Topics of Crunching

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy and Anger: Reflections on the loss in Newtown, Connecticut

I have had so many thoughts about the news from Sandy Hook Elementary School. To try to put yourself in the shoes of those parents who lost their children - it's simply incomprehensible for me. These events, regardless of how often they occur, seem to raise so many questions for those around us. How can we even absorb what happened in Connecticut yesterday? How can we process? How can we go on in a world like this one? What can be done to keep it from happening again? What can be done to keep it from happening to me?

I have seen the media flood with debate on gun control. I have seen facebook and twitter overflowing with anger and fear. It seems that those around me are all trying to cope with the loss of so many young lives and those who served and educated them.

One image that I've seen associated with this event is a sculpture known as the Angel of Grief. The artist, William Wetmore Story, and his wife are buried beneath the original in Rome, but many replicas have appeared throughout the world - 8 in Texas alone (Source: Wikipedia, Angel of Grief). The posture of the angel seems to speak to people in their own grief, and the tragedy of Newtown appears to be no different.

In times when we need answers, Christians turn to the Word of God, the Living God. In Holy Scripture, we find a profound and timely encouragement for today. St. Paul wrote to the Romans, saying:

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves...Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12: 9-10, 14-15)

Hate what is evil. Bless and do not curse. We are so tempted in the humanity of our pain to curse those who caused it, but I try to remind myself that there is only one Enemy - only one who is the source of all evil, and all others are just fallen souls in his hands. They need our prayers, not our anger. They need our blessings, not our curses.

Mourn with those who mourn. Be sincere. I remind myself that though it's natural to reflect this situation onto my own life, asking myself what I can do to prevent such a thing happening to me should not be my first response. We are commanded to love of others with the same weight as we love ourselves (Mt. 22:39) and here, Paul takes it a step further by saying that we should honor others above ourselves. I believe that the apostle is asking us to mourn for others - and to do it sincerely. There is nothing wrong with being precautious, and certainly there is wisdom in learning from history and from mistakes, but Christ himself calls us not to worry: "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (cf. Mt. 6:25-34).

Inspired by Story's statue and St. Paul's words, I offer up my own artistic contribution. Please feel free to share, if you feel lead.

Forget the gun control debate for now. Forget legislation and justice. There is a time for that. But for now, pray. Mourn. Love. There is only one creature worthy of hate, but there are so many worthy of blessing.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse...Mourn with those who mourn.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dawn: Miracle Product or Too Good to be True?

I considered take a picture
of myself hugging my big bottle of Dawn,
but I'm not having a good hair day.
Dawn. It works. And when you measure it's effectiveness by the ounce, it's one of the best deals out there. Lately, I've been seeing some amazing ideas for how to use it, and I'm super stoked to start using my big blue bottle for more than dishes. But there's always that nagging feeling - is this miracle just a little too miraculous to be a good idea? After all, so many things that offer the ultimate in convienence come with a huge price tag - one that I pay off with guilt-dollars. Environmental impact, social justice, or just buying into a lie: three things I'm just not into. Does Dawn make the cut?

Let's start off with the list of Pros, in this case what Dawn can do. Since it cuts through just about any kind of grease like a charm, it makes for some really unique applications.

(I have not tried all of these yet, but as I do, I'll try to come back to update this post.)

Uses of DAWN Dishwashing Fluid: A quickly compiled list

NOTE: Original Blue Dawn. Not anything else - no other brand, scent, version. I'm pretty serious about this.

Sources: One Good Thing, Life Crafts & Whatever, Modern Day Moms

Freezer Packs
Partially fill a strong zip-type sandwich bag with Dawn dishwashing liquid, close and freeze. The liquid soap stays cold much longer and it can be re-frozen many times. It will conform to the place you need an ice pack.

Carpet Cleaner/Stain Remover for any Cloth
1 part Dawn with 2 parts Hydrogen Peroxide. Mix together and pour directly on the stain. Add light scrubbing.

Spot Treatment/Pretreat
For oil-based stains such as lipstick, grease, butter, motor oil, cooking oil, and some pen inks, simply apply some Dawn dishwashing liquid directly to the stain and scrub with a small brush or toothbrush until the oil is removed, and then launder as usual.

Flea Dip and Dog Shampoo
Use it to bathe the dogs. It kills fleas on contact and is much cheaper than expensive dog shampoos.

Bubble Solution
1/2 cup Dawn, 1/2 gallon warm water, 1 tbsp glycerin or White Karo syrup. Best. Bubbles. Ever.

Greasy Hair Disasters
If your kids get into the vaseline, or maybe (like me) you're doing a super-cradle cap treatment with mineral/baby oil, you'll want more than shampoo to cut through that mess. Use it just like shampoo and rinse well.

Clean Automotive Tools or Spills, or "Mechanic Hands."
After you have finished your automotive repair project, soak your dirty tools in Dawn before you put them away to remove all the oil and grime. Dawn also helps prevent rust from forming on the tools. Spill oil on the driveway or garage floor? Start with cheapo kitty litter to absorb, then finish up with a scrub of dawn and a stiff bristled brush. It's also the best cleaner for oily, greasy mechanic hands.

Soap Scum Remover
Heat up a cup of vinegar in the microwave to 1.5-2 minutes and add to a spray bottle with an equal amount of Dawn. Little to no scrubbing is needed.

Repel Ants
Spray counter-tops, cupboards and any other area where you see ants with a solution of Dawn and water. Wipe dry. The slight residue of Dawn that remains will not be a problem at all for kids or pets, but ants hate it. Should you see a trail of ants, go ahead and hit them with the Dawn spray.

Stripping Cloth Diapers**
Add a squirt or two of original Dawn dish soap to your washer and run a hot wash, then rinse until there are no more bubbles. Dawn is a degreasing agent and helps stripping by removing oily residue. Be sure to rinse, rinse, rinse until the water runs clear.

** New to cloth diapers? Here's my post on cloth diaper savings, and another about how we cloth diaper. You can also make your own detergent, which is super effective and safe on cloth diapers

Unclogging Toilets
A cup of Dawn detergent poured into a clogged toilet allowed to sit for 15 minutes and then followed with a bucket of hot water poured from waist height will clear out the toilet. Apparently, human waste is grease-based. Yikes.

Poison Ivy Treatment
Poison ivy spreads through the spread of the oil within the blisters. Washing the affected area with Dawn, especially on children who keep scratching the blister’s open, helps dry up the fluid, AND keep it from spreading.

Sidewalk De-Icer
When walkway is clean (right after you did all that crazy hard work) pour on a mix of 1 tsp of Dawn, 1 tbsp of rubbing alcohol, and 1/2 gallon hot water. They won’t refreeze.

Repel Pests from House Plants/Aphid Control on Fruit Trees
In a spray bottle, combine 2 tablespoons Dawn in a gallon of water. Try to get spray both sides of the leaves, branches and the tree trunks. In the case of fruit trees, let sit for about 15 minutes and then rinse the trees thoroughly.

I love this stuff. I buy the super sized bottle, and it's one of the only commercially-made products that you can always find under our sink (DIY cleaners that live "sub-faucet" in my kitchen include Orange Cleaner and Dish Detergent). But I've been thinking for months that I could be really falling for a dupe (for more on what the heck a dupe is, check out my other blog and "The Duped Project"). Maybe this product, amazing though it may be, is actually terrible. You know - like "wow that's a beautiful ivory necklace!" or "my, this rhino-horn syrum works great on my shingles," or "those baby seal boots are rockin with that albino tiger belt" kind of terrible.

