Thursday, December 17, 2015

Domestic Pursuits

The last, oh, nine months or so, I've been mentally and physically preoccupied with domestic pursuits (right after completing this long article on beauty). For the first few months, I was all too physically engaged with gestation, but then my time cleared up and my mind turned towards preparing our home for our new family member. This involved re-arranging, de-cluttering, and beautifying our home, as well as preparing for Christmas extra early.

We were lucky enough to "inherit" a new bed. We were able to move the furniture around, getting rid of a set of shelving, and make the room look nicer (without buying a thing). Similarly, with help from a friend, I re-arranged the existing furniture in the living room; it opened up the space physically and mentally, making me feel like our small house had more possibilities than I thought.

Some of my favorite newborn clothes: I can't believe we will soon have another baby this small!

Aldi flowers
As usual, my domestic pursuits involved food: delicious squash soup, crock pot pulled pork for the freezer, Christmas morning cinnamon rolls saved for Christmas morning, granola and pecan linzer cookies for gifting, Cinnamon Roll braided bread, Moroccan chicken, and so much more.... mostly waffles!

Waffles of all varieties to eat on those hazy post-partum mornings when you need something substantial right now.

Squash soup!

Cinnamon Roll Braided Bread, with pecans instead of raisins (I live in the South and need protein!)

Our Christmas tree!
Non-Santa presents bought and wrapped very early

Friday, December 4, 2015

Job, Advent, and Suffering

Last year's Tree

What we've done for Advent: 

1. Set up our advent wreath... today 

(We were at my parent's for an extended thanksgiving that included an ice storm and a power outage at our house until Tuesday night)

2. Set up our nativity, with Mary and Joseph journeying on the coffee table; the Magi are coming from the East!

3. Re-read parts of Joseph Ratzinger's advent homilies, collected as What it Means to Be a Christian

4. Wrote my advent column!

            Terrorist attack iconic Paris, leaving the Western world mourning for the victims, their families, and our collective safety and security. The news hits hard amidst a daily life of relative peace and joy, bringing to the forefront the horror and evil present in this world, leading us to ask, “Why?” Governments, think-tanks, pyschologists, and friends may answer this “why,” but their answers don’t suffice. It isn’t really to them that what we ask. Instead, our question is addressed, consciously or not, to the source of all meaning.

Read the rest here (or here, if you prefer your news sources to be Texan).  

And my November column, on beauty in the everyday.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


            When I first held my daughter, I was overwhelmed with the awe and gratitude common to new mothers. Who was this tiny person that was given to me to love? Where did she come from, and what will she become? Will her blue eyes stay blue? Will she be a reader, an athlete, a kind friend?
            This profound sense of wonder, which we experience at the birth of a child, paradoxically brings us back to our own childhood, when our experience of the world is illuminated by the miracle of existence. We see this amazement as the child grows: her whole body enlivens at backyard rabbits, the long, soft branches of a willow tree, and a visit from her grandfather. The child’s way of relating to the whole world differs greatly from the adult’s; it is imbued with wonder and awe, aware of the whole world as a gift.

Read the rest here

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Unhappy with your health insurance?

Due to the popularity and interest this attracted on Facebook, I'm taking a break from my regularly scheduled programming (i.e., re-posting my Millenials column...) to add a few details about the health care cost-sharing program we joined last January, in time for anyone to drop their health insurance during the open enrollment month of October.*

Unhappy with your health insurance? A year ago, so were we: we paid thousands and thousands of dollars for the birth of our child, on top of high monthly premiums. We dropped our health insurance and joined Samaritan Ministries, a cost-sharing program. We pay our monthly share to an actual person with a medical need- one month everyone even paid less because there were more shares than needs! We just finished receiving the money for the upcoming birth of our second child (which we will pay to the midwife and hospital); this time, we will pay $0 and have a much lower monthly payment.

Here’s how the need sharing process works in a nutshell:
Each member commits to sending a set “Share” amount each month. These “Shares” are sent directly through the mail from one household to another, to the members with “Needs”. Samaritan Ministries uses a database that randomly matches Shares to Needs, so that the Sharing is coordinated and Shares go to the appropriate members with Needs.

A few basic facts:
- Routine medical care is not "publishable," meaning that other members are not required to send money; we pay out-of-pocket for pediatrician visits, vaccines, etc.
- Anything under $300 is also not "publishable." However, a publishable need encompasses all related expenses to a specific medical condition.  For example, ultrasounds, labs, midwife/doctor visits, hospital costs, etc are all part of a maternity need. Even if one of these things is under $300, it is bundled with the others to count and is then published. 
- Pre-existing conditions are covered in a limited manner; certain things are publishable after some time; maternity care is publishable up to the amount you've contributed by the birth of the child
- Anything not "publishable" can be put in the newsletter as "special need." Each month, Samaritan suggests members send $20 to a specific special need, and distribute this suggestion such that the need would be almost entirely covered if every did so. It is not, however, required to do so.
- It is faith-based. All similar but not faith-based programs were shut down by "Obamacare." None meet the required criteria for health insurance; this still exists because of a religious exemption.
- There is not an age requirement
- Sometimes people send you thank you cards for helping them with their medical need!
- Members have the responsibility to collect and send bills as well as negotiate an uninsured/cash price with the health care provider.  So far, we have had no trouble getting prices reduced for paying in cash, but there is a service to help members do this if the provider won't negotiate with the member
- The other members who send you money know why they are sending it to you - this means they send prayers and sweet notes. It also means they know you are having a baby/had a kidney stone/have cancer (whatever your need is). With the transparency, some privacy is lost. This does not bother me but it is worth stating.

 I'm mostly making this PSA because I hate to see people robbed blind by insurance companies- there is another way!- but if you join please put us down as a referral. It costs you nothing but saves us money. Email me for more details, and check out their website:

*You may be able to drop more quickly; we were not in a position to do so as it was tied to my husband's job-  I found out after the fact that the birth of a child makes someone eligible to drop insurance without finishing out the year.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Imagination & Empathy

            As a child, I consumed stories voraciously: tales of children on the prairie, runaways hidden in a museum, and siblings who find another world behind thick fur coats. Like most children, I was encouraged in this habit and other ways of cultivating my imagination, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that one of the benefits of imagination became clear: the importance of imagination in cultivating empathy, even for those who have very different lives than ours. 

Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


             The prairie grass waved as the wind cooled the walkway; the green expanse was freckled only by clouds’ shadows. The natural beauty of the plains was broken only by classic wooden farmhouses and the red brick buildings were we slept. These stunning surroundings seeped into my soul, as beauty tends to do when we allow ourselves to be immersed in it. That weekend, in the silence imposed by the retreat, I was absorbed by the wonders of creation. The quiet created a space within myself to slow down and really look: to look more closely at my own life and relationship with Christ, as the retreat intended, as well as at the beauty around me.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

God's Will

            In the past year, my family has driven to my sister-in-law’s house in Fayetteville multiple times.  Once, we drove out through the plains on I-40 before heading north in the Ozark’s, but usually we stop to see my mother and father-in-law in Tulsa on the way. From Tulsa to Fayetteville, we’ve taken state highways offering a glimpses of the wooded mountains and meandered our way slowly through trees and lakes. We have re-adjusted our route after making a wrong turn.  Each time, we have happily arrived at our destination and a warm welcome.
            The freedom to travel different paths to the same destination is the same freedom with which God gives us to live our lives. We can choose which path we want to take on the way to our destination, which is (hopefully) heaven. We can even make a wrong turn but still end up at the right place, sometimes by completely re-routing our path.  While there are wrong paths, there are also many right ones that can lead us to our ultimate destination.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


“St. Mark the Evangelist,” the canter rings out while children and their parents file to the back of the large, suburban parish. 
            “Pray for us,” the congregation echoes back, as we prepare to welcome a new member.  A dark-haired, sleeping baby girl is about to be awoken with the waters of baptism.  I recognize her parents as fellow parishioners, though I have never met them. 
            After the baptism has taken place, the priest carries the newly baptized, now dressed in white, to the front of the church; as he walks, he says this is the first of four times she will come down this aisle in white: the first at baptism, again at first communion, later for marriage, and, at the end, for her funeral. 
            This aisle, he says.  Not an aisle, at a church, but this aisle, at this church—the aisle I was about to walk down for the first time, as a bride, after reluctantly becoming a parishioner where my parents had joined after I left for college.

Sofia's baptism

Read the rest here.

Friday, July 31, 2015


            When I was a single adult, the loneliness didn’t come on Valentine’s Day, when I showed up alone to a wedding, or when I saw an engagement on Facebook.  But, like for most single people, it was still a presence in my life.  For me, it came while walking through a neighborhood, houses full of families, or when trying to make a major decision about my life, realizing the outcome affected me much more than anyone else. 
            Following Monsignor Luigi Giussani’s instructions in his book The Religious Sense, I used my emotions as “binoculars” to look more closely at my life. Giussani, founder of the ecclesial lay movement Communion and Liberation, wrote, “Let us imagine feeling as a kind of lens; the object is carried closer to a person’s cognitive energy by this lens so that reason can know it more easily and securely.”

Read the rest here.

And my article on beauty and the church here

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


            Like all kids growing up, at times I felt out of place—at school, at church, with friends and even in my own family.  In early elementary school, I longed to play the more organized games of the “big kids,” making myself out of place with my peers but not belonging with the older students.  Like many others, this feeling grew as I entered the awkward stage of life that is adolescence and was bolstered by the themes of many coming of age stories.  Like Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast, the account many young people hear is that leaving home—especially for those from small towns and the middle of the country—is the path to success and shedding the feeling of not fitting in.  

The beginning of my latest column.  Read the rest here.

(And if you like the topic, check out Front Porch Republic)

Monday, February 2, 2015

What I'm Reading

Now that's what I call diversity. 

A tome on the science and history of foods. 

A late-elementary kid's book that's delightful to read. Third book in a lovely series introduced to me by a former tutoring student. 

And a book on how to ensure my child is as creative, brilliant, and independent as possible.*

*JK. Totally recommend the Montessori methods of how to teach very small children- and how to set up their environment in a way conducive to learning. I mean, my little babe's playing used to largely consist of throwing everything she could on the floor. Now she will actually PLAY with her toys!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oh, the lights! The carols! The guilt-free Santa cookies!

Already missing the magic of those celebratory twelve days full of gift-giving, feasting, New Year's toasts, and jingling bells?  Check out my article on Christmas traditions in other cultures.  It'll help with the January blues.

And if that doesn't, maybe the promise of spring will. 

(While you're at it, you may like Leah Darrow's message of love and prayer for Christian Unity.)