Is Spiritual Reading Boring? These books aren’t. {7QT}

I struggled for a title for this post.  I’m actually linking this to TWO of Kelly’s posts on This Ain’t the Lyceum.  The one that inspired me to compile this list is called “Spiritual Books Too Good To Put Down.”  I didn’t want to steal that title, of course, but everything I tried seemed lame and, well, boring.  I can’t tell you the number of spiritual books that I’ve purchased or received as gifts that I started but never finished.  They’re full of great and powerful messages, but they either put me to sleep or I just lost interest.  When I was going through my cluttered bookshelf I was surprised by how many books I found that I devoured, even spent hours on end reading not wanting to stop.  Lent is coming, so if you’re looking for something that will inspire you, look no further:


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Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler, inventor of 7 Quick Takes🙂

Her story of growing up in a loving atheist home, starting a family, converting to Catholicsm, and raising her kids in the Catholic faith.  It blew me away (and her radio show is awesomeness.)



Pope Awesome and Other Stories by Cari Donaldson

As a convert to Catholicism myself, I’m drawn to the stories of other people who’ve struggles with the same issues I have.  This is Cari’s moving story, and it’s, well, awesome.  (By the way, if you like listening to podcasts, I spent the Blizzard of 2016 binge-listening to Ghost Fawn Homestead.  Cari and her husband Ken talk about moving their family to a farm last spring and their journey as newbie homesteaders.  It ROCKS.)



My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell

Colleen’s story of her faith journey, facing her father’s Alzheimer’s, her marriage and their struggles with infertility, and stories of the saints that have helped her through the tough times. This one was so powerful I had to put it aside a few times to keep from crying.


My Badass Book of Saints by Maria Johnson


I’m currently reading this one.  It’s partly a memoir, partly stories of ancient and modern-day saints that inspire Maria with their inner beauty, perseverance, and love for Christ. (Maria also has a great podcast, Catholic Weekend.  I haven’t listened in a while.  I keep adding more podcasts to my list and now I’m behind on many of them…)  Chapter ten reminded me of another book that blew me away…


Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza.


I got to meet her a few years ago.  I couldn’t stop smiling for hours afterward.  (I bought copies of all her books, and she signed all of them.  She’s so gracious and kind and there’s a glow of peace and holiness that comes from her.  I have a serious girl crush.)  Left to Tell is Immaculee’s account of surviving the Rwandan genocide by hiding with seven other women for three months in a bathroom, and through the power of prayer, and finding the strength to forgive the people who murdered her family.

She has since written several other books, including Our Lady of Kibeho and Led By Faith (the one in the photo).  I recommend all of them.


The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Great stuff if you haven’t read it already.  I might read it again…


Anything by Dr. Scott Hahn.  I was introduced to him (not in person, but someday, I hope) when I was in the RCIA program at St. Mary of the Assumption in Maryland.  Our priest had us watch several videos–VHS tapes, that’s how long ago it was–of Dr. Hahn’s talks about why he converted to Catholicism.  Over the years I’ve listened to many of his talks and read a number of his books.  If an anti-Catholic Protestant minister can become Catholic, just about anyone can.



I can’t write a post about spiritual books without telling you about the Walking with Purpose women’s bible study series.  I’m currently in the second year of study at my parish, and it’s been a blessing to be a part of it.  I meet with a small group of women every Thursday night, and over the last two years we’ve shared many hopes and dreams, laughter and tears, and prayers for each other and our loved ones.  It’s designed to be a group Bible study; check out the website for info on how to bring it to your parish, or to order books to go through on your own.

There you have it.  I’m linking to Kelly’s posts “Spiritual Books Too Good to Put Down” and this week’s 7 Quick Takes.  And I would love it if you checked out my other little fledgling of a blog, Ramblings of a Runner Cacher, where I chronicle my adventures in running and geocaching.  Have a great weekend!


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In All Things Give Thanks

He was refusing to go to sleep. My little nephew, thirteen months old. Earlier in the day his three-year-old brother had taken a tumble and bonked the back of his head, hard. His parents immediately took him to the ER, and the village of family and friends gathered for Thanksgiving dinner took over the care of the little one. He nibbled on some turkey and bread (so much excitement, it’s hard to concentrate on eating), and soon my parents and I took him home. We said our goodbyes, sorry we have to take off, it was great seeing you, thanks for everything. He napped in the car, and played happily until bedtime.

Meanwhile I was getting updates from my brother via text: “Low-grade concussion.” “CT scan.” “Waiting for the results.” “Skull fracture.” “No brain damage.” (Thank God.) Needless to say we were all worried. I managed to get instructions on the bedtime procedure, we followed them as best we could (PJs, medicine, some solid food, a bottle, a story), and put him down and said good night. He cried, as we expected he would. After a while my mother said, “I think I’ll go rock him for a little bit.” I could hear them over the baby monitor, the boy fussing, my mother talking soothingly to him. I went up to check on them and she happily surrendered him to me. I rocked him while he cried. His grandma wanted to “fix” it: Turn on the light, he likes that. Here’s a blanket, he might be cold. Did he have enough to eat? Maybe he’s hungry. Let’s take him back downstairs for a while. Finally I said, “Turn out the light and shut the door. I’ve got him.”

He cried. He screamed. He squirmed. Mommy and Daddy and big brother aren’t here and something is wrong and I don’t understand. I couldn’t help recall nights like this with my own kids, feeling overwhelmed, wishing they would just go to sleep already. Those thoughts threatened to take over on this night as well. I could have lamented having to leave the party early, that if all this hadn’t happened I could be playing board games and drinking wine and having a grand time. I looked at this precious, unhappy child of God and felt a sense of peace. I knew that in this moment I was exactly where God intended me to be.


(This boy.  Last summer, when he was eight months old.  Grandma loves him so much.)

I began to hum softly. I thought I was humming “Away in a Manger,” one I often sang to my children when they were babies, but what came out was, “Immaculate Mary:”

Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing

You reign now in splendor with Jesus our King.

Ave, ave, ave Maria!  Ave, ave, Maria!

In Heaven the blessed your glory proclaim;

On Earth we your children invoke your fair name.

Ave, ave, ave Maria!  Ave, ave, Maria!

I didn’t sing the words, only hummed the tune. I thought of Mary rocking the Baby Jesus and singing to Him. No doubt she also had nieces and nephews and little cousins she did the same for during her lifetime. This boy’s mother and father love him so much. Mary the mother of Jesus loves him more than anyone is capable of loving another. I can only imagine the infinite love of Christ for this little one, the One who made him in His image and lay down His life for him.

Soon he began to quiet down and eventually fell asleep. When I put him in his crib, I put my hand on his back. I kept it there for a few minutes, and when I started to step away, he looked up at me. “I’m here,” I said. He put his head back down and closed his eyes again. I stayed by his crib for quite a while, and every so often he would lift his head to make sure I was still there.

This night I was reminded that God is always with us, whether we realize it or not. In times of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, contentment and worry, He’s with us. He will never leave us.

Big brother stayed in the hospital that night and most of the next day. The good doctors and nurses wanted to keep an eye on him to make sure he was going to be all right. His parents expressed their profound gratitude over and over–to God for looking out for their child, to the doctors and nurses who took care of him, to all of us who helped with the little one. They could have pointed fingers and found someone to blame for the accident; instead they thanked God for His mercy and love in this time of worry and anguish. He’s home now, with strict instructions to take it easy for the next few weeks. His mother says it’s not easy to do that, given the fact that he’s acting like his normal self, wanting to do all the things that little boys do. The doctors said that the only lasting effect would be that in 30 years if he ever has another CT scan or an x-ray to his head, you’d be able to see evidence of a long-ago injury. He is going to be just fine.


(When he was 2 and a half.  They’re both growing so fast.)

This was not the Thanksgiving we expected, but we were all reminded of how much we truly have to be thankful for.

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My First Marathon: Richmond 2015

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days…

Actually, just take out that “worst” part.  Even though there were times when I felt miserable, it was an amazing experience and a wonderful day.

My friend Sarah met me at 5 am, we gathered up all our stuff–water bottles, fuel, running belts, phones, snacks, sunscreen (which we forgot to put on)–and hopped in the car for the ride to Richmond.  Ray let us off at the Marriott near the start line, where we kept warm, waited in bathroom lines, munched on prerace snacks, and chatted with other runners.  We met our friend Ruth , who was running the half, snapped some photos, and wished each other well. (Ruth and I take a weekly strength training class that Sarah teaches.  She fondly calls Sarah “our fearless leader.”) Soon it was time for Sarah and I to head to the start line.


After one last prerace pit stop, it was time to move.  Even before we crossed the start line I was starting to warm up, and I ditched my throwaway sweatshirt and gloves.  I started my interval timer, which is an app on my phone that gives me voice feedback telling me when to “workout” (run) and “rest” (walk).  I had it set for a 1:15/:30 run/walk interval, and the first couple of walk breaks felt a little awkward.  Everyone was passing me, and no one was walking, or so I thought.  I overheard another woman remark to her friend, “It’s so hard to walk!”  Thank goodness I wasn’t alone!  After a few minutes I prayed the Life Runners Creed in rhythm with my running, and then started in on the Rosary.  I like to pray the Rosary while I’m running; not only can I run with Jesus and Mary, but sometimes it helps me space out my walk breaks when I’m not using a timer.

Pretty soon I realized that my timer was screwy, and it was telling me to walk and run at random times.  I would run for as long as 2 1/2 minutes in some places, and immediately after telling me to “rest” it would say it was time to run again.  I didn’t want to turn it completely off, so I just worked with it as best I could.  At every walk break I counted to 30 and started running again whether it told me to or not.  This made some of my running segments shorter than I planned, although many of them were longer.  Despite the annoyance of the messed-up timer, I was able to enjoy the course and really got a kick out of all the spectators and volunteers who were cheering me on.  I stopped and took pictures, and thanked the volunteers, police officers, and spectators whenever I could.


Just before Mile 8, the course crossed the James and ran along the river for about a mile and a half, and then into a neighborhood (which was a little bit hilly…they told me the course was mostly flat!).  At Mile 15 we crossed the river again and headed back into the city.  It was very windy on the bridge, but the views were amazing!  Just before crossing the bridge I spotted Santa Claus cheering on runners, and I stopped to take a selfie with him.  At Mile 16, after I had prayed all twenty-five decades of the Rosary, I pulled up Spotify and started my playlist I had put together for the marathon.  Suddenly my timer started working perfectly!  Go figure.


Just after the 18-mile mark, the course turns onto North Boulevard and goes right past the Richmond Medical Center for Women.  It was on the opposite side of the divided street, which was open to traffic.  I took off my headset and got down on one knee on the grassy median to pray for a minute.  I couldn’t help but notice the two clinic escorts on the corner, waiting to whisk patients into the building before they could see any pesky pro-lifers who might be praying or offering to help.  As I stood up and continued my run, I felt a deep sadness.  How tragic that some mothers feel there is no other choice than to abort their child.  How sad that “escorts” feel they must protect their clients from people who truly want to help them.  In those moments I knew Satan was real and hard at work here, but I also felt God’s presence, and the love He has for those desperate women and their children.  For a little while my aches and pains disappeared and I was grateful for the chance to pray here, if only for a minute.

Around Mile 20, the pain in my legs returned with a vengeance.  (Maybe Satan was trying to get back at me and stop me from finishing…?  That possibility didn’t occur to me until now, actually.  I don’t really think about Satan much.)  I adjusted my timer to give me a slightly shorter running segment before each walk break.  For the next few miles I ran with a 1:00/:30 interval, but every run was torture and every walk seemed too short and it was harder and harder to start running again.  The spectators and the music and the people at the aid stations were starting to get on my nerves.  I found myself questioning the wisdom of signing up for a marathon.  Thankfully my guardian angel was with me (who, I’m sorry to say, I don’t think about much either.  Shame on me.) and I realized that if I reversed my interval–that is, run for 30 seconds and walk for one minute–and keep that up for the last couple of miles of the race, I would make it.  As soon as I did that my spirits lifted and I felt much stronger.  By that time just about everyone was doing a lot of walking anyway!

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When I rounded the corner onto Lombardy Street at Mile 24, I spotted my husband Ray.  Boy, was I happy to see him!  He asked me how I felt, and I could truthfully tell him I was feeling pretty good.  He started walking/jogging along with me, and I explained to him my strategy of switching up my run/walk to mostly walking with a little bit of running.  (I wish I had used the Galloway method for last year’s Historic Half.  I would have been in a much better mood when he met me near the end of THAT race.  See Take #7 here.)  For the next two miles we walked/ran together, chatting about ordinary things like, what time did the boys get up?  When does Chris get off work?  Where do you want to go for dinner?  Before I knew it, the Mile 26 marker was in sight, and Ray had to veer off in another direction because I was suddenly in the finishing chute!


