How We Advent

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

It was requested some of my local mom friends that I write up our Advent and Christmas celebrations. I got as far as pulling it together for December, anyway!

I have some emergent and early readers in my house this year, so I put together this calendar for them to follow along with the season and know when we are doing what.
Here's what it all means!

December 1 - Cookie making 

This is not actually done only on December 1st. Our parish Altar and Rosary has their Sugar Plum Days fundraiser over the first weekend of December. So while I'm baking up my contribution for Cookies by the Pound, I save some dough in the freezer for our 12 Days of Christmas.
Because this is all about front end work for Christmas rest!

December 2 - First Sunday of Advent, Greenery goes up

We decorate in stages around here, and stage one is get up the greenery! Advent wreath, mantel garlands, door wreaths, etc. We have aimed to get our tree between the 1st and 3rd Sunday of Advent. Who knows when the actual tree will arrive!

December 6 - St. Nicholas Day

I make overnight cinnamon rolls that get stuck in the oven in the morning. The kids wake up to find their stockings filled by St. Nicholas. We follow a pretty simple system for deciding what goes in those stockings and that has worked well for our family. We'll watch the CCC movie The Boy Who Became Santa too.

December 8 - Immaculate Conception

It's a solemnity, so get thee to church! I've done slightly different things for this every year, so we'll see what it ends up being this year.

December 9 - Second Sunday of Advent, Lights go up!

If we have a tree by now, it gets lights. Lights get added to windows, garlands, where ever else we are doing them. This is our first winter in Amelia Hill House, so I have no idea exactly what will need to happen with lights. Adventure year!

December 12 - Our Lady of Guadalupe

I'll be honest and say that most of our observance for Our Lady of Guadalupe mostly involves watching the CCC movie on St. Juan Diego and maybe eating Mexican food. Probably a family rosary. But I'm from Dallas and this feast is still important for me.

December 13 - St. Lucia

This feast got so much more fun for us once we moved to Minnesota! I make St. Lucia Saffron Buns (kneaded and risen in the bread machine, and adapted for overnight by putting in the fridge for the last rise). We sing Santa Lucia, and read Kirsten's Surprise - the American Girl book about a Swedish girl and her family's life as immigrants in Minnesota. This particular book includes their frontier celebration of St. Lucia and my kids adore it.

December 16 - Gaudete Sunday, tree decorations go up

Gaudete is when we finish up the decoration portion of our Advent because....

December 19, 20, 21 - Ember Days

The winter Ember Days are just around the corner! You can read more about what the Ember Days are and how we observe them here.
This is my giant clean, sort, purge, front end of all house tasks. They're days of fasting and penance too as we prepare to welcome our hearts, minds, bodies, and homes for the coming Christ child and all that he might ask of us.

December 23 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

No big celebrations here. Our work is likely done, and all that is left is likely to be Christmas pageant rehearsal and last minute choir needs.

December 25 - It's Christmas and the great Christmastide begins! 

Here's a look back at last year's 12 Days of Christmas:

Our basic rules are: no school, no extra cleaning work, be open for hospitality, enjoy Christmas, and explore. We wrap up 12 Christmas books during Advent preparations, and the kids unwrap one each day. Holiday movie times, cookie baking (and eating), and good warm slow food are all big parts of this time.

We have some special days in there too!

December 27 - St. John's Day

This is our John's name day. I confused the traditions for his feast day with those of St. John the Baptist for a few years, and we did a bonfire on this day. But we don't have a good space for a fire in our new home, so it made sense to shift our celebrations. This year I think it would be fun to do a lot of reading (as he is a patron of printers and publishers) and make mulled wine in memory of St. John's legendary survival of an attempt on his life via poisoned wine.

December 30 - Feast of the Holy Family

In addition to considering this the feast day for my own vocation to family life, it is the patron feast day of our parish. No big plans, just enjoying our little family and our parish family.

December 31 - New Years Eve

We might actually get some use out of our punch bowl and make some Sylvester's punch! Pope Saint Sylvester has his feast day on this last day of the year, and many traditions have been baptized "Sylvester's". The kids have been wanting to make crackers since they saw them made in Christmas on the Victorian Farm. Maybe we'll make them, but I also see a high likelihood of just buying them. 


If you would like to download a copy of the calendar for your home, you can do so here for free!


What are the big Advent hallmarks in your home? What do your December plans look like?

State of the Blog

Friday, November 9, 2018

There are some changes already happening around here, and it seems only fair to clue y'all in!

Monthly evaluation

I do this thing at the end of every month where I think back and decide what worked, what didn't, and what I can change to make all parts of my life better.

It's become more formal lately, and I now have a "What should I be doing?" discernment spread in my bullet journal where I ask myself what has fed me lately and what things have stressed me lately. I use those results to develop a spread called "Make a Change in *x month*"


October was personally a hard month where I had to accept that a lot of things weren't working. The things that were working surprised me. I very much enjoyed doing historical research on the house, getting to craft again, and exploring with the kids.
Things that stressed me included: pursuing opportunities that were not actually open to me, lack of rest, and sacrificing time to write blog content and social media that gets minimal interaction.

The Changes

I ended up with a list of 16 changes to make in November. Many are small tasks to stop procrastinating about that will lessen my stress level, but there are some big decisions.

About Theater

Earlier this week I wrote about the frustrations I've had trying to get established in the theater community here in the Twin Cities. In a sense I feel a bit deceived. Everyone told me how great the theater community was here. How many shows, spaces, companies. That is true - just not for young women.

So I'm taking a break.

A temporary, at least month long, break from the audition circuit heart ache.

A year of throwing myself at that stained brick wall requires a little healing.

About this Blog

I realized in the past few months that I was spending a lot of time thinking and writing about topics that were getting seen by fewer and fewer people. There was one day with a total of 6 views. 6. Site wide.
Frankly that isn't worth my time.

So for the month of November I'm only writing when I want to - not to meet a pre-defined posting schedule.

I don't write this blog for the sole exercise of writing. There are bloggers like that, but that's not me. I write for connection. I write to create a jumping off point for discussions and engagement. That's the point for me. I don't want to be shouting into the wind.

The Things I Will Be Doing

When I do write it will be because something needs to pour out of my heart and mind. Those pieces seem to resonate well with people, and they get written soooooo much faster than pieces I try and force out. Seems like a win-win.

I love responding to questions or requests! That's part of why I love speaking on panels and doing Q&As. Thinking on my feet is my jam, and probably when you're going to get the most concise answer before this over-thinker over-thinks it.

I will be using the time I would have spent preparing auditions, hunting for opportunities, and writing for prayer instead. I don't just want to release lots of free time, I want to make space for good and for God. Using prayer to fill those holes keeps me from letting busy work seep into that space.

I forgot how much I enjoyed taking my kids places and exploring together. Field trips are planned to be a bigger part of our month (as counter-intuitive as that sounds with a fresh layer of snow and ice out there.) It's something that feeds all of us.

I'm Still Open

This is not a Lenten fast from blogging! I'm more than happy to continue to respond to messages and  requests. I'll happily write up a post that you would like to have (there's one coming up this month already!). I want to make sure I'm helping you, not adding to your noise.

If by some amazing miracle a theater show or company comes along with an offer for me, I'll probably jump on that opportunity. It's hard not to be pessimistic about the possibility after a year of No, but it could theoretically happen.

While I'll be home a lot more, I also want to be very open for hospitality. Reach out to all those people that have been on my "You're cool and I don't see you enough" list. It's a long list, y'all. Minnesotans are cool people.

I hope you'll stick around! 
What kind of things would you like to see me write about? Is there a topic that would feed you right now? Are you making any changes in your life right now?

An Acceptable Discrimination - Because I'm a Mother

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

There are certain things we knowingly, and at least some what willingly, give up to become mothers. For me those were things like getting to go out to a movie with my husband on a whim and sleeping in.

What I didn't expect to give up: respect for my mind, fair consideration, and space to grow my talents.

You see I have the misfortune of having talents, gifts, and loves that just can't be done solo, in my home, during nap time. I'm an actress, dancer, and all around theater person. A fundamental part of all of those things is they must be done in community. It's the nature of the art form. That fact is my downfall.

Because I'm a mother.

Because I'm a mother it's ok to demand that I not practice my skills for five, ten, forever years. "Maybe you can come back when your last kid is in Kindergarten?"

Because I'm a mother it's acceptable to pass me by for roles that I *knew* I was a perfect fit to play. By directors that I had a great relationship with up until the point that they learned my dark secret - my three sweet babies at home.

Because I'm a mother I can't possibly be thinking correctly about the glass ceiling I'm pounding against. Trust me people, it only looks clear to you. It's a stained brick wall to me.

In the theater mothers are invisible. They are the foils, the caricatures, only existing as a figure for a man (or more likely a boy) to rile against. Mothers can come back in their own right when they are "women of a certain age". Older and wiser. Not young and new and messy and dangerous. There's no place for me in that view.

Because I'm a mother I don't see my story told.

I'm told to sit down, keep my head down, accept that some vocations are just incompatible with performing. No one ever thought to ask me what would help.

Plenty of vocations have been thought "incompatible with motherhood" before: academia, full time work, manual work, entrepreneurial work. Each of those industries have gone through a reckoning of sorts, and for many it's not over. The performing arts haven't even started.

I keep talking about it. I keep being honest to anyone and everyone when the subject of my perpetual state of audition season comes up.
My friends and family say, "That's awful."
Theater people say, "That's awful." Because this state of affairs is not even an open secret, but a known fact in the theater.
Everyone knows, but they get to do something denied to me. They get to change the subject.

They can change the subject because this doesn't really impact them.
Leaving out the experience, talents, and stories of a whole class of people? No big deal!

What really saddens me is the complete lack of desire or energy toward changing this state of affairs. How can I tell my daughters "You can grow up to be anything you want" if by "anything" I mean "things socially acceptable to be pursued by women of your demographic."
How can I let this anti-mother prejudice stand without challenge if I want to raise girls to live their callings to the fullest?

Ways you can help

  • Patronize shows with equal or greater number of female and male actors. Women can't get cast without female roles, and there is a drought of roles for young women. I seriously might scream if one more theater announces a season with shows of large all-male ensembles.
  • Give feedback to your local theaters asking for shows about mothers. You want to know what plays are getting done right now that involve mothering or pregnant characters? Shows about Roe v. Wade. That's right, abortion has the market on stories about mothers right now. If you think women are about more than our reproductive organs, this should concern you. 
  • Familiarize yourself with great plays written by female playwrights. There are classics beyond Shakespeare and modern gems that should be more well known. Here's a great list to get you started.
  • Think beyond easily distributed art forms. If you are involved in artists groups, or other groups meant to support and build awareness for artists, be they Catholic, local, whatever - include some performing artists, please? I can't tell you how many times I've reached out to Catholic artists groups, etc. and been told "We really focus on those with a product at this time." I'm glad you have space y'all, I am, but can you make some room for the rest of us too?
  • Grapple with your own unacknowledged prejudices. Basically, stop thinking anything a woman is called and gifted to do is impossible to reconcile with motherhood. Just stop it. That opinion is almost always formed by a lack of experience with the possibility OR a twisted idea that other women should have to struggle as you have struggled. Either way, not ok. Don't do it.

I've written about the performing arts a good bit. Here are some highlights.


What have been the creative ways you have pursued your gifts and talents while living a vocation to motherhood? Have you been supported in that pursuit? What could help you?

So How Old is Amelia Hill House Anyway?

Monday, October 29, 2018

I've been doing more research on Amelia Hill House and have made a breakthrough - I tracked down the original land patent for the plot of our home!

