No Holiday without Ghosts

In San Francisco

I park by valet now. It took a while to get used to it, but since they built the Chase Center across the street from the hospital, valet became the only option for parking during our routine UCSF appointments. That means, a drive around the hospital and clinic building to get to the correct entrance to drop off our car and, yesterday, that meant seeing the enormous Chase Center Christmas tree through the back window.

“Do you want to see it?” I asked him. Eagerly, he said, “yes.”

The air was crisp and cool.

We walked along the pavement darkened by morning rain and felt the breeze cut through our inadequate clothing. After half a block I asserted my motherly authority and made him put his coat over his thin cotton sleeves.

As we walked up to the corner, his brisk steps quickened. “There it is!” I pointed, smiling with delight as he jumped up and down.

I walked faster to keep up with him as we crossed the street. He grinned and squealed as only six -almost- seven-year-old boys can. “It’s so big!” he gushed.

After a look and a couple of photos, he was ready to escape the cold and we walked back. Waiting on the street corner to cross, my mind flashed back to the many times I stood on that corner alone, walking from Family House each morning to see my son at the hospital.

It was cold in those days, too.

Each time this year, vivid memories return of the days of December passing, counting down, wondering how long we would stay, seeing the floors empty out as staff began their holiday vacations. I bought a small Christmas tree and a set of ornaments for the hospital room; I wove finger garland to decorate his crib. My parents purchased battery-operated lights. His room was decorated, in case we stayed two days longer.

Those memories don’t leave me.

The sadness, grief and fear all associated with the past and the reality of the present do not leave me. This season of Advent, I am reading “Seeking God’s Face,” a collection of homilies from Pope Benedict XVI for the year, and “Healing Through Dark Emotions” by Miriam Greenspan, a book recommended me to by a counselor I met through palliative care, six, almost, seven years ago.

Both invite the reader to turn towards the difficulty of sadness or grief, the silence of Advent, the forced stop of illness. Both say, there is something here to be discovered. Within these weeks leading us to Christmas, lighting one candle at a time, dispelling darkness gradually as the nights themselves grow darker and colder, I recall the last line of Dana Gioia’s poem, “Tinsel, Frankincense and Myrrh.”

“No holiday is holy without ghosts.”

Dana Gioia from “Tinsel, Frankincense and Myrrh”

My counselor taught me we only can keep going in life when we make space for both the dark and light emotions, or as Greenspan says when we invite grief to pull up a chair.

When we crossed the street, the breeze whipping our cheeks to a healthy pink, I felt not only the moment before me but the depth within me of how far back that moment reaches to those lonely mornings, those mornings with a sort of agonizing hope that we would soon go home and be reunited. It reaches all the way back into my broken heart and comes out again in the immensity of that Christmas tree and utter delight at my child jumping around it, who once lay listless on a hospital bed.

This is the holiday season for those who have known sadness and come out on the other side able to share its story.

We may not frolic on own, we may grow quiet in reflection, we may step away for a moment to cry. The joy is there, it just looks different, but we feel it, deeper than we could imagine as it comes to us wrapped in the trimmings of gratitude and a prayer that the good times may continue, tied with an understanding that they may not.

Be merciful to those who suffer this holiday season.

Pull up a chair for the ghosts they carry with them. Sit with them and hear their stories. I thank you for listening to mine.

The Column Continues

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

…as such, this piece refers specifically to my time reporting for the newspaper and my column, Here’s to the Good Life!

The day begins at 6:00 a.m. with my toddler singing “Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.” Some mornings I hide my head, hoping he will fall back asleep until my husband goes after him in sweet spousal sympathy. Other mornings I muster up the energy to usher him out of his room in the hopes of preserving the sleep of his siblings. 

After breakfast and chores, the homeschooling day begins.

Two children working on school work at the coffee table.

I am pregnant and rejoicing, but I am also spent. 

Recently I wrote about the willingness to let go of the beautiful things offered to us in each season when their time comes. This is no retirement letter, but an admission of tiredness, and a need to step back and do the thing I always recommend: pause, take stock, savor, and make a choice about the next right thing. 

