Friday, November 8, 2013


This morning, the rabbit hole of the internet led me to this.  Go watch it.  Grab a tissue first.

It moved me so much that I made the chickadees watch it before they went to school.  The point that I wanted them to get was that how you perceive yourself is even more important than how others perceive you.  This gentleman, through the work of Degage Ministries in Grand Rapids, MI (Hi, all my many Mauric cousins!) sees himself in a different way at the end of the process.  He goes from  seeing his present reality (homeless vet, alcoholic) to seeing himself as he could be ("ordinary", put together) with the help only of scissors, a little hair dye, and a suit.  But, and I think this is most important, the ingredient that really does the transforming is the dignity with which he is treated. The care to detail, the attention he receives, the human touch.  This man, Jim Wolf, now sees himself because others have looked at him in love.   The moment when he sees himself in a mirror....  my God, it's overwhelmingly beautiful.  

It's really hard to break through that barrier of perception, the preconceptions we have of others because of the way they look, what they do, where they are.  Once, many years ago when I was a smoker and had just returned from Ireland (those things are related, BTW -- Ireland changed me from a social smoker to a regular smoker and, thank God, I've been smoke-free for many years), I was working at the Postal Rate Commission while I was in grad school. It was either All Saints Day or Ash Wednesday (it was cold) and a was a Holy Day of Obligation.  During my lunch hour, I went to mass at St. Patrick's Church downtown. As the congregants poured out onto the steps afterwards, they were greeted by a phalanx of homeless men begging for alms.  When one of the men approached me, I told him truthfully that I didn't have any money on me. He saw the cigarette I was getting ready to light in my hand and asked me for a smoke.  I gave him the whole pack.  He grinned hugely and grabbed me for a bear hug.  I'm happy to say that, as nonplussed as I was, I hugged him back. 

I've thought about that incident from time to time since then.  What I did was something so small and truthfully it wasn't very good for the poor soul. I can't imagine how difficult it is to be homeless, but I think that one of the most difficult parts must be the marginalization and the lack of ordinary, easy human contact.  I'm glad that I was able to really see my homeless friend.  I'm glad that I was able to overcome my own moralization and  and respect his need for a cigarette.  I'm especially glad that I hugged him.  I know that hug has kept me warm for 25 years.  I hope it warmed him.    

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I have been reading some cool fashion blogs lately, inspired by my very fashionable and lovely friend, Jessica, from A Parent in America.  One of the blogs she referenced on FB earlier this week was Wardrobe Oxygen, which I love.  And... on Wardrobe Oxygen, there was a reference to a service called Gwynnie Bee.  Basically, it's a subscription clothing service, where you select clothing based on your personal style and some general parameters they provide.  You fill your closet with clothes you'd like to try and they send you selections from that closet.  You receive them, wear them, and return them when you are done.  The first month is free, so I thought that I'd give it a try so that I might see what I liked and what looked good on me.  Here's my initial closet:

What does this tell me?

  • I think I like browns, greens, and pinks but I am drawn to blacks, reds, and whites.  
  • I like a retro look in dresses.
  • Maybe I'm ready to try some new clothes and have fun with how I look.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's all gone to hell

that's not how you nit-comb, you nit-wit.
TWhew.  What a weird and hard few weeks it's been!  After being very happy with my progress, I just fell apart.  Ate a lot of leftover sock hop pizza or nothing at all, ran around like a headless chicken, babysat my niece and nephew overnight (what an honor -- the first time their mama has left them in 11 months... but 11-month old twins!!, plus Chickadee #1 and #2!!!!), attended my second SJE social event in two weeks (though I wasn't organizing this one, thank God), had the kids home from school on Monday, and then today discovered that we have been infested with... I can't even write the word.  AARRGH!!!  I am so sorry I laughed at an early scene of Bridget Jones:  Mad About the Boy when she discovers that her two children have them.

I am so disgusted and freaked out.  And broke.  Treatment for the chickadees is going to cost upwards of a hundred dollars for a prescription med.  I bought all new pillows and a new blanket for our bed, which came to almost another hundred.  I'm treating myself just in case - another fifteen dollars, plus a replacement for the bottle of olive oil I poured over my head before wrapping it in Saran Wrap.  I'm throwing away all their combs and brushes and am contemplating ditching all the hairbands, hair elastics, barrettes and gee-gaws. I am going to pay someone to clean the car tomorrow.  Laundry is going to kill me over the next few days, and I'm already behind.  I spent the whole day addressing this problem and then worked for a bit over an hour on a project.  I still have remedial laundry to do, and I'm keeping the chickadees home with me tomorrow too, just to be sure they are completely cured, so it will be hard to work tomorrow too.

So, I got back on the scale this morning to find I was at the same place I'd been two weeks ago, after gaining back three pounds.  After I got the bad word from the pediatrician though, I decided Dove Salted Caramel Chocolate bites would make me feel better.  They didn't.  But they were tasty.  So meals today consisted of a cup of tea in the morning (I was planning on eating at home after a planned early morning well-child visit).  Then, at Target, waiting for the pharmacy to process my prescription, I gave in to hunger and anger and disgust with the world and had a sausage and egg biscuit from their little cafe.  Then at home, at 3 pm, one chickadee fed me Medifast cheese pizza puffs while I combed out her sister's hair with a very fined toothed comb.  However, for dinner, we had a wonderful traditional Polish meal in honor of Blessed John Paul II's feast day -- golumpki casserole (I did use the Skinnytaste version), pierogies (only had one), sauerkraut and fresh kielbasa, and smoked and spicy kielbasa.  Dinner was the best part of the day.  And I got to share my love of JPII with the chickadees.  What an amazing man.  He can make me feel better, even today.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Head on a String

While I was at the reunion last weekend, I found myself describing my college-aged self as a "head on a string".  This came up during my discussion this past week with my nutritionist, S.,  who was trying to understand my mixed feelings about the reunion and my TWELVE-POUND weight loss.  Twelve pounds.  I'm very happy about it, but I'm also really appalled at myself too.  S. wants me to celebrate my weight loss and to begin thinking of myself in kinder terms.  More frighteningly, she wants me to stand in front of my only full-length mirror (currently propped up behind the bathroom door and used only to make sure that my hemline is not obscene) and tell myself that I love and accept my body as it is today.  I told her I'm not sure I can do that, so we started to explore this weird mind-body thing that I have going on.  And it was very difficult.

