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

Image Credit
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*)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

OJ's America

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Over the past few months or so, my husband and I have spent our evening time together watching both the documentary OJ: Made in America and the dramatized account of the trial of the century The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, based on the book by Jeffrey Toobin. We are both lawyerly (he's an actual attorney, I had plans but ended up with four kids instead!) and thus were interested in the details that surrounded such a high-profile and controversial case.

We are also firm advocates of improved race relations, which is of course at the center of this story.

There are summaries of the story and reviews of the shows available all over the place. This article very succinctly gets to the main point:

[When the verdict was read] I couldn’t grasp sympathy for a man I was told was a killer. Today, I understand. What an overdue epiphany.

I watched these episodes with a great deal of both compassion and frustration. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunity to understand the mindset of all those who were involved, particularly as most of the people at the center of the event are completely foreign to me. So I now get why OJ declared himself innocent. It's not unusual for domestic abusers to completely disassociate from their own actions, as this article highlights. I also get why Nicole was so drawn to him, why so many people fell for his charm and truly, deeply, found it impossible to believe he could have committed such a horrible crime.

And I understand the position of the defense to attack the evidence rather than trying to prove OJ's innocence. They were trying to draw attention to a larger problem, one that they felt transcended the particulars of this case. The producers clearly articulated the deep-seated need for the black community to have a victory, after centuries of injustice. Johnny Cochran had spent his life fighting against police brutality and bringing to light the egregious manner in which black people were treated. While every white person in the country felt kinship with Ron Goldman's father and Nicole Simpson's sister, every black person remembered Rodney King and felt kinship with OJ Simpson.

But there's where understanding ends and frustration begins. Because OJ Simpson was not an innocent bystander. He was not a victim of racism or police brutality. He was not part of the larger pantheon of black Americans who suffered oppression, tyranny, fear, and other legacies of racism and slavery. Even if he was, it does not heal centuries of injustice against black people to visit injustice on a white person. 

The focus of the case was not on ignoring the victims, of course. It was, as Cochran said in his closing arguments, on taking a stand against injustice and racism. Who wouldn't support such a laudable goal? Why would the jury act in a small and selfish manner to achieve justice for two individuals when they could deliver justice to an entire people?

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we know it didn't work. The reason is obvious: there can be no overarching virtue that is not practiced in the small, immediate, and mundane moments of our everyday lives. Racial inequality is not overturned by a massive court case. It's overcome by countless small acts of fairness done by ordinary people who hear their neighbor speak out against immigrants and say "That's not fair," or give up their seat on the train to a woman in hijab, or come to the defense of a stranger in a restaurant.

It helps to know the background, to have a context that explains why they did it, even if I think they made the wrong choice. For me, the complete disconnect between white Americans' reactions to the verdict and black Americans' reactions were the most interesting part of the story. While I wouldn't be dancing and singing if I heard the verdict read for the first time today, at least now I understand why so many people did.

And understanding this divide is key to how we plan our future as a nation. On the eve of Independence Day, I think it's appropriate to reflect on whether this great country is truly the land of opportunity and freedom that we claim to be. I am myself an immigrant, and have only been a US citizen for half my life. I'm going to spend today and tomorrow celebrating my country, and praying for those whose experiences here are less joyful than mine has been.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Love is...

I received a lovely bit of encouragement from God the other day while praying and thinking about my decisions going forward (to homeschool or not, discipline methods, relationship issues, my book, etc.) I talked it over with a friend, and she brought some valuable insight that helped me complete the process.

Love is not, and cannot be, simply a feeling. If that's all it is, then it's no more than momentary; it's not the life-changing, powerful force that moves mountains and alters hearts.

So what is it? Love is desiring the good of the other person, and to my mind, that requires a sacrifice of self. Jesus exemplifies this with His ministry and death, and that is the model we are called to follow.

Love is service, sacrifice, working for the good of others.

Then if this is so, the best way I can love my family is to think about what would achieve their good, and then dedicate myself to that. And if I feel myself taking on too much, as I am wont to do, then I need to re-examine my priorities to ensure I am balancing what I need with what they need.

Because, and here's the wonderful insight: my participation in my family is for their good! So if something is preventing me from participating fully and joyfully, then it cannot be where God is calling me to go.

I think this is where God has been leading me. Because the message I continually get from Him is "Trust Me. Keep moving forward." At first this seems at odds with the other messages I'm getting from my family and my body, who all say as one voice "You are doing too much."

How can I keep moving forward if I am doing too much and it's overwhelming me?

