Friday, January 25, 2013

Morality/Informed Conscience

During RCIA last night, a few group members shared an experience they had last weekend while attending a workshop called "Solidarity with the Poor." Due to some personal issues - mostly that one of my former clients and his father were very threatening towards me and are currently homeless - I decided that it would be best not to attend. Listening to the reports last night, I did feel like I made the right decision. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I feel as though I have a good understanding of mental illness/addiction/homeless because of the work that I do and from other life experiences. It was interesting to hear others' experiences, though. 

Following that conversation, we began to discuss our topic for the week: Morality and Informed Conscience. We started with a worksheet that listed about 20 actions - smoking cigarettes, skipping Mass, lying on your taxes - and asked you to rank each on a scale of 1-10 (1 being no sin and 10 being most sinful). After everyone completed the worksheet individually, we began to go through the list and share our thoughts on each "sin." It was interesting to hear people's responses and their reasoning. Some of the discussions became a little intense. Smoking cigarettes and "hitting" your child were the first two on the list. We actually didn't make it all the way through the list because there was so much discussion. I shared with the group that I've always been taught that a sin is a willful transgression against a known law of God. A nice definition, but sometimes, it's hard to translate into real life. Obviously, it's not okay for me to murder someone, but is it really so bad to have a glass of wine with dinner? I'm not going to steal anything, but as was discussed last night, if I were a POW and starving to death, I may take some food that's not mine. 

That lead us to discuss more about what the Church teaches about morality. The "moral" question is "how am I, a follower of Jesus and a member of the body of Christ to live?" The Church teaches that we look at these moral decisions from four perspectives: personal (experience, faith, prayer), communal (society, community, potential consequences), tradition (Church teaching, Scripture), and context (situation and culture). Catholics don't interpret the Scriptures literally - they look at the Scripture within the context of the culture and society nearly 2,000 years ago. I want to be a good person, but I have struggled over the years with things that I believe are okay for Christians to do (such as drinking alcohol - not the best example, but it's the best I can think of) but the faith tradition that I've been a part of does not condone. For a long time, I was going to church and feeling like people wouldn't really like me if they knew what I did outside of church...not that I thought what I was doing was wrong, but because I thought others would judge me for it. 

All that to say, what I like about the Catholic Church is that we are encouraged to make decisions (moral and otherwise) based on our own discernment. The Church takes a stand on many social issues that I don't necessarily agree with. I asked last night how we deal with things when our personal beliefs are in opposition to what the Church teachers. That's where the idea of the "Informed Conscience" comes into play.The worksheet that we were given last night says "As Catholics, we have always enjoyed the dignity and freedom to make informed decisions about our life, our witness, our expressions of faith, spirituality, prayer and involvement in the world - on the basis of a developed and fully formed and informed conscience." There's another quote from Pope Benedict the XVI, when he was known as Fr. Josef Ratzinger, that basically tells us that if we go through some kind of discernment on these issues and truly believe something that is in opposition to the Church, we need to go with what we believe. Someone asked what consequences we may face for this. I liked the leader's answer. Basically, she said that if we are struggling with believing one thing and the Church teaching another, that's what the sacrament of reconciliation is for. There's always forgiveness.  

Once again, I left last night feeling like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I have found a place where I have the freedom to come to my own conclusions about those tough questions in life.

Happy Birthday!

Today is my sweet Savannah's 17th birthday. It seems like just yesterday we were picking out her outfit for her first day of kindergarten and now, we are talking about which colleges to visit. My life changed 17 years ago when she came into this world. There have been some days that have been tougher than others, but I wouldn't change any of it. Vannah Grace - you are the light in our family. We absolutely love you more than you will ever know. You are an amazing aunt, sister and friend, and an even more amazing person. We are so proud of you and can't wait to see what your future holds.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More on my conversion...

The RCIA classes continue to go very well. We didn't meet last week (and I didn't make it to Mass), and I have felt like I'm missing something all week. We also didn't meet for two weeks over Christmas. Since then, we've met together as a group twice. Two weeks ago, we went over our schedules from now until the Easter Vigil. We will be very busy over the next 9 weeks or so. There are several things that we have to do in preparation for our First Communion. In a few weeks, I will take part in the Rite of Election and the Rite of Sending. I have turned in my baptism certificate, which will be laid on the Altar at some point in the ceremony. I don't know what to expect fully - there are two separate ceremonies. One will be held at St. Albert and the other will be held at St. Patrick's (I think) and I believe the Archbishop will be there. 

It's interesting to go through each of these Rites. While a part of me is ready to move forward and be fully initiated into the Church, the other part of me is so grateful for this process. I'm thankful that I know what I'm getting in to. I have the opportunity to build relationships with others in the community and to be a part of a group of new Catholics. This process has not just been something else to check off of my to-do list, but it has been a true spiritual journey for me. 

We also are set to participate in the Communal Reconciliation early in March. This should be an interesting experience as well. I have no idea what to expect. I think we will learn more about that in a few weeks. 

Tomorrow, we are slated to discuss Morality/Informed Conscience...should be a thought provoking conversation, I'd say!


I feel like I have spent the better part of the past two years in awe of this little girl. She is feisty, independent and smart as a whip. She talks non-stop and there is little that we don't understand. She is loving and kind, but has a bit of a mean streak. She loves her family (and she tells us this daily). She has recently started saying "I don't like Mommy (or Daddy) anymore!" when she is disciplined. She does not like to be told "no" and really does not like to go to time-out. She knows her ABC's, can count to 14 and can recognize just about every letter of the alphabet. She loves to sing and dance. Most days, she prefers to just stay home and  play with her toys. She could probably eat her weight in popcorn, yogurt and pretzels. She loves grapes and peas. I just adore this little girl. And no matter how many tantrums she throws in a single day, it all goes away when she wraps her little arms around my neck and says "I love you so much, Mommy." There's nothing in the world that can compare to that. 

And these two....

It's so amazing to watch this monster of a cat interact with Sophie. Boomer doesn't like anyone other than me and Danny. He lets Sophie chase him all around the house, pull his tail, yell in his face, and more. He gets mad. He swats at her, but he doesn't bite or scratch her - which he does to most people when they just try to pet him. He lets Sophie hug him, kiss him and use him as a pillow. Animals are so interesting and Boomer has not let us down. 

She loves these bunny ears. This is just Sophie being Sophie. 



Did I mention she likes to "play" with the cat?

Recipes to remember

We've tried several new recipes recently and I'd like to keep them handy so I can remember them!

I made these Jalapeno Crescent Poppers over the weekend. We had a few friends over and I wanted to try a few new appetizers. These were awesome! So easy - so few ingredients and so yummy! I used a tube of the crescent roll sheet. It made less than the original recipe said it would, but I probably could have cut them a bit smaller to make more. I also made a baked brie. I looked at several different recipes on-line and sort of improvised. I bought a larger wheel of Brie (maybe 12 oz...I can't remember). I also used the crescent roll sheet for the brie - I had wanted to use a puff pastry, but it was considerably more expensive than the crescent roll. I rolled out the crescent roll and spread some apricot jam on it (maybe a 1/4 cup). I set the Brie on top and then wrapped it in the crescent roll. I brushed the top with an egg yolk mixed with a little bit of water and baked it for about 30 minutes. Next time, I'll probably follow some of the tips I read online about trimming the ends of the dough. There were some pieces that were a bit undercooked, but mostly it was perfectly cooked. 

I also made this Baked Ziti. I followed the recipe with the exception of using the whole box of pasta (16 oz.) and I used basil out of a tube instead of fresh. It was delicious! One of my friends decided to become a vegetarian on January 1st, so this was a great vegetarian friendly dish. We served 6 people this for dinner and I've had at least four more servings for lunches. This made a lot of food and it is very filling. I don't miss the meat at all. 

As usual, I made a lot of cookies for Christmas. This year, I added a few new recipes to the cookie tray and retired a few old ones. Included on the cookie tray were: 
- homemade turtles (a pretzel, topped with a rolo - baked for about 4 minutes and then topped with a pecan)
- Triple Chip Cookies (you can find the recipe here - these replaced the "Neiman Marcus" chocolate chip cookies that I have made for years)
Magic Cookie Bars (I'm linking a recipe, but I've never used mom has made these forever and I just use whatever I have on hand for the layers - normally chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and coconut - no nuts)
Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies (these are always popular, but they are not my favorite)
- Snickerdoodle Brownies - this was a new recipe this year - they were pretty good, but I did make a few changes; after reading the reviews, I decided to mix half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture in with the batter instead of sprinkling on the bottom of the pan and sprinkled the rest on top)
- Homemade Peanut Butter Cups - these were so good! I made them for Thanksgiving and Christmas and they were a hit at both!
I think that's it for the Christmas Cookies. It's always a lot of work, but oh so delicious!


I didn't get to make as many things as I had hoped for Christmas/gifts. I did make these glasses and really loved how they turned out! I made two sets - one for my sister and one for my sister-in-law. I bought the wine glasses at the Dollar Tree and used paint that we had on hand, so these were very inexpensive, handmade gifts. I used the end of a paintbrush to put the dots on the glasses (a wooden skewer or something similar would probably have been better). I liked the way the glasses looked when I started with the darkest color and ended with the lightest.

After the paint dried, I put all of the glasses on a cookie sheet and placed it in a cold oven. I turned the oven up to 350 and let them bake for about 30 minutes. Then, I turned the oven off and let the glasses sit in the oven until they were cool. This process is supposed to "set" the acrylic paint and make them safe for use in the dishwasher. I made two glasses for myself to try out the process. We don't have a dishwasher - but they have held up to hand washing just fine.

I also used this process on a couple of ornaments. I didn't bake the ornaments - I didn't feel like they needed to be dishwasher safe. The hardest part was trying to find a way to hold the ornaments without touching the wet paint.

Newport Aquarium

During our time off over the holidays, Danny and I took Vannah and Sophie to the Newport Aquarium. We hadn't been in about 6 years, so it was fun to go back. I wish we could have spent more time in Cincinnati, but we basically drove up to the aquarium and came right back home. It was a fun day!

Scuba Santa
She had fun, but was more than ready for a nap!

Christmas 2012

We had a great Christmas this year. Sophie was so excited about everything, especially Frosty the Snowman. She's still singing the song! It was so fun to see her excitement. Her two big presents were her Cookie Monster kitchen and her Princess Castle. Anytime anyone comes to our house, she says "See my kitchen? See my castle?" She loves showing off her favorite presents! Danny and I were both able to take about a week and a half off from work. It was wonderful. We were able to spend a lot of time with our families and just enjoyed being with each other.

This is after my work Christmas party...I got her bath ready and turned around to grab a towel or something. Before I knew it, she was in the tub, fully clothed!
A random weekend morning picture - with her daddy's teddy bear.
Silly app that I downloaded...and my silly sister.
Christmas morning - with her princess castle.
Opening presents - she's wearing the scarf that her Aunt Vannah got her for Christmas
Sophie putting make up on Vannah
Enjoying our Christmas morning
All 4 of us
Vannah and me

The 5 siblings

She loves her dream lite!


I'm long overdue for an update on this blog. Christmas and the New Year have come and gone. I thought for sure that life would slow down a bit after my sister's wedding, but boy was I wrong. Christmas was full of highs and lows. I so enjoyed a week and a half off of work with my family, including a day trip to Cincinnati to visit the Newport Aquarium (and LaRosa's Pizza!). Being back at work a few weeks now makes me long for those days spent in our pajamas. Work has brought a different kind of stress recently. It's not bad, it's just different. 

I do have so much share and hope that maybe tonight, I can find the time to flood the blog with pictures and posts from the last month of our lives. Maybe a few recipes will find their way as well. Oh, and crafts! I made some fun stuff for Christmas that I'd like to remember for next year. Until this evening (I hope).