It's difficult to acknowledge the longevity of the disconnect that I have with my body -- it's something that I remember from childhood.  It's in my earliest memories (falling down the cellar steps, falling out of the bunk bed). Later in my childhood, I learned to distrust my body and recognize what it couldn't do.  I learned to see my body as a betrayer and as something that limited me -- the mysterious "virus" in my hip that kept me bedridden for weeks, the regular visits to Dr. Diamond's clinic with the other disabled children, getting into trouble for playing "jump off the shed" with the other kids, tripping over on field day in sixth grade.  In adolescence, I don't really remember giving much thought to my body or the way I looked.  I was off in la-la-land much of the time and didn't want to be noticed the rest of the time.  My view of my body at that time was strictly utilitarian -- it contained my brain, which is where all the action was, where anything interesting was going on.  The body stuff... well, that was just running up and down the bleachers in high school, something that both bored me and terrified me, given my lack of coordination!

I think that, for many reasons, that disconnect between body and mind persists to this day.  That's why looking at myself in the mirror feels so dangerous to me.  That's why "affirming" the way I am physically right now feels impossible.

Here are some images.  The first two are pleasant photos -- they make me feel good about myself.  They are from a very happy time in my life, the Rome Semester, Spring, 1986.  How could I have not been happy? I was 19, healthy, and on a huge adventure.  These pictures also represent an idealized version of myself -- the standard against which I tend to compare my present.  I know that is stupid - 19 is many moons ago.  The funny thing is, I don't recall ever giving any amount of thought to my body or the way I looked.  As long as I was decently covered and warm (it was COLD in Via del Pescaccio, 103), that was enough for me.  Again, more utilitarianism, more instrumentalism -- the body is good only insofar as it serves to enable experiences for the mind and soul.  Yes, I know how it sounds.

Now, I contrast that idealized version of myself with the present reality.  Note that this is when I was TRYING to look good.  I called this image "uggh.jpg".  

A funny, and true story about this dress at the reunion (I feel the need for some levity, even if it's at my own expense):  In Haggar cafeteria on Saturday, I was talking to one of my friends, A.H., who reads this blog (hey A!).  She asked if I were wearing "the red dress" and I replied that I was.  I told her that I'd gone to Target in the morning and had gotten some Assets by Spanx pantyhose, that I'd also come prepared with a Spanx bodyshaper, and that the dress itself comes with something called Magi-sculpt, which is essentially a tube within the dress itself designed to smooth out all the places you want to smooth out.  But, I said, "There's not enough spandex in the world to take care of THIS situation."  We laughed so hard we nearly cried.  One of our classmates was at the table and was intrigued by our laughter.  He came up to me later and told me he had to know what we were laughing about because it was so great to see us.  Poor S., I told him.  His response was very funny.  See why I love these people?   

Here's another that is better. I look contented.    

Notice that it's a headshot?  Hmmmm.  

Most of the time, I don't really think at all about how I look -- I avoid mirrors, I don't wear makeup or do my hair.  As long as I'm decently covered and cool in the summer, warm in the winter, that is enough for me.  
You see the problem.

I think I need to read this again.  But I will do it in front of the mirror, which I've taken out from behind the bathroom door.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Spirit of a Place

I spent the weekend in Irving, Texas at the 25th year reunion of my graduating class (University of Dallas, 1988).  I've written about preparing to go the reunion but I don't think I've ever expressed what I'm about to say.  It took a meditative and solitary swing on a contraption outside Blakely Library (now the College of Business building) on Sunday evening for me to start to process what I thought of everything and how I saw myself fitting in to the whole scene.

First, I have to say that I had a great time at the reunion.  I have been so blessed in my life to know many wonderful people whom I met at UD.  Many of my friendships today have their origins in Catherine Hall or Jerome Hall or the Hotel La Villa (103 Via del Pescaccio), or the student apartments, or, even (heaven help me) Old Mill apartments.  I reconnected with some old friends and also talked at more length to some people whom I knew in school but didn't really click with.  I'm happy to say that they are all still as interesting and vital as they were decades ago.  Some of us are with God now and their loss is felt deeply.  Some of us have been scarred literally and figuratively by the intervening years.  And yet.  And yet.  There is still the kernel of the person, the child really, who came to UD ready to learn, to encounter life and knowledge in all its fullness.

I know that the kernel of that person is still within me.  I've really struggled at times in my life to retain a sense of wonder and joy in the every day.  I've struggled to be grateful for who I am, how I am, what I like.  I know that I've always been a bit unusual (the scarf-wearing, novel-writing days of high school, for example -- what was I thinking?). But sometimes it's really difficult to be so far out of the mainstream, especially in situations where everyone is pretty much out of the mainstream.  I mean, how weird do you have to be to feel marginalized in a group that happily included a guy who welded aerodynamic fins to his car one summer to see if it would improve the gas mileage between Pittsburgh and Dallas?  A real, bona fide scientific experiment which I remember hearing about in the cafeteria line  the first day back at school sophomore year.  To this day, I'm in awe that someone thought of this and actually DID it.  The guy was a senior when I was a sophmore -- don't remember his name, but do remember his experiment!

Anyway, there were points during the reunion where I felt so alienated and so sad.  So marginal.  At the Friday night party in the Gas Monkey (owned by a classmate and super duper cool) and at the Saturday night party in upstairs Haggar, few people asked me anything about my life or my husband, my children, or the work I'm doing.  Some people I talked to already knew a lot about me from my evidently amusing Facebook posts so I am sure they thought they already had heard what I had to say -- and maybe they were right (I recognize my own tedium sometimes!)  The "sidebar" conversations I had with individuals at breakfast, in Haggar, on the Mall, or in the Rathskellar were much more fulfilling, so maybe it's just a function of large social group dynamics.

But I'm at a happy place in my life in terms of accomplishments, yet I couldn't share them.  I found myself at points wishing I was just back at the hotel or even back at home. I know that much of that was coming from inside myself.  I'm an introvert and social situations are stressful to me.  I don't like to tout my own accomplishments and I much prefer to prompt others to talk than to really share what's going on with me.  But I still want to be rescued from my own introversion sometimes, you know?

On Sunday night, after all the brouhaha was over, I went back to campus, to my favorite spot -- one in which I spent a lot of time -- the Church of the Incarnation.  To me, it is a really beautiful church.

I especially love the Eucharistic Adoration chapel.  It brings me peace and was where I had the first of my God smacks:

One thing that really struck me was that, as I walked out of the church and up to the Mall (where I found my swing contraption and thought deep thoughts, about which more later), I noticed a student sitting on a little bench outside the church where there was a statue of the Blessed Virgin.  All was quiet -- it was about 5:30 in the evening.  This young guy was quietly praying the rosary.  No fanfare.  No "look at me praying".  No "let's go say a communal rosary".  Instead, a quiet moment of contemplation and prayer.  Books piled to one side, probably left over from an afternoon spent in the library. And I was filled with such gratitude to have been able to be in a place where this was not ridiculed or alien.  Where prayer was as integrated into campus life as much as studying, writing papers, drinking beer, and going to Club Schmitz was.  

