Monday, July 28, 2014

Obligatory Reflection Post

"Unhappy is the only happy that she'll ever be."  -Matt Pryor

I don't know about you, but the last thing I want for my life is for that song lyric to describe me.

I have been in a place of struggle lately, and it took me some time to get over the barrier of comparing it to others and their struggles. God has felt a bit elusive for me, even though life is mostly good. Losing spiritual footing impacted my parenting, and me as a spouse. Enter Edel.

I would have packed my bags that very moment.

Let me begin by saying that I am a pretty terrible blog follower since Google Reader broke up with me. I tried Blog Lovin' and it just isn't the same. I end up deleting the direct email notifications from blogs I try to follow before I read them. Terrible reader. So, it is actually amazing that I managed to find out Edel was happening.

I am not big on retreats or conferences usually. At retreats, I feel spiritually inadequate, and have to fight through the cheesy hugging ceremonies. Some retreats I have been a part of end up with a creepy stalker element to them, and I leave feel more drained than connected. Conferences can have a similar effect, especially if I am pregnant. Conferences don't typically put nap time on the schedule, so I miss something when I get tired of waddling around. Fortunately, Edel felt like neither of these things. I've never attended an event that was set up with mothers in mind. The baby inclusive cocktail party was easily the greatest party I have ever been to, until the baby-wearing inclusive karaoke dance party the next night. The talks were spread out and spoke directly to the part of me that felt like motherhood was broken in my life. (Well, the parts I heard did this, anyway. The giant live Tweet screen was distracting in the best kind of way.) For the first time, I was in a room with 150+ women that felt EXACTLY the same way I was feeling.

My son, the morning I left for Edel: Mom, it is Friday. You are leaving. Get out.
He followed by repeatedly telling me he was drawing me buried in sand. Motherhood.

If you are a better blog reader than I am, you will read this line repeatedly, but I can't get over it: "It is good that you are here." Hallie Lord managed to provide the inspired seven words that all of us desperately needed to hear.

Jen Fulwiler and Hallie Lord (and support staff) saw a hole in ministry, and they worked hard to fill it. I'm sure they would tell you that the only regret is that more were unable to attend. Mothers need to hear that the job is hard, but that there are many more women participating in the struggle right beside us.

Marion Fernandez-Cueto mentioned the analogy of taking a chem class and then realizing that you would be judged by how you "chemistry" the rest of your life, sometimes by people that know nothing about chemistry. This leaves such a hole for self-doubt and isolation to take over!

Haley Stewart talked about our tendency to let our sin define us. This is especially true of motherhood in my life. I think about the times I have failed to respond to my children in the way that I should (and that I want to), and in dark times those are the only moments I can see.

Jen Fulwiler described laying in bed and listening to the sounds of her family in the morning and really not wanting to get out of bed. I thought I was the only one that did that!

To hear four different women with four incredibly different perspectives on family life prepare talks that were all equally relatable and brilliantly designed to tear apart the isolation of all that were listening was a pretty powerful experience. To be surrounded by Catholic women that knew the exhaustion and brokenness I was feeling but sought to get to know me not as a mother or a wife but as a woman was the source of comfort and regeneration that somehow managed to help me sleep less over the weekend, but return home to my family with what I so desperately needed: a chance to miss my life.

The struggle is worth it.

Whether you are a parent or not, a spouse or not, Catholic or not: you were put here for a reason. While Edel certainly delivered, there were other things about this weekend (events on social media and the homily on Sunday) that drove home a message for me that we all need to hear: you are here for a reason. Intelligent design is not just the physical, but our own talents and strengths as well. If you see a hole or a gap to bridge, perhaps that is the first indication that you are called to fill it or build that bridge.

St. Mary Cathedral in downtown Austin.

This weekend helped me to rediscover what I am being called to do, and that is an incredibly empowering feeling, even if I am typing this between breakfast cleaning and diaper changing. And you know what? It is good that I am here also.

Communion Hymn this weekend at the Cathedral

Friday, July 18, 2014

7QT: Edel Playlist (07.18.2014)

Three hours in a truck ALL BY MYSELF means I will be blasting my favorite albums. Six hours total, means I will have some CD changes along the way, so here is what I am planning on burning (Yep. no MP3 playlist availability in the good ol' 2008 Ridgeline. CDs, yo. Remember those?

Andrew McMahon. As I regrettably am not able to own his new single, "Cecilia and the Satellite" in time for the trip, I will have to settle for SoCo, Jack's Mannequin and his solo EP. Settling is not really the correct word. Adore.

I am thinking a nice mix up of all my current favorite singles. Some Lumineers, American Authors, Various Veronica Mars soundtrack pieces, The Oh Hellos... you know. Excellence.

