Are You Going Uptown Or Downtown? Our Lives Here On Earth End In One Place Or The Other

“We are an uphill people!” my cycling instructor cried.

  Sweat poured from my forehead and I felt a surge of nausea from all the intense pedaling.

My insides screamed, “No, I’m a downhill person!  I’m an eat rocky road Haagen-Dazs in my bed while I peruse reality TV shows kind of person.”

I wanted to hop off my bike and hurl in the hallway.

Instead, I decided to contemplate the profound spiritual metaphor the instructor inadvertently communicated.  I decided to think about how I desire to be an uphill person, a person who rises above my basest wants (like hopping off the stationary bike and into my bed) so that I can act according to God’s will.  I want to be the kind of person who walks up the mountain in search of Someone Great, not down it in search of myself.

Full disclosure:  I struggled during cycling class because this past fall, I gave up the exercise regime to which I had been very dedicated to for almost two years.  I got burnt out and decided exercising was taking up too much of my time.

It’s almost like Screwtape himself was whispering, “See?  You’re good now.  You don’t really need to walk those 10,000 steps.  Why don’t you take it easy for a while?”

Sadly, I listened and now, ten pounds and no stamina later, I’m back to the physical education drawing board.  Incidentally, I’ve been reading Dante’s Inferno.  I’m not perusing this great work of art on my own, of course, because like my lack of motivation to exercise and eat well, I’m also not motivated to dive into difficult masterpieces on my own accord.  My book club selected The Divine Comedy to read and so in the past few weeks I’ve been walking with Dante through the dregs of hell.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

Four Reasons People Avoid Counseling (And Why They Don't Hold Up)

( image credit here)

I went back to counseling recently. I’m not seeking therapeutic help because some severe addiction plagues me. I’m not going because I’m a serial adulterer or because I’m facing an epic marital crisis.

The main reason I’m attending is because sometimes, when I’m stressed or tired or when the sky is cloudy, I lack the self-control necessary to hold my tongue. Instead of responding to my husband and six children, I sometimes react harshly to them, thereby making an already trying familial situation even more difficult.

Meeting with someone who helps me create strategies to combat this personal weakness has already had positive effects. CEO’s come up with business plans all the time to improve their financial performance. Since I’m the co-CEO of the Duggan Corporation, it can’t hurt to create a performance plan of my own.

I’ve noticed some Catholics are weary of counseling and for good reason. It would not be helpful, for instance, if a counselor suggested I get on the birth control pill and quit homeschooling as the  solution to the stress I experience in family life. I’ve already discerned that the birth control pill and full time school won’t really solve my problems, but coping skills for emotional volatility actually will. I don’t want to have to defend my faith or my lifestyle to someone who doesn’t understand. Even if I did quit having babies and put all my kids in school, I’m still going to struggle with my temper. I need some tricks and tips to help me manage myself in challenging life situations, not quick fixes. 

Read the rest at Aleteia.

Spaghetti Dinners

Spaghetti Dinners Blessed Silence Colleen Duggan Catholic Writer

Right now, there is blessed silence.

John just took five of the kids to evening swim team practice.

The noise produced and energy required to get that stampede of elephants out the door would make the Ringling Brothers sweat.

Before they left, I told Christopher, the seven year old, no less than ten times to find his flip flops, put them on, and get in the van.

For at least eight minutes, that child wandered about the back yard and then into the house, staring at the ceiling, making small explosive sounds, and simulating bombs with his hands.

He still had no shoes after eight minutes of


, but no actual


We’ve reviewed this difference, he and I, at least one thousand times.

I’ve told him that


is not the same as


, but he stares at me like I am an odd creature speaking in a language he’s never heard.

My lectures don’t work.

The boy can never find his shoes when we need to leave.

But right now, there is blessed silence and I don’t have to worry about teachable moments or Christopher’s flip-flops.

Camille was wearing nothing but a bathing suit just minutes before John corralled the kids.

In a moment of weakness earlier this afternoon, I agreed to let the lot of them turn on the hose to cool off in the summer heat.

Cursed hose!

Harbinger of fights and catastrophe!

For the next hour, I sat in my rocking chair referring arguments and inappropriate hose dousing.

I did convince Camille to put on some clothes before she left, though.

She chose a mismatched ensemble of bright yellow and orange, splattered with spaghetti stains.

Speaking of which, we’ve had spaghetti for dinner for two nights in a row.

Half of me feels guilty that I’ve completely abdicated summer meal planning, but the other half can’t be bothered.

And so, most evenings for the last few months, we’ve dined on sandwiches and quesadillas, and….yes, spaghetti.

So far, the kids are all fine.

And for now, there is this blessed silence; the only sound the pitter-patter of my keyboard.

I’m avoiding the mess in the kitchen, of course.

Meaghan, the almost twelve year old, has been broadening her culinary skills.

She creates simple meals like sandwiches and quesadillas and spaghetti (see above), and she does a tiptop job.

She’s all but mastered the art of spaghetti, really.

But stewarding and bussing tables? I am still cultivating those skills with her, bless her beautiful heart of goodness.

I walked over several strands of sticky spaghetti stuck to the floor as I fled to my office just now and there is red sauce splattered from one end of my white tiled kitchen floor to the other.

But beggars can’t be choosers and at this moment in my life—at all moments, really--I’m most certainly a beggar.

Thank you, Meaghan, for your zealous efforts to supply the family with food.

God knew what I needed when He gave me you.

Right now, though, I’m not worried about the spaghetti sauce or the starch covered pots or the noodles stuck to the floor.

There is this blessed silence enveloping me, a blessed silence indeed.

Edward went with John and the other hooligans.

Edward, wearing only diaper just moments before I secured him in his car seat, was covered in red sauce and had adopted a strange black grime from an afternoon outdoors.

He grinned at me as I wiped him down from head to toe, threw a cotton top and shorts on him, and placed him in the car.

This blessed silence is coming to a close, it will soon be over, my brief moment of respite ended.

Soon, I will rise from this desk and from my keyboard and I will fill the kitchen sink with warm soapy water.

I will submerge the pots covered in filth and grim and I will scrub them clean.

I will mop the floors—again, though I mopped them just last night—and I will wipe down the counters.

I will ready this space for the stampede of elephants who will burst through the door and who will destroy my blessed silence.

But they light up my world.

On Having Eyes To See

View from my front porch on Sunday evening.

Every January, we use an online Saint Generator to randomly select individual patrons for each member of the Duggan clan.  Last year, the Holy Spirit sent me a powerhouse, Teresa of Avila--a mystic and a Doctor of the Church.  

Like me, St. Teresa was a word girl and she authored several books, including of The Way Of PerfectionInterior Castle, and The Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila.  I own all of her works and have read each one over the years.  As a Spiritual Master, her reflections pack a powerful punch to the reader's soul and she has been helpful to me in my own spiritual journey.

When the Holy Spirit assigned me St. Teresa for the year, it was like being buddied up with a best friend on the first day of school.  I called on her frequently and she helped me out.  When January rolled around again, and it was time to select someone new,  I'm not going to lie, I was worried my new saint might not be as robust.

So I straight up asked the Holy Spirit for another powerhouse. 

And I got St. Lucy.

I was a little disappointed.

I don't know much about St. Lucy other than she was a young teenage martyr (very cool) and that she is the patron saint of eyes.  Throughout the year, I've thought about her, read about her (a little) and I've prayed to her when the need arises, like when Patrick had an important eye appointment this Summer or when an acquaintance's baby was born blind, but...

I haven't felt a personal connection to her.

Until recently.

A few weeks ago, I forced myself away from managing the usual racket of life with six kids and willed myself outside.  I strapped Edward into the stroller and although I had fifteen million items left on my to-do list, I knew I needed to take fifteen minutes to get a grip on What's Really Important.

The four older kids were engaged in a game of chess at the picnic table and the five year old and the four year old were playing a wicked game of cat and mouse.  While my children were otherwise occupied,  I began to stroll around the perimeter of our property.

Within minutes, I experienced a deep peace and was even able to contemplate the goodness which surrounds me on the daily.

The afternoon was warm, but not hot, and the sun beat down on my skin and the lush green fields.   I noticed how the weeds looked as if their heads were bent in prayer and I was grateful I remembered to grab my real camera (not my always handy IPhone camera) to take a few pictures of the scene.

I moved slowly, ignoring the multiple tasks calling my name, and made a conscious effort to take in the grandeaur.  I thought about how I miss so much because I'm in a rush all the time, how I bypass beauty because I HAVE THINGS TO DO.  I pondered this tragic waste when I was smote with a profound thought:

St. Lucy is the patron saint of eyes, Colleen.  You should ask her to help you have eyes to see.  You need eyes to really see. 

I stopped dead in my tracks because I realized for the first time in my life that while I do indeed have a working pair of eyes, I'm actually blind to the true beauty around me. 

I see the black smudges on the wall,

the gaping holes in my leather couch,

the laundry piled as high as Mount Vesuvius,

the constant bickering between the children,

the box of junk John promised me he'd put away,

my unkempt home and...

I can't see past the ugly. 

My blindness keeps me from gazing past the mess and into the beautiful life bursting from the seams of this home. 

My blindness allows me to see only batter splattered bowls and counter tops, instead of the child who baked chocolate cupcakes for the family.

My blindness allows me to see only bad handwriting, instead of a creative story written by an innovative child.

My blindness allows me to see only the laundered clothes strewn about a room, instead of the child who dressed herself unaided.

My blindness allows me to see only the markers and the paint and the rainbow loom rubber bands littering the table and floor, instead of happily engaged children involved in worthwhile creative endeavors.

My blindness renders me unable to see the good, the true, and the beautiful around me everywhere and always.

I was wrong to think St. Lucy wasn't a powerhouse of a Saint. 

She was just the patron I needed because God knows the depth and breadth of my handicap.

I have no real vision and I'm in great need of healing.

And so I've been praying:  St. Lucy, ask Jesus to give me eyes to truly see.

Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  Mark 8:17-18

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. Luke 24:31