Thinking About Balance and Acceptance

Wouldn’t it be great if I could maintain a perfect balance of all the important aspects of my life?

I imagine a pie chart with colored pieces like: physical, spiritual, emotional, etc. Or, even more detailed, like: sleep, eating well, exercise, prayer, time with family, time with friends, chores, projects, recreation, etc. I have no idea what the ideal pie chart should look like. What pieces should it include? What percentage of the whole should each piece be given? And even if an ideal pie chart could be created, how would I ever measure or achieve such a lofty goal?

I’ve been tracking my food intake on MyFitnessPal for couple of weeks now. I entered some goals for macros, and as you can see in the photo above, the app can create a nice pie chart showing my results each day. So far, I have not once reached these simple goals; but I am happy with my imperfect results. My overall goal is to build muscle and lose fat, not to create perfect pie charts.

So, what is my overall goal in life? It’s not to maintain a perfect balance of all the important aspects of my life. It’s this sort of thinking that can make me crazy. Or at least, unsatisfied with my performance. It would never be good enough. How could it be? With my finite energy, abilities, knowledge, and my lack of control over circumstances…

Today I was recognizing that when I desire perfection, and I think I can attain it with the right plan, I’m relying on myself. I’m likely worried, angry if things don’t go as planned, disappointed in myself and others, and more unfortunate emotions. BUT, when I rely on God’s strength and guidance, I need not worry about such and such. I will work on it each day, with God’s help, and what does not get done, is how it is to be. I have acceptance of what is. I have progress and Love. There is nothing better.

Plans for Lent 2023

My YouTube addiction seems to be getting worse. The plus side is that I’ve been listening to many homilies about Lent. It’s now one week until Ash Wednesday and all I know is that I want to make this Lent special. A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a video about something called 90 Days to Liberty. I passed it along to another friend. “I’m considering this…” I told her. She immediately said, “I’m in!” When I told her that I’m more indecisive than she is, she said, “You can do it!” So, there’s that.

Then I found an article called Lent: Growing in our love of Jesus Christ. More ideas.

And here’s a video I really liked: The Spirit of Lent is Not Self Help. In it we are told, “Don’t get too attached to your plan.” What great advice. He says sometimes God gives us something else instead.

This has been my experience, especially in the last five years. It was in Lent 2018 that the closing of St. Mary’s High School was announced. It felt like my family was in limbo for months. Whatever my plan was for that year, this unexpected trial increased my prayer life. During Lent 2019, Bobby was offered a job in New York City. It felt like my family was in limbo for years. Would he sell his business? Would we move? Whatever my plan was for that year, this unexpected offer upped my prayers. It was rely on God or live in fear. I went back and forth between the two. And everyone knows what happened during Lent 2020.

So, I do intend to make a plan for 2023. I want to be generous. I want to be disciplined. I want to be ruthless. I want to break the chains and cut the threads of all of my attachments. But most of all, I want to be open and willing to accept God’s plan -whatever that might be- humbly and gratefully.

I Didn’t Know Complexify Is a Word

I can’t believe it’s been more than four months since my last post. And yet I shouldn’t be surprised, because long stretches between posts have been a pattern for me. It seems like when I “come here” in the mood to write, I feel obligated to explain where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. So let me just get my excuses for not writing out of the way.

They are as follows: homeschooling, parenting, Italy, remodeling the half-bath, Plum Island, parties, NYC with Mary, decluttering, home maintenance, NYC with my sister, holidays, plays, deep cleaning, decorating, Christmas shopping, wrapping, movies, puzzles, cooking, celebrations, taking down decorations, and trying to maintain relationships and my spiritual condition.

So today is Day 15 of the Catechism in a Year, and I’m on Day 10. I’m also on Day 10 of a 30-Day Organizing Boot Camp, of which I’ve completed 16 of the assignments. If that didn’t make sense, it means I’m a little behind on my studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a little ahead on my decluttering and organizing my entire house. I expect to get behind on the latter when I get to the storage areas assignment, which for me is the dreaded basement. Maybe I’m being dramatic. It’s not as bad as I imagine it to be. I made a great deal of progress on it in November. The problem is that I always give up when it gets hard, and I don’t finish the whole house. Well not this year!!!

Let’s talk about books. The start of a new year always gets me assessing where I’m at in many areas, and reading is one of those areas. I find myself, as usual, with a list of books I am “currently reading”. This means I started them, but do I want to finish them? I’ve decided that 2023 is the year I will finally read The Lord of the Rings. I’m starting with The Hobbit. I also plan to finish the last few pages of Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius Loyola. That’s all I have decided so far. There are so many good options. I will commit to one soon.

I’m not going to attempt to plan out my whole year as I did in the past, by setting goals and breaking them down and getting things done. While organizing crafts and hobby supplies, I found my old planners. The first one was an original Franklin Covey planner and the year was 2000. Yes, I have 22 years of them. Skimming through them I found it interesting that 2020 was noticeably emptier.

Anyway, I’m starting out 2023 by planning for the week ahead. I start by scheduling the activities that I already committed to, like giving rides. Then things important for my spiritual wellbeing, such as adoration. I also track daily habits I’d like to form or strengthen. I thought I’d ease into physical habits to make it easier for me to develop them. The first week I focused on sleep. I went to bed early and got up early. Yay! The second week I added drinking water. I met my daily water intake goals. Yay! But my sleeping plan failed miserably. I got into eating chocolate and staying up late reading or watching YouTube videos on my phone in bed. This week I’m going to try going back to the 5-0. (It’s going to bed and getting up at regular times, calorie counting, drinking water, exercising, and journaling. It’s basically taking care of my body.) I’ll need to take one day at a time and pray for help to do this. And a media fast wouldn’t hurt.

Speaking of media, and media fasting, today I watched a video I found fascinating. A man on a channel called Sips with Aquinas was interviewing Dr. Peter Kreeft. It was so interesting that I took notes. He listed the only three reasons why anybody ought to do anything according to Aquinas: 1. moral duty, 2. practical necessity, and 3. fun. There’s some food for thought. So, if I’m considering doing something, and it doesn’t meet any of these three criteria…

He was making the point that we make our lives more complex rather than simplify them. And why? Why are we so harried and hassled? Why do we complexify? And I like this one: Why do we put ourselves in a spider’s web? He says we are bored. I call it running away. The not wanting to slow down and sit quietly. He says it takes too much effort. It’s because of sloth. I’ve read about this before and would like to ponder it more in the future. And one last idea: If you don’t believe in a real Heaven, you have to try to make a heaven on earth, and that’s going to keep you very, very, busy forever.

In conclusion, once more, I was able to bring a bunch of wandering thoughts back to the theme of this blog: Slowing Down.

Tortoise to Hare, and Back

Wait. What just happened? I know today was the first day of school, but I feel so unprepared. It’s like I went from tortoise to hare overnight. I remember we were slowly creeping through Gilmore Girls: Season 1 with my mom, I was doing laps in my dad’s pool, going to daily Mass and frequenting Adoration… Then we went away for a week of not having to do anything; and came back to summer’s-over-get-busy!

I want to reflect on the season gone by in order to let it go and clear my head, making space for direction to come. I pray for clarity and the ability to focus on what’s important now.

This summer was enjoyable, but arguably the shortest one ever. Looking through my photos reminds me of some highlights. Hugh Jackman!! I’m so grateful I got to see him perform as Harold Hill. It was a fun weekend with Bobby, Joseph, Hannah, and Mary. Then there was the impromptu weekend in NYC with my father. I took him to Central Park and he took me to Yankee Stadium. I was surprised that he didn’t mind subways. We tired ourselves out climbing stairs, and walking, and we ordered a feast at an Italian restaurant that we ate for days. It was an unexpected blast!

The girls and I attended some summer concerts at a local park, I started decluttering the dreaded basement, there was a trimming the bushes weekend, and last week in the Poconos. It was relaxing, but it’s good to be back home.

Writing this out has helped me. It was a good summer. I’m realizing that I just did too much in the past few days. Once again, I want to slow down. Fall is a great time to get back to routines. I love order. It may take a little time to get there, so I won’t expect it to happen in one day. Slow and steady.

Trusting God in Sickness

I recently read the book, The Practice of the Presence of God (Brother Lawrence/Alan Vermilye). The Eleventh Letter of Brother Lawrence (pgs. 95-96) got me thinking about my own attitudes toward sickness. Long before Covid 19, Bobby called me a germaphobe. Do I really have a fear of germs? Maybe. I usually go straight to the bathroom to wash my hands when I return home from shopping, (You know – touching carts, hangers, check-out touch screens.) or when I’ve been touching other people; but my fear of germs doesn’t stop me from going out, shaking hands and/or hugging in public. Sometimes I focus too much on wondering if I’m getting sick, or when I know I am, trying to figure out what caused it or what I could have done differently to prevent it. I think things like oh no, my throat feels a little weird or I shouldn’t have stayed up so late the other night.

Here’s the part of Brother Lawrence’s letter that made my eyelids stretch and my mouth hang open: “They see sickness as a pain against nature and not as a favor from God. Seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of God, out of His mercy and the means He uses for their salvation, commonly find sweetness and consolation in it.” (pg. 95) He was talking about worldly people, who don’t suffer “like Christians”, and it sounded like he was talking about me!

So why do I mildly freak out when I get sick or when there are sick symptoms in my home? I don’t think I’m afraid of dying, or of physical pain. I rarely take medication, I’ve had six natural childbirths, and suffered physically through many oddball ailments over the years. I think the real problem is that sickness ruins my plans. I might have to lie on the couch or in bed while the house falls apart and I don’t get anything done. Not what I want to do anyway. If members of my family are sick I may have to drop what I’m doing to perform unpleasant nursing or waitressing tasks, or sit in a doctor’s office. How ungrateful and selfish am I?

Brother Lawrence continues: “I pray that you see that God is often nearer to us and present within us in sickness than in health. Do not rely completely on another physician because He reserves your cure to Himself. Put all your trust in God. You will soon find the effects in your recovery, which we often delay by putting greater faith in medicine than in God. Whatever remedies you use, they will succeed only as far as He permits. When pains come from God, only He can ultimately cure them. He often sends sickness to the body to cure diseases of the soul. Comfort yourself with the Sovereign Physician of both soul and body.” (pgs. 95-96)

In thinking more on this paragraph (for some reason I was straightening my hair after I read this letter) I realized that this has been my experience. I’ve noticed a pattern where I get sick after times of busyness, such as I’ve written about here many times. I’m usually burning the candle at both ends, trying to do too much, not taking care of my body, less aware of God’s Presence, and feeling stressed out or worried. Then, BOOM! I have symptoms of sickness and I initially try to reason things out. Then, I realize I’m powerless. And it’s like God is saying to me, if you’re not going to slow down and take care of yourself, then I’m going to help you. It seems that sickness has a humbling effect. It reminds me that I’m not as strong as I thought I was. It can be comforting to remember that God is in control of everything, and that He is the one who heals me.

Sometimes the healing doesn’t seem to come fast enough. Brother Lawrence addresses this at the beginning of his letter. “I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray earnestly that God gives you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross. He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy are those who suffer with Him. Accustom yourself to suffer in that manner and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He judges necessary for you.”

How I would love to receive a letter from a friend, encouraging me in this way. This is obviously something that I struggle with, especially when I fall back into my long-practiced habit of self-reliance rather than to completely surrender to God’s will. I need to pray for the grace to trust God in all things. As St. Ignatius states in his First Principle and Foundation: “…we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short one, and likewise in all other matters.” It seems this attitude would bring much peace in this time when people are angry and afraid of even the possibility of being exposed to sickness. Brother Lawrence advises, “Be satisfied with the condition in which God places you.” I think St. Paul would agree.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This sounds like a prescription for unruffled peace.

Book Notes: Things That Matter, Chapter 2

“Our newer tech- and media-based distractions are actually just add-ons to many of the old diversions that have plagued humanity for countless generations, like having mixed-up priorities or viewing ourselves or other people in unhelpful ways. They’re internal before they’re external.” (pg. 19)

He’s got a point. Sure, there are many new ways to be distracted nowadays, but they don’t seem to be the root of the problem. I can get distracted by my iphone, but why really, am I turning my attention to it? I was thinking of the spiritual battle when I read this chapter and some of the language in it supports this.

“… resisting it is a battle worth fighting.” (pg. 19)

“We wage war every single day to defeat these distractions and align ourselves with greater pursuits.” (pg. 27)

“This can be difficult and requires moments of wrestling within ourselves. But we learn to fight.” (pg. 24)

I (of course) also think of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Discernment of Spirits. Joshua Becker suggests ways to respond when our distractions have become our “masters rather than our servants”. (pg. 24)

One way is through self-examination and frequently sitting quietly with ourselves. This sounds just like the Examen and being within. He says, “Secondly, we can verbally articulate what distractions are keeping us from our best work, keeping us from those we love the most, or keeping us from fulfilling our highest purpose.” (pg. 24) Then a third response is to remove the distractions diligently and intentionally. Identifying and getting rid of inordinate attachments comes to mind.

Here is a list of distractions to be covered in the following chapters of the book:

  1. fear
  2. past mistakes
  3. happiness
  4. money
  5. possessions
  6. applause
  7. leisure
  8. technology

I’m interested in continuing with Chapters 3 & 4 this week.

Dear Me

From a journal entry on 3/4/21

What would I tell my younger self if I could?

Pray and meditate.

Ask for help.


Don’t waste time.

You are beautiful and God loves you.

Do not be afraid to trust in Him.

Allow Him to lead you where He wants you to go. Spend your days with Him.

Let go of your agenda.

Don’t accumulate too many possessions. Keep it simple.

Read spiritual classics.

Do the Spiritual Exercises. The 30 days one.

Find your vocation.

Don’t use a TV or an iPhone.

Go outside.

Go to Mass, confession, and adoration.

Live in reality.

Do not worry.

Give your whole self to God. He will take care of you. He is all you need.

Anti-Procrastination Day

Today I accomplished three tasks that were on the to-do list in my head. One I waited a week to do, one I “should” have done at least a month ago, and the other has been on my mind for over a year. My excitement over overcoming procrastination grew when I realized that today is Wednesday. In the old days, when my children were all pre-teens, and my hair was practically black, the FlyLady was a fun motivator for me. She reminded me to follow routines, to meal plan and cook, and not to whine. And Wednesday was Anti-Procrastination Day.

Nostalgia is the word I’d use here. I spent some time during my lunch break on the website reading her lessons which have not changed at all. This led to my reading posts from My Simple Spot, a place where I blogged from 2009-2010. It was a year when I was particularly focused on simplicity. It started out as a methodical decluttering of possessions, was sidetracked by a miscarriage, led to pondering the reduction of distractions, and ended in my deciding to give up blogging there, and at my other blog, My Thoughtful Spot. I was pregnant with my sixth baby; and decided that as I was adding more to my plate, some things had to be removed from it. Bye-bye blogging.

It was interesting to see how some things haven’t changed. I still spend way too much time reading and researching topics I already know enough about. It’s an idle pastime that doesn’t usually bear fruit. I suppose it reinforces conviction; but without action, it’s really procrastination.

Another thing I noticed; was how I miss being able to express ideas freely as I used to do. I was much more open back then. No time to ponder why right now. Chores and a warm bath are the plan for tonight. Maybe a little reading in bed. A book. No iphone. Abandonment to Divine Providence. Something I don’t already know enough about.

Christmas Vacation

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Well, well, well… it’s that time of year again! Sitting under a blanket in a comfy living room chair, admiring the cozy lights on the Christmas tree, hearing the sounds of sneezes, coughs, and the clearing of throats… realizing that I have some time to blog now and that it’s been three months since I’ve posted.

I don’t feel interested in reflecting here on what has been, but on looking to what will be. It’s the time of year when I usually begin a new planner. I ponder priorities, not alone, of course. This week I want to pull out the notes from a Spiritual Exercises retreat I went on in October. I wrote down some resolutions that weekend, but they were lost in the sea of busy days, weeks and months that followed.

On Christmas, I received many new books. They have motivated me to finish reading the books I began at the beginning of 2021. Diary of a Country Carmelite: A Year in the Garden of Carmel. Done. The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living. At 46%, but it’s so good. Why did I ever put it down? And The Screwtape Letters. This would not take long to read if I would just keep my iphone out of my bedroom at night.

In the quiet, slowed pace of this Christmas vacation, I am filled with hope. I am out of the mindset of “I have to do this” and “I’ve got to do that” and resting. I am thinking of what I might like to do in the new year. Maybe I’ll post a Book Notes series on St. Augustine’s Confessions. Or the Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Maybe I’ll work-out in the basement, or go outside more often. The possibilities make me happy. Living in the present moment and enjoying God’s Presence and direction… these are the things I miss in my rush to get everything done. Today there is no hurry, no agenda, just peace and joy. I am thankful for these gifts.

Thoughts on the Traditional Latin Mass by Someone Who Knows Only a Little

Question #1 What’s going on?

I’ve read the new Motu Proprio by Pope Francis. It’s troubling me and I’ve been trying to figure why because I don’t even attend the TLM. I did one time. I was on a trip and wanted to go to a Saturday morning Mass. I may have been in New York State or New Hampshire. I can’t remember. I do remember having trouble finding parking and the entrance to the church. I could barely hear anything the priest said, and I felt like I was dressed inappropriately. The women wore dresses and head coverings and I most likely was wearing jeans and a hoodie. But I did like that most of the families had similar appearances to my homeschooling friends, holding babies, and filling up pews with toddlers and teens. I don’t remember music. I was not moved to search for a Latin Mass back home.

That was before Covid. I’ve been thinking about going to one for many months now. I’ve struggled with identifying and feeling my feelings about wearing masks at Mass and receiving communion in the hands rather than on the tongue. I didn’t want to be deprived of receiving Jesus when the churches opened up after the shutdowns, so I received Him in my hands. I felt very sad and disappointed. I saw a few women not receiving the Eucharist at all when communion on the tongue was denied and wondered if what I was doing was selfish. I prayed about it, asked for guidance, and decided to receive Him as reverently as I possibly could at the Masses I attended. The rules changed frequently. I often got anxious when I would wait until the end of communion wondering if the priest would wait in the front of the church for those receiving on the tongue as planned. And I did not enjoy sometimes being the only one to walk up to the front of the church, kneel on the kneeler, and receive Jesus on my tongue.

I talked with friends who attended Latin Masses about 30 minutes away from my home. They shared that they didn’t have to wear masks and they could receive communion on the tongue. And kneeling at an altar rail! They said the homilies were moving, the music was beautiful, there were lots of families… I continued to go to Mass close to home to go with my family. My daughter plays the piano at one church once a month. The other weeks we go to our parish where my children are comfortable. They used to be in the choir there when that was allowed. And I’ve been receiving communion in my hand in NYC because that is what the priest allows. So I have been holding onto a desire to try a Traditional Latin Mass for a long time now, but not taking action. Then I heard about these new rules. And they don’t make sense to me. Question # 1.

This morning during my prayer time, I was journaling and more questions came to mind. Why would you want to get rid of the growing communities and make those people go to the declining ones, which they may have left because they wanted to be more reverent? Why would you ever want to discourage faithful practicing Catholics at all? Will this put priests in a dilemma of obedience or disobedience? This seems very similar to what is happening with the government and vaccines, and it doesn’t seem necessary. It looks to me like forcing people to choose what side they are on. Are you with the current leadership or will you resist or oppose it? Do you trust us completely or do you have reservations? Will you believe what we say or do you see the contradictions in speech and actions? The leaders speak of desiring unity but they make rules to cause disunity. What is the intention or purpose of what is happening?

As I was thinking these thoughts I realized that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts. I barely know anything. I asked Him: Lord, do you wish for us to choose a side?

And guess what I remembered. We are either with Him or against Him. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon. We are sheep or goats. Jesus wasn’t afraid of division.

I’ve made a plan to go with a friend to a Traditional Latin Mass in CT this Sunday morning. I’ll continue to live my life one day a time, enjoying the moments, trusting that God has a plan and I don’t need to know the details yet.