Saturday, December 30, 2017

12 Vignettes: A Very Bader Christmas

My internal heretical dialogue began about the second week of Advent, when I realized the Fourth Sunday of Advent coincided with Christmas Vigil.

For anyone else, this simply means Christmas falls on Monday.

For Catholics, it means a family with five kids, ages seven and younger -- whose greatest struggle each week is one hour of Mass on Sunday -- must now attend two Masses in one day, around the father's work schedule, around the family's travel schedule, around the non-Catholic extended families' gatherings.

I wondered if our Church of the living God, this pillar and buttress of truth -- completely justified in telling us how to behave -- might just be more scrupulous than God himself.

Anyway, we did it. I'll spare you the details, so you can spare us the commentary on how we could have done it better.

My non-Catholic family member who unexpectedly joined us at Christmas Mass was so distracted by the comic sans font on our crucifix that the phenomenal homily and gorgeous music and timeless moments of consecration were completely lost. It's not her fault. I hold the artist fully responsible, possibly culpable.
A fun part of our Dallas trip was Game Day with Wally's family. It didn't even cross my careless mother's mind to worry about the murder theme in Clue. Be glad to know: Clue, Jr. (a gift for my 6- and 7-year-olds) challenges players to figure out who ate cake, with what drink, at what time, with no mention of murder.

Before all the Christmas craziness, I took the kids and out-of-town family visitors on a day trip to Galveston beach to ride the public ferry, because that's what we do when there's no school. (Wally would love to come too, but he works instead. 
Because kids + housing + food = $$$.)

It was cold. We saw dolphins!

There is a random, creepy, underground, free (on Thursdays) museum in Houston called the Buffalo Bayou Cistern. It's an old water storage system that the city retired in 2004, because repairs were more expensive than its worth. Now it's a cool tour at a cool park. 

We hung out at the back of the tour and got a sample of "Raindrops on Roses" with a 17-second echo from the docent.

If you're in Houston for a day, visit Hermann Park. If you're in Houston for two days, also visit Buffalo Bayou Park's Cistern

View from the perimeter walk around the underground cistern
Our f***ing dog killed my sister's pet rabbits while we were in town for the holidays. 

Because my parents -- who welcome my scraggly motley boy crew of destruction with open arms any day, all day, anytime, for as long as we may need -- also welcome anyone and anything that needs a place to stay. And this Christmas, it was a stray terrier wandering the neighborhood on the coldest day of the year, and it just had to belong to someone, because it was so d*mn cute. 

The dog's microchip paired it with a guy in Louisiana, getting married this weekend, whose fiance doesn't like it and gave it to her coworker's friend's kids, who left it with an aunt while they were out of town, who left it outside, because who wants somebody else's troublesome terrier in their house over Christmas (oh, right, us). 

So the terrier, named "Sky," moved into our dog's crate, because stray dogs are unpredictable. And then, our most genteel dog, Buckeye, who's never destroyed anything in his three-year-old life, killed my sister's rabbits. Or at least one of them. We still can't find the other.

Every few months, I try to take a photo with all the kids together. Someday, they will all look at the camera and smile, at the same time, so help me, God.

After our family's chaotic Christmas arrival at my in-laws, with kids going every direction at loudest volume, I accidentally walked in on a family member, alone in a back bedroom, breathing deep breaths, in what I interpreted to be a brief moment of emergency meditation. I understood completely. And wanted to join her. (Instead, I backed out as quickly as I came in, trying to give her a moment of peace. I don't think she noticed me.)

We saw "Star Wars!" Our dates are usually once or twice a year, in Dallas, the land of free family babysitting. It was fun to get out. 

I wore my Han Solo boots over jeans -- which I saw in a meme that all the cool kids are doing now -- and channeled my inner General Leia Organa. The strong female leads were awesome. 

A highlight from our Dallas visit was a trip to the zoo with my parents (while my dog killed my sister's rabbits). 

Each kid had one breakdown over the course of about two hours, which, really, is not bad for kids. But with so many kids, it averaged about one tantrum per animal exhibit. 

Thankfully, there weren't many people around to bother. And I got some fun grandparent pics. 
"I'm watching the chickens!" he told me.
We had snow! In Conroe! It was like a blizzard!

I arrived at Christmas Eve Mass as my usual grumpy self (at least of late). Sleep seemed much more appealing than liturgy, after too long a day, too long a week, and honestly, too long a year.

Even still, the beauty of everything helped warm the chilly sanctuary. 

Fr Michael looked out on a half-empty sanctuary, and noted, sincerely, that it was a good crowd. Sometimes a pastor will casually stroke the egos of those in attendance -- particularly on feast days with difficult schedules -- with a quip about the comfortable damned, relaxing at home, unaware that the sanctuary sags more heavily under the weight of our pride. Not this night.

He's never seen a human birth, Fr Michael mentions in his homily. But he's seen plenty of cows give birth, and surely, it's similar. I have no doubt, it is.

Divinity joins humanity in this painful, difficult, messy process of birth, and then, stays with us, all the way through the painful, difficult, messy process of death. It was an unusual Christmas message. 

There was some profound theology in there about what it all means, references to re-birth, new life, eternity, but those parts didn't stick to me and come back home, not this year at least. I heard that Jesus is in the painful, difficult, and messy.

"You're getting so many gray hairs!" -- greeting from my older sister.

Merry Christmas, dear friends. May the gray hairs of this coming year be signs of wisdom for a life lived deeply.

The top third of our tree doesn't light up, but whatever.

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 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. 

Coverage from Bloomberg News and Forbes confirms, not only VIPKid's validity, but its success, as both a company and employer.

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

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.

The student video chats in the top right.
All you need to start is a 4-year college degree, a stable internet connection, a computer, 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. 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!

VIPKid is not going for a specific look. Their teachers are diverse in every way. 

They are looking for a specific teaching style. When I first posted about VIPKid, I described the teaching style as over the top, song & dance. But that wasn't accurate. YouTube videos of audition tapes might make you think they're looking for theatrics, but calm, clear, and intentional are more important than singing in tune or jazz hands.

That said, there are some really great YouTube videos of sample classes, if you're curious about the format.

So what's the bad?

1. The interview process is grueling! 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 contract employee, you're considered self-employed, which means your income is pre-tax. On the positive side, this also means that your home internet bill, home office space, and any optional supplies you use in class are tax-deductible.

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 see your headshot, a few lifestyle photos, a 30-second video, and a 4-sentence bio. They also see feedback that other parents have left. It takes time to fill a regular schedule. I only had one or two classes a week for the first month. Two months in, my schedule is consistently 80% booked. (If I were willing to wake up earlier, to be available during after-school hours in Beijing, I'm sure those classes would fill. But Momma's gotta sleep.)

Curious? More Questions? Feel free to ask!

VIPKid offers current teachers a referral bonus, if someone signs up from their reference. Currently, the referral bonus is $100. I split the referral bonus with anyone who signs up through my link, because I know how that first $50 could help set up your online classroom, fund some fun props, or be helpful motivation through the interview process!*

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 time zone 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.

*Once I receive credit for your successful referral (after you teach your first class), I send you half the referral bonus by PayPal or check. That simple!

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.