7 Tips for Posting a Picture a Day as a Busy Mom

Friday, November 25, 2016

Linking up with This Ain't The Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

The Zelie Group is hosting a photo challenge for Advent! 

I love photo challenges! I might not be able to blog as often as I like (especially that the busy liturgical season meets production time this year!), but I can pull off posting a picture a day. 
Here's my top 7 tips for posting a picture a day as a busy mom.


Take your own "stock" photos

When we're somewhere beautiful or the light happens to be good, I snap a picture. I do it often enough that I've developed my own stash of stock photos. There is often more more than one thing beautiful about a place, but if I were to put them all up at once those individually beautiful moments might get missed. Posting them later, or using them for blog images, allows for more beauty to be appreciated.


Backup your pictures

One problem you will run into when you start to take more photos - lack of storage space! I love the Shoebox app for backing up photos. It has unlimited photo storage and it's easy to download a picture back to my camera roll when I want to use it.
I can free up storage space from the app, it asks if it can delete photos once they have been securely backed up. Pro tip: clean out your deleted photos folder to free up space right away (iPhones store photos for 30 days post deletion otherwise.)


Think ahead

I like to be thinking about the photo prompts about a week ahead. If I see something that might work for one of those prompts, I snap a picture. 
It can sometimes be helpful to think in terms of what you want to say about that prompt and let your picture ideas flow from that. I love seeing when people take a creative take on a prompt!


Save the photo prompts as a phone screen

Sometimes the hardest thing is remembering what photo prompts are coming up! I like to save the prompt image on my phone lock screen so I see it every time I go to use my phone.


Write a good caption

Because it's not just about the picture! Tell us why you thought to take a picture of this moment - what about it speaks to you? Share your unique voice!


It doesn't need to be perfect

I feel like this photo captures our day really well: a little off, with a hungry Therese and John is just a blur.

Yes we're all trying our best to convey something beautiful, but we're not professional photographers! (At least I'm not.) Give it your best shot, but sometimes you are going to be left with options that are blurry, slightly out of focus, or have weird light. Own it! 
I want to see your life the way you see it at your most optimistic. Maybe your light is weird because it is winter wonderland outside and snow does funny things. Tell us about it. Don't let the photography learning curve stop you!


Embrace the ridiculous 

Because sometimes life is just ridiculous. Take for example this shot from the preparations for my daughter's birthday party:

It was terrible. Absolutely horrendous. Wanna talk learning curve? Gluten free baking. It's hard!
When I pulled this result out of the oven, I was at the point of laughing or crying. I chose to laugh, and buy some gluten free bread from a store, and I took this picture of my hard won failure.


Hope you found some of these helpful!
The Advent photo challenge starts on Sunday (same as Advent!).

Get in on the fun by tagging your pictures on Facebook or Instagram with #thezeliegroup, #TZG_photochallenge, and #TZG_advent2016.

If you tag me in your pictures (@underthyroof) I'll be sure to come comment and see how your Advent is going!

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Today we're hoping to have a good meal, give thanks for our many blessings, and manage to have a nice day. I'm going to rush off to sing at mass (BTW, can someone explain why we have official collects for civic holidays? National patron saint feasts I get, but this just seems weird.) before I do that, have some JEI fun with The Zelie Group!

1. Do you have to cook for Thanksgiving? If yes, what’s on the menu? If no, high five!

We have been assigned to bring the yam dish for Thanksgiving dinner with my husband's side of the family who lives about two hours south of us. I'm still trying to develop a taste for for sweet potatoes, but we're bringing this one.

Our big cooking day was really Sunday when we had our friendsgiving (YAMMsgiving with our young adult group). We made turkey, people brought sides, tons of the leftover wine and cheese from Swing Dance the night before. Good company, good food, plenty of drink and plenty of babies - what's not to love?

"Turkey? I eat it in my mouth?"

2. What famous person would you like to invite to your family Thanksgiving?

Easy, the Pope. Specifically, I think it would be fun to invite a couple different Popes. I figure many of them never got to meet each other, nor did they know who the future Pope would be even if they did meet.

I'm thinking Francis, JPII, Leo XIII, Pius X, John XXIII, and Peter.

Everyone but Francis has, probably, already met each other in heaven so what kind of insights would they have? It would be the best Thanksgiving dinner ever!

3. Excluding family, health and basic needs met - what are 3 things that you are thankful for?

That's right, all the safe responses to this question are excluded!

Ok here I go:

Friends who roll with it when I message/text/email/call/accost at a party with something that starts with "hey, crazy idea, but...." So many of the things I do (Swing dance events, liturgical year parties, etc.) start from getting friends on board with my crazy idea. Somehow I have ended up with a lot of introverted friends who can handle my extroverted intensity. When we work together awesome things happen!

A body that is strong and able to keep up with what I ask of it. I've just past one year of being back to dancing, and now I'm adding acting on top of that. I have days that start at 6:45am and end with class or rehearsal getting out between 9pm-10pm most weekdays. It can be hard, but it's what I love to do. I'm so blessed that I can push my mind and body and have it be a reasonable expectation that I will be able to meet my goals.

Part of this is also I'm so grateful to have had encouraging and constructively critical friends, ballet teachers, directors, and fellow dancers and actors who have helped me push myself in helpful ways (and not crash and burn.)

A husband who has worked with me to create a way of living that allows us to pursue our dreams and still have time as a family. It would not be possible for me to go for auditions, attend rehearsals, go to conferences, or ballet class if not for my husband. We've worked it out that he leaves for work early, which gives him time for a run, and allows him to get home about 4:30pm most days. We're able to have an unrushed family dinner and have a good hour and a half, or more, before I have to leave for rehearsal or class. We collaborate to make dinner happen, and I am confident that the kids will be perfectly fine going to bed with him in charge.

Your turn! Answer the week's questions in the comments or link up your own post.

1. Do you have to cook for Thanksgiving?  If yes, what’s on the menu?  If no, high five!
2. What famous person would you like to invite to your family Thanksgiving?
3. Excluding family, health and basic needs met - what are 3 things that you are thankful for?

Next Week we're talking hospitality!
1. What's your go-to "someone's coming over" recipe?
2. You have 5 minutes to tidy before guest arrive. What are your tidying shortcuts?
3. What sort of music sets the mood for the perfect gathering?

In Which I Finally Get Cast!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you've already heard this news, but here it is again, I FINALLY GOT CAST Y'ALL!
After two pretty horrendous theater auditions, third times the charm. I will be playing Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest with Actors Ensemble of Berkeley! We open on January 20th in Berkeley. If you're in the area, you're invited to come see it!

Thursday night was our first read through.

Yes, we're rehearsing in a mattress store. It works surprisingly well.
I cannot say how excited I am to work with a cast where everyone is more experienced than me! I learned in Ballet that it's best to stand by the most talented dancer in class. I, in comparison, will look terrible for a while, but it's the fastest way to pick up those little tips and tricks that are so subtle no one would even think about them. I'm essentially doing that in theater now.

The audition process can be arduous and full of emotional turmoil. I normally go through three stages (so to speak): perseverance, waiting, and doubt.

Perseverance comes in for just getting it together to audition: picking a monologue or song (or both), rehearsing your piece(s), researching the productions, script, characters, production team, theater group, really anything and everything to give me a better idea of what I'm walking into. If I make it to callbacks, those are often long and full of redirections, re-imaginings, and turnarounds.

Then the waiting begins. This is the worst part for me.  It's so hard not to be running the film of the audition in my head about what I did wrong, what I did right, what could be better. I normally take this time to start a new book, pick something I can improve on within a week (like spotting my turns for Ballet), and intentionally do something fun and different (often this means date night!).

Eventually we reach doubt. I'm more Type A then basically everyone else in the performing arts (except ballet people - we seem to share this quirk). I hit my "no one-liked-me-enough-to-even-let-me-know-its-a-no" wall of despair well before it has probably occurred to the casting team to email people. At this point I often start messaging my theater friends about my audition woes, and the conversation always goes something like this:

Me: "I must have been terrible, and they hated me, and what does 'we'll let you know next week' even MEAN on a SUNDAY!!"

Friend: "They'll probably let you know soon. I've had shorter notice when I got a part."

Me: "Oh. Probably. You're right. I'm fine now."

Eventually, the news comes. Up until now that was often bad news so I went and did my usual stuff to deal with rejection. This time is was good news! There was a scramble of texting husband, checking calendars, changing a few plans, and getting to accept a role!

Now I'm throwing myself into specific character building and role research for Cecily. My homework this week is to watch British television (diction study) so I get to watch Downton Abbey and call it work. ;)


Dress (worn as skirt): Kohls
Sweater: stolen from husband's closet
Shoes: Target
Belt: JCPenney 

We Need to Talk About Breastfeeding

Friday, November 18, 2016

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

It's assumed that I breastfeed.

Because obviously, right?

I'm home with the kids, I homeschool, we do NFP and cloth diaper.
I had a homebirth for cryin' out loud!

But....nope. No I don't. And apparently that's a problem.

So much of mom socialization is predicated on breastfeeding. It comes up every where!
Give your baby a bottle while you're out, is that breastmilk?
Note your kid hasn't gotten the cold that's been going around, breastfeeding?
Snuggly toddler, is she still breastfeeding?

It's like a years long game of Pop-Goes-the-Weasel.

I know people are asking the question because they think they know the answer, but that's a stupid assumption y'all.

They don't know about the lactation consultants who noted aspect after aspect that might make breastfeeding a little harder - somehow never taking into account what all of those aspects mean when on a single person.

They weren't there for the holy hell that is PPD aggravated from not sleeping well for weeks on end.

Or when I was trying to convince "supportive" friends and medical practitioners that just telling me I can do this, despite the indications that this was not a good situation, is not support.

Truly they couldn't have known any of that. So why the prying? Why does the subject of breastfeeding come up like a society-wide tic?

Breastfeeding was "covered" in birth classes the same way NFP was "covered" in marriage prep - lightly and full of contradictory messages.
It was emphasized that it would take some learning, but wouldn't be a big deal (it's natural so therefore easy, right?). If you ran into big problems you could just call up a lactation consultant. No biggie.

No considerations for body differences. No counseling about mental health considerations. No awareness of the privilege and money needed to allow for the kind of support that gives a nursing pair a fighting shot at getting a good start.

Come on people, we can do better than this!

Somehow we've managed to convince ourselves that those who don't breastfeed do so because they just don't know any better or are selfish. Perhaps worse is the message that every woman CAN breastfeed if she just tries hard enough.

Just. Try. Harder. The three most unhelpful words ever uttered.
To what level of crazy, sick, stressed, and bleeding do we expect a woman to go before everyone is satisfied she has "tried hard enough"? How dare we make that demand?

When I finally made the decision, with my husband, to stop trying to breastfeed exclusively and finally give our baby formula, I felt like an absolute failure. (You can read in more detail some of the circumstances of our first child's birth in John's birth story.)

