Posted in art, family life, links, quotes

lunarbaboon

I have discovered a new favorite webcomic, Lunarbaboon. They seem to exist on the intersection of parenting, mental illness, and nerdiness, so I identify with and heartily enjoy almost all of them. One from January, titled “Enemy”, caught my attention as a particularly apt description of what it is like to be functional despite¬†depression:

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The techniques taught in therapy are designed to help us ignore that inner enemy with more and more success – to make it harder for him to tear us apart each day. That’s why I’m so thankful for them, for the pills that give me the energy and positivity to keep fighting, and for the family and faith that give me a reason to fight and a hope for the future.

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Posted in family life, links

thoughts on connection from the Read Aloud Revival podcast

One of my current favorite parenting/homeschooling podcasts is the Read Aloud Revival podcast; the host is an upbeat, faith-filled mom who manages to be idealistic and practical at the same time, and who together with the rest of the podcast team puts together a deep line-up of interviewees for each season of the podcast (they’re on season 9 now, so they have some experience!). Topics range from reading with toddlers, to exploring the world of fantasy literature, to developing high school curricula, and more.

This most recent episode, #50, was ostensibly about building upon picture books with simple and natural projects for young children, but what stood out the most to me was the emphasis on connection with your children, and using the books and the projects as a means to that end. The guest, Jennifer Pepito, said among other things that

I feel like connecting with our kids is probably the best antidote to any of the social ills that people struggle with… when kids aren’t well-attached to their parents, they’re not interested in carrying on the values of their families. Projects serve as a starting point for that attachment.

We get so busy with the planning and the researching that a lot of the time that we could be connecting with our kids is lost. Your kids are really better off having you look them in the face and chat with them about what they’re doing… they’re better off having you than all the fancy ideas.

I am definitely guilty of being an obsessive researcher and planner; I get lost in the world of my ideas, too wrapped up thinking about what I could do with the boys that I lose the time I have with them in the present. So it was a really good reminder to me to hear this veteran homeschooling mom say that no matter how good a project is, if it requires you to spend a whole day researching, planning, and preparing, it’s made you lose a whole day of connecting, a whole day of spending time with your children, a whole day of showing them just how valuable and precious they are to you – and that’s just not worth it.

In the end, what I took away from this episode was that it’s better to just read good books together, and play the simple pretend games or do the basic activities that naturally spring from the stories, than to make everything as perfect and wonderful as possible, because nothing can replace the love and connection you have with your children. And that is something I can totally get behind ūüôā

Posted in links

a better post than I could write for Mother’s Day

In lieu of my own thoughts, which are not particularly profound, wise, or experienced, I want to share this post from Laura at Mothering Spirit.

None of us is all of these things. But we are all here together. And together, we are what can make motherhood so complex ‚Äď and sometimes challenging¬†to celebrate.

We are the thousand colors of one stained glass window. Love’s light passes through each one of us, and we are changed. Because we know ourselves to be mother.

[…]¬†whenever we let our hearts be stretched to invite¬†each other in, we all love better, bolder, and braver.¬†Because we remember the mothers we have been. We imagine¬†the mothers we might become. We honor¬†the mothers we have loved.

And we love wider. Like the mothers we want to be.

 

Posted in links, musings

fighting the fear of rejection

The deepest fear of the human mind is abandonment.

That statement was dropped ever-so-casually into a talk on Neuroscience and the Soul that I was listening to this week, and it stuck with me.

If our greatest fear is that the people we need won’t be there when we need them most, is it any wonder we try to keep our needs and burdens to ourselves, to avoid that letdown?

If we’re terrified that the people closest to us – the people we long to trust and by whom we need to be loved – will walk away if they knew our deepest selves, it is any wonder that we feel lonely and isolated, unable to truly share ourselves lest we suffer their rejection?

And I think about how our fear of abandonment, instead of being assuaged and lessened by deep trustworthy relationships over our lives, is actually strengthened and confirmed by our experiences.

The baby left to cry himself to sleep learns that he is just too much, too intense, too needy Рthat no one, not even the people he needs and loves the most, can handle his full range of emotion and personality.

The preschooler sent to her room to tantrum, isolated from her support system when she is most overwhelmed by her own emotions, learns that her anger and disappointment are going to cut her off from the feelings of love and security she craves.

The child bullied at school, dealing with intense rejection from his peer group and unsure of how to fit in and make friends, who then goes home and finds no sympathetic or listening ear, learns – writes deeply into his psyche – his own inadequacy and worthlessness.

We learn, as we grow, that the intensity and depth of our needs, the power of our emotions, and the uniqueness of our personalities contain things that no one else cares enough about to deal with – that the cry of our hearts for unconditional love will go unanswered. So teenagers hide their fears and questions and doubts and struggles from their parents because they’re afraid of being shot down and pushed away again. Spouses keep secrets and avoid topics of conversation because they’re afraid of conflict and disagreement leading to rejection and separation. We isolate ourselves so that we can avoid abandonment – we choose self-inflicted loneliness over the loneliness that whispers in our ears, “no one loves you; no one will ever love; you are not worthy of love.”

I remember in the early years of my marriage sitting in the car reciting psalms to myself before I could bring myself to go into our apartment, because I was so afraid that this beautiful relationship I had would suddenly and inexplicably fall apart – such is the depth and irrationality of this human fear of abandonment.

It takes incredible courage to open our soul to another, to risk this most fierce and desolate pain. We’re so often callous and insensitive to those are daring it, perhaps in ignorance, perhaps in self-protection – for to love another imperfect person unconditionally is also one of the most difficult things we can do. And yet this mutual dance of daring and difficulty, of risk and response, is where we can begin to redeem our broken covenants and communities.

Let us love each other with Christ’s love and allow ourselves to be loved in return; let us strive to know each other with grace and open our hearts to be known intimately in return. There is no great beauty without great labor and at least the risk of great pain.

Posted in family life, links, musings

spending time outdoors, and trying to avoid the built environment in an urban setting

I read a¬†rather depressing article¬†in The Guardian¬†this week about the amount of time kids spend outside – apparently, about 3/4 of kids in the UK spend less than an hour outside on an average day, which is less than the amount of outdoors time the UN recommends for prisoners. I don’t imagine it’s that much better in the US, particularly in urban environments.

There’s been a combination of factors leading up to this, I think. We have the increased attraction of indoor activities, to start – a proliferation of games, toys, and technologies that didn’t exist a few generations ago. We have an increased sense of parental fear and anxiety, which I think stems from the globalization of our news and the breakdown of neighborhood communities. And in general we have a cultural tendency toward comfort and convenience, and being outdoors in all weathers isn’t the most comfortable or convenient thing, especially when parental supervision is required!

But it is undeniable that outdoors, active play and exploration is one of the best possible things a young child can be doing.

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So, in sort of the same spirit as my efforts to make sure my kids eat a variety of healthy foods, I’ve decided to be very intentional about getting them out of the house every day for an hour or two at a time (Limerick¬†doesn’t usually last longer than that without needing some sort of rest or snack). I wish I had more wild and natural places for them to play easily, but at least I can get them outdoors with their hands in the dirt and rocks and grass!

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And in the mud! Irrigation at the botanical garden makes for a great play place for a toddler.

Our city does offer a variety of parks, and we live in a walkable area, so that helps a lot. Just this weekend, actually, we discovered a new park that has a small desert botanical garden, some walking trails, and some Native American¬†ruins in addition to the playground area! I’m anticipating a lot more exploration there…

Rondel and I stood under this palo verde, by the flower-crowned organ pipe cacti, and held very still so we could listen to the buzzing drone of all the bees over our heads. The branches were probably a good two feet above my head and we could still hear the hum loud and clear.

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Limerick learned the hard way that even the flower buds on cacti have prickles!

In a similar vein, I learned today about the concept of an urban farm preschool, where very young children who don’t live in a rural environment can still have daily exposure to the natural environment – to experience firsthand the ever-changing beauty and wildness of nature, to see how plants grow and bear fruit and die, to taste and touch and feel living things every day, to grow comfortable around dirt and animals and the unsanitized processes of the natural world. There’s another idea added to my catalog of small businesses I’d be interested in starting some day!

What are some of your favorite ways to encourage your children to play outdoors, especially those of you who live in more urban settings? How do you think our society as a whole might do a better job of enabling outdoor time for both children and adults?

 

Posted in links, musings

junipero serra

Today Pope Francis will canonize Junipero Serra – the first saint ever to be canonized on American soil, and one of only a relatively few American saints. I’ll be honest that I hadn’t heard of¬†Serra before this year, and that I don’t know much about him yet. I’ve begun reading about him, though, and¬†I’m impressed that this is the kind of man the Catholic Church would declare to be a saint. I’d always thought that the saints were essentially perfect people: maybe they had a rough beginning, like the Apostle Paul or Saint Augustine, but then following their conversion lived out their faith without fault and without controversy. Looking at Serra’s life, though, that seems to be a simplistic and naive idea, because his story is nothing if not complex.

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Serra came to the Americas on the tide of Spanish imperialism – a brutal, unjust, and oppressive moment of history. Many (probably most) of the Spanish soldiers and colonizers considered the native peoples to be savages, less than fully human, and ripe for exploitation, similar to how other European colonizers viewed the African people. And Serra came here with those soldiers, on the wings of colonial power, and worked with them, and labored under their protection. Was he not in some way complicit in their crimes? Was his desire to bring his faith to the native people just a subtler form of imperialism, a way to dominate them more completely by erasing their traditional beliefs and culture?

To a post-modern observer, it can easily look that way. If all cultures and beliefs are equally valid, then Serra certainly had no right to try to push his religion on the native people at the expense of their own traditions, especially since his presence and faith were backed by the ominous and fearful shadow of a conquering army.

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From Serra’s perspective, though (and from the perspective of the Church today, I think), it looked somewhat different, simply because he believed his religion to be the fullness of the truth – the source of meaning, fulfillment, and joy in this life and for all eternity, and the only way for humanity to draw near to God. Deeply in love with God and with the Church, the desire of his heart was to share the message of that God and that Church with these people who had never had the chance to hear, who had never been able to receive the grace of the Sacraments or hear the clear truth of God’s Word. The imperial conquest of the Spanish wasn’t something he evaluated from a 21st-century perspective on the clash of cultures, but something he saw as a historically unparalleled opportunity for the proclamation of truth and grace.

(Incidentally, he was prepared to sacrifice quite a lot for the sake of this proclamation, and over the course of his life he did indeed do so – family, career, home, comfort, and health. He was willing to suffer greatly if through his sufferings more souls might come to know God.)

While he took advantage of the opportunity presented by the Spanish colonization, then, he didn’t come here with the same motivations or attitudes. He wasn’t looking for riches and power, but for a chance to serve and bring life. We might still not approve of everything he did, looking back over the centuries at his life from a modern perspective, but knowing his intentions adds a layer of complexity to the black-and-white picture¬†of imperial injustice sometimes presented as the whole story.

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Looking at the details of Serra’s interactions with the native people of Mexico and California adds still more layers to the story. There are the troubling accounts of flogging and other corporal punishment used on the converted natives, and the fact that the mission compounds kept the converted people in a sort of indentured servitude. But there is also the consideration that the missions offered protection from the brutality of the Spanish soldiers, preventing the rapes and killings that would otherwise have been perpetrated. There is the enormous effort Serra undertook to remove a particular commander from his position following his rape of a native woman, and his ability to see the beauty in their culture at a time when most Europeans saw differences to be instances of sin.

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By canonizing Junipero Serra, the Church does not claim that every choice he made was the right one (how could any person or institution make that kind of claim anyhow?), nor does it place a seal of approval on the culture he came from and lived in. Rather, it acknowledges that in an incredibly complex time and place, fraught with new and confusing situations and ethical considerations, Serra consistently sought to live his life for the glory of God to the temporal and eternal benefit of the native people he encountered. Though a man of his own times in many ways, he rose above most of the societal and systemic sins of his own time and culture by striving to live for and in emulation of Christ.

In our own complex historical era, maybe we can learn from Junipero Serra. Maybe, like him, we ought to labor practically for the good of our neighbors at home and to the ends of the earth, to the best of our ability,¬†out of¬†love¬†for God, in union with the Church and the saints that have gone before us, without worrying what accolades or condemnation we might receive because of¬†our choices. It is better to act, if action is undertaken in such a way, than to remain in inaction because we’re unsure of the best or perfect course to take. Our actions, though imperfect, will most likely help someone in some way, while our inaction will at best merely do no harm.

Pray for us, Junipero Serra, as we experience a clash of cultures in the globalization of our times, that we may truly love those who are different from us, that we may see the beauty in their difference, labor for their healing and their good where they are broken and in need, willingly suffer on their behalf, and courageously bear witness to the truth.


(All the pictures are from a trip to the Grand Canyon several summers ago – they were the closest thing I had to California and Mexico pictures. But I thought at least the juniper berries were fitting.)

(One relatively informative site about Serra is the official site for his canonization, although it doesn’t have as many primary source documents as I would like. It does, however, link to a lot of articles that provide a balance for the rather negative picture painted by CNN and the New York Times, several of which are really quite good, and it gives information about why the Church has decided to canonize him and how the process works.)

Posted in links, musings

fake news

It’s Easy To Get People To Believe Fake “News.” Here’s How.

“…it is interesting if nothing else that people who will not believe tens of thousands of Syrians¬†who say ‚ÄúWe are fleeing the war‚ÄĚ will believe a single, unnamed, unidentified ‚ÄúSyrian ISIS operative‚ÄĚ who claims ISIS has placed agents all over Europe ready for orders.”

I’ve seen these ISIS stories shared on Facebook by friends that I had considered intelligent, mature Christians. What does it say about American Christianity that we are willing to believe any far-fetched article that purports to confirm our prejudices? And what does it say about us when we let fear for our own safety override the need to love and the opportunity to be like Christ?