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.


September 2015
August 2015

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Dear Robyn, I enjoyed reading your article to see the positive things you were able to do after your fall down the steps, etc. I can relate to your situation, too, having fallen many times, including falling backward down my driveway on the seat of a rollator only to be tossed over onto my head on the sidewalk. This landed me in an ambulance to St. Joseph's emergency room, a 6-day stay at the hospital and a 6-week stay in the Lorien Nursing Center. I had a lot of time on my hands and a body full of pain. What could I do to be positive? I placed a picture of Christ on his cross on the bulletin board so I could look at Him in His sufferings everyday and relate to Him as I took comfort from His great love for me. He sent people to be at my side, including those who brought Himself to me in the Holy Eucharist,. In the meantime, I used my time of being disabled to read a lot, especially the Bible and a little book called, "Jesus Calling" which a visitor brought to me. In addition, I did Word Searches, prayed a lot, offering up my sufferings for various persons, their needs, the needs of our Church and world and to make reparation for my sins, the sins of my family, nation, church, and the world. Therefore, my sufferings were not wasted, but rather, they became redemptive! Since I recovered from that horrendous fall which could have killed me or paralyzed me, I had need for two complete knee replacements done at different times with long recuperative periods of rest, physical therapy, low energy, much disability and time on my hands. So, I did the same thing I did after my accidental fall. In addition, I called others who were sick and disabled to cheer them up, worked on my computer to stay in touch with others and do research. Through all of this, I prayed a lot and played wonderful Christian/Catholic music and did my best to evangelize the health care personnel. So yes, I agree with you that we can make the best of the situation, accepting the fact that "it is what it is," and move on as best as we can to do positive things and not have a personal pity party. So, I recommend the Bible to be read daily (handicapped or not) and when you can get someone to drive you to church, get to daily Mass or have a priest come to give you the sacraments which strengthen us to fight the good fight another day...1 day at a time with Jesus. I hope you have fully recovered. And, yes I agree that we can turn tragedies into gifts! Sincerely, Loretta Hoffman


Great job, Collin!



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Mary, Undoer of Knots

As I was researching art related to Pope Francis’ visit to inspire my students, I stumbled upon a beautiful installation called “Mary Undoer of Knots” by Meg Saligman. It is based on the painting of the same name, a personal favorite of Pope Francis.

I found a video describing Meg Saligman’s project and found myself mesmerized by her work. She built a grotto outside of The Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, hung a huge print of “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” and tied white strips of fabric into knots on fences, wires, and walls. Some were woven into the grotto.

Each strip of fabric contains a struggle, a concern, a prayer from a different person. Some were sent through the Project Home website, or in person. At the time I showed my students the video, there were 30,000 strips. There must be close to 100,000 now.

All of the problems are tangled together and offered to Mary to untie. I had my students write their own concerns on labels that we joined together on posters in our own version of the installation. We even listened to a beautiful song called “Help Us, Mary,” which was composed by E.A. Alexander to accompany the installation. 

On my visit to Philadelphia on Tuesday, I was running out of time and realized that I probably wouldn’t make it to see “Mary Undoer of Knots,” especially because I thought it was far away from the Franklin Institute, where I was visiting the Lego Vatican. But as we pulled around Logan Square, I saw thousands of white strips flapping in the wind next to the dome of the Cathedral.

“There it is!” I told Patrick. “It’s just too bad there’s no parking available.”

And a spot right next to the installation materialized.

I don’t want to say a whole lot about “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” because the pictures will tell the story. However, I was helping a friend through a crisis, wrote down his name, and since then, things are looking up! Also, I got to meet Meg Saligman, the artist. I almost burst into tears when I met the mind and hands behind such a powerful project, but instead, I thanked her. I’m sure I’m not the only one.   

September 30, 2015 11:57
By Robyn Barberry

The Lego Vatican

To prepare for Pope Francis’ epic visit, I decided to share some art created just for the event with my PreK-8th grade students at St. Joan of Arc in Aberdeen. I knew my students would love Fr. Bob Simon’s “A Priest as Minifigure Contemplating the Splendor of the Vatican,” a realistic Lego replica of St. Peter’s Square.

