Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Super Easy Chili

By Mary C. Tillotson

At The Mirror, we like to think we're intelligent women, so lately we've been posting a lot of thoughtful, hopefully thought-provoking, stuff. Lest we get too cerebral, however (did I just ruin it with the word "lest"?), I'd like to share with you the easiest chili recipe ever. Take a look at the picture and that's about all you need to know.

Seriously. A can of tomato sauce, a can of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and some hamburger.

If you'd like the more complicated version, here it is: Open your three cans and dump them into a saucepan - you don't even need to drain the diced tomatoes. Turn the heat on low or medium, just so it warms up. Put your (thawed) hamburger, between half and a whole pound, in a frying pan or skillet and brown it. When it's cooked, drain the grease and plop the meat into your saucepan. Mix it all up, then spice it how you like. Voila! Chili. I really don't think I can make it any more complicated than that.

This ends up being pretty meaty, so if you want it soupier, just add another can of tomato sauce. You can use almost any kind of bean - kidney, black, chili - or a variety of beans if you're making a double or triple batch. If you want an emotional experience, chop an onion and throw it in.

If you're going for simple, don't spice it, or just use chili powder. A Texan (the aunt of a college friend) suggested chili powder, paprika, garlic, oregano, a combination I think tasted very Southwestern. My husband and I also made Italian chili - same recipe, just with basil, oregano, garlic, rosemary, or with Italian seasoning and garlic, maybe topping it with some mozzarella cheese. Onion powder might be good, either for the Southwest or Italian version. We've also used this as spaghetti sauce, and that worked well, too.

Bonus: Chili freezes super well. It'll probably make more than one meal, especially if you're single or a small family, and you can't really halve the recipe because what would you do with half a can of tomato sauce? Pack up the leftovers in meal-sized, freezer-proof, microwave-safe containers and freeze them; when you're ready, microwave them. Easy meal for later!

This is a really flexible recipe. Try it, and let me know what you did to make it even more delicious! I'm always up for new ideas.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Talking to Women... Without Chocolate

By Christine Nussio
Guest Contributor

It seems like the conservative political establishment has a “women problem” and this is not related to the now-infamous “binders of women” gaff courtesy of Governor Mitt Romney from last year’s presidential race.  Joy Pullmann’s recent article, “Should People Talk to Women Differently?”, suggested that the problem is conservatives do not know how to engage women, and need to learn to talk to them differently than they do men. Joy asked astutely (and humorously), “Differently HOW? Like mention chocolate and pink?” Now there is a chance that you are reading this article because “chocolate” was in the title, and that itself might answer Joy’s question. But, setting that aside, I would argue that the issue is not that what the conservative politicians talk about, but how they talk about it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

In Memory of a Sister: Sally Giauque

By Julie Baldwin

Fall 2007
Last week, a woman died at 85 years old. Her name was Sally, and I met her when I was a sophomore in college and "went Kappa" - that is, joined Kappa Kappa Gamma, a woman's fraternity. Sally was one of the chapter advisers at Hillsdale College. An alumna of the college and chapter, she dedicated herself to our house and its members. She would arrive every Monday, in time for dinner and meeting, and stay in the guest room. She was stylish, smart, and was always reminding us of standards and how to be ladies.

I had a tough time being a Kappa the first few semesters; perhaps it is my penchant for not being told by other people who I am, and people like to label "sorority girls." Or maybe I never thought that I quite fit in, though I met a few of my best friends in that house. Or maybe I was just overwhelmed; I never seemed to have enough time to join in the more fun activities, as I prioritized school and the newspaper, accepting only required duties as my service and standard. Kappa wasn't what I expected of her, but maybe, as I thought later, I wasn't what Kappa expected either.

While I struggled with my collegiate career at Kappa, I always looked to Sally. She was a lady. She told us chewing gum made us look like cows. If we were late to meeting, she kindly informed us that it was better form to use the back door. How we dressed was important - and not for fashionable or keeping up appearances reasons (which I rebelled against): but because we were Kappas, and that was something to be proud of, and our dress reflected the care we took in our appearance, in our house, and in ourselves. This I could embrace, understand, and welcome.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Moms Conflicted about Schools

A few months ago, I was interviewing a woman who works at a nationwide nonprofit concerned with education. We were talking about picking your child's school. She had just done that with her kindergarten-age daughter, and I could tell it had been an agonizing decision. In fact, in my job as an education reporter, I frequently talk to women about their child's school, and I can hear the same angst in their voices that I do when women talk about working outside the home, or a natural birth, or all of these other Mommy Wars topics. Just last week, an Oklahoma mom and friend discussed with frustration her child's school, which closed right when her difficult daughter was ending sixth grade, which we all know to be a crucial time in itself without extra disruption.

Moms feel guilty about their kids' education like we feel guilty about everything else. And I'm about to point out something that may make some feel more guilty, but I don't mean it that way, and I'll explain why.

It is simply unarguable that the very best U.S. public schools are not very good. The sort of parents who care deeply about getting their kids a good education generally don't know this. Like one of our previous landlords, who bought a big expensive house and rented out half of it to pay the mortgage so her daughter could be in a good public school district, these parents sacrifice a good deal to get their kids the best preparation for life they can. So to tell them the truth—that their sacrifice often has not bought that much—seems incredibly cruel.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Women's Issues" and the Conservative "Woman Problem"

By Mary C. Tillotson

Can we do it all?
Joy opened a really interesting conversation last week about whether women and men should be addressed differently. She linked to a Forbes article by Sabrina Schaeffer noting “the odd contradiction that liberals proclaim men and women are essentially the same but target women as women aggressively … and conservatives typically will say men and women are different, but are reluctant to target women as a special interest group.” (Joy’s words.) I want to talk more specifically about the conservative “woman problem.”

“Women’s issues,” it seems, revolve around our childbearing capacity: abortion, contraception, flexible work hours. The so-called “war on women” initially rose over contraception (or, more specifically, the government requiring people to provide contraception free and ignoring their constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedom). It was further fueled by some stupid comments (“legitimate rape,” anyone?) that got more attention than they were worth. When it comes down to it, if we didn’t have wombs, there would be no such thing as “women’s issues.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Good Housekeeping, you're drunk.

By Brianna Heldt
Just Showing Up

Did anyone else hear about the article running in this month’s edition of Good Housekeeping magazine, titled “10 Reasons It’s Good to Be Bad”?  While I have never, ever read Good Housekeeping in all my days, I’ve seen a couple of different people calling attention to this particular piece, so I did the obvious and natural thing: I read it.

And, ohmygoodness.  What is wrong with people?  The article reads like a who’s who of Worst Advice Ever–I can’t decide which suggestion is lamer, flirting with someone who is not your husband, getting mad and staying mad, or reading erotica.  And does anyone deny that it feels good to do bad things?  Who doesn’t love a little adrenaline rush from time to time?  I’m not sure we need an author or researcher to tell us that a lot of Really Bad Things are, well, a heck of a lot of fun.  Just ask any 16-year-old kid at a rave, or the 35-year-old woman who owns the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy.

It isn’t rocket science.  Sometimes “bad” things feel “good.”

But this idea that, as women in pursuit of happiness, we should be aspiring to these things is positively ridiculous.  The perspective of this piece more closely resembles that of a petulant child’s (who must have what he or she wants right this very second) than a grown-up’s with a journalism degree.  Consider this choice selection from the piece:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Great Expectations

By Julie Baldwin

Has it been scientifically proven yet that more women are Type A personalities? Or is it that we think we need to uphold a set of values that is not universal, but constantly ruining the fun in our lives? We need to be smart and saavy; we need to be gorgeous (models-as-standard) and athletic (fit, too); we need to be domestic enough to please other people's standards; we need to pay attention to our kids; we need to have our own fulfilling careers.

My mom and me: two Type As, different goals
The pressure to work in a job for career-purposes, the pressure to marry and then the pressure to have kids and the pressure to support those kids in their range of activities and schooling ventures... has life turned into a tea kettle for women? Are we all going to end up screaming when the water gets too hot?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Should People Talk to Women Differently?

By Joy Pullmann

I often get offended when I pick up on subliminal messages that have people treating me a certain way because I'm a woman. Now, I don't mind the perks of this—door-opening and seat-offering are awesome, especially when you've been pregnant as frequently as I am and such gestures offer real relief. I also like when men talk more politely or give me deference because I'm a woman. But it's pretty offensive to hear someone assume that I would think a certain way or need a certain tone of voice and approach "just because" I'm a woman.

At the same time, I like women's magazines. Pinterest is, to me, basically a free version of Martha Stewart Living, which I was hooked on at something like age 10. And I like all kids of other stuff deliberately marketed to women. LaraBars? Yes, please.

In short, I've got a lot of cognitive dissonance going on here. (Maybe it's because I'm a woman. Joke!) A bit of it was relieved this week when I read this post by Sabrina Schaeffer. She explains the odd contradiction that liberals proclaim men and women are essentially the same but target women as women aggressively. They're the people who will insist men have nothing to say about abortion and contraception. And conservatives typically will say men and women are different, but are reluctant to target women as a special interest group, or create messaging directly to women that isn't retarded (Mitt Romney, I'm looking at you). Schaeffer writes:
In our brave new world of gender equality, in which women and men are often encouraged to act the same, most conservatives still accept that men and women often view problems and prioritize them differently. As political scientist Steve Rhoads explains so well, sex differences are “hardwired” into our biology, and social rules and customs that the left might want to discard often serve a purpose. But in the political arena this understanding of gender differences seems to vanish, leaving Republicans regularly stumped when they face a question about the wage gap, work-life balance, or health care mandates.
Ok, so this (and the rest of her article—read it) makes sense. But it still feels awkward to me to say to myself, "Talk about this issue differently if you are talking to women." Differently HOW? Like mention chocolate and pink? That sounds demeaning to me. But if I agree with Schaeffer's principles—and I do—that means there are different ways to talk to women without pandering or patronizing. What those are, I don't know. I just talk.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Disabled babies, moms, and men: can we please love them all?

By Mary C. Tillotson

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the baby with Down Syndrome who, it looks like, will not be aborted after all because some 900 families offered to adopt, thanks to Facebook and Fr. Vander Woude. If you haven’t heard, I think the Arlington Catholic Herald, my diocese’s paper, had one of the better stories.

I feel a particular connection to this story because my husband and I got one of the original emails; we’ve met Fr. Vander Woude and a friend of ours knows him well. I sent Father an email saying we might be interested but hadn’t had time to talk yet; by the time we were able to talk, we already heard about the enormously huge response and we weren’t needed. So it was exciting to watch the story go viral.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Changing Seasons

By Elizabeth Petrides
Guest Contributor

When I was a teenager, I knew that whatever I did with my life, it was not going to include getting married, having children, or teaching. However, God had other plans for me. I married a wonderful man in 1979, quit my full-time bookkeeping job when the first of our five children was born in 1982, taught piano lessons for 10 years, went back to college for teacher certification, taught full-time for 13 years, and completed a Master’s degree. How does a woman balance family life and career? One season at a time.

I learned this lesson once when I complained about feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for young children. An older and wiser friend explained that there are seasons in a woman’s life. She urged me to enjoy the blessings of each season, because the seasons wouldn’t last forever. She was right. During the 34 years we’ve been married, I’ve had just about every position a woman could have. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for my five children, had part-time jobs, worked full-time, and volunteered. When I look back on my life, it is the story of God’s grace and direction, not brilliant planning on my part. That said, there were a few deliberate choices that we made as a family that made all this possible.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Girl Who Reads, Speaks and Survives

By Julie Baldwin

July 12 has officially been named "Malala Day" in honor of Malala Yousafzai, a now-16-year-old girl who was shot by the Taliban in an assassination attempt for going to school in October 2012. The New York Times reported,
On Tuesday, masked Taliban gunmen answered Ms. Yousafzai’s courage with bullets, singling out the 14-year-old on a bus filled with terrified schoolchildren, then shooting her in the head and neck. Two other girls were also wounded in the attack. All three survived, but late on Tuesday doctors said that Ms. Yousafzai was in critical condition at a hospital in Peshawar, with a bullet possibly lodged close to her brain. 
A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, confirmed by phone that Ms. Yousafzai had been the target, calling her crusade for education rights an “obscenity.” 
“She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area; she was openly propagating it,” Mr. Ehsan said, adding that if she survived, the militants would certainly try to kill her again. “Let this be a lesson.”
This did not discourage the girl who wants to be a doctor. She spoke at the United Nations on Friday, July 12, 2013, in support of universal and compulsory education for all as a way to "wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NFP and teamwork

not empowering
By Mary C. Tillotson

It always surprises me when I find yet another person who is totally shocked to find out that there’s some actual science behind Natural Family Planning. Women bleed for a few days every month for most of their adult life and nobody bothered to wonder why? The article I saw most recently insisted that, while there was legitimate science to NFP, “The Catholic Church’s official stance condemning contraception is, in my view, dubious and disempowering to women.”

Taken out of context, NFP is disempowering. I’m envisioning college parties where women only attend if they’re in Phase 3 (infertile), high school girls encouraged to keep track of their physical symptoms, and, when they’re fertile, say “catch me next week!” to their teenage boyfriends. Despite being way more fertile than women (compare the number of gametes average men and women produce), men get to have sex whenever they can find a phase 3 woman; women are confined to certain days out of their cycle. Disempowering to women? Absolutely. Men obviously have the upper hand.

But NFP isn’t just another form of birth control.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Regret-less Sex

By Julie Baldwin

Life isn't always what you expect, and this post I'm writing was not my initially chosen topic. Instead, I'm writing in response to a few articles I read today, and a conversation I had with one of my husband's classmates.

Today is Will's first day of school for his Master's program, and there was an open reception which I invited myself to as his special guest. Nothing fancy: his classmates, the program directors and corresponding staff, and me, the pregnant lady in the striped dress. The girl next to me and I struck up a conversation, gaining speed as we realized she grew up about 45 minutes from where my husband went to college. We talked about our shared faith, her boyfriend, my pregnancy, where we came from and why we moved to New Orleans.

"Sorry if this is too forward," she said suddenly, "But do you use Natural Family Planning?"

"We do," I said.

"Was the pregnancy planned?" she asked.

"Yes," I said as my husband said "No."

I smiled, and explained that we conceived on my P3 day, which is the third day past my Peak Day and the last day of my fertile time. We knew we could get pregnant if we had sex, and rolled the dice. We got pregnant. Will says "no" because we had originally planned on waiting to try for a mini-us till the fall, but we also had sex knowing we could become pregnant.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Wandering Home: Reflections on Today's Moral Climate

my ninja husband
By Mary C. Tillotson

Home is supposed to be that place of tranquility and comfort, where you can be yourself and know you are loved. It’s supposed to be stable and unchanging. It’s hard for me to imagine that right now: I’ve got a candle and a cup of tea with me, but my kitchen is cluttered with an overflowing wastebasket and a clothes drying rack, complete with two towels and three filthy washrags. I don’t even know where half our stuff is. We helped the previous tenants move out Monday evening and crashed on the floor late that night. It’s been cleaning, cleaning out, and reorganizing since then. My husband is working 9 to 5, and while his elbow grease and moral support were a huge help in the evenings, most of the home-making is falling to me.

I haven’t lived in the same place for more than a year since I was in high school, but it still seems odd to move so often. I don’t like it. There’s a kind of restlessness and instability; also, a holding back, trying not to get too attached to any particular place or routine. A part of me aches to be settled. I know I shouldn’t complain: moving frequently is a normal part of life in my generation. Our world is bigger now; with the internet, freeways, and airports, far-away opportunities are often more available than nearby ones.

There’s an underpinning restlessness to our generation, it seems.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Talking Down to Women, Wendy Davis Edition

By Joy Pullmann

Lots of things infuriate me about this Texas abortion spectacle, but one has to be the patronizing way the media has treated Wendy Davis, the state senator who blocked a bill that would require abortion centers to meet safety standards and restrict abortions after a baby can survive outside the womb. Anti-life protesters rallied around Davis and stormed the Texas capitol with such force that police were overwhelmed periodically and senators could not discuss or vote on the bill.

John McCormack listed 20 questions major TV anchors asked Davis. They include serious questions like "It was a remarkable scene. Did you have any idea that it would grow like this?" from CNN's Anderson Cooper, "Why did you decide to wear your [pink] running shoes? Let’s take a look at those … they’ve kind of been rocketing around the Internet" from ABC's Jeff Zeleny, and "Well, after coming under these attacks, do you regret taking the front row that you did on this and leading this charge?" from CBS's Bob Schieffer.

Let me get this straight. A politician blocks a policy that vast majorities of Americans support (some 80 percent or more) because it would prevent mothers from ending the lives of children who could otherwise survive outside the womb in preemie wards, and she gets asked about her pink running shoes?! How much more patronizing can these male TV anchors get?