Friday, December 23, 2011

What I feel like when I run, 7QT, Volume 52

I am SO PROUD to announce that my brilliant beau is now a certified Professional Engineer! He is now known as Prince Charming, PE.

After a long, long, long two month stint of 200 pounds of engineering books, hours in a review classroom, and an eight-hour, butt-numbing test... not to mention the two month wait, he received his scores!

What a champion. I knew it!

His view from the stage
You know when you walk out of a great movie, hear a mind-blowing homily, or go to a comedy show and you can't remember ANYTHING said? I know how you feel.

But I have to assume Jerry Seinfeld was hilarious last week when I saw him in Richmond because I woke up with sore abs and a tight jaw. My dimples were aching.

He doesn't go to very many places when he tours for his comedy show, but he always seems to stop in Richmond at our Landmark Theatre (the Mosque, as we call it). Thank you, Jerry, for keeping it clean, for pointing out the nuances we all think about but can never articulate, and for entertaining me in my very own city!


About 5 minutes before their flirty snowball fight
My sister and I agreed, independently, that Beauty and the Beast is in great want of a five minute scene of Belle and the Beast falling in Love.

Brief synopsis covering about 15 minutes of the movie:
  • Belle finds her father in a dungeon
  • Beast takes Belle prisoner instead of father
  • Belle escapes, Beast finds her and fends off wolves
  • Belle and Beast are in love
Maybe I'm doing this wrong, but it doesn't work that way for me.

Speaking of Disney movies that don't portray Love accurately, I created a new pinboard and I think the ladies out there might enjoy it.
*4* Nuff said.

I just learned about this incredibly efficient use of the Internet and other people's time to save your bladder and prevent you from wasting your $46 on a movie ticket. Brilliant.


Speaking of running... Kayla of The Alluring World and Emily of A Day in the Life and I are on a team. We're virtual running buddies, motivating each other from afar to run and get into shape for our respective races.

I have a 10K run to look forward to on March 31, so if you could file away your prayers a little prematurely, me and my poor muscles would greatly appreciate it.

I ran this race last year, but I'm going to run it without stopping this year. I'm promising myself, and I never back down on a self-promise. The first line in my post from last year's race is:

"Oh man, y'all. I rediscovered something about myself: I am not a runner."

That will change, my friends. Care to join Kayla, Emily, and me?


After my accidental weeks-long break from blogging due to busyness, I think I made up for it this week with perhaps too many posts!

Our Deepest Fear - A short one that includes a quote that has been a necessary reminder for several years.

Chastity Carnal-val - I enjoy puns about chastity.

Carrying Baby Jesus into Christmas Mass - A call to action for all of us!

Lime spelled backwards - On the anniversary of my Emil Daddy's death


The Bright Maidens came back strong this week! I hope you didn't notice me skip out on the last one... if you didn't, I'm telling you now.

This week we "reviewed" TLC's new "reality" The Virgin Diaries. I enjoyed the responses, I hope you do too:

Mine, "Chastity Carnal-val"
Julie, "Kiss the Girl!"
Trista, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Virgin"

Katie, "Virgin 'Diaries'" - The woman behind the topic idea.
Alicia, "Virgin is the New Mermaid"
Beth Anne, "Virgin Diaries Review"
Sarah, "Unicorns in Our Midst: 21st Century Virgins"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lime spelled backwards

One year ago today, the only grandfather I got to meet passed away in his home, after more than a year battling to get back to normal life, post-stroke. One of the things everyone often teased him about was his chronic tardiness. I think of him now, finally reunited with the grandmother I never met, who died when my mother was a toddler: "Good ol' Emil. Always keeping me waiting!" I can hear her say.

In re-tribute, I'm reposting my tribute to him from last year:

My only grandfather passed away on Wednesday, early morning and we laid him to rest today. About two weeks ago, we checked him into the ER for pneumonia symptoms and found out he had lung cancer that had metastasized to his liver on the side that was paralyzed from his stroke a year ago.

My theory is that the paralyzed side hid a lot of the pain that he would have felt in what turned out to be late stages of cancer. PLUS he was a stubborn man who spoke of no pain, emotional or physical. You might think Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer are tough, but that's because you never met Emil Daddy.

We called him Emil Daddy because he was a strapping, young 54-year-old when his eldest grandchild (ME!) was born -- he didn't want to feel old and he liked doing things his own way, so it was "Emil Daddy."

If you're as impeccably observant as my grandfather was, you've already noticed that his name is the backwards version of a tart, green citrus fruit. He came to EVERY Grandparents' Day at each of his five grandchildren's schools, bringing with him a bag of limes as a visual teaching tool.

"You'll always remember how to spell it because it's lime, L-I-M-E, spelled backwards," he said to a crowd of open mouthed elementary school kids sitting Indian style on the rug.

He was always a big hit and my sister says she has a friend who asked her last year, "You're the one with the grandfather with the limes, right?"

My Emil Daddy lost his young wife when my mom and her sister were 2 and 3-years-old. I was talking to a friend and cousin the day he died and she exclaimed about how she didn't know any man who is ready to get married at the age he was on his wedding day, let alone who is able to raise two girls. Those girls grew into extremely successful women with college degrees, a nursing degree for one and an engineering masters degree for the other, and kicking families, if I do say so myself.

Throughout all of Emil Daddy's own book of Job, he remained steadfast in the Lord. It was really something to admire. His faith was consistent and strong, even when it would have been easier to get mad and give up.

