Choosing the Better Part

This past Sunday, the Gospel reading was the well-known story of Jesus’s dinner at the home of sisters, Martha and Mary, and the Lord’s advice to Martha about choosing the better part. On the way out of Mass, as I led my entourage of family and friends from the church, someone remarked to me that it looked like I could relate to the reading and the homily that weekend! I had been thinking the same thing as I sat in the pew with my husband, three daughters, my son-in-law, Katie’s boyfriend, two of Rebecca’s friends, Rebecca’s mother-in-law, and my bestie, Anne, from Illinois. These were just the last bit of people staying with us for Rebecca’s baby shower weekend.

Many know the story of Martha–cooking, cleaning, serving–and Mary, who quietly sits and listens to Jesus. Poor Martha, doing all the hard work and planning and then being admonished by the Lord for it! If only she could be more like her sister, Mary (how many siblings have heard that before?).

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

This story holds so many lessons for us, but the true meaning, the better part of the lesson, is lost on so many. It’s a lesson I often have to remind myself, including this past weekend…

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Fourteen Lessons from Climbing 14ers

While Ken and I were in Colorado over the past few weeks, we had the opportunity to climb three of Colorado’s famous 14ers, the mountains that are over 14,000 feet high. This is something we always try to do, but it took me a long time to get to a physical and mental place of being able to summit. On our descent from Red Cloud and Sunshine Peaks last Thursday, I had a lot of time to think about all the lessons I’ve learned from climbing 14ers. I’ve come to understand that climbing a mountain is a beautiful metaphor for the climb we experience in life.

What I found so perfect about this metaphor and these lessons is that there are fourteen very distinct and important things I’ve learned from these treks up and back down the 14ers. They are vitally important in climbing geographical mountains and in climbing the ultimate mountain of life.

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Finding The Way

Next fall, 2023, a few friends and I are planning to walk El Camino de Santiago in Spain. For those who may be unfamiliar with this, El Camino de Santiago, The Way of St. James, is a network of ancient routes taken by pilgrims wishing to make the same journey that St. James made while spreading Christianity (known in the first century as The Way) in Spain. The routes all end at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, The City of St. James. Hundreds of thousands of people make the pilgrimage every year on routes that take between 8 and 35 days.

We’re not doing the 35 day route only because it’s a long time to be away, but we felt we wanted more than 8 days to experience this pilgrimage. We’ve decided on 14 days, and we will be doing the pilgrimage the way it’s supposed to be done–no tourist agency to plan our every step, no porter to take our bags from one stop to the next, no fancy hotels or five star restaurants. Just us, our lightly packed backpacks, walking sticks, and a modest hotel every few days. We will stay in local BnBs owned by families needing the income to survive. For this trip, there will be four of us, all learning our way along The Way. In 2024, I will be taking a large group of pilgrims (and doing things the easier way with professional help, porters, etc). This time, though, the pilgrimage is for me.

The View from Cat's Den

This week, as Ken and I explore the world outside our cabin in the San Juan Rang of the Colorado Rockies, I begin my preparation for The Way.

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You Call it Luck…

If you’ve been following me on social media, you know that my husband, Ken, and I spent most of last week driving cross-country to our family’s vacation cabin in the Colorado Rockies. It was a planned trip but not a planned drive (especially with the cost of gas), but we were asked to drive out by a dear friend back home who had extensive back surgery and needed a “new” truck delivered to his cabin just up the road from ours. This friend has done so much for Ken over the past thirty years and made it a point to visit my father-in-law several times before he passed away. Our family is so lucky to have a friend like him. We couldn’t say no.

I think that was a pivotal decision in our journey. We could have said no. We could have told him it was too expensive to drive. We could have done things differently, but driving that truck out west was the right thing to do. I think it was because we said yes, not despite it, that everything happened the way it did. You could call it luck…

When I first met up with our friend’s son to pick up the Toyota 4Runner (actually an SUV rather than a truck), I was shocked. The truck was new to them, but it was clearly not new. In fact, the son told us that the truck was about 32 years old! I had serious doubts about whether we would be lucky enough for the truck to make it all the way from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Southwest Colorado, not to mention up the steep slopes of the Rocky Mountains to the cabin. I was even handed some extra money “in case it breaks down on the way.” This was not how I envisioned the trip beginning! Nobody even mentioned to me that the air conditioning was not supposed to work. First strike of luck–it worked like a charm the whole way.

Ken was attending a conference outside of Pittsburgh, so I left early the next morning to pick him up. That’s where I began having more doubts…

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Enjoy the Journey

As Ken and I prepare to drive out to our cabin in Colorado this week, we’re making plans to see good friends, visit interesting places, and enjoy the ride as much as our time at the cabin. Our family has always held the belief that the journey is as important as the destination. No matter where we go, especially if we are driving, we always make the travel as important and fun as the actual vacation. As far as we’re concerned, it’s one and the same.

World's Largest Buffalo

When our girls were little, we drove from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Southwest Colorado almost every year. It’s a 36 hour drive, and believe me, a journey of that length with three little girls is no picnic, but we found ways to make it not only memorable but downright enjoyable for all. Our girls still talk about the Mitchell Corn Palace and the Giant Concrete Buffalo like they’re the Eiffel Tower. Okay, maybe not quite that, but they were just two of the memorable stops on our travels that we marveled at and smile about today.

There’s nothing like discovering a hidden gem like the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, Missouri, or the Medora Music in Medora, North Dakota. While the journey might be long, there’s always something to make it entertaining, even exciting.

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Back to the Beach

Many readers have fond memories of Misty of Chincoteague, the beloved tale by Marguerite
Henry about the Beebe siblings and their Chincoteague pony. I still own my paperback copy, now falling apart at the seams. I don’t know how many times I read it, but I know that the book and the island left an imprint on my heart that I wasn’t aware of for many years.

In 2014, I began writing a book about Kate, a young woman who flees her life in the city to start over in a place with no ties to her former life, a place to escape and hide, a place to be reborn. Without giving it a thought, I watched my character pack her car and head to Chincoteague Island off the coast of Virginia.

This wasn’t surprising for me—my characters always do what they want and end up in places and predicaments I never foresaw. What was surprising was how vivid the location and the islanders were in my mind. I’d been to Chincoteague a handful of times, and have family who live on the island, but these images and personalities were so real to me that I began to think of them as friends.

Six years after the publication of the award-winning Island of Miracles, I can honestly say that…

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The Longest Thing You’ll Ever Do

In the midst of ongoing world crises–the War in Ukraine, lingering Covid worries, worldwide inflation, and a looming recession–there remains the desire to hope, to celebrate, to live.

The Queen arrives at Buckingham Palace in 2013.

Just look at Great Britain over the past week. Everyone, everywhere stopped to celebrate the seventy-year reign of their beloved queen. They threw parties and held parades and attended services and ceremonies all in honor of a woman whose title and place is ceremonial.

What is it that makes the queen such a beloved figure?

I believe, though they were quite different in many ways, it’s the same thing that endeared Princess Diana to the British people and the world. Both women had/have a remarkable passion for life.

Yes, the queen sticks to strict protocol. Her clothes, her smile, her countenance, her demeanor, and even her wave are carefully executed, groomed from birth to appear dignified and poised at all times. But what a life the queen has lived, and she is loved for the image she presents.

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Life is a Highway

“Isn’t it mysterious how so many wonderful things in life come to us seemingly without our planning? We start traveling down one street, and we find ourselves interested in something we never expected on a side street; and as we explore it, the side street becomes the main road for us.” – Fred Rogers

Don’t you love the wisdom of Mr. Rogers? 

How often has this exact thing happened to you? I think it’s the story of my entire adult life! 

It seems that my path has taken so many twists and turns and detours, I’m no longer surprised to see where I’m heading or when or where I will end up.

For example…

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Fixing What Matters

It has started once again. The talk about guns and gun control, and the question about whether it’s guns that kill or people that kill, are the topics that plague us over and over in this country. They’re good questions, necessary questions. But the real question we should all be asking is, WHY? What are we missing? What are we not doing? How are we not meeting the needs of others on such a basic level that they feel their only recourse is to mow down innocent people? What can we do to actually, truly, permanently fix this?

There’s a general feeling of dissatisfaction among Americans that goes so deep, it’s becoming imprinted on our souls.

Listening to Bishop Robert Barron this morning, I was struck by something he said. He talked about how we steer our children to be athletes or musicians or any given state of excellence, and we do anything and everything to get the child moving in that direction. He wasn’t saying this as a criticism but as an example of how we get a person to achieve something or be a certain way.

Why don’t we steer our children toward kindness? Toward loving their neighbors? Toward looking out for one another? If we can create in a child the ability to become a star athlete, then why can’t we create in that same child the ability to care for others?

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