Robyn Barberry is the doting wife of her high school sweetheart, the mother of three precocious boys, and the art teacher at St. Joan of Arc school in Aberdeen.

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Thank you Robyn for so eloquently stating some of the obvious reasons this proposed ordinance makes no sense. I intend to be present at the council meeting on the 10th to publicly state my opposition.

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Your words are always so inspiring. I also spent 12 years in Catholic school and chose to give my children a Catholic school education. It is the best decision we have ever made!

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Unconditional

First Communion Prep with Pope Francis

Collin will be celebrating his First Eucharist on Sunday, April 30th, which is less than a week away! To prepare, he's been participating in activities with other members of his Faith Formation class and completing the "Encounter with Christ: Eucharist" workbook at home. Later this week, I will get out some of my memorabilia from May 12, 1991, the day I received my First Holy Communion. The most exciting addition to our preparations has been a copy of "Your First Communion: Meeting Jesus, Your True Joy" written by none other than Pope Francis and published by the wonderful people at Magnificat/Ignatius.



I mean, who better here on Earth to prepare you for your First Eucharist other than our Holy Father? We've been reading little bits of it just before bed. It's the perfect guide for young people who are beginning to show a deeper understanding of their world and who are becoming capable of and interested in exploring the depths of their faith as they are further initiated into the Catholic church. This isn't a "baby book," nor is it a copy of the Cathecism. This is a book written to be read by elementary and middle school students, but anyone can enjoy it! Pope Francis' gentle, authoritative voice is comforting and engaging. He asks the readers questions, which Collin and I discuss, like, "Have you thought about the talents God has given you?" (Collin's answer: "I'm really good at watching YouTube videos" led to a conversation about how to fill our time on earth sharing the gifts God has given us...maybe that's what those YouTubers are up to...) Pope Francis makes abstract concepts, like the Holy Trinity, seem simple. At one point, he explains: "Our whole life is meetings with Jesus: in prayer, when we go to Mass, and when we do good works..." Pope Francis always has a way of making faith tangible.

I also like that Pope Francis is, like me, a fan of the exclamation point! There is so much joy to be found in these 40 beautifully illustrated pages. The exclamation points are a great cue to young readers that our faith is something worth celebrating. And in less than one week, we will be celebrating Collin's very important meeting with Jesus. We will leave Pope Francis' book out to share with our friends and for them to write messages to Collin on the pages designated for that purpose at the end of the book.


If someone you know is celebrating their First Eucharist, "Your First Communion: Meeting Jesus, Your True Joy," can be found at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. (You may just want a copy for yourself, anyway!)

April 23, 2017 10:20
By Robyn Barberry


Please don't fine my homeless neighbors

I live in a small city outside of Baltimore called Aberdeen. It’s a modest town, born of the canning industry and railroad, where most people work hard to live peaceful lives in little neighborhoods. Unfortunately, just under two hundred of our neighbors are unable to afford homes for a variety of reasons, ranging from addiction to mental illness to financial hardship and everything in between. Some of these Aberdonians live in tent villages in a few spots around the area; the most notable of which is a transient community located along the railroad tracks in the woods next to our library and fire station.

Recently, the Aberdeen Police Department has decided to issue a $50/day fine to anyone staying in a tent in these high-traffic areas for more than 24 hours. It’s created a controversy in the city of Aberdeen and beyond.

As a local and a Christian, I am not bothered by the tent villages. As a matter of fact, we were driving past one the other day and Collin said, “I want to start a company one day where we sponsor homeless people and build them their dream houses.” At the age of seven, my son already sees the need for compassion for the homeless. I found it a testament to the Christian values my husband, myself, and St. Joan of Arc School are teaching him. But, it will be many years before he can start this company (and he will!), so what do we do in the interim?

Fining the homeless is not an option. They need places to sleep and knowledge of where those places are. (Particularly because good sleep reduces the severity of many mental health problems.) Their basic human needs are not being met, so why would the fine prohibit them from mere survival? And if there aren’t enough places for them to sleep, are tents in the woods really the worst possible option? Where else would they go? Would they be bounced around to another town and back? What are the realistic long-term solutions available?

