Small Success Thursday November 14, 2013

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It is really easy to get to this point on Thursday and wonder if I have any small successes this week.  They are there I just have to find them through my own critic.

First, Monday was Veteran’s Day.  I am a US Navy Veteran and I decided to enjoy the day.  I went out to lunch at Applebee’s, for my free meal, with a friend of mine.  Instead of rushing home to do dishes, we decided to go to the mall.  You would have to know me to realize just how much of a rarity this is for me.  I am not a shopper, in fact there I times I loathe shopping.  That evening I went out to dinner, for another free meal, with a good friend of mine.  We had a great dinner and she embarassed me exceedingly by showing the waiter my picture on my DD-214. I could not find my VA ID, so I took my DD-214 with me instead.  I can’t believe I joined the Navy 14 years ago.

I have mixed emotions about my military service.  I am proud of serving my country, but I am heart-broken about what this country is becoming.  I was a Russian linguist and I am not happy with what my previous employer  is doing to violate everyone’s privacy.  It pains me to have been a part of that power grab, even though my work was “lawful”.  I am thankful that I was able to be a 9-11 relief worker, so it is a mixed bag.  My success was to embrace and celebrate my service.  While it is nice to hear “thank you for your service” most of us Vets don’t know what to say.  We were just doing our jobs.

Second, I have written quite a bit on my blog this week.  It is always a step in the right direction when I write regularly.  I figure I will keep writing and see what happens.  I do need to get back to writing my novel.  The solid idea is there, now to get it fully to the page.  It is a Catholic thriller, I guess would be what you would call it.

Third, I am remembering to be thankful for the life I have been given.  This year has been insane for us.  I have had to call two ambulances for my husband because of his debilitating migraines, I had emergency surgery for a miscarriage and lost our 3rd baby, our daughter was in the hospital for 3 days with a staph infection, a friend nearly died of eclampsia, a good friend from the Navy died suddenly in July, we moved into our new house, and we have been fixing problems in the house. It is one of those years you just want too see end.  Strangely, I have a deeper faith and gratitude for life.  I have never understood the adage that suffering makes us stronger.  It’s like I woke up one day and  it all made sense.  I could see God working in my life. Even though this year has been difficult, I have a greater faith and prayer life.  I am beginning to understand how He is refining me in the furnace.

What about you?  What are your small successes for the week?

Marveling at the Cathedrals of Europe

This morning I was looking over a fellow blogger’s beautiful website.  She has a section on stained glass and it got me thinking about my time in Europe.  My first trip to Europe was actually to England for a week long training I was leading for the Navy when I was 22.  My friend and I spent the flight drinking mimosas because we could not sleep.  I still cannot seem to sleep on international flights that are overnight.  We took a cab to King’s Cross to get on a train to Lincolnshire.  Even though I was exhausted and had a slight buzz, it was an exciting time. Yes, Catholics enjoy their drink, in moderation (okay a few times for me were not in moderation and that is called gluttony). As we drove through the London streets, I was amazed by the architecture, and the crowds.  London makes New York look sparsely populated.

