Thursday, November 20, 2014

An All-White Winter Meal

Most of the time, I prefer color in my dinners. If I'm serving green pesto, I'm going to make a Caprese salad, heavy on the tomatoes, rather than a side of green beans. But, every once in a while, the occasion calls for a monochromatic menu.

The all-white dinner is a great trick to have up your sleeve as a Catholic mama. It's the perfect subtle, not-too-difficult but still out-of-the-ordinary way to turn a regular dinner into a feast day celebration! Any holiday dealing with purity, innocence, virginity, Mary, non-martyrs, or forgiveness lends itself well to a symbolic meal of white - and there are a couple coming up just around the corner!

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) is a perfect time to celebrate the Blessed Mother's purity with an all-white spread. You could round things off with these tasty Mary-themed cupcakes for the sweet tooths in your family. (Feel free to swap the blue icing on the top for white.)

Do you have a little one who's going to be celebrating his or her first reconciliation? (I do!!) This would be the perfect dinner to come home to. (I've heard vanilla ice cream makes a popular dessert.)

Other great times to play your all-white card:
  • Trinity Sunday
  • Feast of St. Bernadette
  • Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
  • Solemnity of the Ascension
  • Solemnity of the Assumption
  • Holy Thursday
Just to name a few! (If you have any more ideas, please list them in the comments!)

So, what's the spread?

Apple-and-Walnut Slaw 

Sorry there's no recipe yet for the slaw. I make mine with Napa, an easy vinaigrette, and Honeycrisps, but this one is good, too.

There's no right or wrong in this. Obviously, my coconut chicken starts out more white and ends up more golden. I leave the skins on my apples for a flash of red. I find that mixing up the textures is key to making this a satisfying meal, as is choosing ingredients that will pack a punch of nutrients.

Basically, a dinner of poached chicken breast with white rice and biscuits is going to leave you less satisfied than something a bit more well-rounded.

So, have fun! Go wild (and white)! Then, leave a message in the comments section to let me know how it went. I love getting new ideas and new recipes.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dear Mr. President, From a Stay-at-Home Mom

Dear Mr. President,

This letter is coming a week late, sir. I hope you don’t mind that I’m behind the times. It’s just that, as a stay-at-home mother, my schedule runs on the demands of my four children and not the news cycle. I know better than anyone the inconvenience of this, and I appreciate your understanding.

I wanted to begin by commending you, Mr. President, for what you did in Rhode Island. I thank you for voicing your support for the working parents of this country. I appreciate your advocacy, in particular, for paid family sick leave. I applaud you, sir, for challenging the status quo, for recognizing that “while many women are working hard to support themselves and their families, they’re still facing unfair choices…”

I only wish, Mr. President, that your speech had recognized all of those choices. All of those women.

I come from a working class family, sir. My grandmother was, at one time, a single mother with four children and no degree. She was forced to leave her son and three daughters in the care of family members in her rural town while she went to the city to find a job where someone would hire a mother. My other grandmother was a school bus driver. My own mother, the third of five girls, was the first of her family members to receive a college education. She worked for over thirty years as a teacher-librarian in the public education system and is now retired.

I am proud of my heritage, sir. I am proud of the women in my family who have and who continue to work--whether alongside their husbands or alone--to support themselves and their families.

But, Mr. President, I am working hard, too. I am a stay-at-home mother and home educator. I, too, support my family. The difference, sir, is that I do so from home and receive no paycheck.

Please don’t mistake me. I’m not asking for a hand out. I consider myself fortunate that staying at home to care for my children is a choice I am able to make. I do not expect a pat on the back for simply doing what I know to be best for my family. I don’t know any mother who isn’t trying to do the same. 

Nor, Mr. President, would I have expected your support in the speech you gave on Halloween. To tell the truth, I was as annoyed as anyone to see the political right use the Rhode Island speech as a platform to say anything at all about stay-at-home mothers, because that’s not what it was about. The speech was about fair conditions for working parents.

So, I must respectfully ask, Mr. President, why did you say it?

“Sometimes, someone…usually mom...leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That's not a choice we want Americans to make.”

It would have been so simple, Mr. President. You might have chosen to say, “This is not a choice we want Americans to have to make.” Two small words, sir. Two words that make the difference between a choice and chastisement. Two small words, sir, which might have shown your support for all working parents—the employed and unemployed alike.

If it were a mistake, I would understand. I spend my days in the trenches with four children ages 7 and under; I understand mistakes. But I believe, Mr. President, that you and your speech writers spent a great deal of time crafting the language you would ultimately use in Rhode Island. I do not believe it was a mistake when you said that opting to take a lower lifelong wage in order to care for one’s own children was “not a choice we want Americans to make.”

I do not believe I misunderstood you, sir, when you said the choice I made to lay aside my career for the good of my family and the future of this nation was wrong.

Perhaps—I hope—this is not what you meant. But you said it, sir. You said it.

I don’t want to argue, Mr. President. We are both parents; we are on the same side. We are all in this together. You and I, every American mom and dad, we are all raising the future of America. We are all doing our best, the only way we each know how. We are all giving our all.

I know you will continue to speak on behalf of families, and for that, Mr. President, I thank you. I thank you for caring enough to advocate change that will benefit American parents and their children. But I humbly request, sir, that you do not forget those families that happen to fall outside of your agenda.

I cannot speak from any position of expertise except that of an American mother. Ask American mothers what we want, Mr. President. I think you will find that for every mother who longs to return to a career she was forced to quit because she could not afford childcare, you will find another who desperately longs to remain home but cannot for one reason or another.

We have come a long way, sir, from the “problem that has no name.” Staying at home is no longer for women alone, nor is it a curse to bear in silence. This is our choice. Our choice, Mr. President. Please, do not set us back to a time without choice.

Please, do not diminish or insult the sacrifices that many American families like mine make to forgo an extra paycheck in order to do what is best for our children and, through them, the future of this country.

We mothers do need your support, sir. But we do not need anyone to define our choices for us. Nor do we need anyone to judge those choices we make for ourselves and our children. Believe me, we are hard enough on ourselves and on each other without that.

As women, we know ourselves best. As parents, we know our children best. We deserve to make our own choices, however difficult or unfair. We deserve policies that truly give every family the opportunity to make the best decision for their own children in the midst of these hard choices. And, Mr. President, whatever we choose, we deserve your respect in this.

Yours most sincerely,
Bethany Hudson

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Halloween, a Celebration for the Soul

I love autumn. I love everything about it. The crisp smell of the suddenly cool air, like waking from drowsy sleep into the possibility of sunshine. I love the still, shrouded mists of morning and the bright, clear, coldness of the afternoons. I love the crunch of leaves, the nip of spices, and all the potential of a new season.

I love the coziness. The cookies and the cocoa and steaming cups of cider. I love the candles burning warmly in the early dark of evening.

And I love the colors! The warm, wrap-around-you, draw-me-inside, snuggle-up, run-outside surge of color beckoning from every element of hearth and home and earth and sky. Is there anything more comforting than the gold of corn husks, the orange of a pumpkin rind or a flickering candle flame, the brown of fallen leaves and pinecones, of cinnamon and cider?

Halloween comes right at my favorite time of year, and perhaps that's why it always takes me by surprise. I can't think of any other excuse. It comes right at the tail end of a very long month. Surely that's plenty of time to prepare? But somehow, I always find myself scrambling in the last week of October, neck-deep in school and the insanity of the blessed, bountiful life, trying to slap-dash assemble costumes and crafts and cut-out cookies...

Somehow, it always comes together, and the whirlwind way in which it does only adds to the beauty of it all. There's a vivacity to autumn. And maybe that's why I find it so uplifting. This strange and glorious season where we celebrate the beauty of dying.

I know, I know...Halloween is gory and scary and pagan and occult and any other label we can think to slap on it that makes it seem "bad." I know there is a darker side, but I have yet to experience it. In our home, we have always found a way to hold onto the light with open palms and gaze on it in awe.

That is the miracle of autumn. Fallen death is sanctified. There is a natural reflection that points us to what comes next. There is a celebration, a waking up, and a letting go. There is a drawing in, a homecoming that makes me look to heaven and wonder if it will feel this good going home one day to Jesus. 

Halloween, when celebrated with an eye to holiness, is not a glorification of death. It's simply a healthy exploration of the only future that awaits us all. We celebrate All Hallows' Eve as a gateway to our celebration of the saints. Perhaps this is all of autumn, culminating in a night of light and shadow, family and laughter and costume and sugar and smiles. 

At it's root, I find Halloween is a celebration of the soul.  

It is also a reminder. Of what's to come. Of the homier home that awaits. Of our dreams and our fears and our hopes. It is a promise that the good will triumph, the night will pass, the sun will rise, the flowers bloom, and the leaves come back again...

On the day we are all called home. That blessed day when we will dance with the saints in light and celebrate the most beautiful season of all.