Spillful Thoughts

From Last May:

I was going to title this post, “Brain Dump”, but that sounds downright disgusting, so I made up this title instead. I should be researching homeschool co-ops for next year, but the internet it being weird – why does the server not work just for certain websites? – so I will take this time to just get a few thoughts out in writing.

Homeschool. The never ending frontier. Ok, so maybe not quite as cosmic as that, but still the thing that seems to be constantly stretching out into the distance. It is only just May, but I am already feeling pressure to be signed up for our homeschool stuff for next year. Co-ops, programs, piano lessons, sports, etc. Each year we re-evaluate and tweak what we want to do in our homeschool, so each year kind of feels like starting from scratch. And each year is that panic about whether we have gotten enough done; whether we will get more done next year; whether we need to focus more on academic stuff, or practical stuff, or spiritual stuff. On and on and on…

Getting healthy. Nothing is more ghastly than hearing someone go on about their weight-loss/workout strategies/struggles/successes. Suffice it to say, the balance in taking the necessary time and effort to be healthy, and meanwhile managing not to lose focus on what is more important (faith, relationships, serving our families, having SOME JOY IN OUR LIVES) is tricky for me. I got some new cookbooks that actually look good, despite having horrible titles involving the word, “skinny”.

Reading. I am reading Anthony Esolen’s “Out of the Ashes,” and looking forward to getting time to finish it. I am also reading Bill Bryson’s “Mother Tongue,” which is a book about language, so right up my alley, and perfect bedtime reading.



Novel Thoughts 2 – Maggie and Chastity

Chastity Chan. I had heard of her once or twice before from people in the department.

Once I had stopped in to Sam’s office to drop something off, and as I waited in the hall for him to step out of his meeting, I overheard two grad students talking. “So Chastity came in during office hours today,” the first said. The second girl laughed. “Chastity Chan? Was she carrying shopping bags?” “Yes!” the first girl exclaimed. “I am not even kidding!! She was literally carrying three shopping bags!” “That is hilarious!” They were both laughing now. “Yeah, she came in to ask Dr. Chan if he could pick up their kid later, because apparently he doesn’t answer his phone or text or whatever during office hours…” At this point Sam came out to get the lunch I was dropping off, so I didn’t catch the rest.

Another time about a week later, we were talking to Dr. Pradesh, Sam’s colleague in the MechE department, and he was telling us about the party coming up. “It’ll be kind of like a welcome to the department-slash-back to school party. Lee and Chastity Chan will be hosting.” Lee is the department chair (Dean of Engineering?), so sort of my husband’s boss. He looked at me. ” Do you know Chastity?”

“Chastity Chan?” I said, “No. No, I’ve never met her.”

“Oh!” He paused and gave me a funny look, with his eyebrows raised, like “Oh, well, you’re in for something!”

“They’re an, uh, interesting couple… Very nice! … Interesting Couple.”

So, anyway, I don’t know what I was expecting.

As we get to the Chans’ house for the party, Lee greets us at the door. Their home is a large and beautiful, rather generic home, with a long driveway and hedges and arched front windows.

“Hi! Welcome! So glad to have you! Maggie, we’re so grateful to have snagged your husband here at Everhurst!”

“Oh, Thanks!” I reply. “Yeah, we’re really happy to be here!”

“Have you met my wife, Chastity?” he says.

I feel stupid, and sort of racist to admit this, but for a split second I started glancing around, scanning the room for, like, a petite Asian woman somewhere. (Honestly HIS last name is Chan, I don’t know why I assumed his wife, whose name is Chastity would also be Asian.) So I was surprised when this blonde, Amazon-ish woman standing nearby steps forward and grasps me into a hug, saying, “Maggie!Hi there! So pleased to meet you!” in a bubbly, Southern drawl.

Novel Thoughts 1 – Maggie Tries to Write

‘Sister Clemenza bent her gentle head into the swirling, ruddy, sandy wind sweeping along the plains of Ghana…’ Does Ghana have plains? NB, must actually finally research Ghana. Or maybe Namibia. Is Namibia even still a country? All those African ones-


Is ruddy the word I really want? Rugged? Is rugged better?


“Just a sec, sweetie…” ‘As she cradled the tender infant in her arms – no, not tender infant. That sounds like steak. As she tenderly cradled the poor infant in her arms, looking up to heaven –


“What!!! Honey! Fine! What, what do you need?”

“I’m hungry.”

Sigh. “Have an apple.”‘

List – Mommy Must Haves, Lent edition

It’s that time of year. The time of dark quiet mornings, grey skies, and repentant hearts. Here are some must haves:

1: Confession – gotta do it. Clean that soul. Let the light in.

2: A quiet and contemplative prayer spot – Mine is the desk in our bedroom. I have a little icon, some candles, my rosaries and prayer books, and some silk flowers that don’t look nearly as picturesque as the ones in the flower shop but they do the trick. Now that you have the spot, you need the…

3. Dedicated prayer time – Easier said than done, in a house of little children and early risers, which is why you need…

4. Alarms – Alarms are the only way I can get up early enough to get those few minutes of quiet time before my husband leaves in the morning. They are also the way that I can keep to resolutions about school time, workouts, etc. I use my iPhone, but would love to find a less millenial-cliche type option.

5. A good prayer book, and a good spiritual reading book – I would also include a good light reading book on this list, but if you are holier than me, maybe you can just stick with the spiritual stuff. For prayer book I stick with the Liturgy of the Hours (I have the awesome full 4 volume set). For spiritual reading I am bouncing back and forth between “Introduction to the Devout Life,” by St. Francis de Sales, and “Strangers in a Strange Land,” by Archbishop Chaput. I am between books for light reading right now. For Lent I would try to go for something not too bottom of the barrel, maybe one of the less heavy classics. Trollope or Dickens, maybe?

6. Notebooks. ALL THE NOTEBOOKS.  – this is definitely not Lent specific; this is just my life.

7. Good pens – see above.

8. Laudate app – this app is the, ahem, Stuff, when it comes to prayer apps. It has everything. Lately I am using it for scriptural rosary podcasts to pray with, as well as the daily  Mass readings and Liturgy of the Hours when I can’t reach my actual prayer book.

9. Audiobooks – for kids who give up screen time

10. Sparkling water (or as we call it “fizzy water”) – Can’t have that alcohol? How about some mildly flavored water with bubbles instead? (Yeah, not the same, but that’s Lent for ya, folks.)

11. Larabars – for those of us who give up or cut back on treats. Problematic when they are so delicious that you have to give them up too…

12. Fish sticks, lentils, canned beans and canned tuna – Cuz Friday comes every week, peeps! And it’s always at the END of the week, so all those gourmet meals you had planned on Sunday are long distant memories. Fish sticks, lentil soup, hummus, minestrone, tuna casserole, repeat. …Or just throw in the towel and do cheese pizza.

13. Fresh Flowers – Lent in Minnesota comes at the most depressing time of year. It is also the time we think a lot about how sinful we are.  Sometimes you just need a little reminder that God doesn’t hate us. You can do like I do and buy purple or blue flowers, just to stay on message.

14. Stations of the Cross booklet – I lost mine and need a new one! Getting out to Stations with all the kids isn’t always easy, so I want to do them together at home. Then I remember I LOST MY BOOKLET, so I have to try to look them up on my phone, which is terrible. Don’t be like me. Get that booklet.

15. Coffee – Forever. Always. Every list.  During Lent we downgrade our regular daily coffee to whatever is cheapest at the store, however, you gotta love that Sunday coffee! Specifically, the Bialetti Moka stovetop espresso maker is the world’s best device, allowing you to make delicious espresso at home for those special Sunday morning lattes. MMMMmmmm, a little foretaste of that Easter rejoicing…

Have a blessed Lent, friends!!

On the Weather ~ March 28

A sunny, sixty-degree day in March in Minnesota restores your faith in God and humanity and yourself. Sure, it’s basically April, and our more Southerly neighbors would probably describe today’s weather as, “a cold snap”, but in Minnesota this is the dream.

A cardinal sings as we hang out in the backyard. Whoo-eep! Pew-pew-pew. Tee-hoo, tee-hoo, tee-hoo… I once made a deal with God about cardinals.  A sight of my scarlet favorite meant that wherever I was, that was where I was meant to be. That feels about right today.

The sky is blue – medium light, sky blue. Wispy white clouds spread out from the west, but looking east over our back fence and through the bare, barely budding trees, it is clear blue. The kids play, and fight, but mostly play. They are excited about ice cream sandwiches, because in my book sixty-degrees deserves ice cream. The cool warmth of the sun on my bare arms feels amazing. You can feel that vitamin D, sunshine vitamin soaking in… Baby, and kids, and mama are content.

On Writing

Here it comes again. That sick-ish, or at least ick-ish kind of feeling. That wearing-a-shirt-but-weirdly-no-pants-on-the-bus-dream type feeling. Exposed. Hating myself for making a sentence of the word exposed. Wondering who could possibly care. Why would they? Why don’t they? Do I even want them to care? Do I even care? Should I? Surely not. What makes words on a page so much more satisfying but so much more terrifying (terrifying?? -gag-) than words in my head? In my head, I’m a wit. In my head, I’m a writer. On the page… tear it up so nobody sees. Or, as Monty Python says, “Run away!”