Friday, July 31, 2015

7 Quick Reads vol. 11~ All the BIG FEELS ed.

If you lived your life without all the big feels over the course of the past week or two, then you must not be following the news... in particular, the news about PP. Ladies, Gentlemen, fellow bloggers, friends on Facebook, and anyone else who happens to read this blog: Let's stop sanitizing the news, our hearts, our insides.. and instead embrace this messy, real, bloody story. Let's not glaze over the issue of life, but with grace, guts, and the Holy Spirit, face it. What is happening in our country? What is happening in our hearts?

See, I told you. All the BIG FEELS edition.

That's mostly what this Quick Takes is all about. If you read one article on this list, know that the Federalist deconstructed the PP debate really, really well. (See below). Also, a few other of my favorite reads over the past three or four weeks;)

Your morning cup-of-joe, links-style here at Picture a Skyline. Are you ready? Let's dig in.


Former Planned Parenthood Manager Describes Her Journey Back to God @ Life Site News

"Disturbing images of young girls who came to the facility are embedded in TreviƱo's mind – girls the same age as her own young daughter, girls with multiple sexual partners and recurrent STDs, some giving the appearance of being involved with abusive older men.
"It just seemed wrong to give them birth control," she told LifeSiteNews, "when the problem was much deeper, something birth control was not going to solve."
It's all about the money, she said. "Planned Parenthood doesn't care about women."

Cecile Richards: Hey, Yeah Sorry For That Tone @The Anchoress

"So, the euphemisms get more convoluted. Women aren’t going in for abortions; they’re not going to Planned Parenthood to stop what will continue to live, if it’s not killed. They’re simply paying money so Planned Parenthood can help them donate their baby’s organs for medical research."


Feeling Overwhelmed? Draw the Pyramid @ Jen Read it!  Putting God before everything else in life is so, so important, crucial, essential, primary.

Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion @ Rachel Held

Under President Obama’s presidency, the overall abortion rate has indeed seen a decline, but he overturned some of Bush’s restrictions on late-term abortions, and there are these drones in the sky that don’t seem very pro-life to me.  I squirmed on the couch when, during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, cheers erupted upon every mention of a woman’s “right to choose.” A lot of pro-choice folks like to say that “no one is pro-abortion,” but when celebratory concert series and festivals are organized around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I can’t help but question the degree to which we have desensitized ourselves to the reality that abortion means the termination of, at the very least, a potential life, something that should never be celebrated with balloons and rock concerts. ...

As I advocated for the election (and re-election) of President Obama, I confess I grew somewhat embarrassed by the pro-life cause.

As good and thorough as the writing is here, because this essay is old (written:May 2, 2013), I feel like I can say that this is just a fancy-dance-pants way of saying, “I’m apathetic about the issue {now}.”  When I hear about what is going on at Planned Parenthood behind closed doors, undercover, only given full unveiling to those willing to pay them the big bucks, I can’t check out. I hear people say, “Well- yeah… I’m not surprised.. {YAWN}… here’s a good number/website you can check out…. you can call if you need anything,” we’ve dialed it in.  If we say, “Yeah… just don’t boycott my company, that ain’t nice,” we’ve already paid the check and we’re out of the building. We’re not even within earshot of caring anymore. When we say, “Well, I hear Cecile Richards got interviewed, and I think they’re just trying to create a scandal,” we. are. missing. the. point of all of this. Not only is it actually an utterly ridiculous CRIME deeply connected to greed, it is a bloodbath. These people are picking apart a human carcass, literally. Discussing how much a liver is worth.


No.  Just no.

Don’t be desultory.

Now, I’m not going to stew in my grief, worry, and fear… but just because I am choosing not to be depthless doesn't mean I can't have the peace of Christ, with full knowledge that I personally cannot change the world with fear-based discourse… that doesn’t mean I can sit back in an apathetic slough of carefully chosen words that take my name off of the “Responsible, deeply responsible” list.

I am responsible. There are people who have authority, more responsibility, and deserve more credit than me.  The people at the Center for Medical Research, they are the heroes. There are people who need to worry more than me. Lawyers. Judges. People in politics. My job is simple.  My job, in comparison, is small.

What can I do? What can we do? What are we going to do?

Vote Pro-Life. Share the videos. Care.

Then you can leave the crime-infested building.

The 4 Most Embarrassing Things Cecile Richards Said in Defense of Planned Parenthood @ The Federalist

The second video, featuring Dr. Mary Gatter, included discussions of “less crunchy” abortion techniques that can be used to preserve valuable human organs and the haggling over the price of those body parts, even though Planned Parenthood claims that they are only reimbursed for costs (costs which, if such a claim were true, should not vary one cent in the face of eager buyers willing to bump up the price)... 

Planned Parenthood is designated a non-profit by the Internal Revenue Service. Its president makes more than half a million dollars a year, its budget is more than $1 billion, and it gets more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding annually, but it’s a non-profit. What that means is not that every service is provided at cost or that all operations are managed via donation, but simply that any money it brings in is put back into the organization.

Why I'm Coming Back to Blogging @ Addie

Where else is there such a powerful reader/writer connection — a conversation, a call to interaction, a buffet of topics and ideas and thoughts and insights? It’s an invitation into the living, breathing, fighting, wild, loud, raucous international family of humanity. It’s the coolest thing.
Listen — I believe in the long works. The memoirs and novels and essays and collections. I am passionate about them…and I’m a mom in her Tired Thirties, so I barely use the word “passionate” to describe anything in my life.
Fun thoughts on blogging and how it can impact a person...

