Strategies for Not Getting Your Belly Touched at Work

Thank you guys for all of your sweet help and support. I think it was just what I needed, and while I’m still pretty scared about the adjustment, I’ve been trying to slowly practice just coming out with it to store patrons I’m more comfortable with, etc. You know, when they give you that pointed, “How are you doing?” with the just-a-little-too-long-glance at your belly. I’m trying to use those as an opportunity to practice sharing my good amazing news. Also¬†a friend came in and already spilled the beans in front of a bunch of them, so I think the cat’s officially out of that bag.

Plus, I’ve been practicing two important maneuvers to avoid the belly-rubbing that I know will ensue:

Stop. Hammertime.

Stop. Hammertime. Thanks Google Image Search!

1) Hide behind the counter. Don’t come out. Put large boxes in the walkway by the entrance to the counter so people can’t get in without it getting even more awkward than before and them probably falling over. Basically, I’m perfecting the art of the barricade. Also, sitting in the rolling chair provides extra maneuverability while simultaneously keeping me a little further out of arm’s reach.

2) Movement. When not behind the counter, move quickly from room to the next, never slowing down. If they can’t catch you, they can’t rub you. Adding a lot of twists, turns, and sudden movements to regular walking might make you look positively bonkers, but it’ll add an air of confusion about which way you’re going next and seems to make people less likely to risk touching you, in case they might catch whatever crazy you have. Obviously, this tactic is going to get less useful the further along we get, but I’m planning on milking it while I can.

So as you can see, things are going pretty well in the adjustment department and I’ve only become a half-crazed tactician. I’ve only momentarily considering faking a terrible cold and sneezing at anyone unwelcome who gets too close. I think I’ll save that for the worst of the trouble-makers. Perhaps I should practice my fake sneezing now though, since I’m kind of a natural flailer when it comes to sneezing. A-ttractive.

sneeze01

The only prayer request I have left to make (other than continued prayers for baby’s well-being & little soul, of course) is that I might have the opportunity to tell one patron in particular personally before she finds out from someone else. You see, this lady is sweet and well-intentioned as can be. She had been asking me EVERY WEEK since August or September whether I was pregnant. Which, of course at the time, I was not. And which was exceptionally painful since she wouldn’t let it drop, even after I explained that we would love to be, but were struggling badly with infertility. She was clearly oblivious to the pain that she was causing and thought it was some kind of a joke how I would get frustrated with her after she asked me each week. She genuinely didn’t get it and had probably never considered what it would feel like for someone who wasn’t sure that she would ever be able to say yes to be asked that question constantly.

So, finally, a few weeks ago, I mustered up all of my confrontation-hating courage and pulled her aside to explain in no uncertain terms how hurtful it was for someone in that situation to be asked repeatedly whether she was expecting (and to be told that she looked like it on top of it.) I didn’t get very far before she nearly burst into tears and said that she was so sorry and hadn’t realized what that had been like for me. She was so sweet and she’s never brought it up again. I wish I’d realized how much more direct I needed to be with her earlier. It would’ve saved me several months worth of heartache.

So now, I feel as though I owe her sweet self a personal announcement, especially after having confronted her about her questions regarding my fertility issues while actually 3 months pregnant. I’d just rather her not hear it from someone else first. I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous that she’s just going to start dancing around telling me that she was right and all I needed to do was keep praying, and forget about our earlier conversation. Because she would do that. The dancing, I mean. Possibly the second part. But I really want her to remember how much I meant our earlier conversation. It’s important. And I don’t want any other women she knows to get hurt unintentionally like I did. So, dear friends, would you please keep that intention in your prayers for me? That I can a) get the opportunity to tell her personally first and b) that I can get enough words out before she excitedly starts talking over me to convey that I still meant it?

Thanks, you guys are the best. ūüôā

Post-Infertility Pregnancy Announcement Anxieties…that’s a thing, right?

I am a big fat chicken. And I’m not 100% sure why. But I need some advice, folks. (Beware, this one’s a bit of a rambler.)

Many of you have had the experience of being asked horribly rude questions like, “Are you pregnant?” and “When is the baby due?” when you were NOT expecting. It’s awful, even when you know without a doubt that the person asking you is well-intentioned and just excited for you. But when you’re not actually expecting (and worse yet, when that’s all you want in the whole wide world but you can’t do anything about it,) it’s really hurtful. I’ve mentioned all this before, I know. I’ve told you some of the stories of people coming up to me at my store, rubbing my belly, and then arguing with me about whether or not I was pregnant. Yeah, arguing. Those were rough days.

I'm not pregnant

But the issue that I’m facing now is that for once, praise and thank God, I AM actually pregnant. And I’m so, so happy, so overjoyed. But I haven’t figured out how to handle all the folks that are starting to ask again now that I’m starting to actually show. Because I still think it’s kind of rude of either a) complete strangers or b) Nosy Nellies who immediately spread it like wildfire around the place to be asking. Maybe I should be taking it as a compliment that they think I’m naturally skinny enough that any little bumps would have to be a baby (I’m not.) But I just don’t enjoy¬†being talked about and I sort of feel as though cheerfully answering, “Yes I am! Baby’s due in July!” is rewarding bad behavior.

But the last thing that I want is to allow myself to bask in bitterness over past hurts. If infertility was my cross to bear before, then it’s because it was supposed to help make me a saint. Which means that if I don’t find a way to let go of the bitterness (the pain is one thing that will never entirely go away, but the bitterness is something entirely different and something that should be under my control), then I haven’t let God work in my life the way that He’s trying to.

I’m so scared (it sounds overly dramatic, but I¬†am) of having hundreds of sweet, well-meant Catholics at my work asking in very pushy ways very personal questions that I may not want to answer. Even though all I want to do is celebrate this baby, I’m so anxious over the thought of being touched and exposed more than I already have been. Infertility doesn’t just disappear with a miracle–it leaves a few scars. (Don’t get me wrong–I’ll take those scars absolutely any day in exchange for my miracle!)

Is embracing this kind of nosiness part of embracing a culture of life? Is this kind of experience and anxiety unique to my situation as a fairly public member of my Catholic community? Is there a wonderfully charitable way of addressing my sweet but nosy customers that I haven’t thought of yet? Or do I just need to find a way to put on my big girl panties and throw myself into this touching/personal question asking/”I’m so glad you finally decided to have a baby!”-hearing experience and offer it up?

Advice…go!

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?

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. ūüėČ [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. ūüėȬ†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!

St. Monica, Motherhood, & Absolute Hope

Before I catch you up on leg three of our big Summer road trip (which admittedly is not nearly as exciting as the first two legs,) I thought we’d take a little break and I’d just throw out a little thanks to Monica who accidentally (must have been an accident, right?) got me the most views in a single day that I’ve ever had so far. Who knew bragging about what great kids catechesis crafts stuff she comes up with would pay off for me too?

I promise you that it’s merely a coincidence that I’m bragging about my own new favorite Monica in a post about her great namesake.

We’re selling this new book on St. Monica in our store right now. It looks wonderful and this image just captures her so well.

I’ve always felt so drawn to the beautiful St. Monica whose steadfastness, persistence, and simple example of Christian womanhood have never failed to inspire me when I’m feeling my lowest. St. Monica is someone that I strive to be, especially in the workplace each day.

I run a Catholic bookstore, which is simultaneously one of the most fun, exciting jobs I can imagine, and one of the most emotionally and spiritually difficult. As a store, we exist not just so people can swing by and pick up a miraculous medal or baptism gift (although of course they can,) but also as a spiritual soft place to land, a support network, a counselling center, a cheerleader camp, a library and a set of shoulders to cry on. We see people in our little store every day that are suffering and surviving through tragedies and losses far more intense than I can even imagine experiencing. We also see people brimming over, exploding with joy in their happiest moments. It’s an emotional roller coaster every day as we fill the moments between heartbreak and celebration with stocking the shelves, placing orders, restarting the CD player, and checking email.

My job, really, is to help people get to Heaven, however I can. That’s what every task of my day from answering the phone to holding a sobbing customer who recently lost her child in my arms, to selecting the right books, to teaching a new friend how to pray the Rosary is all about. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing to be blessed with such a vocation. It’s a vocation to do a million little things a day that seem like logistics, but are really acts of great love. It’s a vocation to comfort, to mourn alongside others, and to acknowledge their pain by sharing in it in some small way. It’s a vocation to put a copy of My Catholic Faith into someone’s hands who doesn’t know they need it yet (Ask your local Catholic bookstore for that one please!) It’s a vocation to pray fervently that every person who walks into the store making jokes about being a cafeteria Catholic (I was guilty of this for years) will some day see the light and bask in the fullness of Truth.

It’s a lot like motherhood. I’ve mentioned before that we haven’t been blessed yet with children, but I like to think that Our Lord has given me this job as a way of both practicing for future motherhood and as a way to actively live my vocation as a mother in a way that models His own mother and St. Monica. He challenges me every day to dig deeper, no matter how exhausted I am, to bring consolation, or insight, or at least a smile to the face of every person that He sends through that door. He’s given me a way to care for others and to learn how to love more generously.

Just like the motherhood that I see exampled in all of the women I’ve met online and whose blogs I read, I am called to example love, patience, steadfastness, humility, and simplicity in the same way that St. Monica did each day of her life. St. Monica exemplifies a motherhood spent waiting in absolute hope. I pray that I can learn from her example not only as a mothering caretaker of souls at work, but as a woman who is waiting to fulfill her vocation to love as a mother of children. I pray that I can learn to patiently wait for God’s perfect timing and perfect plan for our lives, all the while remaining steadfast in an absolute and trusting hope. I pray that I might remember always that my every action, no matter how quiet or simple, has the potential to draw me and others closer to Our Lord.

Oatmeal bread is simple, strong, and solid, like St. Monica.

Oatmeal bread is simple, strong, and solid, like St. Monica.

I’ll tell you about our adventures in bread-making soon, but I wanted to share a picture of this oatmeal bread that we made using a recipe from my new favorite cookbook. Baking bread is an excellent way to honor St. Monica on her feast day because very little that you can do in the kitchen requires more carefulness and patience.

St. Monica, ora pro nobis. Please make us good waiters.