Habit Forming – now with patterns!

I am often found with knitting needles in my hands these days.  That is, if I’m not in lab or eating, of course.

Someone wanted to see pictures of what else I’ve made lately…so here they are!

I’m getting good at hats.  Here’s another one I made:

You can find the pattern for the hat and matching scarf here. Its kind of hard to see in these pictures, but it used a cable stitch to make a funky little pattern (much more visible if you click the link).  My friend liked it so much she wants a MATCHING one!  And she has a big head too…so we’ll be Matching Hatted Moonheads!

Here’s another one I made for my little nephew.

He doesn’t look convinced.  And yes, I purposely made the pompom of similar noggin’ size.  So cute!  (Sorry, no pattern here – I got it from a book).

I’m also working on a scarf and the best yet, SOCKS!  Which are taking waaayyyy longer than the approximate “8 hours” on the instructions.  I don’t know who they were trying to fool!  They will be worth it though…stay tuned!

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Only say the word

Yesterday marked the start of Advent, the period of preparation preceding the Christmas and the birth of Christ.  We wait in preparation of what glory is to come.  I’ve been waiting to wait for this.  Does that make sense?  It seems that waiting is my natural state these days, so it only seems natural that we’d have a world-wide recognized liturgical season to make it feel more like a group effort :)

One of my favorite lines during the the Mass is after the Rite of communion, before the congregation is invited to come up to receive the Eucharist.

Fr: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Happy are those who are called to his supper.

Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

How simple and beautiful.  The definition of humility.  I feel like I could ponder this line forever.  Today I am struck by what a great mystery the Eucharist is and how we are all so unworthy.  No one is ever “holy” enough to literally receive the Lord, now into their body  or once upon a time, into their home.  How could we be!  It is only through pure faith, only by His will, that it is or was even permissible.

So beautiful.


In other news, Advent Prayer Buddies started up again.  I don’t know if its possible to have such amazing results as last time, but I know I can pray for my buddy with more faith than I had then.  Maybe God will surprise us all.  

Día de Gracias – en Mexico

I told my husband a few weeks ago that the first time we don’t spend a major (read, Thanksgiving or Christmas) holiday with our families, we’ll be officially “adults”.  I guess we’re adults now, since we spent this Thanksgiving here in Mexico celebrating with our new ex-pat friends.  Some things that made this experience unique:

– Dinner at 7:00pm because most people had to work.  Its hard to digest all that food when you eat it so late!

– Yeast, or levadura as I luckily looked up before I set out on my grocery trip, is not sold in all grocery stores.  Fortunately, I eventually found some and was able to bring homemade rolls to dinner which were heartily appreciated.

– Cheddar cheese is also not sold in Mexico…except at Walmart!  Props to my husband for stopping there to complete our cheesy mashed potatoes.

– Made mashed potatoes and rolls without a mixer.  “Like a pilgrim” my mom said!

– Walking 15 blocks carrying potatoes and rolls is fun stuff.

– No TV with no football showing.

– Conversation with these ex-pats is really interesting but hard to come by sometimes. How do you follow up after someone says “I’m not really a heterosexual”…?  There was also the famous “Good thing I don’t believe in the free market!”

– Tried to convince a French girl that even though it may seem like Thanksgiving is just about pigging out and watching football, there really is more to it than that.

Thanking God for everything.  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

What does your Catholic world look like?

Sometimes I find that reading blogs is a bit like opening up a random book to the 9th chapter and trying to understand what the story is about.  Oftentimes, if I don’t know who the writer is, what their faith formation is like, what they’re about, then their blog will have no context and I’ll often be confused by the things they write about.  Context is key.  I’m always seeking to know why and I believe that many why questions can be answered by understanding where the person is coming from.  I’m assuming the same thing could happen to someone stumbling upon my blog, so I thought I’d give a little context about the “Catholic world” that my husband and I are from so that you may understand our experiences and faith formation a little better.  Maybe some of my writings will make more sense.  Maybe I’ll just confuse you even more.  There is a lot more to my faith world in particular, but I’ll stick with the Catholic one for now.  Either way, here’s a glimpse into the  “Catholic worlds” we live in:

