Nothing and Everything to Write About…And Answer Me This #1

So, I can’t possibly be the only one with this problem. I get all of these great ideas for posts I’d like to write, posts that I feel simply called to write (’cause, you know, blogs are there to make you feel self-important…wait no,) smack dab in the middle of Mass. Occasionally it happens in other situations where I’m utterly incapable of either making a note to myself or beginning to type something out…but it’s usually in Mass. When I’m supposed to be contemplating and immersing myself in Our Lord’s most incredible of Sacrifices happening right. smack. in front. of me.

Yeah. That's happening.

Yeah. That’s happening.

But that’s how the cookies crumble, folks. I mean, these strokes of brilliance are usually a result of meditation upon Father’s sermon, but still. In the battle of blog vs. Calvary, the Mass is always supposed to win. So I make myself a mental note to jot this new idea down the second I get downstairs to the bookstore after daily Mass (yeah, I’m unbelievably blessed to have a chapel with daily Mass just above the bookstore–it’s literally upstairs.)

Unfortunately, no amount of telling myself to do this will keep that grand revelation in my puny little mind for the requisite half an hour before I get down there. Not once has it happened. I should really bring a notebook up there with me every day, just in case, but I a) forget and b) am kind of nervous about having people notice me scribbling something down in the middle of Mass and inevitably asking me what that was about.

Exactly, sir.

Exactly, sir.

 

So uhh, until I manage to come out of the First-Holy-Communions-Induced coma that I’ve been living in for the last few months, how about we use that long little excuse/rant to segue into doing some of these Kendra questions? ‘Cause we can and that’s about all that can be done, unless of course you’re dying to hear about handmade First Holy Communion veils, weekend FHC retreats at parishes, and which Catholic kids books and toys I find to be the most awesome of all and regularly steer parents to. No takers yet? Ok, questions it is!

1. What time do you prefer to go to Mass?

We usually go to the 9 am on Sundays because at our parish, that’s the Extraordinary Form, the Traditional Latin Mass. And we love it. Also, there’s the most knock-your-socks-off coffee & doughnuts hour ever afterwards complete with dozens and dozens of adorable small children of varying sizes running underfoot and between your legs. Heaven.

But seriously, if I could make that Mass start at 9:30 or 10 am…that’d be great. ‘Cause it’s almost a 45 minute drive to get there.

2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Easiest answer ever. Too cold. You can always add on an extra layer of clothing, snuggle closer to the hubby, or sit near a fire with a warm drink. When you’re too warm, you can only get so naked. And we’re not even talking about modesty anymore–once you’re buck naked in your own home, there’s nothing left to take off. Give me an excuse to snuggle instead.
3. How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?

I have one sister, but come from a large extended family that’s very close, so I never felt like I had a small family. Also, my sister is simply fantastic…very different from her terrorizing violent younger self. Thank God!
4. If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn into?

Into someone who’s furious at me for something that I didn’t do. Or for no reason at all. I hate when people are mad at me, but I’ve learned to be a big girl and take it (mostly) when it’s rightly deserved. But my heart knows no sorrow like being inexplicably despised or yelled at.

5. Barbie: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Meh. I have no strong feeling about barbie dolls. When I was a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to what her figure looked like. I was mostly preoccupied with coming up with my own edition to market: Sky Diving Barbie. In my mind, she and her friends came packaged in a variety of attractive brightly-colored jumpsuits and looked so cool. In reality, I placed my Barbies in a sitting position on top of the blades of my bedroom fan, switched it onto high and hid in the closet to watch them fling themselves all over the room. I’d say that I was kind of a twisted kid, but I’m not sure that I’ve grown out of it.

6. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

I was really tempted to channel my grandpa and say something akin to, “You want a tip? Don’t stand in the rain.” hehe. Except the one great piece of wisdom that I’ve really managed to learn in all of these years is this: Be sincere in what you say and charitable in what you think. With your spouse and with the whole world. If only we would all say what we really meant and really felt to one another (instead of being passive-aggressive about it,) and would give one another the benefit of the doubt again and again, the world would be a much more pleasant place.

Not that I’m qualified to give advice or anything.

