More Than Politics

I recently was honored to appear on Julie Varner Walsh‘s brand-new podcast, More Than Politics,  a “podcast for those of us who want something more than what we’ve come to expect from politics — and from our political discourse. Each week, More Than Politics will feature a conversation that helps put today’s politics in context, that honestly and charitably explores the issues of the day, that encourages us to engage in politics in a moral, even loving way.

I have been enjoying the podcast since it began–I feel smarter every time I listen!  Julie and I had a great discussion about feeling politically uncomfortable.  You can listen to it here.

And you can expect to be seeing more political posts from me (or that’s what I currently intend, anyway) as we get closer to the Presidential Election.

Unethical Vaccines: From HeLa to COVID-19

I recently wrote an article on the connection between abortion and vaccines for the American Life League‘s Celebrate Life magazine:

Baltimore, 1951: A young woman lay dying in her hospital bed, her body riddled with cancer. Before her death, doctors scraped some cells from her cervix. Later, without her knowledge or consent, those cells—“the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory”—became instrumental in innumerable medical studies and discoveries.1 They also generated incalculable wealth. 

That young woman was Henrietta Lacks, and if you’ve heard her name, it’s because of Rebecca Skloot’s curiosity. One day in a biology class, Skloot encountered a picture of the unnamed woman whose cells were known as HeLa, their donor little more than a footnote in a textbook. Skloot’s determination to learn that woman’s name led to her best-selling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Lacks’ descendants, many of them struggling in poverty, have never received a penny from the millions generated by her cells.

But Lacks is not the only unknown and unknowing person whose cells have contributed to medical advances.

Read the rest here.

Dear Reluctant Homeschooler

If you are considering homeschooling this coming semester, not with enthusiasm, but with looming dread, this post is for you.

Because a lot of people who have never wanted to homeschool, who looked forward to the departure of their kids on Monday morning, whose kids loved school and thrived there, are staring down deadlines to choose from a menu of unpalatable choices and finding that homeschooling makes the most sense for them and their kids in this very strange season.

I, too, was a more or less reluctant homeschooler once–getting my start because I felt my son would not do well with a particular teacher, the only one who was teaching his grade in the parochial school we were otherwise pleased with.  But what I was forced to do, in the end I came to love, and in total I taught four of my kids at home off and on as their needs dictated.

This year, I will have two kids–a college freshman and a high school sophomore–at home.  They won’t really be homeschooled, since they are doing virtual learning which is not at all the same thing.  But if I had any little kids, I know I would be homeschooling them this year.  And I want to encourage you, if you are considering it–it is not as hard as you think!

To that end, I’ve gathered ALL my homeschooling posts below.  I hope you may find some ideas, inspiration, or just comfort from seeing how easy homeschooling can be.  And I also want to tell you that even though I wasn’t always as successful at teaching my kids at home as I thought I could or should be, all the ones I homeschooled have gone back to conventional schools eventually and excelled despite any inadequacies on my part.  I have no regrets and neither do they.

Homeschooling for Dummies

Old-Fashioned Homeschooling

Math Doesn’t Have to Be Fun

Do It Yourself Homeschooling: Spelling

Homeschooling Update: Reading

Homeschooling Win!

Homeschooling Fringe Benefits

Five Homeschooling Favorites

We Are Still Homeschooling

To Everything a Season: Why It’s Okay to Stop Homeschooling

There Is No Foreseeable Future

There is no foreseeable future.

Read it again: There is no foreseeable future.

Now, this isn’t a grammar rant, though that irksome phrase cries out for one.  Because, y’all, unless you believe in clairvoyance (and actually even if you do!), no one can foresee any part of the future–that time which has not yet come.

Still, the ubiquity of that utterance suggests that we think we can, and worse, that we think we should be able to.  And both beliefs are a recipe for suffering, especially in the Year of Our Lord 2020.

