Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When I Grow Up ~ Part 2

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hate this question. It's the twisted cousin to the benign childhood question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I started tackling that answer in this post. So now, I'm picking up where that story left off...

Ever since having children, I have really struggled with wanting to carve out a successful, meaningful career while still being incredibly involved & active in raising my children. This is a struggle for working moms everywhere & a simple internet search will turn up countless articles supporting this statement. In a perfect world, if money were no obstacle, I would stay home every day with my little ones, having learning time, playtime, field trips to the library/zoo/children's museum & just enjoying watching them grow. Jesse loves his work & is very dedicated to his ministry, so I would be content to allow him to flourish in that career & blossom in my own as a full-time mommy. However (reality check!), a youth ministry paycheck & lack of benefits aren't enough to sustain us. So, we need both paychecks as well as the health insurance that my job provides & his doesn't.

With that stark reality, I have come to the realization that if I must work outside the home, then I want to do work that is meaningful & allows me to use my education & expertise to the best of my ability. I have gone about trying to achieve this in a variety of ways...

  • Using my current job as the ultimate learning experience: In this mindset, I try to make the most of my current work experience. I have attended trainings, participated in team projects & done my best to learn & build up my skill set.
  • Finding fulfillment elsewhere: I recently became an adjunct faculty which has helped me find fulfillment in at least some of the work I do! However, it is difficult to be in a lackluster job for 40+ hours a week & balance that feeling of inadequacy with smaller quantities of time where I do find fulfillment.
  • Seeking out other employment opportunities: For the past four to five years, I have been actively looking for another job. I have applied for countless jobs & had at least half a dozen interviews. All of this has honed my job search & interview skills, but has not actually resulted in a change of employers.
  • Pray & trust that God's Will be done: I heard this type of TRUST described as True Resolve Under Severe Testing. Nearly eight years of frustrating job conditions coupled with four small children, opposite work hours with my spouse & a nearly constant job search & I certainly feel like I have been severely tested! I have continued my devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots & offer up my situation routinely in prayer.
I'd rather not look back on all of the difficult & frustrating circumstances of my current job & job search. Quite honestly, it can be painful to feel that you aren't qualified enough for a job or didn't have what the employer was looking for. That quickly spirals into the school of thought, "I wonder if I'll ever get out of here?" So, I'd rather just look forward.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Honestly, I don't know. I'd like to be working on projects I feel passionate about, contributing to a greater good. Providing an example to my children that even though Mommy can't be home full-time, I am spending my time away from them doing good for others. That is rather vague, but given the journey I am on, it's the only answer I can give right now. Hopefully, in God's time, I will go where He leads me & find amazing things along the way.

When I Grow Up ~ Part 1

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sounds like a simple question. And from a young age, it is something we are routinely asked & seemingly encouraged to think about. But, in my experience, it seems we have many answers to this question. At thirty years of age, I am still struggling (deeply struggling, actually) with how to answer this one question.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a vet (don't we all!?!) & wanted to work with horses. As I got older, I wanted to be an author like my favorite, Laura Ingalls Wilder. In high school, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer & even did a short stint shadowing a local attorney. Although that experience was very boring (in my high school-aged opinion), I continued on with that path & entered college as a pre-law major.

Upon arriving at college, I was greatly disappointed with the pre-law program. All the law courses were taught by the same professor who was not very challenging & didn't appear to have a passion for her students or the material she was teaching. After one semester, I visited the campus where I would be going for law school per the program requirements. Feeling less than impressed with that campus & a gut feeling that it just wasn't for me, I decided to switch majors. In high school, I had taken an accounting course & felt that perhaps that would be a better path. So, the summer after my first year of college, I became an accounting major.

Whether the change was for the better or not, I can't really say. Even though I was an accounting major, I knew I didn't want to be doing audits & taxes my whole life. A terrible internship experience in a CPA firm confirmed that decision. After completing my bachelor's degree in three years, I stayed at the same university to complete a master's of business administration. Knowing I didn't want to be a CPA, I understood the value that an MBA could have in rounding out my business acumen, rather than being pigeon-holed into accounting jobs. I always enjoyed higher education, but really loved the type of learning that the master's-level courses provided.

Upon graduation, I still didn't know what I wanted to do. But I knew I had to build up some real-world experience. So, I took a job as a financial analyst with a manufacturing company. The first six months of the job should have been an indication of what to expect. It was a newly created position & from the beginning, management struggled with finding enough projects/tasks to keep me busy. At this point, I began to develop a terrible, woe-is-me attitude about work. Looking back, I had nothing but negative experiences in job shadowing, internships & now a first job. Why couldn't I find something/someone who loved what they do & emulate that?!

Fast forward...marriage, four kids, home purchase...now nearly eight years later, I am still at the same job I took right out of college. How do I feel about that? Frustrated, angry, emotional, aggravated. I haven't moved "up the ladder" & there isn't really a defined path of where that ladder would go, assuming there was one. No considerable pay raises or leadership/management experience either. I have (thankfully!) been able to have flexibility & the opportunity to work from home when Jesse has retreats or work conferences. But, I often wonder, once our kids are all in school & we don't really need as much flexibility, what will I be doing still working here? It's a question I ponder a lot...along with that nagging question...

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Part Two can be found here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

20 Exciting Ideas for Moms for Lent

Each year, I try to come up with some new ideas of things to do during Lent. I try my best to honor the thing(s) I pick, but sometimes (ok, more often than I would like to admit) I forget & then say, "Well, I already fell off the wagon, so what's the point of continuing?" But this year, I am not allowing myself that conversation. Even if I get busy & forget for a week, I will still continue as best I can through the end of Lent.

By our very nature, mothers are constantly sacrificing for our husband & children. And it is important to feel that we are sacrificing during this very holy time in the Church. After all, we are preparing ourselves to celebrate the beauty of Jesus' sacrifice...the ultimate sacrifice. My list of Lenten ideas includes some new ways to sacrifice for others, but also strongly focuses on ways to enrich your spirituality during this time. Pick one or two to do this Lent. I hope you will join me on this journey & I look forward to hearing about your Lenten journey.

1. Get up 30 min before your alarm & spend that time in prayer. If you need a good reflection book, I recommend A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms.

2. If you use a dishwasher, wash the dishes from one of your meals each day by hand. Use the time to pray.

3. Donate your time to a shelter for abused women & children.

4. Fast in between meals. Offer it up for the souls lost to abortion & miscarriage.

5. Compliment a fellow family on how great it is to see them bring young children to Mass.

6. Listen to Catholic Radio. We recently got EWTN Radio in our area...it is changing my life! If it isn't broadcast in your area, you can listen to it at iHeartRadio.

7. Find someone to watch the kids so you can go to confession. This can be a tough one for moms because if your kids are little like mine, you can't bring them into the confessional, but you can't leave them unattended in a pew.

8. Take the money you would spend on your Starbucks habit (or whatever other spending vice you have) & donate it to the CRS Rice Bowl initiative.

9. Send a handwritten note to another mom friend. We all know the joy of getting something heartfelt & unexpected in the mail.

10. At bedtime, recite the Hail Mary with your children. If they don't know it, they will by the end of Lent. If they learn that, add another prayer each evening. We are working on learning the St. Michael prayer right now.

11. Invite your priest to dinner at your house. They appreciate the fellowship!

12. Start a weekly family prayer night. Use the Live IT Gathering Guide & weekly videos to open dialogue & prayerfully prepare for the coming week's Gospel reading.

13. When you see your husband doing a habit that drives you crazy, offer it up rather than bugging him about it.

14. Give your husband a kiss before you go your separate ways for the day. Likewise, give him a kiss goodnight.

15. Offer authentic, kind smiles to other moms you see. Sometimes we are too quick to judge each other.

16. Pray with your kids in the car on the way to school. Ask them who they want to pray for. Appreciate the beauty & simplicity of their prayers.

17. Sign up for the Best Lent Ever from Dynamic Catholic. You will receive a daily email/video to help focus your day & challenge you to change your habits. I signed up today & I'm BEYOND excited about it!

18.Pray the Litany of Humility every day.

19. Join the 50 Shades of Grace novena. Let's pray for the end of such a violent pornographic film. You can also join the "50 Bucks not 50 Shades" campaign & donate $50 to a domestic violence shelter or pregnancy crisis center.

20. Dedicate 6 minutes every day of Lent to read the Little Black Book. The book was distributed by our local parish; Jesse & I are both planning to use it this year. You can order one online for $4. They are compact & convenient while guiding you through the Passion story. It only takes a few minutes to read. Put it in your car & read it while waiting to pick up your kids from school or practice.

“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father" ~Matthew 6:1

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Small Success Thursday: Contentment

From the outside, nothing about the past week would seem different from any other week. We had the usual activities: work, school, college course I'm teaching, dentist appointments, trip to the mechanic, etc. Yet, there was something different about it. It's difficult to describe, but for the longest time, I felt like I was just flying through the various events of the day & fighting an uphill battle to survive all the frustrations that our tiny rental house brought with it. But, since we've moved & settled, I feel like there is so much less that I have to contend with. I actually feel & am enjoying (dare I say it?!) being content & present in the moment.

Now, I realize that life has a way of throwing things at you when you least expect it, so I'm going to enjoy the present moment while I have it. With that in mind, all of my successes this week involve

- I played with my kids. I realize this might not seem that momentous, but these are small successes after all! It had been a while since I actually got down on the floor & played. And we had so much fun!

- I spent some time adequately preparing for religious ed class, instead of waiting until the last minute to throw something together. It was a success! The kids enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. I have one student this year who has been particularly challenging to keep focused. I assigned my helper to sit with him during class to keep him focused, & it worked great. He even came up to me at the end of class & asked me to tell his mom the good news about his behavior!

- I was able to continue unpacking a few more boxes. The storage room with all the kids' clothes is organized & all the plastic containers have been appropriately marked. I reorganized our movies & posted an entertainment system cabinet for sale that we can't use. Feels like we're settling in! Now, I have to get to organizing my spaces (make-up table, closet, books).

- I love listening to TED & TEDx talks at work. They are extremely motivating, encouraging & exciting. I encourage you to check out the YouTube channel.

You can read more SST posts at Catholic Mom. One additional comment since today is the March for Life in DC. I can't believe it has been a decade since Jesse & I went to our first march together. The pro-life movement is so important to me as a mom, but also a human being. It is so important that we do whatever we can to keep being a voice for the voiceless!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why I'm Pro-Life

I have a hard time accepting that we live in a society where the President would stand so blatantly against protecting unborn babies as he did here. I posted this article & comment on social media. It immediately started to attract comments, both positive & negative, educated & not. I usually don't respond to such comments, but based on the tone of what was being said, I did decide to make a few comments, which I share below.

1) I do not believe that being pro-life has to be a religious issue at all. With all of the advances in science, we have gone above & beyond to show (to "prove") that these are lives, lives that have a right to be lived. There is no difference between killing a baby while in the womb or waiting until the baby is born & then killing it. I am pro-life not solely because of my religious beliefs & I think there are plenty of others who aren't of my faith or religious at all who are also pro-life. Check out this article from a pro-life atheist, he brings up some really awesome points.

2) Being pro-life should go hand-in-hand with being pro-women's rights, not against it. In fact, there is a whole group called Feminists for Life that explains why the earliest feminists were pro-life & why you can be a feminist & still be pro-life. Unfortunately, gender inequalities still exist in our country. Our society does not do nearly enough to support & encourage mothers. Our job is made harder because we have to fight to be a mother & a working professional. Rather than try to encourage societal change so that raising children is more acceptable rather than an inconvenience to employers, we are told it is easier to get rid of the yet unborn baby so we don't have to feel the pinch of trying to balance it all. I read an article that said society is prejudiced against mothers (especially single mothers) & by giving women a way out of motherhood, we are accepting & perpetuating that prejudice.

3) Research shows that not only are these babies feeling pain while being aborted, but they cry out. It is disgusting to me that anyone, especially a public figure such as the President would turn in the face of such research & threaten to veto any measure that would protect these innocent babies. I don't believe that being pro-life is a religious issue, nor do I think it is a political one. I think it is a human issue. The fact that we are killing our own children, in the one place where they should be truly safe & cared for, is disgusting.

That is why I am pro-life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Seeing the Little Way

As the mother of four children, I often have the privilege of overhearing conversations among them. These discussions range from funny to serious, gross to factual. Sometimes, they go something like they did this morning...

Bella (age 4): "They put Jesus on the cross & he died."

Sophie (age 6): "Yeah, they put nails through his hands right here [points to her palms] & through his feet [demonstrates how Jesus' feet look on the crucifix]."

Bella: "But that's so sad."

This conversation went on for a few more minutes, all the while, my heart swelled knowing that the girls are absorbing all the Bible stories we share with them. The crucifix is an ever-present & constant reminder of the most important of these stories. But, what struck me more than the accuracy with which Sophie & Bella shared details of the crucifixion was the way in which Bella reacted to the various elements of the story. At four years of age, the story of the crucifixion is still "new" & her reactions are genuine. And this had me thinking, "As adults, have we become numb to the true emotions that the crucifixion story should evoke?"

St. Therese of Lisieux is a much-revered & loved saint in our house. We have a special devotion to her & her influence can be felt in various elements of our lives. Her name is the one I chose at confirmation & is shared by our oldest daughter (Sophia Therese). One of her main teachings was that of "The Little Way." That is to say that we can follow God through our littleness, in becoming childlike in the eyes of God & being obedient to Him. It is a mantra that I try to live by as much as possible.

I believe that this childlike nature should not only be in how we perform our duties, but also in how we see the stories of the Bible. In listening to Bella's response to the pain that Jesus felt, it makes me pause to take a closer look at how I think about the stories of Jesus' pain & suffering. We are inundated with images of pain, suffering & death on television, movies, video games, magazines, etc. Coupling that with the many countless times we hear the story & I think it's fair to say that we become desensitized to the actual events that happened on Golgotha. But seeing the story heard & felt through the eyes of my children has shown me a new way of thinking about & reflecting on these events. The next time I look at a crucifix or recite the Sorrowful Mysteries, I hope my emotional connection to the story will grow as I begin to feel it the way my children do, seeing it through the Little Way.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Small Success Thursday: Thank You

I have some people to thank on this Small Success Thursday...

Thank you to the author of this post. It's like she wrote it for me. Those are the emotions I feel, the highs & lows of being in ministry. It's the reason I wanted to start this blog, in the hopes of connecting with other youth ministry wives. It feels nice to know that others have seen our struggle & appreciate what we do behind the scenes.

Thank you to my husband for really shifting the balance in housework since we purchased our home. I have hours (literally hours) back to myself now that we have a dishwasher. And, he has made a huge effort to be home on a more routine basis.

Thank you to all the dinner guests we've entertained in the last two weeks. You have no idea how fortunate I feel that we have such good friends & now finally have a space to accommodate having you over for dinner & conversation.

Thank you to my children for our Tuesday family prayer nights. This is the thing I most look forward to each week. And sometimes it is the only thing that gets me through the week.

Thank you to the faculty member that invited me to begin teaching a college course this semester. It has been one of my life long dreams to teach in higher education & I am treasuring every moment. It breaks up the routine that I have followed for the last seven years. I pray that it may someday turn into something more permanent.

Thank you to local Catholic radio station that is now playing in our area. It gives me great joy to listen to stimulating faith conversation as well as prayerful moments throughout my day.