I shared a video with my students describing the project (it took Fr. Bob 10 months to assemble 500,000 Lego bricks!) and told them that the work was on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, which is only a short car ride away.

After telling half of the kids at SJA about the Lego Vatican, I decided I had to see it myself. So, I did!

Fr. Bob’s masterpiece is the perfect bridge between the Franklin Institute’s wildly popular “Art of the Brick” exhibition of Nathan Sawaya’s incredible Lego sculptures and an exciting new display of Papal treasures, “Vatican Splendors.” (I’m hoping to take my students to see the latter.)

September 30, 2015 11:47
By Robyn Barberry

Stand up for Francis

“What’s so special about the pope?” was a question posed on Facebook by one of my former students, who is now in her early twenties.

“I don’t know who he is, but I don’t want my roads to be shut down. Kids shouldn’t be missing school for this,” said a student who moved to Philadelphia after high school.

“He’s only important to Catholic people,” another student replied.

“Catholics worship him instead of God,” said a friend I didn’t know.

“He’s probably the anti-Christ,” was the reply that triggered my emotions. It was from the student who posed the question.

How could someone say something so terrible about someone so wonderful? I decided to walk away from my computer before my fingers punched out something that could destroy the close relationship I have with my former student. How could someone say something so terrible about someone so wonderful?

I wanted so badly to rush to Pope Francis’ defense, but I knew that I as a representative of the Catholic church, I couldn’t allow myself to show rage. That would only push all of them further away. Instead, I chose to address my student directly, with patience and love.

Her question was one of innocent curiosity, while the misinformed responders led her down the wrong path. They didn’t understand my faith. They didn’t understand that the leader of my Church is also a leader of the world. So, I decided to say something wonderful about someone so wonderful.

He has major influence on decisions that impact many, many people in the world. Take the time to read his views. I think you might be surprised that you agree with some of the things he has to say.”

I sent a link of his address to Congress, adding that he chose to have lunch with the homeless, rather than politicians. “He’s a pretty cool dude.”

The negative comments stopped.

Pope Francis is a living example of what it means to be like Christ, and more and more people are recognizing it. I’m not a big fan of the door-to-door variety of evangelism, but I do feel that the positive reputation that Pope Francis is creating for himself offers Catholics an excellent opportunity to discuss our faith with people who are confused by or curious about Catholicism, but who recognize the goodness in our Holy Father's words and deeds. We should vigilantly watch the horizon for situations where someone of another faith (or an absence of faith) actively wants to discuss Pope Francis. He is the living face of our Church and the perfect place to start a larger conversation about what it means to be Catholic.

“Catholics don’t worship Pope Francis,” I explained in my final post to my students and their friends. “We look to him for guidance.” Perhaps they will, too.     

September 26, 2015 04:18
By Robyn Barberry

Peachy and the Pope

Lenora “Peachy” Dixon is by far the most interesting person I know. She's a writer, a waitress, a stockholder in a major company, a mother, a grandmother, a music lover, a former business owner, and a proud Catholic. I helped edit her first memoir “A Peachy Life,” published by City Lit Press in 2011 and her forthcoming sequel “A Peachy Business.” (A third book  is also in the works!) Patrick calls Peachy “Baltimore’s smart and beautiful version of Forrest Gump.” In her almost 74 years of life, Peachy has found herself standing beside some of the greatest people to ever set foot in Baltimore, from her old boss Johnny Unitas to her Sabatino’s customer Frank Sinatra. But Peachy’s favorite memories are being in the presence of St. John Paul II and Mother Teresa, right here in Baltimore. 

On Thursday September 24th, 2015, Peachy will be in Philadelphia to celebrate with Pope Francis. She will be checking in with us afterwards! But, first I asked her to share her story of encountering then Pope John Paul II on October 8, 1995.

Peachy didn’t think that she would ever get to see the Pope in her lifetime because the Pope lived in Italy, the land of her ancestors, and she was just getting by as a waitress in Baltimore. When she heard that Pope John Paul II was going to be visiting Baltimore in 1995, she arranged to partake in the festivities with her friends Mary and Cindy from Sabatino’s.

