Friday, March 28, 2014

My Parenting Style May Raise Eyebrows, and I'm Okay With That: Part One

Here's some heads up for all the first time pregnant women out there: if you think people are opinionated about the baby in your belly, just wait until the baby is out. Every parenting decision you make, every reaction you have to something your child does, every moment your child misbehaves (which my child has never ever done so I wouldn't know but I've heard it does happen to some people), every bow you tie in her hair or piece of clothing you put on her or blanket you cover her with...all of it will be evaluated and either approved or disapproved by the public eye.

Don't get me wrong...I understand this is a normal part of human behavior. Whether we realize it or not, we all analyze situations and decide whether we think it's good or bad. I do it all the time. And advice is often very much appreciated, especially for people like me who are new at parenting. But I think what most parents really want and need is someone to give them a big hug (or perhaps a pat on the back, if they are not super touchy clingy people like I am) and tell them that they are doing a good job. Because I truly believe, most of the time, parents are really trying their darnedest. We are human just like everyone else, and we don't have all the answers. I mean, for Pete's sake, Mary and Joseph, the world's best parents, LOST their kid (who happened to be the Savior of all mankind) for three days. C'mon!

Gather 'round now and I'll tell y'all a story (I spent a semester student teaching in Kentucky so I feel like I have some sort of right to say "y'all" every once in awhile). Elizabeth was a few weeks old, and I had to go grocery shopping. Keep in mind that she was born the day after Christmas, so it was in the middle of winter. The winds were freezing and the snow was falling heavily to the ground. I parked at Aldi, inserted my quarter to get my shopping cart, and put Elizabeth, sound asleep in the car seat, into the cart. As I checked out my groceries and made my way to the car, I realized two things. A) I had not grabbed any boxes or bags to put my groceries in (for those of you unfamiliar with Aldi, they do not supply grocery bags for you), and B) I had not formulated a plan as to how I would return my groceries and sleeping baby to the car, while simultaneously returning the shopping cart to the racks. I stood outside in the freezing wind for about two minutes trying to decide which would be worse: should I put the car seat and groceries in the car before returning the cart, or should I return the cart and then put said baby and groceries in my car? The first option would risk judgment stares from many people: "That girl is leaving her baby in that freezing cold car? Who does she think she is!" The second option would be extremely difficult to pull off...I had a good amount of groceries with no bags, so carrying groceries and my baby in her car seat (and in case you didn't seats are HEAVY) would be nearly impossible.

I decided to go with option B. I was terrified of someone telling me off for leaving my baby unattended in the car, even if it was only for 30 seconds just to return my cart. For about five minutes, I struggled, trying to get all my groceries out of the cart while lifting the car seat while attempting to get the cart back in the rack. The snow was still falling, the wind was still howling. Tears sprang to my eyes as I juggled getting everything back to my car. A woman must have seen me struggling and offered to help me carry my groceries. I thanked her profusely and got everything back in the car. Then, as she was leaving, she said in a very stern, judgmental voice: "And honey, you REALLY need to put a warmer blanket on that baby. It's below freezing outside. Think about that."

I sobbed the whole way home (and a good part of the rest of the day), berating myself for being a horrible abusive mother who can't even manage to keep her three week old daughter warm. Now, this woman was right. Elizabeth should have had a warmer blanket. But I didn't need advice at that moment. I needed someone to tell me that everything was going to be okay.

Fast forward one year. We are at church on Sunday morning. We were in the cry room because Elizabeth was screaming bloody murder, kicking her legs, stomping her feet, and throwing her head around like an exorcist baby because we dared to put her empty bottle away making a bit of noise. I spent most of Mass praying for the poor soul who was in the cry room with us, trying to pay attention despite Elizabeth's yowling tiny squeaks. At the end of Mass, as Trent and I practically crawled out of the pew, our hair disheveled and clothes askew, looking as if we had just gotten in a fight with a half rabid bear, the aforementioned "pour soul" approached us. I immediately went to defense mode, preparing myself for a good "talking to" by this woman about the correct way to raise children. She looked at us, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, "I remember those days. They grow out of it, don't worry. You're doing a great job!" I could have kissed her. I probably would have if Elizabeth wouldn't have started screaming singing at that moment. That woman's encouragement made my whole bad experience seem like it wasn't so bad after all, and maybe I wasn't the worst parent in the world.

So what's the point of all these fascinating stories? I have lived in constant fear of disapproval from others. Even people I don't know. I have actually always been this way, but it has gotten much worse since I became a mother. And I think many of us, deep down, want approval, even though we may act like we don't care. That's why it's so humiliating when your child throws a tantrum in the middle of Target (that's never happened to me...). You know everyone is looking at you, judging your parenting skills, and many are thinking, "wow, if your child acts like this, what does that make you?" Then they proceed to judge your reaction to the misbehavior: "I can't believe she is yelling at her child like that." "I can't believe she's just ignoring it!" "I can't believe she put her child on the floor, left the store, and drove away!" Wait, what?

Jk, jk, I didn't leave my child at the store.


I have to admit: one of my biggest sins is being judgmental. I struggle greatly with it. And wooooo boy let me tell you, before I was a parent, I judged the pants off most parents. "When I'm a parent, that will not happen." Haaaahahahaha. If only my 20-year-old self could see me now!

This is Elizabeth's judgement face. I think she gets it from me.

I am slowly but surely learning, though, that my parenting style is good. I have gone through a long process full of blood, sweat, and tears to realize this. That I can, in fact, trust my instincts. I don't have to parent in the exact same way as someone else. I don't have to be filled with guilt every time I read an article telling me that the way I parent is wrong. Because here's what I now know: when it comes to parenting, what's right for me might not be right for someone else. And that's okay.

So, how exactly do I parent? I know you all are just dying to know, based on the results I have produced with a perfectly well behaved child who has never once stepped out of line.

I guess you'll have to wait until my next post to find out!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What We Can Learn From Mary's "Yes"

Happy Feast Day of the Annunciation! On this day, 9 months before Christmas, we celebrate the day that the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the Mother of God:

Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her,“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel,“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be bornwill be called holy, the Son of God.And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

I find so many things about this amazing. God did not NEED Mary to carry out His plan of salvation for mankind. But, in His infinite wisdom, he chose her, a peasant woman, to carry His Son in her womb and to raise Him on Earth. She began Jesus' life as a poor carpenter's son, teaching us to not focus on material things.

The most profound thing I find about this passage, though, is the fact that God did not force this on Mary. Out of respect for our free will, He asked her. God's plan of salvation was dependent on a 14-year-old* girl's "yes." 

*it is debated as to exactly how old Mary was when she became pregnant with Jesus. I don't have an opinion on this matter. I just chose 14 years old as an average.

Um...what would you do??? I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time saying "yes" when God wants me to let someone go in front of me in line at Chick-Fil-A. What if I were in Mary's place? "Oh hey 14-year-old Ashley, quick question for ya: do you mind becoming God's mother so I can make the word become flesh? I know you're not married and it will cause huge scandal and you could possibly get stoned to death and you will have to one day watch your son die on a cross so that He can save the souls of all mankind...but just a small favor? Maybe after you finish watching Boy Meets World? K thanx bye."

Now, I am not sinless as Mary was. So...OBVIOUSLY instead of immediately replying "May it be done to me according to your word", I might have needed a few minutes to think about it (just a few). 

How many times in my life has God had a plan for me, and I flat out refused His will? Well...that's what sin is. So...perhaps five times. (Just kidding. I think I've sinned seven times in my life). How scary is it to say "God, let Your will be done." Regardless of what I think about it. To me, that's terrifying. Why? Because that is totally and completely surrendering myself to Him. I am giving up all control. I am trusting Him fully.

Scary? Yes. Will we always do this perfectly? No. But we can look to Mary as an example of what it means to live in this way. Ask for her help. She understands what it means to say "yes" to God, even when it's scary. Notice that even she questioned God: "But how can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" It's okay to question and to be scared. But I can say with absolute certainty that every time in my life when I have allowed God to take control, it has always turned out in the best way. Does that mean I always thought it was the best way at the time? No. In fact, there have been times when I've been downright angry with God. But looking back, I realize that He really, really does know what He's doing.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Things You Should and Should Not Be Able To Say To A Pregnant Woman

Like I've said in previous posts, pregnancy is such a complicated issue. When speaking to a pregnant woman, it's almost like you must tip toe around, making sure you do not offend the said woman, while at the same time showing your support for her. Add the hormonal issues that all pregnant women experience (and let me tell you, they are real...we don't make them up...before I even knew I was pregnant with this baby, I sobbed for fifteen minutes at a Kleenex commercial, which was immediately followed by outrage at my husband for not having the same reaction) and you never know what kind of reaction will you get.

