Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spouse Questing 101 : Summary

Some of my children are old enough to start looking around at the world (and their future) and asking questions. Here are some answers to questions they've asked (and haven't asked) about husband hunting, wife wishing, procuring a partner, looking for a life mate, mariting a marriage --- my title in imitation and admiration of The Once and Future King's Pellinore and his Questing Beast --- SPOUSE QUESTING.

Spouse Questing 101 :
  • Lesson #1 To Thine Own Self Be True
William Shakespeare's proclivity for making the most ridiculous figure in his plays, the jester, reflect or speak the truth, this time in Hamlet.
  • Lesson #2 Becoming Who You're Meant To Be
Going 'further up and further in' to find the dreams God has placed inside of you is a reference to C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle.
George Washington's Rules of Civility were his model for becoming who God meant him to be. Write yours down.
  • Lesson #3 Draw me a picture

  • Lesson #4 Shake the Trees

  • Lesson #5 Submission to the Divine Will

These life lessons can be applied to many ages and stages in life. The process can be used for Spouse Questing or House Questing, Seeking Employment and Seeking Enjoyment, from Combating Loneliness to Attaining Holiness.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spouse Questing 101 : Lesson #5 Submission to the Divine Will

You've learned your lessons well ...
Lesson #1 To Thine Own Self Be True

Lesson #2 Becoming Who You're Meant To Be
Lesson #3 Draw me a picture

Lesson #4 Shake the Trees

You've experienced the patience of Job and it's been an unreasonable time period. I was in year 8 of this process before I hit this stage. I spent 2 years on Lesson 1, and did 2, 3 & 4 simultaneously (thus the slow progress) for another 6 years. When I give warnings, I speak from whence I came.

At year 8 I started playing with fire and considered settling. How long is a healthy American girl supposed to wait??? I was wrong. It was completely wrong for me to throw away my dream. O.K. I learned about that one the hard way. But I'm still stuck, year 9 is approaching and no dream-boat.

It dawned on me. Maybe this wasn't what God wanted from me. I couldn't throw my dream away, but I did have to allow it to die and start the process of birthing a new dream. God!? WHAT DO YOU WANT?? Whatever you want, I'll do -- even if it's not what I want. I just want to be Yours completely.

It wasn't until I hit this place that I finally understood the almost decade long process I'd been through. Understanding myself was important. Becoming who God wanted me to was equally important. Deciding what I wanted from life was important. Making all reasonable efforts toward that end was important. Now, submission to God became the most important thing. I couldn't have submitted all of me if I didn't know who I was. I couldn't have given Him everything if I wasn't willing to be remade in His image. I couldn't give Him every part of my dreams if I didn't know what they were. I would be a less-than-worthy servant if I weren't willing to work for the dreams He'd placed in me. Now I needed to give all that work to Him like burning paper in a fire.
It. Was. So. Hard.
In one way it hurt more than anything had before because it was something I'd done and gained with Him. In another way, He'd given me lots of little practices along the way of submitting my will to His.
O.K. With His help I can do this. I started looking into becoming a missionary -- starting the process over again of seeing who I was in light of not being who I thought I was going to be (a wife, a mother).

It was then, that He gave me my wildest dream and I met my dream-boat. It was better (and harder) than I'd imagined possible. The last lesson in the death of a dream and completely submitting my future to God was part of the process for me. It may be part of your journey, too.

Giving up is bad - it's quitting. Giving in is bad - it's settling. Giving your dreams to God as a gift is sometimes, maybe lots of times, what He asks of us. As He's hanging there on his cross with His arms outstretched, He's asking "Do you love me like I love you?" We have to say 'yes.' He's trustworthy without yes.

Every quest ends in Him.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spouse Questing 101 : Lesson #4 Shake the Trees

I had no qualms or misgivings that I WANTED to be married and I was seeking it actively, hungrily, like seeking employment or a place to live or new friends.

When you shake the trees, a coconut or two may fall on your head -- but you may also find the dinner you're looking for.

You've gone through the looooong process and
...you know who you are.
...you've become someone who is in a position to get what you want.
...you know what you want.

Now, you need to make it happen.

This is often a step many people jump to when still unprepared. They want to find someone fantastic, but they haven't done the work on themselves to become someone fantastic or they find someone who's a great fit for themselves, but can't hold on to them because their lack of virtues keeps them from being "marriage material."