2020 Vision

Remember all those memes in December and January, all that clarity we were sure to experience in a year when we would all finally have 2020 vision?  Now we’ve moved on to memes about that most useless of all purchases: a 2020 planner.

If you take nothing else away from this unprecedented year, I hope this is it: there is  no 2020 vision when it comes to the future.

Planning and Control

Many years ago, I encountered a newspaper ad that triumphantly declared: “The secret to a happy life is planning!”  Y’all, I am here to tell you that planning is NOT the secret to a happy life. (Want the REAL secret? I wrote about it right here.)

An obsession with planning reflects a grasping for control.  Guess what? Not only can you not foresee the future, you also cannot control it.

Let me share a couple of examples from my own life, moving from dramatic and life-changing to small and mundane.

Nine years ago, we left town for a few days to attend a funeral.  While we were gone, our house burned to the ground.  I promise we did not see that one coming.  That unforeseeable event changed our lives–it changed our futures.  We moved to a different part of town–somewhere I never envisioned living.  There were new schools and new friends for the kids, changing job opportunities and pastimes for the adults. Even my outlook on life took on an entirely new shape because of that one event.

On a smaller scale, a couple of weeks ago, Lorelei and I were making dinner.  I had the whole evening planned out–I’ve coped with quarantine by devising and living by a regular daily schedule.  But then Lorelei sliced open a finger while opening a can of fruit.  We spent the whole evening in the emergency room–breaking our strict quarantine to hang out in the last place one would wish to go during a pandemic.  That was NOT the evening I had “foreseen.”

Given 30 seconds to think, you would come up with your own examples, of course.  But the truth is that not even our next breath is promised us.

Those who know me might think I’m attempting to justify my family’s haphazard existence–it’s true that we’ve always been a leap-of-faith kind of family.  But I promise it’s not.  I actually love planning things–more than doing them, if I’m honest.  I own a Catholic Women Shine planner and I’ve used it to accomplish quite a bit while safe at home this year.  It’s very natural to look toward the future–which we imagine we can foresee because generally it has a somewhat predictable shape–work, school, vacations.  It’s the absence of that shape right now that is so disconcerting but which also offers us a lesson and an opportunity.

Planning and Worrying

Our attempts at foreseeing the future are especially dangerous for those with a tendency toward anxiety and a predilection for worrying.  It’s called “living in the wreckage of the future” and it is a miserable way to spend your life–imagining every worst-case scenario and suffering RIGHT NOW over events that probably won’t happen.  And even if they DO happen, being miserable NOW, wasting the opportunity you have NOW for happiness, won’t change anything.

I may have mentioned a time or two that we Shollys are extremely focused Star Trek fans.  In the pilot episode of Deep Space Nine, Commander Benjamin Sisko finds himself explaining the concept of linear time to the god-like beings called the Prophets who exist outside of time.  At one point they show him a painful memory of his wife’s death, an experience which continues to cause him guilt, anger, and grief.  He says:  It’s difficult to be here, more difficult than any other memory. . .  this was the day that I lost Jennifer. I don’t want to be here.
One of the Prophets replies:  Then why do you exist here?

This encounter helps Sisko to move forward with his life.  Most of us understand that living in the past is a bad idea, but living in the future is just as bad.  As Leo Buscaglia said:  “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

So I have a proposition for you.  Rather than worrying about everything that could go wrong in the future–in fact, even rather than dreaming about all that could go right with it–what if you do your best to focus only on the day in front of you? What if you let yourself see the future as a beautiful surprise just waiting to unfold?

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Design a Custom Baptism Announcement or First Holy Communion Invitation with Basic Invite

May is the Month of Our Mother, but for Catholics it is usually something more: a time for First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and graduations.  My Facebook Memories remind me that last year around this time we celebrated one nephew’s First Holy Communion, another’s Baptism, and my daughter’s Confirmation and 8th grade graduation!

baby boy in baptism bonnet Confirmation day with Bishop First Holy Communion boy

Well, things are a little different this year, aren’t they? When I watch my parish’s Sunday Mass via Facebook Live, the Prayers of the Faithful prompt me to pray for those who would have celebrated their First Holy Communions or Confirmations on spring Sundays, but who are now having to wait as patiently as possible for the grace of those Sacraments, as we all wait and long for our return to Mass and the Eucharist.

