The Momo Challenge: Pray for Your Enemies

As mama to two wonderful girls and a lover of teens everywhere, the momo challenge is a huge struggle for me. It comes on the heels of “Elsagate,” (another instance of people using YouTube to hurt young people.) It is hard for me to comprehend that anyone could be so evil that they would try to hurt children in this way. It scares me that we live in a world that is so dangerous.

When I was a kid, and I felt this strongly about things, people got frustrated with me. They said I was too sensitive, and that I was focusing on the negative. They said, “it’s so few people compared to the whole world, everything is fine.” As I grow up though, I am realizing we are given our emotions for a reason, and shutting them down is not the right way to handle them.

A teacher I am inspired by said that our emotions are a sign of something else, something we need to do, or something we want and have been ignoring. At first, when I heard about the momo challenge, I felt absolute despair. I was angry and miserable that the world we live in is hurting so much, and that evil was even a thing we have to worry about. Let’s be honest, I am still angry about it, but I am learning to use my emotions. So what are my anger and sadness about this telling me? What can I do about momo?

The first thing is the most obvious.

WATCH YOUR KIDS. A CBS news article reminded its readers that that is the main message about this story.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/momo-challenge-resurfaces-police-issue-warning-to-parents/

“Our advice as always, is to supervise the games your kids play and be extremely mindful of the videos they are watching on YouTube,” The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) wrote on Facebook. “Ensure that the devices they have access to are restricted to age suitable content.””

The second thing is TEACH your kids to stick up for themselves.

In the same article, CBS says,

“Law enforcement also says parents need to focus on the bigger picture: “Even basic open source research suggests that ‘Momo’ is run by hackers who are looking for personal info,” PSNI Craigavon wrote on Facebook. “The danger lies with your child feeling pressured to either follow the orders of ANY app via challenges,’ or peer pressure in chat rooms and the like … More important is that your child knows not to give out personal info to ANYONE they don’t know, that no one has the right to tell them to, or make them do ANYTHING they don’t want to.””

This struck me. In a way it’s obvious, of course, kids need to know they have control. At the same time, how often are we teaching them that they have to do what someone else says. This may have worked in a society when 99% of the authority figures they met would have been a positive influence. In our world today though, kids will be hounded by a thousand different voices telling them who to be and how to do things and what to do. Be a shield against that. Teach your kids that they are in control of their choices, and that they choose to listen to the right authorities, whether that be friends who are trying to help vs. humiliate them, marketing that is meeting a need vs. implantig a fear, online quizzes that promise money or curses, or anything else.

The third thing, which is what I do when something is completely hopeless and there’s nothing else I can do about it, is pray. PRAY for your enemies.

I am angry and full of hatred and vitriol for these awful people that would start something like this, but deep down I believe that negative behavior comes from some unmet need in that person. A while back, celebrities started responding to trolls by looking through their twitter and seeing what their struggles were. It changed those people’s lives. What if we were able to look at things that way? It starts with prayer, it takes an incredible amount of grace to be able to set aside your anger and pray for those who are hurting you, and even more so when they are just a Facebook post in the distance. Maybe, though, they have no one praying for them. Maybe they feel completely alone and scared and it’s turning them into someone they don’t want to be.

Lastly, I just want to say to anyone who has been hurt by the momo challenge in any way, to anyone who started the momo challenge, I am praying for you. This is a sign of some serious pain in the world, join me in praying for the others who are hurting from this. Let’s turn this nightmare into a world of prayer for the victims and perpetrators so big that all the pain from it is erased by the love and grace that we spread because of it.

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Workin Moms in Netflix

You guys, hold up.

This is a thing.

Netflix did a show on working moms.

WHAT?!?

Not only that, but they did one on a moms group. Also, Tully came out this year.

Do you know what this means?

This means we are so freaking lucky to live in this current time as moms. We live in a world where people are really starting to get. We are living in a world where people are starting to see that we need to make a change!

