Tag Archives: family

Five’ll Get Ya Ten…Whether Ya’ Want It Or Not


I hate coupons. I hate when I strategically choose a checkout line based on a carefully formed algorithm I’ve devised: number of people in said line, approximate number of item in carts, the gender of said shoppers (sorry, women take longer), and the checkout clerk on duty, only to find myself  behind someone sifting through her (yes, her) neatly sorted organizer. And this display always occurs after I’ve emptied my cart and several people are behind me in line. At this point, I come to the crushing realization that I’ve been deceived and am now trapped. Kill me now. Why? Because what will unfold next is as predictable as a made-for-TV movie. After a relentless search for one or more coupons for each item on the belt, there is ALWAYS an issue with one (or more) leading to an insistence on the part of the customer that, YES, this coupon IS good for .25 off the purchase of four Suave deodorants on top of the posted sale sign on the shelf and the helpless clerk responding that, sorry, it did not ring up at that sale price, all the while thinking “I hate my job.” This leads to the clerk sending out an SOS to anyone within earshot to please go check the deodorant shelf for confirmation. Slow motion the next five minutes (because apparently, I’m the only one who is ever in a hurry), the messenger returns with the sign clearly stating the sale was, in fact, for Secret deodorant. The indignant customer then accuses the store of deceptive marketing because the Suave and Secret deodorants are neighbors on the shelf and bear a remarkable resemblance, and as a result, the sale price should be honored on the grounds of pain and suffering she endured during the whole checking-out ordeal. Time to cue the manager and for me to roll my eyes, heave a huge sigh and play Candy Crush on my phone in a feeble attempt to keep my composure.

Who are the real victims here? That’s right: me and all the other poor schnooks who were tricked into thinking this would be a quick in and out trip to the store. Finally, my moment has arrived. After ringing up my items, the clerk asks the inevitable question: “Do you have any coupons? Would you like to become a member of our Savings Club? You could save 20% off your first purchase and receive offers for huge savings throughout the year.” NO! NO! I do NOT want to save money. I just want to pay a lot more for my stuff and get the hell out of here. That’s when I see the look of gratitude on the clerk’s face and my suffering line-mates. Their eyes say it all. Thank you. Thank you. I nod back in a show of solidarity and a silent encouragement that they, too, will get through this.

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The Partial Daisy


How hard is too hard to push your kids?  Where is the line between letting them just be kids and insisting they be involved in activities?  When our oldest son, Mike, was young, we thought it was very important for him to participate in sports. It seemed only natural to sign him up for baseball and soccer every summer, spring, and fall.  As he grew older, he added basketball to his list.  At the same time, my husband and I wanted him to learn piano and drums and play in the school band, so that was just more to add to the calendar.  Of course, he also took swimming lessons every summer and attended tennis camps, as well as scouting.  He was going to be a well-rounded kid if it killed us. Continue reading

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I Feel Like A Woman…Well, Sort Of…

I wrote this post three years ago after sending my youngest off to college. She is now entering her senior year and managed somehow to thrive without mom hovering over her. Although, she might disagree… Hey, I might not be the cookie-baking, after-school-snack offering June Cleaver, but I’m still a mom. Just the kind that is ecstatically happy when my kids aren’t around. Is that wrong??


Woman Crying picOver the years, I’ve often wondered if, perhaps, somewhere in the dark recesses of my chromosomal make-up, I might be harboring an extra Y marker. I say this because I’ve never been the mom who gets weepy on the first day of kindergarten,  high school, college or graduations from said institutions. In fact, when my youngest was headed for all-day kindergarten, I could barely control my euphoria. Move-in day to college has never been an occasion for multiple boxes of Kleenex.  Is there something wrong with me?

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Til Death Do Us Part


“To have and to hold from this day forward,

for better, for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and health,

until death do us part.”

On June 12, 2010, those words were solemnly promised to each other by David and Lauren Chase. And in the years that followed, they were devotedly lived out. David and Lauren’s story can be summed up in two words: love and faith. From that June day six years ago, David and Lauren began their new life together, filled with the dreams all newlyweds share. On December 24, 2015, their sweet life together was turned upside down in an instant, boldly challenging them to learn the true meaning of those words so happily uttered in that Mississippi church.

David and Lauren Chase entered my life peripherally, as dear friends of my son and daughter-in-law. David and Mike worked together at a trading firm in Chicago and became fast friends. Lauren and Laura met soon after, and bonded instantly. As a parent, I was thrilled that Mike and Laura had befriended such a wonderful couple. Their friendship strengthened them through difficulties and, together, the two couples excitedly planned their futures. When Mike and Laura talked of moving to the suburbs, Lauren fell in love with the idea of owning a house with a backyard for their beloved dogs, Annie and Gabbie. David needed a little prodding to move out of the city, but Lauren and Laura were ready to plot their strategy. The foursome regularly dined out, attended Chicago Blackhawk Championship rallies, St. Patrick’s Day parades and Christmas Parades. In October 2015, just a few weeks before the anticipated Christmas Parade along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, Lauren traveled to Houston, to undergo surgery to donate a kidney to her twin sister, Leslie, who had suffered a rapid and inexplicable kidney failure. That might have been the first life Lauren saved. But not the last, in my opinion. Her swift recovery left everyone amazed. Almost two months to the day from her trip to Houston, Lauren stepped into an airplane en route to Florida, eager to spend Christmas with family and see her husband, who was to meet them there. That reunion never happened because the plane was forced to make an emergency crash landing minutes after take-off. Lauren was air-lifted to a hospital and suffered critical injuries. She was in a deep coma and underwent more surgeries than I could count. In time, her state of consciousness improved and with each baby step forward (for which we were absolutely thrilled), Lauren’s health would take an agonizing three steps back. She was in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation facilities in Memphis, Atlanta and Houston.

And here is where my line about Leslie’s life not being the last Lauren saved comes into play. Lauren’s progress was beautifully updated online regularly by David’s sister, Tara. I found myself checking my email several times a day for a new update and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. The updates were shared on social media thousands of times and in doing so, Lauren’s story became global. I wrote a blog a few months ago in an effort to reach more people, as well. These updates were filled, not only with Lauren’s latest medical miracle or setback, but were also woven with the beautiful love and devotion of her faith-filled husband as witnessed by family and friends. David is a very humble man who does not think he deserves praise for simply being the kind of husband God wants him to be. By sharing David’s strong faith and trust in God’s plan for them, his unending dedication to his ailing wife, his never leaving her bedside in over seven months, and his heartbreaking affectionate kisses with which he showered Lauren (as attested to by Mike and Laura when they visited Lauren), I know that people around the world were changed for the better. I believe with all my heart that sweet Lauren, who loved her husband more with each breath she took, who doted on her canine loves, Annie and Gabbie and who secretly sneaked fried foods when David wasn’t looking unknowingly played a profound role in God’s plan to bring more souls to heaven with her story.

On August 7, 2016, Lauren left this world. We are immensely saddened with this loss but rejoice in the knowledge that she is finally free. Goodbye sweet, beautiful Lauren. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

June 12, 2016 marked David and Lauren’s 6th wedding anniversary. On that day, David posted to Facebook this beautiful sentiment:

“Happy Anniversary, Lauren. Thank you for being so strong while God heals you. I love you more every day!

‘Then the Lord God said, ‘It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.’ – Genesis 2:19 CEB”

“Well done, God. She is perfect!”






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Confessions Of A Seventh Grade Nothing


I was recently asked what job I dreamed of having as a kid and wasn’t really sure how to answer because I don’t ever remember dreaming about being a particular “thing.” But as I thought more about it, I guess I could say I thought about being a teacher. Not because I had any great desire to teach or an over-abundant love for children. Nor did I entertain any grandiose fantasies of my future self, making a profound difference in a kid’s life or presenting myself as an unsung hero, inspiring young minds to seize the day. No. My adolescent brain entertained thoughts of a teaching career while sitting in my seventh-grade classroom, hoping and praying that the teacher would not utter the words that I knew were inevitable… “Pick a partner and…” It didn’t matter how that sentence ended because those first words, the words I dreaded, would simply paralyze my twelve-year-old brain.

I was the new kid at Queen of Martyrs school on Chicago’s south side. The path which led little brother Paul and me there was a bit circuitous but was the result of a hasty move from our old, comfortable neighborhood to a new and completely foreign world.  No longer was I accepted simply by virtue of my last name. I was a legacy at my old school, having had five older siblings pave the way. Everyone knew us. I was the mascot of our grammar school football team; my eighth-grade sister, the captain of the cheerleaders. Life was good.

That all changed when we transferred schools and I came to the brutal realization that I had nothing going for me. Suddenly, I was a gangly, stringy-haired, self-conscious, nerdy introvert in desperate need of a friend, but sadly lacking one. Oh, did I mention I wore glasses and a retainer? I wasn’t cool. I was the most uncool kid you could imagine. A few kind souls reached out to me, a welcome I happily accepted. My brother didn’t suffer as much, having found his niche as a star of the fifth-grade football team. Soon, his reputation garnered a little respect for me and I was able to bask in his shadow.

But his benevolent umbrella couldn’t help me when I was stricken with the inevitable directive to find a partner. The worst were days when my possible partner was absent. My heart would go into absolute panic-mode as I’d scan the classroom, silently beseeching someone – anyone – to notice me and offer to partner-up.

Those were the times when I fantasized about becoming a teacher. As a teacher, I would NEVER, EVER direct my students to “find a partner” or allow them to arrange their desks as they wanted – an activity that would send the other kids into fits of joy. No, I swore that would never happen on my watch.

Well, fast-forward four decades and I never did become a teacher, which is probably a good thing. But, to those teachers who may find themselves reading this, I now beseech you to always consider the outcasts when addressing your classroom. That is one way you can leave a lasting impression on those kids. The smallest acts of kindness will always be remembered, as will the hurtful moments of isolation, which manage to plant themselves deeply into one’s psyche.

I suppose the silver-lining of that experience is that I was able to draw upon those memories to teach my own kids to notice the outsider on the playground and be that kid’s friend. Because he’s the kid who needs a friend. So I guess I did become a teacher after all. Class dismissed.   🙂


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My Answer To The Burning Question Of WHY??


Catholic Schools Week has arrived!! When my kids were little, that meant a much anticipated week filled with fun activities, assemblies, games and contests. And of course, themed days like crazy hair day, pajama day, favorite sports team day and just about any other thing you can think up, all the while learning even more about their Catholic faith. To them, though, this week was simply known as Spirit Week.

They have since grown up, with my youngest now wrapping up her third year in college. No more Catholic Schools Week for them – not since they attended the University of Iowa and for the first time in their lives, went to (GASP!!) public school. Of course, in college, every day is crazy hair day, pajama day or favorite sports team day.

I was reminded of Catholic Schools Week on Facebook yesterday as one of my FB friends shared a link to an article (which I am also passing along) entitled: Why My Kids Go To Catholic School. Over the years, I have been asked that question many, many times. And each time, I’ve answered it as simply and honestly as I could. That, while there is no question an excellent education can be had at our local public schools (and quite honestly, the programs and facilities in those schools would have been immensely helpful for my fine-arts offspring), my husband and I chose Catholic schools for our four children because they could offer the one thing that the public schools could not: a Catholic, faith-filled environment. Period. Not because we thought we were better than anyone else, as some seem to believe. Being immersed in their faith and beginning not just each day, but each class with a prayer was important enough for us to make the financial sacrifice to send four kids to twelve years of Catholic schooling. Let me tell you, that’s a lot of tuition. I keep telling them that they’ll thank us for it someday…

Some people also mistakenly believe that we must have a lot of money to make the Catholic School choice. And to them, I say, we are totally broke precisely because we paid that tuition for all those years.

The high school my three sons attended was an all-boy, Benedictine academy with an Army JROTC program. When my son, Brian, once described his school as “an all boy, Catholic military school,” the response was, “Wow, that’s a lot of discipline!” And it was. But, I remember a story a Senior Theology teacher liked to share with families new to the school which showed a different side. Before each class, his students would say a prayer, followed by any requested personal intentions. Every day, one student would simply raise his hand and request a prayer “for his mother.” After a couple weeks, the teacher said, “Joe, every day you ask us to say a prayer for your mother. If you feel comfortable, could you tell us why?” He quietly answered, “My mom has cancer and I’m afraid she’s going to die.” The class was silent for a moment, until one boy stood, walked over to Joe and hugged him. Each boy then did the same thing until every one of them had embraced their classmate. From that day forward, during intentions, a different student would raise his hand and say, “For Joe’s mom.”

I love that story because people would never think, in such a macho kind of environment, that these young men would feel safe enough to allow themselves to be so vulnerable without the fear of ridicule. Instead, they were connected through prayer and community.

And THAT’S why we sent our kids to Catholic schools. Oh, and also because uniforms make life so much easier in the morning. 🙂




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Never Say Never…Or How I Came To Celebrate my Daughter’s Birthday


“Your next one will be a girl.” I laughed and said, “I’m not brave enough to take that chance!” After all, that prediction was uttered by a superstitious woman from the old country, after studying the swirl of hair on my infant son’s head. Based on the direction of the swirl, she was quite confident in her assertion. I was most definitely going to have another child and it would most definitely be female. Based on the fact that I was holding my third son in my arms, I was quite confident that she was a certified loony. For one thing, another child was the furthest thing from my mind. I mean little Petey was only six months old. And, ummm….a girl?? Yeah, pretty sure that wasn’t gonna happen. I mean, I had boys. I was used to boys. I was a “boy mom”. Though there was a female presence in my family growing up (I did have a mother and a sister, after all), the male presence was far more overpowering – a dad and five brothers. I was a tomboy as a kid. Boys never intimidated me. I kind of knew how they worked. But a girl?? That was outside my comfort zone. Yes, I know I am a girl, but I was never really into girly things. I’d be a terrible girl mom. Of that I was sure.

So, that said…today my husband, my three sons and I celebrate my daughter’s twenty-second birthday. That’s right. Two and a half years after that fateful prediction, we welcomed little Mary Kathryn into the family. A few months before she made her grand entrance into the world (and before ultrasounds were routine procedures) a co-worker in my office casually asked to see my hands. Not sure of her reason for the strange request, I held out both hands for her to view. “You’re going to have a girl,” she announced. Wait. What? Yes, because I held my hands out palms down, she was able to determine that a pink bundle was on its way. Laughing it off, I later told my oldest son, Mike, about the prediction of a little sister. He was beside himself. “You did WHAT? How could you?” The sound of horror in his voice made me think that maybe I shouldn’t have been so reckless in my hand display. What madness had I unleashed?

I reassured him that silly superstitions were just that – silly and meaningless. But, I have to admit, I wasn’t so sure when, on November 6, 1994, after a relatively quick labor, the doctor announced, “We gotta girl!” Yikes. I tried to do all the things moms of girls do. I can remember trying to fix her hair in super cute ways before school (well, they were super cute in my head, anyway) but never achieving the desired look and ending with a slapped together ponytail and an apology, “I’m sorry Mary Kate. I’m not a very good girl mom.” And she’d try to soothe my failure with, “That’s okay” as she’d head through the school doors.

So, while it’s true that I might have been lacking in girl skills, she can’t deny that I equipped her with more important life skills at a young age, like when she was desperate to quit the rockestra band at school but wasn’t sure how because the band teacher simply would not allow it. She tried to explain to him that she was not quitting the whole band and that she had every intention of continuing band in high school. She has even gone on to pursue her Bachelor of Music degree in college, and is in her year senior year as a percussion performance major at the University of Iowa. But he would have none of it. I understood where he was coming from. You hate to allow a young kid to quit things when the going gets tough. Especially something like music, which is always hard, but important to keep at it if even a spark of talent shines through. But, quite honestly, after fourteen years with kids in the band, I was okay with her letting go of this particular commitment. She was desperate to find a solution. So, I told her after careful consideration, there was only one logical way this was gonna happen. She would have to fake her own death. “I can do that,” she confidently assured me.

Twenty-two years of having a girl and I still don’t think I’m a very good girl mom. We bond over trashy reality TV, terribly acted Lifetime Movies and true murder shows. She now knows what NOT to do to pull off the perfect murder. But, I think we both agree that being a little edgy is a heck of a lot more fun than getting the pigtails right. This is what she tweeted for MotherYOU TRIED

And our exchange on Facebook in response to that tweet:

Mary Kate Naughton: looooove yooouuuu 🙂

Marilyn Toner Naughton: Ahhhh, ain’t love grand?
Mary Kate Naughton: to be fair, you responded with “I hate you”
Yeah, I’d say we have a pretty awesome mother-daughter thing going on. Happy Birthday Mary Kate!! And ya know what? I’m glad Peter’s hair swirled just the right way and I held my hands out palms down.  🙂

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B-A-T-A-W-A-GA-MA…My Devious Plan Gone Awry…

Batawagama signI have recently become aware of deeply buried memories. Memories that I thought I had successfully erased from my brain. But, the same brain that cannot remember where my glasses were set down minutes before managed to dredge up recollections from many years ago. Painful memories. Memories of forcibly being made to do things I did not want to do. Yes, that’s right. Memories of summer camp. And I have Facebook to thank for this.

