Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Memory of a Sister: Sally Giauque

Fall 2007
Last week, a woman died at 85 years old. Her name was Sally, and I met her when I was a sophomore in college and "went Kappa" - that is, joined Kappa Kappa Gamma, a woman's fraternity. Sally was one of the chapter advisers at Hillsdale College. An alumna of the college and chapter, she dedicated herself to our house and its members. She would arrive every Monday, in time for dinner and meeting, and stay in the guest room. She was stylish, smart, and was always reminding us of standards and how to be ladies.

I had a tough time being a Kappa the first few semesters; perhaps it is my penchant for not being told by other people who I am, and people like to label "sorority girls." Or maybe I never thought that I quite fit in, though I met a few of my best friends in that house. Or maybe I was just overwhelmed; I never seemed to have enough time to join in the more fun activities, as I prioritized school and the newspaper, accepting only required duties as my service and standard. Kappa wasn't what I expected of her, but maybe, as I thought later, I wasn't what Kappa expected either.

While I struggled with my collegiate career at Kappa, I always looked to Sally. She was a lady. She told us chewing gum made us look like cows. If we were late to meeting, she kindly informed us that it was better form to use the back door. How we dressed was important - and not for fashionable or keeping up appearances reasons (which I rebelled against): but because we were Kappas, and that was something to be proud of, and our dress reflected the care we took in our appearance, in our house, and in ourselves. This I could embrace, understand, and welcome.

Kappa Sal, as we called her
She married her college sweetheart (who died in 1981), and she would talk so fondly about him. You just knew their love was special. She just wanted the make the world beautiful, and that is the most important thing I learned from her: to do your little perfectly. Pick your battles, make peace, do good.

I always bit off more than I could chew, and that is why I struggled. When I started to let go of what I wanted, and started giving back more to the house, Kappa's beauty burst forth in front of me. Kappa is made up of many, many women, but none of them define her - she defines them. She guides them. She teaches them - through education, ritual, service and love.

Sally embodied all these things, and she gave me one more sisterly lesson: how to be a lady, and how to be a woman. This is something we females are not taught enough, I think, or have many proper examples of in our formative years. She was old-fashioned, and in the best ways possible.

There is no clear-cut recipe for how to be a lady and a woman, but it starts with humility, graciousness, asking for help, willing to help, saying the (sometimes) unwanted sentiment, and reminding others how proud you are of them and what good they bring to this world. When Sally stood up and talked, everyone listened. It was because of Sally's example that I wanted to give more back to Kappa, and I began writing book reviews for The Key, Kappa's magazine, after graduation. Writing is something I do, something I love, and something I can give back to Kappa. It is my little, and I strive to do it perfectly.

Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter house at Hillsdale College, circa 2010
Dream a while of Kappa ever true 
Dream of her and she will be with you 
Dream of friendships through the years 
Dream of days their joys and tears 
Now it's time that you and I must part 
So take this dream and place it in your heart 
Keep it dear until the time we will meet again. 

Readers, who has touched your life profoundly, and in ways you did not expect? I did not realize how much of an example Sally had set for me until she passed away on July 23, 2013, and I really began to think of her again. My consolation is that I know I made her proud, and I intend to give more back to Kappa in her memory - and make the world a more beautiful place than I found it, too.

Published in The Mirror Magazine

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pro-Life Compassion

In the 2011 film Friends With Kids, two platonic friends decide to have a child together without the entanglements of marriage (which they saw as tearing their other friends's relationships apart). A year or so after their child is born, Jason (the father) meets "The One" and at their initial meeting, he explains that yes, he has a kid, but no, he is not in a relationship. She, in turn, asks he knocked up a Catholic girl.

 It's possibly my favorite part of the movie, which is not saying much. Friends With Kids was a very bleak look at having kids, and the lack of proper communication between the adults was surely everyone's downfall. But it was a strangely pro-life film. Even with the adults crying and getting their knickers into a twist, there were kids running around everywhere. I think they were supposed to seem annoying and unruly, but I enjoyed their vibrancy and the liveliness they offered to the  film.

Moreover, all the parents had their kids on purpose. All the children were "wanted". By the end of the film, the very character who had been criticizing kids being brought to fancy restaurants at the beginning was now staring at them with doe-eyes and compassion, and asking the parents how old they were. For the first time in the whole movie, a character showed real compassion toward the lives of children.

 The main characters, who avidly hate organized religion (their words, not mine), would more than likely be contemptuous of the pro-life movement, and really, any one who did not wholly support their decision-making process. But would they really have been as rabid as what we saw in Texas? The yelling, the signs, and the insinuations that "my body, my decision" means that fellow women cannot plead and pray, men have no say in the decision-making process, and the child inside is not its own autonomy.

As Mary C. Tillotson wrote in "Disabled Babies, Moms, and Men: Can We Please Love Them All?", " If we really need to turn men into straw men and tear them down, we’re buying into the (false) idea that men really are superior and all we can do is mope about it and resent everything. If we honestly believe that men and women really are equal in worth and dignity, we won’t feel threatened when a man speaks with kindness or offers to help." As this is the end of NFP Awareness Week, I wanted to make suggestions for a more fruitful and successful pro-life attitude and movement. It starts small, with every person.

1. Pray

 It is more than praying ceaselessly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and adding "the unborn" to prayer intentions - we must earnestly pray for women (especially those in domestic violence situations, and victims of sexual assault and rape); pray for people's hearts to be open to life, to understand its sanctity, and to uphold human dignity; for men; for all families affected. We must broaden our understanding of what it means to be "pro-life" to include the care and love of every single human being - especially those we disagree with, and who cause us frustration and anger.

