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
By Wendy Stewart
It’s Easter Weekend and we have been preparing our minds and spirits since Ash Wednesday for the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have been abstinent; we have fasted; we have done acts of charity and spent much time in prayer.
So, when Easter Sunday comes and goes, what will you do? Will you continue to experience some of the change that occurred during Lent
or just be glad you can have back what you gave up for Lent?
Although my attempts at giving up something tangible for Lent were unsuccessful, I have grown during this time. I hope you have as well.
But now, our responsibility, as a part of our continuing conversion, is to grow and draw nearer to God each year, each season, and each day.
I saw an interesting picture graphic on Facebook over the last week. It had quotes under the photos of Blessed Pope John Paul II (“This is what we believe.”), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (“This is why we believe it.”), and Pope Francis
(“Now go do it.”)
Francis washes the foot of a prison inmate during the Holy Thursday Mass
Lord's Supper at Rome's Casal del Marmo prison for minors March 28.
(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
I thought it was a very interesting summary of the legacy of these men as well as what it gives us as an example. Each pope is different and will have a different focus during his ministry, but we have seen something very unique in Pope Francis lately. He’s not just talking, he is out there doing what we have all been called to do in exercising our faith.
What’s my point? It’s simple, really. When Easter Sunday has come and gone; when the candy and colored eggs have been consumed and all of the egg hunts are done, we must be fundamentally changed. We cannot go back to living as we did before, because to do so would undermine all of the growth we have experienced to this point.
So go and do.
March 29, 2013 11:13
By Wendy Stewart
Since Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced his retirement last month, the world was full of questions. People wanted to know why he chose to do something that hasn't been done in 600 years. He said his health compromised his ability to do his job and I can sympathize with that.
Just today I had to give up my simple job of teaching a weekly Bootcamp Class due to my own injuries and compromised health.
Yes, I know it's not the same as being the Vicar of Rome, but we all have our struggles and crosses to bear.
In 2005, I was selling cars, wasn't Catholic and only mildly interested in the vote for the 264th successor to St. Peter. But what a difference a few years have made!
I have had such an amazing experience since being confirmed Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2010. I've met so many wonderful lay and religious and blessed to have such a budding community of college students and young adults at my parish of SS Philip and James. But I have never regretted or questioned my decision to become Catholic.
Nothing cemented that more than the events the last couple of days. I watched to world and this country (which is trying to become more secular and caustic) fix its eyes on Rome and wonder in amazement at the ceremony, ritual, and spirituality involved in electing the next Pope.
For these two days, the world has been on pins and needles wondering how this Conclave would end; about who would be Pope and the politics involved.
Today, when I received the text message that there was white smoke, I was so full of joy. And when I tuned into EWTN for the live coverage, all of a sudden, nothing else mattered. I knew it was true for the rest of the world because the coverage was over all of the local news networks.
When Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio emerged as Pope Francis, I had tears of joy. I don't usually have tears of joy but this was special. Right up there with the day of my confirmation. He is full of firsts: the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit, the first to take the name Francis, the first to ask the people to bless him before blessing them. I'm sure he will continue to be a Pope of firsts.
Many prayers and blessings to Pope Francis and I can truly say that today is a great day to be Catholic!
March 14, 2013 09:40
By Wendy Stewart
Today is International Women’s Day. That fits right in with March being Women’s History Month. Sometimes, though, the importance of these days is overlooked as we deal with a stressed-out world and the day-to-day grind.
But in the church, women certainly have a special place. We know this from Scripture. But how many times have you heard others complain that the church oppresses women? Or that something is wrong because there are no female priests? My favorite is the accusation that we worship Mary.
Since it’s Lent and we are preparing our minds and souls to celebrate Jesus’ victory on the cross, it is only fitting to point out one very important detail of the Resurrection accounts: the first witnesses were women.
Now, if I were to sit down and write a story of some sort in a patriarchal society, having female witnesses to the Resurrection would not be on the agenda. It was on God’s agenda.
You see, though different in many respects, men and women are still called to follow and worship God and spread the Good News.
I cannot say why the first witnesses were women, but I can tell you that information gives me a warm fuzzy feeling; as if God knew gender would be an issue and took measures to say women are important as well.
I wasn’t always Catholic, as you know, but I have never felt more free to be a woman than in the Catholic Church. It is here where I have found my freedom.
So, as we take time to celebrate women throughout history and pop culture, such as Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Margaret Thatcher, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor, let us also take time to remember and honor the countless women in Church history who have inspired and helped keep our faith rich and alive.
March 08, 2013 05:13
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By Wendy Stewart