This is also a step many people don't quite get to (and it's important). It's like paying for the car and forgetting to drive it off the lot. You and God have done all this hard work on you and you're worth having. Often, people who don't go out to make their dream happen just don't feel like their worth in obtaining it.

There is a third group of people who don't want to go out and make their dreams happen -- they want to stay home and let God bring the right person to them. This type of person is given over to prayer and is completely accepting of God's will. Please make sure you are close enough to God to accept every part of His will, even the death of your dream, with the same joyful acceptance as you would the fulfillment of it. Don't use spirituality as a cover for fear or laziness -- it won't end well. I'm not saying God is obligated to send you your dream-boat. However, you and He have prayerfully worked together toward this end and to not reach for the prize is just silly.

The first thing you should do is pray, pray, pray. Then, look around. Where are you likely to find this dream-boat you dreamed up? At a bar or at church? Should you look in the singles ads online or at CatholicMatch.com? Join a ski club if it's an activity you'd be interested in (it might have the added bonus of your dream-come-true being there).

Continue to put yourself in places and positions where you might find the kind of spouse you want - bible study, try another church within your denomination, help out a soup kitchen, etc. When you have an attitude of openness to meet new people and try new experiences, you're going to have the body language and social skills that enable you to be an approachable person. Don't forget to pray, pray, pray, pray, pray.

At this stage of the game, it's vital that you don't slip into one of the world's lies - that who you and God have helped you become isn't enough. You don't need to dress immodestly or throw yourself at someone. You're not less-than because you haven't found the right person, yet. You don't want to loose your identity and allow your behavior or choices to undermine who you've become. Don't settle for anything less than the complete fulfillment of your dream.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spouse Questing 101 : Lesson #3 Draw me a picture

I read Should I Marry Him? and thought it was an excellent article on the topic.
When I was looking for a husband I had a picture in my mind of what sort of man he needed to be. It was a list of what I wanted/needed in a man. I was looking for an overall well balanced human being and I had the list divided into categories that deal with his whole person : mind, spirit, physical & future - this is a random order. Even while I was dating, the priorities on this list sort of jockeyed back and forth for top position -- none on the list was expendable:


  • Fidelity - he had to be someone that wouldn't go out on me and cheat. I didn't want to be ANYONE's sloppy seconds. I was worth more than that.

  • Character Virtues - like honesty, integrity, etc. It's nothing you can train a man to have -- either he comes to you with a solid character or he's not worth having. His parents either did a good job in this area or they didn't.

  • Have a relationship with Christ - This was really important and often showed itself by having the above virtues. I looked for fruit of this in their lives like compassion, maturity, and balance in their reactions to stressful situations. As I personally grew in my Catholic faith, this evolved into wanting a Christ-centered Catholic husband. After dating some very nice men from different denominations, I knew the world-view differences could tear us apart and I needed someone who at the minimum would be willing to convert.

  • Intelligent - I really wanted someone who was smart enough to look up to. What was inside his mind was as attractive to me, if not more attractive, than how he looked. He didn't have to be 'book-smart', he could be fabulous with fixing things or a math-whiz, but an area he'd tilled the soil of his mind to become someone who excelled.

  • Common Sense -- I wanted to be secure in relying on his judgment, particularly in areas that I'm weaker.

  • Secure Self-Identity -- I wanted a man who knew who he was. It's hard to respect someone who doesn't have a good self-identity (you can feel sorry for them, but not respect them). I also wanted someone who was confident enough in himself, to allow me to be myself. If I decided to start a business, go back to school, take up para-sailing or painting, I didn't want a husband who was too insecure to allow me to follow my dreams -- even the ones I hadn't started to dream yet. Plus, I have a VERY strong personality and I wanted someone who could hold their own with me. I didn't want a puppet, but a man.

  • Be madly into ME -- I didn't want someone who was in love with love -or- didn't respect my boundaries -or- just wanted to talk about himself...but someone who thought the sun rose and set on ME and wanted to make ME happy more than he wanted to please himself.

  • Treat me like a Princess - I wanted a knight who valued my dignity and treated me with kid gloves. I knew that, as a helpmate & a nurturer, it's easy for a woman to be taken for granted. Even while that's bound to happen, I wanted a man who would be looking out for my best interest - looking for my better-self, not just use me. Using isn't relegated to the physical, but things like watching what I wanted on TV or deferring to my wishes in multiple situations. *ALSO* this category was vital to the safety of myself and my future daughters. A man, no matter his stature, is stronger than a woman. An angry man is really, really, really strong. They are potentially very dangerous. I wanted a man who could keep his anger in check, no matter how mad I made him.