2. Watch your thoughts, curb your words 

Never, ever, ever say "baby killer" to a person who is pro-choice. First of all, they do not see their decision as killing a baby. They see it as preventing a baby from being born. The difference may seem "tomato/ tomatoe" but it is that sliver of mercy that justifies their actions. Empathy is what these mothers need; it is called a "difficult decision" for a reason. They are not debating that. These women need healing too, and just as often, so do the men. It is too easy to look at people who use contraception, have abortions, are pro-choice and think, They are taking the easy way out. They are not taking responsibility for their actions. But you too are doing that if you allow yourself to think this way: you are guiding your thoughts to not be loving. You are not actively seeking their best interests if you so easily dismiss people. Do not let other people's mistakes be your downfall.

3. No yelling, ever.

Who likes being yelled at? Does that make you listen better to other people's arguments? I don't think so. (This includes yelling over social media, peeps.)

4. No judging why a person is pregnant, no matter how old or the circumstances around it

Can you imagine becoming pregnant when you were not trying, and not in a supportive environment? That sounds terrifying to me. I can't imagine how I'd react if my husband did not want our child, or my family shunned me. These are realities many, many, many people face. If we truly believe every baby is a gift, then we must act respectful and supportive to all moms, and let them know they are "wanted" as well as their child. Many women and men are not blessed with having excellent chastity education (or any at all!) which teaches them to value their bodies (and others). Instead, many retaliate against any feelings of unjust shame or curiosity by "taking control of their sexuality" by being sexuality active. This is different than understanding one's fertility, and both are important to learn.

  Be merciful, then, as your Father is merciful. Judge nobody, and you will not be judged; condemn nobody, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be yours; good measure, pressed down and shaken up and running over, will be poured into your lap; the measure you award to others is the measure that will be awarded to you. (Luke 6:36-38)

  5. Helping and befriending the moms

These moms are scared. Bringing a baby into the world is a huge responsibility, whether or not the mother chooses to raise it or offer it for adoption. Heck, I was scared when I first realized I was pregnant, and I was married and in a stable, loving relationship with a supportive family. My parish priest told me that it was okay to be scared - Mary was certainly frightened when the angel came to her with the message that she had been chosen to carry the Son of God. This is why he said, "Be not afraid!" This is why her "Yes!" to the Lord is so significant - she was taking on another human life to nourish and love and bring into this world. This is no small feat.

 Helping and befriending these moms means supporting them emotionally and physically (hello diapers and wipes!), and hopefully, spiritually. If the mom decides to keep her child, she is making a life sacrifice. If a mom decides to give her baby up for adoption, she is making another sacrifice - after carrying her baby to term, she may never see that child again, but always wonder what he/she is up to in the world. This is an ache no water can quench.

 Volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers is an excellent way to support mothers: and if counseling is not your strong suit, there is still plenty of work to do in sorting, office management, answering phones, and helping the other workers.

 The most important thing we can do in this world is love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ - this is not a suggestion either, but a command. We love and learn humility, learn meekness, learn sacrifice. Let us help each other get to Heaven, especially those who need God the most.  

Any more suggestions, dear readers?

[Originally posted at Ignitum Today]

#7QT: How To Survive Pregnancy Edition

Happy Friday, one and all! Linking up with Jen and the gang for kicks and giggles.


I am two months away from my due date, and so continues my saga of roughin' it. Have you ever seen What To Expect When You're Expecting? Hilarious film. All stereotypes, of course, but I really sympathized with the one who got all the symptoms because, you know, I have not had a magical pregnancy.


Now, perhaps you're thinking - no pregnancy is magical! So let me break it down for all the people out there who need to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

First trimester 

Tummy: You're not reeeeally showing. Sowwy.

Feelings: Why do I want to die right now? Or take a nap. A nap sounds good. Bebe, I'm so happy you're being created into a person shape with organs and ears and fingernails, but dang, my body is tired. I am worshiping at the alter of Zofran, anti-nausea medicine, and Preggie Pops - yum.

If you exercise, you will feel better: No, I do not want to exercise. Maybe a walk.

Food: Cream of wheat, plain greek yogurt, steamed vegetables, citrus-y fruit. I lose a lot of weight; my OB is not pleased.

Perks: I can sleep on my stomach!

Second trimester

Tummy: Showing-ish, and then showing some more. Weight stabilizes, though I still weigh less than when I got preggo.

Feelings: Okay, I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. (Said ever since my Zofran dosage was increased.)

If you exercise, you will feel better: I tried, and it was horrible. I'll stick with walking and lifting small children.

Food: Lots of fruits and vegetables; still struggling with meat so I am eating my way through Greek yogurt containers. I cannot abide anything baked in cheese or heavy on spices. This makes eating out more difficult than necessary. Pickles are pretty delicious, though.

Perks: I can still sleep comfortably, but not so much on my stomach. I'm actually showing, which I appreciate. It's fun looking pregnant after being pregnant for so many months.

Third trimester

Tummy: Showing!!!!!!!!!!!!! My weight gain is up.

Feelings: HOLY GYMBOREE, BATMAN! My Bebe is moving and grooving inside me. My stomach often looks asymetrical as the baby prefers the right side of the uterus. It is surreal being able to to feel the baby cha-cha, and I am getting more excited for Bebe to be here. Not for the labor part, but we'll deal with details as they get closer. I'm an emotional roller coaster too, but that might have to do with moving away from my family.

If you exercise, you will feel better: Still walking, although it looks more like waddling. Swimming laps, too, like Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea. I sleep better at night.

Food: Fortunately, I'm back on the protein train. Unfortunately, I'm starting to crave sweets. Fortunately, I do not allow myself to eat too many of them. Unfortunately, I had this decision after I consumed a box of doughnuts. C'est la vie. Lots of fruits of vegetables, inhaling Greek yogurt, trying out cottage cheese on my baked potato, and continuing my relationship with bagels/ English muffins/ ciabatta bread. Some days I have to force myself to eat; other days I am ravenous. Weight steady.

Perks: My belly button sticks out like a party hat.


