Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Mental Health for Catholics

I think that as Catholics and Christians we are afraid to own up to mental health issues: anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.  It's daunting by its very nature, and because we feel the responsibility to be the face of Christ to the world, we may think that we have no right to complain, much less admit a weakness.  After all, aren't we supposed to be happy?  It obviously means you just haven't prayed enough/found peace in your life/accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, right?


If Jesus Himself could agonize in the garden, I think it's safe to say that "lesser beings" can expect their fair share of trauma.  After all, Jesus didn't promise us that we'd be always happy if we followed Him.  He promised us eternal happiness, and a peace that surpasses understanding.  And that can look very different from what the world commonly calls "happy."

That said, I've noticed a peculiar sort of "Catholic mindset" when it comes to mental health issues.  I'm not an expert, but I wanted to put these things out there for consideration.  I know I've learned a lot of the following the hard way in my life and wish someone had approached me with them.

Remember, always consult your doctor or a professional before making any major life changes.

1 // Don't use religion as a crutch.

I still have difficulty sometimes seeing when I am manipulating my faith to do or not do something that I want.  It's why it's good to have a trusted spiritual director, therapist, or healthy friend to talk things over with (see #4).

One (extreme) example of this would be staying in an abusive relationship because of Catholic teaching on divorce.  It's hard to give more subtle examples because faith and our daily functioning are so nuanced and personal.  I just try to ask myself, "Am I doing this because I really do care to about my faith or because I'm looking for an excuse to avoid dealing with the real issues?"

2 // Distance the people that hurt and don't help.

I know you want to balk at that.  I still do.  It sounds so mean.  Opposite of what we're supposed to do as Christians, right?  To be nice and love everybody?  How can we make excuses to reject people?

Here's the thing: God made you you, and nobody else.  That means you have a special responsibility to yourself.  And if other people are detrimental to that most important of responsibilities, after trying reasonably to make it work, you are completely justified in limiting contact, or even cutting them off.

Let me say that again:

You are completely justified in cutting off the people whose relationships are poisonous to you.

That doesn't make you a bad Christian.  Just a smart one.

3 // Take care of yourself.

Again, to those raised in a Christianity-saturated environment, this might set off alarm bells that they are a hair's breadth from hell due to sloth and wicked indulgence.  There is a difference between being selfish and reaching your finite human limits.  Know them.  Embrace them.  Honor them.  Don't let other people shame you into thinking you are being lazy and selfish and a bad Christian.  Remember Jesus stopped his preaching and His work and went up to the mountain to rest in prayer.

4 // Talk to someone.

If you keep things from airing out, you're likely to suffocate.  Sin and evil can't live in the light.  The truth shall set you free.  Speak up.  If all the people you know are too close to your situation, or if you feel worse after talking to them, find someone else--someone you don't know, but someone who will listen and care.  Talk to a priest, a minister, a therapist.  Go to Confession or schedule an appointment.

What do you think?  Are Catholics and Christians in general harder on themselves when it comes to mental health?  Do you have any other advice for navigating the treacherous waters of life and mental illness?


For further reading:

Monday, 29 June 2015


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Roan:  He's grown so very much in the last week alone; looking more six months than five months.  Still wobbly on his Bumbo, though.  Almost all of the brown hair is gone, replaced by soft white-blonde fuzz.

Afon:  The last picture of the wild man before his haircut.

Afon's wanderings--and they would be far further than we would like, if he had his way, remind me of this poem; or maybe the poem reminds me of him.  Either way:

Spring Morning, by A.A. Milne 
Where am I going? I don't quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know. 
Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass. 
If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You'd sail on water as blue as air,
And you'd see me here in the fields and say:
"Doesn't the sky look green today?" 
Where am I going? The high rooks call:
"It's awful fun to be born at all."
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
"We do have beautiful things to do." 
If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!" 
Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

And that's half the year!  Except that I missed the first couple of weeks in January; late pregnancy and immediate postpartum ailments are more focused on survival than documentation.

What are you thoughts halfway through 2015?  Summer Christmas has passed and today is the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.  It's the ideal time to be still and reflect on the past months, to follow the new ones into the future, as you might follow a stone thrown out over the water.

Friday, 26 June 2015

#7QT: First Impressions of Little House on the Prairie

-- one --

We've been {listening to The Little House on the Prairie audio book} on my long drives to and from Tampa twice a day.  Would you believe this is my first time experiencing a Little House book?

I don't really, either.  I have some vague memory of Little House in the Big Woods, so I believe it was read to me a long, long time ago.

-- two --

That might explain the great nostalgia I felt immeidately for the heavy, wooded Wisconsin the Ingalls leave behind.  Or more likely, I prefer and have known forests better all my life.  I have to hand it to her, though.  Though I've never seen a prairie, and never really felt called to it, Ms. Wilder's gorgeous writing makes me sort of like to see it.

-- three --

Is it just me, or is baby Carrie crazy good?  How in the world does a family with an infant strike out into the wilderness, crossing frozen lakes and flooding rivers, in nothing but a canvas-covered wagon, go so far with me forgetting about the infant's existence?  I'm wondering if there's some heavy memory editing going on on Laura's part.

Either that or babes were made far hardier back then.  Cause mine would be all like, "Pioneers?  Ha, no."

-- four --

Any couple needing to brush up on their relationship might do well to read a Little House book.  The cooperation of Ma and Pa Ingalls is just inspiring.  The moment when they cross the river and Caroline has to take the reigns and keep her cool while Charles jumps in to lead the horses.  I'm in awe of how much confidence and faith they have in one another's capabilities.
Seeing it through Laura's eyes reminds me a lot of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Little House is a little weaker in that Laura has to spell things out for the reader, but she somehow manages it without sounding moralizing.

-- five --

That being said, I don't like Caroline much.  She's the stereotype of the frowning, disapproving mother, always scolding them and expecting them to act like ladies.  Boo.  I hate the strictness.  It leaves a sting of joyless Puritanism.  Don't get me wrong; I admire her amazing strength.  I'm pretty sure I would die out there on the prairie if I had to do the things she does.  But I'm also pretty sure that if we were contemporaries, we would have nothing in common.

I much prefer Charles.  Someone somewhere said that the books were his stories more than Laura's.  They are indeed.

-- six --

That common human decency is something that can be counted on is fascinating to me.  Charles is intrinsically good, of course, but then so are the strangers who they meet on the prairie who they are happy to call neighbors.

-- seven --

Last, there is a great deal of description put into the setting up of buildings and the living in the wilderness.  I feel as if I'm getting a minor education in homesteading what with the careful account of how to make a door without nails, etc.

When did you first read the Little House books?  What were your impressions?  Should we bother to read the rest of the books after this one, or is this as good as it gets?

Linking up with Kelly for {Seven Quick Takes Friday}.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Blurry Photos

I feel as if there's a profound message hidden in these blurry photos; something about not throwing away a single picture but savoring even the imperfections, which are often the truest to life.  About how digital photography is robbing us of the appreciation of (imperfectly) capturing a moment.  Something about the limitations of film, that we now take for granted.

But I am honestly just too tired to think.  Between driving Afon to and from school and having to catch up on sleep because of Roan cutting some teeth, my time is all but devoured.  So I think I'll just let this photos speak for themselves.  c:

More later, I hope.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

#5Faves: iPhone apps

I got my first iPhone last fall, and now (to use the colloquialism) I don't know how I ever lived without it.  These are my most-used apps for iPhones.  And yes, they're mostly photo apps!

(If you don't have an iPhone, there are similar or equivalent options for other smart phones.  I had some pretty swell photo editing apps with my Nokia Lumina.)

1 // Afterlight

The possibilities with Afterlight are pretty endless.  Other than the luminous filters I use in, like, all of my phone pics that aren't taken in outdoor light.  And a lot that are.  The wallpapers cost a bit extra, but you can compensate by sending the edited Afterlight photo to A Beautiful Mess app.

2 // Relax Melodies

A white noise/nature sound app that we use pretty much every night.  There are thousands of combinations you can create by layering sounds and volumes.  I like changing things up seasonally.  So, in the winter, I'll use the sounds of crackling fire and windblown snow.  In summer, the singing crickets.  Etc.

3 // A Beautiful Mess

It took me some getting used to at first, but now I know how to manipulate the filters and fonts to get the styles I want.  I love this for Instagram posts, when I want to get across a message rather than a photo.  I can put some pretty font to a clean background in seconds.

4 // Walgreens

For those of us who are parent paparazzi, or who practice the art of printed photos, this is a Godsend. I choose the photos on my phone I want printed and pick them up an hour or so later.  No hassle!

5 // Instagram

Well, obviously.

Runner up:  Kindle.  I really should use this app more.  I wonder why I don't.

What are you favorite iPhone apps?  Anything I should know about that would make my life richer or easier?

Linking up with Call Her Happy for {Five Favorites}!

3 Tips to Improve Blog Photos

I sure do like a blog that's beautiful to look at.  It won't do anything for me without the content to back it up, but if there are attractive photos, it catches my attention and makes me come back again and again.  They are the equivalent for me of putting on a nice outfit, 'cept on the internet!  So I pay attention to what elements make other bloggers' photos crisp and professional-looking.

Whether it's with your iPhone or a fancy DSLR, here are a few tips that will improve your blog (or Facebook) photos.

Find a solid wall.

Or some other background or surface that isn't busy.  White is the best, but if it's a solid color, make sure it is complimentary to the object or objects you are taking pictures of, or it can make a beautiful thing look strange and unattractive.

Go where there is lots of light.

This is one that kills me.  I hate that it's like this, but cameras, at their essence, function by the use of light.  So, as a beginner's rule, the less light, the less good the pictures.

(Without light, you have to worry about cranking up the ISO and open the aperture/make the aperture number smaller, and that is just a pain if you just want nice blog photos and aren't interested in pursuing your Master's degree in journalistic photography.)

Practically, this means you should avoid taking photos at night at all cost.  Even if you have a well-lit house or location, nothing replaces the light of good, old-fashioned sunshine.

Think minimalism.

If you're taking pictures for a blog post, unless it's just a daily catch-up with your life, it's probably about a specific thing or idea.  Isolate and hone in on that theme or idea with a minimalistic photo of it.  It clears confusion and prepares your readers for what's to come before they even read the first word!

What do you do to ensure your photos come out picture-perfect for your blog or social media?  What tips do you have for me?

For further reading:

Monday, 22 June 2015


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Afon:  At the swimming pool; water is one of his favorite things--to splash in, to jump in fully clothed, to drink from dirty puddles when I'm looking the other direction. . .

Roan:  Like his brother, he loves the water.  Bath time with him is a pure joy.

Today is beginning the fourth day (and the second week) of school for Afon.  The adjustment has been rough on him, but I'm seeing positive changes already: he's speaking more and he's used the toilet of his own will on more than one occassion!  It's a big time and money commitment for me to drive down to Tampa and back twice a day, but the organization, rest, and rhythm it gives to our little family is already bearing fruit.

Friday, 19 June 2015

7 Quick Takes

-- one --

As of today, it is Afon's third day of school, and I'm not entirely sure he's hated every minute of it.  But I do have to tell you, the break is nice.

-- two --

We were shopping late at Walgreens the other night, and guess what came on the radio?  That 90's song "Peaches" by The Presidents of the United States of America, followed by Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days."  It was, like, zen, ya'll.

Young folks, take a listen (the video is also great, watch it to the end!):

-- three --

Been putting this baby in his Bumbo:

Someone gave it to me before he was born, which was so sweet and helpful!  He'll only put up with it for so long, but I like that I my hands are free and he's still sort of engaged with me while I'm doing other things.

He doesn't like his Moby wrap because he likes to be able to look around when I'm wearing him, and the backpack is pretty impossible for me to take on and off without help, so I'm sort of in the market for a sling.  I think he'd like it.  I don't want to spend a lot of money and then find out that it's really hot, short, or uncomfortable, though.

Any suggestions?

Or maybe someone wanting to sell a used one in good condition?

-- four --

What I've been reading lately:
1 // Still--or perhaps a more accurate word would be paused--on The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. 
2 // Afon and I read and finished The Magician's Nephew for his bedtime story.  He mostly talked/babbled through it or fell asleep, and in retrospect, I want to read the Chronicles in original publication order, but it was good to try out a chapter book with him. 
3 // Re-reading--or rather listening to--Mary Shelley's Frankenstein podcast on my iPhone during long drives.  It's neat hearing it versus reading it; and my second time around, I'm catching on a lot more to things that I missed when the material was all brand new.  Still one of my favorites!

-- five --

I found this in my Blog Photos folder just now.  Just playin' around with PicMonkey.
That was just using the makeup features, not the nip/tuck photoshop brushes.  Really makes you think about this airbrushed "improved" versions of celebrities and models in magazines and glad for publications like {Verily} who swear off the fake in favor of real beauty.

-- six --

Game of Thrones season finale?  I thought the penultimate episode was better.  Still, eager to see what happens.  I should probably foreswear the television show in favor of the books.

Also, dissatisfied about the death of You-Know-Who.  Isn't he, like, a main character?

-- seven --

If you haven't been around in a while or are new to the blog, here's what you missed:

Joining the indomitable Kelly for {Seven Quick Takes Friday}.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Philosophy of Makeup

This post originally appeared {here} on March 29, 2014.
I've gained a sizable collection of little makeup tips and tricks over the years and come back every now and again to the idea of publishing them here, to keep a record for myself and to pass the knowledge along to others.  As I got down to writing, however, it became apparent that I would first need to set out a philosophy of makeup, at least for me personally, because makeup-wearing covers a great expanse of tastes and purposes.  It's also highly personal and subjective.  Like in art and parenting, learning the rules is just the first step toward breaking them.  There is no one right way to wear makeup.

So here is a little breakdown of where I'm coming from when I recommend or write about makeup on this blog.  (It can also apply to fashion.)

One of the most flattering comments I ever received was from a friend who said she liked how I wore makeup.  I can't remember her wording exactly, but the gist of it was that she saw how it improved my appearance, and it didn't look like I wasn't wearing any makeup, but it didn't look like my makeup was hiding me either.  I liked that a lot because it is exactly my makeup philosophy.

Makeup serves two main purposes: (1) to decorate and (2) to beautify.  These purposes don't have to be mutually exclusive, but I think when the decorating takes away from, distracts, or frustrates one's God-given beauty, it's a shame.  Except in the case of costuming, such as during Halloween or a stage production or festival, my rule of thumb is to use makeup to decorate in a beauty-enhancing way.  I think some women who are afraid of wearing makeup have been scared away by the misuse of decorating-type makeup.

Let us illustrate the two purposes with the following:

sources {here} and {here}

In the first photo, the eyeliner is soft and smudgy.  If you were to take several steps back, so you weren't, you know, staring this poor stranger in the eyes at an uncomfortably close distance, then the definition of the makeup marks would become less and less clear, 'til it blended in with her lashes, making them look thick, full, and numerous--traits commonly considered attractive in the human female.  In the second photo, if you were to step back, the definition of the eyeliner would remain clear for a much greater distance; the line is solidly defined, and the colors and luster are not naturally found on the human face.  See the difference?

There are all sorts of variations on these two styles above, and as many variations for each part of the face, and even for each makeup product.  I have both purposes for wearing makeup; my daily routine aims to beautify, but every now and again I like a smudge of red lipstick or colorful eye-shadow.

What is your makeup philosophy?  Do you wear makeup, and why or why not?  What is your main purpose in wearing makeup?

My dirty makeup brushes: proof that this is not a stock photo.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

#5Faves: Things about My Husband

I need to exercise love more in my life; who doesn't?  So in honor of Father's Day coming up, here are my five favorite things about the father of my children, my husband, for all the internet to see.  <3

1 // He has his own unique sense of humor.

It takes knowing him a while to be able to pick up on it.  It's sort of a mix between stating the obvious and stating something he knows is grossly inapplicable to the situation.  A lot of it has to do with his (almost innocent) honesty.  He'll tell it like it is, with no malice or threat, and helps people see the humor in things, even if it's only his humor.

2 // He is never unkind to our children.

He of course gets short with Afon occassionally; it would take a soulless person not to react in frustration when Afon breaks the lock on the refrigerator and throws the glass jar of grape jelly on the ground with a vengeance.  

But I'll tell you what.  I have never heard his daddy say an unkind thing about Afon or his disabilities.  In fact, he is often the one who has to put me in line when I'm feeling sorry for himself about having a child with autism.

3 // He is never unkind with me.

He never belittles me or calls me names, even jokingly.  He takes a lot of anxiety-induced criticism from me (mea culpa--I'm working on that) and doesn't feel the need to lash back.  That's a man.

4 // He has a generous heart.

He pulls more than his weight in parenting responsibilities because of {my illness}.  He forgives easily.  He is always ready to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even past transgressors, or people who have been cruel to him in the past.

5 // He is talented.

Let me brag on him a minute.

My husband taught himself Welsh before we met.  He is not a native Welsh speaker.  He decided he wanted to know the language of the country of his birth one day and learned it in a matter of months. Now he is nearly fluent.

In a similar way, he taught himself how to play the piano, and can pick up on many other instruments besides.

He is an extremely talented illustrator, a hobby which I've been trying to encourage him to pick back up, as it is one of mine as well.  ;)  Maybe after Afon gets over the ripping-paper-to-shreds stage.

Linking up with {Call Her Happy} today for Five Favorites.
All photos in this post courtesy of {Christina Maldonado Photography}.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...