That is so freaking exciting for me, I don’t even know how to handle it. It quickens my blood when I see it, my heart literally leaps for joy like a cheesy cartoon ballerina. Because you know what? Pumping milk sucks, but it sucks a lot less when glam-boobs on tv is doing it too. And I hate when my stroller won’t fit in my car, but that girl on Netflix had the same exact problem!

I’ll be the first to admit that I compare myself to other people way too often in a super unhealthy way, but you know what? Either way, if misery loves company, I’m getting happier and happier now!

The Art of Hating and Loving: A Defense of Dan Humphrey

At the end of Gossip Girl, there is a moment when Dan must decide whether to satirize Serena or to write an ode to her. He publishes the satirical denouncement of her character, while he gives the ode to her. She is mystified by how he could be so hateful if he loved her. Throughout the show, he deals with the same problem over and over again with other friends and family members.

I have watched Gossip Girl over and over again, but the most recent time this episode resonated with me. It kept echoing in my mind when I thought of friends I had lost and family I struggled to love. It occurred to me that I genuinely and deeply loved these people who I also profoundly and completely hated. I was as confused as Serena hearing it from Dan at first, but I started to see the similarities between Dan and I that explain how we could hate something and love it so powerfully, and incidentally, why the opposite of love is indifference not hate.

1. The first similarity between Dan and I is that we are both writers. We are living in our own novel/screenplay/blogpost, and everyone knows every written piece has a villain, and every written piece has a hero. If we are the hero then of course whoever we are struggling with would be the villain and vice versus. Moreover, every instant in our lives is a piece of a story and it therefore becomes more intense than it would normally have been.

2. We are both incredibly sensitive people. Dan Humphrey and I both feel things very deeply. Every single thing that happens to us is the entire world. If something is good, then it is a majestic perfect fairytale, if bad, then it is hell on earth. That being the case, when Serena slighted Dan it broke his heart and made his miserable, just as much as when she repaired their relationship it lit him up.

3. We are genuine. I think this is the most important of all. I think that if anyone really is honest with themselves, they sometimes hate the people they love, but there is a lot of fear about being honest about emotions in our society. Dan and I both strive to be honest about who we are and not to create a facade over our lives.(The fact that Dan was Gossip Girl doesn’t disprove this because even as Gossip Girl He was honest about who he was as a person.)

All of the above combine to create a perfect storm of whirlwind emotions. The important thing to note, though, is that the reasons for Dan’s hatred stem from his love for his family and friends. He is angry about what hurts them, or how they hurt themselves. We can see this in how he is willing to drop everything to help Upper East Siders whenever they are in trouble. It makes it obvious that love and hate are so closely related, that they are almost one.

If I Could Make A Change…

I’m about to be a little dangerous. Brace yourself.

I am reading Renegade Women in Film & TV, and let me tell you, it is incredible and inspiring. The phrase that I can’t get out of my head is “A woman living a creative life is bound necessarily to do things sometimes defiant by convention.” Following the introduction’s inspiring ode to the ability of women to change the future, with a nod to Geena Davis’ quote, “In the time it takes to make a movie or create a television show, we can change what the future looks like,” RWFTV prods the fire in the reader’s soul, prompting her to move-prompting ME to move. I say move because RWFTV doesn’t tell you exactly what change you are supposed to make, although it does praise the changes certain women have made. It encourages the reader to make their own change. I am inspired to ask, what would I change about what the future looks like?

Little movements I already make are easier to put into words. I want a world where sex is allowed to be fun and sacred. I want a world where everyone is kind to each other, and mindful of each other’s suffering. I want a world where the rat race is not more important than love of other people.

If I really think about it, though, what is the thing I want to change that shakes me up, that defies convention, it’s scary. I’ve got a story about oppressing women, and people that hasn’t been told. If I could change the future, I would revolutionize the Catholic Church. I would expose the religious and emotional abuse that I have witnessed and endured. I would condemn the physical and sexual abuse that gets swept under the rug or dismissed sometimes. I would scream at the Churches that are lazy and neglecting the needy. The worst, though, is I would fight the Catholic Church on the way they do things. I would scream at every condescending housewife married to a banker or a lawyer that condemns women who are having abortions because they don’t know how to pay rent. I would verbally punch every arrogant white old man for their racial prejudice disguised as concern for the economy, justified by God wanting us to take care of ourselves of course. I would satirize the newlyweds who look down their noses at homosexual couples who live in monogamous relationships, while they themselves didn’t wait for marriage either.

I would condemn the hypocrites and the Pharisees that live in our day. Here’s the problem though. They aren’t all bad. They are just good people who are trying their best. The heteronormative newlyweds cannot fathom how a homosexual couple could find the same kind of happiness as them, plus half of them have never seen a homosexual couple in the first place. The old white men have been taught not to have any emotions, but they are scared as shit because the whole world is changing, and not in their favor. The condescending housewives are terrified because they love babies, and the loss of a child’s life is the greatest pain you can imagine.

So the problem is how to protest a culture or society that has taught us cruelty and anger. Jesus dined with the sinners, yet Christians now teach their children that “you are the company you keep.” I am not saying to be reckless with your trusted circle, Jesus chose His apostles carefully. What I am saying is that just because you care how a person feels, does not mean you agree with everything they do. I have been criticized over and over and over for being on a side that I am not on. Why? Because I cannot stand to see the people hurt. I am not pro-abortion, but I will point out when pro-lifers are being hateful and extreme. I struggle with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love Jesus and the Church’s teachings in general. I hate NFP with a bloody passion, ( 😉 if you got that joke lol) but I follow it because, for me, it’s physically better than the alternatives.

My point is that if I become my authentic self, I will protest things the society of the Church does and says. The actual Church founded by Jesus is a priceless gem to me. I love it with everything in me. Half the time, though, it’s impossible to see that Church in the Church’s modern life. I say, far too often for my comfort, that I hate the Catholic Church….*pause*…as it is today, but I love what it’s supposed to be with everything in me.

So, if I could change anything, that’s what I would change. I would turn the Catholic Church on its head, and I would make it a force for good so immovable that no one could deny that it had changed the entire world for the better. It could do that. If one person being who they were meant to be could set the world on fire, what could we do with thousands?

We could have free hospitals for everyone, that are genuinely looking out for the health of others. We could have free schools for everyone, that are the highest educational caliber. We could have places for people to go who are hurting, no matter who they are, no matter what kind of hurt they are experiencing. We could teach the whole world how to love each other with an all-consuming passion ignited by the eternal Spirit. We could show the entire world that the Catholics do not need to be afraid of science, or truth, or other people’s opinions, because if we are right, then they only share in our truth. We could teach the world about respecting other people’s beliefs because we believe that God reveals Himself in a million different ways.

There is a saying that every young Catholic knows, I don’t know where it originated, but it says, “If only seven people were to be saints we would change the whole world.” What if we had a thousand?

The Measles Vaccine and the Mommy Wars

This morning I read a thread that made me want to cry. It was originally a very strongly worded pro-vaccine post, and below one anti-vaccine mom tried to politely give her stance. Mom after mom ganged up on her, correcting her, but with barbed comments about not loving her child enough, or emoticons laughing at genuine things she was saying. I had so much admiration for how well she held it together. She was even brave enough to come out and say that it wasn’t ok how they were treating her, only to be met with mockery about that too.

The sad thing is, I see this EVERY DAY. Every day I see a new post of two different sides of an argument, the side that considers themselves smarter than the other pummels the person who holds the minority opinion. It happens on anti-vaccine sites too. The anti-vaccine moms can throw down with the best of them-on the posts and groups that are made for them. The cry it out moms do it to the attachment parents, the car seat safety moms do it to any mom who didn’t know a rule out of thousands, the rich moms do it to the poor moms, the poor moms do it to the rich moms, the Montessori parents do it to the Waldorf parents who do it to the public school parents who do it to the private school parents. And so on.

Even I am guilty of it, though I do my best not to be. I have ruined friendships over judging their parenting choices. I have been awkward and condescending when someone told me what they did with their kid, or when they treated them a certain way in front of me, or when they treated my kid in that way in front of me. You know what, it wasn’t worth it. These were amazing people that I was unkind to, and they didn’t deserve it. They are doing their best with the information they have been given, just like I am.

It even goes beyond mommy wars, it’s the war between people. Non-gamers do it to gamers, people of different religions do it to each other, people of the same religion do it to each other, people in different neighborhoods, different backgrounds, different jobs, different races, different sexes, different preferences on sex, sexuality, sex education.(sex is particularly polarizing.)

I take the route that I feel is the safest most of the time. I just stay out of it. I don’t want to argue with you, or your friends, about whichever new thing it is. I don’t want to bully or pummel or be bullied or pummeled or whatever word you use for it. Maybe I am a snowflake, but if that means that I am kinder to people for it, then that’s what I am going to be. I ask you to join me. Be kind to yourself and those around you. If you disagree, put yourself in their shoes before you make fun of them or attack their character. Realize that everyone here is just doing their best, and we may disagree sometimes, but we are all just trying to get through life with a thousand different things beating us up along the way. Don’t be one more thing that hurts somebody. Maybe when you see a conversation like this, just send some love and light into the situation, or when you give your own opinions add some compassion to your post. Maybe think about how you would feel if you were in the same situation instead of assuming you know everything.

In The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart, the author talks about how the internet has created a throwaway culture of people. Getting away from someone you disagree with is as easy as a click of a button, bullying or being rude is too, even if it is unintentional, which is easy in a world of emoticons and tone less typed words. I can say from personal experience that there is something different that happens when you live in community with people. You HAVE to make it work with those people, or your every day life is hell. You are forced to make up from fights because you can’t just give them the silent treatment forever because they are in your lunch line and it’s freaking awkward. The people around you want you to make it better because it sucks for everyone. There is pressure to fix the relationship or to be kind in the first place. That doesn’t exist online, there’s no security to relationships or conversations on the internet. Personally, I am striving to value every single person as much as if we were in person all the time. That doesn’t mean I have to be best friends with everyone, but it does mean that I am trying to treat people like real people, not faces on the internet. If you knew you had to see that person every day for the rest of your life, would you be that rude to them? Would you hurt them life that? To be fair, sometimes that makes it worse, sometimes it gets harder not to judge when you see a mom with her kids every single day and she does things so differently than you. You might feel like she’s not as a good a mom, or they aren’t as good of a person, or they aren’t trying as hard as you. You might even see them succeeding or failing at something that you do not succeed or fail at and that might make you angry, bitter, jealous, sad, or lonely, but here’s the thing, there is something that you succeed or fail at that makes them feel all the same emotions.

My favorite saying of all time is “Be kind. You will never know how much the person beside you is suffering.” Live that truth. Live like you have seen them crying alone in the chapel at night. Live like you have seen them love like no one else. Live like you have seen the best and worst in them and still love them. Love every single person with unconditional love, even the ones you don’t want to.

Meredith Grey loved the serial killer(Greys Anatomy-Season 5), can you?

#Checkyourprivilege

The Church was on my list of parishes to check out anyway, so when I realized it had the only Mass time that would work for me today, I hurried to the car. I went back and forth the whole drive over whether it was crazy of me to skip Mass at our home parish, but I hadn’t been to praise and worship in months, and it had been years before that. I started to get a little nervous when I saw the exit I was supposed to take. There was nothing around but power lines in disrepair and a junk yard of cars. It even had the trademark blue jalopy with the orange roof, netted in with the chain link fence that is an immediate warning sign. As I drove I remembered another church that was in the industrial part of town, but in a gorgeous haven inside. Maybe it will be ok I thought.

I started praying as I drove, “God please protect me. Don’t let it be too dangerous of an area. Please don’t let me get infested with bugs. Please don’t let my car, or anything in my car get stolen.”

I laughed nervously when I saw the train tracks. “Haha, I’m literally going to be on the wrong side of the tracks. It could get better on the other side?”

The train passed quickly, luckily, and I drove through a lovely little park. The played ground was a little beat up, but it allayed my nerves a little bit. That was when I saw graffiti on someone’s house.

