Friday, July 4, 2014

Check out our new website!

The Mirror has migrated to a new website, designed by the very talented Margaret McCarthy of McCarthy Design. She did a lovely job!

Check us out over here:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Beware of the Facebook Trap

By Sarah Halbur
Guest Contributor

I rarely scroll through my news feed on Facebook. But tonight, as I opened the social media hotspot, an interesting article caught my eye. I stopped to read it, and then I kept scrolling to look for more interesting articles. Several nuggets of wisdom popped onto my screen, but mixed in between were posts more akin to nuggets of time killing. As I scrolled, and the time slipped by, I realized what a time killer Facebook could become for me if I made a frequent habit of scrolling.

I'm not trying to say that Facebook is evil. In fact, if used well, it can be quite good - a means to reconnect with faraway friends and family, a useful networking tool. But it can also be a trap - a temptation to live more in the virtual social world rather than to be fully present with the people around you, a tendency to post useless things and spend hours gaping at others' useless things instead of using those hours to be purposeful, to serve, to make a difference in someone's life.

I'm not yet married or a mother, but I recently heard a young mother wisely warn against the Facebook trap. It dawned on me that I could see how easy it might be for young mothers, especially when exhausted, to sit at home and browse Facebook too often...instead of going outside and playing with her children, or reading stories, or even going out and spending real time with other young moms.

As women, we have a beautiful natural gift of connecting with other people, of nurturing others. One of the valuable articles I did read recently on Facebook was the 2014 commencement address given by a navy seal admiral. In it, the admiral noted that if each of the 8,000 students in the graduating at University of Texas changed the lives of just 10 people in their lifetime, and each of those people in turn changed the lives of 10 others, then in just one generation the whole class will have impacted the lives of 800 million people. That is powerful!

Think of how much good we could do if we were to positively impact one person each day, even by something as simple as a smile, or a helping hand, or cooking a homemade meal for our family or another family in need.

Here's some food for thought: The next time you go on Facebook, ask yourself if you are there to positively impact yourself and others, or if you're only going to kill time. If it's the latter, consider closing the news feed and opening your door instead to find the person just waiting for you to share your gifts with them.

Sarah Halbur is a communications director for Thomas More Society, a national pro-life law firm based in Chicago. She enjoys star-gazing, making music with loved ones, and creatively evangelizing, especially to children.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Miss Nevada and Self-Defense

by Julie Baldwin and Katie Robison
The Corner with a View
Laughter is Love

Trigger warning: rape discussion

Miss Nevada, Nia Sanchez, is the the new Miss USA. Sanchez made headlines when she advocated women learning self-defense as a way to defend one's self against sexual attack. Miss Nevada is a fourth degree black belt in taekwondo, and her response is being construed as "victim blaming". Let's discuss why this is not a "win" for rape culture, but a practical measure for all women.

The Washington Post reported,
Miss Nevada, the ultimate winner, was asked about the epidemic of sexual assault on campuses. Rumer Willis inquired why colleges have “swept it under the rug.” 
This is actually a serious question. 
“I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don’t want that to come out into the public,” Nia  Sanchez said. “But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women.”
The comment the writer of the aforementioned article followed up by saying,
This is not a bad answer, although the problem of prevention isn’t a simple question of confident women learning self-defense techniques against Stranger Danger (Sanchez’s professed specialty). For one, it usually isn’t a stranger. For another, the onus shouldn’t have to be on women to become self-defense experts. It’s on everyone to establish a baseline of consent.
But the general backlash is clear: Sanchez is victim blaming.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Work for family-minded women

By Mary C. Tillotson

Image by Plaid for Women
A few years ago, a nearly-finished homeschool mom (her youngest was in high school) ran across this article, The Bride who was Groomed for a Career, and it sparked a conversation among her nearly-finished homeschooling friends. They had all given their daughters a solid education and grounding in faith and morals, but had they taught them the skills they’d need to be wives and mothers?

At the time, I didn’t know that mom (or my opinion) well enough to say anything much, but it’s been on my mind for a while. When I was in college, I hardly felt like I had any direction, career or otherwise – college was just what you did after high school.

I turned this question over at length with my women friends in college. One friend was thinking about law school, but didn’t see the purpose in getting a law degree if she was just going to get married, get pregnant, quit being a lawyer, and homeschool her kids. She’s been out of college for a few years now and has a great career in a different field, but (as far as I know) no marriage prospects. She seems happy. Other women set out to find and follow their career passion, knowing that if they got married and had kids, they’d give it all up, but at least for now they might as well pursue their passions. Other women studied in the classic liberal-arts way, majoring in some higher-things-oriented field without thinking about careers. Of those, the ones who aren’t moms are teachers. Other women didn’t finish college because they got married and pregnant before graduation.

I graduated, worked as a small-town reporter for a year, got married, spent the next year doing odd jobs to make ends meet, and now I’m back in journalism, and I’m not (at the moment) raising kids. I think I’m finally starting to find answers.

My advice to family-minded female college students?

Be aware that there are plenty of unknowns. You might dream of being a homeschool mom of many but never find a man you want to marry; you might dream of an awesome political career but unexpectedly meet the man you really want to raise kids with. You might marry and realize you and your husband aren’t able to conceive children, temporarily or permanently.

I have anecdotal evidence from talking to my friends and statistical evidence from seeing polls: a majority of mothers want to work part-time in some professional field. A few want to work full-time and a few don’t want to work professionally at all, but most want to keep being professional while reserving most of the day for their kids.

When you’re in college, I think it makes sense to do what you love and pursue a career in that field. Keep in mind the usual factors like how much the field pays, whether jobs are available in that field, whether you’ll have to go to grad school (and if it’s worth the time/money), etc., but also consider how flexible that field can be. If you’re a journalist or writer, it’s very easy to do that full-time or part-time. Teaching can go part time pretty easily too. Other fields don’t flex into part-time near as easily. I don’t mean you should avoid them; I do mean you should think about that.

Do you have the skills it takes to raise kids and keep house? I don’t think this should be a big concern. A mom of six with two in diapers told me no matter how prepared you are for motherhood, you make 90 percent of it up on the spot. I suppose it might help to have enough exposure to kids that you aren’t afraid of them, but from everything I’ve seen, taking care of babies is hard work but not complicated. As they get older you get wiser and read more books and talk to more people about it; I don’t see how a lot of pre-marriage preparation would be helpful. The rest of keeping house is mostly cooking, cleaning, and paying bills – none of that is hard to learn, and anyway I think men and women ought to have these basic skills before college.

