Monthly Archives: February 2014

Wooly Bully

A lot of noise is being made lately about the so called “culture wars.” We seem to have developed a great love of competing for the title of “most discriminated against.” But more than that, we like to debate about who is most deserving of being offended by whom.
Really when it comes down to it, there’s nothing new about this at all. We can just communicate our grievances much faster now with the technology we’ve invented. What we have is the same old attitude that we’ve always had. We like seeing what’s different about us more than seeing what we have in common. We like labels and little boxes for people.
But here’s reality: we’re all human beings, we all have crosses in life, and every last one of us has some trait, belief, idea, feeling or opinion that will make us either the offender and the offended at any given time.
For instance, take me. I work sporadically writing. I’m a stay at home mom. In our world, that translates to anti-feminist, wasted talent, un-hip, un-sophisticated, etc. Most would be surprised to know I have a Master’s degree, worked more than 15 years in the fast-paced world of public relations, was a TV spokesperson and have traveled through Europe and Asia.
I offend people daily with these ideas: pro-gas drilling, Catholic, pro-life, non-drinker, compromiser, nap taker, Devils Advocate, etc. Oh, and I love Diet Coke or Sprite, and sweets. And like everyone else, I’m offended daily by many people and their actions and words.
It’s ok to be, but not one of us has the right to be. The great irony in all of our complaining about who has hurt our feelings today is that we ALL feel this offensiveness quite regularly.
Currently, the LGBT community is at the top of the hurt feelings list, blaming everyone from politicians to cake bakers for offending them. Have they been slighted by society? You bet. Do we need to ensure they are treated equally (whatever that is) under the law? Absolutely. Do we need a gay or lesbian character on every television show? Probably not. Does anyone with even the slightest notoriety have to tell us their sexual orientation? Does the President have to congratulate these people for just being who they are? I don’t think so. Some “discriminations” (being denied access to community programs or health care for instance) are worth sounding the alarm about. Others (maybe a neighbor calling you a racist) are not.
No one owns the field on discrimination, or on being bullied. Heck, my blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 7- year-old gets bullied everyday at school for something that’s going on in another kid’s life. Women are discriminated against for being pro-life or pro-choice, stay-at-home or working mom or not a mom, men get it for having facial hair, driving specific kinds of cars, or for what they do for a living. Republicans can get it for not being Republican enough. People get slighted for being ugly or beautiful; smart or dumb; healthy or sick; young or old. And so on.
No one is safe from being offended. Yet we continue to scream for law and policy that favors some group over another. Honestly, how many transgendered kids can their be in one California school district that we need official policy on bathrooms? Do we really need to force people by law into doing things they don’t believe because someone feels hurt by their values? Come on. People are upset all the time over bad business policies or terrible “customer service.” We’ve all be treated different in our jeans than in our Sunday best. It’s part of life.
Maybe we should all start wearing labels that identify us from one another so we don’t inadvertently offend anyone anymore? Maybe signs on business that say who we serve and who we don’t. Maybe a cookie-cutter school curriculum that tells our kids what to think? Or a campaign to do away with inconvenient religions and creeds? Or a program to monitor mass communication? Hmmmmmm.
Freedom from being offended is not a right. In some ways to someone, every one of us is offensive.

Light It Up

Today’s Gospel is one of my favorites. It’s the one in which Jesus calls his disciples the “salt of the Earth” and the “light of the world.”

I’ve experienced many personal challenges in the last few years. In my darkness, I’ve always looked to my daughters as my light – my reason to push on and find meaning in life every day. Yet today, listening to our deacon’s sermon, in which he talked about how we all at one time or another are light for someone, I had one of those realizations of something I already knew. Just as my girls are light in my darkness, I am also light in theirs.

You’ve probably had someone in your life tell you to watch your behavior around children. If you spend significant time around kids, you know why. The world is not as comfortable place for them as it is for us adults. They look to those they trust to find how to act. How to respond to what surrounds them. But it’s more than that funny and awkward moment when a child repeats some profanity they’ve heard. It’s more than mimicking.

Children – particularly just before their Tweens – are better surveyors than the NSA. They’re watching your every move, and using those images to build templates for how to behave in the world. If your a parent, it’s a true test of your personality. No pressure, huh? I wish I could say its easy. But if you look closely enough, your children are a mirror into YOUR soul. And they will show you every way you need to grow and better who you are.

After my second daughter was born, I suffered from severe post-partum depression. I had a few episodes where I had meltdowns in front of both girls. These were always followed by heartfelt talks and emotional assurances of how much I loved them. They knew Mommy was sick, if they didn’t fully comprehend what that meant. Today, I am much recovered, thanks to lots of hard work. Yet I still see those days in my children’s eyes from time to time. Worse, when my youngest daughter errs in some way herself, she comes to me soon after to tell me what a wonderful mother I am and how much she loves me. Children learn when we aren’t looking.

None of us are perfect. From time to time the light we Catholics are supposed to provide for the world will flicker. We are all, after all sinners. For parents struggling to light the way for their children it’s important to remember that God created us flawed. We WILL sin in front of our children, and we WILL pass on to them the things about ourselves we’d rather not. I’m a sweet tooth. I try to curb myself. But my oldest daughter has never met a food she doesn’t like. I’m constantly steering her to exercise, which I personally avoid at all costs. My little one can battle wills with the best of them, thanks to her father’s talent at “debate.” Channelling that is a tough one.
Want to experience self actualization? Have a few kids and sit back and watch your habits, your idiosyncrasies and your talents come to life in their little hands. My daughters never met my father-in-law, but my oldest will line a pile of M&M’s up on a table in order of color and eat them in groups as he did. We are who and what we are.
So what do we do about this? As Catholic parents, we work on our faults and stumblings As a family. When we fall, we tell our children we are wrong. We talk to them about how we repent and we pray together. We don’t push ahead with the idea that mommy and daddy never make a mistake. We don’t “stay the course” when we err so that they have consistency. We let them know we are flawed, and the beauty of Gods love is in how he loves us and our flaws.
Our light to the world is in how we act. In how we respond to our own failings. If you are like me, sometimes you think to be the light in someone’s life, you need to be perfect. Yet sometimes, it is in our own dark moments that our light can shine brightest.

Too Much, Charlie.

I admit it. I probably let my kids watch too much Disney Channel. But last week, I asked them to stop watching “Good Luck, Charlie.”

You may have heard that Disney will be or already has introduced its first gay coulpe on this show. Apparently one of Charlie’s friends will have lesbian parents.

I’m probably going to get slammed for telling them that by those who read no farther. But hear me out. I am Catholic, as is my family. I also happen to have a number of gay friends. I even know a lesbian couple with two adopted sons, one of the partners I met at a high school Catholic youth camp years ago. I love every one of my gay friends for who they are. Each of them is beautiful.

I don’t know how I feel about gay marriage, quite frankly. I’m torn between my belief that marriage is a “life giving” commitment consecrated by God, and my genuine desire to see people I care about be cared about. I think of most of my gay friends as I was when I was single: longing for lasting love in such a way that I too sinned against God by entering sexual relationships that could not be “life giving.” I’ve come to believe I can love and pray for my gay friends with God’s blessing. I may not feel comfortable with gay marriage, but I cannot judge them. I do not walk their path.

Back to Charlie and her friend. I cannot let my 9 and 7 year old daughters watch this. Like with all kids their age there are bound to be an amazing number of questions. Many of which I don’t know I’m able to answer honestly or even accurately. Just recently, I had what I call the first installment of the “sex talk” with them. My husband was a little annoyed I started without him, but my older daughter is fast approaching the day she’ll be screaming for me from the bathroom, so I figured I better prep her sooner rather than later. I brought the other one along on the ride, since the older one would tell her anyway.

I thought I did pretty good, explaining sex as a beautiful gift of love and life. They were both bored and grossed out. The older one was concerned a little. But not much. I’m glad I told them when I did, beacuse we’ve had many “learning moments” of late when it came in handy. Like when I wouldn’t let them watch the Grammys. And when they wanted to know why some people won’t buy Girl Scout Cookies from them. (caveat – parents who know my kids, they pinky promised not to discuss with other kids.)

I know now I didn’t do that great of a job. My younger daughter still seems to think she can lay an egg for her favorite duck stuffed animal. Yes, I found this to be some evidence that she didn’t listen to me that night. As for the other one, she’s still doing things no girl would do in front of a boy, so she’s not getting the physical attraction part just yet, anyhow.

