About Kristen

A 30-something wife and mama of 3 (so far) living out my faith (Catholic) in the southeastern US.

An AWARD, I got an AWARD!

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Katherine over at Having Left the Altar was kind enough to give me the Liebster Award.

liebster-award

The Liebster Award is for bloggers with less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word meaning dearest. The award is given to up-and-coming bloggers who deserve recognition and support to keep on blogging.

Here are the “rules”:
1. Answer the 11 questions given to you
2. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
3. Choose 5* bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.
(I’m abbreviating a bit to try and avoid tag-backs)
4. Go to each blogger’s page and let them know about the award.
5. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog!
Here were Katherine’s questions for me:
1. If you could choose another name for yourself, what would it be and why?
You know, I’ve thought a lot about this because I love names. At this point in my life for my first name, I’d probably pick my confirmation name: Juliana in honor of  St Juliana Falconieri who rebelled from her parents by creating her own religious order. I’ve always liked the name and I guess that’s why I would choose it. (Sorry, not very deep there.) Middle name is tougher: I narrowed it down to Mary for the Blessed Mother, Bernadette for Bernadette of Lourdes whose story was a favorite from my childhood, or Hedwig because I like it and it’s different. And it sounds cool and happens to be a saint name.
2. What is your favorite book you are least happy to tell others about?
This is an interesting question. Thinking now, as a teenager, I became a huge fan of Ayn Rand but I guess I don’t like telling people about it because a) I couldn’t fully comprehend Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead the first times I read them (and I own Anthem but have no recollection of reading it). b) It’s safe to say I might have missed the point the first read-throughs. c) I never went back and re-read them, I’m afraid I’d be too disappointed now. d) OHMYGRACIOUSITSANATHEISTTOME I should just go re-read them. After all, if Rush could devote an entire album to Rand’s work and then Geddy Lee come back and say, “Psych! I’m a Christian now,” maybe I’m not so terrible.
3. What is your favorite season and why?
Autumn, hands down. And I don’t like calling it fall. My birthday happens then as does Halloween which is my favorite holiday and my favorite holy day of obligation All Saints Day and a whole day devoted to giving thanks. Let’s see, there is football and the State Fair and bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils. Root vegetables and honey crisp apples and pumpkin EVERYTHING. Yep, it’s autumn (which I just spelled a-u-t-i-s-m…wow)
4. What is your favorite thing to wear and why?
Pajama pants. Because they are comfortable honestly.
5. What is your favorite prayer/devotion?
 I have to say this one is particularly apt for me right now.
Suspice
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me. 
Ignatius of Loyola wrote that. For someone who prays for acceptance of the divine Will of God, for HIS will, not mine, be done daily, yep, this is one is just about perfect.
6. Where do you like to eat out best?
Wherever someone else is paying haha. Seriously though, for fast food we are huge fans of Chick-fil-A because a) it’s good food and b) it’s Christian owned-operated. For a sit-down meal, hmmm, Szechuan 132 in Wilmington is the best Chinese in the entire world and is Catholic-owned and very family-friendly while still being world-class food and atomosphere. Never once have my kids been made to feel that they are causing a ruckus. No, the owner welcomes them and the staff is amazing! And they even serve Jeff an old dish they’ve taken off the menu because they are just awesome like that! I tend to be a huge fan of local businesses rather than chains, so I’m happy to give them this shout-out!
7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Wow, um, where would I not go? ;) Wow, it’s hard to narrow it down. Right now London has a huge chunk of my heart because it is the home of my dear friend Tim whose heart is as big as the ocean that separates him and our family and it is home to Selfridge and Co (new obsession, Mr Selfridge from Masterpiece). We are hoping to take Shelby on the Camino through France and Spain. Of course, Rome and Italy. We’ve had a strong pull to Poland, Russia and Armenia as well. Our goals for Shelby include having her travel the world with us. So, we’re going to see as much as we can!
8. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?
Whose living now? Pope Francis and Pope-Emeritus Benedict. Hands down. How blessed is the Church to have TWO such humble and gracious servants leading her people?! Of the deceased, of course Jesus. And Simon Peter.
9. What kind of books do you like best?
Another loaded question ;). I like literary novels and non-fiction. Non-fiction is kind of broad but I like both memoir and science related books the best.
10. If you could recommend one current TV show or film, what would it be?
Call the Midwife. It’s 1950s London’s East End. It’s young women midwives, it’s nuns, it’s giving birth, it’s PBS/BBC (and bonus: Mr. Selfridge is on right after, I am having no trouble waiting for Sherlock and Downton to come back…in fact I have to catch up on those!)
Honorable Mention: Reign. The French Court when Mary, Queen of Scots was there was never more awesome.
11. Favorite card game?
I don’t play cards. My family does, but not me. On my mom’s side they are fond of Pounce and Euchre. On my Dad’s side, Pitch. I can’t remember the rules of any games except Go Fish or War :)
Now  11 Questions: hmmm
1. What is your favorite cuisine?
2. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
3. What is your favorite Bible verse?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. What is the best way to spend “found money?”
6. What is the best way to spend “found time?”
7. What is the grossest/weirdest food you’ve ever tried? Did you like it?
8. What is your favorite holiday tradition? (Can be any holiday!)
9. What state would you like to visit?
10. What are your feelings on buzzfeed quizzes?
11. What is your favorite social media outlet?
Now, for my nominees (and I’ve probably nominated some before so just visit them again!)
1. Maria at Four Blessings Academy. Maria hosts a beautiful meme called Light in Darkness and shares her beautiful life, faith and family.
2. Maurisa at Half A Dozen and More Productions. She has a very thoughtful but also fun blog.
3. Priest’s Wife at Fear Not Little Flock. Read her, it is fascinating to learn about our Eastern Rite bretheren, especially as they will continue to get more attention during Pope Francis’ papacy.
4. Sonya at Glam-O-Mommy. I love her adorable Sophie and stories and she has some awesome adventures I like to live vicariously through!
5.And I have no idea how many followers this blog has, but I really think more people would benefit from Pelianito Journal Blog.
No one is under any obligation to do any of this, I just thought it was fun.

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

usually you can come sit next to me. But sometimes, just go away.

I gave up blog reading for Lent. I’m not even kidding you. I still glance in to my reader to see if friends who are expecting post any info or if blogs I follow who are irregular posters have posted anything because typically they are my best reading. And I’ve clicked through links on facebook of blogs I follow frequently when they have promising spoilers but I’ve given up the excessive reading and the excessive agonizing over who I missed that day.

And I’m glad I did. Because far more often than not, most bloggers lately have had nothing nice or even informative to say. I love a good rant as much as anyone, but when every other or even every post is a rant, I pass. I have better things to do. Like take a nap or google “tiger vs lion.”

A few blogs I used to love I gave up forever when I began to question the road to sanity that some bloggers were de-railing from. And it usually started with ranting non-stop.

One blog I gave up a long time ago caused me a lot of stress. The indignant, self-righteous tone this particular blogger has was borderline psychotic-episode inducing for me as a reader. I could not imagine what it might be like to live in this person’s skin. First of all, this person was objectively wrong on almost every single count they ranted and raved on. And if someone dared to disagree in a civil manner, this blogger gave a swift thunder-punch to the throat via the internet. I never bothered commenting because these are people you can only pray for. In addition there was a schizoid element of wanting to have everything both ways. Everyone around this blogger both on the internet and in real life was both too conservative and too liberal at the same time. Every once in a while though, I come back for a quick look just to see if maybe, by some miracle, this person has gotten his/her life back together. And every time I’m disappointed so I go back to praying for them. Most recently this blogger decided to personally attack a very well known blogger passive-aggressively (linked to the blog didn’t call it out by name, of course) for this person telling their personal story. Well, our stories make us who we are, like it or not. And this person’s story happens to be quite different than the blogger’s who attacked him/her (for various reasons I’m going to be deliberately vague in this post, mostly because I do not want to draw traffic to the blog I’ve given up). The original blogger’s story is full of regret, woe and confusion. The blogger he/she attacked has a story full of redemption, grace and joy. I would understand the original blogger saying, “hey I don’t get what the fascination is.” but that’s not what he/she is doing. He/She is trying to portray this other blogger as a heretic and interloper. And I can say that because I read the post. He/she is careful in his/her word choice, but the message is clear. “I don’t like this person, I’m going to tear this person down.” And that’s not right. You can not like the person, but why must you tear him/her down? This blogger has stated several times her distaste with her own life and life choices, but that doesn’t give her free-license to slander and blight a person who is telling a very different truth?

That’s why I don’t miss reading blogs. People only seem to want to write lately when they don’t have anything nice to say. And some of them write so much that you begin to wonder, is there ANYTHING good in their lives? Ever? And so I’ve been forced to become super-picky about which blogs I feed myself on voraciously, which blogs I simply nibble at occasionally, which ones I glance at and which ones I toss without another care. This internet is a brave new world still. And I, for one, am going to be much pickier with the path I tread in it.

Aware. And just don’t care

I’m sorry I did not do the obligatory “World Autism Day” post yesterday. Well, I’m not sorry at all for me. But I’m sure people expected it.

A couple of years ago, my friend Sara who is an adult on the autism spectrum with two sons also on the spectrum, told me she felt that Autism “Awareness” was passe. She even said,  “Everyone I know is pretty aware.” And I agreed then but now the rest of the NT world is catching on.

Awareness does not equal acceptance.

To quote Welsh autism-mom blogger Martine O’Callaghan:

Awareness is passive. How many times have you been “made aware” of a situation without being expected to do a single thing about it? “I’m just making you aware…” does not compel action or a change in behaviour. It does not, in real terms,impact the lives of Autistic people for the better.

Read her entire post. It contains a real-life example of when awareness fails miserably. Closer to home a mom I know recently confessed to me that her son was making a weird noise in a store and a woman kept giving them ugly looks. She smiled at the woman and said, “I’m sorry he has autism.” The woman scowled back and said, “I’m AWARE of what autism is,” and stormed off. Awareness, yes. Acceptance, not a freaking chance.

People have been made aware by being “blued” to death every April and by being educated by parents in the grocery store and it hasn’t accomplished almost anything. And if we want our children to be accepted, perhaps we shouldn’t take our cue from the number one autism group whose name should not be spoken. <–See what I did there? Anyhow, the “awareness” campaign is hand in hand with the ideas of  “curing” the neurodiverse and “fixing” them. While it is true that some individuals with autism just want to “be like everyone else” there are a lot more out there who embrace what makes them different and feel put down and ashamed by these “awareness” campaigns.

Don’t believe me? Well consider this:

Compare two different examples in how parents of newly diagnosed children are first introduced to autism, and how these introductions serve to stage the way parents approach their child’s neurology.

“We’re sorry to tell you that your child has autism. Tragically, there is no cure. Unfortunately, your life will never be the same. Your marriage will never be the same. Expect your marriage to fail. We are sorry that your child has been stolen, but we are happy to put you in touch with organizations that will help you to become more aware of autism statistics and scientific research. In turn, these organizations will be happy to provide you with the tools for you to raise money for them so they can continue their search for the causes and cure of autism.”

“Your child is Autistic. Their neurology allows them to uniquely perceive their environment and communications. The world has yet to catch up with neurological diversities like autism, and unfortunately this creates the challenges your child will encounter. We are happy to put you in touch with organizations who can guide you toward understanding your child by hearing from Autistic people themselves. Their firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be a person on the spectrum, as well as professional resources advocating for the importance of accepting your child’s differences, will help ensure your child’s all around success and happiness.”

The woman who wrote those paragraphs is also a woman with autism and a mother of a child with autism. Click the link to read her entire post and how her child reacted to the idea of “awareness” and “awareness campaigns.”

And remember “awareness” doesn’t have to be positive. Google “Alex Spourdalakis death” or “Issy Stapleton, Kelli Stapleton attempted murder.” These mothers raised awareness by murdering or attempting to murder their children. Yes, there are trials, but when those difficulties and trials dominate the public discussion, it creates an atmosphere of hostility and hatred toward my child. It makes people “aware” of a life that appears to be all negative and unworthy.”

So how do we build acceptance? Well, first, do what Cammie is doing and talk about it. Talk about your love for your child and his or her positives. There is a whole world out there reflecting the first paragraph above but a lot fewer of us like myself and Cammie talking about how awesome our kids are. About how much we love them. About how a different life than we imagined is not less (thank you Temple Grandin for that idea which is still revolutionary to so many). Don’t lie and make it as if nothing bad EVER happens but celebrate those milestones. Every positive report out there is another chip in the block of lie that says, “Your child’s worth is solely dependent on whether he falls on the spectrum.”

Next, we take our kids places. We take them to the store, we take them to the movies, we take them to the beach, we take them everywhere we go. Why? Because 1 in 68 children born today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum by age 8 and so people are going to have to get used to them sometime. Why not now? There is no guarantee your child with have a meltdown every time you go out, so give it a shot and as you get more confident, make new places familiar. And in life, meltdowns happen, to EVERYONE, so don’t let a couple get you down. Obviously work at a pace that works for you and your child but do not think autism means you have to keep your kid locked up! And if you want social interactions to become easier not only do you have to acquaint the public with your child, you have to acquaint your child with the public.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski gave a public message for world autism day which included this:

We draw near to these families and this in particular is directed towards ensuring that hope is not extinguished in them, providing support so that they do not feel lost or in a state of crisis as regards their relationships at the level of emotions or as relatives. A real difficulty of integration and communication exists between the autistic person and those who enter into contact with him or her.

A question thus arises: how can this stigma be combated? A pathway of integration within the community must be followed which breaks down the isolation and the barriers that are established by these disorders and by prejudice, thereby strengthening personal relationships. This can also take place with the support of social commitment and with synergic actions in the fields of care, information, communication and formation, thereby fostering a move to true understanding and acceptance of this illness which never denies or undermines the dignity with which every person is clothed.

In this way the bases can be established for a hope that isolates neither people with autism nor their families but which, instead, is rooted in and nurtured by cooperation and reciprocal trust, following an ethic of solidarity which we should all rediscover and nourish.

Our lives were not meant to be lived in a vacuum, autism or not. And read that article to see what the Vatican is doing to help those with autism and their families become less isolated.

And we need to listen to adults on the autism spectrum. Their voices must be heard in our lives and in public policy. The autism organization whose name is not to be spoken does not have a single autistic voice on their board. And their fear tactics are notoriously upsetting to adults on the spectrum who feel their very humanity is being attacked. Because it is.

A friend in Australia on the spectrum who also has children on the spectrum introduced me to the new color of acceptance. Gold. Why gold? Well, on the periodic table of elements, the symbol for gold is Au. “Au” is the symbol many of us see on medical and school paperwork pertaining to our child. Our kids lives matter. They are worth their weight in gold and then some. They should be celebrated. A world with no Temple Grandin or Isaiah Paskowitz or Dan Akyroid is not a world I want to live in. I’m not going to lock my daughter up. She has a light that deserves to shine and I would be robbing the world of untold riches if I didn’t let that light shine for ALL to see.

Am I saying it’s wrong to “light it up blue”  or wear blue? No. But I do know those things are not as effective in accomplishing what we may like. Many people are aware and don’t care. We need to bridge that gap. We need to start teaching acceptance. We need to make sure everyone who meets us and our children know those children, they have worth. They deserve the best.

 

How I Met Your Mother…the end

First off I’ll say I wasn’t disappointed nor surprised. In the end it played out how it probably should have. I won’t spoil that.

I tuned into last night’s hour long finale and braced myself. The one thing I was not prepared for and made me cry was, for me, the best moment of the episode (spoiler alert!). Watching Barney hold his infant daughter Ellie for the first time and get teary as he said the words he had earlier told Ted, Marshall and Lily he could never say to any woman, “You are the love of my life. Everything I have and everything I am is yours. Forever.” And then he kissed her and broke down. I think the writers and producers brought the perfect redemption for Barney who only loves suits. Here he had just handed out cigars hoping he wasn’t the father and had to be pushed into the nursery by Ted, Marshall and Lily and now he had become the man they all knew he could be inside. And it was a woman but not romantic love or lust that changed him.

While I’d been told/figured out what would eventually happen to the “mother” who we found out’s name is Tracy, watching the montage of Ted and Tracy’s life together with their children also brought me to tears as Ted described how thankful he was for all of it. All of it. Even the painful times.

I was more emotional at the end of this series than I had anticipated. I knew I would cry at the end of The Office and would even be a little misty at the end of 30Rock. But this one totally caught me off guard. I didn’t think I had invested as emotionally as I had, after all, HIMYM was not appointment tv for me like The Office and 3oRock were. As the end credits rolled to The Walkmen’s Heaven, which paid tribute to each character and actor, I began to realize how they had impacted me. First of all, they’re my age, something I find rare in television. Characters are usually just older or younger. Second, there were underlying themes that resonated with where I am in life: Marshall and Lily who fought for their marriage and family against all odds and learned how to compromise their personal expectations for the better of their family; Ted who dated looking for someone to marry only to be disappointed that the rest of the world didn’t time and time again; even Barney who searched for the love of his life covertly and unsatisfyingly through his search for his father, various women (including, sadly, Robin, that was the only thing that disappointed me in the finale), and finally found it in a daughter he thought he didn’t have room for in his life; and Robin who struggled to find balance between who she was and who she wanted to be. Their friendship and stories met my life where it is right now. And it turns out, that meant a lot more than I thought. And just as their time together at McLaren’s has come to an end, one day this phase of my life will end. And all we’ll have will be the memories.

Remember, remember all we fight for

Why I Don’t Homeschool (version 3256)

Okay, a lot lately I’ve gotten emails, fb messages, texts etc asking me why I don’t homeschool. Particularly, why I don’t homeschool Shelby.

Taking Shelby out of the equation for a minute: I’m a lousy teacher. There, I said it. I mean, don’t get me wrong I’m great at teaching my kids their faith through application, teaching them how to be decent human beings and allowing them to *gasp* actually be children but reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic? No. Just no.

I was educated in the public school system from kindergarten through college. I thrived educationally in public education, socially it was good for me until high school. Actually, probably before then but I loved middle school and despised high school except for my teachers and actual course work. A lot of my education was direct instruction but I was blessed to know how to thrive in that environment and a brain that WANTED to learn.

My boys (again Shelby is a special case) are both very different learners. Joseph is self-motivated but also craves praise. He likes to do work-books, for fun! He is super-reward motivated. Joseph is more along the line of a direct instruction model student. But he handles more creative and organic learning experiences very well. William, on the other hand. He’s not self-motivated except for what he wants. He will sometimes want to do work if Joseph is doing it, is what it amounts to but that’s a sometimes. He is not motivated by praise or rewards, in fact sometimes praise has made him break down in tears for reasons we  can not figure out. Of course he will willingly do whatever is asked of him by someone outside of the family but us, it’s a no go every.single.time. William is also a discovery/inquiry learner and prefers learning in organic situations.

So, I know all this, I should be able to do it, right? But the idea of not just two different curriculums but two different instructional methods is paralyzing. I realize there are pre-made curriculums out there but to have to purchase them and then figure out 2 different ways to teach them? Joseph will sit and do worksheets all day, William will argue about doing one.

Then there is the fact of me. I am an impatient teacher. I don’t remember what it was like to learn something for the first time even though it still happens. I want my kids to sit there and do the work and not to do it right the first time but I don’t handle consistent repeated mistakes well. And when I considered being a teacher in college I knew I couldn’t do the amount of work required in “off hours” planning, shopping, meeting, learning new education laws etc. I realize a lot of that is avoided in homeschooling but the level of planning and work I know so many mothers do, it’s just NOT in me. I spent a good part of this year trying to create a schedule and studies for William and it crashed and burned irretrievably after a month. I wasn’t cleaning my house or making dinner, that was the extent of how bad it got trying to create this for him.

Then there’s my personality. If I were a good teacher in direct instruction or in guided discovery and chose to homeschool, well, my kids would be hermits. Unsocialized hermits. Because I just don’t do people. Period. I would never join a co-op or other “learning adventure.” I would also never leave the house. Ever. There would be no field trips even just the 3 of us. Because I just don’t deal with people. Weird, I know, but I’m an introvert through and through and social situations make me nauseas. Period.

I’ve given up feeling guilty about it. Common core and all. Where I live it’s not actually catching on so much and my kids have great teachers so I am going to relish in that. For now anyways. Joseph is showing wonderful progress this year and William in his 2 hours of BSF has made great strides to prepare him for kindergarten, so I’m good. Middle school and high school are concerns but a lot could change by the time we get there. And like everyone else, schooling, for me, is a decision we make based on what our options are but also what our circumstances are. If things change, our decision may change as well. Nothing is forever.  Except salvation. And we got that covered.

Learning the difference between sympathy and empathy

Empathy and sympathy are both feelings and emotions we experience as human beings but there are distinct differences attached to these two states of emotions. Sympathy is a feeling of pity you have for a person without specifically understanding the emotion they are undergoing. In most cases you may not really understand the other person’s predicament but are aware of his plight and discomfort. So you feel sympathy for the person.

On the other hand when you are fully aware of the experience that the other person is undergoing, you feel with the emotion the person is experiencing. In short you feel empathy for the person. It is a state where you can literallyput yourself in the other person’s place and understand their plight. The feeling of empathy thus implies an active involvement with the person concerned.

Click on that link to read more.

This week I clicked on a link on facebook that linked to a blog post of a mom of many who was admitting she did not find her recent pregnancy news to be good news, necessarily. While she was grateful to have a new life, she dreaded her upcoming pregnancy and sleepless nights with a newborn.

There was lots of “here, here”-ing in the comments. But one stood out. A woman said she had recently been holding her son in her arms as his wife went through her fifth miscarriage and their family would be willing to take the blog writers infant if she so desired after birth. Someone, not the blog author, had responded angrily to this comment when I read at the time (more could have responded by now this was a little over a day ago).

Both the commenter and the responder demonstrated a lack of empathy. Surely they both pitied. One pitied the author and was, in her mind, proposing something that would help everyone. The other pitied the commenter by not understanding the pain going on in her family.

I have endured primary infertility, miscarriage, a rush of births in a short period, and secondary infertility. I understood the author’s pain, but I understood the commenter’s pain too. I’ve lived both of them. It’s upsetting to find yourself in an unexpected pregnancy when you had been trying to avoid for a variety of valid reasons but it’s also devastating to want a child in your arms and be denied and then hear someone else complain at what sounds to you like hitting the jack pot.

The simple truth is, unless you’ve lived the trials another is going through, you cannot possibly empathize with them. And it’s a severe lack of empathy that causes people to tell women who’ve miscarried that their lost child “had something wrong with him or her.” A woman whose been there can tell you that it doesn’t matter they wanted him or her. Or to hear, “well, at least you know you can get pregnant.” A lot of good that does if you can’t carry the baby to term is what I know I’ve thought as well as many moms with babies in heaven but none on earth have told me.

It’s also a lack of empathy that causes sufferers of multiple miscarriage or unexplained infertility to lash out at writers of posts complaining about “yet another baby” or make the misguided offer to adopt the child when clearly that’s not what the author was asking for.

Like I’ve said, I’ve lived both those lives and am currently in a state to where my heart went out to both the commenter and the author for their plights. Neither cross is easy to bear, much less kiss. For each of these people, they bared their souls and someone misinterpreted this.

So, now I know, how do you support someone you have no way of empathizing with? Well, let me tell you some of the nice things people have done for me. At the time of loss just simply hearing: “I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you and Jeff and your little saint.” were far more comforting than anything else. Those of us who have been abundantly blessed usually benefit by being gently reminded of our blessing “Congratulations” is often sufficient and if we express thoughts of dread or just plain exhaustion validating our feelings is always a great thing. And by validating don’t say “I understand” if you don’t (some moms of many are overjoyed with each new positive pregnancy test) but it’s okay to say, “You can feel that way, it’s totally valid.” Or something like that. But mostly, just listen. Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone facing these kinds of pains. Because inherent in both is a sense of shame and often guilt. “If I could have done this or that baby might have made it.” “If I hadn’t taken such and such medication 10 years ago, I might be pregnant now.” “I am a terrible mother for thinking these things.” I’ve heard them all. Is it any wonder Sarah laughed when she heard the Angels and then immediately lied about it?

Doubt and pain are not things that make us bad people or even bad Catholics or bad Christians. In fact, they are things that help us grow has humans and Christians and Catholics. They give us the opportunity to more fully rely on God. We cannot underestimate the gifts they have the potential to become even if we can’t see it that way in the moment.

The doubts and pains of others also are opportunities to show our love and compassion with others even if we cannot empathize with their particular struggle. Pity is often not what others need and if we cannot understand their pain or comtemplate it, we should prayerfully ask God how to love others where they are at from where we are at so we can all become more Christlike in our love for one another.

Hell in a Handbasket

This is not a post about gender roles, sexuality or anything like that. It’s not a post about equality nor diversity. It’s a post about how we’re raising our kids. Or raising them wrong.

Okay, so I’m sure any of you who watch mainstream media have heard about this story. If not, I’ll recap. A little boy in NC got a My Little Pony lunch box, got bullied and the school basically told him, “Tough shit kid, get a new lunch box.”

Greyson’s mom isn’t the one raising him wrong, nope, not at all. No, I’m gonna hold with it’s the school and the parents of the bullies, not to mention the bullies themselves. And I’m not the only one saying this. Here’s where they all failed: they are teaching children how not to be bullied. They are NOT teaching children not to be bullies.

We have an epidemic of poor parenting in this country. We have parents determined to be their children’s best friend and so they have no discipline plans. We have parents who coddle their children and make them believe that they cannot and do not ever do anything wrong. We are so desperate to have children worship at the altar of self that we abuse them by not teaching them there is something higher, something better.

We are not teaching our children how to be kind, compassionate human beings. No, we’re teaching our children to lash out at those who are in any way different. We are teaching them that they have to step all over people and hurt them in order to prop themselves up and make themselves feel better. We have total tolerance for abusive behavior and zero tolerance for those who attempt to stop it. This is why so many good kids stand by and allow their peers to be bullies even when they know it is wrong. And teaching our kids to fight back when they are bullied only plays into the bully’s hand. Bullies are not kids or adults who feel so bad about themselves that they have to make someone else feel lower. Not anymore. Bullies today are kids and adults to torment others for fun because they know they can get away with it. And the kids who are bullies today, are going to grow up to be civil servants, business leaders and political leaders tomorrow. You think we have problems with people in leadership now, just wait.

And it’s not just in traditional “bullying” that we’re seeing this trend of failure parenting. Moms of girls, what do you teach your daughters about rape? Do you teach them to carry a whistle, a gun? Do you teach them self-defense? Do you teach them to only dress a certain way, to not go out at all at night, to always travel in groups of five or more? Moms of sons, what do you teach your sons about rape? Crickets. We are so busy teaching our daughters how not to be raped we’ve completely ignored the fact that our sons should be being taught NOT to rape. And if you think that’s not true, have you ever listened to a defense attorney at a rape trial? Have you ever heard the victim being accused of bringing it on herself? And what of the rapists who are getting parental rights over children conceived in the course of their crimes?

We’ve stopped teaching our children how to be good and decent human beings. As Mammon takes over our culture and our parenting, we’ve become permissive in the worst possible of ways. We’ve forgotten that Jesus says blessed are the meek , for they will inherit the land and blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy and of course, blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:5, 7, 9). We prefer our kids here “blessed are those who get theirs” and “blessed are those who don’t get caught.” And that sounds like Satan has a distinct edge.

But it doesn’t have to be so. It just doesn’t. How do we start to change this? Well, first off, we educate our kids at home. And we don’t tolerate that kind of behavior from visitors to our homes be they adults or children. And if we find that programs in schools are ineffective, we work to change them too but we cannot count on them to do the work we MUST do. We must become parents and take back teaching values from our society and teach our own children.

The problem isn’t Greyson and it’s not a My Little Pony lunch box. The problem is we’ve de-railed in teaching our kids to be Christ-like. And until we stand up and make those changes in our own homes and communities, it’s not going to get better. It’s just not.

For whose glory and honor?

A couple of years ago, I volunteered with a national non-profit. Part of my volunteering involved monitoring their facebook page and also responding to emails/facebook messages. I will never forget one I received. It was an indignant facebook message. The woman’s father had just passed and she had provided envelopes at his funeral for donations to be made in his memory to the organization and it was also listed in his obituary. Her child had participated in our program. She was incensed that she had not received a formal acknowledgment or thanks from our national, but small organization. In our defense, her father had died less than a week before and our phone and email systems were not working properly (she said she called and left a message and emailed). I forwarded her information to our founders who contacted her and I responded via facebook my condolences and thanks in a lot more gracious mood than I felt at the time.

I thought of this incident last week while at Bible Study Fellowship where we had studied the 23rd chapter of Matthew and specifically verses 4-12 where the Scribes and Pharisees are called onto the carpet for their behavior meant to draw attention to their own piousness. It happened to also be the reading for today’s daily mass.

We Catholics (in the Latin rite) begin Lent with being marked by ashes. And we view this time as prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the death and resurrection of Christ. And we run into that great, great paradox. Chapter six of Matthew’s Gospel excoriates those who ostentasiously give alms, pray and fast. Christ tells us that when giving alms even our right hand should not know what our left does. When praying we should be in an inner room where no one can see. And when fasting, we should not look gloomy but to wash our faces, anoint our heads and not appear to be fasting. We are told that those who call attention to their donations, prayers or fasting have “already received their reward.” And yet here we are walking around with a big splotch of ashes on our foreheads and giving things up that can sometimes lead to awkward interactions with neighbors, co-workers and general public. I’ve been stopped in Wal-Mart and asked about my ashes and, in truth, I was embarrassed someone noticed, not to share why I was wearing them and evangelize though so I guess they served their purpose.

It occurred to me as I was reading about this year’s #ashtag controversy that motivation play a whole lot into this conversation of whose glory and honor we do things for. If others see us to be holy it shouldn’t be because we’ve called attention to ourselves in our good actions. Our BSF teaching leader gave the example of the person who complains of being SO tired because they: took their elderly neighbor who couldn’t drive to the doctor and then went to volunteer at the nursing home then went to this or that and it was amazing they made it to choir practice?! And so, those who put  up sullen faced #ashtags are calling attention to their holiness much more than those who make goofy faces in their pics and are simply trying to show solidarity. And the curmudgeons criticizing all #ashtaggers are themselves guilty of flaunting their own piousness. Because guess what, you can do what Jesus said to the letter but if you’re doing it that way to be noticed or brag on it…you’ve received your reward.

Eastern Rite Catholics do not being Lent with ashes. But read that post further, there are other ways to draw attention to yourself on that side of the Church as well during Lent and some people are REALLY good at it.

Pride in our faith is one thing. Pride in our hearts wanting others to “look and see how holy I am!” is quite another. When I read the facebook messages of the woman demanding an acknowledgment, immediately I thought, “wait, was this to honor your father or to get recognition yourself?” And so should we view our prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent. Is it for the Father? Or is it for our own petty desire? Who are we giving glory and honor to?

Grief

Back when I worked in corporate America, I had a friend. She and I weren’t “normal friends” we shared a bond. That bond? Infertility. We endured many grueling rounds of “trying” I ended up in surgery, she was trying Clomid and all it’s lovely side-effects.

No one was more excited than she was when I got pregnant with Shelby and it “took” (we were also no strangers to miscarriage). She was always ready with a ginger ale or piece of hard candy while I endured HG. She was a stylist and would massage my scalp to relax me on breaks. And when I had a bleeding hemrrhoid toward the end and was on blood thinners, she told my supervisor I needed to go to the doctor and I shouldn’t come back til after the baby was born.

I had 3 children in 3 years. She and her husband remained childless but once I had kids, it didn’t stop our bond. Together we held hands waiting for every test result she had. When I left the company, we connected on facebook. She left the area last summer for a better position in the company. She enjoyed her new job. And around Christmas, great news. She would FINALLY be a mom.

Here she was, a beautiful person who deserved all of life’s happiness finally getting to be a mother! The baby was due in June. It was a boy! I was getting ready to send her a care package in April since I could not attend her baby shower in her new state. I had sent her little “love notes” as she had sent me during my pregnancies. I would often come back from a bathroom break to find a note saying, “You look beautiful!” or “Your baby is so blessed to have you!” I sent her emails and facebook messages.

Today I got a facebook message from Joseph’s Godmother that said, “have you heard?” When I said no, she replied with our friend’s name at first. My heart sank. No way, no, she couldn’t have lost her baby boy! Nothing so bad. I was right, it wasn’t so bad, it was worse. Details are slow in coming as some family members are still being notified but there was an emergency. Her son was delivered early. He did not make it. Neither did she.

