Friday, November 19, 2010


Friendships. This has been on my mind a lot lately even before I read Elizabeth's column on Facebook friends. Leslie touched on some of my thoughts lately, as well, and I can especially identify with her admission - "I'm the sort of person who's skin crawls at the thought of prolonged superficiality." Me, too!

Ever since middle school, I have had many acquaintances but only two to three true friends in each season of my life. You probably can call to mind those who were your BFFs.  In middle school, I remember Jennifer, Andrea, and Stacey. In high school, I had Wendy and Emily. In college, they were Gina and Terri. One summer, Rachel became my pal. Early marriage, I found Margaret and Stephanie (more mentors than friends, actually). As a new mother, I was inspired by Lauren and Mary. In law school, God sent Katie, Kate, and Carolyn (then Lauren). In Florida, I met Cristina, Mimi, and Theresa. All so special!

My personality is such that new conversations either get deep really fast or die even faster. I like to get to know other people really well. So, by our second one-on-one conversation, we are either forever friends, polite acquaintances, or waving goodbye. This doesn't mean I will not invite groups of acquaintances to hang out (like at our recent Mom's Breakfast), but my forever friends are the ones I make a point to enjoy their company regularly!

Anyway, the reasons I have been pondering friendships are that we just moved to a new city where I only knew a handful of people, and I am gladly enduring another babyhood phase of my life in which free time is nonexistent. I admitted yesterday to a friend, IRL on FB (that feels so hip to type!), that I realized I am and feel I must be very guarded with my choices of friends in this season of life. My rationale appears quite selfish, but I am okay with that. What I am trying to do is put my family first, because if mama ain't happy...

My guidelines for making new friends IRL (so, dearest friends who are already loved and do not fit one or more of these, I will not leave you) are the following:

1. She must not require a lot of time from me. Honestly, God has filled my hands with homeschooling and raising three amazing children while seeking my own holiness and my beloved husband's. I do not have time for weekly play dates or daily chats on the phone, much less a more mature dessert, wine, or coffee date. If we are going to spend time together, it is going to be with my children. Therefore...

2. I must like her children and like them enough to want them to be friends with my children. If this is true, I know we have something in common. We have high expectations for the behavior and holiness of our children. Our children are our life and our vocation. Leading to...

3. She has to be a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. Honestly, my time is so precious that if I am going to spend time that is intended to nourish me, I need to spend time with someone who spends her time in a similar way each day, who faces similar joys and challenges, and who can relate to my lifestyle choices, giving me sound advice, support, and encouragement. Consequently...

4. It would be ideal if she is a strong Catholic in love with the Truth of Holy Mother Church. My faith is such an integral part of my life that I want my intimate relationships to include that faith. During this season of my life, I do not feel called to defend my faith on a regular basis. Religion is such a sacred, personal topic that to delve into deep conversation with anyone of faith automatically involves his/her beliefs. Sure, I could agree to disagree with someone on some things, but if it is a central Truth of my life, I would always feel uncomfortable truly sharing my heart.

Disclaimer: Yes, it is healthy to have friends who see things differently. No, I am not opposed to being friends with someone the Lord puts in my path who does not meet my guidelines. That is why they are guidelines not requirements! I am speaking here of those women I seek out specifically for friendship.

What do you think? Am I being too picky? Do you understand my reasoning? Are you happy with your circle of friends? What guidelines do you follow for carefully choosing friends? (and, let us talk soon about how to teach your children to choose friends carefully!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On a Lighter Note...

I know I am way behind on loving this lady, but I am looking forward to watching her Thanksgiving feast on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, which I DVR'd tonight (can I say that?). Even her announcement of the show is typically hilarious! It is too late now for me to properly enjoy a cooking show, but I felt like writing a quick post to make sure all of you have savored at least one or two or seven recipes from my very first favorite cook.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl

Actually, I almost titled this post "How I Am Becoming My Mother," but then you would probably think I was going to post about how I speak to my children. No, in that regard, I am nothing like my mother. Her voice was always calm and gentle in my recollection.

My mother does, however, love to cook and has watched cooking shows as long as I can remember. Every once in a while, I will turn one on, but not until today have I actually looked forward to watching a cooking show in advance. Unfortunately, I admit this is resulting in near panic as I plan the menu for Thanksgiving, because my mom is coming. And she insists I do it all "my way," whatever that is!

The reason I am excited about seeing the Pioneer Woman cook? Well, besides the fact that Mrs. Drummond is absolutely hilarious and a fellow homeschooling mom, my family has liked every recipe I have tried from her cookbook. Yes, every single one. Now, I have not tried them all, because I do not actually own the cookbook. yet. Sad, isn't it? I had it from the Miami Public Library for a month, and it is currently my turn at our new local library. My daughter suggested I put it on my Christmas wish list, but adults in our family do not get gifts anymore, except for the homemade scissors-paper-glue kind, which are the best ones anyway.

Wow. It is late, and I am rambling. My point? Buy her cookbook: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. Check it out from your local library. Visit her online. Catch the replay of Throwdown at 7PM ET this Saturday. You will love how simple she makes preparing such yummy foods, and your family will love her food!

Grace & Peace,

My Horrible Wedding Week

This post was very difficult to begin writing, but once I started, I could not stop. I apologize in advance for the lengthiness. Please know I could have written much, much more.

I could not post yesterday, although I intended to do so and had the time available. You see, this week is probably the hardest week for me every year, and what is on my mother's heart these days is tough to put into words. This Saturday, my beloved husband and I will celebrate eleven years of marriage! We were married on a Saturday, so this year it is particularly easy to remember each day leading up to our wedding.

Now, do not get me wrong. My beloved husband and I are very happy together. We have a wonderful marriage. These eleven years have been full of great challenges and great rejoicing, but we both know the same as we did when we began our friendship that we are called to lead one another to holiness. The Lord has most certainly given us many opportunities to do so, beginning with this week eleven years ago.

That week, my husband switched careers. I lost my grandmother who was living alone in Pennsylvania suddenly in a tragic accident on Tuesday evening. Living in College Station after both graduating from Texas A&M University, we were intimately involved in the horrifying Bonfire Collapse on Thursday. And, after all that, we still had to get got married.

The Job

My beloved husband's first love was being a police officer. At the time he was looking, however, hiring was limited, and he took the job he could get, working midnights in the county jail. So, part of my marriage discernment was whether or not I could be "a cop's wife," because that life has its unique crosses. Obviously, I had agonized over this but eventually concluded it was God's will I marry this man.

Then, he surprised me a few weeks before our wedding with a job opportunity at our university student center. Easier hours, great pay, and he wanted to serve God in this way. My beloved husband is a convert to Catholicism, coming into the Church at the student center just months before we began our friendship. On fire for his faith as most converts are, this was his chance to give back to the community that had brought him home to Holy Mother Church.

He announced the job change to our friends and family at our wedding reception, as the details had only been finalized the past few days. This huge, life-altering decision happened rather quickly amidst all the wedding preparations. At the time, I left it up to him, because I had already discerned to accept the harder road. This change would just make it easier for me, I thought. Regret is probably too strong of a word, but there are times, I know, he wishes he never made that career switch.

Tuesday Night

On Tuesday evening I called my mother, as planned, to finalize her trip down the next day to help me with remaining wedding preparations. My father answered, clearly sobbing, only the second time I remember such open emotion from him. He was confused why I was calling, because he was in the midst of phone calls between his only brother in Florida and the police in Pennsylvania (he lives in Texas).

Apparently, Grandma, physically in pretty good shape for her age but suffering from other issues for many years, had run into the street at night while unloading groceries from her trunk. The police speculated that perhaps a receipt or her hat blew into the street, and she chased it. There was no time for the car to stop, and she died instantly.

I only was able to get a few details from Dad before he had to get off the phone to allow the police and funeral home to call him back. My fiance and matron of honor sat with me, as we prayed and wondered if the wedding should go on, could go on.

It was not until late that night, I believe, that Dad called me and said I still had to get married on Saturday, that it was what she would have wanted, for me to be happy. They arranged to wait until the following Monday for the funeral. My family flew directly from my wedding to Pennsylvania. I went on my honeymoon as planned, too, honoring my new husband and leaving behind father and mother. It was what everyone else wanted me to do, and it was right but not what I would have chosen.

