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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August 22nd, 2013

communicationfierylatina-5“OK, you two, stand up and look at each other. Vanessa, you’re a fiery Latina. Brandon, you’re WASP-y and keep everything bottled up inside. But now you’re on the same team so you have to work together.”

This is probably the one comment that has stuck with me the most six years after meeting with our priest during Pre-Cana (marriage prep required if getting married in the Catholic Church). I know I’ve talked about some ways that Brandon and I are different, but we differ tremendously in how we communicate.

Years after we went through Pre-Cana ourselves, we now facilitate a Marriage Prep Retreat for engaged couples during which I’ve heard many couples give the advice that arguments or heated discussions should be had at the right time when both spouses are open to communication. “Don’t start a conversation when either of you is tired, stressed, or already very angry,” they would say.

Sure, that makes sense when you first hear it but I’ve never been able to follow this advice. Our priest nailed it. I am fiery. When something is bothering me, I have to say something right then.

Brandon is the total opposite. He gets annoyed …

August 15th, 2013

You can ask any person who knows me, I am probably the worst procrastinator they know. My college procrastination antics were miraculous at times. I started every single paper that I wrote in college at 2 a.m. the same day it was due. No joke. I even pumped out my entire 17-page capstone paper for my Peace Studies minor between 2 a.m. and 12 p.m. (at which time it was due in my professor’s office on the opposite side of campus).

This is not something that I am proud of at all and I’m fairly certain that it will cause me to die a few years sooner. But even after college I continued this. When I was teaching I would write exams at 3 a.m. or finish grading seconds before my students walked in to pick up their grades.

Really, though, I never had any strong desire to change because it always worked out for me. I’ve always had great friends and family that would help me out however I needed or a great work community that would pitch in to get the job done. My procrastination worked for me. I always finished what I needed to in time.


August 8th, 2013
Women pray during a service at the New Life Word Center Church in Sanford, Fla., after the George Zimmerman murder trial. (CNS photo/Steve Nesius, Reuters)

Women pray during a service at the New Life Word Center Church in Sanford, Fla., after the George Zimmerman murder trial. (CNS photo/Steve Nesius, Reuters)

I am not outraged (as some have responded here) that President Obama addressed the nation after the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. He absolutely needed to say something. He cannot pretend that he’s not African-American nor can he pretend that the experience of Trayvon Martin did not resonate with him. The notion that he cannot comment is asking Obama to not be human. We should welcome that the President, who comes from a different background from every other president in history, can offer the country a keen insight into what it is like to grow up as a black man in America.

That said, President Obama spoke of some scenarios I’ve heard before:

“And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and …

August 1st, 2013

cool-not-coolI read a lot of articles on parenting. Working parents, stay-at-home parents, self-employed parents, somewhere in between parents. And if there is one trend that I have taken issue with, it is the amount of people who dismiss moms trying their hardest and doing good work.

I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve made fun of the mom with perfect salon hair and a cute hipster outfit, pushing a newborn around. “Obviously her child is a robot if she has that much time to get ready in the morning,” I would quip. Or when a mom I know on Facebook constantly posts about her workout routine and how much weight she has lost. I immediately go for the jugular, “Yeah, if I wanted to neglect my kids every day, I could have six pack abs, too.”

So I get making fun of those moms. But it’s crappy and we shouldn’t do it.

Lately the articles I’ve been coming across have been so uncharitable towards moms who are passionate or successful at certain things. One article I read was by a stay-at-home mom who thought it important to distinguish herself from “those” moms who care “overmuch about scones.” Or another stay-at-home …

July 25th, 2013

stayathome7Brandon and I pretty frequently make decisions that cause big life changes. Sometimes I wonder if we’re too quick to change. Regardless, here we go again.

When we got married, we decided that one of us being home with our kids was a priority. After Olivia was born, I quit my job and stayed home. Then Brandon quit his job and picked up a new, more flexible one. So the second year I worked part-time and Brandon watched Olivia while I was at work. Then the opportunity for a higher-paying job arose. Brandon quit his job and became a stay-at-home dad. For the past two years I’ve worked full time at a wonderful Catholic high school.

I have loved my job these last two years. If I was single and had found this job, I would have felt like I had finally arrived at what I would consider my work vocation.

