Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another couple that needs our attention.

I address you, oh mothers and fathers and caretakers of every age, shape and size.

Though I, like you, am wrapped up in Easter planning and Supreme court decisions and wondering when the shnike global warming will kick in...

There is another national dilemma on our hands.

A couple, a pair of words to be exact, is going extinct.  This pair is vital to our existence, it is vital for our sanity and most importantly it is better for our kids than drinking organic-paleo-green smoothies during their suzuki method violin lesson!

I have had years of research through nannying and mothering.   And it wasn't until I heard these words uttered by an older generation set of parents that I even realized that they were missing from my own vocabulary... the words?


We, two sets of adults, were sitting at a table enjoying conversation when a child of the other couple approached us uttering two words that are in no danger of extinction: "I'm bored."

While I mentally drew up a list of things the child could do to entertain himself, even admonishing myself for not setting up a series of activities before I tried to have an adult conversation, the father of the other couple interrupted my thoughts with these two magical words I heard often in my youth.
Go Play.

Go play.

Not, 'well, honey, there are crayons here, or play-doh there, or why don't you play freeze tag? or show your friend your button collection?'  And certainly no, "I pinterested a wonderful pillowcase craft for you to do, let me grab the stencils and paint."

Nope. No hint, no suggestions, no help.  Go play. Figure it out.  Use your brain, your imagination, your creativity.  Go play.

How did this get lost?  Were we so incensed as kids that our parents did not schedule every minute of our free time that we vowed no such mistake would be made again?  Did we hate those hours of exploring our local ravines? Are we miffed about wasting time hunting down the unicorn that we thought left tracks in our yard (only to find out that indeed they came from the dog)?

As the fifth of six children I had very few 'planned activities' prior to school sports starting and the few activities I remember... I remember being so angry at my mom for forcing me to go instead of letting me 'just play.'   
I mean, I needed to get back to my Talk 'n Play! It let me hear Beatles songs backwards and my friend and I were totally going to be the first to figure out all the Beatles' songs 'real meanings!!'  Yeah... can guarantee my parents didn't suggest that activity.. and it still makes me grin from ear to ear!  And, bonus, I bet I know more about 'revolution #9' than you and ya can't take that away from me!

I read blogs about parents begging that we calm down the Holiday activity craziness and I read articles about college kids not being able to create a resume or dream for themselves without the help of their parents or a career counselor and I see symmetry.   

I see myself filling my kids summer with camps and swim teams and 'theme weeks,' and I flash forward to planning their class schedules, wardrobe and college applications and I shudder... I'm already freaking exhausted!!

So for me, and for them.  I am going to stop the madness in my own home and I am going to revive with aggressive CPR a dying phrase.  GO PLAY. 

"Mom, I'm bored,"   "Go Play."

"Mom, there's nothing to do."  "Go Play."

"Mom, J's head is bleeding." "Go... wait, what?"  

Ok, I agree... it could be seen as a path to lazy parenting...  but I am going to do my best to find a middle ground.

So, if you'd like to join me for a cup of coffee, or a glass of sangria this summer.... come on over and bring your kids... but don't count on me planning a craft or whipping up a snack shaped like the founding fathers... your kids can go and play with mine... 

and we'll talk... 

probably about them... and what activities we're signing them up for in the fall... 


thanks for reading, 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

for my husband - after lots of talk about marriage...

At times, I am so overwhelmed by the beauty of the world that I wish
I could hug God. 

But when I feel like I find nothing but air to embrace, I look to you, my husband
Without whom, my joy feels hollow.
And I thank God for you.
And I thank God that He gave me arms to wrap around you.

And when my arms can not reach,
I thank God that He gave me eyes
to get drunk on your smile.

And if darkness surrounds,
I thank God that He gave me ears to bathe in
the peace of your breath
and the strength of your voice.

And if the distance is too far for sound waves to traverse,
I thank God for my mind and crisp visions of moments lost in each other.

