Unplanned: Can Its Truth Reach Those Who Need It?

I hear that Unplanned, the movie that recounts Abby Johnson‘s conversion from Planned Parenthood clinic director of the year to pro-life activist, is under a media blackout, but you’d never know it from my newsfeed.  I’d been hearing about it from all my Catholic pro-life friends for weeks before it premiered, and I had no interest in seeing it.

But my next door neighbor and dear friend talked me into going with her and I’m glad I did.  I can’t really say I enjoyed it because of the subject matter, but the movie held my attention.  I was impressed and I wasn’t really expecting to be.

The irony that it’s legal for a 17-year-old to have an abortion without a parent’s consent but not to watch one simulated on screen is not lost on me, but even so I wouldn’t take my own teenagers to this movie.  I believe the R rating is justified and I had to avert my eyes more than once.

That’s not to suggest that Unplanned‘s gore is gratuitous.  As Abby herself says to her husband when she arrives home in blood-spattered sneakers, “Nobody ever said that abortion is pretty.”  The scenes were appropriate and effective within the context of the story, although the aftermath of Abby’s at-home chemical abortion probably could have been cut shorter.

Reading the above, you might assume that Unplanned is just a moving-picture version of those awful graphic photos with which over-the-top activists like to assault unsuspecting bystanders.  On the contrary, the film is surprisingly nuanced.  Even as an unapologetic pro-choice clinic director, Abby is a sympathetic character, and so are the other women who work with her (the obvious exception is her villainous, money-grubbing boss: “Non-profit is a tax status, not a business model.”).  They truly believe the work they do helps women, and Abby sees the real mission of her clinic as providing healthcare and resources to prevent unplanned pregnancies and, by extension, abortions.

I was shocked and then thrilled to see some pro-life protesters who were decidedly unsympathetic, screaming at women, calling them murderers, waving aborted baby pictures at them.  It was honest of the movie to confront this abusive behavior head on, and to use the prayerful, kind protesters to rebut it and to demonstrate throughout the movie the importance of dialogue and respect and finding common ground.

While Unplanned left me with a mostly positive impression, I do have two criticisms.  And while that may not seem like much, I fear that they are quite damaging to the film’s potential to change the minds and hearts of abortion rights supporters.

At the very beginning of the movie, we get a disclaimer: Based on a true story.  I know lots of movies begin that way.  I know translating events from a book to film requires a certain amount of dramatic licenses.  Still, this immediately called every event into question for me.  I had to wonder what exactly was changed? What exactly was not strictly true? And while there is Truth to be found even in completely fictional stories, if I were a skeptical pro-choice Planned Parenthood fan watching this movie, I would take the disclaimer as license to question–even discount–everything I saw.

Even worse was the confrontation between Abby and her former boss, Cheryl, just after Abby makes her debut into the world of sidewalk counseling outside the fence of the very clinic she once ran.  As a way of intimidating Abby with the power and influence of Planned Parenthood, Cheryl brags, “We’ve got Soros, Gates, Buffet . . . ”

Maybe Cheryl really said those exact words in real life, although it didn’t sound to me like anything a real person would say, but I was immediately pulled right out of the movie, cringing inwardly as I imagined how a pro-choice viewer would react to the name-dropping of George Soros in particular.  Don’t comment and tell me how much money Soros donates to Planned Parenthood.  I am sure he does and you don’t have to convince me, but he’s also constantly accused of being involved in various “liberal conspiracies” by far right wing types, and including this here will make some viewers dismiss the entirety of the movie.

Which leads me to the big question I was left with after watching Unplanned:  Who is the movie for?  I can see it as a vehicle for energizing those who are already against abortion, or perhaps as a recruitment tool for 40 Days for Life.  I can see it providing topics for discussion among pro-lifers.  But even if we can get pro-choice people into the theatre to watch, because of the foregoing I am not sure I can see it changing their minds about abortion or Planned Parenthood; and it’s a shame that reservations about the truth of events in a movie might obscure the Truth about abortion.

