How to Discuss Gay Marriage

I can take absolutely no credit for this post. I simply asked two very intelligent friends of mine to chat with each other about the recent SCOTUS decision regarding the legalization of gay marriage. So, before I let you read their conversation, let me give you some background and ground rules:

Background and Intros

Cara has been my friend for 23 years now. She lives in CA where she works for an organization that helps philanthropists achieve greater good with their resources. She has her Master’s from University of San Fransisco.

Jenny lives in CO and has three children with one on the way. She writes for Catholic News Agency which hosts her blog, Mama Needs Coffee. She studied theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. 

ha. Just realized they both were schooled in St. Francis of Assisi inspired locations. Anyway.

Both people agreed to email back and forth so they would have time to process and respond.

Ground Rules

I invite you to join the conversation these two women have started, but. BUT. I am completely aware of the fact that the readership of this blog will tend to disagree with the SCOTUS decision (myself included), so let me make this crystal clear: please be genuine and tactful in your comments and questions. Both of these women are wonderful people (who I love) with intelligent thoughts on the matter. Please engage them in conversation while respecting their humanity.

Tips for Online Debate

So, let’s get this party started. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing how this conversation unfolded. It was amazing to watch how they were able to

  • address ideas without personal attacks
  • defend their beliefs while inquiring about the other’s
  • understand that they weren’t going to change each other’s minds, but they could clearly lay out their case for others who may be reading
  • know they could help the other person understand but not agree
  • come to a polite conclusion when they felt they had finished

What do you feel the effect of the legalization of gay marriage will be on the future of our country?

p.s. this is long, but oh, so worth it.

With SCOTUS recently ruling wedding rings for all, we are all finding ourselves in need of a lesson in online etiquette. Learn to stay true to your beliefs while still tactfully engaging another in conversation. | gaylove | gaypride | gay marriage | internet safety | debate topics

© Masson / Dollar Photo Club

 

 

Cara:

I was sitting at work in DC when I heard the news of the ruling. It was coming off the heels of another SCOTUS decision upholding the ACA, and it felt to me like a SCOTUS magic week. The news started to ripple through my office, and we all cheered, breathed sighs of relief, and a few people were walking around waving equality flags that HRC was handing out across the street.

I dove into my iPhone to be sure I knew exactly what this ruling meant and when/how the decision would be implemented. The fact that it was immediate law and that couples could get married right away sounded almost too good to be true. I live in California where marriages have been legal and then annulled with the back-and-forth laws that have been state-driven. Throughout the day, I started to hear stories like Jack and George, and I shed my cynicism and believed this could really be a turning point.

Quite simply, when I think about what this ruling will mean for the future of our country, I think it means that we are one step closer to equality and that the future is a little brighter. It means stories like Jack and George can finally be a thing of the past and that from this point forward, individuals can marry who they love and enjoy the legal and societal privileges that come with that. I believe that the next generation will be astounded that this was ever a debate, much the same way that our generation can’t fathom that interracial marriage was illegal less than 50 years ago.

I do still have a very real concern for the future of LGBTQ rights in this country. Same sex marriage is a huge win, but it’s not the end of the fight. There is still incredible discrimination in employment and housing, for example, and the trans community remains one of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in the US. So, I know there’s a real possibility of the movement losing some momentum after this, which concerns me. I must say though, this ruling has given me so much hope that hearts and minds really are changing and that acceptance in a concrete, legal form has finally been given to a large community.

Jenny:

My heart sank that Friday morning, when news of SCOTUS’ decision filtered down through my newsfeed. I was scrolling through the news and periodically raising my eyes above the screen to see my kids diving off the couches in the family room. My first thought was “what is this world they are going to inherit?”

My next thought was one that I’m convinced of more and more with each day that has passed since the ruling was handed down: “this is the Roe v. Wade of their generation.”

What I mean by that is twofold, one, that the High Court issued a mandate against the will of the people, as she did back in 1973, further eroding State’s rights and, along with them, the integrity of the American experiment a little more in the process, and two, my children will not grow up in a world without gay “marriage.”

Just as I have never known a world without abortion.

I’m not naive enough to think that our present culture places much value on marriage in any form in 2015. No fault divorce and contraception are rampant, and are lauded as fundamental human rights, so on the one hand, why not allow gay “marriage,” along with polygamy and incest and any other sexual arrangement that happens to come into vogue? We’re certainly not living, culturally speaking, an experience of marriage as a covenant of life-long fidelity and fruitfulness.

But I want more for my kids. I want them to see (please God, let them see) in their parent’s marriage the fruitfulness and the sanctifying grace of Christ present in the exchange of love between spouses. I want them to recognize the profound gift of new life in the face of each new sibling that comes along, and the awesome responsibility that we, their parents, have in co-creating and raising them.

And I want that for everyone else’s children, too.

I want them to experience this impossibly wide, self-denying and cross-carrying and soul-stretching love, whether they are called to the married life or to a celibate vocation. Because that is where real happiness lies. That’s where fulfillment of the deepest variety resides. And nothing the world can offer them in terms of popular sentiment or trending behavior can compete with that.

And so my job as a mother got a little harder on June 27th. Because now I must explain to these children of mine that not all laws are good, and that wherever our human laws stray from the natural law which is written on each of our hearts, there is tremendous suffering.

I see a unique opportunity here to impress upon them the incredible dignity of every human person – no matter their race, religion, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, and all the rest. Because there is surely a wrong way to teach the truth about love and human sexuality, and I’ve seen too much of that these past couple months.

But it’s scary to think that in teaching them the truth about their sexuality and how they were made – for communion with one unique and unrepeatable member of the opposite sex, if they are called to marriage – I am exercising what is now considered “hate speech.” I’ve been called a bigot 100 different ways online these past 3 weeks, and worse than that. Not because I’ve spoken ill of any gay person or suggested homosexuals deserve inferior treatment in the eyes of the law, but because I maintain that marriage is a unique arrangement fundamentally ordered toward the creation of new human life and,because of those new lives, is worthy of protection and distinction in the eyes of the law.

I don’t hate gay people. I don’t hate anyone. And I don’t believe there is such a thing as gay “marriage,” no matter what 6 unelected public officials and the far more important court of public opinion says about the matter.

People should be allowed to love – and to contract legally binding arrangements with – whomever they please. In my own state, that way already the case.

But I also don’t actually believe this was ever about securing a legal right for a certain class of people, but was rather about abolishing one of the last vestiges of Judeo-Christian morality from American civil law. And it’s going to be a slippery descent downhill, as mentioned above. Because polygamy, incest, and the like are all coming. And on what grounds can we deny anyone a legally-binding and civilly-recognized sexual relationship with any other person – or creature – of their preference? No matter how self-harmful. No matter how disordered. No matter how utterly incapable of producing new life or of investing in the future of a stable and just society.

We can’t. And that’s the world we’re passing on to our children. Not a world of greater equality and opportunity, but of darkened reasoning and of bizarre sexual deviance that everyone will be required, by law, to applaud for with a straight face, affirming that each choice is equally good and loving and valid, because the tyranny of the individual will now rule over the greater common good.