Pope Francis, at World Youth Day, on grandparents:
Speaking about family life, I would like to say one thing: today, as Brazil and the Church around the world celebrate this feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Grandparents Day is also being celebrated. How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family. The Aparecida Document says, “Children and the elderly build the future of peoples: children because they lead history forward, the elderly because they transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives” (No. 447). This relationship and this dialogue between generations is a treasure to be preserved and strengthened! In this World Youth Day, young people wish to acknowledge and honour their grandparents. They salute them with great affection and they thank them for the ongoing witness of their wisdom.
I love our pope! And cheers to my grandparents!


What is everyone reading lately? I want to get back into Laura Ingalls Wilder books (plus book reviews, yada yada), and maybe Maud Heart's Betsy, Tacy and Tib series! I'm in a nostalgic book mood, so a thousandth reading of Ella Enchanted may need to be in the line up too.


I am posting late, but I am back from eating delicious cajun food at Mulate's with Will and these three awesome high school friends visiting for the weekend!

Happy Friday, y'all!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Five Favorites

For a second time this week, I am linking to Camp Patton, who is guest hosting Five Favorites for Hallie at Moxie Wife!

1. This cat.

My sister Katie left her car window down, and Finny (one of our two cats) climbed in the window because nothing says lap of luxury like hanging out in a Toyota RAV.

This makes me so happy.

1.5 is technology... because getting pictures on my phone from home has made this Southern transition so much bearable. And high fives to all my family members and friends who have gone out of their way to call, e-mail, write, text and generally show me a lot of lovin' as Will and I embark on our Southern adventures! In 3 days, we will have arrived in Louisiana exactly a month earlier!

Sounds like I need to bake something now in celebration...! Wink.

2. Arrested Development.

The greatest.
During the evening, Will and I take a break and indulge in one of our favorite shows. We are in the middle of Season 2 (again). Hilarious.

Have you read this article from First Things comparing Arrested Development to The Brothers Karamazov? Simply brilliant.

3. This photographer.

I am totally blown away by his talent. He's in the NJ/NY area, but it looks like he travels too! Check him out.

Even his "About Me" section is great -
My name is Dan. Husband and brand-new father. 
Photography for me is a tool that allows me to bring the *real* stuff in life to, well, reality. I find little importance in a photo unless it speaks to me about something more than the picture itself. As it turns out, I'm a philosopher and theologian first, and in a strange twist of life, I found that photography allowed me to clarify the wonder and awe of the world that engulfs us. The tradition of marriage goes so much deeper than the cake and flowers let on-- Indeed, the entire day stems upon the desire of man and woman to give themselves to each other entirely. There is certainly something passionate and revealing in that, and I hope to capture a glimpse of it.

4. NFP Week.

Holler back, y'all! Katie (the beautiful co-founder of IuseNFP) is hosting an NFP story link-up if any of you have a story to tell...

Here's my post at The Mirror Magazine for why my husband and I use NFP.

5. Swimming.

I've never been a huge swimmer (more of a kick my legs around, walk back and forth around the pool), but there is something so magical about being pregnant and gliding through the water like baby beluga.

Will and I joined the gym at Tulane University (student perks!) and have been indulging in mid-day exercise. I'm feeling a lot better, it's easy on my joints, and I take my dandy time. I might not be burning ALL THE CALORIES, but I'm moving around and feeling great.

Also, I'm wearing my cute maternity swimsuit. Win!

I'm swimming like a fish, not with the fish - from our June Cumberland trip! The top has a nice halter strap too.

What are some of your favorite things, dear readers?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bravery and Babes

I've never felt very brave. I was picked on a lot growing up because I was shy, and I stuttered, and wore glasses. And even after the stuttering was "fixed", I had a hard time not allowing my feelings to be swayed or hurt by other people. This feeling has lasted for many years, although I grew much better at masking it. In the meanwhile, I developed as a writer.

I joined the high school paper, Lion's Roar, my freshman year, as an outlet for writing. It was so fun seeing my name in print and contacting people, asking them what they thought, collecting the facts, writing up a story. I remember when I was named Sports Editor, one of two juniors who got a spot usually reserved for a senior. I was so proud of my little section, which I grew from three writers to six. Our space grew too - a whole page!

I had the glued-to-my-phone pre-req. down
I went to college and decided I didn't want to do journalism any more, so I didn't sign up for the college paper. But then, I got drawn into the independent paper, and spent my entire college career editing, writing, promoting and nurturing it. The tiny staff again grew under me, as I pulled in every resource I could, helping my writers and making them feel wanted as much as they were needed. I hurt a lot of feelings with my edits and editorials and "Hillsdalians of Genius" columns, but I didn't stroke any egos, and I told the truth, and people respected the paper. I even got along well with the journalism department, and got a scholarship to write book reviews for it my senior year.

It seemed the obvious answer, then, when asked what I was going to do after college: journalism.

Statehouse reporting was thrilling, but my work environment was not. I worked for a non-profit, who accepted a grant to fund two journalism positions. Though I was successful, my articles were well-received and picked up by outside outlets, it was a difficult work environment for me, and for personal-affecting-professionalism reasons, I quit.

That was one of the scariest things I had ever done, and it changed my whole life. I had accepted that job because it was great cub reporter experience and I was two hours from home. But now I had quit, and I was thinking about the other job I turned down in Washington, D.C. Was that the better choice?

I decided not to pursue journalism when I returned home, which my journalism mentor severely disagreed with; he told me not to waste my talent. Since then, it's been an interesting ride: family business, nannying, freelance, and plenty more "not-for-profit" writing -- as well as more family time, a new family, marriage, a new city, a baby, and a whole new set of challenges. And I'm happy, even though a part of me twinges to be back in journalism.

And what does this have to do with bravery? I still don't think of myself as particularly brave. I'm still introverted and still have glasses. But I've tasted "failure" - I know what it's like not to have what you want. I know what it's like to think you know what you want. I've known surprise, and I've known success. I know what it feels like to stand at the crossroads, and make another decision you know is going to change your life. Then another. Then another. I keep pressing forward. That's brave. That's living.

