Notre Dame Burns, Unlikely to be an Accident

As Catholics, we enter Holy Week (after a long Lent of fasting, prayer and almsgiving) and approach the Triduum, the high point of our liturgical season . . . as Notre Dame, perhaps the most recognized Catholic Church in the world, is burned to the ground.

Notre Dame means Our Lady, referring to Mary, the Blessed Mother, OUR Mother, the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, my biggest intercessory prayer warrior in Heaven AND my biggest comfort on earth. . . and I would like to believe this fire was part of a renovation and an accident, but I am not naive. I know the Catholic Church is persecuted all around the world. I know Catholics are tortured and killed because of their faith daily. . . and just because mainstream media doesn’t want to cover it and would prefer to disproportionately attack the Church for her sins rather than acknowledge her suffering, does not mean only the latter exists . In fact, for months, Catholic Churches in France have been attacked and our most precious holy items have been desecrated and destroyed.

The Church (we are the Church) is being persecuted and if you are outside of Her and want to throw stones, mock Her, and act like Her suffering is invisible or (even worse) deserved, you are THERE crucifying the living body of Christ. Sometimes it causes me to wonder, wonder, wonder . . .

Thankfully, if this Holy Week (like the original Holy Week) teaches us anything, it is that we will rise again. And it’s that there’s no Easter Sunday (resurrection) without a Good Friday (crucifixion).

@ Paris Notre Dame Cathedral


Your Ignorance is Showing

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”


Back when I was a young college student, I casually argued politics with a friend who responded to my argument by saying, “Your ignorance is showing.” I was both stunned and insulted. I paused and wondered if I was in fact ignorant . . . I knew I had a lot to learn but after briefly reflecting on the limits of my knowledge and experience, I concluded that calling someone else ignorant is probably a sure sign of ignorance.

Rather than opening up the conversation to look for commonality and learn from each other, namecalling or even judging someone else as “ignorant” (even when you’re not so forward in your namecalling) does the opposite. It labels and closes the door to engaging in deeper discourse and breeds hatred by limiting our understanding of each other and focusing instead on our dissimilarities. This creates a system of exclusion, not inclusion. It polarizes and creates division and hatred in place of unity and love.

When we are polarized and divided, we believe in our own values or issues as right and we determine anything different is wrong. We subscribe to a dualism of good and bad and we determine that we are good so everything and everyone else must be bad.

The music turns off and we shut down the dance we call discourse, rather than opening it up, turning it up and seeking to learn and understand each other.

Our arrogance feels safe. As a mother, the most upsetting flaws of my children are those habits and behaviors they got through imitating me. Whether it’s the overindulgent appetite of a child quickly gaining weight during a critical time of development, the argument a child makes against the unequal parenting/discipline of her siblings, a child being distracted by electronics rather than conversing with people, or nervous mannerisms, I criticize what I see of myself in them and distance myself from their flaws (like they’re such monsters for acting in those ways and I’m so above that). I think this type of denial and desire to separate ourselves from the flaws of others we subconsciously see in ourselves is so common among us. That’s why the working class is so divided and distracted from bread and butter issues. We spend too much time and energy separating ourselves from those that are like us rather than recognizing the dignity of each person and working together to solve underlying problems.

If we started by looking at what we share in common and caring for each other by putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes (while simultaneously self-reflecting and owning our own shortcomings), it would be easier to build bridges of love rather than walls of hatred.

You can dislike our President (I sure do!) and you can dislike the candidate that ran against him. Well, I do too. You can hate the policies that tear families apart and hurt innocent children (and women and men). I do! You can also hate and be concerned about the many children and women that come into this country as modern day slaves . . . Yes, slavery exists here in this country and I hate it and think it’s important we ensure the adults bringing children into this country are caring family, not pimps and abusers.

You can and we should all work our butts off to fight for human rights and donate what we can to causes that do so. We can and we should do what we are capable of to serve others. It’s good for others but it’s also good for our souls.

Instead of putting each other down, let’s try to understand each other. Instead of labeling each other, let’s look beyond labels and look for our common humanity. Let’s be real with ourselves and examine our own fears and insecurities. There’s a saying that there are two sides of a story, just like there are two sides of a coin. But whether your coin lands heads or tails, it’s still a coin. Regardless of your political orientation, creed, able-bodiedness, intelligence quotient, charm, gender, sexual orientation, color of your skin, nationality, immigration status, you are a person like every one else. You deserve love and to be treated with dignity. Every person is deserving of love and dignity.