It was bought on March 10, 1860 under the Scrip Warren Act of 1855. With help from a trusty friend with calligraphy skills, we are able to determine that there was some home (or what counted enough as a home) on the land in 1860. While the land was claimed using the War of 1812 military credentials of William Casen, it was claimed for a Henry Schmidt.

It claimed two tracts of land, totaling 160 acres. Combining with the known location of this house and the remembered history from the grand children, my best guess is the house was located in the upper tract and the fields in the lower tract.

The grandchildren say that Albert Schmidt built this house, but he wasn't born until 6 years after the land claim. I think the Henry Schmidt mentioned on the land patent is likely to be Fredrick Henry Benjamin Schmidt - Albert's father.

One of the reasons I don't think our house existed in this final form in 1860 is because Fredrick Schmidt is listed as living in the St. Anthony neighborhood of Minneapolis, with his wife and one year old baby, in 1860 by the US Census.
The vast majority of military service land claims were sold to third parties, so it is likely that Fredrick Schmidt and William Casens never knew each other.

The US Census of 1870 just lists the family as living in Minnesota, but the state census of 1875 specifies the family living in Plymouth. So at least by 1875 there was a structure here able to house a family of nine (kids ranged in age from 11 to 2 years old by then. Albert was 3.)

By 1880 the household had grown to include 3 adult farmhands, in addition to the 8 kids who now ranged from 21-5 years old. Based on that information, I'm comfortable with saying this house was largely in it's current form (minus the kitchen and bathroom additions we currently have when the house was modernized in the 1950s) by 1880, and potentially by 1875.

In this process of figuring out the house timeline, I also discovered the burial place of the founding family - and it's just down the road!
They seem to have been a founding family of the nearby Lutheran church, which makes sense considering the Fredrick Schmidt immigrated to Minnesota from Prussia, and many of the family members are buried in the old chapel cemetery.
For All Souls Day we are planning on going to say hi! Seems fitting to pay our respects if we live in their house.

Caring About It All When You Don't Have Answers

Monday, October 22, 2018

There always seems to be something, doesn't it? Always something to be outraged about, annoyed by. Something that needs correcting. It's natural to feel burned out, tuned out, and tempted to numbness. But I don't think Jesus calls his disciples to become numb to pain or to silence righteous anger. Here's five ways we can care about it all, even, and especially, when we don't have the answers.

1 Clean your own house first

It's so much easier to be angry and correct "those" people. Those others. Those guys who aren't us.
Case in point: #postcardsformacon. Yes, the French president was a misogynist jerk to make that kind of blanket claim. He should be called out on that. But I saw post after post after post about THAT and crickets about the issues in our own Catholic Church.

Was not another Catholic woman upset that in that same week as Macon's comments we had multiple comments from Bishops claiming that women can be represented at the Synod without the vote? This is a Synod talking about vocational discernment, and women make up 80% of consecrated people in the Church. But not a single one can vote?

Before we get on this comfortable pedestal about how much more enlightened we are than the French president about the value of women in all areas, we need to notice the log in our own eye.

2 Be aware of your own baggage

Are there issues that you react to without thinking critically? I sincerely doubt any person can say an honest no to that question.
We all have our own prejudices and personal orthodoxies. It's not bad to let your history and experiences shape your perception, but it is bad to not be aware of the impact of your baggage.

For instance, I know that I need to wait a beat before talking about breastfeeding. I suffered under the "breast is best" message - to the detriment of my own health and that of my first two babies. I want desperately to prevent any other woman from going through that, but I must make sure I first understand what a mother is asking when she talks to me about breastfeeding difficulties.

Sometimes she doesn't want me to say anything, she just wants to tell another human being her honest struggles. Sometimes she wants me to point her in the direction of help. Sometimes she wants someone to tell her it's ok to do something different.

If I told every woman who talks to me about her struggles with breastfeeding to "just formula feed like me!" I would be an awful friend. That is tempting, having the answer feels good, but I have to keep my own baggage in check to be present to the other person.

