Sunday, February 17, 2013

Marriage Worth Protecting

I came upon a website a few days ago and this post which really grabbed my attention.  The title itself would grab anybody's attention 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage.  I began reading it and couldn't stop.  When I came to the end of the post I noticed there was another post called The Other 15 Ways I Blew My Marriage...That makes it 31 ways this guy blew his marriage...or make that two marriages.  Who would want advice on marriage from somebody with such a poor track record?  Nobody you'd think, but this guy has clearly thought long and hard about what went wrong.  It takes great humility to take the blame for something so sad and momentous as a marriage break-up.  Not many achieve that and spend their lives blaming the other person or at least excusing themselves from blame with the 'it just didn't work out' line.

I don't need to write a treatise on the problems and pressures marriage is facing in today's culture, both from within and without.  Marriage is fragile, just like us, made of earthen vessels, easily broken when not protected.  So how did this man blow his marriages?  Did he cheat on his wife?  Was he cruel? Nasty? It doesn't appear that he was any of those things.  What really grabbed me was just how small and simple are the tiny fissures which can shatter the strongest of rocks from repeated freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw action.  The damage isn't noticeable when the fissures are microscopic but when the rock shatters, it's too late then.

There is not one of us who can say we're perfect.  Not one of us has the perfect spouse.  We are all struggling through.  Sometimes (as is my slightly over-dramatic tendency) I wonder to myself what if.  What if  John died?  What would be the things I'd regret not having done for him.  Believe me, the list is extensive and I don't think I'm all that bad as wives go. But I know those are the things that would play on my mind because time can't be relived, I'd be so sorry for not making his life nicer at those tiny moments.  They are always small, but small is important.  Then...what if I died...what would John be sorry about?   Not in a babyish 'he'll be sorry then' way but what would he regret he hadn't done a bit better?  What are the would haves, could haves, should haves?  The list I've come up with in my macabre thoughts is a lot shorter than mine but there are things...and maybe the fact that the first thing on this man's post is also the first thing I have on my imaginary list is maybe why I read it to the end.  Because it is long, and I know that people don't like to read long posts (so I'm sorry mine are always too long!)

Marriage can be shattered by huge destructive actions like adultery and addiction but as you will read, what breaks more marriages is the 'small stuff'.  You know the phrase 'Don't sweat the small stuff'  I've never really believed in that philosophy.  Yes sweat the small stuff because it's the small stuff that counts.  Small stuff that build up love and security, both in marriage and in every other sort of relationship.  Sweat the small the small stuff...because usually that's all we have to offer.

So anyway, when I got to the end of the two posts I spotted that he has mad them available as a printable pdf document.  I'm linking it here and I'm going to ask you to join me in printing it off and sitting down with your spouse and have a read of it together.  The fact that it's not your marriage you're reading about it will be easier to discuss what you can personally do together to make your marriage better.  Every marriage can be improved, every person can be improved and I think the rewards to be reaped will be more than worth the effort.  It's easier to recognise where we fail ourselves than to have another (your spouse) point it out to you. Husbands...make sure you read this too, the marriage isn't just the project of your's your responsibility to be the husband God has called you to be.

Here's the link to the printable version.

Good luck with that and have fun.  Let me know what you think in the comments box.  I really am disproportionately delighted when a comment appears.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Prostitution, Sex-Ed & Teenagers

Before I start I want to warn you that this post and the links within it are adult material.

At the moment I am researching a post on sexuality education for middle school aged children. I want to do it properly and recommend the best sites and resources because at that age it is important to respect the delicate innocence of childhood and not barge in in an inappropriate fashion...least of all grouped in with their  co-ed class peers. I have ordered quite a few bits and pieces to review before I write it.

In the meantime I want to write this important post because I think the two topics are linked. How we understand the human person, including ourselves, will definitely be reflected in our behaviour toward others in all the varying types of interactions we have, be it saying please and thank you to a shopkeeper to the way we treat people in the area of sexuality.

The organisation in my country which works tirelessly in the area of prostitution and trying to help those caught up in this degrading 'trade' to get out of it is called Ruhama. Only yesterday I read a post they put up about the sheer numbers of girls involved in prostitution in Ireland. Roughly up to 800 girls in every nook and cranny of the country, this number is verified by the police. On a very quiet night each if these girls sees 6 men. On a typical night 12-15. According to both police and Ruhama, there is no 'typical' man involved in buying sex, they come from every walk of life and if anything those with more disposable income are more likely to spend it in this way. This Irish survey on escort agency 'clients' comes up with some harrowing statistics.

I am not going to address the criminal aspect of prostitution here in this post, I don't have enough, or any, inside information to present that isn't available elsewhere. Instead, I want to have a look at the men and how I think there is a very real link between the erroneous understanding of the human person and the willingness to avail of prostitution.

These are 'ordinary' men, husbands, brothers, fathers, employers, work colleagues, men we meet in the normal activities of our days. They more than likely come across as decent guys. So what mindset leads to this shady and exploitative activity?

Very recently a joint charity fundraiser took place between a girls secondary school and the corresponding boys school in the same town. It was a 'Blind-Date' event along the lines of the very entertaining Cilla Black show of the 1990s. The teenage girls and boys took turns to ask the mystery contestants questions and choose who to go an a date with based on the answers. All of the contestants were aged between 15-18 and I am sad to say had between 11 to 14 years of 'Catholic' education completed. 11 to 14 years of captive audience who could have been given a foundation of excellence in how to look at other human beings.

In the presence of their peers and teachers from both schools here is a small example of the questions and answers that were received with great applause by not only the other students but also with great hilarity by the (in loco parentis) adult teachers to whom part of the responsibility of these young people's moral formation has been entrusted.

Girl: "Boy...Describe yourself in three words"

Boy: "Young, Fun and Full of ***"


Girl: "Boy...what one item should you bring on a date?"

Boy: "A wheelchair. Because you'll need it by the time I'm finished with you!"


Boy: "Girl...what is your favourite word?"

Girl. "Con-Tra-Cep-Tion"

(Out of all the beautiful, wondrous and uplifting things in the world, a teenage girl can find nothing more attractive than a chemical hormone which she has been led to believe will enable her to engage in consequence free sexual activity...I wonder where the condom for her human heart is?  To the best of my knowledge it has yet to be invented.)


These are not even the most explicit examples, I wouldn't even write some of what those teenagers came out with.

It seems that out of 24 contestants, two boys and two girls did not come out with this type of answer. None of those four were 'picked'.

Now I know some will accuse me of prudishness, it's only a laugh and the kids are not actually intending to act out their 'bravado'.

However, that is not my point. My point is that this is the level of how (these) teenagers view the opposite sex and that they think it is acceptable to speak in such a demeaning way about themselves, their self-identity and their attitude to their peers of the opposite sex.  Their idea of a blind date was not to get to know the girl or boy in order to discern whether they would like to see more of them.  Rather, each teenager's expectation of the date was an opportunity for loveless, sexual activity with no regard for the actual person behind the screen.  I have spoken several times before in this blog about looking at a depersonalised version of the people we meet, I think it is demonstrated so strongly in this teenage event.

One of the saddest things that struck me about this, apart from how the adults stood over this demeaning behaviour in the other people's children they are supposed to be guiding.  I wondered whether the parents would be proud of a son implying that he would be so abusive to a girl he didn't even know as to suggest she'd need a the time he'd  finished with her.  Would the girl's parents be content that this is what they'd hoped for their child?  Do we remember that not only girl hearts are precious?  Boy hearts are precious too.

That was terrible but I think even sadder is that both the boys and the girls who came out with the most sexually explicit and morally absent questions and replies were the ones who were 'chosen'.  In other words, teenagers not only are settling for less...they are actually seeking out the less.

The teenagers who were in the audience of this event thought the replies were cool and hilarious and really could see nothing at all wrong. I find it hard to believe that this school and these young people are any different, or worse than the vast majority of other schools.  I don't suggest that these are bad kids, I'm suggesting they haven't a clue about authentic sexuality, how sex has something to do with love, how it has something to do with permanence, how it has something to do with new life.  Why do young adults have such a poor understanding of their own nature?  Because it seems to me that the focus of sex education in schools in Western culture has little to do with aiming for excellence but rather is an exercise in damage control.

Now how is this related to prostitution? Yes, I know, the world of prostitution is many faceted and I have no intention whatsoever of giving a simplistic answer-I am just addressing this one thought.

At the expectation risk of being called over-reactive I can see a link.  According to police, by and large, the men who avail of prostitution are ordinary guys.  Is it such a surprise that boys who emerge from the education system with no concept of the personal and absolute precious value of the other are turning into men who think it's fine to pass money to a pimp for sexual 'services' from a precious, unique and unrepeatable person?

Prostitution can be tackled by criminalising the purchase of sex, by clamping down on human trafficking, by all sorts of legal channels.  But the problem is also a moral one.  Every single man who pays for sex is also someone.  When teenagers have such an empty understanding of sexuality, can we be surprised that every single night up to 9,600 'Ordinary Guys' have such little regard for themselves, for their families and most of all for the (usually trafficked) girls who they queue up for their turn to abuse.

In 2009 a research study was published into why men pay for prostitution.  It makes very disturbing reading.  Clearly there is a moral problem going on here.  No human fault ever just manifests itself fully blown out of nowhere.  All human attitudes and habits begin as something small...maybe in this case a simple 'joke' in a high-school fundraiser, where smutty answers at a blind date show  got a good laugh, even from the adults?

And that is why I am putting even more effort into finding good resources to recommend to help us guide the children and teens in our care to aim for the excellent way.  I can't end prostitution, but if one ordinary guy learns love and respect and self-giving, maybe instead of 9,600 men, there will be 9,599 and that one less will be your son.

One by one by one.  Lets DO it!!

And for our girls...check out this Dump Him List...

The last thing I'll say is I wonder about the wisdom of a school standing over this fundraiser, rude comments or not.  Teenage dating is a huge issue for many parents and is something which needs to be considered very carefully.  I'll blog about that another time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Lovely Day

This post isn't going to contain any profound thoughts or advice or observations.

This post is for me so that I'll remember a lovely day.

Today was the first time that somebody special took Louise for the day that wasn't to babysit her while I fulfilled something I needed to do or go somewhere pre-arranged.  Today was just for the joy of having her and to spend a special day with her before her surgery.  To be quite honest it was the first time in I can't remember when that I've actually had some unscheduled hours to fill.  It's definitely been before Louise was born and I'm thinking it was long before that too because during the entire pregnancy with her we were having work done on the house so there was plenty of hustle and bustle.  I never mind that or count the time or lack thereof that I have to myself but last night when it was confirmed that Louise was having her fun day away from me I started to wonder what I should do with this unusual situation.

I asked my husband what he thought I should do, I didn't want to waste it just cleaning the house again.  He said he thought I should put on some weepy songs for half an hour and have a cry.  Hmmm....good idea since he knows me so well...but that wasn't going to take up too much time.  Luckily my friend posted this first thing this morning so I got the cry out of the way early in the day.  This will make you cry.

So this is what I did-

First of all I whizzed around to make sure the house was orderly before Louise was collected to minimise temptation to clean the house.  Then I gave her her bath so that she would be sweet-smelling and curly for her special day.  Gave her morning break and waved goodbye.  

Then I had a coffee and a little treat I'd bought myself late-night shopping in the supermarket the evening before.

Then I sat there.

Debated whether I should grab the opportunity to deep clean the house after all.

Answered the phone to my husband who told me not to be ridiculous.

So I packed my gym bag and grabbed a three year old voucher I had for the adjoining spa to chance my arm that it might still be valid.

On the way I went to the bottle bank.

Then I went into the church where there is adoration and spent a little time there thinking of hospitals and machines and drain wounds and asked for some help.

Then I went to the gym/spa and 'innocently' asked to check out my voucher.  It turned out that unlike a lot of places, vouchers here don't become useless as time passes.  I was delighted and then a bit disappointed when she seemed doubtful whether there was a slot available today.  I didn't quite play 'my baby's having surgery' card but not far off it.  Well I managed to get a slot for a back massage a while later.  So first I went and did a quick workout and managed to dry my hair and put on make-up in a leisurely fashion for a change.  I had some time before my appointment so I headed back into town and had a wee nosey through the wool and patterns in this gorgeous shop which is in a part of the town I rarely have reason to be.  I didn't buy anything because I already have some unfinished projects but it was lovely to have a little look.

Back to the spa for my massage.  As I was getting ready the girl asked me whether I had tight muscles.  I answered no I didn't think so...

Then proceeded to float away in thoughts of  tropical beaches such as Pinterest is filled with...

...and tried to overlook the gritty crunching sound my muscles were making 
like the sound of a car driving over gravel...realising that maybe I was a bit stressed after all.

Then a few minutes to relax in the...well...relaxing area...

And then home in time for a silent coffee and my first 
online Piano Lesson in three years.

It took me quite a while to choose what song to start learning
but I finally settled on this...

Now if I can just find my smelling salts I can actually start learning the song...Oh swoon!!

I've mastered the first four notes.

Then the children came home.

I've really had a lovely day.