when prayers don't work

I watched her when I was a little girl. She knelt on the worn pale green leather kneeler in church, deep in prayer with her hands clasped firmly, eyes closed and her chin resting on the space between her crossed index and middle fingers. I knelt too in prayer to the man hanging high on the cross on the alter in front of me. I looked from his life-size form to my grandmother. I wondered what it was she prayed so hard for. I closed my eyes too and rested my forehead on my hands in prayer. I knew God listened because my grandmother told me so.

I thought of that this week. The memory so clear in my mind. It has been a challenging, difficult, awful seven weeks as L and I tried to improve our lives with something we both so desperately wanted. I prayed Novenas (prayers said for 9 days) in five cycles so far. I called the cloistered nuns and asked them to pray. Our friends prayed. We all prayed, some to God, some to saints, some to people we loved who have passed on. Friends dropped coins in fountains and several gave their birthday wishes to us. And we believed so strongly that it would all work out.

Yesterday, we got the news that our prayers weren't answered. We were shocked. We were so sure that yesterday would be a happy day that we never even considered that it wouldn't work. God listens to prayers.  I prayed to my grandmother, a devout Catholic woman so dedicated to The Virgin Mary, to help us. In my hotel room, at home, on a plane, in my car, I prayed so fervently.

I read "The Secret." I have always believed that the Law of Attraction will bring things to you if you put that energy out there. We made plans around the fact that everything would work out and then we got the simple text message "Sorry." That was it. All the plans came flying apart.

After a tearful FaceTime conversation with L about what went wrong, I sat quietly and just sobbed.

Why pray?


Life is just random.

On Thursday night when I doing homework at the library in Cambridge we heard sirens that went on so long that we all started to worry. It was later that night that we heard it was a 9 alarm blaze that had killed firefighters trapped in the basement. I am sure their wives prayed when they heard their husbands were called to a fire. Their prayers failed.

The families of the passengers on flight MH370 have been praying for weeks, hoping that their family members survived the crash. Their prayers weren't answered.

So, why bother praying when things will happen, regardless if we pray?

I couldn't sleep at all last night. I laid awake staring at the ceiling and I wondered if everything was just random and would things happen exactly the way they do, whether or not someone pleaded, prayed or sent out positive energy?

It's interesting how as humans we want to make sense of things. We rationalize. We want to make ourselves feel better so we say things like:

"It was out of your control."
"What's meant to be is meant to be."
"God has something better planned for you."
"It will all turn out."

These platitudes feel good to the person saying them but for the person who is going through a situation and hearing this, it is like salt being rubbed into a wound. These are all phrases we heard when we lost our daughter. It stings and it took everything I had not to scream "There is NOTHING better than what I just lost!" but I knew that these friends and family members loved us and really, what else was there to say except "I'm sorry and I love you."

Last night, I was angry. Angry at God for letting me down again. I said to him "There is only so much a girl like me can take. I've been dealt some heart-wrenching blows. I need a win sometimes. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN WHEN I PLEADED WITH YOU?"

I wondered "Did God even exist?"

As soon as I had that thought I felt terrible and laying there in bed I apologized to God. I realized that I was feeling like a petulant child. I realized that prayers are like saying to your parents "I'd like a pony" when you're ten years-old. You may want it with every fiber of your being but your parents know what's best for you. I closed my eyes and prayed. "I'm sorry for thinking that because I didn't get something I wanted that you didn't exist, that you didn't hear me." I felt ashamed. I wondered when I die and we sit down together (Me, God and my Guardian Angel-- this is how I see it) and review my life, will this be the moment that I turn away, put my hands over my face and cry, ashamed that I doubted God's love because things didn't go my way?

I realized that you can put your prayers out there, tell God your hopes but in the end, things will happen according to plan. I imagine all the prayers that get raised up to God during the SuperBowl. Yet both teams can't win. One will say "God heard our prayer!" The other will say "God didn't listen!"

God listens but sometimes his answer isn't yes but "Not now" or "I have something better for you."