But we WILL celebrate again!  And part of our holy anticipation lies in planning for these blessed events.  Basic Invite is here to help with
baptism announcements, First Holy Communion invitations, and more, and they want me to tell you why you should choose their products to make those occasions special when they arrive.

baptism announcement

[Disclaimer: I was compensated for providing you with my honest opinion of Basic Invite.]

I’ll be honest: after just a few minutes of looking over Basic Invite’s website, I started wishing I needed a baptism announcement or a First Holy Communion invitation.  The tools they provide make it look not just easy to design your announcements and invitations, but even fun!

The first exciting thing, and what really sets Basic Invite apart from the competition, is access to unlimited color combinations.  There are over 180 colors available, and you can change the color of every element on every card.  This is coupled with instant online previewing so you can get your design exactly right.

baptism announcement

But online viewing doesn’t really compare with seeing the real thing, does it?  Basic Invite allows customers to order a printed sample of their baptism announcement or First Holy Communion invitation.  That way you can see and feel the quality of the paper, and know in advance how it will print before placing a final order.

To customize your design even further, you can choose from over 40 different envelope colors!  And for those who don’t enjoy licking envelopes, all Basic Invite’s envelopes are peel and seal so you can get them ready for mailing quickly and easily.

baptism announcement

And about that mailing:  Basic Invite also provides a free address collection service.  Here’s how it works: share a link with your guests via social media or email, collect their addresses, and Basic Invite will print your envelopes free of charge!

Of course you want to know prices, which start at .75 per card and increase depending on factors like shape and the addition of photos.  The cost of each upgrade is clearly marked as you go through the process of designing your card.  And everything is 15% off until the end of the month!

Love Your Neighbor: Wear Your Mask

Once upon a time, a man was given the opportunity to pay a visit to both Heaven and Hell, accompanied by a guide.

Upon arriving in Hell, he was amazed to see a long table laden with a banquet of every delicious food imaginable.  But rather than enjoying the food, the residents of Hell were arguing, complaining, crying.  It was then that he realized the only utensils available to the would-be diners were spoons so long that it was impossible for anyone to eat with them.  The condemned were doomed to suffer an eternity of longing for food they were unable to eat.

Next his guide led the man to Heaven, where he was surprised to see a nearly identical scene–the delectable banquet, the extra-long spoons.  But instead of the wailing and gnashing of teeth he had witnessed in Hell, he saw that the inhabitants of Heaven were smiling, talking with one another, even laughing–and EATING.  The difference? In Heaven, everyone was using their long spoons to feed their neighbors on the opposite side of the table.

I read this story over 40 years ago in one of my grandmother’s old Readers Digests, but I’ve never forgotten it and have often repeated it.  And it rose into my mind abruptly this week when I read a local reporter’s account of the failure of most people to wear the masks that have been recommended while in public as long as pandemic conditions continue.

Every day I read online diatribes from those who refuse to wear masks because this is America or because they are so uncomfortable or because they don’t like being forced to do anything or even because no one should tell them what to do with their own bodies.  Do I even need to tell you how ridiculous it sounds when professed pro-life Christians go around saying such things?

Here’s the real reason people aren’t wearing masks: mask-wearing has a negligible protective effect upon the wearer.  What masks do well, though, is prevent a potentially ill wearer from spreading germs to others.  I wear a mask to protect you, and you wear one to protect me.  Some especially vulnerable folks–like my friend’s medically fragile son–have difficulty wearing masks and are especially counting on the goodwill and compliance of the rest of us.

The freedom and individualism prized by Americans diametrically oppose the idea of being required to do something that only benefits others, not themselves.  However, some 75% of Americans claim to be Christians and should therefore be ready to love their vulnerable neighbor by wearing masks even if it were not required.

Instead, it would appear that we Americans are a selfish bunch doomed to a Hell of our own making.

Faith, Fitness, and Food: Three Quarantine Necessities

So here we are, about six weeks into this very strange time of Covid-19 quarantine, and I am a little embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying myself, thanks primarily to faith, fitness, and food.

Alliteration is great for blog titles, but I didn’t have to work hard to come up with that one. It really describes my life for the past six weeks, and for this introvert, it’s all been good.

What I HAVEN’t found myself doing, surprisingly, is writing blog posts. And maybe that invites some contemplation on my part. But let me tell you what I have been doing instead to pass the time.

FAITH

We can’t go to Mass and that hurts.  I miss that more than anything.  But there are lots of other ways to practice our faith and I have doubled down on them all.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a whole prayer room, which is a great blessing all the time and especially now.  So I start off every morning there, and I spend an hour there every evening.   On Sunday mornings, I watch my parish‘s live-streamed Mass.  The rest of the family gets their “church” in the afternoon.  We read the readings, and since our pastor generously provides us with a copy of his homily and the week’s Universal Prayer, we read those as well. We recite the creed, say the spiritual communion prayer, sing the Regina Caeli (because Easter) and finish up with the Prayer to Saint Michael.

I take advantage of a ton of resources to make this time meaningful for me, many of which I have written about here and here.  I use Hallow and Pray as You Go daily.  I enjoyed the Pray More Lenten Retreat and the Be Not Afraid conference, which is still online and available.  And I’ve signed up for several other free Catholic conferences.

FITNESS

I wasn’t kidding myself in the past when I said I didn’t have time for exercise.  But I have time now and I am using it.  I was already pursuing some fitness goals when this started, going to the gym three days a week and walking 45 minutes most days.  Now, with the gym closed, I am doing the Jane Fonda workout (yes, the one from 1982) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  I borrowed some weights from my next door neighbor and I do a little with those and also do some squats and push ups (girl push ups, and not very well) on what would normally have been gym days.

But what I really love to do is walk, and there is a flat paved loop trail at the park a two-minute drive away (and before you ask, there is no safe way to walk there, which is stupid).  I walk for an hour every morning after breakfast if it does not rain. (When it rains, I suffer.) To pass the time while walking loops I listen to Hallow or Pray as You Go or a Catholic talk or podcast.  On Saturdays I switch it up by walking at the track on the All Saints Parish campus while saying the Rosary.  Every afternoon at five, my next door neighbor and I do loops around the bottom half of our street (socially distanced from one another and passers-by). All told, I am averaging over 11,000 steps and almost five miles each day.  Since 10,000 steps was the goal I had set for myself, I am pleased.

FOOD

It was Lent when all this began, as you will recall, and one of my Lenten disciplines was to do a modified Whole 30.  Thus I was unable to bake tasty treats (well I could have, but I didn’t want to bake things and not be able to eat them!) until after Easter. That was a huge blessing, because by then I had developed such healthy habits that I really didn’t feel like over-indulging on chocolate and such for more than a couple of days.  I KNOW I would have turned to food for comfort if I hadn’t been so limited in what I could eat.

But here’s the thing, limited or not, I (and my family) still had to eat.  And the fact is that I had gotten WAY out of the habit of preparing seven dinners a week (let alone all those lunches and breakfasts).  I mean, I don’t think I’ve done that since about 2009 and that is no exaggeration.  John and I go out Monday nights; Lorelei has youth group at our downtown parish on Wednesdays and so we all go our own ways for dinner; and I hang out at Panera Bread alone every Friday evening.  So that leaves four dinners a week for me to come up with, tops, and there are always other things going on that lead us to eat out, or grab fast food, or order in . . . I’m sure lots of you can relate.

But for the past six weeks we’ve eaten together, at the same time every night, primarily meals that I’ve cooked, sometimes with Lorelei and/or Emily’s assistance.  I start by doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, and I really take my time and enjoy the process.  We use Blue Apron and Hello Fresh so two nights a week the meals are planned for me, and that has been a huge blessing as far as not having to worry about having all the ingredients on hand as well.  I also schedule a regular shipment of produce from Misfits Market.  It has still been challenging to come up with a variety of meals that people will enjoy.  We have only had takeout a couple of times due to reduced income at the moment.  But despite the challenge and doing some complaining about it because it is yet another big responsibility that falls on mostly me, I am also enjoying it and don’t want to go back to how we did things before.

My faith, fitness, and food quarantine coping strategies have something in common and that is ROUTINE.  I have developed daily and weekly routines that I stick to that give a rhythm to the day. This is very satisfying and keeps me on track, not to mention sane.  I get up early every morning (although no longer before dark, which I have always hated).  I do the same things in the same order at more or less the same time every day, and because there are no longer outside commitments that schedule doesn’t get interrupted which is comforting.  I’ve created a nice balance of exercise and office work, personal pursuits and homemaking, relaxation and prayer.  This is something else that I hope I can hold onto.

As I planned this post I noticed the overlap among faith, fitness, and food.  What I am eating contributes to my fitness and my desire for fitness influences what I cook–and don’t cook–for my family.  An hour of my fitness time each day doubles as faith time.  And of course the time I spend specifically on faith in my prayer room grounds me and helps me to do all the rest of it.

I would love to hear how the rest of you are doing in quarantine.  Do you like it? Hate it? Both? Have you developed a routine or are you winging it? Is there anything you’e started to do that you want to continue when we get back to “normal”? Let me know in the comments.

Another Trip to San Francisco

If I can say one thing with certainty about my third trip to San Francisco, it’s this: my photography skills have improved since last year’s trip. (If I do say so myself–we’ll see if y’all agree with me!)

THURSDAY

We took a second trip to San Francisco to visit Teddy in February 2019.  It was another all-day journey, this time with a connection through Chicago, pictured above.

As usual, I am not a big fan of flying.  I pray the rosary non-stop until we are safely in the air.

We reached the city with daylight to spare, and found ourselves on the 11th floor of the Hyatt in the Financial District, with this beautiful view. (Thank you, Priceline!)  Teddy came to meet us and we walked into the Little Italy area to have dinner with him and one of his Notre Dame buddies.

Afterwards, we relaxed in the hotel lobby for awhile.  Though we were tickled by the names above, I actually just ended up with coffee.

And then it was time to rest up for the busy day we had planned.

FRIDAY

It was a beautiful morning! After breakfast at the hotel, we started walking toward the starting point for our big adventure.

We were heading for Pier 33 to board a ferry for Alcatraz Island.  I had to buy these tickets before we left Knoxville, as they sell out well in advance.  We purchased a ticket for Teddy as well, but something came up at work so we were on our own.

The sky darkened as we approached the island.  And it did in fact rain heavily during our visit there, but happily we were inside when it happened.

One of the cool aspects of our Alcatraz tour is that it covered the entire history of the island, from its beginnings as a fort to the 1970s when Native Americans took over the island to draw attention to their unfair treatment at the hands of the U.S. Government.

Since the prison is what Alcatraz Island is most famous for, I was surprised and fascinated by all the history shared by the Park personnel and the movie we watched at the beginning of the tour.  It is also a surprisingly beautiful place, if a little dilapidated in spots.

The self-guided prison tour, accompanied by headphone narration, was masterful.  Voices of former prisoners and guards provided the commentary as we walked from site to site within the prison.

One of the hardest aspects of confinement at Alacatraz was the nearness of the city, always a visible reminder of the world outside.  Sometimes sounds of laughter and music would drift across the Bay.

Our visit to Alcatraz took most of the day.  I feel like this was the evening we went to see Teddy’s apartment–he had moved with a friend into a place closer to his office–but I can’t remember what we did for the rest of the evening.

SATURDAY

Saturday was a busy day for me and a mostly restful one for John.  I started by leaving the hotel (above) in search for some good coffee (below).

On our last visit, Teddy had made it a point to take us to several local coffee establishments, which were all excellent.  Philz was the closest to the Hyatt, and I enjoyed my first ever avocado toast along with the coffee.

After I took John some coffee and breakfast, I went back out and headed for the Ferry Building and the Saturday market I had enjoyed so much on my last trip to San Francisco.

I bought some souvenirs to take home and then went back to the room, where I discovered John had neglected to pack his preventive asthma medication, which necessitated many calls to find an open nearby Walgreens and to get an emergency prescription transferred there.  There were many within walking distance, but because we were in the Financial District, most were not open on weekends.  So my next task was to go on a walk and return with the medicine.

By the time I returned I had already walked about three miles.  And it was time for more walking, since the day’s plan involved my meeting Teddy at the Museum of Modern Art, some distance away.

We didn’t have enough time to see the entire museum, but we saw a lot.  Here are a few things that stood out:

After the museum, we walked to Chinatown to meet John and to eat and stroll about.

I convinced John we should walk back to the hotel afterwards.  It was downhill all the way, which was a good thing since I ended up having walked around 12 miles all told.  We had drinks in the lobby and stared, mesmerized, at the giant sculpture below, which changes colors frequently thanks to an array of lights that are trained on it.

SUNDAY

The next morning, we met Teddy behind the Ferry Building to catch the Sausalito Ferry.

We didn’t take the ferry for the view–although it was lovely.  We had a purpose for our trip.

We ate a quick lunch at a nearby cafe, and then hopped on a bus (tickets purchased in advance–this is not something you can do on the spur of the moment) for our trip to Muir Woods to see some giant redwoods.

It was, as you would expect, beautiful and peaceful, and very different from the forests on our side of the country.

After our bus ride back to Sausalito, we walked along the water in search of dinner.

We ended up at Scoma’s, which is funny since we ate at the one on the San Francisco side of the bay on our last trip to San Francisco and we did not know there was one on this side until we happened upon it.

Then it was back to the city to rest before our final day.

MONDAY

Before we left the eleventh floor for the last time, I wanted to record the terrifying drop to the lobby below.  We were grateful not to have any small children with us, particularly considering the small children we once had, who would almost certainly have tried to climb over the drop if they had an opportunity!

We checked out but left our luggage in storage, and took a nice walk along the waterfront, making our way to the Maritime Museum, where we had planned to meet up with Teddy.  Here are some sights along the way.

The museum itself was incredibly cool and I’m a little surprised I didn’t take any pictures of its art deco architecture and decor.  Pictured below is the tiny craft in which a young Japanese man once crossed the Pacific to reach San Francisco.  Please take the time to read his words in the second picture, which I found incredibly moving.

We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading to the San Francisco Maritime National Park, just a couple of blocks away.  This included a museum showcasing displays on the history of the city, and admission to the Hyde Street Pier, with its fleet of historic vessels.

The Eureka, pictured above, was my favorite–a ferry that carried people (and cars!) across the Bay every day until the bridges were built.  Below are a few more pictures of her.

Below is Hercules the tugboat:

And there were older ships as well:

I got some nice shots as we left the pier:

From there, the three of us headed to the Buena Vista Cafe, famous for Irish Coffee.  Teddy had treated me to one during our epic walk on our last trip to San Francisco, and I wanted another one.  That was the last thing we did together before Teddy left us to go back to work.  We made our way back to the hotel to get our luggage and head to the airport, where we ate dinner before taking another redeye flight home.

And tomorrow we will be heading out for our third trip to San Francisco.  The most important item on the agenda this time is meeting Teddy’s girlfriend. 🙂

You can follow along on Instagram or wait till I post about it here!

