1 Jun

Warning: Rape triggers.


It was a late January Saturday night. It was c-o-l-d. Just about everyone in the dorm had gone home for the weekend, including my roommate, the girls on either side of my room, and those across the hall. The dorm was, for all intents, deserted.

I headed for a beer bash just off campus; couldn’t beat the price – all the beer a college gal could drink for FREE. It was a ploy to get the gals there; I was too naïve to realize it was also a ploy, still employed, to get those gals nice and liquored up.

I walked over to the house with a couple of friends, all bundled up against the bitter Pennsylvania cold. The place was already overcrowded. It was loud; I recognized a couple of people I knew and we all began talking, dancing, drinking, singing to Springsteen, drinking more, and singing louder. An upper classman offered to give me a ride back to the dorm, which sounded like a good idea given both my state and the cold outside.

I had spotted him shortly after we arrived – he wore a TKE jacket and unlike almost every other TKE on campus, the name on it looked like it could have actually been his real first or last name. We had spent a good amount of time talking earlier in the evening and I didn’t think twice about accepting his offer. Continue reading

Each Day a New Decision: Choose Life

25 Mar

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness, To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love”


It’s spring in the northern hemisphere, and spring can be a difficult season for many. While we tend to think of winter as a difficult season with people struggling with seasonal affective disorder and a myriad of holidays, many people suffer with spring. The signs of new life it brings – trees budding, birds singing, grass greening – can be troubling to those not experiencing personal signs of new life.

While skeptics may say the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, I say each day gives us the opportunity to choose whether we are just surviving another day or whether we are truly living. Skeptics may say each day we are just another day closer to death. While this may technically be true, why not each day choose to live? Why not choose life?

John 3 talks about being born again from the Spirit. Every day is an opportunity to start afresh. Afresh with a new attitude. Afresh with new friends. Afresh with new or repaired relationships. This is what I refer to when I refer to choosing LIFE. Choose active, not passive, participation in your own life! Continue reading

My Wild Irish Roots

17 Mar

When your full name is Doreen Ann Mary Mannion, you do not need to wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, or drink green beer for that matter. Being Irish is certainly not a “one day a year” event in my life. My father’s mother, my Nana, Anne Corcoran, was “off the boat” Irish; she arrived in the US alone at age 18 in 1924, straight from the family farm in County Longford. My father’s father, my Pop, Charles Mannion, was second generation American. Until recently, much to my Mom’s dismay, I rather thought of myself as Irish-American, and that’s it; I since have taken great delight in learning more about my other half – my French-Canadian half.

nana cow

My Nana could be very funny. She sent this photo back to Ireland with the note, “With love to Mother. ‘Which is the cow? Don’t you think I look sweet, and how?'”

Thanks to years of difficult research by my Mom long before the Internet, I not only know who my great grandparents were, but also know the names of all 8 of my paternal great, great-grandparents – all born in Ireland – Thomas Mannion & Anne McElroy, Patrick Gaffney & Anne Masterson, Thomas Corcoran & Bridget Duffy, and Patrick Leavy & Ann O’Reilly. (I even know an amazing 11 of 16 full names of my great, great, great-grandparents on my Dad’s side.)

Thomas Mannion was the son of Patrick Mannion & Margaret Grady, who were kicked off their land by the British and forced onto a coffin ship bound for North America in 1849 during an Gorta Mór, which took place between 1845 and 1852, and which you may mistakenly know as “The Potato Famine.” While it is true the potato crop failed, this was no famine. This was mass starvation.

Patrick, Margaret, and Thomas were accompanied on the journey by Thomas’ siblings John, Patrick, Malachy, and Mary; and Margaret’s brothers Thomas and Leonard Peter, and their wives and children. The families were luckier than most. Not only did they survive the starvation efforts at home; they were not sold to the Caribbean as slaves and they all survived the journey across the Atlantic to Quebec.

It is unknown when Patrick Gaffney & Anne Masterson came to the US. They had four daughters, including my great grandmother Annie, and a son, James. James was quite the character. Born in 1868, he found favor as a Tammany Hall politician as a young man and went on to become a prominent businessman and owner of the Boston Braves during the period they won the World Series as the “Miracle Braves” of 1914.

gaffney ws

James E. Gaffney, fourth from the right.

