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June 17th, 2002
The Ups and Downs of Natural Family Planning

In my budding feminist years, Natural Family Planning seemed as useful as tossing a grenade into a dance hall and hoping no one would get hit. It was birth control at its most non-existent: a protective shield without the shield. At the time, I assumed the Catholic Church promoted it in order to keep women pregnant. Then, I did my homework. I learned the facts, got married, and came to view Natural Family Planning as a feminist’s dream.
Bring On The Dream
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a method of birth control that teaches women to use their menstrual cycle to avoid pregnancy. It’s simple biology: during a normal menstrual cycle a woman’s body will menstruate, prepare for ovulation and possible…

June 5th, 2002

“Do not bother to adjust your (TV) set. We control the vertical. We control the horizontal.”
-cheesy , deep-voiced narrator on “The Outer Limits.”
Ever see that old show, “The Outer Limits”? Basically, it’s a poor man’s “Twilight Zone ” (now there was a show!). The intro for The Outer Limits begins with a narrator who says this mumbo jumbo about controlling your TV set, while a bunch of wavy lines appear on your screen. Mr. Cheesy goes on to say that any attempt to adjust the picture on your screen is fruitless, and then what follows is a bad, poorly-acted, black-and-white “suspense” show. Basically, the narrator is announcing the…

June 4th, 2002
A response to the bishops' recent proposals on the sexual abuse crisis

After reviewing the latest proposals from the U.S. Catholic bishops, I was pleasantly surprised with many of their recommendations. However, the writers of this document still don’t get it.
Don’t get me wrong, many of the U.S. bishops have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to speaking out in favor of the victims, accepting questions from people in their diocese, and working for healing for the church at large. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. is one bishop who I immensely respect. Recently at a young adult gathering, McCarrick answered many questions about the scandal with great candor and empathy for a church that needs healing and openness. And there are other…

June 3rd, 2002

Twenty years ago this past week a 27-year old Chinese-American man and a few of his friends walked into a Detroit bar to celebrate his bachelor party. A few hours later Vincent Chin was dead.
Who and what killed Vincent Chin on June 19, 1982? Was it uncontrolled anger? Drunkenness? Racism? A baseball bat run amuck?
Just a fight in a bar?
Two white men – Ronald Ebens and his twenty-something stepson Michael Nitz?got into a fight with Chin, were expelled from the bar, and eventually pinned him down at a nearby McDonald’s where Ebens cracked Chin’s skull with a baseball bat.
Vincent’s last words were “It isn’t fair.”
At the time Detroit residents were confronting automobile…

June 2nd, 2002

This Saturday I went back to my old apartment and finished packing my things to move them to my new apartment. Clothes, books, file folders, even an old computer. But there was something, actually someone, I left behind — my husband.
I’ve made an agonizing but clear decision to separate from my husband after 11 years of marriage, the last five particularly rocky and difficult. We’re two good people, one with more years of Catholic education than the fingers on her two hands, who just couldn’t make the relationship work.
Our early days were filled with joy, the joy of listening, of singing together, telling stories and laughing late into the night. We did car trips really well and enjoyed…

June 2nd, 2002

As someone who has dated people that he has worked with, I speak from experience. It’s the best of times and the worst of times.
Here’s the upside:

Smooches during the day are always good.
You always have someone to go to lunch with.
Work schedule conflicts are minimal.
Someone understands your plight when you complain about the boss.

Of course there’s always the downside:

Need to always look good at work.
Never get any work done because you’re daydreaming about what she’s doing.
She tells people about how romantic you are and the guys think you’re a wuss.
Getting that massage from your honey gets dirty looks from the boss.

Seriously, it was really hard to stay focused at work…

June 1st, 2002
The Strains of Starting Over

It’s November and the leaves (of what are not palm trees and cactus) are still green. I must be in Texas. For the first time in four years, winter is closing in and I am not in Iowa–the place where I went to school. Leaving college means not only climate change and nostalgia for the scene at the bar on Wednesday night, but deeper dislocation as well.
My friend Marcy used to say that she could tell who had just come into our house while she was sitting in the living room by the different noises we all made: kicking off shoes, sighing, singing, slamming. If community is a group of people who are custodians of one another’s stories, I do not see the custodians of my stories every day anymore. Instead, I talk to them…

June 1st, 2002
Back to the Rosary

I’ve never found the rosary particularly helpful to my prayer.
Truth be told, most of the time when I pray, I use my own words. Having learned that prayer is conversation with God, I need not only to speak to God but also to listen intently. I need to sense where God is guiding me in my life, where God is working in my life.
There are those times when it all feels like bunk. I feel like I’m talking to the wall, to myself, like God isn’t around. I end up feeling empty inside, alone. Is God deaf? Maybe my wife who’s a sign language interpreter would have better luck signing my prayers?
But I’ve had moments of great clarity during prayer too. I’ve had things explained to me a thousand times…

May 28th, 2002
How much money should the Catholic Church pay, or not pay, to settle current sex abuse claims?

How about $0?
Now, before you get into your car and head over to my place to tar and feather me, please rest assured that I, like you, believe that the Catholic Church owes a very great deal to every victim of sex abuse. I just happen to think that cash is a fast and easy way out for the Church and its victims.
By the same token, it seems to me that any cash settlement will neither erase the pain nor simplify the spiritual lives of those affected.
When has the doling out of cash ever promoted healing?
Somehow, with all this talk of millions, it seems that spirituality, compassion, and God have all been shoved to the wings. Instead of an honest attempt at seeking change in the way it enriches the lives of its parishioners, we now have…

May 19th, 2002

“Waiting for Star Wars is an art project designed to capture the evolution and journey of one person’s wait for a single event?”
– Jeff Tweiten and John Guth, two guys who waited four and one-half months in line for Star Wars Episode II.
This article is about fanaticism. Or should I say extreme behavior? Dare I say?insanity? Of course, I’m not talking about the type of fanaticism which would cause one person to harm another. We all know that’s wrong. I’m talking about taking a simple interest, nurturing it, feeding it, until ? before you know it ? it grows into it’s own potentially frightening entity with a mind, heart and soul all its own.
If you’re lucky,…

May 18th, 2002

I still have the family tree that I made for a sixth-grade social studies class. The last time that I saw it was when my family moved to a new house 2 years ago. I was helping my parents with the daunting task of packing up all of the endless knick-knacks that had accumulated over 12 years. Behind a shelf in my old room, I found the treasured project on which I had worked so hard. My poor family tree was all tattered and a bit faded, but it still made me smile. I recall bursting with pride when I had finished that poster.
Actually, my tree wasn’t really a “tree” at all. I wanted to be different, so I had made my family’s history fit inside the image of a large hot air balloon. The title of the tree was ”…

May 15th, 2002

Having once been a “Johnist”, I’ve recently converted and become a “Paulist.” No, not that kind of Paulist. I’ve always been a huge Beatles fan. So recently, when I took my son to see Paul McCartney at the Pond in Anaheim, California, I knew that this was likely to be the closest I’d ever get to a Beatles concert. For that reason alone, it was going to be a religious experience for me. I just never thought I’d enjoy it as much as I did.
For quite a while, I’ve been wanting to crash a concert. Whenever I go to a show, there always seems
to be people selling extra tickets. Even though the Paul McCartney show was sold out and it was the last date he was playing in my area,…

May 10th, 2002
While You're Away

Recently, I (Mike) had to go away for a few days on business. It was the first time Marion and I had spent time away from each other since the wedding. While I (Mike) was kept busy and distracted from missing Marion with the demands of the conference I was attending, the experience was quite different for Marion.
Of course I (Marion) had been away from Mike before. The last time Mike was away was when we were planning the wedding. That particular weekend my sister called me five or six times to keep me distracted, asking me questions about the wedding. This time it felt different. We always get to re-connect at the end of our day. Mike and I always have dinner together and talk about the day’s events. There was one day…

May 5th, 2002
"Hey! Where the hell'd you learn to drive?"

The man in the grey van pulled alongside me as I made my way across the parking lot. The permanent plates on my rental car said otherwise, but I was a visitor here, at the end of long and horrible day. I was currently lost for the 857th time in a twenty-four hour period, and the near-miss I’d just had with the van while I was searching out a street sign was the last in a long series of delights not mentioned in the travel brochures.
I walked on, staring straight ahead; color me paranoid, but engaging in conversations with angry, van-driving men who follow me into dark parking lots does not qualify as a tremendously smart safety move.
He continued to glide along next to me. “F—ing can’t-drive whore…

May 3rd, 2002
It Takes Someone Special to Be a Dad

Daddy always gets the big piece of chicken.
At least that’s what Chris Rock says. In a recent comedy routine, Rock stated that moms always get better presents on Mother’s Day than any dad gets on Father’s Day.
“Everything’s always for the mommy. ‘Did you tell Mommy how good she looks?’ ‘Did you get Mommy something nice for Mother’s Day?’ Everything’s for the mommy. The only thing daddy ever gets is the big piece of chicken!”
Dads really are unappreciated sometimes. Rock said in the same routine that nobody ever says, “Hey Dad, thanks for knocking out the rent this month!”
Mike’s dad has this quiet confidence.…

May 1st, 2002

“I’ll be right here.”
- E.T. to Elliot before blasting off for home
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
-Jesus to his disciples, before blasting off for heaven
So E.T. is twenty years old. That face. Those eyes. It seems like he hasn’t aged a bit. In fact, with his new facelift, he’s even more spry than ever. If this Web site was www.nra.org, the site for the National Rifle Association, we might be discussing how wrong it was for the director, Steven Spielberg, to digitally turn some of the guns in the film into walkie-talkies (he was concerned it wasn’t suitable for the kiddies, although, interestingly enough, he did think it was okay to have Elliot,…

May 1st, 2002
Winging It: Meditations of a Young Adult (Orbis Books)

A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. -JOSEPH HELLER
I just received an invitation to a wedding in India from a woman I stayed with in Calcutta nearly seven years ago. Her youngest son is getting married, and she said it would mean a lot if I could come.
I chuckle aloud as I open the envelope, because I can’t help but remember that episode from Seinfeld when Elaine is invited to her friend’s wedding in India. She shows up to spite the friend she thinks doesn’t really want her there and discovers that the groom is her former lover.
The image of Elaine, drunk, with the nose ring, reminds me of the photo I took with two petite Indian woman. Towering over them…

April 30th, 2002
Remembering and Celebrating on Our First Anniversary

It’s been a year since we took that walk down the aisle. We’ve had a year filled with happiness, but it’s also been a difficult year because Mike’s mom spent half the year in the hospital and Marion’s grandmother has had her share of health problems as well.
In our first year we learned that marriage is about two people who are there to support one another no matter what comes their way. It’s about commitment, making a conscious decision to love your partner despite the difficulties.
The big day Our anniversary day was reminiscent of our wedding day. We went to the restaurant where our wedding reception was held, and we were filled with the memories of our special day. We even looked…

April 29th, 2002
Finding meaning under the covers

A year ago, my favorite morning ritual was to sit on my porch, drink coffee, and wave to the sad university students strolling to 8:30 classes. Then, I got married. I moved far away from my porch and surrendered coffee for green tea. One dawn, as I lay under the covers, I realized: I need a new routine. Then, I rolled over, snuggled into my husband’s warm hug, and found it.
It’s great: the alarm chirps, I roll towards Steve, and Steve hugs me. We lie together for a half hour, chatting and dozing and just passing time. He kisses my forehead. I stroke his hair. We talk of crazy dreams and plans for the day and, invariably, check the clock. We get up. He showers. I boil water. By the time we sit down for breakfast, I want…

April 28th, 2002
Tangerines and Transformations

Volunteering to teach confirmation classes at my mid-town Los Angeles parish is challenging work. Let’s face it, most teens sign up for the two year, twice-a-month program, because it’s SUPER important to their parents, while hardly registering as something to care about for themselves.
First ingredient: Vitamin J
So my pastor and I started out with a disadvantage only good teen snacks could remedy-Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos, cookies, hot chocolate, Snapple, sodas, tangerines (requested), spring water (also requested). These are the paths to a young person’s soul.
Okay, maybe more than snacks are involved. It helps that teens are intensely social and eventually figure out who likes…

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