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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent for Tired Moms

It’s baack.  It’s Advent.  We laid out the Advent wreath, blessed it and lit the first candle.

I reveled in the blessed flame for a sweet moment until the demands of the infant in his high chair needing food shoveled in his mouth brought me back to domestic life.

I confess it: I secretly envy those who aren’t in the baby stage years anymore.  I have to fight the bitterness as I wipe up mouths and messes all around the table while the season of joy is burning away faster than the lit purple candle.

“Mommy, the wax is getting everywhere…” my six year old points out that the candle, which is just slightly tilted, is apparently off kilter enough to burn unevenly and make a huge mess of things at its base. 

“Thank you, darling.” I say.  I guess Advent has started.

How I want to savor every moment, crooked candle and all.  But even the joy is work; it is a labor, and the worker is often too tired to really experience it.

I think of Mary at the end of her pregnancy during this time.  There was no Advent yet. There was just this Roman imposed census and this journey she was going to have to make while she neared her delivery.  

Did she too have to labor to experience joy in her un-ideal circumstances? It couldn’t have been all rosy and mystical like we get to experience with our advent wreathes, nativity scenes and baking marathons.  What was it like for her?

For the past few months I have been keeping close Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hopes of, I don’t know, actually getting to know her.  And maybe I just need her.  I need to know that it’s okay not to be in perpetual spiritual bliss twenty four seven. 

I need to know that the tiredness of being a mom is a part of and not separate to what Advent means and that I don’t have to try to fake being joyful.  I need to know that the joy of the season, hard work it though it may be, is still a valid joy and that the grace to feign off that bitterness towards life is pretty substantial grace in itself.

To those that are able to immerse themselves in Advent with daily mass, devotional readings, special advent prayers etc., please remember those of us who are just glad that the crooked purple candle gets lit a couple of times.

Please pray for those of us who can’t go two feet without a request or boo-boo or kid problem needing attention and that only get to experience some of advent while the kids are busy watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol.   I'll admit it! I am probably watching Mickey too. This is as good as it gets for now, and sometimes we just need the encouragement that that’s okay.

And Blessed Mother, please pray for those parents who, like yourself at this time of you, aren’t living in the most ideal circumstances.  This joy of the season, for some is a labor.  Please help us remember the greatest labor and joy are yet to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here's An Idea For the Synod: Free Prenatal and Post-partum Services

Free pre-natal and post-partum services at all Catholic hospitals nationwide.  Period.

And I'd bet that all the "war on women" accusations would stop overnight.  Well, not in some circles to be sure.

Imagine: a pregnant woman sitting in front of her computer scanning her options for free prenatal services.

What's that?  Planned Parenthood?  No, they always have those protestors out front and besides, aren't they a bit twisted?

Oh, but look!  The local Catholic hospital offers the same services for free (minus the birth control and abortion).  Really?  Catholics taking care of women?  Those crazy zygote-lovers who believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception...is actually taking care of people, zygote people, from the moment of conception?

No required insurance??  In fact, we don't even care if they have insurance or not...it's a human life and a mother, people!  Is there no room at the inn for the mothers carrying unborn children at our illustrious Catholic hospitals?

Pipe dream?

The logical next step?

I mean, as a Church, what would happen if we actually became THE place for pregnant women to turn to to learn about everything reproduction related.  Wow.  What might actually happen then?  Oh, I dunno, conversion?  Connecting with those who need us the most.  Where is that in our mission statement?  Oh, everywhere, that's right.

OR  how about this idea: Catholic hospitals absorbing and supporting the zillion crisis pregnancy centers across the country who already do this.

Either way.  It's a family issue and should be a Synod issue, I think.  What do you think?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Life Without Birth Control

My husband and I are seven years in and we still can't tell what our friends and family really think of our birth control-free lifestyle.

Well, that's not totally true, I can sort of tell.  I suspect that most either expect us to ditch the whole Natural Family Planning thing any day now or they pretty much assume that I'm probably pregnant.  As in pregnant right now and every time they see me and all of the time.

But they are true friends which means at least they won't unfriend me on Facebook. I think.

They probably also wonder what my husband and I think of them.  The answer: yeah we're totally judgmental jerks.  Only, we so aren't.

We don't sit there "tsking" away at their acceptance of contraception or their sins, because then, as sinners we'd be hypocrites.

But he and I (mostly me) are NFP enthusiasts.  To a fault.  This is common knowledge amongst all our friends who tolerate it and us even if they aren't one hundred percent sure what NFP is.  To them, NFP means only one thing anyway: no birth control.   They know Jon doesn't wear anything and I don't alter my self in any way to be intimate with him.  I suppose I just hope that they wonder what that's like (but not in graphic detail).

What I mean is: I hope that they wonder what it's like to live without birth control.  Have my husband and I emulated the ideal NFP couple?  Pfft.  No way.  But it's normal life to us and frankly, neither of us would have it any other way.

So what are contraception-free Skittles really like? Well...

Life without birth control is actually when, at one point in the month, your husband has never been more attractive than any man on earth has ever been in that moment.   Once the "take me take me take me" feelings subside you then move onto the "meh" portion of the month.  The sex is still really nice but the rush and the adrenaline are gone during this time.  Mostly. In any case you remember how tired your million kids (sorry I just had to say it) make you and sleep trumps sex most nights.

Until the next month when the sexiness comes back, that is.  Notice, I made no mention of taking temperatures, or keeping your charts organized and applying various rules etc. etc.  Naw.  When something becomes a part of your life, you get pretty good at it.  NFP is like that too.

I know this account of life without birth control is over simplified for some.  Where's the monthly epic battle against all vices? Where is the abacus to record the spiritual dolors that come with periodic abstinence? Where's the gilt framed picture of the scared hearts of Jesus and Mary gazing creepily in the direction of your marriage bed?  This must be what most people think of when they meet a Catholic who doesn't use birth control!

Life without birth control is simply or not so simply this: it's life minus barriers and chemicals when you have sex. Period. Sounds great, right?  And it is!  So why aren't people lining up to hear more about it?

Once again, as an enthusiast, when I go to assuage their fears and clear up any misconceptions they have, I might actually be doing more harm than good in promoting NFP in lofty terms to someone.  Believe me I have tried, both with acquaintances and in large parish group settings.  "Need help conceiving? Call me!", "You're engaged? If you ever want to hear my NFP talk, let me know!"  I can almost hear them tossing the NFP idea out of their minds as they glance around to my zillion kids bouncing off the walls.

My "My NFP is Better Than Your Birth Control" bumper sticker most likely isn't helping me either.

About the kids.  We have three.  I know for some that's like saying three thousand, and the laundry pile makes it feel that way, but it's not.  It's three.  And you know what? We probably aren't done and that is normal too.

Plus we all know that as a good Catholic couple, my husband and I only care about making babies and not actually caring for them when they are here.  Just this morning I remember thinking, "Time for a new one!" as I threw an unsheathed banana in the direction of my eighteenth month old's cage.  Hey, at least I refill his water feeder from time to time.

Life without birth control, in short, is still normal life, just perhaps a bit sexier at a high point each month, way more organic, and yes, doable even for dummy like me.  But if none of that even remotely appeals to you, don't worry, the next time you want to have sex, I am sure there is an exciting pharmacy with a pimply teenager waiting to ring you up near you!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I Can’t Read or Watch Fifty Shades of Grey

It’s the middle of the night.

I make my way stepping over toys to the kids’ room in search of my husband. 

I find him half asleep and rocking our four year old son who has been experiencing night terrors.

In literally only a couple of hours my husband will have to get up and go to work for his family while we all sleep in.  It hardly seems fair to the man, having to suffer through the night only to wake up and go provide for his family.  However he does it, every single day, out of love for us.

That, to me, is a man and that is exactly why I can’t read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey where the main character, Christian (I hate that he is named this) Grey, ties up, beats up and practices all sorts of "BDSM" (bondage, domination, sadism, masochism) on his girlfriend.  And the girl, Anastasia (aw, how Disney), she’s in love with it, or him, or at least can’t seem to live without it or him, right? Healthy.

Here's the thing: people, women especially will never come to view Fifty Shades in the destructive, shameful light it should be cast in unless they have experienced what real masculinity and selfless suffering look like.  Unless they’ve encountered what it means to be in fully committed relationship (i.e. marriage), with someone who dies to themselves everyday, or in the middle of the night if need be, for them and their family, then a smut book like Fifty Shades is all mindless fun and games. 

That isn’t to say that married women and mothers haven’t read the book by the droves.  The book alone has sold almost one hundred million copies globally.  Mom-porn is the term, I believe.  Are you kidding me?

Wives, is BDSM the sort of sexual relationship you want with your spouse?

Is Christian Grey the man you’d want for your daughters? If you have a daughter, the thought of any man abusing them in such a way as Christian does Anastasia, and having it glorified as sexy, should spark immediate disgust. 

Is Christian Grey the man you want your sons to grow into?  I can’t even entertain the notion of any of my beautiful boys as Christian Grey without wanting to move to Timbucktoo just to avoid them ever exposed to the normalization of such shameful acts.

To those who say they would never do what’s in the story, but they don’t see the harm in reading the books and seeing the movie, please consider this:

Purity of heart is important and I submit to you that convoluting that purity with a story like Fifty Shades dampens your sense of God and therefore, right and wrong. 

If you can’t tell the difference between what is good and what is bad, then what’s to stop you from making seriously unhealthy decisions for your relationship?  From 'experimenting' or from the get-go choosing the wrong person to be with?

May the wise take heed: in reality, sexually impure acts, whether they are to the degree described in Fifty Shades or even if they take a less violent form, such as cohabitation (equally destructive over time), is the emotionally codependent path upon which many bad relationships tread for a long time.

Don’t do it.  Avoid the allure of twisted temptations sold as exciting.  Stick to the loving, selfless acts of charity that build up your spouse, family and yourself and upon which all healthy relationships are based.  All long lasting, sexually fulfilling marriages as well. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why TV’s “Dating Naked” Shows Too Little

First of all, ew.

Have you seen the advertisements for TV’s latest naked themed show?  If not, watch here (warning: butts everywhere).
As the trailer depicts, the show’s singles defend abandoning clothes in their pursuit for the right person because they at the point where they will “try anything” and because dating in the real world sucks, apparently.
Um.  Two things.
What the show gets right.
Yes, there are elements about the show that get at our natural human desire to love and be loved sans barriers, material or otherwise.  Removing clothes is being equated with removing any superficial blockades to true intimacy. 
I get it.  The hook-up generation is deeply and understandably frustrated with their “relationships” never going anywhere (imagine that).  They are thirsting to forge a genuine connection with someone that is more than skin deep, pun intended. However, it’s questionable just how much zip lining across a jungle canopy in the buff with a stranger achieves any sort of authentic intimacy.
What the show gets very, very wrong.
The show is getting authenticity wrong.  Our true self is not just our disrobed self no matter how many participants claim to have felt a deeper connection with someone due to being naked.

Sweetheart, that’s called pheromones.

The show gets the beauty and thrill of nudity wrong.  Finally gettin’ nekked with someone, which used to be exciting and reserved for married couples, now basically loses it impact fifteen minutes into the show.  And that, my friends is just tragic.
Bottom line, when nudity is basically reduced to a dress code then, as St. JP2 said about pornography, the problem with a series like “Dating Naked” is not showing too much but too little of the person.

On the show, it’s doubtful we will ever get to see the “real” people we are watching (not that I’m watching the show) because we are too busy being distracted by “too much” of them.   And it is distracting. It’s meant to be – otherwise they would have chosen normal-sized people to be on TV.

Oh, people will defend the dating naked idea. And I am sure the show will receive great ratings and viewership…due to the deep conversations, right?
But if this is the culture’s answer for how and unmarried person can forge a meaningful relationship with the right person, then I’d be very disappointed if I was a single right now...and I’d still be single. 
I mean who is actually ever going to date naked?  In real life, it doesn’t work.  You try getting to know someone or have a meaningful discussion about politics, religion, the housing market whatever, without cracking a giggle at the dingly dangly. 
So I stand by my principles that the “Dating Naked” shows too little .
But also too much. 

I say again, ew.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

To the Young Woman Buying Condoms at the Store

Dear young woman whom I observed buying condoms at the store the other night,

You probably didn’t take much notice, but we just happened cross paths in the same grocery aisle when I was buying baby supplies which someone humorously located right across from the family planning section.

You were there with a girlfriend and you were on your cell phone.  You sounded a bit tipsy.

As I walked by holding my baby, I overheard you explain to your caller, “I’m trying to buy condoms here,”

I shuddered when you said that.  Judging by appearance, you must be at least ten years younger than myself. No wedding ring either.

Your girlfriend casually suggested buying someone else a box of condoms too.  And one for herself.  “Might as well,” you said.

My heart bled.

Dear young woman who I observed buying condoms at the store the other night,
You probably didn’t notice that we crossed paths the other night.  Coincidence Providence placed us in the same grocery aisle when I was buying baby supplies which someone humorously located right across from the family planning section.
You were there with a girlfriend and you were on your cell phone.  You sounded a bit tipsy.
As I walked by holding my baby, I overheard you explain to your caller, “I’m trying to buy condoms here.”
I admit it: I shuddered when you said that.  Judging by appearances, you must be at least ten years younger than myself. No wedding ring either.
Your girlfriend casually suggested buying someone else a box of condoms too.  And one for herself.  “Might as well,” you said.
Then my heart bled.
Let me explain.  I realize we aren’t personally acquainted.  I’m not here to judge you or belittle you or to lambast you with fire and brimstone over your personal choices but I am here to tell you one thing: you are beautiful.
Let me repeat that.  You. Are. Beautiful.
That’s probably why it hurt to overhear you that night, to watch you and your friend pay for your condoms and walk away laughing into the night.  Because there but for the grace of God go I.
I wanted to run after you and tell you how you deserved better than inebriated “safe” sex, to show you a card of the Divine Mercy, to introduce you to my one-year-old as an interactive example of what sex is actually meant for.
I wonder if you would have listened.
At the pregnancy center I see girls, no, young women like yourself who all made a string of decisions, perhaps starting with buying condoms at the store, only to wind up broken, isolated, and regretful.  It’s nothing I would want for you or anyone and yet I failed to have the courage to dissuade you from your choices that night.
But if I had been more bold, I suppose I would have started with telling you that you are beautiful.  After that would come the heartfelt, motherly diatribe on how condoms are ugly, awkward things and that premarital sex is beneath you and that you could change your life, find a deserving life partner, and discover your true worth at any time.
Again, I wonder if you would have listened.
Perhaps I could have shared my own experience.  You see, I don’t know what condom-sex feels like, but I can’t imagine it’s better than the au natural.
I only know what it is like to have sex with my husband without any barriers between us.  By God’s grace I have been blessed to experience what it is to have a man cherish me for all I am and relish in the joy of conceiving child after child with me, and who desires all of me, including my fertility, in a passionate way.
My question to you, my dear, is this: isn’t that something you want for yourself?
I guarantee you, that stupid family planning (I hate the combination of those two words) aisle isn’t going to stock that degree of commitment for you.
And I promise you this: whether or not you feel what you are doing is wrong, I’m sure there is a question in your heart over whether there is anything more you are meant for.
I’m here to tell you there is.  There is a plan for sex for you and me and everyone.  It is, in fact a perfect plan that is moral, natural, satisfying, fun, pleasurable, marriage strengthening, life-giving, and faith solidifying.
What’s more, you and I, in all of our imperfections and sinfulness, have been made worthy of it because you are a child of God and again, you are beautiful.
Somehow, someway, someday I hope you will listen.  And I pray to have the courage to finally speak this truth in love to you.
Your big sister in Christ who would gladly throw herself in front of a bus to keep you from sin, if she could (as would all of your anonymous sisters in Christ who are praying for you.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Am American Camino (a.k.a Camino de Mickey D's)

After watching Martin Sheen’s “The Way” where Sheen’s character backpacks Spain’s famed pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, something crazy Catholic was…unleashed… in me.

My St. Joan of Arc fantasy crossed streams with my inner Spaniard missionary and I wanted to fly across the world on a winged stallion plane wielding my rosary sword passport in order to descend upon every pilgrimage site in Europe with the fire of a thousand tongues of the Holy Spirit behind me.

Then I thought, nah.

I’m an American.  With kids.  So what’s an American mom with a burning desire to make a pilgrimage supposed to do?

I know! Invent my own American “camino,” a driving one, and a route featuring churches and convenience stores along the way.

Except I didn’t have to dream up anything new.  We actually have a camino and we don’t even realize it.

So I’m calling it the Camino de Mickey D’s.

Not really.  Actually it's a route I traveled with my mom and kids that connects my parish in Santa Clara, California (Our Lady of Peace Shrine) to Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama (aka Mother Angelica and the Poor Clares of EWTN).

Believe me, we took our time, driving onlyaround 6 hrs each day with plenty of snack and bathroom stops in between.

Take a look at the map and list of stops and let me know if you’d ever undertake the American Southwestern Camino (or leave a note if you can think of another route from another region of our large, beautiful country)!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ten Totally Lame Reasons NOT to Get Married

The Huffington Post recently dictated a forgone conclusion of my post-marriage generation in an article titled 10 Reasons It’sTotally Fine Never to Get Married.

Let’s explore their lame-o rationales, shall we? (Their arguments are in bold, followed by my comments.)

1. They say: Most people aren't in a hurry to get married anymore.
Quoth the oracle: “So, there's no need to stress about not getting married -- everyone else is staying single too.” And we know from experience that when everyone is doing something it must be okay.

Almost there....PSYCHE!
2.  They say: In fact, many people feel there aren't many advantages to being married.
And if un-married people feel that way, having never been married, then of course, they must be right!

3.  They say: For men, being married could be connected to being overweight.
All those demands of marriage can really cut into gym time.  How else is a guy supposed to burn all those calories from stagnantly watching professional sports all weekend?  You and I both know a real man isn’t going to give up watching his team.  Marrying his girlfriend, on the other hand…

4.  They say: Marriage can present a slew of financial problems.
This gem of a quote, “Another point: getting married can cause a single parent to lose student aid for their child.”  Wow. Just think of all those government incentives you’re missing out on by getting hitched!  Oh! Bring it on, profitable fornication (that’s Latin or Greek for what everyone else is doing anyway.)

5.  They say: Marriage can seem like an outdated institution, and some people just don't want to fit into that mold.
But the new soon to be outdated institution of staying single: that's okay!

6.  They say: Getting married can put your friendships at risk.
Hm. You know which kinds of friendships come to an end because you spend time with your family?  The ones weren’t really friendships to begin with.  No sweat there, good riddance.

7.  They say: Marriage can lead to the risky habit of relying on one individual for every emotional need.
Unlike cohabitation or dating where you risk ...relying on one individual for every emotional need.

8.  They say: These days, a happy marriage requires a serious commitment of time and energy that can be hard to maintain.  So why bother? Time, energy, commitment…pshah!  We should all settle for relationships that only require sporadic bursts of low grade energy followed by a tapering lull as you spend an indeterminate amount of life wondering whether or not it’s the right time to get married.

9.  They say: And, as dim as it sounds, plenty of marriages in this country end up in a divorce anyway.
So avoid becoming a statistic! Unless, of course, it’s the statistic of staying single.

10.  They say: Plus, there's a good alternative to marriage. It's called a civil union or a domestic partnership. 

It’s like marriage “lite,” or a “calorie free” beverage, which seems like a good alternative to soda until you realize that it’s is actually worse for you, is totally unsatisfying, linked to obesity, and overall, doesn’t really substitute for the real thing i.e marriage.