Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chicago + Counting Our Blessings


As I briefly mentioned in my Quick Takes volume one and two entries, Michael and I just went on a weekend trip to Chicago which was both fun and nostalgic. For those of you that are new to our love story, we are no strangers to Chi-town! After meeting in my college town/his previous job location in Indiana and spending time together for less than a month the summer after I graduated, I moved away to complete a year of volunteer service and our long distance relationship began. Basically our entire dating relationship and all but the last 2 months of our engagement (when I was back at my parents' in Indiana) took place while I was living in Chicago for a year.

In other words, Michael made countless trips to see me in Chicago last year as I was a volunteer with no car or real financial means to visit him (though I did manage to take a few MegaBus trips to see him once he took a new job in Ann Arbor). Thank God that he did - because without all of the traveling sacrifices he made (he now hates driving into Chicago and I don't blame him!) for our relationship, who knows if we would already be married and living the blessed lives we currently are?

Clearly the weekend was a mixture of emotions as we revisited and recounted so many of the experiences we shared last year while I served as a volunteer - the good and the bad. I kept thinking over and over to myself that I am so blessed to have had Michael by my side as I lived through such a formative year. I honestly don't know how I would have described all that I experienced in Chicago to someone if they hadn't lived through it with me, sharing in my joys, struggles, accomplishments, frustrations, and everything else that came hand in hand with working for a domestic violence agency, receiving mere pennies as compensation, safely navigating inner city life, living in an intentional faith community, and more. All of this left me feeling beyond blessed each time I reflected on how much we've experienced and grown together personally and spiritually in less than two years time. God has been so good to us.

Samples of our rainy-day Chicago engagement photo shoot in April 2012. Brian Powell Photography.

This past weekend we took full advantage of some of the adventures we didn't have time to go on last year and made sure to revisit a couple places we can't get enough of. It was a full weekend with a trip to the Adler Planetarium, walking the Magnificent Mile, watching the sun go down from the 96th floor of the Hancock tower, getting the total experience of Shedd Aquarium, dining at our favorite place in Chinatown, etc. In our free time we enjoyed the amazing company of a handful of dear friends, including one of my very favorite newlywed couples (they were married 2 months before us) that so generously hosted us at their place during our stay.

Planetarium adventures, downtown Chicago at night, some beluga whales, and us

As if we weren't feeling blessed, grateful, and overjoyed enough after such a beautiful 3-day weekend trip, God managed to put one last bit of icing on the cake. Because we opted to sleep in Sunday morning we planned to attend the 6pm Mass at our parish back in Michigan; unfortunately we didn't make it back quite in time for me to feel comfortable walking in when we would have so we made new plans to attend a Mass even later at a different parish. I had never been to church there and thought it might be interesting and believe me when I say it was interesting. I won't spend too much time going into details about how the Mass we attended was in a basement room (even though they have a chapel upstairs) that had the alter at the back of the room behind the chairs so we all had to walk and stand in a semi-circle for the Eucharistic liturgy - and the handful of other unexpected twists (like inviting parishioners to speak as part of the homily)...because all of this certainly wasn't the icing on the cake I was talking about. This next part is: 

After we managed to escape the oddities of everything we had experienced (I kept repeating to myself, "Jesus is here, that's all that matters") we made it home and had a great discussion about how much we love our parish here. Not only that, but this other church allowed Michael to witness firsthand and more fully understand the quality of education he had received last year in his RCIA classes at our parish (he entered the Church on Easter Vigil 2012). My heart leaped with joy as he shared with me how grateful he was that I had pushed him toward certain churches as he searched for a place to learn about Catholicism. At the time, as a non-Catholic, he had assumed every Catholic Church would teach you the same things and present the faith in the same manner (because in an ideal world they should), but now he can see how noticeably different the curriculum would have been had he gone elsewhere in town. He spoke about how significant it is to have a curriculum that doesn't water things down, fully presents the theology and doctrine in all its orthodoxy, and thus gives newcomers the opportunity to more fully and honestly discern if the Catholic Church is right for them or not. Praise God that he can now recognize how blessed he was as he went through his faith formation here!  

Our parish in Ann Arbor: St. Thomas the Apostle. Photo source.

Not only did we have a fantastic long weekend trip together, but upon returning home we were able to count even more blessings that God has given us, especially in our faith lives. I'd say that makes for one memorable weekend.