I know a lot of you readers have different experiences than I have. Some of you are moms, some of you are single, some of you are in college, some have careers and some don’t. What do you think about all this?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Film Review: Mostly Martha - A Feast of Love

By Emina Melonic
IlluminationThe Magic Lantern

Displaying MostlyMartha Poster.jpgMartha Klein is a chef.  Not just any kind of chef.  Cooking is an art form – it involves precision, perfection, beauty, and naturally, exquisite taste.  She is a chef at an upscale restaurant and she lives in an absolute certainty of what a meal should look and taste like, down to the degrees and minutes it takes to make foie gras, for instance.  Martha is in control and lives in a world whose center is a seamlessly presentable and delicately tasty plate of food.  But, this control vanishes in an instant when her sister is killed in an automobile accident.  Martha’s niece, an 8-year-old girl Lina, miraculously survives and for the time being, begins to live with Martha.  The chef begins to lose any sense of reality and the world she has created.
Mostly Martha (2001, German title Bella Martha) is a film directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, and the role of Martha is played Martina Gedeck.  Among other things, Gedeck is known for her intense role in The Lives of Others (2006) and she brings same intensity to the role of Martha – a combination of both stoicism and vulnerability.  Maxime Foerste brings a feeling of a suddenly motherless child into the foreground as both she and Martha are trying to make sense of the absurd situation.

Friday, May 30, 2014

"The only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love."

photo by Tim
By Mary C. Tillotson

I was saddened to hear about the shooting over Memorial Day weekend. Like many of the mass shootings we’ve seen over the past few years, it was arguably a “suicide with murder as an epiphenomenon, rather than murder that happens to end in suicide.” Most times when I read about these kinds of events, my heart breaks for the shooter, who always seems to feel deeply alone and unloved.

In the days following a tragedy, it’s only natural to feel a desperate desire to undo it, to rewind and try again to get it right. But we can’t, so we wonder how it could have been prevented and how to prevent it from happening again. I saw this in my news feed from Politico last week:

'RED FLAGS CAME TOO LATE': The start of Memorial Day weekend was interrupted by tragedy late Friday when 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and wounded 13 before killing himself near the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Los Angeles Times reports on the warning signs: "According to interviews with Rodger's acquaintances, law enforcement officials and mental health professionals, all that was known about the 22-year-old college student was that he was terribly sad. And being sad is not a crime, nor the sort of mental state that would, alone, cross a legal threshold requiring official response."

Being sad is not a crime, nor the sort of mental state that would, alone, cross a legal threshold requiring official response.

That, taken alone, is as it should be – it’s frightening to imagine a world where those not showing sufficient cheerfulness are automatically referred to a government psychologist for evaluation. But that’s bureaucracy, politics, and a legal system, and I don’t want to talk about any of those. I want to talk about real human relationships, and love.

People need to know they’re loved. This is an awkward thing to talk about in politics and policies and legal systems, and in one sense it doesn’t really belong there. Love isn’t the sort of thing that works in systems. Love isn’t a list of obligations that can be written down, tallied up, or checked off; love is the result of a decision to orient your life and dispose your heart in a way that prioritizes others.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

'Why Is That Girl Wearing No Pants?'

By Joy Pullmann

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with my two toddlers. Before us walked a young lady in brightly bolored volleyball shorts, which is to say, underwear people call pants. My three-year-old son gaped at her and said, entirely innocently, "Mom! Why isn't that girl wearing any pants?"

I fumbled about trying to think of a thing to say that would be true but not close off future conversations on the subject. I came up with, "Because her mother did not teach her to wear pants." My son accepted this but was still quite confused as to why anyone would walk around in public with no pants. (And this little boy is no prude—for one, he whips down his pants in the front yard when he needs to urinate. We stopped that one, though.)

Usually when we see a young lady wearing really scandalous clothing, her mother is not too far behind, and the mother's dress makes it obvious that neither of them has any clothing propriety. In this case, the mother looked normal. But I know that mothers nowadays have lost the ethos and habit of training their children in what is right and wrong, in dress and in everything else. This is probably both because it's a lot of work to enforce morality on young barbarians, and because nowadays people falsely believe that there is no right and wrong—in appearance, or anything else. As a consequence, people really never become true adults.

Friday, May 16, 2014

"Go play!"

By Mary C. Tillotson

When my grandma died this spring, I felt like something had unraveled. She had been a kind of locus of unity in my extended family – she was how we were all connected. She was widowed a few months before I was born, so in my experience, she always stood alone as the pinnacle of the family tree. There was Grandma, then her three children and their spouses, and then us twelve grandkids. We would all go to visit Grandma, and we would all be together. Then she died, and I felt unstable, somehow. Would we all just drift, like astronauts untethered from their spaceship?

Grandma must have foreseen this, because she made sure it wouldn’t happen.

Caroline, Anne, Mary, Ellen:
The CAME club at my 2012 wedding shower.
They were my bridesmaids.
My family (two boys and three girls) lived about 20 minutes from her, and my Michigan cousins (four girls) lived within a couple hours, so we visited several times a year. The four of us little girls formed the CAME club, the best word our initials would spell. We ate ice cream out of little plastic cups and tried to turn them into toy boats to float down the river. Inspired by the paintings on her wall (which she’d painted) we held art contests in her basement, drawing sunsets with colored pencils on copy paper. We went for walks around her block. We ate the M&Ms, lemon candies, and pink candies she left in dishes around the house. We played house and fort and boarding school, crawling through the cupboards under the basement stairs and climbing over the wooden fence in the backyard, fortressed by a protective pine tree.

I still don’t know what the big kids did, other than exclude us, but we weren’t big kids and they weren’t little kids, and nobody seemed to mind. But there was another problem: our southern Indiana cousins. All three were boys, and two were little kids. We saw them once a year, for a few days just after Christmas, and we mostly avoided them. We didn’t know them, and they were boys. Plus, the initials of their first names – the two younger ones, I mean – spelled B.M. Ew!

Grandma had been close to her cousins when she was a kid, and she wanted the same for her grandkids. When the oldest was about 14 or 15 and the youngest was 3 or 4, she rented a lodge on Houghton Lake in northern Michigan, the beginning of a fifteen-year tradition. It was a two-hour drive for us Michiganders and a day-long trip for the Indiana family. We arrived, unpacked, and ran around doing kid stuff. The twelve of us grandkids fell fairly naturally into the six big kids and six little kids – some parent told the CAME Club we had to let the younger boys (B. and M.) play with us, and after some adjustment we found a way to fit them in.

