Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yummy sour goodness.....

Today's blessing comes to you in the form of my favouritest candy in the whole wide world:  Cherry Blasters.

I first was hooked on these little sour chewy bits of greatness when I was younger, spending summer vacations in Canada at my grandparents' house. 

Apparently, Mike had been talking to one of his patients, and they got talking about Canadian candy, and she HAD HER SISTER MAIL US SOME CHERRY BLASTERS, completely as a surprise to us.

So today's blessing comes to you straight from Canada!  Mike truly does have the best patients in the whole wide world!  :-)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spring is in the air...

Okay, not really.  I mean, it is warming up here and feeling like spring, but today's post isn't necessarily dependent on it being "spring" in Arizona.

Today's blessing came in the form of a beautiful flowering bush:

Rascal #1 had a piano lesson this morning, and as is typical for us, Rascals #2 and #3 and I headed down to a nearby park to pass the 45 minutes of the piano lesson.  It's not long enough to go run an errand or head back home, so we usually just go and have fun at the park until Rascal #1 is ready to be picked up.  Today was no different.

I was overwhelmed with the beauty of this one particular flowering bush.  Now, these are everywhere here, and they've been blooming for quite awhile.  Today, however, the fragrance coming out of the flowers, and the sheer brilliance of the pink colour really struck me.  It was amazingly beautiful.

It reminded me that beauty can be found everywhere - as long as we keep our eyes open for it. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Today's blessing: a modern-day hero

(he might hate me for putting this picture out there on the internets, but....oh well....)

Today's blessing comes in the form of my husband.  


Because today, he stood bravely in front of 8 Arizona state senators and spoke up for the one population in our society who is truly voiceless:  the unborn.   The majority of the people in the room with him did not agree with him, and yet he stood tall and spoke strongly for life.

Today, my husband blessed me by showing me true courage, commitment, and compassion.  He blessed my children with a great example for them to follow. 

Today, my husband is my blessing.  :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies...

Today's blessing is brought to you by Mother Nature...

I may have a horribly intense head cold, and had to prep our house top to bottom for our last (and final walk through) home visit for the adoption home study, but I was still blessed today.

Blue skies, warm breezes, and laughing rascals playing in the backyard made up today's blessing.  <3

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday's blessing

It's been a rough day over here.   We're all battling head colds, and if the boys feel anything like I do today (hello, sinus pressure!!!), I can totally understand their grumpy attitudes.  I'm kind of grumpy too.

But in spite of our illness and grumpiness, I had my eyes open for a blessing.   Once challenged, I don't like to back down..even for a nasty head cold!

Seeing as we spent all day in our pajamas, watching TV and eating comfort foods, I had to keep us entertained.   One thing my boys do not do well is sit around and relax.   TV doesn't really work here at our house, and it takes a Herculean effort to keep them still and calm.  

I pulled out an activity that I'd had stashed away for a day where we'd be at home.  I originally bought the supplies in anticipation of a fundraiser for our future adoption, as a way to get the boys involved in our adoption efforts.

So today's blessing comes to you in the form of handmade (by us!) wooden rosaries:

Why is this today's blessing?  For multiple reasons:

- I feel blessed to have a family who will do crafts like this together (Mike and I made the small brown one, and the boys made the big, colourful one), without complaining.  I love having a family who is willing to put up with my need to create things.

-  I have a very special appreciation for this tradition of our faith.  I love the rosary.  One of the things I love most about being Catholic is the incredibly richness of our faith.  There are sounds, smells, items, rituals that are unique to living the Catholic faith.  The rosary is one of those items for me:  I can remember praying it in elementary school, with my classes.  I can hear it being prayed before weekend masses.  I sought out everything I could find on the history of the rosary, and the tradition of praying the rosary before heading to Fatima, Portugal, this past summer, and that learning led me into a deeper love for the rosary, and for the Virgin Mary.  I feel truly blessed to be able to have this special way to express my faith and to deepen my prayer life.

So today's blessing came to be in the form of a wooden rosary, giggles of little boys as they knotted the beads together, and a chance to appreciate our faith as a family.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Today's blessing: Malcolm

Okay, so I'm kind of cheating with this picture.  I didn't take it, but instead, it's from a website that I saw this morning.  Even though I didn't take it, I can honestly say that this little guy has been my biggest blessing today.  


Malcolm is about to turn 5. He's in an orphanage in Russia.  He's got cerebral palsy.  He's beautiful.  However, this birthday is kind of a sad one.  When he turns five, he'll be moved into an institution, because he'll be too old for the "baby home" he's in now.  Malcolm needs a forever family.  I wish we were his forever family - he's adorable and oh-so-sweet.

You probably still haven't figured out why he's today's blessing.

You see, his picture is listed on a website where we found our Peter.  On this website, each child has a sponsorship fund set up.   Adoption is a very, very expensive process (Malcolm's adoption is probably going to cost around $35,000).  This website does its best to advocate for orphans - especially those with special needs - and help raise money that will go towards their adoption costs.  It helps to make the process a bit less expensive for families, and hopefully that encourages people to actually go through with adoption when they want to, but are afraid of the costs.  

The children who have over $2500 in their fund have incredibly higher chances of finding a forever family, and so a friend, knowing that Malcolm was getting really close to being moved to that institution, decided to try and get the word out about him.

He's today's blessing because in the last 6 or 7 hours, he's had over $1500 in donations pour into his fund.  As I write this, his fund sits at $3533.72!!!!   The generosity and compassion that has been poured onto Malcolm today is my blessing - it's reminding me that we are truly a part of a giant family, spread throughout the world, and there ARE people out there who care for those around them, even if they've never met.   At times, it feels like the whole world is just out for themselves....and no one cares who gets stepped on during the process of getting ahead.

Malcolm has blessed me today with a reminder that people ARE inherently good, compassionate, and loving.  

Thanks, Malcolm!

If you want to learn more about Malcolm, check him out at Reece's Rainbow! 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God, thank you for....

...the ability to provide for my family.  Sure, it may be harder at some times than others, but I am incredibly blessed with the ability have plenty of warm, clean clothes for my family.   

For this I am grateful.

Day One: Ash Wednesday

Okay, okay, I know I'm technically a day late for this one, but I DID take these pictures yesterday during our schooling time, so it counts.

I'm thankful for my oldest rascal and his love of art.  His creativity reminds me to slow down and look for the good, for the beautiful, for the value of every object I come across.  It's a daily reminder that I need to look for God in all things and, especially, people.  

No, It's Not Thanksgiving......It's Lent

I was playing around on the internets yesterday, trying to find a few things to read as I prepared for Lent to begin (yes, I know, I know...I was a bit late, but life's been crazy lately!).  I was heading out to an Ash Wednesday version of XLT here in town, and I knew that I hadn't really spent that much time preparing for Lent.  Sure, I'd been to Adoration the night before, and really tried to discern what God was asking of me this Lenten season, but that was really the extent of my preparation.   I hadn't even figured out what was going to be my Lenten sacrifice yet this year. 

In my internet wandering, I stumbled across a couple of cool lists:  25 Creative Things and 20 Weird Things to give up for Lent.  In reading through them, I found one idea in particular kept jumping out at me:

Every day take a picture of something or someone you’re grateful for and hang the pictures in your room

Now, I'll be the first to admit that while I LOVE the idea of hanging the pictures in my room, or somewhere in my house.....I won't do that.  Printing one picture a day and heading to the store to pick them up, with three boys in tow isn't at all something that I would actually do.  (Unless...someone knows of a local photo center that I can just drive through......)
I still find myself drawn to this idea, though.  I've been struggling with remaining grateful recently, and trying not to get depressed when it seems like I'm surrounded everywhere with anger, with pain, with bitterness.   I know that God is asking me to work on trusting Him for this Lenten season, and allowing myself to fall more deeply in love with Him over the next 40 days.  How better to fall in love with someone than to read love letters from them?

That's what these blessings are:  love letters from a God who is madly in love with me, and only wants for me to love him back, completely and recklessly.   

So, in addition to my Lenten sacrifice (yes, I did find something to "give up" that will give me PLENTY of opportunities to focus on Him), I will be using this blog to complete another challenge:  6 weeks of pictures.  Pictures of what God is blessing me with.  The goal will be to try and take a picture a day, and not pull from past pictures...but to recognize something in that day that is a sign of God's love for me, starting today. 

I hope you enjoy it - and I challenge you to do something similar in your Lenten journey this year!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Trust Fall

What is trust?

It seems to be the theme of my life recently, from parent training videos for Peter's adoption, to trusting in someone else to do the required paperwork, to trusting that the money will be there when we need it, to trusting friends when sharing personal information.   Trust.  It's everywhere right now.

But what does trust really mean?  Is it a verb?  A noun?  What is trust?

Trust is vulnerability.  Trust is scary.  Trust is respect.  Trust is letting go.  Trust is freedom.


How can trust be freedom when we are at the mercy of another?

Trust is freedom precisely because we are at the mercy of another. 

If I trust that someone else is going to be there to catch me.....I can learn to leap.

If I trust that someone else is there to lead me....I can take the road I've never been down before.

If I trust that someone is there to love me...then I can let go of all the walls and boundaries and learn to love completely, unconditionally, and recklessly.

If I can learn to trust.....a whole world of opportunities opens up.  

But if I can learn to trust....Who must I place that trust in?

It can't be solely another human being.  We are all fallen.  I can't place all of my trust into one individual.

.....or can I?

I can...when that individual is Christ.

He's already earned my trust, but humbly offering His life for my salvation.  He's already shown me to what depths He is willing to go to earn my trust.  All He wants is for me to trust in Him....

So why do I hold back?

Is it the "fear of the unknown?"

Is it the fear of inadequacy?  There is so much that I don't know.

Is it pride, thinking that I know better than Him?

Is it the fear of losing control?

Is it the fear of failure?  I'm nowhere near perfect.  I fall, daily.  Am I afraid of losing His Love?

I want to trust.

My God, I want to hand it all to You and trust in Your love, mercy, and justice.

I really do.  I can't think of anything else that I want more than the freedom of completely trusting in You.

But I don't know how to.

I don't know how to trust, how to give up the micro-managing tendencies that I cling to.  

I don't know how to give up all the worries and anxieties that seem to plague my thoughts.

I want to love You.




But I don't know where to begin.

I want to fall in love with You even more deeply this Lent.  Head over heels, with all my trust.

I want to be vulnerable.....I want to be free.

My God, help me to find that freedom this Lent.  
Lead me into a deeper love with You.
Show me how to trust in You, completely.
Make me believe that I am Yours.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Report Cards

I was a dork.

I fully admit it.

I actually enjoyed report card day.  I loved the chance to read comments from my teachers, and to see my grades in black-and-white.   Now, I pretty much carried a good grade point average, so I'm sure that had something to do with it, but, still....I loved report cards.  

For our home study for the adoption, I have to provide the agency with documentation regarding our homeschool curriculum (considering we use a "boxed" curriculum from an accredited company, this isn't a problem), proof that we meet state guidelines (super easy in AZ, as the only guideline is that I register and provide instruction in basic subjects), and report cards for each of my students.  I asked around and found these beautiful report card templates last week, and sat down last night to fill them out. 

It was a lot of fun - stepping back and trying to objectively examine where each of the big boys was, academically, and where we needed to go, moving forward.  There was a lot of good, some bad (or "needs improvement," as I titled it), and a lot of satisfaction in our family life and chosen lifestyle.  

I realized that it's been quite a while since I've updated this blog with a homeschooling review, so I thought I'd take a minute to share what we've been doing in the schoolroom with all of you.

Baby #1:

It took us a little bit of time to adjust to each other, as this was my only child who had experienced full-day, traditional grade school before coming home.  Now, however, we've found a groove that works well for us, and accommodates both our personalities, and our daily lesson plans.

Baby #1 is very artistic and creative, I've come to discover.  He "thinks" best with his hands and his eyes, so allowing him to manipulate objects really helps him to understand concepts.   He can - and does - learn from rote memorization, but that is not ideal when trying to break down a new concept for him.  

This child is very well suited to projects and experiments.  He is a budding scientist or engineer, I think.   After "playing around" with a concept, he is very able to apply that concept to a thinking problem.  Evaluating his understanding means that I need to be creative myself, and give him a "real-life" opportunity to apply the concept.  He's a mental workout for me, that's for sure! 

Where we are with Baby #1: He just recently grasped the concept of multiplication, so we are working on broadening his understanding of that math concept.  He's recently begun piano lessons, and is thriving with that instruction.  He's very interested in Church history, so I've been including Saint biographies or historical contexts in our catechesis lessons, which is a lot of fun.  We're still working really hard at improving penmanship and writing abilities (he writes like his physician father!), and will continue to focus on this for the future.   Science and history at this age, is mostly project-based.  We've had a lot of fun designing experiments and walking through the scientific method, and he's created quite a few book reports and art projects after reading biographies of famous historical figures.

Outside of the home, Baby #1 is taking weekly, 90 minute gymnastics instruction from members of the Arizona State University men's gymnastics team.  Finally, he's learning a bit of body control - and is getting quite strong in the process!

Baby #2

Baby #2 is just starting out this year, working through a kindergarten curriculum.    The program that we've chosen to follow spends most of this age level focusing on reading and comprehension, which is perfect for him.  

He was incredibly enthusiastic to begin homeschooling this year, which I've come to recognize as an aspect of his introverted temperament.  This child is perfectly happy with just a handful of friends, and staying close to home.  He seems to become overwhelmed in large groups, and I've noticed physical symptoms of stress whenever we are in a large group setting.  He's not shy, and doesn't have any problems with social interaction, so I truly believe that this child is a true introvert by nature.   

Currently, Baby #2 is enjoying gymnastics lessons, as well as outside religious ed classes, for his extracurricular experience.  Both are small class sizes (5 in gymnastics, 10 in religious ed.), and he seems to thrive in that setting.   We will definitely be continuing these outside lessons, and possibly adding music instruction next year.

In the schoolroom, Baby #2 is quickly learning to read.  One of my biggest fears with homeschooling was teaching him how to read (I can't remember NOT knowing how to read, seeing as I learned before even heading to school as a child), and it has been a much more pleasant experience than I anticipated.  He is truly curious and loves learning, and is very willing to put in an all-star effort when learning a new concept.   At the beginning of the year, he could recognize letters and their sounds....but that was it.  The only words he could spell were names common around our house (his, his brothers', mine, etc).  In a few short months, he's reading simple sentences and books, and has started acing spelling quizzes.

He also is a huge fan of mathematics.  His favourite assignment is a math worksheet - he actually cheers when he sees one in his assignment folder!    We've mastered simple addition and subtraction, and are starting to work on skip counting, in preparation for multiplication tables in the next year or so.  

A complete opposite of Baby #1, this child does not enjoy art projects.  He will do them, as assigned, but works through them very quickly and carelessly.  I'm trying to impress upon him an appreciation for art in all its different forms, and trying to emphasize a need to slow down and do his best work.   This is a child who focuses on quantity, not quality, and this will be something we continue to focus on for the rest of the school year.   Field trips to exhibits such as this one, where he can experience art through many senses, have become a regular on the rest of the year's lesson plans. 

Baby #3:
Baby #3 just recently turned 3, and he doesn't really have a set curriculum to follow.  Instead, we've been working basic skills, in preparation for starting him on a preschool program next year.  

We've been working on basics such as letter and number recognition, colours, shapes, and counting....and were recently interrupted by his desire to start potty training.  Now, potty training ranks up there as one of my least favourite parenting duties...but if he wanted to do it, I wasn't going to stop him.  We're exactly a week into the training....and have officially only  had 2 accidents (one of which was at the Science Center, while he was playing, so I think it was more of a distraction issue). 

His potty training, and his excitement towards "his school work" (what he calls his projects during the day - which includes activities such as water colours, puzzles, and play-doh), lead me to believe that he'll be jumping right into our daily school schedule this coming fall, and he'll thrive.   
Outside of the home, he takes swim lessons once a week, and is doing marvelously.  He is in a small class of 3 children to 1 (sometimes 2) instructors, and has already started swimming completely on his own.   Once potty training is complete, I hope to enroll him in preschool gymnastics classes at the same facility the big boys take classes, so he can also work on body control and strength building.  I have no doubts that it will be successful venture for him!

So, there you have it.  An school room update on all three of the rascals.  Homeschooling is still the best fit for our family, and has become more of a blessing than I ever thought possible.  I don't think we'll be changing anything any time soon....

Baby #2, spelling out sentences that I dictate to him

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Battle Rages...

Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.   But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.   For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God?

- 1 Peter 4:12-17

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.   The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.

- 1 Peter 5:8-10 

It's kind of uncanny how perfect these words are right now.  I was sitting here, praying, asking God just what He wanted of me right now.  It's no secret that I've felt under attack the past few weeks, leaving me with a very distinct feeling of being "unsettled" or "uneasy."  I feel very much under spiritual attack - even to the point of asking for prayers publicly for myself and my family - and these words seem to speak directly to that attack.  God never disappoints, that's for sure!

It seems to me that we are at the forefront of the battle right now.  The Church, under direct attack from so many directions, needs to rise up in the United States.  We need to stand up, to be strong, and to take over the frontlines of this raging battle.  It's not a new battle - instead, it's one that has been fought for thousands of years - but today, our country is the active battlefield.   We need to come together, an army of the faithful, led by the Saints and archangels.

I'll admit it - I'm scared.  I'm not perfect, I'm not a great example of a Catholic.  I'm no theologian.  I struggle.  I fail - a lot.  I've made some pretty big mistakes in my life...and seem to make new ones every day.

I'm part of the breach in the fortress wall.  I helped chip away at the bricks....and I helped to make the hole through which we are being attacked.

But I cannot run away into the woods.  My Church needs me.

My children need me to protect their family in Christ.

My God is calling me to stand up and be counted.

I pray for guidance.  I know I have a faithful guide to follow into this battle - my bishop.  I pray for the strength to fall in right behind him, and to march courageously into the battle with my brothers and sisters.

I am fearful.  I want to run away.  I don't want to continue to be mocked and ridiculed.  I don't want to be this exhausted all of the time.  I don't want to fight, really.

It would be so much easier to close the doors and windows to the outside world.   Turn off the televisions and computer screens.  Surround myself only with beautiful, holy images, sounds, and news and entertainment from authentic, Catholic sources.

But yet, I hear the trumpet sounding, calling us faithful.

I hear the call to battle.

My God is asking me to stand up for Him, to be a witness to His Truth.

And so I must go....



A sinner.

And so I must go....

To fight for Love.

To speak the Truth.

To defend Life.

To advocate for the Way.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

(written on 2/14/12, while in Adoration)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

An update, and a challenge

Hello, all!  I know it's been awhile since I've updated, so I have a lot of catching up to do with all of you.  Here goes!

This past week, we were "matched" with an adorable little boy from Hong Kong.  I know that this seems amazingly quick to most of you (and it has been relatively quick-moving, mainly because he is a waiting child, with special needs), but in actuality, it's been a bit of a wait to get us to this point.  We first inquired about adoption and started discerning this calling about two years ago.   Once we said "yes," things have moved very quickly, but it's not as quickly as it must seem to everyone out there!   I've started building an adoption-specific blog, to try and keep things relatively private over here.  I don't want to distract people from learning about our newest little one with all my Catholic musings over here.  ;-)  If you're interested in following that journey, here is the link:

Bringing Peter Home

Life has been increasingly chaotic over the past two weeks, and now that we have a little boy that needs our attention (seriously, I have so much paperwork to focus on, and I can't make a mistake!), I haven't been involved in the Catholic side of things for the past few days.  I wanted to make sure to update all of you on those things, too.

As most of you should know by now, on Jan 20th, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate that required Catholic employers to provide (i.e. pay for) contraceptive coverages and coverage for sterilizations to all of their employees.  This has caused an incredible firestorm amongst the American people (first the Catholics, and then others who recognized the precedent that this mandate could set).   My life has been totally consumed for the past two weeks with explaining over and over again how this is an attack on my religious freedom, as a Catholic, and why we need to stand up for each other - Catholic or not - and protect our religious rights as Americans.

