Learning to be Present

I’ve had a presence problem for a long time. Even before the strange and troubling events of this past year, I’ve been very good at being distracted. At spending a lot of my attention listening to the running commentary inside my head.

I need to do this. I didn’t do that. What if this happens. What if this big risk I’m taking fails. What if I fail as a parent. My house is a mess. How is there possibly a mountain of laundry already. Why can’t the kids put anything away. Will I ever stop doing the dishes. I am always doing the dishes. Did someone just sniffle? Did we catch something at church because that’s the only place we’ve been going. What’s for dinner when do I need to put dinner in I think I need chocolate oh no the kids ate all my chocolate.

Exhausing, right?! Maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t, but I felt like my brain was on one constant speed-like I was driving with the windows down on the highway all the time.

I’m a planner by nature. I like to mitigate risks and maximize efficiency. It’s taken me five months, but I finally finished reading a book that has actualy helped me to slow down, make room for all my worries and feelings, and be more present in the moment. It helped a lot when my debut was launching, and has helped even more in the day-to-day life since!

The book is called The Happiness Trap, and you can purchase it here:

I love how the book is written in a linear, easy to follow and understand format. It has exercises you can do throughout. And I was able to take it in bite-sized pieces over time, which helps when you are juggling many things and balancing many plates.

There are three areas where I’ve found it’s been most helpful:

1- The running commentary in my head. I’m doing a better job at making room and accepting uncomfortable feelings. This leaves me more space to be present in the moment with my kids. To catch Zelie in a playful mood and play a silly game by the stairs. To color with Mary. To notice the concentration on August’s as he learns to draw his favorite super hero from a tutorial. To catch how Felicity’s hair falls over her cheek as she’s mixing batter for cookies. My commentary is still there, and still loud often, but I’m noticing more moments in my life and am less distracted.

2- I learned that avoiding bad feelings at all costs isn’t actually a healthy goal. A lot of self-help books seem super focused on being positive and eliminating bad feelings. This book did the opposite. It made sense for me to learn to accept that life will come with negative thoughts and feelings, but that I don’t have to place judgment on them, or even try to avoid them. I can accept them for what they are- negative thoughts. They don’t have to have any more value or worth than any of the other thoughts inside my head. Their existence doesn’t make them true or not true. And I can make decisions that align with my values no matter what my thoughts are thinking.

3- Creating a life I value. As I read the book, I realized I had done some important things to create a life that aligns with my deep values already. I was willing to take on a lot of discomfort to make it through four pregnanacies, and also to pursue the scary unknown of writing a book. But I honed in more on the specific things that I deeply value, and have worked on aligning more decisions with those vs. making decisions by default or because of fear. One of the big consequences of that has been that I’ve reduced my presence on social media. I still have a FB page for this website and for being an author. But I deactivated my personal account. So far, that’s been a healthy choice for me.

Precious Little Moments.

If you find yourself listening to the running commentary in your own mind, struggling with negative thoughts or worries or fears, if you are feeling like your life is somehow a mismatch for the things you feel are truly important, this might be a good resource to check out! I have a long way to go, and this is something that’s a life-long process, but it’s definitely helped this constantly-thinking momma, and I think it could be helpful to others too!


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Finding Hope in Uncertain Times

Hello friends,

I hope you and yours are safe and healthy.

Let me just start by saying this: What a year this month has been.

Just a few weeks ago, we were going about life as usual, and now it feels like almost everything has changed. Where I live- in space, in time- my day-to-day life hasn’t really ever seen this level of disruption. I suspect many others could say the same.

Missing Mass

I miss Mass. I miss it so much, it’s one of the few things that’s brought me to tears ever since COVID-19 started rearing its ugly head in our country. Facebook just popped up my memories from four years ago when I was confirmed at the Cathedral of St. Paul, and my stomach just sunk knowing that we won’t be able to attend Holy Week services as usual this year. I miss the Eucharist. Felicity is asking if her First Communion is going to be significantly delayed. We’re watching Mass each Sunday on the computer, and it’s been a blessing to attend Mass virtually with priests and family that we might not get to often in real life, but when the source and summit of our faith is accessible only through a screen, it is achingly clear how much things are not the same.

I know this won’t last forever, and I am going to rejoice so very much when I can receive Jesus again in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. When I can go to confession. My soul longs for these things.

I’m going to spend some time over the next week thinking about how to celebrate Holy Week as a family in our home. I found a good post here on Catholic All Year that I’ll use as a reference point to start with. My goal won’t be to do more than I can handle, but will be to do a few things that will make the week meaningful in this strange situation.

Missing People

I’m an introvert by nature, and there are a lot of people in my house, which means sometimes mommy goes and hides for a couple of hours, and that mommy also is sneaking a lot of chocolate in the pantry, haha, but mostly we’ve been enjoying time at home together.

Even my introvert self misses the ability to enjoy face-to-face interaction with family and friends. Video has been a huge blessing, but just knowing we can’t visit with family in person, or share a glass of wine with our friends just doesn’t feel great.


A lot of what’s going on right now is anxiety-producing! It was really unnerving for me to go to the grocery store about a week ago and to see so many shelves empty. The produce and fresh meat, nearly gone. There was a lot of expensive cheese left, and also a lot of ice cream, but so many of the normal, every day things I go into the store and buy each week without even hardly giving it a thought were nowhere to be found. That’s going to be something that will stick with me long after this is all over. This week, the supply at the store was much better, but it’s still strange. People out in masks and gloves. At home, we can kind of live in our little family bubble for days on end. But when I go to the store, it’s very apparent that things are not business as usual for the world right outside our home.

Our family is relatively young and low-risk, but it’s still been scary to hear stories of people our age who have had severe reactions. I don’t want anyone in our family to have to fight for a hospital bed. I want to protect my husband, myself and my children. But it’s hard to know how to protect yourself from an enemy you can’t really see! It’s hard to know how much disinfecting is enough.

All of that has given me some anxiety the past few weeks. I’m thankful for my faith, and for my kids and their snuggles, and the nightly routines JP and I keep up just to hang out and enjoy some normalcy in all the strangeness.

The Good

It’s been helpful to pay attention to the good amidst all that is not right now. Here are some things that are helping us through.

Homeschooling. We’ve been considering homeschooling the kids in the future, and I don’t know, it isn’t exactly a ‘trial run’ because of all the stress and isolation, but it’s been a chance for us to see what educating at home would look like, at least to some degree, and it will aid us for sure in our discerning process. And, honestly, I’m no homeschooling supermom, but I’ve been having a mostly lovely time digging into some fun learning and projects with the kids.

Connection. We’ve been using this time to connect with family and friends over video. We’ve had a few virtual dance parties, and we have an extended family Rosary on the calendar for tomorrow evening, which I’m looking forward to. I feel like we’re investing a bit more into creative, meaningful modes of connection, which I hope will continue when this is all over.

Here are 2 videos our family has made, hoping to bring a smile to our friends’ faces while we are apart:


I feel like for once our world is shouting about the dignity of the human person, with a special focus on the aged and vulnerable among us. We are being called to sacrifice our personal freedoms for the good of the other, for the health of the other, for the life of the other. And, as someone who believes in the dignity of the human person, from the smallest to the largest, the youngest to the oldest, the strongest to the most vulnerable, it’s been a refreshing side to all the stress. Yes. Sacrificing our personal comfort, our desires, what we want for the good of the other is of the utmost importance in this time. May we translate this care moving forward into other areas of life, to protect the vulnerable around us, no matter the personal cost.

Let us Pray

Our family is praying special intentions right now for those who are critically ill, who have died from the virus, those who are alone, lonely, and frightened. For the healthcare workers on the front lines, and all those who are keeping things afloat while we shelter at home. The grocery store workers, postal workers, truck drivers, first responders. For the scientists working on medications and vaccines. And so much more.

If you or anyone you know is feeling despair, please reach out for help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

This won’t last forever. You matter. So very, very much.

Hang in there friends. We’ll talk to you soon.



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Emerging From the Fog

Lent is always an appropriate time to reflect on suffering, and over the past 12 months, This Catholic Family has had some rough times.

I’ve shared a few times about the loss of my aunt to suicide in February 2018. The grief from that, and the slow path toward healing, has been a part of the fog that made it hard to write at times on this website. I poured a lot of my energy over the past year into writing a fiction manuscript about a young girl who experiences a loss, and finds her way to healing. Using words in that way for that time helped a lot.

The other fog we experienced has been for a much happier purpose.


We found out in December that we are expecting Baby Savaryn Number 4! New life is the happiest of news, but for our family, we also knew it would be difficult for a while. I, to varying extents during my pregnancies, suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. This is extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. A condition that used to be fatal for some mothers, and is slowly gaining more publicity in our current times for its devastating impact on an expectant mother’s health while she suffers.

