altarflame: (deluge)
I really love the work and musings of many people who grew up steeped in rich, devout and/or orthodox religion... and then turned away from it. Anne Rice, Dan Savage, and Tori Amos are my most prominent and famous examples, but it's a LOT of people. It's sort thing*. And what I see, over and over again, is that these people are often judged by their modern, secular, left wing followers for harkening back to their faithful childhoods or their old family traditions. The echoes and pangs of longing for deeper meaning and rituals that they still have, mixed in with the existentialism and the secular humanism they've embraced, just seem boring to the audiences they've attracted. Tiresome.

The audiences they've built by turning away don't want to hear about all the shit they turned away from.

But I do. I love it when they talk about it. I will never get tired of Anne Rice's never ending spiritual struggles and internal tug-o-war, because it calls to my own and does it in a deeply cathartic way. When Dan Savage talks about his seemingly pointless visits to his old church or the ache he's got, for his dead mother to be in Heaven, I am there, weeping, putting it on repeat. Tori's Christmas album made a lot of people just turn en masse and walk away, from her, for good. It gives me goosebumps, all fraught with myths and pagan origins and laced with theology like it is. I dig it back out every year. People called her a sellout for getting married, too, but I just wanted to hear what she had to say about it.

I think part of what makes each of these people (not just the three I'm actually describing but the others I'm thinking of, as well) as awesome as they are, as complex and appreciative of small things and as searching for MORE, as they are - is having been raised steeped in religion. I think there is real, quantifiable, scientifically provable value in being raised with religion and ritual. This, for what it's worth, is something I feel I lack as a person who finds consistency life's greatest challenge and routines to be the kiss of death.

I mean, we see the benefits of prayer, and faith, and habits, and church community - on happiness and on the immune system - but more than that I see that my own children have got better attention spans... They are able to sit still and be polite, and to just participate in adult situations, partially because of all those years in church. They have better, less gift-focused attitudes about Christmas and Easter than they might, because of the depth of what those days were presented as being about, and the multitude of ways we celebrated (special masses, special books and stories, special candles and decorations in our houses, all kinds of things).

Of course, being steeped in religion also makes you nuts, and drives you to art through frustration and angst, and the taboo of asking unavoidable questions vs the denial of avoiding them, and a vicious guilt/shame cycle. All that, I did manage to give myself in spades with just late adolescent and young adult devoutness.

Que sera sera, am I right?

I am eager to see the world move on from patriarchy, and from the violent and enraged reactions that variations on the gender binary get met with. I'm in love with the priorities that emerge, and the shifts in perspective that happen, for individuals and for society, when you lift the filter of Judeo-Christian values off of your eyes and look around with nothing but honesty and evidence to guide you through daily life and human interactions. I naturally gravitate towards very existential, black humor where nothing is sacred.

I'm also impossibly sad about the idea idea of a world where nothing is sacred. The jokes without the sanctity to make you gasp at them are just banal, just empty, just...not even funny anymore. I don't want to live in a world without monasteries, without altars to light candles on. It seems like too big a loss to bear, and I don't even know why.

It makes me very happy to know that a woman half a mile from my house is living in her saint-studded house with her seven children, and that they go to Mass and take communion every single morning. I don't want that life. For me or for my kids. But I'm glad she's living it, in a way that doesn't infringe on me. I'm not saying it makes sense. I'm telling the truth. I'm afraid of Anne Rice's son, and Dan Savage's son, and Tori Amos' daughter all growing up as people who don't really get what their parents were on about. All the while realizing it would be horribly wrong for any of them to impose things on their kids that tormented them, themselves, so intensely.

I'm glad there is a Buddhist temple and a Schoenstatt shrine within a few miles of me, filled 24/7 with monks and sisters respectively, despite it being 2013. I like knowing they're there, around the clock, studying old wisdom and leading chants and prayers. I like knowing they're open whenever I might want to stop by, as I ignore them completely.

*Incidentally, Anne Rice's assistant is a former monk turned heathen/heathen's assistant, because it's totally her THING, too. Becket seems really awesome.
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 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.


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)
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.


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.

altarflame: (WTF is the internet)
I've been really REALLY busy the past two days. But!

I'm actually enrolled in classes for the summer :D I am really psyched about this. Really, really, really psyched. It's been so long since I was in school, and SO LONG since I was in school anything like full time. Two things that are getting me hyped up about it are that, one, I actually managed to get financial aid and everything is paid for plus some(without loans), I mean wow - and two, I'm really confident about the kind of schedule I set up here for myself even with the kids home and Grant working full time.

I'm doing one Tuesday and Thursday evening class the first 6 week session of summer, and another Tues/Thurs evening class the second 6 week session. Then I have one class on Saturday mornings, for the full 12 weeks, and one class through the virtual school (also full 12 weeks). So, 4 classes/12 credits - SO FREAKING MANAGEABLE. It gives me hope that even if the kids don't get into this school or I decide I'm just not sending them, I can still do this. With a quickness.

I'm taking two cats to the Meow Mobile tomorrow morning to get spayed and neutered, respectively. I went and borrowed a couple of cat carriers from a friend today to take them in with, as I found out at the last minute that they don't allow big dog carriers or doubling up, which had been my plan based on what we've got here. They are the two kittens of Chrysanthemum's that we're keeping. One is Ananda's cat Sylvia, the other is mine, and I call him something different everytime I reference him thus far. Two main contenders for permanent names are Archibald and Uncle Cousin.

My life is a lot of really exciting amazing stuff, and a lot of really horrible crap, right now, but at least I have balance?

The good is so good:
-Memo is totally in love with my kids' book now that he's read it and working on sketches and making me wait to see his cover idea because he wants it perfect first...this will definitely be a self published, Amazon on demand thing as it's an irregular length that is no longer marketed (even though I have tons of books with similar formats my kids love from 10+ years ago...)
-I'm emailing an artist back and forth who's work has REALLY moved and hit me, for use in my surgery book, and that is super exciting, too, especially with Nancy already on board to write my forward...that book itself is about half done. This is a book I think I'd like to try to traditionally publish, though I go back and forth.
-my 20-story short story collection is at 19 stories, and formatted, and seeming like, well...a BOOK!
-I'm registered for college full time starting in only about a month! *this is me doing mental backflips, the only sort I could ever manage*
-Grant and I have had a great week minus just a couple of small troubles when the last couple of months hit us again, and are connecting in some really great ways, and...I just appreciate him an awful lot. I find myself getting all excited when he'll be home from work soon, and giddy when I see him standing there so beautiful. I don't think we're just magically past every rough spot but I do think it was super helpful to talk out things that were unsaid and that he is also really making some big efforts at positive changes...this is huge, especially when we're having the most lovey-awesome-boundary-pushing-brand-new sex. I don't know how we're still managing to think of/try new things, but I LOVE IT.
-My plants are still alive! And they make me happy literally every time they're in my field of vision!
-Isaac is reading, Annie has mastered division, Jake's handwriting is off the chain - I'm just feeling really good about their homeschooling lately and sent off the registrations and checks for those enrichment classes yesterday. I just printed out a bunch of book report templates, actually. Aaron is asking questions that blow my mind, science and current event questions, and his reading is so above grade level - we're going back to him doing half an hour of silent reading every day...
-I have so many great people I care about, even outside of this house - my sister is so wonderful and such a part of everyday life, and my friends - from Kristin understanding everything to Jess to laugh with to David who I'm so glad I have again to Memo who I'm collaborating makes me happy. Really happy.

The bad:
-I was just in the ER again last week. I'm triggered as all get out, I'm in pain pretty often. Just remembering that surgery is coming and that it is such a hurdle to get financially is enough to freeze me in my tracks and ruin my entire day.*
-We still have these moments, G and I, when it is really heavy, and really hard, and just unhinges everything and makes me feel bitter. It's still scary and not assumed, sometimes.
-There's never enough sleep or enough hours in the day
-I really am having a hell of a time faith-wise and I think about it A LOT, every day. FEEL it a lot, everyday. I'm still going to Mass and RCIA every week and I still have a mostly Christian worldview but prayer feels impossible and my doubts are just growing exponentially in a way that is sort of heartbreaking, and sort of awful in that it's not heartbreaking, if that makes any sense at all.

Anyway. In frippery news, I got this ring at Target and it is HUGE and I LOVE.IT.

Aaaand, Annie lost a tooth tonight. There is something inherently...jarring... about having a daughter with armpit hair and breasts that is still losing her baby teeth.

*Our plan is to try to have this done, really get it done, at the end of the between summer and fall terms, which is when he'll be able to take time off work...until then it's a mission to lose weight and figure out the money part. Which may involve getting GPs and surgeons to write to an insurance company saying I need the full muscle reconstruction and skin tightening of a tummy tuck to fix my real medical problems, and must get them (this is after I have coverage again...), so they have to cover it. Or finding a co-signer to finance. Or...something I have yet to determine. I'm switching from one month on, one month off Eat to Live, which I had kind of fallen off of anyway, to on during the week and off on the weekends. Having a date in mind makes it way easier to see as emergent and temporary, both of which help me stick to it.

Nevermind how I go into a black depression and tense into a tightly coiled ball of anxiety everytime I think of this surgery. I'm going to focus on the amazingness that will be NOT HAVING IT HANGING OVER MY HEAD ANYMORE.

The End.
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! 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?


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: (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.


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:

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 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 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.
altarflame: (burning bush)
I would like to thank everyone who was posting on livejournal and facebook throughout Lent, and especially on Good Friday, and Easter/Pacha, with Christian meditations, scriptures, links, thoughts, and so on. I've been wayward and out of it and really would have missed the whole journey this year if it weren't for those of you who were sharing on the internet. I like it that this wheel keeps on turning even when I'm too self-absorbed or "in between" to bother to take notice. And I like it when I do notice.

Aaron has laryngitis. I'm not surprised, as it's been going around like crazy. He keeps rasping out things like "The germ-uhs, the germs ah messin around with mah voy-ace!" in a crazy accent.

My brother starts at JobCorps tomorrow. I feel just a little bit guilty about how insanely excited I am at the prospect of him NOT BEING IN THE HOUSE for many hours out of every week day. Mostly though I'm just insanely excited, guilt be damned. Seriously, OH HAPPY DAY!!! Aside from my own selfish glee, this is a huge positive step for him and I'm proud of him as I've watched him do all of his laundry and take a shower and get his things in order tonight. He's been out there 3 times in the last 2 weeks at meetings and appointments, and doing bizarre things before each one like shaving, and asking my brother in law to cut his hair and such. He's taken pains to brush his teeth tonight; I nearly knocked on his head to ask who was in there hijacking his brain.

She came out this way, thinking she was ready to go to the store with Daddy.

Om nom nom. Sugar snap peas sauteed in a little oil with brown sugar and soy sauce are SO GOOD.

This is our new weekday schedule.

Ananda is going to be cutting her hair into a chin-length bob again soon, and so we've let her run amock with the hair that's going to be cut off. This pic is when we first did the bleaching. It was like this for about two days.

The stuff we used was a bleaching and dying kit, and after I put the bleaching part all over her hair I tied it up in a plastic shopping bag because it has to sit for a long time and she didn't want to be paranoid about the furniture. That's what I did the last time we did this with her hair, because it was reccomended by the company on the packaging. This was a different brand, though, and after a few minutes she came to me - "Mom, it's burning my back through my shirt!" "What?" Sure enough, the bag was HOT hot to the touch, and when I took it off, her hair was SMOKING. All I could think was...people put this on their scalps?! Or hair they intend to keep?!

She liked the ponytail being a different color than the head hair.

But she LOVES this...+the rest of the entry and more pics )

For me, personally:

-I realized I lost a lot of weight and had a lot of success with Eat to Live's 6 week plan, seeing it as a 6 week plan, but trying to go back to doing the "maintenance" diet after the holidays was just impossible to me; it's too strict for me to have that kind of permanence in mind with it and persevere. I NEED AN END IN SIGHT. But, I lost 27 pounds that first 6 weeks and have only gained back 16 of them in the 5 months since, during which I have been glutting myself on Starbucks, cheesecakes, restaurant meals, and late night cooking. So Grant and I have concocted a 6 week on, 12 weeks off plan for me that will be indefinite for as long as it works and I continue to need it. Tomorrow is day 1 of the first 6 week period, and I feel really good about it. The first couple of months OFF ETL were even healthy ones where I didn't gain back at all; eating so healthfully and in moderation put me in the mindset of not WANTING to eat way too much of all the wrong stuff. But I've gradually beaten that mindset back and resumed pigging out, since. So I think if I keep it to 12 weeks off, this could really be a healthy way to live.

-Grant and I are at a bit of a faith impasse that is really frustrating. We've both sort of "slipped" - he interprets that as needing to go back to the beginning, i.e. "remedial christianity". Like very salvation based protestant services loaded with praise and worship music. I understand where he is coming from completely, and respect it. But I also feel like, for me, I need to get back to the deep theology and catholic ritual I let fall by the wayside, because it holds me up so that I DON'T slip. Neither of us are going to push the other one to do something they're not comfortable with, or pull the family in a direction without the other. And I am so FREAKING. TIRED. of this conundrum.

-we're planning a potluck for this weekend. It's a facebook event at this point. I'm psyched.

-and really needing more time to write. And really tired of talking about that, saying it, my gosh haven't we heard this before?! I just hit this wall, this stir crazy wall of pent up mental energy where I always realize, that would help.

-I am BLOWN. AWAY. by my girls' birthdays coming up. My little girl is going to be THREE. And my big girl is going to be TEN. I don't know which of those shocks me more. On so many different levels. Five children, and the youngest one three? Our baby is three (how in the hell have I not gotten pregnant for this long, how nuts)? It feels like we just had her huge celebratory 2nd birthday - JUST. And then Annie in double digits? It feels like we just had her big tea party birthday...just, just. I got my period at ten. Went through Hurricane Andrew. Moved to Jacksonville. Had a journal with long entries. May 1 and then June 1. My daughters, three and ten. *sigh* Then Aaron is June 27, he'll by 9. For months he's been saying he wants a violin and cologne (wth?). Tawanna, his hip hop teacher, thinks that's the sweetest thing she's ever heard and has volunteered to get him the cologne if we take care of the rest.

Today has been a good day. Patrice spent the day since it was a teacher's work day. No dance classes for the same reason. Lots of watching things online with sick Aaron, and laying and reading with Ananda, and cuddling with Elise and Jake, and talking to Isaac (who is way less of a cuddler). It was a sweet, slow day. Tomorrow is the beginning; back to activities, on our new schedule, day 1 of Eat to Live, day 1 of JobCorps for Bob (which will change the whole house for all of us).

This is definitely the song for the week:

I downloaded the whole album. Massachusetts bluegrass quartet. Aaron's watching it too much, with that look on his face. Next thing I know he'll be asking for a cello.
altarflame: (burning bush)
I've discovered that I have a much easier time sticking to my (modified) Eat to Live ideals AND staying close to God if I go outside. Staying inside all day, like sitting around on the computer too much or being awake until 5 am, only has a negative effect on my whole life.

