Monthly Archives: May, 2016

Not Alone Series: Love Languages Revisited


Love languages apply to more than just romance; they help you learn how to make people feel appreciated and cared for in all of your relationships. What is your love language? (Take the quiz at How have you learned to speak someone else’s love language? Do you find it easier to speak some languages than others; if so, which ones? How have you shown or received love in multiple languages?

As I wrote the last time we discussed love languages, Quality Time is my jam. I am a member of the “please put down your phone so I don’t feel like you would rather look at Facebook than my actual face” club. For me, that is just how it works.

Conveniently, Mr. Man and I have the same primary love language. Less conveniently, both of our secondary love languages are close seconds and different: mine is Words of Affirmation, and his is Acts of Service. There has been some hilarity, annoyance, and frustration as we’ve tried to learn to speak each other’s secondary languages. I had to explain that he does not need to shower me with compliments all the time. When I get too many, I doubt that any of them are heartfelt. That’s not what we want. We’ve found a good balance now. I, on the other hand, still struggle with ways I can serve from so far away. I mostly offer my prayers for him. Prayer knows no distance.

Physical Touch falls at the bottom of my list. I struggle greatly with it. I even struggle with my struggle! Because I was stuck in a dating drought in addition to not speaking that love language at all, I started losing my ability to manage physical touch in a healthy way. Taking up social dancing helped a lot with that. It’s not exactly a venue in which touch is a sign of care and appreciation, but it has helped me understand (mentally and physiologically) that touch is okay. Baby steps.

One of my roommates has Receiving Gifts as her love language. I made her take the quiz when she wondered why people (boys) seemed not to always appreciate the gifts she was giving. I have never been a fan of the “little somethings” that people bring around after vacations or for birthdays, but I know she likes them, so I’ve tried to get them for her. And I’m not completely opposed to tokens: I have some sweet souvenir coasters from coworkers. Those are inherently practical, though; no one likes water rings.

The major takeaway from examining love languages is how useful they can be to communicate with all the people in your life, not just your snuggle bunny. Kristin Wong wrote an article for Lifehacker about love languages. She had to explain to her brother that, when he didn’t answer calls from her and from their dad, they got upset not because they didn’t understand he was busy but because they felt like he didn’t love them. I had to understand that one of my guy friends always greeted me with a hug not because he was flirting (also, he’s married) but because that is how he shows me that he cares about my well-being as a friend. Love languages explain why I feel cut to the heart when someone says something that they don’t really mean or doesn’t spend any time with me. Parallel play works for toddlers, and it will work for me, too. I just need my people to be with me.

Love comes in many forms, and so do love languages. Please, learn yours, learn the languages of the people you care about, and start working on those language lessons!

Next week’s topic: Online Community

In honor of Not Alone Series’ recent third birthday, we thought it would be fun to talk about online community. What role has it played in your life? Have you made lasting relationships from your online world? What do you love most?

Our co-founder Jen will be hosting over at Jumping in Puddles!

View past and upcoming topics here or like our Facebook Page for regular alerts.

Link up below!

Not Alone Series: Adulting Revisited

Adulting: A Not Alone Series discussion at A Drop in the Ocean

As evidenced by the beautiful featured image, the lovely Laura is hosting once again.

Adulting is hard, sometimes. So many transitions. Making friends. Starting jobs. Building community. What are some ways that have gotten you through?

Wait, I was supposed to be adulting already? Oops. I could barely manage to publish this post in a reasonable timeframe! It’s here, though, and I will be on time to host this coming Tuesday. I’ve managed the responsibility/dependability side of adulting for a while now.

Laura was inspired to reflect on this topic because she just graduated from college this month. When I was at that stage, I had a plan, although it was a short-term, kind of crazy plan. I knew that I was in a place (in terms of finance, family commitments, and low risk-aversion) that I could take that leap.

