How Do You Deal with Envy

For me, it’s avoid. Avoid the near occasion of sin. I’ve been thinking of this as a friend recently emailed this (which to give you background she’s been married four years and is bearing the cross of infertility, what can I say, we find each other for a reason):

More bad news on the adoption front, another agency has turned us down and if one more person suggests social services I will punch them in the face as our social services agency contracts out adoptions to a private agency and that one said no too! Seriously though, every time I log into anywhere, email, facebook, instagram, for the Love of Pete LinkedIN, someone is announcing a pregnancy or birth. Each month as my cycle re-starts there is some baby product on sale at the grocery and/or drug store and a display right where you walk in. We’ve had a baby shower at work every other week for about six months now. I’m inundated and I can’t avoid it! I want to say, wow, God, can’t you throw us a bone here? An agency that doesn’t care my husband had one bout of cancer when he was two??? Just one baby??? I want to ask pregnant teenagers I see in the market if I can buy their babies. It’s terrible, this envy. And I don’t know how to stop it.

How do you avoid something that is so in your face? You have to buy groceries. You have to go to work. I supposed you could try and work in an almost exclusively male dominated industry but then there’s always the risk of an overexcited new dad.

God gave us the virtue of temperance, the self-control to resist temptations but I can see how someone in my friend’s situation can be sorely tested in this area with envy. I understand how she feels, can’t she just have a baby to love? She did everything “right.” She’s worked with pro-life physcians who were trained at the Pope Paul Institute but still cannot explain why she isn’t getting pregnant. But I know how badly she doesn’t want the sin of envy around her neck or over her head. We’ve talked and she’s praying for God to remove the desire for a child from her (I’ve prayed for the same many times in my life). She said her envy keeps bringing her back to the confessional where her kind priest has assured her that she’s still doing it right praying for God to not allow envy to overtake her heart and coming back to confession when it does. I wish I had advice. I wish I could tell her to just avoid it. But I know it’s not that simple. Our crosses may both be infertility, but hers is in some ways heavier than mine, after all I have three children already and I don’t have the work situation to deal with, so I’m offering up my pain for her struggle with envy. It’s so small and I feel, rather inadequate, but it is the best I can do.

Five Favorites

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Joining the adorable Hallie at MoxieWife for a little Five Favorites this week. With the television seasons largely ending in the last few weeks, I wanted to share five of my favorite “don’t miss” shows. Actually, I’m going to do eight, but shhhh…don’t tell! (Some of my faves are not returning these are only ones renewed for another season.)

***Painfully Obvious Disclaimer***if you think television is a weapon of Satan or just don’t like it at all, don’t read any further. If you’ll never watch anything but Grey’s Anatomy, don’t read any further. If you are interested in some of the new shows, some of which you might have missed and are thinking of catching up on/trying out via Netflix or HuluPlus, please keep reading.

 

1. Call the Midwife, BBC One/PBS

Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of nurse/midwife Jennifer Worth’s time as a midwife in the Poplar section of East London, has become Sunday night appointment television. It just completed it’s 3rd season of the lives and times of an order of Anglican nuns who are midwives who work alongside young women who are “secular” midwives. The non-religious midwives all live alongside the nuns in the fictional Nonnatus House (renamed for the book and series) as they are single with the exception of one part-time married midwife who lives with her husband (a constable) and their infant son a short distance away. They are joined by a young vicar, a doctor and his wife and son (his wife was formerly a nun-midwife in the order) and newly adopted infant daughter, and a local handyman. The series does an excellent job at re-creating the East End of London in the late 1950s as well as showing the reality of the poverty there and the good work of the nurse-midwives who served that area and the nuns who worked with them. And don’t let the title fool you, as midwives, these women are also nurses and do serve quite often outside the capacity of mere midwives! Their lives and realities are complicated but beautifully told. Vanessa Redgrave narrates the series as the older version of Nurse Lee/Jennifer Worth.

 

2. Mr Selfridge, ITV/PBS

In the late 18th-early 20th centuries, one of the greatest American careers you don’t know about was blooming. Harry Gordon Selfridge rose to the top of Marshall Fields but could not accomplish in America what he dreamed to…open his own store. He looked overseas and found a gaping hole in the market in London which is where, on Oxford Street, he build London’s first department store, “Selfridge’s.” The real life store still operates in the same location today as Selfridge and Co. This undertold story is largely unknown in America because it happened in England and unknown in England because Harry was American. Starring Jeremy Piven as self-made man Harry Gordon Selfridge who moves his family overseas. The cast is outstanding and also features Frances O’Connor as Selfridge’s beloved, albeit long suffering, wife Rose and Amanda Abbington as Miss Mardle. Another brilliantly done period piece by the BBC recreates London at the turn of the century and dawn of World War I. It depicts the rise of department stores in London as well as scenes from Selfridge’s real life. It does not sugar coat his womanizing nor his longing to rise in British society which was well-locked into the nobility/commoner caste system. (FYI, much of what we consider normal today, Selfridge pioneered, he created the “bargain basement” concept, the countdown to Christmas and, of all things, women’s public restrooms–prior to his store, if you had to go, you had to go home.)

 

3. Sherlock, BBC One/PBS

I got onto this one way too late. I’m going to have to hurt the people who did not tie me down and make me watch this awesome show. It is cerebral in every good sense of the word and none of the bad. I’m not going to wax-poetic too much here because I know all the Downton crowd is already on board but wow. This is not your mama’s nor your grandma’s Sherlock. And it’s not that guy from Trainspotting and girl from Ally McBeal’s either. It is a re-imagined perfection.

 

4. Reign, The CW

What would happen if we looked in on Mary Stuart (aka Mary, Queen of Scots) just before she is sent away from the convent to French Court. Presumably to marry the Dauphin, Prince Francis (later King Francis II). Well, there is probably a lot more sex in this show than there was in real life, but the creators re-imagined her story into some delicious characters. They play fast and loose with a lot of the history, instead of being an impotent, sickly boy Francis is a charming, vibrant  and fiercely loyal potential king. And he has a fictional older half-brother (who is the son of two real life characters King Henry II and his real life mistress Diane de Poitiers) who vies for his future wife’s attention. They wonderfully cast Megan Follows who I loved as Anne-with-an-e Shirley in Anne of Green Gables when I saw it on PBS as a child in the 80s, as Francis’ scheming mother and Henry’s queen, Catherine de Medici. With a host of brilliant supporting actors (such as Mary’s ladies in waiting, Nostradamus–the queen’s viseur, and relatives of Mary’s who come for visits, among others), the series keeps you on your toes. As Mary finds out, what may seem all but certain, can be pulled out from under you, especially as a Royal.

5. Parks and Rec, NBC

Okay, next season will be the last one, but I am glad to have one more season with Leslie Knope. Amy Poehler’s Knope has gone from being a vibrant parks employee, to a re-called city council woman and has now ended the season working for the National Parks Department and new mom of triplets. Poehler’s portrayal as the passionate to a fault about her home-town Knope is complimented by the enterprising but vain Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), the lovable but simple Andy (Chris Pratt), the libertarian who works for the government man’s man Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), the sarcastic, witty and acts-like-she-doesn’t-care-but-really-does April (Aubrey Plaza), the no-nonsense, treat yo’self Donna (Retta), and of course her uptight accountant at heart husband Ben (Adam Scott). This season was the last for former regulars Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), and it will be interesting to see how Leslie presses on as a mother, now federal parks employee and without her best friend. Can’t wait to see on what irrascible positive note the show’s creators end it.

BONUS:

6. The Goldbergs, ABC

There was this show I watched growing up, maybe you’ve heard of it, it was called The Wonder Years. It dealt with show creator Kevin Arnold’s family and life growing up in the 70s. My parents were huge fans in part because they were close to the same age of the character and remembered many of the events depicted. Fast-forward to 2013 and a film-maker named Adam Goldberg (not to be confused with actor of the same name who was in Dazed and Confused and Saving Private Ryan) gets green-lighted to make a show based loosely on his family and his home-made VHS recordings from the 80s. Sing it with me people, “everybody have fun tonight!” The brilliantly cast show features George Seagal as “Pops” Adam’s grandfather, Jeff Garlin as “Murray” Adam’s father, and Wendi McLendon-Covey as “Bev” Adam’s mom. A fictional sister, “Erica,” was added to the family but Adam’s real life brother served as the model for his tv one “Barry.” I totally get why my parents liked The Wonder Years so much it brought them back the same way The Goldbergs brings me back. My friends and I have often said The Goldbergs is The Wonder Years for the 80s. The styles, the hair, the everything. And great story-telling to boot.

