Manifesting Miracles

Twenty four years ago today, I married the man I thought I would love for the rest of my life. A cradle Catholic, it never ocurred to me at that time that one day we might not make it.
Only five years ago, as my third child turned four, I was a far cry away from that icy December day in 1989. I was in the midst of an extraordinarily contentious divorce, trapped in my job as a business owner, and taking multiple medications to cope with the stress. Life in every aspect weighed heavily on me, and I wondered if I would ever be happy again. It truly would take a miracle.

Yet miracles do happen, and I’ve come to believe in them like never before. This New Year I am divorced and living on the West Coast with my kids, three thousand miles away from the New England town I called home most of my adult life, I write a blog that is read across six continents, I’ve published my first book and I’m halfway finished with my second book. 

This has been the first Christmas in my life that I not only believe in miracles, but I feel blessed to have been on the receiving end of more of them with every passing year. 

Marci Shimoff, The New York Times bestselling author and Transformational Leader, has observed that miracles cannot happen if you do not believe in your own worthiness to receive them. Lights went off in my head when I heard that. Of course that would be true – if we do not believe in ourselves, why would the universe put miracles in our paths?

Ten years ago I was struggling to overcome the guilt, shame and sadness of an abortion. Catholic and living in a society that values life in all forms from conception until the end of life, the complexity of emotions I felt were difficult and confusing to navigate. Forgiving myself and finding my own worthiness despite the messages in the world around me that spoke otherwise, was a big job. 

I hope that my blog has helped women who have struggled in the past or are struggling now, as I was, to see not only their inherent worthiness, but also their inherent strength and beauty. If Marci is right — and based on my own experience, I believe that she is — as we heal what holds us back and rediscover our innate worthiness, beauty and strength, our world will be full of miracles in a way we have never seen before.

In the years to come, I believe we will see a world where women who have had abortions know in the core of their being - in their hearts and as well as in their heads - that they are whole and perfect just as they are. The world is filled with more miracles than you can possibly imagine and they are ready to happen as soon as you’re ready to receive.


Zoe, A Prayer Answered

Shortly after my husband and I separated in 2007, a close friend of my son’s gave us a priceless gift – a sweet little dog named Zoe.

We had lost our black lab of fourteen years months earlier and I felt like my heart would be broken forever after her passing. My children had been bucking for a new dog for some time, but knowing more change was coming and still feeling heartbroken over the loss of our dog, Allie, I stood firmly against it. 

And then Zoe came along. 
Zoe was a Christmas gift that year to my son’s friend’s family. They had never owned a dog before and with two active boys, found it difficult to be available for Zoe as much as she needed. They were contemplating the best solution for Zoe, while my family’s life was changing dramatically. 

Although she was a gift to my son, a second grader, Zoe quickly became “my” dog, following me everywhere and leaving behind her nights in a crate for the warmth of my bed. One of her places was burrowed under the covers at the bottom of the bed. And one of her favorite things to do when she got there was to lick my feet. 

I was just a little put off by this behavior. It felt weird. It tickled. I started to put socks on at night, to stop the licking. It worked.

Six-plus years later, Zoe still wants to “clean my feet.” I have been building a daily yoga practice, and she has been on the mat every morning with me, faithfully licking my feet whenever she can. This week, in a lightbulb moment, I realized, she has been licking my feet in answer to a prayer from many years ago.

When I was a practicing Catholic, one of the annual rituals involved our parish pastor washing the feet of twelve parishioners, a “reenactment” of the last supper, where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. For many years, I wanted to be one of those twelve chosen to have my feet washed. In the beginning, the pastor invited people to serve this role, but as the years went by he began asking for volunteers. I wanted so badly to be one of those people! And yet every time I imagined being there and having him wash my feet, I saw myself dissolving into wrenching sobs. I did not understand why, but that certainly wasn’t the experience I wanted to have in front of my fellow parishioners!

I was taught since I was old enough to remember that I was born with something called “original sin.” Every week as we prepared for Communion, we were reminded of this with the words “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed.” This teaching that I was inherently sinful, separate and unworthy, combined with my experience of choosing to have an abortion, informed my subconscious mind week after week of my unworthiness. So even when my pastor asked for volunteers, and even though in my heart I desperately wanted that healing, I did not speak. The words “I am not worthy to receive you” reverberated over and again in my head. 

