Friday, October 2, 2015

Seven Times When Artists Got Motherhood Right

1.  A million months ago, I saw an Instagram post featuring a Marian statue, talking about how it must be the most beautiful statue of Mary holding Christ ever. All I saw was a tired mama.

I know this glazed over look well. 

Being a tired mama myself, I figured that I could spot one in a crowd. Then a few months shy of a million months ago, another Mary discussion with some Catho ladies over a painting or some form of Marian art happened, and I was inspired to write the most epic of all epic Seven Quick Takes post all about the times that Mary just couldn't even with tiny Jesus.


So, I wasted a bunch of time and never did it. Then I needed to take photos off my phone, so I edited the collection I had and made it all prettier for the post I was never going to write but wanted to write.

Then, today, right after I completely and totally FORGOT to plan for Domestic Violence Awareness Month and realized way late last night that I did not even have a post ready on the subject (Yes, Misty. Thank you for the reminder, friend. I owe you a SB shaken passion tea lemonade. Wait. Is mango the new "in" drink?) so I was goofing around this morning with old posts and graphics and oh yeah I need to update my iTunes playlist and OH THERE ARE THOSE MARYS! So, I lurked around a bit to figure out where SQT was these days, only to find it is retro month.

I know me. If I do not do this now, I never will, so hopefully Kelly won't mind that I didn't theme up, just linked up. Because, like Mary, I sorta can't even this week.

2. Mary reads Jesus' favorite OT passage for the bazillionth time:

Hmmm-mmm. Yes. Rainbows are rad. 
3. Mary was queen of the smell checks.

Is that what I think it- yep. Let's go. 

4. Nursing. The struggle is real.

I wonder if this artist had even seen a woman's anatomy?

5. Mary is my hero. 

Joseph rocks fatherhood.

6. Mary might have some introverted tendencies.

We. Cannot. Possibly. Be. Any. Closer.

7. Where Mary really couldn't even, but she did it anyway.

As a bonus, this was circulating last week, and I couldn't resist sharing. Sorry, that makes 8. 

Oh, strange man baby toddler Jesus. Be nice to your ma.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reading Challenge Progress: A Visual and Wordy Journey

I am not doing well with my reading plans in 2015. It is August. How did this happen?! I am only this far.

A miserable 5/15. EIGHT MONTHS INTO THE YEAR. There were a few books on my list that are more page-a-day sort of reads. Maybe there is hope. Sigh. I can't even say that I have spent tons of time reading about CST or feminism or really great things online. It turns out that a newborn sort of takes up that spare time. So does MLBTV. 

Here is a little bit of what I have been doing:

I'm trying. I might be CST'd out after THIS.

Introducing the babe to books. So late to the game...

The kids love these books. Sparrows are fascinating?

These are the books I want the kids to love. Because Poe.

Then I found out about this...

Can't stop, won't stop.

Instead of getting through my reading list, I have been day dreaming about my guilty pleasure genre, thanks to this:

Don't try to click that. It won't work. I told you so.

Which I then followed. All the way down the rabbit hole. Comedian memoirs have my number.

I know what you are thinking. This post was not a visual journey at all. The photos lacked interesting natural light, and were sometimes cropped weird. Well. At least this post matches my progress on my reading challenge.

I should go read a book now.

What are you reading?

Friday, August 7, 2015

We Can Be a Voice.

I love Catholicism. I've studied it since I was five. It has grown with me. The longer I write here, the more people I meet and the smaller this Catho world feels.

I still have no real explanation for what kept me searching for answers and finding them in the church. I still have no explanation for how I stumbled across the want ad in the paper that lead me to domestic and sexual violence survivor advocacy. Yet here I am, passionately entangled in both.

A few weeks ago, I surveyed you glorious readers in an attempt to figure out who you are and why you read these posts. I am a small time writer, and inconsistent at that, but I have a goal. I want to help facilitate improvements to the Catholic response to SA/DV survivors. I want our parishes and dioceses to care for and support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I want my church to be a support and comfort for all. In April, I set out to find out what the church's standard operating procedures were, or if we had them in place. I asked you if you knew your local resources. Do you?

I would guess that not one of us is without a loved one that has experienced sexual or domestic violence. The stories are heartbreaking, and we are left wringing our hands in angst or explaining it away. Maybe we prefer not to talk about it. Maybe we are wrought with grief because the perpetrator is also a loved one. Maybe we just don't know what to do, so we "give it to God."

Maybe God is throwing it back at us because we can help.

We can talk to our children about healthy relationships.
We can encourage and foster a healthy view of our sexuality.
We can use our positions in ministry (youth, choir, marriage or sacrament prep, and other ministry).
We can improve our pregnancy help center's resources to advocate for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
We can use our abilities as writers, bloggers, editors, radio personalities, volunteers to support survivors.
We can believe our loved ones when they say they have been hurt.
We can support survivors when conversations and gossip goes sour.
We can speak up when others scoff at current events involving assault or abuse.

We can be a voice.