As I started the last .2 toward the finish (Downhill!  Thank the Lord!)  I began running, and sprinted across the finish as the announcer called my name. I didn’t cry, as I thought I would.  (I did get a little choked up when I saw two women hugging each other and crying, though!)  Mostly I just smiled from ear to ear.  The medal was hung around my neck and I was handed a water bottle, which I was desperately craving at that point.  It took me ten minutes before I was able to twist the top off.  To my surprise and delight, I was also given a commemorative blanket and hat.  Ray texted me to ask where I was, and when he finally found me (my brain was so foggy I told him I was to the left of the finish, when it was really the right) we walked back toward the finish line to cheer for Sarah.

Oh, remember that virtual geocache I told you about in my last post?  The statue of Abe and Tad Lincoln near the finish that I was all gung-ho to visit?  Didn’t happen.  By the time Sarah finished and we took some post-race photos, we were all ready to head home.  Tad and Abe will have to wait until another time.


My official finish time was 5:48:10.  When I first signed up for the race and I was asked to predict my time, I had no idea what to put down.  I finally settled on five hours.  Maybe at some future marathon I can finish in five, but for this first one I am super happy with nearly six.  I finished!  And I was able to finish strong!  And I want to keep doing them!  And yes, I do want to eventually run the Blue Ridge Marathon, after I do a few more hilly races and learn to pace myself so I can make the 7:30 time limit.

I was SUPER sore on Sunday and Monday.  By Tuesday the soreness had subsided significantly, and on Wednesday it was completely gone. Yesterday morning I went for a six-mile run with a couple of my running friends.  I only stopped to walk twice, and I felt great.  What’s next?  I’m not sure yet, but there’s a half marathon in Fairfax County in a few weeks that looks intriguing…



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Hokie Half Marathon 2015, the Race Recap; and What The Heck Does That Have To Do With Geocaching?


Never mind that it’s been over a month and a half since I ran this race.

I left the house on Saturday, the 19th of September to make the 4-hour drive to Blacksburg.

Okay, here’s where the really nerdy part of me comes out.

I’m the only person in my family who runs.  I’m also the only person in my family who likes hunting for geocaches.  I’ve found that any opportunity to combine the two lets me enjoy both without sacrificing too much time away from my family. SOOO….. I made a stop in the little town of Gordonsville in Orange county to find a two-stage geocache (called a multi-cache) outside the fire house.  I had to gather a little bit of information once I got there in order to find the cache.  Luckily it was easy enough to get what I needed and find it, so it was a fairly quick stop.

After picking up my race packet at the brand-spanking-new Blacksburg High School (and finding another geocache not far away) I called Matt and he met me at my parents’ house, where my mother served us her wonderful vegetable soup for dinner.

I like to arrive early for a race in order to have plenty of time to find parking, get my bearings, and (most importantly) use the port-a-potty AT LEAST once.  A friend of mine from high school, Rhonda, who had been a classmate of my brother’s and had gone to church with us, was running the 5K.  I hadn’t seen her in years and years, and it was great to catch up with her in the short amount of time we had before the race started.


I’ve been training for the Richmond Marathon since the summer, and I was treating this race as one of my training runs.  I didn’t want to try and run it fast, and I used my Jeff Galloway style run/walk method for the entire race, which is the way I’ve been running to prepare for the marathon.  When the race started I noticed lots of people passing me, and I felt a little sluggish.  After a couple of miles I started to feel myself settling into a steady pace, and I noticed a few other people using a run/walk strategy.  I didn’t push myself, and I focused on enjoying the race.

Back in June, I told you about how I ran a 10K with the run/walk method, and I ended up with a PR and placing first in my age group.  That day I had been playing a game with myself, and counting how many people I passed while running versus the number of people who passed me during my walk phase.  Right around Mile 6 of the Hokie Half, I decided I was ready to push myself a little bit more, and started picking off runners one by one.  I ended up passing many more people than who passed me, but at about Mile 8 I realized I was already wearing myself out.  I backed off and quit thinking about who was ahead of me and who was behind.

(On a side note:  A lot of people who write about their races report their splits for every mile.  I don’t turn on my GPS when I race, normally, so I had no way of knowing what my pace was.  I’d rather not put that added pressure on myself.  I did have MapMyRun on during the Father’s Day 10K, but I turned the voice feedback off and didn’t look at it until afterwards.)

