KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A lost identity

I love my computer. I love the ease with which I can compose and correct. I love the ability to share my work with the touch of a button. So I have absolutely no nostalgia about the old typewriter. What I do miss, is hand-written communication. Every now and then I open a book and I will see a note in the front written by my mother. Even before I see the signature I know it is from my mother. Those particular loops and and lines are part of her identity. It has been almost three years since she died so the sight of her handwriting is what I have left now that I no longer hear her voice.

A recent such event got me to thinking about my own handwriting. I have very nice handwriting. I have made a great effort to avoid having "doctor's handwriting". Back when we were a military family on the move every couple of years and I was still practicing medicine I would be the new doc in town on a rather frequent basis. Inevitably, the office or clinic where I worked would get a phone call from a local pharmacist to confirm my existence. There would be some question because of my handwriting. Neat and legible handwriting always threw the pharmacists for a loop and they would want to make sure the prescription was not a forgery.

Over the years I have filled out recipe cards in my own unique script. I had visions that my children or grandchildren would someday look at these cards as they prepared our favorite family recipes. I am now realizing that it is much more likely that my offspring will be looking at their computers, iPads, or phones when they cook. Instead of looking at my own loops and lines they will be looking at "Ariel" or "Times New Roman".

I have conflicted feelings about this. I use the Chrome app "tsp." to organize and collect my recipes. Even many of those that I have lovingly transcribed into my recipe book can be found online since I gathered them from my favorite magazines. I can use tags to organize a given recipe into multiple categories. I can share these recipes with friends and family in an instant. This system is immensely more practical than my collection of cards in plastic sleeves held together in a three-ring binder. That three-ring binder was transported from duty station to duty station in our car and never entrusted to the movers since I could not risk losing my kitchen brain trust. Now the recipes are indelibly etched in the internet cloud and impervious to spills and splatters.

So the rational part of my brain celebrates this technological progress. It is a good thing. But my emotional self longs for the warmth of ink on paper. I suppose since the kids are not being taught cursive in school anymore, future generations would have trouble reading my handwriting no matter how neat and pretty it is. And I accept that I will only rarely see the products of their hands since most of our communications is now via email and texts. But in the process of this technological revolution they have lost a part of me and I have lost a part of them. I find that sad.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wrap it up!

A few years ago, at about this point in Advent, a priest gave some sound advice during his homily: wrap it up and focus on the true meaning of Christmas. You don't need to put up any more decorations. If you haven't gotten the Christmas cards written, then you don't send out Christmas cards this year. It's not a big deal. Sit down after Christmas and write notes to wish your family and friends a Happy New Year. Of if it doesn't happen then, resolve to send out Valentines wishes. Bake the cookies you enjoy baking but you do not need to make it a chore. There is no requirement to greet Our Lord with dozens and dozens of perfectly iced sweets. If you still need to wrap gifts, the recipients will be as happy with simple wrapping and a stick on bow as they will be with coordinating paper, ribbons, bows, and embellishments. It is time to make things simple.

As we close in on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, I am passing on this priest's advice to you. It is more important to get to Confession and make our hearts spiritually ready to meet Christ on Christmas than it is to add more lights or baubles to our homes.

Savor these last few days of Advent and then celebrate the full Season of Christmas.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Washington Post and I agree on the China one child policy. Could we agree on more?

Quick! Check the temperature of Hell! The Washington Post editorial board and I are in full agreement! Yesterday, my article on the so-called changes to the China one child policy was published on the HLI Truth & Charity forum. In it I wrote:

Chinese population control policy is not ethically more palatable because the Chinese government now allows two children instead of one under certain narrow conditions...The Chinese government still forcefully inserts itself into the intimate marital relationships of Chinese citizens. The policy change still views children as commodities whose production can be regulated like any other commodity in a centrally controlled economy. Families exist at the pleasure of the state and for the sole purpose of the support of the state. Rearranging the superficial details of a policy built on a rotten foundation does not halt the moral decay. There is no cause for celebration and there should be no kudos for Chinese leaders until they completely abandon all efforts to dictate who may have children and how many children they may have.
Then I woke up this morning to a Washington Post editorial saying:
Yet the thinking behind the one-child policy has survived: the arrogance of power, the notion that the state’s judgment is superior to the individual’s. Having created an economic superpower on the sweat of hundreds of millions of workers who labored for skimpy wages in coastal factories, China now faces the reality that the lower birthrate could weaken economic growth. So the party is fiddling with the population controls again, as coldly as did the original architects of the policy...The one-child policy was a stake driven through individual freedom. Rather than continue to tinker with this misguided philosophy, China should abolish population controls altogether and unleash the ingenuity and energy of its people by allowing every one of them, individually, to make life’s most important decisions.
Sarcasm aside, I am very pleased that diverse ideologies can agree on the affront to human dignity posed by the one child policy. I would now like to apply this sentence from the Post's editorial to other topics: Yet the thinking behind the one-child policy has survived: the arrogance of power, the notion that the state’s judgment is superior to the individual's.

Is it not that same arrogance of power that leads to state intervention in school curriculums, parenting practices, food choices,  education in morals, and the exercise of religious beliefs? The many mandates of the Affordable Care Act are examples of that same arrogance of power. The state knows what kind of medical care you need. The state knows when treatment is no longer worthwhile. The state knows how you should be spending your discretionary income and deems you should be spending it on more health insurance than you desire. The state knows what doctor is best for you. The state knows what hospital is best for you. The state knows who is worthy of life and who should just be left to die. 

Perhaps if we could do a better job of illustrating how big government is really the result of the arrogant elite exercising their power over the masses we would find more support for the concept of small government and subsidiarity. The fact that the Washington Post and I can find common ground on this principle gives me hope.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Word games from the culture of death

My latest article for Zenit is now published. You can read the whole article here. The culture of death is still obscuring the truth with word games. The latest addition to their double speak is "post-fertilization contraception".
Cognizant that these word games do not change the reality that preventing implantation destroys a human life, advocates of the IUD, morning-after pill, and regular hormonal contraceptives have downplayed the abortifacient nature of such birth control. But now there is a push to drop the façade and embrace prevention of implantation as an acceptable mechanism for birth control. Writing in the Journal for Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, a team led by Dr. Elizabeth G. Raymond calls on the medical community to pave the way for the acceptance and development of new abortifacients. The first step is again a semantic maneuver with the adoption of the term “post-fertilization contraception” for medications and procedures that prevent implantation.

The Snark Factor: An examination of my blogging conscience

I entered the blogging world in 2006. It is hard to believe it has been almost eight years. This blog has gone through several iterations and I am sure will continue to evolve as long as I continue writing.

