NAS: Dating Fasts

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Most of us have heard about them, but have you ever done a dating fast? If so, what was your experience? If you haven’t, would you consider doing one? Why or why not? Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Throughout my single years, I’ve definitely had dating pauses. Some were just dry spells: no one interested me on CatholicMatch (if I was subscribing at that time), or the new people I met through young adult groups weren’t anyone God was leading me toward discerning a first date, let alone marriage with. But I do recall taking a deliberate break from dating. I suppose you could call it a fast. Unlike Lenten fasts, which so many seem to me are more about giving food or drink the power to be a torture device (I would only want what I was abstaining from more), this fast was not about giving up something good or neutral to be a sacrifice for God, but to cleanse myself of any disordered attachments, and to get some kind of clarity on what I was doing and why.

I recall the early days very vividly. I had just broken up with a guy about two months too late. After attending a Theology on Tap event (by myself) for the first time without the intention of “meeting” someone, but to learn and maybe have a pint of something tasty, a guy I’d made polite small talk with for a few minutes at my table followed me out to the bus stop outside the restaurant and asked me out. Flummoxed, I said I was going home to Florida for a bit (true), and he persisted to say “after?”, and it only took a few seconds to say no. I knew instinctively I should not go meet this guy for coffee. My bewilderment at this guy, an unspoken “what are you doing?”, was actually more a question for myself. “What are you doing?”

The past year had been fairly active for me–dating-wise. Only a couple stood out, but most ended within 5 dates. With the latest guy, I had thought more time (especially since we didn’t see each other every week), would help me feel more, but I realized after hurting him (by breaking up with him when he didn’t expect it) that we were not spending time together right, and none of the previous attempts at a relationship were spent “right”—and the only way to avoid getting myself hurt or hurting someone else was to first learn what would be “getting it right.”

For nearly two years, I didn’t date–mostly by choice. I spent the time learning about my faith, trying to develop non-romantic friendships, and be a part of a community. I learned a heck of a lot more about the beauty of chastity, the purpose of dating, what I wanted out of a relationship (not just a boyfriend–but a potential husband), and what I wanted the guy to want (not just a girlfriend–but a potential wife). It was an incredible feeling to go home after a young adult adoration night and tell my roomies about the joyous moment of growth: I had stood in a circle of people (including single guys) and did not use one iota of that time to fret over how I was coming across (dateable?), figure out how I could get them interested, or inwardly moaning that they seemed to be paying more attention to my bubbly friends than shy me. It was just a conversation, no more. I had lost the attachment. And for the most part, I was healed. My fast only lasted as long as it did because I was waiting to be sure that the reason I wanted to date again was “right”, and what’s more, finally knew what “right” should look like. My first relationship after the fast didn’t work out, but the whole process helped me be more judicious in who I did date and handle the relationship.

A dating fast–if done intentionally and for the right reasons–can be very healthy. It helps you discern not only your own motivations and desires and call, but also God’s will for you. Of course, like any fast, you can do it poorly (“I gave up men, but it’s a special occasion and I don’t want to be dateless, soooo…” or worse something like “I can’t believe I gave up dating. It’s awful. I hate it. I am miserable. I can’t wait until I can date again” every.day.). If you think something’s off about your dating life, consider doing a fast. It doesn’t have to be as long as mine–in fact, I’d argue that unlike Lenten fasts or diets, you shouldn’t start with a specific time frame, but see where the Lord leads you in this practice. If you need a guidepost for a minimum, use Jesus’s. At least 40 days in this “desert.” Or Mary’s–a 54-day novena. Or a summer or a year. Whatever is the time you discern God asks you to take.

As we all know, giving something up  may strengthen our detachment, help us be healthier, but doesn’t always lead to 100% perfect follow-through after. In other words, if starting a dating fast, don’t go into it with the assumption that the husband you’re still praying for will be there at the end, or feel that you’ve failed because you made mistakes you thought you wouldn’t repeat. And if you’re worried that maybe a dating fast at your age doesn’t seem sensible (believe me, nothing like being in your late 20s and just wanting to be married like yesterday, darnit), take whatever solace you can from knowing you’re doing something healthy and positive for you, the hope that maybe it can help clarify and purify the dating process, and the eventual joy from discovering what life gives you when you’re not busy with dude drama, but busy with your life: new hobbies, new friends, new spirit.

NAS: Travel

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How do you travel as a single lady?! Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Do you have anything fun planned for this year?

Oh what a fun topic for such a snowy season. This post has me calling to mind all the big and little adventures I’ve had over the years. The most memorable was also the biggest trip I ever took alone all the way across the country to San Francisco to see a dear friend. I can still feel the warm sun on my face and hear the bay splashing as I hiked around Golden Gate Park before having lunch at a snazzy bar in a historic restaurant overlooking the Pacific. While D. and I had a wonderful time together (especially the wine-tasting–something so delicious about having champagne at 11 am on a Friday when everyone else you know is at work), the day I spent exploring the city alone was truly special. I don’t recall having done that before, excepting a couple hours here and there walking around Cambridge after class during a summer study abroad program. All my other trips have been with someone else (Dublin and Edinborough with my summer classmates; Paris, Switzerland, and London with my parents; Chicago with D. and our friend K. in college, the Keys with J. for a birthday) or just me flying solo to go home. These earlier experiences had me convinced that traveling with someone, and having someone to share the adventure with, was infinitely better than going somewhere alone and not knowing anyone when you got there. But after that glorious Monday in SF, I’ve softened a bit. I’m still concerned about the safety of it, and making new friends is hard for me, but now I think I’d recommend it. So, here are some tips (mainly safety!), based solely on what worked (or didn’t!) for me.

  • Research your lodging (if not at a friend’s or relative’s place) with TripAdvisor and the Bed Bug Registry (especially if traveling abroad or to large cities). I AM NOT KIDDING. Those spawns of Satan can cost you a lot of money to get rid of if they hitch-hike home with you.
  • If traveling or seeing a far-flung friend is important to you, really work at your goal to save the money and vacation time. Take every advantage and deal you can get. SF happened because I had banked enough airmiles through my credit card (took just a few months, thanks to a signing bonus and responsible management), and a work holiday, saving me a day out of the vacation bank.
  • If traveling solo and not meeting a friend you already know, do something at least once during your trip–blog, tweet, post to Facebook, Instagram, text, call–that lets someone who cares about you know not just that you’re safe, but having a good time. To put this caring person at ease, discuss beforehand what the “check-in” might be or how frequently (or not) it will be made.
  • Budget on spending more than you initially think you would like to. You don’t want to be the person fretting that the cab ride now means you can only have a salad at tomorrow night’s fancy goodbye dinner or the one on the ground while everyone else is parasailing or something. Don’t follow that advice to pack peanut butter sandwiches for your excursion (unless you’re in a theme park). Savor the city you’re in, eat their cuisine, and save the packed lunch and Ramen for after your trip.
  • If budget is an issue (no European or tropical vacations for this gal without some major assistance from others), but you still want to explore, try different locales closer buy (Montreal and Quebec City are like little pieces of France, I’ve heard); a beach is a beach, and probably cheaper in the south than an island somewhere. Or center your trips around seeing friends and relatives, and not necessarily the sights.
  • When traveling abroad, have a set, zippered pocket or spot in a wallet for your passport. Do not whip it out at the gate when you are carrying a bunch of newspapers and then dump them all in the seat pocket, sleep terribly, and forget all about it in the morning. Some embassies may not be open (or anywhere near your airport!) the day you arrive. (This horribly embarrassing story may be told in detail another time….)
  • Do whatever helps you remember the experience the best: take pictures, journal, eat!, get keepsakes or mementos, etc.
  • Ahead of your trip, buy postcard stamps. Pack a small address book (or put it in your phone). Then, while you’re away, pick some out and send some to loved ones or even yourself!

This year, I do begin the most incredible adventure of my life: marrying Mr. Sweet! I’m very excited to have a life’s companion to share my journeys. But before that, we are traveling back home for a birthday (the big 3-0!), bachelorette, bridal shower bonanza. He won’t be at the latter two, of course, but it will be so good to spend time with my favorite ladies. And speaking of spending time with ladies, events like work or hobby conferences, or the Edel Gathering leave the option out there for traveling solo (maybe with a baby in tow) when you’re married.* Until then, enjoy the world!

*Special note for anyone discerning the religious life: in some orders you do get to travel! For example, I know that the Daughters of St. Paul may send you to cities around the country–or even the globe! (London, definitely Rome.) If you’ve got the travel bug, it’s not necessarily a sacrifice you’ll be asked to make!

7QTF: Excellent Quotes about “Giving Up” for Lent

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Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum!

4 p.m. Pancake/Fat/Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday. I’ve just finished a homemade nutella “pocket” and still have no idea what I’m giving up for Lent. My head is full of retorts for why I didn’t give up sweets, how the “offering up” of something while good spiritual discipline, is purely voluntary, and why must Catholics spend the drudges of the year (February and March) pressuring each other to have The Best Lent Ever!!! (TM). Look, it’s not going to be TBLE!!! if it’s something forced. For some inspiration other than a vague “Maybe I might try to do daily Mass again this year,” or “what if what God is asking for me to do is get back to my writing for His glory?”, I went to the blogs. It was very easy.

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Here are some truly excellent quotes about the personal sacrifices we make. And at the end, I’ll reveal what I finally decided on.

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“A hard-core Lent that is full of penance is not necessarily a good Lent. Lent isn’t a survivor experiment. It’s a preparation for Easter. If you lose sight of Easter, your Lent is pointless.” (Taylor Marshall). So it’s okay to continue having coffee.

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“For the past decade or so, I’ve followed one simple rule when discerning my Lenten penances: Don’t take on any commitments that will lead me to commit mortal sin. It works. I drink my coffee in the morning, my “medicinal” beverages at night, and  Lent in my house today is far more peaceful, sane, and spiritually fruitful than it was 10 years ago. Which I happen to think is just dandy.” (Emily Stimpson). She gets it! And has her coffee, too.

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“I’d always heard that you should give up something good, but I didn’t really get why, so I just went with giving up cursing for Lent…Then I pictured myself rising on Easter morn’, taking a deep breath, and shouting the f-word. Umm, yeah. That’s why giving up something that’s bad anyway doesn’t quite have the same effect. So no sugar in my tea for Lent.” (Jennifer Fulwiler). Even she didn’t give up her caffeine.

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“There is no Lenten practice that will bring you closer to God unless you ask God to help it happen. If you get someone a present, you have to put the right name on the tag, or it’s wasted effort.” (Simcha Fisher) I imagine God sitting up in Heaven wondering aloud to Jesus and Mary how not having coffee is helping our relationship. Coffee brings people together!

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“Unless you’re a hermit, your decision will affect other people. The rule of thumb is that you get to choose your suffering. Not everyone else’s.” (Simcha Fisher) And for the sake of everyone, it’s really okay for me to continue having coffee.

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“Regular sacrifices can give us constant reminders of what we are supposed to be doing, but they can also become a substitute for what we’re supposed to be doing. If God is calling you to repair your marriage, going forty days without Snickers bars is probably not going to help.” (Simcha Fisher) So I’m going to have my coffee, because that will actually help with what I feel I do need to do.

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“The traditional custom of giving up something for Lent is voluntary. Consequently, if you give something up, you set the parameters. If you choose to allow yourself to have it on Sundays as to promote joy on this holy day, that is up to you.” (Jimmy Akin) So my parameters are going to be the following, with coffee allowed:

- Give up indulging laziness. No more claiming “writer’s block” and tuning into a repeat of Grey’s Anatomy or some other mindless daytime television. I will try to do anything else, and yes, maybe even writing.

- Give up not doing anything “spiritual” because it seems like I already do enough. I have Rediscover Catholicism to read, a plot bunny involving The Interior Castle to explore, and at least one hour every day (seriously) for Mass or adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, or failing that, simply sitting quietly in a pew.

- Give up not writing. I can’t be honest and say that I will stick to a proscription of a certain amount of time per day or what constitutes as Lenten writing, but I can say that I can get over myself and at some point get back to what God asked me to do.

How is doing what I should be doing penitential? Well, I hate not having mind distractions, so an hour of something spiritual and quiet will be “better” reparation than skimming Simcha’s “older posts”.  How is writing, which can be very enjoyable, and maybe even profitable (if I sell the fruits of this Lenten labor), repentance? Well, think about some of the more creative penances you received in the confessional: yelled at a significant other, do a nice thing for them; missed Mass, go to more Masses. The past few months I haven’t been writing or doing anything particularly holy, so to make up for where I’ve failed, I’m going to literally make them up.

The truth is I’ve been in a spiritual funk, and I’m going to try to use this Lent to get out of it. It’s not going to be as cut and dry as 40 days of 952 words each and then total slackdom for the rest of Easter or agonize over whether my Lent is holy enough (or worse, holier than thou’s), but just the current season I have to grow in holiness. God bless you in your Lent!

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WWRW: The Adult Edition

Linking up with Housewifespice again!

91lUeBR2G1LThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Adult). This book is billed as a gripping thriller, great for fans of Gone Girl (presumably the book, and not the horrid movie). For one, this book has a much more empathetic primary narrator in Rachel, who while flawed, is definitely not as acerbic or deranged as Amy of GG. And for another, it’s in reality much less creepy and chilling. Rachel, an unemployed woman distraught from a nasty divorce (kicked out of the house so her ex could move his mistress in, marry her, and give her a child–the one thing Rachel can never have but desperately wanted), rides the commuter rail every day and drinks her sorrows away…every day. Her one delight in this sad existence is making up a story about the couple who now resides in a home on her old street, the backyards of which the train passes and slows down by along its route. But when one day she sees the woman kissing a man who is not her husband, it sets into motion an engrossing mystery about the woman’s eventual disappearance. Though you’re with Rachel for most of the narration, you do get insights into the lives of the other women of the story in their own specifically chosen chapters: Anna, the ex’s new wife, and Megan (the woman on the patio whom Rachel called Jess). As I said in the beginning of this review, Rachel is quite a sad sack, but despite this, I felt for her and rooted for her because Ms. Hawkins drew her to have some inner quality that makes you want to believe her. What’s particularly delicious is that Rachel is intended to be an unreliable narrator, but the big twist is what she’s actually unreliable about. Some readers may see some of the smaller twists coming, and astute readers the really big one at the climax. An excellently constructed book and great read. Catholic codicil: Do characters make poor decisions and face mild (if any) repercussions? Of course. This isn’t from a religious press. But it does portray terrible things as the horrors they are, as well as make you feel how awful adultery is. And even though the characters you like or come to like commit sin, you’re not rooting for them or made to feel as though it’s justified; rather you feel more sympathy for the wronged parties. Oh, and there’s a “devil,” who is quite clearly the bad person…no moral relativisim there. Recommendation: In my unprofessional opinion, adults (maybe mature college seniors) can read it, especially if they like character-driven mystery/thriller.

13538873Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan (mature teen/adult). A delightfully nerdy, if at times slow-paced literary mystery. Clay is the unemployed version of the Everyman. He takes a job working the midnight shift at a quirky bookstore, run by an eccentric owner and funded by some sort of secret society. Full of references to real and fantastical technological developments, as well as an ancient-ish printer and the legacy he may have let behind, the novel amusingly explores the intersection of tech and books. The mystery of the patrons of this store and the secret they wish to uncover (which is even less obvious to astute readers than the secret of the above book) unfolds gradually…almost too gradually. Normally I am able to push myself to finish books, but with this plot, there was no rush. Additionally, the technobabble got to be a leetle much. if you’re easily annoyed at smartphones and the way tech overtakes the current world, this book may not be for you. But it was mildly pleasing entertainment in a book landscape that seems to think you need to be shocked or titillated for it to be “good.”  Catholic codicil: The relationship between Clay and Kat is nearly Whovian (maybe not Rose and Ten) in its companionability as they try to solve the puzzle, with only light, references to their actions within. Also, Clay’s best friend character earns a (generous) living designing software that makes a certain female anatomy more optimized. But this is only a tangential plotline. The character and his employees aren’t in it for lust, but you may see it as problematic that they’re profiting off of it. Recommendation: If you can get past those two things, it’s a good enough book if the themes interest you. I would even say sophisticated high school juniors and seniors may appreciate the book, just be sure they’re up on the “rules” about relationships, and why Neel’s business is wrong, not funny.

WWRW: The YA Edition

Linking up with Housewifespice!

I’m so thrilled to be joining in again…so thrilled, I have SEVERAL reviews to post. A perk of job as a bookseller is that I get access to advance reader copies (or ARCs or galleys) of books and the freedom to check out hardcovers. And as a library assistant, have access to a statewide circulation system. So I’ve been taking advantage of this power the past few months! Especially with all the snow and lack of work time. This post is about the teen/YA books I read. A separate post has the grown-up books, coming shortly.

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Falling into Place by Amy Zhang (YA/Teen). Despondent Liz Emerson tries to commit suicide by driving her car into a tree. Employing the device of an intimately involved, but unseen narrator (a la Death in The Book Thief), Ms. Zhang captures the life of a high school junior and the effect her wreck has on her friends and family. The prose is quite good, especially when you think about Ms. Zhang being a teen herself (18 at time of publication). For me, the biggest hook was the near poetic voice of the narrator and trying to figure out who she is and her relation to Liz. The surrounding cast of characters are aptly drawn, but also just so typical of what today’s authors, reviewers, etc. think high schoolers are. They drink, go to crazy parties, have absent (literally or figuratively) parents, and are sexually involved. Though the story is about Liz, it’s also about the people she’s tried to leave behind, and unfortunately, I liked the other characters better. While the intent may have been to get the reader to eventually care that Liz ultimately lives, she is so unlikable a person in her backstory, that her crash became for me more the vehicle (if you will) for how her possible death affects the characters you really care about (especially Liam). Catholic codicil: The teens make some very poor decisions, and though by the end there’s a couple turnarounds or hint that behavior will change, and while I don’t think this should exclude this book from reading, I ought to tell you that one character mentions having had an abortion. She’s a little sad, but that’s about it. My philosophy for teen reading is that if your kid is spiritually mature, the book is careful enough when portraying sin, and the story has an overall goodness (writing, theme, redeeming actions), then go for it. However, I don’t think this book is quality enough to merit that. Recommendation: If your teen wants it, have a conversation and maybe come to a different pick; if she already has it and is reading it, check in about those elements mentioned above.

18460392All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (Ya/Teen). Okay, who wants to cry? This story of Finch and Violet, two sad teens who find a happiness in each other, features gorgeous writing, characters you can empathize with, a romance (of course), and heartbreaking path to still find light amid the darkness. When comparing this book to the one above purely on a gut reaction, Ms. Niven’s was clearly superior. The two do share a mild similarity: issue of suicide. In this case, both main characters want to leave the world, but theirs is less a narrative of cause and effect, but one of what happens when you decide to live. Told in alternating perspectives between Finch and Violet, you get two strong voices and a compelling insight into their individual psyches. I greatly enjoyed it, but….Catholic codicil: If you are the sort of parent who disallows books in which teens make poor choices and face little to no consequences or moralistic diatribes, then this book is not for you. Desire to commit suicide is the sin of despair, it’s teens in love with a backseat of a car, and of course, typical of the genre, no one goes to church or has any language for how faith can lead you to the true light in a darkness. The book does have a quality factor, especially with its depiction of mental illness–the kind of portrayal that makes you really get a person’s experience with it and want to do something, anything, to make it better for the suffering–including becoming less harsh in armchair judgments and understanding why treatment may be necessary. Recommendation: Mature teens (at least high school) and discussion with a parent.

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Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield (upper YA/teen): [Given that this book is 600 pages, two novels in one–literally–it gets a longer review.] Not a suicide book! Seriously–at my store the other day I grabbed the most appealing covers, read the flap copy, and disgruntedly set it back. There are only maybe a couple of themes floating around the secular YA/Teen contemporary realism publishing circuit, and it’s getting harder to be both objective but also respectful of Catholic parents’ wishes that their teens only read books based in Catholic values. So it’s getting harder for me to write reviews. In a literary sense, these books are “good,” but from a moral sense, I get the impression you all may think them not good because of a plot element or two. So I almost didn’t want to write this particular review. Because the book “was good,” like stay up half the night and finish it the next day “good.” But it has something more traditional, conservative parents would say is not good.

So. Here goes. Mr. Westerfield does something ambitious with this novel. About half the book is told in third person, narrating the life of 18-year-old wunderkid writer Darcy Patel (three cheers for a diverse character that is not “look how diverse I am!”), who moves to New York to work on her two-book deal that’s worth $300 grand. (THIS IS NOT AT ALL TYPICAL OF ANY PUBLISHING DEAL UNLESS YOU ARE SUZANNE COLLINS OR JOHN GREEN. Politely steps off soapbox). Alternating these chapters of her dream life of lit parties (complete with fake ID), whirlwind cross-country book tours, and  a “that yearly rent is more than I made in a year working full time” Manhattan apartment, are the chapters of her completed novel, meta-ly called “Afterworlds.” This book within a book is definitely a fantasy (not a fantasy painted as real life) in which a teen girl slips to the afterlife during a terrorist attack, falls in love with a hottie Indian death god, and the complications that ensue from being able to cross over between that world and this one, and what to do with the ghosts–literal and proverbial–that haunt you. This made up “Afterworlds” was actually thoroughly engrossing, and had it been published separately and reviewed, the Catholic codicil would have been just about the making out, the murder (yes, I am afraid), and hell.

But there’s another story: Darcy’s. If you are in the book publishing circuit, you will both appreciate the meta-ness of a YA author writing about the dream scenario of “being a writer in New York” and also snark on it, for Darcy’s experience is so very, very atypical. Darcy herself is also a bit of a Mary Sue.  I liked her annoying-called “protag” Lizzie immensely better. That girl at least made some decisions (even if they were bad), had some spunk, and a compassion for others that won you over. Darcy just has everything handed to her–especially compliments about her writing (look, it’s good, but not devastatingly brilliant)–and I’m not sure why I should like her. Perhaps Mr. Westerfield was trying to give the reader their dream experience by letting Darcy be so flat that the reader could relate to her, make it like she was the one in “YA heaven.”

Catholic codicil: The making out in the “fake” book, I wouldn’t be so worried about. Maybe just a talk about the sharing beds with boys (it helps Lizzie sleep). Then there’s a murder committed. Even though it speaks to that part of us that would feel it justified, it’s quite clear no one in the book thinks it’s a good thing to have done…in fact it costs the murderer nearly everything. So a good point for sin and consequences. The hell parts: definitely a conversation with the teen reader about what we believe–maybe some compare and contrast, why are such notions attractive, and how the Heaven we have is so much better than haunting the world. Now here comes the other part. I will just tell you what I feel you all may like to know, and you make the call yourselves. Darcy has a girlfriend. Aside from kissing, there’s no description of anything else, just insinuation, like so many other teen novels.

Recommendation: On their own, the Darcy chapters are not especially compelling, but the Lizzie story is definitely a page turner, and there’s some method to the madness of teasing them out with the parallel real world. Definitely an upper teen book. But again. You’re the parent (or the adult); you know your kid (or yourself); so you know if they should only read the black-bordered pages (Lizzie’s) or the whole thing. I don’t believe in chucking out entire books because of one element; I do believe in conversations, and this one could spark some good ones. This is your children’s world and their friends, and they have thoughts and opinions; you have yours and your values. Open up to one another.

NAS: Loneliness

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We all have times when we feel alone. What are ways that you combat loneliness? Pray? Join a group? How can we encourage each other to stay positive? Thanks to Laura P! Please link up at Morgan’s, and say hi to Jen!
Confession: I could have used insights from this topic a few weeks ago. One day, when I didn’t have work, I had a sad. I do not for one second regret moving closer to Mr. Sweet, and he has been incredible, but such a life change (moving out of state) comes with its challenges. I was leaving behind what few friends I had still living in the Boston, leaving a great job with great people, and leaving a great writing community. Naively, I thought it would be easy: start working for a cool non-profit, join the writing group that meets in the town library, and find a group to make new friends. Well, the job fizzled into desperate part-time work at a bookstore; the town writing group in all likelihood disbanded, as no one has gotten back to me; and there is no easy way to make good connections. Once the heady days of early wedding planning, then the Christmas shopping rush with tons of hours all died down, I found myself in January with large chunks of time to myself, finally able to feel the loss of community.
It sounds weird, that I an engaged woman with a roommate and co-workers (not to mention a loving triune God and the saints) could feel alone. But there I was that Wednesday afternoon, trying not to cry on my way to the grocery store–the big excursion for that day. I think the truth is that anyone, no matter their state or living situation, can feel alone. Our problem is not so much that we are alone literally or figuratively (say, when a loved one neglects us emotionally), but that we have temporarily lost the capacity to understand that we are not.
What helped me that Wednesday night (besides cuddling with Mr. Sweet, some entertaining tv, and comfort food) was the good night’s sleep and morning clarity after. Writing this out helps. I am not alone. I have the triune God, Mary, and the saints. I have my parents, my siblings, and my friends. I have Mr. Sweet. Okay, so sometimes I have the demons whispering that I shouldn’t bother them at work or that they won’t understand or be much help. But those are lies.
The suggestions Laura P. put in her description are key. My goal is to be strong enough to get to a church for some adoration and prayer. To join a group. To ask if the lovely young mom/wife of fiance’s fellow Knight of Columbus wants a coffee and chat. To get that fellow writer at the store’s email address so she and I can start our own writing group. I can also continue to get back to my writing.
Hopefully we can come to accept the awesome truth that God made us for communion. Ergo, He would never let us be alone. God grant us the blessing to always be able to know this at heart.

7QTF: Tips for Budget Conscious Brides

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Linking up with all the bloggers!

I wish I could be the bride who could walk the talk when it comes to the biggest-money saving tips for wedding planning. Mr. Sweet and I hope to generously host our large, loving families (most who’ve traveled a great distance at great expense), but our options for an affordable reception are limited (though we’ve been told we’ve got the most reasonable one around). And given the variation in cost of professionals around the country for elements that may be priorities to you and your fiance (and any person helping you pay for the day), it can be hard to follow the same savings rules for your photographer and florist. However, if you’re like us, and still want to keep overall costs as low as possible and still be a beautiful wedding and comfortable experience for your guests, there are some small, simple things you can do that will add up to some great savings.

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Magazines. Don’t buy them. Research if you can check them out from your local library. Some systems allow this! Or, for the price of a couple coffees, grab a bridesmaid and read through the selection at your local bookstore (you know the one). Use a camera-phone to take pictures of pages or photographs you want to remember. (From this bookseller, also be nice and put them back where you found them when you’re done.) Savings: upwards of $8…a pop!

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Cut down on costs and coupon wherever you can. Example: need new shoes? Don’t budget the higher amount you’re willing to pay (or a relative thinks you should pay). Wait until a department store is having a sale and allows for coupons on top of this. Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, and the like all do this. Even better–stores like Macy’s give you a percentage of any purchase you make toward a dream fund set up on a registry. (Note: though you have to have a Macy’s card for the dream fund discount, it’s absolutely free to set up a registry…even with one item. So if you or a relative shop there regularly–hi, mom!–set that up!). We’re trying to avoid paying full price for anything wedding-related. Savings: at least 20% off retail.

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Make low-intensity crafts. Okay, so I am not a DIY-bride. Thinking about making my own flowers out of book pages–no matter how precious–gives me agita. However, if you or  involved loved ones are good with a glue stick and folding, there are some options. For example, invitations. Michael’s and hobby Lobby have inexpensive (especially with coupons and their regular sales!) invitation kits. These sets usually involve no more than a computer template, printer, and possibly gluing or tying on a ribbon. Just be sure to check the paper in a store (if you can) before buying online…the cardstock is on the thin side. Savings: after a new ink cartridge and depending on the number of kits, at least $50…maybe up to $200 if your eye was on fancier styles from a vendor.

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Matting AND a ribbon AND lined envelope? This set from Michael’s would probably be at least $1.50 per invite (and maybe reception card extra!), but if you needed 3 kits and could get 3 people with a 40% or 50% off coupons (very common), it’d be no more than $60. Seriously.

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Tap into your network. Have a graphic designer friend? Seamstress? Singer or musician? See if they will gift their talents for you or barter for portfolio credits, a gift card, or even an item from her registry (true story!). What could cost hundreds of dollars may not even amount to more than a C-note for materials/her time. We’re doing this for our print materials: save-the-dates (a friend took the photo with her spiffy camera), invites, and programs. Savings: literally, hundreds of dollars for all three.

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Just say no…to most everything. Not doing a garter toss? Don’t need to buy one special, no matter how much David’s Bridal marked them down. Even if a Unity Candle or aisle runner is allowed at your church, if it’s not important to you or your groom, you don’t need the upwards of $50 each these little extras could cost. We’re not doing any of the above, plus, since my hair just won’t keep a veil, I’m not getting one. If any of the above are important to you for the significance they have to you and your groom, a way to save is to borrow any of the above from a friend or relative (just maybe not the garter). And definitely don’t listen to your mom/aunt/grandma/olde-school sister. You do not need a special dress slip and shapewear and pantyhose for a mid-summer wedding. I’d argue that except for the slip (to hold the shape of the gown if needed), you don’t need the other two. Savings: $50-$200 (new veils can be pricey!)

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Find “free” first. You don’t need to spend $30 on a planner or hosting your very own web site. Take advantage of The Knot , Wedding Wire, and other such sites’ tools. And Microsoft Excel. That is your best friend for managing a master guest list. If you’re a concrete learner, print what you need on scrap paper. Sign up for every coupon, phone app, discount code, and weekly giveaway that you can (and that makes sense for you). Set up a Gmail account specifically for the wedding. I say Gmail specifically because it has three distinct tabs: primary (communiques from your photographer), social (social media alerts), and promotions (all your coupons…not sent to spam!). For example, Shutterfly partners with certain bridal outfits, so I got a (nearly) free photobook to gift to Mr. Sweet. You can use your offer to design a special guest book. Savings: tiny-seeming amounts that quickly add up to more than $100 depending on what you need.

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Think outside the box. Our guest book is not a “wedding” guest bookthat gets the “wedding” surcharge. It’s a bargain-priced music sheet journal that I found for an additional 40% off. Given our theme of “words of love set to the music of my heart”, it fits! Plus, we’re not buying empty book boxes for the reception centerpieces at nearly $15 a pop, but using my own collection. Getting creative with the smaller details not only helps your budget, it brings more of you and your groom’s personalities to the celebration. Savings: varies.

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Let’s see…$40 per set at Hobby Lobby, ten tables at the reception…um NOPE.

Tell me brides, how’d you save money in the small ways?