How a Cradle Protestant Became A Catholic

How a Cradle Protestant Became A Catholic

“What’s holding you back?” she asked over a turkey sandwich.

“I not sure if I believe in Transubstantiation.” I said solemnly over a sip of tomato soup.

“Ha!” she laughed, her mouth open, revealing the unchewed bite of sandwich in the side of her cheek. “That’s not it!” she said loudly drawing a few looks from the other patrons at the bistro.

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Why is Loneliness Difficult to Confess?

Why is Loneliness Difficult to Confess?

Olivia Laing describes loneliness as “difficult to confess; difficult too to categorize.  Like depression, a state with which it often intersects, it can run deep in the fabric of a person, as much a part of one’s being as laughing easily or having red hair.”  Laing’s words left me gasping, like a sucker punch to the gut.

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Favorite Part of the Day

Favorite Part of the Day

I started when my boys were quite young. 

My sons, 16 months apart, needed me at every 5-minute interval…or both at the same time. 

I started to see the days meld into one another, an endless sea of diapers and yoga pants.  I needed something, even just one thing to set them apart.  Each night before sleep, I’d write that one thing down in my journal.  That one thing I could hold on to for that day.

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Puzzles: An Awkward Goodbye


Today I opened a puzzle from my dear friend, Martha.  She passed it on to me last year before she died, before cancer ate away her brain.  That brain that earned a doctorate, ran museums, and met presidents.  That brain that believed in me.  

I open the box and it’s full of cat hair.  My eyes fill with tears.  Is it because I am allergic?

I met Martha nearly 10 years ago at an event for Seattle Art Museum.  It was a beautiful summer night; a new exhibit was opening celebrating the museum’s 75th anniversary.  There were cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a jazz band set up outside on the lawn of the museum.   My husband recognized her from an event they both attended the night before and we saddled up introducing ourselves.  We talked, laughed and drank the night away until we realized the exhibit was closing, the band was packing up, we had never made it inside.  Not one of us cared. We gave her a ride home that night and became fast friends.

Older than my own mother, Martha and I spoke the same language.  We filled our homes with interesting people we loved and then shared stories about why we loved them when they were not present.  

I was one of the people she loved. 

She cheered for my husband and I as we became a family of three and then four, attending every baptism, birthday, and brunch with the love and attention of a devoted grandmother.  She noticed when my happy hour stories were more than bar stool chatter but a desire to write.  She encouraged me in it, as if I had something to say, something people wanted to hear.  It is a powerful thing to have someone believe in you.  Especially someone like her who should have been impressed with so much more, not so little. 

She told us she was sick one brunch as we celebrated the New Year.  She wanted us to know but not to concern ourselves as she assured us it was manageable.   We came when she asked us to, bringing flowers and cartons of buttermilk, a comforting childhood treat of hers. She continued to work, managing the move of an entire museum, then making that museum a home.  She only let the illness have the weekends.  Until it came back, again and again.  Then she knew it was time.

She arranged to return to the place of her birth, where her son still lived and could take care of her during her last days.  She arranged last meetings with all those she loved to say goodbye.  It was the most gracious, beautiful, goodbye anyone could hope to give …but I couldn’t.  Mine was rushed, uncomfortable, and hollow.  I couldn’t say all the things I wanted to, in front of other people, in front of my children, in front of her cats.  I couldn’t say that she was more family to me than mine ever was.  That I didn’t understand her faith in me.  That I wanted to make her proud.

I couldn’t say that I loved her.

Looking down at the puzzle box in my hands, I know she understood.  She didn’t expect me to be as lovely and gracious as herself.  She understood when my anxiety over downtown parking had me arrive at her apartment disheveled at best.  She understood when I worried whether my sons were developing on track, saying “Don’t worry too much.  They aren’t going to receive their college diploma in diapers”. She understood that there were years in my life where I wasn’t allowed to be myself.  She let me be myself. Even liked that self.  She had carefully folded the puzzle back in the box, with large sections still attached, making it easier for me to put together.  Is she giving me direction from beyond the grave? I hope I have all the pieces.

Facts: The Gift of Self

Fact:  My Grandma and Grandpa got married on New Year’s Eve.

Fact:  I cannot swim.  Never learned

Fact:  I secretly enjoy ironing.

Fact:  I lost my glasses

Each morning when I wake up, I send an email to my friend, Gabrielle.  The subject line says “FACT”.  We simply type out a fact about us. 

Gabrielle and I went to school with each other for 8 years as children. She was a year ahead of me.  We knew of one another in our tiny private school but we did not often spend time with each other.  It wasn’t until junior high, that we were both thrown in together in a free period as teacher’s aides.  I quietly admired her poise and humor.  I thought she was too lovely, too good to be real friends with someone like me. I had the magic of the elective period alone with her to enjoy her.

Twenty-five years later we reconnected on Facebook. She revealed that she too had enjoyed that free period together and had admired me.  She suggested that we catch up on the last 25 years and in some ways, get to know one another, by sending each other a FACT each morning.  We surmised that both of our OCD laden, Type A personalities could keep up with the commitment.  We didn’t discuss how long we would do it, only that we would begin.  It has now been over 2 years.

We are both early birds, most mornings we send out our email in the 5 o’clock hour before I leave for my morning run.   Whoever sends their fact second, comments on the others and then shares her own.  It takes us each 2-3 minutes total.

At first our emails were basic details about us.  Most of our facts have a positive tone to them.  We share happy things.  We share highlights.  They began to change into what we looked forward to in the day ahead of us or the best of the day before.  They continued to evolve.  Sometimes deeper evaluations of our thoughts, fears, concerns.  This is where we have been able to get to know one another, understand each other.  She is an amazing person whom I hope to be more and more like.  Funny how even as adults, it’s terrific to have a role model of how to do things well.

I live with chronic depression.  A fact that was shared with Gabrielle a few months into this experiment.  I have been able to manage it for the most part with a combination punch of regular exercise, schedule and forcing myself to stay connected to community. Still there are usually several days a year that depression peaks it’s head out of the hole in the ground.  My sister recently pointed out that there has been fewer of these days.  I startled at that comment.  I looked over my calendar and journal, where I tend to document those down days to keep track of it.  She was right.  There have been far less of these the last 2 years.  

Yes, I credit this experiment.

Each morning I pop out of bed and my first thoughts are of Gabrielle and what cheerful tid bit of my past day or the day to come I will share with her.  I know that if I delay in sending it, she will be concerned.  Not because of my depression but because of the regularity in which I usually send these out.  My immediate thoughts each morning are of something to be thankful for, look forward to and that someone cares about me.  It is a powerful notion, especially for someone for whom this does not come easily.  What a gift to give someone!  I don’t think she knows the power in this one act of curiosity, kindness and Type A at it's finest.  

I think this will be my fact tomorrow morning.