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.