Still Standing

Hello, world, whoever is still out there.  I’m not going to lie – I’ve been absent from this page for a while now because I’ve been going through a bit of a dark period in regards to my faith.  I think I tumbled out of the honeymoon period going about a thousand miles an hour and needed to get my bearings.  I’m here, I’m still standing, I’m still Catholic, but it was almost by the skin of my teeth.  It’s hard when something you love refuses to be as perfect as you had hoped – I think we go through this with friendships, jobs, marriages and in the end, you can either choose to run from it or run towards it.

I really, really wanted to run from it for months, but over the last few weeks, I’ve felt a breath of relief that has allowed me to recenter myself and let go of some anger and hostility.  But with that comes a strength to stand a bit more firmly in where I am and what I believe, the resounding message in my head has been to declare “This is the type of Catholic I Am” whether or not that earns me friends or loses me, followers.  I’m not trying to put my own opinions on a pedestal or even speak as an authority; this is me, trying to be truthfully, authentically Catholic.  Maybe in another 5 years I’ll come back to where I am now and be embarrassed or I’ll disagree with my current conclusions, but that’s for five-year-from-now-me to deal with.

I need to be honest with where I’m at – I’m letting go of any type of legalism or a pretense of what a Catholic life or home should look like.  I’m embracing that I can be Catholic without a prayer corner, or without feast day treats, or without certain opinions and prejudices.  I’m embracing that I can be a Catholic who prays the way I do, who reads challenging things, who focuses more on acts of mercy and justice.  I’m embracing being a Catholic who stands up better for the marginalized, who welcomes those who don’t feel welcomed, who chooses love and relationships over cut and dry theology – this is what I feel is the truth behind the phrase “Who am I to judge?” – letting go of trying to figure out on the universe and just walking with those next to us right now and trusting that infinite Love and Mercy can’t steer me wrong if I really listen.

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Today I was part of a little discussion over at the FemCath facebook group about reconciling the idea of feminism and Catholicism and it made me realize that had I not been able to do this – if I had not found groups that said I could have a consistent life ethic, be pro-woman, be my own unique type of woman and still be accepted into a faith- I would not have converted.  If I had only been able to find people who said “You can’t be a Catholic and be (fill in the blank)” I would not have come home.

To be honest, some of the responses I got from well-meaning, toe to the line Catholics about my struggles getting my kids to Mass nearly broke me completely.  Yes, the probably “perfectly in line with the Catechism” advice and opinions almost drove me away completely.  Let me be clear – perfection seeking, well-meaning Catholics have an amazing ability to turn people away from God.

I’m glad I can say that I fought and won, but I know that not everyone does and this makes me wonder…. how many people are we turning away when they hear people say “You can’t be this political affiliation and be Catholic”  “You can’t care about this topic over that topic and be Catholic” “You can’t be LGBTQ and be Catholic” “Your family can’t look like that and be Catholic.” “You can’t be anything less than perfect and be Catholic”.  How many people would come home if we did better at saying “Yes, you can be Catholic just as you are – we’re all works in progress, we all fail and need mercy, but we can walk together.”  There are so many voices out there ready to tell us what part of us aren’t good enough, and the louder those voices are the more people are going to leave, the more people are going to assume there’s no room for them.

I’m still here, I’m still standing – I’m stronger, even though I probably now look like a worse Catholic to many – I still struggle with many teachings, heck I still struggle just to get to Mass on a regular basis more because life is messy and hard than from a desire not be there, I don’t agree with every Catholic writer out there (big or small), I want progress on many things many people are content with and there are even a few things, in the spot I’m in that I frankly disagree with.   I’m an imperfect Catholic, but I’m still standing here.

So I offer these last two cents from these last few months of struggle – Walk with us instead, focus a little less on perfect liturgy and perfect liturgical living and perfect theology and open your arms, make room for us in the pews and let that person peaking in the back door know they’re welcome no matter what.

To Take or Not to Take… my little kids to Mass (is the question)

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that today was a crap day. I did something I swore I’d never do any left church before it even started because I just couldn’t deal with my kids bad behavior on my own. I had already dealt with whining about getting changed out of one set of t-shirt and gym pants into another (a set that had not been slept it), complaining about being bored before we even got into the building, flopping around banging into stuff and a toddler doing laps around the pew before even twenty people had gotten into the church. So I picked up our Mass bag (you know that magical bag filled with quiet goodies meant to save us all) and hauled the kids out of the building, past all those kids who, you know, behave at church, into our minivan and home.