Even though they had worked until 3 o’clock in the morning, the three ladies woke up extra early on that beautiful October morning, headed to Royal Farms, bought disposable cameras and coffee and headed downtown to scope out a good spot to see the Pope John Paul II.

They settled in at the intersection of Pratt and Charles Streets and watched Pope John Paul II say Mass in Camden Yards as it was broadcast on a huge TV screen right before them. Peachy’s Aunt Mary and Aunt Lena attended the Mass, while Father Lou Esposito from her parish, Our Lady of Pompei, assisted Pope John Paul II.

Peachy was wearing blue, the color of the Blessed Mother, because her Aunt Mary said the Pope would look her way. But, when Peachy looked around, she realized that Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity were lined up across from her, and for sure, the Pope would see them first. When he drove by in the Popemobile, Pope John Paul heard the chants “Papa! Papa!” from the Hispanic people surrounding Peachy and her friends and turned to them and waved.

Moments later, iconic Baltimore reporter Michael Olesker and his wife Susie came by to interview everyone about the experience. Peachy said, “The thing that is special about Pope John Paul is he radiates holiness; you can feel the rays of holiness coming from him.” Peachy went on to explain that by being near Pope John Paul II, she could receive some of those rays.

Peachy, Mary, and Cindy chased the Popemobile as far as they could. “It was like chasing a rock star,” she said. “Except in this case, the rock is Jesus.” 

September 23, 2015 10:16
By Robyn Barberry

Photographic Memory

My last daunting summer task to be completed before Labor Day was to organize my photographs. My albums are my time machines, and my photographs are the force that amalgamates a moment into a memory. They are glimpses of God's presence in our lives. So, twice a year, I try to organize my pictures so that I can easily find them for a school project, a birthday or holiday present, or just because I want to remember someone, something, or someplace.

In the past, this process would’ve meant hours spent on my living room floor with the TV as my white noise, sorting glossy prints into piles. In 2015, this means compiling digital files into one (or three) central location(s) for backup. It’s just as much work, except that I’m standing at my counter desk with my fingers are tapping on keys with my eyes are on my laptop screen while Pandora streams in the background.

But, there are times when the frustration level is the same. It almost always involves missing gaps of time. (“Did 2011 even happen?” “Why don’t I ever seem to take pictures in November?”) Worse yet is when I can’t seem to find pictures that I know I took.

Frank’s infancy was an overwhelming time for our family after a tree fell on our house. But somewhere amidst the chaos was a sweet baby. The only problem is that I found it so hard to remember what he was like as a newborn because the pictures I’d taken of his first few months at home had disappeared shortly after we were displaced. I did, however, have pictures from my old iPhone in my Apple online storage from when he was 6 months old and forward. So, I went to retrieve those. But my drive had been wiped clean.

I contacted Apple who affirmed that it was a procession error on my part. They tried and tried to retrieve my files, but said I needed to have the iPhone in my hands to try one last recovery strategy. When I looked for the iPhone in the safe place where I keep it, it was gone.

I prayed. I asked for the intercession of St. Anthony. I convinced myself that all that was lost would be found – because it almost always has. Then, I set back to work on my photo organizing task.

In one of my backup locations, I discovered all of the pictures from the second half of Frank’s first year – the ones I was certain I’d lost on my Apple drive. I thought there still might be some missing, so I went back to find my iPhone.

It wasn’t there, but two of my older phones were. I tore off the backs and found two memory cards. My heart pounded as I inserted them into my laptop. There was 2011. Collin was a curious and hilarious two-year-old. I had just started a new job. I discovered I was going to have another baby.

And there was 2012. There was my newborn Frank who was more beautiful than I even remembered with cobalt blue eyes and peachy skin. I remembered his sweet, earthy smell. I remembered swaddling him and gazing in awe at him as he slept in his swing. I remembered how much Collin adored him. I remembered introducing him to our home. And I remembered spending the earliest part of his life there with him.

I thought that I’d lost the first year of Frank’s life. I wondered what I’d tell him about his baby days when he got older. I wondered how I would console myself when he grew up and moved away and all I wanted was to hold him again. What would I share with his wife and kids? But, thanks to my good old friend St. Anthony, I now have tangible evidence that my son was once 8 lbs. 13 oz. and that he was loved. 

September 08, 2015 09:56
By Robyn Barberry

Teacher vs. Mom: The Back-to-School Battle

I woke up on August 10th from a horrible nightmare. It was the first day of school and I had nothing planned for my art class.  I got out some papers and crayons and told the students to draw whatever they wanted. The 4-year-olds just stared at me, the 8th graders laughed, and Collin, my son and 1st grade student, cried.

This wasn’t the first time I found myself awakened from a deep sleep, covered in sweat and panting because I’d just escaped a fictitious, yet painfully realistic experience in the land of nod. But it was the first time my subconscious reminded me in my dreams that I was both a teacher and a mom, all at once; all in the same place.

It was 4:00 a.m. and I couldn’t get back to sleep. A train came wailing by and I convinced my mind to load all of my troubles on it. As I drifted back to dreamland, I vowed to spend the next seven days preparing for my best year yet. I wanted to wow my students; I wanted to wow my son.

I submerged myself in Pinterest, stealing ideas for my environmentally-themed units left and right from fellow teachers and stay-at-home-moms. My good friend Gina, who has become my coworker once again, joined me in my quest to engage students in art projects inspired by oceans and trees, the rain and the bees. I imagined guiding Collin through the activities designed for my younger students. His masterpieces would be sure to dazzle the visitors to my refrigerator museum.

I spent the following week purging the art room of spoiled paint and yellowed paper, shelving returned books, and decking the halls (and the library) with paintings and posters reminding students of the rules, encouraging them to think positively, and celebrating the glorious bodies of water God created when he made our Earth. (Water is the art and library theme for August and September.)

When I stepped back Sunday afternoon (the day before school) and took in the beautiful and tidy spaces I’d created, I decided that it was good. But the bliss didn’t last for long.

In preparing for my own return to school, I’d completely neglected to tend to Collin’s back-to-school needs. He had a cool shark backpack from his great-grandmother and the same blue geometric lunch bag he’s used since he was two, but that was it. Immediately, I was faced with a new nightmare: the failed parent.

So, like millions of moms and dads across America, I rushed to Target on Sunday night, where I scavenged the last two packs of glue sticks, a 24 pack of crayons (they were out of the smaller size his teacher requested), paper towels, tissues, juice boxes, and a family pack of rainbow Goldfish crackers for snack time. It was as if we were all preparing for a major storm -- and in a way, we were. An avalanche of homework and a whirlwind of carpools were imminent -- we'd better sharpen our #2 pencils.  

Unfortunately, I forgot the most important thing – socks. I scrambled through last year’s uniform bin for a gym shirt. The only one I could find fit like a wetsuit and was splattered with permanent pink and red acrylic paint. I allowed myself to hyperventilate for one minute before deciding, “He’s the art teacher’s kid. They’ll understand.”

After another restless night of battling my way through bad dreams centered on the notion of my occupational failure, the first day of school inevitably arrived. After stopping to take a brief selfie on the front porch, Collin and I went on to have a great first day at St. Joan of Arc. No one stared or laughed at me. No one cried – not even me.

The story ends well, but it could’ve taken a smoother course. The problem was this: I was so worried about planning mind-blowing lessons to impress my students – especially one – that I forgot about the basics. More importantly, I forgot about balance. I can’t let myself focus too much on teaching or too much on being a mom. I need to learn a better way to be both.

I have since obtained Collin new socks and a new gym shirt. My decorations still look awesome, my lessons are going to be great, but most importantly, my students (one in particular) and I are happy to be learning together again.    

August 28, 2015 08:28
By Robyn Barberry

A shore thing

Some of my fondest childhood memories include summers on the Chesapeake Bay with my family. On many occasions, this meant that my company included my dad, my uncles, my cousins, and my beloved grandfather. With our moms working back at home, and our dads running trot lines, we kids spend time exploring the islands or small, rural communities (and cool old houses) we got to call home for a week or two. We cooked (Uncle Martin taught us his crab soup secrets), swam in the Bay (always under supervision), and told scary stories (which often resulted in us sleeping with all of the lights on in the enormous room we shared). The whole experience was a little bit like a cleaned-up version of Lord of the Flies.

