“Start Small” in 2016

coffe by the treeAs I sit by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree on this first morning of 2016, I think about the year that has passed and the year that has just arrived. Although the swiftness of time passing can freak me out something fierce (how is my boy already in 2nd grade?!!), the start of a new year generally energizes and excites me. What will 2016 have in store for my little family? Where will we go? Whom will we meet? What will we learn?

I know that, in addition to composing lists of goals and or resolutions (pick your poison on that one), many people also select a word or phrase that is meant to guide their engagement with the new year from a stance of intention and purpose. Although I have respected this practice, I have never gone this route for the start of a new year. This year, however, I think I’ll try my hand at selecting a phrase to guide my approach to 2016.

My chosen phrase for this year is “start small.” I love making lists of goals and resolutions as much as the next person, but I have a pretty significant issue with follow-through. This phrase is intended to help me counter my issues with grandiosity and its link to failure by starting with goals/resolutions/tasks/etc. that are attainable. My hope is that “starting small” will not only lead to more perseverance with those attainable items,  but will also extend to more extensive goals/resolutions/tasks/etc. as I move through the year.

I have selected this phrase for a reason beyond my issues with follow-through, however. 2015 was a year that challenged my soul in so very many ways. So many tragedies, such loss, such suffering, such despair, such desperation. I watched the narratives of the tragedies that the media offer us unfold, and I wept and I gnashed my teeth and beat my breast. And then I felt a sense of overwhelm that was so significant that I did absolutely nothing. Instead of being convicted to action, I gave in to being debilitated by sorrow and hopelessness. The tragedies and the pain and the desperation of 2015 continue into 2016. This year, I am determined to face them with conviction as opposed to being overwhelmed by them. My prayer is that by “starting small,” I am able to counter the crushing sense of overwhelm that has haunted me in past years.

So this is where is stand today – Friday 1-1-16. I am hopeful and excited and overall ready to welcome what 2016 has in store.

A Much Needed Getaway

IMG_3153Last week I published a post about what I have been working on lately – the marathon-like preparation for my doctoral candidacy exams. As I noted in that post, my stress levels have reached beyond their usual highs to reach an “off the charts”-like limit.

By some miracle, however, my family was given the opportunity to get away from some of the stress and anxiety this weekend, and it was glorious! We spent the weekend in the hills of the Midwest – hiking trails, exploring small towns, roasting marshmallows, enjoying sunrises, and spending time together.

Continue reading “A Much Needed Getaway”

My focus of late

This semester marks a milestone in my path to the PhD. In 4 weeks from this Friday, I will receive the questions for the written portion of my candidacy exams. I will have 72 hours to answer 2 questions in a manner that demonstrates my extensive knowledge of “The Field.” A week after turning in said portion, I will sit in front of a committee of four tenured faculty members in my program. We will discuss my responses to the written exam and I will attempt to convince them  – through face-to-face conversation – that I am ready to move forward in my program. If I pass, I will become “ABD” – All But Dissertation” – and I will move from the “PhD Student” to the “PhD Candidate” designation.

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My alarms look like this these days.

I’ve been reading and thinking about the historical trajectory of my field, my own academic trajectory, and the intersection of the two for many years now. There are still some readings that I am – let’s say – less than confident about, but I am ready to get this stinking thing over with. I am ready to start my dissertation and to make good on this project about lay Catholic women that I started when my oldest (now 8) was an infant.

Despite this motivation to start working on the diss, however, I am scared. Whenever I look at the calendar or hear folks mention the holiday season, I feel sick to my stomach. The date of the exam inches ever closer, and there is nothing I can do about it – well, besides read/prepare and, of course, worry. Oh the worry, oh the anxiety, oh the fear! What if I fail? What will happen then? How will I face my adviser? My family? Myself? I wake up in the morning with an aching jaw and a stiff neck these days – most likely from clenching my teeth. How is it that I have put such pressure on myself?

These past few months then, as you can imagine, have been intense. Thankfully, I am blessed with a reasonable/level-headed spouse who understands how to reassure me and a supportive committee who individually have prepared me for this exercise. In the end, worrying about the “what ifs” won’t get me anywhere – and I know that. It’s just so hard sometimes to move beyond the “what if I fail” to the “when I succeed (either on this try or the next)” mindset.

Seeking Out Community


This past weekend marked two full years since we packed up our family of five and all of our worldly belongings (mostly children’s clothing, children’s books, and my course notes since circa 1998…) and made the 500+ mile trek from the Southeast coast to the Midwest. If you are familiar at all with my blog or know me from Instagram, you already know that I moved my people from our hometown in July 2013 in order to begin working on my PhD in English (Rhetoric/Composition) at a VERY large Research -1 institution. I am now entering my 3rd year of the program and am prepping for my Candidacy Exams that will take place in either October or November (pray for me?!). Once I complete (and pass – Lord willing) the exams, I will be considered “ABD” – that’s academese for “All but Dissertation” – meaning I will then need to write THE THING and focus on THE THING for the next year, year 1/2, 2 yrs (depending upon my efficiency).

If you’re interested in how our first year went in our new home, there are plenty of posts in the archives that articulate my perspective on the experience. Today, however, I am exploring “community.” It’s a buzzword that we hear in loads of different circles , as it seems that, as humans, most of us have a very basic need for community. If I were a more diligent blogger, I would offer some references and citations of scholarly research that have explored the human desire for community; I’m sure there are loads in sociology, psychology, religious studies, etc. I’ll retroactively link back if I get a chance, but that’s a slightly significant “IF..”!

Continue reading “Seeking Out Community”

Communication 101

Yesterday, I wrote a post about how I have been even more anxious and overwhelmed than usual. I know that many of you may not know me, so believe me when I say that “more anxious than usual” is saying A LOT, as I tend to live in a state of near-static overwhelm, but I’m working on it…!

In yesterday’s post, I discussed a conversation that my husband and I had had this past weekend about trying to ease our stress in order to move out of constant survival mode (to something a bit more relaxed) via weekly (or more frequent if needed) check-in conversations. Last night we brainstormed a rough list of the questions that we have committed to asking each other at least once a week. Now, many of these these questions can be asked daily – or even multiple times a day – but, they are in this list because we want to make sure that we are keeping in touch with each other on these topics in the event that we may neglect to discuss any of them throughout the week.

Continue reading “Communication 101”



Lately, I have been even more anxious than usual. Lately, I have been even shorter with my children than usual. Lately, I have been even moodier with my husband than usual. Lately I have been even harder on myself than usual. Lately. I have allowed the stress to continue to build up to the point of near-constant overwhelm.

Last week was a tough week. It was one of those weeks that – despite not containing any one event/issue/situation that was in and of itself insurmountable – just wears you down due to the relentless bombardment of challenges, some big, some quite small. By the end of such a week, you feel stretched, spent, frazzled, and – often in my case – defeated.

Despite the challenges of the week, our little family had a beautiful weekend. During a discussion yesterday afternoon with my husband, however, I realized that many of the stresses from the week were still lurking just beneath the surface of our gilded weekend.  Continue reading “LATELY…”

To Me, Thursdays are for…


  • looking forward to the weekend
  • planning the last day of the work week’s priorities
  • working as hard as possible to meet the week’s goals
  • feeling a bit disappointed upon realizing that those goals may not be met
  • making sure the kids’ homework for the week is complete
  • planning Saturday morning’s breakfast
  • thinking about Friday’s “Family Night” activities
  • trying new meals/recipes
  • going for a date with my girls
  • going out on a date with my husband (once every several months!)
  • being relieved that we’ve nearly made it through another week

To Me, Tuesdays are for…

To Me, Tuesdays are for…

Yesterday, as I lay in bed with a million “to-dos” swirling around my head, I felt anxious, overwhelmed, and – quite honestly – defeated. This morning, I dragged myself out of bed, laced up my bright purple running shoes, strapped on my Nike+ Running-enabled phone, and hit the pavement. The miles were long and slow, but the prayers that I said during that time were sincere and heartfelt. I would love to say that I felt completely prepared to take on the day after my run, but I didn’t. I still faced it with some apprehension and with the feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy and imposter syndrome symptoms that are always brewing below the surface. I was, however,  just a bit lighter, just a bit less apprehensive, just a bit less overwhelmed and insecure than when I started my run – and certainly less than when I tossed and turned in my bed the night before.

I am trying my best to begin to let go of these feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy that plague my days as a wife, as a mother, and as a scholar. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I know that if stick with it, if I keep getting up and moving, if I keep showing up to make the kids breakfast and to be present when they need me throughout the day, if I keep plugging along with my reading, writing, analyzing, teaching; and if I keep praying for the strength and courage to truly let go, I will find peace, joy, and freedom.


Today, on this second Tuesday of the month, I realized that this is what Tuesdays are for me:

  • Tuesdays are for getting out of bed and moving
  • Tuesdays are days for making lists
  • Tuesdays are forchecking items off of those lists
  • Tuesdays are for being glad that Monday is over
  • Tuesdays are for being relived that there are still 3 more work days to get the work done this week
  • Tuesdays are for catching up on your prayer time that you neglected on Monday
  • Tuesdays are for reeling in all the overwhelm and anxiety that plague Monday

This post was inspired by Emily Freeman’s take on #itssimplytuesday. As as I sat at my desk this afternoon, I realized that my Tuesday at 4:30pm felt phenomenally better than my Monday at the same time, so I decided to reflect on the differences of the lived experiences of days of the week. Perhaps I’ll write about Wednesdays tomorrow.

What are Tuesdays to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Also, consider joining Emily’s #itssimplytuesday on instagram to share all of the delightful things that Tuesdays are to you. Emily actually has a book coming out at the end of this summer entitled Simply Tuesday that I can’t wait to read.