Take 7 (2)

7_quick_takes

1.   I am a boot camp drop out!  This summer I started this early morning workout program wanting to get in shape and thinking that having a class to be held accountable at and having said class be outside it would be a fun way to do so.   I convinced my husband to do the class with me, thinking that if we did it together we’d have more incentive to get up.  Wrong.  It turns out each MWF we play the “I don’t hear any alarm going off, do you?” game and take turns hitting snooze before we conveniently realize its too late to make it on time .  At least I have a partner in crime :)

2.  I can’t figure out how to work my new phone.  If you call and I answer with a timid…”hello??”, please know that I did not delete you from my phone because I hate you, I’m just technologically challenged and my phone does not seem to want to display my contact’s name along with their phone number.  Waiting for the critical mass to tip me over and lead me into the phone store to admit defeat…

3.  Last Saturday we attended a beautiful wedding of some close friends.  It was a small ceremony in a tiny chapel with no flowers, no bridal party, and the couple did their own readings.  It was very intimate and heartfelt.  See, this couple is pregnant.  People think you can’t get married in the Church if you’re pregnant and while its not the ideal situation, if you meet with your priest and show a clear desire to follow the Church teaching and complete the marriage preparation, you can.  The priest gave a very moving homily how no one is perfect and we all have our vices, but this couple serves as a great example of how to recognize the power and strength of faith and always to return to God.  Marriage requires God as the third party to make it work.  While I felt the emotions during the ceremony were so sincere, it was also a good reminder to hear the priest mention how marriage is more than a feeling, its a life-long commitment to your spouse and God.  I felt the overwhelming spirit of forgiveness and love that God has for all of us throughout the whole ceremony and it just touched me :) Sorry if that was too gushy.

4.  To make up for gush-iness, after said wedding ceremony (which was super early in the morning), the lunch reception was at this amazing Brazilian steakhouse with all you can eat steak and lamb and chicken and pork and bacon-wrapp5drinksed everything brought directly to your table! It was extravagant and all the guys at our table were in heaven (except for the vegetarian…but that’s another story!).  They also had unlimited drinks…which as you can see here with a photo taken by my beautiful new phone (yes, it serves as a good camera…now if it could only do its phone duties so well!) at one point I had collected all five types of drinks!  My favorite was the Brazilian lemonade (the one with the straw).  I think I must have refilled that one 5 times over while the other drinks just sat there patiently…

I knew it couldn’t be good for you (see recipe) but boy was it tasty….

5.  I have this weekend free!  I celebrate because this is the last free I have for…wow, like two months!  I promise I’m not one of those people that purposely finds things to do just so I can keep busy and brag about it.  I think I just have a lot of things going on this fall (including many, many more weddings!) and am actually overwhelmed by it all.  In fact, although I’m looking forward to what’s planned I’m also getting super anxious about how I’m going to do all this and propose my research thesis by December.  It seems impossible looking at it from far away but I know if I plug away day by day it will work…

6.  News from high school via F@cebook….my favorite high school teacher’s daughter tragically died this past week.  One good thing for a military child about F@cebook is keeping in touch with long lost friends, although I am sad when I hear such news.  I know many people’s opinions may differ, but I owe so much to this man.  He taught me chemistry, physics, and even let me do an independent additional physics class so I could keep learning what interested me.  He taught me what a civil engineer was and encouraged me to pursue engineering in college, saying I’d make a good one!  I always had an interest in science but lacked confidence in my abilities and it meant so much to be have his encouragement academically.  I can’t believe the pain he and his family must be going through.  Please keep the McVicker family in your prayers.

7.  I would really love to have a garden one day, but I think I lost my green thumb.  I was supposed to take care of my adviser’s plants while she was gone this summer.  Simple task, right?  When I got them they looked like this….

and when I gave them back to her last week they looked like this…

You don’t know how much I wish I were joking!!  I actually think I watered them too much and they got root rot!  What does this mean I’ll do to my kids???

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Why I started this blog…

As I’m sitting here waiting for the AT&T technician lady to tell me what’s wrong with my internet (yes, I’m currently jacking our one neighbor’s line who doesn’t have a password) I was contemplating the point of my blog.  I think its good to have a point to have a purpose but I am still having trouble deciding what mine will be.  I would like to use it in order to update some family/friends on what we’ve been doing, but I worry about putting too much personal information on the internet as well as never having them talk to me anymore because they can read everything here.  So I’ll try to strike a balance, but promise to please talk to me still!  Or at the very least comment so I know you’re out there!

