Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

boy in pink pants

Today I went to get coffee with booga bear in tow, and we sat outside near the street. He was very satisfied pointing out all the cars and trucks that went by and stared at a backhoe on board a truck for the whole duration of the traffic light it was waiting at. I wondered if I'd be able to do this with a girl his age. Instead of running off, he just sat and babbled about things with wheels.

Last week at the park, there was a boy of 8 or so wearing girls' pants. They were hot pink, with a little star or floral pattern, made of fitted cotton with tapered ankles. It bothered me. My eyes couldn't help but keep wandering back to this little boy, who was running around attacking slides with another boy. Possibly something happened to his pants, and it was either girls' pants or no pants. But I think the more likely scenario was that his parents didn't care what color his pants were - the group of adults he was with seemed a rather free-wheeling crowd.

I tried telling myself it was just a piece of fabric. But, it's really not. Dresses are just fabric, but try telling that to a man - see if it will convince him to put one on. Dresses aren't just fabric, they are a representation of femininity. Just like hot pink stretch pants. I guess what was really bothering me was that putting girls' pants on a boy is like telling him masculinity doesn't matter. But of course it does.

It seems so ridiculous when people talk about gender as a mere social construction. I think this was a hit idea in the 70's, but now people are leaning back towards the biological construction idea because it's been made pretty clear that the 'social constructionists' were mostly wrong. Lately, my husband has been going around singing the words to Limp Bizkit's song, 'Break Stuff': "I pack a chainsaw...I'll skin your ass raw...And if my day keeps going this way, I just might... break your *** face tonight! Give me something to break! Give me something to break!

Women don't write stuff like this! At least the majority don't. I didn't really understand the distinction between male and female until I got married. It's like living with another species entirely, and this isn't just because my husband is odd or something, it's because his brain is wired differently. In fact, everything is different! So world, do me a favor: don't try to tell me there are no differences between the sexes by dressing your sons in girl clothes, okay?

The diverse Church (Revised)

My sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the original version of this post. I wasn't trying to make unfair blanket statements about the diversity or lack of diversity in churches, and I certainly wasn't saying that Jesus is not present in Protestant churches, although unfortunately those were logical conclusions from my writing. I was trying to talk about what I've seen during my (short) experience going to Mass, and to emphasize that the Church offers a physical place to be with Jesus. Hopefully this revision more accurately reflects that.

One of the things I love about Mass is that there are usually people who look like they don't belong. The homeless come to Mass. The mentally ill and retarded. The questionably dressed. The very rich, the very poor. People of many cultures. People with a lot of faith, people with just a little; any (American) Catholic church on Easter or Christmas will be packed with people who only go to Mass a few times a year. I used to think this was a reason to condemn the Catholic faith - too many cultural Catholics, just going through the motions. But- shouldn't the church be packed with 'sinners'? Or is there another place they should be?

I can't pretend to know exactly why the Catholic Church is diverse. On an academic level, it probably has something to do with the timelessness of liturgy, that the Church is in every country, and the fact that no one can start a 'splinter' Catholic church. But on a spiritual level, it probably has to do with the fact that Jesus is present every day, all day, right there on the altar in the appearance of a bland communion wafer, as most churches continually display a blessed host for people to come and pray before. Every person who consumes the Eucharist (host, wine) experiences physical union with Christ, and even to spend time in front of the Eucharist is to be in his presence, guaranteed. So maybe the answer is just, of course the Church attracts all people - Jesus attracts all people.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

AIDS in Africa

I love reading articles on under-reported issues. Check out this piece on the relationship between AIDS in Africa and condoms, I found it insightful and progressive. It may appear unfairly biased at first glance, but read on! read on!

Friday, October 19, 2007


In a writing class I took once, the instructor advised us that if we didn't feel we had anything to write about, to just choose one moment out of all the hours we had passed that day, and to write about it. It's been a good discipline for me- not so much the writing part, but taking the time each day before I go to bed to remember just one good moment that day. This helps me live in a state of gratitude, because even on the hard days, my life is a good one.

I was driving on the freeway this morning towards a slate-gray slash of clouds banking above the mountains, admiring how the leaves looked almost as if someone had scribbled them with yellow highlighter. They were such a vivid contrast against the dark clouds, and then it started to pour and everything disappeared in the downpour. And I was thankful that I had gotten to see for just a few minutes how beautiful fall is becoming, that I had left my house the exact moment I did and was on the road during those very few minutes just before the clouds let loose.

