Saturday, June 30, 2012

Going Home (and How that Changes Everything)

In a little over a week, I will be moving “home”.  Not just to the state I grew up, but back into the very same house where I was raised.  Although many of my childhood friends scattered throughout the country following our high school graduation, they too have begun their migration home to the point that only my best friend is still living more than an hour away from where we went to school together.  I am excited to once again be able to spend time with the women who defined my childhood and teenage years, with whom I’ve created incalculable memories with, and who have contributed to shaping the woman I’ve become.  Yet, just below that excitement is another feeling: uncertainty.

You see, of all  the friends I’m still in contact with from my hometown, only one is married and a practicing Christian.  None have children.  I don’t believe that a friendship requires both people to be in the same exact stage in life or to have the same lifestyle and beliefs, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have more in common than memories. 

It’s been fairly easy to maintain regular contact with my friends while I’ve been away.  While I can’t say we’ve talked weekly or even monthly, we’ve managed to remember birthdays, keep up with each other’s big occasions through social networking, and talk on the phone several years.  Most of my friends I’ve had the joy of seeing at least once every year or two, usually at the holidays when we’ve gone home to visit family.  With distance, our friendships have been easy to maintain.  We spend the time we have together catching up since the last time.  It doesn’t seem to matter that our lives are vastly different because these differences don’t affect each other. 

Once we are living in the same town, our vastly different lifestyles will be apparent.  I worry how these will affect my friendships. 

When talking on the phone with my friends, I’m happy to listen to their stories of celebrating their birthdays will all-night bar crawls.  But when I live a few miles away, will they understand that I can’t join them?  That I would love to meet to celebrate their birthday with dinner but my priority is to be home early to put my little one to sleep?

Will they understand that the activities we do together will be limited to free activities - dinners at home, a free concert in the park, a trip to the museum on the one free (and super busy) day a month?  That even when my husband gets a job, money will be tight for us so I can stay at home and we can welcome as many children with which God blesses us?

What will we talk about if we no longer need to spend the time together catching up on the last several months?  My day to day experiences as a wife and mother are quite different than theirs as career women in the dating scene.  I don’t belittle their lifestyle and I don’t mind hearing about it; I worry more about being that woman who just talks about how cute is her baby and how wonderful her husband.

Then there is the issue of faith.  It doesn’t come up much in short visits and over the phone, but it is a huge part of my everyday life.  How will faith differences affect my friendships?  I never try to push my faith on those around me, but I won’t hide it either, and I can imagine it making some of my friends uncomfortable.

Will my friends be hurt when I seek out new friends who share faith and family aspects of my life?  I would never suggest that anyone drop friends because they don’t share one’s belief or lifestyle (after all, I serve my friends by being an example of Christian love to them).  However, I also can’t ignore my need for friends that challenge me spiritually, speak up when they see sin in my life, and support me in the journey toward heaven.  I also need other moms to discuss the difficulties (and joys) of motherhood.  But will my old friends realize they are not being replaced?  Will I be able to balance family life with old and new friendships?  

Tell me a time in your life when your relationship with friends shifted.  What events brought on these changes?  How do you balance old and new friendships?  How have you met new friends?  How important is shared faith and lifestyles to your friendships?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: The Founders' Key by Larry P. Arnn

In The Founders’ Key, Larry P. Arnn reinforces the connections and continuity between the two quintessential American documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The book is a response to progressives who Arnn claims hold up the Declaration as justification for circumventing the Constitution either through purposeful misinterpretation of the documents or naïveté of their origins.

The Founders’ Key is not only a great book for strengthening one’s knowledge of the connection between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, it is also a great source for increasing an understanding of the individual documents and the Founding Fathers’ objectives.  As an aspiring history teacher, I appreciated the numerous sources Arnn weaves together to create his argument.  These included the personal correspondence of the Founding Fathers, the contemporary state constitutions, and the documents themselves.  One of the assets of this book is the inclusion of documents important to the book, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and several of the Federalist Papers.  When questions arose about these documents while I read, it was useful to have the full texts at hand for quick reference.

Another strength of his argument is the various angles Arnn takes to connect the two documents.  He uses philosophy and history to argue that the Founding Fathers wrote both the documents based on unchanging truths or “laws of nature”.  He deconstructs and directly compares pieces of the two main documents in question.  Additionally, Arnn makes connections between the two documents by comparing them to other contemporary writings, both public and private, of the documents’ authors.  Finally, and most importantly, there is a solid explanation of why the link between the Declaration and the Constitution matter.