The problem was, even though career-wise I was flourishing, things at home were a wreck. Brandon is a really great husband and father, but he would be the first to tell you that home organization and cooking are not his forte. Before his first day of being a stay-at-home …

March 6th, 2013

twitter-large-imageI’ve written about it before. My total contempt for technology. Brandon has always tried to get me to understand its value and benefits while I have always focused on the damage it does.

He can’t blame me too much. I was in college when social media started making the move from AOL Instant Messenger to Facebook. Texting was just picking up speed, too. Then I went to working with undocumented immigrants where I saw that U.S. consumerism was convincing some of them to spend money on useless extravagances like fancy phones with data plans instead of sending the money back to their families or saving it. Then I went on to working with high schoolers where I come to find out that most teenagers consider texting a hobby and spend hours a day doing it. And don’t even get me started on parents letting their kids have phones with unrestricted access to the Internet. Paired with people who text or answer phone calls in the middle of face-to-face conversations, it’s not hard to understand my aversion to gadgets and social media.

I have known my husband for almost a decade, and in that time we have argued about technology …

February 5th, 2013

I was up really late one night watching some really bad sports talk show. These two guys were debating something about Tim Tebow. I can’t remember exactly what it was about. But they were really getting into the argument. At one point, one guy asked the other, “Don’t you think that Christians are the last acceptable group to hate?” The other guy paused for a moment. I honestly expected him to start bashing Christians but his face softened for a moment. He finally said, “Look, a lot of people persecute Christians and their beliefs. It is everywhere. But what do we expect? Jesus told us this would happen. It’s spelled out very clearly. Jesus, Himself, told us that we would be persecuted, hated, killed. So yes, people are prejudiced against Christians, but what else should we expect?” I was shocked. This guy on late night bad TV in the middle of some dumb argument just made a theologically profound and beautiful statement.

It’s true. Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” We, as Catholics, should not ever expect an easy go of things. Yes, we should fight with all our might to make the …

January 22nd, 2013

This year La Lupe will turn 85. I’ve seen La Lupe through many different lenses during my life. When I was little, I saw her through the yelling-all-the-time-at-my-cousins-but-not-me-because-I’m-her-favorite lens. In college I began to appreciate her for more than just her great cooking. I began to appreciate her experience and wisdom. But then I started to make decisions that she didn’t necessarily agree with, so I saw her through an oh-this-is-what-it-feels-like-to-get-on-the-bad-side-of-La-Lupe lens. But I still appreciated where she was coming from. Now I can see her through my motherhood-makes-all-of-us-crazy-so-I-get-you-way-better-now lens. Every time we visit with La Lupe, my perspective of her changes a bit.

But now after so many years, La Lupe is finally starting to show signs of aging. Until recently her mind has been really sharp but we see some fuzziness starting to overcome her. She has been rock solid for so long that this turn of events has left me trying to figure out how to feel about it and how to act around her.

This year spending the holidays with her was wonderful but things were different. Her humor has begun to dim. All too often, as people age, bitterness and anger begin to …

January 7th, 2013

I’ve always been a person who doesn’t like to hear excuses. I don’t dismiss all excuses because some are completely valid and the situation is out of the person’s control. But, especially since I work at a high school, I believe most excuses are people slacking off and trying to get away with it.

Recently, though, Brandon and I were given the opportunity to coordinate a Marriage Preparation Weekend for engaged couples. This is a ministry we’ve always been interested in helping out with, so we jumped at the chance to be able to facilitate the weekend. We should have more seriously considered that we would have a 6-week-old at the time, but we were optimistic about our time management skills. As the weekend approached Brandon was freaking out that we didn’t have more of it planned. I kept saying, “Look, Brandon, we have a new baby and two older girls that never sleep in past 7 a.m. Cut us some slack.” At some point Brandon looked at me and said, “Stop giving me that excuse. We could have had all of this done before the baby, and we didn’t do it. Now we have to get it done. We …

December 19th, 2012

I really do. I can’t stand waiting for progress in people. You can call me a product of my generation. I need instant gratification. It’s not that I don’t want things to get better, it’s just hard to be patient enough to wait for it. I don’t want the excruciatingly slow army crawl toward a goal; I just want to arrive at it.

