NFP Week 2016/NAS – Wedding Fun



It’s two-for-one day here at the old blog! Linking up with Morgan and the rest with another July post. The theme is “wedding fun,” and what better kind of opportunity to also touch upon NFP Awareness Week! I mean, the USCCB’s graphic features a couple in their wedding clothes!

Sooo…weddings are fun. I love being brought back to the joy of Day 1 of PJ’s and my marriage, especially given that one of the most exuberant dance songs (Walk the Moon’s “[Shut Up] and Dance with Me) I danced to plays every day on the radio. And yeah. Ahem, other wedding fun [usually] happens, which everyone appropriately avoids talking about or alluding to, except for maybe some relatives of a certain age or nosy disposition who ask about when the grandkids are coming or helpfully do the math when you have a special announcement before the professional photos are even ready or show their disappointment if there’s not. But, as hilariously (and okay, slightly inappropriately) depicted on Jane the Virgin (about 3:20 in, after a very lovely and respectful portrayal of the celebration of the sacrament of Catholic marriage), it seems like maybe a given.

I’ll let you in on a married lady secret. For some newlyweds, when they hear this question, they could be thinking some different answers (which most would never dream of telling you): “Not tonight! [because I know my cycle, and yeah, it’d be a miracle]” or “Not tonight! [and our serious/just/grave reasons are none of your beeswax]” or “Maybe! [because we’re taking the que sera, sera approach]” or “Hopefully! [because I know my cycle and tonight is the night!”]. They do this because they’re already starting their marriage with Natural Family Planning (or not–see the que sera, sera couples).

Prior to marrying PJ, I’d blogged about NFP before (see the categories), but from the perspective of a single or in-a-relationship or engaged-and-learning woman. As a woman practicing it, with a whole other person, my understanding and perspective has naturally been transformed. There’s “knowing” what you’re getting into, and then there’s knowing. Once you add another person’s heart, mind, attitudes, and behaviors into the mix, NFP is like advancing not just to another level, but advanced kingdom.

Heading into our wedding, PJ and I had to make decisions together, decisions I’d encourage any engaged or seriously dating couples to consider. And if you’re like me and have an NFP knowledge base or opinions, understand that you may have to shift or compromise (on what you discern) or (hopefully not!) open your eyes to a challenge to resolve before saying “I do.”

  • What are our NFP IQs? Having worked for a Catholic publisher and being an avid reader of Catholic lady bloggers and family life forums–I knew a lot. So when appropriate, PJ and shared what we knew (and I didn’t scare him off with TMI or “Look, enough people say this can be really hard. You ready for that?”!)
  • What method will we use? There are many! Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I had a pretty clear idea what I wanted to do, and having worked with the coordinator of my archdiocese on an app, really wanted to travel back to learn a sympto-hormonal method. I explained why, giving a brief overview of the other methods, and PJ was on board! What’s important is that if you don’t have a specific method for specific reasons like I did, that you and your guy both explore enough about the options. If you severely disagree, I would recommend finding someone through the Family Life Office for a couple (or the couple at your pre-Cana experience) to talk to–or even a priest to talk in general about how to manage the conflict. Just be aware that sometimes the diocese only offers one form, and in my estimation of the writing, many are fans of theirs and cannot objectively speak to others. And as the graphic above says “open the heart of your marriage”…to possibly changing–maybe not now or in a set time frame, but as circumstance allows. You do not need to have a forever plan.
  • When are we going to start? And to what end? I wish I knew how to underline in WordPress. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE NFP IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO. Sometimes some Catholics give other faithful a bad rap for extolling the virtues of NFP too much, as if it was mandatory, or worse, sinful because just/serious/grave  only means “there’s a war on” or “here’s the signed statement from the woman’s uber-Catholic doctor saying she could die.” So you two may decide on wedding fun without consulting a chart. But I do recommend learning a method, as a tool in your back pocket, for when you may discern you need to use it. One of the glorified benefits of NFP is communication. And this applies to engagement. You’ll have to talk about if you need  to start from Day 1, if you don’t care, as well as have to talk about whether wedding night fun should not happen (hey, it’s not a guarantee, and a perfectly valid and survivable choice!).  Another benefit is NFP can not just help you delay pregnancy, but achieve it! So if you both talk and agree you want to start your family as soon as possible, it might just take the guesswork or an agonizing monthly wait-and-see out of it. PJ and I talked about all these things, and more, and acted on the information accordingly. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

To conclude, I want to say that today is the feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. What must their wedding have been like? Scripture doesn’t tell us much about this couple; Tradition, a little. Like any bride and groom, I imagine they may have been full of hope and expectations and dreams–but could they have conceived of the notion that together they would conceive our Blessed Mother, a sinless child, and be doting grandparents to the savior of the world, Jesus? On that day, NFP was not a “thing” for them, but we can surmise that love, mercy, life, and a marriage of open hearts was. May they pray for us.

If you want the chance to win a ClearBlue fertility monitor, which is used in the sympto-hormonal forms of NFP, head on over to Simcha Fisher’s blog.



NAS: Dating Fasts


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” 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


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!

NAS: Loneliness


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.

NAS: Qualities in our Husbands


What are the qualities and characteristics that you are looking for in your future husband? We have talked about what we don’t want, but it’s good to have an idea of those things that are important to us. Discerning religious life? This applies to communities, as well! Linking up with all the ladies at Jen’s. And visit Morgan, too!

How fitting that this topic appears on my future husband’s birthday! Happy birthday, Sweetie! I love you! Thank you for being all these things!

Patient.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I can be a little hyper and anxious sometimes. And we all know what kids can be like. Someone who knows how to calmly wait is worth is weight in gold.

Enthusiastic.                                                                                                                                                                                                           God wants us to experience joy and happiness. He gives us passions to pursue. Our lives our meant to be lived. I looked (and found!) a man who will bring that zest to our marriage and see our marriage as part of the excitement.

Thankful.                                                                                                                                                       When thinking about the type of guy I wanted to marry, I didn’t really think about a man who shows gratitude. Now that I’ve found my man, I realize how important it is that he is grateful for the blessings in his life–and what’s more, he shows it to, bringing it to our daily prayer. Sometimes I can be a bit cynical and negative, so it’s very good to find someone who balances that with appreciation and positivity.

Exemplary.                                                                                                                                                                                                                No one is perfect. But everyone has the capacity to set a good example. A quality I wanted in my future husband is that he models good qualities, someone who will show our children what it is to be a good man, good husband, good father, good Christian.

Respectful.                                                                                                                                                                                                               I’m sure you’ve all heard the adage to watch how your date treats his mother and sisters. That evaluation helps you discover how much he respects other people. When Mr. Sweet and I came together, I was so please to see not only how much he values his family and friends, but also how much he respects the faith and its teachings.


Just.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Since we are all called treat each other in a Christ-like manner, it is fitting to seek a husband who exhibits Christ’s virtues. One of His greatest was his practice of justice. The head of a family should be in agreement with what is right and morally good, reasonable, and proper. Not only that, he treats people in that way. It’s more than simply be “fair,” but giving a person his or her due–even if that means consequences for his or her own good. 

Open.                                                                                                                                                             Not to knock the “strong and silent” type, but men who are open about their thoughts and feelings, their spirituality, their hopes and fears, are men I was seeking. This is not to say Mr. Sweet can be read by just anybody like a public library book, but he is open about those things with me. Is it bragging to say we are great communicators? When thinking about marriage, the rest of your life, you should look for a man who’s willing to share all of it. (Plus this attribute has an additional meaning of open to children, open to new things, open to changes if it makes sense for us and our future.)

Silly.                                                                                                                                                                       This characteristic goes with enthusiastic. In his zeal for life and finding the best in everything, he’s able to rejoice in the light-hearted. He cracks jokes, finds new ways to make me laugh, and makes time to find pleasure in this world, rather than treating our world or life as all serious, all the time. Finding a guy who knows when some silliness is called for will be a boon when you have kids.

Earnest.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A great husband is sincere and with conviction. He knows when sobriety, not playfulness is called for. A lifetime together will bring its challenges externally and possibly internally. I am glad to be yoked to someone whose steadfast, serious contemplation of difficulties will steer us through them.

Prayerful.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   My faith is incredibly important to me. My future husband will be a man who leans on the Lord, trusts in the Lord, speaks to the Lord. Marriage is the vocation that leads us to Heaven. Prayer is our guidepost.

Handsome.                                                                                                                                                                                                    J/K…sorta. 😛 I have no qualms in saying I believe women should find their husbands attractive and desirable. I don’t mean that we should only use popular convention or superficial standards to evaluate potential suitors. I mean we should learn what is truly beautiful about a person and gain the sight to see beyond features and into the soul. And my guy is haaaaaandsome!

My man has many more qualities than this list, of course! My prayer for all you readers is that your men continue to shine for you, you find a man whose attributes light your way, and wherever God calls you to be, you are loved and led to Him.

NAS: Selfies


Do you support the selfie trend? Do you think it promotes self absorption, vanity and narcissism? Is there a way to incorporate selfies into the Church’s teachings of modesty, authentic beauty, humility? Thanks to Hannah! Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Sweet Mr. Sweet will tell me I’m great, I’m wonderful, I’m so cute; I’m perfect. But I think if we’re both honest about me, I do have a habit that’s not so great some of the time. I can be obsessed with taking pictures. Photos of what we’re doing; snaps of what we’re eating (check out my Instagram in February…Sunday sundaes are our favorite tradition!); pics of us being adorable. I don’t often take pictures of just myself, but when I do feature in pictures, I am obsessive about my appearance: my hair is messed up or greasy, my acne marks are showing; my forehead looks too prominent; I should’ve applied more lipstick. Clearly my problem isn’t that images feed my vanity. But they do feed something just as ugly: negative self-perception. For me personally, the selfie/photograph and share everything trend is part of a larger need to show perfection, be perfect, which based on all the other photos I see, I am not.

But selfies/carefully edited or filtered images are a false perfection. Sure, some photos show the truth: the sky really was that bright a blue that day, or no struggling with aperture needed to capture the love emanating from a happy couple. Yet when the urge to broadcast ourselves, to ask the world to take notice becomes more incessant, the more we want to only show the “perfect side” of ourselves: we’re only ever a happy couple; we’re only ever on dates with perfect sunsets or eating artfully presented dinners; we’re only ever puckering our lips/standing at a right or left angle with chin up or down. It’s a slippery slope to presenting ourselves as just faces and bodies: “smoky eye is sexier than pastel shadow;” “I’m eating a lollipop;” “maybe if I wore that more body-hugging sweater;” or even “it’d be better to jut my chest or butt out.”

We are called to something different.


Oh, we should show perfection–heavenly perfection that is. God doesn’t care about what 21st-century North American popular convention says is perfect; He cares that we are perfect persons. A person is body+soul together. Perfection is not in our physical ability, our physical attributes, or our capacity to enhance our skin, hair, and body parts. True perfection is in our goodness as people; that we are revealing the capital-T Truth about our dignity and God’s love for us. And we can use selfies and photos to image such beauty to the world.

  • Modesty: We can pointedly use selfies to joyfully share how it is possible to dress modestly and share a little about our faith (and maybe where we got that super cute skirt). Maybe if the more women posted the appropriate clothes they wear, the more it will seep into public consciousness that that is the style that amplifies the beautiful woman. (And it’s not all frumpy!) I like Fine Linen and Purple’s “What I Wore Sunday” link-up for those very reasons.
  • Authentic Beauty: It seems like it can be hard to capture the joy and goodness of our souls in a static image. But simple little edits can take a selfie from seeking attention (especially via sexuality) to radiating beauty to others: smiling instead of pouting, bringing someone else into the frame and focusing your attention on them and not the camera, and changing the reason behind your posting–not to grab approval or show off, but sharing a moment of God’s call to you and enjoying how He created you to be.
  • Humility: As a reminder, humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. It might mean not posting multiple selfies a week, or even month. Maybe just posting one without editing or thinking about how we look–all sweaty from a service project or not editing away blemishes or under-eye circles if we’ve caught ourselves on a morning when we couldn’t get makeup on.

Trends, like many things in this world, are neither good nor bad, but left for us to see how we can use it for God’s glory. In the meantime, I’m going to get my hands on this:


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: Dating and Social Media


Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Our lives tend to revolve around social media and knowing what’s happening in everyone’s lives. How has this affected your life? In your experience, has social media made dating easier? Harder? (Ex: not judging something you see about the guy you’re dating on Twitter/FB)

Fun, probably helpful hypothesis to start us off:

A greater percentage of the guys in the dating pool for young, single Catholic and Christian women have minimal, if any, social media presence/activity than the percentage of young, dateable men at large do. And this will make dating and living out an intentional relationship easier. In the admittedly small sample size of my dating past, I have mainly encountered:

–         “I don’t have Facebook (or Instagram or Twitter or whatever).”

–         “I hardly use FB, Twitter, Instagram or whatever.”

–         “Whether we are FB friends or not is a good indicator of where you stand.”

First, let me unpack that last statement. It is only from hindsight that I can tell you that if a guy you are dating (but not “official”) is on Facebook and does not request you or does not provide a climate in which you feel it okay to request him, then he is very likely not that serious about you. I was with a guy for three months who was on it, used it occasionally, but he never requested me, and I stupidly thought “Oh, we’re above that. We don’t need it.” Actually, it turns out, I did need it. A “need” not because I wanted to show everyone on my feed that I was finally in a relationship, but a need because if you are in relationship with someone, serious about discerning with them, and proud to be with them and unashamed about what they might see on your profile, then a declaration (after friendship) of “in a relationship” is a strong signal of one’s intentions and commitment to the other. In Ex’s breakup speech to me, he even cited that the fact we were not even friends should have been a sign all was not that great between us.

When guys hardly use social media, ignorance really is bliss. You have no idea if Mr. Last Saturday’s and Next Sunday’s Date is out, possibly with someone else. You won’t feel uncomfortable if your boyfriend says something really stupid or hotheaded that you’ll then have to explain to your family and friends. The guy who hardly uses social media typically likes to live life and be present. He also has strength and perspective so as to be above minute social drama. In not caring about trivial things, his heart can care about the more important things—hopefully you! (Note: if his lack of activity worries you, don’t consent to such fears. Simply talk to him and pray for trust.)

And the guy who never uses social media…well, while you don’t get the modern age’s version of love letters with a special Tweet or Vine from afar (if long distance), you do get a guy who might have a lot going on (hobbies and solid friendships are good and healthy). Or you might have a guy who sends actual, honest to goodness love letters, makes quality phone calls, and maybe even Skype chats. I’d only be wary if he isn’t online because has no connections outside of you (because social media can be a good way to keep in touch with others); tries to control your (appropriate) online behavior because he isn’t on it to monitor it; or doesn’t want to be held accountable because he knows he’d only use it for ill.

In other respects, dating in our online world can be hard, especially when you are privy to the profiles and presence of guy friends and “friends” (like, the regular Joe you talk to at Bible study or some such). You’re not dating him, but you might want to. You did go on dates, and while you can see you make better friends than discerning marriage partners, it still stings. This happened to me a few years ago. I was trying to get over a guy, saw on FB he was “out, out, out” and I wondered aloud “with who, who, who,” and then saw that same night a post on the wall of some new girl in our Bible Study about how she’d met someone, and I jumped to the conclusion the guy was out with her because previously he’d given her a ride to and discussed mutual love of a certain holiday and certain theme park. My progress in transitioning from date to authentic friend was set back because it was all TMI.

The moral of that story is not how it ended—he entered religious discernment for a while, left after temporary vows and gets married next month! (with God’s grace we are friends, but in a different way). And the woman met someone a couple years ago, got married, and is expecting a daughter in time for their first anniversary! No, the moral is that if I don’t practice emotional chastity and restraint with social media consumption, I can fall into negative thought patterns that seek to destroy, not build up, the relationships God wants me to have.

Now what about the guys who do post often? Well, I know a couple, and they fall into one of three categories: “here’s something funny, something religious, or something funny and religious;” “see how much I love my girlfriend;” and very rarely in my Catholic community, “I’m saying something stupid, hotheaded, or scandalous.” It’s very simple: don’t date the last guys and don’t look at their stuff. As cute or funny as they may be, if you don’t like how they are online now, it will only be a source of tension in a relationship with them. For the other types of posters, use this topic as a springboard for communication. Marriage, I hear, is essentially constant communication about everything. So get some practice now: how much usage is okay, what is okay to post, can I get veto power over certain posts, are either of us hiding things, are either of us sharing to much, are any of our actions making the other uncomfortable?

Social media doesn’t have to make dating harder. In fact, it can make it easier—there have been marriages made between forum posters, blog commenters, and I think even Instagram. But emotional chastity and emotional virtue (check out Sarah Swafford!) are the key to keeping social media and a dating life in check.

NAS: Making Friends


We LOVE the NAS community, but creating a real-life community is essential to our lives! What have been your struggles in making friends as a young adult? Do you have any advice for those struggling to build community post-college?

Link-up is at Jen‘s. And say Hi to Morgan!

“Make new friends,

but keep the old.

One is silver

and the other’s gold.

A circle’s round:

it has no end.

That’s how long I want to be

your friend”

I believe friends are the first loves you choose. Unlike affectionate love forged by bonds of the family or romantic love aroused by hormones and emotions, friend love is an act of the will (charity/self-sacrifice is the other, if going by C.S. Lewis’s definition of the four kinds). As we get older, the social structures that helped us choose start falling away—no more school, maybe a lackluster or older parish community, no longer living with roommates— so both maintaining the friendships of yesterday and making new friends really becomes a willful action.

As women, we are also built to seek and succeed at emotional and relational bonds with each other, which is why if we’re out of school, but not married and possibly with children, it can be a real challenge (hopefully a joyous one) to feel we’re “not alone” because we are solid in friendship with others.

It’s been five years since I’ve graduated from grad school, and I’ve found three areas of advice for those about to leave a defined community of friendships for the larger community of the real world, where it can be hard to forge new bonds and keep the old ones strong. Of course, I’m no expert, and I don’t always practice what I preach, but in the past, the following advice is what I’d give to my past self if I had the chance:

Making New Friends

  • For faith-following friends, seek out parishes with young adult groups or local universities’ grad student/young professional groups for those of your creed.
  • Volunteer. Some organizations may let you do a la carte projects, which means you’ll start to meet new people ach time. Or signing up for a regular commitment means you can get to know your co-volunteers in depth.
  • Join a MeetUp group based on favorite hobbies, and if interested in foreign languages, find a conversation partner.
  • Join a group to hone your skills or take a class to learn a new one. As a writer, I’ve made friends of various stripes through our monthly meetings.
  • Interact online: obviously, physical presence is awesome (hello, Eucharist).But that seems harder these days, especially if school, work, or other obligations have you isolated from your “people.” Even though emails, social media, and maybe even Skype visits are not as high quality as in-person get-togethers could be, you can foster real relationships with the people you met online, like posting on forums. What’s really great is if you take that act of the will and plan to meet in person at least once a year (why, like the NAS weekend in July! So bummed to miss out on that).
  • If a possible new acquaintance is male, really, really discern making a deliberate decision to befriend a new guy in your life. Yes, some beautiful and holy marriages arise from “We were friends first,” BUT if you know you could never marry the guy, strongly consider how you will interact with him. If he wants to befriend you, be clear about his intentions. My singular knowledge of some types of men tells me if guys want to date you, they won’t befriend you; they’ll simply ask you out. If they want to befriend you as a possible opening to a potential relationship down the road, have some kind of emotional timeframe, and know if you’ll be okay that you’ll never end up together, or that he’ll be okay if you find you aren’t that into him, or one day he reduces the friendship because he’s chosen a different girlfriend.
  • Be open—while it’s great when your friends are in the same state/vocational discernment as you, it’s also pretty enriching to develop relationships with people of different ages, different experiences, and different perspectives (NB: of course, don’t pursue friendships that are not good for your soul).

Changing Friendships

  • Prepare your heart for when a friend’s state of life/vocational discernment path becomes different from yours.
  • Do try to mutually plan a way to stay connected when exterior factors like a husband, a novitiate, a baby, a move, etc. will necessarily (but not negatively) separate you from old friends or new acquaintances. I really regret not keeping up with a letter-writing friendship with a lovely woman I’d known a couple months before she entered the Nashville Dominicans.
  • Pray for a spirit of acceptance when changes mean you must shift how you relate: maybe you’re sporadic about social media updates, but your newly faraway friend hates the phone. Love is sacrifice, and if you are important to each other, you will naturally make them.
  • Understand friendships with guys will definitely change: either one of you may get into a new relationship or develop unrequited feelings or have different relational needs (he doesn’t want to hear about how your biological clock just got turned on or you’re sick of hearing about his conquests, ie). While yes, you can still be friends, how you are friends is very different from how you are friends with your gal pals.
  • Be aware that even in their twenties, friends can change their philosophies or behaviors (or they don’t change from their old ways and you have) and you may not have the same things in common anymore—is Jane partying just as hard as college days while now you’d like to be home by 11? Or has your spiritual sister from high school suddenly reneged on Church teaching while now you’ve upped your religious Facebook posts from every now and then to daily? Discern your limits and assess the quality of the bond. C.S. Lewis also writes that friend love is when two people stand side by side and see the same world together. Ask yourself how you feel if now your old friends don’t see the same world—what else can hold you together?

Seasons Passing

  • Know that sometimes friends are in your life for only a season. Know that it’s okay if for appropriate reasons they’re not around for the next. Friendships are not marriages. While it is very sad when friendships end, you are not bound to do whatever it takes to stay friends or to hang around if it is too hard and the relationship becomes a detriment to your emotional and/or spiritual life.
  • But if you find that too many friendships seem to come and go, perhaps do an Examen to see if you’re really giving what you’re capable of in the relationship and in what ways you might improve.
  • Your season may end and change into a new one. Suddenly your core group may become all married women when you marry; and when you’re a mom, the most women you talk to regularly are moms. This article the Orthogals posted todescribes in a great way how friendships shift from a married woman’s perspective. Witnessing the changes in my sister’s friendships over the years as she went from single to married to mom of 3, I’ve gathered I should have an inner understanding of not just how others may change, but how I should expect that I will, too.

Like the song above, friends old and new are precious, and the idealistic hope is that soul-satisfying relationships will last a lifetime. But the last bit of advice I have for making new friends is this: pursue friendship with the Trinity. God is our friend; Jesus is our friend; the Holy Spirit is our friend. if we don’t treat Him as our friend now, but relate to him in some other way, try seeing Him in this new light.

NAS: If I Discerned the Religious Life…


Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Let’s all take a step back and pretend that God IS in fact calling us to the religious life.  While most of us feel called to marriage, it is important to see the beauty in all vocations! If/when you were discerning religious life, which communities interest(ed) you? What do you see as the positives of that vocation?



(Knocking: Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock)
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Come on let’s go and pray.
I never hear you anymore
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away—
We used to be best buddies
And now we’re not
I wish you would tell me why!—
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
It doesn’t have to be a religious sister.


Go away, Holy Spirit.
Okay, bye…
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Or consecrate yourself to give your all
I think a vocation is overdue
I’ve started talking to
the saints about their call—
(Hang in there, Joan!)
It gets a little lonely
All these empty rooms
Just watching the hours tick by-
(Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock)
Please, I know you’re in there,
Jesus is asking where you’ve been
I say “have courage”, and I know you’re trying to
I’m right out here for you, just let me in
We only have each other
It’s just you and me
What are we gonna do?
Do you wanna be a religious sister?”
– Lyrics adapted from Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?”

My discernment of the religious life lasted about as long as this song on two separate occasions, and was just about as casual. Once, in prayer, after meeting with the Daughters of St. Paul at an exhibit and failed interview to work for them, and then a couple years later when mentioning the momentary ping of “Hmm, should I do this?” to my temporary spiritual director. He rather quickly sussed out “No, not a true calling.” I think that’s because he could tell, what I now definitely can tell, my attraction was to the work they did, not to be consecrated to Christ as a mystical spouse who happens to do a particular work.

If I were not with Mr. Sweet and were not so convicted of marriage as my likely vocation, I would hope that what would be attractive about consecrated life is that very giving up of one’s “life” (career and possibly closeness with family and friendships if seriously cloistered) to be in active relationship with Jesus. And then the way in which I serve Him, my husband, would be secondary: contemplative prayer in a cloistered community, public apostolate in an open community, or a kind of hybrid (I think those exist—out in the world sometimes, but also with limits on relationships outside the community and focused on prayer/interior work).

There’s also another way to be a religious, but not professed to a community: to be a consecrated virgin. Much rarer a calling, consecrated virgins, to my understanding, profess vows to their bishop, have Jesus in Exposition in their homes, but have “normal” jobs in addition to service to their community. Kathy Reda in Boston, is a nurse.

Over the years and with some pondering, practical interactions with one community (a public apostolate) in particular, I believe I’d actually be more attracted to consecrated virginity than the other forms. While there are many beautiful aspects to living in a community, living as a hermit, being out in the world, or being in prayer but always exclusively devoted to God and His Church, there are also some aspects about each of those ways of life that for particular people, including myself, that partaking in them is not actually their path to holiness.

And that is what is positive in any vocation: God calls you to the path of holiness and expression of His love in the world that is right for you. God knows how you love Him and what would help or hinder your growth in that love. I believe that if you love Him enough but find some aspect of the call challenging or scary, if it’s truly where He wants you to be, He will give you the grace to know you can do it anyway. And what’s more, you will be confident that you’ve received this grace or not.

What is beautiful about the professed or consecrated life is that you are in a spousal relationship with the Trinity. to those who find it hard to understand, life as s sister or otherwise consecrated might seem rather one-sided—the woman is giving her all and not receiving anything in return, when in marriage, both spouses are giving and receiving love. But actually, I’ve heard that the brides of Christ do receive that self-donative love from God—they are brimming full of it. How gorgeous a sight—an imaging of God’s love from someone who received it directly.

The site Vocation Network has a really helpful series of articles—even quizzes on if you can hack the celibate life and what spirituality you are to narrow down a community. There are a great number of different communities to explore and research. God’s knocking. What do you say?