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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.
February 2nd, 2011

Our baby is due mid-February and in last week’s post I wrote about how our health insurance plan does not cover maternity care.  In fact, many pregnant women are not cared for adequately by our health care system in its current form.…
Bringing up the subject of health care reform is a risky move these days as the issue has become an increasingly hostile partisan debate.  Just turn on the TV or radio and you will witness mud-slinging and fear-mongering on both sides of the aisle.  Both sides would agree our current health care system needs some kind of change, but it’s hard to know which side and which arguments to support.
The media likes to report on what the Catholic Church says about certain hot-button issues. 

January 25th, 2011

An uninsured pregnancy. Definitely not a boat expectant parents want to find themselves in. The common perception when you hear those two words together is that the mother must be poor, young, and uneducated. Wrong. This describes me and many other women I have met.
How did my husband and I find ourselves in this predicament? After Olivia was born, we decided I would be a stay-at-home-mom and we went down to a single income. We had the option of paying for insurance under Brandon’s new employer but it was just too expensive. We couldn’t afford it. We decided to find an individual plan and did a lot of research. We made sure the individual plan we found paid for well-visits and vaccines for Olivia, as well as eye, dental,…

January 13th, 2011

I cannot believe that Christmas and New Year’s is over.  It passed by in such a blur.  This year the holidays were very different for me than before.  This year I became the matriarch.  This year I was in charge.  And let me tell you, I don’t know how much I like this role change.  To be in charge of Christmas, that is a lot of pressure.
As I am sure many other couples do, we alternate holidays between the Kraft family and the Gonzalez family.  Whenever it is the Gonzalez’s turn, we pack up and head to El Paso to see La Lupe. This year Brandon’s mother and brother (and brother’s dog) all came down to Austin and spent a week with us.  It was great.  We don’t get to see them much and Olivia loved having them here. …

December 23rd, 2010

The other day I was scooting down the stairs with Olivia when I was struck with such a strong feeling of gratitude for her that I immediately began crying and clutched her to my chest.  I know it seems rote to say, but having a child is one of the greatest gifts that God can give.  I almost cannot contain the love that I feel for her sometimes.  There is not a single day that passes that I don’t feel thankful for being a mother.
Don’t get me wrong.  Being a parent, while more wonderful than I imagined, is also way harder than I ever imagined it being.  It isn’t always rainbows and puppies.  Olivia’s sleeping was a nightmare for a while.  I (thankfully) did not have postpartum depression but around O’s 8 month…

December 16th, 2010

Sunday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  In our household, the day came and went without any special celebration.  Honestly, I would have completely forgotten that it was her feast day except that it was also La Lupe’s birthday.  No church in our diocese was allowed to celebrate an Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass because this feast day is trumped by the celebration of the third Sunday in Advent.
On a typical feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe there is a whole lot of hoopla and celebration.  You wake up super early and go to church at 5am to hear mariachis sing Las Mañanitas.  Then, later in the day, you arrive at church to see a crowd of children dressed up as San Juan Diego with his tilma carrying roses.  There are…

December 10th, 2010

I’m 30 weeks pregnant now, 40 weeks is the due date, and I cannot ignore the inevitable.  Up until this point I haven’t really had to come to grips with giving birth to my second child.  I’ve been able to avoid thinking about it because of how far off it seemed but now I have to face it.  Physically, there is no way for me to avoid the fast-approaching day when this baby (God willing) will enter this world.  I’ve been clipping corners in my house and hitting my belly with the refrigerator door because it is getting that much… in the way now.  I even have to take an extra step back when I open drawers and have to consciously position the seatbelt and seat when I’m driving.
I think that God purposefully made pregnancy

December 2nd, 2010

I don’t know what possessed me to buy it.  I was in a store and I saw this kind of rolodex that cataloged all the Native Americans of North America.  It contained the Pima Indians which is a tribe that Brandon and I worked with for many years.  I saw it and bought it thinking that it was a perfect Christmas gift for Brandon.  Had I put more thought into it, I would have realized that he had absolutely no use for American Indian flashcards.  We had just started dating at the time so he had to act really excited to receive the gift but, as the years have passed, we laugh about how off my gift-giving skills were with this purchase.
We’re all guilty of it: buying gifts for others that we should probably have put more thought…

November 11th, 2010

I love churches.  I really do.  Back before we had Olivia, Brandon and I would take regular trips around Austin and its surrounding cities to visit churches we had never been in before.  I love the art, stained glass windows, smell, architecture, everything.  Kinda dorky, but it’s one of our favorite things to do together.
One time I visited this particular church and decided to stay for daily Mass.  There was a small group of people there and one of them was a policeman in complete uniform: gun, walkie talkie, baton and all.  This really struck me.  I thought how much faith this man must have to still attend daily Mass when, I could only assume, he was on duty or about to go on duty.  Mass continued and it was…

November 4th, 2010

Tithing used to be emphasized a lot more in the past as necessary to lead a good Christian life but has fallen out of favor.
I recently taught my students about stewardship which included a lesson on tithing.  I thought it was an important lesson to teach because my experience is that people don’t think that it is important to give money to the Church.  Some people get extremely offended when they are told that the Church needs money.  They don’t think it is the Church’s business what they do with their money and how dare the Church tell them that they have to give what they have worked so hard for and deserve.  Some have actually walked out of the church when the priest has to give his once-a-year homily on the finances…

October 21st, 2010

Since I am a parent I am now a lot more observant of parenting methods I see around me.  Sometimes I see really good parenting, like the mom that sees her child struggling to climb the slide at the playground but let’s them struggle a little bit before stepping in.  Sometimes kids just have to figure out stuff for themselves.
I also notice not-so-good-parenting.  Like the mom that has grape soda in her baby’s bottle when the kid isn’t any older than 4 months.  Note to self, don’t do that.
But one parenting method that people may not label as harmful is the mom that loves her family too much.
I believe that a mother, if her love for her family is not ordered in the right way, can actually love her family so much…

October 15th, 2010

This summer when we were visiting my family in El Paso I got to meet the boyfriend of one of my cousins.  She’s a younger cousin who just graduated from high school.  When I met him I immediately noticed the bracelet that he had on that said “i love boobies”.  I rolled my eyes and thought how tacky.  You’re meeting your girlfriend’s family and you wear something like that.  Then after him hanging around all day he brought our attention to the bracelet.  He took his arm out and waved it over the dinner table asking us if we had seen these bracelets.  He informed us that the bracelet was to support breast cancer.  In my head, my response was, “My a**.”  A guy in his late teens, early twenties is wearing…

September 29th, 2010

We were lucky enough to attend the wedding of a good friend this past weekend.  We had someone watch Olivia so we were able to be there for all of it: the rehearsal dinner, the Nuptial Mass, the whole reception.  It was quite a treat.
It made us reminisce a lot about our wedding.  The thing that I still chuckle about when I think of our wedding is what things people assumed happened at our wedding because I’m Latina and what things they didn’t really seem to notice.
Things that people assumed:

Many people asked me if my wedding dress had been passed down from La Lupe.  Nope, just happened to like a dress that had that old lace, traditional vibe.
People asked me if the big flower I wore in my hair was so that I looked more…

September 22nd, 2010

I’m happy that the last post has really sparked some good dialogue about trying to balance spirituality and family and how to integrate the two.
I was remembering one of my professors back in college. We were discussing Advent and Christmas liturgy when he went off on a tangent about family life. He said, “You know, sometimes I think people make idols out of their family.” He then went on to talk about this Christian church around his house that actually had no services on Christmas Eve or on Christmas because they believed that you should be at home with your family and not having to take time away from your family by having to come to a church service. I thought that story illustrated his point perfectly.
For the…

September 15th, 2010

Throughout my life I have worked with kids a lot.  I started babysitting when I was twelve.  I have about fifty cousins and at least half of them are younger than me.  All throughout high school and college I’ve tutored, mentored, camp counseled, and run programs for kids.  At the Catholic Worker I was basically a second mom to at least 8 kids at any one time.  I helped moms load newborns into the car to ride home from the hospital and had to keep the peace when the kids would fight at dinnertime.  Not that after all this experience I thought I was an expert on kids and discipline but I definitely thought I had a pretty good handle on what it meant to be a parent.
I could not have been more wrong.
I have quickly come to realize…

September 8th, 2010

The latest story about the massacre of immigrants in Tamaulipas, Mexico by the drug cartels has me thinking about the issue of recreational drug use again. Of course it is not a good idea to do anything illegal but I think there is a distinct difference between drug addicts and people who just use drugs at parties or to wind down after a long week. I’ve known plenty of people in this second category. These are educated people, have stable jobs, and are generally aware of social justice issues. We all have skeletons in the closet and we all struggle with certain things but buying drugs, even if only occasionally, is directly supporting the violence that is perpetuated by drug trafficking. How is it justifiable to use…

August 31st, 2010

We regularly receive the Houston Catholic Worker newspaper and the latest issue contained a big surprise.  The couple that founded Casa Juan Diego, the Houston Catholic Worker, is having another book released in November.
If I tried to tell you about the myriad of services that Casa Juan Diego offers there is really no way of doing it justice.  It is a house of hospitality for undocumented women, children, and men.  They have an ever-growing huge ministry helping the undocumented sick and injured.  They have food and clothing distributions several times a week for the community.  They have clinics with a variety of doctors and dentists that donate their time.  They have a big organic garden that provides…

August 19th, 2010

The dreaded email forwards.  Pictures of puppies wearing hats, drawings of angels, images of sunsets.  I don’t get a lot of these emails except for the occasional prayer chain letter from my mom.  But poor Brandon gets a lot of them.  I think it’s because he likes computers so people think he will like any email sent to him.   Usually they are pretty harmless.  The ones that I can’t stand are the ones the spread ignorance and intolerance.
Brandon recently received an email forward from a person that he knows in a professional capacity.  I won’t repeat the exact email but it was a joke about Mexicans that insinuated that they are all lazy and should go back to Mexico.
Let’s put aside for a moment that…

August 13th, 2010

I recently had a conversation with an old friend who was thinking about making some major life decisions without telling her family about it.  She knew they would disapprove and she didn’t want to deal with them.  She justified it by saying that she believed in what she was doing and just wanted to do it and tell everyone later.
This is a tough issue.  There is great tension between wanting to be independent, to be your own person, to make your own decisions and your responsibility to your family.
After 25 years of having to figure out what to share and not share with my family, it’s still a tough call each time.  I know that I don’t want to have to lie to my family so I try not hide things that I’ll have to lie about…

August 6th, 2010

We’ve all heard that life is a great pilgrimage.  But a pilgrimage to what?  The pastor of a church here in Austin has in his email signature line “Working to beat hell”.  That’s what I hope my pilgrimage is.  To heaven.  To God.  To Infinite Love.  Sometimes we have to make specific journeys to find this more deeply, though.
I’ve been lucky to find some great friends and to find love in these communities but there is something different about feeling the love of family.  It’s a different connection; a blood connection; a connection that is part of you.  I know a lot of people probably don’t feel this all the time and I am one of them.  Family relationships can be complicated and messy sometimes.…

July 29th, 2010

Being Mexican-American can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  Err on the side of Mexican and you’re un-American.  Err on the side of American and you’re a sell-out.  It reminds me of that scene in Selena when her dad completely freaks out, “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!”  It’s a little melodramatic but sometimes I feel the same way.  I feel like I can never satisfy either side.
There are so many ways people live out their Mexican-ity.  I have friends that are dark-skinned, have an accent when they speak English and yet don’t speak Spanish at all.  I have friends that were never…

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