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”
-Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Liebster Awards


Have any of you heard of the Liebster Awards? Even though I've blogged for over 2 years now, it wasn't until I began this blog about my newlywed life that I think I actually gathered more readers beyond the family and friends that used to read my former blog to keep in touch. So what I'm really trying to say is that I'm finally branching out and with it I'm learning all kinds of new blogging tips, trends (even awards), and starting to find blogs by others that I like to read on a regular basis.

Recently Stephanie C.  nominated me for a "Liebster Award"...and therefore introduced me to what this fun gesture even means. Apparently "liebster" means "dear" or "beloved," so these awards are geared towards highlighting other people's blogs that you like to read and helping others discover them. Thanks so much for thinking of me, Stephanie! And because she has designed such a helpful and aesthetically pleasing graphic to explain how this award works, I'm going to share this tidbit from her blog:

Eleven facts about me:
{1} I have one tiny section of (not visible without searching) hair that is really tightly curled; my family calls it my "poodle curl." {2} I can play the trumpet. Really - I was 1st chair in school for 7 years growing up! {3} Regardless of how frequently I dance these days, I am forever a dancer (over the years I've performed and/or competed in contemporary, jazz, hip hop, pom, kick [think of the Rockettes], and ballet). {4} Much to the horror of my parents, I got my nose pierced my freshman year in college and kept it that way for just shy of 6 years (I took it out for the last time a month before my wedding...and the stud was so noticeable that exactly 1 person other than my husband has noticed and commented on its disappearance). {5} I like to play old school video games on the Super NES. {6} I really love scrapbooking (although I admit I haven't made one in a long time). {7} My degree is in Kinesiology as a Fitness Specialist. Yes, it's a very practical science degree and no, my major was not "lifting weights"....but I can teach you how to do that properly and effectively. {8} My favorite artificial flavor of any candy, drink, gum, fruit snack, etc. is almost always "orange" and has been since childhood. {9} I was a sprinter in high school track and competed in a 50-lap relay race at my college for 3 years (that breaks down to  about 3 miles worth of sprints per runner, one quarter mile at a time). {10} I participated in 4-H back in middle school and you'd better believe my pet snake won Grand Champion in the small animals show (I do not currently keep this snake but she is alive and well at my parents' house). {11} I would be curious to know how people who read these random facts try to stereotype or understand me (I mean a lot of people would see "nose ring" and "pet snake" and think I'm some edgy punk, others would see "Super NES" and "can play the trumpet" and think I'm a super nerd, others might notice "dancer" and "loves scrapbooking" and think I'm incredibly artsy, and others still might see "fitness specialist" and "runner" and think I'm a total jock). Thinking about it kind of makes me laugh because I don't think any of those one things could truly describe me.

Stephanie's questions for me:
I collect... prayer cards. And as of this weekend my husband and I decided to begin a collection of Christmas tree ornaments of the different places we travel.

Tell me your favorite Disney movie. If I have to pick: The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.

What's the last book you read? Did you like it? I won't include pregnancy books here and go with: I'm currently reading Story of a Soul (the autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux) and like it a lot.

In case we ever meet in real life and you come over to my house, how do you take your coffee? Black is perfectly fine, unless it's that really cheap coffee they always serve for free at public functions in which case I'd take a little cream.

Everyone has a few...what trend do you totally regret following? In 6th grade I was allll about the butterfly hair clips.

Your flower of choice? Orchids! And recently hydrangea.

Name something you've always wanted to learn. Latin and Greek.

Are you more head or more heart? According to Meyers-Briggs I'm what you'd call "heart," although considering I'm the middle child between "head" and "heart" sisters and lived with very extreme "head" and "heart" opposite individuals during my year of volunteer service, I think I've developed a stronger balance and can more easily switch between the two when necessary.

How's Lent going for you so far? Lenten promises have been kept but I am still thirsting for more ways to get closer to God and enrich this year's Lent a little more. Thank goodness I've got another month to keep working at it!

What social or political issue are you most passionate about? Normally I'd say that it would be life issues, but due to recent election results I am currently very concerned with religious liberty and protecting it.

What saint has had your back the most? I don't really know because I've utilized the prayers of many saints on different occasions...but if I had to guess I'd say it has probably been Our Lady of Guadalupe/Mary.

