Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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March 13th, 2011

thenwere4-flashIt’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 nurse” kept having to go ask the supervising nurse how to do stuff because it was so uncommon for her to be working with a woman that didn’t have an epidural.  That part was pretty annoying.  Um, I’m not sure if we can take the heart rate monitors off, let me go ask.  I’m not

March 12th, 2011

funA recent study suggests that some 30% of Americans has trouble relaxing and putting work aside to enjoy vacation – and a handful of us suffer from more acute “leisure sickness” and “weekend headaches” from our attempts at fun.

Reports the Wall Street Journal

Only 53% of working Americans say they come back feeling rested and rejuvenated after vacation, and 30% say they have trouble coping with work stress while they’re away, according to an Expedia.com survey of 1,530. Some try to cram in so much activity that they come back more exhausted than when they left. Others stay so plugged on Blackberrys and cellphones that colleagues and clients don’t even suspect they’re away.

“It’s been my experience that an ‘out of office’ response means nothing anymore,” says Edward T. Creagan, a medical oncologist who writes the Mayo Clinic’s stress blog. “We’re driving ourselves wacko with no time to power down.”

Attempting to relax even makes some people sick. Some 3% of the population suffers from “leisure sickness” when they go on vacation. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain, nausea and flu-like symptoms, according to a 2002 study in the Netherlands. And a phenomenon of “weekend headaches” accounts for roughly one-third …

March 3rd, 2011

800px-Vallee_OssauI went back to Hillsong NYC yesterday with my best friend Wendy. Walking into Irving Plaza with Wendy is the norm as we’ve been attending and covering shows together since high school. However, the idea of having Sunday service at a concert venue still boggles my mind.

Yesterday’s service talked about three ways to make it through a valley. I couldn’t help but think of of my previous post, Coping with Rejection that seemed to strike a chord with many of you. I’m always reminded of the phrase, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but sometimes it’s hard to remain positive when you don’t land that dream job, when your boyfriend breaks up with you or when there’s family conflict.

Luckily, pastor Carl Lentz gave three steps to dealing with hard times.

1. Stay Active. If you keep giving to other people you will keep moving forward.

2. Stay Connected. Your relationships will make you or break you in a valley season. Everybody needs somebody.

3. Stay Focused. Refuse to take your eyes off of God’s promises.

Too many people let go of their dreams when a valley hits, don’t fall victim at the last minute, right before the …

March 1st, 2011
Amidst the social unrest and political upheaval in Egypt's capitol

nanci-martin-large

Father Dave interviews Nanci Martin, the Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing at the American University in Cairo, about what it has been like living as an American Catholic amidst the social unrest and political upheaval in Egypt’s capitol.

Fr. Dave Dwyer: If you could give us your perspective as someone who is not just taking in what our American media is portraying as this situation… I mean, we usually don’t think of Egypt as a country where people live under oppression. Has it been horrible under [Hosni Mubarek], as we’ve been hearing? Has it been, “Phew! Thank God he’s out of there. How did we let him stay in there so long?” Was revolution warranted, in your opinion?

Nanci Martin: Well, you know, it’s funny because I’ve been here nine years… Egyptians are incredibly patient people… their perspective and history is so different from ours. We have such a young country. They’ve got a lot of patience. They’ve lived under English rule and they’ve had the military, so to speak. They had Sadat, and Nassar, and then Hosni Mubarek, all military men, since 1952. I think for a long time, Mubarek was very well respected, and I think

February 24th, 2011

bffWhen I was a ‘tween and teenager, I had two best friends. The three of us were our own little clique — inseparable and bonded in a sisterly way. Having two best friends instead of one caused some problems, sure, because there was often a tension between who was closest to whom, but generally, it worked. We were the Three Muskateers. We were Heuy, Dewey and Louie. We sat in the same place in the hallway of our middle- and high-school, we helped each other with homework, we had sleepovers and weekend adventures our albums are now filled with photos from confirmations to graduations to weddings.

As an adult, however, I’m blessed to have expanded that friendship circle to at least six women (not to mention a husband) with whom I confide my deepest, darkest secrets and joys. Which is better? A New York Times article on whether the “best friend” is something to be discouraged among children grabbed my attention.

While kids want a best friend, their helicopter parents and well-meaning educators are concerned that socializing as a pack might provide more emotional support, especially when emotions run high. Writes Hilary Stout

Most children naturally seek close …

February 20th, 2011

bhutan-refugee-largeYou haven’t heard from me in a little while. Miss me? School started just a few weeks ago and I’m already in the deep end of reporting. One of my first stories back was on refugees from the country of Bhutan.

Bhutan is this tiny nation nestled in South Asia, a country made up entirely of Buddhists. I was fooled once to believe it is a euphoric territory on earth, but soon learned that the nation had exiled more than 100,000 Nepali people from its land simply because they were Hindu. To add irony to the equation, the nation of Bhutan claims to measure its country on a metrics of “Happiness,” an emotion engrained into their public policy. How then do Buddhists, who claim such perfection, exile a people on religious ground?

This, of course, is not simply a religious matter. It is very much a political one. But the irony remains.  The beauty in this story is the faith.

When I interviewed activists who help Bhutanese refugees acclimate to the United States, the most important thing for these refugees, they said to me, is a place to pray.

One activist told me that the first thing refugees do when …

February 19th, 2011

trying-or-not-flashChildbearing outside marriage is on the rise, with some 40% of all births to unwed mothers. And more than half of unplanned pregnancies occur among women who were not using any form of contraception the month they conceived. Were all of those women just being careless?

Nope.

According to new research, led by Julia McQuillan at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, some women are trying to conceive, others are trying not to conceive — but a significant proportion of women, both unmarried and married, don’t fall into either category: They’re OK with either outcome. And to understand the new realities of American fertility means learning more about these women and their choices.

McQuillan and her coauthors, Arthur L. Greil of Alfred University and Karina Shreffler of Oklahoma State University, found that women who plan pregnancies tend to married–and a bit older, wealthier and more educated than the average American woman. Those who are trying to avoid a pregnancy tend to be in a cohabiting relationship, or have several children and/or step-children already.

Using data from nearly 5000 women ages 25-45 collected by the National Survey of Fertility Barriers, the researchers, whose findings are forthcoming in Maternal and Child

February 15th, 2011

I recently heard that the second priest to have ever dined in my parents’ home had been implicated in sex abuse scandal. As a former child abuse prosecutor and now mother of four, it has been a particularly difficult question to answer why stay in light of the crimes committed by an astounding number of priests and the subsequent systemic cover up by members of the hierarchy…

So began the letter of an old college friend with whom I have recently connected on Facebook.  This friend has been an active member of the Catholic Church for as long as I’ve known her; in college she served as a sponsor for RCIA and after college she spent a year as a full-time volunteer.  As the note continued, she did make a point of saying that she had not left the church and she is indeed making sure that her children are being raised in the faith.  Still, the frustration was there… and I recognized it because it is the same frustration that I have also been trying to move beyond.

FistFor years, the scandal and the ensuing cover-up served as one of the main reasons I resisted joining the priesthood… hence …

February 8th, 2011

Freedom-flash1When 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 birth of our next one. I’m the size of a house; my movements are very slow and need to be very calculated. It’s nearly impossible to find a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. Sleep is such gift when it finally happens uninterrupted for several hours.

Sometimes I look at our married friends without kids and get jealous of their freedom. They can go out to dinner at 9pm without …

February 7th, 2011

Filippino Lippi's Madonna and Child

Filippino Lippi's Madonna and Child

I have to tell you a secret.  A few weeks ago I started to feel reeeeeaaallllly funny.  Like, I was having a connection with Christianity out of the blue, and it wasn’t just some curiosity – it was a weird affinity, like I was having an existential crisis or something.  Now, if you read my blog posts on here you know one thing – a main thing – about me: Judaism is a HUGE part of who I am.  Understandably I was starting to freak out.  Let me take you all on my short-lived Jesus journey.

It all began one Shabbat afternoon when the sun begins to set and the end of Shabbat is near.  I was reading the Saturday Times and saw a short listing of a new exhibit at the Met where the featured painting was this Madonna and Child.

Seeing this painting sparked something within me.  Firstly it reminded me of my high school Art History class that I loved so much.  But even more than that I said to Annie, “I want to go to Italy for Christmas.”  I want to go somewhere for Christmas???  I never speak in terms …

February 5th, 2011

Think you’re too busy to read a good book, have a quiet hour with your spouse or go to the gym five days a week? You’re not, you just choose to spend too much of your time on unimportant and less rewarding activities, argues Laura Vanderkam in her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

Every week, you–and everyone else–get 168 hours in which to work, sleep, exercise, do chores, run errands, spend time with your kids and save the world. Let’s say you work 50 hours a week and then sleep for 8 hours a night, that still leaves 62 hours to do other things. Sure, you’ve got to commute, bathe and do chores, but 62 hours is a lot of time. What exactly are you doing with it?

Odds are, you have no idea. The first part of the problem is that we lie on time-use surveys. We tell researchers we work longer hours and spend more time on chores than we actually do. And then we under-report our sleep and leisure time. It’s not that we mean to fib: It’s human nature to overestimate the hard stuff and underestimate the good stuff. But, …

February 2nd, 2011

reformandchurch-flashOur 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.  Every time I hear a news story attempting to explain the Church’s stance, I usually end up mad at the Church, expressing, “Come on Church, that can’t be right.”  Then I turn to the USCCB website and read up on what the Church’s actual response is and realize how unclear and slanted the media can be in explaining the Church’s stance on matters.

This happened with health care reform.  I was upset with …

January 31st, 2011

2011 started out how past New Year’s have: surrounded by friends and family with numerous hopes and resolutions made. After ending 2010 with a much coveted interview for what I thought was my dream job, I was confident 2011 would be my best year yet.

Unfortunately, I soon found out I didn’t make the cut and I was devastated. I quickly began questioning my life and career choices as well as my own abilities. Why am I so passionate being a music journalist? Why would God give me this writing talent only to be accompanied by numerous failed job interviews? No one likes rejection and I was trying my best to see the silver lining, but had a much harder time than I care to admit.

So, of course I turned to music. Oprah Winfrey just launched her OWN network a few days before and one of her first aired shows, Master Class, featured Jay-Z discussing his life, struggles, failure and the importance of staying true to yourself. He knew when he was writing all his rhymes and rehearsing them as a child that he had something special that the world had to hear. He didn’t shy away from …

January 29th, 2011

sparehalfologue-flashScientific American has a fun podcast on one of the more irksome elements of modern life: Hearing half of the inane conversation of a fellow passenger on mass transportation.

Researchers have found that it is more distracting to listen to half of a conversation — dubbed a halfalogue — than it is to listen to two people chatting in front of you. Although, as someone who spends a lot of time working at coffee shops, it’s really distracting to a) listen to someone get fired; b) hear to one woman offer bad dating advice to another woman; and c) try to focus when two men are discussing their weight-lifting regimens – and the importance of interspersing yoga three days a week – in very loud voices. But I digress.

Reports FoxNews.com

Whether it is the office, on a train or in a car, only half of the conversation is overheard which drains more attention and concentration than when overhearing two people talking, according to scientists at Cornell University.

“We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue,” said Lauren Emberson, a co-author of the study that will be …

January 26th, 2011

KS_DiscourseIn retrospect, I realize it wasn’t fair that the shooting in Arizona two weeks ago was immediately blamed on the poisonous quality our political discourse has taken over the past number of years.  But I also can’t lie — my knee jerk reaction on hearing about the shooting was that the crime was indeed a crazed ideologue committing this heinous act.  And the fact that I was far from being alone in making that immediate assumption does bespeak of a larger issue going on in the nation.

While wrestling with the question of how to proceed, I spotted a bumper sticker.  It said, “Don’t Drink and Derive… Alcohol and Calculus Don’t Mix.”  That one didn’t help me out too much, but then I saw another bumper sticker that seemed to help me: “WWJD?”

Indeed, “What Would Jesus… um… Discourse?”  Though I’m certain the bumper sticker meant another more quaint phrase we’re all familiar with, it did get me thinking.  I began to reflect on the nice version of Jesus on which I was raised.  You know, the James Taylor version who always wore Birkenstocks and sang John Denver songs.  This is the Jesus who says in the Gospel of Luke, …

January 25th, 2011

uninsuredpregnancy-flash2An 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, etc. This individual plan, when compared to the employer insurance we were trying to substitute, looked identical but for half the price. Awesome. Until I got pregnant. I went to my first OBGYN appointment to confirm the pregnancy and to my total shock they returned my insurance card to me and told me that they don’t cover maternity care.

So while I do have health insurance, they do not pay …

January 21st, 2011

dearboyrfriend-flashDear Boyfriend,

I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said the other day. You told me that you’re all or nothing, and if you found that G-d exists you would be more religious than me, because how can one believe in G-d without accepting all of his commandments and abiding by all of His laws? There is so much that can be discussed and argued from your one statement and you’ve got me questioning myself, my faith, and those around me. Why don’t I see things in terms of black and white, or all or nothing, but instead my practice falls along not in shades of gray but all colors of the rainbow? I never did a 180, going from non-practicing to suddenly wearing skirts and long sleeves and praying three times a day. Because how does one do that when not knowing Hebrew, not knowing anything really? But maybe you’re right. If I believe with all my heart that there is a G-d, why do I find it acceptable that as long as I keep kosher and observe the Holy Sabbath that it’s okay for other areas to slide? That I don’t have to say all the prayers …

January 21st, 2011

ideashavesex-flashI was predisposed to like this piece in Scientific American based on its title alone:

When Ideas Have Sex: How free exchange between people increases prosperity and trust

But it’s not just a provocative title. The parallel between the benefits of intermixing genes to create new life and the benefits of sharing ideas to create prosperity makes a lot of sense.

Writes Michael Shermer:

the free exchange between people of goods, services and especially ideas leads to trust between strangers and prosperity for more people. Think of it as ideas having sex. That is what zoologist and science writer Matt Ridley calls it in his book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (HarperCollins, 2010). Ridley is optimistic that “the world will pull out of the current crisis because of the way that markets in goods, services and ideas allow human beings to exchange and specialize honestly for the betterment of all.”

Sex evolved because the benefit of the diversity created through the intermixture of genomes outweighed the costs of engaging in it, and so we enjoy exchanging our genes with one another, and life is all the richer for it. Likewise ideas. “Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex …

January 17th, 2011
The subject of The Rite discusses what is and isn't true concerning exorcisms

therite-flash

Fr. Gary Thomas is a Vatican-certified practicing exorcist whose experience is the subject of the new movie The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins, scheduled for release on January 28. That movie is based on a 2009 book about Fr. Gary by journalist Matt Baglio, The Rite: The Making of A Modern Exorcist.

[Read our review of the movie The Rite here.]

We interviewed Fr. Gary on the heels of the book’s release, about what is and isn’t true concerning exorcisms and demonic possession, and what this means in terms of our faith life. The book and upcoming movie chronicle Father Gary’s own Vatican training to become an exorcist, and give an inside look of the church’s use of the rite of exorcism and its role in contemporary life.

I’d you’d prefer to listen to the interview, you can play it here:

[audio src='http://media.libsyn.com/media/bustedhalo/10-29-09_FrGaryThomas.mp3' width="300"]
or download the mp3.

Fr. Dave Dwyer: Father Gary, many of our listeners might be surprised to know that having a priest on staff at a diocese in the role of an exorcist is still something that we do. They may think, “Oh, well gee, isn’t that a thing of the past,” or, “Didn’t

January 14th, 2011

simulatedethics-flashGuys, just an FYI: Next time a simulated image of a woman asks you to make a moral or ethical choice about sexual infidelity, know that your decisions might be impacted by whether she’s real-looking or not.

Huh?

Yep, welcome to cutting-edge social science. According to a study by researchers at the Indiana University School of Informatics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, men — but not women–are more likely to think that infidelity is wrong when the computerized chick outlining the scenario looks like a real (presumably hot) woman.

Explains study co-author Karl F. MacDorman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Program at the School of Informatics

a simulated female character presented participants with an ethical dilemma related to sexual conduct and marital infidelity. The character’s human photorealism and motion quality were varied in four ways. The changes had no significant effect on female viewers, while male viewers were much more likely to rule against the character when her visual appearance was obviously computer generated and her movements were jerky.

“Although it is difficult to generalize, I think the general trend is that both men and women are more sympathetic to real human characters than to simulated …

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