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Crying Uncle

By Rebecca J. Rose, Website Curator

If you are in a free fall, you can get caught if you trust.

Last fall found my husband VERY ill, off work, with no paycheck.

It was early November. The next official pay day was the 23rd. Disability/HR was moving slow. When I pretend to be back in that moment, making it the present day – I was thinking…

We had, as of today, $75 to our name.

I felt unable to let my family know. They had already done more than they needed to do in order to help us. I didn’t want them to worry or create more anger at our situation.

…We’ve lost some services because we can’t pay. Blessedly we have a stocked pantry due to the love and generosity of our homeschool co-op (oh! To pay this all forward….amen I will! God sweeps in everytime I am falling, as do other friends…God’s hands and feet..)

I was in a panic, and since Matt is finally better, I decided I could arrange being a babysitter around his recovery schedule – meaning once I got the kids lifted into bed, he could hold down the fort while I was gone. Blessedly, I got some sits – but not till late this week. With gas, two cars, and milk….how long would it last before crying uncle? Well…why not just cry “God!?”

Today was a struggle. But as I felt like I was falling, something stopped me short of rock bottom. It came in two forms : a warm dinner to feed us, and an amazing monatary donor in honor of her fallen soldier son. I am not sure I had the words…what do I say to that gift? Doesn’t she need the help herself? I bawled. These events are not rewards, but pure blessings. We have such responsibility to succeed and pay forward.

Thanks to her, other dear friends, past gifts of grocery cards and meals and so many prayers, God carries us.  As of today, we can get through the week and hopeful disability pay arrival. It narrows the gap to the 23rd. I was falling, and God caught me. Caught us.

Hubby’s church job also paid him today, early – that NEVER happens. Coincidence? Nope.

I can focus on my marriage this way…more sharply focused.

Don’t cry uncle. Cry God. Don’t sabatoge yourself. Those are that past weekend’s lessons.

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Aging Together in Marriage

By, Rebecca J. Rose, Website Curator

This sweet couple, completely captured by accident, shows us a snapshot of how our marriages can be as we age with good communication, trust, and the ability to just be ourselves. As I watch this, I wish this for my marriage one day. It is taking me a lot of work to get to this sweet couple’s place in life.

 

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25 Ways to Fight Fair

25 Ways To Fight Fair

Please note that the words “fight” and “fighting fair” are used below to mean expressing one’s disagreement or anger to another constructively. At no time should physical harm be considered “fighting fair.”

Know your own feelings. Seek to grow in self-awareness. Being in touch with your own true feelings is essential before you can constructively handle anger or conflict.

Anger is an emotion – neither right nor wrong in itself. There is no morality to feelings. Try to understand what prompted the feeling. Morality comes into play when you take a destructive action as a result of a feeling.

Negotiation and compromise are essential in any marriage. During a calm, clear moment agree that neither partner should “win” a fight. If one wins, the other loses and builds resentment. In effect, both have then lost because the relationship is damaged. Even when one spouse is wrong, permit him or her salvage self-respect.

Cooling-off periods. Establish ground rules that permit either partner to “cool off” before trying to resolve anger. It may be necessary to walk or engage in some other physical activity in order to allow anger to dissipate. Such a period can allow a spouse to identify the issue more clearly and organize his or her thoughts, thus keeping the fight more on focus.

Pin down a time and place. Be sure, however, that resolving an issue is not postponed indefinitely. After cooling off, pin down a time and place to continue. For example, after the news goes off and in the living room – not in the bathroom doorway while brushing teeth.
Fight by mutual consent. Don’t insist on a fight when your spouse is tired or unable to handle the strain. A fair fight requires two ready participants.

Stick to the subject. When a number of issues seem to be accumulating, present them one at a time. If you have not resolved past issues, put them on a current or future agenda. Make sure both of you go beyond skirmishing, insult rituals, or angry displays. Shooting broadside like a roaring cannon prevents resolution.

State the issue honestly and clearly. Don’t simply say, “I’m hurt by the way you don’t show me respect.” Rather, be clear and specific as in, “I felt hurt when you said…or when your tone of voice sounds condescending toward me.”

Don’t camouflage. Don’t evade a deeper grievance by allowing your feelings to center only on less important or extraneous issues. “The potatoes are too salty tonight!” might be a minor irritant that covers the unspoken, “I don’t think that you understand all the pressure I’m under at work!”

Afraid to fight? If one of you feels afraid to fight, this should not evoke a put down but rather may be a fear of being hurt or rejected. Put the fear on the agenda for later discussion.

Don’t hit below the belt. Everyone has vulnerable areas. Don’t use your confidential knowledge of your partner’s weaknesses and sensitivities to hurt him/her.

Don’t label. Avoid telling your spouse that he/she is neurotic, depressing, or a bore. Rather, try, “I’m tense inside, honey, because you seem moody and depressed. I’d like us to talk about it.”