In his daily life, Emil Daddy was extremely organized. I cannot begin to explain just what I mean by "extremely" because you have never met someone so efficient and particular. He saved every used peanut butter jar to store something, he separated black pens, blue pens, and red pens, he rewrote the user manuals for his computer in notebooks, cross-referencing them in other notebooks (using color coordination), so he would absolutely know where to go when he had a question.
I'm on the left. Chubby little hand, huh?
I could write for hours about the little quirks and memories I have of this stoic yet sacrificing and giving man. In fact, I'm working on a novel that will explain the love story between Emil Daddy and his wife, Thelma. Sneak preview: we have a few pages of 12-year-old Emil handwriting explaining how he was in love with a girl in his class, Thelma, and how he wanted to marry her. It only took ten years, I guess.

Thank you, Lord, for bringing me into the world under the care of my grandfather, Emil. I will continue to learn from the imprint he left on my life.

Thank you for your prayers and your time in reading this. God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Carrying Baby Jesus into Christmas Mass

Dust off the cameras and projectors, pull out the forgotten chairs, and unpack several dozen more sleeves of wafers: Christmas is almost here! With Christmas comes the perhaps temporary, reverse diaspora of many of God’s people.

Time to shake off the dust to let the Light shine through ourselves. We’ve been preparing for this, friends!

Sometimes Advent feels more like a rat race through increased traffic and higher credit card bills than a time of preparation for the coming of our Savior. I have filled too many of my adulthood Advents with inconsequential priorities that stomp out the importance of the season until Christmas Eve arrives.

Even on Christmas Eve I have found myself frustrated that my family must be dressed and in the car almost two hours before Mass begins in order to secure a seat. These “fair weather” attendees make me feel crowded, I’m ashamed to say I have thought.

This is the opposite attitude I should have when celebrating the birth of the Christ who came to save all of us.

This year, in an effort to pump up my prayer life, I will welcome the claustrophobia as the opportunity it is! There I will be, facing a packed room of new people to speak to! Consider taking this twice-a-year chance to meet these new people. They might consider coming to Mass more often if they found a sense of community at church and it’s our job to introduce them to it.

Imagine what it must be like to walk into church for the first time in nine months, picking a seat surrounded by silence on a day signified by joy. It would be hard to muster the courage to reach out at your premiere Mass — and sometimes the second opportunity doesn’t come. Let’s talk to them now.

Read more at IGNITUM TODAY!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chastity Carnal-val

Review: The Virgin Diaries on TLC
"Chastity Carnal-val" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The "Bright Maidens" were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

The greatest on-screen defense of chastity I've seen was in episode 12, season 4 of House, MD. The episode featured a Hasidic Jewish bride who collapsed at her wedding. The Hasidic duo were unable to consummate the marriage due to medical tests and certainly had not touched prior to their wedding day.

At one point, the bride was in shorts and a tank top for a medical test and her new husband said he needed to respect her and look away while she was in such a state. He said he imagines his wife thought the first time he would see her "bare" would be in the bedroom, "celebrating their marriage."

A doctor politely said, "Given the circumstances, I'm sure Roz would sacrifice her modesty to have you with her." To which the new groom replied:

"Please, don't do that...You think it's sweet that I care for her modesty, but that it's archaic and ultimately irrelevant. Our traditions aren't just blind rituals. They mean something, they have purpose. I respect my wife. And I respect her body."

I'd much rather see more bows in respect for those values in secular television shows than the spectacle of "Virgin Diaries," which looks like a carnival for unsexed folks.

Let's be honest, because I'm a virgin who hopes more people might find fulfillment in chastity, I'm going to be defensive about a "reality show" on a cable network showcasing virgins.
Another showcase: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding show

I admit, as I've never been all of the way on the other side of the "aisle" on this topic, my opinion is tainted. However, if we can rely on statistics as a guide, the opinions of the producers, feature reporters and much of the laughing audience are also tainted.

To clarify: I'm not condemning those who don't choose a chaste lifestyle. Believe me, I don't always get it right, and it would be wrong to think I could ever know anyone else's mindset or situation.

How easy it is to get fired up over this television show. Watching the commentary and talk show hosts banter on about it makes it obvious that this country, and probably the world, seems to think the people in this show are to be giggled at.

"If it's half as good as the promo, I think they have a very big hit on their hands," said Jimmy Kimmel.

Bingo. It's a hit. The unbearably uncomfortable few seconds of first kiss footage were a producer’s dream!

Just like the iPad solved the chunky laptop problem for a moment and Blueray raises the standard for home movies, someone came along with an idea for a new television show to attract audiences.

Why do people like to watch the Jersey Shore? Because they are outliers to the rest of us who don't know what that world is like. The concept of choosing (or not successfully pursuing) a premarital sex life is as bizarre to most Americans as the frosted-tip-orange-skin-rude-behavior lifestyle is to me.
We could be the virgin version of these fine people

Being a virgin after the first semester of college is a mythical lifestyle.

I have not seen an episode of the show all the way through, but I've watched the TLC-made promotional videos and the episode teasers. In one, we see the couple walking hand-in-hand, discussing the process of their wedding night, from wedding attire, step-by-step until they consummate their marriage, intermittently cut between scenes of them on a see-saw.

Please, TLC. I know you've hit network gold with this foreign concept, but handle it with a little professionalism and intelligence. See-saw?