We could also start treating the cause. It’s no secret that addiction and mental health are two overwhelming problems that our nation faces, particularly our homeless populations. In Harford County alone, heroin use is an epidemic. Rather than tracking car accident deaths on their billboards, the Harford County Sheriff's Office now posts overdose deaths. Some people argue that the root of addiction is  mental illness, which alone costs America $317 billion dollars a year. It’s a seemingly impossible puzzle to solve, but that doesn’t mean we ever give up. We can educate not only our youth, but adults, about drugs, mental illness, and homelessness, as well. We can offer proven rehabilitation and therapy programs (there are many in downtown Aberdeen). We can build better group homes, halfway houses, and shelters. And we can pray.

Sadly, homelessness is a problem that has existed as long as humanity and it’s not likely to go away. We may never have enough resources to eradicate homelessness in Aberdeen, but, a $50/day fine is not the answer. Where are the homeless supposed to come up with money if they have no income? Where will the money collected from the fines go? Where will the homeless people sleep if they can’t camp in the woods?

When logic and emotions intersect, confusion begins. But, as Christians, we are called to listen to our conscience. I don’t know what the answer is here, but I do know that we must treat all of these human beings with dignity, with compassion, and with optimism. May God bless all of their souls.      

March 31, 2017 09:25
By Robyn Barberry


Gifts from my Grandmother

My grandmother, Marion Thuma Snyder Johnston, told me this story many years ago and said that she wanted to write it someday. She passed away peacefully on March 30, 2017. She didn’t get a chance to put it into writing, so I’m going to make sure that her story is shared with the world.

When Grandmom was a young girl, her mother told her they were going to deliver some Christmas gifts to poor children in Baltimore, where they lived a modest, but comfortable, life. She adamantly protested, but my great-grandmother dragged her out of the house with bags of toys people had donated to their church, destined for boys and girls who weren’t sure if they were going to eat that night. She huffed and puffed all the way there, asking her mother, “What about me? What about my presents?” all the way up to the doorstep of the crumbling East Baltimore rowhome where an embarrassed woman in shabby clothes opened the door. My grandmother peeked past her and saw a gathering of “moppet-headed” children, huddled together to keep warm. Their clothes didn’t fit, their faces were dirty, and their eyes were sad and old. As my great-grandmother chatted with the mother, as though she were her next-door neighbor, my grandmother stood there in awe, trying not to cry. “We have some presents for the children,” my great-grandmother said. She and my grandmother handed out the packages and watched as the children opened each toy. Joy overcame the room. When my great-grandmother and grandmother left for their modest, but comfortable, home, Grandmom had a new perspective on the life she had and on the life she was called to lead.  From that moment forward, gratitude and charity shaped her attitudes and her actions.

Like most grandmothers, Grandmom spoiled her grandkids with time, money, and love. She showed up to piano recitals, First Communions, and St. Patrick’s Day parties.    She bought us entire wardrobes of the most fashionable clothes for Christmas and gave us money to spend freely for our birthdays (even into adulthood). I’ll always cherish our phone conversations and the greeting cards she sent. 

My grandmother also offered her generosity to the Church of the Epiphany in Raspeburg. She helped keep the church beautiful and volunteered for many of the church’s charity groups. I remember delivering Meals on Wheels with her and my grandfather. Those experiences were like the one she had with her mother. Every delivery was made with love as though she were serving a dinner she prepared to her own family members.

My favorite gift my grandmother gave me is my mom, who exemplifies those ideals of gratitude and charity. Like her mother, my mom gives and gives and gives. Sometimes I look at myself and think, “How could I be more like my mother and my grandmother? How could I be more thankful for the many things I have? How could I give more of my time, my money, myself?” And then I remember the most important gift they both gave me, faith in Jesus Christ. If I put Him and His people before me as they have, I, too, will live a life of gratitude and charity.

 

March 31, 2017 08:34
By Robyn Barberry


"Hold us, Mary"

Bedtime at the Barberrys is nothing short of a production. There are bathtime adventures, pajama races, and our own version of “circle time” where we discuss the events of the day and our dreams for tomorrow. This is followed by stories, including:

  • perennial favorites like “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site”
  • new selections from the St. Joan of Arc library (our fabulous librarian, Courtney McNiel, always finds the perfect books for Collin)
  • a chapter from our latest page turner from the Magic Treehouse Series

We used to end with quick prayers of gratitude and petition followed by one of our favorite lullabies, but since Lent began, Collin has added a new element to our culmination of each day.