That being said, I do think that some pregnant women get a little TOO upset about certain things that well meaning people say. I've actually only ever been offended by a pregnancy-related comment twice in all my pregnancies. I'm sure it's much harder for some women than it is for others to be the center of attention in that way, which is the reason why many women overreact. But the fact is, most people like pregnant women. They are extra nice to them. They go out of their way to help. With that, I suppose, comes comments that can, depending on the circumstance, be either appreciated or totally unwarranted.

So without further ado, here's my lists.

Comments pregnant women shouldn't be offended by (but often are):

1.) Your belly is getting so big!!

Now, if there were actually not a baby in there, and someone was referring to the after effects of my third helping of chocolate cake I had eaten earlier that day, OBVIOUSLY I would be offended by this. But...there is a baby in there. So I don't understand why pregnant women get so upset about this comment. People are not calling you fat. They are marveling at the fact that you have a living person inside of you, and that the little person is growing! It's amazing! And in my limited experience, I've found the more visibly pregnant you are (aka...the bigger your belly is), the nicer people will be. In fact, I find it comforting when people tell me that my belly looks big...because that means the awkward " she pregnant or did she just eat too much?" phase is now over.

2.) Are you sure there's just one in there?

I think I've been asked this question at least 10 times with this pregnancy (much more so than with my last one). I can actually understand why a pregnant woman might get offended by this...but to me, again, it's well meaning. It relates to number one. People are merely commenting that your baby is growing, and that's a good thing! In response to this question, I usually just chuckle and assure them that yes, it is one baby, and no, it is not a sumo wrestler yet.

3.) Are you having a boy or a girl?
When people see a pregnant woman, they ALWAYS ask the same questions, in the same order:
a) When are you due?
b) Is it a boy or a girl?*
c) Do you know the name?
It's just a natural progression, and people are simply being curious. I personally don't think it's nosy at all. I answer these questions as they come (a. August 1st, b. we aren't finding out, c. not sure yet), and appreciate that people are interested in the little person inside of me.
*If, like me, the pregnant woman is not finding out the gender, people will say one of two things: "Oh my gosh I could NEVER do that! How do you plan???!!!" or "I think that's just great! That's the way things used to be, and you'll never get a surprise like that again in your life!"

Things you should NEVER say to a pregnant woman
(And, by the way, all of these have, in fact, been said to me, and yes, I was offended)

1.) You don't look any different! Just your face/butt/arms/other random body part that is not your stomach/ looks chubbier.
Um. It makes sense for you to tell me that my belly looks bigger. Because yes, there's a baby in my belly. But there's not a baby in my face. Or my butt. Or anywhere else. It's a very difficult thing for many women to see those numbers on the scale creep up, even though gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy. So...if you are going to comment about the size of any body part, you may only do so about my belly. Thanks.

2.) You look like you are about to explode!
This was said to me when I was 41.5 weeks pregnant with Elizabeth. By a man, no less. This is an example of why the way you say something matters. If he would have simply said, "you look like you're about to give birth soon!" I would have replied, "Why, you are correct. In fact, I should have given birth 10 days ago, but my baby has decided that she really likes it in there and doesn't want to come out yet." I would not have been offended. But really, the term "explode" and "you" should never be in the same sentence. Especially when talking to an overdue pregnant woman.

3.) You're going to name your baby THAT? ***insert list of reasons why that name is horrible and will affect the child negatively in years to come***
Number one reason why Trent and I do not divulge our name choices to ANYONE. Not even our family. Nada. Zip. Zero. Quite frankly, I don't want to hear your opinion about my baby's name. Contrary to what you might think, we have actually given a LOT of thought to this, and our name choice has a deep meaning to us. If you do not like it, I understand, but please keep it to yourself. Have your own babies, and you can name them whatever you'd like.