  • Hard Worker - I explain this under "Looking to the Future".

  • Perfect kissing height - I'm 5'6", so to stand with feet firmly planted (not on tip toe) and have to tip my head back in a comfortable position, he needed to be about 5'10. [at the time I didn't realize how much our kissing would be when one of us is sitting down and the other is leaving the room]
Looking to the Future

  • Hard Worker - Even if we didn't accumulate financially, (which would be nice but wasn't top on my list), I wanted someone who wasn't lazy. I'd seen fun, lazy dads who allowed their children to suffer from want of something and who didn't go get a second job, go back to school, or do whatever it took to care for their family. I wanted a dad who would provide for his family.

  • Nurturing - I was NOT just looking for a husband. I was choosing a father for the 5 or 6 kids I wanted to have. The example of a dad for a boy who will eventually become a man is immeasurable - he needs a model to know HOW to become a man. The gentleness and attention a girl needs from her daddy to become confident and secure can not be replaced by anything else.

I studied a prospective mate like I was going to have to take a test on him. I am/was a child of divorce and knew the devastating consequences of failing this test. I wasn't willing to put any sweet baby God gave me through the pain of being ripped limb from limb that divorce brings with it.

I didn't go into this process thinking I could change a man. A man is a man, and is often an immovable object. They will change, as will you, but not in ways that can be foreseen or manipulated, even by the best of intentions. I'd seen very very sorrowful women try to change the men in their lives and it left them with regret.

After you've made your list - read this article by Elizabeth Foss. Balance and competing advice from another loving Catholic mom all help you mature and see the world in all its complexity.

#1 Job - Pray. Know yourself well enough to know what you want. Pray.

#2 Job - Pray. Draw a picture of what your ideal spouse would look like. Put it on paper. Read it over. Look for those same characteristics in your dad, uncle, best guy friend. Pray. If you find a characteristic you want in your husband, add it to the list. Tape to your bedroom wall. Pray.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Spouse Questing 101 : Lesson #2 Becoming Who You're Meant To Be

If you want to marry someone worth having, you have to become a person worth having by someone who is that spectacular. Do you have healthy habits that contribute to becoming a wonderful person or that hinder the process?

After a spending a year or two learning Lesson #1 To Thine Own Self Be True, I found that making myself happy wasn't the end of the road. In dreaming my own dreams, I discovered that who I was in the present wasn't living up to who I wanted to be.

My question changed from 'what will make my parents/teachers happy' past through 'what will make me happy?' and transformed into 'How would the person I want to become handle this?'

To even begin to answer the last question, I had to go further up and further in, do some more deep sea diving and soul searching to find out who it was I wanted to become. Explore who you might become. Do things you haven't tried before. Don't do anything illegal or immoral or stupid, but something exciting and different. What would that be?

Is there a movie or book character you admire? What do you like about him : courage? lack of fear? perseverance? joy? confidence? What about someone from history or someone in your own life -- who do you admire and why? Are you a person with those attributes and virtues?

If you don't like what you see in yourself, change it. Our world tells lies, like 'people can't change'. George Washington took a good look at himself and the people around him, wrote down all the attributes he'd like to have - and became them. He's now known as the Father of our Country.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news : This leg of the journey can be painful. To let go of childish ways and live as a mature adult in Christ with all the virtues and balance associated with it requires self-control and pounds and pounds of grace. The good news : Christ has an ocean of grace just waiting for us to ask for it. Also, self-discipline/self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit -- just living in a relationship with God (talking to Him, asking His advice, taking His advice, sharing our hurts with Him) opens our soul to bear the fruits of God.

If you think you need it, go to a good Christian Counselor (look for a counselor who comes highly recommended by someone who you think has it all together).

This lesson is more than just a psychological state of mind. If you are a man wanting a wife, you need to be prepared to support the family that comes with the 'fun' parts of marriage. You can't rely on the ability to finish school later or that your family or parents will get you through tough times. To prove yourself able to be marriage material is making a living before you start looking for a wife. By the same token, to look for a husband before you know how to cook a meal, take care of yourself, or are emotionally & spiritually willing and able to set your wants and needs aside for every other person in your family is irresponsible. I'm not saying younger marriages are wrong, that it's impossible for parents to help their married children, or that you have to be accomplished in every area of life before getting married. But part of being a mature Christian is bearing up under the weight of responsibility of your choices. Marriage is a big decision and shouldn't be made quickly or lightly before you've assessed if you're ready.

