Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Day in the Life of Kate

Here we are at another week of the A Day in the Life series! The series is meant to give us a glimpse into each others' lives... the parts we might not normally show or might not fit the 'theme' of our blogs. It's also meant to help us get to know each other even more, to inspire us, and to let us know that life isn't quite as glamorous as blogs make them out to be :). Up this week is Kate's Wednesday from Imperfect Kate. If you've never checked her blog out, head over. I love her very real way of writing, and her humor is right up my alley. Welcome to a Wednesday in the life of Kate- and not just any Wednesday, but Ash Wednesday!

This last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, so it wasn't a normal day - but, then again, we don't have many normal days.

My alarm went off at 4:45, and I promptly turned it off. It sounded again at 4:50, and I flailed around on the bedside table for my thermometer. While I waited for it to register my temp, I opened my charting app, Link Femcal to chart my temp and to record it. Knowing I was going to write this for you, I made sure to open my Liturgy of the Hours app.

While Adam slept beside me, and Chewbacca stayed curled up on my feet, I prayed Morning Prayer. Then, just a little after 5:30, I slid out of bed and headed downstairs. Since we fast on Ash Wednesday, and Adam takes fasting very seriously, I headed downstairs to make us some morning smoothies. I made sure to use plenty of protein powder, flaxseed, and greek yogurt - protein and fiber to keep us full for a long day of fasting. I brought the smoothie upstairs to wake up Adam and hopped in the shower. This year I was going to go to Mass before work, and wear my ashes all day. This would be a first for me since high school. I was excited.

The only downside was that Mass started at 6:30. So I hurried.

I dressed nicely (Mt 6:17) in one of my favorite blue dresses, a nice blazer, and a pair of work-appropriate pumps, with vintage-style wooden shoes.

I arrived at 6:34, halfway through the responsorial Psalm, and I had to tiptoe up the marble aisle to avoid clip-clipping like a horse. I enjoyed mass - a lot. Since I cantor at Santa Catalina, I don't get many opportunities to be a passive recipient at Mass. I love singing, but I also love the freedom to kneel through the Consecration, to really focus and just receive Grace.

Anyway. so I got my ashes - a beautiful dark smudge - and I got to work a half hour early. So, I figured, why not start working? My boss (the company owner) arrived a few minutes after me, and was highly impressed by my early hours.

Throughout the morning, I had plenty of opportunities to discuss Lent and Catholicism with the people I work with. The ashes on my head were a great evangelization tool. It turns out a lot of people I work with - even atheists and agnostics - participate in Lent, simply because they believe that self-discipline and austerity are good for them. God is good, and He works good everywhere - even in the lives of people who haven't been given the gift of faith.

We even had a client meeting that I (surprise) was pulled into, and while I was a little chagrined at the idea of going in ashy-headed, but this was why I went to mass that morning, so in I went.

Well, I'm not very good at fasting, and I still had to take my fistful of PCOS meds (metformin, fish oil, two different vitamins, calcium, fiber, etc, etc ...) and thanks to PCOS my blood sugar can go a little wonky, so it's not good for me to not eat all day. So I had an apple, a string cheese, and some almonds so I could down all my horsepills. Then, at one, I went for a run. It was a BEAUTIFUL day! The sun was shining, flowers blooming, children playing in the park. I was buoyant with joy and deep contentment. That's the thing about exercise and sunshine, everything is better after you've had some. I'm a member of a gym next door, so I showered before heading back to work - but a pre-shower glance in the mirror proved that I'd sweated my ashes right off. Such is the life of a #Cathlete.

After work on Wednesdays, I usually head home to an empty house. Adam teaches Confirmation on Wednesdays, and so I usually do yoga, fold laundry, watch Downton Abbey (or Law & Order, or Psych, or any other show Adam doesn't particularly enjoy) and just hang out. But, this being Ash Wednesday, he was taking the kids to Mass, and we thought it would be a good idea to have both of us go to Mass together. Not every kid has a role model for a good, God-centered relationship in their parents, and every opportunity Adam and I have to model that is one we ought to take. Plus, the very fact that I didn't usually come for class, but I did come up for mass reinforced what we always told them - that Mass is the most important thing we'll ever do.

I offer this as defense, because I worry that it appears too holier-than-thou that I went to mass twice.

After Mass we had a dinner for some friends who were moving away (You may know Brittany of The Greatest of These is Love) and we all had some marvelous, meat-free meals. Everyone was starving, and everyone dove into their food with full force. It was rough, since Brittany is - er, now was - one of my very few female friends here in Tucson, but I'm happy for them and the new opportunities they'll have (And, thanks to the #Cathsorority, I know I'll stay in touch with her ;-).

After dinner, Adam and I were exhausted. We went home, washed our faces, brushed our teeth, and barely made it through night prayer before we fell asleep. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I'm pretty sure I fell asleep partway through. In my defense, I'd been going for 18 hours.

So, I guess, in a lot of ways, even though it was Ash Wednesday, it was a pretty typical day for us.

Kate lives and works in Tucson, AZ, with her husband Adam and
Chewbacca the dog. She eats too many carbs, swears too frequently, and
is incredibly grateful that she might get to heaven anyway. If you're
not tired of her yammering yet, you can find more

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Decisions, Decisions!

I've done pretty well with the massive amounts of wedding decisions that have needed to be made so far. One of the reasons is because I have tried to keep things as simple as possible. When I told the hair stylist at my trial that I wasn't that stressed, but was stressed because I'm not stressed, she made a really good point. She said that people who tend to have drama in their lives, or make lots of things into big productions, would be really stressed. But if you generally plan well and like things to be drama free, then it will stay that way because you make it that way. So at that moment, I decided to quit being stressed by the lack of stress.

