Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Empty Nest Advent

This has been a very different sort of Advent. For the first time since 1986, I have no children in the house as we wind our way towards Christmas. The good news is that the house will be once again filled on Christmas Day. But that does not change the eerie quiet of the last few weeks. There was no discussion of who lights the Advent wreath or where the penguin ornaments should be hung or whose turn is it to mark the Advent calendar. Even one grown child living at home gives me more incentives to mark and observe the season well. My husband went out with no kids to help him and bought the tree. He put the lights on and I put the ornaments on. Just two old adults getting ready for Christmas.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. This is just a different thing. After decades of Advents with traditions geared towards keeping children focused on the true meaning of Christmas it is interesting to continue the motions and realize that I am doing this for my husband and myself now. The music, the decorations, the lighting of Advent candles, the Nativity scene, and the prayers have less of a catechetical mission and are more introspective.

I know there are single adults, couples without children, and other couples who have been doing the Advent without children for a while. This is just a transition for us that I didn't anticipate. I know we will figure it out and learn what is valuable for us to do and what is no longer relevant. In the meantime, I am just muddling through this Advent, wondering when my house got so quiet.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gratitude for Imperfections and a lost potato masher.

As a military wife for 30 years I dealt with the unpredictable life of short-notice relocations, deployments, and household emergencies. It just seemed to be the rule that major appliances break when my husband is away. Blizzards, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes are all more likely when I am on my own.

Perhaps because there was so much disorder that was out of my control, I was very protective of the order I could control. This was and is still especially true of my kitchen. (When my husband retired he was given strict orders to keep his engineering optimization tendencies away from my kitchen!) Family members only visited one or two times per year because we lived so far away. They would often try to help me in my kitchen. I found it very stressful. They did not know my system and it seemed a futile exercise to try and teach them the system when they were going to leave soon and probably not visit again until we were in a new house with a new system. Once they were gone, I felt burdened by trying to find all my things that had been helpfully put away but not where I normally put them. I remember breaking down into tears because I could not find the potato masher.

However, that lost potato masher made me take a hard look at myself. I was sobbing over a five-dollar kitchen tool. No one intentionally hid it from me. No one was trying to create chaos in my life. Someone had tried to help me out and ease my burdens and I was angry because they had done it imperfectly. So I recast the situation. Wasn't I fortunate that someone cared about me enough to want to make my life easier? Wasn't I fortunate that family members wanted to take time out of their lives to visit me? Wasn't I fortunate that my family members were still healthy enough to be able to visit? The lost potato masher seemed pretty insignificant in comparison.

I always think about that around Christmas when there are so many memories of wonderful family visits. I would not trade a perfectly organized kitchen for any of those memories. I am grateful for that lost potato masher because it offered a moment of grace to rethink my priorities and to be thankful for imperfections.

Friday, December 05, 2014

A "Gruber" Moment?

  • Upfront admission. I dared to disagree with Simcha Fisher on her Facebook page a few months ago and was thoroughly castigated by her friends and  fans. I swore I would never try to have a reasonable discussion in a Facebook combox again. I was called uneducated, a wannabe writer, and a troll who was just trying to get clicks for her own blog. 
  • Which is why I am writing here. Her most recent article for the National Catholic Register, Broken Windows and Depersonalization is actually very good. So it is really frustrating to see the following exchange between her husband and Register columnist Mark Shea in her Facebook comments about this article: 

  • Damien Fisher The Register commenters are living up to expectations. The real culprit in Garner's death seems to be the welfare state. Also, fatherless homes require a police state, so what are you gonna do? Plus, the protesters are making people late for work, which is really inconsiderate.
    17 hrs · Edited · Like · 6
  • Mark Shea Damien Fisher: You beat me to it. A cop could walk up to a black guy, shout "Revenge for the South!" and discharge his service revolver right between his eyes and there would *still* be a good 5-10% of Register comboxes posts explaining that it was justified, the victim had it coming, and we need to reverently never question the Power Figure in Uniform when he deploys Sacred Fascistic Violence against the weak person in dark skin.
    15 hrs · Like · 2

This is coming on the heels of Fisher's post on inappropriate responses to allegations of rape that she claims are coming from "Conservative Catholics". She names no names and links to no web sites. She just says this is what conservative Catholics are saying. You know, her point could be made just as well without smearing Catholics in the process. I would guess that most readers of the National Catholic Register would consider themselves conservative, orthodox, traditional, faithful, or some other such adjective.

So do Simcha Fisher and Mark Shea really regard their readers with such disdain? Are they the Catholic equivalent of Jonathan Gruber and laughing all the way to the bank as they manipulate those clods who read the Register?

I have no idea. You will have to ask them. What I do think is that this sort of broad brush labeling is exactly the kind of depersonalization Simcha Fisher is arguing against in her piece linked above. We don't need more labels and categories. We need to listen to each other as individuals and address each other as individuals. It is very lazy to refute an argument by just claiming someone's viewpoint is unworthy of consideration because of some ideological label. For example:  "You know his opinion is suspect because he reads the National Catholic Register, likes the Latin Mass, works at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, votes Republican, etc."

I am also very certain that you can search my blog and come up with a long list of examples where I have done the same sort of thing. I am guessing that many of us are guilty of this. What I am suggesting is that we make ourselves more aware of how destructive this tactic is. It is great for preaching to the choir and rallying your base. But it does nothing for reconciliation and advancing civil discourse. We accomplish nothing if we depersonalize and demonize those with whom we have ideological disagreements. 

This is not to say that we ignore statistics. We can analyze demographics for trends and use that information to help craft solutions to poverty, crime, addiction, or any other social ill, but individuals are not statistics. They are unique human beings with unique stories. Likewise, I can assess the odds of a person having a given viewpoints based on whether he reads the National Catholic Reporter or the National Catholic Register; whether he votes for Democrats or Republicans; whether he drives a pick up truck or a Prius. However, I cannot know for sure until I talk to him. I drive a Prius and love to shop at the farmers' markets but contrary to many people's assumptions, I am not an environmental activist. 

It would have been very easy to write this post without giving specific examples and just complain about "professional Catholic bloggers", the "Patheos" mafia, and other euphemisms as is often done in the blogosphere. But such vague and veiled references offers no opportunity to correct misunderstandings. So I am going to do my best to talk about specifics and avoid such imprecision. If others do as well, perhaps we can recover some degree of civility in public discourse.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Where have I been?!

I have been at my keyboard but the words have been showing up in places other than here. I thought I would catch you up.

My most recent article is up at Catholic Stand today. I've covered the topic on this blog before, but it is always good to remember that we are all prodigal sons and daughters so when lost sheep return home for Christmas we should welcome them with love and mercy.

I still have a monthly column at My November column looked at the many ways our culture diminishes femininity and demeans women.

In October my Zenit column argued against the perception that physical and intellectual challenges make life disposable. Read Down syndrome Does Not Make Life Disposable.

In September I looked at the next issue to be advocated by the architects of Obamacare: age based rationing of health care. See When Utilitarianism Designs a Healthcare System.

I have tons of ideas for blog posts swimming around in my head. I hope to get more of them on paper.

Advent blessings to all!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Decluttering my heart

I just returned from a visit to my father's house. It is still hard saying, "to my father's house" instead of "to my parents' house". This February will mark four years since my mother died. For some reason, I felt her absence in the house more acutely than I had on previous visits. Maybe it was because I was there with my daughter who as the only granddaughter held a very special place in my mother's heart.

As I do every visit, I picked a corner of the house and helped my Dad sort and purge. This time it was the room my mother had used as her office as she worked tirelessly for Gabriel Project or promoting the Divine Mercy devotion. Amidst the stacks of papers and prayer cards was the evidence of decades of service. I wish I had expressed to her my admiration of her work. Though in hindsight, I am not sure I really appreciated all she did. I was far too focused on our mother-daughter relationship to be cognizant of the world she inhabited outside her role as Mom.

Our relationship was complicated. But I don't think that is unique at all. Literature, television shows, and movies are quick to show the grossly dysfunctional relationships or the idealistically beautiful ones. What is rarely captured is the realistic messy day-to-day love of imperfect human beings. Mom and I loved each other but we hurt each other too. I don't think either of us were malicious in our intentions but we often struggled to forgive and move on. Yet in spite of our pride, selfishness, and insecurities we muddled through.

In today's me-centered ethos the psychologists would be quick to encourage each of us to protect ourselves from the hurts and leave the relationship. Don't let the other saddle you with baggage. You don't have to take this anymore. I have to admit it was tempting at times to follow that path. But in my heart I knew that I could not turn my back on my mother any more than she could really turn her back on me.  

Walking through the house now, I am so grateful for the grace that kept us together. Perhaps because our relationship could be so challenging I cherish our loving bond even more. In every room there is some kind of memento of our times together. A birthday gift, an item purchased on one of our many shopping adventures, or a plant purchased when she visited my home all remind me of the joyful times we shared. 

My mother was a bit of a pack rat so after one of these sort and purge sessions I always have the urge to return home and clean out one of my own closets. Clutter accumulates insidiously and it is easier to attack it early instead of waiting until the task is overwhelming.Today, however, I am thinking about more than the clutter of paper, old clothes, and  worn out household items. I am pondering the clutter of my heart. I can look at several relationships in my life that are cluttered with old hurts, grudges, petty annoyances, and selfish pride. Perhaps it is time to do a little purging. I am under no delusions that these relationships will be easy or that I can just will away the hurts and hurdles. But what I can do is pray for the grace to forgive and to be open to reconciliation. I can love in spite of the mutual imperfections.  I know it is possible because that is what Mom and I did. I can hope that one day others will do the same.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Occupations and Vocation

Today at Catholic Stand I revisit a topic I have written about several times: balancing professional and domestic life. This most recent reflection approaches the topic from my role as a teacher of college students.

Another semester is beginning, and I am back in the classroom, teaching young college students about the parts and pieces of the human body. I stand before them and introduce myself as “Dr. Hunnell, a family physician”. At some point in the coming weeks, I will begin to get the questions:
“Why aren’t you seeing patients anymore?”
“Don’t you feel like you are wasting your education?”
“Couldn’t you make more money being a doctor?”
They come every semester, and I still hesitate a little bit when I answer them. How do I encourage them to push themselves to reach their professional goals when I have walked away from my own career as a doctor?
Head on over to Catholic Stand for the answers to these questions! 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

God's Handwriting

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s hand-writing—a way-side sacrament; welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower, and thank for it Him, the fountain of all loveliness, and drink it in, simply and earnestly, with all your eyes; it is a charmed draught, a cup of blessing.--Charles Kingsley

We went to Mass last night so this morning offered an opportunity to walk through my garden. I haven't tended it as much this year as in other years because we have done so much traveling, but the beauty is still there.
jalepeno peppers

rosemary & thyme

turtlehead flowers with a few mums in the foreground

white hydrangeas with pink aster in the background

morning glories

the last of the summer four o'clocks, yellow canna lilies, and the fall sedum just starting to turn pink

Aster and coneflowers


pink climbing roses

large marigolds

small marigolds

Lots of marigolds grown from seeds gathered from last year's flowers