I also wanted to have a blog as an outlet for expressing some thoughts and/or parts of my life that for whatever reasons, are harder for me to talk about in person.  Reading about this awkward watercooler conversation over at Darwin Catholic reminded me of this reason just now.  Although I think in an ideal world I would always be ready and quick thinking on my toes enough to know exactly what to say in every awkward situation like the one he/(she?) describes, unfortunately I am not (my husband on the other hand, is the master at this!).

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) conversations like that one happen to me a lot.  Especially in my field of working with people from many different countries, cultures, and religious backgrounds.  Especially because I hang out with some opinionated people (artifact of being in academia/research).  Especially with people not knowing how to interact with someone who became Catholic less than 2.5 years ago.  Even friends/family.  I have stories for days!

Anyway, I hope by writing my thoughts out more not only can I express myself better but maybe it can ease having these types of conversations with people, although I hope that this blog never replaces actual personal conversation.  Written words (or maybe just mine) sometimes fail to capture emotion properly, so I hope I can do a decent job.  But I am an engineer…

So those are my reasons for writing this.  Oh yeah, all that and also because I get severe “deer-in-the-headlights” writer’s block when I’m just starting anything and I’m trying to master the art of getting something down on paper without it having to be perfect before I start writing my thesis.

Townhome Update

For anyone who may be following or is curious about our house drama, I thought I’d do a little update!  As of right now, we just signed new and revised official contract and gave it to our realtor who is now running it over to the seller’s agent with the other documents (including earnest money check…dated two weeks ago…) as we speak.   Apparently there were discrepancies about whether or not an email acceptance, a verbal acceptance and a prod to “go ahead and get your loan paperwork and inspection done while we’re waiting for this contract to go through” actually constitute a formal agreement, but unfortunately their agent failed to tell us this until other offers were conveniently on the table.  After some crazy emails and some bending on our part, we agreed to a slightly higher offer with the realization that if we can’t get our money back afterwards (which our realtor thinks we may be able to do) at least we’re still getting a good deal on a town home we like.  Just not as good as a deal before.

Anyway, looking at this kitchen makes it all melt away.

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Although when I think about decorating it I get a little more nervous…

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So I guess its still not official but at least we’ve done what we can from our end.  Now they have to sign the work AND our loan still has to be approved…

Here’s to growing up :)

*Side note:  One thing I learned during the inspection is that it if very hard to take pictures of rooms.  I won’t even dare show you the others I took!

“Nothing worth doing is easy”

As NFP teaching volunteers in the Diocese, this past week we were invited to a celebration mass on Sunday night at the Co-Cathedral with the Cardinal (twice in 2 weeks!).  It was a simple celebration consisting of mass and a potluck dinner afterward with other NFP volunteers in order to commemorate the last day of NFP awareness week.  I think it was worth going just to watch Mike’s head spin from the chaos that happened when multiple children got together and started running around during the potluck!  Talk about sensory overload!  [Sidenote: I was talking to one of the fathers and they said that luckily that only really happens when tons of kids get together…I guess one day we’ll know first hand if he was lying…].

So I already know what you’re thinking “See? Lot’s of kids?  I knew NFP doesn’t work!”  Maybe one day I’ll post on the correlation between kids and NFP users, but for now also know that we are one of the youngest teaching couples, not only in age but also in married age.  Many people become teaching couples after they have kids and have been practicing NFP for a couple years.  Although sometimes I think that maybe we would be more effective teachers and our clients would take our advice more seriously if we had been married longer and had kids of our own to serve as a better example, I always try to recall our reasons for becoming NFP teachers in the first place:

