When Charity and Love Prevail

Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1822).

I have a clear memory of myself as a little girl, pondering God and his ways. How could it be that He was everywhere? Or that He always was? And how could He possibly expect me to love everybody, even people I did not even know, or people I did not like?

Later I learned the difference between theological and human virtues, and as I grew (and especially after I became a mother) my heart expanded and filled with the love of neighbor the Catechism speaks of.

When most of us read “charity” our minds turn specifically to charitable giving, perhaps the writing of checks, or dropping off old clothes at a donation site, or even tax write-offs. This month we commemorate the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. Although best known as the saint we pray to when we need to find a lost item, Saint Anthony is also the patron of the poor. This patronage arises from the story of a woman who gave the poor the weight of her drowned child in grain after Saint Anthony interceded on her behalf to restore the child to life. When we follow her example and give to those in need, our actions should be animated by the virtue of charity, for “Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love (Catechism 1827).

Ten years ago, I experienced both kinds of charity when a tragedy befell our family. My husband and I and our youngest children were out of town attending a funeral when the phone call came, telling us that our house was on fire. We arrived home two days later to find a smoky, sodden ruin. We lost almost everything we owned.

Instantly homeless and bereft, we were also almost instantly lifted up by the prayers, love, and generosity of the various communities of which we were a part. Hundreds of people, most of whom we did not know personally, came to our aid. Friends welcomed our older children into their homes, my son’s football team provided us with evening meals for months, and clothes for the kids poured in from folks far and near. On the day we moved into a new home three weeks after the fire, it took a 24-foot truck to collect all the donations that fully furnished our house.

This was more than perfunctory charity: it was the love of neighbor that Jesus calls us to. Because of this love, what might have been purely tragic was transformed into something that was also beautiful.

Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest (Catechism 1829).

This reflection originally appeared as a Witness Testimony in the June 2021 Lily Box from Seeds for Sainthood.

 

 

When You Became You: A Scientifically Accurate Celebration of Human Beings

I have an article published in the Spring issue of Celebrate Life Magazine.

Brooke and Christiane worked with a New York Times best-selling illustrator for four months, providing guidance and ideas for the illustrations. According to Brooke: “The illustrations truly capture and enhance the essence of the book’s scientifically accurate celebration of our shared humanity, in terms of human development. The illustrator [who was advised by her American partners to omit her name from the book due to its “controversial” nature] took great care to make the artwork engaging and beautiful while keeping the science at the center of the story.”

These beautiful illustrations are inspired by the Carnegie Stages of Human Embryonic Development and by actual images of preborn human beings at various stages. In addition, the illustrations “incorporated abstract DNA strands, the infinity symbol, the Earth, the solar system, chemical symbols, elements from the periodic table, etc. to reinforce the message that we are introducing children to important science about when a human being . . . begins to exist.” 

You can read the rest here!

What I Read in March

I read a lot in March! I am once again becoming the girl who always has a book in her hand, and I love it!

I was not expecting to read The Turn of the Key, which was a book Emily got for herself at the library.  But as she described the plot, I became intrigued.  It’s a mystery inspired by The Turn of the Screw, which I read in college.  I couldn’t put it down and it kept me guessing right up till the end.

Every Catholic woman (those who hang out online, anyway) is reading Falling Home this month it seems.  It’s a vulnerable, touching, and inspirational memoir. A couple of my favorite quotes: “[G]oodness doesn’t become any less good or valuable because it only lasts for a short time,” and “But she is full of hidden treasures! She must be! Isn’t everyone? . . . [E]veryone has marvels and miracles woven within them.

Here’s another book every Catholic I know seems to be reading this month: Consecration to St. Joseph The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.  And I’m going to voice a super-unpopular opinion: I did not like this book and I would have stopped reading it very soon if not that 1) It was one of the things I planned to do for Lent and 2) I wanted to be consecrated to St. Joseph.  As it was, I admit I skimmed parts. I hate to go on at great length in a negative way about a book that seems to be bearing great fruit for so many people so I’ll just say that it was repetitive and simplistic, and a lot of the “theology” seemed to be the writer’s opinion, as far as I could tell.

Bookclub time! This month I was participating in the Fountain of Carrots readalong of The Reckless Way of Love. Having read a biography of Dorothy Day not long ago I was eager to learn more of her wisdom, like “The mystery of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and whatever you do for them you do to Him,” and “Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.” I highly recommend this short and easy way if you want a quick introduction to the thinking of this holy woman.

I read Me and White Supremacy and completed the associated workbook as part of another online book club led by Leticia Ochoa Adams.  This is part of my ongoing anti-racism work, about which I plan to write more later. Anyway, reading this is hard and it’s work, but it is necessary work.

I continued my nostalgic revisit to the Anne series with the second installment, Anne of Avonlea, which primarily concerns Anne’s time as a teacher of the one-room schoolhouse she herself attended.  Here’s a lovely description of the heroine: “Anne was one of the children of light by birthright. After she had passed through a life with a smile of a word thrown across it like a gleam of sunshine the owner of that life saw it, for the time being at least, as hopeful and lovely and of good report.”

I don’t recall how I first came across Domestic Pleasures, but it was definitely by accident. I’ve never read any other books by the author, which I should probably remedy given how much I enjoy this one. This copy was a Christmas gift to replace the one I lost in the fire. It’s a tale of the intertwined lives and stories of Martha (ex-wife of Raymond); Charlie (Raymond’s divorce lawyer and now trustee of his estate); Jack and Phoebe, the teen kids of Martha and Charlie; Sophie (Charlie’s erstwhile girlfriend) and her unhappily-married sister, Connie; Patsy (Charlie’s ex-wife); and Gillis (Martha’s former lover and father of her toddler son).  At its heart it’s a sweet love story but philosophically it’s a reminder of how our lives are shaped both by random events and our connections.  It’s full of wisdom, for example: “Martha didn’t listen, because of course no one ever listens.

The Sanctuary Sparrow was another delightful visit to the medieval world of Brother Cadfael, former Crusader turned detective monk. These books never disappoint me and I am so glad that there are so many of them.

Did y’all count? That was EIGHT books so I surpassed my goal by three, and I read parts of lots of other things too, as you will eventually hear. Check out more books at the link below.

Trip to San Francisco

A Third Trip to San Francisco

Exactly one year ago today as I write, I was enjoying my third trip to San Francisco to spend time with my middle son.  In fact, that is also where I was two years ago and three years ago today, give or take a day.

This is poignant for more reason than one.  Not only was it the last trip we took before the pandemic dramatically shrank our world, but unbeknownst to me at the time, it was likely my last trip to San Francisco for years–because my son switched jobs and cities and likely the next trip we take will be to Boulder, Colorado, whenever it is safe to do so.

And while I am excited to go somewhere I have never been, and to have the chance to fall in love with a new city, I love San Francisco and at the moment have almost a visceral feeling of wrongness as I sit here in cold and dreary Knoxville.  Therefore, I will cheer myself up by sharing last year’s trip with you.

DAY ONE

No pictures here, y’all! This day was spent almost entirely in airports and planes, as flight delays up north grounded us in Knoxville for a time and caused us to be moved to a later flight due to a missed connection.  However, this resulted in the most pleasant cross-country flight ever.  Noting that our new economy seats were not adjacent, but that there were adjacent seats in a pricier area of the plane, I asked to be upgraded for free and they did it! We had no row in front of us and it was amazing, making up for not getting to our hotel until about 11 p.m.  Teddy, bless his heart, came to greet us and we walked to a nearby Indian restaurant for a very late supper.

DAY TWO

Teddy had to work, of course, but we got up bright and early for an event we had pre-arranged: a ferry ride around the Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge!

On our previous trips we stayed in the Financial District.  This time we decided to stay near Fisherman’s Wharf, so it was a short walk to the pier.

We arrived super early, but that was okay because it gave me time to find coffee at Biscoff.

Our early arrival paid off because we were first in line, and had our pick of seats–which for us was outside and upstairs.

This was our first time to see San Francisco’s famous sea lions.

The bridge is beautiful from every direction but my favorite is the picture I took directly underneath it.  It was a nice complement to our first visit, when I walked across it.

I got some good shots of Alcatraz.  Our tour of the island was a highlight of our second visit.

The sun was emerging from the clouds by the time we landed.  One thing I love about San Francisco in February, is that it is already spring.  We enjoyed the flowers as we headed to our next destination.

After our first two trips we are Uber pros now, and we took one to the Financial District where we were meeting Teddy for lunch.  What was even more exciting was that we were meeting Molly, his girlfriend, for the first time.  We walked to a nearby salad spot for a quick lunch.  That would be the last time we saw them that day, because it was also Valentine’s Day and we made separate dinner plans.

After lunch, I decided to walk back to the hotel.  At this point I am pretty familiar with some areas of the city.  I found Columbus Avenue and was on my way, John having opted for an Uber back to the hotel.

There are some places I had walked by many times and always wanted to investigate further.  This was my chance.  My first stop was the National Shrine of Saint Francis.

Below is an actual replica of the church Saint Francis restored in Assisi.

Just a little farther down the street is Saints Peter and Paul Church. This is a very Italian parish, with all the saints within labeled in Italian! It is staffed by the Salesians, founded by Saint John Bosco, which was special since he was my saint of the year in 2019.

What a blessing it was that I was able to steep myself in churches and saints that day.  I could not have known or even imagined that in just a few weeks churches would close due to the pandemic.  I have not been to Mass in person since some time in March 2020.

Eventually I arrived back at our hotel.  And it was time for more coffee which I enjoyed at the fire table below, definitely one of the highlights of our hotel!

John wanted to take another double-decker bus tour of the city, something we had enjoyed on our last visit.  This trip was not as fun, as it was later in the day and chillier, causing us to retreat inside the bus for warmth at some point.

So I did not take many pictures of note.  Above is the closest yet I have come to seeing Hamilton in a theatre though. 😉

Teddy and Molly had several restaurants planned for our visit so we decided to do Chinatown for our one night on our own.  Just look at this insane fried crab that we got.  Thank goodness that the waiter warned us that we only needed to order one!

DAY THREE

We met Teddy and Molly for breakfast at a diner they like, and from there took an Uber to Golden Gate Park, where we started our sightseeing at the Japanese Tea Garden.

From there, we headed more or less next door to de Young Museum.

We left via the sculpture garden, and then John opted to return to the hotel while we walked to the Conservatory of Flowers.

After that, Teddy, Molly, and I went to Ocean Beach for awhile, before grabbing a quick lunch.  They sent me home and we planned to meet for dinner to celebrate Teddy’s birthday.

We met later for a tour of Teddy’s apartment–he lived in a different location each of three years in San Francisco–then rode together to our fabulous dinner at Kokkari, a Greek restaurant Teddy took us to on our first visit.

DAY FOUR

We reconnected with Teddy and Molly the following morning in the Mission District, where they treated us to a fancy brunch in the outdoor courtyard of this theatre-turned-restaurant.

Next we toured the Mission District itself, including checking out some cool shops and some very fancy graffiti:

Per my request, our next stop was the Mission itself.  The smaller church pictured below is the oldest building in San Francisco.  Exhibits onsite show it standing all alone surrounded by countryside with the San Francisco topography all that is recognizable.

There was a graveyard too so Molly got a chance to find out how weird I actually am.

Finally we walked to Mission Dolores Park.  Climbing the hill was worth it for some beautiful views.

I needed to do some shopping for gifts for the kids we left at home, so after some discussion we agreed to meet later for dinner at a restaurant that had piqued my interest on earlier visits.

I like garlic, y’all, but garlic ice cream is a step too far.  We took it, though.  It was an experience but not one I expect to repeat.

After dinner we went to a very cool bookstore down the street for awhile before saying our good-byes and heading back to the hotel.

DAY FIVE

At least, I thought we said our good-byes but Teddy actually came by in the morning and sat at the fire table with me for awhile before we left for the airport. Thankfully we did NOT take the red-eye this time, and made it home by nightfall.

Quarantine has been good to me, but I do miss traveling, and Teddy, and San Francisco.

Word of the Year and Saint of the Year

It’s a new year, y’all! And that means the Catholic internet is asking everyone these questions: What is your Word of the Year? Who is your Saint of the Year?

If you are new to the concept I know it can sound a little strange–maybe even a little hokey! But over the past few years this new New Year’s tradition has become increasingly important to me and instrumental in directing my spiritual life.

How does one decide on a word and/or a saint?  Well, some people pray over it for a period of time.  Here’s a podcast episode about discerning your word.

If that feels uncomfortable to you, try this for your word, and this for your saint.  Be sure to say a little prayer before you click!

I know it seems a little silly, but who are we to put limits on the workings of the Holy Spirit?

The first year I engaged in this practice, I picked my saint first and got Mary.  And I was disappointed! I was looking forward to finding some new saint who I could learn about and have in my corner as an intercessor.  I was tempted to click again!

But the Holy Spirit knew what he was doing, y’all.  Because my word turned out to be MOTHER.  I decided this must mean I was supposed to really double down on my vocation of motherhood.

And 2018 certainly turned out to be the year for it!  In February we made our first visit to my far-away son, spending his birthday with him on the other side of the country.  In March we welcomed a daughter-in-law and hosted a wedding reception! I spent the whole summer being an awesome and fun mother to my youngest two kids.  And I shepherded my baby out of homeschooling and into public school (and bought her a dog too!).  All the while I worked on my goal of becoming holy by building a deeper relationship with the Blessed Mother by participating in Marian consecration.  It was definitely a year in which, with Mary’s help, I dove deeper into what it means to be a Catholic wife and mother.

So I was excited for my second year of picking a word and a saint.  I got Saint John Bosco, who I remembered reading about as a child as that fun guy who worked with kids, and then for my word I got WINK.  About which I thought, “What?” I REALLY wanted to click again.  And I will be honest: I never was exactly sure what to do with that.  The only thing I could come up with was the notion of having more fun in 2019.

I’m not sure how good I was at it, honestly! We did travel quite a bit, including our first cruise, but the kids and I did not repeat our fun-filled summer.  Of course, compared to 2020 the year was jam-packed with adventures!

And early in the year I received a financial appeal from a Catholic organization serving the poor in the Deep South, via the Bosco Nutrition Center.  Maybe that was why that saint picked me–I have donated regularly ever since.

Last year’s picks seemed to make a little more sense: St. Faustina and REVIVE.  St. Faustina’s message of “Jesus, I trust in you!” was perfect for 2020.  And I truly embraced the idea of reviving myself, physically and spiritually, last year. (More to come on that note.)

This year I received St. Lutgardis as my saint.  I so much never heard of her that I thought she was a man.  I have not done much more than read an account of her life online as yet, but I hope to dive deeper as the year goes on.

My word is INTEGRITY.  That is a quality that is important to me, certainly, but I was not very excited about it because I did not feel it had anything new to say to me.  But just a day later I stumbled onto this podcast episode on living an integrated life.  This gave me that AHA moment I was looking for so that is the direction I am going to be following with my word.

And to help me keep it in mind, I ordered a custom bracelet from Pink Salt Riot’s Word of the Year collection.  For just a few more days, you can choose from  several options including bracelets, keychains, and necklaces, personalized with your very own Word of the Year.  And if you shop from my link and use code LIFEINEVERYLIMB, these already affordable pieces will be 10% cheaper!

Do you have a Word of the Year? What about a Saint of the Year? Tell me about them in the comments!

My Catholic Vote

I love voting on Election Day, but wishing to leave nothing to chance in this crazy year, I took advantage of early voting last week.  I marked my paper ballot for Joe Biden, coloring it in very carefully and staring at it for a long time afterward before I scanned it, wanting to cherish the moment for which I had waited so long.

In choosing my candidate I followed a process I laid out here, and my conscience is absolutely clear, no matter how many of my fellow Catholics believe (and are happy to tell me) that my vote is a sin.

In 2008, I sat out the Presidential election.  In 2012, I voted none of the above.  In 2016, seeing Trump as a danger to our country, I voted for Hillary.

When Trump won, my Republican friends said I should give him a chance.  That he would surround himself with good people.  That he would grow into the office.  I did, and he didn’t.  If anything, his presidency has been more disastrous than I could possibly have imagined.

In fact, it has been so disastrous, and I believe him so unfit, that I would have supported any one of the Democratic Primary contenders this year.  If you want to know my thinking, check out the 963 reasons compiled here, rightly referred to below as horrors:

This election year, amid a harrowing global health, civil rights, humanitarian, and economic crisis, we know it’s never been more critical to note these horrors, to remember them, and to do all in our power to reverse them.

However, Joe was my number one choice from the get-go, primarily because I believed he was the candidate with the best chance of beating Trump.  His relative centrism, his likable personality, his years of experience, his ability to compromise, his relationships with folks on both sides of the aisle–these are the qualities of someone who could build a broad and diverse coalition of support, as he has gone on to do.  I had always liked Joe, but as I have learned more of his story, I have come to love him.  No longer is my vote just an anti-Trump vote.  It’s an enthusiastic vote for Joe Biden, and here are some of my reasons:

  • Because he writes things like this, and means them:

We all matter in the eyes of God, and it will take all of us to achieve the healing America so desperately needs. To follow God’s Greatest Commandment, and to love each other fully. Together, we can win the battle for the soul of our nation; navigate the multiple crises we face – ending this pandemic, driving our economic recovery, confronting systemic racism; address the scourge of poverty; pursue immigration and refugee policies that uphold the dignity of all; and do everything in our power to ensure that all God’s children have the hope and future they so rightfully deserve. (Read more here)

  • And, maybe most of all, because of this:

Our country is in trouble  We are broken and hurting, scared and divided.  Four years ago I believed–I still do–that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified person ever to run for President.  I would never say that about Joe Biden.  But I DO believe, with all my heart, that he is the candidate most qualified to meet this moment and to bind our nation’s wounds.

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.

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.