 

I have to admit, I feel awfully grateful to have an easy mechanism for writing built in at least once a week. Hopefully it’ll help me to get back into the swing of things whenever I’m able to pop my head up from First Holy Communion Season Chaos. Also, with Easter coming, I had tons of fun creating little sample Easter baskets filled, not with chocolate bunnies and candy (which I do love,) but with awesome Catholic toys, books, and dolls. Sometimes my job is too much fun. It balances out the crazy.

Here goes Holy Week! See you at Catholic All Year’s Answer Me This!

Sorry, I guess I’m just in a meme kind of mood.

What We’re Doing for Lent

After my last post about my biggest goal for Lent this year, I thought it would be good and fun to share with you what we’re planning on doing as a family this Lent.

Over the years, I’ve found that I really need to challenge myself to commit to both physical and temporal sacrifices during Lent. I can remember after my earliest practicing Lents when I gave up Coke (it’s a big deal for a girl from the South,) when I decided that it would be much better for my soul to give up my time, which I am oh so stingy about. I spent a few years trying out things like the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, and reading the Bible daily.

But eventually, I realized that I’d fallen into a trap with that too. It was too easy. Because I am a great big wimp when it comes to physical difficulties. And I need to learn to master physical discipline if I’m ever gettin’ to Heaven. Seriously. So now, I try to make sure that I have a good mix of both things each year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far this year:

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

The Physical

Partial Abstinence

For the last three years, my husband and I have followed the traditional practice of partial abstinence during Lent. Partial abstinence means only allowing one meal a day that contains meat (except on Fridays, which have none at all.) We prayerfully considered doing no-meat at all during Lent, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t beneficial for our health at this point, and frankly: it’s a little too much to follow successfully. Partial abstinence for us is hard. Although our regular breakfasts don’t include meat, our lunches almost always do. And finding ways to cook lots of vegetarian/pescatarian leftovers or suffer the consequences of choosing between PB&J and tuna sandwiches every day is very penitential for us. It’s very hard, but it’s been so good for us! It was after practicing this for the first time that I felt really, truly joyous all through Easter (instead of just on Easter Sunday.)

Reducing Sweet Snacks

I can’t really cut out snacks completely due to my medications and health problems, but I can choose to have apple slices or crackers instead of that cookie someone brought into work. We don’t eat a lot of sweets around our house to start with (as evidenced by the stacks of old Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s candies on top of our pantry–from last year,) so giving them up isn’t a very big deal. We actually have been instead making it a point to add a special dessert on days when a solemnity falls during Lent (oh, how I love those days!) Just to make the distinction feel a bit more special.

Giving up Liquor & Cocktails

Oh Manhattans, how I love thee. (But seriously, wikipedia images… who wants to put Crown in a Manhattan?)

If you knew us, you’d know that this is kind of a big deal. Okay, now we sound like drunks. I promise we’re not. We’re just a family that loves the fun of a yummy, well-mixed cocktail over a glass of wine or a beer. We still enjoy wine and beer, but isn’t a Martini just so much better most nights? Or a Manhattan? My husband has gotten pretty good at mixing all kinds of cocktails over the last few years and they’re really our go-to treat. So we’re giving them up. Waaay harder than giving up candy, let me tell you.

The Temporal

Keeping Television Time to about 1 Hour a Day on Weekdays

We have a bad habit. When we both finally make it home on weeknights, as soon as dinner’s on the table, we’re exhausted. Done and ready to snuggle. So we watch one of our favorite TV shows on DVD. We don’t have cable or internet powerful enough to watch hulu on, so we own everything we enjoy watching together on DVD. While this is great, we often don’t keep it to one show (or a long show and a short one,) because we’re just beat and would rather keep watching and eat away at the little time that we have each evening. So we’re keeping it to one hour of TV time together on weekday evenings so we’ll have time to do some of these other fun things:

Reading the Gospels Together Daily

We’ve been wanting to do this for a while. The plan is to just start at Mark and work until we’re done with John (we’ll decide what happens after that when we get there.) We decided against a set amount of reading per night because every night is different in this house. Some nights we might get through a few chapters, but half a chapter might be all we can do on some nights when we work late.