  1. This is too great a gift to not share what we know.  Growing up I didn’t know that charting your fertility was even possible and I for sure didn’t understand the teachings of the Church surrounding it.  I feel now that I almost have an obligation to share regardless of my age since I was so blessed to have people take the time to share it with me.
  2. Being in graduate school, this is one of the most flexible times of our life to begin teaching and last winter/spring was a good time for us to make this a priority to attend the workshops, study for the tests and take them, precisely because we don’t have kids yet.  From what we hear (ha!) being a parent keeps you busy with your own vocation/mission of caring for your children, so if our lives are only going to get busier, why put it off when we can make an impact now?
  3. Maybe we could take some of the burden from the teaching families!
  4. Last night’s Cafe Catholica was all about the history of St. Paul, evangelizing and witnessing.  This is one way that we as a couple felt called to witness to others.
  5. In Mike’s words, as a couple we were already going to go through the “life lesson” of using NFP, so why not just learn the material enough to be teachers?  We were going to have to learn it all anyway…
  6. It always helps to have a teaching couple you can relate to.  Since most of the engaged are young couples, I think having a younger couple, or at least someone close in age, teach you allows you to see yourself in them more and identify with them (at least that worked for us!).  Also, we felt like clients would feel more comfortable in asking us the necessary-but-embarrassing questions than they would an older couple.

Anyway, so last night I was looking forward to catching up with some friends with families but unfortunately a lot of them didn’t come.  Instead this left us time to meet some new couples and families, which was just as fun!  One woman and her husband sitting at our table had specifically come to try to find a doctor who could help her with her cycles.  She went into excruciating detail of her hormonal problems within like the first 5 minutes of meeting her  (Mike struggled to keep down his food) and luckily I was able to introduce her to some people who might be able to help her.  Although this woman was really probably the master of TMI and her kids had some crazy names, I really applaud her and her husband for trying to follow the Church’s teaching on contraception.  Using NFP is definitely not the easiest route to space children even if you have regular cycles, and in the face of that difficulty I can see how it would be very easy to write it off and proclaim that its not possible for you because you are the exception to the rule, the one that needs to be on the Pill.  Here this woman was at 36 after 14 years of marriage with many, many miscarriages, 2 miracle children, and several cysts that required surgery, still admiting that she had some fertility left and that it would be wrong to remove any “parts that were causing these issues”, despite the fact that she was in pain and did not want anymore children.

No one said this path would be easy or that it would be without sacrifice, but we all know the mantra that “Nothing worth doing is easy”.  The benefits do outweigh the sacrifices, although sometimes its hard to see past the obstacles in our way.  We can never completely put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and know their situation, but it also helps to look to others, like the woman from last night or saints, for inspiration along this path to holiness and to remember that we aren’t walking it alone.

Take 7

7_quick_takes

1.  It seems like all my friends are jumping out of airplanes recently.  Literally.  I’ve known three friends to go skydiving in the last two weeks and last night I was beginning to think there’s something wrong with me for having absolutely no desire whatsoever to do that.  Then I remembered what my mom always used to say, “Just because everyone’s jumping off a cliff (or out of an airplane) doesn’t mean you have to too”.  So appropriate. (Although I realize on after thought this is kind an ironic first post since I just participated in this 7 quick takes thing!)

2.  House buying is really a crazy, crazy process and the real estate business is honestly full of a bunch of flakes.  After everything we’ve gone through this past year it really is no surprise to me that one of the major downfalls of the global economy was in part due to issues in real estate.  No surprise whatsoever.

3.  Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you his heirs. It is Christ the Lord that you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24.  This verse spoke to me this week.  It reminds me that even if we’re not all called to be missionaries directly we are still serving the Lord.  Pretty cool.

4.  I made really cool (or at least I think so!) earring and jewelery holders this week.  It was really easy, using a fabric that I picked out, wooden picture frames, matching ribbon, tacks and hot glue.  I can hang them up if I want to too but right now they are just leaning against the wall.  Now I just need more jewelery.

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5. My sister’s baby needs to come out to meet us already!  I’m excited to meet him, find out what his name will be, and to see all my family again!  So the sooner he gets here the sooner the party begins!

6.  I went to the third night of Cafe Catholica this past Monday and I have to admit that I’m a little sad this next Monday is the last night :(  The organizers have done a super job getting really, really interesting speakers including this guy and this guy (the first guy also had a really good talk, his website just isn’t as fun :) ).  The Cardinal, despite his funny hat, is a really down to Earth and relate-able guy who has such knowledge about everything.  It was really interesting listening to him talk about the history of Christianity.  I didn’t know anything about Ennie but from his talk you can tell he has a big heart and he gave a refreshing approach to prayer.  I don’t know anything about the last speaker, but if its anything like the last three I’m sure he’s great!

7.  My best friend took me out last night for a belated birthday dinner (since she had to work last week) and we went to yummy yummy Thai food (my FAVorite).  My husband likes it too but its hard to make us go out there on the few nights we actually eat out since I think Thai food is ridiculously overpriced for what you actually get (usually rice and chicken variations).  So a few weeks ago I decided I’ll learn to make it myself!  I discovered this Thai cooking website and I’ve already cooked the Basil Chicken Fried Rice.  It is SO GOOD and SO EASY and you can make it as hot as you want, so I highly recommend it. Some of the other ones look much more complicated, but hopefully I can learn them over time.

The best part about this Friday is going to be my leftovers :)  Yummy.

To sue or not to sue

I feel like the events of the last two weeks are a test of some sort and I’m still trying to figure out the lesson.  I’ve always been embarrassed of the American “suing” mentality.  After all, its pretty selfish to just blame someone else for your problems and just plain greedy to want to turn those hurtful feelings into cold, hard cash in your pockets, right?  Like people who get hurt on someone’s property and sue the owner for the medical costs.  Or suing someone for “defamation” since money doesn’t get your respect back. And we all have heard about the McDonald’s hot coffee-spiller who sued for millions (but apparently the real case facts are startling!).

So, imagine our surprise when a potential court case lands in our laps.  I don’t want to sue anyone.  After all, I’m not the suing type, right?  We are just trying to buy our first home and keep running into every possible freak real estate situation imaginable.  I have no problem taking responsibility for what I do wrong, and admitting when something was a freak occurrence and not blaming others, right?  Suing just isn’t the moral or even “Christian” thing to do, right?  Right? But what about when someone goes back on their word?  Their contract.   Isn’t that why we have contracts in the first place?

To prevent things like what just landed in our laps from happening?

In the meantime, maybe I should start saying goodbye to this sweet, little property of real estate we thought we were in contract on.

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Doesn't he look so perfect opening that door?

On second thought…maybe not.  Does anyone know a Texas real estate lawyer?

NFP Awareness Week

2009 NFP Awareness Week Poster

2009 NFP Awareness Week Poster

As you may or may not have heard, this week is NFP Awareness Week!  Since everything seems to have an “Awareness Week” these days (Seriously? And I don’t even know what this is but it sounds hilarious – good thing they have a week!) its only fitting that Natural Family Planning would also have its own week…  Oh yeah, that and the fact that there are so many misunderstandings about what NFP is, its effectiveness, and just in general how it can be uncomfortable to talk about it since “family planning” is a personal subject filled with many opinions and theological discussions.  That’s a recipe asking for “Please, let’s just avoid this and not about it, shall we?”  Based on all this, NFP is definitely a good candidate for something “in need” of an awareness week!  So naturally I decided to write a post on here about it and answer some simple FAQ about NFP (at least a few to get us started).

What is natural family planning?

Most simply stated, natural family planning or NFP is a method of  monitoring a woman’s fertility for the sake of postponing or achieving pregnancy by observing naturally occurring signs and symptoms.  Nothing artificial is done to alter the cycle in any way so this method is 100% natural.

How does that work?

Unlike a man (who is fertile 100% of the time) a woman has cyclical fertility.   NFP seeks to isolate the fertility of the couple by incorporating knowledge about fertile conditions of a woman’s body, lifetime of a woman’s ovum (egg), and taking into account sperm life.  “Yes, we learned all that stuff in 4th grade.”  Awesome! But what they didn’t tell you was that the fluctuations in hormones (yes, those same ones that bring about our “monthly gift” and those lovely mood swings) also cause secondary effects which can be outwardly observed and charted.

The chart below gives a brief overview of the different hormones being produced in a woman’s body over the course of a month.  Ovulation, occurring around day 14 on average, is preceded by increasing estrogen, which depresses the body temperature. Once ovulation has occurred, the ruptured follicle left behind (the corpus luteum) produces progesterone, which increases the body temperature.

[Forgive the charts, I’m a scientist :) ]

Sympto-thermal methods of NFP seek to identify the occurrence of ovulation by charting a significant rise in basal body temperature to determine when the fertile time is over.  Changes in other symptoms (such as cervical mucus) occur as a result of these fluctuating hormones and can also be charted to help identify fertile/infertile times.  At home ovulation predictor kits measure LH (luteinizing hormone) which is the hormone that directly triggers ovulation.

If you didn’t follow all that, it doesn’t really matter.  The great thing about NFP is that you don’t need to know how it works in order to use it.  Just know that some nuns couldn’t have made all this up and that its based on science :)

Ok, so is this all the same as the rhythm method?

No, no, and no.  That’s the whole point of this post!  Rhythm method was a good “try” at figuring out the fertile and infertile times of a woman’s cycle, but let’s face it, the science 80+ years ago was not as advanced as it is now.  In fact, 100 years ago scientists were just figuring out what these things called hormones do and tell us so the studies just hadn’t been done until more recently (Starting in 1950’s).  [Interestingly enough, the only reason the Pill got onto the market so fast was because of  copious amounts of research money from an angry, rich lady scared of her crazy husband’s genes, some mad scientists, a woman with a vendetta for the Church, and some immoral testing on some poor Puerto Ricans!]  The rhythm method is based on counting days according to an “average” woman, i.e. ovulation at day 14.  The problem of using this method in practice is that unless the woman always has textbook cycles, which no woman has no matter how regular you think you are, so the method will “fail”.

NFP is clearly different in that it treats each woman the same depending on her own signs and observations, so it can be  effective for women with irregular and inconsistent cycles.

How effective is NFP at avoiding pregnancy?

This is what most people’s concern is since, let’s face it, we’re in the culture of controlling and regulating births.  Also, unfortunately many slanderous sources have sought to destroy the credibility of this method to possibly advance their own agendas.  As with any method to control birth, its important to distinguish between method failure and typical use failure and to make sure you are comparing the same type of “failure rate” when comparing methods in the first place.

Natural family planning can be as effective as hormonal methods (i.e., as high as 99% effective).  However, don’t take my word for it, do your own research.   Seriously, read the papers, don’t just take random quotes from un-cited sources.   As an experimental scientist, I know firsthand that statistics can be messed with like crazy, so its best to look at multiple sources, and not just one.

Natural Family Planning Method As Effective As Contraceptive Pill, New Research Finds

http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/contraceptive/126.html

Here is a good resource list to start with for looking up the hundreds of papers studying this topic (in case you thought this was a new thing!)

Bibliography of NFP Sources

So why would I want to bother taking my temperature and observing this thing called “cervical mucus” if I could just ignore this whole issue until I want to have kids?

Oh geez, I think the best way to answer this question is to ask which type of reasons would you like?  The social reasons, health reasons, marital reasons, spiritual reasons?  You name it!  This could probably be an entire post in itself (or three, as my buddy Elizabeth bravely did!), but let’s just keep the reasons simple at this point.

  1. It’s healthy! – In an age of people being concerned about eating organic, avoiding nano-particles in our sunscreen, and BPA in our baby bottles, why would we NOT pay attention to what synthetic hormones we’re pumping into our bodies every day? Especially when there are good alternatives out there?
  2. NFP can also help you have children – Infertility is unfortunately a lot more common than we think.  Oftentimes our fertility is ignored for so many years through hormonal contraception before we are concerned with having children that we can ignore the signs our body tries to tell us about our relative fertility.  NFP doubles as a way to track changes in your health that may lead you to identify waning fertility as well as overall changes health long before you plan on having kids, making it true family planning. It also (obviously) identifies the best time of the month to try for children.
  3. Female Empowerment – There’s something to be said for respecting the way our womanly bodies were designed and having our men respect the way were made also, instead of just trying to be men.  It’s easier to respect yourself and what it means to be a woman when you don’t treat yourself like you have a disease.  Also, the education of women is touted to be the quickest way to advance society.  Why does this suddenly not apply when we’re talking about educating women about their own bodies?
  4. Social – NFP teaches a value for the marital embrace that respects both of its natural consequences – babies and bonding.  Distorting sex for the purposes of glorifying one aspect over another becomes a lot harder for a couple who embraces the true meaning and we’ve all heard the stories about how porn*graphy is ruining marriages.  Also, you have knowledge that you’re doing your little part change the mentality that creates the need for abortions.  [*note, I am by no means accusing you of causing abortions, but just providing the connection between contraception and abortions that many people are not aware of.]
  5. Improved martial relationship – With NFP a couple is almost forced to talk about their procreative purposes once a month when fertile time occurs, in order to mutually decide whether or not they are seeking a pregnancy.  Couple practicing NFP have a very low divorce rate compared to that of the average American, we’re talking 4% vs. 40%.  I’m not touting NFP as the reason those couples are together, but it does light the path to a tighter bond with your spouse than contraception.
  6. Cost – NFP is cheap.  Its virtually free, once you cover the cost of the instruction manual and maybe a thermometer.  You can’t beat that.

Since we’re getting long here, I’ll only allow myself to ask one more question :)

If NFP is so great, how can I learn about it?  Will my doctor teach me?

If you want to learn NFP, chances are you will have to go to a Church related group to get classes.  An important part of NFP is obtaining proper instruction that frankly takes time that your average 2 min. visit with your family doctor can’t account for.  Learning from a Church doesn’t make the method any less effective.  Certified teachers (such as yours truly!) have to pass rigorous tests in order to teach the methods that many studies (see bibliography above) have been performed on.  Did I mention we volunteer to teach?  Yes, we just want to share this knowledge with others.  It makes you realize that there’s no reason a doctor supported by the large pharmaceutical industry would teach you a free method that doesn’t require you to be on a pill for something that’s not a disease for the rest of you life.

If you think I’m spouting conspiracy theories here, just think about how much money is made off the millions of women in America on oral contraception during one year.

Now multiply that by the rest of the years in their life.

That’s a lot of money. And the best part is that those women aren’t even sick.


Ok, that’s enough for now.  Hopefully I helped spread “NFP Awareness”.  If you have further questions, let me know!

California for the 4th

This past 4th of July we went to Mike’s parent’s house for their annual celebration.  There’s always a huge party at that house complete with ping pong, a trampoline, tons of great food (including 7 layer dip and red, white, and blue pudding!), tons of great company (in the form of his whole family and friends), swimming, tennis, some home movies, and of course, the signature margaritas/slurrpies from a huge 7-11  machine (I kid you not, they bought the actual machine  from an old 7-11!)  This year was no exception and on top of all that we even made it to the beach TWICE!  It really was a great visit with lots of quality time with the family.

Somehow, I only took one picture the whole weekend.  It’s ok though, since this one melts my heart :)

Mike and his cousin Jayden

Mike teaching his cousin Jayden how to play the piano

Birthday Weekend and Spanish Mass!

My husband and I spent this past weekend celebrating my birthday: the big quarter century.  Yahoo!  He knows how I like to be surprised, and try as he might, I still found out what he got me before my birthday (accidentally, of course)!   It was a great weekend complete with flowers, breakfast in bed, SeaWorld (although it rained) AND the beach (to make up for the rain at SeaWorld the day before!).
Me clobbering Mike at SeaWorld

Me clobbering Mike at SeaWorld

Also, my friend Angela made me a birthday cake a mere 24 hrs before her water broke and she went into labor!  [FYI: the baby was born on Saturday, one day after my birthday…so close!]  AND I got the office ceremonial “Happy Birthday” balloon passed to my desk.  After three years that thing still has air in it!
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The drab office next door…at least mine has windows!

It was an awesome weekend and I’m especially thankful for my husband who went to the ends of the Earth to make it all possible.  To top off the great weekend we also went to Spanish Mass on Sunday night.  I think in the last month we’ve definitely gone to mass in Spanish more than in English and despite not being anywhere near fluent in Spanish, I get a lot out of it.  In fact, I really enjoy it.  The Mass is liturgically exactly the same in whatever language you go to it in [part of being part of the Catholic (universal) Church], although culturally you can observe different things.  For example, at this Spanish Mass they always recognize people who have a wedding anniversary or birthday in that month and the whole congregation sings the “Happy Birthday” song (the Spanish version)!  Obviously this was especially cool for me this past Sunday :)  Also, when we say the “Our Father/Padre Nuestro” right before sharing “the Peace/la Paz”, everyone holds hands and sways and sings it in the most beautiful melody and its almost like time stops because the whole world is at peace.

See for me, going to Spanish Mass is a bit nostalgic too, because it brings me back almost three years ago to the time that I wasn’t Catholic.  I had been to Mass in English many times before, but I would go with Mike to Spanish Mass since I think it reminded him of home (and also, yes, Spanish Mass is usually later in the day and everyone knows Mike likes to sleep!).  I can remember sitting there in the pew, not knowing anything about what was going on and not even caring because I had some alone time with my thoughts to just contemplate who I was becoming and where I was going and to just…be.  It was a good time to just reflect.   It was also where I first saw deep reverence for the Eucharist.  Culturally, Hispanics are more traditional in that they don’t take the Eucharist (communion) without having first gone to confession and being absolved of any mortal sins (which is a teaching of the Church although some cultures tend not to adhere to this as well anymore).

Translation: this was the first time I saw professing Catholics not go up to receive communion.

Huh?  Why weren’t they going up?   Wasn’t that the whole point of being Catholic, so you could go up and thumb your nose at everyone sitting in the pew and tell them they were going to hell?  (The sad part is that isn’t really an exaggeration from what I thought…I know, sophisticated).  Before I guess I just saw communion as a time to focus on what I wasn’t: Catholic, and therefore I was excluded because they excluded me, (as opposed to be being the other way around).  It wasn’t until I went to Spanish mass that I saw people truly revere the Eucharist and respect the true presence of Jesus Christ enough to know when they weren’t in full communion with Him and His Church and be humble enough to admit it.  To respect this great God that has given us so much, including these amazing Sacraments, and to honor them.  It wasn’t about being exclusionary, being mean and not letting people into the “cool club”, or just trying to get people to join so that the Church could take all their money.  No, it was and is about communion and coming together in a common belief and celebrating this unity.

Yes, it was nice to focus on all the things worth celebrating on my birthday weekend :)

New York, New York!

One great thing about being in academia (although I’m sure many other jobs afford you this luxury) is TRAVELING to cool locations for conferences!  Admittedly, not all conference locations are cool (sorry Newark, DE and Charlotte, NC) but its fun to make the best of them and see what you can.  So when a really interesting location comes along, that much more enjoyable! (And you can still convince your boss to pay for you since you were in it for the long haul and “suffered” through Delaware)

Last month I had the opportunity of going to NEW YORK CITY for a conference.  It was awesome to visit the “Big Apple” and see for myself the city that everyone (or at least TV shows and movies!) has been talking about/referring to all these years.  Plus it was awesome to have a mini-vacation with my husband subsidized :)

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So here’s to New York, and here are the things that stick out to me about my visit:

  1. Public transportation is very convenient.  Note that I stopped at convenient and didn’t say sparsely populated, temperate, and/or remotely clean.
  2. Going with the transportation thing, although an unspoken rule seems to be “Don’t make eye contact with anyone even though we’re sharing the same breathing space and I think that’s my pocket, not yours”, if you actually start talking to people you’ll find they are very nice.  Almost like they are all really lonely.
  3. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are truly awe-inspiring.  A trip combined with a visit to the Ellis Island museum and Ground Zero is an almost perfect embodiment of what being American entails.  It is very humbling to go to Ellis Island and think about what all our ancestors went through to get here…and then go up a couple blocks and see for yourself the sacrifices people still make to keep this a country people want to come to.P1011094P1011103
  4. Yankee’s fans (also can be substituted with “New Yorkers”) are so vicious, they boo their own players.  Ok, maybe just A-Rod, but still, they are cut-throat.

    You can't hear them, but they're booing.

    You can't hear them, but they're booing.

  5. Something I learned for all trips in general is make sure you check weather.com before you pack, so that you don’t end up wearing the same black, zip-up hoody all week…including to the professional conference….and during your back-to-back presentations.
  6. Also related to the conference and not so much New York, don’t schedule back to back presentations.  Ever.
  7. New York has gorgeous churches.  Please, please, please visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  If you can, go to Mass.  And if you can, go to Mass during the annual Puerto Rican Parade! It makes mass so much better when the priest offers up the host and there are literally people screaming with enthusiasm (outside the chuch, of course).  It replicated my inner feelings :)
  8. Also, did I mention there are gorgeous churches?  I walked one block from our conference and stumbled upon this masterpiece.  You should have seen the inside.P1011122
  9. Don’t stay at a hotel in New Jersey.  Although it may sound like its close…oh wait no it doesn’t.  Don’t do it.  Instead, suggest your adviser pay $25 more a night, because that’s how much the tolls cost to get there.
  10. You gain so much more street cred when people find out your last name is Spanish.  They make then look at you like you’re an alien because they are so confused, but you have already gained said street cred.

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    The Puerto Ricans I gained street cred with. Yes, they are in a garbage truck.