I think it was around Mile 10 or 11 when I started to feel drained, and my legs were starting to protest.  I began to question whether I would able to run 26 miles in less than two months.  What was I thinking??  Suddenly I heard the opening notes of Virginia Tech’s fight song, “Tech Triumph” come through my Spotify.  I cranked up the volume and picked up the pace.  For about a minute and a half (it’s a short song) I felt like I was flying, and–this was the weird part–I also felt like crying.  I wondered,  Why in the heck am I getting weepy NOW??  I’m certainly not THAT worn out, it’s not like I haven’t run a half marathon before, and heck, this is the second time I’ve run this one!  What gives??  Because you love this race, and you love this town.  That’s it.  Wow.

That was exactly what I needed to give me the energy to run the last couple of miles, and push through to the end.  After I crossed the finish line, I spotted Rhonda cheering for me.  I was so happy to see her and grateful that she had waited for me!  She had run the 5K, so I knew she had to have waited around for a good 90 minutes at least.  We chatted for a few more minutes, and then we had to say goodbye because she had a long drive home to North Carolina, and I was meeting Matt for the noon Mass on campus.


After a quick lunch with my parents, I headed home.  I wasn’t even all that tired, surprisingly.  And to find out I had gotten a PR at 2:18:33 was icing on the cake.  Thank you, Jeff Galloway!


I know the Hokie Half course very well.  I’ve walked and biked and run on the Huckleberry trail many times; heck, the race goes right through my old neighborhood and past my elementary school.  I also know there are quite a few geocaches along the course.  I’ve found several of them; although not during the race.  That would be insane.  Right?

There’s a guy out in the midwest–Minnesota, I think–named Joshua Johnson, who is an avid geocacher and posts some of his adventures on his vlog.  He gets his whole family involved, which is great.  Last month he ran his first marathon, found a geocache during the race, and posted it on his vlog.

I admit I get a little verklempt when I watch that.  It’s not about geocaching at all,  it’s about working hard to accomplish something you’ve never done before.

There are some geocaches along the Richmond Marathon course.  I won’t likely be trying to find any of them.  There is a nice virtual cache near the finish line, though; it’s a statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting with his son, Tad. Perhaps I’ll have Ray take my photo with my race medal next to Abe and Tad.  That would be sweet.


(Thomas Jefferson and me in Williamsburg, August 2014.  A virtual cache.)

At Mile 19, the course goes right past the Richmond Medical Center for Women, an abortion clinic where many a 40 Days for Life vigil has taken place.  Lord willing, I’ll stop for a minute and say a prayer for the mothers and the babies and the workers inside.  I’ll pray for my fellow Life Runners who will be running Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas on Sunday.


(After the Air Force Half Marathon, in September 2014. All in Christ for pro life!)

It’s not often I post here twice in one week, much less two days in a row!  The next time you hear from me I’ll tell you about my marathon–the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Hopefully mostly good.  Wish me luck, and say a prayer for me!

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The Last Two Months, in Seven Quick Takes; Plus, a Brief History of My Blogging Life


If you’re reading this, thank you!  Hardly anybody does.  Mostly it’s my friends who see my posts on Facebook. When I started a blog back in 2009, it was mostly so I would have a place to write down my thoughts and share my ideas with whoever might run across it.  I enjoy writing, and blogging was and is a great way to do that.  I started paying attention to other blogs, especially what other Catholic moms like me were writing about.  That’s how I discovered Jen and Therese and Christine and many others.  I started paying attention to the numbers, and which posts got more views, and started looking for ways to boost my readership.  I dreamed (and still do) of meeting some of the people who inspired me to keep writing.  I discovered more blogs, and found myself spending more and more time reading them.  I tried to post more and more often; and even started a blog about cooking my way through Nicholas Sparks’ novels.  That one was a lot of fun, and I would love to get back into that, or at least do something similar with books and food.

I got into running, and started reading blogs about that (Hello Katie!)  It was surprising to me how much of a passion running would become in my own life, and I naturally added it to the growing list of things I blogged about.  My time spent reading and writing blogs was already rapidly diminishing, though.  Other things were taking up my time.  Which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but I do miss the writing.  I read far fewer blogs now than I used to, I’m sorry to say; although I’m becoming an avid fan of certain podcasts.  There is no way I’d have time to produce one of those, and I salute all those who take time out of their busy schedules to do so!

