Saturday, April 8, 2017

Art Meditation on Mary Magdalene

As we move into Holy Week, we can prepare by entering our Lord's Passion through the eyes of someone who was there. Here is a meditation on four works of art featuring Mary Magdalene, which I originally wrote for my Moms and Tots ministry.

We know Mary Magdalene best for her visit to Christ’s tomb, bringing the spices to anoint him. While it is not certain, many also believe she is the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair at the home of the Pharisee in Luke 7: 36-50. 

In this painting by Nik Helbig, Mary and Jesus are painted in an impressionist style. The softness of the lines surrounding them give the illusion of her hair, which is the same color as Jesus’ hands and cloak. We are meant to see that His spirit and hers are united in this moment where she honors Jesus and is forgiven of all her sins. The brightest part of this painting is her face, right in the center. Her eyes are open as she gazes at His feet, gently touching them. And we see this touch echoed above, as Jesus lays His hand gently on her head.  As you look at this painting, what sort of emotions come to you? The colors are like a rainbow after a storm, evoking the hope that comes after darkness. Mary is peaceful, yet not happy. Her sins have burdened her so much all her life. This is the very moment of her forgiveness; she has not yet felt the weight lifting off her. She is still bent, crouched over the feet of the only one who she believes can save her. What is she thinking right now, as she feels Jesus lay his hand on her head? Take a moment to sit with this painting and allow the Lord to speak to you through this image.

The next painting depicts Mary at the tomb on Easter morning. It is titled Noli Me Tangere (Latin for “Do not touch me” or “Do not cling to me”) and was painted by James Jacques Joseph Tissot. In John’s Gospel, when Mary finally recognizes Jesus, she falls down to worship Him. He replies, telling her not to hold on to him, because he has not yet ascended to the Father, but to go and tell the disciples that she has seen Him. In this painting, though they are very close, there is a distance between them. Mary does not look at Jesus; her face is pressed into the ground, but she raises her hands in supplication. She knows this is the Son of God, risen from the dead. The apologetics site “Unam Sanctam Catholicam” describes the moment this way:
In addition to fear of the Lord, Christ inspired within Mary a deepening of faith through His gentle command to cease touching Him. Physically touching the Lord surely served as a great comfort to Mary Magdalene. In the midst of our Lord’s Passion, Mary remained close to Him, right beside the Cross. In the midst of her great grief, the body of our Lord is that which Mary sought. Yet, Mary’s faith was great; hence, she was the first witness of the Resurrection, the first one to see the Risen Lord. With the removal of this comfort from physical touch, with this abandonment of self, Mary would have to grow in faith. Her faith in Christ, rather than physical touching of Christ, would have to be her comfort and consolation. This deepening of faith in Mary Magdalene certainly would have been preparatory for the time between Christ’s Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. It is as though by saying “For I have not yet ascended to the Father” Christ is also revealing to Mary that His salvation of mankind is not yet finished; He still must ascend to Heaven and send His Spirit. With the sending of the Holy Spirit, there is a more complete restoration of the union, the “touch,” between Christ and man. Mary was being told to wait, rely on her faith, wait for the Spirit, and grow keen to the spiritual Presence of our Lord.
Notice some of the details the artist has included, and ponder what meaning they have to you. Jesus’ hand is in the three fingered blessing that was common in early Medieval and Renaissance art. The three outstretched fingers alludes to the Trinity. Is he blessing Mary, or showing us that He is going to the Father? Both the tomb and the temple are visible in this painting. The tomb housed the body of Christ and was the site of His resurrection. The temple was the spiritual center of the Jewish faith, and housed the Ark of the Covenant the Word of God. Christ, too, is the Word of God, and the tomb parallels the Temple where God Himself entered to encounter His people. Take a moment to examine the painting, and see if the Lord gives you any other insights.

Here is Mary in a very different light. Mark Hough paints her standing, her eyes lifted, her face full of wonder and awe. The halo behind her head signifies that she is a holy woman, and the banner above her head proclaims “I have seen the Lord!” but it is her face that communicates most clearly her encounter with God. Notice how her hand is in almost the same position as Jesus’ in the last painting. But she is not blessing the Apostles; she is instructing them. Here is Mary as the messenger, the original evangelist, proclaiming the Good News. The columns and arches behind her evoke the naves of a Cathedral, and her rich and beautiful clothes are colored with Christian symbolism: Red for martyrdom and the blood Christ shed on the cross, Gold for his kingship and the glory of his resurrection, White for purity, forgiveness, and salvation, and a thin band of blue, the color of our Blessed Mother, which binds together Christ’s sacrifice and our redemption.

