Death and Social Media

Social media’s made a lot of “normal” things weird. Death being a big one of them. This past Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning did a feature on what happens to your social media accounts when you die. Basically the answer is: it depends. If you have clearly spelled out wishes in your will and have told your family: whatever you wanted to happen to them will happen…BUT some states have laws that will give your family access to things even if you don’t want it. There are also companies out there now that will continue to post to your social media accounts after your death if you contract with them. Yeah, it’s weird and complicated.

But that’s not the only way death and social media are crazily confused.

Earlier this year, I lost a friend who died in childbirth along with her son. I was told via text message from a friend who told me not all the family knew yet, so please do not post to facebook, instagram, twitter what have you. However, not everyone who found out about her passing was advised. So her facebook wall blew up with condolences while some family sat in shock and other family members began publicly begging people to take down posts and even dispute them.

The people who posted their thoughts and prayers were not bad people and really didn’t do a bad thing. How were most of them supposed to know not all the family had been contacted? If it hadn’t been for the fact that she lived far from family so her husband reached out to local friends who were trying to shore up support for a man who’d lost his wife and son in a matter of hours, perhaps a tighter lid could have been put on it? But then again, maybe not. Her co-workers knew she had been rushed to the hospital and it’s hard not to be afraid and want to talk to each other.Even if she hadn’t taken part in social media, potentially it would have been the way some of her family had found out as there are still text messages, telephones, etc to spread the word.

Just this week, I was told that the father of a dear friend had passed. I went and looked at the man’s daughter’s facebook wall. Her messages were ambiguous. She said he had been moved from the hospital to hospice as per his wishes. She also mentioned that they were going to “say goodbye” to him. She thanked one of her brothers and his wife for their love and support “through all of this.” Finally in a comment on a post, I saw where she said he had slipped into a coma. But no updates for 8 hours after that comment. Messages to my friend and his sister’s page, not to mention his dad’s began to flood in with condolences and memories. Finally after almost nine hours of no updates, the sister posted her dad had in fact NOT died but was still in the coma. Death is imminent. This is a man in hospice in his 90s who is very, very sick and weak. I see nothing wrong with the people who offer prayers and share memories. Despite posts that he is fighting, his death more likely to come sooner rather than later. In my sadness, I dedicated my own posts to him but never mentioned death or RIP because I wasn’t positive one way or the other.

I don’t blame my friend’s sister for her somewhat vague posts. She’s going through about seven kinds of hell in her life right now and was supposed to be getting married this week (I’m assuming she put that off as it’s not been mentioned, understandably).  I also don’t blame the people who misinterpreted her messages. They were going off limited information and made a call on it.

What has been interesting is the angry, ugly way others close to the family have reacted. The family members have been gracious toward those who “got it wrong.” But I’ve seen several comments on posts in friends are screaming in all caps to “stop publishing false information” and one guy went particularly ballistic and suggested a poor woman be sued for libel by the family. Wow. I agree it might look tacky and might upset the family, but given the information made public, no one is out of line for offering condolences or prayers. And the family have issued updates and corrections, so I’m not exactly sure why these friends feel the need to confront well-meaning people.

Death is a fickle topic in our society. Some people accept it. Others don’t. And many, many are scared about it or angry. I think where social media is concerned, death is even more sticky. I waited until I had as much clarification as I could get before saying anything to anyone. Could what I said be interpreted as saying he died even though it doesn’t explicitly say that? Sure it could. His daughter never said that and over 1000 comments and posts later people think he did. Does that mean I’m a bad person or she is? No, it doesn’t. It just means social media is one of those things where no matter how hard you try to contain something, some things will not be contained. It  means no matter how clearly you feel you’ve expressed yourself or the situation, people don’t have tone of voice, inflection or body language to judge off of and can misinterpret things. Do we all probably have to get over ourselves a wee bit and not get so upset all the time. Um, yeah, that too.

As social media continues to grow and flourish, there will continue to be issues surrounding things like death, that although they happen in very real life, have to be dealt with in some ways virtually as well. My advice, ha, as if I have anything worth sharing that might be considered good advice, pray on it. Pray before you offer condolences. Pray before you post major life changes. Pray, pray, pray…because the real hereafter, well, prayer will lead you there.


The Difference in John Paul II’s public suffering and Brittany’s Maynard’s public suffering

Of the pope’s funeral, he said, “I watched every bit of it.” Asked why, he said: “He was teaching us how to suffer, and he taught us how to die.”

Billy Graham on the death and funeral of Saint John Paul II’s death and funeral in New York Times, June 12, 2005

Brittany Maynard is suffering. Everywhere we look she is suffering. Suffering on the cover of People magazine. Suffering in our facebook feeds and on television specials. She is suffering publicly so she can end her own life soon. She is suffering in public so that she can “die with dignity” and give others that “right.” She wants people to see her suffering so that they will be more sympathetic to those with terminal illness in their quests to end their lives.