If I put myself in the shoes of those who find the concept laughable, I can understand their grinning quips about how the newlyweds “can't keep their hands off each other” after the exchange of vows. However, if I may put my cynicism hat on, this reaction shows that it is hard to believe this show can ever be a helpful tool for those who want to share about the benefits of chastity.

We virgins who choose to abstain before marriage aren’t simply “keeping our hands off each other” -- it’s just too hard to do so blindly, especially in the twenty-first century. I know I'm trying to make a gift of myself in the most intimate way possible, to one man. Alice von Hildebrand calls it the "intimate sphere," because the terms "sex" and "making Love" have lost impact.

When I think about how supremely personal the "intimate sphere" will be, I can't imagine why these two virgins would volunteer a camera to document the final weeks and moments leading up to it, leaving the interpretation of an innocent jaunt on a see-saw to the editors.

I guess it's still up to those in the trenches to spread the message, via grassroots.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our deepest fear

Stop what you're doing and read this quote:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' 
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. 
Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. 
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. 
As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (Williamson, Marianne, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles," Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3] -- Sometimes attributed to Nelson Mandela, but he borrowed it from Ms. Williamson)

I know several friends and family members who are looking for a career change, looking for a job, trying to make a big life decision, and learning how to discern. Listen here, y'all.

God don't make junk. He created you with a unique set of talents and strengths. Remember this, read aloud the above quote, and go forth!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sneak preview

Sister, dad, mom, sister, me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Half an idiom is wanting

I'm in a British mood. I'm currently obsessed with a new television show, and no, it's not Canadian. It's British and brilliant. As I seem to have a struggle finding time for poignant posts that fit the original intent for this blog, I will share with you a fun one.

Maggie Smith is quite British.
There is much to be thankful for with the English language. We are so blessed with synonyms that we could potentially create 78,990 versions of one ten-word-long sentence, without repeating key vocables. Or locutions, or morphemes, if you prefer.

However, I often weep for the English language, at the same time I torture it. We're losing the ability to exchange intelligent thoughts, I fear. In looking for shorter, newer ways of speaking, we've lost a more eloquent tongue. One of the casualties of this slow murder has been the loss of significance in our idioms.

Here are several idioms that the show "Downton Abbey" uses in their entirety. You will probably recognize them, but you might not know they were longer than the version we throw around each day. Enjoy!
  • There are more fish in the sea than ever came out of it. - When one of the characters used this in the TV show, it was the first time I realized the phrase didn't stop with "there are more fish in the sea." With the tail (pun) at the end of the idiom, it's more specific, as it refers to the fisher (usually someone looking for a love) who might catch two or three fish (love-ees). This serves as a reminder that not only are there more fish out there to "catch" but that you haven't done a relative amount of fishing to find them. I won't comment on how that agrees or disagrees with TOB...
  • Shipshape and ready in Bristol fashion. - How FUN IS THIS IDIOM!? Try saying it with a British accent. Fun, right?! Bristol has been a prominent seaport town in the UK for centuries, though it is on a estuary river instead of at the coast. Therefore, the ships that came to Bristol had to be prepared to sit on dry land sturdily -- with carefully stowed goods-- as low tide went out (or came in, depending on if you're an English professor) each day. This phrase is a merge of two: ship-shape, which means just what it sounds like and has been used since the 17th century, and "in Bristol fashion" from the early 19th century.
  • You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. - You cannot make a good quality product using bad quality materials. Because I never really paid attention to this and just made my own guess for what it meant, I absentmindedly took this phrase to mean something similar to "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Funny how I had that backwards.... When life hands you lemons, go shopping for better quality fruit, so they say.
  • A drowning man will clutch at a straw. - I'm sure you know this idiom, or "grasping at straws," is used to describe the actions of someone in desperate situations. Its meaning comes from the former inference of "a straw" as it was once an accepted example to refer to anything flimsy or worthless, just as straw seems flimsy or worthless. So the language already had the word "straw" referring to anything worthless and we add the image of a drowning man clutch (derived from Wycliffe's 14th century English translation of 1 Timothy 6:12) at whatever might be able to prevent him from falling below the water, mix in several centuries and POOF we have "grasping at straws." Now you know what you're saying when you use that phrase!
  • Three sheets to the wind. - I was so excited to learn that this idiom, used when someone is very drunk, is derived from the "sheets" or the ropes that hold the sails in place on a ship. If these are too loose, they are blown by strong wind, making the boat unsteady and resembling a drunkard. Jolly ho!
  • One swallow doesn't make a summer. - One example or bit of proof doesn't make a pattern or truth. From Richard Taverner's transcription of the [Latin] proverbs of Erasmus - Prouerbes or adagies with newe addicions, gathered out of the Chiliades of Erasmus, 1539: "It is not one swalowe that bryngeth in somer. It is not one good qualitie that maketh a man good." And we thought we invented symbolism and imagery!
  • The best-laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry. - Tickle me pink to learn this is the whole phrase that we lopped off into two! It's directly from the Scotsman Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse:" "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." Gang aft agley, as you will have to trust me, means "go oft awry," or "often go awry." Just as we shorten idioms to "When in Rome," here we see that people can quickly use "best-laid plans!" as a quip to bring our fellow men and women to the trough for a taste of sweet, sweet humility. Other times, people tend to throw around "of mice and men," methinks carelessly and in a way that doesn't seem to fit with the origin. However, "the best-laid schemes!"
  • The darkest hour is just before the dawn. - A character from Downton Abbey used this phrase and followed it with, "But the dawn always comes." I've more often heard the intro to this phrase, "darkest hour," used as if it stands alone. I prefer knowing the entirety, because it packs in optimism while leaving it to the negative half of the equation suspends negativity indefinitely. That's the last thing our world needs.
  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating. - "The proof is in the pudding."  What?! "The proof is in the pudding" made me think of some piece of key evidence -- a credit card receipt, a murder weapon, or my little sister's neglected green beans -- swimming around at the bottom of the pudding bowl. I chalked it up (probably another misused idiom) to the goofy English language and moved on. Now I know that "proof" means "test," in this example (as we know we only get proof as a result of a test). This proverb can be traced back to the 14th century and basically means what it seems after we replace proof with test: until you have experienced something and done everything to learn as much as possible about it, you can't know its value.
  • The exception that proves the rule. - This never made any sense. Here again we need to remember that "proof" is the result of a test, so replace "proves" in the phrase. The phrase was intended to convey, "The exception demonstrates that the rule exists." It comes from latin legalese, circa 17th century: "Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis," or "exception confirms the rule in the cases not excepted."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Socialis Saturday

IgnitumToday has begun hosting a "Socialis Saturday" to bring the writers and commenters together in one forum. We want to hear from you! Today's topic is

What is the brightest new idea
that you had this year that
you would give as advice
to someone else?

Join us!

IgnitumToday is the new name for Virtuous Planet. For those who do not know, VP faced legal problems if the name was not changed. No one likes a lawsuit (well, most don't), so we changed it! Please follow us (again!) on Facebook and Twitter!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Souls in a storm

I'll hang on to my excuses over my missing Bright Maidens post and my absence for now.... several months ago Michelle from Catholic Unveiled asked me to help her fill some space on her blog while she served others with her big heart in Mexico. Here is my contribution that she published today:

On December 22, 2010, I woke up to one of the worst phone calls that I have ever received.On April 10 of this year I woke up feeling like someone was tugging on my throat and swinging from it like it tolled the bell in a tower. I knew she had left us.

I’ve become very familiar with funerals, the abundance of food, and handshakes over the last nine months. My great aunt died unexpectedly in November (four days before Thanksgiving), my maternal grandfather died a month later (three days before Christmas), and my paternal grandmother died a week before Palm Sunday.

An additional handful of friends and family have died since last November, placing me and my family in nine funeral Masses during the last nine months.

Someone who has to repeat outfits at the funeral home cannot easily avoid the big questions about what he or she believes about souls and life after Earth. Our logical, rational mind can get bogged down for the quest for answers to this question.

Logic and rationale are beautiful gifts of the mind; they are often helpful and the means by which we discover Truth. However, we can’t forget to think about where the rubber meets the road, especially when this vehicle is carrying a full load of grief and fear.

We are the Church, members of the Communion of Saints. When Christ conquered death and resurrected, He unified the Church beyond the weakened lines of Earthly death.

The readings for August 7 highlighted this bond and exemplifies the attendance of God in every part of our lives.

In moments of weakness, I catch myself assuming that God was only truly present with the prophets, among the Apostles, and the first disciples. Elijah had a direct telephone line to God, Moses saw Him several times, the Twelve followed Him around for three years, and then saw Him in the Upper Room after His death.

Of course they believed, I rant, their faith grew daily in His strong, factual presence.

We don’t get that luxury, I think in my self-pitying mindset. We just have to believe God cares enough to pull us out of the storm when we fall below the water’s surface.

“A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.” -1 Kings 19:11-13

God came to Elijah in the calm.

Read more....

Friday, December 2, 2011

Like Pulling Snowman Teeth - 7QT, Volume 51

Visit Conversion Diary for more!
I didn't post for Thanksgiving A) because I was enjoying time with my family and B) I prayed all of you were enjoying your Thanksgiving instead of reading blogs!

So......... I enjoyed time with my cousins, the Twinsies, and the rest of my family. They are almost a year old! I can't believe it. I have a sliver of the feeling that I would feel if I was their mother, I'm sure.

Cyber Monday came and went without a penny spent by me. *Pats self on back*

I hear the best deals come later anyway. Plus, do I really need anything else?

(Check out if you're considering buying some electronics or gadgets.)

Though I constantly resist the sales, I'm still enticed by some really delicious feeling of spending money, even though I HATE SPENDING MONEY.

I wrote this quick take on Wednesday... and Thursday I went on a spree... sigh.

How do you feel about the Victoria's Secret show? I never had a very strong opinion about it, but it occurred to me that I probably should...

My short opinion: yes, they are objectifying women. Absolutely, though the women choose to and even DREAM of walking down that catwalk. They also dress it up with the fanciful, costume atmosphere that the fashion world is famous for.

Therefore, no, it's not as bad as porn, but the subtlety allows more of the negative messages that discredit TOB to sneak by, under the guise of a carnival show.

Victorian Secret fashion show
Liesl introduced me to 1000 Awesome Things, such as when the first person starts the standing ovation. That person, if you look around next time you're at a performance, is usually my father or my sister. I admire them for that because, unfortunately, I don't think that will ever be me.

Check out their books for a dose of positivity in your Christmas shopping:

The Book of (Holiday) Awesome
The Book of Awesome

One thing I really love about my beau is also something that attracts a lot of playful teasing from my family and friends.

