Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Real Meaning of Marriage and Parenthood

In the Bible (somewhere--I couldn't find the quote, so frustrating) it says, "There is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Or something pretty close. Like I said, I couldn't find it this morning, and while I was looking, my little ones found a bottle of maple syrup and dumped it all over the kitchen floor. But syrup aside . . .

Most of us listen to this verse and think of dramatic gestures involving life and death. Mainly death. We imagine that laying down one's life involves taking a bullet for them or, like St. Maximillian Kolbe, volunteering to take the place of someone condemned to die. Perhaps we imagine giving a kidney or bone marrow. Some of us drift through life without any chance at all to make such grand offerings of ourselves. We read the verse, smile, shrug, and perhaps hope that we will never have to choose between our own life and that of another person.

Within marriage, and even more strongly in parenthood, we are asked every day, sometimes several times a day, to give up our lives. Our lives are not composed solely of this physical, biological existence. What makes us ourselves involves our hopes, dreams and plans, our wants, both immediate and distant. It is our self. To lay down our lives for another is to lay down these hopes and lay down these dreams for the greater good of the marriage or the family. Laying down our lives asks that we set aside preferences when sense and need require it. A man takes a job he dislikes, or even a second job so he can make ends meet. A woman sets aside a career to stay home with children because they need her presence and love more than the income. A man gives up the attachment to a boat, a fancy car or airplane. A woman gives up the desire for a perfectly decorated house. The two have become one, and this new One, that is both, not either or, is now what needs nurtured. For that new One, both lay down their lives for this greater good, this One.

As children are born, parents lay down so many little things. We lay down our sleep, our energy, even the exclusiveness of our body, and yes, risking physical life. More than ever, a parent lays down his time and her hobbies. The good of the children, intrinsically tied to what is good for the marriage and the family as a whole, requires the daily laying down of our wants in response to their needs. Those needs, whether they are time, food, attention or discipline, will require parents to go again and again to the Cross for grace. The grace to give, the grace to give patiently and boundlessly as God gives to us. The needs of our spouse send us back again, with the same prayer on our lips. Grant us grace, oh Lord.

So we give up. We set aside the things which, though we enjoy them, cannot take priority over the One and the family. We trust God to be sufficient for us, to fill the dreams, goals and desires with His love and His grace.

When we stand at opposite ends of the aisle, looking down a length that seems so incredibly short and impossibly long at the same time, it is easy to forget what love truly is. Yes, that warmth welling up under the heart until the faces radiate joy is a part of love, but a much truer part is spoken later: for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. The vows speak the language of laying down our life, no matter the situation, no matter the hardship, no matter the cost. They speak the language of love that calls each spouse to Heaven, and to bring each other to Heaven.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Squash, Gourds, Pumpkins, and Giggles

We went to the corn maze and pumpkin patch today. Corn mazes are, I think, more fun with kids who can walk. The kids (mine and my brothers, so five under six) thought the corn maze was okay, but really liked the corn "sand" box. It was full of dried corn kernels instead of sand. A very big hit, as were the pumpkins themselves.

I have never seen so many types of pumpkins in my life. There were the usual carving pumpkins and the white luminas that are starting to show up in the stores. There were also the tiny white and orange pumpkins and long necked, horned gourds. Beyond that, there were varieties I'd never seen. Huge green gourds that looked like swans with curved necks (called swan-neck gourds, surprise!), green pumpkins that looked like huge green apples, pale green ones with curves and frills (I don't know what they're called; my sister-in-law called them Shrek pumpkins), squat, broad pumpkins so intensely orange they were almost red called Cinderellas, flat little white pumpkins for baking called Amish bakers, right next to the normal bakers found in some supermarkets, pale orange pumpkins so smooth they looked like glazed porcelain and peanut pumpkins covered in pumpkiny warts. I'm sure I've left some out; I forgot a camera. It was quite a sight.

God gifted pumpkins with an innate sort of cheer. Perhaps it is the association with harvest and plenty. Maybe it's the natural thought of pumpkin pie or the vibrant color. I simply can't be sad around pumpkins. They make me smile.

Despite that, there is sadness today. A former student of mine committed suicide. He was found this morning. He is the second former student of mine to committed suicide this year. It is a tragedy and a horror, one that their high school does not need more of. I fear, though, that it may touch off more of the same. Our children are so adrift today. They've lost their roots in the family, the world, and in God. Pray for him, please.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why I Don't Support Obama

I was going to title this, "Why I Don't Like Obama", but I've told my children that they can't like or dislike someone they don't know, and I don't know Obama. I know some things about him and his opinions adnd policies, since these have been thrown around a lot. But I don't know him.

I can't believe I have to preface this post with this statement, but considering the current trend to accuse anyone who doesn't support Obama completely as racist, I feel it is neccessary. My objections to Obama have nothing to do with the color of his skin. They have nothing to do with the culture he comes from. They have everything to do with his opinions, policies and values. I am white. I'm about as white as can be. Some make-up lines don't make foundation light enough for me. My husband is Hispanic. He grew up as a migrant worker in a household that spoke Spanish almost exclusively. I could write a whole essay on the differences between us. I might, someday.

On to the show.

My simplest objection to Obama is his stance on abortion. I never vote pro-abortion. Never. It is too fundamental an issue. It shows too much about how a person views life, children, and people in general. Abortion is the violent murder of a baby. Abortion techniques burn babies to death from the inside out with chemicals. They tear them limb from limb, dismembering them while they are still alive. Partial-birth abortion, easily the most repulsive type of murder, actually births the baby almost completely before sucking his brains out and collasping the skull. The baby is still alive when this starts. Obviously, he isn't by the end. There will not be, nor should there be, any quibbling about when life begins. Biology books have long said that life begins at conception. That should be enough to put everyone firmly in the pro-life, anti-abortion camp. It isn't, because people who prefer to kill babies than be inconvenienced by them started arguing personhood, not life. The baby is a human life, but it isn't a person, so it doesn't get protection. It is a vile use of language, one used in the past to oppress both women and minorities. Yet, Obama has said that he would murder his grandchildren.

A good government has a responsibility to protect those who have no power to protect themselves and no voice to object to injustices heaped upon them. There is no group of people, no minority, no gender, no sexual preference, so powerless, defenseless, and voiceless as the unborn. Any man or woman who advocates and defends the murder of babies cannot be depended upon for justice to any group. Would any black person trust a slaveowner or KKK member to sit on a jury for him or her? Would a woman trust a rapist to be a just judge? No, of course not. As a human, I cannot trust someone who advocates the murder of babies to have my best interests in mind or at heart.

Abortion is an issue with no gray areas and no compromises.

My more complex opposition to Obama is his socialist leanings. Depending on who's talking, they may be much more than leanings. He's toppled right into the socialism vat. Socialism grew out of the French Revolution, which was a bloody, ugly, misguided piece of history. Without going into details, the concept that the government must control everything for life to be fair and just is wrong. Yes, the government may need to organize and regulate certain things to assure things run smoothly. Employers should not be allowed to treat employees in a biased, unjust or cruel manner. Employees should be protected from racism, sexism, agism and all the other -ism biases we can invent. But employers should also be allowed to keep their business running. The business of business is to make money, with which they pay those employees and reinvest in the company. Take away the freedom to make smart busines decisions and businesses go belly up. In the same way, what is legalized by the government is seen as moral. If the government demonizes business, the collective opinion of the masses seems to follow. In 1979, the government said it was legal to murder my generation in the womb. I am loathe to place the future of social justice in their hands.

Charity should not be the job of the government. It is the job of private citizens and organizations. When government steps in, private people believe they no longer need to contribute to charities or help their fellow men out. Socialism, which at it's source and heart hates religion, drives us away from the primary virtue of Christianity. No, not all of America is Christian, but the majority is, and we have moved far away from the roots of a faith that calls for us to love our neighbor, to give to the poor, to feed the hungry, etc. It has been easy to become complacent because "The government will do it."

One of the most divisive debates in the country now is illegal immigration. I'll save most of my thoughts on that for another post. Some illegal immigrants come to the US for a better life--better wages, a chance to feed their family, and yes, better health care. If someone shows up in the emergency room needing a lifesaving procedure or medication, it should be given to them, regardless of citizenship. It's the right thing to do when the other option, to turn them away, could risk or kill the person. Ah, but who pays for it? Obama has volunteered the tax payers. If instead we would organize a chairty, where people who feel the need to help out can, it would grow to support the need. I suppose we could send a bill to their governments, but really, how would we collect? The same for people who need healthcare, but are in a situation where they do not have insurance. This is the realm of private charity, not government.

Socialist government invasion has no stopping line. Control of business leads to control of health care. Control of health care leads to control over family and diet. Do we want a government that says we can't have a cheeseburger if our BMI is too high? What about a government that says we must not have more than 2 children because this is best for the environment? How much personal freedom are we willing to give away?

I do not want to be handed things from my government. I earned my grades in school. I earned the scholarships that put me through college and earned my own way after that. I earned the money for my house and my car and I am raising and educating my children. I accept all this as my responsibility. Mine, not my government's.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yes, we are potty trained.

Well, Lilli is potty trained, at least. We've been working on this, very slowly, since last Christmas. I admit to despairing that she would ever figure it out. Everyone said to keep at it, keep encouraging her, and one day it would click. Well, click happened. Suddenly, she runs to the potty herself; she's even pooping on the potty! (Admit it, other mothers out there know the excitement of this). Perhaps, someday, we will teach her to keep her clothes on all day. She's still a nudist. When we come in from outside, she's stripped to her undies in about 30 second's flat. I'd worry more about this if she were older, but she's not quite three, so I think we have time to civilize her.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September, a poem

We are drifting into
the soft days of September.
The horizon fades
into the haze of the sky,
and the trees exhale relief;
the long work of summer is
over.
They drop spinning leaf,
the lazy spiral of autumn weaving
the spell of rest around us.
Lie fallow.
Relax.
The sun struggles
vainly
to attain August's glory,
defeated by night's
rising chill.
Lie fallow
in these soft,
last days of
September summer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February is the Armpit of the Year

My apologies to those who like our shortest month. A Garfield cartoon, year ago, had the line I used for my title and every February, I am reminded of it. Maybe it's seasonal affective disorder, maybe it's just that the holidays are over and spring feels so far off, maybe it's state testing, but I have always had a hard time surviving February without getting depressed and overwhelmed. In Texas, the state writing test, which was my area of responsibility, since I was the writing teacher there too, landed on the third Tuesday of the month. I have some dear and lovely friends down in Texas who are still dealing with that stress every year. I should send them chocolate. But I'm not teaching and I still feel overly stressed and grumpy this February, so I am officially blaming the weather and making an effort to get some sunlight every day.

Our house is off the market but not in the good way. The good way would mean we were under contract, had a closing date set, a buyer who was approved for a loan and lots of boxes packed. Instead, we have taken it off the market and have been painting the entire interior (I do mean everything. One room in the house will not be repainted when we finish.). If it wouldn't lead to a divorce, I'd push to repaint the exterior too, but my dear husband is doing the painting, with Chalea's help, while I keep the little ones occupied and out of the paint. Lilli has managed to paint her legs, her shirt and her hair. Isn't she a genius? And only two . . . That little girl will keep me busy and on my toes for years to come. Currently, the only way to get her to slow down is to sit and sing nursery rhymes with her. It's adorable to watch her sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to baby Sal (Tinkle tinkle ittle star, ow I under wut oo are) And she likes the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song too.

Salvador is three months old now and fussy. He has teeth coming in on both the top and the bottom, but is too little to hold anything in his mouth very long so he can chew on it. Sometimes my knuckle works well for him, but usually, I have to rub some children's Anbesol on his gums. Poor little guy. When he's not hurting, he smiles and laughs, but oh, those awful teeth!

Chalea has every teen's dream: her own cell phone and her braces should be off before her next birthday. If we can afford contacts too, she'll be feeling fantastic. We're plowing on with homeschool. Our semester will be finished soon, a little behind the school schedules, but we're going at our own pace and it works for us.

Ah, the baby is awake, so I must go.