But she’s not dying with dignity. Creating a media circus surrounding your “choice” to end your life because you don’t want to suffer is not dignified. There’s been an example of how to die with dignity. And today we celebrate his first feast day as a saint.

John Paul II was in the media eye already because of his very public figure as the earthly leader of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics. He was also a head of state being the leader of Vatican City. He had no choices in whether his suffering from Parkinsons disease would be public or not. But he lived every day he was given. He made the difficult choices to continue traveling when many of us would not. He continued to engage his sheep and give them hope.

On October 22, 1978, he extorted the people he had been newly elected to lead to “Be not afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” And he lived that every day of his extraordinary life and if affected both Catholics, and non-Catholics alike, and as Billy Graham points out, part of that was in teaching us how to suffer and how to die.

Suffering, contrary to what anyone in this world will probably tell you, is not worthless. If it were, Jesus Christ’s suffering would mean nothing. But here we are 2000 years later still talking about it. If it meant nothing, no one would know His name today. It may be hard for many lured by the world’s promises to understand the joys and gifts of suffering. But this young seminarian in my Diocese can tell you about them. 

I have experienced so much sadness due to my illness, but there have also been times of great joy.  The support I have received from others encourages me to keep pushing on. I want to be a priest, I want to see my three young nephews grow up, and these goals give me the hope to wake up each day and live my life with trust. –Philip Johnson

Read his whole writing, he is in a very similar situation and he knows and understands better than most what Brittany is going through. Certainly better than most of us.

John Paul II’s public suffering may not have been as much of a choice, but it was a powerful statement. His smile betrayed the joy that can be had even through debilitating physical pain. Blessed Mother Teresa was another example of profound joy and redemption in the face of suffering. We see them and we know, this is only temporary. Philip Johnson is a modern example of a small, but vocal group speaking out saying,  “we’re suffering, we’re in pain, we hate it, but we’re going to live in a way that is pleasing to God and not give into physical temptations.”

My heart aches for Brittany, both for the pain she has and will suffer and for the decision she has made. There is still time for that to change and I would pray that not only would it change, but for people everywhere who have come out to support Brittany to also support her if she decides she is not going to go through with this radical and awful decision.

St John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa, Our Blessed Mother, you all suffered so much, please pray for Brittany as her soul suffers at the cost of her decision. Help her to know the dignity of a life lived for Christ with suffering. And I offer up my own sufferings for her, that she may see her life is worth more lived here on earth than ended by her own hand. Amen.

What I learned on my field trip to the farm…

I was a chaperone for William’s farm field trip to Indigo Farms in Calabash, NC (well, technically literally on the NC/SC border so it’s in both states) today. I went with Joseph’s class last year to a different farm and was excited to get to go with William to this farm.

William’s teacher assigned me a group of three little boys which included William and two of his best friends. For privacy reasons, I will not publish pictures here of the other two children. Which means, sorry y’all only one pic.


But see, it was so worth it!

We had a great time and I can’t wait to go back and shop at the garden center and more of the produce. But I did learn some important lessons this trip.

1. Little girls are definitely as active as little boys and a million times the drama.

Without getting into details, I was so thankful I had three little boys today.

2. Grandparents who volunteer to chaperone should be expected to keep the two younger children they bring under control and should not think of this as their “free photo shoot” time.

A set of grandparents volunteered to help with their granddaughter and took two other little girls from the class. They also brought their younger two granddaughters who were wild, insane the whole time. To the point that it slowed the group down. I’ve brought younger siblings to many field trips and not only did I keep them up by myself, I did not tolerate horseplay or disobedience. So, my tolerance for people who do that kind of thing is way low. Also slowing the group down, Grandma is a retired professional photographer who kept stopping the walking tour so she could take perfectly posed pics of her three granddaughters. It just wasn’t the time or the place.

3. Arrive early so you get premier parking and they don’t tell you to move.

I actually did this and several of the other parents who arrived later, were made to park further away. Parking in the lot by being early for the win!

4. 27 Kindergartners will go wild when you take them off campus as a group for the first time.

Okay, so I knew this already. Today was a good reminder.

5. Not all hayrides are created equal

We were on the bumpier of the two.

6. Kids may not listen, but adults better.

Four kids ended up with fire ant bites because the adults in their group did not heed the warnings to be on the look out and to keep the kids together as a group and not let them rush the fences. Thankfully it wasn’t in our group it happened!

7. Farms wear kids out.

William was knocked out before I got to the highway and slept another 2 1/2 hours after we got home.

We saw horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, geese, and a hinney. And there was a farm cat wandering around who reminded me a lot of the cats I saw around my grandparent’s home growing up. Good mousers those farm cats. I really enjoyed it much more than our experience last year which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t this good! Our tour guides were both excellent and very sweet with the kids. And the produce was making my mouth water. William picked out a decorative hand towel with a hand crocheted handle as a souvenir with his “Halloween money” from his great-grandparents. He said he wants to go back and get some Christmas ones.

William has the same teacher and assistant that Joseph did last year but the class is so incredibly different. I’m glad he is the class with our neighbor’s son (who also has a son in Shelby’s class) and that his teacher has the patience of a saint. Otherwise there might not be a second field trip this year (to the aquarium).

It’s an up and down thing…

How many different titles did I think of for this post? You don’t want to know.

It would seem I’m out of love with facebook for a moment. Or maybe it’s easier for me to love my friends right now if I’m not on facebook. I’m down to stalking one person’s page for just-in-case baby news (ahem, Katherine) once a day for a few minutes at most.

I’m not scrolling, liking nor commenting. I’m certainly not posting. I’m using my alternate facebook account created for the blog to promote the blog and Catholic content, but that’s it.

Oh, and I’ve closed my twitter window (the account is still there, but I’m not checking it).

See, it got like this, I started to see a lot of my friends, friends who are constantly talking about Jesus and how much they lurve Him, who were simultaneously so negative and fearful. The main catalyst appeared to be ebola but mix in that it’s an election year and the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay “marriage,”  this little thing we’ll call the Synod, and the like and I was seeing a perfect storm of Christians yelling, “Jesus, I LOVE YOU!” as they turned and ran away from Him. And to me, that’s just sad.

I get having anxiety. I totes get that. I get having sad moments. I even understand depression, having suffered with the cross most of my life. I also understand that a constant barrage of what’s upsetting your or will further your depression, isn’t healthy. One friend even has been online looking up every bad news thing she can about ebola to the effect of neglecting her child. Seriously, she posted a pic of him in head to toe lotions and foods that he got into while she was facebooking “for just a minute” (her posts at a rate of 2 per minute for 45 minutes straight tells a different story).

So, I closed the window and moved on. I did let people know I wasn’t checking in except they may see instagram posts from me periodically.

This time it wasn’t about what a huge time-waster facebook is (and is it ever) nor breaking an addictive grip. No, this time, it was about removing negativity and focusing on what God wants not what I want. There’s a lot of really great stuff happening in my life right now. There’s a lot of negativity and gossip being shared on facebook. At least in my feed. Same with twitter, which I normally try to ignore but lately it’s gotten bad there too.

I am praying for our country and world, but I don’t feel the need to dwell in the negative. That’s not me putting my head in the sand, it’s me choosing to focus on God and not the world. Today’s Gospel has the Pharisees attempting to trick Jesus with their question about paying tribute to Jesus. Jesus, of course, I mean He is Jesus, knows what they intend to accomplish. They want to anger the Jews by Jesus declaring Caesar is owed anything and they want to anger the Romans by having Jesus denounce Caesar. But Jesus asks for the coin and asks an obvious question. Whose image is on this coin? “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s” has always been a justification in some circles for paying your taxes. Jesus said to do it. This morning our priest took it one step further, yes you have to pay your taxes but, you owe everything else to God. You are His. Your body, mind, soul and strength should be devoted to Him.

How this touched my heart. More and more lately, I’ve been telling people I’m a Christian first. Not a wife, mother, daughter, friend or American…but a Christian. A follower of Jesus Christ. A child of God created in His image. And that, more than anything, has motivated my need to move away from facebook at this exact moment for who knows how long. My trust, my eyes must be on Him who died and rose from the dead for me. And if I allow myself to be swallowed whole by the negativity of this world, the crises of it, I’m not looking at Him and hoping in Him and I’m certainly not acknowledging that all this will be done for His good. No matter what. And despite what many of my Christian friends say, they can’t quite get on board with being okay with praying for bad situations and things and not being OUTRAGED!!! or FRANTIC!!! Unfortunately, my propensity to sin and draw myself further from God is increased when I’m around people with those attitudes. My “need” to be uncharitable in thoughts and words increases. As are thoughts of thunder-punching people in the throat. Obviously, I need to distance myself from things that increase those thoughts. At this moment in time, that means facebook and twitter.

I’ve said before, social media is not inherently bad. It’s all in how we use it. And knowing when to step away. I am sure, as always, a time will come that I will need to be on facebook to closely follow personal situations with friends that I am not close enough to follow in person. I am sure I will start, at some point, seeing cheerful and Spirit-filled posts again. Authentically cheerful posts. But for now, I’m okay with just doing the blog thing there and doing my own thing for the rest of my limited free time. And that means spending a lot more time in prayer and reading Scripture and thanking God for my family.

Seven Quick Takes Friday—while waiting for the bus

— 1 —

Last weekend we traveled to Isle of Palms, SC for my brother-in-law’s wedding. Jeff was in the wedding party. The kids didn’t make it to the reception without multiple meltdowns, but hey, they’re kids and it was okay. Want to share a couple of pics, first of my husband to show how nice he cleans up:


And the bride and groom. My kids were most excited to call her “Aunt Sarah” after the wedding.