3 Righteous Anger is not "emoting"

There is a bias toward stoicism in Western culture. We tend to think of the sterile and detached perceptions as the correct ones. If there is a whiff of intensity, we are told to "not be so emotional".
But emotional intensity does not necessarily equal "emoting". Emotional intensity can be an appropriate reaction to a great evil.

Emotions get associated with women, non-white cultures, and other people who generally not been welcomed in the public discussion sphere. I have experienced a group policing of other's emotionally charged reactions. Because the intensity of one might impact us all.
We wouldn't want those in charge to see the true impact of their choices. Let's keep that quiet.
And then we wonder how abuse and evil could possibly have been allowed to fester.

Don't be afraid of big emotions! But harness them. Let them out and look behind them to see what is informing them. Don't train your body not to be upset about upsetting things. 

4 Others can care more than you, but you don't get to not care

Sometimes the current outrage is outside of your range of experience. That's ok.
Maybe you have not personally experienced sexual abuse or systemic discrimination. It can feel overwhelming to process the reactions of people who have experienced something so far away from your own life events.

But it's important not to let the people who have lived through something awful to confront that awfulness alone. Christians are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. It's not optional to be unaware of the evils of the world.

5 Self care is important, but do it well

Self care is a concept that I hear many women struggle to reconcile with the sheer amount of demands in their lives. Because to give something to yourself, you must take away from someone else, right?
I don't think self care has to come from a zero sum game. I think there are more choices within our days than we give ourselves license to notice. But not everything we do in the name of self care is a healthy choice.

I hear many people say they no longer keep up with news. They honestly have no idea what is going on the in the world, their city, their community. Yes, it's probably mentally healthy not to be glued to our 24-hour news cycle, but it's not community building to have it's members be oblivious to issues.

Healthy self care, like most things in life, rests in the happy, yet uncomfortable, middle. Maybe you need to take a few days set aside to not be connected to news, but then you can come back from that ready to keep your news consumption within limited hours. The goal is to avoid extremism while still being informed enough to have productive conversations that have the power to move the conversation forward. We can't do that if community members don't even know there is a problem to discuss.

All of this is not to say that there can't be diversity in our reactions, responses, and concerns.
Not every single person is called to be an organizer, a writer, a speaker, a public doer.
But we are all called to love and be connection with each other.
That calling means caring. Even when we don't want to hear it or think there is nothing we can do.

What do you wish you could see discussed more often among Catholic women? Is there something that has been sitting on your heart that you wish you could share more openly?

Um, Why Aren't We More Concerned About This Synod?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Many Catholics questioned the wisdom of continuing with the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. We are in the middle on an ongoing, world wide, crisis of abuse and it's cover up. That seems to fundamentally impact the very people this Synod is meant to address - a concern shared by some bishops. But the Synod has been in the works for so long, better not to stand in front of that train. At least it couldn't cause harm, right?

Well, that remains to be seen.

As a young Catholic woman, this Synod has given me some serious concerns about the Vatican's ability or inclination to work with women within the Church.

Even though 80% of consecrated people are women, they are not represented among those with voting power at the Synod. In stark contrast, brothers, who share the same canonical status as religious sisters ARE afforded a vote. This is not a question of ordination or Canon Law. This is a direct discrimination based solely on gender.

I love the Church, and I believe in it's teachings, but I want to remind my fellow Catholics that we are not required to believe and support every little nuance of how things have been done. If it is not a matter of Faith and Morals, faithful Catholics are fully allowed to disagree.

I am exhausted by the commentary on this issue of overt exclusion of women that is often ended by "let's hope and pray that we can do things differently in the future." Often a reminder that we shouldn't get angry about this injustice is thrown in there for good measure.

Frankly, if this situation doesn't upset you I am a little concerned for you.

I understand crisis fatigue, the desire to talk about good things for a change, and the apathy that sets in after watching the bumbling attempts at damage control by the hierarchy - instead of the kind loving guidance of a father that we are due. However, I believe we have good reason not to place our trust in the same men who failed to amend and render justice in the Church when they said they did over a decade ago. An attempt that still came decades too late.