Read the Letter Planned Parenthood Sent News Outlets Warning Them Not to Air Undercover Videos @The  Blaze

People. oh pleeeeeeeeeeeease!  ;)

Bonus: Matt Walsh Speaking in Washington D.C.  on defunding PP

Because my Mom asked me: "Who is Matt Walsh?" and I feel like she and others ought to know!!! Especially since my Mom is an outspoken Pro-Life activist. Warning: some harsh language here. But blood is being spilled. The blood of innocent children. A little bitter (some would say the harshness is too extremist) but seriously. ...Watch it. ;) We need this kind of conviction, intelligence, and awareness in the public sphere and definitely in the mainstream.

to quote (not from the speech, but from Matt Walsh's FB wall):

"Also, thanks to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson for coming to speak at this event as well. They all spoke forcefully in defense of the unborn, as they should. Any Republican who isn't crying out against this atrocity consistently, passionately, and convincingly, is no ally. It's time for everyone to stand for life or stand aside. Period."

If you want to see the end of Planned Parenthood, see them come to justice for lies about the sale of fetal body parts, or just see a little crumble in the fabric of the demented, ignorant underbelly of society- a direct result of the sexual revolution, something we shouldn't be getting behind as committed Christians- Share these articles.  Do your research. Go to the right rally. Stand with the Pro-Life movement in your thoughts, in your prayers, and especially -- in your actions. Do something, don't stand aside as I did in the last election. I couldn't make a decision, but knowing what I know now, there is no other decision to make. Because just standing there? Just voting yourself into the machine of murder? That is willingly siding yourself with the evil, unjust, disgusting business of murdering innocent lives for money... a conscience-less practice with nothing- absolutely nothing- to back it up.  Prayers should be sent up that this convoluted movement is left spinning. This should not go on. This shouldn't go on another day.

adding my link to This Ain't the Lyceum

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monthly Recap vol. 23 July 2015

It's the last Monday of the month. Time to tell you about our month! How was your July?  Over here, (despite what's been happening in the news), everything has been very good.  I cannot even believe we've only got a month to go until I'm full term. Due date: t minus 35-ish days. (!!!) Almost harder to believe is that Molly will start second grade and Frances will start Pre-School in less than two weeks. How is that even possible?!


My daughters attended two Dance Camps this month.  My sister and her two kiddos came to visit for a week. We celebrated a very nice 4th of July with our cousins Micah and Allison.  Stephen left me to parent solo for a week so that he could attend an overnight camp in Kentucky (long story).  My Mom and I went to Charlotte, NC for a wedding reception for a dear friend and her two sisters. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of driving. So, busy. And reading, always lots of that!

getting ready for baby..

I'm working on a Big Fat Pregnancy Recap post for you.

Until then... THIS is what I have bought for the baby so far:

This is what I have brought down/ need to bring down from the attic:
-bouncy seat
-carseat (done)

This is what I still need to do:

all.the.things. Mostly, cleaning.
I've been reading a ton, as per usual for me. I actually abandoned a book (or two, ish) this time. I had to keep going on my Jim Gaffigan run because he is just so funny. I felt like I needed to laugh until I cried a few more times as I endure heat + third trimester. So Food: A Love Story made its way to my shelf...And man, I was right: I needed to read it- it is gold. It's basically all of his stand-up comic routines on food. And it has me thinking I need to read more humor books. It is such a refreshing change to be laughing out loud over and over again, over serious all.of.the.time!

I also added to my bookshelf a few that I found recommended in the blogosphere. Both Ginny and MMD recommended The Rosie Project. About potent potables, awkward and dorky personalities, and the social side of making awkward friendships work, I found it endearing and charming and hard to put down.  Water For Elephants has been on the Amazon wishlist for far too long, but after reading about half, I decided to either abandon it for good or finish reading it in August.  It was good, but being in my third trimester makes everything harder, reading included. And it had just enough smarmy downright inappropriate that I was ova it. ;) (I had really forgotten what it was like being so pregnant!)

The Cloister Walk  was one of the best books I read this month, for multiple reasons. This was my first book by the poet and author, Kathleen Norris. It has stirred my soul and awakened my spiritual senses over and over.  It is also very long, though!;) I am just now getting into In This House of Brede, but I hope to make headway before July is over!  As for Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching by Anthony Esolen....good stuff. We need this book in our American culture today. Esolen is and has been quoted and linked to many, many times on one of my top 5 favorite sites, Like Mother, Like Daughter and on several other sites. So, I'm so glad I read it!!!

So all in all, I had a lot of goodness on my shelf this month, but didn't quite keep up as I had hoped.

interested in buying any of these books?

Being Elmo with the kids= good, made me cry
Wild  good, but. also. melodramatic and intense. Stephen didn't like it as much as I did. I thought the acting, music, and story were well-executed. It wasn't dry at all. Stephen complained that it had the pace of a chick flick. Well, what are you gonna do?
still watching Parenthood

listening to...
almost nada that's good or worth mentioning. Rec's for me?

Funny things they say: 

Me: girls…. what do you want to be when you grow up?
Molly: An artist or a singer.
Frances: Everything… or a princess.
Madeleine: I want to be..a be.. a be..
Molly: A Bee? You want to be a bee when you grow up?
Frances: (Laughing) Only one problem.  God will NOT answer that.

{Passing a rental car parking lot}
Molly: Those trucks are really spensy!!! It says they cost $19.95!

Me: We’re going to the zoo!
Molly: We’re going to see the camels!
Madeleine: Yay!!! We’re going to see the canimals.

{watching The Prince of Egypt}
Stephen: The river is red blood.
Madeleine: No, it's red MUD!
Tacy: She doesn't want to accept it.
Madeleine: It's mud, Daddy! It's mud.
Stephen: She's making the story palatable.

Stephen: (discussing the Catechism) Girls, what are the two types of grace?
Molly: Sanctifying grace and..... forrealz grace?
(answer: sanctifying grace and actual grace)

(After painting her nails the night before, Madeleine comes up to me)
Madeleine: Mommy, can you paint my nails?
Me: I just did! Last night (examines nails) What happened to the paint?!
Madeleine: (without missing a beat) Yo-yo and Sneaky scratched it off.
Me: Ok... Or maybe you scratched it off?
Madeleine: It was upstairs. The kitties scratched it off but you couldn't see!

(We are getting used to hearing "Yo-yo and Sneaky did it..."She also told me that the kitties put a bead up her nose (!!!)....which led to a visit to the ER! As her Daddy said, in a few more years, she should get in serious trouble for telling stories like that... right now, it's just kinda cute and a little bit frustrating;)).

Friday, July 24, 2015

7 Blogging Hacks to Make Blogging a Little Faster and a Little Better (I Heart Blogging Series pt 3)

This week, I'm doing a series on Blogging here. Bloggers unite! I {Heart} Blogging is where I tell you what I have learned, in over eight years of blogging. I hope it encourages you in your own journey. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments for me. ;)

Are you looking for a few simple hacks for taking your blog to the next level?  With this series, and with this post, I am not saying I have reached all of my goals of blogging, nor am I saying that I have a lot of brilliant advice for you tucked up my sleeve.  Rather, I am just trying to encourage you with some tips that have been helpful to me over the past 8 years of blogging myself.  Having fun and being successful are different things entirely. Here are some tips for you bloggers out there! If you have a question or need clarification, ask me in the comments or send me an email!


To make blogging a little faster and a little better, you should...write when you're inspired.  I often find that opening my feedly and reading blogs in the morning is actually one of the best ways to get inspired to do my own blogging routine. (That and reading real books... a beautiful turn of phrase or a favorite quote can get my juices flowing... sorry I hate that metaphor.)  My internet shuts off at 10am everyday, so that's my personal routine.  If I want to write any other time of the day, I use textedit offline. If you write when you're inspired to do so, I personally think that the words flow more naturally, and your posts sound more authentic. (Read more about My Morning Writing Routine here).


To make blogging a little faster, you should... plug in your iPhone/camera at the same time everyday.  You can't control the muse (necessarily), but you can always add photos to a post and come back to the writing part. I try to plug in my iPhone in the morning everyday, so that I can crop and edit the lighting and often will go ahead and add some photos to a blogpost. That's a great thing to do when you're in a blogging rut.  I edit my photos on-the-go more often than not (read more about mobile editing a post I wrote here: How I Edit Photos).


To make blogging a little better, you should...spend more time working on writing one post.  Not only does it make it worth our while, it is more fun to keep coming back to a post in drafts and crafting it to perfection than it is to crank out three or four less-than-stellar posts a week.  Main reason: I notice that the more I put into one post, the more likely I am to get some kind of a response, whether it is a comment here, a like on Facebook, or a comment or retweet on Twitter. People notice and they care when you put a little more into your blogpost.


To make blogging a little better, you should....consider changing your name or design to something that suits you better. If you don't like the look or name of your blog, change it. No, I'm not talking about Carrots for Michaelmas! (A beautiful name for a lovely blog... We/I love that blog name/design!) I mean, if you sort of hate your blog name, and it makes you not want to blog, or you sort of hate your web design and it makes you not want to blog, change it!! Just don't stop blogging, whatever you do.


To make blogging a little faster, you should...write and blog at the same time everyday. This goes hand in hand with numbers 1 &2, but I will reiterate that blogging - like anything else- is a formed habit.  If you do it at the same time everyday, you are more likely to accomplish what you're setting out to do, than if you try to do so inconsistently or are squeezing it in at random times throughout your day. I not only read, write, and work on blogposts in the morning, I also comment on other blogs (try to at least), and use all social media channels in the morning, as well.  This functions well for two reasons: so that I don't forget to do so, and so that the habit remains! ;)


To make blogging a little better, you should...write about what you're passionate about. No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something. We all have our passions.  Also, remember that we all have goals, strengths, gifts, graces, and along with those, mistakes, and patterns of weakness, but if you're forcing any aspect of blogging, be it the writing side, the photo editing side, or the design, people will notice.  The number one thing you need for a successful blog is a love for writing-... and a love for editing photos and doing the design side of things, the marketing side, the projects behind a post, or what have you? Those don't hurt, but they're not the end-all, be-all of blogging.


To be a making blogging a little faster and a little better, you should...stay focused.  I could write an entire post about this.

  • Stay focused by honing in on a main idea for each post.

Focused writing: Focused, precise writing is the make-or-break-it deal between a just a blogger and a published writer.

  • Figure out who you truly are, and the rest will follow. 

Keep a focused persona. My favorite blogs are the people who are true to themselves on their blog. We don't all have to be hilarious, or live on a farm.... or be thoughtful, vulnerable, and super deep. We don't all have to be bookish or lead incredibly interesting lives all the time or travel in Europe, in order to be good bloggers. But we all have the duty to ourselves and others to be real and to be ourselves. Tell the truth, and do your best with all of the know-how you have in you. People will notice, and they'll start to care. Keep in mind that if you're always impersonal on your blog, people might start to care a little less.

  • Take breaks so that you can come back to blogging truly ready. 

Have a focused blog time. Do your best with the time that you have, but take breaks from the internet and from your blog regularly... even (definitely) everyday. Don't forget to have moments and seasons of rest, or you'll burn out.

Were you waiting for someone to say these things? Now you can go forth and do it/carry it out! I hope some of these ideas and tips were helpful for you today. May you be blessed in your blogging!

This is part three in a series.
Read Part One Here (Is Blogging a Vocation?)
and Part Two Here (You Know You're a Blogger When...)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

You Know You're a Blogger When... (I Heart Blogging Series pt. 2)

This week, I'm doing a series on Blogging here. Bloggers unite! I {Heart} Blogging is where I tell you what I have learned about posting all of my deep thoughts on the internet, in over eight years of blogging. I hope it encourages you in your blogging journey. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section for me!!

Being a blogger sometimes has its own dilemmas, and one of the first thing you'll come to realize or notice about being a perfectionist and a blogger, is quite possibly the issue/problem of self-doubt. Am I really a blogger, a writer, a designer, a photographer, a (certain kind of) blogger?  Am I professional and legit? Or am I just a big sham/impostor?

Today I'm going to explore a few of the ways you know that you're a blogger or are meant to be blogging. If you have some or even all of these characteristics, maybe it's time to own the fact that you love blogging and/or being a blogger. So without further ado, here are the top five ways you know you're a blogger:

5. You see a pretty hydrangea bush or bunch of black-eyed-susans on the side of the road, and you contemplate pulling over to take a quick picture/instagram of them. Likewise, if you cook or bake something pretty or drool-worthy, you are more likely to photograph it than not.

4. You take instagram pictures with very thorough captions, or you take notes as you photograph a birthday party, or when you experience another type of big life event, so that you'll remember everything that happens for your blog, or just in general... for the rest of your children's lives.

3. You spend all of your waking minutes thinking about stories. Birth stories, how we met stories, stories from your day or your week, and especially those stories you just never want to forget. You compose recaps in your head as you live your life, go on a trip, attend a wedding, or go outside in the backyard for a second. ;)

2. You are obsessed with reading blogs. Feedly is always open on your iPhone. ;) And guess what? Twitter and Instagram are so much more fun, since you follow the blogs of the people posting there, and you check in while doing another load of laundry or while you're pushing your child on the swing! Oh and, I mean, Google Plus is all kinds of fun, too right?! ha. ;)

and the number one way you know you're a blogger:

1. When your kids say something funny, you resist turning it into a Facebook post, and instead ponder how to incorporate it into your next blogpost, article, or e-book.

Adding my link to Jenna @ Call Her Happy.

This is part two in a series on Blogging.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Post over at Real Housekeeping

Find me over at Real Housekeeping, talking about Homemade vs. Store-bought Babyfood.  All I have learned about the process and subject since having my first almost 8 years ago.

Go forth and read! ;)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Is Blogging a Vocation? (I Heart Blogging Series Pt. 1)

This week, I'm doing a series on Blogging. Bloggers unite! I {Heart} Blogging is where I tell you what I have learned about posting all of my deep thoughts on the internet, in over eight years of blogging. I hope it encourages you in your blogging journey. If you have any questions about blogging, please leave them in the comments section for me and I will hopefully get to your questions at some point later this week!

Michele, over at My Domestic Monastery, had a really nice post the other day, I'm Wasting My Life (and So Should You), about the purpose for motherhood, and the transition of going from a working Mom to a stay-at-home, writing Mom.  She wrote about working and then choosing to stay home, as well as the link between the monastic vocation and the vocation of motherhood... and plus, why it matters.
It really resonated with me.

oh, ya know... just wasting my life... on this preciousness. 
just two of the sweetest little munchkins ever.... nothing special. ;)

I did the whole working wife/working Mom thing for about 3 1/2 years. I was a (Pre-School, Classical School Co-op/Dance) teacher and a nanny in Maryland, helping put my hubby through grad school and helping to pay the bills. I then transitioned to stay-at-home Mom turned Homeschooling mom, which was its own vocation, surely. ;) Now that I am a writer and mostly a stay-at-home Mom, I've had to rethink my vocation a bit.  In fact, I had a long phone conversation with my sweet and dear friend Rhonda last week, and we talked about our reasons for blogging, along with a laundry list of other things... like writing, creativity, and yes, how to make money doing this and other side projects.

I have been struggling, albeit mostly with pregnancy hormones (heh, heh).. but also with the practical side of writing, for some time now. I think the desire to earn money via blogging has been a really hard stepping stone for me. Or maybe - let’s call it - a really tough hurdle for me to jump. Because it isn't just a step, it's something I've had to willfully and intentionally jump over multiple times since I started.  Why am I even giving you advice, if I'm not even making money blogging? Some things are easy, and some things are hard. Let's face it...

...It is hard to feel worthy, and it is easy to feel worthless.
It is hard to put yourself out there, and it is easy to feel rejected.
It is hard to make a connection with someone, and it is easy to accidentally reject or be unloving toward others.
It is hard to feel heard, and it is easy to think others are talking at you.
It is hard to keep thick skin, and it is easy to take everything personally.
It is hard to be quiet, and it's easy to be bitter.

I think with Michele’s post, my conversation with Rhonda, and all of the quotes and recaps coming out of the Edel conference, I have been reminded of something in the blogosphere, that my sweet community of readers, friends at church, husband, and family have been trying to remind me all along.

