Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pro-Life is Complicated, and How You Can Help

Last month we had the unfortunate anniversary of Roe v Wade. Many cities, including my own Los Angeles, hosted Walks for Life, but our family wasn't there. We weren't there because we were at a funeral, for a baby named Emily Rose Marie.

We are fortunate enough to live in a vibrant Catholic community, and the church was packed with families. And I couldn't help thinking how very pro-life that funeral was.

Because everyone there knew that Baby Emily wasn't going to live long. There was a great deal of doubt that she would survive her birth. But she did. And she lived for six weeks past it. The whole of her life, people who loved her provided meals and support to her family. Her tiny life touched others and brought them together in love.

In the circles in which I run, we often think that being pro-life means having lots of babies.

Some folks on the other side, of course, think that being pro-life means putting a bunch of uncaring rules on people.

We know THAT'S not true, but what I think we sometimes forget is that being pro-life means so much more than not having abortions. For some, it means having more kids or fewer kids than you thought you would, or none at all. For a few, like our friends, it means cherishing a life for the short time you get to have it. For many, it means accepting a child who isn't exactly who or when or what you had hoped or planned for, and finding the beauty in that.

If you've been following my blog for a while now, you might remember the story of my sister- and brother-in law.

They were one of the cautionary tales in this post:

Dear Newlywed, You're Probably Worried About the Wrong Thing

They spent many years trying everything they could try in good conscience . . . and weren't able to have a baby. 

Two years ago, my sister-in-law visited the Trappist Monks of Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA. She and my brother-in-law decided to sponsor a giveaway on my blog, to send someone on a retreat with the monks to pray for their intentions. And four months later, they became the parents of a handsome little guy they named Luke, adopted in June of 2014.

Prayers answered, right?! Yay!

But God wasn't quite done with them yet. Because when our family went out to Washington D.C. last spring to meet baby Luke, she and I were BOTH sporting baby bumps. This despite being told by fertility experts that it was very unlikely that they would ever conceive.

So, our cousin Brendan was born in August, just a couple of weeks after Mary Jane was born, and ten months after his brother Luke.

Two babies in a year. The whole family was thrilled, especially after having wondered for so long if they'd have any children at all. Good to go, right?

Nope, not quite yet.

Just a couple of months later, they got a call from their social worker that Luke's birth mother was expecting again, and was hoping that my brother- and sister-in-law would adopt this baby too.

Another boy, due in May of 2016. Eleven months younger than Brendan.

And after hoping and praying for so many years, how could they say anything but, "yes."

Since the adoption is through an agency again, they are incurring all of the same expenses as their first adoption.

I told them that after all the readers of this blog have been through with them, I thought we could help. I asked them to set up a crowdfunding site, and they did.

You can find it here. That day at the funeral really convinced me that we are all made better when we live out our pro-life convictions together.

Update: I'm so excited by your donations, you guys. Seriously. I'm seeing all these names I know from comments and Facebook and I'm tearing up and I'm not even pregnant. (I think. I really shouldn't ever say that.) So, here's a free printable for you all, whether you donate or not, just because you guys are the best. :)

 As with all my printables, you are welcome to save the images to your computer for your own personal use. You may print the images and / or upload them and have prints made for your personal use or to give as gifts. First click on the image to bring it up in a new window, then right click on the image to save it to your computer. You may use my images on your blog, just please link back to my blog. If you would like to sell my images, please contact me first.

For LOTS MORE free printable prayers, check out my Pinterest board.

And for custom images, old favorites, and prayers, quotes, scripture, and catechism, available as high quality digital downloads, check out the shop!

And, because I seriously cannot stop with the picMonkey-ing even when I am definitely supposed to be working on writing projects . . . I created new sections in both the Etsy Shop and the CafePress Shop with all new printables and items for babies and about babies and 100% OF THE PROFITS FROM ANYTHING SOLD IN EITHER SHOP SECTION UNTIL MAY WILL GO TO HELP COVER ADOPTION EXPENSES.

