Family Travel, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Family Travel


July 12, 2010

We just undertook a somewhat convoluted “vacation” over the course of twelve days, two states and eight legs of plane travel.  Gratefully the children were only a part of four of the legs of the plane trips.

Joshua and I were interested in attending a conference at Notre Dame for work.  As we live thousands of miles from our family and anyone we could consider leaving the children with for more than one overnight, we weren’t particularly optimistic that it would work out until I spoke with my mother.  She suggested that we take a vacation around the dates of the conference in Florida where they live.  We would fly down some days ahead of the conference, then leave the children with them to head north to South Bend, and then return to Florida to “pick them up” on the way home.

I suppose this is what our lives have come to living in such a spread out society.  Folks live and work in the same towns, cities and states as their parents and siblings far less frequently.  We don’t live in the same town (or state) in which either of us grew up.  Yet we are both very close with our families.  One of our largest financial investments is in plane tickets to visit them.  And even though it isn’t the same as living across town, they are eager to fill the same roles with our children as they might if we were much closer.  Enter mom’s suggestion.

One fantastic and unanticipated bonus to her plan was that some very dear friends of ours from graduate school were willing and interested in meeting us in Florida for the first part of our stay.  The five of them, seminarians in grad school, are all now ordained Holy Cross priests.  Yes, we took our family vacation with my parents, all our children and five of the greatest, most enjoyable men we know.  That was the good news to the vacation plan.

The challenging flipside to the plan was that because of the time of year, our children were still in school. Unfortunately we didn’t make that connection until after plane tickets had been purchased.  Seriously…what parent “accidentally” takes their third grader out of school for 9 days of school so they can go on vacation?  Me, the bad parent sitting over here.  You should have seen Josh’s and my faces when we made the connection.  A great photojournalism opportunity there. 

In the end the plan worked out beautifully.  The family had unforgettable times on the beach in Florida with the guys (including daily mass with 5 concelebrants), Josh and I got to experience a wonderful Symposium at Notre Dame while the children enjoyed grandparent time, and Oscar’s teacher and school were incredibly accomodating.  He brought all his books with us and worked a little each day.  In the end, I suppose it was a little flavor of home schooling for him.

The universality of this fine-tuned, twenty-first century version of family bonding got thrown into crystal clear relief for me when we were on our last leg of the journey home to Portland.  Sweet Simon (4) was doing a super job on the plane, enjoying some cartoons on the direct TV in the headrest in front of him.  They had already illuminated the fasten seatbelt sign for our decent and the turbulence had started, when he turns to me and says, “Mommy, I’m going to throw up.”  Now, how many generations of mothers have had exactly the same experience with a young child?  Maybe it was in a car instead of a plane, or even a covered wagon for that matter (we do live in Oregon).  But is family life so very different now? 

How did it end? Well, I couldn’t pull the plane over and open the door for him and I couldn’t even get up and take him to the bathroom.  But I did manage to grab the motion sickness bag before he started…and then another (that’s right, for a total of three bags)…and Josh managed to get in our stowed carry-on for the wet wipes, handing them to me across the aisle and taking filled bags in exchange.  When all was said and done, there wasn’t a spot on any of us and Simon turned to me and said, “Ok Mommy, I feel better.”  That’s what I call a successful family vacation.

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Abortion’s “Selma” Moment

Abortion’s “Selma” Moment

With recent revelations from Planned Parenthood about the gruesome realities of the abortion business, I believe the pro-life movement has hit its “Selma” moment, and I wanted to involve our teenage son, Oscar, in activism on this issue.

On March 7, 1965, 600 activists were beaten on their march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the denial of voting rights to black people. Images of the pogrom were broadcast on television and reported widely in the media. The images brought to naked light the racist violence that had been consistently and systematically used to oppress black people in the south.

When the rest of America saw what was happening, they could no longer ignore this racist violence, or assume it was part of an intractable problem that wasn’t their business. One week later, President Lyndon Johnson convened a special joint session of Congress and called on legislators to introduce and pass the Voting Rights Act.