I came home and got husband and booga bear and we started driving towards the abortion clinic we've been praying outside, but we heard a rattling noise coming from our car. We pulled over and noticed that the pin holding one of our front brake pads was coming out. Actually, we had no idea what was sticking out of our wheel, but a guy who happened to be a mechanic was walking by at that moment, and he suggested we get it towed into a shop instead of risking the drive.

It's funny how things are always working together even though we are not aware that anything is going on besides our own routine. My first thought when we saw the loose pin was to be thankful that it had not come loose while I was driving on the freeway. And then we wondered if the devil was trying to prevent us from praying by sabotaging our car, so we made sure to pray anyway as we walked home to get the other car (take that, sucker). Days like this make me thankful that I and my family are here at this specific point in time, alive and well-cared for. It is so easy for things to go wrong, but usually, a lot is going right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Way of blessing

(Thanks to Andrea for providing the link to Danielle Bean's post, which inspired the following)

Since my last post, I've been thinking over the way children are such a beautiful example of a blessing that results from doing God's will. In the Catholic way of thinking*, one way of living according to God's will is to be open to new life within marriage. When else do we get to say "thy will be done" with such a tangible result as a new human being that becomes a permanent fixture in our lives? As I mentioned in my last post, raising kids is hard. But this is part of the blessing; I truly believe our children bring us closer to God by un-doing our selfishness.

At some point, most of us will have to decide whether or not we will consider that God might have something to say about our fertility and family size, which has drastic consequences in all directions. Many people have been called to great sacrifice in their walk with God- foregoing marriage to become a priest or nun, leaving family & security to be a missionary. However, most of us will not become a priest, nun, or missionary and 'doing God's will' can become as mundane as holding our tongues or choosing which house to rent. But, being open to having a large family (or even just one very inconvenient pregnancy, or trusting God with infertility) is a 'rock your world' decision when compared to what society tells us is desirable. Isn't it grand that God would allow the majority of humankind to face this issue? That we would have such a big reminder of where our hearts are? Yes.

*The Church recognizes there are valid reasons to prevent conception by using Natural Family Planning, but reasons to postpone children need to be brought before God in prayer to seek his will. This isn't solely a 'feel the spirit' affair - much has been written, such as: Humanae-Vitae

Monday, October 15, 2007

The parenthood 100% guarantee

I've always been mystified by Saint Paul's statement in I Timothy 2:15: "women shall be saved by childbearing". Excuse me? Does that mean if I don't bear children I'm doomed? But now that I actually am a mom, (and without having done any scholarly research on this passage), I think I know what Saint Paul was getting at. The fact is, if making it to heaven one day is related to personal holiness, then being a parent will certainly help get you there because kids are the ultimate un-doers of selfishness.

Holding your child for the first time and realizing YOU have to take care of a living, wiggling human being is mind-boggling, and actually doing it is even more so-at least sometimes. I've had moments when I would've preferred cleaning a toilet, no--thousands of toilets, to being a mom because my baby was: A) Wide awake 3 hours past his normal bedtime, B) Preferring to touch at least some part of my body all day long, C) A newborn who allowed me to sleep for no more than an hour at a time, D) All of the above, all at once. And that's not even mentioning the bigger picture of how he has turned my life upside-down.

Motherhood has given me no choice but to sacrifice-bits of selfishness have gotten burned out of me by force! I know the Lord is a gracious God, but I've felt at times that for sure He must be pointing down from heaven saying something like 'HA! HA! YOU think you're holy? Look at you, you can't even stand to have one little morning given over to someone else's needs!'

I'm pretty sure sin is rooted in selfishness. Often it is cloaked in something else, but I think the things I struggle with in life are due to my selfishness: not giving up my own time to spend in prayer=selfishness. Refusing to serve my husband=selfishness. Etc, etc. Overcoming my selfishness seems impossible, but raising booga bear has given me a darn good way to go about it. I'd like to think that I am a more compassionate person now that I have cared for a completely helpless human being, and that my response to other people tends more towards mercy than annoyance.

After 18 months, 2.5 weeks of being a mom, I 100% guarantee that parenthood will give you many, many opportunities to work on virtue. If you're looking for a way to practice being merciful and loving, have I got a plan for's like a diet from self-indulgence without the possibility of a disappointing relapse! How can you go wrong?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The media has gotten to me!

I've been watching quite a bit of TV lately, and I'm worried. After watching many car commercials, it has become readily apparent that my car does not express who I am. It seems auto makers would have everyone believe they are sadly unfulfilled if they drive a less than cool car and that the epitome of self-expression is choosing a car. In fact, the world will be irreparably confused as to who you are if you pull up in a clearly outdated piece of metal. Uh-oh.
If my car expresses who I am, then I am an unexciting, crumb-smeared, slightly dented, faded person who is not at optimal performance. And I don't even have a CD player.

Maybe I have no authority to write about this, because, let's face it, staying at home while my husband is in grad school does not create a financial picture that allows a choice of cars. We are stuck with what we have, and maybe if we did have money to spend on a car, I would go out and buy a car that's more 'me'. I must admit, I have bought into at least some of what the auto makers want me to believe, because my most irrational fear of having a nice traditional-sized Catholic family is having to buy a car that is bigger than a mini-van.

I can see it now: pulling up to the park in my 10 or even 15-passenger van, I'm ogled by a mom of two in a shiny mini-van as my children exit...and exit...and exit- 'what's this, some sort of mixed-age children's sports team? Does she run a day care or something?' The other day I saw a big 15-passenger van drive by and I could see the outlines of children's faces behind the tinted windows. I turned my head and thought I glimpsed a little bumper sticker of a saint as the van drove off, and I thought Ha! Of course!

I mean, if folks really dread the day they will have to give up their sporty, impractical car for a mini-van, it must be ten times as worse to have to buy a big, huge stretch van. Hasn't any one tapped these people on the shoulder and mentioned a little self-control could prevent this from happening? Good grief, they've become nothing but a parent! There's no elegance, no message sent by a rectangle-on-wheels other than babies! babies! babies!

Alas, I think I will have to be an old woman before I ever get to express myself by going out and buying a whole lotta more-than-I-need in a car. Till then, I must somehow make it through life by reminding myself that: I am not my car, I am not my car. Excuse me while I go and practice some mindful meditation and chant these very words...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ode to raindrops

I’m happy right now because... it’s raining. The following will tell you something about my personality: out of all the clothes I own, my favorite is my Columbia rain suit. We’re talking the 100% PVC jacket and pants like little kids wear…the washing instructions are ”wipe clean with a damp cloth”, but let me tell you, it represents the best $40 I ever spent on clothing. Why? Because it makes it possible to be outside in the rain and enjoy being there. Which I do, tremendously. If I didn't have booga bear to take care of right now, I’d go for a walk in the woods wearing my rain suit. The woods are at their best in the rain, when the leaves and rocks are shiny and I can run my fingers through cold, wet plants as I walk. Green is pretty, but dripping green is beautiful.

It’s October, and here in North Carolina, we’re still wearing shorts. I hate wearing shorts in October! It’s been summer for 6 months and I am ready for a change of seasons. I think non-summer weather fulfills my need for drama, for something real. Perhaps this is because I myself am quite even-tempered; I get mad, but I don’t rage. I laugh, but I’m not heard across the room. At any rate, I get bored with ‘moderate climates’- they’re pretty much the same from season to season. There’s the season where it’s pleasant outside, then it turns hot and sometimes really way too hot, then it goes back to being pleasant again. There’s some rain, you can find some freezing temperatures if you get out of bed before sunrise, but that’s about it. No drama.

As I write this, booga bear has been standing happily on a box looking out the open window at the rain, so maybe I will have some company in my love for non-sunny weather. I’m definitely going to have to get him his own 100% PVC rain suit sometime soon, so we are not stuck inside when beautiful things like rain are happening outside.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

How to keep an 18 mo.old (boy) happy

(for at least 15 minutes)

  1. Watching e-cards at
  2. Different sized spoons and the dishwasher silverware basket
  3. Doing anything outside
  4. A big, shallow container with water & a toy or two (outside or kitchen floor if you're brave)
  5. A little light that easily turns on and off (like a book light or mini-flashlight)
  6. Car spec brochures (you know, the ones you can get for FREE from any dealer)
  7. Letting him play with toys in a "fort" made of couch cushions
  8. Toy catalogs
  9. Graham crackers
  10. Graham crackers, magical graham crackers

"Why do you make me look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me, there is strife, and conflict abounds." These are things the prophet Habakkuk says to the Lord in Habakkuk 1:3, which was the first reading in Mass today. I have been asking God the same things as Habakkuk.

Today's readings were tailor-made for what I've been turning over in my mind since we participated in keeping vigil outside an area abortion clinic this week. I haven't felt so understood or encouraged by scripture in quite a while -- but I'm sure that says more about my practice of reading it rather than its qualities.

I felt so disheartened watching the women and men enter the clinic, knowing what was about to happen. It was a plunge into the ugliness of the world...a world that says it is a good thing to kill an innocent human being if that being will be an inconvenience to you. I was able to pray strong prayers outside the clinic, but I have been haunted by the memory of those women. All I know of them is how long a ponytail was, or what color shirt they were wearing. are they doing after all this? And how many more tiny people are scheduled to die tomorrow?

After I came home, I didn't know if it would be good to go back. I'm not outwardly very emotional, but internally I am. While I was there, wisps of doubt come upon me- maybe the only thing I was accomplishing by being there was making the experience of the women going in more horrible than it already was. Maybe I should just pray from home so as not to disturb them, because people were definitely disturbed by our presence; spinning their tires in anger, cursing at us, covering their faces.

But today in Mass, reality set in: someone has to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I'm not standing there on the sidewalk to point a guilty finger at people who have come to a decision that is legal, I'm standing there on the sidewalk because so far, no one else has stood up for the other, smaller person that is also going through the doors of the clinic. If their own parents won't protect them, who will? I need to always remember today's second reading, "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Friday, October 5, 2007

40 days for life

I went to pray outside an abortion clinic today with my husband and the booga bear for the first time. I don't have it in me right now to coalesce my thoughts on that experience into an intelligent post, but I did want to take the time to point out that there is a national pro-life campaign going on NOW called 40 Days For Life.

There may not be organized activities in your city, but everyone everywhere can pray and/or fast. Please check it out:

We have wanted to get involved in the pro-life movement for a long time, and as this was our first time to actually do something, I am reminded of one of my favorite passages:

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does" James 1:22-25

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The flowery side of pumping iron

I think I should start lifting weights more seriously- I know if I'm ever going to be a faster runner, I need some cross-training. When I was in the best shape of my life, I lifted weights 3x a week at the YMCA, and ran or did cardio on the in-between days. I'd see the same men every morning doing their routine, but I only ever saw 2 or 3 women in the weight room, period. For some reason, it's like all men just know how to lift weights- I'm fairly confident that my dad or brother could show me a thing or two, even though I can't remember actually ever being aware that they lifted weights. Now that I think about it, the reason I started lifting weights in the first place was because my husband bought me a book on weight lifting after I told him I wanted to lose some weight. I remember in college seeing weight machines for the first time and being so intimidated by them - I'd do my cardio stuff and hope that someone would hop onto one so I could see how to use it.

It's really a shame that women seem unaware of the benefits of lifting weights. Some women think they will get bigger by lifting, so they avoid it. Attention: unless you become a body-builder, you will just get leaner, not bigger. Also, lifting is the only way to change your metabolism (oh wait, I recommend breast-feeding for that also!).

Everyone knows that lean tissue burns more calories a day than fat, so adding lean tissue to your body is like doing a slow workout 24 hours a day. Despite popular belief, doing cardio does not increase muscle! Somewhere between 30 and 40, we all start losing muscle every year, so lifting weights becomes especially important then. And it's not just about staying thin, much of the slowness of movement/ declining balance that 'hits' with old age is due to all that muscle loss over if you want to get around when you're old like you did when you were young, you know what to do.

I'm fairly confident that this is accurate information, but if you know it's not, please let me know!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Not too much of a good thing

Why does it seem there are almost always more reasons not to have a child than there are to have one? In our contracepting society people have obviously decided to have children, just not very many. I think it might be because it's quite easy to quantify the cons and harder to imagine the pros of having children. At times, I have wanted to put off having more kids because I know the list of things I can't do would instantly grow very long. This bothers me because it's like I'm ignoring what a joy booga bear is (what we call the boy). Why can't it be easier to say 'you know, I'm really missing out on some contact with an adorable human with really soft skin who would love me unconditionally, make me laugh and smile everyday, never have bad breath, maybe look like me, live in my house, and whose visits when they are grown will be the highlight of my week/month/year...yes, lets have a baby!'

Humans are wired for relationship. We seek out people to relate to, we want to be understood and to be loved. But somehow, though we possess this kind of magical ability to create one of these people, we usually don't want to. It's like children don't quite count as humans, though the evidence shows otherwise. Booga bear really loves me, I mean it's completely obvious. If he spends just a little time away from me, he gets a huge smile when he sees me. He's started doing this thing lately where he sits in my lap and holds my face, smiles and says ma, ma, ma and then gives me his little baby kisses all over my face. I'm feeling really happy just thinking about it.

The other day I told him that I am very glad he came to join us in this family, because it's true. All the work and things I can't do are negated twenty-fold by all he gives back in happiness, so that instead of having a short 'pro baby' list, I have a really, really long one. I can't imagine not having him- his presence is so precious, so why would I want to miss out on having more little people like him?