Words for a Second Anniversary

 

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Five years ago our evenings were filled with thick damp air as we prayed and talked and clasped hands on a bench before a thorny-rose-bush-encircled-stone labyrinth with all our dreams suspended sweetly and agonizingly in possibility.

After the minutes had gone too quickly by and you had to go back home and I had to go back to my dorm, I would happily tease you to kidnap me insisting that I would be the happiest hostage.

Then, on a wonderfully warm May afternoon, we spoke words that can never be undone by human tongues and gave one another rings. Blessed shackles. Sacramental links in a chain of love and suffering, grace and sacrifice.

We gave ourselves wholly and freely body and soul to have our humanity forged into divinity. In front of God and man, we said I do to one another.

I do to the nights of damn good French cooking and 90’s romcoms and sparkling cocktail-charged conversations. And I do to doing someone else’s sweaty gym laundry and to sitting behind stalled vehicles in the HOV lane on the long commute to a charmless job.

I do to the fear when that tiniest member of our little trinity wavered within me. I do to the joy as he broke forth triumphant and bloody under the resplendent fluorescent lights of the operating room.

I do to evening air thick with newborn wails and damp with breastmilk. And I do to the realization of our dreams in the rapturous blossoming of human life.

I do to all we cannot yet see: to the irritation and the tenderness and the thrill and the boredom and the joy and the grief and the roses and the thorns on this labyrinthine way to eternity.

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Words for a Second Anniversary

Weekly Edit

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At the suggestion of a friend, I’m linking up with all the other cool cats on the Internet.

Gifts from the Internet

It’s wedding season! We have a wedding this weekend and next and my own wedding anniversary is right around the corner, so weddings and marriage and all good things that follow have been on the mind.

1. The introvert in me loves the idea of a self-designed marriage retreat. I’m in love with this whole concept of crashing at a monastery for the weekend with good marriage literature. Also, one of my faves posted this marriage exercise and I not so secretly wish she would just provide materials for a whole self-directed marriage retreat.

2. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by all the devotions you can do as a Catholic. Particularly when it comes to novenas. Should I just always be in the midst of a novena? I don’t know. But I think St. Josemaria Escriva’s novena for a happy and faithful marriage would be perfect to pray yearly approaching our anniversary.

3. This. I don’t actually remember it being too bad of a problem at our wedding. Overwhelmingly, it was a joyous and fun day and when we got in the escape car, we high fived and said, “That was an awesome wedding!” But there were certain dumb, petty things, that to this day if I dwell on too long, I want to claw my eyes out. Saint I am not. Tell me I’m not the only one.

Yums!

4. I always overestimate how much rice to cook, but it’s actually not a problem, because inauthentic fried rice happens to be one of my favorite things to make and eat. I really overestimated rice amounts this week so we had it twice with bacon, leftover asian broccoli slaw, bell peppers, basil, and red onion.

5. My husband’s been on a matcha kick (he even has a legit matcha whisk) but I’m not complaining because it’s as delicious as it is pretty.

6. More luxurious breakfasts were to be had this week including eggs en cocotte with asparagus, shallots, and gooood goat cheese. Although I pretty much drowned the eggs because a spoon of heavy cream registered in my head as half a cup.

et cetera

7. I’m a bad shopper and don’t ask for help even when I desperately need it but not this week. I marched into Sephora and told the first sales girl I saw that I suck at makeup (choosing it and putting it on) and would she please just walk me through the whole process like the mothers of most thirteen year old’s do. And she did and she was super gracious about the babe wriggling on my lap as she taught me how to fill in my eyebrows without making me look like cartoon character. It felt like a defining moment in my life.

……………

Happy Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury

 

Weekly Edit

Resolutions Revisited

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A while ago I wrote a blog post about my New Year’s Resolutions. If I were to give myself a grade for each it would go something like:

F, F, F, F-, F, F (or should I say efff), D, F, D, D

Apparently, publishing your resolutions on the internet has no bearing as to whether you will adhere to them or not. So I’m re-writing and re-structuring them into a maybe (maybenot) realistic gameplan. Here we go:

Housekeeping

-Make the bed. It takes less than 10 min and it makes all the difference in attuning myself to order and beauty. Morning’s should go: morning offering (yeah, currently not happening but I’m thinking this might help), change and feed the baby, make the bed, carry on with the day.

