Warning: This may ruin your life.

 

“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best. Even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does, it can be lost so easily.”

-Lemony Snicket, The Beatrice Letters

 

Dear Reader,
If you are seeking a friendly blog update from a bubbly college girl for the mildly amusing or occasionally heartwarming life observation, I implore you: look elsewhere.

This short, somewhat depressing, but hopefully impactful online journal entry involves melodramatic situations, self-help books, fires, and it begins as any of its kind typically do: too good to be true.

The story began as I moved into my shabby yet lovable house right across the street from my college campus last August, ready to take on my junior year. I had the world on a string; I had no RA responsibilities, an easy schedule, a cool job, and roommates who felt like family. I felt like a racehorse anxiously waiting to burst through the gates, delving into new experiences and new relationships. For the first part of last semester, that string was wrapped around my finger.

Until this happened.

(Now is the part where I highly recommend you ‘X’ out of this browser as soon as you are able. I beg you to click over to your Pinterest tab to plan your fantasy wedding, or find an impossible recipe for “perfect brownies” that you’ll never actually make, because you’re too consumed with finding an Instagram filter for whatever foamy caffeinated beverage you are about to enjoy. Please do, and read no further.)

About midway through October as the leaves started falling, so did the world around me. The unimaginable and inconceivable happened. A longtime childhood friend said good-bye after a disagreement and literally walked out of my life. Though I reached out and made an attempt to work things out at the urging of mutual friends, with a 5-page letter of handwritten memories and inside jokes, she refused to reconcile. Two months of sitting on a rainbow in a luminescent college paradise–and before I could get the chance to utter another Sinatra lyric, the lights went out. It felt as if someone had died.

Shortly before this, I attended a talk by Fr. Michael Gaitley about his 33 day preparation for the Consecration to Divine Mercy. Christ’s message to St. Faustina describes how His overabundant graces burn Him like fire because so many have no interest in receiving them. The consecration prepares us to receive these extra, unwanted graces through a deeper sense of compassion and the ability to suffer with others. As I read the daily lessons, the beauty of Fr. Gaitley’s insights touched me deeply and provided me with temporary relief for a broken heart. It wasn’t until recently that I put two and two together. Then the message of Divine Mercy shook my soul.

Perhaps my journey was not just to feel more pity for others or practice better empathy–but perhaps instead, I was called to literally suffer with none other than Christ Himself. Now I know what it’s like to have so much love in my heart for someone who does not want it, and it truly hurts like fire.

(Now, I suppose if you are looking for a blog glorifying the beauty of suffering rather than the beauty of photogenic cities and anecdotes about adorable little French girls, you may be completely mad. But you may have very well found it.)

I could easily blame the Consecration to Divine Mercy for ruining my life, or at least my dreamy year at college. Whether or not the timing was purely coincidental, what with reading about the beauty of suffering with Christ while undergoing a heartbreaking loss of friendship, who can say? Maybe if I never attended Fr. Gaitley’s talk or picked up the book, I’d still have my friend’s name–who I still miss–at the top of my inbox. But if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have experienced what it’s like to finally have a personal connection with Christ.

Everyone talks about striving for a”friendship with Christ,” a phrase which here seems like an oversimplification of something much more difficult to attain. It was something I always aspired to have, but how? I thought that only daily Mass, unending prayer, holy hours at 3 am, and mission trips would be the key to a real “friendship” with Christ. If that’s the case I’m certainly a lost cause. Then, I asked myself: how do relationships actually start? Relatability. (Seems pretty obvious.) You share something. Whether that’s an experience, a feeling, an interest…or a suffering. It is after you gain a friend that you discover you would do anything for them.  And before long, I found myself going to see Him every day in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Although I experienced the “loss”of a dear childhood friend for now–like one might lose a home in terrible fire– I have gained a new one, and we bonded over a much different kind of flame.

“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

With all due respect (& as I still hope for the best),

The Daily Nonconformist

Thoughts from the girl who (almost) studied abroad.

It’s amazing how plans can change over the course of a year.

Last August, I thought I would be spending this one preparing to embark on a semester abroad in Florence.  I had dreamy visions of the places I’d go, the friendships I’d make, the gorgeous photo-ops, and the memories that would last a lifetime.  I love listening to my friends tell their Florence stories–it’s like I get to witness them relive it all over again.  I always knew once I reached the fall semester of my junior year, it was finally going to be my turn to tell the stories. But sometimes, life makes an unexpected (and unwelcome) visit.

