A Baby Family Needs Our Help!

If you haven’t been following the brave saga of Cristina and Andrew (and Maria Isabella), please go catch up. I’ll wait…

Savvy? Aren’t they incredible?! (While you’re thinking about them, notice the “donate” tab at the top of their blog. Please.)

Well right now, this Christ-focused family is staying in a Ronald McDonald House while they await Maria Isabella’s birthday after an intense surgery. The Ronald McDonald House is a finalist for Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program. They need our help to win! See instructions below, from the house: 

On JUNE 21st Ronald McDonald House of SNJ needs your VOTE!! We are one of 500 finalist in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program.

We ask you NOW to go to 100carsforgood.com, search for Ronald McDonald House of SNJ, click on our name, click on REMIND ME, click CONFIRM.

That way you will be automatically sent a reminder to VOTE for us on our day, JUNE 21st! Watch our video below to see why our kids need your help….every single vote counts!


Bikini or Biki-no? Part 4 – A Father and Husband’s POV

I’m so intrigued by the fact that so many faithful men are asking for women to avoid bikinis. As a refresher, read Palaminko’s post and Chase’s post (and if you want my first attempt, read mine). Val wrote to me after the 3rd post and offered his perspective as a father, husband, and grandfather.

Hello Elizabeth,

I have come to your post to your post simply because I follow Stacy Trasancos, whom I offer as a character reference.

I make no habit of frequenting women’s sites, or bikini posts, however, for what it is worth, I have a beautiful wife and three lovely adult daughters, all young mothers, so needless to say I have engaged in this debate for many years. My wife, at 56, is a size 6 and frankly would still look great in a bikini. She is a water athlete who loves the ocean, so be advised her decision to avoid bikinis and has nothing to do with being bashful about her figure.

Val’s lovely family

The first question I would ask is, is there any functional advantage to wearing a bikini for normal swimming activities? Can’t answer that, never wore one, but based on swimwear for competitive water events the answer is basically inarguable.

The second question I would ask is whether any truly Christian woman believes that she has no culpability for provoking lustful thoughts in a man, or if perhaps she may believe more skin does not equal more potential for provoking the very transparent and predictable (in this area) male mind?

The third question, I am prepared to provide an answer for, and that is, why are men so visual in this area? It seems completely unfair that God would create us with this inherent flaw. Well, I’ve thought a lot about it and prayed a lot about it and here, based on scripture, is what I have come up with. Read Genesis 2:18 – 2:25. God made man in His image and likeness. After creating all of the other creatures, He could not find a suitable partner for man so He made woman, from and for man. And therein lies the difference. Everything about a woman’s body has been tailor made by Almighty God SPECIFICALLY to those specifications that the Father knew would please man. A woman’s hair, her eyes, the shape of her face and body, her voice, the way she moves, the way she thinks and reasons, all of these things have been created to please man.

Consequently, a woman’s body to a man is more than just attractive, it is literally awesome. Like a beautiful sunset or a majestic mountain, woman is God’s gift to man. Now, naturally, this inclination, like all other aspects of human nature has been wounded by original sin. Remember, lust, like every other capital vice is the product of a distorted amplification of things that come naturally to us. God created woman to please man. In return, He intends us to be faithful and loving to the extent that we are to be willing to die for our wives.

Satan, as he always does, has ingeniously twisted the phrase, “to please man” into “for man’s pleasure”. Radically different concepts. Man’s natural preoccupation with the fairer sex is his great Achilles’ heel for both Satan AND woman to exploit. Unfortunately society has degenerated to the point where, frankly, most men are lustful.

So let’s cut to the chase here, Elizabeth. A woman’s body is a loaded gun for a lustful man and she can slay most with it any time she wants. ALL women know and understand this. God gave your gender that power over ours to make us better men, not animals. It is a power that you should wield prudently as a Godly woman.

Finally, I speak as a man. The mystery of an attractive, fit, woman in a stylish one piece is MUCH more alluring (not lust provoking) than blatant advertising, because a bikini isn’t about what a woman looks like its about what she THINKS like. A little restraint says to a prospective suitor, “Yep, I’m all that you think I am, fit, healthy, desirable, but unless you are that lucky man that will share life with me, “til death do us part”…you don’t get to find out.