Grant equal time. Agree that no resolution of an issue can be presumed until each partner has had the chance to express his/her feelings, ideas, and information.

Feedback and clarification. If the fight is emotional and heated, slow it down by starting a “feedback loop.” One technique is to paraphrase back to your spouse what your heard. For example, “Honey, what I hear you saying is that I’m boring you because I have no outside interest. Is that right?” The other then responds by either confirming the accuracy of your statement or clarifying it.

Gain new understanding. Extract enough new information and insight from a fight to permit growth. Don’t waste a good fight by not learning from it.

Implement changes. Follow anger with a fair, firm, clear request for a change or improvement in whatever brought on the fight. Each partner must be clear as to what he/she agrees to modify or improve. Be specific and realistic. For example, it would be agreed that whenever the husband seemed tense, the wife would encourage him to tell her about it, instead of their old pattern of both keeping silent.

Develop humor. Humor goes a long way towards promoting healing.

Keep your fights to yourself. Exceptions would be when more serious problems suggest the need for a counselor. Good counseling is like medicine – it helps do what you might not be able to do alone.

Handling anger in front of children. When anger and conflict initially erupt in front of children, also try to resolve these feelings in front of them. You may need a cooling off period first, but they need to learn about negotiation, discussion, and compromise by watching you do it constructively. Apologizing for excesses in front of children also teaches them about reconciliation.

Don’t attempt to resolve a conflict when drinking heavily.

“Touch” can begin dialogue. Use touch to help your spouse make the “entry” or “re-entry” into a communicative mood. A foot reaching over in bed, a hand on the shoulder can say eloquently, “Honey, one of us needs to begin the dialogue. I’m willing to start.”
Exclude violence. Agree in advance that real violence is always ruled out.

Is the problem elsewhere? Determine through honest inner searching whether your anger lies primarily (or only secondarily) within the marriage relationship. Spouses might be struggling with poor health, role insecurities at work, fear of death, anxiety about the future, or other unresolved issues. It can be reassuring when a couple realizes that their relationship may not always be the principle problem, even though the real problem still causes anguish.

Respect crying. Crying is a valid response to how we feel. Do not, however, let crying sidetrack from getting to the real issue causing the conflict.

Prayer as strength. Major religions view marriage as sacred and prayer as a vital strength. While human behavior principles must not be neglected in learning how to handle conflict constructively, neither should couples neglect the religious resources of their faith in working out their problems.

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Refresh and Bless

By Rebecca J. Rose, Website Curator

 

This week in reading my “Daily Word” I came upon two themes – “refresh” and “heart blessing”. It’s funny, some ladies I know (and me too) are reading a book called Captivating that helps women spiritually heal and embrace ourselves as beautiful expressions of God, and the themes were there too! What a gift to our relationships if we can choose to take care ourselves, refresh our spirits, and bless others with our hearts.

Here are some thoughts on both that inspired me (and lately, there have been things in my own life, or those closest to me, that seem to keep getting the same type of messages over and over. I think He is trying to tell me something!):

 

refresh
~ “Today I may feel a desire for a fresh outlook on life; to adopt new healthful habits or rekindle a relationship. Renewal can take place in ways that hold the prospect of greater strength and vibrance. As I commit to seeing someone or something in a new way – honoring myself by doing whatever nurtures my mind and body or sharing time with a special someone – I am replenished in mind, body, and soul….my spiritual rejuvenation is a celebration of God’s presence within me…I honor my worth. I meditate in a peaceful silence… or music, or the sounds of nature.”

To me that says, I’m worth it. I need to CHOOSE to adopt new ways of feeling and thinking. Feelings are a choice, and if they are bringing me down, I need to risk the pain and make the choice to open myself to God, or the universe, the Spirit….to what renews me. Release it and free myself. In doing so I honor myself, even if others do not honor me. And, God’s presence in me strengthens me. People let us down. Many times or always….but God does not. He is the strength that holds us up – He is in the words or actions of others that give us peace – He is always there knocking, waiting to be let in – not barging in to save us (idea from the book Captivating). When I feel refreshed and renewed, it is God within me, feeding me in ways no person EVER can.

heart blessing
~ “As strong and reliable as my heart is, my feelings have an incredible impact on it…my heart is a physical expression of my consciousness. When I feel positive…this organ is calm. It relates with mind and body in healthy, renewing ways. My love and intuition are heart-connected. And so I practice loving, positive thinking, and acting. I forgive others, and I also forgive myself. I give myself expression to the love of God within me. With each thought and action, I bless my heart and, at the same time, I am also blessing others in a heartfelt way.”