A cruel little game my family (and I) play is to name a movie, any movie, hoping to nail one of the 14 movies he's seen (I'm kidding, my love :) ). He's seen more than 14, but probably less than 80.

Again, I love this about him. He spent his childhood DOING things instead of watching movies. He is an expert on almost everything handy or crafty (seriously, everything). I learn something new every single day and without the time to learn all of that, he wouldn't be able to teach me the quirky, genius ways to fix things.

Plus, now we have the chance to watch some of my favorite movies together, should he wish to watch them.

He's putting in surround sound in his living room so we can enjoy some movies together. :)

I still prefer our hiking and travel outing most of all.

I just watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and .... the first thing I thought of when the Dentist took out the teeth of the Abominable Snowman was, "Eugenics!"

As we know, the delightful founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a strong voice in the eugenics movement. She advocated for birth control and sterilization to clean up the human race (taking out the "mentally inferior" and black), treating fertility like a disease.

Now here we have this gigantic, fearsome (misunderstood?) monster whose unappealing feature is his man-and-reindeer appetite and accompanying teeth. Pop, pop, pop. Get those things out of there. Presto-chango, he's tame and puts stars on your 15 ft. Christmas trees at the end of a leash.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down? To clarify: I'm not accusing the writer of Rudolph of supporting eugenics, nor am I belittling serializing to removing a monster's teeth.

Do you think Santa picked up a Canadian accent up there?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spontaneous Catholics is now Ignitum Today! And now that the pixels have realigned at the new address, it's safe to share this with you (Please go LIKE the new Facebook page here):

“I know Catholics aren’t exactly known for being spontaneous…” my priest said to a chorus of laughter.
This morning’s Thanksgiving Day Mass took a turn for the unexpected when the conclusion of our priest’s homily called for an open forum among the community. He asked the 100 or so in the congregation to “go around the table” and shout out that which we are thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.
Immediately I winced, not because I didn’t like the idea, but because I lacked faith in the bravery of my brethren. We’re Catholic, after all. We like tradition, camaraderie and (sometimes sadly) the norm.
Thus, when the first shout out in gratitude for our close community came from the music pit, my anxiety faded. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I belong to, perhaps, the greatest community of believers I’ve known.
We’re not the most traditional (we don’t have kneelers or altar servers), we’re not the most pious, but the 1300 sq. ft. commons area outside the sacristy is a-buzz with chatting families and loud voices left over from the previous Mass within minutes of a later Mass beginning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Mount

Moments that remind us God fully exists
"The Mount" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The "Bright Maidens" were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

I blog.

Blogging is a lifestyle, not just a practice involving drafts, HTML, and comment boxes. When you blog, you start seeing life through the scope of your writing capabilities.

Bloggers get to a point wherein every lesson they learn must be assessed: can I share this with the world on my blog? Will I do it justice? Should I just jot down this thought on my napkin while no one is looking?

That point sneaks up on you until one day you have a really great cry, or your talking with your best friend about something you've never discussed with anyone, and you think, "I need to blog about this."

It's a similar problem that plagues Christians (the bloggers and non-bloggers alike) in their daily lives. I know my mind is littered with mental notes of the "perfect" analogy, or the "best" examples of Christian living, set aside to pull out in the middle of a discussion.

We get so wrapped up in the path we took to grow our relationship with Christ and want to share it with others that we forget that the Holy Spirit is at work all day, everyday. We start to judge, accuse, get comfortable, get lazy, and go through the motions.

In cases such as these, in His infinite wisdom, God provides for us His vast expanse of nature.
Mt. Rainier (I don't own this picture)
When I traveled to Seattle and my beau joined me for a four day Northwestern excursion, we spent an entire day around Mt. Rainier. Upon arrival, the day was chilly due to cloud cover, but not enough for a jacket on the hike.

It's no mistake that much of Jesus' greatest work was accomplished outside, e.g., feeding the 5000, Beatitudes, Crucifixion, etc. The great outdoors opens the scope for larger crowds and a reminder of Original Man's surroundings.

Rather than slipping into an 8th grade poem about crisp air, clear blue sky, white mountain tops and ... oops, we're already there.

There is no virtual reality game for hiking or walking around without the whuushhh of cars rushing by while you stare off the edge of a cliff in the presence of a snow-covered mountain in July.

It would be like trying to describe the vast experience of a conversion or enlightenment by explaining the wallpaper in the room one was sitting in when it happened.
"Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound..." 1 Kings 19: 11-12
When we ascended the mountain, with the iconic Rainier peak to our left and green-carpeted mountain piles on our right, a warm wind picked up. It slowly nudged the clouds over our heads and beyond our sight.

The sun emerged without threat of straggling cloud when we started descending the other side of the trail, illuminating the landscape and strengthening the color contrasts. In one [panting] moment at the high point of the trail, I felt God in the wind.

I grabbed a pen (still not free of the blogger's crutch) and wrote this down, my leg as my clipboard:
He makes it so obvious to us and people still won't recognize Him. Post about spiritual dry spells vs dry rainforests. You don't realize how you could not see Him when it's wet. The opposite when it's dry.
I certainly don't have it figured out and my homage to the spiritual jump-start I got that day at Mt. Rainer is to avoid describing it. Rather than belittling it, I just encourage anyone who is physically able to climb away from daily life, to do so.

Go somewhere you can watch out for Him and listen for Him.

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Year of JML Love

Today is the one year anniversary of the unexpected passing of one of my grandparent figures. She was a wonderful, giving woman in every sense of the word. My family celebrated her life this morning at Mass, putting us in communion with her and the rest of the Communion of Saints.

Thank you, God, for putting her in the lives of my mom, my aunt, her husband, her children, her daughters-in-law, the grandchild she got to hold and the twin grandchildren who will learn about her throughout their lives.

In memory, I'm re-posting the eulogy I gave in her honor a year ago (For those who have never heard the Richmond accent, "Hello there" is pronounced <<Hello, they-yah>> and she was famous for it):

Hello they-yah.

One of the most consistent memories I have of Joan Marie was that she was always very well put together. She always had a fun jacket or sweater, perfectly matched shoes, and a fresh face of make-up. I remember that every time I hugged her, I felt a little foundation rub off onto my cheek.

Now, I think I was in 6th grade when I finally grew taller than her, so it was the little ritual I will always remember: first, she’d say “Hello they-yah Elizabuth,” Second, bend down, but not until the last second, so as not to look like I was about to hug a 10 year old. Third, accept the warm kiss on my cheek and feel the slick spot of foundation on my cheekbone. Just like I could feel that little spot on my cheek, we all feel the direct and indirect “rub offs” that Joan left on each of us.

Joan Marie and the house she decorated WERE CHRISTMAS. She used to tickle my dad into submission. Laura and Chris always mentioned each time they received a gift, which was always perfectly wrapped, on time, and ideal for that person, it would most likely be green. My freshman year of college, she IM'd me. My 65 year old Great Aunt IM'd me! I’m sure Michael Jr will testify that she was the coolest Mimi around and he’ll get to tell his new cousins all about her.

Joan lived the faith and didn’t ask for credit. Obviously Matthew 6 was stamped right on her heart. She probably dropped off meals at peoples’ houses who, to this day, do not know from whom they came.

This philosophy spilled over, in abundance, to her life with Saint Gertrude High School. I never knew how involved in Saint Gertrude she was until I was pleasantly surprised to run into her at a class correspondents’ meeting earlier this fall. Gerties love their committees, I think I sit on 3 of them and I’m sure she sat on 30 or more since she graduated. There she was at her alma mater for what was likely her 1000th meeting to discuss Alumnae relations, chatting up some ladies from her Gertie era. She was the popular kid!

When I offered to talk about Joan, Johnny asked me not to be too soupy. So let me see: ham biscuits, broccoli casserole, corn pudding, Peecahn PAHI.

Let’s just agree, the essence of Joan Marie is: Joy. And it’s our job to keep that joy going.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ferris Bueller, You're My Hero - 7QT, Volume 50

Click to go to Jen's Blog

This one goes out to my lovely cousin who had to prod me a few times in the last few weeks due to lack of posts/quick takes. Normally I would post a picture of us as babies, but I forgot to ask permission.
Here's one I think she would appreciate:
(Owned by Focus Features)

I love my job because it allows me to travel to and fro and pays for hotels with views like this:


We were in Ft. Lauderdale last week and one of my co-worker buddies suggested we take the rest of the weekend to relax instead of flying out. Relax we did (with a minor hiccup on the way home).

We tried to go in the sun, but it was so windy and there were so many (albeit fast-moving) clouds that we ended up back in the hotel hot tub every few hours. It was glorious to sit and read outside, especially when I was in my ski jacket in the Virginia mountains just two weeks ago:


I'm obviously the one taking the picture and NOT standing on the waterfall above. A group of friends from college gathered at one friend's family house in a Virginia ski resort at the end of October. REUNION!

We were driving up the mountain, minding our own business, and it starts to snow. And it snowed and snowed. And snowed.

My beau was going to have to join on Saturday because he did something very impressive that Friday (big pat on the back, AGAIN, you-know-who-you-are) and took a big exam. I was worried it would be unsafe for him to come up after the snow, but come he did, just in time for the pumpkin-carving contest.

It's hard to see it, but ours is the cat next to the turtle.

It was during that trip that I realized I'm officially an adult.

You would have thought that might have happened at Confirmation, 18, 21, or any other year in the last six, but no. Half of the folks on our little reunion trip were married (to one of the other people on the trip). Adult.

Perhaps it negates the epiphany into adulthood when one points it out...

To distract you from that, I would like to urge you to read Scott Hahn's "A Father Who Keeps His Promises." I haven't done enough studying of the Bible, so the idea of walking through the entire Old Testament into the New Testament intimidated me.

Read it, you'll know what he means when he says our God really is a Father who keeps His promises. Over and over and over again. Especially when we don't deserve it.


Now for the reason for the title:

Liesl of "The Spiritual Workout Blog" is my hero.

She went to the doctor yesterday for something entirely unrelated to her face, yet the first thing the doctor mentioned was birth control treatments for acne. Liesl said her in-head reaction shouted, "Yes I would like to pollute my body in exchange for getting rid of a zit."

Later that night, Liesl constructed her words and called the doctor to leave a voicemail. She thanked the doctor for her time and attention that day and then confronted her about her rash suggestion for birth control. She asked her, as a patient, to consider the extremely harmful, carcinogenic side effects of The Pill before off-handedly prescribing it to the women who walk in her door.

How many of us stand up and raise our voices like that? Well, Liesl did and she wins the Catholic (really, this should apply to all women) Superhero award.


