Thursday, August 30, 2012

Celebrating Catholic Speakers...Dr. Edward Sri

Dr. Edward Sri

Recently I took an “inventory” of my “gifts” as I worked through the Sherry Wedell “Called and Gifted” program. It was part of my journey of discernment and spiritual direction. “Gifts” are those abilities we’ve been given for use to build up the kingdom. They are very different from talents. Identifying and understanding your gifts really allow you to better know God’s will for your life. 

Anyhow, one of my gifts was “knowledge.” It was a fairly high score. I was a bit relieved to find this out because sometimes I drive myself crazy with all the books I read and what often feels like an overwhelming quest to “understand” things. I’m like the dog with the proverbial bone and sometimes just want to be able to let go—and yet I can’t. Not until I really “get it.”

That is where Dr. Sri comes in. His work helps me understand the things of my faith in a new and deeper way. His work lends itself to revealing insights that give the sort of “Aha!” moments I look for in my reading material. Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship was a profound book for me.

Dr. Edward Sri (his last name is pronounced without adding an “h” sound) has an impressive background earning a doctorate in Rome and serving as Provost and Theology Professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver. Along with Curtis Martin, Dr. Sri founded FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Sri is a best-selling author and a dynamic speaker with an easy manner.

As Brandon Vogt invites us to celebrate Catholic speakers this month—and to help Catholics know about this vibrant and energetic group of men and women—it was an honor to be able to write about Dr. Sri. I’m not sure if Dr. Sri has ever formally taken the “inventory” of gifts but it is clear to me that his gifts are writing, knowledge, and teaching.

You see, a gift is a time where it isn’t the person performing the task, but the Holy Spirit. So a when a person with the gift of writing or teaching is using those gifts, the receiver (in this case the reader or the listener) gains something as if it were the Holy Spirit doing the writing or the teaching.

Of course I’m simplifying this but you get the idea.

Another important part of a person discerning their gifts is by the feedback they are given. As Catholics we don’t always go around giving people accolades for their gifts—especially those of us in the pews—and so we don’t always know what our gifts are because we don’t know that we are affecting others. Maybe you have a co-worker that is particularly good at organizing projects or events that allow people to feel productive and experience their own dignity in the project—well, that may be a gift because it speaks to the dignity of the person. And so how nice if you would let that person know!

All Catholics have gifts given to us to build up the Kingdom. Dr. Sri’s gifts are evident in his work and it is a privilege to acknowledge them here today.

To invite Dr. Sri to speak at an event, you can call the Augustine Institute in Denver at 303-937-4420.

If you’d like to see a clip of Dr. Sri in an episode of Bookmark, please click the link below:

If you’d like to listen to a small audio of Dr. Sri, please click the link below:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Starting a Woman's Study is Easier Than You Think!


A woman asked me how to start a study for her friends in her parish. After that a young college girl inquired about starting a bible study in her sorority. That was followed by a mother wanting to begin one, in her home, with her friends. It got me thinking...How many women would like to start a study but feel it might be more than they could handle? 

The good news is, starting a woman’s study is easier than you think!

Here are a few guidelines; and, I would be more than willing to answer any questions as well. I can be contacted at or by calling 248-917-3865.

Getting the group together:

If you already have a group of interested women, your best bet is to look at your own schedule and offer a couple of options for getting together. I would suggest an hour and a half to two hours, once a week. So, for example if Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. or Wednesdays from 6:30-8:00 p.m. work best for you, send out emails, or make phone calls, to everyone sharing these options and ultimately go with the most popular choice. Too many options will muddy the waters; just a couple is fine.

If you do not have a group of interested women, ask your church paper to put in a small article stating that you are starting a study while also send out inquiry emails to your own friends and family. Ask them to send the email on, as well, to their friends and family. I’m not a math person but I know that there is some general idea that to get, say, 5 women, you may need to contact 50 (the 10% rule or some such thing). Anyhow, if you are advertising in your church paper or through email, give a “reply by” date and an idea of how many women will be your minimum and maximum.