For me, the season seems built for rest and homeschool, which has made attending local events for the newspaper tenuous. I am going on leave sooner than expected, but this column will continue. 

Four years ago on September 14, 2015, I submitted my first column piece. 

 After four years, though the tone has changed somewhat, each piece still circled around the tenant to live the life you have to its fullest potential possible.

It began with life coaching and positive psychology concepts. There were conversations about virtue, goals, manners, emotions and coping skills. It was advice-driven and much informed by some lengthily-titled graduate courses. 

Personally, during that time, my life coaching business hit the ground running and I awaited the birth of my son, Peter. That season, we learned during an ultrasound he had a cleft lip and palate.

In 2016,

the topics remained heavy on the psychology and philosophy, incorporating new discussions on the value of making your space beautiful. Many of these articles came about while sitting beside my sleeping son in the hospital.

The words shifted from advice out of books to the words I needed to hear: the goodness of routine, hobbies and making your environment inviting. In the strangeness of a hospital setting, those were concrete coping skills I used to get through. That year my daughter Celeste was diagnosed and I took time off to prepare to say goodbye to her as my pregnancy neared its completion in March.

The column continued, even though the life coaching business did not. In writing, I found the words that connected me to life. And I wrote hoping to offer some inspiration for you to look for and choose those things offered in all circumstances that are life-giving, inspirational and fulfilling. 

Photocopy of newspaper column "Here's to the Good Life!"

In September 2017

I began freelancing for this publication, going out to events, meeting you in the streets of town festivals and city-wide yard sales, telling your stories after drive-thru dinners and fundraisers.

With 2018,

our family’s life rebuilt. I dabbled in book reviews, writing about home-life and the seasons, searching for that right focus. The stories continued and this town inspired me to a love of community I have only ever known in theory. Like those I interviewed, I could say with sincerity, “this is a great town.”

From the stages of change to invigorating life to waiting well, I hoped to keep the column fresh and interesting. In its process, I stopped wanting to tell you what to do in weekly advice sessions. Often enough, we already know what we must do. In many cases, we are already trying our best to put it into practice. 

Instead, I looked to share the reflections and things inspiring me, thinking perhaps, inspiration spills influencing others to take stock and consider. The words are more personal, less pragmatic.

Telling your stories through community events has been the sincerest joy and it will be difficult to stay away and keep my nose out of others freelancers’ business (we have two wonderful ladies taking over for me). Returning in the spring cannot come soon enough. 

The time away is necessary, but it does not make it easy, because the things that I hear from you, the things that inspire you to give, to be part of this community, to love your neighbor, inspire me. 

The column continues.

Now, I ask for your advice. What do you want to hear about? How can it best serve the readers in our community? What has been like for you to read this weekly column? If you have ideas to share, email me at

Until next week.

Happy New Year!

I do not want to look back. I do not want to count my blessings from the past year because it means 2017 is even further away, that the time in my life when Celeste was alive is even further away.

One year ago, my husband and I looked back in 2017 and thought, “O God, we hope next year is better.” We sat in silence when it was time to recollect the good things from the year. Our daughter died. Our son was very, very ill and moved to the PICU that July. Everything was survival. Everything was gray. Everything was the crawling out a hole, a foxhole, perhaps. We were alive, but what else did we have?

I spent the second half of the year living at home instead of the hospital as our son turned the corner in his condition. I spent the second half of the year writing up a storm, published here and there, building wonderful connections about town and feeling moved to tears by the stories I heard during interviews. I searched for my place at home, in my children’s lives, and in ministry. Everything we developed shifted during 2018. It did not diminish; it grew.

The writing continues but shifted in focus to a book to be published this year: a dream come true. Ministry continues and is changing in surprising ways beginning with cantering mass for the first time with my organ-grinding husband: his dream come true. We have an offer and accepted contingent on the sale of our current house for a property with 1.2 acres of land and lots of building space for our office and studio and who knows, a jazz club, in the future; two dreams in one.

How can all this happen?

Marriage strong. Older children emotionally stable. Peter strong. Friendships strong and in those friendships with less strength, at least there is greater clarity than in the past.

How can this be?

“There would come a time when God would fill what he had emptied…”

I read those words, copied in Mother Teresa’s writings, collected and published in Come by my Light. Those words were my light, although I never knew how it could be possible.

But here we are.

We do not deserve it. At that expression, one of my dearest friends said, “don’t apologize for God’s blessings!”

And it is true.

God answers prayers. Peter’s condition was worse than expected when he was diagnosed in utero. Celeste was not born alive. Peter was not healed physically following the Beatification mass we took him to in 2017 to pray for a miracle. But a miracle occurred before we even could have been aware of it, bringing into his life our personal hero, a woman, a friend who dedicated her whole heart to his care.

I live in the awareness that tomorrow everything could change. And yet, even then, God provides.

Two years of trial. It feels like we are back to living in the world of roses, but I grasp that it is only that way because of perspective. We still have a dresser full of medical supplies and appointments in San Francisco this week. In a week I will struggle to meet deadlines (I am struggling right now with something due tomorrow!). I will return back to a state of exasperation when Kyle returns to work and our homeschooling vacation ends.

But it is good. It is full. It is greater than anything we ever could have hoped for.

God fulfilled his promise.

And now, I’m wishing you all a very happy New Year.



Five Essential Books for When Your Baby is in the Hospital

When your baby is ill, the world seems to stop. Sitting one that hospital couch, as he lay sleeping in the hospital crib, I stared out the hospital window at other hospital parents in the hospital yard, eating their meal because we were not supposed to eat in the Pediatric ICU rooms. Hospitalizations continued for us, on and off throughout the year. After the immediate crisis, I found my mind beginning to wander, to stretch, and I reached for a book.

Below at the books that were my companions and friends in our time of crisis. I give more than just book titles here, but types of books, because what resonates with a female Catholic writer in California with a background in psychology, might not resonate with everyone.


1. A Model in Suffering in Family Life



Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus (1864-1885)

By Zelie Martin

Why? 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. Sometimes you just need a woman who understands because she lived it.

What it did for me… I felt accompanied. I held onto the model of her reaction to her suffering. “Life is short and full of misery, we’ll see them again Heaven.”


2. A Model of Suffering in the Spiritual Life



Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta

By Mother Teresa

Why? Spiritual answers or encouragement to wait and hope that one day God would fill what he had emptied. Books about mothers may not reach the depths of reflection that come when written by radical saints. Persons in religious life often have more time for reflection as they have fewer worldly cares. This can help us hunker down to what matters most.

What it did for me… it gave me hope that the dark night would one day end. “There would come a time when God would fill what he had emptied.”

Alternative Titles: High power saint biographies like Teresa’s Life, The Story of a Soul,



3. Allegory



The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 

Why? We learn through stories. Good stories have good quotes. Good quotes come in handy when the going gets rough. The Little Prince keeps it real by being present to the pain, opening the reader up to wisdom. “But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.”

What it did for me… the book is comforted, connected me to my past, to my imagination and taught me lessons about the present. It was an image in therapy. Peter became my little fox, because I tamed him, I belong to him.

Alternative Titles: Harry Potter; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe; The Lord of the Rings


3. Self-Help



It’s Okay to Start with You

By Julia Hogan




The Mindful Catholic: Finding God One Moment at a Time

By Dr. Gregory Bottaro


Why? The first to help maintain balance when you are trying to cope with the imbalance of hospital life and the trial of this child who was once inside you suffering on that hospital bed.

The second is to remind you how to think again amid the dings and beeps and endless hum of hospital equipment.

What it did for me… I discovered these two after the fact but recall vividly during the fact trying to implement their recommendations. From the first: walking, eating well and getting out in nature. From the second: finding space to think, attending to the present moment, listening to what I am feeling and thinking.

Alternative Titles:


4. Inspirational



A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live

by Emily P. Freeman.

Why? To remind you that you are more than this moment and that even as these moments continue in the helplessness of hospital life, you have something to give, both to your child and those you encounter along the way.

What it did for me… This work inspiring the parts of my soul that could have died in crisis: the creative part, the artist, the one who seeks beauty.

