I am not in the regular rotation when it comes to walking our rescue dog, Jake, especially at night. Dennis and Olivia handle most of the dog-walking duties in our household. But one recent Saturday night, with Dennis out of town with Chiara for a gymnastics competition and Olivia already one walk in for the day, I leashed up our pup and headed out into the cold, black night. Before I even stepped off the porch, I wanted to be done and back inside with a hot cup of tea warming my hands. I tugged at Jake’s leash and impatiently tried to move him along as he lingered too long, sniffing at twigs and snow mounds, street posts and trash cans. Then, as we rounded the corner, I finally lifted my gaze from the snow-covered asphalt and found myself face to face with Orion the Hunter overhead in the winter sky. Read more
By the time we end our Cravings journey in a few weeks, we will be well into Lent. Hard to believe. And yet, the liturgical calendar seems so perfectly timed for this tribe. We can take what we’ve been talking about here and kick it up a notch, if we so choose, in the weeks ahead. As we delve into Chapter 5: Feast or Famine, we can use the lessons here as a precursor to the Lenten journey that will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 14. Read more
Sorry for the delay in getting our latest Cravings Tribe post up on the blow. This week we’re tackling chapter 4, Freedom by the Forkful, and taking a closer look at willpower, sane eating, and the ways our need for love and peace in our lives can keep us tied to high-fat comfort foods that make us feel good for the moment but drag us down over the long haul. I can see that at play in my own life. Back when I wrote this chapter of Cravings years ago, I was working out of my house and able to make time and space for my daily meditative morning ritual of “mindful oatmeal.” In addition, I’d often take time out of my day to chop up some veggies and make a green drink or start a pot of soup or do some other prep so I could have a healthy, home-cooked meal ready by dinner time. Although life was still hectic, our diet seemed to have a good measure of sanity. When I began working outside the house almost three years ago, however, all of that changed. Aside from cutting out my mindful oatmeal routine, I have become much more reliant on pre-made foods, easy meals, and take out, none of which leave me feeling very healthy and happy after the eating is over. The reality is that eating healthy can take a lot of time and energy. It’s easier to eat fattening comfort foods. And so our challenge now is deciding if we’re worth the time it takes to do the shopping and chopping, prepping and planning required to create balanced meals in a peaceful atmosphere. No more eating on the go, munching in the car, standing at the counter with one hand in a bag of chips as you scroll through emails. (Guilty here!) Read more
It was 10 years ago today that I decided to launch this blog on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of communicators. Where has the time gone? Back in those early days, I was blogging every day, sometimes more than once a day. That was before social media had become the norm, and so what today would be a Facebook post was a full-blown blog post back then. Originally, I started the blog as a way to get out there ahead of my 2008 book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism (Yes, that’s just about 10 years old as well!). But very quickly this blog became a place to explore my spiritual life, share recipes and travel stories, commiserate over my struggles, and post photos and anecdotes from my life as a mom. The blog truly lived up to its name back then. It was NOT strictly spiritual. One day I might post a survey that showed which Disney princess I was or what punctuation mark best suited me. The next day I’d be posting about Thomas Merton. You never knew what you’d get, and that’s what I loved about this space. What I still love about this space. And there were fan favorites as well: Foodie Friday, Manic Monday, Wisdom Wednesday. Read more
My reflection today in the January issue of Give Us This Day:
If you’ve ever had a serious fight with your spouse or parent or child, you know the pain of a house divided. The silence or rage—depending on how you process anger—seeps into everything until even sitting at the kitchen table together sipping coffee becomes too much to bear. If you don’t heal the wound, it festers until permanent destruction and division sets in.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus cuts to the chase on that topic with what feels like the spiritual equivalent of cold water thrown in our face. We have to reconcile and unite, believe and follow the Spirit, or risk a house so divided it cannot stand. How appropriate that this message comes up on a day dedicated to prayer for the protection of unborn children, the plight of whom has divided houses—both State and private—for more than four decades.
St. Teresa of Calcutta once famously said that “the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion,” because if the most vulnerable among us are not safe, none of us are safe. If a mother does not feel secure enough to bring her baby into the world and in desperation chooses the unthinkable, none of us are secure, and the unthinkable becomes the acceptable.
Week three. Time is flying! How are things on your end? Here’s the weekly update:
It was a SUPER stressful week, especially the weekend. To be completely honest with you, I’m in a terrible place right now, mentally and spiritually. Things have not gone as planned. Famous last words. So why does that still catch me by surprise and throw me off course? That’s the million-dollar question for me. And I’ll tell you right now, when things don’t go well and when things get stressful, I turn up the heat on myself. I pull out my worst “tape,” push my internal “play” button and let it rip. It’s not pretty or healthy, and it certainly doesn’t take me where I want or need to go, but it’s comfortable and familiar, the road most travelled, and so I take it. Even when I know I’ll regret it later, even when I know it’s likely to lead me to other unhealthy decisions — like eating the wrong food or staying up too late or skipping prayer time. This is why I’m head cheerleader for the tribe, because I have endless experience with this struggle. I’ll tell you this, however: Although I often feel history repeating itself in my life, the time I’ve spent working on my habits, journaling, and becoming more mindful have made me more aware. Even when I’m not following the Cravings “rules,” I’m well aware of where things have gone off track and how I might pull it back. The trick is getting from awareness to action. Read more
We are one week into our journey! How are you doing? Is it easier or more difficult than expected? Are you feeling any shifts — emotionally, physically, spiritually? I know it’s early in the game, but sometimes the push-off can be dramatic, making us aware of our habits and triggers. And awareness is a big part of this transformation process. Take a look back at your journal from this past week, if you’ve been keeping one, and see what your days looked like. I’ll give you a few insights into mine: Read more
We were debating the merits of the latest Taylor Swift album with our teenage daughter one Saturday morning recently, when the conversation morphed into a larger discussion on the way people in general and artists in particular evolve over time. How many singers or painters or authors have been criticized when they’ve taken a new path, one unfamiliar to their most loyal fans? They are often seen as traitors for nothing more than testing out new waters or pushing the boundaries of business as usual. We don’t like change. And yet who among us stays the same year after year? Even if we try our best to hold tight and maintain the status quo, life has a way of demanding growth or evolution. And that’s a good thing. Read more
Bring on another new year. We are not afraid. Or are we? So often, we enter the new year disappointed by what didn’t happen the year before and overcommitted to an unrealistic set of resolutions for the year ahead. Which starts a vicious cycle of being perpetually dissatisfied and overwhelmed. This is the year to say, “Enough.” As in, YOU ARE ENOUGH. Just as you are. Sure, you might want to make some changes, maybe even some “improvements,” but that doesn’t mean you aren’t beautiful as is. Don’t let the world convince you that you won’t be good enough until you’re thinner, richer, more popular, more successful, more something. That’s a losing battle, one designed to keep you spinning your wheels and searching for a kind of perfection that doesn’t exist, at least not outside of fairytales. Read more
Happy New Year! If you’ve frequented this blog before, you know that we do not do resolutions here at Not Strictly Spiritual. Why? Because they don’t work. Why stick with a losing proposition? Think big. Think evolution. Think revolution.
We are not starting out this new year looking to drop pounds and dress sizes or simply start a new exercise routine. We are looking to go much deeper than that, to a place where we can dig into the fertile soil of our soul, a place where there are ideas and experiences and adventures trying to poke through the surface and blossom into the life we deserve, the life we’ve been dreaming of. Stop counting calories and counting steps and counting sheep and start breathing deep, sitting still, looking inward, reaching outward, living life with attention and INtention. Read more