My plans to study abroad have since fallen through, and I’ve been overwhelmed with mixed feelings about it.  Everyone who studies abroad visits as many countries as humanly possible in one semester.  It’s a nonstop, thrilling 3-month adventure that you can only get in college, and I’d be missing it altogether.  And of course, I have to travel before I get married, right?  And college is the best way to–

batman slap

After I finish wallowing in self-pity, I slap myself: not only am I fortunate enough to have seen extraordinary parts of the world already, but why am I feeling so rushed to see every corner of the planet before I graduate?

I tried writing about this in my last post, when I observed my older customers shopping for their upcoming trips abroad. (When my rant grew longer than 400 words, I decided to take it elsewhere.)  These ladies beam as they tell me they’re looking for something to wear in Greece or in the French countryside with their husband, sister, or friends.

Then, the voice of the media chimes in:

Vogue: “10 Places Every 20-Something Should Travel to Before Turning 30.” Sydney, Macchu Picchu, Hong Kong.

Huffington Post: “20 Things All Women Should Do Before Getting Married.” #1, Travel.

So that’s why I freaked out.  In generations past, people were pressured to marry young.  Many did: raising families they love, and eventually happening into my store to prepare for their next big adventure. Nowadays, the pressure is the opposite extreme.  It’s pressure to live alone, fend for yourself, and travel, travel, travel–the younger, the better.  It’s pressure to bask in the glory of youthful independence whilst still “young, wild and free.”  It’s pressure to prove oneself “stronger” and “better” than settling for marriage too soon, and I allowed myself to crack underneath it all.

The goal of traveling is then reduced to a feather in your cap to be attained in your 20’s, or at least before you’re married.  We are basically told, “Once you’re married you can hardly leave your home, let alone the country.  Better see the world before you’re trapped forever.”  So it scares us, sending us scrambling to get all the “wanderlust” out of our system before finding a life partner.  But are we really soaking up the experience for what it should be, or just crossing off items on a list in a race against time?

This also had me thinking: why is it so necessary that young people, especially women, prove themselves capable of facing the world alone?  And at what cost?

I agree with some things in the above Huffington Post article.  It mentions learning to manage finances, cook, and keep yourself healthy: all of which are basic, human adult skills.  However, it also suggests “suffering major heartbreak” at #3 and “having a friend with benefits” at #15.  This is where the article completely misses the mark.  I don’t believe people should forcibly drag themselves through the wringer or suffer the risk of STDs in order to consider themselves strong and happily independent.  Neither must they see every last inch of the globe.

I’m not saying we should all rush off to get married.  Quite the contrary: I myself am a firm believer in taking time to enjoy single life and be adventurous.  There are wonderful benefits to traveling young–that is, if you have the opportunity to literally fly solo.  But unless you model for Vogue, you may not have much opportunity (or funds) to drop everything and run off to Bangkok.  If you do, I have one word for you: go!

As for traveling to get the “good times” out of your system before marriage, as if marriage is some form of eternal confinement–frankly, that’s BS.  If you have an ache to see the world and you find yourself spending your life with someone who feels the same, it’s going to happen.  It may mean waiting for a trip to celebrate your 25th anniversary or it may happen as soon as your honeymoon.  While traveling young is a beautiful experience, so is the decision to settle down and start a family.  Everyone’s circumstances are different…and that’s okay.

I’m so excited for my friends who are embarking on their journey to Europe. Traveling can be spontaneous, exhilarating, and life-changing and I can’t wait to hear their stories when they return.  As for my friends who aren’t going abroad, I want to remind them it doesn’t have to happen right now.  College is just one opportunity to see the world, not a last chance.   Just as marriage may not be for everyone, neither is going around the world in 80 days.  You never know what opportunities will knock later in life–as long as you keep living, and keep listening.

“Let’s not travel to tick things off lists or collect half hearted semi treasures to be placed in dusty drawers in empty rooms. Rather, we’ll travel to find grounds and rooftops and tiny hidden parks, where we’ll sit and dismiss the passing time, spun in the city’s web ’til we’ve surrendered, content to be spent and consumed. I need to feel a place while I’m in it.”

—Victoria Erickson

After Breakfast

When someone asks “tell me something about yourself,” the most common tendency is to draw a total blank and desperately search our mind for an acceptable answer.  Sometimes it is the easiest, simplest questions that are the hardest.

I guess we never see a need to verbally remind ourselves of our age, hobbies, or special talents every day.  We’re just–there.

Similarly, I was recently posed with the question: “what exactly is your blog about?”

*confusion..word vomit..in the distance, sirens*

Now that I’ve had time to gather my thoughts, I’ll begin with why I started it in the first place, documenting my daily life as a nanny abroad so my mom and a couple of friends could see what I was up to.

The blog became less about recording every waking moment, and grew into something more.  The little girl in the apartment in Paris taught me a lot, much more than a few French words.  Since my open letter to her when I left for home, I’ve tried to make my blog a way of passing along the lessons from her as a reminder to find  beauty in everything–especially humanity.