When I first discovered the Catholic blogosphere, I was so excited. I devoured blog after blog. Here was a community that shared my commitment to the Church in a way I didn't always see in my local parish. I jumped right in and made many friends. Many I have had the good fortune to meet in person.

Reflecting on these years of blogging I find that I am not reading near as many other bloggers as I used to. I am also not writing on my own blog as much as I used to. Some of this is because much of what used to show up on blogs is now showing up on Facebook. I am also now getting paid for much of what I write so things that I would post on my blog are being shifted to income generating venues.

But there is also a darker side to my slight retreat from the online blogging community. Since 2006 we have gone through two presidential elections, numerous local elections, and social upheaval from a growing secular culture that is hostile to religion. We are a society that is starkly polarized into "us" and "them". With that, bloggers including myself, have often devolved into purveyors of snark. It just feels so good to publish that zinger that exposes the opposition to be a pathetic caricature of lies and evil. But is that Christian?

There is no doubt that there is a great deal of evil around us. All the efforts to diminish the sanctity of life anywhere along the continuum from conception to natural death can only be described as evil. All of the efforts to undermine the dignity of marriage between one man and one woman are truly evil acts. The dehumanization of children by regarding them as nothing more than acquisitions to be obtained for the pleasure of adults is unquestionably evil.

Yet I only add more evil when I fail to respect the human dignity of those with whom I disagree. Disagreement actually seems like a woeful understatement. I am repulsed by their utilitarian philosophies. I abhor their arrogance in thinking they are wise enough to decide who is worthy to live and who should die. I resent their twisting of Church teaching to mislead and justify evil. Even so, as a Christian, I am called to see the face of Christ in each of their faces. It is a wounded, suffering face. And I am called to love them and help them heal. No healing occurs with the application of snark. Instead, wounds are ripped open wide and the pain and suffering only deepens.

Snark is a great tool for whipping those with whom we agree into a frenzy of righteous anger. And we should feel angry every time someone who is strong and powerful exploits someone who is weak and vulnerable. But our response must not be an angry response but one of love. Not necessarily the hearts and rainbow love that is just happy feelings, but the intentional tough love that demands we speak the truth. Spoken clearly. Spoken joyfully. Spoken with charity. Too often snark just begets more snark.

So I am trying to be more aware of when my reading and writing is leading me down the dark road of hurtful sniping and sarcasm. Hopefully I will be open to the Grace of the Holy Spirit and my work will exude more love than snark. There is nothing wrong with expressing passion and even anger. But the people who ignite my ire are still children of God made in the image of God. Perhaps that is why so many saints found strength in contemplating the face of Jesus. Keeping His suffering countenance in mind makes it easier to see Him in the faces of those we call friends and, more importantly, those we call foes.




Sunday, November 03, 2013

An articulate and rightly reasoned response to Common Core

Over 100 highly esteemed Catholic Scholars have written a letter denouncing Common Core. They sent this missive to every Catholic bishop to urge them to reject Common Core for Catholic schools. Please take the time to read the entire letter. A most salient excerpt is this:

Common Core adopts a bottom-line, pragmatic approach to education. The heart of its philosophy is, as far as we can see, that it is a waste of resources to “over-educate” people. The basic goal of K-12 schools is to provide everyone with a modest skill set; after that, people can specialize in college – if they end up there. Truck-drivers do not need to know Huck Finn. Physicians have no use for the humanities. Only those destined to major in literature need to worry about Ulysses. 
Perhaps a truck-driver needs no acquaintance with Paradise Lost to do his or her day’s work. But everyone is better off knowing Shakespeare and Euclidean geometry, and everyone is capable of it. Everyone bears the responsibility of growing in wisdom and grace and in deliberating with fellow-citizens about how we should all live together. A sound education helps each of us to do so.
 The sad fact is that as standardized testing shifts to focus on the Common Core standards we will surely see educators "teaching to the test". Yet the purpose of primary and secondary education is more than just teaching a specific skill set. We should also be teaching students how to think. Notice I said "how" not "what" to think. One of the best classes my son had in high school was a debate class. The teacher taught students to look deeper than the sound bites. They analyzed speeches by current public officials and graded the strengths of their arguments. They learned to recognize "straw men" arguments and detect logical fallacies.

Every high school student should graduate with a classically liberal (not politically liberal) education. The curriculum should provide a familiarity with math, science, literature, art, rhetoric, economics, history and philosophy. If we dumped all the social indoctrination of sex "education", diversity training, and environmental activism, we would have time to actually educate them.

The dumbing down of our education system has given us a generation of students who think the most important criteria for judging literature is the gender and race of the author. When this parody was published on the US News web site, far too many commenters viewed it as an actual proposal because they were completely unaware of the gold standard of satire, Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. When teaching about the bones of the skull, I routinely put up a slide that shows a man holding a skull and saying, "Alas, poor Yorick". I am lucky if anyone recognizes it is from Shakespeare and impressed if anyone knows it is from Hamlet. Awe, wonder, and beauty are lost on these students.

I do not see public education recovering its bearings anytime soon. This is not the fault of individual teachers as much as it is the fault of parents, administrators, and teachers' unions. Parents warehouse their children in schools with little concern for what occurs inside. They also fail to instill an expectation and love of learning. Administrators focus on social and political agendas. Unions concern themselves with maximizing money and power with no regard for the education of students. Therefore, it is up to the Catholic schools and the homeschoolers to be the beacon of light in American education. Common Core will do nothing but dim this light.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All is not lost for women and work

After reading Elizabeth Corey's article in the October issue First Things I felt compelled to once again wade into the work-vs-home debates. You can read the full discussion over at the Truth & Charity Forum. The premise for my position can be summarized by this excerpt:

 I would not characterize domestic and professional lives as equal callings. Instead, I would say we are each called to live out a vocation. Some will be priests. Some will be consecrated religious. Some will be married. Some will be single. Within these vocations, we also live out occupations. For example, a priest may also be a physician. A sister may also be a teacher. A husband and father or wife and mother may also work as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or any number of other jobs. There is no doubt that the way we conduct our occupations will impact our vocations. Our challenge is to keep our occupations in perspective so that they never overshadow our vocations.
Do head over to Truth & Charity and read the whole article. I would love to know what you think.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Possible solution to the Boy Scouts of America conundrum for Catholics

I have no information to indicate that the National Catholic Committing on Scouting is looking for a solution similar to what has been offered the Lutherans, but I think they should be. Read all about it at the Truth & Charity Forum!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rights vs Privileges

It is good news that within 24 hours of filing a law suit against the federal government for prohibiting Catholic practices including Mass, baptisms, religious education and counseling during the government shut down, the administration reversed course and notified the Thomas More Law Center that their clients would once again be free to practice Catholicism at the Kings Bay Naval facility.