Gaffney was also involved in the impeachment of the governor of New York, William Sulzer, the only time in history the governor has been impeached. When Sulzer refused to do Tammany’s bidding and name Gaffney Superintendent of Public Highways, Tammany threatened to have his job and they carried through on their promise.

I have been fascinated by my great, great uncle James Gaffney since I was a child and first viewed the large portrait of him hanging in my grandparent’s home. Gaffney had built the home and the one next to it on speculation, and when it did not sell, he gave it to his sister, Pop’s mother (I’m sure there were tax writeoffs even in those days, lol). Pop inherited the home from his mother.

It never made much sense to me why the portrait hung there since he was not close to his sister, my great grandmother, or to Pop. I recently determined this portrait is the one referred to in several New York Times articles as being missing as it may have demonstrated that Gaffney had surgery to avoid identification and conviction on a number of serious charges concerning awarding of city contracts! No wonder he buried it at his sister’s house on Long Island!

The Corcoran, Duffy, Leavy, and O’Reilly names are still well-known in their areas of origin. My Dad still has first cousins there and I have been fortunate to visit several times as well as host cousins here in the states. We had a great Corcoran family reunion there in 1999, pictured.

ireland family reunion 1999

Corcoran family reunion, 1999

So, no, I won’t be wearing green today. On a day when everyone is considered Irish, I appreciate the chance to go on a bit about my wee Irish family and my Wild Irish Roots! Thanks to my Mom for being the genealogist in the family and for all her years of research. Prayers for all the family members who have passed since the family reunion. RIP.

What, Me? Worry?

4 Mar

I have a confession to make.

I’m scared.


I’ve been out of work for almost 7 months now (with no unemployment because my previous employer misinformed the unemployment office about my situation and made me ineligible). Our savings are depleted, including a couple of small 401ks I had from previous employers. My parents have offered to help, but who really wants to take funds from their fixed-income parents? I worry about them having enough to live on!

We’ve been blessed. Our household income was doing just fine until a few years ago, when both of our health situations soured and my employment situation went south. The combination of high medical bills and reduced wages has proved difficult for even the best planners among us. Oh, sure, we are still very blessed, and very spoiled. Unlike many Americans, we usually take at least one nice vacation per year. I just got back from Australia. How bad could things be, really?

Bad enough that I just took a job making a bit more than minimum wage, for which I am very grateful. Bad enough that, unbeknownst to Connie, I floated an ad on craigslist to see what kind of response I’d get for renters for our spare bedroom & bathroom upstairs, and, well, YIKES!

If you know me or have read my postings for any length of time, you know I am not into comparative suffering. Telling myself that at least we have a roof over our heads and food does little good when I wonder how many more months we may have these things if I do not find employment, and soon. It does not help to hear that “something will come through” or “God will provide” or “He never gives you more than you can handle” when you have seen so many friends in this exact position go on to lose their homes (four that I can think of without thinking too hard).

As a Christian, isn’t this when I am supposed to have more faith, not less? Isn’t this when I am supposed to remember

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matt 6:26-34 (NRSV)

We aren’t eating Ramen every night. We haven’t sold the pups. It’s not exactly the Dust Bowl, yet. I guess I just don’t like being this far out of my comfort zone.

Maybe that’s the lesson I need to learn.

Dear God,

You have given us beautiful shelter, clothes, food, frisky puppies, great friends, loving family. You’ve nursed us back to health every time we’ve needed it. We do not doubt you; we doubt our capability for patience. Help us be patient. Shine a bright light on the path you would have us follow. Take away our worries and replace it with trust.


Easy to Love

17 Feb

you’d be so easy to love
so easy to idolize all others above
so worth the yearning for
so swell to keep every home fire burning for
and we would be so grand at the game
carefree together that it does seem a shame
that you can’t see your future with me
cause you’d be, oh, so easy to love
1936 – Cole Porter


Let’s be honest. Even those we find the most loveable – our children, our spouse, our close friends – can sometimes do things to hurt us and make us wonder why we love them like we do. Love can hurt. So, what are we to make of the Biblical imperative to love our enemies? Our enemies?

Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (NRSV)

One of the best ways to be able to love your enemies is to not have any.

Seeing another as a foe gives all the power to that person. Surrendering the hurt, salving the wound, moving onward and upward, is spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthier. It can take time. It should take time.

