Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Please, come talk. Come visit. Come home.

An open letter to women who have left the Catholic Church:
We want to invite you to come talk with us, and we are excited to meet you! Just like you, we are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers; students, professionals, and stay-at-home moms. We are teenagers, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and beyond. We are from many walks of life and from diverse backgrounds, but we share a common faith - one we want to invite you to revisit.
Some of us have been away from the Church, and by one way or another we've come back. Some of us never left - but that doesn't mean we’ve never questioned nor been confused. Some of us were raised outside of the Church, and made the decision to join as adults. In one way or another, each one of us has come to know and love Christ in the Catholic Church - and in keeping with Pope Francis’ request we want to share that love and joy with you.

Being Catholic isn’t easy, and we’ll be the first to tell you that we aren’t perfect; we have many planks in our own eyes to worry about. Our faith embraces paradoxes, challenges our culture's values, and makes us feel uncomfortable when we are called to examine our actions and our motivations. But - as you already know - just because something is challenging does not mean it is not worthwhile.

We know that you are intelligent and capable. We believe that you deserve answers to your questions, and explanations for the teachings with which you're struggling. We’ve all struggled with various aspects of our faith, but we aren’t here to judge or condemn you. We simply want to listen to what you’re feeling. We want to understand what is making you uncertain about being part of our Catholic faith. We want to help you find the answers and explanations that helped bring us home. We want to meet you, we want to hear about your experience, and most importantly, we want to invite you back.

Feel free to email any of us with questions or concerns you may have about the Church, her teachings, or what reversion means. If you’re not ready to bare your soul to complete strangers, we’d love to direct you to sites that helped us (and still help us) as we discerned our calling in life.
Wherever you are, whatever you believe, know that we are praying for you. You are our sister - another woman navigating a challenging world. We look forward to talking with you!
In The Peace and Love of Christ,

The members of #cathsorority

Friday, February 28, 2014

What not to say when they're expecting

You've probably seen or heard a pregnancy announcement. An ultrasound picture, a cute shot of the couple or family with a little pair of baby shoes. Maybe a phone call or a chat over a cup of tea.

If you're like me, your heart fairly bursts with happiness for the new life God has created. How wonderful! You rush to offer well wishes.

But what if the circumstances seem less than ideal? Should you offer condolences, admonitions, or ask them if they "know how that happens?"

No. You shouldn't. It's not your decision. It never will be, and it never was. New life is cause for celebration and joy, no matter if the couple has zero, four, eight, or twelve children. It doesn't matter how many bedrooms their house has. What matters is the tiny miracle developing in the warm comfort of his or her mother. God chose them as parents. That's what matters.

What if it's their first child, and you already have children? Shouldn't you tell them how their lives will change forever?

No. You shouldn't. It's an insult to their intelligence, for starters. In this age of information, they're probably overwhelmed with all sorts of facts and opinions about life as a parent. If they are curious about your experience, they'll probably ask.

What if the relationship (if one exists) is not a stable, happy, marriage? Shouldn't you tell them how terrible this is-or worse, say it to everyone you know behind the mother and father's backs?

No. No. NO. Absolutely not. "Congratulations!" is appropriate. Leave it at that. If you're close to the new mother, offer your support-"I'll help you in any way I can. I'm here for you." Maybe that means knowing she has a place to stay if things aren't going well at home. Maybe it just means accompanying her to a doctor's appointment to help her get the best care possible. Maybe it's something much more powerful, like offering emotional support if she chooses to give up her baby for adoption. Maybe, for a mother of several littles, it means offering to help her family through her crippling all day sickness in the first few months. Your support in these cases could be life changing.

What if they've got several other children already? It's our duty to make them aware of "how that happens" or the current state of the rest of the world, right? Your only duty is to congratulate them, and offer to help if you can. Bring a meal. Come over to their house and watch the other kids so the expectant mama can go to a doctor's appointment in peace, or just so she can put her feet up. Unload the dishwasher. Fold some laundry. Offer her a list of ways you'd like to help them out and support them, then let her choose and follow through.

Our/my life ended when we had children, and it's my mission in life to pass that on to every first time expecting couple I meet. Right?

Absolutely not. First of all, if you actually feel this way, I'm sincerely sorry and I'll keep you in my prayers. Second, it's not your job to pass on your own regrets to other people. Yes, they will sleep again. Maybe not until noon on weekends, but sleep comes eventually. So do dates and regular clothes. And the fullness and richness of parenthood more than makes up for this, in my experience. So strike this from your lexicon.

