Friday, January 31, 2014

Don't Claim Marriage Matters, and then Mock It.

I recently wrote about Macklemore's mockery of prayer at the GRAMMY awards. What I didn't get to in that post was the mockery that was made of marriage. During the song "Same Love" Queen Latifah officiated the mass marriage of over thirty couples. I've noticed the issue a lot of other bloggers have had with this is that some of the couples were same sex couples, that's not really my issue. My issue is that marriage is a beautiful, sacred covenant, and they mocked it. They reduced it to ratings, attention, and a piece of a performance. It was nothing more than a play for shock and awe. And, that's what they got.

Your wedding day should mean more. Your marriage should mean more. You are just one of sixty some people that got married for other people's entertainment. You weren't boldly standing in front of family and friends that had traveled far and wide to see you united to one person for the rest of your life. You were one among many. You were just a tiny little piece of something that means something different for everyone else. It wasn't for you, your spouse, and your families as a wedding should be. It was for thousands of people that won't even remember you in a month.

Or by this Sunday, for that matter. I heard a rumor that Bruno Mars will be pulling a Queen Latifah and also marrying part of a show...for ratings. Why would you want that? No doubt they'll make it bigger, better, and more memorable. I don't get it. If marriage is that important to you, then why diminish it?

Why claim that marriages matter and then just make a mockery out of it? Marriage is more than a piece of paper, more than ratings, more than entertainment. If you really cared about marriage, you wouldn't want your marriage to start off as just a tiny part of a show, a show where you don't even matter. The wedding is the first day of your marriage. It should be more than just a short pause in a song. Gay, straight, it doesn't matter. Don't claim marriage is so important to you that you want to fight tooth and nail for it, and then make a complete mockery of it.

Essentially, you have all of these people claiming that marriage matters, and they value marriage, so they should get to be married too. And then those same people turn around and prove that marriage doesn't really mean that much to them, but publicity sure does.

No doubt this will be the next big concert or awards show will be complete without making a mockery of marriage. The show barely stopped for these couples. Basically instead of dancers and crazy stunts, or Madonna and Brittney kissing they married people. I just don't get it. You spend all this time yelling about how important marriage is to you, and yet you trade in for fifteen seconds of fame.

It's cool though, you can just shame your kids, or hold up a sign and you can add another fifteen seconds to your level of can even do all three and almost have a whole minute in the spotlight.

^Our totally small, wonderful wedding that we'll be proud to tell our kids about. We won't have to scan a tape and try to point out which ones we were, either.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stop Using God as An Excuse for Hate

When we say "bigot" generally a certain image comes to mind. Often times a Bible thumping, fire and brimstone preaching, snake handling, overweight, red faced, middle aged, white dude in a cheap, ill fitting suit. Right? Yes, sometimes bigots look like that, and other times they look like this:

Let's start with defining bigot, shall we?


noun \ˈbi-gət\: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)

Now, I'm sure you're all thinking I've done lost my ever loving mind. Of course liberals can't be bigoted, bigots are only religious right wingers, right? Nope. No, a bigot is ANYONE that strongly and unfairly dislikes others. Liberal, conservative, religious, atheist, it doesn't matter. And, yes, I'm calling Macklemore out on being bigoted. And disrespectful.

I was watching the GRAMMYs while reading, when Queen Latifah caught my attention. I looked up just in time for Macklemore to start singing "Same Love" I've seen the video once before, and noticed the clear angst towards religion, specifically Catholics. It bothered me, but I sort of just shrugged it off. Don't we all? We just say; "Oh, well, that's how the world is, nothing we can do to fix it." And move on with our lives. We're complacent while people blatantly attack our religion and make false, broad generalizations about us. We sit back and allow ourselves, and the God we claim to love to be mocked and ridiculed while we do nothing. I'm just as guilty as the next person.

As I watched him perform this song the other night, I didn't just shrug it off and chalk it up to our culture, I got angry. I watched him stand up on that stage and sing the words "When I was at church they taught me something else If you preach hate at the service those words aren't anointed That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned" and as he did so, he made the sign of the cross. That beautiful, powerful prayer was mocked, and no one cared. He wasn't doing it in reverence and love. He was being blasphemous, hateful, and bigoted. When I watched him do that, an image popped into my head from just earlier that morning.

On Sunday the sweetest old lady sat behind us at Mass, she was wearing a rosary with an Our Lady of Guadalupe medal. Some of you know this, and some of you don't, but we have a baby living here right now...okay, so she's more like a toddler((16 months)). Kid has a serious love of Jesus and Mary, pointing out their images whenever she sees them, sometimes yelling out "Jesus" in the middle of Mass, with arms raised up to the statue of Jesus. So, she spots this lady's rosary immediately, and literally dives over the pew to get to it, all the while saying "Mary Jesus Mama" I am mortified at her outburst. The woman reaches out and picks her up, cuddling her close, and encouraging her to say "Jesus" they were totally smitten. The baby pressing the medal to the woman's lips, the woman smiling broadly and kissing it, then the baby would hold the crucifix up to her new friend and she would kiss it. I was glad the woman wasn't offended at the diving baby. She just has a love all people that love Jesus. This is not our first rodeo with people wearing religious jewelry near her, thankfully people that wear religious jewelry tend to be pretty tolerant of little people . So, after Mass is over the woman starts talking to us, and we covered like ten topics, and then we started on my conversion, and her reversion. She was so excited! Me too!She looks at me, her eyes bright with happy tears and says, "The most powerful prayer we have is this" and with more reverence than I have ever seen in my life, she fixed her eyes on the crucifix just above the altar and made the sign of the cross, she bowed as she said "amen" and then she looked heavenward, and just above a whisper she added; "and thank You for the power in that simple prayer" It was the most simple, beautiful display of faith I think I've seen, ever. She was so sincere, you could literally feel it. It gave me chills watching this older woman, her faith oozing from her pores. It wasn't a show, it wasn't put on, it is part of her. Who she is. Her faith is so ingrained in her, she loves the Lord so much you can see Him shinning through her. Oh, to have faith like that.

That is how it should be prayed. Not on a stage to make a point. Not only did he use this important prayer to mock our religion, the entire stage was set up to resemble a cathedral, there was even a choir akin to a church choir. How do we think this is acceptable? The song is clearly a misguided attack on our religion. The author doesn't really get the teachings on marriage and why they are the way are. Though, that I'm not going to hold that against them. That, I hold against us. Christians don't do a very good job of explaining our issues with with same sex marriage. But, I'm not going to go into all that right now.

Right now I want to talk about the double standards in this country. If I was up on that stage and started singing about and mocking Muslims, you had best believe someone would have noticed and I would be all over the TV, radio and newspapers for being "bigoted" and hateful. So....what's the difference? I see two groups of people using the same shield of hate, from opposite sides. You have the religious bigots claiming Jesus as a reason to hate others, and the non-religious bigots doing the same thing. They are literally fighting the exact same battle, with the exact same weapons...but from opposite sides. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

Why is it not okay for me to mock Jews, gays, Muslims, or blacks, but it's perfectly acceptable for anyone that wants to, to mock me? I don't want to go around and start mocking these groups. I don't want to mock anyone, I love people. I believe all people are deserving of respect and love. Why do I believe that? Because I'm a Christian. Because I believe that we were all created by, and are loved by God. Who am I to reject someone that Christ loves? No one. Not my place. If you are loved by Jesus, you are loved by me.

Now, I want to get one thing straight; loving you, caring about you, being there for you, and praying for you is not the same as agreeing with and indulging every life choice you make. I don't agree with a lot of choices that people I love make, but that doesn't make me love them any less. I love them despite our disagreements.

I am not at all, in any way, shape, or form condoning same sex marriage. Don't go putting words in my mouth. However, that gives me no right to hate gay people. I simply cannot. They are people, and as people deserve my love and respect, period. Not my indulgence, but my respect. We tend to get those lines blurred in our culture. They aren't the same thing. My not supporting same sex marriage will not stop me from chowing down on some Chinese food with a dear friend that knows I don't agree with his lifestyle, and you know what? He still loves me too! Because we aren't five. We see past our differences, and see a person that we love, and care for. A person that has shared interests, and a shared love of dry humor and crab ragoons. We see people that we care about.

The red faced preacher and Macklemore have the same way of tackling this issue. With fear and hatred. They both want to be right, they both try to turn their followers against the other, they both use my God to cover up an unjustified hate, they are both scared that the other will prove them wrong, they both think they have to yell louder than the other, and they both think they've got it all figured out.

They're wrong. None of us do. It's not okay to bully gay kids. It's not okay to mock prayer. It's not okay to tell people they're going to hell because you say so. It's not okay to denounce all religion just because it cramps your style. It's not okay to use God as an excuse to hate anyone, ever. It's not okay to be bigoted.

It is okay to say that you disagree with someone. It is okay to love someone regardless of your views in life. It is okay to accept that people think differently than you. It is okay to stop hating and judging. It it okay to start trying to see the other side.

Both sides need to do a better job of understanding this issue. I see so many Christians that have no clue why they don't agree with it, they just do because the red faced preacher told them to. They take that and turn it into hate. I see so many liberals that have no idea why Christians disagree with same sex marriage. They once heard the red faced preacher quote Leviticus, and they took that as the only reason. They turned that into hate for what they don't know and don't understand.

Both sides are missing a huge piece of the puzzle. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I've heard someone start to whine about the Christian bigots and their hatred of gay people, and I've cut them off and asked them what they really know about what the Bible says and what we believe and why, and they have no clue. You want to know the crazy part? Majority of the time they go into the conversation wanting to punch me, and come out hugging me, and still not agreeing with me, but understanding that I'm not being hateful, bigoted, or intolerant. Believe it or not, they often come out understanding why Christians don't support same sex marriage. Why? Because instead of yelling and preaching at them, I took the time to love and respect them. I took the time to research and understand it, and I took the time to explain it to them, lovingly.

In closing, stop mocking my prayer, and my religion. Stop using God as an excuse for hate, no matter what side you're on. And, take the time to understand WHY we feel the way we do. Stop being bigoted, no matter what side you're on.

And hug someone. I am so sick of all this bashing and hate. Just go hug someone, we'll all feel better.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

In Response to "I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry"

My best friend reads way too many articles. She reads a good portion of the daily happenings on the inter-webs, and then passes on the most worthwhile and the most cringe worthy to me to read, so we can discuss them. It's a great system, that way we always read the same things and I don't have to think or seek out enlightening material on my own. Although, on the rare occasion that I venture out and find an article all on my own I send it her way, so it's sort of a two way street...I'm just lazy and co-dependent, so I let her do most of the work. Once in a while she sends me something that makes me question her sanity and want to ask why she was hanging out in the strange places of the blogosphere. Today was one of those times. She sent me this post and the title alone made me want to punch something. So, let's start there, shall we?

"I Look Down On..." those four words said enough. You should not look down on anyone, for any reason. At all. I don't care if you don't agree with them, it's not your place to sit on your little thrown and determine them less than you. Who died and made you decider of all that is good and worthy? Nobody, that's who. So, keep your judgments and your "I'm better than you" attitude to yourself. I guarantee the world contains at least one person that feels that way about you. So, already I can tell that the author thinks they are more awesome than people they know nothing about. We're off to a great start. They are looking down on young married women with children. This tells me that they are either single without children and have no intention to have them, and are likely met with animosity about this decision from family/friends, or they may possibly be married, but likely have an intentionally childless marriage, and are even perhaps in an "open marriage" they definitely don't see marriage as the union of two people into one. They have a lot of bitterness where both marriage and children are concerned. They know people will expect them to regret this statement, but they refuse to, they aren't sorry. And, they need you to know that.

The picture is a mom with a pot on her head and a concerned looking child. Clearly the author thinks that child-rearing and "domestic work" is just insane.