Once you have your group, you will give a start date that gives you enough time to buy the supplies. This is whatever book will be your resource and, of course, you’ll make sure that everyone brings a bible. I wouldn’t discourage different Catholic bible versions because your group can have beneficial discussions on different words used in a variety of translations. It is usually best when the “leader” orders the resource books and I always suggest that the leader order an extra copy or two for people who are bound to join the group after they hear how wonderful the study is! My last parenting workshop started with eight people and ended with fourteen! Buying an extra book or two allows new people to start right away versus waiting another week or so to get a book, but it is certainly not necessary.

Your books and resources:

Once the group size is known, the leader orders books and resources and then typically collects the money on the first night of the study. All this is, of course, just a guideline. If you have four people signed up, you might feel comfortable buying the books and resource materials up front and then collecting the money. But if you have a fifteen people signed up, you’ll probably want to collect the money first.

Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women is structured so that it can facilitate the group in any number of ways. There is an audio version of the book with both myself and Teresa each reading her section of each chapter. That may be the perfect way for the leader to begin each section—with the participants listening to the chapter together. It is a perfect supplement to the book which can be read through the week at each person’s leisure. The companion journal is where the ten gifts identified in the book are explored in depth. Scripture verses and Catechism excerpts are used in both the book and the companion journal—which has room for personal reflections.

For your first meeting you might provide a light snack and beverages and have a sign up sheet for the following three of four get-togethers. If you try to sign up too far into the future, people tend to forget. And it is always good to recognize that a reminder email is helpful as we all get caught up in our schedules and sometimes forget these things that nourish our souls! Something that goes out to everyone a day or two before the meeting and is a simple message like; Blessings…I just wanted to remind everyone of Tuesday’s bible study and that we are looking forward to Sue’s snacks…

For the Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women study, the companion journal has instructions for conducting the study as well as prayers for each of the ten gatherings. There are reflections and questions that are meant to engage the heart and mind of each participant. All in all, studies make for great times! They immerse you in the Word of God and allow you to help others on their journeys with Christ.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bi-Locating and Other Necessary Motherhood Skills

I glanced at the clock when I heard my husband say to my oldest son, “Call me when you get home.”

“Where is he?” I asked.

When my husband replied, “He’s on his way home from work,” my stomach began churning. Not the hunger-type churn but the worried-mother-type churn. Our son had purchased a home just months before and was still getting a handle on things but between work and other demands, it wasn’t easy. My husband and I—and his brothers—had all helped out with painting, cutting the lawn, some electrical and lighting things and so on.

It took all our willpower (my husband’s and mine) not to completely take over, but to just be available to help if and as needed. We wanted to take care of our son, get him set up in his new house. Mostly, I wanted—needed, really—to know that he was “okay” and that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the demands of new home ownership.

The point of the call was to set up a date and a time that my husband would be able to come and help with another task. To hear that my son wasn’t yet home from work for the day brought me to full attention. My brain went into mother-calculation mode. It is the only time my brain can do any math. Okay, he started his day with the sunrise and will end it with the sunset. Given he needs to now cook himself dinner…that means he’s operating on five hours of sleep. By now my stomach is in full blown acrobatic action. I’m talking Flying Wallendas. I’m worried about what he will make himself for dinner and want to drive the 25 minutes away to greet him with warm food.

Every cell in my body is aching to go take care of him. The show on the television in front of me no longer has meaning. I can hear the words but don’t understand them as my mind creates a plan to get dinner to my son. My body sits on the couch but it is imagining the scenario in which I will feed my son. I want to bi-locate like never before.

Of course I know that this won’t happen—neither the bi-locating nor the actual delivery of food. I know that I have to let my son be and let him learn and grow. I know what my job is now—even as I ache to tuck him in just one last time.

I am so proud of him that sometimes I find myself crying. They are tears that remember that little boy who loved to sit and watch Mr. Rogers and eat dry Cheerios. They are tears that recall the day he received his college acceptance letter. Tears rim my eyes when I think about my son going off on his first job interview. My tears are those of gratitude that God has allowed me to know this incredible young man—an amazing son, a giving brother, a loving grandson—and has allowed me to be part of his journey.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Name Is Cheryl...And I Am A Weakling

My name is Cheryl.