Anyway, enough with the navel-gazing.  Here’s a glimpse of  some of the things going on in my life over these last two months:

  1.  I got to see the Pope.  I can’t wait to tell you more about that.  20150924_110938-1a
  2. I ran the Hokie Half Marathon in September in 2:18:33, my fastest yet.  And I wasn’t really trying to beat myself.  Go figure.  More details to come (I hope). 20150920_073019
  3. Ray and I had a lovely weekend getaway in October to Savannah.  The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is spectacular.  Stay tuned for more.  Eventually.  Thank you for your patience.                                                                                                                                                20151010_071939 IMG_0890
  4. Matt is off to college, joined the Virginia Tech men’s choir, and has already landed a leading role in the spring musical, The Twenty-Fifth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
  5. Did you know our boys have a band?  It’s called Interrabang, with Matt on keyboard and vocals, Chris on lead guitar and vocals, Nick on drums, and their friend R. on bass guitar.  They recently put out an EP with the help of their instructor and mentor, Dave Goodrich.  It’s on iTunes, and you can even buy it on Amazon. Check it out!  11226780_404234309785301_62117443_n
  6. I just realized I never did post any photos or memories here from our vacation in August to Sunset Beach.  Perhaps I will…                                                                                        IMG_0573
  7. I’m running the Richmond Marathon THIS SATURDAY!!  It will be my first.  I managed a 23.57-mile training run a few weeks ago.  It wasn’t bad until the last couple of miles.  I hope I can hold out for 26.2.  Wish me luck.  I KNOW I’ll be telling you all about that.  I just hope it’s all about how awesome it was and how I can’t wait to do another one; not about how it sucked.  Wish me luck.

There ya go. I’ll link this to Kelly’s blog come Friday.  Maybe by then I’ll have posted something else here, who knows?

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of me trying out a friend’s ElliptiGo machine back in September.  What a hoot.  I’m not entirely sure if I want one, but they sure are cool.

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Have a great week!

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Get Thee to Church! St. Benedict Parish, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

A few years ago I started a tradition of taking photos of the churches we visit when we travel.  Usually this involves me lugging my camera case into the church and having Ray and the boys wait for me after Mass, unless we arrive super early, which is rare.  Over the years my little ritual of snapping images of the altar, the statues, the fourth Station of the Cross (always the fourth), and the outside of the church–and later editing them and posting some of them here has made me realize something about our lives as Catholics.


(On this trip I decided not to lug my good camera to church and used my phone for pictures instead.  Hence the less-than-ideal quality of the photos.)

If I asked you, “What is the most important thing you do every week?”, what would you say?  Would it be getting up and going to work every morning, or nurturing your children? Making sure your family had food on the table and clothes to wear? What if the question was, “What is the most important thing you do on vacation, or on any given weekend?”  Maybe you’d say spending time with your family, or even making sure everyone wore sunscreen.  All these things are extremely important, there is no doubt about that, and certainly these are what would come to mind if anyone asked me.  Some time ago, I wish I could say when, I realized that attending Mass is the most important thing we do.  After that we can–and we must–go about the business of feeding our families and going to work.  The Mass prepares us for the challenges of everyday life.


As Catholics we believe that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.  It is Jesus Christ Himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity.  That is why we are obligated to attend Sunday Mass unless we have a serious reason not to.  When we are away from home, we make sure we attend Sunday Mass wherever we happen to be.  I can think of at least two occasions when that meant going even though we hadn’t showered in a couple of days because we didn’t have access to one.  No matter the purpose of the trip, Mass is the most important part of it.  On our most recent trip to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, race day began with Mass.


We had decided on the 9am Mass at the closest parish, which we had found via  When we arrived, there was no one to be seen and the sign out front said that the first Mass was at 10:30.  Thanks to good cell coverage, we were able to find another 9am Mass fairly close by at St. Benedict’s and arrived with little time to spare.


After my little photo shoot I was on my way out to meet my family (who were patiently waiting for me in the car), when the priest–who I couldn’t help but notice looked a little like George Burns, big round glasses and all–stopped me and asked if I was the lady who called the church to ask for directions.  No, that wasn’t me, I replied; and I explained how we had tried going to one church only to find that there was no 9am Mass, and we had fortunately been able to find this one.  He told me that parish had closed, and that St. Benedict’s had actually merged with another one, St. Dominic.  All over the area, many of the once-vibrant parishes were closing and consolidating for various reasons, be it lack of attendance or funds or both.  It kind of made me sad.  After a while Ray and the boys walked over to see what the heck was taking me so long and joined the conversation.  We chatted about the boys and how we were here because of the race.  Father wished us well and we were on our way.


During Mass, as I always do when we’re going to a race, I prayed for the safety of the drivers, crew, and spectators.  Later that day we would witness Justin Wilson’s fatal crash. His funeral was this week.  Please pray for his family.


I hope you have all had a blessed weekend.  I’ve been working on my daily routine in order to make more time for blogging as well as other more important things.  I hope I see you again here soon.  Have a great week!


(I snapped this right before the race.  Justin Wilson is the tall one waving.  Click here for information on how to help the Wilson family.)

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I Love Racing. I Hate Racing.

Death affects us all in different ways, doesn’t it?  Shock, anger, and sadness are what come to mind today.  Yesterday when I learned of the horrific murder of the two journalists on live TV, I was shocked.  WDBJ7 was the station where I got all my news, from childhood through college, until my early twenties when I moved out of state.  I could well have been watching when the shooting took place. My heart breaks for their families.  Why do people kill other people?  I just don’t understand it.

We were watching when Dan Wheldon was killed in Las Vegas.  Granted, we had recorded the last race of the season, in October 2011, and had stayed off social media all afternoon to avoid spoilers.  We stayed up late that night watching what was supposed to be an exciting race but turned out to be a solemn vigil, waiting to learn the fate of one of the most popular drivers in the series.  Part of me wanted to run and check Twitter for a live update, but I wanted to hang on to the hope that Dan would be OK, and to pray.


(Dan in Richmond, June 2005.  He had won the Indy 500 a month earlier.  Everyone wanted to talk to him.)

There was plenty of blame to go around: There were too many cars in the field, the track was too fast for those cars, the cars weren’t safe enough, etc. etc. etc.  Some positive changes were made, and the next season found us watching the races as usual, and keeping our tradition of attending at least one race every year.  This year was no different.

We almost didn’t go to Pocono last weekend.  Chris was scheduled to work on Saturday evening, and had been calling and texting coworkers to try and find someone to take his shift.  We had a Plan B, which was to go to Mass on Saturday night after Chris got off work and drive to Virginia International Raceway on Sunday for a sports car race there.  Chris found someone to work for him, though, and off we went.  (I would have gone to the Planned Parenthood rally in Richmond on Saturday.  Instead I was driving north toward Pennsylvania, looking forward to gawking at race car drivers later that day.)


(Scott Dixon.  I wonder if he was looking at me?!?)

Why do we go to races?  They’re fun, that’s why.  They’re exhilarating.  (After Dan Wheldon died I wrote about how I became a racing fan in a blog post, which you can find here).  We’ve made some great memories over the past ten years:  Chris having his picture taken with Tony Kanaan; spending a weekend with good friends in the Finger Lakes in 2009 and going to the race at Watkins Glen (Justin Wilson won that race); staying with my dear friend from high school in 2010 for the weekend when we attended the race at Mid-Ohio; going to the Indianapolis 500 in 2013 and getting to see Tony Kanaan take the checkered flag and drink the milk.  We were making good memories at this race, too, even though it’s the first time we’ve been to a race without Matt, who is off to college.


(Biggest grin I’ve ever seen on that kid.)


(Justin Wilson wins at Watkins Glen)


(The Mother of all races, 2013)

After the crash near the end of Sunday’s race, the one that would take Justin Wilson’s life, it wasn’t fun anymore.  We weren’t particularly interested in who would win, or who was going to win the championship.  Thankfully we couldn’t see the crash scene very well from where we were sitting, but the mood of the crowd turned somber very quickly.  All I could pray in that moment was, “Please, Lord, no more deaths.”  We watched as the helicopter took off toward the hospital with Justin inside, hoping and praying that he would be all right.  Ray speculated that maybe he just had a concussion and they wanted to take him to the hospital for closer observation.  I hoped that was the case as well, but of course it wasn’t.  On the ride home, all I could think about was Justin and his wife and kids and his mom and dad and brother.  As Ray drove, I obsessively checked Twitter for updates.  And prayed.  On Monday when we learned that Justin had passed, we asked each other why we go to races.  We said maybe we should start going to smaller, less popular race events instead, like sports car races or American Le Mans.  I learned to love Indy Car racing, and could learn to love those as well.  We’ll see.  It’s too soon.

Sometimes death comes before our time, and rarely does it happen on live TV.  We’ve seen too much of that this week.  Please, no more deaths.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.


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