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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February 29th, 2012

I ate fast food for the majority of my life. Jack in the Box one day, Taco Bell the next, McDonald’s for breakfast, Sonic for dinner. We ate out almost every meal growing up. I didn’t know anything about what I was eating or how it was grown or how it was cooked.

It wasn’t until I moved to Austin about five years ago that I quickly fell in love with food. Not chicken nuggets kind of food, but real food. For the first time I saw the value in eating food grown locally and cooked even more locally — in my kitchen.

Austin is such a hippie place that it didn’t take long to finally learn more about the world hiding behind food I had eaten my whole life. Food was being genetically modified, vegetables were being doused with poisons, artificial ingredients were being added to food production, and animals were being treated inhumanely. Yuck. But still after learning about all that, it is really expensive to buy humanely treated, not-pumped-full-of-antibiotics meat. It can be hard to find organic veggies, and it is definitely extremely time consuming to cook absolutely everything that we eat.

While I am not a …

February 22nd, 2012

I was at Target the other day looking at coloring books for Olivia who is an avid colorer. There were about 100 options. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the choices but I still stood there staring at those books for about 10 minutes. Why? Because I couldn’t find one, single coloring book. Every book was a coloring book and something else. They included a pack of triangular crayons, or stickers, or paints and paintbrushes, or glow in the dark pens, or secret messages that could only be revealed if smeared with Cheeto-covered fingers. I couldn’t find a simple coloring book. All I wanted was a book full of pictures that lacked color. There was none.

I often get annoyed when things are more complicated then they need to be. I already feel like I’m constantly running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I don’t need things that add to the crazy. I need more simple in my life.

As Lent begins, my theme for these 40 days in going to be simplicity. What is going on in my life that I think I “need” but don’t really. What seems as essential as water but maybe isn’t? What extraneous …

February 14th, 2012

The White House issued an accommodation Friday exempting religious employers from having to pay for contraceptive services in their insurance policies. When I heard this first line, I immediately rejoiced that the Administration had heard the cry of its people and changed its policy. Then came the next line, “Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.”

The USCCB has understandably responded to this accommodation with caution as outlined here. This is drastically more articulate than my response to the accommodation which was, “Wait, what? How does that make sense?” Or posed as Olivia’s favorite question, “How they do that?”

So according to the government, religious employers (which was not defined) will not have to pay for contraceptive services, but instead insurance companies will pay for the contraceptive services themselves. Last time I checked, insurance companies were not in the business of doing stuff for free. Now that insurance companies will have to cover the contraceptive services that religious employers won’t, wouldn’t that make insurance companies raise the rates on religious employers’ plans because they will have to pay for those claims? I just don’t see …

February 7th, 2012

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010. (CNS photo/Reuters)

I voted for President Obama in the 2008 election. Leading up to that election and after it, I’ve fought an uphill battle trying to explain how I could be Catholic and vote for a president that so obviously has pro-choice goals. In my argument, I kept coming back to the USCCB’s statement, “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.” There are 7 principles of Catholic Social Teaching. When I weighed how many of the principles McCain stood for and how many Obama stood for, my tally was overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. Just to name a few, Obama is in favor of the DREAM Act and more comprehensive immigration reform. Obama wanted to reform healthcare (an issue I have written about at length). Obama’s economic policies were intended to directly help those at the bottom as opposed to using the trickle-down effect. And on and on. Even though Obama is pro-choice, I couldn’t ignore all those other extremely important issues that …

January 31st, 2012

I’m going to be honest. At the end of December I was not in a good place. I was unhappy with everything — my home, my relationship with everyone in my life, my spiritual life, my performance at work. Everything. I felt really bad about how I was doing all around. I just kept playing these scenes over and over in my head about times I had screwed up or done something to offend someone or said the wrong thing. I couldn’t get these conversations out of my head.

On my first day of vacation I just couldn’t shake this cloud that was hanging over me. So as I usually do when I’m feeling crummy, I decided to poke around the Internet for something interesting to read to get my mind off of myself. Whoa, did that make everything worse. I read about a mom who homeschools her kids and built a kiln in their backyard to teach them about chemistry and how it applies to pottery and glazing. Then I read about a Notre Dame grad with a beautiful family who is home with them full time, has a really successful sewing business, has great style, and has one …

January 25th, 2012

I always pictured my life differently. I’ve always been a simple girl with simple wants. I pictured that we would have a home without a TV, definitely no video games, a big garden out back where we’d grow a lot of our food, chickens for eggs. We’d make everything, our own clothes, our own laundry soap, etc. A pretty hippy existence all in all. My husband has a totally different picture in his head. He envisions a life where we would have most of the new gadgets that come out on the market. He is really interested in new technologies and how they can be integrated into everyday life. How the iPad or the Kindle Fire or smart phones can help us and actually be learning tools for the girls. Whenever a new piece of technology is released, we inevitably have to have a conversation about it and how it would fit into our life.

I’d say this is the hardest part of our marriage, having to blend my idea of life with his idea of life. This is something that a lot of marriages struggle with. When you get married, you’re not the only one calling the shots about …

January 17th, 2012

Every year the rollercoaster speed at which the year passes from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is always baffling. Every year I’m caught so off guard when Christmas Eve rolls around that I’m positive that everyone else has their days mixed up. This year was no different.

This year we had both Thanksgiving and Christmas here at our house. And if that wasn’t enough pressure, La Lupe actually made the trek out to Austin to spend it with us. In case you don’t remember the debacle from last year, which was my hostessing skills, it suffices to say that I ended up sitting in a pew on Christmas Day crying because I felt like I had ruined Christmas. That was my first try at being the matriarch of the family. It was a total fail.

But this year was different. Well, a little different. I entered the holiday season determined to mellow out a bit and take things in stride. With La Lupe in town, I knew that I wouldn’t be in complete control of everything. I knew she would call some of the shots. And that made me feel a lot better.

We had 12 people staying with us, so …

January 10th, 2012

A homeless man eats lunch in St. Vincent DePaul Community Center in Oakland, California (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski)

For the past 18 months, I have seen a man pass our house in his wheelchair every week. He has long, dirty hair, lots of bags, and a bandaged foot. The first time we saw him was startling. If you remember, I previously wrote about how we moved into a suburban-ish area. We were unpacking boxes when we saw him move slowly past our window. He stood out. He wasn’t a twenty-something jogger listening to an iPod, he wasn’t two moms pushing their strollers and chatting, he wasn’t our neighbor walking his dog, he was a sick, slow moving man who, very likely, did not have a home. We stopped what we were doing and peered through our window until he was out of sight.

As time progressed, we figured out his schedule. He spends his time doing laps around our community. In the mornings I see him making his way along the running trails, in the afternoons I’ve seen him parked over by the lake, watching the waterfalls, and in the evenings he makes his way past our house. I never …

November 17th, 2011

While I am partial to things that people may classify as hippie — like peace, love, granola — I don’t very well understand the Occupy movement. I don’t quite understand why people are camping out there. I don’t understand why they can’t just take shifts and then go home. I don’t understand why they are asking for donations of food and clothing. I don’t really want to understand how bathing and bathroom breaks work around there. But what I wholeheartedly agree with is that something needs to be done about corporate greed.

I know there are a lot of reasons for the economic recession but a huge cause of it was some people thinking their pocketbooks were infinitely more important than the people they were swindling. And this has been the model for most corporations. It truly is disgusting. The idea that someone could deceive others, knowing that it would drive others to total ruin, just so they could buy their sixth house off the coast of France is just flat out horrifying. How we have allowed these people to rise to power and stay in power is beyond me.

In Matthew 25:31-46, it is clear how we should …

November 2nd, 2011
Honoring the dead in the land of the living

A man stands next to the grave of a loved one during a Day of the Dead celebration in La Paz, Bolivia.(CNS photo/David Mercado, Reuters)

I’ve never celebrated Día de los Muertos. I’ve never heard La Lupe speak of celebrating it, either. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.

A lot of people wrongly think that Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is celebrated on Halloween but it is, in fact, celebrated on November 1 — All Saints Day — for babies and November 2 — All Souls Day — for everyone else that has passed away. People mark the day with huge parties/parades and faces painted to look like skeletons. They make elaborate paper maché skeletons or skeleton puppets and dance all through the night. Families set up ofrendas dedicated to deceased loved ones with pictures, flowers, skulls, and food. What is especially touching about the day is that many families go to gravesites of their loved ones and sometimes eat the person’s favorite meal over their grave as a way of breaking bread with them once again.

This can seem weird and kind of supernatural but it is a great tribute to the …

October 18th, 2011

Vanessa dancing with Ruben at her wedding.

A good friend passed away last Wednesday. He had fought cancer a long, long time.

Ruben was that cool kid that everyone, and I mean everyone, immediately loved. He just had this vibe. Laid back but totally present. Go with the flow but very purposeful. He was so comfortable with being himself that he emboldened everyone around him to be more uniquely themselves. Everyone felt a little more adventurous and free around him.

I looked forward to hanging out with him. I looked forward to his questions. Ruben didn’t small talk or chit-chat. He wanted the real stuff. He was the kind of person you knew for certain took you seriously. And you were powerless to his sincerity. I found that he would get truth out of me that even I didn’t know was there. He would ask me how I was and I had no choice but to dig deeply and pull out something meaningful and true.

I’m not sad for Ruben. I feel so good about his life. There is no possible way that Ruben could have squeezed one more drop out of life. He just loved so deeply. Other than …

October 7th, 2011

Due to my admittedly Amish tendencies when it comes to technology, I was surprised at the wave of sadness that washed over me when I heard of Steve Jobs’ death. The kind of sadness I would feel if someone I knew personally died.

I don’t love Apple, I don’t love iPods, I definitely don’t love iPhones. I honestly don’t know, nor really care about what technology he advanced. I can appreciate his brilliance, his charisma, his aesthetic. He really was the best in his field. I can respect that.

But that’s not what made me sad. Maybe it was partly that he had kids and now some kids out there in the world are without a loving father. Maybe it was partly because he has been fighting cancer for a while and, while he fought the good fight, he was finally called home. Maybe it was a bit jarring the message that it truly doesn’t matter how much money you have or how at-the-top-of-your-game you are — when it’s your time, it’s your time.

What made me sad was that Olivia and I, for months now, have been praying for Steve Jobs. Really, we have been. Our nightly ritual is …

October 5th, 2011

I am a perfectionist and a micromanager and am easily overwhelmed. There really is no combination that would result in a more tightly wound person. So it’s safe to say that sometimes I can get really hung up on a problem, and I can take life a little too seriously.

This is usually when something happens that is so random that it just has to be a sign for me to lighten up.

A professor once told us about a time that he was in New York City and was running late to catch a flight. A cab finally pulled over and they proceeded to La Guardia. This professor is a friendly guy. It was going to be a long drive so he tried to strike up conversation about the yoga book that was in the passenger seat, but the cab driver barely spoke English. He saw some tattoos on the man’s hands that he knew to be native to a region of Sudan that he was familiar with. Then he told us, “Only in New York can a fat-faced Irish man talk to a man from Sudan in a cab about yoga in Italian.” Seriously, an Irish man and …

September 20th, 2011

This week was one of those weeks when I was so exhausted I didn’t have the energy to filter. Truth – in the sense that it was exactly what I was thinking — was just coming out because I didn’t have the brain cells necessary to stop it. Out of that came one of the most correct observations I think I’ve ever made — deciding to be a teacher is like deciding to be a priest. You avoid it for as long as possible because it’s just so darn hard but, eventually, you have to give in because it’s all that really makes sense.

Deciding to be a teacher, and a good one at that, is a decision that is just as unnerving and avoided as is the call to the priesthood. For all the vocation stories I have heard, most include a period of ignoring God and avoiding this very clear internal compass pointing them toward Holy Orders. They could hear the footsteps of God steadily following every decision they made trying to get away from this vocation until they had to give in to such a persistent pursuant.

This is exactly how I have felt about the …

September 6th, 2011

My last La Lupe blog post generated some comments about what people believe leads to so many abortions. You know why I think there are so many abortions? Society no longer associates sex with babies.

If we really stop and think about the most natural things about our bodies, sex creating babies is right up there with being hungry and eating. Sex resulting in pregnancy is the natural order. When we’re hungry we eat. When we are tired, we sleep. When we have sex, we sometimes get pregnant.

But we don’t hear this message anywhere in society. Everything in society tells us that sex is for pleasure. Sex is for fun. Sex is for getting closer to another person. Sex is no big thing. Sex has nothing to do with babies. And this attitude is not just among non-married couples but married couples as well.

When we separate sex from babies then I can see how it might not take a huge leap for some people to believe it is ok to have an abortion. If sex is not “supposed” to end in pregnancy then having an abortion is just getting rid of something that was never supposed to happen …

August 24th, 2011

The other day I read one of the most horrific, truly mind-boggling statistics I’ve ever read. But I will get to that in a second. First I want to establish a few points. I am pro-life. Obviously. Hopefully that is clear from my writing. But sometimes I am so embarrassed by the 1% of pro-life people that believe they are furthering the cause when really they are just giving others ammunition against us.

A few months ago I read this post on pro-life euphemisms. The author very articulately scolds pro-life advocates that put their energy into not-so-important hair-splitting instead of something useful. She talks about people who correct mothers that use the phrase “welcome into the world” at their child’s moment of birth. They argue that we “welcome the baby into the world” at conception and “meet for the first time face-to-face” at birth. I read that and said, “Ok, I get your point. Technically this is correct. Nit-picky, but ok, I get it.”

Then a few weeks ago I read this from a pro-life advocate, “A baby should be named as soon as the mother knows she is pregnant, giving that baby a girl and boy name. Deciding to …

August 16th, 2011

A woman and a small boy kneel in prayer during Spanish Mass. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

This summer, we were lucky enough to spend a week in El Paso. Apart from the obvious great things that come with being in El Paso — La Lupe, La Lupe’s food, La Lupe’s hospitality, the descendants of La Lupe — one of the things I look forward to the most is going to Mass.

Whenever we are in El Paso we attend Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. When we lived in El Paso we were so loyal to this church that I actually thought it was the only church in all of El Paso until I was about 9.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. As you walk into the church, you are immediately drawn into La Virgencita’s story. The entire 40-foot wall behind the altar is a painting of Jesus crucified with Our Lady of Guadalupe at his side. Lining the other walls are huge 10-foot tall paintings that tell the story of the indigenous people being colonized by the conquistadors and then ending with La Virgen’s apparition to Juan Diego. …

August 9th, 2011

Despite the popular sentiment found in Office Space, the 8-hour workday was a huge victory for laborers burdened with 12-16-hour workdays. 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours sleep seems very reasonable and makes sense. But after I moved to Austin to live in the same city as Brandon, I started to get the feeling that an 8-hour workday didn’t really work for me.

Before I moved to Austin, I never had a real 9-to-5 job. In college, I worked in the dean’s office with other people that lived in my dorm, and I had at least some classes with my roommates. After college I worked at a Catholic Worker house where I lived and worked with the same people. I liked life like this. Home and work were kind of one in the same.

Brandon and I had been dating long distance for a couple of years, and we decided that we needed to live in the same city to truly discern whether or not we wanted to get married. So I moved to Austin and got a regular 9-to-5 job. I didn’t see Brandon every day until 6 or 7 at night. We’d go for a run …

August 2nd, 2011

Before coming to write at Busted Halo™ I was already a fan. At that time I was a high school theology teacher so I LOVED how real and relatable everything was on the website. I showed quite a few of the Busted Halo™ videos to my classes, and they loved them. They appreciated that a ministry of the Church was vibrant and modern and tech-y. They ate it up. They were especially impressed with the video explaining the Church’s stance on evolution.

By a completely fortuitous string of events, I submitted my first La Lupe post (after asking permission to write about her), and since then I have really come to value being part of the Busted Halo™ family.

I think that being a young adult is hard but being a faithful young adult is even harder. There is so much transition after leaving college. In college you find insta-friends and don’t have to look far for people that are like you and interested in the same things — for the most part. Then you’re thrown out into the real world. You could move to Seattle and work on an organic farm. You could join the Peace Corps. You could …

July 26th, 2011

Credit: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

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 …

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