Alternative Titles: Introduction to a Devout Life


5. Distraction and Daydreaming



Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms

By Erin Floret

Why? It is a mental vacation from your surroundings. If you choose nature for your distraction, it has positive psychological benefits. As does immersion in beauty.

What it did for me… I did not need to plan my garden beside my son’s hospital crib, but it helped remind me that a life waits for us ahead. The beauty of the photographs fills me in the moments when I looked at them, the text engaged my brain in planning and problem solving, the aftermath was I dug in, literally, when we returned home and found a therapeutic exercise be it in weeding, planting and mowing the plants down with an electric hedge trimmer.

Alternative Titles: Miss Mustard Seed Look Book; Sage Living;


Included in this and still Essential, Literature



Kristin Lavarnsdatter (high end)

By Sigrid Undset


and/or Cannery Row + Sweet Thursdays (low end)

By John Steinbeck

Why? Quality literature (make it stand the test of time) has complex character with whom we can engage, feel for, and love without effort. This is helpful when we are pouring ourselves out in real life, when empathy has run low, when the world looks dark.

What it did for me… I stopped binging on television shows with require passive engagement and began using my brain again at the end of of a mind-numbing hospital day of movies and internet scrolling. When at home, I stopped self-medicating with alcohol and learned how to actually reset my brain instead of numbing it.

Alternative Titles: Father Brown Stories, books by Jane Austen (high) or Evelyn Waugh (low)


And books can geek out on

(for me they have to do with writing)

Gwynne’s Grammar

By Gwynne

The Memoir Project

By Marion Roach Smith

Mystery and Manners

By Flannery O’Connor


Why? To remind you that you are more than this moment, that as much as it consumes you, you have an identity other than “mom.” You may not be able to engage in your favorite hobbies of woodworking or upholstery or mountain climbing, but you can read about them and imagine yourself at them, which does actually contribute as a form of practice.

What it did for me… just that.

Are You a Caregiver Burning Out?

I am a caregiver. Maybe you are, too.

Maybe you have your mother’s pill box in your purse to deliver it every week to her. Maybe you quit your job after your child was born to monitor his breathing. Maybe you get your father out of bed in the morning to help him bathe. Maybe you share a vendor booth with your grown daughter to make sure the world gets a chance to see her talent and the skill at her craft.

I sometimes forget I am a caregiver. Mainly, I am just a mother. Maybe you are a daughter or a son or a mother, too. It is never good to define ourselves as just one thing. People are much too complex for that.

And yet, there is something helpful about labels. So that when I see an article titled “Caregiver Burnout” I realize, oh, this might apply to me.

It happened recently. I backed away from commitments, canceled outings, stopped calling my friends, nitpicked my husband and yelled at my kids. You see, my husband rounded out his schedule with a wonderful teaching opportunity. Good, necessary and rewarding.

But before he rearranged his other commitments to create a day off, I burned out.


WebMD defines caregiver burnout as, “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned…Caregivers who are ‘burned out’ may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones.”


I first learned about self-care as a college student trying to get through a large load of classes while experiencing anxiety.

I next learned about self-care as a hospital mom while my baby slept.

After that, I learned about self-care while I grieved.

Now, I am learning the lesson again, as a caregiver.


I recognize myself as a caregiver, separate from the motherhood I knew with only three kids because I have to nod and smile when people talk about us visiting out-of-state and I have already explained why this cannot happen for now. I recognize myself as a caregiver because I have to have an awkward talk with new babysitters reviewing all the possible emergencies that might happen and what to do. I recognize myself as a caregiver because planning for the future stopped. We have to wait and see what the future holds.

But I didn’t always recognize myself as a caregiver. I am not the only one giving care. There is a team of us, all doing good for this person, working together, supporting him and loving him.

Do you recognize yourself as a caregiver? You might not fit the standard picture. That does not mean it isn’t so.

What I need in order to avoid burn out is time to schedule whatever I want. That means time away when another capable, educated caregiver can step in and be in charge.

To avoid burn-out I need a hobby or activity, to write or sew or upholster without interruption, to be able to dig deep into a project and not come out until it is done.








I need to talk to and see friends, not just any friends, but the friends who feed my soul.

When I was burning out, I continually interrupted myself to check on things. I could not let the other person be in charge. I put off errands, ordered things online and stayed home all the time. I let two or more weeks go by before I saw those friends.

Caregivers burn-out because of love. Their love obliges them to stick around, to give entirely of themselves to those they love. But you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

In order to fully carry out the love and intention to care for those in your charge, you will need to learn the discipline of stepping aside, training another, and letting go. When you take the time away to go beyond the label of caregiver and be other things, you will find a key piece to be able to continue the thing to which you have been called.

I am going to take a break. Maybe you should, too.

How we Managed a Road Trip with Four Kids and a Broviac, Part 2


Part 2


We came. We saw. We conquered. We traveled.


Point Loma, San Deigo


Usually I’ll go to San Diego to hang out with my parents if I want to unwind.

– Mario Lopez


Point Loma, San Diego


Questions about the little guy? I suppose it wouldn’t be a faithful retelling of our adventure if I did not include out medical arrangements. If you have children medically inclined, I hope it is helpful. If not, I hope it is helpful, at least for perspective.

As a review, my son has a Broviac and feasts nightly on TPN (IV nutrition) through tubes and a medical pump. It puts him at risk for blood infections and dehydration in intense heat, but it keeps him alive so…worth it.


I packed two bags for each day of our trip (ex: “Tuesday morning,” “Tuesday evening”) and one extra day for a total of 14 bags, plus a dressing change supplies in a bag for his weekly dressing change. I put these in a nice storage box (12×8) that holds sheets in my laundry room along with his pump, a box of medical gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer. I packed a First Aid kit: one side normal kid stuff with band-aids, the other side with g-tube stuff, clamps, and other things you find in the medical supply closet. Along with his medical pole, at the last minute, I grabbed a tray to best replicate how we do things at home.

We set up shop similarly to how it’s done at home. The little guy gets his own room. The three older kids share. The husband and I still get along. This is our “good-for-now” arrangement. No telling what the future will re-arrange. To go anywhere, we will require three rooms. Luckily, my godmother’s house had plenty of space to sleep comfortably.


Each day we went out with the corresponding weekday bag, except when we didn’t and I was glad I packed extra supplies in his emergency bag, that I had hand sanitizer in the First Aid Kit and knew a Park Ranger Station probably had medical gloves. They did…in their First Aid Kit. That’s a good idea.




There is little else to describe. Before we left, I wrote down the name of the nearest and best hospital in case there was an emergency. I made sure his pharmacy sent a travel packet to their branch in San Diego (easier to do this in-state than out-of-state). I rescheduled shipments so we would have a week’s supply to pack when we left. We always pack an extra day with us. Before loading, my husband reviews all the bags.


What could have been better? A better backup set in the emergency bag, Hydroseal for the beach, a swim diaper, a hat.

Letting myself generously apply spray sunscreen on the fair skinned boy was a relief. Changing plans to stay on the coast was a relief. Choosing to stay at the guest house rather than go out again was a relief.


Places I would recommend? Point Loma – oh so amazing. Permanently disabled patrons can get an Access Pass to the National Parks. This was new to me! We saved on parking.




Torrey Pines State Beach was wonderful. We parked by the sand. It was small, quiet and not too crowded. Mass at the Mission was beautiful. Lunch in Old Town was fun. Clam Chowder at Point Loma was delightful.

But the best moments were wrestling on the carpet with a John Wayne movie in the background, hearing shouts of delight at the bird, hold the arms of a child in the waves.




We are getting better at traveling, taking it in stride, and writing down lessons for next time.

Forging new paths

Three months and one week since we last walked through the sliding glass doors of sterilized air and woodless surroundings at UCSF.

Three months.

That seems to be all it takes.

In a moment, one day, earlier this week, I felt space in my lungs, I felt relaxed, I felt free. Peter was tired, keeping his eyes closed and I said, “he’s probably okay.” He never felt especially warm. I never took his temperature.

One week before the three-month moment, all the same circumstances, I checked his temperature three times that day to “monitor him.” Before three months, I am half mother/half nurse, weighing him weekly, eyeing him suspiciously. After three months: “he is probably okay.”

Tomorrow it will be one year and three months since I held my Celeste, since I last felt her move. I no longer feel entangled by grief. I no longer feel bound by a sadness bigger than I can understand.

Yet, all this change, all this relief, all this rest makes me feel a little lost. I leaned into home.

We finished our hall bathroom remodel.




A room I once avoided because it was dingy and gross now feels fresh (hello new toilet) and attracts my eyes to glide over the textures of linen-like tile, matte ceramic and high gloss drawers.

I headed to the kitchen making whole grain blueberry muffins and homemade granola bars.






I sank into education orchestrating my daughter’s end-of-the-year review. Even though there is still talk about my husband being the primary teacher, I grow more skeptical each day that this is really the arrangement.

I dug into reading for hours each night when the kids are in bed, immersing myself in Le Morte d’Arthur retold by modern master T. H. White. I reset my evenings after long and sometimes lonely days with the kids.

But still, I am searching. Still, I am not entirely sure where I am or where I belong. Still, I cannot see the path below me clearly. Not knowing what else I am moving towards, I focus on the moment.

The moment lives as this short space around me. What happens beyond the moment? At one time I was surviving the hospitalization, at another I was preparing for her birth and death, preparing for a baby, surviving the newborn days, surviving the grief.

It is a new phase. I’m exploring (sometimes with my eyes closed) the space around me, stretching out my arms, feeling my way. My children grow older. My babe-in-arms says, “No, mommy!” if I cuddle or kiss him too much, then skips off to be like the big kids. I could have a career but I know in my mind I am called to attend to my first vocation as wife and mother. As much as I’d like “writer” to be my first vocation, it isn’t.

I cannot think of clever posts to write every day. I cannot imagine how to engage a tribe. I cannot do what it takes to get the numbers to please the publishers to print that book.

And I have to be okay with that.

So what then?

There isn’t an answer to that question and the search is not particularly depressing. It is just life. Aren’t we all walking around wondering what is the next right thing, the next right step?

I know it starts in the home; I know it starts in community.

What I don’t know is if writing about it is particularly interesting to others because I cannot install Google Analytics on a site without paying more money each month than I want to commit to.

You’ll have to tell me…if you want to.

But if you don’t want to, that’s okay too.

In this space, I’ll be working on another reflection booklet or a mini-liturgy for the home for those souls aching to reach into Heaven barefoot and during the baby’s naptime. I hope you’ll keep walking with me. We are all trying to find our way, whether out of grief or into life. Nobody has it perfect, nobody has it down, and that’s okay.

Photos of the Week (vii)

Childlike wonder makes everything clearer (photo from Vintage at the Yard).


When summer comes I’ll look out this window to see nothing other than a beautiful mess of green from this tree.

IMG_3680 2.jpg

The sky after the rain is a powerful thing. We’ve seen many such skies in the past week. Things live simultaneously in shadow and light.

IMG_3676 2.jpg

In the shadows of a hospitalization, Peter discovered the joy of the window sill, the passing cars and barking dogs.


To combat the cold modernism, I used the extra space in my suitcase to bring blankets and pillows from my favorite room of the house to give me a moment of joy when I entered the room each night.


Are there better moments then coming home? It’s noisy and chaotic but, as she says, “there’s no place like home.”


And in that joy of reunion, we celebrated the birthday and death anniversary of my daughter Celeste. I put her momentoes around the room. An indescribably dear friend presented a homemade birthday cake, flowers, balloons and card written to Celeste.

Even in the midst of sadness missing her, we find joy in acknowledging her presence in Heaven.

Shadows and light live together in the aftermath of a rainy day.

Photos of the week (v)

It’s all personal today!

Recently, we drove the 2.5 hours to Monterrey to visit the Aquarium. I love Pacheco Pass. I find the hills breathtaking.


Preparations began for Miriam’s First Holy Communion. I decided to take out my wedding dress, which I love but had not laid eyes on since my wedding. In true KonMari fashion, I removed the fabric from the skirt (some tears were involved). Once the act was done, the decision sat fine with me. We will use the fabric from my dress to make her First Communion dress.


Antiquing with my mother I found these beauties! Dessert and serving plates by Currier and Ives, Royal China. They bring me joy. The KonMari method is not about minimalism, so much as it is about surrounding yourself with things that you love. All the discussions about how many books to own are unnecessary for the book lover and, in this case, dishes for the dish collector.


Valentine’s Day (sorry for the quality), we set out Valentine’s for a morning surprise. Everyone picks one Valentine to cut down on craft-stress out time. We observed the day on Tuesday in order to give Ash Wednesday its due. In the morning we took Celeste the bunnies and hearts.


I am thinking about writing and photographing my own Stations of the Cross for kids. I took a quick snapshot of one station at St. Dominic’s when I was there prior to Peter’s surgery last week. To stand inside that church, as the procession moves forward and the organ swells, is like being enveloped in beauty. This is called “contemplative architecture” and it lifts our hearts to God. For parents whom little children are constantly distracting, this beauty helps one maintain or regain focus throughout the mass, entering into the kairos of God.


And here is the little hero, waiting to go in. Everything went well, though recovery has been stressful. It was his 8th surgery in life, and his first outpatient surgery. As such, a triumph!



Life Moves Pretty Fast

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Do you have a routine for every day? I do. Perhaps you read about the joy I take in routine and order last week.

Just like muscle memory, the more we do a certain movement, the more our brain can be freed up from the thinking of how to do this movement, to deeper thoughts or broader thoughts. Routine helps the house know what comes next. It is less work to direct the moving parts and bodies. What is the point of all that freedom?

Sometimes, podcasts.

Other times, togetherness. When my children know what to expect because I am reading off a list for each child under the heading “evening chores” then as they bustle about, I might be able to stop and smile at their antics. It helps me stay cool in an admittedly overwhelming task of directing four noisy kids before dinnertime.

Just when I sigh that sweet sigh of satisfaction common to the Type A-order loving personality, a wrench gets thrown in. Absence, sickness, you name it—things happen, life happens, and order goes out the door.

In this case, I was called away for a few days from house and home. When four days passed, I walked into the door, lugging bags down the hallway, and began to set the house right, back in order. I recover it and reclaim it. I am primarily a homemaker after all. All this happens while the children are still with their grandparents. Completing tasks that would call to me out the corner of my eye in the hour before they come, I am ready for them when they arrive.

Order matters, routine matters, but often, togetherness matters more.

There are the times when we need a better routine, a more predictable rhythm for life. Then there are the times when certain things become so predictable that our minds habituate to their presence and we need to shake it up a little bit. In 1986, Ferris Bueller took a day off from school. When I was in the church youth program, the youth minister talked about the concept of “retreat.” The person retreats, like in battle, from the world we live in day-to-day in order to build up strength, supplies and rest, then go back to the action better equipped.

Hopefully, we can all appreciate our surroundings and the people interjected in those surroundings. Sometimes, however, we need to run away for a bit.

Then, we can walk in the door, get our bearings and see the whole place with a new light, a little more color, a little more clarity. Holding the hand of the child is sweeter. The way another child leans on you rather than stands on his own feet, somehow, fills the heart. Even with a short absence, the saying is true, the heart grows fonder because the heart is reminded of what life was like without these walls, without these little beings, without this small town.

When life feels tiresome, we are not required to run away. A little break can refill an empty soul when the intention is there.

Then the work, the mindfulness, the appreciation, the gratitude must continue though normal life has resumed.

Fewer podcasts, more family movies, more story time on the couch, more hand-holding.

I will be really good at it for a while. Then I grow tired or distracted and I lose my patience, along with my temper, and I forget how good it felt to come home. To remember I call to mind that feeling. There is a memory. Retrieving the memory helps me gain perspective.

This then builds muscle memory. The more we retreat, gain strength, return, recall and grow, the easier it will be in the future to continue the path we want, the one that loves the life well-lived.

Or not. We could just keep going along, day-to-day, never-minding, but then I think, perhaps, a lot will pass us by.


Photo by Brooke Campbell on Unsplash