Rather than giving something up for Lent, he chose to say a decade of the rosary before bed. He has had lots of practice in Mrs. Pesa, Mrs. Stauffer, and Mrs. Amato’s classes, so the flow of Our Fathers and Hail Marys comes as naturally to him as breathing. We haven’t added on the layer of the mysteries yet, but that is soon to come as he delves deeper into Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection during his preparation for his First Eucharist. Instead, we allow ourselves to drift into a peaceful meditative state with each click of the beads.

Frank, who is almost in Kindergarten, and Leo, who enters pre-K in the Fall, have started chiming in with us. They are familiar with Jesus and Mary, but the prayers that comprise the rosary are still very new to them. The other night when we were about halfway through our decade, I heard Frank whisper, “Hold us, Mary, Mother of God.” I felt a warmth come over me and smiled.

His words were not a beginner’s mistake. He was making an observation I never considered. When we pray the rosary before bed, we can imagine ourselves being rocked to sleep in our Holy Mother’s arms. When I find myself under duress, I begin to pray the rosary. Mary is holding me at those moments, too. Any time we pray a Hail Mary, we find ourselves in her loving embrace. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be at times of need.

March 31, 2017 08:15
By Robyn Barberry


Guest blog: 5 reasons why I send my child to a Catholic school

I have asked several friends, co-workers, and family members to write about what a Catholic education means to them. Previously, Gina Sabo, the Technology Integration Specialist, at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen, wrote about why she chooses to teach in a Catholic school. Today, she reveals 5 reasons why she and her husband, Jon, have decided to send their 7-year-old son, Danny, to St. Joan of Arc. I'm blessed to have the Sabo family in my life at home and at school.

Why do I send my son to a Catholic School? by Gina Sabo




My husband and I have been happily married for almost 10 years.  We have a beautiful, rambunctious, 7-year old boy, and two years ago, we had to make an important decision.  We had to consider serious, life-altering decisions (I was in the middle of changing jobs) on where we would want our young impressionable child to start his formal education.  


Now, my husband and I were both part of the “hybrid” Catholic School and public school upbringing.  We had attended both types of environments at some point in our educational career, so we knew what each type of school brought to the table.


The public school our son would be attending had several amazing teachers, great after school opportunities he could participate in, and many of his friends would attend the same school. Their test scores were high, and they had access to the public library programs right next door.  The before and after school program would allow for us to not make any major changes to our work schedules, however, it would cost as much for the Catholic School tuition.  With that being said, it was a serious contender in our discussions.


The Catholic School we were considering had students who performed well on standardized test scores, and the student-teacher ratio was something public school teachers dream about.  It offered Spanish, art, and music much like the public school, and SMART Boards, and iPads in every classroom.  But the most important difference we saw in the Catholic School that was lacking in the public school was the spirit you felt walking through the front door.


So here are just a few reasons why we choose to send our son to Catholic School:


Prayer...Prayer...Prayer

Like many families, we pray together as a family.  We say grace at mealtimes and we ask our guardian angels to watch over us when things get tough.  But we also try to pray throughout the day.  When we encounter an accident while we are traveling anywhere (the store, long trips to see family, etc.) we always say a quick prayer for whoever was involved. We thank God for all the beautiful things we encounter in nature.  At our school, we say morning prayers, Grace, a short prayer before classes start.  Sometimes we even pray the rosary together as a school.  My son is able to freely ask questions about his faith, and discuss how much he enjoys learning about God and praying with his friends.  It is my husband’s and my hope that through our guidance and the continued support from the school, that our son turns to God in times of need.


Uniforms

Okay, so this may seem like an odd reason to send my child to Catholic School, but hear me out.  Although uniforms can be expensive, most Catholic Schools participate in a uniform exchange program.  This helps keeping the cost down for many families.  Uniforms are also a timesaver in the morning.  Although I have to remember if it is a P.E. day or regular uniform, I don’t have to argue over whether or not a certain shirt is clean.  This allows for more family time in the morning before we trek to work and school.  While in school, it is clear that it is time to focus on the learning, and not who has the best label or newest shoes.  Everyone was created equal in the eyes of God, so why not extend that into the learning environment as well.


