Sunday, December 21, 2014

Preparation

Our "travel" Advent Wreath.
 Here's a link to make your own!
This Advent was going to be a particularly hectic one for me. I spent most of the season pregnant...

Arthur Eugene made his way into the world 10 days ago.

...so minimalist was what I was striving to achieve. I wanted to focus on preparing for the birth of Jesus. I don't know if you all know this, but it is hard to get kids that are five and under interested in Advent. We have a particularly rambunctious 20-month old running around, so I opted for a small tree on a (very) high surface, and kept my very breakable Advent wreath boxed away. I bought an advent calendar and a paper Jesse Tree we could make together (We promptly fell behind after week one.) and my aunt sent a lovely book about the nativity for the kids to read. I'm not sure how much they really absorbed, but Hattie and Calvin were very excited to see how many candles were lit at Mass each week. 
Calvin: This is a story about Baby Jesus, his people, and Advent City.
 Then, Jesus said "I want a kitty!"


Advent City?


In short, I felt as though I was mostly preparing for Arthur's birth, and not so much for the birth of Christ. As I listened to the homily about preparation in Mass this morning (our first Mass as a family of six with four kids that could potentially burst into tears at any moment) I thought about my own ability to answer the question:

Are you prepared for the birth of our Lord?

I honestly do not know, but I know I have four(ish) days to try to get there. In case any of you are in the same boat, I thought I would share a few things I have up my sleeve. 

1. I plan to listen to The Oh Hellos Christmas album. Often. I know, I know, Christmas music, BUT. One of the movements definitely contains my favorite version of 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' (Please, please, PLEASE release a cover of the song in its entirety. Thank you.)

2. Liesl was asking about one of my favorite pieces of modern Marian art the other day, so I was browsing through the artist's page, which reminded me of something:

Nellie Edwards- Adoration
The artist has titled this piece "Adoration" and I really can't get over how fantastic it is to think about Christmas or the nativity as adoration. Over the past ten days, our family has been looking at our newest member in awe, and I can't begin to fathom how incredible it must have been to be in the presence of Christ at his birth, and to look at Him in His infancy. Perhaps I am way hormonal and the birth of my own child drives home this point in a particularly moving way, but I believe that will be the key to my own mental and spiritual preparedness for the duration of this Advent season. 

3. We will also finish the Jesse Tree. Mark my words...

Poor, sad Jesse Tree.







Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Post Where I Let You In On A Secret.

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret. Prepare yourself.



Maybe you should sit down for this one. I would hate for you to fall over from the shock.



It is near impossible to write with any sort of clarity or message while knee-deep in the chaos of pregnancy and three young children.



I KNOW.


There have been so many stories in the news, books I've read, and thoughts that keep creeping up and half forming a post in the last few months, but time is a precious commodity these days. So is quiet time. In a week, that time will pretty much be nonexistent with the addition of #4. I have never been so ready to complete a pregnancy and yet so painfully aware of the impending decrease in cohesive thought. As though to prove my point, I sat down to write this while the kids were quietly playing together, and suddenly they are all three surrounding me and taking turns yelling, "HEY!" to see who can annoy mom the fastest, and the youngest (without being seen) grabbed a small rolling pin from a drawer and is banging it on the wall.

I imagine four kids under the age of six is going to be stressful. I have been reminded lately of a neighbor friend that I had back when I was at home part time with my oldest, Calvin. She was born to be the SAHM, homeschooling mom. She rocked it: patience for days and she had a system. Now that I am about where she was then, I spend at least half of my shower time railing at God about how on earth He thought I could do this with three, not to mention adding the tiny one that is very soon to be here. This pregnancy my body has suddenly remembered I have hormones, and emotional instability has been the name of the game.



I spend a great deal of my time on the blog talking about feminism and what that word really means in relationship to Catholicism. New feminism and feminine genius ideas and concepts run through my head on a loop. Then I think about "feminine genius" and how it applies to women like my neighbor, and I can't help but be amused in my attempts to figure out how the hell it applies to a woman like me.

So, consider this an apology and a thank you. First, an apology for not writing very often these days. I will work on ways to increase the amount of thought that at least gets typed out to be sorted through. Second, an apology for not understanding how feminine genius and all its concepts can be applied to a continuum or a range of different kinds of women. I am working on sorting this out.

Finally, a thank you. Thank you to those of you that interact with me on other social media outlets such as the Facebook page. Thank you to those of you that share and comment on the posts here. Thank you to those of you that read and remind me that there are others out there that think like me and are interested in what I have to say. If I was a hugger, I'd hug you, but instead I offer you a virtual thumbs up.

I promise. Baby thumbs up. It's a thing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five Favorites: Toys! (11.18.2014)

As the holidays are rolling around rather quickly, I wanted to take a minute and share some of of the playroom favorites in our home. I know that it can be difficult to figure out gifts that will get some use for relatives or even your own kids, so I have put together a list of toys that are pretty gender neutral according to playroom habits here. Linking up with Jenna at Call Her Happy for Five Favorites!

All the toys on the list are regularly fought over enjoyed by both boys and girls, no matter to whom they actually "belong." (I have no idea if that is the correct usage of "whom" so I apologize to those that grammar.)



Kitchen and Play Food
I am always stepping on plastic food, and someone always is carrying a bucket filled with plastic food. My favorite thing is when all the kids are in the playroom huddled around their kitchen while I am making dinner. It is my favorite, because then I am not stepping on them!



Trains
Whether it is building the tracks, destroying the tracks, or connecting the trains, every child in this house wants to be doing it. I really do not know what is so appealing about trains, but "choo choo!" is always in the top twenty first words.


Scooby Doo
A ten dollar set of the Mystery Machine team and the kids are busy playing. The best part? Hearing them mispronounce the names. 


Ponies
You wouldn't think that ponies would be neutral ground in the playroom, however most men I know can recall playing ponies with their sisters, and my children are no different. I don't know what it is about ponies, but they are intriguing to everyone in the playroom. Bonus: the ones with plastic, curly hair make fabulous teethers. 



Building Blocks
Last, but certainly not least: any sort of building block. They mesh well with any of the above mentioned toys, and they are equally as fun to construct or deconstruct.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Blues and Reds

I don't know if you knew, but there was an election yesterday. I know, right?! I have voted in three states in my life, and all three of those states had some really important races decided last night: Kansas, Florida and Texas. Needless to say, my social media pages were abuzz this morning.

I have never really been a party line voter. There is much talk on social media, particularly during elections, about our obligations as Catholics when it comes to voting. Some believe we have the duty to be one issue voters. Some believe it is always voting (or abstaining from voting) for the lesser of two evils. Some haven't thought about it much past checking a few boxes and getting a sticker.

In the book, Render Unto Caesar, Archbishop Chaput writes:

Historically, most American Catholics preferred the Democratic party because it generally spoke for Catholic interests better than any other party, at least until abortion emerged as a central national issue. Today Catholic loyalties- assuming a "Catholic" voting bloc even exists- are more complex. Today, in practice, all political parties have self-described Catholics who are willing to trade their religious and moral convictions for power. All political parties have parts of their platforms that fly in the face of Catholic teaching. And all political parties contain Catholics who like to keep their personal faith tucked safely away at home.
I remind myself of Chaput's wise words before every election. I believe strongly in the Church's social justice positions. There is no political party that encompasses that. I take it candidate by candidate, and must use logic and information to inform my decisions, because simply abstaining from voting is also not an option.

Now, we have our newly elected officials. What will we ask of them? I believe it is far past time for us to ask more from our politicians than speeches with the word "pro-life" included. If we are celebrating pro-life election wins, we should be following through and demanding our leaders vote pro-life, and pass bills that are pro-life. (And not just pro-baby. I searched for a post that I have either written or imagined that I have written on how being pro-life is more than simply being anti-abortion, but I am terrible at tagging my posts and giving my posts weird names.)

Voting = badassery!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Twitterature: 10//15/2014



December 2013 was the last time I joined in on the Twitterature link-up hosted at Modern Mrs. Darcy, so I thought I would recap back to then. I need to get started on a few more books before the year is over, but I was pleasantly surprised that I surpassed my goal of reading eight books this year! So, here is a quick break down of what I have read this year. What have you loved and loathed in books lately?


Daring Greatly- Brene Brown: Though I don't jump on the self-help train in books very often, I enjoyed this. It gave me some things to think about it regards to IPV advocacy especially.

Pope Awesome and Other Stories- Cari Donaldson: As a cradle Catholic, conversion stories are fascinating for me. Donaldson has an easy style and it was really nice to read an author that lives a similar chaos.

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning- Simcha Fisher: I didn't think I needed to read a book on NFP, but this was less NFP and more Catholic Person. Simcha's a funny lady!

Lean In- Sheryl Sandberg: I put off reading this, and found that maybe I should have just looked up her TED talks. Sandberg has some great points, but it felt a bit repetitive to me.

Neptune Noir- Rob Thomas: This was a guilty pleasure read: a collection of essays about the show Veronica Mars that I picked up to read in anticipation of the movie/ first book. It was fun!

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: Long and a bit dense, but I really appreciated the thorough take on social justice. It is a great resource, and I'm glad I kept plugging away at it!

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line- Rob Thomas: I'm a Marshmallow. Of course I loved the book.

Something Other Than God- Jennifer Fulwiler: Another conversion story. I didn't plan to read it, but I got sucked into the hype. I am glad I picked it up: Fulwiler's perspective was an interesting one.

Momnipotent- Danielle Bean: While this book's style was more relatable than other Catholic mom books I have read, I still found myself hung up a bit on feminine genius, and found the general message to be lacking.

Life, In Spite of Me- Kristen Jane Anderson: I typically like to finish reading a book that I start. This one was a quick enough read that I did go ahead and finish, but I'd skip it if given the chance again.

Mrs. Poe- Lynn Cullen: Totally not what I was expecting. I am a huge Poe fan, so reading about his "hidden life?" was interesting, but the romance felt a bit heavy handed, and I didn't think that was what I was getting into at first.

The Screwtape Letters- C.S. Lewis: Fascinating perspective here. It was a great examination of why we do what we do and what influences us.



Now I need to finish writing my essay so that I can get back to reading and posting here. Be sure to leave a comment about what you are reading!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Bible, Marriage, and IPV

I am absolutely not a biblical scholar. I am quite relieved that Catholicism is not a sola scriptura kind of gal for many reasons, but I understand and recognize the importance of sacred readings. Please keep this in mind as I write and dissect in this post!

One of my biggest pet peeves as a domestic and sexual violence advocate and as a Christian, is hearing folk profess loud and proud: "God hates (fill in the blank)!" To think that real, live, human people truly believe that the best way to spread the message of Christ and to evangelize/minister to their brothers and sisters in Christ is to start out by professing that our God (who is LOVE) "hates" something, is devastating. Not just to those hearing this message, but for all.

This subject had me so worked up, that I sat in my uncomfortable chair grumbling for a few days this past week. "No way the bible says hate." I told myself. So I looked it up on my handy dandy bible verse cheat sheet, and I see this:



So I pull out my NABRE study bible, flipped to the Old Testament, and prepared to see some sort of translation notes related to the original text to English. While I did not, I came to a greater understanding of the text. Here is the full text:



An interesting note in my study bible reads, "2:14 Companion...covenanted wife: the Hebrew word haberet signifies an equal, a partner. This woman, in contrast to the daughter of a foreign god, shares with her husband the same covenant with the Lord."

What I take away from this, is that Christian marriage is a partnership where both parties are equally responsible. A woman is equal to her man. I find myself less focused on the text "I hate divorce" and more focused on the message that marriage is a covenant and partnership

This quest lead me to want to give a more thorough review of other 'marriage' mentions in the bible. Cathsorority came through and linked me to a page that lists the options for readings during a Catholic wedding. What I found are some common themes that I want to share with you. (All New Testament excerpts.)


This first example relates to the "two become one" aspect of marriage, and comes from an instance where the Pharisees are trying to trick Christ into saying something blasphemous. It shows marriage as something to be taken seriously.  



Ephesians 5 is the reading that I was most familiar with before marriage, and it might be my least favorite if I am being totally honest with you. There is an extraordinarily large emphasis placed on the first portion of this reading in many traditional faiths: "Wives be subordinate!" with little commentary mentioning the reciprocating verse that asks husbands to love their wives "as Christ loved the Church." 

The problem with taking portions of this verse (and any verse) out of context, is that you lose important information and instruction. This is less a call for wifely subordination and dominating husbands, and more a call for mutual devotion. 

Even in times and cultures where women are not valued as equals partners in marriage or in society, this is a call for equality and sacrificial love. 








Do you see where this is going? The constant message in the bible as it relates to marriage, is love one another. The emphasis is continually placed on what God loves, not what God hates. So, let us apply this to intimate partner violence (IPV). (Note: The following lists are by no means comprehensive; more like a rough overview.)

According to these passages and the Catholic faith, marriage is:

-A sacrament. 
-A commitment/covenant/promise.
-Entered into by a man and a woman as equal, consenting partners. 
-Love.

A relationship involving Intimate Partner Violence (IPV):

-Is consumed with power and control. 
-Gives one partner dominance over the other.
-Warps love.
-Is harmful and devastating to all involved. 

If we combine a sacramental marriage with the consequences of IPV, the relationship lacks some crucial ingredients. When we focus on the aftermath (divorce, separation, etc.) and not on the wrong doing or the warped interpretation of marriage, we are harming survivors. 

Recently, The FaithTrust Institute posted this article, which discusses the fact that religion is a reason that victims stay in abusive relationships. 

It can be very difficult for a devout person of faith to leave an abusive relationship. If you entered into a marriage honestly and with the understanding marriage is "death 'til you part," leaving feels like giving up. If you feel this doubt and it is encouraged by a faith community (both lay persons and pastors) that preach "God hates divorce!" without exception and without a deeper understanding of the context/complexities of marriage or IPV, you feel that there is no way out. You feel conflicted and guilty for not being able to hold up your end of the marriage, when in reality, the marriage was built unequal. The message appears to be "Divorce or Stay."

As Christians, we must have a deeper understanding of marriage as well as IPV. Marriage is not built on the standard cultural view of submission. Marriage was not created to hold one partner (and children) captive. Marriage is love, not abuse. Our faith community must not help abusers to hold their victims hostage.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hang in There!

Mass with children is hard. When I taught Totus Tuus, my first day on the job made me want to send thank you notes to every last one of my K-8 teachers that had to deal with around twenty of us squirmy kids in Mass. I have a heck of a time paying attention and focusing in Mass when I am alone, but when I am charged with helping children to gain something in Mass, I at least feel like I serve a purpose.

Now I have my own children. Call them stair-stepped or whatever you'd like: it is what it is. Calvin is a few months out from being five, Hattie just turned three, Frank is 17 months, and a baby will bring up the rear come mid-December. It is important to me that we attend Mass together, and not just because it is my one guaranteed workout in the week. I know the 90-minute Masses are tough on the little ones, because they are tough on me. There is no good time for a toddler to sit still for 90 minutes and not make a sound. We opt for the time most likely to provoke a nap. Sometimes we win. Today we did not.

Not even five minutes out of the parking lot.

Today was a rough Mass for Frank. He wanted to make noise, and move. He wanted to switch back and forth between mom and dad. He wanted to crawl under the pew. He wanted to touch the man in front of him. He mostly wanted to fall asleep, but there was just too much happening. He was trying. During the homily, I had him to a point where he was giggling, not screaming. I was trying to get him to be a bit happier so that the peaceful silence of a nap just might happen. Then I am tapped on the shoulder by an usher and asked to take my child to the cry room so that others around me are comfortable.

Before I could say my piece, my husband let him know in no uncertain terms that we were there as a family and would be staying as a family. I continued to work with Frank while they talked, but I just felt like crap.

I know that there are a dozen blog posts about giving parents some space on this issue, and a dozen written defending the rights of those without children to sit peacefully and enjoy Mass. I'd just like to take a moment to explain why it is so defeating to be asked to remove your child.

I can take the disapproving head shakes and stares. I can take the audible sighs and eye rolls. I wish that parents did not have to take it, but I can ignore it. I really hardly notice it anymore. When a parent is obviously trying to diffuse the situation, there is no reason to assume that they do not have their thumb on exactly what their plan of action might be. There is no reason to assume that they do not know exactly when and if leaving the pew is appropriate. To assume that you are a better judge of what that child needs in that moment than their parent, is an incorrect assumption.

I am not under any sort of obligation to bring my pack o' kids that are under the age of five to Mass, so why do we do it? We bring them because we want them to know that is our routine. We go to Mass together as a family. I don't want them to be seven, preparing for their First Communion, and not have any idea what happens in Mass. My husband and I also decided that we didn't want to create the habit of removing a child every time they get loud, because then the goal would be to make noise to get to leave Mass. We found that if we can endure a bit of fuss, they calm down again. We can't expect them to be perfectly still and silent.

I would like to note that our experience today has been the exception at this parish: we belong to a bustling, thriving, filled with children parish, with many toddlers that take turns being the loudest in the pack. In fact, one of the regular ushers and his mother sit next to us most Sundays, and have told us on many occasions that they enjoy watching families like ours grow up at Mass. (He will even come up behind our pew and diffuse Frank's fussiness with a rousing game of peek-a-boo if needed!) It is rare that we leave Mass without someone coming up to us and expressing their admiration of our family. We are really grateful for this support.

To all fellow parents: I feel ya. Every parent has the right to decide how to handle Mass time, and I know that there are many different choices to be made. Keep up the good work parents: I respect what you are doing because it is hard.

To all fellow parishioners: Bear with us! It is challenging to raise our children in the faith. It is a beast to teach them Mass etiquette, and I assure you that our little ones are doing the best they can manage. The end goal is for Mass to be as natural as any other part of their life, but it takes some time. Please be patient, and please don't ask us to leave.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Christianity And...

In the fourth grade, we read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Reading it and developing a play takes up most of my positive memories of the fourth grade. I have terrible stage apprehension, so looking back, I am mystified on how my teacher managed to convince me that I was the White Witch. I remember it being one of the first books that I really loved.

Surprisingly, I never picked up another book from the series. It was only in the past few months that I decided to read C.S. Lewis again, despite my admiration.

I have been slowly getting through The Screwtape Letters. This last chapter put into words a concept that I have been thinking about for the better part of a year at this point, so I wanted to share a particular passage:

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And'. You know-Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychological Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.

Despite the fact this book was written in 1942, it is hauntingly accurate and appropriate for our lives in 2014. So-called "modern times" ask us to cash in aspects of our faith that can be difficult to reconcile with what we are told by the world is the best for all. It feels as though we must qualify our faith in order to gain even the most strained acceptance, or "tolerance" from others.

My first post for Cathofeminism was essentially every frustration I had on the matter, pouring out onto the screen. As an advocate, I had felt as though I was estranged from both those that wanted to help survivors of intimate partner violence, and from members of my faith community. It wasn't that both groups were wrong, or that one was right and one was wrong. In fact, both sects had truth but are still unable to put differences aside and see that truth in action.

I do not have to be a Christian and a Feminist, or a Christian and a Humanist. My Catholic faith is enough to support all the 'ists' and 'isms' that are true. As the readings this Sunday reminded us: "...whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself."' (Rom 13:8-10)

I find this realization refreshing and a bit humorous in the face of a current Facebook circulation:


It isn't that the message is wrong. The war over what exactly our duty is to our brothers and sisters on this world have been waging for decades. Are we called to correct sin? Judge the sin and not the sinner? Proclaim it from the rooftops and be persistent in our mission to offer accountability? Or, should we love? Should our actions speak the volumes that others need to hear from us? Maybe both. Maybe neither. 

I don't know the right way to be Christian anymore than the next person, but I find that C.S. Lewis has a compelling point. Perhaps we are qualifying our faith to avoid being categorized with those that are not reflecting Christ's love from the inside of Christianity. Perhaps we qualify it to gain a degree of credibility with those that do not share a faith in Christ. No matter the reason, I am happy to be alive during the time of Pope Francis. He is a constant reminder for me to just show love. When your thoughts, words, and heart are in line with Christ's love, there is no inconsistency. There is no reason for Christianity And.




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

No Tears.

I am going to go ahead and take a minute away from all the serious and worthwhile topics that I should be discussing here to share a first world problem.

I did not plan this whole school thing very well.

Calvin will be going to school two days a week, and one of those days is the morning after my late night with Jesus. Which also happened to be today.

In case you were wondering, it is a real treat to wake up before your alarm goes off. It is even better if it is the ear drum bursting screams of your four year old and two year old that pulls you out of your REM-less slumber before you have had a chance to shower and before the youngest should be awake.

Close your eyes. Imagine opening your bedroom door to see the four year old sitting on the two year old. He is wrenching her arm back at an odd angle and she has a death grip on what little hair he has, as he screams, "POOP SPIDER!" into her ear. More screaming drifts up the stairs and threatens to shatter the barely there window of time you will have to shower before the third terror  snowflake wakes up as he always does: sounding as though he is mid-Freddy Krueger nightmare. That is it. Back to your rooms, all of you, and so help me if you slam that door...

I tell you all this to preface the following statement:

I freaking love school.




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Modesty" and Assault

I can't believe we are still having this conversation.

Upworthy has a video discussing cat calling and assault. (Some language, but good.) It was positive to see a video linking cat calling and assault, especially after the recent proclamation that women should take being harassed as they walk in public as a compliment. Then I did a stupid thing. I looked at the comments. On a pro-life Facebook page's post about the video.

Ladies. Gentlemen. It was embarrassing. If you watch the video, I am sure you can guess what I saw in the combox, so I won't bother repeating it here.

I'm not going to write about the danger zone we've created with modesty talks. I've seen it written better than I can manage dozens of times. Many of those posts come from Calah Alexander, BUT SHE IS RIGHT.

I have covered (no pun intended) the subject of sexual assault before. I have even detailed my own experience with assault.

Today, there is only one message I want to pass on. If you are conservative, against abortion even in cases of rape, Christian, Catholic, traditional... Stop. Stop making assault hinge on what a woman is wearing. JUST STOP. The crime lies in deciding someone else's body is there for your amusement and pleasure. The crime is deciding you do not have to keep your hands or your words to yourself. The crime is in taking without consent.

Stop. Refocus your thoughts. This is not about destroying men or their fun times. It is about destroying the idea that a woman is there for your pleasure, and that you have a right to take what you want without asking.

Stop. When you say that men and women should show respect and reverence for one another and that marriage and sex is sacred, no one is listening if you follow that by calling a woman a whore for wearing short shorts. No one is listening when you say that all life is sacred, even in the womb, if you follow that noble statement by saying a woman deserves to be assaulted if the way she dresses does not meet your approval.

Do you need to know why no one is listening? Women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds experience assault, harassment, and rape. Everything about what you do, how you walk, how you talk, what you are wearing, and how you look can be re-framed. Don't believe me? Potato salad.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Parenting Books Part II



To be completely honest, I had no intention of reading Momnipotent. I wasn't even sure if I would read it once I found it in my swag bag. I flipped through the pages and saw that some of the pages had flowery designs and instantly remembered that my femininity was broken.

But, it was suddenly in my adoration bag, and seemed like a nice contrast to The Screwtape Letters. The chairs in the adoration chapel are uncomfortable, and awkward when you fall asleep, so I try to read.

The author, Danielle Bean, really is easier to relate to for me than the other authors on parenting that I have read. (I might not have burst into tears over turtle food, but I have found myself pregnant and literally stuck in a pantry while I sobbed on the floor. It's nice to be reminded that I am not the only imperfect mom out there!) It might just be that I am in a different place in life. When I read now, my mind sometimes floats towards "What am I getting out of this?" or "What do I want others to know about this book? While I am only halfway through it, Momnipotent certainly has some points for me to consider, though to be frank, I skip over the true/false quizzes and the answers that are sprinkled through out because they are not what gets the gears turning and they feel sort of obvious to me.

Femininity

Bean makes sure to hit the popular subject of femininity. I mean, come on. It is a book about being a mom, right? We are living in the midst of the Mommy Wars and opinions that never end about what women are all about. She includes quotes from St. John Paul II that I know very well. Bean asks and answers "Where do we find our worth?"

I am not sure I am satisfied with the answer to this question that is given by many Catholics, including myself at times. My "feminine genius" does not feel feminine at all. While I might experience more emotions than my husband, the emotion I feel most often is annoyance at all the emotions with which women are saddled. I don't watch Lifetime for Women (Project Runway doesn't count.) and I don't really appreciate rom coms. I don't fit the stereotype. I am not a nurturing mother, if I am being completely honest. I don't know how to be that, and it certainly does not come naturally when my children need it from me.

All this the femininity and "different yet equal" talk prompts for me, is more questions.

What happens when your feminine genius is broken?

What does it mean if accessing the "feminine strengths" is just as hard as it is for you to pee in a urinal?

I can start to build answers to these questions by asking myself where my worth comes from, and I believe that the answers extend past motherhood. Every person: single, married, religious ordered, man, woman, teen, and child has to figure out answers to that question often throughout life, and the answer changes.

The Morning Offering

Bean has some reflections on The Morning Offering that are helpful. Mostly, that it is a good prayer for me to remember and to try to teach the kiddos. Let's be real: it is hard to hear The Prayer Before Meals 45 times a day. I will shoot for a little variety in the weeks to come. But. I still have to ask:

Who are these moms that find a way to include prayer time into the day to day life?! Am I doomed if I have trouble getting a handle on my own prayer life? I worry that I am just not built for that. Why does it feel so much more difficult to accomplish for my life than it looks in others?


Mom Martyrdom

In my SAHM circles, I hear this theme often. I also hear it in the working mom circles, because don't we all have roughly the same list of things to accomplish? Bean touches on this issue, but I wasn't entirely satisfied with the conclusion.

I get it. There are times when I do things that need to be done for the wrong reasons. Sometimes I might do it just to prove I can, or to try to yank out a "WOW, MOM/WIFE! You are the most amazing person in the entire universe and I will never be able to thank you enough." Care to guess how many times that has worked?

The vast majority of the time, I am merely trying to pull my weight. If I had to spend my days away from the house and come home to a mess I did not create or supervise, I would feel like crap. So, the drive to finish the to-do list has less to do with martyrdom and more to do with putting in my fair share of the work.

Realistically, in our situation, there are two adults that are responsible for all household duties, including financial support. If one of us can't do it, is it really martyrdom to accept that you are responsible for that task when you have the more adjustable schedule?


To conclude, I am interested to finish the book, and I don't mean this to be a criticism of Momnipotent more than I mean to talk about the questions that books on the subject of Catholic parenting continually raise. I am truly looking to hear your input on the matter: I'd love to talk about it with others that are facing, have faced or one day might face the same questions.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Parenting Books Part I

I'm not really the parenting book type of mom. I own a copy of What to Expect When You are Expecting and I have not touched it since I was pregnant the first time. During Calvin's toddler year without a sibling, I was beyond bored and yet the busiest I had ever been. I felt as though I had no time for God, or me, or both. So I bought The Handbook for Catholic Moms. I promptly spent the next two weeks feeling like a total failure as a parent for not being able to incorporate my prayer life into the active life of my son. We had a bit of a difficult time about then, so I signed up for the online forums to try to get some support from the community, even if the book wasn't really for me. My question sat unanswered for months, so I deleted the post and my account. I was officially off any book that had to do with parenting.

This. Every day.

When I was pregnant with Frank, I found out Mayim Bialyik was interesting in a refreshingly different way from her Blossom days, and had written a book. As I was having my third child on earth and only owned a double stroller, I was exploring the world of baby wearing for the first time, and her book was called Beyond the Sling. I was curious.

See? The first outing with two kids.
Hattie is perilously balanced on the cart and Calvin passed out with worry.
We barely survived.


It was shocking to realize that the parenting Matt and I were doing had a striking resemblance to about half of what Bialyik called attachment parenting. There were several chapters I skipped over or merely skimmed (Sorry. Elimination Communication is just not for me.) and the book really had little to do with why I thought I was buying it, but it did reinforce my belief in not relying on parenting books. 

Enter Edel. 

I was all sorts of happy to hear we were getting swag bags for attending. I love getting stuff. I claimed my seat on the end of a row and started digging. The most surprising item (other than the pillowcase) was the book, Momnipotent. 

I've heard of it in the Catho grapevine. I'm on a reading kick right now, and desperately trying to avoid starting my giant Van Gogh read. So I've been reading it. I'm not sure that I have picked up anything earth shattering yet, but I do have a few things I have been mulling over that I would like to share and hopefully discuss. 

Tomorrow, I will dig through some of the notes I have taken and I would love to hear your input! Be prepared, online blogging community. I am going to need you to comment on tomorrow's post! 



Monday, July 28, 2014

Obligatory Reflection Post

"Unhappy is the only happy that she'll ever be."  -Matt Pryor

I don't know about you, but the last thing I want for my life is for that song lyric to describe me.

I have been in a place of struggle lately, and it took me some time to get over the barrier of comparing it to others and their struggles. God has felt a bit elusive for me, even though life is mostly good. Losing spiritual footing impacted my parenting, and me as a spouse. Enter Edel.

I would have packed my bags that very moment.

Let me begin by saying that I am a pretty terrible blog follower since Google Reader broke up with me. I tried Blog Lovin' and it just isn't the same. I end up deleting the direct email notifications from blogs I try to follow before I read them. Terrible reader. So, it is actually amazing that I managed to find out Edel was happening.

I am not big on retreats or conferences usually. At retreats, I feel spiritually inadequate, and have to fight through the cheesy hugging ceremonies. Some retreats I have been a part of end up with a creepy stalker element to them, and I leave feel more drained than connected. Conferences can have a similar effect, especially if I am pregnant. Conferences don't typically put nap time on the schedule, so I miss something when I get tired of waddling around. Fortunately, Edel felt like neither of these things. I've never attended an event that was set up with mothers in mind. The baby inclusive cocktail party was easily the greatest party I have ever been to, until the baby-wearing inclusive karaoke dance party the next night. The talks were spread out and spoke directly to the part of me that felt like motherhood was broken in my life. (Well, the parts I heard did this, anyway. The giant live Tweet screen was distracting in the best kind of way.) For the first time, I was in a room with 150+ women that felt EXACTLY the same way I was feeling.

My son, the morning I left for Edel: Mom, it is Friday. You are leaving. Get out.
He followed by repeatedly telling me he was drawing me buried in sand. Motherhood.


If you are a better blog reader than I am, you will read this line repeatedly, but I can't get over it: "It is good that you are here." Hallie Lord managed to provide the inspired seven words that all of us desperately needed to hear.

Jen Fulwiler and Hallie Lord (and support staff) saw a hole in ministry, and they worked hard to fill it. I'm sure they would tell you that the only regret is that more were unable to attend. Mothers need to hear that the job is hard, but that there are many more women participating in the struggle right beside us.

Marion Fernandez-Cueto mentioned the analogy of taking a chem class and then realizing that you would be judged by how you "chemistry" the rest of your life, sometimes by people that know nothing about chemistry. This leaves such a hole for self-doubt and isolation to take over!

Haley Stewart talked about our tendency to let our sin define us. This is especially true of motherhood in my life. I think about the times I have failed to respond to my children in the way that I should (and that I want to), and in dark times those are the only moments I can see.

Jen Fulwiler described laying in bed and listening to the sounds of her family in the morning and really not wanting to get out of bed. I thought I was the only one that did that!

To hear four different women with four incredibly different perspectives on family life prepare talks that were all equally relatable and brilliantly designed to tear apart the isolation of all that were listening was a pretty powerful experience. To be surrounded by Catholic women that knew the exhaustion and brokenness I was feeling but sought to get to know me not as a mother or a wife but as a woman was the source of comfort and regeneration that somehow managed to help me sleep less over the weekend, but return home to my family with what I so desperately needed: a chance to miss my life.

The struggle is worth it.

Whether you are a parent or not, a spouse or not, Catholic or not: you were put here for a reason. While Edel certainly delivered, there were other things about this weekend (events on social media and the homily on Sunday) that drove home a message for me that we all need to hear: you are here for a reason. Intelligent design is not just the physical, but our own talents and strengths as well. If you see a hole or a gap to bridge, perhaps that is the first indication that you are called to fill it or build that bridge.

St. Mary Cathedral in downtown Austin.


This weekend helped me to rediscover what I am being called to do, and that is an incredibly empowering feeling, even if I am typing this between breakfast cleaning and diaper changing. And you know what? It is good that I am here also.

Communion Hymn this weekend at the Cathedral








Friday, July 18, 2014

7QT: Edel Playlist (07.18.2014)



Three hours in a truck ALL BY MYSELF means I will be blasting my favorite albums. Six hours total, means I will have some CD changes along the way, so here is what I am planning on burning (Yep. no MP3 playlist availability in the good ol' 2008 Ridgeline. CDs, yo. Remember those?

one
Andrew McMahon. As I regrettably am not able to own his new single, "Cecilia and the Satellite" in time for the trip, I will have to settle for SoCo, Jack's Mannequin and his solo EP. Settling is not really the correct word. Adore.

two
I am thinking a nice mix up of all my current favorite singles. Some Lumineers, American Authors, Various Veronica Mars soundtrack pieces, The Oh Hellos... you know. Excellence.


three
Max Collins on repeat. Seriously, I am so so happy that he put out a solo album. Eve 6 already lays claim to the best road trip song EVER, but I will enjoy getting to know his solo stuff on the drive to Austin.
Best. Road. Song. Ever.


four
Third Eye Blind. My own version of the Best Of.


five
I went retro this week and snagged some Onelinedrawing albums, circa 2004. Those will most likely come with me as well. This one is my kids' favorite:


six
While The Format will most definitely make the trip, I have yet to decide about Fun.


seven
I can't help it. More VM soundtrack.



Head over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes AFTER you tell me about your road trip music!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Right Brain Summer Drawing Club #3


I am still plugging along with Simcha's Drawing Club!





Confession time: I get super bored when I am asked to draw my hand. Other things are interesting and I don't really tire, but ask me to draw my hand and I'm going to fall asleep, even in art class.

It might help if I attempted the drawings in a well-lit room with fresh air and bountiful light. Maybe.


Here are this week's drawings. I completely spaced on the childhood landscape, but oddly it did seem to come back. Maybe the author is on to something.

I'm sure I drew my family from time to time, but I don't remember that.


lines


first hand



I had to stop the madness. My hand is bo-oring.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Too Many of a Good Thing


Too Many of a Good Thing (I had this song stuck in my head while writing this post.)


*Note: I really need to get better at catching typos and grammar mistakes the first pass through.


I am entering the more enjoyable phase of pregnancy: mostly cravings, less nausea. It is pretty gratifying to take that first bite into a Bang Bang shrimp taco from BoneFish Grill. Satisfying through the last bite. Sometimes, the cravings turn off pretty quickly. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I suffered greatly from a need to recreate the taquitos from the on campus restaurant where I worked in college. One night, I realized that I had thrown away a bag once and they were the same brand I could buy in stores. I bought the biggest box I could and the first three times I made them were heaven. The fourth time, there was something about the taquito/sour cream combo that ruined it. I still don't really eat taquitos and sour cream is out completely when I am pregnant.

I find that my tolerance levels are the same with other things in life, especially when it comes to my faith. I also insist that people use words correctly and have an intolerance for overused words that also happen to be used incorrectly. Seriously, don't even talk to me about "zombies." These things together are just disastrous for my interactions with other people.

In college, the crowd I ran with was mostly Catholic. In retrospect, the vast majority of those people were just like me, and learning what it means to be Catholic as a young adult. That can be difficult to manage at times. A popular concept in our group was "accountability." Accountability is a good thing. I appreciate having people in my life that will be honest and tell me when I need to step it up. I know that their intentions are to help me be a better woman. This is a far cry from what "accountability" became in this instance.

It felt as though the more I tried to be accountable to the group, the more I just failed. My relationship wasn't good enough, my personality was lacking. In an effort to blend in, I even asked someone that I thought of as a mentor in a way to help me discern a college transfer. I was met with "Well, that school costs more, but your future husband will be the one footing the bill, so it probably doesn't matter." The rest of our conversation was filled with "accountability" messages that reflected this sentiment. After we were finished, the A word was an exasperation trigger. I couldn't handle the message being caked on like that, and I couldn't handle my life being an open book for those that had partial information under the guise of "accountability."

I am starting to feel the same way about the word "uncharitable." In the past few months, I have seen this word thrown around often to describe someone that just seems blunt from my perspective. Is charity toward others in conversation and in action a good thing? ABSOLUTELY. Should we strive to be charitable always? Sure! It is virtuous and good to show others love always. Should we be using it as a way to shame others? Nope.

Taken from www.merriam-webster.com

I see nothing in this definition that equates bluntness or (a slightly off) sense of humor with a lack of charity. Does being blunt mean you are not speaking out of love? No. Quite the opposite in my case. I am a terrible liar. I never got the hang of it. Honesty just comes out. That doesn't mean I don't know I have a filter problem, but it certainly does not equate to a lack of charity. Being honest often does seem to equate with charity, no? Does making a joke mean you are always speaking without love? No. I have a dry sense of humor, and every sense of humor in between. I didn't used to believe slap-stick comedy was my jam, but I've come around. If, instead of crying uncharitable, I was seeing admonishments for a lack of tact, I'd probably be inclined to agree.

I am far from perfect, but I like who I am. I feel more confident now in my 30s than I did in my teens and 20s. When I was 18 and 19, I tried too hard to change myself to fit in with others. Accepting myself, sarcastic wit, honesty, bluntness, and all is good. That doesn't mean I don't have room for improvement, just that virtuous behavior or words might not always look the same. A constant push for us all to be the same is one that I really have to rebel against.



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Unfriended.



Facebook is not supposed to be complicated. As a general rule, I don't "unfriend" people. I also don't "friend" people often. Mostly, because I am lazy. I have little motivation to sort my 200-some friends (Edit: I overestimated this number. I come in at a lame 188.) into lists, or to basically rank who gets to see what.We live states away from family, so Facebook has truly been a blessing: people that otherwise would not be able to connect with our children can see photos and hear about our lives. It saves an introvert like me from making dozens of phones calls to update our large family. Another perk? I get to see the children of my friends from childhood and adulthood grow up. I am privy to details I might miss out on because of distance. I have the privilege of seeing my friends raise a generation of kids that I wish could live next door to my own. Facebook has been good in my life.

I have also been a part of some really great conversations about serious matters on Facebook. Of course, there are discussions that get out of hand. Even some of the heated conversations have been some of my favorite, however.

Recently, I had a terrible experience with the "unfriend" Facebook button. For months, the interactions between this person and myself had seemed needlessly heated. With every comment from the individual, I would receive a private message from someone else asking "What's the deal?!" I would vent and ask for prayers privately. Status updates that included topics from raising kids to summer meals to (finally) courtesy parking would erupt in seconds. For a month or so before the finale, I had even been hiding a great deal of my updates from the individual just to preserve the relationship. I like this person. If we lived closer, I'd have a beer with this person. This person is on my Christmas card list. It only took one Saturday morning's observation in a post I forgot to limit. One seemingly harmless conversation in the week that included the Hobby Lobby ruling and all ties are cut.

I don't really want to admit it, but I am a bit hurt underneath all the puzzlement. Months of judgmental comments that I tried to step over, and even a few unsent private messages trying to figure out what the hell happened. In some ways, I suppose it is a relief. In many other ways, it just plain sucks.

Almost everyone I know has had a similar experience on Facebook. It makes family get-togethers awkward. Perhaps it is not being able to hear tone when you are reading a post. Maybe the comfort and anonymity a computer brings makes matters worse. It is possible that some people really are like that in person. It might just be stubborn people being stubborn.

I suppose I am writing this post to get it out of my system. I don't enjoy being attacked and I don't understand how someone can continuously attack and then be upset enough to "unfriend" someone when they are challenged back. I also don't like the taste left in my mouth over this whole experience. I don't know how to resolve something like this. Are my only options to censor my own Facebook page or to get off of Facebook?

How do you handle tense situations that start on Facebook and bleed into real life?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Let's Talk About Books, Man.

Or people. Or Woman. Whatever.

Book review time!



This post might leave you with the realization that I am weird, but I suppose you had to find out sometime. So, let's dig in.

Lean In

When this book first came out, a friend asked if I wanted to read it with her. I put it off for so long that I think she read it without me. I finally finished it in June. Sandberg has some really fantastic insight into women and corporate America. Some of this can be transferred to working women that are not in the corporate world, and perhaps even those of us that are at home. However, I think I might have been better off finding her TED talks. A former employer once mentioned to me that she noticed the tendency for women in work meetings to qualify their statements: "I might be missing something, but..." or "This sounds crazy, but what if we..." where as men just offer the idea to the group. I was hoping for a bit more insight to this sort of issue, but it seemed to repeat the same three or four catch phrases through out the book. I am glad I read it, but wish it had been a shorter read.

Life, In Spite of Me

This was a quick read, but to be polite, it was boring. I put it on my GoodReads list a few years ago and forgot what it was supposed to be about. I think I started reading it thinking it was about someone that survived abortion, but it is about surviving suicide and her Christian conversion. I found it to be poorly written and lacked depth. 

Neptune Noir

Yes. Once my certificate arrives in the mail, I will officially be a geek. I was hunting around Amazon to see if I could scope out the next Veronica Mars book release and I found this. It was edited by Rob Thomas, so I picked it out of the dozens of fan fic options. I didn't know that there was an entire book series that seriously analyzed TV shows. Wow. It was fun to read Rob's thoughts about VM in the blurbs ahead of the chapters. In case you were wondering, the second VM book is due out in late 2014. Yes. I have already pre-ordered. Leave me alone.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

BIG. Full of big words and more references than I can handle! What a great read though. You can find this on the Vatican website in its entirety. I found the book to be incredibly insightful. Here is a quick list of some of my earmarked sections:
183, 187 (poverty and the state), 234/251 (women and work) 335 (capitalism), 399 (death penalty), 401(armed resistance), 552 (commitments to others through service)

If you want to take the time, I recommend that you do so. 



Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness

Someone (who is still anonymous for now) sent me this in the mail, I assume for my birthday. The illustrations are just fantastic! I can't wait to use it to introduce the kids to Poe. It includes The Black Cat, The Masque of the Red Death, Hop-Frog, and The Fall of the House of Usher. The stories have been slightly edited (as in no dismembered bodies, so as kid-friendly as Poe can be) and as I said, beautifully illustrated. Adore. 


If you're on GoodReads, add me! I love finding out what folks are reading!







Monday, June 30, 2014

Fighting the Urge to Use a Logan Echolls Quote as My Title

Does anyone else struggle with using too many pop culture references that no one understands? Just me? Okay, great.

This is not the one I wanted. I was going for " Ugh, all right, stay on message, Logan."

Here it is. Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius. Suddenly, the HHS mandate matters to scores and scores of people. Suddenly, there are people outraged, and their outrage matters. Wait. Backtrack a few years. Indeed, there has been outrage since day one of the HHS mandate, but the outrage of some did not matter then.

Lest I forget the charity hat I am often accused of leaving at home, I'll just move on to my point: America, you are doing it wrong. 

Why are we arguing over what our employers should and should not provide us when it comes to healthcare, when the real concern is healthcare being associated with our employment in the first place? 

The problem with band aid solutions, is that you end up needing more band aids to contain the bleeding. If you plan to fix something, or wish to advocate for our politicians to fix something, fix it right.

Access to healthcare doesn't do any good if:

1. The system is broken.

2. Healthcare is not affordable.

3. It pits the rights of one against the rights of another.

When you create a band aid solution (I maintain the ACA is in fact a band aid for a healthcare system that needs serious surgery.) things only get worse. Costs are still rising. Remember those "copay free" well-child doctor visits? Insurance companies are now picking and choosing what services they will or will not cover that used to be routine screenings. It's no longer free, and it never was free. True reform of the system is not being required, we just have access to healthcare. 

Women's healthcare is still less than par. Take all the "free" birth control they will throw at you, but you are not being treated with dignity if they do not bother to understand women's health. 

There is a reason insurance companies were so willing to comply, and there is a very real reason that many in this nation are not willing to comply. The conversation should not be about employers and birth control. It should be about the dignity of a human life, and true healthcare reform. Until true reform is a reality, you bet your sweet Aspercreme I believe in allowing employers to follow their conscience.