Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Amen!

Four years ago today, I married the love of my life.

It's been quite a ride.  We've had ups and downs.  We've been tested, we've been blessed.

It's been amazing and I wouldn't trade a minute of it for the world.  I'm blessed beyond measure to have such a wonderful man who makes me smile, laugh, crazy mad, holds me up and keeps me grounded.  I truly thank God for sending this guy to my life.

Happy Anniversary, baby.  I love you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Basic Human Need

Let’s talk about a basic human need:  food.

What is your favorite food to eat?  Maybe you have a sweet tooth and a warm fudgy brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce is what tempts you.  Or, perhaps you prefer something a bit more savory like a big plate of nachos with smooth, melted cheese, fiery jalapeño peppers and olives just salty enough to remind you to drink that ice-cold glass of soda sweating on the table next to you.  Is it succulent fresh lobster tail dripping with hot, melted butter?  Is it a thick, juicy filet mignon seasoned to perfection?

We are attracted to foods because they’re tasty.  Probably, at least one of the foods described above sounds delicious to you and may have made your mouth water just thinking about it.

What happens if a person decides that he will only consume foods that taste good?  What if he decides that from now on he will only eat for pleasure - whatever tastes best to him? It won’t be long before he will start to suffer the ill effects of his decision.  He may become deficient in vital nutrients and his health may suffer; he may find he has less energy to do the things he needs to do; he may find it difficult to concentrate or focus on tasks.  But why has this happened?  Food is meant to taste good; there is nothing wrong with finding pleasure in eating.  So what’s wrong with only eating foods that he finds delicious?

What’s wrong is he forgot the other vital purpose of food.  Its nutritive qualities.

Food also supplies the fuel the body needs to sustain us in our daily lives.  Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are all important components in our food.    In fact, in order for our bodies to function optimally, we have to get enough of everything, but not too much of any one thing.

Because we know that food has nutritional value, most of us eat more than just brownies and lobster.  We also eat our steamed vegetables, our grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts, our apple or orange for a snack.  And because man does not live on whole grain bread alone, we allow ourselves to enjoy an ice cream cone on a hot, summer evening, knowing that it is appropriate to enjoy our food as well as to get nutritional value from it.

Sexual intercourse also has two purposes.  It is both unitive and procreative.  Is it any wonder that, much like with food, when we divorce ourselves from one of its purposes we suffer harmful consequences?

Today’s contraceptive culture has told people that they can engage in the unitive aspect of sex while insulating themselves from the procreative aspect of it.  The hook-up culture goes a step further than that even by telling people that they can have all the fun of sex, without any commitment whatsoever to their sexual partner and, of course, without the commitment to any lives that may be created in the process.  What has been the result of these messages? 


The pain of a broken heart when a girl finds that he was only after one thing.  The pain of a vaccination against a disease that could have been prevented by abstinence until marriage.  The pain of an STD that has robbed a couple of their fertility.  The pain of a child being raised in poverty because his mother can’t identify his father.  The pain of lost self-esteem when a person’s been used time and time again for another’s pleasure.

For a moment, consider the other extreme.  What results when couples focus only on the procreative aspects of sex? Sadly, the outcome is more pain.

The pain of a couple who has forgotten how to enjoy each other in their quest to have a child.  The pain of invasive and dehumanizing medical procedures meant to produce a child at any cost.  The pain of a father working three jobs to support a family he sees only in passing.  The pain of a mother’s depression as her body struggles to keep up with the demands of pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing. 

Reject these lies that bring destruction, pain and misery to so many people!

Modern Natural Family Planning methods allow couples to enjoy both aspects of their sexuality.  NFP users recognize and are open to the possibility of life with every encounter.  Couples are encouraged to let the fruit of the Spirit flourish in their lives by practicing patience, faithfulness, gentleness and, most of all, self-control.  By embracing the natural rhythms of our bodies we enjoy both the unitive and procreative aspects of this powerful gift and bring balance to our lives and glory to our heavenly Father.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Amen Family - How It All Started (Part V)

If you thought there wasn’t much more to the story, you’re assessment would have been incorrect.

After our Thanksgiving “proposal”, we started talking about a September or October wedding.  We hadn’t firmed up any dates when Mr. Amen found out his company would be laying off his entire department anytime between March 1 and June 1.  That presented a very real problem for us.  Mr. Amen was in the US on a work visa sponsored by his company.  If he was no longer with the company he would have 30 days to leave the US.

We would have to get married much sooner than anticipated or risk him being forced out of the country.  If forced out, we would have to apply for a “fiancé visa” which would allow him to enter the country for the purpose of getting married.  Once grated, we would have a very short window of time during which to marry.  Then, once married, we would begin the long paperwork process to get him an Emp.loyment Auth.orization Doc.ument so he could work, and even longer to get a “greencard.”  When I returned to work after getting engaged, all the ladies asked when we were getting married.  They were shocked by the answer and suspected I was pregnant (ummm…NO!).

Three weeks after our official engagement, we were legally married.  Only 8 people other than us and the mayor were at that ceremony (my mom, dad, sister, brother and sister-in-law, Mr. Amen’s mom and aunt, and his best man). 

Immediately we began all the immigration paperwork to get his greencard and we received it in record time!  The actual immigration interview was not at all like in the movies.  We were super nervous and thought that we might be at a disadvantage going into the interview because we hadn’t lived together.  In reality, the interview was pretty short, they asked how we met, about our wedding, asked to see pictures of the wedding and asked us to identify the people in the pictures.  The “defining moment” came when the interviewer asked Mr. Amen for my birthdate.  I snapped my head to look at him with a look on my face that said, “You better get this right.  That was what she wanted to see…that head snap told her that we were a real couple.

We explained the situation to the Deacon that was to officiate our church wedding; he was very understanding and said this type of thing happened all the time.

That Memorial Day weekend I traveled to Oklahoma to pack up Mr. Amen’s apartment and move him up to Michigan.  He was laid off from his company on June 1st.  He moved right into the apartment where we would live after we were really married in God’s eyes.  Our wedding went off, without a hitch on June 30, 2007.

And, that, my friends, is how the Amen Family started.

Friday, June 3, 2011

7 Quick Takes (2)

A friend of a friend did an IQ & personality assessment on Junior last weekend.  It’s for his graduate studies and we won’t actually get the results, but I still think it’s good practice for when Junior takes a real one.  We realized we need to make sure he knows the English & Spanish words for things.  Whoops!

I stood up for our parenting choices to my own parents.  It was difficult to tell my dad to “butt out”, but it took our relationship to a whole new level.  I think he respects me more as an adult now.

I use a meal-prep place to prepare the vast majority of our dinners.  Even though it is more expensive than if I shopped on my own, what it saves me in time makes it worth it.  Additionally, we eat a greater variety of foods than I would normally choose on my own.  (Chicken again, anyone?)

Let the house hunt begin!  We are finally looking for a house again and hopefully we will get moved in before the summer is over!

My great-Aunt passed away on Monday.  She was very old and it was not entirely unexpected, but she has been the matriarch of the family for as long as I can remember.  I’m sad she’s gone, but know she’s at peace with our Lord.  My family will remember her for years and years to come.  She was the keeper of our Belgian family’s Lukken recipe and had passed it on to my mom and me many years ago.  Aunt Jen always made the best Lukken and I know I’ll tell my child(ren) where the recipe came from.

Fun with blood draws…where to start?!?  Had 2 this week.  Looking forward to more in a couple weeks.  My veins are terrible.  No matter how much water I drink in the days leading up to a blood draw, it never seems to plump up my veins or make my blood run any thinner.  It’s like syrup filling the vials. 

We are going to a “family picnic” at Manresa, a retreat center near where we live here in Michigan.  They are having mass at 2pm followed by a picnic on the grounds.  I’m so excited!!

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Try It This Weekend Thursday - Blue Cheese Coleslaw

There’s nothing better than icy cold coleslaw to go with anything off the grill.  There’s as many versions of coleslaw as there are families in our great country.  Some like a creamy coleslaw, some like a vinaigrette style coleslaw.  I have to say I fall firmly in the creamy coleslaw camp.  There’s a great little Coney place in this area that has delicious, tangy and sweet slaw that I just can’t seem to replicate.   So one day, when I was craving blue cheese, I came across a recipe for blue cheese coleslaw and just had to try it.  Well, it turned out to be a lot of work, so if I ever wanted to have it again, I had to modify the recipe to make it faster and easier to make.  Here’s the result of my experimentation:

2 one pound bags of coleslaw mix (with the bags of lettuce in the vegetable section)
2 cups mayonnaise (16 oz.)
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 T. whole grain mustard
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 t. celery salt
½ t. kosher salt
½ t. black pepper
1 ½ cups crumbled Roquefort blue cheese (6 oz.)

In a large bowl, empty both bags of coleslaw mix.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, both mustards, vinegar, celery salt, kosher salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the coleslaw mix and toss to moisten well.  Add crumbled blue cheese and toss together.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld together.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

A few tips about this recipe: 

1)    You can make your own coleslaw mix if you don’t want to buy it by using a food processor or mandolin to slice ½ head of green cabbage, ½ head of red cabbage and 4 large carrots. 
2)    I have trouble finding plain whole grain mustard at my grocery store, so I use a fancy whole grain mustard with garlic.  Really, everything is better with garlic anyhow. 
3)    If you don’t keep kosher salt on-hand, you can use regular table salt, but I would recommend decreasing the amount to slightly less than ½ teaspoon…you might find it too salty otherwise (remember, you can always add more salt to suit your taste, you can’t take it out!). 
4)    Lastly, when you first mix the dressing with the coleslaw mix, it doesn’t look very creamy, in fact, it may look barely moistened, but have patience, by the time you get it out of the refrigerator to serve, it’ll be very creamy.