Holy ground

Peace and joy. That’s what I prayed for at Mass yesterday. In the homily, I heard that God told Solomon that whatever he asked for, God would give. My immediate thought was peace and joy. That was my prayer, amidst these troubled times of uncertain finances and family illnesses and unknown futures — peace and joy.

And God delivered.

After Mass, Mike and I headed to Ohio to say goodbye to my Aunt Patty. She was the second of my grandparents’ 13 children. Today, we would call her “special needs” or mentally handicapped. Growing up, we said that she was retarded, and there was no malice in the word, just an acceptance of who she was.

My grandparents were advised at Pat’s birth to put her in an institution. They refused. She was part of the family and she was going home with them.  And yesterday, family showed up.

The grounds of the hospice center where Pat arrived on Saturday are beautiful. They could rival any of the best parks I’ve been to. But what happened outside Patty’s window would have been beautiful if it had happened in a concrete jungle.

It was holy ground.


I’m frustrated by my own inability to capture what happened there yesterday. The words I have typed and deleted and typed again are so inadequate to explain the power, the grief, and yes, the peace and joy that was in that space.

In the courtyard outside the window, an area not normally meant for visitors, given that there were no walkways through the landscaping, our family gathered. Visitor restrictions placed on indoor space (thanks COVID-19) were not going to stop us from being there. Mike and I arrived at the encampment, spread out and wearing masks, as one of my aunts was leading the rosary, praying on my grandmother’s rosary beads into Pat’s open window.

About 20 family members, many of Pat’s siblings and their spouses and several of my cousins stood there. It didn’t matter that not everyone there practices the Catholic faith. It was a display of love for a woman so special to us. After the rosary, my cousin Zach who is a pastor offered a loving prayer into Pat’s window.

Mike described it this way: “You could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit was over you — like stepping into a warm room out of the cold.” The vigil that was our collective gift to Patty was a gift to us and a testament to the faith and family that my grandparents gave to us.

We stayed for a couple of hours. I had a chance a few times to go to the window and tell Pat how much I loved her. How I knew that Grandma was there waiting in heaven for her and what a joyful reunion that would be.

With a last goodbye kiss blown through the window screen, I felt the peace that I’d asked God for and the joy of being part of this family and part of this sacred day.





When you’re afraid to be a helper

You’ve most likely heard of the quote from Mr. Rogers about what to do in times of trouble. “Look for the helpers,” his mother told him. At a time of global pandemic and the accompanying uncertainty and fear, our world needs so much, yet I am afraid to be a helper.

There is a call for food pantry volunteers, for people to deliver groceries to those who can’t go out, for child care for the children of essential workers. But what if you are afraid to be a helper? Afraid to put yourself or your family at risk of getting sick by leaving your bubble and getting to the business of helping? That’s been my internal struggle. I want to help. I ask what would Jesus do and I know before I get the question out of my mouth that he would care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.

Does my fear make me a bad person? No. Does it mean that I have too little faith? Maybe. God and I are having conversations about that.

And while I sit with my fear vs. faith struggle, I seek small ways that I can help from where I am.

  • I can call to check in on friends or family, particularly those who are isolated without family.
  • I can send cards to nursing homes, addressed to my own loved ones or simply to “resident,” so someone who needs some cheer can receive it.
  • I can pray. Today I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet (it’s a Catholic thing) as a means to spiritually adopt someone with Coronavirus who is dying alone.
  • I can volunteer to do telephone reassurance calls with a local charity.
  • I can participate in neighborhood efforts to put hearts or smiley faces on my door so children can count them as the family goes on a walk.
  • I can donated to funds designed to support service workers who have been laid off.
  • I can support small business by placing carry-out or delivery orders or buying gift cards for future use.
  • I can donate food to those food pantries. I can share toilet paper or paper towels or canned goods with someone who needs it.
  • I can be real and honest in my posts on social media, letting down the facade of “she’s got it all together” and saying “I’m scared and frustrated, too.”
  • I can be kind.