So what does this have to do with “Good Luck, Charlie?” Simple. They’re not ready for this level of maturity. It has nothing to do with being homophobic. It has to do with the fact that they are not exactly clear on the whole sex and how babies are made thing just yet when it comes to heterosexual parents, let alone homosexual ones. They go to Catholic School and engage in extracurricular activities there. In the region of the world we live in, they’re probably not going to run into much of this. The estimate I believe is that 2% of the US population describes itself as homosexual. The entertainment indsutry seems to see that more like 25%. Maybe that’s true among them. Its probably less so among the families of Catholic grade schoolers living around Pittsbugh.

Until that time that I think they’re really grasping the basics of human sexuality and can understand that sometimes life throws us a curve, I think I’ll just keep with what I’m teaching them. All humans are God’s creations, crafted in His image. We owe every one of them our acceptace, respect, care and compassion. I think that lesson, better than the depiction of lesbian moms to people too young to get it, will make them tolerant and open-minded.

Don’t Knock it ‘Til Your Try It

There’s been some good online debate the last week or so about a feminist blog in which the author stated she “looked down” on women with husbands and children because they (the married and parent women) were capable of doing so much more with their lives. It made me think of a time in my own life when I was insulted when a colleague told me “Oh you’ll understand when you have kids.”

I’ve since come to see that I was totally wrong for being insulted by that. And I think our feminist blogger will retract her looking down upon moms and wives comment some day, too, should she be lucky enough to get married and/or have a child.

But since she and society currently think the pursuit of careers is the ultimate use of a woman’s time, perhaps I’ll talk about family in a more familiar vernacular. Being a wife and mother is not only like being the COO of a company, its also like taking responsibility for almost every other major function in that business.

As the  COO, you work with the CEO (the dad) to discuss and make all major decisions. At one time, you talked about more romantic things, like music, movies, travel, art, whatever. Now, its finances, budgets, home improvement, public or private school, dance or gymnastics, soccor or cheerleading, science project topics, buying a new laptop, cell phone plans, groceries, date night, babysitter rates, birthday parties, food choices, bed times, new cars, old cars, car maintenance, pharmacies, health care, life insurance, discipline, dogs, well you get the picture. There are a lot of meetings about things within the company. And no one brings the donuts.

As COO, your job includes: logistics, housekeeping, purchasing, invoicing, human resources including health care, employee relations, public relations, food service, accounts payable, it, utilities, facilities management and transportation, as well as other duties to be assigned.  There are no assistants or worker bees to help, except perhaps in the housekeeping and facilities management areas with the help of bribes. There is no driver, cook, server, laundrette, fix-it man, computer geek, secretary, benefits manager, janitor, no one. Its all on you. You have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No earned vacation, no sick days. You are on call for all emergencies and a full night of sleep is never guaranteed.

Its difficult to know if you are making progress in your position at times, and there is no room to move up in the organization until you become a grandparent. Performance evaluations are given on the fly when the urge hits, and often sound like this: “I hate you!,” “Where’s my (fill in the blank?,” “Did you throw away my (fill in)?,” Slam, crash. 

But, amazing things happen. One of those “blobs of tissue” comes home from school with a clean face, clean shirt and A’s on the report card. Even better, another one of those annoying children tells you “Your the best mom ever. I love you.” Its like the owner of the company (that guy in the long white robes) telling you profits increased beacuse YOU did something. 

And so you get up another morning, and you shout like a drill sargeant, make the lunches, make the breakfast, inquire about shoes, socks, homework and toothbrushes. You herd dogs and kids and cats into the car and drive them to school beacuse you no longer trust the bus company after they forgot to drop your kids off once. You write checks for fundraisers, make treats for birthdays, remember the names of every kid in two classes, chaperone play dates, schedule sleepovers, read Harry Potter books aloud and watch the Polar Express in July.

Then, after a few years, you see it. Beautiful minds bursting from behind beautiful faces. A cheerleader. A soccer goalie. A scientist. An orator. A giving and caring human being. Not an easy task for anyone in a world where Miley Cyrus passes for a musician and twerking is performance art. Where they’re told they can’t discuss God in school, or be kind to someone without a punishment, Where we legalize drugs because we can’t police them.

So, my feminist friend, not only does buiilding a family and raising children allow you to hone your own business skills, its probably one of the hardest, most perplexing, dynamic jobs there is. In the end, your product or products are decent himan beings to carry on the world, and avoid the mistakes of people who “look down” on other people.