Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Trapped in a Box

Remember this song?  Am I showing my age?

really loving the 90s fashion
I haven't been blogging lately for a few different reasons.
1.  As many of you know, life has been hard.  It happens, and that's okay.  I'm a big girl & a tough girl, so I can handle it.  I can see that our family is on our way out of tough times (or at least I can see the way out), so that's good.  It's nice to have an end in sight.  And because I really loathe complaining, I tend to keep things to myself when life gets hard.  Nothing positive to write?  Well, I guess I won't be blogging today is what I tend to say to myself.  Maybe I should change that. 
I hate being a downer.
2.  I'm trying really hard to be a better mom, and that means getting my priorities in order.  I'm trying to spend less time on the Internet.  Yesterday was an epic fail; I spent waaay too much time on Facebook (which I also loathe because I always walk away feeling like I wasted a significant amount of valuable time, and I rarely feel happy after signing off.  Guess what I'll be giving up for Lent again this year?)  But overall, I think I'm doing a much better job of spending quality time with the littles and caring for my family.  Woot Woot!  Go me!
3.  I feel trapped in a box (in terms of blogging).  When I first started this blog, way back when, almost 2 years ago...did you know my blogiversary is coming up?  It is, and I didn't even know that was a thing until I read this post by Dwija.  Have I mentioned how I much I enjoy her blog lately?  Because I really do. 
Her post had a lot of tips for new bloggers, and one that stood out to me was being yourself.  She said blogging was all about the relationships you form online (and I agree; I've really enjoyed getting to know so many cool bloggers even if it's just in electronic form).  So, her suggestion was just be yourself, and blog about what you know.  I think her exact words were "be authentic."  Point taken, Dwija.  I'm trying.
And then Jen Fulwiler wrote a post with similar advice.  She wrote about how she was trying to figure out what makes certain blogs successful but couldn't figure out what common thread they all had in common until it hit her that the most successful bloggers are "wholly, apologetically themselves." 
And then she quoted Howard Thurman,
"Don't ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." 
It was a great post.  Go read it...NOW.  I'll still be here when you get back.
And I guess it dawned on me that all I've really wanted with this whole blogging thing is just that...
a place to be myself. 
When I started my blog and chose the title, The Imperfect Catholic, it was a reversion story, a faith journey.  I still intend to write about that sometimes because...dang, being Catholic is hard and awesome all at the same time.  Am I right?  But I didn't realize that there were all these Catholic bloggers out there with similar names-- Bad Catholic, Almost Not Catholic, etc.  These bloggers have legit Catholic blogs and talk about religious stuff.  Yet, I never wanted that.  I just wanted to talk about myself and my personal journey, so in retrospect, my blog title might be unintentionally misleading.
So, I think I'm going to change my blog.  I'm going to change my title to something that is more suited to me and my family.  And I'm going to try to be myself like Dwija and Jen suggested.  It might be hard.  I might stumble along the way, but I'm going to try.
And changing the blog is going to take time-- time I really don't have.  So, it will be a process and not an overnight thing.  Maybe I'll change the title & design one day, the About section another day, and write new posts in between.  Please bear with me. 
And hey, two requests--
I'm having minor surgery on Friday.  Pray for me?
Any super techy friends want to hook me up with easy links on how to make a blog button and how to redirect a website?  I am clueless.  I'm talking blogging for dummies clueless.
Help a mother out?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What I Wore Sunday-- volume 9 (family edition)

Linking up again with the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for another edition of What I Wore Sunday!

Since I've been trying to be a better mom, get more organized, and improve my time management skills, I *gasp* laid out everyone's outfts last night, so I give you What I Wore Sunday-- the family edition!!!

