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Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft :
104 article(s)

Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and three daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
July 26th, 2011

Before I met Brandon, whenever I heard of the Knights of Columbus, I pictured a bunch of old, crotchety, white men sitting around selling chicken or pancakes after Mass. I think we’ve probably all had the experience of being at a church event and instructed to do something by a surly old man in a Knights polo that acts as if he is running the show. Needless to say, my impression of the group was negative and I have met a lot of people who are not shy about voicing this same opinion.

Being a Knight, Brandon is always telling me stories about them. He told me how the Knights were actually founded during a time of rampant Catholic discrimination.  The Knights of Columbus wanted to give men a strong Catholic community to help support their family values and maintain their faith during a time of persecution.  Brandon has also told me about how much good they do. It really is amazing. Just a couple of neat facts about them: Every year they give away about $150 million to charitable causes. All the members combined work 70 million volunteer hours a year. After Hurricane Katrina they gave New Orleans $10 million to get the schools back up and running. Every year they give the Pope $1.6 million to use for whatever charitable causes he sees fit. But on a smaller scale, the parish and its members can always count on the Knights for whatever they need. Here in Brandon’s council they helped a widow who was recently confined to her wheelchair. Along with building her a ramp, they raised her flowerbeds and added a walkway in her backyard for her wheelchair so she could still get out there and do gardening from her wheelchair.

I’ve never really encountered or witnessed the Knights in action until a couple of weeks ago. We went to a wedding in a small town outside of Austin. It was for the son of one of Brandon’s fellow Knights. I’ve honestly never been so impressed with a group of people as I was with the Knights that day. The council in that town is H-U-G-E and they have their own hall, which is where the reception was held. The reception had about 600 people at it and the Knights ran everything. Along with setting up all the tables and chairs and decorations, they cooked all the food – good barbecue will all the fixings – and served it, and did clean up. I heard they smoked 420 pounds of brisket that day. It was such a community effort. And during the reception, lots of people who knew Brandon came up and introduced themselves to me and asked if I needed anything. With so many Knights around I always had a full cup, I never got up to throw anything away because they did it for me, and I was never standing around awkwardly without anyone to talk to. They immediately made me feel like family. It was overwhelming hospitality. I seriously did not have to do one thing. I felt so welcomed and taken care of. It was such a show of community.

Within the church, there are a lot of groups that are easy to stereotype negatively and while they all have their gruff and pushy members there are definitely more good members than bad. The Knights, along with many of the other church groups, are a good vehicle to help put one’s faith into action.  Helping the world is a big task; being part of one of these church groups helps us better facilitate how we want to live out our faith in service to others. As a whole, these groups are a force of good. And if they can also cook a mean fish fry, then more power to them.

July 19th, 2011

La Lupe is probably the best nagger on the planet. Everyone around her is poked and prodded to change certain habits. Of course her constant corrections come from a place of total love. She has lived 82 years and knows a little something about habits and what happens after a lifetime of them.
The two things she is always hounding me about are to sit up straight and to drink plenty of milk. Between having eight babies and breastfeeding all of them, La Lupe knows a thing or two about the logistics of motherhood. Whenever I talk to her on the phone she asks me if I’m drinking enough milk because if not then those babies are going to take all my calcium and make me jorobada… like her. And as for my posture, moms in general always have

July 12th, 2011

I confess. I love celebrity gossip. I love all those magazines that crowd the checkout aisle at the grocery store. I love the fashion. I love the makeup. I love the gossip. But with kids, our budget made me decide between diapers and Us Weekly. Assuming that the girls wouldn’t enjoy their bums being swaddled in pictures of Alicia Silverstone’s new baby, I choose to go with diapers.
But this past weekend we took a mini-vacation and visited my parents in Houston. So I splurged and bought the juiciest looking mag I could find.
As I flipped through the pages I was not disappointed. Beautiful dresses and gorgeous handbags. The newest trends in shoes. I was almost giddy. But then I started reading about couples that have…

July 5th, 2011

“Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.” -C.S. Lewis
I know that Lewis was probably referring to God loving us too much but I think this works for us as well. I am always too embarrassed, and sometimes even scared, to love people the way I know I should because I don’t want them to think that I love them too much.
The women in my family have taught me how to show love through affection, hospitality, and generosity.  There is not a woman who so openly shows her extravagant love as La Lupe.  Everyone that crosses her path is well-fed, hugged, kissed, maybe scolded a bit, but definitely knows her love.  She is a great role model in this regard.
For some reason,…

June 23rd, 2011

We’ve all been there. Your husband is spilling his heart out to you and the only thing you want to do is yell, “Freakin’ suck it up and deal with it!” Ok, maybe it’s just me. Sometimes I’m too tired to offer a sympathetic ear. Sometimes I’ve heard the same thing over and over, and I just don’t want to hear it again. But mostly I want to tell him this because I don’t think what he is complaining about is all that bad.
When Brandon complains about having a hard day, I have to bite my tongue from saying, “Hard day? When your client poops all over your last clean t-shirt and knocks over a canned food display in the grocery store then I will believe you’ve had a rough day.” I feel like I have it harder than him so…

June 14th, 2011

When I was a kid, I always enjoyed holding my hand over my heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the school day. I love singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the beginning of baseball games. My heart can’t help but swell with pride for my country. My dad, being from Mexico, always made sure I knew how blessed I was to be born and live in the United States of America.
That being said, my first allegiance is to God. When it comes to “God stuff” in “State stuff,” I have no problems. I think it’s great that the Pledge of Allegiance includes “one nation under God.” I know the Knights of Columbus fought hard for this addition. It is citing the correct order of things — God first,…

June 8th, 2011

I have been failing as a Mexican for a while now. I have not been passing on important cultural traditions to my children. This isn’t because it slips my mind; I have consciously been avoiding it.
Months ago my parents bought us some books in Spanish that contain traditional Mexican folklore. One story is “La Llorona.” It’s about a beautiful woman who threw her children in the river out of rage after her husband left her for another woman. After realizing what she did, she ran along the banks trying to catch them until she slipped and fell and died. To this day you can hear her ghost’s shrill cry as she wanders around after nightfall grabbing any children she finds to make them her own.
I know. Scary, right? Can…

June 1st, 2011

Like any young couple with a growing family, Brandon and I have been discerning and having monthly conversations about when we should have our next child.  Recently, the following statement actually came out of my mouth, “Well, Obama’s health care reform will kick-in in 2014 and then we will be able to get maternity care on our insurance plan.  Maybe we’ll just have to wait until then.”
Wow.  As soon as I said it I was just so disgusted by the kind of system we have that would make it so hard to have kids.  Our family planning is going to be based on when a law goes into effect?  No way.  I refuse to be bullied by the insurance industry into letting it dictate our reproductive planning.
Our mailbox has been bursting…

May 23rd, 2011

Several people have called me prudish for writing my “i love boobies” post.  I’m totally comfortable with this label because I believe our girls are growing up in a hyper-sexualized world.  If someone thinks I am overly sensitive about modesty, well, someone’s got to push the other way, right?
When I taught at a Catholic high school, I was in charge of monitoring the girls’ dress code.  What a great gig – extolling the virtue of modesty to teens everyday.  As I would walk down the hallways, girls immediately started checking the buttons on their shirts to make sure they weren’t unbuttoned too low or tugging at their skirts trying to make them longer.  This was good for them.  There was…

May 17th, 2011
Why this show's exploration of faith vs. reason is so appealing

Exploring the tension between faith and reason is just one of the many interesting elements of the television series, Bones, currently in its sixth season on Fox, and one that keeps me watching each week. The partners do more than just examine crimes, they inform each other and the viewers about the dichotomous worlds from which they approach life.

Booth, a former altar boy, attends Mass every Sunday but doesn’t put much thought into understanding his faith on a deeper level. He doesn’t need to be convinced to believe; he just does. Dr. Brennan, is the polar opposite. Being a forensic anthropologist, she believes that all things can be proven logically thus negating any need for a god. These partners hash out the faith vs. logic debate as they work together solving murders for the FBI.

May 9th, 2011

There are at least two kinds of penitents: one who goes in and wants a lengthy conversation with the priest about their sinfulness and how to change and another who just wants to get in, list their sins, get absolution, get out and get it over with.  Both styles are legit and priests seem to be sensitive and respectful of both.
As for me, I usually want to be like penitent #1 but get mistaken for #2 every time.
I am horrible at confession.  I really am.  Though my confessions are valid — I’m contrite, truly want to avoid sinning in the future, etc. — I am never satisfied with my confessing style.  When I go to confession I want it to be like spiritual direction with absolution at the end.  I want to have a dialogue with…

April 28th, 2011

It started April Fool’s Day if you can believe it.  We’d been going to the Friday Fish Fry at our new parish all of Lent, and it had really become the highlight of our week as we loved the community we found there.  We left our house a little later than usual and  unfortunately arrived at the end of a line of about fifty people.  We had brought separate food for Olivia (who is allergic to dairy and eggs) so she and I parked our stuff at a table while Brandon stood in line with Lina.  As we waited, a man at our table with a terrible hacking cough threw the napkins he was using to cover his mouth directly onto Olivia’s plate of food.  Shoot. There went her dinner.  Brandon ended up waiting in line for an hour, after which…

April 19th, 2011

A couple years back, Brandon and I went to a talent show sponsored by a college Catholic student group.  Most people sang, nothing too out of the ordinary, however, one girl did stand-up.  She was getting a good chuckle out of me until she started talking about “Chreasters”.  I had never heard this term before.  Basically it refers to people that go to Mass only on Christmas and Easter.  She went on to talk about how annoyed she became when Chreasters would come around and sit in her pew or take her… parking spot.
I’ve written about how important it is to feel welcome at church, and I cannot think of anything that gets under my skin more than when People of the Church make it hard for the People Who Are Trying To Be

April 11th, 2011

I know I’m in my twenties so the idea of being worried about a bucket list already may seem somewhat silly, but one of my good college friends just visited last weekend and reminded me how quickly life is starting to pass us by.  She came to check out Austin because she got into grad school here at UT.  I asked her what made her want to go to grad school.  She responded, “Well, we’re getting to the point in our lives where everything we do is going to dictate the next 20 years.  I want to get this out of the way because I’ll need it eventually and it’s easy to do now without a family.”
We started talking about how, even though we’re only a few years removed from college, everything is moving much faster.  People…

April 4th, 2011

church-hopping-flash3The more years that separate me from my time at Notre Dame, the more I realize how easy college made certain things in life.  Making friends was easy as I was surrounded by a great community of people with whom I had a lot in common; I never had to spend a lot of energy finding people with similar interests.  We also had Mass in our dorm, which meant we all went to Mass with our closest friends — it didn’t take a lot of extra work to be part of a spiritual community.  In fact, being a theology major and, in general, just being a Domer, it was never difficult to find tons of groups, retreats, events, or volunteer opportunities that guaranteed an awesome spiritual community.

Then I graduated and lived in a Catholic Worker house.  As a community we said daily prayers together, usually attended daily Mass, and were always having discussions about faith and Church teachings and how to live out the Gospel.  It too was a wonderful spiritual community.

Then came Austin — when I finally found out how hard it is to make friends in the “real world”.  There was no longer a guaranteed community…

March 31st, 2011

When it comes to loving technology the difference between Brandon and I is staggering.  Brandon loves it and, if not married to me, would have all things iThings.  On the other hand, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to use less of it just to prove Brandon wrong.  To be fair, Brandon has helped me (begrudgingly) understand how valuable technology can be.  It’s a tool and like any tool can be extremely useful, but can also be abused.  Seeing so many people using technology inappropriately has led me to create this list…
Ten Things That Drive Me Crazy About Technology:
10) It makes things that are not HD, 3D, or wide screen “boring”.  (On Christmas Day we were all watching the Muppet’s Christmas…

March 21st, 2011

My biggest problem during Lent is that I listen to too many other people’s Lenten sacrifices and get so excited about doing them myself that I take on too many things.  One year in college I was feeling particularly scrupulous and decided to give up sweets and meat and promised to go to daily Mass everyday (including Saturdays) and even do night prayer every single night.  That lasted all of four days.  Pitiful.
After many years of this I’ve come to realize that I won’t instantly transform from a regular schmo to a saint just because it’s Lent and I pretend to be a monk and give up snickerdoodles.  That’s why the Church gives us this time every year, because it takes time….  We can slowly and yearly become

March 13th, 2011

It’s logical that the more you do something the better you get at it but it’s very strange to me that you can actually get better at giving birth. I did recently, giving birth to our second baby, Maria Catalina.  I handled the contractions much better and this time around it was a totally natural — no pain meds, no pitocin, not even an IV to stay hydrated.  It was a slow and long labor but we made it.
Our nursing situation was almost comical.  We had an awesome nurse at first but with a shift change 2 hours later we lost her pretty early in the game.  Then we got 3 nurses – a supervising nurse, a new nurse, and a student studying to be a nurse on her OB rotation.  It was quite the party in L&D Room number 7.
Our “new…

February 15th, 2011

With great joy, we’re happy to announce the latest addition to the Kraft family — Maria Catalina Gonzalez Kraft. Catalina was born February 10th, at 1:30 p.m. She was 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 20.5 inches long.
Olivia loves to hold her and occasionally poke her in the eye. Catalina is a lot more mellow, thus far, than Olivia and looks like they’re going to be great friends.…

February 8th, 2011

When I think of feeling free, I see the stereotypical scenes of me on a beach somewhere, enjoying a drink with a little umbrella in it. That feeling of carefree-ness, no rush, no worries, no impending deadlines.
Honestly, I rarely feel this way.
Sometimes being a wife and mom (a very pregnant mom at that) can feel pretty burdensome. Most of our friends do not have kids so we always miss out on a lot of events: parties, birthday dinners, and pretty much anything that takes place after 6pm. Of course, we get a babysitter for more important things like weddings, but on most regular days I see nightfall through my window. This is suffocating sometimes. Especially right now when anything I do is seriously hampered by the impending…

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