20 March, 2011

Living Lent Through a Slice of Bread

Image by premus on Flickr

The next time you pack lunches or make yourself a sandwich snack, I invite you to think about this!

Slice of bread - Just as you eat a piece of a loaf of bread, you are a piece of the Body of Christ and the Resurrection community. May we live a welcoming life that leaves none lonely or hungry.

Knife - The Christian life is not always easy. Lent is a great time for us to cut away some of our bad habits by way of prayer, fasting and sharing of resources. May this trimming make more room for God in our hearts.

Spread - There are as many spiritual journeys as there are toppings for bread. We are all called to spread the message of Jesus to those around us and more often than not, we do so by the way that we live.

Beverage - Just as Jesus was anointed with the perfumed oil and then poured himself out for us upon the cross, may we pour ourselves out in service to others, those we love and those we may not even know.

Napkin - We all make mistakes, but Jesus was the first to offer forgiveness to the sinner. May we seek and offer forgiveness regularly and allow God to wipe our hearts clean!

16 March, 2011

Our Vacation in Photos

We had a fabulous vacation with my family in Orlando this weekend! I really think we couldn't have spent any more time by the pool or in the sunshine. It was amazing and we are SO grateful to my generous parents for giving us an experience that we will never forget!

John Ross in the Green Bay airport

Clara Ann sporting her new sippy at the airport

John Ross climbing his first palm tree

My little girl is SO big!

My sister and brother-in-law!

Fire dancer at the luau

My brother at the luau...

John Ross loved my sunglasses!

The boys watching cartoons in the family dining room while we ate in peace!

Clara wasn't sure what to do with the sand

John Ross loved the mess!

Fabulous picture of my focused little swimmer!

John Ross never stopped eating and insisted upon eating EVERYONE's food. Here he is sharing with his "Sissy"

The guys in the family spent a lot of time at the Universal theme parks and this was Kevin and my dad hanging out at Hogmeads in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

14 March, 2011

Women in the Church

I was recently asked to reflect on the importance of women's spirituality opportunities from my role as a speaker and facilitor for Catholic women's events. This was the testimony I wrote for a parish facing questions about the importance of their women's events.

As Catholic women, I think we are in a unique time. In society today, more and more women are taking on the role of the spiritual head of household. They are hungry for time in the Red Tent; time with other women, time to grow, and the nourishment to feed their souls. From a Catholic standpoint we’ve spent a lot of time trying “not to loose” our Christian women because we need their service and their gifts instead of trying to inspire and offer opportunities for growth in our uniquely CATHOLIC faith. Many women are finding support in other ways like online communities and evangelical Bible studies. I believe that women who call themselves Catholic deserve more attention than we as a church are currently giving them.

From someone who has seen HUGE response to Catholic women’s programs here in Green Bay, I can say that everything we hear from women is that they need community and formation that comes from the other women in their community. There is no one who understands the experience of a woman better than another woman. In a world where we don’t have our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts as readily available to teach us about the faith journey of a woman, our parish community has become more important, not less, in our life journey.

When we ask women to evaluate their experiences after an event, most of our women indicate that they are still hungry. They want more. They want opportunities to learn about women in the Bible. They want evenings to gather and discuss relevant books. They want regional pilgrimages, weekend retreats, and mother/daughter opportunities. They also want to see the men in their lives be offered similar experiences. There is no lack of need in the lives of the women I serve, but a lack of supply of Catholic speakers, parishes, and dioceses that are willing and able to provide these experiences.

The women at the Red Tent event at your parish said all that needs to be said about experiences like this. At the beginning of the event each woman shared their unique reason for being there, but all of them indicating a need for growth and understanding. One woman stopped me at the lunch hour and said, “I can’t believe it’s noon already! I thought I was going to go home after lunch and get some of the stuff I thought I “needed” to get done, but I have realized through the morning that this is what I need.” And another said, “It is nice to have someone else tell me that my spiritual life is important and someone who makes time to help me grow.”

For a Church and religion that puts such an emphasis on the role of our mother Mary and relies so heavily on the day-to-day contributions of women we cannot simply leave our unique spirituality and formation to adult formation and catechesis. We need significant experiences of Christ and Christ’s community of women to continue to motivate us and by extension our families to live holy lives.

From a more practical standpoint, while there are certainly women in the local community that could be called upon to offer reflections and retreat days, it is often important to bring in speakers who are from beyond your community. Just like children are more likely to listen to the advice of adults other than their parents so are women who believe that the message being offered them isn’t tempered by the needs of their parish.

Most certainly, speakers cost money. Having spent time talking with other women who speak like I do, we do our best to balance the financial needs and limitations of the communities we serve and our need to help support our families. When you pay a Catholic speaker, you are not simply writing a check to a faceless corporation for a material or service. You are often writing a check to a Catholic family that uses the money to further support the mission of the Church. For my family, the stipend for the presentation I gave this weekend will allow my husband and me to take an extra day off this summer in order to stop and stay a day at a pilgrimage site on our way to a family vacation. It is the first of what we hope will be many trips for our young children that will define the national and international reach of their faith family.

Working for a parish I know as well as anyone the annual back and forth of balancing a budget. I know the cost/benefit analysis that surrounds every good thing that we do. I do encourage you to continue having meaningful conversations about the spiritual growth and priorities of the women in your community. John Paul II called us to a “New Feminism” and there is no better time than now to embrace that call and empower Catholic women in service of the Gospel.

10 March, 2011

Daybook March 2011

I'm feeling a bit of the winter blues and decided it was time for a daybook entry!
Outside My Window ...
Darkness. I love the feeling and quiet of darkness.


I am listening to...
Chatter. All day long I hear chatter even when no one else is talking. It is hard to turn the world off!


To Live the Liturgy…
I am yearning for a week of family meals. My work schedule has taken me away from my family table over dinner many nights in the last month and I miss that daily aspect of the liturgy.


To be Fit and Happy….
Not enough, but when it gets to that point I fall back on drinking lots of water. It is the least I can do.


I am thankful for ...

My supportive and active husband. Without him I couldn't do the things I am gifted to do. Without him, my dreams would remain just that.


From the kitchen ...
Not much. We've been eating a lot of soup because it freezes and warms again easily. I'm looking forward to the culinary challenge that is our Lenten practice. Check it out here!


I am creating ...
Homemade play food for Clara's birthday. I've got the material for pancakes, waffles, and tacos cut and the base for my chocolate chip cookies painted. I'm also working on pretty little tea biscuits and cherries to go with some wooden tea bags! At the rate I am going, I am just grateful her birthday is at the end of April!

I am reading….
Still working on A Year in the Life of Food by Barbara Kingsolver. I get about 5 pages each week...:)


Towards a real education ...
This week I am just allowing myself to be educated by daily life.


Bringing beauty to my home ...
We have committed as a couple to looking at the next day in a positive light instead of stressful countenances. We are working on smiles and laughter and not so many tears.


I am hoping and praying….

That the uncertainties in life settle themselves a bit so we can have a few moments to adjust to our new normal. The warmer weather and sunshine can't hurt the process either...


Around the house ...
We are keeping up and I am so grateful for my go-getter baby sitter who sweeps the floors and loads the dishwasher without being asked.


One of my favorite things ...
My teacup. 10 minutes for boiling water, 3-5 minutes for steeping and 10 minutes for drinking = 25 minutes for ME!


A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Working, working, working...even my playtime this week is working! I am going on my 3rd of three dual-purpose weekends of women's ministry and parish ministry. They are wonderful and I am so grateful, but I am looking forward to a weekend to spend with my sweet, small little family.


In pictures...

07 March, 2011

My Most Recent Therapy Session

Now, now, before you skip over this post in fear of some strange Freudian reflection, my therapy happens in my very own kitchen and my therapists include various flours, spices, and chocolates.

Yesterday was my birthday and I worked all morning at the parish. I love my job, but a birthday spent working leaves a bit to be desired. After spending the last 26 days working at the parish or being on the road for speaking engagements, I was ready for a break. I told Kevin that the one thing I really wanted to do today was spend some time in the kitchen.

I have a lot of opportunities in life to be creative, but there is nothing quite like being creative in the kitchen. Chinese healers have long believed that things like bread and noodle-making is the perfect treatment for stress because of the demanding physical manipulation. For me it is the sights, smells and sensations of digging your hands into a good dough that makes all the difference in my mood. I also love the joy that it brings to those who walk through my home or eat my food.

This birthday was a lot about feeding my soul. After an unbelievable meal and bottle of red wine at a local italian restaurant last night (an all-plans-made-surprise from my thoughtful and generous husband) and an afternoon in the kitchen, my soul is warm and satisfied. My muscles are loose, my mouth is watering, and my house smells like my home. It doesn't get much better than this.

Today's recipes included: lemon tiramisu (but I used Lemoncello liquer in place of the hazelnut liquer and substituted blueberries for the chopped hazelnuts), chocolate-chip scones, rum-raisin scones, hot wing dip, chicken and dried beef and raspberry jello salad. (The final two being my favorite meal from my childhood and my birthday meal!) You can find the base scone recipe here and the wing dip and dinner recipes to follow!

Wing Dip
5 oz. Franks Hot Sauce
2 - 8oz packages of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup of finely chopped celery
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix hot sauce and cream cheese together until smooth. Mix in celery, cheese, and chicken and place mixture in oven safe dish. Bake dip in oven for 20-30 minutes and serve warm with crackers, chips or celery.

Chicken and Dried Beef
6-8 Chicken tenders or 3-4 sliced chicken breasts
1 jar of dried beef (found in the canned tuna section)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of sour cream
splash of milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap your chicken in the dried beef and place in an oven-safe casserole dish. Mix the soup and sour cream together and add milk until the mixture is a saucy consistency. Pour the sauce over the wrapped chicken. Cook in the oven for 50 minutes until bubbly on top. Serve over cooked white or brown rice.

Raspberry Jello Salad
1 cup boiling hot water
1 small pkg. raspberry jello
1 cup applesauce
1 bag of frozen raspberries

1/2 container of cool whip
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of mini marshmallows

In a large bowl, pour hot water over the jello powder and stir until jello is completely dissolved. Stir in cup of applesauce and raspberries. Put in refrigerator to set. If using topping, wait until the jello is set. Mix together the ingredients and spread over top of jello.

03 March, 2011

Deafening but Deepening?

Our home is far from the center of marital bliss in northeast Wisconsin. The combination of the winter blues, a overscheduled calendar, 2 children under two years of age, a state budget crisis and two stubborn, pigheaded spouses just begs for some kind of chemical explosion. Ours happened on Kevin’s 38th birthday…over a cup of tea.

Actually, it was the spilling of foresaid beverage that prompted the explosion. And it wasn’t so much the spilling, but a disagreement about who was to clean up the carpet.

Who started the fire, or the parameters are not important. Nor is the fact that one of us ended up locked in the bathroom sobbing.

The real issue at hand is that each person has their breaking point. Each person has a moment where the oatmeal hits the floor, the pot boils over, or the diaper breaches. There are just some things in life that are too much. For us, it just happened at the same time.

We had it out, but in our hearts we both just wanted a pass. We both needed someone to step up and give us a break. And neither did.

And our hearts hurt. We hate being mad at each other. We just wanted to make it better, but neither of us was willing to extend the olive branch.

By the time an early bedtime rolled around for the kids, we were both ready to just have the whole thing be over. It was as though we couldn’t get to “I’m sorry” fast enough. We talked, we listened, we cried. We didn’t solve all the problems, but we went to bed committed to being kinder to one another.

And that is the best that we can do some days. We don’t worry that it happens. We’ll worry when we no longer see it as an opportunity to communicate and grow. We’ll worry when the deafening sounds or silence no longer lead to depth.