Because of Grandma's instability, she no longer traveled and was not planning on attending my wedding, but I was her favorite granddaughter (okay, I was her only granddaughter, but she certainly treated me like her favorite). She and I always had a special connection, even before the scary afternoon I saved her from choking to death when I was a teenager. So, a small part of me believed and still believes that the only way my grandmother could attend my wedding was in spirit, and with her physical body and mind no longer holding her back, in death, she was with me in the church on Saturday.

Thursday Morning

Every Aggie still close to Aggieland, remembers where they were when they learned Bonfire fell. For us, it comes close to "Where were you when the Challenger fell?" but, of course, is only a faint whisper to "Where were you when the towers fell?" My phone rang early, before seven, I think. It was for my matron of honor, who was staying in my guest room down the hall. I found it odd, her study partner calling at 6AM, but I stumbled down the hall and told her the phone was for her. After a few minutes, she came and climbed into bed with me (not weird, best friends do that) and told me Bonfire had fallen. and. people. were. trapped. inside.

She had already called her husband and parents to let them know, but they were out of town. I remember holding my breath, but not knowing why, while I waited for my fiance to pick up the phone where he was staying across town. Later, I would learn he had decided after saying good night to me around midnight that he would stop at his temporary home to change and then go out to Bonfire. He had never been to "stack" before (that's what they called putting all the logs on the tower), and he was inspired by the imminent loss of his bachelorhood to do something uber-manly.

Well, thanks to God and to Mike, he picked up that phone in the morning and told me he was on his way, finally, out to "stack." But, he was not going to work, as he had planned. Mike had been home when my beloved stopped by, and they started talking. And fortunately, the unlikely happened. They gabbed until the wee hours of the morning, and my beloved never made it out to work on "stack." They remember hearing the sirens, learning shortly afterwards about the tragedy.

My beloved still went out to Bonfire that day, but he went to work security. Even though he had switched careers, he still maintained a reserve capacity and went to lend aid. Mostly, he worked the perimeter, keeping onlookers out of the way of the emergency crews. The things he saw that day and into the next night as the experts worked to rescue whomever was left alive under those enormous logs were horrifying. At home, we kept the television on, rejoicing as they recovered the injured Aggies and crying as they released the names of the deceased. My bridesmaid's luncheon was surreal as we gurgled wine at a local winery, wearing maroon and white ribbons to honor the fallen.

I know most of my readers will not understand why a big bonfire was so important. At Texas A&M, Bonfire was one of those things that holds people together. If you have ever been to some sort of survival, team-building, or leadership seminar, conference, or retreat, you have a taste of what bonds can be formed by such work. Bonfire united Aggies to a common purpose, one that externally seems sophomoric, but one that strengthened each individual who took part in any way. So, when stack fell, it was more than just a tragedy where lives were lost. It was a devastating blow to the strength of each Aggie.


Yes, we still had to get married after all this, mostly because God said so. That's a post for another day, though, how the Lord put it on my heart to seek a friendship with this particular young man and made it so obvious to both of us we were supposed to get married. Anyway, we had to get married, because death is a part of life. Entering our marriage, we knew that no one is a stranger to tragedy. It is all around us, and it is unavoidable.

But, this week is still hard. I remember the awkward moments, trying to celebrate our new life together amidst chaos. I remember the terrifying moments, not fully understanding what was happening or why. Mostly, I remember going through that week in a fog until Saturday morning. My precious gift of organization was supremely important to even get us to Saturday morning. In fact, every anniversary when we watch parts of our wedding video, I am reminded of our priest's amazement at my preparedness.

I woke up early the day of my wedding. Who doesn't? And, I had everything done. Maybe not so common? There was no racing around at the last minute. Everything was on schedule, but I was early. So, I sat down at the computer and changed my hotmail from my maiden name to my married name and emailed everyone in my address book about the change, including Fr. Mike, who was at that moment preparing his homily for our nuptial mass and heard the "ding!" telling him he had a new message.

