A Couple of Catholics

A blog about faith, intentional living and the joys and struggles of married life.

Category: Everything Else

Lent Giveaway: Win A Copy of “Rediscover Jesus” & Mystic Monk Coffee

Here we are, just shy of two weeks from Ash Wednesday. Alas, Lent has snuck up on us again!

Now comes the spirit of sacrifice, but as we prepare for this Lent let us remember it isn’t just about giving up candy, coffee or Facebook. It’s about moving beyond our own imperfections and sin and recommitting ourselves to the Lord. It’s about conversion.

The Church has summed this up nicely by encouraging us to redirect ourselves to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Over the years (at least in my own life) I regret to say that this season has often been watered down to “giving up candy.”

Still every year I recommit myself with a new fervor to truly growing closer to Christ and becoming more of the woman He desires me to be. That being said, I may begin on Ash Wednesday with all sorts of pious ideas and then about ten-ish days later I find myself struggling…doing the bare minimum of what I can and going through the motions.

But not this Lent!

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Top 13 moments from 2013

I love New Years. It’s a time to reminisce on the past and reflect on how you’ve grown. It’s an opportunity to dream, hope and resolve for a better self…a better future. It’s a fresh start, and no matter who you are we can all use those from time to time.

As 2013 draws to a close, Patrick and I have reflected on what this year has meant to us… as a couple and individuals. So here it is the top 13 from 2013.

1. We got married!

Nicole says: While most of this year was spent in the whirlwind that is wedding planning on November 23rd we made it official.

Pat says: WOOHOO, we finally made it! I married such a beautiful bride. I am so thankful to be done with engagement… it was like purgatory.

2. Honeymooning in Italy – We met the Pope…and then took a selfie.

Nicole says: As if getting married and enjoying a honeymoon in Italy wasn’t enough of a blessing, thanks to the Archdiocese of Kansas City Kansas Pat an I were fortunately able to attend a Wednesday audience with Pope Francis and afterwards we were able to meet him. YES, we met the Pope–a life goal checked off my list.

Pat says: This was an amazing trip. Between the food, the sites, the spiritual journey and my travel partner, I feel so blessed. I look forward to posting more Italy photos online soon.

3. We started a blog

Given that you are on our site right now, we’re guessing you know this. We’re only a year into this endeavor and so far it has been a fun way for us to recount our experiences as a couple and share them with you. We hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with us. Here are a few of our recommended posts:

We often post on Twitter too. You’re welcome to follow us!

4. HuffPost Interview

Pat says: Ok, so this was completely unexpected. I got an email from one of the editors from HuffPost LIVE (Huffington Post’s  live-streaming network) and before I knew it we we’re being interview about our choice not to live together before marriage.

SEE: A recap of our Interview with HuffPost LIVE 

5. Moving in together

Nicole says: While we didn’t live together before marriage, we did start going through all our things and got settled into our new house where I lived until the wedding. Safe to say that the majority of my summer was spent cleaning, sorting and organizing our new home…every teacher’s dream for the summer months. 🙂 Also, I can’t forget the many trips to drop off car loads of donations at our neighborhood thrift store.

Pat says: I am so thankful to not be driving home to my parents house each night! I feel like multiple people told me it would be a big adjustment, but honestly I just feel like I am living with my best friend and get to come home to her all the time. Can’t wait to get into a routine now that we are back from Italy.

6. Retreats and Reflections

Pat says: I had an amazing time at a men’s retreat with a Catholic Community up in Minnesota. It was a great reminder that we as men are called to be fathers and imitate God the Father. We were made in His image and we act like The Father by providing and bringing people to the Lord.

7. We’ve kept Hallmark in business

Pat says: Nicole and I love cards (especially our hometown company Hallmark). We love finding unique cards for our friends and family. Also, Nicole and I exchange cards often. However, this year in particular had some gems (especially since we could count down till the wedding). Watch this singing birthday card Nicole got me!

8. Pat STILL didn’t join a gym

Pat says: I know, I know… (thanks for calling me out Nicole!!) Unfortunately this year I did not keep up with my Insanity workout routine like I planned. At least now we can save money with a YMCA family pass. Look for an update on this in 2014.

9. The year of transition (a.k.a. weddings and babies)

Nicole says: Without a doubt, this year will be known as the year of transitions. The transition to engagement and newlywed life was obviously at the forefront for us both. However, for me the transition of moving back to KC, starting a new job and graduate school cannot be overlooked. Aside from the transitions in our own lives, some of those closest to us were experiencing their own transitions as well from weddings to babies and sometimes both.

10. Partying with family and friends

Nicole says: No doubt marrying Pat was wonderful, but truth be told my favorite part of the wedding weekend was spending time with all our family and friends. There is something so humbling in the knowledge that all these people, from all different aspects and eras of our lives came together to celebrate our entrance into this lifelong vocation. Words could not begin to describe my appreciation for each and every one of those people.

11. We traveled

Nicole says: We really got around this year. Here is a short list of places we were lucky enough to visit together. Chicago, IL, Houston, TX, Atchison, KS, Lincoln, NE,  and of course Italy (Rome, Umbria, Tuscany, Assisi, Siena and Venice).

Pat says: I also did a whirlwind tour for work including Memphis, TN, Boston, MA (for the 2013 Catholic New Media Conference), Austin, TX, Marianna, AR, Los Angeles, CA.

12. We started learning and using NFP

Nicole says: It has been a journey for sure and they weren’t kidding when they told us it would be difficult. Difficulties aside I can without a doubt see the benefits of using NFP as opposed to any other form of family planning. It is giving me a deeper appreciation for my husband and is teaching me how to love him WELL. While it isn’t a cake walk, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

13. The continual rise of online entertainment

Pat says: It’s no surprise that this year brought a slew of new online hits. We learned what the Fox says, heard inspiring messages from Kid President, saw Taylor Swift do a duet with some goats and many other Internet sensations. I hope that the New Year brings with it a fresh crop of videos with higher standards than twerking and the Harlem Shake. So I thought that this baby joyriding on a Roomba is probably the best way to end 2013… and it is ever-so-appropriately set to the 2006 hit “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire.

We look forward to sharing another great year with you. So many good things to come. God bless and have a Happy New Year!

Living Your Strengths with Gallup’s StrengthsFinder

I was introduced to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder in 2004. At the time didn’t think much of it, except that it was just another personality test. Nearly eight years would pass before I would revisit this. Once I did take the time to understand more about this motivational tool it changed my whole perspective on things; the way I view myself, the way I relate to others and most importantly the way I approach God.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Strengths, allow me to give you a brief rundown.

What it is?

StrengthsFinder is an online assessment that pinpoints a person’s five most dominant talents from a list of 35 traits which research has shown are common among all types of people from every different age, race, socioeconomic and generational group. Each of these talents carries with it an action item that aids both personal and professional development. The entire purpose of StrenghtsFinder is not only to supply you with a better knowledge of yourself, but in addition gives you the tools to turn your talents into strengths.

What it isn’t?

StrengthsQuest is not simply another personality test, not if it is implemented correctly anyway. While it does measure a person’s typical characteristics, it allows its participants to actively engage in exercises that will help in their overall growth.

How to use Strengths for ones self

Knowledge of my own strengths has obviously impacted me, but before I delve any deeper into this it is important I first explain my top five. These are the talents that StrengthsFinder has found to be the five areas where I hold the most potential in order of it’s….

Achiever – I take great pride and satisfaction from working hard and being productive.

Focused – I can choose a direction or goal and follow it through to the end.

Learner – I have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve which is probably why I am so intrigued with Strengths.

Command – I have presence (or so I’m told). I can easily take control of a situation and make decisions.

Significance – I am independent (just ask my parents) and want my accomplishments to be valued.

StrengthsFinder has given me tools that I lacked before. It has allowed me to become less critical of myself. There is power in knowing who you are, and who you’re not. I know the areas in which I am already talented. This knowledge allows me to particularly tap into those talents. I am blessed with a natural skill in that area, so why not maximize it?

On the opposite hand, I am able to rest in the fact that there are just some things I am not as good at. That is not to say I couldn’t grow in any given area or another, but simply recognizes my weaknesses. The upside of this is that because I am aware of my talents, I can leverage these to grow in other areas.

How to apply Strengths with others

By understanding where other people’s talent lie I am able to better relate to them. Rather than working against another’s Strengths or trying to mold them into someone they aren’t I am able to more clearly see them for who they are. I am able to team up alongside them, allowing them the opportunity to tap into their own potential, while I can focus on what I can do well.

Take for example Pat’s top five:

Empathy – People with Empathy can easily sense the feelings of other people and relate to them in that experience.

Strategic – People who are especially talented in this theme create alternative ways to proceed when obstacles arise.

Ideation – People with talent in this area are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Connectedness – Those with talent in this theme have faith in the links between all things. There are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

Communication – Those with a talent in communication find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

Insight into this aspect of him has helped me to appreciate that not everyone is like me. I know that sounds so simple and elementary, but honestly take a moment to think about how many times in the last 24 hours you’ve been annoyed that someone close to you has handled a situation in a slightly different way than you would have.

Anyone living in close quarters can attest that this happens all the time. We ruffle each other’s feathers. Knowledge of another person’s Strengths helps me to recognize the positive aspects of personality quirks that would be otherwise annoying to me. It ultimately helps me love others better, allowing them opportunities to apply their strengths in any given situation.

Our relationship with God

Last but not least, knowledge of my own Strengths has shaped the way I approach God. This knowledge of myself has helped me to better know my Creator; who He is and what He is about. He is the One who has given me these talents, and He is the perfection of my talents.

In addition to this, an awareness of my talents has helped me pinpoint spiritual capabilities as well as my temptations. I am able to concretely grasp significant points of my personality and bring these traits before the Lord, allowing Him to work with me through them.


Here is my crash course in understanding your Strengths. I recently presented this to the Gregorian Fellows at Benedictine College.

Leading With Your Strengths – Crash Course in Gallup StrengthsFinder


Want to learn more?

Check out the following books: StrengthsFinder 2.0, Strengths Based Leadership, Living Your Strengths


DIY Project: Facelift for any lamp

Summer is the time for DIY projects. This week I gave one of my treasured thrift store lamps a facelift. It’s an easy project even the most novice of crafters, and it saved me buying a new lamp. In fact the total cost ran me less than 20 bucks. So here is how you too can spruce up any old lamp.

 Supplies Needed:

  • Yarn
  • Glue Gun
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Spray Paint + Primer

Step One:

Pick out whatever colors of yarn you like, I would recommend at least two or three colors. Decide on a pattern you want to do and if you are a newbie to this stick with something simple. Use a hot glue gun to adhere yarn to lampshade.lampshade

Note: Patience my friend, this is the most time-consuming part of the project. Go slow and don’t rush it. You want it to look nice in the end don’t you?

Step Two:

Make sure to clean off lamp stand before you begin any painting or priming. Usually I would recommend using separate primer before you even begin painting, but with a piece this small a combined paint and primer worked just fine.

Tape off any parts of the lamp stand you see fit.


Step Three:

Spray paint to your little hearts content or until you have finished covering the lamp stand. Wait to dry and voila!

Be a Great Teacher: 7 Tips for a New Teacher

As I am now over half-way through my first year of teaching, I reflect back to some of the best teaching advice I’ve received so far. Middle school can be a treacherous age as students sift through hormones and changing bodies toward adulthood, but let’s not forget those blessed souls who are courageous enough to teach them. I am among this crazy breed of people who have chosen this avenue as my life’s work. I don’t just want to be another average educator. I’m striving to be a great teacher. So here it is…some of the best tips I’ve received so far on how to be a great teacher. The following tips are from the brave men and women who have gone before me in this wacky career called teaching.

1. All great teachers cried a lot their first year.

Well, that is good to know considering I had emotional breakdowns on average once to twice a week. Don’t believe me. I’m sure that Pat would be more than happy to vouch for me on this one. While I have become slightly more in control of my outbursts this semester, they still seem to creep up much more often than they did at any other phase of my life.

2. Great teachers realize it matters, but it doesn’t really matter.

Let’s be real here people. I am making a difference, but the beginning and end of these kids’ lives are not hinged on my teaching skills or lack thereof. Yes, what I am teaching (religion) matters and it is important that the students learn. That being said, I have quickly realized that I am not going to reach all of them no matter how hard I try.  I will drive my fragile little soul to madness before I am able to successfully engage each and every one of my 150 students in each and every single one of my lessons.

Even so, if I can engage each student once or twice this year and get them to question/think about issues they never have before than job well done. The best I can do is the best I can do and somehow I will need to learn to be okay with that.

3.  Great teachers are not faint of heart.

We can’t expect everyone to get why we have chosen to pour our heart and soul into this profession and these kids. In fact, it sometimes takes a conscious decision not to scream at someone who tells me, “Oh you’re a teacher, must be nice to get off work at 3:30 and have summer vacations.” If they only knew the strife and personal turmoil teachers go through for their students. My personal favorite summation of teaching is as follows:

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”

4. Great teachers never quit.

Top Catholic teaching tipsSomeone once told me “don’t even consider leaving education until you’ve been in it for at least three years.” I would be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind once or twice in the past five months. At the same time I realize that anything worth doing takes some effort and hard work. To be a great teacher it is going to take at least a few years just to get the hang of all that teaching entails: managing a classroom, getting comfortable with the curriculum, planning engaging lessons, etc. So until I really feel like I’ve hit my stride I won’t even consider leaving this profession. Plus, if the looming cloud of $20k in graduate school loans for a degree in education doesn’t motivate one to continue in a profession I don’t know what does.

5.  Great teachers don’t take it personally.

Kids can be cruel. We all can recall back to childhood days of being picked on and teased on the playground, while my students don’t pick on me (at least not to my face) they have done and said things that at times really can cut deep…probably without even realizing it. So although it may be easy for me to get focused on hurt feelings, I must remember that I am the adult in this situation and sometimes being the adult means sacrificing my wounded pride and brushing it off…even if only for appearances. More often than not the kids don’t realize how much their words or behaviors can hurt another (even a teacher). So hike up your big-girl pants, princess and move on.

6.  Great teachers enjoy the awkward.

This may not necessarily apply to all teachers, but anyone who has ever taught middle school knows how true this is. Adolescence is an awkward age to say the least. Students may come in late and grumbling under their breath about you one day, then tell you that you are their favorite teacher the next. Just the other day in fact I had a student asking me to be his valentine and showing his affection by giving me a ring pop ring…yes I am serious. While this sort of uncontained ball of hormones may intimidate some, those who are truly called to this line of work learn to sit back and enjoy the free entertainment.

7.  Great teachers love the kids.

I’ve only failed if I’ve failed to love the kids. This is so true. The students aren’t going to remember me for how much I taught them, but rather how much I loved them. Lord, may each student who walks into my classroom feel important, loved and respected by me.

Well, there it is the best I’ve got so far. I learn more and more about these students and this profession everyday, may I always keep a spirit of learning and humility for as long as I teach.

Got any other advice for a first year teacher? Post them in the comments below.


Hello world: So now we have a blog

I have recently found myself at a point of many new beginnings. In the last year alone I have begun my career as a teacher, started graduate school and most recently we have gotten engaged. So amid the craziness of all these wonderful new ventures Pat and I figured why not start a blog.

While many might look on and think we are crazy, this is actually quite typical for the two of us. My life mantra specifically seems to go something like this; “jump in head first and figure out the details later.”

I can’t decide if this is due to my pure excitement and enthusiasm about taking on something new or if it is just my pride at work presuming that I can handle it all. My guess is probably a little bit of both. Either way, we figured with so many new and exciting things happening why not a blog too.

We debated long and hard about what exactly to name this beloved blog of ours. Pat being the marketing and social media guru, of course, wanted it to be just perfect while I on the other hand just wanted to get it started already. Quite telling of both our personalities if you ask me.

After months of brainstorming, we finally agreed on “A Couple of Catholics”. This blog not only highlights what is important to us, namely God and our faith but also who we are, a couple embarking upon plenty of new journeys together. We look forward to sharing our lives with you from the daily joys and struggles of life as a young couple to absolute ridiculous happenings during the day to day grind.

We don’t have it all figured out… not even close. God has been so good to us. We hope this will be a place that inspires, challenges, comforts and never ceases to entertain you. We are so blessed.

Pat Padley & Nicole Benner