Before you tell me, yes, I've seen the heart-warmin' commercials where the Green Peace volunteers lovingly caress an adorable baby duck with Dawn post-oil spill disaster. That's a darn cute duck. And a pretty fantastic marketing ploy. Whether or not it's 100% true, or a classic twisting of facts to sell soap, I'm happy that Donald and Daisy weren't preening petroleum into their bellies that day. But is it really as benevolent as it seems?

The question is: Is Dawn really ok for the environment?

Here's one of the best, quick-and-to-the-point answers I came across:
Dawn is safe for the environment and is the only detergent used by wildlife rescuers when cleaning aquatic animals affected by oil spills. Dawn is water soluble and is a non-irritant. It contains no carcinogens, and its surfactants are biodegradable. Dawn also has a line of soaps made from biodegradable plant oils.

There's a few other objections to consider though. Dawn is produced by Proctor and Gamble. This company is known, in the raging-against-the-machine circles, for less than savory business practices. Here's an excellent article about concerns from an animal-rights angle. On the other side of the coin, here's good write-up of why Dawn is still a better choice than other dish fluids.

Conclusion:  I'm glad I did my research because now I know more about this product I'm using, but none of the evidence I turned up changed my mind about Dawn. I'll still stay away from the fancy new-fangled versions (unecessary fragrances and additives will take away from it's effectiveness and could introduce other problems like carcinogenic phthalates or environmentally-unfriendly ingredients). But I'm going to continue to use my "true blue" - in the grand scheme of things, this is a truly semi-crunchy option for a multi-purpose (to say the least) product.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Effort It Takes

A while back (at least a year ago) a friend who was instrumental in my switch to cloth diapers posted this conservation-minded witty quip on her facebook. Maybe you've seen it before:

I wish I could give you a source, but I can't find it!
Genius, eh? At the time I looked for the source, original designer, etc and couldn't find anything. (Side note - if you want to use my stuff, go ahead! - and if you feel so lead, be kind and redirect back to my blog).

My friend and I decided that the concept was gold, and it had too many applications to be ignored, so we penned this little number together.

Design by Far.  Logic by Semi-Crunchers everywhere.
I enjoyed researching - watching them make the diapers on How It's Made, reading about the process. It's ludicrous. So much wasted energy and time (forget materials) for something that your kid poops in. As if you really handle the doo any less when you just wash it yourself.

If you like, share! If you really like (and you aren't already an avid cloth diaperin' fool) you can check out my posts on cloth diapering:

Babes on a Plane

My husband and I spent several years living in Europe, making an annual trip back to the states for a week or two around Christmas. After a few years there, we had our first baby on German soil. How romantic! How unique! How exotic!

Until it's time to bring baby home to meet grandma.

We made the transatlantic flight back home several times, and they were all - well - pretty awful. The worst part was not the crying or the thrashing or the incessant dropping of toys. It was the constant anxiety about what the other passengers were thinking. You get the looks from the moment you board - as you waddle down the aisle (laden with every baby-distraction device known to man). Those looks that say "Oh please, for the sake of all that's good and holy, please don't let them sit near me!" Then, as you try to wedge your kid's car seat into the obscenely minuscule space (that you paid $400 to rent for 9 hours) it comes - the dreaded comment.

"Hope that kid isn't going to cry through whole flight"

Sometimes you just overhear it as he or she "whispers" to their fellow traveler. Sometimes they just come out and say it. It doesn't always come in such a harsh form, but it might as well. And all I could think was "Yeah. Me too."

Apparently, I'm not the only one who goes through the entire 7 step grief process before embarking avec bebe. And some just stop at step #3 - bargaining.

I recently came across this photo, and I had a variety of reactions. In chronological order, I thought:

1. Well that was considerate. And smart.

2. Wait, what on earth? Why are they catering to those people? Those other passengers should be charitable enough to think of the poor parents, not demand bribes from them.

3. As if it wasn't bad enough that the family had to prepare for a long flight with twin 14-wk-old infants, they had to pay for and prepare and carry on hundreds of baggies of candy and ear plugs.

I read in the notes that accompanied this photo that some of the passengers thought the little gift was cute and thoughtful, but some thought it was overkill. I wish I could say I agree with the latter, but I have been there. I have felt the burning eyes of 70 jet-lagged travelers as my child screamed for the second consecutive hour. I know that niceties would go far. I've even considered doing something much like this.

Should I have given in? What do you think? Did the parents of these twins (who reportedly did very well on their first flight) do the right thing, overreact, or react too defensively to a very real sense of judgment? Or am I totally off-base on my analysis? Maybe I'm just imagining all those glances and comments - maybe I'm stuck in my own stage of flight-grief (#2 - guilt!)

Either way, I feel like it's a symptom of something bigger. Our society (wasting away for lack of procreation - yes, really) has lost touch with what a baby is, how they react to natural circumstances, and how to empathize in a charitable way. No wonder no one wants kids any more! Complete strangers treat them like a burden. It's a challenge to bring them to a restaurant, much less an airplane. And American parents worsen the situation by isolating themselves with defensive reactions to any advice or correction. If it takes a village to raise a child, you must allow the villagers to help.

In the end, I brought my baby girl back to the states to see her grandparents as often as I could. Some flights were better than others. All told, I crossed the atlantic 7 times before she was a year and a half. Every one of those trips was a necessity (it would take no less to do it!). I suppose that makes me a bit of a subject matter expert. I think that what those parents did was understandable, smart, and creative - but I wish that it hadn't been called for.

Next time you're on a plane, and you see some poor frazzled parent boarding, please do this small courtesy that one wonderful passenger once did for me: Look them right in the eye and say "What a beautiful child! I'm sure she'll be an angel - but even if not, I'm happy to have the seat beside her."

It's the little things folks. No candy bribes necessary.

If you like this post, you may like some other slightly sarcastic mommy banter. Check out:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fertility and Politics: A letter about who's really in charge of our bodies

Dear Women of America:

Let me start off by saying Thank You. Thank you for caring so much about your body, your rights, and your future. Thanks for taking the time to care that what male politicians do, because you're right - it does affect our bodies, sometimes directly.

But I am really afraid you have it wrong. I am worried that you have fallen for a big hoax - and it's name is contraception.

If you're reading this letter, maybe you know how I feel about artificial birth control. Maybe you don't. In a nutshell, I'm not a fan. In fact, I don't use it at all. Spoiler alert: Despite a happy and full marriage, I don't have a house full of kids, all 9 months apart (2 so far, both fully "planned," more than 2 years apart). I live in a large American city, in a normal suburb, work a full-time job, and eat fast-food more often than I care to admit. But enough about me - lets talk about you, women of America.

There's a caravan in town, and they're peddling snake-oil. You remember that story, right? The crazy salesman with the handle-bar mustache, selling something foul-smelling out of the back of his horse drawn wagon. "It will solve all your problems!" he says, but he's not telling the whole story. His magic serum isn't all it's cracked up to be. On average, it costs a woman (or her insurance, or her government) $18,000 over the course of her fertile years to "make sure" she can have sex without getting pregnant. The most commonly-used form of contraception, oral contraceptives (the pill) has been classified by the World Health Organization as a class 1 carcinogen. Women using contraception are significantly more likely to get cancer, to die a violent death and to be divorced, and they are just as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy (since half of all unplanned pregnancies in the United States occur despite the use of contraception). And not one bit of it is necessary.

I have heard and seen a lot of buzz lately from you about how politicians can't tell you what to do with your body, because it's your decision. True. But how much do you know about your body? Are you really making the decisions? Or have you relied on some old assumptions? Have you, convinced that knowing the intricacies of your fertility is impossible, gotten a bit complacent about your right to your body? Have you, convinced that this natural function of your body is something to be stopped at all costs, already handed full responsibility of your reproductive system over, not to politicians, but to doctors? Are you really in control at all?

I pose a question to you, women of America: what is more irresponsible - knowing nothing about what your body is doing "down there" and trusting a prescription to take care of it all, or taking the 2 minutes a day required to know that you are healthy, functioning properly, and (gasp) ovulating on schedule? FACT: A woman is only fertile for a few days each month. FACT: It is possible to observe very simple signs in your own body and predict this fertility. FACT: "Unprotected" sex with an infertile woman does not produce pregnancy.

I could go on for ages. I won't. This is not about religion. It is certainly not about politics. It's not about cancer-prevention, or hormones secreted into our drinking water, or 7 fold risk of preeclampsia, or the complications risked during tubal litigation (though I would love it if you would look into those things). It's not even about citing my sources for all of the facts I've included in this letter (if you would like to know if I'm making it up, I challenge you to do some good research). What this letter to you is about is simply this: before you claim that no one has a right to make any decisions about your body but you, find out about you. Make some educated decisions. In my humble opinion, contraception is unnecessary, unhealthy, and (frankly) misogynistic. It's anti-woman.

Don't buy what the snake-oil salesmen are selling.

Spoken with the greatest of love, with nothing but your health and wellness in mind,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Daily Mass and the Ascension: Going to church "just because"

19 And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sits on the right hand of God. 20 But they going forth preached every where: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed. (Mk. 16:19-20)
50 And he led them out as far as Bethania: and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, whilst he blessed them, he departed from them and was carried up to heaven. 52 And they adoring went back into Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were always in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. (Lk. 24:50-52)
2 until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up — 3 to whom also he showed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:2-3)

Ascension of Christ (Dali)

Church Services for Ascention
This year (and, if I'm not mistaken, every year) in the United States, Roman Catholics celebrate Ascension Thursday on Sunday because the US Conference of Catholic Bishops - USCCB - has moved the Solemnity to Sunday. Normally, this feast day is a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning that Catholics treat it as we would (read: should) every Sunday, by attending Mass and refraining from work and unnecessary activities that detract the day's holy nature. Why is the celebration moved? I have heard the explanation that Holy Days of Obligation are often moved to Sunday in the US to consolidate two days of obligatory Mass into one. Thus, the faithful are not obliged to attend Mass more than once that week. Since it's a big no-no (cardinal sin) to miss Mass, it's important that the Church is clear that you aren't required to attend on Thursday. There are, of course, days that you are required to attend church outside of Sunday (most seem centered around Christmas and Easter), but it seems that for many of these feasts, the USCCB makes an effort to move the obligation and make it easier for parishioners to meet the expectation.

Attending when you don't have to
I was blessed to be able to attend a daily Mass on Thursday, and I do mean blessed. My return to work has allowed me that little freedom. It is a true pleasure to go to Mass during the week! I've spent nearly 3 year struggling through Sunday Mass with little one(s), unable to focus on anything other than keeping them still and quiet. Often, I wondered why I was even there - I didn't hear the homily, I didn't remember the readings, and my hurried prayer to confess sins seemed (though I was assured otherwise) insufficient to allow me communion. It was knowing that my family's presence was still of great benefit to us that kept me in the pew each Sunday - all the way through the recession (I think it's important to thank the host of a dinner party and not just bolt out as soon as dessert is over). 

As time progressed, I saw fruit from "muscling through" each week. My older child has grown accustomed to the quiet discipline (or at least semi-discipline) that Mass requires, and I believe that her weekly exposure to the experience is credited, at least in part, for the obvious influence of Christ in her life. At only 3 years old, she talks about Jesus multiple times of day without being prompted, is greatly comforted by prayer, and can recognize Christ, Mary, and St. Michael in paintings. It's also helpful for me to remember that the trials of going through church are refining for my character and soul, since being a mother is my greatest calling, even my vocation from God.

Traditional Ascension Icon
Why go to Church in the first place?
It's a very popular idea that we should "get something out of going to church." The notion of "being fed" by the content of a worship service is a wonderful one, but I earnestly believe it is not a deal breaker. Yes, we should be fed (Jn 21:15), but we do not worship for us. We worship for Him. If you are going to a Sanctuary to receive, there is a real element of selflessness missing from your relationship with God.

I say all this to point out that I went to church, even when the entire time was spend bouncing from pew to cry room to parking lot, tending crying infants or fetching my little pony from three rows up or worrying about the incessant ruckus. I'm glad I went. But man, it's nice to go to daily Mass while my sweet, wonderful, boisterous babies are in daycare.

The real blessing of worship
So often, I take these little things for granted. It's easy to do - very human, very natural. Thank God that he reminds me of the value of those small blessings in subtle ways. I know that, this week, I was not obliged to go to Mass on Thursday, but wow - it was really a pleasure to go anyway.

  1. "All About Ascension Day,",
  2. "Home," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
  3. "Feast of the Ascension," Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For the love of Gaeilge (Irish)

From Far Beyond Designs

Three phrases that hubby found here that I love. I'm not a big fan of simply reposting, but with my new goal to learn as much Irish as my mind will absorb (which is shamefully little) I am trying to expose myself to as much as possible.

PHRASE: cuimhnigh i gconai
PRONOUNCED: cweeve-nee ih go-nee
MEANING: Always remember 

 PHRASE: Is fearr Gaeilge briste, na Bearla cliste
PRONOUNCED: iss far gale-geh brishteh naw bear-elh clish-teh
MEANING: Broken Irish is better than clever English 

 PHRASE: Ni tir gan teanga
PRONOUNCED: nee tier gon tyan-geh
MEANING: No nation/land without a language

Deployment Survivor: Confessions of a Military Spouse

From Far Beyond Designs
After nearly 10 years of active duty service in the Army, my family will exit military life around this time next year. This has been our decision for over 2 years now, and so far we have no second thoughts. As a military wife of 7 years (on Monday!), I know that is taboo. For those in the fray, married to "lifers," (Soldiers who plan to retire after 20+ years) or for those who left military life to face troubles, my optimism may be taken the wrong way. Please be assured that my perspective is only a realization that is right for me, my children, my marriage, my Soldier and my lot in life. I know it's not like that for everyone.

There are a lot of reasons we are leaving but one factor is so large in our decision that it practically eclipses all others. Deployment. Together, my husband and I have weathered 3 deployments to Iraq. Separations up to 15 months at a time, not to mention trips to train "in the field" and away from home for a month or more at least once a year. All told, in our first 5 years of marriage, we spent about 65% of it apart. And I'm here to say today that it was awful.

There was a time when I would have scoffed at the paragraph above. In the midst these separations, I thought these kind of comments were weak. What good did it do to think that way? Man up. Dig in your heels and play the hand that was dealt to you. But in the past 2 years since his last deployment, as we get further and further from the possibility of another year apart, I've begun to see how injured I was (and am) by those thoughts. And I see now how much I, like my husband, carry the emotional and mental scars of war.

I don't say this for pity. That is, I promise, the very last thing I'm after. In fact, I may have held onto these thoughts for too long because I didn't want any sympathy at all. There are too many who lost too much. I will not claim any right to this country's limited sympathy pangs for their sake. Moreover, I don't really want anyone to share in my pain. It's mine - it's one of the only things I got from that experience. I hold onto the pain because it reminds me that I did something great once - something most people won't. I keep it private, safe, and to myself. I bet there's more than one person out there that understands that.

From Far Beyond Designs
So why am I finally writing this? Why have I chosen to write publicly? Because if I had read this 2 years ago, 4 years ago, 7 years ago... Maybe. Maybe I wouldn't struggle with anxiety when someone wants to hug me. Maybe I wouldn't see the stars and stripes as a bittersweet image. Maybe I wouldn't worry that it is only a matter of time before all my husband's good fortune catches up to him. Maybe so much of my life wouldn't be about fear, jaded hopes, and learning to be hard.

The small, high-schoolesque military community where we spent most of our marriage is coming up on a milestone. The same unit that I watched deploy twice with my husband is preparing to go again. We have been in a new duty station for a long time now, but I still have friends there. I see their online photos of farewells, of fathers holding new babies that will be toddlers when they return, of yellow ribbons and combat gear and tears. That's how I know I'm not over all this - because each photo, each military wife's prayer posted on a profile, each family readiness event invitation - it brings every bit of those old feelings back.

I see things so differently now. I said that there was a time when I would have thought that this post was weak. Sentimentality, better left unsaid. Shame on me for thinking that. There are too many people that will have to say goodbye again. There are even some who will say goodbye without the relieving joy of the hello. Do not confuse me. You are the unsung hero, and I can do nothing but say thank you for what you do each day.

But maybe there's someone out there who is growing hard. Maybe there's someone out there who is just now discovering how hard they've become. If there is, you aren't alone. What you're doing is unendingly difficult, and I ask you not to forget that. It's not the kind of difficult that people talk about when they tell you "I don't know how you do it," or "I could never go through that." It's the kind of difficult that you don't have a choice about. But you do have a choice to keep feeling. Keep feeling. Don't make my mistake. Better a year of hurting than a lifetime of numbness.

Are you a deployment survivor? Do you cringe at the sight of a chaplain in dress uniform? Does a flag folded into a triangle cause your stomach to drop? Do you avoid the news, politics, and even the outside world at times, so that you can live without thinking every second about your loved one? I did. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to just take a moment, stop all the noise I filled my life with and breathe.

You, dear Warrior's Bride, are a beautiful creature. You are worth more each day that you suffer. Let your hurt be a song, and let it be in harmony with all those who walk beside you on this road. You aren't alone. Somewhere, I know, there is someone who understands.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Letter of Resignation

The day after tomorrow, I start a new job. I have been a stay-at-home mom for about a year a half, since our last move. Pregnancy and a new baby have made the job search fruitless, but after Christmas, I started looking again in earnest, and I believe I have found something that fits my values and priorities very well. 

If you've read much of this blog, I'm sure you have gathered the clues about me. There's my tear-streaked cry for help, Potty Break, as well as the angry rant entitled Get the Heck out of my Bed. My pregnancy woes are well documented in The Magnitude of the Belly (it's a whale of a tale). And of course the manifesto, Restless Mom: The Stay at Home Diaries. I love my kids so much, and I can promise that time with them is so precious to me, but I am truly awful at staying home with them. I have done it all - work full time (with both parents or as a single parent), work part time (with both parents or as a single parent), stay home exclusively, and work-at-home mom. I know that my relationship with my children is stronger and less strained when I spend some time away from them. This is certainly not true for all, but for me, it's undeniable. This coupled with a real financial need for me to return to the paid workforce means it is time. The job that I am taking is perfect - nearly full time, near a great daycare, very family oriented. It's truly a Godsend.

As I was thinking about going back to work today, it occured to me that staying home with kids is the hardest job I've ever had. It's more than full-time. It's all-time. Since I'm leaving that profession behind (at least during business hours), I think it's only fair that I provide my employer with notice. Below you will find my lovingly written "Letter of Resignation."

Dear Sir or Ma'am,
I am writing to inform you that I will no longer be available to provide my services for the position of stay-at-home mom for your company. Though the past 18 months have been an intense learning experience, and although I know that I have learned much about the art of patience and love during this time, I feel very strongly that my talents and efforts will be better spent outside the home.  
As I knew going into this journey, motherhood is a lifestyle, not a simple occupation. This won't change. I assure you that my commitment to 3 am feedings, puking toddlers, and endless peanut butter crackers is unwavering. However, this is my notice to inform you that during business hours, I will no longer be available to handle fits, Barbie dream house scenarios or repeated playings of Barney's Christmas Special
After much time at the proverbial round table, my children and I have come to a happy conclusion: we have agreed to outsource their daytime care to a professional team of adults who are interested in the lucrative work of childcare. You can be content knowing that the girls are even more pleased with this arrangement than I
Thank you for the opportunity to test my metal in this position. Unfortunately, it's not for me. Good day to you
Semi Crunch

Friday, March 23, 2012

15 Grammar Goofs

Grammar and I have a long and dedicated relationship with each other, but often, I'm a bad girlfriend. This awesome "infographic" from copyblogger will help me treat him right.

(PS-- How awesome is the new "infographic" trend? Almost as great as the correct use of "they're!")

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more copywriting tips from Copyblogger.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's time to make a choice

It is time to make a choice for yourself. Which is more important to you: the protection or your personal right to religious freedom or free birth control from your employer.

For decades, Catholic and Christian institutions have not paid for the contraception of their employees. For decades, those employees still got their pills, shots, and abortions when they desired them, often at 10% or less of their true cost, thanks to legislation already in place to protect them. For decades, no one cared. Now, thanks to the new Health and Human Services mandate, it's front page news every day. Why?

Are you buying it? Is it really about a Republican or a Bishop trying to tell a woman what to do with her body? Or is this about forcing a belief system to "fit" with what America believes? Our ancestors came here to get away from governments that would dictate their beliefs and actions. What's changing?

Chances are, you think birth control is fine. But what about your right (and the right of any American individual or institution) to stand firm and say "no, I will not do something that violates what I believe." If this mandate is allowed to continue, that right is forever in jeopardy.

You don't have to agree with us! That's the beauty of liberty. No one is forced to believe anything that goes against their conscience. Are you prepared to see that freedom disappear? It's time to make an educated decision. This is no small matter.

Learn about the HHS Mandate from a different perspective.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One Nation Under God

Just a thought, in the form of a photo. It makes me happy to see someone, especially a fast food joint, be so unabashedly patriotic. As Lincoln said, stand for something or you'll fall for anything.

"One Nation, Under God, Indivisible."
You can use this photo anywhere you want, but please link back to this post, and give credit to Erin Binkley.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Positive Princesses

Every since I found out I was going to be a mom, I've been shocked at how many thinking women hate the Disney Princesses. It's a part of this pseudo-knowledge based neo-feminism that simply regurgitates selective facts based on their own agenda. Translation? There are a lot of haters. Haters gonna hate. Meantime, I'm going to try to beat them at their own game.

I think that the Disney Princesses are awesome. They have faults, they learn things, and somewhere along the magical path, life happens. Who says I don't want my daughters watching that? Yes, there are moments that will require some guidance and discussion on my part - but anything less than that would be lazy parenting. I just think that they have some valuable things to teach little girls. What do you think?

Click to enlarge. All rights retained by Walt Disney.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Potty Break

It is time for a potty break. And not what you think. It's high time I get a break from potty training.

Backstory? My oldest will be 3 in May, and we've been potty training her since she was around 20 months old. Over a year of plastic potties, pull ups, training pants, stickers, name it. We were nearly there, and then her younger sister was born. Square 1. Well, square 1.5. She didn't forget HOW to do it, but she stopped doing it almost all together. 

This week, potty training left something to be desired.
This week, I was determined. I don't know what I was smokin', because it was a rotten week to do ANYTHING other than just make it through. We just adopted a puppy that our friend found on the side of the road, and though I love him, he's my first dog and I have no idea how to house train this tiny thing. He's like another kid sometimes - lots of work. In addition to that, I had a baby shower at my house yesterday for two of my friends, so I had extra cleaning to do, decorations and food to make, and additional shopping. Clearly, this is the time to take on a task so hard that it brings moms and dads to utter frustration. Yes, dear reader, this is the week I was determined to kick the diaper habit. Just in case you weren't sure that I was an idiot, now you have proof. 

Now what do you think was the result? Not a potty trained toddler, I'll tell you that much. Monday was great: Sit on the potty ever 20 minutes to get results, back again after 45 if we had success. Sticker on the potty chart, candy in the freshly washed hands. From 8:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night, we had no accidents (including a short outing!). I was on Mommy Cloud 9. On Monday, we had 6 stickers.

Tuesday we had a couple set backs. But we were out of the house doing shopping for the baby shower and picking up a steam cleaner for puppy's little mementos on the carpet. A couple extra accidents is to be expected with all that travelling. 4 stickers.

Wednesday. When it was time for a trip to the ol' John, there was resistance. "Mom, there's no peepee here." Try again. Nothing. Try again, nothing. Try again, not 10 minutes later - wet. There were 3 stickers on Wednesday.

By Thursday, I was getting tired. I spent the day making decorations (pinterest junkie - if you're one, you get it). The dog was in rare form too, and the baby was super grumpy. This time the resistance to use the potty was me - I was out of steam. 3 stickers again.

On Friday, I was at wit's end. I often think of my stress level on a scale from 1 to 10, and I went to bed Thursday night at a 4, and woke up at a 5. Just the thought of the dwindling stickers in each Sesame Street adorned rectangle was enough to cause me to twitch. I had to go to the other side of town first thing in the morning, and just getting the dog put away and the kids dressed felt like it took hours (oh wait, it did). Steam clean the carpet, mop the kitchen...not here doggie! outside!...make the veggie tray, make the honey don't write on the wall...clean the toilet, throw in the diaper's okay baby girl, i'll nurse you in 5 minutes...

Needless to say, my poor husband did not have a well-rested spouse awaiting his cross over the threshold. I really did a number on him. You see, my stress level, starting at a 5 when I woke up, was now around an 8. At an 8, I'm irrational. When he got home, I decided it was time to treat the yard with fungus killer. Um, what was that? Yes, fungus killer. Given, we have a grass-killing epidemic in our backyard, and something must be done to stop the plantocide horror, but honestly. What was I thinking doing it THEN? I don't know. Temporary, potty-training driven, full-on insanity. Friday ended in crazed accusations (from me, to him) of laziness and judgment, and a big fight. When I realized that I was about 110% at fault, the fight ended, I cried, and he gave me the affectionate forgiveness that I absolutely did not deserve. Did I mention I love that man?

Saturday, I woke up back at a 2 on the stress scale. The fight, tears, and 2 big glasses of wine I had after the kids went down were an cure for what ailed me. I spent the morning truly enjoying the last minute prep for the shower, and when my friends started to arrive, and St. Husband exited the house with both girls in arms, I had such a great time in the company of some awesome women. 

Oh, but the story is not over yet! Today is Sunday. I felt that I had a new lease on life, and that we could start the potty training journey fresh. WRONG! Oh good heavens I was so wrong. The first failure and I was back at an 8 almost immediately. Apparently the wound was still too fresh. Dramatic? Yes. But you try potty training for a year and see if you don't have a few hopes and dreams tied up in it too. Breakdown time! This time, it was a family-wide breakdown that resulted in the 4 of us, dressed and ready for church, concluding that in our foul mood, Jesus didn't want to see us. 

"How did I get here?" I asked. "How did I let a stupid pink princess potty and an Elmo sticker chart cause my downfall?" Time to regroup. We put our heads together and decided to do the thing that experienced parents have been telling us to do for months: Let her do it in her own time. I posted this status on Facebook:
Today is Sunday, the Sabbath. Today, we are vacationing. No potty training, no house training. No budgeting, no scraping. No scheduling, no dieting. Today we are taking a break from our own lives, and all the pressure that comes along with them. All we need in this family today is good tunes, good eats, and love - His and each others.
So for now, I'm lightening up. I plan to spend this week without the potty-guilt for her or me. If she does it, awesome. If she doesn't, oh well. Meantime, I want to spend time more hugging and giggling and less time bargaining for clean pull-ups. I have learned a few things this week. Out of everything that parents teach their toddlers, potty training has the greatest benefit to dear mom and dad. It saves tons of money on diapers, can drive down the cost of day care, means no more diaper changes, and impresses all their friends (seriously, it does). No wonder we put so much pressure on them. And our little rebels push right back, don't they?

I also learned that I am results driven, and if I put in enough work without any results, I'm gonna lash out. And I learned that my husband really really loves me. But most of all, and this is the moral of the story, I learned that if potty training is causing you to be upset, let 'em stay in diapers. Just like my post on co-sleeping, it's not like they are going to stay in pampers forever. Chances are, one day, they will do what so many children seem to do: they will decide for themselves that diapers are gross, and the toilet is a cool thing. Until then, I'm gonna let her pee her pants and have another cup of coffee. How's that for an ending?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Get the Heck Out of My Bed!

Hello again. I would like a break from politics. You too? Sweet. Let's start with something hilarious.

Oh, how I identify with this totally wacked-out woman. Especially with the breast pumping. Video courtesy of - one of my new favorites. The blog is a great hub for all things crunchy and is the home of this and many very funny videos. But we all know that I'm only semi-crunchy. I vaccinate my kids, buy genetically modified seedless grapes, let them watch educational television, and yes - I even have been known to feed them the occasional happy meal.

And here's another one. Brace yourself.

I. Hate. Co-sleeping.

I'm not talking about newborns. No need to open up that worm-filled can. Rest assured, we have a side-car bassinet that we used for the first 6 weeks of life for both our kids, and after that they were moved to cribs. In this case, maybe co-sleeping is a bad term. I'm talking about kids that are much older. At least a year, or in this case 2.5 years.

It's honestly a closeness thing. I've spent most of my adult life a little averted to being near others. After only a few years together, the cuddle phase was all but eradicated from my marriage with the introduction of a two mattresses in one bed frame (God bless the Germans - they have this one right). There are long-running jokes among my friends about how much I hate to hug. Elevators, crowded church pews, and public transportation have been known to bring on full-fledged panic attacks. And not out of something logical like fear of infectious disease or pick pockets. I just can't stand the NEARNESS of it all.

You think this is precious.
I think it's a violation of human rights.
And then I became a mother. So much of that has changed - I love to hold my babies. Everything about being close to others has become easier, even enjoyable at times. My girls crawl, kick, and drop 'bows on me daily, and half the time it makes me smile. But sleep is different. Sleep is still sacred. I have fantasies about sleeping alone, on a tempur-pedic in the middle of a field of lavender - miles from the nearest child. Unfortunately, the only thing that's really distant is the hope of a night without a kid in my bed. Since my youngest (now 6 months) was born, her older sister has returned to our bed every night. Sometimes it's at 4 am, sometimes it's before we even get there. She's always been a terrible sleeper (night terrors, hallucinogenic dreaming, you name it) so I don't turn her away. And there are times when I'll wake up at night and look over at her peaceful face and think, this isn't so bad.

But most of the time, I feel very differently. Look, kiddo. From the moment you took up residency in my uterus, I've been loosing ground. First I lost my figure, then my boobs became someone else's snack pak. You take my food AS I'm trying to eat it, you force me to watch Nick Jr all day, and now you want to kick me out of my bed? C'mon man. You're adorable, but I didn't buy you those Dora sheets to look good on an empty toddler bed.

Of course I exaggerate. But I think you get the picture. Just in case you don't, this says it all.

Despite many long sleepless hours mulling it over, I have no idea what to do about this problem. The Great Bed Invasion of 2010 is stretching into 2012, and seems to have no end. My husband says "it's not like she's going to be sleeping with us when she's 12," but honestly, I'm not convinced. I am terrified that I will wake up a decade from now, and find that I am on the floor and my bed is full of a knot of covers and progeny. Like 8 of them. I'm nauseated just thinking about it. 

But the truth is, one day, my sweet daughter will roll her eyes when I so much as brush her hair out of her face, and I'll long for these days. I will miss the hugs, the cuddles, the groggy wake up to what is quickly becoming one of the best and worst sentences: "Mommy, is it get up time?" She's a precious one, that little bed hog of mine. And she's in my bed because she loves me, feels safe with me, and is calmed by my presence. She's there because I'm her mom. Oh - I guess it's not so bad after all.

Just don't ask me at 3 am.

Photo credits: Ed Wolstenholme and unknown.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Vote of 2012: Education

“As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them that corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise” (CCC 2229)
School Choice. This is something that some Catholic leaders have chosen to support, and today I'm going to try to find out if I agree. Despite Catholic schooling being much cheaper than most secular private schools, there are still those who cannot afford to send their children to be educated in the parochial system. And more and more, I can see how a family that truly lives in the counter culture that is the Church would want their kids anywhere but public school.

A Voucher for your Thoughts?

Who pays for our public schools? Everyone. Those with children, those without, those who are also paying private school tuition and those who are using the public school system. I understand the idea - if we expect only the parents of children in public schools to bear the burden of that cost, either the system would come to a screaming halt or thousands upon thousands of children would go unschooled. Or both.

But on the other hand, what if those parents who choose to school their children in a private or parochial school receive an exemption, since that have removed the cost of their own families from the burden of the state? Or, take that a step further. What if parents who choose an option other than public schools were given the option of a voucher to apply toward a school of their choice, be it Catholic, Communal, Montessori, Homeschool, Spanish-speaking, etc. Essentially, all citizens pay taxes to educate the nation, but when it comes time for them to cash in on those funds, they can elect to withdraw from that account to pay for schooling outside the state or federally funded schools.

I am not the first to think of this. In fact, I didn't come up with it at all. It's an old idea, so I'm sure that the wanderings of my thoughts on this subject are equally as mundane and unoriginal. Yet, I wonder. Wouldn't that kind of "voucher system" stimulate economic growth and healthy competition between private schools, lower tuition costs, and remove a lot of the burden on a heavily-loaded state school system?

And then there's the issue of philosophical and religious freedom. That isn't dead yet is it? What if I don't want my child to be taught evolution, or sex ed, or history the way that it is taught in public schools. What if the teachings of the state system go fundamentally against what I am working my butt off to teach my kids. Isn't that my freedom? Doesn't the burden of education fall on the parent, not the state? So yeah, pull 'em out. Keep 'em home. I have many friends who homeschool, many who send their kids to a wide array of private schools with a spectrum of philosophical strategies. But they are still paying for their kids (and every one else's) to go to school.

I believe that this system was born out of the best intention: to give every child the right to an education. But one size fits all is not a true fit for anyone.

Church and State: You gotta keep 'em separated?

There is a long-standing argument that the government cannot provide a stipend for parents to fund religiously-based education because it is a violation of the separation of church and state. But what about the children of my friends who attend The Circle School, a wonderful family cooperative school here in San Antonio? That school has no religious affiliation whatsoever, but it does teach a particular philosophy. Their mission statement reads, "The Circle School's mission is to foster and encourage each child's awareness and respect for her/his own unique self within a framework of shared community ethics and knowledge." That's not religion, but it certainly is a way of thinking. Is it a church? No. But technically, the objections that those arguing for a violation of separation of church and state would have the same guff with these guys. This leads me to a quote from the Catholic Advocate:
"...If the voucher system is limited only to public schools and non-sectarian private schools, the majority of private schools will be left out of the mix. Furthermore, most non-sectarian private schools are well beyond the financial reach of parents, even those who receive government subsidies. So, in essence, a voucher program that excludes parochial schools is really a public school program. For reasons already discussed, this is not much of a choice for those Catholic parents who are concerned with the direction of public education." Source
What's so bad about Public School?

I'm still not sure about all this, but I know that I don't like a lot of the things I was taught in my public school days. When I recall the information I was taught in biology, in civics, even in drivers ed, and compare it to what I know now as an adult, I'm pretty disappointed, and I went to one of the best public high schools in our nation (ranked #7 in the US the year after I graduated). Despite all the attempts to provide a broad-based, unbiased education, I was taught some things that were downright propoganda. Weren't you? Can't you think of something you learned that was blatantly untrue, or weren't allowed to do that was a violation of your rights?

I don't think that it's avoidable. Education will always be biased. Raising children is, in the worst light, propaganda and brainwashing. BE HONEST. It all is. From the first time you tell a one year old baby No until the moment they start thinking for themselves, children are being formed by our opinions and the actions that they fuel. We cannot create an unbiased educational environment, so we must protect our liberties and allow parents to educate their children in the system that best meets their morals and standards.

Another flaw? Neighborhood and income level influences our education. As I said, I went to a wonderful high school. My husband's education was atrocious. The school, overwhelmed by discipline and attendance issues, was little more than a bad babysitting center. The difference? The neighborhoods we grew up in. My high school was populated with the children of the old-money part of a large southern city. His was full of the townies of a low-income area in a military town. That entire school system is so bad that his mother has chosen to send his younger brother to one of the only private schools in the area, a non-denominational Christian school. For his family, that is the only real choice.
I don't know much about what causes the blatant unbalance in situations like this, but I do know that my brother in law is lucky that his parents can afford to send him elsewhere. For my husband and his sister, they simply had to make do and, to put it bluntly, try not to get shot between classes.

I also have a big objection to what I see as a confusion between freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. If my daughter wants to pray over her food before she eats in the school cafeteria, and even visibly cross herself, that's her freedom. If you don't like it, don't look. She's not making you pray. I know that this is an ongoing battle, and I'm so thankful for those standing up for our liberties, but I fear our culture has gone too far toward freedom from religion in public schools, and that my young children will not have any rights to practice their faith in a public school system. I hope I'm wrong. In the meantime, I'll support a system where I can choose a different school for them, even if I'm not wealthy.


So far, I think a voucher system, to include parochial and philosophically-based schools, is genius. Maybe it would eventually eliminate the need for public school. Wouldn't that be a yoke worth throwing for our poor overburdened states? Either way, even though I know I need to think holistically, I must say that I love this idea for me. Our income makes it impossible to pay for even Catholic school, and I fear that I would be a poor teacher for my girls at home. How about you? Would you like to see something like this?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Vote of 2012: An Aside

When I posted my first blog in this short series, I got a little bit of backlash. Not of my writing or ideas, but of someone else's. The criticism was of the original idea that inspired the post. Where did the idea for the 5 Non-Negotiables come from, and what were the criteria were for deciding on them? Why was it that the first four, issues of "honoring life from conception to natural death," were unbending, but other issues of life, specifically the death penalty and war, were not? Isn't it hypocritical to value life in some instances, like abortion, but not in others, like war?

I think it's important to take a moment to address these comments here before I continue with my original plan for this series. I'll let these documents speak for themselves. As for my opinion on the subject, I understand the objection. They make a very compelling argument, and truth be told I was all but convinced. But after additional research, I am sticking to my guns. Here's what I found:

The idea of the 5 NNs originated from the book A Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics, published by the group called Catholic Answers Action. You can find the original publication in it's (rather short) entirety at this site. But to answer the issue brought up by my readers, I need only quote a few paragraphs.

This excerpt comes from the Appendix of the 2006 version of this publication. It was a late addition to the text, after some controversy with a liberal Catholic organization after the 2004 publishing. For a more complete history, read the section of this Wikipedia article called "The Voter's Guide Controversy." Suffice to say that this appendix was created to counter the criticisms of this and other groups.
"This voter's guide focuses on five non-negotiable issues. These were selected because they involve principles that never admit of exceptions and because they are currently being debated in U.S. politics, giving voters the opportunity to influence these issues... Some issues allow for a diversity of opinion, and Catholics are permitted leeway in endorsing or opposing particular policies. This is the case with the questions of when to go to war and when to apply the death penalty. Though the Church urges caution regarding both of these issues, it acknowledges that the state has the right to employ them in some circumstances." (emphasis added)
The guide references two passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. CCC 2309 discusses the strict terms under which a nation could wage just war. It also stresses the importance of prudential judgement on such an issue. CCC 2267 states that in the case of an unquestionably guilty party and when lethal means are the only sure way to "defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor," there could be "recourse to the death penalty." On the other hand, it quotes the Blessed Pope John Paul II in saying that these exceptions are"are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

It also includes a quote from Pope Benedict XVI (when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger)
"While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel and aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia." 
And with this, I leave the 5 NNs behind. They will not be my focus for the rest of the series - as I said before, I plan to move forward with discussions on education, taxation, poverty, immigration and the enviroment. All of these fall into the category of "wiggle room." To finish cleanly, I feel compelled to say that this is one of those posts I didn't want to write. I didn't want to disagree with the people making these comments - one of them I call "Daddy," and little girls NEVER want to think anything but the best of dad. But, out of obligation to anyone out there who might be listening, I wanted to put up what I found. And, of course, it was important for me too. I'm doing this to find where I stand - that's the whole point. I know that Dad doesn't mind if I disagree with him. After all, he raised me to question authority. :-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Vote of 2012: Introduction

Yes, I'm still on this subject. But last time I wrote, I addressed it from a personal, introspective angle. This time, I'd like to offer more information than opinion and stick with a decidedly Roman Catholic Christian perspective.

Thanks to the urging of a very conservative friend (yes, I have those too!), I was pushed into investigating the "issues" again this morning. She pointed out something called "The Five Non-Negotiables" of the Church: Abortion, Euthanasia, Fetal Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning, and Same-Sex Marriage. The basic concept is that to go against what the Church thinks on these 5 things is to put your vote in a non-Catholic hat. I'm sure there are those that would take issue with that, but it's not a judgement. You may certainly disagree with the Church on these ideas, but the fact remains: You may be a Catholic, but if you agree with any of the five, you are not voting like a Catholic.

Luckily for me, I agree. In fact, I made certain I was on that band wagon before I began my journey to become a Catholic in August 2009. I would not have even set foot on this road without being in agreement with these basic concepts - to do otherwise would be, I believed, hypocritical. Obviously, the first 4 Non-Negotiables stem from the same root: the belief that life, and therefore for personal rights, begins at conception and ends with natural death. They are, all four, logical inferences that follow from the concept that were are "created equal" and "endowed with certain unalienable rights by our creator," from the very moment that science tells us that life begins  until our bodies succumb naturally to death.

The fifth Non-Negotiable is hard for me still. I have come to believe that Marriage is the beginning of Family, in the same way that Seed is the beginning of Plant: a seed that cannot ever become a plant is, by definition, not a seed. Still, it's difficult for me to deny a homosexual person the right to a civil union, since that is not a "marriage."* Even if a civil union is permitted, there is little advantage to this aside from cheaper health insurance and simple tax returns. I don't think this is what advocates for homosexual marraige are after. A compromise, in this case, would not satisfy either side.

In my motivated researching frenzy this morning, I found this site. The overarching site has a very Conservative Catholic perspective, of which I am not too fond, but this particular document takes it's cues directly from the appropriate Papal Encyclicals, and makes major efforts to point out the subjects that are "non-negotiable" and the issues that are a matter of "prudent judgement." In other words, it tells you where Catholics can disagree without compromising what the Church sees as Christ's teachings.

While reading through this publication, I discovered several points that I am going to elaborate on. These are issues of interest for me, specifically because of the things that matter most for my life. I would encourage you to look through the document and find what matters to you. As I told my friend who originally sent me on my research rant,

"I'm researching like crazy, and for the first time in a while it's exciting me instead of frustrating me. It's so encouraging to read Catholic documents and find that I either already agree with the teaching, or that it easily refines some conflicting thoughts I had on a subject. In other words, Jesus for president!"
My future posts, inspired by this personal study, will (hopefully) include:
  • Education
  • Taxation
  • Poverty
  • Immigration
  • The Enviroment

Thanks, reader. Just knowing that you'll read this always makes me work harder to make sure I stand on solid ground.

*Note: Clarification on the subject of Marriage and Family: Just as I am against same-sex marriage, I am equally against married couples that choose to remain persistently childless, separation/divorce and pre-marital cohabitation. Many close friends and family fall into these categories, and in fact I have been in two (nearly three) of these situations myself. Don't confuse my beliefs with a holier than thou approach, for as St. Paul said, "I am chief among sinners." This is the great equalizer - sin brings me to the level of those I am so different from. It reminds me that I can never be superior to any man or woman. We all fall short.


I got a lot of comments on this blog about the 5 non-negotiables. Readers wanted to know who picked them and why. They had some legit complaints, and I researched their answers and wrote The Vote of 2012: An Aside to answer their concerns.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Political Race: Where's the Pit?

With the presidential race to deceive-faster-than-your-opponent coming up, there has been heightened pressure for me to figure out what I think about the issues. America is always zooming forward in the great race or democracy, but I'm just looking for a pit stop before I blow out all my tires. With two children under 3 and no job outside the home, the issues for me are potty training and boogers. Somehow, none of the candidates seemed to want to discuss. Clearly, they are hiding something from us. Scandal.

In my attempt to be well-educated about what matters to me, I began to distinguish (between diaper changes and requests for more markers from the cabinet) the issues that make a difference to me. Abortion/birth control, of course, but I've discussed that until I'm blue in the face. Foreign policy is an issue, but since I've spent the last 10 years in a relationship with someone who's been in and out of Iraq 3 times, it's a sore and often-avoided issue for me. And for now, it remains that way. A little too much scar tissue to go diving in with a scalpel, if you will. What else? There's so many things that I should have an opinion on, but don't. Here are my current musings on a few things.

Healthcare: Everybody is the equal! That's good, right?

Healthcare seems to matter a lot to me, but I am still quite conflicted about this one - as a military spouse I've always received as much care as I need, but because of the socialized nature of Military medicine, it has rarely been of any quality to speak of. Military Medicine: where everyone sees the same docs at the same facility and has the same, equal access to drugs. I believe that I know, just a little, what socialized medicine in America may look like, and it ain't pretty.

Take last summer, when I was given a prescription from my OBGYN during the latter stages of pregnancy. The wait for the pharmacy in the hospital? 2.5 hours (every day). The wait at the on-post pharmacy? 1.5, mostly outside (I was appalled when I saw elderly veterans standing outside the pharmacy in line in 110 degrees Texas Summer). So, I begged my doctor to write a script that I could take to CVS. She looked at me like I was insane. Why would I want to pay for free medicine? But 7 months pregnant with a 2 year old makes a drive up pharmacy look pretty good, and after all, my co-pay was a whopping $3.

How does this inform what I think of the proposed health care reform? I think (though I'm not yet sure) that it means I support the idea that free trade is the only way to regulate a very screwed up system. The pharmaceutical companies have such amazing monopolies on life-giving medications and yet are pushing unnecessary drugs down the throat of the public (longer eyelashes? seriously?), and the only explanation I've come across that makes any sense is that free trade has not been allowed to do it's cut-throat only-the-strong-survive kung-fu action because of government involvement (regulation, subsidies, incentives, research funding). Look - when I needed to go to the pharmacy, I made it happen at the place that met my needs. And I was willing to spend more of my hard earned money to do it. Maybe this is a microcosm. And this doesn't even cover what it's like to see the same doctors. Or what happens if you have an issue that's difficult to solve. Or the gaggle cuss that is "specialty" medicine. For the record, this isn't any one person's fault - some of the docs I've seen are miracle workers. I just think that this is the natural conclusion of the "everybody is equal and deserves the best" mentality. Didn't you guys watch "The Incredibles?" The moral of that story: When everyone is super, no one is super at all. And here comes the evil genius's destructive super-robot. Oh crap.

I also see an appalling waste caused by this type of universally-provided medicine. Guess what folks? That $3 prescription I paid for is actually worth $50. And someone is paying it. Among military dependants, there's a total flippancy about spending money on medicine. Feeling a little sad? Some providers will give you a month's worth of zoloft ($80-$90) without a trip to see even a counselor. Not sure what birth control you want to use? Give Mirena a try - you can always take it out and toss it if it doesn't work for you. And waste the $350 the little device costs. It makes me so mad when people think, "If I'm not paying it, what does it matter?" It's that attitude that must change to get us out of this hole we dug.

Immigration Policy: "It's proud, I am"

As a fourth generation immigrant, I care about immigration. The Irish (my main heritage) were hated as dirty immigrants who stole jobs and put "good Americans" out on their buts for a long time. "Native Americans" of the 1800s hated those Ellis Island pigs. Sound familiar? And guess what? Aside from the 1/16th of my blood that is American Indian, they were ALL immigrants at one time. Some of them would not have been legal under today's laws.

Now, we all know that I'm a fan of all things legal so I am certainly not promoting illegal immigration. And it's not impossible to become an American, either. I have known many many people who joined the military as a fool-proof way of becoming American. That some hard-earned long months, doing a minimum 2 year stint serving the country you want to belong to. I'd like to shake that hand, my friend.  So changing immigration laws isn't necessarily the answer. I would just like to see a change in attitude, honestly.

Gerald O'Hara. So one of my personal heroes
is fictional. So what?
A grateful tip of the hat to Lady Liberty and the thousands of tired masses she welcomed would be a nice start. Not being hateful for having to "press one for English" would be a holistic thought as well. After all, why do we speak English in the first place? 7th grade history, folks. In this part of the country, I should be speaking Spanish. If not French. If this country speaks Spanish as their first language in 10 years, I guess I'll be learning Spanish to keep up, not complaining in racial slurs. 63% of my fellow San Antonioians are hispanic, only 28% are white, and a shocking 6% are African American. But back home, the city of my birth has gone from 14 to 17% hispanic over the course of the last 9 years. And I am ashamed to admit that I've heard so many of the white majority in that area say "The hispanics are taking over." Shame on you for thinking that's a bad thing in the first place. But for being that out of touch with what is actually going on? Think for yourselves, people. You're still sitting pretty at 47% white back at home. Relax. Come visit the River City and be appreciative for a family-oriented, friendly, art-infused, religiously-sound culture that I am overjoyed to be submerged in. They can take over if they want to. My Irish ancestors did just that - mixed and fought and worked their tails off when "No Irish need apply."

"It's proud I am to be Irish," to quote the fictious yet friggin awesome Gerald O'Hara (Gone with the Wind) and so I welcome those huddled masses - no matter how they come. I think our attitude informs our legislation. And I'm afraid we've got it all wrong.

Standing against those I love?

In discussing all this, I've made a real discovery about myself. It's very difficult for me to take a stand that is different from my family and friends. It's a pretty simple formula really. (What I think) / (What you think) x (How much I care about you) = (Gagglecuss of emotion). I really just want everyone to get along. I know that you wouldn't guess that from this blog, but it's true. This little blog world is the vacuum in which I can have an opinion that is contrary to that of my best friend or my husband or my kid's godfather (Hi Jimmy!). But what I've learned is that I HATE IT. I spend more time trying to reconcile what you think to what I think than develop what I think at all. Because I love you. Yes you. I guess it's a good thing that my love overwhelms my opinion, but not if it makes me a fence-sitter. The trick is to find out what I think, and love you even if you don't agree with me.

Even these letters know that not everyone can be right.
Having political opinions is relatively new territory for me. I spent a lot of my life purposely not being opinionated. "You're probably right, I'm sorry," was my MO. There are many paths to the top of the mountain, a very popular idea, just turned out to be (for me) a load of bunk. In the end, I can't help but come to the conclusion that we simply cannot all be right. Mutually impossible. Yet it still shocks my system a bit when I find myself believing that someone is wrong.

And I have VERY high standards for having a solid stance on anything. My opinion must be well-researched from multiple reputable sources (on both sides of the issue, and hopefully from at least one non-biased source). It cannot be hearsay or pseudo-knowledge. It must challenge authority at all costs, but still acknowledge the value of the accumulative, longsuffering knowledge that authority often carries by it's very nature. It must be humane and empathetic, but convicted. And above all, it must always be ready to be proven wrong if presented with a more compelling argument. Geez. With a list like that, no wonder I'm a fence-sitter. I'm exhausted from just typing it.

So politics makes me feel like I'm running a marathon. In the end, though, I'm glad I'm like this. I wish more people were. It's the folly of my life - high standards for all, and the highest for myself. But I refuse to compromise. I'll just continue to labor under the yolk of my own ridiculousness. Hee-haw.