Yep, I lived two blocks from this amazing cathedral.
Yep, I lived two blocks from this amazing cathedral.
A Christmas performance of Handel's Messiah fit perfectly with the scenery.
A Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah fit perfectly with the scenery.
Arches and stained glass go so well together.
Arches and stained glass go so well together.
We reached our destination a few hours later: Lincoln, England.  I did not know it then, but I would be moving there 9 months later.  We made our way through the cobblestone streets to our hotel, which was directly across from Lincoln Cathedral.  The cathedral was on top of a hill and stood large over the town.  It is the twin of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, just a few centuries older.  I was amazed.  It was the first place that I wanted to visit.  I actually was blessed to see Handel’s Messiah performed there while I lived in Lincoln.
The cathedral is in the gothic design.  It has towering arches of stone.  The building itself in the shape of a cross.  It had a stunning rose window, and the entire building is centered on the altar.  The cathedral now belongs to the Anglican Church.  I ended up living in a row house two blocks from the cathedral.  I could walk to it anytime I wanted.  I saw it every single day.  It took my breath away repeatedly.  I can remember driving home in the summer after a long 12 hour shift.  The sun had been up for a couple of hours (England is a lot further north than we are) and there the cathedral shone in the sun.  Giving me enough energy to make the rest of the drive home.
Yorkminster, the first time I ever stood on top of Roman ruins.
Yorkminster, the first time I ever stood on top of Roman ruins.
When I did move to England in 2004, I wanted to see as many churches and cathedrals as possible.  I stood on top of Roman ruins at Yorkminster in York, England.  I visited the chapel in Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland.  For some reason I never made it to St. Paul’s in London.  I wish I had.  I went to St. Patrick’s in Dublin, Ireland.  I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.  The Reformation’s ties to the iconoclastic heresy stripped it of its grandeur.  I did stumble on a beautiful church in an alley in downtown Dublin.  It was  nothing to look at on the outside, but on the inside it was incredible.  It was in the baroque style, with marble pillars, beautiful paintings, and gold. Christ is the King of the Universe after all.
I do have to admit that in many of my travels in Europe I was disappointed by the beauty that was destroyed by the Reformation.  Remember, I hold a Catholic worldview.  The churches of the Netherlands were cold and bare, completely stripped of their former beauty. It was the same in many of England’s churches, except those that were High Church Anglican.
While in Bruges you can see Michelangelo's Madonna and then get the most incredible chocolate you have ever tasted.
While in Bruges you can see Michelangelo’s Madonna and then get the most incredible chocolate you have ever tasted.
I went to Bruges, Belgium a few days after Blessed John Paul II passed away.  It was a time of great sadness for the Church.  I went to the cathedral to see Michelangelo’s Madonna.  It was stunning.  The church itself had high arches, stained glass, artwork, and gold everywhere.  It lifted me up.  It reminded me of Heaven, which is exactly what beauty is supposed to do.  It refreshed me after being so appalled by Amsterdam. The only part of that city I enjoyed, was a sad part, Anne Frank’s house.
My time overseas was  cut short, so I did not make it to Rome.  My husband lived in Spain for a semester, so he was able to go to Fatima, Portugal and Rome.  Two places I would love to visit.  Some day we will make it back to Europe and take our daughter.
The trip that amazed me the most was my trip to Paris.  I had never had much interest in going to France.  I had heard too many horror stories and to be quite honest, I was pretty ignorant of French culture.  I decided to go on a weekend trip with one of my co-workers.  It ended up being one of the best trips I ever took in Europe.  Paris is beautiful.  It is unbelievably so.  The architecture, the Seine, the people.  It is an incredible city.  And you know what?  I never had any issues.  The key is to be humble when you are traveling in someone else’s homeland.  I only know a few words of French, but I used them, and it was appreciated.
I am not much of a shopper.  I would rather go to art museums and churches, than shop.  We went to Notre Dame first.  It was very crowded and somewhat chaotic.  There was not much room for reverence.  They were out of English brochures on the cathedral’s history, so I had to take one in Russian.  It is a gothic cathedral so it is very similar to a lot of the cathedrals that I had been to.  We heard about another church that was nearby called Sainte Chapelle.  We decided to check it out.
Sainte Chapelle, where "wow" can't even come close.
Sainte Chapelle, where “wow” can’t even come close.
When we arrived there was a line.  They only allowed a few people in at a time.  We decided to wait.  It was worth it.  When we went in, we walked up a narrow winding staircase.  If you have been to Europe, you know what I am talking about.  We then entered the sanctuary.  It was bare and open, but all around, in 360 degrees, was floor to ceiling stained glass.  I was in awe.  It is difficult for the senses to even fully discern such glory.  This was something to marvel at.  This is a defining moment for me in my travels.
Human beings are made to marvel and to worship. If we do not find God, we worship false idols like money, power, sex, etc.  When we do not have beauty to admire and marvel at we become empty and bored.  That is why so many American cities are just overwhelming, not beautiful.  Architecture has lost its connection with its roots. Art and architecture are meant to inspire, to show us what it means to be human, to worship, to create with the Creator.
We see this beauty in nature too, but it is incredible to see what man is capable of when his focus is on Christ.  The Catholic Church is the largest protector of the arts in the world.  Why?  Because we understand how beauty brings about conversion.  Marveling at something greater than us, brings us to God’s door.  It reminds us that there is something more than what we see daily.  We need to get outside of ourselves, and beauty lifts us up to new heights.
You would not know it thanks to modern architecture, but Vatican II affirms the necessity and use of sacred art.  Beauty is essential in the worship of Christ.  We are stepping into the Heavenly Liturgy at Mass, not a football game.  The senses need help being transported.  That is one of the purposes of stained glass, statues, candles, incense, gold, paintings, etc.  Not to mention that the Old Testament affirms God’s request for us to use beauty.  The Ark of the Covenant, was beautiful and included statues, gold, etc.,  hence the use of gold in our Tabernacles.  To lift us up.  Mass is a vertical expression, not a horizontal one.
A depiction of the Ark of the Covenant.  Look familiar, fellow Catholics?
A depiction of the Ark of the Covenant. Look familiar, fellow Catholics?
When was the last time you marveled at something?  Are you feeling overburdened by the world?  Make a point of seeking out beauty.  It will leave you refreshed and more focused on Our Lord.