The answer, I feel, is not to change what I'm doing, per se, but to pull back from certain pieces. The panic response to the stresses I'm under are to seek an escape. "I made the wrong choice. I should pull a 180! I should go back on this decision!" But that's not the answer. I make choices carefully under prayerful direction and lots of research. Maybe things turn out to be harder than I expect, but that doesn't mean I made the wrong decision or that I shouldn't see it through. That's why God keeps telling me to trust and move forward; I'm on the right path, and I have conviction about that. I am meant to homeschool. I am meant to be a SAHM. Our family is meant to have a puppy! God will open the opportunity for me to write when it's time for that. I can trust that I don't need to push it or sacrifice my primary vocation, which is to my family.

I will need to think some more about the specific pieces where I can pull back. I've already started, like canceling some activities so I'm not driving as much or stressing less about making a dinner everyone will eat and instead just putting a healthy meal on the table that the kids are free to reject! I'm also seeing a new therapist and upping my medication so I am stronger mentally and emotionally.

God is also encouraging me to be humble. He has to tell me this a lot. I keep forgetting that I am myself, not anyone else, and it's okay if I am weaker than other homeschooling moms of 4, or 5...I am called only to do my best, not another person's best. I have my cross, it is enough.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Letting Go

I am acceding to the wishes and advice of my friends and family members, and not homeschooling in the fall.

This is a huge loss for me, and I'm grieving it. I wish I were stronger and able to handle the challenge better, but the reality is that I can't do it in a way that works for the rest of my family. Not without help, and I can't get what I need.

So if you could keep me in your prayers as we research options for his schooling in the Fall, I would appreciate that.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Answering the Call

Are you sure this is the right number, Lord? Because it sort of seems like what you're calling me to is not the best use of my talents. Case in point: four children. Did you realize I am an introvert and idealist? I know that's not a flaw in my character. I know that people like me are meant to think deeply, love fiercely, and be the moral voice for the busy majority. Why did you make me who I am if I am meant to give up my writing Saturdays so I can do laundry, clean up dog poop, and fight with my 13 year old about his iPhone?

I'm sorry, my Jesus. I know you are the Lord of Hosts and far wiser than I. I don't mean to question you. But if you are offended and would like to strike me dumb for 9 months, in all honesty, I could use the break!! I know you're aware of my stress levels and my desire for solitude and contemplation. I'm sure you put them on my heart for a purpose. It's just that the purpose escapes me because, Lord, see, you gave me a boy with ADHD and a call to homeschool and for some reason that I really can't fathom, a husband who doesn't share my values. Maybe that was more me than You? Yeah. Probably. But the kid is entirely Your doing, Lord! We did NFP, we opened ourselves to life. I wasn't ready for a child, my husband was still in law school, I hadn't dealt with the wounds from my childhood, and yet, baby boy...perfect little miracle. I love him so much, Lord. Thank you for giving me the Doob, and for the amazing subsequent gifts of GinnaBee, Moozer, and Pookanaut.

Here's the thing. I want this life. I believe in what I'm doing. I know I am building cathedrals. I know that if something is worth doing, it's probably going to be hard and test the upper limits of my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual abilities. I want to be married and have children and be involved in their care. I want to sacrifice my needs (within reason) for their benefit. I want to live an authentic and deliberate Catholic motherhood.

It just doesn't seem to me that I'm a very good candidate for this life. Wouldn't I have a much greater impact finishing my book and writing novels that (ideally) inspire hope and give a taste of joy and beauty to the world? Isn't that still Your plan for me?

Maybe, if it's not too much to ask for, I could see some of the fruits of this labor? Maybe ONE of the children could clean up after themselves without responding like I'm a hostile enemy occupying their rightful lands? Perhaps You could do something about the rancor and ignorance all over the internet so I can go to Facebook for strength and support without experiencing all four horsemen of the Apocalypse? Or, and this is a stretch, Lord, I know,  my husband and I could agree on some aspect of life other than the fact that it's really hard right now?

I guess what I need here is some clarification that I'm meant to persevere. Am I really on the right path or should I totally switch it all up? Would I be a better mother if I put all my kids in public school, stopped their activities, and dedicated my time to writing and volunteering with refugees and the homeless, or even got a job as an admin assistant for a not-for-profit? In all honesty, I felt like I made more of a difference in the world when I was fighting with copier vendors at Hull House than I do fighting with Moozer to take a bath. Our public schools are very good. My kids would still have their parish community and the benefit of my example as a Christian to form their consciences. They don't NEED Catholic school. And if the Doob isn't going to try, then does it matter whether he doesn't try at home or doesn't try at school? Your plan for him doesn't involve college, that's for darn sure. So why take my time and energies to try to mold him into something he's not? You can reach him wherever he is. Would my efforts would be better spent elsewhere?

Of course it doesn't have to be all or nothing. But Lord, when I try to do both things (help the world and care for my children) I end up overwhelmed and resentful. I just don't think You created me to be pulled in two different directions. So I need to either embrace my vocation as a mother and let go of my desire to be a force of good in the world, or I need to pull back on my involvement with the kids and go out into the world.

I am waiting for Your direction, King of my heart. You will show me where I am meant to go.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Be Weak to Become Strong

This beautiful gem from Catholic Spiritual Direction has clarified some struggles I've been having. 

But humility is the virtue that regulates self-esteem. It is singularly unhealthy to esteem one’s self more or less than the truth about who one is.
I see the truth in this so clearly. Some of the people in my life who I love the most are suffering lack of self-worth because they can't see who they really are. Something gets in the way, either internally or externally, and it must be the devil because if they could see themselves as God sees them then that would only draw them closer to the One who made them and loves them.

But the gravity of pride constantly pulls at us and...this pull can only be resisted through prayer, fasting, and humble acceptance of those trials which come our way. Prayer, fasting and the acceptance of trial helps us realize that our true value is in God’s love for us and in his love for those he has entrusted us. Real self-esteem is rooted in this realization.
 I've had arguments with family members who quote me the Bible verse: "[God] desires mercy, not sacrifice" to mean that God wouldn't send a trial my way in order to form me in holiness because He doesn't want sacrifice. I see it differently, though. I see in my trials an opportunity to be humble, and since pride is one of my most persistent challenges, anything which divests me of it does the will of God.

I am very weak-willed. Because of that, Lent has been mixed this year. I tried to give up tea but found myself unable to moderate my fatigue and irritation without the caffeine. Rather than subject my family to emotional outbursts, (and frankly, unable to get through my TO DO list while taking an hour nap every afternoon!) I decided tea is a necessity, not an indulgence, and therefore I am not being called to moderate it at this moment. I have been given a few fasts due to health issues that I am not adhering too, and it occurs to me that God wants me to align my will to the sacrifices I am being called to make, not those I choose on my own.

Of course, we are halfway through Lent and I am just now coming to this epiphany after weeks of uncharacteristic indulgence (trip to Mexico with my sister, Denver Restaurant Week, trip to Vail with visiting family from overseas, etc.) My weakness is so vast that I wouldn't allow myself to recognize the Lenten sacrifice God gave me until I was past the greatest temptations. Which makes me wonder: why am I fighting this so hard? What do I lose by moderating my gluttony and indulgence in food and drink?

The answer is that I am addicted to these things. They are the material crutch I depend on in order to regulate my emotions and keep myself from slipping back into depression. I hate being depressed. I hate not having control over myself. I don't feel that I could "lose it" again and be supported by family. My depression is not an option. I feel that every time I slip or make a mistake or yell or lose my temper that I am permanently altering my place in my immediate and extended family, and they will leave.

I am governed by fear, and food keeps the fear at bay. Food comforts me, grounds me, and feeds my hunger for pleasure. There's too much I am working on all the time that I feel like I just can't work on being disciplined with food, too. I have to be weak in this area so I can be strong elsewhere.

But the reality, of course, is that the opposite is true. Having developed this dynamic where my self-indulgence is justified because I "need" to save my strength for other areas, I find myself indulging not just in food but in other material pleasures. My appetites for consumerism, entertainment, leisure, and comfort have also increased.

Every single time I read the Word of God, attend Mass, or hear the news, I know I am being called to let go of this addiction. And every time I try I run up against the fear that if I don't keep myself calm and "cared for" I will lose it again.

Our lives are meant to co-inhere: to co-inhere in God and to co-inhere in one another. For Bernard, the self does not fully exist isolated from God or from others. The self, the human “I,” ought to be in communion with God and others, or it is less than itself.

This preoccupation on caring for myself has brought me to a place where I am no longer relying on God's love to sustain me. It is God, not cake, that will help me be a good mother. He is not asking me to starve myself or go without the necessities that I require each day. It is not impossible what He asks of me. So why am I struggling with it so much?

Why can't I value myself in the right way, as a child of God who is loved and cared for, and not as someone too weak and ill to make a Lenten sacrifice or stick to a medically prescribed diet? I feel further from grace than I have in years, and unable to claw my way back into His light.

The truth is: I can't get myself to where God wants me to be. I have to sit here, in my weakness, and call on Him to help me. It's the only way I can be rid of myself and exist in communion with God.

Lord, help me love You more.