My community let me know I was a failure too.
There are no support groups for bottle feeding. In fact, it became apparent that most of the groups for new moms, in my area, were based around breastfeeding - if they existed at all. Ouch.

At first I took it really hard. When those prying questions came up I would find myself suddenly trying to explain to this complete stranger why I made this really intimate decision.
Because if you don't breastfeed than you should at least be apologetic about it.

I finally called myself on it. I wasn't doing anything wrong by feeding my baby formula, and I needed to quit trying to apologize for it.

I'm going to come out as someone who is strongly in the Fed Is Best camp.
I think formula is not second best, but actually truly fine.
Really really. No qualifiers.

And just because this actually came up in real life, my not breastfeeding does not make me unsupportive of you breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is what you want, and it's working for you and your baby, awesome. I'm happy for you. What I don't want is the deification of breastfeeding, and breastmilk, that has become so pervasive in "crunchy" circles.

Breastfeeding is great, but I am never going to encourage a woman to breastfeed at the cost of her mental or physical health. That baby needs a mom more than breastmilk. If a person does not matter more than a bodily fluid, there is something seriously messed up with our priorities.

Here's what I'm proposing:

1. Really teach moms how to breastfeed in prenatal classes (not just why, we're all super good on the reasons why. Trust me, #NormalizeBreastfeeding is well and done on that front.)

2. Empower moms to take the rest they need. Regular check ins (at home!) from a nurse, and productive counseling, prenatally, to plan for postpartum household help.

3. Empower nurses, birth practicers, lactation consultants, etc. to support a mom who might benefit from bottle feeding. So many people saw that breastfeeding was not a good situation for me, yet said nothing because they didn't want to be seen as unsupportive of breastfeeding. I would have been so greatly helped from some kind and gentle support to let me off the hook of breastfeeding pressure.

4. Have mom support that has nothing to do with parenting style or feeding method. Please. Believe it or not, you might find there is more to being a mom then milk.

5. Please stop spreading the click bait "science" articles. I know you are just SO EXCITED to share that your breast milk might make your kid baby Einstein, but look a little harder at what that "study" actually encompassed before you share. We all learned the basics for telling if something is good science back in grade school, so we can totally do this one y'all!

6. If you're a mom, make an effort to be real friends with someone who parents/feeds/etc. different from you. Everyone feels like the world is judging them about something in those early parenting months, and it can mean the world for another mom to reach out despite our differences.

7. When in doubt, ask moms about THEMSELVES. Seriously, treat a mom like a regular adult and you might actually have a nice conversation. I think a lot of the isolation I experienced the first few years was compounded by how little anyone wanted to ask about my life beyond my baby.

I'm writing all of this down, and putting it on the internet, because when I searched google in those deep dark days hoping to find someone, ANYONE, who was feeling the things I was I found nothing. 
If you landed here because breastfeeding is not working for you, know you are not alone! 
If you're here because you want to help someone who is struggling with breastfeeding, thanks for being an awesome person!
If you're here to leave a "Breast Is Best" comment.....bless your heart.

Vintage Style? - A (Sort Of) Fashionable JEI

Thursday, November 17, 2016

This week we're talking Fashion with The Zelie Group for JEI (Just Enough Info). I'm covering my favorite fashion era, the evolution of my fashion taste and my thoughts on vintage styling.

1. If you had to wear the clothes from another time period, when would it be?

The 40s or 50s. Those eras have cuts, patterns, and style that are what I generally pick out and that work for my body type.
Seriously, if I had an excuse to wear a dress like this I would do it in a heartbeat!
After wearing all dresses and skirts for many years now, I can say with confidence that I can take care of toddlers, do heavy cleaning, and any other tasks needed, in a skirt. Something that hits my knee, or lower, is my ideal length for feeling comfortable and confident - which just so happens to be the typical lengths of dresses in the 40s and 50s.

I do not own any true vintage pieces, but have had success looking for vintage inspired pieces in mainstream stores. For example, this is the swimsuit I currently own and found at Target.

This was at our rehearsal dinner. This dress has the look and feel of vintage but I found it at Ross for $12.
I do have some vintage jewelry I've inherited from relatives, and I'm working on wearing jewelry more regularly. I will occasionally try to style my hair in a vintage style, but I have long thick hair and sooner or later it's going to end up in a bun.

It is one of my guilty pleasures to watch Youtube channels of people are are into wearing vintage clothing and doing the whole vintage lifestyle. I don't think I really want to start my own vintage collection or anything, but I like their idea that you can have a little daily glamour in your life..

2. What are you embarrassed that you wore but used to think was cool?

This seems to imply I needed to have done cool things before.

Embarrassing things I've got loads of! But I didn't think they looked I cool (even then), I thought they were practical.
In middle school my uniform consisted of: running shoes, jeans (badly fitting), and one of my many A&M Vet or 4-H t-shirts. Eventually I discovered that wearing broomstick skirts and hippy skirts made it faster and easier to change and be comfortable going between classes, dance, and theater rehearsals. My feet were in far worse shape in high school, so I wore a lot of flip flops purely because anything more than that touching my feet hurt too bad.

It took most of high school and college to figure out what my true personal preferences were regarding style, color, and cut. I have never been particularly good at following trends and fads closely, I prefer to adapt what I have to echo trends without being too trendy. That has helped keep my clothing budget low, and allowed me to keep wearing pieces for years without fear of looking too dated.

3. What's your favorite article of clothing in your closet right now?

Maxi skirts!

