Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

There is a lot happening this week, especially for the organizations I work for — and Moms Clean Air Force. Please sign up for their e-mails, if you have not already done so. You all are the best! :)

The Moms Clean Air Force is running a series of videos promoting clean air. Among the speakers are author Ayelet Waldman, actress Blythe Danner (she is also Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom), Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph.

There is a reason for all this corralling around clean air now. New mercury and air toxics standards are supposed to kick in this week, but some members of the coal power plant industry are fighting them tooth and nail. All that lobbying is to the detriment of our children’s health as mercury is in our air and water and arsenic in our food. If you haven’t done so already, please take action and sign this petition to President Obama at Moms Clean Air Force and MomsRising.

It is the holiday season. If anything, now is the time to count our blessings, but also remember our unemployed brothers and sisters out there looking for work. MomsRising ran a series of blog posts highlighting the need to extend unemployment benefits beyond December 31 of this year. Among the writers were my mother and a dear childhood friend in Florida who has had to visit a food pantry to feed her family. Please read and pass along to encourage your family and friends to support extending unemployment insurance.

In related news, the Occupy movement conducted a series of actions in Washington, D.C. last week. These were my favorite actions: first, this wonderful essay by Linda Evans, a great-grandmother explaining why she was occupying D.C.. I also appreciated this Los Angeles Times story about the protesters occupying one of Newt Gingrich’s fundraisers. (Seriously, I wonder who advised him to hold a fundraiser in the same place and at the same time as the protests?) Finally, I am glad someone stood up to K Street lobbyists — here is coverage of it on CNN. Many thanks to the Service Employees International Union for getting those clips together!

And one last piece of political news: in a rare move, the Obama administration overturned an FDA recommendation to sell the morning after pill — plan B — over the counter for everyone. This is stupid for a variety of reasons as spelled out by the blog RH Reality Check.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: Anne Lamott Book Edition

I just finished my second book by funny lady Anne Lamott: Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith. The first book by her that I read was Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, a must read and mandatory gift for all expecting parents.

Once again, I appreciated her honesty about parenthood in Plan B:

A few mothers seem happy with their children all the time, as if they’re sailing through motherhood, entranced. But up close and personal, you find that these moms tend to have little unresolved issues: they exercise three hours a day, or they check their husbands’ pockets every night, looking for motel receipts. Because moms get very mad; and they also get bored. This is a closely guarded secret; the myth of maternal bliss is evidently so sacrosanct that we can’t even admit these feelings to ourselves. But when you mention the feelings to other mothers, they all say, “Yes, yes!” You ask, “Are you ever mean to your children?” “Yes!” “Do you ever yell so meanly that it scares you?” “Yes, yes!” “Do you ever want to throw yourself down the stairs because you’re so bored with your child that you can hardly see straight?” “Yes, Lord, yes…”

What most struck me about this book and something I wanted to discuss here is how to raise spiritual children. She makes her teenaged son go to church with her every other Sunday. And she forced him to join the children’s prayer groups. This is what she had to say about it:

I know Sam believes that Jesus is true; sometimes he tells me about having prayed when he felt afraid, or he’ll say jovially, “God is really showing off for us today.” He makes fun of me for being a bit of a Jesus freak, but he loves a gold cross I gave him — referred to as his “bling,” or even his “bling-bling” — and we often pray together at bedtime, especially if someone we love is having a hard time. Sam has a life that encompasses his own spirituality.

But he hates church.

Then why do I make him go? Because I want him to. We live in bewildering, drastic times, and a little spiritual guidance never killed anyone. I think it’s a fair compromise that every other week he has to come to the place that has been the tap for me: I want him to see the people who loved me when I felt most unlovable, who have loved him since I first told them that I was pregnant, even though he might not want to be with them. I want him to see their faces. He gets the most valuable things I know through osmosis.

Also, he has no job, no car, no income. He needs to stay in my good graces.

While he lives at my house, he has to do things my way. And there are worse things for kids than to have to spend time with people who love God. Teenagers who do not go to church are adored by God, but they don’t get to meet some of the people who love God back. Learning to love back is the hardest part of being alive. Besides, since Sam is the only teenager in his circle who has to go to church, I can’t send him off to experience other churches or temples or mosques or Zen practice with his friends’ families, because they don’t go.

This is exactly the situation I find myself in, although I don’t have a sulking teenager yet. Ari is 5.5, loves God and enjoys listening to biblical stories. He asked to learn the Our Father and prayers we say during the mass. But he hates going to church. In fact, before we left for New Hampshire he asked, “Because we will be in New Hampshire, I won’t have to go to church, right?” “Right,” I said. He was thrilled.

But like Lamott, I insist that he and and his two-year-old sister attend mass with me every Sunday. I just switched churches to find a shorter mass with a children’s liturgy during the homily, or the priest’s serman. That has made it somewhat bearable (for me).

How important is it to raise spiritual children? What have you done to keep your children interested in your faith?