Saturday, August 31, 2013

Whenever You Feel Guilty

"Even if it is because you have consciously committed a sin, a serious sin, something you have kept doing many, many times, never let the devil deceive you by allowing him to discourage you. Whenever you feel guilty, offer all your guilt to the Immaculate, without analyzing it or examining it, as something that belongs to her… 
My beloved, may every fall, even if it is serious and habitual sin, always become for us a small step toward a higher degree of perfection. 
In fact, the only reason why the Immaculate permits us to fall is to cure us from our self-conceit, from our pride, to make us humble and thus make us docile to the divine graces. 
The devil, instead, tries to inject in us discouragement and internal depression in those circumstances, which is, in fact, nothing else than our pride surfacing again. 
If we knew the depth of our poverty, we would not be at all surprised by our falls, but rather astonished, and we would thank God, after sinning, for not allowing us to fall even deeper and still more frequently."

{This quote has been attributed to Pope Francis via an unofficial FB page; that is not correct.}

Friday, August 30, 2013

#7QT: How Clever! How Wicked.

Another week come and gone... joining Jen's circus for this Labor Day weekend mayhem!


One delicious pie.
Perhaps it is because we're all settled in (ignore those boxes of books at the top of the stairs); or maybe it's because I'm in my third trimester; or maybe it's because I've realized that a kitchen without sweets is a very, very, very sad kitchen.

Will is not a dessert person (or a fruit person, or a vegetable person, for that matter). I never considered myself a dessert person until there were none to be found. They were not exactly "necessities" in our budget. I tried to think of creative ways to get them in the house.

To date, I've made Fourth of July cake, banana bread, snickerdoodle cookies, peach and berry pie, and carrot cake.
Will, in a sing-songy voice: "My wife is the best! My wife made me cake!"
Me: "It's carrot cake!"
Will, still singing: "My wife made me vegetable cake!"
Will didn't actually eat any of the carrot cake, but he supports my domestic endeavors, and our friends enjoy the sweets of my labor. Next up: muffins!


I devoured a British mystery show recently: Rosemary and Thyme. It centers around a plant pathologist, Rosemary Boxer, and Laura Thyme, a former police constable. After a twist of fate in the first episode, they become friends and business partners as gardeners. Gardeners, of course, who also solve murders! Quirky, very British, and quite enjoyable.


"I never speak lightly of murder... I hate to tempt fate." --Miss Marple

I've moved on to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series (starring Geraldine McEwan). The title of this post is another quote from the infamous Jane Marple. Have you read the books and short stories, dear readers? The Complete Short Stories: A Miss Marple Collection by Agatha Christie is one of my favoritest books. If you're looking for a good puzzle and mystery read, I highly recommend picking it up.


Happy 36 weeks to my Bambino Baldwin!


My awesome friend Andrew sent me Bill Watterson's commencement speech at Kenyon College in May 1990, and it is just wonderful.

Slate published a comic based on part of that speech -- also really excellent.


Back in college, a few friends/ fellow American Studies majors and I would celebrate "Founding Fridays" and go out after class for a beer. So, when I saw this on St. Charles Street yesterday, it made me very, very happy.

I reviewed Stephen Mansfield's The Search for God and Guinness at TIC, and it is another fantastic read.


Any plans for this Labor Day weekend? Will has Friday AND Monday off, so he'll be studying for Step 3, listening to lectures, helping me decorate the nursery, and relishing in his time off. I am tying up loose ends, trying to enter September with less on my to-do list than when I moved down here!

Talk to me, birds!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birth Class: Worth It?

Tuesday was our last birth class; I let Will stay home because

A) He asked;
B) He's already learned all of this, and has even delivered a few babies;
C) He spent last class drawing this... No c-section is complete without a shark, Viking, monkey or turtle. Or dinosaur, for that matter.

The classes were broken down into four topics: Signs & Stages of Labor, Medical Intervention & Pain Management; Indications of Caesarian birth & Physical/ Emotional Changes After Delivery; All About the Newborn. I also took the extra lactation class offered.

The classes mentioned above were all free; there were more comprehensive ones offered, but since my MIL and SILs gave me a doula as a baby shower gift, Will and I did not think additional classes would be necessary.

Were those above mentioned classes necessary? Maybe not. Will certainly did not enjoy them, though he attended most because I wanted him to be there. I did not learn anything particularly new, but it did give me a better peace of mind. I enjoy being in the classroom setting; Will preferred reading the slides later, verses sitting through the slides being read at him for two hours. (But you got to munch on cheese and crackers the whole time... they offered us a cheese platter, people! Yum.

The two best classes were the lactation class and the newborn class. The information provided at the other three were pretty standard, but, again, I liked listening to the nurse talk about it in an organized fashion. It helped me wrap my mind around the fact that I am going to be giving birth in a few weeks.

Waiting for the baby feels like this:
Heidi, the family dog, being a lioness and waiting for her "prey" at the dog park
Waiting, waiting, waiting... but not particularly wanting anything to happen. People have asked me if I am excited (well, yes), if I am counting down the days (never), and if I'm prepared (sure... but my bag has yet to be packed).


Heidi and I are both on the prowl...
Then, Will asked me to stop reading all the articles because it was playing games with my emotions, and we had a nice talk instead about why contractions hurt and what's happening in my body and yes, I am strong enough to do this.

Though he's taking a very practical approach to our baby, I will say that I am glad he's got medical opinions based on medical facts, verses my "feelings" on the matter...

Now, I'm as content as this pigeon eating a beignet:

Life happens.
I still have to write up a short birth plan (I considered natural, but am now on Team Epidural), register at the hospital and pack a bag (recommended: robe, socks, chapstick, conditioner, toothbrush & paste). I've considered charging my ipod and bringing that along too... although I have no clue what kind of music I'll be interested in hearing while contracting.

Birth class is a good place to be - there are also method classes, which may help moms and dads with more specific pain management techniques. I'm satisfied with having a doula and an epidural because it won't be guaranteed that Will is going to be there during the whole of the new couple deliveries (I'm not sure how his future hospitals will work), and I'm trying to be realistic about that. Wait, did I just say future pregnancies? Girl, get yourself together! Have this baby first!

I'm especially glad I took a lactation class - that is probably the best class to take,  because breast feeding may be the most common and best for you and the baby, but it is certainly no cake walk. Cheers to all moms who do it!

When it comes to having birth, for those fellow type-As who just want to "know!!!!!!" what is going to happen, I comfort myself this way: women have been having babies for millions of years and with way less pain killers and knowledgeable staff members around them. I'll be fine, even if it's going to really, really hurt. Pain with purpose.

The biggest thing for moms to take away is that they've created a little individual who is not going to fall into all the categories nicely. Babies are born with the instinct to eat and the ability to poop/pee and sleep, but they are also brimming with potential. They're new to this world too! Sure, I did not have a small person depending on me before, but the small person did not have to depend on me either. Hungry? Eats. Bathroom time? Shazam. Warm and cuddly while training for the Olympics in the dark? Nice place here. Sleeps without interruption? Yeah, well, you and me both, buddy.

I suppose the thing I'm really waiting for is my heart to explode. I distinctly remember meeting my baby sister (14 years ago...feeling old...) for the first time, and my heart growing 3.5 times bigger to accommodate the love I felt for this person I had been waiting for, and just met. It was amazing, and I bet it is going to grow even bigger for Bambino Baldwin #1. And no class can really prepare you for that.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Five Favorites: Take Two

Editing articles is leaving me in need of a brain break... linking up with the fabulous Hallie!


Disney (Children's) Radio on Pandora. 

Yes, Pandora. I have a Spotify too, but there is nothing more fabulous than this station, especially when I am under deadline. Disney songs and soundtracks, as well as the likes of a Motown mix, Jack Johnson, Regina Spektor, A Fine Frenzy, New Republic, Joshua Radin, Florence + The Machine and even Adele.

More importantly, though:


Et cetera, et cetera - more where that came from!



I know, we're terribly behind on this. Will and I opened our own Netflix account because we wanted to watch the fourth season of Arrested Development after re-watching the first three seasons. We are pretty disappointed with how it started, so we took a break and watched Sherlock. ZOMG. Now we're watching the sixth season of Burn Notice, in between viewings of childhood favorites. We watched the Great Mouse Detective a few nights ago -- still fabulous!

We love our Amazon Prime, but daaaaang guurl. Netflix, you fine.


Care packages.

My mom sent me a hug in a box! Two jars of jam (blackberry from my uncle's farm; tart cherry from Michigan), peanut butter cookies (more Michigan love), gummy bears for me (devoured), gum for Will, a maternity shirt, a few pieces of non-forwarded mail, and letters from the family.

Overly happy picture I sent my Mom
I adore mail of all varieties, and feel very blessed with the correspondence family and friends have been keeping up with us since we moved down South almost two months ago! I am trying to keep up with writing thank you and regular cards; e-mails too!



Okay, maybe unfair to put him under my "favorites" since we're married, but how else can I categorize this drawing he did during birth class?

Let's just say, things got interesting once he added the shark.
Or how he asked the nurse unnecessarily complicated questions during birth class... (hopefully not sparking terror in any of the ladies there!)
Or the straight face he kept when she queried about his level of knowledge about sutures...
Or the crazy grin on his face when the nurse confirmed that we could skip the tour of the postpartum ward... (He gave me the breakdown anyways: bed, table, desk, bathroom, chair/couch, bed for baby. Bam.)

Then, in the midst of swinging my arm ridiculously high as we sauntered down the hall away from the other suckers couples, we began to literally skip away from class 30 minutes early. That was his favorite part of class: leaving!

My husband is a good sport during this whole third trimester adventure. He makes sure we go to the pool almost every day so preggo here can get my 30 minutes of movement in; he lets me sleep in past 7 a.m.; he asks me how the baby is doing and humors me when I tell him to LOOK! THE BABY IS MOVING!!!!! (but mostly, never when he is looking); he attempts to not give me a technical medical answer when I am looking for an emotional/ empathetic one; he is always up for the adventures I propose, be it an impromptu walk outside, trying out a local snow cone shop, or a triple whammy library/ art museum/ bank day.

See? Favorite.

The Mirror Magazine.

Mary C. Tillotson and Joy Pullmann, two college friends + reporter colleagues, and I started a new online publication: The Mirror Magazine. It's still new and budding, and I just love it. "Women speak about living traditional values in the modern, post-feminist world" is our mission statement. We're taking submissions, we're on Facebook and Twitter, and we're gearing up for the long-haul. We'd love for you to read along!

Here is one of our readers, and one of my new favorite blogs: This Felicitous Life. Laura, this is my public shout-out that I can't wait for you to write for us too!!

Happy Wednesday, y'all!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday's Small Things

Today begins the second week of Will's summer vacation, and I've been enjoying the break immensely. By break, I mean break from driving him to and from school- because otherwise, my schedule has not varied greatly.

I had an OB appointment, a birth class, and a lactation class this week. Will and I missed the birth class after going swimming late in the afternoon, deciding we were starving during the post-swim walk around the track (for more my-speed exercise), ordering Chinese food from the place a five minute walk from our apartment, and after being completely overwhelmed with how utterly delicious it was, fell into a food coma while watching Sherlock. We have no regrets. We're currently re-arranging our meal budget to more regularly accommodate for Chinese deliciousness.

And what, you may ask, does this have to do with Sunday? I was merely setting the stage. We've had a low-key week, an informative week, and an all-around lovely week. I even made carrot cake! (The answer is yes, it is delicious. Recipe from one of my favoritest ever cookbooks, The New Best Recipe.) I've started taking sleep medication (yes, my doctor gave me the go-ahead) after a few especially bad nights the previous week, and I am SO HAPPY TO SLEEP THROUGH THE WHOLE NIGHT.

...This may not happen again for a long time, so I am relishing in it. Especially the taking-meds-because-no-one-needs-me-awake-every-few-hours part.

Carrying on.

This morning, Will made us delicious eggs and ham, complete with coffee - which we drink cafe au lait. That's the fancy term for sugar and lots o' milk, with coffee there purely for caffeine purposes.

Mug shots.
We watched an episode of Burn Notice before parting ways to do chores and other menial tasks, like studying and article writing. I had a really fantastic interview with a source, which is always gratifying. I'm writing about the common core in New York, but you should look it up, because it's in 45 states already. One of the more fascinating parts of the common core is that it claims to be a state-led initiative, but it's the same in every state (centralized) and the federal government gives educational grants to schools which thus requires them to use the common core. The common core will and is affecting public schools, home schoolers, private schools, Catholic schools. More on this later.

After my interview, Will wanted to go to the park, and then promptly fell into bed and took a nap. I continued working, but started craving a snow cone.

Background: there is a snow cone place down the street from our apartment, and every time I pass it, rain and shine, there is a line out the door. Does that not scream quality snow cone to you?? I've been trying to make a fun trip of it with Will for about a month now, but we always think about getting one just before the shop closes down.

BUT TODAY WAS DIFFERENT. After I poked Will awake and subtly hinted how much I would love to get a snow cone before mass, and how we needed to leave soon so we didn't hit the hour before communion mark, we set out to our destination. The place is called Hansen's Sno-Blitz and it is practically a historical landmark. The shop is not fancy, and has old newspaper clippings laminated or framed on the wall. Their slogan is "There are no shortcuts to quality!"

Will and I both agreed: less syrup next time. But still delicious.

Then, off to mass! We go to St. Patrick's Church downtown.

Glorious church! Here's a better shot.
I loved the readings and reflections today.

"Jesus' intent here is not primarily to condemn people, but to challenge them to right living according to the covenant established with God. So must this be our intent."
The priest gave a wonderful homily as well; he also sounds like he needs to work for an audio book company. His voice is simply sonorous!

Dinner was prepare yourself, and we were soon joined by our only friend in NOLA and her sister. Almost two hours later, our two friends in NOLA left us until Wednesday.

I talked to my family today as well, and received text message updates on their happenings and the goings-on at home. Isn't that what Sundays are best for? Spending time with loved ones, especially family? I'm cherishing Sundays with Will because I know they will not always be so care-free. In a month or so (!!), we will have a bundle of joy who will need to be completely cared for, watched, changed, feed and burped. In a few years, we will (hopefully) have a few more. Will's schedule will be set by the hospital, and my schedule will be continue in its flexible, changeable ways.

And I am so, so, so, so, so grateful for all of it.

Check it. 35 weeks, y'all.
Anyways, it's the small (and so not-so-small) things. A belated happy Sunday, dear readers!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

34 Weeks

A dear college friend and Kappa sister was in town this past weekend, so we took our Sunday to worship together at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis in the French Quarter, and then delicious cafe au lait coffee and beignets afterwards, as well as fabulous conversation.

 Beignets, by the way, are a hot, flaky pastry which is covered in powdered sugar. Will likened them to funnel cakes, but these are more dainty and served on a non-paper plate! I highly recommend eating one or three when in New Orleans!

I had my 34 week appointment on Tuesday, and I am wonderfully healthy, as is the baby. Thank you for all your questions and prayers! We're entering the home stretch!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adventure Is Out There

As seen at The Mirror Magazine

This one's for the independent gal, wondering where her life is going - wondering what's she's doing, and if she's missing something, and where her time is truly going.

Adventure is out there! And you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are not intended to stand still, unless it is to feel the breeze or catch the rain. You are never "stuck" - and if you find yourself waiting, use the time well.

10. Read a book.

What is more precious than developing your mind? Catch up on old favorites (Ella Enchanted, anyone?) and new finds. Move away from the laptop and your phone, and just fall into the coziness of reading (or listening to books on tape, if that is better!).

9. Drink and be merry! 

Sometimes, a good beer can just hit the spot. Or chilled red wine with dinner - divine. Even better - visit a winery, or a brewery, or a distillery, if that's more your flavor. Take a friend (or family member), sign up for a tour, and enjoy yourself.

8. Find purpose in your work.

Why are you working in that job? It is one thing to make money (which is a very important); it is another thing to find joy. Yes, there are hard days, and there will be worse days, but what makes you keep at it? What makes you tick? How do you feel after doing a good job? Do you need more feedback? Are you open to criticism? Talk to your boss; be on the same page so that you can be the best member of the team possible.

7. Keep up with friends.

In this age of technology, do more than a "what's up?" text. Keep them updated on your life via e-mail, handwritten letter or phone call, and be just as earnest to talk about their life. Be open to friends not being close to you any more, and open to finding new friends as well. There are so many people on this adventure - stick to the ones who stick to you.

6. Explore possibilities.

As an introvert, it can be very daunting to try new things, but very rewarding as well. I took tennis lessons when I was younger and enjoyed them, but never got particularly good as my family plays for kicks and giggles. After college, since I am never going to play lacrosse again, or soccer seriously, I decided it was time for a new venture. I took lessons at our swim club, and lo and behold! I was not the worst or the best! And I made a few tennis buddies of my own.

The biggest hardship for many people is remembering that, more likely than not, people are interested in making friends. You will not click with everyone, and having a good conversation does not mean you're destined to be BFFs-forever-and-ever, but as Rudyard Kipling says,  "One man in a thousand, Solomon says,/ Will stick more close than a brother./ And it's worth while seeking him half your days/ If you find him before the other." Take a genuine interest in other people; it'll be nice to step outside yourself for a while.

5. Accept second-best and pursue your passions.

If you want to learn how to knit, do it because you want to, not because you must create the perfect hat on the first try. If you want to learn to fish, you might not catch any fish the first few times. If you go canoeing or kayaking, you may tip over. If you learn calligraphy, it might look like you got drunk with a fancy pen. And that's okay. Do what you love, or think you're going to love - why wait?

4. Travel!

This is the best part of the adventure - going on your own. Traveling is not limited to outside the country, either; there are so many beautiful places in America, even if you go an hour away to a big state park for a picnic lunch and a short hike - what a trip! Outside the country is great as well, but is a different sort of adventure, complete with higher expenses, a possible different language barrier, and less spontaneity.

Of course, if your co-traveler speaks the language... even better!
I also highly recommend traveling with a loved one, both family and friend. The memories you'll make are irreplaceable!

3. Be content.

There is no one made like you, and your challenges are unique. They are hard, and they are going to flavor your life in their own way. But don't let them overwhelm you! Everything can be conquered: poverty, poor self-image, sadness, lack of direction. Be kind to yourself, wonderful you! You're

2. Be brave.

Keep the door open for change! Take a job that isn't your dream job, write on your blog, go out with someone who isn't "perfect", volunteer, speak your mind, respect others, and be open to whatever comes your way -- especially if it's not part of "the plan"! Sometimes, those detours are the most fun.

(Hat tip to my sister, who sent me this video - and cheers to one of the bravest people I know!)

1. Keep it loose, keep it tight.

Amos Lee sings, "But sometimes,/ We forget what we got,/ Who we are./ Oh who are are not./ I think we gotta chance,/ To make it right."

Don't forget who you are, dear reader. Don't get caught up in other people's passions or problems. Don't let another person's dark cloud find its way over your head. Don't let Pintrest make you feel inadequate. Don't let another person's happiness take away from your own. We're all on a different journey, and yours is amazing.

Any more ideas for adventures, dear readers?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Aristotle on Friendship

But the complete sort of friendship that is between people who are good and are alike in virtue, since they wish for good things for one another in the same way insofar as they are good, and they are good in themselves. And those who wish for good things for their friends for their own sake are friends most of all, since they are that way for themselves and not incidentally; so the friendship of these people lasts as long as they are good, and virtue is enduring. (from Nicomachean Ethics, 1156B)

My four year college roomie and me, senior year, study break; next month, I'm having a baby and she's moving to Scotland for grad school - she is the best kind of friend a person can ever have.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Husband Is Not The Answer

Or a wife. Or a significant other. Or a boyfriend/ girlfriend. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, as the King from The King and I liked to say. (I'll be approaching this article as girl to girl, in terms of pronouns, but I presume men can relate too!)

I saw a #singlegirlproblems post which bothers me excruciatingly - that the girl only wanted a husband, not friends. Without channeling Ya-Ya Sisterhood on y'all, I could not disagree more, and here's my basic breakdown of why: husbands are mortal, friends are backboards, you are irreplaceable.

Husbands, Mere Mortals

In Disney's Hercules, Meg is adamant about not being in love.

In the end, she folds. Okay, she's in love. Thanks, Muses. I suppose we all reach that point: we want to be with the one our soul seeks. We want love, the glory of love, the feelings of love, the need and want to be loved, and to love in return. Think of all the Pintrest projects you could attempt if you were in love! We women want to be the jelly to his peanut butter, the other half of his heart.

But already, you're aspiring to an ideal. You are thinking about your side of the bargain; and what about his?

My husband and I complement each other very well- but we're very different. Different food preferences, different cleaning preferences, different schedules, different aspirations. I know, and understand, that I do not fulfill life for him. I'd be more enthusiastic to exercise, more competitive, a better tennis player. But he's a good sport, and goes swimming with his wife the preggo whale.

I don't know what's happening, but it's silly
I love Will just as he is - which is hardly perfect , but perfect for me. Will is human, which means, for as much as I adore him, he'll never fulfill me. And that is why we go to mass with each other every Sunday, and worship and pray before the only human-and-divine man who could possibly satisfy: our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I do not mean this in a cheesy way. I mean this in a very real way. If you have not found your significant other, you are not being punished. You are just as worthy as the girl next to you. You were made in the image of God, which is to say, your soul contains the logos, a piece of the infinite. God is with you, and he will always be with you. This life you're experiencing? It's a journey. There is no end point until Judgement Day, where we will be able to finally know and understand the awesome love and mercy of God.

Being single is a vocation, and it can be a very heavy cross. In this age of social media, it is hard to see pictures of engagements, marriages and babies popping up on every news feed. But do not forget that people in tough marriages or struggling with infertility are also seeing those pictures, and they have their own cross to bear as well. No one is excluded from hardship in this life. Life is hard, and worth pressing on through - more than pressing on, even: enjoying!

There are small joys everywhere - try to find them in the every day, not the grand gestures.

Friends, Backboards (and sometimes backbones)

Ever wonder if a guy is for you? Ask a good friend. She'll tell you straight. You might disagree with her (just a little bit), and then realize (slowly, sooo slowly) that she is right. Near the end of another relationship, my bestie Julia gave me the same advice I had given her a year or so earlier: let it go, and let God. 

Ug. Let what go? My want to be married, and my frustration that my wants were not aligning with another's stars. 

I began earnestly praying, begging God: please let me bear fruit in my single life. Please let me be happy.

And God totally turned my world upside down. In a strange turn of events, I quit my job, I moved home, I sponsored a girl in RCIA, I met my future husband, I co-started the Bright Maidens. These things may not look connected, but they are through God's grace.

I could have done none of the above without my friends. I was encouraged to quit (and stand up for myself) after being treated badly, I was encouraged to move home when I wondered if that was the best decision (YES), I was inspired to sponsor by friends who were actively involved in other types of Church ministry, I met my husband through mutual friends, and I made two very dear friends as we started a new adventure of online evangelization.

Most importantly, it was friendships which kept me grounded in my growing relationship with Will. He met my friends, and I met his. We all got along, and we all learned different sides of each other. And since Will and I continue to be different people (none of this combining names or FB accounts, etc.! Personal autonomy!!), we will both continue to be better friends to each other, as well as cherishing old and new friendships together.

Here is a friend we both have, who always reminds me of why friendships are so important, in addition to marriage and familial relationships - he makes us laugh, he makes us cry, and he reminds us why friends are the ones who love us no matter what (even if we have abrasive personalities):

You Are Irreplaceable

Cue a Michael Buble song. It's so easy to be envious. It's so natural to want to be in the next stage of your life. But you're being given a gift right now: it's not a man, it's an opportunity. Pursue yourself. Pursue your dreams, goals, desires. There is nothing holding you back, except the time it takes to prepare.

I recently stumbled upon a couple interviews I did for my Theology of the Human Heart class in high school. I interviewed my cousin, my aunt/godmother, my mother, and my grandmother. The two that especially struck me were my aunt's and grandmother's - my aunt got married in her later 30's, and loves how much she was able to pursue her career and travel. My grandmother got married in her low 20's, and said that if she could have pursued a career path, she would have enjoyed being a t.v. anchor. My own mother got married at 25 and pursued a Master's instead of an M.D. She made that decision so that she and my Dad could have a bigger family with a more flexible schedule. Everyone made the right decisions for them, even though they came at different points in life, and for different reasons.

Photo credit:
As for me, I've had to overcome being envious of not working for a regular publication full-time. Instead, I'm starting to take freelancing more seriously because that is the path I am currently on, as well as continuing to write book reviews and cultivating my pet projects. My current focus is supporting my husband, keeping house and finance control, and - soon enough - taking care of my little one. I'll be where I want to be eventually, and I'm learning to enjoy a different pace of life. I'm happy, even with the lumps of life. They certainly add perspective and reasons to stay grateful.

When I was single, I worked multiple jobs and I traveled, because that was my post-college plan. I also audited a class at the local seminary, spent time with my family (who I miss terribly right now), wrote, and prayed for my future spouse. This last part is especially important for me, because as much as I prayed, I was extremely humbled to hear that my future MIL had been praying for me as well. Never underestimate the power of prayer, or the miracles that can happen within when you spend more time with our Lord and less time consumed with pettiness, envy, sadness and anger. I'm working on this too, and dear reader, I am praying for you.

God works in mysterious ways, but we are all part of his glorious tapestry. Today, I continue to pray for my spouse. Life is better with him, but not easier. Everyone has challenges, and it is too simple to wish them away by adding in another person. No one can make you happy except you. More money will not make you happy. A different job will not make you happy. If you cannot find happiness within yourself, and accept your circumstances, and work every day to be a better person and a follower of Christ, then having a husband will be like a band-aid over a gaping wound. You need stitches. You need hope. You need to believe that life is an adventure, and you're in for a ride. You need to know that you are worthy of wonderful things happening to you.

A husband is a wonderful companion, but you are irreplaceable, and your happiness is contingent on you.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hid from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40: 27-31)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Domestic By Choice

Published at The Mirror Magazine on Monday

Yesterday, I set aside 30 minutes to write up a chore list for our townhouse. I had previously scoured Pintrest for hours, looking for one that would give me an idea of even how to go about setting up a chore list. And yet, nothing compared with my very own list that encapsulated our very own cleaning needs.

My first kitchen, on the even of destruction
When I lived with my family, my parents split up the house into sections. Between six kids, we could usually keep it tolerable. When I lived by myself, the apartment was so tiny that anything out of place would cause a cleaning frenzy to ensue. Now, I live with my husband and I waddle around at 33 weeks pregnant, cleaning sporadically because I forget what I was doing once I leave the room to put something away. Not always, but it can certainly feel that way. I needed a list, and I'm a happier lady today to have it.

Are women born domestic? Or do they have domesticity thrust upon them? I used to think I wasn't domestic, because people told me so. In a similar thread, I thought my mom wasn't domestic either. And so the quote from Albert Einstein now floats through my head: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." The same with domesticity.

Last night, I made burgers and fries (from little red potatoes), with a side of avocado, tomato and cucumber salad  (slice and dice, and add olive oil, salt and pepper!). It was all as delicious as it sounds, and I got two thumbs up from our dinner guest and my husband. I was very content as well. For dessert, we had a peach and blueberry pie that I made on Saturday. It was much less complicated than I've ever been led to believe about making pies, especially if you're willing to use store-bought crust.

I called my mom to remind me how long to cook the burgers and potatoes, and at what temperature. She said it off the top of her head, out of her brilliant mind. My mom is a nurse and a cancer specialist, and works for one of the best hospitals in Cincinnati and is at the top of her field. I may be the writer of the family, but she's written more articles and book chapters, and edited for science journals and books. My mom may not be a sous chef, but she always keeps us fed and happy; she kept order; she kept the house decorated for various holidays. And I realize how unfair I've been to my mom about not teaching me how to properly iron, or make a bed more neat, or even cook more so I wouldn't fly into a panic every time someone suggested I fix a dish. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and we shouldn't see women as less domestic because theirs happens to fall into the household category. She always made due, at the very least.

My mom and her holiday vest on my sister's birthday!
What my mom did teach me was how to edit correctly, and how to edit your own work ruthlessly; how to multi-task; the necessity of keeping a calendar; how to be gracious and open to inviting people over to your home, whether it be for dinner or the weekend; how to be a strong woman with strong values.

And perhaps the greatest thing she taught me is to not sweat the small stuff, make due with what you have, if you have a problem then-figure-it-out, value the time you have with family and friends, and say "I love you" often. We're also a hugging family, so the more hugs the better.

When I have my first baby, my mom is going to come 13 hours south to be with us for two weeks. She'll help cook and clean, run laundry, hold the baby, let me sleep and make us all laugh. She may not be overly-domestic, but she's domestic enough, and by choice, and that makes all the difference.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Hard Thing

Story 101 prompt - Today's challenge: think back over this week. What do you feel is your hard thing? How do you feel about it? What is the purpose in you writing it? I believe when He asks us to write something difficult - to share that which we are most afraid of - it's because He has a reason and a purpose in those words. What are you fighting?

My hard thing is forgiveness, which could also be argued as my easy thing. When someone hurts my feelings, when someone is thoughtless in their interactions with me - I can usually push it aside, see their motivation, hear their apology (if there is one), and forgive them in my heart. It is forgotten!

But... to the person who violated our friendship, to the person who should be more supportive when I need it most, and to the two mentor figures who treated me like disposable talent, I have a hard time with my Grudge. 

My capital-G grudge is what keeps forgiveness at bay. They all haunt me, because the root of the blame is usually myself, and the mistakes I've made. If you had only... echoes down the hall. I try to sleep at night. I tell myself I won't shy away from reconciling myself to the Lord. To forgive others heals me, and I am afraid to keep asking for all the grace and forgiveness I really, truly need. Like a child who has tasted the water from the well, I keep asking: Please God. Please God, be with me. Help me Lord. Help me!

In the readings on Sunday, the theme was, God listens to those who persist. Abraham talked to God about lowering the numbers of good men, so as to save Sodom and Gomorrah (from 50 to 10, so I would say he was persistent). In the Gospel, Jesus said, "And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:9-10).

I ask, I seek, I knock in my writing. My purpose in writing this is simply to vocalize my hurt. My purpose in writing anything is to vocalize words in a different order than the way they appear in my head - rushed, jumbled, excited. It's why I love the sacrament of Confession so much - it's more than silently making my peace with the Lord, more than crying and being repentant. It's physically saying the words out loud to the priest, who is acting in the person of Christ. It's saying I'm sorry to the person who loves me so much, he would suffer death again, just for me. It's knowing I am forgiven, when I struggle to forgive myself. I need that verbal affirmation from the only person who will never disappoint me.

I am fighting against how scared I am; how I have been hurt, over and over and over again. I've been betrayed. I've felt broken. I'm struggling to heal. And I wonder how truly, truly hurt Jesus was - emotionally - when Judas kissed him, killed him with the kindness.

Elora, the "Story101 midwife" as Shelby (fellow workshop-er) dubbed her, issued this additional challenge: Consider what Bradbury asks. When was the last time your real love or real hatred showed itself in your writing?

Ray Bradbury, in the Zen in the Art of Writing, wrote:
How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper? When was the last time you dared release a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like a lightning bolt? What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to to get around to whispering or shouting them?
I know I've written of love, real love: the way Christ has utterly transformed my heart; the way my family misses me and loves me; the way my husband cares for me and tells me so, the way he says, "I love us"; the way my baby moves and grooves; the way I'm learning to create a home, and not merely living to establish myself-- but real hatred? I shudder. Hate is so dark, so ugly. Perhaps, however, hate is what I think I feel towards those few people, and it's hard for me to admit that. I prefer "a very strong dislike." I don't hate the people, either - I hate their actions. I hate the way they don't see how they hurt me. I hate the way they live their lives without a second thought to how they hurt me. I hate that, even though I've tried to vocalize my hurt, I've been drowned into silence. And so I sit by the dark water and dip my toes in, afraid of the hate monsters that lurk beneath.

Blessed Mother Teresa said,
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
And so, yes, ultimately, that earthly, human, prideful hurt is unresolved. That's hard too. My life is not consumed by this hurt, though - only colored. I hope it will grow more pale in the days and years to come. To dwell is to feed the hate monsters. To be hateful is to lessen your own humanity, and to give less to one's fellow man than what is due to him or her: respect, love as an action, and forgiveness. Life is too short for anything else.