The Catholic world we grew up in:

– For me, was non-existent.  The only things I heard about Catholics were short quips from my Grandma or Mom, that weren’t “friendly” to put it nicely.  I heard about these people who left the Catholic church (like my Godmother) and who felt so “free”.   I once went to mass with a neighbor friend  after a sleepover and thought it was funny that they called it “Mass”, like “weight” (I was science nerdy from the get go).  A statue at a local Church (I think the same one I went to with my friend) got the stigmata and I didn’t understand why that would happen, or why people would care.    (We were raised Lutheran and attended services for most of my childhood, which I recall being eerily similar to Mass when I finally went).

– For my husband, was ubiquitous with his culture.  Everyone was Catholic in his family even if no one went to Church or received the sacraments regularly, although his immediate family did make an effort to go most Sundays, missing a few here and there.  His parents worked multiple jobs to afford to send the kids to Catholic private school in an area where cost of living was very expensive.  He remembers singing songs and bringing flowers to Mary during school, having Priests coach his sports teams, and influential ethics teachers that challenged him to follow his thoughts to their logical end in order to determine their validity.  His family still doesn’t understand what this “NFP” class is that we teach.

Catholic world of our young-adulthood

– In grad school we both went to a very Catholic retreat series, called Awakening. Although I was not Catholic when I went and I do not attribute going to my conversion (I wanted to leave at times and the really religious people scared me), it was a profound experience in my life that helped me realize that it was OK to ask these questions that I was wondering about.

– I eventually start RCIA several months later to learn more from the source, since my books won’t talk back to me.  I make many good friends with the older students who are converting.  Many couples wanting to get married are in my class and at times I feel I’m the only one asking questions.  In spite of that, we have great discussions regarding the Trinity, morality, end of days, and the real presence in the Eucharist.  At the final retreat 2 weeks before Easter we play Pictionary with Catholic themes and I choose “Natural Family Planning” and no one guesses it.  I have to explain what it is after time is up.

– Through Awakening we met a large, active young adult group who was strongly catechized and on fire about their faith.  Coming from a background where I never saw this, these fellow adults were a great inspiration to me to see others actually living their Catholic faith.  Have never felt so open talking about these things with people and give a talk on Faith at one retreat.  There are several religious vocations that come out of this group and others that seriously discern a vocation but end up returning.  Many couples go on to marry and have kids.  A few later divorce.  Many of our friends wear scapulars, veils, attend daily mass, know the histories and prayers of many saints, and generally pursue these sorts of very Catholic activities that were very foreign to me at one time.

– During my RCIA process I am told by Catholic friends and Mike’s family that sometimes he can be “too strict” about Catholic rules and if I want another opinion, to just ask them.

– Once we were engaged, many Catholic couples came up to me and told me how great the marriage prep classes were, except for that horrible NFP class they had to take.  We usually tried to stop the conversation there by saying how excited we were about that class.

– We had to combat much resistance from the University Student Center in order to teach our NFP classes there.

– In our NFP classes, minus most of the Awakening friends that we advertise too, about 90% of the other couples turn in their application listing only one address and refer to their pets during the class.  Most have never heard of NFP before and take the class for requirement.  However, getting married in the church is very important to them and we are surprised by the number of positive comments after our classes.

–  We have made great friends with the NFP teaching crowd who has really brought us under their wing and mentored us during these earlier years in our marriage, teaching us that being “open to life” means so much more than just having children.

– Our priest who witnessed our marriage is very active in our lives and has had a couple dinners with us and several other couples who have been trying unsuccessfully for years to have kids.  He is a blessing in our lives.

– Sometimes my non-Catholic family goes to Mass with us, but most times they don’t.  When we’re in town, most times we go to Mass with my husband’s family, but if we all wake up to late or there’s something else scheduled on Sunday, we go by ourselves.

In short, my Catholic world is what I consider “normal”, but it may not be what you consider normal.  I like reading other Catholic blogs sometimes because I feel a solidarity that there are other people who really believe this stuff, instead of going through the motions.  While I know the Catholic Church teaches the same thing everywhere, sometimes the extent to which the parish follows and encourages each other can vary greatly.  So I ask, what does your Catholic world look like?  Not to point fingers, but to understand a little better where we came from and who you all are.

