Monday, June 30, 2014

Mirror, Mirror, on the Blog ...

My latest post on The Guiding Star Project blog!

There has been a lot of chatter recently about whether or not to tell young girls that they are pretty. This post is going to be more of a conversation starter than a conclusion maker, because I’m torn. Simcha Fisher has a thoughtful post “Please tell your daughter she’s pretty.” She recounts an Ad that implies if you tell a young girl she is pretty, she will think that’s all she is.

Simcha countered that line of thinking with the simple logic that you praise all her attributes and if God’s beauty is shown through a little girl, you can tell her that.

Now, I admit I do see logic there and I want to agree with her, but again, I’m torn. Having gone through an anorexic stage myself ...”  Read the rest at the Guiding Star Project Blog!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

“The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning” – An Honest Review by Theresa Martin

Let me begin by saying how much a appreciate Simcha Fisher’s style. Her writing style is nothing like mine. She is sarcastic, shocking, has a dry sense of humor and - *whispering* - she even curses. (Gasp!) shocking, I know. ;-) And while I do enjoy letting the rant loose every now and then, I just can never write the curse words into my posts. I don’t say them normally, so it’s just not natural for me. But Simcha can pull it off. She does all that and – the best part – she is so faithful to the Catholic Church and the Church’s teaching. So, while I would never pick her writing style as my choice of writing, I can definitely appreciate it and see the gift she has.

Another great gift of hers, she can make me laugh. I smile a lot, smirk, maybe even give the simultaneous package of a smile and head nod, but besides my husband, not many can make me really chuckle. Simcha can. I believe it is because she has a way of not making regular life “showy” or glamourized, but just as it is. She laughs at and mocks herself, and you can’t help but laugh with her.

I have to admit I was very reluctant to read this book. (Apparently, I am in the minority that actually like nfp! Shhh – don’t tell anyone! Especially not Simcha!) I have experienced the benefits and see the challenges as just that – a challenge. For me, it is more like the struggle of exercise, that can be hard, but you know there is reward for doing it. So, nfp wasn’t a burden, but that strength-building that a marriage needs. From the title and the introduction, it felt a lot like an “I know NFP sucks right? Darn it, but it’s the best way of all sucky ways, so here’s my take” attitude.

yep, see? Me and the book. proof that I do indeed recommend it. :-)
So, I couldn’t quite get into that attitude, and she dissed on me often! Well, okay, not me specifically, but the dreamy-nfp-loving people who tell you it’s so great and apparently you want to tell them where to go … I’m that dreamy gal! So, that was a little unnerving, because it made me nervous as to where her conclusions would go. I almost put the book down … but because she makes me laugh and I trusted her, I cautiously kept reading.

And what I read – was lovely. It was all Simcha, but lovely Simcha. It’s almost more of a ‘how do you discern family size?’, ‘please stop judging others,’ and ‘how do you have a better marriage?’ book than an nfp book. I really liked that aspect. I am not a judgmental person and it just breaks my heart when people get all snippy at each other, accusing each other of not using nfp the right way or why someone shouldn’t be using it at all. I LOVED – LOVED – her campaign for sympathy in the book. It is so needed among women and I hope women who read this book truly hear that part!

I thoroughly enjoyed her sharing of married life and the struggles of relationship, especially the intimate sexual relationship struggles. When she got into the trenches of nfp, there were some ways of saying it that rubbed me the wrong way, but again, that’s not my style. I bet it would be really helpful to those who are having difficulty with nfp. One of my favorite parts of the book, after all the bashing and playful nfp roasting, is when she profound speaks about what prudence meant for her and her husband, it almost brought me to tears. They discerned to postpone more babies for a while and, well, I'll let her talk: 
“You can do it wrong. You can exercise self-control with a mean heart, with bitterness of restraint, or with fear. But that's not true prudence, anymore than it's true fortitude to sit dozing in the back of a bus while someone else steers it through a storm. I did not know how much warmth and love were at the heart of this misunderstood virtue.
When my husband and I realized that God was calling us to work at prudence, I wasn't expecting any emotion at all. I was expecting something utterly dry and mechanical, something contrary to my nature, something foreign to my relationship with my husband.
“Instead? It's like one of those dreams where you're wandering around on the top floor of your house, looking for something that will satisfy you, something that you need---and what is this? A whole other room. You open the door, and step inside---and there you find what you were looking for: a new kind of satisfaction, a new kind of joy, a while new vocabulary for expressing love.” pp.37-38 

And reading that, I was like – thank you! – finally. THAT's what I love about NFP!

And then she did something really beautiful, she painted the picture of what a marriage is like beyond that struggle. And maybe I should give a *SPOILER ALERT* here!

“NFP first gave me and my husband several years of incredible pain, and then several years of a strange and unexpected joy. We've finally learned that NFP can take a nascent impulse towards love and magnify it into something profound and joyful, something that will make your heart overflow, something new. The system hasn't changed, of course. we have changed.
“We thought we needed to bend the method, twist that lens to suit our needs. But it turned out that it wasn't the lens that needed to change shape. In order to make it work---not only help us plan pregnancies, but to help us to turn small gestures of affection into strong abiding love---we needed to leave that lens where it was, but stand in a different spot. Both of us.” p.75

**END SPOILER :-) **

And of course that's what I will quote, because I am the happy NFP user. Yes, it can be challenging but I've seen the great benefits of love from it! (I'm going to get of my "Yay NFP!" soapbox now before I get hit in the head by Simcha's spitballs flying up here from the back of the room...) :-)  Don't worry, there is a lot more of the suckiness about nfp than the pretty parts in this book - you'll love it.

All in all, here is my final take:
In “The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning”, Simcha Fisher combines sarcasm, wit, and love to bring you a very unique explanation of Catholic married life. Not that what she explains is unique, for that is her gift – being able reflect the truth of the real life of others, of which they might not even be aware. It is actually how she says it that is so unique. She is raw, real and inspiring. I think this book would be a good read for anyone using nfp. But it is especially good to have on hand if you love nfp and can’t figure out why someone else doesn’t – just give them Simcha’s book. If you struggle with nfp, you are really going to love this book. She has a way of exposing the flabby underbelly of married life in a loving and real way, but using that exposure to bring the reader to understand what they can work more on in their own lives, their marriage and their relationship with God.
                                    - Theresa Martin, author of Woman, How Great Thou Art

Friday, June 6, 2014

Your Sons Need Your Womanhood

This was first published in my column in this month's The Courier.

I recently read an article about “what moms of boys need to know.” It had some good points, but an overall feel of “get used to gross and just let it happen because there is nothing you can do.” As a mother of boys myself, I had to disagree.
With our oldest son’s birthday approaching, I realized we have nine years of experience raising boys. We have five sons now and I see more and more how necessary my feminine influence is for them.

It is true  that “boys will be boys.” Boyhood is a glorious gift! They are so adventurous and daring. They destroy and build and destroy and build and destroy and build again. They climb and jump and scream and shout and laugh. Oh! that all houses could be filled with their laughter!
Of course they also have difficulty keeping the bathroom even in the neighborhood of slightly clean, will probably break everything in your house, and think flatulence are hysterical. And while I realize these are also very “boy” things to do, should a mother really just let it go and let them be gross?
Mothers are a gift to their sons. Their femininity brings beauty into their little boy-worlds. A mother can bring civility to his wild world – not to crush it or break him, no! – but to teach him to temper it in the appropriate situations.
Related to this, the father’s love for the son’s mother is vitally important as well. The son learns how to treat a woman by watching how his father treats and loves his mother. 
Not at all suppressing their boyhood, a mother’s love and feminine influence heightens it. It’s the mother’s presence, the beauty of her womanhood, that beckons the son to stop the mud pies and spitting contests for a moment and gather up wild flowers to adorn her. In between the pirate battles and saving the world from an alien invasion, he stops to yell over to her “I love you, mom! You look beautiful!”
After a rowdy day, the sweaty darling warriors need a touch of womanhood! They might grumble at having to wash their hands, but they long for the peace that a mother’s comfort brings – even if they never admit it.
With five boys slowly taking over my home, I have felt a need to bring that feminine beauty into their lives – as if this was a piece of my duty as their mother. You can bring beauty and civility in many small ways. Lately, I have been using our dinner time to bring it out a little more. Setting the table beautifully with extra little touches, and combining that feeling of beauty with food they love creates the perfect moment! (The phrase “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is never more clear than when you have growing boys!) It doesn’t take much to add your feminine touch to their lives in whatever way you choose to do so, but it is so important.
Does this mean they won’t ever have base humor anymore? Heavens, no! (Though I wish it did at times!) I know that even my nice tablecloths will get stained, vases broken, and wine spilt. Their Church clothes will get dirty, their jeans will always have holes and their hair a mind of its own. Yet, just because it is difficult, does not mean we give up bringing that beauty into their lives. We don’t just leave them there in the mess, because “boys will be boys.” Instead, we call them to the highest form of themselves, rejoicing and celebrating the greatness of their God-given boyhood, their wonderful masculinity.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Find Your Own Voice! & Great links: Pia de Solenni, Violence against Women, Victoria's Secret Swimsuit Issues ...

Has it really been so long since I've written?!
Sheesh! You take a 3 week vacation and it takes twice as long to get back on top of things once you return.
3 Thoughts for you today!
1st - Find Your Own Voice.

Isn't it interesting how we can buckle against the secular view of things, the pressure to "fit in", the threat against young girls' dignity of self and even women's pressure to be a certain way (be it businessman or super model), and yet! we develop similar pressures within faith circles as well. It's human nature, I suppose, to want to fit in, to want to belong. But it does a young mother no good to be stressed by pressure to nurse a certain way or raise her children in a particular method (because someone told her that this was absolutely the best way). Find what works best for you.
Even amongst those blogging, evangelizing or serving others in many ways, there is a temptation to want to be like the other speaker/blogger/singer who seems more popular. RESIST THIS! It is not your way. That is what God has called HER to, not you. If you try to mimic someone else's vocation, you will fail. You must find out what God has planned JUST FOR YOU!
No, it isn't always easy to waiting on our Lord. Especially when it may feel like you're standing still on a superhighway and others have found their purpose and are whizzing by you! But, take heart! Be of good cheer! You don't need to be in the rat race at all - whether secular or faith-based - God has something better in store for you!
You might be worried you can't run that race, that you are losing in life, but here's the thing - you weren't made merely to run, to fight, to claw your way - you were made to soar! So be not afraid! Take the leap of faith to find out exactly what YOUR vocation is and leap ... and fly! - God is the wind beneath your wings.
"Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire." - St. Catherine of Siena.

2nd - Violence Against Women - The Underbelly. 
An absolutely excellent piece by Pia de Solenni. Worth the read and reflection ... here's a taste:
"There’s a reason why Christianity was the first major religion to have the same initiation rite for women and men, namely baptism, and why it was the first religion to allow women to have a say in whether or not they married, even whom they married. That reason is twofold: Mary and the Incarnation." Fascinating stuff ...

3rd - And speaking of violence against women ... well, psychological anyway, enjoy this bit about Victoria's Secret Swimsuit Issue - a mother's buying guide ... I apologize in advance for the language, but it's a hoot! Here's how it begins:
"Get ready all you moms out there: The Victoria’s Secret 2014 Swim Catalog has arrived. Actually, it has arrived several times; how many of these do we really need? Reminding me once a year that I’m two chin hairs and a thigh dimple away from being a troll is quite enough.
Dear Victoria’s Secret: You have sufficiently put me in my place. You can cease with the psychological warfare. Oh but wait, I get a free tote with my order! I guess when you only get one square of fabric to cover your ass crack, they want you to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
For starters, this is the shit I keep pulling out of the mailbox.  Hello ass cheeks.  Why yes, I had a good day at work thankyouverymuch.  I start looking through this magazine and I just keep wondering why I get this in the mail.  I can’t wear this shit.  I don’t even know anyone who can wear this shit…or WOULD wear this shit even if they had an ass like that.  If you are showing your ass crack at the beach, what’s the point in wearing a t-shirt? Do you get two totes with this one?..." Read the rest here!

Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone! Be who you were meant to be!