Book Review: 67 Ways to Do the Works of Mercy with Your Kids

As a student in parochial school, I first encountered the Corporal Works of Mercy, as a list to memorize for a religion grade.  Thirty years or so later, I made my homeschooled children memorize them too, write them out in their best handwriting, draw pictures illustrating each one.

There’s nothing wrong with memorizing things, y’all.  But that should really only be the starting point when it comes to something as important and central to the Catholic faith as the Corporal Works of Mercy are supposed to be.

Heidi Indahl’s amazing book, 67 Ways to Do the Works of Mercy with Your Kids, is a comprehensive guide to moving from listing the Works of Mercy to living them as a family.  I’m going to rave for a minute here and tell you that I can’t think of a thing that Heidi could have added to this book to make it any better.  It provides everything you need to learn about, understand, and teach your children about the Works of Mercy, and then it goes on to provide dozens of examples of how you and your kids can do them in your community.

A new idea for me was the Cycle of Service: preparing your family for serving by learning about about the Works of Mercy and discussing projects in advance, acting in the community by serving others, and reflecting on the experience together afterwards.  Something else that was not familiar to me was the designation by Pope Francis of a new, unofficial work of mercy: Care for Our Common Home.

Implementing liturgical living in your Catholic home–celebrating feast days with special meals, lighting an Advent wreath, decorating your home altar, “giving up something” for Lent–is becoming more and more popular among Catholic families.  And that’s great.  But there are lots of ways to be Catholic, and I can’t think of a better one than integrating serving the least of these into your family culture in the mindful way that Heidi writes about in this book.

Heidi is an author, a blogger, and a Catholic homeschooling mother of many.  Along with her husband, she offers homeschooling consulting with a Montessori focus, and if I had known her sooner my adventures in homeschooling would probably have been more successful!  I love her blog, her Instagram, and her Facebook page, from which I frequently nab parenting memes to share because our philosophies are so closely aligned.  She is an authority you can trust.

Want to take a look before you buy?  You can preview and purchase the book right here.

For extra ideas that you won’t find in the book, check out this post on Heidi’s blog, and this Pinterest board.  And for more great books for Catholic families, visit her publisher, Peanut Butter and Grace.

Bold, Brave, Catholic: Living Like Others are Watching

A lot of people think of bravery in terms of combat or mountain climbing or running into a burning building to rescue someone.  And no doubt it takes bravery to do those things.  But I think most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit for the small moments every day in which we overcome our fear.   I know I’ve read—and agree—that bravery is not a lack of fear but rather is feeling fear but acting anyway.  Being bold to me means being a little extra-brave.  It would be brave, for example, to pray in front of an abortion clinic.  It would be bold to offer to pray with someone who was on her way inside.

Read the rest of this guest post at A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of a Life.

Five Takeaways from the Covington Catholic Controversy

This will be my first–and I hope last–time weighing in on the post-March for Life encounter between MAGA hat-wearing teenagers from an all-boys Catholic school in Kentucky and Native American activists visiting D.C. for the Indigenous Peoples March.  I don’t have definitive answers on the truth of what was actually happening in the viral video (which I will NOT link to), but I do have some observations and thoughts.

What You See Depends on Where You Stand.

That’s pretty obvious, right?  There are dozens of videos of this moment taken from many perspectives; if, for example, you watch one that was filmed from behind the boy who was involved in the face-off with the Native American elder, you wouldn’t see his now-famous face (sporting an expression that has been characterized as both a nervous smile and a smug smirk).  But I’m speaking metaphorically here.

Where do you stand as you consider this encounter?  Are you Catholic? A Southerner? Someone who has participated in Marches for Life?  Do you despise Donald Trump and MAGA hats? Are you Native American?  Have you experienced bullying?  Are you a mother of teenage boys?  Your answers to these questions will determine your predisposition to interpret the video, especially since by the time you watched it you had already read opinions about what was happening from the sources you trust.

We Are Angry About the Wrong Things

Don’t get me wrong–we should absolutely be angry about racism, bullying, misunderstanding, misrepresentations, death threats, disrespect, and many other evils that this video and the furor around it have come to represent.  However, it isn’t our job to be angry about everything everywhere all the time.  Fifteen years ago, no one but the folks involved would ever have known about what happened in those few minutes.  It would have been up to them to make sense of it and to perhaps learn something from it.  Meanwhile the rest of us should spend more time being angry about–and trying to do something about–the injustices that we certainly encounter around us every day.  Would those of us who bravely wield keyboards in the face of injustices five hundred miles away be so ready to actually intervene in person at home when, for example, a co-worker tells a racist joke?

Teenagers Are Not Adults

Teenage boys may look like adults and they may think they are adults but they are not adults.  Their brains are not finished developing.  They have poor impulse control.  They tend to follow the crowd.

Our criminal justice system recognizes this by having a separate system to govern underage crime.  We don’t execute teenagers or give them life sentences.  We recognize that they can be rehabilitated.

If these boys are guilty of the worst possible interpretation of the video, they are still boys.  Stupid teenage boys who can learn to be better.  I’ll bet you knew some people who were, frankly, assholes in high school who grew up to be pretty good folks.  You might even have been one of them!  I know I’m a better person now than I was when I was a teenager.  Should they suffer consequences? Make reparations?  Absolutely! Should they receive death threats and have their lives ruined forever?  I don’t think so.

It Is Not Wrong to Extend Mercy to the Privileged

I have read several posts from writers who have walked back their original interpretation of the encounter and have decided to give the Covington boys the benefit of the doubt.  And I have seen those same folks attacked because they are giving privileged white boys that which is denied to other sectors of the population.  If you doubt that these boys are privileged, imagine the exact same scenario only with a big group of African-American boys from a D.C. public school.  Would the reaction be the same?  Would those boys be interviewed on the Today Show and be invited to the White House?  I expect some of the very same people who are defending the Covington boys would assume the worst about these hypothetical black boys.

Some seem to be saying that fairness demands we assume the worst about everyone.  But look, y’all, what we should be shooting for is a society that gives EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt.

Catholic Students on a Field Trip to the March for Life Should Not Wear MAGA Hats

Nor should they wear I’m with Her hats or Yes We Can hats or any other kind of political hats.  They should wear their school uniforms, if you ask me, or matching t-shirts identifying themselves as students at a Catholic school.  And they should remember that when they are in uniform, they are representing the Church and act accordingly.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

12 in 2018: A Year in Pictures

I love taking pictures, and I love this self-indulgent exercise of sharing my best photos of 2018.  Or maybe not the best, but the most representative–it kind of depends on the month, really.

JANUARY:  A bonfire in our backyard–this one was for the burning of the Christmas tree, and the reason the fire has this cool shape is that our wreath is in there!

FEBRUARY:   It was SO HARD to pick a picture for February, y’all.  We went to San  Francisco to visit Teddy and I took maybe a million beautiful pictures.  I love this one because it was serendipitous–I had gone on a walk alone, knowing nothing of the celebration of the Chinese New Year, and encountered this parade by accident.

MARCH:  Another hard choice.  Jake and Jessica were married on March 24, and I was the photographer.  I think this is my favorite.

APRIL:  Emily had her five-year college reunion in Mobile, Alabama and we tagged along for the food.  While she was busy I took the kids to an alligator preserve. That may not sound like your idea of fun but it was pure heaven for William, who NEVER smiles like this for the camera.

MAY:  Here’s one of Lorelei hiding in a specimen bush at the UT Arboretum, which was one of our first summer adventures.

JUNE:  This is the view from the top of Grandfather Mountain.  We spent almost a week staying with friends at their timeshare in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, and this was definitely a highlight of the vacation.  I took this after walking across the “Mile High Swinging Bridge.”  I don’t even like to stand on chairs so that was a pretty big deal.

JULY:  Another summer adventure.  We discovered this little park through an accidental short cut, and we came back the next week to go swimming.

AUGUST:  From this point on, my camera roll is full of pictures of this guy, who we adopted in August. This picture is also important because it was taken at our new neighborhood park, which we just love.

SEPTEMBER:  This picture has a lot of things I enjoy in it–a cat, my porch chairs, and wine!  For some reason, once they started selling wine at the grocery store we started drinking it with dinner more often. 🙂  I love to take my dinner wine outside to the porch after the meal.  I also enjoy reading–and napping–out there.  It truly is my happy place.

OCTOBER:  Another month with so many pictures it was almost impossible to choose.  I really need to devote an entire post to our trip to New York City.  The Statue of Liberty was my favorite, though.  I was quite misty-eyed and I could happily have stayed there all day.

NOVEMBER:  I love this picture of beautiful downtown Knoxville, my favorite place in the world.

DECEMBER:  This picture was taken at my parish church on Gaudete Sunday.  I thought the church was especially beautiful that day.  We truly did have a joyful Advent so this seems like an appropriate choice.

This was a good year.  It’s nice to look back on the year and feel that way.

To see photo essays from past years, click the links below:
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017

I am linking up with Revolution of Love.  Click below to see pictures from other bloggers!

2018 in Review: Your Favorites, My Favorites

I love to start the new year by reviewing the old one, and that extends to my blogging.  So each year I write a post highlighting my readers’ five favorite posts (according to WordPress statistics) and my own five favorites.

Often my most-read posts were actually written years ago, and that’s true of two of this year’s five.  My five favorites are chosen only from posts I wrote in 2018.  Let’s go!

Your Favorites:

Code of Silence

The first of several posts inspired by the disturbing revelations of sexual abuse and the way the Church has handled them.

“Our Bishops have failed dismally in their obligation to teach, educate, lead, protect, and shepherd the faithful.  My faith in the Church is unshaken, but my faith in its hierarchy is at an all-time low, and I am not alone.  The faithful laity will no longer be satisfied with apologies and committees.  We must demand change–accountability, penance, resignations, and complete transparency.”

Diaper Rant:  The Case for Plastic Pants and Pins

An oldie-but-goodie: my manifesto on old-school diapering.

“I had a few of those fancy new diapers handed down or given as gifts, and I enjoyed using them.  But the “cloth diapering system” that has worked just fine for me through five babies requires Gerber plastic pants (which we still call “rubber pants” around here), trifold cloth diapers that come in packs of five or ten at Walgreens or Kmart, and good old diaper pins.”

Catholic Minimalism Challenge:  Week 1

I wrote several of these before-and-after posts as I worked hard to declutter our house this year.

“In the end, we removed two miscellaneous bags of clothing and accessories and two full boxes of books that will all leave the house, and we relocated a few items to other places (where we will face them again when we get to their new homes at the appropriate time!).”

Summers, Swimming, and Sexual Harassment: What Girls from the 80s Remember

Truth be told, this piece, written in response to the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, is one of my favorites as well.

“Last week during family discussions leading up to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I kept remembering more and more of these incidents, most of which I hadn’t thought of in years.  “Does every woman have these experiences?” asked my husband, incredulously.  One middle-aged white male, at least, learned a lot last week–and altered his outlook.”

Liturgical Music II:  The 70s

Another old one whose resurgence in popularity mystifies me.  Possibly people run across it as they nostalgically look for the songs they remember singing at Mass as children.

“And as I look back and can see that the songs from the 70s weren’t particularly good songs, while it may be fun to be snarky, it’s important to remember that people were doing the best they could without much guidance to come up with new songs for the new liturgy.  And as for me, even if the songs were “bad” I loved singing them and remember them fondly.”

My Favorites:

My Lenten Walk in Pictures and Quotations

I love taking pictures and I love showing them off, hence this post.

“At first I was content to share a picture but as is my way I quickly had to make it harder for myself by coming up with a quotation for each day as well.”

Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead

Memorable not so much for the quality of the actual post as for the summer of adventures it launched.

1970s Summer

“I’m all for leaving kids unsupervised and unscheduled while I live my own life, but kids nowadays when left to their own devices are apt to fill that unscheduled time with actual devices.”

