Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Besties in Life

There's a lot to be said about friendship. Last night, I spent 2.5 hours with my elusive best friend/ college roommate/ partner in cheese eating via the internet, catching up and guffawing over our favorite t.v. show. The night before, I spent almost 3+ hours outside a local ice cream shop catching up with a very dear friend, who lives in a cold state far from me.

I do not see either of these ladies regularly, nor do we talk as often as I wish we could, as we did when roomie lived with me and dear friend lived across the hall. I have similar tales to share about other friends. I re-read an e-mail last night of another dear friend, who is moving across the country (although much closer to his hometown!) for residency, and I was embarrassed that I didn't even reply to his e-mail yet. And he moves tomorrow!

But perhaps there is beauty in these meetings and catch-ups; meaning too. When I read A's e-mail, I didn't feel like we were falling apart. I could hear him talking to me about Rambo Jesus and I craved to hear details about his overseas trip with his now-fiancee, especially since "busy" season will befall him soon enough.

In one month, I move 12-13 hours south of my hometown with my dearest friend and husband. We'll start to truly be in a more cocooned environment of him and work, and a baby, and me and writing. We'll keep in touch, but it's going to be different. And that's how it should be.

I don't expect to be gchatting with my friends at all hours of the day any more; we're not able to, since we're working or sleeping or eating during the times we'd be on our computer at college.

I don't write as many letters any more, although I hope to amend that.

I think of good times and happy times and trying times, and the people who stick through the stink. I think of my M&M friends, roommates who lived across the hall from me freshman year, and who are now sharing in the same life experiences I am. We feel so blessed to share our experiences with each other. When we're a bit more settled, we can start to plan annual trips. Until then, we group message to catch-up. 

I think of friends in the big city and career-advancing, and friends in other areas, enjoying their work and life. I think of my best friend from high school living up the street from my parents' house, and how we're still taking walks and talking about everything. I think of my oldest friend living on the West Coast, soaking up sun and texting me funny pictures of her family's pug. 

Friends are not the quantity, but the quality. The ones you can disagree with and know the love is still there. The ones you can vent to and not leave the conversation hoping they think you're still sane. The ones you want to share your life with, and share in theirs too. 

I missed two weddings this past weekend -- both my Bright Maiden amigas are now Mrs. and Mrs., and I have yet to troll their wedding pictures until I can be less sad about missing the blessed events. And yet, how blessed I was to be with my whole new family this past weekend in Missouri, celebrating my new cousin's high school graduation!

And the best friends of my past and present, my siblings, are ever amusing me in their own unique ways - dogs included!

You see, we get to move forward together. We get to add new kids to the mix and life experiences and stay firm in our friendship while growing personally and professionally. We'll sharpen each other and poke each other, laugh a lot, confide in and maybe cry occasionally. 

Life is too short to be anything but gracious and kind to others. It's not necessary to be friends with everyone, or even like them, but love - caritas - is beyond that goodly feeling one gets around like-minded souls. And it is in that kindness that a desire for friendship can be kindled. It is an openness to accept others, as well as to live a life worthy of yourself and your dignity. If you're lucky, you'll be allowed into someone else's sphere. Cherish it - it could change your life. 

I cannot regret the horrible friendships any more than the ones who make me the best version of myself. As Elphaba and Glinda sing in Wicked, "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Barefoot and Preggo

Last weekend, the green space on Notre Dame's campus between the library and the football stadium was covered with graduates, friends and family giving hugs, taking pictures and eating their boxed lunch. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I stood beneath a tree, barefoot and pregnant. 

My father-in-law even took a picture of his favorite cliche. 

A dear friend and I discussed last week where we had seen ourselves in the years following our own college graduation: she had seen herself married and pregnant; I had seen myself rising from cub reporter to well-published journalist. Currently, she is working at the prestigious culinary school she graduated from last winter, and I am married, still writing, am sometimes barefoot and always pregnant. 

We concluded, God provides. God ALWAYS provides. Trust in him. Let him have your heart, and sanctify your soul in preparation for the journey. Keep your lamps lit for the Bridegroom and open yourself up to the very possibility that he has something wonderful to offer you. 

It's not always pretty or wrapped up nicely or even properly addressed to you, but the wonder of life comes from recognizing the gift as much as receiving it with pleasure and humility. 

Next month, my husband and I will move to the Deep South for a spell. Midwesties born, bred and educated, I know this next year is going to be a great gift to us if we allow God's grace to penetrate our desires and preconceived notion of "plans". I'm slightly terrified, overjoyed at the opportunity for him, and wondering what kind of story I'm writing in this new life of mine. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day to the Many

Dang, now I want some of my mom's AWESOME meatloaf. Here's the Kid President on Moms and their special day!

This morning I prayed a rosary on my drive back from home with my husband to home with my family (well, to my cousins' first for lunch!), and I prayed for all the wonderful women in my life. It seems to me that women can be mothers to each other, spiritually, as well as physically mothers.