Reading “My Catholic Faith” Together Weekly

I’ve told you about My Catholic Faith, right? If not, seriously, take my advice and go buy yourself a copy of it now from wherever you can get it. It is THE best family Catechism I have ever seen. And I run a Catholic bookstore, remember? Everything is so well organized and clearly written–no fuzzy gray areas for those without theology degrees. Bishop Marrow gives simply the best clarifications and elaborations on Church teachings you can find. Also, the pictures are beautiful and so, so informative. Just go get yourself one, dig? (P.S. I hear that if you get it through that link, they might throw me a couple of pennies. Which is cool. But no pressure.)

Best. Catechism. Ever.

Best. Catechism. Ever.

We’ll be reading at least one lesson per week during Lent, in the hopes that the habit sticks after the season is over. We’re deciding to keep the night flexible because when we’ve tried this previously, all it took was one wacky schedule change (which happens all the time) to throw off the whole thing. This way, maybe once a week will turn into twice a week.

In addition to these hard and fast commitments that we’re challenging ourselves with, we’re also planning to look for little opportunities throughout the day to offer extra little sacrifices. You know, the quiet little gestures of sacrifice for others that we ought to be doing anyway, or little extra penances like standing when we’d rather sit, doing our least favorite chores first, or doing things the hard way when the easy way is still an option. (Or big things like actually going to the gym.) This post has some wonderful ideas for just these kinds of sacrifices. I might even make some St. Therese Sacrifice Beads to help us along. I’ll let you know.

I’m so grateful to have had the season of Septuagesima again this year to help us prayerfully prepare for Lent’s coming. We were reminded with the readings and homilies in Mass that Lent was soon approaching and had the opportunity to do a “trail run” of some of our planned sacrifices to see if they’d really bear good fruit in practice. Isn’t that great?

There’s what we’re aiming for this Lent, what about you?

Renewing Hope in Lent

How do you like the new look? It’s still a free theme, but one where I could make a few more modifications than before. I’m a fan. Sometimes it takes a visible change to jump-start a new beginning. Which I’ve been needing badly.

I’ve been guiltily avoiding writing for the last month. I just haven’t felt like it. The inner debate that goes on daily always goes something like this:

Motivated Me: You should write something tonight! You enjoy it! You said you would. And it’s been almost a month.

Tired me: Shut up. I’m too tired to write. And there’s nothing to write about. And I’ll be ignoring my husband. And my eyes hurt. And I’m boring anyway. And I’m SO STRESSED OUT. What’s the point? I’m going to go make dinner.

Motivated me: …ok. You win.

That’s pretty much what’s been going down.

The fact of the matter is, my reluctance to write is just a symptom of a much bigger dragon that I’ve been battling this month: the loss of a sense of hope. We got some tough news relating to our infertility earlier this month (more, more permanent roadblocks, but thankfully nothing that makes it impossible,) and hearing the news just sucked the hope right out of me. Which I know doesn’t make any sense because as I just said, it’s not impossible. We DO still have hope. My husband reminds me of this fact constantly, trooper that he is. He hears news like this and all he hears is, “There’s still hope.” I thank God that his heart is so hopeful.

Oddly enough, I’ve been so very, very hopeful (still heart-broken, but hopeful) through this entire process, until I got that particular batch of news. And I sort of already knew it was coming. But hearing that our chances are officially down a solid 50% was…impossibly hard.

I’ve been struggling for weeks, searching for that familiar feeling of hope, praying that Our Lord would find it and return it to me. I know that He will. I feel it coming back to me, finally, in little drips here and there. Oh, it feels so good to hope again. I don’t know whether what I’ve been feeling is really the sin of Judas, the sin of despair, or if it’s simply been an inability to get excited and let myself make my heart vulnerable again. All the time, I was mentally aware that God will do what is best for us, no matter what. I think it was just hard to convince my heart of the fact that what’s best for us still might be biological children.

Lent offers us the opportunity to renew ourselves spiritually, to intentionally reconnect to the magnitude of Our Lord’s great Sacrifice on the Cross in order to more fully experience the joyful hope that is Easter. So this Lent, I am throwing down the gauntlet. Whatever it takes for me to regain that hope, I’m going to do it. I’m going to fight for hope the way I would fight for a child or fight to live. If it means writing more (which I hope it will,) then I’ll do that. If it means just trying to rest and allow myself to not feel so guilty about not writing, then that’s what’ll happen. Because nothing matters more than renewing this hope. God can make anything happen, this I know. And He may still choose to make this happen.

In this is all the hope we ever need.

In this is all the hope we ever need.

P.S. Please forgive the lack of editing in this post–I was afraid that if I didn’t publish right away, I’d never get to it. Gotta get stuff done! 😉

Why I’ve Been Gone & Where I’m Going

You might (or more likely might not) have noticed my absence from this blog over the last three four months. I’m still pretty surprised that it’s been that long already, and I’ve been feeling incredibly and inexplicably guilty about it. It’s strange that even though this isn’t something that pays me or that I even have much accountability for from anyone I know in person, I feel like it actually is a big commitment at which I’ve failed. I feel guilty and like I’ve let someone down (who, I don’t know,) but I’ve also recognized that stepping away from the additional commitment for a time was the right and healthy choice for me. And it may be again.

The truth of the matter is that the last several months have been incredibly overwhelming for me emotionally. And I’ve just been so drained from everything else that I haven’t had the energy, motivation, or even a useful idea about what to write.

So, here’s the story. Around this time last year, my doctor discovered an unidentifiable mass in my abdomen and after surgery to remove it, I was diagnosed with very severe endometriosis. (Someone give me a gold medal, because she claimed it’s the worst she’d ever seen.) Problem? Yes. But we were very hopeful that since they’d cleared all of the tissue, we would be able to follow the doc’s instructions and get pregnant asap. Because that’s what we’ve wanted most in the whole world.

Shortly following my surgery, however, I was diagnosed with another autoimmune issue: ulcerative colitis. Which, trust me, you do not want me to describe to you. Let’s suffice it to say that it was miserable and gross, gross, gross. But we were still trying. With no luck.

The GI doctor then put me on steroids (in addition to my other medication) to help with the UC. Which did…eventually. Unfortunately, being on the steroids for 6 months really screwed up a lot of other things including my weight (I’ve had literally dozens of well-meaning people ask me when the baby is due or how far along we are–one even rubbed my belly and argued with me that I “was too” pregnant when I told her we weren’t,) energy levels, and most importantly hormone levels.

When after so many months of trying despite the health issues and having no good news we sought treatment with our NaPro doctor, she informed us that the next step should be to run a series of blood work for a month to see if I was progesterone-deficient and that ovulation was happening as it should. Except we couldn’t start those until after I was off of the steroids because they would mess up the readings. And we had no idea when that would be.

So we waited, month after month, trying again and again and otherwise focusing on slowly getting me back to health in whatever way we could. I started this blog as an outlet with the hopes of meeting other women who were going through similar things and to just feel connected. Everything about the situation has been so isolating. It’s as if my husband and I are in survival mode all the time and it’s all we can do just to do the bare minimum. Which frightens me when I try to imagine being a good parent if, God willing, our prayers are answered.

The thing is, even though I’d started this blog to feel more connected to other women, including those struggling with fertility issues, I never talked about what was happening with me. I rarely even mentioned it and certainly never put the cards on the table. Because I was scared. Scared of someone I knew finding it (I’m odd, I know,) scared that it would turn into someplace that was full of drama and woe is me, scared of pigeon-holing myself as an infertility blogger when all I wanted (and I suspect many other women in this position feel this way too,) was to become a mother and transition into a happy-Catholic-mommy blogger and be accepted by this beautiful community of women whose blogs I’ve read. I love their happy stories and pictures of their children, their advice and strategies for disciplining and teaching them, the details of how their backs hurt and their feet ache, who threw up where and how these incredible women got down on their knees and wiped up the glamorous stuff. Seriously. I gobble that up like Lucky Charms.

But I’ve always felt like I’ll never be part of that world until we’re blessed with a child in some way. Because even if I could win these women’s sympathies, I’d never win their camaraderie until I’d earned it. And I want so badly to earn it. With poopy diapers, shirts covered in spit-up, scrubbing up vomit while trying not to be sick myself, mountains of laundry and dishes, hundreds of hours of kids’ TV shows, and saying goodbye to 6 hours of sleep a night.