Even when I finished ACE, I was ready to take the next big risk. The previous one had worked out so well, although it was not without its bumps and bruises. (Ask to see my car crash photos sometime.) That was how I wound up in Texas.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more risk-averse. I hear that happens. I feel a non-pregnancy-related urge to nest. I have habits and routines that keep everything going along. I want to settle into being a regular adult instead of a young adult (young is relative), but that requires being satisfied enough with my life that I can settle into it. So that’s where I am now: assessing what risks I am ready to take, deciding whether my current life can go the distance, and changing as much as possible now so that (if all goes according to plan) I’m not boxed into a place I don’t want to be.

Recently, I’ve started increasing my intentional efforts at gaining perspective so I can make those decisions. That means lots of asking questions, reflecting on the answers, and actually doing something about it.

  • Do I want to make a permanent home in Austin?
  • Am I ready to get married?
  • Is my career taking me where I want to be? Where do I even want to go? When? How do I get there?
  • Are my financial decisions making good use of my budget? Could I be earning more or spending less? Am I saving enough? Should I be giving more? Am I spending appropriately?
  • How am I using my time and energy? Do I need to ask for help? Who should be helping me? What can I outsource?
  • Am I reading enough?
  • When will I be debt-free? How can I reach that goal sooner?
  • How can I improve my health?
  • How can I live more joyfully?

That last one is right there in my tagline!

My best resources have come from all over the place:

  • the Getting Things Done productivity methodology, specifically the Areas of Focus (a.k.a. Areas of Responsibility) and Horizons of Focus
  • Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, and the concept of having a Life Plan
  • prayer
  • assorted reading about productivity, efficiency, and life management
  • regular, structured reviews (currently weekly, monthly, and annually)
  • the Not Alone Series, especially topics that focus on self-improvement and discernment
  • You Need a Budget, although I can’t vouch for the current/new version just yet

My questions are all over the place, and so are the venues I’m finding answers! So, ultimately, my advice is to keep searching, keep thinking, and keep answering the questions you’re asking. “I don’t know yet, but here’s how I might figure it out” counts as an answer.

Next week’s topic: Love Languages Revisited

Love languages apply to more than just romance; they help you learn how to make people feel appreciated and cared for in all of your relationships. What is your love language? (Take the quiz at How have you learned to speak someone else’s love language? Do you find it easier to speak some languages than others; if so, which ones? How have you shown or received love in multiple languages?

View past and upcoming topics here or like our Facebook Page for regular alerts.

Link up with Laura at A Drop in the Ocean!

Sunday Style: Back to Winter, Sort Of

This was the week that I realized it’s not getting any cooler here. It’s been storming and sprinkling on and off for a few weeks. (Is that what regular springs are like? I’ve been here a long time.) It was definitely raining for about 20 minutes midday yesterday, but it was bright and sunny when I left for church in the evening. The warmth persists, though, so it’s probably time to switch to summer clothes. Here’s what I wore this week:

Sunday Style for May 22

Dress and shirt: Target
Necklace: gift from a friend
Earrings: Maryland Renaissance Festival back when I was in high school
Ring: craft fair in Germany
Shoes: Payless

This outfit is also known as “I’m Supposed to Be Walking Out the Door in Two Minutes?!” True story. I made it in five. Because we had such a mild winter, the last time I wore this dress was in February. It’s a good standby for days like yesterday when I need to finish getting dressed very quickly.

Fr. AP’s homily was pretty solid until the end. He didn’t even go near attempting to explain the Trinity, hooray! We believe in a God we can’t see; not everything needs explaining. He started by pointing out that among the first prayers we teach children is the Sign of the Cross. (During my one year of childhood religious education, I remember the smart-aleck little boys in my class claiming it was their favorite prayer because it’s so short.) However, he finds that many of the children he sees for Confession appear to not know it. He has to direct them to make the Sign of the Cross when he greets them and while he’s giving them absolution. This is adorable and sad. (That last part is my commentary, obviously.)

He also noted that, for adults, we too often ignore the significance of the Sign of the Cross. I was never one to forget it entirely, but I used to rush through it. Then I was convicted to actually say (or at least think) the words every time. Several years later, I was also admonished to stop essentially using my middle finger to make the Sign of the Cross. We’re supposed to be using our whole hand; there’s a whole East/West theological thing there. Thanks for whipping us into shape, Fr. Charlie.

We had a weird pop quiz toward the end of the homily. I thought it was a “who would dare stand up and speak?” kind of challenge, but then Fr. AP seemed to be legitimately looking for an answer. I didn’t have one, and by that point, I had forgotten the question. Then he said he wouldn’t give us the answer, so I had even less incentive to remember the question, let alone to figure out the question.

We sang all the standard trinitarian songs, and we even did all the verses. If only we did that every time we get one verse per person of the Trinity! I was in a pretty good mood until announcement time. Due to not leaving Mass early, we had to sit through two painfully long announcements (about the flooding in Sri Lanka and a plea for catechists) plus a very long blessing for our departing youth ministers. We got out twenty minutes late, which is long enough to have celebrated an entire daily Mass. Not fun. I hope we got some souls out of purgatory for staying.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for My Sunday Best.

My Sunday Best, hosted at A Blog for My Mom

Also check out What I Wore Sunday at Fine Linen and Purple (back in action again!)

What I Wore Sunday, at Fine Linen and Purple

Mercy, Justice, and the Truth (Review: “To Render the Deeds of Mercy”)

I don’t understand the Jubilee Year of Mercy, but I’m trying to. I love learning, so, as I said on my panel during the ATX Catholic Retreat, I’m taking this year as an opportunity to learn what mercy means. I encounter tons of media already, so my learning mostly consists of keeping my eyes and ears open for any discussion of what mercy means. I’m especially curious about how it relates to forgiveness and justice. We’ve got three words, so there must be some room within there for shades of meaning and nuances of the Faith.

My latest foray into understanding mercy comes from one of my favorite magazines, First Things, and one of my favorite authors, Mr. William Shakespeare. Maybe my buddy the Holy Spirit tossed this one into my path, since this is the only Jubilee Year of Mercy I’m aware of, it was just Pentecost, and it was just the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Then again, maybe I just read widely and Bishop James Conley, of the Diocese of Lincoln, is just a timely writer, offering us “To Render the Deeds of Mercy.”

Cristo Redentor statue

The title, as well as the essay’s opening, comes from The Merchant of Venice. Portia’s monologue that begins “The quality of mercy is not strain’d” is often considered poetic in and of itself. As Bishop Conley notes, it is also theological. By pointing out that experiencing the fullness of God’s justice would leave us all goners, so it’s a good thing we have God’s mercy, Shakespeare connects us to similar thoughts by St. Anselm:

Anselm concluded that both punishment and mercy are a part of God’s justice. We are justly punished because we are sinners. And God is just in mercy because mercy reflects the goodness of God’s nature. Anselm wrote: “When you [God] punish the wicked, it is just, since punishment agrees with their circumstance; and when you spare the wicked, it is also just; since mercy befits your goodness.”

I have to say, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard mercy connected with justice in a way that makes sense to me. Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

5 Family Rules for Clutter-Free Spaces (Guest Post at Waltzing in Beauty)

5 Family Rules for Clutter-Free Spaces: Guest Post at Waltzing in Beauty

Long-time blog readers might remember my previous collaborations with the lovely Christina of Waltzing in Beauty. We met through one of my oldest friends, and I am so blessed to know her. She just had a sweet little baby boy, so she is easing her way back into blogging by hosting a guest post series on how to make a house into a home.

My contribution is about some of my favorite things: rules (let’s be real), organizing, and practical tips. Here’s a sneak peek:

Everyone gets an inbox, even at home. I am a practitioner of GTD, the productivity methodology made famous by David Allen over 15 years ago in his book, Getting Things Done. One of the keys to GTD is reducing your inboxes. You will only clutter up your spaces by keeping bits of paper everywhere: Post-Its on your computer screen, receipts crumpled up in your purse or wallet, piles of paper all over your desk, and a mound of snail mail by the door. Do yourself a favor and get a physical inbox or letter tray. You can even get pretty ones: one of my inboxes is striped! Every piece of paper that comes into your life needs to go in that tray, and once a week, you need to deal with all of it. My roommates and I have “invisible inboxes.” We make 3 piles on the first horizontal space after the front door (a.k.a. our landing strip). When we see something in our invisible inbox, we know we need to pick it up and do something with it. Nothing ever stays there for long.

