Lessons From the Sea

Our family has always had a fascination with sea glass. Though we spend more time in the mountains, and I’ve never been a beach person, we love walking along the shoreline, searching for brightly colored pieces of time. It’s a peaceful, calming act in a world of noise and chaos. That was how we spent the last day of our vacation, and it was the perfect ending to an adventurous week!

My sister-in-law makes amazing jewelry, pictures, and other items from sea glass, so we’re always on the hunt for unique pieces and colors. Not to mention, the girls and I love sea glass earrings and necklaces!

Besides the beauty of the glass and serenity of the hunt for them, I think there are some lessons to be learned from these small fragments of glass that would serve us all well.

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Sweet Blessings and Blueberry Pie

Have you ever experienced a time when something unexpected happened that threw off all your plans but ended up being a blessing in disguise? Of course you have. We’ve all had those moments when we realized that whatever was causing a disruption to our plans was actually a good thing, in some cases, a bounty of blessings.

Earlier this summer, Ken and I were planning our drive across the country from our home in Maryland to our cabin in Colorado. One of the things we love about this drive is that there is so much to do between here and there. Each trip is a grand adventure, and we always look forward to the stops we will make and the people we will be blessed to see. We had the entire trip planned out–a stop at the Air Force Museum, dinner with friends in Ohio, a tour of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, a trip to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, a quick visit to the Cathedral on the Plains, and a drive up Pike’s Peak. Everything was perfect until about three days before we were to leave.

The Cathedral of the Plains
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What is Your Treasure?

“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God”(Luke 12:21).

We heard these words in Sunday’s Gospel just before leaving on our summer vacation. Vacations are sacred to us, treasures to be kept in our hearts and cherished. They aren’t tangible, and they can’t be stored physically, but they are precious gifts that we always look forward to and look back upon.

Many years ago, Ken and I made the decision to never skip a family vacation. He has always worked high pressure jobs and rarely has the ability to just take a day off or check out early. Before he had his present job, he traveled so much, he was hardly home for the equivalent of an entire week per month. For his own mental health, we knew that we had to make vacations one of the top priorities in our marriage.

When we lead marriage prep classes for our diocese, we do an exercise in which the couples have to list their individual priorities for their marriage and then share and discuss with their fiancés what their couple priorities for the marriage are. Many of these couples include travel as a priority. We always encourage them to keep that as a priority, especially when they have families, because those times are a treasure indeed.

I’ve written before about how important vacations are in a marriage and family even if it’s just a trip to some place in your home town. But they are more than just jaunts away from home or time off from work.

They are treasures to be grasped and held onto.

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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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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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My Favorite Place?

One of the online groups I belong to poses an ice-breaker question every so often in order for members of the group to get to know each other. This morning’s question got me thinking. The question was, “What’s your favorite place of all the places you’ve travelled?”

That’s an easy one and a difficult one at the same time. Easy because my favorite travels immediately jumped into my mind without hesitation. Difficult because I have more than one favorite for more than one reason.

When I was a librarian, I was often asked what my favorite book is. I answered the way only a librarian could, “That depends. I have many favorites, all according to category!”

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Imitate the Wise

Every afternoon or evening, when it’s not ninety degrees outside, I take my dogs on a walk. The puppy is tethered to a leash, of course, and may be for some time as we’re just beginning more intensive training with her. However, our ten-year-old lab (who is expertly trained and comes to me in and instant, standing by my side until I tell her she can go) has the pleasure of running free, and she relishes in chasing rabbits and plunging head-first into water-filled ditches (no rabbits have been caught or harmed). In fact, Rosie is a head-first kind of dog. We used to worry that she would hurt herself each time she went barreling down the hall toward our bedroom only to find the door closed after she rammed it with her head. Luckily it didn’t take long for her to learn to test the door first to see if the air conditioning fan had slammed it shut again. I keep waiting, though, for her to ram a culvert or a tree as she plunges ahead at break-neck speed.

It’s not unlike watching people or even governments running at break-neck speed, heads jutting forward, throwing caution to wind. So often, we go through life without ever looking up or ahead. I’m not talking about those who never look up from their cell phones as they cross a busy intersection, but really, isn’t the result the same? To push ahead, forge recklessly into the unknown, and never stop to see what’s coming up.

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