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Italy: Five weeks and counting…

Five weeks from today, our Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul pilgrimage will depart from JFK airport bound for Rome. The 40 of us will spend 13 days making our way from the beautiful spa town of Montecatini to Florence, Siena, Assisi, Rome, Naples, Salerno, the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Massa Lubrense (the small town where my grandfather was born), and finally to the Isle of Capri. I know how fast these next few weeks will go with start-of-school events and work deadlines to meet before leaving. It’s going to be here before I know it.  Read more

Foodie Friday: A great way to use summer veggies

When a friend gave me a week of her CSA share, I knew I had to act fast. I had bags of beautiful summer abundance sitting on my counter and only a few days to use them before we headed out on our own vacation. Thank goodness for Google. I did a search of a few key ingredients and found the most amazing pasta dish using almost all of the veggies. It was a huge hit with all three kids, and that’s saying something for a dish featuring eggplant. Here’s the recipe for pasta with roasted vegetables, tomatoes, and basil from Epicurious. Tweak as needed. If you don’t have eggplant but have tons of zucchini, use that. Don’t be afraid to mix things up. The beauty of this kind of pasta dishes is that it allows you to get creative. There are no set rules. Other than making sure the pasta is  al dente.  Read more

What are you chasing?

Time for a little honesty. I woke up this morning feeling beyond down in the dumps. Actually I’ve been waking up that way a lot lately, save for a few days on vacation when I was able to deny reality. But now, with summer winding down and reality breathing down my neck, it’s hard to plaster a smile on my face and pretend it’s all great, even if it sounds great on paper. I mean, we’ve got our health, we’ve got a big trip to Italy in the offing, I’ve got one book project halfway done and another ready to go as soon as the first is complete. What could possibly be dragging me down? All of it. Read more

Turning summer stress into meditation in motion

My latest Life Lines column running in the current issue of Catholic New York:

Every year, when summer rolls around, I vow to work less and play more, or at least give my kids the lion’s share of my attention. And every year, usually by early August, I wonder what went wrong. Dreams of hikes and fire pits and beaches have been replaced by the realities of doctor appointments and work deadlines and camp forms. At least two out of three kids are being neglected on any given day. Read more

My two favorite Chiaras

To celebrate the Feast of St. Clare, I’m doing a Flashback Monday post (I know, it doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?) to something I wrote three years ago today. (Ages have been updated so it makes sense today.)

When I became pregnant with my youngest, I immediately honed in on the name “Chiara.” At the time, I will admit, it had nothing to do with the most famous Chiara, St. Clare of Assisi, or, as they say in Italy, Santa Chiara di Assisi, whose feast day is today.

No, my fascination with this beautiful name started in college, when I was on a trip to China and spent three weeks traveling with a young woman named Chiara, who was part of our university group. The name struck me as the most beautiful name I’d ever heard, but that may have had something to do with my being named Mary. As they sing in the old-time classic, “there is something there that sounds so square.” Chiara (the name, not the person) was about as opposite of “square” as I could imagine. Read more

Are we willing to be marked as Christians?

For weeks now I have been feeling helpless, hopeless, in a constant state of incredulity tinged with despair. So much so I have been completely unable to write about it. No words could express what I was feeling. How, I kept wondering, how was it possible that Christians in Mosul were being killed — their homes marked, their property stolen, their lives threatened, tortured, taken as they tried to flee the insane wrath of the Muslim extremists known as ISIS while the world looked away? Where were our leaders, where was the public outcry, or at the very least celebrities tweeting selfies as they held up signs with appropriate hashtags, perhaps #stopISIS or #savethechristians? Why was there silence in the face of genocide, religious cleansing, what was clearly — at least to those of us willing to watch — the earliest signs of a potential Christian holocaust? Read more

Prescription for a better marriage: Start dating

My most recent Life Lines column: 

About eight or nine years ago, my aunt gave me a lovely picnic basket backpack, complete with cloth napkins, plastic wine glasses, everything you’d need for a romantic al fresco meal in a park or on a beach. And every year since then I have considered donating it to a school garage sale because, quite frankly, romantic picnics just weren’t on our “to do” list.

But something stopped me from throwing that backpack into the Hefty bags along with old puzzles and board games bound for the bargain bin. I had a tiny glimmer of hope that some day we would dust off that backpack and take it for a spin. Read more

Why would you refuse to dance with grace?

Okay, I’ll admit that when I first saw this clip, I was drawn in by the Hafiz poem, one of my favorites. Because when I grow up, I want to be the sage who has to duck her head when the moon is low. But then I kept watching, and I have to tell you that this video is so good from top to bottom it gives me goosebumps.

“I feel so badly for those people who would come to this party that is Christianity and refuse to dance with grace,” says Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On Warrior (a great book, by the way).

Five minutes is all it takes. Watch it, and then decide to dance. (And you can read the full Hafiz poem under the YouTube link below.)

Read more

What’s holding you back? #FindIggy

They had me at St. Ignatius bobblehead.

Head over to Find Your Inner Iggy to see how you might win some grand prizes today, the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. The founder of the Jesuits is the inspiration for this fun-yet-serious campaign to help people find God at work in their lives today. In much the same way that St. Ignatius discovered God in unlikely places in his life almost 500 years ago. Read more

Manic Monday: On the road again

As Olivia pointed out on the long drive home from a weekend with cousins at the Jersey Shore, we’ve had three mini-vacations this summer, with the big one yet to come. A weekend trip to the Bronx Zoo two weeks ago, a weekend with Cousins in NYC last weekend, and a weekend at Grandpa and Grandma’s near Long Beach Island, N.J. The minivan is getting a workout. This week we’re hanging out at home for a change, but that doesn’t mean dull and boring. Unfortunately. Between work and Chiara’s Bible camp and her just-over horseback riding birthday party, I’m kind of longing for one day to just sit still and do nothing. Here’s how Manic Monday looks this week:  Read more