So hopefully we've all learned something from this. The bottom line is this: when speaking to a pregnant woman, think carefully about what you say and the way in which you say it. And the number one thing to remember is that really, all a pregnant woman wants is for you to be supportive. So do that, and she'll love you forever. Maybe she'll even name her baby after you. (But if she does, DON'T CRITICIZE IT!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sittin' In A Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

I feel very weird about PDA (public displays of affection). Not things like holding hands or putting an arm around someone. I'm talking about the kissing stuff.

Whenever people romantically kiss in front of me, even if it's just a peck, I feel like I'm intruding on something extremely personal...almost like I just walked in on someone in the middle of changing clothes or having a very serious, private conversation. If I happen to glance at someone in an act of PDA, I have the urge to wave my hands, frantically apologize for my intrusion, and awkwardly walk away. 

Yes, I know I'm Catholic. What do Catholics do best? Enjoy good beer and make babies. So obviously, due to the latter activity, I'm fine with the actual act of kissing. God created it. It's a good thing. I'm not some anti-physical-touch-in-any-way sort of person. In fact, I'd say I'm annoyingly touchy and clingy. But to me, it's such a private thing. I don't feel comfortable kissing my husband in front of anyone. I didn't even want to do the "You may now kiss the Bride" part at the end of our wedding...but did it anyway.

Why is kissing so personal? (And just so we're clear, folks, I'm talking about the romantic type...not the type of kiss you give a cute little baby) Well, it typically means one of two things: A) You want to closely connect with someone in a way that you can't with anyone else, or B) You want to initiate the most profound physical intimacy a husband and wife can experience: sex (I do use that "s" word on my blog. It's not a bad word. Don't be afraid of it. God created it, therefore, as long as it is done in the way God intended, IT IS GOOD!).

In either situation, that's nonna mah business. So I don't want to see it. And I think most people would agree, at least, that kissing is a very special thing. I mean, you wouldn't just go up to some random stranger and start kissing them, would you?

Previously, I would have assumed most people would answer that question as "Why Ashley, of course I wouldn't! That's quite absurd! Whyever would I do something like that?" (because people talk like that)

Turns out I'm wrong.

There's a video that's gone viral called "First Kiss" on youtube. I'm not going to post it on this blog because I have no desire to watch it, so if you want to see it, you're going to have to go alllll the way to youtube and find it yourself. I'm is hard sometimes.

Instead, I'll post this picture of my dog. There, feel better?

ANYWAY, this video apparently shows twenty different people (all strangers) pairing up, and what happens when they start kissing each other.

Um. What? I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised...if the act of intercourse if commonly shared between two strangers this day and age, why is it so weird that kissing would be? Perhaps I still live in the Middle Ages.

I've seen descriptions of the video as "beautiful", "breathtaking," "miraculous", and all sorts of other adjectives that make it sound synonymous to a spectacular sunrise on a mountainous range with birds flying and everything is magical and glorious and oh my gosh uh-may-zing.

I just don't get it. And I don't think I'm being prudish. To me, kissing (and any kind of physical intimacy) still means something. And despite what society wants to tell us, I think many people agree. Deep down. Maybe even the people on that video...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What Our Grandmothers Can Teach Us

Every year March 15, my birthday, comes around, I can't help but think of my Grandparents. My mother's mom, who we called Cor, had her birthday the day before mine, March 14. Many times, we celebrated our special days together. My mother always told me Cor prayed and prayed that I would be born on her birthday. Not quite...but close!

I often think about my grandmothers, and everything they did as mothers. My dad's mother had 7 children, and Cor had 5 (all girls!). I hear stories from my parents about the kinds of meals they made, the activities they did, and the special gatherings they had. Children played outside all day, unsupervised, free to roam through the neighborhood, fields, and woods. They climbed trees and swam in lakes. They made play forts out of sticks and mud. There were no computers or smartphones or iPads. It all sounds so magical to me, as if it took place in some far off distant land, once upon a time.

 I wonder how my grandmothers would be different if they were moms in this day and age. We can no longer allow our children to wander far from our sight for fear of safety. Sticks and mud have difficulty competing with computer games and television. Children are no longer children: due to rapidly growing access to information, they know things (good and bad) that were never even on the radar of kids back then. The temptations they face are far different...instead of fighting the urge to eat that freshly baked cookie or throw a stick at their older siblings, they now internally struggle as to whether or not they should send "sexts" to a boy they like or verbally bash a friend on facebook.

Please don't misunderstand me and think I'm implying that technology is a bad thing, or that children and mothers 50 years ago had it so easy. Technology is wonderful, if used correctly. And our grandmothers had much different challenges they faced that no longer affect mothers today at all. But I look at the way things are now, and I can't help but worry for my children.

I am a grown woman (although I don't act like it...), and the lure of modern technology is sometimes almost impossible for me to ignore:

"I should use this time to pray right now...but that show on Netflix looks soooo good..."
"Wow, I really need to clean my kitchen. But I just got a Facebook notification!"
"Isn't the weather outside GLORIOUS? Oh, that reminds me, I meant to do some Google research on cloud patterns!"

What scares me is that if I am so affected and easily tempted by technology, how can I expect my children to face the same things? They are tiny people who do not have the same amount of self control that adults do! So when I freak out about this sort of thing, I often think:

What would Grandma do?

When it came to raising children, my grandmothers did not sweat the small stuff. They understood that there were things they could indeed control, and others they couldn't. In the end, they had to allow their children to make mistakes. They let their kids climb trees, knowing that there was a possibility they could fall. They understood that, although it was probably full of germs, that puddle in the middle of the street would probably be fine for the kids to play with. Is it possible to have this attitude with technology? Can I just teach my children well and hope that they make the right decisions? Hope that nothing terrible happens to them?

I think: yes and no. Keep in mind that you should take my opinion with a grain of salt...I have a 14 month old, so the issues I deal with in raising children are much simpler than this. Perhaps when Elizabeth gets older, I will look back at this post and laugh at myself for my naiveté. But at this point in my life, based on my own experiences and experiences of others, Here's what I've concluded so far:

1) Children do not yet have the maturity or decision making skills that adults do, so it is imperative that I have strict guidelines and rules regarding their use of technology (especially computers). Have you seen some of the stuff that's on the internet? SCARY. I would like to preserve their childhood as long as possible.

2) That being said, I can't completely shelter them from every possible bad thing out there. Even if I tried, it would be impossible. I have to allow them, at some point, to show their understanding of right and wrong, self control, and good decision making. 

Maybe it's a paradox. I don't know. Maybe I'll figure this whole scary issue out as I go along. I've found that so far in parenting, I have no idea what I'm doing, and Elizabeth is still alive. So that's good...

I guess that's how my Grandmas did mothering. Maybe they, too, were flying by the seat of their pants, having no clear idea of what to do. Maybe they figured out things as they went along. Maybe we aren't so different after all?

I hope that my Grandmothers would approve of how I am raising my children now. Because I do know one thing: there's nothing quite as disheartening s a disapproving Grandma:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Was This Baby Planned?

By far the most popular question people have asked me about this pregnancy has been:

1) "Was this baby planned?"
2) "Was this an accident?"

Regarding the first question:

First of all, yes. All babies are planned. By God. His timing is more perfect than anything we could imagine. And, as in all areas of life, although His timing might not always seem convenient, I think He knows what He's doing way more than I do.

Second of all, to me, this is a HIGHLY personal question that I really don't think people should ask unless they know the mom and dad well. If an expecting couple feels like volunteering that information to you, then that's great. But family planning is a very complicated situation that includes a LOT of factors, many of which are preferred to be kept known only to the mom and dad. It's an emotional process, something that many people forget. Every time you ask parents: "So, how come you haven't given Freddie a little brother or sister yet?" you could be, without realizing it, piercing a knife into their hearts. How do you know they haven't been trying to have a baby, but can't get pregnant again? How do you know if perhaps they have had more pregnancies, but have suffered the terrible and lonely loss of miscarriage?

Regarding the second question:

Was this an accident? How I loathe this question. The term "accident" should never even be in the same sentence when discussing pregnancy.


Not an accident

Guess what folks? If a man and a woman have sex, they can get pregnant. If they do get pregnant, it means that something went right. Their bodies are working the way they were meant to work. I won't start discussing contraception here, since that's for another blog post. But the fact that calling a baby an "accident" is now commonplace shows how much our culture values human life. And doesn't it just seem strange that "sex" and "babies" are now automatically separated? Maybe we all need to retake Health class.