Few among us have true enemies – a neighbor who is harassing us, an ex who is stalking us, a supervisor bent on preventing us from earning a living. Many of us have perceived enemies. Just because someone does not agree with you politically does not mean that person is necessarily your enemy. Just because you are no longer married to someone does not necessarily mean that person is your enemy.

Another word for enemy may be “other.” It is easy to love those like us. It is easy to love the familiar. It is more difficult to love the other – those not like us. Those who do not think like us. Those who do not live like us. Those who do not vote like us. Those who do not worship like us (or who do not worship at all).

If we are all made in the image of the Holy, how can we do anything but love one another?

We must learn to forgive ourselves and we must spread this forgiveness to others.

Hate, like envy, is counterproductive.

When faced with an adversary, I first try to determine where the person is coming from. Is it from a place of hurt? Of anger? Of ignorance? Next I try to depersonalize the situation. It is probably not about me per se; I just happen to be there. I listen before I speak. When you are listening, you are not thinking about what you are going to say. I try to find places of common ground. I ask questions to find out why the person believes what they believe. Is it due to some personal experience? Is this what they were taught?

If, after all this, we are still miles apart in whatever it is that makes us adversaries, that may be where we stay. That does not mean we need depart in a place of hate, however.

I am not naïve, nor have I been spared from some really nasty people, yet I do not hate anyone. To do so would be to remain a captive of those who have hurt me. I am not captive; I am FREE.

Dear Holy Mother & Father,

We know not everyone will be for us all the time. Help us recognize this and work together with those with whom we hold differences. Let us see the holy in one another. Help us love ourselves and forgive ourselves and help us love and forgive others.


This post is part of the February Synchroblog: Loving Our Enemies. Please visit these other posts:

The Loneliness of Addiction

5 Feb

(Warning: addiction and depression triggers)


The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman brought the usual spectrum of responses in cyberspace, some of which both angered and wounded me deeply. Among the responses I read:

  1. How selfish
  2. We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others
  3. Predictable
  4. He needed Jesus
  5. Why do people care what celebrities do?

I didn’t know Mr. Hoffman, but I know a bit about addiction. I am an addict. I’ve been addicted to drugs (alcohol, crank), sex, food, love, religion, drama, bad choices, pain, and many combinations thereof. I am still addicted to some of these things. I often say I am glad I was never a smoker because I believe that’s one of the most difficult addictions to break. I have been clean and sober for 25 years, 7 months, and 2 days as of this writing, one day at a time, and sometimes one moment at a time.

I am doubly blessed–or doubly cursed–depending on one’s perspective, to also have depression. In my case, there is a definite connection between some of my addictions and the depression. In my case, there is a definite biochemical component to both my depression and my addictive personality.

  1. How selfish.

    This is a common refrain when reading that someone has committed suicide or come to a bad end that was seemingly preventable such as in the case of a drug overdose. If you’ve never been suicidal, I can see where you might think committing suicide is selfish. Having been there, I can tell you it is not. It is actually a selfless act. When you are there, you think you are doing the rest of the world a favor in relieving the world of the burden that is you.

  2. We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others.

    This is laughable on many levels. The only truths in this statement are that we all have demons and we are all weak. The only reason these are truths is because we are all human. I am not into comparative suffering (i.e., a person who lives in a wooden shack in a third world country is automatically “worse off” than someone who lives in a mansion in Manhattan), and I am not a demonologist per se. Let’s just say we all have our struggles and our battles.

    Being an addict or being depressed are not signs of weakness. They are signs of medical conditions. This is despite what you may be taught at church or at school.

  3. Predictable.

    Some believe Mr. Hoffman was destined to die of an overdose because of some combination of his previous history of use and his celebrity. This does great disservice to those who have maintained sobriety as well as to those celebrities who do not have addiction issues. It is also snarky and pessimistic.

  4. He needed Jesus.

    This is the response I found most offensive, for several reasons. First, I doubt the authors knew Mr. Hoffman and therefore did not know his relationship with Jesus. Second, just because someone is an addict or is suicidal does not mean the person does not know Jesus. In fact, I would say that being an addict or suffering from depression as a Christian may be more difficult than it is for a non-Christian because of the judgment and stigma many Christians attach to it.

    People assume others use drugs or are depressed because something is missing and Jesus is the missing thing. This may be true for some, but is not true for all. You can no more pray away the addiction or the depression than you can pray away the gay.

  5. Why do people care what celebrities do?

    Many people do not. Those who take time to ask this question must on some level, otherwise why are they taking time to comment?

    People who care deeply about people care about all people, whether or not they know them personally. Such people care about the lost potential. Such people care about those left behind, particularly children. Such people typically grieve when natural disasters hit, even though they do not personally know any of those people either.

For me, at the root, my diseases of addiction and depression are diseases of loneliness. In my moments of greatest despair, I believe there is not one person on earth who knows how it feels to be me. There is not one person who hurts as much as I hurt. The world would be better if I were not here to mess it up further. Intellectually, of course I know these things are not true, but my addictions are of my soul, not of my head.

What saves my soul? My family. My friends. That which I consider Holy. Those who have gone before me–my guardian angels–my Grammie, my Nana, my Auntie Mo, my bestie Greggo. Good doctors and therapists. Good medications. Journaling. AA. Gratitude.

Where Is Grace?

31 Jan


Where is grace when you let the door slam on the person behind you rather than hold the door open?

Where is grace when you park in the handicap parking spot for “just a few minutes” when you don’t have a placard?

Where is grace when you cut your server’s tip because the food took too much time coming from the kitchen?

Where is grace when you beat yourself up over something you did or didn’t do years ago when you didn’t have the wisdom you have now?

Where is grace when you punish the child for the sins of the mother or father?

Where is grace when we are more concerned with how many words a football player says at a press conference than how many words we say to our own children?

Where is grace when you’re in too much of a hurry to return the smile of the stranger on the street?

Where is grace?

Dear God,

You shower us with kindness and mercy because you love us, not because of anything we have done.  Help us show more kindness and mercy to one another and to ourselves. Help us find grace. Help us be grace. Help us give grace. Help us act gracefully.



Imago Dei

24 Jan

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27 (NRSV)


Ironically, it had already been put on my heart to blog about Imago Dei before I heard about the formation of a new coalition announced today by the same name. The coalition, formed by Evangelicals including Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver and Life Today’s James Robison, was formed, according to a story in the Washington Post, “to encourage people to treat each other with respect.”

We really need a religious coalition to tell us this? To tell us we should treat one another with respect? Call me skeptical, but I am afraid it is just a ploy to put a nicer, friendly face on the same negative message about “the other” in order to keep bringing in funds.

It is at the beginning of the Bible, first book, first chapter, that God created humans in God’s own image – Imago Dei. This is easy to remember when we look at most babies, those we love, those we admire, and whatever is passing as society’s current standard for beauty. This becomes more difficult when considering those we dislike, despise, do not meet society’s standard for beauty, and those who commit heinous crimes.

Yet, much as Matthew 22:39 does not say, “Love your neighbor as yourself, except the ones who are too loud, don’t worship me, or are gay,” there are no qualifiers on Imago Dei. We are all made in the image of the holy. Continue reading

Liar, Liar, Hearts on Fire

15 Jan

Would I lie to you?
Would I lie to you honey?
Now would I say something that wasn’t true?
I’m asking you sugar
Would I lie to you?
Writers: Lennox, A., & Stewart, D. A. / ©Universal Music Publishing Group


One of my favorite hobbies is genealogy. Not only do I enjoy discovering the “who was” and “where was” information of my own family, I get tremendous satisfaction from helping others discover their roots. I belong to several groups on Facebook where I get to do this, and it can be a lot of fun.

It can also be painful at times.

What I have learned about families is, unless you were there and saw the child delivered out of the mother with your own eyes, you cannot believe much of what you have been told, and often cannot believe the “documentation” either. Genealogists love to harp about “the documentation.” Family trees on sites like ancestry.com that do not have the “proper” documentation drive many genealogists nuts because without documentation, it is all conjecture.

Like with any hobby, there are those who dabble in genealogy, those who are professionals, and those who are in-between.  People who belong to groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Mayflower Society take this pastime very seriously. You should not even feign a joke about these groups else you be flamed, and flamed until you are well done. Their documentation is beyond reproach. Continue reading

When It’s Over, It’s Just Beginning

10 Jan

Some say it’s just the nature of the beast
When you love somebody so passionately
Time has a way of stealing
That raging fire feeling
Leaving the ashes laying at your feet

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Emi Music Publishing, Zells Music Company (Kennedy, M. A./Rose, P./Parton, C.)

I hate to be a spoilsport if you haven’t already figured this out, but every beginning has an ending. It is one of life’s greatest paradoxes that part of living is losing.