"Every time I hear someone say that feminism is about validating every choice a woman makes I have to fight back vomit. 
Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers."
She's being honest. I like her. Here's the thing: majority of feminists aren't honest about their thoughts and feelings, they want to placate you. She doesn't care if she offends you. These are her feelings, and she owns them. Way to go Amy. Whether I agree with her or not, I respect her honesty. I like honest people. I don't like having to wade through a ton of crap to determine how genuine a person is. She's gained my respect by having convictions and voicing them honestly, though I completely disagree with her whole premise, I respect her as a human being deserving of my respect. 

Most feminists claim that they support any choice a woman wants to make, no matter what that is, then they turn around and tear apart those choices. In reality they don't want you to have any choice you want, they want you to make their choices, the way they want you to. They'll dress up it up and make it look nice, while degrading and belittling any choice that they don't support. She's upfront about it and says that she doesn't believe in validating every choice a woman makes, she doesn't think all choices women make are of the same value. She has some serious disdain for women that choose to stay home and raise babies. 

"Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?"

No, I don't. Not equal, not above or below, but different.  These two women are playing in two totally different ball games. The woman who "works and takes care of herself" is a woman concerned with self, a woman who is solely focused on her needs, wants, and desires. In her universe she is the center, and often times, only occupant. The stay at home mom is concerned with the needs of her family first, and herself last. She is focused on the needs, wants, and desires of her family. Her family is the center of her universe. She is self sacrificing, and finds great fulfillment in being so. The two women have different goals in mind. They aren't playing in the same game. Sometimes the woman worried only about herself quits that game and joins the other, sometimes they play a little of both[by working AND being awesome mothers], and sometimes the stay at home mom switches to the game of "me" but they aren't on equal footing. They are on different footing, they are different women, with different objectives. Both equally deserving of respect, neither one "better" than the other in any way. They are both women, both human. Therefore, both equally deserving of the same general rights and respect. One woman may be valued and respected for her amazing abilities in the court room, while the other is valued and respected for her amazing abilities at home. That doesn't make either right or wrong. Just different, they are different women with different desires. Nothing wrong with that.

 "Having kids and getting married are considered life milestones. We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it’s a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with."

Getting married and having children are life milestones, they change who you are. They represent a new direction on your path in life. We also throw going away parties, retirement parties, graduation parties, and housewarming parties. Each of these events symbolizes a news step in our paths. Each of these events are accomplishments, and important in their own rights. Each of these events shape who we'll become. At the end of your life if you made a timeline of the most life changing events you experienced, those would all be on it. Those life events matter, they make up part of who you are.

"These aren't accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them. They are the most common thing, ever, in the history of the world. They are, by definition, average. "
Anyone can do them? Seriously, tell that to my uterus, it apparently missed the memo. They aren't average because we aren't average. We are all extraordinary in our own rights, therefore every major turn our life  takes is above average. Not everyone is cut out for marriage and family life. Everyone is different. No, not "everyone" can do them, not everyone desires to do them. Again, that's okay. I am sensing some serious bitterness coming from the author. It feels almost as if in order to justify her own choices she needs to belittle the choices of others. 

"And here’s the thing, why on earth are we settling for average?
If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?"

Joining your life to another's isn't nothing. Bringing forth new life isn't nothing. Raising children is far from nothing. It's something. Your definition of what's important and what's average differs from mine. We're different people.  I find contentment and value in cleaning, cooking and chasing children. You may not. You may find value and contentment in science or math. I don't. I see that they have value. I see that others may find their personal contentment in them, I simply don't. Contrary to what Amy is saying here, that's okay. We're different people, we hold different ideals and values. Just because it isn't your thing it doesn't make it not a thing. You can't just go around deciding what matters and what doesn't based on your preferences.

"I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance. The dominate cultural voice will tell you these are things you can do with a husband and kids, but as I’ve written before, that’s a lie. It’s just not reality.
You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids."
 Life is meant to celebrated, so go forth and throw those showers! Go right ahead, don't forget my invite! But, don't devalue other people's desires in the process. You don't get to decide what matters to everyone in the world. You get to decide what matters to you. You probably value things I don't, that doesn't make them less than the things I value, it just makes them unimportant to me, personally. I don't get to decide that they don't matter to anyone, ever. I value them because I value you, and they matter to you. Why can you not be exceptional  in the way you go about your marriage and how you raise your kids? Who sets the level for that anyway? I think that's in the eye of the beholder. Everyone's idea of family life looks different. Lots of people travel and accomplish great goals while married with children. It depends on the person. Some people's goal is a successful marriage and healthy, happy children. 

"I hear women talk about how “hard” it is to raise kids and manage a household all the time. I never hear men talk about this. It’s because women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments. Men don’t care to “manage a household.” They aren't conditioned to think stupid things like that are “important.” "

I don't know what men you're listening to, but some men are talking about how difficult it is. Here's a lawyer talking about why his wife's job is harder than his, here's Matt Walsh talking about how difficult it is to be a SAHM, and I'm sure my husband would love to tell you all about his adventures in managing the household while I sick for a few days. He always tells me that my job is harder than his. For him. For me, I love my job. I find it challenging and rewarding. I find it fulfilling. I know some people don't feel that way about my work, and that's okay. You don't have to bow at my feet and declare my awesomeness. No stay at home mom does it forth the glory. That's the big difference, isn't it? The woman she's describing with her career and accomplishments galore is doing it for the response, for the glory. SAHMs don't. They sacrifice everything for other people, they put themselves last. They do it out of love for the betterment of someone else. That is something important. Lots of men stay home too. And, all of them [that I know at least] will tell you hard it is...and also how worthwhile it is.

"Women will be equal with men when we stop demanding that it be considered equally important to do housework and real work. They are not equal. Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business. This word play is holding us back."

I have to wonder how Miss Glass feels about nannies, school teachers, maids, and financial planners. Does she deem these occupations important and worthwhile? Are they worthwhile because the job holder is receiving a salary?  I'm a stay at home "mom" to someone else's child. I sacrificed a very successful business to stay at home and cook, clean, and wipe a little hiney. My work may not be important to Miss Glass, but it sure is important to that little girl that I'm raising. It's important to my husband. It's important to me. Clearly she doesn't know the inner-workings of being a SAHM, or a mom at all. It is hard work, it's the same work that many others get paid for. With the experience gleaned from being a SAHM alone I would meet the job qualifications for a nanny, a line cook, a maid, an assistant, and a childcare professional. That's not including my work history, my experience as a business owner, or my education.

Essentially Miss Glass is saying that because we choose to forgo payment for our services, and because we choose to give up everything for another person that we are unimportant and less than. I'm sorry, but I do work. I do do something. I do the same tasks now that I used to get paid money for. Now, I just get the love and respect of my family, and that's more than enough. I work hard every day.

What's holding us back is seeing ourselves as better than anyone else. What's holding us back is deeming some work unimportant. What's holding us back is bashing other people for their career choices when we know nothing about them.

In the words of my great grandmother, may she rest in peace, "It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round." It does. Every occupation is valuable and important in its own right. From the janitors to the CEOs, they all matter. By devaluing the job of a stay at home mom we are devaluing the importance of marriage and children. That's exactly what people like her want. Don't let them win.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

150 Things To Do While Dating

Back before we were married. Being a goofy couple in love.
Recently I wrote to you about sex, and why you should wait to have it. I gave you ten realistic reasons, all taken from actual sex talks I've had with teenagers. You can read that here. One of my points in that post is this:

3. You can build a stronger relationship. Nobody courts anymore. That's a problem. We just have sex on date number one, therefore never having to woo our significant other. Or anytime we do spend wooing is in anticipation of sex, instead of marriage.  So, instead of spending months getting to to know each other in every other possible way, we spend about two minutes learning about the person, and then just have sex with them. No wonder so many relationships fail. Trust me when I say that if you spend time finding non physical ways to express your love to each other you will have a stronger relationship later. I hear lots of women complaining that their spouses aren't romantic and only want to have sex all the time. Well, yeah. They all had sex before marriage. They didn't have to learn to love them in any other way.
My third point in that post is that if you wait to have sex you have to find other ways to express your love beyond being physical. Getting to know them, on a real level, not just a superficial one.

I thought I might help you out with this and give you 150 totally fantastic ways to get to know and just spend time with the person that you want to make your spouse, or the person that IS your spouse. Dating doesn't end just because we've said our vows. I put together a pretty fun list of 150 goofy, serious, exciting, boring, memorable things to do while dating. Things that your mom will totally approve of!  Let's just get right to it, shall we?

150. Write them letters. 
149. Make up surveys for them to answer. 
148. Go to the park, and swing, play on the merry-go-round.
147. Play tag.
146. Talk on the phone for hours.
145.Go to a sporting event.
144. Play mini golf.
143. Play chess.
142. Paintball.
141. Laser Tag.
140. Take a dance class.
139. Find a super awesome cause to get involved with together.
138. Make mix...playlists? Eh, go old school, make mix tapes for each other.
137. Play an entire game of Monopoly. 
136. Read the same book, and discuss it.
135. Go to the library.
134. Go to the county fair.
133. Go read to people in a nursing home.
132. Go on picnics.
131. Pray for each other every day.
130. Keep prayer journals for each other.
129. Go to an amusement park.
128. Play Frisbee Golf
127. Cook dinner for each other's parents. 
126. Conquer a Pinterest project. 
125. Go to a photo booth.
124. Go Fishing.
123. Run a marathon together.
122. You should train for that marathon first.
121. Take an obscure and useless class like beer making.
120. Ice Skating.
119. Build a Snowman.
118. Have a snowball fight.
117. Have a food fight.
116. Go to church together.
115. Start a Bible study.
114. Do a Bible study, just the two of you.
113. Put together a jigsaw puzzle.
112. Go go-kart racing.
111. Make a scrapbook together.
110. Plant a garden at one of your homes, and raise it together.
109. Can the vegetables from your garden together.
108. Build something out of sugar cubes.
107. Learn a new language.
106. Learn to line dance.
105. Go berry picking.
104. Build something.
103. Horseback Riding.
102. Discuss and write down all of your goals and aspirations as a couple.
101. Go on a hike.
100. Find other couples abstaining and be a support system, go on group dates with them.
99. Take a cooking class.
98. Play Pool.
97. Tell them your biggest secrets.
96. Go to a museum
95. Visit that really "lame" to locals tourist spot in your area. Act like tourists seeing it for the first time.
94. Fly Kites.
93. Go on a hot air balloon ride.
92. Do the other's favorite activity.
91. Find a shared hobby.
90. Start a hope chest together.
89. Play twenty questions.
88. Talk about important things.
87. Discuss your expectations for your marriage.
86. Talk about how many kids you want, how you want them raised, etc.
85. Spend as much as time as possible getting to know their family. After all, you want them to be your family.
84. Go ice skating.
83. Go to a concert.
82. Go to a musical.
81. Go to events at the local high school, support the kids.
80. Head up a charity event.
79. Know where your political opinions lie.
78. Talk about the causes that matter most to you. 
77. Seek out news articles/blogs that the other would find of interest, and send them links.
76. Arrange double dates with solid couples that have been married for various lengths of time [5,10,15,25,50+ years] ask them about marriage. Ask them what makes their marriage work. Take notes, learn from them.
75. Go rock climbing.
74. Go to a petting zoo.
73. Go to whatever town event is going on in your town, or a nearby one.
72. Go hunting.
71. Play football.
70. Climb trees.
69. Go bike riding.
68. Go to the gym together.
67. Go to a haunted house.
66. Go out to dinner, and pay for a stranger's dinner.
65. Restore a car together.
64. Sledding.
63. Build a snow fort. 
62. Volunteer to babysit for a young married couple.
61. Play video games.
60. Befriend a widow. Pay attention. Some of the best relationship advice you will ever get will come from someone who has truly loved and lost.
59. Offer to do yard work/simple chores for elderly folks in your neighborhood.
58. Take meals to new parents.
57. Find a single parent, help them in anyway they need. 
56. Volunteer to sit with a new baby so mom and dad can take a nap. Or a shower.
55. Convince your church to host "date" nights. With games, and scripture, and good fellowship for young couples. 
54. Go to a gun range. 
53. Pray together.
52. Go to Adoration ((for Catholics))
51. Take a pottery class.
50. Buy balloons, deliver them to the hospital for strangers.
49. Do an entire book of Mad Libs together.
48. Go to the circus.
47. Volunteer at an after school program.
46. Go to an aquarium.
45. Sing karaoke, in a legit place, not a sleazy bar. 
44. Go to a pumpkin patch.
43. Go to a corn maze.
42. Go to a wine tasting. ((if you're legal-clearly))
41. Protest something.
40. Go to a drive in theater.
39. Attend a reenactment.
38. Go to an art festival.
37. Bake cookies.
36. Get dressed up super fancy like and go eat fast food.
35. Go on a scavenger hunt.
34. Buy presents for a kid from the angel tree.
33. Throw a party. Not like a drunk party, but like a dress nice, eat good food party.
32. Go to Wal-Mart. Set a twenty dollar limit. Split up. Buy the other person something that will make their life easier.
31. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
30. Check out a church that neither of you have been to before.
29. Spend time with their parent/s alone.
28. Hang out with their siblings.
27. Be in a parade. I'ts really  easy to join one, I did on my wedding day, totally uninvited!
26. Have a game night with their best friend and yours.
25. Volunteer to help at a high school event. Prom, dance, sporting event, etc.
24. Without discussing it first, order for each other at a restaurant. 
23. Pick out a chapter in the Bible for them to read every day for a week.
22. Switch cell phones for an entire day that you are apart.
21. Make a no smart phone rule while you are out together.
20. Go on a date where you can only speak in quotes. 
19. Pick an accent for them to speak in. Use that accent all day.
18. Go on a day trip to nowhere in particular. No maps, no GPS, no cellphones. Get lost together, teamwork to get unlost.
17. Watch a movie over the phone together.
16. Pick a movie neither of you have ever seen and watch it on mute. Make up the dialog. 
15. Watch a TV series neither of you have seen before. If Doctor Who falls into that category, I just picked for you.
14. Go to a political event for something you both disagree with.
13. Do something you both hate.
12. Have a light saber fight.
11. Evangelize strangers.
10. Have a silent dinner. You may only communicate with facial expressions and hand signals.
9. Hang out with each other's best friend. Ask them at least thirty questions about them.
8. Pick wildflowers.
7. Have a squirt gun fight.
6. Make macaroni jewelry for each other.
5. Take a picture on every date you go on. Make it into a picture book of your love story for your kids.
4. Going dancing. Not grinding. Dancing. Like ballroom dancing.
3. Get dressed up and go bowling.
2. Start a book club.
1. Put together a piece of furniture...if you make it without killing each other, your marriage will be fine.

These are in no particular order. Some of them are specifically for Christians, most of them aren't. I may separate them...but, at the moment they are mixed together. After three computer crashes, and one baby determined to delete this post, I just need to hit "publish" for my own sanity!

My goal here was not only to provide you with date ideas, but to also give you ideas on building a better relationship, getting to know each other better, and growing into better people together. The biggest thing I want to get across to you is that you need to know how to date, and how to show affection, and how to care without getting physical. You need to build a good, solid foundation before you try to build up a relationship.

The dating doesn't end after the ceremony. If you want your marriage to work, and to last. You need to keep getting to know your spouse. You need to keep dating them. Keep being silly, and keep falling in love! Clearly, this post is just as much for married people as it is for dating people.

*HUGE, monster shout out to Susan and Beth for helping me brainstorm on the last twenty or so. You guys rock!

Monday, January 13, 2014

10 Realistic Reasons to Wait to Have Sex

I've seen several posts on blogs and on Facebook encouraging young people to have lots of sexual partners before marriage. I find that to be horrible advice. I get it. It sounds boooring to just have sex with the same person for the rest of your entire life. The world tells you that you're a total prude and no one will want you if you wait. Everyone's always like; "Abstinence only education doesn't work." Of course it doesn't work. You have no legit reasons for it. Your entire reasoning is essentially: "Don't have sex. Because why? Jesus. That's why." Yeah, that's going to work with a bunch of kids that couldn't care less about Jesus. Shaming and scare tactics aren't the way to go either. Sex isn't dirty or bad. What will work is being real with them.

Many people find sex an uncomfortable topic, and kind of skirt around it. Not me. Sex is natural, beautiful, and meant to be enjoyed. Between a husband and a wife. Of course the Bible, and our faith is a totally legit reason to wait...for us. Not for the people that don't care about that. But, their are plenty of other totally realistic reasons to wait. I went over a couple of these reasons with sexually active teenagers last night. The look on their faces was PRICELESS. I was informed that I should have had that particular little talk before they had had sex. They were all like; "I have never thought about it like that." and  informed me that it made them think differently about sex. I probably ruined premarital sex for them. *My best Grumpy Cat impression* Good. The thing is, the kids that really need to hear why they should wait, are the ones that aren't being told they should.

The kids that aren't in youth group, the kids that don't have Christian parents, or two parent homes. These are the kids that need it the most. They need someone to care about them, and to reach out to them, and to give them valid reasons for their lives. And no one's doing it. Most people think they won't reach these kids because they don't have a relationship with Christ. Let me tell you, whether or not you are a Christian, you still matter. Your body still matters. Your body is just as important as the girl in the church choir every Sunday. You matter to me. You do matter to God, even if He doesn't matter to you. And, yes, there are reasons for you to wait too. Reasons that have nothing to do with guilt, shame, or God.

In fact, these are all fairly selfish reasons. But, you know what? In this case, that's okay. Because we're talking about you, your body, and your mind. And if there is one thing you can be totally selfish about, it's how your body is used and treated. That needs to be up to you, and no one else. Do you understand that? Don't you EVER let someone bully or guilt you into using your body in a way that you aren't comfortable with. If you don't want to have sex, don't. And if he/she tries convincing you otherwise because they "love you" get the heck out. If they loved you, they'd respect you, and no means no, end of discussion.

I somehow have copious amounts of teenagers, that I adore, hanging out around me all the time. So, this subject comes up a lot. I really don't know why they keep coming over and calling for my advice, I feel like all I do is lecture them! But, I'm glad they do. Because, I know many of them don't have any other positive influence in their lives, so I try my best to be that for them. After this most recent conversation on sex, I decided to put together my top ten reasons to wait. These are, as I said, a little selfish. And, none of them have to do with God, or being a "dirty person". And, for those of you that did/are having sex before marriage, you aren't "bad" or "dirty" either, and I'm not trying to shame you. I'm simply trying to provide a few more realistic reasons to give young people before they give themselves to someone they'll regret.

10 Realistic Reasons to Wait to Have Sex:

1. You aren't ready to be tied to someone for the rest of your life. If you aren't prepared to spend the rest of your life associated with that person, then you aren't ready to hit the sack with them. This just in: sex can and will result in babies. Birth control and condoms can and do fail. So, if it's not someone you want to have a baby with, then it's not someone you want to have sex with.

2. The more people they've had sex with, the more people you're being compared to. Yeah. You can't un-have sex, so, the more partners, the more chances to be compared. Good news about only having sex with one person: the only person you can be compared to is yourself. You know without a doubt that you're the best they've ever had. You don't have that guarantee otherwise. Sure, they can tell you that. But, how do you know for sure? Only one way. That's to be the first and the last.

3. You can build a stronger relationship. Nobody courts anymore. That's a problem. We just have sex on date number one, therefore never having to woo our significant other. Or anytime we do spend wooing is in anticipation of sex, instead of marriage.  So, instead of spending months getting to to know each other in every other possible way, we spend about two minutes learning about the person, and then just have sex with them. No wonder so many relationships fail. Trust me when I say that if you spend time finding non physical ways to express your love to each other you will have a stronger relationship later. I hear lots of women complaining that their spouses aren't romantic and only want to have sex all the time. Well, yeah. They all had sex before marriage. They didn't have to learn to love them in any other way.

4. They got that experience somewhere. When I was engaged I was told several times that I wanted an "experienced lover". No, no, I did not. See, that lover would have had to have gotten that experience somewhere else. Everything you enjoy from an experienced partner comes from...experience...with people that aren't you. Maybe I'm selfish, but I can't imagine lying in bed wondering how my husband learned to make love. That means that whatever pleasure you take from the love making, someone else has experienced from them as well. No thanks. 

5. You don't have to worry about if you're what they expected. You won't be embarrassed if you don't compare, or you don't know what to do. Because if you're both having sex for the first time, then you have no expectations, or at least nothing to compare it to, and it's all uphill after the first time.

6. You aren't really in love. Love takes time. Love is hard work. I know at seventeen two months feels like forever, but it's not. It's like two seconds in comparison to forever. You shouldn't jump in the sack with someone just because they give you the warm fuzzies. That isn't love, that's lust. Love is really complex, and not at all easy, and I can guarantee you that if you're in high school and/or been together for less than six months what you are feeling is more lust than love. Oh, you might have a teeny tiny bit of love. But real love, the kind that can withstand any storm, that takes years and years and lots of care and attention. I recently talked about on Facebook that we spent the first three years of our marriage really falling in love, and I know that every year going forth our love is growing deeper, and when we're old and gray we'll look back and say that even today we didn't really know love.

7. If you're really in love, you really can wait. That love ain't goin' nowheres if'n it's for realz. Give it time to grow, take good care of it, and see numbers 6 and 3 above.

8. You get to learn together. Instead of coming together in just another sexual encounter with just another person. Instead of both of you already knowing what you're doing, you get to learn about it together. You get to discover parts of yourself you never knew existed, and not just with someone, with the one that you've decided to stick with forever. What an experience, what a bonding. It's so beautiful to get to express your love to the same person in so many different ways. It's not at all boring having sex with the same person every night. It's having different sex with the same person every night, and that is not at all boring. I would much rather spend the rest of my life getting to know one body really well for the rest of my life, than trying to learn a different body every few months.

9. "Just sex." Is nowhere near as incredible as making love. There is a huge difference. "Just sex" is what all the free love feminists tell you it is. And, yeah, even in a marriage sometimes you'll just have sex. And that's nice. But, it's not making love. And that's different. That's something you don't get to experience until you're really in love. It's far and beyond lust controlled fulfillment. It's absolutely amazing, and the way it's intended to be, between a husband and a wife. That's an experience that you aren't going to get with someone you barely know, that's an experience that only comes with time, and real love. And, that gets better with time, just like love.

10. It's guilt and worry free. You don't have to dread pregnancy or STDs, it's right and natural. And as it should be. It's not empty or pointless. It means something.

Sex isn't "no big deal" it's a huge deal. You are literally joining your body with another person. You are becoming one with them. You can't take that back. Once you've done it, you've done it. You have given a piece of yourself to someone. And, as I'm always telling you, you are important. Your body matters. So, give it to someone that matters. And, don't even try telling me that you know after two months that they matter enough to give them that part of you. No. You can't know then. You know after ups and downs and months of giving every part of yourselves, EXCEPT for that part of you. You know after countless trials, and a year or so of long walks, and picnics, and hand holding, and a few stolen kisses. You know when they are willing to do anything for you, even if you aren't willing to give them your body. You know when they don't push you and pressure you into giving them your body. Your body is special and important, it's you. It does matter. 

When I was in highschool I had an on again off again boyfriend for around four years. We never had sex, but we came close. I didn't hold these opinions then, because I didn't care about myself then, and no one ever told me I should wait then. I had no real reason to wait, other than it just didn't feel right. We had been broken up for awhile, and he had started dating another girl, and I had dated a few other guys. We started talking again, and making plans for the future, marriage, babies, the whole shabang. He told me he broke up with the other girl and we were getting back together. Forever this time. The night that was supposed to be our last first date he told me he changed his mind and was going back to the other girl. I was heartbroken. I asked him why and he explained that he had had sex with this other girl, and he knew she would have sex with him, he hadn't with me, and didn't know if I would. So, he chose her. I am so glad I never gave him my body. That's all he wanted after all. Not me. He wasn't the right one for me, even though for four years I thought he would be. I tell you this to remind you not to make rash decisions, if it's for real, you can wait.

When you make love you aren't just giving them your body, but you're giving them your heart, and mind, and body. Everything you have. That's important, and it matters, because you matter. Don't sell yourself short with a bunch of "meaningless sex" you matter more than that. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

23 Things to do While Married at 23.

I read a post the other day, entitled 23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You're 23. As I read it I had to laugh, because first off, at 23 I celebrated my three year wedding anniversary. That's right, I was barely 20 when I got married, and I don't regret it for a second. I am so glad that I got married when I did. I'm so glad that my husband and I are growing up together, learning together, and building a life together. We get to have amazing life experiences, and we get to share them!

I do agree with her on one point, and that is that you shouldn't get married just to get married. You shouldn't get married until you're ready, and you shouldn't get married because that's just what you do after college. I wholeheartedly agree there. HOWEVER, the rest of her post is totally self centered, and I'm glad she's not getting married yet, because she's not ready for self sacrificing love. The funny thing to me is that she's talking about getting married young like it's some new trend. It's not. It's yet another tradition gone by the wayside that's being revived. The problem is, the ideals that made those marriages work aren't being revived at the same pace. We have this nut job idea that we can be married and totally separate from our spouses. Nope. If you aren't ready to wholly unite your life to another, then you aren't ready for marriage.

I can't help but notice that she talks about the wedding she wants, but not about the marriage. That's a huge problem these days. The marriage isn't the wedding, the wedding is day one of the marriage. The marriage should outshine the wedding by far. The marriage is the part that needs to have value, and beauty and worth. The marriage is the part that counts. She talks about marriage like it's the end of you, and the end of your life. You're settled down behind your white picket fence, and that's it. She talks about marriage as a cop-out. She clearly doesn't understand marriage. Marriage is so much harder than finding yourself. Marriage is deciding to work every single day. Marriage is combining your needs with someone else's. Marriage is the greatest adventure.

She talks all about her, and what she needs to do and experience, and that's fine. What she fails to realize is that marriage is the beginning, no where near the ending. I've learned more about myself in my marriage than I ever could have single. Why? Because I've seen myself through my husband's eyes. If I hadn't looked at myself in the light he sees me in, I wouldn't have the self confidence, and the love of myself I have. I wouldn't be able to love as deeply as I do, or make sacrifices if I didn't have Tom.

So, I made my own list: 

23 things to do while married at 23:

1. Dance in the kitchen, with only the water filling the sink for music.

2. Laugh at the water all over the kitchen floor because your husband distracted you....again.

3. Get in a water fight with your spouse.

4. Open a business. 

5. Drive around aimlessly for hours playing 100 questions, and jamming out to '80's rock.

6.  Take on a home renovation project.

7. Build something together.

8. Walk to the county fair, and get so wrapped up in the country music blaring that you dance in the middle of the street and don't care who watches.

9. Volunteer at a shelter.

10. Learn to communicate in a way only the two of you understand.

11. Spend way too much money on fancy stinky cheeses, breads and wine. Spread out a blanket in the middle of the living room, shut off all the lights, light candles, and have a romantic picnic. 

12. Forget about breakfast in bed, spend all day in bed, and eat all three meals there. 

13. Declare one week TV free.

14. Make love every night for a week, and don't allow it to be the same any night.

15. Discover a hobby together.

16. Bake a cake together. End up with cake batter all over the kitchen, because "FOOD FIGHT"

17. Go on a last minute vacation.

18. Take turns picking out movies that your spouse loves and you hate, and enjoy them because they do.

19. Sacrifice something you're selfishly holding on to for them.

20. Cry together. 

21. Learn every possible detail about your spouse.

22. Put someone else above you.

23. Deepen your relationship with God, together.

Marriage is learning together, growing together, laughing together, crying together, sacrificing together. Marriage is allowing someone else to help you to become the best you can be, and helping them to do the same. Marriage is not for everyone. Marriage at 20 is not for everyone, but it's not a death sentence either. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

No Kneeling for Communion

I had to have a conversation today that I have been praying I wouldn't have to have since I started kneeling, around the first part of May. For those you that read this and knew of my struggle with whether or not to begin kneeling, I finally started. Every time I walked up for communion I would feel the urgency in my heart to drop to my knees and receive Christ in the most reverent manner I could fathom. Every single time I went forward I would hear the voice in the back of my mind yelling at me "You hit both knees in adoration, yet you only bow before receiving Christ?" Every time I would return to my seat and apologize to Him for being such a coward, for not being able to show Him the respect and humility He deserves. I was certain there would come a day when a heavenly crow bar would hit me behind the knees and I would finally kneel to receive Christ.

The urge to do so was intensifying each week, until, finally one Saturday it was so strong that I didn't think I could fight it any longer, but somehow I did, and afterward I felt worse than I ever had before. Just going to Latin Mass wouldn't suffice any longer, I needed to receive reverently no matter what form I was attending. After Mass that day I marched into the sacristy, where both Fr. D, and Msgr. were and announced to the room "I have a question" which is totally unsurprising, if you know me. Both men looked over at me expectantly and I blurted out; "I need to kneel, can I kneel?" Both of them chuckled a bit, and Fr. D told me that of course I could, there was nothing saying I couldn't, he had people that knelt, and it was totally fine. As he always does, he simply told me to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I was still a little nervous and uncertain, so the next day at my home parish, I stayed standing, and felt awful. I was able to go to Mass that following Tuesday, and decided on my way up that I would remain standing. I knew Fr. D was fine with it, but I had no clue how Fr. P (the priest at my home parish) would react. However, when it was my turn to receive, without even thinking about it, I hit my knees, and that was that. I discussed it with Fr. P later and he told me it was completely fine, and not to worry about it. All that worry for nothing!