A handful of us taking the boat out.
We spent the week doing all the things you’d expect from kids at a big lodge on a beach. We played hide-and-seek and capture-the-flag. We played water football and went tubing behind my uncle’s motor boat, affectionately named after my late grandpa. We drove into town to buy rubber band guns and suction-cup bow-and-arrow sets at the Indian store, then yarn and beads at the craft store. We rode the rusty old bikes to the park for tennis and the playground. We opened wintergreen leaves to smell them. We fought over who got to sleep in which room upstairs. One year we made chalk out of eggshells; another year we decorated popsicle-stick picture frames with glitter and buttons. The Mountain Dew flowed freely and we never ran out of Doritos. Our parents took lots of pictures.

Grandma wasn’t bubbly or extroverted. She would do crafts with us (the photo of all twelve grandkids standing in age order has been on her fridge for years, in the handmade popsicle-stick frame) and she would sit on the beach chatting with my mom and aunts, drinking something we weren’t allowed to try. Mostly, though, I think she enjoyed watching all of us be kids together. Then we were teenagers together. Then we started getting summer jobs and couldn’t take a week off, so while our parents stayed the whole week, we’d be in and out as we could make it. Finally, the youngest cousins were in college and the oldest ones were working entry-level jobs with no vacation time. Grandma had an empty nest.
Six little kids and Grandma at Houghton Lake, 2011

Almost three years after the last Houghton Lake week, Grandma died. Her grandkids were scattered all over the eastern half of the country. Four spouses and four children – one of them newborn – had been added to the family. But all twelve of us returned to our parents’ hometown in southern Michigan for the funeral. We hugged and cried and then went back to her house to be together. It was the first time we’d all been together in three or four years, and it was the last time we’d all be together at Grandma’s house.

The six little kids – now mostly grown up, with the youngest in college – were playing cards while trying to assign the responsibility of buying the lodge at Houghton Lake when my cousin David came into the room with a serious look on his face.

“Guys, we need to make some promises,” he said. “We always have to love each other, and we have to stay in touch.”

We all agreed, but the room was too merry (in that way reunions are) to consider them with the gravity David had intended. But we didn’t need to. All of that was an unspoken given – including buying the lodge, though it will be years before that’s a possibility. Grandma had wanted all of us to be friends, and she made it happen. Her tactic was simple. She took us all to the beach and said, “Go play.”

And we did.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How To Honor Your Mother (Differently)

If imitation is flattery, what is the desire to do things differently?

I want to mother my children differently than my mother raised hers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mothers Day: Sadly, Overcommercialized

By Joy Pullmann

I do not like to receive gifts for Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. And don't even think about Sweetheart's Day or whatever else they're calling further additions to the list of "buy crap no one wants because commercials made you feel guilty."

Mother's Day advertisements on my Kindle and email sidebars began a solid three weeks before Mother's Day. It may have been four weeks. Whatever it was, it was indecent. Mother's Day is not even on the A-list of holidays. That, for me, includes Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. And maybe the Fourth of July. Those would be the top two Christian holidays and the top two American holidays. (By the way, President's Day and Labor Day are also stupid.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How To Organize for the Hopeless Disorganized: Desk Edition

Raise your hand if you're feeling disorganized. Raise your other hand if you'd rather sit on the couch and cry about it than clean. Hey, me too! Now, turn those hands into fists and shout, "I WILL PREVAIL!"

Okay: attitude. Check.

Whether you live in a small or larger space, the starting point is the easiest/ first place to make yourself feel accomplished. Set a time for ten minutes and move fast: kitchen, living room, bedroom. If you have kids to help, even better. If your other half is around, grab him too. Share the fun!

We're not deep cleaning here, people. Keep it easy breezy.

My personal downfall is my desk area. I say desk with quotation marks, as my desk is also our kitchen table at present. One and a half more months and then we move, and then I'll have my own desk and room! I'm looking for helpful additions to keep my papers neat and my mind focused. Here's what I've got so far:

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Kids Come First

By Joy Pullmann

This week my husband and I made a big decision. It was to take a big pay cut and leave a job I enjoy so I can keep my kids from outside childcare. Right now, as readers know, my husband stays home with the kids most days while I work most days. I am comfortable with my children being cared for by their father if not always by me. But he will go to graduate school this fall. For a few months, I was not exactly sure what we would do with the kids, but my plan involved finding regular childcare, from either an extended family member or some nice local lady. I was not extremely pleased with the idea but was ok with our three little ones spending about 15 hours a week with someone who was not their mommy or daddy.

Long story short, another job offer came along, and I've been given the gift of cutting our income in half, which still pays our basic expenses, while continuing to do some of what I love. But, most of all, I don't have to outsource my children. And that means the most to me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Home is Wherever I'm with You

By Julie Baldwin

It's a funny topic Mary and Joy write about - home. I currently live 13 hours away from home - or is it my home town? Can one have multiple homes? I hope so.

My husband and I have been married for almost 16 months. The first six months, we continued to live apart (except on weekends) while he finished medical school in Louisville and I continued working in Cincinnati. Then, in June, we moved South to New Orleans. We had visitors three months later when our daughter was born, and then two home visits for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then a long drive back South, where we are staying till our move to Pennsylvania in June for residency (for three years!).

Almost 75 percent of Americans move every five years; that's about 40 million Americans per anum. I lived in three houses growing up; I'll have lived in three different places by my second wedding anniversary.

I grew up thinking I'd go to college, maybe work/live in Washington, D.C. for a few years, and then live the remainder of my days in Cincinnati. Now the possibility of never returning to my home town is just as possible as returning. My husband's family is much more transient, so he's far more open to moving where the weather suits him. I'd like to be close to family and friends, at least reasonably. I'll get my way in Pennsylvania.

It's time for me to re-evaluate what "home" means, and how I can best cultivate a lovely one for my husband, our baby daughter, and myself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Accidentally Delicious Chocolate Coffee Mocha Cake

By Mary C. Tillotson

We had an occasion for cake not too long ago, and coffee-flavored cake was requested. Following the advice of the internet, I made a cake that ended up being way more delicious than I expected. It's not complicated. Here's the recipe:

1. Brew two cups of strong coffee. Luke usually buys high quality dark roast coffee, and I put 3/8 C coffee and two cups of water in the French press and brewed for three minutes, then poured it into my big measuring cup. It's nice to have a pour spout and I'm told bad things happen if you over-brew. The coffee doesn't need to stay hot so go ahead and get this ready ahead of time. (Luke's normal recipe is 1/8 C coffee with 1 C hot water, brewed in the French press for three minutes. His other tips: buy good coffee and keep the coffee maker clean.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Privacy and Isolation when Life is Tough

Appearing calm; paddling frantically.
By Mary C. Tillotson

When I was in college, a Difficult Thing occurred in my life. I don’t see any reason why the internet at large needs to know the details, in part because it’s personal and in part because plenty of other people were involved, and I don’t think it’s fair to them if I share personal details from their lives. Suffice to say something had been brewing for a while and it came to a head when I found out there would be undeniable physical proof of what had been brewing. I had to figure out how to transition from pretending everything was okay.

What made it more difficult, as you might expect from your own experiences with the Difficult Things in your life, was my belief that nobody else struggled with anything like this. I remember walking to the cafeteria with some friends the day I found out, silent and mentally absent from the conversation. Mostly I was ashamed: all these people with Perfect Families and Perfect Lives hung out with me now, but how could they even relate when they found out about This? Would they assume a bunch of other stuff that wasn’t actually true? Would they start treating me differently?

After dinner, I finally accepted an offer from a friend to talk about it. I cried. She listened. To my surprise, she related: she had a similar Difficult Thing in her life, and so did several other people we knew. It just wasn’t coming to a head in everyone’s life that week like it was in mine.

Have you had that experience? Probably. I think most of us have: we face a Difficult Thing, feel ashamed and isolated because we’re probably the Only One dealing with it, then find out we’re not alone and at least feel better (even if the Difficult Thing isn’t resolved).

This brings me to a question: where is the balance between oversharing and isolating?

Whether it’s an embarrassing medical problem, a misbehaving family member, a marital conflict, an anxiety or depression disorder, sexual abuse, or whatever, sometimes life is just really tough and it seems like there’s no one to talk to. It’s an isolating Catch-22 where no one wants to air their dirty laundry, but we all desperately need someone else to air theirs so we know we’re not alone.

Some find a solution in talking frankly, openly, and publicly about their Difficult Things. This can be helpful, but I don’t think it’s always the best solution. Sometimes a Difficult Thing touches multiple people, and I don’t think it’s fair to say publicly “such-and-such a family member did this horrible thing, and I’m really suffering from it” because, if it’s my uncle (for illustration; all my uncles are actually really good people), maybe my mom or dad doesn’t want you to know that about his or her brother; maybe my aunt doesn’t want you to know that about her husband. Sometimes Difficult Things really are personal; they involve a kind of intimacy that the whole world really doesn’t need to know about. And while one blogger may feel comfortable telling the internet at large about her anxiety disorder, other people with anxiety disorders need to feel that it’s okay not to tell people if they don’t want to.

The solution I think best is friendship. Relationships secured by a deep trust can be safe places to confide Difficult Things.

But it takes time to build these kinds of relationships, and most of us young people end up moving again before we’ve had time to get to know anyone that well. We often live in cities or towns that don’t have very good getting-to-know-people structures; we’re often too busy with work and family to have energy for the historical society or some church group that doesn’t sound all that interesting but might have people who could be really close friends if we kept going for three years, maybe.

I don’t know the answer. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Personality Typing and Human Relationships

By Mary C. Tillotson

A phlegmatic and a melancholic are sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun and sipping lemonade. The phlegmatic sighs dreamily and says, “Ahh, this is as good as it gets.”

The melancholic, horrified, says, “Yeah, you’re probably right!”

* * *

The “four temperaments” is an idea going back to ancient Greece which seems to becoming more popular as of late – the idea is that there are four basic personality types, and depending on who you talk to, everyone has all four in different amounts, or everyone has a primary and a secondary. You can read more in-depth about the four temperaments here, or about the Myers-Briggs personality typing here. It’s all very interesting.

It can be liberating to find out that you aren’t quite as weird as you thought, that there are other people with quirks similar to yours. It can be relieving to find out that you’re not necessarily a total failure at life; you just have a different set of strengths and weaknesses than the people who often succeed at the things you have a hard time being awesome at.

It can be helpful to read profiles of personality types that are different from yours – especially those of people you interact with frequently, like spouses, friends, and co-workers. It’s helpful to know that what motivates you might not motivate them, and that they tend to look at problems differently than you do. (One of my earliest experiences reading personality profiles was a confused shock: some people are like this? That explains so much!)

But it’s important not to reduce yourself or anyone else to their temperament or personality type. There are as many kinds of people in the world as there are people, and though we can group people into broad categories, the categories are broad. I know people who score the same four letters on the Myers-Briggs test as I do, yet we are very different people.

In a similar vein, I think it’s important not to let personality typing get in the way of getting to know a real person. Healthy relationships of any sort start by sharing things that aren’t very personal and then progressing gradually into more personal matter. I can say “I’m choleric” or “I’m an ISFP” and you automatically know more about me than maybe you need to know at this point in our relationship. I could tell you, in Myers-Briggs terms, “I’m a T,” which tells you I instinctively make decisions based on logic and objective facts, but it doesn’t tell you how hard I’ve worked to develop my (naturally weak) ability to consider my gut instinct and how the decision will affect everyone else, or whether I’m any good at it.

If you’re looking for insight into your strengths and weaknesses or how different people see the world and act in it, personality typing can be helpful; if you’re looking for your identity or anyone else’s, look elsewhere.

* * *

I know my temperament and my Myers-Briggs type, but I don’t share them publicly and I try not to tell people unless we already know each other well. Do you? What are your thoughts on all this?

And for some fun, if you know your Myers-Briggs type, check out these prayers and stress-heads! (Thanks to Anna and Laura who sent them to me!) (And the joke at the top isn’t mine -- it’s an old one.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Marriage Doesn't Have to Be Hard

By Brittany Makely
Guest Contributor

Everyone who is engaged or married has heard the warning – Be prepared. Marriage is hard. Maybe that’s true, but can someone please tell me what stage of life or life-altering decision does not include a challenge? It seems like too many people (intentionally or not) paint a picture of marriage as a toilsome, yet worthwhile, endeavor. Let’s be honest, being single is often at least as toilsome as being married. Staying in school and graduating takes roughly 18 years of focused, often-hard work. Succeeding in the professional world requires dedicated effort.

