Maintaining Self-Care While on Vacation

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.


Ah, vacation. Time to put aside our tasks, rest, relax, sight-see and love life. Like searching for that light shining in the darkness while I navigate the ocean, giving us direction, I was ready.

And I was no fool, I went in prepared, as the previous Sunday posts shared. By and large, between children and medical supplies, we were covered, they were entertained. We had the natural first night back madness, but other than that, we were good.


I walked away from our vacation feeling something was lacking. I felt sluggish. Was it the margaritas? The lack of exercise? The lack of reading time?

Yes. Yes. Yes.




The vacation itself is not self-care.

The light itself is not enough.




I wanted to go on vacation to throw away all my tasks, my to-do lists, the endless list of things I must keep in mind.

I left behind the dishes and the meals (not that I succeed so well at cooking anyway).

But there are a few tasks on my to-do list that must remain, like showering.

Other things are less obvious: exercise, morning prayer, time alone for reading or reflection. I already know, an evening cocktail makes deep reading impossible for me, so choosing to imbibe throughout vacation means I miss out on many a good thing.

The cocktail is there, pleasant and sociable.

But there is the price.

Vacation often means less space for the little exercise I do at home. Heat and humidity meant walks were less than perfectly pleasant…but not impossible.

I forgot my breviary and bible, the sole source of regular prayer for me. We had our rosaries…we could have prayed the rosary.


Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Afternoons became lazy.

I thought that by being lazy, we were still engaging in self-care.

That is not self-care.


Rather, self-care are those activities that fill the cup, not just stop the overflow.




Now vacation takes a different turn.

A complex array of glass and gadgets illuminates the light so the navigator can see it. 

Rather than a time to escape life’s demands, perhaps vacation is the time to meet them, as a family, because for me, family is my life’s demand. 




Instead of housekeeping, meal planning and work…we could read together, sing together, play together.


Separating the glass and light make little sense.

I am still learning what my needs are and what my family’s needs are. A day away is a good thing for me, to escape the schedules.

A day with them, away from the world, is a good thing for me, to escape the distraction.




Some things only make work together. Even away from home, even with family and not alone, I must keep filling my cup.


I will add this to my list…for next time.


Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Shopping for Your Literary Medicine Cabinet

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.


What do you read when you need to cope? Or do you?

Haley Stewart, author and host of the Fountains of Carrots podcast, published an ebook called “The Literary Medicine Cabinet: A Guide to Self-Care through Good Books.” The books in the cabinet are the comfort reads one can return to again and again. Somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books are published every year in the US alone. To be sure, wherever you are emotionally, there is a book for that. But how do you start?




It was some time around college when my reading habits diminished. In a graduate school with graduate reading, I picked up The Witch of Blackbird Pond, then The Island of Blue Dolphins, books I have loved and read again and again since I first met them in the 4th Grade.

Scott O’Dell led to Dickens and I traveled the way through my first pregnancy, graduate school classes and humid Virginia summer with friends I hadn’t seen in years. It relaxed me, refreshed me, and kept my head on straight for future studies.

Then the baby came and books went by the wayside. It was survival time.


In “The Literary Medicine Cabinet,” Stewart makes the case that we need to make time for reading as we would other types of self-care. Indeed, when I finally returned to those old friends, it was at a time in my life when I needed it most.


At the side of hospital crib, I read Zelie Martin’s letters in A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of St. Thérèse. How greatly she suffered for her children in their births, deaths, discovered abuse and lastly, that she should leave them prematurely when she learned she was dying of breast cancer. “Life is short and full of misery…we’ll see them again Heaven.” I needed a woman who understood.

I read books that inspired the parts of my soul that could have died in crisis. The creative part, the artist, the one who seeks beauty. I read A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman and I found a purpose for my day-to-day beyond answering questions about my son’s medical condition.


Kristin Lavarnsdatter was the oar that pulled me back to literature, to a healthy escape, to feelings the feels without the weight of feeling. From there, the list of books read and books desired to read only grew.

I discovered both new books from podcast recommendations and checked out books from authors I had heard about but never read. In between, I picked up books I read in high school and remembered liking.

I discovered the grotesque intellectual fodder through O’Connor and the bawdy but loveable, easy-reading characters of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. The sequel to Cannery Row, Sweet Thursdays, saved me from a no good horrible very bad day.

And as everything both slowed down and sped up, I came to a new place in my journey, when it was time to begin to look back and remember the things that were not quite a tidily tied with a ribbon in my writing. I read Grace Like Scarlett and Forgiving God, allowing myself to walk back through the madness of the miscarriages and the ache of memories from hospital hallways. Could I have read this in the midst of the heartache? I do not think so. At the right time, they were part of healing.




The books that can help through times of trial are as varied as the resources outside the page. You may depend on therapy (self-help books), spiritual direction (spiritual, Christian living, inspiration books), hobbies (in my case, writing and design, possibly science, technology or athletics for other types), exercise and time outdoors (literature set in faraway places) and relationships (great literature).

Stewart’s Cabinet is filled with the books she returns to again and again. Mine is a mixture of the new and the old, the related and unrelated, the inspiring and the dream-making. It takes a process to find the ones you love, the authors you love, but little by little, setting aside time as you would for physical therapy, counseling or showering, you will get there. And you will find new remedies along the way.





Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Memoir Excerpt, a piece of our story: The Flight to Egypt

In honor of Peter’s record-breaking time out of the hospital, 5 1/2 months and counting, I’d like to share the following, an excerpt from my memoir, What God Had Emptied. I am in the process of submitting to publishers now. This excerpt won Best of Show for Literary Arts at the Stanislaus County Fair this year.


Chapter 4: The Flight to Egypt


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Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Luc-Olivier Merson, 1880


The first four days passed. No one could say when we would leave. Kyle’s work provided no paid leave or vacation time.

Kyle left and I stayed.

Pat visited every day. When Peter’s electrolytes stabilized, we transitioned from the UCSF Pediatric ICU to the “floor”, the Medical/Surgical general unit.

There was a private bathroom.

The room offered privacy enough to pump, but little help with Peter. My modesty longed for privacy. The stronger Peter grew, the more help I needed. He cried, begging to be held. Two feet from him, hooked up to a rented Medela, I could not comfort him.

A young, high-voiced and slight-statured Patient Care Assistant named Denton did not overwhelm me. He helped, cheerfully and often, to fill in the gaps left by Sally, Peter’s Australian and intimidating nurse with a penchant for medical terminology. When I asked for help, her comments on how little time she had burdened me. When she said we should think about putting a g-tube into Peter’s stomach, it troubled me.

Our room was situated at the end of the unit hallway. A large window took parents on mental vacations when they peered out into the San Francisco Bay and remarked on the vast cruise ship docked there. Every day I checked to see if it was still in the harbor.

At morning rounds, the team of doctors met together discussing Peter. In this setting, they introduced Gastroenterology (GI) for the first time. Monica Lange, the attending doctor whose voice resounded emphatically with each statement, hoped we could go home that day. Dr. Yvonne Winney, attending GI doctor, disagreed. She hated to say it, but GI’s opinion carried more weight.

I stayed on my feet for the news. Only later did I sit in that lime green hospital recliner, attached to the pump, draped in a muslin swaddle cloth, gripping Pooja’s hand, sobbing uncontrollably. To this caring resident, I managed the words: “I haven’t seen my children in a week.” With her sure and soothing voice, she made me feel there was a way forward.

That was a night of tears, drowning in the emotion and stress of a week alone with my baby in the hospital. The next day, Bernice, a social worker, came to talk with me. “You need to get out,” she exhorted, “you should take a walk.”

Her words pushed me out the door. After she left, when the emotion welled up again, I was no longer crying.

I was fed up.

