Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother!

Mary, most prudent, Mother of the Church: Pray for us!
I owe so much to Mary...she is certainly my queen, my sister, my Mother, my friend. She helps me to grow close to her Son Jesus, and where she is, He is never far from her. Today when I was in my Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I decided to pray a rosary. I have to say, it is one of the forms of prayer that I struggle to be consistent in doing, especially individually. I love praying the rosary in a big group or with a friend, but it is harder for me to do it as a personal devotion. I am really striving in this, because I know how much it pleases her and it pleases Our Lord to meditate upon the mysteries of the lives of Jesus & Mary.
I recently read a quote by St. Josemaria Escriva which has stuck with me: "Blessed be that monotony of Hail Marys which purifies the monotony of your sins!"
The rosary can seem monotonous at times, believe me, I know. But faith, is not some sort of culmination of our emotions or feelings. Don't pray the rosary because you feel like it, but rather, pray the rosary because our Lord is good and deserving of all praise and honor. Remember, "Love covers a multitude of sins" and what better way to love than by praying for forgiveness, healing, and peace. Honor Mary, and learn her ways, so that you might conform your will in imitation of the way she accepted all things the Lord had in store for her.
On October 6, 2012, Bill and I will be married. Our first full day as husband and wife, October 7, is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It isn't mere coincidence that we chose this date. Bill and I want to honor Mary as we enter into the sacrament of marriage. Mary is a model for me as I strive to be a holy wife and mother, and I so much admire the relationship that Bill has with Our Lady, as his advocate, Mother, and intercessor. The rosary will certainly be a family devotion for us, as it has already been critical and life-giving during our relationship and engagement. So pray your rosary today! And God bless you!

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Journey into (and out of) vegetarianism

What's for dinner?: The adventures of becoming a vegetarian


As promised, I said that I would post a blog on my decision to become a pesco-vegetarian some 10 odd years ago when I was 12 years old and in the 6th grade. It is hard to have a completely objective view of myself at that age since it just seems so young, but I think I was a fairly mature 12-year old. I was a huge bookworm (still am I suppose!) and loved reading anything put in front of me. So when I began reading "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser, I initially saw it as just another book which might give me an insight into fast food. Up to that point I had never really even been a huge fan of fast food. My ideal fast food (if I had to have some) would be Subway, Penn Station, or maybe Boston Market.



I quickly found the book to be fascinating...and appalling! The conditions in which the workers were subjected to in the meat industry, the obscene slaughtering practices, the low regard paid to the processed meat, it all gave me the creeps. I was most concerned with the ways this industry failed to provide livable conditions for the workers within their factories. I remember one story of a large 10-15 foot blood draining unit for beef production. One man fell in while trying to repair it. In a desparate attempt to help his friend, another man jumped in too.


I had enough at that point, I was converted. I told my mom that I wanted to be a vegetarian. She took it very well surprisingly! She was more than willing to help me acclimate myself to this diet, as long as I was willing to do some cooking and as long as I talked to my doctor about it. I did both of these things, went vegetarian cold-turkey (pun intended) and eventually decided that I wanted to continue to eat seafood. Seafood had always been one of my favorite sources of protein anyways.


I packed a lot of my own lunches, enjoyed shopping at specialty groceries such as Trader Joe's and the natural section of my usual grocers. I faced several difficulties with limited options when I would help with a retreat/program or camp and meals were not veggie-friendly. I have been finding more recntly, however, that restaurants and programs are becoming more aware of the large number of people who have taken up a complete vegetarian, vegan, modified vegetarian diet. I feel so blessed to have been able to make that choice, and in fact, we are blessed with so many options of what we can eat.


So I went on this way for a long time...9 years long time! I ate a lot of veggies (salads), hummus, PBJ, fruit, yogurt, beans/lentils/soups, rice, seafood and meat substitutes such as Morningstar, Boca, and Gardenburger. I loved finding new ethnic restaurants to try and found that overwhelmingly, Indian restaurants boasted the widest selection for vegetarians. My city (back home) has a huge Indian population, and I even found an all-vegetarian cafe which had a terrific lunch buffet. Each year for our birthdays, the birthday girl or boy gets to pick the restaurant. I even got my family to go along with me to an Afghani restaurant (yum!). Being a vegetarian gave me an excuse to try all sorts of new recipes and new products. My parents came to love trying all sorts of new foods and to this day they are huge fans of veggie burgers. My brother Mike, on the other hand, has not, to this day, touched any "veggie" food of mine willingly. Ha!

As I matured, I learned a lot of additionally reasons for being a vegetarian. For instance, did you know that vegetarians decrease their risk of heart attack by nearly half? Or that vegetarians add an average of 6-7 years on to their lives. Wow! Eating no (or even less) meat is extremely beneficial, as long as you eat a variety of good foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.


So, this all sounds great, right? What happened, you might be asking...?


Well, in the summer of 2010, I took an incrdible, transformative, volunteer mission to Chuquibamba, Peru for a month. During my first day there with the Servidoras del Señor y de la Virgen de Mátara, we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. As is customary, we were all served a meal following the mass. The meal consisted of carne con aji colorado (spiced beef), potatoes, and corn. I was famished, I was grateful, and I realized that I needed to accept this meal so to be able to fully show gratitude toward the cooks. I couldn't believe I was actually eating meat...what was this!?!


During my time in Peru, I read St. Francis de Sales' book "Introduction to the Devout Life". This is a terrific spiritual read that was the first book on spirituality written for the lay faithful. I don't remember the actual quotation, but I remember reading in the sections on virtues, that accepting all food one is offered is a virtuous and worthy endeavor. By accepting the food that I was given, I was able to show my gratitude more fervently and I allowed all of my material needs to be satisfied by the Lord. As I tried different types of meat, I started realizing that I really did enjoy meat. One day at the orphanage, we received a cow that had strangled itself and could not be sold. Thus, we ate beef (and even cow stomach!) all week long. In giving up my vegetarian diet, I was able to receive more fully and genuinely.


When I arrived back in the United States, I was torn whether I should return to my vegetarian diet or continue on in my adventure with meat begun in Peru. I decided to do both. I still cook a lot of vegetarian food...a lot! This skill especially comes in handy during Lent on Fridays when everyone is looking for a good fish or veggie meal. Today for lunch I made a skillet using red potatoes, tempeh, tomatoes, cumin, avocado, and black beans. However, I decided that I would eat meat, and I have even been finding myself excited to try new kinds and experiment with it in the kitchen. It all still feels kind of new and exciting to me....it's like I'm a kid in a candy shop!


In closing, one's diet certainly is an important thing. A well-balanced diet is essential to good health. Some people feel compelled to take on a vegetarian lifestyle, whiel others find healthy options that inlude both plant-based and animal-based products.


Are there any current or former vegetarians out there? What are your thoughts on vegetarianism?






Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drumroll please.....introducing "The Sheet"

Craving to communicate?: Try "The Sheet"


Happy April folks! I am sorry that I've been absent from the blogosphere so much recently. I spent a week on vacation (in Colorado visiting family and in Miami visiting Bill)and when I got back there was just so much to do that I spaced out on blogging until now. As you probably notice, my blog looks different! I hope you like it as much as I do. My friend Elly helped me to redesign the layout and I absolutely love it. Thanks Elly. :-) You will also notice that you can sign up to receive my blogs through e-mail which is pretty dang cool...I encourage you to do this, so that instead of having to check every once in awhile, you will be able to know instantly when I have posted.


Today's blog won't be long at all, I just want to share a powerful method to communicate with your beloved (boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé/fiancée, husband, wife, you name it!). Bad communication can really be a killer for relationships/marriages, and there is no better time to begin communicating than the present. I have found communication to be a huge area of growth for me, especially since I began dating Bill long-distance relationship. I first learned about "The Sheet" from my friend Kenna, who at the time was using it as she and then fiancé were preparing for marriage. I know that they still use it during their weekly "Family meetings". Bill & I use it on a weekly basis and make it a priority that we do "The Sheet" every Friday. We make a date of it, either on the phone, on Skype, or in person if we're lucky enough to both be in the same place together. We plan on using it once we are married, and we have both encouraged other couples to try it out.


So what is this "magical" sheet? Okay, okay....here goes. "The Sheet" is made up of different categories for discussion. Each person will do their "Sheet" a day in advance or throughout the week leading up to the time that they plan to discuss it as a couple. I like to take mine to my adoration hour to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and think about what I ought to bring up during "The Sheet" that week in my journal. I know other people who like to type it on their computer so they can keep track of it and watch the growth over time.


Here are the categories for reflection:


News

This is your chance to bring anything up that has not in normal conversation. For me, I normally give Bill a road map for what my schedule looks like in the week advance, we might talk about what kinds of things we'd like to do that week, tell each other updates about friends and family, etc. Pretty low vulnerability level, but very useful!


Puzzles

This is your chance to ask any questions to clarify things that your partner did earlier in the week. For instance, "Last night you mentioned you'd call me at 6 pm, but then you did not end up calling me until 8 pm...what happened?" or "Do you remember who committed to taking the dog on a walk every week, was it me or you?" It's important to stay away from sounding accusatory by asking questions very frankly but respectfully.


Requests w/ a proposed fix

This can be another touchy area. This is where you might make a request of your partner, respectfully and with lots of compassion. Perhaps it might be the opportunity to ask, "Would you mind if we had a date just the two of us next week? I love hanging out with your friends, but it has been a few weeks since we had quality me and you time." The best way to approach this category is by always having a proposed fix is you make any sort of criticism of his/her behavior/actions. Bringing up these kinds of things is very fruitful to good communication.


Anxieties

What is stressing you out? Let your partner know so that he/she can pray for you and remember to check in on you about these things in the near future.


Short-term Goals (3)

What do you want to accomplish in the next 1-4 weeks? These can be goals for your relationship, career goals, academic goals, spiritual goals, you name it! One of my short-term goals for the "Sheet" this week is to work on finding beautiful bridesmaid dresses for my wedding.

Long- term Goals (3)

What do you want to accomplish in the next month- 1 year from now? Sometimes these may stay the same from week to week, but that way, your partner is able to encourage you and ask how you are doing on them. One of my long term goals this week is to embrace inconveniences joyfully.


5 Things I love about you


This next section is by far my (and Bill's) favorite section. You get to come up with 5 reasons why you are madly in love with your partner. Why is he or she a blessing to you? What did you appreciate, in particular, that he/she did this week? It is best to be very specific since you need to come up with 5 new ones every time you do "The Sheet". For Bill and I, we blow each other a kiss after each one that we read. TMI!?! Haha, oh well. :-)


I pray that "The Sheet" will be a blessing for many of you if you are currently in a relationship or if you plan on doing so in the future. I cannot see why it couldn't also be used for roommate/housemate meetings, between mother/daughter, and so forth. If it is weird the first time you do it, try it again. It will certainly take some getting used to based on your personality styles. I would recommend that you introduce the sheet no earlier than 3-4 months into dating a person, just since until then you are still really getting to know the person. And of course, if you have been dating longer or are married, go ahead and share this post with your partner and I can't wait to hear about your thoughts about this helpful relationship tool that has really strengthened my relationship.


Jesus, I ask that you might bless all of my readers, the work and study that we have to do today, and thank you for this day, and the opportunity we have to glorify You in word and deed. May those who decide to use "The Sheet" be graced with good communication as we imperfect beings struggle towards the holiness you call us to in every dimension of our lives, especially in our relationships with those we love the most. Mary, pray for us, that we may make our lives a perfect offering to your son, Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.