Monthly Archives: February, 2015

What I Wore Sunday: Boots Again

whatiworesundaylogo

I’m not even trying to figure out what season it is in Austin, Texas. This is the season where I carefully check the 7 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. hourly forecasts because I need to know whether it will feel like winter or spring as the day goes on. (Both in one day is not unusual.) Coming soon, on the other hand, is the season where I quit checking the weather at all because it’s going to be unbearably hot all day, every day until Halloween.

And yet I love this town. I also love my boots, so I wore them again today.

wiwsfeb15

Sweater: Old Navy
Dress: Old Navy
Undershirt: Old Navy
Leggings: Target
Boots: LC Lauren Conrad for Kohl’s
Necklace: holy medals

I like these leggings and these boots and will wear them until it’s consistently warm. Even then, I might keep going. I don’t usually wear a colorful sweater with this dress, but I thought it added a little something. I do, however, always wear leggings with it. I have just the right (wrong?) body type to make it a little bit obscene if I wear it bare-legged. Function meets fashion meets modesty.

We had Fr. Pastor tonight! I had a feeling he would be there. We also have a new deacon, but I can’t remember if he has ever preached the homily. He reads the Gospel and does all the deacon-y things, though. It’s nice to have so many vested people in the sanctuary. They make it feel very official and special.

Fr. Pastor started off with an awkward Valentine’s Day shout-out. It’s no use crying over the calendar reform now. That was in 1969. Appreciate that everyone still leaves the “Saint” in “Saint Patrick’s Day,” give Saints Cyril and Methodius credit for inventing the Cyrillic alphabet (what Russian is written in) and Slavic liturgy, and move on.

The rest of his homily made the connection between Valentine’s Day and today’s liturgy much smoother and more poignant. Having leprosy made people untouchable: literally because leprosy is extremely contagious, and figuratively because they were cast out of society. It’s a big deal that Jesus touches the leper and that he heals him (despite the leper’s complete disregard of Jesus’ instructions not to tell anyone; oops). What’s a bigger deal is that so much of the way we experience love is through touch. You hear in various places that you need X number of hugs per day to be happy. Widowed spouses have lost the touch of the one they most loved. I have personal space issues, but even I feel better after a really good hug (preferably one I initiated). To touch someone is to show them love. Jesus heals the leper physically and gives him re-entrance into the community, but he also demonstrates his love for the man.

Now that’s a Valentine’s Day message I can get behind.


For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

7 Quick Takes on Lent, Harry Potter, and Tiny Humans

7qt_lyceum

— 1 —

Prepare yourself. Lent is coming.

The hip thing to do this year is to remind everyone that Lent is coming. Now I’ve memed it, so it’s extra cool.

Check your Mass times now. Remember that Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, although it is good to go to Mass that day. (I like to call it a holy day of non-obligation. Also try to figure out how many daily reflection emails you signed up for and pare them down. (That last one might be a reminder just for me.)

My Ash Wednesday pet peeve: if you want ashes, get them in Mass, and do not leave early. Then you have to repent for leaving early. That’s not a good way to start the season. You’re supposed to repent of the sins you already committed, not work on new ones.

— 2 —

I have found it extremely helpful over these many years observing Lent to treat it less like a marathon and more like a restart to ordinary (or New Year’s) resolutions. Lent is not supposed to be an epic quest to sustain one sacrifice “from ashes to Easter.” It’s okay if you fail along the way or even change what you’re doing. Just don’t give up.

Thus, I suggest you test out your Lenten fasting, almsgiving, and/or prayer early. Today’s a good day. If you’re going to pray the Morning Offering every day, pray it right now. It might not be morning as you read this, but ever is better than never. By Wednesday, you’ll be well on your way to making it a habit to be practiced during Lent and for life… or you will have chosen something different.

Kendra’s post is the best I’ve ever seen for Lenten sacrifice suggestions. There has to be something on that list you can actually do and should probably be doing anyway. (The thought of leaving dirty dishes out overnight makes me shudder. Get flies once and you’ll never do it again.) Become a better person during Lent.

Get holy or die tryin'.

Word.
(Button and other items available from CatholicToTheMax.com.

— 3 —

So what am I doing for Lent? I’m not telling. I’ve been working on it for a long time, though, and I am tired of taking it to Confession, so this is it.

Additional pet peeve: When did it become cool to say, “Actually, instead of giving up something, you should take up something,” with a snooty voice and everything? This is a faith of both/and. You are not less holy if you give up chocolate. If you want to give up chocolate, do it, and don’t let anyone make you feel like it’s not good enough. Something is always better than nothing.

