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".


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.