Everyone needs to realize that these very deep, heavy questions aren't really the subject of small talk. The best way you can react to news of a pregnancy is by showing excitement and support. It's almost guaranteed that the parents are, to some extent, freaked out (depending on the situation, some more than others). I can't tell you how calming it is when people react with joy to our news. It's much nicer than "Wow. You are gonna have your hands full!" or "Jeeze, good're gonna need it!" I do understand this, and TRUST ME, these thoughts have run through my head far more than they have yours.

So do you want to know if my current pregnancy was planned? I'll answer that like I do to most other people: yes. It was perfectly planned by the One who created our precious baby, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lent: Overthinking It

I love rules. I'm a huge goody-two-shoes rules-loving nerd. They give me direction, and they help me center myself. Without them, our society as a whole would collapse.

My daughter has (long past) reached the age when she knows what "no" means. She understands that there are rules in our house. I don't care if she pulls stuff out of drawers, but Lawwwwd have mercy, if she TOUCHES our stereo system, she KNOWS there are consequences. She can put her grubby hands all over the windows, I don't care. But if she goes NEAR the steps, well, hell hath no fury like that of a mad momma. You can see that she makes these connections when she very slowly crawls toward the stereo system or the steps, carefully looks around to see if anyone is looking, and then jumps out of her skin when I abruptly say her name.

We must have rules in order to thrive. People often resent this. Why is it, then, that so many normally lukewarm Christians find Lent so fascinating? Lent, after all, is a period of self sacrifice and "rule following."
These are some attitudes I often see during Lent:


Obviously...missing the point. Lent is a time when we make sacrifices in order to more fully unite ourselves with the suffering of Christ. It is to remind us that we must "take up our cross daily and follow Him."We are not all called to be martyrs, but we still need this yearly reminder to discipline our minds and bodies.

On the other hand, especially from Catholics, I see almost an obsession with what the "rules" are regarding fasting and abstinence during Lent. In case you are interested, here are the guidelines:

  • Age 18-59: Required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
    • Fasting=one full meal, two smaller meals that equal one regular meal, and no eating between meals
  • Age 14+: Required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent
  • Increase almsgiving (giving money to the poor/other charitable organizations and donating time)

This is, of course, assuming you have no medical issues that would make it harmful for you to follow these guidelines. I have to admit: I HATE fasting. I probably shouldn't even say that, because it's complaining which Scripture clearly tells us not to do when fasting or almsgiving. Fasting from food is probably the most difficult physical sacrifice that I can make. So a small (or maybe not so small) part of me was pretty pumped when I realized I didn't have to fast since I'm pregnant. 

Story of my life

After thinking about it, though, I realized that I was focusing too much on the "rule" and not enough on what the rule is there for. And quickly after that came a startling realization that life does not revolve around food (gasp!) and there are other non-food related things from which I can fast. 

Sometimes we miss the point of these Lenten guidelines and simply follow them just for the sake of following them. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say: "Yes! I'm 60! I don't have to fast anymore!!" or "Now, if I eat this sandwich AND chips, does that equal one full meal or just a small meal?" 

This over attention to detail can take away from the meaning of these practices. Of course, the rules are important, and they are there to guide us along the way. But I can't tell you what the best way to observe Lent would be, because what works well for me could be completely wrong for you. What I do for Lent might seem far too extreme for some, or way too easy for others. But what really matters is that I know in my heart what I do helps me to discipline myself and become more aware and thankful for the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. And most importantly, it helps me grow closer to God. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Should Married Men Be Priests?

The news has been abuzz (is that a word?) about Fr. Wissam Akiki, the first ordained married man for the United States Maronite Catholic Church. When I initially heard this, my first reaction was: "Oh great, the media is going to be ALL OVER this. Before you know it they'll be saying that the Church now allows horses and dogs to be ordained as Catholic priests." (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration....but not really). You can read about Fr. Akiki's ordination here.

Before I get into my opinions on this matter, which I know you are all just DYING to read, I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions many people have regarding the priesthood:

  • Latin Rite vs Eastern Rite
There are two "types" of rites in the Catholic Church: Latin (Roman Catholic, what we typically have in the United States and Western part of the world) and Eastern. Both types are considered Catholic and are in "full communion" with Rome, meaning they recognize Peter as the first Pope and the succession of Popes up to the present day. (Since Fr. Akiki was part of the Eastern Rite, he was permitted to be ordained)
  • Celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine 

Discipline: instruction, system of teaching or of law, given under the authority of the Church [which] can be changed with the approval of proper authority.

Doctrine: teaching of the Church on matters of faith and morals. All such teaching—or at least the basis for it—was handed down to the Church by Jesus and the apostles prior to the death of the last apostle. Scripture refers to doctrine as "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Doctrine can develop over time as the Church comes to understand it better—but it cannot change. No one—not even the pope—has the authority to change doctrine. (
Taken from

If it were a doctrine (meaning it is true for everyone), there would be no room for change (example: women becoming priests is a doctrine. So women never have and never will become priests. That's for another blog post). Celibacy is a discipline that has been deemed to be spiritually beneficial by the bishops in the Latin Rite, so it is typically required for priesthood ordination in the United States. However, the Eastern Rite has held a tradition that allows married men to become priests. (Note: once you become a priest, however, you cannot get married).

Okay, so with that out of the way, many people want to know: If it IS possible for priests to get married, why doesn't the Church just get with the times and let them do it??

Well, here are MY reasons why I don't think priests should get married. I'm sure Pope Francis has been tossing and turning at night over this so when he reads my blog hopefully this will clear it up for him. Hi, Papa Francis! Remember we have plans for lunch next week.

The priesthood is a vocation, not a job. 

Choosing the religious life (priesthood or religious sister) is a lifelong, life changing decision. Just like marriage. To me, it simply doesn't make sense to do both. A priest who is married simply cannot give 100% of his energy and attention to both his family AND his church. It's different than a job...many people have a job and a family and do just fine. People who do have a job must decide which will be their priority: their job, or their family. Usually, people choose family first (and typically, those who don't will see that their family life suffers). It wouldn't be fair to anyone if a priest was forced to choose between his family and his church.

Priests are already married. To the Church.

When my brother became a priest, my family and I naively thought that since he would never be married, we would get to spend a lot more time with him. We quickly realized how wrong we were. Catholic priests are completely linked to their Church in every way. By becoming a priest, they are literally giving their life to the Church. Much like being a husband or a parent, they are on call 24/7. Mass can ONLY be celebrated with a priest. They must be completely committed to the Church, just like husbands must be completely committed to their wives.

The symbolism of their sacrifice is SO BEAUTIFUL.

The Eucharist is the center of every Catholic's life. We believe that at every Mass, the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Jesus. When I say literally, I mean LITERALLY. As in, Catholics used to be executed for cannibalism when they participated in Mass. When the priest holds up the bread and wine toward the heavens and it changes into Christ's flesh and blood, it's one of the most beautiful images on this Earth. And it's just so Christlike to see a man who has sacrificed his WHOLE LIFE, including his ability to have a family, imitating Jesus Himself at the last supper. Christ's bride is the Church...same thing for priests.

99% of the people who complain about Priesthood celibacy are not, in fact, priests.

No one is forced into the priesthood (at least, they shouldn't be). The seminary alone typically takes at least 6 years to complete, and that's after 4 years of college. These men have thought about their decision. A LOT. They have had plenty of time to consider what they are getting into. They have chosen this path, and they understand what comes with it. Does that mean they will never struggle with it? No. But I will tell you that a great majority of priests are happy, peaceful men. They love their lives and would not change it if they could. The media likes to tell us differently, grossly skewing the percentage of priests who have had issues with the celibate life. But if you pay attention to reality, you will find something much different. You will see that these men have a clarity and love for life about them that is difficult to find anywhere else. 

So, in conclusion (apparently I'm writing a research paper), I love this discipline of the Church. And I think it's awesome that we have still held true to this discipline even though it goes against pretty much everything society tells us what we should do. And the fact that there are still people out there who love the Church so much that they are willing to give up this part of their lives is AMAZING to me. It is more Christlike than we can find anywhere else. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Man Bashing Culture

I've never been that great at math (or really any subject except music), but here's my equation for the day:

I'm not a feminist in the modern sense. I don't believe that men and women are the same. I think it's fine to let girls play with dolls and boys play with blocks. I love wearing makeup and dresses and jewelry. I enjoy making dinner for my family every day. More than anything else I do, being a wife and mother are the most important jobs in my life. And unfortunately, many women today think this view is shameful and degrading to women. 