It is not easy to go through an assault or an abusive marriage. When you are Catholic or religious, there are the added hurdles. Sometimes modesty is twisted and contorted to become a way to explain away assault. Sometimes our vows to love and honor our spouses in good times and bad forever can be misunderstood. Sometimes we get caught up and compare our obligations in a healthy, balanced relationship or situation to the tangled and complicated circumstances that surround abuse and assault.

We should do better. We can do better.

Churches (and parishes and dioceses) can gain knowledge of local resources. They can partner with advocacy programs in a faithful way. They can be trained to be an advocate for those that come to their faith community for help.

We can form a compassionate response to abuse and assault. We must.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Focused Message

There can be both good and bad to increasing awareness when it comes to important issues, say, like rape.

On the one hand, increased awareness can make it easier for survivors to report and to get help in order to heal. Awareness can decrease stigma and victims blaming. It can produce campaigns that give some really great materials like Men Can Stop Rape, or Love is Respect.

Unfortunately, sometimes things like this end up out there as well:

As seen floating around on Facebook.

At first glance, you might not think that the poster above is much different than the examples I linked to above, but take a minute to compare. The Jake and Josie poster puts the emphasis on the potential consequence of assault, equating a drunk hook up scenario where the consent of two people is questionable with sexual assault. 

I am not saying that Josie was or was not raped. I am saying that watering down rape to a "You might get charged with rape!" argument destroys the cause. 

In order to have an impact on rape culture, we have to do better. We must focus our message. We must create an environment that does not foster rape, and that supports survivors. It will never be enough to just make rapists fear being punished. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Burning Out and a Survey

Ladies and gentlemen. I declare myself burned out.

You may have noticed the not so subtle drop-off in posts. The decline in quality. Perhaps a typo or two.

Sometimes I do this thing where I read posts that just bum me out hard. Posts that talk about how silly it is to care about "perceived slights" against women in America for instance. I don't want to just post my reactions to other posts, so I stay quiet and stew. It isn't that I have a lack of post topics, or really even a lack of time anymore. I think my biggest reason for burnout is feeling as though my audience is not right for this blog project, or the blog project is not right for my readers.

Back in January or February, I mentioned that I planned to put together a small survey to help me to discern where this blogging project was headed, and I have finally followed through.

So, what do you say? Will you take the time to answer five short questions?

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why I Remain Catholic

I may have delayed writing this post too long. It isn't that I do not know why: I do. I did not want to write a post that someone else has written. This means I have read exactly one of the Why I Am Catholic posts, and I promise you mine will be nothing like Calah's. It would be easy to tell you that I am Catholic because Jesus or Eucharist or community but I am not satisfied with those answers, so why would you be?

Sometimes I really have no idea why I do the things that I do. My thought process is robotic at times. I consider a decision quickly and concisely, then act. My overwhelming nagging guilt sense is what tells me a choice is incorrect. Leaving the Church would be too intense. Too overwhelming. Why?

Even when I have struggled to find my relationship with God, the Catholic faith has provided me with a strong moral compass. I spent nine years in Catholic schools only to return for another four in college. I have spent most of my life studying the Catholic faith. Every time I have ever questioned the logic, I have been able to prove the Church was consistent.

Catholicism has saved me in literally every difficult time in my life: my grandmother's cancer scares, life as an adolescent, the death of my grandfather, my parent's divorce, marriage difficulties, parenthood. My life is steeped in the traditions of the Church. In dark times, there is a small, quiet, and certain voice that says, "Wait."

So I do.

My favs. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Bible Quote and an Almost Saint

I am a cradle Catholic, and completely feed into the stereotype: I'm not really handy with the bible. I'm not good with verses and reading when there are numbers thrown in after every sentence. I want to read the bible more, but thankfully the Catholic Church has many ways for me to learn about my faith. This caveat noted, if my research is accurate, this verse is where the "be in this world but not of it" mantra originated.

I like the verse in this (NABRE) translation. It clarifies some things for me. We do not belong to this world. It is wonderful to be reminded that this is not the end of the road. However, sometimes it seems that folks feel they must make the world hate them to follow Christ.

The venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen has some relatable words*:

Sure. The Church has no friends in the media. We are misrepresented on a daily basis. But... BUT...

Often times we are the ones misrepresenting Christ and His teachings. We put an emphasis on truth telling and tough love, but babies born to couples that are not married have trouble getting baptized. People that are divorced are shunned in their parish. People seeking desperately to be close to Christ through the Eucharist are asked not to attend Mass because they identify as homosexual. People that feel so unloved and so uncomfortable in their own skin that they want to be a different gender all together are compared to whores in the blogosphere. So I ask, if this is tough love, where is the love?

I get it. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is tell the truth, even when it is hard. There is no love in rejecting a person while you are engaged in your truth telling. You can reject the sin, but how are you embracing the sinner?

I have known some incredible Catholics in my lifetime. Give you the clothes off their backs type of people. I have known many priests that are good and holy men. So nothing makes me crazier than Catholics making all Catholics look like cruel jerks.

Know the truth. Learn why the Church teaches what she teaches. Soak up information. Then take a class on interpersonal relationships and learn how to love people. One is not more important than the other.

And for the love of all that is good and holy and true: stop using intentionally sexist and derogatory terms to describe someone when you do not like their actions.

*I keep running into a few versions of this quote. Not sure which is correct, but if you know where it comes from, message me and I will figure it out!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

When a Child Harms a Child

*This post contains information relating to childhood sexual assault. If this will be a triggering subject for you I apologize up front and want to give you a heads up so you can just skip the post. 

No one wants to talk about childhood sexual abuse. It is an ugly reality through and through. We flip through articles and blog posts on the matter, reading to silently agree or disagree, to feel a sense of community in trauma if it has effected our lives or the life of someone we love, to figure out how we can bank the information in case we ever need it. No one wants to need the information. No one wants to have a child that is harmed in this way. It is heartbreaking to see your child devastated in such an intimate way by another person. It is particularly brutal if the one harming your child is also a child. What if the child doing the harm is your son or daughter also? Parents have an instinct to protect their own children, but which child do you protect?

Suddenly, child abuse has an active role in your family's life and it is up to you as the parent to know how to find help for your child, how to help your child find healing, and how to best handle the situation. Where do you turn for help?

As parents, we must nurture an open line of communication with our children. Talking about sex with our children is awkward. Talking about puberty is awkward. Talking about strangers or loved ones as potential threats is also awkward. We must open that door over and over, no matter how uncomfortable or how far back our children's eyes roll, because if the time comes that they really need to tell us that they have been hurt they must know we are there to go through it with them.

For clarity's sake, we will first talk about what child sexual assault looks like, how we go about helping our children, and what our church can do to help families through this sort of trauma.

What does child sexual abuse look like? Here are some examples: (taken from RAIIN. This link also has a concise list of the warning signs/behaviors to be aware of in case your child doesn't come to you initially for help.)

-Obscene electronic communication (text, email, calls, etc.)
-Forced masturbation
-Any kind of sexual contact (oral, anal, vaginal)
-Forcing the viewing of pornography
-Sex trafficking
-Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare

So, what do we do if our child tells us that they have been fondled or molested or assaulted?

1. Believe them.
2. Listen to their timeline of events.
3. Don't wait. Get help immediately. (Anonymous National Child Abuse Hotline: 800.4.A.CHILD)

When you are dealing with a situation where a child is harming another child, it is important for ALL children involved to get the appropriate help. Reporting sexual abuse can be key in ensuring that the offending child can receive vital intervention services as early as possible. If you are facing a scenario where your child has harmed another one of your children, you are caring for all of your children equally when you seek help for all the children involved. It is a difficult thing to face, but it is important that we acknowledge the harm done and do our best to keep it from happening again. In order to do this, we must:

-Get help for the children that were harmed
-Get help for the children that were doing the harming

How can the Catholic Church be of assistance?

As I have noted in a previous post, studies show that religious people tend to turn to their church for help in these situations. It is imperative that the Catholic Church has the abilities to guide her laity to the best practices for addressing childhood sexual abuse. Our church has taken great strides towards ensuring the clergy abuse scandals are a thing of the past and in learning how to appropriately deal with childhood sexual abuse. Perhaps most importantly, our Church and those in positions of authority (laity and clergy alike) must know that childhood sexual abuse is not about what the victim did or didn't do. It is not merely a matter of sinning, temptation, and forgiveness. It is a serious trauma that must be addresses directly and with the help of professionals that specialize in counseling for victims or perpetrators. The best way to heal all of those involved, is to get professional help for all of the individuals involved.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A "Broken" Feminine Genius

About a week and a half ago, Pope Francis spoke on the subject of the differences (and the sameness) of men and women. You can read about it here, but it made me get something in my eye.

You see, for a very long time, I have been thinking about the term "Feminine Genius" and how I see it in me. It came to a head when I read Momnipotent. The struggle for me centers on this totally made up but not really made up conversation.

Friend: Yeah! Feminine Genius rocks! Women are awesome.
Another Friend: What is 'feminine genius'?
Friend: It encompasses all the things women are great at: their natural abilities.
Another Friend: Cool. Like what?
Friend: Oh, you know. Like child birth, breast feeding, NURTURING.

Then I pull my hair out. Four c-sections right here, and while I can probably squirt a bowling pin down from across the room with my incredible milk supply, I stink at nurturing. To hear ad nauseam that women are good and womanly things like NURTURING, and emotions, and feelings, and NURTURING is really sort of depressing (wait. That's a feeling, right?) when you just aren't nurturing.

Before I get a com box filled with fake no, that's not trues, it is. My child comes to me hurting, screaming, and crying and my first instinct is not to kiss and make it better: it is to address the snapping issue in my brain and try like hell not to cringe and back away saying "Dude, why are you coming at me I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING PLEASE LEAVE."

So, Pope Francis using fresh terms was a relief. This in particular:

We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, that woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with different eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path that must be crossed with more creativity and more boldness.

I identify in many ways with the new face of the new feminism movement. I speak out against domestic and sexual violence. I speak out against abortion. Just as the whole pro life thing sort of disqualifies me as a mainstream feminist, I sort of feel discounted within new feminism because my body was not naturally equipped to push out four large children, I don't enjoy breast feeding in the least, and there is no way a single person that knows me would choose the word "nurturing" as one of the three words that best describes me. What is a girl that is caught in between to do?

No way. I love my washer and dryer.

Just as there is not one type of man, women are different. We all have different strengths, different weaknesses, different fashion senses. I am comfortable in my own skin. I have things that I need to work on (it probably wouldn't kill me to be more emotive, empathetic, sensitive...) but I don't need to change in order to show how my feminine genius is not broken. I'm a woman. Boom. Creativity and boldness- you heard the pope. 

Now, Go back up to the top of the post and read the two links. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Believe Them.

An article appeared on my Facebook feed this morning. The Pink Haired Papist and I are discussing it over on my page
This is what it would look like if my disembodied head sat creepily close to Tori as she had a drink.

All joking aside, this article really breaks my heart. 

I don't really want to delve into statistics right now. Sexual assault numbers are notoriously inaccurate given the number of women that never report. So, even if "2% of rape reports are fake" is inaccurate, I'd go you one better and say of course it is inaccurate. You cannot account for something that is under-reported, because to what degree is it under-reported? And really. Can you blame victims? (No pun intended.) If you come forward with sexual assault allegations, everything you have ever worn, done or said is called into question. In my case, I lost both of my closest friends for speaking up. Imagine if I had reported it. 

When I was assaulted by my best friend in college, I felt like scum. I had willingly gone to his parent's home at night, thinking that we would just be catching up. I quickly realized that was not the case. 

When I got back to my dad's, I just wanted to go back to school. A few weeks later, I called a mutual friend and told him what had happened. He said "You know he didn't mean anything by it." If one of my best friends can make unwanted sexual advances and choose not to stop despite me saying "No." and I tell my other closest and trusted friend that I was assaulted and he doesn't believe me, why would a police officer?

The message we send women over and over again is this: If you were assaulted, report it. Then be prepared to prove that you are the perfect victim so that we will believe you.

The article that launched this post speaks mostly to campus* assaults which are most likely** the most commonly unreported sexual assault. Why? Alcohol. How many college (and high school) age women wake up the morning after, realize they have had sex without the ability to consent, and blame only themselves? Doesn't it make sense to be addressing this issue with both men and women that are college age?

This same article also brings up The Rolling Stone debacle. The author goes out of his way to ensure his readers that it all was a lie and that NOW believes it anyway. Why is the only mention of victims about lies? I have a book filled with things to say about this. If an assault is reported, it is the job of the police officers and the justice system to prosecute the person responsible. It is our job as advocates against sexual assault, not to discredit the victim, but to believe her/him and support healing and rehabilitation for all involved. Why do we get so wrapped up in discrediting the victim first? Why can't we just acknowledge that there was some sort of trauma involved and strive to help those involved repair the damage so that it stops happening?

Ask yourself: How much does it help us to assume an accuser is lying or partially to blame for a sexual assault? When we assume a victim is lying until an assault can be proven, we ensure that future victims will not come forward. 

I get it. No one wants to see lives ruined over false accusations. This is why prevention and advocacy is so imperative! It is important that we address this issue with our children. It is important that both men and women stand together to end sexual assaults. It is important that we support healing for victims and rehabilitation for perpetrators. 

*If you want to call them that- not all sexual assault happening to college students by college students are happening on campus, but I digress. 

**If you have statistics to disprove this, feel free to fill me in.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sexual Violence Against Women and the Catholic Response

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the Catholic Church has had to seriously up her game when it comes to the subject of sexual assault, in particularly as it relates to the clergy abuse scandals. However, when it comes to sexual assault, a great deal of the training or responses issued center on rape and pregnancy.

The Catholic Church (beyond the Catechism (2356) ) does not really have a standard training for the clergy or faith counseling focused on sexual assault advocacy or healing. In my experience as an advocate, there are Catholic organizations that serve sexual assault survivors, but when it comes to one on one counseling or even educational/training materials there is most certainly something left to be desired.

The Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Findings (2011) tell us that faith communities are a likely support system for victims of violence, yet our support for survivors is seriously lacking. Poor catechisis  and modesty/chastity talks gone wrong are not doing a fantastic job of sexual assault prevention. We cannot leave our girls to believe their level of modesty is responsible for assault, and we cannot leave our boys to believe that they are nothing but a victim of their sinful urges.

I believe that the Catholic Church can put together more cohesive preventative measures and responses when it comes to sexual violence. The USCCB website has a section with parish resources related to combating sexual violence, but many of the links speak mostly about domestic violence. I believe the response must be more than this.

The inherent dignity of all people must be upheld in all aspects of Catholic faith education: from parish communities to counseling. The church has implemented the VIRTUS training program for all parish volunteers in the US as a response to the clergy abuse scandals. I believe that our parishes can work with local domestic and sexual violence programs to also train their staff in advocating for survivors. The pro life response here, is to have complete understanding of the dynamics of all forms of sexual assault, and to be able to support survivors as they heal. After all, will they not call upon their faith community for support?

The FaithTrust Institute approaches domestic and sexual violence from a religious perspective. They have resources for most faith communities, though nothing I have seen that is explicitly Catholic. When I go to the USCCB page and click on the link for resources, nothing comes up. This something that really must improve

Do you know how your parish and diocese approach sexual violence? Sound off in the comments! I would love to hear about successful approaches or working relationships between Catholic organizations and the local anti-violence programs.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


I was writing about trust last night in my Lenten journal, and I had a bit of an enlightened moment.

Putting my trust in God sometimes means putting my trust in other people.

Now I realize why I am so bad at this.

I am really quite fabulous at pretending to trust when needed, but it isn't something that comes effortlessly to me. I find this to be hilarious, because I am such a rule follower and tend to believe (or trust) everyone else is a rule follower. Then I am let down when no one else follows the rules. (I'm looking at you, line cutters!)

But trust? Forget it. If I can throw you, I might trust you, but I don't go around throwing people very often.

There have been times in my life that I have let go of my control (usually out of exhaustion) and I've been pleasantly surprised that letting go and trusting someone else to help is better than being the one woman island.

Let me go work on that.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Planner Talk

This isn't much of a mommy blog or a life style blog or... well I don't know how to label it really, but I though I would join For Love of Cupcakes for a planner link up, because I don't get much of anything accomplished without my planner. My mind used to be a steel trap, but now I forget everything.

I don't like the idea of electronic calendars. Too easy. So, I like to go for a paper planner. I have been very happy with the one I currently use for three years, though if I find a Catho planner with hour lines SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

This week is a boring week, but I have a highlighter color system, and a to-do list on to-do list Post-Its, 

Planner accessories: my paper address book (stamps are inside!), more Post-Its, colored pens, high lighters (both Sharpie brand), and paperclips. 

I also adore the Post-It pockets. I need to go buy some more, but I like being able to have business cards with my planner, and other items that I am saving for one reason or another. I upgraded this year to the full sized Catholic Daily Planner and I like having a bigger planner now. 

Because I am so retro, I have a giant dry erase calendar in the kitchen and every month I copy the various schedules onto the calendar (Calvin loves to be apprised of the monthly goings on) then I snap a photo of the calendar and send it to the husband's work email so he knows what I know. 


Friday, March 6, 2015

Self Discipline

I am a few days behind in the Blessed Is She Lenten Journal. I've been in this routine where I just retire to my bedroom after the kids are in bad and it is so nice, that I have been forgetting to do things. Like, write, journal, laundry, dishes... Instead I watch bad movies with the husband and fall asleep. The sleep of a mother that is enjoying (mostly) sleeping through the night with a three month old babe. 

The last time I put pen to paper was in adoration on Tuesday morning. I came across the above passage and it hit me like a freight train. I thought, "This is me." 

I know the rules. I know what is asked of me as a Catholic woman. Most of the time, it is not hard to follow these commandments. It is old habit. With every season of my life, there are some commandments that are more difficult than others, and I seem to find new ways to struggle. 

Most days, I feel completely unworthy of all that I have. There are days where I do not have sleep deprivation or a busy schedule to blame for my impatience with young children. There are days when the touching, talking, and general formation required of a woman with young children is just too much. I yearn for the days when I could go home after class or work and melt into a puddle and listen to angsty punk rock. 

I can complain and whine to as many people that will listen. Moms that know what this part of life is like. People that secretly want to tell me it was a bad idea to grow a family of six where the average age in the home is twelve. People that can offer me a myriad of excuses and to tell me to go easy on myself and take a break. 

Maybe what I need though, is the discipline the passage above demands of me.

I need to take deep breaths and count to ten like I tell the children to do. I need to go to bed and get adequate sleep like I tell the children to do. I need to pray and work on knowing Who I am pray to like I tell the children to do. I need to pay attention to what was asked of me and not my brothers and sisters, like I tell my children to do. I need to show respect to others like I tell my children to do. 

Lent is a tough season. Sacrifice is hard. Maybe Lent is also about discipline though, and maybe that is what makes it so difficult. 

So,  I am working on disciplining myself to be the example for all the things I am requiring of my children. Sounds familiar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My 'Come to Jesus' Moment.

Did you know today is the beginning of Lent?

Yeah, in the age of social media, it is sort of hard to miss. We've been hit with plenty of Lent posts this season already. I hate to add one more, but I'm going to because that is sort of my thing.

This Lenten season marks the sixth season in a row that I have been pregnant or nursing for the duration. Six years of trying to figure out how to abstain and fast in a way that will unite me with my fellow Catholics in preparing for Christ's death and Resurrection. Six years is a long time. Last year, on Good Friday I thought I was in the clear to fast and abstain. I failed miserably, but also found out the next morning that I was pregnant.

You know what? That didn't make me feel any better. It is really hard to buckle down for a sacrificial season when you can't really participate the way you are used to participating. Some seasons of life (ahem, parenthood for those less inclined to nurture, ahem) are just sacrificial, abstaining, fasting, Lenten seasons and when the liturgical Lenten season rolls your way again, you think, "I am tired."

At least I feel that way this year. And maybe the last several.

I was gearing up to load all four children into the Pilot this week. I was going to take Thor for his first Ash Wednesday Mass. I was going to take more time to talk to the kids about Lent and what it all means. Then this morning hit and the thought of juggling four children that include an infant and Frank the Destroyer made me curl up under a blanket and hide for a few more moments.

I don't know what it is about 2015, but it is making me discard all the things that don't really fit who I am in favor of the things that I can embrace and work with. So, I'm not going to fancy myself Super Catechist Endless Patience Mom. I am the mom that needs to work on her prayer life, needs to get to confession, and needs to improve her relationships with her husband, children, and herself.

So, I am grateful for the Blessed Is She Lenten journal. It will be an important tool for me this Lenten season. I am also grateful for a parish with an adoration chapel, and plenty of confession times, because I owe Jesus a couple hundred hours.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Us Versus Them

I made this. All by myself.

I don't know if you know, but the March For Life just happened. I have never attended. I hear it is fun. Or something. I'm not really sure how a protest is supposed to be fun, but I came across an article that was written by someone that advocates for abortion rights, and the way she described the March was helpful to me. It also made me think about some things. (Click here to read it. I'll wait.)

So. How about those under-inflated balls? Oh. My bad, you can't talk and read.

Finished? Alright then.

What I most liked about this piece is that it made the giant misunderstanding between pro-life and pro-choice majorities evident. Here are a few things worth mentioning:

Marty makes a point to use specific terminology: anti-abortion vs. pro-life. Both are true, but each speak more to what each "side" deems to be the most important part of their cause. I submit that we own it. I absolutely am against abortion, so anti-abortion hits the nail on the head. Sure, it is more negative sounding than 'pro-life' but I'm okay with that. I don't think it does us any good to continue to use the terms 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' to be honest. Sure. The implication is that we are focused on life, but are they the only ones focused on choice? Not by a long shot. The problem with focusing the terminology on 'anti-abortion' and 'pro-abortion' advocacy though, is that it isn't really about just abortion, is it?

Sure, I am against abortion, but I am against it because it ends the life of a person. A person with inherent value and dignity. However, I would wager that the majority of those that support access to abortion are not really just crazy for abortion. Marty reminds us of this by mentioning (more than once) the woman that might be convinced she has no other option. 

Herein lies the biggest misunderstanding between these two movements. Ideally, we fight for the dignity of every person, and they fight for women in tragic situations. 

So... aren't we also?

Marty also sums up the cause in a way that she identifies as being "against safe and legal access to abortion". Not untrue, but not really the main issue as we see it. We absolutely are against legal abortion, but our main goal is to avoid the taking of innocent lives. 

The way I see it, we aren't being very clear on our intentions. We absolutely want to eliminate abortion, and often that is the only truth we show. We hide behind rhetoric and our righteousness at times, but we never take that next step: how will we support the women that find themselves believing they must end the life of their child to survive themselves? 

Marty correctly points out the exact reason that many support abortion rights, no matter how misguided we might believe it to be: they truly want to see women have options and be supported. The problem? Perhaps the cause is a bit more cynical. The way I see it, abortion advocates plan for a woman's support system to drop the ball. They are planning on women being abused, raped. unable to support themselves and a child, forgotten. They plan for all the things that we do not seem to want to admit happens in this world. We don't. We have the truth. We know those lives matter, but often we forget or we don't know how to follow through on eliminating the reasons a woman would feel forced into abortion.

It should not be Us vs. Them. We have far more in common than any of us care to admit. That is the issue that deserves attention right now. Will we ever get there?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why I Still Love Goldie Blox

A few years ago, I jumped onto the Goldie Blox train and really never looked back. My daughter is only three right now, but I have a set of Goldie Blox stashed in the closet for when the comes that she is old enough to play with them.

I've heard talk about how this particular idea is condescending or makes assumptions about girls that feed the boy/girl toy ridiculousness. Maybe that talk is correct. Here is what my daughter is teaching me about little girls:

Some little girls like ribbons, glitter, and all things pink no matter how much their moms do not understand it.

STOP. Do not attempt to revoke my feminist card. I know I am already on probation, but hear me out. Yes, I still seriously eye roll at the Lego Friends set ups with their hair salon set ups, and the pink aisle makes me throw up in mouth a little bit. My bad ass, action figure daughter happens to love the color pink, and will happily wrestle her brothers in a tutu so my argument against pink feels a bit deflated these days.

If my pink, TMNT ballerina was given the choice, she'd grab a Goldie Blox set up in a heart beat. Maybe she'd only pick it up because it had pastel colors or a cute blonde cartoon on the box. Does it matter why girls like a toy? If the goal of this grass roots company was to get little girls interested in engineering, SUCCESS! Well played, ma'am. I want to buy all your merchandise and broaden the playroom's horizons a bit beyond ponies, so you win, my friend. (For real. Look at all these things that even the He-man playing little 80's girl writing this wants to own.)

Thank God for little girls like Hattie. It is not just my closed mind that she alters. She now has three brothers that love them some wheels and dinosaurs, but do you know what toy is most likely to cause a knock-down, drag out fight?

A sparkly My Little Pony named Strawberry Sunrise.

The guys check out the ponies while Hattie is otherwise occupied.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sheenazing! 2015! All the Exclamation Points!

You will have to excuse me this week. I get really jazzed about the Sheenazing Blogger Awards. So Jazzed. JAZZED. I don't care how many times I do not win, the fact that readers think I am worth of a nomination for anything makes me JAZZED. So, look at how pretty it is this year:

Thank you again for thinking other people should know how under-appreciated I am! So, a few things:

1. WOW. Nominated under Cathofeminism with a HM under Jess. I have a major identity crisis now.

2. This inspired me to create a survey. I am going to spend some time thinking about it, but it should be up sometime this month. I want to chat about the blog name and content.

3. I can think of no better time to remind all you super cool party people that ye olde blog can be social media'd in many ways: Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. So here is a challenge for you: head over to your favorite and share the page or your favorite post. Let's see if we can get this little corner of the Internet a Sheenazing Award this year!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Note to My College Self

Hey there, Jess.

I know you have tons of things to focus on right now (concerts, God, boys, school, work, art, writing, family drama) and that it feels as though you are bursting at the seams. You are having a great time figuring out how to be an adult, but there are some tough parts to this part of the journey also. The good news? You marry a wonderful man and the children you never thought you would be able to have are just out of this world amazing. In short, things work out.

I am writing you today to gently remind you to focus a bit more on a few things while you are there, getting your college on. Before you know it, those four years are over and life is moving on whether you are prepared for it or not.

Enjoy those Fridays nights. Enjoy the crap out of them. Play your SoCo and Dispatch a little bit louder. Light a few more candles. Write a few more pages each night, recording the details of what it feels like to be in this moment of your life. Write about other things also, and illustrate those stories. Use your paints and colored pencils more. Stay up a bit later and for heaven's sake, order an extra Gumby's pizza or ten, because you will never get to eat one again once you leave Manhattan, Kansas!

Sleep in from time to time, and cherish those siestas.

It might seem like there isn't time for you to read all the required material for class, but there is. Read it and take notes. Don't sell that Art History book in between semesters, thinking you can wing it. You can't. You get a D in Art History II. Keep those art books. Get more involved in your study groups. Read more books that are not on a syllabus. Stop trying to B.S. your way through the more  difficult classes just because you know you can get a 'B' without trying, and try!

Be grateful for the opportunity you have to go to daily Mass and keep going, soaking in every holy moment of silence and the ability to pay attention. Try to force your introverted self to talk a little more to the others in your circle.

Stop the push and pull in your head that wonders if you are good enough, smart enough, holy enough, pretty enough.

When that friend stops by spontaneously and asks you to go with them, GO!

You have a great head on those shoulders, and you are plenty responsible. What you don't see coming, is the time ahead of you as a parent. While it is fulfilling in unimaginable ways, your ability to read, write, sleep, eat, draw, paint, nap, go to concerts and be spontaneous is temporarily, mostly put on hold. You will miss it. You will be happy and blessed beyond measure, but you will miss studying painting techniques and philosophers. You will miss writing for hours to music blaring as candles burn. You will miss Gumby's pizza. You will wonder what memories you would have made if you had just gone when your friend asked you to go.

You will forever be annoyed for yourself for getting a 'D' in Art History II.

Before you know it, it will have been ten years since you had the chance to go to a museum or to Mass or to your bed or to pee alone and just for you. You will be busy trying to make memories and teach lessons for those beautiful children you are raising, and you will be trying not to take one moment of your time with them for granted.

So don't take this time for granted either. Play a few more games of Hide and Seek on that beautiful K-State campus. Maybe go play in the snow a few times at Benedictine. You still don't need to learn that fight song, but you will want to have some good stories to pass on. Like that one time a guy stole your friend's drumstick. Or you met that lead singer. Or that time you ate Gumby's pizza all week.

Friday, January 9, 2015

2015: Let Us Talk Books.

My reading list for this year is broken up into three categories: Finish, Read, and Re-read. As it is dangerously close to mid-January and I have not read a page, I really should get to work.

I will be linking up with Melody for this post, so that I can pour over the reading lists of others.

A handful of this year's choices!


Mere Christianity- I am several chapters in, but I think I need to take a large chunk of time and read it all at once, because C.S. Lewis requires a little bit of getting used to each time I delve in.

Anna Karenina- I am enjoying it so far, but I still get name confused. Russians.


Count of Monte Cristo: An oldie that I have not read yet. 

Yes, Please: Amy Poehler, of course. I'm hoping to love it like Bossypants and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

My Sisters the Saints: I realized that this year I had an oddly large number of fiction books on my list so I needed a good Catho read!

Brothers on Life: Forgive me a guilty pleasure. I read a few years ago that Matt Czuchry (of Gilmore Girls and The Good Wife fame) had written a book. Glancing through it, it is more like poetry and the sort, but I am intrigued!

The Way Forward: I might be a sucker, but as a social justice junkie, I went against my instincts to avoid books written by politicians for Paul Ryan's work. We shall see.

A Couple of Blaguards: I am a giant Frank McCourt fan girl, so this is self explanatory. 

A Monk Swimming: Frank's brother Malachy writes also!

A Lucky Child: Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy: I can't remember how this landed on my radar, but I bet I will cry.

Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves: Catching up on something I should have read two years ago.

Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell: I have been waiting since October for this. It is released sometime in January, so I can promise to have a book finished this month. Ha!


Great Expectations: It is my favorite classic, yet I did not own a copy until recently, so I have to read it again!

There you have it! What books are you dying to get into this year? If you need some ideas, Swing by the link up via Melody!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year. I Haven't Written in Ages.

Kiera tagged me in this ages ago, and I am a bit rusty when it comes to writing regularly, so I am determined to follow up!

Four names that people call me:

1. Jess

2. Mom

3. Jessica

4. Sassafras. Long story.

Four jobs I have had:

1. Waitress at Benedictine College's Monte Cassino Inn

2. Totus Tuus for the Diocese of Wichita

3. GED instructor

4. Domestic and sexual assault advocate

Four movies I have seen more than once:

1. Veronica Mars (Don't judge me.)

2. 10 Things I Hate About You

3. The Big Lebowski

4. Step Brothers (Believe me. I know.)

Four books I’d recommend:

1. The Sum of My Parts (major trigger warning though)

2. Angela's Ashes

3. The Long Loneliness

4. Great Expectations

Four Places I’ve Lived:

1. Newton, KS

2. Kansas City, MO

3. Riverview, FL

4. Houston, TX

Four Places I Have Been:

1. Toronto, Canada

2. Chicago

3. Boston

4. Baltimore

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

1. Asleep

2. At adoration

3. Date night with my dance partner (that is how Calvin refers to Matt when talking to me)

4. Dinner with old friends

Four Things I Don’t Eat:

1. Peas

2. Liver

3. Onions

4. Pepper. Anything with the word 'pepper'.

Four of My Favorite Foods:

1. Chocolate

2. Toasted ravioli

3. Cheese

4. Cheesecake

Four Things I’m Looking Forward to This Year:

1. Figuring out our new schedule as a family of six

2. Sleep

3. Some financial planning

4. Seeing the Royals make it to the playoffs again!

Four Things I’m Saying:

1. Stop, Frank.

2. Calvin, what just happened?

3. Hattie, stop screaming.

4. Arthur, just a minute.

Four People I’m tagging:

I'm going to cheat a bit here. As I have been really bad about blogging, I have also been completely out of touch with those of you that read the blog! I'd LOVE it if I could call you all out of your fox holes and get you to choose one of the above sections and answer in the comments. Pretty please?

I'm begging. Don't be scared.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Five Favorites: The Breastfeeding and Picky Mom Edition

I have a few other posts in the works over the next several days, but I have a sleepy Thor on my lap, so this should be an easy one to write up!

I do not like breastfeeding. It is a little too much physical contact for me, but I have picked up a few favorite items that have made it much more bearable. Since breastfeeding is pretty much all I do these days, I thought I would share the items that make it a little easier! I'm not getting anything for suggesting the brands below. They are just my favorites!

Quality Nursing Bras. My first rodeo, I just purchased some from Motherhood and assumed they would get me through. I assumed wrong. The fit was always wrong, and the material was itchy or bunchy or pokey... I ended up destroying my regular bras in the short 4 months I nursed my oldest. The next time around was also filled with uncomfortable and crawl out of your skin unsupportive bras. So, I got smart. I hit up ladies on the internet for their favorites, and I came up with a few really great options! (Soma, Breakout Bras, and Linda's Online if you were wondering.)

Nursing Tanks. I did not invest in nursing clothing of any kind until I had my third babe, so there were many ill-fitting button ups and lifting up the shirt moments. So awkward. Enter Undercover Mama. These tanks doubled my nursing time, no joke. They turn any shirt you own into a nursing shirt, and I felt much more confident not having skin hanging out as I nursed. 

Boppy. A nursing pillow is a must for me. Incredibly helpful. I find the Boppy to be great but there are others on the market. 
Versatile bottoms. Jeans are rough postpartum, so I like to stick to skirts or yoga pants. I feel a bit more put together than I do wearing sweats or clothes that are ill-fitting. I like New York & Company and Old Navy Active Wear for yoga pants. They are a bit thicker and come in long lengths. 

Momzelle shirts. This is a new favorite, but I FOUND my nursing shirt! Momzelle was a Zulily find for me, and I had to run to their site and raid the clearance/sale racks. I love them. They have a counterpart in Canada with equally amazing stuff. These are the tops I love, because it negates the need for layers. In Houston, that is a must!

These are a few items that help me to handle nursing for longer, so I hope that in sharing I help someone else to find something that works for them!

Thanks to Jenna for hosting!