Thoughts from a Reunion

Inspired by our visit to Georgetown this year for my husband’s 30th; this year it’s  my turn!

“I’m always telling my kids (and other people lucky enough to be the object of my sanctimonious rants) that being happy is NOT the point of life.  And I do believe that, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t WANT to be happy.”

A Plethora of Peacocks: Lessons from Drama and Real Life

The previous inhabitant of this house named it the Golden Peacock Villa.  Learn why in this post!

“Penelope Sycamore was completely secure in herself and her family.  She didn’t even think about whether other people would like her or not.  She was able to put worry aside, fully inhabit her days, and enjoy life as it came.  I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.”

Twenty-five Things to Read about the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

I put a lot of work into the curated collection of writing about the scandal.

“When I am disturbed about world events, I head to my computer, looking for something to read.  I read for facts, for analysis, and to process.  Fortunately, in such times as these, others are moved to write to provide for this need.”

If you’d like to read highlights from previous years, see below:

2017

2016

2015

2014

I’m going to link this up at Revolution of Love, where other bloggers are doing the same thing!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Merry Christmas! I have a gift for all my readers, a book of reflections to help you focus on continuing the Christmas celebration for all twelve days.

Based on an almost certainly inaccurate but still fun interpretation of the traditional carol’s lyrics, this eBook contains reflections and prayers written by members of Everyday Ediths (I am one of them and have submissions therein) and compiled by Anni Harry.

You are free to download this, print it, and pass it around any way you like. I hope you enjoy it and thank you for reading Life in Every Limb.

Download your copy HERE.

Check out the contributors’ Facebook pages below:

Sweeping Up Joy
A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life
Not So Formulaic by Ginny Kochis
Pinot Noir and Prayers
Under Thy Roof
A Drop in the Ocean
Life in Every Limb

Grieving Together: Review and Giveaway

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

Ten years ago, I lost our sixth and last baby in an early miscarriage, a baby who was planned, wanted, loved.  I’ve never written about it here.  In a very dark period of my life during which I lost first the baby, then my dream home, and finally almost every possession to fire, it was and remains by far the most painful of the losses I suffered.  I don’t like to talk about it and I’ve never wanted to write about it.

But I decided to share just a little today in the hopes of helping ease the burden of others who have lost babies.  There are so many of us, which is something I hadn’t realized until I miscarried and women started whispering words of commiseration: “It happened to me too.  It is hard but it will get better.”

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

When I was deep in grief–a longer period of time than I would have expected–when all I could do was lie in bed and sob while clutching a board book, the only thing I had bought for the baby, I felt very alone.  I looked online for resources, as one does these days, and found very little.  Eventually my husband and I conducted our own private little ceremony of praying together and naming the baby.  This did bring closure and healing to him, but my grieving process was very different.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

I wish that I’d had a copy of Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage.  This is the book you never want to need, but are so glad exists if you do.

Reading it even now, I felt affirmed, comforted, accompanied.

Laura and Franco Fanucci have authored a much-needed treasure, a companion and guide to grieving together as a couple.  Having experienced infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss in their own marriage, they know intimately the grief of their readers.  That experience informs the book and their empathy is tangible.  Reading a book from people who have been in your situation is uniquely comforting.

I was impressed by the book’s breadth–it starts with the more practical aspects of miscarriage: what it is, what the experience might be like, considerations of medical treatment and funeral arrangements.  But this section is anything but clinical–it is still animated by Laura and Franco’s love and concern for their readers.  The next section covers grief, including the ways the grieving process may be different for each partner. This is followed by a section of practical suggestions of support from friends, family, the community, and the Church, making this a book that’s valuable to more than those who have suffered loss themselves.  Finally, the last section discusses life after miscarriage, whether your path includes adoption, another pregnancy, or no more babies.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

This is a Catholic book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, with Catholic prayers and rites, concrete ways parishes can help, saints to pray to for comfort and guidance, and more.  Other than our pastor’s sincere sympathy, my parish offered no support to us when we lost our baby, and I suspect that is pretty standard.  So this book would make a great gift for your pastor, along with a suggestion for a ministry to serve couples who have suffered miscarriage.  The Catholic Church is well known for concern over unborn babies threatened by abortion, and sponsors ministries for post-abortive women; her concern for babies lost involuntarily and their parents should be a natural outgrowth of these pro-life convictions.

