27 October 2014

The Courage to Stand Alone

You all know Olivia from To The Heights, right?  Eek, you haven't?! Well dash over there right now because you're missing out.  Hers is one of my most favorite blogs to read.  Olivia has a great sense of humor who makes even a diaper changing fiasco hysterical.  An expert in crunchy living, I leave her space inspired to dive into essential oils and explore natural living more in our home. I'm thrilled to have her sharing her heart and faith today...take it away, Olivia!!

It was a freezing January afternoon in Washington D.C., and I was strolling through the Holocaust Museum with 20 of my 7th and 8th grade students.

We had traveled to the nation's capital for the annual March for Life, and we spent some time touring the major sites. As we walked through the Holocaust Museum, I was more focused on how my students were responding to the portrayed horrors of this genocide than on the content itself. I was aiming to make sure they were alright, after all, it's a lot to handle for a 13 year-old.

But one display in particular caught my eye and made me stop in my tracks. The written display was relaying the terrible act of forced sterilization that the Nazis carried out upon Jews, blacks, those with learning impairments, and those with physical disabilities.

The Nazis deemed that these people were so despicable that we didn't need more people like them, so they took away their ability to procreate. The display went on to explain that the world was aware that this act was going on, and they supported it.

It continued with the words, "All major religious institutions accepted this practice, except the Catholic Church."

My God, I thought. Except the Catholic Church.

I cried right then and there. Tears of mixed gratitude and sorrow and pride and prayer flowed down my cheeks.

While the rest of the world affirmed the destruction of the dignity of these human persons, the Catholic Church stood alone in her defiance.

You see, the Church, under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit, always seeks to defend the dignity of people. We love people. Every last person. And just because someone is deemed "below" or "inhibited" or "worthless" by society does not make the Church retract in disgust from them one bit. In fact, Mother Church reaches her arms out even farther to those who are outcast. In the midst of the tragic Holocaust and the pressures of the times, the Church was unmovable.

Looking back, it's easy for us to see how horrific was the Holocaust.
We hear about these forced sterilizations and we cry "injustice!". As we should. But what about those people who were living in it? What about all the institutions that ok'd this practice? What were they thinking? Did they get caught up in what everyone else was believing? Where was their sense of truth?

Today, we find ourselves in a comparable circumstance.
The winds of a different kind of persecution are pounding against the sails of the Church. We find ourselves in a culture that has accepted so many acts against the dignity of the human person: abortion, euthanasia, homosexual "marriage", in vitro fertilization, pornography, just to name a few. All of these things harm our God-given dignity.

And people are pissed at the Church.

Those who champions these actions and these attitudes are demanding that the Church "get with the times", "change its teachings", and "be more open". When in reality, the Church is seeking to guard and defend the dignity of the very people who accuse her of hatred.
So many other religious institutions have caved under the pressure of society, permitting acts that they, too, once deemed as offenses against the person. Once again, the Catholic Church is standing alone.

I wonder if, in 60 years, people will look back on things our society is cheering for, like abortion, and hang their hands in shame and regret. I wonder if people will be walking through a museum detailing our great failures as a global people and wonder, "What were they thinking?". I wonder if they will come across a display relaying the horrors society is supporting and read, "All major religious institutions accepted this practice, except the Catholic Church."

Throughout the centuries, we have fought, sometimes solely, for the dignity of the human person, and we will continue to stand for the Truth no matter what the tides of change bring. I love being a child of the Catholic Church because the Church is courageous enough to stand alone.

Special thanks to my sweet friend, Patty, for letting me share my love for the Catholic Church! She is a gem and one of the Church's great blessings.

 Olivia lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She’s a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. She spends her time changing diapers, exploring the crunchy side of life, organizing anything she can get her hands on, and dancing in the moonlight. You can come along for the adventure at To the Heights.

23 October 2014

Dear Jennifer Lawrence...please don't justify porn.

Dear Jennifer Lawrence,

You and I are close to the same age. You were born in 90 and me in 85, we're both children of the 90's.  Where you a die hard fan of the Babysitter's Club as I was?? Just curious.
I think you're a very talented actress and simply cannot wait for the next movie of the Hunger Games series to come out. You sister, have some skills.

Let's cut to the chase, shall we? I am not here to judge you.
I only wish we could have this chat together over a warm cup of coffee in a friendly manner...but alas, I am typing away on the interwebs. I cannot imagine how difficult it has been for you; having your privacy violated in such a major way and I certainly wouldn't wish it on anyone. That's got to be awful.

But girl, I have to be honest with you. From woman to woman, I was really shocked and felt sad about what you were quoted saying in the Vanity Fair interview:

Now I do not know you personally or your boyfriend. And like I said, I REALLY am not in the business of judging folks.
But when I first read your interview, honestly my first reaction was that I felt sad for you.
Please let me explain.

My perception was that it seemed like you justified taking those pictures of yourself because really at the end of the day you would rather your boyfriend look at pictures like that of you vs. strange, naked women on the computer (aka porn).

That made me feel sad. NO woman on earth can compete with pornography, nor should she have to. And the thought struck me that maybe you felt like you had to take those pictures to keep your boyfriend from looking at porn.

I am not sure if you are aware how much of a disease porn addiction is. Its really not that hard to find out stats on its growing usage among adult men, woman, and even young children. It really is an epidemic in the modern world today, and it makes me sad to perceive you are justifying it.

You are a beautiful, talented woman! You have carved out a successful career for yourself at a young age, and that is a great accomplishment.
But it doesn't make a lot of sense (to me) that it sounds like you are justifying your actions because your boyfriend will look at porn anyway so I may as well send him photos of me to look at. I would ask you to consider that real, good men actually do not need porn.

 If you felt like you needed to send those pictures so your boyfriend would not look at porn, I would gently ask you to consider if that is really a good, honorable man to be with.  Looking at porn is not what makes a man "manly"...recognizing for the true lie that it is is what really makes a man.
Just because lots of people look at porn doesn't mean it is a healthy, good thing.
Actually it is the complete opposite.
It completely re-wires the brain and totally hi-jacks emotional intimacy.

I am aware it is HIGHLY likely you'll never read this...but if you should, I hope you take these comments as concerned thoughts from one woman to another...

Best wishes to you Jennifer.

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21 October 2014

Ditch the pie.

I have a secret to tell you.  Ya ready?

I HATE pie. 

I don't understand the love affair people have with pie.  Now that may sound un-American, but I would much rather a cold, chocolate milkshake any day of the week of a hunk of pie.  One year my Mom asked me to make an apple and pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Big.mistake.Mom. Oh yum pie with nuts (gross) and then dessert with fruit?!
Let's just say that year people were not asking me for the recipe of those creations I "somehow" whipped up.

Although pie does not give me the warm fuzzies, I will make an exception for one of my favorite autumnal desserts-Apple Brown Betty.  It is "pie-like"... but in my world its 10 x better.  I think the stick of butter is what makes this dish...and maybe the cinnamon helps some.  
Butter makes everything better.


8 large apples-sliced and peeled
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 stick of butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

1// First comes the peeling and slicing.  If I didn't have my Mom's apple-corer-peeler-slicer (from the Pampered Chef) I would have been screwed.  Its not that hard to use, just make sure to no impale your fingers like I did.  And no, I didn't bleed on the apples.

2// Place the sliced apples in a greased 9x13 pan.  Combine cinnamon and brown sugar in a bowl and sprinkle 1/2 the mixture over the apples.

3// Combine sugar, flour, egg, salt, and baking powder. Spread this mixture over the apples (this will act as a crust).

4// Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the top. Pour butter over everything. That's my favorite part ;)

4// Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Pour yourself a cold glass of milk and serve yourself up steaming portion.

What about you?  Any favorite fall desserts or dishes? 
Dish below!

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13 October 2014

That time I met the President of the United States...

.....well technicalities aside it was when George H.W. Bush ran for president, BUT he did win and then became president. So in my book it still counts.

Obviously I am an introvert
No matter your political leanings its kind of cool to say you met the President future president...and if that ain't cool enough, getting on the front page of the newspaper in color is not too shabby either.

I was recently at my parents picking something up and strolled in the hallway of the infamous Breen family pictures. Seeing this one of George and I, brings back the vague memories I still have of that day...

Nov. 1988 I was a new-ish 3 year old with my little brother Timmy almost 2 (oh did I mention we both met George?!).  This is how my Mom tells the story....

Momsy was at home mopping the floor (thrilling.) with two crazy toddlers running around.  Her younger brother called her and said the Vice President was speaking that afternoon at a local community college and asked if she wanted to come.  Mom hemmed and hawed because apparently its not a good idea for two little people to miss or postpone nap time.  Eventually she caved in.  Good call Mom.

So the four of us are all there wandering around at the rally when my Mom notices some guys are kind of following us around. Um creepy!? Turns out they were the Secret Service.  They approached my Mom and uncle and said they were looking for a nice American family and asked if us kids wanted to meet George and Barbara Bush.  Apparently we looked like a normal American family...they should come back and see us all now.  How does a parent say no to the Secret Service?!

Funny I don't remember being held by Mr. Bush or my famous hand wave in my pink penguin jacket BUT I do remember being passed to Mrs. Bush.  Barbara Bush has completely white hair and went totally white at a young age.  I still remember being held by her and thinking, "Hey this lady looks A LOT like Grandma Breen. Hmmm..."  Now my grandma was all white hair and that happened at a young age for her as well. Apparently after meeting the future first Lady/Grandma impersonator, I was passed on down to dear ol' George.  I still chuckle looking at what a little ham I was up there...I definitely was very shy as a child.

You can seem my Mom underneath Dan Quayle's right elbow in her 80's glasses and green rain coat. Trying not to judge you based on the fashion of the 80's mama-cita.

So that's my claim to fame friends...well at least until I write a best-seller or win "America's Got Talent"...

But what about you...have you ever met anyone famous??
Pray do tell!! :)

10 October 2014

Grocery Shopping excitement & Gallery Wall woes {7QT}

Linking up with Jen while she's out and about in Houston...

1.  Today (Oct. 10) is Jim's birthday.  He is a hefty 26 years old.  Last year I woke up reallyy early to make him some birthday cake pancakes.  All went well until I walked into the bed and spilled milk all over myself/the food/the tray.  I woke up again early to make breakfast in bed for the birthday boy...this year I'm more hopeful in my ability to walk straight and not spill things.  Thankfully there was no spillage this year.

It's funny how since we're budgeting and following the Dave Ramsey plan how it changes things like buying gifts.  Last year for birthdays and Christmas, it was so much easier to drop extra bucks on gifts.  Although it feels strange, it feels even better to stick to our budget for gifts and not break the bank.  Jim has been wanting a kettlebell for awhile so I'm slapping a bow on that and finishing wrapping some clothes up as I type. #multitaskerinthehouse.  I'm just glad I didn't hurt myself lugging that 30 lb. thing into our apartment...seriously that thing is a beast.

2.  I was getting all fidgety and wanting a change in this space...hence it looking all different!  I follow Victoria's blog and when I learned she did affordable blog designs I knew I wanted to have her help me make things more simplistic and clean.  Still have a few kinks to work out but I likey what she came up with:)

3.  I am in the very slow process of making a gallery wall above our TV in the living room.  I am starting to figure out what frames and which pictures/art I want to use...but two things that are leaving me stumped:  
a)Would black and white frames look okay together on white walls?  Our TV and media cabinet are both black, so I thought all black frames might be too much?  and.... 
b)Once you have the frames how do arrange them before hanging them on the wall?  I could see myself doing a lot of damage to the wall if I don't think this through.
What say you to both??

4.  Also on Jim's birthday I am spending the day at the library...working on my thesis paper.  Graduation cannot come soon enough in April but before then I apparently have to prove myself by writing an un-godly long paper. Yee.haw.  I am slowly moving ahead.  I keep telling myself if I work really hard tomorrow then I can justify having two pieces of Jim's birthday cake.  No I am not a dog, but yes I am rewarding myself with food. #weightwatcherfail

5.  One of my favorite activities to do is grocery shop.  I actually get excited to go, find it relaxing, and love the challenge of seeing how I manage our food budget.  When I say excited, imagine high pitched squealing and jazz hands on steroids.  
 And then if that wasn't thrilling enough, this week I came home with $15 left in our food budget.  To say I was excited was an understatement.  I spent the remaining on apples for my most favorite autumnal dessert (apple brown betty) and the feta cheese and brown rice I had forgotten when I went grocery shopping.

6. I am sure by now you've heard about Jennifer Lawrence's interview with Vanity Fair?  When I read the interview there was one thing that really bothered me in what she said: ..."I started to write an apology, but I don't have anything to say I'm sorry for.  I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years.  It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he's going to look at you."
Call me crazy, but this logic don't make no sense to me.  It sounds like Ms. Lawrence is saying men of today have 1 of 2 options: 1) look at porn or 2) look at you.  Read a few stats on porn addiction and you'll see how it actually re-wires the brain (and not in a healthy way).  It sounds like she is trying to justify her behavior in taking these pics so her boyfriend doesn't look at porn.  Healthy sexuality is actually one that doesn't involve porn.  Sorry its true.
This interview has gots me thinking all kinds of things on this issue...preview of coming post in the future.

7.  Thursday night we barely got to see each-other. sad face.  I came home around 10p to find dinner made and the dishes done...the only thing that freaked me the freak out was seeing Jim left our little owl candle lit with a note explaining dinner.  After I started breathing again and realized a fire had not begun, I was able to enjoy the chicken with caramelized onions.  When Jim got home I had to lovingly explain the problem with leaving candles lit un-attended...silly boy.

Off to get a run in before I spend the day at the library...have a grand weekend:)

08 October 2014

My Big Fat Greek Burger

My Mom is half Greek, but you would never know I have Mediterranean blood pulsing through my veins from looking at my pasty, fair skin.  And just forget about sun tanning...I could be a walking advertisement for the American Skin Cancer association.

One of the best things about having a parent who grew up in an ethnic family is the food. Duh. Though I am not skilled in making homemade baklava or saganaki (aka "Opa cheese"), I will always show up for the eating of the deliciousness.

I hope you likey meat.
I recently came across this turkey humus burger recipe that Kaitlyn posted on her blog and have been wanting to try it ever since.  Okay so what makes the burger Greek?  Well basically just the feta cheese...but its so much more fun to say "my big fat Greek burger" instead of turkey hummus burgers don't ya think?

My Big Fat Greek Burger...aka Turkey Hummus Burgers

1 large cucumber
1/2 cup feta cheese
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried mint
Olive oil
1 container of spicy pepper hummus
20 oz. ground turkey
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 large tomato, sliced
6 whole wheat English muffins

1.  Make sure to not skip this part, it MAKES the burger! In a sealable container, finely chop up the cucumber.  Add the feta, vinegar, mint, olive oil.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well, seal the container, and refrigerate for a few hours.

2.  Mix up the turkey, humus, parsley, and coriander in a bowl. Season with pepper.  Form equal sized patties with the meat (I got about 8 but I used a larger package of meat)

3. Cook on 375 for 30-35 minutes

4. Toast up the English muffins.  Load up the pattie with tomato and plenty of the cucumber mixture

These are so.good.  The cucumber mixture makes the burger and the hummus made the meat really moist. Even with spicy hummus, it wasn't really spicy at all...which for a gal like me who doesn't like spicy was a win-win.

I don't about you but I think that deserves an OPA!

06 October 2014

It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful

It is so easy sometimes to focus on the things in life that are not perfect.  Whether its home decor or your marriage, we are constantly bombarded with the message that if something is called beautiful that means it is perfect or very near to perfection.

My sister and bro-in-law got me this book for my birthday that I wanted to read for a really long time.  As I've been reading, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the different area's in my life where I've made myself believe the crazy ideas that life has to be perfect to be beautiful.

It is so easy and dangerous to get consumed with perfection...so says the recovering perfectionist.  Reading this is helping me look around at the various "imperfections" of our apartment/marriage/my life with more gentleness.  Those mysterious black spots I cannot seem to get out of the carpet?  That obvious scratch on our hutch that needs another touch up of yellow paint?  The smallness of our apartment?  Somehow I can look at those things and they bother me with much less crazy intensity.

NOTHING in life is perfect.ever.  Our home will always have a fix-it project on the to-do list...marriage will never be easy and it will always take hard work...my beauty is not determined by shape/size/a number on a scale.  And in the realization that there is such beauty in imperfection is kind of really freeing.  The only thing is we have to look for it.  

When I was growing up I had this older cousin I really struggled with inwardly comparing myself to.  I can remember at family holiday gatherings thinking she looked so.perfect.  Not a curl was out of place, her make-up looked flawless, and her outfits always coordinated with just the perfect touch of accessories.  I am embarrassed to say but there were times I would make it a contest in my head to see if I could out-do her in "looking perfect." 

At the time, she was the epitome of glamorous to me. And I hated her for it.  I have been reflecting on those memories recently and am seeing how all those holiday's of self-comparison only reinforced for me the idea to be beautiful=looking perfect.  But the older I get, I am starting to get more comfortable and accepting of my imperfections.  I realize that even if my cousin "looked" perfect, I would not really want to be her. 

Life can be beautiful amidst imperfections.  Home can still be a warm, welcoming place to be even amid the dust and paper piles.  Your home is a place you feel safe and make memories, it is not supposed to look like a staged apartment.  Marriage can be beautiful even amid difficulties and growing pains; it will never be perfect this side of Heaven and will always take work. 

But those difficulties and inky stinky things to work through end up making you stronger, they purify your heart and intentions.  Don't wait till you reach a goal weight to look in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful (and mean it!).  If the number on the scale defines how you see yourself, you're giving wayy to much power to that number.

Who would have thought a home decorating book would have been such good therapy for my soul?!  Looking for the beauty in imperfections of life is similar to gratitude.  Its easy to be grateful when life is all hunky dory, but its another thing to be grateful when you are struggling to look for things to be grateful for.  Same thing with beauty.  If we only see beauty in the perfect things, we miss an amazing opportunity to challenge ourselves to find beauty in the imperfections.

Don't sweat the small stuff and remember...

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