Finally, if you flubbed your response to a pregnancy announcement, it's okay to apologize and admit you were wrong. I've done this. A close friend announced a new baby on the way, and I said (honestly) that it was  a surprise. As soon as it left my mouth I knew it was wrong. So I apologized, and expressed my joy at the new life they'd been blessed with. Turned out it had been a surprise, but the apology was still appreciated, if not entirely necessary.  So if you think you may have said the wrong thing, don't hesitate to go back and make amends. Chances are you will be glad you did!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Incorporating scarves into your outfits

So per reader/fellow blogger request (thanks for the great idea, Mandi!) yesterday, today I'm going to show you some ways you can incorporate scarves into your outfits. I don't remember exactly where I read it, but a while back I ran across something that talked about having three items to make an outfit. In cooler weather, it's easy to add a sweater or something that pulls your top and bottom together, but in warmer weather or while you're working and getting warm, it can be more difficult. It's the same rule of three you'll find in decorating manuals - three things pull together nicely. Breaking a design into thirds helps to balance it. You get the idea. So three things it is. Top, bottom, and scarf!

Scarves, to me, are the ultimate accessory, particularly for moms. You can wash them, use them in a pinch for a nursing cover or a pillow for a sleepy toddler, distract a baby or small child while you're waiting, and you look more put-together when you're wearing one. Plus they come in all sorts of fun patterns and colors, and you can even make your own if you can't find what you're looking for.

This is a fairly simple way to tie a scarf. In this picture,
the length is hiding my post-baby tummy nicely!
The simplest way to tie a scarf is to fold it in half so the ends are touching. Lay this over the back of your neck, then pull the ends through the loop you've created. Don't pull too tight! Adjust the ends and folds so the pattern shows nicely. This is the quickest way to put on a scarf, and one of the warmest as well.

This scarf is much thinner and shorter and can only be
tied one way or worn as a headband. It
pulls the outfit together, though!
Thinner or shorter scarves can't really be worn any other way. If you've already got a three piece outfit, that's okay - they'll still be a nice accent. It's best to make sure they blend in with both pieces as in the above picture. I love mixing patterns, but I think a thin scarf that doesn't match at all looks a little silly on me. If you disagree, by all means, mix away! One of the great things about clothes is making your own rules about what matches and what doesn't.

Another way to tie a scarf: wrapped around and around.
The scarf doesn't have to "match" your top, either!
If your scarf is long and wide, you can bunch it up to make it thicker. This means you can tie it other ways, too! In this picture, I'm wearing a scarf that's actually a huge rectangle, all bunched up and wrapped around my neck. I tucked the ends in for some reason - you don't have to, but it looks a little neater. This scarf has fringe so I think that's why the ends are hiding.

You don't have to match your scarf to your outfit, either, particularly if you're wearing a neutral top and jeans. This is where you can introduce the bold, colorful patterns.

Close-up of above scarf. See the owls?!

Bright patterned floral scarf with bright yellow sweater.
Nice and dressy for Sunday Mass.
One of the best things about scarves is how the same one can be worn with several outfits. The above outfit is a closeup of a Mass outfit - I'm wearing a dark gray skirt and heels with the floral scarf and sweater - and I felt very put together. Below, it was Mother's Day and we'd just gotten back from eating dinner out without the girls. I was wearing a tee and jeans, with the same scarf, and while I felt more "dressed" than if I hadn't worn the scarf, I certainly wasn't "dressed up." So one scarf, many outfits - and they take up so little space, they're a great addition to even a minimalist wardrobe!

Much more casual. Same bright floral scarf dressing up a tee.

Very bright and fun scarf, tied neckerchief style.
Subtle pattern on the skirt, but otherwise all solid colors.
Sometimes, a small scarf can't even be looped around your neck. In that case, you can just knot it behind your neck, cowboy style. I've been known to turn them forwards sailor style as well! This particular scarf almost always gets worn as pictured, though. I love the bright, colorful pattern. The neckerchief style is great for making a low-necked shirt more modest, also - a huge plus when you're at work or out playing with your kids and have to bend over a lot.

Close-up of the pattern on the scarf in above shot.
Immediately postpartum, I was very interested in hiding my belly. As soon as it cooled off that fall, I wore scarves to distract from my remaining pudginess. My stomach will probably never be flat again, and I don't mind that (the gift of new life is worth it!) but if you're in the new-baby stage and wanting to distract from your midsection, I recommend wearing a long scarf. Not only is it great camouflage, you can use it to cover a nursing baby while they latch on or let them play with it to distract them. In the below picture, I'm just wearing the scarf to stay warm (this was taken just a few weeks ago) but since most of my shirts are on the tighter side, I still appreciate the extra coverage!