Take a moment to reflect on this image. If you were one of the Apostles, seeing Mary come to you like this, would you believe something miraculous and inexplicable had indeed occurred?

Lastly we have this painting by Francesco Hayez, titled:  Crucifixion with Mary Magdalene Kneeling and Weeping. In this image we see brought together all three of her roles. She is wiping his feet with her hair, as she did to honor him at the home of the Pharisee. Now she does it to comfort him in his agony. See how one arm embraces the cross? At the time, she would not have known its glory, but from the perspective of history, we the viewer can see that the cross is an instrument of salvation. Just as she was forgiven all her sins, so  are we. The cross is glorious, we adore it as we adore Christ because he sanctified it. We will venerate the cross this coming Holy Thursday, as Mary Magdalene is doing here. Look now at her face. Her eyes are downcast, yet she has a slight smile, and her face is bright like the line of the horizon behind her. The darkness surrounds Jesus, except for a circle almost like a halo  just around the top of the cross. But around Mary it is not dark.  She still has Jesus, and that brings her hope and life.  But death is coming. The skull beside the Cross, Christ's closed eyes, and the descending darkness makes that clear. Here  were are at the very last moments of Christ’s life, and Mary is clinging to him, and clinging to the Cross.

When Mary Magdalene sees the man at Jesus’ tomb, she thinks he is a gardener. It doesn’t occur to her that it is Jesus. She is blinded by her grief, her own human failings, because in that moment, she believed her struggles were greater than God himself.  She has forgotten Christ’s promise that he will rebuild this temple in three days (Cf, Jn 2:19).  She, who sat at the feet of Jesus as he suffered on the cross, does not recognize that Christ is standing in front of her. 

Take a moment now to see God in this painting, and to seek Him in your heart and in your everyday fears and hardships.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I post this picture to illustrate what my life is like these days. Not because it's a great picture (which it is) but because this was MEANT to be my holiday card picture. I send cards every year, real cards, that I write in by hand with a nice little personalized Christmas message. I also enclose a picture and a letter detailing what we've been up to the past year. I love it. I send almost a hundred every year and it's a wonderful tradition that I'm very happy with.

However. This year I COULD NOT get the picture to work. My friend took this one of us when I realized that the pictures I'd had my dad take in August were not accessible from any phone but his. Then for a long time I couldn't figure out how to access this one, either. Finally my husband just emailed it to me (old school tech.) Even then I couldn't get it to print properly on our printer. It kept coming out all yellowed. I decided to spring for actual photos, and went to Shutterfly to place an order for pick up at Target. They wouldn't let me order more than 9. In case you missed that part, I send 10x that number of cards.

So, I could have called them, maybe, and tried to figure it out, but since it was pretty much a week till Christmas at that point I called it and decided no picture with my card this year.

And that's everything right now. Good intentions + massive effort = dismal failure. Let's review!

It's hard to view this year's attempt at homeschooling as anything but a flaming trainwreck, unless it's to look at it as a dumpster fire. I could not get my 10 year old to do anything. For the first three months we went on a field trip every week and kept a loose schedule to see where her interests and learning style lay. When that resulted in very little work being accomplished, I put together a daily schedule and sat beside her to work on every subject. She got WORSE. Over Thanksgiving I had many conversations with her, my husband, and friends who homeschooled, and the best we could determine was that she was sabotaging the experience because she hated being at home. She claimed she didn't know how to write a paragraph, so I assigned her one sentence. She couldn't even do that. Literally, lying on the floor, kicking her legs and crying, claiming she "didn't know what to write." I started bringing her to the library every morning for three hours and whatever was done in that time was our work for the day. I had to limit the number of hours that I'd work with her because otherwise it ate up the whole day. Every science test I gave her was an F. She wasn't on track to finish her math at grade level. She wouldn't do her writing assignments or her grammar. The only thing she enjoyed was Latin and read-alouds. If she had been doing art, or anything constructive, I could have at least pointed to that and said, hey, she's learning and growing in this area, so it's okay. But after about a month of homeschool, she refused to work on her art at all.

During this same period of time, my son refused to do the work assigned to him by his homeschool co-op, and during conferences managed to convince them that he'd learn better if he did all his work online. After Thanksgiving, seeing that he had turned nothing in and was spending his "school hours" playing video games, I sat him at a computer where I could see the screen to ensure that he was actually doing work. Still, he wouldn't turn in his projects. On the last day of the semester I went in to his co-op for a celebration, and tracked down one of his teachers to let her know that he was prepared to present four projects that day. She'd had no idea he'd even done them. He ended the semester with a D, two Cs, and a B-. And that B- was an F before I intervened. So we thought about it and determined that it wasn't working, and we needed to accept that and change course. They both started at public school by the third week of January and are doing well. My daughter keeps asking to be homeschooled next year because she doesn't like all the homework. But seeing what she's able to produce in the environment vs what she refused to do with me, I can't see that homeschool is at all an option for us anymore.

