Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My New Catholic Wedding Project: Introducing Spoken Bride

If things have been a little quiet around here lately, it's because I've been working on a project that's been in the works for almost a year.  I'm thrilled to introduce you to SPOKEN BRIDE, a new website that combines lifestyle articles for brides and newlyweds, visual inspiration from jaw-dropping real Catholic weddings, and community for Catholic wedding vendors.

Last summer, my friends Jiza, Elissa (she took that gorgeous image above from Maura of Made In His Image's wedding!) and I started talking about what a need there is to foster connections between Catholic wedding photographers, planners, and designers in order to help them find clients who appreciate their fire for the sacrament of marriage, as well as the need for a resource that provides visually beautiful images and inspiration on par with the culture's wedding sites, yet made deeper and truer with spiritual richness.  A few weeks ago, our friend Andi joined us, and things have been rolling, and rolling fast, since then.  SPOKEN BRIDE launches May 31, the Feast of the Visitation, to close the month of Our Lady with a nod to her identity as the purest, most humble, obedient, radiant bride, in the best sense of the words.

I couldn't be happier that this dream, a long time coming, now has some real internet roots, and we have high hopes for SPOKEN becoming a distinctive, noted resource for lots of brides.  Read more about us and about our mission here.  Meantime, I'll still be posting here, at least through the end of May, and am currently discerning how SPOKEN and Captive the Heart will intersect.

Want to get involved?  This community will be dependent on submissions and involvement from y'all, so we'd love to have you!
  • If you're engaged or newlywed, find info about submitting your wedding or engagement shoot here.
  • If you're a photographer or other wedding vendor, click here for more on joining our Vendor Guide and having your work and your business featured on the site and in our forthcoming directory for brides.
  • Do you have an article idea?  Deets on submitting written work are here.
Please pray for us as we start this ministry and share it with your friends, ministry partners, and fellow vendors and creatives!  I hope you'll join me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Family Updates

My last post about my family was to tell you how Lily was born and how much I liked labor tubs. Since then, I've become a mom of a five month old and a two and a half year old, both in the same week (And actually, oops, Aaron's birthday is on the 16th of the month and Lily's is the 13th, but I always think hers is the 16th, too.  Second child stereotypes…). I've also become wife to a PhD doctoral candidate, which is the title Andrew gets after PASSING COMPS, YO. I'm unspeakably proud of him. Here's what else has been going on.

Andrew: Like I said, passed the biggest exams of his life and never has to take another test. Read a book for pleasure for the first time in months, recommended it to me, and we both loved it.  I just finished this one, after months of wanting to see the movie. Have you read or seen it?

Aaron: As adorably, hilariously obsessed with trucks as ever. Proof: asked what the palms were on Palm Sunday, and while I tried to explain, interrupted me to say it was the pump from a concrete pumping truck (You didn't know what that was before you were a boy mom?  Me neither!). Asks to walk by the construction site across the street from us every day, which we do while walking to pick up Andrew from the metro. Graduated from Pack 'n Play to hand-me-down race car bed, killed his nap, and killed it good. We're working on enforced rest time, if enforced means sort of encouraged on my part--some days it's more tiring to chase him back into his room to play quietly than to keep him with me all day! Hugs and kisses his sister all day long, with gusto; caught stroking her head when she woke up from a nap, saying, "It's okay, Lily" and repeatedly shoving her pacifier at her. Verrry gradually potty training. Asks us questions all day long, loves drawing clouds and cars (lots of circles, mostly), learned how to play this game, and despite typically trying toddler willfulness that's sometimes made worse by lack of naps, is just so affectionate and wonderfully himself and makes his mama so happy to talk to and watch him.

Lily: Learned to roll from back to belly and tries at every opportunity. Giggles like crazy whenever her brother jumps off of something, leans over to kiss her, or shakes a toy in front of her face. Only wants to stand, never sit, on our laps.  Grabs at things with increasing accuracy, whether toy or teething ring or her mommy's hair. Constantly vocalizes during the day, usually sounds that can be best described as "ga-ROO!" It's unclear who is more amused by this. Wakes up four times a night.  Hopefully this will change when she gets kicked out of our room this week.  Hopefully.

In many ways, the last few weeks have been a transitional sort of time for our family, as we adjust to Andrew having slightly more free time than he did at the height of his studying, and me having slightly less between my book release and the death of naptime. Sacrifice is a funny thing; we are far from perfect at it, but the more habitual it becomes, the harder it is to let someone sacrifice for you--joy is a fruit of putting another person before yourself, and as much as I complained some days during the comps madness, I sometimes wish there was more I could do for Andrew now, when it's not an absolute necessity that I do most of the chores or baby caring. It's not that I want to be in control of everything or be praised for things that I do; I just want to be able to help my husband, and now that our roles have been temporarily reversed (I.e. I have more deadlines and pressing priorities than he does right now, whereas it's been vice versa for the past few months), I struggle to let him help me without feeling guilty. Please pray for us as we discern how to balance each of our responsibilities in the best way for our family.

But honestly; look at those brown-eyed babies. Life is sweet, friends.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Aziz Ansari and JPII Both Showed Me About Love

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I downloaded Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance from the library to read in the hospital after Lily was born, thinking I was basically in for a quick read of a comedy book.  The thing, though, about downloading library books instead of borrowing the physical copies, is you miss out on reading the dust jacket, and maybe it was just me, but I actually had no idea the book is more serious than that.

Ansari set out to write a book just filled with his observations and quips on love and dating, but the more people's text messages he read aloud during his stand-up shows, and the more he talked to older generations and noticed what set their relationships apart from ours, the more he noticed young adults have a range of self-destructive habits when it comes to the intersection of dating, technology, and social media.  He changed tack and worked with sociologists and huge focus groups to get at the core of why people our age have so many complaints about finding love, and I'd argue that the book functions primarily as a social study, not as a humor book--the jokes are sprinkled throughout and are direct responses to the data.

Props, Tommy Fresh. If you can get past what I thought was pretty judiciously used cussing (and, full disclosure, mentions of a few acts that Catholics just can't get behind), I admired the heck out of this book and recommend it.  For a well-liked, truly funny celeb to call out behaviors like sexting as an opening line and refusing to commit to a relationship for the reason that things like Tinder and online dating make it seem like someone better is always around the corner, in a way that's sharp but non-judgy, letting the facts and testimonies speak for themselves, is bold.

And perceptive.  Like the JPII-lovin' cliche that I am, I couldn't ignore the echoes of Love and Responsibility I heard in the stories from Modern Romance.  I want to share them here because I know when you're surrounded by a solid, faithful community and/or are in a relationship that strives for holiness, it's a little too easy to be hard on our brothers and sisters who are out there dating the culture's way.  Whether someone recognizes it or not, every experience of longing for romance, of desire, and of wishing there was something more is an experience of longing for God, the only one in whom we'll find true love and true rest.  Each of us want that; each wandering, restless, aching heart.  Here's the proof:

Every human person is loved and willed into existence, entirely unique, and has immense dignity in God's image and likeness.  And each of us is someone, not something.  John Paul II used the phrase "unique and unrepeatable" to describe the human person in his Christmas Day homily, 1978, and it became sort of a hallmark of his outlook on human dignity.  In Love and Responsibility, he wrote, "it is because it is directed towards a particular human being that the sexual urge can provide the framework within which...the possibility of love arises."  In other words, any attraction should be aimed at someone, specific and special, and not just anyone for the sake of attraction alone.  Our generation gets it.  One young woman, jaded by online dating, said in one of Aziz's studies that "People are not products.  But, essentially, when you say, 'I want a guy that's six foot tall and has blah, blah, blah characteristics, you're treating a human being like one."  The online dating chapter of the book concludes a section with, "even people who meet through Tinder or OkCupid are much more likely to turn a random first date into a meaningful relationship if they follow the advice of [one young man who participated]: There's something uniquely valuable in everyone, and we'll be much happier and better off if we invest the time and energy it takes to find it."

The thrill of falling for someone new is amazing, but can lead us to idealize that person and be too hard on him as he reveals more of himself over time.  The Pope warns against letting emotion overtake reason, saying, "values are bestowed upon the object of love which he or she does not necessarily possess in reality.  These are ideal values, not real ones."  The idealized person can become "merely the occasion for an eruption in the subject's emotional consciousness of the values which he or she longs with all his heart to find in another person" (raise your hand if you've ever started planning your wedding seconds after meeting a new guy who's Catholic and single?).  Meantime, Modern Romance, while it makes a point not to be too down on online dating--it suggests using it not as most people do, as a way to find a relationship, but as a way to get a sense of who's nearby whom you might be interested and then to get off the computer and go talk to them face to face, without all the preamble--does make the point that the sheer number of possibilities on dating sites can overwhelm us with choice to the point of inaction, or can increase the restlessness we're already feeling.  "Seeing all these options," says the book, "are we now comparing our potential partners not to other potential partners but rather to an idealized person whom no one could measure up to?"  And when things don't go perfectly with a seemingly perfect person, "you conclude there's something wrong with the person or the relationship since it isn't as exciting as before, without ever giving companionate love a chance to bloom."

We ache for completion; for a union that can ultimately be fulfilled only by God, which manifests itself in our search for a soulmate.  Because of our uniqueness as persons, it makes sense to me that we want to be in love with someone uniquely suited to us (here's my take on soul mates).  Before reading this book, I'd never known or thought much about the fact that our grandparents' generation often met and married someone from their hometown or even their own childhood neighborhood or street, whereas it's not uncommon for young adults our age go to college and, later, work, far from where they grew up.  These couples tended to have an initial rapport, friendship, and attraction that turned into abiding, romantic love because to them, giving up on their marriages wasn't really an option (by choice, not just by social attitudes toward divorce).  I think that level of devotion and the will to love is beautiful, and marriages like my grandparents'  inspire me for the very reason that they are so lovingly, faithfully committed, but I have to say, I'm incredibly thankful to have been born when I was.   We're blessed living in a culture where marrying for love isn't a dreamy alternative to settling or to marrying for other social reasons (as good as those relationships might be); it's a reality.  It's just the navigating the dating world to get to that reality that's the hard part…

I initially set out to write my college senior thesis on the parallels between Love and Responsibility and Jane Austen's novels.  All the romantic missteps!  That JPII talked about!  That's what all of Jane's characters were doing!  I was so excited, and it probably didn't help that I was only a few months into my obsession (TOB-session?) with the Pope's writings.  Then one day, the professors I was working with sat me down and pointed out that, well, as much as the literary characters were living proof of the Pope's observations, there was no historic or academic connection between the works, a.k.a. back to the drawing board.  I ended up writing my paper on Austen and Aristotle, and I know now that my teachers were right.  But even if there's no actual link, the fact that there are so many similarities between the ideas of a 20th-century cardinal and an 18th-century young woman, both celibate, who knew the heart so well just goes to show that John Paul's writing is powerful stuff.  So yeah, Modern Romance is, you know, modern, and timely.  The cries of our hearts don't really change, though.  Ever ancient, ever new, baby.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Reception Entertainment for Kids

Last summer, I wrote about my take on having kids at your wedding.  Basically, my opinion is the more the joyfuller, but having now attended several weddings as a parent, I know how tough it can be to enjoy the day and relax as a guest with little ones (and their varying potential for destruction and scenes!) in tow.  I will be forever grateful to my cousin for having had the idea of providing a bucket of trucks at her garden reception.  Two-year-old boy heaven for Aaron.  Heeaaaavvvven.

As wedding season gets rolling, I want to expand on my past suggestions of considering reception venues with outdoor space for kids to play and offering activities and a special favor, handed out early, to keep them entertained.  I looked around online for you, and want to specifically share these  ideas and products that I know I, as a mom, would find insanely thoughtful (links in the caption):

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1. Coloring pages and puzzles (these adorable ones found here, plus another sweet and prettily designed activity book here)  2. Disposable or Polaroid cameras and a photo scavenger hunt project (this one is a good inspiration) 3. Wedding Mad Libs (make up your own or borrow these from Martha Stewart Weddings)  4.Card & Board Games  5. Bubble machine (never underestimate)  6. Corn Hole (Etsy has amazing wedding decals you can add to blank boards, like these and these)  7. Lawn Dice  8. Outdoor Bowling
I asked around and a few other brides suggested having an area of your reception sectioned off with comfy blankets, pillows, and movies (I foresee this being pretty clutch for parents at an evening reception), asking your DJ to have one or two kids-only songs on the dance floor, and having a Q+A-style guest book where you can ask your guests to weigh in on things like what love means, what the best dinner for two is, their intentions for you as newlyweds, and their best advice for a happy marriage--even the guests who can't write themselves will probably have something to say! 

We don't have any weddings on the calendar for a while, but I know my days as a kid-toting guest aren't over.  So tell me, what sorts of kid-friendly offerings have you encountered as a guest, and are you planning anything special for your own day?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

INVITED: Available Now, How to Order It, and 2 Bridal Giveaways!

After three years of working on this project so close to my heart, including months of marketing and sharing my excitement with you, my book has been released with a…well, not quite with the bang I'd hoped for.  Thanks to past revisions to the final release date and to other mysterious internet workings, Amazon isn't currently showing INVITED  as currently available to purchase; just for Pre-Order.  BUT!  Good news.  If you click on the availability link under the format box with the price (for instance, "20 new from $16.95"), you can add the book to your cart and it will ship from Pauline Books to your door.

Speaking of Pauline, have you snagged your 20% discount coupon from them yet?  You can still download a copy of Andrew's and my Rosary meditations for couples here, and as a thank you, a coupon to buy the book from Pauline's online store will arrive in your inbox.

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Now to the fun stuff.  Glitches be darned, I want to celebrate the release and thank you for all of your support with TWO giveaways just for brides today!  If you're engaged, you are eligible for a huge bridal gift box containing this fragrance sampler from Sephora to help you choose your wedding scent (try out the 15 samples, including Tory Burch, Tom Ford, and Elizabeth & James, then bring the included voucher into a Sephora store to get a full-size bottle of your fave), a $50 gift card for BHLDN, Anthropologie's gorgeous line of bridal accessories, shoes, lingerie, and other amazing things, a copy of INVITED, and a copy of The Four Keys to Everlasting Love, a brand new book by a married couple of 16 years on navigating every season of your life together.  I read it last summer and it's beautiful.

You're also eligible for a second present if you're a bride-to-be!  I want to say thank you by surprising you with a gift from your wedding registry.  Andrew and I recently got into Parks and Rec and I can promise you it won't be like this.  Unless you want it to be.

I'll be choosing one winner for the gift box and one for the registry gift on Sunday!  Winners will be announced next Monday, the 11th.  Here's how to enter:

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Make sure your email is linked to your account in the comments so I can get in touch if you win, or that you include your email address in your comment.  Best of luck, friends!


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