Wanting to Serve Others

In school, each grade level participates in outreach and service projects.  Students make sandwiches for the hungry, collect money for the poor.  This year, they participated in the Water Project to raise awareness and money for those who do not have access to clean water.  At Christmas time, the school rallies together and sponsors a family.  The students and their families gather gifts for those who are less fortunate.  In our own families, we volunteer for Faith Formation Classes, take food to those less fortunate for Thanksgiving, and help out with other church-sponsored activities.


Danny paints a bowl for the Empty Bowls program



It is my hope, that through my husband’s and my example, as well as through his experience in the Catholic School, that our son sees that we don’t do these things just to give back to the community (though this too is noble) but, that we are following in Jesus’s footsteps, and he will continue to do so as he gets older.


It’s Academic …. But Not the Most Important Thing

Yes, learning is an important aspect of any school.  However, it wouldn’t matter if the school had a state of the art Science lab, a robotics club, or drama.  I am more concerned that my child becomes a kind, selfless person.  The Catholic School practices the same values that we as parents “preach” at home.


Can’t Do It Alone


Jon and Danny Sabo on the first day of school.


Although I would like to believe that my husband and I would be able to provide all our son needs to have a personal relationship with God.  That he will grow up to value his Catholic faith and upbringing.  But I would be naive to believe that we could do that alone.  Children learn from example; not only from their parents/guardians, but also from other children and adults.  We do what we can at home, but in this day and age, we can use all the help we can get.  I am so thankful for the community of our Catholic School.




You see, our school is similar to the public school in many ways.  But it is clearly more than just a school.  It is a tight knit community.  Our students, faculty, and parents come together every day in a community of faith and warmth.  Something that has grown increasingly more important in a world of harsh realities.  Our school provides an important space for our students to feel a sense of belonging and a safe haven to openly discuss their beliefs, hopes, and dreams.  Yes, our school prepares their minds, but with the help of our Catholic Faith, it prepares their souls.

February 13, 2017 12:00
By Robyn Barberry


Guest blog: 5 reasons why I teach in a Catholic school


I asked several friends, coworkers, and family members to write about what Catholic schools mean to them. Today you will hear from my dear friend and colleague, Gina Sabo, who is the Technology Integration Specialist at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen. It's been an honor to work with her over the past decade in several settings. We both agree that working at SJA has brought us tremendous happiness.




5 reasons why I teach in a Catholic school by Gina Sabo




The author and her son, Danny, on the first day of school.



Why do I teach in a Catholic School?


I have heard this question and many other as to my choice to teach in a Catholic school.  


“Aren’t you limiting yourself career wise? There’s not much room for growth!”


“Aren’t you afraid of your school closing?”


“You know you can get paid more in the public school, right?”


In reality, my school isn’t much different than that of a public school.  Our students come from all walks of life.  We have parents that email...some more than others.  We have meetings and professional development.  Behavior problems.  More meetings.  Standardized testing.  Budgets. And new standards to meet.


But the one thing that makes my school stand out - God.  My School’s Mission Statement describes a “faith community of educators, learners, and families using God’s gifts to develop 21st Century skills of innovation, collaboration, problem-solving, and reasoning to enrich the global society” (St. Joan of Arc School).  It is within this type of environment that I cannot imagine being without.  


So when I have to “defend” my decision to teach in the Catholic School, here are just five of the reasons:


Authentic Community

As I mentioned before, our school is a tight-knit community of teachers, students, parents, and administrators.  Some could say that it is because we all have that one thing that binds us together-faith, but I tend to lean more towards the fact that we truly care about each other.  We have students who return after graduation talking of how much they loved the sense of belonging they felt while attending our school.  As teachers, we bond together over shared students we have watched grow over the years.  The administration gets to know each child on an individual level, and cheers them on by name.  Even our Pastor, Father Willie Franken, offers words of wisdom and guidance to our families at just the right time.  Faculty, students, and parents all come together and pray for those who are sick, celebrate a new baby or wedding shower, or even provide a special gift to a student whose family needs to leave mid-year.