My nominees, in no particular order (you'll notice there aren't 9 because that honestly seems like a daunting task for someone who has just recently started building more new relationships with other bloggers...so 4 is about my current limit):

{1} Liz  {2} Celeste  {3} Teresa   {4} Kelley

My questions for my nominees:
1. What is your favorite city, state, or country you've ever been to and why?
2. Who is your favorite musical artist or group?
3. What is your favorite Bible verse or passage?
4. What is your favorite quote?
5. What is one of your pet peeves?
6. What is most misunderstood about you?
7. Who is your favorite Saint and why?
8. What is the scariest or most adventurous thing you've ever done?
9. What is your favorite TV show from the '90s?
10. What is your favorite thing to cook? Feel free to include a recipe if you'd like!
11. What made you laugh the most this week?

I'm excited to see the responses and nominees everyone else comes up with. :)

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 2)


--- 1 ---
In last week's Quick Takes I failed to mention anything about the Holy Father resigning. This is mainly because I had already written an entire post about it, but this week I'd like to share this quote with you that George Weigel said in this article found at the National Catholic Register:

"I do think it’s important to put one myth to rest, though: Benedict XVI did not renounce the office of Peter because he couldn’t take it any more. He renounced the chair because he judged, in conscience, that he could not give the Church the leadership it needed and deserved, given his own diminished strength. That’s an act of self-abasement and humility, not a concession to exhaustion."

That's pretty much everything I tried to say in my post on the topic, but is far more eloquent.

--- 2 ---
While I have some serious qualms about the poor conditions of Michigan roads and driver skills (did you know you can renew your license here without taking any sort of driving test as long as your license hasn't been expired for more than four years?!), I will say that Ann Arbor has been very good to us. Not only do we have a seriously fantastic church here, but there are also multiple outlet malls within 30 minutes of us. Yes, multiple. Now before I sound like a shopaholic let me clarify: to someone who did a year of volunteer service leading up to my recent marriage I can totally appreciate outlet mall prices and never having to buy things at full/original prices.

A photo of our church - clearly taken last summer
and not this winter

--- 3 ---
So why am I bragging about Ann Arbor's access to multiple outlet malls? Really just because we went to one this week when I was looking for a smaller, over-the-shoulder purse. Much to my surprise, we found a purse and wallet for an amazing sale price from...Coach! What? Yeah, I know. Typically when I think of thrifty purchases my mind doesn't even come up with the word "Coach," nor have I ever before purchased any of their products...but I suppose there is a first time for everything!

--- 4 ---
I'd also like to add that I think my husband had just as much fun as I did (if not more) scouring the entire Coach outlet store for the perfect purse and wallet combination. In fact, he found a few of the purses I considered...and I'm very picky about any item I'd carry around with me all day. I'd never seen Michael in action in a purse store before because we've never really gone to one together. In short, my man has good taste and fashion sense and I couldn't help but feel thoroughly impressed.

--- 5 ---
Speaking of purses: I'm going to live it up and enjoy this one until my everyday purse will become a diaper bag in less than 6 months. Does anybody have suggestions for great diaper bags??? I'd like something that's completely practical without looking entirely like a diaper bag. I certainly don't need anything that's designer - just something that's stylish you can find for a decent price. I haven't even started looking yet, but I'm all ears!

--- 6 ---
Originally Michael and I had our eyes set on planning a European vacation for our 1-year anniversary...but considering that would be the month after our baby is born that simply isn't happening anymore and that's okay. However, we've decided instead to take a few weekend trips here in the States before the baby comes so we can say we've done some exploring together before it gets more difficult to travel. So if I successfully post this pre-written entry on Friday that means I managed to do so from Michael's smartphone while we are off having adventures in Chicago for the weekend (or I just posted it Monday morning but made it look like I posted it Friday)! I lived here as I completed my year of service but there were a couple museums we wanted to finish off, a few friends to see, and you'd better believe we'll be eating in Chinatown (on Saturday because it's Lent, of course) like we used to last year when he would visit. Yumm.

--- 7 ---
Although I've had a pretty great week, this video clip made it amazing!!! If you are Catholic you'll definitely appreciate this 5-min. segment in which Steven Colbert defends the Real Presence of the Eucharist while interviewing the author of what sounds to be a pretty ridiculous book. Seriously, this guy is about to get owned by Steven Colbert's Catholic faith and knowledge. I apologize in advance that you have to watch an ad & for the fact that I don't think Hulu will allow anyone outside the U.S. to play embedded clips (the episode is from Feb. 11, 2013 if you want to try finding it). Check it out and may you have a blessed weekend!

For more Quick Takes head over to Jen's blog!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Small Things, Great Love


When it comes to pregnancy I've heard it said that the first trimester is "all about you (the woman)." I can understand where this saying comes from, considering those first 12 weeks are such a crucial time in a baby's development. This means not only is it important, but it's expected for a mother to take care of herself and listen to her body - whether it's with food, avoiding smells, working out, getting a different face wash and/or shampoo, resting far more than usual, or anything else that will help the woman do her best to be healthy. Once a woman is able to get past all these initial hurdles, then it usually becomes the time when she can better focus on the baby and figuring out plans for her future family (like tackling what kind of car seat to get).

While I do think a lot of self care and attention are certainly needed that first trimester (and possibly beyond, depending on how ill you've been and what your risk is for complications), I think there is also an important factor to not lose sight of in all of this: the husband.

One of the things I struggled with internally throughout the first trimester were slight feelings of guilt. Never before has there been so much focus on me in our relationship nor have I previously ever had so many "demands" or requirements. In short, I sort of felt high maintenance. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't being selfish when I quickly established that there could be no Korean food whatsoever in our apartment without consulting Michael...because the reality is that he wouldn't have wanted to deal with the aftermath of that situation anyway, so clearly he would be on board with such a decision. Certainly in a healthy relationship the husband is supportive of his pregnant wife and doesn't make her feel guilty for things that are truly beyond her control.

Because of this, I think it's about time I highlighted some of my husband's shining moments and publicly recognize how supportive he has been. A lot of what he has done has been incredibly simple (in fact he may even be unaware that I appreciated some of these things), but when it comes down to it, the smallest acts of kindness and self-sacrifice are often times the most loving and meaningful. These small acts of kindness are things that were done purely to be kind, helpful, and caring without any expectations or desire for public recognition...which is precisely why I think Michael deserves this. So here we go (in random order):

The Top 6 Little Ways Michael Has Been Amazingly Supportive Behind the Scenes
  1. He has put up with my zero tolerance Korean food policy and hot and cold feelings towards certain Chinese or Thai dishes with little to no mention of it (I recognize this is a big deal coming from a man who was raised eating Asian foods nearly 24/7 and comes from an entire family of Chinese or Asian fusion restaurant owners). He has also let me eat all the crab rangoon because he knows how much I like it.
  2. He never makes fun of me when I suddenly get hungry and have to eat and doesn't joke about my new caloric intake - instead, he congratulates me and tells me what a good job I'm doing and how proud he is of me.
  3. He still tells me how nice I look even though I may feel bloated, queasy, be struggling with indigestion, or feel uncomfortable in every outfit I try on that day (I have a feeling this one will be especially important later on when I'm actually big and don't just feel big). 
  4. He has voluntarily gone out of the way to pick up food I'm craving without me even asking for it. To highlight this, I must share this endearing anecdote: one night we were on our way home from the gym and didn't have our wallets but we had a small amount of cash on us. Michael mentioned the KFC down the road and instantly I wanted nothing more than to be eating their mashed potatoes & gravy...and he began craving Chinese food from a place nearby. We agreed to splurge and get the food even though we had planned on cooking at home so we pulled into the Chinese place. A couple minutes later he came back without any food. It turns out the dish was more expensive than before and if he had used the cash to get it, we wouldn't have had enough for me to get my mashed potatoes & gravy. He sacrificed his beloved Chinese dinner for me to eat something I wanted that wasn't even an entire meal. This story still melts my heart.
    "Our bedroom on a Sunday afternoon"
  5. Even though I'm pretty well beyond the fatigue of the first trimester, I occasionally still experience random waves of extreme tiredness like I did yesterday. We had a great afternoon out at a local museum, got bubble tea, and came home to beautiful sunlight piercing our newly re-arranged bedroom furniture (which I insisted on us moving the night before so I can get out of bed more easily). I loved the new arrangement so much I wanted to lay on our all-too-comfortable bed and enjoy the new view. The combination of it all left me sleepy and I had to fall asleep for a few minutes even though we were soon headed to the store. Michael woke me up when it was time to go and I could not get up...but I did say that decaf coffee sounded sooo good. Without saying a word he brewed me decaf coffee and brought it to me in bed to help me get up.
  6. He doesn't snap back at me or get defensive when my hormones take over and I suddenly sound short or exasperated for no reason. Instead, he has started this new thing where he just smiles at me (in a loving - not obnoxious - way) and shakes his head or asks if everything is okay. This helps me come back to earth and calm down.
    When I reflect on relationships with those closest to us I am easily reminded of God. How intimately He knows us and how busy He is doing little, unspoken acts of love for us each and every day! Sometimes these acts are so small, so subtle that we don't even see them for what they are or we may even take them for granted.

