Posted in sqt

{sqt} – disability rights, epidemics, communication, love, and lemons

  1. Some good news this week – the FDA has banned the electric shock devices used by the Judge Rotenberg center to control disabled (primarily autistic) patients. From the ACLU statement in response to the ban:

    “Using what are essentially human cattle prods to shock people with disabilities into compliance is simply barbaric. For over 40 years, the disability rights movement has fought to ban the use of abusive ‘behavioral treatment’ methods such as these ESDs. The FDA’s decision today banning their use should be seen as a necessary and important first step to securing a broader prohibition on the use of aversive interventions.
    “People with disabilities deserve the right to be supported with dignity and respect, and there are no circumstances under which they should be subjected to pain as a means of behavior modification.”
    – Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program
  1. Some not-so-good news is that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 does seem to be of potentially greater concern than I originally thought (in line with the flu in terms of transmission rate and severity, far lower in total number of cases so far, but still concerning to researchers and health care workers because it is an unknown agent). In response to that, one of the labs we frequently work with at the university is optimizing protocols for high-throughput diagnosis and training people to run those protocols; if an emergency situation does occur where the load of potential cases is very high, they’ll be equipped to run 24/7 and process 1000-3000 tests a day. (I say “they”, but I’m hoping to run through the training myself so I can be part of the public health response if the epidemic becomes a serious issue locally. I guess I’m nerdy enough that the opportunity to be involved with a novel virus on even a small scale is just purely exciting to me 😛 )
  1. Coming down to a more personal scale, communication and relationships are so hard. Even when two people are trying as hard as they can, misunderstandings can happen and feelings can be hurt and it’s just all around miserable – so much so that even knowing how a good conversation about something meaningful can fill up my heart like food and drink, it’s tempting to just not even try sometimes. But isolating myself doesn’t lead to health, or happiness, or holiness; it leads to bitterness and selfishness and despair. My sister shared a quote with me today that speaks to this, and of far more than this – of the value and even necessity of pursuing relationship in a self-giving way, of staying alive and invested and connected not for your own sake but that you might in so doing pour out your life for the needs of others and open yourself to be so poured into by others (and I don’t have access to the original formatting of the quote, unfortunately, since that can be significant with poetry):
"I don't want to feel better; I want to know better.
I should have known that God is not in the meal
but in the sharing of the meal.
I should have told you that holiness resides in needing each other,
in acts of survival made generous."
- Julian K. Jarboe, "Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel"
  1. Speaking of powerful quotes from books, I came across this one and realized that far too often I am impatient with and even contemptuous of weakness – starting with myself, but sadly spreading out to those around me as well. I do not often respond to my own struggles with compassion and grace, and that attitude of harsh, high standards can carry over into my interactions with other people. Having had the issue brought to my attention, I’m trying to be extra intentional about cultivating a spirit of love and gentleness instead: to offer open arms and a listening ear instead of an eye roll or an “I told you so”; to wait calmly for someone to process and express themselves instead of letting my attention drift away from them in impatience or disrespect; to make space for struggle and failure and fear and meet people where they are instead of expecting them to succeed in a way or time that’s convenient for me.

    “No one is of the Spirit of Christ but he that has the utmost compassion for sinners. Nor is there any greater sign of your own perfection than you find yourself all love and compassion toward them that are very weak and defective. And on the other hand, you have never less reason to be pleased with yourself than when you find yourself most angry and offended at the behavior of others.”
    – William Law, cited in Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
  1. One of the great blessings of cultivating this gentleness and patience is seeing the happiness and peace it gives to those around you. I think as a parent of small children it’s easier to see things like that – young children are both more sensitive to their parents’ attitudes and more expressive of their own feelings. For example, Rondel has been working really hard on riding his bike the past few weeks. He has training wheels, but he still feels very panicky about balancing, steering, and just generally maintaining control of the bike, especially at faster speeds. It is so easy to become frustrated when he bikes at a slow walking speed – Limerick racing ahead then having to wait for him to catch up – particularly because he doesn’t look anxious at that speed. Some part of my mimd interprets his actions as laziness or an unwillingness to try when really they stem from anxiety and poor motor skills, and my resulting impatience just makes him feel worse. But when I remember to re-evaluate in terms of gentleness and grace, I can see the anxiety and try to help him work through that root problem so that biking can be something fun and energizing for him like it is for his siblings.
  1. Another thing that I’m learning as a parent is how little control we really have in the interests our children develop. Aubade wears princess dresses as often as she can, claps with delight at the thought of going to a shoe store, revels in sparkles and stick-on earrings, and pretends every playhouse is a “princess house.” Just. What. I have no words. Aside from having to tell someone with no concept of monetary value that she can’t have all the shoes she desires, though, it’s actually pretty fun 🙂
  1. Finally, I got a bag of lemons from my mom and need to use them up this weekend! I’m definitely going to make a jar of preserved lemons, now that I know I like them and won’t wait six months before breaking into them, as the batch from last year was beginning to get mushy (still tasted good though). I’m also contemplating making a jar of lemon marmalade, but I’m debating whether or not to add some sort of accent flavor to it. I could go a slightly savory route with rosemary (I made a rosemary and lemon shortbread last week that I loved, and this would be a similar flavor profile), or more Middle Eastern with cardamom (my favorite spice of all time). Or I could keep it straight lemon, simple and bright. Any thoughts?

Head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum for the rest of the Seven Quick Takes link up! For fellow homeschoolers, there were some helpful/thought-provoking posts on that topic this week that I found encouraging 🙂

Posted in musings, poems, quotes

remembering Christmas

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendor is spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all –
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate –
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

Christmas is past, but it need not be forgotten. How do we move forward from Christmas and carry it within us as we go? Chesterton hints at the answer here, I think: that it is to continually throw ourselves downward, as did God Himself in the Incarnation, in love, service, sacrifice, and humility. It is those who are afraid of falling who fall in the worst way possible; those who cast themselves into the downward rush of grace will find they have nothing to fear in even the farthest fall and the greatest humiliation. One of C.S.Lewis’s most powerful images comes to my mind, here, from The Great Divorce: that of the great waterfall in Heaven, thunderous and beautiful, which is more than just a waterfall, standing as one crucified, pouring himself over the edge in glorious self-giving.

That is God. That is Christmas. And that is how we ought to live in God long after the songs and nativities are packed away and out of sight: because His plunge to servitude and sacrifice doesn’t end with the season.

Posted in musings

the unknown saints

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different saints of the church – how each of them lived in radically different times and places, struggled with different vices and temptations, encountered different obstacles and endured different hardships, and generally painted an incredibly unique picture of beauty and holiness. Each one is an inspiration, and each one points even more surely to God than to themselves (since humility is, after all, a characteristic of righteousness).

And then I started thinking about all the “normal” people, living ordinary lives, seeking to serve God in whatever obscurity they were born into – people whose names the church doesn’t know, who never sought the acclaim or praise of men, but lived simply for God. I’d imagine there are a lot of these men and women, whose lives were never marked by anything spectacular, but who, day in and day out, with quiet perseverance, strove to follow God and live by faith, pouring His grace into their families and communities through their words and deeds.

Right now, the humility of these unknown saints is a powerful example to me. I’m living a fairly mundane and obscure life right now: no one knows me at church the way I used to be known in the small church I grew up in, or seeks me out to talk about ideas and theology; at work, I’m an important part of the team but not an irreplaceable one, and my inabilities and weaknesses are constantly being pressed; in my family, life operates on a pretty steady turntable of playing with the toddlers, helping them sleep, changing their clothes/diapers, and making sure they’re fed. There is fodder for profound thought, but little time or energy to put into it; there are needs in the community around me, but the needs of my own little family often take all that I have to give. I’m not involved in any great cause or movement that is trying to change the world, tackle injustice, or combat oppression.

But in every moment of every day I have just as much opportunity – and just as much responsibility – to live faithfully for Christ as the people who are doing those great and visible labors for the kingdom. If I live for Him, if I lay my life down sacrificially in the little chances that arise everyday as a mother and an employee, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices. The righteousness wouldn’t even be mine anyway, since it comes through the grace of God: why should I seek praise for it? And who am I to deserve or thirst for the acclaim of men, when I can see all too clearly the places in my soul that are far from being conformed to the image of Christ: the judgment, the resentment, the preoccupation with myself, the apathy toward spiritual things?

Oh unknown saints of the church, who lived and toiled out of the sight of those who might have remembered your names through the generations, but who lived faithfully for God regardless of the earthly fame it brought you, please pray for me, that I too might live faithfully, might care so much about pleasing God that the praise of men no longer seems a jewel worth striving for as long as He is honored. Please pray that I might follow Him unfailingly, through tiredness and trivialities, through the everyday challenges that give me the chance to love and sacrifice or choose my own comfort again.

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – pretty much all real

I will be honest with you all, this was a rough week and a half. Last Tuesday we spend the morning playing at the park with the boys’ cousins – and by nap time Limerick was vomiting. And he didn’t stop for over 30 hours, most of that time losing it every 1-2 hours very violently. So then last Thursday he transitioned from one end to the other and Rondel started bringing everything back up. Both boys had low-grade fevers for a couple days and were essentially couch-ridden (I made them sick nests on the couches so they wouldn’t have to be upstairs in bed); Rondel slept for the majority of the day three days in a row, and I have never seen him that worn out and sick before in his life – which admittedly has been a rather short one, but still! It was a new mommy experience for me.

Yesterday was really the first day both boys were feeling (almost) back to normal – no diarrhea, no vomiting, and energy to get up and play for more than 10 minutes at a time. Through this whole week, I’ve been reminded of Auntie Leila’s rejoinder to consider this time of sickness as a time to sacrifice myself – my plans, my routines, my comfort – for the sake of these kids, to show them what Christ-like love is all about. As she puts it,

You know, when our children are sick, we have a wonderful opportunity to serve them in a completely different way from the way they are used to. We can take a break from all the demands of daily life — demands which include prying them away from love of self, encouraging them to serve others and take responsibility — and just take care of them. Rather than viewing this part of motherhood as a stressful chore that reveals our incompetence, we can see it as a real blessing.

It was very stressful for not to be able to clean the house, or have regular meals together, or get out of the house for the outside time that I need just as much as the boys normally do, (a lot more stressful than I would have anticipated!) and I had to keep telling myself that “love endures all things.”

Kind of humbling to realize how much of an emotional and spiritual challenge this week of sickness was to me… I’ve still got a long way to go to reach holiness! 😉


In the first days of the illness, Rondel was so concerned about his brother. He kept asking me when he would be feeling better, and what was wrong, and just wanted to comfort him with his presence. This is one of the beautiful side-effects of sickness, I think – the development of compassion in the sick child’s siblings.


But all too soon he needed his own spot on the couch 😦 When Limerick started to feel better he seemed to find a lot of happiness in helping me take care of Rondel, especially when I would let him deliver a bottle to his brother, which was adorable and sweet.



One of the happy things that sustained us during the sick times (besides endlessly blowing bubbles for Limerick) was reading books. The boys like books well enough normally, but they also like to be moving and doing things – but when they didn’t have the energy to play, the books took them out of the moment and gave them something to think about. Limerick in particular has become far more excited about reading than he was before!

demanding to read the Very Hungry Caterpillar

So there were some fun things in the middle of all the sickness – but all in all we are all extremely glad to have the blankets and sheets washed and off the couches, and a sense of normalcy and order restored to family life. I’m sure the boys are even more glad not to be hurting and sick anymore!

I really hope that you all had a better week than we did! And don’t forget to join me over at Like Mother, Like Daughter for the link-up today 🙂

Posted in musings

thoughts on transgenderism – my first attempt at writing through this from a Christian perspective

There are some things (both moral and doctrinal) about which the Church is incredibly clear and precise – things like the nature of the Trinity, or the objective sinfulness of abortion. She paints those pictures with clear lines and well-defined forms, even through the layers of human or divine complexity that color them.

There are other things about which she is largely silent, leaving the murky watercolors to be lived out in the conscience-informed prudence of her members. These things include education (where there are basic principles within which parents are left free to make decisions according to their wisdom and personality), housing choices (urban or rural? large home or small? bad neighborhood or good? – the choice may be a matter of obedience to God’s leading for an individual, but is never universally proscribed), career paths (let’s just say that some things are automatically excluded and that’s about it), and so on. These are things that touch a myriad of moral principles, but are not themselves defined or regulated in a binding way.

And while homosexual behavior falls solidly into the first camp, the Church having defined it as inherently disordered, transgenderism is just as definitely in the second camp. There is no official position, no magisterial teaching, no long history of tradition draw upon from the writings of the Fathers. We are left to figure it out on our own, to sort through the various principles that are at play, and to decide in the circumstances with which we are presented how best to behave as a follower of Christ in a shattered world. We cannot naively assume that everything is positive, nor should we cynically believe that everything is negative. We should not blow with the winds of extreme gender theory and deny that male and female have any real meaning, nor should we deny the reality of what most transgender and intersex individuals face by claiming that they are all perverts or performers. After all, if our reason and will can be weakened or damaged by sin, and if we respond to this brokenness not by throwing out our understanding of the importance of reason and will but by giving our support and love to those who are affected, why wouldn’t sexuality be the same? Can we give them the benefit of the doubt and believe what they say about their own experience? Can we acknowledge that maybe the general brokenness of creation has touched the link between their bodily and interior genders, and left them feeling incomplete or out of place?

I totally understand all the gut reactions most people have to transgenderism. It just feels strange. It feels especially strange when someone who has been living as one gender for years announces that they really identify with the other gender, because we don’t see the journey of growing self-awareness, suffering, and courage that have to build up in order for such an announcement to take place. You want to claim that their new identity must be a lie because otherwise your whole previous relationship with them feels false. You see their gender-typical body and wonder how in the world they can feel like the other gender. You feel like your own experience of your gender is being stereotyped and patronized by people who have no genuine understanding of it (especially when people like Jenner try to reduce femininity to fashion – I have serious trouble believing the authenticity of that transition, to be honest with you, because he/she doesn’t seem to understand or value womanhood as anything beyond physical appearance and sexual objectification). But those gut reactions, and the celebrities that fuel them, can’t address the moral and philosophical principles at play.

Can we find a way to embrace the “both-and” tension in this area, as Catholicism does in so many areas? Can we praise and value masculinity and femininity as the duality created in the image of God, without demonizing those who fall in between or are dealt aspects of both? Can we continue to see the beauty and mystery of the two sexes, both in marriage and society, but still make a space for those who, because of the fallenness of the world, don’t fit neatly into that dichotomy? The transgender individual is a human being just like us, called to holiness, called to Christ; he (in the universal sense) is our brother, for whom Christ died, for whom we are supposed to live, that he might know Christ and come to heaven in the end. How can we say we have truly loved him if our rejection pushes him away from the Church and away from Christ?