What set these flashbacks hurtling past other deeply hidden memories from storage was my recently added friends on Facebook. Actually, they’re more than friends. They’re long-lost cousins with whom I was thrilled to re-connect. We were not as close to my dad’s side of the family because of distance and age difference. My dad was the baby in his family, with his oldest sister almost twenty years his senior. His siblings were married with children when he was still a kid, making his nieces and nephews (my cousins) only a few years younger than him. My cousins’ kids were my age. Follow me so far? But, distance also separated us as several of the family were located in the beautiful states of Wisconsin and Michigan. Upper Peninsula Michigan, to be exact. And that’s an important distinction. Kind of like trying to tell someone from Sicily that they’re from Italy. No they’re not. They’re from Sicily. They are Sicilian. It’s different.
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Summer, We Hardly Knew Ya


Well, it’s official. Summer bliss has ended. Well, at least the fantasy of summer bliss, which is probably the reason I’m extra depressed. Summer is over and there is NO question that we got a bum deal this year. The months of June and July were cold and rainy almost every day. Then came the oppressive heat. And suddenly, today is the first day of school for kids around here. SCHOOL PEOPLE!!! All we have left now to look forward to and keep spirits up is maybe two weeks of beautiful fall. That is, maybe fourteen days of crisp air, blue skies, and the intoxicating aroma of burning leaves all warmly engulfed in glorious autumn colors. But not fourteen consecutive days. Let’s not get crazy here. I might even be overly generous with that number. The fall offers a wonderful reprieve from the blistering heat and ungodly humidity of summer. But it is fleeting. I’ve learned to live in the moment on those magnificent days because those of us in the Midwest know what lies ahead… Cold darkness lasting about nine months. Yeah, that’s right. I’m not a winter person. I hate winter. I hate being cold. I hate driving in snow. I hate worrying about my kids driving in snowstorms. I hate shoveling snow. I know all you out-doorsy types are probably scoffing at me as you read this. You know who you are. All you snow-mobilers, cross-country skiers, and tobogganors. All you people who go on and on about how beautiful the snow is. Okay, I’ll concede that. After a storm, the pristine snow that blankets the ground and trees is gorgeous. But, that’s only if it happens on a weekend when we don’t have to actually be somewhere. When we don’t have to get the shovels out. And, let’s be honest. It’s only beautiful until the first car drives on the street. Then it quickly turns into dirty, slushy ick. Last March (yes…MARCH – when we dare to entertain thoughts of spring) my daughter tweeted: “If anyone throws a snowball at me, I will murder them”   That’s right, the shine of winter had definitely worn off by March. Continue reading

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What Goes Up…




Today, I am so excited to share with you my son, Brian’s, super-exciting project. As many of you already know, Brian is nearing the end of his Master’s Degree program in Cinema Directing at DePaul University. DePaul’s Cinema program has skyrocketed  in national rankings of film schools and is regularly ranked one of the top schools in the nation. Not bad for a program that is less than ten years old. The city of Chicago has become a film-set mecca and the huge Cinescape Soundstage is ground zero for most Chicago-based film and television productions.

As his final class project, Brian is directing a short film entitled, What Goes Up. It is a dark, atmospheric look at how one man’s choices in life affect his final moments. Brian is very proud of this film and made a decision to treat it as a serious, independent film, rather than just a class project. This decision has been as terrifying for him as it has been exhilarating because of the risks he is taking to make his concept a reality. He told me that when others heard his idea, they thought his vision would be impossible for a student to capture onscreen. Among other obstacles, it required outdoor filming on a rooftop with a gun, which, in turn required insurance, a permit, and Chicago police presence. He also needed to figure out how to create an elevator for a major part of the film. Brian was fortunate enough to find a Producer and Director of Photography who believed in his vision and made the impossible possible. They were able to rent the elevator set from the set of “Chicago PD” at Cinescape Soundstage. The finished product will be entered in film festivals from coast to coast and promises to be fantastic. And creepy. I am confident it will receive a lot of well-deserved recognition.

When this film is completed, What Goes Up, will represent the  physical embodiment of what started out as a simple idea he and a fellow student had when they put the pen to paper almost a year ago. This is what dreams are all about and you, dear readers, have the power to help this dream happen. I am calling out to my readers to check out Brian’s Kickstarter page and think about donating to his campaign. Even a donation as small as $5 is an option, and one he would be thrilled to receive. The following is his public appeal:

“We’ve been lucky enough to gain access to several beautiful filming locations, as well as find a talented and experienced crew. A film doesn’t come without its costs, so it’d be greatly appreciated if you would donate to our kick-starter campaign and help us cover rental, food, production design, and transportation costs. Please like and share this with your friends! Thank you!”


And remember…

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.  – Walt Disney

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.  – Colin Powell

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt




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