Same scarf as in the first picture, but I'm not using it to hide
anymore - just to stay warm on this day!
How do you wear scarves? What's your favorite way to tie a scarf? I'd love to hear - leave a comment and share!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Five Favorites: A few things I'm loving right now

Okay, so I already failed at getting one post up each day for seven days straight. But the challenge from Jen did say to do 7 posts in 7 days, so if I get two up today it still counts, right?

Yesterday was just a seriously exhausting day. I came home from work, coaxed the girls down for a nap, and slept for an hour and a half myself. I was still tired. This mom-recovering-from-a-concussion-while-working-full-time is exhausting, I've decided. So I nap when I can.

Anyhow, enough with the tired. Here's five things I'm loving right now:
1. Scarves. I have one in almost every color, a motley crew sourced from clearance racks, thrift stores, and some of my favorite value stores. These particular two are from Old Navy a couple of years ago, and I still absolutely love them. I wear a scarf every day right now!

2. This book. Haven't heard of Tsh Oxenreider or her awesome blog, The Art of Simple? Well, it's high time you checked it out. Her latest book is a collective memoir, written in short vignettes that capture defining moments in her journey to simple living. I haven't quite finished it yet, but so far I've been struck by her family's realization that it was impossible to capture everything they liked best about a particular time or place in their life and translate it into their current situation. I hadn't ever thought about how I tend to want to do that, and how ultimately it's a failure to appreciate the gifts of both the past and the present. 
3. Avocados. I really love avocados and they are great right now - and cheaper because it's their season. I stocked up yesterday and remembered to eat one for my afternoon snack today. They're a healthy, satisfying choice when you need something more substantial. So. Here's to avocados! How do you like yours? I peel, slice, and sprinkle with salt and devour the entire thing in about 45 seconds. With a fork, of course. ;-)
4.  This beautiful Gerbera daisy my husband bought me for Valentine's Day. It's still alive, with much thanks to everyone who has remembered to give it a drink. That is, not me, because every time I think "poor daisy, it looks thirsty" someone tells me soon afterward that they watered it for me. Here's to community plant care. It seems to be an effective model. 
5. Park weather! Okay, so this is an old picture (about a year old, I think, based on the trees in the background) but I haven't had a chance to take any pictures while we've been playing so far this week. It's been sunny and relatively warm a couple of days, and we've taken advantage of the nice weather and gone outside to play. I'm so glad that spring will be here soon. It's typically a pretty rainy season here, but it's still a lot warmer than this winter has been, and there are lots of sunny days to enjoy before it gets very hot.

I have to say, keeping track of two running toddlers at the park is so much harder than two crawling ones. I thought things would be so much simpler when I didn't have to worry about anyone crawling in the sand or on the sawdust and getting into something yucky. It's, well, a walk in the park compared to keeping an eye on someone who wants to walk up the slide and someone else who walks right into her sister just as she swings forward in the toddler swing. I much prefer the park in this picture for its two toddler swings.

Linking up with Hallie! You should, too!

Monday, February 24, 2014


We're entering a new stage of toddler declarations. Yep, you guessed it: "no", "yucky", and "away!" have entered the rotation. To be perfectly honest, "no" has been around for a while - mainly because I say it a lot - and while it's not my favorite word, I do respect the girls' right to assert their preferences. It doesn't mean we're going to give in, necessarily, but they are entitled to their opinions. I am trying to refrain from laughing as I type this, and believe me, it's even harder not to laugh when cute little voices reject something with a resounding "yuck!" Even if I just cooked it myself.

The other night, I got out a box of macaroni and cheese and asked Erin if she'd like that for dinner. In hindsight, I probably should have explained that I was going to cook the contents of the box. She pursed her lips and shook her head. "No. Uh-uh. Yuck."
I sighed and asked her what she did want for dinner. Or perhaps she didn't want dinner tonight?
Erin: "No. Yes. Food."
Sarah: "Okay, then this is what we're having. Macaroni and cheese."
Erin (takes box and shakes it, is delighted with rattling from inside): "MMMM! Nummy!  'Heez! Food!"

I suppose even if she can say the words, she doesn't necessarily know what they mean. Nor can she understand that we cook boxed food before we eat it. Do I actually want her to understand that? Well, as a working mom, I probably don't really have a choice. At any rate, she and her sister consumed vast quantities of macaroni and cheese mixed with frozen vegetables, with no mentions of "yucky", or her new favorite when something undesirable is pressed on her, "away!" (not to be confused with another favorite word, "hoo-way!"

