What Nino Read, February 2016

Zita the Spacegirl
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl
Little Catechism on the Eucharist
Hurricane and Tornado
Childcraft World and Space
The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook
Saint Martin de Porres
Star Wars The Yoda Chronicles
Airplanes and Flying Machines
The Rain Forest
Best Ever Paper Planes that Really Fly
Scientific Progress Goes Boink
My First Body Book
Pablo Picasso: Breaking All the Rules
Abigail Adams: Girl of Colonial Days
If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake
Gandhi by Demi
A Weekend with Wendell
The Moffats
Space Station: Accident on Mir
Who Were the Vikings?
George Washington Illustrated Lives
The New Junior Classics 2 Stories of Wonder and Magic
The World’s Best Fairy Tales Volumes 1 & 2
The Penderwicks
The Boxcar Children The Camp-Out Mystery
The 13 Clocks
Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato, & Hahaha
The Secret of Shadow Ranch
Once Upon a Time Saints
Things I Can Make
Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories
The Great Juggling Kit
The Naughtiest Girl Is A Monitor
Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations
Days of the Knights: A Tale of Castles and Battles
Poppy and Rye
Scientific Progress Goes ‘Boink’
The Kingfisher First Encyclopedia
Great Cars
Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves
The Ultimate Lego Book
A Gift of Gracias

Culture of Life Rising (Abortion Compilation) | August 2015 – January 2016


I haven’t been able to blog much lately. Busy with several projects and expect to remain this busy until the latter half of the year. Also need to declutter my digital space badly, so for a while, my posts here will probably consist of compilations — articles I’ve read and saved on various notepads (by topic) and really need to process somehow. I’ve grouped them by sub-topic to make it easier to find them again when I need them. Hopefully my groupings will be helpful to you too.

Through the Eyes of Faith
Marching for Life, Mother Teresa, and Mrs. Clinton
Chiara Corbella Petrillo: 21st Century Witness to Love
Letter from a Pregnant Nun Who Was Raped
There is no equivalence
Laughing at dead babies and the avenging conscience
Pope Francis on Abortion’s “Innocent Victims:” “It’s Wrong to Look the Other Way or Remain Silent”

Conversions of the Heart
NBC’s Gifford Blames Abortionist Kermit Gosnell for Real ‘War on Women’
“The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head”
I Don’t Know if I’m Pro-Choice After Planned Parenthood Videos
Pro-choice, but with open eyes, heavy heart
A Tale of Two Baby Boys Slated for Abortion
A Millennial’s Take on the Culture’s Acceptance of Abortion

In the Year of Mercy
When my abortion is forgiven by the Catholic church, I will be free — Note that the sin of abortion has always been considered forgivable (as all sins are) by the Catholic Church, but its gravity is not in the same league as talking back to your parents, let’s say, and therefore someone confessing this sin would have had to receive extra guidance than would typically be available in the daily/weekly Confessional. In allowing the sin of abortion to be forgiven via regular channels, Pope Francis a requirement that was considered a huge burden by many (mostly from misunderstanding), but at the same time it also places a much larger responsibility on priests. If you don’t understand this, consider your child coming to you and confessing that he has murdered someone. What would you say and do, how would you react? THAT’S how heavy that burden is — there’s no way to take it lightly, not by the sinner, and not by the priest in the Confessional.
On Pope Francis and abortion: a reply to Fritzie Rodriguez
Pope Francis on reconciliation for abortion
Holy Year Gestures on Abortion and the SSPX: 12 Things to Know and Share

Non-Believer but Pro-Life
You Can Be An Atheist And Still Be Pro-Life

Hippocrates Who?
Abortion workers reveal disturbing facts about abortion industry
How the ‘abortion pill’ Mifegymiso could change reproductive health
Suppressing Awareness Regarding Breast Cancer
Since Abortion Was Legalized in the U.S., Women’s Risk of Breast Cancer Has Quadrupled
Abortion is the Primary Preventable Risk Factor for Breast Cancer
New Docs Confirm UMass Purchased Fetal Cadavers for Use in Humanized Mice as StemExpress Dumps Planned Parenthood
Boston Children’s Hospital Has Been Using Brains of Aborted Children in Research for Years
Why We Don’t Need Fetal Cells to Conduct Life-Saving Research

Surrogate defies biological parents’ abortion demand

Tales of the Misled, Corrupted and Pseudo-Scienced
Woman charged with attempted murder in failed abortion
Herbal Abortion Experiences in the Philippines
Poll: More Than 40% of Women Having an Abortion Attend Church, 70% Say They are Christians
Catholic Colleges Collude with Planned Parenthood
‘Leftovers’ Star Amy Brenneman: Abortion is Being ‘Demonized’
Back to Science Class for the Science Guy
I am pro-abortion, not just pro-choice: 10 reasons why we must support the procedure and the choice

The Hard Cases: Rape, Incest, Life of Mother
Philippa Taylor: Abortion is no answer to children conceived through rape or suffering fatal fetal abnormality
Report from LTI speaker Jannique Stewart, on her debate at Florida Atlantic University with Dr. Ethelene Jones of the ACLU and former director of Planned Parenthood
Catholic Hospitals Are Right, Abortion is Rarely Medically Necessary

Culture of Life Rising
Pro-life activist heads to court to defend undercover videos
Closed Planned Parenthood Facility Purchased by Pro-Lifers Re-Opens as Pregnancy Center

It is increasingly clear to me that as the culture continues to degrade we are wasting valuable time trying to change the minds of college students. Unlike most HS students they have been fed a bunch of lies from their liberal teachers and pop culture for too many years. Also, HS students are not generally as sexually active as college students and, therefore, have not developed sophisticated coping mechanisms for defending immoral behavior.

On the other hand college outreach represents a good training ground for our staff, interns and volunteers because we get to respond to the party line pro-abortion arguments. – From From Mark Harrington and Created Equal

Meet The Pro-Life Millennial
Taking Back Our Pink
The Wall of Secrecy Is Crumbling…
#ShoutYourAbortion? How Could Anyone Shout Her Abortion?
I’m a Pro-Life Female Attorney, I Didn’t Have to Abort My Baby to Advance My Career
When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense
Can National Pro-Life Health Centers Become the Cure for Planned Parenthood?
Now hospitals are saving babies born at just 22 weeks: Medical advances raise new doubts on abortion limit
Planned Parenthood issue isn’t going to go away

Master Manipulators
The three types of men who support abortion
Reuters Agrees to Correct Questionable Abortion Statistic
Watch the Shocking Scene From ABC’s ‘Scandal’ That’s Being Lambasted as ‘Stomach Churning’ — and Listen for Song Playing in Background
Obama Administration Paid for Research Using Intact Human Brains From Aborted Babies
New Abortion Panel Bought & Paid For
Baby Development… and Murder
Liam Neeson and Amnesty International get abortion wrong
Obama Science Czar Hides E-mails
Woman: Planned Parenthood pressured me to ‘donate’ my aborted baby
Now We Know Why Reporters Won’t Cover The Planned Parenthood Videos

The Real War on Women
‘One Child,’ by Mei Fong
Naresh Patel, who attempted “abortions” on non-pregnant women, sentenced to 18 days
The Fashion of Abortion
Dr. Drew is Deluded: Blah Blah Blah

On Killing Abortionists
Killing Abortionists: A Symposium

Abortion Law
Supreme Court Review Puts Abortion At A Crossroads
Supreme Court agrees to hear biggest abortion case in two decades
The Surprising Ways Other Countries Think About Abortion

Wisdom for the Battle
4 Reasons Pro-Lifers Need to Stop Doing This
If abortion kills children, act like it.
The Surprising Ingredient To Creating A Pro-Life Culture
The Myth of the Pregnancy Rewind
‘We Are Ambassadors to the Pro-Life Cause’
What are The Best and Worst Biblical Arguments for the Pro-Life View on Abortion?
A Letter to Jennie

First Person
The Timeline Of What It’s Really Like To Go Through An Abortion
Archbishop Cupich’s Seamless Bulletproof Vest for Pro-Choice Politicians: An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Chicago on Planned Parenthood and Poverty

Religious Liberty
Southern Nazarene Universty v. Burwell

Abortion Survivors
Why Abortion Survivors’ Stories Should Be Heard

The Truth Will Out
UN Data Backs Pope on Abortion and Contraception, Climate Alarmists Disappointed

Voices of Sanity
I Should Be Able To Murder You In a Safe, Clean, Legal Way
Abortion Is The New Slavery
A Miscarriage of Humanity: A Brief History of Abortion Arguments
Wouldn’t More Women Die if Roe Fell?
Feminism and the Unraveling of the Social Bond

Folks, when are we going to learn that abortion empowers men and not women? There is an article on Slate about Jacqueline Smith, a woman who died in an illegal abortion in 1955 (link in the first comment). They are trying to use it to make the case for legal abortion of course, but it actually makes the case against it.

Jacqueline Smith was in College, away from her family. She found out she was pregnant and she thought her boyfriend was going to marry her but he told her that she was going to have an abortion. Sounds familiar? This is exactly what happened to me 21 years ago.This happens all the time. Men coercing into/forcing abortion on women who comply out of fear.

The difference is that Smith’s controlling boyfriend arranged for a butcher to come to his apartment and the botched abortion sadly claimed her life but the narrative is still the same. – Beatrice Fedor

What Nino Read, January 2016


The Time Traveller Book of Rome and Romans
Fun with Hieroglyphs
Davy Crockett (COFA)
Time/Life Millennium
St. Augustine and his Search for Faith
Martha Washington (COFA)
George Washington (COFA)
Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections: Castle
The Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the World
Teddy Roosevelt (COFA)
Knights and Castles
Paul Revere (COFA)
Alexander Graham Bell: An Inventive Life
Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius
The Story of the USS Arizona
Secrets of the Mummies
New Catholic Children’s Bible
The Holy Twins
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Money: A Rich History

Sacramental Preparation:
Little Catechism on the Eucharist

Singapore Math 2A
Singapore Math 1B


DK Eyewitness Astronomy
Tops Lentil Science
The Egg
Topps Primary Lentil Science

Nancy’s Mysterious Letter
The Cozy Book
The Phantom Tollbooth
Cam Jansen and the Wedding Cake Mystery
The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl
Zita the Spacegirl
The Moffats
Romeo and Juliet (Bruce Coville)
The Secret Garden

Chess for Kids
The Kingfisher First Encyclopedia
101 Secrets a Good Dad Knows
Large Print Word Hunt
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys
Spider October 2015
Spider November/December 2015
Extreme Machines
Scientific Progress Goes “Boink”

Intimacy Through the Lens of Fear (Part 2 of a Series)


The fear of intimacy is neither rare nor new. Every person has this fear, though we experience it to different degrees.

Its root of course is a fear of rejection. As we raise our children, it is our constant challenge to love them unconditionally, so that they never feel rejected and don’t leave our home with so much emotional baggage that they cannot develop or sustain meaningful relationships as adults.

Thus it is beyond worrisome that so many of our young people today seem to be disproportionately afraid. While self-preservation is a natural instinct, taken to the extreme it can be debilitating and drastically affect our quality of life.

The fear manifests itself in myriad ways, and contribute to the crisis of humanity that’s our society today.

We have the crisis of manhood. (Thank you very much, radical feminism and misandry.)

We equate intimacy with sex, then compartmentalize and micromanage it to death. We depend on birth control and claim that we can divorce the act from the psyche, “no strings attached”. We resort to pornography and masturbation to get our physical “fix”. Anytime we need an emotional high we turn to one of our many virtual relationships. We delude ourselves into thinking we’ve unlocked the mystery of the other, but we often encourage falsehood and discourage authenticity.

We take shortcuts, choose efficiency via the swipe of a finger, except that efficiency and human relationships aren’t exactly a good mix. We insist on consent, as if consent frees us from being objectified and commodified. We use the terms power and winning in relation to sex, and ignore what we know in our hearts: that sex is anything BUT a game.

We get preoccupied with image, embrace worldly “perfection” and allow fantasy to grip us. We buy into the notion that we have unlimited time, unlimited health, unlimited number of people to have “relationships” with. We get sucked in by the illusion of control: hands on the keyboard, hands off reality. We convince ourselves that digital, ambient intimacy is good enough. Whereas there has always been a communication gap between the sexes where intimacy is concerned, technology has allowed us to widen that gap even further. In this age of Photoshop manipulation and Instagram filters, we wonder if we can ever truly bridge it. Still we shrug our shoulders and refuse to rock the boat, settling instead for status quo.

We go for superficial solutions, get comfortable with playing mind games, and wonder why the end result is still dissatisfaction. We feel used, abused, objectified, but we’ve distorted the language to describe what we’re going through, and the closest label we can find to summarize our experience is “rape culture”, so we go with that.

We welcome the attraction to distraction. Like birds that forget to fly south for the winter, we flit from tree to tree, seeking warmth where we can and failing that, comfort ourseves with the thought that there are billions of other birds just like us.

We end up desensitized, plagued with an inability to read each other’s cues. We get frustrated at being clueless about each other’s intentions and expectations, and yet exposing our authentic selves is just too emotionally taxing — who can afford to do that? So we decide we can’t talk about real needs and wants, and we either make hasty decisions, sweep problems under the rug, or we give up on dating/courtship/marriage altogether. (Or we marry a warehouse or a bridge or a robot, since real love and intimacy seem impossibly out of reach anyway.)

We hear the oft-spoken platitudes: love is not feeling, love is not emotion… but those ring hollow, because if it’s not those then what is it supposed to look like, sound like, feel like? We are told that love is a choice, love is a verb, love is self-sacrifice, and yet none of those ring true to us either, because we’ve made choices, we’ve done deeds, we’ve sacrificed our very bodies, yet we’ve come no closer to the truth.

We mistake intimacy as knowing what the other looks like underneath his or her clothes, when real intimacy is knowing what the other looks like underneath his or her fears. And we’re not sure we really want to know.

We look at married people around us, and see that they’re just as confused if not more so. If marriage is just more of the same, then why even bother? It’s scary enough now just breaking down these walls one brick at a time; how can marriage possibly be better?

More next time.

How a Culture of Distraction is Keeping Millennials from Marrying

Homeschooling First Grade Science (A Sample Curriculum)


Posting this for my friend Madora who asked for a bit of guidance on how to homeschool Science with a first grader without the use of a textbook.

Prior to fifth grade and often even beyond, I rarely use a textbook. I find that living books very much fit our homeschooling lifestyle and personalities, so I will almost always reach for one whether I’m reading aloud to the kids or letting them read themselves.

This list of living books (plus other materials) isn’t meant to be comprehensive or match a specific state’s rubrics. At 6 years old, my first grader is still very much a sponge (thank God), so there isn’t much that he does NOT want to learn about, and I simply take cues from his interests, which I observe just from day-to-day interaction. Almost anything can trigger questions, so I do my best to pay attention to those and encourage further questioning and exploration.

In no particular order, these are my 6-year-old’s current favorites:

Microscope and slides
Seeds, any kind but bean seeds are great because they’re easy to grow, and grow quickly (almost instant gratification)
Paper, water, food coloring for random experimentation
Playdough – always nice to have colorful ones, but not necessary; whenever I make bread I give him a piece and it occupies him for at least a couple of hours if not more.
Recently he came home with some flubber from Trail Life.
Paper Airplanes
KidsGardening: A Kids’ Guide to Messing Around in the Dirt
Star Wars Yoda Chronicles (I don’t know that Star Wars = science, but hey, it counts as science around here)
Books by Gallimard Jeunesse, especially Dinosaurs and Airplanes
Mission to the Moon: (Book and DVD)
Star Wars Blueprints: The Ultimate Collection
Boys Life Magazines (you can usually find this at your local library)
Universe (DK Eyewitness Books)
The New Way Things Work
National Geographic Readers: Volcanoes!
Dk Eyewitness Hurricane & Tornado
Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia Of Everything Nasty

At this age, he’s very curious about body processes and functions, so jumping up and down on the couch or on the floor, or down from the tree, using the bathroom, turning cartwheels, are all opportunities for me to engage and answer questions or point things out about anatomy and the way our bodies work.

When it gets a wee bit warmer we’ll head out to the fossil park not far from here. There’s a good list of fossil park locations on Wikipedia, but anywhere where kids can hold a small trowel and do some digging is great.

It goes without saying that play outside is essential. If you live near the beach, a nature park, a zoo, a botanical garden, a space museum — take advantage of these resources. But even if you don’t live near any of those, just get outside and observe trees, leaves, bugs, grass, the sky, birds, the sun and stars, etc. The list is endless, because God’s creation is endless.

A couple of sentences I love to use when interacting with my child:

“I don’t know that one, should we look it up?” Usually the answer is an excited YES, and usually there’s already some book in the house that provides basic information to satisfy his curiosity. If not, we ask dad, or a sibling, or one of mom’s online friends. There’s always Google though caution needs to be exercised when you do a search with a little one beside you.

“Why don’t you try it and see what happens/tell me what you find out?” with some brief guidance on where and when to conduct the experimentation — the tub, outside in the yard, at the sink. If you forget to provide that guidance, don’t lose your head later if it happens on your couch or bed.

Every once in a while, we go on the Pinterest board that I put together for him, and check out some new things we haven’t tried.

There really are not enough hours in the day to answer all his questions, so I don’t worry at all that he might not be learning enough. If he ever stopped asking them, THEN I’ll worry.

I hope this gives you a good starting point so you can put together your own first grade science curriculum. Or, if you would rather have something already put together for you, a favorite of homeschoolers is Noeo Science, which we tried one year and liked.

And in case you need it, I’ve got more science ideas in my previous post, How I Didn’t Teach Science. There are also ideas in the comments section from friendly folks.

How I Didn’t Teach Science

A close friend and fairly new homeschooling mom recently asked, “How do you teach science?”

I told her the truth. “I don’t.”

There was a time, years ago, when I would have been embarrassed to say that, because I would have interpreted my own answer as an admittance of deficiency: “I’m not the homeschooling mom I’m supposed to be.” Those words were petrifying to me then. The future was still a big question mark, and I was afraid that the reply that would be staring me in the face would be F-A-I-L-U-R-E.

I still fear failure, but I’ve also gained gobs of trust — in my kids’ natural thirst for learning, in the experience of moms who were there before me, and yes, even in myself as a mom and teacher. It goes without saying, I trust in God’s plans. And so far His plans have worked out for us!

Science is not my strong suit at all. I can explain basic stuff like water boiling or the sun rising or caterpillars turning into butterflies, but please do not ask me to balance equations or explain or demonstrate physics principles. Forget it. Regardless, our 23-year-old still graduated cum laude in Culinology, so she knows her chemistry, and another child is going into engineering. So it’s probably safe to say now that I didn’t damage them all that much. It is now a trust thing. 😀

How does this TRUST translate into the practical — the day-to-day? What did I actually DO?

1. I bought them books. A science encyclopedia, and then lots of picture books. We read and read and read. When the kids got older, I relied a lot on my friend MacBeth’s recommendations.

2. I did try a few experiments, but since they were mostly failures, I gave up. I didn’t stop them from experimenting though, even the silliest things that they made up. They did kinda like and tried some of Janice Van Cleave’s experiments. There’s this funny video we recorded 8 years ago, where I had the boys experimenting with some soda bottles plus I don’t remember what else. It was supposed to work a certain way, but it didn’t. It was a complete flop. I’d post it here just to prove that I’m a science klutz, but no idea where it is now. Suffice to say, whatever science prowess they have did not come from their mother.

3. I bought them toys: Lego, wooden unit blocks, K’nex, Erector sets, to keep their hands and minds busy. Some had lesson plans and even DVDs included, but uhm, I never used them though I promised myself I would. (Lazy, lazy, lazy.)

4. I let them watch videos: Magic School Bus even though I couldn’t stand that show, National Geographic, Kratt’s Creatures (now Wild Kratts), Discovery Channel, etc.

5. I took them outside, sometimes with field guides. We looked at birds and flowers and bugs and rocks and trees. We dug for fossils a couple of times. Every once in a while I took them to the science center or aquarium to assuage guilt. I encouraged nature journaling but it didn’t take, probably because I personally wasn’t enthused about it, though I still want to be!! Maybe when I’m old and gray and they’re homeschooling my grand kids, I can be a better example.

6. I taught them to cook. Kitchen science is the only science I know by heart. Cleaning squid was one of our most memorable lessons, and that student is now a chef and got As in her chemistry classes, so something must have worked, somehow.

7. I let them hang out a lot with Dad, since Dad’s an engineer. I figured they would learn stuff, because GENES. Maybe at least one kid did, since he will be studying how to become an electromechanical engineer in the fall.

8. I took them to the zoo. I suppose they learned stuff there too, though mostly they wanted to ride the train. :/

9. I bought a microscope and slides, science kits, binoculars, magnifying glasses, tools with which to observe.

10. I hung out with science people online, like MacBeth, and Kris; and others who loved to talk about science. I figured I could learn to be a better science teacher by just associating with them. Every now and then they’d post something sciencey on FB or at the forum, and I’d send the link to my kids. 😀

Sorry. I wish I could offer more profound/valuable advice, but like I warned my friend, I’m not a science person!! 😀 And THIS (so far) worked for us. So I hope this helps her, and you.

My 6-year-old’s Christmas/Birthday Wish List


Sharing this in case it’s helpful to anyone who’s gift-planning for their own kids. A catalog came to the house a few weeks ago, and today I found these items circled in it. LOL. He just made our gift-giving easy. I’m giving the list to our older kids so they can brainstorm further on what to get the youngest.

Very Big Maze Book
Ravensburger Puzzleball Globe
Zoob Challenge
Magnetic Thinking Putty
Laser Maze Jr.
Brain Fitness Solitaire Chess

Elderberry Syrup


The cold and flu season is upon us once again, so I just made a batch of elderberry syrup to give our immune systems a boost, but also because it’s plain delicious and we love it. Elderberries are a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Iron and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber and Vitamin C (reference here, for FRESH elderberries, but you get a good idea of the nutritional value).

Elderberry extract is available commercially, but I prefer making our own version since I like knowing what I put in it and I’m able to control the sweetness, plus it’s more economical to DIY.

Disclaimer: This isn’t meant to replace medical advice — I’m not a health or medical practitioner, just a mom who loves good food and who has made decisions about our family’s nutritional needs based on experience plus the wisdom of other moms. Here’s some basic info from WebMD, and there are scientific papers linked below if you want to read more on elderberry, but your doctor’s the best person to ask if you have any questions. All I know is our family hasn’t been seriously hit with the flu since 2011, so we’ve just continued making/taking it. And there isn’t a consensus on recommended dosage, so we limit ourselves to a tablespoon or so a day, except on those days when we enjoy a bit more on our pancakes or mixed into a smoothie. Not for kiddies under 2 (because of the honey) and also, this review says not for pregnant women. If in doubt, always ask your doctor. Whenever we take something that’s not prescribed by the doctor I always make it a point to let him know that we’re taking it so he can put it in our charts and if there are any problems, he’s already informed.

To make this syrup, you’ll need:

2/3 cup dried black elderberries (I like these)
3 1/2 cups water
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped finely
2 cinnamon sticks (Ceylon preferred, like these) broken into pieces or run briefly in spice grinder (doesn’t have to be ground finely)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup raw honey (we like this)

(I prefer using organic ingredients, but it’s not necessary.)

Put all ingredients except honey into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for an hour, and then remove cover and boil on high heat 10 more minutes to reduce. Remove from heat and let cool, partially covered, to lukewarm. Strain into a large bowl, pressing on the solids to get all the goodness out of them, then add the honey and mix well with a whisk (or when I’m lazy, I run through the blender). Store in an airtight container (I like these flasks) and refrigerate. I honestly don’t know how long it lasts because there’s 7 of us and it gets used up pretty quickly around here.

Store in the fridge and take 1 tablespoon daily, or every 4 hours if you get hit with cold or flu.

More reading if you like:

Herbal Therapies for Prevention and Treatment of Influenza and Influenza-Like Illness
Anti-Influenza Virus Effects of Elderberry Juice and Its Fractions
The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines
Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections
Inhibition of Several Strains of Influenza Virus in Vitro and Reduction of Symptoms by an Elderberry Extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an Outbreak of Influenza B Panama

AlDub and The Thrill of the Chaste


Of all the things I could write about here at Patheos, I didn’t think I’d be writing about a Filipino love team. And yet here I am, prompted by this video making the rounds. Here’s a good primer. Since I’m in the US, I comment as an outsider, piecing together what I’ve heard from friends and online sources, but here’s my 2 cents’ worth.

A few basics to understand the AlDub phenomenon:

  1. Filipinos are social media maniacs (and I say that in the most loving way possible). They’re into every new gadget and trend out there, so millions of tweets propelling this pair to world famous status isn’t surprising at all.
  2. Filipinos are nothing if not romantics. Courtship and dating rituals are part of our heritage.
  3. Filipinos are all about family.

Combine those and you get the winning formula that is AlDub. Let’s go a bit farther.

According to the latest survey, there are 2.3 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) — that means 2.3 million Filipinos separated from their families, often not by choice but by necessity. Family members often have to live in separate continents in order to survive, to finance educations, to seek greener pastures and secure futures, to develop independence and be able to start new families. Government corruption and unfavorable conditions for jobs and businesses in the homeland force people into these lifestyles, which often lead to broken relationships and broken families. Not surprisingly, many of the usual shows portray (and even glorify) what has become the norm for many — infidelity and mistressing.

AlDub is a refreshing break from the usual, and fills the gap that other shows have missed. It is entertainment that spans continents — it’s shared experience — one more way to connect for those who are physically separated. The values it promotes are values parents want to impart to their children: lessons on love, dating, and courtship that they are not able to teach firsthand because they are absent. Fans live vicariously through the celebrities they admire. Sometimes, that admiration even turns into emulation.

AlDub highlights what many Filipinos have gotten right: courtship, within the context of family, because relationships don’t develop and grow within a vacuum. Of course, people tune in for what Filipinos call kilig — roughly translated: THRILL. And though the majority of fans probably won’t even think about this, they tune in because of what Dawn Eden calls The Thrill of the Chaste.

What is kilig about? It’s excitement at POSSIBILITIES. People tune in because they anticipate that this couple will end up together, at least onscreen if not off. But beyond that, this early in the game, and despite historical evidence to the contrary, social media commenters are already imagining a lifetime for this pairing, using words like asawa (spouse), kasal (wedding) and anak (offspring). Though celebrity pairings are rarely permanent, it doesn’t stop people from hoping anyway.

The celebrity relationships that do last are seen as occurring outside of the norm, and therefore unrelatable. And yet people remain in want of stories showing exactly that. But it’s often seen as elusive, and therefore un-sell-able, hence the default to the common denominator which mirrors Filipinos’ lived experiences more: pain, suffering, heartbreak.

That’s something writers and producers could perhaps chew on, though AlDub is an accidental hit and one that’s difficult to manufacture or copy. While intrigue and melodrama will always sell, people’s hearts are most engaged when something hits them at their core — not just their Filipino-ness, but their human-ness. That AlDub fans are attracted to the concept of permanence demonstrates not shallowness, but truth. People are attracted to anything that ultimately speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart: the need to belong, to be loved, to find out what a happy ending is like. For many Filipinos for whom reality = separation, AlDub is not just an escape from the humdrum of daily existence. The thrill, excitement, and anticipation that a pairing could go on indefinitely keeps people watching. It’s the HOPE that they all have for themselves, and for their family. Everyone wants a happily ever after.

I was just about ready to hit publish when I stumbled on this interesting discussion on AlDub and The Four Loves (!!) in the combox of this post: AlDub Love Defines the Country. “You, me and all others who can see beyond the craze must draw up a plan or something to move the love to agape level, which is what Philippine love should be.”

Whether the AlDub pairing lasts remains to be seen, but the positive impact it’s making can’t be denied. Here’s one for starters: AlDub’s contribution to the common good: LIBRARIES!!

More reading:
The Social Significance of AlDub

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Mama Mary, the Rosary, and Me


She was there when I learned my first prayers, in bed with my mom waiting for Papa to get home, the Sacred Heart of Jesus image in the hallway lit, as we prayed the Angelus and Mommy taught me how to use her Rosary beads.

She was there as I was growing up, praying the nightly family Rosary, kneeling all together in my parents’ bedroom, at times being overcome with distractions and giggling fits. My cousins and I were a bunch of silly teens; I hardly knew her and gave no thought to what role she played in my life.

When we moved to the US, she was there every morning as my mom and I walked the seven blocks to the bus stop for our daily commute to work and school, in the middle of winter, bundled up in scarves and bonnets and boots, our gloved hands fingering the Rosaries in our coat pockets, mine a silver-beaded one, from an aunt who had visited Rome.

She was there when I was heartbroken and lonely, crying my heart out in front of the Blessed Sacrament. She taught me to cling to her Son no matter what life brings.

She was there when I met my future husband, and when I taught him how to pray the Rosary. She was there the day I said yes, the promise sealed by the green crystal beads that I gave him.

She was there through the pangs of childbirth, and during the busy, stress-filled years of young parenthood, when I’d lose the habit of prayer and find it again… through every illness, major decision, and milestone.

She was there when my husband decided we needed to recommit ourselves to nightly family prayer, and she’s been there for every child who learned how to pray and lead the Mysteries in their turn.

She was there when I made my consecration in 2008, and when the first three kids made theirs.

She was there on my husband’s 50th birthday, when I gave him a brand new Rosary with lapis lazuli beads, the work of my hands.

She was there as our oldest children learned to drive, her motherly love around me as I battled with myself to let go and let God. She was there when our oldest son got lost for two hours in the mountains of West Virginia on a camping trip. And she was there when our 24-year-old’s car broke down in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota, keeping our daughter company as she waited several hours for help.

She was there on our boys’ first road trip, smiling down at me when I texted them that I had finished praying my Rosary for them, and they texted back that they had just finished praying all twenty Mysteries, and I breathed a sigh of relief. She quiets the quaking in me and helps me find peace in the midst of this noisy world.

She was there when our youngest child learned to pray his first Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.

She was there when we took my mom to the hospital recently. She held my mom’s heart and mine in hers, as we sat there late at night, praying together, our lives drawn full circle, the faith passed on from mother to child, and then mother to child again. In blessing and in pain, she keeps our eyes on Him Who gives us our purpose and reason for being.

Through it all, she has shown me what it means to believe, believe in, and trust my Creator. Though my stubbornness and pride know no bounds, she has taken me from fiat to fiat, and with every one I utter, I learn to pattern myself after her obedience and her humility. Who else can teach me these lessons best, if not our Blessed Mother, the very first disciple? Where else do I turn when I need to understand that a life of freedom means a life of surrender? Mama Mary has taught me to praise, to worship, with my life. She has helped me listen to the Holy Spirit, to define my vocation as woman, wife, and mother. I’ve celebrated the joyful, mourned the sorrowful, and learned from the illuminated mysteries of my own life, following in her footsteps, praying that as the Lord was magnified in her soul, He will be magnified in mine.

Mama Mary, ora pro nobis!

O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life. Grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Further reading:

Where Did the Rosary Originate?
33 Days to Becoming a Saint
Ring Around the Rosary

Bacon and Contraception? Not the Same Thing


A pro-lifer friend shared his concern with me this morning, asking if we should oppose bacon along with contraceptives, since bacon has been declared a Class 1 Carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

First of all, the processed meat and cancer connection is nothing new. I’ve heard that since I was a child, that’s why my mom (who’s a pharmacist) never stocked it at home. Bacon, SPAM, hotdogs — especially the bright red ones available in the Philippines — rarely appeared on our dinner table.

What has always concerned me more as an adult and what I think has not been explored enough is the connection between GMO feed, antibiotic use in animals, factory farming, the use of pesticide in plants that end up as animal feed… and cancer.

My friend is concerned that we make a big deal about OCPs being Class 1 Carcinogens, but we proclaim our love for bacon all the time, and therefore we’re being inconsistent and hypocritical. That bacon is now a proven carcinogen (I don’t agree with this 100%) means we can no longer use “the carcinogen argument”. I still don’t think it’s the same thing.

Contraceptive pills are taken daily and are promoted by the World Health Organization as essential medicine. (Most recent list here.)

The message given to us by the WHO, by Big Pharma, by pro-choice lobbyists, by supposed philanthropists, is worlds apart from anything we’ve ever said about bacon. First of all they either don’t even acknowledge that OCPs are carcinogens, or they downplay that by telling a woman to do it for her family, her country, and for the man who uses her body. They sell it as a NEED and a COMMON GOOD.

By contrast, our position about contraception is so much more nuanced than “It’s a carcinogen.”

Contraceptive pills and bacon are both LIFESTYLE CHOICES. People can choose to take pills or not. They can also choose to consume bacon or not. We’ve never promoted bacon as a MUST. It’s food, and one that poor people can rarely even afford, if at all. We don’t go around giving away bacon for free or selling it at discounted prices. The Catholic Church doesn’t fund bacon distribution to the poorest countries saying that it will help them, whereas contraceptives have been touted as panacea for poverty and hunger. For much of the world, bacon isn’t even an option. One could even say “bacon is carcinogen” is a first world problem.

Contraceptives, on the other hand, are not only sold so people can purchase and use them freely as they wish, they are MANDATED and PAID FOR BY TAXPAYERS, even those of us who don’t use them and don’t agree that it’s beneficial to do so. When was the last time we lobbied for access to bacon?

And I say all this not just because I love bacon, but because I love people too. I am all for increased awareness of the dangers of processed meat consumption. Educating and informing people about it doesn’t dilute our advocacy against contraception one bit. As far as our family is concerned, we are always trying to increase our consumption of plant-based foods, just because we’ve read and learned enough to know that it’s the healthy way to eat. When it comes to meat I try to purchase grass-fed beef, pastured pork, naturally cured meats (or we cure our own without the use of things like saltpeter) whenever I can. I try to find out as much as I can about our local farmers’ practices so I can discern better what to feed my family.

I’ve only ever seen pro-lifers promote healthy diets, with everything in moderation, and that includes bacon, though we tend to agree that bacon makes everything better! Pills? Not so much. Besides, Bacon Causes Cancer? Sort of. Not Really. Ish.

More reading:
Save Your Bacon! Sizzling Bits about Nitrites, Dirty Little Secrets about Celery Salt, and Other Aporkalyptic News
Nitrites & Nitrates: Are They Harmful Or Actually Healthful?

How Do We Help Others Carry the Cross?


Much guidance can be found on how to suffer profitably, how to think of suffering, and why it even exists. But one of the things I’ve struggled with in my prayer life is how to pray for loved ones who find themselves in the midst of suffering. And now that I seem to be surrounded by so much of it, I find myself asking these questions again.

Several years back, my husband had to undergo three surgeries in the span of two years. Like many men though, he somehow knows how to suffer well, and other than play Florence Nightingale and do all the things I do anyway as his wife, there wasn’t much beyond prayer that I could offer.

Trust an overthinker to even worry about this, but my question always has been: Should we be praying that our loved ones be relieved, spared, or healed, knowing that they are being purified and perfected, and that this is their opportunity to unite their pain with Christ’s cross, which cannot be wrenched apart from salvation?

There are those who are able to see gift and grace even in suffering; there are those who don’t. A quiet suggestion to “offer it up” isn’t something one can say to everyone, only to those who understand and appreciate the redemptive value of suffering. And what of the loved one who refuses to let you share his pain, wanting to spare you what he wrongly assumes would be a burden to you?

Ultimately how a person handles suffering is between him and his Father. Will it make him turn away from God, or cause him to cling even more?

I’ve been reading Job lately and seeing myself in his friends. Well-meaning though they were, I couldn’t help but breathe a mea culpa in those instances when it seemed they did nothing but add insult to injury. To sit and simply listen to another’s woes, to refrain from saying the wrong thing or offering unwanted advice, to watch in silence… all these can be tough, but sometimes they’re all we’re called to do.

In the end, our prayer needs to be “Your Will be done.” And yet even Jesus in Gethsemane asked His Father, if possible, to let that cup pass from Him.

We are blessed when we are able to directly ease another person’s pain, but what about those times when we aren’t able to? There is, of course, the natural desire to see people delivered from it because it pains us to see them suffer — is it selfishness then to ask for that? The temptation to turn away can get unbearable sometimes. Simon of Cyrene didn’t exactly volunteer to get that close to Jesus and His Cross, though he was transformed in a way he couldn’t have been, had he stayed a bystander. I often pray that my intentions be purified, that my thoughts and prayers be rooted in love. We can pray for grace, not only for our loved ones who carry their crosses, but also for ourselves who walk this path with them.

We are not guaranteed a pain-free existence in this world, no matter how our suffering-averse society tries to convince us of it. More than any physical pain, though, the spiritual struggle is an unavoidable component of any suffering. Whether suffering is temporary or one that brings our loved ones to life’s end, inviting them to focus their eyes past the Cross, to the eternal happiness that awaits, is the most compassionate thing we can do.

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him,” – 1 Corinthians 2:9

On this, Pope Saint John Paul II’s feast day, I take much comfort in thinking upon his life, for he too, suffered much. Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Helpful reading:

Salvifici Doloris
Making Sense Out of Suffering
Love and Suffering: The Paradox of Love
A Tsunami Cannot Be Drawn in Pastels: On Dignity and Suffering

The Gentle and Arduous Task of Shepherding Little Souls


Yesterday after supper, the 6-year-old squeezed himself into the space between me and the back of the couch while I tried to catch up on reading. He does this often, using me alternately as pillow, footrest, jungle gym or whatever else suits his mood and restless muscles. It’s like having a cat except mine’s heavier, not furry, and talks. And doesn’t cause fits of sneezing. Usually he reads while I work, but last night after several minutes of performing his usual acrobatics beside, on, and around me, he got serious.

“What if I don’t remember my sins, Mommy?”

It took me a second to focus on what he was saying and recall that we were doing a bit of sacramental preparation the last couple of weeks, specifically Confession. To keep it simple, I had summarized it as “remembering your sins and telling them to the priest who is Jesus’ representative here on earth”. (It will be a while until his First Confession, so please pray for him.)

“I can give you a little notebook, and you can write them in there at night before we pray.”
“Can you write them down for me?”

I started launching into an explanation of why it’s a good idea to recall our sins at night, so we can pray about them, ask God’s forgiveness, and ask for His help so that we don’t make the same mistakes the next day… but I hadn’t quite finished when he interrupted me, tearing up a bit.

“Kuya and I had a fight last night.” (Kuya = Big Brother in Filipino)

“Yes, you did.”
“I spat at him,” he said, looking very remorseful and sad.

So we covered apologies, and forgiveness, and trying again. And I told him about a close relative who used to do the same thing because it was one of the things he could do when he got into a fight, since being little meant being unable to land punches as effectively as a big person can.

We laughed a bit, but then he got serious and teary-eyed again.

“What if someone always makes you mad? And what do you do when someone kicks you?”

As I probed further, I found out that he had a fight with a friend on a recent camping trip, and the friend kicked him, and he kicked the boy back. Dad joined us briefly to discuss things in more detail, and to plan what needs to be done next: he will sit down with the boys face to face and get to the bottom of things, and give them some instruction so it doesn’t happen again. The boys had been roughhousing at the campout, as boys are wont to do, and there were adults around, but I guess no one noticed much that was of concern to them.

Except that my boy is a sensitive soul and he thinks about these things long after they’ve happened.

There’s the concern, of course, that the boy is a bit older and bigger than him, but I didn’t want to use the word “bully” because I didn’t want my child getting locked into labeling someone who, most likely, is also still learning how to manage emotions and control impulses. That the child belongs to a strong Christian family, friends of ours, puts our minds at ease too.

Beyond this, though, my child was concerned that this friend seems to know just what buttons to push, and that he often ends up getting angry.

I explained how certain people just manage to rub us the wrong way at times. And how there are things that need to be brought to the attention of adults right away, BUT that there are also things that we can choose NOT to get upset or offended about, and that there are unpleasant things in life we can learn to just let go, or avoid altogether if avoidance would be best for everyone concerned. I gave him suggestions on healthy ways to express anger that doesn’t hurt him or someone else. And we talked about how being angry or offended about too many things isn’t a good formula for happiness.

A few more minutes of hugging and reassuring and he was back to making fart jokes.

I’m sure my son doesn’t realize it, but as I’m shepherding his heart and soul, he shepherds mine. He has such a simple and profound way of looking at the world and the bottom line of things. It’s almost heartbreaking to see him grapple with these thoughts and concerns at such a young age, but I am also deeply, infinitely blessed by his musings. What a privilege and a responsibility to tend to the little ones in His flock. I am awed at the wonder of it, and humbled and grateful that God saw it fit to make me his mother. Thank You, Lord.

Today, as we celebrate the canonization of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, I pray that we parents take inspiration from them as we grow our own families. Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us!

Help! We’re having a baby! How do I homeschool the toddler/older child(ren)?


[I wrote this post a year ago because a friend who was new to homeschooling AND was expecting a baby wanted to know how she could possibly homeschool when the demands on her time potentially could be endless. Reposting it for another friend who’s due with her fourth child soon and slightly panicking.]

The key thing to remember when you have a baby is to SET PRIORITIES.

#1 Priority: The Baby. Which means, YOU, the mom. You need to be getting sleep (with the understanding that moms don’t get a lot, but get as much as you can). Things that can help:

– Is dad going to be able to take off work? If he is, take advantage of that, and GET SLEEP. Cleaning the house, etc., can wait. Dad will need sleep too. Napping with baby on his chest? Awesome. That’s why all our kids are close to dad.

– If laundry needs doing, one load a day. Have older child help with sorting/folding. Good activity to do when baby’s napping.

#2 Priority: Food. Before baby is born, prepare freezer meals, at least a couple of weeks’ worth, so that all dad or older child(ren) will have to do is heat up food. Don’t stress it though. If you have to resort to freezer-to-microwave meals from the store, or Chinese, or fast food, or pizza delivery, that’s okay. You’re not going to keel over and die from fast food (not right away anyway [wink]).

#3 Priority: Homeschooling. I put this here because I know that’s your biggest worry, but I wanted to illustrate that it really should be last after the above are taken care of. Because homeschooling is LIFE. Our children will learn far more from LIVING life with a new baby than from any other formal lesson they’ll have about reading or math or science.

  • Children will learn that sometimes you just need to go with the flow. A baby, esp. the first few weeks of life, dictates the schedule. Build the rest of your day around the baby. When the baby naps, go nap with the older kids too. At the very least cuddle on the couch and read favorite books. Or older child reads to toddler. Work out things so you all have DOWN TIME or QUIET TIME once or twice a day. Put on some classical music or an audiobook for the older child to listen to. THIS WILL BE YOUR LITERATURE AND MUSIC LESSON.
  • There will be many areas of concern, but I want to address the 3 basics — food, clothing, shelter. Past the first couple of weeks, when life starts to normalize a bit more, get older child to help you cook. Simple meals only, or assembly type food items. THIS WILL BE YOUR READING, MATH AND SCIENCE LESSON. Learning to follow a recipe is an important life skill and it will carry on to other skills. Loading a dishwasher is also a lesson in Math/Geometry. Math worksheets (Singapore Math make them really colorful and fun) are great if you just want to make sure she’s practicing her computation skills.
  • Sorting clothes can be a lesson for the toddler. THIS IS A MATH SKILL. Sort clothes into piles (Dad, Mom, Big Sis, Me, Baby), Big Sis or mom folds.
  • Turn cleaning into a game. Sing songs and/or set a timer. “Let’s see how much clutter we can put away in five minutes!! Go!”
  • Live the liturgical year. Morning prayer, grace at meals, night prayer. Read a saint’s bio a day, talk about that saint’s life, what he/she did to become a saint. There’s your RELIGION LESSON.
  • Encourage your older child to keep a journal. This will take care of WRITING AND NARRATION SKILLS. If a child is not particularly fond of HANDwriting, require only a few sentences (depending on age and maturity). The rest can be done via computer, either the child keyboarding herself/himself, or record audio/video narrations.
  • STOP worrying about the AMOUNT of learning that’s going on, or covering a certain number of chapters per week. Much of learning isn’t measurable anyway. Just make sure you surround them with TRUE, GOOD, BEAUTIFUL. Strew good books around, on a variety of subjects. The child will pick up those books because THEY’RE ACCESSIBLE. Hang fine artwork around the house, even if it’s just postcards. OR, set up your screensaver to rotate artwork. You can do Matisse for a week, Monet for the next, etc.
  • Get out as much as you can, every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. You’ll need fresh air and sun, and exercise. While you’re out, take note of things like the sky, trees around you, rocks, etc. RELIGION AND SCIENCE LESSON right there. If/when you can go out to a park or a nature trail, take a field guide or two with you, a magnifying glass, binoculars, so you can identify trees, leaves, birds, etc. Bring a small bag for adding a bit to a child’s rock or leaf collection, and a small journal plus pencils so they can document what they see/observe.
  • Grocery shopping = MATH LESSON. Also HEALTH — Why do we buy this item vs. that. Why this vegetable/fruit is good for you. Where do we get protein and why do we need it? etc.
  • If you can, WEAR BABY. This will do wonders in keeping him/her happy and you being able to do stuff around the house and making yourself available to the other kids.
  • The baby becomes the lesson! Borrow children’s books from the library on human development. One book I would recommend — Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman. (I can list more recommendations if you like.) Great time to talk about biology. TOB!
  • Let older child help out as much as he/she can. This will help dissipate any feelings of envy and give her a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
  • Do make sure that when Dad’s home and taking care of baby, that toddler and older child get LOTS of hug time, better if individually. What we’ve also done in the past is sometimes have Mom, older child and baby in the family bed, and dad and toddler in another bed. (These are just suggestions; I will not further address co-sleeping because every family is different.)
  • What’s most daunting, I think for most moms with toddlers, is keeping the toddler occupied. Rotate toys/manipulatives to keep them interesting. Duplo, wooden blocks, pattern blocks, large puzzles, playdough (make or buy these before baby comes), finger paints (outside so you don’t have to worry about cleanup), etc. If summer, a sandbox + diff. size cups, and water box outside will keep toddler occupied for hours. Even just a plastic container with a lid will do, you don’t have to get a real sandbox. Also, GOOD VIDEOS (i.e., Veggie Tales or educational ones) — don’t worry about having to resort to these if you need your nap. It’s not going to be forever!
  • Educational videos for the older child/children too ARE OKAY. There are so many available, you won’t run out! So it’s not ideal. So what? You’re also teaching FLEXIBILITY.
  • More than anything, just RELAX. When our kids see us taking life one day at a time, not majoring in the minors, not stressing over the petty things, THAT’S a valuable lesson. It teaches them how to trust and live in God’s grace and His perfect time. You can do this, Sis!!

Why I’m Leaving Facebook, for the Nth Time


Pardon the me-centric post, please.

I’m leaving Facebook, again, this time for longer. I wish I was strong enough to say “forever”, but I know my weaknesses.

Friends prayed for me as I was discerning this latest departure, and I have no doubt that this is what God wants from me, right now. Current events, prayer requests from friends, my readings from the past several weeks — Judith, Esther, Maccabees, Ecclesiastes, the Catechism — are all pointing me in this direction. Sackcloth and ashes a Facebook fast isn’t, but I’ll take it.

There is so much suffering in the world today: the Christians killed and persecuted daily, the victims of human trafficking, the terminally ill, the perpetually hungry and thirsty… while here I am in my cozy house surrounded by my children and possessions, typing away at my keyboard. Every hour I’ve spent on Facebook is an hour I could have been spent with Him in the Blessed Sacrament, or with family, or doing community service … that I didn’t. So yes, I won’t deny that there’s some element of guilt here.

I’ve done some good on social media and I would not call it wasted, but good is also the enemy of best.

Last night, my 6-year-old asked if we could talk about ghosts. He’s been preoccupied lately with death and dying. Twice recently he lay awake in the dark, sobbing, worrying about things that little overthinkers worry about. (Bless his heart, he is so much like me.) Maybe we’ve talked about abortion once too many times at the dinner table, though we’ve been conscious enough not to say things like “body parts”. Maybe it’s that we visited an arboretum/cemetery recently, where he saw the small gravestones.

After much hugging and coaxing, I find out it’s not really ghosts that have been bothering him, but his conscience. A couple of weeks ago he had angrily thrown a book at his older brother and hurt his side.

God made us, and He knows we’re not perfect. We talked about God’s mercy and love and forgiveness. We talked about apologies, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I suggested that he apologize to his brother again, more sincerely this time. Needless to say he felt 100x better afterwards and didn’t need to talk about ghosts after all.

Those are the moments I don’t want to miss, or participate lightly in. It’s not just the 6-year-old; I have teens, and therefore teen angst and teen questions. There are souls in my care that need me right now, more than the souls on Facebook need me. Not to mention the fact that I am also increasingly dissatisfied with FB friendships. I am realistic enough to know that I can never have truly meaningful relationships with ALL my Facebook friends, but I am also Luddite enough to value the email over the Facebook “like”, the snail mail letter over the e-mail, the phone call over the voiceless chat. I haven’t done enough of these things though I keep saying I will.

I’ve been on social media long enough to know that mass conversions don’t happen, and I need to learn to quiet my spirit when I see things that I interpret as ignorance or apathy or inaction. I’ve been questioning what difference I make, out there… though what I really need to learn is to trust in God’s timing, even if it means “slow”. I do know I make a bigger difference when I invest in the one-on-one, at the point where minds and hearts and souls meet. Unfortunately, Facebook has its own annoying limits, and I have mine.

I take no pleasure in leaving, and I’m petrified of my own weaknesses, so I ask for prayers. If/When our fourth child joins Facebook, I might go back to show her the ropes, just like I did with the others. For now I’m retreating to my cocoon.