Whole 30
After we got back from our Disney Trip, I put the family on a Whole 30 diet. Mostly I wanted to curtail the habits we'd picked up over the holidays of having dessert 3-4 times a day and whining for snacks constantly. My husband and I also wanted to lose some weight, as we didn't fit into our pants. For me, there were health issues I wanted to cure, as I've had stomachaches, heartburn, and digestive issues (to state it delicately!) The diet itself was fine; it was difficult but not impossible. We ate a lot of fruit which helped with sugar cravings, and I had a repertoire of recipes from GAPS and from friends who have gone through it. Unfortunately, I saw no improvement of any kind, whether in weight loss or reduction of my cravings or digestive symptoms. My husband says he lost some weight, but I don't think either of us saw the results we were hoping for, especially considering how much work I put into cooking every single meal for those 30 days. (Part of the diet involves not eating out.) So I am still eating a limited diet to avoid aggravating my heartburn, and wearing skirts and sweatpants as much as possible. Not happy.

The Book
Is still on hiatus. I stopped writing a year ago (April 2016) because I just couldn't handle having a puppy on top of everything else. I had too much work to be able to take a whole Saturday and write. Once the kids went back to school, people were asking if I planned to work on the book again. The short answer is, no. Not yet. To my mind, the book is a huge time and resource commitment with a slim chance of low return. Getting published requires more than talent and hard work; you have to also write the sort of book publishers are looking for right now, and that people want to read. Short of stumbling upon some sort of Harry Potter or Twilight niche, the best I can hope for is to make around $20,000. So I've never felt that it was appropriate to expend my family's resources on writing when my contributions are so necessary in other areas. But the real reason is that I just don't think I'm good enough at writing to get anywhere with it. It's going to have to be a hobby for me; not a profession. My husband says that's exactly the wrong attitude, and if I want to be a successful writer I have to make failure a non-option. That the only way to get better at it is to sink time and energy and training into becoming better. It's wonderful to have someone who believes in me, and I appreciate everything he's saying. I'm sure he's right. But again it comes down to the fact that this can't be the right time for me to invest in the book. We are investing in other things right now. The book must wait.

People insist that I have great kids. I agree, but it's not easy to get them there. I am very tired of the fighting and arguing. On the one hand there's been great improvement in this area because my confidence as an authority has skyrocketed in the last year. I know that it's right for me to manage their screen time, to insist they eat a balanced diet, to require them to help around the house. So I expect all these things, and, as children do, they fight me constantly because they don't want to do them. Each child has his/her own unique method of resistance. Maizie fusses and cries and complains. Pookie screams "I hate you!" hits, and calls me stupid. Doob does a bad job and claims it should count. And Ginny shuts down and refuses to comply, then offers snide remarks to extended family at my expense. Among the many fine abilities my husband has, discipline is not one. Nor does he have time to figure out and enforce the massive network of rules and arrangements I've established with the kids. The end result is that I expend an enormous amount of work (mental and otherwise) to keep on top of the kids. I really feel parenting shouldn't be quite this hard, and I'm wondering when the fruits of my labors are going to show. The truth is, sometimes I don't like being around any of them. Those fleeting moments of joy, like when I watch my 5 year old riding a bike for the first time, or hear the peals of laughter as all four jump on the trampoline together, or receive a spontaneous hug from the 3 year old, are present every day and make the journey worthwhile. Yet they are too few to really sustain me.

It will come as no surprise, given this self-indulgent and whiny post, that my prayer life has been a struggle, too. When I find time and energy to be with the Lord, I feel so much better. Going on a mini-retreat with my mother's group, reading a spiritual book, or even something as simple as listening to Christian music is enough to draw me right back to where I am fed and sustained from the grace of God. Yet there is SO MUCH NOISE, not just in my house but in my head. Concentrating on anything is so difficult. What I really long for is a book I love, or imagining scenes from my world in my head. Prayer takes effort, and I have expended so much elsewhere that it's hard to find the motivation. I know that I need it. I know that it will help me. I want to do it, yet I don't. I feel much like a person who realizes that cooking an actual meal will nourish them best, but they grab a packet of potato chips instead. Not that I do that. I am a superstar on the nutritional front. But I'm filling up on processed prayer.

I know that the answer is quite simple. Trust God. Keep moving forward. Do what's right and the rest will follow. I know that I'm a good parent, and my kids will be fine. I would love to just shut off the neurotic parts of my brain that question everything I do and whisper that I'm the problem. I envy the amazing women in my life who don't overthink every damn little thing. I can recognize, intellectually, that things are getting better.