I’m going to keep thinking and praying about how I can be a helper, doing some small part each day. Maybe I’ll get to a point where I can step up and do something that scares me, but until then I’ll do what I can to make the world a little less scary for others.

No photo description available.

Photo Credit: Ispirivity



The changing of the calendar from one year to the next always comes with intentions and resolutions, reflections and proclamations. One fairly recent trend is the selection of a “word of the year.” Yesterday as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post that asked people to choose a word for 2020 that began with the first letter of their name. “Available” popped into my head immediately.

If I had sat down to consider a word-of-the-year for myself, I don’t think AVAILABLE would have been on my radar. I might have chosen JOY or SERENITY or FAMILY or GROWTH. But God gave me AVAILABLE by handing it to me before I had a chance to overthink it.

And you know what? I love it. To me, this word is inspired. It asks me to be:

AVAILABLE to whatever God would ask of me this year.

AVAILABLE to my family, willing to set aside social media or television or chores to be present, to really listen without distraction and without trying to think ahead to my response.

AVAILABLE to people in need, giving my time in service where and in what form needed.

AVAILABLE to myself, to take the time I need to remain centered, rested, inspired, and healthy.

So AVAILABLE doesn’t become simply a year-end blog post, a sentiment lost by mid-January, I’m going to write the word down and post it in several places to give me daily reminders that God is asking me to AVAILABLE in this new year.

Do you choose a word of the year? What word is speaking to you this year?

How pants without pockets ruined my groceries

Yesterday, I hosted Grand Camp — a day for grandparents and their grandchildren — at work. This day is wildly fun and incredibly exhausting. So I always take the next day (that would be today) off from work to recuperate. Before, I could get to resting, though, I had a fundraising breakfast for Joy’s House to attend. So, I got up early and dressed in a flowy top and my favorite pair of khaki capri pants, which happen to not have any pockets (I’m getting to my point…)

After the breakfast, I had a couple of errands to run and then an appointment at 11am. I would rest after that, I told myself. After the appointment, it was about five hours after my early morning breakfast, so I decided to take myself out to lunch at Panera, which is not too far from Costco.

I go to Costco about once per month, right after pay day, which happened to be yesterday. So, since I was close, I decided to do the Costco shopping. Then, after that, I would go home and rest. Which was exactly my plan, except…

After I checked out at Costco and waved my receipt at the lady by the exit (which, do you know they only draw a smiley face on your receipt if you have a small child with you?), I headed to the van to unload the cart.

I unlocked the van with the key fob on my keys and, because my pants had no pockets, dropped the keys on the front seat. Then, because my pants had no pockets (do you detect a theme?), I had put my phone inside my purse, which I threw onto the floor of the front seat.

$250 worth of groceries in the back of the van later, I closed the van door and turned to return the cart to the cart corral (because I’m responsible like that). As I stepped away from the car, I heard a “click,” which turned out to be the car doors locking — with my keys, my purse, my phone, and several weeks worth of groceries locked inside.

I ran around the van, trying each door, pleading each to open, to no avail. So, I went inside Costco to call Mike to ask him to bring me the spare set of keys. I figured if he saw it was a phone call from Costco, he might pick up. He didn’t.

Costco is kind of like Cheers; ok, maybe not everyone knows your name, but you’re bound to run into someone you know. Except, after about 15 minutes, I hadn’t. Near Costco, there is a McAlister’s Deli, where I almost always see someone I know. Heading that way, I honestly prayed, “Please God, let there be someone at McAlister’s I know who will let me use their phone to text Mike.”

When I saw an old classmate of Annie’s, I almost jumped across the table calling his name. God love Ethan, he was happy to let me use his phone, from which I texted Mike, explaining the situation. Afterwards, I sat down with an ice water and waited.

So, there I was in a McAlister’s with nothing to entertain me. No phone. No book. No pen and paper. So I read the labels on the salt and pepper shakers. I found out that you can change how coarse or fine the texture of the condiments are, so I learned something today. Then I read the table ads. Did you know you can order a mini brownie platter or a mini cookie platter, that is a big platter with bite size desserts? Also, free tea day is July 18.

I tried meditating, unsuccessfully. I checked the clock on my FitBit obsessively, mentally picturing my frozen foods thawing and spoiling in a hot car locked up on a 90+ degree day. I made a mental list of things I was grateful for in the situation. Note: I was not grateful for my pocketless pants, but I was grateful that I have a car to lock my keys in, that I had money to buy the groceries, that I was able to use Ethan’s phone.

Oh, speaking of Ethan…about 45 minutes after I locked everything in the car, I saw that Ethan and his buddy were leaving. I scrambled to catch him before he left.

“Did Mike respond?”

Nope. Thankfully, as I was asking to borrow the phone again, Mike called on Ethan’s phone. He had been meeting with a friend and didn’t notice the text message. He was on his way.

Thirty minutes later — do you know how many black wagonesque cars drive past that McAlister’s — Mike pulled in with the spare key and the saga was almost over. Except that most of the frozen food I’d purchased at Costco was thawing, leaving the boxes soggy. So, tucking the keys into my bra (remember — no pants pockets), I grabbed a cart and took the soggy groceries back inside where I explained to the manager what had happened. Happily, he allowed me to return the potentially spoiled groceries and I went shopping at Costco again.

Three hours after I first pulled into Costco, I pulled out and headed home with my frozen replacement groceries, my keys, purse, and phone, and yes, my pants without pockets. And next year, on the day after Grand Camp, I’m not leaving the house.


Lessons on love by the fathers in my life

It’s Father’s Day and I feel oddly like I should apologize for the wealth of positive father figures I’ve had in my life. I know that not everyone is that lucky. But not appreciating the gifts in my life is a big waste, so I’m not going to apologize and I’m not going to brag. What I’m going to do is reflect, appreciate, and share the lessons I’ve learned about love from the men who are fathers to me.

My dad, my grandfathers, and my father-in-law are the authors of these lessons. They might be surprised to know that. But it’s a reminder that in everything we do, people — notably those closest to us — are watching.

Lessons on love by the fathers in my life

1. Love shows up. This is the first thing I think of when I think of my dad. He shows up. When there is a need or a celebration or an open Friday evening, my dad is there. When a stroke kept him from attending Charlie’s high school graduation, he watched it streaming live from the hospital. There was no way he wasn’t going to be there.

2. Love is action, even small ones. My father-in-law could buy my mother-in-law anything she wanted. But one of the greatest, and small ways, he showed love to her was sitting on the couch rubbing her feet. Oh, he did plenty of other things to show he loved her, but that quiet act is something I always remember.

3. Love does not get old, it gets deep. Both sets of my grandparents were married for a bazillion years — or at least more than 50. And when I watched both of my grandfathers (Grandpa and PaPa) be with my grandmothers (Grandma and NaNa), I could almost see them as smitten young 20-somethings. The love they had was deep, forged over decades of joy and heartache. The love they had and showed for my grandmothers, that’s #lifegoals material.

4. Love is funny. So, he’s not my dad, but Mike fills our house with humor. He plays a great comic relief to my often too-serious straight man. And though my PaPa has been gone for a few years, his legacy of PaPa jokes lives on. You know the kind — corny, punny jokes that make you smile and grown at the same time. Here’s one for you: “Why do cows have hooves instead of feet? Because they lactose.”

5. Love challenges. This is one of those lessons that can be infuriating in the midst, but looking back, is the greatest gift. There have been times when both my dad and Mike’s dad have challenged one of us to do something more or better or differently. The response in the moment is sometimes “lay off” or “mind your own business” or “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” But when love challenges, it’s not because we are not good enough, but because it wants the best for us.

So, on this Father’s Day, I’m going to acknowledge how lucky I am and be grateful for it. To Mike, Dad, Tom, and Grandpa — and to PaPa in heaven, Happy Father’s Day.

Green is…

Green is…

an invitation

a welcome


quiet energy.

Green is…





Green is…

my favorite shoes

my next car (someday)

a celebration

despite what Kermit says, easy.

Green is…





Green is…





Choose your color. What is it to you?

Double exposure

I wrote yesterday about exposing myself by sharing my postpartum depression story as part of The Blank Monologues (TBM) at Millikin University. But there’s a part two to that story. Not only did I expose my own truth, but I also exposed myself to new perspectives, experiences, and understandings that were shared as part of the show.

I had never attended The Vagina Monologues (TVM) before — that’s the show that TBM was adapted from. If you haven’t either, let me tell you that this is not a she-woman, man-haters occasion. The Blank Monologues (and I assume TVM,) was a platform for sharing some of what it is like to be a woman today and sharing hopes for what that experience will be like in the future.

Being a member of the TBM cast was a powerful experience for me. Not only did I get to watch my daughter practice her craft (proud mama here!), but I also took a closer look at a topic (femininity) that I usually just gloss over without thinking too much about it.

I hadn’t read the entire script all the way through before I got to Decatur for dress rehearsal, but I’d heard a few of the monologues during the rehearsal that I’d attended via FaceTime, so I knew that I was going to have to steel myself for some language that I’m not used to — or entirely comfortable with — hearing.

You know what happened? I was so struck by the authenticity and the power the women in the cast projected that I didn’t even think about being uncomfortable. The opening monologue was original to this performance and was delivered by the young women in the cast (that is, everyone except me and the three professors who were also in the show). It was called “My Feminism” and was a sort of feminist manifesto. And it made me re-think feminism.

I should probably point out here that I don’t usually get too riled up about gender equality and pink hats and marching on capitols. I like to be agreeable (at least on the surface) and choose not to rock the boat. I am not comfortable with anger, but this devised manifesto helped me to better understand what people are angry about.


Yet, my experience of womanhood includes certain joys — feeling a baby moving within me, being able to talk about my feelings, and wearing dresses with pockets. I would love to see them included to fully represent the experience of womanhood.

The show included music performed by a transgender woman. It was not my first encounter with a trans woman — you might remember Emma, but it’s not something that happens every day. Mel, the musician, talked briefly about her experience living as a woman in a world that doesn’t always acknowledge that and I was most struck by her humanity. She is just a person who wants to be accepted. Aren’t we all?

Another group monologue was called “Why I Didn’t Report.” Some of the “whys” were statements that have been given by others over time and several of them were these brave young women’s stories — stories that made me sad, and shocked, and has me re-thinking what constitutes assault.

“These Are My Sisters” spoke of all the women in the world and how much we are connected, how much we owe to each other. My favorite from that monologue was “The teachers that pushed us to the top, and not over the edge, are my sisters.” WOW.

I looked around the room, especially at these amazing young women who believed in this project so much that they gave up dozens of hours over two months to bring these stories to light. I looked at these Millennials, who I have at times judged as loud, hysterical, and inexperienced, and though I might not agree with everything they believe in, I thought to myself, “This generation is going to change the world.”





Exposing myself

I just spent the past two days exposing myself and I am exhausted. No, not THAT kind of exposing myself. I’m talking about revealing truths about myself that, in the anticipation of it, left me feeling vulnerable, nervous, and maybe a little scared.

Annie and three of her closest friends put on a show at Millikin University last night called “The [Blank] Monologues.” It was an adaptation of The Vagina Monologues. They had seen a production of TBM in St. Louis earlier this year and knew right away that they had to bring it to their campus. In less than two months’ time, they put out an audition and submission call, casted the show, scheduled and held rehearsals, and promoted the show, all culminating in two performances at Millikin on Friday night.

What made this show different from The Vagina Monologues is that they wrote and accepted submissions of original content, to be performed alongside some of the original TVM content. That’s where exposing myself began.

When Annie told me about their plans and that they were asking for people to submit original content, I suggested that maybe I would submit something, which I assumed would be immediately shot down. It wasn’t.

But what did I have to say that would fit in with the spirit of The Vagina Monologues? I don’t have a bikini wax story. I don’t claim a place in the #Metoo movement. What exactly would a heterosexual, Catholic wife and mother of three have to say to the world (or at least to 150-ish people) that would be remotely connected to her vagina?

When I sat down to write my submission, my story spilled out onto the page as if it had been waiting for a long time to be unleashed. I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Without much editing, I emailed my story to Annie, with a firm directive that I did not expect them to accept it and that my submission should be viewed with neutrality, not as a something Annie’s mom wrote. The next day, I got the call: I was in.

I FaceTimed in to the first rehearsal. Hearing the scripts for show’s other monologues, I felt like mine didn’t measure up. I wasn’t sure it belonged in the show. I told Annie as much after the rehearsal. She insisted I was wrong, my story needed to be told, and it would be.

Rehearsals went on without me, though I promised to be at dress rehearsal the night before the show. True to my word, I showed up and immediately became intimidated and a bit overwhelmed. These young women are AMAZING at their craft. They delivered their monologues convincingly, naturally. During a break, I told Annie I was feeling uncomfortable, especially because I would be using notes to help tell my story. She assured me that two of the professors in the cast would also be delivering their monologues with the help of a script. This girl was not taking no (or even maybe) for an answer.

I’m not afraid of public speaking; in fact, I enjoy it. But this was going to be the first time I had told this very personal, very vulnerable story to a large group of random people. Annie had told me that many cast members cried when they read first my piece in the script, which is what happened when I delivered it during dress rehearsal. I was surprised. For some reason, I didn’t expect my story to resonate.

Even still, their reaction did not prepare me for the reaction of the audience when I delivered the monologue. First, the girls in the cast (yes, they are young women, but they’re 25+ years younger than I am, so they seem like girls to me), applauded me to the stage in an audible show of support before I even opened my mouth. They knew I was a little unsure. As I told my story, I looked out into the audience and saw that people were completely dialed in to my story, many with tears streaming down their faces. When I finished, there was a standing ovation. It was, as my castmates would say, FIERCE.

After the show, several people came to me to thank me for sharing my story. A professor complimented my writing and suggested that I submit my piece to The Moth, a storytelling podcast. I think the most meaningful feedback I received was from a student who told me that she’d always wanted to be a mother, but that she deals with depression and didn’t know if she could be a good mother. My story, she said, gave her hope.

That made all the uncertainty and hesitation to expose myself and my experience with postpartum depression worth it. I write to make connection. Because I was willing to risk putting myself out there — and because my daughter could see the importance and pushed me to own it — that connection happened. And I am so grateful.

Blank Cast




On growth and risk

Take calculated risks quote via Carol's Country Sunshine on FacebookI’ve been thinking a lot about growth and risk and the connection between the two lately.  In my experience, being a responsible adult lends itself to playing it safe. Stick to what I know so I know what I’ll get. But what happens when what I know doesn’t feel like enough?

Going outside of what I know is risky. However, is there a point at which staying within my safety bubble becomes risky, too? Are the only two options in life to grow or to shrink? Does stasis really exist?

This growth and risk question can be applied to a lot of areas of life. For instance, church and faith. Mike and I have belonged to the same parish for more than 26 years. It’s the church we attended when we got married. It’s the church where our children were baptized, where we made some really good friends. But it’s different now. Many of our friends have left the parish. We no longer have kids in the school so we don’t know as many people. And instead of an important part of my life, a vibrant community, church feels like a building.

The way I see it, we have three choices. Stay, going to Mass on Sundays and not much more. But the status quo leaves me feeling unfulfilled. The second choice is to leave, find a new parish. That’s risky, for sure, and it doesn’t feel right, at least not right now. The third choice is to stay and make an effort to be more involved, to get to know those people we don’t know at all. That feels risky, too, but it also feels more like something that will lead to the kind of growth I’m looking for.

Work is another area where I’m really feeling the connection between growth and risk. I love the people I work with. I love the people I work for. I don’t really love the work that I’m doing, in part because I’ve been doing it for almost 14 years. But this job is safe. I know what the expectations are. I know what the salary and benefits are. I know that my bosses are terrific at encouraging work-life balance. All that is safe…is it enough?

I’m two semesters into the risk I decided to take that might lead me to career growth — pursuing a master’s degree in an area unrelated to my bachelor’s degree. But when I think about leaving the safety of the job I have, I get 27 different kinds of nervous. That’s ok. I don’t have to make that decision right now. What I have to do right now is stay the course on this commitment I’ve made to get a master’s in healthcare management. There is growth in that, too.

Even my choices within this master’s program offer a risk/growth opportunity. I have to complete an internship in the fall. I could likely do my internship at Joy’s House, an amazing adult day center that is near to my heart and where I serve on the board. But I know Joy’s House, so I’m pushing myself to accept the challenge of putting myself into unfamiliar territory; I’m hoping to do my internship with a hospice organization. I believe that’s where I’m being called to grow.

That’s a big risk. I think I want to work with families as they near the end of a loved one’s life, but I don’t have any experience with that. What if I’m wrong? What if I hate it? What if I’m terrible at it? You know what, there is growth in being wrong, too.

I heard a quote recently: “Fortune favors the bold.” It resonated with me. Safe just doesn’t feel safe anymore.


What I learned from logging out of Facebook for Lent


I decided to log out of Facebook for Lent in an attempt to quiet my mind and be better able to focus on other things. I learned a few things in the process…

1. Progress, not perfection. I stayed entirely off Facebook for about one out of the six weeks of Lent. Then I let myself slide back in just to stay in touch with a small, private Catholic Moms group and our private family group. I was able to keep up with that for about three weeks. Then I started doing some scrolling, but not commenting. And in the final week or two of Lent, I began commenting on people’s posts here and there. So was it a perfect sacrifice? No. But I think it was a useful exercise.

2. Take the humble road. One thing that I was committed to during my time away (or lessened) was not making any original posts myself. OK, there was one exception — a request for prayers for my husband’s current job search. But other than that, I did not start any conversations. That was a deliberate decision on my part and one that I made out of a desire to practice humility. If you don’t post anything, there’s nothing to check to see how many likes or comments your post has garnered.

3. I can fill my time with anything. I have never in my life scrolled the news feed on Linked IN or the curated articles on Google like I did over the past six weeks. I learned that it’s not Facebook that can highjack my night; it’s my own unwillingness to set boundaries and stick to them.

4. I am not a very visual person. In lieu of posting on Facebook, I found myself posting to Instagram. The problem with that is that Instagram is an image-based platform. I have a word-based brain. Limiting myself to Instagram forced me to think differently about how I wanted to convey what I wanted to say. That was a learning experience.

5. Online relationships can be very real. Part of the reason I slipped back into at least the scrolling of Facebook is that I missed people — people I might not often (or ever) see in real life, but people who are important to me nonetheless. For me, Facebook fills — in part — a need for connection.

6. Facebook serves up plenty of drama and angst. This is likely no surprise to anyone, but backing out for a while did provide an opportunity for a refresh. Even when I was scrolling, but not responding or posting, I had the ability to just scroll on by and not be weighed down by whatever drama was bouncing around my newsfeed.

7. News travels fast…on Facebook. At least in my little corner of the world, Facebook is the hub of communication. I find updates from Robbie’s bowling league there, and nowhere else. Friends who have happy or sad news to share do so on Facebook in an effort to be efficient. Photos and stories of my nieces and nephews find there way to our private Facebook group when they might not be shared otherwise.

8. It’s on me to cultivate more direct communication. This stems from #6. I love being able to check in and find out what is happening in the lives of people I know and love. But I also learned over the past six weeks that I should be more intentional about making contact with people I care about outside of Facebook.

Am I glad that I chose a Facebook fast for this year’s Lent? I am. Will I spend less time on Facebook now after all that I’ve discovered? The jury is still out on that one. Will I give up Facebook for Lent again? Hmmm…I guess I have a while to figure that out.