Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Marian Consecration

My favorite image of Mary: Our Lady of Grace
Today is Consecration Day for me! I had tried while pregnant with Ian to get through the 33 Days to Morning Glory, and encountered too many spiritual barriers to make it all the way through. But this time has been a wellspring of blessings and comfort. I was able to see changes in my life from the second week, and am doing things I've never been able to do in my entire life. God is truly blessing this little endeavor.

What has helped most is the new ability to let go of my children's futures. I have always struggled with this idea. "Letting Go" is impossible for me because I care so deeply; the only way I've ever been able to do it is by giving up hope and decreasing my love and care. This was possible with people in my life before I had kids. Even my husband (God bless him) I could love less when he disappointed me or refused to meet my needs. It was very difficult, and caused years of strife, but I was able to "let go" of my expectations for him and it turned out to be what saved our marriage. I accepted him for who he is, worked on meeting my own needs, and in time we grew a beautiful partnership of equals. But I only got there by going through a long period of believing in my heart of hearts that this marriage would not last. I don't recommend this.

I couldn't do that with my kids. No matter how much I tried, I could not love them less or care less about their future. Well-meaning friends and family would tell me that there was really no way to assure obedience or compliance from my children, and that I should expect their defiance, and be unbothered by it. To me, that felt like telling someone not to worry about the bear wandering into their campground because, hey, you're in the woods! You should expect bears and be unbothered by them!

Yet, they were right. I should expect defiance from my children, even when I am asking them to do what is right and good, because they are children. They have not yet developed the inner self-discipline to do what is right on their own. If they had, I wouldn't need to ask! And it's unlikely they'll develop this until they've been living on their own for some time, simply because that's the dynamic of family life.

So how does this look, practically, in my own home life? It means less yelling. A lot less. Granted, there was a great deal of yelling before so it's not like my home is a haven of peace and gentleness quite yet. But it is significantly different now, because I know that their behavior is not my responsibility. I've always KNOWN that intellectually, but I haven't been able to accept it emotionally until now.

I hope to blog more in the future about how my parenting has changed and my motherhood has flourished, amid all of the challenges I've always faced. For today, I am basking in the joy of my consecration and the knowledge that my Blessed Mother is near me.

Image credit.

Monday, July 17, 2017

AngryTN

There's a scene in the movie Ghost where Whoopi Goldberg is holding a seance and one of the "spirits" in the room takes over her body. Her clothes billow out, her face grows grave, and she is no longer herself.

Depression is like that for me. I am suddenly taken over by someone, or something, else, something that is not me, but is in my body controlling what I think, say, and feel. I am there, too, but muted, like an echo or a conscience. I see what's happening, I know it's not right. It's not who I am or who I want to be. And I can't do much but watch and mourn.

The person who takes over when I'm depressed is Angry. Everything bothers her. Everything is pointless. Friends don't understand. Family members do nothing but judge. The children are hopeless and helpless drains on me and, one day, on society. Every choice I've ever made was wrong and my life is meaningless.

From my journal a week ago: Back here again. Screaming and swearing at the children. Watching TV because my brain is dead. Feeling like I should never have married and become a mother because it just sucks and my children suck and I hate everything about it. I like little, little babies. They're cuddly, and I get tons of endorphins from breastfeeding, and in the middle of the night I pray and commiserate with eternity through those moments which every mother shares. The rest of it is stupid and awful. I fucking HATE cleaning up their messes. I hate trying to teach them right from wrong. I hate their stupid fucking attitudes. I wish I'd never had kids.

The worst is that during this awful time, when I need the Lord so desperately, I am unable to pray. Literally, I cannot form the words to any prayers. I will start, and get a sentence in, and AngryTN says "What's the point? He doesn't answer."  Then instead of praying, I begin to list all the grievances I have against God. He never healed me during my pregnancies. He hasn't converted my husband. We are still struggling financially. Nothing I've tried with my eldest son is working. I follow the teachings of the Church and where does it lead me?

So I try again, but prayer angers me. Angers me so that I deliberately begin to think about something as far from God as I can; something vengeful, something lewd, something heretical.

When AngryTN is gone, I am filled with regret and shame. I don't know why I am not strong enough to fight her. I don't know why God hasn't healed me of the depression, or at least shown me how I can get help! I have tried medication, I have tried therapy (both talk and EMDR), I do all those things that they recommend (at one point my therapist read me the list and I do 9/10 of them on a daily or weekly basis and the 10th I tried for three years without success.) I am on supplements to regulate my hormones. I've tried blood tests and natural doctors.

Nothing is working.

I found comfort from a surprising source yesterday. My dad called to tell me of an insight he'd been given during contemplation, which he was told to share with me. It is complicated, and I fear to write it down because without more explanation it may do more harm than good. But he helped me to see that my sufferings are not evidence that I am doing it wrong, but rather an opportunity to do even more good for those I love. I hope to write a longer post about it sometime, because the conversation I had with my Dad was so beautiful that I know others can be helped by it, too.

In the meantime, I am moving forward with what I know to be true and right. This prayer is on the wall of my bathroom so I can be reminded of it every day.

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. 

He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. 

He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.

O Emmanuel, Deign to fulfill Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used. 

--Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Judgment Judgment Everywhere and Nary a Drop of Truth

I've been wanting, for some time, to write a post that sort of brings together various articles I've read and insights I've had related to the stress that comes from being a mother in this modern era.

It boils down to one simple fact: In today's modern parenthood there is no truth, only judgment. 