That chapter of my life has come to a close and I am prepared to take my blogging to the next level.  Of course it’s easy to find beauty while in Paris.   But, beauty is all around us and it is often hard to find in a world trying to point us in all the wrong directions.  That’s where I’d like to help.

Oscar Wilde once blazed trails in America speaking on the controversial  Aesthetic Movement. Aesthetes believed art should be enjoyed simply for its beauty and not merely revered for its spiritual and educational value. The mantra was “l’art pour l’art,”  “art for art’s sake.”  Now, defining art is not my place by any means–but Wilde wasn’t intimidated by societal norms and continued to write and speak in the name of beauty.  He briefly described the movement as, “seeking beauty in the commonplace.” And that’s an idea I can roll with.

This is the Daily Nonconformist.

What I Learned from my Summer in Sales

“Night and day” does not begin to describe the vast difference between this summer and last.  This time last year, I was already back at school with a new outlook on life–having practically just landed in the U.S. after a whirlwind summer in Paris that left me breathless.

This summer I have been working as a clerk in a local boutique. It is small and the pace is incredibly slow. But every once in a while, I am graced with the wisdom of the customers passing through.  Here’s what I learned from my quiet, American summer.

1. It is never too late to see the world.  

Who says you have to see the world before you’re 30?  I can’t tell you how many older women have come into the store looking for a special outfit to take on their dream cruise or vacation abroad.  If you have yet to visit the distant lands on your bucket list but don’t know how to get there yet, don’t sweat it.  You have time.  (More on this to come.)

2. Shopping with friends never gets old. 

I was once thoroughly entertained by a couple of ladies who took over the store for an afternoon with their uncontrollable laughter and sisterly arguing.  Personally, I believe it was my best friend and myself in 50 years making a visit from the future.

“Try it on.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Will you just do it.”

“Fine….oh, this is nice.”

The first one turned to me: “She always does this.”

I don’t even think they ended up buying anything.  Clearly, nothing will have changed and I can’t wait.

 

3. You CAN find a patient man. 

I’ll never forget the sweet husband who came into the store looking for his wife.  She told him, “let me try on these shorts real quick.”  He responded, “You can try them on slowly if you want,” and took a seat.

Meanwhile, from behind the register…

kristen wiig ugly cry

 

4. Shopping for a new outfit doesn’t just have to be for a special occasion–it can create one.  

One woman who came in the store told me that she was looking for a particular style that she likes, but one her husband likes too.  While I personally believe she should be shopping for herself in a ladies’ store and not for her husband, I decided to ask “are you shopping for a special occasion..?” She just turned to me and said, “After I buy this, there will be.”

I think I speak for all the ladies when I say: spoken like a true queen.

spoken like a true queen

11 Things NOT to Take to College: A Declassified Freshman Survival Guide (Pt. ii)

We all know students tend to pack too much for college.  As an extension of my Declassified Freshman Survival Guide, I decided to survey my friends to see what they recommend should stay at home.  Here’s what they said:

 

1. “Letter jackets.” (University of Oklahoma)
And other high school gear such as rings, T-shirts, inside jokes, and the ego of a senior.  High school is in your past now, and you should leave it there.

letter jacket 2

 

 

2. “Half the stuff your parents say you need.” (University of Chicago)

Like those ugly columns of clear plastic drawers, 2 shoe organizers, 4 laundry baskets and your own dryer.  Mom, please.

overpacked-car

 

 

3. “Coachella clothes.” (Benedictine College)

Millenial girls everywhere know deep down what this means.  College is a place where overdone summer-hippie-boho-chic wardrobes come to die,  as will your dreams of living “wild and free” in a Woodstock-esque fantasy.  RIP and plan accordingly.

coachella outfitaww no one cares

 

 

4. “Your own books.” (Duke University)
Take one long, last look at your personal reading list as it fades into a distant memory.  You won’t have time for it.

belle books.gif

 

5. “A ferret.” (University of North Texas)

My friend writes, “my college roommate brought a ferret that she kept hidden under her bed. It stole left shoes. His name was Russell.”  (Ok this is just amazing.)

 

andy dwyer gif

 

 

6. “A bad attitude, clothes and behaviors that will detract from your womanhood, and your ability to binge drink.” (Benedictine College)

I didn’t make her say that, I swear.

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7. “Decaf.” (Duke University)

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8. “Preconceived notions about people based on their appearance.” (Northwestern State University)

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9. “Desire to be popular–don’t lose your soul to please the maneaters of campus.” (Northwestern State University)

 

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10. “School spirit.” (University of Central Oklahoma)

I appreciate how sardonic this is, especially going to a private college no one knows exists beyond a five mile radius of campus. I suppose if your school is recognized by Google Maps, however, you may be excused.

once a wildcat

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11. “High school relationships.” (Texas A&M)

…I’ll just leave this here.

