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?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Housewives Don't Talk Politics, And Other Nonsense

I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the contribution I make to our family is invaluable and irreplaceable. 
I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the market value of my in-home services  (accountant, chauffeur, tutor, housekeeper, nurse, personal shopper, general maintenance, etc.) is incalculable. 
Recently, I’ve also been told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, I shouldn’t speak on politics and should just post photos of my cute babies on Facebook instead.
How can a woman be so overwhelmingly qualified to manage a household and form the hearts of our next generation, and yet, simultaneously, disqualified from holding an informed political opinion?
Read the rest over at FemCatholic!

Photo Source

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Antemortem Directive: Politicize My Death

Should my death come unexpectedly, due to possibly preventable circumstances, please do not observe a waiting period before analyzing what went wrong. Politicize the hell out of it. 

This list of questions may help:

1. Did insurance refuse to cover a pre-existing condition? 

2. Did insurance turn down an expensive treatment?

3. Did government healthcare disconnect life support against my family's wishes?

4. Was I unable to afford health insurance, so unable to get a diagnosis for an entirely preventable disease?

5. Was I hit by a drunk driver? Did they have prior convictions?

6. Did someone have a gun who shouldn't have? How did they get it?

7. Did someone turn violent because they were in need of mental health treatment, without access to it? 

8. Did someone act out of some wrongly interpreted Christian or Muslim or other religious ideology that caused them to see themselves as more righteous than everyone else and kill recklessly?

9. Was I posing a threat to someone entirely in their right to shoot in self defense? Was I actually a threat?

10. Was there a danger at my workplace that my boss knew about, but I didn't?

11. Did my car have a known manufacturer defect that caused a fatal wreck?

12. Was someone on a government watch list, not being watched by the government?

13. Was I out too late at night, wearing leggings under a tunic, and pretty much asking to be killed?

14. Did I participate in a rally that offended counter protesters?

15. Did I do something stupid and unsafe that no one should ever attempt again?

Seriously, It will honor me in death, if you will talk about these things. Talk about what went wrong, and if it was preventable. And if something isn't right, please, take action to prevent it from happening to someone else.

And most of all, please pray for my eternal rest, and be assured, I'll pray for you too.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Countries Around The World Protest National Anthems. Here's A List.

The choice to sit, kneel, boo, raise a fist, or any other form of protest during your country's national anthem is not as unusual, or uniquely American, as NFL comment feeds would lead us to believe. 

Following is a brief list of anthem protests in other countries. The reasons are varied, from ideological fault with the lyrics to offense by the composer to issue with the country's social systems. As with all protests, public sentiment is divided. 

These international anthem protests have at least one thing in common: they occur in countries that value freedom of speech. 

Notable countries that did not make this list include the Philippines, where failure to sing with gusto could lead to imprisonment (and capital punishment without trial is the new normal), North Korea (where political prison camps are full of people who have no idea what they did to get there), China, where refusal to stand solemnly means detention, at minimum, and India, where perceived disrespect toward the anthem could lead to years in prison

Once we establish national anthem protest as a valid expression of free speech in a healthy democracy, perhaps we can move on to discuss the real issues behind these protests.

1. Switzerland: where the German-sourced Swiss Psalm was voted out for a version that can be sung in all four national languages

Swiss soccer players, not singing the national anthem
2. Germany: where some just hum the national anthem for fear of being too patriotic, or giving credence to a past of Nazi nationalism, which led to the first and second verses being struck from public recognition. 

3. England: where a desire to identify apart from Scotland and Wales could inspire the British to boo "God Save the Queen," until England gets its own national anthem. 

Jeremy Corbyn, British politician, not singing "God Save the Queen"
4. Australia: where indigenous citizens and high-profile athletes protest the racist undertones of "Advance Australia Fair." 

5. France: where booing the national anthem is a form of protest against divisive social classes and racial unrest. 

6. Spain: where Catalans and Basques regularly whistle or boo the national anthem as a bid for independence.  

Catalonian protest during Spain's national anthem

Americans, let us not align with the punitive false patriotism of countries who suppress free speech in favor of silence and outward reverence. 

For those who have a different race reality than what our national anthem and ideals represent, it's time to dialogue about why that is, and what to do about it.

Systemic Racism Is Real.

The reality for most people of color in the United States is legitimately different than my reality as a white woman.

We can trade links and troll comments all day and come to different conclusions about race in America. 

But these stats are just a glance into the systemic racism that persists in our country today:

1. African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites. 

2. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.

3. Black people are more likely to be wrongfully convicted than white people. While black people represent 13% of the US population, they represent 47% of exonerations.
4. African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court. 
5. If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.
6. Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5% of white students are suspended, compared to 16% of black students. 
7. Job applications with names that are stereotypically white receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than those with names that are stereotypically black. This means an applicant with a name that “sounds black” needs to send out 15 resumes before getting an interview, whereas an applicant with a name that “sounds white” only needs to send out 10.
8. HUD recently settled with the largest bank in Wisconsin over claims that it discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota from 2008-2010. Though these cases of banks redlining minorities to prevent homeownership are decreasing, historic prejudice by lenders, over the past 100 years, makes homeownership beyond reach for many minority families.
Racial tensions are high. It's easy to dismiss the concerns of protesters who are too loud, too destructive, too angry, or too emotional. Sometimes they are quiet, undistracting, reverent, and calm, and still, we take offense and ignore the important root of their message:
Systemic racism is real. 

White Privilege Is Real.

1. On Drugs In America

"White privilege" is when your race's illegal drug epidemic is (rightly) treated as a national health crisis -- addressed with better addiction therapy and the hope of recovery -- instead of a three-strikes-you're-out criminalization of addiction. 

The imprisonment rate of black people for drug charges is over five times that of white people. It's a systemically different approach to the same problem.
Heroin addicts in court.
2. On White Mass Murderers in America

"White privilege" is when your demographic (angry white men) regularly commits senseless murder by gun violence against groups of strangers, yet it's not seen as an epidemic. People don't assume everyone who shares your religious identity is also dangerous. Your violence doesn't reflect poorly on the entirety of white culture. You commit the worst mass murder in American history, yet before anyone even looks into your past, religious or cultural affiliation, you're labeled a "lone wolf" instead of a "terrorist," simply due to the color of your skin. 

2. On White Crime In America

"White privilege" is when you murder two strangers, because you don't like the color of their skin. And the local paper does a write-up on your background of outstanding community service, complete with your smiling Boy Scout photo. 

(The Boy Scouts have disavowed him, for what it's worth.)

Despite his criminal history, culminating in cold-blooded murder, Kenneth Gleason is not called a thug. The article describes him as an intelligent loner with a studious interest in white supremacy. 

The names of his black victims are Bruce Cofield and Donald Smart. The article doesn't mention that.

The newspaper has changed the lead photo, headline, and content since publication, due to social media pressure. Screenshots of the original article are below.
3. On Escalation Of Police Interactions With Suspects In America 

"White privilege" is when you can de-escalate a police interaction, simply by the color of your skin. 

Of all of the unarmed people shot and killed by police in 2015, 40 percent of them were black men, even though black men make up just 6 percent of the nation’s population. 

Unarmed black Americans are five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.

About 13 percent of all black people fatally shot by police since January 2015 were unarmed, compared with 7 percent of all white people.

Even adjusting for black Americans living in higher crime areas, thereby increasing probability of police presence and interaction, police escalation to lethal violence against a suspect is higher for black Americans than white Americans. 
Photo Source
4. On Every-Day Details Of Life In America

"White Privilege" is when you can go shopping alone, without store employees following you through the store, suspecting you will shoplift. 

"White Privilege" is when learning the history of our country, emphasis is on the positive influence of light-skinned people. 

"White Privilege" is when you can use checks, credit cards, or cash, without the recipient wondering if you're financially reliable

"White Privilege" is when I can criticize my government and have concern for how its policies will affect me and my family, without being seen as a political outsider

"White Privilege" is when I can advocate for racial justice without being judged as self-serving. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

10 Seconds To Understand Cassidy-Graham Healthcare

The short of it: depends on your state. 

The most important questions... 

1. Coverage of Pre-Existing Conditions: must be covered, but optional inflation of premium is left up to the state

2. Subsidies To Purchase Private Insurance: left up to the state 

3. Medicaid Coverage: left up to the state 

4. Mandatory Coverage of *Basic Healthcare: left up to the state 

5. Limited Premiums For Older Adults: increased to 5 times younger adults

6. Individual Mandate: eliminated (no one required to have health insurance)

7. Employer Mandate: eliminated (no employer required to provide health insurance) 

If your state recognizes quality, accessible, affordable healthcare is necessary for a stable economy and healthy populace, you'll be fine whether or not the Cassidy-Graham Bill replaces the Affordable Care Act. Your state will find a way to protect those with pre-existing conditions, keep subsidies available to purchase private insurance, and maintain a high standard of coverage for private insurance. Federal funds will be available, though at a lesser amount than provided by the ACA, to support your state's healthcare initiatives. Some states may even use their federal funds to set up a state-wide single-payer healthcare option. 

If you live in Texas (or any other willfully ignorant, flippantly callous state in regards to healthcare where your politicians are owned by for-profit private health insurance companies who will not be regulated), then the Cassidy-Graham Bill is bad news. 

For more detailed information, I found this WaPo article helpful. 

To contact your representatives, follow the links below: 

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) Picture Source
Disclaimer: I'm not saying the ACA is great, affordable, or accessible, though it did initiate needed reforms that many states were remiss to address, such as comprehensive coverage for the sick and the poor.**

For those who support state-run healthcare without federal regulation, in the name of subsidiarity, you may be interested in my defense of how universal healthcare could be the best solution for healthcare in our country, in the name of subsidiarity. 

*After the Affordable Care Act, every insurance plan was required to cover 10 basic healthcare needs: Emergency Room, Hospitalization, Maternity, Mental Health, Prescriptions, Rehabilitation, Labs, Preventive Care, and Pediatric Care. Prior to the ACA, most insurance plans purchased on the private market (non-employer-sponsored) did not cover these. With the Cassidy-Graham Bill, states could release insurance companies from covering these basic health needs. 

**If your national healthcare ideal is a strictly market-driven model, sick and poor be damned, then I can respect that, honestly, as long as you also don't identify as a Christian.