A Day on El Camino

“The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.” –GK Chesterton

Never have I understood these words more than while walking the ancient pilgrimage called El Camino. It will be different for each peregrino, but my two weeks along The Way quickly became a steady parade of reminders for “how rare and beautiful it is to even exist” (song). As always, the peace comes just in time.

During my college years, I’d fallen in love with learning more than ever before. I became swept up in gathering information and hypothesizing about the world we live in, but from time to time, there was also an inner voice bidding me to be silent… to just take everything in. Through the hustle-bustle of costs, benefits, projects, and papers, I had willingly brushed aside my childlike capability for wonder. After four semesters too long, I finally rediscovered my balance– a sort of necessary rhythm emerging between fervent knowledge acquirement and quiet awe. Luckily, this is also exactly the kind of thing that a walking pilgrimage engrains within you. 🙂

To commemorate the end of that life-chapter, I’ve decided to write-up the happenings of a typical day on El Camino. The narrative is simple– walk, talk, eat, sleep– and the fluidity of the days made them nearly as a dream (save the very real blisters and ever-pressing laundry needs). Buen camino!

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5:53 am: Waking up seven minutes before my alarm (courtesy of my heavy Polish bunk-neighbor thumping to the ground), I gather that half the room has already emptied out. The older couples like to hit the trail before the day heats up. I emerge from my cocoon sleep-sack, since it’s usually smart to follow the older and wiser. 😉

6:00 am: The rest of our group begins to awake, and we greet each other with a sleepy nod and smile while stumbling to brush our teeth in the dorm-style bathroom. Wow, my nose and shoulders got some serious sun yesterday… those pack straps are going to feel grrrrreat!

6:30 am: On our way, at last! The air is magnificently fresh in the morning, and our group decides to stop at the next town over (someone said its “only 4km away”) for the usual chocolate croissants and cafe con leche. The sleep-soreness is worked out of my body as I hit my stepping rhythm.

8:00 am: We step onto those narrow cobble-stone streets, just as the special Camino cafes begin to open– since the usual opening time for any business in Spain is actually around 10am… (what a life!). It is very common to find that the cafe and hostal owners were once Camino peregrinos themselves, who have decided to stay. This establishment is no exception, and while I wait in line for my espresso, I gaze at their grainy old Camino photos on the walls.

11:30 am: Since we’ve fallen behind a km or so, Favorite Pilgrim and I decide to rest for a hot minute, snacking on almonds and taking in the poppy-speckled wheat fields that cloak the sun-soaked hillsides. Turns out, nature’s fruitful offering is more effective at healing aching bodies than Advil 🙂

1:30 pm: We’ve arrived into our final town for the day! This hostal looks divine– a neat, clean little gift from God. We bring out our pilgrim passports to be stamped while eagerly looking at the peaceful wading pool and hammocks that grace our newest residence.

2:00 pm: The cool showers can wait just a little while longer while we trade our boots for a pair of breathable flip-flops and stumble into the neighboring cafe for lunch sandwiches. It feels so good to sit around, eating and drinking and sharing stories from the other peregrinos we met today along the way. (It has been said that the Camino is the world’s largest walking group therapy…haha).

4:00 pm: Laundry hooray! These words will come back to bite me one day, but I actually have a real love of doing laundry… it’s sooo soothing.

5:00 pm: Interspersed exploration, chatting with other peregrinos (the “so why are you walking the Camino” conversation starter is a tried and true favorite) and card games until…

7:00 pm: Mass time! We pilgrims join the local daily-Mass-goers for the sacred celebration, which always concludes with a special pilgrim blessing. This time, the twinkly-eyed priest demanded that each nationality sings a hymn in their native tongue. Forced performance is good for humility, and I’ll never forget the Italian couple whose (clearly) polished performance put us all to shame 😉

8:00 pm: Dinner (at last). Bring forth the three courses of salad, seafood, ice cream and unlimited vino! I take a moment to admire the bubbling, cross-border camaraderie. People can be so good.