Leaning into her urging from the hour before, I got out.

I went for a walk.

In a haze, I bought Haribo gold bears and a body pouf at the tiny Walgreens across the street from the clinic building. It was a normal thing to buy things, unlike the week I had been living.

Walking sounds tame. It is not.

In a fury, I walked, lengthening my stride. As I walked and continued walking, the rhythm of the steps overcame my thoughts. The pace of my breathing out-paced the emotion surging in my heart. I kept on walking until my eyes shifted focus from inward to outward. Buildings came into focus. The sky came into focus. I felt the breeze again. The drowning stopped and the scene around me came into color. I felt curious.

When this happened, I recognized my location. It was 3rd Street. Maybe this was where Kyle walked when he went to Safeway. It was not very scenic. The ports looked abandoned between a sea of concrete and the San Francisco Bay. Invigorated by the clear skies, clean air and enveloping sunshine, I followed the sign to the nostalgia-inducing AT&T Park.

I walked on. Approaching the park, a snack shack sold beer. The steel members of Lefty O’Doul Bridge stretched across a stench of water. Business people walked and homeless people milled about. Outside the Dugout Store, a sign advertised ballpark tours. It would be wonderful to see the inside. Not since third grade have I cared about baseball. Stepping inside, I inquired of the clerk the cost of tours: “$22.”

Yikes. Make-a-buck. Make-a-buck. Don’t care what [baseball] stands for, just make-a-buck, make-a-buck.” I walked on.

Turning the curved corner around the stadium, across the street stood Momo’s. Its black and tan striped awnings and serif typeface beckoned me. I was hungry and sick of hospital food. The food was palatable but dry, and the repetition drove me mad. Momo’s drew me. The host handed me a menu. Dismissing the high prices, a Freudian Id power propelled the moment forward. Impulsively, I asked, “How is your French Dip?”

“Excellent,” he responded.

“Can I get it boxed up?” He directed me to order from the bar. Self-consciously, I chose a seat. “Can I get you something to drink while you wait?”

Blushing, I stumbled, “oh, no” like a sheltered housewife.

The bartender offered water. He could have meant that from the start.

I ordered, drank my water and paid for my $18 French Dip sandwich. It felt wonderful to spend a lavish amount of money on something. The smell tantalized.

Time to return. One hour had passed since I left.

In the presence of the day’s resident, Jo, and a nurse practitioner I ate my French Dip. This was good, I thought, good to walk, good to feel free, good to spend. Goodness was a feeling I had not felt in a while.

The next day when I stepped outside that good feeling returned. Surveying my surroundings, I wondered, Where should I go now? Adventure is out there. AT&T Park yesterday. The Design Center today? To walk and eat at the same time appeared casual and cool. Whole Foods was down Mariposa Street. When we examined Google maps, Jo described this route was safe. I prepared to go.

The walk began. There was no fog that day, only curiosity. My attention heightened as I followed the sidewalk under the freeway, scanning for suspicious characters. Graffiti decorated each pillar alongside the train tracks. The road led uphill. My legs sensed it. It was good to use them again.

To the left stood a hardware store. To the right: a dog grooming shop. Buildings triggered thoughts of my own home, questioning if charcoal window casings would complement cream siding or if it would be too dramatic. Painted lady houses inspired awe. Modern architecture punctuated the iconic Victorian homes one expects in San Francisco. History and architecture enchanted me. The colors were visionary.

Signs at Whole Foods reminded me St. Patrick’s Day was the next day. I wanted to buy beer. I wanted to buy wine. I wanted to buy the whole store. Ten minutes passed as I weighed my options in the candy aisle, calculating the price per ounce because we always joked about Whole Foods being more aptly called “Whole Paycheck.”

Newman’s Own sour licorice ropes in cherry won the debate, as did hairspray. A new product might help this mess. Sun blasted through the exit as I ventured back out to the street. Signs pointed to the Design Center.

A tile store distracted me first. On the entryway wall to the left, I discovered the perfect marble herringbone mosaic for our foyer. A black ash with patina cut into a 12×24 inch piece was meant for our fireplace. The clerk copied the pricing information. In our small talk, I shared how I love planning a design concept. “Oh, you should be a planner,” she fanned my flattery. The city is completely changing, she informed me.

In taking the samples, I left some heaviness behind. It stayed that way as I reentered the hospital. There was not enough time to reach the Design Center that day. Ronny, Peter’s social worker, indulged my design talk over the tile samples. Everyone checked on me now that I had cried my eyes out in their presence. Tile samples and brochures carried me away from the present moment, filling my mind with plans for my Hughson home.

The next day, I would walk again.


Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

Stories of Hope: A Conversation with the Rykert Trio


I think back often to this interview, so even though it first came out in May, I’d like to share it with you now. All around us, there are individuals transcending their suffering to build up their community.


What will you do.png

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

It had not occurred to Joe Rykert to sing with his family as a group. Now The Rykert Trio, which includes him, his daughter, Noelle Rykert-LaRosa and son, Joseph Paul Rykert have released their second album, titled “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a contemporary take on Southern Gospel.

Along with work as a photographer, Joe Rykert sang solo for forty years. He performed in musical theatre and opera with Townsend Opera Players for over twenty years. His children, all vocalists, sang on their own path in other venues.

Everything changed, two weeks before Easter 2015, when Rykert received a diagnosis: Stage 4, Large B-cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Devastated by the news, a commitment to sing at a Sunrise Service at Lakewood Memorial on Easter morning kept Joe grounded. With his first chemo treatment scheduled three days before that service, he asked his children to back him up should his body react to the five toxic drugs to be used in his chemotherapy.

On Easter morning, the five Rykerts stood on stage and a new path for their lives began. “So out of something very dark—cancer, came one of the greatest blessings in my adult life, getting to sing and share the stage with them. And they are blossoming and growing in greatness and I’m a fading rose. It’s just, God had to get my attention, he had to show me what I was missing. That was the opportunity,” Rykert shared.

Unbeknownst to them, Tammy Rykert, Joe’s wife, entered Joe, Noelle and Joseph, into the Valley Talent Project. In August 2016, the Rykert Trio walked away first in the sing-off, Audience Favorite and Judge’s Favorite. “It was a grand slam,” Joseph said. On the same weekend, the Trio performed at the Celebration of Hope, a cancer awareness fundraiser event put on by Sutter Gould.

The calls for bookings began. Hope grew out of darkness. The Rykert Trio dove in. Individual projects continued, and Tammy continued to look for avenues to move the Trio forward. They produced their first album in Turlock using monies raised during a concert at Geneva Presbyterian. Joe described the turnout and amount raised as an affirmation, “we’re on the right path. That’s God’s stamp of approval.”


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While they sang mostly secular, classical and jazz tunes, at the Southern Gospel Convention, the Trio discovered their new sound. Musical groups they met from all over the nation encouraged them on.

Why Southern Gospel? Joe answered, “It’s the subject matter, it’s all about the blood, it’s about the cross, it’s about what Christ did for us. His sacrifice that we are not worthy of.” With tears, he recounted his gratitude to God. Indeed, the family sees their growing success as a ministry in itself.

Tammy explained, “so many have been touched by cancer and just the encouragement of what he’s been through and what he has overcome. He’s in remission. He’s never going to be without cancer but at least he’s in remission. Especially people who are going through it, they see the story and there’s hope. And hope for the afterlife. If they don’t make it through. There is that hope and future in Christ.”

Joseph added, “The Lord’s always faithful. It seems like the ladder is endless for us. We’re just going to keep climbing as long as we honor him. Now, that we’ve found music that does honor to his name, it’s only going to get better.”




You can find music by The Rykert Trio on all the major streaming platforms and for purchase on their website and Amazon. To book the Trio, visit their website or email or go to the website. For regular updates, like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.


Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Stories of Hope: A Conversation with Holly Anna Calligraphy


How one woman uses her way of caring for her soul to speak life to others

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch


“How can I speak life to the people that follow me?” Holly Stavness, owner of Holly Anna Calligraphy reflected in her Facebook feed.

I no longer remember how I first heard of Holly Anna Calligraphy. In July of 2017, with some bonus income, I signed up for a beginner calligraphy class, wearied from the grief of losing our daughter in March. I felt anxious and frazzled that day, not quite accustomed to going out without my kids, of doing something with them at home, indulgent and just for myself.

Marie from Tailor Made Events first encouraged Holly to rent a space for her workshops. “I wanted it to be safe and beautiful. I was blown away at how beautiful it was,” Holly said of the first time she saw the studio that would be hers through a friend at her church.

Stepping down the brick path, with draping bougainvillea blooms, I stepped into another world. Opening the white antique door, one walks not only into an attractive studio, but a space that Holly created, filled with peace.


Image may contain: people sitting, table and indoor
By Holly Anna Calligraphy


She shared the story of how calligraphy became her calling. With each workshop, Holly wants to give to her guests a taste of what she refers to internally as “that dining room experience” when she fell in love with it.

Holly was never the artist during childhood in Hughson, California. One of four siblings, given the choice for one activity, she chose soccer. After an injury and surgeries prior to college, plans changed. After she attended college at CSU Stanislaus, Holly transferred down south and met her husband, supporting him through a Masters degree in physical therapy by working as an administrative assistant. “It was hard coming out of college and thinking I’m going to get this great job,” she recalled, “As a college student wanting to conquer the world that wasn’t my first choice—to pour myself out.”

To pour oneself out is the theme that runs through Holly’s life. Raised in a family that taught her the value of helping others, Holly’s value of the other she encounters fills her workshops and projects with something that becomes life-giving to others.

That gift of self led her and her husband to foster care. She described it “a season of heartbreak. The Lord was calling us to break our hearts. That changed some theology in my mind that you’re never going to go through trials, that God will never ask you to broken-heartedness. It’s a different concept that he wants us to pour ourselves out for others.”

In the midst of seeking to serve her family, care for her daughters, provide a secure environment for her foster son, as she encountered the consequences of generational neglect, drugs and alcohol for the first time, Holly found herself drying out. She needed a way to fill her cup.

“I found myself really dry, especially with children, not really loving my life. I wanted to love my life, I wanted children and wanted a husband and a husband who loved his job. With foster care, we wanted to do this. I just wanted to be present in the moment, to just love it, to find the joy in the moment, even in the mundane.”

Calligraphy was new on the social media scene. Holly purchased lettering samples by Molly Jakes on Skillshare and materials online. “As I was struggling with this in my heart, calligraphy was my outlet for emotions I don’t know that I’d ever experienced before… calligraphy was there for me to write things out. I’d put the kids down, my husband goes to bed early, and I would just write, and those were the most beautiful moments when God met me at my kitchen table with calligraphy… It was slow and therapeutic and just enough to keep my mind there and in the emotion— to not put the emotion aside but work through it.”


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By Holly Anna Calligraphy


At the request of friends, Holly hosted her first workshop teaching others. With each workshop, she adds hospitable touches to her studio though name cards and refreshments. “All of a sudden, halfway through, it will start to get really quiet and I know that is where the magic has happened. They are actually breathing life into their souls.”

Holly acknowledges, “you know, I have no idea what they’re coming in, what burdens…” but she knows that each person walks in with his or her own story.

That was my experience. Holly’s workshops became a part of my story of healing through grief.

“This is just, like, my happy place where I can help people. They are the ones doing it. I just give them the tools.”


To learn more about Holly’s work, visit


Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Fours Ways to Wonder and Awe

I went to the Coast. I came back to the kitchen.


We are surrounded with vestiges (fingerprints) of God that point us to Him. They connect us to something higher, something bigger than ourselves, something that tells us the world makes sense and despite the chaos, tragedy and crime, it is good that we are here.




In Creation


Each plant perfect in itself, a feast for our eyes.




They creep into our traditions, marking the changes in the seasons and our lives.




In Worship


There is splendor in the manner in which a human being lifts its soul up to its God. We pour all of ourselves whether through craft, art, song or service.

Men and women made that…and they made it as a gift.




In History


We have the capacity to create beautiful spaces and those beautiful spaces can envelop us in their texture, color and warmth. Mission San Juan Bautista was built in 1798. Imagine the footsteps that walked these steps. When I walk here, I connect to something that existed before me and will exist after me. I am merely an observer, a participant for a brief moment.




In Skill


The waves are unpredictable. You must wait for them, learn to tell the right one, the right time, the right angle.




Yet men and women can do this. They can ride the waves in a way so utterly human and yet so beyond.




I will catalog these thoughts from my evening away from home. I tuck them inside my memories to remind me as the temperatures rise, the valley gets dusty and the cleaning seems endless.




I do need to travel far away to see all this. There are vestiges wherever I go reminding me to live always in wonder and awe.

What Self-Care is and What it isn’t

First thoughts on

It’s Okay to Start with You

written by Julia Hogan,

published by Our Sunday Visitor

Previously published at the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch


There were actions that sustained me in the hard times. Eat fewer chicken strips, order the apple and peanut butter on the hospital tray. Walk far and wide, as much as possible while the baby slept. Binge-watch less. Read more. Drink water. Talk. Learn a new medical word. Wear make-up and earrings. Buy comfortable shoes.

I got so good at self-care because the alternative was a pit of despair. Everyone around me encouraged self-care. Everyone around me excused it. Since I was no longer functioning bedside it would be okay to leave. Since I couldn’t pass a day without crying before I slept away from the hospital, it was clear that away was better.

Self-care worked. It got me through. It made some memories.

Between the counselors, child-life specialists, doctors and degrees in psychology, the concept of self-care was a regular one, nothing extravagant, simply the practical application of the advice “take care of yourself.”

The internet presents a different picture. Spas, pedicures, rosé, a weekend away with the girls, a man cave, cigars, chocolate and a Netflix binge. “You do you,” they say in the modern mincing of words.


Photo by Reinaldo Kevin on Unsplash


Is it any wonder those citizens of our earth who are practical, feet on the ground, knuckles white from hard times, who feel the solution is to work through your problems instead of indulging your fantasies, find this approach saccharine, distasteful and a down-right waste of time? Or that those noble souls whose off-time from work or retirement-time or time-away-from-the kids-time is spent helping others, dishing up potluck for a weekly church dinner, weeding at the Arboretum, making sandwiches for the hungry, might look at such a concept, shake their heads and say “we are meant for more than this.” They turn and teach their little ones, “love thy neighbor.”

Enter a new book, It’s Okay to Start with You, written by author and therapist, Julia Hogan. The title tells you her premise. It is okay. She will spend the next 125 pages explaining why that is.



Hogan teaches self-care is a discipline, rather than an indulgence, that takes effort, is learned in small steps, a habit gradually built up that revitalizes us, supporting us when crisis hits and sustains us when we are just trying to do the thing of living.

We might have learned these things indirectly in another time and place. But in our complex, fragmented society, we are spinning in circles between tasks that do not easily overlap. This balance is difficult to maintain without boosting our personal, not just physical, immune system.

It sounds simple at first. Then Hogan astutely addresses the obstacles that arise when we try to put it into practice. Lack of time, know-how, mixed-up priorities make it hard. What makes it even harder? When we do not see the point…because we aren’t worth it.

It is not just that Person A is putting others before him. It is that, rather, he does not see himself as worth the time of day. The mind gets unsatisfied and either will flit from one task to another without commitment or over-extends himself. The heart seeks affirmation by trying to prove worth either in relationships or work against an inner critic shouting thoughts of worthlessness. Or the body gives up, lazy, tired, listless and stops trying altogether, because why try if he will fail?

After Part I of It’s Okay to Start with You, I chewed on the concepts finding myself referring to it again and again in conversation with others. After Part II, I got to work.

Hogan’s writing is accessible, yet rich and full of ideas at the same time. Self-help books can vary between the overly-affirming, fluffy styles that make psychologists roll their eyes at the bad science and jumpy conclusions, to the erudite academic literature that no lay person actually wants to read. Hogan’s work stands somewhere above the rest presenting common problems and intelligent solutions on a firm foundation.

In less than 150 pages, I feel like it has the lessons of a lifetime.



For more resources on self-care visit


Click here to order a copy of It’s Okay to Start with You



Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. I received a copy of the book mentioned above for free in the hope the I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 

Weekend Links 9.29.17

Intriguing explorations by extrapolating headlines.

Health and Well-being

Having a million dollar baby myself, I think a single-payer system is worth discussing.

Love this song list. We all could use a Momento Mori from time to time. I include this in well-being because we can better live our lives when we cherish the moments and choose wisely what we do, as death reminds us to do.

Our individual interests require balance with our marriage/relationships if they are not to take away from the most important things. The Gottman’s make their recommendations. ““Something that says, ‘I am here for you, I love you, I’m not rejecting you, I just need some quiet time,’” she explained. “By acknowledging the other before you retreat to your space, instead of signaling that the space is a place of exile, you’re actually saying ‘Hey, I love you so much that I need to recharge so I can give my best self to you and really listen.’”

“Self-care is a 10 billion dollar industry.” We should be keenly aware of what current trends are made popular by organizations/businesses that profit from them. This post is an excellent take on the concept of self-care and its purpose. For further reading on that.

We’ll include mental well-being, too. Add this free online course on the early middle ages to the list of courses I want to take but cannot because the noise gets elevated whenever I turn on the audio.


Church and Culture

I like to see trend-setters quit a break while they’re ahead. It keeps their product strong rather than wait for it to fizzle out. Some shows should end sooner than later. Here, Chip and Joanna Gaines #5 will be their last season of Fixer Upper.

We need innovation like this: recycling plastic to make clothing.

4 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Bitter Catholic. Parishes are made of people. People are fallen. We fall to, sometimes in response to others fallenness. We can choose how we react, even in the worst of circumstances.

I like the clarity and charity with which Fr. Longenecker relates his observations of Pope Francis and the issues on the table in the Catholic Church. Likewise, George Weigel. Getting with the times does not mean compromising moral truth.

Check out this project by Catholic Creatives.


Family and Education

There is so much wisdom in this article by Dr. John Cuddleback on presence. It is a great example of how the narrative of what is “traditional” often misses the mark. It is not history’s great tradition that men should be absent from home 50 hours a day and then be waited on by their demure wives. It is the tradition to work at or near home and have significant work to be done in the home, with close proximity, often involving children. In You Learn by Living, Eleanor Roosevelt makes the point that children need to be useful. When they are needed and useful, they earn respect from their parents they could not otherwise have.

Thoroughly enjoyed this read on a big family living in a small house and the blessings thereof.

One man’s honest reflection on manhood, or the lack thereof.

One of my first classes at the University of St. Thomas was Philosophy 101 taught by a man who loved it and believed in it. There I learned the purpose of a liberal arts education. Here a Professor Joseph Clair discusses Augustine’s approach to education and how we need it today.Technology changes the atmosphere. Not every teacher can teach in it. Not every student will excel in it. The point is, we are not backward for wanting some technology-free environments.


Ready for fall? We are! (No pumpkins for sale this year, I’m afraid).

Surviving your child’s hospital admission

Part 1

Baby’s first hospital admission

If your Emergency Department visit concludes with admission to the hospital, there are ways to make the best of it. The first eleven days we spent in the hospital felt longer than all the months after. The age and severity of your child’s needs influence how much you can engage in the advice I share with you. I’ll break this post into two parts.

Caring for your child

Caring for your child may be the easy part because your instinct is to put your child first. While it may feel like an incredible loss of control have your child admitted to the hospital, you are still the parent. You know this child best and your input matters.

The greatest gift you can give your child is your bond. Remaining present, helping to create a stimulating environment, and comforting him are your priceless gifts. Your touch, your smell, your voice soothe this child even if it seems like your baby only cries harder when he hears you. The very fact that your baby responds to you differently than others is a good sign to providers of the baby’s overall wellbeing.

You are also capable of seeing the subtle changes in your child that doctors and nurses may not notice as they do not have the history or quantity of time you have with this little one. Share changes you see with the nurse, but even if you have already told the nurse, request to speak to the doctor or resident, particularly if the changes are concerning.

Regarding stimulation, it is possible to request that if you are not in the room, that the television remain off. You can ask if there are toys in the hospital, a playroom, music therapy, volunteer baby-holders to help normalize your child’s day and exposure. Maintaining a schedule like you would at home can be helpful (for your sake as well). The importance of this varies based on how well your child is and his age.

Maintaining a stimulating environment

Caring for yourself

The reality is that if you are sleep deprived or burnt out, you will have a difficult time doing the things you want to do for your child. You have to take care of yourself.

How to do that? Consider the various aspects that make up who we are: emotional, volitional, intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual. These parts are all integrated to work in you like a mobile, kept in balance. The maintenance of one helps maintain the others. The neglect of one can throw the others out-of-whack.

Emotional Aspect

Keep an eye on your emotions. You may feel depressed, helpless, angry, or hopeless. Or you may feel numb. Hospitals generally have a social worker on call you can check in with in order to care for your emotions. In this the emotional crisis of your child being in the hospital, focus on other areas can help regulate the deranged emotions.

Peter playing with kids.jpg
To keep it together we planned regular weekend visits

Volitional Aspect

Volition refers to the will, to making a choice. The situation is out of your hands and so you must decide how you will respond to that. Sit back and let it all unfold, or take an active role? When you take an active role, whether in creating a more nurturing environment for your child, participating in morning rounds, or giving yourself a break and leaving the room, you help move your heart away from the helpless state. Feeling in control of something helps us function better and mitigates the temptation to ask, “what more should I have done?” You will know you did all you could because you see yourself, now, doing all you can.

Intellectual Aspect

Maintaining your intellectual side can be difficult, especially in a fancy hospital with a great channel and movie selection. As easy as it is to get caught up in watching the movies and spending all day online, don’t! Cultivate your intellectual side even though you are bedside with your child. This is especially important for long hospital stays. Your life does not stop because of the present crisis. Maintaining intellectual curiosity can help keep you feeling like you are living life and not just surviving.

How to do this? Read. If you have no books, find out if there is a library in the hospital or near by. Read online, but because there will be likely be many hours spent with technology, I would encourage you to unplug and engage with real life paper. Learn new hobbies. There are many little crafts you can try while in the hospital. Explore these. Ask friends to put together kits so you can learn new skills. If you dislike crafts and are more technically minded, learn from your computer, research how hospital equipment works. If you are language oriented, learn a new medical term with each hospital stay. There is something for everyone.

Travel set of water colors and books to help my sanity

If your child is mostly asleep make a schedule for yourself to keep you grounded.

Get curious about the neighborhood of your hospital. Ask nurses and doctors about safe places to walk and explore during the day when your child naps. Learn the history of your city. Taking a break to get outside will refresh you mentally, especially after a morning spent holding a crying baby.

Next, we’ll discuss how to care for your physical, social and spiritual needs.

For other piece in this series, click below: