Author Archives: TallRayofSunshine

What Are You Looking For?

About 10 years ago, the concept of listing out what I wanted in a future spouse was introduced to me and like an obedient girl, I started my list.

A few years later when sifting through my life in therapy, I was told that I didn’t know what I was looking for in a spouse. Au contraire! I had my list! I showed it to my mentor/friend Katharine.

“Laura, you wrote the Proverbs 31 for men! This is completely unrealistic. And it says nothing about real things you want in a husband.”**

Me: “I did?”Gold pen with signature

Yet, not to leave me hanging, Katharine helped me pare down my page-long list to 3 columns. She guided me through selecting traits (physical, character, spiritual, personality, even how he spends his leisure time) into three categories:

  • Non-negotiable
  • Really want
  • Bonus!

One thing that has contributed to “success” is that my list is short; I think I have less than 15 items between all three categories. I’m also guided in my conversation on first dates by having “The List” in the back of my head. For example, I hate doing taxes due to a traumatic experience with them in college. Thus, I want my husband to be financially sound. On dates, I’m not shy to ask questions related to money and saving – while I don’t ask about his debt, savings, or salary, I am able to guide the conversation in order to ascertain his attitude towards retirement savings, budgeting, and financial management which let me know if I even want to keep considering spending time with him.

Depending on how long you’re in dating land, the list might need tweaking as years pass.  A small part of me dies when I look at “4 kids” in one column. It’s good to think about the number of kids you want (even if the number is zero), but being 30 with few prospects makes me less optimistic towards that original number as I’ve lost those years of childbearing/child-rearing. Also, “ministry group” had a specific meaning in my Protestant days; not so much in Ortho-world.

Here’s my suggestion, Ladies and Gents: write down what you want in a spouse. Be specific, even painfully and stupidly specific. Hair color. Ethnicity. Quirks. Height. Interests. This is your list. It might be longer than my 12-15 items, but if that’s what you need, do it. Then go through the list and pick out the “Absolutely, 100% MUST HAVE” for column A. Go through and pick the “I would REALLY WANT” items. Everything else is in “BONUS” – column C. You must have at least one criterion in each column, and it’s best to do this when you don’t have a specific object-of-your-affection in mind.

It’s frustrating to be in The Land of Few Prospects or The Land of Not-Right-Now and even The Land of Everyone-Else-Is-Married. The last 6 to 7 years of my dating adventures have been a little easier thanks to my list – if something doesn’t feel right on a date or in a relationship, generally one of the criterion in my first column isn’t present. And knowing what you’re looking for helps you not be distracted with Mr. Not-for-you-but-definitely-single no matter how great his personality.

**It has come to my attention that cradles or non-Protestant converts in the Ortho-world have not heard of the Proverbs 31 standard for choosing a wife. Proverbs 31:10-31 is an Old Testament passage describing a virtuous woman/wife. Some women, especially Protestants, feel it an unattainable standard held over their heads while wife-seeking men can never find their “P-31 woman”. It was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Proverbs 31 is an allegory for the Church and Christ. Yay, Protestant literalism!

Categories: Articles, Words of wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

What’s on the Outside

In trying to make this a linkage post, it became apparent in assembling links that fashion advice is something that should be tailored to you, given directly, and not attained through internet tests and algorithms.

That being said, the following are some tidbits of fashion that have benefited the Orthogals. Spending a little time and money BEFORE your next shopping trip can make it less stressful, in that focusing your search for clothing or make-up that actually suits you will save time and energy.

1. Before you buy or toss anything, find an Image Consultant or Personal Stylist, or two or three.

Image consultants can help you with a variety of fashion and image advice. Your image consultant does not need to be certified or a member of an image consulting association. What they should provide is teaching and resources so you can shop with confidence while working with your comfort and style preferences.

Finding one is simple as a Google search of “Image consultant” and your nearest metro area. Look at their specialties and interview a few. Can’t afford it by yourself? Suggest to family and friends that you’d like a consultation as a birthday or Christmas gift. Your family and friends want to see your confidence grow, so don’t be shy in asking.

2. What area(s) do you want help with?

Body type —  How do you minimize “flaws” and accentuate assets? Do you have a “balanced” figure or are you longer in the torso or legs? Always wonder why certain sleeves or collars look great on some but not on you? The right cut of clothing is one of the best ways to start!

Colors — Clothing and/or make-up. Choosing the correct color is key when wanting to project certain images. Some days at work you need to appear approachable, others powerful. A color consult can help you achieve those goals, and more importantly, help you avoid colors that make you look ill and sickly. Whether the consultant labels you according to a season or color palette (soft/clear, warm/cool, deep/light), knowing your parameters is actually freeing. Want ideas on where to start? Check out this analysis or the book Color Me Beautiful.

Wardrobe — Some image consultants will come to your closet or have you bring your closet to them; they can also go shopping with or for you. Think the show “What Not To Wear.” Hopefully, none of us qualify to have our entire closet trashed.

There are a variety of other consults you can choose depending on your preferences and needs.

3. Consider the minimalist or capsule wardrobe.

Once you know what flatters your shape and colors, clean out your closet! But before you try to find replacements of everything you throw out, might I suggest the capsule wardrobe. A minimalist wardrobe, if you will.  The blog “Un-fancy” and others similar to it have been very helpful. Read the About page. Makes sense for people who are living in the secular world and working out their salvation. There are thousands of other blogs, blog posts, and Pinterest pins on this.

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It’s an Ortho-baby!

Announcing the arrival of Ortho-baby: Lydia Elizabeth on October 22, 2015.


On the evening of her 8th day, Lydia was officially given her name, being named after the Holy New-martyr Lydia (1928), commemorated Jul. 20/Aug. 2. While Lydia’s patron’s commemoration won’t displace the Holy Prophet Elijah, whose day she falls on, her Name’s Day will always be the Sunday of the New Martyrs of Russia (Sunday nearest Jan. 25/Feb. 7).


Glory to God for a safe delivery and the blessing of new life.


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Dear Middle School Me

I found this open letter on Facebook from a friend of mine:

Dear Juniors Clothing manufacturers:

I want to punch you in the face! And then when you hold your hands to your broken bloody nose I am going to knee you in the nuts! Why am I spewing these threats through clenched teeth? You made my little girl cry, more importantly, you made my little girl feel ugly and fat and that is unacceptable! And I just can’t tolerate the way you treat her anymore!

My 10 year old baby girl was tearing up because you make your t-shirts so d–n small at the waistline she can’t even fit in an XL Junior. I am not saying that she is a little thing but I find it ironic she can fit into a girls’ size 16 or a boy’s junior small but can’t fit into any girl junior sizes. Why the size differences? In theory the sizes should get bigger the higher the age range, but not with your products for girls.

You’ve made the decision to only make paper thin t-shirts with waistlines made for people who have had their last two ribs removed. What the h–l is wrong with you! I swear the hypocrisy is just too much. You make your sizes so small and then use these stick thin girls to model them. And yet somehow you are amazed that our girls have eating disorders and other body shaming image issues.

Your stupid shirts undid hours of me telling my girl she is perfect the way she is, that she is beautiful, that she is not too this or too that! She is lucky; she has a mother to tell her that the fashion industry is unrealistic, that there must have been a mistake in manufacturing and the sizes are wrong, or whatever excuse I can think of to make her understand that the fault is not in her “real girl” body but in your product!

So if you see me coming down the street, you better change sides or go in a different direction fast because I am going to kick the crap out of you.


Mother of a 10 year old girl with a “real” body

The struggle is real, and I remember being that girl. I am already wondering about the future when I will likely be that mom. I can’t change the fashion industry. I can only talk to the girls who have felt or currently feel the same way:

Dear Middle School Me,

Your mother is not frustrated with you. She loves you and wants to see all the potential you have unfold. The anger she is showing you in that fitting room isn’t at you, it’s at the industry who is telling you there are ideal body types and personalities.

Ready-to-wear clothes are cheap because there isn’t much customization. People used to make their clothes tailored to their bodies – that was the only way to do it. So today we have to conform to some standard silhouettes, which are mostly made with a woman with no boobs or hips or belly in mind. It’s just much easier/cheaper for clothing manufacturers to not worry about making clothing for the average woman’s body.

I remember being 10, 12, 16, 18, and 22-years old in fitting rooms. I remember those tears and the dread that back-to-school shopping brought. Trying any number of styles and colors in the hopes that one of them would finally be right for my body. And I remember not being able to accept the truth that I was more than clothes that didn’t fit.

There’s so much change right now, and not all of it is fun or easy. I completely understand that you just want to fit into something and belong. And the one thing that should fit, doesn’t — your own wardrobe. Girls begin to develop curves in their boobs, belly, or hips, but clothes that are in fashion for your age seem to ignore all these changes and demand that you be what they want and not what you are.

It’s rough. I’m sorry. I was in middle school over 20 years ago, and apparently, my tears in the fitting room are now being cried by you.

You are told before and after these shopping trips that you’re loved. That it’s not about the number. That God does not say “Oops,” and that Christ shining through makes you beautiful.

I know you WANT to believe these truths. And yes, the truth is that you are loved regardless of the body in which your spirit and soul were placed. But it’s nearly impossible to believe the truth when you can’t find a t-shirt that’s not either a sack or covers less than a swimsuit. You see other girls and women happy in their single-digit size clothing, and your rational mind is now tricked to thinking that a smaller clothing size equals happiness and joy. And when your shopping trips do nothing to negate your equation, the lies become irrefutable truths.

As you navigate these clothing battles, I do want to reiterate something — you are beautiful. If someone tells you otherwise, I hope you wonder what is hurting them that they would feel compelled to hurt you. It doesn’t take away the sting, and you are allowed to feel hurt.

Why do these manufacturers choose this cruel and unusual punishment that allow you to feel otherwise? I have no idea. There are clothes that will fit and help you feel the most “you.” You may have to look a little harder and smarter. There will probably be numbers or letters on the size tag that you don’t like, and it might not be the exact brand you want.

It’s hard in the everyday life of school and activities where competition and comparison wear away your esteem and confidence. Knowing your identity in Christ will be a process. It will be difficult to walk through and understand. Keep persevering towards the cross. Keep pursuing Christ and your salvation.

With love,

A 30-something still learning the same thing

P.S. Found this prayer from the Optina Elders; it’s a good one.

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will. For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will. Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur , let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee. Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none. Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events. Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.


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The Bachelorette

It’s still wedding season among the Orthogals’ social circle. Among other things, this means bridal showers and bachelorette parties.

The Orthogals have differing tastes ranging between coffee with friends up to salsa dancing or rock climbing. Still, we find the best bachelorette gatherings have the following characteristics: low-key, anchored by a few fun activities, guest list made up of bride’s closest girlfriends and family members from her past and present, and food and drinks that are thoughtful and not overly complicated.

Even with our differences, the one things we completely agree on is that suggestive games and decorations hinder fun rather than help. Expanding the bride-to-be’s trousseau is much different than phallic shaped name tags, favors, mints, etc. There are ways to have fun, have a few giggles, and leave the whatchamacallits at the adult store.

So, if you have been invited to or need to host a shower or bachelorette, we have a few starter ideas to do as your girlfriend begins a new chapter.


Find out a favorite treat or food of the bride (ribs? cream puffs? cucumber sandwiches?) Get that, a fruit tray, a veggie tray.

Or get a selection of desserts (i.e. at least one without chocolate) and have a hot tea, coffee, and hot chocolate bar with fancy things to stir in.

In summer, go for smoothies, ice cream (homemade, if that’s a thing for the bride), and swanky lemonades. Cold beer or frozen ‘ritas are also options.

You don’t have to go all out, and there is so much more than cake to serve.

Common themes for bridal showers:

Kitchen showers (for the bride who likes to cook or bake)

Time of day shower

Room of the house shower (both ways to have a variety of gifts and a little fun on the side!)


Painting or pottery with wine

(Laura attended one shower where everyone was asked to paint a dinner plate that would be given to the bride after kiln-firing; really fun way to socialize and bless the bride with our artwork and creativity for years to come!)

Horseback riding and a picnic

Wine trail with live concert

Board games or poker night

Fancy tea party with a famous-recipe dessert potluck

Rock climbing, kayaking, archery, etc.

Have a bonfire in the backyard, or rent a cabin together in a state park

Karaoke night

Go to a spa or have a spa-themed shower


• Have guests address their own envelopes for a thank you. Ask people to update their addresses on a separate card or have them write their address in a book that you will give as a gift to the bride.

• Throw your own shower (speaking to the bride here). Maid of Honor, bridesmaids, and friends should host; the bride can give her input for activities and provide addresses for invites.

• Invite people to a shower/the bachelorette if they aren’t invited to the wedding.

• Invite the same person to more than one shower. It’s okay if a work friend throws one shower and a bridesmaid throws another, but if you invite the same people to both it can read like a plea for extra gifts.


How To Plan A Laid-Back Bridal Shower

Chicago bridal shower

Martha Stewart guide

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When Lent is Different

Is your Lent different than others in your church? Being a convert, I had an early, and probably unhealthy, association of fasting seasons solely with food.

I’ve grown accustomed to the crowds discussing their various fasting survival skills. Some complain that they will not look at hummus or PB&Js or couscous when this is all over. Others swap bean or lentil recipes and how to make X be just as filling as the non-Lenten version.

But what if your Lenten journey looks much different than others in an outward sense? I look around coffee hour and know that there are those who are pregnant or nursing mothers. I know several who already require a gluten-free, Paleo, or other specific diets where a vegan version just can not work for the sake of their health. I know of priests who have lifted fasting requirements for those who are grieving a recent death of a loved one.

Here’s some encouragement from the Antiochian Archdiocese:

Fasting is more than not eating food. Saint John Chrysostom teaches that it is more important to fast from sin. For example, besides controlling what goes into our mouths, we must control what comes out of our mouths as well. Are our words pleasing to God, or do we curse God or our brother?

Fasting is not an end in itself. Our goal is an inner change of heart. The Lenten Fast is called “ascetic.” This refers to actions of self-denial and spiritual training which are central to fasting. (

As a convert, the emphasis on food and the equating of food with fasting was HUGE for me. Lent means going vegan for 6 weeks. I’m supposed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays because that’s what I’m supposed to do. A few years ago after overhearing a conversation among some other converts, I realized that fasting is something a catechumen or new convert can latch onto easily to “feel Orthodox.” You can’t commune, so you try a few other things to fit in, like adventures in making your own hummus. (Yes, there are multiple stories behind that comment…)

To the relief of our cradle brethren, we eventually chill and realize that fasting is not about the food. From the Orthodox Christian Information Center:

Fasting is not merely a restraining from food. During the days of the fasts, the Church sings, “While fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually…” True fasting includes deeds of Christian mercy. It is an alienation of the evil-one, a restraint of the tongue, a laying aside of anger, a cutting off of vices and an exposure of falsehood… Thus, for a Christian, fasting is a time of restraint and self-education in all respects, and a real Christian fast gives believers a great moral satisfaction. (

If fasting is about the ascetic or self-denial, it is no wonder that we have exemptions for persons in certain circumstances. What good is it for the church to demand that those with medical or dietary needs ignore what is best and be so ill that they can not pray? They are already under a rule of self-denial, even if not the diet the Church prescribed.

We just ask that before you stand next to us, please brush your teeth, especially if you had bacon.

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Scarf Options

If you are an Orthodox woman, it is highly likely that you have taken part in a discussion regarding head coverings at some point. Even among us at Orthogals, we have varied usage and type of head covering. (Discussion post forthcoming).

But what does one do with the head covering outside of the service? I see a simple knot, loop, and stuffing in a purse regularly. But I will admit, there is a wanna-be fashionista in me that would like to fancy things up every once in a while. Thus, when I found these 7+ minutes of ideas, I was rather intrigued.

So, whether you are a sometimes or always wearer in church or just want more ideas, here are a few creative ways to spice up your coffee hour or street scarves.


Categories: Articles, Linkage, Videos | 1 Comment

Mini Catechism: Liturgy

In a side-step from our usual commentary on life, we offer a brief segue into an explanation of what is happening during the Divine Liturgy. All disclaimers to varied practices are listed in the video. And for those of our readership who arrive just in time for the Gospel, you can know what happens in the first 20 minutes of Liturgy!!

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Guest Post: Dating in your 40s

Stephanie is our guest blogger today, and brings with her excitement and experience. Most of The Orthogals’  writings come from the  twenty- and thirty-something crowd, but we know that the over-forty demographic needs to be represented as well. Stef does not identify as a “typical forty-something”, but admits that her share of dating disasters should count for something. When not keeping her friends in laughing fits with her stories and animated style, she enjoys the active cultural offerings of her Midwestern college town.

I have a very robust inner third-grader.  My “i3g” generally serves me well; it’s kind of like having an internal fun magnet.  It reminds me of the mystery of how my dad can make open parking spaces magically appear in front of him, and my mom has a sixth sense of when there’s a sale in the vicinity.

Maybe my dating life would be more successful if I put my i3g on the case.  I really think I was a lot smarter when I was about eight.  The younger version of myself wouldn’t put up with some of the things that I do now, things that we are taught as adults to accept.  For one, my i3g wouldn’t go out with someone “just to be nice,” even when not interested in the other person.  She also wouldn’t spend an excessive amount of time worrying about her appearance or trying to be cool.

And let’s talk about cooties.  Your i3g knows they’re real.  When the thought “that person has cooties” goes through your mind, it means that something is creepy–a boundary has been crossed and things are not right.  The adult world might tell you that you are jumping to conclusions and that you need to override that sentiment.  But your i3g knows that things are amiss–listen to her!

Dates:  Most of the stuff that’s considered part of the standard repertoire for dates is somewhere on a continuum between stressful and boring–certainly not anything fun that brings out the best in each of you.  Or maybe the fun activities *don’t* bring out the best in my date, in which case I’d like to know that, as it would be a whole lot more helpful in getting to know someone than some contrived, artificial situation.

Here’s a quick checklist for anyone wanting to take me out:  Does it involve roller skates, bubble wrap, ice cream, animals, or bluegrass music?  Count me in.  A big no:  overpriced pretentious food, excessive air conditioning, shopping, or anybody asking me, “And now what exactly is it that you do?” in a snotty tone of voice.  I’ll make sure I need to stay home and do laundry that night.

What about gifts?  You got me flowers to show me how you feel about me.  They died within the week.  Not really, I think, what you were trying to convey.  But you found me a heart-shaped rock when you were out hiking?  This tells me you were thinking about me even when I wasn’t there.  If you catch me a frog, we’re in business.  (Especially if it’s a talking frog.  No, not one that turns into Prince Charming.  I mean a real talking frog.  That would be pretty neat.)

We should address another adult concept–the dreaded Friendzone.  Kids aren’t really concerned about this.  “So you don’t wanna be my girlfriend?”  Pause.  “Ok, how ’bout we climb trees instead?”  And everything is all good again.

I think I’ll approach dating with my i3g at the helm.  At the very least, I’ll have fun and end up with some good stories.  And maybe I’ll find someone out there with his own i3g–and no cooties.

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Katie L. is our guest writer today. She has several Masters degrees, the most recent in Library and Information Science. She puts her massive organization skills to use in Chicago where she is a savvy professional and domestic goddess. Today she offers us a synopsis of one of her most recent reads which single aunties might find relevant to their experiences.

Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin (Seal Press, 2014)

Melanie Notkin is author and owner of Savvy Auntie, a practical guide and online community for PANKs*, cool aunts, godmothers, and all women who play a special role in the lives of children that they love. In her second book, Otherhood, she explores this growing demographic and the many issues that are all too familiar to smart, attractive, single professional women in their 30’s and 40’s. In part memoir, part journalistic survey, she highlights with personal stories and struggles women face and often with little sympathy from their married and married with children peers. For many of the Orthogal readers many of these themes are all too familiar:  lack of suitable men, and then dating men who are confused how date, unintentional singleness, childlessness, fertility, and what to do until you find the right person for you.

In the end, this book gives voice to the very personal (and often silent) struggles of women facing unintentional singlehood and childlessness. The fear that men in the dating world find them too old to marry, the pain of wanting a family of your own, but simultaneously knowing that your biological clock is ticking fast.  These are real and valid concerns and the best advice she gives is be your true self, celebrating your Otherhoodness and the special role you can play as a PANK, to be a better friend, and to be involved in your community. Although it may be difficult as we still yearn to be mothers and wives, as a member of the Otherhood society you have so much to offer!

*Professional Aunt No Kids

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