If you feel like giving up chocolate is not good enough, then pick something more challenging. But don’t be bullied into it.

— 4 —

I think it was actually that 66 Outside-the-Box Lenten Sacrifices post that made me realize I should probably be reading Kendra’s blog regularly. I admire the ladies of the Catholic blogosphere who can keep it real, preach the Truth, and be effortlessly humorous.

So I saw her Harry Potter post. Yes, please! I knew she was a fan, as are her oldest two kids, and I’m pretty sure she’s written a Harry Potter apologia before, but I think her recent post about why Catholics and other Christians can still love Harry Potter despite all the magic is marvelous.

Key points:

  • Yes, evil is real. So is Satan. We should avoid evil and Satan. The books have no references to Satan or the devil at all, and they come down pretty heavily against evil and in favor of good.
  • Everyone who has magical powers in Harry Potter was born that way. No one can get those powers if they don’t already have them. Nobody makes a deal with the devil, worships him, or calls upon him in order to do magic.
  • Catholicism condemns magic specifically for its ability to convince people to follow false gods or invoke powers from an unidentified source. Harry & Co. don’t seem to have any gods or religion at all.
  • J.K. Rowling is a Christian (Presbyterian, specifically) and has said she intended every Christian reference and theme in the books. They’re impossible to miss.

I think her defense is spot-on. Christians love supernatural powers—the ones that come from God (e.g. answers to prayer, miraculous healings, raising the dead, and salvation). Not everything supernatural is bad. Kendra did a great job partly because she’s a great writer but also because “all magic is evil, thus Harry Potter is evil” is a specific topic to discuss. She paid attention on Thesis Statement Day in English class; I can tell.

— 5 —

I got to hold three babies on Sunday. It was glorious! Here is a photo of me with Joseph. I am looking at the camera enough for both of us.

babyphotobombwithJoseph

So much cuddling. I also have enough joy for both of us.

I got baby photobombed by the other two tiny humans. Kat is on the right, and the very top of Lily’s head is on the left.

— 6 —

I think I might have seen an improv show when I was in college. I was definitely into seeing a cappella groups. Regardless of whether it was my first improv show ever, I went to see my friend Katie’s current show on Saturday at the Hideout Theatre. It’s called Wanderlust, so every show is about travel. She was one of the featured performers in the story of old college buddies road-tripping from the Midwest to Disney World. I was impressed with their ability to build the story as they went and to portray so many emotions.

If you’re in town, I recommend it. Katie won’t be featured anymore, but the show runs through February.

— 7 —

I also went to confession on Saturday. I only had to wait about 30 minutes instead of the usual hour. Small victories!

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

Booking Through Thursday: Love Stories

bookingthroughthursday

No, no, I’m not asking if you like romances. What I want to know is what it is about stories that you love? Is it the stories themselves? The people? The plot twists?

I do love stories! I usually say that I love books (or specifically Harry Potter), but “stories” is the most accurate descriptor.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing when I was in college. I kind of assigned it to myself. That worked out, though, because it’s a fantastic book. One quotation stuck with me:

Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.

“Plot” brings to mind those terrible diagrams you have to draw in school. I taught them when I was a teacher, but I still hate those things. The books that fit them best (such as Ethan Frome) are boring (such as Ethan Frome). I’m all for a good cliffhanger or plot twist, but they can be overkill. When I read the first Hunger Games book, I quickly learned to stop in the middle of a chapter—never at the end, because that plot made me want to keep reading “just one more chapter” every time! An exhausted reader is a cranky reader. I slept while plowing through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; I was not about to let The Hunger Games keep me awake.

Ultimately, I love stories because they teach us what it means to be human. That’s not an original line. In the grand tradition of teaching, I took it from another teacher. He said “literature” instead of “stories,” but think about it. Doesn’t that apply to great film, too? And even beautiful art? I really liked Persepolis, yet I’m not sure it would have come across the same way if it were not a graphic novel.

I love characters, too, but I can take lame characters in a good story. Take Mockingjay, for example. I got sick of Katniss very quickly. People with melancholy, catatonic PTSD just do not make interesting characters. However, I had to know what was going to happen with the story. I had to know how the war would end. Mockingjay remains my least favorite book because the Katniss I saw was so unlike the one I’d grown to know, and I didn’t even get to see her change along the way.

What do you love about books? If you’re a writer, how do you keep plot “under house arrest”?


For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.

Not Alone Series: Loneliness

notaloneseries

We all have times when we feel alone. What are ways that you combat loneliness? Pray? Join a group? How can we encourage each other to stay positive? (suggested by Laura P.)

Loneliness is one of the things I hate most about being single.

I’m a fan of the Meyers–Briggs Type Indicator. I’ve taken it twice officially (where the results were reviewed by an actual certified facilitator) in addition to the easier, non-Scantron kind you can find online. I feel the same way about Meyers–Briggs that I do about Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Both of those psychological/personality assessments acknowledge that people change over time. Thus, I have been assessed as an introvert and as an extrovert at different points in my life, and although I have lived like a P (perceiving) for a long time, wishing I could live like the J (judging) I wanted to be, I am much happier actually living like a J.

The point of all that is to say that I shift between extroversion and introversion depending on the situation. Sometimes I’m sad because there’s no one to hang out with. Sometimes I’m sad because no one will leave me alone. I genuinely like meeting new people and being in big social groups. Conversely, I dread being in groups that are too big and investing in relationship-building with people I literally never see again. So, sometimes, I don’t feel lonely at all, but other times, I crave companionship.

That’s when I wish I had someone to put me first, and someone I could put first. (After God. God should be the real first.) Am I wrong in thinking that’s what good spouses do?

I get that happily married people can still feel lonely. The “marriage is hard” movement has made that abundantly clear.

And I know that there’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. Everyone needs to be alone sometimes. I spent my second year of grad school with no private space in my home. It was all shared with people I did not choose. The people are great, but that part of the experience was not fun. I treasure my privacy.

There’s a balance, though, and I think it’s innate to our identity as Christians. We’re not made to be alone. God saw that Adam was alone and said that it was not good. We’re made for communion, the best example of which is the Holy Trinity. None of the Persons of the Trinity is complete without the others. Similarly, each permanent vocation (marriage, consecrated religious life, and priesthood) involves giving oneself over to complete communion with one other (one spouse, one community, one bishop). That is among the reasons I don’t think non-consecrated single life is a vocation, and that’s how I justify my unsettled feelings about being single. It’s not good. God said so.

I must say that I am blessed to have great parents. They completely support me, the weird religious one in the family who keeps changing jobs. Before I entered the microcosm of college, I didn’t realize that some people are way closer to their families than I am to mine. My mom calls me occasionally, not to see if I’m still alive, but to remind me that she is. (I totally care, Mom!) My siblings and I are so far apart in age that we don’t have much common ground. I never think, “Oh, I should tell my sister about X.” For a long time, I didn’t realize any of that was unusual. I guess it’s atypical, but I’m good. We’re good.

On the other hand, I have always been able to identify at least one friend who just “gets me.” I usually have more than one. I don’t have to defend my personality or actions to them. I don’t have to hold anything back. They call me to task when I need it. They point out the spaces I’m blinded to. I would be a worse person without them. It’s these friends that give me at least some of the communion my heart longs for. But it’s not enough.

Ultimately, what keeps me going is hope. Hope is a virtue. It’s my favorite virtue. As long as I have hope (even when I get down to the bottom of the pit), I have something. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Do you have any advice for how to stay hopeful?


Thanks to Jen and Morgan for hosting! Check out other responses on their blogs.

How I Became an Apostle of Prayer

In December 2014, I became an apostle. I’d thought about it before, but it was a while (years, actually) before I took the plunge. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I first discovered the Morning Offering when I was in college. My roommate and I slept in bunk beds before we got our own rooms. I have always been a top bunk kind of girl, so every morning, I would climb down the foot of our beds in the dark, like some kind of methodical monkey, to turn off my alarm. I purposely chose an annoying alarm on a real clock, and my roommate was a light sleeper, so I had plenty of motivation to get moving. Slumped in my desk chair after vanquishing the alarm, I turned on my desk lamp and squinted at two Post-its stuck to the edge of my desktop bookshelf.

One said this:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all of my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for all the intentions of our bishops, all the Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

The other had two bullet points: one general (now “universal”) intention and one mission (now “evangelization”) intention. I found them online. I mumbled my way through the prayers and intentions, still about 60% asleep, and eventually convinced myself to move on with getting ready for the day.

Fast-forward to my second year of teaching. I found myself re-learning that offering prayer and reciting it at the beginning of the day, every day. It was part of the morning announcements at my school. Our theology department chair was on point. It was then that I realized the “apostles of prayer” were actual people. I had been praying for their intentions. Furthermore, this was a group I could join. So why didn’t I?

Moving on again, we find me just this past December. I don’t know what led me back to the website of the Apostleship of Prayer in the U.S., but I got there, and I registered, and now it’s official.

Lindsay Wilcox has pledged to make a daily offering of self to God for the salvation of all people, for the monthly prayer intentions of the pope, and for the intentions of all the Apostles of Prayer throughout the world. This pledge entitles one to membership in the Apostleship of Prayer.

I’m in good company. How’s St. Thérèse for a fellow member?

Before doing good on Earth from heaven, Therese joined the Apostleship of Prayer.

After I joined, I received a lovely booklet listing the pope’s intentions for the year. I keep it on top of my breviary, which I use nightly, so I see it all the time. I also get an email on the first day of the month reminding me of the new intentions and linking me to the reflections provided by the AOP staff.

It has been glorious.

A bit of history: The Apostleship of Prayer began in 1844 when Fr. Francis Gautrelet counseled his Jesuit students about how to console their missionary hearts. They wanted to evangelize in countries around the world, but they were stuck studying in heavily-Catholic France. By offering their whole day to God in union with the intentions of the Sacred Heart and Holy Father, they satisfied their desire to participate in the work of missionary evangelization even while buried under books in the library. The movement spread to 13 million members around the world in just forty years. Today, I am one of them.

The old international AOP website summarizes the purpose and benefits of joining. The Apostleship of Prayer:

  • proposes a way to sanctification
  • through the daily offering
  • that transforms our lives,
  • and unites us in a worldwide communion of prayer
  • through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts,
  • and arouses in us the desire to have the same sentiments that were in the heart of Christ,
  • so that, nourished and molded by him in the Eucharist
  • and reconciled with him in the sacrament of Reconciliation,
  • we become able to put ourselves totally and with all our heart at his disposition
  • and at the disposition of his Church,
  • following the example of Mary,
  • for the coming of his reign.

Do you want to do that? Join the Apostleship of Prayer! It’s free, and you can enroll online anytime. You can also donate to support the work of the AOP, including ministry tools for children and young adults, new media evangelization, and Ignatian retreats held around the country.

Pray with the Pope in the Apostleship of Prayer.

The first and primary duty of an Apostle of Prayer, however, is to pray for the intentions of the pope. This duty is pope-neutral, i.e. it doesn’t matter who is pope at any particular moment. When he asks for prayer, you pray. Even before I became a member, I prayed (and fasted) for peace with Syria. Did the U.S. go to war with Syria? Nope! That’s a pretty solid result in my book. I’m still praying for the actual “peace” part.

Secondary duties are to promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, promote the Holy Father’s intentions, and invite others to join the AOP. It is also recommended to go to Mass as often as possible and pray the rosary daily. I’m still working on that, but I think I’ve neatly fulfilled promotion and invitation right here.

The mission of the Apostleship of Prayer is to encourage Christians to make a daily offering of themselves to the Lord for the coming of God’s Kingdom and for the Holy Father’s monthly intentions. This habit of prayer encourages a Eucharistic spirituality of solidarity with the Body of Christ and loving service to others. Nourishing this spiritual program is the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (source)

If you’ve ever thought about joining a prayer group with no meetings, one membership requirement, and universal and eternal effect, join the Apostleship of Prayer. I’d love to have you with me.

What I Wore Sunday: Not Letting Go

whatiworesundaylogo

It’s February in Austin, Texas, which means ridiculous levels of warmth and/or ice storms. I’ve lived here for over four years now, yet I’m still overwhelmed by the crazy weather patterns we have here. I’m from the East Coast. I like seasons. I want seasons back.

One of my coworkers said the wisest thing I’ve ever heard about Austin’s climate. No, not that tired “wait five minutes and it will change” line. I’m sick of that. He said, “In Austin, we don’t have seasons. We just have weather.” On Friday, I bundled up to drive to work at about 40 degrees, and I felt a little silly wearing my coat home at just above 60 for the drive home. It was a cold 60, though. I actually have expressions like “cold 60” now.

I’m not ready to let fall/winter go yet, though, especially since I finally figured out how to wear my boots.

wiwsfeb8

Dress: Target
Tights: Target
Boots: Lauren Conrad from Kohl’s
Earrings: Charming Charlie
Necklace: holy medals

This outfit began with my assessment of which tights I had clean. Chocolate brown and navy blue stripes. Stripes won. I was originally wearing a dark neutral sweater with this dress, but it was well into the 70s when I left the baby shower I’d initially dressed for, so the sweater was history. Oh, Texas. You might run me away for lack of snow.

I don’t think I actually blogged about figuring out the boots thing. They still work well with skinny jeans. I tried wearing them with sock-tucked khakis, but that was unbelievably uncomfortable. That Pinterest pin is made of lies! I also made the mistake of wearing them with those khakis, an argyle sweater, and a white button-down, so I legitimately looked like I was about to go jump on a horse. Not a good call. A bit of Target shopping led me to leg warmers, which, coupled with tights (or leggings) and low-cut socks, completely solved my fit problem. They still look wide, but they fit much better. Thus, since I only figured that out a few weeks ago, I am wearing these as much as possible until at least March (a.k.a. Austin summer).

Mass was pretty solid. Fr. Associate Pastor told zero jokes in his homily. Hooray! He spoke about how God offers healing to all of us despite how dejected and desperate we feel. I think I needed today. I’ve been working through a lot of emotions. I needed the reminder that we can be angry and despondent like Job yet still trust that God will heal us brokenhearted souls.


For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

7 Steps to Falling in Love with YNAB: Part Two

ynab7steps

In the first part of my YNAB love story, I talked about how awareness of my spending and preparing for rainy days helped me see my monthly cash flow in a whole new light. I was on cloud nine until reality hit.

Step Three: Facing the Credit Card Float

My third big moment with YNAB left me with egg on my face. This part is especially embarrassing.

I had gotten into the habit of buying groceries and gas on my credit card with money I didn’t have. I told myself I was doing it for the convenience, the (meager) cash rewards, and the technological security. Every month, I paid my statement balance in full. Most of that habit was good. I still use my credit card for groceries and gas because it’s still convenient and secure. The problem was that I was always a month behind. I was riding the credit card float. (I’m not floating anymore.)

If you’ve never heard of the credit card float before, I don’t blame you. I Googled it and found mainly posts about YNAB! (See Additional Resources below.) Essentially, “floating” credit cards is spending now and paying off the balance with next month’s income.1 It’s the opposite of spending using a debit card. Debit cards only allow you to spend money you already have (when they don’t allow overdrafts). The way I was using my credit card allowed me to spend money I didn’t have yet. I was trapped in the cycle. One bad month could have ruined me.

Some months in that cycle were fine. Others were painful (especially when Christmas bills were due in January). The biggest pain of all, though, was when I entered my credit cards in YNAB and had to face the ugly red numbers of Pre-YNAB Debt. I was horrified to realize that, although I had always sworn up and down that I did not have credit card debt, I did. The grace of starting YNAB in May was that I had fairly low balances on my cards (one regular card through my bank and one store card), so I was able to make a mid-cycle payment on each card and eliminate my credit card debt immediately.

This 2-minute video explains the credit card float in detail. Pictures of my shocked face are not included.

Added August 2015: YNAB produces a weekly video series called Whiteboard Wednesday. Jesse Mecham, founder of YNAB, explains the credit card float with a diagram and a friendly face.

Step Four: Less Email and Even More Awareness

The fourth habit change caused by YNAB was small but not insignificant. Ever since I turned eighteen, started college, and began managing my own finances, I have balanced my checkbook monthly. All the financial advice I’d ever encountered admonished me to always stay on top of my checkbook balancing, so I did.

Then came online banking. I could see which transactions had posted to my account and when they cleared on a daily basis. But my old habits didn’t change. I was still waiting four weeks to balance my checkbook. When money was tight, I set up an automatic email from my bank for every outgoing transaction over $10. When money got tighter, I lowered that minimum to $5.

Then came YNAB. As I got into the habit of entering transactions daily and rolling with the punches, I used the reconciliation feature to keep YNAB in sync with my online account balances. Getting that flurry of emails was useful, but it started to feel like overkill when my account always reconciled/balanced perfectly.

It took months for me to realize that it was overkill. I didn’t need those emails anymore because (A) I recorded every direct expense immediately, (B) the scheduled transactions feature entered my bills automatically, and they’ve all been on auto-pay for ages, and (C) I was reconciling/balancing at least once a week.

I stopped the automatic emails. I don’t even read my monthly statements anymore, because I know what they say. YNAB knows, too.


I promised you seven steps, so you know the rest are coming. Stay tuned!

Additional Resources

I found three other blog posts online that mention the credit card float. They’re all about YNAB, which shows how useful YNAB is for rescuing floaters like me.


  1. There is another version of the credit card float. It involves taking advantage of the grace period between the day you spend and the day you pay your credit card statement balance. You leave the cash in your checking or savings account so it can grow interest during the grace period, spending it only when the due date arrives. That’s not what I’m talking about here. 

© 2002–2020. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.