Monday, December 31, 2012

A Christmas Rant




(I want to preface this post by saying that I am INCREDIBLY grateful for every single member of my family, including all members of my husband’s family. They are all incredibly generous to our children and I am so, so happy that my kids experience that kind of love. I encourage you to keep reading through the rant… I promise it gets better!)


From the moment my children began opening Christmas presents this year (yes, even the ones at our house) I began the internal, ranting monologue. Really, it began while shopping for presents. I shunned all things pink for my daughter, and thought it was cute when my son’s Christmas list was “Hot Wheels” and “My Little Ponies.” My husband and I found him what was really the only acceptable MLP on the market, and he promptly threw it aside in favor of his new Mobigo 2. After all, my husband was a Brony. My brother played MLP with me… they are just horses. Horses are for kids. Then I endured weeks of self-inflicted guilt over the fact that unforeseen circumstances turned the play kitchen that was meant for both kids into a present for my daughter. I wrongly assumed that once they opened their gifts on St. Nick’s day, my torment was over. Oh no. It had yet to begin.


From December 6th and on, we had a total of five Christmases. I am going to give you a brief, and not at all inclusive list of items my kids received to illustrate a point. (This list includes things that I picked out, so I am a full participant in the madness.




My Son:


· Hot Wheels (oh, the Hot Wheels.)

· Hot Wheels accessories

· My Little Pony

· Hulk fists

· Puzzles

· Mobigo2

· Shaving kit

· Books





My Daughter:


· Bracelets

· Vanity

· 2 baby dolls

· Tea set

· 2 pillows

· Hot Wheels

· Shirt that says “Self-Rescuing Princess”

· Books








Now, let me walk you through my thought process. If you read this page, you know that I am a firm believer that toys and colors are for everyone. I think this meme that I have seen floating around Facebook accurately describes my feelings on the matter (even if I do not seem to be able to purchase accordingly):












So I will freely admit that I had a panic attack when the first four presents my daughter opened were a kitchen, two baby dolls and a tea set. My beautiful, thoughtful, smart and capable 15-month old was having a feminist’s nightmare of a Christmas! I know. Girls like these things. Baby dolls encourage nurturing. Cooking and tea parties are innocent and should be devoid of gendered meaning. When I think of all the talk shows featuring teenage girls who lack guidance and love in their lives and want to have a baby to love at 14*, I panic at the thought of our little girls pushing fake babies that pee around in prams. Can’t we give them a little more time to be children before impressing on them that first they must be nurturing, then shoving birth control at them so that they can have consequence free sex until they find the right guy? (Breathe, breathe, I know, I know…) so I am looking at her hug and squeeze these babies with love and a sparkle in her eye and I just want to cry. In the moment, I choose to ignore that my amazing Grandma bought me a Cabbage Patch doll when I was about the same age and that she just wanted to buy my daughter one also. My son waits until she drops the dolls and the tea set to peruse his haul of cars and books so that he can play with the bad-ass tea set and check out the dolls. This makes me laugh, and I made a mental note to write a post about this Christmas and my struggles, but for now I was going to watch them enjoy Christmas.


As the days went on, the children truly had the time of their lives. By the time we made the long journey home and unpacked everything, it was Christmas all over again! This time I had a more level head as I watched them tear into their new possessions. First, I needed to remember that they are just kids, and kids like toys… of all kinds. Second, I realized that I was totally fine letting my son play with toys that are branded “girlie”, so why couldn’t my daughter play with the same toys? Why can’t she choose what she likes?! Third, all of these things are harmless in a well-rounded environment, and our home is just that. We do not have violent or sexualized toys. The kids are encouraged to share all their toys with each other, and they play side by side. Currently, the favorite is making tea in the kitchen. (Mad props to my cousin Rachel…. That tea set is something I never would have thought to get, and it is by far the most popular of the Christmas haul!)


I really am nothing short of grateful for all the thoughtful and wonderful gifts my family chose for my kids. I spend every day with my children and I think I know everything about them. I know their likes and dislikes, and yet our family always finds the most wonderful things that I never would have thought to purchase, and the kiddos swoon! All my personal beliefs about how we market things to our children are still there and worthy of our attention, but this Christmas gave me a nice healthy dose of perspective, and that might be the best gift I could have hoped to receive! I think I will save my outrage for the overtly violent and sexualized toys that are lurking in their future, and savor the moment.


(* I am not referencing teen parents in general with this post. As the daughter of a teen mom, there is a gigantic difference between teen that choose life for their children (see my post for The Guiding Star Project) and young teens that lack the love and support everyone deserves in life and have the misguided view that the only route to unconditional love in their lives is to purposely have a child when they are still children themselves. I have encountered youth in my life that believe this, and all it takes is a quick search engine check and you can see all the evidence you never want to know proving that this trend exists outside of talk shows. As always I advocate for life, love and support for all women, and creating/maintaining a world that supports women and their children always. Just to be clear... in all fairness, the many reasons I have an aversion to baby dolls deserves a post of its own!)

Friday, December 28, 2012

On Being a Woman


I was going through some of the notes I have posted on Facebook this morning, and I came across one titled "On Being a Woman". It was something I had written before I started this blogging project, and I wanted to share it because thinking about it still gets me fired up and motivated! Thanks to all for reading this page and contributing. Cathofeminism is one of the things I am proudest of accomplishing in 2012, and it is because I enjoy hearing from readers and being able to affirm that I am not alone in my desire to seek out a truer version of feminism.