-Create a cleaning schedule. We currently just wait until the floor is dirty enough, the sink is grimy enough, or the dishes and laundry pile up enough to tackle them. And deep cleaning happens approximately never. But I’d like to come up with a plan for daily chores (dishes, sweeping, laundry etc.), weekly or bi-weekly tasks (washing sheets, mopping, etc.) and periodic deep cleaning (bleaching the bathtub, scrubbing windows etc.) And then somehow fit in blogging, other writing projects, small business scheming, reading, language learning and slow parenting

-DIY all the things like household cleaners, bath products etc. but only if they’re going to be simpler, cheaper, and better for our health and the environment. I’m not going to be crunchy for the sake of it. Ideally, I’d like to get everything in bulk and once a month or every three months or something make a batch of everything.

-Invest in resuable everything. Reusable grocery bags, produce bags, napkins, covers for food storage, diapers (check!), kitchen rags (sorta check…), even (probably, no definitely, TMI) these (sorry, I’m kind of way too excited about them), and so on.

Relationships

-Get social media under control. It’s like Jenny’s always reading my mind.

-Foster community. I would LOVE to start something like this.

-Make and stick by an actual prayer schedule. A friend recently asked what my prayer life looks like now that I’m a mother and it looks pretty much like it did before: a mixture of aspiration and guilt and not a ton of praying actually going on. My ideal: morning offering or morning prayer when my husband doesn’t leave at an ungodly hour, daily mass at 9am, Angelus at noon, rosary during chores with the help of the sisters because I have an ever-wandering mind, divine chaplet at leeeast on Fridays at 3pm, goodnight prayers with the babe, short Scripture or other spiritual reading and night prayer with my husband before bed. I am nothing if not possessive of my delusions of grandeur.

-Dinner ritual. We’ve been doing a lot of eating at the kitchen bar with our phones pulled out vying for our attentions. So I’d really like to have dinner at the dining room table every night. And on Sundays and special feasts, candles.

Culture

-Memorize more poetry, because I really do believe in the profound effect internalizing beauty can have. Working on a list.

-Ban mindless television and have movie night once a week. I have a hard time considering my bbc faves mindless, but I think being judicious about screen time is as significant for your happiness and mental health as being judicious about your nutritive intake is for your physical health.

Self-Improvement

-Stahhhp with the unsavory language. In high school, I was a mixture of unfettered eagerness (that’s a nice way of saying I was giddy) and uptight prudery. I believe this was a reaction to spending eight hours every week day in a place where my walk from fifth to sixth period included a turn on a stairwell where grungy teens were shoving their tongues so far down each other’s throats I’m surprised they didn’t choke. (That’s just the prudery part. The first was shaped by being a theater kid.) Anyway, I was the kind of youth group participatee who would sanctimoniously tell others that the same mouth they cussed with, they also received the Body of Christ on. Yep. I was that person. And while slackening my judgey ways has been all for the better, I still wonder what sixteen year old Dom would say if she could put on fast-forward goggles and see herself eight years later frantically trying to find the lost item du jour and letting loose a torrent of expletives. There actually is a simple way to combat this tendency. I’m just weak in the moment.

Exercise. Anything will do. Just consistently.

That’s actually how I feel about my entire list of resolutions. Anything will do. Just consistently. Happy Tuesday. And feast of St. Joanna…also known as Jessica. (And nope, she’s not from the 1980’s as her name might make one think). Also, of St. David of Scotland who has a great deathbed tale. I’m a sucker for those.

Resolutions Revisited

Weekly Edit

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Gifts from the Internet

It’s graduation time. My sister and husband (graduated the same year, same place) had George Foreman as their commencement speaker. He delivered the expected all-my-money-is-proof-that-I’m-blessed spiel. Sad day for liberal arts schools everywhere. Though my husband likes to retell the part where he said, “You went into college as boys and girls and now you’re coming out as men.” My other sister and mom (graduated two years later, same place) had an amazing army surgeon sister whose speech I wish was recorded somewhere. My year (same place, two more years later, just me this time), we had Fr. Rosica from Salt and Light Ministry. I don’t actually remember his speech, but I was also was coming off a roller coaster semester of wedding planning, thesis-writing, and all-nighter after all-nighter.

Here’s my roundup of favorite commencement addresses:

David Foster Wallace

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

Wendell Berry

And so you must refuse to accept the common delusion that a career is an adequate context for a life. The logic of success insinuates that self­-enlargement is your only responsibility, and that any job, any career will be satisfying if you succeed in it. But I can tell you, on the authority of much evidence, that a lot of people highly successful by that logic are painfully dissatisfied. I can tell you further that you cannot live in a career, and that satisfaction can come only from your life. To give satisfaction, your life will have to be lived in a family, a neighborhood, a community, an ecosystem, a watershed, a place, meeting your responsibilities to all those things to which you belong.

Cardinal Arinze

The Christian must not be an absentee citizen in this world under pretext of preparing for the next world, for the kingdom of heaven is being prepared for from this world. As the Second Vatican Council puts it: “The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one….Earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s Kingdom. Nevertheless, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the kingdom of God” (Gaudium et Spes, 43).

Christina Valenzuela (one of my new favorite bloggers!)

My wish, however, is that no one comes up and asks you: “What are your plans after graduation?” My wish for you is that someone asks, “How has Harvard shaped your life?”

Pope Benedict XVI (not a commencement speech but might as well be one)

You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.

People (some living, some dead) that I think would be excellent commencement speakers: Alice McDermott, Jean Vanier, Melissa Musick, Paul Kalinithi, Stratford CaldecottFranz Wright, Sigrid Undset, Louise Cowan, Brendan Gleeson, Elizabeth Corey, Jaroslav PelikanJulian of Norwich and my grandma.

Yums!

I had this intense craving for chicken and beer on Saturday night so my husband made chicken tenders which were wonderful and accompanied by not homemade sweet potato fries (I’ve tried making them and can never get them crispy no matter how much cornstarch I use), and kale, cherry tomato, and goat cheese salad. Also, if you don’t like beer but want to, Shiner’s prickly pear is a good starter beer. (It should be known that I’ve been on “starter beers” for at least the past two years. The closest thing I got to beer before that was sickly sweet American made cider.)

We had a TON of leftover chicken tenders, so the next morning it was deemed necessary to have chicken and waffles. We shamelessly bought the eggo kind since we don’t have a waffle maker. (I really want one, though, because I have this dream of celebrating Talk Like a Poirot Day with Belgian waffles, tisane, fake mustaches, and binge watching David Suchet. And how is that supposed to happen without a waffle maker?)

I may be breakfast’s number one fan and now that I’m not rushing out the door at 7am to submit myself to the daily death of commuting, I pretty much always eat a breakfast too luxurious to justify for a weekday. Do I care? Not really. Some hits this week: Chocolate chip brioche is yummers on its own, but drizzling it with cajeta has been ridic. Also eggs cooked in pesto and marinara with fresh mozzarella.

More cravings for chicken and beer later in the week resulted in oven-fried Korean chicken tacos with more sweet potato fries and beer. I added basil to the toppings on the tacos and it added a beautiful depth of flavor.

Et cetera

A question on my mind that maybe you have an answer for:

Why is bilocation a miraculous occurrence and not a gift given to every mother? Cause I could definitely use ten extra hours in my week to get things done.

……………

Happy Trinity Sunday! And feast of St. Rita–one of my faves!

Weekly Edit

Four Mothers

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This was meant for Mother’s Day but I like to consider of all May Mother’s Month. An ode to four mother’s I know and love:

Mamina

My mother always described growing up under communism as being gray and oppressive though as a kid, having been raised in America and then visiting Slovakia, I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. There were the greenest valleys under the bluest skies, the deepest forests out of which sprung up the most enchanting folktales, and the dreamiest hills topped with the most romantic castle ruins. But in my limited experience in adulting, I’ve come to realize some of the complexities of place and of personal happiness and that living in the mountains won’t solve everything as ten-year-old Dominika thought.

My mother left her parents and sisters to come here, a world away from her first home–a flat, tepid marsh covered in a patchwork quilt of gray highways and smokestacks. She got married, had a baby, and then had four more babies. She had to become a mother without her own mother and sisters to help. Now that I’m a mother, I find this unimaginable. Within a year of coming here, she suffered the loss of her father and had to grieve an ocean away from her family and without the consolation of witnessing and participating in those last rites and rituals the Church gives us.

But she gave me a beautiful childhood and my memories of growing up with my mother are of making homemade pizza with her, of taking trips to the library and having picnics, and of being picked up early from school every so often just because she thought I might need a break.

She’s the most joyful person I know. She finds hearts in everything, especially tree branches. She has few inhibitions about social decorum. She once walked into the St. Regis hotel for high tea with those disposable flipflops from a nail place because her nails were still wet. She will start dancing anywhere anytime if she hears a beat she can’t resist. As an adolescent, I found this all unbearable but now I find hilariously delightful and liberating. She always smells so good. So maternal. A mixture of perfume and housekeeping and love. She is closer to nature than anyone else I know. Prays more than anyone else I know. Preaches at her kids more incessantly than anyone else I know. And I’m so grateful she’s my mother.

Grandma

My father’s mother was a magnificent woman. My ideal woman. She was a nurse, a wife, a mother of seven children. When I think of her, I think of Arizona where she lived–sweet-smelling and full of warmth, adventure, and life.

She was so generous and loving with all people. She had over twenty grandchildren but still made each one feel uniquely loved. She would always tell people that I was a writer and that I would dedicate my first book to her. And I will if I should ever write one.

After she raised her children, she began hiking and hiked the Grand Canyon into her seventies. She traveled round the world making friends everywhere she went. When my mother once said that she couldn’t imagine her daughters getting married and having babies in their early twenties, my grandma laughed and said that having her seven children never stopped her from her achieving her dreams. And I needed to hear that. I so needed to hear that.

The last time I saw her, she was suffering from lung cancer. When I told her I was pregnant, she hugged me tight and told me she had to stay alive to meet my baby. But she passed away on the feast of the Assumption. Since her love for Mary was so great, the beauty of this was lost on no one.

I imagine now she is hiking through celestial canyons, canoeing down the Milky Way, and easily winning the saints and angels over to her friendship. (I readily admit that’s pretty dodgy theology but I think it’s safe to believe that Heaven is full of both adventure and friendship).

Stará mama

My stará mama. My mother’s mother. Another magnificent woman. Another one of my ideal women. She embodied the quote by Thomas Merton which I try to keep at the forefront of my mind in writing this blog and in living: “Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” 

After a life of toil, of moving away from her family to marry and live among strangers, of mothering four children, farming, living through wars and under communism, of working as a cleaning woman in a hospital, of building and making a home in the city alongside my mother’s father, of having two of her children leave for America, and then of being widowed, she lived quietly by the rhythm of her daily prayers and work. She maybe even more perfectly harmonized that balance between ora et labora than those in the cloister.

She loved her grandchildren and loved when we visited, but I imagine it was probably difficult for her to have rhythms upset by wild and wiggly children. I remember countless time being hushed and told, “stará mama spíííí!” while she was taking her daily nap.

The last time I saw her was when I stopped over in the motherland during my study abroad semester in college. There was plenty wonderful about the whole study abroad experience, but at that point in the semester, I was cold to the bone, didn’t remember the last time I had been hugged, and was tired of hearing a language that sounded like honking geese. And there my stará mama and my wonderful aunts were full of warm hugs with delicious treats up their sleeves for me. I lived like an eighty-year-old woman those two weeks. We woke up at 7am, took naps in the afternoon, said our rosary in the evening, watched an hour of television and went to bed by 9pm (me decked out in a Christmas sweater and my mom’s pajamas pants from when she was postpartum with my twin brothers because my stará mama deemed my jams not warm enough for May).

They were two of the best weeks of my life. I remember thinking that it was probably the last time I’d see her, and the sound of her rich voice carrying hymns throughout the house all day made my heart feel as though it would break from beauty.

My son’s godmother

When I had to choose a spiritual mother for my son, I immediately thought of this dear friend. We met during college freshman orientation and I didn’t realize then that becoming friends with her meant I was saying yes to an education in friendship. Just by being who she is, she’s taught me so much about what it means to choose (and keep choosing) a person for that “least natural of loves”.

Her earnest and infectious love for life reveals itself in a thousand ways particularly in the way that she gives gifts. During the process of wedding planning and then during pregnancy, I was pretty much just hoping all the time I spent crafting registries would pay off respectively in the forms of the pretty dishes I was coveting and the necessary but not gharish baby items I wanted. But this friend always seems to know what I truly need. As a wedding gift, she asked all the married couples she looked up to to write my husband and me letters with marriage advice. As a baby shower gift, she put together a stay-at-home date night kit replete with mini champagne bottles and chocolate.

And then there’s small gifts like when she brings me fresh cut rosemary. And then there’s the great gift of her conversations. I feel as though we have an on-going conversation that we pick up and leave off whenever we get together. A conversation on friendship, on vocation, on life dreams and goals that always leaves me high on hopefulness.

When I asked her to be my son’s godmother, she voiced her concerns about being his godmother and her vocation and how she might not be able to be physically present in his life. But I’m a great believer in godparenthood being able to transcend time and space and I don’t think the gift of self that she’s given me in our friendship will be denied to my child if her vocation calls her elsewhere.

And truly I feel that about all these women. I grieved with the passing of both my grandmothers that my son would never know them. But their gift of self is not bound by material limitations. There are two quotes that I find comforting particularly in regard to the death of loved ones but also in regard to physical separation of any kind. I would offer commentary but I really think they’re left best speaking for themselves:

“Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for time, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone.”
-St. Edith Stein

“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
-Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

A happy May to all the beautiful mothers, physical or spiritual, from all time and space.

Four Mothers