    Likewise, sometimes we spend so much time around another person that we may not even recognize all of the little things they do for us on a daily basis...yet these small acts are the very reflection of the kind of love God has for us. While this pregnancy has certainly shined a spotlight on me and the many needs I've had, I want to make sure my husband knows that I do not take him for granted and pray that I never will.

    "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
    -Blessed Mother Teresa

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 1)


    --- 1 ---
    I'm not generally good at being "quick" with my words. Usually I'm pretty wordy which is a huge reason I've never done Jen's Quick Takes link-up over at Conversion Diary in my 2+ years of blogging, so we'll see how this goes.

    --- 2 ---
    It may sound odd, but ever since about week 7 of my pregnancy I've been eagerly awaiting the day that I'm "showing" enough for strangers to notice. Perhaps I'll be eating those words later on when I'm massive, but at 14 weeks I'm so borderline when it comes to anyone seeing anything that I'd rather just get over that line already. Really I just want strangers to know so I don't feel like a jerk when I take the last chair in a waiting area because I'm tired, short of breath, my uterus is painfully stretching, or my back is aching from learning to sleep on my sides all night.

    --- 3 ---
    Speaking of sleeping on my sides all night: the pregnancy pillow I ordered from Amazon arrived yesterday in the mail! I debated whether I should spend money to get an official "pregnancy" pillow instead of a normal body pillow, but after one night I'm convinced I made the right choice for myself. Even though I'm only 14 weeks, this week was especially painful around my neck and shoulders and I even pinched a nerve 2 nights ago...so what I'm trying to say is that this pillow is one of the biggest and most welcomed highlights of my week!

    I understand now why this woman looks soooo happy

    --- 4 ---
    Michael and I didn't go over the top for Valentine's Day or anything, but considering it was our first one as a married couple we opted at the last minute to skip our workout & go out to dinner. Thankfully we decided this early enough that we didn't have to wait for an hour when we arrived at Macaroni Grill (we naively thought it wouldn't be that busy because it's a chain, it isn't super fancy, and it wasn't the dinner rush time yet...but that place was packed).

    --- 5 ---
    Macaroni Grill has, hands down, the best customer service out of any restaurant we've been to in Ann Arbor (which is kind of pitiful for all the local places we've tried in this "food town" because most people usually assume the local places are where it's at...but that's not been our experience here).

    Not to mention, Macaroni Grill has a beautiful ambiance without
    being too dressy or insanely expensive

    --- 6 ---
    The main reason I'm raving about Macaroni Grill is because it can be really difficult to eat out when you're pregnant (and we usually don't), but for the first time ever a waitress was super helpful to me in this area! I asked if there was a cheese in the lobster ravioli and she double checked with the manager out on the floor; it turned out that yes, there was a combination of cheeses inside - which of course included soft cheeses. The manager actually asked if I had a specific food allergy (no one else has asked this at all when I've asked them weird questions about their menus) so I explained that I'm pregnant and can't eat soft cheeses. The manager and waitress were SO nice and congratulatory and the waitress recommended a delicious dish that was safe for me to eat.

    --- 7 ---
    My favorite quote of the week happened when Michael and I were talking on g-chat yesterday (he was at work) and he asked if the mini-trip we planned to Chicago next weekend could be his Valentine's Day present to me. After I replied he said, "We are the perfect couple. You ask for nothing and I want to give you everything." ...Yes, he's the best.

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    Surrounding Yourself with Love


    Happy St. Valentine's Day! Last year around this time I wrote an entry on my former blog celebrating love and my relationship with Michael because he had just proposed on the 12th. My, how time flies! Fast forward one year and all those months of wedding planning and marriage preparation seem far behind us. Now we've been married 4.5 months and have a baby on the way (God is good!).

