christian church and in other faith traditions. They celebrate vengeance, indulgence (as opposed to abstinence), kindness only to those who deserve it, and other similar statements (nine satanic statements in all).

So, what does that mean when Satanists, who don’t really believe in Satan go and celebrate a “Black Mass?” They are usually, deliberately, poking fun and parodying the rest of us, especially Catholics.

The ultimate question is, how do we respond?

We could align ourselves with the Harvard Chaplains and ask the university to cancel this event. You can see the official statement from the chaplains here.

We can pray in solitude for the hearts and minds of those who choose to participate in such an event, which I’m sure many are doing and have been since this gained media attention.

We can be offended, which is precisely the reaction a “Black Mass” is intended to elicit.

We can speak out and say that we will continue in our Catholic faith regardless of mockery and insult.

Or, we can do a combination of the above, including ideas I haven’t even dreamed of yet.

You see, I haven’t seen anyone really take a stand on this, other than the chaplains and the students. When our religious freedom is at stake, can we tell someone else not to practice theirs? I don’t have the answer to that question. But I do know we should not be quick to judge or quick to hide in the corner when something controversial comes up.

Should you pick your battles? Yes. So if your cause is social justice or pro-life or any of the other many things we try to fix in this world, you might not want to spend too much time or energy on this one. However, if you have some time and energy, pray about whether you should publicly make a declaration of your faith and how you are proud to be Catholic (even if that public sentiment is only on social media).

I can’t tell anyone what to do. I can only say that many people I have discussed the Christian faith with over the years turn to groups like this because they are hurting and blame God. They want answers that never satisfy and many abandon their faith in God altogether. We all search for meaning and satisfaction in our lives, and for some people, this is where they think they will find it.

So, pray fervently for everyone today and remember that our saving grace in Christ is good news we share with the world in every manner in which we live our lives.

If you want to read more about the situation at Harvard, please see the following articles: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/05/12/harvard-groups-plans-to-stage-black-mass-anger-catholics/


“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles …
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.” Romans 1:16-23, 28-31,NRSV

These are powerful words from St. Paul, but are they no less true today than when he first wrote them to the Romans? What do you think? Has this story even been on your radar?


May 12, 2014 03:59
By Wendy Stewart

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