punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Magnificat for Tired Moms

My messy house proclaims the greatness of the Lord
My children’s bellies rejoice in slow cooker, our savior.
For one meal this tired, lowly servant rested.
Henceforth all ages will call me mom or mama or mommy
or some variation thereof.

The dishwasher has done great things for me
And holey be its watery jets.

Naptimes have mercy on all who take them,
For every generation fears mama’s cranky wrath.

Holding babies has shown the strength of my arm,
But nursing has scattered my brain.

Among other things I also clean the porcelain throne.
To do so, I have lifted up the seat.

My bank account was once filled with good things,
But my gas tank, growing children, ballet class, tuition, a family vacation and buying in bulk have rendered it empty.

But God has come to the help of his servant, this tired mom,
For the husband has remembered to throw out the trash and do recycling,
The promise mentioned “between the lines” on our wedding day,
To me and our future family forever.

Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Please God grant me the grace to do this another day,
And don’t strike me dead for writing this.  Amen.

Tired moms, what does your Magnificat say?

A Covered California Nightmare

Do you think that all the negative speculation over how bad California’s new, affordable health insurance exchange, Covered California is, is exaggerated?

If it is anything like how Covered CA’s current call centers are operating then be very, very afraid.

The following is a true story about one woman who did everything the call center operators told her to do.  That woman was me.

It all began on the website.  I clicked that nice, friendly looking, “Start here” button and filled out the application.  When I submitted I got this message:

            “Congratulations!  You qualified for $0 per month in premium assistance.”

Wait.  That meant that I didn’t get any help, right?  So why was I being congratulated again? I double-checked their scale and our income and household size met their criteria, so what was the problem?

Commence call number one, which, of course meant a “higher than average” wait time.  When I got a real person on the phone I asked why I didn’t qualify for assistance when I met the criteria.

            “You need to fax your husband’s paycheck stubs.”

Okay.  So I did.  And didn’t hear from them.

I called back a week later to ask if they received my fax.

            “Our fax machine has been broken. You need to send it to the PO box.”

Okay.  So I did.  And didn’t hear from them.

Call three.  Did they receive the paycheck stubs?
“Ma’am we have no way of knowing.  We are a call center in Fresno and that P.O Box is in West Sacramento.  We don’t know if anyone is taking care of that and they aren’t really telling us anything.”

So what should I do?  “Call back.”

Okay.  So I did.

This time though, I got someone who knew what she was doing.  Her name was Lwanda and she was very friendly. 

She said:

“You didn’t need to fax or mail your paycheck stubs in.  That was the old system,” (that ancient system of a couple of weeks ago) “Now we have a new system where you can just scan your stubs in.”  In short, I wasted my time following instructions.

She also educated me on peculiar facts about the application process such as how the plan was linked to the primary tax filer and if I wasn’t listed as the primary (which I am not – my husband is) the system would not allow me to pick a plan.

So Lwanda “fixed” my application so we could proceed.

Except that we didn’t pick a plan during that phone call because poor Lwanda was using a PC and the great state of California has chosen Internet Explorer as their browser, which means that each page takes two minutes to load.  And finally, Lwanda made a great discover on my behalf (drumroll): there was a glitch in the system.   A glitch.  A single technology error that stood between me and a Covered CA plan.  I bet you didn’t see that coming.  Oh wait, yes, you probably did.

The good news: I do actually qualify for aid!  The bad news: I’m going to have to start all over again and submit a new application.

Either that or wait a week for someone at the “help” desk to stumble upon Lwanda’s message about my glitch issue and actually drudge up the energy to do something about it. Yeah.  Not going to happen.

Remind me again how universal healthcare, if it’s run like this, is supposed to help me?  I’m very, very afraid.

What ending befits this story?  Only this: a letter I just received from them today that cheerfully reads (due to the aforementioned glitch):
“Congratulations!  You qualify for up to $0 per month premium assistance.”

Wonderful. So congratulate me.  Not only do I not get any tax credit assistance but I also get a Covered California nightmare to go with it.    

And the Mom of the Year Award Goes to..

And the Mom of the Year Award Goes To…

I believe a standing ovation is in order.

One befitting the scenario on that morning. Picture it:  one little girl crossing the threshold into her kindergarten classroom, her mother behind her.

Just as she is turning around to make a scene again, her expressionless mother closes the door on her.

And holds it there. 

Not this time.  Sorry, kid.  It’s time to go to school.

There’s no noise, no wailing or screaming.  (I guess the torture devices are not there that day). After a few moments, the pressure against the other side of the door stops.  

It’s safe.  The same expressionless mom scampers away before girl can run out after her.

“It’s all rainbows and sunshine and unicorns once you are gone.” That’s what the teacher said after last week’s meltdown.  All “rainbows and sunshine and unicorns,” after the flood of tears and the pleadings for mommy not to go.  A completely different girl once I left, apparently.

So no, sir, I don’t feel bad about standing on one side of the door and holding it shut while the girl stood on the other side trying to push it open and run out.

When I pick her up I ask cheerfully, “So, honey, how was your day.”  Bubbly girl replies, “I had fun, mama!”

Of course she did.

But wait!  There’s more! Fast-forward to later that same night. 
Who is that?  Why, it’s my little girl who is volunteering to set the table for the whole family.  And she is singing while she does it.  She’s singing “My Country Tis of Thee” no less, and making up her own lyrics to the tune.

I observe, “Sweetie!  How wonderful of you!  You’re such a big, helpful girl!”

“I am a big girl, mama! I go to school!” she says. 

So I guess the old “caged animal” approach to education does work.  True story.

And the mom of the year award goes to…not me.  But you are now free to give me a standing ovation.  Do you have any “mom of the year” award moments from the past week or month to share?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Babies are Fun… No, Wait, Aargh!

Okay, so I had a baby three months and thirty pounds ago. Which means that I still need to lose as much as my three year old weighs just to get back to “zero” (not the size, mind you.)  And I am flippin’ angry over that.

In fact I’ve been angry a lot lately.  A lot.

Like when the baby is crying in the back seat and won’t take the binky that my daughter is giving him and we hit every single red light and slow driver on the road before we get home - I’ve been angry about that.

Or when a certain national drugstore chain decides to earmark half a dozen spots closest to their front door for stupid “low emissions” vehicles.  Psah! You bet that rubbed me the wrong way as I swung my CO2 emitting dented and cracked American made truck into one of those spots in that “I’m postpartum and I dare you to give me a ticket” kind of way.  I’m still stewing over it, though, and just might boycott the place in a personal rant over the injustice of it all.

Even worse, lately I’ve been angry with my husband over him just breathing.  You know, because for most of the day, he breathes where there’s no scent of soiled diaper, or spit up, or chicken nuggets around.    He called me as I composed this post (which I wrote while nursing, by the way) to say:

“Guess what?  I just got a plenary indulgence!”

Now, perhaps a more pious wife would have been happy for her husband about this, but I went all Dana Carvey on him, “Well, aren’t you just special?” I said.  He was quiet for a second (and, being English, did not understand the reference anyway) before he took his life in his hands by asking, “So what’s for dinner?”

I choked back the angry rant I could have spewed at that moment.  “I don’t know.  What are you cooking?” I asked.  “It’s not my day to cook.” He said.

“I know.  Sorry.” I said. “I guess I can just pick up some burgers,” he said.

“Great. It looks like that extra grace is really paying off today.” I said in that way.  He made some comment about me giving up.  I looked at the infant nursing at my breast and said, “Yup.  Given up.  Glad we could both cross this bridge together.  So, see you in a couple of minutes?”

Check and mate.  Score one for the angry gal. 

You know, the angry one with a “Catholic mom” blog full with posts that frequently feature poop, domestic rants and homeschooling thoughts, because yes, I now personify every stereotype I always told myself I never would!

At this point you are probably wondering, then why do it?  Why have kids and why do any of it? 

I can only respond, because of this:

 Look at him.  Did you know that he laughs in his sleep?  That when he sees me he lights up like I’m the sun?  That the world was made more complete, and his siblings are I (believe it or not?) are better with him around.

Did I mention that I only had him three months ago? No wonder I feel this way! What do you expect, people? I had a baby only three months ago.  I’m pretty sure all of this is normal.  And I know exactly how to fight this thing  (so if you too are in the same boat, take this down):

I’m going to make it a point to be with people and not just ask for prayers on Facebook.  The presence of others helps, especially for an introvert like me whose tendency is to isolate.  It’s the only thing that helps, actually, in addition to the rosary...and beer.  In fact, I started this post wanting to write about how great being with people is when you have a baby, but then, you know…aargh!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Faith of our Family: England vs. America

One of the greatest adventures of marrying an English Catholic and raising our hybrid Yank/Brit children in the Faith has been exposing them to the richness found in both the English and American Catholic Churches.  When I studied there, as a Hispanic Californian, I felt happily “at home” with the English Catholics and my husband has fit in pretty well out here in California where the demographics of the Church are very demonstratively not English.

Having lived in each other’s respective Churches, a nice organic overlap between English Catholicism and American Catholicism has arisen in our home.  It surfaces in different, novel ways.

For instance, the “Amen.”  Americans say “Amen” with a long “a” sound. The English say “AH-men.”  While at Oxford, it rubbed off on me in a big way.  I still feel a bit snobby for saying it that way, but I still do it, aware that most of Christendom and Latin America also say it that way.  The kids say both at different times and it’s kind of fun to watch.

Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Thomas More live in our home.  She, in a framed gold picture, he as a fridge magnet.  But hey, to each according to their station, right?

Every time we attend mass in England we get to practice singing the whole song!  It’s England.  So if a song has four verses, we sing those four verses.  None of this slicing up the closing hymn, stuff.  At least not in any English mass I’ve ever attended.

Over there, abstinence from meat on Fridays is back…in the country where the fish and chips are awesome and we look forward to indulging when we visit.  What a sacrifice.  Go England. 

My kids get to witness firsthand that the Church’s liturgy is the same everywhere.  So they have no excuse not to participate no matter where we are.

Their Churches are older… and prettier. Many are currently protestant because of this big To-Do that happened in the 16th century called the Reformation.  But I never miss the chance to go see a big, ancient one whenever we visit and I make sure to remind the kids that once-upon-a-time, they all used to be ours (and more theirs than mine, because they have their father’s genes.)