For example, take the issue of guns. We can all agree we have a school shooting problem as well as a gun violence problem in this country. Some say mental illness is the underlying issue. Others say the problem is how easy it is to purchase and access guns. There is no doubt guns make it easier to hurt or kill people and once a trigger is pulled, it cannot be unpulled. There isn’t time to break up a fight or intervene. The NRA stands by the slogan, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And there IS something to that. Yeah, guns are incredibly dangerous if not kept safe and locked up from children. Yeah, guns can kill quick. Yes, certain guns should not be easy to purchase. But they are an object, not at actor.

Guns can also be used to hunt for food, which is good if you’re an omnivore. They can be used to protect people and children. They can even the playing field a bit as far as human strength or fighting ability. The people I know that own guns are big advocates of gun safety and training, and that’s important. If we regulate guns differently, would guns be objects more accessible to the elite and less accessible to the working class? I don’t know.

I do know you can be a “Mom Demanding Action” and fierce anti-gun advocate and still be friends with and converse with some white rural Grandpa wearing a NRA hat and worried that the government will take his guns. Then you can problem solve because you can look for what you share in common. The NRA guy might very well say he’s concerned about guns falling into the wrong hands but he also might ask what the cost of regulating guns differently would be and whether more regulation is in fact effective in preventing gun violence. And if you are listening and not getting defensive, you might agree and share your legitimate concerns. You can build consensus.

We may disagree with our neighbors on a lot of the issues, but issues aren’t as polarized as evil wants to make them. Any time something is totally polarized, it’s divisive and prevents unity. And that’s where the evil lies. I am not justifying a politics of indifference. Contrarily, indifference is NEVER morally justifiable. But when we scream and shout (or Facebook rant) and put each other down without listening, what is that doing? It’s wasting time and energy dividing us from each other when that time and energy could be used to listen, collaborate and problem solve. Some people like to accuse others of flip-flopping on issues. But clinging to one extreme standpoint of being pro or anti is intolerant, elitist, and yes, ignorant. It shows you think you know better than the many other people in this world that have experienced an issue differently than you.

As the primary approaches (tomorrow!), for those that are citizens, NOT voting is the worst choice you can make. It’s the choice of a bystander to injustice. Sometimes people say, “Well, I’m not political” but politics has an impact on you and especially on vulnerable people, whether you like it or not. We have a moral obligation to inform ourselves if we have the cognitive capacity to do so and make a conscientious moral decision for the good of all people, especially those without a voice.

I would argue that while single-issue voting is effective at pushing an issue to the forefront, it is also closed-minded and abrasive. It makes no space for learning, listening or problem-solving. Whether it’s gun rights or “reproductive rights,” any time you choose one single issue to be for and against, you are closing yourself off from collaborative problem solving.

As a pro-life Democrat, I vote for democratic candidates because I think the DFL does a better job advocating for life once it’s born. Babies are so vulnerable and it is imperative that children and women (and men too) receive access to health care benefits, so they CAN take care of human life. Not every person is privileged with loving, supportive, or financially stable family and friends and although that would be ideal, when we ignore the needs of the vulnerable and expect them to pick themselves up by their boot straps alone and assume others should support them, we are ignoring our own privilege and in doing so, we are turning out backs to God.

Our statistics for maternal and infant mortality are sickening in this country. We are among the worst of developed countries when it comes to maternal care. And your chance of an adverse birth outcome worsens if you are an African-American woman in this country.

I’m pro life because I’m a feminist. Artificial contraception is harmful to women. Being objectified and used by men is harmful to women. Fertility being treated as an enemy during a female’s childbearing years and then a gift when those years are near their end is not good for women. Having an economic system that fails to reward women’s work at home when her children are young and make a place for her in the traditional workplace when her children are older is not good for women. A system in which women have to work outside of the home to make ends meet and not have the most influence over their own children is not good for women. And guess what? It’s not good for men either. It’s not good for children either. BUT I also have many pro choice friends that really believe being pro choice is feministic. While I totally disagree, and I have strong feelings about the eugenic culture abortion, contraception and sterilization are based on, I think both sides can agree we need better prenatal and maternal care for all women.