When Holy Days Become Holidays, My Faith Suffers

This is a fantastic post on living out Holy Days and being liturgical rather than sucked in by the secular culture at large. I really enjoyed this!

Tuning In

I love holidays for the promise they hold within the folds of their tablecloths and traditions, but for the most part they do little to bolster or energize my spiritual nature. It’s all come down to a formula, the same frantic pace to “set the stage” for each holiday. There’s a playbook, and everyone has a copy.

Any errors are mine… I wrote this post when I should have been sleeping…

Although not a Holy Day, I think this was one of the “fire-starter” events that led to the secularization of Christmas. Take the traditional Thanksgiving dinner — turkey, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green-bean casserole, dinner rolls, candied yams, salad, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, whipped cream — and the assorted side dishes peculiar to your geographic location or culture. Overload. Make people think they have to do it all, and they will die trying to keep up with the neighbors…

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Michaela’s Inquiring Mind

Does this hair make me look a little crazy?
Does this hair make me look a little crazy?

Michaela continues to amaze me on a very regular basis, pretty much daily.  She has progressed to full sentences.  In fact, she makes a point of using full sentences now.  She is also in the question stage.  Inquiring minds want to know, about everything.  Her favorite question is: “What is it?”.  She asks me this repeatedly throughout the day.  Usually it is not because she does not know exactly what something is, but because she wants to learn how to describe things.  She is interested in adjectives and properly used “little” last night.

If there is one thing that is teaching me about the beauty of the human mind, it is my daughter.  Her cognitive abilities have exploded in the last year.  It is breathtaking.  I watch videos of her when she was a 1 year old and I am stunned by the difference.  She is a little girl now.  She is extremely bright.  I will have my work cut out for me homeschooling her.
I am also seeing how crucial discipline is at this age.  I don’t mean punishment, I mean instilling actual discipline, something that I struggle with, even after 6 years in the Navy.  Toddlers think that they are the center of the universe.  Now is the time to teach her that she is not the center.  She thinks that everything is hers and “mine” comes out of her mouth repeatedly.  She is learning about possession, but does not want to relinquish her grip on things.  It is fascinating and frustrating to watch.
Inquiring minds want to know: What is it?
Inquiring minds want to know: What is it?
Motherhood continues to humble me.  This morning, I once again am awed that God entrusted this little person to me of all people.  I have to fight the urge to ask Him if He is crazy.

Serving the ‘Least of These’

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers, you did for me.
Matthew 25:34-40

 

 

I just threw a pan of cornbread in the oven and I have a big pot of chili in the slow cooker.  I will pop in some chocolate chip cookies here in a bit.  It is a perfect day for a hearty meal.  Rumor has it we might see a single snowflake fall in these parts.  Snow in November is not common, even though we live in ancient Appalachian hills, I mean mountains.  I am a Montanan, I just can’t seem to call them mountains, yet.  This large autumn meal is going with us to our church tonight to share with some homeless families staying in our parish for this week.  We participate in a program called Family Promise, formerly Inter-Faith Hospitality Network.

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It is a  national organization that takes in homeless families.  The families are provided transportation, classes, and help finding work and housing. They move from church to church each week, as various churches in the area host them.  Our parish has shower facilities, a kitchen, and rooms where beds can be placed.
 
My husband and I decided to volunteer when Michaela was under a year old.  It was our family service project, since many of our ministries are separate.  It is also a good way for Michaela to grow up feeding and serving the poor in our community.  We have met lots of different families.  It is nice to hear when they have gotten into their own home. It has also been eye-opening to me to see people from all different walks of life.  We all, including myself, have a tendency to cocoon ourselves within our own circle and not see everyone else around us.
 
Ministries like this one are perfect for families.  They need people to provide meals, unlocking the facilities, stay overnight, or spend a couple of hours being available should someone need help.  I really enjoy cooking meals and hosting dinner.  It allows me to use the hospitality gift God gave me.  My husband is really good a striking up conversations with people.  I am terrible at starting conversations with complete strangers.  I am getting better at it, but my husband helps pull me out of my shell.
 
