Monthly Archives: March 2015

I had a temper tantrum. More to come, I’m sure.

My poor husband. Truly. Sometimes I do not know how he even deals, but he always does and thank goodness for that.

This Sunday, like many other Sundays in the past (but not every Sunday, because I like to keep things spontaneous), I had a little “episode.” I can’t really put my finger on what it was that triggered it or why I got all ridiculous, but I did. I was basically, in a word, disgruntled. And I’m no fun to be around when I’m like that.

Even though most of our lives are spent doing the ordinary, the mundane, things that aren’t fun, exactly, but necessary to get to the fun bits, even though all of that is true, every once in a while, I freak out about all of that.

I throw a little temper tantrum.

I get mad about something completely stupid.

Yesterday, it was because I always having to choose what to make for dinner and then grocery shop for the ingredients and then make the dinner and then clean up from the dinner. (In reality, I do like to cook. Just not that I always have to cook.) And also laundry. And sweeping and mopping and vacuuming. And every other mundane thing I do on the regular makes it’s way onto the list and I get all snappy, “I’m fine. It’s fine. Whatever. [Silence]”

It’s so stupid really. And it’s cyclical, yet unpredictable. I do it all the time, freak out about the mundane. Get super grumpy about the must-dos and have-tos. I take it out on Seth (pretty much always because, where else, I guess? seriously love that man) and then I get over it and (thankfully, oh so very thankfully, so does he… I think) and we move on to another day.

This Sunday, as I said, was one of those days. Maybe it was just because it was Palm Sunday and the passion is so… dang… long… Who knows though. It happened, regardless of the cause. I was a brat. Seth was patient. Thank goodness for all of that.

By Sunday afternoon, I had planned out some meals for the week (really outdoing myself in the fruit-flavored water department for Seth’s sake– a meager apology, I admit) and by dinner time, I had white chicken chili simmering on the stove, bread baking in the bread machine, and a walnut pie (gluten free!) toasting up to perfection in the oven. My house smelled gooooood and I was basically over it. (Basically.)

So what did Joan have for me to reflect on on Monday?

“When the mundane things that occupy our time threaten to dull our view of the universe, it is time to slow down.” –Madeline McClenney-Sadler

Oh, for pete’s sake.

“The ‘mundane’ is certainly dull, I agree, and may even limit us — not only our perceptions but even the breadth of our questions. At the same time, there is something very freeing, very humanizing about the mundane. Doing dishes and buying vegetables get us back in touch with ourselves, give us time to smell the earth of our lives, give us time just to be. We will go on long after the big ideas fade and the profession ends. The question is, Will there be anything in me then? Will there be a me in me? It all depends on how I deal with the mundane.” –Joan Chittister

It’s true. By Sunday night, when I walked back in the house from taking my Curly girl outside for a stroll around the yard (potty break) and smelled the good smells and then ate the good food and finished chopping the veggies for what would become good food the rest of the week (and the fruit for what would become Seth’s fancy water) I did feel freed up, humanized. I don’t have to deal with any of those things the rest of the week, we’re crock pot or microwave ready. We’re eating healthfully and deliciously and as mundane as it is, that is so super worth it. Right?


Except maybe the problem is that lately, all of it, so much of every… single… day… is part of the mundane. And the mundane isn’t part of the life I imagined. So the banality of the day after day… what is there to revel in? Turns out, Joan had something to say about that too. Because I didn’t quite get this out on Monday and now it’s become a twosie.

“God makes me to lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.” –Psalm 23:2

My green pastures, still waters? A family… it all sounds great, doesn’t it? The kind of stillness, a sense of the mundane, that one could really be satisfied with.

“I have to believe this scripture fiercely right now because life does not feel like ‘green pastures’ or ‘still water.’ It feels like a living death. Everyone around me is still producing, still building, still going on. But I am cut off at the root with nothing to show for it. I am empty, useless, doing nothing, going nowhere. The speeches and the books flash and fade and I am embarrassed by my existence. So where is God in all of this? What is life without life? I feel like I am on the other side of a window pane looking in and no one sees me. No one is unkind; they are simply uncaring. It is ‘make your own way time’… and I don’t know how.” –Joan Chittister

And wow. While I sincerely doubt that my current struggle is of the same nature as Joan’s, I am seriously impressed with her ability to describe what it feels like.

Exactly what it feels like.

To live in the age of Facebook and Twitter and the blog-o-sphere and the decade of my 30s in general without the stupid pink or blue lines, the sonogram photos of little chicken embryos, the kiddie quotes and rosy cheeked pictures? It’s tough. Really tough. And after nearly four years of trying, trying, trying and tests and pills and sticks to pee on and hormones to inject, still nothing but negative, negative, negative month after month. It’s exhausting. How do you embrace this level of mundane? Where’s the green pasture and the still water in relation to me?

This sense has been particularly poignant of late as we embark on IVF. Testing, testing, testing. Counseling and drugs and prescriptions and $$$$$. The very real chance that it still won’t result in what we want. Very real chance. That even with all of the hormones and the money and the trying and the prayers it still won’t work. What if it still doesn’t work? Then what? Then how will I deal with my mundane? How will I embrace what life is to be?

Simultaneously bored of what’s current and terrified of what’s next. Or rather, what might not be next, maybe.

Oh, Joan! How do you know?!

I suppose if nothing else, the constant intake of random hormones over the next few months is bound to make life feel anything but mundane, at least for a while, eh?

Oh guys. Buckle up. I can only imagine that I’m due for temper tantrum city coming up. And without Joan to keep me company, who knows how I’ll deal. Better find something else just as constantly-insightful-and-relevant-to-my-own-life-every-single-day. Right!

Finding God, Finding Good

Happy Saturday, my friends!

As a courtesy to you, my dear reader, I chose not to rush something out last night that was only partially finished and instead saved it up for a two-fer today. It was a good call, I think. We went to our friends’ house (also family, incidentally) for carry-out fish fries with their darling and energetic two-and-a-half year old. A great way to spend the last Friday of Lent before the Good one. We had a lovely time, delicious food, and ridiculously good drinks. All around good time!