And I am a weakling.

That’s the kind of group I want to be in: the kind of group where we each take the stand and own up to who we are—who we really are. Not the avatars we put out in the world through our blogs and our tweets; but who we are at the core.

After all, that’s where we will all ultimately connect, where we will all see one another as Christ sees us: as humanity steeped in the dignity of our creation but as a weak humanity in need of strength found in him who has offered us salvation.

I love being weak.

It means I’m “needy” which seems, to many people I am sure, to be an unpleasant state of being. And I’ve been trampled on more than a few times in my weakened state. I don’t always fight back when society would say that I should. I’ve been hurt and I’ve been wounded.

For years I tried to fight being weak. A bit ironic, right?

I wanted to be able to pick myself up by my bootstraps. I wanted to be able to say with confidence and pride that I was able to overcome life’s obstacles. However, at 54 years old, it occurs to me that being weak can be worn as a badge of honor (humbly, of course). In my weakness I have put aside my agenda and my goals—not in a defeated way but in the understanding that they can easily overcome me, they can quickly replace discernment of spirit, they can negate my need to find strength through Christ.

In admitting my weakness, I have become strong.

God has given me incredible strength through women who have become friends in the deepest sense of the word. They have surrounded me with love and have moved me forward, past pain and into God’s arms and his grace.

They’ve lowered me, in my weakened state, on the mat through the roof to Christ; and to them I owe everything. They have given me life and hope. Christ did not abandon me in my weakness but strengthened me through these women, these friends.

My name is Cheryl.

And I am a weakling.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Level Playing Field, A Woman I Admire

Besides the money thing, Ann Romney and I have a lot in common.

Well, maybe not a lot, but we have enough in common that I consider her a woman who I admire.

And I don’t admire a lot of women—at least not a lot of ones currently living. Is that bad? I’m not sure. I have my reasons for loving women from Scripture: we see how things “turned out.” We know they finished the race set before them. In some cases we know their struggles and the way they faced those struggles. We learn so much from them. That’s why I stand at attention when a woman of my own generation makes me notice qualities that resonate with me, qualities that I admire.

Now does this mean that Ann Romney is perfect? I’m guessing not.

But since no one is, I’m confident proclaiming that perfection doesn’t have to be a gold standard.

The gold standard, for me, is how a woman engages in her life’s circumstances in a way that reflects commitment and acceptance. The gold standard, for me, is to see a woman make a choice to, let’s say, be a lawyer or a full-time mother or a school bus driver, and then does it with gusto and even a bit of joy now and again. The gold standard, for me, is a woman who finds herself in sink-or-swim circumstances and swims.

Ann Romney passes my gold standard test.

Ann Romney’s life circumstances include the chronic illness Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t know much about MS, but I do know about a couple of other autoimmune diseases. I don’t know the everyday experience of living with MS, but I do know the everyday experience of living with a chronic condition. I have come to learn through my own experiences how stress affects your condition, how important it is to know how to balance your life with your life’s circumstances.

So I stand up and cheer for Ann Romney for allowing us a glimpse of what it is like to live with an often-debilitating condition and still smile. When I watch her on television, my own experiences with chronic illness makes me quietly wonder “How is she doing today?” I know she may be having a difficult day—or week or month—but that she continues to persevere. I don’t see her as a woman who has a lot more “things” than I do, I see her as a woman with whom I have a common bond. Not until you experience living with a chronic condition can you say the following: it doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank, a chronic illness levels the playing field.

Yep, me and Ann, we’re on the same field. I’m guessing neither of us would have chosen this particular field, but here we are. I’m grateful to her for her candor in talking about MS and for the way she gives others hope who may not have had hope before—or who are at the beginning of their journey with a diagnosis that has them spinning. Discovering this woman who is willing to share her life and her illness has been a blessing to me. Each time I read something about Ann Romney I am taken by her poise and her sincerity. I come away with the realization that this is a woman who has lived her life in a magnanimous way: she’s raised five boys (I’ve raised three so we’re sort of alike in that regard, too!) and has not let her circumstances be her undoing.

There aren’t a lot of women I would cherish meeting; but Ann Romney is definitely one of them.

Bravo, Ann! Bravo!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Should I Pray for Healing...Or Should I Carry My Cross?

It is ironic that, as a Catholic, the most difficult part of having a chronic health issue isn’t the health issue itself but is the big question: Should I pray for healing…or should I carry my cross?

And it is that question that often keeps us spiraling through a journey that is already burdensome and often overwhelming.

In my own journey, which has lasted for the better part of two decades, I know that I’ve gone through many different phases. There were times that I tried to take on St. Paul’s attitude of embracing the “thorn” of an illness while at other times I was on my knees praying—between sobs of anguish—for healing. I’ve attended Healing Masses where I’ve been prayed over by a team of healers and have hands laid upon me; I’ve had private healing prayers said over me.

I’ve done novenas and have sought alternative medical care—all at my own expense--when the established medical system failed me. I’ve been in bed unable to move from the dizziness that has enveloped me and have quietly asked God to use it as He saw fit. I’ve asked Mary to join my suffering to her Son’s and heal another person’s suffering. If a book has been written about healing, I’ve read it and believed in the miracles that Christ performed—and waited for mine.

What I’ve come to see, though, is that while the case can be made that Christ always healed, there is also an important back story that we don’t often think about: how long did that person suffer before Christ healed him or her? In one case we know it was 12 years. The woman with the hemorrhage suffered for 12 years. I remember well the 12th year of my own illness. I remember thinking “This is it! It is my time for healing! Sure 12 years seems like a long time but now I’ll be healed!”

Didn’t happen.

Twelve years came and went and still no healing; but that is because it wasn’t my time. Not easy to admit; but the back story is very important. And that is what I’ve really learned during these past two decades: the back story is the real story. It is always about our personal journey towards Christ and towards wholeness and holiness.

My back story is unique for me; it is the yoke Christ has fashioned that joins me to Him but has my own growth and salvation in mind. It wasn’t easy for me to begin sharing my story with others but I learned in these past few years that the story wasn’t mine to begin with—no story ever really is—it belongs to God to use for His kingdom. 

What is the back story Christ is trying to tell with you?

I hope that in sharing my gift of suffering in Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women, your own journey will be lightened. I’ve prayed for every woman who reads this book and trust that God will honor those prayers for you—and that your own back story will be blessed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chronic Illness: A Gift from God?

For years the only person who knew I suffered from a chronic illness was my husband. Over time, and out of necessity, a few more people were allowed into my world of health issues—and yet no one really knew the severity of what I went through, except my husband.

What I’ve come to realize is that I prefer my world be divided into two clear parts: the private, reclusive Cheryl and the author, writer, teacher, social Cheryl. Mostly, though, at the heart of who I am is the private, reclusive Cheryl.

My quiet, alone time is important to me—even more so since I began spiritual direction a few years ago and sought to understand the movements of God in my life and live accordingly. I need to be with God in a very real way and have learned how to respond to the ache for Him through my prayer life and “down time.”

As the years progressed and I understood that my physical suffering had value, I began sharing bits and pieces of what I was going through: severe joint problems, nights of dizziness and vomiting that rivaled scenes from The Exorcist, and constant feelings of imbalance (just to name a few). I’m not sure where I saw my “sharing” going but believed that God was using it for some reason beyond the way it was drawing me deeper in my relationship with Him. I was willing to let Him use it as He saw fit. That was all I knew at the time.

So it was that when I signed the contract with Servant Books to write Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women I knew it was time for it to be shared in a very public way in the chapter “The Gift of Suffering.” Still, it isn’t easy opening yourself up to the world and letting people know about your life experiences. It isn’t easy to shine a light on what you are going through and suggest that someone else can draw insight or inspiration from it.

Quite frankly, I would rather have been healthy my whole life; and I share that sentiment and frustration as well in the book.

Nonetheless, I’m allowing God to continue to mold me (I keep thinking “Potter-Clay”) and although I’m still on the journey towards wholeness and health, I pray that the knowledge that suffering from a chronic condition can be a gift from God will shine through in my words which have been prayed through and offered up for every woman who reads Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women.