So, despite my ridiculous melancholy, I am so grateful to have had this weekend.  I love that I'm a UD graduate.  I am grateful to my classmates for helping me to become who I am today.  I'm grateful to UD for giving me space to be a brainiac without shame.  And for introducing so much to my life that I love now.  I am grateful to have been shown a model early in my life where faith was not just affective or subjective, but part of a rich, millenia old tradition of reason and learning. 

Go Crusaders!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Profoundly Countercultural

I sing in the choir at church now.  It's a joy and a labor and every time I open my mouth to sing, my thoughts turn to St. Augustine of Hippo's famous dictum, “He who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyfully… also loves Him whom he is singing about… in the song of the lover, there is love.” Popularly, this saying is often rendered "He who sings well prays twice."

This morning, I was reminded again of how profoundly counter-cultural I am and how radical Christianity truly is.  Our opening hymn was "Lord, We Have Deserved the Pain."  The tune is Aberystwyth, so listen here as you read these words:

Lord, we have deserved the pain 
That afflicted us again
Justly you have dealt with those
Who have disobeyed your laws.
But give glory to your name
That we may be whole again
And, O Lord, show us your way
And your mercy every day.

Happy those with blameless heart
Following the way of God
Happy those who do his will 
And with whole hearts seek him still
Blest are also those whose ways
Are God-fearing nights and days
God established his commands 
To be kept with diligence.

Help me, Lord, that I may keep, 
Your commands, make my ways straight.
I shall not be shamed at all,
With my eyes fixed on your law.  
With glad hear I give you thanks
That you teach your ordinance.
I shall follow in your way, 
Worship you, profess, and pray.

To the Triune One we raise
Glorious hymns of endless praise
Praise the Father, praise the Son,
Praise the Spirit, with them One.
As it was before all days,
It is now, will be always.
Grateful anthems we present, 
Giving Glory without end.

When do we hear sentiments such as these in popular culture or in our daily lives?   I can't think of one contemporary instance where the moral of the story is that we deserve chastisement (other people, maybe, but not us).  I can't think of one contemporary instance where we are encouraged to follow.

Instead, our culture promotes independence, self-sufficiency, edginess, charting our own course, breaking rules.  It tells us that faithfully following is suspect, for the weak-minded or the impressionable.  Even I do it -- at this week's School of Community, we discussed following, and my first reaction to the reading we were using was to think of the Manson Family!

I was reminded of all this again when I read Calah Alexander's (another UD alum!) blog post about Pope Francis and all the brouhaha about his recent interview published in America magazine.  In it, she says:

I suspect our culture has grown weary of its own sin. I think there is a general undercurrent of exhaustion with all this decadence, and despondency over the emptiness it breeds. I think our culture is absolutely desperate for mercy, but unable to understand why. And I think that’s why they are latching onto Pope Francis so voraciously. When an entire culture has lost a common vocabulary with which to discuss things like sin, forgiveness, and morality, they’ve lost the ability to see the truth, even if the successor of Peter is vanishing into it, the better to hold it up before their eyes. But if the successor of Peter steps out of the truth and looks straight at them, holds out his hand, and says, “let me heal your wounds”…well, that’s a different story. I don’t think the secular culture will be able to see Christ until they have been seen by Him. A patient who is dying of dehydration is usually so confused and disoriented that he or she doesn’t even understand what’s wrong with them. Why would it be any different with desperate afflictions of the soul?

I thought her piece was marvelous.  You should read it all.

The other night, my husband and I had a long discussion about Pope Francis's interview, as reported in the media.  T. was disturbed and thought that Pope Francis was setting himself up to be used by forces that hate the Church, hate Christ, hate Christianity.  He also thought that his remarks were potentially discouraging to people who had spent their lives fighting against the rot that we call our culture.

I contended that, first of all, NEVER NEVER NEVER accept the media or popular culture understanding of anything having to do with Christ, Christianity, or the Church.  These are the people who titilate us year after year with idiotic "proofs" that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that Jesus had brothers and sisters, and the like.  They don't understand anything about Christianity and don't particularly want to.  Headlines like the those in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and CBS News* are revealing.  They distilled a twenty-page article to a couple of sound bites.  How can this be thought to be accurate analysis?  This piece in the American Thinker expounds upon this idea.

Secondly, and this is the most important thing, the Church can never be understood by the world.  As human beings, we are all subject to our own perspectives and prejudices.  We are great at categorizing things -- this is how we have survived and thrived on the planet.  THESE kinds of berries are good to eat, THOSE kinds will kill you.  People who have THOSE kinds of tribal markings are friends; people with THOSE kinds will kill you.  We analyze and categorize in every way.  And we think that we can categorize the Church.  It's liberal or conservative, it's old or it's new, it's good or it's bad, etc.

The crazy thing is, the Church is not liberal or conservative in a political sense or even a cultural sense.  Any educated Catholic can tell you that the Church's positions on abortion and birth control are completely of a piece with its positions on capital punishment (the Church is against all three because all three violate human dignity). In the political realm, conservatives are generally against abortion and for capital punishment.  Liberals are generally for abortion and birth control and against capital punishment.

No, the Church is not liberal or conservative -- it is radical.  It's about radical love, the love of a God who becomes a human being, who shares our skin, who shares our suffering.  It's about helping people understand that a real, lived relationship with God, with Christ, in my life RIGHT NOW is possible.  Christ, not as a guru, a historical figure, an idea, or an intellectual concept, but A PERSON.  The Catholic Church is the only game in town when it comes to the fullness of this Incarnational notion of God.  St. Teresa of Avila has the most beautiful prayer that talks about this idea of Christ being with us, in the flesh, living, breathing, moving, working, loving.  I think it really encapsulates the beauty of Catholicism.

So, Catholicism is not just about rules and regulations, although those are extremely important, since they ground us in the real and provide structure, which we crave.  The Church and all its rules and doctrines DO act as a bulwark against the technologically-enabled neopaganism that is our culture.  But, being this bulwark is not the telos (the end, the reason) for the Church, but a side effect.  The telos is to enable a relationship between each person and God.  Inasmuch as it does that, it will thrive.  Where it does not, it is lacking.  I think that Pope Francis is reminding us of that, as Pope Benedict XVI did in his way, and my beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II did in his.  We are blessed to have them all.  They help us to be truly and profoundly countercultural.

*Google it if you want, folks -- I'm not going to link to such tripe here, but my search was for "headlines about Pope Francis America article"

Friday, September 27, 2013


Yesterday was a humdinger of day for self-esteem.  I'd been wanting to go to a local TJ Maxx that one of my friends had recommended -- I thought I might pick up some new clothing for my trip to the reunion.  You can't wear a red dress to EVERY event...

I think I've mentioned before how much I hate shopping -- if I haven't, it's A LOT. I don't think I know what looks nice on me and I desperately try to remember "tips" from the various What Not to Wear episodes I used to watch.  One of my good friends stopped by one day while it was on and thought it was really funny to see me watching it because she hadn't had me pegged as a fashionista.  Wonder why?  ;-)

Anyway, I have no patience for the TJ Maxx style of shopping, where you have to go through rack upon rack of misplaced clothes to find anything.  Compounding that problem is that I generally hate the clothing in the sizes I can wear and am attracted instead to styles of clothing that would look lovely on fashion models (as much as I fight against it, I know that I'm prey to common standards of beauty).  At the end of my initial pass of the offerings, I had chosen five things to try on:

From left to right, these are a sweater dress, a cropped open-front cardigan, a thigh-length open navy blue cardigan, a black-with-white polka-dots blouse, and a black sweater with a boat neck and elbow-length sleeves.

As I composed this photograph (and no, I'm not my sister-in-law who has a painterly eye for photography and takes some of the most wonderful pictures you could imagine -- go check her blog out, y'all), something struck me.  All these pieces have some things in common:

  1. They are all on the dark side of the color scale -- I have two brownish things, one dark navy thing, and two black things.  Where are the colors?  Where is the vitality?  Where is the fun?
  2. They are all shapeless.
  3. They all looked awful on me.  The sweater dress was a joke.  Not a good style for me.  The navy blue sweater made me look washed out and I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be.  The black-polka-dotted blouse didn't fit (there are some disadvantages to being, um, well-endowed, despite what my husband would say).  The black sweater was weirdly ruched in all the wrong places.  The brown cardigan was the only possibility I considered (and forgive this awful selfie):

See, this is the crap I have to put up with in the dressing room!  

I did (sort of) like the sweater and was going to buy it.  Nonetheles, I felt beaten down.  I called my husband to say hi, responding to his "how's it going" with "I'm in the throes of self-hatred" and then decided to make myself feel better by looking at some of the other fun things they have at TJ Maxx.  I ended up with a cart full of the sweater, a platter, a Misto Olive Oil sprayer, a hand soap/moisturizer duo in a wire holder, and an adorable little teal glass tchotchke (inspired by my same sister-in-law's house, which I visited this weekend for a stuffed-animal tea party). I went to stand in line, and thank God I looked at my watch -- I had 20 minutes to get to the kids' school from the store, a trip which Google Maps now tells me is a 24 minute trip in good traffic.  Saved myself at least fifty self-pity dollars there.  Whew.  

Undeterred, I'm going out again, this time to a new shop that I have not heard of before. They are evidently having a Buy One Get One for five dollars sale.

And now for something completely related:  This story from Rockefeller Center (the news show with Brian Williams) really touched me.  It's all about seeing Beauty in a new way.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Progress at Last

People have been asking me for my impressions of and experiences with Medifast, which I mentioned here, so I thought that I should take some time to give my initial assessment of the program and what has been happening with me so far.

For those who are unfamiliar with Medifast, it can be most simply described as a meal-replacement system.  In it, you have 5 Medifast "meals" per day and one Lean & Green™ meal.  You eat breakfast within a half-hour of waking and then, every three hours after that, you have a ready-to-eat snack or meal replacement. Once a day, you have a semi-regular meal, which Medifast calls a  Lean & Green™ meal, consisting of a protein, some healthy fat, and three servings of a low glycemic-index vegetable.   And you drink LOTS... OF... WATER.  The program that I am doing is actually called Take Shape for Life (TSFL) and was suggested to me by several people, including my awesome nutritionist who is also a TSFL coach and my cousin J. who is a radiologist and who knows several people who have had success with the program.  The approach is holistic and phased.  It is very medical.

On the positive side, the program is balanced.  It recognizes that people can't eat meal replacements for the rest of their lives and the meal replacements are offered as one stage in a learning process that will lead to a more healthy state.  The emphasis is on health and on doing things that will enrich and improve your life.  The meal replacements are not awful and there is very little hunger (though a number of headaches) associated with following the program.  It also is incredibly freeing not to have to think about food, count points, make menus, etc.

On the negative side, it is quite expensive.  My first order, which included three books and two plastic shaker jars, as well as a month's worth of meal replacements and some bonus meal replacements, cost $399.  When you consider that I am also managing a grocery budget for my family, the total cost of food for the month is steep. (On the other hand, we have completely stopped eating out, so that is something that goes to the black side of the ledger.)  My next order, which will go through in a few days, will cost $287.50, which is more reasonable, but still expensive.  Additionally, at least in the first order, a lot of the meal replacements are a lot more sweet than I like.  I admit that I like cake sometimes, but usually the less sweet the better.  I like savory things much more.  I was able to adjust this in the subsequent order, so that is good.  Another thing that I don't really like a lot is that I am not able to have things like cheese, crackers, dairy, breads, fruits, and some vegetables.  I actually miss bananas, which is something because I am not usually a fan.  I know that this is a temporary sacrifice I am making, but there is a boredom factor that is creeping in after 3 weeks or so.

In terms of results, I have lost weight.  In the first two weeks, I lost a little over five pounds, and I have lost almost ten since late July.  It is slow, though, and I am not super happy about that.  I'm in it for the long-haul, though, and will do what I must.

So, I would say that my review is generally positive, though clear-eyed about the negative side of the equation. Now it's off for my "lunch" -- a meal replacement that I think will be some "soup" or maybe some "chili".

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Shape of Evil Redux

Three years ago, I sat at my dining room table after having put the Chickadees to bed.  My husband had gone from the birthday party we held for Chickadee #2 straight to the airport, where he left for a week-long business trip to an exotic locale.  All day, I had been avoiding thinking about September 11th, 2001.  All day, I'd smiled and laughed and joined in the general celebration of our younger daughter.

I was exhausted and sad that my husband would be away, stressed out as only an introvert who has hosted a party can be.  I made the mistake of turning on the television after the chickadees were asleep.  This post was the result.

Today, I feel more than ever that perfect love drives out all fear.

I feel more strongly than ever that hatred is a dead end.

As I, with my countrymen, contemplate yet another campaign in this seemingly endless war against evil, I believe more than ever in the particularity of human experience and the importance of honoring that individuality.

People are not symbols.
People are not pawns to be moved on a geopolitical chessboard.
People are not expendable
or collateral damage
or civilians
or citizens
or "the people"
or Americans
or Syrians
or "the children"
or any other collective noun which inevitably becomes an abstraction.

They are individuals.
Each one has a story.
Each one has a family.
Each one is irretrievably lost to us...

but none is lost to God.    
They are in his heart.
They ARE his heart.

Rest in Peace.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Seven Quick Takes -- all I can manage in these scattered days.

Seamus Heaney died last Friday.  I was so sad over the weekend and found myself tearing up at odd moments.  I wrote this tribute.
I have reserved my rental car for my trip to Irving next month.  I'm getting excited.  Twenty-five years is a long time....
Speaking of Irving, I found lectures by Louise Cowan on the Dallas Institute of Arts and Humanities website.  I am so excited.  I listened to Dr. Cowan talk about Faulkner and Go Down, Moses while I made some really excellent Greek Turkey Meatballs and Tzaziki for dinner.  The tears that were filling my eyes were not from the red onion in the recipe but because Dr. Cowan reminds me of why I wanted to save the world through poetry.
I started Medifast last week.  I was not super happy about it, but my doctor basically gave me no choice.  I'm pretty satisfied with it, to be honest, because it takes the thinking out of dieting, and I have lost weight.  I check my total lost tomorrow, but so far I have been thinking differently and I think that is a good thing.  I've also been acting differently, which is even better.
This morning, on the way to school, Chickadee #1 asked me if you had to be related to your godparents.  This opened a discussion about baptism, and the chickadees asked me why we had godparents anyway.  That opened the door for what I think it was a good explanation. I told them that we, as Catholics, believe that our relationship is not just between us and God but between us and the community and God.  As parents, we are the ones who are responsible for teaching our children about God and nurturing their relationship with him.  However, we rely on other people to help us and those are the godparents and others.  It's like we are all in a boat together, working together to sail towards the same destination. Some people don't want to go to that destination and decide they want to go somewhere else that they think is better.  So they jump overboard and swim away in the other direction.  Some of them drown, some of them get eaten by sharks, and some of them are rescued.  But we are all trying to get to someplace good, and the best bet is to stay on the boat and work together to get to heaven.  They seemed to get it.  It's amazing what you can get
into a 3 mile drive in traffic.
--- 7 ---
I'm listening to one of my favorites, Bill Whittle. He is so articulate.  Love him.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Seamus and Me

This was my first exposure to Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize Laureate, and the man who restored my faith in contemporary poetry:

Digging was the first poem of Seamus Heaney's that I experienced.  My class notes, from my year at Trinity College in Dublin really make me wonder why I ever thought I could make a living analyzing poetry, but what they don't express is how much I loved Heaney.  How I saw myself in the speaker of this poem and how I identified with Heaney in many ways.  How I felt he expressed some part of me when he spoke of grandfathers, fathers, sons, legacies, and writing.  How I felt that our backgrounds were the same, as dissimilar as they were.  

Here I am, listening to that inner muse, right around the time I first read Heaney, in Wicklow, 1988-1989.
Like Heaney, I come from a working class background -- he from small farmers, factory workers, and servants, I from mechanics, laborers, electricians, servants, and merchant seamen.  Like him, I'm more at ease around words and ideas than wrenches and hammers and spades.  But, again like him, I have such a great admiration for those men and women whose hard work has made my life possible.  I admire my dad's ability to fix anything at all -- I remember once when I was a girl, our furnace stopped working in the middle of a cold winter.  The fan blowing hot air through the house didn't work.  Of course, we didn't have the money to buy a new furnace and our model was so old that parts were not available.  My dad's solution was to take the fan out, rewire it, and put it back into the furnace backwards so that it worked.  I still am not sure how he did it or why it worked, but our furnace lasted at least another 10 years.  I see my own dad when Heaney says, "By God, the old man could handle a spade./Just like his old man."

I look remarkably simian here....???
I've neglected Heaney, sure, leaving my signed copy of the Faber & Faber edition resting on the shelf, only peered into when I've moved or rearranged or needed some particular consolation.  I held my memories of him in a place separate from the workaday world I live in, like little precious gems:  Reading Digging  for the first time.  Meeting Heaney at a reading at University of Maryland, 1990.  Hearing that he'd won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.  Hearing Liam Neeson read from "The Cure at Troy", hearing that "the longed-for tidal wave/Of justice can rise up,/And hope and history rhyme."

Heaney is the only person I've ever heard who could leave an entire lecture hall dead silent with the power of poetry.

Every once in a while, I would take my copy of Seamus Heaney:  Poems 1965-1975 down from the shelf, almost furtively, in between making dinner and helping with homework, and read the mysterious and awful Punishment:  

I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring
to store
the memories of love.
Little adulteress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeuur

of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

This past Friday, August 30th, I woke up to crazy music in the morning.  My husband likes music to wake him up -- I prefer news.  I jumped out of bed, spun the dial to NPR, and caught the the tail end of a news story that seemed to mean that Heaney had died.  I made the bed, thinking -- surely that can't be -- maybe he's in hospital or maybe there's some tribute to him somewhere.  I came downstairs, turned the computer on, and found that he had indeed passed away from the complications of a stroke. I found a lovely poem I'd never seen before, A Dog Was Crying To-night in Wicklow Also and made my husband read it to the children on the way to school.  (His comment:  "Who's this Chuckwu?")

Seamus, I will miss you.  Thank you for your voice.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Just the way you are

One of my favorite songs of all time is Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are".  It brings back memories of lying on the living room carpet, mooning over the future Mr. Right who would love me just the way I am.  (Dear Reader, I married him.)

As you click on that link there and remember the wonderousness of the saxophone, an instrument which is sadly silent in pop music these days, get ready for another God smack story.  It happens to me ALL.THE.TIME.

I recently listened to a talk on body image and one of the things the person was saying was that it is important to accept and love your body (not just your "self", your "mind", your "I", your "ego", your "soul", but your BODY) the way it is right now.  She suggested leaving little notes and affirmations for yourself where you can see them, as you internalize this message.

So, here is mine, perched in the corner of my bathroom mirror, both upstairs and downstairs:

Love the pajamas and glasses and messed up hair, and the view of my showerhead in the background.  Sigh.

But, despite the fact that I'm wearing flannel pajamas over a camisole in AUGUST and complaining about my glasses being on and my messed up hairdo, I am trying to take this message into my conscious and unconscious mind.  I really am okay.  I really am okay just the way I am now.  Of course, I don't believe that, but I think it bears repeating, so I will repeat it.

That's part 1 of the God smack.

Part 2 is this:

A central article in the current issues of Weight Watchers Magazine is all about how we talk badly about our bodies and hate the way we look and how this is both unhealthy, unkind, and counterproductive.  

Part 3 is that I got an email from the lovely Heather K Jones, linking to her latest video, entitled "What To Do If You Hate Your Body."  I have to listen to it again.  Heather makes a lot of sense.

It's 1:18, dear Reader.  Writing blog posts is evidently what I do when my husband is away.  But I have to go download the dreaded Tess of the D'Urbervilles and get started on it for next month's book club.  I vow to vanquish it this time, dear Reader.  It's one of my least favorites and I've been assigned to read it at least twice in my life and, I think, have tried it on my own at least once.  But the promise of a good book discussion and a night out with the ladies is a strong inducement.  

