Stop laughing, I’m trying to sleep.

How have I not heard about this?  How do I not have one of these?

As I prepare for a trans-Atlantic flight and prep myself for the dreaded “You must sleep now, surrounded by strangers, in a two by three foot space, sitting upright.  Ready… go!” I found this.


I can’t decide what is funnier — the mental picture of me whipping this out in front of the pilgrimage group I’m leading, or the mental picture of my boss walking into my office and finding me sleeping with this on my head.


Preparing my heart

“How well it is for the Christian soul to behold the city which is like a heaven on earth, full of the sacred bones and relics of the martyrs, and bedewed with the precious blood of those witnesses for truth; to look upon the image of our Savior, venerable to all the world, to mark the footprints in the solid stone, forever worthy of the worship of the nations, to roam at will from tomb to tomb rich with the memories of the Saints; to wander at random through the basilicas of the Apostles, with no other company than good thoughts.”



Dreaming HGTV Style


Shortly after hearing a powerful homily about poverty by a Franciscan friar, I headed north of town this afternoon to the Southern Living 2013 Idea House.  Or shall I say “dream home”?  Sitting on the fabulous back porch, I had to keep reminding myself of that homily on poverty.  Because suddenly I wanted it.  All.

The place is gorgeous.  It’s obviously unrealistic for everyone who desires a family (there were no playrooms) or isn’t independently wealthy. (You would have to work so much to pay for the house you’d never be home to enjoy it.)  But it made for a fantastically fun afternoon on an absolutely beautiful day.  And it was a great way to get ideas for my own home — which was the whole point. Yes, I’ll never be able to afford anything they have in there.  But I just may have convinced myself to consider window treatments for my floor to ceiling windows.

There were five buildings in all, three of which were connected with a marvelous front porch.  (I feel like my friend Luke right now, because all I want to keep saying is “fantastic.”  Because everything was just that.)

The staff made sure we knew to make ourselves at home — everything could be touched, opened, sat upon, turned on.  (Except the water closets.  They made sure to put on the door that you weren’t supposed to take advantage of those.)  I may have even curled up on one of the beds…

From the minute the house(s) came into sight, attention to detail became evident.  Check out these “gutters” — awesome.


It took us awhile to even go inside… when there are beautiful porches to enjoy, why rush?  (Manda was much more excited than she looks in this picture.  In fact, this was her favorite part of the house. I think the look on her face is “contentment.”)


Sorry the picture below is rather blurry — it’s the only decent one I have of the awesome doors that separated the large living room from the beautiful kitchen.  Huge barn doors on rollers.  Awesome.  They popped up in a few other rooms, too.  That plus the exposed beams?  Gorgeous.


On the thing was really impressive in this front room was the beautiful mix and match of patterns while not being over the top.  The color pallet was simple and clean – white, blue, green – and they chose to have fun with the materials and patterns instead.  It was perfect.

And all the built-ins on the wall — fantastic, if I can use that word again.  You almost didn’t notice them, and yet think of the amount of storage that gives you.  One of my favorite features of the house.

And if you look through that door, you’ll see the room that made me squeal…


This one.  Built in bookshelves?  Yes, please.


It was a little too green for me, but I loved the layout.

I thought I had wanted to save money and not buy a “real” bed — just a bed frame from Sam’s and a mattress and save money for things like couches… until I saw the four poster.  I need to find one at an estate sale, stat.  My room is calling out for a four poster bed.


And everyone needs a good bathtub.


Don’t worry, I’m not going to show you every room in every house.  But here are some highlights from the guest houses.

Another barn door showed up in the lower floor bedroom of the bigger guest house:


Some elk showed up in one of the “bunkies”:


The bunkies were the smallest buildings — basically a single hotel room, with two double beds (maybe they were queens?), a little nook with a refrigerator and dishes, and a bath.  There was one on either side — one decorated more femininely and one on the masculine side.


And I couldn’t pass up this weathervane.  Because of course a house this perfect needs a Westie.  (the doghouse was sponsored by Cesar.  Natch.)


The Idea House is on the grounds of Fontanel, Barbara Mandrell’s former home.  It is now a concert venue and a nice tourist destination.  The grounds were really nice — lots of places to wander and sit and enjoy the beautiful fall day.  Oh, and there’s a Goo Goo Cluster store.  Genius.


So the beautiful day was topped off with Goo Goo Cluster ice cream.  Of course it was.


All in all, it was definitely worth the drive and the price of admission.  I don’t think I’d ever want a house that nice … I’d rather have a house that could be lived in and loved, rather than displayed and kept clean.  But it’s fun to dream.

Head & Heart

There are moments of prayer when you feel nothing.  It’s not just dry, it’s chapped.  Painful and seemingly futile, you try to press on.

And then there are moments of prayer that are exactly the opposite.  An overwhelming response of love and being loved.  Oodles of spiritual consolation.  Tonight was one of those nights.

A dark church, Jesus in the monstrance, and Franciscan Friars of the Renewal leading praise.

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I was turned off by praise and worship.  I saw the dangers of a relationship with God based only on emotions and feeling.  My experiences of praise and worship had been the “touchy-feelie-happy-clappie” music that tried to be relevant, often hand-in-hand with liturgical abuses, and inevitably resulted in emotional highs that ended in nothing but wilted wheat.  (See Matthew 13:20-21 and the seed that has no root.)

Then I met a group of girls who opened my eyes to what I had been missing.  They probably didn’t even they were doing it; they were simply praying with me, praying for me, and showing me how “praise and worship” could be a genuine companion to my liturgically correct, intellectually-grounded relationship with God.

Your relationship doesn’t have to be pure emotion.  It also doesn’t have to be purely intellectual.  In fact, it should be both.

If our prayer life depends on emotional highs, it’s not going to last long.  But there’s also nothing wrong with praising God through song … and maybe even with our hands. (don’t tell anyone I said that.)

I still don’t pray that way often – partly because it’s not my go-to manner of prayer, and partly because I’m pretty picky and it has to be done right for me to be able to pray with it.  If it’s too showy, if it’s not liturgically correct, if it’s trying too hard, if it’s too loud, if it’s just bad… well, give me some silence and a rosary instead, thanks.

But tonight was a sublime night of prayer.  My parish had been hosting a “Catholic Underground” once a month (a night of prayer, adoration, and music and fellowship) and had taken a break.  Tonight was the first one since the summer, and three Franciscan Friars of the Renewal flew down to join us.  They led the holy hour and they emceed the music afterwards.

The Holy Hour was incredible.  Several musicians accompanied Brother’s beautiful voice as he led both Evening Prayer and praise and worship in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament.  Three priests were hearing confession.  The hour flew by.

This was a reoccurring song during praise…  It has to be one of the best songs for praise and worship during Adoration, and not just because hearing it brings back beautifully moving WYD images.

After Adoration, we all headed downstairs for the concert.  In true Nashville form, it featured singer-songwriters- all of them local. Maggie Padgett (formerly of Judd & Maggie), Roman Candle, Mike Lahey, and Audrey Assad all graced the stage.  I’m sure Matt Maher would have joined in if he would have been home.


Audrey Assad with Fr. Agustino

And then the Friars took the stage, too!


We ended with Compline, the Night Prayer of the Church.

And if you think the night couldn’t be better… oh, it was.  Shortly after the concert started, I headed back up the church to see if Father was still hearing confessions. He was heading downstairs as I was heading up, but he gladly returned to the confessional, assuring me, “I like killing sins.”  So now I am shriven, too.

I’m pretty sure we need the Franciscan Friars to come every month.  I could get used to this praise and worship stuff.

7 Not-so-quick Takes

1.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude right now.  God is so good.  I was sitting on my porch tonight, the weather perfect, my citronella candles warding off any scary bugs, and I was overwhelmed with my life.  In fact, my life is so wonderful that I began convincing myself that something awful was just around the corner.  And then I realized — or maybe He reminded me — that God is good, and His blessings are bountiful.  I should be thankful for them rather than assuming life is too good to be true.  So thank you, God.  I’m not sure what I did to deserve this, but thanks.  (Spoiler: we did nothing to deserve anything.)

Earlier this evening I was in a kind of a funk.  I even made a playlist called “Cheer Up,” to listen to while I did the dishes.  But sitting out on my porch, saying my rosary in the dark, something changed.  And I’m glad.  I guess I’m grateful for feelings of gratitude.

I don’t have any news – nothing has really changed in my life – so maybe this praise seems out of left-field.  But when I look around and realize how much other people have to suffer, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the gifts – even the smallest- that He has given me.

2. This year is a bit of a milestone birthday for me, so I’m trying to make big plans.  I may not be where I thought I’d be at this age, but I’m not sure I ever really thought about where I’d be at this age.  Isn’t that kind of funny?  I guess I never thought about growing up and doing anything.  I never dreamed about having ten kids, becoming a doctor, writing the great American novel.  Does that make me a loser?  Perhaps.  But maybe that makes birthdays easier.  I don’t have to blow out candles thinking, “But I didn’t discover the cure for cancer this year.”

Despite my low expectations, it’s still going to be weird to leave this decade of my life, so I’ve decided to celebrate in a big way.  I’m going to the Big Apple.

Maybe if I write it here, it’ll happen.  Because right now I’m having my doubts.  But think of the things I can cross off my bucket list!  Broadway shows!  Bobby Flay’s restaurants!  New York at Christmastime?  Yes, please!  Isn’t it a magical land of store windows, perfect snowfalls, and maybe John Payne walking down the street in a fedora?  No?  Hm. Well, surely Neal Caffrey will be there, right?  Oh, that’s fake, too?  Hm.  Well, it will still be magical.  I know it will.

The only problem is… New York is expensive.  Since most of the friends who could go with me are also single and either students and work for the Church, well, we have our work cut out for us.  But I’m going to make it there.  Somehow.

3. On a completely different note, has anyone else seen American Ninja Warrior?   I heard about it from our new priest on campus, Father Kevin, after he declared to me that he was going to be the first American to conquer Mt. Midoriyama.  I didn’t really get it until I stumbled upon it myself while sick on the couch.  It’s amazing what you watch when you’re feeling too sick to do anything but blow your nose and drink orange juice.

American Ninja Warrior is an obstacle course… for ninjas.  There are various qualifying rounds around the country, but no American has ever completed all four stages of the course.  It’s a spinoff from a Japanese show, and that’s all I really know.  Other than the fact that it’s awesome.

The following clip doesn’t show you half of the insane things these guys have to do, but it shows the salmon ladder, which is my favorite:

The upper body strength of these guys is incredible.  (This is a good example, too; and this is the closest anyone got this year– and is the stage that really got me hooked.) They pull themselves across ledges with only their fingertips.  If you hear about a Catholic priest qualifying, remember you heard it here first.

4. Speaking of things you’ll watch while on your couch sick … did you know the Duggars are still on TV?  I used to watch them all the time.  And now Josh and Anna have three kids!  Where has the time gone?

5. Did I mention I’m leading a trip to Rome next week?  I beg your prayers… not only that we make our connection, but that there are no major mishaps and that we are all open to the graces waiting for us.  I’m counting on your prayers.  And in return… I’ll pray for you!

6. Do I make you suffer through two more of these, just so I can call this 7 Quick Takes?

7.  Happy Birthday to my brother — and happy feast day a day early.  You know, St Matthew – patron of accountants. ; )

Looking back

While I was an undergraduate, this thing called “blogging” came onto the scene with the name LiveJournal.  I distinctly remember looking at my friend’s LJ for the first time.  I couldn’t figure out how to click into her post, so I was completely confused as to what LJ even was. And then I was kind of incredulous- anyone can just post their journal and their friends can read it online?!

Wow, how far we’ve come in ten years.  Now the internet is cluttered with LJs, just with different names.

I periodically re-read parts of my journal from those years, nostalgically remembering the highs and the lows.  There are references to things that caused huge drama that now I have no clue about; there are giddy entries; there are stressed-out entries.

A few days ago I came across this one – written almost exactly eight years ago – and it gave me a keen insight into what made Christendom a community: the chapel.  It wasn’t entirely the chapel, of course, but if you read the thoughts below, you’ll realize that this senior girl found her home in a little rural college in Virginia because Jesus was at the center of the community.

My Loves

I love walking across campus as the sun just comes over the mountains and the air is crisp and fresh before it turns hot in the middle of the day. I love seeing everyone walking around, doing their own thing, going to their own classes and practices. I love going to Mass with everyone and knowing that our unity as a community revolves around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass– and everyone realizes it. I love going to lunch and being kind of frazzled when everyone comes up to ask me to make an announcement, but getting to see so many people and talk with so many people makes it worth it. I love when Mr. Wurtz winks at me. I love when I walk past a table of senior guys and they yell “Watson!” to get my attention, as if I’m one of them, then treat me like a lady when I come to the table. I love kneeling in the chapel at 9:30 at night with tons of other students and friends, knowing that we all have the same core beliefs, the same loves, the same aspirations to become saints. I love going to Compline and beginning to end my day with all the guys chanting in Latin and the chapel dark. I love sitting and talking to the president of my college about things like coffee and Rome, and then his wife comes and gives me a big hug because it’s the first time she’s seen me this semester. I love stopping and talking to girls in their rooms about the day’s events and tomorrow’s expectations. I love walking back to my room at midnight with the campus mostly silent, except for a few wanderers and late-night adventurers. I love the fact that my only responsibilities right now are to God, my thesis and other courses, my class as senior class president, my friends to be the best friend I can, and to my parents to work my rear end off to make them proud.
I don’t know why I’m in this mood, but I guess it’s a pretty darn good mood to be in.


Tonight one of my friends mentioned a friend of hers she wanted to set me up with who “really wanted to get married.”  I half-joked about that being a turnoff.   “There are two turnoffs in a man,” I announced.  “Those who don’t want to get married and those who want to get married too badly,”

Of course, I’m sure there’s a very nice man out there right now who probably fits in one of those categories and who, because God has a sense of humor, I’ll end up marrying.  Ha.

But let me explain.  I think the first one is self-explanatory, so I won’t waste time talking about it.  But the second – the one who wants to get married “too badly,” I think might be a bit more controversial.  I can hear everyone now: “But if he knows his vocation is marriage, shouldn’t he want to get married?!”

Okay, so I’m not talking about the guy who has discerned his vocation to marriage and is now living a happy life wooing good virtuous Catholic girls in order to find his wife.  If only there were more of those in the world.

I’m talking about the kind of guy that wants to get married so badly that in the middle of a conversation with him I begin to wonder if he really sees me or if he just sees marriage material.   Are you flirting with me because you think I have a great personality?  Or because I would make a nice baby machine? (Girls fall into this trap, too, of course.  Do you love him?  Or have you convinced yourself you love him so that you can have babies?  Are you in love or just afraid of being alone?)

I’m talking about the guy that is so anxious to get married that he’s solely focused on the fact that he’s not married at this moment.   If you can’t be happy with today, why do you think you’ll be happy with tomorrow?  Even if I was the perfect girl, I’m not going to make you happy if you can’t be happy right now.  That’s too much to ask.  God can make you happy, and you’re not letting Him right now.  So why would married life be different?

So yes, I want a guy who is not opposed to settling down and starting a family.  But it’d be nice if he wanted to start a family with me and not just a girl who fits his checklist.

That being said, speaking of checklists, I present to you my list of turnoffs.  So Good Catholic Boys (GCBs), pay attention.  Courtesy of this GCG (Good Catholic Girl).

1. Cursing, especially in front of us

2. Not holding the door open for us

3. Not praying

4. Not going to Mass

5. Being too anxious to get married

6. Being not anxious enough to get married

7. Not having a sense of humor

8. Wearing flipflops to Sunday Mass

9. General lack of gentlemanly behavior in front of ladies

10.  Insulting/being disrespectful to others, especially those smaller/weaker/meeker than you

Obviously, there are more.  But I think that’s a nice start.  And obviously I don’t speak for all GCGs, and if you are offended by any of the above… well, see #7