Read the other 4 rules at Waltzing in Beauty.

Sunday Style: A Spectacular Pentecost

I had a spectacular Pentecost. I hope yours was similar.

Sunday Style for May 15

Dress (worn as a skirt): The Limited
Blouse: Target
Shoes: Old Navy
Earrings: graduation pearls

I’ve worn this exact outfit before. I liked it then, and I think it looked good then, so I like it now and think it looks good now, too. I’m told that is the French approach to fashion. I also liked the opportunity to wear red for Pentecost in a spicier way than wearing a red top. I went for red on the bottom!

My Pentecost experience was the result of grace. There’s no other explanation. As I mentioned, I was praying the Pentecost novena for the preceding nine days. It was fruitful in a way that many of my other prayers and novenas are frequently not. I would have been okay with the actual feast day being lackluster. The Holy Spirit knew that and gave me more than I could have asked for.

On the surface, almost all the songs were ones I love, and I don’t even need music to fit my preference in order to enjoy Mass! “Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest” has a pretty simple tune, so I wish we sung it more often. We sang “O Spirit, All-Embracing,” to the tune of “O God, Beyond All Praising,” the latter of which is my favorite hymn. I forget what the communion hymn was, but I don’t sing those anyway.

We ended with “O Holy Spirit, by Whose Breath” to the tune of “All Creatures of Our God and King.” The version in our hymnals is set to another tune. The number the cantor announced was the actual “All Creatures.” However, we recently got hymn boards, and those rescued us (or at least me). I love hymn boards. I go to Mass alone, so there’s not really anyone to distract me when the number is announced, but when I distract myself, it is very helpful to have a visual announcement of the hymn so I can find it and sing along. Hymn boards also force the choir to commit to songs early enough to get the numbers on the board before Mass. The liturgical calendar and lectionary have been set since the 80s; make a plan and stick to it.

Fr. AP’s homily was equally delightful. He began by pointing out that, when breath leaves someone, they’re dead, so it is fitting that breath of the Spirit in someone brings them life. As I write this, I am reminded that God forms man in Genesis by breathing into otherwise lifeless clay. Fr. AP continued to say that the Spirit inspires us to communion. All of his gifts are meant to bring about and enrich communion, especially through our particular vocations. He did not try to turn single life into a vocation, which I appreciated because [I don’t think single life is a vocation]. He did tell a joke/story in the middle, but I have absolutely no idea what lesson it was supposed to be teaching, so I didn’t try very hard to remember it.

Between the homily and the music, I was already very happy when we got around to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Then I started crying when I realized Fr. AP was using Eucharistic Prayer I, as required for Pentecost. (I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes even requirements get skipped.) Although he skipped the first set of optional names (mostly apostles and popes), he included the second set, which meant I got to hear “Cecilia,” which is my Confirmation name. I see what you did there, Holy Spirit.

Really, I did nothing to make Mass special (except get there early; I’ve been working hard on that again). It was all God. I guess it’s always all God, but the reminders are helpful.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for My Sunday Best.

My Sunday Best, hosted at A Blog for My Mom

Not Alone Series: Communication and Problem-Solving


We’ve talked about conflict, but that can be avoided through solid communication. What are some of your tips for becoming a better communicator? What are some strategies for healthy communication? When was a time you were completely misunderstood or completely misunderstood someone else? How does communication affect your relationships, and how does it help you prepare for your vocation?

Let me begin by admitting that not all conflict can be avoided through solid communication. That’s probably hyperbole. I do think it helps, though. Misunderstandings can cause anger to rise up in even the coolest of heads. I shared my best advice when I wrote about conflict, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be finished talking about talking, as it were.

I used to do marriage prep (for other couples, not for myself), and one point that I learned to drive home was the importance of developing good communication and problem-solving skills before marriage. Granted, I’d imagine most couples that make it all the way to marriage prep have resolved conflicts before and learned to communicate at least adequately. Yet part of my role as a facilitator was to be able to verify through my own observation that each couple could demonstrate those skills. You can make all kinds of claims without any evidence. Anecdotal evidence is still evidence.

So, to the best of my ability and based on each couple’s needs, I would guide them through healthy problem-solving by way of intentional communication. It was awkward at first, but so is walking, and that’s pretty important, too. Almost every couple agreed that it was useful to have some sort of fallback “rules” in place for fighting fair.

Problem-solving starts with defining the problem. Here’s my advice for the one who’s bringing it up (a.k.a. starting the fight):

  1. What’s wrong? Identify or clarify some situation or problem that you are not satisfied with. It can be as simple as how much TV you watch or as complicated as expressions of intimacy.
  2. What’s wrong about it? Describe the situation to your partner, focusing on your role in creating/sustaining it, avoiding blame, and identifying specific aspects that you want to change.
  3. What do you want him/her to do about it? Offer suggestions (at least two) for resolving the situation. Don’t suggest anything you don’t actually want to happen.

I think the suggestions are really important. It’s much easier and less productive to just say you’re unhappy. Sometimes, when you have to consider how to solve the problem, you might realize that (a) there’s nothing your partner can do about it, or (b) you’re responsible for the problem, so you really just need support as you solve it. I’ve been there before.

If you’re the other partner (i.e. you didn’t start the fight), there are two possibilities. If the unsatisfactory situation was mutually identified (i.e. this conversation is one you’re having to try to resolve an argument already in progress), you will probably go through the same process I outlined above.

If not, you might feel blindsided because you didn’t see it coming. Here’s my advice for that side:

  1. What’s wrong? Listen to your partner describe the situation. Ask questions to figure out or clarify what he/she is thinking or feeling.
  2. What do you think? Take some time to think or reflect. Share your point of view on the situation. What do you think is wrong, what’s wrong about it, and what are your suggestions?
  3. What do you want to do about it? Consider the suggestions your partner offers. Are you willing to try one of them?

I also have some basic communication pointers for both parties:

  • Don’t interrupt. This one is hard for me; I am kind of an interruptosaurus. I’m working on making it an act of mercy to let someone finish before I jump in with my thoughts. In serious conversations, when I think I might forget something if I don’t interrupt, I’ll write it down. Yeah, that’s awkward, too, but it works!
  • Don’t assume you know what someone else is thinking or feeling or how your conversational partner is going to respond. You can’t see the future. You can’t read minds. You can’t read hearts. Get comfortable asking, “How do you feel about that?” and “What do you think?”
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I hear you. Now is not a good time. Can we talk about this later?” The catch is that you have to define “later.” “Later” should not be a synonym for “never.” One tip I’m picking up is that couple/family business meetings are super useful. The “date night” movement is thriving. I’m rooting for the “budget meeting” and “weekly review” movements.

Most of what I’ve learned about communication I have learned with an eye to marriage. If I can’t talk openly and honestly with the man I’ve promised to sacrifice for until one of us dies, I will be in a pretty sore spot. The handy thing is that I have plenty of relationships to practice with in the meantime: close friends, coworkers, and sometimes even family. If I never marry, the communities I’m already part of are enriched by my efforts at improving my communication skills.

This blog also helps. Thank you for reading.

Next week’s topic: Adulting Revisited

Adulting is hard, sometimes. So many transitions. Making friends. Starting jobs. Building community. What are some ways that have gotten you through?

The lovely Laura of A Drop in the Ocean will be hosting!

View past and upcoming topics here or like our Facebook Page for regular alerts.

Link up here or by clicking the blue button below!

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