10:00 pm: Fortunately, the hostal curfew doesn’t mean the merriment has to end. Here’s to the nights of bunk-jumping, story-sharing, and giggling ourselves to sleep! Before submitting to the exhaustion, I lift up my heart to the One who gave me feet, food, friends, and the beautiful Christian faith… and I pray for the chance to do it all again tomorrow 🙂

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If there is anything I’m taking with me from the pilgrimage, and if there is any reason that you should consider El Camino, it is this:

“If you become Christ’s you will stumble upon wonder upon wonder, and every one of them true.” — St. Brendan of Birr

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Running Without Arriving

“If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)

The weather gods have been good to little Omaha, Nebraska this week. We began with classes called off for two “ice-days” in a row and have closed up the weekend with three days that reached the high 40s. Spring broke the rules to speak to our sun-deprived faces. Do you ever sit back and wonder at the weather? Truly miraculous, I tell you.

So, there I was on my jog today, carried away in the game where I imagine where each person is going, and what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. Perhaps you’ve played it before as well. The sun began to set, and my exuberant thoughts turned to where I was inevitably going, formulating a vague gameplan for the evening. I didn’t get very far though, because as I explored the mental catalogue of potential delightful activities, I began to wonder at why I enjoy my hobbies so much. (And now you know why I’m so absentminded 90% of the time.)

What is it about running? What is it about writing? Why music? Why painting? Why reading?

Five strides later, the answer came to me as clear as day: at the end of it all, I never truly arrive anywhere. Whenever I lose myself in my hobbies (a welcome loss indeed), there is a lingering sense of “almost, but not yet.” That’s precisely why I always reach for more– one more beautiful jog, one more enlightening book. Prolonging the runner’s high is like begging that gloriously orange sun not to set, trying to escape the inevitable swallowing-up.  “For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinth. 7:31). All races, essays, songs, artworks, books, hours, years, and even lifetimes must come to an end.

Ernest Hemingway has said it thus: “For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.”

That is how I found myself bumping into yet another paradox of our humanity. Though I cannot (yet?) enjoy the perfect jog or write the perfect essay (and goodness knows every five-year-old is closer to the perfect painting than I am), the fire inside still urges me to pursue these things.  My hobbies cannot teach me perfection, but that can teach me about beauty and goodness. The higher builds upon the lower. As nearly always, St. John Paul II fulfills my reflection by guiding me to the things I knew that I was missing, but couldn’t see clearly enough to name:

“Saint Bonaventure, who in introducing his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum invites the reader to recognize the inadequacy of ‘reading without repentance, knowledge without devotion, research without the impulse of wonder, prudence without the ability to surrender to joy, action divorced from religion, learning sundered from love, intelligence without humility, study unsustained by divine grace, thought without the wisdom inspired by God‘ ” (John Paul II, Fides et Ratio)

In other words, I’m not running for nothing. I’m doing it so I can be a better gift.

Sehnsucht in the Library of Congress

Deep calleth unto deep. –Psalm 42:7

It is no accident that lofty thoughts blossom forth in beautiful places.

But the really interesting thing is that man’s monuments and God’s landscapes do not push inspiration from the outside-in; rather, they engender a planted seed. Something already in us resounds and responds in harmony. An easy example is the clarity that emerges from our muddled minds when we find ourselves in the presence of a thundering waterfall, opulent temple, star-speckled sky, or keeping quiet vigil as the baby sleeps on our chest. In forgetting ourselves through contemplation, we feel as if we have returned to ourselves. There is a mystery in that.

It is for this reason that I’ve found myself studying in the Library of Congress lately (…also did I mention that they have a fantastic gift shop?). The magnificent trappings of the exterior and interior are undeniably conducive to good work. While reading (this and listening to this) in the company of new-friend and very-new-friend, I took a pause to look up and noticed eight named figures, History, Commerce, Religion, Science, Law, Poetry, Philosophy, and Art, encircling the dome.