Max Collins on repeat. Seriously, I am so so happy that he put out a solo album. Eve 6 already lays claim to the best road trip song EVER, but I will enjoy getting to know his solo stuff on the drive to Austin.
Best. Road. Song. Ever.

Third Eye Blind. My own version of the Best Of.

I went retro this week and snagged some Onelinedrawing albums, circa 2004. Those will most likely come with me as well. This one is my kids' favorite:

While The Format will most definitely make the trip, I have yet to decide about Fun.

I can't help it. More VM soundtrack.

Head over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes AFTER you tell me about your road trip music!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Right Brain Summer Drawing Club #3

I am still plugging along with Simcha's Drawing Club!

Confession time: I get super bored when I am asked to draw my hand. Other things are interesting and I don't really tire, but ask me to draw my hand and I'm going to fall asleep, even in art class.

It might help if I attempted the drawings in a well-lit room with fresh air and bountiful light. Maybe.

Here are this week's drawings. I completely spaced on the childhood landscape, but oddly it did seem to come back. Maybe the author is on to something.

I'm sure I drew my family from time to time, but I don't remember that.


first hand

I had to stop the madness. My hand is bo-oring.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Too Many of a Good Thing

Too Many of a Good Thing (I had this song stuck in my head while writing this post.)

*Note: I really need to get better at catching typos and grammar mistakes the first pass through.

I am entering the more enjoyable phase of pregnancy: mostly cravings, less nausea. It is pretty gratifying to take that first bite into a Bang Bang shrimp taco from BoneFish Grill. Satisfying through the last bite. Sometimes, the cravings turn off pretty quickly. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I suffered greatly from a need to recreate the taquitos from the on campus restaurant where I worked in college. One night, I realized that I had thrown away a bag once and they were the same brand I could buy in stores. I bought the biggest box I could and the first three times I made them were heaven. The fourth time, there was something about the taquito/sour cream combo that ruined it. I still don't really eat taquitos and sour cream is out completely when I am pregnant.

I find that my tolerance levels are the same with other things in life, especially when it comes to my faith. I also insist that people use words correctly and have an intolerance for overused words that also happen to be used incorrectly. Seriously, don't even talk to me about "zombies." These things together are just disastrous for my interactions with other people.

In college, the crowd I ran with was mostly Catholic. In retrospect, the vast majority of those people were just like me, and learning what it means to be Catholic as a young adult. That can be difficult to manage at times. A popular concept in our group was "accountability." Accountability is a good thing. I appreciate having people in my life that will be honest and tell me when I need to step it up. I know that their intentions are to help me be a better woman. This is a far cry from what "accountability" became in this instance.

It felt as though the more I tried to be accountable to the group, the more I just failed. My relationship wasn't good enough, my personality was lacking. In an effort to blend in, I even asked someone that I thought of as a mentor in a way to help me discern a college transfer. I was met with "Well, that school costs more, but your future husband will be the one footing the bill, so it probably doesn't matter." The rest of our conversation was filled with "accountability" messages that reflected this sentiment. After we were finished, the A word was an exasperation trigger. I couldn't handle the message being caked on like that, and I couldn't handle my life being an open book for those that had partial information under the guise of "accountability."

I am starting to feel the same way about the word "uncharitable." In the past few months, I have seen this word thrown around often to describe someone that just seems blunt from my perspective. Is charity toward others in conversation and in action a good thing? ABSOLUTELY. Should we strive to be charitable always? Sure! It is virtuous and good to show others love always. Should we be using it as a way to shame others? Nope.

Taken from

I see nothing in this definition that equates bluntness or (a slightly off) sense of humor with a lack of charity. Does being blunt mean you are not speaking out of love? No. Quite the opposite in my case. I am a terrible liar. I never got the hang of it. Honesty just comes out. That doesn't mean I don't know I have a filter problem, but it certainly does not equate to a lack of charity. Being honest often does seem to equate with charity, no? Does making a joke mean you are always speaking without love? No. I have a dry sense of humor, and every sense of humor in between. I didn't used to believe slap-stick comedy was my jam, but I've come around. If, instead of crying uncharitable, I was seeing admonishments for a lack of tact, I'd probably be inclined to agree.

I am far from perfect, but I like who I am. I feel more confident now in my 30s than I did in my teens and 20s. When I was 18 and 19, I tried too hard to change myself to fit in with others. Accepting myself, sarcastic wit, honesty, bluntness, and all is good. That doesn't mean I don't have room for improvement, just that virtuous behavior or words might not always look the same. A constant push for us all to be the same is one that I really have to rebel against.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Facebook is not supposed to be complicated. As a general rule, I don't "unfriend" people. I also don't "friend" people often. Mostly, because I am lazy. I have little motivation to sort my 200-some friends (Edit: I overestimated this number. I come in at a lame 188.) into lists, or to basically rank who gets to see what.We live states away from family, so Facebook has truly been a blessing: people that otherwise would not be able to connect with our children can see photos and hear about our lives. It saves an introvert like me from making dozens of phones calls to update our large family. Another perk? I get to see the children of my friends from childhood and adulthood grow up. I am privy to details I might miss out on because of distance. I have the privilege of seeing my friends raise a generation of kids that I wish could live next door to my own. Facebook has been good in my life.

I have also been a part of some really great conversations about serious matters on Facebook. Of course, there are discussions that get out of hand. Even some of the heated conversations have been some of my favorite, however.

Recently, I had a terrible experience with the "unfriend" Facebook button. For months, the interactions between this person and myself had seemed needlessly heated. With every comment from the individual, I would receive a private message from someone else asking "What's the deal?!" I would vent and ask for prayers privately. Status updates that included topics from raising kids to summer meals to (finally) courtesy parking would erupt in seconds. For a month or so before the finale, I had even been hiding a great deal of my updates from the individual just to preserve the relationship. I like this person. If we lived closer, I'd have a beer with this person. This person is on my Christmas card list. It only took one Saturday morning's observation in a post I forgot to limit. One seemingly harmless conversation in the week that included the Hobby Lobby ruling and all ties are cut.

I don't really want to admit it, but I am a bit hurt underneath all the puzzlement. Months of judgmental comments that I tried to step over, and even a few unsent private messages trying to figure out what the hell happened. In some ways, I suppose it is a relief. In many other ways, it just plain sucks.

Almost everyone I know has had a similar experience on Facebook. It makes family get-togethers awkward. Perhaps it is not being able to hear tone when you are reading a post. Maybe the comfort and anonymity a computer brings makes matters worse. It is possible that some people really are like that in person. It might just be stubborn people being stubborn.

I suppose I am writing this post to get it out of my system. I don't enjoy being attacked and I don't understand how someone can continuously attack and then be upset enough to "unfriend" someone when they are challenged back. I also don't like the taste left in my mouth over this whole experience. I don't know how to resolve something like this. Are my only options to censor my own Facebook page or to get off of Facebook?

How do you handle tense situations that start on Facebook and bleed into real life?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Let's Talk About Books, Man.

Or people. Or Woman. Whatever.

Book review time!

This post might leave you with the realization that I am weird, but I suppose you had to find out sometime. So, let's dig in.

Lean In

When this book first came out, a friend asked if I wanted to read it with her. I put it off for so long that I think she read it without me. I finally finished it in June. Sandberg has some really fantastic insight into women and corporate America. Some of this can be transferred to working women that are not in the corporate world, and perhaps even those of us that are at home. However, I think I might have been better off finding her TED talks. A former employer once mentioned to me that she noticed the tendency for women in work meetings to qualify their statements: "I might be missing something, but..." or "This sounds crazy, but what if we..." where as men just offer the idea to the group. I was hoping for a bit more insight to this sort of issue, but it seemed to repeat the same three or four catch phrases through out the book. I am glad I read it, but wish it had been a shorter read.

Life, In Spite of Me

This was a quick read, but to be polite, it was boring. I put it on my GoodReads list a few years ago and forgot what it was supposed to be about. I think I started reading it thinking it was about someone that survived abortion, but it is about surviving suicide and her Christian conversion. I found it to be poorly written and lacked depth. 

Neptune Noir

Yes. Once my certificate arrives in the mail, I will officially be a geek. I was hunting around Amazon to see if I could scope out the next Veronica Mars book release and I found this. It was edited by Rob Thomas, so I picked it out of the dozens of fan fic options. I didn't know that there was an entire book series that seriously analyzed TV shows. Wow. It was fun to read Rob's thoughts about VM in the blurbs ahead of the chapters. In case you were wondering, the second VM book is due out in late 2014. Yes. I have already pre-ordered. Leave me alone.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

BIG. Full of big words and more references than I can handle! What a great read though. You can find this on the Vatican website in its entirety. I found the book to be incredibly insightful. Here is a quick list of some of my earmarked sections:
183, 187 (poverty and the state), 234/251 (women and work) 335 (capitalism), 399 (death penalty), 401(armed resistance), 552 (commitments to others through service)

If you want to take the time, I recommend that you do so. 

Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness

Someone (who is still anonymous for now) sent me this in the mail, I assume for my birthday. The illustrations are just fantastic! I can't wait to use it to introduce the kids to Poe. It includes The Black Cat, The Masque of the Red Death, Hop-Frog, and The Fall of the House of Usher. The stories have been slightly edited (as in no dismembered bodies, so as kid-friendly as Poe can be) and as I said, beautifully illustrated. Adore. 

If you're on GoodReads, add me! I love finding out what folks are reading!