Thursday, April 18, 2013

Coffee crisis: Why I still choose to buy coffee at Starbucks.

A few weeks ago, I was privy to this link on Facebook, as well as a few different statuses proclaiming that a boycott of Starbucks was in order. This was because their CEO told a stockholder, Tom Strobhar, that he was welcome to sell his shares and take his money elsewhere if he did not like that Starbucks stands behind gay marriage. Here are more details.

When this aired on the radio spread throughout the Internet, I found myself questioning whether or not I should also take part in the boycott of Starbucks, being a supporter of traditional marriage and all...  After-all, if a company wants to impose their beliefs on me, by saying they don't need my money if I don't support gay marriage, I don't feel very much like spending it there.

However, I met for coffee with a friend last week at Starbucks.  She's a broke student who had dwindling cash but lots of Starbucks gift-cards, so despite my little guilty feelings, we went there.  We then proceeded to discuss healthy marriages, interfaith marriages and how to raise (Catholic) children for the next two hours. The people beside us undoubtedly heard snippets of our conversation, peppered with talk about Natural Family Planning and how to bring people gently into the fold of the Catholic Church.

This morning, I had a half-hour before my mom's group, and a chapter of Christopher West's Theology of the Body for Beginners to read for our book study. Kid-free and faced with this situation, wouldn't a nice latte and a window seat in a cafe sound good?

Well it just so happens that Starbucks is across the street from the church where my mom's group takes place. I decided to go on in, despite the looming guilt of the above information, thinking,  "Am I supporting the stamping down of Catholic views?" and,  "What will my Catholic-mom friends think when they see me holding a Starbucks cup?"

I encountered pleasant staff while I ordered a latte.  I sat down in the sun in the middle of a lot of nice-looking people. The people beside me were in conversation about this and that, and wanting to finish my chapter (and not feel creepy, even though their table was two feet away) I tried not to listen.  Then they started talking about Starbucks itself - and "Did you hear that they support gay-marriage? Like, I think that's amazing, that they'd take that sort of stand - but I know A LOT of people who probably will stop coming here. My family is super-traditional, and go to church and all that."

In that instance, I had a bit of a revelation, and I said "I come here, and I'm traditional and go to church and all that."
The two looked at me in disbelief and I said (thinking "oh Lord, here I go opening my big mouth again - please don't let me say something stupid"), "Yeah, Jesus said to love people who persecute you - so if Starbuck's CEO wants to say people who support traditional marriage can take their money elsewhere, I'm still going to come here and love his coffee."  (Okay - not bad, but I still feel like a bit of an idiot)

I then hastily apologized for interrupting and said I often speak without thinking (urg...especially to strangers, and double urg... especially when they don't expect it.)

I guess I'd better explain myself:

If Catholics and others who don't support gay marriage stop going to Starbucks, it might hurt the business a little bit, but like this young lady, a lot of other people think it's wonderful.  I also (cynically) wonder how long people who've decided to boycott Starbucks will take to come back. Next time your aunt gives you a gift-card perhaps?

To me, boycotting Starbucks will only accomplish what CEO Howard Shultz has set out to do by letting his moral stance on support gay marriage be known: appeal to a certain crowd. He's willing to let the people who aren't in that crowd shop, or buy stocks, somewhere else.  I'm not saying "fight this man by continuing to buy his coffee!"  That's ridiculous.  I'm actually not saying fight this man at all. He's a successful business owner secure in the knowledge that he's not going to go under because of his statements.

I was imagining a scenario where all of the people who don't support gay marriage discontinue patronage of Starbucks.  No longer would I go there to read about JPII's Theology of the Body in the sunshine, and no longer would I sit with friends and discuss NFP over coffee, while a curious woman eavesdrops.  No longer would Catholics be present in the Starbucks space to show people in daily life what we're all about.

I feel like it's my job as a Catholic to uphold my beliefs, even if, and especially when, someone contradicts them, but I also think that what Jesus had to say about the greatest commandment supersedes my (sometimes egotistical) need to hit people with witty apologetics:
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 22:34-40)
How are we as Catholics supposed to show love to people if we avoid some of the places people go?  Jesus also hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, and he forgave the people that nailed him to a cross - which is a far cry from Starbucks patrons who think that gay people should be treated in the same way as heterosexual couples.  Our problem as Catholics isn't that gay people want access to marriage; It's that the definition of marriage in a secular society just isn't the same as the view that we have of sacramental union between a man and a woman. It's our view - we think it's right, and thus far, we still by law are allowed to have that view. May I also point out - it is 100% wrong for Catholics to persecute and hate gays, lesbians, bisexuals and anyone else who doesn't share our views.  But... and this is a huge but, we don't really do a great job lovingly explaining our views if we just avoid the people altogether, do we?

To sum up - I think it does a lot more good for me to continue to go to Starbucks, meet my friends  and talk about my life as a Catholic within the cocoon of warmth, jazzy music and the smell of espresso, than it does to stand outside and close myself from the possibility of evangelizing in the style of St. Francis... using words if necessary.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mommy-Wise Monday: I think my brain just gave me the blue screen of death.

Well, I've had it.

After a long day of trying to do, to be, everything, I'm done and I have nothing left to give.  But I remembered that I didn't blog... yet again.

I went to a fantastic women's conference over the weekend and visited two dear friends.  I even got a bonus visit when the roads were too bad to return home.  It was such an uplifting time, and it did wonders for my spirit.

And now...

Now, I am smack, dab, in the middle of my reality.  Weekends are when I do laundry, and Sunday night, I prep the house for the week, so a weekend away really wreaked havoc on my housekeeping, (Although my husband did his best, between an impromptu trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house and living the crazy life with toddlers which he is not at all used to, to basically be me).

So today I felt the need to use my mom/wife superpowers and clean the house from top to bottom, make an elaborate dinner (if slow-cooker porkchops, dilled mashed potatoes and cauliflower and broccoli with homemade cheese sauce can be called elaborate - you decide) on top of some schoolwork and 3 loads of laundry.  Oops, I forgot to mention the trip to the bank and grocery store, as well as relieving the fridge of one or two science experiments.

To think, the other day, I wondered what I will do when I am finished with my degree and am "just a mom."

I will undoubtedly fill the hours.

You know, looking around me at my spotless floor and my living room with straight cushions and no Megablocks in sight - I am happy. Happy that for the next hour I get to enjoy some time with my husband and enjoy my home, and maybe that's the inspiration behind my motivation to do and be everything - making my home wonderful.

It's not a bad reality.  Just my two cents.

And now, for some husband-time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mommy-Wise Monday Vol 4: Student VS. Mom

I've decided to write about being a student-mom. Oh yeah, and I realize it's not Monday... again. I will get better at this, I promise.

Most of my closest friends, throughout my mom/student career have just sighed and said "I don't know how you do it."  One friend who is not a mom, but a student, said it to me the very same week that a friend who is a mom, but not a student.  I really began to think about this - for me, it's just been my life for 3 years, but it really does boggle people's minds.  In further conversations, I've felt the need to de-bunk some of the perceptions of my day to day life and habits.  To be honest, some days, I don't know how I do it (note the italics and bold font), and some days, I certainly do not do either very well.

Sometimes I feel like I lack credibility in both worlds.  To a journalist, which is what I was studying to become, credibility is everything. If you aren't credible, nobody reads what you write, and if they do, they don't take it seriously.  I want to be taken seriously, but very often, when I tell someone at school that I'm a mother of two, I get a look that says "Oh, so you're not really serious about this."  It's just as bad when I meet another mom at church or the park and tell her I'm a student.  Same look.  Even friends of mine skirt the issue of career choice for me - because evidently, by having children so early in life, I've made my bed.

So, here's a look at my life:

When Patrick was conceived, I had mixed emotions about everything.  Our "don't really care if we get pregnant" moment had larger ramifications than we thought it would.  I had just finished my second year of university, had just begun my first internship at a newspaper, and I was loving it.  I loved that I was doing what I thought I was meant to do - talk to people about what they did and turn it into an artfully written piece of history.  Heck, I thought I was going to be the next G.K. Chesterton.  But I also had the desire to be a great mother. Inside me was this little being that threw my hormones and my body completely out of whack, and so between interviewing and writing, I found myself in the dingy office bathroom, crouched over the toilet and using my lunch-breaks to take naps in my car.

I survived the internship and the first semester of my third year with great support from the faculty of my program.  I went to my advisor,(who is also a mom), and basically said, "I'm pregnant, but I want to finish this degree," and the first thing she said was not, "How could you be so irresponsible as to get pregnant before finishing school?!" It was instead, "Congratulations!" Then we set about making some plans for the best way to go about finishing the degree.  This wonderful woman gave me the benefit of the doubt - took me seriously as a student -- and a mom -- and gave me hope. Later, she even gave me maternity clothes. Talk about supportive.

I had Patrick in February, and decided not to pursue school until the following January.  Joseph, however, said "Why don't you take a class in September?"  So I took a class twice a week while he stayed home mornings to take care of Patrick.  He even let me take time to go to the gym while I was at school.

The following January, some amazing friends came through for me to watch Patrick during my classes, because we really couldn't afford for Joseph to stay home from work anymore.  Also during that time, my father passed away, and we had to take some time to plan a funeral and give support to my mom.  It was during this time that the faculty of my program came through for me again, easing my course-load just a little bit so that I could have space and time to grieve and help my family.

On the day my dad died in 2011, I suspected I was pregnant again, and it sounds terrible given what I'd just heard about my dad, but my thoughts immediately drifted to my degree.  "Oh God," I prayed, "How on earth can I make this happen!?"  Curled up in fetal position on my bed, with my world crashing down, I cried and cried and prayed.

Lets fast-forward to now.  I'm about to graduate.  There was a point in the spring of last year when I seriously questioned finishing, but an amazing sociology professor said to me, "You are student and a mother -- two very difficult things. Do not beat yourself up about marks. They are just numbers.  You have a very important job as a mom, and sometimes that might mean that your school-work isn't what it would be if you were a single student with more time and space in your head."  At that point, I took the pressure off myself.  So, some might call it a "C's get degrees" approach, but I call it sanity.

I do a good job, but I'm not expecting the 4.0 GPA that I maintained until Patrick came along. Most people don't have a 4.0 without two kids.  I hate when I hear other students say "I'm sooo tired - I was up till 2 a.m. talking with my boyfriend on the phone."  I want to turn around and say,

"You mean, you were up till 2 by choice? Oh boohoo, poor you. At least you weren't jolted from sleep at 2 a.m. by a hungry baby who proceeded to clamp down on your boobs and chow down for an hour while you try to get your other kid to go back to sleep, only to be awoken again at 5 a.m. by that same kid who can't sleep without his bunny, and again a 6, because now it's time to get up and make breakfast."

However, I bite my tongue. Hard.

So here's how I do it, for those who are curious.

I have help, first of all - and asking for it has been a serious blow to my dream of being an "independent woman." I'd say that's pretty much out the window.  My husband does more housework and childcare than a lot of dads who also run their own business, and to be honest, sometimes his work (and our main income) suffers a little bit because I need to get assignments done.

I have a messy house.  Except when I have company of course, because maintaining the image of good housewife is important to me, even if it's not true at all.

I don't do what I'd like to with my kids.  They have an awesome day-home that they go to in the mornings where they get to do crafts and read books and learn songs from other people, not me.

I compartmentalize.  I work on schoolwork only certain hours of the day, either while the kids are at the dayhome or when they're sleeping.  That way, I'm 77% there for them.  The other 23% is for the housework and husband.

I have little to no social life.  I'm part of a moms group, and for most of the weeks this year, the time there to be with other moms socially was the only social outing I had.

Okay, so it sounds completely depressing! I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to get this way.  Thankfully. Mercifully. I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  There is hope!

Here's the encouraging send-off for other student-moms or moms who are going back to school: Somehow, with a lot of support from good people, prayer and survival mechanisms, it has been possible.  However, I'm  not going to say that being a mom hasn't changed my perspective.  I don't know if I want to be a journalist.  I might still want to be the next Chesterton (but who wouldn't, he was brilliant.) I know for sure that being a mom (working, student, or stay-at-home) is awesome - more than I'd imagined it to be.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mommy Wise Monday Vol. 3 - er... sort of.

Hello seekers of mom-wisdom.

I'm writing an essay right now, the second-last of my degree (which begs the question of whether or not I'll go for my Masters, which honestly, would be awesome... I love school)... so I really can't give the time necessary to write a great blog post.

However, let me direct you to a great post that I've read six or seven times in the last year as I've contemplated just throwing in the towel on university and staying at home full-time. It's by Haley at Carrots For Michealmas, titled "A Dog Could Take Care of Your Child" Or Why I Quit Grad School to Stay Home with My Kids.

It's one woman's story and perspective on the joy of staying home with children, and I really needed it at the time it was written. Please Enjoy!