NAS: Online Dating

41849-notalone5Not all of us have jumped into the world of online dating, but many of us have! What are those things that we should AND shouldn’t do?! If someone you know is considering online dating, how would you encourage him/her? What advice do you have?

Don’t forget to visit Jen and Morgan!

Great topic! If you don’t mind, I’m going to pull some highlights from the super-long post I did on online dating a while back. The Intro also has some updates, given my new life circumstances.

Ever think about online dating? Hear conflicting advice from trusted people? Well, here’s how your sister-in-Christ managed to find dateable marriageable (!) :D men—without losing her mind. The first and foremost piece of advice: keep the lines of communication open with God—prayer, Mass, sacraments. Those practices help with discernment.

And I know, advice coming from an engaged woman seems limited to my experience, BUT I did meet and date 6 great-in-their-own-right guys over 6 years, DID find The One, and am currently engaged to Mr. Lucky #7!

What I Kept in Mind:

-         It’s a strategy, not the strategy.

-         Remembering that I am trying to connect with a possible future spouse, not shopping for emotional satisfaction.

Before Beginning

-         Figure out what I wanted in a guy.

-         Figure out HOW I would be able to tell if his responses seem legit

So, I’m going to actually skip the section of “how to create a profile.” Just KISS: Keep it Simple, Silly!: be myself, be honest, include variety of photos of me, me+friends, me+family in assorted activities/times of year; etc. I will tell you that a trustworthy male friend looked at my profile and told me not to reveal too much (list favorite genres of music and no more than two examples of specific artists, for example).

Evaluating the Profiles

When it came to this point, I got a little overwhelmed—not only does CatholicMatch match you based on a Match Portrait that’s essentially a pre-marital survey about your views on, well, everything, but also your “Primary Search” (where you check boxes about height, eye color, distance, level of faith, etc.). This is good because sometimes some guys are on one list, but not the other. But I reminded myself that Match Portraits and the like are algorithms with thresholds, not an exact science. Plus, I found that my Match Portrait netted results halfway across the country, and I am too poor to fly and too not-the-person to have a phone-based relationship for several weeks or more. Here’s what helped:

-         Be open-minded, but honest with myself.

-         Don’t spend too much time with Mr. Vague: the guy who has no specifics, no quiz questions, no temperament test, etc.

Managing the Messaging

- Set limits for how often I messaged.

- I allowed myself to send an emoticon/flirt, answer his quiz questions, but did not send a chatty message first thing during my latest go-around.

- If you find yourself saying “he’s not responding because he’s shy,” think about the conclusion I came to: “if he’s so shy as to be uncomfortable sending an Internet message, then is that degree of bashfulness something I really want to take on?”

Happy “hunting!”

7QTF: Of Half-Brithdays, Goals, and My Not Ice-Bucket Challenge

7_quick_takes_sm1Linking up with Jennifer and the rest!

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Today is my half-birthday! Now, I don’t actually celebrate this day as an adult, nor did my family when I was a kid. But I still find it pretty cool to think about how 30 years ago, I was alive in my mother’s womb, at about 12-15 weeks, fully formed, heart beating, brain growing. And Mr. Sweet was alive too! But in his mama’s arms.

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Two years ago on this day, I made a #30till30 board on Pinterest. I decided to name 30 goals I wanted to achieve in the 30 months I had left until I turned 30 in March 2015. How am I doing? Six done, including goal #12, which I pessimistically did not think would happen. But it did. And is sitting on my finger. :)  I have 18 to go–many involving reading book series and writing habits. I will admit that there are 5 I will never reach. I’m actually ok with that. Over the past two years, I have realized that goals change, especially if based on relationships. Because relationships change. And people change, including myself. Naturally, what was important to me then may not be important to me now. And some are just not feasible–financially, logistically. But this is ok, too. Not meeting these dream goals (visiting someone in England is a big stretch unless you have the rare combination of high-paying job with generous vacation…) is not a failure. So I will not be disappointed if I can’t tag every goal as “Done!”. Because life is a project always in progress. Plus, there’s always 40 till 40! :P

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One of those goals is to sell through my print run of my novel. I can’t recall if this goal was formulated before or after the publish date got backed up 5 months or not. But I essentially had 15 months to get it done. Now I have 6. But at this point, I’d be happy to go into reprint, which is at least half. It’d be an amazing half-birthday present if you could help me reach this goal by clicking on this link: My book!

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I’m also putting in some work. In two weeks-ish I will start my leg of Pauline Books and Media’s Back to School Blog Tour!

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I am also a big supporter of Catholic literature. Wednesday I hosted author and friend Nicole Lataif. Check it and her books out!

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 I do not have a bucket of ice. But I do have a paycheck again after two months without. The very first withdrawal is going to the Lenaburg family. They have a GoFundMe account to support the care for their daughter, Courtney. I first “met” Mary and Miss Courtney when I regularly linked to “What I Wore Sunday.”  Mary always had joyful comments for everyone. Courtney faces many medical challenges, and this season of her and her family’s life is the toughest. But through it all, Mary is there with grace and love. So I’m donating to their cause. Won’t you read their blog (her brother’s post is a real tear-jerker; you can’t not ugly cry when reading it) and consider making your Friday sacrifice for this family, who have sacrificed so much? And then please share however you can.

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I also ask you to share because TODAY from 9 pm-10 pm EST, the Lenaburgs are devoting an hour of the 40-hour devotion to the blessed Mother in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Please pray for them tonight.

Thoughtful Thursday: 9/11

Earlier this summer I was graced with the opportunity to see New York City twice—first from a distance through the window of a van on the way to Philadelphia, and second in a closer, more intimate kind of way on a weekend visit with Mr. Sweet to see my friend D., newly married.

It was the car trip that got me. You see, on the way down to Philly, we were stuck in traffic, and I had the opportunity to look out and see the new World Trade center building, or Freedom Tower. Struck by the thought that I had never seen the original Twin Towers or the 9/11 site, I decided to let my eyes feast upon this new building, an icon of hope, strength, pride, recovery, and future. I gazed and gazed.

After those minutes beholding the tower, I spent three days growing in knowledge of the theology of the body at the ToB Congress. Over the course of the conference, I came to an understanding of why I might be fascinated with this building—why anyone with seemingly little personal connection to the horrors of 9/11 or any tragedy responds to it closely or intimately without any perceived ‘right’ to.

And it is this: we have lost a part of our body. No, I did not know any of the victims or workers in the WTC on that sunny September day. But I know that I am not just my body, built to give and receive. I am in the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is all His children. Together we give and receive of each other.

Most often, when you lose a part of your body, you know it is gone. You are affected by its absence. If we are to recognize ourselves as the body of Christ, as one part, one member, then we, too, should feel the effect of losing another of ourselves. And the greater the loss, the greater the disaster—the greater the sensation and response.

When tragedy befalls us and we misunderstand the collective emotion, perhaps we are forgetting that we are just experiencing the knowledge written on our hearts from the moment of our creation—part of the body is gone. Today we remember that part of the body we lost. But we should also rejoice in generative power. Though no single human being can regenerate on their own a new limb, it is the miracle of our design that our own body can heal itself—cover the wound with new skin. Thirteen years later, we, the body of Christ has the power to generate more members—through the conception and birth of our children, as well as to stretch ourselves over the chasms that separate us to cover our wounds.

“Now the body is not a single part, but many, If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body ….God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”

Back to School Blog Tour! Featuring Nicole Lataif, Author of I Forgive You

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Dear readers, today I am pleased to host Nicole Lataif, author of the new picture book I Forgive You: Love You Can Hear, Ask For and Give, as part of Pauline Books and Media’s Back to School Blog Tour. Nicole is a great friend–we first met up in Boston at   a mutual friend’s birthday and got to talking our mutual love of writing children’s books. A few years later, her manuscript was the first I’d read as an Editorial Assistant at PBM. Eventually, I joined her writing critique group and am always so happy to tout her work. Nicole is a lovely, godly woman with a great talent for writing and an incredible spirit as she follows God’s call for her to share His love with children–no matter how young. In an email interview, she shares about writing, answering the call, and using your gifts and talents.

  1. Why write about Christian topics, like the soul and forgiveness, and for such young kids?

​I think that kids rarely get the credit that they deserve when it comes to complex topics. With the right context, examples and words, most (I said most–haha) adult subjects are absolutely relatable to children. If a child has the capacity to be angry, they have the capacity to understand forgiveness. If a child knows that they have a body, then they can understand that they have a soul. Communicating this effectively is less about subject matter and more about using the right examples.

  1. How do you balance your call to write with your other calls in life? 

​Prayer, organization, and time management. I work at praying before writing anything. I pray with my fiancé. I pray about my calling. I just try to listen to God. Practically speaking, I use technology to get me through the day. If I’m on the road and an idea comes to mind or I need to schedule an appointment, I pop into my calendar (once parked, of course!) and it appears on every other platform within seconds. If that isn’t a daily miracle, I don’t know what is! Lastly, I have learned how to say no. Saying yes to something when I am too busy is saying no to my current responsibilities. I just try to keep a balance going!

  1. What is your experience like in secular writing groups, especially when sharing books with faith content?

​Most people have been supportive, thank God. However, during one instance a few years ago, I was chastised for my Catholic beliefs by almost every single critique group member (there were 4-6 of them). I only said one thing in response: “If I wanted to disagree with your beliefs, I would never treat you this way.” I was truly hurt. I called the leader after the meeting and expressed my dismay. I later received an apology from the ringleader, which was nice, and she featured me in her next newsletter!

  1. Where can other aspiring authors go for resources for writing–especially when writing on Catholic themes, topics, and issues?

​ If you are a children’s book writer, join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and the Facebook group, “Catholic Children’s Books.” I would also recommend joining the Catholic Writers Guild to meet other Catholic writers!

  1. How can young women use their gifts and talents to spread God’s love?

​ Young women can use their gifts and talents to spread God’s love just simply by using their gifts and talents! Nothing is more upsetting to hear about an artist who was forced into medical school by their parents. Or, a scientist who was forced to play the piano their whole life, yet hates music. I agree that education is important and that children should be exposed to many facets of life, but as a young woman, you will shine brightest when you are being who God called you to be! And, just like there is no flower without a stem, prayer and talents go hand-in-hand. Be sure to talk to God and ask him what he might be calling you to do. His answer may surprise and delight you! Lastly, allow the Blessed Mother to be your mother. Turn to her in prayer–woman to woman–and she will guide you as well.

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Award-winning author and speaker Nicole Lataif is the Founder and Editor of KidsFaithGarden.com and author of the 2013 Catholic Press Association Award and 2013 Christopher Award winning book Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body, published by Pauline Books and Media. Forever You is released in Spanish as “Siempre Tu.” Her second book, ”I Forgive You: Love We Can Hear, Ask For and Give” is for kids ages 5-8. Nicole has extensive training in writing for children. She has been active in various children’s writing circles, including membership in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Nicole was a “First Authors Panel” speaker at the January 2013 SCBWI Miami conference and continues to speak around the country to both kids and adults on Christian virtue. She substitute teaches at a Christian school and leads an SCBWI picture book writers group in Boston, MA.

Read Nicole’s author note to parents.

Read Nicole’s author note to kids.

Nicole is available for speaking engagements, school visits, interviews, and guest blogging. Media inquires may be sent to kidsfaithgardenonline@gmail.com.

 

NAS: Oh, So Chivalrous!

not+alone5Chivalry should not become a lost art and we, as women, ought to step up to the plate a bit more and encourage men to treat us as women, thereby respecting them as men. Do you have tips, ideas, or stories to encourage men to be… men?! Open doors for us, initiate dates, honor us as women, etc? Let’s chat! (Thanks to Sarah Thérèse!)

My most memorable read on chivalry came from a Catholic mommy blogger who wrote that to help her daughters encourage and expect respectful, honoring behaviors like door-opening, she instructed them to passively demand it through their actions. As in, don’t get out of the car when you park. Just sit there and wait until he gets the message he should open it for you. Don’t open the door to the restaurant if you happen to get there first or at the same time. Stand there and wait.I read that and thought that if I did that to the majority of men I’ve dated–especially on the first couple of dates–they would not even know what I was doing for a long, increasingly awkward number of seconds—definitely more than 30. And I believe that they would find it, well, annoying. My personal belief is that such passive, non-verbal cues are not the right approach for the majority of young men today. Why? Lack of formation. And clear communication is always better.

I don’t believe lack of chivalry is a deliberate state and the fault of conscious actions on the part of men. Rather, I think it is more a lack of awareness that chivalrous behaviors are things that should be done. Men aren’t being taught to honor women in these small ways. And I also do not think that the burden of teaching them should fall too much on the shoulders of us young women. The biggest idea I have is to get older men more involved in the lives of the younger. I have heard men learn best by example and by doing it themselves. How much better it would be for them to model chivalry than to witness their fathers, brothers, uncles, priests, fellow Knights of Columbus council members?

I also believe when it comes to such matters involving men to simply ask them. So I asked Mr. Sweet.

Q. What would you think if I on our first dates just sat in the car or stood at a closed door?

A. I could see doing that once or twice to set the expectation. But I also wouldn’t want you to do that.

[Ed. note: this side-tracked into a conversation about what would be the passive equivalent on part of the woman. The one thing I came up with is if a man wants to encourage our femininity, a “wait” action would be to just stand and look our jeans and sweater once over, as if we’re supposed to “get” we should be in a skirt or dress.  Mr. Sweet came up with the situation in which you are solidly together and hanging out at someone’s place, and when dinner is mentioned, the guy just “waits” on the couch for you to get up and make the dinner. But those are extreme cases. Probably more like the “wait” if he does something like open the door or pay for the meal and you don’t say thank you. In any of the above or in a similar situation the guy did the “wait” for you (and it can come with an aggressive or condescending tone, too), would you like it?

Q. Well, how can young women encourage men?

A. For example, don’t rush for the door. Give a slight pause. Let us lead.

[Ed. note: I think if a man has been formed, all it takes is a subtle nudge for the chivalry gene to kick in. I don’t believe it’s conscious rudeness or fear that the woman is one of those emasculators who hates when men do things, but more “oh yeah,” absent-mindedness.

A. Or, if you are cold and your date has a jacket, simply and clearly indicate that you are cold.

A. Have self-respect: dress modestly. Be considerate of the whole person that you are and the whole person that he is. Know that if a man is distracted by a revealing outfit, it might not register to him to take the chivalrous action.

A. You can subtly encourage him to ask you out on a date. Just don’t be creepy. If you’ve been talking online and on the phone for a little while, you can cutely hint that meeting in person might be a good idea. But don’t do this if he just sent you the first emotigram or message.

[Ed. note: I believe hinting is okay. In college, a guy told me that only if a guy is nearly 100% certain of his success will he approach/ask out a girl. This notion has been confirmed in the past by a couple other guys. For the record, Mr. Sweet didn't mind that I teased meeting together. But it was up to him to take the lead on everything else. So if you go this route, do nothing else. Leave it to him to say "yeah, great idea. How's this Thursday? Dinner? Movie?]

Thus endeth this little interview. My final thoughts on this subject are on communication. Guys (and I’ve read this in general marriage and relationship advice books and seen it work in action) like when you plainly tell them stuff. They are not mind readers. They may have a lower emotional intelligence than you. Before you go out, communicate in your lovely feminine tone how you feel about chivalry. “I’m the kinda girl who likes a door held open for her,” she said sweetly. If you meet up at a place for a first date (please do this if you’ve never met him/met online; get there yourself, get home yourself), make it a fun topic to discuss “What do you think makes a true gentleman?” she asked with glints of interest in her eye. His answers will give you insights into who he is and how he feels and what he believes. Perhaps your conversation will help you see he hates passive aggressive approaches and prefers a simple “Would you mind getting the door?” Or he dated a woman who believed chivalry was chauvinism and he was afraid to ever be considerate again.

Because that’s what chivalry really is: consideration. He considers you a valuable person worthy of respect and kindness. You, too, can be chivalrous. If his hands are full, open the door. It’s okay. Always say thank you. Offer to treat him once in a while. And chivalry extends beyond romantic relationships. Open doors for everyone, especially the aged and new moms with strollers and college kids with crutches, male and female alike. Simply honor one another.

*If you liked this little interview, come back tomorrow to meet Nicole Lataif, friend and award-winning authoress, as I host a Back to School Blog Tour for Pauline Books and Media! Thank you!

 

NAS: Back in the Swing of Things!

41849-notalone5We are back! As we get into the swing of things with NAS, what other ways can we be more involved at church or in our communities? Is there a parish ministry you have been wanting to help with or start up? What about that after school program for homeless kids? Has something been preventing you from getting involved? How do you think this will help you personally, spiritually, and emotionally?

Hello, ladies! It is so wonderful to be back to our weekly conversations! For those who are new to the series, please check out our hostesses with the most-essness, Jen and Morgan (this week’s link-up). For those “meeting” me for the first time, check out the “About” tab. I started this series as a profoundly single woman, and a few months in, just so happened to meet the love of my life. And now we’re engaged! This community means so much to me, and as a blogger on women’s spirituality and discussion of the faith and feminine, I find singleness to be a topic that while personally I am done with, still one I have much to say about in  general. So if you don’t mind, I’ll still be linking up with my reflections from my season and maybe some I-may-be-off-the-market-but-still-your-girlfriend advice.

So, onward to the topic! I LOVE it! This prompt is the jolt of energy I need to get cracking on a project I’ve been wanting to do for the past couple months. At the ToB Conference this summer, I attended a group session led by a Sister of Life and learned from one of the other women about a women’s group called Endow. This multi-age conversation group connects women with each other and with their faith and starts by discussing Pope St. John Paul II’s Letter to Women. Chatting with the women of the conference was exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

I’ve been in various Catholic communities for various amounts of time–like relationships or states of life, involvement in such communities had their seasons. My last years in Boston were spent out of  formal community or groups, and this worked for me. But this summer with the move occurring, I found myself desiring that kind of companionship. So I told Mr. Sweet I was looking into maybe starting an Endow group at our parish. He is amazing and supportive and also a dude. Sorry, honey! But he gets that I need to make new friends, share female experiences with other women, and plunk down some roots, instead of having them wrap entirely around him.

For a romantic relationship is not the be-all, end-all of an existence. One single person cannot be your sole support or way of understanding yourself. At least, no completely human person. Jesus, now He’s a guy we can wrap ourselves (think soul, not body!) around and lean on entirely. God, as our Father, is another. The Author of our lives, He is the best lens through which to understand our selves and role in this world. But the Trinity also has given us the great gift of life in this world with other people. We have brothers and sisters.

So I am in touch with the Endow facilitators, who are already working on getting approval to have the groups start at parishes in my new archdiocese. Starting or joining such a group will fulfill the renewed personal desire for community, round out an emotional life at a hectic time (oh, wedding planning), and draw me closer to God.

Anyone with experience in Endow?

7QTF: Summertime Happiness

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Linking up with Jennifer and the rest at Conversion Diary!

Last year Lana del Ray’s ‘Summertime Sadness” exploded on the radio. Sadness? in Summer?!?!? People looooove summer–especially here in New England. I’m the weirdo for loving winter and its snow and its bundling up. In the song, the sadness is about losing her fling (I’m guessing). But I get how sometimes people can be sad in the summer–too hot, it’s ending, or something else in their lives means it drags and everything annoys you. Like the sun is just too darn bright and cheery for too long of the day for too many days in a row (can’t we get some cool rain to sip tea and read a book by?), the bugs at the umpteen outdoor events are biting, and it just drags.

But this summer has been different for me. In the words of Pharrell: “Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break/I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space/
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way/Because I’m happy.”

Why?

[1]

I went to the ToB Congress, which inspired me to draft a couple different manuscripts–one of which is on its way to my editor. And “met” the popes.

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I went to NYC and saw a dear friend, met her new husband, and got inspired to write a 9/11 reflection that I am now shopping around to jumpstart my freelance career. Oh, and “met” Saint John Paul II.

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[3]

I got a much-needed break on my family’s cruise. Mr. Sweet got to come, too!

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[4]

I moved to a beautiful part of New England.

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[5]

I started working for a great organization that’s going to help the people in Haiti.

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I’ve gotten interviews to possibly work part-time and earn some extra money [update 9 am: at least one at a bookstore!], because

[7]

I’m engaged!!!! That’s right! Mr. Sweet proposed and I said “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” :D  It was on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, which is just so special, because our first date was on the Feast of Mary, Untier of Knots, and the first “I love you” came on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was personal, intimate, special, and meaningful. There was no photographer waiting in the wings of some pretty public space; no flash mob; no Youtube video evidence; just me and my groom in the home we will share together after a 2015 wedding.

(for my fiance’s privacy, no headshots)

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I promise not to get too bridal focused on this blog! I want to remain committed to posting about women’s spirituality and issues. Yes, weddings and the sacrament of matrimony fall under that umbrella, so there might be a couple. So if you want a girly wedding fix, visit Stephanie at Captive the Heart.