This week, I watched the recent undercover exposé videos that showed conversations with doctors from the world’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood (first this, and then this, and now a very graphic video). In these conversations, the doctors describe how the abortion procedure is altered to preserve organs and body parts from fetuses to be transferred to research companies. The revelations horrified me, and many others, and are functioning as a tipping point in a similar way to the Selma beatings by bringing to naked light the true violence of “safe, legal abortion” in this nation.

In Selma, the suffering of innocent people opened the eyes of Americans everywhere and motivated decent people to step forward to demand the end of an unjust and dehumanizing system. Though abortion and “human tissue research” has been going on for years, these recent revelations have forced me to take a long, hard look at what is really at stake in the abortion issue.

True, abortion is legal in this country, and technically, research on “fetal tissue” resulting from abortions is allowable, but the fact that Planned Parenthood both offers abortions and evidently alters that procedure in order to better procure research “material” is a clear conflict of interest. It betrays their promise to serve women.

What is more, the situation presents inescapable logic that human life is destroyed in an abortion. Planned Parenthood is in the business of providing to researchers fetal organs such as hearts, lungs, and livers precisely because they are body parts from human beings—that is why they have value. And, evidently, Planned Parenthood is willing to find “less crunchy” ways to extract these body parts in their abortion procedures. They report an ability to move the baby around in the womb so that the body gets delivered first, which allows doctors to harvest the head in tact without crushing it and applying suction to remove the brain (as would normally happen in an abortion procedure). The most recent video showed medical assistants dissecting parts of a body from an abortion; they recognized the gender of the body and could not help remarking in macabre irony, “Another boy!”

That turning feeling in your stomach? It is moral revulsion. I feel it, too, and I am outraged.

U.S. taxpayers provide Planned Parenthood with $540 million every year, which implicates me directly with this system. I decided that it is time for me to more forcefully and publicly declare my opposition to it. I refuse to be associated with this atrocity. This situation has moved me from being a concerned and motivated voter to an activist.

I immediately wrote my senator and asked him to support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1553) currently in front of Congress, but felt motivated to respond in other ways. In 50 years, when my grandchildren look back at the early years of this century and wonder how abortion was ever tolerated, I want them to know that I was a decent person.

So, I joined the local #WomenBetrayed rally on July 28 (it was one of more than 60 nation-wide), and I invited Oscar to participate. At 14, he will be a freshman in high school this fall, and I thought this was a good opportunity to expose him to active citizenship and public ethical discourse, and to prompt him to begin making his own moral judgments.

I shared with him the videos in question, as well as some commentary (including the response from Planned Parenthood’s president). I invited him to think about the situation and how he might respond, if at all. Then we started having a conversation.

He explained that he didn’t think that protests did much good because they only voiced positions that are already known—they rarely gather enough participants to effect change.

I suggested that he could channel his response in another way—through advocacy or volunteering at our local women’s pregnancy center. I also explained my own reasoning for publicly protesting in this issue. I said that I am of course invested in changing the system, but my participation in the demonstration also has to do with the value of the protest itself as an act of witness and identity. I told him that I wanted to be counted among those who stood for what is right, who opposed the obvious evil in our midst.

I gave him more time to think about it, and told him he was welcome to join me, that I’d like to have him come, but he should make his own decision.

And without prodding or pressure, he did—he decided to accompany me on the protest. So, we dressed up—if we were taking a public stand, we wanted to be taken seriously—and we prepared statements to explain ourselves in case anyone asked us why we were participating.

His statement actually deepened my own activism—he said that he opposed Planned Parenthood because they were desecrating the bodies of the deceased. In effect, our witness is a work of mercy: to bury the dead. I had never considered the abortion issue in this light before.

I was proud of him, and I was proud to stand for life with him. Together, we will stand on the right side of history.


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