When Pope John Paul II's mother died when he was young, he adopted Mary as his mother on earth as well as in heaven. It is something I have been trying to do more of - taking her my burdens, offering up my frustrations with a 'Hail Mary' and trying to really understand what it is to be gentle and meek, without losing the necessary assertion Mary had as well.

As I review books, so many of the women characters are told to be "strong" - but in reality, I often see a woman downtrodden with their own anger and blindness to the needs of others when her own are so apparent. I see those women as human, yes, and in desperate need of grace. We all need more grace, and I hope on Mother's Day we can all humbly go before our Lady and ask for more, and until we feel nourished, imitate her goodness.

In this modern day, I hope women can see their inner value and worth before making demands upon society to do so. It is only in the goodness we ourselves radiate and cultivate, only in the love we share and give, that we can truly "liberate" one another from the bonds and chains of false promises and subsequent sorrow. (And yes, White House: bringing up birth control in honor of Mother's Day is very, very poor taste and judgement.)

Special prayers for women who have given up their babies for adoption, are struggling with infertility, and are raising their child without support from the father.

Many thanks to the so many second moms, spiritual moms, and aunts in my life... and an extra special thanks to these ladies: my mom, my grandmother, and my aunt/ godmother/ Confirmation sponsor:

Mom, me, Mema and Aunt Kathy at my bridal shower last June!

"And of course, the 'Hail Mary' is biblical: we are simply repeating Gabriel's salutation to this woman--we are one of the many generations who want to call her blessed, as she herself sang in the Magnificat... Insofar as we increasingly unite our own aspirations with hers, we move closer and closer into intimate union with the Lord. 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord': if only I can learn to say that, in a thousand situations all day long when irritation, or resentment, or lust, or impatience surge up in me. 'Be it done unto me according to Thy word.' It is a wonderful frame of mind for a Christian to aspire to. The Rosary, day by day, presents to us those events upon which our souls ought to be habitually dwelling and helps us to tarry in those Gospel precincts." --Thomas Howard, from his essay, "Catholic Spirituality" in the book "The Night Is Far Spent"

And a big hug to my new mom, my wonderful mother-in-law:

She is the sweetest lady and mother EVER-EVER.

“If parents surrender responsibility to their children, the state will take up the slack. State power is the effect of the breakdown of family authority. Mothers, more than politicians, are the preservers of freedom and democracy.” --Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

In other news, I'm being kicked in the stomach on Mother's Day. Thanks, Bebe Baldwin!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Post of Shame

Last Sunday, my husband asked me if I was still doing 7 Quick Takes... which shamed me into not waiting till the last minute to blog, per my usual route.

This one is for all my fellow slackers! (Thanks to Jen for hosting!) Some awesome reads:

"When you're born, you don't really know what you're getting into," a resident of mine observed. "I'm not sure how I would have reacted if I had known I would be a 98-year-old old maid in a nursing home."
I knew what she meant. "Yeah," I said, "If I had known what I was getting into, I would have quit then and there."
"Don't quit!" Eula suddenly responded, "If you quit, who will help me get into bed?"
Somehow those unexpected words--spoken in a state of mild confusion--cut me to the quick.
Bethanie Ryan at Sacred Dignity, "Don't Quit!"

But Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner: it is an encounter with Jesus, but with this Jesus who waits for us, who waits for us just as we are. “But, Lord, look ... this is how I am”, we are often ashamed to tell the truth: 'I did this, I thought this'. But shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human ... the ability to be ashamed: I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country to those who are never ashamed are called “sin verg├╝enza’: this means ‘the unashamed ', because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble.
Pope Francis, as reported by Vatican Radio - "Pope: Shame is a true Christian virtue"


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

The quote on the left is from President Obama's address to this year's graduates at OSU... as telling as when he told the press (at the White House Correspondents' Dinner) that he prefers to get his news from whitehouse.gov! Which, as we all know, is as trust-worthy as Jay Carney himself.


We live in a country where if a six-months-pregnant woman started downing shots of vodka in a bar or lit up a cigarette, people might want her arrested. But that same woman could walk into an abortion clinic, no questions asked, and be injected with a drug that would stop her baby’s heart. 
I’ll put my cards on the table: I think life begins at conception and would love to live in a world where no women ever felt she needed to get an abortion. However, I know enough people who are pro-abortion rights—indeed, I was one of them for most of my life—to know that reasonable and sincere people can disagree about when meaningful life begins. They also can disagree about how to weigh that moral uncertainty against a woman’s right to control her body—and her own life. I have only ever voted for Democrats, so overturning Roe v. Wade is not one of my priorities. I never want to return to the days of gruesome back-alley abortions. 
But medical advances since Roe v. Wade have made it clear to me that late-term abortion is not a moral gray area, and we need to stop pretending it is. No six-months-pregnant woman is picking out names for her “fetus.” It’s a baby. Let’s stop playing Orwellian word games. We are talking about human beings here. 
How is this OK? Even liberal Europe gets this. In France, Germany, Italy, and Norway, abortion is illegal after 12 weeks. In addition to the life-of-mother exception, they provide narrow health exceptions that require approval from multiple doctors or in some cases going before a board. In the U.S., if you suggest such stringent regulation and oversight of later-term abortions, you are tarred within seconds by the abortion rights movement as a misogynist who doesn’t “trust women.”

Kirsten Powers at The Daily Beast, "Abortion Rights Community Has Become the NRA of the Left"


My "baby" sister's May Crowning was this past Tuesday! I just love these songs:

"Oh Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today! Queen of the angels! Queen of the May!"

"You were chosen by the Father. You were chosen for the Son. You were chosen from all women, and for woman shining one... Teach us wisdom, teach us love."


For everyone having a tough day, week, month, year...


My bebe is gettin' so big!

13.6 cm and 12 oz.!

Happy Friday y'all!!! I hope you enjoy it and all of life's little blessings -- in disguise and otherwise!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May the Force Be With You

A follow-up, perhaps, on the Vatican's symposium with non-believers:
“Everything that is moved is moved by another. That some things are in motion—for example, the sun—is evident from sense. Therefore, it is moved by something else that moves it. This mover is itself either moved or not moved. If it is not, we have reached our conclusion—namely, that we must posit some unmoved mover. This we call God. If it is moved, it is moved by another mover. We must, consequently, either proceed to infinity, or we must arrive at some unmoved mover. Now, it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Hence, we must posit some prime unmoved mover. Both statements can be proved.” 
--Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D., writes over at the new Atheist-Catholic dialogue website Strange Notions
In conversations I've had with Atheists and Agnostics, I am reminded of the importance of "defining one's terms." It's one thing to not believe in God; it's another to turn the argument to unicorns. Unicorns have never properly defended their arguments through words or action or history for that matter, so I think they can be properly left out of the conversation. The tendency towards the absurd makes talking into babble, and logic into lessening of real thought.

What I like so much about the Big Bang theory, for instance, is the fascinating argument that order can come from the chaos. BOOM! The world, y'all. But if the Big Bang happened, then as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says, God is behind it. Because the bang didn't just "happen." There is always a force propelling motion forward. And even if you don't believe it's God, is the other force so hard to believe? 

Beauty in the rubble of life.

"This life is far too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then be asked what you make of it and have to answer, 'Scientific Humanism.' That won't do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore, I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight; i.e., God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don't see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and wouldn't let go until God identified himself and blessed him." -Walker Percy

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bestest Chocolate Chip Cookies Evah

After craving chocolate chip cookies and reading 5 different cookbooks (Joy of Cooking is pictured below; also, The New Best Recipe from the Editors of Cook's Illustrated; Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn; Better Homes and Gardens New Cook BookThe Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland) to discern the best way to make my favorite type of cookies -- thick and chewy -- I have made an awesome batch of chocolate chip cookies. My very own variation on the classic recipe and a date night adventure in the culinary arts starts here, at the ingredients:

Please ignore the baking powder - I decided not to use it this time around!
Helpers: mixing bowl 1, a mixer + mixing bowl 2, measuring cup, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon, 2 dining spoons, parchment paper (optional but SO AWESOME - cut with scissors), cookie sheet, and cooling rack.

So, let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start):

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Mixing bowl 1 - whisk it, whisk it good (or don't, like me):
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of flour 
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Mixing bowl 2 (under mixing stand, or using much stronger arms than mine); beat until well-blended:
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter (many recipes recommend unsalted; I only had salted and so used that); best if softened beforehand
1 cup light brown sugar (I used brown instead of 1/2 granulated, 1/2 brown because granulated helps give cookies the crispier edge, and I wanted softer. Dark brown sugar makes them even softer, apparently... may experiment one day for softness and flavor.)

Once mixing bowl 2 is well-blended, add in:
1 [large] egg + 1 egg yolk (carefully crack egg, then transfer the yolk back and forth between the two egg shells while the albumen (egg whites) leaks out, preferably into the sink)
1/4 teaspoon of salt (I just shook salt into the bowl)
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Once those three ingredients are well-blended as well, add in the flour and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix, mix, mix! Then add in 1 cup of chocolate chips! I used regular semi-sweet - may go for mini next time (preference). Mix, mix, mix!

After scraping the ginormous amount of batter off the mixer, grab your parchment paper and cut to fit your cookie sheet. 

Use one dining spoon (the bigger one) to scoop the batter, and the other spoon (smaller helps) to help plop it on the parchment paper/ cookie sheet. This kind of batter is sticky on your fingers - the more you touch it, the more it connects! Don't worry about making the batter look pretty or spread wider on your pan. The baking process will help the cookies flatten out. 

Keep the batter an inch or two apart.

Pop into the oven for 8:30 to 9 minutes, depending on the color you like.

These are at 9 minutes; I prefer the 8:30 myself - both chewy-soft!
Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before transferring to the cooling rack, and then plopping more batter onto that amazing parchment paper. (Clean-up? Done. Cookies come right off!)

These cookies are fantastic. I have three recipients who all praise their deliciousness, and I myself have had to shut myself into another room to avoid walking into the kitchen for another... which I will do as soon as I publish this!

I'm sure there are ways I can improve this recipe. Any ideas?

Bon appetit!