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!


Purchase Lorelei’s Books Here:

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Meet Saint (Maker) Savaryn! (& Reflections on 2020, too)

When Covid started, I kept seeing all these people getting dogs. I was like “JP, all these people are getting dogs because they’re stuck at home hahaha, how interesting is that. We will clearly never get a dog because we’ll be too busy resuming our jet-setting lifestyle as soon as this is over. Also, dogs poop all over the yard.”

And then…with 13 days to go in this difficult year, a puppy arrived at our home and joined our family. Turns out, never say never has become quite the theme in my life, in many more ways than one.

Meet Saint Maker Savaryn!

We call him Saint, but his full name is Saint Maker because he will help us grow in virtue. Also, every time we call his name, which is a lot, it’s a reminder of our main objective- to become Saints ourselves!

Saint is a fluffy cuddle ball who loves pretending he is a great hunter, cuddling, licking peoples’ faces, and sometimes tinkling on our floor.

I am not a dog person, but I’m slowly warming to him. I like seeing the kids take him outside to go to the bathroom. I don’t completely mind when he’s tired at night and rests his little warm fuzzy self on my lap. JP has promised to brush his teeth daily so he doesn’t get stinky dog breath as he gets old.

JP is very sweet with him, too. He grew up with dogs and loves them even more than I realized. It’s cute to see my full grown husband walking around with the little fluffball Saint. They’re already becoming good friends.

Reflections on the Year

There have been less distractions this year- in terms of places to go, things to do, people to see. And it’s given me so much time to look at the life right in front of my face with clarity. Because of this, one of my biggest take home messages of the year has interestingly been an intense reaffirmation of how often the most worth-it things are not the easiest.

Growing in holiness is hard, raising children is hard, writing a book is hard, loving selflessly is hard, homeschooling is hard. But they are are really, really important things that I value, and this year, I found myself often reevaluating how I can be more intentional in all of these areas. Each is an act of love, in a very particular way, so, really, with all of these things so very present, and my own flaws so very exposed, the question has truly become: how can I love better? Especially inside the domestic church that is my home.

I’m much more impatient than I would like. I grow weary quickly with my family. I can have unrealistic expectations or not give someone the benefit of the doubt. I’ve fought battles against my own insecurities this year, particularly with writing. Once- when realizing I had to undertake a huge revision on my second book- a really, really important one that would make the difference between getting the book right or not- JP found me on the floor of our closet crying a little. This story mattered so much but I didn’t know if I was good enough to do what needed to be done. I was so scared! But, in time, I stood up, pushed through the uncomfortable feelings and got to work, one word at a time. And now I’m on the other side of that revision and am so very proud and excited to share that book with the world!

Which brings me to another big takeaway of 2020. Life isn’t about avoiding uncomfortable feelings at all costs, or even about avoiding suffering. Both of those things are part of life, and this year has given us all a lot to be uncomfortable with, or to bear as suffering. We cannot avoid those things, even in a ‘normal’ year, but in 2020 we all had to confront it on a global scale. What do we do when uncertainty hits? What do we do when we suffer? How can we take those things and use them for good-or to make the world a better and more hopeful, loving place?

Happy New Year

I wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy New Year. I almost was going to wish everyone a smoother 2021, but I think it’s better to wish everyone a 2021 that brings us all closer to God, to Love, to living as Gift of Self. God knows what we need to be holy, and it’s our job to accept whatever he brings.

Even if he brings you a puppy that likes to tinkle on your floor. 🙂


When Saying “Yes” Hurts

Mother Mary’s humble yes sent shockwaves through all of creation and set into motion the part of God’s salvation story that His people had been waiting on for such a long time.

My own tiny yesses pale in comparison to Mary’s. And while sometimes saying yes has ushered a period of excitement and joy in my own life, I have found that, oftentimes, saying yes also hurts.

I find encouragement in the joys of obedience, to be certain. But, even more than that, I find so much comfort and strength in uniting my little yesses to the yes of the Mother of our Lord, especially when the fiat isn’t joyful, or when it brings pain.