— 2 —

Also last weekend I turned 35. They tell me that’s a milestone birthday, but I’m not sure how or why. I’ve been able to drink, smoke and drive  (although I don’t do the second one at all and never mix the first and third) for a while now. I’m sure it’s a greeting card thing. Someone actually asked me do I feel different (like you’d as a kid). That’s an unqualified no.

— 3 —

So, for a post on weddings and vows and being prepared for the rough times, I came across my new favorite Christian artist(s), Chelsea Moon and The Franz Brothers. This was the song I used for that post:

and then I found this one which is one of the BSF children’s program songs for the study of Moses and I love it:

I love accidentally finding artists simply by googling for videos of “How Firm a Foundation hymn”

— 4 —

Well, it could only last so long, one child just told me another child kicked him in the stomach. We haven’t even made it to the bus stop yet. Really?

— 5 —

I have picky palates in this house. Shelby’s is more born out of sensory issues she can’t control, but she’s probably my best eater of all three. Joseph has gotten better about the whole “no thank you bite” thing. So at least he tries. William is stubborn and undeniably my child. His list of fruits eaten is: bananas, sometimes. And vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower and green beans. If he could live on meat and rice, he totally would. So, I was shocked when he tried, and liked, two new flavored muffins: peach and wait for it, pumpkin. Could his little palate be expanding? I won’t hold my breath that he’ll eat pumpkin pie, but maybe I can sneak some puree into pancake batter and up that vegetable count to 4.

— 6 —

I hesitate to repeat what I’ve said (twice!) before this time seems a little more certain: fall is finally here.

— 7 —

Okay—seven minutes til bus stop time, so we’re on the way! Have a great weekend.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Foundations for Life, for Love, in sickness and in health, richer or poorer, in good times and bad

“Why do you think,” she asked, “your marriage has lasted 11+ years? And you were together four years before you got married too, right?”

She was right about that last part. The person asking me is a friend, never married, who was talking to me about people we knew from our high school years. I guess she had a right to be astounded my marriage has endured for as long as it has. After all I know people from high school who have been married and divorced in the 16 years since graduation. Twice. In particular she was thinking of 2 people we had known during those years who had married, divorced after the wife had an affair, and the wife went on to have a child with the man she had an affair with. And now, I was being told, was unhappy in the relationship.  A lot to unpack.

Last weekend I went to my brother-in-law’s wedding. He and his wife chose to have a destination wedding in Isle of Palms, SC. It was a lovely location and they lucked out with gorgeous warm weather and nary a hurricane in sight. They chose to write their own vows. And the vows were true to the people they are. I remember when I chose the traditional vows at our wedding. My mother was in a slight case of shock because I think she assumed with me being a writer, I would just create my own vows. I was in a slight case of shock when my mother told me she and my dad wrote their own vows. I guess I just never thought much about what was said at their wedding except that it worked. 36 years now they’ve been married.

In thinking about the variety of wedding vows and mulling over this conversation regarding people who’ve been married and divorced that I grew up with, I started thinking about why some marriages fail while others that seem shaky don’t. And I remember this piece written by Hallie Lord almost two years ago now. And as I re-read it, this jumped out at me:

I was quickly realizing that the lessons God had lovingly wrapped up for me in that little package known as matrimony would be difficult ones. Over the course of my marriage I’d be asked to die to self again and again—something I was quickly finding I had no propensity for.

She goes on to say a bit later:

But by the simple, passive act of staying, I learned what wiser and more experienced couples could have told me but which I would have refused to believe until I’d experienced it myself: marriage is not always fun; there aren’t always rewards for your gifts of love; and ultimately profound self-sacrifice is the name of the game. While my younger self, cheeks pinked with the fresh blooms of love, would have been terribly disillusioned by that proposition, over time I came to see that the valleys, rather than being valueless experiences we can only ever grit our teeth through, are gifts. Without these moments of marital aridity we’d never have the opportunity to choose love.

And then continues:

Somewhat tangential, perhaps, but nevertheless relevant is the fact that few manage to make it through life without encountering tragedy. Sadly, heartache is our ever-present companion in this fallen world. Poverty, sickness and death can bond a couple or destroy a marriage depending on the health of the union. A couple that has spent some time acclimating themselves to less-than-optimal circumstances, such as can be found during arid phases, is a couple that can form a united front and face hardships with confidence.

The only problem with valleys, for all their—admittedly unpleasant—benefit, is that when one isn’t prepared for them they can be alarmingly dark and frightening places. Could the high rate of divorce be, to some degree, traced back to the fact that many are caught by surprise by this phenomenon? To suddenly find your marriage lacking in romance or rife with discord without ever having been told that this might very well be a part of the natural ebb and flow of marriage would be quite disturbing indeed. How many couples jump ship before their marriage has a chance to pull out of the valley? How many marriages, having hit a rough patch, are further disturbed by a couple who despair that this is their new and permanent reality? And for how many does this despondency sap any and all will that might have been used to fight their way out of this rocky bottom?

Marriage is hard and marriage is work. Even when it seems easy, the work is there. I once heard an interview where an author said that marriage was like the military, except you have to re-up every day. The minister who married Jeff and I had us go through pre-marital counseling with him. One of the first questions he asked was why we wanted to be married in the church. My answer both shocked and relieved him. I said I had seen a billboard growing up that said,”It was a lovely wedding. I hope I’m invited to the marriage.–God.” It was one of a series of billboards including one that said, “Don’t make me come down there!–God.” I told him that I believed that God should be in a marriage starting even before the wedding if He was to bless it. We talked often in those sessions about struggles of marriage. And while my romance, much like Hallie’s, seemed charmed, I was all to aware that hard times fell on everyone.

It was one of the reasons I stuck with the traditional vows. It is also why instead of using the readings from Genesis and 1st Corinthians synonymous with most Catholic weddings, I chose from Ruth 1:16-17 and 1 John 4:7-16. Yes, love is patient and kind but love comes from God and God should be our foundation in marriage, not emotion. Which is why many of us choose to make our vows before God and not necessarilyjust the State of NC, VA, MD, ID, MO etc, etc. If we don’t know God, we cannot know love.

But those vows, those traditional vows (which fyi, in the Eastern Rites of the Church you don’t get a choice, you say the traditional vows), in themselves are a preparation for the hard times of marriage. You vow, before God, that you will stay “in sickness and in health,” “in good times and in bad,” “richer or poorer.” And while many self-written vows are beautiful and poetic, many neglect the rough times that will come ahead. And they will come. Satan is out there to kill families and domestic churches.

For so many divorcees today, it wasn’t a desire for someone else nor a desire for be away from their spouse, but a disillusionment when the good times went sour. When, as Hallie describes it, the valleys came to be. And some can’t even make it when things are good but they aren’t “madly in love” and are dealing with the minutiae of  folding socks instead of eating by a river in candlelight.

Marriages that survive are marriages that are not built on love, but built on God. Because God is love. Our vows reflect that all these trials and tribulations are overcome when God (love) is present. In good times, in bad, in sickness, in health, when money is plentiful, when money is scarce…praise God and entrust your marriage to Him. If you didn’t at the beginning it is never too late. The Foundation can be rebuilt. The vallies can make you stronger. Any marriage can survive if we choose to build it on God, because then it is built on love.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Hollywood and Unplanned Pregnancy

After I posted about the new show Jane the Virgin, I watched last week’s episode of Parenthood because I’m determined to see it out to the bitter end (and bitter it is indeed). After watching it, I realized there is another hit show out there besides those two dealing with unplanned pregnancy that I am following, Nashville. All three shows are handling it in quite different ways and maybe it gives me a little hope as to how writers in Hollywood are thinking in terms of unplanned pregnancy.

While it’s a storyline that’s been around literally since the birth of Christ (and even before then), unplanned pregnancy has never been given quite the spotlight it has in secular culture as it has in the last few years. Juno showed a teenager becoming pregnant after her first, and only, sexual encounter. MTV has the shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom which shows young girls from a variety of backgrounds and how they are dealing with pregnancy and the decisions surrounding mothering their children. The notable difference between those and the current shows Jane the Virgin, Parenthood and Nashville is that while all the women are unmarried, the new storylines on these three shows show women who are older, not fully dependent on parents and in some ways, very successful and independent. Oh, yeah, there is that piece of trash The Obvious Child which I don’t call trash because the choice is abortion but because it stars Mona Lisa Saperstein and reeks of Gillian Robespierre’s sexual childhood. I’ve seen enough of it and heard more than enough in an interview to make that judgment.

In Jane the Virgin, Jane may still be living with her mom and Abuela, but she is concentrated on a life plan of finishing school, becoming a teacher, and marrying Michael. And not having sex until she’s married to Michael. Jane’s plans get derailed in an almost unrealistic way (I say almost because we know of confirmed cases of women being inseminated with the wrong sample, so, it’s not out of reach to think a woman might be inseminated without her knowledge). Jane is worried and upset, obviously, I mean, wouldn’t you be too. And she seriously considers abortion her only option to keep her boyfriend and pursue her life. This despite being the daughter of a teenage mother who she finds out was not forced to have but quite the opposite, fought to have her. In the end, it is manipulation that she is unaware of that gets her to decide to have the baby but allow the baby’s biological father and his wife raise him or her. In just one hour, we got to see Jane go from confident young woman to scared and confused to once again knowing she can handle it. Although, the viewer knows (Jane doesn’t yet) that Jane’s plan for her baby after birth, is not as certain as it seems.

Parenthood‘s final season finds Amber pregnant. It took til the end, but Amber is finally pregnant. Amber has had her string of unfortunate events. So much so that there are drinking games surrounding her crying in any given episode. I say “finally” not because Amber has ever been trying to get pregnant, but because it would appear that Katims and team have run out of “tragic storylines” for her. And while Amber doesn’t see her pregnancy as tragic, the circumstances are less than ideal. In contrast to Jane’s reaction, despite her situation, Amber is happy with her pregnancy. It seems very counter-intuitive because she is living in Berkeley with her very secular family and her own brother’s girlfriend went through with an abortion he did not want. If anyone was going to go straight to Planned Parenthood, it was Amber. But instead, Amber has told her less than enthusiastic mother (who has since grown on the idea), her loving and supportive grandfather (who later spilled the beans to the rest of the family), and her way-to-enthusiastic ex-boyfriend, the baby’s father. When Amber told her mother Sarah, Sarah was in shock Amber would even consider having this baby. An attitude that Amber correctly labeled as “less than helpful.” Her grandfather Zeek, by contrast, was experiencing a sub-dued joy and immediately offered Amber whatever support she needed. He also gave her the encouragement to tell Ryan, the baby’s father. And it’s good she has Zeek’s support (and her grandmother Camille) because when Zeek spilled the beans to Amber’s aunt and uncles, their enthusiasm was fairly muted with uncle Adam saying, “congratulations, I guess.” When Amber got around to seeing her brother Drew in person, it was awkward because despite their closeness, he heard first from the rest of the family. Drew never questioned Amber as to her intentions with the baby but insisted on going with her to tell Ryan. He also helped Amber to realize that while Ryan certainly should be able to be a part of his child’s life, Ryan’s past and current issues (a war-vet with PTSD, drug and drinking problems and serious anger management issues) pre-cluded them raising their child together. Amber has her past, but she’s come a long, long way and is in a place where she can take care of a child, Ryan is not. Despite her family’s reluctance, Amber is ready to pursue motherhood and give her child the stable life she did not have.

Nashville‘s Hayden Panatierre is pregnant in real life, but her show pregnancy was already on the books before she knew she would be welcoming a daughter into the world. Her character, Juliette Barnes, is a woman who seemingly has everything, a successful career, thousands of adoring fans, but is lacking quite a bit. Her deprived childhood set her up to feel entitled to what the world had to offer once she hit it big which has led to a string of self-destructive behaviors. Her mother has died over the course of the show and she sabatoged a great relationship with Avery when she cheated on him with the despicable Jeff Fordham. When Juliette discovered her pregnancy, she immediately planned for an abortion, certain the child was Jeff’s a man she hated herself for every associating with. However, thanks to Tennessee state laws, Juliette’s OB/GYN had to show her the ultrasound revealing the baby was older than she thought, meaning it was Avery, not Jeff’s child (remember kids, there is no such thing as safe sex or most of us wouldn’t be here). Juliette sought out her once-nemesis now frenemy Rayna James who knows a thing or two about unplanned pregnancy at the end of last week’s episode for help with figuring out what to do about her baby and her life. Juliette has all the money and resources the girl’s on the other show don’t. Yet she can’t figure which way is up in her pregnancy.

Hollywood’s well covered that unplanned pregnancy is not ideal and brings with it lots of upsetting and unsettling consequences. But instead of showing abortion as the only choice, we are now seeing other choices being teased out as equally tenable. It was never a consideration for Amber and when stepping back and realizing she wasn’t going to necessarily lose everything by having the baby, Jane also has chosen life. Juliette, it appears, will also choose to have her baby although despite “having it all” her decision appears to be the most agonized over and contentious. Just as 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom have shown that having a baby and raising it (or giving it up for adoption) are not easy nor glamorous choices, these fictional shows don’t pretend that a decision to have a baby means a happy ending. They still show women who feel that they are (and they are) unprepared for motherhood and having a baby, but choose it anyway. The world is full of parents, teachers, movies etc who are like the mom in Knocked Up who will tell them a few hundred dollars will “take care of the problem.”  So, it is definitely an interesting trend to see these shows of women knowing the choices and choosing to give birth.

Jane The Virgin is complicated…like real life

So, after being bombarded with ads for it all summer on the CW, I watched the premiere of Jane the Virgin last night. It fit nicely into my viewing schedule between Gotham and Castle (which interrupts my Blacklist viewing, but thankfully NBC lets me watch that online).

If you’ve seen the previews you know that Jane promised her Abuela to keep her virginity as a gift to her husband in marriage after a stern talk Abuela gives her as a child. Jane keeps her vow despite being in a two year relationship with Michael. Jane becomes inseminated accidentally and now finds herself pregnant.

That’s the overview. The show is much more complicated than that. Jane loves Michael who is a police detective. Jane also takes her vow very seriously as well as the “timeline” she and Michael have set out. She is working full time as a waitress at a resort to pay for her education, she plans on being a teacher. She want to marry Michael after establishing a career and paying down her debt.

Jane goes into the doctor for a routine pap smear. Now, this is where a lot of the internet blew up about “why does she need a pap smear when she’s not having sex!” Getting regular pap smears are an important part of female health whether married, single, sexually active or not and even menopausal. Jane was just being a good steward of the temple God gave her. Anyway, Jane’s regular doctor is out so her partner sees Jane. Her partner who is emotionally distraught over her personal life. So emotionally distraught that instead of a pap smear, she inseminates Jane with a sample intended for a different patient.

And it gets more complicated from there. Jane’s pregnancy is discovered when she passes out after standing up on a bus to give her seat to some nuns and she is rushed to the hospital. Jane is distraught. The news of this pregnancy is not welcome for many reasons, not least of which is the way it occurred.

Jane is not full of prolife resolve despite the fact that her mother, Xiomara, gave birth to her as a sixteen-year-old without the help or support of Jane’s father. She accepts the prescription for an abortion drug given to her by the OB-GYN who inseminated her in error. Jane admits readily, she’s not ready to be a mother. She doesn’t want to be a mother yet, not this way, which is why she wasn’t having sex to begin with.

Jane goes through a range of feelings about the pregnancy. Particularly when Michael proposes and she has to tell him she’s pregnant instead of “yes.” Michael confronts Jane and tells her he won’t raise a child that is not his biologically making her life infinitely more complicated. Jane confronts Xiomara about why Xiomara chose to have her. Jane has grown up believing that Xiomara wanted an abortion, and Abuela forced her to have the baby. But when Abuela finds the abortion drug in Jane’s room and confronts her, Jane finds out it wasn’t the truth. Abuela wanted Xiomara to abort the baby, Xiomara refused and then lied to Jane to protect her and Abuela.

Jane’s pregnancy brings out a series of revelations both about her life and her feelings on motherhood. It forces her to be brave, something she never expected. Yes, Jane decides to have her baby, but it is even more complicated than just giving birth.

I’m going to leave out some major plot elements, including the number one reason Jane decides to give birth. Because I don’t want to give it away and because I want people to watch it. Jane had a plan. Jane stuck to her plan but sometimes, life has surprises. While God is not explicitly mentioned, Xiomara does being praying a Hail Mary when the doctor at the hospital tells Jane she’s pregnant. Not to mention Michael’s initial rejection of Jane and the baby is turned around rather magnificently. Jane begins to realize that plans beyond her own are at work here. Jane matures even in the course of one episode from someone who lives only for herself, to someone who realizes she others who depend on her to. Her mother, Abuela, Michael, her unborn child and the child’s father…who she does meet in the episode.

Jane’s decision to give birth to her child was not easy, it was agonizing and in light of various complications I’ve left out here, won’t be getting easier as time goes on. What Jane faces is what many young women who find themselves in unexpected pregnancies (although through more conventional means for the most part) face. While Jane does not have to face the consequences of actions she herself set into motion, she still has to deal with the very real consequences her pregnancy brings on. And there are a lot of those.

Motherhood is never an easy thing, and it is especially difficult for many who find it thrust upon them, whatever the circumstances. Jane The Virgin promises to take us to place where we understand some of the real difficulties women face in unplanned pregnancies. And to understand why many may make the choices they do (that doesn’t mean we have to or get to agree with any or all of those choices). Like Juno, Jane has love and support, but Jane takes things one step further is showing us a more mature decision making process.

Will I tune in next week? You bet I will. Because besides the realism, the show is exceptionally written and brilliantly acted. And there is nothing else quite like it on television today.

Being Thankful and Not Throwing Our Formation Under the Bus

A blogger I’ve occasionally visited has this really annoying habit. Annoying enough that I can’t “follow” her in my feed reader. Whenever she mentions a fun activity with her kids or a new resource she’ll mention being a “cradle Catholic” then define what that means and then say that’s why she didn’t know about a, b, c or d. Her formation was inadequate despite going to an excellent Catholic school and living in an active Catholic home because they didn’t “live the Liturgical year” and celebrate every Marian feast day etc, etc.

Today Simcha Fisher asked this on facebook

I used to think that, in order to be a good Catholic, I had to ________________________, but now I know better.

And immediately I was inundated with thoughts of various posts by the blogger mentioned above and some others and how they lament they grew up after Vatican II and how their parents weren’t enlightened enough and sent them to the “awful Diocesesan run parish school” or “evil public school” and then threw them on the mercy of the parish CCD program. And they didn’t even say a family Rosary nightly. And inevitably their parents get thrown under the bus.

Okay, so a lot of us had formation that was less than spectacular and had to grow up deprived of Tridentine Latin Mass, but that doesn’t mean we need to constantly point the fact out. Nor does it mean we throw our parents who were doing the best they had with what they had most of the time, even if it wasn’t great. But it was a foundation. A foundation that’s led some of us to create beautiful domestic churches. A foundation that’s helped us to discern liturgical abuse from just ugly liturgy. A foundation that we’ve built on in our adulthood.

Our parents didn’t have the benefit of the internet and 3000 bloggers telling us what the real, real Catholic church teaches. So they worked with what they had. Local parishes. Parish schools and when they didn’t have those public schools and their trusty Bible and Catechism. And some of them didn’t have much or any familiarity with the Bible, so they did what they could. Sure some of us might have sang  Kum Ba Yah in CCD or done liturgical dance but most of us survived with our faith in tact and even were able to rise above the short-comings.

So, why dwell on the fact that maybe the beginning wasn’t all it could be. But we can still be thankful. Those of us who are “cradle Catholics” were not deprived. No, we were actually given the building blocks at the very beginning. We were born into the inheritance. We’ve known about God’s mercy and forgiveness from day 1. And we’ve had that to fall back on when we’ve strayed. And we got to where we are because we’ve had formation. Whether it was in Latin or English. Had a home Atrium or barely said grace before meals, we don’t need to constantly remind the world of the martyrdom of our early formation. We can celebrate the faith we have now. We can be grateful that a small seed was planted and we’re making it grow.And that’s a lot to be thankful for.

When It Feels like Our Faith May Not be Enough

Praise God, Mary and her family are experiencing miracles!

But as I rejoice, I think of my friend who we’ll call “Joy” and a phone call we had last year. Joy and her family have had more than their fair share of bad breaks. They are strong Catholics and they have weathered innumerable storms. Just in the last 2 years, multiple job losses, death of a parent, loss of a house due to foreclosure, numerous utility shut-offs, one of the grandparents literally being pushed out of a nursing home because of a Medicare clerical error to name a few. Joy and her husband maintain faith in God and His plan, but last year around Christmas time when her son was being turned out of his dorm for Christmas break and couldn’t get a ride home and they couldn’t afford to get him or put him on a plane, train or anything else, she called me in tears.

“I feel like we have so many challenges because God feels our faith is not enough.” My heart broke. I could only offer my prayers in her current and all her situations. She went on,”I read all the time about these last minute reprieves, these miracles that happen because of prayer. It never happens that way for us.” She was right. When her husband lost his job of 30 years, we prayed for a new position to open up immediately. It took about four months and then a week into training, the company declared bankruptcy and he never got a check for his time put in. Instead he got a part-time job with no benefits that couldn’t pay their bills while he looked for a second job or another full time one. Joy went back to work meaning her mother had to go into a nursing home. Two months later because of a clerical error with Medicare, Joy got a call that her mother and her mother’s belongings were being literally put out on the front porch (it goes without saying they couldn’t afford the nicest place for her mom) and her daughter and a friend had to go get her and bring her home while things were sorted out. Joy lost hours and nearly her job fixing that situation and her water got cut off despite the water company’s promise not to in the process. Yes, there were blessings mixed in there, but man it was tough. There was no last minute reprieve, there was no deposit in their account.

Our prayers were being answered, but never in ways we understood. Joy’s husband is still seeking full time employment and each interview I pray for it to be “the one” and inevitably the company “goes in another direction” or “found a better fit.” Joy has told me that she no longer gets worked up or excited about a prospect. She says she believes God is teaching her not to depend on man at all.

That phone call though. I know that feeling. The feeling that God’s will is always contrary to our own. That family and friends who are not believers throw in our faces, “Where’s your God now,” when we don’t get the call for an interview or don’t have the money to pay the bill in time. Like, the people who have those last minute reprieves have stronger or better faith. It’s not reasonable, but it’s a real feeling. Did we misread God’s signals? Did we get the wrong playbook? Why doesn’t anything work out for us like it does for Mrs. X? Everyone prayed and her situation had such a beautiful ending!

Most people don’t get those beautiful endings. We give so much credence to these wonderful stories. And they are great, but in comparison to the small miracles we have, they can make us feel less than if we allow them to when our own miracles don’t measure up. And the devil can use this comparison to tear our faith down. To make us lose trust in God because our miracles aren’t as “great” as someone else’s. And I don’t know how to fight this except with prayer. And more prayer. And Scripture and talking to other believers.

I’ve seen good people like Joy suffer immeasurably and never really seem to not suffer. I’ve seen people who’ve had bad breaks and get incredible blessings. And I’ve seen people who are just chugging along with no bumps in the road. No one knows what God has in store. We just have to trust our faith will carry us, keep praying and remember now is not the final goal. Eternity is.