Eventually, my parents and my aunt purchased a rancher in an area near Deal Island in Somerset County called Chance. My dad stays there frequently during business trips to the Eastern Shore, and my cousins pay a visit to the Chance house when they need a little escape from the hustle and bustle of urban and suburban life. It’s amazing what a sojourn by the water will do for the soul. 

A sunny weekend showed up on the five day forecast, so my dad and my brother decided to spend a few days fishing and crabbing in Chance. This time, they invited Collin to come along. Naturally, I agreed, but only after I reminded them that cookies are not an acceptable breakfast – not even on vacation. Collin and I threw a few items of clothing and a couple of toys into his travel bag, rolled up his sleeping bag and kissed goodbye as he embarked on his first journey to Chance.

The next morning, I woke to find two pictures of Collin fishing, including his first big catch, a perch that would fit nicely in a toaster oven. Within a few hours, there were videos of him swimming in the bay, making “sand angels,” and roasting marshmallows by the fire. I didn’t need live updates to reassure me that Collin was safe or having fun, but it made me smile when I pictured him having as much fun as I did when I was 6 on the shores of the Chesapeake. They call it God’s country for a reason.

As they were getting ready to leave, Collin called me frantically. “Mom! I caught something and I don’t know what it is. It has the head of a minnow and the body of a snake. I don’t know what it is!”

“It’s an eel,” my brother said in the background. “A two foot eel.”

When he got home, Collin told me about the eel again and that a crab got loose in the boat. “And guess what else!” he said. “They took me to Burger King by the big bridge, and I got chicken fries!”

And on that note, I knew that Collin had the perfect Eastern Shore trip with his grandfather and his uncle, just like I did when I was a kid.   

August 19, 2015 08:56
By Robyn Barberry

No Child Left Inside

There’s a Nature Valley granola bar video circulating where an interviewer asks three generations of four families what they did (or do) for fun as a kid.  The grandparents discuss berry picking and escaping from near-bear attacks. The parents also describe creative outdoor play. The kids’ responses are alarming. “Fun” makes them think of their tablets and video games.

It’s heartbreaking on many levels. For one, millennials are living excessively digital lives, spending less time with peers and more time expressing themselves with their fingertips. (I have a theory about why so many young people I know are postponing their drivers’ licenses. They don’t need to get out of the house to socialize!) According to the Nature Conservancy, 88% of kids spend time online every day, while only 66% of kids have had a meaningful experience in nature. 

Far too many of today’s kids aren’t playing outside. When I was ten, my neighborhood was composed of entire families of “free-range children.” We’d set up camp by the creek, pick berries, collect rocks, and study bugs. Today, for valid safety reasons, parents are discouraged from allowing their kids to explore the outdoors unattended. I doubt many of them would be interested in doing so, anyway.

The most detrimental loss belongs to our environment. Because so many kids aren’t spending time getting to know the plants, trees, animals, and water that make up planet Earth, one out of every three young people doesn’t feel obligated to combat the damage our world has suffered at our hands. (Again, according to the Nature Conservancy.) How will the next generation continue to sustain life on earth, if they don’t care about the ecosystem or don’t know how to help it heal?

In response to all these issues and more, the state of Maryland has developed and implemented a series of environmental literacy standards for teachers to use in their classrooms in the hopes that students will be both inspired and armed with the knowledge it will take to save Mother Earth.

But, what am I to do? I’m but a lowly art teacher?

“Nonsense,” says Notre Dame Maryland University professor and STEM coordinator, Dr. Juliann DuPuis. After moving here from New Hampshire, she established a Summer STEM Institute for teachers at the University.

Through day-long programs such as Project WET (about oceans and other bodies of water), Project WOW! (Wonders of Wetlands), NOAA’s Globe Project, Project Learning Tree (I think you can guess what this is about), and Project WILD (about wildlife), Dr. DuPuis and guest environmental educators modeled dozens of ways that the twenty teachers in my class can incorporate environmental science into our wide range of grade levels, curriculum, and school environments.

I sat next to Donna Jones, an inquisitive algebra teacher at Woodlawn High School. Even though our jobs couldn’t be more different, we each managed to find ways to incorporate the activities our instructors demonstrated into our classrooms. The games we played were both fun and educational, and we got to spend plenty of time on the gorgeous grounds of NDMU.

The final component to the class was our “No Child Left Inside” research project. I chose to focus on the Anna C. Leight Estuary Center at Otter Point, which is a ten minute drive from our school. There, we will contribute to clean-up and wetlands restoration projects while practicing wetland photography. The class will write and illustrate a book about our experience, including facts about wetlands and our best photographs from our field trips.

I’ve also decided to establish a “We Love our eARTh” theme for the school year in my art and library classes (yes, I’ve taken on a new role!). Stay tuned for the results of my students environmental art projects, more than a few of which will come from the guides and exercises I gained during my week at the NDMU Summer STEM Institute!    

Model of the water cycle my group made for Project WET.

We went with an "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" theme.

My group, Donna, Alex, and Noelle, building a boat with sticks and yarn for Project WOW!

Our boat had to be float and hold a tennis ball without allowing it to get wet in the small pan.


We did it!

My second team gathers data, including GPS coordinates, for our GLOBE location.

My team surveys our location.

Donna examines a "tree cookie" during Project Learning Tree.

Pretending to be "hungry" trees during Project Learning Tree.

Alex and Noelle examine a black bear's fur during Project WILD.

August 04, 2015 03:38
By Robyn Barberry

The upside to falling down

One month and two days ago I stumbled down the flight of stairs that separate the living quarters from the sleeping quarters in my home.  The boys and I had just woken up.

“How about waffles for breakfast?” I asked.

“Sure,” said Collin.  “Can we make a fort?”

“Sure,” I said.

As I was lifting Leo from his crib, I heard a scuffle on the stairs. I turned the corner to find Collin and Frank halfway down the steps, towing a king sized fluffy blanket.

“Whoa!” I shouted, putting Leo down.  I took two steps and reached for the blanket. “Guys, this isn’t safe. Someone’s gonna get – ”

But, before I could say the word “hurt,” I became the victim of my own prophecy. My stocking feet failed to create enough friction to keep me grounded on the slick wooden steps and in seconds I found myself lying in a heap of limbs and blankets on the landing. Thankfully, the boys managed to escape the avalanche, but when I got up, I felt like I was emerging from a rugby scrum.

It was my back that hurt, in an unspecified spot that seemed to float somewhere in the middle of my body. As the day progressed, I discovered that I could walk fine, but I couldn’t sit down comfortably. And I certainly couldn’t bend down to pick anything up. (An essential movement for parenting young children.)

I waited several days before visiting our local emergent care center, where X-rays indicated that my suspicion, a broken coccyx (tailbone), was not the case. After a further examination, the doctor concluded that my coccyx was bruised. I felt relieved, but not for long.

“Sometimes bruises can be worse than breaks. It usually takes 4-8 weeks to recover from an injury like this.  You’re lucky it wasn’t worse.”

A little over 4 weeks better, I’ve seen some improvement in my mobility, but continue to feel pain whenever I’m forced to sit for extended periods of time or if I try to bend over too much. The doctor is right, it could’ve been worse, but, as always, I’ve been trying to look on the bright side of my current situation. Here are the positive effects of my injury:

1.Since I can’t sit down, I haven’t been watching TV, getting lost in the internet, or lounging around. I’ve been up on my feet, pushing the boys on the swings, organizing cabinets and closets, and actually going places. Unfortunately, I still can't pick up toys or books that without fail manage to find their way onto the floor, but I'm trying to teach the boys to help me out by being more responsible. My productivity has offered a boost to my mood (not to mention my metabolism) and makes me feel as though I’m living my summer to the fullest. The down side is that I can’t take the boys to the pool, but I’m seeking other meaningful experiences for them, like the programs offered at Harford County Public Library. We had a great time learning about the environment at the Abingdon branch just before we went on vacation.

2.I’ve been reading more. As I mentioned, I’m trying to keep up with my boys in their Summer Reading Program, but I’ve also found that reading is a great way to pass the time when the only thing that feels good is pacing. One of the more interesting books I’ve read is "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. She encourages readers to only surround themselves with objects that make them feel a sense of joy. Her book was a call to action for me and the results of my decluttering experience have motivated me to live a lighter existence. I've also been working on Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman." I'm open to other book recommendations if you're reading something exciting, informative or otherwise "life-changing".

3.I’m paying more attention in church. I can’t sit in a pew or kneel quite yet, so I’ve been worshipping from the gathering space as I walk about, trying to find enough comfort to focus on the rituals and messages happening at the altar. My mind doesn’t drift during the homily and I feel more connected to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I’m hoping that when I return to the pew in a few weeks (fingers crossed) I will continue to be more mindful during Mass.

Not being able to sit is an awkward experience when other people enter the picture. When I start to get curious looks, I feel obligated to explain my situation to everyone from waitresses to Frank's teachers, to college professors (yes, I went back to school...stay tuned for more information). It’s uncomfortable being the only person standing while everyone eats or hulking over a coffee table while your child and his teacher play a matching game or leaning against a wall in the back of a classroom (again, more on my awesome grad class later) while everyone else is sitting. I don’t want the company I’m with to think that I’m trying to dominate our conversations, so I’m quieter than usual. I’m a better listener and observer these days.

My mind is being strengthened as my body heals. By falling down, I've been lifted up. And that is the ultimate gift my trip down the stairs has given me.     


August 03, 2015 07:58
By Robyn Barberry

An evening with Art and Soul

The only person cooler than your art teacher when you're 8-years-old, is that same art teacher when you're 32-years-old.  Susan Thomey is one of the reasons that I became an art teacher.  From kindergarten through fifth grade, she stood before us in fabulously funky, appropriately accessorized outfits, her short red hair a testament to her Irish heritage and free spirit. 

"Look at my nose," she'd say when she wanted our attention.

Then, she'd transport us to Egypt or France or places beyond our imaginations by sharing stories, posters, fun facts, and gory details (a-hem, Mr. Van Gogh) with us about some of the world's greatest works of art.

After a suspenseful couple of moments, she would introduce us to our assignment, restraining us with her famous line, "When I tell you, but not right now..."  And then, our supplies materialized before us and our imaginations opened wide.

Almost a quarter century later, I found myself once again a member of Mrs. Thomey's class.  This time, we weren't in the basement of the old green St. Margaret's building.  This time, we were on the upper level of a White Marsh restaurant called Flameworks, who have the best burgers and pickle chips in the world, according to Mr. Thomey.  (Their soft pretzels are incredible!)

My classmates included the restaurant's hilarious proprietor, Rose, several members of her family, two of Mrs. Thomey's daughters (including my St. Margaret's classmate, Caroline), another old friend from St. Margaret's, Conor, and even my mom!

In addition to Susan Thomey, current St. Margaret's School art teacher, Peggy Hart, instructed us on how to paint the details of the crab outline before us.  "Even though we're working on the same project, everyone's art is going to be different because you're all different," Mrs. Thomey said.

Joy bubbled throughout the air as we dabbed our brushes in complementary shades of orange and blue.  Our teachers praised us and offered us solutions as we stumbled upon problems.  As time passed, confidence grew, and the canvasses that started out identical were now representations of the art and soul of each member of the class.

Painting classes like these have been popping up all over the place.  It's an environment where anyone, regardless of talent or experience, can release his or her inner artist.  But, in the other places I've participated in social painting activities, I've found the instruction lacking and the environment stifling.  That wasn't the case on this particular night.

When you spend an evening with Art and Soul, you're receiving real instruction from two fabulous art teachers. (It takes one to know one.)  Susan and Peggy have started this enterprise as a way to expand their educational reach to adults.  They'll come to your event, bringing easels, canvasses, brushes, paint, and over 40 years of combined knowledge.  They'll even clean up for you.  And if you're looking for an exciting birthday party idea for your artsy child, Susan and Peggy can help you plan an unforgettable event.

Schedule your next painting event by contacting Susan Thomey at or 443-243-1261.    


August 01, 2015 09:33
By Robyn Barberry

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