Encourages Me to Be a Better Christian and Role Model

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you attend or teach at a public or Catholic school; all teachers are being watched daily by their students and parents.  Eyes are always watching to see how to react and how they should structure their behaviors.  Parents are personally making sure teachers are meeting their students’ needs.  In my school, however, students are also watching my devotion to the Lord.  My students can smell the difference between real and fake, so this encourages me to constantly keep myself in check and be authentic in my relationship with my students and God.


Everything is Geared Towards Christ

In the public school setting, I was constantly worried about offending someone.  I had to watch what I said and how I said it.  In the Catholic school, I am able to complement, discuss, and even explain my beliefs without worry of offending my students.  Often, I can praise a student “God has truly blessed you with the talent for drawing,” or thank a student for their help during Mass.  Students can openly discuss their love for God and our daily lessons are often linked to the Fruits of the Spirit.  


Holidays - Big and Small

In the Catholic school, the holidays - both big and small - are celebrated with a certain sort of style.  The Christmas season appears more humble throughout the school.  Giving, rather than receiving, is the moving force within the classrooms.  Students focus on service projects and the birth of Christ. In May we celebrate Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a school, we meet in the “Grotto” outside our building and place the crown of flowers atop her head and recite a shortened version of the rosary.  It is these spiritual practices that, for me, make teaching in the Catholic School special.


Someone Always Has Your Back

No matter where you work, obstacles are always encountered.  Calling for help can include a conversation with technical support, help from a co-worker, or even a meeting with your boss.  Working in a Catholic School, you can seek help from a higher authority.  Our staff begins each week in prayer.  Just before the students enter the building, we gather together in our Faculty Lounge, and thank God for our abilities and blessings, and ask for his help.  Throughout the school year, we support each other in highs and lows.  We celebrate the small victories and pray over difficult times.  We are assured through our faith that no matter what happens, God’s love for us will be there forever.




February 12, 2017 12:35
By Robyn Barberry


Catholic schools: a legacy of sanctuary

 


This past week, schools across the Archdiocese of Baltimore have celebrated all of the wonderful things that make Catholic Schools the gold standard for highly academic and deeply spiritual education. It was an honor to observe the occasion with my colleagues, my students, and their families at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen. We wore beautiful pins and celebrated with treats, events, and prayerful reflection. I enjoyed having parents visit my Enrichment classroom to learn about polar bear adaptations through an interactive game of dress-up, while Collin liked pajama day. The SJA spirit was in full swing and contagious.


Advancement Director Lauren Hayden and her student ambassadors
rolled out the red carpet for visitors at St. Joan of Arc's Open House.

Catholic Schools Week is always a homecoming of sorts for those of us who have spent a part of our lives surrounded by God’s love in the classrooms where we learned and played. It’s a chance to pause and remember our experiences as young people, searching for answers to riddles, algebra problems, or metaphysical questions and being led to them by caring teachers and good friends in a place where God was welcomed; in a place where God welcomed us.


My brother, Greg, and I on our first day of St. Margaret School in Bel Air, 1993.

I got my start in Catholic Schools 30 years ago as a member of the “God’s Little People” preschool program at St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea. It was the same school my dad and many of my cousins had attended. In fact, most members of my enormous family attended Catholic schools at some point in their lives. My ancestors saw Catholic schools as a perennial garden where their values would reach subsequent generations. Those values were instilled in my dad and his siblings by my grandparents’ decision to send my dad and his siblings to St. Michael the Archangel, Seton High, St. Stephen’s Bradshaw, and Archbishop Curley.

My dad, Bob Chrest, on his First Communion Day, 1963.


My dad, Archbishop Curley High School, Class of 1974

It’s a tradition some of us are passing along to our next generation. I currently have five cousins at Archbishop Curley (two teachers and three students) and one cousin (whose brother attends St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea) attending Catholic High. Collin is, of course, at St. Joan of Arc, and my three little ones are right on his heels!

Collin dressed as St. Patrick for St. Joan of Arc's All Saints' Day Mass, 2016

I didn’t always appreciate the strict rules and unfashionable uniforms I wore at St. Margaret’s School in the 1990s, but when I look at the skills, talents, and depth of faith I’ve gained, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for my parents and teachers. Now that I’m standing in their shoes as a mom and Catholic school teacher, I recognize the motives for their passion, and every nail and beam and angle of the architecture they built to raise me up in the way that God imagined. I see the framework now and try to structure for my own children and students a sanctuary of learning where the Holy Spirit can enlighten and inspire them – and me.


"St. Joan of Arc School: Grounded in Faith, Focused on the Future" 

St. Joan of Arc School has become that place of sanctuary for me. I can see my faith represented in the crucifixes on every classroom wall, in the photograph of Pope Francis smiling above our stairwell, and in our gorgeous St. Joan of Arc mural.  I can hear my faith in the prayers said on the morning and afternoon announcements, at the beginning of class, during lunch, before a test. I can feel God’s presence as we celebrate Mass as a school on Thursdays. God is everywhere I go and in every face I encounter. Whether we are Catholic or not, we, the community of St. Joan of Arc School, are a like-minded people who believe in the power of love and all things good.

My kindergarten Enrichment students locate the Arctic as part of their unit on saving the Polar Bear 

Being a part of a Catholic school offers an unprecedented opportunity to gain both intellect and faith in a nurturing community that is safe, warm, and full of life. I consider my Catholic education to be one of the greatest gifts my parents have ever given me. I attribute my creativity, language arts abilities, problem solving and analysis skills, commitment to my community, respect for all people, reverence for life and all living things, and strong Catholic faith to the nine years I spent at St. Margaret School. These are aspects which are often overlooked in public education due to the pressures of testing, compliance to ever-changing standards, and discipline. As a public school high school student and teacher, I witnessed those struggles firsthand. As a Catholic school teacher, I have found myself able to set those concerns aside and focus on teaching engaging material, at a steady pace, using advanced technology, with Catholic values infused into every lesson. Every one of my students is encouraged to share their gifts with our class. Every one of my student is a gift to our class.


Members from the Class of 2023 work as teams to create art from recycled electronic junk

I have chosen to send my children to Catholic school because I'm carrying on the faith that has sustained my family for countless generations. Like them, I want my children to be challenged academically and nurtured spiritually. I want my children to experience God's presence in the things they see and hear and in the people they meet throughout their school day. I want my sons and daughter to be seen as unique individuals with one shared identity: children of God. And like my parents did for me, I am willing to make sacrifices to provide for them a future full of possibilities beyond their imaginations, with God by their sides.  



I encourage parents who are considering sending their children to a parochial school to take the time to visit a Catholic school to witness for themselves the future of our faith and our world; young people growing in mind and spirit, by His most radiant light.

At St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen, visitors are always welcome. Please make an appointment with Lauren Hayden at lhayden@stjoanarc.org. We look forward to seeing you!

If you would like to share an uplifting story about your Catholic school experience, please do so in the comments below!   


  


    

February 05, 2017 04:11
By Robyn Barberry


The Water Challenge


What is the one thing that every person in the world needs every day? Water. (5-13 gallons of it per day, to be exact.) In the United States, we are blessed to have access to an abundance of clean water for brushing our teeth, washing our clothes, our dishes, our bodies, cooking, and, of course, drinking. But over a billion people in developing countries, such as sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to the very think that keeps us clean, healthy, and alive.  

At St. Joan of Arc School, we always strive to care for others and the environment. So, when we were asked to participate in The Water Challenge, through The Water Project, Inc., all of us joined the cause. Participants are asked to drink nothing but water in a reusable bottle for two weeks and document the milk, juice, soda, and coffee they eliminate. At the end of two weeks, each person donates the money they saved by choosing water over other drinks. The goal is for each person to raise $23. A few months after the money is returned to The Water Project, Inc., donors will receive a report of where their money went, including GPS coordinates! It turns their small sacrifice into something big and important.   




The idea is similar to the kind of fasting we do in Lent. The Water Challenge offers us the chance to think about those who have less than we do and to appreciate something we often take advantage. It also enables us to avoid the waste associated with disposable water bottles. Finally, it encourages us to take better care of our bodies by avoiding caffeinated and sugary drinks.

It was a rough start for many of the students, including my second-grader Collin. They were upset that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the juices they ordered for hot lunch or the lemonade at our Chik-fil-a fundraiser night. It was a big change for little kids, but when teachers like myself rose up to the challenge, our involvement and the reminder wristbands they wore inspired the students to stay on board.

Now the students are excited about their small sacrifice to make the world a better place. Collin even got my tea-drinking parents involved. They send us photo updates to let us know that they’re drinking their H2O! (Now that we've got them hooked, we need to convert them to reusable water bottles!)
                                                                                                                                




It’s not too late for you or your organization to participate in The Water Challenge. If you’re not a fan of tap water, you can buy a filter for your sink or a pitcher for your refrigerator. Even my gym has an awesome water fountain filter! An excellent selection of reusable water bottles can be found in many stores and on Amazon.com. Nalgene, Camelback, and Tervis make excellent leak-proof bottles and cups in a variety of sizes. I’m a big fan of the coated aluminum canteens like the 32 oz. mint green one I have by Simple Modern. My water stays cold for 24 hours!  




Since we started The Water Project I have more energy and am more aware of my water usage in other settings. I’ve been thinking about those who suffer because of their limited access to potable water. I hope that the money we donate can help make their lives better. Above all, I thank God for providing my family with a safe, clean source of the one thing we need most.        

January 14, 2017 12:40
By Robyn Barberry


Let there be light!

On the first day of creation, God said, "Let there be light!"

I said the same words the other day when my kitchen lights burned out -- while I was cooking dinner. So, while I sauteed greens under the dim light projecting from above my stove, Patrick ran out to Home Depot. He returned with new LED fixtures to replace the fluorescent bulbs overhead and reinstalled a blown glass pendant light he made.

When we flipped the switch, we could not believe how bright our kitchen was. It was pitch black dark outside, but daylight streamed through our kitchen. You could do surgery in there. The intense light highlighted every flaw: clutter, spatters we missed when wiping down the stove, hard water spots in the sink, crumbs on the floor...the list kept compounding.

Without delay, we began tidying and scrubbing the kitchen. The light led us to our problem areas and lingered until it was pleased enough for us to move on to the next project. (The fact that we had visitors arriving the next day certainly added to our effort.) By the time we finished, not only did we eliminated most of the ugliness from our kitchen, but we also discovered the beauty. Like the shiny turquoise cabinets, the nick knacks, photographs, and art on the windowsill, and an array of countertop appliances that save us time and energy. The perpetual presence of the bright light in our kitchen has compelled us to be neater, more organized people because our inadequacies and indiscretions as they pertain to housekeeping are far more visible.

We've heard over and over again that God is the light of the world. He summoned light to appear and used it to guide him as he created the universe and everything and everyone within it. God invites us to see the world under his light, which is infinitely more powerful than the LEDs watching over my kitchen, so he illuminates everything. He helps us to appreciate the beauty in all that is good, to warn us where darkness lies, and to see places in and around us that can be made better with a little bit of cleaning up.

In 2017, ask yourself: How can I increase the light in my life? The answer may be as simple as changing out a few lightbulbs.

December 31, 2016 04:29
By Robyn Barberry


New year, new frontier


After Mass this morning, Collin said, "Mom, I'm really scared of 2017. 2016 was such a good year and I'm not ready to see it end."

I stopped and thought about what he said. In many ways he was right. 2016 was a great year.  God blessed us with Teagan. We managed to stay afloat financially so that we had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We love being a part of St. Joan of Arc. And, thanks be to God, everyone we love is in good health.

I began to consider what 2017 might be like. We could suddenly lose everything if an unexpected event drained our finances. We might lose our house, go hungry and struggle to pay school tuition and other bills. There's also the uncertainty of what a new president might bring our country. Someone I love could become very sick or die. That is my worst nightmare.

I didn't know what to tell Collin because all of the sudden I was a little bit afraid of a new year. We group our life's experiences into 12 months, 365 days and label them "good" or "bad" years based on the frequency or positive or negative events. But, sometimes we need to look at each year as a kaleidoscope of events rather than a polarized passing of time. On December 31st, we should look back at everything that's happened since January 1st and think about the ways we've changed and how we got there.

"We don't know what's going to happen in 2017, but we do know that God will take care of us, no matter what happens," I said. We talked about what things we have to look forward to, like his First Communion, our summer vacation, and adventures beyond our imagination. Life will be far from perfect, even in a "good" year, but as long as we remain faithful, God will protect us -- here or in the great beyond.   

December 18, 2016 10:10
By Robyn Barberry

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