As if this week needed more drama…

We’ve said goodbye to our beloved Papa, Pope Benedict XVI, we’re on the verge of sequestration and both my boys are sick. Wretchedly sick.

We’ve had vomiting, diarrhea, high fever and coughing fits in the last 48 hours. I have been sleeping at night on the couch. Fever brought down by Motrin and Tylenol just rockets back up the second it wears off. Joey is having crying fits because he is tired but whenever he goes to sleep is shuddered awake by coughing that racks his whole body. No wheezing, thank God.

I feel so helpless to get them better. I am thankful for the chance to care for them in this time, but similarly dejected that I can’t just make it all go away. I’ve cried with them and for them in these last couple of days because with these kinds of symptoms it is most probably a viral infection and there is simply nothing we can do. However, I resolved that if there is any fever whatsoever in the morning, we are going to the pediatrician. There is simply no way we can abide this way much longer. The boys are exhausted. I am exhausted. Jeff is doing his best holding up the fort and making my absence up to Shelby. I work on Saturday for the majority of the day and probably Sunday as well. I need to have the situation in a recovery phase, if at all possible. Jeff is capable, but I hate putting that much on his plate. Even I have only the boys to deal with during the day while Shelby is at school. And Jeff has been racing home at night to ensure that I don’t have to worry about dinner or baths or general bedtime mayhem.

Right now both boys are sleeping peacefully which means I am going to post this then get a few things done before 3 pm and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and then Hurricane Shelby comes  home. (Shelby, btw, loves the upheaval. She is quite the opportunist with getting things out she’s not supposed to have or cutting and coloring things she shouldn’t.)

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Family Values DO NOT BEGIN with Artificial Birth Control

Back in the late 90s early 2000s there was a psychotically stupid ad for Ortho Tri Cyclen birth controls pills that featured a woman talking about how in love she was with her husband and how they would live in Paris and have three children. But later, it wasn’t time yet, so. for now, she would keep popping her Ortho Tri Cyclen daily. Around the time Shelby was born, an ad surfaced for Mirena, the  IUC, that featured an active family and let you know for five years you didn’t have to worry about your birth control unless your plans changed then, poof, out it comes and you get a baby.

Those ads were in sharp contrast to these more common ads:

At least what I can say is the examples I’ve linked to were not disingenuous. Artificial birth control does not contribute to family values the way the other two seem to imply. (I could not find links to the Mirena or OTC ads.)

When artificial birth control is used in the context of a marriage and family, what it teaches is a false sense of control. It teaches our children to believe that their parents control the universe, not God. That it is okay to choose which members of our family make it to being born and which ones don’t. It teaches adults to believe in a very false sense of security which makes surprise babies unintentionally targets of fear, rage and upset.

And then there are the mothers who march their daughters off at 18 (or 16 or 14) to a gynecologist  to get on the pill because, you just don’t know what trouble girls can find themselves in these days. You don’t have to tell me that well-catechized girls who were brought up in the right families with all the proper education and warnings against pre-marital sex won’t make mistakes. It happens. To a lot of young women. However, to assume that these young women were/are falling to the worst case scenario is doing them a great disservice. And certainly does not promote family values.

I remember a family at our parish growing up with several children. They were very open to life with the mother having several mid-wife attended home births and being a La Leche Leader. Not one but two teenage daughters became pregnant. One opted to keep her daughter and eventually marry her daughter’s father. The other gave her son up in an open adoption. This is the example for parents worried about teens (particularly girls, because we all know boys don’t get pregnant!) in those years. Not, let’s prevent those grandchildren from happening before I am ready for them just in case you have a lapse in judgment. But, okay, you had a lapse in judgment, let’s welcome this new member of our family in the way we know best.

And I shudder to think about the young women forced by their parents to be on birth control when that birth control fails. The recent court case brought by a young woman in Texas against her parents who were attempting to force her to have an abortion is a story that is all to real for many young women who are unable to reach out and seek the kind of help this courageous young woman did. My in-laws took in a young woman who was forced by her parents to have an abortion against her will in her early 20s because the child was conceived while she was not only not married but in the process of recovering from alcoholism and drug abuse. Not only did they force their child to undergo this cruel procedure that killed their unborn grandchild against her will, they then threw her out for being upset about it. My inlaws stepped up and offered her a place to stay while she got on her feet and found employment and a place for herself. It was also a safe place where she could continue her journey toward addiction recovery. That was five years ago. So, yeah, this thing happens a lot more than we would like to think.

But if we proclaim we are for family values, why are so many of us (Catholics, conservatives, Republicans etc) demanding on facebook, twitter and in letters to our elected representatives that those seeking welfare be on birth control? Since the birth of Obamacare, I’ve had no less than 15 Catholic (at least professing to be, most live far away so I can’t verify their current credentials), conservative, family value friends declare that not only does one need a drug test to get welfare but to give up ones reproductive rights as well. These same people were decrying the HHS mandate requiring all employers cover birth control and abortions. Let’s be clear on this: getting to tell another family that because they are on welfare means they must be on artificial birth control IS NOT PROMOTING FAMILY VALUES. And because not all of the people on welfare are not Catholic is not an excuse (and yes, I heard it said). Jeff and I lost our jobs while I was pregnant with Will and were on Medicaid and WIC. So, to be clear, as soon as Will was born, we would HAVE to be on some form despite the clear violation of conscience for us personally (which we argue is the reason employers should not be forced to follow the HHS mandate) because we had a bad break in life? We were let go by companies hit hard by the economy, so if I had applied for Medicaid and not been pregnant, it would be okay to tell me, “well, since you’re a burden now, we can’t have you creating anymore burdens now, can we?” I have been in the welfare lines. I know people are abusing the system. I also know that many intact families end up in those lines and it is not okay to force them to violate their consciences or demand they do something like that. Especially if we are arguing that for business owners.

It’s time for those of us who believe in the strength of the family unit and claim to be Catholic, to put our money where our mouths are and say, “No it is never right for any business owner to ever be forced to violate his or her own conscience when it comes to artificial birth control and abortion. And this is also true for each and every member of the human family.”  The time has come for us to get off our butts and realize that the lives of the poor, the young, and the disadvantaged are not less important that those of us who have been innumerably blessed. We need to acknowledge that artificial birth control leads down the long slippery slope away from family and towards more sin up-to and including abortion. And if we are called to support our own daughters by educating them on the blessings of chastity and virginity and not pump them full of birth control pills and devices, we must insist that there be other ways rather than asking the poor and disadvantaged to consume mass quantities of hormones through their bodies or implanting dangerous foreign objects. Family values can be taught a lot of ways. Birth control is NOT one of them.

In Which We Do Not Say Goodbye, only Til We Meet Again

Today is the day. In three short hours the last tweet from @Pontifex will go live. And our dear Benedict has already bid adieu to the College of Cardinals. After today, known as Pope Emeritus, Benedict will live a quieter life of prayer, contemplation and some piano playing on the side.

Benedict is only the second Pope of my lifetime. He is the pope of my motherhood. He was elected in 2005 and I became a mother for the first time about fourteen months later. My mom used to talk about Pope Paul being the Pope of  her youth and growing up, John Paul being the Pope during her years of mothering young children and having them at home. Benedict became the Pope of her years as a Grandmother. All five grandchildren have been born during Benedict’s papacy.

It sounds odd to think of a Pope in these terms, but it is perhaps the best way. Benedict seemed like a kind and gentle German Great-Grandfather to my kids. He sometimes reminded me of my own Grandfather, who happens to be Polish. His defenses were vigorous and to those outside the Church may have seemed baffling. The truth is, this is the way one defends what one loves more than his own life. It is the way one defends family. In his final Papal Audience yesterday, Benedict included these words:

“Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.”

In hearing those words, I was reminded of my favorite quote of Blessed John Paul the Great:

…no one can consider himself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another member of the human family. No one can say that he is not responsible for the well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Gen 4:9; Lk 10:29-37; Mt 25:31-46). The Hundredth Year, #51, p. 99

Benedict will always be our brother in Christ. He will always be an irreplaceable part of the Body of Christ. And his importance is not lessened because he is no longer the reigning Pontiff and is living a life outside of the constant public eye. His writings have brought many to the Church and is continuing to do so.

And as deeply as many of us are feeling his loss here are some important things to remember:

1) The Church is not set-adrift during this Pope-less time. We are still governed by Christ above. And the Holy Spirit is directing the Conclave. Please pray for the Conclave.

2) His resignation does not mean that Benedict no longer wanted to lead the Church because of recent controversies. He was blessed with wisdom to know that because of his age, his health and the demands of the job it was time to step-aside. It was an act of selflessness knowing that the Church needs to be led by someone who can meet those demands.

3) Where the next Pope comes from geographically is not of as much consequence as the media will make you believe. I was among those who during the last conclave predicted an African or Latin American Pontiff. I was off. Way off, obviously. The Conclave is, as I said before, guided by the Holy Spirit and is not interested in “sending a message” to the Western Media by the choice of our next Pope.  We, as members of the faithful, are blessed to understand God’s hand in this process intimately.

Today is a day none of us has looked forward to, but must endure. God Bless You, Benedict XVI, our faithful shepherd during these most difficult and uncertain of times.

Know when to walk away, know when to run

A friend of mine has been reading a blog recently that came recommended. She has privately emailed me a couple of times asking if she should comment because her comments would not necessarily be considered, shall we say, charitable.

I took a look. I think the blogger needs therapy and is using the blog as therapy. That being said, I realize that blogging is a form of therapy for a good many of us. But I think this person takes it to a whole new level.

My interpretation of what I read was a person deeply troubled with him/herself who is choosing to take that out on the Church and various parts of The Body of Christ…namely, other members who are not exactly like him/herself. This person hates everything trendy, modern and traditional about the Church and attacks members perceived to be any of those. While at the same time stating that  not all parts of the Body of Christ are the same nor should they be the same. I pretty much understood why my friend was so troubled reading this. Why it caused her to feel uncharitable.

My friend told me today she unsubscribed from the blog because she couldn’t take another snarky, sarcastic post that repeatedly said it wasn’t. And I agreed. She said it was seriously testing her boundaries. All she could do was pray for this person without ever seeing into his/her life again.

I asked if she wanted to like this person behind the blog and she said she did, that she cared and wanted to support someone who so obviously needs support and attention right now. But her urge to virtually smack this person upside the head was overwhelming and extremely tempting, so it was best to run to other spots and deal with this person from a distance so far it was no longer even virtual.

I can only give what my interpretation of the posts I read and I stand by that not knowing this person at all aside from the posts. I also realize that blogging is quite a bit a narcissistic art form as well as therapeutic so if this is what this person needs to get out all their frustrations and work through them to bring them further into the fold and closer to Christ. And sometimes, I think blogging can indeed help us, even with its narcissistic tendencies, to be closer to Him. But if it causes someone else bitterness or upset to read these postings, than, by all means, don’t read them!  Know when your spirit is feeling that its charity is being stretched to its limits and walk away or run if you have to. But never feel as though something that is not helping and may in fact be hurting you is something you have to stick with. In the blogosphere or anywhere else.

I am purposefully not linking to the blog in question because I do not want anyone to go there under my impressions when they might have otherwise had a different experience without my influence.

What You Can Never Leave Behind…

So, this post has been bouncing about in my brain for about a day. I don’t know why or why now, but it has come to my attention and I need to write about it.

Back when I went to college, I had a lot of female friends who were education majors. They all wanted to be good teachers. They wanted to inspire their students ala Jaime Escalante, Louanne Johnson and Pat Conroy. Many wanted to work in impoverished neighborhoods to help reinvigorate the importance of education. Some wanted to light the spark that was lit in them by a good teacher. None of them was going into education for the money. And many were even realistic about the amount it cost emotionally as well as financially. They knew about politicking. They knew they would have to take part-time jobs in the evenings and weekends and over the summers. And they realized that parents could be stumbling blocks as well as building ones.

Of the roughly 50 women I knew personally who were education majors in college and entered the teaching field after graduation, less than 10 are still in the profession. Some left because they got married and started families and wanted to homeschool their own children or be a stay-at-home mom while their children where younger than school age. Some felt callings to other fields. But most left from burn-out.  They could no longer abide endless budget cuts, RIFs, unsupportive administrators, and parents as agitators, not partners. Beaten down by the system many of them chose to walk away.

I immediately contrasted that with the life of a mother. On even some of best days, we can feel the burn-out coming on. We don’t get summer vacations or even uninterrupted bathroom breaks. We are on-call 24 hours and we are asked to sacrifice our health, well-being and sanity for little people who need that cup of juice RIGHT.NOW. But we can’t turn in our resignation letter, we can’t quit. We can’t walk away. Motherhood bonds us to those little ones who grew under and/or in our hearts. No matter how rotten the day is, we must simply get up and do it all over again. We don’t get sick leave or any kind of regular pay for the hours we put in and complaint department is always closed. No, there is no option to quit and start over somewhere else.