It seemed to be making an impression on the White House, who, this Friday, offered what they called a "compromise."  Honestly, folks, the compromise is much worse than the original deal.  Again, they refused to recognize that religious freedoms do not only extend solely to a brick building, once a week, but instead to our rights to live our faith throughout our daily lives.   President Obama can even been seen trying to limit this freedom in just his word choices:  "freedom of religion" has become "freedom to worship."  This is just the beginning, folks.    This compromise - meant to appease the liberal Catholics - has once again, left employers (like my husband's office) out of the exemption, and even worse, has shifted the financial burden from just the Catholic institutions to anyone who pays into the insurance premium at these institutions.  Instead of lessening the burden on American Catholics, it is effectively causing more American Catholics to participate in a intrinsically evil act. 

For more information about this joke of an accommodation, see these links:

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Statement from over 3 dozen religious scholars (Catholic AND non-Catholic)

National Catholic Register (Jimmy Akin)

This is not over, folks.  We cannot accept this "compromise."  Please keep fighting, here.

My last bit of info today really boils down to one frustration that's come up over and over again in the past two weeks with this whole HHS mandate thing.  What is it, you may be asking?  Really, it's a lack of understanding out there in the general public world (including amongst Catholics).  I'm really tired of being characterized as a blind, "sheeple" merely doing what she's told by a group of crazy, power-hungry, old white guys.  Seriously, folks, I do not believe wholeheartedly in the Catholic teaching on contraception because I love being barefoot-and-pregnant and want to single-handedly repopulate the Catholic Army.   I believe in it because there is beauty and Truth in the teaching, and it's a teaching that 100% affirms the dignity and worth in human life, especially in women.  I believe in the teaching because it tells me - and the people who are willing to actually listen to it with open ears - that as a woman, I am important, I am valuable, and I deserve to be respected for who I am as a woman.  I am not at war with my own body's biological design.   If you ask me, suppressing the very thing that makes me a woman seems more oppressive than embracing it, accepting it, and loving it.  Does this mean I think every woman out there should be popping out babies every year?  Not at all.   It means that we need to take the time to learn to respect and love our bodies as they were made.  There is beauty in the female body, and the Catholic Church teaching affirms that beauty.  It upholds the value in every woman, as she was naturally made.    This is Truth, and this is why I love the Church's teaching on contraception.

The women I know who believe in - and faithfully try to live out - this teaching on contraception are well-educated (most have bachelor's degrees, and many have graduate degrees), logical, beautiful women who believe in the feminist ideal that all women deserve to be respected and treated with dignity.   They are not blind women, merely allowing old white guys to "oppress" them.   

I'm getting very tired of trying to explain this to people who only have a very elementary understanding of the Church's actual teaching.  I'm honestly getting tired of being told that I - in not so many words - am insane.

Believe  me, I once was on the other side of the fence.  I took birth control pills.  I thought that I was "empowering" myself as a woman.  I thought the Catholic Church was "behind the times" and holding onto an antiquated teaching.

I was wrong.  Very wrong.

How did I realize that?  By opening up Humanae Vitae and reading it with an open mind.  I followed that up with a little Christopher West, some Blessed John Paul II, and some Janet Smith.  I had frank discussions with friends and loved ones, from both sides of the argument.

My eyes - and my heart - were opened to the beauty and the Truth of the teaching.

I want to take a minute to challenge everyone who reads this to spend the weekend reading those documents from the Church (and from Catholic authours) about the subject of contraception.  Actually take the time to remove yourself from the mainstream media, and sit down with one of these documents.  Try to see it from my point of view.  I've been where you are, I really have.    I know how hard it is to separate what our culture says (loudly, at that) from what the Church has been quietly teaching for the past 2000 years.   The Church is finally standing up and saying, "Listen to me!  Look at me!"   I'm challenging you to do that.  Today.   Open your eyes, and try to understand.  I'm not asking you to agree - I know that takes more than just a weekend - but I'm asking you to try to comprehend the teaching, to try and see it from the Catholic point of view.

Here are some links to get you started:

Humanae Vitae

Theology of the Body

Christopher West

Janet Smith

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A few short words...

...that's what I struggling to find. 

A little more than a week ago, I made it public knowledge that we were in the beginning stages of adopting a child.  Almost immediately after that post went live, we received word that we could potentially not be approved by the country we were seeking to adopt from, due to Mike's medical school loans.  That has since been resolved, and we received official approval at the end of this week.  Talk about an emotional roller coaster!

Now, we're finding ourselves drowning in a sea of paperwork, phone calls, visits/meetings, and fees.  It's extremely overwhelming, and we're just trying to keep our heads above water, and trying to keep things as normal as possible around the house.  Even though my to-do list has pretty much quadrupled, keeping things as close to our normal routine has been number one.  Some days have been easier than others, but I think everyone is holding steady now.

Constantly in my mind, however, are all the worries, anxieties, and questions.   To be totally honest, as we get further and further into the process, I'm realizing just how much of this I have to put into God's hands, just as if I was actually pregnant.  There is so much out of my control - at any point, the process could stop - and I have to learn to just let go of those worries and hold to prayer.  It's a lot easier said than done. 

My mind is racing with fundraising thoughts (eek!  We need to get moving on that!), what papers need to get mailed where, and how are we going to pay for the next round of bills, and on top of all of that....I need to start building a blog through our adoption liaison's website.    We'll be able to accept donations through them, and since they are a non-profit, the donations will tax deductible for the donor.   I hope to have that launched soon, and will keep everyone updated.

I can't even begin to start on that blog, though, until I create a family biography.  Since we are adopting a special needs child from an orphanage, it's not quite as much of an "advertising" profile as say, a directory for birth mothers to look through, but it still needs to accurately describe our family.  This will be how people come to know us through the adoption ministry we are working with.  It needs to be short, vibrant, and accurate.  It has to make people WANT to like us and WANT to help us.

It's quite a daunting task.

How do you even begin to write something as important as this?  I keep looking at the computer screen, and nothing comes to mind.  I don't write short, to-the-point paragraphs.  I like words (a little too much, Mike says sometimes!  haha).    For the first time in a long time...I'm completely at a loss for words.

How do I describe - in one short paragraph - the people who mean the most to me?   The family I would die for, if it came to that.   How do I put all of that love into one brief biography?


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Am I Supposed to Say "Thank you?"

A little while ago, the White House released this statement.  

I *think* I'm supposed to be grateful for this "clarification," but honestly, it's just not coming.  
Let's take it point-by-point, shall we?  (My comments will be in red)

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans will cover women’s preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible beginning in August, 2012.  This new law will save money for millions of Americans. But more importantly, it will ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy. Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible.  But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.  Umm...not exactly true.  Contraception isn't just going to miraculously appear on the shelves, for free.  SOMEONE is going to be forced into paying for it, and who do you think that "someone" might be?  Let's see:  oh yeah, the CATHOLIC CHURCH.

On January 20th, Secretary Sebelius announced that certain religious organizations including churches would be exempt from paying their insurers to cover contraception. (Only those who have a stated mission of the inculcation of their faith are exempted.  In layman's terms, only organizations who have the stated goal of increasing believers in their faith are exempted.   Last time I checked, the Catholic hospitals and charities who serve the poorest in our country did not withhold care until the recipient converted).  Other religious organizations, including those that employ people of different faiths, can qualify for a one-year transition period as they prepare to comply with the new law. In recent days, there has been some confusion about how this policy affects religious institutions. We want to make sure you have the facts:
  • Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.  Okay, great.  What about Catholic schools (and universities), hospitals, and charities?
  • No individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception: The President and this Administration have previously and continue to express strong support for existing conscience protections.  For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception. Only half true.  While it is true that, at this time, no Catholic doctor is "forced" to write a prescription for contraception, last year (May 2011), the Obama administration rescinded the conscience protections that legally protected doctors who chose to not violate their consciences.  As a wife of one of these doctors, this entire so-called "fact" is extremely offensive.
  •  No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception: This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover.  Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible.   But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.  Again, like I pointed out above, this is not quite true.  Will an individual be forced to buy or use contraception?  No, they won't  - and that point of this "fact" is actually true.  But, does Obama honestly think that these pharmaceuticals are going to just magically appear on people's medicine cabinet shelves without any money being exchanged for them?  Someone IS being forced to pay for them:  THE CATHOLIC CHURCH and other religious institutions that are opposed to contraceptives.
  • Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy:  Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.  This one is blatantly false.  All birth control pills include three mechanisms of action.  They are:  1) to suppress ovulation, 2) to thicken cervical mucous, causing it to be less likely that sperm will actually make its way into the uterus and Fallopian tubes, and 3) create a "hostile" environment within the uterus, prohibiting a fertilized egg from being able to implant.  The pharmaceutical known as "Ella" will also be available under this HHS mandate.  "ella" is touted as an "emergency contraceptive" that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex has occurred.  Guess what?  At 5 days post-conception, a fertilized egg is implanting into the walls of the uterus, and the gender of that new life can be determined.  If "ella" is not an abortifacient...I'm not exactly sure what it truly is. 
  • Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions.  Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.  Honestly, my gut reaction to this one is "So what?"  Remember when your mom used to say, "If everyone else went and jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"  This is the same thing.  So, what Obama is telling us here is that because individual states are restricting the religious liberties of their's okay for the federal government to do it too.  Seems to me that the federal government  should be in the business of protecting individual liberties.....not restricting them.
  • Contraception is used by most women: According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception. Oh, I have so much to say about this one, but in interest of keeping it relatively clear, I'll be brief.  Here goes:
    • The Guttmacher Institute is the research arm of Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood makes the majority of their profits because of the millions of abortions it performs a year.   Now, the definite majority of abortions are due to "failed contraception."  Do we really want to believe the organization that profits on abortions (due to contraceptive failure) that contraception is a "normal" and "good" thing?
    • Notice the verb use in this statement.  I fully believe it is because the administration recognizes the flaws of the GI's study, and does not want to really stand behind the statistics (rightfully so).  Notice how "Contraception IS USED by most women" and then, later on, "98 percent of Catholic women HAVE USED contraception."  Want to know why the verb tense was changed?  I suggest you actually look at the GI study.  The questions were worded in a way that any Catholic women who either 1) used Natural Family Planning to prevent pregnancy for a grave reason (which is okay according to the Church), or 2) ever used contraception in the past (say, before converting to Catholicism, or "re-verting" to authentic Catholic life, or used contraception before learning about treatments such as NaProTechnology to treat an actual reproductive disorder) would have to answer in the affirmative.  Seems to be purposefully done to raise the statistic, wouldn't you agree?
  • Contraception coverage reduces costs: While the monthly cost of contraception for women ranges from $30 to $50, insurers and experts agree that savings more than offset the cost.  The National Business Group on Health estimated that it would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of potentially unintended and unhealthy pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.   This "fact" also offends me.  It implies two things:  1) religious liberties can be traded for a quantifiable amount of money, and 2) that those future lives that result from an "unintended" pregnancy will never pay money into our American economy.  I'd like to remind Obama that he himself was an unintended pregnancy...and now is the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world.  It seems a bit hypocritical, coming from him, that religious liberties are worth less than "15-17% of business costs."  I wonder if his own mother would value his worth at less than 15% of her costs?
 The Obama Administration is committed to both respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services. And as we move forward, our strong partnerships with religious organizations will continue. The Administration has provided substantial resources to Catholic organizations over the past three years, in addition to numerous non-financial partnerships to promote healthy communities and serve the common good. (Is this a threat to remove financial support that goes to serve the poorest of the poor and the neediest of our country?  Seems a bit hard-hearted from a Democrat, wouldn't you think?) This work includes partnerships with Catholic social service agencies on local responsible fatherhood programs and international anti-hunger/food assistance programs. We look forward to continuing this important work.

I urge all of you - Catholics and non-Catholics - to see through the blatant half-truths and skewing of the facts for what the HHS mandate truly is:  an attack on the religious freedoms of Americans.  Write your senators and congressmen.  Please. 

It's the Catholics now.....who will it be next?