For many reasons, including this one, I no longer subscribe to the traditions of the Catholic Church. But the feeling I had, that desire to receive that healing gesture, remained. Just this week my sweet little Zoe reminded of the prayer I once felt so strongly in my body — the desire to have my feet washed by Jesus. And as I look at her now, persistent in her desire to wash my feet, I realize she is answering that prayer I made so many years ago. She tells me that I am loved and worthy. And now, I am finally ready to accept and allow that into my life.

Animals have so much to teach us. I am thankful to have received one of Zoe’s lessons this week. I hope you readers of this blog are content today in knowing that you, too, are worthy and you are loved, no matter what your past. I believe Jesus lived to teach us about love and forgiveness and would be the first person to remind us all that we are inherently good.



Protecting the Children


My report cards when I was a kid are pretty consistent – I was quiet, reserved, smart, and helpful. I was not a drama queen, nor did I take risks. So I think I surprised myself, as well as those who knew me, in December 1985 when I had my first real experience of being courageous. It was the first time I felt the protectiveness of a lioness.

I was an accountant for a CPA firm in Boston. My boyfriend had taken the day off work with three of his buddies and they had been holiday shopping. They decided to stop at Clark’s, a bar around the corner from my office, before heading home. The bar was loud as I wended my way through the crowd to meet them after work.  

Mark was excited to show me his purchases. He was particularly pleased with a sweater he had chosen for his sister, his eyes dancing with delight as he showed it to me. As we were looking through the rest of his gifts, three women came over, flirting with his friends. They did not stay long and we laughed when they left about the guys getting “hit on.” Not much later, we put on our coats and reached for our belongings. Mark, however, couldn’t find several of his bags, including the one containing the sweater for his sister. We searched and searched, but the bags were gone. It seemed clear that the young women who stopped to flirt were probably not flirting at all, they were setting us up to pilfer the packages. John remembered they had said they were going to Houlihan’s at the other end of Faneuil Hall next. Mark wasn’t too happy thinking about giving up that sweater, and we were both on tight budgets.

It seemed clear: we had to go after them.

Mark, not one to be confrontational, was not excited about tracking the thieves down. His buddies were embarrassed to have been so easily deceived and they were not anxious to meet up with the women again either. But I persisted, and off we went. 

When we got to Houlihan’s, the women were nowhere in sight. We spoke with the hostess, and learned they were in the ladies’ room. Where the guys had hesitated before, I knew they were certainly not going in with me now. I marched into the bathroom. There they were, primping in front of the mirror when I burst in. 

Somehow, it came naturally to me to stand in front of the door, blocking the women’s exit until I had all Mark’s gifts back. I am 5’2” and not a physically dominating presence by any means. But the women handed over the bags.

When I came out carrying Mark’s bags, I am not sure who was more surprised by my actions, them or me. 

I have thought about this encounter many times over the years. It seems symbolic of a protective fierceness I did not know I had. I believe most women have this lioness instinct when it comes to protecting our loved ones. Our bodies were made to create life, and it is natural for us to want to protect life.

So how, then, do we come to have abortions? For myself and for many of the women I have spoken to over the years, we believe we are protecting our children when we choose to have an abortion. I remember for myself feeling that both my baby's life and my own would be dramatically different in a very hard way if I continued with the pregnancy. I foresaw divorce and hard work to make ends meet for myself. I envisioned poverty for both of us.

Was it instinct, intuition, or fear?  Our past ( or present ( experiences might have informed us that it is not safe to bring a child into the world and we believe we are protecting our children in making a choice to abort. I wonder, if I had such a strong instinct to protect my boyfriend's sweater, that maybe my instinct to choose an abortion was also a protective mechanism.

When I think back on my grandmother's situation, knowing she chose an abortion at a time when it was not only illegal, but when she could have lost her life (during the Great Depression), I see a woman of great courage. I imagine that with a frail baby and small income already, her choice was made not just to protect her unborn child, but the child she already in her arms. As I wonder about her state of mind some eighty years ago when she made her choice, I find myself awed by her courage.

As I contemplate my situation and that of the many women I have known who have made the same choice, I believe we are each doing what we feel is right to protect the our unborn, and sometimes already born, children. It is not an easy choice, but it is often the most courageous one.


The Perfect Mother

The instant my daughter was born I made a promise to myself and to her that I would be the best mother ever. It didn’t take too much sleep deprivation to remind me I was human!

And yet, for years I continued on my mission to prove myself as a mother. I had to prove I was a good mom — to myself and to the world. I had such deep shame over the abortion I’d had years earlier that aspiring to sainthood seemed the best way to hide my secret. Afterall, if I was an impeccable mother, no questions would ever come up to suggest that an abortion was part of my past. I wondered, how could a “good” mother choose an abortion?

Shame is often referred to as the secret emotion because of the intense need the person feeling it has to conceal it. For me, the longer I buried the experience and tried to hide it from even myself, the harder it became to live my life authentically. I wasn’t living for me or for my daughter, I was living in fear and shame.

I have no doubt that my Catholic faith had a lot to do with these feelings of shame. Sermons about the evils of abortion, combined with teachings on original sin, reminded me regularly of what I had done and how mortally I had sinned. 

It took many years and many hurts to realize that my religion did not need to define my spirituality and that the Church was made up of human beings just like me. None of us, not even our priests, are exempt from the imperfections of humanity. I watched the clergy-abuse crisis unfold in my own backyard in Boston, and realized that my “sins” were no worse than many of the clergy who espoused a life’s vocation of following Jesus. 

As I learned to open up to other viewpoints, my spirituality evolved to where I could begin to think for myself, not simply as I was instructed to think by my religion. I began to see myself and my abortion in a whole different light. I wasn’t a sinner, I was a human being made in the image and likeness of God. And abortion wasn’t a sin, it was one possible answer in a world where both options were painful.  

Today, I strive to be the best mother I can be to my three kids. It isn’t easy to do as a single parent, but I no longer do it out of fear for being discovered, going to hell, or finding myself otherwise unworthy. I do it because I was chosen by them to be their mom for all the gifts I have to offer them. I make mistakes just like everyone, but I no longer berate myself afterwards for long periods of time. I take a deep breath, think about what I can do better next time, reminding myself this is where I was born to be and what I was born to do. 

For anyone still trying to reach sainthood, attain perfection in parenting or otherwise hide behind the mask of shame, I hope you find peace one day knowing that you are whole and perfect just the way you are.


Shining Light on Our Unborn

My 16 year old daughter surprised me this year with one of the people she chose to remember this year on Day of the Dead. This Mexican holiday to honor family and friends who have died, is one my kids have celebrated since they were in pre-school. It is observed annually on October 31, November 1 and November 2.

My daughter was 13 years old when I told her about my abortion. She already knew about the mechanics of sex and was dancing with the possibility of dating. Not one to shy away from the tough conversations with my kids (you should be a fly on the wall during some of our dinner conversations!), and knowing she was well aware of my human imperfections, I shared with her part of my history she did not know. 

She was compassionate listener. Our discussion about sex and dating suddenly rose to a whole new level. Most likely in shock over what I had shared, she was extraordinarily kind, loving and careful in her responses. 

Over the years as she has processed what my experience meant to her, it became obvious that my choice deeply affected her as well. She does not have the “big sister” she says she always wanted. I hope one day she will share in her words the emotions she felt as she matured with this knowledge. There have been times when she was angry with me and has said so. Other times she has felt sad and incomplete. The range of emotions for her in losing someone she never knew has been complicated and complex. In a day and age where people have difficulty sharing grief for any reason, let alone from having an abortion, how does a child express their feelings over a sibling lost that way?

Many would say that I should not have told my young daughter about my experience – there are some things that we should just keep to ourselves. And while I would agree there are some things we should feel permitted to hold onto, for me, this was not one of them. 

My grandmother did not tell me about her abortion until she was 93 years old ( ). I suffered many years in isolation about my own abortion, and all along I shared this experience with one of my most beloved family members. If I had known about her abortion, would I have handled that pregnancy any differently? Perhaps, although I doubt it. However, I do believe my response to my experience would have been far different. 

Will my admission help my daughter? Having been on the other side, it seems it’s worth a shot to have shared this with her and to find out what it means to her. If nothing else, I hope I have given her reason to honor her body in relationship and to honor her inner guidance in her choices. Maybe in time, she will be able to feel her sister’s loving presence the same way I do.

I am sure you can guess by now who my daughter chose to remember during the Day of the Dead ceremony this year. She spoke of Mary’s existence in her circle of friends and by doing so honored her presence in our lives and in the world.

Hearing that she honored Mary's existence in a public way was a bittersweet, and beautiful moment. It fills me with hope to see her shine light on her sister's life, and to be brave enough to publicly share her feelings.

I have been blessed with two amazing daughters.