What he told the witnesses gathered was that I was the most organized person he had ever met and that he had never (yet) met a bride who had extra time to change her email the morning of her wedding. (Remember, this was eleven years ago, before Facebook and iPhones!) He thanked God for my gift of organization and the ways I had used that gift to serve our university parish. And, let me stress, dear reader, organization does come easily to me only because it is a gift from God, and with such gifts comes great responsibility. (another topic for another time - why I am more at fault for disorganization than the average person)

What Fr. Mike did not say was what I only now realize looking back on that morning. The extra time I had, to take a bath and change my email, was an opportunity for me to go from mourning to rejoicing, to put things in perspective and truly focus on the grace I was about to receive with my new husband in the sacrament of holy matrimony. For, I had gone to bed after seeing my florist scrambling to squeeze in my flowers amidst the dozens of requests for sympathy arrangements and gathering to pray a rosary for my deceased grandmother and those fallen Aggies. I remember tears on my pillow, but I awoke to a new day and a new life.

Our wedding day still had drops of sorrow amidst the joy. In the church, someone placed a framed picture of Grandma next to the white candle I requested be burning on a window ledge during the wedding. Our ushers wore maroon and white ribbons, honoring the fallen Aggies. Fr. Mike included a special prayer for my grandmother's soul during the Prayers of the Faithful. From the top of the tower where our reception was held, we could see the carefully dismantled logs that once were Bonfire.


In all this, as in everything, God was there. I was grateful not to have to ask where He was in all this tragedy. My faith insisted and many outward signs of friends and strangers indicated that he did not abandon us in our hour of need. And, he has continued to stand by me, no matter what. Despite my own sorrows, I have always felt a confidence in the continuing presence of God. I just know He is working through all things for good. He does not leave us. He walks beside us in all things and tries to pull us closer to Him and, therefore, to each other.

Grandma, I miss you. You inspire me to make my children's relationships with their grandparents a priority. To the Aggie 12, you will always be remembered. I will never forget you, even though I did not know even one of you personally. Dad, thank you for pushing past your grief to celebrate my marriage and insist I do the same. Mike, thank you for being a great friend to my beloved husband and unknowingly preserving him from harm.

My beloved, I love you more every day. Thank you for everything. Yes, everything.

May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Grace & peace,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Whoopy once, whoopy twice, whoopy chicken soup with rice!

I am passing out the chicken soup today! One of my littles has a nasty cold, and I do not want it coursing through the family right before Thanksgiving visitors arrive. Admittedly, the lunch menu was chicken ramen, because it was all I had. But, I am working on something better for dinner! Maybe we'll dig out Chicken Soup with Rice, too!

Anyway, having one in bed (self-imposed) today actually enabled the rest of us to accomplish so much in school! I have been struggling lately with how long it takes for us to accomplish a day of schoolwork. A plan that should take two to three hours is easily taking five or six, because of the interruptions, mostly from the baby. And, one of the reasons I love the idea of homeschooling is avoiding wasting my children's childhoods and giving them regular time to play outside and inside imaginatively for long periods of time.

But, we are not getting that these days if I want to get school "done." Is that acceptable to me? I am still trying to decide. Some days we plow through and do all the work. Some days I give up and send them off to play. Both are probably good, in balance, right? This season in life will pass, and someday we will be able to finish school before lunch as Charlotte Mason recommends (and I believe is preferable).

For now, though, only on sick days will we get it all done. Of course, that actually means that only half of my students (I only have two) did any work at all today. So, we did not really get it call done, and that realization makes the day seem not quite as successful in hindsight. (although I should add that I mostly kept the large volume of work enjoyable, which is an accomplishment in itself!)

My point in sharing this with you, however, is to ask you - How long does it take you to get schoolwork done at each grade level and how much time do your children get to "just play" each day? I certainly want the proper balance, rather than all or nothing, and I would prefer that balance NOT include sick days!

Did I mention that to plow through the work and cope with the cold meant that I still have not showered? LOL! My beloved husband will be home in an hour or two, so it is definitely time to get clean!

Grace & Peace,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Season of Coming (Advent) Is Coming!

(I know, the post title is pretty cheesy - that's my mood tonight!)

Advent begins two weeks from today! Are you ready? Do you have a beautiful binder  like Dawn put together in which to keep track of all of your seasonal stuff? Are your plans ready? Do you need some inspiration to get started or to finish up your plans? I did!

Here is my post of ideas from last year, and this link will take you to all of my Advent posts. Every year is unique, however, and I had a special treat to motivate me.

Yesterday morning I basked in the delightful conversation of five wonderful women! We had breakfast with the intention of sharing Advent and Christmas ideas, and boy, did we ever share! I laughed to myself near the end of the meeting, as I realized we had covered nearly all of the 48 bullet points that I had ambitiously typed in our discussion starter handout!

Ideas for Advent in Our Domestic Churches
• Solemnity of Christ the King
• Thanksgiving
• Advent Wreath
• Advent Calendar
• Activity/Action Calendar
• Daily Prayers
• Jesse Tree
• O Antiphons/Novena (Dec. 17-23)
• Candles in Windows
• Christ Candle
• Purple Bows/Red Bows on Wreaths
• Christmas Lights
• Christmas Trees
• Nativity Sets
• Poinsettias
• Greenery & Holly
• Stockings (Jesus Stocking)
• Angel/Giving Trees
• Shoeboxes
• Advent Angels in the Home
• Straw in the Manger
• Sending Cards
• Receiving Cards
• Buying & Giving Gifts
• Making Gifts
• Making & Baking Goodies
• Christmas Mosaic
• Book a Day
• Lapbooks
• Christkindl Letters
• Music/Hymns/Carols
• Crafts
• Unit Studies
• Feast of St. Andrew – 11/30
• St. Francis Xavier – 12/3
• St. Nicholas (opt.) – 12/6
• St. Ambrose – 12/7
• Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – 12/8
• St. Juan Diego (opt.) – 12/9
• Our Lady of Guadalupe – 12/12 (Sunday)
• St. Lucy – 12/13
• St. John of the Cross – 12/14
• Twelve Days of Christmas – 12/25 - 1/5
• Feast of the Holy Family – 12/26 (Sunday)
• Feast of St. John – 12/27
• Feast of the Holy Innocents – 12/28
• Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – 1/1
• Epiphany of the Lord – 1/2 (Sunday)

We covered it all, and then some, encouraging one another to not overwhelm ourselves or our children but to truly make this liturgical season meaningful. To begin our discussion, I read aloud the beautiful piece by Jennifer Mackintosh from Wildflowers and Marbles titled "Preparing Our Hearts for Him: A Reflection on Nesting with Our Lady" printed in the recently released FREE electronic edition of mater et magistra, but more on that article another day! I just think it is amazing how each of these external practices can do so much to lead us closer to Christ if they truly come from the heart.

In case there is something on the above list with which you are not familiar or you are in need of inspiration for sharing one of these traditions with your family, below are the links used to compile the above list and shared in our breakfast discussion. Perhaps you will find some new idea to bring the joy of anticipation to your domestic church.

Links for Inspiration and Quality Resources
Fridge Art Ideas from
Weekly Coloring Pages, Lesson Plans, and More at Catholic Mom
Jessica's Liturgical Posts at Shower of Roses
Charlotte's Beautiful Coloring Pages for Feast Days
Charlotte's Amazing Advent Posts at Waltzing Matilda
Articles, Prayers, and More at Women for Faith & Family
The Awesome St. Nicholas Center
Maria Von Trapp's Inspiring Advent Thoughts
Karen's No-Panic Advent Series
Advent Lapbook PDF Download for Sale
Lacy's Collection of Links at Catholic Icing
Mary Ellen's O Night Divine Blog
Free Christmas Around the World Lapbook
Free Issue of Mater et Magistra on Advent
Meaningful Recipes for the Season at Catholic Cuisine
Samaritan Purse's Operation Christmas Child
Holy Heroes Sign Up for Free Advent Adventures Daily Emails
Illuminated Ink's Jesse Tree Ornament Kit
Our Sunday Visitor's Free Jesse Tree Coloring Pages
Tomie de Paola Free Online Advent Unit Study
Elizabeth's Real Learning Advent Lesson Plans
Cay's Information About Christmas Mosaic Including Booklist
Christmas Mosaic, An Illustrated Book Study for Advent and Christmas by Cay Gibson
Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider and Advent Storybook Advent Calendar

The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide

The Way to Bethlehem by Inos Biffi

If you have a favorite resource that I have not shared above, please post it in the comments! There are so many incredible ideas out there that I know I have missed many, but I wanted to share with my readers these examples of meaningful activities and books.

We had such a wonderful time at breakfast that we will likely meet again in December, and you, too, will benefit from that conversation with a blog post about our discussion! As soon as we decide on a topic, I will let you know!

Happy planning!