    As I mentioned in my post about social media within marriage, once we became engaged Michael and I got serious about our priorities and how we'd be spending our time as we moved closer and closer to marriage. This mindset (along with having to narrow down who exactly you should or should not invite to your wedding) caused us to take pause and examine the relationships surrounding us.

    In a lot of ways we've narrowed our circles in the past year because, simply put: once you're married you have less time...so it's important to prioritize the kind of friendships you want to keep in your life and spend time reaching out to. Because let's be real: when you're married and don't have that much time to go visit your friends for the weekend, spend hours on g-chat, Skype, or the phone, you really don't want to use that valuable time maintaining connections with people that have been lukewarm (aka "meh") in trying to keep in touch with you. Who has time or energy to waste on people that simply don't care about your day to day life? 

    Not to mention, Michael and I now have a baby on the way. This takes needing to surround yourself with love and support to a whole new level! Here are some of the thoughts and questions I've compiled that have helped us evaluate which people we genuinely feel will be good people to maintain contact with in the years to come:

    Healthy versus Toxic Relationships

    What's healthy: Think of the people you interact with and currently strive to keep in touch with.
    Are these people positive, supportive, understanding individuals? 
    Are they patient? Do they listen to you?
    Are they forgiving if you don't talk to them for awhile or accidentally do something to hurt their feelings? 
    Does a conversation with them leave you feeling fulfilled, happy, excited, or inspired? 
    Have they expressed joy over your successes and/or been consoling when you're struggling?
    Can you have a constructive discussion or debate when you differ in opinions or have a problem to resolve? Will they give you the benefit of the doubt?
    Would they consider disagreements or hurt feelings to be "water under the bridge?"

    If so you are blessed and these are most likely healthy relationships! This Valentine's Day perhaps you can take a moment or two to thank these people and tell them you appreciate them. These are the people, after all, that you want to stick around as you plan a wedding, go through a pregnancy, and can count on to be patient and understanding once you have a newborn that leaves you sleep-deprived, short on time, and possibly forgetful due to the blur that can become your life as new parents (I'm mentally preparing myself already). When I find these individuals I do my best to hold onto them and I certainly thank God for bringing them into my life.

    What's toxic: Again, let's look at some of the people currently in your life.
    Are these people negative/pessimistic? 
    Do they call you for support with all of their issues without asking or listening to how you're doing?
    Do they hold grudges against other friends, family members, co-workers, etc? (red flag!)
    Do they spend most of the time you talk complaining about...everything?
    Do they gossip about others? (red flag!)
    Do conversations with them usually leave you feeling negative, depressed, frustrated, or sad?
    Can you have a constructive discussion or debate when you differ in opinions or have a problem to resolve or does it look more like them belittling your views or refusing to see where you're coming from?
    Are they quick to accuse or blame? Do they fail to give people the benefit of the doubt and/or criticize the intentions of others without knowing details?
    Would they consider disagreements or hurt feelings to be "water under the bridge" or will they hold your faults and mistakes against you?

    If this sounds like someone in your life, you have a few options depending on the circumstances. I'm no expert, but I did recently complete a year of full-time volunteer service working in a domestic violence agency, so I'd like to think I've gleaned some abilities to notice red flags and how to handle some of these scenarios involving unhealthy relationships. If a person is naturally pessimistic and they bring you down unintentionally, talking to them about it may be an option. Sometimes people don't know how they come across and are willing to work on changing. However, if the person bullies, blames, demands, belittles, is quick to lash out, or slow to forgive, you may need to cut your losses and move on. Also, if they tend to gossip and vocally hold grudges against others there's a good chance they would act this way toward you if you ever make an unintentional mistake. I've learned the hard way over the years that some people will be this way no matter how nice, apologetic, patient, and sincere you are with them. Is this the kind of person you want around your home? Around your children? It doesn't matter if you don't yet have kids - imagine you will someday and this question still applies. I think the obvious answer is: NO.

    If you'd like to read some other brief descriptions of toxic relationships, check out this blurb on Oprah's website or this article from Psychology Today. For some reading on the more serious topic of domestic violence (the ultimate form of unhealthy relationships) I'd direct you to this government website and this visual explanation of the power and control wheel which is a great tool for learning warning signs, evaluating potentially dangerous relationships, and safety planning for those in crisis.