Inspired by Deme's post on stretching your wardrobe through the seasons, I'm wearing a summer dress with winter accessories.  I actually wore this dress in a previous post with a cardigan, but I like it paired with this striped sweater much better.  I never would have thought of pairing the two together if I hadn't read Deme's post, so thanks Deme & Fine Linen & Purple!
The details:
striped sweater: Target
grey flannel (look closely): J. Crew (also worn here)
navy blue dress: Goodwill (also worn here)
grey sweater tights: Target
boots: Nordstrom

Griffin refused to pose for photos, so this was the best shot I could get.
The details:
Griffin's outfit: Children's Place (hand-me-downs)
my green peacoat: Target clearance

Mike & Paul after mass.
The details:
Mike: Van Husen
Paul: Janie & Jack (gifts for Griffin back in the day)

Maura before mass.  How cute is she?
The details:
dress: Mini Boden (gift)
pink, sparkly tights: Target
purple, sparkly shoes: Target
Hello Kitty bag: gift
Other cute family shots:
Like mother, like daughter

redheaded sibling love

Have a great Sunday everyone!  And don't forget to check out all the other great outfits at Fine Linen and Purple!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Serviam, a guest post by Mike

This is a guest post by my husband, Mike.  He's awesome.

Part of the mission statement of the company I work for says, "Put your customers and employees first and profits will follow."  The company I work for has gone from nothing to controlling over 60% of its respective market.  Additionally, it has grown 7-10% annually for its 55 year history.  I promise I won't make this a billboard (which is why I'm not mentioning who I work for), but my point in this is showing that our company lives service.  Many businesses say things like this, but I would be able to make a compelling argument that they do the contrary.  In life, when I'm able to come across a business that operates to serve its customers, it is extremely refreshing.

I've found throughout my working years that I've been willing to pay more for excellent service, have the knowledge that I'll be able to get someone with a brain on the other line, or deal with a business that uses good old common sense.

How many times have you been at the grocery store only to spend the same amount of time or more waiting on line?  I do 95% of the grocery shopping for our family, so I've spent a bunch of time on lines.  Think about it-- you've spent all this time filling your cart to spend money and then you have to wait even more to spend that money.  I know some people claim they want you in that line, so you'll spend more on the candy/magazines et al in the check out lines.  I may be in the minority, but  I can't remember the last time I've bought anything there.  Our grocery budget is tight, and I don't want to waste the money on garbage I didn't plan on buying in the first place.  So, at the end of the day, most grocery trips to the mega store are frustrating at best.

Mike looks like Johnny Corporate at the end of the line.

I've been to Trader Joe's many times, but today was a little different.  I kept hearing bells going off by the cash registers.  I know that they typically open lanes when lines start forming, but there were not a ton of people in the store at the time I was there.  I was confused.  I kept shopping (spent less than I would have in a big store for better stuff) and proceeded to the check out line.  There were two people in front of me, so I started eyeballing the bison jerky.  Not being one to buy when I'm done shopping, I resisted but will have it on "the list" for next week.

Then, a really cool thing happened; "Betty" came over, and said "I'm opening a new lane for you."  Understand, there were only two people in front of me, and they had carry baskets.

"Really?"  I replied.

"We know that a great way to serve our customers is to serve them quickly."

One of the books I'm currently reading is called "Thou Shalt Prosper" by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. In it he writes "When I refer to service, I do not mean serving the customer, I mean instilling in ourselves a love of service....If you don't think much of other human beings, well, then you are never going to be much good at customer service; and I think you will find other shortcomings in your life, too."  Whether "Betty" thinks much of other human beings, I'll never know.  However, actions do speak louder than words and the genuine way she conducted herself makes me believe she does.

"Betty" has made a lifelong customer out of this family because of her commitment to service.  As she has served our family and I'm sure many others, their business will continue to grow and prosper.

I'm sure I'm not the only customer that "Betty" opened a new lane for today.  For me, her simple act made me ask a few questions of myself.  Am I serving my wife and children properly?  Do I serve my employees and customers properly?  Am I serving my church properly?  How should I serve? 

Serviam(!) is the first of my morning prayers.  It is translated to "I will serve."  I learned of this prayer during a recollection a few years ago, and from my view, it perfectly sets your first priority for the day.  "Service," as my father has said, "can be your highest calling."  I know that I fall short daily in my endeavors to serve to my fullest potential.  However, I also know that I can continue to strive to serve every day and do my best to make the next one better than the last.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I'm totally going to hell

A few of my online friends have been praying this novena, and it got my attention. 

As many of you already know, our family has been going through a tough time.  A family member is battling cancer.  Our house was robbed.  The kids have been sick.  We're sleep deprived.  We think someone tried to break in again last week.  I've been having health problems.  Things have been tough.  Really tough.  We've been busy.  Really busy.  And...I'll admit it-- I've been avoiding any type of serious prayer (like the rosary) because I felt sorry for myself.  I guess I had the attitude of, Hey God, you know how hard things have been.  Fix it already.  I don't have time for this "pray more" crap.  Just fix it, already, okay?  I keep your commandments.  I go to church on Sunday.  You kind of owe it to me to fix my problems, right?!?!

But, when my online friends started talking about how this Mary, undoer of Knots, novena was bringing about real change in their lives, my interest was piqued.  I started leaving comments and asking questions of my online friends, but I still wasn't ready to start the novena until I read these words by e-friend and fellow blogger, Dwija of House Unseen.  She wrote,

"...I suck at being as reverent as I imagine I should be and then I tell myself that because of my shortcomings, obviously my prayers won't be "real" so why be a poser?  Oh my gosh I have issues." 

Apparently, I have issues too, Dweej, because when I read those words, I realized that I had been avoiding prayer and making excuses for not praying.  Why?  I'm not totally sure.  It certainly was nothing intentional, but probably because I was short on time and couldn't pray the right way.

I'm guessing it all started when we moved (or probably even earlier, when I was living alone in Nevada with three kids for six of the longest weeks of my life while Mike started his new job in California).  Yup.  I'm almost 100% positive that it started then.  Because before that, I was trying my best to make it to daily mass every day with all three kids, and I was definitely saying the rosary every day...because going to daily mass by yourself with three kids makes saying the rosary every day feel like vacation.  Am I right?  Holla'!

So, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started the novena that night. 

A funny thing happened that first night.  As I read the meditation for day one, I noticed the wording referred to one knot.  For example,

"Most merciful Mother, to Whom Jesus, entrusts everything; deign to grant me the grace to undo this knot in my life."
And you know me, I'm bossy.  I mean, I already admitted at the beginning of this post that I say things like, "I don't have time for this pray more crap," to God.  I'm impatient and flawed, and I may even roll my eyes at God sometimes.  And believe it or not, He still loves me and forgives me for when I act like an impatient teenager.
And, this, my friends was one of those moments.  I was incredibly annoyed with whomever had typed up the wording this knot on the Internet.  What if the person praying had multiple knots?  Because I had (have) lots of problems = lots of knots.  God couldn't possibly expect me to pray this novena for nine days for each of my prayer intentions, could He?
Immediately, I was fuming, and I decided to take the liberty to change the wording of the novena because God would understand, right?  Here's how my prayer went--
Earth to God? 
Kate here. 
Remember me? 
Your faithful servant who is getting crapped on down here on Earth. 
this novena refers to one knot,
but as you already know
because You're all knowing
and because I've been sending up quick, angry "God, Help Me!" type prayers
 that I'm positive TOTALLY count
because I'm an arrogant jackass,
while at the same time...
drowning my sorrows in red wine and cheap beer
You know...
I don't have time for that "pray more" crap. 
What's that? 
How could you forget me? 
Aww, shucks.  That's nice.
Thanks God. 
I'm sure you meant that with complete sincerity and zero sarcasm. 
back to ME,
I don't have time to pray this nine day novena a million times
(imagine me rolling my eyes)
I already have 99 problems,
and this novena ain't one. 
I'm going to go ahead and do what I want
(because we've already established that it's all about ME)
and list all 99 of my problems. 
Thanks for understanding. 
You're super.
Note to readers: 
I know I'm a horrible person, and that this post is probably sacrilegious.  No need to leave an anonymous comment telling me I'm going to hell. 

And then something weird happened.  I felt the need to choose one intention (even though I had already lost my cool and listed everything in my life that needed fixing). 
What did I choose as a special intention? 
The same thing I pray for every. dang. night. 
To be a better mom.
More specifically, to be a better mom for Maura.
To be continued.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What I Wore Sunday-- channeling my inner Kate Middleton

Hi everybody!  Linking up for another edition of What I Wore Sunday with the wonderful women at Fine Linen and Purple.

It has been cold here.  Super cold.  And after living in the sunny and warm desert of Las Vegas for four years, my body is in shock.  Get me back to the desert-- QUICKLY!

As a result, I've been wearing lots of skirts and dresses with boots to church, but it's getting too cold I tell you.  Too cold.

So, I'm trying to find new ways to wear pants to church without looking like I'm going to work. 

Today, I tried to emulate another lady who lives in a cold, damp city-- Kate Middleton.


Mike bought me red skinny jeans for Christmas, and I am the queen of blazers, so I thought I'd try to recreate a similar outfit.  Here's my attempt.

it may be sunny, but it sure is cold

The details:

black blazer: Banana Republic (part of my job interview/funeral suit)
fancy ruffled t-shirt: J. Crew (I need a new one)
red skinny jeans: J. Crew

And I have to give credit where credit is due.  All 3 littles were AWESOME at mass today!  So we promptly took them to... 


I got a jelly donut in case you were wondering.

It's going to be a great day.  I can feel it.

Happy Sunday everyone! 

Go check out all the other great outfits at Fine Linen and Purple!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Seven Quick Takes-- video of the boys crying, a bacon t-shirt, and how to make poop on Facebook

Linking up with Jen for another of Seven Quick Takes.

I'm sure you're sick of hearing about it, but we're still a little sick over here.  I took Paul to the pediatrician yesterday because he would not stop crying, and because people actually started commenting on it.
While picking up Maura from school--
other mom: "What's wrong? (indicating Paul's crying)  Is he tired?"
me: "No, he's getting over a cold, and he's just been super fussy.  He starts crying any time I'm more than 3 feet away from him."
other mom: "He needs to toughen up."
Thank you for your random comments.  Thanks so much.
I was afraid Paul might have an ear infection or something.  Nope.  Just 3 giant molars breaking through & croup (poor baby), so...I will probably never sleep again...because it's all about me, right?  If you're looking for someone to nominate for the Selfish Mom Awards, you know who to call.

In an effort to get the kids out in the fresh air, I've been taking them for walks in the morning.  Usually, they go like this.

Morning walk from Kate on Vimeo.
Since our walks kept ending in tears, and they need fresh air, and I need to get outside (before I go crazy), I have continued the walks (despite the crying) and have turned them into interval jogs.  If the babies start crying, I start running and somehow the shock of my quick geriatric pace lulls their screaming.
Here's photographic evidence that they were happy when we returned home yesterday--
Pick me a winner, Grif.
I was not as lucky today.
"Stop making me wear this monkey hat, Mom.  It's degrading."

Did anyone else watch Black Swan?  Mike & I watched it recently, and it was the only movie in the 16 years we have been together that I ever suspected he was scared. 
He just kept things like,
"I don't know if I can keep watching this." 
"I mean...really?"
"Do you want me to turn this off?"
"No?  Really?"
This is proof, in my humble opinion, that there is nothing scarier to a man than a crazy woman.  Seriously.
Fatal Attraction?
Alanis Morrisette?
Terrifying to men.
In lighter news, I know what I'm getting Mike for Father's Day...

...and Dwija taught me how to make poop on Facebook.  I still can't get the robot to work though.  Ugh.

try it.  you'll like it.

Have a great weekend everybody.  For more Quick Takes, click here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hell Week

I know I posted briefly about our recent parenting hell week earlier, but forgive me, I just can't stop talking about it.  It was that awful.


Mike and I are college sweethearts, and we liked to party back in the day (and still do) and we went to state let's just say the whole "hell week" concept is something we're familiar with.
Mike joined a fraternity in college.  An unsanctioned, nonGreek, banned from campus fraternity.  It was awesome.  They were the greatest group of guys you'd ever want to be friends with.  Super guys who didn't take themselves too seriously.
I, on the other hand, did not join a sorority.  It is still a regret.  Can you believe it?  I know.  I know.  What's the big deal?  I guess I'd explain by saying that if you know me in real life you'd know I'm pretty fearless and outgoing.  I'm not one to regret things I didn't do.  But alas, the sorority thing is on my list.  Live and learn.
Anywho...I remember being intrigued by this hell week concept in college.  I'd watch my friends who were pledging endure sleepless nights because they had to stand outside the sorority house in the middle of night.  They had to memorize stupid facts about the organization they were pledging-- their history.  Their "bigs" would get all up in their business (bizness?) if the sleep deprived pledge couldn't remember something.
And that my friends was what this past week was like.  Except Mike & I were kept sleep deprived by our littles.
Coughing, sneezing, fevers, crying-- all day, all night for over an ENTIRE WEEK. 
How much Ibuprofen did you give her? 
 When did we give her the last dose? 
How much does she freaking weigh?
Do you really want me to hold her on a scale to figure it out?
How long has she been sick?
Can you describe her cough? 
I don't know.  I don't know...because I'm sick too (and I'm trying to remember whether I took my cold medicine or not) and it's 4am, and I've been up with a nonstop coughing/crying kid since 1am.  And I'm trying to keep all the facts straight for all three sick kids.  And I didn't sleep last night either because I was up with another coughing/crying sick kid and it just went on like that day after night after day after night for what seemed like forever until one night all three kids finally slept. 
College hell week ain't got nothing on this whole parenting thing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Part 3 - "God always has is hand stretched down to you" a guest post by Mike

This is the third post in a series on faith and finances written by my husband.  Here are links to part one and part two.

The second part of Fr. Paul's sentence was "all He wants you to do is reach up and let him help you."  This may sound like a very simple statement, but it was strikingly profound for me.   Surprisingly, even as a 33-year-old, cradle Catholic, I had never heard anything like this.  I consider myself a unabashed individual with an anarcho-capitalist bend.  "Letting" anyone help me was way outside the norm.  Fr. Paul continued to speak about having a plan of life and how your work could sanctify you and glorify the Almighty.  Wait a minute, I could use my work to glorify God? This was something I could latch on to.   Working in the auto business has similar connotations to being a lawyer or politician, so I wasn't completely sold but he definitely had my attention. When I was growing up, my mother always said, "We can find an hour to give to God every week."  Yet Fr. Paul was talking about giving your whole life, every minute of every day.  For some reason, I felt compelled to try.

During the beginning of this new calling, my first prayers were of thanksgiving for the gifts I had already been given.  Eventually, I prayed that I really wanted to get my family out of debt once and for all. 

I guess once I started looking for a sign, one finally appeared.

I had seen the "Act your wage" billboards on the way to and from work every single day, but I didn't really see them until one night on my way home from work.  Upon flipping through the talk radio channels, I heard a voice say, "We teach you how to handle money the way grandma did, only we keep our teeth in."  I thought this was a decent bit of humor and felt compelled to listen more.  Dave Ramsey started talking about how you should desire to be weird when it comes to finances.  He continued saying that "normal" was having two car payments, 8-10K worth of credit card debt, and student loan debt that's been around so long that you've given it a name.  We didn't have any student loan debt and only one car payment, but our credit card debt was three times that high.  I had to admit we fit right into the "normal" scenario he described.  Dave then finished up this segment with Proverbs 22:7 "The borrower is slave to the lender."

Could this be what I was praying for?  Some people who know me understand that I tend to be very direct and do well with that type of communication.  As Dave Ramsey took callers, he told them with no wavering about how their debt equates to a mess in their lives.  Pretty clear.  Additionally, he spoke of maturity and how one sign of it was the ability to delay gratification.  In other words, become disciplined with your finances.  Give every dollar a name and destination before you spend it.

So here I was, a few months into a new and very disciplined interior life, and I heard, after much prayer, about how to be disciplined with our money and put our family in a position to win financially.  I had given myself fully to the Almighty, and he very quickly answered my prayers in a way that was consistent with the way I was conducting myself spiritually.

Kate and I talked it over quite a bit, went to an all cash system, and really started hammering out our debts.  We wrote a monthly budget, based on my irregular income, and stuck to it (which is no small task), and as of November 20th, 2011, we were no longer slaves to credit cards or car payments.   There were a few times where we fell off the money wagon, but we quickly helped/threw each other back on and saw it to the end. 

A new discipline had become part of our lives.  Paradoxically, as we gave up everything we were, we were given everything in return. 

Deo Gratias.

Monday, January 7, 2013

What I Wore Sunday-- the epiphany

Happy Epiphany everyone!

I'm happy to be participating in Fine Linen and Purple's link up once again.

December was a challenging month for our family, but I'm happy to be blogging again. I've missed you!

Here's my outfit with lots of gold for the epiphany.

The details:
red cardigan: J. Crew
lace cami: Banana Republic
black pants: my closet
sparkly gold shoes: Chinese Laundry
gold earrings: gift from one of my BFFs
gold belt: Target

Here's a detail shot of my sparkly, gold shoes.  When Mike first saw me wear them, he said, "Those look like shoes my grandma would wear," which is true.  Mike's grandma was always stylin'!

I wrote a guest post about how our family celebrates the epiphany for Jenna at Call Her Happy. Go check it out!

Yes, I realize the epiphany was yesterday, but we've all been sick, and I just couldn't get this post up yesterday.  Sorry.  Now go check it out.  It will give you ideas for next year!

PT 2 Okay, we're here, now what? a guest post by Mike

This post is the second in a short series on faith and finances, written by my husband.  You can read part one here.

Fear is a funny thing.  Depending on what type of personality you have, it can steer you in different directions or none at all.  I'm the type of person that has to be in motion at all times, either physically or mentally.  When I add a dose of fear into the mix of constant motion, it is like getting a shot of adrenaline.  You may not necessarily know where you're going, but you're sure not going to be where you are when you're done.

2009 was an extremely challenging year from both a personal and professional standpoint.  The auto business was actually okay during the spring from a sales standpoint, but talk of the bankruptcies of both GM and Chrysler by summer really made the value of those cars challenged to say the least.  This sent a shockwave through the industry and created much uncertainty for businesses and people who made a living selling those vehicles.  This in turn made my irregular income even more volatile which caused a large amount of strain at home.  At one point, with my wife and child at home, we had a total of $12 until my next payday.  Writing about it now is making my chest tight even thinking about it.  I had moved my family across the country, and we were in very rough shape.  I felt like a victim and carried the mentality of one.

As 2009 moved along, the car market continued to improve, and we never missed a payment.  I watched our account like a hawk so that we would never pay an overdraft fee.  Additionally, I would figure out exactly how much we had for the following two weeks (which I was pretty good at), and Kate and I would agree to a pseudo budget (the real deal would come much later).  The summer was quite a struggle with my sister's wedding (which we knew of for at least 6 months) and a family medical emergency back on the east coast as well.  Both of those things rattled us financially, and I honestly felt like the boy who had his finger in the dam that could break at any minute.  The stress lasted for at least another 2 years.

The rest of 2009 and beginning of 2010 rolled along, and we almost decided to move back to the east coast due to the recent family medical events.  The car business continued to improve, and my career seemed to be getting back on track.  I was reading a significant amount in order to grow within my field, and it was having a significant and defined impact.  However, we still had a ton of debt, and our faith was very lukewarm.  Simply put, our lives were not in sync, and we were spinning our wheels.  Fear was still causing me to make decisions.

While reading, I came across a book titled "The Idiot Factor" by Larry Winget.  His essential point during this book was that you are whoever you want to be.  The culmination of your decisions and who you decide to surround yourself with are the driving factors in who you are, how much debt you have, how people treat you, your position in life, etc.  Quite honestly, I felt like I was reading a book that my father would have written.  Nobody speaks like this today and a good dose of reality was exactly what I needed.  This book was the first step for me in truly thinking of myself as being in the driver's seat vs. being a passenger on the bus. 

Things really started to get better from a career standpoint after changing my mentality (although we were still in a ton of debt).  Fear was something that I was able to fight back (or so I thought), but there was still something missing.  We simply weren't getting ahead in our lives.  I felt like we were driving through snow with a 4WD vehicle, but we couldn't engage the front axle.

The fall of 2010 changed all of that.