Monday, March 24, 2014

That Elusive Beast Called Kindness

Dear Twenty-Something Me:

I remember you. Your impatient foot tapping. Your eye-rolling and deep sighs that showed how put out you were by folks with large carts of groceries in front of you. I know you thought your time was worth more: after all, you did have a party to get to. A nap to take, books to study, or a job. The eye roll definitely started in high school, and it just got worse: probably in preparation for this day.

Today was your Shopping Trip From Hell. Frank was screaming because that's his jam. Hattie was chasing Calvin. Calvin was pouting over something that was probably extremely important, and there you were, just trying to push the cart around aisle stockers and the after school rush. It was 45 long, and painful minutes of forgetting something on the other side of the store and having to dodge carts bigger than your own. You finally got to the front of the store to check out and then you swing the cart in line, hoping the kids stand still (quietly) for just a few more minutes. Then it happens.

A young, impatient twenty-something says, "Can I just go in front of you? I only have one thing and I am in a rush."

Your face goes blank as you imagine all the things that will go wrong in the added five minutes. Then, you imagine saying "No." and standing awkwardly in front her until you are done checking out with your crazy children orbiting around you and screaming. So you shrug, defeated, and take a deep breath to hold back any trace of tears. My, my. How the tables have turned.

Fortunately, (and unfortunately as it turns out) another lane opened and you were motioned over. Although you were flooded with relief, you couldn't help but mutter, "Or would you like to go in front of me in that lane as well?" Classy.

So, Twenty-Something Me, I am telling you this cautionary tale for two reasons:

1. In the hopes that you realize it may not seem like such a big deal to you if you ask or just cut in line, but I assure you that time is just as valuable to a mom at the end of her ropes.

2. In the hopes that the above realization will help you to gather some kindness earlier in life, so when today comes, you keep your snide comments to yourself and just breathe.


Exhausted, Thirty-Something You

Friday, March 21, 2014

Faith and Reason

I will sheepishly admit to feeling as though I am in a faith dry spell. I certainly know what I am supposed to believe and why. I understand the logic, and natural law. I don't feel burdened attending Mass or by any other the other Catholic responsibilities or duties. But the faith thing... I feel like Dantes. 

Can I not escape him?!

Faith is hard. I had an entire class that did nothing but focus on Aquinas but faith still feels like hope. Prayer, sometimes like wishing. As in, "Boy howdy, I hope I have faith. I hope God is there. I hope my faith is real. I wish I could confirm that this is all real." I remember the Catho buzz in college about Mother Teresa and her spiritual drought, and the folks that still call her a fraud. It is heart wrenching to see someone that devoted their life to serving others as best as they could during times that they felt abandoned and probably most needed to see or feel or touch proof that it was all for a greater purpose, be called a fraud. Dismissed for not meeting someone else's arbitrary definition of "good" or "service."

Last night I was struggling with these thoughts while reading about Church social doctrine. I came across this line:

75. Faith and reason represent the two cognitive paths of the Church's social doctrine: Revelation and human nature.

I feel as though I am always being asked to choose.

I don't mean that I see faith and reason as at odds with one another, just that I can't seem to have both at the same time. My faith brought me to the point in my life where I began to study Catholicism closer and grow in my understanding: it brought me reason. My spiritual life is a construction zone. I am counting on reason to get me through. 

For now, I will go with what I have, and try not to focus on the doubt. I am reminded of the sign on the wall at Druber's Donuts:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Most of the time, I hesitate to chime in on celeb gossip or stories. I enjoy movies and TV for entertainment purposes, and my interest stops there at this point in my life. That does not mean that it did when I was a child, or that somehow celebrities do not find themselves not just in the spotlight, but trying to figure out how they became role models.

The phenomena of looking to celebs to tell us how to look, how to act, how to vote, what religious views we should have, what words to ban... escapes me, but I am not naive enough to assume that others (especially others that are at an impressionable age) will also avoid the chatter.

While I could write all day about the choices that those in the spotlight face in their willing and unwilling roles as role models and trend setters, I would like to focus specifically on how we react and our expectations when celebrities are perhaps not good people.

Certainly there are rumors, and certainly no one is perfect, but when imperfection and violence are involved, there are victims. Our justice system maintains "innocent until proven guilty", and what often happens as a result is a real hardship for the victim: a football player kills the mother of his child and then himself but is lauded as a great guy. In a case of "community celebrity", a young girl is unable to give consent and her name is driven through the mud to protect the young boys responsible. A few Hollywood examples:

Michael Jackson
Jackson did in fact go to trial on charges related to child molestation, but was acquitted.

Alec Baldwin
Allegations have been made that Baldwin abused his wife, and tapes surfaced of voice mails where he is berating his then eleven year old daughter.

Chris Brown
The link here is a piece addressing the sexual activity of young boys and how different it is viewed from the sexual activities of young women. I think we all are aware of the intimate partner violence issues Brown has faced in recent years.

Brynn Hartman
Brynn is probably most widely known for the murder suicide she committed that took the life of her husband, Phil Hartman.

Kobe Bryant
One of the worst cases of victim blaming I have seen. I once attended a conference where the details of the prosecutor's case were read along with the public character assassination the victim experienced. At the end, the speaker revealed who the defendant was, and it was Bryant. A fine and devastating example of trying the victim in our public court instead of holding the perpetrator accountable.

Woody Allen
A brilliant director in the eyes of Hollywood, but a man that, at the very least, has questionable relationships with the children in his life.

This list could continue, but it is a good round up of the types of crimes and offenses that I am referring to: child molestation, rape, IPV, even death. What do we expect from Hollywood in regards to the perpetrators? How do we expect the victims to be treated? A reader (Hi, Mom!) pointed out that that we cannot or will not protect victims that are not famous, so what do we do about the perpetrators of these too-ugly-to-talk-about crimes? No one wants their good names sullied by being related to the mess, but no one wants to give up the perks of being related to genius mind that makes you fistfuls of money.

I find looking at these crimes as they relate to celebrity to be a good example of the reality for victims in our own backyard as well. The skeezy guy that doesn't shower and lives around the corner is often not the one to be most concerned about when it comes to this types of violent or sexual crimes. Often, perpetrators are in positions of authority or respect: teachers, scout leaders, church clergy and lay people. People with significant influence (or just enough influence) to make it more difficult for others to believe that a respectable person could be responsible for such a heinous crime. So we move to the next plausible explanation: the victim must be lying. It is easier to believe someone a liar that it is to give up our shiny happy world that sometimes people with talent or money can do bad things.

So I ask again: what can we do to protect victims of abuse? How can we better send the message that the perpetrators of these horrible crimes are not going to be rewarded but instead held accountable for their actions? As someone that truly wants to believe in rehabilitation, I ask: What good are we doing the perpetrators (that are statistically very likely to have once been victims themselves) by rewarding them for their talent, but by not helping them stop their own history from repeating itself?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things.

I grew up watching Saturday Night Live with my dad. Bad years, good years, and even the years they don't replay on TV anymore. When we lived in Florida, one of the hardest things was that SNL didn't come on until 11:30pm, so I started recording it. It is still one of the first things that my uncle and I chat about when I go to visit family. I even have Trivial Pursuit: SNL, though it has only been played three times. I've read the book. I have a t-shirt. If I had a bucket list, going to see the show live would be on it.

I have known for years that it is a pretty biased show. The political humor is good when they go for it on both sides of the aisle. The show is great when they have a host that is willing to poke fun at themselves. I was bummed to hear Lena Dunham was hosting. It is sitting on my DVR, and I have yet to watch it because she promotes a brand of feminism that is seriously misguided, as evidenced by one of her skits from Saturday.

The skit starts out as a jewelry party, and ends as a Planned Parenthood advertisement. While it is "poking fun" at a men's rights activist, the dialogue paints the picture that only men's rights activists (that also advocate against equal pay for men and women) would be against such a fab organization as PP. Because feminism.

I am not going to link to the skit. You can look it up, but it is sort of a yawn other that the glaring stereotypes and misinformation. I don't care if it was the best watched episode of the season (it wasn't) or if it was the least watched (it wasn't), but I do care how the pro life movement responds to the episode. From what I have seen, it was pretty disrespectful and not at all dignified.

It is frustrating to me to see members of the pro life community believing that they can spout off some bible nonsense, mention the devil, insult someone's appearance, and call her a "whore" and then turn around and say that they support the dignity of all human life. 

If you support the dignity of human life, act like it. That means every life, whether they agree with you or not, has value. 

Abortion clinics are not closing because we throw the best insults. They do not open when pro life protesters are being assaulted. The laws are changing because abortion is not moral and more pro life supporters are taking a stand. I have had numerous conversations with members of the pro choice community who say that the rate at which legal abortion is disappearing is alarming and they are concerned at what this means for women that are scared and facing abuse or rape with no support. 

I would love to see the men and women wasting their time insulting and degrading a public figure put that effort into securing funding for pro life resources for women that need support with an unplanned pregnancy. Maybe if there was more of that happening, we wouldn't be stereotyped as men's rights activists and women haters on SNL.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Three Reasons I Love Lent

I am linking up again today with Micaela for Three Reasons I Love Lent. Last night (early this morning) was the first time I had been able to make it to adoration in over three years. It was a part of my faith life that was sorely missed. I wanted to share with you some things that I was thinking about last night.

Finding some joy in sacrifice. Lent is not easy for many reasons, one being I love meat and really need to just admit that I am not a fan of fish. I have always seen fish as Lent. Why would I eat it if I didn't have to? Anyway, there is a joy that comes from the sacrifices we make during Lent. I see it radiate throughout social media this time of year, and it is a nice reminder of community and the forever growing yet shrinking Catho-circle. This joy is small and comes at the expense of giving something of ourselves to God, but it culminates at Easter, and it is just really lovely.

The liturgical simplicity. When I was growing up, the church I attended always cut the processional hymn during Lent and (even as a child that made up her own words to "Here I Am, Lord") there was something powerful in what was missing. We are at our new parish for the first Lenten Season, and on Ash Wednesday there was some piano during the Mass, but no singing. Now, I have no idea if they keep that up throughout Lent, but it was such a powerful reminder of what this season means. 

God's Gratuitous Presence. Life is wonderfully busy. It is stressful and there is never enough time. Lent forces me to reconnect and readjust my life. Last night, I busted open the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. 

It is exciting to finally be digging in, but a bit tedious, I will admit. The title of Chapter 1 is "God's Gratuitous Presence." That is such a calming and exciting thought! A part of the chapter linked to Exodus 3:14 and Moses' encounter with God, so it gave me a great reason to break open my study bible that I bought a year ago (ahem) and continue on down the rabbit hole. A version of the translation for I AM WHO AM can be "He who causes to be." Incredible. It also made me think of Count of Monte Cristo. 
Edmond: Can I never escape Him?
Mercedes: No, He is in everything.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday

An open letter to women who have left the Catholic Church:

We want to invite you to come talk with us, and we are excited to meet you! Just like you, we are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers; students, professionals, and stay-at-home moms. We are teenagers, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and beyond. We are from many walks of life and from diverse backgrounds, but we share a common faith - one we want to invite you to revisit.

Some of us have been away from the Church, and by one way or another we've come back. Some of us never left - but that doesn't mean we’ve never questioned nor been confused. Some of us were raised outside of the Church, and made the decision to join as adults. In one way or another, each one of us has come to know and love Christ in the Catholic Church - and in keeping with Pope Francis’ request we want to share that love and joy with you.

Being Catholic isn’t easy, and we’ll be the first to tell you that we aren’t perfect; we have many planks in our own eyes to worry about. Our faith embraces paradoxes, challenges our culture's values, and makes us feel uncomfortable when we are called to examine our actions and our motivations. But - as you already know - just because something is challenging does not mean it is not worthwhile.

We know that you are intelligent and capable. We believe that you deserve answers to your questions, and explanations for the teachings with which you're struggling. We’ve all struggled with various aspects of our faith, but we aren’t here to judge or condemn you. We simply want to listen to what you’re feeling. We want to understand what is making you uncertain about being part of our Catholic faith. We want to help you find the answers and explanations that helped bring us home. We want to meet you, we want to hear about your experience, and most importantly, we want to invite you back.

Feel free to email any of us with questions or concerns you may have about the Church, her teachings, or what reversion means. If you’re not ready to bare your soul to complete strangers, we’d love to direct you to sites that helped us (and still help us) as we discerned our calling in life.

Wherever you are, whatever you believe, know that we are praying for you. You are our sister - another woman navigating a challenging world. We look forward to talking with you!

In The Peace and Love of Christ,

The members of #cathsorority

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Because, Civic Duty?

This is the conversation I had with my four year old about 10 times this morning:

Calvin: I don't want to vote. Why are we voting?
Me: Because it is my civic duty to vote.
Calvin: Why?
Me: Because it is. Get in the car.
Calvin: Why?
Me: Because we need to decide who our country's leaders are.
Calvin: No, why do I need to get in the car?

I wish I had the four year old vocabulary to tell him that I vote and this Hollywood-ified image comes to mind:

That I vote because women before me did not have the right to vote and that I was born with it because of them. 

This and other clever memorabilia from the area

I want to be able to explain that voting is particularly important to me as a Catholic Woman. 

Today, it is raining and cold. There are broken limbs all over the place from ice on the top of the trees. This is the third state I have registered to vote in since the birth of my oldest son. He comes with me every time that I vote or go pick up a yard sign. For this primary, he went with his father as well. Today, I will remind myself that he is four and really attached to playing cars after lunch and his routine. I will remind myself that he sees his parents actions, and that is pretty powerful as well. 

2012 Election

Activists, yo.

Telling Mitt a knock-knock joke.