Monday, September 30, 2013

Small Apartment Living: Making Room for Baby

Back in July, when we were busy with our most recent yearly move, Olivia of To the Heights did me the honor of writing two guests post for this blog about what she learned from her first year teaching middle school.  Today, I have the supreme pleasure of return the guest post favor.  

Olivia has had this great series, Small Apartment Living, where she shares tips for making a small space beautiful and homey.  This past Friday, I shared my thoughts about having a baby before owning a house.  (And obviously it struck a cord with you, dear readers, because so many of you stopped by to leave a comment about your similar experiences!)  Today, I'm talking less feelings are more tips as I joining Olivia's series with some suggestions for fitting a sweet baby (and all that baby gear) in a small home

Can't get enough baby advice?  Check out the Baby on a Budget series of tips and tricks for starting (or expanding) your family on a small budget.

Friday, September 27, 2013

We're doing it backwards, but we're okay with that.

Here's how I thought love and marriage and babies went:

fall in love
get married
buy a house
have babies

You see that "buy a house" thing?  We skipped that one.  And I'm not quite sure when it's going to happen for us.  At first, I was a bit sad that my little ones won't have a backyard to play in and grow up forever and ever in the same house.  

But I'm over it.  

You see, here's the other option:  We don't have any little ones right now.  And not having our daughter sounds way worse than not having a backyard.

We didn't do it all backwards.  We fell in love and got married before having a baby.  Even though we got some of it "right", I know there are people that hear that we are renting and look at our child and think, "poor thing".  My parents owned a house before I was born.  I never knew what it was like to live in an apartment or a rental, so I actually turned my nose up a bit when it was obvious that David and I wouldn't be buying a house when we got married.  But I made excuses.  

future dream home
"Well, we can't buy a house right now with David two years away from graduation and we have no idea where we are going to live."

But really, even if we were in an established place all this time, we probably still wouldn't have bought a house.  We just aren't in that place.  We may be soon, and that would be fantastic.  But we aren't quite yet, and that's okay. 

Regardless of what some people may think, our home ownership (or lack thereof) is not a reflection of our ability to care for our child, our financial responsibility, or anything else.  We pay the bills.  Every month.  (And usually have money left over for savings.)  Our child has ample food and clothing and more toys than she needs and lots and lots of love. 

When I think about the last three years, I think of the homes in which we lived.  Not the "rentals" or the "apartments", but the homes we'd created.  During the time we lived in them, they were filled with love and the laughter of children (and the screams and tears and messes and smells that come along with them as well), and for those periods they are our homes.  They hold our memories.  Our family.  Our happiness.  

Who cares if we own the building if we own the love that fills it?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nursing in Church: Yay or Nay?

When I asked for some blog post title suggestions, I only got was "Nursing in the Sanctuary: Yay or Nay?".  (I have been informed that the sanctuary is the part of the church where the altar is and that the area where the congregation sits is the nave but I wouldn't use nave in daily conversation so henceforth we shall simply refer to it as nursing in church, meaning the nave/main area of worship.)  I'm so excited about this topic.  I would have never thought to write a post on this, but it turns out, it's an area where I have a bit of experience and a lot of opinion.

I'm going to start with my beliefs on breastfeeding in public:  I believe that every place women and children are welcome is an appropriate place to nurse a baby.  Babies cannot wait to be fed.  Breastfeeding is feeding a child, simple as that.  It's not a sexual act or a political statement.  

If you feel differently than me about this, then this is not the post for you.  This post will not be addressing breastfeeding in publicNor will it discuss whether women should or should not cover while nursing.  If you'd like to debate those topics, there are plenty of online forums, blog posts, articles, etc. that address them specifically; this is not one of those places.  This post will only be addressing nursing in church - whether, in my opinion, it is appropriate to do so in the main worship area or women should leave for the cry room, lobby, or another space to nurse.

Above, I mentioned that it never crossed my mind to write about this topic.  The reason is this: I have never thought about nursing in church as distinct from nursing in any other public location.  Although, when I critically think about nursing in church, I realize that I do act slightly different while nursing there than elsewhere (more on that later).  

I understand why some nursing mothers may be have questions about nursing in church.  We live in a society where breasts are considered first and foremost to be sexual.  I personally believe this to be a bit backward, since the life-giving, nourishing function of the breast is much more important and, in fact, essential to the history and survival of humanity.  But it is what it is and even those who intellectually acknowledge the preeminence of nursing over sexuality have a hard time removing the ingrained ideas of shame and impropriety that come along with thoughts or images of breasts.  So let me use a few images to illustrate the appropriateness of nursing during religious worship:

Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1500
in St. Augustine, FL, circa 1600-1620
All these are images of Christ being nourished at the breasts of His Mother.  Historically, we know that Jesus was breastfed.  There was not the option for formula and Christ, being fully human, had the same nutritional needs of all other babies throughout all of time.  But not only was He breastfed, this act was considered to be so important that it is the subject of an entire category of religious art with their own titles, "Maria lactans".  (To see more images see the list of Maria lactans here and this great Pinterest board.)

And where were these paintings/statues displayed?  Perhaps some were commissioned to be hung in private residences (in clear view of guests).  The vast majority were hung in churches.  Pictures in which breastfeeding (and therefore the breast) was plainly, and obviously, depicted were hung in churches!  They were not considered to be immoral, immodest, or improper, but to be a part of worship - holy, religious, faithful. 

Since picture of the Blessed Mother breastfeeding (without a cover!) are displayed on the walls of churches, surely there is no impropriety in nursing your child in the pews.  If women are welcomed in church (as they are) and babies are welcomed in church (as they not always are but always should be), then the natural, God-given method in which women feed their babies should be welcomed in church.

It should go without saying that a mama who is more comfortable nursing in private or whose little one easily gets distracted when nursing with people around, etc. can and should find a quiet place outside the main worship area.  But if she would otherwise nurse in the store or in a waiting room or on a park bench, there is absolutely no reason why she should feel like she should have to leave a church to nurse.  If others in the church have problems with you feeding your child while worshiping God (who Himself was nursed as a baby and, as the Creator of the world and the natural order, created this beautiful and unique way in which mothers feed their children), it's their problem, not yours.  You should not have to stop your religious worship in order to feed your child.

I nursed my daughter for about 17 months.  We didn't nurse in public during the last two months or so (nursing had turned into gymnastics and I was not willing to do that in public), but for those 15 months that we did, I purposely tried to plan nursing during Mass.  Especially as she got older and more active, nursing kept her quiet and fairly still for a chunk of time.  I was especially proud of myself when I was able to strategically nurse during the readings and/or the homily so I could actually hear them.  For a while there, we spent almost the entire Mass in the narthex with our active older baby/toddler, and nursing was the only time when I was able to join the congregation in the church.  If a mama was not welcomed in nave while nursing, it's quite possible that for a period of time she might not be able to enter it at all.

That said, I was always a bit more cautious to cover during church.  Regardless of location, I've always used a nursing cover when possible, out of personal preference.  I support a woman's choice to nurse without a cover, and some women who do so are much less conspicuous without a cover than I am with one, but for me, this was the more comfortable option. In church, my cautiousness with covering did not have to do with "decency" but with my own comfort level.    I felt a little more "visible" nursing during Mass, since I'd often be sitting to nurse while others are standing or kneeling, and at these times I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb.  It's possible no one even noticed, but it was comforting to me to have that cover securely on. 

(I will add that a huge part of my desire to cover at Mass when Lucia was nursing was because many of my students were there.  I was hoping to avoid "I saw the Spanish teacher's boobies!" being the talk of the playground.)

In our 15 months of breastfeeding in public, Lucia and I never had a negative experience in church or elsewhere.  Some sideways glaces or stares, sure, but I get some looks like that when I'm not nursing (perhaps just because I (gasp!) have a child at my age - mid-twenties - or because I'm babywearing and that's a hippie thing or maybe my fly was down, who knows?).  If I were to ever get a negative comment in Mass, though, you better believe I'd talk to the pastor about it.  If we as Christians want to cultivate a "culture of life" in which babies are valued, we also have to support the natural way in which babies are nourished, the same way that our Savior was nourished.

Many thanks to Emily for suggesting the topic.  I'm sure she'd love to hear your stories, experiences, and opinions regarding nursing in church as well (I know I would). 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Season of Survival

I've heard a lot of talk about the "seasons" of  life.  Sometimes, it's a season of survival - a time to simplify and hunker down and focus on accomplishing the bare minimum.  Other times, it's a time of bounty and accomplishment, when you have the energy to focus on new endeavors and get things done.  

Right now is a season of survival for us.  Lucia is constantly getting sick.  With David's new job, we're working on balancing work-home life and haven't had the time we've wanted to make the finishing touches on our new home or explore the area.  We have several friends we've been wanting to have over, but haven't been able to make it happen yet (Lucia is sick every time we make plans anyway).  It's just one of those times when I'm focusing on the basics - the health of my family, getting clothes washed and bellies fed and not much else.  

This weekend, we were able to have a bit of fun before Lucia's latest sickness set it and I was able to try a few new things.  We went to story time at the bookstore and a walk at the local nature park.  I pulled out my knitting for the first time since moving here (never mind the fact that Lucia pulled a knitting needle out of my project after hours of work...).  And I cooked a whole chicken - for the first time ever!  I was proud of myself!  Maybe that bodes well for a Thanksgiving turkey this year? (I think it will just be the three of us, so maybe a chicken is more fitting.) 

The past few days were a great reminder that even when I'm in survival mode, I can find time for a little fun and relaxation and continue to do new things, just on a smaller scale.  A new dish and a walk in the park are enough for now.  But I'm looking forward to this season passing so I can finally open up that sewing machine box!

While I'm busy in my season of survival and a little low on the creativity and accomplishment, let me introduce you to some people who have an abundance in those areas, my sponsors for whom I'm so grateful!

Meet Deanna.
Wife. Mother. Friend. Follower of Jesus Christ.
Adoption advocate. Business owner. Blogger.
We are a family-owned retailer (WAHM) here helping families to love cloth diapering, while also having their babies look cute and fashionable!  We sell the hottest brands including Thirsties, BumGenius, Blueberry, FuzziBunz, Apple Cheeks, Rumparoos, and more.  For the past 5 years we've also been known for our Newborn rentals which average $33/month.  Be sure to check us out and get 10% off with code "messy wife".
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Meet Diaperpedia.
Change is inevitable. It's the little things. 
Let Diaperpedia help you find them.  Happy baby.
Diaperpedia is an app available on iPhone and iPad for parents, nannies, grandparents, or any baby caregiver to help them find baby changing table locations.  It's free and you'll also get an entry into our monthly contest for $50, $25, and $25 every time you add a new changing table location to the map. Games are fun, but finding a changing table shouldn't be hide-and-go-seek.
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Meet Blogging for Brett.
Orphan. CP. Needs a mama.
Adorable. So much promise.
Brett is an orphan in Eastern Europe who needs a mama. I started advocating for him through Reece's Rainbow in April 2012 because I couldn't believe that such an adorable little boy should face life in an orphanage and eventually a mental institution just because his legs don't wok.  I'm hoping through this blog that we can find Brett some parents and give him a brighter future in Canada or the USA.
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Meet INKtastic.
Personalized onesies. Personalized baby clothes. 
Family friendly apparel. Custom t-shirts.
INKtastic is a family-owned business that offers family friendly custom t-shirts and apparel with an emphasis on personalized baby clothing. With a motto of, "If we wouldn't buy it, we won't sell it!" you can rest assured you will be happy with your order along with a 30-day hassle free return policy. Select from a wide variety of high quality graphics, create your own personalized message, or upload your own images directly from your computer!  Top quality products, affordable pricing, one-of-a-kind custom printed apparel. 
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Meet Sarah.
Wife to Dan. Mother to Emily & Erin. Daughter of God.
Lover of family, faith, food, and life.
 I'm Sarah, a young Catholic wife and mommy who loves to run, cook, bake, write, keep house (most of the time), and spend time outside.  I'm the lucky wife to a wonderful husband and mother of baby twin girls.  I strive to include my faith in all parts of my life, and I'm excited to share our journey as a newly made family of four - come join us!
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Meet Buhbay.
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If you'd like to be part of the sponsor spotlight next month, 
check out the sponsorship options! I'd love to have you!

Friday, September 20, 2013

#7QT: Some Faves Around the Web

Why does Jenna always have the best ideas?  Last week she asked readers to write blog post titles for her and then will be writing posts to go with those titles.  Next month I'm going to be out of town for three weeks without much opportunity to blog so this sounds like a perfect way to gets some post ideas to schedule ahead of time.  So if there is something you'd like to see me write about, leave a blog post title for me in the comments.  Or if you're cruel, you could leave something like, "A Blue Dog Ate My Giraffe's Sweater" and wait for the terrible post that would produce.

I made a blog post request of my own recently, asking Christie to write a post on Catholic literature suggestions.  If you've read her blog, Everything to Someone, you know that she is quite the literature expert.  I've been hearing quite a bit about Flannery O'Connor and Evelyn Waugh (can anyone tell me how to pronounce that?) recently and how they are essential Catholic reading.  Well, I have never read them and I was wondering what other quintessential Catholic literature I've been missing out on.  If you're wondering the same, check out Christie's guest post.  I was surprised that I'd actually read a few books on the list and enjoyed them greatly, so I'm quite confident that the rest will be equally as fantastic.

Monday was my mom's birthday.  Our birthdays are exactly six months apart and this year, on her birthday I was exactly half her age.  Exactly the age she was when I was born.  I've been part of her life (ex-utero) for half her life.  It was kind of crazy to think through all that and the meaning behind it.  My dad's birth day was Wednesday (same year, he's two days younger than my mom) so it was kind of the same thing with him, but for some reason more poignant with my mom.  Probably just because we're both women and mothers, but also there was something about me being the first child, the one that made her a mother.  I'm still pondering through it all.

I adored this post I try to make an effort to look everyone in the eye, to use words of gratitude whenever I can, and to smile at everyone I come into contact with.  I'm not always successful - sometimes I have bad days and am grumpy - but it's so important to me.  Some people treat some people in our communities as invisible.  I've worked those jobs before.  I could work them again someday.  My family members work those jobs.  But you know what?  Even if I had never and will never be in that position, it's important to treat each person with dignity and respect.  If my children grow up to understand this, I will feel as if I've succeeded.

Advent is still a while away, and I never think this far in advance, but this Jesse Tree exchange is forcing me to.  I've never "done" a Jesse Tree before, but I've been interested and Lucia's getting old enough that we can do some of these traditions in our house.  I saw an exchange like this last year and while I'm a little intimidated about making 32 ornaments, 32 of the same ornament is way better than 32 unique ones.  Plus, I love the excitement of seeing all the different styles and talent!  So, if you are interested in starting this tradition or need a new set or ornaments, check out the exchange deets and let Michelle know you are interested.  We can only make it happen if we get 32 people to participate!

I loved these pictures of old crime scenes superimposed on modern pictures.    They are beautifully done and I think they speak to the fact that humanity, even the ugly parts of it, is much the same in every age.
    (& 8 & 9)

    Hmmm...many more things to say and only one more quick take.  So let me make this a stream of consciousness.   Last night, Lucia and I went to a local concert with Stacy while our husbands did "man's group" together at their church.  Lucia, who ate practically nothing yesterday, scarfed the snack I brought and so I bought her her first hot dog ever and she ate the whole thing!  Then she woke up at the crack of dawn this morning because she wanted to "Eat! Eat!"  That girl... Last week, Kelley stopped by when in town.  It's always a little strange to meet an online friend in person, but it's so nice to have a voice and mannerisms to go with a blog.  And she's so sweet... Read this post by Haley.  Just do.

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    What I've Been Reading (in 140 characters or less) - Sept 2013

    On my birthday this year, I wrote a 30 Before 30 list.  One of my goals was to read 40 books, 20 of them fiction.  That works out to only 10 books a year, and while I hope to read more than that, the last few years have been rough on reading time, so I made sure my goal was attainable.  I've finished seven books since then, so I'm right on goal.  

    In addition to listing completed books on my list, I decided to join Modern Mrs. Darcy's monthly book link up and write book reviews Twitter style (140 characters or less) to catalog what I've read.  You can see my last Twitterature here.

    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
    Enjoyed 1st 316 pages, disliked last 9 which turned into pacifist philosophizing. I recommend it but won't read the sequels #moviecomingsoon

    Mommy memoir. Funny@times, trivial@times. Can't relate to jokes about epidurals & public school. Liked it but wish I'd skipped chapters.

    A true story of both extremes of humanity: unbelievable cruelty & incredible hope. Emotionally hard to read yet a page turner.

    A LOTR lover, reading this felt like visiting an old friend. Much more a lighthearted adventure story than the dark epic to follow. #lovedit

    Currently in the works: 

    Worthy: See Yourself as God Does
    Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
    Exiles: A Novel
    Wholly Mary: Mother of God

    Monday, September 16, 2013

    Guest Post: Essential Literature for Catholics

    Twentieth-century Catholic author Flannery O’Connor wrote, “. . . the chief difference between a novelist who is an orthodox Christian and the novelist who is merely a naturalist is that the Christian novelist lives in a larger universe.  He believes that the natural world contains the supernatural.  And this doesn't mean that his obligation to portray the natural is less; it means it is greater.”

    If this is so, then Catholic fiction isn't necessarily a story about Catholic people, or one that takes place in a monastery, or that ends with a tidy moral. On the contrary, it should engage and challenge faith, but all with an utmost respect for reality--that is, God’s reality--and in a way that is tasteful, not sanitized. More importantly, it should be beautiful, since all beauty points to its Creator. God is love. God is truth. God is beauty. That which is written to be truly beautiful, and not by materialist standards or according to fads, must be true.

    However, beauty is not synonymous with quaint or pretty, and there is all sorts of beauty in the world.  Wildflowers on the mountainside contains beauty, but so does the snowstorm that bends the trees in two and threatens the life of the shepherd.  Sublime beauty reminds us of the vastness of God; so the hawk swooping in for the kill is awful, awe-full--inspiring awe--and is likewise beautiful, though perhaps not recommended for the fainthearted.

    In short, Catholic fiction can be known by looking for works where Truth meets Beauty, like the two intersecting lines of the Cross.

    That said, almost any artistic literary endeavor before the time of Christ, as well as a good deal after, contain natural and supernatural encounters with Beauty; though some are removed from the full revolution of Christ and His Church. Of those many, I recommend the following for Catholic reading--from cradle to college, and beyond.

    Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

    The original story of a boy's favorite stuffed bear, his toy and forest companions, and their adventures is poised to prep the Catholic imagination--not to mention all-together humorous and thoroughly entertaining, for readers of all ages. It had me rolling with laughter at parts like this:
    "Christopher Robin [. . .] just said it had an 'x.'" 
    "It isn't their necks I mind,' said Piglet earnestly.  'It's their teeth."

    It's also full of the nonsensical common sense of children. Delicious bits of wisdom, like the following:
    "Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think.  Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called."
    When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
    Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.
    "There's the South Pole," said Christopher Robin, "and I expect there's an East Pole and a West Pole, though people don't like talking about them."

    And plenty of lines to cuddle up to with your little one:
    "Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered. 
    "Yes, Piglet?" 
    "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

    Fairy Tales

    Classic fairy tales are essential reading for every Catholic household (Disney versions are not acceptable substitutes!).  G.K. Chesterton wrote, "Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist.  Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed."  They ought to be right up on the bookshelf with your children's Bible stories.

    The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald

    George MacDonald first showed the famous Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, that the imagination could be "baptized," and that unnamed truths of existence could be expressed to almost-understanding in the beatific visions of fantasy and fairy tale.  All of his books are highly recommended, but for younger readers, start out with the Curdie books.  I read these aloud at tea time to three homescholed sisters I tutored, and the books brought up opportunities for discussion in which even the youngest one, at age seven, could partake--the richness of characterization, plot, and diction challenge little ones in the truths of faith and morals in a way that would not be nearly as successful if put to them in stale moralizing.

    The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

    You've encountered these in some way, even if you haven't read them--if not, do so at once!  The Narnia series is essential reading for any Catholic, no matter what age.

    The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein

    These two stories, along with the various other supplemental works relating to Middle Earth, are so saturated with Catholicism that it goes unnoticed by most uninformed readers.  In them, the imagination encounters great truths about suffering and sacrifice--the heart of Christianity--and many other things besides.  These stories are bursting with Beauty, with a capital B, such as my favorite passage of the entire series:

    There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.  For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.

    The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton

    This long poem by G.K. Chesterton gives a fictionalized account of King Alfred the Great at the Battle of the White Horse, when the war-savvy Vikings were defeated and driven back from Christian Britain.  Bright adolescents who need a challenge and young teens will enjoy the traditional poetry forms of rhyme and meter in a context that is far from prim.  

    You might have heard this popular quote from it:

    The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
    For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.

    The Ballad of the White Horse is about faith in times of despair, obedience to the will of God, and the singular trait unique to Christianity--its ability to survive against against all odds and be resurrected, like its Master.

    The men of the East may spell the stars,
    And times and triumphs mark,
    But the men signed of the cross of Christ
    Go gaily in the dark.

    Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    For older teens and and young adults, Frankenstein is a study on the sublime and questions the nature of being.  In an age when all sorts of ethical standards are being pushed by science in the name of progress, Shelley's horror story holds man accountable when he crosses paths with the mystery of God and creation.

    A short read, and you'll be happy to get all those mobs-of-villagers-bearing-torches references.

    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    Like Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray deals with scary themes; it shows how sin corrupts the nature of man and what it does to a soul its fed too long on.

    The Complete Works of Flannery O’Connor

    Now the veritable patron saint of aspiring Catholic writers, Flannery O'Connor's stories, like Wilde's, bring the fallen world into sharp contrast so that we can no longer view it in willing ignorance.  Her human characters are not spared harsh scrutiny--but before the story ends, each protagonist is given a jarring, overpowering gift of grace.

    Dante’s Divine Comedy

    Dante is probably one of the three greatest writers of all time, along with Homer and Shakespeare, and his works are steeped in Catholic truth.  His books are readily available in translation.

    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

    A must for every library, Brideshead Revisited is the crowning glory of Catholic literature in the twentieth century.  Don't let a movie substitute for the real deal (the Catholic parts are often downplayed or cut entirely and the sinful actions of the characters magnified for Hollywood spectacle).

    C.S. Lewis’s Space-Science Trilogy

    Read all three books to get the full effect: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.  Not only are these engaging as science-fiction, they transcend genre to become commentary on modern heresies and very clearly present a celestial working of The Theology of the Body.  Especially the last two.  From THS

    “The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it. You had better agree with your adversary quickly.” 
    “You mean I shall have to become a Christian?” said Jane. 
    “It looks like it,” said the Director.

    Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

    This re-telling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid is probably Lewis's greatest theological work.  His synchronization of myth with Christian truth is so seamless you'd swear that God had planned it.  Like most all of Lewis's works (but especially this one), it will have you crying during the last pages, and so grateful for the experience.

    When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you'll not talk about the joy of words.  I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

    Shakespeare's Hamlet

    I put this one last--the most advanced reading, as it takes a practiced ear to understand the Elizabethan and patience to look up allusions.  Shakespeare's characters are so fundamentally mortal that their relevance will never expire.  As long as there are men and women in a fallen world, Shakespeare's plays will tell truths about humanity and touch them deeply.  Joseph Pearce makes a thoroughly convincing case for Shakespeare being a secret Catholic (during a time in Reformation England when being so would have been punishable by death).  Hamlet is the generally considered by scholars to be the best of the best.  And while it is a tragedy, as so many of these books are, one cannot help but to walk away from it a better person.

    After all, we were not meant for this world.  Our happiness is with Another, in another place.  And it is those tales and stories that point heavenward, to our true home, that bring us the most happiness and satisfaction for reading them.

    “Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that's all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.”--C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

    For Further Reading

    I highly recommend visiting Tuscany Press for quality Catholic fiction in the tradition of the great Catholic literary lights.  Tuscany is devoted to publishing art without sacrificing either truth or beauty.  You can read my own short story contribution, "The Debt," in the 2012 Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction: Collected Short Stories.  Or click on any of the links below for resources on art, literature, and the Catholic imagination.

    On Fairy Stories by JRR Tolkien

    Christie blogs at Everything to Someone.  Head over there to see her beautiful photography, read more literary recommendations, and follow her day-to-day musings as a mother and bibliophile.

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Growing Up in a Mixed-Faith Family

    This post was originally published as a guest post on a friend's blog in January 2012.  The blog I wrote it for is no longer in existence, so I decided to republish it here. 

    Before I met my husband, I had a long list of expectations for my future spouse; despite being a devout Catholic, that list did not include any faith requirements.  I grew up in a mixed-faith household, as did my mother before me.  This month, last parents celebrate their 33nd anniversary and my grandparents their 61st.  Clearly they never let their differences of faith prevent them from having successful, loving marriages.
    Let me be clear, when I say I come from a mixed-faith household I mean that my parents did not share a faith, however, I do not mean that both faiths were equally represented or practiced.  My mother is Catholic and my father a non-practicing Christian raised in a Baptist tradition.  Unlike all of her friends who asked their husbands to convert to Catholicism before marriage, my mother never made such a request because she believes the decision to convert is my father’s alone to make.  And since she was raised in a mixed-faith household herself (her mother a Catholic and her father a non-practicing Jew), she had an example upon which to model her marriage. 

    My brother and I were raised Catholic by both our parents.  Even though my father was not Catholic himself, my parents decided before they married that together they would raise their children in the Church.  My father was always supportive of our Catholic faith, accompanying us to Mass for holidays and on occasion (though not every week), sending me to a Catholic school for several years, and often talking about the aspects of the Church that he liked and respected.  Despite his support, we have always been aware, even from a young age, that he was not himself Catholic and that he had different beliefs than us.  Although he didn’t much discuss the religion he was raised in or his personal beliefs, when asked or prompted, he has always been very honest with us about how his faith differs from our own. 

    It never bothered me that my father did not share the faith of my mother, my brother, and myself, except in that I did (and still continue to) pray that my father will one day have a deeper faith and closer relationship with Christ.  Preferably this would take the form of him joining the Catholic Church which I believe to be the fullness of the Truth, yet I would support him if he were to decide to practice his Christian faith in the church of his choice. 

    My brother, however, had difficulty with my father’s difference in faith (or perhaps, more aptly, his lack of active faith).  I attribute this to the fact that since both my father and grandfather did not practice, in our family faith had become “something women do”.  For me there was great pride that my Catholic faith was transferred to me from my mother who in turn had received it from her mother.  For my brother though, practicing religion made him feel out of place in a feminine world.  He didn’t want to attend Mass when our father didn’t go, he didn’t want to kneel or take Communion because our father didn’t, and he didn’t identify himself as Catholic, because our father wasn’t.  Through it all, our dad always encouraged him to continue in his faith and eventually he did stop fighting against them.  My brother was confirmed in the faith and considers himself to be Catholic.  In college, he was encountered by many Christian friends who questioned the Catholic faith, which has prompted him to learn even more about what we believe in order to defend the Church.
    When Kayla asked me to write this guest post, I thought I wouldn’t have much to say, after all, while being from a “mixed-faith” household, only one was really represented.  Yet the more I though about it, the more I realized how much I learned from being part of a faith-diverse family:

    I learned more about my faith.  I knew from an early age that not everyone shares my beliefs, so I came to know (and appreciate) what made my Catholic faith unique.  When I asked my dad about his beliefs and they didn’t match up with my own, I was driven to discover exactly why Catholics believed what they did and whether I truly prescribed to those beliefs.  Nothing makes you question your beliefs more than contact with differing beliefs, and nothing make you stronger in your beliefs than questioning them.

    I can talk about religion, politics, and other “touchy subjects” without getting overly emotional or angry.  Because I was able to have open and respectful conversations with people of different views when I was a child, I have little problem doing so as an adult.

    I know that the basis of every relationship is respect, not similarity.  If my parents could make a marriage work despite their differences (which are not only religious, my parents grew up in very different households and hold opposing political views), I know that I can have healthy friendships with people of diverse faiths, lifestyles, and backgrounds.  And I do.  My best friend, although coming from my same hometown and a similar middle class upbringing, is my complete opposite in terms of religion, politics and lifestyle, yet she is the first person I turn to when I want to talk about something, even when I know she will completely disagree with me.

    My faith can be a comfort to those who don’t share it.  I am the first person my father calls to ask when he needs prayers and when he is going through difficult times, I often try to reassure him using Church teachings about Christ’s power and love.  Even if he doesn’t believe exactly as I do, I think he appreciates knowing that I truly believe in the Catholic faith and that if I do, it may be true.

    I’ve learned the power of Mass, prayer, and being a witness of the faith.  When I say my grandfather was a non-practicing Jew, I don’t use the past-tense because he’s passed on but because he recently converted to Catholicism (at the age of 79).  After having attended Mass with his wife for nearly 60 years and raising his children in the faith, he was diagnosed with cancer and realized that it was time for him to finally become part of the faith he had been an outward participant and believer in for many years.  My grandmother never encouraged him to convert, but inadvertently led him to the Church by being a witness of the faith.  My father has in recent years mentioned that he’s thought of converting over the years, so perhaps he someday will.

    As it turns out, I am the first woman in three generations to marry a Catholic man.  I love being able to share the most important part of my life with the most important person in my life, yet I am also conscious that I want to make my home an open forum for religious discussion with my children so that I can pass on the lessons I learned coming from a mixed-faith family.   

    Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    Guest Post at Call Her Happy: Papal Infallability

    My blogger friend, Jenna, has a Catholic 101 Series where she shares short snippets meant to clarify some of the common misconceptions about Catholicism.  I wrote a guest post, published today, for the series about what Papal Infallibility really is. (Hint: It doesn't mean that the Pope can't sin or that the Church approves of the sexual misdeeds of those scandalous medieval Popes!)  

    I usually share a little "taste" of my guest posts, but it really is such a short snippet that I can't share a piece of it without giving it all away, so hop over to Call Her Happy to read it all. (Should take you two minutes or less!)

    P.S. If you didn't know, this year was proclaimed the Year of Faith by Pope Benedict XVI and I love how this series fits perfectly into that.  If you are Catholic, whether you consider yourself "devout" or fallen away from the Church, this is a time to learn more about the Faith.  If you need ideas, check out my post HERE.  Parents, you can see my ideas for sharing the Faith with your toddler HERE.  You might also consider sharing your faith with others, perhaps by emailing or posting some of Jenna's Catholic 101 posts or contributing to her series

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Happy Things

    I don't feel like I do this often enough and coming off a tough week with a sick tot, I felt like I just wanted to share some of the joy we're currently experiencing.  Oh, and there is a giveaway if you scroll down to the bottom, so feel free to scroll down to that for a chance to win your own "happy thing".

    First of all, my new blog design.  Don't you love it?  (If you are looking at this from mobile, you have to click on the "full site" button - I think that's what it's called??? - and oogle out!)  I had been wanting a more "clean and simple" design for a while and I think this fits the bill.  I was done by a friend who is starting a design business and I just can't recommend her enough.  She's only doing blogger designs right now, but if you use blogger and are looking for clean, classic design, Lauren is your gal.  You can find her at My Polished Side Designs.

    This picture is a little old, but I came across it and couldn't pass up the opportunity to share.  Lucia will actually BEG for me to take this crucifix down off the wall above our bed so she can hold it and kiss it.  She always touches Christ's nail marks and says, "Boo boo, ow!" with a very sad, serious face and then kisses Him some more. Combine this with the picture of her staring at this same crucifix as a tiny baby and the picture of her kissing St. Francis last week, and I have enough to start a "Catholic tot" album.

    Happy, happy girl!  (And we finally got a couch!) 

    Want to see a picture of another happy girl?  If you've been reading for a while, you may remember me talking about "Kaia", an orphan in Eastern Europe looking for a family.  She's now home with her family!  See her smiling face here. Thanks for all your prayers and support!

    I gave Lucia her first French braid!  Her hair has been long enough for a while now, but she wouldn't sit still.  I was able to do it while she was watching a particularly riveting episode of Peep. (If you' don't know Peep [and you have kids], you should!  One of the only kid shows I actually like!)

     I'm sponsoring Lilla Rose giveaways on two other blogs right now.  The giveaway at Call Her Happy ends tomorrow (Wed) and the one at High Heeled Mama ends Saturday and has two winners!  So it's really like three chances to win!  Head over to enter now!

    Yesterday, David brought me home flowers.  Lucia was still napping, so I arranged them on the table, then sat down with a glass of wine, some hazelnut currant chocolate, and my new favorite cheese (corazon de ronda manchego).  Nothing could make my afternoon better, right?  Wrong.  Because as soon as I sat best friend called!  Such an awesome afternoon!

    Enter below for the chance to win your own happy thing:

    Earrings from Blessed Life Boutique.  Well, technically, they're from headquarters because I won them playing Jewelette.  (It's a Wheel of Fortune type game - the top five scores each week win jewelry and everyone gets a 15% off code for playing. I've won twice.  You can see the necklace I won here.)  Anyway, I already have a similar pair, so I'll be passing on these beauties to one of you!  Enter on the Promo Simple widget below.  Contest will end Monday, Sept. 16.  US residents only please!