But today, on Saturday, it’s back to business…

The business of spending a leisurely day with my husband and my pup and thinking thoughtful things.

You know that super catchy song– what if God was one of us?

Well, that.

“It is through our human experience that we meet God.” –Elaine Ward

I guess, because how else, right?


“It takes a lifetime to really understand that God is in what is standing in front of us. Most of our lives are spent looking, straining to see the God in the cloud, behind the mist, beyond the dark. It is when we face God in one another, in creation, in the moment, that the real spiritual journey begins.” –Joan Chittister

God is in what is standing in front of us. Rather, God is in who is standing in front of us. Beside us. Next to us. All around us. Seeing God in one another.


So not “what if God were one of us…” Rather “what if God were all of us.”

Recognizing this is the real journey, but also a hard journey, because sometimes it’s hard to like what you see.

Real hard.

Even so, I have to believe that God is always in there. Sigh. Sometimes it would be so much easier to just not.

But then again, Joan makes another excellent point…

“God restores my soul. God leads me in paths of righteousness for God’s name’s sake.” –Psalm 23:3

“When I am feeling battered by life — sometimes even by life at its best — I take a deep breath and remember that though God is in all of it, God is also greater than all of it. Then both what I lose in the battering and what I become because of it are simply chances to be more of the real thing, to become more than the thing itself. At the end of everything is God.” –Joan Chittister

So even when people challenge us, make it so crazy difficult to remember and to see God within them, Joan reminds us that God is also above us all. Whether we succeed or we fail at seeing Him in the person in front of us, God is still there. Giving us the chance to try again and again.

To me, seeing God within a person means simply seeing the good in them. And I do believe whole-heartedly that everyone has that. Even when it’s well-hidden. Very, very well-hidden. No where is this more true than at work… because at work, I often don’t have the choice of simply walking away for good, refusing to interact. Turns out, every teacher in my entire life was right when they told me teamwork was important. And at this point in my life, I rarely get to pick my own team.

(Note to self re: life goals– work toward a position where I get to pick my own team.)

So then what? What’s a girl to do when she just cannot see the good, no matter how hard she tries? I do not have the answer. But at the moment, this is a big one and one I really need to figure out. How do you find the good, the God, that simply must be there when you’ve tried and tried and tried with no success?

Because I don’t have an answer, at the moment I’m relying on the God that’s above it all to help me out. To prop me up when the other feels just too difficult… to help me get through the week to the Friday that always comes. Because, like God, like good, Friday is always just around the corner and is inevitably followed by another leisurely weekend.


Although… on account of the other 5 days of the week, I really do need to figure out the answer to this question. How to find the good, or at least ignore the bad, so that I can enjoy my work place. While I hate to be overly dramatic (not really), I recently finished Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and I was really struck by his theories on suffering. He talks about the purpose present in suffering and how we can finding meaning in such situations. But then he makes the distinction between unavoidable and avoidable suffering, that ultimately you can walk away from. He says that to suffer those ills is essentially masochism. Am I masochistic? Or am I trying to be patient and persistent?

I suppose until I figure it out, I will just have to focus on being the good. Doesn’t really fix the problem, but has the potential to work on two fronts: 1) cancel out the potential for masochism and 2) as in chemistry, if like follows like, maybe good on my part will draw it out on the other.

This one’s worth clicking for the sweet picture of baby Emma ;) (also roasting hot dogs)

Chilly, chilly, bo-billy! Temps kind of nose-dived right after spring hit and da-dang am I feeling it! Still enjoying the out-of-doors, though! Curls and I have been heading to the Hamus Wildlife Preserve every night after work for a brief walk with the retractable leash and no sling… fun fun fun! Seriously, we’re talking about a very very happy pup!!

“A wisdom still abides in the natural rhythms of the earth, if we are still and open ourselves to it.” –Kimberly Greene Angle

Natural rhythms of the earth… to be in nature…

“There is a wisdom in natural rhythm but we long ago abandoned it to technology and electricity. Now there is not stopping, no ending. Only quitting. I long ago fell prey to it and forgot how to stop and wondered how to quit. So now two unnatural rhythms try for the marrow of my soul: fatigue that is chronic and frustration that is terminal. I am determined to defeat them both.

“My God is definitely a God of the seasons. I prefer that God in spring and fall – when things emerge and mellow – but I have learned more from the God who is the heat of my day and the icy obstacles of my life. From that God I have learned the depths of the self.” — Joan Chittister

I forget sometimes, in the frigid depths of deepest darkest winter and the boiling highs and sticky humidity of summer, how nice it can be to get outside, to feel the air on your face… even stinging cold or blasting hot. To be outside, to enjoy nature, to slow down, is to feel God.

And if I ever had any doubt… here’s my niece Emma as a little bitty baby, enjoying the wind blowing across her little body on a warm fall day:

Emma Wind

This simple pleasure of a soft wind, a blowing leaf… feeling God in the season. Even at a mere 6 months old.

That never really goes away, I don’t think, but it is harder to notice it amongst the hustle and the bustle and they everything else of every day. The phone calls and the emails. The music or books I generally feed into my ears, into my brain, even as I head outside for a jog.

But not always. And in those instances, even when it’s very, very hot or very, very cold or just very, very foreign– that’s when I feel God in nature.

At the end of this winter, for example, on one cold day in January, my friend Suma managed to coax me and Sister Doctor off the couch and onto skis (yikes!) for some cross country skiing in the school forest.


Reluctant doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt– but then, once I was out there, on that beautiful, bright blue, super crisp day, I had the time of my life. The highlight of my whole winter, despite the falls. It was an absolute blast. Quiet and calm and invigorating. Even in the dead of winter.

xc skiing

God was there.

And there was that super crazy boiling hot day on the Rappahanock when the water was a touch too low and the rocks were a bit too high that Jess, Stephanie, Ellen, and I kayaked 11 miles back to our camp site where we slept off our sun burn before traveling home the next day.


We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire, we laughed about my massive wipeout on the water (a strainer got me! can’t say I hadn’t been warned…), and we warmed ourselves over poor Ellen’s deep fried skin during the night, and again, had an absolute blast.

camping rappahannock

God was there.