This is because people automatically think that the statement "Men and women are not equal" means the same thing as this:


It doesn't. It simply means they are not the same. They are different. Just like an apple and an orange are different. And that's a GOOD THING! God made us this way. 

Those of you who knew me as a younger girl might be saying: "Hey. Wait a sec. You were the one who was always playing with bugs, wearing overalls with t-shirts, rolling in the mud, wrestling with other neighbors, and carrying around your older brother's alien action figures." Yes, I know. I used to be a tomboy. I would not have been caught dead in a dress. My mother had to force me to make myself look presentable (as in, not looking like I had just crawled out of a garbage dump). 

So I understand better than most that some people are naturally more "feminine" or "masculine" than others. But regardless of how much a woman enjoys her pearls, the fact of the matter is that women and men are not, and never will be, the same. Should they be shown equal love and respect? Of course. But are they able to do absolutely anything just as well as the opposite sex can? Not so much.

In particular, the role of a mother and a father are two completely different and vital roles that help shape a child. A mother simply cannot give her child the same values and lessons that a father can. Similarly, a father cannot help his child grow and learn in the same way that a mother does. This is why it is always a sad situation when families grow up without a mother or a father figure. Single parents, or families where either the mother or father are not emotionally or physically present (i.e., alcoholic, deployed, health issues, etc)  have the toughest job in the world because they are expected to do a job that is virtually impossible: be two people at once.

Society completely disregards these important roles in a family and thinks they can be filled by anyone. What really sparked my interest in this was the Olympic "Thanks Mom" commercials. My immediate thoughts after seeing these commercials were this:

1) Wow, that's awesome that they are showing so much appreciation for their moms.
2) But wait...what about the dads? Don't they have something to do with it too?

I really do think we live in a "man bashing" culture. It's just fine to give women credit for a job well done, but if a man does it? No big deal. Women can complain about the agony of childbirth or periods or PMS, but if a man complains about an ailment? He's being a wimp. And it's even worse for fathers. When a woman is pregnant, she must go through all the physical, emotional, and mental upheavals while the baby grows inside of her and after the baby is born. What does the man do? According to society, he has sex with her and gets her pregnant. And that's about it.

Well, I don't agree. I think that fathers go through the bad stuff too, except they are not allowed to say anything about it. Because if they do, God forbid, then we yell at them: "Excuse me, are YOU the one with an 8 pound watermelon inside of your uterus?" or "I'm sorry, I can't hear you, I'm too busy trying not to vomit for the fifth time today." or "Oh, poor thing, it must have been really difficult for you to contribute your genetic material to our baby." (By the way, yes, I've said all these things to my poor husband in my less-than-holy moments).

When I watch my child or someone I love suffer, I feel so helpless. It's the worst feeling in the world. That must be how most fathers feel as they watch their partners go through a difficult pregnancy, birth, postpartum depression, or even things like severe periods or PMS. In these cases, fathers imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary, when she had to stand by and watch her son suffer and die.

In writing this, I realize that I am EXTREMELY blessed to have an amazing, supportive husband who is an exemplary father. I also grew up in a family where my own father was always there for me and loved me unconditionally. I understand that sadly not all fathers (or mothers, for that matter) are like this. Unfortunately, there is some truth to society's skewed view of a father's limited role in his family simply because there are men who just want to use a woman's body for their own instant gratification and be done with it. If the woman gets pregnant, well, she's on her own. But I don't think it's fair that all the good fathers out there must suffer because of the small percentage of bad guys. 

Why don't we say this more often:

 Just as much as moms.
What you bring to a family is essential and unable to be filled by anyone else, even mom.

You are your daughter's knight in shining armor.
You are your son's role model for what it means to be a man.

Your children look up to you in a way they do to no one else.
Your family appreciates everything you do (even though they might not always show it).

It's great that you like sports or hunting or video games or stupid movies like "Top Gun" that most women just don't get. You add something different to your family that no one else can.

And most of all: