Friday, April 12, 2013

Quick takes


Marko had a good birthday.  He was a little disappointed to find that the next day wasn't also his birthday.  But we had cake for a few days, anyway.  He suddenly reached a breakthrough and now knows what a telephone is for, so he had a long conversation with his Aunt Mary on his birthday, and my mom the day after.  It's adorable to watch.


I finally have a double stroller now.  It's this one, the Safety First tandem stroller, only instead of $150 it cost us $30 off Craiglist.  W00t!  It makes walking a lot easier.  I've been going out to the library or church several times a week, and now that I'm in a bit better shape, it's really not a big deal.

For a brief review of the stroller -- it's pretty good.  It's kind of massive.  And long.  And heavy.  But on level ground, that doesn't matter; the wheels are big and it trundles along like nothing.  Of course level ground isn't what I'm dealing with, and it is admittedly a bear to push uphill.  But I think that would happen with anything; I do have sixty pounds of kid now.  (Yes, Michael is 27 pounds at 11 months, and Marko is about 35.)

The real struggle with it is when the road is slightly slanted sideways (as roads usually are).  The stroller always pulls to the side then, and I have to push hard with one hand while pulling with the other to keep it straight.  That leaves me with extremely sore wrists!  And the other day, when I was crossing a steep street, it nearly tipped.  I'm not sure if most large strollers do this, but my umbrella stroller didn't do it to any noticeable degree.  But then yesterday I figured out that you can lock the front wheels, which almost eliminates the issue.

It folds up easily enough, but it's still kind of enormous even when folded.  And heavy; I have to fold it to get it through the laundry room door, and then drag it sideways, and every time I feel like maybe I pulled something.  My least favorite part of it is the back canopy; it doesn't shade much, I can't see Michael through it, and it's always flopping off.  But the one plus is that it is removable.  Most parts are removable, including the front seat, which can be replaced with a carseat.  I haven't tried that feature.

Anyway, I'm glad to have it because it makes getting out of the house SO MUCH EASIER.


Yesterday we went to the river to splash around.  It's literally three blocks from my house, but I always get intimidated by the large hill.  I've gone down there maybe five times in two years.  But it's been scorching the past few days, so I promised Marko we'd go.  And oh boy, was it fun.  There were no bugs at all (for once!), it was hot, the water was cool, and there was pretty much no one there.  I wished for my bathing suit!  Michael and Marko didn't bother wishing for theirs.  Marko was soon wet up to his neck.  Michael stayed at knee depth mostly, but he sat down in the water a couple of times and had to have his diaper taken off.  I spent the whole time trying to stop Michael from eating rocks.

Seriously, that place is a toddler wonderland.  There are little fish and rocks and a dock and a boat launch and little clam shells.  It's shallow very far out.  I just wish I had been more prepared.  I thought I'd go for an hour or so, so no need for sunblock, extra clothes, a snack, etc.  Within ten minutes both kids were wet and I was covered with mud.  I did leave after an hour because I was beginning to get burned (luckily neither kid was), but none of us wanted to go at all.  I'm usually not the one dragging away crying kids, because Marko does know when he's reached his limit most of the time, but he didn't understand what a sunburn means.  And once we got home, he said, "Go get the sunblock and let's go back to the river!"  I was almost tempted.  Almost.  But there is that big hill.

We're going to go there today, first thing.  As long as it's hot and not buggy, I see no reason not to go there every day.  And if I can get John to come with me this weekend, I will get a chance to swim myself.


Since I wrote a post awhile back about health care, I feel I owe it to you to tell you, I'm pretty sure I was wrong.  Yes, I still agree that some degree of health care is something everyone has a right to.  But before I thought that it couldn't possibly be so simple as just high prices.  Then I read this article and I'm completely convinced.  Hospitals could charge much less than they do and still stay in business just fine.  Couldn't we just mandate that hospitals' price sheets are not allowed to be higher than what Medicare pays?  Or even find a way to put an end to the collusion of insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies, and watch the prices balance out on their own.

Also, I think there should be a law that, for non-emergency procedures, you must be shown the bill in advance.  Then you are not allowed to be billed more than what they told you it would cost.  I know there are similar laws in some states for mechanics to keep them from ripping you off.  I don't know why people's lives don't merit that kind of safeguard.


I'm upset at the bishop of Detroit right now.  He's said that Catholics who support gay marriage shouldn't receive communion.  I firmly believe that anyone who is in a state of grave sin shouldn't go to communion; that's a teaching of the Church and I've held back myself many times for one reason or another.

But I don't think supporting same-sex civil marriage is a sin.  The infallible teaching of the church states that homosexual acts are sinful.  It has never had any doctrine about what we should do in civil society to keep people from performing them.  The only magisterial document out there on the topic is an advisory piece by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  It's helpful, but it's not infallible.  In short: refusing to agree with the CDF about gay civil marriage is not refusing to accept a dogma of the Church, and so it is not the sin of heresy.  I don't see how it's any other sin either.  Perhaps you could argue that you're encouraging others to sin, but I don't see that.  Homosexual people who want to get married are generally already committing homosexual acts.  The question is, do we want to treat them the way we treat married people?  I can see a good Catholic argument either way, neither of which is about encouraging people to sin.  On a point on which there is some permissible doubt, I think it's very wrong to talk about denying people the sacraments.

A dozen years ago, I remember complaining that the US bishops were too liberal.  Now they've turned around quite a bit, but they strike me as very hard-line about a few things where a hard line isn't appropriate.


Speaking of which, I ended up in a facebook debate with someone the other day about a gay man in France who was brutally beaten.  He didn't think it was a big deal, or that we should be talking about it, because the man "brought it upon himself" by his life choices.  I was beating my head against the wall trying to explain to him that his views were antithetical to Christianity, when finally I got him to admit that he actually thinks gays should be executed by the state.

Oooookay.  I just extricated myself from the conversation and let it go.  I'm not going to get anywhere on that one.  But it depresses me.  Lately I've just been in awe of the beauty of my Catholic faith.  I read the words of the Gospels, or the liturgy, or the catechism, and think "Wow.  That's exactly right.  Here I've been holding back studying this stuff out of fear, and instead it's so much better than imagined.  What a good and merciful God we have."

And then some satan like this fellow appears, claiming to have gotten his disgusting beliefs from the Church I believe in, and I want to scream.  Go ahead, believe any lie you want, but do not attempt to convince me that Jesus taught that lie to you.  Don't even go there.  Don't.


Which brings to mind something I've thought often before: to stay Catholic, I have to stop indiscriminately reading stuff written by Catholics.  I can read Pope Francis (obviously), Simcha Fisher, Mark Shea, Elizabeth Esther, and any number of purely spiritual blogs.  I already don't read Rorate Coeli or Father Z or the comments on pretty much anything.  Comments, John often reminds me, can be the dregs of the internet.

Reading things written by atheists can be much, much less harmful to my faith than reading things written by Catholics.  If atheists are wrong, they're just wrong, no harm done.  And if they're right, I can learn from it.  But Catholics always seem to be speaking for the Church, so when they're wrong ... I wind up disheartened.  Though I have definitely learned my lesson: when in doubt, look it up.  There's the Catechism, the Vatican II documents, the Trent documents, and the Catholic Encyclopedia available online.  And odds are, I'm right.  I have had an extensive Catholic education; when my gut tells me that's not what the Church teaches, it's usually right.

On the other hand, just yesterday I was thinking something that Simcha Fisher then posted about: when a Catholic says something publicly that gives scandal or a misconception about what Catholics believe, it kind of is our responsibility to speak up.  She was talking about holocaust deniers, but really it happens everywhere.  It's important to let people know that we're not all like that, that actually our church is opposed to this stuff, that we do very much care when people are dishonest or cruel in the name of our religion.  I know I am not responsible for every nasty Catholic out there and what they choose to do, but they are associated with me in some way and I feel I have to at least try to make up for it.

So I do what I can.  I do speak out about pedophilia, and homophobia, and anti-semitism, and also everything else.  But balance is important too.  I could spend my life trying to set everyone straight, and I just can't.

Seven Quick Takes is a Conversion Diary thing, but I don't know if she's going to put it up this week, seeing as she is in the hospital still, so far as I know.  Say a prayer for her and her newborn baby!

Edited to add: the linkup is being hosted here if you would like to read quick takes from people who are not me.


Belfry Bat said...

I think (and I fervently hope) that there is some good stance we can find that does neither the violence of encouraging grave sin in private nor the violence of thumping people's heads in public.

I'm afraid I can't see how civil it's-not-real-marriage-if-I-call-it-"civil" could fail to encourage grave sin in private. I can't say it does any good here in the North Kingdom where there isn't a single public school board where teachers who happen to be Catholic are strictly allowed to articulate what the Church does say on these matters as worthy of belief.

But the main point I contend with is this notion that marriage, even (especially) civil marriage is a private matter. The work of nourishing a marriage is properly done in privacy, but other than that it's a secret that everyone knows, it bears fruit that everyone can and should see, and is the only means by which a public anything is maintained. Marriage-in-general and marriages-in-particular are a public matter. The idea that these very things were fully within the scope of "privacy" is where the modern abortion industry got its start.

Enbrethiliel said...


1) First of all, happy belated birthday wishes to Marko! I did see his birthday post on the day you put it up, but neglected to comment. And the contrast between his hair from last year and his marine cut is quite sad. =(

2) I've commented on all the other takes with prime numbers, so I thought I'd add this, too.

3) I don't think not having my swimsuit would have stopped me. ;-) There was a time I and all my street clothes got in the Pacific Ocean all at once, with no hope of getting changed at the beach. After I was done, I ended up walking several blocks, soggy all the way, to a relative's apartment and borrowing some clothes.

5) I don't see that support of same-sex civil union is grounds for being barred from Communion, either, but my thoughts are closer to Bat's on this issue in general. Do we just let people say what they want to say? To a point, sure, but where can we draw the line?

A few years ago, when I was doing after-school tutoring, the centre where I worked admitted an openly gay teenage boy. He was smart and funny and nice to everyone, but then the following situation came up . . . One day, he and another kid were talking too loudly and distracting the tutees in my area; so I said, "Boys, keep it down, please." He looked me directly in the eye and said, "I'm not a boy." I said, "Oh, okay." (LOL!)

Now, if I could go back in time and do it over, I wouldn't change anything. Why make a scene and look bigoted doing so? But you know what? He was a boy. And if he had found a more concrete way to deny that, such as by trying to use the girls' bathroom at the centre (which I had heard he often did at his own school), then it would have got messy.

Anyway, I don't mind looking the other way when same-sex couples want to call themselves married and don't really care about government benefits. But there are some issues that make me put my foot down, such as adoption. And I think there is a Catholic argument to be made against such arrangements.

7) When it comes to reading Catholics, I stay away from most of the religious/spiritual ones, but am drawn, by a mix of curiosity and community, to any Catholics who are writing stuff that isn't particularly religious or spiritual. It goes for any creative Catholic. If you told me that an actor were Catholic, I'd watch his movies really closely. If an actor I can't stand were to convert, I'd do the same thing, looking for "signs" or something. I might not become a fan, but a very real lynchpin of interest would be there.

Sheila said...

I am not, myself, in favor of same-sex civil marriage. It causes some issues I really don't like, such as the notion of everyone else having to *call* them married when I don't believe they are. Much better to get the government out of marriage altogether, which at this point in our social decline seems the only possibility that is fair to everyone.

Currently gays aren't barred in any way from adopting, even though they can't get married (in most states). And that strikes me as unfair to the KIDS ... sure, we will let two people have you and raise you, but if they can't work out their relationship, we wash our hands of you. For the same reason, I'm opposed to adoptions (except in special cases perhaps) by single people. Better a single person than no parents, but if there are married parents available, it seems a no-brainer that the kids should go to them. The point is that getting parents is the right of the CHILD, getting a child is never the right of any adult. And while the jury is still debating the question of whether two parents of the same sex are good for kids, we know for a certain fact that two parents are better than one, so why are we still acting like a single person is qualified?

On the other hand, you actually can't stop people from being parents if they're sufficiently determined. You can bar gays from adoption and from IVF, but there are always (ick) turkey basters and surrogates-for-hire. And there should always be *some* form of protection for those kids. That's the "Catholic argument for gay marriage" that I can come with. Though, like I've said, I would prefer it if the government stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.

BUT, denying communion to people for holding views that are not in any way heretical is WRONG. It is unjust to the people of God. Sadly there's absolutely nothing we can do about it, and there's basically no outcry because everyone considers it to be equivalent to denying communion to prochoice politicians. But failing to defend the innocent is a grave sin -- failing to defend a civil institution is more a matter of prudence. If I were a bishop, I'd have been tempted to deny communion to Rick Santorum because of his views on war, which aren't very Catholic ... but the Eucharist is not a weapon for political ends. We refuse communion to some people because receiving in the state of grave sin is a further grave sin, and we're not going to let people do that. Receiving communion if you disagree with the USCCB is a-okay, from where I'm standing.

Marko's hair makes me sniffle. He looks like Caillou. I hope and pray that if we cut it short enough for long enough, he'll eventually stop doing it and we can let it grow a little more. But so far he's just plucking at the stubble and declaring, "I want to pull out a chunk!" Yikes.

Renee said...

Same struggles with a double stroller, eventually I moved on to one of those red wagons with two seats.

As with the issue of marriage, focus on the issue if fatherless and the social impact on children and communities. I live in Massachusetts in a city that struggles with family stability. Children have a natural right to have a relationship with both biological parents, always. Even if one is in jail.

People become blind to this. It is like these children do not exist and all they need is some more social programs, these kids want their fathers not to abandon them.

Renee said...

Sheila, in Massachusetts children can 'discriminate' in adoptions. Some children will need both a mom and dad. If you go to the Massachusetts adoption resource page, it talks about the types of family constellation s would be a good fit for the child. It is not against the law to state a child needs a mom and dad. The child chooses the parents, not the other way around. We do not have private adoptions in Massachusetts, but sperm/eggs/surrogacy is a free market. For 70k you can get a baby made for you via contract.

Tiffany said...

"Comments, John often reminds me, can be the dregs of the internet." Truer words were never spoken. :) I have to repeat this to myself often when I made the mistake of reading comments to Catholic stories on secular media sites.

Hannah, Horn, and Hannabert said...

Medical costs - couldn't see the entire article but I believe that I might have read it before.

Costs are high to pay for those that can't pay and are then hidden in "global billing" amounts. As a patient, your provider has an agreement with the insurer for "global billing" and so you and the patient can't disagree or dispute.

The original purpose between High Deductible Plans was so that patient and doctor could work together to control costs. Unfortunately, doctors don't have much to say in costs because once again that is controlled by the insurance company agreement with the provider. They charge what they are told to charge (those "discount" rates on your bill) so there isn't a way for you to really work with your provider to help control costs.

Straight costs sheets would be GRAND IF insurance companies then couldn't stipulate payment/pricing amounts or, in the alternative, require you to use one doctor over another as a "preferred" provider even if a non preferred provider would be less expensive.

Sheila said...

Renee, that is good to hear about Massachusetts.

I have a problem with this statement, though: "Children have a natural right to have a relationship with both biological parents, always. Even if one is in jail."

Then we shouldn't have adoptions at all, right? No matter how unable or unwilling the parents are to raise the child, they would be required to do so.

I have heard that statement used by judges to give visitation rights to rapists, forcing a mother to meet with her rapist weekly and hand over her rape-conceived child for "visitation." What if the biological parent is a drug addict, sex offender, child abuser?

If something is a "right," it should be right 100% of the time. But sometimes kids being with their biological parents is wrong. I think a child has a right to loving parents, but I don't at all think those parents MUST be the two who are biologically related. Sometimes that isn't what's best for the child at all.

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