It would have been instructive, however, to hear government lawyers argue their case. Only Catholics were barred from all activities--even lay run activities such as religious education. Other denominations were allowed to function unimpeded. Exactly how were they going to justify their judgment that Catholic religious practices were not essential and did not contribute to the morale and welfare of military personnel and their families?

Before we break out the champagne to celebrate this legal victory, it is time to take a sober look at the implications of this case. The fact that the freedom to exercise our religion was ever called in to question speaks volumes about the tenuous position of our religious liberty within the United States and within the military in particular. This freedom that is a right guaranteed by our Constitution is being reduced to a privilege that is subject to the whims of those with power. We must not be content that everything turned out ok in the end. We owe the current administration no gratitude for their concessions. We need to make clear to all elected officials of both parties that we will not stand for this type of infringement upon our religious liberty in the future.




Friday, October 04, 2013

The priorities of Senator Tim Kaine, my senator from Virginia

I am very disturbed because the Obama administration sees fit to stop Catholic Mass, baptisms, etc if they are performed by contract Catholic priests in the military, Even though these priests are willing to perform these functions without pay, the federal government has threatened them with arrest if they offer the sacraments. Active duty military priests can still offer the sacraments, so it is not a case of the worship facilities being closed by the shutdown.

I wrote to my senator, Tim Kaine about this. This is my letter:


The government shut down is supposed to happen because we cannot pay bills. It is not supposed to be political posturing to selectively shut down that which will inflict the most pain on the American people. This is an opportunity to look at every expenditure and evaluate if we need it or not. Shutting down parks that generate revenue and barricading monuments that are normally open without supervision is insane.

Now the Obama administration is forbidding contract priests to say Mass.http://www.catholicvote.org/military-priests-face-arrest-for-celebrating-mass-in-defiance-of-shutdown/ As a Catholic, you should know that Catholic priests do not charge to offer the sacraments and would be willing to say Mass without pay. In the linked article, you can see that the Archdiocese of the Military reports that a couple was not allowed to use a contract priest for their wedding even though this priest had done all of their marriage preparation. My daughter just got married on August 10 and it would have been devastating if the priest who had bonded with her and her new husband had been prevented from saying the wedding Mass. How dare President Obama and the Democrats insert themselves into the sacramental lives of Catholics!

Fund the non-controversial aspects of the government. Do your job. Use reasoned arguments instead of political hyperbole to work through the gridlock. Failure to do so shows that your interest is in your own power and not in doing what is good for the country.

Sincerely,
Dr. Hunnell


I received a response from Senator Kaine:


Thank you for contacting me.
Unfortunately, a lapse in funding has required the nonessential operations of the federal government to temporarily close. I will be unable to respond to your message until the situation is resolved.
As we continue to discuss and debate the many significant challenges facing our Commonwealth and country, I do appreciate you taking time to contact me. Hearing from Virginians helps me better understand my constituents and the issues facing them.
I encourage you to visit my website at www.kaine.senate.gov for regular updates about my activities, as well as my positions on issues that are important to Virginia and our nation.
Thank you again for contacting me.
Note that the website that collects input from constituents is functionally shut down because it is considered "non-essential" by Senator Kaine. However, I am directed to the website that keeps his name and picture front and center and features his political grandstanding. Senator Kaine thinks it is essential to keep that up and running during the shut down.  Let's me know exactly where I stand.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A shout-out to blogging buddies, book buddies, and crossword puzzle lovers

My kids are gamers. Not the electronic kind. More the board game kind. Most of the time they are playing something that involves strategy, conquests, and "guns vs. butter" analysis. Currently a favorite is The Settlers of Catan. I usually leave them to it. I enjoy games as well but I lean more towards word games like Scrabble or Boggle or card games like Hearts or Gin. I absolutely love crossword puzzles. Last night my kids introduced my husband and me to a game that was perfect for all of us, Dixit.

This is a very simple game played with a deck of 84 cards. Each card has a charming whimsical illustration by Marie Cardouat. The active player looks at his hand of 6 cards and chooses one. Without revealing his choice to the other players, he offers a caption--word, phrase, sound-- that describes the card. Each of the other players then looks at his own hand and chooses a card that could fit this caption. The choices are all secretly submitted, shuffled, then displayed. Players try to guess which card is the actual card chosen by the active player. The catch is that the active player scores points if some, but not all of the other players guess his choice. So the strategy is to offer a caption specific enough that some in the group will understand, but vague enough that other cards could be a correct answer. This means that your knowledge of the other players in the group will be key.

For example, on my turn I selected a card that showed a giant snail shell with a rope of knotted sheets hanging down from the upper window. My daughter is an engineer without much of a life-science background. My son-in-law studied wildlife conservation so I knew he had an animal biology background. My husband and son who were playing had a fair knowledge of biology. I offered "cochlear" as my caption. The other cards offered by the group included an illustration of a musical instrument as well as a musical conductor. My son, husband, and son-in-law all got the connection between "cochlear" and the snail shell. The cochlea is the spiral shaped bony structure in the inner ear that allows for hearing. My daughter missed the connection and chose a different card. Therefore, I scored points.

In another round, someone used the caption Joss Whedon to describe the picture of a dollhouse. If you are familiar with Joss Whedon, (as all of my kids are) you would know that he created the television series The Dollhouse. For those of us out of the loop, the Dollhouse meant nothing.

We had so much fun playing this game. I began to see the captions as crossword puzzle clues since the definitions and connections were not necessarily straightforward. It involved a lot of non-linear thinking. The illustrations are beautiful and surprising in their complexity which added to the enjoyment.

I thought of all my friends who are writers, book-lovers, and crossword puzzle aficionados, and thought how much fun we would have if we could all play this together. In any case, it might be something to add to your Christmas list.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Organ donation requires strong ethical principles

My latest article for Zenit has been published. In it, I look at the compromise of ethical principles for organ donation when the procurement system moves to "presumed consent". Under this policy, everyone is considered an organ donor unless they have actively taken themselves out of consideration. The state claims it owns your bodily organs and has the right to control their use for the common good. You are only borrowing them during your lifetime.

One of the key criterion for ethical organ donation programs is that donors must be fully informed and freely give their consent to be a donor. Removing the need for free and informed consent opens the door to abuses. This becomes more relevant as a utilitarian philosophy seeps into health care policy and practices.

Organ donation is a supremely generous, life-giving and virtuous act when done under strict ethical guidelines. Once the ethics breaks down, it quickly degenerates into a dehumanizing work of evil.

