What was the miracle? Reflecting on our pilgrimage to Detroit.

For one month and two days, I thought over and again about how to write a follow-up on our trip to Ohio and Detroit for the beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey. I am asked often how the trip went.

It was difficult. As time and reflection increased, I realized how difficult it was. There was so much to plan and keep track of in traveling with Peter’s medical supplies, in changing our routine, our time zone, our climate. More than any of that, choosing to separate as a family, leaving two children at home, was the most painful part. We have been together for a great deal of time. The days of frequent hospital admissions are drifting into the past. I remember them vaguely, like the last time it rained, but the ground has dried and I no longer recall immediately how it felt.

Then I chose it. I chose to leave two kids at home because the difficulties and cost associated with taking so many toddlers on a plane. It was reasonable. But sometimes, the reasonable option hurts.

My heart broke a little returning as my three-year-old cried while leaving her grandparents. She seemed confused at what was happening. To spend a week at grandma’s house must have brought back memories to her, the unconscious type of memories three-year-olds recall. There is little we can do other than talk and cuddle to help her. For my eldest, we involved her in whatever we could. She visited. She even stayed at the hospital with Peter and me, until I realized how important her presence was in the stable makeup of her younger sibling’s lives.

Of course, we did look for miracles. We quietly glanced this way and that. What would it be?


On the long drive to Detroit, tucked in the backseat of a gray sedan between a car seat and booster seat, with my back burning ever so much, I played in my mind what would happen if Peter were cured of his primary condition.

He has defects in sodium absorption. His TPN accounts for this defect. If he suddenly absorbed the sodium given him through TPN, it would result in elevated levels of sodium because of the higher volume administered. That would hospitalize him.

The day after our three-hour jaunt to Detroit (three hours each way), Peter was not himself. I paced until 1 p.m. before paging the doctor again on his care coordination team. We planned to fly out the next day. I would rather get this over with and just know. He could be just tired. There were times when it was like this: exhaustion, unable to keep his eyes open, fussing to sleep. Then a long nap would descend upon him and he would wake, right as rain. The waiting killed me.

Dr. Henry called the local hospital and we drove over. Peter fell asleep in Kyle’s arms. As much as I wanted this to be the crisis that would occur if he could suddenly hold on to his sodium, I prayed to God Peter and I would be on that plane with my husband and daughter the next day.

The results came in. Labs were stable as they have been for months. Arriving back to our host’s home, Kyle hauled Peter in his car seat upstairs to a warm dark room and he slept for three hours.

And he woke, right as rain.

The primary issue persisted. Arriving home, Peter began to taste food. His condition and early malnutrition (sodium is needed to obtain the nutrients from the food we eat) caused him to vomit with each feeding. Such frequent vomiting led to an oral aversion in which he refused all food by mouth. Gradually he began to drink water but would do little else.

On Thanksgiving, we gave him some whip cream. In cases like this, great moments do not require a bowl of whip cream Multiple tastings will do, a teaspoon is glorious. He kept on tasting. For days he would take repeatedly whatever we put before him. Two days ago he gradually consumed a couple teaspoons of a smoothie. It is remarkable to me. It may not be inexplicable but is remarkable.

What do we feel most? Mostly we feel the depth of our time at home. On Peter’s second birthday it will be five months since his last hospitalization. In a reflective moment, Kyle himself called this a miracle and I quite agree. It is true that babies like Peter often turn the corner at one year or one-a-half-years old. Their immune systems are stronger. For babies with Peter’s SPINT2 genetic mutation, the outlook improves remarkably and the risk of mortality decreases significantly.

We never asked for a miracle we could mail in for approval to canonize Solanus Casey. We prayed for what God would give us. If this is what God has, I lay my head at his feet in thanksgiving. If this is a temporary reprieve from hospital life, I am grateful for that, too.

We arrived home to reminders of our life, not just our mattress and not simply togetherness, but our entire life with chores, homemaking and work, the pain and glory of the daily grind. I love our home and our town better. I grew wiser in the journey.


Marc wrote for Patheos in a piece called, “Pilgrim vs. Tourist”, “Now the pilgrim takes joy in the journey with the understanding that the journey only exists because of the destination. The destination lights the journey with joy.”

The mass and the prayers for Peter were the destination. And yet, reading this again, I rather wonder if our destination was also… home.


Thank you for joining us in prayer. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

The Beatification Mass of Solanus Casey

IMG_1149We left early. 8:30 somehow felt much earlier than it ought to have but that is EST v PST. Miriam was unhappy to wake. After loading bags and snacks aplenty into a five-seat sedan, I squeeze into the back seat beside the car seat, rotated my hips to accommodate Miriam’s booster seat, helped buckled her in and we went on our way. After an hour I recalled that I packed only one bag of supplies, I may have forgotten the nighttime supplies necessary for connecting him to his TPN. We pulled over to a gas station and searched his ice chest. I packed the night time supplies but left off the day supplies, also a necessity.

Should we drive back or find an alternative in Detroit? I hated the idea of the extra hour of driving in what would already be an immense day on the road. I paged FLIGHT, our care coordination team and when our doctor called back, immediately I said, “It’s not an emergency.” He understood the situation and we brainstormed our options. The best choice was the Emergency Department in Detroit. With GPS rerouted we continued our journey. The next hour we pulled over to unhook his TPN. Fortunately, the ubiquitous coffee shop of our country was there and I have a gift card. Reset with espresso, trips to the bathroom, and an unhooked toddler, we hit the road again.

Our first stop was the emergency department at the Children’s Hospital, where we went through the old routine with a healthy baby. We administered what we needed and were on our way. What would seem wild and stressful felt routine for us. There is nothing unusual about a stop at the ED.

Driving through Detroit, the old buildings amazed me. I saw large houses, large buildings all made of brick. The rain poured. I asked the gentlemen in the front seat to deliver me to where the handicap drop off stood while they attempted to maneuver traffic towards the reserved parking garage. I took the shortcut through security, thanks to our little guy, forgot his friar outfit and realized I had no way to access the digital tickets. “They really only work when the group is all together.”


After thirty minutes, the men responded to which gate they would enter. Ticket Specialist, Kendell walked me across the stadium to said gate where we waited for those masculine figures to pass through the security gates. They came through after a time. After standing an hour, I was ready for action and with printed tickets in hand, led the way about three-quarters the stadium in the direction the volunteer pointed us. I did not pause until we found our seats and could settle in, with five minutes before mass began.


The stadium and crowds were incredible. As the organ swelled, a long line of priests and bishops processed in.



The beatification took place first with a letter from the Holy Father, an acceptance of said letter and unveiling of the picture of Solanus Casey.


Our hearts swelled as well while they played the hymn of my life soundtrack, “O God Beyond All Praising.” This was the hymn I heard the Sunday I found out I was pregnant. This was the hymn they played the Sunday after I miscarried. This was the hymn we chose for our daughter’s funeral.

“Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favour
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we’II triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.

And in our hearts, we believed that what God had promised he would also do. God would grant us a miracle for Peter.


I felt the same movement in my heart at the reception of Holy Communion.

There were moments of awe, humor and devotion throughout the mass.


As we left and found we could not go to the altar to venerate the picture, we made our way to the exit, happily pausing to speak with CFR friars and ask for prayers. Fr. Benedict Groeschel began the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (the CFR’s) and Fr. Benedict Groeschel first taught me about Solanus Casey. We planned the name Peter Solanus for our first son (after using John for our miscarried baby). Yet at the sonogram and discovery of our first son’s sex, it did not seem right. We chose James Thomas instead. Then came the pregnancy with Peter and somehow, discovering his cleft in the same ultrasound appointment, we felt this to be right. Our son would be Peter Solanus Casey.

Blessed Solanus Casey played the violin (poorly). He had severe eczema. His birthday is the same as my brother-in-law, who tragically died last year. Solanus was a simple, hardworking, humble man on who the light of God shined. It has felt more like Fr. Solanus has looked after Peter more than we have looked after Fr. Solanus.

This trip has been a pilgrimage. It has been emotional and trying at times, but filled with the generosity of others. We return home soon, to be united again. The separation from our other children was the greatest pain for me. Having missed a few days of our novena, we’ll pray the prayer for a few extra days and are grateful for those prayed with us and for us.

Whatever God has for us and for Peter, be it a miracle of physical healing or a miracle of a life well lived despite suffering, we open our hearts to accept it joyfully.

“Blessed be God in all his designs!”

Leaving on a Jet Plane

It was the third night without sleep. On the first two nights, I woke around 2 a.m. and after an hour of trying to sleep again, my mind accepted this reality and began to make to-do lists. On the third night, the blame went towards excitement, the joy of taking my daughter on an airplane, on leaving California, on having another adventure.

We left on time. There were many bags packed. After deciding the night before I did not need to do a trial run of packing refrigerated bags of IV fluids for my son, I discovered they did not fit in one vessel but must be spread between two. We loaded the van and left, on time, to deliver two beautiful children to my parents for safekeeping during the course of six days. Six days without my littles. Six days playing on repeat in my mind the trauma of forced separations by hospitalizations. They were excited. At four and six years old, little else matters but being at the great vast space of Grandma’s house with boxes of Legos, trains and books at their disposal to dump out and play with all day with interruption only for meals shared on barstools and countertops.

We journeyed. My seven-year old’s bright smile at my presence in the back of the van carried us for the first hour. The two hours after that were spent in debating tiredness and mind wandered. I was wound too tight for my mind to wander, to create brilliant possibilities. All I could see was what lay ahead of me.

At the airport, I felt a nauseating feeling rise up inside as the anxiety of our next steps presented itself. We checked our bags. Witnessing our debate and the agreeableness of Peter’s cheeks, the gentleman asked if the smaller suitcase had baby things and told us we could check that for free. Gratefully, we unloaded one more bag.

“I’m a beast of burden,” my husband said, with three duffle-type bags around him and one rolling ice chest full life-saving nutrition for our boy. Miriam carried the coats. I pushed the stroller and carried my own bag of books.

Next, we came up to the security gates. With 90% uncertainty in my voice, I called the number provided by TSA. “We…uh…have medical supplies…liquids…I’m supposed to call.”

“Do you have a reference number?”

“Yes!” As I gripped the papers with shaking hands, that much I knew. I had the reference number. The person on the other line transferred me to Brandon, a supervisor. He said he would come out, and to look for a tall Asian man, 6’5, long hair and very handsome. I relaxed a little with his humor, particularly when he greeted us with a smile, possessed by a short, bald man with a great personality.

He moved ropes for us to help us through security. As he searched Peter’s medical supplies, I felt our private life on display, as if my underwear had just fallen out of my suitcase. I danced around supervising the supervisor.

“I understand,” he told me, “my brother was just like your son. We lost him when he was 21. I understand.” While anxiety still remained, his words and intention warmed my heart.

We found our gate, spent $5.09 on the water to make us smart (or so it says by calling itself “Smart Water”). Soon it was time to board the plane. I waited anxiously to see who would sit on the aisle. The man came as one of the last stragglers. He was uncertain about taking my husband’s window seat because he preferred bathroom access to the view.

The flight attendants helped, “we’re trying to get this family together.” She said as they moved people around.

Miriam volunteered, “You’re right, mommy, they are really nice.”

I explained all I could ahead of time to Miriam. During the drive, she asked questions that made logical sense following all the explanations of how security checkpoints operate. At the end of her asking what happens if someone brings dangerous things on the airplane and neither the flight attendants nor pilots nor good people on the plane can stop the person, what happens? I cut to the chase I learned from the Child Life Specialist and said, “No matter what, we will do everything we can to try to keep you safe.” I did not tell her about the 9/11 planes or all the shootings at public events that kept me up at night a week ago while we prepared for the trip. With that last reassurance, she moved on to other topics, which meant I hit the mark.

We received the good news that conditions were favorable and our plane would land one-hour sooner than expected. At hour 3.5, Peter was done with the sedentary lifestyle and began to cry angrily for freedom. Kyle stood him in the aisle while we made our descent and picked him up each time a person passed, so close to the bathrooms as we were.

Upon landing, we gathered our belongings and made our departure. The emotions continued in a swarm around my heart while we gathered his supplies, collected our luggage and used syringes in the airport which was, fortunately, quite quiet at this late hour. After a long drive and Big Boy Burgers, we reached our destination in a 15-passenger van with a cousin and his wife, desperate for sleep and happy to settle in.

Weekend Links 11.11.17

Let’s start by dipping into heavy today:

So grateful for this deeper look at grief by Verily.

Here is a novena to St. Louis Martin Novena: For depression, anxiety and mental disorders. Beautiful.

Fr. Dwight LONGENECKER considers what invisible forces (be it mental illness, meaninglessness or demonic influence) may have motivated the killers in two recent massacres. We ask that question in the face of senseless violence. I do keep turning in my mind Viktor Frankl’s psychological approach, that finding meaning in what we do is the answer to everything. Fr. Longenecker writes, “If this is the case, then the natural causes are exacerbated by a worldview and philosophy that is nihilistic. If these men had no religion and no belief in an afterlife, then there was no hell to pay and no heaven to win. If that is the case, and after death there is nothing, then human life is expendable.”

This is on my mind as we travel next week, “How to protect yourself during a mass shooting.” Barricade or run, do not hide and stay there. “Talking about these attacks can be difficult and heart-wrenching. But we can’t avoid preparing ourselves just because the topic is disturbing.” One of the survivors of the Las Vegas attack knew his exit route ahead of time, not because he anticipated a shooter, but because he is trained to consider what to do in an emergency, look for a route out, in case of any type of emergency, such as a fire or medical. We can be prepared without being paranoid.

And then go light:

Thank you to all Veterans for your service! I was privileged to cover the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Wall in Hughson yesterday for the Hughson Chronicle.

I think this list is really good. These are the basics for the kitchen, yet we’re drawn into to buy sets of things, which has stuff we do not need, and then we must replace the one or two items from the set we used regularly. Thinking about my kitchen, I think we are getting close to replacement time for some items. Not listed on the website, we have been very happy with Ikea items for the kitchen.

In preparation for the Beatification mass, Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap. sent this out to the email list:

Dear Fr. Solanus Devotee,

We realize that not everyone was able to secure tickets to the November 18Beatification. We hope you can join us in spirit by watching (or streaming) the Beatification Mass. Broadcast details follow. Please note that the Mass Program will be posted online on this page: http://solanuscasey.org/beatification-live

The program will be posted online shortly before the Mass begins. (Please do not request a copy of the program. It will be available online.)

The Beatification Mass will be televised and live streamed. If in Detroit, CTND will be broadcasting as will WDIV on its digital sub-channel MeTV (Channel 4.3 over-the-air) and on ClickOnDetroit. It will also be carried on Ave Maria Radio.

For those outside of Detroit, EWTN will be broadcasting or you can view the live stream from the Fr. Solanus Guild website here: http://solanuscasey.org/beatification-live

It will also be livestreamed via Father Solanus Casey Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FatherSolanusCasey

Novena to Fr. Solanus Casey

“I’m leaving on a jet plane!”

We leave Wednesday for Ohio and ultimately Detroit, MI, to attend the beatification mass of Fr. Solanus Casey on November 18. Two of our littles will be left behind with grandparents, so that causes some anxiety, but it will be okay. We’ve done it before!

For those who missed the last post, we have decided to take our son on pilgrimage to this mass to pray for his healing. You can read about that here.

What is a beatification. Please see the cute graphic:

Canonization Process

It took some searching but I found a prayer for Fr Solanus Casey. A novena to him starts today. A prayer for Fr. Solanus canonization is a prayer for Peter because we are praying for a miracle.

I did not pray for my daughter Celeste to miraculous have a brain or for Peter to be born with a complete lip and palate. I prayed for the strength and peace to accept the will of God for what we will face. My heart has been moved to pray for this. A miracle of healing could be a miracle regarding his genetic mutation, his sodium channels, his oral aversion, his speech, or his heart. He is so young that should God choose to apply his grace to Peter’s life in some way we cannot see, that too is an answer to this prayer.

Please consider praying alongside us. If you are not Catholic, perhaps you would consider praying the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father for these days leading up to the mass. If you are not Christian, we are grateful for your well-wishes and kind thoughts. Whatever we can do lift our hearts together.

The novena starts today! November 10 – November 18.



O God, I adore You. I give myself to You.
May I be the person You want me to be,
and May Your will be done in my life today.
I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.
If it is Your Will, bless us with the Canonization of
Father Solanus so that others may imitate
and carry on his love for all the poor and
suffering of our world.
As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,
I ask You, according to Your Will,
to hear my prayer for… (your intention)
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Blessed be God in all His Designs.”