Whether it’s a delicious meal, a delightful conversation, or a delirious love affair, sooner or later, it’s going to be over.

Like many other things life throws our way, however, the key is how we handle it when it happens.

The end of a relationship may come suddenly like a push off a cliff or slowly like death by a thousand paper cuts. The way it ends affects how our mind, our heart, and our soul remains, but we are always left in some state of messiness. All of us are left this way. It does not matter if the parting was expected, unexpected, desired, undesired; it is messy. We can never be prepared. Our humanity has a way of smacking us in the face. And, if it was undesired (or we didn’t get to “break up first”), our ego. Oh, our ego!

You can study loss, grieving, break ups, death and dying, bereavement, and heartbreak all you want, and it won’t matter when it’s your time. You may have consoled dozens of friends and family in the same situation and can replay all the right words to yourself over and over, and it sounds just like Charlie Brown’s parents: “Whaa, whaa, whaa.”

The loss of a relationship makes us question everything. It doesn’t help when those around us, however well meaning, make comments like, “What were you thinking?” or “What did you ever see in him?” Please, friends and family, do not make these comments; we are already asking ourselves the same thing!

As a former queen of serial monogamy, I feel qualified to offer some breakup advice.

  1. Be kind to yourself. You are not fat, ugly, unlovable, stupid, or any combination thereof. This is not the time for self-criticism. It is a good time for self-examination. There is a difference.
  2. Surround yourself with those who care about you. Particularly if you and the recently departed spent a lot of time together and your friendship time waned, you may be hesitant to contact friends to chat and hang out. Don’t be hesitant. We’ve all been there. You need to be around those who know you well and love you. You especially need to be around those not afraid to tell you the truth.
  3. Eat. Pray. Love. Don’t forget to eat. Don’t stop exercising. Don’t stop doing things you love.  (If you can’t remember what they are, see #2.) Meditation and prayer are wonderful ways to take your mind off the radio station U247 and get some peace.
  4. Don’t put a timeframe on your healing. It is going to take as long as it takes. It took me longer to heal from a relationship that never really was than it did to heal from a relationship of almost 10 years. You cannot predict in advance how long it will take. Yeah, that sucks. Get over it.
  5. It will bite you in the butt when you least expect it. Somewhere down the road, long after you think you are over it, “it” will come back and bite you in the butt. Guess what? That’s okay. We want endings to be all neat and tidy, but they are not.

If you are struggling with a relationship loss, no matter the circumstances, I wish you peace and light. If there are approaches that have worked for you in dealing with losses, please share them in the comments section so we may all learn.

To our Creator,

Please comfort those who are struggling with any sort of loss. Fill that empty place with light, love, and peace. We know you are near the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit. Rescue us from our loneliness; let us find one another in sisterhood and brotherhood, for we are all more alike than we are different.

Amen. (Psalm 34)

Please visit the other synchroblog authors who wrote about New Beginnings for this month:

Jen Bradbury – Enough

Abbie Watters – New Beginnings

Cara Strickland – Bursting

Carol Kuniholm – Acorns, King, Beloved Community

Done With Religion – A New Year, A New Beginning

Kelly Stanley – A Blank Canvas

Glenn Hager – Overcoming The Biggest Obstacle To Reaching Your Goals

Dave Criddle – Get Some New Thinking

David Derbyshire – Changed Priorities Ahead

J A Carter – The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time

Damon – New Beginnings: Consider These 5 Questions Before Tying The Knot

Jeffrey Kranz – Where To Start Reading The Bible

Joanna990 – On survival – my one word for 2014

K W Leslie – Atonement

Happy – my One Word 365 surprise

Michelle Moseley – Ends and Beginnings

Matthew Bryant – A New Creation

Liz Dyer – It’s a new year and time to make some new mistakes

Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich – Foreclosed: The beginning of a new dream

Jennifer Clark Tinker – Starting a New Year Presently

Loveday Anyim – New Year New Resolutions

Loveday Anyim – New Year Resolution Dreamers

Loveday Anyim – New Year Resolution Specialists

Loveday Anyin – New Year Resolution Planners and Achievers

Jeremy Myers – Publish Your Book with Redeeming Press

Amy Hetland – New Beginnings

Phil Lancaster – New Beginnings

Mallory Pickering – Something Old, Something New

Margaret Boelman – The Other Side of Grief

Kathy Escobar – One Image

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