In the clear light of day, 12 hours after the news, my heart still hurts. I am baffled and sad and it will take a couple days for me to get over it and get back out there.  I know that God has been with me my entire life. He gave me the best grandparents, he led me to my husband and to our dog. He gave us the gift of our baby, even for just the short time we had her. I have survived being struck by lightening and a terrorist threat to my plane. I made it through a knife attack and a car racing at me going the wrong way on the Mass Pike at 2am. God has had my back.

So, yes, after this difficult seven weeks that left our life much differently than we hoped, I can either choose to believe that God doesn't listen or I can remember that He and my Guardian Angels have watched over me since the moment I was just a speck. I have to trust that what is happening is exactly what was supposed to be. I have to believe that.

Maybe I will never know why things played out like they did. Maybe someday I will be grateful that this happened. I doubt that but life is sometimes incredible that way.

Today, I feel like I have lost in the seventh round of a fight. I feel bruised and tender but like the spring after a brutal never-ending winter, there comes a day when the blossom can't help but raise its face to the sun.

I'm looking forward to that day.

the great app: The game you need now -- Heads Up!

Several weeks ago I threw a small going away party in my hotel room for some friends who had stayed at the same new hotel for as long as I had.  I loved these guys and was sorry to see them leave. The night had to be great.

So, I prepared a phenomenal Friday night playlist, stocked the bar and ordered take out from the place across the street. At some point during the night, as we were having a blast, my friend David suggested the game Heads Up. He said they had recently purchased the app and it was so much fun that they had been playing it for weeks.

In less than a minute we downloaded the app ($.99 for the starter package which is more than enough to start) from iTunes and started playing.  For hours.  Heads Up! is a game created by the fun folks at The Ellen Show. Here's how it works: You pick a category like Accents & Impressions or Blockbuster Movies. Place your device on your forehead and the game begins. For one minute the person facing you gives you clues about the word on the screen  like "Furry, lives in Australia, eats eucalyptus. . ." You guess Koala and you got it! You can pass if need to.

There were some seriously competitive people playing that night which was hilarious. And the bonus? As you hold the device against your forehead it automatically rolls video on the people giving the clues. You can ignore the video, watch it after the game or even upload it. If it's REALLY funny, send it to Ellen!

So far, I have played Heads Up! with friends, with some funny little kids and with Larry. In fact, it's become our nightly tradition. After dinner, we play a couple games. It's a great way to laugh together.  In fact, the next time we don't see eye to eye on something, we might just take a break and play a game of Heads Up!

While my friends are no longer at the same hotel, maybe there will be new friends and what better way to start new friendships than with Ellen DeGeneres as part of it?

International Day of Happiness (Video) Otters Holding Hands

It's the International Day of Happiness. Here's your happy:

Did you know that when otters sleep they hold hands so they don't drift apart? (Video) 

The Happygirl Guide to Spring

This has been one whopper of a winter. I've been traveling back and forth between the Northeast and Northwest coasts and it seems like no matter where I was, the weather was uncooperative. We had never ending snow in Massachusetts and the grey days, well, they just kept coming in Seattle.

Today, however, the sun is shining, the clouds are few and it seems like spring will come, a little late, but it will come. This season I have vowed to make the most of every single day, of every single sunbeam and raindrop and mild day by changing things up a little.

Wishing you a spring season filled with happy moments!

Things to do This Spring

1. Paint the walls of your living room or your bedroom in your favorite color. Use this app from Sherwin-Williams to match the perfect color.

2. Make a spring soundtrack on a free internet radio site like Slacker. I like this one called Yacht Rock.

3. Break out of the iceberg lettuce salad doldrums and try a salad like this Watermelon Arugula Salad that's just perfect for a warm spring evening.

4.  Try changing out your coffee for tea, like this Blueberry Bliss Rooibis Tea from Teavana.

5. Vow to exchange one meal out every week for a Walk & Talk with a friend. Instead of loading up on alcohol and calories, grab a tea and walk the loop around a park.

6. Burn this clean combination of candles from Kringle Candle. Fresh Cut Grass + Fresh Lilac smells heavenly together.

7. Spend the first Saturday of the next three months at a different museum in your area. Find museums here.

8. Plan a road trip somewhere you've never been to before. Roadtrippers.com is great for ideas.

9. Make a vow to visit every farm stand in your area. Each week try one new fruit or vegetable.  Here's how to find farm stands in your neighborhood.

10. Attend an outdoor concert.

11. Clean out the linen closet. Donate the blankets/towels/sheets that you haven't used in a year.  Your local pet shelter may be a good place to donate to. For everything you're keeping, organize the shelves by type (bath/bedroom). Follow these instructions from Martha Stewart on how to fold a fitted sheet.

12.  Bring your own lunch to work at least once a week and enjoy it outside. Try these healthy recipes from CookingLight.com. Put the money you would have spent in a jar and on June 21 make a donation to your favorite charity.

13. Go to the playground and swing. Swing and close your eyes.

14.  Leaves Post-it notes saying "You are going to have an amazing day!" in different places for other people to find.

15. Learn how to cook asparagus.

16. Open every window in your home one Sunday morning and let the fresh air in.

17. Read "Shotgun Lovesongs" by Nickolas Butler.

18. Take your favorite person out for an ice cream cone. Go for the cone. You can always have it in a cup by yourself.

19. Get a Basil plant and keep it on your kitchen window sill.

20. Sleep with the window open.

{happy video} the first kiss


Filmmaker Tatia Pllieva paired twenty strangers and asked them to kiss for the first time. What she caught on tape was awkward, vulnerable and sweet. Take a look.

it's ok. really.

Sometimes you have the best intentions.

"I'm going to give up wine for Lent."

"I'm going to wake up at 4:30am and run 5 miles a day."

"I'm not going to spend $5 every morning on a coffee."

And for awhile it goes well. It goes GREAT. You gave up the wine, you started waking up early to work out and you started making coffee in your Keurig at home.

Then one night you're out with your friends and you think "What the hell? It's one glass of wine. Does God REALLY care of I have a glass of wine during Lent? He's got bigger problems to deal with."

That is how it starts. Then the next time temptation steps in front of you it's easier to admit defeat.  You cave.

I caved. I. Caved.

Last year I was on a fitness program and lost a crazy amount of weight. 100 pounds in fact. No wheat, dairy, sugar, coffee or alcohol. I followed the detox program that I completed successfully at Red Mountain Resort.  I ran four miles a day and was laser focused. Then one day, I hurt myself or it was raining or I was hungry. The funny thing is that I don't even remember what it was that caused me to lose focus but I did. I lost focus and then I just lost my dedication.

The weight started to come back. I got busy. I didn't pay attention and I started to see all my hard work disappear. The old me, the me I didn't like all that much was coming back.  I started beating myself up. I told myself that I was weak, that I couldn't do it. What was I thinking attempting a change so ambitious?

Then I realized something. I did it. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day I made a conscious choice to be healthy, to achieve a goal and I did it.

So, OK, I wandered off the path but the thing is this -- I knew where the path was. I understood what I needed to do to walk the path and how to get to the destination. There was physical proof that I could do it. This meant I could do it again. I thought about this and made a plan: How to get back on a program. It's like this: 

  • First. Forgive yourself. What you did, sabotaging yourself wasn't the smartest thing you've ever done but you stopped the behavior. Forgive the behavior and get over it. It's OK. It's always OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end. 
  • Get out your roadmap. Follow the path that worked for you before. (Drink more water with lime, walk 4 miles a day, delete white flour and sugar from your diet, whatever worked for you.) If you need a reminder of how to follow the path, call a nutrition equivalent of AAA and have someone write the directions for the journey down for you. There are experts out there just waiting to help guide you back on the right road.
  • Set a goal. 100 days that you stopped smoking, 100 mornings of working out. 100 seems to be a magic number. It's only a little more than 3 months but saying "I  __________ for 100 days!" seems like a much bigger accomplishment than 3 months." Set the goal. Write it on a Post-it. Make it the screensaver on your phone. Stick the Post-it to your bathroom mirror, your monitor at work. . . Set it in your mind so that when you close your eyes and see the number 100, you see a successful, happy you. 
It's OK that you got sidetracked but it's time to come back and be strong. Be the you that makes you proud. OK? OK.