28 December, 2007
And the worst part is: I can't even think of something decent to blog about...no brain cells left...
So, instead, I decided to gripe. And yes, I feel somewhat better now.
...if only my blood pressure would drop...
26 December, 2007
This is the first Christmas since I moved back to the midwest that we have had a white Christmas.
And, I am again reminded and humbled by the fact that the driveway isn't magically cleared, but painstakingly cleared by my husband late at night and early in the morning. Guess it makes that basket of laundry waiting in the basement a little more tolerable...
Despite our unusual snowfall, I am grateful this Christmas for my warm home, my loving husband, and my reasonably good health.
I just hope that the snow respects its place in this world and stays far away from the travel path of my family this weekend...or else beware the wrath of a disappointed wife, daughter, and sister!!!
16 December, 2007
And then it comes to me. He: cleans the bathroom with bleach because I don't like the way it makes my hands feel, cuts the lawn, takes care of the yard, deals with the plumber and the cleanup when our old house pipes block up in our basement, changes the laundry when I am too cold or too comfy to go downstairs, puts away his laundry when I fold it, makes me tea morning, noon, and night, cooks dinner on whatever random night I put on my weekly menu, handles the construction projects in our old house, deals with the dentist when his rates have gotten astronomical, washes the dishes I seemingly ignore when I "clean" the kitchen, brings me the laptop when I am too lazy to get up and get it, takes the trashes out EVERY week on trash night, picks up whatever random ingredient i've forgotten after a long day of work and classes, and generally provides a consistent sanity to our household.
And as I sit here typing this (on our new laptop!), my husband is asking me how to make cous-cous...most men won't even EAT cous-cous...forget preparing it!
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own time and energy limitations that we fail to realize that our loved ones often give more time and energy to tasks we simply take for granted.
If only I had the discipline and joy my husband does when he does household chores...maybe I'll add that to my Christmas list.
The snow has begun to fall softly, the scarves are drawn more tightly around our necks, and the alcohol is being poured a bit stronger. Every year this blessed season rolls around and I look forward to writing a Christmas message. Unfortunately the gift list starts to grow, the holiday parties multiply, and my anxieties about what to write increase exponentially. So this year our message is simple: God is faithful. We are grateful for both the challenges and blessings of the past year.
Let us all be mindful of the fact that God did not send us a king, a lawyer, or a corporate CEO. He sent us a baby because He knew what we needed most: love. May the love of God bring peace and joy to your hearts and home this season. Have a blessed Christ mass and a merry holy day.
07 December, 2007
This is my papa. He likes to play with Phil our Wii and use our computer. I like the computer, but Papa says I can't play with the Mouse. I don't understand, I'm suppose to play with Mouse...don't y ou remember the picture?
I usually take a short nap in the evening. My job as the cat of this household requires me to be awake during the night so I can watch out for things like intrusive snowflakes and evil headlights.
She is really angry now. She's contemplating eating me...or at least taking a swipe at mama's arm...
I try not to let Doo's anger phase me. She is a bit of a drama queen. Nighttime is my chance to lay back and relax. I mean, who spends all day bug-stalking to listen to his sister whine all night? I just want a nice tongue bath and a fresh bowl of food.
These are the dudes who do all the work around here. They clean my box, feed me, and freshen the water. Usually we don't see them, but this time of year they stay around. They get busy doing their annual overhaul. You know, new beds, new toys, a general cleaning of my crib...those things their holding? Yep, a new kitty structure.
Boy, this writing stuff is tough work! I don't know how my mama does it everyday!!
What! There's a squirrel under the pine tree in the front yard??? And there's a pen lying in the hallway??? What is this house coming to!!??
I'm sorry. I have to monitor this situation. Thanks for coming along for a night in my life. I hope this gives you a better understanding about the challenges that face the domestic male tabby cat.
Dsisy here...so I took care of the whole lap situation (You can only imagine the amazing power of a stragetically placed pen in this house...), but I still have one question: why wasn't I asked to contribute to this little memoir???
03 December, 2007
No, this post is just more of a thought out loud. I often look at the marriages I admire and wonder how, after 20, 30, or 40 years of marriage, they have stayed so in love with one another. I am not saying that I don't believe in it because I believe it in wholeheartedly. I just want to know how!
I heard someone say recently about a couple with a long-standing marriage, "Oh they are just so cute! I would walk into her room [she had experienced an early stroke and was in a nursing home] and he would be holding her hand and they would be doting on one another. They just couldn't seem to keep their hands off one another."
I was moved by the recollection until she said with a laugh, "My husband and I stopped doing that 10 years ago!"
Sad!!! How does that happen?
More importantly, how doesn't it happen? What keeps those other marriages "fresh" like the newlywed years?
I hate it when men and women say to Kevin or me, "Oh, you two are still honeymooning! Isn't that sweet..." or "Aw, your first holiday together. Isn't that nice?"
Don't patronize me. I mean, they are not intending to, but I am also not intending for our honeymoon years to end. Sure, we will both change and the reasons we love each other will grow, but the reasons we got married won't. We got married because we believe that God brought us together as companions. We want to be with one another, care for one another, and raise a family together.
I think those couples who still dote on one another after 20, 30, or 40 years have figured out one thing. Love isn't about an emotional connection. If love is just about an emotional connection, it will fade because feelings and emotions are human and humans are flawed.
In my mind, Love (capital "L" versus lowercase, "I love these shoes!") must be an ongoing sacred experience. Love is our limited opportunity on earth to partake in the companionship of God. If Love is about the continual partaking in the companionship of God, it is divine and it can never end. No human struggle can drown Love. If for 40 years, amidst the joys and sorrows of family life and financial planning, you see or learn to see your marriage as partaking in the companionship of God how could you do anything but dote upon the companion God has given you?
The catch in this explanation of the "doting" phenomenon is that each person must choose to see Love in this way. Seeing Love as the the partaking in the companionship of God is not something you understand and assent to once for all time. It is a daily and sometimes hourly commitment.
So in the end I guess my mom was right. Her simple answer was, "Because Love is a choice."
This quote mirrors my typical sentiment and yet, I'm not sure how I feel about the snow this year.
We had our first "big one" this past weekend. It came suddenly and with a burst of extreme cold. I was not at home for this first large snow of the season and my low level of excitement may be due to its untimely arrival.
Snow, for as long as I can remember, has regularly taught me one big lesson; SLOW DOWN. It does so in three ways.
#1 Driving. The first and most practical way snow teaches me to slow down is the fact that if you drive too quickly in it you will have an accident. Even here in the midwest where most people know how to drive in snow, the number of cars in the ditch attest to the fact that we still feel like we need to get somewhere fast instead of in one piece. I have done my share of fish-tailing, spinning my wheels, and gliding on black ice. While it is 100% true that some of this can be chalked up to the crappy dealership tires currently on my car, some of still has to do with my own sense of rushing or a stupid move of another rushing driver (cutting me off in order to pass a more cautious winter driver causing me to compress my brakes and slide not-so-gracefully onto the sleep strip of the highway...always remember, turn INTO the spin...). Slow down. The slower you are going, the less quickly you have to compress your brakes in a tight spot. The same applies to life.
#2 The "stay at home" factor. Snow makes me want to curl up on the couch or in my home office and shut down for a long winter's nap (or at least an afternoon's). Who wants to go out into traffic and crappy roads? I went out this weekend and although I had a good time, I really just wanted to hunker down in my hotel room, order local take-out, and watch stupid movies all day. This snow factor reminds me that slowing down isn't just about scheduling less or running fewer errands. It isn't just about spending less time going fast, but taking that extra time and using it to slow down our minds. Do something just for you; watch a movie, read a book, bake cookies, feed your soul.
#3 Seasonal pacing. No this isn't some psychological term I learned in a book. I experienced this firsthand. I lived in southern California for my four years of high school. Southern California has two seasons; wet and dry. The wet season probably totals no more than 30 days of anything from a gentle spritz (what we would calling heavy fog in the midwest) to a more typical downpour. The other 11 months are gorgeous. Now, I am not complaining about the weather...but I am going to point out the fact that if you don't have cold and snow you don't have a natural force slowing you down at any point during the year. Think about how quickly our lives move during the summer. The weather is warm, everybody wants to be outside, and life is grand. That feeling pervaded the entire year in Southern California. The pace might have slowed slightly due to the return of school in the fall, but then the outdoor sports kicked in. When it snows it is more challenging for us to be outdoors. It is more challenging for us to move from place to place and see people and attend events. There are at least 3 months of every year where nature forces us to slow down, sometimes even to the degree of our physical bodies (I'm not thinking of anything in particular...the nice muscle-cramping I'm getting in my shoulders from the cold that keeps me from easily reaching for the pencil container on my desk...)
The snows of the midwest pace our lives in a most significant way. It reminds us to slow down. It reminds us to move less quickly. It reminds us to take time to hunker down our minds. It reminds us to stop, warm up, and get our minds and bodies refreshed for the upcoming spring.
Maybe my lack of excitement is more a reflection of my hesitation to slow down than it is an actual distaste of the weather phenomenon because I cannot completely deny a certain measure of excitement for those first soft and delicate flakes of frozen water.
18 November, 2007
I guess, the best thing to say is that the best gift is usually the one that is the most thoughtful even if it isn't the most expensive one on someone's list...
And sometimes it is the most expensive one on someone's list, but sometimes God provides a little prodding in order to make your impossible plans a reality...
I have had both this season and I can't wait to see their faces as they open their gifts! That is truly a great feeling!!!
14 November, 2007
Then it was a practical recommendation from a resource I am using to lead a small group study.
Then it was another practical recommendation from that same resource in regards to a different strength.
Then it was a little voice in my prayer time in the shower.
I need to take time for quiet reflection.
WAIT A SECOND!!! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM???
I am a busy person.
I have a busy schedule.
I am with people all day.
When I am not with people, I am communicating with people.
When I am not communicating with people, I am preparing notes or agendas.
When I am not preparing notes, I am preparing lunch or dinner.
If I am not preparing a meal, I am doing any number of possible tasks!!!!
WHEN AM I SUPPOSED TO HAVE TIME FOR QUIET REFLECTION???
Okay, I'm done. I'm calm. Deep breath.
These messages, this theme, is a message from God. He knows better than I. If He is telling me to take quiet time who am I to question? Now, the question becomes, how do I find the time?
And the answer is...I make it.
This practice of "making time" is never mastered, but it is an important one to practice. It is a matter of reviewing my day and building it in. If it means taking my lunch into the day chapel, I schedule it in. If 4:00 rolls around, I add a few minutes onto my drive home (not hard to do when I am 3 minutes from the house...) If I have chores to do, sometimes my quiet time is over laundry (that just means I have to talk and listen instead of read or write). Sometimes it is meeting God at the sink or at the stove. Sometimes it means getting up before the sun for a quiet, extra hot shower. If it means making time before bed it may mean a little less sleep. (This same principal of "making time" is crucial to marriages as well...)
Nothing is more important than making time to talk with God and reflect on His beauty and presence. The key is that He doesn't always ask us to forego the needs of our family in order to make time for Him. He just wants your attention while your hands are busy.
In 99% of cases, if we are honest with ourselves, the time is there...we just have to use it that way.
And then the trick is: make it count.
05 November, 2007
My weekly routine goes like this (most of the time...)
Sunday: Morning Mass...sometimes three of them if I am working...load of laundry...12 o'clock football...change laundry...3 o'clock football...fold laundry...order Chinese food...write weekly menu...
Monday: Work...budget and bills for week...catch up with friends while Kevin is at class...make late supper...
Tuesday: Early morning meeting...work...home for random chores or projects...parish meeting hopping (Tuesday is everyone's favorite meeting night)...come home to hockey...
Wednesday: Work...work...work...home for a leftovers or frozen (originally from scratch mind you!)...faith formation night...possibly come home to hockey...
Thursday: Work...work...work...actually spend time with my husband...usually putting away Sunday's folded laundry...you guessed it, hockey...
Friday: Work...work...prep for weekend church work...spend time with my husband...usually sleeping or vegging in front of the TV...hopefully "What Not to Wear"...
Saturday: Wake up...morning errands...afternoon projects...dinner...maybe a date night...
And here is a rundown of my daily routine (most of the time...)
6:30 Wake up and push my sleeping husband into the shower
6:35 Take temperature
6:40 Roll out of body, sweep hair into rubber band, trip on a hanger, stumble into the kitchen
6:45 Make Kevin's oatmeal and lunch and pour his coffee
6:50 Kiss Kevin goodbye and attempt to pour my own coffee
7:00 (Yes it takes me 10 minutes to pour my coffee...) Turn on the TODAY show and begin stretching
7:15 Sit ups
7:25 Sit and drink coffee for a BLESSED five minutes!!!
7:30 Shower, dress, dig and search for my name badge, change clothes, find shoes
7:55 Leave for work
8:00-11:30 Work (meaning, follow up on projects, make phone calls, gab with the staff, listen to the Holy Spirit...)
11:30 Eat lunch early (or I'm crabby!!!)
12:00-4:00 Work (meaning, well you know what I mean!)
4:00 Go home...do MY chores before Kevin gets home...clean kitchen, write bills, start dinner, release and feed the hounds (the cats)...if I'm lucky, workout...
5:00 Kevin gets home, eat early (or I'm crabby!!!)
6:30 Typically meetings...rarely dinner with friends...
8:00 Home...crash on the couch...watch hockey or play video games...
9:00 Drink my tea
9:30 Bedtime routine which consists of finding a t-shirt, closing the closet doors (yes, I'm a little paranoid...) and crawling into bed...
9:31 I'm out...gone...fast asleep...won't wake 'till morning...
Why did I just regale you with my routines? Because routine is a beautiful thing...it is also a thing of great amusement and great frustration...out of my routine, I'm a little off-kilter...but too "on" my routine and I get frustated by the fact that it just "starts over"...I never get out of it!! The laundry never gets DONE!!! The dishes are never CLEAN!!! My menu is never SET!!! The budget is never BALANCED!!! Life is constantly moving and routine is just that...moving...planning...doing...
My point is, we have to shake it up a little bit!!! Sometimes we have to throw a wrench in our routine...sometimes you just have to toss the plans out the window and do something completely unexpected...otherwise all you are is your routine! :)
31 October, 2007
As women of faith, God has created us for great things. He has created us with the ability to feel great joy and great sorrow. He has given us the influence to paint the world with our feelings and our lives.
And yet, so often we get caught up in our busy lives and the secular world. Our lives become stressful, dull, and neutral. We live in shades of gray or in some cases we become shrouded in black.
You’ve all seen or heard of the shows “Trading Spaces” or “While You Were Out”. The most exciting moment of these shows is the moment the designer opens the paint cans to reveal the creamy new color of the room. We need to help one another to open a few new paint cans in our lives by exploring one question:
What color palate is God creating in my life?
Consider the following passage. It is a passage I have struggled with regularly since I could understand it. How will I ever live up to the example of this woman??? How can I ever be as perfect as she is??? What I discovered when reading this passage in light of the forementioned question is that this woman's life was not about her successes or her failures, but her ability to create a beautiful palate of color in her life. Look at all of the amazing color and imagery used to tell her story!!!Proverbs 31: 10-31
10 When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.
11 Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.
12 She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
13 She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands.
14 Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from afar.
15 She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household.
16 She picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms.
18 She enjoys the success of her dealings; at night her lamp is undimmed.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.
20 She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.
21 She fears not the snow for her household; all her charges are doubly clothed.
22 She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.
23 Her husband is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land.
24 She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.
27 She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.
28 Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too, extols her:
29 "Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all."
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.
What color is your life today?
26 October, 2007
Some people believe that deaths come in threes. This week they came in more than that. Kevin and I had to keep a firm eye on the end of the week hoping and praying it would bring an end to the sadness.
We were fortunate that the closest death came was a childhood playmate, but still. Each death made us reflect on just how delicate we are and just how out of control. Since our marriage, we have each become much more aware of how mortal we really are. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that now the impact of our own death is so much closer.
We had to elect life insurance this week (it is hard to believe there wasn't some kind of conspiracy going on there...). We both receive a small amount as a benefit through work, but we had to decide if we wanted more and how much. Kevin was adament that we get life insurance on him as the primary source of income. He wanted to be sure that I was provided for in the event of his death. He wanted me to be able to care for our children and myself in the most healthy way I could without him. I am very blessed by that gift. We filled out the election, sealed the envelope, and placed it in my purse for the mail.
Then I got to thinking, "What if something ever happened to me? What legacy did I want to leave for my husband and my children?" I want my husband only to worry and think about our children and not the expenses, not the budget. I want my children to have time with their dad. I want my children to have a good Catholic education. I don't want money to be an obstacle to the depth of their relationship in a time when they are so desperately going to need one another. I want to be sure that I leave my family in a state to successfully support one another without having to devote extra time to money.
So, I ripped open the election form and changed the election over to family. What's an extra $4 a month when you consider the benefits? For $48 a year I can assure that if God calls me home before I see my children grown, they will be cared for in a fashion similar to that which I would have cared for them.
Certainly, it is not all about the money, but in this case the money is what will make the care, the mercy, and the love an easier focus in a time of great darkness. And isn't that what God calls us to? We are called to look beyond ourselves and be loving stewards of our time, our love, our fortune, and our future.
Life is delicate. Embrace every opportunity. Love in every moment.
24 October, 2007
I need to be filled up. I need a good hour or two with good friends. But there are a few problems...
#1 My first stop is a call with my sisters or my mom. They get me. They get my brain and they understand my goofy issues...I've done that. Sadly, they live WAY TOO FAR AWAY and we are all WAY TOO BUSY for regular phone calls. We've also concluded that growing up we did each other a terrible disservice being best friends...we've set some incredibly high standards for friends...
#2 Sure, I can get together with some of our friends and have a nice stiff drink and plentiful laughs...but what about the values struggles? What about the relationship questions? What about those "womens" problems? Those can't exactly be the topic of polite happy-hour conversations...
#3 So, my next recourse would be church. I love church. There are great people at church. We have a Ladies Guild right? Yes and the membership is primarily 40+ women playing bunco and planning craft sales...okay, so that doesn't work either.
Where are our Catholic young people? Where do I find them? Specifically, where do I find young Catholic women? To quote a dear friend, I am tired of feeling like an island!!!
For those non-denominational friends out there who are saying, "Come to church with us! We have a women's ministry!", my polite answer has to be no (as much as I appreciate your friendship and your invitation). You just don't have what I need. I feel as much like an island at your church as I do at my own because I cannot partake in the Eucharistic feast and because in your small groups I can't be my authentic self, Catholic, without being frowned upon or challenged. So the answer must lie somewhere else, although I will admit doing research into that possibility.
We as women need each other. We need the kind of support system that our mothers and grandmothers had in their sisters, aunt and mothers. It is very hard for us to achieve that in today's transplantable society. We have compartmentalized ourselves from the world. We go to work in our cars by ourselves. We sit in our office or cubical by ourselves. We come home and crash in our own rooms. We spend our evening hours with a computer screen with one keyboard and one mouse. When we exercise we shut out the world with our IPODs and Zunes. Even at church we come in at the last minute, sit in "my regular pew", and leave the second the organ heaves its last note.
How are we supposed to find women of faith, value, and joy?
I want to encourage each of you to think about the women in your life. Do they uphold you? Do they bring you joy and color? Do you uphold them? If not, go to your parishes and your churches and share your struggle. Together we will get the message out. We need honest and loving women to hold us accountable and women with whom we can share the very essence of our lives.
I propose these seven initial steps. First we pray. Then we trust. Then we pray again. Then we look, we listen, and we ask. And then we pray again.
I am so blessed to be hosting a gathering of 8 women this weekend at my home. I ask for your prayers. I hope it will be a gathering of great joy, sharing, and support; somewhere that a woman can come to be filled up by other women who will uphold her value system and faith-life.
God gave us others to walk the journey with. Let's find them offer our hand in friendship.
11 September, 2007
Kevin and I have launched a united effort to regain and maintain our waistlines and our risk for heart disease. In said effort, I have changed my cooking habits to include 3 times as much fresh produce, multi-grains, and low fat proteins as possible. It has definately taken some thought (and a search for credible websites on calorie intake and content was virtually fruitless despite 2 million hits on the topic).
I am much obliged to the local farmers market for their contribution to the effort. I have no idea how we will afford to live on our current levels of produce when the frost starts to settle in. I have attempted to master the art of canning, but I am not sure how much good 12 quarts of pickles is apt to do us...and then there are the two jars of salsa which "botulized" for no apparent reason...and one lone jar of arrabiata sauce...
We are definately starting to feel better. We encourage one another to exercise, gently chide one another at the temptation for fried potato chips, and laugh at one another's misguided attempts at convenience health foods (my self-designed 100 calorie packs of salted non-multigrain pretzels...his attempts to curb his love of beer into a "treat".)
I am not saying that the occassional slip doesn't occur, sometimes intentionally...(breaded chicken wings with spicy BBQ sauce...OH MY GOSH!!...Sam's Club death dogs...OH MY GOSH!!...chocolate of any kind...OH MY GOSH!!!)
Our beloved Catholic Church doesn't help any either. I maintain that the Catholic Church has singlehanded contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States. I mean, come on, donuts, juice and heavily creamed coffee every Sunday for 30 straight years cannot be a good thing...
Regardless, the one thing we have stressed through this whole thing is NO RADICAL CHANGES. We will eat what we like. We will eat what we want. We will substitute when possible (whole wheat pasta, olive oil, chicken instead of beef). We will shrink our portions. We will check the sodium content of our meals. But we WILL NOT DIET!! I will have cream in my coffee. Kevin will have an extra pack of oatmeal in the morning. We will go out for supper. This needs to be maintainable. Whether we are working or not. Whether we have kids or not. Whether we need to lose weight or not. WE MUST BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN!!!
And yet, we shared a small memorial for the days of light-speed metabolism. The eulogy went something like this.
"Gone are the days of banana twinkies for breakfast (although I've never found banana twinkies appealing for any meal...). Gone are the days of late night binging (probably because they're out with the late night cram sessions). Gone are the happy hour Miller Lite binges (although I imagine they will still exists in pints, just not in pitchers) Long gone are the days of eating half the cookie dough while baking the other half (wait, who am I kidding!)
Now is the time for beautiful fillets of tilapia...elegant arrays of whole wheat pasta...brightly colored fruits and vegetables...mediterranean spices...apple gelatin desserts (recipe BELOW, fabulous!!!) and more filtered Lake Michigan pipeline water than you can possibly imagine. We embrace it!
And yet, all of that said, one cannot forget the Midwest's dirty little secret...the inevitable...WINTER WEIGHT."
15 August, 2007
After three nights, two full days, and 6 trips to Home Depot and Menards...
After a smashed up toe, punctured fingers, and several black paint stains on multiple extremities (which are still there 5 showers and 3 days later)...
So here is the story. Kevin and I had our first free weekend in weeks. With vacations and our constantly demanding work schedules it is rare for us to have a completely free weekend. We agreed weeks ago that we weren't scheduling with ANYONE for this weekend. We turned down dinners, celebrations, and tickets amongst friendly protests, but we did it. We maintained a free weekend.
So Friday, we went for our traditional Friday lunch out and began mapping out our plans. On the table was the State Fair in Milwaukee, a nice italian dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant we've been trying to get to for 9 months, a boat trip on the Fox River, a trip to the farmer's market, and a few odds and ends around the house.
And then, out of my mouth, came the bombshell...
"Well, we could consider doing the dining room floor this weekend..." I mumbled quitely chewing on the straw in my diet coke.
So ensued the marathon home improvement project. It needed to be done. The carpet was okay with the exception of a turkey roaster size melt spot in one corner (who knew it would melt? I didn't have anywhere to put it! I wasn't the one who put the empty roaster in the oven for storage in the first place!), but the carpet was older and ratting and not without it's drawbacks. We have done quite a bit to redo our dining room already and it was starting to look out of place. We wanted something more formal and more functional, especially with the potential of little Cheerio slobbering and smushing monkeys in the next few years.
So, weeks ago we had purchased laminate hardwood flooring to replace the berber carpet in our dining room. It was a traumatic experience having picked a color and returning to discover it was sold out and then finding out that they wanted to charge us $100 to ship $200 worth of materials. On a random trip for tortilla chips, diet coke and nacho cheese for our vacation (We were at Sam's club), we found the color once again and snatched is up like a hawk to a field mouse.
And then it sat. It took up residence on our dining room wall and became victim to the busy schedule. It's only consolation was the random, longing glance we would send it's way as we scarfed down whatever dinner we had the energy and time to put together that evening.
Until this weekend. Friday after work, I emptied the room of it's furniture. Kevin and I pulled up the carpet. And we began laying the laminate. A relatively simple process with only a few cuts necessary with the table saw. We were done by 11:15. I swiffered the floor and admired our handiwork. We went to bed.
The next morning Kevin awoke at approximately 5:00 a.m. This is not usually for my husband who enjoys his mornings to sleep in as much as the next guy, but something had been bothering him all night. The seams we had worked tireless to line up perfectly were too conspicuous across the floor. They were too noticeable and did not look natural. So, after a trip the farmer's market and much agonizing over the extra work, we decided to pull up the floor, map it out and relay it, staggering the seams. Yes, we relaid the whole thing!!! But it looks a lot better...
And then there are all of the extraneous projects one decides to undertake in tangent to the larger project...A new screen for in front of the radiator...relocating all of the beer mugs on the shelf along the wall and replacing them with our wine bottles...restaining the moulding and trimming the door frame...affixing pads to the chairs and the table to protect our lovely new floor from scratches...and they are stil not all finished, but we're getting there.
Our feline children also contributed to the project. The spent most of their time testing the seams by sprawling full-bodied across any flooring that was complete. They also took their turn at christening the floor by disembodying and consuming several branches of fresh catnip. Needless to say, their druken-catnip stupor kept us well entertained during our many hours of construction.
Some of you are asking, how are the two of you still married? Actually, it was a good exercise in communication and teamwork for us. Sure, we both had our moments of frustration, but in the end it forced us to communicate, maintain patience, and make the best of it.
And the best part was, we got done in time to have our nice italian dinner at the fancy restaurant...we shared a fabulous authentic meal with a beautiful bottle of red wine...and then a drive out to the ledge to watch the sunset over the beautiful city lights.
At the end of each day and yes, even the end of each project, we are truly blessed by one another and the home we are building together.
It seems like 6 months since we were on vacation and any level of relaxation that was reached, I have long fallen from. However, let's move on to my topic of the morning; moonlight.
It would seem that moonlight characterizes my marriage. My husband first kissed me by the full moon. We honeymooned during the full moon. And yes, my monthly cycles are heavily impacted by the full moon. (Hence the nonsense of July...two full moons in a month...what's a body to do?)
It makes me think that maybe the ancient people's weren't so far off base. We think they were crazy for some of their understandings of the body and it's relativity to the moon. I propose that maybe they weren't uneducated, but they maintained less impediments to the natural order that we categorize as "science". Now, don't get me wrong, science is an important tool. We just have to remember that it is a tool amongst many. We cannot allow science to preempt things like intuition, creativity, theology, philosophy and pure natural law.
The more natural my life becomes, the more aware of nature's patterns I become. I try very hard to maintain a chemical free life. As much as possible, I am trying to eat whole and organic foods (easy at this time of year when the farmer's market is teaming the delectible delights). I have chosen to remove extra hormones from my body by refraining from chemical birth control. I am attempting to find allergy treatment methods that reduce my dependence on a daily pill. I am also attempting to find more natural remedies to things like cramps, headaches, and fatigue.
The reality is, when your body hurts, it is trying to tell you something. Painkillers do not address the problem that your body is trying to indicate, it only masks the situation. If our lives are too busy to address the problem, maybe it isn't about finding the next great medication, but finding a better balance in life. Next time you have a headache, instead of reaching for the pill bottle, consider a big glass of water, a cold cloth and 10 minutes in a dark place with your eyes closed.
We as Americans have to stop expecting other people and items to make the lives we pack full of nonsense easier. We are breeding a lazy and undisciplined society with too many distractions. How is this even possible? Does anyone see that we perceive ourselves as the busy nation in the world, but we are perceived as one of the laziest? Kevin and I were discussing the value of "processes" the other day and agreed that a world that puts undue value on processes is creating lazy and stupid people. We are not becoming more efficient! We are limiting what people have to learn, develop, and be accountable for!!!
Anyways, back to the moon. I actually set out for this piece to be a reflection on the moon in my marriage, the natural beauty that is love, and the faithfulness that is our Lord. I suppose, like a sculptor, that isn't what wanted to be carved away.
Either way, it comes down to this; the moon is a nightly reminder that we need constancy, simplicity, and beauty in our lives. There will be times when it is full, new, waxing and waning, but we need to make every effort to maintain a constant, simple and beautiful balance in our lives that allows us to live free and unhindered by the trappings of this world.
20 July, 2007
09 July, 2007
I wanted to go back and address a question asked of me in regards to Catholic marriage. I had stated that the purpose of Catholic marriage is two-fold and if one purpose wasn't agreeable, one might need to reconsider the desire to marry.
#1 To willing accept any children God gives.
#2 To bring one another closer to God and the Kingdom of Heaven.
A question was posed to me as to what I thought about a woman who never wanted children. Was I saying that she shouldn't get married?
There are two parts to that question. One, I am not saying it. I am simply representing what I believe based on what the Church has said regarding the Sacrament of Marriage.
Two, the answer truly lies in the woman's heart. If those two requirements are the case and she truly believes she is marrying a man because their marriage will bring them both closer to God and increase the Catholic community in its own way, then it is up to her conscience.
That said, it is rare to find someone who honestly believes her reason for marrying is pure that isn't also willing to bear children in her marriage. It is not an impossible occurance, but it is rare. The reason being is because it is in the "one flesh union" or intimacy of marriage that we give fully of ourselves to the other in the example of Christ and his Church. If we are not willing to offer our spouse our full selves in our fertility, be it through contraception or even misuse of NFP, we are not fully exemplifying the relationship between Christ and his Church and therefore not moving one another towards God.
Here are a few additional comments on the subject from other Catholic sources.
"As a sacrament matrimony is entirely oriented on man's supernatural goal. Matrimony and order are the two sacraments which not only serve the individual in reaching this goal but are there for the benefit of the community. Matrimony is there for the mutual help of the spouses and the increase of the people of God. Devotion to his twofold end is the way of salvation for married couples, a way sanctified by the sacrament. 'Yet she shall be saved through childbearing; if she continues in faith, and love, and sanctification, with sobriety' (1 Tim:2:15)."
"Second, neither does the council continue to employ the old distinction between primary and secondary ends in which the begetting of children is always more important than the mutual love of (two people). "Hence, while not making the other ends of marriage of less value, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole nature of family life resulting from it, tend to dispose the spouses to cooperate courageously with the love of the creator and Savior who through them day by day expands and enriches His own family" (n. 50, italics McBrien's)."
As you can see, the Church regularly considers the role of marriage in the Church as well as in society. They have removed the priority placed on childbearing, but they do not believe that removing the priority negates any of its importance. Also, the two-folds in marriage are clearly not mutually exclusive and in fact are based in one another, adding another sticky element to being opposed to God's gift of children.
Celebrant: Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
Celebrant: Will you love and honour each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?
Celebrant: Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?
Maybe the Church needs to reconsider the wording of this declaration to better represent their focus on the dual purpose of marriage, but for now I guess I just don't feel like lying to or with my spouse in the course of my marriage ceremony.
13 May, 2007
The Servant Song
Words and Tune: Richard Gillard, 1997
1. Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
2. We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travellers on the road.
We are here to help each other,
Walk the mile and bear the load.
3. I will hold the Christ-light for you,
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.
4. I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow,
Till we've seen this journey through.
5. When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony.
6. Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I might have the grace,
To let you be my servant, too.
What a noble and terrifying gift of one's life. Truly the meaning of vocation.
It moves me to tears thinking about the fact that I committed myself to this two weeks ago. I only hope I am up to the task.
10 May, 2007
One comment cited my limited marital scope. Certainly, I have only been married for almost 3 weeks, but I have spent the last 4 years researching and writing about this topic. For the last year, I have tracked my sympto-thermal cycles. I am well aware of it's effects on our current love life and our former dating life. It allows me to be conciously aware of the hormonal shifts in my body and the impacts it has on my moods and responses. It allows me to communicate more clearly why I am feeling the way that I am, and it also allows him to know more easily when those times are occurring. Moreover, the fact that I have been tracking these cycles allows both of us to know when sex is not an option, without one having to refuse one another.
Another comment was in regards to needing assurance and security in a form of birth control and that NFP doesn't offer that security. According to "Feminist Women's Health Center" - Note, I am using a source outside of my personal belief sphere - claims that "the pill" in it's many forms is only 92-99% effective when used correctly. Also, according to Planned Parenthood, only 8 out of every 100 women (again 92%) who use the pill will become pregnant in the first year of using the pill. (That number drops to 1 for "perfect use"). That doesn't include drug interactions and other hang-ups...compared to a consistent 97% for NFP when used correctly. So really, in all essence, "the pill" is no better guarantee than NFP, you can just have sex more often with "the pill".
An MSNBC article about a study conducted for the journal Human Reproduction contains the following quote:
“For a contraceptive method to be rated as highly (effective) as the hormonal pill, there should be less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women per year,” lead author Dr. Petra Frank-Herrmann, from the University of Heidelberg in German, said in a statement.
Among women who always used the symptothermal method correctly, the unplanned pregnancy rate was 0.4 percent. “Therefore, we maintain that the effectiveness of the symptothermal method is comparable to the effectiveness of modern contraceptive methods,” she added.
For more on the topic and details of the study: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17282285/
Another short explanation. The sympto-thermal method of birth control is much more scientific than most people's perception of the "rhythm method". You are required to track your waking temperature throughout your entire cycle with a basal thermometer (it reads out to hundreths for a more acurate reading). You are also required to monitor the consistency of your cervical mucus. Sorry for those with a weak stomach... These techniques together are highly effective. A woman's temperature might be elevated due to stress or illness, but if her cervical mucus is dry, she likely isn't ovulating. There is always room for error, but if the contest is up against the error of "the pill" the margin is comparable.
As to the particular concern about how much time there is for a couple to have sex, this commitment must be a mutual commitment between husband and wife. That is part of why it falls so squarely in the whole pattern of Catholic families. Sex belongs in marriage. With marriage comes commitment, communication, and understanding. It is this mutual commitment, communication and understanding that allows couples to practice NFP in their marriages. Kevin knows that I am so much healthier being off the pill and keeping my body clear of the hormones. We love each other enough to sacrifice pleasure for well-being during that time of my cycle. I don't have to refuse him. Don't get me wrong, sex is a critical part of marriage. The intimate life is the greatest gift a husband and wife can give to one another and periods of abstinence must be mutual and purposeful.
We make the time we have for sex meaningful. And when the "no fly zone" is in effect, we take that time to build each other up in other ways. Since it is my most creative and energetic time, we often work on house or yard projects together. Sometimes we make the extra effort to take day trips around the region, which are a good opportunity to get away and talk. Other times, the best thing to do is get out with our friends. Kevin likes to fish and it is a good chance for him to go out on the lake after work with his best friend. I like to get together with my girlfriends for drinks or coffee. These are built in opportunities to enhance ourselves and our marriage.
Moreover, we are at a place in our lives where pregnancy is a viable option. Now, I am not saying that if it isn't, you shouldn't use NFP, but in our case if we don't get it perfect, it is okay for us to have a baby. We wouldn't have gotten married if it wasn't. Let's face it, the purpose of marriage is two-fold. 1: the procreation and rearing of children and 2: the mutual commitment of the couple to exemplify Christ and his love for the Church and bring one another closer to God's Kingdom. If you're not ready for one, you're not ready for either.
Sure, we'd like to pay off the rest of my student loans and get a nice nest egg going. We'd like to have a few months before undertaking yet another new phase in life. But a baby is a blessing. We will welcome a baby, planned or unplanned, with the same joy and enthusiasm as part of God's wonderful and omniscient plan.
Speaking of student loans, I need to go wade through a rather large and complex web of job opportunities and time-frames. When it rains, it pours. I suppose I should be grateful, but for once in my life, can't God make it easy!!!???
P.S. Keep the comments coming! I love the dialogue!!!
09 May, 2007
It's not that hard people...I mean really. So you can't have sex for the duration of approximately a week. If you really want to be safe, 10 days. This way, not only do you and your spouse get to know your body rhythms intimately (and if this makes you uncomfortable, you might reconsider how comfortable you are with your spouse), but your body feels ten times better than it does with all the added hormones of birth-control.
Most studies indicated that for every year a woman is on birth control her uterus ages 5 years. A woman's fertility peaks in her late twenties and drops significantly after 35. That isn't a huge window to begin with and I decided two years ago that I didn't want to shrink it any further.
Moreover, I discovered myself when I chose to go off of birth control. Note: I was not sexually active until I was married, so the birth control was a method of controlling my menstration and cramping. What I found was that the hormones tempered everything I experienced. I had no highs, no lows, and now really sense of change. The world became crystal clear to me when I chose to go off of birth control. Sure, I gained some weight, became moodier, and had to find alternative methods for controlling my pain, but I am a woman and that is what women do. I am now using a combination of NFP, pain medication, and natural remedies to handle my cycle and my pain. There are some days that are better than others, but in the end I am so much better for the decision.
Yes, as my mother has indicated in several conversations we have had on the subject, it is not easy for a husband and wife to abstain from sex during the time when the woman's body most wants it. Yes, it means that each person has to give up a little bit of what they "want" for the sake of creating and maintaining the most perfect union.
In my mind, it is like swearing. Succeeding at communicating your point without swear words is much harder, but more meaningful than using them. Suceeding at communicating love and awe with your partner without sex is harder, but just as meaningful and self-sacrificing. Maybe that is the point. The Catholic Church teaches against birth control because it prevents the couple from giving completely of themselves in sexual intimacy. Birth control says, "I am willing to give you everything but my fertility." Abstainance, used correctly, gives completely of one's self, even to the point of sacrificing the one-flesh union, in order to love the other as completely as possible without creating life.
NFP takes work and dedication. I wake up at 6:30 no matter what day it is and take my temperature. I record it and make sure that my husband knows what it means. We both make ourselves aware of the "no fly" zone. Sure, I do all that. It takes about as much time as remembering to take "the pill", with as much or less worrying. Interesting, isn't it?
06 May, 2007
17 April, 2007
27 March, 2007
The human condition requires marks in time. Time is so much greater than we can comprehend that we must ritualize it with celebration and often times food. For some it is a long evening in the garage with a cold beer, marking the return of warm weather. For others it is a long-awaited trip to "visit the boat" in it's winter home. For some it is a "girls weekend".
Well, the days of beautiful weather have again come, albeit a little cold, and as I sit here and look at the beautiful blossoms outside my upstairs office, I can't help but feel that time is passing a bit too quickly. Just last week, my husband and I got married. We spent the last week in Montreal and Quebec City and yet, but two days later, it feels like months ago. I suppose that is why we must always live in the moment. We must never hope for a better moment or a chance to relive something. Time passes too quickly and no amount of ritual will change that.
25 March, 2007
24 March, 2007
3 weeks ago, Kevin's best friend and his wife had their first baby, Nicholas. He is the most adorable little thing you have ever seen!
As a result, Kevin and I were discussing life and how it has changed over the past years. He and his best friend have been friends for almost 20 years now! Kevin lived in Milwaukee and Chicago, and Gregg was in the Army. There were good times and there were dark times. There were months when they went without talking. And yet, Kevin remembers when they talked about getting married and having children and it is a strange experience to see it coming to fruition.
I also have moved around a bit. As I reflect on my friendships over the years, most of them have drifted apart. Getting married really gives you the opportunity to see who is still really invested and who isn't. I have friends in all stages. I have one, the one I expected to be there, who isn't. I have another who I never in a million years expected to be there (my best friend from Kindergarten) who is thrilled to be coming! And I have another who is on the fence about the friendship all together. And there is a new friend who thought my wedding was important enough that even when she wasn't invited to the dinner asked if she could come to the ceremony. Life changes things. My life is leaps and bounds different from who I was in all those stages. Thank God for that! We become different people. If a friendship can evolve to incorporate those changes, it is a beautiful thing. For my best friend from Kindergarten, our friendship kind of hibernated the past 18 years. And if it can't survive, we bless those friendships and let them go. It doesn't lessen the connection or the time we had together, it just says that the friendship taught us, blessed us, held us, and now it is time to let go.
Lifelong friendships are a blessing. Phase/Stage friendships are a blessing. A friendship that lasts the duration of an event is a blessing. I've had them all. Some of them have passed through me and others remain in me. They were all still in me, at the very depth of my being.
I am who I am. I live where I live. I've made choices and paid the consequences of those choices. I've also reaped the great blessings of those choices. I chose to live my life without regrets. That doesn't mean there isn't opportunities for apologies and reparation for bad choices, but ladies, we're grown-ups now. I don't have a magic wand. I can't make it all better with a kiss and a band-aid. I can say I am sorry and then the ball is in your court. You can walk away and end the game or you can keep playing. Either way, I'll still love you and always think of the good times we had.