Road Porn

One of the favorite songs I’ve ever written, “So Be Glad” has been featured over at Road Porn. If you’re unfamiliar, and you probably are—there is a whole collection of sped up road trip footage from around the country (world?) that is put to music. The artist, Lucas Papaelias has taste in music that I can vouch for. Perfect for parties or any other occasion you’d like some ambient music and visuals.

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Rather than plugging holes in a sinking ship, let’s learn to float.

As a subscriber to Wendy Kramer’s Donor Sibling Registry blog (which I really like—I think Wendy does great work), I recently came across her most recent post about major discrepancies in egg donor reporting—describing the egregious way in which egg banks and fertility clinics underreport OHSS (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome) as well as infertility after egg donation and other serious health consequences resulting from egg harvesting. Agencies report about a 1% risk of OHSS, but the real number appears to be closer to 30% (I myself experienced OHSS when I sold my eggs). And it appears at least 9.6% of donors become infertile after the procedure.

People who are invested in keeping third party reproduction legal often tout regulation as the solution to all of the annoying health and psychological risks/consequences that arise from these procedures. For egg donors it might be we need to lower the dosages. For surrogates they say we need to properly screen them. For sperm donors we just need to limit the number of offspring and make sure we do genetic testing to prevent the spread of inheritable diseases. And so on and so forth.

When a generation emerged and complained about being lied to about their status as donor-conceived, the authorities said we just need to be open and honest with our kids and tell them the truth from the beginning. Then those of us (like me) who were told from the very beginning still grew up and complained loudly that anonymity is despicable—we deserve to know the identities of our biological parents. And so now the authorities are saying OK as long as you choose an open ID donor you’ll be fine. And we are starting to see the complications, the custody battles, legal battles, the pure chaos of those “solutions” now too.

Everyone is trying to find an artificial, legalistic, technological solution to the long list of problems that come along with third party reproduction and alternative families in all their forms. But they are plugging holes on a sinking ship. The ship was our understanding of love and sex as God and nature intended. The bomb that blew up the ship was the Sexual Revolution.

The solution to OHSS and premature infertility from egg harvesting is not more regulation. It is the abolishment of the egg trade and third party reproduction in general. The solution is encouraging women to get married and have kids when they’re 25, and get their PhD’s at 40, rather than the other way around. The solution is to financially incentivize actual cures to infertility rather than allowing a marketplace in pre-born children. The solution is for us all to learn how to cooperate with nature again, rather than try to dominate it.

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The House The Hope

We have a house under contract. It is downtown. It is a fixer-upper.

A pious Catholic woman, a regular latin mass attendee, died of old age and now her home needs new occupants. Our realtor informed of us of the property before it even went to market. We walked into the cluttered 3 bedroom 2 bath decadent with both dust and old Catholic artifacts, including over 100 rosaries, statues, and paintings of Jesus and Mary. A baby grand piano welcomes visitors in the front parlor room—although it is devastatingly out of tune.

The property needs a new foundation, new electrical work, new appliances, new kitchen cabinets, a new heating and cooling system, new flooring, new gas pipes, new sinks, and a whole lot of paint.

Banks won’t do conventional loans on crappy houses like the one we’re determined to buy. They only want to lend money for “average or better” properties—whatever that means. So for fixer uppers of a profound nature one must either pay all cash or do what we’re doing: a 203(k) loan.

Our loan is very rare—because its a pain in the bunz.

We have to do two miles of paperwork. Then we have to get bids from a contractor. Then we have to pay a HUD consultant mega bucks to mediate. Then we have to have to wait. Then we have to do more paperwork. Then we have to convince our contractor to finance all his own work. Then he has to bill the government. Then we have to do more paperwork. Then maybe like 10 years from now we’ll have a decent house to live in.

But it’s downtown. The husband can bike to work. We can walk the kids the ONE BLOCK to school. And sit on our huge southern front porch as the fat rain drops and contemplate about life and God and listen to swamp pop on our record player in the parlor.

Closing date is May 20-something. Wish us luck.

Lent 2015

We are midway through Lent—the 40 days after Mardi Gras and before Easter where Jesus was said to have walked through the desert, being tormented by Satan—right before He was humiliated and murdered on the cross.

Some know Lent as the time when you “give something up” in some kind of arbitrary masochistic deprivation. I’m new to this whole Catholic thing, I have no wise words to share. But I use this blog to document life in preparation for the onset of Alzheimer’s and so readers be warned this post may mimic the torturous nature of the season.

Lundi and Mardi Gras were cold but exciting times this year at the Newman’s. We paid off all of my student loan debt. ALL OF IT. We are debt free and it. is. great. We envisioned a loosening of mind and body as life-without-debt now allowed for more disposable income. We also did our taxes early and discovered we were getting a nice cushy tax refund. Ya! Turns out kids ARE helpful in some regards… Then Ash Wednesday hit.

My husband’s boss—a priest—informed us that the house we live in, graciously provided for by our parish, either needs to be sold or rented out to balance the operations budget. So we probably needed to be gone by July 1st.

Ugh. Great timing, Father. You’re a real poet.

So instead of blowing a paycheck on a kayak or keyboard we decided to stick to our pasta and water rationing and go house hunting.

We found a beauty of a fixer-upper. It was perfectly imperfect. Horrible kitchen with no appliances, hideous paint and lighting fixtures—with a glorious Southern porch, situated a half-block away from one of the most beautiful streets in our town with Gone With The Wind mansions—right across the street, literally 15 feet away from a great school that I am now enrolling our daughter in.

We decided to make an offer. The house was on the market for 4 months so we thought we would go in under asking price. They countered at the midway point of $65k. Then out of nowhere some asshole comes in and makes an all cash offer above our offer price.

There were tears.

More house hunting has occurred. Lots of driving. Nothing has emerged. We’ll give updates later.
But I have discovered St. Joseph is THE go-to Saint when asking for intercessions in home selling/buying.

This housing situation has caused great stress. I am now working and juggling more than I should with added ferocity. My husband and I have been fighting because we’re just tired. Properties I like he doesn’t like. Realtors I want to work with he doesn’t want to work with. Money problems always add stress. When I feel out of control I often buy more like I’m securing the nest before a hurricane. When he feels out of control he saves more. Our different styles lead to disagreement and so we fight.

Our almost-3-year-old has picked up on our stress and for the last 2 nights in a row she has had major night terrors. Our book Healthy Sleep Habits for a Happy Child talks about night terrors typically lasting 5-15 minutes. These ones are lasting two hours. She hits, she throws, she screams herself hoarse. If she were 200 lbs. with better aim I would likely be dead. If were 200 lbs. and didn’t have the self-control and tools to deal with the stress she would likely be dead. First night we thought she might be possessed—like Satan himself was tormenting us through our daughter.

cryingbaby

Today I went to Mass and our priest did a homily on how Satan divides communities and side-tracks us from our mission to love.

My mom helped me do some research on the fixer-upper house—turns out the man who owned it and was selling was in prison. He was selling the house as-is and needed a buyer with a lot of cash because the things that were wrong with it wouldn’t qualify for most conventional (and definitely not FHA) loans. He was married and rather than rent it out his wife was selling it for the cash. The reason he was in prison?

Consuming, creating, and distributing child pornography.

Did I mention the house was right across the street from a pre-school and a playground??

People do evil things. And bad things happen that are out of our control. The season of Lent is meant to bring us closer to God and closer to holiness through self-mastery, self-control, and mindfulness through suffering.

I have a baby crying. Apologies but I’ll have to finish this later…

Rotten Root of an Infertile Culture

My latest piece for Ethika Politika:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that sin includes any activity that brings death to the body, or death to the soul.

Increased utilization of third party reproductive technologies and our current infertility epidemic are deeply tied to sin. The birth dearth is primarily a result of the marriage decline. The marriage decline is a result of a profound absence in virtues and character development—resulting in a culture in which people can’t trust themselves and can’t trust the opposite sex to meet the basic demands of a marriage: commitment, fidelity, and cooperation. We don’t need more sexual education, we need more virtues education.

I recently was confronted about my Catholic conversion by a teenager whom I’ve known for years. “You’re not going to force your religion on your kids, are you?” he chided. I responded defensively, “I plan on at least giving my children the gift of a moral education—which the Church expertly provides.” From there began a conversation about whether there was an absolute truth or not. My teenage friend announced that there is no such thing: “morality is arbitrary … Good and bad means different things for different people in different circumstances.” Later in the conversation, the topic of children came up. I asked him, “How old do you think you’re going to be when you get married and have kids?” “I’m not sure I want to have kids,” he said.

I’m not sure I want to have kids.

His response shocked me greatly, because I’ve known him for years and I know that he is great with kids and since early childhood he has regularly declared his desire to eventually be a dad. Were his first remarks regarding truth related to this change in desire for children? I think they are.

David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column in 2011addressing a researched study that found that young Americans lack categories and vocabulary on matters of “right and wrong, moral dilemmas, and the meaning of life”:

Read more…

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Brangelina, Brava

My latest piece for Verily magazine:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith, at last!

On August 23, 2014, one of the world’s most recognizable couples wed in a small civil ceremony on their private estate in France. Of course I’m speaking of Brangelina, the celebrity duo otherwise known as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The pair has six children together: Maddox adopted from Cambodia, Pax from Vietnam, Zahara from Ethiopia, and three biological children: Shiloh, Vivienne, and Knox.

To the surprise of many, it was their children who made many of the most important decisions surrounding the ceremony—from her dress design to the wedding vows. But this all makes sense, considering the couple says it was the kids’ insistence that led them down the aisle.

Their (and our) interest and jubilance surrounding their parent’s marriage is well-founded. Relationship stability is of monumental importance to happiness and societal well-being. In fact a study in the journal Children, Families, and Foster Care reported that family stability and healthy child development go hand-in-hand.

Read more…

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All Dressed Up For Abby Johnson

Tonight I went to a fundraiser in DeRidder, Louisiana in support of their local Community Pregnancy Center. I sat next to a gentleman working for Mike Huckabee, and together we were at the Louisiana Right to Life table, just adjacent to a table full of women from Gabriel’s Project, in a room full of a hundred or more people—all dedicated to defending the sanctity of human life. The fundraiser’s keynote speaker was a woman named Abby Johnson. Abby has an interesting story. She went to Texas A&M for college. While there she started working for Planned Parenthood, hoping to help women in crisis by offering contraception services and healthcare. She moved up the ladder and became Director for a Texas branch. As she got higher up she began to witness things that really bothered her. She used to defend Planned Parenthood publicly by saying that they did everything they could to reduce the number of abortions. That’s why they provide condoms and birth control pills to girls as young as 10. The solution to solving unwanted pregnancies we’re all made to believe, is more contraception. In tonight’s riveting speech, Abby told us that she was in the boardroom at an executive level meeting her superiors told her she had to double the quota of abortions from previous years. Yes—shockingly, there is a quota, a minimum goal of abortions that Planned Parenthood aims for, and they were increasing that number, hoping for a higher number. It confused her. She thought the goal was to help women in crisis, and decrease the likelihood of those crises. But no, PP is in the abortion business. 

She decided to quit working for PP after a particular day when she was asked to oversee an actual abortion procedure. She knew what an abortion was and what a fetus is, but somehow the bio-hazard bags full of “products of conception” never phased her. But on this day the abortionist doing the procedure was from out of town and he brought in an ultrasound, to do an ultrasound guided abortion. Ultrasound guided abortions are actually sort of rare. Most abortions are performed blindly, as in the doctor can’t see what he’s doing. This is because nobody really wants to see what they’re doing, its too soul crushing. But this doctor did use one, because he embraced the idea that its safer for the woman if he could see what he was doing while performing surgery on her. So Abby was there to oversee. The woman was sedated. The baby in the womb was 12 weeks and his profile, limbs and major organs were all visible. They could even tell his gender. When the doctor put the suction device into the woman’s uterus, he aimed it at “the target” and Abby watched as the baby squirmed and began flailing his arms and legs as if trying to escape from the device. But of course there was nowhere for him to go. Abby says she flinched and felt the need to cry out “Stop, you’re hurting him!” But she stayed silent. She then watched as he was dismembered and suctioned out.

Abby quit working for Planned Parenthood. She founded an organization called And Then There Were None—to assist abortion workers in getting out of the industry and helping them heal. Abby says she’s responsible for at least 20,000 abortions. One woman that came to her ministry used to work for a late term abortionist and says that after 17 years in the industry she’s probably responsible for around 500,000 abortions. The former abortion workers that find the organization typically will go on healing retreats. There they are asked to humanize one baby that they participated in aborting, and write him or her a letter.

This is where I choked up and started crying.

Abby had written a letter to the little boy she saw that day on the ultrasound screen. She named him Paul. She said (something like) “when I think of you now I see you safe and warm in Jesus’ arms and hope that I can see you again in heaven. But as comforting as that image is to me, I know of the horror you were subjected to, and I’m sorry for my role. I’m sorry I didn’t defend you that day. Please know that your life was not in vain, and that me knowing you has given me the courage to speak out and do what I can now to redeem myself.”

Interestingly, Abby says that Christian women make up 72% of the women who came into her offices for abortions. There were women who had blood pressure cuffs on one arm, while they held rosaries or bibles with their other. She says there is lots more for The Church to do. The “presumption of forgiveness” is a real problem. And pastors and priests need to directly address this issue in their homilies and sermons.

Perhaps, and this is me speculating, the cultures that Churches are fostering actually motivate women to get abortions because to be an unwed or young mother in these circles would be far too embarrassing and stigmatizing for the woman to handle. They would rather get the abortion and keep it a secret, hoping God will forgive them, than be subjected to a community of judgmental gossipers, holding regard for the gospel’s teaching on sexual morality, while failing to live up to its high standards for forgiveness and love.

Tonight was a special night for me. I must thank Abby for making me feel something and for speaking the truth even though its uncomfortable, even though she’s ashamed of the person she once was. We’ll see if I’m given opportunities in the future to put her testimony into positive use. I hope so. While I never directly oversaw any abortions, I did volunteer for NARAL, and that weighs on my conscience. I have other sins too that weigh me down.

There were two young looking mothers in the room with new infants—miracles from the efforts of the Community Pregnancy Center. The women looked happy and safe. They were surrounded by other women eager to support them, give them baby clothes, and their time. I saw one of the mothers as she lifted and kissed her baby’s face. I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter (this was over 3 years ago now). I didn’t have health insurance at the time and the only name I knew to call was Planned Parenthood. I thought surely since they have “parenthood” in the title that they could offer me prenatal care.

No, they could not offer me prenatal care because its not on their list of services.

Thank you Abby for your testimony.

 

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