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The long, slow recovery

I just woke up from a nap. I feel pretty normal right now. When my alarm went off at 4:45 this morning, I felt groggy and sluggish, which is pretty normal for that hour of the day. I felt better once I'd had some coffee. But as soon as I started moving around, I felt dizzy, a little unsteady, and that faint, yet familiar ache in the top of my head.  Yep. Not quite there yet. I have to be extra careful not to trip over things and really focus on doing only one thing at a time when I feel like that.

Yesterday was much worse. I had to go home early from work because my head felt like it was going to split in two. The pain isn't necessarily what bothers me - it's not knowing exactly what's causing it that I don't like. My doctor doesn't really like that either, so he's having me get an MRI Thursday  to see what's going on in my head. (Cue ALL the bad jokes!) Rest usually helps the most with the headaches. Conveniently, I am home during my girls' naptime every day, so as long as I can convince them to go down, I can sleep for a while too. That's mostly how I make it through the day right now.

But then there are the other days - the ones with doctor's appointments, errands, etc, in the afternoon. Those are much harder. I still try to sneak in a quick catnap when I get home, but it doesn't always work out. By the end of those days, my poor brain is exhausted. I feel like I have the flu - in my head only. My doctor phrased it yesterday as feeling like I was getting over meningitis. Well, that explains a lot.

This recovery process is so slow. I've never been good at patience - in fact, I've given up impatience twice for Lent. That there should tell you something. I want a list of things to do and not to do, and a prescribed timeline to feel better. Instead, there are nebulous phrases - weeks, maybe months - of time that I won't quite feel like myself. Sometimes that means me with a headache. Sometimes that means tired like I haven't slept in days. Sometimes that means I can't peel myself out of the chair and we are watching "Super Why" on repeat.

Perhaps God is trying to teach me a solid lesson in patience. (If that's the case, I know I still have a ways to go!) Perhaps I'll just wake up one day feeling great. He will have completely healed me. Perhaps the MRI results will give my doctor (who has really been wonderful the last few weeks) a path to better treat me. I have faith in God and His plan, but it's hard when it doesn't seem to line up with my plans. (Perhaps I'm supposed to be learning that I will sleep through all of my best laid plans? Hmmm...)

I am grateful for my relative health, and the good health I've enjoyed throughout the majority of my life. I know this pain and dizziness is trivial in the grand scheme of things. I am grateful to live where health care is available and accessible, and to have insurance so we are able to afford it for the most part. Headache and all, I am truly blessed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Headaches, heartaches, and alarm clock problems

Once again, it's naptime on Friday. Darn. I'm getting predictable, and I don't know if I like that or not. Yawn. (Maybe I'm just's a distinct possibility.) I'm struggling with getting up early these days. How do you discipline yourself to get out of bed when the alarm goes off - the first time? What's your morning routine? I can get up after about 15 minutes, but it's harder every day. Maybe this is normal...
This trick is making getting ready easier, though. I shower the night before and pile my wet hair on my head in a towel. When I wake up the next morning, it's curly and ready to shake over my shoulders with no styling. I love it, and it's totally natural, and so easy! 
The snow is gone. For the most part. People are getting their power back finally. Trees are starting to look normal and their branches aren't covering the roads anymore. It's good to have our rainy weather back!
This is how we spend our rainy afternoons...

My heart is breaking for Mandi and her family. Please keep them in your prayers as they weather their second loss in the past three months.
My head still hurts from my concussion nearly three weeks ago. I went back for another checkup yesterday and finally heard a coherent explanation about what's going on. Evidently, there's still swelling in my brain which is causing pressure and dizziness when I bend forward. So most of the time, I'm ok. When I have to bend over, I almost pass out. He also mentioned superficial brain bleeding might have contributed to my misery over the past few weeks. How...pleasant? We're holding off on further testing unless my headaches and confusion continue to get worse, and trying to give as much time for rest as possible to speed healing. Naps help. Long nights folding laundry don't. I'll learn eventually.
Erin had her first swim lesson yesterday! It was really fun. Emily enjoyed watching us (I could only swim with one baby at a time). We had a great time singing with her friends in the water. I loved how excited both girls got when the teacher sang her name!
This was what I came out to at 5 am. He got home at 12:30 am. I'm lucky.

Erin and Emily's current favorite show is "Super Why". Erin calls it "Powa to Weed!" because it's all about using the "power to read" to solve "super big problems". I think the kids like it because everything to them is a super big problem. When I paused it on Netflix the other day, Erin wailed "Mama! Powa to weed stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Da!" She was traumatized until I turned off the TV and she couldn't see the frozen characters any more.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!