Every single day there are at least two articles on my Facebook, Blogger, or Yahoo feed that contradict each other so fundamentally that, frankly, I am not sure how anyone could possibly know how to parent. So every day I am reminded how very extremely critically important my job is as a mother and how none of it actually matters at all. It's so important to set boundaries. But don't say "no!" And make sure you let them fail. Safely, of course, in small ways before they reach high school, and making exceptions for necessary interventions.

"I think when you use the word 'fail,' you alienate a lot of people," said children's television host Miss Lori, a mom of three. "I believe in allowing my children to stumble." Teaching them how to get up again is enormously important, said the social media strategist and Babble.com contributor. "But fail, not so much, especially in school. Our education system is already failing them in most cities. Their school résumé is too important, and they have too few years to amass it."

Oh, I thought if you don't let them fail it's because you have issues with anxiety and control. If they're sick, mentally ill, overweight, or stressed, you're not doing your job right. Maybe it's because you've provided them too many toys, activities, choices, and information. You can't let them out of your sight, ever!  Besides, time with them is the most important way you show your love. But don't helicopter them! And here's a great article about how the best way a parent can prevent bullying is to teach their kids to defend themselves rather than relying on school or parental authority, except that you must also teach them that it's NOT OKAY to EVER use violence in any way against anyone for any reason.

“Responding physically to physical attacks is not the right first response,” she told TODAY Parents. “However, ... we cannot allow children to become victimized. If a child tries a verbal deflection and is met with physical threats, he or she needs to know that they have the right to defend themselves physically.” “One possible consequence is that physically defending yourself against an attack might lead to a fight. Your child might lose that fight. They may get hurt. The attacker may get hurt. The teachers, mentors or adults in charge, may get involved. Your child might get sanctioned for fighting,” he wrote.
How's that for the perfect illustration of a lose/lose situation? You have the right to defend yourself, but doing so will probably lead to sanctions and adults getting involved, but at least the bullying will stop...except probably not because the whole point of the article is that adult involvement doesn't effectively stop bullying or teach children how to respond to bullying behaviors!

Not that I need the internet to be shown my failures. Every time I lose my temper, each well-meaning "observation" from family members, all the hundreds of times per day the kids fight with each other, talk back to me, whine, complain, act selfishly, lie, break something, or eat a bunch of candy, convinces me that my parenting is abysmal and I am raising the next generation of entitled brats, and hence, that my entire life's purpose is worse than useless.

Yes, I know, this is a sign of depression. From this article, about the stress to be "perfect": "When you have depression, it's about constantly battling the negative thoughts and constantly battling the comparison. And it's so tiring." Someone who doesn't battle this disease will simply advise me not to care about other people, not to listen to any voice but my own. The problem is, I don't trust my own voice or my own perspective.

Love this post from Bunmi Laditan
How To Be A Mom in 2017: Make sure your children's academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two year apart for proper development also don't forget the coconut oil.
How To Be A Mom In Literally Every Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.
(This is why we're crazy.)

Here's a question I'd like answered: "How do we get past this?"


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Spring Break



We took a great trip to Glenwood Springs for Spring Break. This is our third year going as a family, and the first year I actually got to ride the alpine coaster seeing as I was not needed to hold a baby up at the top. I won't lie, I was pretty nervous the first ride down, but it's awesome!!

Image result for chips and salsa meme
We left on Sunday just before noon and ate lunch that I packed for each kid in the car. I told them they could have a pop with dinner if they finished their lunch bags, and each of them did. I love the drive through the mountains, past all the different colored strata and across the Vail Pass. The weather was nice in Glenwood so we went right to the hot springs for a couple hours, then grabbed dinner at our favorite Mexican place in town. What is it that's so good about Mexican? It's the corn, right? The corn and the cheese? Yeah. That's just such an awesome combination. We stuffed ourselves with chips and salsa while trading Chips and Salsa memes. My favorite:
HA!!

We stayed at the Hotel Glenwood Springs, at the base of the Adventure Park, and I have to say, it's what makes the vacation.
Yes, the hot springs are awesome. Yes, the Adventure Park, too. But if we stayed at a regular hotel the kids would not clamor to go back again next year. This hotel is totally awesome. They have their own pool and hot tub, with a zero depth entry, fountain, and baby slide for the littles, as well as a bball hoop, lazy river, and HUGE twirly slide for bigger kids. We spent SO MUCH TIME at this pool. Dan camped out at the base of the slide, quite literally playing the role of the Catcher in the Rye (except he was waist deep in water instead of rye) and caught the non-swimmers as they came shooting down the slide. My eldest had a great time playing HORSE with anyone nearby, attempting ridiculous and dangerous shots from In The Hot Tub! On The Steps! At The Opposite End of The Pool! Behind the Hoop! etc. We stayed three nights and on the last night they gave us a complimentary large pizza cooked by their pizza bar in the lobby, and a board game.

The pizza tasted good. It wasn't a true crust, just a Boboli type that's already cooked and they top it and broil it up so it's all melty. But the kids loved it and, did I mention, it was FREE? I thought it was such a nice touch that they threw that in for our stay. Also, they have a game room in the basement with Wii (Mario carts), a blackboard and chalk, bean bags, foosball table, and a little craft center with coloring books and crayons. We were down there quite a bit, and all the kids like having their own little room where they could hang out.

I decided ahead of time to spring for the kitchenette suite at the hotel and I'm thrilled with that option. We were able to eat something I cooked half the meals, and it also made breakfast much more pleasant. Their breafast is good: waffles, yogurt, cereal, juices, coffes and tea, fruit, hard boiled eggs, and toast/bagels/donuts. But I can't have hard boiled eggs, and the kids don't like them, so that left us without a protein option for breakfast. Also, the girls are dairy free. So I was able to bring my paleo sausage breakfast hash (loosely based on this recipe but adjusted to my FODMAP sensitivities) to heat up for myself, and have almond milk in the fridge for the girls to put in their cereal, and we were happy as clams. Other meals included fried rice, which I made by sauteing a chicken breast on the stove top and mixing it with chopped snap peas and carrots, then adding soy sauce and pre-cooked rice I'd prepared before we left. For two of the lunches I made sandwiches for the kids and served them with cut carrots and potato chips, and for Dan and I rolled roasted vegetables (prepared before we left) with cream cheese in a tortilla.




 We had spent all day Monday at the Adventure Park, going down the alpine slide a million times, playing laser tag (Meia got scared but the older kids had fun,) touring the caves, and watching 4D movies (yep, you wear 3-D glasses to watch a film, and the chairs move and shake, and it sprays you with mist for a full sensory experience.) The gondola ride to the top of the mountain is always fun, although the line to get on the gondola is less so. We waited an entire hour, and we were one of the early ones because all we had to do was walk out of our hotel after breakfast. My boys found a fiberglass stake while we were in line and started dueling with it, only to find that the fiberglass wasn't stable. They ended up with tiny shards embedded in their hands. I raced back up to the room to get my tweezers, but even so they were in pain until we got to the top and asked the gift shop lady for some tape. That helped a bit more (my youngest stopped holding his hand at his side and began to actually use it again after the tape) but I don't think they were totally free until they went back to the pool that afternoon. We got some great pictures of the boys in the Squeeze Box, and the weather was perfect.

Tuesday the weather wasn't great. But I knew that was predicted from checking the weather a week before, and I'd brought some movies. We watched Adventures in Babysitting (which is dirtier than I remember it and I'm hoping the kids were as baffled by some of those references as I was back in the day) Groundhog Day (which I had to keep assuring them was going to be awesome because it starts pretty slow) and the new Ghostbusters (which had me dying of laughter. Chris Hemsworth dancing at the end is so great!) As I've mentioned, there was enough in the hotel to keep the kids occupied, so we didn't have to brave the cold.

All the kids were sad when we had to leave; we spent the maximum amount of time in the pool as possible and then went to the park to picnic and walk along the river before finally getting into the car around 2 pm to head home. We stopped on the way back in Frisco for coffee/hot chocolates and treats and were back home by dinnertime. All in all, we had a wonderful time. Kids got along except for a couple incidents which is to be expected and didn't ruin anything. We're planning to do it again next year!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Art Meditation on Mary Magdalene

As we move into Holy Week, we can prepare by entering our Lord's Passion through the eyes of someone who was there. Here is a meditation on four works of art featuring Mary Magdalene, which I originally wrote for my Moms and Tots ministry.

We know Mary Magdalene best for her visit to Christ’s tomb, bringing the spices to anoint him. While it is not certain, many also believe she is the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair at the home of the Pharisee in Luke 7: 36-50. 

In this painting by Nik Helbig, Mary and Jesus are painted in an impressionist style. The softness of the lines surrounding them give the illusion of her hair, which is the same color as Jesus’ hands and cloak. We are meant to see that His spirit and hers are united in this moment where she honors Jesus and is forgiven of all her sins. The brightest part of this painting is her face, right in the center. Her eyes are open as she gazes at His feet, gently touching them. And we see this touch echoed above, as Jesus lays His hand gently on her head.  As you look at this painting, what sort of emotions come to you? The colors are like a rainbow after a storm, evoking the hope that comes after darkness. Mary is peaceful, yet not happy. Her sins have burdened her so much all her life. This is the very moment of her forgiveness; she has not yet felt the weight lifting off her. She is still bent, crouched over the feet of the only one who she believes can save her. What is she thinking right now, as she feels Jesus lay his hand on her head? Take a moment to sit with this painting and allow the Lord to speak to you through this image.



The next painting depicts Mary at the tomb on Easter morning. It is titled Noli Me Tangere (Latin for “Do not touch me” or “Do not cling to me”) and was painted by James Jacques Joseph Tissot. In John’s Gospel, when Mary finally recognizes Jesus, she falls down to worship Him. He replies, telling her not to hold on to him, because he has not yet ascended to the Father, but to go and tell the disciples that she has seen Him. In this painting, though they are very close, there is a distance between them. Mary does not look at Jesus; her face is pressed into the ground, but she raises her hands in supplication. She knows this is the Son of God, risen from the dead. The apologetics site “Unam Sanctam Catholicam” describes the moment this way:
In addition to fear of the Lord, Christ inspired within Mary a deepening of faith through His gentle command to cease touching Him. Physically touching the Lord surely served as a great comfort to Mary Magdalene. In the midst of our Lord’s Passion, Mary remained close to Him, right beside the Cross. In the midst of her great grief, the body of our Lord is that which Mary sought. Yet, Mary’s faith was great; hence, she was the first witness of the Resurrection, the first one to see the Risen Lord. With the removal of this comfort from physical touch, with this abandonment of self, Mary would have to grow in faith. Her faith in Christ, rather than physical touching of Christ, would have to be her comfort and consolation. This deepening of faith in Mary Magdalene certainly would have been preparatory for the time between Christ’s Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. It is as though by saying “For I have not yet ascended to the Father” Christ is also revealing to Mary that His salvation of mankind is not yet finished; He still must ascend to Heaven and send His Spirit. With the sending of the Holy Spirit, there is a more complete restoration of the union, the “touch,” between Christ and man. Mary was being told to wait, rely on her faith, wait for the Spirit, and grow keen to the spiritual Presence of our Lord.
Notice some of the details the artist has included, and ponder what meaning they have to you. Jesus’ hand is in the three fingered blessing that was common in early Medieval and Renaissance art. The three outstretched fingers alludes to the Trinity. Is he blessing Mary, or showing us that He is going to the Father? Both the tomb and the temple are visible in this painting. The tomb housed the body of Christ and was the site of His resurrection. The temple was the spiritual center of the Jewish faith, and housed the Ark of the Covenant the Word of God. Christ, too, is the Word of God, and the tomb parallels the Temple where God Himself entered to encounter His people. Take a moment to examine the painting, and see if the Lord gives you any other insights.