Above each was an inscription:


IMG_2064History: One God, one law, one element, and one far-off divine event, to which the whole creation moves. —Tennyson

Commerce: We taste the prices of Arabia, yet never feel the scorching sun which brings them forth. —Anon

Religion: What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? —Micah 6:8

Science: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. –Psalm 19:1

Law: Of law there can be no less acknowledged that her voice is the harmony of the world. —Hooker

Poetry: Hither, as to their fountain, other stars repairing, in their golden urns draw light. —Milton

Philosophy: The inquiry, the knowledge, and belief of truth is the sovereign good of human nature. –Bacon

Art: As one lamp lights another, not grows less, so nobleness enkindleth nobleness. —Lowell


How marvelous that a cluster of words, written down by a human being long ago, still calls out to us with power. No person enters the channels of time without leaving an impact, but it’s clear that a select few have been gifted with the most eloquent (or frankly boisterous) voices around our large family dinner table. Though the intellectual in me is sorely tempted to add my cluttered commentary to each phrase, I instead want to focus on the small, silent whisper threaded throughout each of them: There is something greater to come.

So the takeaway from this little rumination? Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that this is all there is. There’s a reason you feel more at home in beautiful places than anywhere else.

You were made for something more.

Walker & Sasse: Fathers for the Founding Fathers

If you are interested in models for the kind of political leadership that our Founding Fathers had in mind, look to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Nebraskan Senator Ben Sasse. These two continue to earn my deep respect as they have done great things for the states I call home and now are speaking up to hold our nation to the high standard for which we were founded.

And needless to say, their movement is coming just in time.

Both Walker and Sasse defend the free market and traditional values that are the bedrock of our great American society, though my particular admiration is sparked by how they do so. If you have ever cared to know what’s at stake when endless debates about politics seem to pollute the public square, I highly suggest this succinct speech by Senator Sasse about family. 

The rhetoric and actions of Governor Walker are courageous and straightforward, demonstrated as he stood firm about making Wisconsin a right-to-work state. The reality that such virtues demand respect was evidenced as he emerged victorious from the recall election by a greater margin than his original win. Secondly, he has the mind of a principled business leader as he balanced the budget, by lowering taxes, reducing regulation, and cut funding to Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin. And last, if this quote from his speech as he dropped out of the GOP race doesn’t embody the ideal of a servant leader, I’m not sure what does: 

“The Bible is full of stories about people called to be leaders… I believe I am being called to lead to help clear the field in this race.” 

My esteem of Senator Sasse arises because he has the well-rounded attributes of a great historian and communicator. Knowledge of history is indispensable for understanding why our founding principles are worthy of conservation in the first place (and I’m tempted to believe that there is a correlation between the quality of our public school history classes and the slipping sense of civic duty.) His scholarliness is evident in his speeches through easy references to Tocqueville’s notion of voluntary association, Burke’s conservative principles, Madison’s view on limited government, and even Aristotle on friendship, though his real wisdom is the way he presents these timeless truths with compassion and humor.

An argument may be valid, but it must also be understood to be great.

And last, exhibiting the difference between meaningful quotes and soundbites, Sasse has articulated the meaning of America in the best way I’ve yet heard:

“Limited government is not an end in itself. Limited government is a way to constrain the things that could displace those institutions and those transmission opportunities that define what is fully meaningful in human life.”

2014: A Few of My Favorite Things

Buenos días! I’m currently running on Dominican time, which means that although the working world has properly celebrated and moved on with the New Year, I am taking my sweet time to savor this new beginning. The idea hit me while I was eating toast and drinking juice this morning that it might be nice to compile an orderly summary of impactful, memorable pieces I encountered in 2014. So thus, here we are:

A Few of My Favorite Books:

1. Man’s Search For Meaning By: Viktor Frankl

There is no language strong enough to describe my love for this text. The reader faces a new portion of wisdom with each page, and consequently, the desire to share it with the world. If you do anything at all in the new year, READ THIS LITTLE BOOK.

2. Guns, Germs, and Steel By: Jared Diamond

While this is admittedly a formidable chunk of literature, it contains many answers to historical questions and a solidly thought-out thesis, making it well worth the time investment.

3. Walden By: Henry David Thoreau

Grab this classic piece of American literature to revel in next to a crackling fire and a cup of hot cocoa. Thoreau has some very healthy thoughts; we would do well to spend some time ruminating upon his perspective.

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People By: Dale Carnegie

This is basically an instruction manual for people. Even my 17-yr old bother – oh I mean brother – read it and liked it. Carnegie knew what it’s all about and successfully conveys that wisdom in his book.

5. Defending the Free Market By: Rev. Robert Sirico

I first encountered Fr. Sirico when my Macroeconomics class was lured from our warm beds earlier this year to catch his 8am speech. I was shocked to find myself 110% captivated by his words and even distraught when it was over. Immediately purchasing and reading his book, I’ve been a fan ever since. He succinctly professes common-sense truths that the reader will recognize are familiar to himself.

*Honorable Mention: The Beautiful and the Damned By: F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Few of My Favorite Recipes:

1. Whole Wheat Greek Yogurt Pancakes : Drizzle with honey and cinnamon and you get pure BLISS. And this is coming from a girl who typically doesn’t like pancakes.

2. Pumpkin and Chickpea Hot Pot : Stumbled upon this beauty while researching vegetarian recipes for my Fall service trip. It’s a perfect blend of homey yet exotic flavors.

3. Parker House Rolls Recipe : The credit goes to my little sister for first discovering this one– hands down the best rolls our Thanksgiving table ever saw, and that’s saying a lot.

4. Skinny Spinach and Artichoke Dip : My go-to when I’m expecting to entertain company. While that level of planning usually doesn’t happen in the collegiate lifestyle, it’s still a delicious back-pocket kind of deal.

5. Fairy Bread : There’s just something about it. 🙂

*Honorable Mention: Pandan Rice Cake. Watch the entirety of this video and you will get the daily crying-laughing bout you deserve. Also, will someone please actually make this and get back to me so I can try some.

A Few of My Favorite Articles:

1. 5 Lessons Running Has Taught Me

2014 was the year that I took up running at least 5x a week, and it has been the best decision I’ve made to date.

2. Looking For Home In All The Wrong Places, How Traveling Made The World My Home

“Traveling may not seem like it, but the feeling of pure bliss that I get when I see a place with my own eyes that I have admired for years from pictures and books, is the most consistent feeling I have ever known.”

3. Bakeries Around the World You Should Visit Before You Die

This. Only because I joke (but not really) that my backup plan in life is to move to Assisi, Italy and open a small bakery. Be prepared to massively crave the cutest carbs…

4. Writers and Their Books: Inside Famous Authors’ Personal Libraries

I just can’t wait to have a personal library of my own someday…

5. A Day in the Life of an Economic Officer

Absolutely exhilarating. It feels more than good to be working toward a goal, and this blog has been helpful beyond belief.

*Honorable Mention: Marriage Isn’t For You

A Few of My Favorite Places:

1. Milwaukee Public Market & Flavors

When an old friend makes an appearance in either Milwaukee or Omaha, these are the primary feeding locations that pop into my mind and rightfully so. Not only does each offer top-notch meals, snacks, or drinks, but the atmospheres are simply spot-on. Grab a few friends and do your tongue and tummy a favor.

2. Oriental Theater & Film Streams

My go-to movie locations. The Oriental is positively majestic and guarantees a breathtaking movie experience, while Film Streams is convenient, clean, and excellent at what they do.

3. St. John’s Church at Creighton

Two words: Bell tower.

4. Milwaukee Art Museum & Joslyn Art Museum

The kind of places you can wander through all day without even realizing it, and still leave wanting more.

5. Maxim’s & Fox and Hounds & WheatFields

Is there ANYTHING more heavenly than a properly done brunch?

*Honorable Mention: Fresh Fresh cafe in Cabarete

A Few of My Favorite Quotes:

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

-William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

“If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say.”

– Ann Patchett

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love
with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
-Fr. Arrupe

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful — that will be my life.”

-Elsie de Wolfe

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

-Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest