Over the next few days, I will be blogging some reflections on my experience during Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. Check out “Encounter” and “Witness.”

A common theme linking the experiences of encounter and witness during the Papal visit was togetherness. Though we hundreds of thousands and eventually more than a million people came in our little groups, maybe kept our prized barricade spots to ourselves, we were all in this moment together. This feeling of solidarity was most striking on Sunday when PJ and I were in line to get through security to the parkway grounds to attend Mass. All the lines closest to the three open train stations were curb-to-curb people and at least two blocks deep. The line we chose was among the worst of the ten entrances. We had a five-hour wait.


At one point in our slow sojourn, PJ had the following comment: imagine what it would be like for the refugees or even Jesus as he carried the cross to Golgotha. Obviously, our weariness was an iota of the suffering the two groups feel. But it was a small way to align ourselves with our brothers and sisters and our Lord. If after just 300 hundred minutes on our feet, we had thoughts of “when will this be over?”, “my back/legs/feet hurt so much,” then imagine what others on their journeys must feel. But all of us put ourselves on these long walks for a purpose, one that has even the slightest glimmer of hope amid the agony–that “we will make it.”

PJ and I could have bailed, found some #openinPhila restaurant and watched the Mass on TV or gotten a headstart on our drive home, but we didn’t, because we had a small hope that we would make it–even if just for Communion and the final blessing. Refugees have the hope that will have better lives and peace and security. Jesus, I personally think, had if not hope that the Resurrection would happen, at least a trust in hour Heavenly Father that this experience He called him to had a purpose. And while we made it into the grounds in the middle of the Eucharistic prayer, we didn’t get to receive communion. And that just reminded me of all the people who wish to receive Eucharist but are unable to. It definitely put my earlier frustration at the long wait into perspective.

Solidarity is important because it’s way we can be united as the body of Christ. I’m glad we got to experience the papal events together; I’m even more glad God wanted to put it on my heart to recognize how I, just one person in the crowd, am really united to my human family.


Over the next few days, I will be blogging some reflections on my experience during Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. Check out “Encounter.

I like to think about Pope Francis’s visit as one of “witness.” With his speeches, his encounters with various groups, and presence at the celebration of families, he was giving witness to belief and faith. The World Meeting of Families, the Festival of Families, and the Papal Mass were opportunities for us the people to give our own witness. It was great to have experiences of encounter, but even better to go one step further and witness.

While we waited for the papal parade to begin at the Festival of Families, we not only heard the witness of others, but had the chance to give our own. Here we are being interviewed by KYW, a local Philadelphia CBS news affiliate.

I do wish I could have answered the reporter differently and say that the experience “was a great way to start our marriage.” Because it was. Our witness is that our faith is so central to our marriage; that we are seeking holiness, and in our openness seeking enrichment, blessings, and grace. What’s really special is that everyone had a different witness–from the woman wearing her shirt to Corky and his literal pilgrimage.

We were also on CNN! Just a camera panning over the crowd, but our sign says “Newlyweds.”


The woman in the background is a lovely mom, there with her mother, her husband, and their four great kids. We got their witness as a family just by their presence, but also through conversations throughout the day. They introduced us to friends of theirs who passed by, and how we got a witness to NFP.

But the witness experiences were not limited to just us and marriage and family, but also to the crowds waiting for entry into the Papal Mass. It made me smile to hear a college-age woman giving her testimony to her friends, talking about the conversion of her heart and how she’s serving the Lord. It was a joyous thing to, well, witness!

The weekend really showed me just how many ways and opportunities there are to give witness. Being open about my faith–especially outside my “Catholic bubble”–is really hard for me. Hopefully I can follow through on call inspired by this experience to speak the Truth in love.

NAS: Adulting


Linking up with the new hosts, Lindsay and Rachel!

First, a disclaimer: As some regular readers may know, I got married this summer. While I’m no longer single, the NAS community has been such a blessing in my life, I’m hopeful to stay involved as much as I can. You all are so welcoming, and I love the spirit of the group. Sometimes I do feel “alone” as a new wife, as many of my friends are either single/unmarried, and the women in my area are moms, that I don’t feel I have an exact community still. Though many topics may focus on single life issues, it really wasn’t that long ago (just two years!) I was right in the thick of it and may address some posts from that perspective. So, that’s me, and I’ll try not to go all wifey on this blog!


How are you still connected to your family of origin (that’s the one you grew up in: parents, siblings, and extended family) even as you are adulting (a.k.a. living as an independent adult, at home or on your own)? How has your relationship with your parents changed as you’ve grown up? How connected are you with your extended family? What aspects of these relationships do you think are affected by your being single? How do you think your family relationships would change after marriage or entering religious life? (Thanks for the topic suggestion, Bek!)

I am thirty years old and still do not feel like an adult most of the time. For example, right now I’m sitting in PJs and watching Boy Meets World. But I’m getting there–I have a marriage, a mortgage, and a marvelous relationship with my family. All three have the commonality that they are all possible, but you have to put in effort, investment, and well, adulting. My experience with family relationships is slightly different than what looked like to be the norm among most of my friends. After college, they stayed in areas not too too far from their families. Many had extended family live in their same state for most of their lives. I was the weirdo.

For college, I went the furthest away (but still in-state). For grad school, I did the hardest thing and moved a plane ride away to an entirely different region. And then I stayed. To stay connected to my parents and siblings, I called as much as I could. To nurture the relationship, I had to make adult choices like how to budget for airfare so I wasn’t depending on my parents for tickets, how to prioritize my vacation time so I could visit my friends, as well as my family.  It meant sacrifice; I consider my family so important that I gave up dream fun trips like a cruise with friends or getting a travel buddy to go back to Europe.

But that effort and investment has paid off wonderfully. Though I’m not there for random Sunday cookouts, and it can be a bummer to hear about brunches on the beach while I’m calling from a snowy trolley stop, emotionally, I’m pretty close with my parents and brother and sister. In some respects, our relationships have improved. Rather than the “I’m the parent, you’re the child” dynamic, we have this new dimension in which to enjoy each other as fellow adults. To be sure, we’re not “equals,” persay, but we are bonding in new ways. My mom and I talk about the TV shows we watch; my much-older sister and I now share more because more is appropriate; and my brother and I are in a better place than when we were as kids when the sibling squabbles that come from two different people sharing too close a space. For me, my singlehood benefited the family dynamic, in that I had the freedom to travel to see my family so much, to have experiences like playing elf on Christmas Eve, helping my sister and brother-in-law with the kids’ presents.

The drawback to being on my own so far away was that it made it harder to keep up a close bond with my extended family. Both my parents’ sides live in a state in the Midwest, plane rides away for either group. Having grown up so far away, I never reached a level in which I felt comfortable visiting them on my own as a singleton. I did love the one time I flew out at the same time my family was visiting the relatives and hope we can do that again.

Finally, a word on marriage affecting family relationships. At only three months in, it’s too soon for me to comment on how the dynamic will change. Many aspects will remain the same: keeping up communication, certain shared things don’t have to change (still watching those same shows), and prioritizing visits. But I am aware there may be changes–both for the better and for the different. We were blessed to have many of my extended family come out for our wedding, so my husband and I have revived those contacts and it will feel less “weird” to me to visit independently of my family; and relationships could deepen given my mom and sister and I are all married women, and hopefully when we have kids, we’ll share in the “mom” journey, too. Being married means I gain another family with my husband. They’re great, and relatively close by. But we will have to be adults and balance time together, which will mean splitting or sharing holidays, prioritizing budget and vacation time to visit with family instead of romantic getaways, and making sure our children have the ability to develop loving relationships with all grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

No matter your state of life, one thing should not change: you are family.


The images on the screen of our hotel room TV gave me the idea. There was Pope Francis, out of the popemobile, encountering the crowds along the barricades of a Washington, D.C. street. People got selfies, blessings, and the experience of a lifetime. I told my husband that for Saturday, we needed to leave as early as we could muster, so we could get a spot on the barricade so we too could encounter the pope. I admit I had naive dreams of him getting out of the car and coming to our section. He’d bless my book, there’d be a great picture, and a great story for our hoped for future children about how mom and dad’s bride and groom rosaries were personally blessed by Pope Francis.

Our encounter that day–and the whole weekend for that matter–was very different from the fantasy.

We did get a spot right on the barricade, near the end of the parade route, thanks to a 4:30 am wake-up call and willingness to stand for nearly 12 hours. Here we are, at my thumb. To make a dream come true, it really was the best spot.


But we did not personally encounter the pope. After much confusing information from our very nice State Trooper (one stationed every twelve feet or so), the 2-hour parade after the speech at Independence Hall did not materialize. Rather, it was two hours after the speech that Pope Francis boarded his car and literally whizzed by. More on that experience in a future post on “sight.” It was very cool to see such a respected person, the leader of our faith–one who has inspired such admiration not seen since the likes of Pope (now Saint!) John Paul II, once famously described as the “pope who knows how to pope.” But we were not alone in our slight disappointment that after all that waiting, the experience was a mere split second. In the line for the train home, in line to get through Mass security, nearly everyone we met commented on how fast he seemed to go by. But all were incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

And one phrase in that last sentence is the key: “nearly everyone we met.” The weekend was FULL of encounter–just not us with Pope Francis. I think he met with those who needed his hand, his personal blessing or kind word, and we met other pilgrims. We may think we need a personal encounter with the pope, but God knows better. The people He put in our path that weekend were who we needed to encounter: The two hilarious women from Louisiana who sat next to us on the barricade; the family of six with the kind dad, generous grandma (she gave me a marker!), and joyous kids; the two women from Philadelphia in line with us trying to get into the Mass area; the veritable strangers we maybe exchanged five words with while waiting; and the acquaintances from my time in Boston. When we encountered one another, we learned new things, we shared commonalities and explored differences, or we just left an impression. During the World Meeting of Families, PJ and I heard a lot about making sure our marriage was a witness to the world. But I wondered how to really do that, what that was supposed to look like. And I think it was just what we were doing that weekend: encountering the world together, as husband and wife.

So we didn’t encounter Pope Francis in the way I thought we wanted. Rather, I think we met with the world in the way I think he hopes his flock would: person to person, just as they are, looking with the love and joy of Christ.

7QTF: Life Recap Edition


Linking up with Kelly and the rest!

So I disappeared. Again. But big, big stuff is happening, so hopefully any regular readers can forgive me. And to any new readers, welcome! Here’s what’s been happening.


You know that advice, “Don’t quit your day job”? I totally did. It was also a night job, a mandatory Saturday shift job, a job that didn’t really make sense for my life anymore. With the biggest thank you ever to my dear husband, PJ, I had the privilege to leave it (on good terms with my boss). I plan on spending my time writing, submitting, hopefully getting paid. I’m not fully into the freelance world, but taking it gently on myself because…


We went to the World Meeting of Families AND the papal events in Philadelphia last week! It was incredible, inspiring, tiring, and just…tremendous. We saw the pope twenty feet from us! We were caught on camera on CNN during a pan sweep of the crowd at the Festival! We were briefly interviewed by KYW, the local CBS/CW news affiliate. What I should have  said to the reporter was that this experience was a great way to start our marriage. Here are some pictures:




Next week I will have a series of reflections on our visit: Themes include Encounter, Solidarity, Sight, Witness, and Waiting. After those, I will, in some way, reflect on the talks from the WMOF.


I’ve been reading, reading, reading “comp” titles ahead of starting a new novel I’ve been thinking about for, oh, forever. Unfortunately, none of the books are close comparisons, which is either AWESOME because I have a unique idea never done before (and editors appreciate originality in the truly glutted market of trendy tropes) or AWFUL because the concept is just unworkable, weird, or uninteresting. In a few months we shall see once I’m ready to submit.


I’ve started the Symbolon course being offered at our parish. The videos are very well produced, engaging, and workbook questions just the right amount. Even though some of the material is familiar to me, I do learn something new. AND, best of all, I’m starting to find some community.


Community is something that’s harder to come by, though. I feel I’m in a weird spot right now–it’s harder to connect with some women socially because the opportunities I was used to were primarily available because we were all single/dating; and now it just so happens that the young wives I do meet all have a baby or young children, so it’s just harder to connect on  a big, this-huge-thread-ties-us-together kind of level. But luckily I have Symbolon, a writer friend from ExJob, a young Catholic mom colleague at my library job, and these young couple potlucks offered at our parish. I’ve also joined Blessed Is She, but right now haven’t found anyone within a reasonable (<30 minutes) driving distance. If you’re in central CT or SW MA, holler!


But it’s fun being a new wife. I’m busy setting up the condo we now share, finally making some necessary post-wedding returns, decorating (my favorite!), cooking some new (but very simple) recipes from the elventy-seven cookbooks we now seem to have, and trying not to make a full-time job out of experimenting with Pinterest. Balance is our watchword, making sure we carve out times for both writing thank yous (we’re going to make the Miss Manners 3-month mark, I swear!) and having date nights/days.

Have a blessed week everyone!

WWRW: Link Edition

I have book reviews –  a slew of them! – but first, I need to share some online articles I’ve seen lately. Too depressing and too important for a 7QTF post, they are here. Read to know what we’re up against, and especially if you need inducement to shower, or even raise your blood pressure a few points.

The gist of this report on a limited German study on happiness is that by some particular measures, new parenthood is terrible, even more terrible on people than other tragedies. [Strike that: parenting is not a tragedy!] A former classmate level of friend shared this on Facebook.  She’s very much into the “anti-Instagram-worthy parenting” trend, chronicling both the adorable adventures with her children, as well as the reality that the challenges suck. I’ve read enough mommy blogs to “get that.” But my problem is that when it comes to defining happiness, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” And even if it does, why is that the most important measure? And if it’s even not, why is the Washington Post making sure to tell everyone that of some 2,000 German people, a certain percentage that made a numerical majority reported that they were unhappy with the challenges that come with raising kids. Can’t journalism be GOOD anymore? You know, like maybe the reporter could have cited other studies that showed an uptick in happiness (I know they exist) after an overall child-rearing experience, not just in the throes of new parenthood? Hopefully your everyday educated reader will question it enough to know it’s not a whole picture, but in this culture that can so despise children for being “inconvenient” at times, you just know that the WP knew exactly what it was doing with this clickbait, shareable of an article with its headline. I just held my newest baby nephew (PJ’s sister’s son), and knowing what I know from reading far too many birth story blogs and hearing quite-enough-thank-you stories of new parenthood changes and challenges, all I felt was just a peaceful joy and love, a feeling generated by the even more peaceful and even more joyous-in-love parents. Happiness is related to joy, and it shouldn’t be treated as a good that you exchanged having a baby for. I ask you, what good does it serve the world to remind people “parenting is hard, and you won’t be all smiles all the time, and you’ll feel worse than at  [which it should be noted – but was glaringly not in the article – are due to likely-torture-level exhaustion and hormone imablance] other hard times in your life”? It only feeds the rabid “children are the most terrible terrible*, and let’s not have them, nor should you, person I don’t know” crowd. Instead, how about we support new parents, better connect happiness to joy.

Talk about not supporting new parents and not understanding happiness and joy AT ALL. My word. I happen to believe profit at the sake of all others is the absolute worst mentality. So it’s pretty stupid I work in retail. But more on why and how I’m changing that in a later post. Anyway. I just can’t with this company. There are so many issues with the website and how it can and has treated some authors and even publishers quite horribly. And now to see its inner workings. I know some bloggers and authors and families have had success with it and rely on it and love the little “use my link while doing your normal shopping and my children get fed” opportunity, but quite honestly. They way they treated the woman who miscarried. The one with the stillbirth! The dude whose dad was dying of cancer? I don’t care that it’s a corporation and it’s just business and workers should support the business. But DAY-UM. There are successful companies that do not encourage you to throw your co-worker under the bus or treat you like a robot or worker bee who can just answer 3:30 am texts from your spouse’s hospital bed and go to work the next morning, create a project, rat on Suzy for eating a 7-minute lunch when Joe only takes a 30-second protein shake shot because your career and your company [read that in a seething voice and imagine me spitting] are more important.  A Chik fil-A owner in Texas pays $11 an hour to start (I make less and am in a junior managerial role and live in a higher-cost-of-living state) AND paid the salaries of his people when the restaurant was closed for renovations. And guess what? They’re still open, and not broke. I am not asking you to quit Amazon cold turkey, but please read this article and then read last Sunday’s readings [Eph 4:32] and you tell me if this business and its principles are worth supporting.

I read this Vanity Fair piece while my husband was getting ready for bed. When he came to the room, I made sure to thank him for being him and that we were married, and privately thanked God that He led us together and I did not have to deal with this sh*t. That’s how disgusting it is, that I only have crass words to describe it. Plain old acceptable language is too good for this hit-it-and-quit-it mentality, this use of the human person, this objectification of an entire gender, this desecration of love. Not only my Catholic friends, but an a-religious, secular, liberal former flatmate of mine posted it. He was horrified, too. I got the sense from his post he didn’t want to be of this world any more than we do. Journalism ethics compels me to tell you that Chris Hayes of MSNBC did a segment on the article, pointing out the likelihood that the reporter probably was selective in who he interviewed, and NYC dating is likely a more a microcosm unto itself than in other regions. But still. There are people in this world, people we have to love with a Christ-like love, even though they sound like the most terrible terrible scum. And they way they treat others. They way they treat themselves! Do they not realize what this does to their very person? Their soul? I am at once thankful I don’t have to deal with it, fearful for those who do, sad for those who participate in it, and a little bit energized to try to do something about it, if not for this generation, but the next.

Now, I realize all of these pieces are quite negative. And my bile was quite raised. And other qualified writers/reporters have responses/rebuttals. And yes I realize the irony of falling victim to the very clickbait I’m railing against. But these articles give us a glimpse of the world we’re in. My intention in critiquing is to sort of brainstorm how we can possibly minister to these people/problems.

(Not a) Trophy Wife

I was never one for “advertising” through my clothes. So when it came to my engagement, I didn’t run out and buy all the t-shirts emblazoned with “bride,” “future Mrs.,” or anything like that, or buy them for my bridal party. Okay, once because it was on sale and I needed to hit a minimum for a Michael’s coupon, I bought a tank that said bride. And wore it once, on the day before my wedding. Now I see that Target has a line of tops for the engaged and bridal market. A pink “Bride” shirt (because pink is all women’s favorite color….), a gray “Mrs.” top, which I suppose I would wear, but I still like going by my first name to my peers, and, a black one with “trophy” in all caps. Oh, and these tops have been merchandised by many stores in what’s considered the “Juniors” section. Um.

I don’t want to write the problem of young teens identifying as “bride” when child marriage is a real, serious problem in the world. Or even that we’re treating it as no big deal that young women wear things to the mall and aren’t being trained to think about what they wear could signify…do they even know about the outside world? Instead, I want to join the chorus about that “trophy” shirt. A couple weeks after my wedding, it was the talk of the radio morning shows. On the first program, someone called in to say they couldn’t understand why some women were upset. To me it was quite obvious: a trophy is an object. And women are people, not objects. Even if they haven’t read Saint John Paul II’s wonderful writings on how we should not objectify people, they understand that we can’t take too casually a comparison of women to things. Dehumanizing a class of people is not good for the culture’s soul. This world and its history have seen too many examples of individuals or groups that started with small campaigns to dehumanize or use the groups of people that ballooned into full-scale evil acts against them. Now, I’m not saying a top at Target that might get phased out in six months is Step One in female suppression, but it does make me worry for society when it refuses, or worse, excuses plain examples of objectification.

The next morning, a different program, a different caller, and a different problem. A woman said that she thought the shirt was great. She was, essentially, claiming “ownership” of the word–as a wonderful wife and mother who did a lot for her family, she thought of herself as deserving a trophy. Because she used the construct of meriting the thing she was describing herself as, the male host tried to suss out the logic of what she’s saying. If she, as a trophy, is the thing that is won, then isn’t that saying her husband won her? The female host an the caller immediately jumped on him, thinking he was saying something offensive. All I could do was bang my steering wheel. No, no, no, no. They weren’t listening to him, and they certainly didn’t hear themselves. Identifying as a trophy–the lifeless, possibly plastic, object sitting on a shelf, perhaps collecting dust, perhaps sitting with a bunch of other forgotten awards in a box–is much different than earning a trophy. Do women deserve accolades for all that they are and do? Of course! Should men prize their wives, be worthy of them? Yes! But why be so proud about being a thing?

Lately it seems like everything and every word now has to be “reclaimed” or we take ownership over something. If you look at the history of trophy wife, it’s not something I or any woman should be proud to call ourselves–or to associate with our dear, sweet husbands. But why the need to take over the meanings of words? Or the need to “advertise”?  Perhaps it is because despite all the progress we’ve made in social, political, and financial equality for women, derogatory words and phrases are still around, and our protests have been ineffectual and women still feel that they are repressed, suppressed, or oppressed. That if we control the word then we can’t possibly be its victim. If women wore this shirt deliberately to provoke discussion on ingrained and cultural sexism, to demand that our social language and policies no longer denigrate the female sex because we’re successfully taking it over, I might be on board. But that’s not what’s going on. Instead, it’s meant for teens and other young women to think it’s funny (ignorant of the history and meaning) to the mall or the gym or the grocery store devoid of any context. Not only are we not thinking, we’re being told not to think to much about it, to not make a big deal. Now that is repression.