I know I am slightly (if not severely) depressed. My OB and I are working on some supplements that may help better than the SSRIs I was on for three years (and which I didn't feel did much.) In the meantime, I'm just going to keep doing what I need to do and seizing joy wherever it finds me. Most days are better than today.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

2016 Ballot, Colorado

Let's leave the Presidential race aside for a moment...


Michael Bennet (D), Incumbent, successful record of bipartisan leadership in Congress. Top issues include agriculture bills, access to health care, clean energy, immigration reform, and education. Supports a strong military, helps veterans get care. Former superintendent of Denver Public Schools. 100% NARAL and PP rating. Opposed conscience clauses for birth control coverage!

Darryl Glenn (R) -- By all accounts a bit of a hothead, extremely conservative. Called Democrats evil and said "working across the aisle" is just another way of saying capitulate to Democratic policies. Pro Life, but it doesn't appear on his website and has flip flopped on the issue, at first declaring he'd want his daughters to have access to all their options so they could make the decision themselves. Against any form of government monitoring of guns! Military veteran. It's possible once he got into office he would mellow, recognizing the need for cooperation with his colleagues. Likely to have little impact for his freshman term but could provide key votes on big issues depending on the rest of the Senate's make up.

* Not pleased with the Denver Post's coverage. "Glenn did not explain why he is blacklisting Colorado’s largest newspaper, but in an interview Thursday with KFKA talk radio, he appeared to link his decision to the Post’s coverage of his conflicting explanations of a 1983 charge for third-degree assault, which was later dropped." NO mention in this paragraph or the rest of the article that the third-degree assault was when he defended his MOTHER against domestic violence from his Dad!!!!! So misleading.

Lily Tang Williams (L) -- She is clearly passionate, but too biased by her communist upbringing to be in politics. She should advocate for issues as a lobbyist, not be in charge of anything. Pro choice, but supports restrictions based on viability of the fetus and empowering States to regulate the issue.

Arn Menconi (G) -- Intelligent, well spoken, lots of integrity. Endorsed by Boulder Weekly. Clearly very left-leaning. Anti-war, pro-individual freedoms. Firmly pro-choice. Issues not clearly defined, but supports allowing path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and typical liberal policies like increasing minimum wage and making college free. 

Third Party: Lumping the rest together. Very little info on any of them. Platform for Dan Chapin looks good, but no info on abortion and no experience working in government. Would like to be friends with some of these people but that's not how I base my vote.

Representative (finally an easy one!)

Mike Coffman (R): Retired Marine, Incumbent. Supports path to citizenship, instituted bill to allow military service for illegal immigants. Said he doesn't care for Trump and would stand up to him. Pro-life. Good track record of bi-partisan policies. Has moved farther left since his district became more diverse.

Morgan Carroll (D): Track record of bipartisan success while a Colorado Senator. Top issues are education reform to allow more people to afford college, gun control, campaign finance reform, fair wages, and civil rights for disabled, LGBT, minorities, etc. 

Norm Olsen (L): No experience

Robert Lee Worthey (G): Lots of great ideas, no record of working in politics or achieving any of them. Complete and total reform of everything is just not a viable option.

State Senator and Representative

Jack Tate (R) v Tom Sullivan (D) Tom Sullivan's son was killed at the theater shootings in Aurora a year ago. I sympathize with his pain, but that doesn't make him a viable political candidate. He doesn't have developed positions on most issues except gun control and subsidized housing. He is running as a Democrat, so I assume with his NARAL endorsement that he is pro-choice. Jack Tate is an incumbent with a great track record and endorsements from all sorts of varied organizations. He's a Catholic father of three who has won awards for his time in office. His positions are reasonable and put families, jobs, and the overall welfare of Coloradan's above partisan interests.

Susan Beckman (R) v Robert Bowen (D): Susan has been county commissioner, her husband is mayor of Littleton. Her interests are in maintaining local jurisdiction, fiscal responsibility, and strengthening infrastructure, especially transportation. Robert Bowen goes to my church and has wonderful ideas on helping the poor and vulnerable, then says this "the Supreme Court has ruled that women have a right to use contraception and obtain an abortion up until the point that the fetus becomes viable. Like other Catholics in public office, like Vice-president Biden and others, I will not support any bill that takes away those constitutional rights regardless of my personal religious views. That includes personhood bills, trap laws, or other back-door attempts to take away women’s rights under the constitution." In other words, any legislation that would limit abortion must be opposed, even a sensible law that would charge this woman with murder for cutting an unborn baby out of a stranger's womb. But that's just an attempt to take away women's reproductive rights. (Sigh)

CU Regent

Alice Madden (D) gets my vote because her opponent is partisan and closed-minded, which is not right for the governing body of a university.

State Board of Education Member

Debora Scheffel (R) vs Rebecca McClellan (D) Wow. Both intelligent, compassionate, committed women with a heart for making CO schools serve the kids and the community, both emphasizing listening to and working closely with districts and local supervisors, both incredibly well-spoken and thoughtful. Republicans tend to favor fewer mandates and more local control, but also don't give schools the funding they need, so which approach would be better? Going to stick with the incumbent, I think.

Justices and Judges: Retain ALL as recommended by an independent review board for Colorado.

Ballot Questions

T: Revoke criminal exception to slavery. FOR (Working while incarcerated and mandated community service is NOT slavery. WTF people?)

U: Exempt posessory interest from property tax FOR (Cut back unnecessary government activities; the amount is negligible.)

69: Create state-run healthcare system AGAINST (Increasing taxes for an undetermined state plan that doesn't have the power of a Federal system to negotiate with providers and insurance companies is not the answer to our health care problems.) Colorado Medical Practitioners oppose, as does just about everyone else.

70: Increase minimum wage AGAINST (Federal law already mandates an increase, this measure would increase more and faster than necessary with possible detriment to agriculture and restaurant industries. Would also require another amendment to adjust it, whereas I prefer the legislature to have authority over that.)

71: Make it harder to put initiatives on the ballot FOR (Why do we have elected representatives if we're going to throw every issue out to the people with the only requirement gaining signatures that you could get in an hour at a downtown Lite Rail stop? Prop 106 shouldn't even be on the ballot, since it has twice been rejected by the State Legislature, yet here we are about to pass it!)

72: Increase taxes on tobacco products AGAINST (Spending is locked into the constitution. This doesn't need to be a constitutional amendment. It's short-sighted and impacts low income addicts disproportionately. We should be taxing liquor instead.)

106: Legalize "Aid in Dying" Medication AGAINST (This bill has been twice defeated at the state level in the legislature because it lacks standards of protection and reporting. Proponents argue that other states with such legalization have had no incidences of fraud, but that's because it's impossible to track activity that can't be reported. It's not the answer, nor is it as easy and painless as proponents lead others to believe. There is a real danger that passing this amendment will encourage abuses like in California and Oregon where the right to receive medical treatment is denied to those who want to live.)

107 and 108: Amend the political primary system to allow unaffiliated voters participate FOR(I'm for these amendments but read them wrong and filled out the wrong circle so I'm technically voting against but encourage others to support them. GAH.)



Trump/Pence (R)

I have yet to hear a credible reason to vote for this ticket. I know many people, kind and intelligent, who support Trump for various reasons. I disagree with them wholeheartedly, with every breath in my body.

To those who say we as Catholics must vote pro-life, I say TRUMP IS NOT PRO-LIFE and anyone who believes he will place the rights of the unborn above any other issue has not been paying close attention to who he is and what he represents. I hear things like:

What an incredible reparation Mr. Trump is making now for any past faults by the very fact that he is running as the Republican nominee for president and is ready to nominate the right kind of judges and sign the right kinds of legislation, which will steer our nation away from so many morally corrupt public policies. A penitent sinner could hardly have a more substantial opportunity to make reparation.From LifeSitenews 

I remain unconvinced that he has had a change of heart and is actively attempting to make reparation. It does not seem likely to me that this man, who is uncompromising in his own self-righteousness and has never apologized or admitted fault for the statements he's made about women, minorities, immigrants, those of other religions, or those who disagree with him, is likely to be honestly and sincerely attempting to reform his position to align with his party. It is MUCH MORE LIKELY that he is lying, saying whatever he needs to say to retain conservative support, and pretending until he reaches his goal, at which point he will no longer have any reason to be pro-life and can allow the issue to fade from his consciousness.

To those who say we should vote the platform that aligns with our beliefs, or that Pence is a decent person and a great candidate, I say THERE CAN BE NO PLATFORM IF THE CANDIDATE REJECTS IT. He cannot be trusted to embrace any Republican principles once he gets into office because he cannot be trusted, period. The idea that the Republicans in office will be able to exert control over him once he is President with a system of filibusters or checks and balances, is preposterous. They have no control over him right now. He steamrolls his advisory committee, contradicts his running mate, and insults anyone (including the top brass of his party) who dares to question his integrity or his suitability for office.

To those who say he will do something about illegal immigration, I say IT IS NEITHER FEASIBLE NOR REASONABLE TO BUILD A WALL. The answer to illegal immigration and abuses of the welfare system by illegal immigrants will not be solved by closing our borders, they will be solved by comprehensive reform that includes a path to citizenship, migrant work visas, and other measures that address the very real needs of illegal immigrants while also protecting American economic interests and security.

To those who say he will name conservative judges to the Supreme Court, I say WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO. Nor do I believe it is wise to give great power to someone unstable in the vague hope he will promote powerful people who agree with our values. If Trump doesn't agree with our values, why will he appoint others who do? Once he is in power, what motivation does he have to do anything other than support those issues he has spent a lifetime promoting (increasing his own wealth and destroying anyone who opposes him?)

To those who say he will create jobs and prosperity because he is an intelligent businessman who thinks outside the box, I say NOTHING CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT COOPERATION, and Trump has no ability or desire to cooperate.

To those who say he's better than Hillary, I say IN WHAT WAY? No matter what issue, belief, character flaw, or policy you find objectionable in Hillary, TRUMP IS WORSE.

There is no way I will vote for Trump. I implore you to also avoid voting for this reprehensible human being who has never demonstrated he is capable of anything but lying, bullying, cheating, abusing, posturing, and misogyny. Please. PLEASE. Do not put this man in charge of our country.

Clinton/Kaine (D)

I believe Hillary will be an effective president. She is smart. She is able to bring people together and accomplish things. She is the most experienced and qualified person ever to run for President in the history of our country. She knows everyone in the world, has seen the Presidency from the inside, and has dedicated her entire adulthood to public service. She truly cares about people, and about America.

I support almost every one of her policies. I think she is brilliant and her plans will help the middle class, create jobs, protect children, increase tolerance and prosperity, and advance the American Dream. I don't agree with her support of the Iran nuclear deal, but am willing to support her efforts to gain allies in the Middle East if it means that we will actually defeat ISIS on the ground and create opportunities for real democracy in that region. I don't particularly like the people who support her and I don't agree with many of the decisions she has made, but I acknowledge her brilliance and believe she is, at her core, a good person who has a passion for making the world a better place.

I fundamentally disagree with her on two key policies. I am particularly concerned with her increasingly virulent opposition to any measures that would restrict or regulate abortion, and her stance against conscience clauses and religious freedom in general. For a long time, I have felt the Democratic party is moving away from a respect for religious participation in the public square, and that it has been hijacked by extreme pro-abortion factions that don't allow for even the most reasonable restrictions on abortion.

It am heartsick that someone as intelligent and wonderful as Hillary is pro-choice. I know early in her career, she was much less stringent in her support for abortion on demand at any stage of development and for any reason. I know that is it her party and the growing extremism of our political process that has pushed her so far to the left.

My faith has urged me over and over to prayerfully consider life issues at the forefront of any political decision. Abortion is an intrinsic evil, it is never justified, never "necessary." So many good and caring people believe life is sacred, but do not want to interfere in difficult moral situations, or impose their views on another person when doing so would inflict suffering on them. I do not see pro-choice politicians as supporting an intrinsic evil because they themselves are evil. I do not believe that anyone who supports abortion must necessarily be wrong on every other issue. Nor do I believe that a simple statement that one supports overturning Roe v Wade is enough to offset anti-life policies in other areas of the law, particularly when the process to overturn Roe v Wade is so lengthy, difficult, and fraught with conflict at every stage that it is in all practicality impossible. I will not allow my vote to be hijacked by a movement whose fundamental principles I espouse but whose methods I believe are misguided and doomed to failure.

Until this point, I have never voted for either major party in a Presidential election. But I am doing so in this election because the need to keep Trump out of office supersedes all other issues. Preventing a Trump Presidency IS a life issue. The lives of immigrants, refugees, soldiers, women, the poor, and Muslims are truly at stake. If a conservative blogger who opposes Trump is receiving death threats from Trump supporters, and has to have police protection when he leaves his home, that is undeniably a life issue. This man's LIFE is being threatened by those who support Trump, and the Presidential Candidate has not spoken out against it. On the contrary, he has encouraged violence against those who oppose him at his rallies and in speeches. Electing Trump will create a culture where violence is not only tolerated, but sanctioned, and where incendiary language is used to inflame divisions and hatreds even between people who otherwise agree. Nor is it hypothetical to imagine he will use military means to achieve his ends when he has always used force to get what he wants.

Johnson/Weld (L)

In general, I don't support the Libertarian platform. There are a few issues here and there, but the major ones (protection of the unborn and providing government care for the poor) are not supported by Libertarians while issues that I find troubling (lack of strong military, legalization of all recreational drugs) are promoted. I strongly considered voting for Johnson, however, because I find both the Democratic platform and the Republican platform to have major flaws. I would like to see them both reformed, or perhaps a third or fourth party enter the race. I prefer a coalition government to form during an administration, centered around individual issues. I feel this form of government would allow for more flexibility and facilitate cooperation instead of our current system, which creates division and drives a wedge between two extreme positions. Republicans oppose whatever Democrats support, and our fractured system has slowed, and at times even stopped, political progress. While I understand that, in general, a two party system provides greater stability, it is apparent from our current situation that it doesn't always work out that way.

I do not believe in any sense of the word that voting for a third party candidate is "throwing away your vote." 

In response to this article which claims there is only three options: 1. Vote for the candidate you like best. 2. Vote against the candidate you dislike most. 3. Allow others to make the decision for you (not voting, or voting for a third party both fall into this category.)

First, there is a big difference between voting third party and not voting. As the article rightly points out, in an environment where many people decide not to vote for passive reasons, it is impossible to distinguish those who decide not to vote as a protest. However, choosing to vote third party cannot be seen as anything other than a rejection of the two major parties. Most of the electorate find themselves able to support one of the major party candidates. For those who cannot, voting third party is a way to voice those values we seek and are unable to find in the major party platforms. It also means that our values mean so much to us we are unable to abandon them. It is, at its core, a protest and an attempt to make our voices heard.

The author of the article makes it clear that we have a two party system, and voting for a third party is ridiculous because it changes nothing. Perhaps it doesn't change the two party system. I'm not sure anything could change it, given that it would require a constitutional amendment which would have to be proposed and supported by one of the two major parties! So how, other than a protest vote, can the populace express their desire for reform? Moreover, it doesn't have to change the two party system, per se, it just has to change the two parties.

All that being said, I've decided the stakes are too high to risk a Trump presidency. Since I would not have voted Trump in any situation, voting for Johnson takes a vote away from Hillary, and I'm not willing to do that in a swing state with so much on the line.

* I would like to note that it has taken me over seven hours to write this post. I have done nothing all day except research and think and pray, and this is after following closely the election coverage since the nominees were announced this Spring. If you have a comment, I welcome it, but I won't tolerate name-calling, insults, or disparagement against my intelligence, the sincerity of my faith, or my efforts to do what I believe is right following the dictates of an informed conscience. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Because I Like to Make Lists..

Things I have "let go" of:

Having a clean house
Furniture without stains, unbroken furniture, new furniture
Carpet that doesn't smell like poop
Carpet that doesn't smell like pee
Free time
My book
Going to the gym
TV and reading

Things I have "let go" of for my eldest:

Doing schoolwork
Tae Kwon Do
Practicing Guitar
Doing his chores

Things I have "let go" of for my girls:

Any expectations for emotional regulation
Dressing appropriately for the weather
Eating well
Avoiding dairy

Things I have "let go" of for my youngest:
Potty training

Things I am trying to focus on for everyone but the eldest:

Everyone has inherent dignity, we should respect ourselves and others.
Trying new things is part of growth
Making mistakes is ok
God loves you, follow Him
You are precious to me and I am always here for you.
Books are life.

Things I am trying to focus on for my eldest:

This is my house, you don't set the rules here.
If you don't care, I can't care for you.
It's your life.
I love you no matter what, but that doesn't mean I like what you do.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Image Credit
They say the best defense is a strong offense. So guess what? I've decided to just ROCK ON, baby. I know I'm responding to a call here, and it doesn't matter how hard it gets, or whether there is anything to show for it at the end of the day, or whether I meet other people's expectations, or how many people think I should be doing something else.

See this crown on my head? Know where I got it? I happen to be a daughter of the King of Kings, my friends. That's right. And there's a whole army of angels that's standing ready to do battle for me against any spiritual warfare that might come my way. Because that's all this is.


I have everything I need in Christ. He's my rock, He's my fortress. He is a Mighty God.

I'm placing all my trust in Him and continuing to be awesome. Because I am. And He is the Great I Am! Somehow, He's going to give me what I need. Or, the spectacular failure of this enterprise is going to have a bright side that I can't predict or see right now. Either way, He's got this, and therefore it will be good.

"God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful."
- St. Teresa of Calcutta 

 That is all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Never Thought I'd Find Such Peace

We are a few days into the new school year and I am exhausted but joyful. Praise God, who is always faithful and patient with my tendencies to extremism and hasty decisions! I am still homeschooling. My eldest (ADHD) is in 8th grade and participating in a classical homeschool program nearby. He goes two mornings a week. I am also homeschooling my eldest daughter for her 4th grade year and sending her to a one day a week Options program through a local school district. I am thrilled about this, because she is a delight in every way and I am hoping homeschool will provide her with more time to work on her art and other special projects. My 5 year old daughter is attending Kindergarten at our local public school. She is the first of my kids to ride the bus every day and she is LOVING it. She has made friends and seems very comfortable in the environment. They youngest is heading to Montessori as soon as he is potty trained (please God, this week would be great.)

So although I have four kids in four different schools, plus new pressures and challenges, I am feeling very much at peace. The decision was agonizing, but I just kept coming back to two main truths. 1. I am called to homeschooling. 2. No decision I make with the best interests of my children at heart will destroy their lives. I can always change course if I see that things are not working out for them because my goal is their well-being.

I am feeling generally good, even though I am nowhere near on top of things. I need to get more sleep and hopefully find some more time to spend on self-care (showering, reading, praying, going out with friends.) I have two book clubs, a mom's ministry, two game nights a month, a psychologist, and a standing appointment with a massage therapist once a month. I really do have things in place to help me. The challenge is to plan my days in advance so I am not behind, rushing to things, or having to scramble in the moment.

My prayer for this homeschool year is kindness and joy. I am praying each day for enthusiasm, both for what we learn and for what my children share with me about their passions. It is particularly hard to be interested in my eldest's offerings, because I simply do not share a sense of humor with a 13 year old boy! I am prioritizing the daily one on one times I spend with them at night, even though by then I'm thoroughly tapped. If that's one thing I can give them each day, then it will be enough.

I am trusting in the Lord. I am being patient with myself and my kids.

The cleaners came today. I feel like I can breathe again!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On Swimming Against the Current

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I attended our local homeschool conference this past weekend, run by the Rocky Mountain Catholic Home Educators Conference (RMCHEC) and held at my parish. It was amazing on so many levels, and exactly what I needed.

The keynote speaker was Larraine Bennet, author of The Temperament God Gave You, who spoke at length on the temperament and how it relates to learning style and your child's homeschool needs. Two things really stood out for me: 1. My melancholic personality is contributing GREATLY to my struggles as a parent and home educator and 2. I don't know what to do about it.

Melancholic characteristics line up very well with the INFJ personality type from Myers-Briggs, unsurprisingly, since I believe that personality types are grounded in truth and therefore each of us will manifest a "type" regardless of which metric we use to assess ourselves. Some of my challenges include:

Tendency towards perfectionism
Strong need for solitude to decompress
High standards for self and others
Extreme sensitivity to others feelings and needs
Inability to take criticism
Insatiable desire for knowledge
Overly analytic and anxious

There are, of course, many great benefits to my personality. I am a rare bird (1% of the population by some estimates) and my intuition and genuine interest in others means I am a loyal and wise friend, and (hopefully) a force for good in the world. But I really agree with this point here:
Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.
So while listening to the speaker on Saturday, I was reminded forcefully of these truths about myself. I was also able to identify my eldest son's personality (unsurprisingly, the opposite of my own!) and my eldest daughter (the same as mine, which explains A LOT.)

The thing is, I knew all this before. It's not that I forgot it, necessarily, it's just that I can KNOW I have this tendency towards perfectionism but that intellectual truth doesn't outweigh the actual FEELING of failure. Or, I may know that I need to be alone with my thoughts in order to find the strength to continue being the person I strive to be, yet finding time to be alone means allowing things to go undone (or done imperfectly) and my core need for order and control supersedes the other need.

I have been reflecting on what I need to do/change so that I am less likely to find myself overwhelmed and unable to cope, particularly while I am in the throes of the homeschool year. One thing that I know will help is that I am undergoing a particular kind of therapy called EMDR. At its core, this therapy helps speed up and solidify the process of Emotional Regulation, so that my known truths will resonate more deeply in my heart than my feelings. I am also trusting in God that my best is not only good enough, but His will and pleasing to Him. So I plan to actually write down truth statements and post them in areas where they will remind me on a daily basis that it's really ok if things are not going EXACTLY according to plan, and that I am doing a good job, and that my kids will be fine.

The thing is, I know and accept that it's not going to fix anything. I am always going to struggle in this way. And that's all right. I am offering it up for all those who have struggles but don't have knowledge or therapy. And I am moving forward on the path God has called me to walk.

The best thing I got out of the conference is a renewed sense of confidence and purpose. My struggles are normal, not an indication that I'm doing something wrong or that I myself am the problem. It's simply a combination of contrary personalities and deep-seated tendencies that find themselves at odds with each other. My plan, as it always should be, is to be open about what I'm facing, seek understanding and peace, and keep working towards what I've decided is best for my family.

Just keep swimming. (*grin*)