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11 Things to Take to College: A Declassified Freshman Survival Guide

When I was asked to write a post listing the top things to take to college, I immediately flashed back to packing for my freshman year.  I sent my roommate a snapchat of myself screaming “no man left behind” with every shoe I own crammed in my arms. So, I asked my mom to call on her memory: “What did I bring to college actually worth passing along to incoming freshmen?”

“What didn’t you bring?”  I could hear her eyes rolling.

Case in point.

I know where you’re at.  You’ve pinned so many dorm ideas on Pinterest that you don’t know where to begin.  You may attempt to pack it all anyway, because you KNOW it’s all necessary.  But bear with me, here.  There’s more to bring than what you pack in your suitcase.

In colleges full of weird traditions, insane professors, and gross school lunches, there’s people like me.  Now a junior, I can safely say I have done the (seemingly) impossible: written a guide to help YOU survive freshman year.

This is my declassified freshman survival guide.

*Cue theme song*

1. Faith

First things first for my Catholic readers: your newly acquired “independence” at college does not make it okay to leave your faith at home.  As Catholics, we are required to attend Mass every Sunday.  Whether you attend  a secular university or Benedictine College, we’re a universal Church. We make it quite easy, by being literally everywhere.  There will be a Catholic community nearby for weekly mass, reconciliation and possibly even adoration.  Your first year at college can get difficult and lonely at times.  Here’s exactly why I brought my faith with me.

 2. Confidence

Total cliche, but people often forget the fine line that separates confidence and cockiness.  Confidence is swallowing your pride and allowing yourself to learn from mistakes.  It’s being unafraid to try new things, meet new people and throw yourself outside your comfort zone, remaining humble in the process.  Cockiness is pretending your comfort zone is the only thing you need, and that any mistakes you make aren’t mistakes at all.

I bring this up because I’ve observed that cockiness is the fast track to short-lived friendships, while confidence is the scenic route to the real ones.  Food for thought.

3. Time management

As a former homeschooler, I was used to finishing all my school work before dinner.  I liked having my evenings free so I brought my time management with me to college.  It’s easy, really. Do your homework and studying before dark EVERY DAY.  Trust me, you’re not missing out on anything fun on a random Wednesday.  Your friends are either napping or still in class.  (Or cramming, because they waited until the day before the test.)  Organize your schedule however you see fit so you can finish during the day and have most of your evenings free to  socialize. You’ll never need to pull an all-nighter.  I promise, the extra sleep is worth it.

4.  Your own vaccuum.

For the love of all things, keep your room clean.  It’s good for your sanity.  Regularly dump your trash, do your laundry (and remember to RETRIEVE IT, thanks), and pick your crap up off the floor.  It’s way easier to do this regularly if you don’t have to check out a vacuum from the RA office.  Also, sleeping (or never sleeping) in a buildup of your own filth can wreak havoc on your immune system. When you’re sick at college, you hate everything and everyone, especially if your room resembles a landfill.

5.  Respect for your RA.

Don’t try to become their best friend.  Really, it’s fine.  Speaking as a former RA, I know for a fact that sometimes your RA gets way less sleep than you.  Control your random screeching and sprinting like bats out of hell, or at least schedule them during the day, please.

If you get in trouble, own your mistake and don’t write nasty comments on your RA’s whiteboard. (*cough.*)  They didn’t get you in trouble– you did.  Probably because you were too obvious doing whatever you were doing, that you should not have been doing.  And your pride was hurt because you got caught.  Hey, everyone makes mistakes.  So have some class. Your RA  puts up with enough crap without  catty and anonymous snark.

(For more on the mysterious RA/resident relationship, check out Dear Residents.)

6. A robe.

If your bathroom is communal and at the end of a long public hallway, you might want something more than a towel.  You basically have to prepare for the shower like you’re leaving on a weekend getaway to the Poconos.  It’s truly a journey.  I once left it behind and was too lazy to turn back. Ten minutes later I was walking back to my room wearing my towel, dripping wet, in a hallway crawling with boys.  Come to find out, my key wouldn’t work because the whole dorm was on lockdown.  No one could get in or out.  There I was, stranded outside my door with no clothes and no contacts.  Blind, naked and afraid.

7. Acceptance of fire drills (patience).  

The robe comes in handy here, too, when it’s in the middle of the night. Especially if you live in a co-ed dorm or the male dorm next door is having a drill at the same time.  I’ll never forget the August night all the girls were huddled together with arms crossed clutching their chests.  Bewildered, almost naked, and very afraid.

More importantly, either suck it up and go barefoot or wear shoes.  I won’t go into detail but once during a fire drill I was wearing slippers with zero traction and actually fell down the stairs in a frantic flight out of the building.  I was okay, but my pride was not.

The point is, remain calm when your new life throws a wrench in your day (or your night).  The unexpected is going to happen, and you must remember to roll with the punches gracefully. Becoming outraged will only make it more painful.

8. Self-control

The moment we’ve all been waiting for: the party 411.  If you haven’t read Of Mice and Maneaters, this would be a good place to start.  The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to venture out to some college parties.  They’re not intrinsically evil like some may lead you to believe.  Some of my favorite conversations have taken place at parties. It’s a good balance to relax and socialize with people you’ve been wanting to get to know, but haven’t had a chance to outside the classroom or the dorm.  A word of caution: to have the best and safest time at a party, the first thing to bring with you is self-control.  If you choose to drink, take care of yourself. Drink like the adult you want to be considered. Adults do not, for lack of a better word, get shwasted.  Keep your wits about you so you can actually remember the friendships you had such a good time making.  The second thing to bring is a close group of buddies. Whoever you go with, you leave with. Make sure at least one person knows where you are at all times, and vice versa.  Not all of us are armed with the same self-control or self-awareness.  So take care of yourself and your friends and have a great time.

9. Less clothes, more coffee.

That sounds weird, so let me explain.  I brought way too much of my wardrobe freshman year.  My room looked put together on the outside, but deep down my drawers were imploding (DRESSER. drawers.)  I only had enough energy in the morning to grab what was on top of the massive pile, so I ended up recycling the same clothes every other day.  I forgot I had 80% of the clothes I brought.

Think of it this way: after a long day, you’re going to come back to your beautiful cozy room and avoid labor at all costs.  Napping or making yourself a seventh cup of coffee is going to be more appealing than trying to coordinate outfits. Do yourself a favor, and think minimalistic.  Bring basics for weekdays and some church clothes for Sunday.  Also, love yourself–don’t bring every pair of shoes you own.  You may end up wearing two pairs all semester…three if you’re feeling fancy.  So make sure they’re your favorites and leave the extra suitcase behind.  Bottom line,  don’t worry about being an “outfit repeater.”  In college life, no one actually cares. (Or remembers.)

10. All the decor.

 In my freshman dorm, we had an accent wall literally the color of bile.  So my roommate and I bought about $15 worth of giant fold-up maps from the bookstore and used them as wallpaper.  It perfectly covered the nasty wall and looked, dare I say, fire.  We also had an antique trunk which doubled as both pretty furniture and handy storage space.  Just learn from us and don’t lock the key inside it with anything you can’t live without.

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People might try to tell you you’re bringing too much in the way of decor–but honestly, don’t hold back.  Eat your heart out.  Go insane.  You want a warm and inviting place to call home and surround yourself with your favorite things.  College is hard enough.

11. Humility

Finally, keep your pride in check.  No freshman is as cool as he or she thinks.  The inevitable, unpredictable, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad series of unfortunate events will happen, and no blog post can adequately prepare you.  Freshmen often learn the hard way, look silly, and make mistakes. For instance: wearing your lanyard around your neck is THE sure-fire way to let the world know you’re a new kid!  But (bonus tip) it’s also the best way to find others in the same boat.  Shake it off and learn to laugh at yourself.  Because when you look back, you’ll have something to write about.

College girls on their first day of school, Kansas, 1969.  Photo credit: unknown

College girls on their first day of school, Kansas, 1969. Photo credit: unknown

Generation Lost: Why Your Grandma Had More Dates Than You

Artwork: "Blooming Kiss" by Eugenia Loli

“Bloomy Kiss” by Eugenia Loli

At a party the other night,  a friend of mine shared her recent experience while traveling abroad.  She described a dreamy Frenchman named Ludo–a real gentleman–who passed every test and said all the right things.  The girls around her hung on every word. Then, she said he kissed her hand.

And the ladies went wild.

Meanwhile, a group of completely unassuming guys behind us noticed the commotion and cheered with us.  We laughed. If only they knew.  But this story had us all wondering. Whatever happened to the casual hand kiss?

We then reflected back to the time of our grandparents, when men gave up their seat on the bus, removed their hat, stood when a lady entered a room and kissed her hand upon being introduced.

 It was also a time when a man would buy a girl dinner just for the sake of getting to know her.  One of the girls mentioned that her grandma would go out with “Timmy on Tuesday and Danny on Saturday.”  She remarked that this kind of casual dating is rare today, and “guys don’t realize 90% of girls will say yes to a first date just because they had the guts to ask.”  (Guys, are you listening?)

