Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On Marrying Young: The Unsettled Life

Although marriage is often referred to as “settling down”, for young couples, early married life may not be all that settled.  Young married people are in many of the same circumstances as their unmarried peers: they are students, just starting their careers, and moving from place to place.  Although I have known young couples who married just out of college, both spouses found stable jobs in their desired fields, and they were able to purchase a condo or starter home within the first year of marriage, this is by far the exception and not the rule.

When my husband and I married, I knew that I was sacrificing the ability to plan out my future.  I had just graduated from college but I didn’t know if I would be able to find a teaching job if I moved to Indiana to join my husband (I wasn’t).  As the wife of a grad student, I don’t know where (and if) my husband will find a job when he graduates in May.  And since he is looking for postdoctoral positions, the job he does get will only be for one to three years, thus pushing back buying a house and planting roots in a permanent place even further out.  While our specific circumstances are unique to us, I know many other young married couples that feel the same sense of living a transitory, unsettled life.

Lacking the “stability” that is often assumed to accompany married life can add unneeded pressure to a young marriage.  Starting a career is difficult enough for any young person (especially with the current unemployment rate) without the added stress of knowing you need to help support a spouse or a family.  It also can be quite difficult for two people to start a career at the same time without being able to move for a job.  I would have had a much better opportunity to find a teaching job had I stayed in Colorado where I had connections in the local school districts or if I had been able to move anywhere the jobs were.  But marrying my husband meant that I needed to move to where he was completing school, so my dream of getting a teaching job was replaced by the simple desire to get any job that would help my husband pay the bills.  I never thought I would be so excited to get a job at Starbucks, yet this is only one example of how marriage has changed my whole perspective. 

Since we don’t know where we are going, we have to rely on each other all the more.  I am not by nature an adventurous person, but I’ve been able to approach our future and each new opportunity or hurdle as a new venture that will bring us closer together.  Moving first to Indiana and then to North Carolina only a year later, we’ve been able to start a new life together just the two of us, without the outside pressure of our families and friends.  Marrying young means that I get to be there for my husband at the beginning of his career to support him; and I will never take for granted the work he does to support our family because I’ve seen from the beginning just how much he has sacrificed and how hard he has worked just to get to this point. 

While I still wish we could put roots down somewhere and I’m anxious to have a home of my own where I can actually paint the walls, especially with a little one on the way, I wouldn’t trade this unsettled life with my husband for a more stable life on my own.  It has been difficult not knowing where our lives are headed, but it is a great comfort to know that wherever we end up, we’ll be there together.

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my On Marrying Young series.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

On Marrying Young: Some Thoughts

In my earlier post, On Marrying Young, I announced that I’d be writing some posts in the near future on the distinct experiences of couples who married young. When I sat down to sort out my thoughts (and potential future posts) about marrying young, I originally attempted to make a lists of the pros and cons.  But it turns out that it’s not that simple.  Many of the unique situations that my husband and I went through as young newlyweds cannot be categorized as purely negative or positive (is there much in life that is black or white?).  The difficulties encountered by a young couple, if worked through together, only serve to strengthen their marriage in the long run.  So instead of approaching this by writing posts either/or posts on the positives or negatives of marrying young, I’m simply going to discuss some of the situations that I have noticed are distinct to young married couples.

I purposely did not define a specific age that warrants the title “young bride” or “young groom” because I don’t particularly believe there is one.  My husband and I didn’t originally feel like we were marrying young, until other people pointed it out (and until we realized we were one of the first and/or only of our friends who were married).  Since marrying just over a year ago, it has become obvious is certain aspects of our lives that we did indeed marry young.  If you feel like you married young, chances are that you did relevant to your own personal, familial, and societal expectations.

If, like me, you like more set guidelines than “you’ll just know if this applies or not”, you can use statistics on average age at first marriage as your guidelines for deciding whether a couple married young or not.   The national average age at first marriage (according to the most recent statistics) is 26 for women and 28 for men, although this varies quite a bit by region and state.  For example, according to the 2008 American Community Survey, Washington D.C. was the state/territory with the highest average age at first marriage for both men (32) and women (30), while Utah has the lowest average for women (24) and Idaho had the lowest average for men (25).  So a woman who married at age 28 may feel like a “young bride” if she lived in Washington, D.C. or may feel like she is marrying later in Utah.  I personally love statistics (aren’t they fascinating?), if you do too, make sure to read the article where I got these statistics, The States of Marriage and Divorce.

On Marrying Young has been my most commented on post to date (although that’s not saying much) and I hope that my upcoming posts will live up to all your expectations.  If anybody feels like they have something to share on this topic,  I’d love to have you guest post!  I can only write from my experiences and observations, it would be great to have more perspectives to share.  You can contact me through my email found in the “About Mandi” tab above. 

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my On Marrying Young series.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 24)

1. I find it somewhat ironic that people who have lived here in North Carolina for all their lives have been telling me that this was the first earthquake they’ve ever felt.  I’ve only been here a month, but apparently I moved here just in time to experience it.  It was not, however, the first earthquake I’ve experienced (my family is originally from Southern California), so it didn’t even register with me as a significant event.  I got a call from my husband shortly afterwards asking if I felt it, and my first reaction was, “Felt what?”  The earthquake.  Oh yeah, that.

2. We’ve received several phone calls from family members this week who are worried about how we’ll fare from Hurricane Irene.  We’re doing our best to reassure them that we are far enough inland that we won’t get much more than rain and some wind, but at this point, our families think that we moved to the heart of a disaster zone: a highly televised tornado earlier this year, now an earthquake and a hurricane within a week. 

3.  Earlier this week, I had my second appointment at the birth center and I continue to be impressed by the care I receive from the midwives.  The midwife went over my 3-day food diary with me and David for about fifteen minutes.  That’s longer than any of my appointments with my former OB were!  And my OB never once mentioned nutrition or showed any interest in my questions about healthful eating during pregnancy.  Pregnancy is much more than just checking for and treating complications and I am very grateful that I am finally getting the care I need to make sure my child has a healthy beginning.

4. On Wednesday, I went to a group for pregnant and new moms.  One of the other couples who moved here with us is expecting as well, and the wife went with me.  Thank goodness, or I would have chickened out and never made it - I’m not the best about trying new things and meeting new people.  But once I got there, I enjoyed the discussions and I’ll probably go back next week.  Most of the moms gave birth either at home or at the birth center, they breastfeed and babywear and I noticed half of the babies there had cloth diapers.  Although some of their parenting ideas were a little too out there for me (at least at this point, I seem to be getting more crunchy as I go), I seem like I’ll fit in quite well.  Although I definitely was, by far, the youngest woman there (other than the woman accompanying me).

5.  I’ve been trying to fill the long hours at home during the weekdays by being productive around the house.  So far, that’s consisted of making zucchini muffins, which came out really well considering it was my first time making them, removing stains from some of the hand-me-down baby clothes my mom has sent (using this stain removing method - it works miracles), and even covering the lid of our coin jar.  On the docket tomorrow: making banana bread (it will also be a first, hopefully it turns out as well at the zucchini muffins and isn’t a disaster like last week’s homemade cake).  Nothing makes a woman more domestic than boredom. 

6.  I found gorgeous rosary coloring sheets for the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries of the rosary on the Family in Feast and Feria blog. They were originally published in 1949.  I love them!  How did I find them?  Well, if I’m being perfectly honest, I was looking for coloring sheets for myself.  Yes, I color.  It’s therapeutic.  Or say they say, I just really like coloring.

7.  My belly button is slowly creeping outwards - I bet it won’t be more than a week before it pops out!

Please head to Conversion Diary to read some more Quick Takes (it's the #1 way I find new favorite blogs!).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Marrying Young: Introduction

When my husband and I married last year, we were both 23 years old.  While we did not think of ourselves as particularly young for marriage, we have consistently encountered people who have thought it their place to tell us that we were indeed too young to get married.  Twenty years ago, 23 would have seemed a much more reasonable age for marriage, but men and women in the western world have been putting off marriage  until later in life for a variety of reasons, some of them the result of societal changes, some of them due to personal and lifestyle choices.  The most recent statistics that I could find put the average age for first marriage in the United States at 26 for women and 28 for men.

Please don’t assume where this post is going.  I am not writing to advocate for or against marrying at any particular age.  My husband and I chose to get married when we did as much for practical reasons as we did for love, and many people delay marriage for similar reasons.  We started dating shortly after my twenty-first birthday and he moved out of state to start graduate school only four months later.  We were able to maintain a healthy long distance relationship, yet it was still emotionally (and financially) draining to be apart.  We knew early on that our relationship was headed toward marriage, so it just made sense for us to get married as soon as I graduated from college and was free to move away. 

I feel blessed that I met my husband at a relatively young age and that we were able to marry and start our family not longer after.  Most of my friends are still waiting to meet their significant others, but their lives are certainly not wasted in the meantime - they have rewarding careers, they travel to exotic lands, they are immersed in academia.  And when they do get married, it will be the right time for them to do so.  But, and here is where I get to my intended purpose with this post, when they marry, they will have a different newlywed experience than I did. 

Marrying in your late twenties is much different than marrying in your early twenties.  Of course, every marriage is different because each spouse is different, each person brings their own unique background of cultural, ethnic, familial (etc., etc.) experiences that shape the marriage.  But our age also dictates much of what we bring to marriage, including just how many of these unique experiences we have to draw from.  No doubt, the economic and career situations which we bring with us into marriage tend to be somewhat dictated by age as well. 

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how being (relatively) young has affected me as a wife and will (soon!) affect me as a mother.  So, in the next couple weeks, I’m going to be writing some posts on both the blessing and the hardships of marrying and starting a family at a time that is considered young by our societal standards.  This isn’t meant to convince anyone to marry or have children young or to wait until later, but simply to tell about my experiences and to encourage other young wives and mothers that may be experiencing similar situations. 

I welcome input from any women out there, regardless of what age you married or had children (or whether you have at all), because I can only draw on my own experience and my outside perspective of the people around me.  I am curious to hear more about the blessings and hardships of becoming a bride and mother at all ages (or if you think age made much of a difference at all) and the blessings and hardships of not marrying or having children (whether you are still waiting or have chosen not to).  

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my On Marrying Young series.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bringing Joy by Bearing Life

Pregnancy is a journey filled with wonder.  The wonder of the child growing inside of me.  The wonder of my body that is somehow able to nourish and protect that child.  The wonder of watching those around me react to the child inside of me.  I never cease to be amazed by the amount of joy that I bring to others just by being pregnant.  My husband, my parents, family and friends are overjoyed at the thought that inside me is a little child that will bring such light to their lives. 

Even more amazing is the joy I see in the eyes of strangers as they eye my ever-expanding belly.  Today, as my husband and I were leaving church, the priest saw us as we were walking down the steps toward him and immediately his face broke into a large smile.  As soon as we reached him, he said a blessing for our child.  This is a priest we have never met before, having only started attending this church three weeks ago, and yet he was delighted by the fact that we would soon be blessed with a baby.

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Torsten Mangner
That was certainly not a solitary incident.  Everywhere I look, in the aisles of the grocery store or walking around the block, I am met by the smiles of strangers.  People are eager to hear about my little one and I get all the usual questions: Boy or girl? When am I due? Is this my first?  I expect these questions from women, especially the grandmotherly type, and I am always a little thrown off when men, especially young men, are just as interested about my pregnancy.  Although I’ve been warned that I’ll receive unsolicited advice and some negative comments, I have yet to experience any of these from strangers.

When my husband and I first decided to start trying to get pregnant (and even before that), many friends and family members warned us that we should wait to have children.  Some of them painted children as a burden, stressing that we should wait until we’ve spent our youth having fun before we embarked upon parenting.  And these scare tactics, well, they scared us.  But we decided that we wanted to have children anyway, that the joy we would receive from raising a family would outweigh the difficulties that would come with it. 

When strangers look at me and I see joy in their eyes simply because they glimpse the beauty of the little life growing inside me, I am encouraged.  These are people who recognize the value of children, the great gift that they are to the world, so much so that simply seeing an expectant mother has the ability to bring a smile to their face and joy to their hearts.  These people are not few and far between nor do they belong to a specific demographic - they are young and old, men and women, parents and the childless - all celebrating the upcoming arrival of a new little person to our world.

Friday, August 19, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 23)

1.  After writing a post a few days ago about my absolute lack of motivation to get my home in order after our move (which was over a month ago!), I decided I needed a little inspiration… and made a little shopping list that consisted of the ingredients to make my own laundry detergent, oil face cleanser, and supposedly the “best stain remover ever”.  After failing to find more than half the items at my local grocery and retail stores, I went online last night and ordered the rest of the items from  Now the only question is how long they will sit around once they arrive before my motivation returns to actually make these household items.

2. It’s too early to already start making them, but I’ve already started thinking about making and freezing some meals for after the baby is born.  I’ve never frozen meals before, so I don’t really have any frame of reference for this.  Does anybody have good (vegetarian!) recipes that freeze well?  My mom is planning to come a couple days after the baby is born to help for a week or two, but she doesn’t like to cook and I don’t want her to feel obligated to.

3.  I am constantly coming across amazing education resources online, like the Living Math Book List blog.  Using children’s literature to teach math?  Yes please.  And someone has already compiled a list for me?  I’m not in a rush to have my baby grow up, but I am so excited for the day when I can utilize resources like this. 

4.  Can you believe the controversy and rather heated comments this rather innocuous post about dresses over at The Corner with a View received?  I didn’t realize that people felt so strongly about the pants vs. dresses debate.  I always welcome a healthy debate, but some of the commenters were just nasty.   What is it about the internet that makes people feel comfortable bashing complete strangers simply because they disagree with them? 

5.  Last Saturday, the husband and I attended a childbirth class.  It was an eye-opening experience, not because of what we learned in class (although it was really great) but what we learned about the other pregnant couples. They asked very basic questions and seemed very unknowledgeable about pregnancy and the whole process - and most of them are due much sooner than me!  I knew almost nothing about pregnancy and childbirth when I got pregnant (other than how to get pregnant, obviously), so I did everything possible to learn about what my body and baby would be going through in the next nine months.  I probably have about twenty pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding books in our bookshelf (thanks to Paperback Swap - I would never have bought them all new!).  Maybe I’m just an overachiever, but I couldn’t imagine going into childbirth without being highly informed.

6.  I forgot to mention that last week was my husband’s 25th birthday!  While he was at work on his birthday, I made him a homemade “funfetti” cake with cream cheese frosting, which I have dubbed the Great Cake Disaster. Everything that could have gone wrong did.  It took more than double the time to cook than the recipe said it should have, the cake stuck terribly to the pan (I haven’t had that problem since I started using Wilton’s Cake Release), one of the sides crumbled and fell off., and here was barely enough frosting to cover the cake, and on and on and on.  Needless to say, it didn’t look very good.  I added tons of sprinkles on the top to distract from the lumpy disaster.  But the most important thing was that it was ready and in the fridge when the birthday boy came home.  You want to know the funny thing though?  I spent all that time making the cake and he got a free dessert where we went to dinner, so he didn’t even have a piece on his birthday!  He did the next day though (and everyday for the rest of the week) and I am happy to announce that it tasted better than it looked. 

7.  My favorite movie snack is popcorn with jalapeƱos.  Yes, I know I’m weird, but it is delicious.  I even bring my own jalapeƱos if the theater doesn’t have them for their nachos.  And no, this is not a pregnancy craving, I discovered this food love when I first started working at a movie theater when I was 15. 

Now I’m heading over to Conversion Diary to check out some more 7 Quick Takes.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Can't I Get Anything Done?

I have a confession to make: now that I'm at home full time and not working, I don't get anything done.  I am really ashamed to admit this because I know that there are many busy people that would love to have all the spare time I have and would take advantage of it.  It's not that I purposely sit around doing nothing, but I have a very hard time getting things done when I don't have deadlines or limited periods of time to get things done.  The busier I am, the more I get done.  When I have unlimited time to complete tasks, I am constantly putting things off for later.

Case in point: as of tomorrow, we will be in our apartment for a month, but I have yet to make it into our home.  Boxes still crowd various areas of the apartment, some half unpacked, some yet to be opened.  Many items have made their way out of boxes, but have not found their proper place in our home.  The apartment is cluttered and it is still very unsettled.  Yet I can't seem to find the motivation to put it all away, mainly because I can't seem to find places for everything to go.

Our apartment is smaller than our previous one, but even more problematic is the lack of storage space - the closets are smaller, there are less of them, and there are less cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom.  Additionally, our second bedroom in our old apartment was simply a guest bedroom, so we could fill the closet and dresser with clothes, holiday decoration, and other items that we don't need year round or that we are waiting until we have a house to use (all those beautiful crystal wine glasses and candy dishes!).  But now the second bedroom belongs to our sweet little baby, who needs the dresser and closet for his/her own clothes.  I tried to get rid of all our clutter and unnecessary items before we moved, and I feel I did a pretty good job, which means we can't get rid of anything else.  Does anyone have any ideas for organizing and storing items in a small apartment?  

Don't get me wrong, even though I have reasons why I haven't put everything away, I still should have done it.  It has to be done (preferably before the baby is here or before the pregnancy is so far along that it will be difficult to move items around the apartment) and I know that it can be done.  I just haven't done it.

Although this has obviously become a problem because our apartment is in disarray, it has became an even greater problem because it has been very self-defeating for me.  I feel incredibly useless and lazy, yet instead of using that as inspiration to get going and get things done, it's made me even less motivated to work.  I've started to believe that I'm incapable of getting anything done or that I can successfully be a stay-at-home-wife (and soon mother).  Perhaps there are some crazy pregnancy hormones adding to this issue, but I am loathe to blame this on anything but myself.

This is probably making some of you reading this absolutely crazy.  I know what you are thinking, because it's probably what I would think if I was reading this previously: Why don't you just get up and get it done?  And here is my answer: I don't know.  Not the best answer, but an honest one.  I need some inspiration.  I need some advice.  I need some help.  I really don't like admitting that I need help, that I can't do something on my own, but it's gotten to the point where I feel like I just can't do it alone.  I am here, in a new state, where I barely know anyone, surrounded by the unknown, and it doesn't seem to matter if I make this place home or if my apartment is homey.  Hopefully, as we get closer to the birth of the baby, I'll have a desire to nest and everything will fall in to place.  Hopefully.

Monday, August 15, 2011

No Dinner without Dessert

My husband and I like to make a lot of vegetable stir-fries for dinner.  We went to the farmer’s market on Sunday and picked up some gorgeous, fresh vegetables (including ghost eggplant), so that was a natural choice for tonight’s dinner plate.  My only reservation is that our stir-fries are often lacking a major protein.  Sometimes we use tofu or add beans, and once in a while, we’ll cook chicken to add to my husband’s portion (if you didn’t already catch it, I’m a vegetarian).  But the amazing farmer’s market vegetables were begging to be left untainted by store-bought beans or tofu. 

And then I remembered a recipe I came across a few days ago.  No protein in your meal?  No problem, just make a high-protein dessert!  So we made this amazing Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding.  It came out great, with a light consistency reminiscent of a mousse.   If you like Mexican hot chocolate, you’ll appreciate the cinnamon and chili powder, but if that’s not to your liking, I think it would taste great if you left out those ingredients or if you added the spices of your choice.  I can’t recommend it enough. 

Now you have the best excuse to eat your dessert - because it’s just part of a nutritionally balanced dinner.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 22)

1.  On Tuesday, my cousin and his girlfriend found out they are having a girl!  The family is abuzz talking about our new little princess.  We have a small family - my grandparents have three children and three grandchildren, so the addition of two new little ones in so close a time is such a rare and wonderful occurrence.  My aunt only has one son (she’s always spoiled me as her girl), so she is very thrilled to be having a granddaughter.  That little girl is going to wear nothing but the girliest pink and lace if grandma has anything to with it!

2.  Since we announced we were pregnant, everyone in my family has been convinced that I’m having a boy and my cousin’s girlfriend is having a girl.  And they think this is confirmation that they are right on both counts.  For some reason, I also think I’m having a boy.  Do you think that mothers really can tell?

3.  I’ve heard wonderful things about the farmers markets here in North Carolina.  I haven’t been to farmers markets much in the past, because I’ve only lived in places with tiny ones (the kind that you visit once or twice a season just for the experience, not necessarily because they have anything you want).  So it usually doesn’t even cross my mind to go to a farmers market for our food, but this farmers market guide over at Modern Mrs. Darcy reminded me that I’ve been meaning to try it.  Hopefully we find some vegetables that force us to shake up our weekly menu a little bit, we are in desperate need of some variety.
4.  My husband and I are going to Colorado in less than a month!  Do you know what that means?  It means that I get to see my mom every other month for the rest of the year!  She was just here last month helping us move, we’ll be out there next month, and she’s planning to come a few days after the baby is born in November (well, if the baby makes his/her Nov 27th due date, it will be more like early December).  And to top it all off, we are planning to go to Colorado for Christmas so all the family can meet our little one.  I miss all my family, but especially my mom - we talk on the phone almost everyday (often more than once a day), but that’s just not the same.  I can only hope that  I have the same kind of relationship with my kids someday that my mom has with me.

5.  August 15 is usually a Holy Day of Obligation (Feast of the Assumption), but not this year because it falls on a Monday.  That makes me a little sad - I don’t see why it being on a Monday makes any difference.  Will you still be attending Mass on Monday?

6.  My husband doesn’t graduate until May, but he is already in the process of researching and applying for possible jobs.  It sounded a little early to me, but I guess it really isn’t in the academic world.  We pray that he will find a job in Colorado near our families, but we’ll just be thrilled for him to have a job when he graduates.  He found a potential post-doctoral position here in Raleigh, and while it’s not Colorado, it would be nice not to have to move again next year. 

7.  I applied to substitute teach several months ago, but never heard back from the school district.  We were really hoping to have a little extra income from me before the baby was born, but I guess that wasn’t to be.  I’ve put my profile on several tutoring sites in hopes that I’ll get some tutoring jobs (which I could potentially continue a couple evenings a week after the baby is born), so wish me luck.  It’s such an awkward position to be in to be looking for employment while 6 months pregnant, especially since I won’t be working after the baby is born.  Even if I had a full time teaching job, the salary wouldn’t be high enough to warrant paying for daycare (and I really want to stay home anyway).  I know that we’ll get by, but I hate that I am just sitting at home during the day (without much to do until the baby is born) when I could be helping provide for the family financially.  

Please head over to Conversion Diary to get your fill of 7 Quick Takes and discover great blogs!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

check 'em out (vol. 2)

In February, I wrote a post listing a few of my favorite blogs, and I thought that it might be time for me to write another.  In the last several months, I've found a lot of really great blogs and other Catholic resources on the internet and they have been an immense help as I've struggled with the loneliness of staying at home all day and moving out of state.

A California Girl & A Boston Boy - What can I say, I love Jennie's blog!  She is the mom to two little girls and her positivity despite the difficulties of motherhood is such an inspiration to me.  How can you not smile watching this video of her daughter dancing?

Betty Beguiles - I'm sure you've already heard of her, who hasn't?  But I had to include her because she is such a wealth of information regarding fashion (an area in which I really need to improve) and womanhood.  I particularly like this post of hers on the importance of encouragement.  I like to think that someday, if I follow her advice, I'll be described as fashionable.  If anyone could do it, it would be Betty Beguiles.

Modern Mrs. Darcy - I cannot say enough good things about this blog!  I was hooked on it from the first time I came across it.  The purpose of the blog is "redefining the accomplished woman", something I think my generation of "20 something" women desperately need.  I love her breadth of topics, from the farmers market to encouraging your husband to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Roman Catholic Cop - I came across this blog just recently, but I really enjoy the male perspective on marriage, faith, and family life.   Most of the blogs I follow are written by women and it's nice to have a male counterbalance to them.

That's only a small selection of the blogs I read regularly (hey, I have a lot of time on my hands waiting for the little one!), but these are the blogs that I really excited about reading new posts.  What are your favorite blogs?  What about other websites?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Overwhelmed by Gratitude

My husband's cousin has been separated from her husband for the past three years, since he returned to Mexico in order to apply for legal residency in the United States.  They have two young children who can't remember what it was like living with Daddy.  They've only seen him once a year (or less) when they have been able to travel to Mexico to visit him.  The family has been through great struggles due to their separation and have had repeated difficulties completing the paperwork and other requirements to get their loved one home.

Last night, our cousin's husband came home for good.  Two children have their father back and a young woman no longer has to live without her husband.  We have been praying for his return every night and we are so profoundly grateful that God has answered the prayers of so many in order to bring this family back together.

I am such a softy, I've been crying tears of happiness all morning for them.  If anyone deserves a happy ending, it is this family.  I can't imagine living for years without my husband or raising children alone, but our cousin always had a positive outlook.  She would compare herself to military wives who were separated from their husband, saying that she was much more fortunate than them because at least she knew her husband was safe (although in reality, the stability of the area of Mexico where he lived was questionable - he was mugged at least twice while living there).

We've never met her husband because he was already in Mexico by the time we moved near the family and we look forward to meeting him for the first time and getting to know him when we return to Indiana for my husband's graduation in May.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thinking of Somalia

Have you heard of the terrible famine affecting Somalia?  My heart breaks every time I see coverage of it on the news.  The people of Somalia have already been suffering for a long time due to political unrest.  When I was student teaching, many of my students were Somali refugees.  These young people had often seen the murders of their parents, had been shot at nearly daily as they walked to school, and endured life at refugee camps where basic human necessities were scarce.  They showed profound gratitude for the opportunities the United States offered them, including their education which they took very seriously.  Many of them lived in small cramped apartments (as many as fifteen people in a one bedroom apartment) and their parents worked minimum wage agricultural or manufacturing jobs, yet their lives were much better than they were in Somalia.  Imagine that, being grateful to live in extreme poverty in the United States.  I cannot imagine the conditions they lived in before that would make them so happy to have so little. 

Although we don't have much money to donate, my husband and I have felt called to contribute to the famine relief in Somalia.  We've decided to donate to Catholic Relief Services, specifically to their Emergency Relief Fund for the East Africa Drought.  A few years ago, I became aware of the importance of donating through specifically Catholic charities due to the birth control and sterilization practices encouraged by some international relief organizations.  Catholic Relief Services is a prominent Catholic international aid organizations and does great work throughout the world.  If you feel called to help the people in Somalia or other people suffering throughout the world, I suggest you research any organization to which you are interested in donating to make sure that they operate within your morals.

The Pope has recently expressed great concern for the people of East Africa.  If you do not feel called to send financial support or are unable, remember that the most important thing you can do is pray.

Friday, August 5, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 21)

1.  I had a great evening at the home of a friend last night.  We went to college together and she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the same college that my husband is now finishing at.  So maybe I was a little melodramatic when I was saying we didn't know anyone here.  My friend and her husband had the two of us and other couple over for dinner and we stayed there talking until late last night.  She has been such a good friend to me, although we don't have a lot of things in common outwardly.  She's closer to my parents age and her oldest is less than 5 years younger than me.  In fact, her husband is (one year) older than my parents.  But they are such good people and we never run out of things to talk about, age doesn't seem to be an issue.  I feel so blessed that I'll have to opportunity to see her and her family regularly over the next year.

2.  This article really made me smile: A Career Sustained by Unwavering Faith.  I love hearing about faithful Catholic in the "real" world, who are able to blend their faith and work (seemingly) effortlessly.  And I especially love it when the stories are reported by the secular media.  Plus, faith and sports seem to go so well together, don't you think?

3.  While we're on the subject of blending faith and work, I enjoyed this article: Don't Be a 2/3rds Catholic.  Although I am not currently in the workplace, from my past experience I remember how difficult it was to decide what what appropriate regarding faith in the workplace. 

4.  Last week was Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I had wanted to write a post about it, but never really got around to it.  A while back, I wrote about how my husband and I decided to stop using NFP to postpone pregnancy and how we aren't planning to use it after the baby's born (not unless or until we have a serious reason to postpone pregnancy in the future), but it seems that some people misinterpreted my post as meaning that I am anti-NFP.  Preposterous!  I think NFP is a wonderful gift when used for the right reasons.  Anyway, I was really hoping to write a post to clarify my position and to extoll the truly wonderful things about NFP, but alas, it wasn't to happen.  Maybe next year.

5.  For all you crafty folk out there (or wanna-be craftsters like me), here's a link for you:

6.  I suddenly love Craig's List!  I've only ever used it to sell or buy big ticket items before (couches, washer/dryer, etc), but I randomly started looking through the baby/kids section the other day and I found someone selling brand new organic prefold diapers still in the packaging...and the exact same brand that I had planned to use.  My husband drove me to her house after work (you still have to be super cautious... someone claiming to sell organic cloth diapers could really be a murderer) and I ended up saving over $30 on three dozen.  I'm sure finds like that don't happen all the time, but it made me a true Craig's List believer.

7.  Cloth diapering mamas, don't forget to enter this week's Thirsties Thursday Giveaway:

And, as always, don't forget to visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pregnancy as a Disease

I wrote the previous post about what I love about being pregnant before I read about the new Department of Health and Human Services mandate that all insurances cover contraception and morning after pills as "preventative health services".  Apparently that post was even more needed than I thought... Or maybe I'm just a crazy uneducated woman who is writing what I love about my "disease"?  Why is contraception preventative?  What are we preventing?  Pregnancy is now a disease, something that needs to be prevented? I find this kind of ironic after seeing on the home page of the HHS website a promotion of World Breastfeeding Week.  Before birth, babies are a disease to be prevented, but their health suddenly becomes a main concern as soon as they are born?  I just can't wrap my mind around that logic.  

Perhaps Cardinal DiNardi says it best when he stated “HHS says the intent of its ‘preventive services’ mandate is to help ‘stop health problems before they start. But pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a ‘health problem’ – they are the next generation of Americans.”  I encourage you to read the rest of the USCCB press release: HHS Mandate for Contraceptive and Abortifacient Drugs Violates Conscience Rights.

Great.  As if pregnancy isn't already treated as a disease to be treated and managed [instead of the natural (beautiful?) process that it really is] by the medical community1, now our government is jumping on board.  

1 For just a little taste of this pervading attitude, look at this article in USA Today about the increase in Cesarean rates in the US.  Although I don't want to go into detail about my thoughts on this (at least not right now), I want to state that I do believe that some Cesareans and other medical interventions are medically necessary to preserve the health and safety of mother and baby, but as the article states, some of the reasons for c-sections are dubious at best (convenience in delivery timing, fear of malpractice).

Monday, August 1, 2011

What I Love about Being Pregnant

For many women, pregnancy is a joyous time.  It certainly has been for me.  Yet, a large percentage of what I read in pregnancy books and online and much of what I’ve heard from pregnant women over the years are complaints about pregnancy.  Obviously, there are many uncomfortable elements of pregnancy and I too have had my own complaints.  In general, I think it’s often easier to complain (especially to join in on complaining) than to discuss the blessings in our lives.  Yet I think it is essential that if we want to promote a pro-life culture, we must portray the process of giving life in a positive light too.  So I came up with a short list of some of the things I’ve loved about being pregnant so far.
1.  I get to be intimately involved in the creation and nourishment of a life.  While praying before Mass yesterday, I was struck with an overwhelming desire to give thanks to the Lord for allowing me to be part of His creative, life-giving process.  Although many women the world over get to experience the growth of a new life within them, that doesn’t make the process any more miraculous.  If you have been pregnant or had a child before, you have probably felt something like overwhelming awe when you think about how your body is growing this little being inside of you.  It’s really hard to wrap your mind around!  I feel that my words are not adequately expressing the emotions I feel, perhaps there are other people who can explain it better? 
2.  I feel a peace with my body (and my beauty).  Much of my life, I have concentrated on how my body looks and often I fall short of the high expectations I have for myself.  During the pregnancy, I’ve started to think more about what my body can do and am continuously amazed by how it exceeds my expectations!  The body that I was constantly disappointed in has proven that it was made to be great after all.  Why did I ever care that my hips are a little too wide?  They are the hips that are going to birth my baby.  Who cares if my stomach was never as flat as I wanted them to be?  That same stomach cradles and nurtures my child.  My body is working exactly how it was made to and it has nothing to do with how it looks!
On that same note, I feel very beautiful and feminine as a pregnant woman.  Do I really look all that beautiful and feminine?  Probably not – some days I’m bloated, my skin has broken out, need I go on?  But for some reason, I still feel beautiful.  And my husband seems to think so too – I don’t think I’ve ever gotten as many compliments from him about my looks as I do now!
3.  I have to take care of myself.  Not only do I realize that it is very important that I take care of myself for the baby inside, but physically, my body seems to demand that I take care of it.  When I get sleepy (which is so often!), it seems like I can’t do anything but take a nap.  When I am hungry, I have to eat.  And I seem to be much more sensitive to what I eat – when I eat junk food, I feel terrible; when I eat fresh, home cooked meals and lots of vegetable, I feel amazing.  When I’ve been sitting around too much (read: spending too much time in front of the computer screen), I get really restless until I get off my bum and get active.  I’m probably much healthier pregnant than I was before I got pregnant!
4.  I can focus on my priorities.  This isn’t just physical – pregnancy has forced me to take care of myself mentally and spiritually as well.  Pregnancy (and the ensuing baby) is bringing so much change into my life, my home, and my relationships with my husband, my family, and my friends that it is forcing me to slow down, analyze my life, and reorder my priorities.  I feel much clearer about what is essential and what can be cut, and that has resulted in a lot of stress being lifted.  I no longer feel that I have to meet certain priorities and expectations, because if they ultimately do not serve to benefit my family, they no longer meet the standard for “priorities” or “expectations” in my life. 
5.  I love watching those around me (especially my husband) change and grow in expectation of the baby.  It is incredible watching my husband fall in love with his little son or daughter before he/she is even born.  The love between to two of us has grown as we experience the pregnancy together.  How could I not fall even more in love with my husband when I see the wonder and delight on his face when he heard our baby’s heartbeat, felt him/her kick for the first time, or when he leans down to kiss my belly?  I know that the extra expense of a child puts a lot of pressure on him as the main provider, but he never complains and has been more than happy to give up luxuries (like cable!) so that we can save money for the baby. 
It’s also been exciting to see my parents excited to become grandparents.  But even more fun is seeing my little brother (who is 19 and generally still very much into himself as teenagers often are) so excited to be an uncle!  I never imagined him giving me baby name suggestions, but he is really into being a present uncle for our little one.  Who would have known?

6. THE BABY.  Of course, there is a baby at the end of this pregnancy, and that's what makes all the discomforts of pregnancy worth it.  I don't think I need to go into details here about why the baby is a blessing and something I love about pregnancy, because it's the whole reason for the pregnancy in the first place and none of these great things about pregnancy would be possible without the little one.

I’m sure I’m missing some things here, but these are my big ones.  What have you loved about being pregnant?