Although overall I found the book to be interesting and well-written, there were a few areas in which I found the book lacking.  As someone who is not acquainted with some of the basics of philosophy, the philosophical arguments that Arnn employs were difficult to follow and involved frequent rereading to clarify.  I also found many points repeated a bit too often throughout the book.  Perhaps the most notable weakness is the book’s underlying tone which seems to scoff at those who attempt to separate the two documents.  It seems to have been written only for those who already agree with Arnn’s argument.  Because of this, The Founders’ Key is unable to change the perception of those who read it unless they are able to get through the author’s disparaging tone.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

PetiteBox Review

One of the most unique trends I’ve seen in baby products (and in other areas, especially beauty products) is the “monthly box”.  You subscribe to a service and receive a box monthly of baby items that are specifically tailored to your baby’s age, some are full-sized items and others are samples.  It’s a wonderful way to try out new baby products, especially more unique items that you would not have heard of on your own or that you would not normally have splurged on.  These make great baby gifts, especially coming from a group of people.  The average price for one of these monthly boxes is $25, which is the price I would normally spend for a baby shower gift; when combined with several other people, you could purchase a three-month, six-month or even year subscription for the new mom.  I was given the opportunity to try out a monthly box from petiteBox, one of the newcomers on this scene. 

adorable petiteBox box
The first thing I noticed when I received my petiteBox is the adorable box it came in.  It is not merely a cardboard box to be thrown away, it is a nice, sturdy, adorable box with ribbon closure that can be repurposed for a variety of uses.  Right now, the box we received is serving as a keepsake box for Lucia, holding the cards she received for her first Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter, her baptism keepsakes, and more. 

Upon opening the box, I was impressed by the number of items it inside.  Included is a product care with a brief description of each product included, as well as the retail price for a full-sized item.  Some of the items were in fact the full-sized item, while others were sample or travel sizes.  Here is a list of all the items I received, the prices for a full-sized version, and my (or my daughter’s) reactions to them:

mOmma teether (full-sized product) $5.99 I was very pleased to see a teether inside the box.  I received the “four month old” box, and the inclusion of the teether ensured me that the boxes were in fact put together with age in mind.  Lucia loves this teether and although we have others, this one seems to be one of her favorites, perhaps because of the ease in which she can hold and maneuver it.
a look inside a petiteBox

Petites Frittes reversible bib (full-sized product) $12.00 This bib is certainly a luxury bib - soft, classic, and made with baby-friendly dyes.  This is a product I would expect to see in a box like this - something that I wouldn’t normally purchase, but would love to have.

Angel Dear Blankie (full-sized product) $13.00 Lucia already has an Angel Dear elephant blankie that she adores, so by seeing this included in the box, I felt like it was chosen by someone with a lot of experience with babies.  In fact, Lucia received hers from a “baby expert”, David’s uncle who has three little girls until four.  Truly classic, this owl blankie is perfect for any baby!

Earth Friendly Baby Bubble Bath (full-sized product) $9.95 Once again, I was pleased with an item because, like the teether, it fulfilled a real need I had.  I’ve taken several baths with Lucia since she was born but didn’t feel comfortable using any of my bubble baths or oils with her.   I never even thought to look for baby friendly bubble bath until this box came!

2 Weleda Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion (sample size .34 fl oz) $19.00/2.5 fl oz. I love that the box includes mom products, because we all know that new moms don’t usually take the time to care for their needs. 

Dr. Hauschka Lavender Bath (sample size .34 fl oz) price unknown (not included on product card)  I’ve enjoyed using a few drops of this in the bath tub (when not taking a bath with Lucia) and again, it’s a nice reminder for mom to relax and care for herself in the midst of caring for baby.

There were two products listed on my product card that I did not receive: (sample-sized) Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Cream and Weleda Iris Hydrating Day Cream.  In addition, I was supposed to receive a set of articles that were pertinent to a mother with a four month old, however, these were not in the box.  I contacted the company and they explained that on the occasion they are out of stock of certain products, they substitute other products of the same or higher value.  I had received an additional Weleda Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion and the Dr. Hauschka Lavender Bath in place of those items.  They also assured me that the missing articles was simply a mistake and offered to send me the ones I missed as well as the next month’s box to make up for the issues I experienced.  I was happy with how customer service dealt with my complaints and felt they went above and beyond what was required.  I didn’t mind getting substitute items, although I would have preferred to get another different item instead of two of the same, I simply thought there should have been an explanation included as to why that happened and perhaps an explanation of the substitute item similar to what would have been on the product card.  The second box I received had all the listed products included and contained similar high quality products.

As you can see by the prices, the box was well worth the $25 monthly price tag in just the full-sized products alone.  Overall, I am quite pleased with petiteBox and would recommend them to anyone looking for a baby shower gift or to a new mom looking for ways to find and try unique, high-quality baby items. I was worried that I would receive items that I wouldn’t apply to us, however, I’ve felt while all the items may not be necessities, they have all been useful.

equally high-quality items in the 2nd petiteBox I received

I received two boxes from petiteBox to facilitate this review.  All opinions are 100% mine.  Please see Disclosure Policy.

Guest Post at Reflections of a Catholic in Formation: You Are Beautiful

Christina of Reflections of a Catholic in Formation is putting on a wonderful blog series this month entitled "You are Beautiful".  Each day of the month, a different blogger guests posts with their thoughts on the theme.  My post is up today, in which I throw out a few of my thoughts (and worries) about raising my daughter in a society that views beauty as a commodity:

During my sophomore year in college, I worked in a Mexican restaurant.  Many of the staff were middle aged Mexican women who had immigrated to the United States with their families.  They had difficult lives and because of this were deeply knowledgeable about the ways of the world.  When the restaurant was slow, I enjoyed practicing my Spanish and getting to know them.  Once, I expressed to several of them my desire to get married and have a large family.  One of the women responded that she would pray that I would have many children and that they would all be boys...continue reading at Reflection of a Catholic in Formation

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Broken: "It happens, and it happened to me, for some reason, before I could even drive."

People in damaging relationships often feel a sense of obligation, a fear of what would happen to their significant other if they left.  This is what happened to me and to the author of this piece.  I'm not yet ready to tell my story, but she is and I'm so grateful for her witness.


Don’t listen to me because you think I have everything together and know exactly what I’m doing.

Don’t listen to me because I know all about relationships or understand how boys’ brains work, or because __.

Listen to me, if you want to, because I’ve been where you’ve been and I’ve felt what you’ve felt, and I’ve made the same mistakes and had the same “that-was-stupid” moments. But now, I recognize it. I’ve been down and I’ve been up and I want to, if I can, help you up. Help you get up, help you stay up, whatever you need at wherever you are.

When I was in high school, I dated a boy and we broke up, like fourteen-year-olds do. A lot. Somehow, for some reason that I don't know and don't want to, really, know or understand, about a year after we broke up he became obsessive, emotionally abusive, manipulative, and volatile.  For a while, it messed with my head a lot. I didn't want to be loved, because he'd twisted "love" into this sick and twisted control game; I didn't want to love because he would tell me that the fact I didn't love him made him want to die, and I figured if I loved someone else it would probably happen. I lived with a constant fear that he'd kill himself and it would be "my fault." Everything turned into emotional blackmail. He sat behind me in chemistry and I would find love notes hidden in the inner pockets of my backpack. He would text me, all the time. I had to answer- if I didn’t, I was afraid of what would happen. He would pass me notes in class about how he couldn’t live without me, how if I would just love him he would: want to live again, stop dating middle school girls, not need to do drugs.

I was just scared. I was scared for him, I was scared I didn’t know how to deal with the situation (newsflash: I didn’t), I was afraid that I would do something to set him off, and that he would hurt himself. I wrote a little post-it note that if anything ever happened to me, if I went missing or something, to question him. I didn’t really think he’d do anything to me- I was just terrified he would to himself- but I knew that if anyone in the world did, it would be him. I used to say to myself that I wished he would just hit me, really, just hit me or something that people would be able to see, that would give me a reason to not have to be around him and be afraid of him.

I was fifteen years old and, looking back, a face of abuse. You never would have known it to look at me, but that what was it was, plain and simple. 

About 1 in 3 women has been the victim of emotional or psychological abuse. Think of all the women you know- think of how many that is. But it’s silent. Now, after having opened up and being able to talk to people about it, I realize that I’m not the only one. When I was fifteen years old, though, I had no idea what to do or say or where to turn. I felt completely alone. The whole time, no one would ever have been able to guess: when we’re emotionally abused, especially as women, we mask it. Only a very few girl friends knew what was going on, and barely any of them knew the full extent of the problem. I only cried twice, and no one ever saw it. I looked normal, I was normal, and I kept saying to myself: “I’m too normal for this, how can this be happening to me?” Abuse doesn’t care if you’re “normal”- abusers don’t discriminate. It happens, and it happened to me, for some reason, before I could even drive or buy a scratch ticket.

I took all the right steps and did all the right things that my doctor parents had drilled into my head: I told him to get help, I talked to the school counselor, I had a list of hotline numbers in case he ever called me with plans. Even with all that, though, he wouldn’t stop contacting me. I knew I was doing everything I could, but I was still afraid. I couldn’t lose the sense that I was somehow responsible, because “he loved me so much.”

On May 16th of sophomore year, he had a hospital bracelet on and I asked- well texted,  part of this headgame was that he couldn't look at me or hear my voice, because "it hurt"- him what it was from, because I was scared, honestly. He said that the night before, he had tried to hang himself.

I left the classroom, punched the wall in the hallway and chipped a tile, and went back and played flute for 40 minutes with a throbbing hand. When I went home I closed the door to my room and screamed my lungs out into a beanbag chair so that no one could hear me. I went into my closet and punched things, absolutely annihilating my walls, only the thick layers of clothes I was hitting into saving the walls- and my knuckles- from cracking and breaking. I was more concerned, really, about the walls. If they were broken I’d have to explain, and if I had to explain I’d have to tell my parents what had happened. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to have to admit that I was a victim, that there were things outside my control, that it had hurt me. I had been terrified the entire time that I would make him hurt himself, that I had that kind of control over him. In a twisted reversal, I didn’t want to admit that the situation I was in had controlled me, that I was hurt.
During my junior year, I tried to not be effected by what had happened. For a while, it seemed doable, not necessarily easy, but possible. And it was. I only had one class with him, but he never looked at me. I started dating a friend of mine, but after about two months I broke up with him because he liked me more than I liked him. Maybe we weren’t a perfect match, but I really did it because I was afraid that he liked me “too much”. I was afraid that if I let someone love or even like me I would end up in the same situation I had before.
I made the decision, consciously, that a lot of people just slip into by accident. I took love out of the equation, and said- on purpose- I do not want to feel. I do not want to think. I don’t want to be needed. Want me, don’t need me. People slide into this a lot; we let a series of small wounds build up and gradually numb ourselves, until one day we realize that we’ve cut ourselves off to feeling and to real, authentic love. I did it all of a sudden and on purpose, our of fear of losing control.

If what had happened to me was love, I said, I’m done. I’m out. Screw that- I didn’t want to risk hurting anyone by having anyone care too much. I decided it was better not to be cared about at all- I turned scared into scarred, really. 
May of my junior year, a year after the abuse exploded, I sat myself down and said “I am not thinking about this. I’m not dealing with this. I’m not remembering. I’m not letting this ruin my prom. I will not think.” 

Thinking is good. It’s quite important, actually, and now I always make a point to do it. Then, I made a point not to, and had an idiotic three weeks. The thing is, it was a cry for help, but the things I did didn’t seem that abnormal to the people around me in our hookup-happy group; I was the only one who could help myself.
There’s no good name for a period where you’ve actively made a decision not to think. To rephrase that, there is, but nothing I could say in a church. The most appropriate way I can put it is that it was a shit-stupid decision.
On May 8th, after my junior prom, I sat in my friend’s basement as one of two sober people in a party of over thirty and felt eyes on the back of my head every time I spoke to a boy and knew I was being watched.

And I said screw it. I need to not care. Not feel. So the next time the drunk boy I was feeding water to aimed his lips at my face instead of the Acadia bottle I just went with it. Screw it, I would show everyone I was over all that other boy drama. And that’s how I ended up making out with my friend’s date, who I barely knew, on the floor of her basement after junior prom.

The next weekend was a year to the day- May 16th- and I went out with the intention of turning my brain off. I had planned on staying in after that disastrous afterprom, but I got a call that my friend Jake was having a party and I didn’t want to sit at home and be afraid I’d get a horrible text or phone call. I didn’t want to have to think enough to let myself admit I was terrified something would happen again, and after I got there and turned my brain off I didn’t care when the shirtless drunk boy I had never met pulled me into his lap and started kissing me. Whatever. The next morning, when he friended me on Facebook I was surprised that he remembered my last name. I heard a ping and my chat window opened... He wanted to know “how far I would have gone if we were alone”, “just out of curiosity.” I was offended- what would have given him that impression of me? I wouldn’t have, I informed him. I’m not having sex 'til I get married, actually, I said. I don’t think he replied. I sat there wondering if everything I said was true, why then, did I have to be surprised this boy I’d kissed, or let kiss me, knew my last name?

After that, I swore up and down I wouldn’t hook up with anyone the next weekend. When a boy I had known since kindergarten trapped me on the couch and wouldn’t let go of me until I kissed him (literally), I fought him. By that, I mean that he had his arms wrapped around me and I was trying to get away from him, to the point of grabbing my friends as they walked by and begging them to physically remove his arms from my body and walk me away. They laughed it off and thought it was funny- some friends, right? I ended up giving up and just making out with him so he would let me get up and leave. 

Looking back on it now, I can see that my fear of losing control of emotions and getting hurt made me put myself in situations completely out of my control, where I could have really been hurt- and I wonder how I could have been so stupid. 
I ended up dating the guy who had held me captive on the couch until I kissed him, in a large part because I didn’t want to have three random “d’oh” hookups in a row. Two and a pointless relationship seemed like a much better option. Maybe my motives for dating him weren’t the best, but I do credit him with helping me discover that I wasn’t going for the right kind of guys at all. I was just dating jerks. It wasn’t a horrible relationship or anything like that- he was funny, and we’d always enjoyed having fun, not-very-constructive debates about everything- but it just wasn’t really a relationship, it was basically just an extended hookup with him trying to get me to go further and me saying “no”. I was terrified of hurting someone if they started to love me, and you can’t hurt someone who’s being a jerk, because they don’t care. I had shut myself down from caring, so I didn’t really care if someone else did. 
About a month and a half after we started dating, I went to his house late one night after I had just got back from a Steubenville youth conference, a giant, weekend-long teen retreat. I just went by to pick up my forgotten iPod, but when I got there he was having a party so I decided to stay for a while. Everyone else was partying, and I was sitting on the couch with him trying to explain the conference and the amazing faith experience that it is for me every year. He said I sounded brainwashed. I said I had to go, and he tried to kiss me goodbye- I just left.

I drove home from his house, yelling the whole way, finally saying the “screw it” I needed to- screw it to all that ridiculousness, to jerky guys and not caring. I made a list, yelling it out my window and listening to Tenth Avenue North: what had I been doing? “I want a MAN. I want a man, not a boy. I want a man to respect me, to cherish me, to value me and listen to me. I want to be LOVED, not wanted, to be adored and looked at as a pearl of great price. I want honesty and respect and sharing, I want to give my heart and get a heart in return and I want a good, holy, and loving man. I want love, respect, dignity and honor!” All of this, just to remind you, was yelled out the windows of my car while I was driving, windows down, music blaring, the five miles home from his house to mine.

The next night, I called him and dumped him. I would say “broke up”, because it sounds classier, but I really just dumped him. I explained my reasoning, let him say what he wanted, and boom. Just like that, I was single- and glad.

During senior year of high school, I took the time and made the choice to be single. To not date, not make out with some boy at some party, nothing. You can’t know who you are and what you need in relationships with friends, with boys, with anyone, until you take the time to figure that out by yourself. I knew who I was, or at least who I wanted to be. I’m damn stubborn, and I hadn’t ever let anyone change that. I was grounded in my faith- without it, I don’t know how I would have ever got through my sophomore year- and I knew what I should be doing. To the outside, it looked like I never changed. I just had to make who I was inside match who I looked like; I could give my friends advice, I knew all of the theory about respect and love and how women should be treated, and I was someone people came to about it- but no one had any idea of all the stuff I had built up and refused to deal with. Lesson, I guess, to learn from this: you never know who’s hiding some invisible wound. No one ever would have known it, but then, I was.

So, I took the time to rise above the time-wasting I’d been doing and just live for myself, and I learned a lot.

Ask yourself:
Do I want to be with him, or do I just want to be with somebody? Put the space in there: some body. 

When you date someone just to be dating or hook up with someone just to hook up with someone, you reduce him, and yourself, to less than what you are. Some body.
Don’t give yourself away! I didn’t want to matter, to believe I could have any emotional effect on people-I tried to prove that to myself by just kissing anyone who wouldn’t care. I deserve someone who will care, who will know that my kisses have value.

Don’t reduce yourself to something you aren’t. Don’t let a boy, a failure, a bad self-image, a family situation, anything, prevent you from seeing yourself as you are: whole, beautiful, and a daughter of God. You’re not the sum of your mistakes or the things that have been done to you, but the product of all the small moments that we almost forget. You’re the way the sun hits your face when you sit at your favorite thinking spot, the time your little brother said you’re not thaaat bad, the love God had for you on your birthday, and your first communion day, and every day.

Ladies: Why do we tell our history, so often, in boys? That is not the point. That is not the crux and focus of our lives. 
When you read the story of that year of two of my life, told in boy, it sounds terrifying. And broken, and disturbed. And yes, in some ways, it was. Now that I can look back on it calmly, I realize more and more how unsafe it really was. But it wasn’t my entire life- we can’t let ourselves be the sum of our lowest moments!

The summer after my sophomore year, I went to Guatemala for the first time and fell in love with the possibility for growth and change I saw there. This summer, I lived there on my own for a month and worked at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

As a junior, I saw a retreat that we had started with thirty people my freshman year grow to over one hundred.

I won a poetry contest, I taught first-grade CCD, I had baby cousins born and went to BabyGap with my mom, I learned to drive, and caught some fish with my dad, and watched my brothers play some hockey.

You know what I did after my senior prom? Stayed up all night at my friend’s afterparty and walked to seven am daily mass after watching the sunrise. My math teacher was extra-surprised to see me that day, that I can say with certainty- he actually did a double-take from the ambo.

These are the moments that shape us, these are the moments that define us, these are the moments we need to tell our lives in. This is why we need to take the time to know ourselves, to love ourselves, and to define ourselves before we can let another know, love, or try to define us. Don’t let men tell you who you are, find yourself in God and let Him tell you who you are. Give up control- even though it’s scary, let yourself open up and be vulnerable- and let God write your love stories.

Someone reading this has been hurt, someone reading this has been abused, someone reading this feels broken. When you are sitting searching for any little bit of strength within your self, and looking at all the pain you have wondering how you can ever draw strength from it, reach out to God. He will not fail you, He will not ignore you. He will show you the strength He has given you, and help you and heal you. God gives you the strength to get through, if you only reach out to Him. You can do all things through God- you are His princess, and He will sustain you and bless you. You are stronger because of Him.

The author is a junior studying in Washington, DC, who prefers to leave her name off of her submission just because she still has relatives at the high school she attended. (But, let's face it, the likelihood of students at the high school hanging out in the Catholic blogosphere are... slim.) She's from a small, one-of-a-kind town near Boston, MA, so she's a Boston sports fan and Boston Bruins fanatic, which happens when you have no sisters, and she spent part of a summer working in the only Guatemalan domestic violence shelter, and will never forget the women and girls who lived there.  And by now, anyone reading this bio would know who I am so... Hi, I'm Patty. An estimated 1 in 3 women will be the victim of some kind of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse in her lifetime, and no one here has anything to be ashamed of.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Burned Out

I’ve been stressing about the blog a lot lately.  I’ve really been wanting to do great things with this blog.  When I first started it the purpose was to connect with other young Catholic women, and in that respect, it’s been a great success.  I’ve made two “real life” friends here in Raleigh because of it, several other blogging friends that I’ve come to cherish just as much as the friends I’ve met in person, and I belong to a great group of faithful women, #CathSorority. 

But in the past six months or so, I was hoping this blog would do great things: a) help other women, and b) be a vehicle to something bigger and better for myself.  I think the blog series (On Marrying Young, Baby on a Budget, and Broken) I’ve started have been the most helpful, but in truth, the credit for those goes to all the contributors that have written for them. 

When I mean I wanted this blog to propel me to bigger and better things, I don’t mean that this blog is not worth my time or that it is simply a means to an end.  But I do have dreams of being able to (help) support my family through writing and through Catholic outreach and I hoped that this would help me find a place in those arenas.  But despite all the time and energy I put into it, I’m still a very tiny blogger in a very large internet and I feel that if I would want to really gain readership and “fame”, I would need to specialize with a niche blog and sacrifice even more time and energy.

And I’m just not willing to do that right now.

I have a six month old daughter that needs mommy’s time and attention.  I don’t want to spend my time staring at a computer screen instead of watching her grow up.  So, I’m going to be contented with this blog where it is, where it’s brought me thus far, and the people it’s allowed me to meet.  Maybe someday in the future I’ll expand it.  Maybe someday, I’ll start pursuing my dreams of writing again.  Maybe. 

Or maybe not.  I hope you will stay with me in the meantime.

I know that I’m not the first blogger to feel this way.  I’ve read similar posts in several other blogs I follow.  And I’ll admit, I just didn’t get it then.  I didn’t understand how people could feel that blogging was getting in the way of their family or pursuing their real life hobbies and interests.  But now I know.  I feel like all bloggers have to get to that point on their own, step back, reevaluate their priorities and goals, and move forward.  We all seem to live our lives in seasons, some that seem to be brimming with productivity and energy, others in which we can barely hang on.  Right now, I'm feeling more like the latter.  I have a feeling this won’t be the first time I'll feel this way, I’m sure at some point in the future, I will find myself being sucked back into my blog again, my hours disappearing in front of a computer screen, the envy boiling up in me as I follow craft bloggers with beautiful images, fashion bloggers who looks so put together, mom bloggers with their amazing parenting ideas, or Catholic bloggers who are so pious, holy, and theological.  But hopefully, I'll be able to recognize these feelings early on next time and redirect my thoughts from envy to gratitude.  Gratitude for my own blessings and God given gifts, and prayers that I am able to discover what they are and use them to the best of my ability.

How do you balance all the aspects of your life?  How do you make time for your hobbies?  What is the first to go when you are feeling overwhelmed?  What prayers and Saints do you find aid you in setting priorities?

What are your God given gifts? How did you discover them?  How to you enhance and nourish them?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fashion to Figure Review

Bow Peep Tank Top, looks perfect tucked in
After Lucia was born, I had a major fashion problem.  After the first few weeks, my maternity clothes were too big (thank goodness!) but I was far from fitting in my pre-pregnancy clothing.  In fact, last week was the first time I was able to fit into a pair of my old pants (and even now, I only fit into that one pair).  Many of my shirts continue to be too small because as a nursing mother, I am quite a bit larger in the chest.  So I was searching for beautiful, flattering clothing in larger sizes and was very upset to realize that many items in large sizes either were not very cute or were simply made as a bigger versions of clothes made for smaller women, so the proportions just weren't right.  I'm sure some of you ladies who wear larger sizes are much more familiar with this problem, but this is the first time I came across this issue and I was quite shocked!

a little long
I was given the opportunity by Fashion to Figure to try out one of their clothing items.  I chose the Bow Peep Tank Top because it's adorable, perfect for the hot summer, and I could nurse in it.  I really love this shirt and have received several compliments on it.  It has a really unique overlapping fabric design that doesn't quite come through in the pictures, but that I was very pleased with.  I struggled a bit to find a tank top to go underneath it as I didn't notice when I ordered it just how shear it truly is.  One of my favorite aspects of this tank is that is can easily be a cute top for the day or dress up for a date night out.  As far as sizing goes, it fit me very well width wise, however, it was very long.  I'm used to shirts being long for me since I am only 5'2" and wear petite sizes when available; however, from the lengths of this shirt, I would think that it would seem a bit long even on an average height of 5'5" of 5'6".  Since it was so long on me, I tucked it in while wearing it and really liked how that looked.  I was also pleased with the quality of the item.  At a price of only $26, I was wary that it would look and feel cheap.  While I wouldn't say it is of the highest quality, it certainly is of quality surpassing what I would expect for the price and makes the item a great value.  I anticipate it lasting me for quite a while and becoming a wardrobe staple.

Fashion to Figure is an online retailer whose tag line in "bringing fashion to figures 12-26".  Their clothing is truly trendy (I've seen many styles similar to the Bow Peep Tank Top on Pinterest, my go-to fashion source!).  Since their clothes caters to the plus sizes, they are made to be flattering for curvy women, not simply a larger version of "regular" sizes.  I especially love their jeans, they look so flattering on the models, I can only imagine that they would look great on me too!  They also have cute, stylish accessories for women of all sizes.  What is your favorite item from Fashion to Figure? 

I received a Bow Peep Tank Top to facilitate this review.  All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 62)

--- 1 ---

Did you see our big news? We are moving back to Colorado (and in with my parents).  We’ve been worrying about what to be doing about our future for a while now, but now that we’ve made the decision, wrong or right, I’m glad to be moving forward.  Lucia and I will be flying out in less than three weeks and David will be out a few days later with our belongings in a moving trailer.  My brother is flying out to help us pack up and drive my car out while David drives his truck and trailer.  We are so grateful for the help and I think the brotherly bonding will be good for both of them.

--- 2 ---

There was a new Broken post earlier this week entitled “Finding Love in the Midst of the Ruins”.  I’ve received great feedback about this blog series, but all the credit goes to the courageous women who have shared their stories.  If you have a story to share or advice to give, I would love for you to contribute.  Also, I would appreciate if you would share this series with others since the purpose is to reach out to women in past and present damaging relationships and to prevent future ones.

--- 3 ---

David and Lucia have a game they play together that David likes to call “Bath Salts Zombie”.  The name is perhaps a little irreverent as there are real victims who have been attacked by people under the influence of bath salts; however, I do have to give David some credit for incorporating current events into a game with our infant.  This is how the game goes: Lucia gets really wild and attacks daddy’s face, biting his nose and grabbing his cheeks.  David of course, screams and pretends to be scared (although I’m sure it’s not that far from the truth with her razor shark nails and two killer sharp bottom teeth) and Lucia gets even more wild and vicious.  It’s really cute and so funny that she only gets so wild and crazy with daddy.  I love to see the two of them together.  David is a fabulous dad!

--- 4 ---

On a more serious note, have you seen the reports of the crazy things people have done while taking bath salts?  It’s seriously disturbing.  Like the man who ate the face of a homeless person?  Or the mom who attacked her two-year-old child (then ran around naked)?  Disgusting.  I had been hearing a lot about bath salts in the news recently but realized I didn't know much about it, so I looked up some of the effects of this relatively new drug and they are scary (you can read about the effects of bath salts here).

--- 5 ---

From time to time, I’ve shared some of the ways I make money (or gift cards) online.  I’ve come across yet another way to make a little bit, so I thought I would share.  Nielsen Home Scan Consumer Panel is a program where you earn points in return for scanning your grocery items.  You can then exchange your points for rewards items, which range from baby clothing to a coffee maker to martini glasses.  You receive a barcode scanner in the mail and then scan the barcodes of all your purchases and transmit them over the internet every week.  I know this isn’t for everyone, but it only takes me a few extra minutes to scan all my purchases when I get home from the grocery store as I put the items away, and then another few minutes to transmit weekly.  The points don’t add up very quickly, however, there are always promotions going on, for example, I recently earned a $15 American Express gift card just for remembering to transmit my purchases at least once a week for a month.  I received my scanner in December and have been very happy with the program.  There is often a waiting list to receive your scanner (it depends on the region you live in), so sign up now if you are interested.  It took me about 4 months to receive mine.

--- 6 ---

Yesterday, David and I went on our first date since Lucia was born.  I was really nervous beforehand, but not about leaving Lucia like one might think.  I was nervous about going on a date again.  What if we didn’t have anything to talk about not related to the baby?  Would he still think I’m pretty?  We went to see “The Hunger Games” and then to dinner at a little Italian restaurant.  It was wonderful.  We both read The Hunger Games, so we had plenty to talk about comparing the book to the movie and talking about our favorite parts.  It’s the first time we’ve both read a book and then seen the movie and we really enjoyed it.  We’ve seen all the “Twilight” movies together but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for him) David couldn’t get past the first chapter of the first book. 

--- 7 ---

We will be very busy packing, moving, and settling in over the next month, so blogging is on the back burner.  I love this blog, but something's got to give, you know?  I'll still be posting, but it's probably going to get even more infrequent than it's been.  I'm hoping that I will have some great guest posts coming up to fill in the gaps.  I look forward to getting back to blogging (especially to reading all my favorite blogs regularly) when we are finally settles back home.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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