Today, a first date is equated with a long term commitment. Either that, or men fear rejection to the point of waiting until they are sure the girl will say yes.  So begins our generation’s pre-dating ritual known as “talking.”  (God help us.)

For those who don’t know, Urban Dictionary defines “talking” as:

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My fellow millennials tragically nod in agreement:

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That’s why our grandmas had so many dates and we don’t.

In the 50’s, women were not objects.  Femininity was appreciated. Dating was wholesome.  Marriage was  sacred.  Then came the 60’s.  Women decided they wanted  to be treated like men and began to behave like them. Women eschewed the gentle nods to their femininity, thus giving men all the wrong cues.

Ladies, this has got to stop and we have the  power to do it.

For starters, don’t take offense when a man opens a door for you.  It’s not because he thinks you’re weak; he is well aware that you can do it yourself. Guys have told me they feel deflated when a girl refuses this sweet, simple gesture.  (If you aren’t sure a guy will get the door for you, stop in front of it  and wait  for a second.  As awkward as this tactic usually is, it works every time.)  Don’t forget to thank them.

Learn to cook.  I, for one, enjoy putting my Pinterest recipes to good use–and my male friends, who claim they can only make cereal, appreciate the home-cooked meal.  And no, this doesn’t mean we should bring back vintage appliance ads implying that women belong in the kitchen.  (Those can definitely stay in the past.)

Learn to use a needle and thread.  It comes in handy for reattaching buttons, but especially for turning high-waisted thrift store jeans into shorts.  (Think about it.)

Ask your male acquaintances to help you carry things or walk you home.  I have yet to meet a guy who will pass on an opportunity to be a gentleman when asked for his strength or protection.

Now, to my proud modern women and “girl bosses”: I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a single, independent and hardworking woman.  In fact, I applaud you for proving that women are a force to be reckoned with in and outside the workplace.  I merely ask you be your feminine best while doing it.

We all know that I’m preaching to the choir, and that the men and women who NEED to read this probably won’t.  So let’s reset the bar.  If we want men to gentlemen, they  need to be challenged and shown our appreciation.  More “thank you’s” could be all it takes to start a revolution.  When a guy offers to help, let him.  Encourage what his mama taught him, because she taught him with you in mind.

And maybe for our daughters, a polite hand-kiss won’t be the stuff of fairy tales.

Of Mice and Maneaters

My best friend and I have gone to college together for the past two years.  Last semester I was particularly inspired by her idea to conduct an informal survey.  She wanted to ask every male she could, regardless of age, religion, or their relation to her,  what he thought defined an authentic man.  Immediately I was on board.  We hear so much these days about authentic womanhood that we completely forget about authentic masculinity.

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We asked all over campus–it was so interesting to hear what young men think on the subject.  It was also quite entertaining to ask guys at parties, as some of them were mystified by the question or perhaps by the fact that it was being asked at that particular time and place.  We may never know.  (Ladies, if you’re at a party and seeking a great conversation OR how to get out of one, this may help!)

Shocked at how casually I brought up college parties?  Good.  Keep reading.

We brought one of our professors the million-dollar question one afternoon at lunch.  He replied with two words: “self-mastery.”  We immediately drowned out the bustling cafeteria around us and honed in on the hour-long conversation that was about to ensue. He spoke of purposefulness in all actions, an inborn desire to protect what he loves and dedicated practice of self-control.  He directed us toward an essay written by a former Marine and college professor, Terrence O. Moore.  The essay is entitled Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown, and I highly recommend it if you have the time.

It explains that authentic manhood lies in the happy medium between the “wimps” and the “barbarians.”  The wimp–not to be reduced to a man lacking in muscle–is a man with no control of his emotions, a desire to protect himself first rather than throw himself into danger for the sake of another, and one who is so sensitive and lacking in self-esteem that he seeks affirmation above all else in a relationship.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have the “barbarian” (aka “tool”).  Although sportsmanship and physical activity are healthy qualities that cultivate important manly virtues, barbarians are men whose bodies and minds never seem to leave the gym or playing field.  Those men who treat women as mere objects of another game to win, who can’t hold an intelligent conversation and are incapable of showing any emotion whatsoever.

I was so intrigued by this article that I decided to examine the feminine perspective. You may be surprised at how the broad the spectrum is even at a Catholic college.

On the one end, you have the “mice.”  Sheltered, socially awkward, mousy, and proud supporters of the “modest is hottest” campaign: they have no strong or original opinions about anything.  Their voice never rises much above a whisper; they’ll smile and nod in agreement with whomever happens to be speaking.  They generally avoid conflict (and men) at all costs.

Their strict personal dress code either completely hide their figure, or are so old-fashioned that it’s almost a deliberate rebellion against their generation as a whole.  They refuse to be anywhere near alcohol, before and after the legal age.  Parties are merely near occasions of sin and “mice” disassociate themselves from those who attend–because they are either intimidated or disgusted.

On the opposite end, you have the maneaters.  Much like a Kardashian, they build up their following by destroying their reputation.  It doesn’t matter what (or frankly, who) they do, or how little clothes they wear–as long as it boosts their ego and number of Instagram likes.

For a maneater, the college party is everything.  They have no interest in studies; they live for the weekend and they love to forget it.

They make sport of reckless drinking; drinking games and challenges grow progressively more creative so that abusing alcohol to its full capacity will never get old.  The quality of the weekend is rated by how little they remember of it.  Alcohol use goes beyond an accident of casual social outings and becomes the final cause altogether.  “If you’re not wasted, the weekend is” is the maneater’s mantra.

The maneater’s siren song is indeed a trap.  I’m not just talking about men–I’m also talking about the girls who desperately seek the attention and affirmation of a maneater.  She wants the same following and social status; but a maneater feeds off this.  She’ll lure you into her good graces, pretend to build your confidence, take what she wants from you, and finally desert you.  She freely gives her body to countless men she barely knows and brags about it afterward–as if it were means to attaining popularity and power.  (Much like the class-A “barbarian” in the previous scenario.)

Before you accuse me of mercilessly stereotyping or brutally calling anyone out, I want to assure you, I have not.  Remember, these are examples of extremes.  If it sounds like someone you know, it is purely coincidental. Catholic Theology tells us that no human is capable of being purely good or purely evil, and therefore abides by Aristotle’s teaching that virtue is attained in the mean between two extremes.  We may lean toward one side or the other, but we must always strive for balance.

An authentic woman is neither mouse nor maneater.  She can readily carry on a conversation with anyone, whether they agree with her or not.  She can listen to another point of view and offer insightful feedback.

She is not ashamed of her body, and gauges how much of it she can reveal without sacrificing her dignity.  She knows how to dress for the 21st century and show skin without being suggestive.  She is capable of socializing at college parties, consuming alcohol moderately, and remaining coherent.  She realizes (as my theology professor said himself) that drinking underage is not a sin–but abusing it, at any age, is.  She is neither a mindless, drunken bimbo with a million fake “friends” and followers–nor a reclusive, study-obsessed, prude with zero.

I believe an authentic woman is one who inspires everyone around her to be the best possible version of themselves.  If you are a Catholic woman, I implore you: those who are not Catholic see  you as an example of our faith.  A non-Catholic gentleman once told me that he was confused by Catholicism based on what he saw from the behavior of  young Catholic women.  Many believe it is a religion too ancient and oppressive to be lived out in the modern world, that it is a judgemental and unforgiving regime meant to suck all pleasure from life.

To Catholic and non-Catholic college women alike: I am asking you to go to the “mission field”…go to a party!  Be that woman who  inspires the best from everyone around her.  I am asking you to be smart and set higher standards for yourself.  Speak your mind, loosen up, be strong, stay safe, and know your limits.  Your own safety or that of a friend may be riding on it.  And if you’re looking for a man between wimp and barbarian, start by seeking the happy medium for yourself.  You may, in fact, meet him somewhere in the middle.

Next Chapter: Joining the Conspiracy!

As I sit at my summer job in a quiet boutique in downtown Edmond, Oklahoma, I nostalgically peruse photos from last summer and sigh.  The sleepy barber shop next door and the quiet diner across the street have me missing the sounds of construction and traffic in the street below the apartment in the 17th arrondissement.

One year ago, I was 19 and filled with nerves and excitement as I prepared to leave for Paris to work as a nanny–and blog about it.

With each day, Paris brought something new and I was determined to document every last moment on my blog, Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  As a hopeful writer (and aspiring future editor of Vogue), I have continued to add to it in between my studies and work at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where I am majoring in journalism.  I like to write about relationships, lattes, beautiful cities, fashion, and how to make it all reflect the source and summit of my life: the Catholic faith.

If you take a look at it, you’ll see just how a college student in Kansas made it to the City of Light, and now managed to get herself here at the Catholic Conspiracy.  I’d like to thank my old friend, Rebecca Frech, for making it happen–and a little girl in France who helped me believe in impossible things.

I am excited and grateful to embark on this new adventure.  Feel free to join.

Cheers.

Impossible Things (for 2016) Part ii

When snow and subzero temperatures arrive on a Sunday, you more than likely will not be leaving the building in which you awoke. Luckily, I have some cures for cabin fever that help me enjoy the snow outside while I stay cozy (and productive) inside.
Bonus: since time stands still on Sundays, I had the perfect opportunity to put my next category of resolutions into action!