As newlyweds, Brandon and I found that this was the first big issue that came up in our marriage. I had such a hard time being patient with Brandon. In college, neither of us was particularly tidy or used to cooking. We went from living with our parents to a dorm room and dining hall for four years then a few years of us living in separate messy apartments eating a lot of cereal. After getting married we had no sense of what it took to keep a whole apartment clean, to cook food that was good for us, or even how to merge our stuff into a coherent home. Very quickly, most of our fights were about me wanting us to be a perfect married couple with a picture perfect home and routine. I tried endlessly …

July 31st, 2012

I feel grumpy. And I mean truly grumpy. I can hear the tone of my voice when I talk. I listen as pointed comments slip out of my mouth with the intent of making others feel bad or criticizing them. And I can’t just blame it on being pregnant — have I mentioned that I’m pregnant? For a while I have not been able to shake this cloud that has been hanging over my head. I have been blaming it on being pregnant, which might have a little to do with it. But I’ve finally owned up to the fact that I am feeling pretty joyless right now because I haven’t seriously prayed in a long time. I mean I’ve gone to Mass every Sunday and said prayers with the girls but I have not purposely sat down to pray or do anything devotional in about a year.

I work at a Catholic school. There is no reason for this. I drive by the Blessed Sacrament Chapel that is open 24 hours a day at least twice a day. I could take a one-minute walk at lunch and be at a Marian grotto. Heck, our school is covered in images …

July 18th, 2012

I was very interested in one of the latest questions from the Busted Halo Question Box. The question was whether or not the person writing in should report a priest for yelling at him/her during confession.

This is an interesting question. I truly believe in the amazing healing power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In order for a person to even step into the confessional, that person has to overcome so much ego, so many excuses. Showing up for confession requires a huge amount of vulnerability and humility on that person’s part. Obviously, any person stepping into the confessional should not be taken lightly. We never know the battles this person is fighting or how life changing this moment can be for them. We all walk into the confessional broken, wanting the grace to change, wanting to be made whole by God’s love.

But I’m not convinced that God’s love always has to be conveyed through sweet, unreproaching words. As I’ve written before, I’m horrible at confession. So I have had my fair share of “bad” confessions. With total certainty, though, I can tell you about my best confession. Not the confession that made me feel my best, but the …

June 26th, 2012

At Notre Dame, I was lucky enough to take some art classes. I love art and these were some of my favorite classes. In fact, I loved these art classes so much you would have thought that I should have been an art major. But I was too scared to put that side of me on display. After we finished each assignment, we would go student by student and critique one another’s work. Even though people were only commenting on my drawing of some fruit, on the inside I felt like they were critiquing how I looked in a swimsuit. I was dying on the inside. I couldn’t handle any kind of criticism of my art. I felt too naked, too vulnerable.

I couldn’t even handle it when my professor was offering individual advice as we worked. I loved painting so much but since I couldn’t get over my insecurity and self-consciousness, I couldn’t learn from our really talented professors. Every piece of advice felt like they were telling me I was awful and should give up. To try and cope with these feelings, I would put on my best shy smile and hope that the professor would cut me …

June 13th, 2012

Wedding season is upon us once again. We’ve got four lined up this summer. Weddings always make me remember everything that went into our decision to get married. It was not simple and I had my share of harsh words with God. But in the end, we knew it was the path we were supposed to go down.

Ever since I was little I was always really open to becoming a nun or a sister. I had this very romantic image in my head of being in a cloister and praying all day or becoming a sister and living and working with the poor in some remote village in a far off land. I was ready for that life if God wanted it for me. This was not a hard lifestyle for me to imagine because I was not a boy-magnet in school and frankly, boys scared me. Of course I had my share of “falling in love” in high school and scribbling Mrs. So-and-so all over my notebook but I was always really nervous and intimidated to talk to boys. The idea of marrying a guy seemed a far-off reality when I could barely talk to one.

In my …

May 1st, 2012

Since I was a kid, I have been in love with Dr. Seuss. His writings are so prophetic and contain such simple but powerful social commentary. He’s a man after my own heart. Although, The Cat and the Hat still kind of weirds me out, so many of his other books are just so good. I don’t know much about Dr. Seuss’ life or how he came to possess his set of values and morals but I can’t help but note how Catholic his writing is. A lot of his books line up with the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Horton Hears a Who — Dignity of the Person. Yertle the Turtle — Rights and Responsibilities. How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Call to Family, Community, and Participation.

But The Lorax, this has always been my favorite Seusian story. When I saw that The Lorax was coming to theaters, I couldn’t wait to see it. As much as I love the book The Lorax, I thought they did a good job with the movie, as well. What stood out to me most was how Jesus-like they made the Lorax. Danny DeVito voice and all, there were a few instances …

April 18th, 2012

Spoiler Alert: This post assumes you have read The Hunger Games series and gives away parts of the story.

I totally jumped on The Hunger Games bandwagon. I was completely engrossed in this series. I’m pretty sure I read all three books in about four days. As I read the story, I felt excited that teenage girls would feel empowered by a strong woman character. In my head I made up lesson plans as to how I would teach this book. Katniss is a girl who keeps her family going despite the most terrible of odds. She is not held back by society’s view of her nor does she lend much attention to what others expect of her. She is fiercely loyal to those she loves and would do anything for them. But what I liked most of all about Katniss is that, in her head, she usually decides to do the wrong thing — run away, be cruel, kill someone. But when it actually comes time for her to act, she usually does the right thing — holds her tongue, faces the challenge, decides to show mercy, etc.

Despite all of these positive characteristics, at the end of the …

April 11th, 2012

Mass at a church in Cleveland, Ohio.(CNS photo/William Rieter)

One day Brandon and I made up our minds to run a marathon. If you knew us, this decision would have sent you into laughing hysterics because we are both the most un-athletic people we know. But we were both desperately out of shape and were firmly resolved to do this. We found a running group. They placed us with a coach. Slowly over the weeks, we ran more and more miles. It was horrible. Excruciating. I had never worked so hard physically. I was constantly sore and had little free time. I stopped eating things that I loved like McDonalds or frozen dinners. I had no idea about the theory behind running or the reasons for high knees, veggies and pasta, or changing our pace at different points. I just did what I was told at first then slowly learned more about it. Why it was important to eat carbs at certain times, or when to hydrate, or when it was best to consume sugar. I learned to love running. Not just physically, but in my head, also. I was in shape, eating right. And my body felt the best …

March 27th, 2012

I come from a family that shows its love through gift giving. I think this stems from La Lupe. She raised eight kids on the most meager of salaries, so now that everyone is grown and she has more discretionary money, she loves to buy gifts for people. It’s her love language. Some people are very affectionate, some write notes, some vocally proclaim their love. La Lupe does it by loading you up with tortillas, dried chiles, and cookies every time you leave her house. And occasionally you’ll get all this in the mail.

This character quirk of La Lupe has rubbed off on most other people in our family. They love to give us (especially our girls) gifts.

I understand this is not a bad problem to have. Oh, I never have to buy my children toys or clothes because someone in my family is always giving us something, woe to me. No, I know this is a blessing especially since we don’t have much discretionary income. But it does leave us with the problem of having a lot of stuff. There is no way to have a simple home if you have lots of stuff.

After a while, …

March 20th, 2012

A student serves meals at a ministry center in Oklahoma. (CNS photo/Dave Crenshaw, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic)

The other day I was buying some food from a food truck and I noticed a homeless man sitting by the truck playing his guitar. I bought some extra food to give him as I walked back to my car. As I stopped to give him the food and tell him to have a good night, he grabbed my hand and asked me to listen to his song. So I did. I sat next to him and listened to the love song he had written. And then he talked to me for some time about the lady the song is about. He didn’t look twice at the food and seemed to have forgotten about it by the time I headed home.

I forget sometimes that charity isn’t complicated. This man didn’t care too much about food. He was just really, really lonely. He was heartbroken and just wanted to chat about it. I can relate. I remember being in college and needing to talk to my friends for — I’m sure for them — agonizingly long periods of time about my latest heartache. This …

March 7th, 2012

I am a workaholic. When I have a job to do I am almost obsessive about it. Especially working in education, there is just so much to be done. There are always so many things to figure out: how to better serve the students, how to better teach the students, how to better meet the students’ needs, how to better meet the families’ needs. In this line of work there is an endless amount of time and effort that could be put in. Each day it is hard for me to detach myself from my work and attach myself to the other important parts of my life.

When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is check my work e-mail and then I’ll check it again right before I leave for work. Sometimes I find myself praying at night — Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with, shoot, I forgot to submit that announcement I need read in the morning. Should I get up and send an e-mail right now? No, it can wait. The Lord is with Thee, oh, I need to stop at the grocery store on my way into work to …

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