You can answer in the comments if you like or in your own blog post :)  Just let me know if you write one so I can be sure to read it!

And I don’t mean to be exclusionary of reader’s with other faiths, I have just been thinking about this issue as it relates to Catholics for a while now and wanted to pose the question.  Please feel free to answer if you want to and you’re not Catholic too!

Confidence and Fertility…and how I lack both

So I tried not to mention fertility when I wrote that last post on humility and self-confidence, but you all had to know that it was lurking back there somewhere.  Its always lurking back there somewhere.

I had some really good suggestions and comments from people but the one that struck me was the one from Leila.  She said:

I think that TRUE humility (as opposed to false humility) goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence. If one is truly humble (meaning, one knows his place in the world and his place with God), then there is great confidence going forward. There is little chance that the truly humble would think that their talents and gifts, etc. came from anyone but God. So, they can be confident, because they can take credit for nothing. It’s all God’s doing, and God’s gifts.

I think there-in lies the problem.  I often wonder if I’m alone in this, but I’ve realized that my fertility (or lack thereof) has really taken a toll on my confidence more recently.  When I converted to Catholicism, I finally gained that confidence that I had previously been lacking through my faith.  I understood the greater plan for life, our purpose for being here, what happens when we die, and had an incredible peace about life.  However, trials in life test your faith and this is a big trial.  If faith is tested, confidence will shake too.

Going first to the obvious, to put it bluntly, I can’t perform a seemingly normal function that is the basis for the continuation of life.  For whatever reason, its become apparent that I’m “not good” at having children.  This makes me feel like less of woman.  Less female. To someone who already had body image insecurities (who doesn’t?), that maybe I didn’t look as “feminine” as others to begin with, the fact that my body isn’t cooperating in the reproductive realm seems to really seal the deal that somehow I’m less female.  That really messes with your confidence.

Of course, one could argue that it doesn’t take one female to make a baby but that three are involved.  So then together, my husband, God, and I are not good at creating children, so I shouldn’t take it so personally, but I’ve found that coming to that conclusion is only possible after first pondering my own lack of femininity.  In other words, this still has an effect on my confidence and who I am, whether I want it to or not.  Kind of like a automatic reflex.

If one is truly humble (meaning, one knows his place in the world and his place with God), then there is great confidence going forward.

I think that’s where the dichotomy lies. In realizing my sub-fertility over this past year, I’ve truly questioned my “place in this world” and with God.  Who will I be if not a mother?  Its not something I had considered.  It was something I had taken for granted would just happen.  Even though I thought I had no plans for my life, the semblance of what was there has been replaced with a giant question mark.  Of course I can have no humility OR confidence because I have had the foundation for who I will be severely shaken.  I do not know my place in this world.  Also, part of me doesn’t want to accept that God gave this to me, after all, why would He?  That would be too cruel.  What if its something I’m doing.  If I could just eat healthier, do more yoga, pray more, love my husband more, stop being so resentful, then maybe I would get pregnant.

The key to having confidence in my current situation (and hand-in-hand, humility) is to truly accept that God gave me this trial of sub-fertility purposefully, even if I don’t understand why.

The other thing I miss about Mexico

I get to visit the hubby in a few days (SO EXCITED) and I must admit one of the other things I’m really looking forward to is the guayaba juice.  Don’t worry though, as much as I love this juice, it definitely ranks in at a far second on the list of “things I miss from Mexico”, after my husband of course :)  I usually bought it, but one day I got adventurous when I noticed this in our fully furnished apartment:

Its pretty huge, so its kind of hard not to notice.  I didn’t know what it was at first (torture device?) but when I opened it up, I realized it was a juicer!

Thats when I got excited, ran to the store, and bought some little guayabas to try to recreate my most favorite juice ever.  It couldn’t be that hard, right?  So first I washed them.


And then I dried them and sliced them.

