altarflame: (Default)
Dan Savage on This American Life's "Return to the Scene of the Crime," discussing his lapsed Catholicism - particularly in light of his mother's death.



As much as I can...leading my completely different life...I think I know just how he feels.
altarflame: (deluge)
As soon as I had kids, I realized that a lot of my old, childhood fears had dissapeared - a new litmus test of sorts developed right away: if it scared me for them, then it was real. If it just scared me in a way that didn't involve them, I was being a damn ninny. Please keep in mind I was 17 when I got pregnant with Ananda, and moved out of my grandparents' house and into my own "first place" right before she was born. With that in mind, for instance, I had always been very creeped out by closet doors being open - or worse, ajar - as I tried to fall asleep in a dark bedroom. Lying in bed, it ranged from distracting to genuinely scary based on my age, what horror movies/books I had recently been into, and my own imagination. Then I had Annie, and there came a moment when I lay her down in our bed and went to tiptoe away only to realize - the closet door was ajar. And blocked by a pile of stuff (because I had my first new baby and was not cleaning). And it would probably wake her up if I started unbalancing precariously stacked miscellany to get to it. As I walked out of there, I thought about how silly closet doors being open as a scary thing seemed - and I have never been scared of that, personally, again. I actually can't remember the last time my own closet even was closed, in this house I own as a 30 year old. Because, really, if I could leave my precious vulnerable newborn, who had stolen my heart so thoroughly, in that room with an open closet door...it was because I knew that in reality there was nothing to fear from a closet being open.

As an avid fan of Stephen King going back to 3rd grade, you can repeat that same sort of scenario for all sorts of things: shower curtains used to terrify me (WHO KNOWS WHO'S ON THE OTHER SIDE - they'll strike when you have shampoo in your eyes!), cats staring off into nowhere as if they see something, things under the bed that could grab your ankles as you get up, the list goes on and on.

I am kind of amazed, looking back, at how my maternal instincts have so rarely led me wrong. I didn't have any college education, access to the internet or even a decent collection of books, and yet I went head to head with doctors who were wrong about Ananda (needing speech therapy for her stutter) and Aaron (being mentally handicapped rather than "just" SID) and with relatives (on everything from breastfeeding to you-name-it). My children get the best of me (all of my kids - not just the oldest two) and they continuously challenge me. They bring out the best in me, stretching me and maturing me and scaring the living shit out of me and making me proud.

I have historically had a really hard time getting along with terrible parents; but I don't see "terrible parents" everywhere the way the whole "boob nazi"/attachment parenting cliche tends to imply. For the most part, if you have children and you're doing better than your parents did (because how we were raised often poses huge challenges), I respect you and your efforts and you get my admiration, even if our standards are radically different. If you have kids and your parents ARE raising them, or you are just generally being a fucking dipshit and causing them grave traumas, that's very difficult for me to deal with on a face to face level with honesty and tact. My close friends who are really crazy or totally wild or off the wall unstable have my total endorsement because they don't have kids and it's their lives to do with as they please. I can accept that freely.

I am actually approaching a point, here. With a heavy sigh.

I have had problems and conflicts with my children and Christianity from relatively early on. Not the very beginning. Praying for my kids made perfect intuitive sense to me, as did praying with them, before bed and before meals and other times as well. I liked having a tool I could give Isaac that would help him feel less frightened before sleep, which was often full of nightmares for him. Explaining the deeper meanings of our cultural holidays and making Easter and Christmas rich and the ends of seasons (Lent/Advent) was beautiful. Attending church improved their behavior at concerts and restaurants.

There is also the not-so-incidental situation of relying on my devotional journal for guidance and my Lord for a miracle when Elise was in dire straits.

But, as they got more cognizant, I realized I was absolutely NOT comfortable teaching them about the concept of Hell. Not because it's a hard one - I talk to my kids about famine and natural disasters and why Aunt Mindy wants to use crack - but because I didn't want them to know about Hell, or believe in it, or be afraid of it. I was terrified of Hell by things taught to me in Baptist private school in K-1st and remember crying myself to sleep about it, nightmares about my heathen parents roasting, and so on.

I was also not at all eager to introduce the concepts of the devil, spiritual warfare or temptation. I didn't want them to start seeing evil in the shadows and interpreting the world through the lens of it being an invisible battle zone. I didn't want them to worry that they were doing things under sinister puppeteer influence because their faith wasn't great enough to resist it. I've had thoughts and feelings like that keeping me up at night and driving me nuts for years and years but I didn't want to tell them about it and give them that preoccupation, not at all, it seemed very cut and dry and that -

THAT. Seemed like the closet door.

It felt like, "That danger is only real in your own mind when you believe it, and they do not need that on them." It felt not only like I could disregard the dangers of Hell and Satan as directed at them, but also like I had to protect them from belief in those things.

By the time I had kids turning 9 and 10, these were pretty glaring omissions from their religious teaching. To some degree, studying Orthodox and Catholic theology and especially reading The Mountain of Silence was personally comforting in this area, kind of quelling some of my own cognitive dissonance, since TMOS defines Hell VERY differently than our standard Protestant (non-biblical, wtf) fire and brimstone cultural definition. Really more as as a sort of abstract "suffering because you are not yet with God because you weren't ready to be when you died, until you eventually become ready and then go to Heaven with everyone else, just late". But, Orthodox (/Catholic) people still believe strongly in being on guard against temptation and spiritual war and all of that. There is actually a more defined belief in demons, possession, and so on.

And overall, Catholic and Orthodox personal expectations - that you're supposed to have of yourself, as a believer - are much more stringent, and they exert many more detailed rules over everything from how you eat on different days to how you're allowed to have sex within your heterosexual, Church-sanctioned marriage.

This is one of the conflicts I had about my kids continuing in AWANA/VBS programs. Another, was that I did not want Christian people talking to them about homosexuality or sexuality in general.

Did you read what I just wrote? Because it is pretty radical in my own mind, to admit to myself, even though it was a motivating concept in my behavior for a long time while I avoided articulating it.

I did not, and do not, want Christian people talking to my kids about their own sexuality, or other peoples'. Individual persons who happen to be Christian could gain my trust to talk to my kids in a way that doesn't represent "Christian beliefs" or *shudder* ...Christian politics. It gives me a rush of protectiveness, this urge to shield them.

Like, to such a degree that my older kids are now "with it" enough that I'm nervous about them ever listening to another sermon and it's part of what's kept us out of church services for, oh...the last year?

Yeah, it's been a year. It's been a year before, when we were "church shopping" and didn't know where TO go. But a year when there is a church I like a lot and that they can all deal with available is strikingly different.

Because I can't go to a church that says birth control is wrong and use birth control. I know lots of people can. But I can't. I can't go to a church that says birth control is wrong, and help Ananda acquire birth control, and I want to be able to help Ananda acquire birth control, and I want her to feel she can come to me and talk about that openly.

If one of my kids turns out to be gay, which I think is relatively likely considering my particular kids, it makes me do a maternal PANIC to imagine them growing up within the church! I've tried for years to explain to and hash this out with Christian friends.

I absolutely can't just sweep under the rug the parts of these beliefs that don't gel for me, and enjoy the rest. Maybe I should be able to? Maybe that's even the point! I don't know. But I can't.

I can't be Catholic (or Orthodox) and teach my kids that masturbation is a mortal/grave sin. I don't believe it is. I think they're all gonna do it and I think it's not just acceptable or "to be expected" but a GOOD THING to explore your own body, understand it, and figure out how it works as you navigate adolescence. Without any weird taboos or "down there" terminology. I don't want to take them somewhere that's going to teach them the taboos. I don't want to teach them that. I can't stand it for them to get caught up in the cycle of soul-crushing guilt, temptation, giving in, repeat, that I lived in for SO LONG, experiencing so much stress and despair about who I am, how I am, etc -

Do you know how that detracted from things I should have been worried about?

I spent so much time thinking I should not be having sex because it was wrong to have sex outside of wedlock that I seriously avoided birth control partially BECAUSE it was like condoning/giving in to that behavior. Pre-meditated fornication, "living in" sin. Keeping in mind, here, that ONLY Elise of my five (six pregnancies) was conceived in wedlock. It was like mental illness, knowing I wasn't ready to be married for most of that time but feeling like it was the only way to assuage what has always been my massive sex drive and need for affection. Suspended in conflict without resolution. "Failing" over and over. I think this is part of the general cloud of dysfunction surrounding my relationship with Bobby, and also part of why it was so hard for Grant and I to get our relationship going again/sustain it.

I had five children and a second trimester miscarriage between the time I was 18 and 25. And I love them, I am not bemoaning them, I do not regret them. But I can see myself in retrospect now, always hormonal and vulnerable, always physically awkward, in poor and even abusive medical hands, ending up again and again in situations I always swore I wouldn't - and it makes me cringe with horror to imagine Ananda in those shoes. I did well with it. I've made the best of it. I love a lot of things about my life and so maybe, again, I'm missing the point? But I have reached a point in my life where I see that I was swept away and out of control, and that rapid-fire super-young child begetting is something I had to spend a couple of years on the dl recovering from, as much as the near-death experience. I was never an adult who wasn't gestating or postpartum before! I never slowed down enough to stop and say, wait, what would be best for me (or even "us"), I just had so many rules caging me in on every side and NO advocate, that I was being carried along. There was never a conscientious midwife or a knowledgeable mother or aunt or a good friend for me during that time, to say hey, do you realize you have options here?

I tried to be on the pill in high school and experienced major complications. I spent the next 10 years thinking I "couldn't take birth control", and aside from truly hating condoms thought I was setting myself up for sin by keeping them around ready to go. All around lose-lose for someone who had only slept with two virgins anyway and didn't need to worry about STDs. I did try the mini-pill once, but GOT PREGNANT. And really in the end felt I didn't have options beyond the rhythm method/NFP and "trying not to". I didn't know about the IUD. Nobody knows about the IUD! Which is ridiculous, it's the cheapest and most effective option out there, hormone free, and there is all this "abortifacent" propaganda that you can research your way through to the other side of - but it takes awhile.

I just read an article yesterday about how women's health is and has always been controlled primarily by the church, politicians and the medical community - basically, three groups of patriarchal and often sexist men who are not motivated in most cases by what is best for women. And even though I know that sounds like feminist/communist/whatever propaganda on some level...I also know it's fucking true. I know how my SELF CONCEPT CHANGED FOREVER the first time I experienced quality midwifery care. How I burst into TEARS the first time Nancy asked me if she could touch my stomach.

Anyway. I hear all this stuff about Girl Scouts, you know? How they push the pro-choice agenda, they talk too much birth control and inclusivity with other-sexual people (like there's a fucking boycott right now on cookies because a troop in Colorado let a transgendered girl in?). And, well. Ananda is selling cookies. And I don't see why people are so afraid of INFORMATION.

Unless it threatens beliefs that are dependent on ignorance.


And this brings me to cognitive dissonance, which I threw out as a term I thought I was making up last week (some psych major, eh?). I was talking to Grant, thinking strictly of dissonance in the musical sense - things clashing, stuff sounding off, clangy and jangling wrong sounds. I told him I was experiencing cognitive dissonance all the time for so long now and I'm tired of it and I meant in many ways, really - knowing I can't continue eating too much and trying to do it anyway and being a night owl that increasingly has to get up very very early are examples. He didn't seem to know what I meant. On a lark, I googled the phrase and realized it's actually something that's been studied and written about for more than 50 years - perhaps I have heard it before, and pulled the right words from my subconscious? Anyway, it's when you have clear evidence in front of you that something you believe, is wrong, and you experience distress. Sometimes acute distress. Generally people avoid distress when possible, so in these situations they immediately whip out a coping mechanism - denying or arguing away evidence, changing their beliefs, or convincing themselves that the particular incompatibility between the beliefs and reality is unimportant, such that it can be forgotten about - those are all coping mechanisms here.

I haven't been using any coping mechanisms most of the time. I've been living in acute cognitive dissonance FOR YEARS. I arrived late in the year to RCIA classes, on a whim, and then almost dropped out a dozen times over the months, and fought my own boredom and tried to find the good spots, and decried my own blasphemous thoughts, and then got denied passing when I made it to the end. I went to Orthodox churches and read Orthodox books and stayed close to Orthodox people, and it never felt like more than foreign, even when it sounded philosophically like such good stuff. I lost all interest in Protestant church long ago, and can't even take what I hear second hand seriously a lot of the time. The last dozen times I was in a Disciples of Christ church were cripplingly disappointing. My trip to a shrine to the Virgin for my religion class last semester left me somewhat devastated and just...apathetic, as I called Grant to discuss how blah the whole thing was.

I've went from "I feel guilty" to "I feel guilty for not feeling guilty", and am fast approaching "aren't I supposed to feel guilty for not feeling guilty?"

What I do feel, is grief.

Full on bereavement, that is sometimes truly awful.

And confusion, because, truly, I do continue to feel it's obvious that there is "something more" than what we can understand and quantify - or perhaps ever will be able to - at work in our lives and world. I feel certain that I've experienced supernatural...something. And that prayer DOES "do something"...even if only because we're all made of energy and energy focused can affect outcomes.

And I feel the most heart wrenching misery when I consider Jesus, who I continue to physically cringe over blasphemy over and who I am not in any way ready to say isn't...real. The whole concept of "considering" any of this makes me feel small, lost, lonely and like a toddler in a world I don't understand. Also scared of losing Christian friends and alienating people, and EVEN scared of hurting anyone else's faith. I still feel like that would be horribly wrong, to do.

Even as I consider the parts of the gospels I always glossed over to quell my own cognitive dissonance. "This language is hard, these translations are old, my understanding is vague". I still see wisdom and benefit and light in the gospels. Quite a lot of it....mixed in with things I can't deal with.

I always said - and say - that if something is true, it doesn't matter whether or not I like it. I said in great mental suffering over and over that there were things galore I did not like about Christianity but that my preferences were really not the issue, Truth was, and that I was upset that I was part of this system I as a mortal human seeing as through a glass darkly could not understand, but that I believed God did understand it.

Do I now have such motherly hubris that I think I know better than He does re: my kids? Maybe. I don't know.

What it FEELS like, now, is that maybe it's just NOT true. Maybe it's a lot of stuff a lot of people say for reasons that have nothing to do with truth - reasons like a desire to be a part of something, a desire to help people, mental illness, a desire to control, a desire for riches, a desire to reinvent the wheel and fix whatever was wrong with religion BEFORE...because we all want religion at some point in our lives, on some level. It's programmed in our brains and maybe even (according to TIME magazine) our DNA. It increases our health and life span and decreases our stress, to have a religious faith and a religious community. I don't think people would BE this way, if it weren't for some natural and beneficial reason. Like one pastor I know says, we're hungry and there is food, we want sex and it exists - all our instinctive cravings are there for the purpose of being fulfilled, to drive us toward something that IS out there for us. And maybe we can really plug into the universe, or Life, or energy, or an actual supreme being, through prayer and ritual, regardless of what we call it.

There is an argument that peoples' feelings shouldn't play in - that real faith is not dependent on God constantly proving Himself. That you shouldn't be testing Him. But that's kind of hard to get behind when I only started believing all of this because of feelings. I never could have become a Christian based on reason and logic; it is not reasonable or logical. I was pulled in by strong feelings that led me to leave logic behind. Now, other Christians tell me to put aside feelings because they can't be trusted. And sometimes, feelings can't! But feelings are what I've got.

And maybe I could have kept "calling it" Christianity forever, regardless of misgivings or dissonance, if I had been childless and my life was mine to do with as I pleased. But I have kids. And I don't want to pass this torment on to them in a way that's intrinsic and deeply rooted such that they can never truly, totally shake it off - like my 6 year old Hell terror - because I think that's how what we're taught in childhood is.

It stays with us, like the cycle of abuse I fight, like the dozens of Disney song lyrics I can sing beginning to end after not hearing them for DECADES, like growing up bilingual or eating candy all the time. It stays with you, and then you gain intelligence and you study it and you find out that cremation is wrong because all our bodies are supposed to be resurrected when Christ returns and you go, what, wait - God can resurrect dust but not ash? What about people who burn to death in fires? I had someone I love dearly say she could never get a tattoo because it seems wrong to mar this body she's in for eternity and I was like, wait, what? So like my surgery scars and hernia are for eternity? I mean. I mean. This is kind of crazy talk. The feelings, the passionate feelings and the fervent desperation for it to be true can gloss over the craziness, sometimes indefinitely. Without the feelings, what is left?

There are a lot of very smart people using their superior intellects to compose elaborate diatribes on the minutia of Christian theology and all I can think is, you know, as a very smart child I was able to use my superior intellect to hone superior coping mechanisms and flesh them out until my delusions were almost real. Intelligent people have the hardest time being happy in general. Intelligent atheists, in my experience, are absolutely miserable much of the time. Who wants that? No. Cognitive dissonance = explanations forthcoming. 2000 years of overlapping and sometime contradictory explanations from some of the greatest minds and most ambitious men in history.


OR!!!

Maybe I'm so awash in secular media with such a long time since I did more than browse the theology tag on tumblr or listen to a Christmas carol, that the devil finally has a hold on me and can speak freely, through me, from my big influential blog platform - just like God might have worked through me in 2007 such that I got countless comments and emails from people who had their faith renewed by Elise's story.
altarflame: (Default)
I have a lot of lists in my head, lately.

Academic things even unschooled elementary kids really need to learn whether they like it or not, in a somewhat repetetive, "featuring reviews" sort of structured way that sometimes involves sitting down with a pencil:

-basics of reading (alphabet, letter recognition, letter writing, sounds

letters make, phonics rules) and some handwriting practice

-multiplication tables

-mechanics of carrying over and borrowing for addition and subtraction

-definition of division

-grammar

-basical physical science principles, with an emphasis on the scientific method




Things random people from the internet have done for me that have radically effected my life:

-some random people on messageboards argued with me about how gross I thought cloth diapers were, until I became a cloth diaper evangelist

-Heather, there is nowhere to start, but I guess I could begin with how she GAVE ME NANCY WAINER'S NAME AND NUMBER, and organized a grocery delivery to our apt in Boston <3 But, wait, there was also that counseling session re: my marriage that literally turned Grant and my relationship around a few months back, I mean holy crap...

-Bicrim told me I had ptsd and needed emdr. THIS IS SO HUGE.

-someone, I'm sorry I forgot your name, led me down the road to fish oil as a supplement for Elise

-many strangers worked together to SEND US $9K in 2007 O_O

-I GOT DAMA, and her daughters, which probably include a spouse for my oldest son :p

That is really scraping the surface of obvious things.

I have a mental list of money/things that cost money that we've sent out to other (individual, not charity) people on the internet, people we've never met, obviously - and I THINK it's around $20,700.




Things I feel at odds about, of late, within the scope of Catholic belief:

-Seriously kinky bdsm sex has brought Grant and I super close and made us stronger, and made me happier and more fulfilled and him less repressed and insecure. I don't feel guilty about this, and even having been a Humanae Vitae afficionado I can't figure out why I would ever think it's wrong to do this with my husband.

-I have a lot of friends with deviant sorts of lifestyles that I don't just feel like "Well that's their business" - I feel like they're right on and awesome just the way they are and couldn't even say "well..." if they tried to ask me if I think they should change.

-I want my kids to have self esteem and ambition - girls and boys, both, here, people - and not suscribe to this modest humility dynamic....basic consideration for other people? OF COURSE! Generosity? YES!! There are times to sacrifice self, and times to forgo instant gratification for responsibility, but I can't handle this "I am nothing, God is everything" vibe that gets amplified into daily life as people who never stand up for themselves or for anything, people who don't even seem to have personalities...

I was also raised around a serious lot of cussing and it comes very naturally to me, is included in all my favorite movies and much of my music, etc, and sometimes it feels truly prohibitive to me to be around people who dissaprove of "bad language" (I cannot even relate to this idea of a "potty mouth", I feel like that is just ridiculous)...this isn't (or is it?) Catholic-belief-specific...but it seems to be an automatic thing that happens around Catholics, or Orthodox people.




Things that keep me coming back at least sporatically, about Catholic belief:

-the feeling of worshipping - of being in the presence of the sacred

-the meditative and "righting" effect of praying the rosary (or any rote prayer, really), lighting candles for things, and having devotional time

-the larger community of the Church, to belong to (locally and globally), particularly in the areas of social justice and helping the poor

-this niggling surety that I have had an awful lot of "proof", over the course of my life, to be having doubts about all this now

-it's really one of the only ways/places to consistently meet non-sarcastic, warm people who are pro-children and big families


There are more but I'm out.
altarflame: (burning bush)
I think this was a pretty great day for my kids, which was what I wanted. My house is a disaster, I have a sugar hangover and I was really done Easter'ing several hours before them, but I am still happy with the overall results :)

They dyed eggs two ways, hunted eggs, got (bucket)baskets, ate Easter cupcakes after a protein-heavy breakfast meant to ward off sugar comas, and played with their new things. We took a good walk in the perfect weather as a family. Good stuff...



Grant got these eggs that were real egg shells, but filled with confetti, so you can throw them and they explode in a satisfying and sanitary mess. This is an accurate snapshot of any square five feet of my house.

He had them at it while I was still in bed, and I woke to screams and laughter.

Iris, my RCIA teacher, pulled all five kids aside after Good Friday Mass and took them to the office and gave them bunnies. She is in love with hers. Elise's horrific taste and Iris's tacky gift giving go together perfectly.


Those buckets, man, they were CHEAPER than baskets and won't get destroyed all over the house like baskets gradually do. They're beach toys now. So I succumb to plastic princesses, this time :p

They each got a plain white shirt, as we're gonna tie dye shirts, "egg" bath fizzies, some chocolate eggs of various sorts, and an egg-shaped straw cup thing. Annie got bakeable, paintable clay, and a glitter set. Aaron got modeling clay and magnetic tape strips. Isaac and Jake got matchbox cars and small stuffed monsters. Elise got an oversized rubber duck with rabbit ears and tail. This is to go with her giant mama and 3 small baby rubber duck set, and the Statue of Liberty rubber duck I brought her back from NYC. She immediately needed an Easter bath with her fizzy thing and ducks. I think this might have been the greatest day of her small life. At one point I suggested she could line her ducks up in a row and her eyes got enormous and she yelled "You're right!" as she ran to do it, and then made everyone in the house come view her row of ducks.




Random Tidbits:

-My plants have all been alive for like a month and a half now. They're actually doing crazy shit like growing and thriving. I'm psyched. They really help me in ways I don't quite know how to explain. It would be way too easy for me to turn our house into some kind of dense foliage rain forest...

-Crest White Strips really work. I was getting pretty intense yellowness from coffee staining and the difference is definitely noticeable, halfway through the box...

-Easter Vigil was an intense church experience Saturday evening. A 2.5 hour service you have to arrive over an hour early for. We brought M&Ms, UNO cards and Story Cubes to pass the time until it started, and had to make one trip to the bathroom during the Mass. Definitely a success...Elise fell asleep for about 20 minutes in the middle, and danced on her seat along with the dancers up front for about 5 minutes, and both of those things were fine. All of the kids were blown away by the transformation of the sanctuary overnight, from almost ugly-plain and sad for Good Friday to STUFFED FULL OF FLOWERS AND GORGEOUS FABRIC for Easter Vigil to an insane extent. There were amazingly beautiful parts, that all the kids liked...after a big projected countdown-animation thing ended Isaac, my most church-challenged kid, said loud enough for everyone to hear - "That was actually pretty cool!" After a sermon in the (DARK) dark and an Easter candle lighting that led to everyone in the church's candles being lit, one by one as the flame was passed and we all sang (Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine in the darkness...) Aaron was in happy tears. 1,000 candles at the end was a lot of light. Elise was in love with the couple sitting next to us and stayed "with" them most of the time.

-I am thinking I'm going to have to start really trying to sleep at night if I want to really lose weight...all the metabolism boosting supplementation and excercise in the world isn't going to work if my body is resting for like 3 hours out of 24 :/ And it shows...I am slowly, steadily gaining regardless of whether I eat perfectly or horribly. *sigh*

-I have to neglect the internet (woe!) for a little while and focus on some real writing work that is overdue. I have some things that need to get accomplished (writing the last short story in my compilation, getting Memo final info on what I need in the way of illustrations, more communication with people who sent me surgery stories, and sending out a few queries) before the summer semester starts (May 9!).

-I really, REALLY love Cadburry Cream Eggs. Which is funny because as a kid I thought they were horrifically over-sweet and inedible. Now I'm like, Bring It.
altarflame: (Christ)
I've been thinking tonight about the anger and bitterness that confront Christianity on the internet, and the scorn it's met with in intellectual circles, and wondering why I don't relate to that negativity better. Even when (perhaps especially when) I doubt my faith, it's still beautiful to me. It's still a positive thing, a light in the darkness. I'm trying to figure this out.

I don't like Jerry Falwell, I hate the right wing politicians that are trying to limit access to birth control and keep gay people from having rights. But I feel like saying Christianity is bad because there are assholes using it to justify their assholery is like saying science is bad because it gave us carcinogenic pesticides, nerve gas and the atomic bomb. How many people have tortured innocents in the name of psychiatry, especially during centuries past where people could be locked up on bullshit charges and tortured and experimented on - that doesn't make psychiatry bad. It was just misused. Assholes are bad.

I understand there is a provability factor here when we're talking about science/psych vs religion.

But...I feel like Christanity is mostly good, even if it were to be (theologically) "fake". I think many people coming together in faith for beliefs is beautiful, not sad (Yes, this includes other faiths). I think prayer, meditation, study, worship and so on are generally very good things, mentally purging and stress reducing. I think examining your conscience and trying to adhere to high moral standards is generally a step in the right direction for most people. Though I don't know, it definitely SEEMS that charitable giving and volunteerism within the church (and all belief systems - I just mean organized religious charity and volunteering) constitute a huge percentage of the overall giving and volunteerism that happens in the world.

Sometimes I think (with young people especially) there is a trendy, media-conception type superiority you're just "supposed" to have towards even taboo words like bible, Jesus, etc, that goes WAY beyond the genuine, understandable defensive reaction some people have because they've been hurt by other Christians or even by Christian institutions - it's this embarassment factor wrapped up in total ignorance to the faith, like you have to really be a real douche bag nowadays to admit to something like going to confession. What I'm saying is even people who know next to nothing about confession or why anyone would want to do it, with no real life connection of any sort to Catholicism, feel this way as a knee-jerk reaction because our society tells them they're supposed to.

This "crutch" thing, too, I have known at least two people who thought religion in general was some kind of pathetic, laughable, horrible (dun dun DUN!!!) CRUTCH...to which I say yeah isn't that about a million times better than drugs, alcoholism, (insert self destructive alternative crutch here)? The 12 Step program is one of the only methods that's ever been shown to really work in treating addiction and a big part of that is the whole higher power spiel. Is that somehow...wrong? I really don't think so.

This NPR story references plenty of other stories and makes for a pretty extensive amount of reading (that is easily picked through for what you deem the interesting parts) on why prayer and meditation make us better able to focus and happier, and how our brains are wired for religious experiences to a degree - among other things.

Once I got to be a teenager, I wished I had been raised with some religious education and identity. It seemed to be a rich heritage like having a strong cultural identity, something deep and personal to add to your sense of self that is missing for most American youth, who are raised without ethnicity or faith and have things like television shows to make gifs out of and feel like they belong to something when arcane 70s/80s/90s references are understood...

I also think that the vehement degree to which the separation of church and state is enforced has made for this weird gap in our educational process where we can't teach judeo-christianity as part of social studies or history from even an objective or skeptical perspective because that's seen as "preaching" to public school kids... but it's a HUGE massive crazy part of social studies and history, man! I mean we are rigorous about teaching kids Egyptian burial rituals and Greek mythology, and at least give alternative religions and the major faiths in other countries a passing nod, but not the basic tenets of the Judeo-Christian faiths or course of church history? When they live in THIS society? That is a pretty bizarre ignorance handicap to leave kids with in the name of not offending anybody. The King James Bible used to be in Literature books just like Shakespeare (meaning, not held up as anything sacred or hallowed but included due to historical relevance and for cultural context clues) and it's still just as referenced and just as relevant in popular culture, but there are gonna be millions of middle schoolers who don't know anything about the character Judas but what Lady GaGa is telling them.

Anyway. Slightly off topic, but segueing smoothly enough, I am feeling really good about involving my kids in and teaching them about Lent and Holy Week and Easter right now. As I've talked about before, I basically refuse to tell them certain politically charged and hard to live with things, doctrine-wise, that I struggle with myself. But I find that those things are only an issue in some kind of large scale, media-drenched debate sort of way. We definitely don't hear about the evils of homosexuality or shunning anyone at our church. These are beautiful, meaningful masses and when you participate in them, you're doing it with millions of other people around the world, just as they've been done for thousands of years. Which is...really awesome, any way I look at it. St Louis is such a sincere and personable place to be.

I love that my kids can and do sit through Mass well, and even appreciate it and feel moved by parts. When I took them to see Seraphic Fire, the guy at the door tried to warn me that it really wasn't for kids under 10, and I was like Ha! They did great, too. Isaac got fidgety towards the end and that was really it. I hate the idea of my kids being so fried from big screen 3D IMAX movies and playing on the Wii that they can't pay attention to anything slow-paced or subtle.

Sidenote: I've realized that part of my new irritation with Protestant..ism? is that it makes Christianity seem ridiculous. With the stupid quirky joke lines on the signs out front (God sent the first text message - THE BIBLE! Be an organ donor - give your heart to Jesus!) and the horrible "contemporary Christian" music and the spoofs of pop culture things and the "down to earth, right there with you" trying too hard thing, meant to draw in a secular audience, just...UGH MAN UGH! All of it is so dumb and even embarassing. You just don't get any of that within Catholicism or Orthodoxy. I love VBS for my kids because it's fun and free and they make friends, but really whether it's the "Australian surfer" themed week of Jesus or the "Christianity to the XTreme" year (all with appropriate dorky tshirts, worksheets, posters, snacks and flyers that all come in a big sealed box you order), I don't really expect them to have some transformative spiritual experience.

I think that sort of Protestant marketing is probably a lot of the automatic cultural youth stigma against Christianity, actually. They make it seem so STUPID and lame, with the best of intentions...how can anyone - especially unexposed people on the outside - take that kind of crap seriously? I have to look past it, with all my history and desires...

This is just me thinking out loud. The whole entry. Stream of consciousness. I don't have a big point I'm leading up to. I just really enjoyed being at church for the 3rd time this week, tonight, and am looking forward to going back tomorrow, in this satisfying "feeding my soul" sort of way and have been seeing a lot of hate everytime I get online.
altarflame: (After the kiss)
I'm really enjoying participating in and moving through Holy Week. Palm Sunday Mass was so, so beautiful (when we got home Grant asked how church was and Aaron piped up, "really good!!" so you know it had to actually be...) We went to the Holy Thursday Mass tonight. Tomorrow I'm taking the kids to an afternoon Stations of the Cross thing and then going to Good Friday Mass by myself later in the evening. All seven of us are going to the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.




Yesterday was my 4th wedding anniversary. I don't know how many of you remember the insane dress debacle that went down with the zipper on my wedding gown but it seemed pretty ironic to me that I found myself freshly showered, moisturized, scented, and struggling and sweating to get a zipper up in my bathroom on the dress I'd decided to wear on our "date night", yesterday afternoon...I took it off to find the spot where it was sticking. I had my brother and Annie help. I ended up laying on the bed, once Grant had gotten home, with him using tools to make it work.

ONE DAY I will manage to get into a nice dress for an occasion with my husband without a team of helpers or any extraneous tools.

We had a great time. We had a delicious amazing off the chain holy shit I die dinner at Texas de Brazil (where they will ALSO send you a "one free meal when you buy the other one" for your anniversary, what-what!), and did some great bargain basement clearance shopping outside of Borders, and then went and walked on, sat on, splashed on, talked on the beach.

While we were there we got to see the beginning of a striking red moon rise and watch a man strip naked and do tai chi in the wind. Then we sat on some hotel's wooden lounge chairs and kissed for awhile. It was nice.

And ended better, back home. I fell asleep hours earlier than normal in a sweaty contented heap. All in all every day should end that way.

Purchased at the bookstore (everying from 1.99-5.99 per item!):

(For Me)
-How to be a Movie Star, an Elizabeth Taylor biography. What? I like biographies, ok!
-The Scalpel and the Soul; The Power of Hope, by a DOCTOR. This is the kind of book I have been looking for - both for my own book's research and personal survival - for a LONG TIME.
-The Forest of Hands and Teeth, on [livejournal.com profile] idiolecto's recommendation, because I trust her taste in everything but ESPECIALLY BOOKS.
-Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana by Anne Rice
(For "Grant")
-She Comes First: the Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman
(For Grant)
-The Book of Useless Information - this will be his latest dinner table book, brought out to read from while we're eating, I am sure. It's replacing puns and a double wide "Would You Rather?"
(For Us)
-Sex Deck
(For Everyone)
-Story Cubes




Today was crazy. I woke all the kids up with french toast casserole and bacon. The van needed an oil change and new back brakes. After dropping it off, the kids and I took the free trolley and went and saw Rio, then had a pizza, then picked it up. Except that doesn't capture the route confusion, waiting time in between things, going by the college bookstore only to find it was closed, or walking all around that occured to make it last so many hours. It was still a good, if tiring, day, but it was a lot to lead up to church with all of them, especially since it was just me and "church" involves driving a half hour each way. We were alright, but it was way more stressful than it usually is on a Sunday morning. And this is the first Serious Business day of my period, which made for lots of insteresting near emergencies and bathroom stops.

I think it was a great day for the kids all things told. Lots of alphabet, I Spy and other sorts of word games, lots of teaching moments (in the movie and the Mass), blah blah blah. Elise had never seen a movie in the theater before.

I'm tired.

But I don't sleep anymore. I'm really starting to suspect I'm approaching a point of just NOT SLEEPING AT ALL, EVER. Like last weekend due to various circumstances there were 50 hours during which I slept ONE hour, like right in the middle almost. Grant was talking about reporting me to the authorities as a witch because I still wasn't acting tired :p Really, though, it's nuts. And stupid, because I spend far too much time in a sleepless delirious haze adding to my tumblr queue and reading fanfiction and then I can't function as well as I should be able to during the day. But...I can't give up my time to myself. And I can't stop being a good mother or a wife or whatever. So...I'll sleep when I'm dead?




It's so rare for me to see Aaron really immersed in doing things with his brothes, so this is kind of awesome. Mario drawing contest:


(Girls blowing bubbles)




Uno:




I think we've gotten over a hump and now Isaac and Jake are old/smart/independent enough that they CAN do things Aaron is interested in sometimes.


Off to collapse for like...an hour before Grant wakes me up to go take him to work, and then I come home and take a nap until the kids drag me out of bed and it chores and schoolwork time until Stations of the Cross...maybe then I can nap until Mass once G is home.
altarflame: (Default)
Ok, so, nix that about the bubble bath, and I'm making the muffins now, and getting up even earlier than I thought, BECAUSE...

This faith crisis I've been having (stay with me now, it's relevant I promise) is really at it's core about how I have dissociative disorder; I've been able to "manifest" feelings of all types within myself for most of my life as it was part of the coping mechanism of my childhood (spending almost all of my time immersed in a fantasy world). I would laugh, cry, even have orgasms based completely off of thoughts in my head with no outside stimuli.

Yes, you read correctly.

Dissociation is not always a deep immersion in a fantasy world, a lot of the time it's a more subtle emotional disconnect that involves seeing yourself in third person and not perceiving anything around you as truly real, among other things. That's been the more common dissociation I've practiced as an adult, to greater (in the OR) and lesser (I'm bored) degrees. In more extreme cases people even have multiples ("others"), but I'm not that extreme. I did have a lot of textbook dissociative traits as a kid - losing time, repressed memories, sleepwalking, walking into things while wide awake, losing my train of thought in the middle of spoken sentences, etc. I never spoke with a therapist about it until I was an adult.

So, in recent months, as I've realized the scary majority of my real life that's been wasted on dissociating, and also the degree to which dissociation is an enabling crutch that allows my real life to go on sucking, I've...stopped.

I'm trying to be aware and emotionally present in the moment, ALL. THE. TIME.

This has led to major problems in my marriage, as it's made things within the marriage that I'm not happy about way more starkly hard to deal with than they were before when I had this catch-all coping mechanism (escape hatch).

It's also led to a major crisis of faith as I increasingly felt that God was obviously another thing I made up to feel better - right around the time I stopped living in a thick cloud of years-deep imaginary friends (around 15) is when I had my big Christian conversion. Looking at it that way is kind of horrible and shattering to many of my palpably-real spiritually transcendent moments.

And it's also a paradox, as I don't want to pray about it or read the Bible for guidance or any of that as I already know I can convince/hypnotize/trick/whatever myself into feeling it's all real if I throw myself into it and try to believe it. So I've been in this gridlock standstill waiting place where I long for and miss God but refuse to live in some illusory dreamworld...but also know that if God is real I'm completely missing out here since I have no way to "get back" without some trust/faith that I'm not willing to give.

See, I don't always tell the internet everything. And, I'm even crazier than you thought. Anyway:

Several days ago somebody anonymously asked me to please, please describle one of my most significant religious experiences. I replied:

A neurologist and neonatologist sat me down with MRIs and told me my baby - Elise - had massive global brain death. They said “Everything that makes a person an individual is destroyed”. I went home that day numb from sobbing and picked up my never-fails amazing devotional journal, like “This better be fucking good.” That page was the gospel story wherein somebody asks Jesus why some guy is blind, like what did he do? What was the sin that caused him to deserve blindness? And Jesus was like, no, you don’t understand, he’s blind so I can heal him and you and others will have faith. Watch this.” I teared up and clenched down on this wild welling hope that it could be like that for my daughter.

A little over a week later I arrived at the hospital to accompany her on a transfer and instead she got discharged. She’s basically been completely fine ever since. I’ve received dozens of emails, comments and messages since then saying either “I believe in God” or “I believe in God again”, because of her story.


Then I sat back, blown away, by how that actually happened. I didn't make that shit up. I didn't "manifest" that. It might be open for alternate interpretations, I'm not denying that, but what I'm saying is it did not happen in my head. Those doctors exist, those medical records are in my filing cabinets, those comments and emails came to me from other people. That devotional journal really did say something FREAKISHLY, LITERALLY SHOCKINGLY whoa supernatural on-point every time I opened it for many months. I showed Grant, Laura and Dama many of the pages as I was first seeing them, they all remember, and the thing is sitting on a shelf in my library right now. Elise is also sleeping in her bed healthy, though I do understand that is a somewhat more subjective sort of "proof", particularly of Christianity specifically.

I started thinking of all the wildly nutty things that have happened in my life, the concrete things that were not just feelings in myself but quantifiable evidence of something "more" at work.

When doctors were saying my Nana was beyond all hope and that my Mom and Pa should starve her, months after her strokes when she was still incoherent and unable to move certain limbs, and I asked St Jude (Patron Saint of lost and impossible causes) to intervene and she got better, and better, and better again. Quickly, for the most part. That happened. I wrote about it here. She was in a permanent-care sort of facility. She's home, now. Going to the mall to get her hair done.

I also asked St Jude to help me the one time I actually stopped eating like a fucking pig and was succeful at Eat to Live, but that again is something within myself and subject to my own placebo effect if I'm being skeptical.

I was praying the rosary for the first time and had the most incredible, truly miraculous seeming revelation about how to see and why to love my mother despite all the weird history between us, last Fall. I wrote about it here. That is powerful enough that when I remember it, and how it came out of nowhere, it really does not seem at all like it could have come from within myself.

KT, my sponsor, has had candles lit in her home for our family's finances ever since Grant lost his job, and prays for us every day. Not only did Grant find a great job here in our small commuter town right away (which could totally be amazing yet plausible coincidence) but we started having money heaped on us left and right from sources I didn't even know about (bigger payout than we expected for the Prius, likewise with tax return, then a title company refund and an escrow refund I had no idea were even possibilities, one after the other, Grant's 403b refund from his old job, and my getting approval for a full ride plus extra for college...). Even all of that could really be luck, temporary, serendipidous and impressive but whatever, except...that last Fall? When I started giving offering every week and praying about our finances? The same exact thing happened. My mother in law called us out of the blue two days after that first Sunday and told us she was sending thousands of dollars because it was a small fraction of the retirement fund she'd decided to cash out and she wanted to do something surprising for us O_O Then, within the week, Grant's GREEDY STINGY SALARIED job sent him a one time $800 bonus in the mail just for "being a good employee" (?!) and...there was something else I can't remember, it's freaking LATE and my brain is fried, but it was all three of these things inside one freaking month we were doing this offering and frequent finances prayer thing!

I don't think anyone should believe in God or try to be faithful for money or even with the expectation that they'll be financially secure. I do think people need to work hard and do the best they can and that sometimes terrible things happen to every-and-any-one. I actually really hate that Joel Ostein style "have faith and you will win the lottery" sort of attitude..I'm just saying, that is also an awful lot of crap to try to ignore. I mean, what? CRAY-CRAY.

I don't believe all that I've listed here (which does not go back to my earlier experiences, some of which are more vibrantly "accountability-proof" than any of this and REALLY giving me pause) proves the Pope has authority, or proves Christ's real prescence is in the communion wafers, or any of that - but I do think it gives me something concrete and outside of myself showing there is some kind of energy being tapped into, some kind of guiding force responding to prayer. Something bigger than the power of my own imagination and far more helpful than any coping mechanism has proved to be.

I didn't manifest it or make it up that Catholic Charities paid my electric bill and gave me bags of groceries, when I was a young and newly single mom, working as many hours as I could get and with two toddlers.

I guess what I'm saying is, I still have some institutional problems with the Catholic Church, and some skepticism about all of it. But I also have broken through an invisible barrier that has been holding me back for the last few months, and it's a tremendous relief to do so. To give myself license to say, "Whatever details might be up for personal debate, this isn't just a dissociative trick I'm playing on myself. It's bigger and 'realer' than that, at the very bottom-of-the-barrel least."

I've prayed, a few times, really prayed for the first time in what for me has been an incredibly long time, and it's been good. Not lightning bolt good, but clarity inducing good.


So yeah. My muffins are done, and I'm gonna go set the alarm for some insanely early horrible masochistic time so I can take a short nap before I have to guzzle a giant latte and present myself at RCIA, for pleading and testimony as to why I want to continue in the program after randomly not showing up. Twice in a row :/ Hopefully this can mostly be done through my sponsor and the Priest as I would really rather not deal too much one on one with Iris re: such emotional hooey. I'm still hungry to be part of sacramental life and there is no denying the positive effect that my faith in Christ has had on my life, over and over in countless ways, large and small. I also love sinning and am confused about a billion theological issues but I've arrived back at the beginning of this journey, that place where I started out saying "I can keep asking these questions...from the inside."
altarflame: (Default)
I am at such a loss about faith, church, and so on.

My mind is an absolute whirlwind about it.

It's like, my husband doesn't like the Catholic Church or want to be a part of it, no matter what I tell him or how many times I reiterate. This might seem like less of an issue if it wasn't a family-centric religion that you have to be married within, come into together, etc. The priest at St Louis agreed with me coming in without a convalidation of marriage but that's one of those things that is not really Rome-approved or understood by other Catholics.

It's an ongoing paradox, that I would be coming into a religion that is under the ultimate authority of a group it doesn't really obey. How do you take a sacred vow to adhere to the lax and vague standards of American Catholics who nod to but act independently of Rome? It doesn't even make sense.

I have my own doubts about the Catholic Church, myself, and I am kind of embarassed and over-explaining when I try to tell any of my friends or relatives why I am drawn toward it or considering it.

I was drawn toward it partially by tennets that validated my life choices in a lot of ways - procreative sex, openness to life, all that. Now I can't have more babies, I'm getting an IUD to avoid, you know, death.

The parish I went to initially, close by, my family didn't like, so we went far away, where Grant liked it, and I ended up in RCIA there, which is great, except that now nobody but me wants to do it anymore and it's really impractical to be driving half an hour each way to any and every thing. We've revamped our whole life (Grant's job and side jobs, kids' extracurriculars, how we shop, everything) to stay in Homestead, especially now that we're down to one vehicle. I don't know that it will ever be doable - in time or gas money - to go to the half hour rosary prayer or the early morning breakfast or any of the other myriad things they do up there throughout the week.

I am kind of dangling by a hair this weekend, right on the line where I can choose to beg my Elvis loving, overly-lecturing, well-meaning-but-off-the-mark RCIA teacher and the priest I met with (who was vague and sent me out to a secular counselor), and bend over backwards for them, and continue. Or I can just slack off a little more in indecision and be dropped out.

My sponsor (KT), a wonderful woman I love, is extremely alarmed that I might be dropping out. She's talking about spiritual war and how of course obstacles and interference are going to get in the way, because I'm about to make a leap, but I have to stay the course. She's lighting candles and doing a prayer vigil and begging me to call her back later today and throughout the week.

I'm thinking of all the time I've spent in RCIA soooooooooooooooo bored, just struggling not to go to sleep (KT would say her husband sleeps through mass all the time but is still reaping some spiritual reward for being there). All the time that I've felt like I'm seen as very backwards and half-way because I am not expressing the overwhelmed conversion feelings other people are sharing in a circle; I'm really honest sitting there like "I didn't want to come today. I didn't want to come yesterday. I'm glad I did, though, now that I'm here." and that is not met with enthusiasm.


I am scared that I spent so long protestant church shopping that I'm never really gonna be part of a church, if I drop this. I'm scared that I'm kind of gradually giving up on Christianity altogether, if I drop out of this, because the truth is I don't trust or want to be a part of protestant churches anymore, so if I am also out of the Catholic circle, what does that leave? I guess my devotional journal still has a few more empty pages that might multiply themselves like the loaves and fishes and be there when I go to them for another decade?

I'm TERRIFIED of what sort of changes in my world view and personal ethics could happen as a result of not having Christian beliefs anymore, and I'm also very afraid that even if Christianity were not true, CHristians are still getting a level of fulfillment from it that is not possible outside of having defined, "practiced" faith.

I'm curious about whether the Disciples of Christ Christianity that hit me so hard and changed my life so radically as a teenager was pulling on the Pagan-leaning part of me - I found God in the woods, I thought my first real baptism was sudden spontaneous rain, and I was sure the Holy Spirit was there for me in those early years in gusts of wind, and shooting stars I saw from a swimming pool.

I certainly did not have any problems whatsoever with stopping at Grant's on the way to teach Sunday School to get it on, or with kissing Bobby in a prayer circle, or even sitting in worship fantasizing and giddy right up to the moment I grinned up the aisle to get (metaphorical, Protestant) communion.

I've felt sure I sensed evil many times over the years. I don't know what to make of that. I'm not one of those people who doesn't believe in real objective evil, I really do.

So yeah. I guess I am not really ready to commit to being Catholic, to throw myself in to a lifelong committment that is unbreakable. I started having serious problems week before last because we started having to recite the creed during Mass (we used to be dismissed beforehand) and I don't really feel comfortable doing that ("We believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church...."), for all sorts of reasons even down to technicalities about whether or not the Orthodox or they are saying it right (AND THE SPIRIT, those three schismatic words).

I still want it, I want to dip my fingers in holy water as I walk in the door and cross myself, because it's passive and comforting. I want to hear the music swell during Mass when the one acapella singer up front lifts her hands and everyone else joins in. I want to get down on my knees with hundreds of other people every week and clear my mind of everything and just open my heart.

I actually want those things REALLY BAD. I want to NOT have a hole in my life where I want religion to be, again, too. <---nonsense grammar, even beyond the usual, my apologies

There's just all this other stuff, too.

Miscellany:

1. The Pope is being charged with crimes against humanity in a world court in a case that I found shockingly compelling from a purely secular perspective.

Of course the missing part of the story is the incalculable charity and volunteerism and financial giving of Catholics, to people of all faiths.

2. I am not at all sure I'm up to the challenge of being devoutly Catholic and not sure I'm comfortable being lax. I mean that even with total faith in the Church and in Christianity, even with total spousal support and a local parish, I enjoy walking the line way too much. I mean I can't wait for True Blood to come back and I'm rabidly infatuated with Anne Rice books and inexorably drawn to like...bdsm erotica, goth clothes and industrial music.

My best RL friends are: the Pagan leaning divorced woman who taught belly dancing and has a new hip to calf man-o-war tattoo; the x-drug dealing x-con with tattoos of govt agents heads in jars; the flamboyant swinger of a tattoo artist; the former drug addict and fashion-obsessed agnostic with the throw-down cynical Daria worldview; and the lesbian and ftm trans couple. There is also the lapsed-ish Orthodox woman I love with my whole heart, but, truly, I can't help but think lately that she is completely miserable partially because of the Orthodoxy. Then I think no, it's the lapsed part.

There's also my sister, who I'm tremendously grateful for and is a pretty conservative Christian with a really conservative Christian husband, but - I can't help but feel responsible for her faith on some levels, as I've taken her to church, given her bibles, talked to her about this at length, etc since we were very young, as the older one she looked up to - she's even come to and considered Catholicism and St Louis since I started going. Also I can't stand her husband's company (and vice versa, this is openly mutually acknowledged).

I've never really been sure, even in my most pious and prayerful times, that the more devout Catholic and Orthodox people (I don't mean my dear friend) I'm exposed to aren't wasting their lives and/or hiding their true selves. I'm not sure I want to commit to a belief system that involves missing Sunday Mass being a sin. I am sure I don't want my kids to believe masturbation is a sin, at least not until they're past being teenagers, and that is EVEN IF THAT IS TRUE.

Does this make sense?

I'll be honest, I can't make a damned bit of sense out of it.

AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED.
altarflame: (Default)
Charity, gay people, molestation.

1. The last couple of weeks at church/RCIA, I have been really struck by the charity of Catholics. I've been on the receiving end of this, too, when I was younger, and moved by it when I read about the grand-scale giving of Mother Theresa, but just what I see at St Louis is awesome. All the people who bake a casserole once a week and come and drop it off so that volunteers can deliver them all over town, to low income families who need help having enough to eat. The whole battalion of people directing every person who comes asking for help to every resource the community and parish have to offer. The huge festivals that massive amounts of money and time go into where all profits go directly to local shelters. It is just amazing how seriously they take it all and I am blown away by all the good work being done. Catholic Hospice serving people of all (or no) faiths, without trying to influence anyone. It goes on and on. I was thinking to myself week before last that even if they were completely wrong in their religious convictions, it's still a hell of a lot better - prayer, meditation, celebrating mass and helping others as much as possible - as a coping mechanism than what most people are doing. I'm really proud to be a part of that community.

2. I read this really interesting article about how Catholics are the biggest supporters of gay marriage in the US. "Seventy-four per cent of Catholics are in favour of either same-sex marriage or civil unions for gays, compared with 64% of the general population and 67% of white mainline Protestants." Full article here: http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/03/28/catholics-more-likely-to-support-gay-marriage-than-other-christians-u-s-in-general-study/
I believe this is because being Catholic forces you to think about gay marriage more than someone who was not part of a group who is so politically embroiled, and you (or most people) just CAN'T think about this much without being in favor.

3. In complete contrast to the rest of this entry, here is a horrible story about a priest who was molesting kids for several decades: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/us/29jesuit.html?_r=1&hp Now, I have to say, it really really bothers me the way the media makes it seem like MOST priests are sex abusers or like more priests than, say, doctors or teachers are abusing kids - it is really blown out of proportion and that bothers me. HOWEVER...the institutional cover up is unforgiveable in my mind, and disgusting on a whole other level. I have a really hard time with it.

All of this brings the whole Catholic paradox sharply into focus for me; that is, that individual Catholics and actual Catholic beliefs can both be pretty awesome, but the institution itself has some major, terrible issues - and when you sign on, you're pledging allegience and support to the institution. Yet...without the institution, there are no individuals or defined beliefs. World without end, amen :/

The parish community I'm a part of is AMAZING...but I don't have to BE CATHOLIC to be a part of it, I just have to join the church - which I've already done. It's the actual tranformation to align myself with Rome and all that keeps making me feel hesitant and kind of freaked. Even though I have this hunger to fully participate in the parish community, which you can only do by aligning yourself with Rome. Round and round.
altarflame: (Christ)
I suppose that it shouldn't have a big effect on my own beliefs, as none of it changes my own personal faith experiences, but the truth is that I'm sort of heartbroken and confused in the wake of several people I never expected leaving their Christian beliefs behind. It's had a lot to do with my own doubts and troubles over the last year.

One of them is Anne Rice... I came into Catholicism directly following reading her book about returning to The Church, Called Out of Darkness, as a long time fan of hers. I follow her on facebook and we have even chatted there a couple of times, and...well...silly as it might sound, she has been very influential in my life. Her vampire books were some of my very favorites as a teenager and her witch/crossover books are some of my very favorites now. Her deeply researched and beautifully expressed reasons for returning to her childhood faith really touched me, and when we were talking we seemed to have a bizarre lot of things in common (she was starting the Eat to Live doctor's Beans and Greens diet and wrestling with her faith vs her (anti-Catholic) friends, and had always wanted to write, and was with one man most of her life, and is really pro-gay rights and anti-abortion but has such a hard time with religion and politics...) I've always found it comforting and inspiring that she didn't START writing until her 30s. Anyway, it really rocked my boat in a big way when she publically, loudly decried Christianity and said she would not be a part of it anymore.

Then someone else, who I will not name, but who I thought of as a real living saint of the Orthodox faith...who has inspired and moved me and countless others and had bishop approval for their writing and who I had had long conversations about, with several other believers, and had traded emails with...found out that their bishop, the one they had been directly interacting with for blessings, prayer and counsel, was sexually abusing children. It was very painful and this person left Orthodoxy and is still going to a (different sort of) church, but it is painfully obvious that they are much more ecumenical and are also reading about many other faiths, and open to practicing them, and...I am not judging them! It's just a completely different path and definitely not the same one I'm on anymore. Everything this person says makes complete sense to me, still, as they try to sort out where they are and what they need and deal with persecution from those who feel they should have stayed the course with Orthodoxy...and that is...hard, I guess, for me, as someone in RCIA classes.

Those two things happened very close together, along with my ex, my baby daddy 1.0, so to speak, telling me he regrets his own Catholic conversion and feels he's agnostic at this point. I mean part of me wants to be really judgemental because of our history and say agnosticism is just more compatible and convenient with his lifestyle at the moment...but if I'm honest and shrug off the baggage I understood everything he had to say on the topic very well. Which is...jarring, I guess? Because we went to church and youth group and church camp as teens and attended bible study and prayed and grappled with premarital sex guilt together, and I told him all my deep dark spiritual secrets and just, I don't know. First kiss in a prayer circle and all this. I mean he kind of led me to Catholicism and to Humanae Vitae, several years ago, too. So it's like, damnitt, now you pull the wool out from under me??

The biggest whopper, though, the blow that leaves me winded and makes me tear up to think about, is Mother Theresa. I've read just about everything you can read, by and about her, and been so moved - I truly believe her words are as powerful as the gospels and that's what made the idea of saints make sense to me. Her obedience to The Church and all she accomplished in her life, through it, blew my mind. There is really no way to overstate this. Her ideas about seeing Christ in everyone and being Christ to others are the foundation of my beliefs about what it means to be a Christian (they'll know we are Christians by our Love).

But the Vatican let this whole somewhat unethical, breach of confidentiality book be published, of her letters to her mentor priest guy, her confessor. Private letters she never meant for the public. ANd in them it's revealed that she went MANY DECADES without ever feeling the presence or love of God. That she lived nearly her entire life in the proverbial dark night of the soul, lonely and miserable inside.

This is "supposed" to make me feel really comforted about the times when I don't sense or feel the presence of God, like, oh, well, even the great nearly beatified Mother Theresa herself had those times of doubt and despair! It's perfectly normal!

But...it doesn't. It makes me feel like if SHE was just going through the motions, if SHE was just forcing herself through what the faith dictates without that real emotional conviction, if she could sacrifice and give and pray and devote herself on that level and still feel like the sky was empty and it was just her doing the good work....If she could give lip service to others about how great the joy of knowing God was while she was not at all joyful...

Well fuck.

I mean, really, FUCK.

Does this make sense?

*sigh*


Last night my mil was on facebook chatting with me and she was talking about how she missed our old Disciples of Christ (female) pastor, Robin. And I understood what she meant, but I was thinking of all of this already, and so I could not help but recall standing 20 feet from the live nativity scene we were putting on by the highway as a teenager, with her telling (horrified) me that she didn't think it mattered if Mary was ACTUALLY a virgin or Jesus was TRULY conceived by the Holy Spirit. That the faith itself, the comforting metaphor, the belief in something, was what mattered.

Well, that is not good enough for me. I need it to be real or not be real. I am not someone who can respect and adhere to rules and rituals for the sake of themselves.




I am still deeply in love with Jesus Christ; all He said and did, everything He stood for. I'm deeply disillutioned with His followers and not so sure about anything being done in His name. I'm even curious about whether or not He's quite who I've typically been thinking.

I was out tonight, and feeling a little pang at every smudge of ashes I spotted on someone's forehead. I feel I need to throw myself into Lent, and then I feel like I just can't, or don't want to, or don't understand why I should. Then I go back to feeling I need to just do it. Because there is this pure love I can't help but feel in spite of all this consternation and grief, when I see the icon I'm using for this post or even think the word "Christ". There is a real longing in me for God, even when I can't bring myself to repent for anything because I'm just not sorry. Not even sorry I'm not sorry.

I guess that for now that has to be enough.
altarflame: (Bloody Hell)
I am SO FRUSTRATED right now!!!

*deep breath*

I have a lot of good stuff, exciting stuff pounding through my brain a mile a minute but there is so much of it that everything is bouncing off of everything else and causing what might soon escalate from a headache to an implosion.

(dash?)Bullet Points:

-I'm trying to register for this summer class I have to take before I can take my full schedule in the fall and the servers are overloaded and won't let me load it and say to try again...just as they have been for the last two hours.

-Someone linked me to a story about a 26 year old blogger who self published her books online and is raking in millions now, via Kindle and Amazon on Demand sales, which led to other articles about all the other authors out there who are doing this, which led me to a big old lot of research on how traditional publishing is a (slowly) dying industry, and I am thinking about this bigtime now. I don't think I could rake in millions; I don't have THAT kind of blog following AND I don't write "young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy" (i.e., Twilight). But I think it might be both profitable and a way for people to read my stuff, and the immediacy of it is really exciting, and SO MANY OTHER POINTS ABOUT WHICH OF MY THINGS WOULD BE IDEAL FOR THIS MARKETING STRATEGIES I COULD TAKE BLAH BLAH BLAH ON FIRE I DIE.

-I set up a tumblr and those stupid servers are ALSO OVERLOADED and so I can't do anything to it until they come back up.

-I almost dug my own eye out with a spoon in frustration trying to make the Table of Contents template in Word work (but, WHOA AWESOME, 35,000 words and 19 stories done in my short story collection!!).

-Trying to make sense of when Elise has to be to and from preschool in conjunction with when the other four would have to be to and from other school and I would have to be to and from my classes is also....fun o_O

-Aaron is having an SID fit today arguing with literally every word I say and endlessly getting into lots of things he should not be messing with and generally getting me to where I put him outside and make him stay there.

-I'm also trying to finish this post I started over the weekend, defining and laying out all of my (spiritual) beliefs as they are now, and hitting roadblocks about whether to include political issues that overlap "religion" as well as HOW TO EVER STOP TALKING because I have so much deep confliction in this area right now.

-Trying to stay on this stupid diet.

-My house is disgusting. Someone has cleaned up the dress up chest in the library 3 times in the last two hours but it just keeps exploding again. My floors are deplorable, my bathrooms need work, the laundry is still not where it needs to be re: us having gotten a new washing machine a week ago or more. Argh argh argh.

-People not answering their phones, not having a vehicle here, bank account not where I thought it should be...ET-FUCKING-CETERA.



I am going to do some kind of deep breath, centering prayer, make a list type thing and attempt to get out of this tangled hairball of a bottleneck.
altarflame: (Default)
I have these dreams, recurring dreams for years now, that involve us living in some place we have lived for a very long time - often what seems to be either a two story house or a big suite in a hotel - and suddenly remembering some long forgotten HUGE CRAZY SPACE behind a closed door.

It's not at all like discovering the space or finding it for the first time, it's very much "Oh yeah, how in the hell have we just forgotten/not used AN ENTIRE GIANT COURTYARD FULL OF GARDENS AND SWIMMING POOLS, we should be out here every day with the kids, talk about wasteful!" or "Whoa...how have we continued living here as though THAT MASSIVE TERRIFYING HAUNTED WING WE CAN'T BEAR TO SET FOOT IN IS NOT JUST ON THE OTHER SIDE OF AN UNLOCKED DOOR!! We need to move, stat, before the horror within gets out and finds us here in the hallway, not just let it slide for another YEAR."

The many-roomed scary wing of the two story house dream (it's easily bigger and far more lavish and interesting than the entire rest of the house we're using as living space) way pre-dates the other one; I've been having it for several years and wtf'ing over it to myself on many a morning. Velvet tapestries and chandeliers and staircases, bedrooms with chests at the foots of beds. But air thick with BAD BAD BAD.

The sprawling, rolling courtyard full of plants, gardens, fountains and pools, which is 3 times the square footage of the hotel suite we're living in like it doesn't WRAP AROUND this entire courtyard which is actually the center of the suite - I just had that for the second time. It's sort of like a massive rectangle with a string of narrow rooms around the outside, but we've been living in the rooms without even seeing or thinking about the courtyard for time out of mind out of...laziness? habit?


Now that there is a second dream repeating and I see a theme, I'm trying to think of what in the world this could mean. Thinking of things like how PTSD almost universally causes a discomfort with long hallways full of doors and why that would be. Also denial, and "elephants in the room", and untapped potential. Feel free to weigh in.

THEN AGAIN, I also had a dream with a NARRATOR last night, that concluded at the end of plotline, at which point I woke up? So the answer could definitely be that I'm just nuts.




Yesterday was a really difficult, conflicting sort of faith day. I drove up to church, as is typical of me lately, torn between whether or not I'm even still sure I completely believe in literal biblical church Christianity vs how I know, concretely, that I have seen and experienced divine intervention and Real Presence and all that. I was there listening to my sinful music on my way to RCIA feeling all angsty, considering horrible things re: my kids and how I want to raise them.

FOR INSTANCE: say I really believe all this Catholic hoohaw is true, totally and completely the truth - does that mean I start teaching it to them in great detail right now? I'm not sure it should mean that, BECAUSE culpability - knowing something is sinful and understanding why but doing the sin anyway - makes sinning way, way worse. I don't want my kids to have a whole lot of culpability from a really young age. I don't want them growing up dealing with cycles of guilt or fear of hell or any of that. I mean, I'm not saying "I'm not sure I want my kids dealing with stuff that isn't even real" I'm saying "Assuming Hell IS real and evil IS a true threat, I'd still rather they weren't losing their shit trying not to masturbate as teenagers or whatever - they can get to a point of understanding that wraps them up in neurosis when they're grown and choose it for themselves." I've even considered how maybe it isn't fair to have told them about God/prayed with them from a young age because it puts too much spiritual responsibility on them whereas maybe they'd get more rope if things were different in our house. I'll just take it on my own soul and leave them to have it easier.

I realize this sort of train of thought is contrary to all kinds of things. This is me completely unable to not believe God, Jesus, the Bible and church Tradition are real, true things, even when I am not at all sure I can live by any of their precepts or do as I should. ACTUALLY, the older I get, I feel a sort of tug of war - in one direction, there is what I see as Real Truth getting stricter and more defined, pulling me THAT way. In the other direction, there is what I feel like I can deal with as a person, as far as rules and guidelines and accountability go, pulling me way far in the other direction. It's an ever broadening V without any sort of answer. Someone with my history and memories and emotions can't turn off the "being Christian" switch - they can only turn their back on it.

Then I got to Mass and felt personally challenged, like I had to pay attention, like the sermon(homily) and the gospels were relevant and beautiful. RCIA was mostly a discussion of our various individual experiences of the Vatican Splendors exhibit last week and our calendar in the months to come. And I shared my own experiences, down to what seem like obvious "Defenses" for the art and money invested as well as my (for me) weird affection for the last Pope. It's like an echo, or as though I'm in stereo: I hear all these things coming out of my mouth and know them to be honest words from honest feelings, but I also get an irony that I'm NOT sharing with the group - that I'm good with words and with sounding convicted but not always so sure, inside.

THEN, I spent a significant part of Isaac's birthday party (post on that to come...) either listening to my agnostic, new age, vegan friend Michelle wax on about the beauty and necessity of selfishness, thinking how what she was saying made perfect secular sense but would be a scandal to some people I know... followed by listening to myself ramble to Laura about the fullness and poetry of Catholicism and the scriptural basis for confession, and communion, and so on, thinking how it's easy to talk the talk and maybe I can even convince myself in the bargain.

When I read over what I've written here I think:
-I'm really doing a poor job of representing The Faith, and it's because I'm not living my own faith, mostly. Mostly, I am just going through the motions of RCIA attendance and praying with the kids before dinner. When I take the time to pray a rosary alone or light a candle I FEEL better and do better in my life, and if I raise my kids within the church, I am giving them tools like that as well, and maybe their adult lives won't be so difficult.

-my first confession is really going to be a Thing. Either I'll realize that with accountability and spiritual counsel I can overcome some of my struggles and christian life in general will be easier, or I'll realize I can't keep going back to confession saying the same things without true repentance and no real desire to change, and my inability to prioritize holiness will drive me away. ...OR, I'll sugarcoat/the priest will sugarcoat and it will change exactly nothing.

I am just coming around to a point lots of people have always been at. But for me, it's new. I'm finding I don't like church people nearly as much as non-church people or church music nearly as much as non-church music or chastity nearly as much as harlotry, etc. When I became Christian ALL of my best friends were either ministers or in some kind of youth ministry, and all of my very favorite songs were campfire hymns or christian rock of some kind, and I had some sort of ideal that I could be happiest and most fulfilled by following God's plans and that party people were always miserable because they were partying.

THOSE DAYS ARE GONE. Now, increasingly, I find that I can speak honestly about my faith troubles with my atheist and agnostic friends but don't know how to tell my Christian friends even a portion of my real thoughts.

Blah blah blah.
altarflame: (Alice)
1. Because the economy is in tatters, or...whatever...our home value has plummeted, WHICH MEANS that our taxes have dropped dramatically, WHICH IN TURN MEANS, that our mortgage payment is dropping from about $1200 a month to $890 a month, WHICH IS AWESOME - and, as a result of this drop or some other economic thing I'm not even pretending to understand we have an "overage" in our escrow account, and are getting a refund check of $2200 in the next 5-7 days. Which is awesome, because 1. Grant's just started his new job and we have a big gap in income and need it a lot and 2. We are idiots and spent too much of the "selling the Prius" money on camping and roadtrips and this will help us to get another, crappier but still necessary second vehicle anyway - BUT WAIT...I can't put numbers within other numbers!

(real and only)2. I am irritated by how the Catholic Church is portrayed in the media. I completely get that they have actually done some horrible shit collectively and that some Catholics continue to perpetuate horrible shittiness, but this media vendetta is still ridiculous. For example, I have been learning in RCIA about the "examination of conscience" that people are urged to do before confession - it's basically a guided meditation on what you might need to bring up or work on, to do privately before you go to confession, a preparation for your own heart. There are specific suggested questions to ask yourself, such as "Have I, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt another person?" and have I been prejudiced or felt superior or neglected my children or ignored stuff I know I should be doing, and so on and so forth, etc. I think it's a good idea and makes sense. SO ANYWAY the Vatican has approved an Examination of Conscience iPhone app for people who do not have a printed out hard copy Examination of Conscience and/or don't have it committed to memory or are on the go - whatever. I think it's a good cool thing even though I don't have an iPhone and it's sort of irrelevant to me. BUT, I keep seeing stuff ALL OVER THE DAMNED INTERNET titled like "Catholics can now confess their sins on their iPhones" and "iPhone absolution" and "Forgiveness App", and often when you read these articles they don't even clarify what this actually is. It's just one in countless examples of how stuff is reported in ways that make the average reader go "GEEZ how is anyone holding onto this archaic dumb BULLSHIT" when if they knew the actual story, it is pretty legit and not nearly so laughable. *sigh*

3. NOT A JOKE. I really believe this is the hottest woman ever, and if I had to pick a style icon, it would be her for sure, as many people who see me in clothes IRL would attest:















I am fully aware she looks like a tacky person in rags to many people. My father generally says my fashion sense could be summed up as "Bum at a yard sale". I am ok with it. It is really not how I perceive it at all.

I could just look at her for hours. I need to learn how to make my big old wild hair a soft fly away pile all over my head that stays up there somehow *scratching head*

It doesn't hurt of course that I love her roles and her husband and all that jazz, or that she is pregnant or holding/caring for a kid in many of these shots.




P.S. I have a gyno appt this afternoon for a repeat pap that will, hopefully, yield clean results and lead up to my IUD insertion.
altarflame: (boomdeyada)
I don't even know why exactly but it probably has something to do with, A., how whenever I post private to do lists here it feels all familiar and homey and like why don't I post here more often and, B., how Jenne (the_waker) is gonna start posting here at my suggestion and it makes me feel like I want to be a part of the in club.

Anyway.

2011 is shaping up to be so vastly, wildly, wtf-ly different for me, in good ways mostly. I was telling Dama that I've begun to think I can't assume anything anymore. I remember having so many convictions and sureties that are long gone and far away at this point in my life.

Some wild departures I'm taking:
-I, former smack talking Pope-bashing Protestant, will be a confirmed and communing Catholic in like 3 months.
-I, passionate advocate of homeschooling who gets frustrated whenever anyone suggests sending my kids to school, am mostly likely having all five of my kids in school this fall. AND REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT.
-I, person who is 29 years old and has never been drunk, who never even HAD ALCOHOL at all before like 28, am like "I want to get drunk".

I'm also one of these impossible chicks who thinks that overnight separation from a spouse is out of the question; many of you probably remember me damned near dying last summer when Grant was in the mountains with Shaun - and now I'm like, you know. I think we should both take trips by ourselves all the time with other people. I'll start, me and Jess are going to New Orleans, bye!!

That's a few months off, it will be a car trip when Grant's settled into a new job and we're not in such dire financial straits. David is from Louisiana and used to go and as soon as I said "New Orleans" he launched into a massive list of things I had to do, see, eat, etc similar to what I would do if someone said they were going to Key West. This is helpful and awesome.

And I'm getting an IUD (we've been doing NFP) (this is assuming I can clear the normal paps necessary, as I failed one a couple back and it's what held me up before), which will be wildly liberating and different. (I only failed the pap for the stupid reason that is usually tampon fibers or something, it wasn't any suspected Serious Thing).

I've finally reached a point where I feel good about the IUD, though. Or at least ok. Faith-wise I have a lot of confidence but also period-wise (as I have torrential, potentially dangerous periods already and copper IUDs increase flow) I've learned a lot of things I have to do to keep it reasonable. For anyone out there that has crazy periods, naproxen (like Aleve) will reduce it. I learned this from a nurse midwife a couple of cycles ago and it helps. Also, anecdotally, many women including myself have seen that using tampons radically increases their flow - I theorize that this is for the same reason the IUD does. Basically, your body is trying to get everything out and it works harder at it, contracting more and pushing out more blood, when you have something foreign lodged in there. My own irritable uterus (diagnosed in pregnancy) also seems to apply here - physical activity increases flow. So if I have to lay around on Aleve a lot and only use pads, I will, basically, and hopefully that will be "good enough".


As far as personal departures. I'm thinking about (reconstructive) plastic surgery a lot. Since I'm actually losing weight now in a way I feel good about and see continuing, I'm thinking a lot about fixing my stomach. I mean, that is medically necessary, but I really am looking to lose a lot of weight. Like I'm getting on the scale thinking "13.4 pounds down, 76.6 pounds to go". This is controversial in my circle of friends because nobody thought I looked like I had 90 pounds to lose to begin with; Kristin exclaimed "WHERE WILL YOU GO?!" But...I know that though I carry weight well, I am still REALLY HEAVY. I don't know. We'll see how it is when I'm a few "on" months into Eat to Live (I'm doing one month on, one month off, and you lose 20-30 pounds in a month on ETL) - how I look and feel and how the losing is or is not slowing down. But I mean, I started out at 238. Just because my face and neck don't get the weight and I can kind of dress to hide it doesn't mean that's not still ridiculous. I'm 5'4"!! The first time Grant ever saw me naked, I was 136 pounds. I mean...I was also 14, but I was THE SAME HEIGHT. So even losing 90 pounds, I'd still be 148 pounds. Which is more than a lot of women my height want to weigh. I don't want to ever be skinny - I have huge size 10 feet and giant hair and like my curves. But I do want to be able to buy regular clothes at regular stores and feel good about myself and blah blah blah.

SO. When a person who is turning 30 soon loses that much weight there can be some dire consequences re: gravity. And if I have to go to the OR for this stomach crap that seriously scares the HELL out of me, anyway, regardless, well. Why not come out actually liking myself? With like whatever the hell lifted that needs to be? I mean I have some optimism here but really, when thighs have been rubbing together as long as mine have I imagine some sort of horrific after effect following "deflation" :p Also at the moment I have, if I do say so, FABULOUS breasts, that still sit only about an inch or less lower overall than they ever did and face front and forward (which for DD+ boobs is impressive, damnitt). I'm kind of scared of what will happen when I stop this 7-solid-year nursathon I've been doing, like are they just going to shrivel into nothing?! (THE HORROR) On the other hand, I have very little milk anymore. Elise nurses once a day. I left her for 3 days and 7 days, respectively, in the last year, without ever getting to a painful level of engorgement. I have this idea that I can somehow "trick" my body into keeping some breast mass around by losing all the other weight before she weans, but I also have hopes of the milk not being all I have going on here. We'll see. The point of this shallow ramble is that I don't think it's out of my realm of possibilities to get a breast lift if I decide I need one when I'm going under the knife.

SHUDDER EW DAMN ARGH ARGH UNDER THE KNIFE WHY DID I SAY IT THAT WAY SURGERY I WILL DIE -

Cutting off that train of thought...

This entry has been interrupted by Kristin calling; she is going to come pick me up and we're driving off into the night. So, I will write more later.
altarflame: (Epic Shit)
Last night, Grant and I played 20 Questions as we got into bed. This is because he got the ingenius idea (sarcasm hand is raised) to use "grass clippings" as his answer and so we obviously had to get on that right away. Then he actually had the nerve to tell me anyone with logical thinking skills could guess anything in 20 Questions, so I challenged him AND WON, with the answer "hair chopsticks". At some point in one of the 10 minute lulls between his questions I told him he needed to get on with it because "I'd like to have time to involve myself with your penis". It occured to me soon after (in the continuing dark silence) that probably this isn't the kind of come on most women would use.

What can I say, I'm direct.

We went to Mass all together today and I think it was a great success on every level:
-we got there early and got good seats
-the kids were really good AND INTERESTED the entire time
-they played one of Grant's favorite songs
-it is just so satisfying and right to feel that we're worshipping again
-papers with our names were left in the rotunda by the CCD lady so we can set up an appt


On to a million pictures )
altarflame: (burning bush)
This day took quite awhile to warm up. Like...10 hours. But then it finally got going and was sort of ok. I give it a C-.

To nullify the parts where I slept in until people were arguing and making messes so loudly that I had to get up, and then wasted hours trudging around feeling grumpy, I'm going to list the things I did accomplish to make myself feel better.

*sitting staring blankly for far too long*

Oh! Alright.

-enforced all chores being done and all animals being attended...this is getting to be a lengthy process as we currently have three chicks indoors under a heat lamp and 7 kittens being nursed by a ravenous mama cat, in addition to the guinea pigs being pet-sat (<- ha) and Jake having chores now...
-Helped Isaac through handwriting, Jake through "g" and "h" work, and Aaron through a nature journal entry, and checked Ananda's math work.
-Made a great dinner of chicken fried rice and steamed green beans that was a hit all around.
-read The Ugly Duckling to Elise, some poems about chocolate to Isaac from a volume he found at the library, and part of the D'aulaire's Book of Trolls to Jake (our third multi-night run through this one...he loves it), at bedtime...Ananda, Aaron and I started The Island of the Blue Dolphins.

THAT'S IT.

I'm "currently working on" (I stop every couple of paragraphs to do a little more) some incredibly tedious crap to help Grant out. This is the only sort of thing re: web coding and design that I can be trusted with, I assure you. It involves color proofing and renaming dozens and dozens of tiny images that represent fabric swatches for one of his clients with an upholstery business.


I was in Mass yesterday - for the first time in forever -  )

That got long so I cut it.
altarflame: (Default)
This is about kittens and Jesus. How much more controversial can you get? (my sarcasm hand is raised, but it shouldn't be)

1. My cat had kittens! It would have been better if we had avoided it and I will have her spayed (and already have good homes lined up for two of her litter), but it is impossible to not be caught up in the adorable awesomeness that is a litter of brand new kittens. Also just silly to not recognize the great enrichment it is for the kids, watching her birth and fielding the endless conversation it's inspired. Yes, I know the cat population is overloaded and that a bunch of you who blew up my formspring in reference to this will probably be seeing red*. This is why I didn't want to deal with updating about her pregnancy as we waited for the day. But I have to share the pictures.

19 pictures )

*for those of you who missed it, Peter was an adopted rescue cat that came to us neutered, but Chrysanthemum was bought from a breeder who begged us to hold off on spaying her until she was a year old (or AT LEAST AT LEAST 9 months) because "it's a major operation for a girl". I agreed, not realizing that she would be in heat several times over by the time that time came, and once she was finally old enough our financial situation had changed. Anyway, I figured we'd do it when we could as she was an exclusively indoor cat, but cats (apparently) get REALLY determined to get out when they're in heat, and she managed a couple of times.




2. Anne Rice, who many of you may know I have been a big fan of for most of my life, had a public...reconversion? back to her childhood Catholicism a few years back. She detailed her journey to this decision in the book Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession (which I loved) and she also changed her prolific fiction writing over completely from occult storylines (that were some of favorite books ever as a teenager) to "writing for the Lord". So far that's entailed historical fiction about the life of Christ (which I haven't read but is widely endorsed by many priests) and some deeply theological angel business I don't know much about. She also has a gay son who is a huge gay rights activist and who has her full love and support. Honestly she's been obviously and deeply conflicted as a New York Times reading, sex positive, secular humanist viewpoint sort of woman who wants to go to Mass and have communion each morning and is deeply researched on theology for her work - and as such I've been greatly interested in everything she has to say.

Anyway, she has a facebook, which she updates frequently and personally responds to a lot of comments on, and I have her added there. A few days ago she publically walked away from and renounced Christianity, and said she is no longer a Christian, "in the name of Christ". Basically she said she is over all this hate and the horrible things done in God's name and can no longer in good conscious as a follower of Jesus count herself part of it.

It's garnered A LOT of attention, I've already seen links for the NPR "All Things Considered" interview and the Huffington Post and LA Time write-ups as well as what seems to be an endless amount of opinion on facebook and in the blogosphere. I feel a weird combination of dissapointment, fascination and curiosity about the whole thing, personally.

This morning she posted a link to an article discussing her decision in The Catholic Register which she is calling "substantive criticism" that she may not agree with, but at least understands and respects. She asked "our" (facebook) opinions and I ended up writing up a big old comment. The truth is I think about this stuff EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

This is the article: http://www.ncregister.com/register_exclusives/the-strange-inner-world-of-anne-rice/

And my response to her posting it...stuff I've been thinking about constantly.
True to Form, this is long -for a facebook comment )

The thing is, I can understand how if you believe in the Bible, you can think the act of homosexual sex is a sin or disordered nature or whatever. You might disagree on a personal level, even, and feel like YOU think gay sex is just sex between consenting adults, but still have to admit that God doesn't seem to jive with it from the biblical perspective. This I can wrap my head around.

I DO NOT understand how if you believe in the Bible, you think it's ok to hate or mistreat anyone, to judge them, to think their sin is somehow greater than your own sin when EVERYONE sins...you can disorder nature and commit grave sexual sin, according to Catholic beliefs, within a heterosexual marriage, or all by yourself. So why in the WORLD are we villifying and witch-hunting GAY PEOPLE, as a group, to such a wild extent? Politically especially but also in everyday life. It's easier for me to understand the secular obsession with pedophile priests.

The overwhelming message of the Bible, of Christ, is to love one another, he hung out with sinners, blah blah blah Micah 6:8 is even the old Testament and it's "What does the Lord require of us? But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God". It's never our job to persecute or punish sin in other adult persons. PERIOD. It's reiterated SO MANY TIMES that we are supposed to look inward for sin, and look outward only for love. Search yourself for flaws, don't point them out in other people.

So anyway, yeah, with all this in mind. With the knowledge that many Christians think it's vitally important to uphold family values as they believe God intended them and all of that. How have we gotten to this point in our culture wars?

Because where our society is, right now...as a Christian person with Catholic-leaning beliefs...when I see this picture* my aunt's friend took in Key West?


It's clear to me that God does not hate anyone. That God made all of us, in His image, EVEN DRAG QUEENS. EVEN TRANS PEOPLE. EVEN freaking everyone. And so you see something like this and even though you're wondering to yourself if it's necessarily good to be like super duper shout it from the rooftops "EVERYONE SHOULD BE GAY, GAY PEOPLE ARE SUPERIOR, LET'S HAVE SO MANY GAY FESTIVALS AND PARADES THIS IS AWESOME" if there is sin involved in any way at all...well, how can you do anything but stand up and cheer for the "Fuck this Guy" dude?! Because one of those people is MISREPRESENTING GOD and making people feel attacked and ashamed. Those sentiments are NOT designed to inspire repentance or soul searching in ANYONE. The other guy is softening the blow and providing comfort through humor, i.e., mercy.

*Photo depicts the corner of Duval and Eaton, and the guy on the right is Jackson Holbrook

Likewise I recently read about some guy who took his church group to a Pride Parade and they held signs that said things like, "I'm so sorry people have x, y and z in the name of Jesus". I don't remember exactly; horrible shit though like "wished AIDS on you" and "beaten you up and denied you jobs". And this is where I'm at. Maybe if we lived in a Christian utopia where everyone strives to be Christlike it might be kind of weird for me to feel compelled by the Spirit to go to Pride parades and laugh and celebrate with guys in their underwear, making out in the street - but because of where we actually are... In a society where people stand on corners with signs that say things like the signs up there... I think it's the right thing to do. I think it's incredibly Christlike and awesome when I see that some guy in their underwear ran up to this apologetic guy with his church group and hugged him, crying. I think...that is what this is all about. None of us are ever gonna be magical non-sinning people (For none is righteous, no not one, it's in Romans somewhere) but we can get a little closer to people feeling safe and knowing this faith is not about lynching or exclusion or voting to separate loving parents from their children or any other crazily departed from Jesus crap.

I'm rambling. It's late and I'm really tired, like almost delerious. What I'm saying it I understand where Anne Rice is coming from, and I still don't really understand where I belong. Most of the real gay-bashing is done by Protestants, who I can't really take seriously in general anymore as an option. But Catholicism does everything from horrify everyone I come in contact with to make me question my own core beliefs...

Tangent - I don't think a gay person is more likely to go to Hell than anybody else. If anything they're bound to do tons more soul searching than someone secure in their church-going, accepted, heterosexual bigotry.

And I'm not saying all Christians are bigots. I don't think they are. I actually think a lot of great Christian people get a bad reputation because our liberal media picks up any time crumb of "horrible Christians" story and runs wild with it; I've been on the receiving end of so much love, patience and charity within various churches that it is just incredible.

But I think genuine concern over what is or is not sin can become a catch-all shield we hide behind when we would do better to examine ourselves... I don't think the vast majority of Christians who are against gay marriage are against it out of real concern over anyone's soul, for instance.

But I don't know where I personally can go to find the ones who are sincere in their faith, are really loving and non-judgemental, and are ok with curse words and Kevin Smith movies. It would also be a perk if makeup and dressing up were not required, and/or people would not try to hand my kids sodas and oreo cookies before parking them in front of a tv as soon as we walk in the door. The bottom line is that no matter how helpful and profound it is in my life, even when they want it, I can't bring myself to feel totally right and responsible as a parent to put my kids in RCIA classes, or just about any other deeply Christian environment where I'm not there to oversee and nitpick. AWANA is easy because it's so light; it's memorizing verses and earning badges and playing games outside. They still get the soda and oreos and tv sometimes but nobody is interpreting scripture for them in a way that makes me cringe (such as the United Church of Christ pastor who told my children, "We all know that everything in the bible isn't really true, right?" in the middle of children's church O_O)

I guess the point is everybody's gonna have to keep wading through entries of mine like this for awhile longer :p





I have let this sit open so long out of delerious, barely-awake concern that I'm saying something REALLY BADLY that I almost just closed it up and let it go into the abyss. Here goes nothing.
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They're becoming one and the same for me.

Sometimes I get kind of freaked by the "results" of this (modified!) Eat to Live program. Like...I lost 4 pounds in two days. I've lost 13 pounds in 11 days. That's insane! It's unhealthy! It's NOT OK, or sustainable!! But...yesterday's menu:

-breakfast was a BIG bowl (like 2 cups-ish?) of steel cut oats, with half a banana, some blueberries, a handful of raisins, a splash of coconut milk and about 2 tbs of flax seed meal mixed into it, making it a massive bowl all told. With a couple of slices of blood orange.
-lunch was a plate of raw veggies (half a red pepper, a couple of baby carrots, handful of sugar snap peas, tomato slices) and a handful of walnuts, with a couple of figs
-dinner was a biggish salad of spinach, blueberries, a full cup of chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, and lemon juice squeezed over top, with a plate on the side of plain steamed broccoli and garlic cloves - last 3 figs for dessert

Today:

-breakfast was lowfat plain yogurt I buy that comes with chunks of pear and some grains at the bottom, with fresh pineapple and a handfull of mixed raw nuts
-lunch was a heaping bowl of black beans with chunk tomato stirred in and about a third of a raw red pepper on the side, and about a cup's worth of plain baked sweet potato
-dinner was this stuff I made in the oven - layered sliced eggplant, sliced mushrooms, spinach, diced canned tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, sliced garlic cloves, a little salt. I ate a ton of it, like almost a whole baking pan's worth? With half a banana.

So yeah. Not starving myself (actually getting full at every meal). Definitely getting plenty of nutrition. I'm sure part of it is that I've started off with SO much to lose, and that I was eating such a RIDICULOUS quantity of almost exclusively high fat foods before that this is a radical change. I don't know though - I've done a ton of recon on crazily varied messageboards where people are following this initial 6 week program (everything from MDC to weight lifting sites) and it seems as though a pound a day is average throughout it...there are tons of people saying they lost 35-40 pounds in the 6 weeks, and kept it off even after abandoning the program altogether.

*shrug* I'll take it.




I am going to be making an entire post about The Silent Mountain sometime soon. It is taking me much, much longer to read than books normally do, for a variety of reasons, but there is no way to explain how many different profound effects it's having on me.

At the same time, I continue to lean heavily on God and be amazed at Grace as I actually..don't eat stuff I shouldn't. Day after day.

And Anne Rice, who I follow on Facebook, keeps posting relevant things just as I get to parts of the book that are about them, and my head is just spinning in so many directions at once.

I'm doing a poor job of condensing this. Condensing, it's not really what I do ;) But...I'll expand it later.

For now, what I really wanted to share here is how deeply I'm delving into both Catholic and Orothodox theology and how strongly it all resonates, and how INCREDIBLY emotionally invested in reconcilliation I am becoming. A Catholic Archbishop in Russia just said, in September, that he thinks we may only be "months away" - this was after meeting with an Orthodox leader, and was published in various Catholic newspapers. Read about it here - http://www.ncregister.com/daily/catholic-orthodox_unity_in_sight/#When:15:10:59Z The SSPX bishops are also meeting with the Vatican this month. I WANT UNIFICATION SO BADLY. It is intense.

Orthodox Priest laments the disorganized state of Orthodoxy in general as being in the way of reconciliation - http://palamas.info/?p=870?a9e7f9e0

Catholic blogger talks about the differences in perception of reconcilliation between the Catholic and Orthodox - http://ericsammons.com/blog/2009/09/15/catholic-orthodox-unity-within-a-few-months/
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It is so, so, SO GOOD to wake up with Grant right there in the bed too, along of course with Jake and Elise, who always join us in the middle of the night. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world snuggling up to his sleep-warmth and breathing him in. And then we're dozing and talking and dreaming and laughing about things and taking turns hugging whoever is not having their turn nursing. Curly smiles full of tiny teeth. Eventually larger children appear.

It is pretty novel to have found a church that has a Mass starting at 12:30. So that after all this there can be sweet showers and homemade blueberries pancakes before we head out the door for church. I have a feeling that once most of us are confirmed and having communion, and thus fasting in the hours before communion, we'll be interested in an earlier Mass so we can have breakfast afterward ;) For now this is rich.

And I weigh myself every morning when I get up. Eat to Live is perfect for me, it really is...it disallows almost every sort of cultural, celebratory, splurging or otherwise emotional eating I could do, leaving only nutrient dense healthy stuff that I eat...to live. I've been doing it for a week now and I started at 233 lbs. Which is NOT OK. So far it's gone...

Morning After Day 1 - 229.6
MAD2 - 228.6
MAD3 - 227.4
MAD4 - 227.0
MAD5 - 226.2
MAD6 - 225.8
MAD7 - 224.2

I am seriously considering staying on a modified version of it for the rest of my life. I feel GOOD.

So Mass - we were a few minutes late, and thus funneled into the Reconciliation Chapel where the Mass is projected on the wall until after the gospel reading and homily, at which point all the late people come on into the main sanctuary during the Profession of Faith. I've never really spent time in the Reconciliation Chapel at St Louis before, and it was good to contemplate - the big and rather grapic crucifix, the beautiful painting of Virgin and Child, the massive banners showing Old Testament scenes, the Stations of the Cross carved out of wood and hung along the walls...and the floor to ceiling stained glass windows in the back. I don't know what I think of them - they're very..."modern" in design? Not sure how to explain it.

The homily was about that whole thing where Jesus says if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off, or your foot, or if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out - because it's better to go through life missing that than to die with the hand, or the eye or whatever. And I was thinking how that is food for me. Cooking food, cooking shows, meal planning, writing about what I've cooked and taking pictures of our dinner and gorging myself constantly and...yeah. I
feel ready to just NOT go to restaurants anymore. NOT have cake on birthdays. All of it. Pluck it out. I had steel cut oats with bananas, flax, blueberries and raisins in them for breakfast, along with a couple of slices of blood orange. I had kale and bean soup for lunch with nutritional yeast sprinkled in it and some walnuts on the side. I'm having a bunch of raw vegetables for dinner and maybe a fruit for dessert. I DO NOT snack outside of mealtimes at all, period. If I didn't prepare for something and we're out or whatever, I'll starve until we get to the house or a grocery store. And this has been working out really well.

So. After Mass we hit Goodwill where I picked up a sweater I will use to make a variation of this doll, for Elise. She has many dolls but they are all too hard to sleep with comfortably so I'm hoping this can be a doll for bed for her.

Stopped off to talk to Oma/Teresa/mother in law and Robby/nephew. He gives me this "We talk on the internet now" meaningful look. I think about Robby more everyday. Ever since he came out, he's got a HARD road ahead of him...what with the CRAZILY HOMOPHOBIC Grant Sr and the MEAN kids at the redneck high school he was going to and all of it...it's really bad. This is on top of the whole "I have no real home and bounce around between 3 houses, my mother's never raised me, I'm now old enough to get it" thing :/ We've done a lot of AIM talking where I'm like, "I'm sorry I distanced myself from you so much when we were younger, I felt helpless and couldn't stand to get my heart broken after everything that happened with my little brother". And he's like, "I really look up to how you are with your kids, it's amazing how you have five and you always have time for them". This is when he's not purposely getting Elton John songs caught in my head maliciously O_o He's also got this virus that is the precursor to mono? So he has like no energy at all and all his shifting guardians thought he was just being a pita by not getting up in the morning and he was catching a lot of hell for it before someone took him to the doctor. Anyway, I've worked it out with Oma and him and they both think him doing Florida Virtual Schools K-12 program online is a good idea, and then I'll just take him to the (REALLY cool) youth group where Jake and Isaac go to AWANA, on Wednesday evenings, and to PATH with us on Thursday afternoons, and hopefully between the two he can be with some kids who aren't assholes sometimes.

I am so satisfied with this arrangement, I have been ACHING to do SOMETHING for Robby, but knowing I have limited resources to promise anybody outside of this household - this is perfect and he seems really grateful.

I really don't think he's a bad kid at all. But I think he could turn into one super easily. It's sort of a miracle he's as good as he is.

Now for my brother...*sigh* He's 19, you know? I feel like I send him postcards and it's kind of the best I can do at this point.


We got home and had leisurely lunch and Grant and I had this incredible, euphoric, I could die right now I'm so happy nap in each other's arms...sometimes I think my heart will burst when we're that close together.

Then Ananda and I took a bike ride. The weather was lovely. And without Aaron around we're kind of unlimited in where we can safely travel. We went all over - we found a crazily rich rural street that ended in someone who had their own golf course situated on their private property, many with their own groves. Some with security cameras wedged into avocado trees. We saw a peacock, and a horse. We also rode through the bank teller lines on our bikes, which I think Ananda thought was awesome. We went all the way to R.F. Orchids and then turned back because it would be dark soon...when I put it in Google Maps, it was about 4.6 miles round trip :)

And now we have our weekly Sunday chicken roasting for our always-super-late Sunday dinner and I don't know, man. But I think life is good.

Also - I got a call from our former nanny yesterday that she received a tweet about how Midwifery Today is looking for writers. And I think I could potentially write a lot of stuff for them. I am definitely close friends with one of the contributing writers and frequently profiled "birth celebrities" ;) We shall see.
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This is an intense and focused time for us, in a positive way.

Grant is abstaining from all secular media all this month. So that is almost over, I suppose. But it has been really big for him. He was getting to be a complete video game addict, and having trouble managing time around shows, funny sites, movies, etc, on Saturdays at work, which were basically 12 hour shifts involving only 5 hours of actual work (mainly just "manning the phones" in case someone called in with a problem), that would get left until he had only 3 hours remaining. Also, we just have too much going on to spend time at home watching movies, and he's also going through some serious discernment about whether or not he wants to be Catholic, and there is a TON of relevant reading, there...and there were personal reasons he thought were most important. There've been a lot of perks and good things about it. Like playing chess together and building awesome robot toys out of wood and nails out in the shed, and so much accomplished around the house.

I had a major fit of despair the other night about my insane out of control food addiction/compulsive overeating. It is really dangerous with an entrapped intestinal hernia, to gorge myself on food...I've landed myself in the ER once already (months ago), and I am supposed to be losing a lot of weight so I can safely get my whole abdomen fixed. This is insanely emotional for me. And I've ignored it for too long already. But I kind of broke down the other night, in the middle of the night, about how I am going to DIE from my own gluttony and junky crap and looked at the situation dead on and prayed with great sincerity and focus for God to help me with this. I felt very "heard" and fell asleep trying not to doubt. And woke up praying, basically, and looking for an optimal solution for someone in my situation - that is, serious medical need to lose a lot of weight asap, safely. I'm at the end of my 3rd day on a barely modified version of Dr Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live diet. I've lost a pound each day so far. It is weird to be eating different things than everyone else in the family at every meal but Grant is TOTALLY on board and 100% supportive, Elise and Jake are eating uber-healthy things off my plate, and Ananda and Aaron completely understand why I'm doing it. Isaac is indifferent, I think. For those unfamiliar with it, this Eat to Live deal has done everything from reverse diabetes to helping OVER 600 PATIENTS who've come to this guy desperate because they're about to undergo a scheduled angioplasty or bypass and decide to try his drastic healthy lifestyle as a last resort instead - of those patients, one went on to have the surgery and nobody had a heart attack. I am stepping one minute at a time here and praying often because this is a RADICAL departure from the amounts and types of food I was eating before. But so far, so good, and I am carefully considering making it a lifelong committment, which is what he is really advocating anyway. Basically the guidelines for the aggessive weight loss portion is eating ONLY raw and cooked veggies (goal - one pound of each per day), healthy whole grains (one cup per day of things like steel cut oats or barley), beans (one cup per day), fruit (goal being four per day) and seeds and nuts (one ounce per day). Then you move on to a maintenance plan and eventually a life plan that are less stringent but very much based on the same principles (so you get small amounts of meat and oil for instance, but WAY less than normal Americans would consume). As a nursing mother I'm allowing myself the small amounts of meat every couple of days now. Go read the Amazon reviews or visit his diseaseproof.com site. Even on totally unafilliated messageboards you don't see anyone refuting his claims - only saying "it's hard". I am ready for hard, I think. It is a really strange thing to be physically full with no emotional satisfaction, if that makes any sense. But I need that, because my emotional satisfaction is NOT supposed to be coming from food...

We've gotten a tremendous amount of things accomplished around the house in the past few weeks. I've hung wallpaper trim in the kids' bathroom, printed tons of pictures and meticulously filled regular and big collage frames, and reorganized our library and done a LOT of deep cleaning. Including rearranging Jake and Isaac's room and going through it to the tune of tossing/donating 2.5 big garbage bags of stuff we just don't need. Grant finally finished the flooring in Ananda and Aaron's closets, which had been waiting for months, as well as re-hanging their closet doors and hanging all the pictures and an alphabet we got, up high in the dining room (where we do school) and just all kinds of crap...He's replaced lightbulbs and fixed minor things and I am actually excited again about our house, like it's really coming along, for the first time in awhile after a long stall that followed our initial 3 month renovating blitz.

I'm buckling down as a writer...like, writing more than once a week, and aggresively persuing publishing opportunities small and large.

Ananda and Aaron are in dance 3 nights a week right now. They live dance. Aaron is doing these insane things, like standing on his hands, touching his toes to his face, and then standing back upright normally again, all with grace, and managing challenging ballet turns after 2 classes. Everytime we go in, we hear his hip hop teacher making everyone stop, telling them, "No no no, you all watch Aaron - Aaron do it" or I get called into the little office to hear someone tell me he has a FUTURE, a BIG FUTURE in dance. I'm not sure what to say to them. I see the positive effect on him, and I agree he has talent. But the financial part of it is daunting AT BEST. He's getting some free classes right now, but everything from aaaaaaall the recital costumes they're going to want us to order to the expensive intensives and far-off competitions they want him at seem impossible. Even with some scholarship assistance. Just the shoes he needs this week seem impossible right now. Grant is being switched to salary, which is going to interfere with his ability to make extra money through consulting, which is part of why I'm aggresively persuing publishing opportunities...Signing up for another year of PATH and paying for their kick-off party (admittedly awesome at John Pennekamp this time around), getting Jake and Isaac's books and vests for a new year of AWANA, and paying Dance Empire's registration and first month fee for two kids have not been kind to us, all at the same time. Related - I have never seen Ananda focus this way on dance before, in a GOOD way...I think it's been helpful for her to see how Aaron is totally unafraid to make a fool of himself and gives his all every minute, even when it means he falls or can't do something, and it pays off and nobody is laughing at him.

And one of the biggest things happening for/to us right now is that we have found a church home and made the decision to become a Catholic family. I feel a strange combination of excitement and total peace about this. We're joining St Louis Catholic Church in Pinecrest asap and have already spoken with a priest about a custom plan for our family, that can cover education and sacraments for each of us in an involved and familial way, which I think is AMAZING. There is a lot...baptism classes for Ananda and Aaron and possibly Isaac, baptism itself for all five, convalidation of marriage, general faith education and confirmation/first communion for Grant and I - the basic goal as it stands is to plan for most all of this to be actually happening by Easter Vigil.

Ananda is PASSIONATELY eager for this and has been literally begging me to let her be Catholic for almost a year now. I think it's driven her nuts that I wasn't sure about it. She was actually asking me if she could get baptised, like, 4 years ago, but we really didn't have roots anywhere at any church. Aaron likes Mass and thinks it's all good, but not with the fervor that Annie has. Isaac says he thinks Mass is really boring, but he wants to go a lot, because he is trying to learn about God, which blows my mind. He kneels there in the pews with his eyes squeezed shut and his mouth moving rapidly, it is the cutest and also most heart-rending thing - I really believe he has the most intimately close personal relationship with God of all my kids because he is the one who seems to need the most help with everyday life. Like, he invents things like "hugging God" in his bed because he has nightmares on a somewhat regular basis. Jake and Elise love going to Catholic church because we basically dress them up, faun over them, and then snuggle and cuddle with them for an hour and then leave and go do something fun. There is something really beautiful and perfect about all the children in Mass with their families that I didn't realize I was missing in Protestant churches where all the kids are in fun nursery programs somewhere else while grown-ups worship.

My Nana - my Nana who had the two strokes due to malpractice at just 61 years old, back in April, and has been in the hospital or the home ever since - is going home. She is not "well"; it's more a decision by my Pa and my mother to care for her at her own house rather than spending days with her at a facility that is depressing and awful for all three of them. I still see it as a really happy thing, though. And my mother is thrilled. Nana HAS had a lot of progress - she can move and use her left hand and arm now, when they were totally frozen for a couple of months. She can feed herself most things fairly well, and sit up on the edge of the bed with just a hand to hold (this is compared to when she needed all kinds of special security to not slide helplessly out of a wheelchair). She is not having the violent mood swings anymore and is mostly rational, with some harmless nonsense still thrown in. The fact that a doctor tried to tell my Mom and Pa they should starve her to death is disgusting and just...WRONG. On so many levels. I'm just saying, she is not going home because she's all better...she's going home with a hospital bed, a lift to help get her into a wheelchair, diapers, a home care nurse, and so on...but I think it will still be a hugely positive change for her, and my mom and Pa. And I am really, really happy to think of my sister being able to go and do some Christmas decorating for her and us go be with her for Christmas Eve. I am still trying to convince Pa that no, REALLY, we do NOT NEED PRESENTS, because he is not at all interested in trying to do this Nana thing without Nana...and I think he is scared, of being devastated by such a "her" thing with her so totally changed for it...but I really believe that if we can pull it off, with the same food and music and her laughing at stuff and kids hugging him, it can be a good thing.

And I think that is it. I can't usually update the way I used to, anymore, because I'm really making sleep a priority. It's crazy to me how I've clung to this idea that I have to have this extended time to myself at night to be sane and healthy, when really it does about exactly the opposite - staying up way too late screws up my metabolism AND makes me way more likely to eat a lot of extra crap in the middle of the night, as well as making me a tired mess the next day. And I get loopy late at night and freak myself out with thoughts of future surgery, and any and every other thing you can imagine. I still get what is so hard about just letting go and surrenduring to the end of the evening...but it's really kind of freeing to be ABLE to do that.

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