And if my mind fails or is focused on lesser things,
I thank God for my heart where I can feel your love always.

And in doing so, through you, I find Him,
where He was all along,
where He was forever embracing me and
from where
He led me to you.

Through you, and your love, I find Him.

Thank you for loving me.  (hey braky waky)


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis, the Catholicism I know, and Fun

Before issuing his first blessing to his flock yesterday, Pope Francis humbly bowed his head and asked for our prayers.

Upon awaking as Pope he declined special transportation, instead, opting to ride on the bus that brought him to the Vatican.  He checked himself out of the hotel where he was staying while in conclave, gathered his own bags and paid for his room.   After a stop to pray, he went back to the Vatican to begin his work.

I am fascinated by the people in the media and around me that are saying things like, "I know what I need to hear the Pope say."  Or, "The Pope needs to reform this or make a stance on that."  From the little that I know about this man, and in his example shown thus far, I make no claim to know best what should be said or done.  I do however hope to learn from him and I hope that the faith that I love is well cared for by him.

I am a cradle Catholic with wise parents who told me when I was young and just beginning to question various aspects of religion, "We are giving you your religion, but God gave you a brain... use it."

It was a gift doubly given.  A beautiful faith and the freedom to question, in effect removing the oft felt desire to rebel when things aren't exactly as you think they should be.

I never felt for a moment that if I missed church, I was no longer in God's favor, but I also knew it was better to go.   I knew that church wasn't the only place where God was, but I knew He was present and that celebrating your faith with others strengthens both you and your community.

Because of that, I enjoyed going to mass and went regularly, even through college.  I was not part of the 'college Catholics,' nor was I a model human during that time but I knew God welcomed me regardless and I knew it felt good to go.  As the years went on, I found that many people who felt odd about going (because they drank or smoked or slept around or for some other reason felt 'unwelcome') started joining me.  I liked the idea that my friends and I were helping to shatter the myth that the only people who go to church in college are either 'uber-religious,' or trying to impress a date :)  Though, I will admit, there was no shortage of cute boys there that helped get my arse in gear on some particularly hazy Sundays.

Going to church in college helped me get back on path when I felt purpose slipping away and it helped me stay strong in morals and values that were important to me.  Twice when I was slipping into depressions, friends (who were not particularly religious themselves) insisted that we go to church together... each time it cleared my eyes and helped me move forward.  Whether they believed or cared about church or not, they cared about me and knew that I benefitted from the service and the Eucharist.

Now, as an adult, I am  part of the RCIA (rite of Christian Initiation for Adults aka super cool peeps who wanna be Catholic) team at my parish and I get to be renewed in my own faith by people who are coming to it for the first time as adults.  It would be impossible to count the times I have silently thanked my parents for this incredible gift of this beautiful faith.

All this said, are there times that I have trouble with some Catholic doctrine?  Are there times in RCIA where I have to staple gun my lips shut? Are there times I spoke and the head of RCIA looked at me like I have 17 heads and the tongue of a serpent?  Yes.  the answer to all these are yes.  And yet, despite how right I feel I am on my opinions (and for those of you who know me... I usually think I'm really really ridiculously correct,) I have genuinely never felt excluded by or enraged at Catholicism itself.

I understand that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is flesh and blood man, no different than you or me.  There was never a mysticism or heroism placed, in my eyes, around any priest, bishop or pontiff for that matter (though most of my life held Pope John Paul II as the Holy See... but even so, it seemed clear in my eyes that it was the man and not the position he held that garnered such incredible praise and admiration.)   Therefore it is possible and moreover likely that the 'church' will make mistakes and that those that claim to represent it have the potential to be complete sinful A-holes.  But, those individuals and those pressure cooked decisions can not define a 2,000 year old faith that is based on loving your neighbor as yourself as Jesus taught us to do.

I also understand that I, though brilliant and incredibly intuitive, do not know everything about God.  I don't know everything about Jesus or the Bible.  I don't know everything about my kids or my husband, myself or my dog for that freaking matter.  I can happily and unabashedly say that I don't know.  So, however strongly I feel about social agenda or political opinions that may differ from the church... I'm going to take a deep breath or two before I let those things rip me away from an incredible faith that has done nothing but filled my life with joy and fulfillment and has brought me closer to God when I let it.

I also know that I, though (again) brilliant and intuitive, am just slightly over the borderline of crazy train.  Let's put it this way... prior to Fun's Some Nights, the two songs that lyrically spoke to me most both had writers who shortly thereafter committed suicide through heroin overdoses.  ...I am tempted to send a warning to Fun's Nate Ruess... So clearly I have issues of my own... but that's all for another blog post.

So here I stand, skeptical of man in general but in love with a faith that is comprised of people who believe in the power of prayer, the protection of angels and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Before me is a man who has accepted the daunting job to lead that faith and he seems to be devout and humble and brilliant.  And he chose a saint's name that is the epitome of living life as a servant to others.

So though it would have felt arrogant before, at his request, I pray fervently for Pope Francis.  That he fulfills God's will for a faith that I love, whatever it may be.  That he inspire people around the globe to be the best versions of themselves.  That he brings people closer to God whether through our religion or their own just by his example.  That he is happy and fulfilled in his new job.  And, that if he ever feels lost and alone... or he's sinking like a stone... that he Carry Oonnnnnnn... 

God Bless Pope Francis.  And God Bless Fun...

thanks for reading,


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Why marriage laws still matter.

A few months ago, I was flattered by the responses to my piece about gay marriage.  In this piece, I shared a story about my friend and how I first became passionate about the issue.

Not to turn my nose up at compliments, but some of the feedback I got from this article left me feeling more than a little perplexed.  It seems that people thought that my friendship with someone who was gay changed my mind.  Like, if I am a republican, then clearly I'm predisposed to be 'anti-gay.'

The truth is, I hadn't thought about it one way or another. Other than my penchant for falling in love with guys that played for the other team, I didn't give sexual orientation much thought.  Oh, I know what you're thinking... maybe if I had, I could've saved myself a little heartbreak here and there... Thanks Monday's quarterback, good point.

Anyway, in that piece I wanted to share why I was passionate about the issue and why I did devote a lot of time to thinking about it, and my friend is absolutely to thank for that.  However, being a stubborn conservative, I like to think I wouldn't allow one example, and/or emotional pull to, in any way, dictate how I feel about policies or laws.  Moods can shift, tides can change... I like my coffee black and I like my policy based on logic.

In that piece, I also promised that I had, "logical, legal, and moral reasons that I believe in marriage equality."  

And what better time to express them than in this notte senza il Papa? So, here goes. 

Initially we need to get past the semantics thing.  "Marriage" vs "Civil Union."  If they were legally the exact same thing, would this problem go away? Are people fighting over rights or over vocabulary?  Because fighting over vocabulary makes me want to flick people in the head... but as of now, civil union and marriage mean legally different things so assume from here that I am talking about rights and I'll just choose to use the word 'marriage.'  (If we want to change it so that all people get "civil union licenses/civil unions" from the gov't and then if they so choose, go and get a "marriage" blessed in a church... rock on as far as I'm concerned... so long as civil unions mean the same for gay and straight.)

So, on to the argument.

First, we need to establish that government has a valid interest in legalizing marriage at all.  History seems to debate itself as to why the government got involved in this business to begin with.  There are certainly the contractual and proprietary sides of marriage that need to be regulated and would be chaotic without some sort of oversight by the state.  But, there is also the religious aspect that marriage is what God intended and thus should be the law of the land.  Even in the Bible the covenant of marriage and the women as property thing are pretty intertwined.  

So I'm going to do my best to not get muddled in religious vs. legal... and just concentrate on three reasons why marriage, in general is good for a society and therefore is good for a government to both encourage and regulate. Then, we'll analyze those arguments and see whether there is a logical difference between gay and straight partnerships to see if the government should differentiate.

1)  Marriage creates stability in communities and creates partnerships with greater buying power.  Whether it is cultural or economical, people are more likely to move, switch jobs and rent instead of buy when they are single.  77% of all homeowners are married couples (Forbes.)  In this sense it makes sense for the state to encourage and support both gay and straight marriage as it is the contractual blending of two people and most likely two incomes and not the gender that matters in this statistic and in this improvement to the economy. 

2)  Marriage creates the best environment to raise the next generation.  This will get some hairs raised, I understand, but though there are the amazing single mothers and fathers that are certainly the exception to the rule, both statistics and logic say that kids have a better chance coming from a two parent household.  Children are 82% less likely to live in poverty in a married home (US Census) which, I get, can totally become a chicken v. egg argument.  But it seems that logic would tell us that kids seeing people compromise, work together, and co-exist in a loving relationship is good for their overall well-being.  And, I understand that here, many people would say that kids are best with a "mother and a father."  And ok, I'll see you and raise you a, "kids would be best with the best mother and the best father."  Or, "kids would be best with parents that understand them perfectly and always put them first and have zero mental health issues that they will pass along." or... 

Look, I understand where you are coming from with a 'mom and dad,' thing... really, I do.  But I have three very different children and maybe they'd each do better with people different than my husband and I... How, if they are so very different, could we be the best possible parents for all three?  I know I've relied on stats for my past two examples, but in this one, we simply have not been an open society long enough to have reliable stats one way or another.  All we have is the anecdotal accounts like that of Zach Wahls in front of the Iowa legislature and personal experience to know that two good people in a loving relationship who love their kids... whether gay or straight are going to do their best to be good parents.

The other thing to think about regarding kids is that the gay couple, every time, is going to want that child. Because... they aren't getting pregnant on accident... unless I missed something in my gay reading...  and that alone is a hell of a lot more than we can say for millions or so kids per year that are born and/or conceived and not born.

3)  Marriage controls the spread of disease.  Not romantic... but true and important.  Going back to Biblical stuff... so much of the Leviticus shenanigans that gets pooh poohed is all about disease control... The restrictions on when to eat meat had to do with the fact that animals were generally killed on a certain day... (Sunday I think... so by Friday, the Sabbath, the meat would spoil.)  And not getting tattoos... can you imagine that being a sanitary practice back then?? And the not whoring around in general... let's face it, STD's abound then and now.  God, or a medicine man or someone was hip to it for sure. So staying with one sexual partner was good for the all.  Again, societally this seems a huge pro to encourage for both gay and straight. 

I said I wouldn't get muddled in religious vs. legal but to say that our marriage laws do not have a basis in religion would be to deny history itself.  The above secular reasons, though valid, can not paint the whole picture.  We would be lying if we denied the moral and ethical importance we place on marriage, which I'll touch on now. 

In trying to find a suitable mate, people are often given the advice, "you can't find love until you learn to love yourself."  This, I absolutely believe.  And yet... there is an entire population of people that we, as a society, seem to be telling to deny themselves and, "just find a mate of opposite sex and be normal."  How can we possibly expect anyone to be in any kind of positive relationship when we are telling them that they should not love themselves?  They first must change their very being... make it so that we love you... good, now just go settle down with someone with opposite genitalia please, because that is what actually matters. 

I know, I know this part is less logic, more emotion... I guess I just get wrapped up because I know that if I were gay... you would still love me, you would still think I was a hopeless romantic, you would still probably ask how I got someone to want to marry me (though I'm not sure a lesbian partner would know as much about interior design or flowers as my husband...) and I know you would root for me to get married so that I could have a partner with whom to share my life. 

But I digress.  I do understand the slippery slope issue and I'll be the first one to say that no government (regardless of my opinion) should tell a church, or an organization (like the boy scouts) or a person how to feel or act or govern itself. 

Here, I'm talking solely about law and policy.  Stable relationships with greater buying power and less sexual partners are beneficial both economically and morally for our society.  We have an obligation to encourage the next generation, regardless of their orientation, to be part a productive society instead of implying that by their very nature they are a degradation of it. 

When it comes to religion, because I know the idea can't be avoided forever, I go back, as I often do, to Matthew 22:21 "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."  Jesus was giving us not only permission, but orders to live in a society as best we can.  And, both logic and morality seems to tell me that encouraging marriage between two consenting adults is good. 

I'm not going to tell you that Jesus is for gay marriage.  Guess what? I'm not going to tell you He's for straight marriage either since He told his disciples to leave their families and follow Him.  But He did sure seem to have a lot to say about treating other people as we'd like to be treated.   

And I, for one, am glad that I was able to celebrate joyfully finding the love of my life and knowing that we are bound legally... so that if he f*cks up.... "here go Hell come."

thanks for reading, 


Friday, March 1, 2013

Why giving up Facebook for Lent was a stupid idea...

A few years ago, I decided that I was spending too much time on Facebook.  I made this decision right around February... Kismet! so thought I.

I gave up Facebook for Lent and found I had more time to spend with my kids and on my home.   Also, remarkably, I stopped feeling horrible about myself if I wasn't currently on a beach, hiking a mountain, working out, doing an impossibly creative craft or fixing my family the most nutritious kale infused dinner ever.   See, at that time, I was still fairly new to Facebook and often fell into the 'reality tv' trap of comparing my real life to people's 'Facebook lives.'   (There is a blog being shared talking about 'fakebooking' the practice of making life seem perfect for our FB friends.)

In short, it was a really good thing for me to give up at the time.

However, since then, I've realized that along with a whole lot of crap... there really is a lot of good.  No way I would know just how much I adore some of my cousins without Facebook.  No way I would know about half the pregnancies, babies, job changes, accomplishments, passings, etc.

I've never been great at keeping in touch with people (understatement of the year) and as much as I mocked texting and FB at their inceptions, I am exactly the kind of person that can benefit from these technologies.  Its not like I replaced calling with texting... or replaced sending cards in the mail with sending a FB happy birthday message... I replaced doing absolutely nothing and feeling sick guilty with doing something and feeling only slightly guilty.

You see, when you send me an email address change, I don't change it in my contact list... I just keep the message in my inbox (where there are currently 1987 messages.)  When you send me a change of address, I throw it in some drawer somewhere and just hope that you send me a Christmas card with a return address before I need to send mine to you.  I have no list of birthdays anywhere and other than my family's (which is built into the annual calendar our family has,) one friend whose birthday I memorized in Kindergarten, and two friends who have birthdays that bookend mine... I have no clue when anyone's special day is.   These are not things I'm proud of... but they are true.

So Facebook, as long as I could avoid the baiting and my own personal jealousies, is actually making me live a better fuller life more connected with people that I love.  Why would that be something to give up during Lent?  Its not. That's dumb.

Is this a huge rant trying to excuse myself from my Lenten promise this year?  Yes, it is.  However, though I will be on Facebook... I will keep the spirit of my promise.  I won't let it take away time I would otherwise spend with my kids or hubby (strangely I have no problem with it taking away from housework... God told Martha to stop freaking cleaning didn't He?)  And I won't let it distract me from the beauty of the real life around me.

And, if that's not enough for you, I've stayed true to giving up pop (soda for my friends 'round here,) TV with the family and now I'll throw in chocolate for good measure.

And I'll go to reconciliation.  Which I'll need to do anyway after I unveil my long-awaited magnum opus on gay marriage and marriage equality tonight.

That's all.  I mean really... how well are you doing on your Lenten promises???

thanks for reading,