In these days of technology and safety, a mother and baby were lost. It makes no sense to most. But God must have a greater plan. He must. So many of us are heartbroken to lose her. Heartbroken for her husband who will bury his wife and son. Heartbroken for the extended but close family she was part of who cannot fathom losing her. Her kindness was legendary. Her smile beautiful. I have spent much time in prayer today for her and her son’s souls. I will never forget her. She was an unexpected friend and sister-in-struggle God gave me to help me through rough times. I hope I was able to help her as well.

God, thank you for the gift of this friend and her friendship. RIP sweet girl and baby boy.

Forgiveness, Mercy, and Confession

So, just as in Advent, at Easter, many dioceses are offering more opportunities for the sacrament of Confession. And lots of people will go but not nearly as many (everyone) that should.

In becoming a more “Biblical Catholic” (I guess there is such a thing, at least, I’m told there is) I am busy reading my way through Bible and studying Matthew. Chapter 23 of Matthew ends this way:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” Matthew 23:37-39

As a fellow member of my discussion group intimated, I read this not as “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” but as “Kristen, Kristen.” And He calls me to Confession. He yearns for me to go. I yearn for me to go. We have a need and a deep desire to confess our sins to our God and receive his abundant forgiveness. For we know  David said in the Psalms:

As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us Psalm 103:12

And we know that grace is God given when we leave Confession to complete our penance. I know I feel like suddenly I can breathe again. As though my sin has dragged me down under the water and held me there to drown.

We know how powerful God’s forgiveness is. We know that in His mercy, forgiveness is given freely. And yet we dread Confession we avoid going. We find excuses. It’s not available enough, it’s not at a convenient time, it’s too late in the day…and most of us end up like me, being forced to try and made it during Lent or Advent and sometimes failing even at that.

Why? Well, it’s true what they say, our sin separates us from God. But not only does our sin separate us from God in and of itself, our guilt over our sin drives us even further away. Sin is the gift that keeps on taking. And it’s not just the guilt, it’s the fear. Although we know of God’s forgiveness, we somehow cling to this notion of retribution and grudge that simply does not exist. And this has always baffled me, particularly as I struggle though it.

Then, yesterday, I got the concrete, crystal-clear reason. We were getting ready for dinner and I had been outside pushing William on the swing. I came in and was looking for Joseph because I saw a toilet plunger in one of the toilets and he’s been known to try and plunge himself. I found him in his room. He was sitting on the floor crying. Around him were the shattered remains of William’s Angry Birds “piggy bank.” Before I could fully comprehend what I was seeing he said, “I closed the dresser drawer and it just fell.” I don’t doubt that story in the least because things fall off their dresser all the time when drawers are shut. It had fallen and hit an open drawer on the way down and busted. I went over and made sure he wasn’t hurt at all and asked if it scared him. While I was hugging him he said, “I was afraid I would be in trouble.”

It was one of those parenting knifes through the heart. Kids have accidents all the time like this. And sometimes we punish them, they shouldn’t be so careless, so clumsy. As I picked up the shards of ceramic, I realized how often I do it. Way more than I should. And these are punishments (be they harsh words, spankings, time-outs whatever) for something that was unintentional. Something done with no malice at all, no ill intent at all.

We cannot conceive of God’s forgiveness and mercy fully because we’re conditioned to expect man’s version, which is obviously less than perfect. We know God’s mercy and forgiveness because we’ve received them through the sacrament, but our flawed human condition does not trust that they will always be there because we’ve experienced time and again man’s failure at these things. We’ve apologized profusely and heartfelt only to have people turn away from us or shut us out. And sometimes it’s for things we did not do intentionally or did not realize the hurt they had the potential to cause. Sometimes we had no way of knowing someone would be hurt or in pain from our words and actions and it is an accident and forgiveness is with-held even when asked for. Or forgiveness is given but later a grudge is formed because forgetting is so much harder. As my pastor has said, “forgiveness is an act of will, forgetting is a biochemical reaction.” Our minds simply cannot conceive of a God who can and ALWAYS will forgive when asked for forgiveness. And He will not suddenly decide that we are still accountable for our old sins, no, they are done and over with. No matter what man thinks or tells us, God has forgiven. We, as humans, demand justice. God, in His infinite wisdom, spares us judgment and condemnation and extends forgiveness and mercy.

Even in reading that passage from Matthew, yes, Jesus is telling of horrible futures for Jerusalem, but he’s not doing it out of malice, he’s mourning it. He is saddened with the choices people made. He wants to protect them but knows they have to want to be protected.

I don’t know that there is any solution to the whole “dreading confession” thing. I don’t think we can ever “train” ourselves out of expecting human reactions from God. However, I can recommend reading scripture to remind ourselves of the truth of God’s mercy and forgiveness. And making that trip to confession no matter what dread lies there.