Monday, March 17, 2014

Speaking Of Women Knowing How To Love...

As #TinyDictator lies sleeping in my arms, #TwoYearOldKing napping in his bed, and the three big boys having "prayer time" (which consists of looking at the holy cards they have collected in their prayer boxes and saying a few prayers until the allotted time is complete so they can earn beans in our Lenten sacrifice jar), I have a few moments to sit quietly and reflect.
I just received a Happy St.Patrick's Day e-card from a sweet friend who always remembers to think of me and it made my day. And I thought - this is exactly what I meant in today's post! Women are so good at affirming love! In addition, just this past week I have gained two "prayer stalkers". (I use that term in the most affectionate way possible.) It's just, out of the blue I received a letter from a woman who had read my articles in The Courier and she said I am her new mission. She's going to pray for me and my family, especially my sick boys. The next day I received another sweet letter from her and some tea!
Two days after that I received another letter from a different woman! She said she is praying for our family and had Masses offered for us. Both said something to the effect of "no need to reply, just wanted you to know I'm praying for you!" It doesn't take much to show love, affirming love that expects nothing in return - but it makes such a difference.
Here's to you, woman made to love! That your feminine love might enrich the world around you! You are amazing ... just the way you are.  Aaaaaaand "prayer time" is over - commencing referee role again!
my first letter from my "prayer stalker" ;-)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Are we Effective or Affective? Living in the World of the Emotionally-deprived

This is something very close to my heart. As I have been seeking to understand "why?" in the challenges of my life, and just seeking God in it all; I have come onto some interesting talks/ reading. It’s helped me refocus (or better yet clarify) my view on life – I’d like to share it with you.
So, let me say right off the bat that I have been reading Abandonment to Divine Providence, listening to a CD of talks by Suzanne Baars (a psychologist) called Abode of Love & reading Leisure The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper.
As a parent, I’m always wanting to love my children the best I can and in the way that fulfils their individual needs. Baars says that we as human persons need to be affirmed and that so many children in the past few decades and who are now adults have never had affirmation consistently given to them. Without this, one is not confident because you are constantly seeking an affirmation of your very self. This insecurity plays out in all kinds of ways, but the person is never at peace with themselves. She says she knows it is hard to hear but she sees it happening when children are sent to institutional daycare or their parents are very over-occupied with work or their parents never learned how to emotionally affirm from their parents and so don’t know how to truly affirm their children.
"How to affirm" is especially difficult to learn to do in a society that stresses work. Our society pushes not a “work to live” but a “live to work” mentality. You want to be efficient. If what you are doing is not making you money or proving valuable to the contribution of society, then it’s not worth doing. We go, go, go. We analyze, objectify, observe, judge. And in its proper place these things do have value.
However, we need to take time to be “affective”. We need to allow the world and especially the people around us to affect us. Take for example, a rose. We see it, we smell it, and we take in its beauty. We allow the flower to affect us. Once we start observing it, however, we have shifted to being effective and looking to use the flower for our purposes (“…with its purplish hues this would look nice in a vase on kitchen counter…”) rather than just letting its presence affect our being.
There is much talk about the “entitlement mentality” and people have been advocating that we need to stop praising our children all the time, because then they will think no matter what they deserve to win even if they haven’t earned it. I’m bringing this up because I want to make a distinction; this is not the type of affirmation that Baars is speaking of. That talk of “less praise” is in reference to praising or affirming our children on something they are doing. (And whether or not we should do that is another topic entirely.)
Here, however, we are speaking about affirming our children in their being – just for who they are. Period. End of story. No matter what – no matter what they do, or what they say, or how they behave – we affirm the child just for being him or herself. This fulfills their need for emotional affirmation. To feel that your existence is worthy; to feel that your life has dignity and merit; and when they have this affirmation of their being, this person feels loved.
I would venture to say that this lack of emotional affirmation happens in all types of families. The big question is: Is it happening in ours? Or have I suffered from this? What I’ve also understood (I am one who has struggled with self-esteem issues as a young girl,you can read this post about that later), is that no amount of self affirmation will do the trick. Baars says you can say positive things about yourself until you die, but unless you have another person giving you that validation of the affirmation, you won’t believe it. I have found that to be really true. (So much gratitude to myhusband for his affirming love teaching me that I am actually lovable...)
People can also sense if you are trying to solve the problem, get something from them or judge them. There are times were these things might be appropriate, but not if the person needs your emotional affirmation – your love. That’s why even in marriage sometimes we really do just need to say, “I just need you to listen right now.” (We as women have the potential to be so good at loving! Let us tap into these beautiful feminine traits.)
This time to affirm and listen to each other can often happen at a meal. But how often are we checking our phone or watching tv or reading the paper or just being distracted and not giving our full attention to family member sharing? Loving them by just listening to what they have to say. Not to analyze it, correct it or tell them how they could have done it better, but just to listen and love.
This resonates so much with me! (I want to love well and often I ask myself, could it be said of me "they know we are Christians by our love"?) I set my phone aside now when we eat together. And this is not to say technology is bad, but there needs to be a balance. We must always remember to affirm the lives of those around us – they need our love to feel whole, to feel worthy, to be at peace.
I’ll end with this Coca Cola ad that speaks to this a bit…


Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Open Letter to Matt Walsh, from a New Feminist – baby, bath water and such

Matt Walsh, whose blog I do enjoy reading, can be snarky, satirical and shake things up a little. I personally enjoy his style and probably agree with him more than I disagree. A few days ago he posted a follow-up post to a post he made about the ridiculous #BanBossy campaign. (Yes, I do agree it is ridiculous.) However, his follow up post (you can read that here) made some of my friends cheer and some scream in fury.
It was because of the screamers that I decided to respond. While I can mostly agree with Mr. Walsh, I do find that some of his statements and how they are worded could be taken the wrong way. So, to clear it up for my dear screamers, I chose to respond. (I actually think when I am done, we will see that Mr. Walsh and I – and my cheerer and screamer friends – have more in common than we realize. But how you say something is just as important as what you say. And in fact, I am probably writing this more to explain his post to my screamers than to Mr. Walsh himself, but regardless, here goes…)

Matt Walsh, image taken from his blog
Dear Matt,
May I call you Matt? I realize I am not exactly the intended recipient of your open letter, since you’ve written it to “liberal feminists”, and I am not a liberal feminist, but a new feminist, which is quite different. However, there are a few concerns that I think you are overlooking. I am also the mother of five sons (nope, not one girl!) and it does give me special perspective on the raising of boys in our society.

When I first heard about the #BanBossy campaign, I was appalled as well. When there are real threats that continue to undermine women’s dignity in our society, choosing to start a campaign against an obscurely chosen word (a word that, mind you, my boys call each other!) is just another facet of the smoke and mirrors. It is looking to distract from the reality that their liberal feminist ideas have actually led to more damage than gain for women. (All of which you did point out, though possibly in more provocative tones.)

I also think it is important for women (especially those like myself who are proponents of a New Feminism, the kind Pope John Paul II spoke of in Evangelium Vitae, 99) to look into your claim of where the women “make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns” comes from. We all want to be sure we have accurate facts and I found this site very helpful in explaining it. I was surprised that what you said about the salaries being gathered across all fields in all areas was more or less true. (Again, I do have to say it is hard to hear the truth when it is told in a mockingly and in your face way, but truth nonetheless I admit.) I would also like to note when discussing the lack of female executives with my father who is at such a level; it does seem to be that women who get to that point in their careers, more often than not, choose themselves to not want to spend hours on end working and prefer to have a family life instead. So, in some cases, it is not that women are not chosen for those positions per se, but they choose not to make such a hefty work over family life decision.

I even agree that our society is not overly conducive to boys. They are meant to be boys! Crazy, restless, a little wild even, and sitting 8 hours a day in a desk being told to hush and be more calm, is not encouraging their adventurous nature. What I found especially poignant was this bit “Boys — particularly boys in public school – are most assuredly NOT encouraged to be opinionated, assertive, loud, boisterous, or confident. Do you know what happens to boys like that? We punish them. We label them. We medicate them. Their opinions and their personalities aren’t just discouraged – they’re chemically obliterated.”

Again, being a mother of five sons, I am very aware of this! Not only this (and the shunning of natural male aggression), but the bombardment of an over-sexualized culture onto young men going through puberty and then we expect them to treat women in turn with respect? We are toying with their brains, hormones and psyche, and set nearly impossible goals for them.

You know what? I get that. There is a case to be made that life is challenging for boys in our society. But does that challenge for boys (and young men) erase the inherent discrimination towards women? I’m NOT talking about silly words, but a society that has been founded by men and a system created by men. It is hard for women to break into the “old boys club”. America, especially Corporate America, creates a need for aggression, one-mindedness and a society ruled by legalism. These are very manly traits, and yet women need to work in this society. You say “girls don’t have it any worse than boys” and that alone may be true, but knowing variation for individuals, on a whole, women trying to work in our society in many ways do have it worse than men.

Yet, this is where liberal feminism went wrong. Instead of insisting on elevating feminine traits and talents, they insisted that “women can be just like men!” As you point out, even if their intentions are to liberate women, they have added to the discrimination, saying she can’t fit in society unless her femininity has been stripped from her (through contraception, abortion, and imitating male models of domination). The thing is, sexism does still exist and has only gotten worse with the mirage that turning women into genderless, efficient members of society is creating gender equality. Our society is still a man’s world, but it is because of this senseless neutering of women (considering gender equality to equal gender sameness) that not only women but even men’s masculinity (and even boys’) are now at stake.

We need a society where both genders are elevated and given dignity and respect. This constant undermining of woman’s dignity by making her “just like a man” is eroding man’s dignity as well. We need a society that is built on the value of the greatness of the complimentarity of the sexes. I have friends who are “new feminists” who were screaming in fury at your last post, because of the complete dismissal of male domination in society as if it was a fairytale told by liberal feminists to get more control. Yet, it is a reality (that granted has been hijacked by liberal feminism and yes, used to give them more power) but is a reality nonetheless that did and does affect women.

So, before throwing out the baby with the bath water, why not just dump the dirt? Let us be aware of the reality of a world where women’s value is continually undermined, but instead of seeking a genderless society or a war of the sexes to solve it, let us find a solution rich in complimentarity and dignity for all.

Yours kindly,

p.s. - you and your wife might really enjoy the movie "I Don't Know How She Does It" which is a fabulous depiction of feminine values attempting to play out in a man's world, and many gender equality(sameness) supporters hated the film. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Your Hump Day Distractions

Here are a couple things to keep you smiling today!
1st - Family Funny ... we are witnessing a gorgeous sunset out our dining room windows (thank you God for our country home ... and the beginnings of Spring!)
and #1Son (8 yo) says with a nod of his head and a smile of satisfaction at the beauty, "Buckets."
"what did you say? Buckets?" I asked. He said,
"yeah, you know, like 'Holy Buckets!' because it's really pretty."

2nd - Look out for some doozies of posts coming in the next two weeks:
"Are We Effective or Affective?"
and "Christian Sex - Finding Real Satisfaction"
and "The Detriments of Giving Up TV for Lent ... Can I Come to Your House?"
... hehehe - fun, right? :-)
Now you need to pray I can conjure superhero powers to transport these posts from my brain to my computer! Where's that app???

3rd - Hike on over to our friends at The Guiding Star Project, because yours truly has a post up today that you won't want to miss!  Remember when I said on my Facebook status:
(psst ... If you are not following me on FB, you are missing out on serious fun times!
Anyway, I let the company have time to respond and you are going to be shocked. Go check it out on The Guiding Star Project blog today!

prayers and love!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Your New Feminism Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

Okay, not sure if I'm going to make this a weekly thing, but a priest friend got me started and it turned into something interesting, so I thought I'd share :-)
First, here is a link to the readings for today (the First Sunday of Lent).
A priest friend asked on Facebook what kind of homily we would give (he did let us know that he had his written already, but the readings being what they were was just curious). This was my response:
It is important to know that sin, Satan & temptation are real. That we are broken, fallen, selfish beings. We make sinful choices so often sometimes we don't think they are any big deal anymore. But little by little as we listen to the serpents in our life, they are separating us from God.
But there is hope! Christ came to save us! He is more powerful than Satan. Just as in The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is the heir of the throne of men, but being Isildur's heir, he thinks he may be prone to the same weakness. However, when he faces the same evil, he is able to overcome it and restore good and honor to the race of men. In a similar way, though Christ is man and has Adam and Eve's blood, when He was tempted with evil, he was strong and defeated that same temptation. He took on our sin, sacrificed, died - for us, as sinful as we are. He did this to save us! So that we might share in His life! He defeated even death in His resurrection! So that we might too have His power to defeat Satan and temptation when they enter our life!
We must know that evil is real, but with Christ, in Christ and through Christ we can conquer the evil on our lives and live eternally with Him!

Nice, right?  And then another friend posted this question:
I have to say that as soon as I read about Eve eating the apple and then offering it to Adam, I wondered how many people would not get to the main message. How many would judge Eve and even think, "Leave it to the woman to mess up and drag the man down with her." It's such a surface thought, but even I thought, "Why couldn't Adam have been the one to initiate the sin." 

Oh goodie! I love this remark!  Because Eve shows me just the opposite. Not the frailty of woman but instead her great leadership potential! I mean here is Adam who actually walked with God in the garden. He has all He needs, sees God, has no doubt, nothing to keep him apart from God. And along comes Eve and says here eat this, and does Adam say "no, let's not. God said not to." No, he didn't! He let's go of everything he has known and the very God he walked with and follows her suggestion! Now that is influential power of woman.
And if we think of it also, it was through another woman's (Mary's) obedience and "yes" to God that enabled God to bring us Christ, our Savior. And Mary is the only human being (other than the one who is also God, Jesus Christ) who rules in heaven! She is called Queen of heaven and earth, no other human being has such an honor.
So, it is not a matter of woman's weakness, but actually the great potential that lies within women (and in fact all humanity). Will we continue the life of slavery to our own sin, addiction and denial of God? Or will we embrace our new life in Christ and be able to conquer temptation in our own life?

Women have great leadership, we just need to be sure we're the woman saying yes to the angel and not the serpent!! ;-)  

Have a blessed Sunday!

Friday, March 7, 2014

That we could all have such a heart!

This post is a beautiful story about my brother and to honor my mother on her birthday!

My brother Stephen has Down Syndrome, he is 15. My mother took him recently to see the movie Son of God.

His reaction was so beautiful ... here's what my mother posted on Facebook:

"Son of God movie report -
intense, real, a bit more violence than I was comfortable with - especially the Romans against the people; took some liberties with the bible story, but I liked what they did. Mother Mary was very present, use of bread and wine as his body and blood was significant. Almost as much blood as passion of Christ. 
Wasn't sure how it was affecting Stephen. But after the show in the lobby he began preaching to everyone. The last scene was before the ascension when Jesus said to go out and tell the world. So Stephen did! Too bad we couldn't really understand except that Jesus was his brother. 
Then I thought how would this movie affect me if it was my brother up there?!  
That's what Stephen felt!!"

That we all could have such a heart of love, so open to God!
Stephen, brother of Jesus :-)


Thursday, March 6, 2014

What will really make YOU happy? ... and oh yeah, it's my birthday so you have to read this post :)

I didn't intend to write another post so soon after the last, but I can't shake these thoughts rattling around in my head, so I need to put them down somewhere ...

Suzanne Baars said "Where there is no joy, there can never be enough pleasure."

She also told a story:
There are two dogs. The young, enthusiastic dog tells a wise old dog, "I have figured out the meaning of life!" The old dog smiles kindly and says, "oh really, what is it?" The young dog replies, "to achieve happiness!" The old, wise dog asks, "And do you know what happiness is?" The young dog yips excitedly and says, "Why YES! I do! I have figured out that happiness is in my tail. And all I have to do is catch it and I will be happy! I haven't caught it yet, but I will soon - I can feel it! - and then, when I do catch it, then I will be happy!" And the young dog proceed to excitedly run in circles chasing his tail.
The old dog said, "now, wait a minute there." The young dog stopped and looked at him. The old wise dog continued, "you know, I once thought exactly how you do. I realized that indeed happiness was in my tail. But what I have discovered now is that if I keep going forward, the right way, happiness follows me wherever I go."

As a society we are seeking, seeking, desperately seeking to fill that self-satisfaction, that need for - hunger for - happiness. We want to feel good in life. But are we missing the point?

I find myself turning 35 today. And life is not always cheery; sometimes it is challenging, sometimes downright heartbreaking. Yet, almost miraculously, I realize that I still have joy. I have a deep, anchored joy in my heart and my soul that is not shaken by the rough waves of life. I'm at peace.

And yet, I do still find myself, at times, grasping for what is supposed to make me happy or feel good (whether it is self image, or to be praised in my field, or even a stiff drink), and it is in those moments, I catch myself running in emotional circles. That's when I need to stop, take a breath and just keep going, because how true is it that when we keep our eyes on God and walk forward, happiness follows us wherever we go!

So, my birthday girl wish for you? That you can take a pause; breathe; God's got this; look to Him; let go; and you will find Joy in your heart!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Getting Personal, Miracles, Oil Paintings & Ashes

First, can I just say - wow. The response to my last post on suffering was and still is overwhelming. I am still getting responses about it! Whenever you post something personal, you immediately want to take it back - not knowing how others will respond and knowing it is something so close to your heart...

You responded with more love and affirmation than I could ever have imagined. That is so beautiful! Thank you so much

Secondly, just a little something about Miracles. In case you don't think miracles happen anymore:
- a friend of mine and her husband have been trying for 8 years to get pregnant, with no luck. She thought it was a final thing - that they could never get pregnant. Well, you guessed it - guess who is expecting a precious bundle of joy next September!! She says "miracles do happen!"

- a family member told us about their son who had a CT scan that showed a 15mm mass in his brain. They did an MRI and were waiting until this week to see what it was and know how they must proceed. They had everyone praying - and so did we (of course calling it a "special intention" to respect their privacy), and the results? A perfectly normal brain without any mass of any kind! Was it a fluke CT scan or did God remove the mass? Whatever it was - prayers were answered that their son has a perfectly healthy brain!

Miracles happen. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. :-)

Thirdly, oil painting! You know my sons have a rare disease - my son Gregory and I entered the rare disease art contest! (You'll have to vote for us!)
But first just for fun, here's the progression of my piece:

I was having trouble capturing Damian that night...
ah, there he is!. And working on Louis' face freaked my boys out! Lol!

And finally, the completed piece!!

Here's Gregory's Entry:

Please READ Gregory's and my explanations too - his is so sweet!!

Finally, (ha! that's what happens when I can't get on the blog for over a week!) remember to share your #ashtag on Twitter and facebook!

Have a blessed Ash Wednesday!