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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 🙂

O is for Odd Thomas. Well, Dean kOOntz, really.

Anyone else out there a Dean Koontz fan? Personally, I am OBSESSED!

I love almost everything he’s ever written (77 Shadow Street is the one and only exception to date), even his old pen name stuff. My favorite of all is his book Life Expectancy. I rarely read books more than once and that’s one of the rare exceptions (that and The Historian and Jemima J— so random, I know).

But besides Life Expectancy, I absolutely, completely, and totally dig the Odd Thomas series.


Until writing this post, I didn’t realize just how many Odd books there are… there’s a lot! And I’ve loved every one and it feels like such a long wait in between!

Odd Thomas is a young man who sees ghosts… mostly people, some dogs, some famous, some not. He defines himself as a fry cook, but we know he’s so much more. And I love him for that. He’s humble and loving; loving in a completely heartbreaking way (but no spoilers from me– and don’t read any of the Odd Thomas books before you read the first!! I did… and sobbed all the way through the first one…).

Like I said, Odd is a fry cook; a short order cook at a local, hometown diner. He’s famous for his fluffy pancakes and truly aspires to nothing more than cooking good food quickly. When I started reading Odd Thomas this was a pretty foreign notion to me– the idea that you could aspire to be happy doing something well without meeting the societal norms that define “success.” It was the first time that I really thought about the idea of being ok without always, always, always striving for more and more and more. Lots of Dean Koontz’s characters are like that… they don’t all have to be millionaires and billionaires and fancy, important people. They’re regular, but special, not because of what they do or where they live or how much money they have, but because of who they are on the inside. Just like Odd, loyal and loving, thoughtful and intelligent.

Odd also taught me about trusting your intuition. Granted, he has what he refers to as “psychic magnetism,” which is more than just intuition… when he lets go and really trusts his gut, it never leads him astray. But it’s a good reminder for me because I spend a lot of time mulling things over in my head and not following my gut-heart (because I think when people say follow your heart, they really mean gut). My gut knows what’s up though. When I follow my gut, I end up in the right place. So do all of Dean’s characters.

Finally, I love, love, love how Odd loves. He’s amazing in that respect. I really don’t want to give anything away, but this is a man who follows his gut in all matters, including love. Romantic love and otherwise– friends and family. (Also, I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m an absolute sucker for a love story, and Dean Koontz almost always adds a love story. He knows the recipe for absolute literary delight!)


Odd Thomas is awesome. To me, he’s the epitome of all that’s good about Dean Koontz’s characters. He tells us what’s important– loyalty, optimism, perseverance, hope, kindness, generosity… and dogs 🙂 He always adds a dog, ghost or otherwise, and I love that. I loved it even before I had my own. Now I super love it!

Dean Koontz has made me love the regular guy, to look for the extraordinary in the every day, to swoon over all that is California, and to recognize that no matter how bad things can seem, how bad things can be, there’s always, always, always an opportunity for good.

I recently downloaded the Audible app to my phone (there’s an app for that!) and I’ve been listening to audio books while I run, walk, mow the lawn, or drive the dog to the emergency vet… and only then. A chance to listen to a good book is ridiculously motivating in such instances, I love it! And to date, nothing has been more motivating than a good Dean Koontz book. Yes, I pepper in other things (Divergent by Veronica Roth, Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, for example), but I’m completely Koontz-ivated! At present, I’m listening to his newest– The City. It’s wonderful, and so different from the usual! For one thing, it takes place in New York City, not California (or New Orleans). Secondly, it’s centered around a child. Children play prominent roles in others of his books, but this is the first time a child is the main character. Fascinating! He’s branching out, after oh so many books, and still killing it!

Do you have an author like that? One who has found your formula for literary genius???


PS: Speaking of all things high brow and literary… My sister and I have been texting back and forth about The Bachelorette: Men Tell All… and she said to me, “By giving in to the greatness which is the Bachelor, you have helped us take our seester-hood to a new level!” She’s right, you know. This trashy, reality television series is where it’s at!! And books, too. Books. Yep.

A nerdy girl’s happy accident.

Kind of a crazy night last night. Definitely not what I expected. Fortunately for a “nerdy girl” like me, expectations aren’t always meant to be met.

We’ve gotten our fair share of snow here in central Wisconsin over the last couple of weeks and my husband and I had a shoveling date (su-per romantic) planned for after work. In retrospect, I should have eaten a snack before hand. But I didn’t. So an hour and a half and goodness knows how many shovel-fulls of snow later, I was much more hungry than I generally like to be. (Seriously, I do not handle hunger well– it makes me panicky. You’d think I’d have experienced food insecurity or something in my life the way I behave. But nope. Just food neuroses.) I was also sweaty and had cra-a-a-zy hair from sweating while wearing a hat and being constantly bombarded with snow blower snow dust. To complete the look: yoga pants tucked into snow boots. I believe this is what the kids call a “hot mess.”

I dragged my starving butt back to the truck and the husb (because “hubs” really doesn’t make sense to me– that’s not the order the letters go in!) and I decided we’d get Culvers (mmmm… butter burger…) and soon! But two quick errands first!

We went to Fleet Farm first. I was starving, so it was unpleasant. But my ridiculous looking self fit right in. In fact, there’s probably no better place in all of Marshfield to show off the kind of look I was rocking right then, to be honest. It was a quick trip, in and out, and back to the car and one more stop to go!

But that’s where my expectations went awry.

I had never actually been to a book signing, I’d only seen them on tv, really, and I expected the author to be sitting at a table, surrounded by stacks of her books and a personal assistant or security guard or something. I expected to walk in, wait in a line, have my book signed, and go.

What I forgot was that I live in Marshfield, Wisconsin, population 19,000-ish, yoga pants tucked into snow boots pretty much a-o-k November through February. (Fine, March. Whatever.) And the author was too. So this was not a made-for-tv book signing.

It was actually quite a bit better than that!

The Marshfield Public Library was hosting author Lisa Boero, who wrote the book Murderers and Nerdy Girls Work Late. (Oh, and also FIVE more in the series! Woot!) It was the first book we read as a book club and it was awesome. And different. So different.

Nerdy Girls
{Available on Amazon!}

You see, Liz Howe, Nerdy Girl heroine, has prosopagnosia, or face blindness. She cannot recognize faces. Interestingly, Lisa Boero, Nerdy Girl author, also has face blindness. So she’s actually writing her super clever fiction from a place of personal experience– and that made for a really interesting talk last night! (Because that’s what it was, a reading, a talk, a Q&A, PLUS a book signing… there’s my happy accident!) It was fascinating to hear not only what Lisa had to say about her condition and her fictional character with her real condition, but also to hear all of the questions people asked her. Most interesting of all, and very Under-the-Tapestry-relevant was her reason for writing about it.

Lisa knew she had a really hard time recognizing people– she thought she was stupid. Although she acquired prosopagnosia sometime around the age of 12 (coinciding with removal of a brain tumor), Lisa had no idea that her issues were even a legitimate medical concern until she started dating her husband, who happens to be a neurologist, in her 20s. She never even thought to ask. Instead, the number one driver in her life was the desire to be “normal” at any cost.

But now Lisa Boero has a 10-year-old daughter and what she wants for her is to know that when you experience a hardship, you can use it as a springboard for growth. (Her example: another rejection letter about her book? at least it’s not a brain tumor!) And that no matter what, you should never hide who you are. But how could she ask that of her daughter if she couldn’t do that for herself? So she did do it for herself. She came out about her condition to her friends and family (her husband knew, of course, but her kids had no idea) and “nerdy girl” Liz was born.

And Liz is fascinating. Lisa is too.

Sound familiar?

Probably not, because what Lisa Boero went through was pretty extreme. But I just kept thinking that it was such a good lesson. An extreme example of something crazy common. That middle school desire to be normal, no matter what. To fit in in any way that you can and hide your true self away if you can’t. Lisa seems to recognize now that having prosopagnosia is something that makes her extraordinarily unique… and exceptionally interesting to a lot of people, not just neurologists. Myself included.

As I sat in the next to last row with my crazy hair and dripping snow boots, I was absolutely mesmerized. I loved listening to Lisa talk and despite my ridiculously loud stomach screaming “Feed me, Seymour!” every 30 seconds or so, the hour and a half long “book signing” just flew by. Not only that, but I took the opportunity to get signed up for the Marshfield Public Library Adult Winter Reading Program and earned NINE entries into the prize drawings for registering and attending the book signing. Double bonus, much? This is way better than BookIt! (Unless what I end up winning is a pizza gift certificate… then it’s exactly like BookIt…)

A little while ago, my friend Adriane who co-shares (not a real thing) my Kindle account (shhhhh) forced me to read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks… it’s essentially a series of case reports about people with strange neurological disorders. While I technically read it, I didn’t really internalize it, probably because I couldn’t really imagine the people described in the real world. But now I can. And I’m fascinated. I think I’m going to give that man and his wife/hat another shot… there may be more nerdy girls in there and I need to re-visit that possibility!

The big chop… a photo-essay, by request.

I suppose it’s not really fair to describe a big old hair cut and then not provide pictures. This is what I originally saw on Pinterest (after searching for square head and curly hair) and was completely inspired by:


Sandra Bullock, of course.  Because who wouldn’t want to look like her?  I can assure you I’m pretty darn close. See:


Ok, not exactly, but I’m pretty happy with it!  Not to mention that I’m going to save a ton of money on conditioner!  Cha-ching!

Unfortunately, I am firmly against gratuitous selfies.  Especially because they tend to emphasize the fact that my one eye opens further than the other and that my enormous shoulders are uneven.

I generally prefer photos that either make people laugh, like this one… or that demonstrate my amazing skills, like this one.

So I decided to ask Seth, super duper nicely (ok, I kind of forced him!), to take pictures that would allow me to show you guys some cool things that I want to show off, including:


1) This wall!  I painted this sweet wall in our basement to look like a football field.  It is to scale (1/3 original size) and looks awesome.  The life-size Rodgers fathead really completes it, don’t you think?  Seth totally digs his man cave, and I’m pretty darn proud of it!

2) My pupster!  Look at that sweet girl!  Her name is Curly, for Curly Lambeau, founder of the Packers.  She recently had knee surgery, which explains the shaved back leg (the bum knee) and the poodle cut up front (where her IV was).  She loves when I carry her around like my baby.  Or not.  But I love it 🙂

3) Look at my new book that came today!  It’s Deadly Contact and it was written by my real-life friend Lara.  So excited to read it!!  (And now I might win a prize because I posted a picture of me with it!)

4) My new bracelet that my friend Aimie’s daughter made for me!  She’s eight and CRAZY talented with the loom– she picked pink and blue just for me!  Such a sweet, sweet girl with an amazing mama!  (Did I say amazing… I’m sorry, I meant to say awesome.  She’s slated to be my next profile in awesome, after all!  Get pumped!)

Yeah, we had a lot of fun taking these photos…  what do you think of the new do?