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I would encourage you to look into opportunities like this in your area.  My husband and I walk away with way more blessings than we could ever give to these families.  We are called to serve the poor and marginalized in our communities.  And with an economy like this, we  never know when we could be in need.  It does require courage and strength to get outside of ourselves and our comfort zones.  Pray for Our Lord to give you the desire to serve.  He will make up for what you lack in spades.
 
What are some ways you serve your community.  Can you imagine what our country, what the world would look like, if each one of us took just one day a year to serve others? How about more than one day?!
 
 
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People Who Have Impacted Me Thus Far (non-Family Edition)

Yesterday morning, as I sat in my Lay Dominican meeting listening to one of the Friars talk about the Dominican life, I was blown away by the fact that I was even there.  So many things have had to happen in order for me to be where I am today.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  My husband and I own our first home together, and we are blessed with a beautiful daughter.  We have amazing friends, and our church community continues to shape our lives daily.  Then I started to think about people who have had a profound impact on me in the last 15 years.  They are varied, and each served a purpose and a lesson.  I am deeply indebted to them and I will have fond memories of them, even if we never meet again on this side of Eternity.  Obviously, my husband, daughter, parents, and sisters, have been a huge impact on my life, but here are some non-family people who may or may not realize that they played a crucial role in my life.  These are in chronological order from the time I was 18 years old.

 

  1. Dmitri Stagakis:  My favorite teacher of all time.  He showed me the beauty of foreign languages and the joy of following God.  He also was deeply devoted to marriage, and even gave me a prayer in Russian to say for my future husband.  I still imitate some of his word order choices and tell stories about his teaching when people ask about my Russian training.  He is a brilliant man, tremendously gifted, with a huge heart.  He also had a mighty good Stalin impersonation, minus all of the killing.
  2. Mauricio Ramirez: I met Mauricio when I was a 9-11 relief worker. He was handsome and charming. He was a kindred spirit, and one of the only men besides my husband that I have ever loved.  He taught me sacrificial love.  To want what is best for the other person, even if it means that I suffer.  He taught me how to desire happiness for someone at all costs.  I still desire his happiness 12 years later. Sacrificial love is one of the greatest lessons we have to learn in this life.
  3. Vance Clarke: Vance and I were in Russian school together, but did not become real friends until we were both stationed in Maryland.  He is a fellow Anglophile. He showed me what a real gentleman looks like and taught me genuine friendship with the opposite sex.  He was patient with me since we are separated by over a decade in age. He put up with many of my blunders, and my selfishness.  I am thankful that I have kept in touch with him and his wife over the years.  Their three daughters are gorgeous 
  4. Nicola “Nicky” Williams: My British sister who taught me authentic friendship. Nicky blew me away with her love of Our Lord and her deep devotion to her friends.  When I was in the hospital for a really bad period of PTSD, she drove 3 hours (one way) a couple times a week to see me in London.  She took care of my affairs, and she loved me unconditionally.  Mental illness is hard for people to grasp.  She did not ask questions, she accepted, and walked with me.  I had never had a friend like her, and I dare say, she is a very blessed rarity.  We have sent each other birthday presents and Christmas presents for nearly a decade now.
  5. Kate Hennessy: Truly a sister. She took me into her family while we both lived in England.  She took care of me, and treated me like a natural part of the family.  She is intelligent, talented, and a beautiful person. Her kids began to show me what a loving sacrifice parenting is, but how much joy comes with it. Her family is brilliant. Even in her own struggles, she walked with me and helped lift me up.  She will always be like a sister to me.
  6. Liam Hennessy (RIP):  Liam was a second father to me.  I still cannot believe that he is gone.  He was one of the wisest and most brilliant men I have ever met.  He showed me what it was to struggle on the journey towards Truth.  He was dedicated to the military and the mission.  He truly cared about the people he served.  He and Kate both taught me that my crazy sense of humor actually exists elsewhere in the world.  They were my tribe.  I miss you Dad 2.0.
  7. Alyson Miller: Alyson actually helped to change the course of my life. She opened up the world of homeschooling to me and is an intellectual powerhouse. Another person with my dry sense of humor, she and I spent many hours laughing, while also wanting to change the world.  She is one of the only roommates, I have not wanted to kill by the end.  She is the reason I interned at The Heritage Foundation and ended up staying on the East Coast. She inadvertently brought me back to the Catholic Faith (she herself was not yet a Catholic-she is an amazing Catholic woman now), by telling me to go to Mass at the National Shrine when we lived in DC in 2009. Holy Week at the Basilica has sealed me as a devout Catholic for life. She is the reason that I met my husband.  Living in Baptist territory, and knowing I wanted to marry a Catholic, she told me to join CatholicMatch.com (yep, we met online) and I met my husband 3 days later.  It works for some people!
  8. Glenda Canfield: She is the epitome of Catholic wife, mom, and sister.  She has stood by me during all three of my miscarriages.  She held my hand until they wheeled me into the OR this past February for emergency surgery. She has helped my husband and me through some really tough times. She is one of the holiest women I have ever met.  She has shown me what to strive for in my own vocation.
  9. Dana Blanchard: You are the definition of Christian mother and grandmother.  The faith you exude is astounding and you have taught me a lot.  We have both had difficult years on the medical front, but I am truly amazed by your holy presence.  I am also so impressed with your whole family.  God is definitely making saints in that family of yours.  You are one of the sweetest, most genuine, kindest women I have ever known.
  10. Tresa Clarke, Christine Johnson, John Clarke, Bev Gilraine, Harry Koenig, Heather Burns (other Lay Dominicans): Without all of you, I would not have discovered my secondary vocation as a Lay Dominican.  I feel like I have found my Heavenly tribe when I am with Dominicans.  I honestly feel as though I have found my people.  People who are deeply devoted to Our Lord, and who are as much of a Catholic nerd as I am.  Who love the Liturgy and who have introduced me to St. Dominic; the ultimate kindred spirit. Tresa and John, you also have shown me how to work tirelessly to help men, women, and babies hurt by the scourge of abortion.  You have strengthened me as I have stood and prayed outside of Planned Parenthood, you inspire me and give me great hope.
  11. There are so many others.  I have been blessed with many people in my life who have helped me along the way and I am sure the Lord will bless me even more.  To all of you thank you!  You are all over the world. I pray for all of you constantly, and everyone on this list.  May God bless all of you on your journey.

Have you ever thought about the people who have directly impacted your path?

Why I am Giving Up Facebook

This morning I got up at 5am.  My daughter started to cry for me at 457am, so I put her in the bed with my husband and then I got up for the day.  I started coffee in the coffeepot and made a frittata for us to eat for breakfast.  I then prayed Lauds, and continued work on my re-write of chapter one of my novel.  I am taking it one chapter at a time.  I also got on Facebook for a few minutes via my husband’s iPhone.  He chided me, and he had every right to.  Friday is supposed to be a fast from the Internet for me.  Yesterday I had pulled out an article that I had printed off a few months ago and I set it in the living room to re-read.  It is from Matthew Warner’s The Radical Life, The REAL Reason to Quit Facebook, and I sat down to read it again today.

You see, I contemplate deleting my Facebook account almost weekly.  It is a major time suck for me and I am clearly addicted.  I have given it up 3 Lents in a row and I end up right back where I started a few months later.  Yesterday afternoon, I took my daughter to the library to let her get a couple of DVDs and to play with her.  They have some educational toys that are perfect for working on letters and colors.  I also brought the iPad.  While we were there another girl started to play with Michaela.  She must have been about 4 years old.  I bounced between playing with them and the computer, but then I noticed the girl’s mother.  She was sitting across the room, glued to her smartphone. Not even paying any attention to her daughter. It hit me like a ton of bricks.  This is what Michaela sees from me almost every single day.  I ached for this little girl, and I realized that I do not want to live my life this way anymore.  I do not want that to be the most vivid memory my daughter has of me.  I only get one shot at raising my daughter and she should not have to compete with a computer screen.  I made a decision, it is time to delete my Facebook profile.

Here are my main reasons for deleting my Facebook account.

1.  God, my husband, and my daughter.  My husband and daughter are my vocation. They are the greatest gifts that God has given me and I have spent hours ignoring them while I pour over news stories, debates, pictures, etc. on Facebook.  They suffer when I am distracted.  They suffer when I get overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed about the Fallen world, because I have spent too much time dwelling on it.  Instead of leading them to Christ, I am leading us all to sin.  This is not the example my family needs.  It is not what my family deserves.  They should have my full attention and should not have to compete with a cyber-world.  My daughter has literally climbed on to my lap to remind me that she is there, to my utter shame.  My husband has tried to carry on conversations with me, while I have been glued to his iPhone.  This is what I have become, and it is not pretty.  Overcoming sin never is. God also has blessed me with a secondary vocation of Lay Dominican.  I need to live out the Rule of St. Dominic, pray, study, and preach.  I can’t do that while in a trance on Facebook.