1. Sleep. Easier said than done right? In college, the concept of adequate sleep is swept under the dorm room rug. It’s the stuff of fairy tales; it’s for children. But what if it was possible? I’ll admit, it’s not always easy being the butt of “grandma” jokes because I choose to go to bed before midnight. The secret is not actually caring. (Okay, and some basic time management skills too.)  If you choose to put off procrastinating just a little bit (see what I did there?) and be on top of schoolwork during the week when you actually HAVE the time–you’ll find yourself having a lot more free time. Especially on weekends! You will also find yourself feeling EXTRAORDINARILY healthier thanks to the copious amounts of shuteye. It’s essential for your brain, your skin, and your mood–which deserve a little TLC from time to time.

2. Exercise. How to get sore when you’re in a crunch: (I’m really sorry for that pun.) For a long time I thought that trekking to the gym + using the treadmill for 30 minutes were sufficient for exercise. Not only do I not always have time for that, but after a while I noticed that doing that same thing over and over wasn’t getting me anywhere. In fact, instead of getting stronger and faster, I was wearing down my resistance to the point of exhaustion–ultimately resulting in some sort of respiratory issue. One day, I decided to do power yoga via YouTube at home–I thought of it as my “off day.” And it almost killed me. The next day, I walked like a 90 year old. I can’t remember the last time my entire body was so sore that it hurt to laugh. That’s when I could tell I needed to focus less often on cardio and a little more on strengthening/conditioning–and you can get a much fuller, more focused workout for FREE and in LESS time, thanks to an unlimited variety of exercise videos on the internet (I usually like power yoga videos by Sadie Nardini).  And you don’t have to brave the cold to get to the gym. In fact, I’m able to do a full yoga session without even leaving my room. You can do 15 minutes, 20 minutes, or an hour depending on how much time you have. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you start breaking a sweat.

3. Water. Yes, I’m now that annoying person telling everyone to drink more water. Over Christmas break I carried my 32 ounce water jug with me everywhere, as I tried to reach a goal of 80-90 ounces per day. And let me tell you, after a while it is hard NOT to get enough water. It becomes addicting–I felt better in general when it became a habit. I had more energy and clearer skin.

4. Eat “pretty.” Here’s where my review comes in. I have absolutely loved reading this book. Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out by Jolene Hart is the best tiny-yet-jam-packed goldmine of health information out there if you want to start a healthy eating regimen and don’t know where to begin. It’s simple to follow and has organized lists of foods to keep in your pantry for every season. If you aren’t into starting a strict diet–gluten free, vegan, paleo, etc–this book is perfect. It describes the benefits of all healthy eating habits and the science of what the good foods do for your body. It also lays down the scientific law of what foods you should avoid and why. I like the author’s style as well–she makes the book “human friendly” because she mentions how we all err and indulge every so often. And that’s okay. So speaking of indulgences…

This particular Sunday, like most, involved a hankering for a latte. However, as I consider myself an old lady in a 20 year old body, I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to learning how to use heavy machinery. Which is why I will never own an espresso machine– I simply refuse. But I can use a French press pretty well–turns out it’s all you need to make a foamy dirty chai latte, without the use of any of those darn modern (& expensive) contraptions.

To conclude my ingredients for a cozy Sunday, here’s my recipe for Dirty Chai Lattes:

  •  1-2 tablespoons of espresso grounds
  •  1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup Tazo chai latte concentrate

I started by grinding my fresh Elemental Coffee beans–roasted in good old Oklahoma–using just enough to fill the grinder. (The quality of the roast and its freshness will make a huge difference in your espresso! Always check coffee beans for the date on which they were roasted.)

I’ll admit that I don’t have exact amounts down to a science. For me, it’s always been about eyeballing it. If I had to estimate I’d say I used about a tablespoon of espresso grounds for roughly an ounce of water. I don’t grind them too finely, else they will slip through the filter.  Add the grounds to the press.


After pouring boiling water into the press, let the espresso brew for 3 or 4 minutes before pressing.  Then pour the shots of espresso into the mugs.

Clean out the press, and add to it about a cup of hot almond milk (regular works as well). Rapidly pump the milk with the press for about a minute, and viola. Thick, foamy goodness. Add about a 1/4 cup of Tazo chai tea concentrate to the espresso before adding the foamed milk.  Sip and enjoy.

Lastly, I can’t forget to give a shout out to Hatchprints for my “offer it up” mug–a beautiful little reminder to be grateful for the joys of Sundays–and prepared for whatever Monday brings.

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)


Cheers.