7. The Mindy Project, Fox

I admit, Kelly Kapoor was NOT the reason I tuned into The Office each week, but in its last season, when Mindy Kaling left the show to spin-off her own series, I was intrigued. Would she parlay Kelly into a doctor? No, she would make a show with a realistic female lead who is strong but not afraid to be vulnerable or even shallow and an amazing ensemble cast (and add Adam Pally to a cast in the second season that I thought couldn’t be improved upon, I was wrong, Pally was the ingredient I didn’t know was missing). The show would be well written (as Mindy is a great writer) and funny while also smart. Really smart. The show is a sort of love song to Mindy Kaling’s mother who has passed away. The character, Mindy Lahiri, is a gynecologist as the late Dr Kaling was. And for all Dr Lahiri’s shallowness about celebrities and romantic issues, she has a heart of gold which has been shown in scenes such as the one where she turned down an offer from a prestigious practice because they would not allow her to accept insurance meaning she would leave all her current patients stranded. There’s colorful characters, smart hijinks and yes, romance. What’s not to love?

8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fox

I was seriously worried that even after this show won a Golden Globe for best comedy series in its first season and Andy Samberg won for his portrayal of Detective Jake Peralta the show would be cancelled. Because the tv execs hate me. But fear not, the Nine-Nine detectives and Peralta will return for a second season. I love this show because it riffs off the police serials of yore. There is drama but it is lightened by the comedy of brilliant but goofy Detective Peralta who is complimented by Detective Rosa Diaz, a sardonic cop with anger management issues; Detective Charles Boyle, a hapless foodie who seems to have just fallen into being a cop but who was awarded for saving Detective Diaz’s life; Detective Amy Santiago, an overachiever who wants nothing more than to make captain and is disgusted by Jake’s childish antics; Sargent Terry Jeffords, the squad leader/body builder whose love of his family caused him to have a breakdown that led to desk work. As Peralta’s foil is veteran Homicide: Life on the Street actor Andre Braugher as Captain Ray Holt. Not to play to a stereotype, Holt disagrees with Peralta’s lax view of his job but does not blow up at him just repeatedly, calmly re-directing him. The cast gels together the way few I have seen before do. Like The Mindy Project, the laughs are smart, even when they are slapstick. And underlying romantic tensions between Peralta and Santiago as well as Diaz and Boyle lend an interesting awkward chemistry to the mix.

The Devil is in the Details

Harvard, I weep for you. 

Actually, I weep for all of our country and our world, but Harvard, today you get the most of these tears. I am offering up the lovely and wonderful gastro-intestinal virus I have been suffering through for your penance.

 “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Harvard, you’re about to find out how true that is. Satanists doing this for a joke? You’re about to find out that Satan is no joke.

But what about us Catholics? Well, they said they won’t use a consecrated host, the actual body of Christ. Or will they? Let’s not kid ourselves, if we’ve saved the Body of Christ, we’ve won a battle, but not the war. The Devil, as they say, is in the details. Satan uses confusion to muck us around and the chaos threatens to cause a severe sin of indifference here. Pay attention to the details, of course, but don’t lose sight of the greater wrong being allowed to happen in the name of academic freedom. We’re human, Satan knows that details distract us, but he doesn’t much care if we’re considering this a joke. He knows it’s not.

Are you with me Disco Stu? This is serious. Dead serious. And if you haven’t prayed about it, start. Now.

Not Catholic, think it doesn’t effect you? Well, it does, Satan is using these so-called “wackos” to spread his chaos and confusion to create a great sense of apathy in our land. Apathy that will allow Satanic prayer at town hall meetings and Satanic statues in government buildings.  It’s not so bad? Really? Satan was CAST INTO HELL. HELL. And if you think it’s okay to just ignore these so-called “antics” you’ve played right into his hand.

Remember Martin Niemöller? “…they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Jew.” Well, why would Satan come first for the Catholics? Look around you. He hasn’t come for us first. We are the prize. He’s come for us now because too many have chosen not speak out already. True, he’s always been coming for us, but he sees now is his time. He sees Catholics screaming about the Pope and fighting about Latin Mass vs Novus Ordo and why this baby was baptized and on and on and on. He sees us fighting each other, so that he doesn’t have to do it. And some of us, well some of us just don’t care. We’re so focused on every minor detail, we haven’t stopped to see that it’s US. WE’RE doing Satan’s work for him. And yes, I weep for US too. Everyone of us baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who’ve forgotten God. We’ve stopped living in covenant with Him. We’re too busy for confession and too tired for the Eucharist. We’ve forgotten Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood about getting souls to hell by using many small sins not big ones like murder. The devil is in these details. And it took a Black Mass to wake us up to this reality. May God have mercy on all of us.

Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all wicked spirits, who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

 

Thank you, Mom: How I was true to myself and my child and how a corporation thanked me for it.

I received no compensation from Proctor and Gamble for this post. The items I received were for sharing a story with them about Shelby.

At Proctor and Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” Facebook page they published this video a couple of weeks ago:

 

As the mom of a Special Olympian I was both moved and motivated to share Shelby’s story. We hear far too many people believing that children with special needs are “burdens” and “unwanted.” And as evidenced by the media attention of mothers who have killed and attempted to kill children with special needs, the public is buying that hook line and sinker. I wanted to make sure that Proctor and Gamble knew I appreciated them showing the “other side” the side of joy and love that a child with special needs can bring. So I commented on their link saying this:

Thank you for this. My beautiful daughter Shelby is a Special Olympian. She was diagnosed at age 2 with autism. I remember when the psychologist who first diagnosed her told us, “She is still your daughter that you love the same today as yesterday. There are no limits on what she can and cannot do.” I wish every parent receiving the unexpected news that they have a special needs child could hear those words. No, my daughter (now almost 8) does not talk, but her love is evident to us every single day. And our lives would not be complete without her. She’s done so many amazing, wonderful things in her short life thus far, and tell her she can’t do something, for her it’s a challenge to say, “Watch me!”

I didn’t expect anything to come of it so I was very surprised when this comment appeared in reply to mine:

P &G

I was surprised and shocked. I know that “Thank you, Mom” is a huge media campaign for P&G but I didn’t expect someone would be reading my comment much less commenting so encouragingly and that’s not to mention the fact they wanted to send me something?

I emailed and got a very sweet reply to my email and was told to wait a couple of weeks for something in the mail.

Today I got home from work and a package was there. This is what was in it:

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That’s a “Thank You, Mom” backpack, in case  you couldn’t tell. And here’s what I found inside the backpack. First a card:

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That’s a hand-written note, not a typed form letter and for those with difficulty reading cursive 😉 or who have trouble seeing it it reads:

Dear Kristen,

We loved hearing about your daughter, Shelby, on our Thank You, Mom Facebook page. Thank you for sharing with us and our community! To show our appreciation, we’ve enclosed a small gift we hope you enjoy!

Thanks again!

Jeanne–Thank You, Mom Community Manager

And then I opened the backpack to find this:

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I realize these don’t look like much to most but I NEVER buy cosmetics, ever. It’s just not in our budget which is to the bone already and there is simply nothing else I can cut from to justify the high price of cosmetics. Even mascara. And those razors are great, but I’m usually just getting one out of Jeff’s multi-pack and trying to make it last a month. And that Pantene pack, was literally an answer to a prayer. I got in the shower this morning and used the last of my conditioner. Not a big deal you say? Well, it is when conditioner is a necessity to making one’s hair look as unlike Buckwheat’s as possible in this humidity and you have literally $.97 left in your account which is not enough to buy even the cheapest stuff. I prayed that somehow I could squeeze enough conditioner out of the bottle I had to make it to next payday (Friday). Well, now I have enough. (Thank you, God!)

Even Jeff was impressed. I only wanted to thank a company for a positive portrayal of a child with special needs and her mom and share our story in solidarity. Just the initial acknowledgment was more than I expected. And I realize it sounds very silly to most people but as we all know motherhood can be grueling and while our children are their own reward, sometimes when someone on the outside stops and says, “Hey, you’re doing a great job! Thank you for being your child’s mother,” it really does stop you in your tracks and makes you realize that it’s possible you’re on the right track when it feels all off the rails. Thank you, Proctor and Gamble for making this Mother’s Day weekend a little more special in a small, but meaningful way.

And thank you to all the moms out there who feel in a rut or like they’ve messed everything up (I assure you, you haven’t!) and if no one’s told you: You‘re doing a great job, Thank you for being your child’s mother!

Seven Quick Takes Friday

— 1 —

Slowly but surely, the world is recognizing the crisis with the girls taken in Nigeria. #BringBackOurGirls has shed a light where our media failed to. And now, there is this: Please pick one. This initiative asks you to pray for one of the girls by name. I am praying for Christy Yahi by name as well as the other girls and their families but by praying for one by name has made this incredibly personal for me.

— 2 —

We finished with BSF officially for the study of Matthew this week. William was glad to get one last play time with a few of his friends on Tuesday during the final leader’s meeting. As a bonus, we were able to provide care so that our dear friend and neighbor Randi, who brought us into BSF, could attend her final leader’s meeting. God has called her family to a new adventure this fall that will still allow her to participate in BSF but will not permit the level of attention needed by an effective leader. What is so beautiful about this also is that God has been calling our family to some changes and I will be able to move to the new evening BSF class this fall for the Study of Moses! It is wonderful for both of our families that we will get to put radical trust in God and His plan together!

— 3 —

I did “Get Fit With Mom” with Joseph on Wednesday (and will with Shelby on Friday, as long as her morning is not full of sensory needs). We had a lot of fun. I got to see a lot of Joseph’s regular PE class routine and we got to play quite a bit. William attended too and his reaction was mixed. Once he’s in kindergarten though, I know he’ll love it. Speaking of William…

— 4 —

Wednesday my baby boy turned FIVE!!!

William and Edward Shell

William and Edward Shell

Looking with him at some of his baby pictures was very fun. We had pizza at his request for dinner and blue velvet cupcakes. Yes, there is such a thing I found out. One of Gigi and Papa’s gifts made it yesterday arriving right at dinner time. He also got to use his Easter “credit card” (aka Wal-Mart gift card) that my grandmother had sent for him way back 3 weeks ago at Easter.

— 5 —

My daughter’s Godfather joined facebook this week. I never thought he would, so I am very impressed. He is a priest in our diocese and also runs a non-profit (along with a physician in the diocese) that works with families in El Salvador. I am hopeful that his increased social media presence will bring more to Christ as well as help his mission work. But mostly I’m glad I don’t have to remember to order prints, remember to pick them up and then remember to mail them 😉

— 6 —

So, since finishing Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It, I have been jonesing for more Jen! Then I remembered I never saw the third episode of Minor Revisions. I was not at all disappointed. To hear Noe Rocha tell most of his story in his own voice was like the icing on the cake (bad simile Kristen, bad, bad, bad). I plan on re-watching the first two episodes, probably everything in order. I just feel like when Jen tells Ted that she’s writing for seekers, I feel like, even as a Catholic, I am still a seeker which is what drew me to her blog and her writing, her book and even to Bible Study Fellowship. Like Jen, I feel like I am seeking God’s will and when it’s not of God, well, it’s awfully empty.

— 7 —

A friend asked on facebook if other moms ask explicitly for what they want for Mother’s Day or if we just hinted or didn’t ask or whatever. I’ve never gotten a Mother’s Day gift aside from the kids cards they make at school. Seriously. I think I upset my friend because she said I deserved something, especially from my husband. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, we work hard for very little money. So gifts for every little thing are somewhat unnecessary. I guess in the beginning I was disappointed but two things happened. One, I had a baby (see quick take # 4) essentially on Mother’s Day weekend and I’m pretty sure Jeff thought, “well, I’ll never top that!” and two, I have some really amazing children. I have one who thanks me for the food whenever we eat. I try to direct that back to God but I always say “you’re welcome” because I know his thanking me is in direct correlation to his knowledge that all good comes from God. And that’s just one example. God has blessed me so abundantly with my little family. I wasn’t supposed to be able to have children, but here we are. So, to my mom, grandmas, mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, friends and all moms out there, have a happy Mother’s Day.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Where I drew the line

Expect this story to start making national headlines.

I read it. I have mixed feelings about it. Very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel bad for the parents. On the other, I only know the parents’ story and it is possible that very good reasons were given (as in not having properly trained staff) for why they were turned away. Personally, I can say with 100% certainty that if you cannot meet my child’s needs or you show any reluctance, I don’t want you as my child’s educators. That’s autism or not. (For the record, the one time we were “kicked out” of a program was a program that was for only children with autism. They could not “meet Shelby’s level of need.” Oh the irony…)

But that’s not the line I’m talking about. The line I am talking about is bringing my story to the press. Even without my child’s name included, it is easy enough to find out who someone’s child is in this internet age and cause problems for her and me. When Shelby was in kindergarten there was an incident at her school with another child with autism. A lot of rumors flew around and so did a lot of misinformation. I kept myself very neutral, or as neutral as I could when only 10 children were in her classroom and many of the parents were busy-bodies. But one parent, not the parent of the child involved in this incident, had a vendetta. She was angry with the school system and took the story to the local media. It was picked up only by the local newspaper but made it front page. She embellished facts and a mis-attributed quote was placed in the article. And she flat out lied about the most crucial part of the incident. The family involved’s name wasn’t used but it’s such a small community that word got out. And quick. The errors were corrected (lawyers were involved). The mis-attributed quote was removed entirely. But a lot of damage was done. The parents at the center of this are now divorced and the children involved have suffered greatly. And that right there led me to believe that going to the media and making my child a target was wrong. When you lob the ball into the court of public opinion, you better be ready to suffer at the hands of it to. The “great injustice” done to you may not be so obvious to someone  else. Anyone else. And in the case of my children, it puts a target on their backs that they cannot protect or defend themselves from.

The most common thing I’ve heard in response to my concerns with going to the press is, “well, what if there was a criminal investigation or law suit and they came to you?” My answer to the press, “no comment.” I’m not interested in making a global statement for an individual issue right now and I do not want my children to be unwillingly thrust into the maelstrom. Period.

The family in the article feels wronged, so they sued. I have no problem with that, but I hope they understand that making all this public, going to the media will have long lasting repercussions both good and bad. And that they may not be able to protect their child from all of them.

Be very careful what fights you bring into the court of public opinion, especially in the internet age because the impression you leave there, could haunt you for a long, long time.

Small Successes Thursday

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Joining the lovely ladies at Catholicmom.com for Small Successes!

1. I finished 2 Chronicles. It’s only taken about 5 1/2 months…onto Ezra!

2. I participated in Get Fit with Mom with my kindergartener yesterday. I wasn’t the mom in the worst shape either :).

3. I said Morning Prayer this morning which I know does not sound like a lot but it’s getting me back on track with LOTH.

 

When our reality doesn’t meet our expectations

Heather Kuzmich, Susan Boyle and now Clay Marzo.

What do these three individuals have in common? They all captured international attention in their respected fields (modeling, singing and surfing) and all three have Aspergers syndrome. Oh, and one more thing, all three have seen the initial “promise” in their careers derailed.

So many people have seen or heard of these people. They are credited as “inspiring” and “motivating.” Especially by parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. Parents of ASD children look to these “inspiring, motivating” people as proof that their child will accomplish great things. Their children will accomplish great things but believing they will be super models, platinum recording artists and world-class surfers is, sadly, as delusional as parents of typical children believing they will be NBA stars or Academy Award winning actors.

Moreover, parents are upset when, under the pressures of success, these “high functioning” individuals begin to crack. Kuzmich’s photogenic talent did not win her the contest and has cost her contracts because her difficulty with social interactions made interviews with potential employers (designers etc) and spokesmodel jobs almost impossible. Boyle’s sudden thrust into fame after singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables on Britains Got Talent proved to almost be her undoing when she was inundated with publicity press and performances that taxed her with over-stimulation and excessive social interactions. She ended up in the hospital as a result. Clay Marzo disliked travel and began to turn down multiple oppurtunities, that and his frequent injuries resulted in his being dropped by Quiksilver. Marzo also disliked the demands of his Quiksilver contract and, as is common with many with Aspergers, had no filter about it when asked.

To say any of these individuals were not successful in their chosen field would be disingenuous. They made it further than many without their social challenges. But to say they reached the pinnacle of success would be equally disingenuous.

Parents of children with autism, and those not on the spectrum need to stop searching for the “Rain Men” among us. Many friends kindly, but unhelpfully, will send links to articles about famous people on the spectrum to parents. While intended to create a glimmer of hope for some who were given devastating news, they often create feelings of resentment when a child does not turn out to be a savant or unrealistic expectations leading to a huge fall.

While I whole-heartedly believe there is no limit to what Shelby can accomplish, to believe she will one day sing like Susan Boyle or surf like Clay Marzo is to deny her the right to be who she was created to be. Maybe her talents won’t bring her world renown, guess what, that’s true for most of us without an autism diagnosis too. The reality is that our expectations may be dashed thousands of times, but that never means an individual, on the autism spectrum or not, is worthless.

And, as a word of warning, please be careful about the truthfulness of what you pass on not only as a parent of a child with autism or a friend wanting to send encouragement. A certain youtube video made by a sixteen-year-old with autism about “famous people on the spectrum” is being shared widely and and wildly inaccurate. Keep in mind that autism cannot be diagnosed posthumously and facts such as a person not marrying are not suitable for diagnosis. Many parents have enough difficulty that their child has a diagnosis without comparisons that are not even accurate.

That moment when my new parent friends ask for a recommendation on the interwebs

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One would think, asking my friends on facebook an innocent question like “what pediatrician should I go with for my newborn?” would be a good thing. Well, it is and it isn’t. Even worse is asking the question in a facebook group where you don’t know all the members or on a local facebook page. Or in some random internet forum.

Sometimes you just want to hear people’s stories, good or bad, but don’t expect impartiality. Especially when it comes to schools, childcare, youth athlete programs, music instructors, pediatricians, dentists, or anything else. Expect people to come out swinging both in passionate defense of their opinion or person and willing to take down anyone they don’t like. I’m no different. Seriously. And when you are asking questions of groups that include a lot of people you don’t know…well…it can just get worse from there.

To the ten people complaining on my friend’s post today about a practitioner group about ridiculous wait times was one emphatic mother yelling about how she never had to wait EVER there and no other practitioner would ever be good enough for her child and on and on and on it went. Several people said, “oh they’re great, when you can actually be seen.” Not decrying the doctors at all but saying maybe they were too big and successful if what you wanted was quality time with the practitioner. One mom told me privately that she requested 2 doctors specifically in the practice and that she got appointment cards with those doctors’ names on them only to find out the person scheduled her with another doctor and there was nothing she could do when that doctor walked in. It quickly turned into a knock down drag out between someone so passionately devoted to her child’s physician that she would take the entire day off work for an 8 AM appointment to those who felt like a great doctor should also be able to keep his appointments running on time.  A few people raised quality of care concerns about various practitioners based upon issues they had with their child. But I felt bad for the mom asking the question because, she just wanted to know some suggestions. She did come back and say at the end that she would be scheduling interviews with potential docs and thanks guys. But I know she was thinking aye, yi, yi what just happened  here?

The internet is not the place to ask for parenting advice. Even on little things. Even with family and/or friends. Sometimes, you have to just look stuff up and call and interview places (ie childcare, pediatricians) because what one parent likes, another may hate. And nothing brings out the sanctimommies like suggesting one particular thing (a sleep training method, diet, breastfeeding…among others). If you know a mom whose been through a similar struggle and discussing in person is not possible, call or email or private message, but if you publicly put it out there, expect the crazies to come out of the wordwork and a whole lot of confusion and possibly misdirected hostility.

Something Other Than God–a Review

As a surprise, my mom had pre-ordered my copy of Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir Something Other Than God: How I Passionately South Happiness and Accidentally Found It and it arrived Thursday. I finished it last night.

Yesterday, before finishing the book, I called my mom and we talked about Jennifer’s talks she got to hear a few weeks ago at the Ignited By Truth conference. Although I had been reading Conversion Diary for years, my mom was a newer reader. Both of us are charged up by stories of conversion having both been born and raised Catholic and neither of us ever leaving the Church. We are both aware of the gift of the Church here on earth so seeing how others finding that gift reignites in us what has always made it special to us and sometimes illuminates things we haven’t fully realized ourselves.

And illumination is what Something Other Than God is all about.  During my study of the Gospel of Matthew this past year, our teaching leader often referred to “the light (they) were given” in reference to many individuals or groups of people we encounter in Matthew’s Gospel: the Magi, Herod, the Apostles, Simon Peter, the Jewish people, the Gentiles and the list goes on and on. “The Light they were given” refers to knowledge people had about God based upon their birth, education, ethnicity and experience. Jennifer Fulwiler realized the light she had been given at such a young age that she would never remember it, at a very young age and a time in her life when she would not be able to do much to try and expand that light. But it sent her on a quest, a quest to find out more, to find something other than God that will answer the nagging questions and create the peace and happiness she sought.

Like a telescope lens being opened wider and wider to let more light in and allow the viewer to see more, Jennifer’s light grows in brightness and intensity as she investigates a religion she cannot believe could possibly have the answers. Her lens opens wider when she meets husband Joe, a lifelong Protestant who begins to help in her investigation when he realizes that the majority of her original blog’s commenters are Catholic, and it wasn’t Catholicism she was investigating it was Christianity. It continues to open as she asks questions on her blog and smart responders direct her to the Catechism. It is opened when, while sitting in a breakfast after mass, a woman comes up to her and gives her the information on RCIA and the new man who is coming to run it at the parish, a man named Noe Rocha who would figure prominently in Jennifer and Joe’s conversion of heart. Even in her babysitter whose stories of poverty as a child grew her faith instead of shattering it.

Her lens also opens more to let light in through her reading. She reads Augustine of Hippo, CS Lewis, and yes, the Bible.

Jen’s is not a conversion like St Paul’s where the lens is opened so rapidly that the light blinds him temporarily but it is the conversion God required based on her charism. Jen doesn’t go by a conversion of “one big dramatic event” instead, like the analytical, scientific mind she has, it proceeds as a careful step-by-step investigation.

What I found most remarkable is something Simcha Fisher wrote that I read before my copy arrived (before I even knew a copy was coming to my house):

by the end of the book, her life has changed drastically. Instead of pursuing wealth, glamour, and prestige, and championing a right to abortion with a cynical, mocking attitude toward believers, she finds herself juggling babies, uninsured, scrambling to find a housing her family can afford, and battling serious medical problems which thrust her way beyond the realm of normal struggles with natural family planning.

But despite these radical changes, she is still herself. She has not become a different person — she has become the Jennifer Fulwiler who sees life differently. A small distinction, you might think, but this willingness to see and respect the person, rather than reducing him to a tidy story or message, is one of the most appealing hallmarks of Fulwiler’s writing, and of her approach to Catholicism in general.

 

Simcha, as always, told no lie. Jennifer is not interested in telling us about how life is awesome now that she’s Catholic, but the process of learning that how we view life through the lens of Catholicism, how we allow it to change our hearts, makes the difference in how we handle the slings and arrows of this world that come be we atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, agnostic or something else altogether.

It is the questions in life we choose to pursue that lead our hearts to God or away from Him if we allow them to. Can we let go and leave open the possibility of God’s hand in our lives even when it is not what we want or think we want? Jennifer Fulwiler’s story teaches us that even the smallest amount of light given will light up the correct answers when we seek to find them.