"You're Better, Mommy"

Yesterday started out really stressful and sad and ended up being a lovely day.  My husband was leaving for five days of work-related travel.  I brought him to the airport, chickadees in tow.  We had a traffic-less drive to the airport (thank God it was a Saturday), but my husband, who is not the travelling type, regaled the children with the horrors of travel when you have to do it for work.  It's stressful; it's uncomfortable; you don't speak the language; you can't eat the food (he has celiac disease which makes restaurant dining in foreign countries challenging); you have to perform at your best while battling jet-lag and exhaustion; you can't see any nice sites but only the inside of office buildings, etc.  I know that this is how he feels, but, Lordy, it was stressing me out.  I actually like to travel, to a certain extent, although most of my travelling was done pre-TSA, pre-cattle-car-style flying.  I'm going to have to do some serious counter-balancing with these kids or they're never going to want to leave the metro area.

Anyway, we had some time at the airport, so I parked and brought the chickadees in with me as my husband checked in.  As he said goodbye, right before going through TSA security, Chickadee #2 started to wail and cry.  It was really, really loud.  Really, really dramatic.  Really, really pathetic:  "Daddy!  DADDY!  DON'T GO OR IF YOU HAVE TO GO, TAKE ME WITH YOU!!!! DADDY! DADDY!  I DON'T WANT YOU TO GO, DADDY.  COME BACK, DADDY.  COME BACK!!!!"  Heads turned.  One woman clutched her poor heart in sympathy.  The TSA agents were annoyed and amused at the same time.  I was afraid her crying might get him selected for secondary inspection.  He made it through security and turned to wave goodbye.  The crying increased in volume and intensity and bathos. In desperation, I sat down with her and let her cry for a few more minutes, and then gave her a time limit to get herself together.  Her response:  "I'll only stop crying if I can go with Daddy."  Um.  No.  On to Plan B, extemporaneously created on the spot:  Let's go to Mount Vernon, since we are almost there anyway.

Mount Vernon is a place that lets you really appreciate the great good fortune the United States had in George Washington as the head of the Revolutionary Army and as our first President.  In particular, the new (to me, at least) the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center was fantastic for us all.  It is really well-designed and has activities for all age levels and tastes.  One of the best things we did was to visit with Martha Washington, who allowed the chickadees to pose for a photograph with her.  They LOVED it and I'd go back tomorrow if I could.  All in all, we were there from about 12:30 until almost 6:00 pm.  And, here is the amazing thing:

I was able to walk around the entire time with almost no pain.  

I'll say it again, y'all.  

Almost no pain.  

You would have to have been me for the past several years to understand why this brings tears to my eyes.  I've been avoiding activity and exercise because I'm in such constant and debilitating pain.  I thought it would never leave me.  I was preparing myself mentally to be in pain for the rest of my life.  And now it is almost all gone.  Oh - it's not perfect.  I had to stop and rest every once in a while.  I was tired.  Walking back to the car was hard on the backs of my legs and I had some pain last night.  But still.  It was sweet.

Sweetest of all, however, was the conversation with the chickadees that occurred on our long walk back to the car. Chickadee #2 took my hand and asked me solicitously, "Do your legs hurt, Mommy?"  "A little bit," I replied, "but not too badly."  She said, "You know, Mommy, you are much better lately."  I asked what she meant.  Then she and Chickadee #1 began to list all the ways that I am better lately.  

"You are more healthier." 
"You do stuff with us that you didn't do before."
"You take care of yourself better now."  
"You do yoga."
and on and on.  I promised myself that I would remember all their little gems of hope but, of course, I've forgotten.  

What I haven't forgotten was that they noticed.  What I haven't forgotten is that they are worth everything that I am doing to try to be healthier.  What I haven't forgotten is that they are God's gift to me and my gift to the world.  And I'm working on being worthy of that gift.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I'm Unkind to Myself, Even in My Dreams

Last night, I woke from a crazy dream at four in the morning.  I promised myself that I would remember enough of it that I could write about it today.  It's always dodgy to try to convey dreams to other people.  Things that are logical in the context of the dream are nonsensical in real life; things that seem significant are just confusing in the retelling.  Nonetheless, here goes:

I was in a library looking at a (nonexistent) viewbook from college.  It was a compilation of photos from my senior year, kind of like a yearbook, filled only with pictures of seniors.  In it, I found a photo that has never existed anud would never ever have existed, even in my wild and crazy college days.  I was wearing a cute little bikini in a hot pink and white harlequin pattern and was standing sort of twisted away from the camera, so that the part of my body most visible in the picture was the side of my torso.  As I encountered this (imaginary) picture of myself from my senior year, I had a very strange double reaction.  On one hand, I looked at this person with happiness -- "oh, there you are!" "You looked wonderful!" "What a cute bikini, whatever happened to that?" and on the other, I began to pick out all the flaws in the picture "oh my gosh, you can't see my ribs," "what in the hell was I thinking, wearing a bikini?," "I'm embarrassed for myself."

When I woke up, I marveled at the fact that I am so adept at self-criticism that I can do it in my sleep.

My lovely cousin, Simba (nickname) recently sent me a message on Facebook.  She said,

I read your wrecklamation blog whenever you write one and am so proud of your determination and perseverance in working on a healthy lifestyle. It is so important for the girls to see you making good choices and they need to know how badass their mom is when she sets her mind on something. I just can't help but notice that you rarely talk about all the things that make you amazing. I hope you know all of them- it's easy to focus on how far we have to go instead of being proud of how far we've already come. I do that too. I just wanted to share this little video with you because I just love it. I actually do this with Jessica sometime and I hope you'll join us.

I think I need to take Simba (and Jessica) seriously and do the little "I'm awesome" dance every morning.  I don't really know where the self-criticism comes from -- maybe from my family's peasant beginnings where, if you call attention to your good qualities, the pooka might come and stick you one in your eye for your boldness.  Maybe it's that old Irish begrudgery.  Well, you know what they say about that -- and if you don't, it's that old English four-letter word that can be every part of speech (and start's with an "f") the begrudgers.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Steps along the way

It's day 5 after seeing the nutritionist and committing to drinking water water everywhere, and I am making strides.  Every morning, except for yesterday, I've had a nice tall glass of water with the juice of half of an organic lime mixed in.  It's very lovely, refreshing, and good for me, too.  The funny thing is, before my sister came to stay with us recently, she told me that she had one special request -- could I please make sure that there were lemons on hand because she drinks a tall glass of water with the juice of half a lemon every morning.  I called her last week and told her that a nutritionist recommends her routine.  I've also tried to pay attention to my thirst and to satisfy it with water.  I am doing very well, with some few exceptions.  Today's breakfast limewater was jazzed up with a splash of organic cherry juice.  I bought a bottle to put in a smoothie and the children didn't like the cherry vanilla smoothie flavor, so now I have almost a whole bottle of the stuff that I need to find uses for -- suggestions welcome!  I also bought myself a nice new water glass and also a Camelbak water bottle.  The squishy straw sippy thing was a little difficult to learn how to do, but I think I've got it now!

Last night, I went to a friend's house for a little one-on-one yoga session.  For the first time in months, I left feeling only residual pain in my hip.  To say that I was surprised would be an understatement.  I kept checking back in to see whether the pain, which had been nagging and aching like a toothache you can't get rid of, had come back.  I was shocked when it stayed away until this morning, and then went away quickly as I went through my daily routine.  An afternoon of sitting at my desk, although productive in terms of work output, made the pain flair up again.  Never fear, though -- my friend gave me a handy cheat sheet of exercises to incorporate into my daily practice:

Though I don't think I was doing some of the poses correctly, I did feel mostly better after doing them this evening.  Hooray.  This is huge.  Just huge.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Back I Go

Last year, I saw a nutritionist for a little while.  She was wonderful and I loved her.  There were some insurance issues, however, that precluded me from continuing.  Luckily, my insurance company has realized that dealing with and figuring out how to maintain a healthy weight is actually a good investment of health dollars.

So today, I went back.  It was a good appointment.  I was able to articulate what I want in a way I don't think I had been able to do before.  I talked to her at length about "the switch" that I seem to have in my mind, the one where I see myself differently and get into an imaginative space that translates thinking into doing.  The example I used (and really the only one I have) is stopping smoking.  Yes, I was a smoker for a while, which horrified and angered my parents intensely since I'd had underdeveloped bronchial tubes as a preemie and was in and out of the hospital for breathing-related problems.  I tried to quit for years, for all the usual reasons.  And, for all the usual reasons, it was difficult.  Until the time I quit.

I had to perform an imaginative exercise that allowed me to see myself as a non-smoker.  What would my life look like without cigarettes?  What would I do while I drank my tea, commuted to work, talked on the phone, took a break from my desk?  Where would I turn when I was stressed?  How would I relax?  How would I celebrate?  How would I think?   When I figured those things out, it truly was like a switch had been turned off.  I didn't have any cravings for cigarettes, not even physical cravings.  From that day this, I've started smoking two cigarettes -- one to be companionable with a friend I hadn't seen in long time, and one in reaction to a particularly stressful visit by a relative.  But I didn't finish either one -- and didn't enjoy the one or two drags I had from each.  I just wasn't a smoker any more.

So, I need to do that exercise with being a healthy person.  What would my life look like as a healthy person who had a healthy relationship to food and to my body?  What would I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  What would I snack on?  How would I deal with temptation?  What would I choose in a restaurant?  What kind of exercise would I do every day?  How would it feel not to have pain?  How would it be to not have to think about what I can't do or what I want to avoid because I feel awful?  When I get into that imaginative space, I am confident that the rest will fall into place with work, of course.

The first concrete step I am taking is this:

A glass of water.  8 times a day.  At least.

The second concrete step is this:

Doesn't that look like a healthy person's haircut?

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Well, I took the plunge and registered for my college reunion which is taking place in Irving, TX at the beginning of October.

The idea is making me so nervous.  When I saw pictures from the last reunion, I really wanted to cry.  The person in those pictures is not the person I think I am.  I had a good time, but I felt like everyone was secretly commenting to themselves how absolutely terrible I looked.  I'm still scared and disappointed in myself because I had wanted to be in a different place, weight and health-wise, than I am.

But, I decided to concentrate on the fact that I always have a good time with the class of 1988 and that, in their company, I became the person I am today.  I started with a good foundation, a happy childhood in an idyllic setting, a loving family with just enough of the kookiness factor to be fun.  But the University of Dallas was the first place where I felt that the true me stepped up and introduced herself.  I was able to love school and learning there without being denigrated as a brain.  I was able to be innocent and goofy and sweet and awkward and not be considered a nerd (okay, maybe I was considered a nerd, but we all kind of prided ourselves on the nerd factor -- one of the cheers for our basketball team included the word "Schopenhauer").  I was able to be pious and loving and faithful to God and not be called a goody-goody.  At UD, I made friendships that last to this day, 25 years later (gulp).  And for that I'm grateful and because of that, I'm trusting that my friends won't judge me and that people who do judge me can just go to hell (Just kidding).  So, because I am going to Texas, to parties and such (not my usual lifestyle, I can assure you), I needed a new outfit or two.

Usually, I wear clothes that scream "please don't look at me."  My fashion sense, never well-developed, has run and hidden its head.  Clothes shopping has always been excruciatingly boring for me... now it's just excruciating.  But today, I bought something completely out of character for me.  It's a dress that screams "look at me".  I hope that it looks nice on me when it arrives and I hope that I have the nerve to wear it:

With the leather midsection, it kind of has a Dune vibe, very appropriate for a reunion of a 1980s class.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Where Your Mind Is, There Shall Your Body Go Also*

The other day, I  got an email from one of my favorite online resources, Heather K. Jones. The title intrigued me for sure, so I had to click on the link. What I found astounded me:

How did this woman get into my head? How does she know the script? I started taking notes, which I titled, "be a conscious thinker".  Here they are, reproduced without correction. I think it's telling how I can't even SPELL the word positive when I'm typing quickly.

be a conscious thinker. 
Directing your thoughts in a positive direction as often s you can.
Most people set a goal and assume thye’ll be happy when they get there. 

Are you constantly thinking bout what a struggle it is, how hard it is to lose weight and how mch you have to lose and how it’s always been difficult to you.
OR are you thinking
How far you have come
How much you have learned. 
How you know you have the tools to et where you want to go
How awesome it will feel once you get there.

ARE you thinking:
Are you constantly complaining about your body and how it doesn’t fit into the clothese you want and doesn’t do what you want
OR are you thinking about all the great things your body does for you every day to keep you alive?

Are you in a negative place or a poisitive place?

How to get t the poisitive place.  Negative energy keeps you stuck where you are?

How can you switch to a more positive mode?

I'm eagerly awaiting Heather's next installment.  In the meantime, I actually bit the bullet and bought her "What's Your Diet Type" ebook series.  I found out that I am what she calls a "Diet Feeler".  When I read the challenges that this personality type to my sister, she just laughed because they were all so true of me.

‣ Ignoring Your Own Needs
‣ Emotional Eating
‣ Denial of Your Health Issues
‣ Social Food Struggles
‣ Trouble Staying Self-Motivated
‣ Low Self-Esteem
‣ Waiting for “Tomorrow”

So far, it's been interesting and enlightening.  I like Heather's approach, probably because I have discovered about myself that this whole thing is in my head and is playing itself out on the field of my body. 

I also like the association Heather has with Gina Homulka of Skinnytaste.  In fact, I'm so incredibly motivated that I actually had her "Avocado Egg Salad" for lunch.  This will be shocking to anyone who knows me. I hate mayonnaise with a passion (I actually don't have any in the house at all and left it out of this recipe) and I also hate avocados... so much so that it's a joke between some friends and me that they serve avocado every time I see them because they really don't like me very much. I chose to try this recipe because I've been hearing for years that avocados are good for you.  This was actually quite good and I'd planned to have it for lunch tomorrow too, but Chickadee #2, in a zeal of "helping out" while I was working this afternoon, emptied the leftovers into the trashcan.

*Sorry, Jesus, for cribbing your line about God and Mammon:  "Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Family Rules Work For Me

Sorry to say, the chickadees have reached the ripe old ages of 9 and 6 with some confusion.  After a disastrous week of tears and trouble, lots of sibling arguing back and forth, and a bucket load of parental angst, I decided that I needed to go back to parenting 101.  I have had a book on my shelves for years and have dipped into it from time to time:  Greg and Lisa Popcak's Parenting with Grace.  The other day, after a particularly sinful exhibition of parenting that will probably land the chickadees in therapy twenty years from now, I took it off the shelf again.  Of course, we all know that the answer to everything is between the pages of a book (not).  But I did like this one, and it inspired me.

Trying to start the next day on a positive note, I brought each girl in to my bed separately for a morning cuddle and talk.  I asked #2 to tell me some of the rules we have here in our household.  After a long pause, she said something along the lines of "always zip the trampoline net closed".  This is a rule, but not really what I was going for.  I then asked her to name some rules at school, and she was able to trill five or six without any hesitation.  Chickadee #1 had an even more difficult time naming some household rules.  Truth be told, she also had trouble naming rules at school.  Maybe she was not focused.

Anyway, a light bulb appeared above my tangled bed head.  I went downstairs and told my husband that I had found the key -- the kids didn't follow the rules because they didn't actually know the rules.

Later that night, we had a family meeting and articulated the rules together.  We told the chickadees that, now that we all know the rules, there was no need for confusion. When a rule has been broken, parents will send chickadees to a list of rules and ask them to identify which rule they have broken.  It's working like a charm, both to reinforce the rules and stop the negative behavior.

And so, clearly articulated family rules posted in an easily accessible place to which Chickadees can be sent repeatedly throughout the day as they serially break them WORKS FOR ME!!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

God Smacks, Again.

I've been feeling really discouraged lately.  I haven't been writing as much because I don't have anything positive to report and I've been treading water in many areas of my life.  School is almost at an end for the year -- I have a kindergartner graduating in two days, and a 3rd grader who is going to be in the upper wing of the school next year -- no more primary wing for her!  The end of the year is always stressful for everyone -- finishing up projects, end-of-year parties, bidding friends good-bye for the summer.  All of it is wonderful, to a certain extent, but also busy and overwhelming.  Add to this mix a new activity for the children, swim team, and it's all becoming a blur. Swim team is wonderful, but there are a lot of moving parts, practice every day, and expectations of parents about which I'm not entirely clear.

Discouragement:  I'm always going to be like this.  I'm just not strong enough/together enough/deserving enough to change.  

And then, today, at mass, a sermon so powerful that I had to take notes.

God makes hopeless cases hopeful: The widows whose sons have died.  Abram and Sarai.  Zechariah and Elizabeth.  

Bring all your anxiety to the Lord.  Do not give in to defeat.  Or anxiety.  Or depression.

Consider God's promises.  We have a God who is mighty in battle. Let him fight for you.  Look at Romans, 10:11.  Whatever your problem may be, bring it to the Lord.  Jesus is there to help you.  Let him be compassionate to you.  

God does not change.  We have the same God today that has always been.  

Do not surrender.  Persevere.  Call on the Lord.  In his own time, in his own way, he will help you.  He will change your hopelessness to hope.

Sometimes it's really scary.  But I'm so grateful for the God smacks.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Space for "I Can't"

I'm that curious kind of over-achiever who, having tasted a lot of success in some areas early on, decides that perfection is the necessary thing.  When perfection becomes harder to achieve or impossible, something stutters in our brains.  We become immobilized and resentful.  We stop trying because hell, if it can't be perfect, hang it up.

Case in point (and here I'll be posting something shameful):  my dining room table. Here's a balls to the wall, fully exposed shot of what I see from my perch behind my laptop as I write this:

Here we have the remainder of lunch-making supplies -- the kids had PB&J and SmartFood popcorn, among other things.  Also included is Chickadee #1's lunchbox, which was in the car overnight.  She went to school with her lunch in a paper bag today.  I have a plastic liter bottle of water on the table -- I was terribly thirsty after yoga this morning.  My purse (you can just see the strap) is on the chair opposite me.  One of the girls left her pink glass on the table this morning.  The telephone is at my side in case my sister calls from France.  My empty tea cup is farthest from me, patiently waiting for me to fill it again with my favorite tea, PG Tips.

The point is, looking at this makes me exhausted.  This morning's disorganized rush for the door meant that I didn't have time to clear the table after making lunches.  Then I ran off to yoga and got caught in a massive, tear-inducing traffic jam.  After yoga, I rushed home again and, instead of calmly clearing the table, I sat down and started to write this post. 

I had something I wanted to say: 

The notorious cow-faced pose:

I've written about this crazy thing before.  I'm sorry to say that it is no easier now than it was then.  In some ways, it was more difficult today.  As I attempted to twist my legs into this position, I could feel the entire left side of my left leg burning as if it was on fire.  I could sort of do it, but it was miserable.  After class, I was talking to my yoga teacher about it and she suggested that I might want to do the pose in a chair.  I'm also using a chair for my foot exercises and I am a much happier person for it. 

I was thinking about this on the way home.  I think that one of the things I like the best about the yoga class and the teacher's approach to it is that it leaves space for "I Can't".  I can't twist my legs into that position.  I just don't have the flexibility.  And, instead of feeling defeated by that, I'm empowered to do what I can.  To try even though it's difficult.  I'm very grateful for the space Marianne gives me for "I can't" because I don't think I give it to myself often enough.  I look at my messy dining room table and beat myself up because it is that way.  I look at the number on my scale and actually consider doing surgical violence to my body because I am so discouraged with my progress.  I don't want to go through the process of succeeding.  I want to have succeeded. 

I remember telling a friend a long time ago that I wished my life were over -- I wished that I were 80 years old and looking back on a life well-lived, a happy marriage, wonderful children.  I wanted to know that everything turned out all right.   My friends laugh at me because I read the endings of books early on.  I want to know how the plot ends and then find out how it fell together.  I'm not sure what this says about me or my apparently permanently frustrating weight loss journey.  I'm sure it says something.

Psychoanalysis in the comments will be gratefully accepted.