If supporting childbearing women is not femenistic, I’m not sure what is. Those of us that have a lot of children also have a tremendous impact on future generations, since we our the first and primary educators of our children. And each child can and will make a difference. So, rather looking at single issues in a polarized way, we need to ask our political candidates follow up questions. Their plans should be deeper than simple labels like “pro choice” or “pro life” or “anti gun” or “pro gun.” And if politicians prefer to define themselves by labels and extreme platforms rather than being willing to listen and even change/evolve as they learn more from others’ experiences, maybe we should vote for a different candidate and say, “Hey, your ignorance is showing.” I will vote for the candidates with life/personal experience/leadership/career experience that shows they value relationships and know how to serve and listen to people that share perspectives and experiences different than their own.

One Beautiful Dream

I breezed through the book One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulweiler and my goodness, I wish I had come upon Jen’s blog earlier during my vocation as a mother because she is so authentic and funny and makes me feel so much less alone in my struggles as a mother. So many of her stories feel so familiar to me because I’ve lived my own version of them (Green Bean Lady seemed to be a daily occurrence when shopping in the city.)

I think Jen is so intelligent and amazing so when I read the “Beer Bong Play Date” Chapter when she has “a stranger from the internet” (another Mom) over for a play date and apologizes for the state of her messy house, and she implied her house is messy because it is the end of pregnancy (rather than because it’s just not a priority), it struck a loud chord of familiarity.

Her writing style is so easy to read and yet subliminally thought-provoking. Reading this book has been a true gift of self care during this time of my life when my husband is deployed, and I’m single-parenting six kids while expecting a seventh and I just can’t seem to keep up with Jones’s (or keep my counters clutter-free for that matter). Through Jen’s stories, I have grown much better at letting go of my pride, asking for help and accepting help when I need it or can use it.

I have also reflected on my beautiful dream, my “blue flame,” and what makes me and other humans really happy. (Hint: it has to do with love). As Matthew Kelly always says/writes, “There’s a genius in Catholicism.” I’m really grateful my cultural tradition and my religious upbringing provided me with strong foundation in love, faith and family values.

I loved this entire book. It made me laugh so hard my pregnant body convulsed; it made me cry so hard I sniffled and needed a tissue for my runny nose and eyes; it gave me all the feels and helped me reflect on my life and my priorities without feeling like I was really reflecting . . . It was kind of like doing the work of self-examining through spiritual osmosis.

I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking happiness and inspiration (including but not limited to busy busy busy overwhelmed parents).,+Low_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP79700&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvMaO_oCh2wIVT57ACh1scwx7EAQYASABEgI86vD_BwE

Spring has sprung in MN

The third and fourth child hopped on their little scooters to “ride” to school this morning. They’ve been staying out to play as late as I will let them and eating and sleeping so well.

These spring days feel so glorious. Like an infant freshly emerged from the womb after a long and unpleasant pregnancy (and labor), the birth of the new human makes every bit of those dreary uncomfortable days feel so worth every moment of the wait. I guess that’s why we stay in MN. The wait is worth it.

Lots of time outside with this little lady . . .


Waffle House Shooting

I am considering adding short news opinions to this blog. They will not be well-written because I simply don’t have time to write well and in a timely manner, especially while single-parenting six children, but I want to call attention to newsworthy items and how said news is reported. In every form of media I take in, marginalized populations are degraded. This may not seem like I’m sharing the “light” but the sad reality is we need to bring those issues to light in order to raise awareness and create change.

Language matters and impacts how people are perceived by others. It is not okay that the newspapers call violence by white men “mental illness” while similar violence by people of color (usually black males but not always) is described in gruesome details that include the innocence or youth of the victims and arouse no compassion whatsoever for the perpetrator.

This morning’s Star Tribune has an article starting on the front page entitled “Gunman kills 4 in bizarre assault.” There is no mention of race in this article. The gun man killed 4 people, all in their 20s(!), but there is also no description humanizing these four young people whose lives were certainly taken too soon.

Additionally, the gun man was nearly naked! Two fully dressed black men that visit Starbucks are suspicious and police arrive nearly immediately, but a white man can walk into a Waffle House naked with an AR-15 and then go outside and not be caught and arrested.

Travis Reinking, the suspect, had been arrested and detained back in July by Secret Service agents because he was in the restricted area near the White House and he refused to leave. I’ll write that again: he refused to leave, (stating he wanted to meet Donald Trump!). At the FBI’s request after investigation, four guns were subsequently removed from Reinking’s possession. But the deputies allowed his father to keep the guns safe from his son. Whose idea was that? The suspect’s? Ummm . . . Do we ever hear of this process for African-American people? I mean, you remove guns from someone’s possession because they pose a danger to society and then you give the guns to the suspect’s parent who has arguably done an inadequate job raising their child to be a contributing adult member to society? No, thank you.

The article states the suspect may have “mental issues.” This one always gets me! You don’t read about the people incarcerated with addiction problems who committed nonviolent drug crimes having “mental issues” but mental issues are the justification that conditions us to believe white people who commit VIOLENT crime have mental illness and are an exception. They just need help. Meanwhile, black people are bad and no matter how much they have been chronically and unjustifiably traumatized, the consensus of those in power is that they need to be locked up or killed, not helped.

That’s the reality of our system(s) today.

What do we do about it? Question it. Don’t believe it. Talk about it. Write about it. Stick up for people that are treated unfairly, even if it means you will be treated unfairly for it. Have tough conversations with your neighbors and friends. You are called to integrity! Raise a fuss to the media when news is presented in a racist manner (every day!). Don’t give up. Get politically involved. Point out injustices. Be loud and proud, not silent. We are morally obligated to speak up and protect each other. We must not be neutral.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.” (Elie Wiesel)

Prayers for Vocations and Earth Day

This fourth day of Easter is dedicated to world prayer for vocations. And praying for religious vocations (and raising children in a way that supports prayerful consideration of religious callings) is important.

As we pray for vocations and dedication to the religious life, we must not grow weary or forgetful that we are ALL called to holiness. Our universal call to holiness, as part of the human body, includes a call for all of us to be stewards of the earth. And since it also happens to be Earth Day, I thought I would share a link to the encyclical, Laudate Si:

I would love to know what you do, big or small, to take care of our planet. Do you compost? Do you use reusable bags? Do you boycott items packaged wastefully? Each little effort makes a difference. What do you do to take care of our Earth? Comment below or message me.

Top Ten Imperfect New Year’s Resolutions for the Recovering Perfectionist

Something about a new year inspires a lot of us to set new goals, embark on a new journey, and leave bad habits behind (as if it’s that easy). It is as if the ball drops, signifying the new year and poof, we change our lifestyle and our priorities.

Sometimes we accomplish our goals but sometimes life is stressful and January is not the dry/clean month we had planned while justifying our eating/drinking at holiday gatherings. And I should mention that while I am certainly not encouraging binge eating and/or drinking, I have been reflecting on self-acceptance, forgiving oneself, and the value of moving on and setting more meaningful goals this year.

Because at least for me, even when I accomplish my (often lofty) goals, I am still not happy with myself. It never seems to be enough and I remain imperfect. And it’s even worse when I don’t accomplish the goals I set!!! But guess what? There is nothing really wrong with indulging and adapting here and there, especially when our goals are shallow and indulging means skipping going to the gym to spend time with an elderly relative or a lonely friend. The only thing wrong with breaking our own rules once the year turns new is our mindset about it. Part of acceptance is being able to adapt and savor those moments of presence with loved ones without feeling terrible about making an exception to your own rules.

I’ve written down ten imperfect goals for people, especially parents, that share in the struggle to accept our imperfections as perfections. I hope they are deeper and more realistic than the typical goals we often set for the new year.

1. Instead of trying to do more this year, try to do less. Say no to hustle and bustle. Slow down.

2. Instead of resolving to change yourself, work to ACCEPT yourself. You are beautiful just as God created you!

3. Rather than focusing on physical inadequacies, as defined by the images of beauty projected by others, focus on TRUE BEAUTY, which always comes from within. Look inward, not outward.

4. When you indulge or don’t meet a goal you’ve made, forgive yourself. Forgiveness means being sorry for wrongdoing and doing your best to repent or be better. But if your goals were unrealistic, shallow, or for the wrong reasons, prayerfully reflect and reconsider your goals.

5. Practice discipline. We are stewards of our bodies, spirits and minds, so it’s necessary to be disciplined, exercise our free will and make hard choices.

6. Pray daily, hourly, constantly and consistently. Let your work be a prayer. Look and listen for God in everything you do and in everyone you encounter.

7. Set small accomplishable goals and celebrate every success, no matter how small.

8. Whether you stay at home or work full time, when you are with your children, say “yes” to really being present with them for at least a few minutes every day. Set a timer, if it helps.

9. Observe your children and take a moment to look for their sense(s) of wonder daily. Pause and try to see the world through their eyes.

10. Ask for help. Be humble enough to ask for help. Love yourself enough to understand your limitations. We were created for interdependence, not independence.

Our culture wants us to believe that our identity and who we are is limited to what is written on our resumes, how many friends we have on social media, how beautiful we are according to unhealthy standards that dehumanize the beauty of our human diversity (including but not limited to neurodiversity that is both visible and invisible). So easily we forget that we are all born naked, vulnerable, dependent on others for home, food, drink, freedom, safety, and for love. We receive so many different levels of nourishment (physical, mental, spiritual) on earth.

When we look deeper than the surface, it doesn’t really matter that you fit into your prepregnancy clothes, had “perfect” hair or skin, kept your house clean, stayed on top of laundry and dishes at all times, had a kick-ass career. It doesn’t matter if you were a respected, well-known, rich, or even famous. What matters in the end is love. Did you put God above all things? Did you love your neighbor as yourself? Did you teach love by living love?


My Sister’s Wedding

My gorgeous sister, Leah, got married Saturday, and everything about her wedding and reception was perfect. I loved that it was all very “her” and also very “him” from the Timberwolves theme (both basketball lovers, they happened to meet at a Timberwolves game) to the groomsmen’s blue Air Jordans.

I may have ugly-cried (okay, I did) when Leah interrupted her wedding ceremony right before she and Jeremiah said their vows and surprised all of us (even the Pastor) with THE most beautiful speech of proposal to her stepdaughter. It was so thoughtful, loving and authentic. Even the groom was in tears.

Here is her surprise speech:

I was not there when you took your first steps or said your first words. But I promise I won’t miss a first of anything again. in the past two years I’ve watched you lose your first tooth, ride a bike for the first time, graduate kindergarten, become a big sister, learn how to do your first cart wheel, and continue to grow into an amazing young woman. I am not here to replace anyone nor will I try to. I will be the best I can to you and your daddy. I promise to love you as if you were my own, to protect you, to listen to you, and to always support your dreams. I promise to cherish every moment we spend together but most of all I promise to love you unconditionally. I am so thankful that you are sharing your daddy with me. You have touched my heart in a way that you can’t understand. I may not have given you life but life has given me you. Will you officially take me as your stepmom by accepting this charm bracelet?

I was delighted to be included as a bridesmaid Leah’s wedding. Each of the bridesmaids were beautiful, gracious, smart, endearing, fun.

I couldn’t be happier for Leah and her awesome husband, Jeremiah. I am thrilled for their two beautiful kids. I am thrilled for my family too. We gained a brother/uncle and niece/cousin. Like I said at the reception, when I was a little girl, my Dad asked me to pray that he wins the lottery and I prayed for a little sister for myself. Truly, I won the lottery when Leah was born. She’s exceeded all of my dreams and imagination.

Staying home

The fresh cold air fills me with gratitude for my current freedom and privilege of staying home with my little ones.

Without a doubt, motherhood is deeply challenging. I constantly worry about the kids’ development, as I find myself challenged by their behavior and at a loss for how to respond to tantrums. I feel really frustrated when my school-aged children try to negotiate with me or ask me “why” rather than immediately obeying me.

I’m an imperfect work in progress. And as a mother of six children, I am humbled by how much I don’t know. Every time I think I have things under control or know about parenting, I’m humbled and reminded that I don’t control anything but I DO have free will to respond to any person or situation with love or with frustration and impatience. I often choose to respond with the latter with my own children. Today I’m going to try to be calmer and slower to respond. I am going to try channel the feelings of appreciation I had this morning to be a loving teacher.

As I pulled the two youngest kids around our house on a sled this morning, I felt thankful, blessed and energized. Thankful for the legs and feet that carry me, the body strong and healthy enough to pull the sled through the snow without pain or difficulty, Sir William Wallace (our collie) prancing along side us, the pure joy and delight in my kids’ eyes and their gut giggles when we speed down a slope, the beautiful trees around us, the cold crisp air that is fresh and pure to breathe. Exhilarating, beautiful, peaceful . . . I pray for grace to appreciate the abundance of blessings that have been poured down upon me.

Deployment Day 1

Today was a melancholy day. We miss Dylan so much already. I didn’t prepare a menu ahead of time this week, so we had breakfast for dinner (banana chocolate chip pancakes, sausages, eggs, bacon). The kids were hungry and enjoyed dinner with cheerful attitudes. I really enjoyed hearing about their days and appreciated their table manners (which are often lacking, to be honest). “I miss Dad so much already,” was something I heard about a million times today. It brought me joy and gratitude each time.