Here is Mary in a very different light. Mark Hough paints her standing, her eyes lifted, her face full of wonder and awe. The halo behind her head signifies that she is a holy woman, and the banner above her head proclaims “I have seen the Lord!” but it is her face that communicates most clearly her encounter with God. Notice how her hand is in almost the same position as Jesus’ in the last painting. But she is not blessing the Apostles; she is instructing them. Here is Mary as the messenger, the original evangelist, proclaiming the Good News. The columns and arches behind her evoke the naves of a Cathedral, and her rich and beautiful clothes are colored with Christian symbolism: Red for martyrdom and the blood Christ shed on the cross, Gold for his kingship and the glory of his resurrection, White for purity, forgiveness, and salvation, and a thin band of blue, the color of our Blessed Mother, which binds together Christ’s sacrifice and our redemption.

Take a moment to reflect on this image. If you were one of the Apostles, seeing Mary come to you like this, would you believe something miraculous and inexplicable had indeed occurred?

Lastly we have this painting by Francesco Hayez, titled:  Crucifixion with Mary Magdalene Kneeling and Weeping. In this image we see brought together all three of her roles. She is wiping his feet with her hair, as she did to honor him at the home of the Pharisee. Now she does it to comfort him in his agony. See how one arm embraces the cross? At the time, she would not have known its glory, but from the perspective of history, we the viewer can see that the cross is an instrument of salvation. Just as she was forgiven all her sins, so  are we. The cross is glorious, we adore it as we adore Christ because he sanctified it. We will venerate the cross this coming Holy Thursday, as Mary Magdalene is doing here. Look now at her face. Her eyes are downcast, yet she has a slight smile, and her face is bright like the line of the horizon behind her. The darkness surrounds Jesus, except for a circle almost like a halo  just around the top of the cross. But around Mary it is not dark.  She still has Jesus, and that brings her hope and life.  But death is coming. The skull beside the Cross, Christ's closed eyes, and the descending darkness makes that clear. Here  were are at the very last moments of Christ’s life, and Mary is clinging to him, and clinging to the Cross.

When Mary Magdalene sees the man at Jesus’ tomb, she thinks he is a gardener. It doesn’t occur to her that it is Jesus. She is blinded by her grief, her own human failings, because in that moment, she believed her struggles were greater than God himself.  She has forgotten Christ’s promise that he will rebuild this temple in three days (Cf, Jn 2:19).  She, who sat at the feet of Jesus as he suffered on the cross, does not recognize that Christ is standing in front of her. 

Take a moment now to see God in this painting, and to seek Him in your heart and in your everyday fears and hardships.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I post this picture to illustrate what my life is like these days. Not because it's a great picture (which it is) but because this was MEANT to be my holiday card picture. I send cards every year, real cards, that I write in by hand with a nice little personalized Christmas message. I also enclose a picture and a letter detailing what we've been up to the past year. I love it. I send almost a hundred every year and it's a wonderful tradition that I'm very happy with.

However. This year I COULD NOT get the picture to work. My friend took this one of us when I realized that the pictures I'd had my dad take in August were not accessible from any phone but his. Then for a long time I couldn't figure out how to access this one, either. Finally my husband just emailed it to me (old school tech.) Even then I couldn't get it to print properly on our printer. It kept coming out all yellowed. I decided to spring for actual photos, and went to Shutterfly to place an order for pick up at Target. They wouldn't let me order more than 9. In case you missed that part, I send 10x that number of cards.

So, I could have called them, maybe, and tried to figure it out, but since it was pretty much a week till Christmas at that point I called it and decided no picture with my card this year.

And that's everything right now. Good intentions + massive effort = dismal failure. Let's review!

Homeschool
It's hard to view this year's attempt at homeschooling as anything but a flaming trainwreck, unless it's to look at it as a dumpster fire. I could not get my 10 year old to do anything. For the first three months we went on a field trip every week and kept a loose schedule to see where her interests and learning style lay. When that resulted in very little work being accomplished, I put together a daily schedule and sat beside her to work on every subject. She got WORSE. Over Thanksgiving I had many conversations with her, my husband, and friends who homeschooled, and the best we could determine was that she was sabotaging the experience because she hated being at home. She claimed she didn't know how to write a paragraph, so I assigned her one sentence. She couldn't even do that. Literally, lying on the floor, kicking her legs and crying, claiming she "didn't know what to write." I started bringing her to the library every morning for three hours and whatever was done in that time was our work for the day. I had to limit the number of hours that I'd work with her because otherwise it ate up the whole day. Every science test I gave her was an F. She wasn't on track to finish her math at grade level. She wouldn't do her writing assignments or her grammar. The only thing she enjoyed was Latin and read-alouds. If she had been doing art, or anything constructive, I could have at least pointed to that and said, hey, she's learning and growing in this area, so it's okay. But after about a month of homeschool, she refused to work on her art at all.