And then, what was probably one of the very best days of my entire life, when Seth and I spent a day in Volcano National Park in Hawaii… we hiked in the hot hot heat around the top of a volcanic crater and back through the exceptionally chilly middle of it, going from steamy jungle to what might as well have been the surface of the moon (thank goodness for ponchos!).


Then we drove past the massive plumes of sulfuric acid down to the water where we hiked and hiked and hiked on the lava to see the amazing sea arches and ancient petroglyphs. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

sea arch

God was there too.


God is always there, I suppose. But as Joan suggests, it’s in the extremes that we tend to take notice. But maybe with just a bit more awareness, I’ll notice even on a snowy evening walk through Hamus with Curls.

Hamus with Curls

Lots of turkeys calling and deer tracks to sniff. A perfect walk for this sweet girl and her chilly mom.

And finally, as if to underscore the point, this was the message on my ridiculously inspiring page-a-day desk calendar today:


Over and over, nature has been my teacher. When I’ve let it. Silly of me not to realize that in nature, there is God. Snowshoeing to a frozen waterfall in the Keewenaw. Hiking to the top of the Multnomah Falls in Oregon. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and throwing snowballs in the Rockies in August.

Then again, even in the more mundane– picking rock at the farm in the spring, raking and bagging leaves in the fall. God is there. Always.

Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow…

Snow on March 25

Perhaps a bit inappropriate on this day of springtime snow, nevertheless…

“Springtime God… we need your persistent love to disturb… our heart’s rigidity.” –Kate Compston

My heart is feeling rigid on account of it’s FREEZING and we had a mess of precipitation last night, but besides that, Joan’s thoughts are a bit deeper. (Le sigh… such is early Spring in Wisconsin.)

“I love the image of a ‘springtime God.’ Isn’t God always in the growing season in us? Isn’t everything that happens in life simply seeding something to come — and isn’t all of it God? But if that’s true, the question is, then, Are all our thoughts new seeds of life to be pursued? Because if so, then I am being called on and I am, as usual, reluctant to go.” –Joan Chittister

I suppose that everything, every seed, every thought, no matter how big or small requires a bit of coaxing on its way to growth. I’d like to thank chemistry for that basic concept– activation energy.

And as in chemistry, some things have a higher activation energy than others. Keeping with the spring theme, crocuses seem to have a relatively low activation energy… sometimes managing to peek their lovely purple, white, and yellow blooms out from beneath the still standing snow.

Don't get excited-- these were last year's little lovelies.
Don’t get excited– these were last year’s little lovelies.

I actually don’t have any yellow ones, though. That’s a little sad. The daffodils the spring up right afterward make up for it.

And then there’s the late bloomers, the ones who need the earth to be not just pre-heated, but consistently warm with no chance of cool before opening up. Like my beautiful pink and white hydrangeas. Just as lovely either way!

The colors at the end of the season-- absolutely blushing!
The colors at the end of the season– absolutely blushing!

Maybe this year I’ll work on turning some of them blue… although I do love the pink.

Flowers are nice and everything, definitely a good example. Bacillus anthracis (aka anthrax, it sporulates, and what sporulates must also germinate) would make a great example too (shout out to all you toxin folks!). But I think what Joan is really getting at is the way we let God work to activate the thoughts we have and the things we feel most deeply. Reluctance, a barrier to activation, is definitely the norm though. It’s easier to live with the status quo, isn’t it?

I think, however, that Joan is calling us to germinate! To let the sunshine in and to bloom bloom bloom like the beautiful flowers we can be. To really let God work in our lives, springtime or otherwise. To be willing to grow.


Maybe I’ll feel it better in my bones once the white stuff is gone for the season. I’m sure we’re almost there!

Why I Am [Still] Catholic — or perhaps you would disagree. Either way.

There’s a big book I want to read, but as with that grocery store, I’m a little scared to read it. (I’m such a chicken!) I can’t really put my finger on what makes me nervous about it, exactly, but I think it’s important that before reading the book, I at least make an attempt at finding my own answer.

The book is Why I Am A Catholic by Gary Wills.

And today I’d like to talk about why am Catholic. Or at least my very best, super non-eloquent, attempt at explaining why. Because Joan suggests that it might be time.

“Keep traveling, Sister! Keep traveling! The road is far from finished!” –Nelle Morton

Unrelated side note: sisters are the best, best, best!

“Indeed we are not finished. The struggle for women is only just begun actually. But I have come to the conclusion that social change does not happen in a straight line. It’s run and coast, run and coast all the way. This is another deceleration period, perhaps. Everything has quieted, slowed for a while, no big demonstrations, no great amount of organizing. But it is precisely now that we must not stop or we will stand to lose our hearts along the way.” –Joan Chittister

Whether you agree or disagree with me, in my own personal world where the opinions are 100% and entirely my own, my struggle with my faith has often been reflected in, as Joan calls it, “the struggle for women.” Where the word “women” can be replaced with any truly marginalized segment of the population.

I am what many would call a “cradle Catholic” — I was born into the faith. My parents met as catechism teachers, for pete’s sake! (And their first date was to see the Star Trek movie and they’re so cute/gross (they are  my parents, it has to be a little gross to me) and so happy even after like a million years and three wack job kids and a bad, bad dog– I love their story!)

Anyway, I was born to Catholic parents. Baptized in the Catholic church. Attended CCD once a week during elementary school, went to mass on Sundays, made my basic sacraments, and wore the pretty dresses when required (Easter, Christmas, but none more beautiful than my first communion dress– handmade by my mom, eyelet lace, and I loooooved it).

I even went to youth group off and on as an awkward teen. And oh snap was I ever awkward. It’s hard not to cringe when I even think about youth group… (I had such a crush on this handsome young man (that’s the old lady way of saying “total hottie!”) named Andrew who had gone to my school before leaving for a private Catholic school. I screwed up the courage to ask him to Homecoming my senior year. He initially said yes and I freaking flipped until he reversed his decision on account of “Saturday night hockey practice” (riiiight… i.e. I can’t go to Homecoming with a nerd at my old school! I’ll never hear the end of it) and I was very understanding (to him) and mortified (in private) and all that. Oh, so so so cringe-worthy! Although, date or no, in retrospect, I looked HOT at that Homecoming dance, so whatevs. Also, good on me for having the courage to ask!!)

[[[Dang it! I was sure I had a picture somewhere around here from that dance– lots of other dances, Homecoming, Coming Home, Prom, etc… but not that particular one. I looked good though, I promise. And even if I didn’t, I was awesome! His loss!]]]

I even went to church on my own in college. I walked up the hill from Wadsworth Hall to St. Al’s in Houghton and sang my little heart out whenever I could get out of bed in time to make it (because think what you like, I love traditional Catholic hymns– I just do). A lot of my friends were Catholic too, so it was always a social experience, and when I started dating Seth my sophomore year we had that in common. It’s always just been a thing. Albeit, a rote thing, because this-is-the-way-it’s-always-been thing. Not much in the way of thought at any point. Although, I should point out that I was not confirmed in the church along with my peers… because I didn’t really see the need, and neither did my parents who were going through their own thoughtful faith period. While it has caused me some problems along the way (marriage prep– oy), I do not regret it. It would have just been another meaningless hoop to jump through on what was already a very rote path. I have since toyed with the idea of going through the RCIA process to become confirmed as an adult and I am grateful for that because over and over again it has made me examine the central teachings of my Catholic faith with a more discerning, thoughtful, and critical eye than I would have possessed at any point earlier in my life and that has made all of the difference.

The next natural place to go as I’m writing this is, I’m sure, toward a theological discussion of what I agree with, what I disagree with, and so on. But instead, let’s just say that my concerns center largely around the way certain groups of people are treated– women, LGBTQ individuals, divorced/remarried couples, the homeless, etc. (Sigh for Catholics in San Francisco at the moment, yes? Seems as though they’ve been in the media recently for every last one of these things.) It bothers me because I feel confident that Jesus loved everyone and that as followers of Jesus (i.e. Christians) we are also called to love everyone, always, no matter what, and with no questions asked. Even when it’s hard. Lepers and prostitutes, tax collectors and pharisees. Everyone is welcome. And we even sing that, in church, some Sundays– allll are welcome, allll are welcome, alllll are welcome in this place. I really, really believe that.

So the question then becomes: why stay? Why do I still consider myself a Catholic?

Reasonable question, and one I have honestly and whole-heartedly asked myself. For a few months a year or so ago I found myself bouncing around from church to church to church. I tried them all locally, and even not so locally (driving long distances on Sunday morning was not something I particularly enjoyed, but I tried it, to be thorough). I liked the service at the Episcopalian church in town (the minister even referenced Joan Chittister in her homily! sermon, maybe?), but ultimately, even that just didn’t fit quite right. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t home.

In the end, I still attend Catholic mass on Sunday with my husband. I get quite a bit out of it, but sometimes it definitely makes me a bit rage-y. Mostly only when the homily gets political– even subtle politicization is enough to boil my blood. But I can listen respectfully and dissent in the car on the way home. I can do it. And I can work to change those things from elsewhere. To make my church more just. To make my spiritual home a place that I am proud of. Hence, my involvement in Call To Action.

In the end, I relate it back to politics after all. I may not always like my political leaders and the policies put forth in the US, but I’m not going to move to Canada over it. I’m sure there’d be something there I would disagree with too. And ultimately, Canada, lovely as it may be, is not my home… not the place I feel like I belong. (Granted, I have not tried living in Canada, so that’s not a super fair statement, but I’m sure you get my drift.)

When I think about this concept of your church or faith or lack thereof as a home or place of comfort, I think that my husband’s family really demonstrates how true that is. My father-in-law is Catholic and my mother-in-law is Lutheran. Neither converted or changed anything when they got married. My MIL continues to attend her Lutheran church and my two sisters-in-law have always gone with her. My FIL continues to attend his Catholic church and my husband has always gone with him. All three kids are amazing people– morally upstanding, grounded in their faith, kind, beautiful and compassionate and spiritual people. Two were raised Lutheran, one was raised Catholic, all three came from a household that values family and love and respect and hard work. The two raised Lutheran have chosen to remain Lutheran, likewise for the Catholic, and while I haven’t actually asked them why exactly, I imagine that the concept of familiarity and home would come to mind eventually if I did. Probably the same would be true for their parents– they still got married and spent the rest of their lives (to date… can’t predict the future, of course, but their also pretty cute/gross) loving, respecting, and raising a family with one another. And I think that’s what we’ll all do as we grow up– what our parents did. Seth and I will (fingers crossed!!!) have children someday and raise our kids in the Catholic church, but we’ll also raise our kids according to our own moral values and our kids will be shown that all people are welcome, no matter what, no questions asked, because that’s what we think Jesus would do. And more to the point, what we think is right. Should someday they decide to move on to a faith or religion or spiritual practice (or, again, lack thereof) in which they feel more comfortable, more at home, that’s totally cool. For me, it just so happens that that place of spiritual comfort is Catholicism.

Progressive Catholicism, anyway. Catholicism with a twist.

And that is my best answer to that question posed by Gary Wills. A long time in the making, but most brilliant works take a minute, eh? 😉

I think I am ready to read that book now. To see what Gary has to say. (True story: I almost wrote Mr. Wills right there, but then stopped myself– I never write Ms. Chittister, or even Sister Chittister… I always call her Joan, like she’s my own personal friend and never with the respect of the title she’s probably owed. Yet, interestingly, I have actually seen Gary Wills speak in person, closer to a friend therefore than Joan is, and still I initially went for the mister. Glad I can catch myself in these super anti-equality moments. Wonder how many more I don’t catch?).

As you can see, I certainly can’t defend my Faith with any kind of theological argument, but my faith, with the little f, which is the one that I practice rather than the one I necessarily subscribe to or attend, isn’t based on theology really at all. It’s based on a feeling and an ideal of goodness and rightness that really isn’t something that can be argued one way another because it’s 100% personal. So I consider myself Catholic, whether or not I’m a good one according to the hierarchical Church. (And I doubt very much that I am.) But I don’t do it for them, I do it for me and for God. And no one can come between God and my conscience. (That’s a direct quote from a Catholic priest, btw. Must be true!)

I’d be really very curious to hear about the experiences of others– not the doctrinal/theological reason for belonging to one group or another or not at all, but rather, the personal history- and feelings-based reasons. I can’t be the only one, can I? Tell me about you!




PS: Talking about that youth group-based Homecoming rejection, and even more so, joking about it– HUGE deal for me! Turns out, it legitimately no longer hurts. And I’m grateful for the story. I wonder when that happened? (But was he ever dreamy to my 16 year old self…) FREEDOM!!

{Source} Kind of what it feels like 🙂

I went to Aldi. It’s a bigger deal than you might think.

There’s an Aldi grocery store in the little city of Marshfield. I shop most most often at Festival Foods and I’ve been to the Pic N Save  and Super Walmart on a number of occasions for groceries, but despite frequenting the Menard’s right behind it and even the Applebee’s and Goodwill next to it, I’d never set food in Aldi.

About a year or so ago, Aldi put up a sign advertising open positions at a starting hourly rate well above minimum wage and Seth and I liked that– we thought maybe we ought to patronize Aldi to support their willingness to employ people for a living wage. And yet, month after month went by and I still hadn’t set a foot inside.


Honestly– because I was scared.

A grocery store is a ridiculous thing to be afraid of, I realize, but in addition to that bass (no treble!), I’m also all about that truth– and there you have it. I was scared to shop at Aldi.

Turns out, my fears were completely founded. I didn’t understand how the quarter-based cart release thing worked and stood there for what felt like an eternity (probably 45 seconds) trying to figure it out (think Zoolander, Hansel, and the computer), I somehow couldn’t find a pen in my purse (which contains pretty much everything else) so I couldn’t check items off my list which made navigating the unfamiliar store to find all of my items ridiculously challenging (up and down and up and down and up and down the same aisles over and over again– the store is not that big, I’m sure I looked like an absolute loony toon), and I didn’t understand how the after-the-fact bagging mechanism worked and was super confused by the ledge on the far well meant for bagging groceries after being checked out (also I dropped my bags on the floor not once or even twice, but three times– admittedly, that has nothing to do with Aldi and everything to do with me). So, basically, all of my fears came true– I didn’t know what I was doing, I was unprepared, I had a hard time navigating the store, and I looked stupid. (I did remember my debit card though– mini-win!)

Yet, here I am today. Surviving to tell the tale. The consequences of all my fears coming true? Negligible, save a bit of embarrassment, which in the grand scheme of things is pretty insignificant considering that I’m a 31-year-old woman walking around with two skinned knees and perpetually frizzy hair.

(I’m working on the frizzy hair though– I just brought the hair products that made Sister Athletic Trainer look this this!)

My hair was so huge I had to pin it up completely before we even went downtown-- Kayla's curls were perfection until the NEXT MORNING! Unreal!
My hair was so huge I had to pin it up completely before we even went downtown– Kayla’s curls were perfection until the NEXT MORNING! Unreal!

And after all of that, I will definitely be going back to Aldi again. Regularly. Because my grocery bill was ridiculously low AND I know that by shopping there, I am supporting a company willing that pays it’s employees a reasonable wage. But seriously, selfishly, the bill was so much lower. And the food, especially the produce, is just as good as any other store in town. (Ok, comparable to Festival, better than Pic N Save… I said it. I hate Pic N Save’s produce section. Hate it!)

All of that to say that Joan is right today. Right freaking on. Because change.

 “Change is the manifestation of our ability to grow and become.” –Anne Wilson Schaef

“I am still becoming: I am becoming myself — independent, different, free. Those are dangerous, unacceptable, qualities. They violate groupness. And yet, without this kind of change, can we possibly die adults? My problem is that this kind of change came so late and more in response to rejection than to process. But whatever the circumstances, the leap was worth it. I am not the person I was before. I am changed forever.” –Joan Chittister

Change is growth. And even little changes, little seemingly insignificant changes, like screwing up the courage to shop at a new grocery store, can be a big deal. Process, rejection, embarrassment and fumbling through– whatever the reason for change, change is growth. Growth is good.

Even though change is hard… and consequently, growth is hard. Worth it though, yes?

Especially because this particular change affected not only my actions (inexpensive groceries? heck yes!), but also my perspective– I saw a lot of predatory marketing at Aldi. Off-brand everything, but inexpensive Lunchables? That bothered me– those things are horrifying. It opened my eyes. And when I walked into Festival Foods immediately after completing my shopping trip at Aldi to pick up a few things I couldn’t find (and/or did not actually need, but wanted) I realized that I have definitely spent years paying the premium for appearance and space and little conveniences that are, all in all, not necessary.

Quite frankly, I’m lucky to have a choice of where I do my grocery shopping at all. A little gratitude never hurt anyone.

I recognize that it seems small, but to me… not so small.


Hopefully, when my hair changes, it will be small. Exaggerated WINK.

Flesh, Spirit, Pie

Did you ever play NBA Jam for Super Nintendo as a kid? As a rule, I’m pretty terrible at sports-based video games, but there honestly wasn’t much to that one. While I’d have preferred MarioKart (because if your brother asks you what game you’d like to play, the answer is always MarioKart), I wasn’t always the one choosing and on occasion, it was NBA Jam. My favorite part of that game was when I ended up “on fire” — I don’t know how many baskets in a row qualified you, but you basically couldn’t miss after that and the ball was literally on fire. Loved that!

NBA Jam -- on fire!! {Source}
NBA Jam — on fire!! {Source}

All that for me to point out that when it comes to blogging I’M ON FIIIIIIRRRREEEEE!! Four in a row! She’s un-stopp-a-ble!!

At least for now. As I said: good– loudly, clearly, always. Four in a row or four in a month. Got to give myself a bit of grace.

So, after a lovely Friday evening (Seth and I, as I said, went for a fish fry, complete with wine (which you generally can’t get in a church basement) and then drove by all the lovely animals at Wildwood Zoo on our way home– super fun!) here I am relaxing on Saturday (waffles, waffles, waffles!!) and ready to reflect again, one more day of Lent. And our days of Lent are almost gone, after all. Got to really make the most of what’s left!

Today marks 3/4 of the way– conversation #30.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” –John 3:6

“What does it mean to be ‘born of the flesh’ and ‘born of the spirit’ and in the end does it really make any difference? So much in me ‘born of the flesh’ — done to satisfy my appetites — has in the end changed by spirit. And many times for the good. And those things in me ‘born of the spirit’ — meant to be idealistic, ‘spiritual’ — have just as many times been corrupting. I was a ‘good Catholic’ and so became disdainful of those who weren’t Catholic. How unholy can a person be? So now I suspect the separation of flesh and spirit and am open to both. That way, perhaps someday holiness will sneak in when I’m not looking.” –Joan Chittister

Here’s what I like best:

That way, perhaps someday holiness will sneak in when I’m not looking.

I like the idea of holiness just sneaking in. Me, just going along, doing my best, day after day, and somewhere along the way, maybe in my late 70s (because late 70s seems reasonable), holiness just sneaks in through a crack left unattended.

Think it might happen? Maybe if I don’t worry so much about it… maybe if I just do the best I can, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, one minute at a time, one second at a time. Perhaps holiness will find its way in whether I search desperately or not. I like that. Hey, self, stop trying so dang hard!

So then, to Joan’s question, does the distinction of flesh vs. spirit really matter? Maybe not. She talks of separation, but ultimately, we are both. I would cease to exist as myself without either one or the other. Therefore, it seems impossible that, as Joan describes, one shouldn’t impact the other.

When I was in Memphis last November for the Call To Action conference (progressive Catholicism, if you’ll recall), I stopped at a booth representing the Church Health Center. Based in Memphis, TN, the Church Health Center “seeks to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits.” I loved that idea and I picked up a couple of books while I was there, including God, Health and Happiness.

It spoke so soundly to this point, the inability to separate body and soul, the fact that both matter to overall health and wellness. Such a good read and I’ve bought the Church Health Center premise hook, line, and sinker.

{Source} Care for the flesh and the spirit.
{Source} Care for the flesh and the spirit.

It make so much sense, doesn’t it? The notion that all of these flesh-based and spirit-based facets of our lives contribute to our overall health and well-being. I especially love that each one is given an equal piece of the pie. (Mmmm… pie.)

While there may be separation of thing of the flesh and things of the spirit, I firmly believe that Joan is right– one can affect the other, and we are often unable to predict when or how or why. So we do the best we can at making the slices of the pie equal in size and deliciousness and hope that holiness sneaks in in the process.

Straight from the heart… to your brain.

Happy Friday! Only a few more to go this Lenten season, and what better way to celebrate than with another Fishy Fishy Fish Fry. Tonight, we’re trying Libby McNeil’s at Hotel Marshfield. It would sound impressive, except… Marshfield. I know I’m not fooling anyway. It’s no church basement, to be sure, but it is still Central Wisconsin.

Pretty sure I’m not supposed to like Lent this much, and yet…

I love what Joan wants to talk about today. LOVE IT.

“Gifts of the heart are what memories are made of.” –Sheryl Nicholson

So, touching the heart is what makes the memory stick. YES!

“I have a theory that only what touches the heart is really lodged in the mind. Memory is made up of what has touched our lives. So, in later years, the data drops away because it is useless. But soft touches, hard words, deep joys, great pain never leave us. For good or ill, they remain. They are always there, soothing us or torturing our souls. The life question it leaves us with may be worth thinking about, What do we do with the feelings that clog our souls?” –Joan Chittister

I love this so much, not only because of what it means for personal experience (which, I mean, duh, right?!), but even more so for what I think it means about what we do work-wise. Simply about what sticks.

Gratuitous puppy picture!
Gratuitous puppy picture!

I recently wrote this about myself… my thoughts about teaching:

When I applied to Michigan Technological University in 2001 as a chemistry major, I did so despite my passion for biology as I had convinced myself that chemistry required “real” thinking while biology was mere memorization. However, my experience over the last nearly 15 years has clearly demonstrated otherwise. I now recognize all of science as a series of important interrelationships. A firm background in math, physics, and language is necessary to understand basic concepts in chemistry and biology, which serve as the building blocks to biochemistry, genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, and on and on to multitudes of other biomedical fields, including immunology, microbiology, virology, parasitology, and more. I believe that teaching with this perspective will give students a sense of how their courses are important with respect to the larger field of biomedical science and will inspire passion and enjoyment for learning.

And when I think about all of that in the context of what Joan is saying, what it really boils down to is this: I can do chemistry. I can think about, talk about it, get an A on a test about it, but honestly, I rarely feel it– in my heart.

Oh, to be sure, there are excellent chemistry jokes that make me ridiculously happy (the ether bunny is seasonally appropriate and immediately comes to mind), but for the most part, it just doesn’t light me up.

{Source} AHHHH ha ha ha ha HAAAA!
{Source} Ah ha ha ha!

Host/pathogen interactions? That lights me up.

I needed to know chemistry to really get it, of course, but the chemistry has long since faded. Loooong since. Yes, I can calculate molarity, measure pH, tell you how many protons a carbon atom has… but I could talk for hours about how tricksy gonorrhea and chlamydia turn out to be once they find their way into a genital tract. And how conversely clever the body is in response. On and on and on… because that lights me up. So I remember it. It is a memory that has stuck. Much more than any theory of quantum mechanics or SN reaction mechanism. (This last statement is so true that I had to google SN reaction to make sure I wasn’t just inventing that on the spot. It’s legit. Whew.)

Literally, an hour, about host/pathogen interaction. Love it.
Literally, an hour, about host/pathogen interaction. Love it.

I’m good at learning things, at remembering them long enough to write the paper, give the talk, take the test, but it’s definitely true that not everything sticks very well. And I’ve always wondered about that– why is it that I can sing every line from every song in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, even years after last hearing it, but could barely remember a given toxin’s mechanism of action for as long as it took me to brush my teeth?

Because the toxin does nothing to my heart. (Assuming said toxin is only theoretical, of course. Things would be different if we were talking about toxins for realsies.)

Jacob? Jacob and his sooooons?! They make my heart flip flop! And that’s why it sticks. I think, anyway.

So… what do we do with all those emotions that clog us up? Those memories that stick? The song lyrics that pop to mind when all we want is the answer to the next test question?

It’s a good question.

Perhaps the best answer I have found is to do something that lights me up as much as a song lyric every day, as often as possible. Granted, I don’t love everything I write about, but I get real into a lot of it. It’s even spilled over here, I’m sure you’ve noticed– foster care families, integrated behavioral health and primary care, rare genetic disorders, opioid addiction. Writing itself is like that, actually. It’s not exactly what I was “trained” to do, but I have always loved doing it. So maybe, in that respect, the clog isn’t a clog at all if you’re training those feelings on something productive. Maybe?


And a relatively unrelated side note… I’ve often felt jealous of the pride people have for their children, assuming it’s something I couldn’t know until having them. And I can’t have them. At least at the moment it’s difficult. Snowball effect. Woe is me. But then again, good things keep happening to people I love so very, very much. And I feel SO CRAZY proud. Absolute heart bursting pride for someone else. Or something else in the case of my sweet pup. So what’s to say that that kind of pride is reserved only for your flesh and blood?

Jerk, second track, that’s who.

So, anyway, upon getting some SUPER GREAT news for Sister Doctor today, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the heart bursting pride with all of you!!

Sister Doctor has matched into a General Surgery Residency program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Medicine and Public Health! Not only is it one of the top programs in the entire country, but it’s also a mere couple hours away and, guys, I could not be happier for her!! (And selfishly for me and the rest of our big Sconi-based clan as she’s staying close to home and that’s excellent, excellent news!)

A little Match Day gift-- feminist needlepoint, a new favorite. Also, a message worth remembering in surgery residency, yes?!
A little Match Day gift– feminist needlepoint, a new favorite. Also, a message worth remembering in surgery residency, yes?!

On Wisconsin, yo!

Fun fact-- I was almost done with this one, in metallic thread and not red so as to avoid Wisconsin bias, but then for some reason unknown to me at the time, I started over completely in red and white (see above). Clearly, my subconscious knew where she was headed before any of the rest of us!
Fun fact– I was almost done with this one, in metallic thread and not red so as to avoid Wisconsin bias, but then for some reason unknown to me at the time, I started over completely in red and white (see above). Clearly, my subconscious knew where she was headed before any of the rest of us!


Loudly, Clearly, Always

Bad news bears: my knee SUPER hurts. Turns out, it’s very much more difficult to recover from a fall at the age of 31 than it was at the age of 26. Very much. I better quit this falling thing before I get too much older or I’m going to end up needing new joints way before my time.

BUT… good news bears: my new shoes came today and despite my extreme crotchitiness (uh huh– it’s a word), I went out for a quick (quick is a relative term, remember… and what I really mean by “quick” is, in fact, short… right) 2-mile run and they were super sweet. They’re just so bright and while appearance isn’t the most important thing about running shoes, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

BAM! So bright!!
BAM! So bright!!

Also, my heels weren’t bloody at the end. Sigh. I really needed new shoes. I always let it go way too long.

But anyway. What does Joan suggest we mediate on today?  Let’s see, shall we?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” –Romans 12:2

Renewal of the mind…

And Joan?

“Exactly how does a person go about not being ‘conformed to this world’? We live in the belly of the beast. It is our politicians, our banks our business that cheat poor laborers, make the dirty military alliances, sell the weapons, hike up the interest rates. And we are the ones who buy from them, and elect them, and collect their dividends. Is there any hope for our own purity of soul in such a world as this? Is there any hope for mine? Well, Paul seems to think so. He says, ‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.’ Change the way you think, in other words. And say so. That’s what I must do. Whatever the ridicule, whatever the criticism, I must say so. Loudly, clearly, always. Then maybe someday I will find myself lost in a chorus of voices all shouting ‘no’ together. And then the world will change.” –Joan Chittister

I think Joan is talking about how our mind interacts with the external. And I don’t disagree. But for me, the thing that provides the ridicule and the criticism (frequently and loudly and constantly) is my second track.

Remember that bad boy? It’s been a while, eh?!

But it’s still there. And it’s been louder than loud as of late. I didn’t really recognize it until today– thank goodness for therapy. It’s like I pay someone to keep notes on my life and remind me of what’s what once a month. Good deal. So what do Dr. C and I think that I can do about it?

Four things:

1. Focus on helping other people;
2. Take my own advice after I spend time talking other people up;
3. Talk about the bad feelings;
4. And don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

In other words, change the way I think.

So, here’s what I have decided to think. I think that I just endured a nasty storm and that, despite some minor damage, I’ve come through to the other side. I think that IVF is scary and that receiving my packet of info with all that crazy, crazy, crazy set me up for some major anxiety and that my husband heading out of town and working round the clock on a big, important grant made it harder to deal than usual. I think I dealt with all that by eating. By crashing. By dealing in the best way I could deal– not perfect, but good enough. Good. I’m good.

I think I am good.

Renewal of the mind.

I know it’s not that simple, really. But if feels alright right now. And I will keep saying that I am good — loudly, clearly, always.

The Church of Marie

Guys! I … AM … A … MESS…

Sometimes that happens to me. And it’s not pretty.

It started with that grant… and then Seth went away on a business trip and Curls didn’t want to walk for me… and then the binge eating… and more binge eating… and a busy weekend (during which I pretended to be calm, cool, and collected in front of my sister-in-law, but I was very not– think she noticed?)… and lack of exercise… and an inability to stop complaining at work… and… and… and…

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. Thank goodness!

But before that could happen… THIS:

my knees

Dang it! I haven’t fallen in years. YEARS! The last time I fell (and fell and fell and fell again) was when I was in grad school and I just couldn’t seem to stay on my feet. Not to get way too cray cray on you, but a psychic told me I was basically doing it to myself on account of all the lack of control I was feeling over my life.

And right now? I feel out of control. Out of control!!

So tonight… I went for a run. A nice long run. Could have been better, definitely, but it was good. Good weather, good pace, good recovery and minimal damage from my fall. Then I had delicious tacos and even more delicious dessert and sat down with Joan to reflect and work some more on this post I have been working on for SO long… and it was perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect for the thing I really want to talk to you about.

Day 27:

“For this is our God and we are the people of God’s pasture and the sheep of God’s hand.” –Psalm 95:7

And Joan’s thoughts:

“It is sometimes very difficult to know where God is for us: in the demands of authority for obedience to the sins they call virtue – for the nonordination of women, for instance – in the name of “unity.” Or is God in the questions of the heart that deserve to be pursued – that demand to be answered – in the light of the rest of the gospel. And so the question haunts me: Would Jesus stay in the church today? In any of them? And, it if not, who would follow him out of it? Would I? Yes, there’s the question. I have lived a lifetime of ecclesiastical sins: no ‘mixed marriages,’ they taught, and then changed their minds; no burial for fetuses; no moral absolutes about wife beating; no protection of Jews; no resistance to segregation. And I went along with all of them.” — Joan Chittister

Oh my gosh. That’s exactly where I want to go. Exactly what I want to talk about! Joan is basically introducing us to The Church of Marie.

So, without further ado…


Jesus was a pretty good dude.

While there’s lots and lots and lots of arguing about exactly what kind of a “dude” he was or was not in other ways, I think we can all agree that the stuff he did, the stuff he said, the way he acted and loved… those things were good.

Good, good things.

As such, those things are pretty good things to emulate.

I’d think they were good things to emulate no matter who did them.

Jesus is just kind of famous for it. For loving everyone no matter what and living a life completely devoted to kindness and inclusion and faith and hope and love and charity and humility and… well, I said it before, good stuff.

A lot of religious people get that. A lot of non-religious people get that too. They do that. Live that way… or at the very least, make every effort to live that way.

Unfortunately, some people don’t. Those are the people that make the news. Even more unfortunately, those are the people that often take the reigns of institutionalized religious organizations near and far, here and there, in my backyard and in yours.

Not a Jesus problem. A regular dude problem.

Jesus loves us regular dudes, all of us, male or female, rich or poor, right or wrong, tall or short, big or little, polka-dotted or striped. Even the sneeches, stars on their belly or no. Jesus was a lover. Not a fighter.

The people who follow his example most closely tend to be revered only after tragedy. MLK. Abraham Lincoln. Gandhi. Need I continue? And some people even hate them still. Sad, sad, sad… what’s to hate about a life devoted to love?

And despite their revered status at present, life is/was often hard, hard, hard for people who emulate Jesus like that.

Love is awesome, but there’s a LOT of resistance to it.

I don’t know why. I don’t think anyone really does.

But I know one place where that resistance does not exist and love is the only message. The thread that ties it all together and the theme of every life’s purpose.

That place is only theoretical. It doesn’t exist. But someday I’ll talk it into existence.

That place is the Church of Marie.

I think Marie wrestles with the same exact question Joan describes above– would Jesus stay in the church today? And if not, should she follow him out?

At present, and with utmost devotion and obedience and acceptance and purity of heart and mind and soul, my friend Marie is Catholic. She loves her church and her faith and her parish and the people she serves. She is devoted to an absolute fault.

But her church isn’t always good to her. Because she’s a woman. A strong woman. An influential and well-liked woman. A woman who at times appears to be more well-liked than the hierarchy, the patriarchy, the men who demand to be revered. A woman whose single-minded focus on God and Jesus and love and compassion and all those other good things is somehow threatening to those more concerned with power and position and the like.

It’s horrifying to watch someone so beautiful and good and faith-filled be constantly, as my dad would say, crapped on by her church. To watch it day after day whittle away at her self-confidence. But then again… what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And faith is forged in fire. Maybe that’s what it takes to be willing to follow Jesus out of the church. Or to follow Jesus in a way that brings the church back to him.

You know, like the Church of Marie.

Marie actually hates the phrase “Church of Marie” because she thinks it makes her sound deified. But it’s exactly what I want in a church. Not deification of Marie (although she’s for real good and stylish, too… sooo… we could do worse), but rather a true embodiment of what (as of this morning) became my favorite phrase:

“God is greater than religion. Faith is greater than dogma.” — Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Marie’s faith is like that– greater than religion or dogma. Forged in fire. And I think because of that, because it came about organically, a la Lila in the Gilead series (we just read that for my Under the Covers virtual book club and as I write this I realize why I liked Lila as much as I did– she’s like Marie!) it’s really beautiful.

Beautiful to most, I should say. There are those who don’t come by their faith quite so naturally, so organically, those who feel, shall we say, “Holier Than Thou” who are immediately recognizable by their initial befriending followed by disdain for Marie. And I see it happen over and over and over again. A lot of people like to talk the talk. Not as many people like to walk the walk. Marie is all about the walk (literally and metaphorically).

Preaching? No. Discussion? Absolutely.

But most importantly of all: DOING.

Marie does. She does her faith even more than she believes her faith… that’s how strongly it is part of her.

And that is why I want so badly to join the Church of Marie. And you would too. If it existed.

My poor friend Marie, unfortunately, is probably about 46 years away from actually started this church I dream of. I imagine it will be a death-bed kind of thing. She’ll wake up from a gentle sleep one day in very old age and say, with sadness, that she wishes she’d done it sooner because her talents were not as appreciated as they should have been, could have been, in the church to which she dedicated her life.

The Church of Marie is a church of respect and dignity for all. A church where no one person is above any other and where Christ is central. Not Christ as in robot-style-WWJD, but rather real living breathing examples of what Jesus would do. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, loving our neighbor, no matter who are neighbor may be, and appreciating the gifts and skills of others.


The best part about the Church of Marie is that it accepts you no matter what. No matter how much you complain about your job or how much food you shovel in your face. No matter how clumsy or graceful you are on your run or whether you run at all. I’m super lucky because the Church of Marie holds court in the office across the hall from mine 5 days a week and by text any other time I want. But I really wish other people could be as lucky as me… to join a church like the Church of Marie where it’s just love and goodness and kindness and stuff.

I think Marie would follow Jesus out of a church. And I would follow her.

God is in the good whether the good is in the church or not.

Church of Marie -- AHHHHH!
Church of Marie — AHHHHH!