Sincerely, Val (Happily married man saved by the Blood of Christ, 56-year-old father of 10 grandfather of 7 and genuine respectful admirer of the feminine mystique)

PS: If you really want to know what I think of women, read Stacy’s Mother’s Day piece, “We Know

Emphasis added by me, Elizabeth. Again, this discussion will probably never end, but if you’d like to add your voice (either in response to one post, to the whole discussion or anything), email me.

Bikini or Biki-no? Part 3

It should be a red flag that when reading the afore-posted bikini posts (one and two), our first reaction is:

Hey! What about the men?!” 

That was my first reaction when reading this piece on Marcel Lejune’s Aggie Catholics blog. I thought, “Wow, I’m annoyed that this girl is hearing men say that they can’t help thinking about women in their bras, just because they wore a white shirt. What about men?! What are they doing for us?!

Oh. Christianity. It doesn’t work that way, does it?

When I was swimming year-round, I was at my teenage, hormonal peak, surrounded by perfectly-toned, strong teenage boys in Speedos. Yes, it was nice. But I also got used to it to a point where I could go to the beach and look around as if everyone was walking around in sweatshirts instead of bare skin.

Today, however, after years of being around fully-clothed men, I notice when men are shirtless. I notice and I get a little sheepish about it, I can’t lie.

When I considered what Paige and Katie were saying on Twitter a few days ago about how no one is calling for men to be more modest, I thought, “Yeah! Why do the guys get to tell us what to wear when they get to go shirtless and that’s not considered immodest?

I stewed over it and thought about other things that men could change in exchange for me not wearing a bikini.

They could stop looking so darn cute all of the time when they hang out with little kids! Seriously, stop it. Hey, beau! You could stop being so wonderful to me, please. It’s ruining my emotional chastity because I want to pin wedding details all day, m’kay?

Then I remembered, again, that I’m a Christian during the annoying times, too.

I’m so drawn to the desire to wear a bikini, partially because I’ve lost weight in the last few years. In these last two months, I’ve been convinced by both camps (pro and anti-bikini) over and over again. Some of the pro-bikini points have actually convinced me to be anti-bikini and vice versa.

Why do I want the pro-bikini arguments to win over my mind? Because I want to be desired. It’s so easy to say that we’re in a different time and it’s not a big deal to wear an appropriate bikini in an appropriate setting (i.e., pool or beach). It’s so easy to wonder what “the other side” will do for ME if they are expecting me to avoid wearing something that makes me feel beautiful for them.

This isn’t marriage, but it’s all Pinterest can find.

It’s easy to ignore the fact that men are more visually aroused and that yes, what I wear plays a roll in that initial thought of lust that pops into their heads.

True, I can’t control if they continue to entertain those lustful thoughts, no matter what I wear. Men, that’s on you.

Similarly, and this is something I will expand upon in a future post, there has been a call for men to be more manly. Men, be MEN, we say! We want to expect more of you. We want you to avoid teasing our emotionally-queued brains by flitting around with emotionally-charged language with no consideration for our hearts.

We can’t do a virtue exchange.

It’s not possible because no woman can truly know what it’s like for a man to look up on a scantily-clad women (or for him to hear her speaking romantic to him). Likewise, it’s not possible for a man to know what it’s like for a woman to hear romantic words from a charming man (or for her to look upon a shirtless male chest). But we can err on the side of visual and emotional modesty, right?

This discussion isn’t over. I still don’t think my opinion has fully-formed and I may write from a more pro-bikini stance tomorrow. If you wish to formally participate and write a response, I’ll post it. Email me here.

Crabsolutely crabulous

*1*
About two weeks ago, my cousin and her boyfriend (call him Xavier) proposed a commission project that helped me touch paint brush to surface for the first time in months (rag to surface “painting” didn’t count).

They wanted to get Xavier’s friend a unique wedding gift with an inside joke running through it. When they saw this in a store, they had a goal. When my cousin remembered I enjoy getting my hands dirty with paint, they had a plan.

UPDATE: Apparently, according to the groom, this won the “best gift award.” Holler city.


*2*

Step by step, let’s find out how we went from this:
To Fred, the lucky couple’s new home decoration crab mascot.
*3*
First step:
Confidence. I spent the entire week planning out the crabtastic process ahead of me. I let the devil slip in a few times, intimidating me and reminding me that I haven’t done anything remotely artistic in several months.
Smite you, Devil! Get the crab out of here! You’re not welcome here.
*4*
Second step:
Commandere boyfriend’s coffee table and ask him to put on an educational program about Air Force One and Marine One. Then smile (and thank God) when he sits and watches some of it with me because you’ve found someone who loves these dorky, fascinating, educational specials.

*5*

Pencil it out and just do it. Don’t let the devil pinch your confidence again. One bit at a time.

*6*

Name him. He doesn’t have eyes yet, but he deserves a name.

Crabs have freckles, right?

Now, words.

*7*

Perfect it and go all OCD on that block of wood. Fred needs you to make him look good.

AH HA! THERE you are, Fred. Welcome to the world. We knew you were there the whole time, didn’t we, readers?

Final step:

Hope you can smile because your readers will stick it out through the crab puns and personification of wooden crustaceans. Savvy? 

Bikini or Biki-no? Part 2

Much like the one I packed.
This week I traveled to Austin for work and knew my hotel had a pool. This discussion popped up in my head as I was packing my bag because there have been so many great comments thus far.

I packed a swimming practice suit, like the ones I wore when I was competitive swimming, because I knew a bikini would be inappropriate around my co-workers and I didn’t want to have to worry about any kind of top-half skin exposure. Does that mean I should wear the same kind of suit every time?

Let’s recap:

What responsibility should women have in modesty? Are men just going to imagine our bodies, no matter how much we cover up? Is part of our feminine genius inherent in the beauty of our figures?

Chase chimes in:

I think the important things to remember in modesty are that man and woman are made in the image and likeness of God, and that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The body is beautiful because it’s made in God’s image. This also means we’re attuned to each other’s natural beauty and dressing in a way that reveals our natural beauty (bikinis cover little more than the FCC-objectionable parts, after all) seems like a way to make use of our God-given gifts.  

Wailing wall in Jerusalem

But wait! Doesn’t that mean dressing down is a good thing? Well, maybe in a perfect world. We face this little problem called lust, though. Guys especially (though ladies, we see when you oggle stud muffins too) are inclined to see this beauty, then see past that whole “image and likeness of God” bit and allow beauty to be just a pleasure. Whether or not you think objectification is a problem that guys just need to get over is inconsequential to the fact that it is a problem, and widespread at that. Noodle on this: if you enable someone to lust over you, either out of indifference (it’s not my problem guys lust over my nice body) or willfully (i.e., a person who uses their looks to “control” someone else), you’re becoming his(her) god! Pornography does this; the pornography itself becomes the source of beauty and “nourishment” of unsatisfied feelings for its victim, the viewer. To summarize in a sentence: the God-given gift of beauty comes with great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.  

The other angle I mentioned was the notion that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20). Temples are special places; remember that in Judaic law, the temple was so sacred that only the High Priest could enter its inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. Thus, the body is sacred and valuable, immeasurably so. If you owned a Lamborghini (yes, a car analogy, forgive me I’m a guy), would you keep it garaged? Let just anyone drive it? Invite a passenger who would leave Frito crumbs all over? The answers to these questions seem “duh” obvious, because Lamborghinis are very valuable. But human life is infinitely more so. Dressing revealingly poses the same problem as our Lamborghini left outside, unlocked, with keys in the ignition: a temptation to those that see it (you) that could be easily avoided. The tragedy today is young girls who don’t know their self-worth, who look to the very things that demean them in search of attention and meaning. All should seek to dress in a way that reflects their self-worth.  

I’m worth infinitely more than a garaged Lamborghini…I suppose you want oppress me into wearing burqas tankinis? Would you put a Lamborghini in a climate-controlled chamber and never drive it to preserve its value and protect it from bad things happening? As I already said, beauty is good because it comes from God, so it isn’t necessary to cover ourselves into unattractive blobs. Modesty requires a fair amount of judgment based on your circumstances. For instance, a bikini might be better suited to a private backyard pool than the beach, but it also depends on who is around. And on whether you might end up in photos as Elizabeth pointed out (who knows who’ll end up looking at them). Unfortunately, like most things in life, I can’t give a straight answer, but I hope you might look at that next outfit critically and ask yourself if those who pass your way will see the immeasurable treasure of God that you are.

Has your opinion changed? Has your opinion become firmer?

Men, if you have been waiting for a forum to share with us your opinion, this is it. Comment and we’ll get in touch to add to this series.

Bikini or Biki-no? Part 1

Two months ago, the #CathSorority girls got in a semi-heated discussion about beach attire.

Darn Twitter doesn’t have it archived. #FirstWorldProblems

Hot, right? (Too much)

It started with me asking what #CathSorority thought about bikinis, one way or another.

I remember Trista erred on the side of modesty and I voiced that I didn’t like the idea that pictures of me practically naked could end up on Facebook. A few others landed on the tankini/one-piece side of the aisle, suggesting that we should “help out” our brothers in Christ by not “showing everything you’ve got” (hat tip, Gramma).

Katie asked something akin to, “What is the difference between skin-tight fabric covering your stomach and just having your stomach exposed?” There were other girls who agreed with her and fell on the “wear a bikini if you want to” because it’s not our responsibility to control what men think about us.

There were a lot of varied opinions When we arrived at a conversational crossroads, I sent out a bat call to @Marleyblakedog (aka @ckcathcart), @Palaminko, @nomoblues, and @CallAllWitness. I asked, “how much responsibility lies on women and how much lies on men when it comes to swimsuit (et al) modesty?”

For this first part, Palaminko (of The Apostasy Method) responded via email:

Hmm, tricky question.

If we’re specifically talking bikinis, I would say it’s a bad idea because–bikinis being cut the way they are, especially the last several years–women are pretty close to naked wearing them. There isn’t much left to the imagination…and male imaginations will have no problem with the rest. A few guys will be fine and manage to still view the women in them as women, but why make the situation more difficult? I don’t go swimsuit shopping with women on a regular basis, but I hear tell that there are some amazing (and still very feminine and modest) one-pieces available nowadays.

This guy knows a thing or two about double standards.

In general, here’s what I overheard one girl say to another: if your grandmother (it used to be “mother”, but I’ve since realized that quite a few moms from our parents’ generation have very lax standards) would be scandalized seeing you in that outfit, chances are it’s immodest. 

Put more philosophically, if the outfit draws attention to what physical parts a woman is made of–as opposed to who she is in totality–it’s probably  immodest and the wearer bears some responsibility.

If, on the other hand, the outfit passes those modesty criteria, I would say any immodest thoughts are the sole responsibility of the viewer.

Hope that helps the conversation!

PS–Back when I was in competitive shape, I used to get catcalls while running around town without a shirt on hot days. Modesty works both ways. I’m now in the habit of covering up, though I still haven’t figured out the beach thing. (emphasis added by me, Elizabeth)

Full disclosure: Because Katie’s words kept circulating in my head, I have since bought a bikini top, but I will do my best to only wear it around people I trust and to avoid landing in photos while wearing it. I have yet to figure out how to do that.

What do YOU think?
Stay tuned for the next in this series where we hear from Chase.

Marx Sisters

SAHM vs. WOOTHM
Marx Sisters by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

I have the typical, boring opinion on the question of “Should moms stay at home or work outside of the home?” Just like some women are called to a single vocation, some are called to the religious life, and some are called to married life, I believe we are called to contribute to our families in different ways.

Of course, I still believe we are biologically better-equipped for some duties within a marital household, namely those related to bearing and raising children, but men have a great importance in that area as well.

La dee dah, see? Boring and very politically correct.

So let’s talk about Marxist Feminist theory instead.

Bigger, more skirt, please.

I’ve watched six episodes of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” in the last two weeks. These people fascinate me and before I write you a dissertation about them, I’ll to focus on their strict adherence to traditional family roles. Women marry quite young, some as young as sixteen, and enter a life similar to every “traveller” wife: one centered on taking care of the husband, cooking, child-rearing, and extensive cleaning.

Seriously, these women put sponge to every surface of their homes, everyday. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Their husbands earn the money, have a lot of fun at pubs, and, in their words, “own” their wives. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and anthropologically point out that we do not have a full understanding of their culture in order to call this regressive or stunted. It’s vital we also point out how extremely rare divorce is in their culture.

Marxist Feminist theory feels responsible for sticking up for women after centuries of what its troubadours believe to be wrongful oppression based on societal structure (rather than any relation to biology). This theory holds that a patriarchal, capitalist society demeans women because it enslaves them in the home to perform duties for free that men would otherwise have to hire employees to complete.

Old-timey headache

Marxist Feminists believe women are not properly compensated for the traditional roles they hold, so its supporters believe that as many inequalities between men and women should be flattened out as possible. In other words, it seems these theorists would be at least partially happy to see women receive salaries from their husbands, appropriate for the work they do in the home.

Call me crazy, but that sounds like capitalism more than Marxism.

Here, Marxists try to explain, in capitalist vocabulary, their belief that a lower value is placed on a woman’s day than a man’s and the translation is muddled.

The lasting issue with this theory is that it discourages women from entering a lifestyle Marxist Feminists define as the poorly-valued role, a stay at home mother. Marxist Feminist theory states that, no, it was the  patriarchal, capitalist society that shaped the role to be lower.

However, because the Marxist theory presents no alternative, they shame women away from being stay at home mothers, lest these women accept a shameful label of settling for a regressive lifestyle.

If a card-carrying Marxist Feminist could get their hands on one of these gypsy girls before walking down the aisle in her teens, he or she would try to convince the bride that her life can have more meaning in the eyes of the men of this world. If she could just NOT perform the slave duties thrust upon her as a wife and stay at home, cleaning, cooking mother, she could be much happier and more highly-valued.

Apart from the point that some of these women really do want to live their vocation in the traditional way, perhaps the young bride would have sense enough to point out the unspoken enslavement of the crazed person trying to shake her into the 21st century.

If you’re doing something to spite someone else or to be seen as more valuable in the eyes of a society, who’s the real slave?

Crabcakes and Football

Go to ConversionDiary.com for more!


*1*

Slow and steady wins back their blogging brain.

I have exciting news and I’m going to continue writing quick takes until I decide whether or not to tell you….go ahead and guess.

*2*

Have you listened to the Bright Maidens’ interview with Pat Gohn yet?

Click to listen to Part 2

In the first one we discussed a myriad of topics that we believe are important to Catholic young adults. In this, the second one, we spent a great deal of time talking about… sex. And virginity, and recycled virginity, and our identity as such.

It really turns into honest girl talk, so men, if you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of a sleepover, this is your chance.

*3*

Exciting news hint: it is one reason why I have been posting infrequently/not posting. Seriously, try to guess! #CathSorority girls aren’t allowed to guess.

*4*

Click to buy it on Amazon

In the last week, I have listened to my church’s 1997 recording of our Song of Mark production at least 20 times. It’s a stellar musical and I highly recommend buying the CD and/or asking your music minister if they’d consider producing this play at your parish.

I know all of the people with lead roles, so I’m tempted to go to Mass on Monday and embarrass them with compliments about how I have their voices stuck in my head.

One of the children in the production who had a solo is one of my oldest friends and was 10 years old when her beautiful little voice sang the Good News. She now has a three-year-old girl and a month-old baby boy.

Time flies.

*5*

My cousin and her awesome boyfriend had a fun idea for a wedding present with a personal touch. Cousin’s-Awesome-Boyfriend salvaged and split a beautiful piece of wood, so that it has a flat surface for painting.

Selfishly, I’m eager to help them because it will help me get back into painting and creating art. They want me to paint a big crab on this, similar to the picture, and insert the words “Crabcakes and football: That’s what Maryland DOES!”

My canvas. Wood, I’m turning you into a crab.

What a creative wedding gift! I’m sure they’ll get a kick out of it. I’ll post some pictures of my progress later.

*6*

My exciting news will compel me to move to a different city. Bittersweet.

I decided I’d reveal my exciting news in its own post. So guess, guess, guess!

*7*

Don’t forget to join the Bright Maidens for this week’s topic on stay-at-home-moms and working-out-of-the-home moms.

In case you were wondering, we had this one planned before Lent began, so it’s a coincidence that the whole Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen thing blew up recently. You’re welcome to reflect on that, if you haven’t already, but that wasn’t our aim.

Trista’s post, “On Motherhood”
Lynsey’s post, “WOHM vs. SAHM”
Mandi’s post, “Stay at Home Mom vs. Working Mom”
Lisa’s post, “The Best Job in the World”

OMG[osh], What did she say?!

The Bright Maidens are back and this time we’re talking about … SEX. We discuss sex, virginity, recycled virginity, women, the value of sexuality the value of being a child of God and a brother and sister in Christ, and TOB in terms of respecting life and pro-life issues.

I haven’t listened to this week’s Among Women podcast all the way through yet, so I’m a little nervous about what Pat Gohn edited in and out. Our conversation for Part 2 was about an hour long, but it’s much shorter in the podcast version.

I’m more than a little nervous.

UPDATE: “It’s really hard out there. It’s really hard. To be a virgin in the 21st century takes heroic courage. It takes the grace of a saint to live the life that we’re talking about here.” –Pat Gohn

Let me know what you think!! LISTEN HERE. Our part of the interview is about one-third of the way through the podcast.