One thing I've found helpful is to keep decisions simple. For example, I could either google every single centerpiece that ever existed and pick out this super complex arrangement of unique things for the tables..... or.... I could find something simple but pretty, knowing that a) I won't even notice them on the wedding day b) It's one less thing to stress about and c) I won't look back on my wedding and reception with "Oh, I should have done THAT!" because I will be happily married and the rest is just a bonus. So my major wedding planning tip? Don't feel the need to go over the top, to personalize every single aspect, or to create a huge headache. You want to look back on the wedding planning time as something that was fun, not the craziest year of your life. *Steps down off wedding planning soapbox*

Having said all that, I need some wedding help. I have found my first decision that I am having a lot of trouble making! Ever since we went to our first church meeting a little over a year ago, I knew I wanted Canon in D for the processional. Well, a few weeks ago we had a meeting with the super awesome liturgy lady, who we somehow snagged to be our cantor for the wedding, and we were listening to all the options again so we could pick some for prelude type music. That's when I heard The Prince of Denmark's March. I liked it a LOT but I had this feeling it was used for something other than weddings (I think I had it confused with Pomp and Circumstance for a few minutes). So I nixed the idea and stuck with Canon in D. Then the other morning, something was nagging me to listen to it again, so I googled it again and.... liked it again. Funny side note: just as I was reading on Wikipedia that it was used for Princess Diana's wedding, there was a piece on the Today show about an exhibit of her clothes and jewelry. Anyway, so maybe that's why it sounded so familiar? Except I wasn't born then, but whatever. So now I'm stuck. I like the (excuse my geriatric language) pizazz of The Prince of Denmark but I like the simplistic beauty of Canon in D. I get more goosebumps with The Prince of Denmark, but I don't know if it's "too much". Care to help me decide?

I was going to do one of those awesome blogger polls, but I wanted it actually in the post and could only figure out how to get it on the side, so let's go old school. Leave me a comment and let me know which one you like best! I tried not to pick the worst, nor the most amazing videos of either so it would be a true comparison. Annnnd- GO!

Friday, February 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
We were really... fat... on Fat Tuesday. We went out with a bang, having my very favorite ice cream ever. It's from a farm about 30 minutes away, called Maple View Farms. We went there once and it was awesome. Then we noticed an ice cream place in Raleigh called Fresh. It carries MVF ice cream! It pretty much made our life when we discovered it. Hormone and antibiotic free, and such delicious flavors!!!! And no, ice cream isn't the only way we were fat... but I'm too ashamed to say the rest ;).

--- 2 ---

Speaking of Lent, the link up was an awesome way of letting me know that we need to take our Lenten challenges a little further (oh and the awesome homily I heard on Ash Wednesday). I think I subconciously thought that because we are doing so much more in general than this same time last year, we didn't need to do anything besides 'give something up'. All your posts were inspirational so we are working on a few more things to try and accomplish this Lent. I love the idea of picking something for each of the pillars. We decided on Mardi Gras that we will go to Adoration at least twice during Lent (the goal is more but that is minimum). I love Adoration but have never gone besides when it's been offered at retreats. We've been talking about it for months... but just never did it. Now we have the perfect motivation!

--- 3 ---

You want to know how this blog helps me grow closer to God? Well, there are a few ways, but the main one is accountability. I feel like if I type it here, I have to do it. It's out there for the (Catholic blogging) world to see, so I can't just pretend it was a fleeting thought in my head that I didn't really commit to. So another thing we decided to do for Lent is to eat fish each Friday (well unless we have some other plan for that day like going to his parents' for dinner or something, but that should be rare). I am the one who thought the idea up, and then I totally skirted the idea when Steven asked this past week if we were still going to do it. I really, really, really, really dislike all seafood. I'm a land food girl. I don't even like shrimp (except Outbacks' coconut shrimp). No lobster. No crab. No sushi. And especially no fish. We don't eat a lot of meat, so going meatless on Friday isn't a big deal. But eating fish, which I know is really good for my body, will certainly be a big deal. I'm starting with salmon and, honestly, might not make it off of salmon. Any ideas of fishes that don't taste... fishy? You can feel free to include your favorite way to prep/cook because I am clueless about fish.

--- 4 ---

Immaculate Heart Radio might be the best thing I've ever found. I'm sure there are tons of ways to listen to it, but we listen to it on AppleTV. Steven also has an app on his phone he can listen to it on. It's really fascinating  and is on all the time. Our tradition has become to have it on while we clean on Monday evenings, but we put it on this week a few other times and every time there is something really good on. My favorite (which is on on Monday evenings) is Catholic Answers Live.

--- 5 ---

Steven made me a family tree this week. I asked for it before his mom throws us a shower in March. No, really. I need it. He has a huge family. Or I don't know, maybe it's normal sized. But when you're used to just having a mom, dad, sister, and brother to keep up with, almost anything seems huge. I keep meeting them at family events, and then not having a clue who they are the next time I see them. I really don't want to be opening some super awesome present from Aunt So&So and have to look awkwardly around the room trying to figure out just which lady I'm supposed to be thanking.

--- 6 ---

DE.LIC.IOUS!!!!! Simple, delicious, droolworthy, healthy granola bars . Edited to add: It's totally not granola. My bad.

--- 7 ---
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Catholic Blog Day- Penance

As soon as I heard about Catholic Blog Day, I knew I wanted to participate. When I saw the theme was penance, I found myself twiddling my thumbs for motivation. Then I had a lightbulb moment.... a guest post! And not just any guest post. Maybe the most special guest post my blog will ever have... my very own, almost-baby-Catholic fiance! He has been to confession three times so far, and I thought might be able to offer a unique perspective on penance. He was up for it so without further ado, here is Steven's post on penance!

Catholic Blog Day

When Stacy first asked me to write a blog post on penance, I was very unsure as to why she chose me to write about penance.  I am still technically not Catholic for about two more months, and have had very little experience with the subject.  I was born and raised as a southern baptist, going to church regularly until I was in college.  At that time, I knew very little about the Catholic church and faith, in fact the only tidbit that I knew was that during the Bubonic Plague, the Church opposed autopsies, and I used that trivia to tease my one Catholic friend.  While in college at NCSU, I stopped attending church at all, and mostly ignored religion altogether.  It wasn't until I met Stacy that I even attended church again.  She invited me to go to Sacred Heart one day, and I went with her.  I was horribly confused the entire time.  After some question and answer and research time, I finally began to come to understand what was going on.  After several months, I made the decision to join the RCIA process, and it has been a very enriching and educational process.

Penance was a topic that confused me for quite a while.  Before I experienced the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time, I was very confused.   On the outside, it seemed as if it was a process where you could do anything you wanted, then go say a couple of Hail Mary's and everything was erased.  After learning more about the process, I began to understand that there was more of a intellectual and spiritual process going on, but true understanding came from actually experiencing Reconciliation for the first time. 

My first penance was a very special experience.  My first Reconciliation took place at the Weekend for Engaged Couples for the Diocese of Raleigh.  I was lucky enough to get to experience this with Father Tim, who was a wonderful, caring priest who made me feel very relaxed and confident my first time.  After experiencing this, I was excited to do my first penance.  I was instructed to write a letter to Stacy thanking her for the positive influence she had had on my life by inviting me into the Catholic church.  I know this was a little out of the box, but it was also very memorable and enjoyable.  Even in the two times I've been to Reconciliation since, I've found that performing the prayers assigned by the priest to be a very uplifting and freeing sensation, nothing that I ever expected to feel when first learning about Reconciliation. 

So, that's my story.  Thanks for reading!

Steven is the best fiance ever and blogs at (no, don't try it. Who knows what will come up). In his spare time, he buys Stacy flowers, feeds the cat, makes a mean burger, and cleans the bathroom with delight. He probably did not write this "about me".

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Day in the life of Cari

Here we are at another week of the A Day in the Life series! The series is meant to give us a glimpse into each others' lives... the parts we might not normally show or might not fit the 'theme' of our blogs. It's also meant to help us get to know each other even more, to inspire us, and to let us know that life isn't quite as glamorous as blogs make them out to be :). If you've never read Cari's hysterical blog before, you need to put that near the top of your to-do list today! Welcome to Cari's Tuesday! 

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
Anton Chekhov

Filed Under:  High Points

Sharp-shinned hawk perched on the deck, who was nice enough to let me photograph her.

And then leapt into flight right in front of me:

Made Hershey's Ultimate brownies- with frosting:

Filed Under: Neutral Points

Phones, which had been non-functional, were restored by 7:30 p.m.  Received call from a children's charity asking for money by 7:47 p.m.

Learned that our regular UPS guy is scared of chickens, by observing him frantically kicking at the ones out pecking around in the front yard.  
Mental note:  keep better track of incoming packages and try to schedule chicken free-ranging accordingly.

Went through three years' worth of Facebook messages between beloved and myself.  There were only 24 messages.  Nine of them were variations on the theme of "woman, I'm at work trying to call you.  Will you please answer the phone?"



Filed Under:  Low Points

The middle boys got up at 1 a.m. to raid the pantry.  They found 12 suckers, took them back to their room, stripped off all the wrappers, and then proceeded to fight over who got which one.  Fighting woke up most of the house.

The baby continues to self-remove diapers.  Then run gleefully around the house.  Sometimes, when he's feeling extra frisky, he hides the dirty diapers for us to find days later.

Discovered we were completely out of baby wipes.  

Discovered the four year old melting one of his brother's plastic toys against the light bulb of his bedroom lamp.  

Went to write a witty, clever account of my day as a homeschooling mother of five, and realized that my wits had worn out.

Just your typical homeschooling, chicken wrangling, bread making, mother of five, soon-to-be-six.  Normally, I'm much funnier in print than this post would suggest.  You can visit me at Clan Donaldson, for proof.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Even though I wrote about my Lenten plans in 7 Quick Takes this past Friday, I got excited about the link up over at Kayla's so I thought I would expand. (Although I have a doctor's appointment bright and early at 8:30 am 45 minutes away from my house so it will probably be evening before I can link up!)

First, I have to profess my love for Lent. I have always enjoyed it so much. It's provided me with a time every year to do a little 'spring cleaning of the soul' and the aspect of giving up/adding something has always helped me focus in a way that I wasn't doing normally. I used to get a lot of flack for writing "Happy Lent!" as my facebook status, but for me, it really was a happy occasion because the prayer, sacrifice, fasting, and reflection really made me a better and happier person. I still love Lent.

Before we officially decided to give up sweets, but after I had begun considering it, one of our priests said something about that being done for vanity and people should pick something else. I'm glad he said it because it made me think, and made me analyze the reasons why I want to give sweets up.

But first, what are 'sweets'? For us it will be pretty much anything sweet tasting that isn't a fruit or a healthy breakfast item (jelly, healthy whole grain cereal, oatmeal with fruit, etc), with the exception of granola since my homemade kind is really healthy (though I'll leave out chocolate chips that I sometimes use). We won't have ice cream, cake, cupcakes, cookie, pie, doughnuts, candy, graham cracker (sweet cracker) type things When I first began contemplating it, my mind immediately went to "What can I eat that will make my brain/tastebuds THINK I just ate sweets to cure the craving?". And that's when I realized I was going about it all wrong. So I took that with what the priest said and here is why I will be giving up sweets:

  • I can be very gluttonous. If you saw how much of a sweet snack or dessert I could put away in one sitting, you'd probably be shocked. And disgusted. I know all about portion control, but I don't exercise it well when sweets are involved- mostly 'free' sweets like things brought to the office.
  • My body is a temple and when I go overboard with sweets I am certainly not treating it like one. I'm treating it like a garbage disposal or pantry.
  • I want nothing more than to have babies and raise them in the church. This means giving my ovaries the love they deserve so that I can have babies. This means better food choices.
Now don't get me wrong. We don't sit around eating sweets all the time. But when things are offered to us when we are visiting family or friends, or there are sweets at work, we eat a lot of it. And even though we don't generally keep sweets in the house, we do stop by Chickfila for cones a bit too often- usually as a 'reward' for not eating badly, which is a terrible idea. Oh, and I have eaten so much candy since Valentine's day that I'm sure my body is in a rage at me.

So will this bring me closer to God? I believe it will. I think I need to remember that sacrificing something we like for a greater cause is something we will do often in life. I need to remind myself that God gave us such amazing foods and get deeper into the simplicity of those foods (fruits, veggies, legumes, grains). I need a reminder that I have control over myself and my choices, and I don't have to cure a craving. Self control obviously applies to many more areas of life.

I feel I need to add a disclaimer here. Steven and I originally were going to make our wedding favors for guests be little boxes with mini Reeses cups and Starbursts inside. The idea was, those are our favorite candies together in a box, because we are coming together in marriage. Then Steven mentioned that, while he was at the Lindor store getting my Valentine's yummies, they gave him a price for the truffles as favors. The price was surprisingly good for as much as the truffles generally cost, and it hit me that the majority of people wouldn't 'get' the candy together in the box thing, since many people don't even know what our favorite candies are. Soooo we went in Saturday night and ordered them. The smallest amount we could order is 550. We have 150 boxes that only fit 3 truffles per box. If you're a numbers person, you are realizing we will have 100 of my most favorite candies ever (yeah Reeses is a close second after all) left over. Steven requested that he pick them up Tuesday. Because we are giving up sweets as of Wednesday.... my inner fatty says "Score!!!!" but my inner Catholic realizes I need to have a talk with my budding Catholic about the inappropriateness of eating a ton of truffles the night before we give up sweets! :) Maybe I will talk with him about that after our 5th truffle...

Disclaimer 2: I may or may not be eating chocolate as I write this. But it's dark. Good for the heart.... right?

Friday, February 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes- All Things Love!

--- 1 ---

I know there are lots of people who aren't really into Saint Valentine's Day, but I love it. Yes, I do love others every day of the year. But we all take people we love for granted, and this is a day that serves as a helpful reminder as to how appreciative we should be for those special people in our lives, and that we shouldn't always just assume they know it. That does not mean a ton of money needs to be spent (and some of the sweetest Vdays can be when there is no money to spend), but I'll admit that I don't mind being a little spoiled. And this year, spoiled didn't even come close to describing it!

--- 2 ---

On Valentine's morning, Steven had to open, which means he's at work about an hour before I have to get up. When I came downstairs, this is what I saw.

Trader Joe's Pound Plus chocolate and some Lindor truffles (fave candy ever)

Know what I had for breakfast? Well, applesauce with cinnamon on it (cinnamon keeps your blood sugar stable... I've noticed such a big difference that I totally swear by it now), but also 3 (big!) squares of chocolate. Hey, it was the serving size.
--- 3 ---

My only question is: Can I finish the entire "Pound Plus" before Ash Wednesday? I'm sure I could single handedly, but luckily I have Steven to share it with, and since my mom is coming again this Thursday, I'm sure she'll help me devour it too! 72% dark... YUM.

--- 4 ---
For Valentine's dinner, Steven took me to Tokyo House. It's only  my favorite restaurant in Raleigh. And since it's my favorite, of course it's totally more expensive than we are willing to pay when we go out to eat (if it's more than our $11 and some change that we spend at Chickfila, we think twice). The first time we went there just because we had a buy one get one coupon. We couldn't believe how delicious the food was! Then we came across another BOGO and went again a year or so later. So I imagined it would be a VERY long time until we went again since we had no more coupons. But Steven isn't quite as cheap as I am, meaning he doesn't require that he has a coupon if it's a special occasion, so he surprised me by taking me. Then he followed it up with Gigi's Cupcakes where I got Wedding Cake and he got White Midnight Magic. I told Steven he sort of shot himself in the foot this year because now I will expect this fanfare every year (not really... sort of...).
I was excited because this dress still fits... but from this angle I appear a little preggers. Back to the back of the closet this dress will go! 

--- 5 ---

Valentine's Day was also 2 months until our wedding. I said that when the 3 month mark came, life would get super chaotic and not end until after the wedding. I think I said that because other people told me that would happen. It got a bit more busy, but life still feels pretty much the same. I'm thinking it will be the last month that is super chaotic. Hey, I'm not complaining about having 2 mostly calm months before the chaos begins. I just didn't expect it and keep wondering if I'm forgetting something. Maybe it's time to give the massive to-do list on my nightstand another glance.

--- 6 ---
Speaking of Ash Wednesday... see quick take 3, you know how the typical thing to give up for Lent is sweets? Yeah, I never have. I may have given up a 'type' of sweet, but I love sweets too much to give them up. This year, though, I am taking the plunge since I have Steven's support all the way. We can be pretty gluttonous with sweets (and with breads, but hey, we never claimed to be martyrs!), so I think it'll be a really good opportunity for us to treat our bodies more like temples. Not to mention my ovaries will be overjoyed. We'll have cake at the shower his mom throws us (which is on a Sunday anyway), but otherwise we will get our bodies, mouths, and minds used to having naturally sweet things like fruit satiate our sweet cravings. Earlier this week we ate a red bell pepper with hummus that was SO deliciously sweet and I stopped thinking "ZOMG I WILL DIE WITHOUT SWEETS!!!!!!!!!!!" and started thinking "Maybe I can do this.... maybe....". I figured if I wrote it here, I can't change my mind.

--- 7 ---
Today, as you are reading this, I'm getting my trial hair and make up done. YAY! After that, my mom and I are going to Wake Forest for my bridal portraits (if you want to do a little stalking... and who doesn't... my photographers are Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe and you can click on Sacred Heart Cathedral to see their wedding pics at the church we are being married in). My awesome mom came in again on the train last night because my dad couldn't get out of a trial at work to bring her down. She'll be here til Saturday afternoon and our plans include the bridal stuff, dinner at the food court and a walk around the mall, and a $2 theater movie before she leaves on Saturday! 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

HHS Mandate

These are from St. Peter's List and I really, really like them! My very favorite is a bit (I know this isn't a word but it totally fits) inciteful. So I'll refrain from using it publicly and just giggle to myself about it. It's #5. I'm trying to work up the gumption to post one of the others on facebook. I really, really don't like conflict and I can already picture some not so nice comments, but I also know that this isn't an issue I can be silent on, and I would love to educate where I can.

Birth control is going to be covered as a preventative measure. Preventing what? Pregnancy? Pregnancy and fertility are not diseases. Look, I would love for everyone in the world to believe like I do, but I know that will never happen, so that's not what I'm fighting for. But I am fighting so I don't have to pay for someone else's birth control (especially since they don't have to help pay for the cost of my NFP!), and especially so that Catholic institutions aren't having to cover it.

This one is so awesome, I can't even follow it up with anything! 

Please remember that as little as 3 months ago, I was contracepting and not following the church's teachings. So I'm not coming into this with any holier than thou attitude. I'm coming to this with the knowledge that there are many Catholic women who ARE contracepting (though not the 98% that the White House would have you believe) but guess what? That does not make the teaching of the church any less valid!!! And, most importantly, it does not mean that the first amendment should be tossed aside.

As for me... 

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Day in the life of Jessica

This week we have A Monday in the Life of Jessica! The "A Day in the Life of" series will showcase one blogger each week for seven weeks. Make sure to check out last week's post  if you missed it. The series is meant to give us a glimpse into each others' lives... the parts we might not normally show or might not fit the 'theme' of our blogs. It's also meant to help us get to know each other even more, to inspire us, and to let us know that life isn't quite as glamorous as blogs make them out to be :). I found Jessica's post interesting for a few reasons, but namely because I always wondered (afraid, from afar) just what exactly scientists did with rats!

is a general post because last week was terribly boring. I literally sat
at my desk and wrote. I even ate lunch at my desk.
I wake up each morning around 6:45 to take the dogs out, feed them, and
get breakfast ready for The Fisherman. This happens whether or not I set
an alarm--Daisy jumps on me if I sleep in late!

I always have grand plans to stay awake, get ready, eat breakfast and tidy
the house before I leave for work. In reality, I usually end up snuggling
into bed until The Fisherman leaves at 7:30. By then, I'm rushing to get
ready to go. I always forget to pack a lunch (and sometimes breakfast)
until the last minute. I hate coming home to a messy house, so I do the
dishes and hang up clothes before I leave. I've put my make-up on in the
car so many times that now I just don't bother to bring it in the house.

If I'm good, I'm out the door by 8:15 and can go to Daily Mass at 8:30.
(This happens about twice a week.) I roll into work at about 9:15. I have
my own desk in an actual office, which is nicer than working in the lab
bench rooms with the chemicals. I usually chat with my labmates for a
little while before starting to work. We are all excellent
procrastinators, so it's not hard to find someone to shoot the breeze
with. :)

My daily tasks vary a lot. Lately, I've been sitting on my butt writing my
paper, researching journal articles, analyzing data and making graphs.
Other times, I'm on my feet all day running experiments. Here's a few
  • I test learning and memory in adult rats by having them
    navigate a water maze.
    I actually stopped running these experiments
    in November, and I'm quite happy about it. Wet rats are smelly.
  • I collect brain slices from neonatal rats for tissue culture about
    twice a month. I dissect out the hypothalami and place them in culture
    dishes for a week, during which time I treat the tissues with various
  • I mount the brain tissue sections on slides to stain for various
    proteins or mRNAs. The staining processes take about two full days, not
    including the analysis. Measuring the intensity of the mRNA signal in the
    , that can take another few days.
  • Processing blood samples to measure stress hormone levels in the
    plasma. This takes one full day to run, then another day to analyze.
I run about two experiments a week, because many of them take a full day
of preparation, too. It can get lonely running experiments or writing in
solitude so it's nice to socialize. My labmates and I usually eat lunch
together and spend time chatting throughout the day. On "Fun Food
Fridays," we go out to eat. It's fun to try new places with them, and get
a break from leftovers. (Hey, we're all broke scientists and eating out is

My boss meets with each lab member weekly to go over experiments and data.
Sometimes I have a lot to show her, but other times I'm scrambling to
appear productive. Every other week, we have a lab meeting where one of us
presents either their own research or gives an overview of an interesting
topic. I presented this Thursday on endocannabinoids--it went
well, no criticism but no accolades. Mandatory meetings are never fun, so
I don't blame anyone for being bored.

I like to leave lab no later than 5:30. It's my responsibility to take the
dogs out and feed them, and then start to make dinner. Lately, The
Fisherman comes home and goes straight to play basketball with the
neighbors, so we eat after he's done (or I just snack anyways). If that
happens, I usually putz around online or read non-work things--I try not
to work at home unless there's pressing deadlines. Every once in a while,
I'll actually go to the gym and run for a little bit, but not as often as
I should!

We're in bed by midnight, but The Fisherman insists on watching movies to
fall asleep. I never had a TV in the bedroom, so I've adapted to with
earplugs and a reading light. Marriage is about compromise!

Jessica is the happy wife of The Fisherman. She’s an almost-Catholic
neuroscience PhD student. She blogs at Grumbling & Gratitude when
she’s not juggling experiments or playing with her two little poodles,
Daisy and Charley.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tea Party Bridal Shower!

A week ago today, my sister threw me the best bridal shower ever! The day started off with her in the kitchen and me so ready to know all the secrets her and my mom had been whispering about! She let me lick the batter out of the bowl and it was chocolate... so I knew all was right with the world.
My sissy/hostess making cupcakes from scratch!

Around 10:30, my dad took me out so they could get the house ready without me being there. We ran a few errands and had my car checked out at Advance Auto before heading to Starbucks. We had such great conversation there. We talked about death, eternity, and heaven. Heavy, right? But it was really nice because it's not something that would normally come up in conversation. He had just gone to the funeral the day before of the wife of his Weight Watchers leader, so the conversation flowed naturally after he told me about the funeral. From there we talked a lot about the journey I'm on, how Steven and I got to where we are now, and what I want our future to look like in terms of faith and religion. He knows that things have changed for us, but he didn't really know the details. My dad is the only other Catholic in my family, so it was a bonding experience discussing our faith. Again, not something that normally comes up for us, but I enjoyed it immensely.

But back to the shower! We got home at 1:30 (shower started at 2) and my bridesmaids were already there. As soon as dad dropped me off in the driveway, I saw the bridal shower balloons Rachel had out front, and I got really emotional!
V.O.A.- veiled on arrival

So of course when I walked in the house and saw my sister, mom, and bridesmaids, I cried! Rachel put a veil on me and all the guests wore fascinator style headbands. It was SO cute. They had pictures of me as a bavy and child all over the place, and the theme was tea party. They used all of my mom's wedding china, including, of course, the tea cups and saucers! They even confiscated my childhood teddy bear from Raleigh without me knowing and had him at the tea party!

Some of the yummy treats, and one of our engagement photos right in the middle!

My mom getting some snacks from the beautiful food table! Notice the party favors in the back left- fuzzy socks rolled up like cupcakes! 

We ate first and all sat around talking as the last few guests arrived. Then we played games, opened presents, and had some more chit chat time. I got some awesome gifts including things off my honeymoon registry, a mandolin slicer, some cooking utensils, a loaf pan, silicone muffin liners, and an ice cream machine. It was SO much fun and even better than I had imagined. My sister, who knows me so well, tried to make everything reusable so there would be little waste. She put so much thought into SO many little details! I think that was part of what made me emotional. I brought so much stuff back for scrapbooking, like the deflated bridal shower balloon, the cupcake decorations, confetti, and the "pin the flower on the bride" sheet.

Rachel with mom's wedding china tea cups!

Dad came home towards the end of the shower to snag a plate of food... what, you thought he didn't have to follow the same rules as everyone else!? 

I was so sad when the shower was over and didn't want to go to bed that night because then 'shower day' would officially be over! I had been really anxious and nervous, all the way until about 30 minutes into the shower, about being the center of attention. But once my friends were there and we were all just hanging out and having a fun time, I felt so much better! My sister made me feel super special and very bride-like without making me feel totally on display, so I was a happy bride!

Group shot of some of my very favorite people in the world!

Friday, February 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes- Marriage Prep Edition

I decided that, since I'd done a wedding edition of quick takes, I needed to do a marriage prep of quick takes too. After all, the marriage is way more important than the wedding! 

--- 1 ---

Has anyone ever been to Marriage Encounter? They do them once or twice a year in our diocese and I have always wanted to go so badly... even before I was dating or in a relationship lol. I'm not sure why, but it has always appealed to me. I was listening to Immaculate Heart Radio this week and there was a counseling couple on saying that there is continuing education for almost everything in life, so why do people feel like marriage should be any different? It totally cemented my desire to go to Marriage Encounter after we get married! I'm hoping we can make it an every other year getaway or something like that, at least for a while.

--- 2 ---

We met with our officiant, Father Sal, this week. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the meeting. Though we've had a LOT of marriage prep through the retreat and FOCCUS, I was expecting some through him, too. We met with him individually to fill out some forms for the church, and he made sure we were both coming into the marriage with no reservations, without force, etc, and that was that. Maybe most people would be like "yay! that was easy! off the hook!", but I was wanting more! I wanted tough questions or something lol. This isn't a reflection on him, just on what they've set as the priests' role in our church.

--- 3 ---

I was also a bit disappointed that he didn't say anything about us living together. Don't get me wrong, I was dreading it, but I did want to explain our journey to him. I would rather be uncomfortable but have him know the path we are on together, than for him to think the worst. But I also didn't want to throw the information out there without him asking, which he didn't. But then I walked out sad that I hadn't been able to talk to him about it... and a bit disappointed that it was overlooked purposely (he asked us both our addresses within 5 minutes of each other so it was pretty obvious).

--- 4 ---

Now that my Negative Nelly takes are over, I can't say enough how much the engagement retreat impacted our lives. I mean, it really impacted our lives. We were making small changes beforehand, but the retreat pretty much changed the course we were on in life. How's that for marriage prep!? I may have wanted more from the meeting with the priest, but I guess they know what they're doing ;).

--- 5 ---

Uhoh, Negative Nelly wasn't quite done yet. One more, I promise. I'm bothered by all the people who think that all pre-marital conversions are "for the marriage" or "for the Catholic spouse". It's like if someone is converting right before marriage, there could be no other reason for it. I actually really appreciate the two priests who have made sure Steven is converting because he wants to, and not just because we are getting married, because to me those are the people who should be asking those questions. But I'm bothered that it seems to be general consensus for everyone else to think that way, too. I'm sure there are many people who do it that way, but I don't want Steven lumped in that category. He has spent so much time learning the faith and immersing himself in it and I want people to know he is converting because it feels right to him, not because he's marrying me. Am I over the moon? Yes! But it was never a condition for marrying me.

--- 6 ---

I really wanted to get our marriage license on Feb. 14th as our little Valentine's Day celebration, but I think it's exactly 60 days until our wedding. I don't know if it expires on the 60th day or at the end, but I'm not going to risk it! I thought it would be cute to have those dates on there, but maybe instead we'll celebrate one month left until the wedding and go on March 14th. Since I wrote "marriage license", this counts as marriage related and not wedding related. You see what I did there?

--- 7 ---
One of the things my future mother-in-law got me for Christmas was a book called Prayers for Married Couples. Sure, we could have started it, but I'm waiting until after we get back from the honeymoon. I can't wait to start reading it! It has prayers for all different life situations and a lot of general relationship/marriage ones as well. We are also going to continue to work through our pre-marital work books throughout the first year (or however long it takes us to finish) which I'm excited about because they have been really helpful so far. I'm the nerd who loves stuff like that, so we might be married for 60 years still doing workbooks!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Happy National Marriage Week!

I grabbed this idea from Katie and couldn't resist. Do you remember doing survey after survey on Myspace? Oh what, you never used Myspace? Ashamedly, I did for YEARS and did about every survey that passed my way. So when I saw this one, and saw that it pertains to my favorite topic, I had to do it! I am linking up to in celebration of National Marriage Week. Yeah, not married yet, but celebrating marriage in general!

1. How long have you and your significant other been together?
We celebrated 2 years on January 4th.
2. How did you meet? {What's your "love" story?}
We met on We talked there for about a month before we met in person. After a month of dating, we became 'official', and got engaged after about a year. 
3. If married, how long have you been married? If not, is this the guy you hope to marry? {do tell}
Uh, yeah! Getting married in April :). 
4. If you are married, where did you get married at? Big or small wedding?  If not, where would you like to get married? And will it be big or small?
We are getting married at Sacred Heart Cathedral, which is the smallest cathedral in the US. It is BEAUTIFUL! We are guessing around 130 guests (15 confirmed so far, invites were sent out Friday!)
5. Do you have any nick-names that you call one another? Do share!
I think they're all probably nauseating. We tend to use 'baby' when we are fighting or disagreeing, which is sort of funny to me. Otherwise we use things like 'boo', 'boo love', 'boo cuddle', and other things that make you want to lose your lunch. I don't even know when those started or why lol. We also use 'love' a lot as in "Love, what time is the movie?". Not quite as bad as the others. 
6. Name 3 things you love most about your honey.
He works really hard at whatever he is doing, he's super cuddly, and he has helped me to become a way better Catholic than I was. 
7. Tell us how he proposed? Or your ideal proposal?
He proposed at Biltmore in Asheville during a weekend getaway, right outside of the house. He got down on one knee and everything. 
8. Is he a flowers and teddy bear kind of guy for v-day, or strawberrieschampagne, and rose petals?
More so flowers and teddy bear.
9. Are you a sunset dinner on the beach kind of girl, or pop a movie in and relax on the couch?
Are those mutually exclusive? Because I love and do them both! 
10. Tell us one thing you'd like to do with your significant one day. If you could do anything? Go anywhere?
I'd love to travel somewhere with tons of history because I know he would LOVE it. I went to Rome before I met him and always think of how much he would have loved it there. Oh, and I want to have babies together one day!
11. Tell us what you plan on doing on this Valentine's Day.
Tomorrow night I'm taking him to a Valentine themed murder mystery dinner. It's called "Love is a Scary Thing" and I am so, SO excited about it! It's a surprise so I can't wait til he finds out what we are doing. He is making plans for actual Valentine's day and I don't know what those are. 
12. Are you asking for anything this Valentine's day?
I don't ever ask for anything for Valentine's day. I mean, flowers are kind of a given, but I just let him do whatever. 
13. Give us one piece of advice of keeping a relationship strong and full of love.
Compromise. We are both terrible at it because we are stubborn, but we know it's the winning ticket so we are working really hard on improving.
14.  Show us a picture of what love means to you.
Steven is almost impossible to get a real smile out of when his picture is being taken. I love this photo because I was laughing and he was smiling, and it was genuine! I wish I could remember what got us laughing! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Review: The Broken Path

Have you ever looked at the state of the Catholic church in America and pined for the Catholicism of other countries? Having been to Mexico when I was younger and Rome as an adult, I find myself sometimes wishing I lived in a predominantly Catholic country. It just seems like they have it 'right'... like American Catholics have become watered down. If you've wondered how American Catholics became, in large part, Cafeteria Catholics then boy do I have a book for you to read! If you wonder how politics plays into the Catholic church, or if it should play into the Catholic church, then pull yourself up a chair! This book, The Broken Path, delves into how American priests and bishops have become entangled in politics and it's far reaching effects on Catholicism. The book points out how we have become Americans first, and Catholics second. Obviously this generalization does not apply to everyone... but it applies to a scarily large number of Catholics, and also to a large number of our priests and bishops. This book talks about why that has happened, what the results have been, and some ways we can help to turn Catholicism in America back on the right path.

When I first got an email from American Life League asking me to review The Broken Path (subtitled How Catholic bishops got lost in the weeds of American politics), I didn't hesitate to write back and say yes, please send me the book! Then I started reading more about the book, and I will admit that I was a bit hesitant. My first thought was "Will this book make people angry?" and my second thought was "I really need to read this book". I'm one of those people who is very passionate about things I believe in, but I can become a bit of a sheep to keep the peace and avoid confrontation. Sometimes this is a really good quality; other times, I realize that I am doing myself, my faith, and my beliefs a very big disservice by being that way. And if it is faith related, I'm doing 1 billion + Catholics a disservice as well!

I was really impressed upon reading that Judie Brown, the author, was appointed twice by John Paul II and again by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Academy for Life. I like that she points out right from the beginning that by naming names, she isn't casting stones because she is speaking about facts and then offering a solution or plan that addresses those actions. I figured there will be lots of people who won't like what she has to say, but this lady must know her stuff! And know her stuff she does. Right from the beginning, this book reads like a research book. It's very thorough and very intellectual. Since I've been out of college, I haven't read things on this level so it was actually refreshing, if a bit daunting. I found the best way to read it was bit by bit, so I could absorb what she wrote and also reflect on it. If I tried to plow through it, I don't think I would have gotten nearly as much from it. It's not a "take to the beach" read, but something that you want to read when you have time to focus, and something that you want to keep reading because of its importance in our lives.

The more I read though, the more I began to hang on every word.One thing particularly interesting to me was information given on things like the USCCB and Catholic Charities, to name a few. I had assumed that they are Catholic well known, so they are in line with church teachings, but that is not always the case. It's important to know exactly how a Catholic organization is operating and Judie spells it out for us. She mainly addresses abortion, but does also address some other major Catholic beliefs. This book could not have come at a better time, with all of the HHS mandate and Komen/Planned Parenthood stuff swirling about in the news and in the blogosphere. I didn't even have to sit back, aghast, and wonder "how in the world did we get here!?" because I had so much knowledge after reading this book. Though I did have a few times where I was so overwhelmed by the information that I wondered how the Catholic church in America would ever get back in the right direction, I do realize that it can start with me. And it can start with you. And with our faithful and diligent priests and bishops. And it has started with many of us, but we need to get others on board and be sure that we are all defining ourselves as Catholics who happen to be American, rather than Americans who happen to be Catholic. This is a must read as it is both fascinating and enlightening!

This review was done for the American Life League in exchange for a copy of The Broken Path; however, the opinions expressed in the review are mine. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Day in the Life of Betsy

I'm so excited to share my first guest post ever, as part of the A Day in the Life series. The series will showcase one blogger each week for seven weeks. It's meant to give us a glimpse into each others' lives... the parts we might not normally show or might not fit the 'theme' of our blogs. The series is meant to help us get to know each other even more, to inspire us, and to let us know that life isn't quite as glamorous as blogs sometimes make them out to be ;). The first guest post is Betsy from  The Adventures of an Amateur Housewife. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into her life! Welcome to A Sunday in the Life of Betsy! 

It’s Sunday morning and my alarm goes off son starts crying at 3:15am – that means it’s time to nurse. He doesn’t usually wake up in the middle of the night, but I’m not surprised he’s awake because for some reason I didn’t have much milk to offer him last night. I think I may have slacked on my water intake. Oops. So here I am nursing Joseph at 3:15am. There are worse things that could happen. About 15 minutes later he finished and falls asleep on my shoulder. This is actually one of my favorite times to snuggle with Joseph. His tummy is full and I can tell he’s so comfortable just laying on me. I hold him and feel his contentment exude from every part of his being. I know I can’t sit here forever because he’ll be ready to nurse again in a few hours and this time he’ll be ready to start the day. So, I sit there for a minute or two before laying him back down in his crib to sleep for the rest of the night.

Sure enough a little after 7am I hear Joseph crying again – he’s hungry and ready to get his day started! Luckily it’s the weekend and on weekends my husband and I usually switch off who gets up first thing in the morning with Joseph (after I nurse him)– and I was up with him on Saturday, so it was Will’s turn. All I have to do is nurse the sweet boy then drag myself back to bed. And that’s exactly what I do. At this time of day when Joseph’s finished nursing he sits up, looks around, smiles and starts bouncing on my legs. It’s pretty stinkin’ adorable, but I’m still tired and can’t wait to get in bed. So, Joseph spends the next few hours playing with daddy downstairs while I get a couple more hours of sleep.

A few hours later I can hear Joseph getting cranky. He’s hungry again. So, I finally get out of bed – for good this time – at 10am. (I make no rush to get out of bed on weekends when I have my husband around to help out.) I nurse Joseph and he’s ready to go down for a nap. So, while he’s napping I have some breakfast and poke around the internet (check email, Facebook, blogs, etc.). Soon enough Joseph is awake again and ready to play!

While he plays I unload the dishwasher – one of Joseph’s favorite activities because he gets to practice pulling to a stand on the dishwasher – and pray. I usually try to do my morning prayer right after breakfast, but our weekends are so relaxed I don’t get around to praying until much later than usual. For my morning prayer session I’m using the book “Small Steps for Catholic Moms” by Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss. I really like it because it gives a quote to think about, a short prayer and something for you to do every day. It’s short enough that I can fit it in easily, but gives me a lot to think about so I can turn it into a much longer prayer session when I have the time/energy.

Around 12:30 I start thinking about getting us ready for mass. So, I nurse Joseph then head upstairs to get us both ready.  This includes doing my typical morning routine in the bathroom – brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, putting on deodorant, putting in my contacts, etc. I realize it’s a little crazy that I don’t get around to doing this stuff until this late in the day, but I’m pretty sure other mom’s can relate. I also manage to get both myself and Joseph dressed for mass. Usually Joseph just goes in whatever he’s already wearing, but today I got him into some nice clothes for mass – go me!

By 1:15 we’re out the door and headed to mass, but not just any mass we’re going to the Traditional Latin Mass. My husband loves this mass so we’ve become “regulars” at this particular mass. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled about the mass at first, but it’s grown on me. I still think I prefer the “Novus Ordo” (as my husband likes to call it) – that’s code for what most Catholics consider a regular Sunday mass – simply because it’s what I grew up with and I enjoy being able to sing along. Really, I love any mass with beautiful music. But I diverge. After mass we attend the “coffee social” before heading home.

Luckily for us, Joseph falls asleep on the way home from mass. This is good because I need to make some guacamole for dinner that evening. So, while Joseph is sleeping I poke around on the internet (again), make some guacamole and even have a little time alone with Will.

That evening we have dinner with some of my former roommates from when I was a Jesuit Volunteer, but before we leave the house I have to pack up everything we’ll need to feed Joseph: a booster seat, bib, spoon, a few containers with his food, and his oatmeal. I also pack the salsa and guacamole I made for dinner.

It is so nice that 4 of my 5 roommates live in the same area as me. We try to get together every couple months to catch up and see how everyone is doing.

We spend a few hours visiting with my roommates and having dinner before we head back home. We ended up leaving a little later than we had originally anticipated putting us home around 8:45 – 15 minutes past Joseph’s bedtime. By the time we get home Joseph is showing clear signs of being tired. So, as soon as we get home we get him ready for and in bed.

Once Joseph is down Will and I have a little time to ourselves. Recently this time has been spent collaborating on which is the best play for any number of my “Words With Friends” games (we both love games but can get a little competitive, so working together in games or with larger groups of people seems to suit us much better). But for some reason I’m worn out from the day, so we don’t stay up too late. We say our nightly rosary, read about the saint of the day then I head to bed. 

Betsy is a stay-at-home mom of one adorable little boy, Joseph. She spends her days playing on the floor and trying to figure out this whole housewife thing all while keeping herself, and her family, focused on God. Check out Betsy’s blog, The Adventures of an Amateur Housewife, to see what’s happening in her world.