Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Employers: Get Out Of My Healthcare

The question isn’t whether employers should have the right to exclude certain medical care in health insurance plans, based on religious reservations, but why the fight over birth control, specifically?
Why is birth control the lynchpin of moral oversight on healthcare, as opposed to other medical coverage that might be morally objectionable, but doesn’t involve women and sexuality?
Most employers who exclude contraception from company health insurance plans fund its therapeutic use, with a prescriber’s prior authorization. Through this process, your doctor signs a form that confirms you will only use the prescribed birth control pills for acne or PCOS or to treat extreme PMS -- assuredly not as contraception -- and then insurance covers it.
But why this extra moral checkpoint for contraception? What about all of the other medicines that might enable behavior contrary to ideal Catholic morality?
In Christian thought, lust is accompanied by six other deadly sins, and a myriad of health-related sins. Should acne medicine not be covered, because it could contribute to the sin of pride or vanity? Should Cialis require prior authorization, including a note from one’s wife, confirming it won’t be used to commit adultery? Should hospitalization and recovery for attempted suicide not be covered? After all, it breaks the Sixth Commandment, and including it in coverage might communicate that an employer doesn’t take their faith seriously.
What if Viagra is used by a man who’s had a vasectomy? Should we require prior authorization? Can you imagine THAT conversation with your pharmacist?
“Well, it appears this is a restricted item by your employer's health insurance, and we’ll need to do a little more work to get it approved. I have your doctor on the line. He wants to know if you’re free this Thursday for a vasectomy reversal?”
Read the rest over at FemCatholic!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

My Cool New Work-From-Home Job That's Not A Scam!

If I told you there's a part-time, work-from-home, online tutoring job that pays $16 - $22 per hour, and you can choose your own days and hours, and work in your PJ pants, would your first thought be that it's a scam? YES. 

But in the words of Bloomberg News, regarding VIPKid's Online English Tutoring Program: "If the U.S. Won't Pay Its Teachers, China Will." 

VIPKid is a Chinese company that hires English speakers (mostly Americans) to work with kids in China, ages 3 - 12, through 25-minute online lessons.

Two years ago, there were 50,000 Chinese kids using VIPKid. Today, there are 200,000 students. Estimates predict a million kids learning English through VIPKid's program, in just a couple more years. So they need teachers

My "work" hours are 5-7 am, Monday - Friday. These are after-school hours in China, so students fill these times quickly. There are many other hours available, including evenings and overnights, but my own kids need me the rest of the day.

Three things about my classroom: 1) Everyone's set-up is different. Some people just hang up a background map. I didn't have a map, so I used what I had around. 2) It kills me that the "Reward" sign is crooked in the background. 3) Pearls and pajama pants, friends.

All you need to start is a stable internet connection and a computer. Some people travel the world, while also teaching for VIPKid! (With a headset connected to your laptop, you don't even have to worry about the ambient noise of a public location -- though your animated teaching might attract the attention of strangers.)

To apply, you need a 4-year college degree, and some kind of teaching experience. Do you help your kids with homework after school? Have you ever taught religious ed or Sunday School? Do you homeschool? Have you helped kids that you babysit with their homework? This all counts, and at least three years of experience is ideal. (While it's not necessary, if you have a teaching license, you earn a higher rate. If you have ESL accreditation, you earn even more. Many full-time teachers also work with VIPKid as supplementary income.)

The curriculum is already done for you. Training videos abound in your online resource center. Mentor teachers provide regular free workshops. There's a Canadian support team for day-time needs and a Chinese support team to provide around-the-clock coverage. This is a huge operation!

If you look up online reviews, you'll see a mix of people who love the company, and others who don't think it's a legitimate ESL program. From what I've read, through hundreds of comments across several forums, most of the people who criticize VIPKid are licensed teachers in the United States, oftentimes ESL teachers, who did not get hired by VIPKid. They're offended, because they are experts in this field, with years of experience, and a private Chinese education company didn't recognize their credentials. Based on my interview experience, I can definitely see how veteran ESL teachers aren't a guaranteed hire.

VIPKid is looking for a very specific teaching style: someone who will go to any length to build a positive learning relationship with a child on the other side of the world, through a computer. They're looking for song, dance, props, very specific gestures and protocol. All of this information and training is available for anyone in the interviewing process, but a seasoned teacher might not think they need the extra resources.

This promo from VIPKid doesn't do justice to the ability to have a calm, happy, successful lesson in the midst of a messy house, or a table strewn with leftover puzzle pieces and pizza, just out of sight of the webcam.
I'm usually a very reserved person. In normal conversation, especially with acquaintances, I instinctively limit outward gestures, facial expressions, emotion, and speech. But I also have a background in dance and theatre, so my intent through the interview process was "fake it till I make it." To my surprise -- and my kids' delight -- I love the new interactive style I've adopted from VIPKid's approach to teaching. I use it all the time now, and it's made me a better mom! 

So what's the bad?

1. The interview process is grueling! Despite meteoric company growth, VIPKid is not looking for quantity in teachers; they're looking for quality. The entire hiring process takes about a week -- so next week, at this time, you could be teaching! -- but it's an intense learning curve. Here's an overview of the process:

- Sign up (5 minutes): provide your basic info and let VIPKid know you're interested.

- Demo Lesson Interview: study the short powerpoint provided by VIPKid, and teach it to a mentor during the first interview. Your interviewer will provide constructive feedback, to prepare you for your next interview. (There are many sample YouTube videos that VIPKid teachers have uploaded about successfully passing this Demo Lesson.)

- Mock Lesson Interview: study the longer powerpoint provided by VIPKid, and teach it to a mentor during the second interview. (Again, many YouTube videos on this exact lesson, about how to pass this interview.) Your interviewer is also checking to see how you incorporate the feedback from your Demo Lesson. At this point in the process, you'll find out if you're hired or not.

- 2-hour Online Orientation Class: everything you need to know about teaching for VIPKid, including how the online teaching portal works, resources, and worst case scenarios. I really enjoyed this class. It is empowering!

- Set up your profile, open your availability, and start to teach!

2. You're a contract employee. So you have complete freedom with the flexibility of your hours and commitment. But as a contracted employee, you're considered self-employed, which means you should probably set aside 30% of your income for taxes (conservative estimate). This also means that your home internet bill, home office space, and any optional supplies you use in class are tax-deductible! Woohoo!

3. There's no guarantee that kids will sign up for you as a tutor. Your profile can tell parents a lot about who you are, and how you teach. Parents can see your headshot, a 30-second video, a 4-sentence bio, and a few photos that you upload to your profile. They can also see feedback that other parents have left. It may take some time to build a reputation, but many VIPKid teachers have regular kids who keep coming back to fill their schedules.

VIPKid has just revamped their new teacher processing, so new teachers will begin teaching classes assigned by the company, instead of selected by parents. This is great, because while parents may not trust a new teacher who doesn't have reviews from other parents yet, you can build up your reviews through classes assigned by VIPKid. (These are usually sample classes for prospective students. They're called "trial classes," and the intent is to have fun with potential new students, while taking them through a sample lesson. In addition to your regular pay, you can earn a $5 bonus, if the student signs up for the program, after your class.)

Curious? More Questions? Feel free to ask!

My intent, when I started this process, was just to see how far it would go. My husband and I weren't sure we could swing something else in our family schedule, but we knew the extra income would be nice, and there's no risk, since there's no up-front cost commitment. What's the harm in trying it out?

The 12-hour timezone difference means I can work while my kids are sleeping, and then our family can all eat breakfast together, and start the day! 

This job opportunity is a blessing for our family, and maybe it could be a blessing to you too.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Awesome Gifts For The Geeky Catholic In Your Life (And A Giveaway!)

Not sure what to give the super cool, geeky Catholic in your life? Wonder no more! 

A Modern Prayer to St. Michael: "Kill it with your sword! Kill it with your sword! Amen." 

Click here for the story behind this prayer!

How about a translated replica of the "NO WHINING" sign Pope Francis posts on his office door?

A mug that truly honors Jolly Ole Saint Nick"I came to give presents to kids and punch heretics. And I just ran out of presents."

"Good Job" Cards For Parents With Young Kids At Mass (also good for grumpy people who don't like kids at Mass):

A subtle Prayer Necklace

[Fun?] Fact: St. Joan of Arc's First Communion ring, a gift from her parents, was kept by England after Joan was burned at the stake and only recently returned to France. This is a custom sterling silver replica!

A powerful spiritual warfare Prayer Magnet for your fridge: "Hail Mary, Full of Grace, Punch the Devil in the Face."

So a Caffeine Molecular Necklace isn't inherently Catholic, but it's cool.

Custom Morse Code Jewelry: send a secret message!

And finally... mail your gift with special packaging tape"Do Not Crush. Imaginary Friends Inside."

FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN a gift set of Catholic meme magnets 
(including Hail Mary Punch The DevilSt. Nick Runs Out Of PresentsSt. Michael, Kill It With Your Sword!and "Good Job" Mass Cards), 
just do two things: 

1.) Share this link on any social media platform, and

2.) Comment on the Sunrise Breaking Facebook post that you shared. 

I'll choose a random winner from the comment feed on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. 

DISCLAIMER: I didn't receive anything in exchange for this post. I just really love DoorNumber9's Etsy Shop, and I strongly believe the world needs more Geeky Catholic Stuff.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

10 Ways Physician-Assisted Suicide Targets Women

This is an issue that stirs me up with resigned depression more than passionate advocacy. 

I'm not saying that like it's a good thing. What can I say that hasn't already been said? Healthcare that values profits over people is a problem. Failure to listen to women's voices in healthcare is a problem. Lack of care and respect for the sick and elderly among us is a problem. 

If I were navigating our nation's healthcare minefield with a terminal illness, I might opt for physician-assisted suicide as my best choice too. 

We need to advocate for initiatives that give patients options and support: re-frame sickness as a natural part of life, better communicate palliative care and hospice options, mandate insurance companies cover medical treatment for any condition that's covered by physician-assisted suicide, build intergenerational communities, incorporate quality mental treatment into standard healthcare, better regulate nursing home and hospice standards, improve conditions for elderly in poverty, revise standards of feminine beauty to include aging and illness, properly frame self-sacrifice as a healthy virtue, not a death sentence, and challenge medical professionals to listen and respond to women's healthcare concerns. 

Without addressing these related issues of physician-assisted suicide, our society will unduly pressure those most sick among us, those with statistically less advocacy and fewer resources -- women in particular -- to accept expedited death as the only option in their most difficult hour.

Read the rest over at FemCatholic

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Epic: Camping With Kids

To be read in the meter of either Emily Dickinson 
or Gilligan's Island, depending on how classy you're feeling: 

Two hours in a car with kids
can quickly kill a soul,
so two days camping in the sand
was bound to take its toll.

We hadn't left the driveway yet.
"How long until the beach?"
And then each mile down the road:
"How long until the beach?"

Set up a giant cabin tent
for seven and a dog.
Hey wait, re-count! We're missing one:
The baby's in the bog.

Pass out more snacks and find the suits,
then hike out to the waves.
Quick grab the twins! They're wandering!
(Just one of many saves.)

And back to camp -- the tent's still there!
The wind put out the fire.
Quesadillas (thanks, propane!)
and s'mores with children's choir.

Sunset o'er adjacent swamp, 
silhouettes our line
of dripping suits and underwear: 
can't beat a view this fine. 

Tuck dirty kids in sleeping bags,
and gaze the Milky Way,
while prepping for an alligator
visit from the Bay.

"Hey where's the dog?" "He's over there."
"Is he asleep or dead?"
The next site over's smoking weed,
Guess we should go to bed.

The crickets chirp, the baby whines, 
Oomph, toddler on my face.
"The floor's too hard," "I have to pee," 
"I can't sleep in this place." 

"My tummy hurts," "My flashlight's gone,"
"My blanket makes a dome!" 
"I want to change my sleeping bag," 
"I miss my bed at home." 

It's five a.m. We're all awake. 
Our kids don't know "vacation."
They rotate through their potty chair.
We prep a breakfast station. 

Eggs and sausage, melted cheese,
their favorite, every week.
Until today, when they decide, 
to hem and haw and freak. 

And so the dog (who isn't dead)
enjoys their untouched food.
The baby runs into the marsh,
but Mom's not in the mood. 

She buckles him, despite his shrieks,
while passing out the towels. 
(Umbrella strollers in the sand 
are h-e-l-l bowels.) 

Jellyfish melt in the sun -- 
as dangerous as it gets. 
Hermit crabs crawl everywhere, 
but we don't need more pets. 

Sweaty, happy, beach-y kids,
This trip is so much fun!
Then suddenly it falls apart, 
and Mom declares she's done.

We pack up camp into the van, 
while babies fuss and cry.
Then upload happy Facebook pix:
"Camping! It's easy-as-pie!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

99 Parish Issues More Important Than Dress Code At Mass

Does he know that heaven kisses earth in this sanctuary? 

Why is he distracting all of us with this disrespectful attire? 

He couldn't even take the time to get dressed properly for church. 

I don't know about you, but those are always my first thoughts when I see a priest start down the aisle in a too-short cassock and faded vestments. 

If you find yourself distracted by how someone else is dressed at Mass -- whether it's too casual, too worn, too short, too baggy, too tight, too bright, or too goth -- here's a brief list of alternate questions to consider, that might be more beneficial for both you and your parish than "Why are they wearing that?" 

1. When was the last time I invited our priest, deacon, or youth minister over for dinner? 

2. How often does our parish offer Reconciliation? 

3. Do any parishioners need a ride to Mass on Sundays? 

4. How can I support perpetual adoration at our parish? 

5. How well do we resource our religious education classrooms? 

6. Can children in the cry room see what's happening on the altar during Mass?

7. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of Baptism for their children? 

8. Is our parish networked with the local police department to provide pastoral support for Catholic victims of crimes, if requested? 

9. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of First Communion for their children? 

10. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of Confirmation for their children? 

11. How can I support the St Vincent de Paul ministry at our parish?

12. Is our campus secure, to protect children during religious education classes?

13. What percentage of parishioners participate in faith formation at our parish, and how can we increase that number?

14. Are we caring for the spiritual development of our parish staff, including opportunities for sabbatical? 

15. How does a new parishioner learn about faith formation and volunteer opportunities at our parish? 

16. Does a representative from our parish visit local nursing homes during the week to bring Communion? 

17. Does our parish diversity match the diversity of our community? Why or why not? 

18. Is it possible to run a parish solely on tithes, without fundraisers? 

19. Does our parish have a bereavement ministry? 

20. Do our high school students have the resources they need through our parish to start a Catholic student group at their public school, if they want to? 

21. Could I help prepare and serve a meal after a funeral at our parish? 

22. Can kids or adults with special needs attend our parish’s religious education? 

23. Are all parts of our parish handicap accessible?

24. Does our parish have a presence on social media?

25. Would parishioners participate in church clean-up days or landscaping projects? 

26. Could a children’s group from our parish regularly visit local nursing homes? 

27. Are there any potholes that need to be repaired in the parking lot? 

28. Could I sign up to help clean vessels after Mass? 

29. Is our parish website maintained with accurate information about Mass times, and contact information for different ministries?

30. If our parish invests in the spiritual development of our parishioners, will a natural response be more faithful tithing? 

31. How does our parish budget reflect the values of our Church? 

32. Did I invite anyone to attend Mass with me this week? 

33. Does our parish have a food pantry, or support a local food pantry, for those who are hungry in our parish and community? 

34. Does our parish have an adjacent Catholic school that’s accessible and affordable to our parish families? 

35. Is there a shortage of volunteers at our parish?

36. Could our parish help resource a local crisis pregnancy center? 

37. How could a parish priest explain Mass in such a way that increases the reverence and appreciation of those attending? 

38. Are there religious formation and fellowship opportunities available for the elderly at our parish? 

39. What are the needs of elderly parishioners in our community, and how can we help meet them? 

40. Are there religious formation and fellowship opportunities, including childcare, available for parents of young children at our parish? 

41. Are there ushers at every door, welcoming people before Mass?

42. Is our parish welcoming to children and adults with special needs? 

43. How can our parish improve pre-marriage preparations? 

44. Does our parish have an outdoor prayer space or garden that could be open to the public? 

45. Do parish staff and ministry leaders return emails and phone calls? 

46. Does our parish have a Stephen ministry to support those who are hurting or grieving? 

47. How could I volunteer to help our local homeless families and individuals? 

48. Are religious education programs accessible to all parishioners, regardless of ability to pay? 

49. How can our parish better support families caring for members with special needs? 

50. What are parish community building events that could include everyone? 

51. How accessible are natural family planning classes for engaged and married couples at our parish? 

52. Is our parish paying a livable wage to all employees, including janitorial staff and youth ministers? 

53. Are parishioners aware of their personal spiritual gifts, and how they can serve the parish with these gifts? 

54. Does our parish council represent the socioeconomic diversity of our parish, including the views of youth, young families, singles, older families, the elderly, etc.? 

55. Could I donate a rocking chair to the cry room?

56. Is our parish physically accessible to the elderly or handicapped? 

57. Does our parish have a running project list for student volunteers, such as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, youth groups, and Confirmation students? 

58. Could the music ministry use my help?  

59. Does our parish have a ministry for local young adults? 

60. How can I better show love to my family and extended family today? 

61. Do each of the classrooms have a working clock?

62. When we gather for meals as a parish, are we inclusive of those with food allergies? 

63. Who can I pray for at work this week? 

64. Does our parish regularly visit the local hospital? 

65. Could I prepare a home-cooked meal for someone in our parish this week? 

66. How can we invite more people in our community into our parish? 

67. Could I volunteer to help teach a religious education class? 

68. Are any of the plants poisonous that grow around our parish? 

69. Does our parish visit sick parishioners, and bring them Communion? 

70. How often does our parish offer retreat opportunities to parishioners? 

71. Does our parish have good communication protocols among staff, ministries, and parishioners? 

72. Could Catholic Charities use me as a volunteer during the week? 

73. Does our parish have a ministry for local community college or university students? 

74. Does our cry room have nice religious board books to help toddlers better understand Mass?

75. Are any of our parishioners trained in natural family planning? 

76. How am I helping to foster religious vocations in our parish and community? 

77. Could I bring good creamer for the coffee maker in the parish office? 

78. Does our parish have a dedicated nursery or classroom for childcare during adult formation activities? 

79. How can I be a better friend to my neighbors at home? 

80. How many times does the offering basket need to be passed during Mass? 

81. Could I be a foster parent for children in need through Catholic Charities or another local organization? 

82. Are parishioners held hostage from the final blessing at the end of Mass while unnecessary, long-winded announcements that are already in the bulletin, are made from the ambo? 

83. Is the parish cry room inviting for weary parents of young kids? 

84. Does the offering need to be passed again after Communion? 

85. How can our parish include high school students in ministry opportunities? 

86. Does the youth ministry offer scholarships for students to attend events and retreats? 

87. When is the last time someone from our parish visited the local prison? 

88. What kind of adult religious education topics might be relevant and formational for parishioners? 

89. When is the last time I thanked the musicians at Mass, even if I didn't like the music? 

90. Could I offer to wash the altar linens this week? 

91. How can I support our parish's pro-life ministry? 

92. Does our parish have resources to share with parishioners looking for professional counseling? 

93. Are there any maintenance projects I could take care of for the parish? 

94. How can our parish better support families affected by divorce? 

95. Could our parish pray the rosary together before Mass? 

96. How can I better support our parish school and Catholic education in general? 

97. Is it possible to print a handout of communal prayers and songs, or project them on screens, during Mass, so visitors can more easily follow along? 

98. When is the last time I wrote a thank you note to the bishop? 

99. How can I better prepare my heart for Mass, so I'm not so easily distracted by the dress of those around me?