Visitation Villanelle

I came across a villanelle a few weeks ago and it made me want to try my hand at one again. It’s a fun form, like a puzzle, definitely structured but not too strict. So a few days after the feast of the Visitation, I started working on this. I looked back at it today and was surprised how much I liked it. Enough to share it, I guess. I started it during an adoration hour at the local convent and looked it over again there today. It struck me in a new way how cool it is to be made to create, to bring beauty into the world, alongside the Creator.

Romare Bearden, The Visitation (1941)

The Visitation is the name given to the visit Mary pays her cousin Elizabeth just after she has said, “Let it be unto me according to your word,” and is newly pregnant with God Incarnate. Elizabeth is an older woman, but also miraculously pregnant, with St. John the Baptist. It’s a visit of powerhouse saints/Jesus/Mother of God/the Holy Spirit all there present together in two bodies as these women greet each other with joy. John leaps in Elizabeth’s belly and she is filled with the Holy Spirit when she hears Mary’s greeting. She shouts, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” She seems to help make real for Mary all that has just happened, and is happening inside her body. And Mary then breaks into song, praising God. Like she’s been given permission to feel all the feels about this now.

The Visitation (hand version)
James B. Janknegt, The Visitation (2008)

This is probably my favorite encounter in Scripture. It’s a little like that quote, “Behind every great woman is another great woman replying to her frantic texts in the middle of the night.” That’s what the Visitation is for me. An image of two great women, doing amazing things, helping each other in that moment of WTF is happening – can I really do this? Mary needed someone to have her back as she set about doing the impossible, and that someone was Elizabeth. To me, the story seems told from Elizabeth’s perspective, so that’s how the poem came out, too. I don’t normally share my poems at all – this feels very vulnerable! – but it also feels like it was meant to be shared. Maybe it’ll encourage you to do that creative thing you feel like you don’t have permission to do.

Mariotto Albertinelli


Janet McKenzie, Visitation 

Visitation Villanelle


She came to me, the mother of my Lord,

and grinned with amazement at the sight.

All creation with me seemed to roar.


Grey haired, belly swollen like a gourd,

I stood to kiss her in the morning light.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.


Her voice, as she crossed the threshold of my door,

rang through my womb –  from a great height,

all creation with me seemed to roar.


The baby leapt – tethered only by the cord.

The joy coursing through us! I shouted outright.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.


Already she faced her share of the sword

She who believed all God said would be, might –

All creation with me seemed to roar.


Blessed one! With your yes you moved us toward

the home we long for, and all things made right.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.

All creation with me seemed to roar.

The Visitation icon

savoring summer (a pep talk)

Since coming up with my ambitiously chill summer to do list, I got hit with a wave of feeling majorly blah about summer. Most of the friends I’ve made in South Bend are connected to Notre Dame, and therefore have reasons/the freedom to travel with their families in the summer. So while I’m glad to be home, it’s a bummer to be one of the few in town. It’s given me a glimpse of what it would feel like to move somewhere new and not know anyone. When we moved last July into University Village, I pretty much instantly made friends. And they were my neighbors. Play dates and babysitting swapping were so logistically easy, it was crazy. It was like freshman year dorm level instant besties with other moms out on the playground. I was amazed and grateful, but, like everything, began to take it for granted.

I’ve been listening to a podcast series called “Grown-Upping the Summer,” and they talked about summer being a time to focus on connection. My first thought was, but everyone’s gone! I have no one to connect with! But then I realized that this maybe was an invitation for me to try to lean in and savor the glories of summer with my girls as they are right now. 14 months and coming up on 3 means days segmented around naps, usually with a morning outing and then hanging out around the house until Chris gets home. Dinner on the back deck at 5:45 and bedtime at 6:45 and 7:30. Routine, routine. Mornings are my favorite and I realized this week I want to try to be more mindful of enjoying the time I get with just Evangeline, when Zelie is taking her first nap. Instead of trying to get a bunch of things done in that time, sitting down with her while she splashes naked in the pool, or reading books, or doing play dough together. She’ll be going to preschool in the fall so I won’t have mornings with her fairly soon, which makes these ones sweeter. (I’m trying to remind myself.)

Zelie is also at just about the cutest stage ever, I think. Her waddle, her babbling, her weird sign language sign that means FOOD NOW, her spitting water all over herself and me when she drinks. And she’s still so small and cuddly. I wanted to wean her this summer but now I’m like, she’s my baby! Plus I really don’t know how to go about doing that. But lately there’s been times when she does something and I think, it’s crazy how much cuteness is in my life. And then other times when I think, it’s crazy how many poopy diapers I change in a day. 

That face.

They both love getting out of the house so I’ve been trying to take them fun places. We did the zoo and the park on Thursday, a strawberry u-pick on Friday, and the farmer’s market this morning. Evange did great at the farm and actually picked a bunch of strawberries! And was very protective of them.

Chris will have a lighter load after this week and I’m hoping to schedule in some regular time for myself. But otherwise, trying to enjoy a hot, humid Indiana summer with two baby babes and really soak it all in.

(Eating the fruits of our labor. With Strawberry Bourbon Shortcakes minus the bourbon and mascarpone.)

summer to do list

This time last year we had a two month old and were gearing up for a cross country move and road trip with two babies under two. This summer is about chilling hard. Chris is taking Latin and we are home until a little road trip vacation to Rhode Island the first two weeks of August, before his fall semester starts. I want to keep things simple and enjoy this season, but also have some things to point back to and say, I did this, I had a good summer. So this is my super easy to do list for summer 2018.

  • read books (including fave summer re-reads – we’re on HP #3 audio and I’m reading Anne of the Island)
  • Frequent trips to the library to beat the heat and summer reading program 😍
  • keep the garden going
  • try not to kill all the houseplants
  • get Zelie sleeping through the night
  • move the girls into one room
  • get to the beach sometimes weekly
  • get to the nearby convent to pray sometimes weekly
  • exercise in the humidity somehow
  • learn to make margaritas and keep trying new recipes from the amazingly huge Cook’s Illustrated cookbook that Maya gave me 🙌🏼
  • go see a few movies by myself (Oceans 8 is the only one on my list. what other movies are coming out this summer? I live under a rock.)

That’s it!

What’s on your list for the summer?

ridin solo


It’s like S-O-L-O. Okay, I still have two days left of this so I’m really tempting the crazy toddler fates by blogging now, but this past week with Chris away has gone wildly better than I feared, and this is why. I know you are dying to know.

The interwebs. FaceTime and WhatsApp are amazing. What an age we live in. And Evange has only cried for Daddy once so far.

A potty miracle. Evangeline is back to normal in this arena. I know on an intellectual level that my mood shouldn’t be affected by my toddler’s behavior, but try telling me that when she is constantly doing little poops in her underwear all day. However, that has not been the case (I have received this as a wondrous gift) and she’s woken up in the mornings in a great mood and it’s set the tone for the day. Wooooooo hoooooo!


Amazing family and friends. My mom arrived the day Chris left and stayed for three and a half days. It was so fun to have her here! Once she left, I received a barrage of kindness in the form of babysitting, meals provided, meal invitations extended, playdates, and a second trip up to South Haven to play all day with my sister’s in-laws who adore the girls. So grateful. (They even watched the girls so I could get to a Saturday vigil mass, thereby avoiding doing zone defense on Sunday morning.)

Summertime exploring. I’ve remembered that (when I have no other choice) I really love finding free events to take the girls to. We hit up South Bend’s Best. Week. Ever/First Friday and it was great. Evange loved the different concerts (including Dan the Music Man, hilarious) and walking across the overpass over the St. Joseph River that runs through downtown. She tried really hard to get a dance party started but no one else was feeling it. Today we drove up to a bluegrass festival along the river front of Niles, MI. Another free event with music and a river, another win.

Relaxing the screen time rules. AKA giving into Evangeline’s demands for movies more often than normal and telling myself not to feel guilty about it.

Introverting hard. Without Chris around, I’ve been reading a lot after bedtime. I finished Someone by Alice McDermott (I think I’ll keep going backward chronologically and read all her novels), One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler (finished this one super fast, 10/10 recommend), and now I’m working on Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. It’s my first time reading anything by him and I’m loving it so far. Not sure exactly why I started with this one, but I want to read his poems and essays too.

Sleep. The girls are sleeping well. Zelie went three nights in a row with no night feedings, which was a first. Another unexpected grace.

And that’s it! This is the longest I’ve been apart from Chris, and it’s weird. It’s given me new empathy for parents who have spouses who are deployed, or travel often for work, or are incarcerated. I’ve been trying to offer up the hard moments for them.