Monday, September 02, 2013

New School Year Resolutions

I am working on an article and the deadline is looming so after Mass this morning I planted myself at the local Panera's for some focused working. When I am at home there are so many distractions that make it easy to procrastinate. Laundry needs to be done, the bathroom needs to be scrubbed, dust on various bookshelves just screams to be cleared, and of course since Mom is home, everyone else who is home has a question/problem that needs to be answered.

In a couple hours I made real headway on my article. I didn't finish it, but I have a good idea of where I am going. This progress was made in spite of being surrounded by the constant din of parents and children having one last outing before school begins tomorrow. All of my children are either in undergraduate college studies, graduate school, or out in the work force. I realized that I miss the fervor of the first day of school. Fresh new binders, neatly stacked paper, perfectly sharpened pencils, a plethora of pens, markers that still have ink, and unbroken crayons all signal a new school year full of promise and potential.

The snatches of conversations I heard around me were interesting. Parents were exhorting their children that this year things would be different. Computer games and television viewing would be limited and allowed only after homework was done and some time was spent reading. Backpacks would be packed at bedtime so there would be no mad rush in the morning. Clothes would be picked out and readied the night before each school day. All homework and school papers would be reviewed nightly. I recognized myself in all these good intentions. We tried most of these at one point or another. Some worked. Others fell by the wayside either because they were too onerous or we were just not disciplined enough. Still, it is very encouraging to hear so many parents involved in their children's schooling and doing their best to enable their children's academic success.

So I am offering a prayer for all the children, their parents, and their teachers that this school year lives up to their hopes and dreams. May they appreciate their God-given gifts and use them for His glory. May all parents embrace the opportunity to share and nurture the intellectual and spiritual growth of their children.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Preparing your adolescent for a trip to the doctor.

My most recent post for the Truth & Charity Forum is up. In this post I take a look at the latest statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics with regards to emergency contraception. Bottom line is they are for it. Any girl. Any Age. No cost. No parents. This policy joins their recently released statement that states homosexuality must be accepted and supported and there should be no attempt to encourage abstinence education for any adolescents because it would marginalize homosexual teens. Add to this the resolution passed by the American Academy of Family Physicians in support of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. And of course there is always the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology who has never met an abortion or hormonal contraception method it didn't like. The truth is that American professional medical associations have shed their advocacy for sound medical practice and become shills for the liberal sexual agenda. Anything that might put a crimp in someone's sexual expression is bad, no matter the consequences of that sexual expression.

So what is a parent to do? Ideally, you find a doctor that respects your values and your role as a parent. If the doctor is treating you like an adversary instead of an equal partner in the health of your child, run away fast. However, in these days of managed care, the choice of physicians is often severely limited or nonexistent. As a military family we have no choice in who provides our health care. When the kids got to that adolescent stage, there was always the "time alone" with the doctor at their sports physical visits. As a physician, I know this time is necessary. But as the mom of my children, I also know that I have their best interests at heart, the culture does not support our family values, and I do not need another person in a position of authority undercutting our parental influence and undermining our faith.

Think I am being paranoid? My experience is that numerous practitioners make erroneous assumptions about my children. They ask my thirteen-year-old daughter if she has a boyfriend or my thirteen-year-old son if he has a girlfriend. If they answer "no" then they proceed with questions to determine if they have same-sex attractions. Did these medical professionals ever consider that not every middle schooler is chomping at the bit to have an exclusive romantic relationship? A female physician fussed at my high school daughter for wearing a sports bra because it didn't enhance her bust. This woman wanted to see my daughter in something more Playtex--you know--"lifts and separates!" My daughter's choice was not a body-image issue. It was a matter of comfort. This same physician scolded me when I didn't jump at the chance to have my daughter receive the HPV vaccine. I said I wanted to wait until after it was in use a few years so I could assess the safety profile. She scoffed because the meningitis vaccine I was agreeing to was newer than the HPV vaccine. Why wasn't I waiting on that one? Because the results of foregoing the meningitis vaccine could be deadly while the results of skipping the HPV vaccine are minimal.  It was a simple risk-benefit analysis. Then there are the offers of contraception in spite of the fact that my child denies any sexual activity. "You know I can get you birth control. Your mother never needs to know." I know about these exchanges because my children told me about these exchanges.

I think the most successful approach is to prepare my child for these questions with words like this:

The doctor does not know you and does not know our family. He/she cannot tell who has a good relationship with parents and who doesn't. They don't know who is making good choices and who is making bad choices. So they treat everyone like they have a dysfunctional family and are making choices that are incompatible with our family values. Adolescents who are in these situations have special medical needs and the doctors do not want to miss helping these teens because they failed to ask. The fact that they ask you these questions does not mean they think these questions actually apply to you. If they do more than just ask questions and try to to convince you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, tell them you are not interested and tell them you want me back in the room. (As an aside--I have friends who reported physicians/PA's/nurse practitioners that tried to browbeat their daughters into accepting a prescription for contraceptives or who have suggested to their non-sexually active teens that they try masturbation Because these health care professionals often see young people in trouble because of bad choices, they sometimes forget that lots of young people make the same good choices you make.
I have taken care of the teens from the dysfunctional families as well as the teens who are making poor choices. I know that it is difficult to get important health information when their parents are in the room. But I do not do this teen any favors if I then normalize the risky choices and enable them to continue. I also do not help the situation when I marginalize parents. By and large, even the most imperfect parent loves and cares for his/her child more than any health professional ever can. Part of the job of providing health care to adolescents is also enabling constructive ways for parents to express this love. As a parent, you should demand such a level of cooperation.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just one more year!

We do not replace our cars very frequently. Basically, we buy a car and drive it until it is no longer road worthy. Alas, our 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan is approaching that point. This vehicle has over 150,000 miles on it. The power doors quit working long ago. The air conditioner is flagging. The electrical system has gremlins and seems to be in need of an exorcism.  At this point, nearly every repair costs more than the car is worth so we are at that point where any time something goes wrong we ask ourselves if it is time to throw in the towel and send this vehicle off to minivan Heaven.

The latest issue was the driver's side window. We knew, after our experience with a 1990 Dodge Caravan, that the car would not pass the safety inspection unless the window goes up and down. We also knew that the repair bill to make the current minivan's window work would be astronomical in comparison to the value of the vehicle. It would effectively become a working window with a car attached to it. Enter YouTube!

My husband found a video that took you through a step-by-step replacement process and gave you a source to buy the needed part. "You can do this in 30 minutes!" the video assured. Now my husband has never been much of a car mechanic, but he is an electrical engineer and this seemed to be an electrical issue so he accepted the challenge and ordered the part. After six hours of work the part was in and the door panel was back in place. Turned the key and...nothing. Except for the fact that windshield wipers kept going even though the switch for the wipers was in the off position. Ugh!