This time, despite proactively taking nausea medication and planning for my care, I ended up incredibly sick. As it amped up, I wasn’t able to be in the kitchen, or prepare food, or eat much. It felt like I was on a boat with severe seasickness 95% of the time I was awake. Movement and smell made it worse. Relief only came when I slept. Then, I hit a point where I couldn’t keep anything down and hadn’t had something to eat or drink in over 18 hours. I had to go to the hospital, where I ended up being admitted for three days until they could rehydrate my body and until I could eat and drink on my own without getting sick with the help of some additional medication.

I was this sick with my son, who will turn five soon, and I had much better medical care this time than I did with him, but it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through inside my own body. And when it was at its worst, it was very hard for me to see the light beyond all the darkness in the struggle to survive moment by slow moment.

Friends came through and brought us food, and there were so many praying, and my husband was good about reminding me that this would all be worth it.

It was still so difficult to lose myself, even for a little while.

The Hope and the Grace

But in suffering, there is grace.

I was fed by the Eucharist during my suffering, and I weakly attempted to unite my own suffering with that of Christ. In many ways, I do not feel like I suffered ‘well.’ But I also knew Jesus would carry me through, and that if I was willing to walk this path for Him, that he would not forsake me.

On the first Sunday I was home from the hospital, I was still confined to my bed, and the family had to go to mass without me. I hear the door open as they returned home, and in moments, my two oldest children entered my room with their hands folded in front of them in quite reverence.

JP soon followed, and produced that which had fed my soul so many times during this sickness.

A priest at our parish had helped JP bring Jesus in the Eucharist to me right where I was, and I was able to receive communion, right there, in my bed. When I couldn’t get to mass, Jesus came to me.

And there is such hope in new life too. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea of redemptive suffering. That something good can come out of something hard.

It has helped more than a little to know there is such a clear and redemptive reason I went through all I did. I am bringing a new life into our family and into the world. At 18 weeks now, and finally feeling much better, I can feel our little one kick. I can speak to this baby, as it now can hear my voice. I can reflect on the phrase ‘this is my body, given for you,’ in a new and profound way. I can understand just a little bit better, in some small, small way, how Jesus gave his body for us, and the love that must have been there for him to go through his passion.

Let the Sun Shine In

The fog is clearing away from the difficult year we have had, and the very, very, dark and cold and grey winter. The days are getting longer. The sun is shining a bit more. And our family is soon to embark on a vacation to the beach, a much needed bit of togetherness and warmth and light.


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Strong But Not Superhuman

The Swells and Crests of Life

We had a period of time this fall into early winter where things were relatively calm. I remember thinking to myself during that time, Remember to appreciate this. Be thankful for this.

Because I’ve been around at least long enough to know that life comes in seasons, in swells and crests, and that something would come to stir up our temporarily calm seas.

Mary was in the hospital for two nights just before Christmas, and RSV spread through the rest of the family for most of Christmas break.

Then, in January we caught our breath.

In February, we lost my aunt to suicide, and we are still recovering from that loss. The pain continues to come in waves. There are good days, and there are difficult days. The air leaves my chest and my stomach sinks every time I go in the basement and see a pile of boxes there. All her stuff. Filled with clothes and baking supplies and art that I have no idea what to do with and no clue if or when or how I will be ready to see it, to touch it, to use it again.

Coming to terms with the pain she felt, our own powerlessness to do anything to change it, and the hope that my prayers can help her still all make for a complicated mix of emotions. I can’t control when the grief hits. And when it does, it isn’t always convenient.

And it just seems like right now there is an abundance of regular but personal and professional business that make finding balance more tricky than it is at other times. I’ve wanted to have time to write more on the blog, but it’s been difficult to find the words to say amidst all the sadness.

I’m struggling with knowing the best direction to take my novel, and in discerning if it’s time to let it rest for a bit and start something new. It’s tough for me to leave a thing unfinished, in any area of life. And it’s also tough for me when there is no clear end point. I can’t say for certain when it will be ‘done.’

We are making some positive, needed, good changes, like moving to a bigger home to account for the growing number of people in our family. I’ve started being asked to speak even in different states, which is super cool and exciting.

Managing Self-Care

But compartmentalizing is tricky for me. It’s tough for me to keep everything in it’s own separate baskets in my mind and things tend to spill over. Today, I wrote an outline for myself to make sure I’m managing my self-care. Blocking time to write, to read, to exercise, to sleep. To make sure I respect the rhythm of my own body and the way God has made me. I recharge my batteries by having time alone. By writing. By reading. And by prayer. If I don’t make it a priority, then I can go too long without making it happen, get caught up in the current, and I start to feel anxious.It was good to take time to actually write out those priorities.  And it’s amazing what a quiet hour by myself can do for my peace of mind and ability to be present for my family.

The long and short of it is, I need to remember to give myself a break! I can’t be All The Things All The Time to All The People. I can’t read an article while Mary is crawling on my lap. I can, however, set aside time specifically for Mary crawling on my lap and other kid related endeavors, and also set aside different time to read that article.

I am strong, but I am not a superhero. And I think consistently trying to do more than one thing well at one time is a way to drain this momma fast.

If I need some time to grieve, I need to take some time to grieve. Not grieve AND feed the kids dinner. Not grieve AND coach a teacher. I need to open up time to just let myself grieve, at least at some point during that day. And respect it. Likewise, I can’t write a super cool blog post AND interact with my kids (with any level of patience). I can work on house hunting/building stuff, but not at the same time as I pack my lunch.

It sounds so simple, but it is something I try and do so often! Not only am I going to do this one thing, but I’m going to do more than most other normal people and try and do more than one thing at the same time and then take pride in the fact that I am able to be so productive and efficient!

But at the end of the day, I just make myself tired.

So this is a good, recurring lesson for me. We won’t ever be able to finish All The Things when all is said and done. And learning to let myself take a slower pace, or set something aside for a while will only help maintain some much-needed balance. During the times when the seas are calm, but also when they are rougher too.


What helps you keep balance when things get busy? Have you had seasons of your life where you learned new ways to keep a healthy perspective?

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When Grown Ups Get Embarrassed (A Lesson in Parenting)

It’s been a while since I’ve been straight up embarrassed in public. Though I lean introvert, I can typically handle social situations in an appropriate manner.

This week, I was reminded how awful it feels to be embarrassed in front of others.

We were at the pool for Lissie’s swim lessons. I was sitting on the edge of the wading section, keeping an eye on Auggie (who was wearing a lifejacket), and also trying to keep the baby from freaking out at her lack of freedom while strapped in her carseat.

We’d been attending swim lessons all summer. 14 times to be exact. And I had spoken with a lifeguard a few weeks back about where I needed to be in relation to my son while he swam. I was told I needed to be at the edge of the pool, which is where I was.

I was surprised, therefore, that a lifeguard approached me at the last lesson pretty agressively and told me I needed to be within arm’s reach of my son.

I told him I thought I was doing the right thing, but it wasn’t a problem and promptly waded over to tell Auggie to stay close to me.

But then the lifeguard didn’t stop. He kept explaining the rule to me, loudly, even though I didn’t fight him on where he wanted me to be.

There were a lot of people at the pool.

I felt embarrassed.

I know he was trying to do his job and keep everyone safe, but it’s a weird moment when you think you are following the rules, but then someone keeps explaining it to you like you don’t get it for some reason or are going to fight him on it, even though you’re not.

I’ve never liked getting in trouble. I made it through school without a single detention. I cried once when I got a tally mark against me for talking in 2nd grade. I also cried when a very nice police officer pulled me over for speeding the one time I got a ticket.

I really, really, don’t like being singled out in public for a negative reason. And I think there is a much more respectful way to correct behavior, in both public and private situations.

Dignity and Teaching

I learned very early on in my urban teaching experience that my students responded a lot better to redirection if I did it privately, without embarrassing them.

There are a couple of kids I specifically remember. Kids who other teachers had a hard time getting to listen. Kids who often got phone calls home or one way trips to the office. But not with me. Why? Because the other teachers would scold them publicly, in front of their friends. And they would talk back in an attempt to save face.

When these same kids were approached quietly, privately, respectfully when the other students were working, things were different. They, more often than not, corrected their behavior, dignity intact.

I also tried as best as I could to assume the misbehavior was unintentional. There’s a big difference in approach between “Quit tapping that pencil on the paper- you know it’s distracting everyone!” and “You may not have realized this, but tapping your pencil that loudly makes it hard for me to focus on what I’m teaching. Is there a quieter way you could get your wiggles out?”

Understanding kid’s innate desire to be treated with dignity helped my teacher game more than I ever could have known. Kids felt safe in my classroom. They knew I respected them as people. And they were able to learn and trust that they were in good hands.

Dignity and Parenting

How many times a week does a kid get their behavior corrected? Judging by my own parenting experience, a lot.

I think it was good for my kids to see the pool incident happen. We talked about it on the way home. About how I wanted to say some not nice things to him, but didn’t, and how hard it is to control our tongues. We also talked about how he was in charge of the pool, and how I needed to be respectful of him, even though it was difficult.

We talked about how I just wanted to leave, and how I understand there have been times in the past when they have felt the same way, embarrassed by something so much that they wanted to go home.

I hope this helped, particularly our five-year-old. She is a child of Big Feelings. I hope it helped her see that grown-ups have Big Feelings sometimes, too. That we feel embarrassed sometimes. That we need to respect the people in charge, too.

I also hope this helps me remember to be sensitive to those moments when my kids are embarrased. To those moments when they feel like they aren’t in control of their life. When they are misunderstood. I think I was better at remembering these things in the context of a classroom than I am in the context of my kids at home. I don’t know why this is. Maybe because I don’t always get a ‘prep time’ each day when I can re-focus and re-charge. JP and I get a few hours while the kids sleep each night, but it’s not like there is ever any extended separation from the environment of home like there was when I left school each day and didn’t have to return until the following morning. It’s more constant each day at home. But it’s not an excuse to forget.

Thank You, Mr. Lifeguard

I didn’t like it when it happened, but that brief and uncomfortable encounter at the pool had a lot to teach me, and hopefully, helped me connect with my kids in a deeper way. It was a good reminder to me of what it feels like to have someone assume the worst intentions in you, and to publicly call you out on it.

I think it’s a good thing when we can take an uncomfortable situation and learn something from it. I’m thankful to that lifeguard. Though I didn’t appreciate his approach, I know he was trying to do his job well. His approach gave me an important reminder about how I handle things with the people I’m in charge of as their momma, and was yet another reminder of the importance of maintaining the dignity of those we encounter. No matter how big, or how small.



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On Taking Risks and Doing Scary Things

It’s been a bit quiet over here at This Catholic Family for the past week. And there’s good reason for it.

I’ve been working on something… a project on the side for some time now. And I recently reached a point where I was nearer the first finish line (more on that in a moment) than ever before.

Readers of this blog may have surmised that writing is something I enjoy. And it’s true. I love writing so much. It’s my favorite. Since Mary was born, I’ve been enjoying writing on this blog and contributing to other publications. Some of which you’ve seen, and others which are in the works. When I’m writing I feel like I am entirely myself. It’s always been that way. I still have stories and journals from my childhood. It’s part of who I was made to be.

And many moons ago, while I was a Creative Writing major at UW Milwaukee, I wrote a short story. It was an interesting short story, and it stuck with me over the following years. I dabbled with the idea of continuing the story onward, thinking there might be more to tell. I wrote snippets here and there, but it was all kind of random and non-cohesive.

Then I sat with about 25,000 words of a partial novel during the five years between when Felicity was a baby and Mary were born. I went back to work. Things were busy. But, this January, at the encouragement of my husband, I decided I was going to finish.

Fast forward to working on this blog, and also working on the novel in any moment I could spare. Evenings/weekend hours at Starbucks. Naptimes and quiet moments throughout the day. Literally anywhere and anytime I could.

It was terrifying. Still is. What if I put all that work in and the whole thing ends up being utter hogwash? What if I’m like the writer version of those people who audition for American Idol and think they are really good at singing but are actually tone deaf? It takes a lot more time to write a novel than it does to write a blog post, and you put so much of yourself into this massive work that the fear of it being awful is almost enough to make you stop.

But I just told that voice to quiet itself down as I sat in a chair or on a couch and wrote the next scene. Then the next one. And, before I knew it, I could see the finish line. I could count on one hand how many scenes I had left to write. So I hunkered down over the past couple weeks and got the first draft finished.

Yes, I have written a novel. It is a solid 99,000 words. Speculative Fiction. Elements of Magical Realism. Upmarket appeal.

The reason I said I’ve reached the first finish line is because I’m about to be knee deep in revisions. I think I have a pretty good idea of what needs tweaking, and will be spending the next three weeks or so gutting and cutting, and refining and shaping. Then, once I’ve done my absolute best, it’s off to a handful of Beta Readers, who I hope will give me additional feedback.

The next step is to start querying literary agents. Which is a whole ‘nother big situation that requires research and work.

So, while it feels like I’ve accomplished something kind of big, there is still a long way to go. But I love this story. I love the people I’ve had in my head for so long, and that what happens to them is finally out on paper. I’m going to give myself a solid year querying agents, and, if I need to at that point, will pursue self-publishing. Because I think this is a story that is worth being told.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, or anything else I have written, stay tuned. I’ll still be writing actively on This Catholic Family, but will also be launching a professional website for writing-related things in the coming months.

I hope I continue to have the courage to do scary things in my life. And I hope you do too.


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