I’m not worthless. I’m worth more- as a wife, mother, studious blogger, and writer- than I’ll ever know.  Blogging doesn't have to be about just making money. Being a volunteer or in ministry doesn't make you worthless or unqualified. Just like being in a monastic vocation or a part of religious life, or being unpaid as a mother doesn't make you worthless.  People say- if it's not making you any money, then it's work that's not worth doing.  In fact, there can be an unspoken idea that if you're not a Professional,  if you're not doing something professionally, then you shouldn't be doing {that} something, even at all.  What does that even mean? Does that mean you shouldn't be a Mom?

In The Cloister Walk, Norris explores the concept of the vocation.  She explores, during her own time at an Abbey, the senselessness of this lifestyle to "worldlings," as she calls them. The culture "out there" will never understand things like a vow of poverty or a vow of chastity. She even goes so far to call those outside the Abbey "degenerates."  These are the people who- like the Communists- only found value in that which is now considered Propaganda. While viewing an exhibit of Nazi-approved art in New York, she stated, " ... it struck me that the real issue was one of control. The meaning of the approved art served a commercial or political purpose." The Nazis had it flip-flopped: they classified Crucifixes as "Degenerate Art," and their art was for two purposes: to promote their political agenda, and to put down the religious life.

Jesus turns it all on its head.

The cross turns propaganda and financial gain and art for profit on its head.

The woman with the jar of expensive oil turns value, love, and our normal definition of sacrifice on its head.

When is it appropriate to reject or forgo monetary gain? I recently started volunteer-teaching Latin to the kids of our parish.  It does- at times- make me yearn for the days when I was paid to teach.  It reminds me that I can do it well. I have many blessed experiences from my time teaching Latin and other subjects, that have made me stronger and better.  Spending time prepping and teaching can be done well without a paycheck in hand to carry home. And it can be done all the while keeping our complaints contained! But it is hard. Should I stop?

No. And yes, we should "waste our life for love of Christ," but in a sense, I'm not wasting my time. I'm not wasting my worth or my resources. When the temptation to feel like I’m doing it incorrectly (simply because I'm unpaid? Or worse, because I'm just a humble sinner with my own personal problems galore, if we're being honest) becomes the strongest, and when the voices of the naysayers sound the loudest, that’s when I need especially the grace and strength of God. When others come down too hard and judge me, or think I’m doing it wrong, or see something inherently lacking in me - the me that God made me- I just have to pray for grace and peace. And when I do indeed let others down around me- with my writing, or just my family, or my parents, my husband, my kids— with my bitterness, my bad attitude, my tendency to become angry at all the wrong times, at all the wrong things- that’s when I can pray for a special amount of grace to meet me and keep me, and carry me all the way home. And remember that it isn't wasteful. At all!

Yes, of course I struggle with my own special bouts of hypocrisy and yes, I have problems with things like greed and a balanced budget and hormones at times. Yes I have to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation when I go astray!  But my mistakes or failures or missteps or weaknesses do not rob my writing, my ideas, my creativity, or my motherhood/vocation of its value.  And neither does expectation make my life without value. When the expectations war against me-- of culture, the expectation of anyone else besides, well, God, and Jesus, and my kids, and my church family-- I have to let God give me peace for this one moment in time. And I have to intentionally let all of the other loud, noisy voices fall away and become silent, so that I can pray.  Just like if I were in an Abbey or a Monastery somewhere!

Could we perhaps say that the ways we are the weakest, and the times when we are the lowest are the times that are actually the crown? They are the things that make us strongest in Christ? I know it's cliched, but could we look at the value he places on it?  I've had to do a lot of crying since reaching my third trimester. But needing that grace and humility are really quite beautiful in his sight-- at least, I am sitting here, thinking of the religious life, and sincerely hoping so! Let the popularity, and all of my needy-greedy, fall away. I'm here to do His will, after all!  It's not what the world asks of us. But that's not what we're about, as Kathleen Norris so beautifully reminded me with this quote:

 part one in the I Heart Blogging series here

Thursday, July 16, 2015

PHFR~ What Do Goats, Pigs, and Planned Parenthood Have in Common?

My sister- and her husband and kids- came to visit us this week. She is an English teacher at a public high school in Seattle, and her husband is a licensed and trained counselor/therapist.  They have two precious and adorable kiddos- Ivey and Grey. We were so honored by their presence, and my heart swells just thinking about the sweet memories we made this past week.  Some highlights include our visit to the Zoo and our time out by the river on my parents' boat. (And please excuse my musings at the end of this post... I just couldn't. not.)




Grey Goat

Big black pig*

Thinking man monkey


Anders' response to the monkey was, "Ew, yuck."

At the end of a long day... eating brownies with fruit and cream, chilling out.

*After composing this post and looking back over the photos, I kept thinking and hearing in my heart: What Do Pigs, Goats, and Planned Parenthood Have in Common?

Sorry. I know, I’m just weaving it in today. Excuse a girl her rant ;)
But. One quick question in light of what was in yesterday’s (right?) news.
What do goats, pigs, and Planned Parenthood have in common? You do the math.
I just have one question for PP.  

Planned Parenthood, as you repeatedly, maniacally stab your salad, sip your wine, and all the while discuss your murderous practices, let me ask you a question: If you saw a garbage bag in the middle of the road, vaguely shaped like a human being, would you run over it? If you weren't sure if that were an actual, living, human, thing, would you steer your forceps in its direction?
And then just to add insult to not just “injury,” would you then SELL it? For your own profit and gain? Are you really just “helping women”?

And folks, it doesn't just end with selfish gain. Would you give the gains and your additional Profits to the campaigns of people such as Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton? And so many other government officials currently in political power all over the country, their security and pride resting on the invisible haunches of unborn children’s blood?