Again, I feel moved to a choice. A choice to find the positive whenever I feel personally insecure (which is a lot!!), troubled, stressed, alone. I need to find a way to practice love of myself and my thoughts, because my thoughts are what get me in TROUBLE (“so and so must think _____ of me”, “Oh! I made him so mad” or “She thinks I’m so spoiled/clueless/silly”)! When I can manage that (so easier said than done!) I am letting myself feel what God always feels…love for ME. I give his love expression. He wants to forgive me, so I need to give myself the same break! I need to show my worth, my beauty, show how captivating I am.

In do all the above, I can give more in my relationships and my marriage. You can do it too. Share with us how you refresh and bless others with your heart!

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Writing your Feelings

By Rebecca J. Rose, Website Curator

How Journaling Helps Me in Every Aspect Of My Life.

Right now, I’m taking “me” time. Today is a summer camp day and I don’t have to be in the carpool line as early as usual. Instead I have another hour to sit here at the computer, on my bottom, open the window enough to hear the pouring rain and wind chimes, and just accomplish some things for me. Baby went down for his morning nap, and aftersome mild cleaning around the kitchen and den in a quick pick up/straightening session, I have set myself down at the computer by the window for about an hour. I am doing whatever the heck I want and not allowing any guilt. In fact, when Baby wakes up, I’ll probably let him play a bit with blocks beside me and I’ll keep doing this before carpool and “reality” and enjoying my other two girls’ youthful energy and buzzing of  their day.

I’ve been looking up info on homeschooling, a website called “Saving Dinner” to see if I want to sign up for their freezer and Crock Pot recipes for a few months, reading blogs, processing pictures, e-mailing friends at work, and doing some meditative reading and thinking about faith (always running in my brain/heart) and my marriage. I’m also praying about some big changes to our family in the coming months. I could be reading my newest book, but I don’t feel like it. I had thought about sewing more, but again…..no desire for some reason when I should take advantage of the “free” time. Oh yeah – the dryer is full of dry clothes. Nope…don’t want to touch that either. I’m just listening to the rain in my PJ’s, chilling, and even looking forward to naptime/quiet time this afternoon after carpool.

I was just asked yesterday by a dear friend how the heck I have time to nourish my marriage, my family, blog, play violin, sew as well as capture and host family moments like picnics, etc and basically it comes down to this:

1) I feel compelled to do something for “me”and my family memory.
2) I type as fast as I talk – these novel entries don’t take me long at all.
3) Often I write in a few moments, but save as “draft” and post on another day. Sometimes I’ll have “banked” a few entries from those random moments I wrote my heart or brain out which makes for multiple entries.
4) The ages/routines of my children afford me random quiet time throughout the day.
5) My husband’s work schedule. He works A. LOT. Luckily, from home in the evenings. But, after bedtime – I’m sometimes staying out of his way so I may have time to think and ponder. Again, that is where drafting and saving entries comes in handy.
6) And, I’m not perfect. When I’m trying to get chores done, or having a “me” break – if the kids can’t be outside, napping, or reading – we do a quick TV break. Yep….I can admit it. We LOVE movies and shows. All genres, types, classic, silent lol – all types!

Let me revisit #1 – I feel compelled to do something for “me”. Selfish sounding, right? Well, to be healthy in your marriage and as a parent, taking time to nourish a vocation is a good thing. Put yourself on the list again! I think it is all in how one prioritizes and then accomplishes that task. “Accomplish” is the word I’m picking, because that word implies action (not just some lazy decision on my end) with a needed outcome. And, I’m NO saint with this. I think I finally turned to blogging again in order to create order in making better decisions for both “me time” and needed “family moments”. I write down my thoughts, my inspirations, positive thinking, or my struggles, and SEE it anew. I can make new plans, rethink, capture and record moments, gain perspective on what should be important in life.

When I became a mom, I discovered how truly selfish I am. Notice I didn’t say “was”. I still have not gotten over my selfishness – but I embrace the growth and faith that come from challenging my innate nature. I’m called by my God to do this, while also embracing the gift of me. He does see me as a wonderful gift – to Himself and to others. When my first child was born, I was a full time teacher and night time grad student. I felt like I was always having to do something for someone else – grade papers, cook dinner, change diapers, write a thesis paper, clean my home, drive to work drive to class, drive to day care, drive to parents…..while still making time to grow in my faith, live, and do what I’m called to do for me and my family. I got tired, I got forgetful, I couldn’t see the forest because of the trees.

I craved “me” time, I craved “family moments and memory time” and then would not really document and prioritize those times. I’d look back and get depressed I had done nothing valuable. I felt we just existed in our home, not appreciating the time going by, and trying to SURVIVE the day. You know what I mean – normal humans NORMALLY spend much of their days overwhelmed, busy, tired, and full, focused on finding and keeping some routine, surviving till nap time/bed time and not “letting go, letting God” – I literally forgot the good things I/we did, or not take any time for me, or give myself any credit for the good things I did accomplish in that time for me. I’d start to think all I did was let my daughter watch too much TV so I could do one of my jobs, school, or just rest. I felt I was not nourishing my marriage and important relationships.