Our churches are fuller.   Our parish in Santa Clara may be a-typical as parishes go as every Sunday we face hundreds, if not thousands of people, crowding in for mass so that it’s standing room only.  But that, for me, means the church is full.  For my brother in law, who described for me what the “packed” mass at his parish looks like, congregants more or less filling up most of the pews qualifies as “full.”  (Although I hear this is not the case in English parishes with more ethnic minorities.)    And so it is not with any small pride that I beam over the aforementioned hybrid English/American  children filling up a said sparsely “full” pew to capacity when we attend mass there.

They have same freedom of religion and speech problems with their secular state as we do.  So pray for our English brethren, won’t you? It’s far more “post-Christian” over there with only 4% of the population identifying as Christian (and I’m pretty sure my husband’s extended family make up most of the Catholics of southern England anyway).

Their St. Michael prayer is different.   It also sounds way more Englishy. Look it up. I still get confused, and substitution occurs but it really doesn’t matter, right?   If I say ‘restrain’ vs. ‘rebuke’ or “Divine power” vs. “Power of God” it’s all the same meaning, correct (someone help me out with this!)?

They say, “Lord, graciously hear us,” while we command, “Lord, hear our prayer.”  In other words, our prayers of petition stink.  I very much prefer the former, for sure.

Obligation means obligation.  None of this “moving the Holy Day of Obligation to Sunday,” rubbish.  If that day requires mass, then go to mass on that day.  An extra liturgy is offered for working people and it’s up to you to get there, as far as I am aware.

They have J.R.R Tolkien and G.K Chesterton.  I know of no other Catholic American author of the previous century to have written on par with these two English Catholic authors (but then again, I never studied American literature).  You bet my kids will read both men.

We have EWTN.    I know of no English Catholic media outlet that comes close to being like EWTN.  My mother in law loves EWTN and spent her last visit to California watching World Youth Day Rio.    I’ll bet that was something she never imagined herself doing: watching our first Latin American pope celebrate World Youth day in South America while herself vacationing in America.

But, lo, the adventures in our blended English/American Catholic household continue!  It turns out the combination of St. Thomas More and Our Lady of Guadalupe make powerful intercessors.  By the same token, I’m sure in its inevitable that one day both St. Julian of Norwich and Bl. Miguel Pro will also feature prominently among other interesting British/Californian amalgamations of the Faith that will continue cropping up in our home.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Sisterhood of Lay Catholic Women

If the Catholic Church ever took out an ad that listed its most winning attributes, most people might be surprised to find, “Haven for women seeking earnest, genuine friendships with other women.” Which is a shame really, because for me, in recent years, that’s exactly what the Church has done: it has provided a wellspring of fun, down to earth, Faith filled women of all ages, near and far, that I would never have know otherwise.

Dare I even say it? In the Church, as a woman, I’ve found a sisterhood of sorts with other lay Catholic women.

While I would never suggest that the sisterhood I speak of is on the same level as consecrated religious sisters, there are some striking similarities between the lives of “Sr.” sisters and us, lay woman “sisters.”

Number one: like nuns, we lay women pray.  We pray daily.  We pretty much need to pray or else we’ll die.  The Holy Rosary is frequently our prayer of choice.  We pray for the members of our ‘community’ whether that means other women in our parish, social circles, families or those whom we’ve met online.  After mass today, for instance, I was asking a few Catholic moms to pray for a special intention.

Try going out into secular society and stringing the words “pray” and “special” and “intention” together in one sentence and see how that goes.  In contrast, amongst my Catholic lay sisters, such a request is received as naturally as if you were asking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (In fact, asking for a sandwich would be a little more weird, you know, because who actually goes around doing that?)

Number two: we adore Jesus before all others, both figuratively and literally.  And truly, if any of us is being honest, we’re slightly envious that consecrated religious sisters get the spouse who probably would never forget when it’s trash night.

Number three: Our ‘sisterhood’ can be as widespread as any religious order thanks to newer technologies.

Blogosphere sisterhood is a rather recent invention, and perhaps a stretch for the imagination for some, but believe me, it exists.

Like when one blogger’s child is injured and everyone links to her page on the internet.  It doesn’t just end there, you see.  My whole family will take the time to pray for hers as often as we can.  Or when another blogger publishes a book it’s such a strengthening moment for our ‘community’ of lay women everywhere. 

I personally also find it incredibly consoling when a lay women writes about the experience of being a lay woman. Is there anything more freeing for a woman than knowing that her sister’s crosses are nearly identical to her own?  Doubt it!  It’s saved my life to be sure.

Because I have the experiences of other women to bounce off of, I know that for any sort of difficulty I’m having, there’s someone who has ‘been there.’  Heck, she’s probably ‘been there’ several times over and is a bit battle scorched and salty, but hey, that’s the toll that has come from her faithful perseverance.

If I am being very honest, I kind of need her if I am ever to be her to other lay women who, at the end of the day, find themselves thirsting for what all women need on such a basic, primordial level: a friend.  Nay, a sister.

But let it not all be about pain and sacrifice, for, mercifully, Catholic lay women are also ridiculous, crazy fun. This is the last similarity between ourselves and religious that I’ll mention: we too know how to have a good time!

I once shunned the company of women at my parish convinced that I’d be a hypocrite if I approached them because there I was, such a mess and still attending mass.  But now, having gotten to know many of the gals at the parish, and realizing that we’re all a mess in our own ways, it’s been awesome!

I’ve never laughed so hard or so genuinely as with my Catholic sisters.  It’s made me a better person because I’m not staying stuck in my own mind, as is my tendency. Nor do I have to fear them judging me if I do something crazy like regularly attend spiritual direction, participate in a Walk for Life or have a baby.

It was always a challenge making friendships in the secular world as I went about half hoping that no one would notice how much I loved God and His Church.  But such a concern has evaporated now that I know there is a community that I can truly be myself with.   The only way to describe it is a sisterhood of lay Catholic women, all adhering to their Faith, the rock upon which they are building their lives.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How To Ruin Your Family Vacation in Nine Easy Steps (And How the Fruits of the Holy Spirit Can Redeem It)

Having just come off one of our yearly purgatories vacations myself, I hereby submit that truly ruining your family’s time together has nothing to do with poor planning and everything to do with your party’s demeanor

Take heart, though!  We have the fruits of the Holy Spirit to help redeem our getaways. And you might be as surprised as I was to discover how the Paraclete’s fruits seem like they were written with the family vacationer specifically in mind.

Here are nine ways to ruin your family vacation and the fruit that counters it:

1.) Always assume your ideas are better than everyone else’s.  Does someone suffer from a case of I-know-it-all-itis?  Let me guess: you know the best way to pack, what sights to see, and how to do everything better!  Well, keep reminding others about that and when no one is motivated to do anything or help out don’t be surprised.

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness. This fruit requires showing kindness to all no matter what, even if their ideas are truly inferior to yours.  Even if Uncle Ernie always packs the food supplies upside-down, and cousin Cletus must see that world famous potato chip for the thousandth time, be kind!  You might just exercise some patience or learn to appreciate something you never thought you would.

2.) Insist on your own comfort first.  If your mantra goes: my space, my stuff, my slightly obese side of the room, my luxurious shower time, then you will quickly learn that the surest way to make enemies is placing your own comfort first. 

Fruit of the Spirit: Love. This refers to a selfless and giving love (caritas) that gives freely without asking anything in return.  Look, everyone wants the same cushy thing, but not everyone can have it.  So share what little space and hot water there may be as to make life a bit more pleasant for everyone.  Because it’s not fair to make everyone else gain brownie points in heaven while you make off like a bandit.

3.) Abide by your own schedule despite your group’s itinerary.  Rule number one: move with the group.  Disregard this if you not only want people to loathe you but also if you gain a weird personal satisfaction in perpetually making others late.

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness. This means committing to something greater than oneself, in this case: the group’s itinerary, which should not be overly constrained by individual needs. If everyone only ate when they were hungry, you’d have seventeen different eating times.  If everyone ‘took their time’ getting ready then you’d always be late to things.  So keep to the plan even if it means taking food to go and speeding up a bit.  Simple.

4.) Disregard the feelings of others. Drive unsafely. Smoke at meals. Play loud music into the wee hours and what do you get?  Well, if you are a Christian, along with a show of some great hypocrisy, your poor vacation etiquette has now made regimented state prison sound like a resort for everyone around you.

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness.  Goodness is close to self-discipline.  So smoke away from the crowd, put on headphones and abide by the rules of the road.  No one likes to feel like they are with someone that just doesn’t care.  So don’t be that someone.

5.) Fight with people.  Wait until the right moment to bring up a past hurt or issue, or even better, create new one that will take weeks, if not years afterwards to bury the hatchet over.  Bonus if you make a family member have to play the mediator because that is exactly what they were hoping to do on their vacation.

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace.  Peace means being right with God through Christ’s sacrifice.  Only then are we able to have and make peace with others. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they show us that everything pales in importance in comparison to truly having peace no matter how your worldly vacation is going.

6.) Over-Indulge. Over sleep. Over pack. Over eat.  Drink to excess. It’s up to you to choose which vice you most want your kids to remember you for (sloth, gluttony, or hoarding, oh my!).

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control.  Enough said.

7.) Stress over the minutia. What?! The kids’ socks don’t match? I know, make a big deal out of it because the world will explode if you don’t. Although, last I checked, it was called ‘vacation,’ which means giving others and yourself a break from worrying about minutia.

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness. This is one trait that St. Paul insists on. So it must be important, right? It is important.  Things happen when on vacation and sometimes socks don’t match. Take it as it comes and don’t let it change you into a monster.  Stay gentle, my friend.  Which brings us to:

8.) Frown. If you are unhappy, be sure to appear unhappy so people know you are unhappy.  They’ll surely appreciate the black cloud hanging over the group and want to go out and explore the wide world then.

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy. Joy here refers to something that is not a human-based happiness.  Yes, there are moments where you probably will feel tired and irritated on vacation.  But let it go of the bad feelings and pray for that Divine Joy that has never been found in human things anyway.

9.) Complain.  When glowering at others in silence isn’t enough, there’s always getting verbal.  Express ad nauseum how everything around you fails to please you and then wonder why no one seems to be having a good time.

Fruit of the Spirit: Forbearance.  Hey, it’s family and you’re stuck (three words for you: let it go.)  Did you really expect them to be perfect?  They’re charged with sanctifying you, and trust me, they definitely will rise to the occasion, especially during your family vacation!

But maybe, just maybe, if you and I and all of us prayed for the fruits of the Holy Spirit while we traveled, we just might gain sanctification without the usual, er, ‘opportunities’ for sanctification.  We just might enjoy ourselves, and allow others to have a great time as well.

And check out this funny slideshow of awkward family vacation photos which prove we are probably more ahead than we think! Stay safe and holy out there!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Maternity Leave Ending Next Week!

The Laundry will be blogging again next week!  Thank you to all for your prayers during this latest maternity leave.  Baby #3 and I are doing well!

Monday, May 27, 2013

What Your Kids Will Remember

The following narrowings of the “What will your kids remember about you, their parent?” question may help us more thoughtfully evaluate our efforts (Don’t worry, this isn’t another guilt-trip for that one time you looked at your phone for a second while they played ... maybe):
Tummy munching: hands down one of the most memorable aspects of parenting for all involved.

What will your kids remember… about how present you were when you were with them?

There’s a way of being fully present to your kids even if you are a working parent and there is a way of being completely distracted away from them even if you stay-at-home. Ask yourself, when you have the chance to be with to your children, how fully present are you?

Do they get adequate face-time with you or are you always doing something away from them such as house projects, sleeping, working out, hanging out with friends etc. so that most of your time is occupied with your own interests?

I too struggle with this.  Childrearing is hard, tiring, isolating and monotonous. We need to get things done around the house and do things for our mental health. And it’s easy to feel unduly put upon by kids’ simple requests in the midst of the million obligations that come with being a responsible adult.

I take great comfort in knowing that no one is born an expert at balancing their kids’ needs and the needs of the universe with their personal needs.  But if it helps, one rule I set for myself is this: give the kids as much time as it takes to accomplish tasks.  If I clean and email for an hour, I then make sure I give them an hour to do whatever they want.  Also, at all meals I sit down and talk to them and ask questions.  It seems to be working and I hope they remember our time together.  

What will your kids remember…about how you treated others?
Telling the kids to love their neighbor and then talking smack about those noisy, inconsiderate buffoons in front of them is more that a contradiction wouldn’t you say?  Apply this now to family members, cashiers, your fellow parishioners and the other drivers on the road and then ask yourself, what will they remember about how you treated God’s beloved humanity?

Ughhh. Sometimes Christ is just so good at being a Christian!  You? How often do you do this?
What about serving others?  I'm convinced that every family has a charism for doing a specific type of work together.   In any case, mission is an indispensable aspect of being Christians.  We would do well to remember that this is kind of the essential component for getting into heaven.  

If it is missing, it makes our Christian witness a bit incomplete, wouldn't you say? While we all want our children to be compassionate, teaching them how is still done best by heroic example.  How we've been charitable, loved, served and treated others is something our kids will most definitely remember about us.  

What will your kids remember…about the importance you placed on material things?
Whether you are blessed with riches or as poor as church mice, there’s a way of placing too much importance on things.  One big mistake we frequently make as parents is equating family happiness with material comfort or financial robustness.  I am not saying having nice things is bad, but whether you had the latest and greatest or you were a charity case, were you grateful and generous with what you had?

Were you miserable all the while having the nicest and finest things in life? Well, that’s what they will remember.  Were you happy and joyful while driving around in an old jalopy and wearing second hand clothes?  Bottom line: how important is your stuff to you and is that what you want them to remember?

What will your kids remember…about your faith?
One of my very first memories is that of a framed picture of Pope John Paul II in my grandparents’ house.  I grew up during the 1980s feeling like he was one of the family (in that pre-EWTN world).  Why not?  He was so familiar because his picture, with his serene smile and hands clasped in prayer, always hung on the wall.  It’s one of the earliest examples of the Faith becoming personal for me.
Look around your house.  How many images do you have up? Your children will remember them or note their absence as they are growing up.

Outside of displaying holy images do you have a family prayer time?  I’m not referring to anything extravagant, just a time to pray together.  Do you attend mass? Do you sing at mass?  Trust me, the kids are taking notes. 

Of course, we should want to do these things not out of guilt but out of love for Christ.  By the way, how is that going for you?  And please keep in mind, the answer to that question is what your kids will remember.

People do the best they can with what they know, but what they need to know is that sometimes our image of what the “best” is doesn’t matter at all.  Notice in everything I’ve mentioned, I haven’t placed any importance on worldly notions of success. 

What’s truly important to kids is how we’ve loved and lived and were patient and forgiving and fully present to them.  Ultimately, if this post shows nothing else, it is that we would be hypocritical to call ourselves ‘good’ parents if we never really spent time with our children, considered ourselves and family superior to the rest of humanity, were occupied with amassing material things, and ignored God.  Surely no-one wants their kids to remember that about themselves.

My kids will never be able to say I was perfect mom, but I do want them to say they remember a woman who was always trying to do the best by them (though failing often, hopefully improving over time).  I want them to say I was kind to others, that I never sacrificed family harmony for the sake of acquiring fancy things, and that I tried to make the Faith alive for them.   This is what I am trying to do and what I hope that they remember. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pro-Lifers and Former Abortion Workers Must Be Patient with Each Other

Trending in the media and blogosphere on account of the Gosnell trial and the emergence of investigations into the cruel, ugly face of the late-term abortion industry are several editorials that highlight one of the toughest parts about this movement: it is made up of sinners

Sinners who are working to end abortion, sinners who are post abortive, sinners who used to work in the abortion industry, sinners who are angry about the sin of abortion, sinners who come off as cold and others as judgmental.  Sinners, sinners, sinners, all of us who want desperately for this great sin of abortion to end and nought but the help of God’s grace, and yes other sinners, to help that come about.

As someone who has worked in the pro-life movement now for almost a decade, I believe wholeheartedly in God’s unconditional forgiveness for all sinners, regardless of how scarlet those sins may be, should one be genuinely sorry.

But this last month, some of the articles I read and photos I’ve viewed online, and testimony from abortion workers I’ve heard have absolutely disgusted me.  My stomach has been turned, my heart has been sickened and my faith been taken to a new level of trust in God’s mercy for myself, for others and for our country.

I believe repentance and healing is possible for everyone, but, let me tell you, I had to really, really pray this last month to maintain that belief.  Does that me a bad person? Or just a pro-lifer who needs everyone’s patience as I work towards a conversion within myself to becoming more fully compassionate toward others?

Some reading this might be tempted to label me as deeply and secretly judgmental toward those involved in abortion.  To a certain extent, they wouldn’t be wrong.  I have to pray EVERYDAY about not being judgmental whether it’s over someone’s driving ability or childrearing or eating habits.

Most people, I find, also have to struggle with their general prejudices about many things.  We’re all human.

When it comes to holding prejudices regarding the abortion industry, even unconsciously, keep in mind that we’re talking about a business where sin compounds with sin compounds with more sin and it can genuinely be a shock to the system, even for the most seasoned individual.   And just as many former abortion workers talk about how it was Love that helped them to change their ways, that same Love from the Almighty is what pro-lifers need if they are going “into battle,” so to speak, to change hearts in the abortion industry.

That means that pro-lifers need to experience God’s Love in their own brokenness and sinfulness so they understand how someone can say, “I used to work helping to kill babies, but I have found forgiveness,” or “I killed my children, but I have had found healing and new life in Christ,” and believe such redemption is possible.

Two conversions must always take place for true healing between our camps to occur.  Those involved in the sin of abortion must change their beliefs and repent their involvement in the sin.  The pro-lifer must also convert interiorly and become a truly compassionate, herald of the Gospel if they are to maintain any credibility as Christians at all.

Neither type of conversion or process is easy, and we have got to admit that more often.  Pro-lifers have to understand it might take a lifetime someone to come to regret their role in abortion.  Those who have repented for their abortion-related sins need to be understanding when forgiveness and rejoicing over their conversion doesn’t come like an automatic finger snap to many people ‘on the outside.’

If the comment boxes regarding this topic are any indication of mood then there is one glaring truth out there in the pro-life movement: pro-lifers and former abortion workers, and post abortive individuals must be patient with each other. But I believe that when we are willing to extend that olive branch of patience to one another, then perhaps then the rancor in the comment boxes over whether someone is truly sorry over their past sins, or if someone else is “real” pro-lifer or just an angry, condescending jerk, will cease.    

So let's pray for each other's conversions! Is there any one of us that doesn't need it?

Then maybe we can all catch up to heaven and do a little more of the celebrating over changed hearts, with the Father, who runs to embrace each of us no matter how far away we are.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why I Don’t Engage in Mommy Wars

The closest I ever came to ever becoming publicly angry to the point of wanting to engage with another mom…excuse, me, the three times that happened all took place at public parks (go figure).

Incident 1: Mom-of-the-year asks nicely if I can remove my child from the play structure shaped like a fire truck… because her kid wanted to play on it.

Incident 2: My kids occasionally bring toys to the park. Once we brought a plastic toy cork gun.  Cue mom-of-the-year talking loudly to friends about the dangers of playing with toy weapons (to which her much more intelligent preschooler rebutted, “But mom, it’s just a toy!”).

Incident 3: My kids sometimes climb on things at parks.  Not anything dangerously high or located next to spikes, or shark infested waters or anything, but you know, things that invite climbing such as benches.

And sometimes, other kids want to imitate them.  Cue mom-of-the-year running exasperatedly toward her perfectly capable, safe distance from the ground toddler grunting, “Don’t look at those kids.”  She meant my kids.

The last incident did cause me to open my mouth and say to her sarcastically, “Well, that wasn’t condescending,” Perhaps my protruding baby bump did intimidate, for she sized me up for a second, picked up her child and walked away.  But something happened in that moment and it’s the reason I dislike and don’t ever engage in mommy wars: you can’t say a thing without coming off as condescending yourself.

Sure, her reaction was over the top, but notice how quick I was to think and say so.  Was that not a bit condescending of me? 

Don’t think that I didn’t feel a twinge of the, “How dare you judge my parenting in public,” pang, because I certainly did.  And then my next uncharitable thought, which happened in all three cases, because it was another commonality between the three, was this: “It’s because she only has one kid.”

Ouch.  While it’s true that all three moms-of-the-year only had one child, is it not rather judgmental on my part to chalk that up as the reason they all behaved like insecure dunces (which, again, is own my harsh opinion)?

The irony of mommy wars is just that: no mom wants to feel judged, and no critic is a harsher judge of motherhood and childrearing than a mom. 

The very second I feel like some phantom rosette adorns an invisible sash reading, “Infallible Mom,” across my chest, whether I have one child or ten children, is the moment that I have completely lost the battle, so to speak.

Think about it.  Who ultimately wins in the war of the mommas?  Nobody. We like to think the kids are the winners, and that the fruit of our bickering over things like organic vs. processed foods, tv vs. no tv, playing with toy weapons vs. hugging small animals is a society that will eventually raise truly balanced children.

But when does that ever happen, really? And do kids really win when one mom is busy pointing the finger at another mom’s choice of snack food?

This goes both ways I find.  Some moms revel in their kids’ healthy edamame option while other moms rebelliously pack the Cheetos as a sign that they just ain’t apart of that crowd.

Where do I think we Christian moms should fall on the spectrum of overbearing vs. bone-headed motherhood?  Exactly where we should fall in every other aspect of our lives:  try the best we can (even if it means Cheetos and toy guns sometimes) and err on the side of charity, in this case, towards other moms (i.e. don’t go around publicly and loudly condemning her kids’ actions and snack foods as though they’re a microcosm for the whole of her parenting).

In two out of the three park incidences I mentioned above, God’s grace helped me do just that, and to put aside my initial angry feelings. 

For the first, I did move my child off the play structure because that mom begged and assured me that they would only be one minute and were leaving anyway. Ten minutes later when they were still playing on it and it was obvious she had lied I then wanted to react to her (but God helped me with that too).

For incident number two, instead of stewing, I struck up a conversation with the mom who was bemoaning the presence of a toy gun at the park.   I asked her how her son’s school was going and we had a really nice conversation about my homeschooling. 

To boot, she even let me gift our toy gun to her son (the “Mom, it’s just a toy,” kid) because he was having so much fun with it, and plus my kids have a whole armory of toy guns in our house anyway.   Yeah, go ahead and judge away.

I think the true victors of the ‘mommy wars’ are the moms who don’t engage but step aside to focus on what really matters: on those kids whose upbringings we’re all fighting to prove we know more about, and who have more to gain by our respecting one another’s journeys in our vocations as mothers, instead of pretending like we are the only ones who have it all figured out all of the time.

My advice is this: don’t engage in mommy wars, and may you win laurels of peace by doing so.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Kids: The Most Hectic and Purest Love I’ve Ever Known

As I write this, the girl and the boy are both pretending to nap (so am I – myself on the couch and they in their beds).

More than likely they are quietly destroying something, messing up the room or re-arranging some precious paperwork in my bedside cabinet.

I’m tired.  They are too, but they have more energy in their young, supple bodies than I do in my stout, pregnant frame.  Lately, the thought of having a new baby in only a couple of weeks has both excited and terrified me.  I’m not that mom who romances over the infant phase.  I can’t even remember it once it’s gone. It’s just one big, chi-chi, poopey, un-showered blur.

So why am I, to use the culture’s terminology, not “done” with children?  It seems I’d be a prime candidate to enlist in ranks parading to the tubal-ligation center for disease childbirth control.

It's because quite simply, and not so simply, at the end of every exhausting, stressful, water-retaining day, I’ve still never loved so well, nor so poorly, nor as purely as I have since I had kids.

I’m not perfect at it, by any means, but, it must be love for it compels me to do strange selfless acts, that otherwise would be entirely foreign to me.

For example, when my son, who is obsessed with poop right now, tells me earnestly that we shouldn’t go to the park because the sand is where “the kitties go poop,” I must, in all seriousness, affirm that he is correct about that, and assure him that we will be sure not to touch the poop when we are there because it has germs.  In that moment, he matures a little more knowing that he made such an intelligent statement.

Or like the times he goes “Big poop!” in his little toilet, the fruit of weeks of potty training on mine and my husband’s part, and he calls out that he ‘needs’ me to come and clap my hands together like a daft penguin celebrating him becoming a big boy.

And we’ll do this everyday until he finally figures out that bowel movements are just one of those things that everyone eventually manages to do without applause.

But, darn it! I was there and I clapped for him! And I was happy for him for no other reason than I loved him.

I can only credit him with giving me the opportunity to love in that way.   My daughter too, when she did the same thing.  Where else in the world would I have been able to love like that?    

I know they may be silly, minor examples of love, but, really I had almost zero experience of doing anything similar before I had the kids.  Nor have I loved anyone or anything for such a prolonged amount time (I looked at my daughter the other day and thought, “Wait, she’s only five?”).   

This love that I, and many parents, have for our children is the most hectic and purest love many have ever known.  So, no.  I am not 'done' being purified by having kids, if you want to put it that way.  Are you kidding? There's still so much I have to learn about what love actually is and what it actually means to love.
At the end of every tough day, I feel that I can only thank God for them.  And soon enough, when I am 'done' I hope to thank my kids for putting up with me as their mother.

Where I am sitting, I can feel the baby in my abdomen kicking so hard that I am breathless.  A little foot drags across the underside of my belly and the muscles harden in anticipation of a future contraction.

Yet another baby is coming into our world.  They will be yet another opportunity to love purely, selflessly and with a lot of grace. 

I figure that, with God, I too am like this baby.   How will I get to heaven?  Just like my kids will: kicking and screaming, pooping and clapping.  A strange package that He sees, for all it’s hecticness and flaws, for all it costs and simply says, “It’s because I love you.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

For the Record: I am not an Unreasonable, Hate-filled, Fearful Bigot

Of late, the vitriolic rancor flung at Christians due to their beliefs about the nature of marriage and the family has been particularly vicious.

I can only conclude thus: that charity is not the native language of my generation.  Nor the previous generation, perhaps.

As saddening and sometimes maddening as this is, I maintain my hope that, despite the incivility haloing the topic of gay ‘marriage,’ most people, once you get them alone (and away from social networking sites), are able have an unheated, rational conversation about the topic.

I say this is a hope because I am still waiting for that person who would like to sit and charitably exchange ideas.

I especially want to engage with someone who may be proliferating the uncharitable language that is now so familiar to us.  For example, slogans like “FCK H8,” and “StopH8,” which are supposed characterize how Christians in some way really harbor a profound hatred for homosexuals.

I happen to be a Christian, and, believe it or not, I don’t hate anybody.  I'm just stuck wondering why you are accusing me of doing so – and don’t you realize that you are actually attacking my personal character when you do? 

What if I turned around and said of all same sex marriage supporters: “Stop H8ing God and FCK H8ing heterosexuals?”

Well that would be absurd.  I might not agree with their position but obviously supporters of same sex 'marriage,' many of them anyway, love the Lord, are heterosexual themselves, and believe they are supporting a just cause.  What about that makes them ‘haters?’  Nothing. But by the same token, how does my position make me a ‘hater,’ if I too love all people and believe my own position to be reasonable?

Without really thinking it through, one half of society has decided that smearing, labeling, and shame mongering the other half into accepting a stance that many simply do not agree with is the best tactic.  To me and to many such methods only serve to weaken their arguments because, after all, why would you distract away from your core beliefs by attacking others, unless what you believe is unsound in some way?

That and what happens is that before I can even lay down my side of the argument, I am already stuck defending my character, which gets old, frankly.  For, if I don't hate gays, as I indicated already, then I must surely be fearful of gays or social change or both.

Right. What would I be afraid of, now?  Most gays I know are good, caring people.  I like them though I dislike their sin and I pray for them, but not in a condescending way.  I’m a Christian, remember?  Praying for all sinners is kind of what I’m mandated do.  This has nothing to do with someone’s sexual orientation, just our universal fallen human nature and, because, buddy, I’m also on that list. 

Regarding fear of social change: really?  In this day and age where things change by the minute? Plus I’m the person who goes on yearly Walks for Life advocating for the rights of the unborn.  Clearly, my family and I are “out” (no pun intended) and willing to engage in social discourse.  I am still not seeing my own fear regarding change.

Lastly, the charge of bigotry.  You know, this goes both ways.  If I am bigoted due to my narrow, Christian, single-minded views, then how is that different to someone being bigoted towards me due to their own narrow, opposing view?  Am I to accuse half the nation of being bigoted against Christianity?  Isn’t that a bit extreme?

Of course it is! So when I hear such a charge flung against half the nation by the other half, it makes me wonder: if the one side doing the flinging truly believes their cause to be just, then why go to extremes (unless their cause isn’t just after all)?

For the record, therefore, and for whatever it’s worth, I am not a hate-filled, fearful, bigoted individual due to my belief in what the core structure and purpose of marriage is.  I am a rational person, who has followed a logical train of thought, and arrived at what I believe is a completely reasonable conclusion.

Also for the record, those who disagree with me are also not hate-filled, fearful, bigoted individuals either (most of them).  They too are rational people, who have followed what they believe to be a logical train of thought and arrived at their own conclusions.

No haters, homophobes or bigots need be present in this debate.  So could you do me a favor and quit accusing me of being all three at once?

Oh, and I almost forgot about the ‘wants to impose a religious state’ upon everyone accusation.  Yes, I am a Christian, but it might surprise you to hear me say that we don’t need to insert to religion into this debate at all.

There is new and current data from countries that have already legalized same sex marriage on the effects of changing the family structure, which I think we, as a nation, need to pay very close attention to before we can even continue this conversation.

How’s that for being secular?  Surely you’re not going to accuse Norway and Sweden as being instruments for the Catholic Church’s inquisition?  The statistics are coming in and looking very grim for children raised in same sex households.

In sum, your un-fearful, non-hate filled, non-bigoted Catholic mom, who prefers to wait for objective data to indicate the best direction for her country is signing off now, still in the hopes that someone out there wants to engage in way that is productive and charitable in every sense of the word.