Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stuck in Washington DC


In preparation for this trip, I have been praying for peace. Abortion is such a heated discussion. I want to stand for these little ones' lives, but I did not want this march to be anything other than peaceful. This topic is so touchy, but going on the march for me this year was especially important for me because I am carrying my own little one and I have recognized the difficulty, struggle, and suffering of pregnancy and motherhood. I wish that we would all find hope, joy, and peace. 

Becoming pregnant can be terrifying, especially when you are sick because of it, when it prevents you from living your life normally (no one likes change), and when money is an issue. While sick, the thought of abortion did pop into my head because I was in so much pain for a very long time. Though I knew that wasn't the way to go. Although this little one is in my body, it is another person, a very vulnerable person. It happens to be the case that his/her voice is silent, so many have made decisions for the baby, death. If I wasn't married, I don't know if I would have kept the baby or given up for adoption, but I do know that it is a beautiful, beautiful option. I think we as a society have now mostly recognized that these kids are not just clumps of cells. With that, this March for Life is now about something completely different than I think it used to be. It'd about whether the little one inside is a person or not, it's about whether they deserve to survive or not. I'm sorry, this post is not supposed to be an apologetic debate on abortion, but I had to intro this post and this topic is clearly a little important to me.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Around 4:00pm, we got to the airport. Because I was having ID issues, the staff were required to go through the baggage check and everything with me. The lady was super nice and I think we both thought it was funny that we had to do this. After taking off my shoes and getting scanned, I got a very thorough pat down. I wasn't allowed to touch any my stuff until they went through my bags, but after they were done, the two ladies smiled, and said goodbye to me and Baby. More than anything, it was just funny that the prego lady was the only one in our group to get a super thorough pat down and bag check.


Just boarded the plane!

Our trip was going to consist of going to the March on Friday, going to the Students for Life of America conference on Saturday, and exploring DC on Sunday before our flight home that night. The conference got cancelled, but the March was still on! The weather reports said that there would be a major snow storm, but we were up for adventure.

Thursday night we landed, walked to the metro, took the metro, and walked to the hotel. I'm still really really not used to walking that much. Over January I've mostly only been walking only to class and the gym (to walk around the track or on a treadmill). According to an app on my phone (it's called Moves), I usually walked about a mile or two a day. In DC, we walked 3-5 miles a day. I was always in the very back of the group, and would feel terrible that they would have to wait for me a lot. I would get super out of breath really quickly, but it was good for me to learn to push through it. Now that we're back in Minnesota I've been going to the gym more to walk on the track or a treadmill and I'm doing about 3 miles a day. It feels really good to say that. 

Anyway, we got to the hotel and in the lobby there were cookies and the best hot chocolate ever! I think it was just Swiss Miss, but it was so delicious after that dreadful walk. Then we got our keys, made a plan for tomorrow, and went straight to sleep. 

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

That morning we went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It is such a beautiful place. This is my second time on this trip and it was such a treat to visit here again. Our group had Mass in the crypt with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I wasn't feeling very well, so Pete and I rested, and after about 20-30 minutes we were able to explore more. They also had a gift shop that was fun to browse through. Peter got a magnet and I got a holy water bottle. They had baby stuff but nothing was calling to me. I used to be a sucker for the jewelry, rosaries, and medals. Now I don't wear too much jewelry anymore, usually because I'm allergic to it or it gets uncomfortable or impractical after wearing it for a while. Also, Peter and I have a million rosaries, and I have a lot of medals already. 

On a different note, they had a cutout of Pope Francis.


Shameless selfie
Papa liked Peter's hat
Where's Mitchell?
Family photo with the pope
We headed out to get some food before the March and I took this gem.


"Rejoice in the Lord"
Then we hopped on the metro.

and dicovered that THERE IS NOW A SHAKE SHACK IN DC. The summer before my freshman year of college, my mom and I went to New York city (best vacation ever), and we ate at the very first Shake Shack. The burgers are sooo good, especially the one that I think is called the SmokeShack, which is a cheeseburger topped with bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and ShackSauce. Mmmmm. Shake Shack has tons of locations now all over the country and the world! When I went to Chicago last year over spring break I stopped there for a burger, and I was SO excited to get another here. Soon they will have a location here in Minnesota at the Mall of American and I. Am. Pumped.




After drooling over not one but two burgers (the baby had to have one too), the group got back together before the march and we talked about our options about getting home. At this point, though we were supposed to fly home Sunday, it was looking more like Wednesday. There was a bus from Sioux Falls, South Dakota that was heading back now and we had some people hop on that train, erm, bus. I almost went on that bus too because I had class on Tuesday, but I had a really bad feeling about it. I don't do very well in cars for a long time, and I didn't really want to puke endlessly on this very long drive. I decided to stay.

The march was great! It was definitely cold and windy, but much more mild compared to what we were used to in Minnesota. It wasn't snowing yet either, so that was good news. The walk from Union Station (where the Shake Shack was) to the start of the March (by the Washington Monument) was a lot for me. I fell way behind. Luckily, it was a while before the march started. So when we got there, I could sit and rest. I'm not sure quite why, but my feet and my hip joints were very sore. 

But that didn't even matter anymore because the march started! There were hundreds of thousands there despite the weather. I wonder how many more would have been there if it wasn't for this storm. It was amazing to witness how many still showed up. It's actually really funny that the New York Times said that only hundreds went, when it was hundreds OF THOUSANDS.

By the end of the march it was snowing, but very lightly at first. You wouldn't even know what was coming. When we got to the end our hats had a coating of snow. We stuck around for a while to see who else we knew were there. We saw a lot actually. We saw friends we went to high school with, have worked with, or have had other random connections with. In the Catholic world I feel like I know everyone, and I'm assuming much of the march consists of Catholics, (though I saw signs that said Lutherans for Life, Secular Pro-Life, Bikers for Life, and Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians).

When we left, we headed to the metro, but that was apparently everyone's idea too. After a long time, we finally got on the metro, and then finally home.


The snow is just getting started.

Brr
Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Saturday was a pretty vegetable day. It was really good to rest after a whole lot of walking for me. Because the conference was cancelled, there was a very small conference in St. Stephen's Church basement not too far away. There would be some speakers from the original conference that would Skype or even show up despite the now two feet of snow. There would also be Mass, which wouldn't have been at the original conference, so that was cool. All in all, it would be good to get out of the hotel, but here was the problem.





It was still snowing. But we all bundled up and made the trek. The roads were nowhere near plowed. Hardly any sidewalks were shoveled, and even if they were shoveled, they needed to be shoveled again. People were walking in the streets. There were almost zero cars. It looked oddly post-apocalyptic. 

Update on the group that took a bus back: Their bus, along with hundreds of other semis, buses, and cars, got stuck in Pennsylvania. The plows just couldn't keep up and they were stuck in the snow for I think over 24 hours. Again, I am so glad that I did not hop on that bus. I would have puked everywhere and lost my mind. Though, one thing that was really cool is that they and other groups made an altar out of snow and had Mass outside on the side of the highway! The media also actually covered it! The march hardly ever gets coverage every single year but this was a really cool way that the march was actually on the news this year. Eventually the National Guard, one car at a time, brought food, water, and gas, and shoveled them out. Wow.

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

The next day it warmed up quite a bit and we went to Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral. Everything was melting and slushy. I didn't need a hat! But our feet were very wet and walking around we had to worry about ice and snow from the tops of buildings landing on us. We got back to the hotel, and later found out that our flight that night was indeed cancelled. Because the metro was also closed, we couldn't do much, so we all hung out as a group in the Hampton Inn Lobby, ate cookies, had great conversation, and kind of (but not really) watched football. Some of us also went out for some burgers at a bar nearby called the Bottom Line. It was delicious! I feel like the theme of my pregnancy lately has been cheeseburgers.

Monday, January 25th, 2016

We got a new flight for that night, but with the rest of the day ahead of us, we decided to go on an adventure! The metro opened up again after two days and we went down to the Smithsonian... to find out that they were closed because of the snow (though they had the best shoveled sidewalks I had seen that entire trip). Though, it was nice to get out. Then we decided to go to China Town, which really wasn't all that, and had a lot of homeless people. Some of us actually got harassed pretty badly by a couple. We were glad to leave there.

We got back to the hotel, napped, ate food, chilled a lot like we did yesterday, and packed up to finally go home!


Clearly excited to get home asap
We took the metro to the airport, had to wait about one extra hour because, well, snow, but finally boarded. I slept the whole flight back. We got off, we got home at 1am, and I had class the next morning at 9am.

After that class I was either found sleeping/recovering or studying. I had a final on Thursday for my J-Term class, and I can now check that class off my list of Things-Ryian-Has-To-Do-Because-She-Was-Sick-For-Two-Months.

How else are things going you ask? Well, I think I'm mostly recovered from the trip. I'm really feel accomplished with my class being over. I feel like I'm getting to know Baby's personality (as much as you can from just feeling movements). I'm nervous about this semester semester that starts Monday, but I'm only taking three classes, and I just have to catch up on one class from last semester, and write a paper for another class from last semester. I think it'll go well, but I don't think I'll be able to have much of a social life. Which is fine, but after being sick, I'm learning the extroverted side of me. I'm kind of nervous that I'm only getting bigger between now and May 5th, and I'm already starting to waddle. I think it'll go well overall. It'll be cool being a student and clearly prego. I've already been getting stared at a little bit on campus, which I didn't take very well at first, but I'm getting used to it. Honestly, our school has hardly any pregnancies, so no one sees it much. We'll just take it one day at a time.

Our school has an article about the trip, if you'd like to read more!
http://www.tommiemedia.com/news/st-thomas-students-stranded-after-march-for-life/

Don't forget to Like the Facebook page for more blog posts and updates!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Gift of Tears


A revelation can be described as a truth that is revealed in a surprising way, or as a revealing of God’s self. God uses our senses and earthly things to reveal Himself to us. He can use visions, or speak to us with voice or song.

The summer before I was a freshman in college, my high school chemistry teacher knew that I was going to St. Thomas and connected me to a Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO) missionary. He also connected me to an SPO event which was actually a Matt Maher concert. I was clueless and had no idea that Matt Maher is actually a very well-known Christian artist/worship leader among Catholics. One of the songs he played that night is called “Spirit and the Bride.” When I heard the lyric “for all the fatherless looking for approval, for all the daughters who've never heard they're beautiful, let everyone who hears these words say come,” I was thrown into my seat and bawled.

Though it is not mentioned in the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Since very early in the Church there is a phenomenon called the gift of tears, which is referring to an intense personal experience of God that overflows in abundant tears. Since this moment at the Matt Maher concert, I have had this gift in worship or prayer, not knowing or understanding it very well at all until recently. These tears are not triggered by pain, sorrow, or joy, but an overwhelming experience of God specifically (which can include pain, sorrow, or joy). This gift can be very healing for the person and help them to come to know and grow closer to God.

Pope Francis has challenged us to cry tears that prepares our eyes to look and see the Lord. Even now, listening to this song, I am getting goosebumps when I hear that specific line again. This lyrics can hit home with some women more than others, depending on her relationship with her father. I think that even if a women has a good and healthy relationship with her father or not, that we as daughters have an intimate relationship with our Father in heaven and that in our spiritual lives we can forget to see or are somehow blind to His approval and love for us. We have to remember that He created us and because of that we are beautiful.


I find it funny that this revelation of mine was revealed through a song that is based on a passage in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 22:17, it says “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.” We as the body are the bride and Christ is the bridegroom. The bridegroom longs for the bride, and the bride longs for the bridegroom. This is why we are invited to come, specifically to come to the wedding feast, our wedding feast.

On a different note, today marks 25 weeks. Only 15 more to go! 


Don't forget to Like the Facebook page for more blog posts and updates!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fighting Winter Woes



Especially during the winter time, the blues come. This can come in the form of stress, depression, or anxiety. Some symptoms are crying, exhaustion, and irritability. I tend toward the anxiety side. With pregnancy, more tears too. These are some ways to help with the winter woes.


Simple Activities

Read. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are both a great go to for me. Pick a book that you know you love, or grab a book that you’ve really been wanting to read and take 20 minutes to enter a different world.

Music. Classical is actually really beautiful for times like these. Also, when I am sad I like to put on my sad music, but this is actually a bad decision. It makes things worse.

Sodoku. Something that takes thinking but not too much thinking can help you with your focus, to calm you down, and to show you that you can accomplish things.

Art. Draw a picture. Take some photos. Make a bracelet. Write. Play some music. Dance. Do a simple art project. (Pinterest is a great resource.) There is something about creating that helps with stress. You can even color in a coloring book. It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. The coloring helps you, and then you can give it to a friend to put on their fridge (or even mail it to your mom).


Practicals

Get out. Go on a walk. Visit the coffee shop. Change up where you hang out. Sit in a public space and people watch. In the winter especially, when you are stuck inside, home can start to feel more like a prison. Go see the light of day. Even if it is stinking cold, you can find a spot with windows and hopefully a view with trees or nature of some kind. Fresh air can clear your head. Interaction with creation can be refreshing. You might be needing a quiet place. Noise and distractions can cause more stress.

Exercise. I hate exercise, but I do love volleyball. My husband loves to go on runs or go to the weight room. You might be this kind of person. I like to walk. I throw in my ear buds and go to the gym to walk around the track or walk on the treadmill. I prefer the track but sometime it’s being used for athletes to practice. Regular exercise has proven to improve mood, help with sleep patterns, provide stress relief, and improve self-esteem. Start with once a week, then twice a week, etc. etc.

Shower. Enjoy the hot steam. Breath deeply and enjoy the quiet time. Feel clean. Maybe even take a bath. Add bubbles, or that bath stuff that smells good, or both!

Smells. Candles or those wax melty smelly things are awesome. I personally like lavender, vanilla, pine, citrus, or rose.

Comfy clothes. Sweatpants. Sweatshirts. Socks. Anything loose, warm, and cozy puts me in a much better mood. Ladies, take off the bra (but maybe in the comfort of your home).

Sleep. The blues hits much harder when you’re not well-rested. Keep in mind that oversleep can also make one crabby.


Knowledge

Listen to you body. It knows what it needs. If you are tired, sleep. If you are hungry eat (healthy!).

Know yourself. Try and notice any changes when you become stressed, anxious, or depressed. Good things to keep in mind are your senses, heart rate, breathing, and temperature. Also try to figure out what things can cause you to be anxious. This can be school, money, future, or whatever. Be aware of those thoughts in your head and remember to not try to control anything you actually can’t control.

Don’t push yourself. The world has this crazy idea that we’re supposed to have it all figured out physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at all times. This is impossible. That is the truth. End rant.


Food

Water. Dehydration does so much to you. It can make your body hurt in many different ways, such as headaches, stomach aches, or constipation. Sometimes I drink water with lemon. I like to use those crystal lite or kool aid squirt things. Note: I use the less than suggested amount. It’s just to add flavor, because I don’t like the taste of water. If pomegranates are on sale I might add some to my water bottle. It makes the water really nummy and then when you’re done with the water, you have a snack! The suggestion is 8 glasses of water. If you have one of those camelback water bottles that I feel like everyone on campus owns (guilty, they are great), one bottle is three glasses. So have a bottle before lunch, a bottle before supper, and basically another bottle before bed. This is a good goal for me to have. Also, right off the bat, when I wake up I try to drink at least half a glass of water. I’m usually pretty thirsty and will drink a whole glass when I wake up. This replenishing can help your body so much. It’s also good to try and do before bed too.

Avoid sugar. It can make you so sluggish and grumpy, and you don't even know it. This can be really hard because it seems like sugar is in everything. This is not true! I will give some practicals to avoid sugar.

Avoid caffeine. If you need your cup of coffee in the morning, I understand. Try to limit to just that and not drink it throughout the day. Coffee does not hydrate you. I’m really sorry. If you add cream and sugar, try to lessen the amount you use too. Caffeine and sugar can make one anxious or depressed rather than relieve stress.

Food. The foods you probably want to eat will actually make you feel worse. I’d love to eat pizza or ice cream, but here are some better alternatives.

A little chocolate goes a long way. Lupin in Harry Potter was right, “Eat. You’ll feel better.” Particularly dark chocolate can lower stress hormones.

Spinach. Throw it in a smoothie. Pour some ranch on it and call it salad. Add it to pasta or while cooking eggs (with cheese too!). Spinach has iron and helps with blood flow in your brain.

Apples and Peanut Butter. I swear by this. It’s fruit AND protein, and it’s delicious. This helps your sweet tooth, but doesn’t give you a sugar crash. I just slice them um and with a butter knife add some pb.

Green Tea. This helps you stay calm, but doesn’t make you sleepy. This does have a little caffeine in it, but it's a "healthy" amount. Although I am pregnant, it is actually not too much caffeine for me to drink. This has been a big replacement of coffee for me actually. Green tea also helps with concentration and focus. It’s a very gentle yummy drink. The kind I get is Bigelow’s Green Tea with Pomegranate. You can add honey or lemon (or a spoonful of sugar). Sometimes I’ll let the mug cool to room temperature, then throw it in my water bottle with ice or cold water and I can drink it throughout the day and stay hydrated. I have a hard time drinking water, so this adds flavor for me.

Cereal. I’m so serious. We eat this every morning and I feel great afterwards. I have either Rice Crispies, Cheerios, or Honey Bunches of Oats when it's on sale. What’s nice about cereal is you can eat it any time of day. It’s a great go to for me. The milk is also a great source of calcium and Vitamin D. Sugary cereal does not count. I can actually tell the difference now that I’ve been having healthier cereal. The other kind makes you feel sluggish and gross.

Fruit. It’s like candy, but it’s healthy! Bananas, grapes, clementine, peaches, pears, etc. etc.


Loved ones

Give someone a heads up on how you are doing. This can be a friend, roommate, mom, sister, husband, mentor, professor. Help them understand what to be on the lookout for so that they can steer you away from an emergency.

Ask for help. Laundry, dishes, dinner, school, or other cleaning or projects are super stressful for me. It is okay to ask someone for help. God doesn’t expect you to go alone at this, and doesn’t want you to. He wants to help and walk alongside you.

Limit your social media. This has been proven to raise anxiety. It makes people more depressed comparing their lives to others'. Just remember that someone’s Facebook does not represent that person as a whole.

Hugs. Sometimes just snuggling, hugging, and crying into my husband’s shoulder will help. We also have three boxes of tissues open in our apartment. Pregnancy has been fun for us.


God

Pray. Don’t try to make this complicated. I know so many people that accidentally complicate things, including myself. You don’t have to do a whole rosary or go to Mass or make a holy hour. You can do the Morning Offering, a Hail Mary, the Memorare, or the prayer to St. Michael. If you want to do more, that’s okay, but many people can become more stressed by trying to pray and be super pious. This is not a post on piety. This is a post on stress. I like to be real with myself and know that I will get impatient in prayer and when I’m trying to destress this is not the time to do an Ignatian examination, etc.

Read Scripture. This isn’t about quality OR quantity. You can either sit with a verse, or just keep reading. I actually prefer the latter, and when I hit something, then I’ll sit with it. This is the word of God, and He uses it to speak to us. Here are some specific passages that help me when I am stressed.

Philippians 4:6 “Have no anxiety about anything, but pray about everything.”

Psalm 62:8 “Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.”

Matthew 6:26-27 “Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.”


Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Don't forget to Like the Facebook page for more blog posts and updates!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

J-Term


We are one week into J-Term. This is my first time being a full time student since September. I was really nervous to start up school again but we've been taking it in stride. My body hasn't been doing very well in the early mornings, but I've been getting up somewhere between 6 and 7 and have made it successfully to class at 9am with my teeth brushed and a lunch packed. I admit, I did barf a couple times this week right after waking up, but I felt great afterwards, then brushed my teeth, ate breakfast, and moved on with my life.

J-Term consists of a three hour class that is four times a week, and with about 4-5 hours of studying a day. My theo professor is an Irish Episcopalian priest who is hilarious and talks about very thought-provoking topics.

I can tell he doesn't want to be there for three hours just as much as we do. He has been so gracious in giving us a break after each hour (because I have to pee all the time) and I can walk around and each string cheese, a clementine, or a granola bar. Studying consists of a ton of reading, and making a study guide based on notes, readings, and study questions. My prof has been great and is setting us up for success as long as we do the work.



This week has also been the first time in a really long time that I'm consistently going to daily Mass again. The doc has been discouraging me kneeling and standing for too long, so I sit for almost all of Mass. It's been really humbling, but it's been so good to be a part of the community again and receive that sacrament more often, especially for Baby.

How is the baby doing? Well, he/she has developed a dance routine, and has been getting much stronger! It's really an amazing reminder that Baby is there and it let's me know that he/she is still alive. This week I am 23 weeks along and the baby should be a little more than one pound. Each day I get more and more excited to meet this little one.

With the baby getting so big, this mama has been getting big too! Besides obviously gaining weight in my tummy, it's also been noticeable in my chest, feet, and face. It's been kind of hard for me to see in the mirror sometimes. This is the biggest I have ever been in my life. Peter often reminds me that I'm beautiful no matter what, and honestly, I think he's loving my prego figure. Early on I was already limited on pants, but now my shirt options have been disappearing, and quickly too! One morning this week I put on a shirt, looked in the mirror and saw about half an inch of my tummy and thought, "I just wore this last week!" So a pile of shirts has been growing in my closet that won't be worn for a while, and some are in the Goodwill pile and will never be worn again. Wow.



Since I've been feeling mostly well again and we have a bit more time on our hands over J-Term, Peter and I have been able to be productive and spend more time together! I cleaned out our closet full of storage, cleaning supplies, and camping supplies. I felt so accomplished doing that. Tomorrow we'll be rearranging our furniture to use our space more efficiently, and to fit in a baby bassinet!

Now that I've been able to stand longer we've been able to make more complicated meals, which has been lovely for our taste buds. 

This morning after sleeping in I said to Pete that we should make waffles, so we did! We made those, eggs, and sausage! It was so delicious. It was so fun dancing around the kitchen and helping each other. I love cooking with Peter. This was something I really enjoyed during our first month of marriage. We actually cooked together freshman year over J-Term before we were even technically dating, and we have had plenty of cooking date nights between then and now.



Marriage has been so good. It can be kind of like one big sleepover. More and more we've been talking longer and longer before rolling over and going to sleep. We both have so much to talk about and share with each other that we're willing to waste an hour of sleep! I love sharing my life with Peter. Our marriage is one big "we." For example, "Do we need more milk?" or "What are our plans this weekend?" Of course there are things that are just for him or just for me. I have a small group that only I'm a part of and I love clementines. Peter goes hunting and puts strawberry cream cheese on bagels. But we still need to communicate those things when making plans or a grocery list or a life plan.

It has been beautiful these last couple weeks to snuggle on a couch to watch a movie, to go to daily Mass together, to hang out with our friends and neighbors, and to help each other grow. Peter will love me by doing dishes without saying a word about it.  I'll get out the cereal/bowls/etc. in the mornings. Peter came home the other day to me having taken the trash out. I came home yesterday to a delicious meal. We have a little picture frame that we use a white board  marker on to write affirmations to each other. These are only a FEW things that make marriage beautiful for me. Honestly, we're just living life, but we're living life together.

Don't forget to Like the Facebook page for more blog posts and updates!