Friday, August 10, 2012

John Paul II on the Dignity of Work

Teresa Tomeo and Cheryl Dickow

“From the beginning therefore he [man] is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature.”

Blessed John Paul wrote these words in his encyclical Laborem Exercens in 1981.

I’ve referred to this encyclical many times in my own writings and in attempting to get at the very nature of who I am as a Catholic woman, wife, mother, author, and teacher. I have found in his words a timeless truth—no surprise there!—and a certain sense of peace as well. Whether I have worked outside of the home out of necessity or out of a desire, balancing work with family always holds it challenges; but also holds its rewards.

Nothing offers a fuller sense of satisfaction than a task well-performed. It doesn’t matter if that task is washing the kitchen floor, finding the best bargains at the grocery store, or guiding a classroom of middle school students towards a lesson’s objective. Inherent in who we are as humans, as Blessed John Paul points out, is the need for a person to contribute to his or her family or neighborhood or culture in a discernable way. This is what separates us from the animals but also is what gives us dignity.

This is a different dignity—or maybe it is best to say it is another level of dignity—than we all have as created beings; that inherent dignity exists whether we “work” a day in our life or not. The presupposition here is our understanding of the dignity of the human being from conception to natural death.

In Laborem Exercens, Blessed John Paul moves past that assumption and explores the value and need for every man to “work” as a way to participate in God’s plan for man on earth and to elevate each day’s work in such a way that it actually becomes divine.

That is an incredible understanding of work—and quite a goal we ought to have as a society.

When we create a culture wherein safety nets become traps, we are denying dignity to each and every person caught in the trap. We are withholding an opportunity for each and every person to participate in God’s plan.

Think about how you felt the last time you finished a project or completed an assignment. I know that when I write a column I may read and re-read it half a dozen times. It feels good. I’ve accomplished something.

When I stand next to my three grown sons and listen to them converse with each other there is a sense of accomplishment that I have as their mother. God gave me a job and I performed it to the best of my abilities.

When my husband finishes a project at work he has a bit of a spring in his step. Dignity exists within that accomplishment. When my college-aged son passes a particularly difficult test he is more animated and more talkative. It has affected him in a good way.

Blessed John Paul goes on to write:

“Even by their secular activity they must assist one another to live holier lives. In this way the world will be permeated by the spirit of Christ and more effectively achieve its purpose in justice, charity and peace... Therefore, by their competence in secular fields and by their personal activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them work vigorously so that by human labour, technical skill, and civil culture created goods may be perfected according to the design of the Creator and the light of his Word.”

Notice that through work the world will more readily be filled with justice, charity and peace! That makes sense, doesn’t it? If we really step back and think about it, there is an interior sense of dignity that rises up within us when we are productive. Why would we deny that from others? When we all share that vision of work and look for ways to bring that to all, we are creating heaven on earth: we are providing an opportunity for each and every person to feel alive in a way that only work can produce.

When Blessed John Paul includes a long list of work that is established in Scripture you can’t deny God’s call upon each of us regardless of what we do:

“The books of the Old Testament contain many references to human work and to the individual professions exercised by man: for example, the doctor, the pharmacist, the craftsman or artist, the blacksmith—we could apply these words to today's foundry-workers-the potter, the farmer, the scholar, the sailor, the builder, the musician, the shepherd, and the fisherman. The words of praise for the work of women are well known. In his parables on the Kingdom of God Jesus Christ constantly refers to human work: that of the shepherd, the farmer, the doctor, the sower, the householder, the servant, the steward, the fisherman, the merchant, the labourer. He also speaks of the various form of women's work. He compares the apostolate to the manual work of harvesters or fishermen. He refers to the work of scholars too.”

Does this mean that work is all fun and games? No, as further we find in Laborem Exercens, work is always associated with toil. That is part and parcel of the journey we are on. So on the one hand there is a sense of dignity inherent in each of our accomplished tasks, while on the other hand those tasks aren’t accomplished without toil on our part.

I agree.

During the long days of raising three boys who are four years apart in age I wasn’t always sure I was going to make; and for darn sure I wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t failing at it, either.

Studying for his test, my son doesn’t smile and proclaim the joy he is experiencing. No, he perseveres in spite of the obstacles and frustrations.

When my husband is in the midst of a project his hours are long, his nights are sleepless, and his mind is elsewhere.

This isn’t to say we are entitled to a job filled with joy and reward wherein everyday is an excursion to Happyland. Rather, it is to recognize that we are designed by our Creator for work that may be demanding and difficult, it may be boring or strenuous; but whatever it is, it is also an opportunity to unite with God and give glory and honor to His kingdom.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Loving the Body You Are In

A dear sister-in-the-Lord recently shared her enthusiasm with me in regards to 6 pounds she had shed. I smiled and congratulated her and gave her a big hug. Six pounds – an awesome accomplishment, indeed! Of course she looked the exact same to me as she did before she lost the 6 pounds but I kept that little realization to myself. In other words, I thought she was perfect. Her physical beauty and her spiritual beauty were so interconnected, from my perspective, that had she gained weight I would not have noticed either. But those few pounds made a difference in how she viewed herself and how she believed the world viewed her.

My own self-perception is just as fragile. I have never been known to purchase clothes that actually fit. I view myself as needing clothes that are always at least one size larger than the “real” me. My own body image still suffers as a result of many comments made to me while I was a young teenager.

Body image is something that affects almost all women – even Catholic women. Never mind that we understand that we’ve been created in His image and that we are perfect just the way we are – assuming we haven’t been told by a medical professional of a need to change a diet due to diabetes, heart disease etc. – we still find ourselves questioning our shape, our weight, our appearance.

Maybe the summer has taken a toll on your body image as you’ve maneuvered your way through the swimwear department and have barely survived. Or maybe this was the year you gave up short sleeve shirts altogether and suffered through a heat wave as if you were a southern belle quite used to fanning yourself for hours on end. Summer is a great time to examine your own body image because it is difficult to hide your uneasiness as you attempt to find clothes to cover your “flaws” that won’t make you pass out in the heat.

In the end, summer is a time to love who you are as a daughter of the King. Embrace your imperfections and your image battles. Consider the ways they can make you a better daughter, sister and friend.

Summer is a great time for all of us to make a concerted effort to see ourselves as Christ sees us rather than how we may have been conditioned to see ourselves.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Friendships from God

Sitting with Bishop Hebda at Dave and Claire's home on Old Mission
Deacon explaining the wine making process at breathtaking Chateau Chantel
Bishop Bernard Hebda from Diocese of Gaylord, MI is kind enough to stop by and say hello and visit a bit with us, the pilgrims.
Me and Teresa on the balcony of Chateau Chantel  overlooking the beautiful vineyard and Lake Michigan.
From front left around table to front right) Dinner: John, me, Dave, Claire, Julie, Time, Father Libby, Teresa, Dom, Laura, and Dave
John and I standing in front of the iron work which proclaims and reminds; I am the Vine and you are the branches.

Being Blessed by Friends Given by God

My husband and I joined some of the other pilgrims from last year's trip to Italy in Traverse City this past weekend. The most profound statement was when Tim from California said, "We've always been together."

Praise God for these wonderful people and the friendships God has give through them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Boys Will, Indeed, Be Boys

