Four Christmases: The Superstition of Divorce

December 16th, 2014 No comments

A superstition is something we believe in spite of the evidence, because we like the way it makes us feel.

For example: “I can solve all my problems if I could just divorce my spouse, and try again to find the Perfect Soulmate.”Four_Christmases-Movie_Poster

Do you remember the movie, Four Christmases, the Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn Christmas movie from 2008?  The premise of this movie is that Reese and Vince have 4 Christmases: one with each one of their divorced and remarried parents.  I wrote a column about this film when it came out.

Popular culture has a way of reflecting the anxieties and ambiguities of our age, sometimes without quite meaning to. Christmas 2008’s bit of holiday eye candy, Four Christmases, illustrates the anxiety around insecure relationships, across the generations. The title comes from the visits that a happily unmarried yuppie couple must make to their two sets of divorced parents. But the movie could be called The Superstitions of Divorce. It strips away the lies we tell ourselves to justify our rejection of one another….

Not a one of these first three parents has learned a thing from their divorces. Boyfriend and Girlfriend are not deceived by their parents’ efforts to absolve themselves: They still have the same problems and crazy behavior. The new love interest doesn’t solve their problems.

Another superstition: “The kids will be fine as long as their parents are happy. Kids are resilient.”

Social science can now tell us for certain that this is untrue, as can millions of children of divorce who are now old enough to speak for Read more…

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Recipe for Peace: Overcoming Despair

December 14th, 2014 No comments

Hope is anticipating a positive future.

During the Christmas season, sometimes reality does not live up to our expectations. We feel discouraged, which can cause despair. We give up thinking that our lives will ever work the way we want them to, or that our lives and struggles have meaning.  We need an antidote to despair.

One way we can anticipate a positive future is to purify our memories. Our old hurts and resentments weigh us down with discouragement and self-doubt. So does our unforgiven-ness.

We cannot change the past. But we CAN change how we think about the past:Hope Blog 1

  • how tightly we cling to our interpretation of it
  • how much blame we assign to people
  • whether we forgive ourselves and others

Each one of us is on the battlefield of Good and Evil every day. Satan is “the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning.”  He likes nothing better than to sink his claws into us, and dish out lies to us about ourselves, our relationships and our worth.

He has been at it since that momentous day in the Garden of Eden. But his successes have really escalated over the past 50 years with the lies of the Sexual Revolution.

How can we be hopeful in the face of all that?

God has been at work restoring the cosmos since the day of the first human sin. We can help by letting go of our old wounds and allowing Him to restore US! We can look forward to a better, more hopeful future.

Here at the Ruth Institute, we offer a Recipe for Peace. No matter what may be going on in your life, we think you can contribute to creating an atmosphere of peace within your own families, work places and circles of friends. In this way, we can participate in the peace of Christ the King. How do you remain hopeful? How do you forgive others? How do you let go of blame? Share your thoughts with us at #RecipeForPeace.

Join us on the Ruth Institute Facebook page, and learn more about the #RecipesForPeace campaign. 

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Parents say the darndest things

December 12th, 2014 No comments

The other morning our son climbed in bed with us and asked my husband, “How come your armpits are so furry?”  My husband replied, “I ate a monster! When you get older you will eat a monster and get furry, too.” Then my son said, “Grandpa must have eaten a lot of monsters!”

Nicole, mother of 8

Read more funny parenting stories.

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Rethinking the Blended Family

December 11th, 2014 No comments

As somebody who was raised in multiple divorce/remarriage situations, the phrase “blended family” has always reminded me of a blender.  Yes, a literal blender, like this:

Read more…

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“No One Told Me It Was Wrong”

December 11th, 2014 No comments

The California Catholic Daily picked up my MercatorNet article, with this new and I think, more appealing title.

My husband and I traveled to St. Joachim’s parish in Madera CA to participate in a marriage preparation/marriage enrichment weekend. This parish is manned by an order of priests, the Oblates of St. Joseph. They have been perfecting this particular retreat, “Life-giving Love” for quite a few years.

The title of my article comes from this anecdote that I recounted from the weekend:

The betrothal of Mary and Joseph, by Raphael

The betrothal of Mary and Joseph, by Raphael

Another couple shared that they had each been married before. One of their marriages had ended through death, the other through an annulment. Each of them had sterilized themselves during the course of their first marriages. The husband had made the decision to have a vasectomy. The wife decided to have her tubes tied. She decided this without consulting her then-husband. She had it done while she was in recovery from delivering her third child.

This couple was the most powerful couple of the whole weekend. They sat in front of us weeping openly about these decisions to sterilize themselves. They came to see that the reasons they gave themselves originally were not good enough. They spoke of their regrets. The most powerful regret was that they could not become parents together with their new sacramental spouse.

They spoke of their love for the church. “No one told me it was wrong.” The man said repeatedly, through his tears. “If only I had known. If only someone had told me.”

This is the down-side of the clergy not talking about the Church’s teaching on marriage. People have to figure it out for themselves by trial and error. And the “errors” can be really painful, and irrevocable.

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Recipe for Peace: Overcoming Doubts

December 10th, 2014 Comments off

Christmas, the season of peace and joy, feelings which sometimes elude us. When our reality does not live up to our expectations, we feel disappointed. And that disappointment can cause us to doubt: doubt the love of our family for us, or doubt God’s love for us, or doubt ourselves and our worthiness. We need an antidote to this kind of doubt.

Have you ever seen the sign “Believe” that is based on The Polar Express children’s book? I always wonder exactly what the author wishes us to believe in.Faith versus doubt, religion or confidence concept

I think the idea is that we Believe that there is goodness in the world. We allow ourselves to have the Faith of a child. We let go of our jadedness, our suspicion, our way-too-adult-worn-out-ness. Even if the people in our lives have given us reason to doubt them, we actually do not wish to carry this doubt within us. In our hearts, we want to Believe.

Part of our Ruth Institute Recipe for Peace campaign has to do with each of us becoming Peacemakers. That means we begin with ourselves. So we choose to Believe. We take steps to protect ourselves and take care of ourselves if we need to. But we do not give in to cynicism, or suspicion or doubt.

Jesus is the King of Peace. He told us to believe in Him. And we can do this! We want to believe in Him!

God is in His heaven. You are right where He wants you to be. If you are in a good place, thank Him. If you are not in a good place, ask Him how He wants to transform you and your situation for some greater good.

Here at the Ruth Institute, we offer a Recipe for Peace. No matter what may be going on in your life, we think you can contribute to creating an atmosphere of peace within your own families, work places and circles of friends. In this way, we can participate in the peace of Christ the King.



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A Recipe for Christmas Peace

December 8th, 2014 Comments off

Christmas, the season of peace and joy: sometimes, the peace and joy seem elusive. We have too much to do. Or we have old family wounds. Or we are dreading another year of non-stop driving from the afternoon of December 24th, and all day on blogPostPic1Christmas. Going between all the broken and rebuilt families can be stressful, even if everyone is on their best behavior, (which they aren’t always.)

Everyone longs for the peace and joy that this season of Jesus’ birth promises us. Here at the Ruth Institute, we offer a Recipe for Peace. No matter what may be going on in your life, we think you can contribute to create an atmosphere of peace within your own families, work places and circles of friends.

Here is our plan to create a Recipe for Peace.

Have you ever participated in a cookie exchange? Everyone bakes a batch of their favorite Christmas cookies. Everyone gets together at church or at someone’s house. I bring my chocolate chip cookies. Annie brings cranberry date bars. Nick brings Elves’ Cookies. Rob brings oatmeal cookies. Justin brings gingerbread cookies. Jennifer brings fudge. Robin brings a Christmas yule log. Judith brings coconut macaroons.

Each person gets a fresh plate, and takes one treat from each person’s plate. When you go home, you have a delicious variety of cookies to share with your family. And you only had to bake one batch!

Our family at the Ruth Institute would like to share our “cookies:” bits of advice and encouragement. We will be posting ideas for overcoming negative self-talk, handling challenging situations, and creating a place of peace for ourselves and those around us.

We invite you to visit our Facebook page over the next few weeks. You can post a festive or funny photo, or add words of advice and encouragement. You will find that you are not alone, no matter what your situation may be.

We hope you will be ready for Christmas Day with a recipe for Peace!

Visit the Ruth Institute Facebook page to participate in the Recipe for Peace! 

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As if there were any doubt…

December 5th, 2014 Comments off

More Proof that My Oldest Daughter is Truly My Child:

I was listening to one of my favorite songs when she wandered over and said, “I like this song. It attracted me the way an introductory paragraph should.”

Ah, my darling nerd. How I love you!

Read more funny parenting stories here.



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101 Tips for a Happier Marriage: Simple Ways for Couples to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other

December 3rd, 2014 Comments off
Your guide to a happier marriage. Start now with Tip #39 and Dr J's challenge.

Your guide to a happier marriage.

Reviewed by Mary Ann Paulukonis

This review was originally posted at For Your Marriage here.

Where some books have a dedication, this book has a page with three centered lines.

“God is God.

You are not.

Your spouse is not.”

Those ten words sum up the philosophy of 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage. It is a slender, easy-to-read volume of 101 pages (plus an introduction and a few chapter heading pages), each with only two paragraphs: one spelling out the marriage tip and one saying a little more about it. How long could it take to read 202 paragraphs? But this book is not for speed-reading. Each tip needs to be thought about and practiced for at least a day, more likely for weeks and months. Therefore I would suggest reading no more than one page—two paragraphs—per day. Add another day, really just a few minutes, to read the Introduction. Read more…

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The ambiguous legacy of The Pill

December 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Contraceptives didn’t solve all of women’s problems. In fact, they created whole series of new ones.

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first published at on December 3, 2014.

I am in the process of writing a book which argues that the Sexual Revolution has been a rich person’s hobby horse from the beginning. The rich and powerful like the idea of separating sex from child-bearing. While this idea is sometimes wrapped up in a disguise of helping woman and the poor, the fact remains that the rich and powerful pioneered and implemented these ideas, quite often at the expense of women and the poor. Read more…

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