Weirdly enough, I don't often wear them as maxi skirts. I'll pull them higher or lower to create different skirt lengths and silhouettes. 

I love these on days when I have long rehearsals or ballet class. They're easy to layer over my tights and leotard. I can pull them higher, add a belt and heels for more of an evening outfit. Sandals for a casual day outfit. They're one of the most comfortable things to wear on an airplane, but I'm not embarrassed to go straight to dinner in them.

Work horses of my wardrobe. Love 'em!


Your turn! Answer the questions in your own post or in the comments!

1. If you had to wear the clothes from another time period, when would it be?
2. What are you embarrassed that you wore but used to think was cool?
3. What's your favorite article of clothing in your closet right now?

Next week we're talking about Thanksgiving!
1. Do you have to cook for Thanksgiving?  If yes, what’s on the menu?  If no, high five!
2. What famous person would you like to invite to your family Thanksgiving?
3. Excluding family, health and basic needs met - what are 3 things that you are thankful for?

Thoughts on Vocations from a Wannabe Nun Called to Marriage

Sunday, November 13, 2016

This past week was Vocations Awareness Week. I hope you enjoyed hearing the stories of a few of the men who have answered the call to the religious life.

In a few of Jacob's posts, from the For the Love of the Church series, he touches on an often misunderstood aspect of vocation discernment - that feeling attracted to a vocation does not necessarily mean it is your vocation. Nor does choosing one vocation mean that you are not attracted to another or would have not have been fabulous in it.

While Jacob will soon become a priest after having been very attached and attracted to the idea of being a husband and physical father, I followed the opposite route. I was very attracted to the idea of religious life and living in community, but am called to be a wife and mother.
As a teen, I went on vocations retreats, come and see events, and stayed in contact with an order of sisters with a motherhouse nearby. I stayed with them a few summers, and I absolutely loved living in convent.

The life of a sister was very appealing to me: the predictability, the shared commitment to making life in community work with women from very different backgrounds, learning to say the Divine Office and chant, and the dedicated times to work, study, prayer, and play. The instant closeness to the other girls in discernment and the support of the older sisters was very comforting.

But it wasn't for me.

I think I knew it for a long time before I accepted it's truth - I was not called to the religious life.
I loved the religious life.
I would have been happy as a religious.
I still see the religious life as very beautiful and needed in this world, but it was not the way I was supposed to serve my purpose in this life.

The realization came during adoration. A fitting time. Adoration is when we are simply to sit and be with the physical presence of Jesus. It's harder than it sounds. You can read more about that experience here, but from that moment on I had to accept what God was telling me and it was not to become a sister.

Essentially, Jesus broke up with me. Gently, but yeah that happened.
I was ready to jump into this vocation and embrace the whole shebang, and Jesus had to say, "Thanks but no thanks. Your job lies elsewhere."

I knew it was true. I knew he was right. But I wasn't happy about any of it.
Ya know, like a normal break up.
Except in this break up your ex is literally perfect and you kind of have to continue to have a relationship with him for the rest of your life. It's tricky like that.

There is a real grieving process to go through after letting go of a hope, a dream, or a relationship. The discernment process, just like a relationship, is never just you two in isolation - it is full of advisors, supporters, detractors, and friends you made along the way. Coming to a decision in discernment means your relationship with those people, and with the object of your discernment, will never be the same.

Our true vocations may not be the ones we would have first picked out for ourselves, and might even be the opposite of our natural inclinations. In my current season of life, I am on my own to create any structure I want to have, to motivate myself to find purpose without the guidance of a community charism, and I have to do it with, what feels like constant, discernment. I feel like my current vocation is the harder option for me, and because of that is probably the better "halo-polishing" option too.

The men I know who are or will be priests, they would have been great husbands and fathers. I have no doubt about it. But it is because they would make great fathers, they will be just that much better at becoming Fathers. I hope that my experience seeking a religious vocation has helped me be a better wife and mother too.


Here's My Sunday Best!

Dress: Kohls
Shoes: Payless
Sweater: Target
Veil: Veils By Lily

Meet RJ, S.J.! - {Vocations Awareness Week}

Friday, November 11, 2016

This week is National Vocations Awareness Week. I'm celebrating by sharing the stories of some of my friends who have answered the call to the religious life. Here's an overview about the week.

Today we're meeting R.J - newly ordained deacon, midwest guy, who also happens to be my swing dance partner!

The first thing to know about me is that I didn’t grow up Catholic. That’s right, I’m a convert. I grew up in a “culturally Christian” home, that is to say, that my family celebrated Christmas and Easter and I would say I was raised with very Christian values. While my family was never opposed to religion, going to church was never an essential component in my family’s life. Yet, I was always very fascinated with religion and God.

In third grade I decided I wanted to go with some friends to their church and see what it was all about. Mainly, I wanted to know where they were going every Sunday for several hours on end and why we couldn’t hang out. They assured me that they were going to something called “Sunday School” and that it was fun and I should come with them to check it out. That’s where I learned about accepting Jesus into my heart. There are a lot of details that have faded due to the passing of time, but what remains is this strong sense of peace I felt when I started to learned about Jesus and how powerful it felt to belong to something special I could take with me everywhere I went. So, with the desire to accept Jesus in my heart I was baptized in third grade.