So I take my breakfast and lunch outside and eat on the deck most of the time now, on my shady bench swing. This is especially awesome if it's pouring down rain several feet away. Today was like:

-One of my plain yogurts with a few grains and pears stirred in. I REALLY love this.
-half a peach (split with Elise)

-bruschetta - whole wheat toast rubbed with cut garlic, topped with sliced tomatoes, lots of fresh basil, and salt - seems decadent at this point
-scallops because I can buy big bags and thaw them 3-4 at a time and they're basically fat free...I bake them with seasoned salt and lemon juice on them
-a massively giant pile of steamed green beans with whole garlic cloves and slivered almonds

-big bowl of leftover kale and bean soup with a ton of nutritional yeast in it
-pile of raw sugar snap peas in the pod
-half a pomegranate

I also did 42 minutes of excercise on the Wii Fit, which is almost twice my normal 20 minute Wii workout. And included a newly-unlocked 15 minute run. Fifteen minutes straight of running...after 27 minutes of yoga poses, hula hoop and "basic step" kind of intense. But really gratifying. My Wii is consistently like, "I'm worried about you! You're losing weight really fast!" and I'm like, bwahahaha.

Grant's work schedule is ridiculous and insane. I don't think he's gotten home from work before 8:30 once in the past 2 weeks unless it was because he HAD to leave "early" that day, to pick up kids from dance, at like 6:30/7 (his scheduled hours are 8-5). There is a serious bitterness to unpaid "overtime", particularly when it goes down like it did last Saturday, and he arrives home at 4 am. Or the Saturday before, when he got here just before midnight. Probably half of all our communication now takes place via phone and email. Sunday we all go to church together, but then within an hour of being home he has to be working for the winery for hours, which continues late that night, culminating in a meeting Monday morning and then minutes, billing, updates, etc from that meeting in the afternoon. Then his actual workweek restarts Tuesday morning.

We've been managing some pretty great single-hour time slots alone together in the bedroom...we get the kids either asleep or in front of a movie and we can take a laptop in there and watch something on hulu, lay together and talk about aaaaaaall the crap that went down that day for each of us, or what have you ♥ It's a novelty to have the bedroom to ourselves...Elise is all moved out and until sometime while we're sleeping when her and Jake sneak in, it's the two of us. We've literally never had that before.

Honestly the kids and I have been doing great this week, having good days. Spending the afternoon at Laura's or at PATH, having tea outside with the chickens, painting and baking and reading. Everyone is old enough to give me some space if I just want to be left alone to read or knit or talk on the phone for awhile, or for them to all GET OUT so I can use the Wii without having to deal with endless questions and running commentary. We're way past the "can't take a shower without another adult home" phase. It's just so jarringly STRANGE to have this sensation of G and I having...completely separate lives. Just coming together for updates. Little stuff like packaging up leftovers for his lunch the next day and leaving reminder notes, or ironing his clothes for the next day, are how I'm "taking care of him" from afar.

He told me tonight, during our hour, that he's actually been thinking fondly of our time in Boston just because he wasn't working at all and had nowhere to be but with us. BEFORE Elise was born, of course... all those parks, and him taking A and A up a little mountain with a map and some supplies, and him and Aaron walking through the woods. The two of us just up alone by a window late, watching snowflakes fall.

It was totally different when we got back home...even at Grant Sr's house, we were deeply in debt from the extra time and expenses and his business was damaged, and he was working 7 (long) days then, too, pretty much until I went into the hospital and he HAD to stop. Completely.

This is all coming at me from all sides, bottle-necking me down the only narrow path I feel is left - him gone all the time to make enough money, the kids able to leave me be for periods of time, the fond remembrance of times with less working. Basically I feel like it's now or never and I have to start not just writing, but laboriously researching and sending my stuff out, too. Not when he can let me, but every single day. I've already talked to Ananda and Aaron about it. I'm going to try to explain it to Isaac, Jake and Elise tomorrow. And when Bob is living here, he can probably help with this. I am thinking of doing it either as 1.5 hours right after we all go outside and sit and talk together and have tea for awhile, or after a whole long day when everyone is beat anyway. I can set the alarm so that I'll know in case anyone tries to go outside, set them up with an activity, lunch, craft, or movie beforehand, and put myself behind a locked door. The tv thing being in the rotation won't be too bad, because we've really wittled the tv viewing down to only about 3 movies or shows per week with them for quite awhile now so that can just be then. There is a chance that Elise is just not ready for this yet, but I THINK that with her four older siblings right there and some sort of structured thing for them to start out with, it could work. It'll have to be experimental at first. But there are plenty of times throughout normal days when I don't see her for 45 minutes at a stretch just because she's playing with the other kids in another part of the house or the other yard.

I'd also like to devote a half hour of my normal day to this in ways that I can with them hanging around me - editing, addressing envelopes, that kind of stuff.

I feel so calm lately. About everything. Losing a ton of weight really quickly? Calm. Grant being gone all the time? Calm. Starting to send out my writing for publication? Calm. I know I can do this, with the weight. I know he'll be home later. I know I'll get rejected a million times, at least initially, but eventually somebody will take something. I mean, I get happy, I miss him, I get excited. But there is this deeply rooted calmness under all of it.

I highly suspect this is the "Peace in Christ" Catholics offer each other during Mass.

Aaron asked me tonight if we're becoming poor. I was like, what are you talking about? He said we keep talking about the budget and saying we don't have any money for every little thing and he feels bad like we're poor now. We ARE on a budget and not buying all kinds of things. But I'm trying to explain to him that people who own their own home, and have a couple of nice cars, and play Wii and have a kitchen always stocked with mostly organic groceries, are not poor. I was trying to explain to him how expensive things like cake and presents for Jake's birthday and dance classes for him and Ananda are. How we just went out and bought them all new clothes because they were outgrowing everything at once. I don't understand how a kid who owns his own drum set, accoustic and electric guitar, bike, skateboard and unicycle can feel sad about being poor. His eyes get all big when I tell him we never could have had a piano at home, when I was growing up, or even a bunch of pets because things like hay and litter and vet bills cost extra money. He seemed really confused as he walked off, which I do not get.

We do try to be frugal to some degree. It's a Craigslist'd, upright piano. The new clothes were all bought off clearance racks. But they're still NEW clothes, for 5 kids! We've gotten some of their dance class fees reduced or waived this year, but we're still paying for a bunch of dance classes. We haven't fixed a dented fender in the van because the insurance has a $500 deductible. But I don't think Aaron even knows about any of these sorts of things I'm talking about. They act excited as heck to shop at Goodwill and are perfectly aware that people starve to death in this world. Where is the perspective? *sigh*

I have been writing this as I wait up for Dama on AIM, because I want to dissect this whole Catholic Vs Orthodox thing a lot more, with a bunch of points I thought of today in mind. It's too obscure (and lengthy) to post about and I don't have time to even get started, with Grant. Ah, well.

A couple of people have told me they couldn't get into flickr because they don't have accounts. So. Here is my wild thing, Jake, in the costume Laura got him for his 4th birthday:

And here is the robot cake I made him:
altarflame: (Default)
Elise is especially affectionate today, we've spent probably a cumulative hour hugging, kissing, embracing on the futon. She squeezes me so tightly, and she does things like put her hands on my cheeks and pull my face towards hers with her lips puckered. I'm sure she's spent as much time in Annie's arms and lap.

Annie got another biking injury, re-opening the same arm wound for the 3rd time now. I always know she is bleeding because she comes in yelling in this bizarre, strangled tone as she struggles to remain conscious knowing she is bleeding. Then she acts totally disrespectful, even going so far as to yell at me, while I clean her up, with her whole body tense. She would never normally act like that. She's the wrong color. It's kind of ridiculous. My prescription is always the same; rinsing, ointment, bandage, and then time alone in a dim room reading or watching a movie until she can swallow normally again and is no longer sweating.

The chicks are SO, so cute, I can hear them everytime I pass my bathroom door - incidentally, wouldn't that be a great book title for life in a big, homeschooling family? "Chickens in the Bathroom". They're in a bird cage on the ledge of my garden tub, with the window open, A/C vent closed, and a heat lamp pointed at them. Ananda, Aaron and I are rotating duties changing their newspaper, food and water 3 times per day. Anytime any of us are in there with them, we can turn around and see cat legs, the WHOLE LEGS up to the shoulder, under the door and madly swiping as they struggle to get at whatever is making that delectable noise. Chrysanthemum especially is like a cartoon and in the time it takes me to turn around and open and shut the door, she is behind me perched near their cage.

Aaron was getting over some mysterious 24 hour illness nobody else had, this morning. Now he is back to his usual tricks, which this week involve standing on the cross bar of his bike as he coasts down the street, and unicycling off the porch (about an 8 inch drop) and onto the front lawn and just keeping going. This is why I wanted the "skatepark helmet" that covers the skull all the way down to the neck.

Jake is feeding Elise and himself peanut butter with a butter knife right now. Awhile back he rushed cauliflower greens to the rabbits, who will eat it right out of his hand.

Isaac is in heaven because I'm letting him play basically unlimited computer games today.

And I think my cat is in heat. The breeder wanted me to wait until she was at least 6 months to spay her, if not 9. Now she is yowling all over the place, rubbing on everyone and everything, and whenever anyone pays her a bit of attention she puts her head on the ground and her butt in the air and yowls more. I suppose I will have to take her in to the vet next week. Peter, neutered as he is, is incredibly irritated by her antics and keeps pouncing on her and biting her like, please for the love of everyhthing stop with the racket.

I have spent most of today reaading French Women Don't Get Fat, emailing back and forth with Grant, and cooking. It was a peanut butter toast and plum breakfast, almonds and bananas for snacks, strawberry oatmeal flavored with yogurt for lunch kind of day. We're all drinking tons of lemon water. Now I have an acorn squash split in half and two red peppers all in the oven stuffed with ground turkey, brown rice, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, italian seasonings and shredded cheese.

As for the book, it is very haughty, but I find that amusing, so it's all good. Some of the things she thinks are crucial to a more French (i.e., thin) way of life are just not considerations for me - like a glass of ($40 per bottle) champagne with every lunch and dinner. But overall I think it's the direction I'm moving in anyway; eating smaller portions more frequently, of fresh, whole, in-season foods that you savor such that it is quality over quantity. Along with walking and biking places rather than driving, and drastically increasing your water intake. There's some good talk about balance. Overall I find it validating and, mostly, I just love reading about food - this is full of childhood anecdotes of things her mother made, interesting stories of going mushroom picking and climbing trees for cherries, and RECIPES :) Including one I'm making tonight, for a creamy, sweet risotto that is served hot with a piece of dark chocolate melting in the center.

I think my organic produce co-op boxes and backyard herb garden are the closest I can get to the kind of open air markets she describes, but I am happy with that.

We've been focusing almost exclusively on Christianity and Spanish, as school subjects, largely done through me and the five of them sitting down together for an hour or two of reading aloud and conversation. I'm actually looking forward to this as an after-dinner activity tonight, because it was great last night.

I feel really really happy and satisfied with my life. Even though we're on a strict budget for awhile; even though the van still needs fixed, there's cleaning to be done and I have weight to lose; despite (or perhaps partially due to) the long decision making process and journey I'm on, with reference to faith and conversion...

It's just all good. I can't believe how blessed I am, it is freaking nuts!
altarflame: (wild things)
Sunday I took Ananda, Aaron and Isaac to Mass at 8:00 at Sacred Heart, then came home and the 7 of us all went to City Church. Mass included Here I Am, Lord as the communion hymn, which some people who know me in real life will realize instantly melts me into a gooey puddle. It was just a Good Thing, all around. City Church was fun for the kids - the message gave me a lot to think about. Apparently City Church is operating, as part of some branch or other of Presbyterians, under the assumption that we are living in a post-Christian America and that, as such, their primary job is to reach the unchurched locals (rather than going overseas on mission trips or catering to established Christians who are already here). They seek to do this through creating what sociologists call "the third place", i.e., what Starbucks or the sports bar is to people. This is why they have cooking classes, agnostic art hanging everywhere, and play music that is not specifically categorized as Christian, and they are taking it to the extent of saying, we will have communion and hymns at special believers-only worship services, but in the main this church is for this city, not for us in-crowd Christians. And that we Christians have to be in the culture and not segregated and a whole lot more stuff. I really do believe they're coming from a prayerful and sincere place and that they are doing something good, but I am not always sure if it is something Holy or even big g Good.

Anyway the Catholics were certainly up in the culture and reaching out to the city when they were paying my electric bill and giving me bags of groceries while I was a confused, Protestant, 19 year old single mother. Without any sermons or judgement or even the kind of proof of need that the government programs require.

I've been thinking about this kind of stuff a lot. Catholic Hospice here in the greater Miami area is a free service to people of all faiths, no strings or dirty looks attached. The Vatican has embraced Harry Potter as a story that teaches children that there is a difference between good and evil and that we all face temptations and choices, and that love conquers all and sacrifice and mothers and blah blah blah. Evangelical right-wing so and sos are the ones warning parents their kids will be led astray by J.K.Rowling.

I am, like, 5 minutes from deciding I am becoming a Catholic. I may also keep going to City Church indefinitely in addition, and supporting their ministry, because I certainly was led to God through loving people in a really liberal Protestant denomination who appealed to me as an "unchurched person". I do think that is important. And City Church IS becoming an amazing cultural center, and it's also like 5 blocks away from my house.

I've also finished reading Called Out of Darkness, Anne Rice's "spiritual confession" of her conversion, or really return, to faith. I relate to SO MUCH SHE HAS TO SAY HERE. I know what it's like to question for the reasons she did, to see the ultimate GOOD in non-Christian people with moral compasses that have nothing to do with God, to grapple with gay loved ones vs church teachings and all of it - her faithful explanations of how Christian holidays can tie in with pre-dating Pagan rituals and. Just wow. Not to mention, I read all those Vampire books, and I have made up my own fictional characters, and I can FEEL how intensely difficult it would be to LET GO of something like Lestat, just let go after 8 books and 27 years - after major Hollywood movies and a critically acclaimed Broadway musical and Fan Clubs to your idea by the dozen - and say...that's all. I'm writing for God. Most of my fans will hate it and it's not going to be nearly so easy as slipping into this dark delicious world of yours, but you aren't even real. This is real.

I'm trying to wade through copious amounts of reviews to see whether or not I should read her Christ the Lord series (so far there are two - Out of Egypt and The Road to Cana). On the one hand, I do believe she is coming from a real experience of God to make this decision to write about the Life of Christ with deep research and Orthodox theology backing up her fictional fill in details. On the other hand, Life of Christ + Fictional Fill in details = Does not compute. She's writing in first person AS GOD. The lay people and the clergy both seem split on this, as far as I can tell, some wholeheartedly endorsing and others totally against it.

Meanwhile, I've begun doing things like asking for the intercession of St Jude, patron saint of lost and impossible causes, on behalf of my Nana, and putting the Lives of the Saints on my Amazon wishlist, and trying not to project onto Grant that he sees me as a silly superstitious twit.

My Pa - my healthy, white Pa, other half of "Nana and" - came down here for a visit. It's the first time he's been back since they sold their house and moved away 5 years ago, and so he was blown away by the enormous amount of new housing and shopping and the expanded hospital and the restaurants and theater and really, there are just whole new sections of town that didn't exist 5 years ago. We have traffic now. Anyway, I spent a lot of Sunday showing him around, having lunch with him at Gusto's, and taking him to visit with Laura and Brian (Frank was on shift). Then most of Monday was spent taking the kids and meeting Laura's family and him at the zoo, where we spent the afternoon, and then having thai food. I posted pics from that zoo trip. The thai food, I do not even know, I am ADDICTED to this panang curry with lamb at Stir Moon, it's a coconut curry full of lime leaves and read chilies that I spoon all over the bowl of brown rice it comes with...*shudders of bliss*

Pa and I had some time spent talking about Nana, and he had a private trip to the cemetary to view their plots (still here from when they bought them years ago before they moved away) and go over paperwork. Mostly though I was so happy to see him able to be cheered up by his grandkids and distracted by good food and willing to laugh at jokes and things. I wish he would consider moving down here.

Monday night I had a Birthgirlz meeting. It was energizing, and exciting, and FREAKING AWESOME. I'm going to be dropping a stack of handouts out at my old chiropractor's office about this upcoming event they're having - As well as asking him to become a sponsor of it.

AND I'm going to be talking with the bookstore family about having the next Soap Box Derby there.

AND I'm going to talk to Schnebly about sponsoring their fundraising gala, AND talk to the string quartet that plays at City Church about playing there.

AND that "Pusing for VBACs" thing I urged people to donate to awhile ago? Over $10,000 has poured in. They're hiring the litigation attorney, with enough for his retainer and a bit more - they will need more money before it's all over as it's about a $15,000 journey all told. So if you'd like to help them get through this end game with the total, here is the link -

And/or, if you'd like to help us establish the FIRST Mother-Friendly hospital in Miami-Dade county, you can sign this petition we're working on - Jackson South's maternal care model is currently being revamped so this is the perfect time and they are actually acting receptive, and anyone anywhere can sign this - PLEASE DO!

AND, I have to find out what if anything Nancy is going to charge us to speak at our Birth Film Festival in February.

AND, they have ACTUALLY GOTTEN A HEAD OF A LOCAL UNIVERSITY TO AGREE TO HAVE MED STUDENTS SHADOW MIDWIVES AND DOULAS AS PART OF THEIR INTERNSHIP HOURS. This is so huge, I teared up with goosebumps when I heard it. What a massive difference it could make.

And...I have to write this whole c/s book because I am tired of telling the story of why I appear to be pregnant to people who gasp with horror and urge me to please, PLEASE WRITE A BOOK ABOUT THIS.

At that meeting, my friend Michelle gave me a free pass to an advance screening of Julie and Julia for Tuesday night. She somehow got many of these. And I met a big old group of peeps at CocoWalk in the Grove to see it, and sat next to my friend Kristin and laughed my head off during the HOUR we waited for it to start because someone important who had flown in for it was late? Anyway, yeah, the movie was really good, too, and perfect for right then. I had left italian pot roast loaded with (3) onions, (25+ cloves) garlic, (3 crates of) mushrooms, broth and stock and (lots of) basil from the garden baking for hours and hours at 250 degrees after being browned in olive oil, for my family's dinner. So watching AAAaaall those shots of beef bourginon(sp?) had me AMPED to get home and have leftovers. Meryl Streep WAS that woman, she is incredible. Kristin was like, "I want that bag!" "I want that car!" etc, throughout the whole vintage looking movie, and we were moaning at the rasberry cream and recoiling in horror about the beef flavored jello that solidifies in the fridge after you boil a hoof for long enough. Good times.

Then today while Shaun watched the younger 3, Grant and I took Ananda and Aaron to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I should note that yesterday Isaac asked if he could go see it too and I told him I needed to watch it to see if it was too scary first. He said, well, what about Annie and Aaron? I told him that they are so deeply invested at this point that even if they do have nightmares for the next 6 months, it is worth it to them. Both of them were instantly like, "Yep."

They liked it. We all jumped at one point, laughed at others. I cried a little. Aaron got really sad and came out subdued. Annie was walking on air. As usual I am bemused by the spectacle of 3 previously unknown kids who can't really act getting to star in front of millions of dollars of special effects and an INCREDIBLE, widely respected supporting cast. They're doing better, though. Kind of. I was impressed with how much of the book was in it but baffled by the extraneous extra scene they threw in.

Grant and I both burst into hysterical laughter at the ridiculous New Moon trailer, but we are all psyched to see this new Where the Wild Things Are when it comes out. That trailer actually gives me goosebumps. We've been watching the old Scholastic dvd version with barely-animated book pages for years. G was actually coincidentally wearing a WTWTA shirt in the theater today.

To Conclude:
-Ananda is actually getting to a point now with daily practice where I think we can say "she knows how to ride a bike". This is so long in coming. I'm very proud of her uncharacteristic perseverance - today even when she had a bleeding arm. Well, once she got past her initial near faiting due to seeing her own blood. She walked it for about two blocks, but then rode home with me, even though her face was the wrong color.
-My left wrist has been hurting when used for anything much for a couple of weeks, but has started this new trick where it swells all the way to my fingers or hurts terribly when I'm doing nothing at all. My paranoia coupled with amateur googling has me half-convinced it's diabetes related gout, which would be sucky because, you know, that would mean I am diabetic.
-BUT. I've lost 5 pounds already since quitting sugar and white flour. And I'm being a stickler to bike or walk or somehow excercise every single day. Which aside from making me less fat can also often stop/reverse new cases of diabetes.
altarflame: (burning bush)
I've had Anne Rice's Called Out of Darkness sitting on one of my bookshelves for months. I never started it before because, I am ashamed to say, I just assumed that her non-fiction account of her faith in God couldn't possibly be as riveting as her stories of vampires and sex slave islands.

I was totally wrong. This is rich and spellbinding and I had to TEAR myself away after two chapters. It's personal for me, granted, because she's recalling memories of early faith and her mother, and I am a mother to young kids who will one day look back, and because I was a child a lot like her, from the description she gives... but I want to beg Grant to read it because there's just no way he could read it, and not also be spellbound. Not suddenly understand what pulls me towards Catholic churches so strongly.

It does not hurt that I've lived all my life in hot, humid tropical places bursting with flowers and vines, and so I can really picture everything she describes in an informed and familiar way. New Orleans and Key West are so parallel, right down to being gutwrenchingly fragile in their below-sea-level, on-the-hurricane-path ways.

I had taken that and The Theology of the Body Explained out to the tv room with me, in the quiet sleeping house, because I want to understand and have peace about The Church, and sex. So badly. Tonight my husband pulled my "Well, my husband doesn't want to go to Catholic Church or Orthodox Church and so I'm supporting him by remaining in the Protestant place" rug out from under me by urging me to go to Mass again because he can tell I need it, what with my Nana post-stroke and possibly near death.

I miss the time when I had my own Pastor to talk to about anything and everything spiritual and personal, all the time in the flesh, and two other Pastors I called and wrote to when I wasn't seeing them at some denominational event. I miss moving through the Christian year. I NEED Lent, and Advent, and fasting. There was a time when I just panicked and mourned over how the Diciples of Christ are falling by the wayside as time passes and aren't available to me anymore; now I wonder if they weren't just an echo of something else that is still there, just like it always has been.

I even miss my amazingly intuitive and over qualified high school guidance counselor (an agnostic Jew-by-birth) who helped me so much, for years, as a teen. I hate this place that I've been in where if I am seeking guidance - not talking to friends and venting to sisters or dumping in a journal online but seeking guidance and wanting direction and clarity - I have to pay someone by the hour.

City Church is a thought provoking worship experience, it's sometimes been a place I felt the Spirit, it's fun and the kids absolutely love it. But there is no support for established Christians. It's another one of these "get people converted to Christianity" churches where every Sunday is about why you should believe in Jesus, and/or why you are absolutely right to already believe in Jesus. That has it's place, but I haven't doubted Jesus for, oh... 12 years now?

Here it is after 1 am and I'm glad I stayed up, because of the book and also responding to a "15 Poems That Have Stuck With You" tagging I got on facebook with my own answers - that was good, and just...peace and quiet. But I have to get up early tomorrow. It's gonna go like this:

8:00 - out of bed, waking children, starting to delegate chores as I make blueberry pancakes and cheesy scrambled eggs; then we have breakfast
8:45 - finding shoes, doing Ananda's bun, packing a bag full of pineapples and blueberries and crackers and water, grabbing my book and my iPod, making sure the cats are fed, etc.
9:10ish - leave to take Ananda to dance. This is a half hour drive, probably featuring lots of conversation and some song requests.
9:45 - drop Ananda off at dance, take other four kids to the zoo (only 3 miles from there, and we have an annual membership). Look at exhibits for awhile, but mostly play in the splash pads and have snacks. At least one bathroom trip.
12:45 - pick up Ananda, head to Grant's work to take him to lunch. This is a 15 minute drive that will mostly be me finding out all about how Annie's classes went and her brothers telling her how the zoo was
1:00 - get Grant, go to the subshop, which is a cool little place who's owner is always there and knows us. Very low key and empty on Saturdays, too, since it's in a business district.
2:00 - drop Grant back off at work, head back down to Homestead, to the bookstore. 35 minutes in the van, most likely I will put in an educational dvd and tune them out for it. Elise and Jake will nap the whole time while the other 3 act like zombies.
2:40 - walk into our local bookstore. Ananda wants the next Spiderwick Chronicles book, she's ready for #5. It's mostly social, though, the owner and her kids are friends, and then at 4:00 free karate starts in the back room and Aaron and possibly Ananda/Isaac are going to be doing that. Some amount of time will be devoted to reading to Elise and Jake, trying to get Isaac to stop whining, and taking people to the bathroom, but mostly they like it there and amuse themselves with coloring and games in the children's area, or the big saltwater fish tank with step stool. I'll read at least some.
5:00 or so - get home. Make everyone put their shoes away and do a couple of very minor chores. Free time for awhile. Annie will devour half of her book while Aaron unicycles and the little kids play pretend games, I will veg on the computer or talk to my mother on the phone. If I'm really with it and there is not a need for conversation from Lakeland, I may use the Wii Fit for awhile.
6:30 - Quiet Time. We do it for half an hour every day now, but not at a set time. Ananda works on book reports for all of her voluntary reading, since she needs more spelling, handwriting and grammar practice, and Aaron reads, since he loves it when I tell him it's time but never instigates it otherwise. I try to encourage Isaac and Jake to play games or color, but often end up shooing all three of the youngest outside for the duration
7:00 - it will be cool by then, so I'll practice bike riding with Annie again. She is finally getting it, but she may be hesitant at first since she SCRAPED HER FACE ON THE STREET today. We just do about 15 minutes at a time because that's all the falling repeatedly she can handle. She's almost there, though, she got half a block done at once today, twice.
7:20 - start quick cheating dinner of frozen things that go in the oven or pots since it's a hectic day - fish, peas, onion rings.
8:00 - Grant gets home, we eat dinner.
9:30 - start brushing kids' teeth, reading them books - The Mysterious Benedict Society for Ananda and Aaron, The BFG or classic Pooh for Isaac, Amelia Bedelia for Jake and who knows what for Elise. Off to bed with all of them at 10 or so.
10 or so - Grant and I watch newest episode of Kings and since he doesn't have to work for the next four days, actually get to go to bed together, like at the same time.

See? I've basically already done it :p
altarflame: (Sayid)
In my organic produce co-op box today:
-2 (big-ziploc-freezer-ish) bags of cherries
-a bag plus a bunch, of red grapes
-2 pints of rasberries
-10 peaches
-2-3 pounds of fresh peas still in the pods
-4 LARGE bunches of romaine lettuce
-7 big red onions

Does that strike you as being a bargain at $50? Usually there is more variety with less quantity of each item, but we didn't have as many people signed up this week and that limited our ability to be choosy. It's also usually much more vegetable-heavy, but it's summertime. It's all from the U.S.A., with most local to Florida.

I don't usually sweat the exact value because we end up getting so much out of it. Today for instance we went to pick it up at my friend Kristin's house, as usual, and had a two hour long pool and yard playdate. Aaron and Annie had A BLAST with Darien, Elise and Naja have decided they're sisters after "spidercrawling" around the edge in races (Naja is four), all of them got to run around with dogs and chickens, hold the giant rooster and change clothes in the handpainted Under The Sea bathroom.

Plus there are actual quantifiable freebies - like today, Kristin set out watermelon, homemade curry fries and veggie chips for all the kids to eat, and she gave me three patio chairs she is getting rid of and some frangipani cuttings she had to trim that I can plant in my yard.

It's always like this. Last time we came home with the massive big-kid big wheel with metal frame and rubber tires that Annie rides comfortably, that was going to be yard-saled from their stockpile of riding toys that never get used.

Today Ananda, Aaron and I spent half an hour shelling peas for dinner around the table, and by the end we had mastered how to snap off the end, pull off the string and swipe down all the peas in one fluid motion.

It works out.

It occured to me this evening that while this Weight Watchers thing is kind of driving me nuts, and not working very effectively, there WAS a time when I cut all refined sugar and flour out of my diet and lost 30+ pounds in 4 months. Eating whatever the hell I wanted whenever I wanted within those guidelines (like, tons of my own whole wheat flour and less refined sugar baked goods). A surprising amount of simple-carb crap has snuck back into my regular eating...I'm thinking of going whole hog with that again, it worked SO WELL. I just desperately dread the initial detox of withdrawals....

I wanted to read about how that worked, since it was way back in late 2004, and so I opened up my archives here for the first time in who knows how long. And there was a lot about eating and weight and how it all went. But some other stuff also stood out to me, in a big way...

-I wrote so innocently. I didn't care if I sounded bitchy or if I complained too often or if I came off as hypocritical. I was just telling the truth, dumping it all into a journal. I call this "Tina Before Trolls". I'd like to get back to it, on the one hand, but then on the other, I think that being exposed to so many wildly differing perspectives has changed my whole world view in such a way that just being honest is different, now. Because my THOUGHTS aren't so naive. If that makes any sense. I can't figure out if this is a good thing or not.

-My faith was also innocent. I still believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I still pray before dinner and bed with my kids, daily, and on my own at least a few times a week. I still go to church most Sundays and consider my faith in a lot of my decisions. But. I don't know. I understand, now, that God's will and what I want might not have much to do with each other, even when what I want is all encompassing and desperate, for me. This is bitter. And, I had this horrible niggling ribbon of doubt put into my thoughts, by my time in the hospital for the sponge thing...I don't know how to explain it. I still KNOW God is real, and see this ridiculously obvious evidence in my life of His work...and yet I can't get much past that without it all getting very cloudy. Likewise, I still know that going to and leaning on God improves my daily life on about a million levels. But I do it less often and less deeply than I did before, anyway.

I am hoping to move back into a time of growing in the Spirit rather than stagnating in my hesitance.

I'm so tired, I keep having to stop writing to just stare and get my bearings and refocus my eyes. Sheesh.
altarflame: (Time is coming for me.)
This evening I made a big old wok of stir fry vegetables (terriyaki), a big pot of chickpea noodle soup, and a yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting and some of my strawberry filling. All from scratch, all good. And a lot of 10 minute boil in bag brown rice to go with the stir fry.

Every time I closed my eyes to go to sleep last night, I saw my Grandpa's dead body in the funeral home. I cried a lot in the funeral home. I'm still not completely sure why; it was some combination of having known him in life and seeing his dead body, being near a dead body in general, and the overwhelming pain and grief my mother was feeling. Basically I was standing in an emotional tidal wave and there was no way not to get sucked under.

This is the third time I've been near a dead person. It always unsettles me terribly.

It's just so fucking intensely obvious that it is not the person anymore. SO MUCH of how a face looks, is the personality that animates it - even in sleep, even in a coma. I really don't understand how anyone could see a dead body and not know that souls exist. What was gone. What is something else. Vacant, and decomposing.

So those first few hours in bed, I had all these cyclical, exponential thoughts. Round and round, wider and wider...
That is going to happen to me one day - all this flesh on me will be just a carcass.
It's going to happen to everyone I know or ever see.
Everything is so temporary, so changeable, we are all gradually falling apart physically.
Sometimes, people go into the hospital and don't come back out.
Sometimes, there is something going wrong inside your body and you have no idea until it's too late.
It's going to be our parents, before we know it - mine and Laura's, Grant's and Frank's.
Not just that Grandpa died, but my Mom and Dad and Teresa have all been in the hospital for serious things now, in these past years.
My Nana!
When I was in the ICU, I had such a thick and solid wall up, blocking out my emotions, that nothing I perceived can be trusted. But it seemed, it really seemed as though everything was trying to fade to black, as though that's all there would be, if I let go - just black.
Could it really actually be possible that Grandpa is in Hell?
Could it really actually be possible that Grandpa is in Heaven?
I was so afraid of my parents going to hell as a 6 year old in Baptist school.
Everything is so temporary, my mother refusing to come to church where I was getting baptised, my mother getting baptised in a church, my mother in the My Dad years, the Jud years, the (golden) Todd years. My mother now thin and fragile and different, no boundaries, but looking like her old self for just an hour before she left.
Except skinny like she was 17 and in my baby pictures.
I say these things, these wild hyperbole over the top things to joke like I'm so old, but they're ACTUALLY TRUE:
-The bridge I drove over all the time in my remembered childhood is rusted railings falling into the sea and 9 foot trees coming up through the asphalt
-my baby videos are silent flickering things converted from old reels
What will my Dad have left to live for, if his Dad dies? He drives a cab, he lives with Madie, and he takes care of his Dad. That is the important part.
My daughter will be 9 so soon.
My baby will be 2 so soon.
My brother was my 2 year old baby.

It was a long time getting to sleep full of intense dreams.

Grant is still sick. We have been talking a lot about all of this. And I ran a lot of errands with Ananda today - Publix, post office, CVS for a picture print, PetCo for hay and litter.

God feels so real to me. Not just real...always real. He seems so CLOSE. I keep praying and having the sense of turning to yell to someone and finding myself nose to nose with them, and being like...oh. And adjusting my volume. It's how I felt in Boston, and at camp. I spent an hour on the phone with my Dad today. And my mom called 3 times. I pray Mother Teresa's prayer; Speak with my mouth, touch with my hands. I don't know how to explain what I mean except that I FELT my prayers working, in the funeral parlor, I felt my mother's pain and I felt how she needed it and I felt it working. Not taking the pain away. Just the sharpest corners, the roughest edges, making it something she could wade through somehow. Holding her up. There are all these little things I start to want to do - to eat crap when I'm not hungry, to slack off when I shouldn't, to give in to little temptations of all kinds, but it's easy...easy to not do them. It's annoying how easy it is, because I want to be more tempted and do them and like them. But it's just so clear that I'm not supposed to, and don't need it. That it isn't what I'm really looking for. And then the words and tones are right there, to say these things to my mother and to my father that are so hard to say, so harsh to say, that need to be said, and then I'm in some state of curious surprise that I didn't offend anyone because I wasn't offensive.

I guess this is kind of cryptic. But it's amazing. I feel so calm, but calm in this very humble, very raw way that has to do with deep connection and faith in surreal times.

I do hope that I sleep better tonight.
altarflame: (burning bush)
There's been a lot of construction in my backyard the past few days. We almost have a chicken coop and run :)

The coop part is the upper floors there on the's enclosed now and will have a hole to get in with a ramp for the chickens to walk up. Then they can walk around under it or in any of the other free space, and we'll put a couple of perches up high as well, once all the chicken wire is secured on it. It has a hinged door at this point for us to walk in and out of.

(definitely gonna be moving the firepit...)

Mr Shaun Wright, who's been staying late to help.

We've had two false alarms this week.

1. Elise had been playing in the sideyard (connected to backyard) with the other kids, then came to us with a blue streaked mouth. Grant had torn out some weeds sprouting suspicious purple-y berries and we were both instantly terrified she had eaten some wild poison. Robbie, our 14 year old nephew, was in the ER for hours last year after eating some crappy berries on a dare from one of his friends. Luckily, no, there were no more berries Grant had missed along the fence - we are lame enough to have a rainbow striped hackey sack laying around and it was wet with drool, and the ink from the blue part had run as she chewed on it.

2. The chickens have been in a temporary coop on the deck, that has a towel layed down in it (we're rotating all our old and raggedy, horrible towels that have been used for rabbits for months now for this purpose...)It's better for them to walk and nestle down to sleep on than the deck slats and keeps some of the poop off the deck (though we can hose the rest). Anyway, one of the chickens had some fraying string wrapped around it's ankle tight enough that it's foot was swelling and it was laying there looking alarmed and making a big racket. It limped and hopped it's way through the rest of the day, when not laying around looking shocked, after we freed it and threw that towel out...I had to give A and A a "this chicken might die or be crippled forever" talk but when we woke up to go *gulp* check, the chicken was fine. We can't even tell which of them it was now.

We have got tomatoes like crazy. Peppers too. And mangos like mad ripening on our tree.

Elise right after the rain.

Elise right after a hair brushing.

Being read to by Jakey.

Oh, my sweet sweet Jakey.

I just want to say, WHAT is going on with our weather? It was 94 degrees on Monday afternoon. Then Tuesday night, down in the 40s?! That's a cold front for us in January.

My sister's birthday was the 7th. She said she can't remember it ever being cold on her birthday in her life ( the shade of my deck we were sitting in rocking chairs bundled in blankets from the wind). Her husband decided to be all dashing and drive the fire engine to her house during his shift to deliver her roses and then drive off in uniform leaving her all a-flutter. Then I came and got her and we went and picked up her ultimate dream cake from the Publix bakery, an Outback giftcard and made some promises of babysitting that were fulfilled today.


I feel better. I'm definitely NOT following Weight Watchers. But I don't care that much at the moment, either? I think that makes it not that bad?

Spending a lot of time crocheting this blanket I'm making, that's basically a series of 3-repeating-color's like I made a red-pink-fuschia-red-pink-fuschia-red-pink-fuschia scarf, and then a beige-brown-purple-beige-brown-purple-beige-brown-purple scarf, and now I'm doing a black-burgundy-brown-black-burgundy-brown-black-burgundy-brown one. At the end I sew all the scarves together and it's a big blanket made of all these stripes of squares centered around browns and reds. I'm using a wool blend that can go in the washer. When I'm not doing that I'm making kitchen mats out of a variegated green cotton.

Or editing and writing short stories.

Or talking with or reading to kids.

Or loading the dishwasher or washing machine.