We all live with the consequences, whether our action by active or passive. And can you live with regrets? Sure. That's one way to live, but it's not a preferable way - because regret stains all future successes if you allow it. Or you can learn from your mistakes, which is my attitude: I have only one real regret, and that was letting people lead me to think I wasn't worth it: as a friend, as a girlfriend, as a student, as a writer. That is a lie, no matter who you are. We all have potential. We're all on a road to Damascus. None of us have completed the work we were put on this earth to do; most of us are still discerning what that work is, exactly. We should keep working, keep seeking, keep trying, keep loving, keep going.

In Jennifer Aist's book Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping & Boating with Babies and Young Children (my current read), she tells parents back off a bit and to let their kids explore (while still under supervision, of course!):
Watch an eight-month-old baby crawl around a coffee table. If left to explore it on his own, he'll run into it a few times, bonk his head on the bottom of it as he tries to crawl under it, and maybe even get a bit frustrated by it. Very quickly, this same baby will learn to duck going around that coffee table, slow down to avoid crashing into it, and generally learn how to be safe around it. The baby with "hover parents" never has an opportunity to learn by trial and error. So though this baby may never bonk his head on the coffee table at home, he also never develops the skills to avoid bonking his head on any other coffee table. Teach children the skills they need to safely negotiate any coffee table they may ever encounter, and you have given your children an incredible gift. You will have taught your child to be capable. 
Remember, frustration teaches children problem solving. Boredom teaches children creativity.

This is the same for adults as well. Be brave enough not to squander the chances in life to try, to "fail", to be who you want to be. You are exactly who you're supposed to be, and that is a true gift to the rest of us.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Great Expectations

Today at The Mirror Magazine

Has it been scientifically proven yet that more women are Type A personalities? Or is it that we think we need to uphold a set of values that is not universal, but constantly ruining the fun in our lives? We need to be smart and saavy; we need to be gorgeous (models-as-standard) and athletic (fit, too); we need to be domestic enough to please other people's standards; we need to pay attention to our kids; we need to have our own fulfilling careers.

My mom and me: two Type As, different goals
The pressure to work in a job for career-purposes, the pressure to marry and then the pressure to have kids and the pressure to support those kids in their range of activities and schooling ventures... has life turned into a tea kettle for women? Are we all going to end up screaming when the water gets too hot?

In yesterday's Gospel, Mary sat listening at the feet of Jesus while Martha was busy serving everyone. Exasperated, she asks the Lord if he can tell Mary to help too. Instead, he says, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."

This story is so important for women - and not because they need to decide if they are a Martha or a Mary. Philippians 4:6-8 (RSV) says, "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

When we bring our gifts to the Lord, they are enough. Sometimes, the laundry is going to sit for days. The kitchen will be a mess after you just cleaned it. The project you finished is praised, but then you're given two more and the time slot is narrow. You're working out and eating well, but the weight is not coming off quickly. Life is not as you planned - and isn't that where this anxiety is coming from?

Perhaps we women need to take a step back from our want/need of "instant gratification" - having it all, all the time. My Latin teacher used to tell us that we could only have two of the three things: studying, sleep and social. I refused to believe this, but I am not a Latin scholar. Rather, I have embraced the idea of "slowed gratification" - happiness comes out of making sacrifices, taking a different route, allowing choices to shape life, and accepting gifts along the way.

Otherwise, ingratitude sets heavy on shoulders. Many people feel disappointment because they want excitement and social outings and dates and a fulfilling job. But they're in their twenties and the job experience necessary for fulfillment has yet to come into fruition. For some women, this disappointment continues into their thirties and forties: marriage isn't what they dreamed; kids are sponges of time, energy and resources; and just what is the point of it all?

Women, we need let ourselves slow down, sit and appreciate the hospitality of enjoying other people as well as serving other people. If it feels one-way, then something is amiss. If we cannot sit in the presence of the Lord without worrying about a project due at work or dishes that need to be done, we're not paying enough attention to the important parts of life. If we're worried about what other people think more than our own concerns and the concerns of our family, that is anxious and not loving.

Meal time is an especially good time to slow down and listen
The pressure cooker will always be on in variable areas of our life. The challenge is to let the pressure rise, but be ready for it. Delegate and let other people help, even if they do it in a way different from your own. (Loading the dishwasher, anyone?) Let silence enter your heart and mind, and may you find peace in the blessings life has given you.

What has helped you find happiness, readers? How do you slow down in this busy world?

Our Love Story

How We Met, etc. - hosted at Camp Patton

Two years, seven months and twenty days ago, I met my husband. We were at a New Years Day evening shindig at the house of mutual friends. The Baldwin siblings were the first to arrive, and since I was with a friend who likes to be on time, we were the second to arrive. I was introduced to Will and his sister, we all chatted, and then Will and I continued to chat. He made me his favorite Long Island Iced Tea, and we talked about every topic a person is supposed to avoid: religion, the Catholic Church, politics, history monologues (mine are usually on Calvin Coolidge), along with a smattering of stories and opinions. I thought he was smart and very funny; he thought I was different from other girls.

We talked on and off all night, ending the evening with him asking me about my family. That's when I clued in that he might be interested; also, when he said "Facebook me!" as his sister pushed him out the door to go home. We re-connected a week later when I saw an interesting article on the Church's Magesterium (one of the topics we had discussed) and sent it to him without even a note attached, because I'm a compulsive sharer when I see/ read things I think someone I know would enjoy.

I immediately regretted it, because, well, I didn't actually "know" him. But it was too late - message sent.

Two weeks later, he got back to me. TWO WEEKS LATER. A FORTNIGHT. On the plus side, he asked me out the day after his next shelf exam; we went to the Creation Museum, a nice "halfway" point between our two locations of Cincinnati and Louisville. The Creation Museum is exactly what it sounds like: a museum devoted to the Biblical interpretation of the creation of the world. While the Catholic Church does not teach Creationism, it was an awesome visualization of the Book of Genesis and provided Will and I with plenty to talk about for the first few hours. It was a really fun time.