Grieving Together: Catholic miscarriage book for couples

Grieving Together is available now on Amazon. (If you purchase it through links on the blog I will receive a small commission.)  I received the book free in exchange for my honest review.

Or you could enter the giveaway below and win a copy for yourself, a friend, or your parish.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To Hear His Voice/Until I Rest in You: Mass Journals for Catholic Moms and Kids

I’ve written before about my discovery of prayer journaling and how much it has enriched my prayer life.  Since then, I’ve participated in online retreats, book discussions, and other practices that are helping me grow in faith–maybe I will share more about some of them in another post.  And now I’m ready to try Mass journaling.

Probably about a year ago I started hearing about Mass journals and seeing them online.  And I was curious.  Then my friend Ginny designed one especially for kids.  I thought it was a cool idea but I couldn’t imagine that Lorelei would be interested in such a thing.

Ginny just published her third installment of To Hear His Voice–they’re seasonal–and this time she launched a version for mothers too!  When I heard about Until I Rest in You, I knew that this was the journal I wanted to try.

Lorelei saw me looking at it online and asked me what it was.  When I explained, she said she thought that sounded interesting and she wanted her own!

So that’s how I ended up having the opportunity to review both the mom and kid Mass journals! (I received free PDF copies and was not otherwise compensated, and my opinions are my own.)

But let’s back up a minute, in case you are wondering what a Mass journal is and what you are supposed to do with one.  Ginny’s journals contain the Sunday readings with reflection questions and space for writing and drawing.  The journals could be used to read in advance of Mass to prepare, to follow along during Mass while taking notes, or to re-read and reflect afterward–or any combination of the three!

Now let’s talk about some of what makes Ginny’s journals special.  First of all, they are visually appealing.  The covers are so pretty, and so is all the lettering, and the decorative details throughout the books.  Ginny pays attention to detail, and it shows.

The journals are divided by week, and I love that each section starts off with a list of the Feast Days for that week, and is prefaced with an inspirational quote from one of the saints.  The kids’ journal also includes Reconciliation and Adoration Journals at the end.

The writing prompts are original and thoughtful, inspiring genuine reflection on the readings and connecting Scripture to every day life.  The prompts in the children’s journal are age-appropriate yet challenging.  And there is plenty of room to write in both journals, whether you are a mom with a lot to say or a kid with big handwriting!

The journals are available in PDF format or in hardback, and if you need a closer look before you decide, Ginny will even send you a sample chapter.  For a more detailed description and explanation of the journals, click here for To Hear His Voice and here for Until I Rest in You.  To purchase right now, click below!

If you purchase either book through the links in this post, I will receive a small commission.

Election Day Redux

Confession time:  I am still not over the 2016 Presidential Election.  I don’t know that I will ever really get over it.  To go from euphoria to despair in just a few short hours, and then to see many of my fears realized over the past two years–it has truly been a demoralizing time for many of us.
Still, hope springs eternal.  And it has been exciting and energizing to see so many people voting this year.
Last year I wore my closest approximation of a pantsuit in tribute to Hillary.  Here is this year’s voting ensemble, a tribute to my political homelessness:
election 1.jpg
Election Day is a holiday for public school students, so Lorelei accompanied me to the polls.  She’s almost 14, but she still likes pressing the button for me.
election 2
In 2016, Emily was also with us, and the three of us celebrated what we expected to be an historic occasion by visiting the women’s suffrage statue in Market Square and then breakfasting at Pete’s.  This year, Emily voted early because she had to be out of town today.  But Lorelei and I still went out to breakfast, this year at First Watch, just down the road a piece.
And now, it’s time to watch the returns, and the kids are calling me.  We’ve done all we can do.
Election 3