During this same period of time, my son refused to do the work assigned to him by his homeschool co-op, and during conferences managed to convince them that he'd learn better if he did all his work online. After Thanksgiving, seeing that he had turned nothing in and was spending his "school hours" playing video games, I sat him at a computer where I could see the screen to ensure that he was actually doing work. Still, he wouldn't turn in his projects. On the last day of the semester I went in to his co-op for a celebration, and tracked down one of his teachers to let her know that he was prepared to present four projects that day. She'd had no idea he'd even done them. He ended the semester with a D, two Cs, and a B-. And that B- was an F before I intervened. So we thought about it and determined that it wasn't working, and we needed to accept that and change course. They both started at public school by the third week of January and are doing well. My daughter keeps asking to be homeschooled next year because she doesn't like all the homework. But seeing what she's able to produce in the environment vs what she refused to do with me, I can't see that homeschool is at all an option for us anymore.

Whole 30
After we got back from our Disney Trip, I put the family on a Whole 30 diet. Mostly I wanted to curtail the habits we'd picked up over the holidays of having dessert 3-4 times a day and whining for snacks constantly. My husband and I also wanted to lose some weight, as we didn't fit into our pants. For me, there were health issues I wanted to cure, as I've had stomachaches, heartburn, and digestive issues (to state it delicately!) The diet itself was fine; it was difficult but not impossible. We ate a lot of fruit which helped with sugar cravings, and I had a repertoire of recipes from GAPS and from friends who have gone through it. Unfortunately, I saw no improvement of any kind, whether in weight loss or reduction of my cravings or digestive symptoms. My husband says he lost some weight, but I don't think either of us saw the results we were hoping for, especially considering how much work I put into cooking every single meal for those 30 days. (Part of the diet involves not eating out.) So I am still eating a limited diet to avoid aggravating my heartburn, and wearing skirts and sweatpants as much as possible. Not happy.

The Book
Is still on hiatus. I stopped writing a year ago (April 2016) because I just couldn't handle having a puppy on top of everything else. I had too much work to be able to take a whole Saturday and write. Once the kids went back to school, people were asking if I planned to work on the book again. The short answer is, no. Not yet. To my mind, the book is a huge time and resource commitment with a slim chance of low return. Getting published requires more than talent and hard work; you have to also write the sort of book publishers are looking for right now, and that people want to read. Short of stumbling upon some sort of Harry Potter or Twilight niche, the best I can hope for is to make around $20,000. So I've never felt that it was appropriate to expend my family's resources on writing when my contributions are so necessary in other areas. But the real reason is that I just don't think I'm good enough at writing to get anywhere with it. It's going to have to be a hobby for me; not a profession. My husband says that's exactly the wrong attitude, and if I want to be a successful writer I have to make failure a non-option. That the only way to get better at it is to sink time and energy and training into becoming better. It's wonderful to have someone who believes in me, and I appreciate everything he's saying. I'm sure he's right. But again it comes down to the fact that this can't be the right time for me to invest in the book. We are investing in other things right now. The book must wait.

Parenting
People insist that I have great kids. I agree, but it's not easy to get them there. I am very tired of the fighting and arguing. On the one hand there's been great improvement in this area because my confidence as an authority has skyrocketed in the last year. I know that it's right for me to manage their screen time, to insist they eat a balanced diet, to require them to help around the house. So I expect all these things, and, as children do, they fight me constantly because they don't want to do them. Each child has his/her own unique method of resistance. Maizie fusses and cries and complains. Pookie screams "I hate you!" hits, and calls me stupid. Doob does a bad job and claims it should count. And Ginny shuts down and refuses to comply, then offers snide remarks to extended family at my expense. Among the many fine abilities my husband has, discipline is not one. Nor does he have time to figure out and enforce the massive network of rules and arrangements I've established with the kids. The end result is that I expend an enormous amount of work (mental and otherwise) to keep on top of the kids. I really feel parenting shouldn't be quite this hard, and I'm wondering when the fruits of my labors are going to show. The truth is, sometimes I don't like being around any of them. Those fleeting moments of joy, like when I watch my 5 year old riding a bike for the first time, or hear the peals of laughter as all four jump on the trampoline together, or receive a spontaneous hug from the 3 year old, are present every day and make the journey worthwhile. Yet they are too few to really sustain me.

Prayer
It will come as no surprise, given this self-indulgent and whiny post, that my prayer life has been a struggle, too. When I find time and energy to be with the Lord, I feel so much better. Going on a mini-retreat with my mother's group, reading a spiritual book, or even something as simple as listening to Christian music is enough to draw me right back to where I am fed and sustained from the grace of God. Yet there is SO MUCH NOISE, not just in my house but in my head. Concentrating on anything is so difficult. What I really long for is escape...re-reading a book I love, or imagining scenes from my world in my head. Prayer takes effort, and I have expended so much elsewhere that it's hard to find the motivation. I know that I need it. I know that it will help me. I want to do it, yet I don't. I feel much like a person who realizes that cooking an actual meal will nourish them best, but they grab a packet of potato chips instead. Not that I do that. I am a superstar on the nutritional front. But I'm filling up on processed prayer.