I don’t intend to highlight every single event in my spiritual journey in this brief essay, but I use this event to highlight what St. Ignatius of Loyola would call a touchstone moment. These moments serve as anchors in our spiritual journey. They are moments that we often only recognize with prayer and reflection, and they are those moments where we are absolutely certain that God’s grace is operational. For me, this moment is not only important because it would serve as the moment of my Baptism, that would take more reflection at a later age, but because it serves as such a powerful stance to take in the world—to let Jesus into my heart and be open to the grace that follows. I’ve never regretted the decision of my third grade self, even if I didn’t completely understand what that would mean for the rest of my life.

 Here I am relaxing at the crisis center where I worked as a social worker.
A second touchstone moment comes with completing the RCIA process and being received into the Catholic Church. By the time I was a senior in high school, having spiritual conversations with my friends was a regular fixture of my life. I was and am blessed to have friends from a wide array of Christian denominations. We didn’t always agree, but we did love each other. I can clearly remember conversations ranging from some aspect of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians to discussions on the Rapture to questions concerning why Jesus’ words are recorded differently in the four Gospels. By the end of my junior year of high school, through these conversations and prayer, I felt called to be in full communion with the Catholic Church. This highlights a second essential element of discernment, spiritual conversation. Prayer is never a solitary experience; after all, prayer is our way of communicating with a Triune God who loves us unconditionally. Moreover, to assume that I could have made sense of my world and prayer at that time all by myself is humorous at its best and dangerous at its worst.

It would also be about this time that I would discover two of my greatest passions: Swing Dancing and Social Work. Swing dancing all started my sophomore year when my high school put on a school musical, which was essentially a medley of musical numbers from all across the spectrum. I was cast in a swing dance number featuring Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood.” It was an East Coast Swing routine with aerial stunts and I was hooked. It didn’t stay there, of course. By the time I was in college I was going to Swing Dancing Clubs twice a week and teaching on the side to have some spare cash. I loved dancing, but I loved sharing that passion with others almost as much, maybe more.

Here I am teaching Swing Dance with the young adults last February. Another one is coming up next week!
My passion for Social Work started before my freshman year of college when I saw a poster at a department fair at summer orientation that described “You’ll need a Social Worker when…” The poster started with those words in large bold letters and then proceeds to describe a wide array of situation where people find themselves in need of a social worker. I knew that I had A LOT of help and support getting to college and it was at that moment that I knew I had to do that; I had to be a social worker.  I don’t remember if I said out loud at that moment that I was going to be a social worker, but it didn’t take long for me to put that into action. Just before it was time for me to register for my second semester of college I was in the office of the School of Social Work and by the time I left I had my college road map all laid out before me. I share these two anecdotes to bring up a third important element in discernment: desire. These seemingly unrelated stories actually stem from the same desire, the passion for being with and serving others.

 It was a similar sign to this one. I was taken by how often social workers could be involved in people's' lives.
So how does becoming a Jesuit priest fit into all of this? Simple, these three elements: recognizing and reflecting on our touchstone events, having spiritual conversations with others (including prayer), and recognizing our desires, are not static one-time events. They are dynamic events and moments that continue to shape our lives the more reflect upon them and pray with them. A year after graduating college I began to feel like there was some more to what I had been called to do with my life. God was calling me to something deeper. I loved what I was doing very much. I was a social worker for a youth shelter working with an amazing team of people. I had a car, a roof over my head, a nice TV/Stereo system, and an Xbox. In an effort to understand this feeling I turned to those things that had helped me in the past, which ultimately led me to asking, “God, what do YOU want me to do?” I reflected on where I was certain of God’s grace acting in my life, both at that time and in my past. I prayed and had conversations with friends and family about what I thought God was placing in my heart and I listened to their responses. I got better at trying to name what desires I felt and how God might best call me to answer those desires.

 In addition to Swing Dancing and Social Work, I loved coaching high school football. Here's one such coaching moment from my phase of formation just before theology studies.
Then, one night, after prayer I sat up in bed and it was as though the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I realized that God had been putting the answer in front of me for some time in some of the people that I had been taking to about these desires. God was calling me to be a priest. But being only a few years a Catholic I had no idea where to start, so I did what I thought was the most sensible thing at the time. I Googled the word ‘vocation’ and went through the results emailing the vocation directors one by one. Fortunately for me, the ones who would contact me first (the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis and the Jesuits) decided I should go on a discernment retreat that summer. Independent of each other, they sent me on the same retreat.

What do novices in Minnesota do when it snows? They go sledding, of course.
This would start me on the path of discerning the Society of Jesus as the path toward serving the world. This journey has certainly had its share of bumps, moments of confusion, wrong turns, and uncertainty. But they’ve been made smooth through the process of reflecting on my touchstone moments, recalling those moments where God’s grace and my relationship with Jesus were at their closest. I have navigated the churning waters by being in conversation with good friends and family, with priests and religious, and with God. I would not be where I am today without any one of those essential people. I have found hope and consolation in naming my desires and reflecting upon them with God and those listed above.

On October 22, 2016 I was ordained to the transitional diaconate. With God’s grace, I’ll be ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Society of Jesus in June of 2017. I still swing dance, and love it. I am incredibly grateful for my social work training and those I’ve been privileged to encounter along the way. I am indebted to my friends and family for their love and support. And I’m amazed by our wonderful God who has always been with me, as my third grade self proclaimed after baptism, “I have Jesus in my heart.”

Here I am receiving the Book of the Gospels as part of the ordination rite. The bishop tells us to: Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.
Hope you've enjoyed this series! Make sure to check out David and Bro. Victor's stories, and Jacob's For the Love of the Church series:

The Challenges of Mercy - {JEI}

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Linking up with The Zelie Group for JEI (Just Enough Info)!

1. What did (or can in these last few weeks!) your family do to mark the year? What are you thankful for?

We attended the opening of our diocese Holy Door last year. It was a long mass, but the kids got to come and actually did ok. We are parishioners at a Dominican parish and this Year of Mercy happened to coincide with the Dominican 800th Jubilee. A very blessed year in our neck 'o the woods!

I'm thankful for all of the opportunities that have come up in the past year, and especially for all the people who have come into my life. There have been people I have met in very unlikely circumstances, people who have stretched to meet me where I am, and people who I only met for the length of a conversation but that conversation planted deep roots.

2. What Work of Mercy is easiest or most challenging for you?

Most challenging for me: Bear Wrongs Patiently.

My family has a term for when you need to muster up your courage and insist that people pay attention and do what you need - "getting your Kirby on".
Believe it or not, I was a bit of a shy kid...until you crossed me. Then I had no problem getting in your face about it. It's a personality trait that has served me well in many a hairy situation, but I've had to work hard to learn how to let some wrongs work themselves out. Not all things are best served by putting your foot down. I'm not there yet, but I keep trying!

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are particularly challenging for me because they are internal works - the shaping and polishing those inner inclinations. They are works that show compassion, and are often uncomfortable and a challenge for discernment. Are you instructing your sister in mercy or being holier than thou? Are you showing the mercy of forgiveness externally while letting yourself seethe inside? Are you giving merciful comfort or enabling? These situations are not clear and have to be approached with prayerful consideration of the situation and of your own motivations.

Christianity isn't easy, but it is full of opportunity for growth! Thus I don't really have a Work of Mercy I don't struggle with in some way.

3. Do you have a story of mercy in your own life to share?  Or do you have a favorite saint/quote/resource to pass along?

Not really a single big story, but many many small ones.

My husband has probably managed to show me all seven of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and more than a few of the Corporal Works of Mercy. I've sung his praises before, but he's a pretty awesome guy when it comes to showing mercy. I have much to learn from him!

I have this quote from St. Catherine of Siena on my dresser. These are the words I think about as I get ready for the day, whatever it brings. It is a reminder of what the fullness of mercy can do.

We received these prints from our Setting the World on Fire Conference last September, but you can find it in the Hatch Prints etsy shop if you want your own!


Your turn! Answer the questions in the comments or link up a blog post!
Here they are again:
1. What did you do (or can in these last few weeks!) to mark the year?
2. What Work of Mercy is easiest or most challenging for you?
3. Do you have a story of mercy in your own life to share? Or do you have a favourite saint/quote/resource about mercy to pass along?

Next week we're talking clothing:
1. If you had to wear the clothes from another time period, when would it be?
2. What are you embarrassed that you wore but used to think was cool?
3. What's your favorite article of clothing in your closet right now?

Meet Bro. Victor Taglianetti - {Vocations Awareness Week}

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This week is National Vocations Awareness Week. I'm celebrating by sharing the stories of some of my friends who have answered the call to the religious life. Here's an overview about the week.

Today we're meeting Bro. Victor! Capuchin, rapper, and all around cool guy.

I was born to two Catholic parents who, thanks be to God, are still married to this day. They raised me in the Catholic faith and educated me in the faith as best they could, by teaching me at home and furthering that education by enrolling me in Catechism and CCD classes at our local parish in Southern California. Thanks to their efforts, as well as my Godmother’s and of course by the grace of God, I felt that I had a great love for God at a young age.

However, as I got older, things began to change as a series of events slowly depleted my love for my Creator and ultimately shaped me into an atheist by the time I was 1 8. Being a victim of bullying in middle school, followed many self-perceived “failures” on my end, coupled with conflicts with my peers in high school and adopting a more “scientific method mindset,” were just some of the problems that I encountered in my youth. To briefly expound further on a few of these issues, I always have had the tendency to be a perfectionist. Starting as a young child, I would strive to be the best in everything that I participated in. In high school, there were many instances in which I got a taste of the real world, and didn’t meet the expectations that I set for myself. I was used to being at the top in academics and sports throughout my life, and I wasn’t meeting those standards anymore. At that time, I had the incorrect idea that “one gets what he/she deserves.” In my mind at the time, I felt that I was a good student, a good athlete, a good, son, and a good person, and I was doing everything that I was supposed to be doing. It didn’t make sense that I was “failing” and that I wasn’t getting anything that I wanted. I saw other kids, who seemed very happy with their life. They had the popularity, a plethora of friends, and the girl on their shoulder, yet in my mind, they were bad students, bad people, etc. I thought to myself, “Why are they getting what they want, and why aren’t I?”

While this was happening I became very influenced by what I was learning through various facets. I became infatuated with science, especially with the scientific method. One important aspect of the method is that in order to prove something, you must have evidence. You must be able to measure it or observe it in some way. Because I figured that one could not scientifically observe or measure God, God could not exist. These events as well as others ultimately led to me losing my faith in God, and becoming an atheist in the summer after graduating from High School.

When I entered college, I decided that I was going to change, so that I could get those things that I wanted. The change didn’t happen immediately, but rather over a progression of years, but I literally became a new person. I stopped going to Mass, began to hang out with a different crowd, and immersed myself in the party scene in college. I began to live a life full of sin and debauchery, as I “messed” around with women, and abused alcohol and drugs. At the end of my 4 years in college, I felt surprisingly very sad with my life. I couldn’t understand how I could be sad with everything I thought would make me happy. I had a degree, a car, friends and popularity, etc. Despite having all these things, I was empty inside and was longing for something else. That something else was God, but I did not know it at the time.

A few months later, I was back at home with my parents and still very sad with my life. It was Christmas Eve, and my family wanted to attend Midnight Mass. For some reason, which I can only explain as a pull from the Holy Spirit, I decided to join them. During Mass, the priest, Fr. Pat Kirsch, was giving a homily and he showed the congregation a quilt that some of the parishioners had made for him out of pieces of clothing that his deceased mother had once worn. I remembered that he would always talk fondly about his mom, and I just saw how beautiful of a gift it was for him. The expression of love from the parishioners was amazing, and I wanted to come back to Church to be a part of a loving community like that, something that I didn’t’ experience with the type of people I surrounded myself with. But I knew that I couldn’t come back because I couldn’t get around the fact that I didn’t believe that God existed.

Four days later on December 29th, 2010, I was at my friend’s apartment watching a movie. Out of nowhere, my entire body became paralyzed, and I heard a voice of great power and thunder and it said, “Why have you abandoned Me?!?!” It was very strange, for even before the words were spoken, I knew that it was the voice of God, for in scripture it says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me,” (Jn 1 0:27) and “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” (Jn 1 0:1 4). After that experience, I began to realize that God was always there for me, that He had never abandoned me, but it was I who had abandoned Him. I realized God’s infinite love and mercy, that He would do anything to bring one of His lost sheep back to Him. I had done absolutely nothing to earn this gift from God. Rather, it was His own free gift to me. I knew that God would do the same for any one of His children, not necessarily in the same way, but that He is continually searching for us.

After that experience, I came back to church, began to pray frequently, read the Bible often, and eventually received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After some more time and more experiences, I wanted to give my life to God for what He had done for me. I felt His call very strongly and began discerning a vocation to the priesthood and religious life. After months of discerning, I applied with the Capuchins of the Western America Province, and was accepted in May of 2011. My formation in this order has been a great blessing, and I hope to continue to share God’s mercy with those I encounter in the future.

Check back Friday for RJ's story!

Library Haul - Vocations Edition!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Linking up with Sweeping Up Joy for Library Haul!

I thought it would be fun to get some kids books relating to vocations this week (since it is National Vocations Awareness Week and all.) But I had somehow never noticed just how few books relating to Christianity are at my library.
So I widened it to saint stories.
Which widened to Christian holiday stories.
Which lead to grab-everything-remotely-and-I-mean-REMOTELY- related-to-the-Church!

Here's what I found.

I missed one book when taking this shot. But you get the sad idea...
With my super generous criteria I found a grand total of.....seven.  

This wouldn't be so bad if there were not a full 2.5 shelves of books about Judaism, and 1.5 for Islam (and we're only talking the children's section here).  I'm going to assume this was not an oversight, but the result of those communities being better about requesting book purchases. 
So I'm taking all the suggestions! Leave your favorite picture books for Catholic kids suggestions in the comments!

Here's what we have right now:

These are both very wordy, but have the benefit of beautiful illustrations.

This is one of the few technically Christmas books that made my cut. They needed to focus primarily on the religious person, their story of coming to that life, and maybe something cool about them.
St. Francis loved the image of the Holy Family so much that he invented the Nativity scene. We'll probably get this one again when setting up our Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Set during Advent.

Two different books about Pope Francis!
No other popes, but I'll take it!
Because the National Geographic kids book is a level one reader, it includes a bunch of phonetic spellings that John found hilarious. Namely: priest (preest), seminary (SEM-uh-ner-ee), and Jesuits (JEH-zoo-its). They found a lot of good photos of young Jorge Bergoglio too.

These turned out to be some of the best of the lot from a vocations standpoint.

This is one that barely made the cut, but came home because it was a cool concept and had nice illustrations. It's each of the Beatitudes, with multiple little pictures on each page demonstrating how you might show that Beatitude. It has very few words, but lots of opportunity for exploratory discussion with little kids. Even Therese was into this one.
For a vocations specific talk, you might focus on different orders or works that reflect that particular Beatitude.

This book is pretty hardcore Catholic, and I was honestly surprised (pleasantly) to find it at my library branch. I do love nice surprises!
While it is long and wordy, it depicts the founder of so much of the monastic tradition in a very human light. He had a sister he deeply loved. He didn't always relate to people in the most loving way- spending years learning to be "more kind than strict". I love St. Scholastica's line, "Isn't it funny, Brother, that you had to travel all over Italy to learn some of the things that I discovered by staying in one place!"

Help me out! What kids books do you love, that I can request for my library, to help expand the selection beyond these and CHRISTMAS! (Because that's what we're working with right now....)

Meet David, S.J. - {Vocations Awareness Week}

Monday, November 7, 2016

This week is National Vocations Awareness Week. I'm celebrating by sharing the stories of some of my friends who have answered the call to the religious life. Here's an overview about the week.

First up is David, S.J. whom we refer to as "David the Jesuit" around the parish. He's currently our parish's deacon, Faith Formation chair for the Young Adults, and runs the RCIA program. Last year he ran the Drama program at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco.
He wins the award as youngest-entering Jesuit I've ever met (entered at 19).
Let's hear him!

Growing up, my family was a fairly typical Catholic family-- we went to Mass every Sunday, my sisters and I went to CCD every week, and my mom was involved in the church choir. For high school, I went to the Jesuit high school in Houston. Up until my junior year of high school, I was strongly considering a career as a Naval officer, and thought about having a large family. I have a lot of family members who are in the Navy, and a strong desire to join them in that work. Now and again during my junior and senior year of high school, I remember having thoughts of being a priest, but I would usually quickly swat them out of my head, either by reminding myself that I wanted to join the Navy and have a family, or by telling myself that only really holy people joined the priesthood.

The same respect and admiration I felt towards the Naval officers in my family, I was slowly but surely starting to feel for the priests and brothers who worked at my high school. One moment in particular that stood out for me was how one of the priests was supposed to come and join us for part of our senior year retreat, but was called away to be with a student's mom in the hospital and give her Anointing of the Sick. That ability to just drop everything to be with someone and administer the sacraments to a person in a time of great need stayed with me long after the retreat had ended.

Around March of my senior year, I remember talking with a friend of mine from my sister school (Strake Jesuit in Houston is all-boys, so we collaborated with the all-girls Dominican high school for lot of things) who I did theatre with, and telling her about how these thoughts kept on popping into my head, but I was still pretty set on getting a commission in the Navy. She then asked me point blank why I didn't consider becoming a priest, and I had no answer, so I decided I would at least look into it. I was generally attracted to community life, so almost from the start I decided that I wanted to join an order rather than the diocese. I had recently discovered Thomas Aquinas, so I looked into the Dominicans. I had heard that the Passionists did a fair bit as military chaplains, so I looked at them, but nothing was really sticking. Deciding that I had done due diligence, I decided to go to the Jesuit website and learn more about the Jesuit vocation. I remember as I was reading about the typical ministries of Jesuits, when I came across "teaching catechism to boys," there was sort of a "eureka" moment. What I wanted to do as a priest and what the Jesuits did just seemed to click, and I realized "aha! Yes! That's what I want to be!" The intellectual rigor of Jesuit formation really appealed to me, and the opportunity to share the fruits of that study in education was likewise exciting.

I'm in the back row, 2nd from the right. The woman who suggested I should think about becoming a priest is the young woman with the glasses in the front row, third from the right.
When I got in touch with the vocations director for the Jesuits, it was too late in the year for me to start an application process, so he suggested I go to Texas A&M as I had been planning and think about applying during my freshman year. I still remember praying about what I should do in a small Catholic church on an island in coastal Georgia where my mom's family gathered every year, thinking about when I should apply--if I should try to enter the Jesuits after my freshman year, wait and finish college, or go through the Corps of Cadets at A&M, get a commission, and get the Navy bug out of my system. Weighing my options, as I thought about entering the novitiate after my freshman year, I began to ask what the worst thing could be if I entered, found it wasn't for me, and left--I would have a great spiritual foundation, met some people, and had some really good experiences. Suddenly, I felt a great peace about applying to the Jesuits-- though I reminded God that if it wasn't what He wanted, a rejection letter would be pretty helpful.

 My arrival at the novitiate on 14 Aug 05. The man in the goatee is Fr. Billy Huete, S.J., my novice master.
My year at A&M is something I'll always cherish, and there are people I am still very close to from my time there. But as good as it was, I knew that the Jesuits were where I needed to be. When I entered in 2005, there were eleven of us in my class, and four of us were teenagers--two guys who had entered right out of high school (the same Jesuit high school I went to, in fact), and one other who had entered after a year of college. We ranged in age from 18 to mid-40s (a diocesan priest who wanted to explore whether he had a vocation as a Jesuit priest), but our novice master, Fr. Huete, emphasized that no matter where we came from, we were all novices and all there to learn about what it meant to be a Jesuit. The youngest and oldest still needed to do the same chores, and still needed to learn how to pray and live as Jesuits. Everyone's prior experience was respected and utilized, we were all still very much in the same boat, and I never once felt isolated from any of my fellow novices, no matter what their age.

2007, the moment I took vows. For the Jesuits, the provincial places the Eucharist before the vovendus, and he pronounces his vows directly to the Lord.

My novice master entered right out of high school, and as he put it, "there's a grace to growing up as a Jesuit"--that is, to entering the Jesuits before you've completely entered adulthood. There's less to unlearn, as so everything has a great chance to sink in and really become second nature. Going through the early stages of Jesuit formation and figuring out where God was calling me while my identity was still taking shape meant that the Jesuits were really able to shape my identity and who I am in a significant way.

I never stopped being "David," but I did very much become "David, S.J." If I had entered a little later, that Jesuit part of me would have had to compete with the other parts, and grab hold in a different way. St. Paul says that Jesus came "in the fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4)--the Incarnation wasn't just a matter of Jesus coming down, but coming down at a specific time and place. God didn't just call me to enter the Jesuits by telling me "enter any old time you please," but called me to enter at a specific time, and made it clear that this was the time I should apply to enter. That experience of peace I had about entering after my freshman year simply wasn't there when I considered the other two possibilities. Who we are and the stories we tell about our lives are constantly in formation--I'm forever grateful that I was able to enter the Jesuits as young as I was, and to begin to make my Jesuit vocation part of my story and identity "in the fullness of time"--just as soon as I knew when I was called to be a Jesuit.

The moment of Ordination to the transitional diaconate last month.
Check back on Wednesday for Br. Victor's story!

It's Call Back Day!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Really it's a lot of things today, but I'm perhaps most excited about call backs for the Importance of Being Earnest this afternoon!

It's my first call back since starting to audition again.
We're talking the first time since high school.

Some of you might recall how my first audition went....

And a lot of this:

But third time's a charm!

If I go through and get cast, awesome. I adore British humor and this script is chock full of the good stuff.
If not, at least I got further along in this process than I have done thus far.



Dress: Kohls
Shoes: Payless
Headband: Actually a magnetic necklace!

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