Becoming who God made you to be is worth the effort. He has a beautiful plan for you and He can be trusted.

Don't believe the lies.
  • I could never get someone that great
  • No one decent would want to care for me
  • People don't change
  • I could never become that kind of a person (successful, wise, holy)
Believe in the God who thought you into existence, knit you in your mother's womb, and has a divine plan for your life.
  • I am worth loving.
  • God wants me to embrace His plan for me. [He planned it and He placed it in my heart. Who am I to reject the Creator of the Universe?]
  • No one will treat me better than I treat myself. [This isn't about indulging yourself, but taking good care of yourself.]
  • Even if it looks impossible, God will help me. [This process can take years. Don't be daunted. The years will slip by no matter what. It would be a shame if you still didn't know yourself.]
  • This task is hard -- but hard work never hurt anyone.
I spent years praying for God to reveal who was the person He meant for me to be. I begged Him to show me how get there. I spent years failing in my task to become. Even if I wanted to give up on myself, God's patience is inexhaustible. I continued to ask the questions and ask for His help. In answer to the question 'How would the person I want to become handle this?' I behaved as if I were already that person and in doing so... and God gave me the grace to become the person I wished I were.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spouse Questing 101 : Lesson #1 To Thine Own Self Be True

Some of my children are old enough to start looking around at the world (and their future) and asking questions. Here are some answers to questions they've asked (and haven't asked).

Lesson #1 - Know yourself well enough to know what you want.
If you don't know who you are, you're bound to make massive mistakes in choosing a spouse.

Learn about yourself. Write letters to yourself -- what do you want to say? Is your self-talk negative? Are you the person you wish you were? Who is the person you wish you were? Talk to healthy friends and ask them what you're like - have them describe you in phrases or single words. Are you really that person they think you are? What would your enemies or people who don't like you say? Are you really that person they think you are?

Do you feel free to dream your own dreams of yourself? If not, why not? What is standing in your way? What are the dreams? Don't worry if they're attainable, worry if you throw them away without trying for them. Is that everything you want to be? God has a plan for you, are you fulfilling it?

What about the relationships in your life -- are you truly happy (or just settling for what comes) with the way people treat you? You know you have to teach people how to treat you. What about the way you treat them? What goes around comes around (meaning you can't expect to have good friends until you ARE a good friend.)

When I was a teenager, Hamlet was required reading for English class. Even though the guy giving the advice wasn't worthy of respect, his advice was.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
I read it. I let it become part of me. I recited it to myself during trying & unsure times. God made me with His plan for my life and He holds me with a dignity that I have to imitate in the way I treat myself.

My questions changed from 'what will make my parents/teachers happy' to 'what will make me happy?' Not the indulgence eating-a-pound-of-chocolate happy, but the healthy eating-a-balanced-diet-and-training-for-a-marathon-and-winning kind of happy. I was looking for the deep down genuinely proud-of-myself-for-accomplishing-what-I-wasn't-sure-I-could happy. The I-can-look-myself-in-the-mirror kind of happy. The I'd-be-thrilled-to-include-my-younger-siblings-and-grandparents-in-my-behavior kind of happy.

You may have to do some deep sea diving - literally and figuratively. Literally, if the person you want to be lives on the ocean and you live in the land-locked Midwest, do things to start to explore that part of yourself and see if that's who you really are. Figuratively, you may have to do some exploring inside of yourself to see who you really are. Dream some dreams for yourself an then act on a few to explore a side of you that even you didn't know about. Do you love to look at artwork? Pick up a brush and paint and see if that's who you are. Do you thrill at the way a horse runs through a field? Call several stables and see if they'll exchange your free labor for riding lessons. Do you miss the way the wind used to blow past your face when you were little on the swing set? Take up running and see if you're not more capable than you expected.

Once you find you have a knack, don't let someone else define what you're capable of doing with it. You can ask for healthy advice, but this is about your dreams for yourself. *AND* be careful with your dreams. Protect them. This is an application for the bible verse about not throwing your pearls before swine. If there is a dream killer in your life (or several), nurture your dreams within yourself and explore them a bit on your own so they've taken root and are healthy & growing inside your mind, before you share them with someone who may be a dream killer. Some of your dreams are just fanciful wishes. But some are dreams that God has dreamed just for you and placed in your mind. Nurture them and protect them before you expose them to the elements.

This activity of knowing yourself and exploring who God made you to be can take some time. I spent 1-2 years actively learning how to apply 'To Thine Own Self Be True" in many situations so I could lovingly "not then be false to any man." Stay here a while. Who are you? What are your dreams? Are you happy with the relationships & experiences in your life?

If you're not sure of the answer to any of the many questions above; ask Him -- He knows you better than you know yourself. And you're worth knowing. So get to know yourself -- well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dante in Translation & Beowulf, too

Since we can't read Italian, next year we'll be reading Dante in English. Oh, which translator to choose... On my many travels looking for which to choose (I found last year that the translation make a world of difference)

I had to take into account how well the work "flows" in English
-compared with- it's literal meaning
- compared with- it's poetic form
-compared with- getting a "feel" for Dante
-compared with- enjoying the literature...(whew)
I'll choose Mandelbaum for myself. For a less poetic, more understandable version, I'd suggest Esolen or Musa.

I found this post on The Well-Trained Mind message boards very helpful if you want to do your own research.


For Beowulf there's no options : Seamus Heaney is easiest hands down. However, Kennedy doesn't (consciously or unconsciously) edit out the subtle Christian elements of Beowulf. Kennedy, too, has a poetic beauty to it -- it is not easier, though.

If you're looking for a younger age than high school there are lots of options. Ds#3 LOVES Beowulf: A Tale of Blood, Heat, and Ashes by Raven -- the pictures are a little...graphic and scary to me, but he loooooves the book. It's not an excellent retelling, but fine for a first exposure to Beowulf.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Life Skills for Teens

I had my chore list for up to 13, but I was floundering for non-academic things I needed to teach them after 13. A friend asked me for my list with this title. (That meant I had to make one!) This will change for each kid and I'll hopefully add many resources, but here's my start....

Social Skills
  • € telephone answering & taking a message
  • € initiating a conversation & small talk
  • € eye contact & confident body language
  • € conversation skills : listening, responding, not interrupting, appropriate volume & content for situation
  • € Manners - Table and otherwise
  • € How not to be quite so devastatingly honest
  • € How to say no without losing friends.

Academic Skills
  • € Public speaking
  • € being able to write a solid paper
  • € being able to manage a project himself
  • € read maps
  • € plan routes
  • € Computer : typing & familiarity with Word, Excel, Powerpoint & Publisher
  • € Organizational skills for that child's learning style : planning, time management, prioritizing, follow-through
  • € cooperative learning skills

Personal Skills
  • € independent cooking
  • € Laundry - how to wash/iron/mend clothes
  • € cleaning
  • € basic home repair
  • € gardening/lawn work
  • € run a household for a week: including meals, housekeeping, and caring for small children
  • € Plan and pack for an overnight or a four week trip
  • € first aid
  • € How to mail packages.
  • € How to renew a passport.
  • € Personal safety, Self-defense 27min

Auto Skills
  • € Change oil, a flat
  • € Check tire pressure, radiator fluid
  • € How to pump gas, jump a battery
  • € What do do in case of an accident
  • € Snow Driving

Financial Skills
  • € Manage Finances - set & live with a budget
  • € how to use a credit card BEFORE going away to college
  • € understand : mortgages, car payments, investing, common mistakes
  • € Shopping - online, at the store, with a budget and goal in mind

College Skills
  • € To look assess one's work and ask for help if needed -involves reading a syllabus, figuring out percentages (so you know how much a particular assignment is going to affect a final grade), and tracking grades -Ability to analyze a test and figure out which bits are understood and which bits need more work -know about office hours
  • € Tying stuff on the roof of a car
  • € How to take a tray through a cafeteria line
  • € Putting your name and phone number on the inside of all your books and notebooks and anything else you want returned to you if you leave it laying around
  • € How to get home, if need be (train, bus, plane)
  • € How to take a taxi if the designated driver didn't stay designated
  • € How to limit your electronic social life and game playing so it doesn't interfere with your ability to open your laptop and do your work
  • € How to play foozeball or pingpong or hackysack or some of the other games that tend to lurk in the bottom of dorms
  • € How to ski or rockclimb or whatever other pastime one's friends in college are likely to want to go do that might possibly lead to a broken leg when first tried in the presence of new friends