Afterwards, he asked if I wanted to get lunch (morning dates means we can get out if it's terrible), and we went back to Cincinnati for pizza, which was across the square from my house. We took the pizza back to my house, where he met my mom and three younger siblings, and planted himself there until my dad came home. At that point, I was getting nervous. I was having a fun time, he seemed to be enjoying himself... but should I suggest to drive him back to his car? Did he want to go back to Louisville? This seemed to be a very long first date.

My mom cleared the air by asking if he wanted to stay the night. I was on babysitting duty for my younger sisters as my parents were going to a party that night, and so our fun first date continued with fixing dinner, talking, and playing cards and watching Doctor Who with my sisters until my parents came home. He stayed in the guest room, I gave him a tooth brush, and then next day, he went to mass with us. I was very comfortable with him, and he with me and my family. I drove him back to his car (still at the Creation Museum), and we sat in my car in that awkward, Well, I had a lot of fun - Yeah! Me too.

Which I promptly snapped out of when Will said, "Well, if you're ever in Louisville, just let me know."

I stared at him. "Will, I'm never just going to be in Louisville."

Our second date was two weeks later, after I got back from Georgia (visiting my dearest friend Vivian). I went down to Louisville, where he took me out to lunch and then we heard my former department chair give a talk on Christian Humanism, played tennis, ate pizza and played Pictionary with two of his friends, and watched Firefly. We stayed over at his parents' house, and the next morning, I went to mass with Will, his parents and grandfather, and then went out to Chinese with them afterwards. It was another really fun weekend. And phew! Meeting the families were out of the way.


Our third date was when he officially said he liked me and wanted to date me, which is something I prayed a Sacred Heart of Jesus novena over, because I wanted our relationship to be clear-cut as to why we were spending time together - intentionally verses hanging out. He made dinner, we played the Robison family sport (croquet - which he beat me at!), we talked about dating, watched more Firefly, had our first kiss, and then I drove home to Cincinnati.

Thus began our wonderful relationship. We were always long-distance: I was working in Cincinnati, he was in medical school at the University of Louisville. Weekends were spent at our parents' houses, so we both got to know our future families very well. He had a lot of studying to do and I always had writing to do, so it felt a bit like college - "studying" together, and then doing some sort of activity. We introduced each other to friends and favorite activities, and we talked about everything. Honesty and communication were top priority, and we sincerely enjoyed each other's company. I'm quirky and he's funny. I'm a talker and he's a doer. I'm always asking questions and he's intellectually honest. Three months in, we were talking about love in the third person; philosophically, historically, religiously, and personally. Two weekends before I left for South Korea, he told me he loved me. I loved him too.

It's strange, being in another county, missing someone you met only a couple months earlier, and wishing they were with you, seeing the sights with you, experiencing an entirely differently culture with you. When he picked me up from the airport, it was one of the happiest times of my life. Being with him always felt like being home. Two days later, he left for Portland, Oregon for vacation with his own family. He had a talk with his mother when he got home, and she gave us the book 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married (unless you're marrying a convict and celebrity who is way older than you, you will not answer all the questions), which we began to work through in July 2011. This book is amazing, and made us talk about EVERYTHING. I cannot more highly recommend it for couples, especially those discerning marriage. That summer, we became much closer, especially after the death of his beloved grandfather. That was when I knew I was welcome and wanted in the family.

My family was smitten with Will as well!

We were engaged on December 23, 2011. I should have seen it coming, but the weekend before, his Dad had introduced me as his "future daughter-in-law" and that whole weekend was me holding my breath. After losing way too much sleep over it, I prayed that God make me blind to the obvious signs. That he did! The morning of our engagement, I woke up and went to Will's room; the door was closed (it never was), and when I knocked, he talked through the door (instead of opening it). So off I went, oblivious, to get us and his sister coffee, and then went on errands with him to buy Christmas presents after I returned. After errands, we went on a hike at Mount St. Francis, the spacious and woodsy Franciscan monastery near his parents' house where we hiked nearly every other weekend.

We walked and talked and laughed and crossed over bridges and commented on how no one was out hiking with us on that cool, gray December day. When we reached the last bridge, we sat down on the bench, as we liked to do, and looked out over the lake. Will had been worried that I would notice the budge in his pocket, but I was truly taken aback when he pulled out a piece of paper and began reciting the poem he had written for me that morning. For the last two stanzas, he went down on his knee and ended with, "Marry me, Julie?" Shaking myself into believing this was real, I threw my arms around his neck, said "YES!" and kissed him.

Everyone was thrilled, to say the least!

The date set for our marriage was December 21, 2012. I think it was a nice length of time, but Will could have got married much sooner. We planned it for December, however, to accommodate his medical school schedule. He was gone for the months of May and June for his surgery rotation, and then another away rotation in Atlanta that September for emergency medicine. I was gone for most of July and his sister was married in August. His first half of fourth year schedule was packed full of rotations and interviews/ traveling. By the time the wedding arrived, we were both very, very ready.


It was another cold, gray December day, but this time, it was snowing. This prohibited a decent amount of people who RSVP'd from coming, but the turn-out was still marvelous and extremely fun. I was much more nervous at the rehearsal dinner than at my actual wedding (although the hour or so before it was impatient waiting, and wanting to see all my friends who were in from out of town!).

And so began the happiest walk of my life:

The vows and exchange of rings:

Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin, y'all!


Today is July 21, 2013. It's been seven months since we said "I do" to each other, for forever.

We combined two families; we've driven hundreds of miles back and forth to see each other on the weekends (six months of it - even more fun while married?); we've traveled;

we've prepared for our little one to arrive in a few months;

he's graduated medical school and I've transitioned from nannying to stay-at-home mama;

we've moved to the deep South from the Midwest; and now we're finally living together, as husband and wife. Here's to my better half, and to a life that is so much better together!


Engagement and wedding photo credit: 808 Studios

Friday, July 19, 2013

#7QT: Be Our Guest!

Happy Friday! Mi amore has a biostats test this afternoon, mi familia is going to the lake house this weekend, and I am... hot. Or wet, since those are the two weather forecasts in New Orleans. At least my sperrys are getting properly used.


I have officially emptied every single box* in our apartment! HOORAY! Dance party time!

*Except for the book boxes.

Which is to say, I still have stuff to put away.


I'm really enjoying my writer's workshop. Here's this week's activity on writing outside your comfort zone.

Listening to and reading the words of the other ladies in the class, I think this could be our anthem:

This, too:
"Writing is a vocation and, as in any other calling, a writer should develop his talents for the greater glory of God. Novels should be neither homilies nor apologetics: the author's faith, and the grace he has received, will become apparent in his work even if it does not have Catholic characters or a Catholic theme."—Piers Paul Read, Author of "The Death of a Pope"
H/T Ignatius Press

If you're a lady and looking for awesome Christian fellowship and great prompts, Elora is the best; she'll be taking names for the fall session soon!


On Thursday, Will had a classmate over for dinner and a study party. He texts me around 5:20 p.m. and asks me to have dinner ready around 6 p.m. Luckily for me, they don't actually show up until after 6:30 p.m.

I'm currently in a "use what we have" phase of cooking, in an attempt to push my culinary creativity and be budget saavy. This worked in two ways: I still went to the store to pick up a pound of ground beef and a bag of chopped mixed vegetables ($5-ish), and then used what I found in the fridge and cabinet.

And then I had a panic attack, because I thought I had waaaaay more spaghetti sauce than 1/2 container. So I added 1/3 container of water and swish-swish-swish to retrieve the rest of the sauce, and then added 1 can of diced tomatoes (including water), plus 2/3 the bag of mixed vegetables.

Meanwhile, I am cooking ze pasta and the ground beef (separately). Once the beef was cooked and drained and put back into the big ole frying pan, I added the spaghetti sauce concoction, which was warming up too slowly. I fixed that. (Remember to stir.)

I added in a variety of spices; nothing scientific, and not a lot of any of them: sage, thyme, salt, onion. It still wasn't thickening up, so I added a half-ish cup of flour, and then dumped a decent amount of parmeson cheese in too. That made is extra delicious, and is my favorite part of the recipe.

In the two minutes I had, I grated some delicious hard cheese my MIL bought us from Whole Foods. Perfecto. Pasta was al dente by the time two hungry graduate students arrived, and the spaghetti sauce was hearty and hot. And cheesy.



I am probably overly-proud of myself for this dish (see last entry and excessive detail), but I am a perfectionist and worry waaaay too much over how the food is going to turn out. This just gave me a much needed confidence boost in trusting my culinary instincts, novice that they are. Will could eat the same thing every day: chicken (or fish), rice (or fried spaghetti), carrots. I need more variety, so I am working on that.

My next challenge: black beans. Have any good recipes, people? I am also thinking I need to dive into some Creole recipes with red beans and rice, which would satisfy both our nutritional wants.


I'm also in a baking mood. Liz pointed me to this recipe from The Kitchn - upside down cake using ANY FRUIT YOU WANT. Move aside, pineapple! I'm thinking peach and cherry upside down cake is sound delicious right now.

But first, banana bread. I have two overly ripe bananas begging me for some love. Smitten Kitten has a jacked-up recipe which caught my eye.


A "few" links I've enjoyed this week:

Carmelite nuns asking permission to die; martyrs are born - what a lovely, beautiful, faithful story

Hunter S. Thompson's (fantastic) cover letter - hilarious, honest, candid

Maya Angelou reading from her new children's book on fear - audio and pictures; I just love it

A Catholic nun who has gone to over 4,000 houses inviting Catholics back to mass - inspiring and humbling

Irving Babbitt - an important man; very influential in my intellectual development

21 tips for survival mode - I keep re-reading this, and all I take care of is myself, my husband, and my in-womb bebe... for now!

Young Evangelicals Are Getting High - high on liturgy and history and deep theology

Kevin McCormick's First Album (!!!) - So. Good. I've heard the man play live; I mean it.

A Step Into the Open - so much grace here, and honesty.

We're Getting a Calvin and Hobbes Documentary - AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! NO WORDS!!!!!!! JUST PUNCTUATION!!!!!!!!!!!

Photographic Series Showing What 200 Calories Looks Like in Different Foods - I mean, pretty cool.

just don't say it: About Your Past - Amanda's awesome series; I especially love/ needed this post

My Mother Regretted Her Abortion - amazing essay published at The Atlantic

Actors That Should Play Disney Princes In Real Life - Um, yes.

My nesting update. - As exciting as it sounds (with pictures!!)

Finally, everyone, announcement: check out The Mirror Magazine - an awesome new publication for women, and oh hey, I am a co-founding writer. Like The Mirror on Facebook too, and follow us on Twitter!

(You're welcome for the larger font. I just didn't want you to miss the links. Wink.)


And now, the question of the day - Emily Dickinson said, ‘Forever is composed of nows.' What would you do if you weren't afraid? These women answer that question here.

Talk to me, geese. Happy Friday!! Join Jen and the gang here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Makes Me Cringe

Story 101 - week 3 prompt: Whatever you do, write outside your comfort zone and see what happens.

"What Makes Me Cringe"

Free verse poetry, to start.
I cringe when I see people write write write
No form. No rhyme. Just rhythm.
I love writing but in doing so, I leave myself open for comment
Those confrontational comments, challenging: no mercy, all out.
I could make a list of people I'd like to apologize to me;
Then apologize, too, cringing through the litany of humility.

I try not to think of all the mistakes I make, I've made.
I try not to dwell, I try to remember, I'm not dead. I'm stronger
Than I believe, and smarter than I think (to paraphrase
Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh)
I'm worthy, I'm a daughter of the Lord
and Steve and Gigi; daughter-in-law too--
Granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, wife.

What really makes me cringe is the thought of losing hope.
But I've walked through the spiritual desert; I still drink the water
I still bleed. Bleed because I am alive - alive enough to suffer,
Alive because I love another more than myself, lay down my life
Hold a child in my womb and can't-believe-how-blessed-I-am
Maybe life lacks rhyme, and the rhythm is off,
but nothing to cringe over: life, my life, is enough. Is Beautiful.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Newsflash: Nesting Update

And so I have reached the point of no return: I have two boxes left to unpack.

And unpack them I must, because I need:
1) my sleep mask (for the sun that dawns around 6 am into our bedroom)
2) my insurance card (for my ob/gyn)
3) all le crapola I brought down with me, so I can find appropriate hiding storage areas for them.

Once I unpack those, I will return to my Thank You Note crusade. I have a lot of those, still from the wedding and, now, the baby gifts. I'll probably write a few letters for fun, too.

The days are hot down here, with a sizeable chance it will rain (or at least thunder). And rain it does, almost every day. My days are "filled" with writing, household duties, napping, going to the grocery store, taking and picking up Will from school. Bebe is kicking and moving a great deal, and I am generally exhausted from nothing exorbitant. Will has discovered the Tulane gym area, and I am excited to join in too! At least to get out of the apartment for a purpose.

Although the New Orleans heat can feel harsh, it is very lovely outside after 6:30 pm. I've enjoyed our porch picnic area and after dinner laps around the grassy area park nearby.

The downstairs is mostly together, so, these days, I'm up in our nursery/ my study/ our guest room.

Progress is slow.

But at least the crib is built!

 More updates later!

Welcome to my third trimester, y'all. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Regret-less Sex

Originally published at The Mirror Magazine (July 8, 2013)

Life isn't always what you expect, and this post I'm writing was not my initially chosen topic. Instead, I'm writing in response to a few articles I read today, and a conversation I had with one of my husband's classmates.

Today is Will's first day of school for his Master's program, and there was an open reception which I invited myself to as his special guest. Nothing fancy: his classmates, the program directors and corresponding staff, and me, the pregnant lady in the striped dress. The girl next to me and I struck up a conversation, gaining speed as we realized she grew up about 45 minutes from where my husband went to college. We talked about our shared faith, her boyfriend, my pregnancy, where we came from and why we moved to New Orleans.

"Sorry if this is too forward," she said suddenly, "But do you use Natural Family Planning?"

"We do," I said.

"Was the pregnancy planned?" she asked.

"Yes," I said as my husband said "No."

I smiled, and explained that we conceived on my P3 day, which is the third day past my Peak Day and the last day of my fertile time. We knew we could get pregnant if we had sex, and rolled the dice. We got pregnant. Will says "no" because we had originally planned on waiting to try for a mini-us till the fall, but we also had sex knowing we could become pregnant.

She smiled and nodded, and the conversation went on. It wasn't awkward, as the over-details I shared above may seem. I share those details because I need people to know: creation is no mistake.

The babble I hear surrounding sex is dehumanizing. Another couple broken up over infidelity. Pornography distorting love between people. Abortion on demand, with no apologies. Support contraceptives because then abortions will be reduced. Unrealistic sex-pectations, less romance and true love. And, more recently, a friend's testimony about how being raised Catholic made sex (especially pre-marital sex) a source of fear, shame and guilt.

In all of this, I think of my husband, I think of my baby, and I think of the dignity my faith gives me as a woman.

Drawn by Bill Donaghy
My husband Will and I married each other with the understanding that we will always be married. We married without having sex beforehand, and we married with the expectation of growing our family size from two to many in its formative years. We married in the Catholic Church, of which we are active members. We have different spiritual lives, but the same faith. Before we married, we prepared our bodies for marriage by first preparing our hearts and minds. We talked about everything! We agreed, disagreed, reasoned, compromised, and worked together, hand in hand, in the making of "us". Without us, together, there can be no children.

As a couple, we practiced a lot of self-control while we were dating and engaged. Those biological wants, needs and desires are not reserved for the non-believers: they are human wants, needs, and desires. But a person doesn't lose weight by eating chocolate cake and then throwing it up anymore than a person can have consequence-less sex - there are always emotional ties if not physically bonding ones. And more often than not, the "consequence" is a tiny human being, whose life should not be terminated "with no apologies".

Greg Pfundstein writes at The Corner,
President Johnson’s fruitless War on Poverty kicked off the nation’s misguided birth-control crusade with grants for “family planning” in 1965. The effort was redoubled in 1970 when, thanks to the efforts of John D. Rockefeller III and George H. W. Bush, Title X of the Public Health Service Act was signed into law by Richard Nixon the day after Christmas. Since 1970, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has tripled to 41 percent. With the help of the Supreme Court with its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, we have also seen the number of abortions spike through the 1980s and reach an equilibrium today at between 1.2 and 1.3 million annually. Both results are at least unexpected from the perspective of a public policy based on the premise that access to contraception will decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies.
The family planning my husband and I do is scientific and based on my body's natural signs. Just as I prefer eating organic and hormone-free food, I am not inclined to put hormonal birth control pills into my body when I am only fertile 5-6 days a month (or 60-72 days out of 365 - below 20% of my year).

Moreover, the reason couples who practice NFP have a 2-5% divorce rate is not because the pool of participants is so small - it is because of the constant communication the couple has about their sex life. And after you've talked about mucus with your loved one, there really isn't anything a person can't discuss openly. Communication is the bedrock of relationships, of love, and essential in decision-making.

Sex is empowering because I have my husband's total love, trust and faithfulness. I find sex beautiful, amazing and dignity-enhancing, and I am sorry when people's experiences with the Church's teachings on sexuality are negative and guilt-ridden. But their experiences do not negate the true beauty of the Church's teachings, especially Theology of the Body. I know that I opposed sex before marriage when I was younger because I knew people who had been pressured into it, and that scared me. I did not want to be pressured - I wanted to have it freely. I opposed it when I was older when I saw how friends reacted when their boyfriends treated them, used them, dumped them. Will and I talked about what would happen if we had sex before marriage, and agreed: it would be great, but we would regret it. It would feel great, but it would not be as great as having the sacramental all-access pass to the whole person.

There are no regrets in my marriage when we have sex. There are no regrets that I am pregnant so soon after marriage. There are no regrets in sharing all of this, because I want people to know. Sex does not have to be split between the "good" and the "bad", but rather the "true love" and the "love-ish." The -ish means, "I love you but": but not your fertility, but not your baggage, but not your hips, but not all of you. True love means, I love all of you; I will cherish you when I am angry, I will appreciate you when you annoy me, I will trust you above all others, and protect your heart in mine.

It's okay to be scared of pregnancy - Mary was frightened by the angel came to her. She was going to be a seen as having a child out-of-wedlock, and her engagement was almost broken off. She was being given a huge responsibility, a child, the child of God. That wasn't an easy "yes" she said.

NFP isn't easy. Self-control isn't easy. Marriage isn't easy. But they're all worth it. True love is worth it. Protecting the dignity and lives of other human beings is worth it. Supporting mothers is worth it. Honoring fathers is worth it.

And when my baby kicks me in the middle of the night, I know it -- the baby, my marriage, full-of-consequence sex -- is worth it.

Dream Good

Week 1, Prompt 2 :: what is it that keeps you up at night? What could you talk about every single day for the rest of your life? What do you want to shout from the rooftops so everyone will know? What runs electric through your veins?

I have started and re-started this post so many times. I've read my classmates' posts, as they bravely poor their heart out and speak truthfully; and I, I have finished a post and cannot yet click 'publish' - for whatever reason is holding me back. Or reasons. So I'm starting over.

At this point, there are two things keeping me up at night. The first is my bladder. As I enter my third trimester, I have to pee all the time, which is annoying because I also have to drink water all the time so as to not dehydrate myself and suffer headaches/ stomach aches/ the whole gauntlet of pregnancy nausea that I've been trying to offer up to Jesus in moments of sanity. Otherwise, a pity party commences and I don't invite anyone, although my husband tries to come and make it all better. He's the one who usually does make it all better, and lets me cry into his shoulder as I continue to not understand why I feel sick, and why this nausea has never really ceased over six going on seven months. Seven motherloving months. July, August, September to go.

The second thing that keeps me up at night are nightmares: memories that remind me of horrible life moments; a rewind of all the things I have not done during this pregnancy to prepare myself for labor or motherhood; falling uncontrollably; failing in everything; the monsters of myself. I can be my own worst enemy, and when I'm lucid and awake, I can rationally turn these thoughts around and banish them. But in the darkness, when I'm exhausted and trying to sleep and trying not to guess what time it is in relation to when the sun will be up in the morning, all I can whisper is "Be gone, Devil!" and "Be with me, Jesus!" Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I whimper into my pillow. I am so tired.

After first semester of college; sleeping with Heidi
But I don't wish this life away. I could talk about my life every single day. I could shout from the rooftops that I have the best husband, best family, best friends. And it runs electric in my veins that my God is an awesome God, a merciful God, a sanctifying God that let me trip and stumble and fall and break and pick myself up again and again. My God is awesome. My God, oh my God.

I've only enjoyed my pregnancy because I know the life I am nourishing is mine and my husband's child. I go to sleep at night only because I am tired and I have things to do: more to write, boxes to unpack, errands to run, chores to finish. I do it all because this is my life - this is the life that has been given to me, and I am going to be a survivor of the worst in life so that I can continue to enjoy the best.

It's  too easy, sometimes, to be sad. It's too easy to have regrets or play the Blame Game or wish life went in a different direction. Mistakes are made, decisions and choices from the past catch up to the present, and what can you do? React, and react positively.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Viktor Frankl wrote about his experiences in the concentration camp; the differences between those who had lived and those who had died was meaning. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way,” wrote Frankl. (As quoted in Emily Esfahani Smith's "There's More to Life Than Being Happy" piece; The Atlantic, January 9, 2013)

I'm at that lovely point in life where I've achieved 25 years. I haven't always lived to the fullest, but I also have not wasted that time. It's in the life scares -- nothing is going to be the same, I'm giving myself fully to my husband and child(ren), I'm out of my parents' house, we're living on a tight budget, we still need to get into residency for after the Masters' program, I need to be more disciplined -- that truly show me that I'm an adult. Not a boring person, but an adult, with more responsibilities and joys. And I am truly happy being so. I have my reasons, and I know my meaning and purpose.

There's nothing easy about life, except what you make it into; there is nothing definite, nothing permanent. But there is love and laughter, smiles, good conversation, the best company, a cold glass of beer, picnics, Christ in the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit and God the Father, family gatherings, sunrises and sunsets, walks outside, and good sleeps.

As Woody Guthrie says, "Dream good", y'all.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

O Come, Holy Spirit!

Story 101 - week 3, prompt 1: The Holy Spirit as my prompt and source for writing.

In an age of beauty and technology and words, words, words at our disposal, there is nothing more freeing than letting go of acceptable ways of saying something, of being tame, and, instead, letting that comma be out of place so that I can let the Holy Spirit guide me in writing.

Why do you write? Yes, you. Anyone can write, blog, be a journalist or novelist. Not all those people are good writers, top quality, but they often have the same motivation: they have a voice, and they feel called to write. Write about their feelings and their family, their food recipes and their travels, their theories and their intellectual quarrels.

I know I have hashed out a lot of beliefs within writing. My husband tells me that I always need a reason to believe something. That I should not believe "just because". I agree with him on most levels, but I think that is the scientist in him talking out loud. The doctor who has to always give a reason to his patients and their family of why he is suggesting this way or that. I am no doctor.

This does not lessen my accountability, nor does it take away any legitimacy over why I feel beliefs. Because I have reasons, but sometimes, they're not hashed out all the way. They're not iron-clad. They might not convince him or my readers, but I'm not talking to them anyways. I'm talking out loud, through my writing. I'm talking with the Holy Spirit, who is urging me and talking to me and suggesting to me and feeding into my curiosity and endless knowledgelust.

Must know more. Must keep writing. Excavate.