I recently saw this photo surface on Facebook. The poster was someone I did not know, but the circle of commenters were mostly friends of friends. The circle is what I am assuming to be a Catholic circle, and I also am assuming that most of the posters identify as conservative. I am having trouble identifying myself as anything politically speaking these days, other than I know that I am seeking to uphold the dignity of all people, from conception to natural death. The posts on this story were unsettling. There were a few women mocking some of the points, but there were also women that stated this was something like their ideal place. There were many more comments from men. Their comments falsely credited this time as being one with less domestic violence, that women need only obey their husbands as they should be the one handling finances, etc., that women are not equal because equal means that they are the same... one gentlemen even went as far as to suggest this article is supportive to Ephesians 5:


"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."

This is my response. I love being a woman. No matter how many times I am told I am less a person, or made to feel that way. I believe in the strength women have. I believe our world separates us and divides us, and that if we all were able to unite it would be powerful. I believe there are people that swing WAY too far to the left, and I believe there are people that swing WAY too far to the right. I do not believe in being lukewarm in your beliefs, but I do believe that being equal does not mean we are the same. I believe, without a doubt that my days are just as important as my husband's. I believe that my children have a better relationship with their father than generations past had the opportunity to have, and that raising children to be seen by their fathers as perfect little adults is damaging. I believe that my choice to raise my children and stay at home with them is as empowering as another woman's choice to work (while I realize that is not always a choice I do also think our world has made it incredibly difficult for households to survive on one income for many reasons and this is disappointing). I believe that our world is better because of the women's rights movement and feminism. The fact that women for so long were told to grin and bare it is an outrage. The fact that the postings I witnessed seemed to condone men ruling women with an iron fist and women simply submitting and obeying is an outrage. The fact that our world is still focused on blaming women who have been victimized by physical and sexual violence is an outrage. The fact that our nation is more combative and focused on what we do to "fix" her after the abuse and not on stopping the abuse to begin with is an outrage.

I love my husband. I love my kids. I love each and every member of my family for being EXACTLY the person that they are. I love my friends the same, and I want to leave this world knowing that I made it better for all, not just some. I know that the people that posted on this photo will not see this. I think they became a little too caught up on the first part of Ephesians when relating it this article, fake or not. The goal of that particular verse as I see it, is to remind us to love our spouses, for better or worse. It is always a nice reminder to me that I am a wife: I am part of a family, and that I am not just out for myself. Some of this might be idealistic, but I don't care. That will not stop me from trying.

Rant over.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Year of Faith Catechism Challenge




Exactly 61 days ago, I began this Year of Faith challenge to read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church in a year. I receive daily emails with a manageable portion of the CCC included, which I excitedly read first thing when I wake up every morning and then I spend the rest of my day thinking about the beauty of my Catholic faith. Okay, not really. Most days I force myself to cut out some time to read it: half the time I think “that is nice” and half the time I have no idea what it says and then I accidentally, subconsciously on purpose hit delete instead of focusing more on improving my understanding of my faith. It is definitely a challenge for me.


This morning I sat down to read the emails from days 56-61. I was a bit behind, and all the talk of the Trinity was a little daunting, but what I read today really put me into a contemplative mood, and I truly have been thinking about it all day. I decided to share two portions that renewed my determination to not fall behind in my readings as Christmas approaches.


A portion from Day 56:


369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. "Being man" or "being woman" is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity "in the image of God". In their "being-man" and "being-woman", they reflect the Creator's wisdom and goodness.

370 In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.
370 In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.






This is rather profound from where I sit. In college, I jumped onto the wagon and read a few Scott Hahn books. His book “First Comes Love” made me jump right back off the wagon. Thinking of the Trinity as mother, father and son in the most literal sense seems borderline heretical to me. While the mysteries of our faith are just that, and no human has a full understanding, this comparison seemed empty. Fast forward to this morning and reading CCC 369-70 and I am in awe of realizing what I already knew: we are all made in his image and we all reflect back that image. Our uniqueness as individuals or marrieds, men and women… all of these variations reflect back merely a sliver of our Creator’s image. I keep re-reading this passage and there is just so much comfort and beauty in this thought that it makes me want to drive around until I find an Adoration chapel and read it again.


The second passage is from Day 61. The entirety of this section is CCC 396-406, so I will just pull a few excerpts:


397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully "divinized" by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to "be like God", but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God".


And


401 After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin. There is Cain's murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses. And even after Christ's atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians. Scripture and the Church's Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man's history:






What is particularly striking to me about these excerpts is the simplicity to which our sin can be whittled and how quickly it spins out of control. CCC 386 states: ”Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality or other names would be futile.” For me this is hauntingly accurate. Sin is sin is sin. We can call it weakness or vice, but the reality of sin is the devastating simplicity of it all: we choose to trust ourselves instead of God. This selfish behavior quickly resulted in violence, even murder. I see this portion of the CCC as a superb reflection of exactly how devastating sin is for us mere mortals. When we turn away from God and choose our own will over his, our demise is quick and filled with pain.


You can probably pick a search engine and type in “Catechism Reflections” and come up with thousands of hits, but these particular passages helped to remind me how impressive that gigantic catechism is. I am going to keep on trudging through the daily readings. Challenge yourself to pick a few sections during the Year of Faith.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kasandra Perkins






As I am sure most of you have heard, an NFL player shot and killed Kasandra Perkins. She was the mother of his three month old child.


Most reports of the story seem to be focusing on the fact that he then drove to the stadium and shot himself. I have already heard this story being used as an example to be used in favor of gun control. I have heard and read multiple reports of how devoted he was and what a shame it was that his legacy was cut short.


This post will not mention his name, because my focus these past few days has been on mourning his victim, Kasandra Perkins. He left his 3 month old daughter, Zoey without a mother and father.


It has been suggested that perhaps if the murderer had not been famous, there would not be as much focus on the perpetrator instead of on his victim, Kasandra. I call BS. There are reports day in and day out of husbands (estranged or otherwise) taking the lives of not only their spouses, but often their children before taking their lives. The headlines read “Husband Snaps” and relatives say “He was under stress.”


So what is the truth of the matter? It is all unacceptable. Regardless of whether or not there was textbook domestic violence within the relationship, Kasandra died at the hands of the man that was supposed to love her and protect her. Kasandra died at the hands of the father of her child. Even if there had been no pattern of violence or coercive behavior, she was killed by her intimate partner.


Instead of mourning the loss of this man’s “legacy” I will mourn the loss of Zoey’s mother, Kasandra.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Being Pro-Woman

In my last non-link up post, I was talking about some things that I had seen that were inspiring me. To build off that, I have been thinking about all the ways the new way of feminism can be pro woman. There is a great deal of focus on abortion and the devastating effects it often has for women, but I wanted to address some of the other important aspects of being pro woman.

It is increasingly difficult to find ways to unite with other types of feminists in common interests. So much so, that often we forget all that we could achieve together. It is as though hate is the preferred way of dealing, and this doesn't sit well with me. While some issues are naturally of greater value or importance in this re-branding of sorts, let us not pretend one issue alone is our cause.

Education: I can sit here and regurgitate the statistics for you. I can analyze the trends of women in higher education all day, but that is simply not the point I want to make. Every last political, feminist, or societal debate I enter into, leads me back to the same conclusion: we have forgotten how to educate ourselves. As a woman that earned not only an undergraduate degree but a graduate degree, I absolutely believe in the value of higher education. I am not saying there are not problems with the system, but there is wealth of knowledge there. However, I am speaking of education on a more basic level. Somewhere along the way, I believe our generation lost touch with some common sense educational principals. This includes (but is not limited to) the following:


- Thorough research
- Analysis of statistics and reports (not just taking the media’s word for it)
- Household finances (budgeting, tracking spending, saving, knowing the         difference between a need and a want)
- Knowledge of how our government works


I mention these things specifically, because YouTube is filled to brim of videos of people that do not seem to have base knowledge in these areas, and I am particularly disturbed by the trend that has us knowing more about a reality TV show than real life. The women that stood up for their right to vote and to be treated as equals did not always have the opportunities we have today. Higher education was not always open to them. Their own financial information was not always open to them. They helped open many doors for us, yet we have forgotten how they did so: self-educating. You do not have to end up with 4-6 years of student loan debt to self-educate. We have tools such as libraries and the internet (believe it or not, there is more than Facebook and porn out there!) at our disposal. (There are also many hot shot universities offering their post popular classes for free via the internet.) All it takes is drive and motivation. This is of vital importance to the new feminist movement because of things like this book review. While we know we are more than females just chained to a stove, popping out babies, there is nothing wrong with brushing up on a few things once in a while to back it up.


Career: Believe me. I use this term loosely. I am not talking just about equal pay for equal work. I am not just talking about the need for true merit-based work environments. There is more to life than a career, but we cannot escape this world without the need to purchase some things, like food, clothing, shelter… I will try to side-step my “Where has the Family Unit Gone?” rant for the sake of this post, and speak directly to the need for women to stop the bickering. I have written previously about the SAHM vs. Working Mom Debate and the ridiculousness of it all. New feminism means the true acceptance of the many ways women choose to show their womanhood. There is no ‘one size fits all’ career and home life balance. Every woman has unique skills and talents. Why don’t we give each other the room to figure this out and support one another?

Violence: If you are not well informed about domestic and sexual violence, you need to be. If we ourselves are not educated on this issue, then how can we expect our leaders and elected officials to be? It is not enough to take a self-defense course. It is not okay to assume women that have been attacked did not take the same course, or were somehow dressed in a way that was “asking for it”. It is not okay to assume that intimate partner violence is mutually combative, or that she “stays because she likes it.” It is not okay to chalk it up to the “for better or worse” vow and look the other way. Sexual and domestic violence is about power and control. I will say it again: If you are not well informed about domestic and sexual violence, you need to be.

Support: We need organizations that take a more holistic approach to supporting women from all walks of life. We all have different needs: counseling, fertility support and knowledge, medical, parenting… you name it, and there are women that need it. Not in a way that makes them dependent on someone or something else, but in a way that builds community. Women are amazing creatures, as if you didn't know! I have heard enough derogatory comments made about women by women to last me a life time. It is time we begin building communities that support one another. (Warning: this link is a shameless plug for GSP!)

New feminism, the new wave of feminism, Cathofeminism…. Whatever you want to call it is more than a pro-life movement. It is more than anti-hormonal birth control, and it is more than anti-abortion. It is pro-woman. A reality that is pro-woman does not seek to manipulate her by pills, devices or unnecessary surgeries. It does not seek to make her seem like or behave like a man. It seeks to recognize that women are equal to men in their own right, and do not need to contort themselves to meet someone else’s expectations. It also does not seek to tear down men. New feminism is pro-woman and pro-man.

Friday, November 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes

So, I am trying not to jump directly from Thanksgiving into Christmas as Advent has not even started, but I have been seeing some really great things this year for kids. As I have written in the past, I have a big problem with the way we market to our children. I have a son and a daughter, and while their interests vary, we work hard to make sure that they can play with what they want to. My daughter loves to play with her brother's Hot Wheels and my son likes the My Little Ponies. (Why they though a show about horses had to be specific to girls, I will never know. He likes animals too!) So, I thought I would use my Quick Takes contribution this week to talk about toys I have seen that are really great for kids, not just girls or boys.

--- 1 ---
For younger kids: Just B. Toys
My kids LOVE these toys. They come in all kinds of crazy colors, and I am so glad we invested in some of the bigger ticket items early on, because they hold up and are durable. Here is my favorite thing we have: the block sets.
Photo: Barnes&Noble.com

--- 2 ---
Coolest Packaging: Laser Pegs
How cool is it that the right there on the package it states "The Ultimate toy for kids"?! I love that someone recognizes that girls like thing that light up and appreciate colors other than pink. I think these things are pretty cool.

--- 3 ---
Books I want to read with my kids: Babylit
These are also for younger kids, but they have classics like Moby Dick in board book form. I really like the illustrations also. As someone that loved the book Great Expectations from a very young age, I am holding out that they add it to the collection!

--- 4 ---
Amazing Personalization: Child's Own Studio
This site takes one of your child's drawings and converts it into doll form. SO COOL. I can't even begin to describe it to you. I love looking through all the transformations. It is a bit pricey, but just such a great idea.

--- 5 ---
Best Christmas Purchase: Little People Christmas Nativity Set
I bought ours last year at Target and the kids play with it year around. I love that I have a kid-friendly nativity to display and that we can talk about all the characters. It really is awesome.

--- 6 ---
Best thing I have seen as a new feminist: Goldie Blox
Engineering toys geared towards getting girls interested in engineering. Brilliant. I want one.

--- 7 ---
Coolest Catho gift: Courtney & Cassidy's Creations
Not only are you supporting a small business owner, you get a great Catholic figure! There are so many cool dolls on this site. Check them out!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This Post is All Over the Place.


Sometimes we generalize people. Sometimes it is easier to find comfort in not agreeing with them if we can group all those that contradict our beliefs into an easy package with an oversimplified label.
We are all guilty of this in one way or another. Sometimes we generalize out of fear. Other times it is because we do not understand others or do not want to understand them.  I will admit I have spent most of my time since the election in a state of incredulousness. I really cannot believe the results and I am anxious about the future of this nation and my family’s future as practicing Catholics in this nation. I am overwhelmed by the hate and negativity I am seeing from people that voted for the winning candidate. I am overwhelmed by the hate and negativity from those that voted against the winning candidate. I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of registered and unregistered voters that chose not to vote in this election, which was perhaps one of the most important elections of our time.
This week, I have been focused on combating my state of incredulousness. My children are the greatest distraction, but I have also rediscovered my sense of awe in all that women are capable of accomplishing. I wanted to share a few examples with you.
1.       The post “I’ve startedtelling my daughters I’m beautiful” was recently passed along to me.  It made me smile. I did not look at other posts by this individual, and I really do not care if I agree with everything she has to say in life, because I have yet to meet a person with whom I do agree with 100%. Her post is spot on, regardless. There is a renewed sense of confidence that every mother experiences when she begins to look at herself from the eyes of her child. My children are impressed with me always and sometimes I forget that. They love me the same before I have showered as they do after.  They have love in their eyes when they look at me always, and as if I needed a reason to love myself the same way, my children are definitely that reason.
2.       Last night, I shared the post “The Bombshell” with the Cathofeminism Facebook community. While words cannot describe receiving this kind of news, I am just in awe at the raw honesty in which the author was able to write. The pro-life community is mocked often for the imagined lack of care for those that have been born. There is often a perception that those who are against abortion see everything through the Miraculous Rose Colored Lenses that prevent you from having to experience reality. To paraphrase Nate Ruess: Woman, you won’t believe, the most amazing things, they can come from some terrible, awful experiences.
These are just two examples of inspiration. Now that the election is over, I am returning to my main focus. The only way we will lift ourselves out of the atrocities and injustices of this world is if we focus on one another. Parents: raise your children to be contributing members of society. Enjoy the sunshine and rainy days. Look at yourselves through the eyes of your children and see how amazing you are! Is that too frou-frou for you? Yeah I sort of want to gag also, but it is still true. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Voted: A Link Up

Today, I voted.

I would like to write about how I stood in line thinking of the early activists that fought for women to have this right, and how I ran home to watch Iron Jawed Angels in celebration of my right to vote.(Totally wish I owned that movie.) The truth is less glamorous: I stood in line for 20 minutes trying to review the billion amendments I needed to vote on while entertaining my two sugar hangovers as they played outside amid the fire ants and then just tried to keep them out of the way as I flipped through the three pages of double-sided sheets. We then loaded my vote into the machine, collected our stickers, and posed by the car to commemorate the event. I will walk around wearing my early voter sticker all day, and then transfer it to my church clothes when I go to Mass tonight, because I am proud to be an informed voter.



Rules for the Link Up:

1. You must mention in your post that the link up is hosted by yours truly complete with a link back to http://cathofeminism.blogspot.com/

2. Feel free to use the "I Voted" button in your post.

3. Link up ends in a week!


Friday, October 19, 2012

An Argument Against Federal Funding of Catholic Institutions and Organizations


In case you are uninformed about the current relationship between the Catholic Church and the governmentin Ontario, I will update you in brief.

The Catholic schools in Ontario receive government funding. Because these schools receive government money, they are now being told what they can and cannot teach. The Catholic stance against gay marriage, abortion and all prolife teachings are restricted currently.

This real life example is the best case against federal funding of Catholic institutions or organizations that I have heard of to date.

I will concede that it is ridiculous to bar the Church from all the good that it does for Catholics and non-Catholics alike because the government does not like how they care for those in need. However, power does funny things to humans. What should be a partnership in caring for those in need, can quickly turn into a battle of wills.

So, what if the Church stopped taking government money? Our Catholic institutions could instead rely on other forms of community support, and put the focus on fundraising instead of grant writing. What if Catholic organizations also turned away federal dollars? What if the Catholic Church had some foresight, and got out of the state marriage license business? What if our faith-based adoption agencies, human trafficking agencies, hospitals, food pantries, and all other helping organizations turned to the communities that they provide these much needed services for and said “Let us work together.” And never took another dime from the federal government?

Maybe it would prevent an escalation from the HHS mandate. Maybe we would not fear future mandates that would take away Catholic physicians and pharmacists’ right to oppose abortion and abortafacients. Maybe we would not fear other government intrusions on our faith.

Just a thought.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Amanda Todd


What does a culture obsessed with sex and beauty do to our children?  I find this to be a chilling example of the more horrifying consequences.

Let us start with the breakdown of family. With close to half of marriages ending in divorce and half of pregnancies occurring outside of marriage (and only half of those babies surviving the pregnancy) we are facing a growing number of our children living in single parent homes. God Bless those single parents for all they do for their children. God Bless parents raising their children in less than ideal situations: I have a loving and supportive husband that is actively involved in his children’s lives and parenting is still challenging! It is also becoming increasingly difficult to support a family on one income, meaning often you have both parents working if both are in the home.

What do these things result in for our children? Often, it means exhausted parents. It can mean exhausted, uninvolved parents. I mention these things not to place blame, but to offer some perspective and context for the lives our children live. Our public schools are taking on some things that used to be parental territory… what choices to schools and teachers have?  

Now we move on to social media: texting, cell phones, computer accounts such as Facebook and YouTube, email…. As an adult constant contact with my friends and family is both incredible and overwhelming at the same time; I truly cannot imagine experiencing this barrage of contact when I was young and at what was perhaps my most vulnerable.

While our politicians support abstinence only education, our kids are not really getting the information they need. Most often they hear “Don’t do it.” or “Use protection if you do it.” Neither of these statements educates our children on the responsibilities of sex, or reasons to postpone that part of their life. What are we telling them? A focus on sex and beauty has devastating consequences for our children. These things are fleeting, and create a false sense of worth in the wrong context. They are about instant gratification, especially when inserted into our teenager’s lives. "Someone wants me"... when the reality is at that age they are more likely to be used for sex than it being about love.

Our girls in particular are also in a place where the emphasis is placed on their looks. If you walk by the girl’s clothing section, you see sparkles galore, and revealing clothing, while the boy’s section leans more towards sporting attire. Then there is the rather larger makeup section to boot. From the time they are tweens, there are beauty products to make them look their best. Today’s children are in an increasingly uphill battle: some lack access to parents, they face pressure to always be connected to peers, and they live in a culture that puts a premium on beauty and sex. Is it coincidental that all this begins to happen during a tumultuous time in life?

Take my teen years for example. I was a tall, lanky kid that had boobs. I was awkward with boys, and I did not know how to be comfortable in my own skin. However, I had parents and teachers support my educational needs when I needed advanced classes beginning in the 5th grade at a small Catholic school. I had a firm grasp on my faith. I may have been insecure about how I looked, but I was supported in a multitude of other areas. I had fall backs. I had a mom that listened when she asked what I saw in the mirror. My parents were also honest with me about how I came to be in this world. I do not remember a single sex talk. I remember asking questions multiple times, and working out solid reasons why sex was something that did not fit in with what I wanted for my life at that time. (Yes, this meant heartbreak in several instances.) I saw the sacrifices my mom made so that she could be my mom, and I came to the conclusion that to make those sacrifices really count, I could be all that I was capable of being. That steely resolve also came from being told by one of my aunts that there is no way I would make it out of high school a virgin, so maybe I just like proving people wrong!

These convictions meant heartache. I was not confident in all aspects of life. I recall getting up the courage to ask a boy from a different school to the city-wide 8th grade recognition dance. He said yes and I was on cloud 9…. for about a week. One day when I was changing out of my uniform to go to the high school for Spanish classes, the kids in my class forgot I was still there and began talking about how some of the guys were on a football team with this boy and he had no idea what I was talking about. I was crushed. I walked down the alley to my grandma’s instead of going to class so I could get a ride home. I called him as soon as he got home and canceled our date. I spent the whole summer avoiding him, only to become close friends with him in high school. I later found out there was another boy that played football with the same name, but mortified does not even begin to describe how I felt as I cowered in the bathroom stall, listening to them talk about me.

My point is, being a teenager is TOUGH. I cannot imagine surviving through it all if there was no escape from the chatter. When I went home, I had a choice to not pick up the phone. If I had a cell and a computer at that age my life would have been purely social, and not always in a good way.

This brings me to this story I linked to above. It is so easy to relate to Amanda in many ways. I remember how difficult life was (or seemed) then, only she had the added scrutiny of YouTube among other things.

I do not want this for my daughter any more than Amanda’s parents wanted it for her. We must be better than this.

Ending tragedy’s like this starts with putting the focus on bullying.  It starts with instilling in our children how to treat others with respect, and modeling that respect. If our children hear or see us treating others poorly, it speaks louder than any lecture we give them.

It begins with building our children up so that they have the confidence to overcome bullying, and to not be a part of the bullying. Our children should all be the ones strong enough to stand up for someone that needs a friend or an ally.

It begins with taking a hard look at age appropriate discussions and activities for our children. We cannot always be there to protect them, but we can strive to be the voice in their heads when they get into a tricky situation.

My heartfelt prayers go out to Amanda and her family. We must work towards another family never having to endure this kind of pain.
UPDATE
I would like to say that at the time I am updating this post, of the 42 hits it has received, 21 of them have been the result of searches for some form of "Amanda Todd's boobs".
Is it any wonder that this young girl struggled? She took her own life and people are still searching for dirty photos of her. We all should be appalled at the lack of class. I cannot even begin to describe how disturbed I am by this.
I fully realize that if I remove this young woman's name from the post, those type of hits will likely cease. I will do no such thing: after all the faceless vicimization Amanda had to endure, I will do my best to honor her by using her name. She was a person, not an object. She has a name.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Proud


I really find aliens boring. I am not as intrigued about whether or not intelligent life exists outside our planet as maybe I should be. If it does exist, finds Earth, and studies us, I have to believe those little green dudes will come to a conclusion: being a woman is lame.

Take today, for instance. Today I entered into multiple conversations about what it is like to be a woman.  It began with talking about how a certain 30 year old law student was quick to strip the title of mother from a woman considering abortion in an interview. This topic leads me to start thinking about how mainstream feminism seeks to strip away titles like “mother”.  We are told to “vote like our lady parts depend on it”. We are told it is inhumane to be pro life because it is inconsiderate for those that have endured rape or incest. We are subject to terms such as “real rape”.  We are the target demographic for sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. Often, our perpetrators are judged for these criminal actions by our actions: What was she wearing? Where was she? Did she fight back? Why does she stay? Does she like it?

We are held to the highest standard when it comes to how we raise our children, our appearance and our goals in life. A man that takes his responsibilities as a parent seriously is saint worthy, while a woman that runs to the store without putting shoes on her child is a poor example of a mother. A woman that chooses to stay at home with her children is spitting on the progress of the women’s movement and she is unmotivated to boot, while a mother that works outside of the home loves herself more than her children. Women grow human beings for over nine months and push babies out of their bodies. They have the ability to feed these babies with milk from their own bodies, yet a woman’s appearance is scrutinized for any perceivable flaw: too fat, too skinny, too pear-shaped, too dark, too hairy, too short, too tall, hair not straight or curly enough, too much makeup, too little makeup…

It truly is categorically unfair. All of it. It is unfair that we are preyed upon both literally and figuratively. It is unfair the amount of pressure we put on each other as women instead of supporting one another, and let’s just be real. It is really unfair that we birth our children and then also have to deal with the weird things that it does to our body in this appearance-focused world.

I have news for those little green dudes. Despite the judgment and the hostility, I feel truly blessed to be a woman.

I was created the ravishing creature that I am: I earned my graduate and undergraduate degrees. I married my best friend. I birthed and nursed my children. I have an important voice in this world, and I embrace my God-given talents that help me to speak up. Many of the privileges I enjoy in this nation were fought for by other women: wives and mothers, sisters and daughters. I am grateful to these women for fighting for my right to work, and to vote. I am joining these women in refusing to choose between children and women. I am standing up for my rights as a Catholic woman. I am a voice for those that have and have not survived abuse.

It is truly a phenomenal time to be a woman. We have some progress behind us, but the fight is not over. This means our generation is in the position of gratitude and knowing: gratitude for the sacrifices made for us, and knowing we are a part of something incredible if we want it.

Sometimes all of the depressing truths bring us down. Our wills are broken, and we feel hopeless. Remember what our bodies and minds are capable of accomplishing. This fight is ours to win, and I am proud to be a woman.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

MUSIC!


"Lord, Let me die with my boots on!"
 
Many of my childhood memories revolve around music. My dad’s record and tape collection for starters. He was secretly pleased to have picked a winner when he bought the Hootie and the Blowfish cassette long before it saw radio play. He listened to all of the rock basics, and really anything obscure that he could get his hands on. One of his favorites is still a guilty pleasure of mine: The Unforgiven. It is this cheesy sounding album with an Amazing Grace guitar solo that my dad has made me promise is played at his funeral. I heard everything under the sun as a child (except country): he liked Bone Thugs and Harmony,Elvis, Led Zepplin, Annie Lennox… my father’s musical tastes were (and still are) vast and ever changing. Every dog I have known him to own showcases his love of music: Tesla, Axl, Elvis… My mom had her favorites too. She was a huge Van Hagar fan, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Metallica. Her tastes have also changed over time. My parents and I do not always agree musically, (Dad, I just do not get Nikka Costa. Mom… I can understand Incubus to a point, but Dave Mathews Band is unacceptable.) but one thing is certain: my parent’s love of music inspired my own.

At times my musical time line is a bit embarrassing. I remember the first batch of CDs I ever owned, and there are a few I wish I could take back. My official story: my first CD was The Verve Pipe. The actual story: The day before I had received The Smashing Pumpkin’s Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness, (shudder) which I immediately exchanged for Bush’s Sixteen Stone.  The Verve Pipe sounded cooler than other CD I had requested… The Spice Girls. I know, I know, but I got better I promise! In high school, I fell in love with the sounds of Everclear, Sublime, Eve 6, Ben Folds Five, Third Eye Blind, and Something Corporate. In college, I moved on to The Early November, Taking Back Sunday, The Format, Limbeck, and a little Rilo Kiley. I still have a weakness for most of these bands because they are the soundtrack to my life! My playlist is ever changing. The new bands may have slowed entry and the old bands may have broken up (and in some cases, already gotten back together), but music is still as important in my life as it ever was.

From the moment we knew we were pregnant with our son, I began researching the least annoying CDs for kids. We stumbled onto The Terrible Twos and snapped them up. We don’t listen to the radio often, and Radio Disney might kill me.  They are some of my son’s favorite songs, but that is not all I listen to around him.

One of the most amazing things for me was that first time I heard my son belt out a song from the back seat. It will embarrass him to no end one day to know that it was Adele “Rolling in the Deep”, but I laughed and smiled with pride. By far, his favorite song to sing is “Some Nights” by fun. The moment I heard the operatic words “Soooooome Niiiiiiiiiiiiiights” bellow from the back seat, I am not too proud to admit there was a tear in my eye. Maybe I won’t have to put up with crappy music blasting from behind closed doors when he is a teen. 

Now, before I venture into a tangent on how a band or artist really must be good live to be considered talented at all, let me get to my point. My parents love music. My husband and I love music. My children love music. If you are familiar with the artists I have mentioned, you probably know that not all of the songs are, shall we say, “clean”.  My parents did not censor the music that they listened to and while I do not remember asking them questions about what the songs were saying, my parents would have been willing to explain. I do recall being asked why I wanted certain CDs that had a Parental Advisory logo (Sublime comes to mind) but unlike a few of my friends, I was allowed to pick my music and listen to the music of my choosing. In our home, music was just music. It was an expression for whatever mood you were feeling or wanted to feel. Every song tells a story.  In saying this, I should point out that there is a true difference between strong language and adult content in song lyrics versus the degradation of humans. (Misty, care to jump in on this point?)

I am aware of the responsibility that comes with this point of view, and I gladly will own it. Music is art. Just as I will not shield my kids from art museums due to the naked human forms or controversial pieces they may see, music and film will also be subjects of conversation.  TV, film, the written word and art are subjects for an entirely different post, but all of these things have two things in common: artistic expression and the right to age appropriate discussions instead of censorship.  I would rather save my veto power for things that I find asinine, like Nickleback, Hinder, Lady Gaga, Sponge Bob and South Park.

Some of you may feel differently, and you certainly are entitled to that. This is one area where I really feel my parents were dead on. I believe appreciating the various forms of artistic expression is important mostly for the following reasons:

1.       An appreciation for art leads you to begin to form your own individual opinions: your likes and dislikes. This skill can be translated to many other areas of life.

2.       Art lends you the opportunity to walk in the artist’s shoes for a little while. Their pain, angst, joy, disgust or triumph.

3.       Art allows you to begin to appreciate the things that others have to offer this world. We all have our own talents and stories. We are all unique and have different strengths. While we cannot all agree on everything, artists share their experiences in amazing ways: sometimes you find common ground, sometimes not.

4.       Art inspires.

 This perspective sets the stage for my next post, The Ten Movies I Need Next Time I Am on an Island Alone.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Balpreet Kaur and Why I Will Help My Daughter Figure Out Makeup


 
I posted about this story a few days ago, but I am still thinking about Balpreet Kaur. I suggest you read the story, but a quick rundown: someone took a photo of her and posted in online to mock her. She found it and respectfully explained why she does not alter her appearance in any way. I have to tell you, I find her reasoning extremely compelling. I have no intentions of electively altering my body or using injections to “keep me young”. I already have white hairs at my temples, and I have no intentions of dyeing it to cover it up.  I could stand to lose some weight and I am working on that, but I also am happy with my curves. To be honest, I really do wish that our society (and me!) could be more accepting of just letting women look how they look. It is easy to agree with Balpreet on things such as elective surgery, but when we get down to daily beauty routines, it becomes more complicated for me.

I shave my legs. I tweeze stray hairs. (Yep. PCOS is awesome in so many ways in addition to stealing fertility.) I straighten my not-curly-or-straight enough hair when I have the time. I wear a little make-up every now and then.  These are things I have done, in some form, since I was 10 without thinking twice… until I had children and they started to watch me do my hair and makeup. Things like “Am I telling her we aren’t good enough the way we were made?” “How can I explain makeup in a positive light?” and “Will this influence his views on women?” began to run on loop in my head. I can talk a big game, but the reality is I started to do these things to feel better about myself.  If my hair was a little curlier or a little straighter, I would nix the straightener routine, but I like my hair to look straight! (For the record I would also LOVE to be able to pull off curls, but my hair does not hold curling iron or hot roller curls even with gallons of hair spray.) I started wearing makeup at 13 because the so called “pretty girls” did and I wanted to feel like I looked my best. (Full disclosure, I look back on photos of us all and laugh. There we are, at a Catholic school that doesn’t allow makeup with foundation lines or looking like we had been hit on the face with white powder, as though we were fooling everyone.)

When I went to a public high school, makeup was more about having fun. I finally was able to wear something to school other than a white shirt and a plaid skirt. I could buy nail polish and wear it without being sent to the boiler room at school to try to scrub it off with paint thinner. I read about how brown eyes should wear purples in YM and so I wore purple mascara. It was about expressing who I was and having fun. I would be a liar if I did not say that some of my self confidence was attached to wearing makeup. Adolescence is tough. You struggle with being a person. I had a grown up body but I was immature and inexperienced in life. Sometimes this still describes me! I was lucky that I had a mom that helped me figure out the purpose of makeup: to enhance. To this day, when I wear makeup, it is a foundation with an SPF, mascara and a little eye shadow. Blushes and lipstick are too crazy for me. None of the things that I do are drastic by any measure of the word, but I still find myself wondering why and how can I explain this to my children without some version of “women aren’t good enough” even if it is veiled or prettied up?
 

 These thoughts swirl around in my brain at least once a day. I truly do admire Balpreet. She is a strong and confident woman who takes her faith seriously. She believes she was designed perfectly. I would agree and also say that I believe I was also designed perfectly. It was not until recently that I began to evaluate whether my actions showed this. By society’s standards I am no means on the extreme end of the spectrum. I probably fall towards the boring end as I do not even have any tattoos or current piercings. So I ask again, how do I explain this to my children?

I don’t know that I have any solid answers today, but here is what I have so far. Makeup is fun and can give you a boost on days that you really need it, but your self image and worth cannot depend on it. We are complicated people with many interests, goals, talents and quirks that work together. Beauty is not more important than any of these things, because beauty comes from these things. I will teach my children that women and men alike come in all shapes, sizes and colors and that our bodies are different and work differently sometimes. When my daughter asks questions about makeup, I will help her learn how to do it right, not forbid it or pretend she isn’t asking. I will talk to her about why she wants to wear it and tell her that she really is exquisite without it.

As far as putting makeup in a positive light goes, for the time being I am mulling this over: I appreciate how God made me. I do not believe my hairy forearms were an accident anymore than the fantastic eyebrows I was blessed with are an accident. (Seriously, never had to pluck!) However, I do like to put clothes on that compliment my body, and enhance my features a little bit with some makeup. I straighten my hair because it is thick yet fine and really shiny and I consider it one of my favorite things about me even if I do just throw it into a ponytail 85.71% of the time. (I did the math.) All of us should feel good about the things we like about ourselves and strive to feel better about the things we don’t like about ourselves. I am human, and sometimes I need the reminder that I am beautiful, just as God made me.  Sometimes I need an eyelash curler and some black mascara to remind me. Other times it is a phone call from a friend, an unexpected husband compliment, or an email from someone telling me thanks for the great post!

I will end with a challenge. Make an effort to compliment others more often. Not on how they look, but on something else that you appreciate about them. Everyone needs to be reminded that they are truly exquisite.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Juggling Friendships


 
If I have learned anything since high school it is that friendships do not always stay the same, and they are molded not by length of time but by milestones. I remember going back over Thanksgiving break my freshmen year of college and having a gush fest with my 3 best friends about how we were so lucky to have met in high school because we met our closest friends so early in life and things would always be that way. Most of those friendships did not survive the first year of college. I can’t speak for them, but I was meeting new people with similar interests that lived down the hall or had several classes with me. I also spent my first two summers traveling instead of hanging out at home. I met new best friends. The same thing happened when I transferred schools. It happened again when I married my husband, and when I had children. Some friendships faded, some rekindled, and others blossomed.

I can look back and pin point exactly when my attitude towards friendships changed. I had arranged a surprise visit for a friend’s birthday my junior year of college. Her birthday was a Friday and it was a 4 hour drive to her home from my school, so I did not make it until close to midnight. She was falling asleep and tired and I was disappointed because I missed her so much. The next day I found out she stayed up almost all night talking with a few other people and I was crushed. I was a bit immature I will admit, but I missed her a great deal and had been struggling making friends at a new school. I went back to school convinced we would not be talking to each other again. I began making a greater effort to meet new people and to hang out with acquaintances. I was also dating my future husband at the time. One night in the computer lab, he asked about my friend, and I said I had not talked to her in almost a month, and I told him what had happened. He laughed at me. I went home and thought about whether or not I needed her in my life and if her friendship was worth the effort. (By the way, I completely know how this story sounds. I sound immature and petty and it was a stupid thing to be so angry about.) The next day I called her to apologize. I told her that I missed her and did not want to give up our friendship when we were both in such exciting places in life: school, dating really great guys and figuring out who we were. She is still one of my closest friends and I begrudgingly have my husband to thank for rescuing that friendship.

As life changes, friends come and go. The good ones stick with you through thick and thin. You miss some friendships that crumble. I lost many single friends both male and female when I married my husband. My friends changed again when I had my first child.

By nature, I am not a friendly person. I am more introverted and tend to only talk to people when I am forced to do so for work or other reasons. I like to be home. Now that I am a mom and live at least a half a country away from all my friends, my friendships are again being tested. I am thankful for the many social media outlets available that help me stay in touch, because my kids and phone calls are the worst combination ever in most cases. A typical conversation with a friend who does not have kids looks something like this:

Me: We were out the other day and I was thinking about (Hey sweetie, please don’t climb on that you could get hurt.) I was thinking about…

Friend: What was that? Something about climbing?

Me: Oh the boy was climbing on the desk and I was trying to make sure he didn’t (SCREAM! Hey kiddo, it’s ok! I know you stepped on the book) Anyway, what was I saying?

Friend: Something about a book? I can’t hear you…

Me: Hey, I need to change the girl’s diaper so I will just shoot you an email later.

Pretty frustrating. My husband and I get compliments all the time about how well behaved our children are in public, so I have given up trying to keep the volume down at home. We have yelling competitions, we sing at lunch and things are just too loud for anything other than necessary phone calls unless I call while the kids are eating and I skip a meal. There are different rules with my friends that also have children though. It is as though there is an unspoken Parent Code that tells you to just skip over the kid talk. Here is a typical conversation with my friends with kids:

Me: I am sorry things are so crazy for you right now. I can definitely (Hey buddy, can you put that down?) I’m going to put you on speak phone while I change him. I can definitely understand why she was upset. I will try to reach out to her…

Friend: (Can you bring that over here? You don’t need to be doing that.)

Me: Did I tell you what happened last week?

Friend: Yeah, how did that turn out? (Yes, I need a footlong meatball sub with cheese…)

Quiet…Quiet…Quiet…

Friend: Ok, so how did it turn out? (Here is your sandwich, hon.)

Me: Well, it worked itself out….

I have close friends that are single and close friends that are married with babies. We find different ways to make it work. Sometimes months pass between our conversations, but when the relationship is important to both people it is as though no time has passed.  Late night and early morning calls happen. Texting (as much as I despise it) allows for a little human contact. Email conversations build the relationship, and Facebook allows you to see their lives unfold at near stalker level and makes you miss them even more. We send birthday cards, small gifts, little notes. The best thing is that the friends you would walk through fire for, are the ones that find a way to make the friendship as high a priority as is possible.

To all my friends: Thank you for the effort. I miss you and I look forward to the next time I can be reminded that I am not just a mom and a wife!