When the reasoning for why women religious superior generals cannot vote, but brother superiors may, relies on numerous people overlooking women because "They haven’t been used to thinking this way" I don't think the hierarchy is ready for their relating to women training wheels to come off just yet.

I keep speaking up, and writing, and talking to people, about the crisis and the reality of the Church because I understand that that is what it means to be a faithful Catholic woman right now. It's not a nice option if it's something you feel called to do. It is abundantly clear that the men of our Church might desire to do the right thing, but they cannot do it if we don't tell them what we need and hold them accountable.

It is very easy for little voices to be silenced. It is so simple to be apathetic and allow for injustice to continue it's course. How nice it would be for Someone Else to stick their neck out as a sacrificial lamb for ourselves.

Oh wait, Jesus did.
Jesus already came and provided an open path for salvation. But we have free will, and we have to cooperate with grace.

I hate to be a debby downer, but sanctifying grace is not known for it's warm fuzzies. You probably aren't going to feel good. You might not see an immediate result. But refusing grace is not an option if we wish to be disciples.

If we love Jesus, we must love his Church. The most loving thing to do in the face of injustice is not to enable it. To call it what it is by name, and to push for the good. For a Church to be what she preaches.

Men, we need you to listen to women and see injustice too. The beauty of talking about reality is it is ready and available for anyone to see if they merely look.
Women, we need to speak to each other and educate ourselves. Keeping up to date on what is happening in the Church is necessary if we are to have productive conversations.

UPDATE: I was reminded that the superiors general of the Dominicans, Jesuits, and Conventual Franciscans, all voting members of the Synod, are calling for the inclusion of women voters, and that the men's Union of Superiors General has been sending non-ordained representatives as voting representatives since 2015. This synod was the opportunity for a change at a later synod.

Was any of this news for you? How can you become involved in discussions that move the Church forward, whatever your state in life?

Let's Talk About "It's a Season"

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Seasons of life. It's a convenient image, and one that can take some of the stress out of a difficult time - after all, seasons come and go.
Where I get concerned is when "season of life" is claimed in a less temporary manner. When a hard season is really survival mode that stretches into indefinite lengths.

It's not a "season" if it can reasonably last over a decade! If Winter lasted as long as the young child rearing time of life for many of us, we wouldn't be saying "It's just a season." We would call it a Little Ice Age, and we would be talking about how troubling it is and what we can do to change things.

But perhaps that's the point - not to change things. To accept that we are powerless over our own lives, and enforce that between each other, by proclaiming overwhelm, burn out, and isolation as the natural components of "this season of life." After all, the narrative of "I can't" began with that first positive pregnancy test.

We all know there are things pregnant women must avoid for the safety of themselves and their unborn children. But not all recommendations are grounded in good evidence, and some beliefs have no grounding at all. Things like avoiding bicycle riding and other aerobic exercise. Exercise is not contraindicated for pregnant women as a group, just those with particular conditions, yet my dancing Ballet while pregnant was continuously noted to be an unnecessary risk.

The avoidance of risk can became a way to feel in control of an out of control process. If you check all the boxes and do everything perfectly, you're guaranteed to have a healthy pregnancy, birth, and baby. Right? Eventually we can start to think the guidelines work like magic - fulfill them and you will receive their promises.

But life is inherently risky! Loving is risky. Living is risky. The Cross is about as risky as it gets.

Sometimes avoiding risk can look like taking up our cross. We can proclaim how we live out our vocation as young mothers by proclaiming "I do small things!" Which it true, and good, and beautiful. Much of the work needed in this world is considered a small thing.
Where I have issues with it is when "I do small things!" becomes "I can only do small things."

We start to shrink our own possibilities, and the opportunities to say yes to what God might be asking of us.

What has been your experience with discussions about "seasons of life"? 
Has this term been helpful or limiting for you?
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