In many ways, Mary’s yes must have hurt. At the start, her unplanned pregnancy brought with it the potential for serious consequences- not only for her marriage, but even for her life. And later, she watched her son as he was treated like a criminal, crucified, and killed before her very eyes. Mary has the most beautiful mother’s heart of all. It could not have been easy to watch her son in so much pain, and to also know that she had to say yes yet again in that moment for what God had started to be fulfilled. The first yes that Mary gave to the angel found its fulfillment in the silent and continued yes of watching her son suffer for the salvation of all.

A Few Examples of “Yes”

Over the past five years and thanks to Mary’s example, a couple of my small yesses have helped me lean more into our Holy Mother, particularly when saying yes has been painful in some way.

To start, I am a Catholic convert. Saying yes to becoming Catholic was one of the most joy-filled, beautiful moments of my life. But it also hurt. We lost some friends and were cut off from our social supports at the Protestant church we left. We had many strained discussions with others who didn’t understand what we were doing and weren’t interested in learning why, but who were genuinely worried for our salvation. It’s a bit harder to get connected at a Catholic parish than a Protestant church, and the first year or so as a Catholic felt quite lonely. Especially as someone coming from a position of caution when it came to devotion to Mary, in my struggles as a brand new Catholic I leaned into her and started viewing her as my mother, too. I spent time staring at the Pieta in our Adoration room, and understood better that pain is not always something to be avoided. In fact, pain and suffering is often important. Even more than that, pain is the very thing that led to our redemption.

Another important yes in my life came after my Confirmation, when my husband and I felt the call to openness to life yet again. We had two beautiful children, and, in them, the family I had imagined I would have ever since I was a little girl. God’s gentle question, asking me to consider bringing more life into the world wasn’t a small ask. Pregnancy, for me, brings incredible physical and mental strain. I am prone to hyperemesis gravidarum, which often means nausea medication throughout my pregnancy, and sometimes means hospitalization. In the case of my youngest, it meant feeling like a stranger in my skin, nauseous every waking hour for the full nine months, my only relief coming in the hours I was able to fall asleep. At this point in my life, I consider my pregnancies to be the source of my greatest suffering, and also my greatest blessings.

I leaned even harder into Mary during those slow, difficult hours that made up the days that made up the weeks of my pregnancy. I learned even more about redemptive suffering. My agony was literally bringing life into the world.

On the other side of it, I met two children I never knew I would have. My third child, Mary, is a spunky, joy-filled delight. And Zelie is a toddler who loves hugs and does the silliest dances just to make us laugh. Those were difficult yesses for me to make, but the rest of our lives will be all the more beautiful for it.

Our yes can look like the examples I gave, but they can look many different ways as well. Sometimes our yes might not necessarily be the act of taking something on. Our yes might be tear-stained acceptance of a loss. It might be want for something, or a longing unfilfilled. Those yesses are exceptionally special as well, because they are a yes to suffering, particularly in a way where the reward may not be seen or known this side of heaven.

Yes Leads to Redemption

The problem of pain isn’t new. It’s a problem as old as the fall of man. There are some times, like in the examples I shared, when we see the redemption in the pain during our lives here on earth. There are other times when we may not. Those are the times when we must say yes to a greater trust in our faith that the world we see and touch and hurt in today isn’t the end of the story. Mary can help us there, too. She saw her son die, and she saw her son raised. She witnessed mankind’s greatest redemption. But she is also our Mother, and she witnesses our pain with the same tender care and compassion as she witnessed the pain of her son on the cross.

She whispers gently to us that saying yes may not be easy. But our yes, no matter how big or how small, is a beautiful, vital part of God’s redemption story. She assures us that we are never alone in our journey to be faithful. Even if, and especially when, it hurts.


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Why Didn’t God Just Take Away the Tree?

I love having conversations with the kids about our Catholic faith. Their insights and questions astound me and amaze me time and time again, and it’s such an honor and a privilege to engage with them.

Recently, while doing a short follow-up at bedtime to our most recent faith formation lesson, in which our six-year-old son learned about original sin and the fall of man, he asked a simple, yet profound question:

“Why didn’t God just take away the tree?”

The tree, of course, that he’s referring to, is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as described in Genesis. His sweet reasoning was that if God had just taken away the tree, then Adam and Eve would never have sinned, and humanity would have saved ourselves a whole lot of trouble.

I realized very quickly that my son was really asking a much, much bigger question than he even realized at the time.

How do we even read the story of The Fall anyway?

I’ll pause here a moment to share my own journey with the book of Genesis. I was raised Protestant, and was taught to believe the Bible was both historically and literally true in all its components. That sort of thinking made it hard for me to reconcile certain parts of the Bible, like the two seemingly-conflicting accounts of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. As I came into adulthood, it caused me to struggle to see the Bible as something more than a book of children’s stories. And, in the end, that type of firm adherence to literal interpretation across the board, was one of the many reasons I became Catholic.

There’s a great video here by Fr. Mike Schmitz that helps explain how the Bible is meant to be read, emphasizing the fact that the Bible is actually a collection of books by many different authors that are all true- but that are not all meant to be historically and literally true in every instance. The appropriate way to read a Bible would be to see it as a book made of books of different genres and purposes. While the accounts of creation in Genesis are historically true (in the sense that at some point God started time and brought the world into existence), they weren’t intended to be a literal telling of how that happened.

I like to say this when talking with my children about the different parts of the Bible- that some parts, like the gospels, were recorded as historical and literal truths about the life of the person Jesus. Some books, like the Psalms, are songs and poems. And some parts, tell us what happened, but weren’t meant to tell us exactly how.

The story of creation in Genesis and the depiction of the fall fit that what but not the specific how definition. For example, as Catholics, we are not bound to believe in a literal talking snake, but we are to believe the deeper truth of the fall of man and original sin, as taught in the Catechism.

Back to the Tree

Okay, so back to my conversation with my son.

What he was really asking, in the question of “Why didn’t God just take away the tree?” boiled down to what love means and what is required for love to be possible in the first place.

Let’s start with God. God is love, completely and fully. So, when God decided to create, He brought forth nature, he brought forth animals. And then, at some point in the vast spectrum of the process that was creation of the known universe, He did something different. He made an animal, but with something more. He gave that animal the capacity to love, just like Him. Until then, he had nature that followed the laws of science. He had animals that followed the laws of their instincts. But we are made in His image, particularly in His capacity to love. This is what sets us apart from squirrels and bears and donkeys. We can choose to go against our urges and instincts, we can do things that have absolutely no benefit to us or even to our survival, in the name of love.

Why Does that Matter?

Next, let’s imagine an Eden without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve live in peace and harmony, and all of mankind follows, right? Sure. They would have been perfectly contented little creatures.

But God didn’t make us to be perfectly contented little creatures. He made us for love.

And what is required for love?

Love requires and demands the freedom to choose.

Without choice, then we can’t really love. Without choice, we’re robots. We’re submissive. We do the will of God not because we want to but because we must.

If God had taken away the proverbial tree, he would have taken away Adam and Eve’s free choice to choose Love or to turn away from it. And then they wouldn’t have been able to really, truly, love at all.

The tree had to be there. And by the tree, I mean the choice. The choice had to exist. For love to be real, you have to have the option to say: “No, I don’t want that.” “I choose my good over your good.” Or, in the best case scenario, “I choose your good, regardless of what that means for me.”

We do it all the time, even still to this day. How many times during a day are we faced with that very same decision. I can be short with my kids or I can be patient. I can get irritated at the person in front of me in line who is taking forever, or I can be gracious. On a larger scale, I can offer myself as a gift to my husband and my children, my neighbors, strangers and friends, or I can choose self-preservation and selfishness.

Back at the beginning and resonating through time to our very moment in this world today, that choice contains so much power.

It’s what makes love possible in the first place.

The Bedtime Chat

Of course, with my son, I didn’t quite go into all of this depth just yet. He’s six, and, God-willing, we’ll have time. But we did talk about the tree, and what it means. We talked about God and how he desires more than anything for us to love Him and other people and the world. And if he had taken away the tree, if he had taken away that choice, then our original parents wouldn’t have been able to really love Him or anyone or anything at all.

The story of The Fall is a sad story, but it’s so very, very important. It’s only the beginning of a much bigger, much more beautiful story of Love, giving all of Itself for all of us. The story we are all a part of, even to this day.

And I can’t wait to have more conversations with my kids about it as we live our our lives in the domestic church we call home.


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How Being Catholic Informs My Life as a Writer (AKA: I Have A Book Coming Out… Really Soon!)

Hello friends of This Catholic Family!

I hope that this blog post finds you all well. Navigating the waters of 2020 hasn’t been easy. We are so happy to share that Felicity was able to receive her First Communion in a private family Mass in May, and our church has been open and we’ve been able to attend again on a regular basis. It was very challenging to be away from in-person Mass for so long, and we’re thankful to be back.

First Communion 🙂

The News

Which brings us to the next major event of the Savaryn year, which is… that I have a book coming out in just over a week! On one hand, it feels like it’s been a long time coming. On the other hand, it feels like it’s sneaking up on me super fast.

I received a 2 book deal from Penguin Random House, and my first book is called THE CIRCUS OF STOLEN DREAMS releases on September 1. It’s for middle grade readers aged 10+, and anyone who loves a good magical, hopeful tale.

I’ve worked really, really hard on this story for such a long time, and I’d love to give a brief synopsis and share how my Catholic faith informs my writing for the mainstream market.

The Story

A dream world turns haunting nightmare in this spellbinding debut novel, perfect for fans of Circus Mirandus and The Night Gardener.

After Andrea’s brother, Francis, disappeared, everything changed. Her world turned upside down, and there was nothing she could do to right it. So when she discovers a magical dream world called Reverie in the woods near her home, Andrea jumps at the chance to escape her pain and go inside. But the cost of admission is high: Andrea must give up a memory in order to enter. And she knows exactly which memory she’d like to give up.

Once inside, Andrea discovers tent after tent of dreams come alive; she can fly on a gust of wind, brave swashbuckling pirates and search for buried treasure, reach for–and wish on–a tangible star, and much, much more. But Andrea soon realizes that not all of Reverie’s dreams are meant to delight, and the Sandman behind the circus tents seems to have plans of his own. When Andrea finds a tent in which her brother’s darkest nightmare has been brought to life, she realizes the dark truth: Reverie is not an escape; it’s a trap.

Will Andrea and her new friend Penny have what it takes to find Francis, figure out what’s really going on in Reverie, and break free from this nightmarish dream world?

A wonderfully inventive, deliciously creepy debut novel that is sure to linger in readers’ minds long after the last thrilling page has been turned.

Praise for The Circus of Stolen Dreams:

* “Savaryn’s unconventional story makes for a bewitching debut, filled with dazzling descriptions and real surprises.” —Booklist, *STARRED REVIEW*

How My Faith Impacts My Writing

I write stories for kids for the mainstream market, but as a Catholic, my faith is part of who I am, and it plays a role in my life as an author in so many ways.

Above my mantel, I have a large piece of wall art with a quote by well-known Catholic GK Chesterton that reads: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

When I think about the kinds of stories I want to write for kids, it always comes back to that underlying pulse of hope.

I want to write stories that show that good, and beauty, and truth can win the day, even when things feel very, very hard, or even scary. My book is a bit scary at times, but life is sometimes scary, even for children, and I think its important for kids to see themselves in books, from the safety of a story, where characters wrestle with and then overcome really difficult things.

I want my stories to show how beautiful and good things can come out of suffering. That you can learn to be brave. That love is stronger than anything that comes against it. All of that and so much more stems from my Catholic faith.

There are so many wonderful Catholic authors that have come before me, and who have written books outside the official genre of Catholic literature, but who have contributed wonderful, timeless stories to the world. Tolkein is the first and, perhaps, loudest that comes to mind. Flannery O’Connor, Victor Hugo, Mary Higgins Clark continue the long list. I’m in super good company, and I can only hope to tell stories that end up beloved and on shelves for a long time to come.

I feel thankful every day for the ability to tell stories for my work. It would be an absolute honor if you would consider buying a copy for your family.

Signed copies are available through The Book Stall here (just request on order notes that you’d like it signed and who it should be made out to)

General order link through Penguin is here.

My book is also being released as a Kindle edition and as an audiobook, available through the above link as well.

And I’d be delighted if you’d join us for my virtual launch party at 6:30pm CST on Sept 1, hosted by The Book Stall. Registration is free, but you do need to reserve a spot to attend. Register here.


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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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Not Watching the Clock

This week, we had the second anniversary of the day we lost my aunt to suicide. It was something I had been dreading… the lead up to that date is always tough, and then figuring out how to navigate the day itself and the days surrounding it hasn’t been easy.

We have a few anniversaries… the date she died, the next day when we found out she died…and a few more along the way as well.

In the weeks after we lost her, I became a detective in the worst sort of way. We were able to piece together a timeline of what happened, and a lot of “this is when she made that decision” “this was her last communication” types of things.

And because we have that timeline, it’s been very tempting for me to ‘watch the clock’ on the anniversary dates, to remember what she was going through at the exact moments she was going through them. But also, the decision to watch the clock last year made me feel extra sad.

So this year, I called my mom to check in and we talked about our plans for the evening and how it was weird to decide what we were going to do and how we would spend our time. I shared that it was hard for me to not watch the clock and she said the same.

We both decided that this year we wanted to try to have a normal evening, and to intentionally not watch the clock and instead choose to engage in some self-care. For me, that meant watching a show with JP and eating chips and salsa and microwave s’mores.

And I honestly think that was the best decision I could have made.

One, it made the night much more tolerable.

The other big thing is that two years ago, when my aunt died, a very deep darkness won. It is horrible and awful and it will always be horrible and awful that darkness won that day.

But we don’t have to keep letting the darkness win each year on that night.

I pray for Jeannine every day. I intend to keep praying for her as long as I’m alive. I grieve for her. Sometimes I grieve deeply. That is a part of the process too, and I respect that and validate that when the waves of grief crash heavy on the shores.

I also think it’s important for me to make the choice each and every day to live. For me, this year on the sad anniversaries that surround February 4th for our family, I chose to engage with my children. To visit with friends. To eat snacks and snuggle with my husband. That felt more powerful to me than forcing myself to relive the darkness by watching the clock and letting some of that darkness in.

It’s a tough balance, managing a loss like this one, but this year I’m thankful for the conversation my mom and I shared, and that we both were able to, as much as we could, not let the darkness claim another victory by stealing from the precious time we have.


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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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The Inescapable Beauty of Hope

Breathing Hope

So much of my life is framed by hope. I hope the kids will sleep well, I hope the weather will be nice, I hope I’ll have time to drink my coffee. Hope, hope, hope. Little things like that. And big things, too. I hope I’ll be a published author some day. I hope my kids will grow up to be kind, good adults. I hope JP and I will live long lives and be able to see our children’s children grow.

But there is also a deeper hope than this. And it is also part of my every breath. It is something that brings me such joy, even when things don’t go as I hope on a small scale, or even big.

And it is the hope that there is something more than just the physical world we encounter during our short time on this earth.

A Crutch of Hope

For example, I have to hope that this intense love I feel for my children and my husband is more than just biochemistry for biochemistry’s sake. I have to hope that humanity is an echo of God, and familial love is an echo of heaven. I have to hope that my attraction to beauty and harmony comes from something deep and vast. And that my anger at injustice comes from a connection to an ultimate source of Good.

Some people may say I’m weak for leaning on a crutch like that. But I’m okay with going through my life on a crutch of hope. A few years ago, when JP and I were figuring out the worldview by which we would live our lives, I experimented to see if I could find meaning dissociated from a higher power. And maybe some people can. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get myself to a place where I could believe we didn’t have souls, and that there was no ultimate source of Good, and there was no point, and never would be for our existence, and then along those lines still believe my life had value, or that it mattered how I treat others, or that justice of any kind was important other than to further survival in a segment of our species so we could live long enough to be burned up by the sun.

If I lost that hope, I couldn’t find a way to justify, other than a desire to procreate, why I would have brought three more meaningless souls into the world. But if there is hope, then procreation is co-creating with the Ultimate Creator, who is also the ultimate source of Good. My children, like all of humanity, carry souls and are stamped with the image of the Creator.

So, for these and many reasons, I actively, and with great intention, chose hope.

My True North

Hope in something more is my True North. It is the direction by which everything else in my life is set. It’s how I frame my own minutes spent on this earth. It’s how I frame my actions towards other people. It is at the very foundation of the value and dignity I believe every human inherently carries by virtue that they exist.

It is this same hope that underlies my belief that there is still a chance my aunt, who we lost to suicide in February, has found or is finding peace and healing. That her story doesn’t end with ultimate despair. That all our stories don’t just end.

I choose to believe that Aslan will defeat the White Witch. That Good will defeat Evil. That wrongs done on this earth will be made right in a way that will more than atone for the suffering people faced.

Once I decided to live a life believing something bigger than us out there, I also chose to believe that higher power is all Good, is all Love, and is all Truth. That next step helps me to further frame how I build my life.

If There Is…

Because if there is Good, then it matters that I learn what is Good, and that I choose Good over its opposite.

Because if there is Love, then it matters that I learn what is Love, and that I live a life built around willing the good of those whose lives cross paths with mine.

If there is Truth, then it matters that I learn what is Truth. That I sift through my own personal biases and preferences, and even my own selfishness in order to recognize Truth and assent to it.

A Life Well-Lived

I hope to look back on my life one day, and have peace that it was well-lived. Lived for others, lived in the promise of something more, something beyond, something that is the source of all Good and all Love and all Truth.

It gives me great peace to hope we are all a small part of something bigger, something ultimately Good. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks I’m foolish for leaning on a crutch. That person doesn’t have to answer for the minutes of my life, or for how I choose to experience my existence. But in the name of hope, I will always hope that all those I encounter are able to find their peace. The compass by which they can walk this journey of life.

And that, in a nutshell, is why and how I have chosen to frame my life through a lens of hope.



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Donuts After Mass and Other Hopeful Things

Well, we’ve made it to Illinois! Though the move wasn’t too far, mileage speaking, it was far enough that we are having to reset many aspects of our life. In the next few weeks, we will be finding new doctors, dentists, playgrounds… pretty much everything. We keep checking things off the list, but new things get added as well. They all keep telling me it will settled down at some point. And I will choose to believe them. I look forward to the day when all the big stuff is done. But we are here. And that’s a good start.

So here’s a little update on the goings-on of This Catholic Family, now of Illinois.

Donuts After Mass

We think we’ve found a parish! St. Raphael the Archangel. It’s a gorgeous church built of multiple old churches, just a few minutes from our house. I have grown to love beautiful churches so much in the past few years, and this one just felt right for our family, almost as soon as we walked in. The beauty is there, and the history, and the hope of something new. They are still installing the stained glass windows, and have additional work to to in finishing the build of the church so we feel like we are a part of a beautiful beginning, but also something that has roots.

One of the things we were going to miss about moving was our family tradition of donuts after Mass. We would go to O+H Danish Bakery in Racine frequently after Mass for donuts. As we were preparing to move, I looked and couldn’t find a bakery in our area that would quite feel the same. St. Raphael’s, it turns out, offers donuts and fellowship time in the basement of the church each and every Sunday. And you can bet we’ve checked it out! I wish more parishes had something like this, and I am so thankful St. Raphael’s does. It’s helped us get to know a few people already. We are optimistic about joining our family life with the life of this new parish.

Emptiness = Potential

There’s a lot of empty in this house right now. Empty walls, waiting to be painted then filled up with art and pictures. Empty rooms waiting for furniture to arrive. And the emptiness that comes from living in a space you haven’t made many memories in yet, which feels a bit lonely at times. But that kind of emptiness is also filled with potential. The potential for all the memories that we are going to make. It’s been helping me during this transition to pay attention to when a new memory shows up in this new town, in this new home we are forming for ourselves.

A few examples:

When the kids came to the the house for the first time after we moved, they ran and squealed as they went to find their new rooms, and checked out the space. The kids have their own rooms now, but August went right to Felicity and said “My door is always open.” It was so sweet.

There’s one.

A huge rainstorm came through. We can see a lot of sky from our front yard, and when the rain passed, the dark purple rainclouds brushed away to more open skies with streaks of clouds containing every color of the rainbow. The burnt orange sun slipped down toward the horizon, and I stood outside in that salty, warm air, and saw a sunset I would have never been able to see from outside our old house. JP joined me outside and we just stared at it for a while together. I could have looked at that sunset forever.

There’s one.

This weekend we had a family movie night, and watched The Greatest Showman with the kids. At the end credits everyone was dancing and twirling around the family room until we were all pretty dizzy.

There’s one.

Slowly, but surely, this empty house will fill up. With furniture, with kids projects from school, with pictures on the wall. And with memories. This will be the house we think of first when we tell our family’s story. The emptiness of this space has so, so much potential.

And we found a way to still have donuts after Mass. 🙂


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