Saturday, October 30, 2010

The System

I found this on the heels of discussing the frustration of a homeschool senior taking college level math at the community college. He'd asked his professor a question that was answered with "Don't worry about it. It's not on the test." He was taken aback. "I don't care about the test," he told me. He was curious and saw an opportunity to learn more. Rarely does a homeschooled student meet with the answer, "I don't have time to explain," but in the world of standardized testing, public school kids receive this answer regularly.

Really, I don't have any better idea how to fix the system than this man does. I merely point out the problem. Our economic structure and public school system demands that students be warehoused for the majority of the day. Massive homeschooling is not an answer we have time for either.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Because I forgot to proofread...

I had a typo in the title of Monday's post. I'd revised the title one two many times and it just got away from me. It happens. I thought I'd better redeem myself before the Grammar Monkeys attacked.

"Who! Whom! Ha!"
 You have not heard of the fearsome Grammar Monkey? Do you think I'm making this up? They exist, all right, and I don't know about you, but I'm not about to let these little bleached blonde monkeys loose on my blog. Seriously, that monkey looks like some drunk punk rock vampire from the 80s.


I'm ready to reestablish my street cred as a steely eyed English major with the following...

That ought to distract them...

I can still rock with the English Majors. I know an iam when I see it.

I too know how to write like this, you see? <---I could rhyme that.

Oh carp! It's the Grammar Monkeys!

Monday, October 25, 2010

PBS and It's Double Standard on Religion

No religious broadcasting? Fine. I don't really care if they exclude religion from the programming. I'm just waiting for them to stop putting out stuff that is actively advocating against my religion. It really is only fair.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Culture of Divorce

REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!)

The Culture of Divorce
"The unchallenged acceptance of divorce has infected our world with hopelessness" from the Retrouvaille vision statement

A friend lamented recently, "Why wasn't I taught how to be a wife when I was growing up?"

I thought on that for a split second and then I opened my mouth and said something along the lines of: well, my mom had tried her best. She wanted to teach me to be independent. She made sure I knew how to balance a checkbook and stay within a budget. She stressed the importance of maintaining good credit, limiting your debts, and paying your bills on time. She also trained me up to maintain a house for myself. I could cook, clean, maintain a decent schedule for myself so I didn't burn out. I resisted all along the way, of course. She insisted on choosing a solid, dependable career as part of my training, and it was in college that I learned to resist anything that resembled "women's work." If it smacked of the domestic chains, I wanted nothing of it. She had her work cut out for her.

When I took a breath and she had half a chance, my friend, obviously a tiny bit irritated with me a bit, said, "Not that stuff. That other stuff."

Come to find out what she really meant was the skills like keeping your mouth shut when you want to let loose, apologizing without rationalizing, allowing space for emotions without letting them run the show. That's a whole different kind of training.

All my married life I've struggled to learn That Other Stuff.

The more I thought about this the more I realized I've been trained to be divorced better than I'd been trained to be married.

Here's some Divorce Preparation Tips I picked up along the way:
  • Get a career and keep your own money in case he dumps you.
  • Keep track of what belongs to whom.
  • Let him know exactly how you feel.
  • Men want to rule women.
  • Men are silly.
  • Men don't feel.
  • There's no difference between men and women--it's all cultural.
  • Because you feel it, it must be true.
  • You're not just arguing with your husband, you are arguing with thousands of years of male domination and female repression.
Most of this "helpfulness" came from those women's magazines that are chock full of articles my husband and I joking refer to as "How to be divorced in 6 years or less!" The real stuff took some real maturity and some real pains to learn.

The Real Stuff like:
  • There's no winning an argument.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • Emotions are just emotions.
  • Love and trust are not emotions all the time: sometimes they are conscious decisions you make.
There's No Winning an Argument

You can win debates. You can even even win the lottery, but an argument with your spouse is unwinnable. Winning means there's a loser and when there's a loser, you both lose. It's like scoring a touchdown against your own side. You and he are in this together. You're a team. You may have won the war of words, but you've lost something more important. Keeping score and using conflict to do it is a no-win.

You need to approach conflict as the inevitable result of two people living in close proximity. You're going to have to come to a compromise of some sort. This other person has needs and desires that are at the very least just as important as yours. Try to find a way to accommodate each other. The first step is to listen to him. Try restating his argument for him. "Are you me understand." Let him know you are really listening and really considering his side. That generally takes the heat out of the friction between you, and once that happens you can get down to the business of working things out.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Are you still acting single? Do you have your own space, your own money, your own stuff? Do you make decisions that will affect the two of you without his input just because you can or even because you merely feel like it? Do you resent the demands he makes upon you?

If so, consider how loudly you are communicating two thing: my spouse doesn't make a difference in my life and he is not worth any extra effort on my part. You may not ever say such rude comments out loud, but consider how much wear and tear is done to the relationship when you daily act as if they were your truth.

But He Isn't Perfect!

If you are expecting him to be perfect before you are willing to make any changes yourself, you'll have a very long wait. Neither he, nor you, will ever attain that glorious state. Waiting for him to change first is a perfect excuse. It's your handy dandy get of responsibility free card. When you find yourself thinking he doesn't deserve the best from you, I can pretty much guarantee you probably don't deserve the best from him either.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Through the Wringer: When Marriage Gets to "For Worse"

REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!)

The caveat I shouldn't have to make: This advice is for the average woman married to the average man. If you really, truly feel you are in an abusive relationship, please see a rabbi, see a priest, see a shrink.

If you have been married long enough, you know that every marriage will reach the breaking point. You and your spouse will be broken. If you aren't married yet or are still in the honeymoon stage, you may not understand. If you are long enough married or if your marriage tragically did not survive this, you know exactly what I mean.

If you are in the midst of the "for worse" part of marriage, do not despair. I do not mean the word broken in the sense of shattered or picking up the pieces. I mean broken in the way that a horse is broken: your own will must be broken before you will accept your Master's yoke. Since marriage is a vocation, a life's work through which you will become sanctified, God will use your marriage and your spouse to make you holy.

You must break. It will hurt. You will be tempted to despair. Remember, in those times, that God has you in the palm of His hands. The agony of the moment is merely the Master's fire, burning away the impurities to make you pure and gold.

Hang in there and hang on.


Not only are you imperfect. Your spouse is imperfect. It takes a humble heart to love an imperfect person. You have to swallow your pride and all those feelings of vindication, righteousness, and fear. You must give him the benefit of the doubt. You must extend forgiveness when things are said in the heat of the moment. You must allow him room to be wrong and maybe not even wrong so much as you must allow him to not be you.

We can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that our way of doing things is the right and only way of doing things. Your spouse has something to teach you: perhaps it is a better way; perhaps it is merely a different way; perhaps it is merely practice in letting go that you really need to learn. Not only are you not in charge, you are never in charge! God is. If not being able to turn over control is an issue in your marriage, you can bet it's an issue in your life, too. Let God do His job, too. In the language of preschoolers: He is The Boss of you!

Not only do you need to let your spouse be wrong, you must also let him be right. Sometimes he is right and you are in the wrong. When he says he is hurt or he is pointing out a flaw in you APOLOGIZE AND SHUT UP. Don't let your defensiveness, explanations and justifications obliterate your apology. Let it stand on its own and do the work of healing. It takes humility to be wrong and truly sorry. You are imperfect, remember. Who else will point this out to you other than your spouse? You will be amazed at what can happen in your marriage if you make a practice of accepting God's grace of humility and meaning it when you say, "You are right. I am wrong. I really am sorry."


In the midst of "For Worse" you will have a lot of temptations: temptations to say hurtful words, to despair, to wallow in unproductive emotions, to leave. To combat these you must pray. Pray for your spouse, for your marriage, and for yourself. If you don't already do this, do this. Live your life in prayer. Be a prayer--a person who prays. Give each moment to God, especially those painful ones. If you don't already know how to offer up your suffering to God, tell Him, "I don't know how to offer it up, but I am." He'll do it for you.
Instead of telling your spouse all those terrible things you want to say, tell your Father. Wallow in those emotions with Him. If they are justified, He will do something about them. If they are not, He'll do something about you. It's a win/win. Your spouse won't hear as many hurtful words from your mouth and God will take care of the root causes generating them.

Most importantly pray with your spouse every single day. If you are both praying intensely there may be times when you will sob uncontrollably in prayer. Go ahead. There may be times when your spouse does. Don't let that stop you. Don't stop the prayer to discuss it. Let it be. Not everything has to be analyzed by your brain. Sometimes God is doing all the work that needs doing and that is especially true during prayer. The rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet are two excellent prayers to do daily with your spouse. Pick something that involves you for at least 10 minutes or more and something that focuses you on something other than yourself. Most importantly, pick the prayer together. And if your spouse does not want to pray with you yet, pray that God plant a desire in his heart to do so!

One of the most important things about prayer is that it leads to an increase in humility (see above). As you bend your knee to Someone greater than yourself, you become better versed in knowing that you are not the ultimate being in your little universe. Regularly bringing yourself down to size in your heart and mind through a good prayer life will help make a little more room in there for your spouse to live.

Remember: This too shall pass...

Every storm of marriage will pass. Although some are like hurricanes that linger for days or even months, if you and your spouse can keep to your commitment, your marriage will be better than it has ever been after the sun breaks through again. Hang on. Hope. Pray.

Divorce is easy. Marriage is hard. Divorce is a matter of paperwork. Marriage is a matter of "dying to self" and that is hard, hard, hard.

Yet so worth it!

A Lifeline for Marriage:

Also try:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Part II All You Have to Do Is...

REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!)

The 3 Things You Need to Do

1. Pray
2. Give more
3. Stay in your right mind

A Recap and an Introduction to Part II
Marriage is almost impossible. It takes society, willpower, the threat of financial ruin, and Divine Intervention to keep us from exploding into separate and unhappy divorced pieces. Studies have shown that after a few years, unhappy couples who have rated themselves as miserable and yet stuck it out now rate themselves as happy. The unhappy couples who divorced still rate themselves as miserable( That makes sense if you think about it. Are you happier knowing that when times get rough, you have someone willing to tough it out with you? Or are you happier knowing that when times get rough enough, you'll be all alone?

Real unhappiness in a marriage stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. We think that we can live happily ever after. Oh sure, you'll be happy intermittently and sad intermittently, and angry, too. But that happily ever after part comes later, ladies, when you reach your reward. Having impossible expectations leaves you frustrated and unhappy. Who are you going to blame for your disappointed expectations? Him? How about our fallen human nature?

From our Self-Esteem Pushers we've heard that human nature is giving, loving, generous, kind. Blah, blah, blah. What is pointedly ignored is that human nature is also selfish, demanding, cruel, and lazy. Each one of us is a combination of good and bad traits. You are. Your husband is. We are all pretty much idiots emotionally. You are going to hurt him and he will hurt you back.

So? So stop feeling guilty. So stop holding grudges. It's the nature of the beast.

Stop thinking of your husband as the enemy. Even when you are fighting, he is not the enemy. He is the man you chose, and he is the man God will use to make you better than you are. We do not grow emotionally or spiritually by doing what is easy, but by enduring what is hard. Marriage to an imperfect person is hard work, but you will grow in love and holiness by persevering in the task. G.K. Chesterton, often referred to as the Apostle of Common Sense, said, "Love means loving the unlovable - or it is no virtue at all." Love what is good in your husband and he will return the favor. Love what is not good in him, and pray he does the same.

Your husband may not be your enemy, but you are involved in a great war. On a purely secular plane, the battle is about wresting a living and keeping afloat financially in the world. It involves everything from scheduling to sleeping to packing a lunch. There are too many demands out in the world. You act as one another's filter to keep those financial and time demands to a sane minimum. There is also the war of good versus evil that has its sights trained on you. Since marriage and raising children is a "good," it will come under direct attack. Evil is not a very fashionable idea in our day and age, but that only works toward its advantage. It exists. If you don't believe in it, watch the news.

When at war, there are casualties. Although you are united in the fight against a common enemy, it is the nature of war that sometimes, accidentally, you catch fire from your own side. It's called Friendly Fire. It's due to errors in communication, judgement, or confusion in the heat of battle. The injury is the same as if the enemy inflicted it,'s worse somehow.

The problem with battles within a marriage is that they are all Friendly Fire. Thank God, there is a cure for those wounds.

1. PrayWhen you hurt, pray. When you wonder, pray. When you despair, pray. In all things, pray. Prayer reminds us that we are not the largest, greatest, and best thing in the Universe. We are bowing to Somebody. We are humbled. I have a very wise friend who once advised me when my heart was breaking to cry in the lap of God. He would comfort me. She was right. I received comfort and was healed over time.

God will take the hurts of your marriage and heal them. Through prayer, He will make the pain in your life a wellspring of compassion in you. When you are humble enough to ask for help and to admit your own faults, it's amazing how your perspective on your spouse changes. He stops being an adversary and becomes, once again. a person that you love and that you want to love you. Be soft. Be humble. Be prayerful.

My husband and I began a habit not too long ago when we were stuck in a rut of daily bickering. I wanted to stop the constant, mutual harassment and so did he, but it seemed impossible. After a particularly trying day and at the start of yet another epic misunderstanding I prayed aloud, "All of Heaven would you please listen to what I am trying to say to this man?" My very wise husband, grabbed my hand and said, "Okay, then, let's argue in prayer!" So we did. All the heat went right out of us and we were able to say exactly what we needed to say and to hear exactly what we needed to hear. It's now a joke that God wanted in our argument. But the joke was on us, because by praying, the argument was over. We were able to finally have a discussion.

What's really funny is that neither of us even remembers what that particular argument was about!

So, if you want to really go out on a limb, be as brave as my husband was, grab that furious person's hand and ask him to pray. Ask God to join your argument. It will transform your marriage.

2. Give more
Selfishness breeds more selfishness. Focusing only on yourself and your needs is childish with the complication that it will further your unhappiness. When you are thinking, "All I ever do is give!" the focus is on yourself and what you are doing. It's a sure sign that you are actually not giving enough in the marriage.

Human beings have a real need to be needed. This doesn't mean that you have to go out of your way to make yourself indispensable to your husband. That is another form of selfishness--it's still all about you. What you need to do is to go out of your way to make your husband's life easier to live. There's a big difference. The first way, becoming indispensable, means that you are rewarded by being needed. The second way, being helpful and easing his burdens, is a gift you are giving your husband. Remember that first post on the difference between male and female? I'm trying to teach you a little about the male way of loving.

We women make the mistake of feeling that love is only an emotion. We think it's supposed to be a perpetual state of bliss, a soft goeyness, or an overwhelming desire for another person. What is love really? Love is a series of decisions you make. Men understand that way better than we do. They decide to brush the snow off your car, check the fluid levels, fill up the gas tank, not because it's something you can't do, but to show you they care. What little gestures of love does your husband do for you? Does he put a glob of toothpaste on your brush before he brushes his teeth? Does he spoon sugar into your coffee when he's sugaring up his?

Use the male model of love for a month. Do little things for him that he would normally do for himself--not the things you'd like done for yourself, that's a veiled hint. While you do these little things in your head say, "I'm doing this to show myself how much I really love him." Don't worry if he never notices. Don't hang around waiting to see if he's discovered all the wonderful things you are now doing for him. This is a lesson you have to teach yourself.

3. Stay in Your Right Mind
This one is the hardest. We women are emotional creatures and we relate to the world and to others on a touchy-feely level. When we hurt, we hurt! When we love, we love! When we argue, look out!

We have an advantage over men in the emotional arena. Our female brains are wired with many more connections between the right and left hemispheres than male brains. That means your emotional left brain and your rational right brain are a little more intertwined than your husband's. A woman can generally out think and out speak a man on the emotional level. In other words, we can better express our feelings from the right side of our heads with the logic and language skills stored on our left side. While this gives us a decided advantage in rearing children, it can be a handicap: when our emotions run away with us, our mouths give a running commentary.

How many times have you had to apologize after the heat of the battle for the cruel words that spewed from your anger? How many times have you wished that you could take back the words that have hurt so deeply?

When you are in the heat of the moment, always remember that this moment will end and it will have an aftermath. Would you rather the aftermath be full of peace and resolutions or full of regrets and apologies?

Keep your head straight when you are in the thick of a disagreement. You don't have to agree on everything. You don't even have to come to any particular conclusions right at this moment. Some discussions are better tabled until after some thought has been applied.

The old adage of "Count to 10" before speaking is a good one. A better idea is to give Heaven a quick appeal before you open your mouth to speak. Ask for help expressing your needs in a way that he can hear. Ask that his ears and heart be open to you and ask that yours be open to him.

Maybe a change in perspective is needed, too. Before you start to voice your opinion in any given disagreement, ask him if you can sum up what he is trying to say to you. Try to restate what it is he is trying to say. Let him fine tune your perspective until you actually do understand and can make his case for him. Take the time to hear him and his side before you ask him to do the same for you.

You may find that if you are calmer, more logical, and more open to his perspective, he'll begin to return the favor. There's no guarantees, of course, human nature being what it is. But if you change your way of dealing with him, you will at least have more peace with your side of things.

Now what?
Well, that's a very good question. Now that you are better prepared to stay prayerful and giving in your dealings with your husband, shouldn't everything be blissful?

Not on your life, but take heart.

We are not meant to be happy every given moment. We are not capable of sustained bliss. Marital happiness is more about having a person on the planet who is willing to bear you and bear with you the struggles of daily life. He is your one sure ticket to heaven--either by encouraging you in your daily growth to God or by causing you to call upon Heaven for the strength to put up with him.

Your marriage isn't about Happily Ever After anyway. It's about something more: how two selfish people can overcome themselves in order to make something beautiful. It's about reflecting the love God has for us by giving and loving another person. Neither you nor your spouse is the center of your marriage, and neither you nor your spouse is the Center and the Universe. God is. Just remembering that alone will take care of most of your problems.

One final point. I don't know about you, but I sure am grateful that I don't have to be married to me. I think my husband is much easier to get along with.
Part I here:

Related Posts:

Attitude Tips for Wives and Moms--Part 1

REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!)

Here's the caveat. This stuff is going to sound incredibly old fashioned. I know that. There's a perfectly good reason for it, too. Old fashioned marriages had a tendency to last. Modern ones don't. So, follow all the modern advice you want right to the doors of the courtroom. I'm going for the wisdom of the ages, myself.

The 3 and 3
There are just three things you have to keep in mind and three more things you have to do to have a successful marriage, or the 3 and 3. Sounds way too simple, and believe me it isn't. Marriage is anything but simple. I really should add a fourth, a fifth, a sixth thing, ad infinitum, but the mind is a funny thing. It just won't process too much at once. Especially under stress. I'm keeping it simple because, once stressed, the brain has a tendency to simplify in order to facilitate the fight or flight response. Your job is to remember that fighting and flighting is not the way to stay married. After we get the 3 and 3 on the ether here, we'll have a chance to look at each one in a little more depth.

3 Things to Keep in Mind
1. You picked him.
2. You can't change him.
3. You didn't marry a girl.

3 Things You Need to Do
1. Pray
2. Give more
3. Stay in your right mind

The Things to Keep in Mind
I will be bluntly honest and admit that at one time I was an idiot. I did marry the alcoholic drug abuser that everyone warned me not to. Yes, he slept around. Yes, it was nasty. And yes, I came to my senses and left. I put 3,000 miles between us and started over. Yes, completely over with the debt, the utter lack of belongings, and the emptiness that that entailed. So, let me just say, if you married my ex, or any man like my ex, this advice is not for you. This advice is for the average woman married to the average man. If you really, truly feel you are married to a demon not of your making, what are you reading this for? See a rabbi, see a priest, see a shrink.

(FYI to my fellow Catholics, that first marriage was annulled and my current marriage was regularized in 2003 during my conversion to the faith.)

Still reading? Okay, so that must mean you've had some humility and admitted, at least to yourself (if not to your mother) that he really isn't that bad. He's human, therefore imperfect. And let me tell you this, sisters, if he was perfect then he'd REALLY be annoying.
1. You picked him.
All right. You picked him. If he really is as bad as you say he is, then who's fault is that really? Were you really such a bad judge of character all those years ago? The thing we ladies don't think about when we indulge in our sport of male bashing is this, while you are ranting people are wondering what was it in you that made such a (insert your favorite anti-hubby adjective here) man attractive to you.
What did make him attractive to you? Was he good with his hands? Good with kids? Did his voice in your ear send you over the moon? Come on! There's got to be something. Remember back to the days when your wedding band was so new it had a mirror sheen instead of the little nicks and scratches of long use. He was much kinder then. So were you. Try kindness again. Try it for a month. See if kindness and good manners on your part don't bring about a softening on his part. See if they don't bring back into the marriage that hopeful young woman and that sweet young man.

2. You Can't Change Him
Quit complaining about him and to him, trying to get him to change. Trust me, there's plenty in you he'd like to change, too. He just might be too scared of you to say so. A fundamental rule of people is this: you can't change them. That may lead you to despair if there wasn't this ray of hope. There's still someone in the relationship you can change and control. YOU. If you can't admit that you are part of the problem, then you are the problem. Or, if you are really good at the womanly manipulation kind of thing, you can find a way to admit your problem while somehow turning it back to him. We do that kind of stuff all the time. It's why more men go bald than women. We make them pull their hair out.

Act like the kind of wife you'd like to have. Be sweet. Be of service. Do stuff for him just because. There's a rule of thumb I heard from a psychologist in the marriage realm, the one who complains, "I give and give and give!" doesn't. Someone who is keeping score is a self-centered individual. It's all about what she is getting. A self-centered person is not a happy person, ultimately. When there is only one person in the Universe, the echoes of your own voice is your only company. Your marriage isn't about you. It's about us. Make sure he's happy and he'll turn around and do the same. And you know what I just love about men? They turn around a lot faster and forgive than we women ever do.

Just change yourself and see. Again, try it for 30 days.

3. He's not a girl.
If you are not grateful for this, pray you will be. (I mean that seriously, pray to be grateful for him.) We are demanding and emotional creatures who are slow to forgive. We notice everything and we comment on it.

Your man is the exact opposite (unless you've been so awful to him it's going to take him a while before he'll trust you with his feelings again). His needs are pretty simple. His emotions are cut and dried. He forgets, forgives, and moves on before you've even finished mentally reviewing the first 456 reasons why you are so hurt and angry.

Let's take an example. You've asked your husband if he wants to go out to dinner and he says, "Sure, okay." He means, "Sure, okay," in the sense that he wasn't thinking about dinner at the moment because he wasn't hungry, but the idea sounds good to him. Meanwhile, you are reading something! He hesitated. What does that mean? Is he implying that you should have already had dinner planned and ready? Is he criticising you for being a little lazy about cooking? He doesn't appreciate all you do around this house. And the fight is on.

When I was a schoolteacher I noticed the differences between the male and female species to be profound. Girls had girl wars and got every friend they could involved. It took weeks, months, counselling, kid gloves, gentle remonstrance, and sometimes the threat of detentions to negotiate a peace. Even still some of the grudges were epic and lasted until adulthood even though the battles were sometimes brought to a level of peace that allowed a wary coexistence. The boys? You know how to fix a problem between two boys? Make them work side by side and demand they don't talk to one another. Pretty soon, they are rolling their eyes, making faces and they are just fine. Forever.

Who would you rather have mad at you? You? Or your husband?

Be glad he is the forgiving man that he is and return the favor. He isn't perfect and neither are you. When he annoys you with his imperfections, just remember to thank God he isn't perfect. If he was, he never would have married you.

end Part 1
Part II Here:

Related Post:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Believe It or Not, It's Controversial!

REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!) 

Until recently, two good friends and I had an unspoken rule: never bad mouth your husband. The rule is still in effect. We just simply got around to actually talking about it.

Imagine! Three women working, schooling, sewing, cooking, watching children together and not talking about something. Well, it happens. Especially over a topic so potentially hazardous: respecting men.

Don't think the topic is so touchy? Try broaching it among the gals sometimes. If you are male, brace yourself for the look. (You know the one I mean.) If you are female, better just brace yourself. You are in for a diatribe about how backward, oppressed, brainwashed, and just so ickily Catholic you are.

Or maybe you are in for the worst of all, the whispers...Her husband won't even let her talk about him! What!?! Oh, the Poor Thing, and all those children, too!

Male bashing is a sport. On the commercials, sitcoms, and other television drivel, the woman has to take charge and take action in the face of the ineptness of men. Cue the canned laughter, please. He's at it again! Movies, too, especially "family fare" present the bumbling but well meaning father as the standard. Men are childish, we are told. Men can't function without us women, they say. This swill is swirling all around us. We are steeped in it. As a result, women bash their own men. Why not? It's fashionable. It's funny. It's a conversational gimmick, "Oh you'll never believe what he's done now..."

Meanwhile our girls are hearing it all, and our boys are swallowing it.

Back to my friends and I and our unspeakable rule. You'll first need to understand that we sometimes do charity work together, sewing Blessing Blankets for crisis pregnancy centers, sending stockings to soldiers at Christmas, that kind of thing. Working with your hands sets your mouth free. There's a whole lot of conversation covering a whole lot of ground. Plus, we're all Southerners by birth or by association, so for us talk ain't cheap, it's precious!

Well, around November, an acquaintance and her children joined us and ours and worked right alongside us. It was exciting! Here was a new person, with new stories to hear, new kids to get to know, new jokes! It was great!

Until It happened.

She bashed her husband. Not a terrible bash, simply sharing an embarrassing moment of his that I am certain he would not want shared. Especially not with a stranger. So I smiled, caught her eye briefly, and changed the subject. Just the way my mother taught me.

First, you may need to let me teach you: It's a polite Southern way of saving another person's face. One is to ignore a gaffe, smile, and change the subject. It's gentle. It's subtle, and for Southern women, it's unmistakable. You know you've messed up and are being given the grace of an instant replay. It's best to take it. Like being offered gum or a mint. You take it. It's a nice way of saying your breath is bad.

It didn't work. I don't know if she was locked in a habit, but it was almost as if she couldn't help herself. The more I tried to change the subject, the more she offered her husband upon the altar of mutual feminine scorn. It became awkward, so I invented an excuse to briefly leave the vicinity, hoping the conversation might reboot with the interruption. It didn't. I felt terrible. I knew I had probably already ruined any chance of her liking me, and I was sad to be unable to move her mentally from my "acquaintance" category to the "potential friend."

She tried the same conversational gambit with the others throughout the day. And with the same results. The good thing that came of all this awkwardness was that afterwards we three finally broached the subject of male bashing. We spoke our unwritten rule for friendship and realized we all three carried the same litmus test, "Are you trustworthy with your men?"

For me it's like this: I just can't be friends with a woman who would betray someone's trust. Even if that someone is a man. Even if that someone is her husband. In a purely selfish vein, I know that if she's going to do that to him, one day she'll do it to me. And yes, as a mother I don't want my children hearing this type of conversation about a husband and father. As a wife I don't want my husband to overhear me involved in the tearing down of another husband.

But most importantly as a woman and in my small way, I feel duty bound to protect other women's sons from senseless attack. I know how ugly women can be. I thank God I am not a man for that very reason (among others). In all, men are different, a little strange in their thinking, but loveable just the same.

So ladies, if you want to be my friend, you know the rule.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hey! Hey! Hey! A Giveaway!

Update: "Aw, man! Somebody else won it? Oh great! Now I have to exercise charity and humility and stuff. Is it still Monday?"...tap...tap...tap..."Is this keyboard on? Hello?"

Congratulations to A Mom for Life, the winner in The Careless Catholic's giveaway!

Mantilla the Hon and Liturgical Fashions

The Careless Catholic is giving away a mantilla. Yes, Kelly's one of THOSE Catholics--a Mantilla Wearing Momma.

She shows her special status by draping herself with lace. She is a tabernacle for the life-giving God, a co-creator, a vessel for the generations. She is a treasure. She is woman! Hear her...chant in Latin, ask complicated Liturgical questions, sing a lullaby, discover her true feelings about teaching grammar to tweens! (She's not the boring roaring type...)

Not actually Kelly. Is Joy.

What Works?

I'll be going on retreat for few days, so I thought I'd rerun some posts. Here's one that goes well with today's post over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.

A post about work? Are you serious? I don't work anymore.

Well, my work is now no longer about 30 kids, or 20 or even 90, depending on the grade. It's about 4. As cliche as it is, I'm working harder than I ever have even if most people's eyes glaze over if I broach the subject.

Aside: You know, that blank, when-is-she-going-to-stop-talking-to-me stare I get at parties nowadays never used to happen when I discussed the very same techniques and interventions in my schoolteacher days. Either I was less dull a few short years ago or merely less observant. I'm thinking teacher talk only gets trite when the paycheck is in the form of dandelions and hugs, but I could be wrong: my brother swears I was always a little boring.

Dear me, are you yawning already? Buck up! Let's get to work.

What is work? It is what we do. It is what we are. It defines us. When asked, "What do you do?" We say, "I am a..." more than, "I do..."


  • I am a wife, a mother, and a homeschooler.
  • I used to be a schoolteacher.
  • I'm still a writer--I really used to get paid for this in bits and pieces.

See? Fill in your own blanks. Work makes us. "Work is a necessity for man. Man invented the alarm clock." That was Pablo Picasso, by the way, just in case you never heard that gem before.

My job is still the same: I help make people into people. The only difference now is the hours. Oh yes, and the fact that I'm related to these people. Unlike most of America, I'm not raising children: I'm raising adults. A fully functioning adult is my goal, not just making it through the next few years until they quit bugging me so much. I like to keep that in mind. When I'm doing my work well, I look at a lot of my day by day decisions in that light. I think, "What does this little semi-socialized irrational creature need to know to join the humane race?"

One of the things all young ones need is work. They, too, languish without purpose. Schoolwork is one form of it, but even before the age of preschool, children are begging to serve the family in some way. They want to be a part of the action. Even the most hormonal teenager will benefit from that sense of satisfaction and self-esteem* that comes from a job well done (or even merely done).

A reasonably functioning adult can run his or her own home, down to the folding of his or her socks and balancing a checkbook as well as stick with a necessary but distasteful task until its completion. So, how will I grow these skills in my young ones? Practice...As my children are a part of the family, they are a part of the running of the family, too.

If time is money, I put my money where my mouth is. I am a firm believer that work is necessary for self-esteem and purpose, so I invest in it. Housework takes me about four times as long as it should because I have 5, 3, 3, and 1 year old helpers. Here's an example of how an overwhelming task (laundry) has been broken into age appropriate tasks:

My oldest son (5) folds his own laundry and puts it away. While I'm folding a pile of laundry, I toss any of his clothes into a separate basket as I come across them. Usually we are side by side, chatting away as this occurs and he is taking his clothes out and folding them faster than I put them in. When I see he is struggling with a particular item of clothing I will dig out something of his dad's and demonstrate. He loves it! I try to never use one of my T-shirts or pair of socks because this gives him an opportunity for a little male bonding even in abstentia!

My 3 year old girl can put away all the "tippy-top drawer" clothes with a bit of supervision (socks, panties). Her dexterity isn't up to independently folding awkwardly shaped items, but small rectangles are a breeze! She folds the washcloths and puts them away herself. I toss those into "her" basket as I'm folding along. Because her attention span is so short I usually ask her to put one item away at a time as I come across it during my folding. That way she can do a few washcloths, take a break by putting away some socks, then come back for more chatting and folding, take another break, etc. She gets a chance to admire those prized and hard earned underpants, too, more proof of her big girl status as one of the elite: the potty trained!

My other 3 year old is autistic and has trouble with the finer tuned tasks, so he loads presorted laundry into the washer. I put the soap in and start the machine when he comes to get me. He also takes the clothes out and either loads the dryer on a rainy day or a basket on a sunny day (for hanging on the line). One of his favorite things to do is watch things spin, so his breaks take the form of watching the front loader work for a bit. He comes in when he's had enough and "helps sort" hangars. His sorting generally means they end up a snarled mess, so I leave most empty hangars in the closet of origin until I need a pile of them. His other job is to interact with the baby and help her with her job.

Yes, I said that. The 1 year old baby has a job, too. As I come across an unmatched sock, I toss it to her. She puts the sock into the basket of unmatched socks. Eventually. She also takes them back out or dumps the whole basket out a few times, but eventually everything winds up where it is supposed to be by the end of the folding session, especially with my 3 year old son there to insist and model the "Pu-aa-way!" (His way of saying, "Put that away.") His language skills are right on her level, so they understand each other very well.

All of this sounds great, and it didn't happen overnight. It took a bit of time and observation. There was one on one instruction and some false starts, but I tried to tailor the task to the child instead of the other way around. There are no rewards other than a "good job!" or "atta-girl!", and there are no serious long-term consequences for a job undone (the no computer for a month kind of thing). The world simply comes to a standstill for the child who refuses to participate. Any requests or needs are met with, "Not until you take care of..."

And I mean it, too.
And they know it.
They've tried me.

Resistance is futile!

The process also includes the goal of gradually making the job look more and more like the adult version. I introduce a new item for my girl to put away. We work on opposites and how the words "bottom" and "top" mean different things and in the case of her dresser, different drawers. For my younger son I've been putting the pile of laundry to load in the washer farther from the front of the washer. Eventually he will take it straight from the bin. My oldest son will eventually be washing his own clothes. Teaching and learning, even about laundry, is never static!

Since my ultimate goal is for each child to handle his/her own life, the fact that I could do it better and faster and so much easier by myself doesn't tempt me (much). A lot of our family jobs are broken down into kid sized chunks. What it all means is that my house is not ever perfect and most jobs take forever, and sometimes, when company comes, it looks like kids dusted that table or put those books away.

Because they did.

*Contrary to pop-psych and the mistakes of the 90s, self-esteem does not come from praise or gloopy rules like, "Everybody wins!" It comes from doing esteemable acts. It's a feeling akin to, "Wow, I'm glad I stuck with that. That did some real good in the world."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Head to desk. Repeat. (Apply as needed)

All righty. Today we had the parish fundraiser dinner. All the catechists, including yours truly, were busy with the dinner, so it was an ideal time to fulfill the "Safe Environment" requirements of the diocese. The kiddos got a lecture and a handout in their classes today about safe touch and private parts.

As I was working I saw one of the handouts on a table. I chatted with a new mother as I quickly read over the material--as a former school teacher I can never resist reading a handout. Sensible stuff mostly. "Hum. Dee. Dum. Private parts...bathing one should touch. Same old stuff." Then I looked at the little activity. It was a dot to dot.

Guess what parts were to be connected by the dots? You guessed it, the private parts. Genius!

As the momma said, laughingly, "Don't touch them; don't let nobody else touch them, but feel free to draw on them."

"Hey, ma?! Where're them markers?"
No, Dot, no!

Girl with a slight taste in art...

The movie "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is coming out. They couldn't have picked a better actress to play the role, and wow, this poster representation of the painting is a work of art in its own right. Simply amazing.

So that's about as positive as I'm going to get in preparation of the movie because I really, really like the painting and I've seen the previews. It looks to be another one of those (boring and overdone) anachronistic movies where Hollywood hyper-sexualizes a culture to better match our current post-Kinseyan and post-oral contraception mores of today. I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised, but I am not going to make any wagers.
Directors and screenwriters feel they need to dumb down sexual cultural differences in order to help moviegoers access the characters. No need to risk making the effort to actually be interesting. You'd never know it through watching a movie, but there is a major difference in women's sexuality now versus (any other) then: women today are obliged to have sex or face censure; women of the past were obliged not to. Hollywood applauds the former and scorns the latter, even when portraying a time period that clearly honored chastity as the ideal.
Cultural differences in Hollywood, at least when it comes to desire and restraint, only show up in matters of negotiating the laces of those painfully accurate corsets. Steamy sex scenes have been so overdone as to be...*yawn*...formulaic. Ironically, of all entertainment institutions, Hollywood should know that it is the chase scenes that titillate more than the catch.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Controversy Continues

My two cents worth...

Our Lady of La Vang appeared in 1798 in traditional Vietnamese clothing.





7 Quick Takes Friday
We've got one dog, one cat, five chickens, three goats, and five kids ages 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. We're a loud bunch. Here's a random take on some of the things cooked up at my house:


One of my personal food quirks is that I don't care for spaghetti. Everyone else on the planet seems to love it. I don't hate it or anything, I'd just rather have pretty much anything else. The odd thing about this is, I can make a wicked good sauce by all accounts.


One of the many dishes I can't seem to master is fried rice. I'm a pretty decent cook, but for some reason I just can't get beyond a "meh" response to my fried rice.


Here's what I've learned to take the fight out of meals. Present a few options at dinner: main course, two veggies, a starch and then let them pick and choose. If they don't like this, they've got that on their plate to eat. No battles, no stress. Our table rules are simple: Be polite (saying, "Yuk!" is not polite) and although you don't have to eat anything you don't like, there's no dessert if you don't at least take a taste of everything.

Parents worry a lot about what their kids will and won't eat. Over the course of a few days if you keep presenting the four food groups in various ways, they'll balance their choices. If you don't believe me, get a blood panel done--I've got an autistic son who I check periodically, so yes, I'm speaking from bitter experience.


Speaking of "Yuk!" why do some people not believe that some other people can actually not like a food? I knew this little old lady who was almost offended by my casually mentioning that I don't care for beets. She seemed to think that if I just tried hard enough I could overcome my little problem. It got so that every time I had to eat socially with her she had made a brand new beet dish just for me. We had many discussions about beets. I tried to explain to her that my dislike of beets is not voluntary, neither was it stubbornness. They simply taste like bitter, slimy dirt to me, and I am a little sorry for that, yes. Truly. Although I was flattered that she actually thought so much about me when I wasn't around, I wondered at her persistence. It got to the point that my mouth would start to water at the sight of her and not in a good way.


 Some days I love to cook and spend the whole day at it. I dirty nearly every dish and pan and make a symphony of my kitchen tools. Other days I begrudge the knife and spoon it takes to slather on the peanut butter and jelly for sandwiches.


Speaking of kitchen messes two of my daughters (ages 4 and 3) decided to help me with the dishes. Two hours later they were still working away. The dishes were no cleaner, the counter was soaked, and that cheap calculator my husband got from the bank was lost at sea, but I can now say with relative certainty that they do not have any attention deficits.


When inspiration fails, breakfast for dinner is always a good idea. Waffles anyone?

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Do not be afraid of whatever there is for you. You already have it in you to face it. Do not listen to the voice of the world that tells you all the things you need to be afraid of. In the Bible, God says in 365 different ways, "Do not fear." That's one for each day of the year. Live your life. 365. He means it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday

We've got one dog, one cat, five chickens, three goats, and five kids ages 6, 4, 4, 3, and 2. We're a loud bunch. Here's a random take on some of the things heard around my house:


"Is it time to dance yet?"


                  "Eek! Hee, hee, hee!"
                   "Augh, ha! ha! ha!"
                   "Run! Ahh! Hee ha ha!"
                   "Waaah! He's scaring me!"


"Spider! Dad! Help!" the eldest boy.
"Daddy! Eeeek!" the oldest girl.
"Oh no! It gonna get me!" the middle child.
"I dot it! I skisst it! I dots it, Daddy," the baby.


"We need to find another dog for Oofie to marry so we can have puppies."


(from the girls) "I need to go pee! Let's go everyone!"
(from the boys) "Get outta here! I have to go!"


"I need to take this so you will chase me."


"Get outta my room or suffer the consequences for an entire year!"

It's that most wonderful time...

Hi kids! It's an election year and you know what that means...

It's Lying Season!

You may have a sneaking suspicion that those campaign promises might not be on the up and up, but how can you tell if a politician is lying?

Here's how to tell if a normal person is lying: Click here for video link. For politicians it's a bit harder. You have to maneuver past all that security first, but the simple rule is: if he's breathing, he's lying.

Actual politician training video