Tag Archives: divorce

Empty nest moms, try some inspiration

April 16, 2012


“Small Mercies: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life” is an easy reading collection of anecdotes from which Nancy Jo Sullivan has reached back and harvested the God moments.

Those are the small mercies of the title, mercies she suggests her readers take the time to share with others as part of their own lives.

You can speed through Sullivan’s newest work in less than an hour, the language is that familiar. Written at her kitchen table in St. Paul, it’s the kind of personal, real-life prose that makes you almost feel that Sullivan is sitting with you at your own kitchen table sharing the stories over a cup of coffee.

The points she makes in each of the 20 short chapters aren’t rocket science, just, well, small mercies — good things not to forget, good things to remember to do. They touch on topics like unconditional acceptance, remembering one’s dreams, dealing with the loss of a marriage and a child, fear of the future, taking risks, heartache and, of course, hope.

A divorced Catholic, the mother of three daughters, one a Down’s Syndrome girl who lived to only 23, Sullivan senses God touching her life almost at every turn. She puts it this way:

“The most precious revelations of God’s love are often hidden in the ordinary moments that shape our days….We can find God’s small mercies in the mundane conversations we share at the kitchen table or in the unexpected chats we have with strangers. When we encourage a coworkers, support a friend, or receive the care of a loved one, God’s mercies shine brightly, like votive candles.”

More than a memoir

Women “of a certain age,” as they say, may best appreciate the voice that 50-something Sullivan writes from, that of an woman looking back at her motherhood years yet looking forward to being more than an empty nester, finding the courage to see herself as more than a wife and mother, grieving yet coping.

She has a great line there. After cleaning out photos of her grown children and filling 10 scrapbooks, she writes about finally being ready to move on. Her own future, as she put it, is “an empty scrapbook waiting to be filled.”

You’ll find gems of that kind of turn-of-phrase sprinkled throughout “Small Mercies.” It’s inspiring writing.

At times Sullivan seems to reach a bit to connect an anecdote with a spiritual lesson, but it’s a minor fault if a fault at that. If anything it’s a reminder to readers to look for God in all things. As Sullivan writes, “God is always closer than we think.”

At end of each chapter Sullivan uses the framework of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to invite reflection and offer thoughts and ideas for how readers, too, can share God’s small mercies and put them into practice for the next chapters in their own lives. For this Loyola Press 108-page paperback, it’s just the right, helpful touch.

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6 Reasons Kids Do Best When Raised By Married Parents

November 3, 2011


We’ve had a whirlwind of family weddings and engagements lately. At my nephew’s rehearsal dinner this weekend, my brother-in-law said in his toast, “There is great joy in commitment.”

Licensed under Creative Commons

So true! But…

Did you know that the U.S. Census Report showed fewer than half the homes in the Twin Cities are headed by married couples? In 2007, nearly four in ten births were to unmarried women, many of them in cohabiting relationships (National Center for Health Statistics). Today the nation’s retreat from marriage and the rise of cohabiting households with children is the biggest threat to the quality and stability of family life.

Wanting to defend marriage, the Archdiocese has decided to educate the youth. It has put together a team consisting of  married couples and priests who will talk to high school students about why marriage matters. My husband and I are part of this crew (Can you hear my knees knocking?) and we believe it’s a great approach to this dilemma. The Archdiocesan initiative has required reading for us speakers, and I wanted to share with you some of the information we’ve learned about why children do best when raised by two married parents:

1) They will be healthier

In one Swedish study, boys who were reared in single-parent homes were more than 50% more likely to die from a range of causes–e.g., suicide, accidents, or addiction–than boys who were reared in two-parent homes. Parental divorce reduces a child’s life expectancy by four years, and there is a higher risk of infant mortality when parents are divorced. Interestingly, higher levels of children’s psychological problems are  associated with cohabitation.

2) Less likely to live in poverty

Most children who are not raised by married parents will live at least one year in dire poverty (Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty). On the other hand, married couples appear to share more of their income and other property, and they get more support from friends, civic institutions and extended families. They also receive more wealth transfers from both sets of grandparents than do cohabiting couples (Single mothers almost never receive financial help from the child’s father’s kin). And a fascinating find:  Married fathers increased their assets after babies were born, while single fathers saw their rate of asset accumulation decline. (Many studies show that married men earn 10%-40% more than their single counterparts.)

3) More likely to attend college

Interesting fact: Married couples contribute a median of $1,804 to college, divorced parents–$502, and remarried parents just $500. This could be a reason why children whose parents are married are more apt to go to college and have a lower  unemployment rate. Plus, as adults, they have a higher rate of occupational status and earnings.

4)Less likely to be physically or sexually abused

How many times do you read in the newspaper that a child has been killed by the mother’s live-in boyfriend? Although boyfriends contribute less than 2 percent of nonparental childcare, they commit half of all reported child abuse by nonparents. Studies show that children living in single-mother homes have increased rates of death from intentional injuries.  A study in Missouri found that preschool children were 47.6 times more likely to die in a cohabiting household, compared to preschoolers living in an intact, married household. And sadly, Preschool-aged children living with a stepfather are forty times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with both biological parents.

5) Less likely to use drugs or alcohol

Twice as many young teens living with single-mothers or a stepparent have tried marijuana. Teens living with biological parents are significantly less likely to use illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Why? Studies suggest children living with non-traditional families have more family stress, less monitoring from parents, and weakened attachment to parents–especially fathers.

6) Decreased risk of divorcing when they get married–or becoming unwed parents

Girls raised outside of intact marriages are three times more likely to become unwed mothers. When parents divorce they increase the odds that their children will divorce by at least 50%. So far, research shows that divorce affects three generations.


Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said, “The long-term success and economic prosperity of societies depends upon the health of intact families.” The findings of the social sciences confirm that the best environment for raising children is a stable home provided by the marriage of their parents.


I also agree with my brother-in-law; that there is great joy in commitment. And this joy trickles down to the children. A happy marriage is a great gift that parents can give to their kids–it helps the whole family embrace life!

(Compiled using Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [visit http://www.foryourmarriage.org ] & Why Marriage Matters by the Institute for American Values [visit http://www.americanvalues.org ] )


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