Sunday, June 19, 2022

Remembering on Father's Day

 Happy Father's Day to all the father figures, both spiritual and physical, today!

Today was a busy one with doing school work before others woke up in my house, prepping for VBS after mass, celebrating a beautiful Baptism for dear friends, and attending a Father's Day cookout party for the Friars at a friend's before giving Adam his gifts as we enjoyed a yummy lemon bar dessert tonight.

The busyness of all the celebrations helped to keep my mind distracted and from dwelling on how much I wished I could call Dad. Joy and sadness intermingle so much and so often that it simultaneously feels like a sharp jagged edge yet also has a dull side from being worn down and felt so much. This familiar feeling of restlessness yet acceptance doesn't seem like it will go away any time soon. Perhaps that is the gracefully accept and then move on and to carry what has been given.

Receiving the below images tonight from my little brother did me in though.

This is the sort of story Dad would have loved to have heard about and I am so glad Patrick thought to do this. How inspiring!

Also.... Even though I am full from these - -

I am now hungry for Grottos. Lol! 

Love you, Dad. Thank you for raising us the way you did and inspiring actions like these in your absence. ❤️

Monday, May 9, 2022

Mothering on Mother's Day

The other day, April 28th, was the feast of St. Gianna Beretta Molla who is loved by so many! She is such a relatable saint! St. Gianna had so many amazing vocations which is why I think so many can connect with her. She was a doctor, wife, and mother. It is said that she listened to God's promptings in every season of her life, discerning in each moment what the next best step was.

I found this write up about her online @

* She is a role model for all of us, not only because of the amazing sacrifice she was willing to make for her unborn daughter, but also because her life is one that shows us that we are called to holiness in every aspect of our own unique lives. The call to Sainthood is constant, when we're single and working, when we're married, when we have a family. The specifics may change from season to season, but the call to follow Christ everyday in sacrificial love remains the same.

St. Gianna, pray for us!

What I love about the story of St. Gianna is she worked both in the home and outside the home. She worked with her husband to take care of her family and also tended to others through her work. I can definitely relate to that pull of working for not only my daughter and husband but also for my students, colleagues, and others entrusted to my care. It was for this reason that I waited until 04/28 to share news of my book on MotherScholars on social media.

Several weeks ago, I asked the student teachers who helped found a new ministry with me when could I have them over for a celebratory lunch and a girly afternoon of doing our nails. We settled on this weekend as it was during finals week and since some of us had finals yesterday, we landed on Sunday. We hadn't quite realized it would be Mother's Day until it got closer but we still kept our date in the planner.

I prepared homemade chicken salad cups fresh from the oven that they devoured, baked orange cranberry shortbread, and had also made peanut, pretzel, toffee delicious! These girls have poured their hearts and souls into this ministry and loved on the little girls entrusted to us this past year. They make me so proud! It was such a joy to do their nails and relax with them while Charlotte basked in their presence, painting her own nails, and saying, "Mommy, this is Girls Club!" After a while, she went in the backyard to color and draw with chalk beckoning every now and then for one of her college friends to admire her artwork. ☺️

Surprise flowers and chocolates accompanied the student teachers when they arrived this afternoon!

After the college students left, and as I reflected on how I had just literally engaged in both physical and spiritual mothering simultaneously, as I so often do and have done these last six years, I thought about how fortunate I am to have the roles I do. Thank you, Jesus! 

Tonight, as we began to wrap up the day, together we watched the first 15 minutes of Pixar's Inside Out movie. Adam and I had watched this movie before and we both had enjoyed it then. I had put it on our baby shower list as a result. We were gifted it all those years ago but Charlotte had not seen it yet. My Mother's Day request this year was that we watch it together as a family so we started it tonight! 

Charlotte immediately started saying she was the main character and that the family was "like us, Mama!" I look forward to continuing this movie with her in the upcoming summer days. 

I am so thankful for the vocations of both mothering and teaching and the opportunity to serve in multiple areas or dare I say arenas. MotherScholaring is hard but rewarding. St. Gianna's example is one worthy of emulating and I hope both Charlotte and those I mentor through work realize how much joy they bring even if I fall short some days!  

By the grace of God, therefore I go! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Baby steps

After two years and one day of waiting, my family and I were finally able to give Dad the military honors he so richly deserved. The wintry weather held off until we were halfway to the military cemetery. Looking back, it seems fitting that the rain/snow/ice fell as we stood graveside as it matched the tears and feelings of coldness that have appeared over and over again since losing Dad. As we stood in the pouring rain, I couldn't help but think of Dad encouraging us to get out of the cold wet weather and to seek shelter. He never wanted to be the center of attention when alive yet he was at the heart of it all yesterday and rightly so! People traveled from near and far, braved the cold dreary weather, and sat through a special personalized mass that was overflowing with meaningful anecdotes and special memories. 

Lots of nice things were said yesterday. Stories were shared and hugs exchanged. Time flew by so fast and not enough time was spent just sitting and talking with one another. Conversations were started then interrupted and new ones picked up where the old ones ended. 

I saw a picture of my brothers and me, with Mom, and still can't get used to seeing us as a family of five. There is a gaping hole where Dad used to be but as one of the eulogies from yesterday shared...while it is impossible to fill the space he once filled, we have the memories/love to help us to try to rise up to who he was. Yesterday, during prayer, I had an image of Jesus and Dad together holding us all up as Fr. Jack reminded us that we aren't alone and both Jesus and Dad are with us in different ways. Dad always loved the Footprints in the Sand prayer. After yesterday, and all the references to the steps he took while alive, and the different paths that unfolded in his life, I kept coming back to the walk on the beach that yielded one set of footprints at times. There were so many times that Dad carried us all by the grace of God. Now it's our turn to do the same for others in our lives. Thanks for being such a great example of quiet strength, humility, and perseverance amidst so many trials, Dad. Go rest with Jesus.

Of all the many things shared with me during yesterday's whirlwind, I think the below is one of my favorites from our cousin down in Texas who made the trip to be with us.

Today, after a two year wait, we were finally able to pay proper homage to my Uncle Rich Kemmery.

Rich was a literal force of a person. Served 2.5 tours in Vietnam as a CCT, then ATC stateside, became a pilot, then worked for the VA, was a homeless advocate, Red Cross volunteer, a church volunteer, a Meals on Wheels driver (in his late 60s), a baseball coach, a dedicated father of 4, husband, grandfather to 8, and probably the nicest, most dedicated friend you had ever met. He was larger than life.

I kept it together all the way through until my cousins said, “Hey Ethan, can we get you for a second at the end?” So, standing graveside they pointed to the MSM on the stone and asked, “You know what that is?” I said yes, and my cousin produces Uncle Rich's originally issued Meritorious Service Medal, and says, “We think it’s best for you to keep it.” At that moment I was done. I hadn’t cried that hard since I buried my grandfather. “You were like another son to him, you know that right?”

If I can exemplify even 10% of the life this man led, it will have been a life well led.

Here are other images from yesterday. I don't think we got any from the mass (here is the Youtube link to the mass (that includes beautiful music including a song from Adam's and my wedding that the families processed into the church to - Anyhow, the two eulogies start at the 48 min. 30 secs. mark). The mass was probably my favorite part of the day then we had the brunch that followed mass before we headed out to the cemetery. Some of the below pictures were captured by a friend of my sister-in-law who came out to capture these moments. Thank you, Jenn, for being there, too!

My godfather had texted me about finding the happy moments throughout the day to remember...this was one of them. Charlotte Annie had bunnynapped the stuffed bunny from Grammy's house. This was the moment when I realized what she did as I snapped this selfie.

Look at that mischievous grin!!

I think Dad would have been so proud and honored by all who came to remember him and the special way in which we recalled the impact he made on so many. <3

My little brother and I think there were about 18 to 20 cars that processed during "Pappy's Parade". There were three or four police escorts and three motorcyclist took part in the procession as well. 

Updated to add more pictures:  Here are some images I stole from my little brother. Thanks to Karina for taking them! 

The raised fists of the motorcyclists!

Patrick's view as he drove back up 81 to Frackville...

Ethan, our cousin, walking up to the group as we waited to enter the cemetery.

On the way home, the snow/ice/rain fell until just outside Pittsburgh. At one rest stop, Adam's parents bumped into my aunt, uncle, and cousin who were also making their way westward. When Adam, Charlotte, and I made a stop off the turnpike, we also ran into a former student and her family who were heading back to Ohio as well. Such a small world! That is exactly the sort of thing I would have called Dad about to share with him and we would have had a good chuckle over it.

I'm thankful we were able to finally have the service and that so many could surround Mom and ease some of the loneliness if only for the day. Thank you to all who volunteered, helped plan, contributed, and for being there. Smiles, tears, and memories were shared yesterday. May we all follow the advice shared in the closing of the second eulogy and seek to fill our shoes and make an impact as Dad did...even if just one step at a time. #onedaycloser 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Holy Hard Week

Two years ago today, Charlotte Annie said goodbye to Pappy as she and Adam drove back to Ohio. Here is what I wrote at that time.

Little did my brothers, Mom, and I, who stayed behind, know that Dad would be leaving us as we knew him that same night.

Four more days would pass before his body would breathe its last breath but the man we knew, the one we loved beyond measure, and the leader of our home who cared for, led us, and protected us so well left us on this day two years ago to begin his journey home to our Lord.

Ever since 2020, Lent and Holy Week have been extra hard for me as those times of year provide flashbacks to that extra hard holy week as we watched Dad decline and eventually peacefully breathe his last breath with us at his bedside.

All the details and memories from those early April days leading to the middle of the month are never far from my mind but are especially salient during Holy Week. Adding another layer of hard, one of my courses I teach involves focusing on the role of parents and caregivers in the children's educational matters and in their lives. This week, much like back in Spring 2020, we focused specifically on fathers and the importance of why they matter within early intervention. Those conversations and the webinar assignment we work out of fell during this 12th week of classes. On Easter Monday, we will have the long awaited funeral with military honors for Dad. I'm in part dreading the whole affair and in part thankful and grateful we can finally give him the service he so deserved. In a way this mixture of feelings takes me back to those initial days of feeling relieved Dad was no longer suffering mixed with the immense grief that is still felt today.

Now that Easter Break is about to start and the hectic frenzied pace of teaching/advising/meeting has slowed for a bit due to the liturgical schedule, I have no choice but to start facing what is coming up in a few days.

Let's rock and roll, right, Dad?

Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love. ~ Unknown

If you could spare some extra prayers this weekend on Sunday which is the actual anniversary and then on Monday which is the day we will have a special mass for the repose of Dad's soul, brunch, and then the funeral service with the military honors that afternoon, I would be so grateful!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

My most favorite student

 Charlotte Annie got to come to work with me this morning due to her school closing and my not having childcare until later in the morning. In the past, she used to be with me on campus pretty frequently but with online teaching last year, there is a whole group of my students who don't really know her as well as my former students. 

Some of that changed today when I had to bring her to work with me due to her school closing, Adam subbing, and my not being able to find childcare. I was scheduled to be on campus from 9:15am through 8:30pm.

At first, I stressed and worried for over two hours about it in trying to figure out how could I meet both her needs and those of my students. I wondered if I could still carry out my plans for that day and debated still trying to lecture with Charlotte in the room. Then, about ten minutes before we had to leave, I grabbed a children's book and matching puppet of the main character from Charlotte's baby shower and decided to scratch my original plans for this morning's lesson. 

Instead, my students were able to practice some of the strategies they have been learning this semester on a curious six year old, she learned some new vocabulary terms, and she even got to draw on some of the boards while I lectured a tiny bit. I hope she remembers this morning as one that was fun and joyful. 

Today's unexpected start will probably come in handy during tomorrow's talk given the topic of the panel. How timely! So thankful for the different ways available, at this point in my life, to serve others...from those in my home to outside the home with thanks from a lot of help/support! Looking forward to hearing stories from the other women on the panel tomorrow evening, too! 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Goodbye, Dusty Shamrock

Today was such a hard day. It started out alright enough. Dusty Shamrock and Hershey Bear woke me up at 6am as usual. I groggily shuffled my way to the back door and let them out in the dark morning then made my way over to the coffee machine. A few minutes later, after they had returned to the quiet still sleeping house, I fed them and then settled down for some early morning grading with my hot Americano with heavy whipping cream. Soon, Dusty was curled in a ball at my feet and Hershey had put himself back to bed with Charlotte and Adam.

A few hours later, it was time to get up Charlotte and get her day started as she readied herself for school. Dusty and Hershey excitedly came into the bedroom with me and licked and whisper barked at Charlotte as she was roused from her sleep. They are so dear in how excited they are each morning as she awakes (or any of us really) and begins her day.

We all four made our way to the front of the house to the breakfast table where the boys eagerly waited for any spilled or dropped cereal at Charlotte's feet.

I remember smiling as I looked at Dusty's skinny rat-like tail wagging back and forth as he walked between us for he had just had a haircut on Sunday which was four short days ago. He and Hershey look like such different pups after they get their spring shaves and lose half their body weight when the shaggy fur is removed!

Basking in the sunlight - a favorite hobby of the two pups!

This was taken as we drove home for the last time over Thanksgiving in November 2021. All three "kids" in the backseat were sound asleep during the long car ride home to northeastern Pennsylvania.
This was during an impromptu overnight cabin getaway for our family this past fall as we walked down to the lake across the street from where we stayed in a cabin! Dusty Shamrock (and now Hershey) has gone on so many adventures during all his travels.

Back to this morning, I drove Charlotte to school, chatted with a mom in the driveway, and walked at a local park for about a half hour. As I drove home from the park, I had big plans for getting caught up with grading and responding to overdue emails. I might even get started on writing thank you notes and exercise, I thought to myself, as I pulled into the driveway.

Upon entering the house, and seeing Dusty, I knew something was "off" and not right. I had only been gone for an hour but he was like a completely different dog from when I had left the house with Charlotte. Mom was up at that point and had just brought both Hershey and Dusty in from outside...yet Dusty had to go out again. He had been having seizures more and more frequently these last several days but on the back porch, seeing him have a seizure while standing up, was a first for me.

He wound up having a seizure for about 30 minutes and having a few accidents as he began to lose control of his bodily functions. His legs kept giving way and he could barely hold his head up. He was very wobbly as he tried to walk and was literally leaning against the brick wall of our house when trying to make it back into the house. I was thankful for the sunshine and warmer temps today compared to yesterday's snow as I sat outside with him. I eventually helped him back into the kitchen where I placed him by his water bowl.

I was so thankful that Charlotte was at school and that I was home with him at that point. This was the only morning this week I was home at that time and Adam was home as well. I was grateful for Mom's presence, too. When I first got Dusty, it was a few months before my new lease was set to start at my pet-friendly new apartment so Mom and Dad were the ones who kept Dusty for me for 2.5 months until it was time to move to the new home that allowed for pets! How fitting that she was with him today when she was also with him on the end of the first day of his new life with me as a 4 month old back in 2007.

I didn't start keeping track of time until Adam came into the kitchen after having slept in this morning. Having never gotten up from lying down next to me, and having a few more spasms/seizures, at 10:54am, Dusty's breathing became much more labored. The rhythm of the breathing was almost identical to how my Dad sounded in his final days. By 11:07am this morning, Dusty Shamrock had breathed his last breath. His last hour with us was somewhat peaceful and I was at his side the whole time. His final moments reminded me too much of my Dad's but I was thankful that Dusty didn't wince or cry out in pain and struggled for so little. Being with a living being during the last moments of life is so surreal and all day, I kept vacillating between memories of doing this with Dad and disbelief my little pup of the last 15 years was no longer with us. I already miss the sound of his whisper barks, his nudges from his wet cold nose when he insisted on my petting him, the feel of his velvety ears, the random drive-by lickings he would give, and seeing Hershey and him chase one another around the living room. It will be so strange to wake up in the middle of the night and to not see him lying by my side of the bed against the wall. 

Thankfully, Adam immediately began digging a hole in the backyard and took care of moving Dusty's still body. Aunt Marie arrived right then as she and Mom had lunch plans so while we were in the living room, Adam took care of things in the back of the house.

Attempting to get our annual by the Christmas tree picture!

The pups were never far from Charlotte Annie no matter what she was playing with or where she was in the house!
All her life, Charlotte has had her sidekicks and furry companions by her side!
Dusty Shamrock made for the best pillow!

He also was very patient as two year old Charlotte discovered she could make him "disappear" by covering him with a blanket! All those years of being with my niece and nephews prepared him for when Charlotte came along in 2016! ;)

Once Adam was done, we had 90 minutes until it was time to pick up Charlotte from school. We drove to a local Catholic shop to purchase a St. Francis statue and then Lowe's to pick up some sort of stone for the backyard to protect the spot where Dusty was laid to rest. We settled on a sleeping puppy angel thinking Charlotte might enjoy petting it and the imagery it evokes of Dusty having gone to Heaven. We picked up my Mom from her lunch date with Aunt Marie and continued on to Charlotte's school. Once Charlotte was in the car seat, I broke the news to her. She seemed a little sad and then said that Dusty was in Heaven with Pappy. She worriedly said that the "boys like each other" and asked how Hershey would do without Dusty. Once we got home, we got to work on a project for the yard. Charlotte was excited to draw and color a heart on the puppy statue and helped to place the statues in the yard. We used blue and white marble stones to make a cross in the dirt. As we each took turns laying down a colored stone, we shared something we loved about Dusty. Charlotte's items that she shared were: He played with Natalie and her, he licked Charlotte, and he was a good cuddler. We talked about how he was now her guardian dog with her guardian angel and would protect her from Heaven. ;)

Dusty was always near Charlotte's side. <3
He was even into Elsa and other toys that Charlotte would play with near or on him. ;)
This was taken the other day prior to his spring hair cut he just received on Sunday of this past week!

SO shaggy!

I'm so thankful he had one more bath/haircut so that my last memory of him was of his soft velvety fur rather than the knotted matted mess of hair he had been sporting!
He was such a gentle cuddler and was SO good with children!

 Spot the living dog amidst the stuffed dogs! ;-)
So many special moments...

Dusty and I also had an annual fall photo tradition. See below for what I mean.

The below picture is the last image I have of him. It was taken on Sunday night after a busy day of celebrating Charlotte during her ice cream birthday party and after getting his hair cut. Charlotte had been worried by the shivering (that we now know were tremors due to the end coming soon) so she had wrapped him in her mermaid blanket. Again, he was so patient! We are going to miss our gentle cuddler! Thank you for the memories, moves, and constant furry companionship over these last 15 years, my little Dusty Shamrock!

Ironically, the pups met Charlotte six years ago tonight since we came home from the hospital at around dinner time on Thursday, March 10, 2015. Who would have thought on that special day that it would eventually become the day we would say goodbye to our faithful furry companion?!

St. Francis, pray for us! 🍀🙏🐶