Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year and All That!

Although it may seem like shameless self-promotion to post a list of my Top 10 posts for the year instead of a thoughtful list of resolutions, a poignant review of 2011's events, or an awesomely gruesome martyr to inspire you to buck-thyself-up-at-least-you-have-skin, I assure you the underlying sin here is Sloth and not Pride. It's 6 a.m., I have been up since 3, and I haven't had enough coffee yet to fully activate the Oh Whoot! It's New Year's Eve! portion of my brain. It is only mildly conscious of that fact and that I owe you, my faithful readers, something to read while avoiding the relentless sales ads and the weekend's To Do List. I am motivated just enough generate a paragraph and a few links. Please forgive me.

Bartholomew: Patron Saint of "It Could Be Worse"

Top 10 Garden of Holiness Posts for 2011
Compiled Entirely by Blogger
And Brought to You
With the Least Effort Humanly Possible
By Your Friendly Neighborhood Coffee Swiller

#10 A Challenge

But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting

#9 A Recipe! No kidding!

Heavenly Humbling Homemade Olive Oil Mayo

#8 Of Course Sex Makes the List
Make Love, Not Idols

#7 Judging is Fun! 

Secular judgmentalism! New and improved!

#6 A More Worldly Perspective

Population Control - The Kenyan (and Zimbabwean) Perspective

#5 Getting Our Girl On!
The Wardrobe Project: Shop For Your Pear Shape

#4 Teaching Social Skills
Shy or Stuck Up?

#3 Getting Girly Again! (Skip to #2, fellas)
The Wardrobe Project: Shop Your Hourglass

#2 Written by a Really Cool Guy
(Girls Allowed)

Guest Blogger: A Catholic Becomes Catholic


And the Big Surprise is...

Sex is #1!
Why Sex is Complicated

Friday, December 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Gifts

Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday 

1  While fixing him a bedtime snack, my oldest, age 8, asked me what my favorite gift was this Christmas. While I pondered a bit, he chimed in with, "Friends and family were mine. Those are the best." You got that right, kiddo.

2  Another favorite: Ages ago I worked on a family ranch with range land and almond orchards. I mostly piddled in irrigation work, sucker snipping, trash patrol along the roads, and fencing. Well, the orchards are long past their expiration date. Some have already been replaced. The last one, it seems, is coming down this year. When I go home for a visit, the trees I walked and worked in will all be gone. But my sister sent me the coolest Christmas ornament, made of the heartwood of an almond tree that was felled in the wind and rain this year. So those orchards won't all be gone. I can visit them every year.

3  When not renovating the house, I have been playing in frosting. I graciously received a cake decorating kit to make up for November's spider cake decorating disaster

"Those sure are scary looking teeth, honey!" 
"Those are eyes." 
"That's even scarier." 
"You can stop now."
"Are there legs on this spider?"
The Miss Paula herself!
 4  Speaking of disasters, The New York Times is out trolling for Internet hits by disparaging Southern Cooking and Paula Deen. (Seriously, Paula Deen?) Let them eat their black eyed pea hummus on their side of the Mason Dixon. More chicken fried steak for the rest of us!

5  And speaking of Southern and Paula Deen, there is a tradition here in the South of eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day. It's supposed to bring you luck, but frankly, any day with black eyed peas on the menu is lucky. This is Miss Paula's recipe we'll be using.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

  • Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 min
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients Add to grocery list

3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced green onions
1 large tomato, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley leaves
3 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme and oregano leaves mixed



In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar and vinegar.
In a large bowl mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour dressing on top of salad and mix well.

6  It is so hard to believe that this year is over. It's also hard to believe we are still not in our house, but slowly and surely we are making progress. We put in some temporary stairs, so anyone who'd like to come by for a tour, call me!

7  Have a blessed and a safe New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just in case

Admit it, he's smarter than you.
Have you ever heard the phrase, "No one was ever converted with an argument"? I know I wasn't. You could have reasoned, screamed, or bribed me, and I would have tossed Christianity aside out of sheer habit. Don't get me wrong here, there were seeds planted all around me, but no one incident or person converted me. 

Well, other than Christ.

Just know it wasn't any one human person. 

Well, again, other than Christ, who is an exceptional person with that dual nature of His. 

Gah! I am so not cut out for this kind of stuff. You know what, how about we assume that in any given conversion, the cause of it wasn't you, and it won't be you because it's always Him?

Don't take me wrong here. Even Thomas Aquinas realized his vast knowledge didn't even scratch the surface of Truth. After his glimpse of Heaven, he was ready to trash The Summa as woefully inadequate. So even the best apologists among us is merely "budding." Take care that you don't let your pride trick you into thinking that if you just keep at a person, they'll convert. Sure, take the opportunities as they arise, but your best efforts will be when you aren't even aware of them. Let your life feed your compassion for others, both your joys and your sorrows; let your understanding that you live for Someone else shine like a beacon from your every action and God will do His work through you. That's tougher than it sounds, but that's God's way. If you go your way, you get in the way. Don't make Him have to work around you.

All I'm saying is be humble. Listen. Pray. Be careful. That's a delicate seedling there, that slow conversion of a soul.

P.S. But just in case we're all wrong about the whole "You can't earn your way to Heaven" thing, would you please comment below if this blog has converted you? I'm feeling the need for extra credit.
Aw dang

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wishing You a Blessed Christmas

When Heaven Met Earth
All Creation Rejoiced

Peace, Peace, and Blessed Peace
Be Yours

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I have a confession to make

I haven't made this in six years...
About 15 years ago, a Jewish family introduced me to this bread and told me how to braid it. My first attempt met with their approval and so this beautiful bread has graced my table every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas since before I was even married. Except the last six.

What happened was that six years ago I gave this bread as a Christmas gift to a person whose family refused to eat it because it was a Jewish bread, and she called to be sure I knew all about it. Understand that if my family was so odd as to reject Jewish bread on the day we were celebrating the birth of the most famous Jew of all, the person all Christians consider the Jewish Messiah, Christ Himself, I would have been silenced by the irony. Understand further that simple good manners would also have kept me mum. Also know that due to my weaknesses of character, I was equally outraged by both outrages. I don't know why bigotry did not trump rudeness in this instance, but apparently it didn't.

For six years it didn't. I did not even want to think about that phone call, so I didn't. Even to the point of not thinking about the bread. It was a forgiveness problem. If I had done the simplest examination of conscience shortly after hanging up the phone, my girls (six and under) would have memories of attempting to knead and braid this bread. They would have mastered the egg yolk painting of dough. My oldest girl, now six herself, would be ready to braid her own little loaf. They watched me, today, and they painted. This Easter, they will braid and mangle their own little loaves.

I must say that I am ready to forgive, now that I am aware that I hadn't. Challah once again graced our Christmas table. It was fun teaching my kids to get a nice spitty gutteral "chka" going. I don't feel very forgiving, but I have decided to forgive. I well know that forgiveness is more an act of the will than an emotion. My emotions may never quite catch up to me on this one, but if you ever read this and recognize yourself, you have been forgiven. We're good here.

I was almost Jewish before I was Catholic. I was also almost Mormon. If it hadn't been for God intervening, I don't know which I would have picked. Either way, traditions in all three have a soft spot in my heart and a place at my table.

This recipe and my humble awareness of my brand of silly is my gift to all of you...

Braided Bread

1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups scalding milk (almost boiling)
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
5 eggs
11 cups flour
1 egg

Step 1: Combine yeast and warm water in large mixing bowl and set aside to proof.

Step 2: Scald milk, then add sugar, butter, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Cool to 110 degrees (Warm to touch).

Step 3: In a small bowl, beat 5 eggs. Add to cooled milk mixture. If the yeast mixture has bubbles forming, add the milk mixture to the yeast mixture. (If the yeast has not bubbled, reproof another mixture of yeast and warm water). Add 2 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour until a stiff dough (not sticky) forms. Knead for 10 minutes. Lightly grease a large bowl and place the dough in it, turning to coat the bread evenly with the grease. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Step 4: Punch dough, turn, cover and let rise again until doubled (about 30 minutes).

Step 5: Punch down again and divide in half. You will make two loaves. Take each half and divide into thirds (for a total of 6 pieces). Take three parts and roll them until they are about 15 inches long. Pinch the tops and braid the rolls on a large, greased cookie sheet. Tuck then ends under the loaf when finished braiding. Repeat for the other roll. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Step 6: Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush evenly over the loaves. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Bread is done with a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If the bread is browning too fast, lightly tent with foil while cooking.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes--It's Christmas Eve Eve! Get It Done Quick Edition

Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday 

1 Today is my girl's birthday. We have a party for her earlier in the month when everyone is not so crazy busy. Today, on her actual birthday, we are having cake and her favorite dinner while she opens her grandparents' present. This year, the little Texan has asked for biscuits and sausage gravy with fried potatoes.

A Biscuits and Gravy Kind of Girl

2 We have managed to lose the box with the stockings this year. After moving a farmhouse, moving us from the trailer into my parents' house, and storing stuff in three different places, only losing one box isn't bad. However, my son is eight. As everyone knows Eight is known as the Rev Tevya Year in young boys. I hope he recovers from the shock of having to put up with a temporary replacement stocking.

3 Why, yes, I recognize the irony. I do, indeed.

4 I made a list, checked it twice, and now I am prepared to run with scissors. I have to wrap, cook, bake, buy stockings, rehearse, have a family party, attend a friend's party. I also have to remember to be cheerful. Coffee is in order. By the bucket load.

5  I almost forgot to mention (brag) that I have now completed the subfloor of the bathroom in our farmhouse. My friend and neighbor helped a ton. Yesterday I finished the job. It's all nailed down and ready for the flooring.

6 Speaking of flooring, now that the farmhouse has settled onto its foundation a window pane decided to begin falling out. There is a 1/4 inch gap through which the blisteringly cold Panhandle wind seeped into a bedroom and hallway, dropping the temperature in that portion of the house to about 55 degrees. We taped it up and are putting in the plastic window insulation kit until we can replace the window itself. Meanwhile, the flooring that is supposed to "cure" in the house for 48 hours got too cold to install yesterday. I moved the boxes of flooring to a warmer room, but the material won't be warm enough to reinstall until Christmas Eve. That floor isn't going down until next week, for sure. At least I have an excuse for not adding construction duties to my list of pre-Christmas panicking.

7 Although I am busy, I am grateful to be so. Sure there are a ton of things to get done, but Christmas is truly a most wonderful time of year. I love the hope and promise of the season. Every birth is miraculous, the birth of God infinitely so. Amazing. Awesome. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wifey Wednesday: Twelve Years In

...and we are still in love.

The thing is, our definition of love has changed. When I first fell in love with my husband, I thought of him constantly. Even my body thought of him. It was easy to think he was the center of my universe. But what 12 years has taught me is that I was more selfish then than I am now. I guess I can see it from a distance of 12 years later, but I didn't know it then.

When I first fell in love with my husband, I was in love with the way he made me feel. I loved him, sure, but I was hooked on my own soup of hormones and excitement of finally finding The One. I idealized him in light of that. Only the perfect man for me could make me feel the way he did, so he had to be my perfect man. Every time I saw clay on his feet, we'd argue. Rather, I'd begin a discussion, he'd avoid it, then I would chase him around with my list of points.

I applied this strategy because that's how to get me to change something about me. Point out a perceived flaw, reason with me to convince me it needs changing, help me hash out a strategy for change and boom, I'm working on it. Regardless of how many times this technique failed with my husband, I persisted. I think my thinking (if I gave it any thought) was that since he was my ideal man, he had to be like me in this. Even with all the people skills I'd learned as a school teacher, I was almost blind to my husband's needs and differences because of that ideal I'd created.

On my husband's part, he kept to himself. He grew up in a home with a mentally ill mother, so his mode of operation was to do everything possible to create an illusion of peace in the home while his real feelings and fulfillment lived themselves out under the radar. My conflict management style of discussion and rationale looked like dynamite to him. His style of conflict avoidance looked like agreeable assent to me. When I took my feelings out to examine and discuss them, my husband would say and do anything to get me to put such dangerous toys away. When my husband said and did that "anything," I took it as a mutually arrived at, logically derived marital plan of action. I was confused when later, he'd go his own way, saying things like, "But we discussed this!" He, reacting to his feeling panicked and pushed by my forthright manner, would stick his chin out and quietly and immovably insist on his way. I'd chalk it up to a miscommunication, acquiesce because he was so obviously invested, and question who this person was I'd married, he baffled me so.

Everyone has character strengths and weaknesses. In the wrong setting, even a diamond looks flawed and cheap. When applied in isolation a character strength like rational frankness looks like bulldozing, compromising support looks spineless and indecisive. Used in isolation, hurt feelings and confusion can result. Used together, an emotional character will balance a rational character. It's one of those lovely ways that the two become one. We are finally figuring each other out. My husband has learned that has input. I have learned that everything is not merely input. He has become more rational and less reactional in his thinking over the years. I have become more open to experiential emotional Venn Diagramming as opposed to my usual flow charting.

Every marriage has a recipe for disaster written alongside the recipe for success in its cookbook. Funny thing is, they both use a lot of the same ingredients. It took us about seven years to figure each other out enough to start switching recipes and using our ingredients to compliment one another. It took us that long to figure out how to set aside our perceptions of each other and actually see each other.

So Happy Anniversary, honey. Happy to know you. Hoping to know you better.

wifey wednesday
Wifey Wednesdays are hosted each week by Sheila Wray Gregoire
at To Love Honor and Vacuum.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pray for those who persecute you

Christopher Hitchens never persecuted me directly, but he inspired some of my friends to say some pretty unfriendly things. Since that's nothing compared to being shot in church, burned at the stake, roasted alive, skinned for faith, I can take a little ridicule here and there. God made sure I had such a firm certainty that I don't need everyone I meet to agree with me before I'm certain about Him. I know in my bones. If you don't believe or if we disagree? It's not my job to convince you. It's my job to live as perfectly as possible in harmony with Truth so you can see the light shining through despite the way I tend to muddy things up.

Conversion is God's job, not mine. I'll only debate you up to the point where it becomes pointless. Then I'll sic a saint on you. If you want to call me names in the meantime? So be it. I have one friend in particular who can't wrap his head around my conversion. I used to be interesting. I used to be creative. I used to be relevant. How could I do such an infantile thing? I've devolved. He comes back around to irritate himself over me two or three times a year. I bite my tongue when he insults me, and he knows me well enough to know exactly how to insult and hurt me, but that's what you have to do when you are a hate mongering Christian.

The death of Christopher Hitchens is wrapped around my feelings for this old friend of mine, mainly because my friend admired him and quoted him. So I've prayed for this man. I will continue to. It's funny what will inspire prayer. I probably would never have uttered a word to God about Mr. Hitchens if it wasn't for my friend and I quietly battling over the state of my soul. Gotta love the irony.

That said, I don't have much to say about the man, but this post by Frank Weathers sums up what I would if I did.

Christopher Hitchens, Requescat in pace

One of the practices Catholics engage in that really infuriates the world is that we take Christ literally when he says,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
And so we pray for the repose of the soul of Christopher Hitchens. He was enigmatic, and had depth of soul. Gifted writer, militant atheist, enemy of Christianity, brilliant debater, wordsmith extraordinaire, and secular humanist who endured “waterboarding” (to prove that it indeed is torture), he was one of God’s children and will be missed.

Pat Archbold has a piece worth reading that marks his passing well. And his post helps explain why Catholics will pray for the repose of the soul of Christopher Hitchens. Because infuriating the world is something Catholics have been doing for over 2011 years.

There is no sense in stopping now. Besides, Our King’s order still stands.

Once you’re gone, you can’t come back;
when you’re out of the blue, and into the black.

Tell it, Neil.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's Official!

Merry Christmas to me!
This morning I got the Christmas gift I gave to myself. Four pounds! I had hit a plateau on weight loss and I made up my mind to be rigorous and gift myself with falling below that mark. I've done it! Over the course of this year, I've lost a whopping 27 pounds! The first 15 pounds were due to illness (when I get sick, it isn't pretty), but the last 12 have been by following The Light Weigh by Suzanne Fowler. We're between sessions right now, but I will be returning in February as part of my Lenten Practice this year.

I was inspired by the over 50 pound weight loss of my friend and neighbor. Her health and energy are so much improved. Every time I see her I smile. I keep telling her how incredibly cute she looks. I have another friend who just celebrated the Fourth Anniversary of loosing 100 pounds! (She blogs here.) With those kinds of friends, it's easy to be inspired!

So, part of all the fashion advice is due to research on the clothes I will have to buy in 2012 when I hit my maintenance weight. Meanwhile, if you see me around town in baggy clothes, it's reason to celebrate! I'm saving up for my real clothes!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Goody Goody Gumdrops: Easy Christmas Candy

Sheila's over here getting eaten alive by trolls on the blogosphere. One even strayed over to bite me for saying essentially the same thing (she says it way better). I do advocate practicing accommodating hubbies on this side of the sheets first so that the shouts of delighted surprise emanating from the bedroom doesn't wake the neighbors. (Those would be your shouts, by the way. Hubbies are generally very accommodating to accommodation in the bedroom.) All of this oppressive politeness and Neanderthal niceness seems run of the mill to me, but you never know what will tick people off. Makes you have to work hard for it.

Hubby and I on a vacation in Europe

At any rate, since being sweet to your husband is this year's outrageously offensive behavior, I thought I'd be even more scandalous and advocate cooking again.

I know this cooking habit of mine is downright stereotypical of me, but I can't help myself. My husband eats. My children eat. Even I have been known to eat. My family is referred to as the "Plague of Locusts" among our friends. We descend upon a kitchen and leave dishes spinning in our wake. If I didn't cook, just imagine the effort entailed in feeding the Martin Hordes. I'd have to strap five children in their age appropriate car torture devices and appear with them in public. I'd have to comb hair, wipe faces, and even wear shoes! Anything but that! Have you seen my shoes? Cooking is my only recourse against such horrors. 

I wear them because he likes them!

It doesn't help that I'm cheap. To move Martins, we must use a vehicle. The vehicle has about 6 round trip town runs in its tank. I have to tell you that what I cook, for the most part, is better than the food we can afford once we feed this member of the Martin Family.

Most restaurant food isn't worth the gas.

So, now that I've got my daily recommended allowance of snark out of my system and have once again implied that I seriously believe that wives should at least act as if they like their husbands, I guess I should give you the candy recipe. I adapted it from a magazine that advocates, among other anti-happiness propaganda that wives should have boyfriends to practice being nice to. I guess that makes sense. Since we gals are supposed to treat our husbands authentically (i.e., rudely, impulsively, irrationally), we have to make nice somewhere or we'd lose all social skills before our divorce.

6 tbs (8 envelopes) of unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 1/4 cups boiling water
6 cups sugar
Sugar to coat
extract to taste (5 drops butter extract, 3 drops mint extract is super yummy!)
food coloring as desired (try some of the neon colors)

Don't hate me because I'm sweet!
Begin boiling 2 1/4 cups of water. Coat 2 8x8 pans with cooking spray and set aside. In another pot, sprinkle gelatin evenly over cold water, avoiding clumps. Let stand for 5 minutes. Pour boiling water into gelatin and water mix. Stir until dissolved. Add sugar. Gently boil mixture for 25 minutes. Pour mixture into the 8 x 8 pans. Add extract and coloring and stir gently until uniformly colored. Chill for 4 hours or let stand overnight. Coat a knife with cooking spray (this is important) and cut gumdrops into cubes. Coat in sugar and let stand for a few hours for the sugar coating to crystallize. Store in an airtight container. Tastes great! Ships great!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wifey Wednesday--Why Sex Is Complicated

wifey wednesday
Wifey Wednesdays are hosted each week by Sheila Wray Gregoire
at To Love Honor and Vacuum.

A very wise young man once blew my mind by pointing out a fundamental reality in our fallen world: God made all things good and Satan tries to turn good things evil. Satan can create nothing. All he can do is use his superior intellect to twist our perception of reality to make good appear evil, truth look like lies, the attractive repulsive. He loves to use our emotions, good things, to further befuddle us.

God made marriage. Marriage is good. God made sex. Sex is good. Marriage reflects the unity of the Triune God and the bond between Christ and the Church, so it is a profound good for the world, even without the economic and social stability marriage generates. It is good for the persons involved, too. It takes immature, self-centered creatures and matures them, making their lives outwardly focused on another. With sex in the equation, it also makes them parents, which furthers the process of maturation. 

God the Father loves the Son perfectly and completely: so much so it is personified in the Holy Spirit. Your love and your husband's love is meant to be that beautiful. Your love will grow larger than the two of you, something you will both stand in awe of. In fact, the world will wonder at it, writing news articles about love after 75 years. In fact, marital love personifies, too--in your children.

Speaking of sex: the more selfless it is, the better. The more you lose yourself in your spouse and let go, the more amazing it is. On a fundamental level, sex is about surrendering to each other and becoming one, if even imperfectly. The hormones involved, oxytocin especially, are designed to cement a bond between husband and wife so that each sexual encounter--be it a romp under the covers or merely the promise of one in a look and a wink shot across a table crowded with cranky children and schoolwork--produces oxytocin and other hormones to reinforce the chemical, emotional, and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. That is very, very good.

That's why Satan hates it. You and your spouse are created in the image and likeness of God. Marriage speaks to the world about the Nature of God. Since Satan cannot hurt God, he will hurt you, His image, or your marriage, His reflection. Satan will interfere with your marriage in any way inhumanly possible. If he can't end the marriage, he will mar it to make it as imperfect a reflection of God as he can entice the two of you to make it.

God knew you and His purpose for you from The Beginning (Jerimiah 1:5, Romans 8:29). You and your spouse have been called to the Sacrament of Marriage from the moment God created the world. Satan, being a spirit, exists outside of physical time. He is not bound by our bonds. He can see you married when you are still a speck in your mother's womb. He knows your spouse before you have even met. He will work on you and your husband from birth until death to interfere with your marriage. He will encourage you, a woman, to damage your ability to bond with your spouse by enticing you to sexual encounters without commitment so that you will come to marriage untrusting, numbed and scarred. He will entice your future husband to view women's bodies as tools for his sexual fulfillment, separating the act of sex from the bonds of marriage and keeping him emotionally and sexually immature and unable to approach true manliness. (The Damage of Sexual Promiscuity--a must read)

Satan insinuates himself into your marriage to make less room for God

But God teaches us forgiveness, repentance, and self-sacrifice. God heals. As damaged as you come to the marriage bed, there is hope. As harmed as your marriage may be by sins against it, infidelity, lust, selfishness, God infuses the Sacrament of Marriage with abundant Graces to heal you both. All you need is God. All God wants is you.

Make yourself precious, like jewels.
Proverbs 31
Open your heart to God and to your husband. By this openness, you will allow Grace to flow into your marriage. Be prayerfully aware of God and set your selfish impulses to ignore, belittle, or bemoan the needs of your husband at the foot of the Cross. If he wants you to bring him a cup of coffee, serve Him by serving him. If he wants you to cuddle up on the couch after the kids are asleep, serve Him by accommodating him. If your marriage is damaged, use your love of God to rebuild it. If your husband is so damaged as to be numb to your needs, let God heal that. Help Him heal your marriage by taking up arms with Him to fight for your husband's heart. Send a barrage of roses against the fortress your husband has built against you; flood his life with so many small acts of love that he drowns in it. Surrender to God to win the war for your husband's heart. Make him gasp at the beauty of Love.

Who knows? Maybe your husband has been trying to do the same for you for years.

Your emotions, your desires, and your impulses must be under your guidance. Your guidance must be under God. If you do not guide your impulses, if God does not guide them, you will be manipulated and enslaved by them. Do not surrender your will to your emotions. Unite your will to God's will, even when your emotions have a will of their own.

Your marriage can work. It can fulfill you, but only if you let God in. 

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Friday, December 9, 2011

7 Quick Takes: The Left Behind Edition

Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday 

1 - Since I wasn't able to get to a computer nearly all day due to baking at my friend's house, I thought I'd be a smarty pants and write my first draft on a piece of paper. I even enlisted some feedback on the topics. Everything! I had a draft. I'd collaborated. It was going to be great. I managed to make it home without the list, but you'd probably guessed that already. I mean, you've read this blog before.

2 - Sometimes I forget that it isn't normal to have children with their parents during the day, so I took the brood of wee Martins shopping this morning. I got a lot of looks (no, they were perfectly fine until someone praised them--see #4) and one woman actually said, "Some of these children look like they belong in school." I blinked at her blankly for a moment and began lamely explaining myself when something enthusiastic took over. I gushed, "Oh, we're HOMEschoolers! We worked really hard to finish our work for the week yesterday so we could spend today baking!!!" I gestured dramatically to the cart full of butter-flavored lard, extracts, and food coloring. She looked perplexed, so I finished off with, "Isn't that the coolest thing you've ever heard of? We HOMEschool." Now, if only I could evangelize like that for NFP.

3 -  Okay, wait. Now I'm enjoying that NFP evangelization idea. Walking through the store with the Martin Five, and someone saying, "Are all those yours? Don't you know what causes that?" I could gush, "Oh we're CATHolic! We charted really hard to get them all spaced close together so we could spend our children's inheritance on disposable diapers and sippy cups!!!" When they look perplexed by my enthusiasm, I could add, "We LIKE children. We really LIKE them!" Then I might nod at them vigorously while contemplating how to work the words mucus and fecundity into the conversation.
Someone's in a fertile phase!
4 - Now that everyone has run screaming from their computers (I promise I won't say mucus again) it's probably a little late to make this plea, but here goes. Please don't ever tell me I have well behaved children. At least not while I'm with them and in public. I will start hyperventilating and breaking out into a sweat. You see, the words, "You have such sweet little children!" sets the timer ticking on the tantrum bomb. This nice-seeming little old man said that to us today and two of my children exploded moments later. It wasn't pretty. I'm working hard to forgive him. He meant no harm.

5 - Speaking of enthusiasm, while googling the picture above, I discovered to my horror that there are websites with titles such as "How-to-stay-enthusiastic-all-the-time!" Yes, the dashes seem to be part of the pleasure. Maybe it's to remind you that you must say it all in one breathy squeal.

6 - Mucus. Yes, I said it. I said it again.

7 - Is there anybody left reading this? Anyone? C'mon now, #7 is about chaaaarrrrtiiing!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On the Battle Ground of Marriage

Gird your loins, ladies. Sheila Wray Gregoire is calling us to battle! I can't say enough about this woman's take on marriage, both her words and the guest bloggers she invites to write on the topic. Although not a Catholic source, she is excellent in understanding and expressing the ways that Christian marriage is the battleground on which you will fight for your eternal life--yours and your husband's.

Click here to go to the blog To Love Honor and Vacuum
Don't forget to tune in each week for Wifey Wednesdays

Here's one quote from her latest Wifey Wednesday post: "God’s Word doesn’t say that marriage is designed to bring us happiness. In fact it says that it will be an area of struggle and hardship. Genesis 3:16 He told the Woman: 'You’ll want to please your husband, but he’ll lord it over you.'"

And another: "If Satan attacks married people first and foremost through their spouses, in order to render their hearts useless to God, doesn’t it make sense that two strong believing Christians may have more problems within their marriage than non-believers? "

She gets it. She really gets it. I would like to encourage you to read her insights, discuss them, and then get busy battling your temptation to fight fire with Hellfire (letting your husband's sins be an excuse for your own). Even if your husband is not behaving in a way worthy of a Christian man, you are to behave like a Christian woman. Remember, always, that you are serving God by your service in marriage. It isn't about what he deserves from you, it's what He deserves from you.

Get to it, ladies. The war is on!

Be a Prayer Warrior

To Get Started Today:

3 Steps to Make an Immediate Improvement 
in Your Marriage

1. Apologize
Even if you are only responsible for 1% of today's problem, apologize for it, then say no more. Even if he's a jerk about the apology, you have done your best to heal the matter.

2. Do More
Do three things every day that you don't want to do, just to please your husband.
Again, pleasing him is your surest bet to pleasing Him. Face it, we treat strangers we will never meet again way better than we treat our spouses. It's time to break that bad habit.

3. Smile
Make your face a friendly place. Sometimes our face is a bad representation of our innermost selves. You may be worried about tomorrow's schedule, but your face reads as grouchy. Check your expressions a few times a day. Let a smile and an open countenance open doors in your husband's heart.

These improvements are meant to improve YOU first. You are a major component in your marriage and are responsible for YOUR behavior. God is responsible for changing your husband. Be an avenue of change and grace for the marriage so that God can do His work. You can't change anyone else but you, even in your own marriage. Truly, the secret to a better marriage is prayer. The best thing you can do is to pray for your husband, for his good, for his blessings to increase, for God to pour grace and love into his soul. Let God in. Pray and make room.

Pray and Make Room

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just in case you were thinking this blogger has it together

with all these fashion posts, I thought I'd share a little reality check with this...

Today's Mental To Do List

  • Brush teeth
  • Bathe
  • Dress for being seen in public
  • Cook something
  • Clean something
  • Be seen in public

I'm hoping I manage the entire list today. You will note that "doing my hair" is not on this list, which means I'm shooting for (hoping for) a brushed out ponytail. I'm also hoping for lipstick, but I wasn't optimistic enough to actually put it on the list. Please note that I have not numbered this list: that's to help me feel better about skipping any items. 

Just thought I'd share. Humility and reality kinda go hand in hand around here.

P.S. Yes, it is noon and no I have not brushed my teeth yet. You sure you want fashion advice from me?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Wardrobe Project--Dress Your Apple Shape

Why is all this important, anyway…

If you are an Apple Shape, you have nice, broad shoulders like your Hourglass Cousin, yet with slimmer hips and thighs. Your arms and legs are your best feature. Let's show them off!

Waist not? Worry not!

Your slimmest point is just under the bust line. Belts and waist lines will look best on you here, especially when the fabric flows over your tummy, gently skimming it. Experiment with tying a sash or long scarf under the bust line to create a waist. Empire waists, sweetheart necklines, and ruching are excellent details to look for in a top. Apples will want the lines of an outfit to move smoothly from the slim, high waist down to your lovely legs.

Image Source:
An example of rouching, or repeated gathers, at the waist.

Knee length and sleeveless looks show off your thinner arms and legs!

Image Source:
The waist of this top is just under the bust line and the material
drapes nicely over the tummy, slimming it! 

2. Watch the lines in knits and patterns. Fabric without much pattern or with large, bold patterns will flow more seamlessly over your shape; however, lines and lettering can accidentally emphasize our curves by getting partially stretched out of shape. Be sure to check the patterns for distortion before purchasing.

4. Something else the Hourglass and Apple shapes have in common is a longer line between the neck and the bosom than all the other shapes. Break that line! Wherever there is a break in the outfit, a spot where the item ends or the color pattern changes dramatically, your eye tends to be drawn there. Use that tendency to play down the tendency of the eye to follow the lines of an outfit which visually break only at the dramatic curve of your ample Apple bosom. Draw the eye away by using the natural "break" of a neckline. For this same reason, be sure your necklaces fall well within the neckline.

 Neckline Examples
Image Source:
Sweetheart, V-neck and Surplice necklines will be the most flattering for you.
The Jewel and Boat and Turtleneck (not shown) necklines will tend to emphasize a larger bust.

The sleeves end right at the narrowest part of her torso,
visually pointing to her waist. Note that the waist is created by
the blouse right below her chest at the narrowest spot.

Dressing your lovely legs!

You have fine legs, to be sure. Dresses, shorts, pants will all show them off. Be sure to focus on proportion when looking at the silhouette of an outfit. If your legs look too slim and shapely, you may wind up accentuating your Apple instead of  flattering it.
Look for flat front, straight leg, boot cut or flared pants that will balance your top and bottom. Zippers and clasps on the side seam are great for you. Try a mid-rise or higher to keep your tummy comfortable.
Because of your lovely shape, shorts and skirts can be flattering at an inch or two above the knee. Any shorter and you will run into both modesty and proportion issues.

This skirt will show off your lovely calves
while the jacket smoothes over the tummy!

Because of your blessings, you can have a so much fun with hosiery. Show off those legs in colors and patterns. Winter is the perfect time to shop for exciting tights!
Watch that scarves and necklaces do not "point" to your tummy or larger bosom. Be sure to emphasize upwards toward your face with shorter lengths. Bracelets will show off your lovely arms, so have fun with them. Feel free to play with earrings, too.
Your shoes will be part of your balancing act. Use them to further elongate your silhouette by choosing pointed toes and slingbacks. Go for a more substantial heel to maintain proportion with your upper half. 

Although your necklines can plunge, be sure to stay modest! Your ample Apple bosom needs taming! Layer a tank underneath a bold neckline and always be sure to bend over in front of a mirror before you leave the house so that any exposure problems can be *ahem* addressed.

If it is too hot for layering, consider a modesty panel.
It attaches directly to your bra.

Your Bra (No Boys Allowed)

1. Structure and support. Being an Apple Shape, your bra is a vital element of your wardrobe. Like a shoe, it is a structural and supportive element, and nearly as complicated. A good bra will be barely noticeable during the day. A bad bra draws attention to itself by rubbing, binding, or riding up. There should be no gap between your body and your bra at any point, especially between the breasts. With a correctly fitted bra and good posture, the line of your bosom will fall about midway between your shoulder and elbow when your arms are down.

2. Get a fitting. If you have not been fitted in the last three years, go to a lingerie shop and have it done. Department stores may be great for prices but not necessarily for the level of customer service you need. Getting fitted for the right bra is a complicated process for any woman, but especially for a larger busted woman. You need more than average in a bra, so you need better than average service in finding the right one.

3. How many do I need? A woman needs 3 to 4 good bras, which should include at least one nude bra to wear under lighter fabrics and one black or brown bra to wear under darker fabrics. All bras should be hand washed and line dried as part of maintaining your investment.

4. It is an investment, so do not shy away from the price tag. For girls in the larger cup sizes, $30 to $40 is going to be the best minimum price you will find after shopping the sales! A cheap bra may look good in the checkbook, but it is going to look and feel bad on you.

So Go Shopping!
Everyone tries on clothes that don't fit, even your idea of an ideal shaped woman.
Fitting is a process, not a number.

Most women have a few shopping habits to break--shopping for the shape they want rather than the shape they have. This leads to frustration and a feeling that "Nothing looks good on me!" It will take awhile to train your eye to spot the gems on the hangar. Don't give up and don't despair! If you keep picking up clothing for another shape, voice out loud who the item was designed for, "This would look fantastic on So-and-so! She's a Banana," then hang it up and move on to an item designed for you. Everyone tries on clothes that don't fit. Even your idea of an ideal shaped woman. Fitting is a process, not a number.

Nothing breeds success like success. Go have a fun morning with a friend! Take this list, $25, a digital camera (so you can more easily analyze your silhouette in an outfit), and a friend and hit a quality used clothing store (one that only racks gently used items and sorts women's clothing by size) and search for one complete outfit or one fantastic item. Try on items that follow these rules then analyze what looks good and what does not to find out why you love or hate it. Talk over each item and what it does to add or detract from your graces. Giggle when it looks awful! Remember, if clothing doesn't look good--it's the fault of the clothes, not you! God has blessed you, so go bless yourself with a very good time!

For further tips and updates see my Pinterest Board: Apple Shape Fashion.

Not Your Shape?