I remember when my first son was in need of his first haircut.  I took him to a professional stylist and, with 35mm camera in hand, clicked away, literally walking around and around his seat, so that, once developed, the pictures would immortalize that very special day in my life, in his life, in the world, I was sure.
By the time my third son was in need of his first haircut, I let my mom have at it and, as it turned out, time did not improve her hair-cutting skills.  My youngest son ended up with the same bangs that I had worn some 30 years earlier — a wavy line of hair jutting out all over the place somewhere between eyebrows and the hairline.
Things really do change from the first born to the second and then to the third.  And as that is all the children we were blessed with, I can go no further with my experience but my assumptions would be that by the fifth or sixth child, he or she may very well be performing his or her own first haircut.
Now, my oldest is now a college graduate and owns his first home, the second is a semester away from graduation and the third has begun his college years. All the years in between those first haircuts and this point in time have truly gone by in the blink of an eye.
I can’t say, for sure, what each of my son’s take on things has been; but, for me it has been an incredible journey.  And I’ll admit that I look back and find great relief that my oldest, in particular, has been so forgiving towards me in all the ways I tried to shape and mold him into what I thought was right — and certainly in keeping with my post-feminist upbringing which included the need to neutralize any distinctions between the sexes along with my politically-correct interest in taming all things that could even appear to have a glimmer of “inappropriateness” attached to them.
I remember once when my mother was reading a book to my oldest son.  She came to some point in the story where, when my husband and I read it, we had always chosen to replace some word or phrase with more “proper” words, but not knowing better, grandma read the actual words.  Well, when he heard her reading it verbatim, he was on the floor laughing, “Grandma! It does not say that!” So much for our attempt at politically-correct censorship.
No matter how hard I tried, though, he was still a “boy.”  And that means something. They all were, actually, very much “boys.”  For instance, they simply weren’t able to pass each other in the hall without a push and a shove for good luck.  Try as I might to dissuade them, they were just so “physical” all the time! I once received a note from a teacher who, in all seriousness, felt it was imperative to tell me that my son, while playing “Duck-Duck-Goose” became so mischievous that he tapped two children instead of one!  I can only imagine the pandemonium that ensued and my son received from me the sternest of warning against such wild classroom antics. At the time I was duly mortified that I would have birthed the child who wreaked havoc with “Duck-Duck-Goose” rules.
Of course, despite such notes and other miscellaneous offenses along the way, my boys were, in fact, quite good kids — in the grand scheme of things. Sure there were times that I was forced to walk away from parent-teacher conferences with a piece of paper held in front of my face in hopes of obscuring my identity as I made a beeline towards the door; but, all in all they were really fine young boys on their way growing into fine young men.
It’s just that I didn’t have brothers and couldn’t figure out why these boys of mine wouldn’t sit down and play quietly with one another or do their puzzles in an orderly fashion.  I could fondly recall how my sisters and I would play school for hours on end. Not a peep out of us as we wrote on the chalkboard and assigned one another “homework.”
The closest my boys came to that sort of quiet, structured, group play was when they were building Legos; but, for the most part, even that time was spent constructing weapons or creating scenarios in which caves, hideouts and counter-attack strategies were necessary.  This, after having been exposed to the dullest of television choices — which were extremely time-limited anyhow — and don’t forget censorship galore on all books!
One dinner, when the boys were around 2, 4, and 6 I remember one of them eating a piece of bread into the shape of a gun and being completely convinced that I had failed as a mother.

“How,” I moaned to my husband, “could they even
know about such things?!”
Boys will be boys.
Now that’s a phrase I’m none too fond of but there is some truth to the fact that, well, boys will be boys.  However, if we understand it not as an excuse for bad behavior but, rather, being a plausible testament to some basic genetic truths, we are able to more sufficiently appreciate how God created male and female and the path on which each will proceed towards developing virtuous behaviors and moral choices.  Denying the genetic and natural differences between male and female will not make them go away.
And as a mother of all boys — and never having had any brothers — I have grown to love the way in which God has made male and female.  Raising boys has given me a new appreciation of my husband and how, if we are called to the vocation of marriage, we grow in beautiful ways when we embrace the unique gifts and talents and personalities of male and female.
I am fully convinced that God knew what he was doing when, in His immense wisdom, He gave me all sons.  I have learned so much about our Creator through my life as a mother of boys.  So many of the ill-conceived notions about gender-neutrality, which was part and parcel of my life as a teenager in the post-radical-feminist-movement that pervaded the 70s, have been washed away in the Truth about male and female, their inherent differences, their shared dignity, their beauty as having been created, equally but diverse, in His image, His likeness.
As my own sons grow into men, I am grateful for the gifts they have received from their Creator and feel blessed that I discovered, sooner rather than later, how important their unique “maleness” is and how it has been a gift to participate in helping them grow into all that God has called them to be as they venture out into the world as men.