Should my daughter look like this all of the time waiting for me? NO!
Should my daughter look like this all of the time waiting for me? NO!
I waited a long time for the right man to marry.
I waited a long time for the right man to marry.

2. Facebook leads me to sin.  I struggle greatly with the virtue of Temperance and if there is one thing that keeps me from that virtue it is Facebook.  I cannot limit my time.  I start off doing well, but eventually I fall right back into my old patterns.  This pulls me from my vocation and my path to holiness.

3.  I am not the center of the universe.  I couple months ago I read Elizabeth Scalia’s Strange Gods. If you need a hard look at yourself and your false idols, then you need to read this book.  Facebook, for a lot of people, is an homage to “ME”.  Every thought, family event, picture, idea, has to go out into the world for approval.  Anyone who clicks on Facebook dozens of times a day knows what I am taking about.  How many people “liked” my comment? Or status? Or meme?  Or did that “idiot” respond to my witty comeback?  And the cycle continues at a dizzying pace.  I am not that interesting.  I am not that witty.  And, yet, Facebook gives us a false sense of importance.  If I am honest with myself, I am not on Facebook to keep in touch, I am on Facebook to get approval.  How many sins does that cover?

Nope.  I am definitely not even the center of this galaxy.
Nope. I am definitely not even the center of this galaxy.

4.  Facebook creates more noise in my life.  The Devil is cunning.  Social media is a great invention, when used properly.  But, since when have human beings been good at moderation?  If we are constantly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other website, we are distracted from the world around us.  We are not giving thanks to God.  We are not praying.  We are not taking care of our families, friends, neighbors, etc.  In fact, the more I am on the computer, the more everything else falls apart.  I have to fight and force myself to pray.  I have to battle to play with my own child. I am so much more interesting than God, becomes an inadvertent mantra.  Oh, yeah, brutal honesty.

5.  Facebook does not take away loneliness.  I am a stay-at-home-mom.  I made this choice.  It is where I belong, but I get lonely.  I need intellectual stimulation that is more than watching Tangled or WordWorld for the 50th time.  I love teaching my daughter, but she is two.  Her attention span is only slightly longer than 5 minutes.  When I get sucked into Facebook, it usually is because I am lonely.  I am filling a void.  That void has an awful lot to do with my Faith, as well as focusing on my family.  I also am blessed with wonderful friends, who I never seem to call to get together.  We all live 10 minutes from each other, but we talk on Facebook, so why get together?  I need their physical companionship and conversation, not a computer screen.  Facebook makes me a worse friend.  So friends, expect me to call for lunch or coffee soon.

I have awesome friends, who I ignore except on FB and at church.
I have awesome friends, who I ignore except on FB and at church.

6.  How many of the people on Facebook are still in our lives.  The people I am friends with on Facebook meant a lot to me, most of them, years ago, even decades ago.  We have all moved on.  Our lives have changed.  Do we really care that much about each other?  I have three friends who have asked to see me when I have been in the same city as them: 3.  That tells me that our friendship is at acquaintance stage these days.  That is okay.  That is how life works.  People come into our lives for a short time and then we part ways.  I have fond memories of all of them, I still pray for them, but let’s be honest, we are not really friends anymore.  I am not being mean, just honest.  The people I am friends with now will call, email, or see me.  I am looking at you OLPH folks and Dominicans.

It was great while it lasted.
It was great while it lasted.

7.  Privacy.  This is becoming more and more of an issue.  This is not high on my list, but it is on my husband’s and I respect that.  I used to work in a national security position for the government, so I assume they monitor me.  However, I am appalled by what my former employer is doing these days.  Given the way things are going, social media could eventually be used against any of us.  I am a devout Roman Catholic, Veteran, Lay Dominican (does that make me double Catholic????), who works in the pro-life movement, works with women in crisis pregnancies, and supports traditional marriage.  Yeah……I think the real question is: Is there really any privacy online anymore?  I highly doubt it.

8. Facebook takes away from my writing.  When I spend too much time on Facebook, my writing and blogging suffers.  I get distracted, so my novel and the few blog posts I write a week get pushed back.  I really enjoy writing.  Writing is more important to me than Facebook.  If, by the grace of God, some day someone publishes my work, it will be because I stopped focusing on social media.  I will still blog here and at CatholicMom.com, by the way.

Facebook = low creative flow
Facebook = low creative flow

I am sure there are people who use Facebook in moderation.  They have a healthy respect and balance.  That is wonderful.  That is not me.  It is time for me to be completely and painfully honest with myself.  I am not proud of any of the things that I have done.  I started Facebook in 2008, when I was looking at a career in politics.  I should have deleted it when I left DC.  I pray that if you struggle like I do, you will consider a fast, delete, or deactivate those social media websites that are taking you away from your vocation.  Life is so unbelievably short.  It was only yesterday, that I was holding my newborn baby in the hospital, and now she is speaking in complete sentences.  God bless you and have a great weekend!

*Update: I have since abandoned my personal FB page. I have a FB page where I just post my writing and other authors I enjoy. It is quite freeing!

When I Fall Short in My Vocation

If there is one thing that marriage and motherhood is teaching me, it is how deeply selfish I am; how attached I am to things whether it be: food, coffee, me-time, social media, TV shows, books, writing, etc.  These are all good things in and of themselves.  Writing for instance is a gift that I have been given and enjoy.  The problem is that I can have a tendency to put all of things before my daughter and husband.  When I read Elizabeth Scalia’s Strange Gods, I felt like I was reading my own story.  The idols that I have put up in my life are numerous.  I can be so engrossed in a computer screen and ignore the flesh and blood human being right in front of me.  What is wrong with me?

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Well, first I am sinful, and like everyone else I have to learn to overcome sin.  Social media especially sucks us in and makes it very difficult to let go.  That is why my husband stopped using Facebook and would love if I would too.  I will say that I am just going to take 10 minutes, but it inevitably turns into an hour.  When I start to realize how much time I am devoting to such things, the guilt sets in.  Why can I not seem to stay fully present in my own life?
 
 
 
Second, I have been feeling pretty rundown this cycle.  Part of that is the long nights, but I discovered that my HCG shots are not doing the job.  My progesterone levels are great, but my estrogen did not rise much this month.  My hormone issues drive a lot of my moods and I was disappointed by the news.  I am hesitant to take estrogen because it can lead to a higher risk of female cancers, but I need to discuss it with my doctor when I talk to her in the coming days.  Even with my hormone issues, it is not an excuse, it is a part of my Cross.
 
As I carried my daughter in from the car to her crib this afternoon, I started to question myself again.  I have been too devoted to other things this week.  How has that impacted me?  First, my daughter has not gotten my full attention and has had to climb up onto my lap to remind me to play with her.  Second, my husband has not felt like I am paying attention to him.  Thirdly, my writing has suffered.  Fourth, and this should be first, my prayer life is stagnant.  When I am not living out my vocation everything suffers.
 
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So I can sit here and beat myself up, again.  Or, I can ask Our Lord to give me the strength to overcome these sins and move forward.  This is why I love love love Confession!  I am most alive when I serve my family.  It is not glorious work, but it is for Glory.  I don’t find putting away laundry particular entertaining, but it serves my husband.  Reading to my daughter is a struggle because she does not sit still, but it is necessary for her growth.  Praying Lauds may feel mechanical, but it is preparing me for my day.
 
The more I am present in each moment, the less I focus on the heaviness of the world at large.  I already know there are horrendous amounts of suffering.  I already know that my religious liberty is slipping away.  I know friends are in need of prayers and I pray for them.  I do not need to dedicate huge chunks of my time to mindless scrolling on Facebook.  I do it and I don’t know why.  Yes I do, because I have not allowed God to fill me up.  I have allowed monotony and boredom to take over my life.  I have stopped looking at the little blessings in my life; like my daughter jumping in leaves or saying a new phrase.  The world becomes heavy and the darkness too much.  I lose sight of the bigger picture.
 
I am being brutally honest here.  I have failed in my vocation this week, and I will drag myself to Confession, again for healing and reconciliation on Saturday.  If I don’t do that, then I wallow in self-pity, which is a sin in-and-of-itself.  I need The Lord to gently remind me of my shortcomings so that he can heal them and make me stronger.  There is a part of me that would just like to sit on the couch, cry, and give-up.  Holiness is hard work and it takes a lifetime.
 
The problem with repetitive sin, is that it makes us give up too easily.  I did it once, so I may as well do it again.  That is why regular Confession is so important.  It helps to inoculate us against that kind of thinking.  I spent too much time on the computer turns into, I am just going to do it again.  Confession gives us the grace to overcome those battles and temptations, it does not mean we will not do it again. Confession re-focuses me on the task at hand.
 
I love my family, but am I giving them my all?  Our culture tells us that “I” am first, but as a follower of Christ, I know that I am last.  True freedom is in the emptying of self.  That is not easy for us sinful people, which we all are, but it is what we are called to.  I have been getting up at 530am to have some time to myself for coffee, prayer, and the news.  The time change has made that impossible.  My daughter is getting up at 5am right now.  The last two days I have stayed in bed and sulked while she watches a movie. Yes, I am an adult, most days.  My husband asked me why I did not just put her in the bed with him at 5am and then get up.  She fell back asleep for a few minutes.  I had no answer.  I was allowing my frustration to get the better of me.  Instead of focusing on my vocation of mother, I was focusing too much on what I want.
 
Moms and Dads need time to themselves.  That is perfectly healthy.  What I am talking about is when we put that time constantly above our families, which I do.  I am a stay-at-home mom, it is easy for me to fall into the temptation of sitting on the Internet whenever I have a free moment.  It is not what is best for me and I know it, but I do it anyway.  In fact, some days I am on the computer first and then pray Lauds.  Talk about my mixed up priorities.  I should be able to pray and drink coffee for a few minutes in the morning, but if I am honest other things are getting in the way.
 
I have two vocations: wife/mom and soon to be Lay Dominican, so my experiences may be slightly different from yours.  But, the point is that many of us have a tendency to put our own desires above our vocations.  Part of our vocation is learning how to prioritize in the right way.  One way I can learn to prioritize is to get things like blogging done while my daughter naps, instead of when she wants me to play with her.  Hey, I am a work in progress.
 
Are there areas of your life that distract you from your vocation?  Take it to Our Lord in the Confessional and ask him to help you overcome them.  Also make a point to stop by your parish once in a while and sit in silence near the Tabernacle.  It will do wonders for you.  Have a blessed day!
 
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What Recent Elections Have Taught Me

Where I stand
Where I stand

In 2009 I went to internship at The Heritage Foundation. I believed that I wanted a career in politics, I was wrong. There are brilliant minds at Heritage. I was horrified by Congressional staff we met with, though. As a Veteran, I was keenly aware of the support our military needed and I quickly discovered that our service members were numbers and a bottom line. Service members were not seen as people at all. In that moment I knew politics was not for me.

As I have watched the last two elections a couple of things have become clear to me. First, that I made the right decision leaving DC. Second, things are once again going to get rough for faithful Catholics in this country. Secularism and its clarion call to relativistic dictatorship are on the march, and at this point all we can do is pray and serve others in response.

The last two elections, one presidential the other the VA gubernatorial race, have shown me that we no longer look to men and women of character to lead us. Instead we swallow the lies and deceit and vote accordingly. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not happy with either Party. But the last two elections have come down to a fictitious war on women. That big bad Republicans will take away birth control, merely because they are Catholic. It has never been an agenda, even though we faithful Catholics know the great damage birth control has done.

I live in Virginia and I was disgusted by ALL of the political ads. But, more than anything, I am disturbed by what this country stands for now. I have absolutely no idea what the issues were for this race, except that most ads I saw were about people taking away birth control. A flat out lie, but people don’t know how to think anymore.

This is a brilliant move because it is winning elections and it works for the war on the Catholic Church that this Admin is waging. It is a subtle way to vilify Catholics that will become more overt, as things like “gay marriage” gain traction in this country. You have to alienate a group of people before you can work to push them out of the public sphere and launch a full scale attack.

None of this is new. Church history, as Christ promised, is full of persecution. Human history is bloody which is precisely why the God-Man had to offer his blood for us. We, in our depravity, would accept no less, and our sin demanded it. If the world killed God, what makes us think that we are somehow exempt? We have enjoyed a few decades of relative peace in this country, but that is not the historical norm, and it will not last. Enlightenment is merely a philosophy that denies faith and focuses solely on reason. It ignores human nature and sin. The 20th Century was the bloodiest in human history and perpetrated by atheistic regimes, secular regimes.

My husband and I have become increasingly more detached from politics, because we know what is coming, and it will not be pretty. We work in our community serving the poor and the Culture of Life. We no longer harbor illusions that politicians really want to do good. This is a spiritual war between principalities. We fight with prayer, love, and service. In the end that is all we can do.

What is going on in this country is distressing, but we always need to remember that we are a Resurrection people. The battle is won by Christ. That does not mean that we will not suffer, but it means that good triumphs over evil.