Holiday Stress: Red Pens, To-do Lists and Personal Report Cards...

My Wisdom Figure taught me a lesson that I will never forget. She taught me, once you find one of your Gifts, you need to step out of the way and let the Divine teach you how to use it.

You don't control your Gifts, you channel them. Some of you may think that sounds like mumbo-jumbo, but honestly, it is quite simple.  Think about it this way: What is something you are really good at; maybe it's tennis or baking or playing the piano. Have you ever noticed that the days you are super focused on making the perfect cookie, sometimes they just don't turn out right? Other times when you just relax you play, bake, create in a way you never realized. That is exactly what I'm trying to explain... You get out of the way and let God and your Gifts do their stuff. Some call it being in the zone. For me it's simply allowing God to work through you.

I'm trying to do this with PilgrimageGal. Of late I have been trying too hard to find the next door to open. I have been pushing myself and my perfectionist tendencies. I seem unwilling to make the space to listen. I'm sure all of us have this at one time or another. That talent and ability to take out our own red pens (another wisdom figure lesson) and grade our performance. I grade myself unmercifully... I'm sure many of you do the same.  Women especially seem to have a built in self-critical gene.

The dreaded comparison. For women there is no better time of the year to score our own personal report cards than the holidays. The long list of the things we haven't accomplished is so much longer than the list of what we have. AND we are the first to provide ourselves with a failing report. I did that this morning. I slept poorly the last two nights, for a variety of reasons, Norah called me at one am to let me know she was hot! At nearly nine, she still lacks the ability to kick-off or pull on her covers. I will long for these calls when she is in college but; last night I was awake, running the list of my failings and lack of accomplishments; the details I just haven't gotten to; the worries. Who have I forgotten on the Christmas card list? Why can I not get a Christmas wreath on the door? Why haven't I decorated my window boxes? When will I get to shopping for those special little gifts for people? And God help me get them in the mail so they arrive before St. Patrick's Day!

I so long for this Christmas to be perfect.  To make this California Christmas one for the record books; but try as I may, I continue to fail. I also can't seem to keep in mind that we have been in this house for only 20 days! I'm looking for trashcans, my address book and Christmas decorations all at the same time. Still can't find my address book; why on earth did I pack that and not place it in my carry-on!?! Moving in November is a hot mess! But honestly, when is moving not a hot mess?!  I should let a couple of things go... But, I'm not built that way.

For some reason that escapes those who love me. I have a small (or some may say large) issue of focusing on the wrong details. I'm trying to control my Gifts, not using them in the way God has called me to do. I'm holding on to my control so tight, it has literally given me a migraine today.

One of my Gifts, is my home. No matter where Jeff and I have lived we have always been blessed to have guests, family, friends, friends of friends, and a whole cast of characters come through our door. Our home is always the way-station on the journey. You come as you are, put your feet up, eat or drink something and re-group. Sometimes our home is beautifully clean, other times not so much; but the response is always the same. People always find a way to re-charge and they have lovingly shared that story with us time and again. Friends have fallen asleep after dinner in a cozy chair by the fire, we have one special long blinker who can't make it through a movie ever! Others just stay and sit and visit because they are relaxed and happy just chatting. When you come you let go, recharge and renew. You find peace here.  Our home's uniqueness is simple; we long ago made room for the Divine. You know houses like this, I can think of one right off the top of my head, Camp. You may not see God, but you feel the Divine. Most of the time our house is just warm and happy. It's just HOME.  It's not Jeff or the Beauties; nope it's all of us, we have opened our hearts and are allowing God to do the work. We just made the room and got out of the way. 

So this morning, I met myself in bed, and realized I was doing it


again, the furrowed brow, the to-do list that was ridiculous, and scanned my moving box filled disaster of a bedroom. I took a huge breath and channeled my inner Elsa from Frozen, "LET IT GO". I adjusted my eyes and focused on the real stuff. I need to let my home re-charge me. I needed to let the Divine into my heart. I need to allow the space for the Divine to restore me, and then I can channel my energies into the important work of Hebrews 13:2.

"Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels."

Because each and every person who has come through our door has taught me about my journey. They always have given us more than we ever give them and they aren't coming into my home with a red pen to look at my wreath or check out the cleanliness of my fridge. Nope. They are coming to break some bread or a Christmas cookie that may have come from the grocery store! Have a glass of something refreshing, relax from the long journey that has brought them to our door. Each and every visitor is the mirror, to see the Divine working, moving and shinning in our daily life.

It's not about the decorations, dinner, or the presents. Its about making room for the LOVE of the season. That birth in a little town with the stable. That friends, is what this season is about.... Sharing that love. I buy presents to show that love, but the love people really want is the love of our time.

They need our presence... Not our presents. 

So think about your Gift. Maybe you are the piano player of the family or the chief tree decorator, family photographer, storyteller or the best cookie maker. Focus on the one thing that gives you and those who love you, joy this season. AND let the rest of it go.

One final little tip, no one knows what is on you list but you. So find the space and let the Divine restore you... And then let the rest of us delight in your Gifts too!

So as I hydrate, and eat a little soup for this stupid headache, I will sleep well tonight, because I will re-read this post to remind myself that it's not about the stuff.  It's about the people.

The people we are waiting to share our life with every single day.

And the amazing fact that 2,000 years later, we still celebrate the birth of a baby in a manger, and the unconditional love that it represents. 

Peace be with you,


photo credit:





Transitions and Making Happiness...

My fellow Pilgrims how I have missed all of you.  I have felt your prayers, love and good wishes across the miles and in my heart. I'm here; not settled, but safely here! We moved into our rental home November 15th and have begun the painstaking challenge of unpacking.

So let's recap...

The transition West has been flawless. Flawless doesn't mean there weren't problems, but what it means is we handled them with smiles, shaking of heads and tons of laughs. Jeff threw his back-out after getting the stomach flu. Just picture my sweetie, all 6'6" of him on the bath floor, dry heaving in the toilet and throwing his back out in the process... So my first time driving in California, was the 1.5 hour drive from his Sister's to our hotel in Santa Barbara. The day that the movers arrived (the 16th); it was my turn to be sick and I spent the day being useless. At one point the movers were moving boxes around me, while I was sleeping on the mattress on the floor. I was so nauseous, I didn't eat for days. Just sipped soda and Gatorade.

It is these moments my dear friend calls, "the black cloud of the Ferg's."  I can't help but laugh.The last time Jeff and I moved, I was pregnant with Norah, and was vomiting into the bushes at the old house. Attractive right?  So I told Jeff it's a sign, next time we move, I'm checking into a hotel the day we are moving, I will have a spa day; because vomiting is not my idea of a good time! Clearly it is a sign that the stress is too much. Let's be honest, moving is overwhelming and the word "overwhelming" doesn't seem sufficient to describe the magnitude of this change.

With that excitement, I began my new life in Santa Barbara. I assume just like everyone does, taking anti-nausea meds, drinking tea, eating dry toast and get to the getting. I had a great piece of advice from my Hawaiian Beauty, the wife of a Coast Guard officer she has moved more times than some girls have boots. She told me to schedule a day to lose it... I termed it "nervous breakdown day."  It is the day that everything is too much, where you sit in your jammies, eat chocolate and use my favorite curse word. So I took her advice and scheduled mine.  I was delighted that when the day came, I felt so great, that instead I took the day off. I treated myself and didn't feel guilty. I delighted in my special day!  I got a pedi and bought new make-up, along with some foundation (my skin is crazy dry here), and picked up a couple of t-shirts and a sweater.

As a wife and mother, I'm doing it all. We lived with my sister-in-law for over a week, and then in a hotel for over two; while Jeffrey was traveling 3 or more days each week. So I'm in a new city, new school, living in a hotel with no kitchen or restaurant, making PB&J's next to the mini-bar for school lunch, all while using the KEURIG to make instant oatmeal for dinner. We called it fancy camping, that was how I sold the fold out sofa bed to the Beauties.  Don't get me wrong these are the life full of

First World

problems. Through it all, it was super important for me to take care of myself, in whatever way was going to comfort me. Life was/is a little wacky!

Tip 1: Make time to shop or have a nervous breakdown or both.

The transition to the Beauties school was fantastic. Here's why. In the lead up to our move, I spent a month contacting the Head of Special Education, I was not only on her radar, I was on the districts too. I was pleasant, polite and inquisitive. I wanted to know how things rolled out here, a much smaller district, and I wasn't about to lose any services in transition. So I wanted to be informed and educated to better advocate for the Beauties. That way, when we sat down with the school team, we knew what to expect and were ready to advocate from a place that was informed and well researched. I also wanted everyone at the table to be heard and feel respected. So the meetings went well, services are different here, but just as wonderful for our family.   I also pulled out my secret weapon: I have a deep bench filled with folks who wear lots of hats for TeamFergie. One of our most trusted, is the Beauties Maryland School Psychologist;  I love a brilliant woman who also supports my love of good chocolate as a food group. We talked about our expectations for the new school, my fears for the children; she graciously contacted her counterpart here and they discussed all things Ferguson. Two professionals sharing information on my family; for some that is scary, for me it is a relief. I tell folks all the time... share your truth and you have no worries. All our foolishness is out; we have no secrets. So there is nothing that could be said that I don't know or would be afraid to discuss. That way, the new school has a really good sense from both sides, the schools and ours.

Tip: 2 Be open, it is the best thing you can do for your family.

I asked both the children what has made the move easy. They both had interesting responses, Norah loved that we dropped in treats along the way. We went to Disneyland (life-altering treat), we left boxes and headed to the beach to play, we ignored laundry to watch the Beauties swim in the heated pool at the hotel, we ate enormous amounts of ice cream for dinner to celebrate the first day of school.  Both Beauties got a welcome to California present when they arrived. Norah's was new duvet cover for her room and Ian got a sought after Lego set.  Both gifts were designed to make their new rooms special. It was strategic and planned in advance.  Ian on the other hand, he was comforted that we had oodles of discussions about the move.  We talked about everything and honestly shared that it would be hard. We also gave them both space to fall apart. We sat and listened and even shared what was hard for us.  I was very honest, I shared that my heart was broken to leave; but that the pain of moving was going to be easier because I would be healthier. A healthy mom would always be a happy one! As parents we spend so much time trying to fix everything, but often it's giving the space to mourn that we are teaching a true life skill.  We all have lost something, but we also trust that we will gain more than we lose.

Tip: 3 Let your kids be sad... and then it is your job to guide them to create their own glad.

Clive and transitions.

My other lesson this move has taught me is chronic disease has enabled me to be a superior multi-tasker. I can handle more chaos then most and my ability to tolerate is stronger than many. So the endless things that don't get crossed off the list don't bother me. They bother Jeff. So that totally surprised me, we have been doing this married thing for a while. We have never done the move thing with other people who have needs frankly more important than ours. Jeffrey is a spectacular Dad, and he senses when the four of us are cooked, had enough and need a break. I often want to push on a little further and he wisely tells me when we need to call an activity, a meal or even a conversation; DONE.  It's his gift. So at times during this transition we had to buffer each other a little more than either of us where used to.

Men don't get somethings that-- well matter to girls: shelf paper, a working kitchen... Jeff was very concerned about the printer. Me not so much. I wanted one room DONE. So no matter what other chaos was surrounding me, at least one space was "perfectish." Perfectish is a technical term, I just made up. So you can imagine our fun when on Saturday morning I was sitting at the kitchen table with a box cutter in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, after he called me in from the garage. Jeff wanted to discuss our "shared priorities". I'm so not making this up.  I can't make any promises, but I  may have burst out laughing while I whispered a very colorful phrase. To which we both broke out into total hysterics. Yep mister, I've got a list. There is no Jeff list. What the heck!!!!! Unbelievable!!!!! So once we referred to rule number one (he follows my list and makes me happy, then later, I'll make him happy...) The unpacking became so much more civilized.  Men are delightfully easy to manage!

Tip: 4 Remind your Husband of rule number one... Unbelievable I know... But it will save you from box cutters and coffee conversations...

Finally, and likely most important, your spirit.

So my Spirit has never shone brighter or been stronger. Why? Because I feed her daily. Some mornings it was just brushing my teeth saying, we have this. Other days it was sitting on the beach staring at the ocean realizing that I was warm in my bones, felt amazing and that it was all God. That He had been walking ahead, paving the way, moving the people into place that we are to embrace, that we touch and who are to touch us. Knowing that the hard days would be easier and that the easy were the days that I was in step with my Spirit.

Tip: 5 Keep that Spirit light on at all times... Feed her.

So that is the latest from the West Coast. I will share more on the other aspects of the journey. My new amazing doctor and where PilgrimageGal is going in 2015. Because I have lots of plans for her!



Photo Credits: PilgrimageGal.

PS. If you want to walk this journey with me on a regular basis… The horrible spelling, bad grammar, and punctuation… type your email in above and I will magically pop-up in your inbox…Or find me on Facebook, search for PilgrimageGal and give me a like and a follow.  Finally, your comments, are the best thing going… I love to hear from all of you…. K

Go Gently...

First day in our new home city...

Hello my fellow Pilgrims,

We have safely landed in Southern California; we are freeloading off Jeffrey's beautiful sister Susan and her equally loving husband Greg. They have two grown sons, couple of empty bedrooms, and were kind enough to allow us to stay with them while we get organized. We will be homeless until the 15th and then we will be officially settled in our rental home in Santa Barbara. For the next two weeks we will float between two cities as we get the kids registered for school, Jeff settled at his new job, and wait for the contents of our home to arrive.

My thoughts are a bit scattered. While I try and sort through them, I have a little nugget to share with you first. As everyone can imagine the goodbyes were bitter sweet, filled with love and gratitude. I need some time to reflect and offer a clear understanding of where we are and where I have been on this part of the journey. For now take this little post as a teaser of what's to come.

xo, Kathryn

I have had so many good-byes in the last few weeks filled with every single emotion. Each and every hug has been a gift. Have you ever noticed that so many neglect to say how they feel until it's often too late?

My stunningly beautiful Wisdom Figure has told me, "You Kathryn, love outside of the box."

Which may be the greatest compliment I have ever received. I do love outside of the box. I LOVE, which is my greatest strength, but also my Achilles heel.  LOVE is my superpower and it has taken me some time to learn how to love completely and not let it destroy me. I have teetered, and faltered in my humaneness, but just as we watched our little ones learning to walk; I get up and keep on keeping on.  I like to say that I love best in the messy; maybe that is why this move has been both easier and harder than expected.

The move is easier, in that I can effortlessly tell people how I feel; where I struggle, is understanding the depths to which I'm loved. That love is humbling, powerful, and deep. When we share our love, we share an honest part of ourselves, our underbelly so to speak. This part of us, is our most fragile, our most vulnerable. Our truth becomes part primal and intensely personal, and what's more, it is a soul-connecting sharing with each other. I believe that through these connections we meet the Divine. That Divinity for me is God at work. Foolishly, I wasn't prepared for the intensity of that LOVE. I have felt the depth of this love many times, but this was different. What made it different was that I felt it constantly, it was unceasing.  Everyone I touched shared the depth of their love for me and my family. The intensity of that kind of love is remarkable and not something we often share in our daily journey.

So to feel that constant amount of love is overwhelming, because we don't have the skills to process the intensity on a daily basis. I'm not really sure why, maybe it's because we are out of practice, we don't see that type of love enough? It is something with which I need to wrestle.

I tell people all the time that I love them; but to hear them return that love was unsettling. The ability to open yourself and feel that kind love offered so freely is well... astounding.  Welcoming that type of love; being open to and accepting that love can be messy.  I admit, at times in the last month, I have gotten into my car and had the ugly, snotty cry, that hyper-ventilating, shit I'm scaring myself cry. I kept asking myself, "where is this coming from?" I just didn't see it coming-and that was the problem. I love so easily; but to see its reflection, to feel that warmth, to be vulnerable, to receive and be open to the Divinity of another, to welcome another's sunshine on my own face was profound. Life giving. Giving oneself permission to be loved is not easy... It can be uncomfortable and humbling. I didn't see, and perhaps wasn't open to welcoming God's grace in this way.

Life lessons are always BIG, just when you think you have it all figured out; you learn anew and aren't they the best lessons?  God humbles me often and it's in these moments that I learn the most.

Have you ever gone to a funeral and were shocked by the stories and the outpouring of love exhibited by those who attend? Often we hear folks say, "I never really was able to tell this person how important they are in my life." Listen I have no plans to die anytime soon; but that is what the goodbyes have been for me, the chance to get a glimpse of what I mean to others. I thought the lesson was how I was going to love everyone, explain the space I was creating that no distance could ever keep me apart from them. But the true lesson, that many shared was the thought, "I just never thought you would move away from here... I just thought we would have more time."  And my answer was the same, "So did I."

I never really believed that I would move from the East Coast. I love being an East Coaster! I love the seasons and everything about living in the DC area. We were close to our dear friends and family alike. We have the best community, support network and love anyone could ask for...

Which is why this move has been so painfully difficult; I never saw it coming.

So maybe that has been the other lesson; don't wait to make that lunch date, or movie night or to go visit some place or person that is close to you. Because we never really know what is around the bend. We think we do... but we really don't have a clue.

So as I begin the new work of creating my place in the Cali world, I'm reminded that the Divine, works so beautifully where we need it most, where we miss the sunlight. So I will keep my head-up and do the work here that is required.

This move has allowed me to understand, that I'm loved so beautifully, so completely, that I need to drink it in a little bit more, accept it and own that love, too! I was able to understand what I offered to another person, how the little things I do makes a difference in someone else's day. I admit it surprised me; I'm not doing anything special, truly. I'm just trying to navigate this world just like you. So being present, listening, crying, sharing that you matter to someone in a very meaningful way... that is a gift. A gift to both the giver and receiver. And it's that love that surrounds me that will keep me grounded as I navigate this new West Coast world.

When I leave my Wisdom Figure's home she says the same thing... As I skip down her steps fumbling for me keys, I always hear her voice call after me... "Go gently, Kathryn..."  I wait for it, smile and know that I'm loved and protected out in this big world.

I always know that I'm carrying her wisdom and the wisdom of the ages with me, out on my new adventures.

It is with this knowledge that I walk with more love than can be imagined... I hope that you do too.

Go gently, Pilgrims.  Go gently...

Namaste, until we meet again on the West Coast...



Go West...

This post was written a week ago. Since it was drafted, we accepted an offer on our house. We will move in October, just shy of 12 weeks since Jeffrey came home with the news. xo K

As people of faith we spend our life saying that we believe, that we trust, that we understand that we put all our eggs in the God basket. But do we really?  Oftentimes in moments of crisis we do it flawlessly, we BELIEVE. But when life is going as planned, and life is going really well, we often find ourselves at a fork in the road...

Do we trust, in a plan that is not ours?

Well that is where I'm meeting God on the Pilgrimage. To be honest, it is why I haven't published in a month. For one, I have been so busy that my writing isn't even on my radar, and for me that is a significant problem. You see writing, I have learned, is one of my forms of prayer. The ideas, feelings and thoughts are the very nuggets that I struggle with in my daily prayer life. This is a place where I meet God.

Jeffrey and I made the decision a few weeks ago to move to Santa Barbara, California. As with all good marriages, I was folding towels in the bedroom, Jeffrey breezed-in and from the top of the stairs, (he didn't even come into the bedroom, he remained in the hall!) says, "So listen, there is a NOAA job in California that will be open in the next month, I'm going to go for it unless you say, NO.  I love you, gotta run, "IAAAAAAAN  we are going to be late for tae-kwon-do.  Will talk later."

And he gave me that sheepish, sweet-as-pie grin that I fell madly in love with.... And that was it. He rolled out for tae-kwon-do. I sat on the edge of my bed and said...O' MY! Immediately followed by, "

my secret word

". Guess we're moving to California!

Now to be honest, this California job had been bandied about before, we had discussed that if it ever came up, Jeff would go for it. He has wanted it for years.  And only when I'm being honest, will I share, that my major prayer focus from the winter was, "Please Lord either let me go into remission or find another way for us to live."  Some would argue that the planets aligned; I don't agree.  It was simply God's hand helping us find a new road on this journey. He has steered us in a new direction.

So honestly, the only logical answer was, yes. DC winters are brutal and while my health has improved every month for the last year, it can't survive winters. Not to mention the steaming summers of high heat and humidity that are just as hard on my body. It was a fait accompli. For the record, it is the job my beloved wants to do... He is thrilled, excited and he deserves this job and that is why I'm so peaceful. This little family of four will blossom in California. In a year, I will look back on this very post and have great insight into this year.

But my heart is more than a little broken... There lies my struggle.

So here is what I can say... I'm peaceful about the move, but not entirely happy. Will I feel better? Absolutely!  Will the year round 70 degrees mean that in January I can walk my children to school? Will I not need to hide under blankets away from doors? YES and YES!   Will I finally get to be a wife and mother year around. YES! Will the weather change my life in ways I can't comprehend? Yep. Is Pilgrimage Gal destined for West Coast greatness? Of course. Because at my core, God is carrying all four of us.  I'm far from alone and that is where the peacefulness resides.

