So I’m a morning person. Okay?

I love mornings.

I know, I know, roll your eyes and groan: the morning person is crowing, but I just can’t help it. I love waking up and hearing the birds sing (even in winter when it’s dark out, you get a few brave birds who start chirping a little before dawn); I love picking out my clothes for the day, putting on make-up, attempting to do something with my hair… I love the first trip downstairs, the first glass of water, and throwing my lunch together. But my favorite part of the morning is that first moment when I step outside and pull the door closed behind me. Maybe we each have one moment in every day when we absolutely, positively can take on the world. That moment on the front steps, breathing in the outside air for the first time on this particular day: that’s my moment.

And then of course there’s the cup of coffee I always enjoy when I first reach the office. I love sitting down at my desk and firing up the computer, reading through emails and tapping out responses while I sip my coffee and listen to my coworkers trickle in, calling “Good morning” to the receptionist as they pass by the front desk.

Thank goodness for mornings. And happy Thursday!

 

 

 

(Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels, pray for us.)

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My shoes are wet

The skies opened up the moment–literally the moment–I stepped out of my front door this morning. I thought (for the millionth time), “I need to buy rainboots. And a raincoat.” Instead I tucked my elbows in under my tiny umbrella as the roommate and I squished and splashed our way to the bus stop, where we huddled together with about seven other soggy commuters and waited…and waited…and waited for the bus, while cars drove past and kicked up dirty water at us. And I thought, it’s so easy to let little things like this set the tone for the whole day. I’m wet and shivery and my clothes are now filthy, and I want to stomp my feet and say ugly words and cry.

But if you just take a step back and look at the situation the right way, you see how funny it all is. And if you can laugh–at yourself covered in rain water and splotches of mud, and at the situation–it all becomes so immensely good.

Have  a happy, wet Wednesday.

40 Days for Life

Another 40 Days for Life campaign begins today.

I’m so thankful for this movement, which provides a concrete reminder twice each year of the pro-life cause and all the work we should each be doing for it. I admit, my general attitude towards “the evil of abortion” has always been one of sad resignation. Oh yes, I thought, that’s awful. It shouldn’t happen. Isn’t our world terrible? And on occasion I’d remember to offer my rosary for “the end to abortion,” but otherwise–aside from voting pro-life and arguing the case in occasional debates with feminists–I didn’t really do anything about it. At least not in a regular, daily way.

The first 40 Days for Life campaign I was aware of (others had happened, but I hadn’t really bothered to learn what the movement was all about. I heard “campaign,” thought “politics,” and brushed it off) was fall 2009. I carpooled to work for a few months that year with a girl who wanted to be involved, so we’d stop once a week and pray at the 16th Street clinic in D.C. I realized pretty early on in those forty days that I should be doing more. A heck of a lot more. This doesn’t mean that I jumped on the volunteer committee with the local campaign and started carrying signs, distributing flyers, etc. (Perhaps I should, but I’m not there yet.) It did mean, though, that I became more aware; that I took the issue into my daily life, my daily prayer, my daily sacrifices. And it means every time another 40 Days campaign rolls around, I try to sign up for at least an hour a week at the local clinic, and I try to remember to offer some sort of daily “fast”–coffee, chocolate, sleeping in, etc.–for the end to abortion.

Because in the end, that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned these past two years with 40 Days for Life: we won’t bring about an end to abortion by treating it as a political issue. Abortion is an individual issue, and it can only be ended by changing hearts. And only God can do that…but for some reason He chooses to do it through the prayers and works of individuals. Do you think abortion a heinous evil? Do you wish to see it eradicated? Then you need to do something about it. We need to pray, pray, pray, fast, and pray some more. And if you can spare the time once during these 40 days, or once a week, or more than that, take yourself over to your local abortion clinic and pray there. Get friends to go with you.

This is a war we can’t win if we’re only half in it.

Morning Routine

Ever have those days where you feel just a little off-balance? Like the universe is on a level and you’re standing at a slight angle and things look…funny? I’m having one of those days.

It’s not a bad day, by any means. Just a strange one.

And I think I’ve figured out what caused it today: I didn’t follow my morning routine. In fact, I flat-out broke it, step by step, right down to what I ate for breakfast. First of all, I gave myself a break and woke up an hour later than usual this morning. It was a busy weekend, involving two early mornings, and I decided I needed the sleep. On top of that, I drove in to work, instead of taking the usual metro ride. (I am still not convinced it was the best idea. In fact, it wasn’t really my idea at all. I walked out the door still debating between taking the bus or walking two miles to the metro, and next thing I knew I was in the driver’s seat of my car. At that point it seemed silly to fight it. As I sat in traffic over the 14th Street Bridge and then paid for parking in D.C., though, I admit I was kind of kicking myself.) Even my lunch hour was thrown off. I’ve made plans to attend mass tonight with some friends, so I skipped out on the usual noon mass, and since I really wanted salad but didn’t want to pay $7.50 for it, I walked fifteen minutes to the grocery store and bought bagged salad to last me the rest of the week.

None of these are bad things, by any means. But it’s funny how the morning routine really lays out the blueprint for the day. It functions like a roadmap for all the later steps, and when you don’t have it, the later steps are just going to be a bit shakier. And so I keep losing my bearings on the day, having these periodic panicked “Where the heck am I?” moments.

All that is to say: Enough of this adventuring for me. Tomorrow, it’s back to the usual routine.

Life on a Budget

Potted flowers for the dining room table instead of cut flowers.

Getting up fifteen minutes earlier so I have time to throw together something for lunch. (This should align with going to bed fifteen minutes earlier, but that remains a hill to be conquered.)

Spending at least an hour on Sunday afternoon cooking for the week ahead.

Turning down invitations to any event that costs more than a typical movie (and even then only agreeing to cheaper events every now and then)–unless, of course, it’s an NSO concert, at which point I just need a few weeks to set cash aside for it.

Strongly encouraging friends to come over to hang out, or seeking out “free” venues. (Smithsonian Art Museum, anyone?)

Revamping the old fall wardrobe instead of shopping. (Lord, help me.) To include the repair of an old pair of leather boots, rather than the previously meditated purchase of a new pair.

Maybe even doing a little bit of sewing if time permits.

Gritting my teeth and putting the extra money that trickles in now and then into savings. (It’s like eating brussels sprouts. This is good for me.)

Going without the long-desired new bedding, curtains, and remaining furnishings for the bedroom for at least a few months more. (Really, what’s the rush?)

Coupons. Yes, I admit, for the first time in my entire life I sat down on Saturday with the weekly mailing and cut out Safeway coupons. And I intend to use them, too.

And of course, allowing myself–every now and then–a little splurge. Like pizza with the roommate. Really, it’s all about the simple things, anyway.

“A Nation with the Soul of a Church”

I’m a slow person. I take a long, long time to react to things, and an even longer time to think things through and reach definitive opinions about them. Thus I’m still mulling over patriotism and love of country, as my dear readers know I have been for months, and in the wake of the 10th anniversary of September 11, I’ve been thinking about these things even more than usual. (And in keeping with my slowness, I’m writing this post on September 13.)

Being an American poses a unique challenge; it’s not like being Italian or German or Indian or Pakistani, where you are because it’s in your blood, you were born there as your ancestors were before you. You subscribe to “American” as to a belief system. It’s not so much a country (a father-land) as it is a creed.

I think this explains why it’s possible for people to live in America and yet claim to hate America. Because if you do not subscribe to it on the basis of faith in what the country stands for, you aren’t really American, even if you were born here and have made your life here.

American patriotism stands apart from the patriotism of other nations. It’s a patriotism of minds and hearts, but not of blood (in the sense of blood-lines–certainly real blood has been spilled in sacrifice to the cause, but that’s another discussion for another time). And I say this as a pretty established American; my ancestors came over (literally) on the Mayflower. We’ve been here a long, long time, in American terms. (One of the strongest impressions I carried away from my various trips to Europe was that of age. A 400-year-old building in Rome is modern. We have nothing older than 400 years here in America, certainly not on the east coast!) Still, I refer to myself as a German/Scotch-Irish/Welsh descendent. And an American. I’ve known many people who try to be purists about it (“I’m an American”), but there’s no getting around it. We’re all hyphenated in some sense.

And there’s a difficulty in that, too. It meants patriotism can’t come as naturally to us as it does to other nations. America is a belief system, incorporating beliefs about the human person, the role of government and authority, and the proper end of man. You have to stand back from it first, to learn it the way we Catholic kids learned our catechism, before it can seep into your heart and become something you’d give your life for.

The anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is a good time to ponder our heritage, to re-embrace our creed, and–as always, more than ever–to pray for our nation.

Titles were never my strong suit

So I’ll open up perhaps more than I should and confess that I’ve been feeling more than a little “directionless” of late…and I’m afraid it’s showing in this poor blog. I sign in at least three times a week to tap out posts that will move hearts and wow the world (don’t all bloggers believe, at least a little bit, that at some point their random digital mutterings WILL in fact “light the spark” that makes a difference?), and usually I type two sentences, sigh, highlight, delete, close the browser, move on to something else.

There are days when I wish I could just close the browser on my actual life and start in on something new.

Here’s what I recite to myself every morning as I walk the last fifteen yards to my office: “Somehow, some way, I’m supposed to work out my salvation HERE…TODAY.” Here, in the same office I’ve been in for three years, in a job that’s still challenging and rewarding (regardless of my complaints I know that’s still true), in a city that’s familiar and comfortable now, like a good pair of jeans, surrounded by the same people, living the same life (though the house and roommate situation keeps changing). I don’t suppose the 25-year-old Jesus ever picked up his hammer and set to work for the day thinking with a sigh, “This is fine and whatever, but aren’t I supposed to be saving the world?”

So here’s 25-year-old MB picking up her red pen and preparing for another day of editing, scheduling, paying authors, granting permissions requests, and whatever other tasks may fall across my desk. I don’t get it, and as the days, weeks, months crawl along I get it less and less. But here’s where I’m going to become a saint. Each comma inserted, typo corrected, footnote amended is another step on that straight and narrow path.

And for today, this has to be enough: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet…” Not a blazing light that illuminates where I’ve been and where I’m going, just a little light that shows me the next step.

Onward and upward.

No rules

I spotted my first pair of boots this morning. Not rain boots, not cowboy boots, but dressy leather mid-calf boots. Sometimes a girl is so eager to get started on fall fashion she jumps the gun a little bit. We’ll be seeing more of that in D.C. over the next couple weeks before the temperature actually drops.

Granted, it’s after Labor Day, but should that really be our marker for all fall fashion? It’s September 7, and the high today is supposed to be a balmy (albeit rainy) 79. Maybe hold off on those winter boots just a few weeks more…

Granted, in an “east coast vs. west coast” conversation last night I learned we east coast girls take fashion rules a lot more seriously than west coast girls do. That may be partly due to the fact that we have real seasons here, so the rules are more tied to practicality. Yes, I like the way a pair of brown leather boots look under a knee-length knit dress, but I recognize the practical nature of boots also: they keep your legs warm when the temperature drops, as it will…in another month or so. For now I’ll duke it out with my pumps and flats and (for those “really” cold 65 degree days) slacks.

Ah, fashion. How we love to hate you.

Vocation

I think sometimes in my insistence on living well in the here and now, I fail to look ahead enough to my actual vocation–whatever that may be.

I started this blog last winter to be a place where those of us in this in-between phase (single young adulthood before marriage/vocation, but after school) can come to share ideas and dialogue about the goings-on in our day-to-day lives. No theories about dating or courtship or marriage; no drawn-out discussions of vocations and “openness”; no pinings after a life we’re obviously not being called to live yet, because God has placed us here in the middle. This is life in the gap.

I believe with all my heart that it’s important–even imperative–to learn to rest in the present moment. There’s only ever right now standing between me and heaven. But even as we rest, we have to maintain a heart open to the future. We have to rise each morning with gratitude for a new day, focused on living in the present … but we also have to ask the question: God, what do you want from my life? It’s tough to strike the balance between contentedness in the Now and expectancy for the future. While I’ve learned to combat the impatience for whatever comes next, I think I’ve been settling too much into this phase. I’m getting comfortable.

Comfort and peace are not the same thing. Be at peace, of course, and live the moment, but stay awake and be watchful.