The Bright Maidens were *cough* unable to *cough cough* post this week. Thank you for your patience, but we're going to post on the topic, "Moments we realized God fully exists" on THIS Tuesday.

As Mary said, "Perfect for Thanksgiving week!"

Yes, yes, that's exactly why we're posting it late...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Traveling with Purpose

Tie your running shoes to the outside of your bag before the security lines to save space and wear slip off shoes for ease of removal. Keep your 3-1-1 liquids bag in an outside pocket. Have your ID and boarding pass in one hand and your laptop in the other, prepared to grab two plastic bins.

Fill this place with LIGHT
Much of the last two years of my life have been spent in airports or en route to a different location for work. The quirks of traveling have become habit. I am not as mechanical as Clooney in Up in the Air, but I'm good at the routine.

In the first few trips I took for my job, I concentrated on looking like a professional traveler instead of interacting with others along the way. I was always courteous and kind, I would even strike up a few chats:

"Is this seat taken?" "No, no, it's all yours!" or "I think I'm in the seat on the other side of you." "Okay, no problem, I'll get up!" I was really reaching people to the core.

Airplanes always seem like temporary time machines to me. I get on the plane, sit for X hours and then get off, knowing I might bump into that lady in the restroom or that guy in the line for coffee. We'll probably never see each other again.

It reminds me of how many people on Earth I will never know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Neither parties will do OUR job

I had great plans for this post. I was going to stealthily tip toe between the nail-biting subject of politics and the clearer world of Catholicism to argue what you already know: Catholics don't have a party.

Both Democrats and Republicans should check themselves against morals. The political right in the Church have to avoid harmful selfishness, warmongering, and supporting murder through the death penalty and euthanasia. The political left in the church have to avoid creating too much power for the secularized government and avoid supporting abortions, euthanasia, and other non-negotiable beliefs by association.

As I am a recovering politicaholic, I have tried hard to avoid the subject of politics and elections on this blog, other than on an issues basis. This post was going to climb over that wall I built and offer the reader a hand to see both sides. Like I said, I had great plans.

The talented and insightful Anna Williams has done a much better job than I could have done and I would rather just point you to her for your political feast:

In pursuit of Catholic politics at

Politics are a tricky business, even trickier for a Catholic. Anna reminds us that our Catholic faith encompasses our entire life, not just the parts outside of the voting booth.

Now I must go off and guide where the rubber meets the road: it's off to the voting booths for me. Lord, please guide my thoughts, so that I may cast my tiny vote in a way that helps and does not harm my community.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hold your tongues

PDA in the Digital Age

by Julie at The Corner with a View
Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite will be sitting out this week.
"Hold your tongues" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The "Bright Maidens" were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

We've all clicked through more Facebook photo albums than we care to admit.

Perhaps you're more disciplined than I am, but I remember when Facebook first allowed Photo Albums back in the fall of 2005 and I stayed up until 3:00 in the morning, clicking through random photos. What a stalker I "was."

Even today, though the nuance of Facebook and photo albums has worn thin, I find myself perusing a few photo albums of people I barely know. Call me creepy, but I say Facebook has opened a whole new scope for amateur sociology and I eat it up. The colors, the creative Halloween costumes, the photos of places I wish I could go, happy wedding and baby photos of those I haven't seen in years. I just can't get enough of the pictures!

One sure way to get me to click away, especially when I was lovesick and single, was when a Facebook friend posts a MySpace-style photo of a smoochfest from an arm's length away. Yup, a split-second look at two (usually young and freshly dating) folks exchanging a kiss just seems out of place in my admittedly liberal dose of photo perusing.

Many couples post pictures of kiss exchanges between them and their new spouses in their wedding photos and these are quite touching. They seem like moments of ecstasy, captured by someone invited or hired to document the day.

I'm not writing to condemn others for the random kissing photo in our digitized world. Some are simply more comfortable with flaunting their physical love for their significant other than I am.

The Facebook generation has fewer inhibitions to their privacy and the camp seems to be split: is Facebook PDA better, worse, or the same as in-person PDA? Perhaps we shouldn't be looking at photos of our friends if we're not prepared to see their tongues. Or perhaps we should think about why we're posting a play-by-play of our tonsil hockey on Facebook.

Most people posting these photos are probably not boiling down their entire relationship to one kissy photo, but that's one of the impressions it gives: This is how we love each other, isn't it cute? I would suggest they consider the potential pain of "detaging" or deleting those photos if the relationship were to end, knowing that they can neither "detag" nor delete the image from onlookers' eyes and minds.

Just because you're on the Internet and you cannot physically see other people does not mean the rest of the world ceases to exist. We're all humans out here and those who tend to interact with more people through the Interwebs would do well to remember that.

Friday, October 28, 2011

No more nunsense

I interrupt this 7 Quick Takes Friday to bring you something much heavier and more necessary for my sanity this weekend. I'm going to the mountains with my beau and good friends and I cannot wait for the fresh air and marvelous views that remind me how much more credit I need to give to God on a daily basis.

Anthony challenged me to write a post about the religious life that dives deeper into my true feelings about the chaste, poor, and obedient vocation. In good faith, he offered the same.

The truth is I have no idea how to discern my vocation. I flip-flop between certainty about marriage, a general openness for God's plan in my life, and back to terror. This (and the profound Love of my unblackened soul) is why I can never be a politician.

I spend a lot of time talking to God, praying the Our Father and Hail Mary, reading what people have to say that either affirms or juxtaposes (therefore confirms) what I believe, and thinking I have most of it figured out. Yes, my faith grows in and through God, but I limit it with my fear when there should be nothing scaring me.

I listened to this sermon, "How to discern your vocation," which a commenter on offered. I wish I heard it in middle school, not because it cleared anything up for me, but because it explains why it's important to discern the religious life before dating.

As I lay in bed, having listened to the sermon, I wept. I wept when I became aware of a darkness filling the void where discernment belonged. I wept because I vehemently don't want to choose away from my boyfriend, if that's what God called me to do.

I ached, a violent, physical pain in my chest, at the idea that choosing a religious vocation meant my children would never exist. My ribs caved in with my silent sobs.

I cried thinking about writing letters to my family and friends instead of seeing them daily or weekly. I cried at the thought of Alternate Elizabeth explaining a choice for religious vocation to her family and friends. My tears fell because the religious life has rarely been a serious consideration and I realized that meant I had walled up a path to God.

As I mentioned in my original post, I know it would be a fulfilling life. The priest in the sermon linked above went so far as to say it is the most straightforward (albeit toughest) path to Heaven. I could work with children, speak a different language, live simply, and create strong bonds with a community.

How beautiful the life of a religious! You choose the tougher path and become a joyful light in the world because of it! Your day is ordered between prayer, service, simplicity, and a healthy helping of patience.

Like the rest of the world, you encounter stress, sorrow, doubt, happiness, surprise, and God's sense of humor. The difference is that you carry the weight of a community on your shoulders with a great sense of humility that it is really Christ's yoke.

The other side of my head (Is it my heart? Is it my self-tradition?) wants to scream out, "I can do those in the vocation of marriage, as well!" Obviously, I have not "solved" this puzzle, but I have seen a void in which prayer needs to erupt. Immediately and without fear.

My sorrow over what is really a new realization doesn't necessarily mean married life is for me. The joyful nature attached to the habit is not exclusive to religious life, as marriage might be my calling. Everyone makes sacrifices in their chosen path. It's about time I start sacrificing that wall of fear and tear it down.

Now, God, I need your help figuring out how to do that.

Ahem: Enough with the kooky titles? This post needs a kooky title because it emotionally exhausted me beyond my abilities to keep things peppy in the body of it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Being nun the wiser

With the help of a winky face, Sister Lisa challenged me to reach into the deep end of my spirituality.

Her honest and beautiful approach to a recent wedding led to a curiosity of my perspective on the possibility of religious life today. The winky face was for effect.

Other than the occasional pop culture reference, the majority of my childhood exposure to women in religious life was at family events (several non-habit-wearing nuns in my family) and from the 1966 classic, The Trouble with Angels. If you have never seen this film (shame on you), I suggest you stop reading.

The goofiness of 1960s films culminates in this story about a trouble-maker and her partner in crime. These teenage "captives in a nunnery" spend three years throughout the movie at a boarding school populated by nuns and other teen girls. Heads butt and rules break at every turn.

By the grace of God, after a lot of trial and much more error, the trouble-maker comes to understand a purpose in self-sacrifice, especially that which it takes to be a religious sister.


"But how could you give it up?" Mary presses. Reverend Mother smiles and says, "I found something better."


Monday, October 24, 2011

Church Facts I Learned This Year

This month marks my one year anniversary for blogging! I started blogging about Catholic-centric things in late October 2010, so in celebration, here a list of Catholic facts I never knew until this year:

Prayer candles in Chicago
1. Abortion is a severe mortal sin and committing it can lead to excommunication. The catechism outlines that there are certain grave sins can only be absolved through a good confession with the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them (see the Catechism - #1463).

2. Any confirmed Catholic can baptize someone into the Catholic faith. A friend had to wait several months before he could have his daughter baptized, so he created a plan to line his the car seat with holy water balloons in case of an accident. He said it would be his dying breath, baptizing his daughter. I hope he drives more carefully and makes it to the planned baptism. UPDATE: Someone who commented graciously informed me that in extremes, one does not need to be a confirmed Catholic (or baptized at all) to baptize someone (CCC 1256).

3. You don't have to go through a Catechism program in order to get baptized and confirmed into the faith if you were baptized into most other Christian faiths. If someone was baptized with water and the Holy Spirit, they can study the doctrine of the Church and we can welcome them into the Church year-round.

4. Taking Communion on the tongue is actually not the most traditional way to receive the Eucharist; receiving Him in the hand was the original method. The only reason the Church started distributing the Eucharist on the tongue was because superstitious, uninformed people thought the Eucharist was a magical talisman. They would conceal the Eucharist in their hands at Mass and plant them in the fields to improve their crop. For more, listen to this -- one of our diocesan priests gave a talk about praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Elaborate altar - St. John Cantius in Chicago

5. The altar was meant to face east in a church, representing the direction of Christ's birthplace. As churches were built, the altar slowly moved from the middle of the room toward the side, but the priest continued to face east. Once the altar hit the east wall, the priest still faced east, putting his back to the congregation. It was never a way to block out the congregation or exclude. The priest and the people were reverent and facing God together.

6. Catholics cannot get married or baptized during Lent.

7. Catholics cannot take the symbolic communion that Protestant churches serve. Because Protestants do not preserve "the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness...[,] Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible." (Catechism, see 1400)

8. My one companion is darkness (Psalm 88, Liturgy of the Hours, Night Prayer)

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

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