Or fiddling with, taping up, sneezing out(!THISREALLYHAPPENED!), or cleaning my nosering (I know, Melissa, I know...) I left the paper tape I'd been keeping it from sinking into the hole with off for 24 hours last week and my skin grew completely over the stupid thing, it was totally gone in my nose and I had to like re-pop it out? So I've been all uber vigilant about it again. And I think it's healed enough at the right size that it doesn't need the paper tape anymore? But who knows. (for those who don't know, I found some reputable piercing info that said if you have a stud sinking into a hole you can use micropore paper tape, like my surgical wounds have been dressed in, cut a tiny slit in it, and basically make a sort of buttonhole where the tape is between the hole and the piercing so it can't slip down anymore. You just change it when you clean the new piercing, twice a day. It seems to work pretty well, i think I just got a really tiny stud for the needle size the guy used, or else I'm weird, or whatever)

I really, really love our house and yards and kids and pets and how well it all works together. I love the giant kitchen and big dining room, connected and right in the middle of the house - that now have a wall under the bar where kids are allowed to write, color and paint whatever they like. I love my big old turquoise master bedroom with flowy white curtains, his and her closets, king sized dark wood four poster bed, and massive two room bathroom with a garden tub and a couple of sinks and a linen closet all it's own, and mermaids all over it all. I love that we have A LIBRARY, and so much comfortable furniture in there and the tv room with this insane flat screen set up and this kickass antique light on the PIANO.

It's just pretty much badass and I sort of can't believe it every damned day.

I made turkey burgers for dinner and lemon bars for dessert, tonight.

I had a really nice, GOOD cry about feeling the Holy Spirit and presence of God for the first time in awhile, set to Third Day's "Show Me Your Glory", that I needed pretty badly. We are still going to City Church and liking it, but "charismatic" Protestant worship is so kind of...spectator-y? That I can block it out very easily or keep my distance with minimal effort. I CAN also choose to pay attention and be prayerful and get something out of it. But if I'm feeling like I like my distance and want to be a sinner without remorse, I can do that too. It's hard to not be mentally involved in Catholic church when you're getting down on your knees, reciting things along with everyone else, crossing yourself at the right times, getting up and down, etc. There was a Sunday at City Church with (walking up for) communion and actual congregational singing (rather than just the admittedly very cool concert deal) and it just undid me at the seams.

I have got a huge stash of Easter surprises for my kids. They're going to have amazing grass and candy free baskets filled with awesome sauce. And there will be candy on the hunt and undoubtedly candy from the in-laws, so don't get your panties in a bunch. We're going to be talking about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday over the next couple of days...I need to have Easter in some kind of context here...and then I'm psyched about Sunday. It's all under a sheet in my office.

I'm so tired, I haven't done a 3 am update in awhile.
altarflame: (deep thoughts/trapped in my skin)
I am ready to bust right out of my skin! Geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez I do not want to try to channel this energy into fucking cleaning. Argh argh argh.

The good news is, I've abandoned all pretenses at specific strict diets and have returnedto the only thing that ever REALLY really worked for me - relying on God rather than food in times of emotional upset, boredom, exhaustion, etc. It's a lot of prayer and a lot of bible study but it's very rewarding and works very effectively. I don't think I would ever have thought to come back around to this method, sinner that I am, if it hadn't been for larger spiritual struggles going down. But here I am, and it benefits in countless ways...

Aaron's cat has finally stopped acting like a vet from 'Nam and is starting to come out from under the couches and allow himself to be touched sometimes. Aaron is beside himself with joy about it. I am relieved, I was starting to think we were stuck with a mouth to feed and litter box for cleaning attached to nothing more than a blur streaking by a couple of times a day. I feel like a cat classist, it is so glaringly obvious looking at these two cats that the terrified, jumpy, anxious cat is the rescued shelter cat, and the playful, sleeping with us, sweet cat is the socialized-daily-from-birth and generally pampered cat from a breeder. Mine has a double identity: My sweet adorable kitten is Chrysanthemum. The nutcase who scales bookshelves, pounces on the bigger cat and attacks our sleeping feet, is her alterego Roxanne. The old lady who handled Peter's adoption through PetNetwork and brought him to our house, and the guy who breeds Maine Coons that I got Mum through, are both clamoring for updates and pictures constantly. I come home every day to emails and voicemails, and while I understand the concern, I think it might be time for them both to move on.

We got a Christmas tree. It's nice and fat. I'm thinking of taking a minimalist approach due to toddlers and kittens, like maybe lights; some strung beads, cranberries and/or popcorn; a topper; and our usual Christmas cookie ornaments. I'll probably make up a big old bunch of gingerbread dough soon so we can make them in batches over the coming weeks (as they have a tendency to quietly dissapear).

The Christmas season in general is like prozac for me - just driving around with lights on houses and the city having decorated, with carols on the XM Radio, makes everything seem better.

Tediously mundane BS: our dishwasher isn't working. Our brand new stainless steel KitchenAid dishwasher, that I have raved about since it was purchased. You can't imagine the backup in my kitchen, where normally I do 2-3 jumbo loads a day.

Sidenote: You can't imagine how much I can cram into a dishwasher without compromising cleanness. All those years of Tetris were good for something after all.
altarflame: (burning bush)
I have had a huge mental revelation tonight. I'm sure some people will find a way to shrug it off; from my perspective that's not possible.

I was talking to Grant earlier tonight about how sometimes, here and there, I still wonder (of course) if Elise has challenges ahead of her. Lately I've thought about language a lot, because she's about to hit that age when most kids have a huge language explosion (she's 18 months). She has been above average with language up to this point, but has sort of stopped progressing over the past few weeks, not adding much to her standard mama, dada, Annie, bye, Bay for blanket, wawa for water, buh for bunny, signing milk, etc. That can be normal, especially as they're focusing on other skill sets, which she has that time period she's started sitting attentively through books I read, and begun pushing chairs over to the door to be able to reach the lock, unlock it, and then get down and go outside O_o I have no doubt she's intelligent, I just felt scared that she might not be able to convey that the way other people can as I realized a lot may hinge on the next few months. As we talked, I did realized that "please", "pee" and "baby" are all somewhat new, but I guess it is easy to jump at shadows when I'm used to consoling myself with her being really advanced. I was actually thinking, well, she is not BEHIND yet, but she's not really advanced in this anymore, either, she's "just average" and that means that if she misses that explosion period, she'll be behind, and who knows what that will mean, for her.

Just watching her over the evening, I was reassured - she said "eem" for her diaper cream for the first time, and "waa?" in a questioning tone for "Where?" with her hands palm up on either side of her (adorable).

And so then I started thinking about the stuff I'm calling a revelation.

While I was pregnant with Elise, I thought a lot about different names. One day, I randomly thought of the name "Ambriel", and wondered if that even was a name. I'd been looking at a lot of different A names and E names and I thought that was a nice combination of syllables (am-bree-el, with the emphasis on the "am"). So I googled it, and it sure was a name. It's the name of the guardian angel of babies born in May, and the angel of communication.

I thought that was "eh" at the time, since she was due in very early April. I kind of disguarded it after I couldn't find much more about it and a lot of it seemed to be on more new age-y sites.

The May thing definitely crossed my mind again as didn't come out later...and later...and later, and we realized my due date had been wrong but then she was late for the NEW one, too, and that the May thing was coming true. She was actually born on May 1 and I gave her the middle name Ambriel, partially just because I really like how it sounds.

But then tonight I thought about having a name "come to me" during pregnancy, that I had never even heard before, and having it be the name of an angel in charge of communication. Because I've said here several times that the communication part of Elise's brain is the part that's damaged way worse than anything else - basically just gone. They told me that an adult who'd had a stroke and had that MRI would simply never speak at all, period, but sometimes babies can rewire things to some degree depending on factors they don't even really understand yet - yada yada yada, I've told this story a million times.

From a description of the angel Ambriel - "This angel inspires clear communication so that we might better speak our own truth".

As a person who does not usually fall into the Catholic thinking of guardian angels, this has seriously made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

It is just one more piece in a giant puzzle of providence revealed that I experienced last year, all overwhelming and sometimes bitter, but also all that held me together.

May 2017

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