At this point I would have poured a glass of wine and looked up the number for the nearest charity that would tow away a vehicle at no charge. But not my husband. He put his engineering thinking cap on and determined that he must have drained the battery during the repair process. He pulled my son's car up beside the van and gave the old girl a jump start. Voila! It started. Window goes up and down. Wipers work normally. He drove it around to charge up the battery and we called it a night.

The next morning, he went out and started the van, and all was still well. However, rather than just driving to the vehicle inspection station right then, he turned the car off and got the GooGone to clean the tape residue left on the window after the repair process. One clean and shiny window later he turned the key. The engine would not turn over. The windows would not work. The lights would not come on. But there was no funky wiper action and the radio worked!

I've got the charity number on speed dial by this point but he returns to Google and YouTube. Apparently, all the connecting and disconnecting of the battery that occurred during the window process messed up the computers. He found instructions that said to disconnect the battery and pull some fuse for at least 30 minutes, then reconnect and start. Sort of like a Microsoft reboot. It worked! He didn't press his luck. He drove to the automotive shop and left it for an inspection.

A few hours later, we got the phone call. The van failed the inspection. Something about too much play in the sway bar. Now what? After all the effort and energy given to that minivan over the last 24 hours, my husband couldn't bear to give up on it now. He paid the money, had it fixed, and we are now displaying a brand new safety inspection sticker.

But that's it. No more! Dear minivan--this is your last chance. Next summer when this sticker is expiring, do not expect us to jump through hoops to make you last. If you fail the inspection, it is the junk heap for you. Unless, of course, my husband finds another YouTube video for another "30-minute" fix.




Friday, August 16, 2013

The conversation on cohabitation continues

My Truth & Charity article on cohabitation has garnered nearly 10,000 views and 550 likes on Facebook. As is expected, when an article gets a lot of circulation the critics will eventually come out. One commenter, Monica, dismisses my article because she says new research shows cohabitation does not play as large a role in divorce. Other factors come into play.

I think Monica missed the whole point of the article. As I explained in my response:
I stand by the facts presented in this article. Nowhere did I state that cohabitation is the only factor contributing to the increased divorce rate. And the point of this article is not that cohabitation contributes to divorce. Rather, the issue is what do Catholics believe about cohabitation and marriage and do Catholic weddings reflect this belief. Catholics who faithfully wait until after the wedding to live together should be supported and encouraged by celebrating their wedding with the full Nuptial Mass. It is an injustice to these Catholics to make no distinction between their faithful preparation and those who flagrantly flout Church teaching by cohabitating before marriage. It also sends a mixed message about Church teaching on marriage and undermines the dignity of marriage to equate cohabitating couples with those who wait until after the wedding to live as a married couple.
Every time we "normalize" an aberrant practice we undermine the institution of marriage. Cohabitation is not in line with Catholic teaching. Divorce is not in line with Catholic teaching. Contraception is not in line with Catholic teaching. We are facing the threat of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples precisely because we did not hold the line on these previous threats. It is time to get serious about defending marriage from all assaults, not just the latest.

What do you think about making a distinction between couples who wait to live together until after they are married and those who cohabitate before marriage?

UPDATE A new comment at the Truth & Charity forum bears repeating:

Augustine:  Having been there done that in regards to cohabitation, I can honestly say that I would never advise a couple to go this route. It is truly a selfish existence shrouded in the appearance of being a couple. There is lack of genuine intimacy as no soulful commitment has been made. I commend your parish priest. May more priests man up and defend the sacrament. May more men man up and treat their future spouse and mother of their children with the dignity and respect they deserve. May more women grow a spine and tell men to take a hike when they try to pressure them into such relationships.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

And the two shall become one

I am sipping coffee and enjoying the morning quiet after the most amazing day yesterday. My daughter got married and the wedding and reception were everything we could have hoped for. Out of town guests began arriving on Thursday. After three trips to the airport we had gathered my oldest son, his wife, and their two children, as well as my dad and my brother. The house was full but not as full as the joy in my heart.

Festivities began the day prior with the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. My husband's parents were added to the group as we met to go to the rehearsal dinner at Trummers on Main in Clifton.

                                    The whole gang

                                     My husband, myself, and our brood

                                      John David bonding with Granddad

                                       Nothing compares to the sweetness of a grandbaby falling asleep in your arms

The next day was the big day! All the bridesmaids met at our home and helped Marie get dressed.
                                     Marie with her brothers just before leaving for the Church

Marie glowed as she walked down the aisle and my eyes were a bit moist with tears, but they were tears of joy. The Mass was beautiful, reverent, and prayerful. We were blessed to have both Fr. Kenna and Fr. Horkan concelebrate the Mass. I didn't take any pictures during Mass, but we will have some from the photographer.

Then off to the reception! For those in the DC area, I highly recommend St. Francis Hall at the Franciscan Monastery in DC as a venue. The hall itself has a medieval castle feel. The surrounding gardens hide any trace of urban DC. Truly wonderful!

I will now engage in some shameless bragging about my daughter's creative talents. She and Nick love to read and aimed for a literary theme to the wedding reception. She scavenged free hardback books from the local used book store and painted them. She used three books in the center of each table. The top book had the date on the spine. The second book said "Nick & Marie". The bottom book featured a famous couple from literature. The table was not just designated by a number, but by the title of the book associated with its couple. An image of the book cover was framed and placed on top of the books. In addition, there was a small bouquet of flowers and a single paper rose Marie made from the pages of a used copy of "The Once & Future King." This is one of her favorite books and one of the books she and Nick shared when they first met in high school English class.

The Game of Thrones table

 The Dark Tower table

The Gone With the Wind table

The literary theme extended to the cakes with the main wedding cake featuring quotes from some of their favorite books. It was a chai spice cake with vanilla cinnamon buttercream filling. Oh my!! The groom's cake was an amazing chocolate with chocolate mouse and raspberry filling. It featured elements from Nick's favorite book series, The Dark Tower. Again, for those in the DC area, Eloise's Pastries is incredible. The artistry of these cakes was only surpassed by their flavor.

 Groom's cake

 Wedding cake. Also note the book frames made from old books that were used to hold childhood pictures of Marie & Nick 




The dancing was so much fun. The dance floor was full from the beginning to the end. Of course there were some very special dances.