I had never seen graffiti on someone’s house before. Instantly, a scene played out in my head of a family walking up to their house and seeing it, trying to explain it to their child. It flared red against the grey peeling paint of the house. I saw all of the houses differently after that. I saw fear and lack of safety, and I realized how ungrateful I have been for never having been in a situation like that. I felt like the Pharisee from scripture, “thank you for not letting me like that person.”

I’m ashamed to admit how judgemental I got. There were couches on the front porches, one on the curb, I could feel myself separating myself from “these people.” Then I saw the Church. They were spidery black tendrils wrapped around the stone that seemed to be barely holding itself up. It was contained by another chain link fence, and I was so relieved that that was not the Church I was going to-because it was obviously condemned.

It wasn’t.

It was the Church I was going to.

The parking lot was crowded to say the least, and you could barely call it a parking lot. It was a series of pot holes and piled asphalt so big you could barely tell where the ground originally was. There were no painted lines except in the very back and I got trapped in a corner because the parking lot was designed badly. I grumbled to myself about it, and inner road raged about the other cars that pushed me to know how to get out of my spot.

I walked in alongside a Spanish teenager holding a guitar decorated like a mariachi band instrument. The inside was breathtaking. The stained glass windows in particular were some of the most magnificent I had ever seen. They rose high above the congregation in saturated color bringing life to everything inside. I asked for the location of the bathroom and was directed out of the church to the basement next door.

I had never seen anything like it. The ceiling was low and jagged, the floor slightly uneven. There were areas where stone and rock peeled through as if the walls could not hold back what was here before the Church. The tile was grungy white like my church had when I was a kid, before my mom and our family spent hours scrubbing it to make it look better.

Inside the women bathroom, the ceiling was large lumps of hard plaster that hung so low that I had to bend to get into the stall that couldn’t lock. I hurried as fast as I could to finish. Only after did I realize that there was no sink, and went looking for one only to find it in the main basement space next to a washer and dryer. The hand dryer was suspended on a stone wall, someone had scrawled on it “this works.”

I went back in to the Church and sat down to wait for Mass to start. Mass was in Spanish completely. I guess that made sense since I was the only white person there, but I was too annoyed by it, now what? I was going to have to sit there in silence and pray while the Mass went on around me. To be fair, I hated Latin Mass when I was a kid and it felt like that all over again, so I probably over reacted because of that, but still I would like to be excited to see different cultures Mass styles.

The language barrier left me free to think and observe throughout the Mass. I couldn’t focus on actually praying. I gazed into the gorgeous stained glass windows, but squirmed in disgust at the smell of mold rising from the burgundy vintage carpet. I watched the families thinking how cute they were, but also thinking how they just wore normal clothes. They wore the kind of awkwardly shaped outfits that thrift stores have to give. I simultaneous thought, they are so poor this is all they can afford, and maybe this is what I am supposed to be like. Maybe I should figure out how to just be happy with shabby worn out clothes.

It occurred to me that I was on such a high horse, like I was better than them because I don’t shop at goodwill, or because my Church is so beautiful, or because I kept thinking about how good I had it. I became a swirl of thoughts and emotions.

Well, Mother Teresa talked about how loving the poor are to each other, maybe my suffering is just different from theirs because I’m so lonely.

Maybe we are supposed to be poor so we can love each other as much as they do.

Some people would say it was their fault they are stuck at a church like this. Couldn’t they go to my Church too? Why would they come here?

Maybe they don’t have cars and they don’t have a choice.

Oh my gosh I am so judgemental.

They are all duh better Catholics than we are.

They are just normal people.

I used to hang out with more people, since when did I sound like such a racist?!? I love Mexicans!

They are just normal people.

Why does it feel so much like a Latin Mass? The Spanish church in Dallas didn’t feel this way.

At communion, the priest said something, and then a small percentage of the congregation went up and received communion. I ran through scenarios of what he might have said, but I dared to go up for communion anyway. Most of the congregation remained in their pews. I still can’t wrap my mind around that. It seems absurd to think that they would all think they were in mortal sin. I had never seen anything like it. In every Church I have ever been to, almost everyone goes up for communion.

By the end of Mass, I had realized that I was coming up against my privilege. I was face to face with a completely different culture, and realizing what I did and didn’t have. I was seeing my discontent as completely absurd, but I needed to work forward better. I wanted to be just one of them, but at the same time, I thought of them as something other than myself. I wanted to think of them as people just like me, but I was suddenly so aware of the divide, and of how completely I did not understand them or their lives.

Finally, I resorted to prayer for them, and for myself, that I would know how to love these people, but not pity them, how to help them, but not to make them feel like less. I tithed more than I ever do, because it was all I could think to do. I wanted to restore their Church, to remodel their bathroom, to rip up the awful carpet, but I couldn’t. It occurred to me that if I were to do that to the Church, it could skew the value of property in the area, so I would rather help the whole neighborhood a little bit, than remodel just the Church, or they could end up feeling out of place. It could be such a sweet area, if someone had the money to help them.

The more I see places like this, the more grateful I am for what I have had, but simultaneously I learn more about what I don’t have. I hope that one day through everything my husband and I are doing to help ourselves financially we can be there to help others too. I hope that I rebuild every low income area I can find. I hope I can remodel the lost places. I hope I can give to all people a sense of home when I talk to them, and treat them all as equals, no matter how different their culture is.

Thank you, Jussie Smollett: Sending love

 

The first thing I saw when I searched for news of your attack was,

He “turned down extra security before the event.”

My mind started spinning with conspiracy theories from every TV show I have ever watched. If this was the CW, you would have perfectly orchestrated the attack for some money-related reason, or some politician would have done the same, but so that they would get the vote. I caught myself, and I couldn’t believe that was where my mind went. Then, I felt myself question, what if he did make it up, what if I end up feeling stupid?

On the other hand, my heart broke for you, and I was so angry that someone would be so petty. What if you were in a meeting and they told you that they could provide you a second bodyguard, or third, or you could buy more time with one of them? I can honestly say, I don’t think I would have chosen extra security either. How could you have known that you would need it?

Then, I caught myself again while reading the accounts, “Oh, the rope around his neck was a thin one, how convenient,” and I recoiled at myself in shock. I don’t know when I became so un-trusting, that I would look for the smallest detail and use it as an excuse to believe the worst in someone. I used to believe that everyone was good. When I was a kid, I would have prayed for you every day, though I would also have been terrified for my life because my empathy couldn’t understand that I was not the victim of any and everything I witnessed. (Note: I am not exaggerating about this, I once had a dream the KKK tried to burn my house down, and I have never fully recovered.) Some people in my life scared me, though, and now I guess I have hardened my heart to keep from being embarrassed.

The truth is, though, Jussie, is that I am so upset that you would be hurt. You are such a beautiful light to the world, and I am so grateful for you. Your performance as Jamal in Empire inspires me, every time I watch it. Kindness, compassion, and empathy radiates from you through the screen. Your every word, your every song, echoes throughout my life, a butterfly effect of hope. I want to thank you for everything you do.

I saw your family on The Chew a while back, and each of you inspired me with stories of surviving financial struggles as kids. Your mother was your world, and I relished those stories, as I lay pregnant and sick on the couch with my first baby playing on the floor. I admired the joy you and your family brought to discussions of food and family, and I aspire to create a family with that kind of spirit.

Amidst the fear, anger, skepticism, empathy, and sorrow, I happened across articles about the support for you from your Empire family and twitter feeds, and then articles about what you do for people. I already admired your courage for playing a character that would make so many people feel so much that it would emerge as anger, hatred, or worse, but now I discovered that you live the values you perform. I admire your work for LGBTQ, and AIDS. In my own life, sometimes, I don’t know how to feel about the religious and political war of gender equality vs. the traditions with which I was raised, but you have always advocated KINDNESS, and anyone can get behind that.

Thank you for being that kind voice in the world. Thank you for having the courage to perform a role that would make others feel powerful emotions. Thank you for being the kind of person who would deny extra security, because you don’t live with all of your walls up. I am so grateful for who you are as a person, and I hope you know that the whole world is not made of these people, who are willing to hurt others. There is good in the world, and there is gratitude for your place in it.

Thank you.

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