Except…

Except their are mothers who check-out. Who up and quit. Some of them abuse their children. Others neglect them. Some are on crack which can make a mother not love her child. And some murder them.

And some murder them.

The difference between Andrea Yates and a woman who walks into Planned Parenthood is that one is behind bars literally while the other has bars in her heart that none of us can see.

The biological/scientific consequence of sex is a baby. The biological reason for sex is procreation. To propagate the species. Look at the mating patterns of cows, dogs, etc. When a female is in heat is the only time a male will engage her. But, us humans, with our superior brains, well, we’ve decided we are so much more special than animals that we can alter biology. We can change our functions.

And as a result, we’ve tricked ourselves into  believing that biological consequences can be damned. We can take a pill or use a small piece of rubber or get a shot and avoid all those  biological consequences. And if those fail us, because they can, then, well, because we can’t physically see the person, it’s okay to murder them. It’s awful when a celebrity’s dog get’s taken by coyotes, but it’s a celebration when a woman has her child’s skull crushed within her own body then vacuumed out with a suction not unlike a Dyson.

And artificial birth control can and does fail because it is a human invention. And humans are far from perfect, where as God, well God is the only designer of perfection. And some doctors and some selfish human beings who feel their claim over this human body that will be rendered to dust in the end no matter what, well, they’ve decided that perfection isn’t perfect. And while the instant gratification that sex “without consequences” and abortion provide to some, is not lasting. I’ve listened to heart breaking stories over the years of women who aborted because while ready to have sex they were “not ready for a relationship” and “not ready to have a baby” now finding themselves ready, cannot because of problems related to the abortion. A mangled uterus no one ever detected. An incompetent cervix from false dilation. Those are two of the stories I heard most recently.

The side effect we get from this trivializing of abortion and sex. From how easy it is “not” to become a “parent” is that we denigrate the roles of those of us who are parents. We make it seem as though parenthood is something we can put on and take off. We can go out with girlfriends without our kids and take off our wedding bands because we “deserve” a night off. Well, really, why DID you become a mother then?

While motherhood does not mean the complete sacrifice of one’s identity, motherhood does require continual and constant selflessness. It means when we are sick, we are still expected to live up to our duties, in some strain or fashion. It means that most days, sitting on the throne is not glamorous. It means that we were given the awesome task and responsibility for guiding young souls. It is a privilege, not a right, as any woman struggling with infertility will tell you. It is not about convenience or instant gratification but it is about retying shoes for the 30th time in as many minutes and scooping and rescooping that same spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes into a slippery baby mouth confused by the texture and being thrown up on while carrying a child so hot you can’t believe he’s not glowing.

Parenthood is not a job.  It’s a vocation. And it’s one that desperately needs to be taken seriously these days. And one of the first ways that needs to happen, is that people who don’t want to become parents, don’t. And that happens, by not having sex. If you’re not ready for a baby, you shouldn’t be having sex. You may want to believe the lies the world tells you  that it’s just a bunch of cells and you won’t have any regrets, but your life will be forever and irrevocably altered. If you could not imagine taking a two year old and leaving him in the cart in a large big  box store, how can you reconcile having that same child crushed while inside your own body and sucked out? If you plan on feeding your “eventual” children hormone free food, skip the hormones in pill form now. Motherhood will change you whether you hold the child in your arms or allow him or her to be thrown in a dumpster. You don’t get to leave it behind.

Small Successes Thursday

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Hosted by Sherry at Catholicmom.com

1. I made it to mass on Sunday despite the threat of an iced over bridge and icy roads. It was a slightly smaller mass than usual due to the weather conditions but just as wonderful.

2. I’ve been snacking healthy at work. Choosing a piece or two of fruit plus water instead of candy and chips.

3. And now for the most silly and inconsequential success (can I even call it that): I decided that this year for my birthday (which is not until October) I am going to have a bacon theme. As in bacon cupcakes, bacon cake, bacon mashed potatoes. I know, this totally does NOT qualify as a success, but I needed to share.