Also, I had this idea that I took TOO much time for myself  or felt behind, procrastinated, rearranged, ignored my husband, daughter, friends, etc) to do what I wanted or that I multi-tasked too much to get things done. I also took life for granted. Instead of cuddling my daughter every evening as a baby, she would bottle feed herself while I did other things, and all of the sudden – she was a big girl. Where did babyhood go? Was I really working on my marriage? Was I giving my husband the attention he needed?

How could I balance out and record time for me, my family, my studies, while appreciating the steady beat of time – something I can not freeze and store. I started getting depressed on all I thought I missed with my schedule, and it hampered me remembering all the GOOD I did do.

Yes, we did GREAT family things together – I just could not remember them because of my crazy schedule at the time. I think that is when my love for recording in pictures and words began, and I blogged for a few years. I eventually stopped because our lives changed in a big way, but the picture taking obsession with photography stayed with me.

The big change came with our move to a house and my becoming a stay at home mom a few years ago. I  really wanted to figure out time for me/time for family/living out my calling and faith in a balanced way (HA – like I’m balanced!). For the first few months, I went nuts with all my new freedom. I spent SCADS of time with Lovely bonding, playdates, parks, mom’s night outs, trying to clean the house, do most of the chores…and still felt empty.

I finally was not working outside the home, doing what I really thought would make me happy, and what I should do as a mother and I STILL battled my inner depression and compulsion and voices that plagued me (even with a strong faith) when working for 6 years. I battled with my faith journey. The thoughts in my head did not stop. We got pregnant and time then became about battling my fatigue, embracing the loves of my life (faith, family, friends). I still feeling was left feeling like all my eldest did all day was PreK and then TV watching. I KNOW I did more….but I felt all I did was “me” related….or housework related – not focused on the moment and doing the best for my family. The lines were all blurred and muddled and my head hurt from analyzing too much.

So, blogging helps to un-blur and un-muddle. Currently my blog is colorized in black, white and grey (I love that type of photography). And seeing typed words in black and white helps me focus. By far, nothing in my life is simply black and white…there is LOTS of grey – but the written word is pretty clear, while my feelings make up the grey areas. I feel, I write, I channel positive energy, grace, the Spirit; whatever I can. I record the good, the difficult, the REAL, and use it to help me focus on stepping back some, and making family moments – picnics, backyard playtime, laughter – because life IS too short. I still catch myself every hour trying to “survive” and get through the day, but blogging helps me catch myself and make plans to do something more for my family in this life, so fleeting, before the next life. In doing that for my family, I also get “me” time. It is a two way street. Time for me to pray, reflect, capture, and record while remembering the bigger picture for others as time allows.

It has helped my marriage, my relationships, and my stress level having a notebook or a blog to unwind and journal in. I highly recommend giving personal writing and journaling a try in your own life. Even if no one sees it, your soul will – and that is the true treasure and what matters. A happy soul makes a happy home. I’m praying for you, and we are here for you!

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Bridal Gowns

Baring Brides

What makes a “modest” wedding dress?

by Robyn Lee

This fall I will be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding . She picked out a certain designer, but said we could get any dress style we wanted. I scanned the designer website for ideas and then made an appointment at a local dress shop to try on my favorites.

To my surprise, all the dresses were just “samples” which means all the dresses come in one size … size too big.  The consultant explained that if the dress is too big for me she’ll pin it in the back so I can visualize how it might look. I look in the mirror and see me — wearing a circus tent. The consultant reassured me that they would take my measurements so that I could order the correct size.

The consultant took measurements of the bust, hips and waist. According to my waist I’m a size 12. According to my hips I’m a size 10 and according to my bust I’m a size 2. Huh? How on earth do I figure out the right size? Again the consultant reassured me, just order a size up and we’ll charge you $200 for alterations.

If I’m paying more than $100 for a dress I want it to be perfect. The fit of the dress is important not only because I want to look nice, but also because I want the dress to look modest and especially in church.

What constitutes a modest gown is a hot topic of debate …

The local church where my sister got married made national news because the pastor asked brides (and their bridesmaids) not to wear strapless or spaghetti strap gowns: One bride defended the policy saying, “I wouldn’t think of not having the girls wear shawls in church. There is a certain level of respect that needs to be carried out in church.”

But others argue what is considered appropriate for Catholic brides.

Over at CatholicMatch there is a thoughtful post from a newlywed explaining her decision to go strapless on her wedding day. She says “I recognize there will always be controversy over what constitutes an appropriate gown for a Catholic wedding, and while modesty is certainly essential, I do not believe that this requires a bride to cover herself excessively or to reject a lovely, tasteful strapless dress simply because it lacks an inch of extra material over each shoulder.”

Her point made me start to wonder what is the essential difference between a strapless dress and a sleeveless dress? I think we can all agree that it is important to be modest in church, but I struggle with the idea that strapless or sleeveless equate immodesty. I don’t think we can make that general claim. Certainly body types play a part, but I think we need to ask ourselves the bigger picture. What is modesty so important?

Also weighing in on the topic is a Catholic mom who defends her daughter’s strapless wedding dress. She argues, “A conservatively styled dress is not necessarily the magic bullet … true modesty involves much, much more than hemlines and the cut of a bodice.”

What this mom is trying to explain is certainly something we could all agree on. True modesty is not just about what we are wearing; true modesty is a way of life.

Model and Catholic speaker Leah Darrow, says the same thing, “Modesty is more than just the length of a hemline,” she explained. “It’s about our conversations, how we treat people, and how we love others. Modesty protects our purity and the mystery of a person.”

So what makes modesty so important and why are those standards so essential in church?

One priest defended the modest bridal dress policy in church saying, “When dresses are immodest, the message of the ceremony is lost. The need for respect in church is not just a wedding issue; it carries into all aspects because we believe we are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.’‘

Father Francisco Flores, in an article written by Lori Hadacek Chaplin, says, “In the image from Revelation, the bride is adorned in clean white linen, depicting the purity and newness given to her by her groom, who is Our Lord, and the bride is the Church.”

Christ sacrificed his life for his beloved bride, the Church and united himself to her forever. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony the bride represents the Church. The bride and the groom freely consent to give themselves to each other and become one flesh.

1639 of the Catechism states, “The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises “an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society. The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: Authentic married love is caught up into divine love.”

The Sacrament of Marriage is sealed by God himself and spouses are caught up into divine love. To enter into something so sacred, is just so … amazing!

Modesty reflects our human dignity being made in the image and likeness of God. It also helps us to remember that when we are in the presence of the Almighty God, what we are wearing matters.

What do you think? Do bare shoulders look immodest in church? What is appropriate dress for a Catholic bride?

—  Robyn Lee writes from Connecticut as a senior writer for FaithandFamilyLive. She received her undergraduate degree from Christendom College in Philosophy with a minor in Theology and her master’s in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College. She is currently studying for her post master’s certificate in Theology.

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Sarcasm

The Danger of Sarcasm In Your Relationship

By, Rebecca J. Rose, Website Curator

When I’m stressed, I jest. It’s a coping mechanism. And honestly, it works for me – if you can laugh about a situation, all of the sudden it is not overwhelming anymore. The load is a little lighter.

Recently – my sarcasm and coping went awry. I’m not really sure what happened – it happened so fast. But I think I ended up hurting someone else rather than helping myself. And, what is heavy on my heart today is I think I’ve been doing it for months without realizing it. And, now that I do know – I am not in a peaceful place. I feel terrible, and I pray for forgiveness, but I’m trying to figure out what to say to this significant other. It’s obvious – there is a price to sarcasm in your relationship.

I’m almost afraid to bring it up since I think I’m hurting more than the other party is by my actions. That’s a complex feeling. What was pointed out by this significant person was done calmly and probably with little dramatic thought. The bottom line is that it was all meant WELL, I believe. In fact, it was a courageous move by one person to protect another from stress. I wish more people were like that in taking care of each other. I found myself, with all the emotions I felt in the moment, a bit jealous of that protection.

I also found myself feeling as much hurt as I felt apologetic for my ‘not thinking’ for months. I also am feeling confused. Confused in how I should live my life during many tests of character and faith that confront me daily. I’m trying to figure out how to deal, how to be authentic, real, and honest when so often I want to build a wall of cheer and faith. Yet…that honesty can be too much for people (perhaps this is why I use humor or sarcasm to smooth things over?).

One of my biggest fears is driving loved ones away. While I know I did not do that in this relationship, the method and words chosen to translate their feelings to me stung. I was shocked as much as saddened. I felt guilty for my hot tears of anger as well as my hot tears of shame. In their action to end stress, I got VERY stressed (ironic). It all seemed unfair….here I’m in the most stressful time of my life in the months following illness and worry in late 2011 and I’m gently told that I need to not cause stress! Humbling! But, don’t we all need to be humbled? Maybe we need to be reminded sarcasm is not the best form of communication in a relationship. We are not always the communicators we feel we are.

All of this CAN be a fantastic lesson in the making! I can make myself more aware of the need to watch what I say, listen more than talk, and work on turning to God more than turning to people. I can’t keep leaning on others too much or I could just break them. The only One who can really handle my pain (next to a professional) is God. I HAVE to remember that. I also need to remember that while I can’t help my feelings, I can help my reaction.

I can choose to process this learning experience, and then let it go. I am bad about the letting go part – but I am hoping to use this experience to work on improving in that area. I also need to choose to accept the fact that most likely, they have not thought about this for hours like I have, as SURPRISE (sarcasm!), the world just isn’t all about me!

In terms of one’s relationships, I think God also wants me to see what amazing, AMAZING, people He has put in my family’s life that feel safe enough to be honest towards me, as well as love me. It sometimes feels like a delicate dance, but the dance is a gift. I just have to keep practicing to get my moves right. Relationships are never easy, but are so worth the work involved. You can do that work – let us help you! Blessings!

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Attachment Parenting

There’s one thing you should never attach yourself to…

By Kate Wicker

TIME Cover 5.21.12 Theres one thing you should never attach yourself to...

Yes, I’ve seen the cover and the controversy it’s stirred up. My inbox is very full. No, I haven’t read the articles. I’m not sure I’m going to. That might seem like a cop out. Maybe it is. But I’ve just returned from a few days in paradise, and re-entry requires energy and time.

Plus, I’m pretty sure – despite the mixed messages that mainstream media continues to perpetuate – that attached doesn’t mean being attached to Internet debates over the topic or even being so attached to your personal parenting ideology that your kids are hovering in the trembling wake of your heated words and angry emails that you’re firing off more rapidly than the nervous system’s synaptic communications.

The cover (and maybe the articles are more fair, but I doubt it) does just what I recently argued against and sensationalizes extended breastfeeding and is, as a friend of mine described, “a brilliant piece of trash journalism.”

Sure, the cover bothers me. So does the title: “Are you mom enough?” As a Facebook friend pointed out, can we invite women to enter the mommy wars anymore than with a loaded question like that?

What likewise bothers me is that Time magazine approached me under the guise of respecting my own parenting choices as well as those of any fellow moms I know, especially since they’d told me they had read material I’d written on the subject.

If I cast aside my pride, it bothers me, too, that I was too stupid to see any of this coming. (My dad and husband were much more cautious about the whole thing.)

When I write about attachment parenting or extended breastfeeding, I write with charity. I am quick to say I’d rather not parent by the book or by the expert and simply follow my gut and try to parent as my God would have me do. I am wary of parenting labels. I am wary, too, of even attempting to mine out any useful gems in any type of magazine that purposefully sells something in such a provocative package.

I am not being pushed to extremes to nurse a 3-year-old because I feel guilty or pressured or scared or worried that if I wean before my child is ready, I am opening her up to a lifetime of pain. Nor am I trying to guarantee myself a winning ticket in the parenting lottery. I stand by own mom and dad’s wise parenting advice and refuse to take credit for the good knowing then that I’d have to take credit for the bad. Oh, yes, my child is a genius who started reading Tolstoy at age 4 and yes, she picks her nose and eats her boogers for an afternoon snack – neither of which have absolutely anything to do with me or my husband and my highly superior gene pool. (I’m jesting here. My kids don’t read Tolstoy, but I have a caught a little one or two with her finger up her nose.)

Honestly, as I’ve said before, it really just boils down to laziness. Weaning takes time and patience when it’s not child-led. I’m not ready to use up any of limited supplies of those precious resources just yet.

Have I ever fallen into the trap of thinking that if I didn’t form a secure emotional bond with my children or do everything “right” I would ruin them for life? Yes, in fact, I have several times stumbled into that treacherous and anxiety-producing trap (and still sometimes do).

During my eating disorder recovery, a therapist once told me that if I wasn’t obsessive-compulsive about food or my weight, I’d find something else to be that way about. There have been times, I admit, when I’ve gotten all OCD on my parenting. I’m trying to channel my OCD tendencies into something more productive – say, eliminating our wooden floors of crumbs and hairballs.

I actually wrote a whole column about my struggles with letting go in the parenting (not the house cleanliness) department and called my new form of parenting detachment parenting and, of course, some AP folks took the word “detached” the wrong way and saw it as an argument against the attached theory of psychology or that I think we don’t matter at all as parents. I’m not going to get into the whole nature v. nurture debate right now, but, nope, that’s not what I meant.

(Do you ever feel like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t? Yeah. Me, too.)

No, I don’t believe I might as well as throw my children to the wolves (although they would have no problem nursing my pups out in the public of the forest) and let them fend for themselves. Nor do I believe I have no power at all to help shape their souls. I have a great responsibility as their mother. It’s my duty every day to give all in the hope that I can love them into loving and being good people.

When I wrote that column, I opened my heart up and talked about a difficult part of my childhood and how I was crazed, obsessive even, early on in my mothering career about not making even one misstep. Do I still struggle with mom guilt? You bet. Most moms do. We love our families. We want to do things right. Guilt is one of our most worn accessories.

Do I find the cover of Time insulting, sensational, ridiculous, ignorant, and a complete misrepresentation of attachment parenting? Uh-huh. Not that some parents don’t embrace attachment parenting – or any parenting ideology for that matter – to make up for a hurtful past, parental guilt, or simply to feel like they have more control over their children’s destinies.

I was really seething when the messages about the issue started flooding my inbox and Facebook wall, but then I realized that I was being a different kind of attached parent and was getting too far attached to the absurd opinions of others. One thing I’ve learned, especially since launching into an online writing life where I talk about my choices and my parenting, my joys and my struggles, is that there’s one thing you should never attach yourself to and that’s the opinions of others.

No, I do not want to raise “detached” children, but I do want to raise children who recognize the fruit of detachment. When we are too attached, to people, their behavior, or things like ridiculous magazine covers, we become anxious, angry, defensive, or hurt, and contentment is elusive.

Want to be (mostly) happy and at peace with your parenting? Then attach yourself, instead, to your husband or a trusted friend if you’re a single mama. Attach yourself to the thoughts of a solid, faithful spiritual director.

Above all, attach yourself to God. Forget the parenting ideologies. Parent out of love and let God be your guide for the kind of love you wish to bring to the heart of your home.

Attach yourself to hope for the future rather than everything you did wrong yesterday. To move forward, forgive. (I slipped up big time last week, and I’m having to really, really work on forgiving myself, but I know it’s absolutely necessary for the sake of my family and for me.)

When you’re angry at media for being unscrupulous, for supplying the mommy wars with some powerful ammo, and making an issue out of something that shouldn’t be an issue at all, take a deep breath, write a post, vent to your husband, write a letter to the editor or the person who originally contacted you, and then let it go.

Let it go….

While you’re at it, thank your wonderful, wise dad for being right yet again. He was the one who told you there was a reason that the photo shoot wasn’t going to work out. He’s never had much respect for Time’s journalistic integrity. (I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.) Yes, Dad, they would have made me look like a freak. They would have tried to make an innocent nursing session look provocative. They would have tried to objectify me, my body, my children, my maternity, to sell a magazine.

Praise God that the friends you suggested to fill in for you were also unable to make it happen.

Attach yourself again, quite literally, to that handsome husband of yours who is so grounded in truth and looks past the rubbish and lets very little get under his skin, and give him a big hug. Thank him for taking you and your baby to the beach to celebrate 10 blissful years together. Thank him for offering to cancel the trip, but be very, very grateful you looked him straight in the eye and told him that being quasi-alone with him was just as much of a once-in-a-lifetime-experience (at this point of your life, anyway) as flying to the Big Apple for a photo shoot for a national glossy.

Nurse your baby. Nurse your 3-year-old who you were kind of thinking might forget about nursing while you were MIA but didn’t. Forget that stupid cover and the articles within its slippery pages that pit moms against each other and make cultural scripts confine (or confuse) certain moms.

Don’t let anyone or any parenting ideology push you to extremes, but do, my beautiful, fellow mamas, let Love itself take you out of your comfort zone. (We are all extreme parents because parenting demands extreme love.)

As Christian mamas, we need not be attached to incendiary magazine covers, misguided opinions, or our own ideologies or guilt. Let us instead try to attach ourselves and our children to Christ.

When everyone starts arguing back and forth about the perfect parenting style (there is no perfect parent unless you God or maybe the Mother of God), let’s remember this, too: Those sweet wounded, willful, wonderful children who sometimes drive you crazy and at other times drive you to love to extreme will grow up and become whom they were created to be in spite of you. You can do everything “right” (whatever the experts are saying is “right” at the moment), or you may feel like you’ve botched up things big time but one day, you’ll take a step back and see that like a young sapling, your child has a bend all of her own. Even in the most fertile soil things do not always grow as they should. And green shoots of life magically appear even in the most rocky and arid land. Dear mamas, don’t be afraid to get dirty, to dig deep into your own heart and into those of your children’s, but don’t be afraid to let go either. Though, as I have, I’m sure you’ll sometimes find that the holding on is – despite what the covers of magazines that victimize, objectify, disenfranchise, and stigmatize moms might have you to believe – is far easier to do.

Kate Wicker is a speaker and the author of Weightless: Making Peace With Your Body. She is currently a health columnist for Catholic Digest, a senior writer at Faith & Family LIVE!, a wife, and a quasi-crunchy, homeschooling mom of four. She writes at KateWicker.com.

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Raising Children Appreciatively

Every Child Should Be Heard: I am grateful for their voices

by Kelly Dolin

Our day was to begin early, so we set the alarm clock for 4:30. We didn’t need to bother. At 4:30 on the nose, two-year-old Ainsley careened into our room wailing, wailing, wailing.

“What’s the matter, sunshine,” I asked, trying in vain to make her comfortable.

“My eye,” she told me as she began wailing once more.

The afternoon before she had wakened from her nap with a gunky eye. I told Dave she might have pink eye. Sure enough. I headed to the bathroom to run some warm water and grab a washcloth. By the time I returned, Ainsley was clutching her left ear and telling me that was troubling her as well.

I reflected on how much appreciate the fact that my kids can communicate.

As a baby, my ten-year-old son Kolbe came down with one cold, cough, and sinus infection after another. A happy kid by nature (both then and now), he felt lousy on a regular basis. Right around the same time, I went through a spate of ear infections myself. Seems every bout of congestion put tremendous pressure on my ears. The pain was intense, I mean, intense. I took the maximum amount of pain reliever in the shortest intervals. I set the timer for the next dose.

I regretted every time I had held back giving one of my babies medicine. The combination of drugs and small babies unnerved me in my early days of motherhood. I remember two hideous car rides with Kolbe—one through the North Carolina mountains and one through Virginia. He was congested, and his ears probably hurt. He was too little to tell me exactly what hurt or how much it hurt.

I remember the day I was awakened from a dead sleep by the sound of two-year-old Kolbe shouting, “My ear has a boo boo!”

Problem diagnosed—clear and concise. I was glad my son could communicate.

One Sunday morning found us dissembling in the third pew on the right. I gathered the miscreants and headed for the anonymity of the cry room. Now, I have written about cry rooms before. Believe me, they offer some colorful and varied torture that at least seems eternal at the time. But do you know what’s the worst thing about the cry room? Being in there instantly summons the inner Church Lady in me. I no sooner cross the threshold when I begin picking apart every person in there.

This Sunday was no different.

The cry room was unusually quiet. I sat behind a mother who was holding a boy who appeared to be seven or eight. And immediately Church Lady began to wonder why a child that old couldn’t handle Mass. And he was wrapped up in a blanket. And he was eating. And Church Lady really doesn’t cotton to kids eating in church. And the boy was so quiet. Gosh, Church Lady wished she had a son who could be so quiet at Mass. And as Church Lady was forming all these thoughts—which, bless her heart, really fly through her head in a matter of seconds—Church Lady noticed that the mother was wearing one of those rubber bracelets that announce a cause. Church Lady craned her neck to read what it said. And Church Lady gulped.

Autism speaks. The bracelet said Autism Speaks.

The little boy wasn’t just quiet; he could very well have been non-verbal. And the blanket? It was a weighted one. And the mother? She was bringing this child to Mass—alone—knowing she would confront not just her child’s sensitivities, but also a bunch of know-it-all Church Ladies.

Sometimes I long for peace and quiet around here. That Sunday morning I walked away from the cry room with a new appreciation of noise.

I am grateful my kids can communicate.

Speech is high on the list of things we work on around here. Sometimes I teeter on the edge of despair at the negativity that comes out of our mouths—mine included, mine especially. The younger set is enamored with all words related to bodily functions, and then there’s an unidentified member of the older set who struggles with the usual list of words adolescents seem prone to say.

Sometimes I struggle with volume. “I’m standing right next to you,” I repeatedly tell one of my kids who seems to have one volume and that would be jarringly loud.

Sometimes it’s the sheer number of words. One of my kids is going to be a rapper one day. The words pour forth without pause.

But then I sit in church behind a woman whose son clearly struggles to have a voice, any voice.

Just after I tended to Ainsley’s eye, I heard four-year-old John coughing in the next room. He came to me feverish and miserable. “I frowed up on Ainsley’s bed,” he told me in a pathetic tone.

Although I don’t always appreciate the message, I am so very blessed that he has a voice.

—Kelly Dolin blogs at In the Sheepfold.

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Romance

By Rebecca J. Rose, Website Curator

Summer is almost here. Images of relaxing on a beach on a weekend getaway, sitting by the pool, or enjoying the great outdoors come to mind. There is a true sense of freedom when summer approaches, even with all of us committed to work and family. It is just a season that unburdens us a little. Why not take advantage of this and create some romance with your partner?

Before it gets too hot, plan some special time outdoors with your significant other. Botanical gardens can provide exotic blooms right in your own backyard. A shady hike can open up to a lovely meadow and picnic spot, all alone and kid free! Live near a mountain top? Plan an outdoor feast with a view. Romance can blossom (pun intended!) anywhere when nature meets nurture.

Every couple needs time together. They need to get away from daily stresses and children to prune and fertilize their relationship. All couples also need a break from the usual movie night or indoor restaurant. Nothing feeds the spirit as the great outdoors, and a couple needs strong, healthy, fulfilled spirits in order to give to each other every day. In order to stay patient with each others flaws, you have foster your common ground. You have to romance each other, and nothing is more romantic than candlelight, or firelight, under the moon. Or, stretching out on a checkered picnic blanket under the trees or on a sunny mountain top. Chill some wine, feed either other foods that are easy to serve each other like fruit, and have physical contact. Walk along the beach together holding hands and dip your feet in the surf. Be gentle, and say generous things to each other. Let the spirit of being outdoors fill up your hearts, and build your relationship.

Enjoy romancing each other. The seasons are so fleeting, so make the most of them in your relationship – especially spring and summer, and the coolness of early fall. Your partner will thank you, and your appreciation of them will grow daily. Cultivate those romantic feelings!

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