Churches older than my country

After we decided to come to Mexico, I wondered what shape my blog would take.  Just like last year when I had no idea I’d be writing about baby-making issues, a few months ago I had no idea I’d be writing about Mexico.  I don’t want to write about it too much, as I don’t want to resemble that aunt who just wants to show you pictures from her vacation that you really don’t care about, but because this is and always has been a blog influenced by things Catholic (Heavens, no!) I do want to share some pictures of some beautiful churches we’ve seen so far.

And we’ve only been here a week!

Folks, this is the oldest church in the Americas!

The updated chapel that is still in use (right next door)

Inside of that newer chapel

Guy ringing the bell

Chapel with a way cool wall around it.

Another view of the "cool wall" chapel

More of the cool wall

Outdoor chapel

Ok, that’s about all for now!

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Giving Gratitude 8.30.10

Some things I’m especially grateful for lately…

My camera. Because my memory doesn’t seem sufficient to capture all the beautiful things I’ve been seeing on this trip so far.

The Catholic faith. I always appreciate being able to practice my faith while traveling to far away places, especially considering the history of this country.

A kind host family. Who didn’t kick me out of house after I broke something within the first 10 minutes of entering through their door.  I may be “muy fuerte” but I am also “muy clumsy”.

Imodium AD. Because, well, I think you know why.

Sunday Reflections – Mexico Style 8.29.10

Today was our first Mass in Mexico.  And during this Mass I was reminded exactly why I started this “Sunday Reflections” post to begin with and was impressed by my own foresight!

Where we went to Mass today

We’re staying with a host family for this first month and had asked the couple if they knew what time Mass was on Sunday.  The answer was “6, 7, 8, …all times!”  Gotta love being Catholic!  So we got ready and headed out mid-morning to make it to the city center and attend one of the hourly masses.  We were apparently a little late, as the grounds keeper told us that Mass had “just started.”  Well, in Mexico that means they’re already at the Gospel!   So we stood in the back of the packed Cathedral and tried to focus, which was hard enough considering its in another language (about all I understood from the homily was “Tenemos dos ojos y una boca” and I could have told the priest!), but also because it was easy to look at all the adorable kids running back and forth from the baptismal font, blessing everything in sight!  Next week we’ll definitely have to arrive earlier and sit up in the front.

Built in 1552

So, onto the readings!

Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29

Psalm 68

Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a

Luke 14:, 7-14

I found the gospel this week particularly insightful given our situation here in Mexico.  I can’t help but realize in the few short days we’ve been here that we are among the wealthiest, especially compared to Mexican standards.  The grant my husband was awarded to study here is pretty selective and with it comes a certain amount of prestige.   We’ve been wined and dined at some of the nicest hotels and restaurants around town over the past few days.  We’ve met the ambassador and alumni and other grantees who’ll join our “network”, with the ultimate goal to serve each others career advancement.  Colleagues in the US have given us contacts here to help us, who will also be part of our “network”, for no other reason than the fact we both know someone important back in the US.  They help us now, but of course it is expected that once we’re able to, we’ll help them.  After all, why would they bother to have us in their network if we couldn’t offer something in return?  I guess that sounds pretty sinister,  but I have no false impression that we would have been allowed into the Ambassador’s house if we didn’t know somebody special or was in someone’s network.  I realize that we’re privileged and thus run in a privileged circle.  And its hard not to realize as you’re driving around Mexico that not everyone is so privileged to have your “network”.  Unfortunately, in the light of eternity, ultimately none of that matters.

“When you hold a lunch of a dinner, do not invite your friends of your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.  Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”

I guess it all comes down to the fact that its a lot easier to be nice to people who will have a reason to be nice to you back.  Like loving something that is easy to love vs. something that is harder to love.  I hope that we’re able to remember this as we live in our little land of privilege over these next few months.  I guess the idea of “paying it forward” is similar to what Jesus was talking about in this passage, where you do favors for people who will not have any ability to pay it back to you.  I wonder if a network would be of any use if we all just did what Jesus suggested in this passage.

Ok, this is less of a “reflection” and more of a “rambling”.  I blame the polka music in the background.

Proof we were there, or at least I was!

What did you get out of Mass today?  Please leave a tidbit for me to consider!

Presumptions

These past few days have been hectic:  finishing up the experiments needed for my paper before I leave lab for several weeks, getting things settled with my adviser, family in town, and packing up/cleaning/prepping our house for our move/renter.

