Category Archives: Life

Can We Be Catholic and American? (A Response to Archbishop Chaput’s Bishop’s Symposium Talk)

__Author’s note:_ Over at the full post, faithful reader DanC pointed out that I had my Chaput speeches mixed up! I have edited the text here and there to correct my error.

I spent a while learning how to teach adolescents in addition to my time being one, so I have thought a lot about identity formation. Facing a future with President Donald Trump is forcing many Americans to reconsider what the country really thinks, believes, and wants. If the election results demonstrate anything about our national culture, it is that we are divided, and the division is sharper than many of us realized. It even extends into our religious identities. I have seen more than one report that Catholics voted almost 50/50 for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Catholic vote is not as easy to pin down as it once was.

So who are we as a church and as a country? Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia offered some thoughts several weeks before the election at the USCCB’s Bishop’s Symposium. He was speaking to Catholics who are involved in the political sphere, but I think his message is helpful for all of us who seek to be both Catholic and American. I offer some of his remarks here with some commentary of my own.

America’s cultural and political elites talk a lot about equality, opportunity and justice. But they behave like a privileged class with an authority based on their connections and skills.

One of the things I’ve learned from living in so many cities, states, and countries is the true meaning of culture and the power of experience. The best definition of culture I know is “how we do things around here.” In Austin, we don’t honk our car horns out of anger in stop-and-go traffic (and boy, do we have that traffic). In other cities, people honk. It’s not a matter of rudeness or nonchalance; it’s just how we do it. Before the election, many in the media wondered who would ever vote for Donald Trump. Now we know: quite a lot of people would, and did, and most of them are residents of areas far from major media’s usual concern. A Trump presidency was a possibility from the moment he received the nomination. The many who expressed disbelief may have forgotten about all the rest, and it was those voters who secured Trump’s win.


Consider the elitist attitudes we find…. Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Pocket-Sized Pointers for Picking a Partner (Review: “101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person”)

Today’s review is of a short book, so this will be a short review. Following on the heels of their successful book 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage, Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes have released a guide for getting to marriage in the first place. This new title basically begged me to read it: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do. Yes, please! In this tiny tome, I found much to support my previous thoughts about important premarital decisions and a few new points to ponder.

As the authors note, it’s much easier to have a happy marriage when you’ve married the right person in the first place. Thus, most of the book is given over to how to improve yourself as a single, how to date wisely, and what to look for when the possibility of marriage pops over the horizon. They’re definitely on the right track there. I have never been married, but I used to do marriage prep (for other couples, not for myself), and I have a personal interest in improving the way marriages begin. Starting off on the right foot sounds like a good way to set yourself up for marital bliss.

Photo by Billy Quach

Photo by Billy Quach

Some standout tips are… Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Currently: September 2016

Currently at Lindsay Loves

Oh, hi, September. I was really eager for you to get here because my August was so awful. You’re not great so far, but you’ve got a little while left to turn things around.

Here’s what I am currently…

Reading: Whatever my Goodreads account says I am. My main book right now is Walking with God, which I’m reading with Mr. Man for our tiny two-person book club. Strictly speaking, he’s finished reading. I’m still plodding along slowly, refreshing my memory from the 8-week Bible study version of the same content from several years ago and getting ready for the 24-week version at my parish this month. Salvation history is amazing. I love geeking out with Mr. Man over our insights.

Trying: To keep going. As I said, I struggled through August, and I’m still struggling. I tried some new West Coast Swing moves. Wrist slips are very tricky.

Hoping: Not for a whole lot at the moment. I’m taking things one day at a time, so I guess I’m hoping I get more days in which to try again. Tomorrow is not promised to you.

Decorating: File folders. For my main Labor Day project, I set up a monthly tickler file. (This page has instructions and a ton of photo examples.) It’s part of GTD, but it only works with paper and other physical items, so I got by without one for a while. I bought all my supplies last May (not this past one… the one before that), but I never prioritized actually building the thing. I finally moved it off my Someday/Maybe list and got it done. There isn’t much in it at the moment, but it looks so pretty! I detest color-coding; I love colorful things.

GTD Tickler at Lindsay Loves

Just the middle part. The part in front is files that need purging and relabeling.

To-do Listing: That is not a word. Due to my love of Wunderlist and GTD, my to-do list is technically several lists. I did cross off two noteworthy items last month. I paid off another of my student loans, leaving me with only two left. I needed a win, and my debt snowball was finally large enough. Say what you want about the math; I’m getting out of debt. I also completed one of the monthly syllabi for my West Coast classes that I missed during my first go-round at this level. Learning new material on top of everything else was a challenge, but it was a challenge I could do. And I did.

Recapping: August

  • My grandmother disappeared for just over three weeks. She was found dead just over a week ago. We won’t be able to schedule her funeral for a while.
  • I got a staph infection and folliculitis at the same time. I’m better now.
  • Mr. Man’s family also went through some tough times.
  • I was slammed at work, which made all of the above a lot more difficult.
  • It was my birthday. I celebrated quietly and unremarkably.

August was a tough month. I am glad that it’s over. What’s new with you? What projects are you finishing currently?

Currently is hosted on the first Wednesday of each month by Anne of In Residence. This month’s guest co-host is Beth of The Beth Next Door. Won’t you join us?

7 Quick Takes Ending My Radio Silence

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

It’s been quiet around the blog lately.

I have had an exceptionally difficult August. My first instinct in times of stress is to turn my usual action-oriented personality way up. I just Get Stuff Done. My second instinct is to flip out and keep my head down, to stay docile and quiet. That first instinct got me pretty far. I even managed my post for ATX Catholic. After that, I just tried to make it through my days as quietly as possible.

Things have eased up a little bit now, so I’m ready to try to regain my regular life.

— 2 —

My grandmother disappeared three weeks ago today. She lives near my parents back home in Maryland. My mom talks to her mom every day, so they are in near-constant contact. My grandma left her senior apartment complex to run a midmorning errand on August 4, and that’s the last time anyone saw her.

About a week later, Mr. Man alerted me to a local news story about my grandmother’s disappearance. I was reluctant to share our crisis at first. I wanted to ask for prayer, but I didn’t want to open up my grief. I still don’t. But I did, and I am, if only to increase our prayer support.

— 3 —

On August 8, I was suddenly slammed at work. I have been in the same role for two years, but I have never had the volume of work I experienced over the last three weeks. All of my energy went toward maintaining my day-to-day outside of work and managing my at-work workload.

— 4 —

Around August 9, I discovered that I had two simultaneous bacterial infections. (I thought it was just one at first, but I also thought it might be bedbugs. It was two. Neither was bedbugs.) They are clearing with the use of antibiotics, but it added insult to injury (or perhaps injury to injury), particularly because they are in the same area as my recently-diagnosed but as-yet-undisclosed-on-the-blog health condition. At least I already had an appointment with my doctor on August 16, and the diagnosis and treatment weren’t difficult. That helped ease the stress a little.

— 5 —

My stress increased, however, when Mr. Man’s family experienced their own tough times. It is not mine to share, but trust me, it’s a big deal.

— 6 —

In comparison to the rest of the month, this past week was excellent. In comparison to my regular life, it was pretty meh. My workload has returned to normal levels. I’m slowly getting back some of the mental space I lost when everything started happening all at once. I took two dance classes last night instead of my usual one, which made me feel invigorated and also tired.

— 7 —

I want to end on a cheerful note. I did some reading aloud at Spirit & Truth this week. One of our members complimented my lectoring skills. I pointed out that I have no athletic talent, so I consider lectoring my make-up skill. “Ah, so you have ath-lectoring talent,” she replied.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Finding God, Funny Times, and Failing Health (Review: “Operating on Faith”)

I tend not to like vignette-style books. I never did like The House on Mango Street, critical acclaim and racially diverse protagonist notwithstanding. I do, however, enjoy stories of young adults living the Catholic life with joy, not bitterness. It’s refreshing, and it’s my reality. With a lighthearted approach in mind, I read Operating on Faith: A Painfully True Love Story, by Matt Weber, and found much mirth infused by reverence.

A review of "Operating on Faith" at ATX

As I said, this book is a memoir told by way of vignettes through Weber’s first few years of marriage. I knew that the “for better or for worse” of Matt and Nell’s early marriage would come into play, but I still wanted a cohesive character journey to follow. Even with scattered scenes, I like to have the feeling that there is a running theme to a story, a particular meaning. In the author’s own words, the major takeaway is that we should “find the meaning.” I struggled with that. Weber definitely encourages his readers to find meaning in their suffering (physical and spiritual), but he has one critical factor that not everyone does….

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Currently: July 2016

Currently at Lindsay Loves

I am not ready for it to be July yet. I was also not ready for it to be Thursday. I’m glad it’s not the 6th anymore, though. I write the date on things all day long at work, and I’m one of those people who does all numerals and slashes, so I had serious trouble with 6/6/16 and 7/6/16. So many lines and slashes! Can we get to August already? I don’t think 8’s will be quite as confusing.

Here’s what I am currently…

Toasting: Bagels. Same as always. I eat a bagel for breakfast almost every day. I am a butterer, not a cream cheeser. And these days, I can only have them toasted. For some bizarre reason, our thermostat defaults to 79 or 80 in the summer. I haven’t figured out how to change the default (we rent), so I just override it manually when I get home and before I go to bed. The heat makes the pantry so warm that my bagels kept getting moldy, so I started keeping them in the fridge. No one likes a fridge-cold bagel, so I have to toast them first. No room-temp bagel eating until winter. I do, however, love fridge-cold french fries.

Going: That’s more of a “where” than a “what.” #grammarhammer I am not a “week away” vacation kind of girl. I much prefer using a day here or there for a short road trip (like when I saw my heavenly BFF St. Maria Goretti last fall) or to attend an out-of-town wedding. And since I go home for Christmas, I have to save up days all the way until the end of the year. So I haven’t been going much of anywhere, and I’m okay with that. I do have another visit to Mr. Man scheduled soon, though. That should be pretty delightful.

Smelling: Grossness. We got a new dishwasher, and I hoped that would solve the mysterious dirty dishes problem. Things weren’t really getting clean. Without that essential quality, a dishwasher is just a cabinet with lots of organization and a weird door. I’m also tired of seeing obvious fingerprints and lip prints on our glasses. I wear tinted lip balm, and I reuse my water glass several times, but I’ve never had this problem before. Maybe it is “operator error,” as we say at work. The new dishwasher also seems to have an excellent seal, such that it holds dirty-dish smells exceptionally well. Should we be running it more often? We try to wait until it’s full, which can take a week. (We don’t always eat at home.) That wasn’t a problem when I lived alone and ran my dishwasher probably every 10 days or so. More operator error?

Wearing: Shorts. I gave up shorts completely several years ago. I have unusually long thighs (that’s what makes me so tall), so when trends moved towards 3-inch inseams, I opted out. After several long, hot years, bermudas came back in style, and I was a happy camper again. We had uncharacteristically mild weather in both winter and spring here, so the rush of summer was even more unsettling than usual. Welcome back, A/C, my old friend.

Wishlisting: Didn’t we just have this one? (Yes.) My new computer is fantastic. Now I need a new laptop sleeve. For my previous laptop, I bought one that matched the cute design on the laptop lid itself. The new one is just slate gray, so I have basically limitless possibilities. Any brand recommendations?

Recapping: June

I knew June would be a very full month, but it’s intimidating to look back at it now! So what’s new with you? What are you smelling currently?

Currently is hosted on the first Wednesday of each month by Anne of In Residence and Jenna of Gold & Bloom. Won’t you join us?