All of you liberal voters? You - for lack of a kinder word- are lame. Why? You have blood on your hands. Stand up for what is right. STAND UP for something besides selfishness, please. For once in your LIFE. You got a chance. Make your life count for something. You got one - to do something with. Stop this. Stop. this. Enact justice.  Stop living in apathy and bring these people to justice, instead. And in the end, you can do the math.  Fair and square. Deal? ;)

As Kathleen Norris wrote in The Cloister Walk
"Maybe monks and poets know, as Jesus did when a friend, in an extravagant, loving gesture, bathed his feet in nard, an expensive, fragrant oil, and wiped them with her hair, that the symbolic act matters; that those who know the exact price of things, as Judas did, often don't know the true cost or value of anything."

adding my link to Like Mother, Like Daughter, as per usual!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

You Know You're a Writer When... (5 faves)

top five ways you know you're a writer...

5. You analyze the homily and/or sermon and think, "That was a really nice opener/bullet point and thesis statement!" Hearing a nice turn of phrase or a great description inspires you to do the same, whenever you get the next chance!

4. You're bored at the playground, because you just thought of an idea or another point for a post or article or e-book, or some other form of publication. You need paper and pencil, but you forgot it and it's driving you crazy.;) Alternatively, the kids say something funny and you repeat it over and over to yourself like a crazy person so you won't forget it. OR (alternatively), you run inside as fast as you can to write it down.

3. Being in front of a screen with your fingers on the keyboard is definitely part of your lifestyle, and a happy part, at that. Yet you continue to buy endless numbers of journals that make your handwriting look awesome for your copious notes about your life.  This journal is the one I have been obsessed with since high school ok forever I was younger... :-) ;)

2.  You have a favorite kind of pen. Mine are: these pens.

1. And the number one reason you know you're a writer? Brainstorming, editing, and clacking away at Starbucks is your happy place. Except when you're pregnant/tired/hungry/starving, and then Starbucks is replaced by Barnes and Noble, because they have things that can help you wake up, besides coffee.  (Like books and walking around... all the time editing sentences in your head). ;)

adding my link to Jenna at Call Her Happy...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Parenthood: And What it Can Teach Us About the Difference Between Leverage and Spoiling

Early in the second season of Parenthood, there is a situation where we see a struggle for power between parents and child. The characters Joel and Julia's six year old daughter, Sydney, all of a sudden becomes a self-declared Vegetarian. She can, therefore, justify refusing the chicken on her plate that night at dinner, especially since a friend at school has convinced her that eating meat is morally wrong, and disgusting.

After her parents struggle a bit with how to respond, and after telling her she needs her protein and the whole bit, they decide to be completely supportive of her position, for various reasons. However, the next night, her Grandparents are slated to babysit her, and they bring a big pan of lasagna along.  The parents- feeling greatly defeated- explain her decision, and say that they desire to be supportive.

While the parents are gone, her Grandma makes another dish, but the 6-year old, Sydney, refuses that, as well.  They tell her that she has to choose between the lasagna or the new dish, but she won't eat, explaining that the new dish looks yucky to her. Her grandfather ends up pulling a firm one and insists that she eat. Later, his daughter Sydney's mother approaches him, complaining that they made her daughter eat meat....but his wife takes his side. He says in his own defense, and I quote, "It's ok to support her spirit, but you can't give her all the power."

As parents, this is a hard aspect of childhood behavior. Imagine with me...

-You have a strong-willed child.
-They make up their mind to do something that is annoying/frustrating.
-You don't want to crush their independent, sweet spirit.
-But it's just really annoying.
-Enter trials/tribulations of all kinds... long stare down sessions. Maybe some tantrums. Falling on the floor. Time outs or "grounding" that don't actually seem to work or teach them anything.

Maybe the thing they want to do is become a Vegetarian. Or sleep in your bed. Or play an iPad game, or watch TV, or zone out in some form or fashion... heaven forbid! ... when they first wake up in the morning.

Frustrating, annoying... but maybe not necessarily, always wrong. Or bratty. Just yet, anyway.  In the case of this little girl Sydney, her parents were somewhat proud of her for reasoning her way into a decision and then sticking to that!  And giving her a small measure of control over her diet was a great way to encourage an independent thought! But in reality, what do you do?  Really? You eat that?

First, the thing that has helped us is to recognize the difference between leverage and spoiling.
leverage (n)
power or ability to act or to influence people, events, decisions, etc.;sway

As parents, it's ok to have leverage. We have to have something to assist us in our sway and influence as parents ...  because they are young, they (very much!) have their own ideas, thoughts, and opinions. They have an independent mind and yes, spirit.  And we're their parents. We aim to be supportive, and not controlling of our kids... but we can't give them all the power. Waking up first thing to an iPad game and ignoring the breakfast on the table? Letting them sleep in your bed every night? Giving them all the power when it comes to what they eat? 

Not ok. So not ok.

What do you do?

Recognize just some of the signs of spoiling:

- Giving into a tantrum
-Arguing back and forth and eventually letting them have their way, despite your best wishes or intentions
-Letting them have their way, without any limits (Letting them eat the whole pint of ice-cream, even though they feel totally sick)
-Doing life without structure (too much time on the screen, their eyes are blank, and they're all in terrible moods)

I mean, you are either spoiling them or you're not. ;)

Another thought is understanding the difference between leverage and bribing.

bribe (n)
anything given or serving to persuade or induce

So you decide, as parents, how you're going to handle these frustrating situations.  Use leverage, but don't {try not to} spoil. If your child needs motivation to come in from the porch where they're letting in mosquitos and hot air, and you need 20 minutes to make dinner, an iPad game isn't going to hurt them. Or you.  Make a rational decision. We don't have to go straight back to Stone Age, and we also don't have to betray our deepest parental instincts about what is right for our children. Keep praying for discernment. Don't go crazy.  

And maybe, just maybe, in the mean time, you won't have Spoiled Child on your hands. I hope and pray, for your sake, Mama!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Answer Me This ~ Summer

Linking up with Kendra from Catholic All Year for a new-to-me link-up Answer Me This.

1. At what temperature do you keep the thermostat set? Summer, winter, day, night?

Right now our thermostat is set at 78 degrees, but we have a ceiling fan in our bedroom, so it feels cooler. Our thermostat is very sensitive, and at times it blows freezing cold air from the vents onto my toes and makes me feel miserable- especially while I’m doing dishes. So I often find myself turning it up to 85 and forgetting about it … until my husband gets mad because he finds the towel over the vent and the air slowly stopping. Then, the upstairs is freezing and ends up about 10 degrees cooler than the downstairs.

2. What is your favorite frozen beverage?

I like frozen margaritas, but I haven’t had very many of them.  Maybe between 5-10 in my life? Say, when I went to Applebee’s or a Mexican restaurant for a date or that kind of thing. I once made virgin pina coladas in our Vitamix. They were super yummy! I served them to my parents. I think they were here for a birthday party?  Remind me to do that again with real alcohol once I'm not pregnant.

3. Where do you keep your keys?

In a drawer next to our fridge. I have a key ring but it has since been adopted by our rosary collection, so I never put my keys there now.

4. Have you ever really been lost?

In high school (Junior year), my friend and I went for a hike while on a ski trip. We ended up hiking about three miles in the snow, and many times during that experience I thought we were lost. We were on a hiking trail, but it was so covered with snow, we couldn’t see where we were going. It was very cold and very long. I remember asking her this question: Is there anything about you that I don’t know? And since we had been friends since the cradle I’m pretty sure her answer was, “no.” ha! :) We eventually found our way to a cabin where a very kind gentleman with a snow plow had pity on us and gave us a ride back to our hotel.

As for being lost in the car.. . more times than I can count.  I remember one time in particular. When we lived in Annapolis, a friend who lived about 20 minutes outside the little city invited me over for a Girls' Night. I brought oreos and some drinks, but I got so lost trying to find her house I ended up eating the oreos alone as I drove back home.  By the by, the automatic Maps app on the iPhone 5 isn't as good as Google Maps. Ask me how I know ;) Yes, I learned the hard way. ;)

5. What is the last movie you saw in the theaters?

I can’t remember! I think it might have been Planes 2 with my daughter Molly, who is 7. We went to the cheap theatre and saw it on a Saturday afternoon while Stephen stayed home with the other 3.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

PHFR~ Turtles, Fingernails, and Kitties


Happy Fourth!

It took me about an hour and a bag of crispy m&m's but I did it.

Molly has been in a Dance Camp this week at her school, aptly called "Ballerinas on Broadway."

I knew it would be a mix of Jazz and Ballet, but when the first thing out of her mouth was "Guess what I learned today? The coffee grinder!" I was like... Oh no. What are they teaching her?!

(If you don't know what that is, turns out it's ok... see this youtube video Skip ahead to 34 sec.). The final performance is this Friday. Please don't corrupt my daughter.... Um, thanks. ;)


Playing in the sprinkler.

so much freedom.
And not a one is sarcastic yet. Just sweet and young. :-)

Anders and Madeleine (15 months apart) are really starting to look more and more like twins. He is really only a hair shorter than her now. By the way, I love this picture of Anders (above). He looks so much like my older brother in this picture.  He also has a lot of similar traits, one (I have been informed) being his ability to go to Cloud Nine.  The definition of Cloud Nine, according to my brother, is enthusiastic excitement about all things within sight distance. Look! A Squirrel! Look! A tree! Look! A truck!!!! ;) Anders.. come back from Cloud Nine! (Or don't... it's really adorable).

Speaking of, this kid loves books. I mean, loves.
It is really cute, but man I need to pay my library fine now.

Come and see.... Grandma has a secret surprise for you!

What could it be?!


Look! It's a "Shelly"!

They were  fascinated and captivated.*


Hey... let's hang out on the porch...

Oh no!! Not again!
Because pretty much all the time, or every time we leave the house, our cat escapes.

Thank you, Molly.
Since he is a runaway-come-home, he's not allowed out. He's an inside cat. Our other cat PC Sneaky has absolutely no interest in leaving. So Molly chases this one and carries him back inside. He never goes further than our yard, but you can never be too sure... Argh.  ;)


Seeing the turtle...

Madeleine: I want to touch it!
Mom: (to Anders) Do you want to touch him too?
Anders: Ah! No!
Me: Anders can you say turtle?
Anders: turtle
Me: That’s good.
Molly: Ok, I’m going back in.
Madeleine: He has some ouchy claws! Don’t want to touch his claws. HER claws I mean.
Mom: You think it’s a girl?
Madeleine: Yeah… we name her Shelly.

Adding my link to Like Mother, Like Daughter

Monday, July 6, 2015

Do It In Love: Some Thoughts on Evil and Hope in the Wake of Recent Shootings

this kid loooves kale chips and seaweed.... no joke.

On our recent vacation, we were traveling from our vacation spot in South Carolina, back to our home in Tennessee, and we stopped at a Dairy Queen.  Inside, the restaurant, Christian music was playing over the loud speaker, and they had a statue of Jesus on the counter.  I was thinking, only in the South is a national chain also affiliated with Jesus Christ! Weird, right?!  What struck me was my three-year-old daughter's reaction to the statue. Her eyes lit up, and she turned to her Daddy and said, "Look! JESUS!!!"

This instance happened, coincidentally the day after the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina.

This jives with all that I've been thinking about lately. Having my priorities in the right place, doing this parenting thing in love. Because if we're awesome parents, but we are not teaching them about Jesus, and holiness and most of all love, we are nothing.  If we aren't teaching them the fear of the Lord and obedience to His Word, the Holy Word of God, all the other things we do run dry.

It was humbling to see my daughter so excited about Jesus. How did she know that that statue was Jesus- and why was she excited about that?

-probably because we take her to Mass every Sunday
-perhaps because we pray around the dinner table each night
-perhaps because we sing Jesus songs to her when she's tired or scared or sad
-perhaps because we're going through the catechism every night after dinner

I was holding my son recently, and I dozed off while he was happily playing in my lap.  Don't just hold him.... do it in love, my soul whispered.

Part and parcel with the racism in the story of recent shootings seems to be closely intertwined the issue of stupidity and immaturity of the murderer.  The forgiveness felt pat and premature to me.  After what happened, I would think that it was 40% racism, and 60% stupidity and immaturity.

On our recent trip, ironically enough, we spent three nights an hour from Charleston the same weekend of the shooting. I went for a walk around the adorable town of Beaufort, SC. A woman walked in with her two pre-teen girls, both of whom had some sort of retardation, and the way they spoke made me wonder if it was perhaps from incest, but I couldn't tell for sure.  Something like scorn rose up inside of me. Something like repulsion. The sound of their voices grated on my every nerve. But even when our soul is repulsed, we can love.  Especially at that time. Those people - perhaps- are to show us and to teach us about Jesus. About love.

I then experienced something even more sad, to my mind. I walked into a boutique to ask for a tip on restaurants. Judging based on the dynamics I observed there, and perhaps I had it wrong, but I don't think so... it seemed there was a younger, teenage girl working the counter with several other "higher-ups," aka, older women in charge, and she seemed to be simply the pee-on worker, while they were the ones with the "true brains."  She seemed very nice, just shy. I approached the counter and I asked her which Thai restaurant would be a better choice for our family that night, and she started to answer, then had to look at her older co-worker for the "real answer" or a "better recommendation."

This screamed to me that we are doing something wrong. Even if we are doing everything "right" as parents, if our kids lack confidence, perhaps it is because they don't feel loved, even if they feel everything else nice.  They're warm, tucked in at night, well-fed, safe, and healthy.  They may have all the security in the world. But if they have not confidence, and we have not love, we are nothing.

"An idea- a thought alone, Jesus warns us- is sufficiently evil to lead us astray, to keep us from loving God with our whole heart and mind and soul. Jesus says that to look on another with lust is the same as committing adultery. ... the image of the ideal object of desire wanting me makes me ideal as well. It makes me perfect and like a god. Objectifying another (whether we do so in lust or in anger) is a key component to idolatry, but that object is most often not the idol. Oftentimes the strange god placed before the Creator is oneself." - Elizabeth Scalia, Strange Gods
On his way to swim lessons...

How can we show love in our parenting, not just "pat answers" but deep, abiding, overflowing love?

~ Encourage -- Keep pointing them to the hope of Jesus. If they're spending too much time watching The Magic Schoolbus, and they're not using those fancy shmancy art materials you paid tons of money for, overcome evil with good. Love them anyway.

~ Live out Hope-- always...always... always... focus on the positives, so that the storm of life does not overwhelm them, the waves do not consume them. If their normal routine overwhelms them, if they're yell-y or snappy or just plain annoying when it comes time to do more chores, or more work, show them that you are above it. You're hopeful- not happy clappy- but you're not rude, either.

~ Focus on their hearts-- the heart is the wellspring of life... if we have pure water there, it will be undivided, and they will learn that purity of heart, and that constancy of intention and motivation from us!  Don't spend all your free time watching or reading or consuming trash. That shouldn't be an option. Our kids know a hypocrite when they see one, even if they don't know the word until they turn 7 or 8.

~ Live Upright lives -- did you know the Latin for love is Pio- the word that Pious comes from? Because, according to my husband Latin scholar that he is, Righteousness and Love are two cords in the same strand. They are part in parcel of the same concept. When we are upright, and doing what we should do, we are also loving... God, our kids, strangers, our spouses.
Daddy: Do you want to go get ice-cream?
Anders: No! Look Fish!

Expect this love and righteousness from them. Hold them accountable, and as they get older, find support and community for them. Do not let them go down the road of evil, but keep fighting against the tide and the strong current of our culture that desires to engulf innocent, sweet hearts in its impurity. As I sat chatting with a friend recently at a splash pad, after returning from our trip to the beach, I was telling her all about it... but we were also talking about our conversion, our faith, and our kids' behavior.  Our hearts go deeper, because our friendship is deeper than all the shallow stuff life could be about. And that is what makes all the difference.

We are on the cusp of a scary place in our nation... a nation and a people who claim to be "under God," but who- in practice- live without a conscience, without prayer, and without righteousness. This lack of love in our society will lead to things like youthful vengeance and vagrants without purpose or hope. As parents, let's all remedy that and redeem the times, so that our own children do not turn out idle, but obeyers of God's word and God-fearing citizens of His Kingdom.  And people who are rooted in a faith community of richness and sincerity of heart. Because our kids? They need it.;)

Cross-posting at the ACWB