I continued kneeling from that day forward, only standing to receive when I happened to be holding a baby on my hip. None of the priests I encountered said a word, and I finally felt at peace with myself, knowing I was doing my best to receive reverently. Until today, that is.  Tom and I have been attending a different church recently, one that he prefers, and as he has yet to convert, as long as he's worshiping by my side I'll attend whichever Catholic church he wants. I've enjoyed this church as well, every time we've attended though, I've had a baby on my hip, so I stood and received on the tongue. Today, however, I was baby free for the first time. As I always do, I hit my knees and looked up, and instantly I knew something was very wrong, the priest looked rattled and not at all happy. He almost missed my mouth! And then, he said "you need to stand next time."

I felt hot tears running down my cheeks as I neared my seat, all kinds of emotions flooding through me. As I knelt to pray, I asked God to lead me and guide me, to direct my words in the conversation I knew I needed to have. "Lord, let them be your words, not mine. Help me, Lord to keep my calm. All I want to do is serve You. Help me to honor and uplift You as best I can." As the Mass concluded, and I continued in prayer I was able to gain my composure, and get my emotions in check. The fiery, rebellious part of me wanted to march on over to Fr. N and demand he tell me who on earth he thinks he is, reprimanding me, while  holding the body of Christ, and whip out my phone, and pull up the Vatican website, and draw his attention to chapter 2, numbers 90 and 91, and then yell at him about his lack of respect. I was less upset by the reprimand, and more upset about where he chose to deliver it. The communion line is not the time nor the place. Find me after. But, the rational side of me, and the side that, thankfully won out, knew that that was certainly not the way to handle it. I needed to handle it with grace, love, compassion, and the Holy Spirit guiding my words.

I walked into the fourier,  explained to my husband that I needed to speak to Father for a moment, and then went to where he was greeting people, he looked as if he would run to safety before I could reach him, so I just silently prayed, and was reminded that this man was the pastor, and as such deserved my respect. I can, and will respect his wishes, but I can not make such a sacrifice without understanding why I need to. Because, I know that I'm not doing anything wrong, I was well within my rights. Finally, it was my turn to greet him, I smiled as pleasantly as I could muster, though my insides were Jello, and my knees were sure to buckle at any moment. I shook his hand and as calmly as I could, I asked if I might have a word with him. A flash of recognition told me he knew exactly what we were to discuss. He agreed, and after greeting a few more parishioners made his way back over to speak with me.

I shook his hand again, and said; "I will happily respect your wishes to stand for communion, but in order to make that sacrifice I would like to understand why." Surprise crossed his face for a moment, and I was certain he thought I was going to come out with guns a blazing and challenge him. He crossed his arms over his chest, and took up a defensive pose, and then informed me that the liturgy of the mass says to stand, so we stand, and he respects that, and then asked me where I ever got such an idea. I tried to ignore that question, as I would probably lose my cool when trying to form an answer. I have a quick temper, and I'm still shocked that it didn't bubble over. I told him that I had discussed it with a priest, and he was fine with it, and Father P was fine with it. He wanted to know where this priest was from and his name, so I told him about Fr. D and his diocese, and about Fr. P, and he knows him. He seemed to get even more defensive at that, and started telling me how it looked to others, and disrupted others, and came off putting myself above them, giving the idea of "hey look at me, look at me."

That is the furthest thing from my mind. It's about my personal relationship with God, not about all the other people around me, Mass isn't about the rest of the congregation, it's about God alone. The priest isn't putting on a show for the people, and the people aren't putting on a show for others. There could be five, or five hundred other people in the room, I likely won't notice, my focus is elsewhere. On God. I don't go to Mass to impress those around me, my attendance has nothing to do with them.

I just kept my lips pressed together, silently praying and then assured him that it was not at all my intention. I was fighting with every fiber of my being to keep the stinging tears in my eyes, and not allow them  to stream down my face like they wanted to. I hate that I cry when I'm upset. He asked about the other people, and how it made them feel and before I could answer he said; "Do you even care?" and then repeated the question multiple times. I know when I'm being goaded, and I refused to take the bait. I told him I didn't intend it as a point of argument, that I simply wanted to understand. I assured him that I would respect his wishes, and that I understand them....I don't agree with them, but I understand them. And, I will respect them.

The tension started to flow away after that, and before I realized it we were laughing and discussing my conversion. He enjoyed my story and wants me to share it sometime. He said that I was the first person to ever kneel for him, so I knew that I had taken him quite by surprise, and that wasn't at all his fault. I can imagine the shock of doing something one way for over thirty five years, and then all of a sudden this crazy lady pops up in front of you, and completely throws you off. In every other way he's a wonderful priest. This is the only issue I've ever had with him. He is very pleasant, and easy to talk to. I think I just threw him for a loop. As we said our goodbyes I started thinking about whether or not I would ever return to that church, I promised to respect him, and I will. But, I still didn't know if I could. I got in the car, and went over the whole ordeal again, and started praying for guidance.

I realized that I can and will return to that parish. I will stand, but I will still receive on the tongue, if he asks me to change that too, then I will leave. I will be able to do it reverently, and  without guilt. I will know that my standing isn't out of cowardice, but out of courage. Courage to show respect to the priest, courage to show him that I'm not just some "rad trad" Catholic that thinks I'm better than everyone else. I'm not. Trust me, I know my faults. I'm also not going to kneel in defiance, just because I know I can, and he can't deny me. That would be unhelpful, and take the focus off of the reason I did it in the first place. I won't kneel for any other reason to serve Christ. If it becomes a point of arrogance or defiance, then I'll stop.

So, when I attend Mass with Fr. N, I will stand. I will offer it up, and I will stand. But, to answer his question, no, I don't care what everyone thinks. It's not for them. It's for God, and His is the only opinion that matters to me.


Shortly after I posted this, Father N emailed me and told me I could receive communion however I like, and that my belief in the Eucharist means more than his words. That humbled me greatly. He just needed time, and he was able to see the other side. That doesn't mean he agrees or is going to start encouraging it, it means that just as I will respect his opinion, he will respect mine. And that, my friends, takes one heck of a person to do. I am leaving this post up though, because I think this negative reaction, and misunderstanding is all too common, but the outcome is not. So, for encouragement, it stays. And I'm really grateful to Fr. N, and that I took the time to talk to him, and didn't just run off in anger and think malicious thoughts.