And this is where it got tricky (and where everything got sticky, so I have no more pictures!).  I don’t know if they weren’t ripe enough or what (I think the juice is supposed to be more pink?) but they didn’t quite “juice” like I thought they would.  It was more of a squish-turned-pulpy-mush movement.  So I diluted the pulpy-mush with water, strained out as many seeds as I could, and added a little sugar and eventually came up with this!

My mouth is just watering thinking about this.  I don’t know if I’ll have time to make any juice when I’m back for this trip, but I will be sure to enjoy some store bought juice at least!

Humility vs. Self-Confidence

I find that the humility/self-confidence line is a hard one to straddle.  I have been taught that to have both characteristics is virtuous, but the reality of balancing the two is frustrating.  Does humility prevent self-confidence?  Or does self-confidence automatically prohibit humility?  Maybe I merely use humility as an excuse to not be over-confident?

Does anyone else struggle with this?

While I may appear to give the vibe of being very confident, in reality I doubt myself much of the time.  Self-confidence is an issue that comes up frequently in my field of work, being a woman in engineering.  Additionally, humility is not a character trait respected in academia.  Its almost as if you emit humility, you emit fear, and they seek and destroy.  Before I left for college my dad gave me these words of advice.

“If you learn anything, learn to have these two things:  patience and self-confidence.”

Those words have echoed in my head for the past what, almost 10 years now?  Unfortunately, so did another comment my dad made to my in high school.

“Do you think anyone would like you if you weren’t tall and blonde?”

You mean they wouldn’t still like me for my charming personality?  Not to paint my dad out to be a bad guy, he’s definitely the opposite and was usually very encouraging of me, which is probably why I took those words to heart.

It seems I am either extremely confident in what I do to the point of over-confidence or I doubt everything and fall back into thinking that the only reason I’m where I’m at is because they needed to fulfill a “tall, blonde girl” quota.  Middle ground in confidence is hard to come by.  Usually I get there by accepting the fact that I don’t need to be the absolute best at something in order to be proficient, my worth is not determined by what others think, and gloating is never appropriate, even as a response to gloating.

 

So, how do you maintain humility without losing all self-confidence?

A series of moments

“Just take it one day at a time.”

I’m at such a stage in the grieving process where I realize that I’m young and healthy enough to reasonably convince myself on a good day that if I want to pursue parenthood I will at some point eventually be able to get there.  Maybe biologically, but if not then through foster care/adoption.  The point is there are options out there somewhere, and although many, many moments come crashing down around me where I can’t see beyond the immediate future, in general I do have faith that someday this will end.

My problem is how to deal with today when its not yet over.  I liken it to asking what techniques does a person in solitary confinement do to not go crazy?  Telling him to relax is useless.  He still has to deal with his current situation.  Telling him that one day he’ll be free is also not very comforting, especially when you’re looking at potentially years more of staring at bare white walls.  Physically and mentally, what does he do right now to keep his mind off what is so blatantly around and enclosing him in?  He needs like, little games to keep him busy or shiny objects to distract himself or something, right?

This is why the advice “Take one day at a time” originally pissed me off.  It seemed hollow.  Empty words that sound good but still leave you with nothing tangible.  But then there was that whole, this-advice-came-from-a-woman-who-hasn’t-been-able-to-have-kids-either-but-for-much-longer-time-than-I-have-been-trying thing.  Maybe there was something to it.

That day I was leaving my husband in Mexico, staring out the airplane window at the ever-expansive gray city, growing smaller and smaller below me, I realized how it just felt like yesterday that I was landing, excited to be starting our Mexican adventure together.  Now there I sat, leaving the adventure and my husband, only able to take in that single moment of being on the plane, with those weeks of past adventures just a memory yet with the knowledge that before I knew it I’d be back on a plane again to visit him again.  I think about how after our third month of trying I literally begged God that we not have infertility, because I had seen and read about it and I knew I was not strong enough to handle that type of pain.  Now that moment seems like so long ago.  I think about how when I look back and consider a month, it always seems like the moments of trying/waiting/hoping/sadness blur into whatever day I’m experiencing at that moment, because that’s all I’m ever to take in at one time.

It struck me that all we’re ever able to experience are single moments at a time.  In that sense, it lends itself that life can only be lived little moments at a time whether we want to or not.  In fact, our life is just little moments strung together to make a whole.  The only thing I ever can do and have to do is make it through today.  And that’s a little comforting to know that when the big picture is terrifying, you don’t have to look at it.

Maybe it sounds like I’m in denial.  But I realize that there’s nothing I can really do at this point besides make it through today.  And the better time that I have while doing that, well, the better for me and my husband because we have to go through it anyways.  This is not to belittle the pain that sub/infertility brings.  This waiting out an unknown sentence is precisely what starts the madness and while I do believe that everyone can enter and play the “pain Olympics”, the pain that accompanies “waiting on motherhood” is unique.  This waiting on something, someone who is so, so important, who will supposedly teach me the true meaning of life and love, but who may never come is terrifying beyond belief and it is likely that unless you’ve been a person’s exact shoes, you don’t know the pain.

If only I can make it through today though, I will be that much closer to seeing it through.

Take 7 – Gratitude

Theme:  Things I’m thankful for

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Gracious friends who let me live with them for my extended time back here in Texas with absolutely no strings attached.  Friends like that are hard to find.

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Cold(er) weather.  Makes me appreciate the Houston summer heat and humidity more.

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Money that allows me to visit my husband…making this time apart shorter and more bearable.

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Running into the priest who witnessed our marriage randomly at a local mass.  He was substituting for our regular pastor and I hadn’t seen him since before we left for Mexico.  It was so great to catch up!

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My parents living close enough so that I get to see my mom on a random weekend (this one) and I can just drive home for Thanksgiving (saving that money for trips to Mexico…).

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Free knitting needles! Apparently knitting is a long tradition in my family and I have now inherited a mess of needles of all sizes so I can now branch out.  I also have some rockin’ patterns from the 70’s…guess who’s husband is going to be sporting a wicked sweater vest soon??  Get ready Julio Iglesias…

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St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy. I’ve been reading her book, oh, for several months now, which is an entire post in and of itself, but I am thankful to have such inspiration and examples in the Saints of our Church.  This was highly unexpected from a little-girl-raised-Protestant-converted-to-Catholicism (I was sold on the “Believe they exist, but specifics are optional” line during RCIA), but perhaps one of the greatest unanticipated blessing.  [Belief in saints is part of the Lutheran tradition as well, its just, well, never mentioned.]

What are you giving gratitude for right now?  Hope you have a great weekend!

Find more Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary.

My small miracle

I was walking back to my car last night after a self-induced sucker punch from Facebook and I was counting my blessings that it was dark so other people couldn’t see the tears running down my cheeks, softly but uncontrolled.  I should do more things at night, I thought, since its easier to hide my emotions. And that’s when I literally almost got hit by a car.  As in, it swerved and I had to jump out the way to avoid death.  Apparently my tears aren’t the only things invisible at night!

I felt like that was a literal reminder from God that my self-pity may very well be the death of me.

So I sucked it up and tried not to cry the rest of the way home.  It was semi-working when I decided to turn it to the Christian station to get some inspiration (my car radio has been stuck on Tejano as my only means of practicing Spanish since I got back to Texas).  That’s when this awesome song came on:

I was thinking it was a perfect song and just what I needed to hear.  And then I turned north on the final street home and I literally heard the first chorus of “Light up the sky” right as lightning lit up the sky in a thunderstorm off in the distance directly in front of me.  It was surreal.  I just sat in my car until the song finished.  And I’m taking it as my small miracle for the day.

[And yes, I realized later that maybe the DJ saw the storm and purposely played that song, but still!  Sometimes miracles are all about timing.  I’ll take what I get.]

Also, I decided to just keep my blog the way it is for now.  I will probably not discuss medical specifics of our situation due to my lack of anonymity (at least at this point), but I will still discuss these matters of my heart and soul, because to be honest I feel like that’s what is more “at risk” at this point.  Thanks for listening.  You don’t know how much your comments mean to me.

And today is Dia de los Muertos!  Oh how I wish I was in Mexico with my husband today.  Praying for the souls that have gone before us.