Cara:

Regardless of how absolutely opposed our views are on this, I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me. The shock and sadness I experienced while reading your words made me think about how I really surround myself with likeminded people, for better or worse (no pun intended), and that because of that, I so rarely hear this side of the debate. So, in that way, I’m grateful to hear where you’re coming from and how you think through this issue as it’s honestly a side of the debate I so rarely am up against. Did I mention I live in San Francisco? ;)
There are about a million things I want to say in response, but I thought it might be interesting to look at three big areas where I think we start from the same place and then diverge wildly from a similar origin.

First, I think we both have strong relationships with God and that in big or small ways that is guiding our view on this issue. I was raised in a liberal Catholic home and have kept the main lessons from my childhood as pillars in my adult life. These lessons all center around an impossibly loving and accepting God who creates each of us as intentionally unique and strong individuals who are put on the earth to connect with one another. The God I have known since birth is 100% behind supporting loving gay marriage, and he doesn’t even put quotes around the word marriage! He would urge all of us to fight for the equal rights of everyone in our communities to ensure a safe, just, and loving world. A couple weeks ago, I marched in the SF Pride Parade with my Jesuit-run graduate school. It felt so great to represent a side of the church that is open and excited about this, as I think our voices are often muddled into “religious people” who are categorically opposed to gay marriage.

Second, I think you’re absolutely right that soul-stretching love (I love that wording!) is where true happiness lies. Marriage is an incredibly beautiful commitment between two individuals. I would bet that both of us know of strong and weak marriages. I can tell you with absolute certainty that two of the strongest marriages among people closest to me are gay marriages filled to the brim with soul-stretching love. One of these marriages was put on hold for decades because of archaic laws, while the other marriage is between two young men who were able to commit themselves to each other through marriage own their own clock because they happen to a reside in a progressive state. I am so happy that couples like these no longer have to hide their love away for their whole lives.

Finally, I think we both agree that the creation of a family within a marriage is something very special and something to protect. While I in no way believe that marriage has anything to do with some responsibility or calling to “create new life”, I do believe that a married couple can provide a loving home for children and a great foundation for a family. Same-sex couples do this equally as well as hetero couples, and this ruling offers an opportunity for the creation of so many more families to be formed with such greater ease and stronger protection. How can one not celebrate that?

Jenny:

I’m actually really enjoying that we can go back and forth without fear of misunderstanding or emotional fallout – so refreshing from what I spend a lot of time doing. Because of work I’m actually in fairly regular debate/discussion with people on both sides of the issue, so I’m not shocked by really…anything, at this point.

Oh, and ha! Just to cement our uncanny likeness a little further, I was born in San Fran and raised in the Bay Area. And my spiritual director is a former Jesuit, and my mom is a Santa Clara and USF grad, so maybe one of those is your alma mater too?

To address your first point, I want to challenge the logic of making an appeal to popularity or common option (the other alums and students who dissent from Catholic teaching on gay marriage.) That’s a valid emotional experience for you, but logically it falls under the fallacy “argumentum ad populum,” so it doesn’t strengthen your argument.

I was also raised – and am still a practicing – Catholic, and I don’t like the labels “conservative” or “liberal” – I really think they do more to divide than to unite, and we’re a big ‘ol universal church.

For those who will be reading this, I’d like for us to clarify what marriage is, and what it was created for. Since we’re both coming from a faith angle I think it’s safe to bring that into the conversation, but it could also be made solely from a natural law perspective, so really we could leave God out of it.

He’s already here in our email thread though, so let’s examine what He says about marriage and about human sexuality: first, He created us male and female with a purpose and with a distinct complementarity between our sexualities, to image in a particular way the life-giving exchange of love within the Persons of God, the trinity. And then the first instruction we receive from Him? Be fruitful, and multiply.

This lays 2 clear imperatives from the creator, first that there is something intelligent and intentional about our sexual differences, and second, that we are intrinsically ordered toward the creation of new life, just as God Himself is.

You say that marriage has nothing to do with children, in your mind, and that is probably the most difficult piece of your argument for me to answer, because it leads me to think we’re not actually discussing the same thing.

If marriage is not primarily ordered toward “the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring,” then what, exactly, is the purpose?

I’m guessing you’re going to say romantic fulfillment and life-long companionship, which are two goods of marriage, but are somewhat periphery to the two primary ends mentioned above. So could it be that we’re not actually talking about the same thing at all?

Like I said in my earlier email, our culture jettisoned the idea of marriage as something intentionally ordered towards bringing forth new life and raising that life in faithful, committed love, but does that cultural rejection actually alter the nature of marriage? What I mean is, can we redefine a thing based solely on popular opinion, considering we didn’t create marriage to begin with?

Finally, I want to challenge – so gently – the notion that children adopted into same sex partnerships do equally well as children raised by their biological parents. It’s simply not been borne out in all the research, and many adult children of loving, homosexual couples are coming forward and saying that no matter how loving their two “moms” were, and no matter how much they loved them in return, there was a void where the opposite sex parent was missing. And that void impacts them in a real and irrevocable way. I don’t think it’s right to discount the real experiences of children who are living on the front lines of our cultural experimentation and have something hard to tell us, even if it’s difficult to hear. That invalidates their lived experience in the name of furthering an agenda, and unfortunately many of these kids – now adults – are afraid to speak out or do so knowing they’re going to be alienated and rejected by the very community within which they were raised. Katy’s story of her experience being raised in a lesbian household is worth reading.

One final thought: of course children deserve a loving home and of course, orphans and single parent families and all the other impoverished and imperfect arrangements we find ourselves in, when parents die or the crushing demands of poverty overwhelm them, or when teenagers get pregnant or women are abandoned by the men who helped them create the child in question… because we live in a fallen world, and we’re all sinners. But neither of us would, I think, look at those aforementioned situations and call them ideal.

To intentionally deny a child their right to a mother and a father is a grievous injustice to that child. My favorite Jesuit – Pope Francis, says it well: “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”
So if marriage has nothing to do with children, what is it for? And why should our government take any interest in it, in the first place?

Cara:

So funny – USF is my alma mater! Go Dons!

I think we’re getting somewhere because I didn’t even need a deep breath for this one.

I want to be crystal clear here that my support of gay marriage and equal rights for all forms of sexual orientation and gender expression have exactly zero to do with appealing to some popular opinion or “common option.” There is nothing new, trendy, or popular about this. Same-sex love has been around since the beginning of time and all that is news here is that our country is finally coming around to showing this type of love and commitment the respect and legal rights that this community should have been entitled to for all of history.

My point was that there are many people who identify as Catholic who dissent from the fundamental bible-based Catholic teachings on gay marriage (and so, so many other traditional teachings of the Catholic church). A large group of people who believe in God and feel a connection to the Catholic church fully support LGBTQ rights and full acceptance and love of all people (backed by actually supporting all people to love who they love). Because we have such different core values, it does make sense to me to clearly delineate conservative and liberal Catholics. They are, in practice, such vastly different approaches to life, and to be honest I would be horrified to be bucketed into the traditional Catholic mold. Unfortunately, I think the conservative approach to Catholicism has been much, much louder on a variety of social issues, so the liberal portion of the church has gotten lost in the shuffle. I do think Pope Francis is doing a lot to improve this, and I’m happy to hear we can agree that he’s the best. :)

As far as what marriage is and why it is so important, I think you’re right we can leave God out of this, and I want to do just that. While religions all around this globe treat marriage as a sacred and monumental event, that piece is far more complex than what was decided on a Friday in June. The fact is that while religion can put many (valid and important and beautiful) layers on top of marriage, marriage is a legal contract in which each marriage is as unique and diverse as the individuals within the commitment. Some marriages are religious, some are secular, some are between young or older individuals, some span across states or countries, some include children, and some are between same-sex individuals.