Why Is Making Friends as an Adult Weird and Kind of Difficult?

Verily Magazine posted an article last year with tips for making friends as an adult, and just yesterday, they added another one that compares adult friend-finding to dating. I’m glad I’m not the only one going on friend dates! Let’s blow this discussion wide open.

It’s going to be a girly discussion, though. Verily is a women’s magazine, and I’m a woman, so I don’t know if this advice (or even the problem!) applies to men. The dynamics of male friendships are beyond my scope. Both articles have great lists of strategies, but the second hints more at what my heart is still wondering: why it’s so weird (and kind of hard) to make friends as an adult.

I do have friends. I talk about this situation with them sometimes. The newer article highlights three critical factors for building a friendship: “proximity, repeated and unplanned interactions, and a setting that lets you confide in each other.” When you’re no longer surrounded by peers for the majority of your waking hours, you still need friends, but it’s much harder to find them. I managed to do it (and thus have someone to talk about it with; so meta), but why is it so difficult in the first place?

Me, with friends

Oh, hey, pretty ladies! This is me with my friends Sara and Rebecca. We met in undergrad. College is a great place to make friends!

When I moved to Austin (almost six years ago!), I knew a few people in the area from my grad school program, but they weren’t really my friends. Besides our collegiate affiliation, we had little in common. It took until about Christmastime for me to realize that I had no friends here. So I turned to my favorite resource, the Internet, and found a delightful non-parish-specific Catholic young adult group and my trivia teammates.

The Catholic YA group is no more, but I was always in it with the personal mission to make actual friends. I wanted to build connections with people so that I didn’t need organized, scheduled activities in order to see them. Since the group disbanded, I don’t see some of the people I met in the group anymore. No more proximity. No more interactions. Not surprising. But the ones I connected with, the ones who “got” me, the ones I cared about building a relationship with: we’re still friends.

My trivia teammates and I have a different relationship (mostly because I am very religious and they are very not), but I have actual friendships with a couple of them, too. When you’re invited to someone’s house, you know it’s for real.

But beyond that, it’s just me.

If I’m being perfectly honest about my efforts to make friends as an adult, it has a lot to do with my being unmarried and living far from home. There are no single men in my house, so if I want to meet any, I have to go out. (I’m taken at the moment; it’s not insignificant that he found me.) Many of my friends are married and have small children, so if I want to see them, I have to meet them where they are—literally. I’ve learned that private conversations with friends-turned-parents aren’t always possible, so I settle for semi-private conversations as we follow the toddler around the room so he won’t get mowed down by the bigger kids.

One of my friends-turned-parents asked me if there was a time when you stop wanting to make new friends. I replied that it was probably when parenting starts.

Think about the family you grew up in. Your parents probably didn’t actively make friends. They had old friends: college roommates, wedding party members, friends from their life pre-marriage and pre-kids. They had work friends, but they didn’t always see those people outside of work or maintain relationships after job changes. That’s possible, but it’s rare. They had your friends’ parents, mostly so they could keep track of you and your influences. Maybe they had a professional group, a church group, or sports teammates.

But can you remember your parents making new friends? I met one of my mom’s work friends at my grandfather’s funeral. She was touched by that friend’s presence, as was I, yet it was strange because I’d never met her in all the years they’d been working together. My dad had a buddy once he met at one of my brother’s sports practices, and it was weird because Dad had a friend. There was nothing fishy going on, but it was odd because, well, dads don’t make friends. Or do they?

I’m not saying that anyone who’s a parent is forbidden to make friends, but I wonder why they so rarely do. Families have to unite to form societies. Is it a good thing that those unions are driven by children or by the past instead of by current intentionality? Should friend-finding be more like dating? Can we work harder to turn online friendships into offline ones?

I don’t have any answers, but this is one case where I think it makes sense to raise the question, to start a discussion, to just talk without needing a defined takeaway. Am I just shouting into the void here? Am I finding a problem that doesn’t exist (because, after all, I do have friends)? Any ideas?

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