I’m not necessarily saying that marriage is or should be easy. What I am saying is that I think the seemingly inevitable “Oh, marriage takes a lot of hard work” from all the aunts at your bridal shower, coupled with those knowing nods and glances sends the wrong message. On some level, the fact that our society continues to proliferate this line about marriage contributes to a cheapening of the permanence of the institution. Part of what got us to a point in our nation where no-fault divorces are as common and accepted as corner coffeeshops is the mindset that says, “Well, it’s really hard, so you really can’t fault them for trying and failing.” WHAT?! No parent tells their 5th grader that because fractions are hard, they can just quit taking math. The roundtable response when a niece announces a promotion at work during Thanksgiving dinner is not “Wow, that is going to be a lot of hard work.” It seems like marriage has become one of the only “difficult” things in life that we as a society have decided to let use that difficulty as a partial excuse for quitting.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Switching Careers

By Melissa Cecilia
Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer

I’ll be completely honest: when I graduated from college I had no idea what job I would be able to find. The Class of 2012 (to which I belong) was the first that graduated without “guaranteed” jobs. While it had been my dream to work as a freelance writer, I never thought I’d be able to find a job in the field. Luckily, that all changed 4 months after graduation when I was offered jobs with both a prominent company as well as (what many established freelance writers call) a “content mill.”

As I worked hard for both companies,  I relished in the idea of being in the field I dreamt about. While the prominent company paid well, I have only done four major assignments for them in the year and a half I’ve been employed by them. As for the “content mill”, where most of my work was coming from, it doesn‘t pay very well. Would you like to earn an average of $7 per assignment doing half a day’s worth of work researching and writing?

I didn’t think so. It took me months of the financial instability, and not being able to contribute to the household expenses, to make the hard decision to let go of my dream and to consider a change of career.

While I am a young, unmarried woman, I still have responsibilities that I chose to take on. My little family consists of my widowed mother and I. While she does have a stable job, it’s occasionally not enough to even keep the ‘fridge full since we live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. The older she gets, the more her health fails and the more I feel the need to take over as many responsibilities as possible.

This was my main motivation for wanting to change careers. However desperate I felt, I didn’t want to jump into a job that I would hate just because it paid better. Thankfully, a dream (yes, an actual dream) and my Godmother to help me figure things out.

One night, about a year ago, I had a dream that I was babysitting a good friend’s son. When they returned, I had told my friend and her husband that I wished that I was speech-language pathologist so that I could help them with their son who has apraxia of speech in real life. I normally don’t read anything into my dreams but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I should look into it.

A couple of days later, I did just that; I researched it and saw that it would be a good fit for me. I’ve always loved children and I seem to have been blessed with the patience necessary to teach; tutoring 5 year-olds made me realize that. Furthermore, volunteering at my mother’s job (at a convalescent hospital) has helped me learn how to communicate with the elderly if that’s where I am needed. As soon as I spoke to my Godmother (who has known me my entire life), and she enthusiastically agreed that it was the “perfect” choice for me, I knew I’d found the right career.

Before I go on, I should say that I didn’t actually know what speech-language pathologists earned on average. I didn’t want my want of helping others to be clouded by the monetary aspect of it. I didn’t look at those numbers but I did check what the projected job prospects were and saw that SLPs are quite in demand. I would be entering a field that I would be happy in (helping others) and I would have the financial stability needed to help care of the household expenses.

Transitioning from freelance writer to (future) speech-language pathologist has not been easy. It took me months to get to where I am; months of prayer as well as taking everything else into consideration. I have begun the process of getting the education needed; I am set to earn my 2nd Bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education) in May 2015. I do not know where I will attend grad school but I will continue on until I am prepared to enter the field.

While my career change might’ve started out as a way to create financial stability for my family, it has turned into much more than that. I am so passionate about the prospect of helping my future patients/clients that I will be giving my education 110%. Once I graduate, I will do all I can to help others in any way that I can. More than that, I will be able to help my family move forward and that alone is priceless.

Melissa Cecilia is a 20-something year-old freelance writer from Los Angeles, CA. She holds a BA in Religious Studies and will begin working towards a BSci in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education this coming May. She enjoys swing dancing, hiking, being a budding photographer, and getting lost in the world of literature. In her spare time you can find her working on her novels and blogging over at Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer.

Friday, March 28, 2014

#7QT: Vocational Reading

By Brittany Makely


A little over four years ago, I began a new vocation – wife. Almost three years ago, the vocation of motherhood got added. In preparation for our wedding, my husband and I each chose one book to read on love and/or marriage. I chose Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s Three to Get Married. Best decision ever. I so appreciated Sheen’s gentle but firm exploration of the purpose of marriage and both the beauty and trial most spouses experience sometime between “I do” and “til death do us part.”

Three to Get Married was one of several books that have provided indispensable advice, clarity, and encouragement to me as I navigate the most important callings of my life to serve and love my husband and children. Here are six other equally impactful books that I highly recommend to all spouses and parents. Most of these are not written specifically on the subject of vocations or directed toward spouses or parents, but their essence is.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Marriage is hard, but don't panic

By Mary C. Tillotson
Blessing of the Young Couple Before Marriage
by Pascal Dagnan Bouveret, 1880
Public Domain

After complaining about all the “marriage is hard” reminders I got during my engagement and rounding up two other married women to write notes of encouragement to young, frightened brides, I found myself typing an email to a college friend of mine, telling her that marriage is, of all things, hard. Perhaps I ought to forgive the older wives. Perhaps, like I was, they were trying to be helpful.

Most young brides are naive and doe-eyed about marriage, and I think we should let them begin their marriage doe-eyed and trusting! Marriage is a risk, and new wives will learn soon enough that love this deep carries the potential to be hurt this deeply. Don’t lecture them with horror stories or pass on your jaded view of marriage. It’s wrong to needlessly undermine their ability to love and trust their new husbands.

In college, worried about my ability to be a decent mother someday, I asked a mother of six to teach me how to change a diaper. While we were chatting over her wiggly six-month-old, she told me that no matter how prepared you are for motherhood, 90 percent of it you make up on the spot. I think the same is true of marriage. At least so far, mine’s been like that.

It’s impossible to describe to a new bride what marriage really entails, because some things can only be learned through experience. Even if it were possible to communicate to the new bride exactly how it feels to confront one’s own pettiness (and that of one’s spouse) in the inevitable argument over how to fold towels, what would that accomplish? She will still have that argument. And she will have it with her husband, not anyone else’s; she will bring her personality and experience to the table, not anyone else’s. She and her new husband need to learn how to make their relationship work, not anyone else’s.

I think young brides do need to hear that marriage is hard, but not from jaded or micromanaging wives. Marriage is hard sometimes, and it’s startling, at least at first, and it’s comforting to know that there’s no need to panic. Here is what I started writing to my friend:

Marriage is going to be difficult in ways you can’t imagine right now. It’s going to test you and try you and stretch you and call you to a kind of love that doesn’t even make sense to you, at least right away. You’re going to become painfully aware of your own immaturity and pettiness, and of your husband’s. You will find yourself failing over and over, and him, too; you will be tempted to despair and wonder if you made the right decision.

But don’t dwell on that right now. Right now, be joyful; plan your wedding and look forward to many long, happy years together. If you both work together and cooperate with grace, that’s what your marriage will be. Believe in love, because love is real; you have every reason to believe you will have a great marriage.

Tuck away those reminders that marriage is hard. Don’t stress yourself out over it. Soon enough the two of you will hit a bump in the road, and you’ll be surprised that marriage could be like this. Think back on what you heard, and take courage: this may be the hardest, most painful thing you’ve been dealt up until now, but many other women – many other marriages – have dealt with this kind of thing before. It is normal. Work through it and you will find a kind of love and joy and peace that you can’t imagine right now.

What do you think? Married women, what advice do you think would be helpful for young brides? Engaged women, what kind of encouragement could you use?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Not All Men Are Creepers

The Rest on the Flight to Egypt by Gerard David, 1510.
By Mary C. Tillotson

Today, in the Catholic Church, we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, one of the more important feasts on our calendar. We honor St. Joseph as the spouse of Mary and foster father of Jesus; as such, he’s a model for husbands and fathers everywhere. He’s a patron of families and workers and all sorts of other things.

This is one of my favorite paintings of St. Joseph. The Holy Family is on its way to Egypt, and St. Joseph is in the background, cutting firewood or harvesting food – doing what he can to make things a little more comfortable for Mary and baby Jesus.

St. Joseph is a good reminder that not all men are creepers – something even virtue-minded people too easily forget.

Remember those modesty debates we used to get into, especially in college when we didn’t have anything more important to talk about? My women friends and I would trek back to our dorms afterward and wonder the same thing aloud: do men exist who aren’t creepy and gross? Here are all these church-going, door-opening, chivalry-endorsing young men who claim they are involuntarily fixated on our private parts unless we’re wearing long skirts and turtlenecks, or whatever their particular standard was (it varied). Let’s all find a convent – quick.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Seeing Beauty in Imperfections

Displaying everlasting_moments1.jpg
By Emina Melonic
IlluminationThe Magic Lantern

It has been a while since I’ve seen a film as beautiful and poetic as Everlasting Moments (Swedish: Maria Larssons eviga √∂gonblick, 2008).  I did not know what to expect.  The synopsis said that it was about a woman who is trying to be a photographer at the turn of the 20th century.  She is facing many obstacles, one of them being her husband who is a drunk and a womanizer.  Given the usual ideological subtext present in cinema, which is artistically nuanced as a billboard on a highway, I am perpetually cautious as a viewer.  But ideology did not overtake this film.

The film centers on Maria Larsson, a wife and mother, who wins a camera in a lottery.  She is the focus of the film but her story is narrated by her daughter Maja.  Maria is struggling to take care of her family and is running into many difficulties, mainly because her husband, Sigfrid, is wasting money on drinking.  Sigfrid is an aggressive drunk, who occasionally beats Maria and the children, and this magnifies Maria’s suffering.

In order pay for the bills, she decides to take the camera she won in a lottery to the local photography studio.  Perhaps she might be able to sell it.  She meets Sebastian Pedersen, a photographer who primarily does portraits.  Instead of buying the camera, he suggests that Maria experience it first before she sells it.  Of course, she finds this frivolous in the midst of her suffering.  But she is at the same time intrigued by the “miracle” of development and printing of film.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shadows on the Rock

By Rebekah Randolph
A Mad Tea Party

Last year, I read Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather. She has become one of my favorite authors, not least because of her attention to life's small things. In this book, I was struck by how the "small things" of homemaking, in particular, became the spine and spirit of a community.

The story follows a young girl in the French colony of Quebec circa 1700. The French settlers have been uprooted from their homeland (albeit willingly) and set down in a place entirely foreign to them. All their comforts derive from the traditions they have managed to carry across the Atlantic.

Quebec's homemakers therefore play a far more meaningful role than is apparent on the surface. They function as guardians of a more refined way of life. Through their everyday duties, they infuse reason, warmth, and stability into a world otherwise marked by ignorance, crudity, and violence.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Letter to a Young Woman about Balancing a Writing Career and Kids

By Joy Pullmann

A few days ago, a college freshman emailed me to ask how I manage to work and have kids, and what a regular work day looks like for me, and if I have advice for her now. She also wants to be a writer and mother. Here's my email back to her, edited a little to add clarity and delete a few things that are unique to her situation.

Dear [young lady],
A regular day looks like crazy. :) Like right now I am standing in a New York train with my sleeping 2-month-old hanging off me in a pack. I'm here for work. I have three kids under four, and it would be utterly impossible to work if my husband did not stay at home with us (you can always ship your kids off to daycare, but I thought that would be selfish of me and knew it is also bad for their development). The littlest guy is two months old, and I mostly work around his nap schedule (luckily, the little ones sleep a lot) while my husband wrangles the other two. If I have to take or make a phone call and must not have random whining in the background, my lucky husband wrangles all the kids.

Luckily, writing and editing is very flexible and can be done reasonably at home, which is where I and many writer/editor friends work. Once your baby is about 6 months old, however, you basically either need to go part-time or get childcare, or plan to work evenings and probably weekends also to fill in those breaks during the day when he is now awake and needs attention. And that is only really possible if you are lucky enough to get a baby who sleeps well (hah!).

Friday, March 7, 2014

7QT: Seven Things I Didn't Know About Single Motherhood

Image by Ashleigh W.
By Mary C. Tillotson

While basically all the research shows that kids do best when raised by their own two biological parents who are happily married to each other, many children are raised by single mothers. Politicians and political commentators argue until they’re blue (or red) in the face over how to handle the issue. The left argues for increased contraception and abortion; the right argues for promotion of sexual abstinence.

What neither side is doing is talking to the actual single mothers living in poverty to hear what they have to say.

I recently finished Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, professors at Harvard and St. Joseph’s University. The two women spent several years in the poor areas in and around Philadelphia trying to understand why poor women so often raise children without fathers. They interviewed 162 women and condensed their research into a book – which you should read.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday, from the Mouth of a Child

By Joy Pullmann

I was trying to be a good mom two days ago by telling my three-year-old son about Ash Wednesday to help him prepare for and understand why we would be going to church and getting ashes on our head. I told him that's what would happen, and he asked why.

"Because we need to remember that doing bad things means we must all die," I said. Then, I hastened to add the good news: "It's ok, though, because Jesus will make us be alive again after we die."

My son started to pout. "No, I hate dying," he said, grumpily. "I don't want to." Yes, son, neither does just about anyone.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Raising Daughters in the Brave New World

By Chelsea Zimmerman
Reflections of a Paralytic

The already difficult task of raising daughters and protecting them from a society that seems to degrade them at every turn (or convince them that they aren’t beautiful enough, that their bodies aren’t perfect enough) is not getting any easier.

Remember the good old days when we used to only have to worry about a billion dollar sex industry and horny boys taking advantage of our girls and using them for their bodies? Well, now we also have to contend with a fast-growing biotech industry that is dependent on them putting their bodies on the line in order to obtain the “raw materials” needed for their experimentation.

Friday, February 28, 2014

7QT: Seven Ways to Save on Family Healthcare

By Joy Pullmann

Linked up with Conversion Diary.

Since my husband and I are both self-employed, we have to pay for our own health coverage. So, since saving money is very important (every bit saved goes towards paying off our mortgage early or giving to charity), and since we work hard we can't claim money the government has forcibly taken from other people who work hard, we have discovered a number of ways to save money on healthcare costs, even amid our country's expensive, cumbersome, and non-transparent healthcare system.

1. Try alternatives to health insurance.* We purchase catastrophic health expenses protection through a sharing program called Medishare. It works similar to insurance, but is not insurance: So we have in-network health providers, with whom Medishare has negotiated lower rates, and out-of-network health providers, just like typical insurance, but through Medishare members' monthly fees (ours for a family of five with a deductible of $5,000 is approximately $350) literally pay other members' health expenses. Insurance providers try to make money on top of that. I'm not against people taking risks in order to make money, but buying health insurance from a company would cost us at least twice what we pay. There are downsides: For one, Medishare doesn't offer preventative care incentives that might reduce overall costs like a no-copay annual physical; and for two we get put in this catch-22 where if we declare an expense and have health providers bill Medishare, we still have to pay the final bill out of pocket because of our high deductible and then we end up paying insurance rates, which are typically higher than cash rates. But if we pay in cash, we don't get the expense applied to our deductible, so we have to actually pay a lot more in health expenses than our deductible to go over our deductible and start to have our coverage kick in.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Frozen Is My Favorite Disney Princess Movie

By Brittany Makely

Embedded image permalinkIn January, my husband and I took our almost 3-year old daughter to see Frozen. My sister tagged along because why bother being an aunt and godmother if you can’t use your niece as an excuse to see the newest princess musical movie that features your favorite Broadway star, Idina Menzel from Wicked? Plus, I had been hearing rave reviews from young and old.

Taking toddlers to the movies is the best. If you haven’t done it, you are missing out on one of life’s most enjoyable experiences. From their excitement at carrying a booster seat into the theater, to choosing the perfect spot among those hundreds of seats, and watching their eyes get silver-dollar big when the screen goes dark as they reach for daddy’s strong, reassuring hand. Then they laugh and giggle at the most wonderful times, reminding the rest of us how simple, innocent humor is hilarious. That is, between fistfuls of popcorn that they are not sharing, but that’s ok because it’s getting kind of goopy now.

But I digress. Frozen fulfills my need for an amazing musical score in animated films, and teaches a much better lesson of true love than the princess movies of my own childhood. It is now possibly my favorite princess movie of all-time for three reasons.

WARNING: Spoilers follow.

Monday, February 24, 2014

“How Does She Do It?” Facing the Fear of Family Life

By Mary Stanford
Guest Contributor

I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t want marriage and family. I remember being teased about being “boy crazy” in 3rd grade. Yes, third grade. (The really embarrassing thing is that I remember being annoyed in kindergarten that marriage seemed like such a long wait.) So, you might say that fear was never really an issue for me. On top of that, I came from a happy home, filled with lots of kids. My parents made the whole deal seem easy. I was ready and had no fear.

Flash forward to the year 2000, when my time finally came. A bit later than expected, as I was already 25 and beginning to wonder if I might not rot on the vine. Once again, no fear—so happy was I to have found a person so suited to me—and so willing to fulfill my dream of being married and having babies. So excited to enter into marital bliss that I didn’t even panic that he hadn’t secured a job yet. A charming graduate student with a bright future; that was enough for me.

The first glimmer of fear that I remember experiencing was when I held our first baby in my arms the following spring. It was the first time in my life I had ever contemplated the thought that one baby might just be “enough” for me. I was prepared for the pain of delivery, for the surrender of so many little freedoms that accompany motherhood, but I was not prepared for the “worry.” I had been caring for babies since I was a kid— how could this be any different? Oh but it was. Nothing can prepare you for the sickening, never-ending worry that settles in your soul the moment your own child enters the world. Not some baby you can hand back to its mother—no, the one that comes home to stay is the one that changes everything. I had always thought that it would be such a shame if I were only blessed with one child; suddenly it seemed that my fears for this child consumed me. How does anyone handle more than this?

Well, I learned, gradually, that that initial fear was never totally going to subside. It would instead, like some sort of baggage, be something that I would carry along with me. I would walk with it, and gradually come to accept it. As I tried to wrap my head around this feeling, I became aware of one other aspect of family for which I was not entirely prepared: the love. I loved that little girl so much that I felt guilty. I felt unfaithful to the young siblings that I had once adored—and still do adore, of course-- but with a sister’s heart, not a mother’s heart. I felt guilty even contemplating another baby—when this one seemed to demand and deserve everything that I had. I used to watch her start to wake up from her nap and pick her up before she even cried. It just seemed right. I didn’t complain, I didn’t count the cost. She was worth it.

Then I would see other families at church—big families-- and wonder how they did it. How did they attend to everyone? How on earth did many of them home school? How did they survive? Fear would begin to bubble to the surface again.

Flash forward 13 years. Somehow, some way, I’m “doing” it. Perfectly? Oh dear no. (Is there such a thing?) No, but happily, and surprisingly sanely. Most days. Suddenly all tables have turned and I have young wives and mothers asking me how I do it. The truth is, I don’t know, and if I tried to concoct some answer it would most certainly come back to haunt me. What I will share is that, with five more babies, and 8 years of homeschooling under my belt, I have learned that those two overwhelming emotions, love and fear, have tended to balance one another out.

The love that almost takes your breath away is what keeps you invested. No one can understand how Mrs. X can deal with her extremely difficult 4 year-old because no one sees him like she does. No one can prepare you for how much you are invested in your own child. No one could convince you what you might be willing to undergo for that child’s sake. The “pride swallowing siege” (thank you, Jerry McGuire) that is parenthood is eminently do-able because you love that kid more than your own self. You’ll do just about everything including cutting off your right arm. That’s why it’s is so sad when people forego having children because they find other people’s kids irritating. They never gave their own kid a chance to win them over. And he always does. Nature is funny that way.

As far as my own life goes, I attribute our ability to thrive as a family to something beyond just the natural. As a Catholic, I believe in a little something we like to call sacramental grace. Read the catechism: besides enriching our souls with the life of sanctifying grace, each sacrament also imparts sacramental grace, a special gift which corresponds to the purpose of any given sacrament. My marriage is a sacrament; it imparts to my husband and to me a special assistance—not a general help, mind you—but a very specific help. It helps us to live out our marriage. It helps him to put up with me, and me to put up with him. And it helps us to deal with all these babies. At those moments when I am tempted to judge another family’s parenting decisions, I have to bite my tongue. No one has the grace to raise those kids except for them. No one has the tailor-made divine aid that accompanies their sacramental marriage except for them. I have my job to do, and they have theirs. And frankly, I find that quite liberating.

So, fear not, my young friends. Okay, I immediately retract that imperative. What I meant to say was: have no fear about being able to handle my life. The fact is: you just might not be able to swing it, but you can handle yours. You will feel the weight of fear, heavy at times, but the pull of your own miraculous love, that bond of affection which gives you the courage to walk through the Valley of Death (or at least a valley of vomit) for your loved ones, will kick in and you will be able to face whatever comes your way.

Mary Stanford earned a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Dallas, and a M.A. in theological studies degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., graduating summa cum laude from each institution. She is married, and is the mother of six children, whom she educates at home. A frequent speaker on topics including marriage, contraception, femininity, and the theology of the body, Mary also teaches as an adjunct instructor in the theology department of Christendom College.

Image by Redboxweddings.
Family photo courtesy of the author.

Friday, February 21, 2014

7QT: Seven ways to make your life smell better

Image by Hermann Kaser
By Mary C. Tillotson

A couple weeks ago, I had a cold, and about then I realized how much I really love good-smelling things. I remember walking back to my dorm in college in the spring -- three blooming trees grew right in front, and at night when everything else was quiet, I'd walk past them, not really thinking till I was startled with their sweet scent.

It was lovely.

Having a cold, however, is not lovely. While all I could smell was snot and sinus pressure, I compiled a list of seven ways to make your life smell better, joining Jen and the others for Seven Quick Takes Friday. I'd love to hear your ideas, too!


Image by Durova

Make bath salts. Measure some coarse ground salt (epsom salts, sea salt, etc.) into a freezer bag, drip in a few drops of essential oil (and coloring if you want), seal it, shake it so it's all mixed up, then poor it in a pretty jar. (Or your bathtub.) When I clicked around the internet on this topic, I found that all the DIY bath salts were some variation on this (though some included baking soda). The really artsy people include rose petals or dried lavender buds, and they decorate their own jars.

Note: You can buy essential oils at a craft store or online, just look for soap making supplies. There's probably soap coloring that's better for you than food coloring, but food coloring is probably fine.


Image by A Girl With Tea
After you make tea, leave the tea bag in the sink and let the hot water from your tap splash on it as you wash dishes. A tea bag is good for about a cup and a half, and there's no sense in letting that half a cup go completely to waste. Let the aroma rise up to your nose while you're washing dishes. When you're done, toss it.


Image by James Vaughan
Powder your carpet, let it sit for ten minutes, then vacuum. "Powder?" you ask. Crack open a sachet packet that's done smelling good (it's still got a little life left; you just have to vacuum it to smell). Use scented baby powder, baking soda, or baking soda dripped with essential oils.


Image by André Karwath

Put lemon or other citrus peels down your garbage disposal. My mom always told us not to do this when we were kids, so maybe this is actually bad for the disposal. I did it accidentally once, about four apartments ago, and it smelled really nice, so I kept doing it.


Image by nimble photography

Make candles. Or if you're not into DIY, buy some. And light them.


Image by Kham Tran

Use your crockpot. The easiest crockpot recipe I know is this: cut up a chicken breast or stew beef, some onion, and some carrots and put them all in the crockpot in the morning. Add salt and pepper right before dinner time. Your house will smell like chicken soup or beef stew all day.


Marry a man who smells like he looks amazing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I do not want men in my bathroom or locker room, thanks

By Joy Pullmann

In college, I stayed at the University of Vermont for two weeks for debate training. The dorms were co-ed, but we figured that was fine until the first morning. I distinctly remember going to the bathroom for a shower, undressing, and hopping in the shower. A few minutes later, I noticed hairy man legs in the shower next to me. That was a wake-up far more alarming than ten cups of coffee. The bathrooms were co-ed, too.

Utterly embarrassed, I left as quickly and un-exposed as possible, furtively grabbing my towel from outside the shower and dressing in a toilet stall.

Now judges in Maine and California, and lawmakers in some seven other states, want to make thousands of little boys and girls feel like that, and worse. They are demanding that schoolkids be allowed to use whatever bathroom, locker room, and sports team they want. As Owen Strachan writes:

Friday, February 14, 2014

After 30+ years of marriage: "Oh, you'll love being married!"

By Elizabeth Petrides (Mary’s mom)
Guest Contributor

You can do it!

My daughter, married a whole year and a half, tells me that too many young people are afraid of marriage. Perhaps they’re afraid of the challenge, afraid to fail, afraid of not having any fun. And while marriage is a challenge at times, mostly it’s wonderful. And at the end, when you’ve survived money crunches, schedule crunches, toddlers, and teenagers, it’s wonderful.

I still remember when my husband and I had been married for about a month, and my brother and his girlfriend came over for a short visit. They told us that they were going to get married the next summer. The first thing out of my mouth, before I even thought about it, was something like this: “Oh, you’ll love being married. It’s so much fun!” At that point, I realized that I hadn’t really expected to be happy being married. My parents weren’t happy with each other, at least not that I could see, and my in-laws seemed not really well-suited for each other. I had been prepared for all the disappointments, challenges, and sacrifices involved in marriage, but I hadn’t really been prepared for happiness.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How To Be The Best Godparent

By Liesl 

I was holding Robert, my youngest baby cousin, for the first time when my aunt and uncle asked me to be his godmother.
Close from a young age!

Of course I said yes!

Robert responded by spitting up all over my shirt.

Apparently he agreed with his parents' choice... I had been chosen. 

That was almost 9 years ago, and at the time, I didn't realize what an important role I was taking on. It wasn't until a few years later, when I started to grow deeper into my Catholic faith, that I realized what a big deal it is to be someone's godmother.

Think about it for a minute.