Get Thee to a Nunnery

Stained Glass

Stained glass window at the Presentation Center in Los Gatos, California

It’s been one of those weeks…

As soon as HapaPapa came home Friday evening, I handed off the kids, grabbed my overnight bag, and jumped in my minivan. I didn’t head for the nearest mall, nor did I meet the girls for a glass of wine.

I headed for the Presentation Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains for a one-night retreat put on by my church women’s group. Once a convent run by the Sisters of the Presentation, the site is still owned by the Catholic church but open to all kinds of groups for retreats and conferences.

Of course, this being me, not even a half-hour drive to a supposedly restful getaway could be uneventful. The empty gas tank light lit up right as I passed the last town on the freeway, and I decided to gut it out ’til I reached the retreat center. What I didn’t anticipate was that the center sits at the top of a winding mountain road, or that I’d be stuck in back of a slow moving car whose driver insisted on hitting the brakes at every… single… curve… losing all the precious momentum I was counting on to carry me up the hill. I did manage to waft into the parking lot and vowed to call AAA in the morning.

I’d never been to a convent before. Somethings were pretty much as I pictured: the sparse bedrooms with two twin beds and a crucifix on the wall. Other things were pleasantly surprising: the original California artwork on the walls of the hay bale eco-construction dining hall, as well as the delicious mahi-mahi, fresh mint in the cucumber salad, and the caramelized bread pudding.


fleur de lis fence

I loved this fleur-de-lis wall

I must confess, I felt a little guilty for going on this weekend. I have three vacations business trips planned in the next six months. The boys are going camping next weekend, too, so do I really need a “break”? Not to mention the looming deadlines and piles of laundry I really ought to be taking care of at home.

Guilt, guilt, guilt.

Really? I mean, if going away for a mere 24 hours for a CHURCH retreat is all I have to feel guilty about, then… I must really have a guilt complex. It reminds me of a conversation I had years ago, when I was lamenting to a co-worker about the many ways I felt I had let people down.

“You must have been raised Catholic,” she sympathized.

“No. Chinese.”

As I was telling a friend today, the older I get and the longer I’ve been a mother, the less patience I have. My jug of mommy patience just gets poured out more and more over the years. Add to that the juggle of working at home, volunteering at school, and trying to keep up appearances of being relatively together.

The only way of filling it back up is to take care of myself. Time away from the kids and husband is important. Giving myself some rest is important. Catching up with old friends and making new ones is important. Seeking God and spirituality is important.

By Saturday afternoon, I was relaxed enough to stop feeling apologetic and start enjoying the company — and my third mug of spiced apple cider. Our guest speaker cautioned, “You may feel joyful and peaceful right now, but Monday morning is back to life as usual.”

Monday morning? Try seven o’clock Saturday night, when there’s no dinner made, the kids are whiny, and the husband is congratulation himself for doing all the things you normally do every single day.

It’s only Sunday night, but I’m trying to draft off of the peace and joy I felt over the weekend. Remember driving up that hill Friday night with the tank on empty and not knowing whether I’d make it around the next bend or not? And then cruising into that parking lot? Yeah. I’m taking a mental snapshot and locking it away. After all, I’ll need it when the real Monday morning comes.



  1. says

    Lovely, Grace! It’s so hard for moms to get away even for a little while. I remember when my older son, then 4, raged at me for putting him in a timeout. He was told to sit quietly for 4 minutes, one minute for each year of his age. He screamed, “YOU need a timeout! You need a 36-minute timeout!” and I said, “I would love that.” :)

  2. says

    Good to hear that you took some time for yourself. The convent food sounds so yummy

    The deadlines and projects will always be there but if you don’t take time to relax and recharge then how can you tackle? Doesn’t the asian culture teach balance? :) *im teasing*

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