The Globetrotters Are Coming! (Sponsored)

I grew up watching cartoon versions of the Harlem Globetrotters on Saturday mornings, and now, thanks to U.S. Family Guide, I will get to see them in person!

They are coming to Knoxville this Friday, and I’ll come back here to tell you all about it (giving my honest opinion, as always, although I’ve been given free tickets in exchange for promoting their tour).

My readers can save on tickets to upcoming appearances with this code:

Save 25% Off Harlem Globetrotter Tickets Any Game 

Here’s what U.S. Family Guide has asked me to share with my readers:

All-New Harlem Globetrotters Pushing The Limits World Tour

This is more than a basketball game. It is more than a show.  It is the one and only Harlem Globetrotters in an all-new, larger-than-life world tour.  You’ll be on your feet, out of your seat, laughing until it hurts and loving every moment. The 5th Quarter – The game isn’t over after the final shot! Meet your favorite Globetrotter courtside after the game to get an autograph and photo. Don’t miss out – get your tickets today and save SAVE 25% for ALL Harlem Globetrotters Games with promo code FUNFAM Must purchase 14 days before Game Date.

Find the schedule for your area here.

 

Trip to San Francisco

A Trip to San Francisco

My first trip to San Francisco was also my first plane ride and my first time away from my family.  It was 1981 and I had just graduated from St. Joseph Elementary School.  My godfather had business in California and invited me along to keep his 12-year-old daughter–who was more like a cousin to me–company.

Almost 40 years have gone by but I still remember parts of that trip with clarity–eating shrimp cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf, attending my first baseball game (that went to 14 innings!) at Candlestick Park, dinner in Chinatown (my first Chinese food!), the cold and the fog for which we were totally unprepared . . . I truly left a bit of my heart in San Francisco and longed for years to return.

Then in July 2017 a piece of my heart left for San Francisco, giving me a suitable motivation for traveling there.  We visited Teddy in February 2018 and 2019 (on his birthday, which has conveniently fallen during the three-day President’s Day weekend) and will be returning next month.  I love San Francisco even more now than I did then, and I’ve taken many pictures that I want to share.

Originally this was going to be one big post, but then I saw I had nearly 100 pictures from our 2018 visit.  So let’s just start with that one, shall we?

THURSDAY

One cannot fly direct from Knoxville to San Francisco, so it took us all day; we arrived after dark and took a cab straight to our hotel.  After meeting Teddy for a late dinner (very nice Greek restaurant, his treat), we explored a little before bed, and took the pictures below.

Both of those are shots of the Ferry Building.  Before bridges crossed the Bay, ferries were the only transportation and the Ferry Building was a busy place.  Nowadays it’s mostly retail space after a period of desertion and disrepair.

The Embarcadero used to be a raised freeway.  San Francisco redefined progress by removing it and reconnecting the Financial District to the waterfront.

Of course we had to walk down to the water and get a picture of the Bay Bridge.

FRIDAY

I got up bright and early Friday morning to do a little exploring.  We stayed in this hotel in the heart of the Financial District, because it was close to where Teddy worked at the time.

I was so excited that I just kept on walking until I found myself in Chinatown.

And while there I happened upon a parade celebrating the Chinese New Year! It was a complete surprise to me!

There is a Catholic church in Chinatown.  It’s staffed by the Paulist Fathers, just like my own parish church.  Now called Old Saint Mary’s, it used to be the San Francisco Cathedral.  I took lots of pictures:

I was on a roll by now.  I wanted to see if I could climb to the very top of the hill I was on, so I did.

Pictures don’t really do justice to the hills.  That last one, with a view of Alcatraz, comes closest.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I was scared to walk back down and was grateful that some of the sidewalks actually have steps cut into them.

I decided to walk back another way and here are a few of the sights I saw:

Above are two views of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.  Below is St. Francis of Assisi, the first parish church in San Francisco.

Below is a cool view of the Transamerica Pyramid (which was how I found my way back to the hotel–you can see it from everywhere) juxtaposed with Columbus Tower aka the Sentinel Building, owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

Later in the day John and I walked along the Embarcadero down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area, where we met Teddy for dinner at Scoma’s, an amazing seafood restaurant on the water.  Here are the pictures I took that evening:

SATURDAY

I headed out first thing in the morning (while John slept in) to the big outdoor Farmer’s Market at the aforementioned Ferry Building.  In addition to food, many artisans ply their wares on the street leading to the market, so I purchased souvenirs to take home.

I snapped the above photo behind the Ferry Building during the Market.  I cannot now recall why this statue stands there, but I like it nonetheless!

Below is my photo of a poem that brings tears to my eyes when I read it, describing the destruction of the elevated freeway that formerly divided the city from the waterfront.

I returned to the hotel and John and I took an Uber (this was the trip where we learned all about Uber!) to Teddy’s house, which he was sharing with four other young men.  After he showed us around, we went out to explore the neighborhood(the Marina District).  I took the following pictures at what Teddy called his favorite place, the Palace of Fine Arts.  Note the random person in the picture below to understand the scale.  It is an amazing sight.

After lunch at a neighborhood pizza place, we took another Uber to Golden Gate Park.  We did not have any idea how big it is or what we would do there.  It’s definitely somewhere I want to revisit, specifically to see the Japanese Tea House, which was closed when we were there.

We thought it would be fun to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, so we got an Uber across.  After taking a few pictures, though, we realized that we had just missed–by seconds–the deadline to get onto the bridge before security locked it for the night.

After this disappointment we decided that since we were already across the bridge we would Uber to Sausalito for dinner.  We found a nice little Tuscan restaurant, then headed back to the city for ice cream at Ghirardelli Square.

SUNDAY

Sunday morning I thought it would be fun to drink my coffee on the roof of the hotel.  Which it was until some guy came up there and started smoking weed.  At like 9 a.m.  Smoking marijuana is legal in SF, but not out in the open.  But everyone does, and the smell is EVERYWHERE.

We went to Mass at the church I showed you above.  Father Tom Tavella is the pastor.  He was formerly at our parish, and in fact baptized Teddy, so that was a cool reunion, and his homily was just as good as I expected from past experience.

We wanted to have lunch in Chinatown, and Father Tavella suggested a place nearby.

After lunch we did a little sightseeing and shopping.

I then wanted to re-attempt to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  John wanted to go back to the hotel and have a rest.  So we agreed to meet for dinner, and Teddy and I took another Uber to the far side of the bridge.

This is the only picture I snapped while on the bridge.  It was so windy that I was frankly afraid to take my phone out.  It was a little scary honestly but I am glad to have done it.  I would like to do it again on the opposite side some time.

After the bridge we just kept walking.

Past the National Cemetery.

All around the Presidio.

By this statue of Phineas Farnsworth.  And around Fort Mason.  And back to Teddy’s house in the Marina District.  And to the gym so he could work out for a few minutes.  In short (it was not short) we walked all the way back to the hotel.  I was not going to be the one to stop! By the end of the day I had walked 12 miles.  After we finished dinner (we ate at the very nice restaurant attached to our hotel), I had a difficult time getting out of the booth and up to the room!  Teddy and John went to a movie but I was happy to rest.

MONDAY

We checked out of our hotel Monday morning (leaving our bags in storage) and hopped on a double-decker tour bus for one of those two-hour tourist trips around the city.  That was when I snapped the above picture.  Later we met back up with Teddy and went shopping for ingredients so I could bake him a red velvet cake for his birthday (a bit difficult as the kitchen was not fully equipped for baking, but it still turned out okay).

Then it was time for good-byes, a trip to the airport, and the red-eye flight back home.  We managed to have fun until the end with this cool exhibit at the airport:

And that’s the end . . . but I will post the pictures of our 2019 trip in a few days.