KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

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, 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
basil


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

Moonflower

pink climbing roses

large marigolds

small marigolds

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

Friday, September 05, 2014

7 Quick Takes: The new and the old


Teaching a college anatomy and physiology lab from 7pm to 10pm on Wednesday night followed by two Thursday morning labs from 7:30am to 1:30pm sounded like a good idea at the time I was arranging my schedule. When the alarm went off at 5:45am on Thursday morning I had second thoughts. However, enough coffee conquers all and all three labs went smoothly.
Walking around somewhat lost on a college campus brings back memories of my college freshman year. That was over 35 years ago. It must be easier for introverts these days because no one is making eye contact. They are all walking around looking at their phones.
In addition to starting a new teaching job and still continuing my old teaching job, I have started a new fitness program. I am tracking my food intake and exercise with MyFitnessPal.com. I had done this before and really did lose weight but eventually my tracking trailed off. Now my husband has joined me in the effort and it is a lot easier to keep up when we hold each other accountable. The database for foods is amazing on this site. There is certainly a lot more motivation to exercise when you get the instant gratification of more calories added to your daily allotment.
My husband and I walked the dogs to the nearby lake. It is just shy of three miles round trip. Was surprised to see there are already the first hints of fall colors. It is mostly in the low brush shrubs in the woods and not in the trees but there is no denying that our summer is waning.
The good news is that the farmers market is still going strong and will be open at least two more months. Picked up butternut squash, a tomato, some onions, bell peppers, and sweet corn. The sweet corn seems to be lasting a long time this year. My mother-in-law taught us a neat way to cook the corn quickly. Leave most of the husks on and throw in the microwave for 3 minutes per ear. The husks and silks just slide right off leaving nothing but the delicious corn. I also picked up a cantaloupe. Since our trip to Italy, cantaloupe and prosciutto has become a staple lunch.
Fresh farmers market produce makes meatless Fridays delicious. Last week I made polenta and topped it with sauteed squash, tomatoes, and onions. Today we grilled shrimp with the onions and bell peppers I bought yesterday, seasoned it with Cajun seasoning, and served it over brown rice. Topped it with diced tomatoes and had corn on the cob on the side.We've been sticking to meatless Fridays for a few years now. It is amazing how such a minimal sacrifice can help focus your faith.
Hoping to have three of our four children home for Sunday supper this weekend. Once the nest empties it feels like Christmas when more than one child is home. I am looking forward to hearing the lively voices and laughter that always accompanies their voices. Sometimes the dogs try to fill the noise void with their barks and howls. Definitely doesn't compare to having kids at home, even when the kids are all grown up.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Marking Time


Clock Tower, Piazza San Marco, Venice Italy


After a 30 year military career, we are used to marking time by our assignments. Memories are labeled according to where we were stationed. We were always on the move staying anywhere from one to four years in one spot. Stories usually begins, "When we were stationed in...".  The last twelve years, however, have been in one place. My husband came to the DC area thinking that it would be a one-year assignment. Instead, it ended up being three back-to-back DC assignments that spanned nearly 10 years. We put down a few roots over that time and when retirement came, we stayed put.

This past week I realized that when we moved into our previous assignment in Florida, my youngest child was the same age my granddaughter is now! How did that happen? That was just one assignment ago but it is actually a whole generation ago. In this new phase of our lives we have to mark time a little differently. I now think about events in terms of their relationship to military retirement or a child's wedding or a birth of a grandchild. I am learning a whole new frame of reference.

How do you mark time?

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes!


The youngest moved into the dorm this week! The 85 pound Lab/German Shepherd mix who shared his bed at night has decided he is lonely and wants to sleep with Mom, Dad, and the 65 pound Lab/Springer Spaniel mix who has already claimed a spot in Mom & Dad's bed.
The youngest moved into the dorm this week! Apparently so did my laundry baskets and laundry detergent. I guess I wanted new ones anyway.
The youngest moved into the dorm this week! But he is only 20 minutes or so down the road. And guess what?! I just got a job as an adjunct professor at the same university. I think I will be reclaiming some laundry baskets.
The youngest moved into the dorm this week! It is so hard to cook for just two people. I think it is time to invite the other empty nesters in the neighborhood to dinner.
The youngest moved into the dorm this week! And I think I should check the temperature of the Netherworld because he left his home bedroom and bathroom scrubbed clean and vacuumed!
The youngest moved into the dorm this week! I already miss him terribly. Praying for him and all the students starting school in the next couple of weeks.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Assisted Suicide is not Authentic Compassion


My latest article is up at Zenit.org. I address a bill being considered by the British Parliament to authorize physician assisted suicide. The article is being passed around a bit and the phrase that seems to be catching the attention is : "In every other instance, suicide is viewed as a tragedy...Why should it be any different for the disabled and dying?" 
I wrote and submitted this article before Robin Williams committed suicide. However, after the very public and passionate discussions of depression and suicide that followed his death, the publication of my article and that particular phrase has struck a chord with some. Here is an excerpt, but do go over to Zenit and read the whole article.
It is mental anguish, not physical suffering, that is the impetus for most patients requesting physician-assisted suicide. The legalization of assisted suicide suggests these fears are reasonable and hastening death is a viable solution. There is nothing compassionate about legalizing assisted suicide when it promotes such abject despair.
In every other instance, suicide is viewed as a tragedy. Those left behind often wonder what they could have done or said to prevent such an act of desperation. How could they have given the deceased hope and fostered a will to live? Why should it be any different for the infirm, the disabled, and the dying?
Instead of hastening their death we should be offering authentic compassion. The word “compassion” literally means to suffer with. We should be reassuring those who are tempted by assisted suicide that even though they are physically broken they have dignity and are cherished members of our human family. 

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