I have to be honest, as I write this I'm in a place of grief, tears start to roll down my face. Oftentimes, I don't even realize that my eyes are leaking. Last night while I flipped and flopped like a beached fish; suddenly my face got scary cold, and it was only then that I realized while sweet Jeffrey purred sleeping, that my face was hiving from my own cold tears.

How utterly ridiculous, but the truth.

Because If I were well, we may not have made this move.

So this very moment is why I have to put my money where my mouth is.  Moving has happened so quickly, so effortlessly, like it's just supposed to be.  It is not our will, it is the will of the Holy Spirit, plain and simple. So while friends and family alike try to offer encouraging words... UGH, it just stinks. I will miss so much and so many. Bonds with friends and family that will be broken.

But, in my heart this move is not mine, it is God's. And as a Pilgrims of Faith, I must be obedient. A hard place to find yourself.

Yesterday at Mass the visiting priest was talking about obedience. He explained that Jesus has even asked for intervention. Even Jesus was looking for the "Plan B" in the garden, but even Jesus was obedient, finally saying, "Thy will be done."

So I'm in good company, every so often it's nice to say, well Jesus rocked that.  We don't like suffering, Americans stink at grief and we certainly don't like to be obedient. We want control. So few of us are obedient, who really wants to  listen with an open heart, to be willing to accept what we don't want to hear; to find the grace in the struggle...


I hear crickets!

And once again for the billionth time, God has met me on this road, dusted me off and reminded me... "Sweet one you are mine, you are my child, but I have big plans for you... trust me."

And AGAIN,  I have to once again swallow hard and realize that this isn't my rodeo, I am following a road that I never wanted, to be that girl with the chronic disease that makes lemonade daily. That I will leave my sweet girls in my "hood", the girls who are the key to my wellness, and begin again.

Because I'm obedient, to living this life as a woman of faith.

I want to be clear, when I speak of obedience, I don't mean submissive, or obedient to Jeffrey. No. We are partners in every sense. I mean obedient to doing for my family and not for myself. Choosing what WE need over what I want. I want to be healthy, live and die in the house that I helped design, that every detail was a decision. That my neighbors are the family we created, and have cared for us in ways that are impossible to imagine. I want to stay with my Harvard, who has been with me on the darkest days and now has to watch me leave... to a new local California medical team that will never ever comprehend where "WE" have been together! (Don't worry I will fly back twice a year to check in with NIH who will continue to manage my long-term health needs)

I don't want to have to work to establish new friends, new church, new doctors, new schools, new therapists. I want to sit back and bask in the sunshine of feeling well. While, getting to enjoy that with my core friends and family.

But, that is not what this life is. I have said it so many times. Life is hard, full of choices we don't want to face. That we aren't living the script we wrote, we are living a very different one! We learn who we are in the struggle, you watch your marriage blossom, you see your children become more confident, you see what you are made of. And that is peaceful, that is the reason I have a smile on my face.

I'm really excited to move, to find what God has planned, what work HE has for me to do in California, what new adventures HE has planned for all of us. That is why we are smiling and crying; because life is full of the bitter and the sweet. This move is both... and I do know that as I sit in my house with boxes around me, this is the bitter.

The sweet is still to come, and it will be delicious, remarkable and full of promise.

So maybe this is my Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We know the Resurrection is coming, that Easter is breaking through the morning dew and warming us in the warm golden sunshine, the struggle is over... That is where I am. Waiting.

Why you ask, well because... I'm on a Pilgrimage, this is not a coincidence, it has been chosen just for me... and I'm running down the lane toward the beach to find the next mile marker. Easter is almost here for the Fergusons, we are anxious to leave Lent and Holy Week behind.

Thank you as always for walking along with me.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you!



photo credit:






My happy place...

Well my fellow travelers, I just returned from vacation. This is the longest vacation that I have been able to take in years. Nine days of stepping off the treadmill and relaxing. That's right, the longest vacation in years.

It's hard to believe that you can be held back from relaxation because you are sick. But, that has been my story for far too long. The daily stability of my new treatments made it possible to enjoy an amazing vacation and file away many exquisite moments. To drink in the memories, to savor the seconds like a fabulous meal or glass of wine. In summer it is difficult to find the time to sit and write. I need a blend of silence and lack of interruption. The journey of having two amazing Beauties home is that those moments are hard to find... So as I write, the Beauties are yelling at each other about going to the park. I remind myself that these are the days I will long for in just a few years.

But I digress:

There are places in our world that offer us a break from the treadmill, a respite from the storm of life. And this vacation offered me that space. I have known Jeffrey for 23 years and the very first of his friends my Jeffrey introduced me to, were the ones who would become Norah's godparents. Fairy-godmother Jane and her beloved, we just call him the Godfather around here, Steve. I actually met Steve first. I fed him dinner and alcohol after Jane had breast cancer surgery. Jeff and Steve came and sat at the bar with me after that surgery.  I met Jane six weeks later in her kitchen drinking margaritas and eating nachos with fresh jalapenos from their garden. She had just returned from her vacation home in Maine, where she had lovingly hung, while on a ladder, cedar siding. I'm sure every surgeon would think two weeks after major surgery is the perfect time to be on a ladder hanging siding, but that is just what she was doing.  With a cancer diagnosis you have to shake things up and that is just what she did, she shook it all up. And she did it in her happy place.

Camp is that happy place. Camp is part fairy dust, part magic, and all love... It is rustic, beautiful and a place where I have never had a sleepless night and my worries have always melted away. It is something special, it is sacred in that you find yourself there, every-time. You reset your priorities, see life with the clarity of a fine Waterford wine glass. I don't quite know how the fairy's under Jane's watchful eyes do it... But, there is magic there, I have seen it! Jane could tell you how many times in the last 20 years I have visited, I really can't say, but each and every-time it has helped me chart a new course in my life. From jobs, to motherhood, to cross country travel, it has always helped me find my truth North. Camp hasn't only saved me, it brings peace and love to all who visit.

I love that it's informal, you don't bring your club clothes, nope you bring your favorite jeans, your old flip-flops, no one cares if your mani-pedi is perfect. I'm lucky to find my toothbrush, you don't need makeup. You wear T-shirts, and shorts, you never dress for dinner unless you call a lobster bib dressing. You are your real-self. Stripped down to who you are, real approachable, your true self.

Camp has been in Jane's family for years, her Grandfather and Uncle used the property as one of the original man caves, in the 60's. Without benefit of a tape-measure or level her uncle began building the A frame cottage. Steve on the other hand with his masterful touch has used a level and made the Camp's true beauty shine. Steve's superb craftsmanship and Jane's architectural eye have transformed the once lowly fishing cottage into a woodland retreat.  But the building belies the real truth... It is the Lilly pads on the lake that stop you to see the wonder of nature, even the baby hummingbirds we watch test their wings this year, the dock where too many children have learned to swim, take canoe rides, or just splash in the water, every dog is always welcome and oodles of them have fetched sticks. Then there are the countless hours of floating just off the dock, just basking in the cool waters and warm sun of Maine in the summer. The last time I was ever floating in water was in Maine. A great memory. The Godparents have hosted, every niece and nephew they have, every friend have at one time or another visited.

It has been a summer mecca for years.

I had my first Lobster at Camp, a first for many of the visitors, a true right of passing, and a tradition at least one night while there. I have eaten blueberries just picked, and sipped coffee that has never tasted better. I have been over-served and never had a drop, it makes no difference the memories are all the same...

It's heaven on earth.

Steve and Jane see Camp not so much as theirs, but as if they are care-takers of a gift, a precious and beautiful one. They are a rare team that opens their door to all, and loves each and every guest.

It's no surprise we asked them to be our Irish Princess' guide in this world. There are people in this life that are shepherds, guides... That's Steve and Jane. A godparent needs to do one thing really well, they need to "get it". And when I say "get-it", it means that they are in the world, but not of the world. They delight in the foolishness of living, but also are able to teach through example and guide our child. They are phenomenal godparents. For the record, far better than Jeffrey and I have been to our godchildren.

I'm not surprised that God put these two amazing people in our life... Not even close. They are gifts, that I know I will spend eternity with... Heaven for us will look like a small cottage in Maine, with a cool lake that I will swim in daily, the best blueberry pie imaginable, a warm fire in the fireplace every night, with lobster and a coffee called "

Carpe Diem

" and Jesus telling us HE is so proud of us, and telling us that we did well.

So maybe that is what Camp is... A door to Heaven, a taste of eternity, a place to find God without looking at all... Because HE is present with us at the table.

Hope your Summer is filled with Exquisite Everyday Moments just like ours... We are overwhelmed with gratitude, love and well more love.  Please know I'm praying for each and everyone of you, today and always.




Photo credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal

Love Letter to Meghan...

Meghan week comes to an end...

I love a good love letter...

This one is for my sweet and beautiful niece Meghan.  I have never been more honored as I was this year, when I stood behind her as her Confirmation Sponsor.  She spent the last week with Team Fergie, and she knocked my socks off with her faith, her love and her honesty.  This letter is to her, but I share it here because I hope it leads you to an opportunity to openly love the people closest to you... And I can't help but share, because, well I love her so very much...

A little background:

Meghan lives with her mom and older and younger brothers.  Jen, my sister in law, is one of my longest friends. We met for the first time when her mom was my third grade teacher and we became very close friends in high school.  Jen and I have been through the joys and struggles of a faith filled life. We are godparents to some and aunts to all our combined five children.  And when you share a lifetime of wonderful moments you also share the difficult ones too. Like when she ended her marriage to my brother. Jen handled the entire experience with the grace and love that emanates from her whole being.  Of all the women who love me and I'm blessed to know, I don't know any that are better, more loving, faith filled then my Jen. She is a gift. So it's no wonder that her sweet girl would be just as wonderful.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Dearest Megs,

I have had the loveliest week with you. Last Sunday, Uncle Jeffrey and I loaded the Beauties into the stinky Mini-Van and road tripped a couple hours to "borrow" you for what we called "Meghan Week" .  We grabbed you so you could experience a week as a Ferguson, but more selfishly so that I could have some high quality one-on-one time with you.

You want some "exquisite everyday moments?", let me tell you my cup is overflowing. You are exquisite my lovely, absolutely exquisite.

Meghan, as women of faith, some of the hardest decisions are the ones that seem so counter to what we have grown-up learning, but they can be exactly what God is calling us to do! You learned that lesson when you saw your parents' marriage end. It is ever so painful, when we experience that type of loss. But, we have to understand that even in the toughest of life's challenges, the beauty of God is present, waiting and open to loving us in all the foolishness and messy.

So as I sit her reflecting on Meghan Week, I learned something about myself--I had received a gift that the Spirit clearly sent just for me. Last week (

in my blog

) I shared this quote about Norah:

"As she lives with my chronic disease, she has been honing her skills from an early age. This is how you frame life's horrible truths. You realize that someone else will benefit from your struggle. We are paying it forward in the most unorthodox manner."

I learned that I too was "paying it forward", that my pilgrimage to date, had some very real experiences that I could share with you and only you.  What I learned, is that for all of the blessings in my life, I have also had moments of pain and disappointment, like most people. Our sweet chats, gave me the chance to share my truth, my silly stories from my high school adventures, and my big picture ideas for this world we live-in. You patiently listened and smiled, you laughed at me, and with me...

It was very special. But don't you worry my Beauty, you taught me a few lessons, a few gems and some spiritual lessons, that I will be adding to my life tool box. You are just as much teacher as you are student-- so thank you.

If I can teach you only one thing, about the challenges that you will face, it is this: we must own this concept of paying it forward. It is the only real good that comes from suffering, the ability to empathize, to love and support those we love most and even those strangers we meet. Yes, even strangers.  To quote from Hebrews, I love this translation from the New American Standard Bible:

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

It just means you never know when your words can be a gift to someone in need of a little light: at the grocery store, when you smile, when as you get a little older someone shares a private truth. When we give a little light to someones suffering, we provide a small but o' so important gift. We show our soul. We let the Divine in us do the heavy lifting, God shines through us. We enable the Spirit to move among us, to really work. It is the most powerful super power, it's how we find the good in the horrible, the grace in the tragic and the light in the darkest corners. That is the power of the Divine, its ability to create love among us. I promise, you will be on the receiving end of this power, this love more than you will ever have to give, but when you are able to provide comfort, strength, forgiveness and a soft place to fall for another, it is these moments that you understand what God's love is.

While with you, I feel the Spirit moving, quietly, beautifully-- and I delighted to see, to witness and to watch, one of the most precious and beautiful creations that God has ever made, and see the true gift. The real GIFT, that the Divine gave me, is to be graced to know you so closely, to love you and to be loved by you daily, and always.

For the record, I do love you more, Miss Meghan... I do.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you sweet one.

Always and forever your,

Aunt Kathryn

photo credit: PilgrimageGal

Summer Vacations, Field Trips and Medical Procedures...

Field Trip Selfie at NIH...

For the last two years, on one of our extremely hot summer days, I load the Beauties into our dirty minivan and we road trip to NIH (The National Institute of Health: Clinical Center). It is a 15 minute drive from our house. I check the Beauties in at the gate and they get awesome visitor's badges, they go through the metal detectors, watch the car get tested for explosive devices and then we drive on campus. They love this day. According to Norah, "It's the best cafeteria in the world" and she also said, "Yep, I really think I could work here one day!" and Ian "loves the architecture and design of the building".

We look at the photos of the Presidents who have visited and compare notes on the exotic fish in all the fish tanks. I show them where I get my blood drawn or where I have received various treatments. It is an all access pass.... The day we go is always a day that I put on make-up, a pretty sundress and feel good. I want the children to see me at my best.  Today we went to pick-up some medical records, but we also scored lemonade, sandwiches and some tasty chips. Then I watched them as they went around and around in the revolving front door at the hospital.

It was a fun day. Hard to believe, but it was...

And it was supposed to be. We are in the business of educating and de-stigmatizing the experience. I own this conversation, I shape the dialogue, I guide with my hand what the Beauties' understand about my disease. I own that... So I frame NIH as my place of wellness, it is the place I get better and so it should look like a fun place, a happy and safe place.

Norah suggested that Jeff and I go there for a date night. It looks like the lobby of a grand hotel!

Make no mistake, it is a hospital, the inhabitants are very sick, and for many it's the last stop. But that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be a place of great hope; and that is what I have made it for my family--a place of hope.

I mention this day for two reasons. One, I get to talk about my fantastic Beauties! But more importantly, I can share with you how I frame the tough stuff.  My children aren't shielded from much. Not the divorces in our family, not the mental health struggles of loved ones, not the horrible case Jeff sat on as a juror this week. Nope they get a ringside seat for all of life. Almost everything can be explained to the children in age appropriate language.

This past Friday, we picked up my mom and took her for an endoscopy. This was Norah's second time, we had done it a year ago when she was 7. This was Ian's first time. So we are in the car driving to pick-up grandma and I start to remind Norah and explain to Ian what the day entails. We have electronic devices charged, water bottles and some chocolate stashed, we all ate a huge breakfast and were ready for the day.

I explained that we would be in a doctor's office, and back behind the waiting room would be a hospital, filled with gurneys and medical devices. But before I could explain to Ian the set up, Norah speaks-up, "Mom you drive, I've got this" and then she begins...

"So Ian, Grandma needs to have a camera put down her throat to see if her throat and stomach are healthy. But you can't put a camera down your throat when you are awake. So the doctor gives Grandma medicine that makes her fall to sleep.  When she is asleep, she is also monitored for her heart and breathing with a pulse-ox like mom's and a blood pressure cuff. But she is going to be just fine, she has no chance of dying because she and mom have done this A LOT. And the doctors are there to keep her safe."

Hard to believe, but I just read it to her to make sure the quote is correct. My ever technical daughter said, "Good."

As I drove, I witnessed my daughter offer bedside manner from her booster seat in the back of my mini-van. I almost cried as I listened to her, thinking that some future patient is going to be blessed by this childhood- blessed that my Norah has been on this Pilgrimage with me.  As she lives with my chronic disease, she has been honing her skills from an early age. This is how you frame life's horrible truths. You realize that someone else will benefit from your struggle. We are paying it forward in the most unorthodox manner.

Norah also talked about the wires and beeping that you would hear, and that while it looked scary it is all safe. I also explained that Grandma would be super hungry because she hadn't eaten and that I thought she would treat us to a tasty lunch. (which she did!)

When we saw my Mom she was fine, antsy to get going. The nurse was nervous about Norah wanting to read the report with the photos of mom's esophagus, duodenum and stomach. But Norah was all in, Ian was sitting in the chair playing on the DS saying, "Grandma, I'm just glad you lived." More on Ian's version of this trip in a later post.

There we are in post-op, in the the equivalent of an ER, I have my beautiful anxious Aspie, my junior medical intern and my mom who is a little stoned and ready to roll... Trying to keep them all organized, managed and comfortable was my challenge for the day!

So when I say Norah is going to be a doctor, I'm not kidding, she wanted every detail. She watched the vitals, we had to talk about if they were high or low. While sitting on my lap reading the report she is watching the nurse pull out the IV. Norah was enthralled.  The nurse was worried Norah would faint. My mom said, "Ah no, she helps give her mother shots." The nurse was gobsmacked. Not the right choice for every 8 year old, but good for my daughter.

I have too many gems from both these trips to share today. I need a whole post on my sweet Ian's worries about my mom's procedure and perhaps another on the challenges of raising two divergent beautiful souls.

I try my best to use every opportunity to teach, to guide them for the future. We work through situations with training wheels so that when adulthood comes-- all too soon with too many challenges for anyone, they will hopefully have the skills and ability to take off their own training wheels and pedal on without me.

Peace be with you,



Photo Credit: PilgrimageGal

PilgrimageGal as Speaker and a Green Sofa...

Happy to get rid of the green sofa...

Many years ago, I twisted Jeffrey's arm and bought a stupid expensive green sofa. It was beautiful, and went perfectly in our great room. I LOVED this sofa. But, often as a mother I have these

House Beautiful

moments and forget two important things. First, we are not independently wealthy, nope my husband provides for us beautifully as a dedicated federal employee, where he daily answers the call to public service. More importantly we have wolverines that double as our children. So this sofa has seen nearly every kind of my Beauties' bodily fluids.

More significantly, it was the sofa that I lived on for 5 years. I took meals, slept, watched the Beauties play and grow, watched countless movies and too many cheesy T.V. shows to count. It is where I started this blog. It all started with me typing, "The pilgrimage of the green couch: one gal's journey of faith, health and life, all from her very own sofa."

But, over time I realized that it had become my sick bed and it was draining my spirit. So in preparation for Norah's First Communion, I wore Jeff down, explaining we needed a new sofa. The old sofa had bad karma, gu-gu or whatever you want to call a dysfunctional inanimate relationship. I was so over that sofa, I stopped sitting on it!

We were not able to get the sofa before the Communion, which worked out for the best, but two weeks later we did. We scored a practical Ikea sofa, keyword practical.  In just a couple of weeks, we already have paint, Sharpie and popsicle stains on this brand new sofa. But I'm fine, because I can buy a new slipcover for $100 for special occasions. You really can't keep the children from being children and I'm so fine with that...

Now I know many of you are wondering how the sofa goes with the Pilgrimage! In some ways, I'm like the sick man who was lowered into the house to see Jesus (Mark 2:4). That sofa was my bed and my blankee, I wasn't moving and growing like I needed with that sofa. So no surprise, that as I prepared to remove this albatross from my home, new opportunities have emerged.

This past Saturday, in a hot church basement, over 30 women joined me for my first official PilgrimageGal talk and reflection on creating: "Exquisite Everyday Moments of Faith." The talk was filled with a group of inspiring women aged 26-93. The Spirit was present and moving in this diverse and incredibly faith filled group of women. I learned more from them, their richness, their depth, their openness to share their truth. Talk about empowering and moving! We were laughing, crying and sharing in a way that only happens when you recognize what Matthew 18:20 reminds us;

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

I loved this day, it was an opportunity to hear and see the Divine moving in women that I have known for years and some I met for the first time. That is why this journey inspires me daily. I grow, change and develop a deeper appreciation for the gifts of daily life. The 30 women who joined me were kind enough to let me share my truth, to listen and provide insights. I'm forever humbled by the participation and love.

So just as I got rid of the old sofa and welcomed in the new. I have removed another layer of myself and shared myself in a new format; that of public speaker...

And in doing this, I now have even more to do!




Daddy Travel, Dead Raccoons and Talking About Hard Things...

My sweet Jeffrey has been gone for 8 days and we still have another 4 before we are reunited as a family. He returns the same day as the end of school, so we will have an emotional Friday on his return.

My Beauties have both had the best year ever and it pains me to say that, after the worries of moving them from our fantastic Catholic school. I don't have one complaint about the year, the education they received was beyond my expectations, both children have had exceptional and talented teachers. Both were so matched with folks that "got them", loved them and were able to inspire both with one of a kind learning. It is hard for me to comprehend Ian and Norah moving on to new teachers in the Fall.

As with all of Jeffrey's trips there is a calamity or two. This time is no different, Ian has been running a high fever, been out of school for 5 days and may miss this last week of school. Our pediatrician who is a phenomenal doctor says virus, but we all know it might be bacterial, and today we will make the third trip in for the holy grail of medicine: antibiotics. Please Lord, fingers crossed, please let him have a simple sinus infection. I do understand not giving out antibiotics like tic-tacs, but sometimes it would really help if we didn't have to ride every virus out until it magically turns into a bacterial infection!

As Irish luck would have it and absolutely no surprise to all the mothers out there, Miss Norah woke with the same runny nose and cough this morning. Let's just say it... Flipping fantastic!!!! You know I want to use my other favorite word here. So just say it four times in your head for me! (Thanks I needed that!) And while trying to help me, my very busy Mom fell down my steep staircase (on day two) and sprained and tore the ligaments in her foot. She is now in a Boot!

So as with most voyages on the Pilgrimage, this week it is hard! I'm tired, my pain is horrible and I'm missing Jeffrey.

My sweet friend next door asked just before Jeff left, "what makes it hard when he is gone?" And we both knew the answer.  My soul misses Jeff, I ache when he leaves. I just love being in the room with him, even when he drives me crazy and pushes my buttons.

Plus, I have 20 years of evidence that something wacky, unexpected and tricky will happen in his absence. These little hiccups, shall we say, will make the time apart harder.  From a power line hitting the house, to a raccoon getting trapped in the fireplace flue, which caused a horrid infestation of fleas in our house, (mind you we had zero pets at the time) not to mention an o'so odoriferous dead raccoon trapped in my chimney. To countless crazy illnesses, emergency room visits for both children (croup and chicken pox for Norah at 6 months), a flooded basement and a scary trip to get Jeff home in a straight drive from Mississippi to DC after 9-11. That is just the quick list of the things that happen when Jeff is away.

I don't care how much positive framing I do... Shit happens!

So, I get stressed before each of his trips. Something I have managed for better and worse over the years. This trip, I wasn't worried, 12 nights without him is the longest we have been separated since we have had the children, but I can handle it. More good news, we will do another 12 days again in September. I'm whining. Plain and simple.

I understand, because so many families handle far worse separations, but my body, well she doesn't handle changes in routine well. When I stretch two nights of less than 8 hrs sleep, my body well, she HURTS in a way that is hard to describe. Ian has had me up several nights at 3 am with a 103 degree fever, he has slept in my bed, and has needed a mother's love. Which I want to do in every way, but by 6 pm, I'm a mess, hot, tired, grumpy and my pain is not managed. And it kills me, since he is so easy when he is sick, he doesn't complain, (he does moan, which is hysterical) give my sweet Irish Prince Popsicle-Gatorade-raisin toast, and he is golden, toss in an electronic device and you only need worry when it's time for more Motrin.

The toll is evident, lots of mental fatigue that I can't explain well to folks and worse if you are trying to help me like my poor mom has been want to do! I'm not my best self.

Which gets me back to the Beauties, I try to be honest about how difficult Dad's trips are for me as I know it is for them.  From the logistics of administering my four needles early in the am, to not having backup for all of life's stuff.  I don't like it one bit, and I give the children permission to not like it too!

It's scary for them to be left with the "sick one" as parent-in-charge, to know that Dad isn't right around the corner as usual...  When he travels, they don't have that extra security. It is so important for me to be independent when Jeff travels, I really don't like my Mother staying with us for more than a day or two because in my mind it just feeds the children's narrative.  

That Mom can't do it. 

These times are especially hard for me, because I don't like to see my own shortcomings, my weaknesses exposed. AND I certainly don't like it that my Beauties are nervous because of them.

So as hard as it is for me... I shine the light on them, I say, "Well as much as I would like to do x, my batteries are not going to let that happen" OR talk about not putting myself in risky behaviors that could make it harder for me in the long run. Like going to the movie theater which are generally too cold. But, On Demand an overpriced movie? Absolutely.  I feel great about driving through any disgusting fast food restaurant they want for dinner!

I always say that I'm tired as opposed to sick. Tired is something you can process, sick is far scarier. But, I feel for my Mom who looks at her "baby" and sees me struggle, what parent can sit on the sidelines and watch that. So my Mom and I work on balance, we are two feisty independent women so that always calls for lots of me apologizing (for my shortness, frustration and fatigue) and remembering she is here to help me... as much as I fight her!

We do have special treats that only happen when Dad travels, like cereal for dinner, ice cream at anytime, eating in front of the TV, extra stinky no shower days. All these little gems make my life easier. 

And hopefully, they take away the sting of missing Dad, a tiny bit.

So that is the recap on this extraordinary week... It is a doozy here.

But, we will cross off another day on the chalkboard and cheer when the train arrives at Union Station, Friday at 6.

Until then, please keep me in your prayers...

Much love.



Photo credit: PilgrimageGal


Can you remember the most important school teacher in your life? I can, she came over for cake and tea this morning. My most influential, loving and wisest teacher is Mrs. P.  I have had many amazing teachers in my life, but this special woman, well she helped shape my soul.  I met Mrs. P in 4th grade when she became my teacher. For the next 4 years she was my teacher at school, but she became a life long mentor that always provided me a soft place to fall. Always. Mrs.P was the one who helped me dust off a bad day.

She taught me math and religion for the next 4 years. Now remember it was the late 70's and early 80's, a small catholic school, I was the only kid of divorced parents. I have never been the strongest student and I was also a girl who struggled with math.

But it all worked out because, Mrs. P is the best math teacher ever! 

Mrs. P says she would get a knot in her stomach when she would grade my papers. For good reason, inevitably, whenever I bombed a test, I would fling myself down, my long brown hair covering the desk, sometimes I was crying (most of the time)--at the sheer drama of my grade. Poor Mrs. P, why she loved me is a mystery!

When my mom had a brain tumor and was in the hospital, I lived with her family for a week. She was also the first call we made when my step-dad died. She rushed from a High School parent meeting to sit on my sofa and love me through those first difficult hours, while my Mom informed my grandmother that her son had died.

The difficult moments, Mrs. P was with me. 

We have maintained a close relationship for years, she was ring side for my happiest moments too!  She is my confirmation sponsor, did a reading at our wedding and was present for the Baptisms of the Beauties.

Without question she shaped my faith life. Mama G (her other nickname) took the responsibility of being my sponsor seriously and has been a guide, a place of comfort, and a spiritual home.  I feel blessed to have this bond, this relationship with her, she has watched me grow, from little girl with ponytail, to wife and mother. Along the way our relationship has grown too, we now are two women with life experiences to share, discuss, celebrate; the joys and sorrows of this journey called life. 

I could spend days telling you of the math facts, the religion foundation that she gave me, the bible stories, apostles songs and scripture references that she taught me. Little gems I have taught the Beauties. I can't go to Stations of the Cross without thinking of the years she took me to daily Mass and taught me the significance of the Stations.  I was in Church with my sweet Irish Prince this year and realized that I was in 4th grade when I had the same "moment" when I understood what the Stations really meant. Mrs. P had that with me years ago.

I'm struggling to find the words, how to describe the feeling, the delight of being in the same room with someone who l love so completely. Who's hands can't hold mine enough, who's embrace I can't get enough of and whose departure I delay as long as possible.  

I realized today that, what I feel when I'm with MG, is the Divine. It's the glimpse of the perfection that awaits us all in heaven. When you are with a person that makes your joy well overflow, the water of life and love that can't run dry, that is an internal spring, providing you joy, hope and a fire of love that won't extinguish. This love allows you to smile even when the topic is painful, that sheer joy; that is bliss.

That is the taste, the glimpse of heaven on Earth.

When you meet God in these moments you understand profoundly, that God is waiting for us. Patiently. These are the gifts that make the journey easier. Makes the sting of the hard days sweeter.  It is the hand in yours when you are exhausted and the hand of joy when it is good; the sense of perfection that is still to come.

These gifts, these relationships, they are spiritual food, too. Do you realize that you are walking with God? How can we forget, "when two or more are gathered," we are not alone. God is present. This is another opportunity to meet the Divine. The Spirit is with us.

When you realize, that is what you are receiving, a pull, a yearning for more... That is God calling all of us for a deeper relationship. That what He is offering is even more.

That is why we have a core circle. Our women, our sisters help us. We dispense with the pretense--don't we?

Who are these people in your life? What friendships make you better? What person do you have a tough time leaving? Just one more cup of tea, one more story, one more hug and kiss? Who is that for you? You never tire, you just have a peacefulness that can't lapse, a smile for days.

This is just another connection to the Divine.

MG is one of my treasures, she taught me how to access the Divine. She is my first Spiritual Director, she pushed my faith along. The reason that I see Christ in others. She taught me, showed me, made God real and tangible. Alive for me. She is just one of the gifts God has sent me.

Do you have more than one of these gifts?

I bet if you sit and think about it you realize that you do... That your network is deeper than you realize... Connect to that power supply, nurture and develop these relationships. They are gifts.

We often forget gifts come in many forms. What may surprise you is that the most religious of your circle may not be the connector for you. Maybe it's the friend who likes to walk in the woods, or the friend who bakes the best bread, pushes you to run harder, shares with you the best books, or makes the best cup of tea.  Remember everyone doesn't connect with God in the same way... Think outside of the box. There are many ways to find peace and connect to the Divine... Gifts are amazing, aren't they?!

Your homework: reach out to that special someone. Go old school and mail a card this week, make a phone call, tell that special person in your life what they mean to you. Make the connections. Meet the Divine. Your day will be better because of it! And so will theirs! And report back... I want to hear from you.

Now, I'm off to find some stamps!

Namaste my friends.



photo credit:

Wilson X




Being Uncomfortable...

I force myself to be uncomfortable, to try things that are scary, difficult and make me nervous.

This week was no exception. I shared with a couple of my close girls that I have been mulling or even wrestling with how to do more with PilgrimageGal.  After talking through some ideas, we came up with the plan for me to give a small talk/guided discussion for my Hawaii Girl's prayer group.   I was a little nervous.  I don't generally get nervous about public speaking, 5 or 100. Fine. Public speaking has always been easy for me. What I worry about, is being meaningful and not wasting your time.  I don't have all the answers, but I do have a story, and a very strong faith to my core.

So, last week as I drove the Beauties to school, I asked my Lovies to pray for me.  I told them that I was going to give my first PilgrimageGal talk. Ian said, "Mom, I've got you covered, I will pray for you and you will be great."  Ian usually prays for Legos, so this was a two-fer, acknowledgement of my existence and the willingness to pray for me. What more could the mother of a 10 year old boy really need, right?!  My Beauties need to understand that we all struggle, that life and living can even make grown-ups nervous. When Ian tells us life is hard; I want him to understand, we get it. During our three minute car ride, I try just that with our quick daily prayer. Sometimes,we say a Guardian Angel, Hail Mary or maybe they listen while I apologize and say the Act of Contrition for having a fantastic mom moment before 8am!

After car-prayer and drop-off, I went to share my truth. My talk went well; our discussion was beautiful, personal, supportive, and  loving.  As women, we share many of the same struggles, and share similar joys. We may have different views on politics, or different faith traditions; but gather any group of women together and we share far more than we differ. And let's be honest, we can make this world far better over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

After my talk with these amazing women, the discussion turned back on me. Eeek. My girls turned the tables, telling me we need to roll this out to more of the women in our community. So with the help of the fantastic women of my parish community, and the help of my bestie from NY, (small aside, every girl needs at least one bestie from NY, they are the ones who have your back ALWAYS.)  Within a few hours, a date was selected, a group to partner with was found and my first larger talk to share the story of PilgrimageGal was suddenly on the calendar.

My talk centers around faith, family and being the best you. I will discuss how my serious health issues have shaped my faith, the best lessons that I have learned and how our largest struggles are often a catalyst for the greatest blessings. I also feel passionately, that as women we need to dispel this notion that we have two sides to us, the one we show others and the one we keep hidden, our true selves. I have out of necessity had to remove that barrier, and it is amazing what can happen when we drop that facade. It takes far too much energy to hold it up.

I'm nervous, let me say it... Because as a perfectionist, I want to rock my girl's world, and make them proud for trusting in me. I want it all to be perfect.

However, what I know to be true is this: I have little control over any of this.

This morning of reflection and discussion, is simply the work of the Holy Spirit... The Spirit is working quietly, beautifully and making room for this day. The women in the room will walk together, because of the movement of the Spirit.  We fail to realize how often the Spirit of God is working and moving in ways we can't see or understand.

This is when we must trust.

And let go.

When we must get out of the way.

So picture me with my best girls, we removed the training wheels and they are steadying my blue bike...  I'm pedaling down the road to the next mile post on this part of the Pilgrimage. The best part, as I look over my shoulder; I can hear them cheering and celebrating and running along beside me!

My girls are the truest example of the Divine working. This is not me, it is so much bigger than me... It's the Spirit, and I need to keep pedalling to see where the Spirit takes us.

If you live in the DC area and are free on Saturday morning, June, 28th send me a note.  I would love to meet you and share a morning of prayer and reflection.

And Yes, I am talking to you!

For any new friends walking with me today... I end many of my posts the same.

I use the word "Namaste" which is Sanskrit, and loosely translated it means: "The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you."  Or as I see it, the Christ in me bows to the Christ in you.

Namaste my sisters, Namaste....and much love to you and yours.


photo credit:





Showing up and First Communion...

Many of you know my life is the typical Pilgrimage of late...

This weekend was Norah's First Holy Communion. A very important day in the life of a Catholic, and Norah enjoyed her's with a 104 degree fever and vomiting. My


in the church included ginger ale, water, ziploc bags (in case we needed a bag on the fly), tic-tacs, tissues and paper towels. Jeff and I were prepared for anything. But our little one, she was perfect! She is one tough cookie.

Some days, total success is achieved by just showing up, and she did! Also planned for weeks, the celebration at our house where we invited a large number of friends and family. I really can't say how many people were celebrating along with us, but let's just say well over 50 family and friends came by; our recycling tub is overflowing with champagne bottles and cake plates.

When I sit back and think about moments like this in my life; I recognize that we are called to live in community, surrounded by people we love. I'm blessed to have a supportive family, along with the most amazing and loving friends. The day went off beautifully, and between Motrin chewables, Norah was blessed to have the people she loved most surrounding her and celebrating this special sacrament.

But then she was all done.

My poor girl waved at everyone as she climbed up the stairs to my bed. At one point during her party I ran upstairs, held the bucket during the waves of nausea, washed my hands and dashed downstairs to pour champagne for friends and family! It was hard for me to be present in the day. I was nervous and anxious till she fell asleep and I put my toes up at 5 for a sip of champagne.  My poor sweet girl never hugged a guest or tasted her cakes or candy from the pink dessert table.

But, she recieved the Body of Christ. She did it!

My dear neighbor Sunshine ran out and picked up crackers after that fell off my to-do list and we talked about how of course this is just normal life for us. The best, most organized party planner girl's to do list, would crumble under our normal PilgrimageGal life.

In all honesty, I have to say, I wasn't surprised, disappointed, yes. Surprised. No. I don't ever expect easy, I prepare myself for hard, always, and then I'm delighted by easy.  Never for a second did Jeffrey and I consider contacting anyone and cancelling the party. Why? This is real time living, it is messy, unplanned and beautiful.

This is the real world, this is hard. This day is a life lesson for my little Type A in training, it wasn't a disaster, it was a blessing. Here is why:

This day was the most important day in her young life. It was something that she had been planning for months, and dreaming of for years. She has been on my lap or in my arms for all her cousins', her brother's, her friend's First Communions. She has patiently waited for her turn. It was her first real life rub that life happens while you make other plans. It wasn't what she wanted, but she did it anyway and it was all beautiful. Norah made lemonade out of lemons and she gained a new skill. Tenacity.

The best part she was tenacious about her faith; she wasn't going to miss out on the Body of Christ. She embraced the Sacrament, she professed her faith, she walked the walk.

We can learn so much about life from our little ones. Perseverance, tenacity and most of all hope. Children are hopeful, perhaps because they aren't worn down with the sting of disappointments. Maybe that is why their hearts are so light.

I have to be honest, this week is hard for me. It's now Tuesday, I'm beyond exhausted, I have things I want to do, but my sweet one needs me here, present with her. I have to recognize that in my selfishness or should I just say humanness, I wanted to be in bed alone, watching adult tv, relaxing and re-grouping. As women we all have our own ways to

re-charge the battery

. That is mine, me silent, watching TV, eating soup and doing nothing. I find it so telling that it is Norah's too.

But, she needs to be attached to me... and as we all know when we are empty, it is hard to give more.

So today will be filled with us snuggling, napping and re-charging, and me being present and recognizing that these days are fleeting. And I want her as much as she needs me, so we will do it her way and re-charge together.

She is growing and becoming the woman I can already see emerging.

But today, is a day to spend with the best 8 year old ever!

My little Beauty, my special gift....alone in my big bed together.


Wandering the Desert...

I go to NIH every few months for check-ups or to pick-up more medicine. Each time without fail, I make new friends. You don't end up at NIH for funzies. You end up there because you have exhausted many, many options. So there is a shorthand, a camaraderie when you meet someone who has the "extended visitor badge". You know they are a warrior and they know you are one too.

Every one of us has a story. A heartbreaking, heart wrenching story, and when you are battle weary you often can let your armor down and share. A deep, personal and very honest exchange. I always leave these encounters better than before, with new friends to pray for, new medical challenges to understand. I never leave these encounters without understanding the power of a hug and the ability of one stranger to comfort another. 

When you have a difficult diagnosis, you learn you are in the desert, wandering without water, with a blistering sunburn, cracked bloody lips. You are alone, isolated, scared, hot and in desperate need of an oasis. I've been there. Like Christ, alone in the desert.

The desert is the worst... and when you visit hospitals, doctors offices, and places like NIH, you quickly realize there are two types of desert people. Joyful people and White Knucklers. 

In the desert, you quickly realize that you have two options; to give in, or to face your fears, find your faith, and meet the best part of yourself. This person is the core of you with a superpower. But to find that girl, to find your superpower, you first have to confront the dark cold truth of your terror.  You must face her, defeat her and make your peace. 

Whatever your fear, you need to face the demon that wakes you in the middle of the night. The face of terror, which leaves you in a sweat, terrified. This is who you meet in the desert.  I have met my demon, my terror, and I faced her.

I faced Death in the desert.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I faced the terror, the reality, that I might not live to see my Beauties grow, that I would leave the love of my life. Jeffrey would be alone to raise these Beauties. That he would love another, and would move on without me. That the Beauties would never learn the lessons that I wanted to teach them, that they would forget me, only know me as the distant memory of a sick frail mother, not my vibrant self. That Jeffrey and I would never go to Paris and drink champagne in a cafe or grow old together. That we would never have the life we had planned, that we would be robbed of this life.

So I was forced to meet Her. I had to face Death, acknowledge that she was present and know that she was coming for me. When you are sick, really sick, you understand that life is fragile.

It was a cold and lonely place in the desert and I was there for a long time. I was still getting up in the morning, kissing scraped knees, helping with homework, driving the car to the grocery. I did all of this while my spirit wrestled with Death. At night, I slept restlessly, because at night, every night we battled, faced off. It was ugly, it was primal, it was war. I was bruised, scarred, humbled, humiliated, but on I waged, on I faced her. 

I faced her till there was nothing left, no anger, no pain...

When I surrendered... and faced that every worry, every fear, could happen, would happen.

Every worry, every fear was true, honest, raw, unyielding, and was going to happen. 

The only thing that remained was peace. 

Peace you ask? Yes. Peace. 

Peace comes when you face the fear, really own it, allow it to wash over you, to recognize that this may well be the reality. When you find peace in the fear, you have finally made room for the Holy Spirit to come. Made room for HER wings to embrace you, to realize that this demon that I was wrestling all this time, was myself. I had to make room for the Holy Spirit, for her Wisdom, for her Grace, for her Love to protect me.  To comfort me, to love me in the darkest of the darkness, to give me the grace to find my superpower, my inner light, my soul. 

And when I found my soul, I was fearless, able to become the warrior that I need to be, in order to find my wellness, my life, my truth, my team, my faith. That is when you become the Joyful person.

I will die someday. I don't know where or when. This illness or something else. I have no control over when I die; but what I can control, with my soul, is the ability to silence these dark places. This isn't anxiety, this is mortality speaking. Most of us don't face mortality until we are old, but those of us who are blessed with serious illness, we get to face it early. It is a gift because it opens the door to cross something off the list. When you face your death, you realizes you have a TON of life to live. Joyfuls are far too busy to let death slow us down.

I don't think about dying much anymore, I have kicked that can so far down the lane I can't see it. Because once you own your fear, you learn that your soul is free, it is light, it is weightless, and that reduces the other challenges of life to little annoyances, like mosquitos or ants. It also makes you impatient with fools. That impatience often stings others. It is not intentional, truly, it is just that we are far too busy living, to wait for people that are wasting our precious time with their own foolishness. 

Many get lost in the desert.  For me, it was only when I faced the darkness in myself, that I realized the desert was a mirage, that I was standing next to the water the whole time. Thirsty. Ready to drink.... 

Peaceful, Joyful.



photo credit:

Mike Chen aka Full Time Taekwondo Dad




I Worry...

I worry.  I mean, I worry a lot.

As a Christian, I know some consider that a sin. It shows my hubris, that I don’t trust God. That I don't have faith in the path He has chosen for me.  That as a Child of God, I should know that I'm taken care of...

And yet I still worry. At times in my life this worry, frankly, it has paralyzed me, it has made me unable to trust others, it has prevented me from being the best wife, mother, daughter and friend.

I have shared the depths of my worry with a very select few. Others have seen the cracks in my armor over the years. When my sweet prince licked more than he painted with the Thomas the Train paints at two, (for which I was sure was toxic) my dearest friend said in jest, “child protective services is going to call!”  She of course was the sane one, knowing the paint wasn't toxic. But I began to cry, sob even, as paint was on Ian’s face and she was standing next to me in total shock. Shock because what had occurred was really a Kodak moment not a crisis. But, it had brought out my big fear: I'm a lousy mother, someone is going to figure-out that I’m not qualified and take my children away.

Another time when Jeff was late coming home, stuck in traffic and I was sure that he was in an accident. My sheer rage at his late arrival was only to mask my crippling fear. The fear that he would die or leave me.

My anxiety comes from my lack of trust, my inability to see the final cut of the movie of this life. To truly believe that as the credits roll, I will be happy with the finished product.  I want total control as the director, executive producer and starring actor. Don't we all?

I worry about abandonment.  About being left behind. I worry about Jeffrey. My biggest fear is being on this planet without him.  The thought of not having Jeffrey to cradle my fall cripples me. To feel his love, to show him in my word, actions and deed the depth of my love for him.

When we had been married for 7 years we had a tough patch. At that moment it was because of my fear. I was too focused on being brave and fearless. I thought being independent was more important than being committed. Because commitment meant that I would have to live with the fear of being left behind. Abandoned by the person I had let-in. That this man, that I loved more than anyone;  who knows me better than even I know myself, might leave me, as my Dad had done as a child to me. I  needed to brace myself, so I would never feel that pain.  I would be “smart enough” to protect myself.  It was big and personal, and it was my fears espoused, for all to see.  But, I got past it.  My stalwart husband, sat with me and a very wise therapist, and taught me how to talk about my fears. Jeffrey and I have been doing that ever since.  Making space for me to run my list of the things that scare me. My worries.

It is at those moments, when life is hard, that I remember the most important part of the Sacrament of Marriage. It is not just Jeffrey and I in this marriage. Nope. The Spirit of God is in this marriage too. So even in the darkest moments, God is present. It is the work of the Spirit that often is the most amazing. 

I recall walking with a good friend (who happens to be a priest) at the time of this rough patch who said something that I treasure. He said, ”Do you know what is special about you and Jeff?, I see the Holy Spirit in your marriage and it’s beautiful.”

That was the Holy Spirit working. The right words, from the perfect person, at the right time. No coincidence, people. Think about that. When has that happened for you?

I feel like the story of Jacob of the Old Testament who wrestled with God. My wrestling would occur in a bar, and frankly it would be over cocktails and I would be just a wee bit belligerent. Ok, it would be horrible. But see, I know God can take it. Just like when my Beauties yell at me and say, “YOU are the WORST Mom in the world”  or when it’s the doozy of my personal favorite, “I HATE YOU!,” which always comes with a stomp or demand of some kind. All of this for saying NO, to Wii before homework or because you rode your bikes on a busy street.

My response is the same: “First, I love you.” Then at some point this little gem rolls out in one form or another, “You are welcome to hate me, because I know it’s not true. Please know that I prayed for you. Your Dad and I planned for you, and we will always love you. So, I’m good. You stay mad. I’m confident enough to take your rage, frustration and utter disappointment at the miserableness of your present circumstances. Please know that God gave you to US to keep you healthy, safe and strong. We will get through this. But right now you need to go to your room and pull it together.”

Jeff and I have said that little litany so often that now just saying the “I love you” gets the stomp off to the bedroom.

I feel confident that God must think the same about me... When my anxiety gets too high it’s like me slamming my bedroom door, just pissed at the lack of control I have. But, always realizing, just like me, and the children, God is in all of this.

It is so much easier as a parent when the beauties just listen and trust me. I'm sure God feels the same about me, “Kathryn my sweet one, I made you, I love you, I've got this... Let me take care of you, my child.”

So, I get up and keep trying, trying to keep my door, my windows, the closet door, and most of all my heart open, so God doesn't have to wait so patiently for me to make a little room for HIM.

Goodness knows, I need to trust just a little bit more. 

And worry a little less...

Peace be with you,


photo credit:

Evil  Erin




Measurements of Success...

How do you measure success? 

It is a question that I have been sorting through of late.  I find that when my spiritual compass is working well; I can slow my “Kathryness” and see the patterns in my life.  My questions currently seem to be tied to my year of “Retreat”. 

I have found a new level to my reading and the depths of that discovery have brought some unusual insights.  I seem to delve into ideas, conversations that have caused me to question. Questions, I haven't before taken the time to consider.  These  questions have pushed me into journaling; something I have never really wanted to do; but as part of this discovery, I have taken on in earnest.

I found the same question kept following me.  Gnawing at me for answers.  One question in particular: 

What does success mean for me? 

Having lost my foothold in the professional world, Sheryl Sandberg would say I “leaned out”. And while I watch so many of my close friends lean back in, I see that I have taken a different course; which leaning out doesn't completely cover.  I haven't exactly leaned out; I’m off the grid and that feels far more uncomfortable. 

I feel so unbelievable uncomfortable and unsettled.

As humans, we don't like uncomfortable, we don't like extremes, and lord knows we don't like messy. In our relationships, personal and professional, we want things to just nicely hum along. 

But that Pilgrims, sorry to be the one to let you in on this news flash... That’s not how it works in this world. Nope, it’s messy here, no getting round it.  So that is where I am today, in the messy and uncomfortable place of seeking and carving out my definition of success. 

Jeffrey and I sat down this weekend to have the big picture conversation, how are things, where are we going; and I explained my discomfort about this question.  I explained I was feeling a little lost.  Lost only in that; I was not sure what success looked like any longer. That so many of my old ideas have been turned upside down since my health status changed.  That this writing thing; this PilgrimageGal had taken on a life of its own that, to be blunt was so unexpected. 

We went on to discuss what I like to call the “American Dream Model” that if you work hard-enough, financial and social success is yours.  So it would make sense to call that success, because that is easy to measure and it is the scale so many of us use.  And to be frank in my past life, I was really good at it, I had corporate jobs, made money, got accolades.  Was the “it” girl. 

Perhaps, thats exactly why I'm so uncomfortable.  I look at myself and say, I need to do more, get more, publish more, have more followers, page hits, make more money... Because that is the paradigm that is familiar and comfortable.  

After listening to all my rambling, hand waving, and foolishness; my sweet husband opened his mouth and said, “Maybe that is the wrong definition.”

So there I sat.  Thinking.  More like hearing crickets.  Because I knew in my heart he was so right, so on target.  When the person you love speaks a truth to you, sometimes all you can do is sit and wait for your heart to answer. 

Because my definition of success isn’t the American Dream Model.  My new goal may in fact be to touch more, connect more, and support others on their journey to find peace, and wellness in what ever form that means to them. To be an example that even with chronic disease, life is beautiful, meaningful and complete.  That when we make room for the Divine, in our daily life; we live more fully, more completely than ever before. 

What if success was measured by your ability to see your faith life grow in your choices, in your relationships, in your willingness to do good.  My health will never allow me the opportunity to have the career I once had.  And that is so fine, because I think the work that is guiding me in my brokenness, may in fact be far more important. 

So, as I continue my year of Retreat, I will be searching for more definitions of success, how to measure the unmeasurable, perhaps... 

But, having a wonderful time trying in the process.



photo credit: 





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Sacred Space...

Tuesday Tip:  Sacred Space.

I love a tip that requires no money, no running to make an impulse purchase; this tip you can do right now, in your own home and spend zero dollars.  I promise you already have the ingredients in your possession.  

Today you will create your own sacred space. Sometimes, as busy women we don’t have anything that is ours, everything we own is fair game for others to “borrow".  The people we love most, touch everything; our phone, our lip gloss, our every possession is shared.  Some days it just becomes so draining not to have one small treasure that is just ours. 

That is how my sacred space was born. 

Now your sacred space can be as large or as small as you would like.  If you are lucky you have more than one spot in your home, depending on your mood. This is the spot where you curl up and pray, reflect, and recharge. 

For some, your sacred space may just be a simple candle. Any candle will do; sometimes it’s on the back of the toilet where you shut off the lights and close the bathroom door for silence, prayer and meditation. Some of us may be lucky to have a whole room.

Maybe it’s that little spot in the park that you head to all alone for lunch. That could be your space. In the summer, mine is outside on my screen porch, I have a beautiful fountain, a gift from my in-laws that creates such peace, you can’t help but sit and find the divine. 

The space may be some small treasures on a tray that you carry from place to place. Outside on a beautiful day or next to your bed on a day that has you resting.  You can keep this beautiful collection on your coffee or kitchen table. 

I think the basics include; a candle, an object from nature (orchid, dish of water, feather, stone, sand, sea shell) and some object that grounds you. For Catholics, we have our religious objects; a rosary, statue or icon.  Other faiths have prayer beads, or book of blessings. Perhaps a journal to write your thoughts, before or after. You will also need your holy book or the reading you want to meditate on. 

These are just suggestions, you will build your own space, and what works to center me may make you crazy.  That is so fine, focus and find the objects that matter to you . 

I find that most often my objects are gifts from the women I love most. For instance, a dear friend just sent me a rosary from the Church of the Holy Seplicur, from her recent trip to Israel. How amazing, my dear Jewish friend, sent her fav Catholic girl a rosary. Fantastic! That is on my desk right now, creating a sacred work space, with my candle and some roses. All gifts from the amazing women in my life.  

That is my sacred spot right this moment, as I write to you all. 

Your Tuesday Tip, make the time to create your own sacred space, fill it with a little silence, a little reflection, and you’ll be amazed how it can help you recharge.

Would love to see or hear about your sacred space, so send me your photos and suggestions and let’s continue the conversation.



P.S. Yes, that is the completed pink desk... You so knew I was going to get that desk painted!

photo credit: PilgrimageGal

We can stay in touch three ways: 

First, LIKE PilgrimageGal on Facebook and leave comments there (

Second, speak privately to me by submitting your questions in the form on the right.

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Bringing the Outside In...

Gift from my flower girl...

This is a simple and easy tip for everyone, not just our chronic disease friends. 

It is a simple tip to keep the sun shining warm on your face, by bringing the outside in...

Here in the DC metro area, we have what I call the winter blues. It’s the long days of gloom, cold and rain that face Washingtonians every winter, and makes us long for sunshine and dream of our sunny humidity filled summers.  I just want my flip flops, and to feel the sunshine on my toes.  

So, with the help of a wise teacher; I learned the lesson of bringing the outside in. Whatever you miss when trapped for the umteeeth day inside, bring a piece of it inside... 

For me, that’s easy. I need the promise of Spring.

So over the years I have cultivated an orchid collection from my visits to Trader Joe’s.  Just today I had to walk away from the $2.99 potted baby daffodils. I just long for sunshine in a pot. How does that not make you smile?!  For me, it’s all about the flowers and an orchid can stay in bloom for months at a time.

I have lavender sachets that I have hidden in the sofas, closets, drawers and the disaster that is my mud room. I bring my seashell collection out in the late winter, a silent tease and symbol of summer. I put sand, or in a pinch, dry white rice in a dish, small round jar, old ash tray and then display my treasures from the sea. There is something so magical about touching sea shells, setting them on top of your favorite book or just running your fingers over the edges.  It’s relaxing. 

Anything from the outside world, brought inside, to keep my spirits lively till the first real signs of Spring, when I can leave my windows and doors open and experience the real thing. 

So today, do a little something to bring the outside in... 

You won’t regret it and it will bring a smile to your face. 


photo credit: PilgrimageGal

P.S. We can stay in touch three ways: 

First, LIKE PilgrimageGal on Facebook and leave comments there (

Second, speak privately to me by submitting your questions in the form on the right.

Third, get all the details from the road by entering your email in the box on the top, and receive each post in your email inbox (keep on eye on your inbox or spam folder to complete the process).


yes only.

My Secret Weapon...

First a disclaimer to my Mom, sorry in advance for the litany of bad words. Yes, you raised me better. Yes, you encouraged higher levels of discourse. Yes, you did send me to Catholic school and the nuns are furious. But, you love me because I speak the truth, right? Ok. Love you, too.



Well friends, I’m in bed. And it’s NOT the pretty, all puffed up pillows, taking it easy eating bon-bons like 1950 Doris Day movie. It’s ugly, miserable and I’m taking every medical intervention that I can to stay in one piece.

So, in keeping with my theme of retreat, I’m going to share like we are sitting in the Kumbaya circle at our high school retreat. (Little homage to my ICHS girls, I’m so proud to be in your company. I love you girlies).

This is an educational and instruction based post. I will teach you how I tolerate, deal with missing out on my life, when my body shuts down.

I have had a series of horrible/serious episodes based on the balmy weather conditions. I’m stable and under the care of my amazing team.  Now for normal Pilgrimage followers this story is nothing new, and sadly my hot husband and Clive Owen look a like, (Jeffrey) and I have managed three of these nasty events since Christmas. So it’s no surprise that my body, has launched me into bed for several days. I have lots of posts on what my ravaged body feels like on days like this. (start here, if you are new to my story:

But, that is not what we are up to today.

Today, I’m letting you in on my Secret Weapon (SW). It’s what gets me through the toughest of toughest days.

Now some of you who meet me, this will suprise you. At first glance, I’m a spunky but well mannered kinda gal. I never let my Beauties say “stupid” or “hate”.  I’m a polite woman, I don’t scream at fellow drivers or give them loving hand gestures.  My Mamma raised me right.

And that friends, is why my Mother hates my SW.

Now this weapon may be used ONLY, when out of earshot of any minors, If you have school age children then only use it between 8:30 and 3:00 (or after drop-off and before pickup) and never near any school grounds. You may only use it behind the door of your own room, alone in the car, shower, or on the phone with your BFF.

So what is this magic trick?

It’s my favorite word.


That’s right my friends, cover your ears and turn the little people away. I drop the F-bomb a lot. I have a really filthy mouth, when needed. I use bad words about my health all the time. And in running succession, in almost prayer like litany form. It’s genius.

I FUCKING HATE THIS BROKENNESS. Now notice, I did not say my body, I love my body, it is beautiful, we have had some amazing times, and she still has moments of greatness, but I don’t love the brokenness.

I have taken the control back. When I have had a bad day -- I let it rip.


Well, you get the idea.

Whatever your litany is, make it work for you.

I have a dear friend, who uses this SW as well. Our phone calls go like this sometimes...

me: “Hey sweetie how are you.”

her: “Got a second, are you good?”

me: “Yep, whats up”


me: “Yep, I FUCKING HATE DIABETES, too. Talk to me! I’ve got your back, I can take it.”

Then we cover the particulars.

Now sometimes we have a contest to see who can say the F-Bomb more in a five minute conversation.  And then we laugh, with the seventh grade giggles, till we can’t stop laughing. Because, we are the two most un-sailor like girls you would ever meet.

O’my it is the best. It’s also our mental, emotional and spritual barometer about life. It’s a release, it forces you to breathe, to stop the madness from spinning, for a moment, and you let all of it out. And you reset, you can breathe and you can face the world again.

This release does two things: One it gives you a safe vehicle to vent. Second, and more importantly,

it acknowledges that your life is really hard, it is not fair, this is not the life you deserve or the life you planned for.

But, it is the life that you have to face, make peace with and decide how you will live it.

Will you lie down and let it own you, define you, and dictate your future or will it be the life that you face, challenge and live beautiful, honestly, authentically. You make it your truth. You get to decide how you choose to live.

We use the SW in text messages or outside of the time window by saying, ”insert code word”,  because our kids have never ever heard that word, and they won’t learn it from reading our texts.

Saying FUCK or whatever word works for you; I think it is akin to breaking every dish in your house.

Who has the energy to trash all your dishes, sweep them up, go out and buy a new set. Let’s be real that would be a big job. Then of course you

wake-up the next morning shuffle in and while getting coffee you feel a jab in your toe from that one shard you missed, to look down, see blood and say  “FUCKING dishes...”

Now some of you may well be skeptical of using the code word, well because at first you giggle when you say it with intention.

But, I promise with practice, it will become your mantra, your way of saying: “HELL no this disease, issue, problem, will not define me, it won’t take my soul and it will never take my spirit.”

You have the power in a body that some days may seem powerless. You OWN this life.

You may not be able to fix your body, sadly maybe no one can. But you can decide how you will live every moment you have. And this “FOOLISHNESS” as I call it, make sure it doesn’t define you, or your life.

Now here is my caveat. 

To live well, I urge you not to use this SW on people, it’s about the disease. So whatever the beast is in your life. Mental health, Alcoholism, HIV, Cancer, Diabetes, Broken Genes, Autoimmune Disease. Call it out. But not at a person. That is just hurtful.

Whatever your beast is, don’t let it suck your life, your spirit, your happiness.

Don’t give it that power, don’t become that disease’s BITCH. Make it your BITCH.

Now I know this post is very different for me so please, I urge you, email, leave me a message on


. Give me feedback. Please let me know if this post resonates with you, if it works for you or it just got you to think a little differently.

I remain humbled that you read and share your stories on the Pilgrimage with me.

The DIVINE in me is honored to bow to the DIVINE in you.



Don't forget I have this super private way of conversing. "Contact the PilgrimageGal..." form on the right. I'm the only person reading them. So give me your thoughts.

photo credit:

Kristian Thøgersen




New Year Retreat...

How can it be that we are already into 2014 and I feel a little behind. Eeek. I have so missed writing these little stories of life on the Pilgrimage; but living has been keeping me on my toes! It is a testament to my life.  I’m struggling to keep my footing.  The Holy Days of December and early January are beautiful and busy, busy. My family is fine, fighting stomach bugs, and colds, but well.

I pray in your world the same is true. 

But, to be honest, with the holidays behind us it is time to be real--they take a toll, I don’t know about you, but I find myself exhausted and dare I say a wee bit weary. January brings the birthday of a very important Irish Princess who turns 8. So no sooner do we say, “so long farewell” to the trio of Wise Men; we say hello to the birthday girl! 

So, I find it impossible this year to join the throngs of others; with their shiny new New Year’s TO-DO lists. The LIST of accomplishments that we need to do. To feel purposeful.  I have them too; O’ Lord how I have that list.  But tell me, how can we start the year off with a LIST, only to know that we are doomed for failure at the first missed day at the gym, first taste of chocolate or missed day of yoga?  I’m exhausted. So tell me why should we start off this New Year at such a deficit? 

My number one job for January, is to restore. 

This year I have decided to do something a little different. This year I’m going to delay the To-Do List. 

Instead, I will take the time to restore this mind, this body and this spirit. With warm soup and long days in comfy clothes, I will try out every pair of new slippers given as gifts. A huge thank you to my loves for that!

I will indulge in the candles and books that were gifts and nibble on the last treats. I will love myself into the end of the month and then begin my latest trek on the Pilgrimage.

I have decided to go on Retreat. 

Retreat to me is an opportunity of rebirth. As Catholics we love a good retreat. Religious go at least once a year, you go to beautiful, quiet surroundings and you connect with yourself and God. In some ways, it is the equivalent to a professor on sabbatical. Except it is only for a month, week or day or even a few stolen moments. A time where the outside world is shut-off and you focus on your internal life.  

Some may see it as narcissistic, but for me it’s survival, I need to slow down this outside world and re-boot.  But, my retreat is going to be all year. No, I’m not leaving this world, I will still drive carpool and make dinner. But, with a new focus. 

I will use my new favorite expression, “I would love to say yes, but I have to say no.”  It will become my mantra and everyone will tire of hearing it. But, say it I will.

So my goals of my Retreat are simple: 

Four steps, and if obligations arrive that don’t fit into these goals, well “I would love to say yes, but...”

1. Regain my Spiritual focus: through prayer, reading and relationships.  

2. Find religious and education opportunities for my children and family.

3. Work on my physical health through gentle movement, compassionate eating and forgiveness.

4. Detail my journey through PilgrimageGal.

To be completely honest, I don’t even know what theses goals mean yet, it is what feels real; has come to me in prayer and reflection. Maybe that is what I’m mean to discover this year. After all, that is the focus of a good retreat, to not necessarily find all the answers, but to be willing to do the work, and perhaps discover what the right questions should be. 

That’s what this Pilgrimage has been all along.

 So lace up the walking shoes, the journey is about to begin again anew. 

I feel forever blessed and humbled to be on this journey, to walk with so many loving guides, to learn from so many teachers and to be able to share this Pilgrimage with you. 

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you. 



Sooooooo, some things to tell you about. I'm giddy! Perhaps it's the green tea!

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