 You guessed that I think the point of marriage is for “romantic fulfillment and life-long companionship” and I find that phrasing incredibly empty and not even close to capturing what marriage is. When two people decide that they want to marry, that is an intimate decision that carries with it so many different intentions and goals. Because of that, I don’t believe there is one “reason” for marriage. I think it depends entirely on the individuals within the relationship. This diversity does extend to whether or not they decide to have children. Deciding to be a spouse and deciding to be a parent are such different decisions and roles in life, and it is for no one but the couple involved to make decisions about this. Do you know any married couples who have decided to not have children? Do you know any who are unable to conceive? Who have fostered or adopted children? Any who have blended families but have not “created life” together? Do you honestly think these marriages are not valid or living up to some “ideal”?

Your point about children being raised by their biological parents being somehow better off than children of same-sex couples just holds absolutely no water with me. I’m very familiar with the argument that some children raised by same-sex parents are somehow dissatisfied with their upbringing, and I had actually read Katy’s letter before. Some children of ALL forms of childrearing are dissatisfied with parts of their upbringing. There are just as many stories coming from children who are happy with their families, like Zack Wahls. So, this kind of “proof” isn’t proof at all. The stories of all families are complex with varying degrees of success and levels of overall happiness, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents.

Jenny:

iiiiit’s a small world :)

And brace yourself, this is long, because I’m suuuuuper pregnant and was up thinking about it between 4-6 this morning…

Okay, after thinking it over, here’s what I pulled out as your three main points “pro” gay marriage:

1. Same sex attraction/homosexual behavior have been around forever, so therefore it should be legally recognized as marriage. This necessitates a change from the fundamental definition of marriage (which I’ll define as a legally binding, life-long, exclusive public commitment to a spouse of the opposite sex and any children which may result from that union) to a broader range of various sexual behaviors. I’m reading that you don’t believe children have anything to do with marriage unless the individual couples wills for them to, and then pursues them in whatever fashion they see fit. Is this accurate so far?

The main issue with this point is the final piece, because this view of marriage radically alters the nature of the institution, which is ordered toward the creation and development of a family, which is the fundamental building block for our larger communities, and turns it into something else entirely: a sexual partnership which is not outwardly-focused, by it’s very nature, but which is focused inward, on the mutual satisfaction and “happiness” (quotes because it’s a completely subjective state unique to each couple) of the spouses.

This is not to say marriage should not equal happiness, but that marriage in the traditional definition often results in happiness but is not contingent upon it. Happiness is a happy aftereffect, if you will, but it’s not proper end. So we contract marriages because we love the other person and want to build a life and a family with them, but the vision is directed outward, away from the individual couples, and that other-centered love physically begets new life. Children are a natural good of marriage – and an essential part of the purpose for marriage – precisely because they draw the spouses away from one another and toward a common good, and ultimately, the future.

You rightly mentioned adoptions and couples who struggle with infertility. I set those aside for the purpose of our argument because they’re tangential, but since you brought them up I’ll answer that when a couple cannot conceive this is a poverty in their relationship. Yes, they may be able to adopt and take great joy in building a family through alternative means (moral means, but that’s another topic entirely), but you’ll never hear an infertile couple say that their infertility hasn’t been a great sadness or a source of suffering. Is their marriage any less valid? Of course not. That’s like saying a cancer patient’s life has less value than a healthy person’s because her body has succumbed to a disease. It means something has gone awry physically.

For a homosexual couple, the sterility of their love is fundamental. That’s part of the reason I said in our first exchange that I don’t believe there is such a thing as gay “marriage;” marriage, by definition, is open to life and directed to the propagation of future generations. A homosexual relationship can never bring forth new life on its own, and so it cannot be rightly called “marriage” in the real sense of the word. Legal partnership? Sure. Civil union? Ok. But while the government has seen fit to radically alter the definition of marriage to include couples who are fundamentally incapable of fulfilling the essential duties (I’m using that word philosophically) of the office, there is nothing that can be done, legally or semantically, to actually alter the reality that only opposite sex spouses can contract a marital union.

2. When homosexual couples determine that they would like to acquire a child, either through adoption, IVF, surrogacy, etc., this results in a profound commoditization of the child. It reduces the child to a product, if you will, to be added on to their relationship as a kind of familial upgrade.

Do homosexual couples sincerely love the children they bring into their homes and raise as their own? I’m sure they do. But especially in the case of assisted reproductive technologies, there is almost total disregard for the dignity and the autonomy of the child. Their humanity is utterly secondary to wants and desires of the parent(s). Surrogacy is perhaps the saddest example of this commoditization, as it outsources the most fundamental human experience – gestation in your mother’s womb – to an unrelated third party. Does the child have no say in this? And can there really be no consequences to such an impoverished arrangement?

3. I didn’t present Katy’s story as any kind of definitive proof of the inability of a gay couple to raise a happy child, just as food for thought that maybe the children involved in these unions are not being afforded their full rights. We disagree on the nature of marriage as being ordered towards procreation, but there is still an innate drive, even among homosexual couples, to build a family. So the question becomes, what of the rights of the child? Does a child not, as we have legally recovnzzed up until this point, have the right to a mother and a father|? Is it not wrong to preemptively deny them a parent of the opposite sex, simply because two men or two women decide to build a life together?

My final thought is this: if marriage has nothing to do with procreation and building families, then why is the government involved in the first place? Traditionally the government has extended legal protections and benefits to married couples recognizing the unique benefits of marriage to society as a whole, (stable, intact families, healthier citizens, lower crime rates, greater economic stability, etc.) But these all tie into marriages begetting families.

Marriage has been recognized in a unique way because marriage – the sexual relationship between a man and a woman – is uniquely capable of bringing forth the next generation of civilization. Can it be done outside the context of marriage? Well yes, of course. But it’s always at the cost of the children involved, never to their benefit.

Also, if marriage means completely different things to different couples, as you said, if each couple contracts marriage on their own terms and for their own reasons and just wants to call it something that starts with an m….how can there be any kind of legal precedent at all for differentiating what makes the cut and what doesn’t? Can’t I marry my sister? Can’t I marry a second spouse of either gender while my husband is still alive? How is there any grounds, legally, to deny me that?

I’ve really enjoyed the peaceful nature and tone of this exchange (seriously, soooooo refreshing for someone who works on the internet) but I’m not sure we can go much further since it kind of feels like we’re talking past each other on a certain level. We’re using the same language, but we don’t mean the same thing, at all, when we say “marriage.”  So I guess maybe I’m up for one more round of closing arguments, if you will, and then we call it a day?

Cara:

I agree on two points: I really have enjoyed the tone of this, and I think we’re getting to the point of talking past each other in many ways.

There are a number of things I’d like to push back on with what you’ve written here (i.e. those are not my three main points pro gay marriage). I think the fact is that we have wildly different approaches to marriage and family — beyond gay marriage or this particular ruling. I don’t feel the need for closing arguments, per se, as I (thankfully) saw this much more as a conversation than a debate. I would like to offer a couple reflections though.

I will admit that I was a bit nervous going into this. After your first email I had tears in my eyes and ended up going for a couple mile walk with my dog on the beach to de-swell the lump in my throat and unknot my stomach a bit. These types of conversations can be really painful and difficult, but I’m so happy that by this last email I feel better about it all. So — I’m glad we went the email route with this so there was some reflection time built in and an opportunity to compose our thoughts.

Another thing I noticed is that maybe the trick to this is that it didn’t really feel like a debate. We both have clearly thought a lot about this issue and have extremely deep seated beliefs about what is right here. Given that, I think we both quickly knew that we weren’t going to sway the other or “win.” What we could do was explain our stance calmly and (as hard as it may have been for both of us) openly listen to the other side. I think there’s a lot of value in that, and I’m grateful to Jenna for framing this up front that this was to be civil and productive, not a battle or a gotcha debate.

Honestly, I still don’t empathize with your stance at all and I think a lot of what you believe is incredibly harmful to our society, but at the same time I can respect you as an individual and hope that somewhere down the line you have a change of heart as so many people have. And I bet you feel the same about me! At least we’re not apathetic members of society, right? ;) I do feel sure that we both want what we think is best for our world, and those opinions have been informed and shaped in very different ways.

Best of luck with the tail end of your pregnancy, and sincere thanks for having this conversation.

Jenny:

Well, I have to admit I’m a little relieved, haha. Not because it wasn’t encouraging to engage this way overall, but yeah, because it was a little personally devastating to hear someone so passionately opposed to the deepest knowledge of my heart and my faith.

I was telling my husband last night that it our conversation was making me sad, not for you necessarily, but for our culture at large, just because relativism is so overpowering and pervasive, and it makes fruitful dialogue so difficult.

But He is bigger, and I’ve seen firsthand the fruits of continuing to question and seek and wrestle.

I had a massive reversion to Catholicism in college when St. John Paul II died, and I credit him with saving my life. I’ll be asking him to pray in a special way for both of us,

Enjoy your weekend and God bless your willingness to engage in this.

Jenna again. Just popping in to repeat, “please be genuine and tactful in your comments and questions. Both of these women are wonderful people (who I love) with intelligent thoughts on the matter. Please engage them in conversation while respecting their humanity.” xx

After the Great Stretching

This post first appeared on Whole Parenting Family.

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

 

I wrote about loving your body after a baby after my last baby. I had to re-read it since I’ve had this one. Postpartum is this awkward transitional time when your skin tries to remember where it was before the Great Stretching, and your breasts try to gauge how much milk to make for this baby, and your belly jiggles and your face has lost its color, and you’re just plain in the middle of it all.

As I write this, our little baby is almost three months old. I’m still so postpartum. I haven’t lost much weight since I had him. My body feels that heavy jiggle jiggle never-wear-a-bathing-suit-again feeling. My hair has clumped out on the side of my head, leaving the look of a bad side side bang job. I still occasionally slip into a hot bath when everyone is done with a day of needing to be held, loved, sternly glared at, fed, diapered, read to, praised, censured, hair patted out of their faces. The hot water like a deep breath for my skin, my motherly parts all tuckered out.

My girlfriend Blythe just wrote this beautiful post on her blog, The Fike Life, about loving the nursing mom who had to dash after her toddler, displaying her soft tumtum to the world inadvertently. And how it gave her permission to not be perfect, not worry about being beautifully put together. We need that permission.

But one day I watched a veteran mother of many pop up from her shady spot under a tree to chase a wandering toddler away from the street. I watched her run with a newborn at her breast, soft, postpartum belly exposed, underwear bunched up above the waistline of her jeans… yelling, running, towards the 2 year old on the sidewalk. And I loved her for it.”

We live during a time when sexy (not motherly) is celebrated, and even the rare times a celebrity sort celebrates their motherhood, they do so in a sexy in shape way. Way to go, Olivia Wilde (whoever you are) for nursing your son in Glamour’s September issue. Do you also show your stretch marks or wrinkled belly skin that longs to dive into your belly button like a deep sea diving adventure but can’t? I don’t think so. That’s okay. You probably have a personal trainer and dietician and chef. Go you. The rest of us aren’t hating on you; we just probably don’t look like you.

Projects like the Fourth Trimester Bodies one are so important for me, personally. The project is crowd funded so check out sponsoring them if you feel moved to. I look at these awesome women who grew babies that are proud of their post baby bodies and think okay, if they’re proud, I should be too. Not that the pride means I shouldn’t eat healthfully and work out to maintain muscle tone and health. Not that the pride means I shouldn’t curb my insatiable desire for ice cream and dessert. Sugar addicts need to be kept in check, people.

But the pride means it’s okay that I will never look 21 again (oh! the difference a decade makes–haha) insofar as my skin is older, my face is wrinklier, and my tumtum has pushed out three times with a baby. Even if I get back in stellar shape (hopeful on this one), my body never won’t be scarred and changed. Double negative.

This sounds trite: “love your postpartum body!” But for me it’s not. It means accepting my changes, accepting imperfect older me. Accepting the physical external changes of being a mama that mirror internal changes, too.

I didn’t feel this strongly after my first, or even my second, but with my third, the body changes are more permanent, more real. I’m thinking about how I tore, and that I’ll probably tear along that scar tissue again. I’m thinking about how nursing three takes a toll on what was an upright upper chest. I’m thinking about how three kids’ worth of poor sleep has wrecked my face and puffed out my eyes for infinity. I’m thinking that, once again, I have to believe I’m beautiful and feel confident in order to embrace my new body // new reality. My perception of myself is really in my own hands.

So go hug yourself. And your kids. And mostly feel peace at your changes. Know me & others out there are working towards that too.

And find something to do for you as an outlet–a real break.

Nell and Jenna like to work in the fiber arts. For Nell, it’s sewing and knitting for her organic mama & babe goods shop Whole Parenting Goods on Etsy. For Jenna, it’s embroidering necklaces and custom hoops in her Etsy shop, Call Her Happy.

What is your outlet?

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

How to Love Your Body Right Now: After pregnancy many women find themselves with a new body. You don’t need to focus ALL of your energy on fitness and healthy eating. Those things are great, but learn how Nell figured out how to love her new post-baby body where it is right now - during the postpartum belly phase.

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Church Tour: Our Lady of Sorrows, South Orange, NJ

Since we got married two years ago, my husband and I have been parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in South Orange, New Jersey. We’re really lucky to have such a lovely church within walking distance. I grew up in northern Virginia, where most of the parishes look like 1980s Pizza Huts, so I’m always excited to find more traditional church styles. This parish is packed with beautiful symbolic details inside and out.

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The church was built in 1931, designed in the French Gothic style by Boston architects McGinnis and Walsh. The copper steeple is visible from far away, and is similar to the one on the nearby Newark cathedral.

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The exterior doorways feature images of Mary’s presence at her Son’s death. I especially like how the iron hinges on the doors are in a heavy medieval style. As with many older churches, the narthex here isn’t very big. On the left side is a room that was originally a baptistery, but is now used for vestment storage. The doorway carving here depicts Christ’s baptism in the Jordan.

There are many delicately carved wood elements throughout the church, like this screen separating the narthex from the nave.