 First dance. Music was "God gave me you" by Blake Shelton


 The father-daughter dance. Music was "Little Miss Magic" by Jimmy Buffet

The words to this song are so appropriate for this poignant moment

I will just end with a few more assorted photos and just bask in the glow of so much joy.
 Brother-sister love

 Flower girls

 My oldest son and his family in the gardens of the monastery

Wesley, Misty, Trinity, & John David at the reception

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Justice for those who wait

On several occasions I have mentioned our pastor's policy of requiring all couples to live apart for three months before they are married. The Truth & Charity Forum just published one of my articles that discusses this policy as a matter of justice.

My pastor is not denying the Sacrament of Matrimony to anyone. He is acknowledging that the full Nuptial Mass is a grand and solemn celebration to mark a transition in the lives of the couple. It is only fair to recognize the very real and distinct differences between those who make this transition after the wedding and those who make it before the wedding.
Please read the whole article here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just eat the yogurt!

Athena is my black Lab mix. She is six years old now and much more settled than she was as a puppy. What she has not outgrown is her tendency to make questionable digestive choices. Cardboard is a major food group for her--especially empty toilet paper rolls. I cannot even begin to list the various vegetable, animal, and mineral entities that she has found outside and ingested. Most of the time her sturdy Lab stomach handles the insults just fine. But every now and then her gut rebels. This usually means a middle-of-the night or early morning awakening to her tummy loudly rumbling,squeaking and squawking followed by a trip outside. The best cure for her indigestion is yogurt. Half a cup or so and she is good to go. Interestingly, it is a chore to get her to eat the yogurt. She sees me holding a bowl of yogurt and she is hightailing it back to bed or hiding behind a table. So I put a little on my finger and dot it on her lips. She licks it off. I dot some more and she reflexively licks that too. After about three or four dots of yogurt she laps it right out of the bowl and licks the bowl clean. This always makes her feel better. So why does she resist? She has to be coaxed and convinced to eat the yogurt every single time. One would think she could remember how nicely yogurt soothes her upset tummy.

I was pondering this today after another early morning yogurt routine. But then I had to sheepishly admit to myself that I am not much better than my dog. There are a lot of things that are very good for me and I know they are very good for me, yet I resist. Eating modestly and limiting my sweets feels so much better than when I over indulge. I have so much more energy when I exercise regularly. All of life's daily demands are so much easier to handle when my prayer life is in order. I know this. And I will eat healthily, exercise, and pray daily for a while. But then I start backsliding. Before you know it I am out of sync in one or all of these areas and it is so hard to put myself back on track. But I take a few positive steps and just like Athena, after a few tastes I am lapping up the renewed discipline.

I am going to keep Athena in mind whenever I find myself I slacking in my physical, intellectual, or spiritual discipline. There are no good excuses. I need to stop resisting and just eat the yogurt!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Living Life

A nice lady and friend of my in-laws bought a Corvette when she was much younger and a bit more adventurous than she is now. Age and mobility issues have made climbing in and out of the Corvette impractical. It is a 1991 convertible and only has 44,000 miles on it. She begs you to take it off her hands for a minimal sum. What would you do?

Road trip! Now that my hubby has retired all the grown kids have laid claim to our extra vehicles. When I head off to work I leave him behind with no transportation. So we were in the market for something in which he could toodle around town. What better vehicle for a retired test pilot than a Corvette. So amidst all the wedding preparations we flew down to Houston and picked up some new wheels.

We did have time for some fun. We stopped in at the Rice University art gallery and saw "Unwoven Light" by Soo Sunny Park.

We ate at Freebirds


We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express


And we arrived safely home so all can play with Dad's new toy.






I've learned a few things about Corvettes. First of all, there is no trunk. It is not that it just has a small trunk. It has no trunk. That is all gas tank in the back. It takes a little bit to get the used to the sense of speed when you are sitting so low on the road. It is so powerful. I am used to driving a Prius. The acceleration of the Corvette feels like a rocket in comparison. Getting in and out is an exercise in flexibility. Not sure how you would ever do it in a skirt. But this car is fun. See the grins on these faces? This road trip in the midst of last minute wedding details was so worth it. Sometimes you just have to relish all the joy life has to offer.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A kitchen table chat in Canada and thoughts about cohabitation

Yesterday I was privileged to be a guest on the Canadian Radio Teopoli with Fr. Bill Trusz. We chatted for an hour about the assaults on marriage, much as I had outlined in my latest HLI Truth & Charity forum article.  You can listen to the interview here by clicking on the  "listen to previous shows" button then clicking on the July 17 show.

I was very happy to once again cover the ground demonstrating that the current push to redefine marriage is only the latest in a continuum of assaults on marriage. We also talked about what we can do to stem the tide of marital perversions. The most important thing we can do is to joyfully and faithfully live our married lives. We need to project an infectious glee so that those around us say, "I want whatever they have." And what we have are marriages based on God's natural law.

"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary." This quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  The challenge is to discern when words are necessary. Friends and relatives are cohabitating. These couples often fully intend to get married and sees no problem with jumping the gun and moving in together now that they are engaged. They do not recognize how they are making a mockery of marriage by living as if they are married without the benefit of the sacrament. I often keep silent. I do pray for them a lot. I pray that the priests who are doing their marriage preparations have the courage to address the moral peril of their choices. I pray that the parents can look past the pretty white dress and the grand celebration to the real meaning of the matrimony and counsel them accordingly. And I pray that they see the damage they do to their marriage by cohabitating first. Those who cohabitate before marriage significantly increase their risk of divorce. Marriage is about so much more than just loving each other. It is about loving each other in the service of God. Flouting His law is no way to serve Him. Why debase the beginning of your marriage with sin?

After all that I trust the Holy Spirit to enlighten them and pray that their hearts are open to receive wisdom.

Some may think that is a wimpy way to go. I can use my words with my own children. I can offer my words to readers. But sometimes, my words are wholly inadequate and would only sound like scolding in a setting where I have no standing to scold. Prayer is powerful. Imagine what would happen if we all joined our voices in earnest prayer for those couples who choose to cohabitate. In the words of Pope Leo XIII, written in his encyclical Arcanum:
We well know that none should be excluded from Our charity, We commend, venerable brothers, to your fidelity and piety those unhappy persons who, carried away by the heat of passion, and being utterly indifferent to their salvation, live wickedly together without the bond of lawful marriage. Let your utmost care be exercised in bringing such persons back to their duty; and, both by your own efforts and by those of good men who will consent to help you, strive by every means that they may see how wrongly they have acted; that they may do penance; and that they may be induced to enter into a lawful marriage according to the Catholic rite.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

30 days and counting

The church is reserved, the readings are chosen, the music is selected. Invitations have been sent, responses received. She has her dress. The caterer, reception venue, DJ, florist, cake baker, and photographer are all arranged. So what could be left to do? Oh my!

There are so many little details. The constant question from the male folks in our household is, "You do that for a wedding?" The program needs to be finalized and printed, favors need to be assembled, and crafty elements of centerpieces need to be finished.

Table seating needs to be arranged so that place cards need to be printed. This is an interesting exercise. The guests are coming from all different phases of life. Some overlap, but many don't. Some are friends from high school. Some are friends from college. Some are work friends. Some are neighbors. Some are church friends. Some are family. Some are his. Some are hers. So do you mix them up? Sort them by relationships? Sort them by politics? Sort them by geography?

I cannot imagine planning the wedding without the internet. How did I do it thirty years ago? You can find anything on the internet. Any etiquette question has a ready answer. Who knew that there is a company out there who makes every kind of tassel imaginable. You know those little tassels you find on the ends of bookmarks? They make them. Those tassels and elastic cords that hold programs together? They make those too.

I am wondering exactly what we will talk about in 31 days. The sometimes frenetic pace of wedding preparations has moments of joy and moments of whimsy. And yes there are moments of frustration. But I love our expanding family so all the preparations to join these two in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony are happily embraced. Every task is accompanied by a prayer so they will begin their lives surrounded by the grace of God.




Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Defining reprehensible

My latest Zenit article is up here. I explore how some can condemn Kermit Gosnell yet endorse infant euthanasia.

Open and shut

From this morning's Magnificat:

O Lord, you have told us to knock and the door would be opened to us. You yourself are the doorway into everlasting joy. Open your way before us a we set out on this day's journey and guide us to our journey's end, that, when evening comes, we may enter the courts of your presence rejoicing.
 Sometimes Mt 7:7 makes people think of God as the great Santa Claus. If you just keep knocking on the door he will give you everything your little heart desires. The truth is that God loves us too much to open doors that are not in our best interest. I once saw a photo of a closed door with the caption,"When God closes a door, it is time to stop banging your head against it and figure out what He really wants you to be doing."

One of life's great challenges is trying to figure out which doors are open and which doors are closed. Sometimes God does close a door. If that is the case then there is no purpose in continuing to try to jimmy the lock or break down the door. If we stop insisting on our own will and consider, for a moment, the will of God, we will see that there is a perfectly good door that is open and will lead us to much greater happiness than whatever is behind that closed door.

On the other hand, sometimes the door is open and waiting for us. God is calling. Yet we do not go through because we are constrained by fear, doubt, or sin. That open door will require sacrifice. It is not an easy path. Are we willing to trust God enough to say that whatever the cost, walking through His open door will be worth it?

Also from this morning's Magnificat:
The gate to the Lord's sheepfold is narrow and cut in the shape of a cross. Yet, Christ leads the flock safely through to the place of pasture he has prepared for us.
My prayer for today is that I recognize the doors that God has opened for me and follow Christ through them without fear or hesitation.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Irony: Washington Post reports on media bias

This article ran in this morning's print edition of the Washington Post under the headline: Al-Jazeera: Covering news or shaping it? I find this comical since it would be just as relevant to write a similar article under the headline Washington Post: covering news or shaping it?

Now I do not know if Al-Jazeera is really biased and loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian president Morsi. I am really irritated that Al-Jazeera took over the broadcast rights to La Liga soccer so I have to search through Wiziwig for an online streaming source for Barcelona matches. Other than that, Al-Jazeera has little impact on my life.

What I do know is that the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, and most other major news sources in the United States serve as nothing more than mouth pieces for the liberal ideology. Only after the presidential election do we get any coverage of the Benghazi scandal. They had to be shamed into covering the Kermit Gosnell trial. Sandra Fluke gets twenty folks to listen to her and it is front page news. A hundred people camp out in a Washington park and claim they are occupying it for some ill-defined cause and it stays in the news for weeks. Half a million folks march on Washington to stand up for life and there is near silence from WaPo. Not a word about the six thousand Catholics that gathered on July 4th to pray and make a stand for religious liberty. Not a word of protest that the HHS mandate was based on a kangaroo-court-like session of the Institute of Medicine. The Washington Post has even eliminated its ombudsman position that served as an avenue to protest inaccurate or unbalanced coverage of issues.

Granted, this morning's article was published in the Style section, so it is not presented as breaking news. Still, an expository piece by the Washington Post on the bias of Al-Jazeera  is like the National Enquirer dismissing Star Magazine as nothing but a tawdry tabloid.

Pot, meet Kettle.




Monday, July 08, 2013

Another battle in the same war against marriage

Some may look at the current defense of marriage against its redefinition to include same-sex couples as a unique struggle. Actually, it is only the latest in a long line of assaults against marriage. We can actually see a related attack in the Gospel when Jesus says:

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Mt 19:8)
In my latest article at the HLI Truth & Charity forum I look at relatively recent attempts to conform marriage to man's will instead of God's will. You might be surprised to see that the Holy Father was writing in defense of marriage in 1880. Please wander on over to the Truth & Charity forum and read the whole thing.

We need to defend marriage against all assaults, not just the most recent one.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Conserving and Preserving


I am in full summer canning mode these days. Actually, it would be summer canning, drying, and freezing mode.

My dehydrator has been busy drying mint for later use and drying lavender blossoms, rose petals, and hydrangea petals for potpourri.

Basil is harvested for pesto which will be frozen.

A combination of herbs and jalepenos from my garden and fruit and tomatoes from the farmers market are combining for some wonderful canned goods. I am not worrying about adding pectin to my processed fruit. According to my go-to cookbook, How to Cook Anything by Mark Bittman, if you heat anything to 224-degrees it will jell. Maybe. Everything has thickened but I am not sure if I would call it jelled. Cherries did. Strawberries, not as much. But that is ok. There is a name for jam that is a bit runny. It is called conserve. It still tastes great on a hot biscuit or over some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

Last Saturday after my farmers market run I went to Target and bought some more canning jars. The 20-something guy at the checkout asked what I was going to use the jars for. I looked at him and said, "Canning?". He was shocked. He didn't know anyone actually canned food anymore. I told him I thought it was making a comeback. Lots of my friends go to the farmers markets and can fruits and veggies. His was response was, "Yeah, I guess there are still a few hippies."

Well, since last Saturday I have put up three pints of tomato-jalepeno-cilantro salsa, 8 half-pints of strawberry jam/conserve, 3 pints of peach jam, and 7 half-pints of blueberry peach jam (maybe conserve--jury's still out on that batch). Perhaps it is time to break out my tie-dye t-shirts and bell-bottom jeans.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

What can it hurt?

Friday evening, the vigil of the Feast Day of St. Thomas More, American Catholics began a Fortnight for Freedom. Today our priest spoke extensively about St. Thomas More and his deep abiding faith. He was willing to die for his faith. He refused to sign a statement approving of King Henry VIII's divorce from Katharine of Aragon. Nor would he sanction the marriage of the King to Anne Boleyn. His friends and family pleaded with him to sign. What would it hurt, they asked, if he just signed the document. He didn't have to really believe it. Just put his name to it and his life would be saved. Yet, Thomas More would not compromise the integrity of his faith even if it meant he would be killed. He would not risk his soul for earthly treasures.

Some will dismiss the current Fortnight for Freedom as political grandstanding. Why should the Church raise such a fuss? What would it hurt to just accept the HHS mandate and pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients? Isn't it more important to be helping the poor? Church leaders and the faithful laity who are sounding the alarm over the HHS mandate know that there can be no compromise. Once freedom to fully practice and live our faith is undermined, there will be a steady erosion of the rights guaranteed the First Amendment to the Constitution. Archbishop Lori, in his opening homily for the Fortnight for Freedom stated:
The efforts of the government to divide the Church into a worship wing and a service wing do not spring from a theoretical interest in how churches are organized. It is part of a broader movement to limit religious freedom to freedom of worship — to accord a fuller degree of religious liberty to houses of worship but a lesser degree of religious freedom to charities, hospitals, and universities.
If left unchecked, this tendency will continue to diminish the influence of religion in helping to shape the character of our country, not only by our words but above all by the way we conduct our ministries of service
.
But this tendency to ask, "What can it hurt?" is not limited to issues of national importance. Every day we are tempted to bend the rules. What can it hurt if I gossip just a little? She makes me so angry I need to vent. Or what can it hurt if we use contraception for a little while? We will be open to children later. Or what can it hurt if we live together for a while before we get married? We love each other and we will eventually get married. Or what can it hurt if I sleep in today and miss Mass? I will go on another Sunday. 

I would answer these questions with another question: Do you really believe that God loves you? Do you really believe that His love dwarfs every other love you have ever experienced? If so, do you really think that God would ever want anything other than what is best for you? So do you trust that His will for you is always in your best interest, even when you cannot see it? 

Every time we try to cheat and say this or that Church teaching does not apply to me at this time, we are saying that we really do not trust God. Our judgment is better than His. We know better than God what is best for us.

Perhaps during this Fortnight for Freedom we can pray for the courage to trust God in all things, large and small.

St Thomas More, pray for us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gathering daily flowers


I love my garden. Sometimes I can bring in armloads of peonies or hydrangeas, or daisies and make large impressive arrangements. Some mornings, though, my garden yields something much smaller. This morning I picked a single rose, a few white pansies and some sprigs of lavender. This little nosegay resting beside my sink is very calming. Not as flashy as a table centerpiece quality arrangement, but still beautiful.

It is a good reminder that sometimes I want to do great and wonderful things, but my resources and energy are not enough. Occasionally my day's work looks like a dozen long stem roses. But most days, a single rosebud is all I can muster. And there are definitely days where I am lucky to gather a yellow dandelion.

I cannot solve world hunger but I can support the local food bank. I cannot rid the world of sickness but I can bring a meal to  a sick friend. Some days it is an accomplishment to just smile at the person standing next to me in the grocery store line.

Today I am savoring the fragrances of rose and lavender. Nothing earth shattering or newsworthy. Just the blessings that are meant for me on this day.

Connecting the dots in a contraceptive culture

The dots are out there. My latest Zenit article looks at the alarming increase in breast cancer among women ages 25-39. What is the etiology of this meteoric rise? The rapid rise in breast cancer among young women correlates well with the rapid rise in hormonal contraceptive use as well as the increased incidence of abortion. There are also numerous studies showing direct relationships between breast cancer and contraceptives and breast cancer and abortion. These published articles also found that the women most affected are women in the age 25-39 demographic and the effect is most pronounced the younger women start using contraceptives.

So why are health care policy makers establishing clinics inside schools to hand out contraception to girls as young as 12 and 13? Why are we making the Plan B hormonal abortifacient available over the counter for these girls? Why has the HHS declared these carcinogens to be essential health care for women and so necessary that their provision trumps religious liberty?

This is happening because the real war on women is being waged by those who think women are defective if their fertility is intact. They want unfettered sex without consequences. They think children are a curse and abortion is a blessing. Those who currently have government power are methodically expanding the Culture of Death.

If we love our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters, and all other young women we must take back the culture. Their lives depend on our building a Culture of Life.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Loving both puppies and porcupines


Weddings and funerals bring out interesting family dynamics. Seemingly mature adults are reduced to the level of squabbling toddlers. Decades of perceived insults and injuries rise to the surface and “That’s not fair!” rings through the air. Sometimes literally. Sometimes through hurtful remarks. Sometimes through passive-aggressive behavior. 

I thought about this as I read this beautifully written essay, Love the Sinner, by Bernadette O'Brien. Consider this paragraph:
“You can’t blame me for hating my mother-in-law—if you knew what she’s done to my family….” “How could anybody condemn us for expressing the fullness of our love for each other, just because we haven’t had a little ceremony and exchanged rings?” “The Joneses are simply unbearable—if we do talk about them behind their backs, it’s all true, anyway!” “It doesn’t hurt anybody if I look at pornography.” Excuses for sin are always some kind of rationale to explain why the sinner ought not to be punished. The focus is still on the character of sin as an offense, even as the offense is “justified” and the defendant pleads to get off scot-free. But God is not really “hurt” by sin; He is almighty, supremely happy, perfect, and unchanging. No, the grief of Jesus Christ during the Agony in the Garden was in seeing how man, whom He loves so much, insists on enslaving himself, maiming himself, murdering his own soul in a frenzy of insane self-hatred (for that is what it is, even if man does not realize it), in spite of God’s always-available mercy, and His never-ending love.
Clinging to a grudge is a refusal to love. Refusing to love is a refusal of God. Refusal of God is sin. I know it always seemed like Mom loved him best. I know she is so self-centered that she never gives you the time of day. I know he is a braggart and an incessant name-dropper. I know that she is always looking for ways to criticize you. The list goes on and on.  Oh it is hard, especially within families. Family relations are messy. Some relatives are as easy to love as soft, cuddly puppies. Loving others, however, is like snuggling a porcupine. That's ok. Just because we don't embrace the porcupine, doesn't mean we have to hate him. We respect those sharp quills and interact as they allow.

I am praying for the grace to love both the puppies and the porcupines. I know some relatives think I am a porcupine. I will do my best to soften my quills. I hope they can love me anyway.