Two Virtues I Need a Time of Slow Growth

I grew so much much during our time of crisis. Now back at home, I find myself struggling. Two virtues are needed for this slow growth in the little way: patience and labor.

In San Francisco, where the growth is good

The sun drew lower behind the high-rise parking garages and medical buildings as she pointed to the planter and said, “we just planted that yellow flower at our house – the one there in the middle. Do you know what it’s called?”

“No, I don’t know San Francisco plants very well,” I responded.

Plants in San Francisco’s microclimate are lush. Anise grows in the cracks of the sidewalks and within weeks of planting, gardens burst with large and impressive arrays of blooms and succulents. They like water; they like the fog.

San Francisco is many things to many people. For me, as we grow further away from our days of crisis, San Francisco is enshrined in my memory as a memorial site, a place where I honor the terrible things that happened in our lives and how they were overcome.

San Francisco represents a state of crisis. In crisis, we could crumble or we grow with more vigor, more robustness, more fruit and foliage, becoming sometimes a rather showy display of those things we never thought possible within ourselves.

Outside of crisis, personal growth slows down

At home the next day, I escape inside from the clouds of dust kicked up by the mower attached to a John Deere tractor working the baby almond orchard next door. Looking out the window I survey the center of our backyard: dirt decorated by weeds. I can imagine a lush carpet of grass, even crabgrass, so long as its green. But it will not come without work.

Dusty, fenced backyard with cement path and weeds

Here at home, blessedly outside that time of crisis, I find growth comes a little harder. I see my faults (I hear my faults as I fall short of love around four in the afternoon with my children). Like the gardens in progress, things can grow here, but they will take a good deal more work than when all the world seems to stop for us during critical moments of our lives. The rain falls on its own then.

It is time to make a choice and then to act with such necessary actions as will make those virtues grow. Walking alongside the weeds, feeling the dust beneath my bare feet, I plan the steps to a perfect lawn. Even if we rent the tools, buy the seed, sew the seed, lay the mulch, we still need sprinklers. We need enough water. So many steps. So much room for error.

Couldn’t we just hire someone?

Two virtues needed

No, that is outside our options at this time. Recognizing this, I take a moment to set a layer of patience in my heart: for the sprinkler work to be done; to calm the anxious mind that wants so to stress about the unfinished to-do list; enough to turn away from the lawn and see the flowers that are thriving, patience enough to water those flowers by hand.

Patience and labor. Every other day before the heat has settled in our bright summer sky, I go out, dragging the hose, wishing I had worn shoes, and water the wells around my flowers. I need patience with my children, my husband and myself. Lifting my hair off my neck to wipe away the sweat, I think how tired I am of doing this. Yet another flower has bloomed.

It takes work. Even though, I have known intellectually the value of hard physical work, in an automated, technological world, and being the poetic type, I rarely practice it.

This is a lesson as well. A choice must be made. First to be patient. Then to choose a better way to act that I may grow. And then continue the hard work of doing it.

In the mundane, everyday-routine, we lose those moments as days blend into each other. While in crisis, I often said my only choice was “adapt or die” meaning I could grow or I could crumble. But for the sake of my children, I would not crumble.

No, in normal life, I face a choice. It is true, the choice lacks the violence of the choice in the critical moment. Instead, it is slow growth, patience and labor to make a better family, a better wife, a better life.

closeup of plant in growth beginning to bud
Photo by Anthony Aird on Unsplash

In the same boat? Try the Prayer of Trust by St. Francis de Sales.

Facing the Brokenness: Thoughts on the crisis

This is a heartbreaking time to be a Catholic. The brokenness of the institutional Church is broken open. I am thankful it is that the truth may be known. When this happened before in 2002, I was too young to be plugged into the news cycle. We did not have social media. We have it now. My online peers and mentors are speaking out. There must be change and not just talking points.



What are we to do when we discover and rediscover the brokenness of our families, our community or the world around us?

We left behind the old life to commit to the new. For some, this represented a significant break from their history and making considerable sacrifices in a new way of living. When we first fall in love, we see only the good. This is the romance or colloquially called the honeymoon stage. One might say we see only what matters. Alice von Hildebrand, in her book titled “Letters to a Young Bride” writes that this vision of the person (which can be applied to the communities and organizations we love) is a vision to help sustain us when this next phase kicks in.

Disillusionment is the loss of the illusion, the honeymoon period of which we saw only the virtues. It is celebrating National Night Out before reading the griping on It is knowing the beliefs of a Church or the mission of a non-profit before encountering the mess of a bureaucracy. It is realizing how long the man goes before clipping his toenails. All of this comes to light gradually. In the eye of the beholder, the flaws grow and grow. One may resist seeing them, fight them, but ultimately, to continue the relationship, one must learn to separate the flaws that are normal human imperfections and the sins that must be left behind.

Because I love you, I accept that you are more forgetful than me.

Because I care about this mission, I will jump through these hoops to get approval for my project.

But I will never, ever let you lay a hand on me.

I will not tolerate being spoken to in that way.

If I am employed, I expect to be paid for my work.

You must follow the law.

And if I really loved the thing or person I thought I did in the first stage, if I can remember how this commitment first came to be, then it is possible for me to decide, now, with eye wide open, if this person or organization is worth fighting for.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Vices plague communities in ways similar to how they plague people. The person I loved is more than that vice and if I love him then I will want to see him restored to the person I know him to be.

But if I am in danger I will get out and go somewhere safe. We cannot help a person or an organization continue maltreatment and call that being faithful to it.

Creating safe boundaries is another way of helping a person move through the stages of change to sobriety from these grave faults. Staying in a situation when you are in danger does nothing to help that person. Separation does not have to mean divorce from the first commitment. You are better than the way you are hurting me. By not allowing you to hurt me, I am helping you return to the person I know you to be. By creating safe boundaries, I am reminding you of the accountability to which you are called.

There are many paths through the disillusionment stage. We accept our personality differences, we accept that weaknesses exist, we exhort without nagging the need for growth. When both parties are willing to grow and acknowledge their faults, the relationship can move into the third stage of a mature, stable love and commitment. Or it will dissolve, either internally or externally.

What did we know in that first stage? There will be clues along the way to know if this thing is worth fighting for. Then I will spend my life loving you enough to call and help you to become what you have always been meant to be.

While this is not the place for deep dive into the news surrounding the Catholic Church, I encourage those who want to learn more to go to




Surviving the Crisis in Tact

There were many lessons for me to learn over the past two years. After writing my guide to getting through your child’s hospitalization, I knew I wanted to boil it down to make those lessons more applicable for others.

That project found a home here, in this Mind & Spirit article, using the Four Tasks of Grief as a vehicle to bring them with you.