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Inside the nave, there are two votive shrines to the Sacred Heart and St. Therese. The octagonal baptismal font sits in the middle of the rows of pews; the eight sides symbolize Jesus’ resurrection as the 8th day of creation.

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The nave is full of columns, pointed arches, and vaulted ceilings.

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The ceiling appeals to my architectural history nerd tendencies because of its zigzag tilework. This resembles the work of Rafael Guastavino, who designed vaulted ceilings for many famous spaces in New York City, like the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the oyster bar at Grand Central Terminal.

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Renovation work was done on the church in the 1980s, but fortunately not too many traditional features were removed. You can tell that the current altar replaced the marble one further back where priests used to say Mass ad orientem, but it matches the building’s overall look nicely.

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The oak pieces in the sanctuary are some of my favorite parts of the whole church. The pulpit features carvings of the twelve Apostles plus painted portraits of some Doctors of the Church: St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Ambrose, Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome.

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I also love getting a close look at the baldachin, or altar canopy, when Iím sitting in the sanctuary as a lector. The center medallion depicts the Trinity with Jesus as the Lamb of God. St. Peter and St. Paul sit on the corners, and the angels across the top look like they’re going to zoom up into the heavens.

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So many different saints appear in the stained glass windows, from Mary Magdalene to Thomas Aquinas to Joan of Arc. Since he went to a Jesuit high school, my husbandís favorite is the one in the left transept depicting the North American martyr missionaries.

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Weíre both fans of the unique artwork around the church. The Marian shrine has a painting of Mary being presented in the Temple along with the usual statues. I’ve never seen brass Stations of the Cross like this before. Did you know that all church Stations must have a small wooden cross attached? It’s a symbolic connection to pilgrimages in the Holy Land.

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Thanks for visiting along with me. Stop by if you’re ever in north Jersey; our choirs sing beautifully!

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Bklyn Bridge headshot Sarah blogs regularly at Catholic History Nerd. Learn more about her here!

Are You Done?

Nosy Friend is ecstatic that I’m having a baby boy.  She arrives at my doorstep, flinging her cross-fit toned arms wide open to hug and congratulate me.  I grab the package of mouthwatering French macaroons straight from a Paris bakeshop off her hands, but she snatches it back.

“Hang on. You get this after I get to cross examine you,”  she says.

I’m slightly nervous.  My old friend from law school is a pro at squeezing witnesses, and she already knows the vast majority of my most embarrassing moments so a round of Q & A would stuff her arsenal with more things to blackmail Anabelle Hazard with.  But the macaroons, oooh, I gotta have them. “O-okay. Shoot.”

are you done

“So, now that you’re having a boy, are you done?”

“Define ‘done’.”

Eyeroll.  “Are you done having kids?”

“Didn’t you read my blog post about letting God plan our family size two pregnancies ago?”

She shakes her head.   After I hang up her lamb’s wool coat, she perches on the bar stool of my kitchen island.

“What kind of friend doesn’t subscribe to her friends’ blog?” I ask.

“The kind who is in court or with clients wracking billable hours.”

I sigh as I slip in beside her. “Okay, in gist, my husband and I are practicing Catholics who understand, believe and abide by the teachings of the Church.  Every marital act is self-giving and open to the fruit of love…children.  Frankly, I’d feel used if all he wanted was the pleasure of sex without the gift of children and responsibility of parenthood.”

Her dark red lipstick is turned downward. “You’re not getting fixed?”

Vasectomy or tubal ligations are also against Church teachings. Mutilating the co-creative/self-giving nature of sex is like unwrapping a precious present, throwing away the fertility eggs inside, tying up the gift back up and returning it to sender with the tag: ‘No thanks, God!’

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I hand her my i-phone. “You must not have read this blog post from a colleague on vasectomy:  Why fix something that isn’t broke?”

“I don’t do blogs.”  Nosy Friend pushes my phone away.  “That’s like reading opinionated cliff notes or case digests in comics form.  Its’ for people who can’t read big stuff.”

“What?” I shriek.  “I write plenty of big stuff!  I write explosive posts with deep reflections, like the time I rammed into a truck and hopped on a motorcycle.  I wrote about the time I went on vacation and got the stomach bug and my husband wheeled me in a baggage trolley with my arms wrapped around a trash can… well maybe I meant to, but anyway, that’s major stuff because I wound up in the ER! The E.R.! I could have died and you wouldn’t have known it.”

“You rode on a baggage trolley?  Gross.  Why couldn’t your husband get a wheelchair or sweep you off your feet and carry you?”

“There were no wheelchairs in the resort, he has a bad back, and I was carrying extra pregnancy weight.”

Another lipstick-ed pout at the word ‘pregnancy’.  “You’re close to forty. Don’t deny it.  Your dermatologist sister did an awesome job zapping away your sunspots, but I know we both graduated the same year.  Do you really think your body is capable of another pregnancy?”

“I know God wouldn’t call me to be a mother, if He didn’t give me all available graces to answer my vocation.”

“But didn’t God also give you contraception and birth control?”

I pause and scrape my chair back a smidge. “God gave me Christ. Christ gave me the Church.  The Church gave me theology to understand that natural family planning, which involves self control, is an even better gift that God gave me.  You really should read my blog post on the number of law suits surrounding birth control side effects.  There is no way I would think it’s a gift from God. Its from hell, more like.”

“So you’re not done?”  She shudders.  I can almost read her mind. She is thinking of her travels all over the world to five star resorts with her rock star husband, tasting exotic cuisine, and coming home to luxury linens, a yipping Japanese Pomeranian, and weekly nail spa appointments, everything posted on Facebook for me to drool on, which I have, by the way … except for the dog with matching owner’s pink pedi.

“That’s a loaded question,”  I say. “If you mean ‘will we use artificial birth control and resort to sterilization’, then no, we’re not. If you mean, ‘would we like to have more children’, yes, we’d like some if God gave us more, but we’re also grateful enough if He doesn’t. But if you mean, ‘are we going to have more children’, then I don’t know.  Next year, God could bless us with twins, we could discern serious reason for spacing or avoiding pregnancy (which the Church allows) or we’d have a fourth miscarriage –“

“Wait. Wait. You’ve had three miscarriages and you’re willing to get pregnant again? You’re crazy!”

I shrug. “I’m also afraid of losing another baby and winding up in the ER or the OR again, I’m only human.  But faith overcomes fear.  This life is only temporary. I can look forward to eternity with my children.  Catechism says children are your crowns in heaven and three of them are already there! I have more reason to look forward to heaven, and teach my children on earth to aim for it at all costs…  But not so fast, I’m enjoying their childhood.”

“You mean you actually like children?  Want a whole gaggle of them?” Her smokey shadowed eyes are practically sending SOS smoke signals to the Chikasaw tribes.

“Yes! No one held a gun to my head to quit the firm to stay at home with little people. I love them: girls or boys.”

“Even when they break your kindle, stain your carpet, deprive you of sleep or ruin your figure?” She skims her eyes and stops at the pudge in my middle section, which will never go back to its concave unstretch-marked origins again.

“Yes.”

“So none of them were unplanned?” She clucks her tongue.

“Our third pregnancy which resulted in my first miscarriage was a surprise,” I say.  “But she was certainly planned by God.”

“So how many surprises do you plan on having?”

“I’m counting on a lot. It comes with the territory.” I smile. “Did I ever tell you about the time I went shopping with my middle child and she shoved a size 18W dress at me, insisting it would fit me perfectly.  When I told her it was at least 10 sizes too big, she said “What exactly does 18 W mean?”  I said, “It means 18 women.”  She said, “What?!  How can 18 women fit in there?”

Nosy Friend laughs.  “Children can be funny.  But pesky, too, and a lot of work.”

“I’m not saying it’s easy.  I’m saying ‘No sacrifice, no true love. no cross, no crown.’  If you have no further questions, can I have the macaroons? Want a piece?”

She slumps down on her barstool.  “I need a drink.”

I pour her Sunsweet Prune Juice, a favorite for, er, digestive reasons. “Now, can I ask you why you and Barry never had kids?”

“We can’t have any,” she says.  “We’ve tried IVF (in vitro fertilization) and both times they’ve failed.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,”  I say.  I am sorry they couldn’t have children and that they used IVF.  Again, the Church teaches against IVF because procreation is a marital sexual gift and since life begins at conception, the status of the embryos are not ours to determine:  whether to be thawed indefinitely or dispensed with.

“We wanted one. Just one.”

“You know, Nosy, we struggled with secondary infertility.  Catholic friends recommended we consult a Napro physician who could help us with our issues in the ways the Church permitted.  But we couldn’t afford that, so we had a holy priest pray over my womb and voila! Miracle baby! Blog post June 2014.

“Well you didn’t tell me you wrote about that.”  She finishes up the prune juice.  “I may just start reading your blog.”

“You should. You’ll be on it tomorrow.”  I motion to her glass.  “Do you want a refill or are you done?”

“I don’t know.  Are you done?”

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I pick up another macaroon.  Mint chocolate. “Why? I’m just getting to the good part.”

+AMDG+ (Work of fiction.  Any similarities to real persons are purely coincidental but the questions are not imagined.  They have actually been asked, and those are my honest answers.)

abAnabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic and a non-practicing attorney. She is a managing editor and columnist for Catholic Stand but a disorganized novelist and long-winded blogger at Written By the Finger of God.

Chocolate Green Smoothie Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.

My Chocolate Green Smoothie recipe was one that a good friend of mine passed on to me.  This smoothie is what I usually eat drink for breakfast most mornings.  The great thing about smoothies is that you can add or take away ingredients and come up with your own taste, but I will share the one I enjoy most in hopes it will be something you may be interested in trying.

This healthy smoothie recipe will also curb your chocolate craving! It’s a fast, easy breakfast idea with common and interesting ingredients. My favorite part is what she uses for protein!

Disclaimer:  I LOVE this chocolate green smoothie recipe, but after my husband and children tried it they do not like it.  Well, I should say no one likes it in my family, but my 17 month old daughter and me. YAY!

They are missing out on a great taste and excellent nutritional benefits too.  Maybe one day they will grow to like it! And maybe your family will be brave enough to try it and like it! :)

This healthy smoothie recipe will also curb your chocolate craving! It’s a fast, easy breakfast idea with common and interesting ingredients. My favorite part is what she uses for protein!

Here’s a photo of my youngest at 17 months old drinking a chocolate green smoothie :)  She really does like it, I promise! :)

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Chocolate Green Smoothie Recipe Ingredients

In a blender:

* 1 cup of unsweetened Almond milk
* 1-2 cups water, depending on how thick or runny you want the smoothie
* 1 handful of organic spinach leaves
* 1-2 cups of frozen fruit (I like to use the bag of frozen mixed fruit and wild organic blueberries.)
* 1 scoop Whey Protein Isolate: buy HERE from Amazon OR 2 Tbsp plain, nonfat, gluten free Greek yogurt
* 1 Tablespoon of Organic Golden Flax Seed
* 1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds
* 1-2 scoops of Stevia Natural Sweetener that I buy HERE from Amazon.
* 1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Hershey’s Cocoa

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!  If your blender mixes the ingredients well enough, you will not be able to taste the spinach leaves and the smoothie will be…well, smooth!

It may be a taste you have to get used to, but it really is yummy and tastes like a chocolate shake to me without the guilt and filled with great nutrition!

Do you have a chocolate green smoothie recipe…or any smoothie recipe I need to try? Let me know! 

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BLOG Profile PicTracy started blogging in 2010 because she loves sharing her Catholic faith, family and homeschooling journey. Her wonderful husband and 5 blessings keep her on her toes and make life beautiful and busy. When she’s not busy baking cakes for her family or dreaming she had a housekeeper/professional chef or making memories in real life, she enjoys blogging at a Slice of Smith Life. Find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Bloglovin’.

 

Church Tour Series: St. Andrews, Chicago, IL

Welcome to our Church!

I *love* visiting other churches, so I’m thrilled to bring you an electronic tour of mine.  This is a fairly small church, but it’s full of beauty.  Enjoy!

We’ve recently moved into our first house in a different town, and so we had to find a new parish.  Though I wouldn’t say it’s filled with a lot of young families/kids, it is certainly very family-friendly.  The usher seems to love us, at least!  Here’s what the pew of a family of four looks like in winter.  I can’t remember why Cupcakes isn’t happy here, but it’s probably that I asked her to put on her coat…  So, on to the tour!

cupcakes in pew

I know, I know, Christmas is over.  So I hope you’ll forgive me, but I really wanted to get pictures while the Christmas decorations were still up.  They’re so warm and festive!  These were all taken on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

Let’s start with the most important place in the church: The Sanctuary.  Here you’ll find Jesus – truly present, Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity- in the Tabernacle behind the alter.  I love the angel candle holders.

Alter and Tabernacle

No Greater Love

I love seeing a crucifix in the sanctuary.  It helps us to reflect on Christ’s Passion, to remember just how much He loved us…  how much he loves *you* and *me*.  In our church, I love how it’s got a lovely cross backdrop.

Crusifix

When the Christmas season started, I was blown away by the amazing Nativity Scene here.  On the right, you’ll notice the three wise men.  They had been traveling toward the manger for months (just like in our house).  So beautiful.  Cupcakes loved the whole thing.

Nativity Scene with Cupcakes

Our parish is actually trilingual!  (We’ve even been to one trilingual mass, though usually it’s just one at a time.)  Guess which three languages!  Alright, I’ll tell you: English, Spanish and Polish!  Here are some things:

Polish wall

I’m pretty confident that these are Polish words, a Polish icon, and Polish… artifacts?  relics?  I’m not sure.  I googled the words for you, and according to the translator I found, they mean “under” “your” “in defense of”.  Do any of you speak Polish; what does that mean?  I messaged a friend of mine who speaks Polish, and she informed me that these words mean, “under your protection,” and that they usually refer to Momma Mary.  Ah yes, that makes sense.  I’ve never seen anything like this display so I had to show you.

Here in the back, we have two of my favorite images: Divine Mercy Jesus pictured here next to the Vatican Flag and Our Lady of Guadalupe pictured above the intentions candles (is that the official name for those??) and next to the Infant of Prague, which has a pretty awesome story, so look it up if you have the chance.

DM and mary

Here’s the Confessional!  It’s conveniently located in the back of the church, with confession times right before the vigil mass, for your convenience.  So stop in a few minutes early, get your soul a squeaky clean up, and stay for mass.

Confessional

Look how at peace my son was after mass last weekend:

Caleb sleeping at church

He’s usually calm and observant during the first part of the mass, and then starts loudly yelling praying, “Da! Da! Da! Da!” (clearly praising his heavenly Father) during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and then passes out right at the end. “Let the little children come to me,” right??

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into our church; I’d love to see all of yours! If you post a virtual tour of your parish, link it below so we can see too. If not, at least tell us: what is your favorite part of your church?

IMG_9424-e1420209461948About Jamie: My blog is a Mom blog, but I write about motherhood,Catholicism, education, marriage, baby/toddler food, saving & making money, blogging…   My interests include: writing, drawing, reading, crafting, taking walks, and Internetting. I love my friends — they are all amazing!  Sometimes I socialize with the ones in real life, but many of them also live in my computer. I love my Catholic faith. I love Jesus; I love the Eucharist.  I am passionate about the Pro Life Movement. I LOVE LIFE!!!

Healthy Homemade Almond Joys

You know those people who aren’t really into candy? Those who never really crave sweets? Those who who rather have a pear or a salty pretzels than a fatty piece of cake? Those who “don’t really like chocolate”?

Don’t you kind of hate those people?

Just kidding! But I am a bit envious of them because I am on the opposite end of the craving spectrum. When I’m wanting to indulge, I want chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookies, chocolate covered bacon, chocolate candy, and chocolate chocolate. Any and all of it.

But my health (and my waistline) strongly protest against frequent indulgences like these, so I’ve had to find ways to sweetly satisfy my sweet tooth without going overboard (in which case, just send me a gummy lifesaver). When I saw how Katie makes her own chocolate candy using molds, I thought I might have a good chance at recreating my favorite candy of all time: almond joys.

The flavors of chocolate and coconut are so irresistible, and their smoothness is wonderfully balanced with the crunch of an almond. It’s magic in the mouth, people.

My attempt at making healthy homemade almond joys turned out to be pretty successful, and my husband devoured them on Valentine’s Day. They are incredibly quick and easy to make and are a great little treat at the end of a long day.

Ready to make your own? Here we go!

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Ingredients:

  • silicone mold (I use the heart molds, but there are so many other fun options!)
  • 1 cup good dark chocolate (I realize the original Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate, but I prefer dark)
  • 7 Tbsp coconut butter
  • 15 almonds
  • optional: heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

  1. In a double broiler, melt half the chocolate over medium low heat. At this point, I add a few dashes of organic heavy whipping cream. You don’t have to do this, but I find it adds a richness. You could also use coconut or almond milk for added flavor and a smoother texture.
  2. Fill 1/3 of the mold with the melted chocolate.
  3. I like to chill my chocolate at this point to form the foundation; however, I don’t let it harden completely so that it will mesh with the coconut butter.
  4. Add a 1/3 layer of coconut butter to each mold. Place an almond on top in each mold.
  5. Melt the rest of the chocolate. In the remainder 1/3 of the molds, add the rest of the melted chocolate. Chill or freeze until firm.
  6. Enjoy!

Have you ever found healthier homemade alternatives to your favorite candy? Would you try this recipe? Let us know below! I’m always on the hunt for a good candy replacement ;)

Special thanks and hugs to Jenna and Theo for letting me keep you fine Call Her Happy readers company while they get some good snuggles in. Congratulations, Hines family!

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Olivia lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She’s a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. She spends her time changing diapers, exploring the crunchy side of life, organizing anything she can get her hands on, and dancing in the moonlight. You can come along for the adventure at To the Heights.

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13 Catholic Mom Fails (#convertproblems)

My husband and I entered the Catholic Church Easter vigil 1999. Thanks be to God! Among the many blessings of our Catholic faith is the knowledge that we don’t have to figure it all out ourselves. We are not on our own. We have the sacraments, the communion of the Saints, and the Magisterium to guide us. But even though we aren’t on our own, in the spiritual and universal sense, I do sometimes feel a bit alone in the cultural sense.

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We live in a small, rural town in Arkansas – smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. Growing up here, I knew two Catholics. Two. There are more Catholics here now, but my children are still very much in the minority among their peers.

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To make things more challenging, neither my husband nor I were raised Catholic, so we don’t have much experience with Catholic customs and traditions. Fortunately, since our conversion, my mother and my brother, Michael, and his family (and our former pastor and his wife) have converted to Catholicism. So we do have Catholic family. But Michael lives 500 miles away. They live in Maryland, and he works for the John Paul II Institute for Faith and Family. His kids go to Catholic school. All their friends are Catholic. They are immersed in Catholic culture. I’m not going to lie. I’m jealous. Happy for them, but jealous.

All of this is to say, that it has been a struggle raising our children Catholic – not in terms of the Faith, we love the faith, but in terms of giving them a truly Catholic experience. I try, but it’s not how I was raised, and there is little support or fellowship where we live, so I feel like I’m just skimming the surface of what Catholic life could be. Sometimes, I feel like we don’t even have our toes in the water. Here are just a few of my Catholic Mom Fails.

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  • Recently, my older daughter shouted, “The first shall be last!” to a car that cut her off in the parking lot after mass. Not exactly what I had in mind when I encouraged scripture memorization. Thank goodness the windows were up.
  • My younger son was four years old before I realized that he thought the words to the Our Father were “Our Father, who aren’t in Heaven, Hal would be thy name.” My husband’s name is Hal, so it kind of makes sense.
  • We have celebrated name days maybe two times. We have four kids. Half of my children have never had a single name day celebration.
  • When one of my kids doesn’t know a who someone from the Bible is, I say, “Oh that’s right, you weren’t raised Protestant.”
  • This past summer our girls attended their first Catholic wedding. The rest of us have never been to a Catholic wedding.
  • We have never had a Jesse Tree.
  • I haven’t put out the Advent wreath for the last two years because I felt so defeated by how few times we remembered to light it in the past.
  • Once I forgot to put Baby Jesus in the creche until December 27. (Protestants don’t wait).
  • My children’s idea of a nun is Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.
  • Once for our parish All Saints party, I let my daughter wear her ladybug Halloween costume and go as an Our Lady Bug.
  • Once I let her dress as a flower, and she told everyone she was The Little Flower – okay, that one was pretty adorable.
  • My kids think meatless Fridays are a treat because they get frozen fish sticks and French fries.
  • My children refer to their cousins as really Catholic

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Since our conversion, I have fantasized about raising really Catholic kids. I’ve dreamed of elaborate name day celebrations and nightly family rosaries complete with candle lighting. I’ve imagined volunteering at their Catholic school where their teachers, Sister Mary Ignatius and Sister Mary Augustine would lead them in the Angelus each day at lunch. I’ve longed to name a baby Benedict.

As it is, I would just be happy if they each knew which Saint they were named for. We pray a morning offering in the car on our way to public school. I keep icons and holy images around the house to remind them that we are really Catholic. I try to use Catholic expressions like “Offer it up!”   And while I don’t do name day feasts, I do make Confess Your Sin-amon Rolls for a treat after the kids have been to reconciliation.

Still, sometimes I worry that our home and our lives don’t look much different from those of their Protestant friends. Then I overhear when one of their friends asks if we worship Mary or believe in the Bible. And my kids know the answer! I laugh when my daughter tells me how many people favorited her Confess Your Sin-amon Rolls tweet. I watch them kneel and make the sign of the cross and recite the creed at mass, and I know that the beauty of their faith is sinking in little by little.

Bottom line, we are doing the best we can to raise Catholic children in very Protestant soil. But my children are really Catholic. Imperfectly, beautifully, completely Catholic. May the Saints preserve us!

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 What is your best #catholicfail or #convertproblem?

A Little About Laura from Charming Farming:
My husband and I live on a farm in the Ozark Hills of Arkansas. We have four kids, three dogs, twenty chickens, eight ducks, and a herd of buffalo. I teach high school speech and drama, and I love it, but my dream job would be full-time writing and farming. My other dream is to be able to get a good latte without having to drive an hour. I blog at charmingfarming.com and youngcatholicsdaily.com.

 

Sweet & Simple 5-Minute Makeup Demo

Have you seen the winged liner look and are wondering if it’s OK for everyday? I’m here to let you know that yes, you can rock that winged liner and red lipstick as an everyday look.

It’s so hard to find an everyday makeup tutorial. This 5 minute makeup tutorial will show you how to look polished but not overdone. And you can even transition this look from day to night with a trick for a cat eye makeup how to / winged eyeliner tutorial.

© Liv Friis-larsen / Dollar Photo Club

Since pictures are worth 1000 words and videos are worth a whole lot more than that, grab a cuppa and let me show you how I get it done in the morning!

 

What is part of your daily makeup routine? Let us know in the combox. Until Next Time!

 

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Meet Karianna! My goal is to put forth my best self everyday and inspire others to do the same. There will be days when I want to do nothing more than to lounge around in my sweats and eat chocolate… but that’s not going to happen, so I might as well look nice while going through what I’m going through. I am a social person and I would love to hear from you whether it’s here in the com box or on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. I used to blog under the name Caffeinated Catholic Mama… and those descriptors still apply, more so than ever!

7 Helpful Gifts for the Postpartum Mom

One of the sweetest things I can think of to do for a newly postpartum mom is to bring something for her.  So often, people bring something for the baby, which is lovely and generous, of course, but a gift for mom is a beautiful, tangible way to let her know that her job is important and that she’s remembered, too.  And usually baby is already well taken care of; it’s mom who needs a little TLC, right?

When we really look at it we can be honest and admit our postpartum culture in our wonderful country stinks.  It really does.  In most places around the world and throughout history a woman would have a whole community of women gathering around to help for at least six weeks.  She barely gets out of bed, doesn’t have to think about cooking or cleaning or tending her other children, and is able to focus her primary attention on nursing, bonding with her baby, and healing. 

but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, too

Here?  We get maybe a week, two if we’re lucky, sometimes with a couple meals from lovely friends dropped off at the door (and often those friends have their own brood of little ones to tend to), and then we’re done and expected to be back to normal life again.  When a woman has a need to be cared for physically, mentally, and emotionally and when the community has the chance to truly show their support of new life, we kinda fail.  It doesn’t foster a culture of life and doesn’t breed well for healthy motherhood.  It’s no coincidence that our rate of PPD, postpartum physical issues, and nursing complications is higher.

We’re not going to change that overnight, especially when many of us are running our homes and raising little ones, but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, too. And maybe in that way do our own little part to support a culture of life.

A woman in your life just had that sweet baby boy or baby girl. Bring her one of these new baby gifts to show that you really care about her and put some thought into what might be most useful and helpful to her during this transitional time. My favorite is the last one. So so simple and beautiful.

© ondrooo / Dollar Photo Club

Food

Always food.  A ready made dinner is wonderful or something frozen that she can easily take out on a rough day.  So is a batch of healthy muffins or an egg casserole for breakfast.  Or a bag of basic groceries.  One of the greatest way to help is to organize a meal schedule and pester people to sign up (and yes, sometimes you have to do a lot of pestering) so that at least that first month postpartum has a meal brought every other day.  Both Care Calendar and Take Them a Meal are super convenient (and free!) resources for online scheduling so people can pick a day that works for them.  A gracious mom would, of course, never snub any meal brought but a gracious giver also should take into account the family’s eating style, preferences, and (of course) allergies.

If a homemade meal is not doable, a gift certificate for any local restaurant that delivers so that she can pick the day she needs it most, is also a wonderful idea.

Nursing Basket
I sometimes like to give these at baby showers but they’re great for a postpartum gift as well.  Possible things to include:  a water bottle, some healthy granola bars or other snacks, a magazine or book, good breast pads, some Mother’s Milk tea, some nipple cream or lanolin, maybe a nursing cover (if you think she’d appreciate that).  I’ve even included a nursing tank at times if I think mom would use it.
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Certificate for Cleaning

Oh my, I would be thrilled to get something like this postpartum.  What a generous gift that would be!  Often you can find deals for housecleaning on sites like Groupon and the like and they’re not too unreasonable.  Why not go in on one with a group of friends?  Or, if you know she’s not the type of person that would feel guilty and can accept your help, maybe you could offer to come for a few hours yourself and scrub some bathrooms and vacuum while she rests and snuggles that little one?

Bath and Body Items

I’ve made homemade crunchy-type baskets full of personal gifts for the mom and baby but you could certainly do it with store-bought things as well.  I like to include some homemade herbal bath packs and bath salts to help with healing, some homemade salve, tea (either a breastfeeding tea or a red raspberry leaf tea would be a good choice to help her body recover), and maybe some calming essential oil blends.  If you know her favorite lotion or soap, you could put that in, too.  Earth Mama Angel Baby makes some wonderful natural products specifically for postpartum moms – balm, bath herbs, and bottom spray to name a few.

In-house Massage .

A few of our local massage therapists have just begun offering in-house postpartum services!  Wouldn’t that be lovely to give?  A gift certificate (again, maybe with a few friends if you can’t afford it on your own) for a half hour or hour massage where mom didn’t even have to pack up baby and leave her house?  Luxury.

Help with Any Older Children

Some moms are more comfortable if you come stay at the house and simply keep the kids busy and fed.  Others would love for you to come take the older kids away for a few hours so she can have a little bit of quiet and rest (especially if you have your own children that will need to be there).  Ask her which one she would prefer and respect her boundaries with what is allowed and not allowed with her children.  (And please don’t bring them back high on sugar or too overtired! ;)

A Spiritual Bouquet

One of the absolute best gifts I think you could give a mom is the gift of prayer.  You can do it yourself or, even better, arrange for a group of friends to offer their own Rosaries, Masses, sacrifices, and other prayers for her during this special yet often difficult time.  Let her know in a card or some other way the things that you are all doing to lift her up in prayer and support her.  Maybe attach a Blessed Mother, Saint Brigid (patroness of newborns), or Saint Monica (patroness of mothers) medal or prayer card along with it.

I’m confident that helping and supporting and valuing postpartum mothers more is vital to building up a culture of life.  Got any other ideas of tangible ways we can support these moms?  Please share any ideas you have (or things you valued or would have loved to have had yourself) in the combox!

Mary Haseltine is a mom to four (and another currently in womb), a certified doula, and writer of things at www.betterthaneden.com where she blogs about babies, birth, her faith, marriage, homeschooling, and any other random ridiculousness that strikes her fancy.