Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wordless Thursday

She didn't quite make it in time for Wednesday, but this is why there was no post:

Anne Virginia

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 22): Is it Advent or Christmas?

Last weekend my in-laws came to visit. "Are you going to have a tree?" my mother-in-law asked. "Yes! You walked right by it!" To be fair, it was still bound up from the tree farm and leaning against our Japanese maple in the front yard. I guess she has a good reason to have missed it. :-)

Tonight, my dad and husband gave it a fresh cut and got it upright in the tree stand. There are perks to being pregnant around Christmas, no? My only responsibility was to be in a cute picture with my son. (Sadly, the overalls, which belonged to my brother, are too small, but Peter fit in them long enough to be photographed.)

Tomorrow, my husband will string on the lights. We'll actually hang the ornaments during the day on the 24th, then plan to leave the tree up for the entirety of the liturgical Christmas season. It ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on January 13 in 2013. Here's hoping the needles hang on that long!

I'm glad I didn't give in to my desire to have everything done before the baby arrives. For one thing, the baby won't be overdue until 1/20, so there's not much reason to expect the baby early. Also, I like the season of Advent. I like the time of mindful waiting, of anticipating the coming of Christ - not only celebrating His Incarnation, but looking forward to His glorious return.

Too often, Advent becomes Christmas. The month of December is spent celebrating Jesus' birth or with gift exchanges and holiday parties that celebrate the secular while ignoring the sacred. I don't object to some early Christmas festivities (in fact, I've been singing carols as lullabies this month), but I think it should be interspersed with reminders that we are still waiting.

Our crib scene has no Christ Child in it yet. Our tree is only up this "early" so that it has time to settle before we hang the ornaments. My conversations with Peter have compared Advent to waiting for our baby to be born; we really want it to happen, but it's not time yet! The few secular decorations we have are still packed, to be put out on the 24th.

We also try to fully celebrate the Christmas season (nearly three weeks of it, this year!), continuing carols and readings and special treats. Our culture celebrates Christmas for the month of December, putting everything away and moving on before the new year. Our Church reminds us that there is a time and season for everything. Let Advent be Advent. Then, enjoy Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Staying Attractive After Marriage

A friend's blog post recently reminded me of the attitude among some married people (men and women) that, once married, there's no need for keeping up appearances. It's acceptable to gain weight, maintain poor hygiene, and wear pajama-type clothing most of the time. After all, you're already married, so why bother putting in all that effort to keep yourself looking nice?

We always look this good.
Photo credit: Eric Brophy,

My friend responded with a number of reasons why it is important to keep yourself attractive after marriage, including showing respect for your spouse and maintaining a good sex life. She also mentioned that we honor God with our bodies, so it is important to treat ourselves well.

I think she wrote a good response. I also think people are asking the wrong question. Asking, "Why keep myself attractive when I'm already married?" implies that the reason we care for ourselves at all is to attract a spouse. While we are made for community, and many are called to marriage, this is not our highest calling. We are children of God; our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Why care for myself? Because I'm worth it! God created me in His image. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Throughout my life I have maintained good hygiene, healthy eating habits, and (usually) regular exercise. When I gained weight in college, I was frustrated. Not because I was unattractive and couldn't find a boyfriend, but because I knew I deserved better than that. So I started running again and stopped bringing snacks into my room. I wanted to be in shape for ME, not for someone else.

When I got married, it never occurred to me that I should cut myself some slack. If we follow the line of thinking that marriage ends our obligation to look nice, why should people not called to marriage ever care for themselves? It just doesn't make sense.

"Therefore, glorify God with your bodies." Do it for God. Do it for yourself. You're worth it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 21): Peter Says

I happened to be watching the Weather Channel on the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers. The anchors were remembering their feelings of helplessness and foolishness, as they continued to broadcast weather patterns on 9/11/2001. They had nothing to contribute to the news, no way to mitigate the tragedy, but still felt as if they should be saying something other than the weather.

That's similar to how I feel today. There is nothing I can say or do for those families in Newtown to bring back their children. I cannot erase from the minds of survivors the terror they felt or the images they saw. My blog cannot make today's shooting less tragic. What I can do is bring a little smile in a world full of pain. I hope you enjoy tonight's Peter sayings. And say a prayer for all those affected by today's events.

Mommy, want to go back in your tummy.
Well, once you are born, you can't go back in. You were in Mommy when you were a baby, now you are out.
WANT to go back in.
Because you want to see the baby?
But you can't. There's no room.
(pause) Daddy will push the baby to the side and I will go in.

Jeremy: What a good drummer! Are you just like Animal?
Peter: Um, I like animals.

Jeremy, to me: Have you decided where we're going to dinner tonight?
Peter: I can go to Chipotle! If I want to.

Papa! I see a rooster! (pause) Actually, it's... a reindeer.

Papa: Do you think the school bus will go to other houses and pick up children for school?
Peter: It will go trick or treat!
Papa: Oh! What costume would a school bus wear?
Peter: Um, it would be a duck. And ducks are yellow.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dr. Phil does Social Justice

I've never actually listened to Dr. Phil's show, but I've been told that his advice often boils down to, "just stop it." Regardless of your problem, it could be solved if you'd just have a little willpower and change your behavior. Anyone who has been in challenging life situations can you tell that willpower can only take one so far. Some situations are not completely within our control.

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which he defended the right of businesses not to pay a living wage to every employee. He argued that capitalism is not compatible with egalitarian standards of living and companies should not be vilified for failing to provide social justice. While I'm not convinced the situation is as black-and-white as he painted it, I'll concede the point that it is unrealistic to expect retail cashiers (as just one example) to be paid a living wage.

When I pressed the issue, though, I was reminded of Dr. Phil. Given that this friend and I both value social justice, I asked what he thought people should do who needed a living wage (i.e. supporting a family) and could only find entry-level, low-paying employment. Apparently, they just need to work harder. They should find a different unskilled job with better wages. Like what? The only example provided was manufacturing, which is not a thriving sector of our current economy. If they can't find that, they should pursue training or education in another field where they can excel.

There are so many problems with this. Employers are not beating down the doors to find unskilled laborers. Our society currently has many skilled laborers unable to find jobs, even entry-level, low wage positions. Additional training requires money, which these workers don't have. Yes, loans and grants are available, but not to everyone. Additional training also requires time, a luxury many cannot afford while working two, three, or four jobs trying to stay afloat.

Finally, our abilities are on a bell curve. There are those in the work force who, regardless of how much additional skill they may wish to acquire, are unable to progress beyond a certain point. They are not the bottom of the curve with visible mental handicaps. They are just stuck in the "below average" zone with little hope of completing the certification or educational degree that might spring them into a better career.

I'm not saying companies are evil for paying less than a living wage to some employees. But I'm not willing to accept a blame-the-victim explanation that suggests these workers are just lazy, either. There are situations beyond our control.

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 20): 3 Feasts in 1 Week!

We went to Mass tonight for the vigil of Immaculate Conception. The priest addressed the common misunderstanding (misconception?) that this feast celebrates Jesus' conception, when in fact it is Mary's conception without original sin. Apparently this feast used to be titled "Mary's Conception by St. Anne". Granted, this is a longer title, but why change it? It's so much more clear!

Speaking of Mass tonight, Peter was excited to hear the Mass parts chanted. "Mommy! So many songs at Mass tonight!"

On Monday, we celebrated the feast of St. Francis Xavier. We explained to our son that we were celebrating Peter Xavier and Francis Xavier today. They both love God and they both help people! That seemed simple enough for him to understand. In the evening, we told him he could pick where he wanted to go to celebrate: library, mall, Wegmans, Grams and Papa's house, or Barnes & Noble. He picked Barnes & Noble.

My parents pretended to be offended. I told them if they would install an escalator in their home, he would be more excited about choosing them. :-)

On Thursday, we celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas. Peter and I bought chocolate santas for his classmates at open gym class, which I viewed as being a fun and nonabrasive way of sharing our faith. I try to do this every year with whomever I'll see on December 6th.

After talking with my husband, I'm less confident that I'm sharing my faith. Apparently, St. Nicholas Day has become a cultural celebration, comparable to Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. It's just another day to enjoy the holiday season. Not that I'm going to stop my tradition, but it was a bit discouraging to learn.

Truthfully, it also strikes me as a little odd. Not just St. Nicholas, but St. Patrick's or people who love the Ave Maria. If people have no faith and just view these as fun or pretty, that's more understandable. But I have a hard time understanding how Christians who oppose veneration of the saints and Mary justify celebrating feast days or singing the Hail Mary. (I've actually been told, "Well, it's in Latin, so it doesn't matter.") I know we all have our blind spots and irrational things we justify, so I'm not trying to cast stones, I just think it's interesting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Peter Says

me: I'm excited about these Tums. Maybe I can actually sleep tonight!
Peter, from the back seat: No, Mommy. No sleep.
me: I can't sleep?
Peter: It's a lie.
(He was right. He woke me up three times.)

Jeremy: Egad!
Peter: Be gag!
(later) Peter: Be gag, little gag!

*drops spoon on floor* Now look what you did! You did... shut fridge door annnnd eat banana annnnd make tea annnnnd... go to bed!

Mommy, love you face. Love you nose. Love you eyes. Eyebrows?! How can that be?!!

Baby Jesus and Mary and Jof-, Josus, Jofus... and Mary's friend.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It Doesn't Take One to Know One

In my life as a school psychologist and later a social worker, one of the most frustrating roadblocks was a parent's refusal to take me seriously because I didn't have my own children. I heard from my colleagues that it wasn't just my age; parents were often hostile even toward established workers in the field who were childless.

This is ridiculous. The male obstetrician who assisted me with Peter's birth had never given birth, but he knew what needed to be done (and what didn't need to be done) for a healthy birth. I've never dealt with divorce, self-injury, or parental substance abuse, but I've had successful counseling relationships with teens and children facing these issues. Even before I had Peter, I had an understanding of child development and positive parenting choices.

Clearly, parenting this boy has brought me new levels of wisdom.
And yes, that's the U from his foam tub letters.

The "you don't know me!" mindset is pervasive, though. It prevents pro-life men from speaking out because they'll be accused of being chauvinists. It's used as an argument for priests to marry (how can a celibate possibly be able to counsel a married couple?). Even among parents, we find a way to dismiss another's insight. "You wouldn't say that if you had a son/daughter/teen/etc."

If the only flaw you can find in someone's advice/critique/opinion is that he doesn't share your life experience, perhaps you need to reevaluate your position. Then you'll be qualified to give advice to people who change their minds. ;-)