Here are all the new printables in the Etsy Shop:

Adopted Too, Fictional Friends 8x10 Quote Set {digital download} Set 1: Anne of Green Gables, Princess Leia, Dorothy of Oz
Also available in pastels, by request!

Adopted Too, Fictional Friends 8x10 Quote Set {digital download} Set 2: Spiderman, Superman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I Prayed For This Child 8x10 Quote Set {digital download}

They Prayed for Me 8x10 Quote Set {digital download}

Every Good and Perfect Gift / I Was Born to Do This 8x10 Quote Set in blue {digital download}
or in red

 And here is all the new gear in the Cafe Press Shop:

Gifts for babies . . . here and here
 Gifts for moms . . . here and here

Gifts for babies AND moms . . . here and here

And a whole bunch more stuff for moms, babies, and kids including gowns, onsies, bibs, blankets, burp cloths, t-shirts, sweat shirts, necklaces, key chains, journals, note cards, pillows, posters, and framed prints.

If you don't see a particular image on a particular item, just let me know and I can make it up. (Except I can't put Superhero or Star Wars images in the Cafe Press Shop.)

We would all also very much appreciate your prayers, whether or not you can contribute.

I hope you have a very festive Fat Tuesday and a most fruitful Lent!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sixteen Pairs of Catholic Saints Who Were Friends IRL

On the Feast of St. Brigid, on Monday, the kids and I got to talking about the saints. Of course we know that they're all friends NOW, in heaven. But we were kind of intrigued by the idea that St. Brigid and St. Patrick were actually friends IRL, as it were.

Spouses, siblings, parents and children, mentors and protegees, friends . . . it turns out that there are quite a few pairs of saints who knew and loved each other.

So, since St. Valentine's Day is approaching and we are hopefully all thinking about all the different ways there are to love your fellow man, I thought I'd share with you what we found . . .

1. St. Anne and St. Joachim
Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grandparents of Jesus. These guys had their act together.

2. St. Cosmas and St. Damian
Twin brothers who lived in Syria around the year 300. Both physicians. Apparently their thing was converting people to Christianity by not charging for medical services. Which is an excellent plan right up until you get martryed. (Although, long term, still good.)

3. St. Timothy and St. Maura
Newlyweds, martyred together during the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian also around 300. It's all very romantic.

4. St. Adrian and St. Natalia

Also married. Also martyred. But these guys were in Nicodemia during the time of Emperor Maximian in the early fourth century.

5. St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier
Two of the founding members of the Jesuit order, these guys were actually ROOMATES IN COLLEGE before they became priests and missionaries and were responsible for ten of thousands of conversions.

6. St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin

The Mother of God and her spouse, the parents of Jesus on earth, and a perfect example to all of the love of a family.

7. St. Louis Martin and St. Zelie Martin
Speaking of good examples . . . Louis and Zelie Martin had nine children, five of whom lived past infancy. All five of those daughters because nuns. One is St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church.

8. St. James and St. John
These guys were actual brothers (as were Sts. Peter and Andrew) who were both among the twelve apostles, and were two of Jesus' closest friends. He called them the "Sons of Thunder," so you KNOW they were fun at parties.

9. St. Monica and St. Augustine
He was a real stinker, but his mother never gave up on him. Eventually, through the tears and prayers of St. Monica, St. Augustine was converted to Christianity and rehabilitated from his wanton ways, to the benefit of all posterity.

10. St. Paul and St. Barnabas
Neither met Jesus before his death on the cross, but both worked tirelessly alongside the apostles to spread Christianity in its early days. They had some rather public disagreements about how, exactly, to do this, and with whom. But that's okay. Friends are allowed to decide not to travel together anymore.

 11. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and Bl. Claude Colombiere
Receiving a vision from Jesus asking you to spread a devotion to His Sacred Heart has got to be overwhelming, but then to have everyone around you think you're bonkers and/or a liar? That would be even worse. Fortunately for Margaret Mary, she had her confessor, Bl. Claude, who believed in her.

12. St. Benedict and St. Scholastica
The "Holy Twins," they knew from a very young age that they both wanted to enter religious life. They each founded an order, and used to meet in the middle once a year to talk about old times.

13. St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross
Both Carmelites in Spain in the 16th century, they worked together to return their religious communities to a life of prayer. But not everyone was on board with their plan. It's nice to know you've got a friend who'll get imprisoned for you.

14. St. Felicity and St. Perpetua

Perpetua was a noblewoman and Felicity was a slave, but the two young mothers were martyred together in the year 203, rather than apostatize. St. Perpetua's letters detailing their imprisonment are a rare first hand account.

15. St. Francis and St. Clare

Clare was a devoted follower of Francis, and was entrusted by him with the founding of a religious order for women. She trusted him to cut her hair.

16. St. Patrick and St. Brigid

Their friendship is noted in the Book of Armagh: "Between St Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works."

So, there you go, all saints, all loved, but different times and places and types.

Now I'm looking around me, thinking how COOL it would be if I could become a saint with my husband, or my kid, or maybe a fellow blogger. I wanted my kids to think about it too, and to make such good choices in their friends that they could hope to one day all be canonized together!

So . . . I made up some Valentines for my kids to take to our homeschool parkday valentine exchange, featuring all sixteen pairs of saints.

And, just in case you're interested, I put them in the Etsy shop as 4x6 trader cards . . .

And as 8.5x11 sheets, that you can print two-sided, and cut into 2.5x4 individual valentines . . .

Each card features one pair of saints, and a little description. (Less colorful than the ones above. Just the facts.) You get the whole shebang for $2.

Have a very Happy St. Valentine's Day, and Fat Tuesday before that. I've got one more printable-type project I've been working on. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you, maybe next week? Anyway, have some fun. 'Cause Lent, she's a coming.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to Turn a Ten Bedroom House Into A Four Bedroom House

Renovations are well underway at the new old house. It's amazing to see it start to come together after playing around with it on paper and on the computer for so many weeks.

My friend Christy keeps pestering me for before and after photos, which don't exist because we are very much still in progress. (Also, because I don't have a wide angle lens and cannot figure out how to take interior shots.) But I figured I'd let you guys know what we're planning to do to turn this historic house into our big family dream house.

Here's what the layout of the house looked like when we bought it:

and, presumably, when it was built in 1920, for a family of THREE. (And their servants.) It had ten bedrooms if you count the chapel (which you can because it has a closet) and the sitting room.

We don't need ten bedrooms. We don't want ten bedrooms. We have four bedrooms now, and many nights we'll have one open, because the kids like to sleep in a big pile. Like puppies.

So, most of the bedrooms are getting repurposed.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Starting on the first floor, here's what we are planning . . .

The kitchen is getting completely redone because it wasn't functional:

Actually the one thing in the remodel plans that I was a little bummed about was having to get rid of the butler's pantry. It was really cool.

But the original kitchen was intended for servants only, and was really small. There just wasn't room for the appliances we wanted without absorbing the butler's pantry and creating one big space. But we saved all the original glass and hardware, and the new cabinets are going to be built to look just like the old ones, so part of it will live on.

We'll have a full-sized refrigerator-only and a full-size freezer-only, but not next to each other, because that just looked too massive. We're also going to have two dishwashers, because even running ours at least twice a day, we still end up having to hand-wash after dinner most nights.

For the floors in the kitchen and laundry/mudroom we're planning to put in linoleum. I'm really excited about it because it's a way to get a fun, funky, retro-looking floor, that's also a natural material. Seriously. It's made of linseed and jute. Who knew? Those guys need better PR.

The downstairs bedrooms are going to become . . .

1. The TV room. I didn't really want a separate "formal" living room. We don't have one now. But the four walls of the living room are taken up with: french doors, the dining room, french doors, and a big fireplace. So, there really wasn't room for a TV. The plan is to remove a wall of the first bedroom to open the room to the stairs and the bathroom, and put our comfy couch and the TV in there. I have some fancy uncomfortable couches picked out for the living room, but I still have to talk the husband into them.

2. The playroom. All the toys in one place only. I hope.

3. The schoolroom. It's got amazing built-ins, french doors to the side yard, a working fireplace, and a cool old light fixture. If I didn't already homeschool, I would start just so I could do it in this room.

4. The guest room. Mostly for my parents.

Upstairs we're doing even more work.

I love having a  W I D E  family, but with so many different ages in the house, we almost always have someone asleep. Between the toddlers and the teenager, we could almost hot rack them, their sleeping schedules are so different.

But I'm not the kind of person who wakes up sleeping babies. Pretty much ever. So if you didn't get your shoes out of there before the baby went to sleep, you're out of luck.

That shouldn't be a problem in the new house.

We are creating three master suites: one for the boys, one for the girls, and one for the grownups. The boys and the girls will each have a sleeping room with six beds and nothing else, a bathroom, and a dressing room with individual closets and a washer/dryer. The plan is: Clothes don't come out of that room unless they are on your person.

The original floorplan had walk-through bedrooms, which doesn't work for us. The bedroom at the top of the stairs is getting split into the girls' dressing room and a nursery.

The girls will sleep in the original master bedroom. And we've moved the girls' bathroom to make it ensuite, and to create a hallway to the boys' rooms.

The girls' bathroom will have a chandelier, at their request, a shower, and a tub big enough for three little kids and/or an accidental home birth. Because you just never know.

The original sitting room will be the boys' sleeping room. The old master bedroom closet is becoming the boys' dressing room.

A weird old storage room (formerly with cable!)

is becoming the boys' bathroom with toilet, urinal, three sinks, and a shower with a shower head at either end, so two boys can use it at once.

In the new master bedroom, we took OUT the hallway to make the bathroom ensuite, and we also removed the ceiling, because it just so happens to be underneath the peak of the roof.

The husband and I really did pick the smallest room upstairs, because we figured the kids' needed more room. But now I'm pretty sure this is going to be the coolest room in the house.

The last two rooms up there will be an office and the chapel. They are both also accessible by a stairway in the kitchen.

So . . . that's the plan.

I would give you more progress shots, but they pretty much all look like this:

I've been doing a lot of important home renovation research on Netflix. And, therefore, in addition to my OWN renovation update, I can provide you with the following helpful guide.

1. The Property Brothers:

Why are they so smug? Why do they delight so in dashing people's dreams with their "psych, you can't have it" first home? Does no one who comes on the show WATCH the show? Really? WHY do they all fall for it?

2. Dear Genevieve:

Creates cool, functional spaces. Also creates language. Won't stop talking about things like the "verticality" of items, and whether particular throw pillows can be "friends" with one another.

3. Flip or Flop:

Always flip. Never flop. So awkward it makes me think I would never want to be on a reality show. Seriously just ALL the awkward talking to the camera and obviously fake phone calls and even faker drama. Every single episode (of the five I watched): 1. We're going to try to buy this house. Hey we bought it! 2. Oh, NO. Everything is a disaster. This is a big problem. We are sure to be ruined. 3. Never mind, we made forty THOUSAND dollars.

4. The Vanilla Ice Project:


5. Fixer-Upper:

Love this show. Love them. Love their kids. Love the houses. Love Waco. Makes me want to have a reality show so we could be HALF as cute as they are. No smugness, no fake drama, no weirding of language. Just what appears to be a very genuine talent and love of homes and the people who live in them. And shiplap.

And I have shiplap!

I need Jo to come and help me know where I'm supposed to put old wooden gates up on my walls. How am I supposed to know?!

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.

Okay, that's all for now.

I've been maxed out with home decisions and supervisions, and all that Netflix-watching, and I still have some other projects on my to do list. Fortunately, baby Mary Jane just sleep-trained like a little champ, so I am looking forward to being able to accomplish things with both hands AND bending, which should be nice. But I'll be around. ;o)

See ya in the comments.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Women's Work: Do I Ever Feel Guilty About Not "Using" My College Education?

 Mailbag time!

The Question:

Hi Mrs. Tierney,

My name is Sanasi and I am a 21 year old university student. I stumbled across your blog when I was looking for more Catholic blogs to read in my free time and it's kind of weird, but I feel like I see so much of myself in what you write about. Someday in the hazy future, I'd like to be a Catholic mom and it's exciting to see what a wonderful blessing that can be.

I read your post about deciding to become a stay at home mom and I was wondering if I could ask you a question about that? Do you ever feel guilty for having gained a college education and then not "using" it? I'm in my fourth year of undergrad right now and plan to continue on to medical school or law school most likely. I love the idea of being a stay at home mom in the future, but I feel guilty just thinking of having spent all this money on post-secondary education and then not getting a career afterwards.

I know that's kind of a strange question and I'm not sure if you have time to respond to this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Best wishes,


The Answer:

Dear Sanasi,

I think this is a really important question to think about. And I'm not sure that young women are thinking about it enough.

Just after we were married, we lived at Stanford while my husband went to business school. I was lucky enough to get to know some of his classmates, and to interact with some of the undergrads, including my own sister, who had graduated from Stanford the year before we arrived, and was working on campus.

There was a lot of concern among the young women I met as to how they were going to balance it all. Most hoped to have a family some day, but all were also bright and determined and had professional aspirations.

We are trying to figure out how to balance all of this in a way that no one has really had to do before. For generations, "work" was mostly done in and around the home, by both men AND women. A woman's work could be done alongside her mothering. Whether you were a laundress, or a shepherdess, or a queen, whatever you were doing, you just did it with your kids around, at least to some extent. Then, after the industrial revolution, work slowly shifted to something done away from the home, and away from children.

For a fascinating in-depth analysis, check out this post by Daniel Bearman Stewart: Buttons, lard, and Old Norse: The Invention and Abandonment of Home Economics

Since you could no longer care for your children and "work" at the same time, families divided responsibilities: fathers worked, mothers stayed home with the kids. A shortage of laborers in an industrialized society during the World Wars meant women were encouraged to join the workforce. Then, eventually, the pill allowed women to avoid pregnancy even when their husbands weren't away at war, and they could join the outside-the-home workforce full time. Finally we were liberated! Right?

ummm . . . thanks?

But now, women of my and younger generations seem to be looking at this question honestly for perhaps the first time. What if we don't want to make the personal sacrifices necessary to pursue a career INSTEAD of having a family? What if we want children but also aren't content to neglect our other gifts and talents? What if, like you, we are trying to decide what to do with the whole rest of our lives at twenty, before we even know for sure that we have a vocation to marriage and motherhood? WHAT THEN?!

I got my degree (two actually) from a private university, then went to flight school after that to train as a pilot. About a year later, I began working as a flight instructor to build flight hours. About a year after that, I met my husband and in very quick succession I got engaged, married, and pregnant. I kept working until right before my due date, but then shortly after my son was born, I decided I wanted to stay home with him, and I've been home for thirteen years and seven more kids.

So, was my education and post graduate training a waste of time and money?

No, and yes.

No, because education is a good thing. My mind and my horizons were broadened by my university education and my vocational training. Even though I never made it to the airline career I had planned, I couldn't have known that when I started. If I were still a single woman, I think being an airline pilot would have been a good career for me.

And I could never regret my education. My studies in English and Comparative Literature for my degrees have probably been instrumental in my late-onset writing career. If only my professors could see all the cutting edge stuff I'm doing in the literary genres of "zombie homesteading" and "netflix sponsored post."

But, really, an educated society benefits everyone in it. I use the research and study skills I learned in college every day in my role as a mother. Especially as a homeschooling mom, (but all parents do this, I'm sure) I have the opportunity to share the subjects about which I am passionate (like grammar) with my children. The more I cared about my own education, the more I have to share with them.

Our homeschool group is full of moms who use their particular knowledge and skills to help our community. Traditional schools are the same. And there are tons of volunteer organizations who would love to have the part-time expertise of a newly-retired young mother.

On the other hand, looking back, I think I could have been more discerning in my career choice. I will encourage my own children to consider eventual marriage and parenthood when they are making education and career choices. Which, of course, my own parents did try with me. My dad always encouraged me to be a writer, it just seemed like too scary a thing to try to do at the time. It wasn't until I was settled into my vocation of marriage and motherhood that I finally realized that he was right all along.

If I had felt confident that I would be a wife and a mother, I should have studied something that I could pursue alongside my primary vocation. And airline pilot really isn't that. But, in my case, I didn't know. I really couldn't imagine being married to anyone until I met my husband.

Basically, my advice to you and other women like you, is . . .

1. study something you love, something that will be a part of your life whether or not you're getting paid for it
2. keep your options open as much as possible, and
3. realize that no decision, no matter the cost involved, is forever.

A wise woman knows when to call a sunk cost sunk and just move on to the next thing. That's allowed.

Edited to add:

THE most important aspect of keeping your options open is to avoid debt as much as possible. The comments below are full of cautionary tales and success stories about this part of the puzzle.

My parents and scholarships paid for all of my educational and vocational training, so I had no debt when I got married. My husband went to college on an ROTC scholarship, but did incur debt to go to business school. We are still paying it off, just a tiny bit at a time, but that was a good decision for us.

My lack of debt is what allowed me the freedom to decide to stop working after my son was born. I've read the advice (Kimberley Hahn, I think?) that after marriage, a couple should put all of the wife's salary into savings and live off of the husband's so that they will always be in the position to allow her to stay home should she wish to. I think that's REALLY great advice. But it's unlikely to be possible if you are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of graduate school.

There are so many different ways to do this.

I know a handful of women who have had relatively large families while working outside the home and being the primary breadwinner for their families. It's a possibility. But I think the sacrifices and hardships involved in that plan are greater than most women would choose to take on. In fact, in all the cases I'm thinking about, the women ended up in that role because of a unique family situation. I'm not sure if any of them would have chosen it, if it hadn't been for their particular circumstances.

That means that, for most of us, the ideal blend of professional and personal fulfillment is going to look different than it will for men. We can say all we want about equality, but the reality is that parenthood is a physical, bodily endeavor for most women and it isn't for men. So, if you're picking a career now, and you hope to one day become a mother, maybe don't pick a career (like I did) that just is NOT going to work with pregnancy and breastfeeding and the general care and feeding of small humans.

Writing works great for me. My sister, after she had kids, was able to transition from a regular nine to five office job, into a part-time, work from home position. But neither of us is supporting our family with what we do. It's more personal fulfillment and some "nice to have" money.

If you feel like you'd want to keep working even after having kids, you need to talk to women in the fields you are interested in. What does family life look like for them? There must be disciplines within law or medicine that work better with a family.

Maybe you know you'd want to stay home full time with your kids, should you have them. That doesn't mean you don't keep up your studies now. You never know what God's plan for you might be. Maybe you'll cure cancer THEN get married and have a bunch of kids. Maybe you'll stop out of your career for a while, then resume it once your kids are older. Maybe, like I did, you'll just walk away and never look back and find out you were actually meant for something else entirely.

As long as your evaluations and choices are made honestly and prayerfully and often, you really can't go wrong.

Unless you're this lady. That's just scary.

Good luck!

You might also enjoy . . .

A Vocation to Motherhood

The Country Bunny and Seasons of Mothering

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.
p.s. I am WAY behind on my mailbag. Like, a month behind. Maybe two. Between keeping up the blog, writing for Blessed is She (about the devil), the printables and custom work at the Etsy shop, the mugs and t-shirts and pint glasses at the Cafepress shop, the fixing up of the house we bought, and the general care, feeding, and education of my children . . . I am fresh out of time to respond to emails. But if you wrote to me to ask a question, please know that I got it. I read it. I composed an answer to you in my head. But I haven't typed it up yet. It is my sincere intention to do so sometime in the near future.