In packing up my house, I have come across a few things that don’t belong.  I haven’t told anyone about them and to be honest, I guess its embarrassing.  I had such presumptions about how this past year would go and to be honest, moving to Mexico wasn’t really on the list.  As much fun as it will be, I’ve done the living abroad thing.  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel.  I was ready for the next phase in life.

So ready, in fact, that as I was packing up my closet I found the two pairs of “larger jeans” and the one maternity shirt that I bought last fall on super sale at Ross.  I remember what my husband said when I brought them home that day.

“I bought jeans that are too big for me today!”

(not getting it)  “Why’d you do that?  Now you’re just going to have to return them.”

“No…I purposely did that…you know, for when I get pregnant.  I’ll probably grow out of my pants really fast.” (So fast that I won’t have time to go to the store?  Umm, yeah…)

“Isn’t that a bit…presumptuous?  You’re not even pregnant yet”

Turns out yes.  Yes, it was.

But that’s not all.  After month two, I also went out and bought one of these.  To keep hope alive, you know.

Presumptuous sparkling apple cider

After all, you can’t toast with champagne once you find out you’re pregnant, you know!  And the thing is, that’s actually the second bottle I had bought.  Around month four, I went out and had to buy another after I popped it open for two pregnant girls who attended a bridal shower I hosted.

So, I’m going to open this sucker today, in celebration of MOVING and LIFE and all that good stuff.  And I don’t make presumptions like that anymore.  I buy all my clothes to fit and flatter my figure now.  My hope doesn’t manifest itself in physical signs like that anymore.

Ahh, presumptions.

Am I the only one who did something like this or do you have your own presumptions that you made?  I promise I won’t make fun of you.

Sunday Reflections 8/15/10

So much to say on this day!  Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.  I remember 11 years ago when I moved to Belgium I had no idea what religious holiday could possibly be in August.  And now I know!

Reading 1  Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab

Responsorial Psalm  Ps. 45:10, 11, 12, 16

Reading 2  1 Cor 15:20-27

Gospel Lk 1:39-56

I was actually fortunate enough to attend Mass and listen to the Bishop’s homily at the Cathedral this weekend.  He really covered a lot, from how Mary’s assumption became dogma, how important the body is to our experience of God, purgatory, and even what to do with the body after death!  It was like Catholic 101 packed into 30 min.

The most interesting part to me was when he talked about experiencing the sacraments through our body.  The sights, smells, and tastes are all part of the Catholic worship experience.  And why shouldn’t they be?  We’re souls created in a body and while our bodies may cause us many trials and tribulations through our lives, this is how we experience the world.  Why wouldn’t God try to reach us through every mean possible?

What is also always interesting to me and I have to shake myself awake sometimes to remember the difference, is how Mary is so honored in Catholic tradition.  I used to be under the (false) impression that because Catholics didn’t allow women to be priests they were somehow dishonoring women, suppressing them.  I really failed to recognize how the most highly honored person in the Catholic tradition is without a doubt the Mother of God, Mary (Jesus is Divine).  Whereas in my Lutheran church growing up, Mary was hardly ever even mentioned.  Actually, what women were even present in the church?  The answer is none, until they started ordaining women (within the last 40 years).  Catholics had that honoring women thing going on long before feminism was cool!

I do love the prayer that Mary says after she’s greeted by Elizabeth.  And, as usual, I love reading verses from a common prayer and going “Hey, so that’s where it came from.”  Example today was (obviously) the Hail Mary.

The Big Reveal!

As I’ve mentioned before, I took part for the first time in Prayer Buddies this summer!  When I started blogging I wasn’t exactly looking for spiritual support, but it turns out that has been one of the most unexpected blessings of having this blog.  And this summer I had the exclusive assignment of offering one blogging lady and her intentions up in prayer for the last 40 days.

And boy, was it humbling.

I was going to title this post “My False Sense of Power”  because, well, I’ll get to that.

My prayer buddy has been trying to conceive for 3 years.  The first three years of her marriage.  I prayed for her and her husband to grow closer together during this time and for her to be blessed with the baby they so long for. I also prayed for the other requests she posted during this time as well.

I offered up these prayers daily, alongside the prayers I do for my family, before and after the consecration at Mass, during my nightly prayers, as well as during random prayers during the day and with the St. Anne novena TCIE led.

And this experience has been so humbling in part because, in praying for my buddy I have had the privilege of seeing those prayers answered.  Within 40 days!  It kind of felt like a sitcom!

I had the privilege of praying for Waiting for Baby Blondie, who announced on July 31st, that she is pregnant.  Now the waiting is just for Baby Blondie to be born! (Although, I do think that Baby Blondie-Moonhead has a nice ring to it, don’t you? ha!  I’m JUST KIDDING.)

So now you see why when I read her blog, her posts about finding out she was pregnancy, I paused.  Almost, in shockMaybe God does hear me after all? This baby is a miracle and I’m so thankful that God has allowed me to play whatever tiny part and BE HERE where I am, as this miracle was revealed.  Most ironic, is that I don’t know if I would have been had my own prayers been answered.  I know prayers are heard and answered by our God when HE deems best, but it is so, so humbling to be there when it actually happens.  I feel that this was a tiny grace bestowed on me as an offshoot of this incredible blessing:  Baby Blondie!

Thank you for letting me be a part of this and I think my favorite part of watching this unfold is hearing your stories of how excited your DH is.  I will continue to pray for you both!

One last request from my PB

Our prayer buddy summer edition is about to end, and I’m actually really sad about that.  I guess praying for someone without them knowing can happen whenever I feel like, but this has been a fun little experience.  I do have a couple requests for whoever my prayer buddy is.  Only a few more days so I figured I’d take advantage of it!

  1. I’m in a dicey situation at work…I’d appreciate some prayers in helping me keep my head cool and handle it professionally, without letting my emotions get in the way of being effective.
  2. My MIL had surgery all the way across the country yesterday to remove part of her colon.  This is pretty much a life-changing surgery so, I know she’s needs all the prayers she can get for immediate recovery and for dealing with the life changes that result.
  3. We’re having bug problems.  We joke that we have no life (little kids) running around our house so we’re adopting the orphan bugs (and geckos) that want to live with us.  We joke, but seriously, its kind of gross.  I’d rather have little kids than cockroaches.

Ok, maybe you don’t have to pray about that last thing, but the first two I’d appreciate some help on.  Anything anyone else need some prayers on?  May as well pay it forward!

Having a family in grad school

On a school visit a few years ago when I was applying for graduate school, I remember one of the professors I was interviewing with mentioned that the best time to have kids is during graduate school, not squeezed in after tenure like most people try to do.  I’ve heard stories of people having kids during grad school and labs that are teeming with little kids that play by their parent’s desk as they work in lab.  It seems like the flexible schedule would make for an ideal time to get married and have children, doesn’t it?

But this has not been my personal experience.

I don’t believe that grad school is actually family friendly. At least not engineering.  [Maybe this is part of the reason why there are no females in science and engineering.]

I know anecdotal evidence doesn’t make the strongest when making such a broad claim as this, but I can’t help but go by what I’ve personally seen in my lab.

  • Part time isn’t an option.  Two (male) students in our lab have had children in the past year.  One (international) student’s wife is also in grad school.  They have alternated days of working in lab for this past year in order to accommodate both of their schedules.  The other (American) student has a wife that works full time from home.  In order to accommodate their schedules, he comes in in the morning anywhere from 3-5am  and works till noon and then goes home and takes care of the baby while his wife works from 12-8pm.  Our boss has recently said this is no longer acceptable.
  • Most international students send their children back to their home countries to be raised by their parents while they finish graduate school.  I think this is a hidden secret that no one talks about and is particularly common for Chinese and Indian students who populate a large percentage of science and engineering graduate students.  The aforementioned student in our lab is in the minority of students who actually try to have their children raised here in America, although he has been pressured by my adviser to send their child back to China.
  • Apparently my husband living in another country is not a unique enough situation to warrant “extenuating circumstance” to give me permission to do non-lab-essential work outside of the office (i.e. in Mexico).  I am going against my adviser’s wishes and incurring a pay cut.

Yes, maybe this is just the situation in my lab, but still, my lab exists!  All of these situations that I’ve witnessed in this lab over this past year have made me realize how undervalued family is in academia in general and how hard it is to be a female who has a family in this field.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, its just very difficult.

And I needed to vent.

PS:  We’ve met the writer of this comic strip and he’s hilarious.  We also gave him a few ideas for some comic strips that he wrote down (we saw him!) so we’re still hoping to see some of those published one day…and THEN grad school will all have been worth it.

Giving Gratitude 8.10.10

In order to combat whiny-ness and maintain a sense of grounding, I’m planning to introduce these little posts where I talk about things I’m thankful for (thanks for permission to copy the idea, Rae!).  I’m realizing that the majority of my posts these days are focusing on the things that I don’t have and really, that’s no way to live.  There is plenty in this world I don’t have.  In fact, I could spend all day thinking about what I don’t have!  I really need to focus on they things I do have and be grateful for those.  So without further ado…

Today I am thankful for:

Working near my husband. I’m thankful to have him just a building over, so when big issues like the one that came up today crop up, I can run over and get his expert advice and just claim I was in the bathroom.

Long hair and long arms. I always wanted long hair when I was little so I could “do cool stuff” with it, but now that I have it, I never do.  I braided it myself today!

Sweatshirts in August. Because my lab is still freezing.

Hot lunch. I usually bring my lunch to work, but since we haven’t been to the store in a while, today I got a treat and got to have hot lunch.  Wow, between this and the braids, I feel like I’m 5!

These cycle days of hope. Because while I know they won’t last forever, I do appreciate them and the sanity they bring while they’re here.

WordPress. Blogging helps me order my thoughts and give me a chance to understand why I do certain things.  And it forces me to think about what I’m grateful for.

Picasa. It lets me share my pictures and my life with my family living far away!

Ok, this trial run was a good time.  Maybe I’ll do it again.

Marriage: As seen today

I’ve been wanting to write on the issue of same sex marriage for a while now, but I’ve avoided it largely because it is such a monstrous topic that I know I’ll basically have to write a second thesis on in order to do it justice and that thought is, well, very daunting.  I don’t want to put something up here that’s not well formulated and that will take time.  But I’m finally making the time because I’ve realized its been long enough and this is getting ridiculous.

But before I dive into same-sex marriage, I wanted to lay a little ground-work, specifically, how the general population sees marriage today.  Its important to understand the current climate in regards to marriage before we can even approach the subject of talking about same-sex ‘marriage’.  I think understanding where we’re at and how we got here is important to understanding why we’re going where we’re going as a country (world).

So I wanted to look at two popular culture references to marriage.  The first is this song by Alicia Keys ft. Drake, called “Unthinkable.”  Have you heard it?  If you haven’t, its time for you to know we’re now rapping about being scared of marriage.

The original music video makes it seem like its about interracial marriage, but the remix with Drake exposes lyrics revealing a discontent with dating without substance, fears of being single forever, or ending up with “somebody that’s been with everybody,” a message that resonantes beyond interracial marriage (leading me to believe that was just a plot for the video, not the message of the song.)

However, when Alicia starts singing about all these amazing feelings she has for her new lover, she refers to marriage as “the unthinkable” indicating her trepidation.

I was wondering maybe, could I make you my baby, If we do the unthinkable, would it make us go crazy? Or would it be so beautiful?

Now, I’m all for hesitancy and level-headed thinking when it comes to making a big decision like marriage, but “unthinkable?”  Marriage has become The Unthinkable?  Wow.  I think it reveals how scared our generation is of this beautiful covenant.  It reminds me of the comment I got when I announced our engagement to a ‘friend’:  I just thought you were going to do something with your life.

(Just a note that ultimately, Alicia does say that if you ask her, she’s “ready”, which is a good sign!)

The second “base-point” I think is important is the stats of unwed mothers having children, which is up to 40% of all births now.  I just found a very interesting article that asks what will ultimately affect our society more, Prop 8. being rescinded or the Bristol Palin/Levi Johnston engagement breakup (yet again).  The author argues that Bristol’s breakup reflects a societal change actualized that people fear same-sex marriage will promote:  couples with children feeling the need to not keep the nuclear family intact.  And its already happening at startling rates.  There is so much to say here, and I’m not advocating or not advocating for their specific relationship to stay together, but as a society, the stigma against parenting without being married is definitely gone and unfortunately, that is not in the children’s benefit.  See the article for more specific stats.

Anyway, those are just the two base points in this marriage issue, to set the groundwork for where we’re at and why we’re here.  More coming, as “in pieces” is the only way this can possibly happen…