I know I’m not alone. I know that there are thousands of women who have it worse than I do. My husband and I are still hopeful, now that we’ve just finally begun the blood tests that will hopefully change our lives. But so many women have been waiting for years longer than we have. Some have already been told that it just won’t happen, and some are even unable to adopt. These women are the bravest and strongest that I know. They carry the burden of the greatest pain imaginable for any woman, especially one whose vocation as a mother has been made clear to her.

The thing is, I think by God’s graces I could be strong enough to be a good parent, but I’ve been afraid that I’m not strong enough to not be a parent. I know, I shouldn’t doubt that God’s graces would be enough, and I don’t. But I do often doubt my ability to accept those graces and to make use of them.

So ladies, it’s time that I start reaching out and sharing this part of my life with you. Because maybe you can teach me how to accept those graces that I need. And maybe I can learn to share our struggles without being overwhelmed by them and turning this into a depressing blog. I neither want this to become a dark, sad place nor do I want it to be a place of constant cheery covered-up pain. I just want it to be honest.

Cheater’s Michaelmas

I know, it’s still a day early for Michaelmas. But tomorrow we have plans that we can’t get out of that involve not being home all day, so we’re celebrating today and hopefully our dear St. Michael won’t mind much. On the up side, since I’m posting a day in advance, you can totally steal my oh-so-complicated and original feast day ideas. 😉 [Edit: It actually took me so long to get this written up that now it really is Michaelmas. Whoops!] Confession: I came up with these very cheesy ideas, did the shopping, and THEN found some super delicious-sounding and legitimately traditional recipes online that I simply don’t have the time, money, or energy to produce. So feel free to call this a “Poor Man’s Michaelmas Dinner.”

Firstly, a little history (because learnin’ is important):

Fierce.

Fierce.

St. Michael the Archangel is the angel who fought satan during the great battle. And won, of course. My favorite tidbit about him actually stems from the fact that he was so named because when the evil one, who was the highest of the Seraphim (thusly named Lucifer, “light bearer”–think the light of God) heard that God the Father intended to have a Son who would be human, a being far beneath the angels in honor and glory, he became enraged. He was so offended because, as far as he was concerned, he was the closest to God and would never be so foolish. He started to believe that he was not just very close to God, but rather like God. Which of course he wasn’t (and isn’t) remotely. “Michael” means “Who is like God?” Please note the question mark. Even though ancient Hebrew has no punctuation, it’s important to establish that it was a (rhetorical) question and not, as it’s often mis-translated, “he who is like God.” Because obviously, no one is. That’s the point, yes? In short, that question became the battle cry of Michael and the other good angels during the battle.

Good story, right? What’s that, you already heard it? Only someone else told it better? Well aren’t we catechized. Good job. 😉 In that case, here’s some other fun facts about the angels that you might not already know.

-You know how every person is assigned a guardian angel when he or she is born? Well, each family is also assigned one during the Sacrament of Marriage. Boo-ya. (Good thing too, ’cause I need all the extra angels looking out for me that I can get.)

-Devotion to the angels is supposed to be a mark of predestination. Which makes me feel like I should start asking for their help a little more often.

-The nine choirs of angels are divided into three hierarchies which are (highest to lowest): Seraphim, Cherubim, & Thrones, Powers, Principalities, & Dominions, Virtues, Archangels, & Angels. Although apparently it’s more traditional to list them in ascending order. But I thought this would make more sense.

-Michael shares a feast day on the new calendar with the other two canonically-mentioned Archangels, Raphael & Gabriel.

* All fun facts from the totally awesome book, St. Michael and the Angels. You should get it.

Beautiful image of the choirs, yes? Can you guess who that is in the middle?

Secondly, here’s some fun recommendations of my favorite angel items from the store. You should get them.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I've ever seen.

Cold-Cast Bronze Statue. This company has the most detailed statues I’ve ever seen.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It's basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

An amazing book put out by TAN Book Publishers. It’s basically a 30-day devotional to teach you all kinds of traditions about the angels.

OK, we’re finally on to the food part. Here’s how we celebrated our early Michaelmas this year (in truly cheesy literal cheater’s fashion):

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Yummy, yummy, in our tummies.

Angelhair Pasta with three colors of peppers to represent Michael, Raphael, & Gabriel. It was crazy good. Initially, I’d intended to make my own white parmesan sauce for this, but it was late and I’ll confess I cheated. I got to try out one of those new recipe starters. It was great. And went very well with the wine. Also, it was way less expensive than roasted goose, which is apparently the real traditional Michaelmas dinner.

Drool.

Drool.

For dinner we had–of course–angel food cake! And since my husband informs me that apples are totally in season right now, I cooked some apples in a bit of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. That’s a scoop of frozen coolwhip, by the way. But it tastes like ice cream. And, yes, it was even more delicious than it looks. Especially after we caved and drizzled the caramel sauce on top.

Happy Michaelmas!

Epic Road Trip Pt 4: Coming Home

I know you’ve all been such troopers sticking with me through my ramblings about road trip after road trip. Probably you’re just grateful that you’re not anywhere near my laundry pile right now and are ready to hear about something more interesting. Hopefully we’ll get to that. But until we tackle the biggest and most important trip of the batch: our trip home to Atlanta for my birthday.

I’ve mentioned in an off-handed sort of way a few times that I’m a Maryland transplant from Atlanta, Georgia. I was born there, but my family is originally from New York, so I spent most of my childhood feeling slightly displaced. I don’t say “y’all” more than about four times a year when I’m so tired that I’m probably actually trying to say something else anyway. I have no Southern accent. I can put on a decent one, but it’s really not natural at all. (Actually, when I’m really groggy, I sound like I’m from Brooklyn. You can thank my grandpa.) I don’t speak slowly or like to be outside in the Summer (ok–Southerners don’t really like this. They like their air conditioners.) I don’t have a fried chicken recipe that I swear by or eat chitlins or do much frying in general. I have no relatives who fly confederate flags from the backs of their pickup trucks. While I do know how to make a nice pitcher of sun tea, I don’t like to tell people that I’m fixin’ it.

Deep, deep, down, I think I’ve always wanted to try a hoop skirt.

It wasn’t until I moved to Maryland that I began to actually feel Southern. Most likely this is a result of many a heated argument that my husband and I have had regarding whether Maryland can be considered “the South.” He’s from here and defends this little state’s Southern-ness (yes, not really a word, but it’s been too long a day to care) tooth and nail. He argues that they wanted to secede from the Union, but mean ol’ Mr. Lincoln incarcerated the entire voting body so they couldn’t vote to do so. He’ll remind you that it’s technically south of the Mason-Dixon line. He’ll even quote a president as saying that Baltimore was a city of “Northern charm and Southern industry.” (Nice, huh?)

It wasn’t until I moved here that I started getting defensive about what’s really the South. Here’s my argument: None of the cashiers at the grocery store strike up a regular conversation with me while I’m unloading my cart. Eighty percent of the restaurants and fast food chains have pepsi products (shudder) instead of Coke. “Sweet” tea up here tastes like unsweetened tea where I come from. For that matter, in the real South, when you ask for a tea, they just bring you a sweet tea (a fact that used to drive me crazy when I lived there and wanted a cup of hot tea and had to phrase it as such.) Every building there has central ac–no matter how cheap the rent is. The grocery store’s policy is that they carry your bags out for you and you’re not allowed to tip the guy. There is a Waffle House on every exit. The Braves are, and always will be, America’s team. I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already convinced.

Just try to tell me this doesn’t make you want to be a Braves fan.

We usually compromise by agreeing that Maryland is not the “deep” South. For the health of our marriage.

All this is to say that after our miraculously short drive down (13 hours down driving overnight), I was ready to soak up every last bit of my semi-Southern/semi-New York Italian & Irish hometown and family as possible. We did it right folks: two Waffle House trips, a Zaxby’s stop (how I wish they’d open one up here!), two big family parties, and going directly from our air-conditioned rental car to similarly arctic conditions wherever we were going. We had a blast.

The best part, though, was seeing my family for the first time since Christmas. We were supposed to go down for Easter, but between my surgery and the husband’s new job having just started, there was just no vacation time. We made dinner with my mom and sister, stayed up late talking and drinking tea (hot tea with milk and sugar for the record–Irish style) as we’ve always done in my family, and watched baseball movies.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I'm so lucky.

Why yes, my husband did get the owner of Waffle House to personally send me two mugs for Christmas this year. I’m so lucky.

We also had a family party to celebrate all of the birthdays from August and September (5, if you’re curious. Although we added the one October kid in to make it 6). I adore our family parties. There’s something about being just this one simultaneously very important and not really important at all person in a loud, loving, swirling mass of aunts, uncles, cousins, and children of assorted ages. I feel more grounded, more me, and more at home than I do just about anywhere else.

As long as I can remember, we would have one birthday party a month for any family members born during it (hey–it’s expensive to feed that many people,) except for the horrible, sad gap between New Year’s and Easter. There are only four birthdays during this gap and because we’ll have just lugged out the big bucks to afford Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s parties back-to-back-to-back, we have to take a break. It took me years to realize that I would often sink into a mild depression during this time of year because I needed the madness of my beautiful and crazy family to recharge. Turns out, I needed the physical closeness and volume and food and jokes and hugs to feel connected to my sense of self.

Our modern secular culture would not like my family or my reliance upon it. This culture constantly tells us that we’re supposed to be entirely self-reliant, self-contained, and self-important. Our identity should never be wrapped up in someone else, it says. We must be independent! Chase our dreams! Sacrifice for no one!

But guess what? Our faith teaches us that being interdependent, being consistently generous, and emptying ourselves for the love of others is how we get to Heaven. What my family taught me, without knowing it, is that it is better to be part of the love and madness of a family than to be self-contained. They taught me that sacrificing my eardrums and my personal space and spending hours over a hot stove to prepare a meal for twenty-something people to show them that I love them is the best thing in the world. When I’m home, I am just one very loved but singular component of the great, big, wonderful thing that is my family, for which I would give whatever is required of me.

My family prepared me for my vocation as a wife and, hopefully some day, a mother. Because the unconditional and sacrificial love that I’m overwhelmed by and surrounded by during a regular family dinner is a sign, a dim reflection, of the beatific vision that I’m stumbling towards, Heaven. And it’s a great thing if I can focus on yearning for that Heavenly home the way that I yearn for this earthly one.

Epic Road Trip Part 3: Of Sweat & DJs

Turns out that taking 6 major road trips, most of them out of state, in about a month’s period of time makes me very sleepy, behind on laundry, and least surprisingly: a slow writer. Whoops!

Where were we? I believe we’d just arrived back home from the Catholic Marketing Network show on a Thursday night (late, late at night) to discover that our air conditioning was still not fixed. Turns out, I am a Georgia girl after all. A wilting little flower who needs her cool, dehumidified air blasting from every direction lest I sweat through my clothes, gross everybody out, and whine everyone to death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying hard to offer up my suffering for the Holy Souls and I do pretty well with pain, exhaustion, and seemingly endless cleaning, but make me sweat when there’s nothing to dry it off and cool me down…and I’m a big old baby.

This is me. But cuter. Also, the illustrator’s blog that I found this picture on looks adorable.

The AC had been out in our townhouse for the entire week with no windows having been open or fans being blown (we were fortunately gone, remember?) It was a sauna in there. And my husband, the only person on earth who hates humid heat more than (or even as much as) I do, was my hero. He rigged an old ac unit that we’d been trying to sell on craigslist all summer to blow directly at our pull-out couch where we slept for the rest of the weekend. Because his Friday morning phone call to the leasing office only elicited a weary, “We’ll get there when we get there and it probably won’t be today” type of response. (In his defense, he was shaking so hard with trying not to lose his well-earned temper with the couldn’t-care-less office staff that he had to just hang up to keep from yelling at them. He has more patience than I do.)

So we sweated out the weekend and probably learned some really valuable lessons about how much we’d like to spend as little time in purgatory as possible. Actually, I’m hoping that at least the 24 hours of that where the weather got well into the 90s will count towards our stints. Of course, this brings up the question of if my vocation is to get him into Heaven, should I be turning off the AC more frequently? Oh, I hope not.

This is what I should have been picturing while we melted. I just love pictures of Holy Mass like this.

To wrap up a rather boring and gross half of the story: He called the office again on Monday morning asking not if, but when TODAY our air conditioning that had been broken for over a week would be fixed. And this time it worked magic. He must have been speaking to the right person, because not only did they come to fix it right away, but they also fixed our alarm, our blinds, and will supposedly be giving us a new microwave touchpad that we did not ask for or complain about very soon. Actually, I kind of like our weird microwave. It has buttons for baked potatoes and popcorn. I don’t know why they want to fix it. Suffice it to say that he got all the things fixed just in time for us to pack our bags back up (still no unloading from the last time, just washing dirty clothes) and head back out on the road.

Leg three of our adventures took us back up past where we’d just been and all the way to New York. A college friend of my husband’s was getting married at a beautiful college chapel just north of the Bronx and it was the most beautiful weather for a wedding ever. I prefer to cover my head in the presence of Our Lord, so after much awkward shuffling trying to figure out whether it was, in fact, a Catholic chapel (we were trying to see if the Blessed Sacrament was reserved there–it was, but waaaay on the side and boy were the bride’s parents confused at my leaning around door frames looking for a tabernacle), I grabbed my spare hat from the car and we rolled in.

After a lovely wedding that we were grateful to have been a part of with only one pretty dramatic appearance of the bride’s ex-boyfriend from across the country who is still friends with my husband, we settled into what was the most delicious reception ever. The food was fancy, tasty, and was passed around on plates the entire time. Maybe it’s low-brow to admit this, but I’ve never partaken of anything so fancy-shmancy. We parked ourselves by the kitchen door so we could get first-dibs, of course.

The reason that I harp on the wonders of the food is that eventually I’ll have to tell you about the horror that was the MC for the reception. Yes, I said the MC, not the DJ. Because there was a separate DJ who played music that, while not at all my taste for either listening to or for dancing to at weddings or elsewhere, many people there seemed to enjoy. The gentleman with whom we took exception was, it turns out, only there to yell into his microphone every three minutes (if someone was giving a particularly sentimental toast) or every thirty seconds (if music was playing), “PUT YOUR HANDS UP! LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE HAPPY COUPLE! CLAP YOUR HANDS RIGHT NOW OR THEY’LL NEVER BELIEVE YOU LOVE THEM!” I mean it. He wanted us to clap our hands and yell, “Woohoo!” every. thirty. seconds. We just wanted to dance.

This is kind of what it looked like to me. Fair warning, I wasn’t brave enough to follow the link after the google image search. I have no idea who this guy is supposed to be. Besides creepy.

We love to dance. I am a very blessed woman who has a husband who loves, loves, loves to dance with me at weddings. I’m usually the one who needs a rest first. But you can’t really dance when some dude is screaming in your ear about how you need to let go of the handsome man you’re dancing with a CLAP! The last straw, however, was when said MC took it upon himself to really bring the party to the crowd by shoving through all of the guests on the dance floor while bouncing up and down screaming some more about clapping. And by shoving through the crowd, I mean rubbing himself up against any female in a pretty dress, myself unfortunately included several times. At long last (by which I mean after two rub-bys during the first half of a single song), we stepped outside to get away from the flashing lights madness and had ourselves a nice romantic dance by our lonesome (or is that lonesomes? I need a grammar nazi to help me out here.) And that’s how my husband refrained from punching the MC’s lights out for the rest of the reception.

Also, in a flash forward to real-time, I think I just discovered my new calling: golf. Or more specifically, hitting golf balls at the driving range while someone else bends over to replace my just-hit ball instead of me. We went for the first time last Saturday and it was one of the most fun and cathartic times I’ve had in a while. I guess I just really like hitting stuff for no apparent reason while a man in a big cage drives around and picks up after me. (Read into it what you will; I’m not sure there is a defense.)

This was me.

Anyway, as it turns out, I’m pretty good at it! Or at least I’ve got great beginner’s luck. Now, I don’t understand what I was doing well enough to impress anyone with the distance or technical details of my golf-ball-hitting-glory, but my husband and the male friends we went with seemed pretty impressed. And just so you don’t think I’m bragging or anything, I royally stink at duck pin bowling (strange Maryland thing, the oddness of which deserves its own post,) tennis, watching football, braiding hair, and not burning things that I bake. Now it’s ok to say that I was pretty good at hitting the crap out of some measly golf balls, right? Right. I can’t wait to go hit some stuff and not get in trouble or have to clean up again. Spoken like a grown-up.