Monday, April 21, 2014

[Announcement] Chastity is For Lovers is on Amazon!

True story.

Happy Monday! Hope you had a blessed Easter Sunday. No full blown post today, as I took the weekend off from bloggin' to edit the book again, and to celebrate the resurrection. But I do have an announcement: While Chastity is For Lovers launches on Dec. 8, you can reserve it now on Amazon. Few moments are so surreal (or humbling!) as stumbling upon your own book on the Internet. Click here to pre-order your copy. And, ICYMI, if you're in or near the Tampa Bay Area, mark your calendar for one of a couple book launch parties (where you can buy a copy and hang with me IRL). Click here for deets.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thoughts on modern dating's '18 Ugly Truths.'

The face "modern dating" makes me make.

In his fabulous April 5 Thought Catalog post, Christopher Hudspeth listed 18 "ugly truths" about modern dating -- experiences so common, you have to deal with them (so the post's headline says); experiences so universal, nary a young adult who dates can read them and not cringe a knowing cringe.

Modern dating, as Hudspeth describes it, is a game. And it's not like Jenga, the game that brings laughter and joy to all who crowd around the tower. No -- modern dating as Hudspeth describes it is like the game that ends with crying, kicking the air and a projectile deck of cards because your partner tricked you into picking the Old Maid.

The ugliest truth about Hudspeth's post is that Hudspeth is right: dating as he knows it gets ugly -- and in my observation and experience, especially in five of the 18 ways he lists. Below are my five "favorites," and beneath each, my thoughts:

Because we want to show how cavalier and blasé we can be to the other person, little psychological games like ‘Intentionally Take Hours Or Days To Text Back’ will happen. They aren’t fun.

The worst part about the need to be blasé is that we will act that way even if we aren't. We are aloof when we don't want to be because, as Hudspeth pointed out in another ugly truth, "the person who cares less has all the power." We are terrified to express ourselves, lest what we express or how we express it result in our striking the people we like as creepy. But we all know another of Hudspeth's ugly truths to be true: "The only difference between your actions being romantic and creepy is how attractive the other person finds you." -- which means intentionally taking hours to text back is a manipulative defense against having to accept that someone doesn't like you. It is a preemptive strike that requires us to forego a facet of relationships on which a relationship's success is actually hinged: authenticity.


A person being carefree because they have zero interest in you looks exactly like a person being carefree because they think you’re amazing & are making a conscious effort to play it cool. Good luck deciphering between the two.

People who act blasé when they aren't don't solely complicate dating for their potential partners. They also complicate dating for themselves. I agree with Hudspeth: a person who actually isn't interest behaves exactly like a person who is pretending not to be interested. But a problem arises for people who have acted not interested when the people they like are aloof. They be all like, "IT'S BEEN TWO DAYS AND HE HASN'T RETURNED MY TEXT. ...but I know exactly what he's doing. He's making a conscious effort to play it cool." -- when what he's actually doing is moving on. Or, they be like, "IT'S BEEN TWO DAYS AND SHE HASN'T RETURNED MY TEXT. ...She hates me." -- when what's she's actually doing is making a conscious effort to play it cool. People hate this, but people resist changing this. But changing this is what I propose we do: if you're interested, express interest explicitly. If you aren't, don't (and when necessary, express that explicitly).


Set plans are dead. People have options and up-to-the-minute updates on their friends (or other potential romantic interests) whereabouts thanks to texts & social media. If you aren’t the top priority, your invitation to spend time will be given a “Maybe” or “I’ll let you know” and the deciding factor(s) will be if that person has offers more fun/interesting than you on the table.

Do people opt for "Maybe!" to avoid missing out on better plans, or do people opt for "maybe" because they're wusses? The fear of yes indeed has power, but so does the fear of no. There is great discomfort in discovering that a person in whom you have no interest has misread your social cues and invited you out. And what about an invitation from a friend, but to do a thing that doesn't interest you? No is hard to say because no is hard to hear. But when we want to say no and don't, we create false hope.

The text message you sent went through. If they didn’t respond, it wasn’t because of malfunctioning phone carrier services.

With the exception of an app I use to text (which is notorious for not notifying me when I get new messages), this ugly truth is true, too. But it is not necessarily true that silence is the result of hatred, anger or offense. Phones die. People have jobs. While sometimes, a person doesn't text back because they don't want to, more times, a person is on the toilet and didn't bring the phone. (Consider that "assumptions are the termites of relationships," to borrow a quote from Henry Winkler.)

You aren’t likely to see much of someone’s genuine, unfiltered self until you’re in an actual relationship with him or her. Generally people are scared that sincerely putting themselves out there will result in finding out that they’re too available, too anxious, too nerdy, too nice, too safe, too boring, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not some other person enough to be embraced.

It is because of this ugly truth that we "want to show how cavalier and blasé we can be," as discussed in an earlier ugly truth. It is this ugly truth that stamps out any shot we had at creating a relationship conducive to what all of us truly crave: love. But we want it without the discomfort of discernment -- without the discomfort of disclosing who we are before we agree to commit so a decision to commit (or not) is informed. But we can't discern a relationship with a person if we don't know who a person is. And we can't receive love if we aren't being who we are. 

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Click here to read Hudspeth's 18 ugly truths in full.

Friday, April 11, 2014

[Announcement] SAVE THE DATE (and celebrate my book's launch with me!).


THE BOOK IS ALMOST DONE, GUYS. By the time this month ends, I'll have tweaked Chastity is For Lovers for the second to last time. It officially launches Dec. 8 (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception!), which means I'm throwing parties that weekend (yes, parties).

That means if you're in or near the Tampa Bay Area (or can arrange to be that weekend!), you are about to mark your calendar:

Launch Party 1 is Dec. 5, 2014 in the evening in Spring Hill, FL.

Launch Party 2 is Dec. 6, 2014 in the afternoon in Tampa, FL.

Venues and times are TBA. Stay tuned and save the date(s)! In the meantime, your prayers are appreciated as I polish the book again and pass it back to my editor. I am grateful for your encouragement and support -- it's done more for me than you know.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Thoughts on being alone.



I sit today in a silent church, the only one in the pew.

The only one in the building.

I think about the time I was a bridesmaid, buzzed because of a drink but sobered by my status:

Single.

The only single person in the bridal party.

Totally unattached, no prospects.

I shook it off, because so what? I can dance alone. I can eat alone. I can be alone, and be ok. I can even be alone and like it. Because, you know, freedom and me time and I’ll do what I want, and stuff.

But being alone and being ok with it isn’t a constant.

There are the ups, like flying solo (literally – I like to travel alone), and the time and space and energy to get to know God or your friends or yourself. But while you get a little bit louder now, while the DJ plays “Shout” at a wedding, you don’t really think about the downs.

You don’t really think about the frustration of always hearing from the people in whom you have no interest and hardly hearing again from the people in whom you do. About being so distracted by the desire for a significant other that you waste your time, space and energy dwelling on what you don’t have instead of enjoying or learning from what you do have. While you dance, you don’t really think about the “maybe I am supposed to be single” thought that looms a lot, or the realization that “maybe I haven’t yet used this time wisely.”

It is in these downs that we don’t think about the truth.

The truth is that while I sit in this silent church, the only one in the pew, the only one in the building, I’m ok with it. And I like it.

I like it because it reveals that I’m not actually alone.

That I – totally unattached and no prospects – am not alone.

I am not alone, because Jesus. I am not alone, because the Church. I am not alone, because every guy I meet is my brother and every girl I meet is my sister.

Because I wasn’t put on earth to find a person to love. I was put on earth to love every person I meet.

Because I meet people every day, and every time I forget it, God finds a way to remind me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

[Relationships] Three things that aren't the end of the world.

Relationships. are. a. mess.

They're a mess because they can be fun and hard and fulfilling and devastating and a privilege and torture, depending. They're a mess because they can turn us into the best or worst versions of ourselves. (Maybe we are a mess?) They can make a day, a month, a year -- or break it. They can inspire us to shout "I LOVE MY LIFE!" or to pout like whatever has happened in them is the end of the world.

But is it really?

Probably not, and particularly not when what has happened is as follows:

1. You were moody, boring, tired, or having a bad hair day the last time you talked to or saw him or her. If he or she is really marriage material and thinks you are, too, he or she will get over it. #justsayin.

2. He or she doesn't intuitively meet your expectations. I've blogged before about the time a guy I dated ended a phone call with me by saying "I'll call ya later." He never did. And it irked me. He handed me an expectation that he didn't fulfill. I was hesitant at first the next day to bring up how bothered by it I was because I worried I would come across as needy. But there's a difference between being needy and communicating a need. It is not the end of the world if the guy or girl you date (or marry!) doesn't intuitively meet your expectations because the guys and girls you date (or marry!) aren't mind readers. If you expect somebody to meet all your expectations but you are unwilling to express your expectations, your relationship is, how shall we say... doomed. Dealing with unmet expectations is part of discerning a marriage with someone. It's part of deciding whether there are some expectations somebody ought to meet intuitively. An unmet expectation is an opportunity to communicate with the person you date (and to learn how good he or she is at listening).

3. He or she's just not that into you. Unrequited interest is a bummer, but it isn't the end of the world. It isn't the end of the world because "if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?" -- if you're supposed to end up with somebody, you will, regardless of whether the interest is initially mutual. If you don't end up with somebody you like, it isn't the end of the world, either. A wise friend of mine reminded me once: if you think he or she is awesome (and he or she turns out to be some guy or girl you're not even gonna marry), your actual future spouse will be even more awesome. #Legit.

What else isn't the end of the world?

Monday, March 24, 2014

[Guest Post] What are we so afraid of?

Guest blogger Lauren Scharmer!

Look at the world around us – you don’t have to go very far to see that dinners are being spent looking at phones instead of each other, young women are being asked on dates via text message instead of a real-life conversation, and people everywhere struggle with knowing their worth in relationships. All of these cultural standards come down to one simple truth: authentic relationships are not being formed.

Whether young or old, male or female, platonic or romantic, there is a fear of forming authentic relationships, which stems from a fear of commitment, and a fear of being disappointed. With all of this being said, I’d like to pose a few questions. If the three Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity are in relation, if Christ founded His Church on a relationship between Him and Peter, and if the way He intended for His Church to be spread until the end of time was through relationships, what are we so afraid of?

This message of authentic relationships is something that was not popular or easily understood in the time of the apostles, and is certainly not popular or easily understood in our world today. As Christians it is our call, and our great joy, to proclaim that we know differently. To boldly proclaim that the truth of the Gospel is meant to change our lives, and certainly change how we form our relationships. And it is our great joy to prove by our life and our relationships that authenticity is worth striving for. Simply put, we are a relational Church.

The relationships that we are apart of affect every part of our being, and it is because of this that it is necessary to cultivate authentic relationships. Think about our friends – the people who understand us most in the world, and the people who we can be completely ourselves around. We feel so completely free around them because we are not afraid to ask for help when we need it, to love, and to be loved. Although we cannot be best friends with everyone, what we can do is enter into every relationship, big or small, with the Gospel mindset of authenticity and love.

Just as the earliest apostles spread the Church by proclaiming the love of the Father, we will fulfill our mission of proclaiming the love of the Father by forming authentic relationships with one another. Simply put, we cannot do it on our own. Each and every relationship we form needs the solid foundation of love, authenticity, and Christ Himself. Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans says, “For from Him, and through Him, and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever” (Romans 11:36). If everything we do is from, through, and for Him – then the relationships we form should be authentic and fearless. At its core, the Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. We need each other to confront the culture, to spread the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ, and to grow in relationship with God our loving Father. It is a truth of Scripture that we need each other to grow in authentic relationships, and ultimately to grow in holiness.

We are called to fearlessly form these relationships – to reach out to others, and to build the relational Church by our words and actions. So let us pray for the grace to live this with our lives – to make eye contact with each other and not our cell phones, to have the cultural standard be a real conversation instead of a fleeting text, and to affirm each other of our God-given worth by authentic relationships. After all, there is nothing to be afraid of.

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About the blogger: Hailing from Minnesota, Lauren Scharmer is a senior at the Catholic University of America studying Social Work and Theology. Her current apostolate is bringing Midwestern hospitality to everyone she meets through her work with retreats and youth ministry on the east coast. She has a love for goldfish crackers, making loud noises in quiet chapels, short naps, and a good twitter hashtag (follow her @LaurenScharmer).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

3 Lessons and 2 Tips from Edmund Mitchell.

Edmund Mitchell and the fam!

3 Lessons and 2 Tips is a series of interviews in which some of my favorite people (and probably some of yours) share three lessons they've learned by being married, plus two tips for single people.

This edition features Edmund Mitchell, a writer, speaker, and founder of ReverbCulture.com, a community of young adults living the Catechism. He writes about obsessions at edmundmitchell.com and writes and podcasts more formally at Reverb Culture. Excited he agreed to share some lessons and some tips:

AS: How did you meet your wife?

EM: This attractive girl who was a friend of a friend but whom I had never met sat down with us for dinner in the cafeteria junior year of college:

"Danielle, nice to meet you."
"I'm Edmund. Where are you from?"
"Texas"
"Oh." (trying to be interested in her and also trying to make a joke) "So, do you own a gun?"
[Awkward silence]
The rest is history.

I was and still am attracted to Danielle because she intimidates and challenges me, she is confident about what she stands for, and she is a softy like me deep down. Plus she's gorgeous and fun to be around. She also needs me to make her laugh. (We were married on) May 28, 2011.

AS: What's one lesson you've learned in marriage?

EM: Some things you can never take back once you've said them. You can apologize until you are blue in the face, but you can't go back in time and ctrl+z what was said.

AS: And a second lesson?

EM: If you don't schedule it on the calendar, it's not real. As a youth minister, this was a hard lesson to learn. Time management becomes huge when another person is counting on you to get your crap done and spend time with them. It also matters because you can go two years thinking "I really want us to start going on more dates soon" and never actually get around to doing it. If you don't schedule your day/week/month out beforehand, someone or something else will schedule it for you. If you start the month off by marking down Tuesday as date night or Friday as sit-down-and-talk-finances night, you are 200 times more likely to get it done.

AS: And a third lesson?

EM: Another time management tip I learned the hard way. (Can you tell I struggled with this?) Youth ministers shouldn't work more than 50 hours a week. Period. No excuses. Parkinson's Law says "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

I'm a lot more productive when I say I MUST leave the office today by 3 p.m. than when I say "I have so much to do; once I get enough done, I'll go home." That's why Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, goes home at 5:30 every day.

With whatever job you do, set boundaries for the various sectors of your life. "I should be spending no less than X amount of time with my family. I should be spending no more than X amount of time at work. I should be spending X amount of time praying. I should be spending X amount of time doing something for myself that recharges me." My marriage got a lot healthier and more fun once I set boundaries.

AS: What's one tip you've got for single people?

EM: Don't put so much pressure on yourself to date and make that relationship work. Date lots of people. Don't call it dating. Just go out for coffee with a guy/girl and get to know him or her better. Vocations grow out of a slow building of intimacy and trust. The ideal situation is that a vocation to marriage would gradually and naturally grow out of a friendship. No "Will you be my girlfriend? Check YES or NO" letters. No pressure of "Are we dating? Are we exclusive? Do I smell?" Be yourself because you can't keep up a charade for long in a marriage. Then pay attention to who sticks around, who brings out the best in you, and if you can see yourself marrying (laying your life down for) that person.

AS: And another tip for singles?

EM: When you're discerning marriage with somebody, talk about the hard stuff early and lay down a foundational understanding that marriage will be hard and a long process of growth for both of you. You're in this for the long haul and sometimes you might feel like the only thing keeping you going is the fact that you made a promise to God to stick with this person no matter how much bleeding and tears it takes. Your marriage is God's way of bringing a concrete example of unconditional love into the world. It's also the only way you will become a saint (if marriage is your vocation). Don't be a jerk, because you're not perfect either and God should have stopped loving you a long time ago. Good thing His idea of love and mercy is bigger than our own. As my Dad once said: "There isn't THE book you can read to solve all your marriage problems or help you have the perfect marriage. You write that book as you go." The cool part he left out is that God helps you write it.

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Connect with Edmund on Twitter @EdmundMitchell.

Click here to read all the posts in this series.