Saturday, October 8, 2016

Catholic leadership and grabbing p^$$y

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.
     I need your help. I need counsel. Archbishop Aquila has brought me to my knees in anger, outrage and despair. This shit. This unholy excrement that has spewed from a leader of our Church is so untenable that it has, once again, made me question whether or not I should stay in the Church of my faith.
     In his article, Archbishop Aquila addresses how Catholics should vote. While he begins by saying, "vote your conscience", he then goes on to outline why Catholics should "respect life", and vote for the party that will respect life. His message is very clear: vote for Trump.
     I cannot. I cannot. I cannot.
     Respect for human life? I believe that human life begins with conception, but it doesn't end when the child is born.
     Stoking hate and fear as a campaign technique is not respect for life. Exploiting women for entertainment is not respect for human life. Hoping that the economy crashes and people are forced out of their homes in not a respect for life. "There are some issues that can legitimately be debated by Christians, such as which policies are the most effective in caring for the poor, but the direct killing of innocent human life must be opposed at all times by every follower of Jesus Christ." Certainly, the direct killing of innocent human life must be opposed. Apparently, Aquila doesn't seem to think that actively advocating the direct killing of terrorist's family members counts as killing innocents. Sure, Catholics can debate the methods for helping the poor; we cannot debate the VALUE of the poor. The Republican candidate has made it VERY clear that he does not respect the poor. "Respect life" is not what what Aquila is defending.
     Church leadership's tunnel vision with regards to abortion and homosexuality is beyond misguided or ignorant. It is rooted in fear and hubris. It is not repect for life: it is a desire to punish women who make their own choces, and it feeds hatred, fear and death.
In Chicago, a doctor refused to remove an IUD from a women who was bleeding and in severe pain because the doctor believed that the Church prevented her from relating to a contraceptive device. I don't believe that the doctor's "hands were tied". If she had given it anythought at all, she would have realized that obviously, Church leadership WANTS people to stop using birth control and would promote the removal of an IUD. No, instead, I believe this doctor was punishing the woman. She fed off the unspoken message from the Church that women should be punished for controlling their own reproduction.
     This is not a isolated case. In Michigan, a woman's water broke at 18 weeks pregnant. The fetus was non-viable, but the docotr's would not protect the woman's life by removing the fetus. A Catholic hospital would not tie the tubes of a women with a brain tumor, even though pregnancy would unquestionably complicate her care. There have been at least two cases where young girls have been denied saftey and care in Catholic shelters because they sought abortions.  This is not the protection of human life: it is virgin sacrifice reworked and sold as piety. It is bullshit.
     Aquila echoes Church leadership's stance that the "right to life", i.e. fighting abortion, is the predominant issue for Catholics: not spreading love, not fighting ignorance, not promoting compassion, caring for the poor or marginilized. On the other hand, Aquila notes that "the further we move away from Jesus Christ and his teachings, the more will our churches empty." Perhaps he should consider that when promoting the Repulican nominee.
Talkme down guys. Talk me down. How can I match the leadership's stance with my faith?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Shaping Dragon Bread for Michaelmas

     Everybody knows my conviction that no holiday is complete without complex carbohydrates. Michaelmas celebrates the coming of fall, and therefore includes lots of fall foods. If you have a faimly that enjoys things like goose, cooked carrots and raosted apples, you are in for a treat. While all those things sound amazingly delicious to me, there was no way that my todders would have allowed any of that to even come near the table. We could have gone with blackberries, but by the time September 29th rolled around, the devil had already spit into our blackberry bushes, so there couldn't be any blackberries in our celebration either.
     Thank God for sweet breads, amIright? We didn't have the ingredients necessary for the traditional Michael's Bannock, but we were able to touch on the same ideas by making Amish white bread. I especially like the idea of the rising bread as a symbol of waiting through a long winter. Plus, you get to work with the dough like it is playdough, and then eat dragon. Pretty super all around.
     I was able to find lot of resources on celebrating Michaelmas, including recipes for the on how to make the dough, but I wasn't able to find how to shape the bread into a dragon. Here is how I made mine.
I first broke the dough apart so both kids and I got our own chunk. Then I pulled off about a fourth of mine for the head and feet, and rolled the rest into a worm shape.

Next, I coiled the worm shape around with the skinny end inside the coil. I then shaped a bit (about 2/3) of the remaining dough into a tear drop.
Next, I shaped the last remainig bits of the dough for legs and arranged the head and legs on the pan.

I found a poking instrument and poked eyes and nose into the face. I poked pretty deeply to account for the rising in the oven.
With scissors, I cut into the bread to make ears and scales along his back. I made the cuts the deepest and longest in the center and smaller towards the ends. I made them deeper than I though looked right because I knew that the bread would rise and fill them out a pit. I cut a raisin in half and pushed them into the face. Again, deeper is better.

Ouf first try the bread rose quite a bit and the dragons looked a little like they had to go on weight watchers. I tried again and this time let the dough rise twice like the recipe suggested, and it turned out much better.

Our Family Michaelmas Celebration

     Around here, fall fell with a thud. When we left for home for a trip back east in late August, the sun was shining and the temps were in the eighties.  The very moment we got back from our sweltering vacation, the temerpatures dropped in Seattle and the leaves began to change. However, I was so excited about celebrating Michaelmas this year that I insisted that it was officially fall until September 29th. Half of celebrating a holiday is beng excited to celebrate it, so I took every opportunity to remind them it WASN'T Michaelmas.
     "Well, it sure looks like fall, but it's not Maichaelmas yet."
     "The devil has already spit in these blackberries. Michaelmas must be coming."
    "Put your shoes on. It's going to be Michaelmas soon so it's getting cold out."
     "Eat your chicken. Also, this is not Michaelmas."

     I was so excited about Michaelmas because it is a completely exciting and kid-friendly holiday. Why have all these awesome holidays fallen out of favor? It doesn't make any sense! Michaelmas is the Catholic celebration of the the coming of fall. Although it supposed to be a celebrations of all the archangels, from what I can tell it mostly centers around Michael, the head in God's army. Michael is a total badass and goes around fighting Satan and dragons, and human's enemies. During Michaelmas, we remember that hard times are ahead: cold, sickness, hunger, ets. It's easy to get cranky. Hence, a celebration of Michael to help us remember to be patient, hard working, and cooperative. 
     Because Warren's name and middle name both mean "defender", I tell Warren that St. Michael's day is his special day as well. Warren's patron saint is supposedly Saint Guarino. However, Guarino is A) not Warren's name, and B) a priest who regularly ran away and hid to avoid responsibility. Thanks, but I think we'll go with the angel who carries a giant sword and
fights draons instead.
     There are lots of stories about St. Michael, because, everyone loves stories but no one wants to hear stories about a saint that leaps out of windows and runs away. Hence, Michael gets a lot of stories and Guarino gets ignored. As one story goes, a dragon, ie Satan, landed in the world and tormented people. His clouds of smoke blocked out the sun, and the Earth became cold. The people of Earth became hungry sick and cold and locked themselves away in their homes. They didnt want to help each other, or share. The world fell into despair. Michael taught the people to work together to fight the dragon and save the planet.
     Funnily enough, this is the story of one of Amani's favorite episodes of My Little Pony. One difference between the stories is that instead of working together to fight the dragon, the ponies fight off their antagonists by sharing, laughing and learning to smooth out their differences. I frankly think that is a more meaningful ending, so when I told Amani the story, I combined the two.

Saint Michael comes down and tells people to overcome the dragon's power. The people think this means they have to learn to fight, so they spend time training and making weapons. However, eventaully the people get tired and frustrated with one another, and begin to use their fighting skills on each other. Saint Michael comes down again and says that the people didn't understand his meaning. To overcome the dragon they must learn to make music together (a task that takes a lot of organization, teamwork and sharing) and travel up the mountain so they can soothe the dragon. Through their singing, sharing and laughing, (the people help one another and laugh with each other as they try to climb the mountain to the dragon's lair) they show the dragon how wonderful love is. The dragon decided to be their friend, and the world was warmed.
     Some people tell this story while making Michael's Bannock, a bread made into the shape of a dragon. There is a traditional recipe for the bread with all kinds of fall grains, but I was pretty sure no one in my family would eat it. We made Amish white bread and it worked just as well. I wrote a separate post to show you how we shaped the bread if you want to try it. My kids named their dragons Tuffy, Dragonighta and Baby. Amani took dragon head to school for lunch, which I thought was pretty cool.
We didn't get a chance to do the Michaelmas craft I wanted to do because Warren was sick and Amani went to a friend's house. No big deal. We can always do it next year. Overall, I definitely think that the kids will remember it and will look forward to it next year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Feast of the Assumption with Small Children: Take 2

     I'm really happy we were able to celebrate The Assumption this year. I think I mentioned in a previous post that, while we didn't celebrate The Assumption while I was growing up, it's a pretty special holiday for me. There was a huge party in Cleveland's Little Italy while I was in college, while the party itself was only related to Assumption by name, the day really stuck with me. In addition, Within the past five years or so, Mary has become a big thing for me: the Mom thing, the daughter thing, the feminist thing: Mary-focus is a given.
     This year the celebration was done in the Robson traditional fashion: by realizing The Assumption was the day before and deciding we would just do it today instead. There are lots of blogs written by women who are way better at this than me, and they had a million different ideas with special breads and prayers, and decorations and tablecloths. These women are very good at using tablecloths. I was working under pressure, but I got the cliff notes. One trip to the grocery store, print off a coloring page and ba-bam! Assumption party done!
     There is one thing about doing these parties spur of the moment that I think benefits the kids. I tell them some details about the day, the person and the event, and they help me think of ways to celebrate. So, in the car on the way to the grocery store, I'm giving Amani a little crash course so she can help me scour the pastry isle. "Mary, Heaven, blue, fruit, flowers, roses!  Break!"
     She did great. We found cookies that looked kind of like roses, and she wanted to get blue flowers to decorate with.  Because I hadn't thought about the coloring page ahead of time, Amani and I searched through Google images to found ones we liked. She chose one of the Nativity because she likes the story about baby Jesus best, which I would not have known if I had prepped the pages myself. While we were coloring, we got to talk in a way that I don't think we could have if we had chosen a more involved activity.  She told me she really liked Mary's veil, and we talked about halo and why holy people glow.  We talked about how the angel told Mary she was going to have a baby. It was this quiet intimate time for us that really made the day for me.
     We barely pulled it off, but we did it, and the kids really enjoyed it. I feel bad that I am not better about preparing these little celebrations, but I think I'll get better at it. Right now the kids are so little, that I figure even if they marginally get the idea of the holiday, it's one Catholic-identity point.  They have like, five now. If we can make it to one hundred points, we unlock the identity achievement where they will call themselves "spiritual but not religious" when their adults. It's a long way to go, but I think we can make it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Did we lose a bet or something?

     You guys. Oh my God, you guys. I don't even know. The Trump thing? What the Hell is going on? Does anybody understand this? I am overly fascinated by it, and I need not to be, but I can't help myself.
     I mean, it's like watching a clown car on fire. It's so grotesque, but fascinating and really dangerous, but also completely of ridiculous.
     It makes me giddy. It does, and it shouldn't but I just can't help laughing. It terrifies me as well also, obviously, but it also entrances me. Ugh. I know, I shouldn't laugh, but I... I am a terrible person.

     I want to understand. I do. I have already spent way too much time on this trying to parse some kind of explanation. I get that there is a large portion of this country who feel marginalized and unheard. I get that there is a group of people who feel like their way of life is being threatened and want to go back to the 60s with white, Christian traditional values...whatever. But then they start writing about Trump and..I just lose it. I get this big grin on my face, and I just get giddy. It's all just so absurd. I've been reading a lot about Trump supporters. Hey! Here's some good news: Most Catholics don't support him but still, according to polls, two in five Catholic voters support him. still...HOW? How is that possible? See, there's that grin again. I can't...

     I do get the Life issue. Pew Research Center reports half of Catholics who are voting for Trump are actually voting against Hillary. And that makes sense- kind of. Hillary has made it clear that she is pro-choice and for many Catholics, the pro-life issue is the only issue. One person even went as far to say, "Abortion is regarded by the Church as the most important moral issue". I don't agree with that, but, you know, that is the main thing for some Catholics and I respect that even if I disagree.

     These pro-life people know that Trump was formerly was pro-choice, but now claims to be pro-life. They know he could just be pandering. They know that at one point, he said he would nominate his sister, a pro-choice extremist, to the Supreme Court. They don't care. What they care about is that that he said he would nominate supreme court judges that would overturn Roe vs. Wade and they KNOW that Hilary will not overturn Roe vs.Wade, so that's all that matters. They hate Hillary; Trump is not Hillary; there it is.

     Of course, there are a lot of people who hate Hillary in general; a lot to an irrational degree. Did you see the Republican Convention? The vitriol against this woman truly reveals the worst side of humanity. This clearly evil mentality does not seem to slow down some of the Catholic Trump supporters though. In fact, they take it a step further and pretty much just start vomiting pea soup. Hillary is tearing down a man's potential to be president. She consorts with the devil. She should be executed for treason. Above all, she is a liar; the most lying-ist liars who ever lied. Hillary is a liar, and Trump is not. For REAL. They are not joking.

      I can understand that. I don't mean I agree with their point, I mean that I recognize those words placed together as a semblance of thought. I don't like Hillary all that much, and when you consider how women with power have faced a lot of irrational hatred, the hostility towards Hillary is familiar.

     As for Catholic that actually support Trump, there are no guarantees. These people are performing gold-medal-winning gymnastic feats to rationalize their alignment with both Jesus and with Trump. It is truly spectacular to watch. They all refer to the "Truth", "dealing in reality", and the "Natural Law". They believe that our culture suppresses "The Truth". Liberals are irrational. Traditional Republicans are a charade. The media is a fiction. The Pope is a fraud. The entire Church has been immersed in "The Lie" since Vatican II. They hate Vatican II. They hate that it feminized their men and stopped the mass from being in Latin.
     They really love Latin.
     Because "The Truth"should really only be spoken if said in a language that no one actually uses.

"Truth involves the realization that our rule of law comes from nature and nature’s God, and not from movements in popular culture or populistic politics that come and go"

Got it, so not popular culture, not from populistic politcs = Donald Trump

     Trump speaks the Truth. He deals in the rational. He is a realist. He is a patriot. He is a warrior. He will protect Christians and restore Conservative values.

     It's true that Trump is brash, careless, and mistaken. His policies might be wrong, and his personality may be a diplomatic liability. He might have been married three times, and support the war crimes, but God uses all kinds of people to bring about his kingdom.

     Except for Democrats. He definitely doesn't use Democrats.

     Trump is Reagan. Trump is St. Don Juan of Austria. He is Constantine and John the Baptist. He is Silvio Berlusconi...but in a good way. He holds us "up on eagles wings". He "will deliver us from evil".

My friends, these people say they are Catholic.
They claim to follow Jesus.
They vote.

And that's when I stop laughing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Should children get to define their own faith?

     So I just read this fascinating article on child liberation theology. The premise of liberation theology is just so up my alley, and I very much need to learn more about it. It began with the political struggles in Central and Latin America Catholic Churches during the 50s and 60s, lead by Gustavo Gutierrez.  The central idea of the the movement is to move the focus of Christianity away from the powerful: the Magisterium, the rich,, the people "doing it right" who lecture outcasts on their sins, and instead refocus creating justice for the poor, the marginalized, and oppressed.  The essential tenet is that each human has the right to create their own faith, and that each human has the "God-given right to speak about God from their own unique perspective" without judgement or lecture from dominant powers.
     So any good liberal will immediately have the reaction of, "Well, duh, obviously", (and score seven lefty bonus points if the liberal says it while drinking fair-trade coffee).  However, when it comes to kids, I am not sure I am entirely on board with this idea.  Children developing their own theology?  How would that even work? For older children, I can see this as a possibility, and developing a person theology is a necessity to keep a teenagers involved and growing in their faith, but for children under say...nine, I'm not sure its a good idea.  For my daughter, Jesus lives in the same space as unicorns; I'm not sure that she is really able to theorize on  the nature of the way I want her to.  It's hard for me to let her have her own faith journey, when I really just want her to believe exactly what I believe, because, you know, I'm right.
     Yes, I hear myself, yes I know that I am completely unfair.  Amani needs to have her own faith journey, and I need to be okay with that, because that is how authentic faith works.   I definitely don't want her to think that faith is dictated by some outsider, or that she needs to uncritically agree with everything any one tells her about Catholicism.  That said, I still think it is important to educate her on what our faith is, what it means, and how to develop the skills necessary for creating a fulfilling faith.
     According to the article, the parent, priest or instructor with a child liberative philosophy must teach a child the skills of "taking power, of becoming self-defining and self-actualizing".  However, like so many of these "what you should be doing" articles, the piece doesn't actually tell you how to do that, especially not with a four-year-old.
     The way I see it, parents can introduce skills by setting up an environment that promotes critical thinking.  I liked this article from the roots of action.  I like that the article explains that parents should establish that thinking can be fun, encourage their children to think, and praise them when they do ("Wow!  You were really thinking carefully about that!  Good for you!")  It has some good suggestion on how to set up an atmosphere at home that encourages kids to thoughtfully develop their own opinions, without disrespecting others. Their five suggestions include:

  • Encouraging kids to be clear in their speaking, and to ask questions if they are not clear what others are saying.  "Did what I said make sense?  Do you have any questions?"
  • Making sure children speak with accuracy:  When a child is arguing or complaining, insist that they don't exaggerate or (obviously) lie.  "I NEVER by you toys?  That's not true at all.  You need be careful when you speak, or people won't listen to you."
  • Support logical thinking: Challenge your child to explain their thinking process.  "He says he's a cheetah, huh?  Do you think that's true or he's just pretending?  How come?"
  • My favorite suggestion, and probably the hardest part, is to encourage kids to be fair when they disagree with each other; to consider another person's thought process.  "She said you can't come to your birthday party?  Why do you think she might have said that?  How do you think she is feeling?  Why might she feel that way?  Do you think you might feel that way if that happen to you?"

     Now God knows my children have opinions, and are very eager to express them.  Still, I think allowing them to share their feelings and opinions is an important way of showing them respect and make them feel valued.  So, if I want them to be able to share their thoughts, it's equally important to teach them to do it appropriately and logically.  As I say this, there is a part of me that is rolling it's eyes, "Riiiight, I'll just teach my children to logically explain why they are licking the bottom of the garbage can. That is definitely going to happen."
    It will happen though.  I think parents have to keep reinforcing this stuff with their kids, even though it is going to take their kids 30 years to get the fundamentals.  It's these kind of skills that are going to teach kids to be secure in thoughtfully doing what is right.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How has Hallmark gotten on board with this?

     I am collecting Catholic celebrations that I can have with my kids. We don't do Church, and we don't even really pray (I know, I KNOW; I'M WORKING ON IT!!!) , but I am all about having tiny celebrations for any and everything.  In fact, you can just call me tiny-celebration-lady, because it's pretty much my thing.
     Oh my goodness, Catholicism has SOO many tiny parties.  There is one just about everyday.  I just love 'em: they break up the drudgery of routine, they set the rhythm to the year, and give this pattern for reflection, and kinda honor how ordinary things are sacred.  And so many of them are just really fun and have baked treats.
     I recently I read about "Candlemas", and now I am in love with it.  For starters, it's timing is perfect. Right when the post-Christmas blahs start, around late January/ early Feburary, you get this cute little holiday, Candlemas, on Feburary 2nd.  (Secularinos might know this as "Groundhogs day". Yes, you heard that right.  Candlemas is just another example of how the main stream media is stamping out our traditional Christian values and replacing them with their pro-groundhog agenda. Thanks Obama.)
     Like a lot of Catholic holidays, (if not all Catholic holidays), Candlemas is an adoption of a pagan celebration.  This one in particular has roots in the Gaelic celebration honoring Brigid, the goddess of springtime and general awesomeness.  Let's just peruse her Wikipedia entry shall we?  She's associated with "the spring season, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft", "wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare".  She's pretty kick-ass.
Candlemas Bells.  Squee!
     We never celebrated this in my home growing up, so I had to do a little research, (You can too if you want to check out some of the links below.)  The more I read about it, the more I came to realize that not only is this holiday pleasantly feminist and perfectly times, but it is simply hands-down adorable. Something about it is so endearing: candles and springtime, lambs, and planting gardens. With all the adorable symbols and hopeful themes, naturally there are just a ton of cute ways to celebrate: holding little feasts with doves and candle-shaped cookies, or reading stories about sheep or going to a sheep shearing. So cute!

Sigh. We didn't do any of those things.

But, you know, maybe we will some day; or maybe you will, and you can tell me how it went.

    What we did do is say, "Happy Candlemas" to people, looked out the window for signs of spring, and then two days later planted some tulips.  Amani liked it.  Whenever she sees spring flowers she shouts, "Thank you Candlemas!"  In my book, that is a complete score.

Links for background on Candlemas: