Happiness Isn’t Everything (Part Two)

The other day I wrote a piece on happiness, on how transient and subjective it is, and how it therefore makes a poor measure for determining the worth of a thing.

(In that case, I was mostly referring to the ‘thing’ of reproductive technologies – efforts that aim to make people happy by making them parents, or by producing for them children who are healthier or otherwise more desirable than they might have been.)

Of course, there are countless such ‘things’ in life, and it can be dangerous to allow their potential for making us happy to overshadow their worth on other counts. When we do that, we run the risk of hurting others to help ourselves, or even harming our own long-term interests in favor of the short-term.

But I think there’s a more important tendency to think about here. As bad as it can be to use happiness to measure the worth of a thing, it’s much worse (and it can be more consequential) to use happiness to measure the worth of a life.

(Read the rest at the Catholic Review.)

The Space Between - Happiness Isnt Everything Part Two

November 8 is Not the End: Sympathy Leading Me Forward

(Everyday Bravery, Day 15)

The turning point for me was Wednesday night’s debate. Specifically, the moment it became clear to me that Hillary Clinton was defending the indefensible (partial-birth abortion), I felt a surge in my chest: Sympathy. Every part of my clenched-up heart, which had for so long been agitated at the thought of all those pro-lifers supporting Donald Trump, just… released.

I still wasn’t there myself. I still wasn’t planning to ditch my write-in dreams. But when I heard Clinton express her support for that most tragic of offenses, I suddenly felt the weight of the obligation that many feel to support her opponent, whoever he may be. I experienced an explosive growth in the sympathy I feel towards pro-lifers who have come to a different conclusion than I have.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.



This post is the fifteenth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery


Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Loyally Yours: A Letter to the Republican Party from Pro-life America

(Everyday Bravery, Day 10)


Dear Republican Party,

I know that things have been seeming kind of questionable between us lately (or at least, that other people have been questioning our relationship), so I just wanted to take a moment to reassure you:

I’m not going anywhere.

Sure, there have been some bumps on the road, some unpleasantries. I can find you disappointing. You can take me for granted. Sometimes we fight a little. Sometimes we test the limits of our relationship.

But I’m here to tell you that I really am in your corner. And I’ll stay here as long as you do one little thing for me: Continue to nominate presidential candidates who claim to be pro-life.

I’m not asking much. Your guy doesn’t have to be convincing as a pro-lifer. He doesn’t have to demonstrate any knowledge of the issue or any attachment to it or to me. He doesn’t have to talk about it much. (A mention every now and then at a Christian college is plenty.)

He doesn’t even have to talk about appointing pro-life judges. I’ll do that for him. (And anyway, I know that you, Republican Party, will make sure the pro-life judges happen. Right? Right?)

Your candidate doesn’t have to demonstrate any character or guts or grit. He doesn’t have to be honest or trustworthy. His life doesn’t have to show that he respects the institutions of marriage or the family. Heck, he can even threaten to kill the families of bad guys.

He can be a complete jerk. I mean, come at me: He can be boorish, dismissive, overbearing, mean-spirited. He can demean and belittle people. He can show disdain for the disabled and the unattractive and the unsuccessful. (In other words, for the little guy. But just not for the littlest little guy, if you catch my drift.)

He can be just awful to women. And I mean awful. He can gauge their worth by their appearance. He can rate them. He can use them for his own satisfaction. He can cheat on them and leave them. He can even brag about going up to random women and grabbing their genitalia. I’m cool.

I mean seriously – I am really, really good at taking any issue at all – even the sum of lots of issues – and comparing them to one very particular thing: abortion.

It’s a big thing, to be sure. It’s a super important, super evil thing. It may not be the total of what supposedly makes up the pro-life cause (things like euthanasia and the death penalty and maybe even health care and poverty and war are in there too, I guess), but I’m not going to bother you about the total package. Nah – as long as your main guy makes that one claim, we’re set.

Oh – and he does need to have a pro-choice opponent. But that’s no sweat. We both know the Dems would never put up a candidate who says it’s wrong to kill teeny, tiny innocent babies.

Okay. Once again, just to make sure we’re clear: I want you, Republican Party, to know that I am yours. As long as you nominate a presidential candidate who claims to be pro-life (and I know you always will), I belong to you.

I am completely willing to cast my vote for your guy with a pit in my stomach. I am willing to feel disgusting for you. I am willing to cast aside everything else I stand for, I am willing to make excuses, I am willing to minimize whatever pain your guy might cause me and others (even rape victims).

I’ll do whatever it takes. I promise.

Loyally yours,

Pro-Life America

P.S. I was hoping to not have to spell this out, but it appears I should. This is SARCASM. I may be a proud member of Pro-Life America, but I am greatly concerned about the message the pro-life movement is sending the Republican Party this election cycle. If pro-lifers will support Donald Trump, who won’t they support?



This post is the tenth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery


Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

On My Mind (Vol. 3)


I’ve been following the Democratic National Convention this week just as I did the Republican National Convention the week before. (Much to the chagrin of my little children, who find “Grownups Standing and Talking,” as we call it, infinitely more boring than Paw Patrol and The Lion Guard.)

Comparing the two conventions, I have to say that the Democrats have done a better job of the thing. “Bernie or Bust” drama aside, the Democrats’ evening programs have seemed much more solid – packed with a strategic selection of speakers who have made coherent cases for their party’s platform and nominee. (I couldn’t help but feel that the organizers of the Republican National Convention felt compelled to take whomever they could get.)

I’m curious to see what kind of a bounce the convention will generate for Clinton. I think it’ll exceed Trump’s, but pretty much every prediction I’ve made so far about Trump has been wrong, so who knows?


All that said, I’ve heard a lot at the convention that that I disagree with. (No surprise, as I’m not a Democrat.) And I’m finding the Party’s persistence in advancing abortion on its (literal) national stage to be especially frustrating.

Read the rest (including thoughts on terrorism and the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel) at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - On My Mind 3

What This Catholic Wants in a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of my first-ever series:

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part Three

Today’s post covers some of the “hot” political issues that I care most about. I had been hoping to cover all such issues in this post, but long enough is long enough. So today you get: the Social Safety Net, Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Capital Punishment/Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide. On Monday (updated to correct to next week, at some point), I’ll cover the remaining issues on my list: Immigration, Foreign and Military Policy, The Economy, The Environment, and Education.

For an introduction of the series and an explanation of how my Catholic faith has influenced my political outlook, please see Part One.

For a discussion on some of the qualities I want in a president and a few of the broad issues that impact the more specific, controversial issues (like those in this post), please see Part Two.

For my thoughts on how the presidential candidates (of both parties) measure up to my (unreasonably high) standards, please come back next week and beyond for parts Five through however-many-I-get-to.

(Mostly) Hot on the Hot Stuff

Alright, now that I’ve gotten past those general, boring, impacts-everything-else issues, how about we get into the juicier stuff?

I tend to run pretty hot on the social issues. They’re where my Catholicism really comes to bear: I’m for a social safety net for vulnerable populations, against abortion, for religious freedom in the workplace, against capital punishment, for immigration, against euthanasia, and for an active foreign and military policy that aims to resolve conflicts and protect persecuted communities.

On a few other issues – the economy, the environment, and education – I guess I have a vague, limited opinion, but I’m just not too wrapped up in them. You can’t be hot on everything.

— Social Safety Net —

First, a decidedly un-Republican thing to be for: a social safety net that helps vulnerable populations actually move forward with their lives. And by “vulnerable populations” I mean the chronically poor, the mentally ill, the addicted, the disabled, and the (practically, if not officially) orphaned.

This is an issue (or rather, a collection of issues) I never knew much about until I worked with it/them. (I used to lobby on poverty-related issues on behalf of the Catholic Church.) There’s so much to the topic that I could write an entire series on it alone, so I won’t try to be exhaustive here. (Lengthy, perhaps – but not exhaustive.) I’ll just make three general points:

One, there are fewer resources for help than you think. I can’t begin to tell you the number of phone calls I’ve fielded from those in need, or whose loved ones were – and I didn’t even do the actual work of trying to connect people to resources. I just lobbied on such issues.

Just lost your job and need a few hundred dollars to tide you over with the rent so you’re not evicted? Sorry – our state’s rental assistance program is teeny tiny and not accepting any more applicants. And eviction prevention programs are so specific that few people qualify for them.

Need longer-term help with the rent because you can’t find a job that pays enough for you to stay afloat in this expensive housing market? Sorry, there’s a seven-year waiting list for Section 8 in your county.

Need a place for you and your kids to stay tonight because you’re (rightly!) trying to get away from an abusive home? Sorry, neither your county nor any of the neighboring ones have a public homeless shelter. And though the Church does operate two women & family shelters in this metropolitan area, both are full, with waiting lists.

Have an adult child showing signs of serious mental illness for whom you want to get help? Sorry, we can get him admitted to the hospital for a day or so, but we can’t do anything else.

Have a child suffering from addiction? Sorry, private rehab programs are expensive and public ones are mostly full.

On public assistance already, but want to take a better-paying position so you can move up the ladder at work and build a small savings to eventually by a car (so your job options won’t be limited by those accessible via public transportation) or put down a rental deposit on your own apartment or just have a little cash in the bank for emergencies?  (You know – the things that would enable you, ultimately, to not need assistance?)  Sorry, if you make any more income you’ll lose your assistance entirely. Same if you start saving. You’d better just stick with that lower-paying job so you don’t end up worse off than you are now.

(Sorry for the length on that last one – it just had to be said.)

The truth is, most of those living in poverty or experiencing other serious hardships have very few options for help. Government programs are often insufficient, understaffed, and restrictive. And though private, charitable programs do wonderful work, their resources (and therefore efforts) are more limited than anyone would like.

For all the complaining we hear about entitlements, most government assistance programs for the poor are not entitlements, meaning that when they’re full, they’re full. They’ve no obligation to take you. Entitlement programs (like Food Stamps), in which any eligible person must be served, are the exception and they’re limited to very specific purposes. Political talk about how large entitlements are and how very much of the budget they consume primarily reflects the size of the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. (Of which only the third is exclusive to the poor.)

For many who live in poverty, the odds are simply stacked against them: difficulties related to housing, transportation, education, health, family life, and criminal backgrounds often conspire to make self-improvement literally impossible. And poverty aside, even most middle-class families are ill-equipped to handle the costs associated with addressing severe mental illness, addiction, or disability.

Two, the government is the most effective way for us to collectively support people in need.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could depend on our churches and charities and families and neighborhoods to support those who find themselves in a bind? Absolutely. All of the above do good, important work. But they don’t do nearly enough of it for us as a society to be able to depend upon them alone. Many churches and charities struggle from declining participation and donations. (Note: If you don’t already, please give to your local Catholic Charities!) And many families and neighborhoods, sadly, are not equipped to help their most vulnerable members. Some – the really dysfunctional ones – already do them more harm than good.

Three, simply, I believe that it’s important to help those in need. Just as simple as that: we should help those in need. That’s common human decency. But it’s also one of my calls as a Catholic. I should help the neighbor I know and the one I don’t. I should give of my time, talent, and treasure. And I should care whether the help that’s given is sufficient and effective.

In sum, I want something from a president that most Republicans are unlikely to deliver: a commitment to policies and programs that provide for real, useful assistance for vulnerable populations. If I can find a candidate who seems to fit this bill and is also pro-life, well then, he (or she) may well be my guy.

— Abortion —

Next up, the biggest of the don’t-bring-it-up-at-a-dinner-party topics, the one that’s lighting up our newsfeeds nonetheless: abortion.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m really, very much against it. (I’ve written about it in greater detail here.) And I want a candidate who is too.*

Honestly, there is no one issue that is more important to me than abortion. I consider myself pro-life in the fullest sense of the word – I’m against the death penalty and euthanasia, and for programs and policies that help individuals attain the necessities of life. But when it comes down to it, I think there can hardly be anything more wrong in this world than ripping apart an innocent child in her mother’s womb.

Social moderates in the Republican Party advocate, quietly and not, for the Party to shift its focus away from divisive issues like abortion. But this social conservative is here to say that if you give up the stance against abortion, Republican Party, you will lose me. I already disagree with large factions of the Party on immigration and bi-partisanship and social welfare. If the Republican Party ditches its traditional commitment to pro-life policies, then I will have no compelling reason to stay.

In short: I refuse to vote for a Republican candidate for president who isn’t convincingly pro-life. And absent a dire turn of events (i.e. Trump winning the nomination), I can’t see myself voting for a pro-choice Democratic candidate either.

*I think any (eventual) law prohibiting abortion will have to include an exception for when the mother’s life is in danger. Such cases may be exceedingly rare, but politically and legally, I think we’ll have to allow for that possibility.

— Religious Freedom —

Maintaining full, real religious freedom is exceedingly important to me. As I wrote here, I firmly believe that there are no more fundamental rights than those to (life,) speech, and religion. “When I am able to speak freely, my mind is free. When I am able to worship freely, my heart and soul are free too.”

Honestly, I don’t worry that the government is about to start dictating which religious doctrines are or aren’t acceptable for churches to be teaching on Sunday. But I do worry that the government is beginning to sacrifice religious freedom to secular, liberal ideals in seemingly mundane ways: compelling religious organizations to enable their employees to be provided with contraception, requiring private individuals to provide goods and services that violate their consciences, and soon, I expect, requiring even churches to employ and accommodate (via, for instance, the rental of a church hall) individuals who flout their teachings.

I worry when so many of my friends and fellow Americans hear that the government aims to force people to do things that violate their deeply held religious beliefs and they… don’t care. Or worse, they fly to the defense of the government and demonize those targeted by it because the things that are to be done involve those most sacred of secular cows, contraception and abortion.

The fact is, there are slippery slopes all over the place. It’s quite fashionable to be concerned about government overreach insofar as it applies to email and phone records. But what about government overreach concerning what we believe and how our everyday lives reflect those beliefs?

I worry that we might not realize we’re on a slope until we’ve already slipped.

I want a president who will recognize the vital importance of real, full religious freedom and who will oppose policies that have the effect of limiting it.

— Capital Punishment and Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide—

Consistent with my desire to protect newly-conceived life, I also want to preserve the lives of the condemned, the sick, and the elderly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: All human life is sacred – no matter its age or condition or station.

As capital punishment is primarily the purview of the states and execution for federal crimes is very rare, I don’t at all expect this issue to be a focus of the presidential campaign. Nor do I expect Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide (which I wrote about here) to make waves. But on all these counts, I’ll be looking to see what hints the candidates give.

I want a president who values human life in all of its stages – who, like me, opposes capital punishment, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Most candidates, I imagine, will not join me in that across-the-board opposition. But at the very least, I plan to avoid candidates who speak of capital punishment with relish, or who dismiss the concerns that accompany euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Alright! That’s enough for tonight. (Do you see now why I couldn’t fit all my “hot stuff” into one post?) I hope you come back Monday next week for the remaining topics in this section: Immigration, Foreign and Military Policy, the Economy, the Environment, and Education. Have a great weekend!


Just as I have for Parts One and Two, allow me to close by clarifying two points. (I may do so at the end of each of these posts.)

  • First, though I prioritize the Church’s teachings in my own political decision-making, and though I used to lobby for the Church, I do not claim to speak for it. For the Church’s official positions on national-level policy questions, please see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Some of the issues I discuss in this series will have a clear connection to those the USCCB advocates on. Others will not.
  • Second, though I may hold a degree in political science, I am no political scientist. I’m a stay-at-home mom who pays a greater-than-average attention to the news. Feel free to call me out on anything you think I’ve gotten wrong.

Thanks again for joining me. I hope to have you back next week for Part Four!

The ‘Right to be Comfortable’: Sloping Toward a Stepford Society

Lately I keep coming across stories asking whether we plugged-in, 21st-century folks can handle boredom anymore. Now that we have the internet at our fingertips 24/7, what incentive do we have to stare into space while we sit in a waiting room? What might we be losing as we fill up every spare moment of our day with ever more information, communication, and entertainment?

It’s a good question. And for someone who is as guilty of this fill ‘er up mentality as I am, it’s worth thinking on.

But the question I’ve really been thinking about lately is this: Can we plugged-in, 21st-century folks handle discomfort anymore? Can we handle being annoyed or offended? Now that we’re able to customize our shopping orders, our viewing line-up, and our social interactions with just a few taps of the screen, what incentive do we have to allow ourselves to be exposed to ideas that make us uncomfortable?

What might we be losing as we trim away the things that annoy or offend us?

What might we be losing as we increasingly shape the world we’re presented with to fit our opinion of how it should be?


Thoughts on this topic have crossed my mind for some time, but they really gelled this past fall when I read Brendan O’Neill’s “Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’” in the UK’s The Spectator.

In the article, Mr. O’Neill describes an experience he’d recently had:

On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off.

Believe it or not, the University actually capitulated to the protestors’ demands. As Mr. O’Neill characterized the decision:

So at one of the highest seats of learning on Earth, the democratic principle of free and open debate, of allowing differing opinions to slog it out in full view of discerning citizens, has been violated, and students have been rebranded as fragile creatures, overgrown children who need to be guarded against any idea that might prick their souls or challenge their prejudices.

On the abortion debate and on other issues, “Stepford Students,” as Mr. O’Neill calls them, have said it outright: “We have the right to feel comfortable.”

He observes:

We seem to have nurtured a new generation that believes its self-esteem is more important than everyone else’s liberty.

This is what those censorious Cambridgers meant when they kept saying they have the ‘right to be comfortable’. They weren’t talking about the freedom to lay down on a chaise longue — they meant the right never to be challenged by disturbing ideas or mind-battered by offensiveness.

You might think that in bringing up this topic, I mean to swing back to Charlie Hebdo. I don’t.

(I am indeed of the liberal – little ‘l’ – opinion that the right to free speech should be almost absolute. But in the wake of that horrible attack, I never could bring myself to proclaim, “Je suis Charlie.” I couldn’t express solidarity with a publication that routinely set out to offend. I think such a course only cheapens the notion of free speech. Offense should never be an end in itself; it should be a by-product, an unfortunate side-effect of messy, imperfect searches for the truth.)

No, I mean to swing back to vaccines.

In the few weeks since the measles began its march outward from Disneyland, the issue has surged in prominence. We’re hearing about it in the news (over 100 people have come down with the disease so far) and on social media; we’re talking about it at schools and extracurricular activities and doctors’ offices. The debate has roared back into life, tempers have flared, and feelings have been hurt.

And so we’re beginning to hear protestations akin to those of the ‘Stepford Students”: “Stop it with all the vaccine talk!” “I’ll block anyone who posts about vaccines!” “No one should be making anybody feel badly about their parenting choices!” It all boils down to the same thing: We have the right to feel comfortable.

Of course we don’t. There are as many definitions of what is comfortable as there are people on this planet. One simply can’t cater to them all. One can’t even cater to a small fraction of them without severely limiting the subjects on which it is acceptable to opine.

And anyway, freedom is more important than comfort.

On the flip side of the issue, we also don’t have the right to have our views represented in anybody else’s Facebook feed. So I’m not about to bleat that the discomfort-averse are infringing on others’ rights to free speech.

But I do (very firmly) believe that it is in the best interest of society to nurture a spirit of free and open debate. And I am made nervous by what I see as people’s increasing willingness to cut it off.

Because guess what? You and I and the people we interact with – we’re what make up society. When you and I begin to stop people from expressing ideas that we don’t like (or stop ourselves from seeing evidence that such ideas exist) – that’s when we step onto a slope that descends into a society that is not free, that does not think. That’s when we move towards becoming a ‘Stepford Society’, if you will.

So I say post about vaccines all you want. Maintain that everyone should have their children vaccinated. Protest that vaccines are unhealthy or immoral.

Talk about politics. Talk about religion. Talk about abortion and climate change and gay marriage. Support the ideas you agree with. Argue against those you disagree with. Or don’t.

Just don’t insist that no one offer those ideas in the first place.


Would you believe that my blog has been nominated for an award?


I know. I can’t believe it either. Crazy stuff.

But it’s true! These Walls has been nominated for the 2015 Sheenazing Awards in the “Smartest Blog” category. (Smartest blog!) Bonnie of A Knotted Life is so generous and supportive to her fellow Catholic bloggers that she’s been hosting her “Sheenazing Awards” for the past few years. In Bonnie’s words:

The Sheenazing Blogger Awards get their name from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, who was amazing at using the newest forms of media to communicate the beauty of the Catholic Church and his love of Christ to the world. They are a fun way to celebrate the excellence of the Catholic blogosphere and honor Venerable Sheen.

There will be a winner and a runner up in each category. The winners will earn a firm virtual handshake, the pride in knowing that they’ve been named the Best of something by a fairly obscure blog, and the right to display the following on their site:

Except it will say "Winner".

Except it will say “Winner”

Obscure or not, I’m super honored to be part of it all. Thank you for your work in coordinating the effort, Bonnie, and thank you to the kind souls (whoever you are) who nominated me!


If you’d like to – ahem – cast your vote in my direction, kindly click here. Or don’t vote for me. There are lots of other terrific blogs to check out while you’re there, which are probably more worthy of your vote. Besides Smartest Blog, Sheenazing Awards categories include Funniest Blog, Most Inspiring Blog, Best Under-Appreciated Blog, Coolest Blogger, Miss Congeniality, and Best Blog By A Non-Papist. (I’m not making that up.)

In case any of you need a refresher on what my particular shtick is here at These Walls – or if you’re visiting for the first time (Hello! Welcome!) – I thought I’d give you a little summary.

Boys asleep wine on table

Things I love – and love to write about – include my husband, my three little boys, the rest of my amazing family, my old house, my faith, politics, and good, meaty debates on controversial subjects. Stoking fires just for the fun of it isn’t my thing, but here are some things that are:

Let’s just say I take a “holistic” approach to politics – I care about the morality of an issue – not whether it’s labeled Left or Right:

I write about big moments in my life:

I tend to wax sentimental on motherhood:

And sometimes I keep it really real:

Also, my boys fall asleep – all the time, all over the place. I like to share that joy with you.


Thanks again to whoever nominated me! (And also, while I’m at it, to Jenny Uebbing of Mama Needs Coffee for calling me one of her “Political Muses” the other day. That was so cool!)

I’ve got a whole list of topics I’m itching to get into this year. And even though I still have Christmas decorations to put away and boxes of ten-year-old papers lurking in my corners and closets, I’m feeling energized about digging in.

See you here soon!

Kirby Delauter vs. The Liberal Media (Updated)

Have you heard of Kirby Delauter?

Until Tuesday, the only place I’d seen his name was on political posters stuck in people’s yards. (I don’t live in Frederick County, Maryland, so I’ve had neither the opportunity to vote for/against the guy, nor the obligation to learn anything about him. I just drive through the county every so often.)

Now, however, I’ve seen the Frederick Councilman’s name (Kirby Delauter) on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the Washington Post, BBC News, NPR, and of course, The Frederick News-Post. It (the name “Kirby Delauter”) is lots of other places too. In its now-famous editorial titled “Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter,” the Frederick News-Post sums up the situation:

Knowing Councilman Kirby Delauter as we do, we weren’t surprised that he threatened The Frederick News-Post with a lawsuit because we had, he says — and we’re not making this up — been putting Kirby Delauter’s name in the paper without Kirby Delauter’s authorization. Attorneys would be called, Kirby Delauter said.

In fact, we spent quite some time laughing about it. Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can’t be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?

The editorial goes on in the most hilarious fashion for a couple of paragraphs. (The 13 paragraphs in the piece, by the way, are each started with a letter that, together, spell out the forbidden name: “Kirby Delauter.”) They include great stuff like:

Maybe we should just put his initials, “KD,” with an asterisk to a footnote (KD*), or refer to him as GLAT, the acronym for his campaign: “Govern Like A Taxpayer.” We could even make it sound a little hip-hop with a well-placed hyphen: G-Lat. Speaking of, could we get away with “K-Del”?


We found a great automatic online anagrammer that generated all kinds of alternatives and could make it a challenge for our readers to decode each time we have to reference the councilman: “Rebuked artily.” That was a good one. “Bakery diluter” is just silly but does have a ring about it. “Keyed rural bit” was another that caught our eye as somewhat telling, because Kirby Delauter’s pretty keyed up. We’re sure there’s a joke in “Brutelike Yard” somewhere.

The whole situation is just delightfully absurd. I giggled my way through the first half of the editorial. (Note: Kirby Delauter has now apologized.)

The second half, however, is where things get serious. It’s where the Frederick News Post counters the motivation behind Kirby Delauter’s idiotic attempt to prevent the paper from using his name:

Discernibly, though, Kirby Delauter’s ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke, and illustrates one disturbing aspect too prevalent in conservatives’ beliefs: That the media are all-liberal stooges hell bent on pursuing some fictional leftwing agenda. Generally this “fact” is bleated when the facts on the ground differ from conservative talking points.

This, of course, is where I stopped giggling. Because I’m a conservative. As delightfully absurd as fools like Kirby Delauter can seem at first glance, it’s really not much fun when my side is represented by people like him.

Moreover, I think liberal bias in the media is a very real thing.

I’m no conspiracy theorist; I don’t think there’s some formal leftwing agenda that’s imposed on every news outlet in the country except for Fox News. I think the vast majority of reporters and editors share a similar worldview. And – surprise, surprise – I think that worldview is reflected in how they cover the news.

When I was in high school, I was involved in a competition (I’ll reveal my dorkiness by admitting it was for academic teams) that my school won. I lived in a socially divided county, however, where the poorer, blacker schools (including my own) were looked down upon by the wealthier, whiter schools. So when my team (Aberdeen) won this competition, our county newspaper reported the story not as “Aberdeen wins academic team competition,” but as “Bel Air earns second place in academic team competition.” The paper’s story was factual, but it was biased.

(You can be both, “facts on the ground” Frederick News Post – factual and biased.)

I think of that situation all the time as I listen to my beloved NPR and I read my Washington Post. There are many ways to tell a story, but I find, again and again, that most of the news outlets I follow do so in a way that reflects their liberal worldview.

What, to me, makes up “the liberal worldview?”

It’s the assumption that women are all of one mind when it comes to abortion and contraception, that women have a sacred right to those goods/services, and that those “reproductive rights” are as fundamental as the freedoms of speech or religion. (How long did it take for the media to finally, begrudgingly, begin to report on the Kermit Gosnell situation?)

It’s the disdain for those who uphold the value of traditional marriage, the intolerance of insisting that only conservatives need be tolerant of opposing views on the subject. (Seriously, take a look at the Washington Post’s coverage of gay marriage over the past few years – it’s as if it was indeed operating out of some coordinated playbook.)

It’s the characterization of conservative politicians as obstructionist troublemakers. Most in the media choose to operate from the (liberal) assumption that government is supposed to do more, while many conservatives start from the assumption that it should do less. The two sides just about speak a different language regarding what they want from government, but I tend to only hear the one language represented in the media. (I’ll note here that I actually disagree with many conservatives – certainly the tea party variety – on many such issues, but they have my sympathy for how they’re treated in the media. I can do that: I can disagree with people and still recognize that they’re portrayed unfairly.)

It’s the implication that conservatives are, as a rule, somehow less thoughtful than liberals. (Did you catch the disdain demonstrated by the Frederick News Post in that last paragraph I quoted?)

There are more issues to “the liberal worldview” than these, but I’ve opened quite enough cans of worms in this post already.

To be clear, I don’t yearn for a media that tells me exactly what I want to think. I don’t want a conservative media bias to replace the liberal one.

I want reporters to acknowledge that everyone looks at the world from a unique perspective, and that their own personal worldview can’t help but impact their reporting. I want editors to make themselves look at controversial subjects from opposing points of view, so as to bring more balance to their stories. I want reporters and editors to try to get to know those with whom they disagree. It’s hard to be impartial when you’re surrounded by people who think (and vote) the same way you do.

I would rather a media outlet be forthright about its political leanings than to pretend they don’t exist.


I pay attention to the news. (For the most part, I stick to staid news outlets like NPR/PBS/BBC/WaPo/NYT, because I’d rather roll my eyes and harrumph once in a while at their liberal bias than to suffer blood pressure spikes from sensational newsmongers like Fox News.) So I witness the liberal media bias all the time. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve shouted a re-phrased version of a biased statement back at the radio/television/computer. And I can’t begin to describe my frustration that the conventional formula of a NPR talk radio program seems to be conservative guest + liberal guest + liberal reporter + liberal radio host, which is somehow supposed to equal the balanced presentation of an issue.

(Part of me wishes that I regularly wrote down such examples, to present to you now in some sort of lengthy indictment. But honestly, my SAHM hands are far too busy changing diapers and washing dishes to be engaged in that sort of thing.)


When I worked as a lobbyist on the liberal side of things, advocating for policies and funding that helped the poor, I’d routinely strategize with colleagues from other organizations on how we could work together to, say, get X bill passed or preserve Y funding or raise Z awareness. Whenever the discussion turned to media strategies, people would start to suggest ways in which the media could help us. We’d discuss the pitches we could make to reporters, the news outlets that were most likely to run favorable stories, the editorial boards that would be most sympathetic, etc.

It never stopped shocking me.

Having come from a conservative background, it simply never occurred to me that one would go to reporters with policy proposals and ask for their help in advancing them. And I knew that the colleagues back in my own office, the ones working on pro-life or marriage issues, would not have that option. I wondered whether my liberal colleagues and their liberal media contacts ever stopped to think about how uneven the playing field was.


None of this (except the disdain thing) is meant to be a slight on the Frederick News Post. I’ve seen very little from it, so I have no opinion on the quality or fairness of its political coverage. (And I’m glad to know that it engages in political coverage at all – too few local papers do much of that these days.)

It’s just that I’m so tired of the media bleating on that there’s no such thing as bias in their work. If the media were truly balanced, truly unbiased, and I were to poll a hundred people (50 liberals and 50 conservatives), asking them whether the media is biased, what should I expect to find? I’d expect to find either (1) 100 people who think the media is unbiased or (2) 50 liberals who think the media has a conservative bias and 50 conservatives who think the media has a liberal bias.

But we all know that that’s not how it falls out in real life.

As far as I’m concerned, the very fact that so many conservatives find the media to be biased (and that liberals, largely, don’t) is proof that it is. One side is being represented at the expense of the other.

Again and again, the media tends to answer the bias allegation with a dismissive, “We’re not biased; we’re reporting the facts.” To which I can’t help but respond, “You can do both. You can report the facts and still demonstrate a bias.”

But what’s the use, really? Because by “We’re not biased; we’re reporting the facts,” what they really seem to mean is, “If you don’t see the world the way we do, you’re wrong.”



This morning as I moved around the kitchen getting my boys ready for their day, I found myself fighting tears because of what I was hearing on the radio. Again. For three mornings in a row, my empathetic soul has been focused on France and on the people who suffer in relation to the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

All of a sudden, I panicked at the thought that some could construe this morning’s post as a snub on the profession of journalism in general. Or at the very least, as insensitive given the fact that liberal journalists were so brutally targeted in France. After all, in the same paragraph of the Frederick News Post’s editorial that contains the “facts on the ground” statement that raised my hackles, the paper responds to the implication that journalists are cowards:

Cowards? Tell that to the families of the 60 journalists killed in 2014, or the 70 in 2013, or the 74 who died in 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. All in pursuit of the truth, or the most reliable version of it at hand in the most dangerous regions of the world.

I in no way think journalists are cowards. I think they do a challenging, sometimes dangerous job, and that most of them do so in the best way they know how. I think journalism is essential to democracy – to civilization, even. I would be proud (if somewhat concerned for their ability to make ends meet) for any of my boys to choose journalism as a profession.

But I think journalists (like all of us, really) should always strive to improve their work – to be fairer, more thorough, and more thoughtful. I can mourn those who died at Charlie Hebdo and disagree with the “liberal media” (and even the dead themselves) on certain points. I can do both.

Yes, I Worry About Religious Freedom

This past Sunday at mass, our priest told the story of a conversation he once had with a taxi driver. The man had noticed Father’s clothing and collar. “You’re a priest. I am a believer too.” Father expressed his approval and the man went on, “My faith is very dear to me, for it was handed down by blood.”

The man continued, “When my child tells me he doesn’t want to go to church, I tell him he will go, for his faith was won for him through the blood of his grandparents and great-grandparents. They paid with their lives, and here is my child in a place where he is free to worship. So he will go.”

Father went on to recount recent stories of Christians attacked, murdered – hacked to death, even – on account of their faith. Iraq, Pakistan, India, Nigeria – the examples go on and on. Yet, as Father noted, our eyes are dry. We look away. We do not mourn.

We should be feeling such atrocities acutely. Both for the sake of the people involved and because such crimes strike at the heart of what it means to be a free, thinking, feeling human. Our right to live in accord with our faith is as, if not more, fundamental to our freedom as our right to free speech. When I am able to speak freely, my mind is free. When I am able to worship freely, my heart and soul are free too.

When you look at the totality of the world’s population, true religious freedom is almost an anomaly. Billions of people live in countries where one is legally required to adhere to a certain faith, or permitted to belong only to select, approved sects, or, though legally free to worship as one chooses, restricted in practice by violence or intimidation.

Millions more live in Western societies that are increasingly, insidiously, hostile to religious practice. They look down on religious speech in public forums or prohibit religious garb in public spaces or compel religious people to act in conflict with their faith-informed ethical principles. They give notice that faith is only appropriate within the four walls of a church. And they maintain that a particular set of public values is somehow more valid and important than the individual’s right to determine his own way, in accord with his own mind, heart, and soul.

I’m no Chicken Little. I don’t think the United States is a modern-day Roman Empire teetering on the brink of collapse. I don’t think our government is two steps away from nailing “CONDEMNED” signs to all the church doors and requiring citizens to profess adherence to modern, secular liberalism.

But I do think we should be honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge that this thing can be messed up. This accident, this anomaly in human history – this brief period and narrow place in which we have been free to think and speak and pray and do as we like, without fear of legal or violent reprisal – this can, and probably will, pass away.

If our society can entertain the notion that climate change will eventually cause oceans to rise and landscapes to be altered, it should also consider the possibility that creeping infringements on our rights will eventually cause us to lose them altogether.

Because yes, that’s what we’re experiencing: creeping infringements on our rights. (Our real, most fundamental rights, that is – not our popularly-claimed, pseudo-rights to free contraception and abortion.) And yes, that’s what HHS did when it told Hobby Lobby’s owners that, despite their deeply-held and religiously-founded belief that human life is precious and worthy of protection, even from the moment of conception, they must pay for their employees to receive forms of “contraception” that can end real, precious, human lives – in the humble form of embryos – almost (not before) they have begun.

(Please note that Hobby Lobby already provides coverage for most types of contraceptives. Its owners have objected to four particular “contraceptive” methods because they can act not as true contraceptives – that is, by preventing conception – but rather as abortifacients, preventing an embryo from implanting in its mother’s uterus and thereby killing it.)

Many Americans seem to think that religious freedom is an issue for the history books. You’re given a blank stare if you express your concern for religious freedom abroad and you’re viewed as an alarmist or a zealot if you’re concerned that it’s under threat at home.

Nobody’s bombing churches here, right? The government doesn’t support a Church of America with our tax dollars and require all citizens to be its adherents, does it? So what is there to worry about?

I worry that we take too much for granted. That we vaguely recall a story about pilgrims… something, something… Church of England… something, something… and we think that concerns about religious freedom belong to another time.

I worry when so many of my friends and fellow Americans hear that the government aims to force people to do things that violate their deeply held religious beliefs and they… don’t care. Or worse, they fly to the defense of the government and demonize those targeted by it because the things that are to be done involve those most sacred of secular cows, contraception and abortion.

The fact is, there are slippery slopes all over the place. It’s quite fashionable to be concerned about government overreach insofar as it applies to email and phone records. But what about government overreach concerning what we believe and how our everyday lives reflect those beliefs?

I worry that we might not realize we’re on a slope until we’ve already slipped.


“Reason recognizes that religious freedom is a fundamental right of man, reflecting his highest dignity, that of seeking the truth and adhering to it, and recognizing it as an indispensable condition for realizing all his potential. Religious freedom is not simply freedom of thought or private worship. It is the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly, consequent to the truth one has found.” (Pope Francis, June 20, 2014)

This First Year Of Blogging: “Most” Posts and 2013 in 13 Photos

As we wrap up 2013 (Happy New Year, everyone!) and my first (calendar) year of blogging draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect a little on how it (the blogging thing, that is) has all gone.

Fortunately, two bloggers currently have link-ups that facilitate my reflection quite nicely. So, I’m game. And I’m totally going to cheat by doing both link-ups in one post. Sarah of Amongst Lovely Things is hosting a link-up of bloggers’ “Most” Posts of 2013: those with the most clicks, most comments, etc. Dwija of House Unseen, Life Unscripted is hosting one on 2013 in 13 Photos.

Below, I give you both. Plus some reflections on this first year (er… seven months — I started the blog at the tail-end of May) of blogging.

First, Sarah’s prompts:

Post With The Most Clicks

My most-viewed post, by far, was “A Crazy Good Night,” about attending Like Mother, Like Daughter’s “Crazy DC Meet-Up” this summer. I wish I could take more credit, but LMLD’s “Auntie” Leila linked to it on her blog’s Facebook page (so exciting!), which explains all the traffic.


Digging a little deeper, my next most-viewed post can also be credited to a (much) bigger blogger than myself. Grace of Camp Patton hosted a “How We Met” link-up, which has attracted a steady stream of traffic to this post for months.

And I’m just a tad embarrassed that I’ve got to dig down to number three to find a post that doesn’t owe its popularity to another blogger. Rather, it owes its popularity to a baby. Last month’s gender reveal announcement drew plenty of curious onlookers.

Post With The Most Comments

This would be “7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 14),” in which I announced my pregnancy. People are so nice… (Insert mental image of a smiley, grateful Julie.)


Post With The Best Picture

Oh, so many pictures… so hard to choose. I think I’ll just go with this one, which is fresh from yesterday’s post, “Oh, Boys.” It represents life in our home quite well, I think. (And when I posted it on Facebook, my brother observed that it looked like my boys had murdered a snowman.)


Post That Was Hardest To Write

That would have to be the one that took almost a week to write and nearly a month to move past: “The Weirdest of Them All.” Spinal injury + brain cyst = hard to write. (For an update on the medical situation, check out the post’s follow-up.)


Post That Was Your Personal Favorite

This is another tough one to choose. I think I’m going to have to go with “On Abortion: Paul Ryan and Two Simple Questions.” I like to think of this blog as a mix of family/parenting/household stuff and political thought, but in all honesty, I’ve done far more of the former than the latter. I like that this post was firmly in the meaty/political/philosophical camp. I also like that I was able to capture my thought process on this most difficult of subjects in what (I think) was a clear, logical way.


Okay, on to the second part of this post – seven more photos from this year to round out Dwija’s “2013 in 13 Photos.” I’m going to go with more pics that represent favorite posts:

I Don’t Treasure Every Moment


7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 22): Thanksgiving Edition


On Perspective… And Laundry


The Glamorous Looking-Back


The Blue-Sky Day


That Mommy Dance

Playground Climbing

A Love That Changes You

Ring Bearer

And third, (for anyone who’s still here!) some reflections on this first year of blogging:

Because I’m something of a numbers girl, I have to report that this here post is my 73rd. When I hit 50 posts in September, I was hopeful that I could get to 100 by the end of the year. But then I got that medical news, which tripped me up for about a month. And, you know… the holidays… and life… so I didn’t get anywhere close. Still, I’m proud of 73 posts in my first calendar year. That averages to about 10 posts a month and between two and three posts per week. Not bad for someone who has never been able to keep up journal writing for longer than a week at a time.

In a particularly angsty post from August, I described my reasons for blogging. In the interest of not re-creating the wheel (and at the risk of seeming a little full of myself), I’m just going to go ahead and quote what I wrote back then:

As much as I aim to write things that other people will want to read, at the end of the day, I have to write this blog for me.

Yes, there is this and this. Yes, I’d love to attract readers and get some interesting back-and-forth going in the comment sections. Yes, I love hearing that something I’ve written has amused or touched someone. Yes, I’d like to avoid hurting or even annoying people with my writing. But These Walls is really for me. It gives me an avenue to work through my thoughts and ideas and it allows me to feel like I’ve said my piece on subjects that matter to me.

I also write this blog for my boys. Hopefully I’ll live a long life and I’ll always have strong relationships with them both. But you never know. One of my worst fears is that something should happen to prevent me from raising my sons. And almost as bad is the idea that something should happen to estrange us in their adulthood. Unfounded as those fears are, I am comforted by the idea that should they (heaven forbid) ever materialize, the words I write here give me another shot at reaching out to my boys. I like to think they would give my boys a sense of my love for them, of the way I see the world, and the values I hope to impart to them.

Besides, These Walls has got to be for me (and my boys). There’s no possible way I can please or even interest everyone else. And there’s no way I can wholly avoid annoying/offending/hurting every single person who stops by this blog. All I can ever do is write posts that I like and that I can confidently stand behind. That’s it.

I’ve been trying to keep all this in mind. “I write this blog for me… avenue to work through my thoughts and ideas… allows me to feel like I’ve said my piece. I write this blog for my boys… gives them a sense of my love for them… the way I see the world… the values I hope to impart to them.” Those phrases have become something of a mantra to me. I revisit them to keep myself on-course as I write.

I am a slow writer. I rely on multiple drafts to get things right and I’m deliberate about the words I choose. It usually takes two to three days for me to write a post. And I’ve sunk far too much time into many a half-written post that may or may not ever see the light of the internet.

But I’m okay with that. Because “all I can ever do is write posts that I like and that I can confidently stand behind.”

So, I’m feeling pretty good about this first year of blogging. By and large, I like what I wrote. I feel happier and more peaceful for having pounded it out. I need to do a better job of balancing writing time with my responsibilities to my family, but I do feel like this blogging thing is valuable enough to deserve some small part of my time. At the end of this first year, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.