We’re not in an easy phase – both my husband and I work weekends (I work full weekends every other week and my husband works every Sunday). Our options to get to church as a family are limited (all Masses on Saturday night happen in a single hour window) and my options on Sunday, which I have to do myself if we miss Saturday, are similarly limited even with a Newman Center. There is no way to divide and conquer without someone missing Mass at the moment – no Mass I can get to before Ben leaves for work Sunday morning and no Mass I can get to Sunday evening after he gets home. We can’t have someone go to an early Saturday evening and someone to a late Saturday evening because they all overlap. It’s really frustrating.

All the “good mother” blogs say we need to take the kids, it’s important, that they’ll be religiously stunted without the Mass. Children belong in the Church! We don’t mind the noise! Please come cry and breastfeed and slam kneelers down on our feet because we love the little children just like Jesus!

Great. Fine. Here, you take them. I’d like to be able to pray and listen and have Mass feel more like something I’m doing because I want to rather than I have to.

But you know what? I’m kind of over it. The struggle is making the church a miserable experience of my kids and me – no one is getting much and we’re all frustrated and near tears at the end. I don’t want to force this so much that my kids run from it as soon as they are able. I want us to go regularly, but I also want my kids to see me going because I want to, to see my love of going…. but right now I think all they see is me scowling and snapping my fingers and counting to three. I’d rather go on my own and let them stay at home constantly and have them know I’m going to do something I love, knowing that when they’re old enough they too can be a part of it than keep with this the way it is. I’d rather Mass be something special they get to do a few times a year until the age of reason that excites them than this weekly dread that brings tears and frustration.

I also want my kids to have a appreciate and deep love for the fine arts, theatre and opera…. but that doesn’t mean I take them weekly two hour long concerts and just shrug off the fact that no one can hear anything over their feet thudding on the seats in front of them and overly loud whispers of “IS THIS OVER YET!?” (no, it’s been five minutes…. just 115 more to go!)

There has to be a happy medium. There need to be better options in our Parishes so we actually have Mass times that don’t all overlap. We need less stigma about nursery programs and we need dialogue about whether childcare for children under the age of reason is a valid exemption. Just today I frantically texted a BFF with frustration steaming out of my ears “Is this exemption list something that was created when most families had nannies, servants or live in relative and multiple options for Sunday Mass because churches had more priests? When you could send the servant to 5 a.m. Mass so there was someone to watch the little heathens while you went at 10?” She, who is much more orthodox than I, pointed out that the “grave reasons” are similar in language to the talk around abstaining in NFP – where as I thought it was a more set it stone list (illness, caregiving of the ill, work, life risk, etc.) so maybe I’m being too scrupulous?(never thought I’d see that day!) Maybe we need the higher ups to talk more about obligations when most families don’t work Monday/Friday schedules or have to do 12 hour shift work or have non-supportive spouses or no waitstaff to thrust our bundles of joy on.

My day eventually got better – my kids calmed down, my son learned a big lesson, he spent the entire day trying to help me, they even found and did one of the Oriental Trading Company crafts I had set aside for Pentecost of their own volition. We made brownies. The baby napped and we watched hours of My Little Pony. The day got better, but I still don’t know what’s going to happen next Sunday when I’m again on my own trying to fulfill my obligation while wrangling these two. I’m not trying to encourage laziness or bad excuses or trying to weasel my way out of an obligation, but maybe I can share this and start a dialogue.

Thanks to everyone who has already given a lot of support and love over IG. It’s really helped today.

The Run-Down

Life, as usual, is busy.  I thought I’d throw out a quick rundown of projects and other bits and pieces of importance going on in my life.  (Affiliate Links and Referral Programs to follow)

Books!

Always books, but these are some really special ones.  Lots of lovely women I know have been writing amazing books, some are here and some are on their way.

Mary Haseltine’s “Made For This” – Mary was kind enough to ask me to contribute to her Birth Book for Catholic Women.  It really is a special creation and as a mom with non- “natural” births I feel supported by her writings even though she is very encouraging toward “natural” birth choices.

Kendra Tierney’s “Compendium” – Kendra and I have only agreed on one movie in the years we’ve known each other, we live completely different lives, but I was honored when she asked me to help out reading over and giving my (never-ending) opinions on her “Catholic All Year” book.  This is going to be a big one, perfect for anyone who wants ALL THE CATHOLIC THINGS at your fingertips.  I don’t think the official release date is out yet, but keep an on it!

Haley Stewart’s “The Grace of Enough” is ready for pre-order and I’m really excited for this one – I’ve read bits and pieces and am really looking forward to reading the rest.  I really think it’s important that we challenge the notions of what is enough and what is important in our lives and I think Haley’s book is going to do just that.

(Sidenote:  I recently learned that if you purchase a book on Amazon at a sale price/preorder discount/etc. that does NOT shortchange the author in their reimbursement.  I’ve always been leery about calling out sales on friends books in the past because I was worried they wouldn’t be paid as much, but apparently, that is not correct – so get your books on sale with no fear!)

I recently got the opportunity to write for FemCatholic about my diverse Catholic Bookshelf idea.  You can read the whole post here along with the accompanying booklist on Goodreads.  I really hope this makes us more conspicuous consumers of a variety of Catholic authors – both with what available and what could be picked up to be published in the future.

Things:

I recently shared that as part of my husbands and I’s wedding gift this year (10 years tomorrow!) we got a new bed.  We ordered in on Amazon and so far so good (though I can only speak to the mattress – we still haven’t set up the bed frame or box spring yet).  It’s nice and comfy, but firm and so far is holding up great.

Clothes:

Last weekend I shared about finally trying out the subscription box fad with Stitch Fix and Thredup.  I liked the quality of the items from Stitch Fix but only ended up keeping one item this time.  It’s a little pricier, but I’m going to get another box in a few months and keep this as my “nice clothes/special occasion” treat.  Thredup was little more my taste and budget (and I love that its consignment and I’m recycling) – I kept a lot from my box and would have kept more except I underestimated my current pants size.  I’ve actually got a second goody box on its way.  I highly recommend either, depending on your budget, for any momma struggling to find time to shop for herself.  The convenience of trying on clothes at home and have free returns with no hassle is game-changing.  If you go through my referral links I’ll get credit towards future purchases, but I don’t have an affiliate set up with either company – just sharing something I tried on my own.

Blessed is She:

Lots of fun stuff is coming up with Blessed is She.

I’m looking forward to getting the next Planner in a few months – I’m trying the Mini this year, which is new based on feedback from all our great patrons.

Blessed is She is headed to Ireland this year to give our first Retreat outside of the U.S.  To help defray the costs of such an adventure we’re selling these beautiful necklaces, 100 % of the proceeds go towards helping us get our message to women who need it!  They’d make a lovely gift for someone heading out on their own adventures – maybe graduating or starting a new job.

That should be it for now – the next few weeks are going to be crazy.  The end of school is coming up, and with it end of the year Boy Scout potlucks, the start of summer camps, vacations and just to make things interesting and a job interview next week!  See you all around… sometime.

I’m Not Mad, Just Disappointed

So the Met Gala?  You might have heard of it!  It’s been all the rage in all the Catholic groups in I’m and let me tell you I don’t think there’s been more internet debate since the White Dress/Blue Dress debacle.

As many of you know, I used to work in theatre, specifically in costuming so I’m used to body parts on display, and envelope-pushing and using fashion and the human figure to make a statement.  I really wish I could see the actual exhibit – it sounds fascinating to me even though I know there will be many examples of artistic liberty within the displays – maybe some irreverence or straight out, intentional intent to offend and shock.  That’s part of making art…. it doesn’t always make you happy or comfortable.  I know many people will cry “Beauty, Truth, and Goodness!” and I agree, but beauty is what turns the mind to God, not only what is aesthetically pleasing and Truth and Goodness can sometimes be hard pills to swallow and sometimes even the very real, very human members of the Catholic Church need to get called out on hypocrisy and other un-truths and un-goodness.

However, I don’t want to get into that right now – I actually want to talk about the clothes at the Gala (the gala is a party held to open the Exhibit each year.  The gala is not just a random costume party).

There were definitely some shockers in the dress, but for the most part, I feel like the celebrities in attendance played it safe.  In fact, so of the more shocking fashion choices were rather uninspired.  Rihanna’s dress complete with sparkly mitre was shocking at first, but after the shock wore off all it is was the choice to go as a “Sexy Pope” – a choice (along with “Sexy Priest” and “Sexy Nun”) that has been done to death by any number of 19 year old college coeds.  Same goes for the girl who went as what I call “Sexy Fulton Sheen”, shocking initially, but rather uninspired and trite when you get down to it.

All in all, I saw a lot of missed opportunity for amazing fashion and inspiration.  After all the attendees had all of classical art, and a good amount of ancient art to draw from…. and sexy Pope is all they got?

Why not a sweeping mustard yellow dress and a head of Holofernes clutch?

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What about Rainbow Angel from Van Eyck’s “The Last Judgement”?

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Or Brother Mickey McGraths “Visitation”?

Or one of his amazing Black Madonnas?

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Honestly, a five minute Pinterest search could have given you worlds of inspiration fashion designers and Gala celebs!  I’m not mad, just disappointed.

But one thing I’m not disappointed about?  The #metsona hashtag…. it just proves how inspiring Catholic art can be.

Like this.  And this (St. Michael approves of the leggings BTW).  And this.  And this.  And so many more amazing ideas!

What Catholic inspiration do you wish they’d have used at the Gala?  Have you been to the exhibit?

 

Good Things

How about a fun little post about the good things?

I picked up Mint Chocolate Granola from Aldi’s today and omg, on top of some vanilla yogurt it’s like an Oreo blizzard except I can pretend it’s a little healthier.

I need healthier right now after trying to do a workout from Rosary Workout on Youtube and realizing I’m really, really, really out of shape.  We’re doing a weightloss challenge at work as well and I’d like to at least see a little downward trending by the end in June.

We’re still in the middle of the Great Bathroom Project of ’18, but making steady progress.  Makes me realize that however much I love to look at fixer-uppers on  Cheap Old Houses, I have no desire to actually do renovation work.

This popped up in my feed recently and it actually did get me thinking about my kids summer vacation and all the things I loved about mine growing up.  Now granted we did summer camps and things, just like my school-aged son will do this year, but they were less “STEM Applied Particle Physics Camp” and more like “Hey, y’all let’s do arts and crafts and occasionally go to the pool Camp”.  I’m actually really excited for Henry to be old enough to do day camp this year – he’s doing Boy Scout camp for 4 days, and Vacation Bible School and then 4 weeks off and on of camp through our after-school program.  They have a week field trip, pool days, library days and lots of time to do little projects and just play together.  But it was a good reminder that for the rest of the time it’s okay to let the kids watch movies,  and veg out and have nothing more Pinterest worthy than a bottle of bubble solution and a Slip n’ Slide.

My kids love this music video.

A Reading Challenge

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This year is my year of books.  According to my Goodreads account, I’ve finished 40 books so far this year.  I would like to take this moment to thank the creators of Audiobooks and Overdrive, I couldn’t have done it without you.

Since I’ve been reading so much I’ve also been thinking about what I’m reading.  I do read primarily for a bit of an escape and pleasure, so I love my good YA and fantasy and historical romance, but I’ve been trying to push my boundaries too.  One way I’m trying to do this is by being more aware of who is writing the books I’m reading while also trying to expand my understanding of experience I have not, and probably will not (whether to do to time, place, privilege, etc.) experience.

One spot that is becoming more and more important to me is in my religious and spiritual readings.  Now let’s be clear this is not saying that men and women who look like me do not have important messages to share to our Church body – race, ethnicity, culture, gender, etc. does not discount ANYONE.  It’s just that working in ministry has made me more aware that the voices readily available are primarily Caucasian.  Yet a quick Google search shows that the Church in America is at least 40% non-white.  So that got me thinking that if I’m to really experience the Church in writing, the authors I’m reading should mirror that as a good first step.

I not only want to understand their experiences, but I also want to know revelations they bring to the table from those experiences.

Thanks to my friends over at FemCath I’ve got a good start on a booklist here on Goodreads.  Do you have anything I should add?

 

 

Corners of Home

Corners of my home today. We’re in the middle of some renovations and a major purging session so things are messy and piles up all over the place. We’re a light fixture, a mirror and fresh coat of paint away from being done with the upstairs bathroom and making progress with the basement. Bye bye wall to wall 40 year old burnt orange indoor/outdoor carpeting! My dad is doing the work as a year or two of birthday and Christmas gifts rolled together, he’s done so much and it’s so great. This 40 years old, hardly ever updated house has had a few fun surprises.

I’ve been working on purging closests and finding ways to better fit our space and I’m nearly there. I have a few days off at the end of the month and have grand plans for the last of the piles in the mudroom and basement closet.

The plan is to be more “a place for everything and everything in its place” around here. It already feels so much better upstairs.