I know that the answer is quite simple. Trust God. Keep moving forward. Do what's right and the rest will follow. I know that I'm a good parent, and my kids will be fine. I would love to just shut off the neurotic parts of my brain that question everything I do and whisper that I'm the problem. I envy the amazing women in my life who don't overthink every damn little thing. I can recognize, intellectually, that things are getting better.

I know I am slightly (if not severely) depressed. My OB and I are working on some supplements that may help better than the SSRIs I was on for three years (and which I didn't feel did much.) In the meantime, I'm just going to keep doing what I need to do and seizing joy wherever it finds me. Most days are better than today.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

2016 Ballot, Colorado




Let's leave the Presidential race aside for a moment...

Senator

Michael Bennet (D), Incumbent, successful record of bipartisan leadership in Congress. Top issues include agriculture bills, access to health care, clean energy, immigration reform, and education. Supports a strong military, helps veterans get care. Former superintendent of Denver Public Schools. 100% NARAL and PP rating. Opposed conscience clauses for birth control coverage!

Darryl Glenn (R) -- By all accounts a bit of a hothead, extremely conservative. Called Democrats evil and said "working across the aisle" is just another way of saying capitulate to Democratic policies. Pro Life, but it doesn't appear on his website and has flip flopped on the issue, at first declaring he'd want his daughters to have access to all their options so they could make the decision themselves. Against any form of government monitoring of guns! Military veteran. It's possible once he got into office he would mellow, recognizing the need for cooperation with his colleagues. Likely to have little impact for his freshman term but could provide key votes on big issues depending on the rest of the Senate's make up.

* Not pleased with the Denver Post's coverage. "Glenn did not explain why he is blacklisting Colorado’s largest newspaper, but in an interview Thursday with KFKA talk radio, he appeared to link his decision to the Post’s coverage of his conflicting explanations of a 1983 charge for third-degree assault, which was later dropped." NO mention in this paragraph or the rest of the article that the third-degree assault was when he defended his MOTHER against domestic violence from his Dad!!!!! So misleading.

Lily Tang Williams (L) -- She is clearly passionate, but too biased by her communist upbringing to be in politics. She should advocate for issues as a lobbyist, not be in charge of anything. Pro choice, but supports restrictions based on viability of the fetus and empowering States to regulate the issue.

Arn Menconi (G) -- Intelligent, well spoken, lots of integrity. Endorsed by Boulder Weekly. Clearly very left-leaning. Anti-war, pro-individual freedoms. Firmly pro-choice. Issues not clearly defined, but supports allowing path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and typical liberal policies like increasing minimum wage and making college free. 

Third Party: Lumping the rest together. Very little info on any of them. Platform for Dan Chapin looks good, but no info on abortion and no experience working in government. Would like to be friends with some of these people but that's not how I base my vote.

Representative (finally an easy one!)

Mike Coffman (R): Retired Marine, Incumbent. Supports path to citizenship, instituted bill to allow military service for illegal immigants. Said he doesn't care for Trump and would stand up to him. Pro-life. Good track record of bi-partisan policies. Has moved farther left since his district became more diverse.

Morgan Carroll (D): Track record of bipartisan success while a Colorado Senator. Top issues are education reform to allow more people to afford college, gun control, campaign finance reform, fair wages, and civil rights for disabled, LGBT, minorities, etc. 

Norm Olsen (L): No experience

Robert Lee Worthey (G): Lots of great ideas, no record of working in politics or achieving any of them. Complete and total reform of everything is just not a viable option.

State Senator and Representative

Jack Tate (R) v Tom Sullivan (D) Tom Sullivan's son was killed at the theater shootings in Aurora a year ago. I sympathize with his pain, but that doesn't make him a viable political candidate. He doesn't have developed positions on most issues except gun control and subsidized housing. He is running as a Democrat, so I assume with his NARAL endorsement that he is pro-choice. Jack Tate is an incumbent with a great track record and endorsements from all sorts of varied organizations. He's a Catholic father of three who has won awards for his time in office. His positions are reasonable and put families, jobs, and the overall welfare of Coloradan's above partisan interests.

Susan Beckman (R) v Robert Bowen (D): Susan has been county commissioner, her husband is mayor of Littleton. Her interests are in maintaining local jurisdiction, fiscal responsibility, and strengthening infrastructure, especially transportation. Robert Bowen goes to my church and has wonderful ideas on helping the poor and vulnerable, then says this "the Supreme Court has ruled that women have a right to use contraception and obtain an abortion up until the point that the fetus becomes viable. Like other Catholics in public office, like Vice-president Biden and others, I will not support any bill that takes away those constitutional rights regardless of my personal religious views. That includes personhood bills, trap laws, or other back-door attempts to take away women’s rights under the constitution." In other words, any legislation that would limit abortion must be opposed, even a sensible law that would charge this woman with murder for cutting an unborn baby out of a stranger's womb. But that's just an attempt to take away women's reproductive rights. (Sigh)

CU Regent

Alice Madden (D) gets my vote because her opponent is partisan and closed-minded, which is not right for the governing body of a university.

State Board of Education Member

Debora Scheffel (R) vs Rebecca McClellan (D) Wow. Both intelligent, compassionate, committed women with a heart for making CO schools serve the kids and the community, both emphasizing listening to and working closely with districts and local supervisors, both incredibly well-spoken and thoughtful. Republicans tend to favor fewer mandates and more local control, but also don't give schools the funding they need, so which approach would be better? Going to stick with the incumbent, I think.

Justices and Judges: Retain ALL as recommended by an independent review board for Colorado.

Ballot Questions

T: Revoke criminal exception to slavery. FOR (Working while incarcerated and mandated community service is NOT slavery. WTF people?)

U: Exempt posessory interest from property tax FOR (Cut back unnecessary government activities; the amount is negligible.)

69: Create state-run healthcare system AGAINST (Increasing taxes for an undetermined state plan that doesn't have the power of a Federal system to negotiate with providers and insurance companies is not the answer to our health care problems.) Colorado Medical Practitioners oppose, as does just about everyone else.

70: Increase minimum wage AGAINST (Federal law already mandates an increase, this measure would increase more and faster than necessary with possible detriment to agriculture and restaurant industries. Would also require another amendment to adjust it, whereas I prefer the legislature to have authority over that.)

71: Make it harder to put initiatives on the ballot FOR (Why do we have elected representatives if we're going to throw every issue out to the people with the only requirement gaining signatures that you could get in an hour at a downtown Lite Rail stop? Prop 106 shouldn't even be on the ballot, since it has twice been rejected by the State Legislature, yet here we are about to pass it!)

72: Increase taxes on tobacco products AGAINST (Spending is locked into the constitution. This doesn't need to be a constitutional amendment. It's short-sighted and impacts low income addicts disproportionately. We should be taxing liquor instead.)

106: Legalize "Aid in Dying" Medication AGAINST (This bill has been twice defeated at the state level in the legislature because it lacks standards of protection and reporting. Proponents argue that other states with such legalization have had no incidences of fraud, but that's because it's impossible to track activity that can't be reported. It's not the answer, nor is it as easy and painless as proponents lead others to believe. There is a real danger that passing this amendment will encourage abuses like in California and Oregon where the right to receive medical treatment is denied to those who want to live.)

107 and 108: Amend the political primary system to allow unaffiliated voters participate FOR(I'm for these amendments but read them wrong and filled out the wrong circle so I'm technically voting against but encourage others to support them. GAH.)

President

Sigh.

Trump/Pence (R)

I have yet to hear a credible reason to vote for this ticket. I know many people, kind and intelligent, who support Trump for various reasons. I disagree with them wholeheartedly, with every breath in my body.

To those who say we as Catholics must vote pro-life, I say TRUMP IS NOT PRO-LIFE and anyone who believes he will place the rights of the unborn above any other issue has not been paying close attention to who he is and what he represents. I hear things like:

What an incredible reparation Mr. Trump is making now for any past faults by the very fact that he is running as the Republican nominee for president and is ready to nominate the right kind of judges and sign the right kinds of legislation, which will steer our nation away from so many morally corrupt public policies. A penitent sinner could hardly have a more substantial opportunity to make reparation.From LifeSitenews 

I remain unconvinced that he has had a change of heart and is actively attempting to make reparation. It does not seem likely to me that this man, who is uncompromising in his own self-righteousness and has never apologized or admitted fault for the statements he's made about women, minorities, immigrants, those of other religions, or those who disagree with him, is likely to be honestly and sincerely attempting to reform his position to align with his party. It is MUCH MORE LIKELY that he is lying, saying whatever he needs to say to retain conservative support, and pretending until he reaches his goal, at which point he will no longer have any reason to be pro-life and can allow the issue to fade from his consciousness.

To those who say we should vote the platform that aligns with our beliefs, or that Pence is a decent person and a great candidate, I say THERE CAN BE NO PLATFORM IF THE CANDIDATE REJECTS IT. He cannot be trusted to embrace any Republican principles once he gets into office because he cannot be trusted, period. The idea that the Republicans in office will be able to exert control over him once he is President with a system of filibusters or checks and balances, is preposterous. They have no control over him right now. He steamrolls his advisory committee, contradicts his running mate, and insults anyone (including the top brass of his party) who dares to question his integrity or his suitability for office.

To those who say he will do something about illegal immigration, I say IT IS NEITHER FEASIBLE NOR REASONABLE TO BUILD A WALL. The answer to illegal immigration and abuses of the welfare system by illegal immigrants will not be solved by closing our borders, they will be solved by comprehensive reform that includes a path to citizenship, migrant work visas, and other measures that address the very real needs of illegal immigrants while also protecting American economic interests and security.

To those who say he will name conservative judges to the Supreme Court, I say WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO. Nor do I believe it is wise to give great power to someone unstable in the vague hope he will promote powerful people who agree with our values. If Trump doesn't agree with our values, why will he appoint others who do? Once he is in power, what motivation does he have to do anything other than support those issues he has spent a lifetime promoting (increasing his own wealth and destroying anyone who opposes him?)

To those who say he will create jobs and prosperity because he is an intelligent businessman who thinks outside the box, I say NOTHING CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT COOPERATION, and Trump has no ability or desire to cooperate.

To those who say he's better than Hillary, I say IN WHAT WAY? No matter what issue, belief, character flaw, or policy you find objectionable in Hillary, TRUMP IS WORSE.

There is no way I will vote for Trump. I implore you to also avoid voting for this reprehensible human being who has never demonstrated he is capable of anything but lying, bullying, cheating, abusing, posturing, and misogyny. Please. PLEASE. Do not put this man in charge of our country.

Clinton/Kaine (D)

I believe Hillary will be an effective president. She is smart. She is able to bring people together and accomplish things. She is the most experienced and qualified person ever to run for President in the history of our country. She knows everyone in the world, has seen the Presidency from the inside, and has dedicated her entire adulthood to public service. She truly cares about people, and about America.

I support almost every one of her policies. I think she is brilliant and her plans will help the middle class, create jobs, protect children, increase tolerance and prosperity, and advance the American Dream. I don't agree with her support of the Iran nuclear deal, but am willing to support her efforts to gain allies in the Middle East if it means that we will actually defeat ISIS on the ground and create opportunities for real democracy in that region. I don't particularly like the people who support her and I don't agree with many of the decisions she has made, but I acknowledge her brilliance and believe she is, at her core, a good person who has a passion for making the world a better place.

I fundamentally disagree with her on two key policies. I am particularly concerned with her increasingly virulent opposition to any measures that would restrict or regulate abortion, and her stance against conscience clauses and religious freedom in general. For a long time, I have felt the Democratic party is moving away from a respect for religious participation in the public square, and that it has been hijacked by extreme pro-abortion factions that don't allow for even the most reasonable restrictions on abortion.

It am heartsick that someone as intelligent and wonderful as Hillary is pro-choice. I know early in her career, she was much less stringent in her support for abortion on demand at any stage of development and for any reason. I know that is it her party and the growing extremism of our political process that has pushed her so far to the left.

My faith has urged me over and over to prayerfully consider life issues at the forefront of any political decision. Abortion is an intrinsic evil, it is never justified, never "necessary." So many good and caring people believe life is sacred, but do not want to interfere in difficult moral situations, or impose their views on another person when doing so would inflict suffering on them. I do not see pro-choice politicians as supporting an intrinsic evil because they themselves are evil. I do not believe that anyone who supports abortion must necessarily be wrong on every other issue. Nor do I believe that a simple statement that one supports overturning Roe v Wade is enough to offset anti-life policies in other areas of the law, particularly when the process to overturn Roe v Wade is so lengthy, difficult, and fraught with conflict at every stage that it is in all practicality impossible. I will not allow my vote to be hijacked by a movement whose fundamental principles I espouse but whose methods I believe are misguided and doomed to failure.

Until this point, I have never voted for either major party in a Presidential election. But I am doing so in this election because the need to keep Trump out of office supersedes all other issues. Preventing a Trump Presidency IS a life issue. The lives of immigrants, refugees, soldiers, women, the poor, and Muslims are truly at stake. If a conservative blogger who opposes Trump is receiving death threats from Trump supporters, and has to have police protection when he leaves his home, that is undeniably a life issue. This man's LIFE is being threatened by those who support Trump, and the Presidential Candidate has not spoken out against it. On the contrary, he has encouraged violence against those who oppose him at his rallies and in speeches. Electing Trump will create a culture where violence is not only tolerated, but sanctioned, and where incendiary language is used to inflame divisions and hatreds even between people who otherwise agree. Nor is it hypothetical to imagine he will use military means to achieve his ends when he has always used force to get what he wants.

Johnson/Weld (L)

In general, I don't support the Libertarian platform. There are a few issues here and there, but the major ones (protection of the unborn and providing government care for the poor) are not supported by Libertarians while issues that I find troubling (lack of strong military, legalization of all recreational drugs) are promoted. I strongly considered voting for Johnson, however, because I find both the Democratic platform and the Republican platform to have major flaws. I would like to see them both reformed, or perhaps a third or fourth party enter the race. I prefer a coalition government to form during an administration, centered around individual issues. I feel this form of government would allow for more flexibility and facilitate cooperation instead of our current system, which creates division and drives a wedge between two extreme positions. Republicans oppose whatever Democrats support, and our fractured system has slowed, and at times even stopped, political progress. While I understand that, in general, a two party system provides greater stability, it is apparent from our current situation that it doesn't always work out that way.

I do not believe in any sense of the word that voting for a third party candidate is "throwing away your vote." 

In response to this article which claims there is only three options: 1. Vote for the candidate you like best. 2. Vote against the candidate you dislike most. 3. Allow others to make the decision for you (not voting, or voting for a third party both fall into this category.)

First, there is a big difference between voting third party and not voting. As the article rightly points out, in an environment where many people decide not to vote for passive reasons, it is impossible to distinguish those who decide not to vote as a protest. However, choosing to vote third party cannot be seen as anything other than a rejection of the two major parties. Most of the electorate find themselves able to support one of the major party candidates. For those who cannot, voting third party is a way to voice those values we seek and are unable to find in the major party platforms. It also means that our values mean so much to us we are unable to abandon them. It is, at its core, a protest and an attempt to make our voices heard.

The author of the article makes it clear that we have a two party system, and voting for a third party is ridiculous because it changes nothing. Perhaps it doesn't change the two party system. I'm not sure anything could change it, given that it would require a constitutional amendment which would have to be proposed and supported by one of the two major parties! So how, other than a protest vote, can the populace express their desire for reform? Moreover, it doesn't have to change the two party system, per se, it just has to change the two parties.

All that being said, I've decided the stakes are too high to risk a Trump presidency. Since I would not have voted Trump in any situation, voting for Johnson takes a vote away from Hillary, and I'm not willing to do that in a swing state with so much on the line.

* I would like to note that it has taken me over seven hours to write this post. I have done nothing all day except research and think and pray, and this is after following closely the election coverage since the nominees were announced this Spring. If you have a comment, I welcome it, but I won't tolerate name-calling, insults, or disparagement against my intelligence, the sincerity of my faith, or my efforts to do what I believe is right following the dictates of an informed conscience.