    As a nation we have plenty of ways to reduce stress and improve wellness - through eating clean, being "green," leading an active lifestyle, etc. Too often we forget the impact our relationships can have on our overall health and well-being (both good and bad).

    So this Valentine's Day, let's rejoice and celebrate the love we find around us! Let us thank God for all the good, supportive people He places in our lives. Likewise, let us work towards eliminating toxins and pray about any relationships we find leave us feeling frazzled. Life is too short to be surrounded by anything but love. 

    "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.... He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction."
    Proverbs 17:17,19

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    The Reality of B16's Resignation and the Respect it Deserves


    While the main focus of this new blog has been surrounding the fact that I'm a newlywed, I cannot deny that I am a Catholic newlywed...which naturally means my faith will shape and impact the conversations I have with my husband, how we live out our marital vows, etc. In turn, this of course means my Catholic faith will also impact several of the topics I blog about. So here goes! This entry is not so much about me being a newlywed but is focused more on some major current events that not only are my husband and I talking about, but the entire world is talking about.

    By now I think most of us are aware that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is resigning at the end of this month. I can fully understand the shock many are experiencing over this decision they feel came "out of nowhere," but let's get real here.

    The Pope's decision most certainly did not "come out of nowhere." How do we know this? Not only do I trust that he has prayed on this very decision for hours on end and discerned whether or not it was right and what the appropriate time to take action would be, but we also have evidence of his thoughtfulness on this topic. Here's an excerpt from Edward Pentin's article found at the National Catholic Register today:

    "Moreover, as a man known for his humility and well aware of his strengths and weaknesses, he made it clear that he would consider resigning if the time were right. In his 2010 interview for the book Light of the World, Pope Benedict was asked if he would resign in view of the sexual abuse scandal. 
    “When the danger is great one must not run away,” he said. “For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view.”

    But he added, “One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it.”

    Asked if he could imagine a situation in which he would consider a resignation by the Pope appropriate, he said he could, and that “if a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign."

    That time appears to have come."

    As the article states, those quotes came from an interview back in 2010. So yes, while this is indeed a rare occurrence throughout the Church's history, Pope Benedict XVI has been aware for some time that there are situations when this is the best step and he would humbly be willing to step down were this ever true during his own papacy.

    Was Pope Benedict XVI a fantastic, intelligent, well-educated, beloved, holy Pope? I fully believe so and respect him greatly. But let us recognize the reality is that he is continuing to be all of these things by acknowledging his own weaknesses and limitations that go hand in hand with his old age. He loves the Catholic Church and would never selfishly or blindly maintain an office he knows he can no longer serve with the abilities necessary and demanded of a Pope in the world today. He wants us to have the most capable leader whether that man is himself or not. This only makes me respect him and love him as a leader even further.

    Many people also seem to have forgotten that when Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005 it was widely known (due to his advanced age) that he was considered a "transition Pope." Everyone was well aware at the time of his election that he would certainly not have the same lengthy rule as his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II. Such a long service as Pope would be nearly impossible considering he was nearly already at the age that would have excluded him from being considered when he was elected. 

    So let us be kind in our assessments of this man who truly has the best intentions for the Catholic Church and pray for him as the media scrutinizes, speculates, and plays up every possible angle that they think could make this holy man and our Church look "bad" in the eyes of the secular world.

    I leave you with this beautiful video which reminds us that as Catholics we don't place all our hope in the Pope, but in Jesus Christ himself and He is the one who will be ruling this Church regardless of the man elected to follow in St. Peter's footsteps...although what a great man Pope Benedict XVI was and continues to be.

    "For some people may be so shaken that it may change their perception, but my hope and prayer is it will help many to get more mature in our faith. Our faith is not on the Pope, it is on Christ, who is the foundation of the church. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and the same forever. We all are servants. We come and go. Christ doesn't come and go, he stays on. Without Christ the church has no more meaning, but the Pope is a servant and one of his titles is 'Servant of the Servants of God.' He is not there for himself or self-glory, so his act yesterday was like saying 'I am a servant. I think another servant should come on.' Very good for the church and very noble of him. So this event can help us to be deeper in our faith.... Pope Benedict may be teaching us many more things than we realize."
    -Cardinal Arinze