If you need it, I’ll give you a Hahn


When I was five, I went with my family to the Shrine Circus. I don’t claim to recall much about the actual show, but I do remember that I didn’t like the smell. Our seats were behind the area where collected animal waste was scooped and swept. It wasn’t a familiar odor or sight, and I’m afraid the memory of it clouds any recollection of what actually went on under that big top.

As a souvenir, I took home a pale blue balloon shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head. Although I can’t picture a clown, trapeze, or animal trick from the event, I can clearly see and even feel that balloon. After getting out of the car  – and before getting my prized balloon into the house – I lost my grip on its thin white cotton string, and to my horror, I had no choice but to watch as Mickey headed for the heights. I remember shedding a tear or two and then just following it with my eyes. Trying to hold onto the image of that balloon for as long as I possibly could. It was so close to the color of the afternoon sky that at times only the reflection of the sun betrayed its whereabouts. There was a slight contrast when a cloud was its backdrop, but then it was gone again, and I’d have to hunt for it. I imagined and hoped that someone would find my sweet balloon and love and care for it as much as I did.

Blogger Brandon Vogt collected a list of some of the outstanding Catholic speakers and writers in the Catholic blogosphere and – after 82,000 votes – came up with a  top 100 Catholic Speakers in what he’s calling Support a Catholic Speaker Month. I voted for many that made the top 100: (Actually, everyone I voted for made the tops). But there is no speaker on that list that I quote more than Kimberly Hahn.

I think it was in 2004 when she was one of the speakers at an early Archdiocese of Detroit Women’s conferences. It was held locally at what would eventually become our parish – St. Joan of Arc. And wouldn’t you know it? I couldn’t go. I had to chauffeur daughters to ballet lessons and was on a looming deadline with two unfinished Halloween costumes. Thankfully, Ave Maria Radio was broadcasting the program live. And although my reception for the station was often spotty, for whatever reason, it was really clear that drizzling Saturday.

Prior to hearing her talk that day, I had read the book she wrote with her husband, Scott Hahn, Rome Sweet Home. It’s a very engaging account of their conversion story. After I read it, I read it again aloud to Richard when we were traveling on vacation. I credit that book with really igniting my husband’s desire to learn more about and truly live our faith. Which he has done, vigorously. I had also picked up Catholic Education Homeward Bound, which had some good homeschooling tips since I had begun to ponder that option. I had purchased her tapes – yes tapes – of her talk Women of Hope, Women of Courage, and was happy to hear her live – even if only through my minivan speakers.

The title of her talk was Life Giving Love. I can share that my sensitivity to the subject was profound, since I had just a few months before suffered loss through a miscarriage. I remember listening and crying. (Okay. More like sobbing.) I’m pretty sure I hung on every word. Oddly, like my circus encounter, I can’t actually tell you much of anything she said other than it was good, sweet, compassionate and truthful.

But there was one specific saying from her talk that I do remember and that I repeat all the time. If you know me, and if you’ve ever shared your troubles with me, you’ve heard it, too. I share it freely and always attribute it to Kimberly Hahn (and for all I know, she attributed it to someone else). So here it is: Give your troubles to the Lord like balloons – not kites. Let them go. Don’t keep reeling them back in.

I know it’s a simple sentiment, and her contributions to Catholic press and speaking are broader and deeper – but since I actually shared the saying with two people in this past week alone, and they both responded with an “a-ha,” that little nugget of wisdom is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Since that talk, I’ve read and listened to much more of what Kimberly Hahn has written and said and taken something wonderful from all of it. And, my husband and I regularly recommend so much of Scott Hahn’s work as required reading for those interested in learning about and growing in their faith.

But when I am holding tight to my burdens, I find comfort imagining my troubles floating away like that long-lost circus balloon. And when life sometimes finds me seated right in front of (or right in) a pile of stinky stuff, I feel fortunate that I can get on my knees and willingly unwrap the sweaty string I am holding – with a death grip – and just let it just slip away. And yes, although I might catch a glimmer of those woes now and then, I accept that it’s just a gentle reminder that they are being cared for with love, and it’s a comforting reflection of the Son.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. Mt 11:28-30

Princess me some smarts

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Glowing after Princess Camp

I will admit – I had a few pangs when Lillian received the gift of Princess Camp for her birthday. As a completely non-princessy girl turned grown-up, I’ve been hell-bent on protecting my daughters’ intellect, and even after all these years of parenting the fairer sex, I sometimes can’t wrap my mind around where princess fits into the equation. Even though we’ve watched princess movies, have had princess birthday parties and all, I just can’t help myself from exercising a certain level of restraint when it comes to cartoon royalty.

But I took a deep breath. Because Princess Camp IS Lillian. And it was a sweet and thoughtful gift from my parents.

The first day of Princess Camp.

“Mom, this isn’t regular SCHOOL!” She told me on Monday as I offered her a skirt and shirt when dressing to leave. “This is PRINCESS camp! Get me a puffy skirt!” she demanded, finger pointing to her room. I obliged and did as was told.

She announced her nervousness on the chariot ride there (in the Dodge Ram Van). But also decreed that it would not stop her, and she knows now – from experience – that it is normal to be a little nervous when faced with something new. I guess it’s just something princesses deal with regularly entertaining heads’ of state and prince charmings and all.

We arrived and joined the other princesses in training. I’m not sure, but I think Lil actually floated in. Ready with a curtsy and a regal bow, the princess trainers welcomed her with joy, she glanced back – only once – and gracefully sashayed into the training room, eager to learn the proper ways of a real-live fairy princess. Her smile and wink conveyed confidently, “You’re free to go.” So I did.

On the ride home, I asked her if she enjoyed herself. “I had a fantastic time!” She declared. “And I even made a friend!” She reminded me of her initial apprehension and how she took a deep breath and overcame it. And like a wave of a fairy godmother’s wand, my intellect suddenly swallowed the experience whole.

And I got it.

Living in a princess world is a wonderful place – especially if it helps you come out of your shell, conquer your fears, make new friends and learn new things – all with the added benefit of being sparkly.

A perfect princess curtsy.

By the end of camp, I’ll admit, I shed a few tears. I watched with joy and embraced the confidence that pretend continues to give my sweet angel of a girl. My dad came to watch the final princess parade, and a smile never left his face.

“What a great gift!” I thought. For her, for him, for me.

Later in the day, I received a call from Helen telling me she just got a great new job: As a PRINCESS for children’s parties!

(True confession: She gets to be my favorite princess. Belle has the best songs,  she’s smart, a book-worm and doesn’t care about her hair.)

And twice in one day, I realized that being a princess actually pays off – in so many wonderful ways.

Two princesses in training – and two princesses extraordinaire – at Rhythm-n-Jump Dance Academy.