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Saturday, November 21, 2015

National Family Caregiver Month

     I recently learned that November is National Family Caregiver Month, thanks to discovering a moving blog series by Heather Von St. James highlighting her battle with mesothelioma. Her passion for raising awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos are truly inspiring. I highly recommend this site for learning more:  http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/ 
I've personally been meaning to write a post honoring my Mom, and this has given me the little push I needed. (I originally wanted to do write something for Mothers' Day this year, but that clearly didn't happen.) It isn't going to be terribly long or detailed, as she isn't a fan of her personal info and stuff floating all over the Interwebs. Which is fine. 

    Growing up, I always wanted to be more like my Dad. Maybe it was because I was already a lot like my Mom, or because his coolness factor was higher because gone a lot and was more mysterious as a result. I don't know. As I've grown older, I've noticed more and more similarity between myself and Mom, from the curling of our hair and our general build, to our tone of voice in the phrases we use. I've also come to appreciate being so similar to her, for she truly is a woman I want to emulate. Granted, everyone has shortcomings, but in spite of those I believe she was a fantastic mother. She would stifle her intense fear of creeping crawling things so our curiosity wouldn't be stifled. She powered through her fear of horses, and allowed me to see the realization of my dream of having one of my own, even to the point of taking care of him if I went somewhere overnight. She gave the best support she could give when I came to her with a problem. She gave me room to grow and be and figure things out for myself. 
     She's more than just a mom, though. She's a good wife. My Dad's had more than his fair share of bad luck when it comes to health issues, and Mom's been supporting him every step of the way. Yes, she's human and exasperation does show sometimes, but more often than not her patience, kindness, love, and ability to let go of things that don't matter in the grand scheme of things are what you notice. Her example of what it means to love and cherish in sickness and in health has been a profound inspiration to me. 
     A few years ago, we found out that Grammy, Mom's mom, had terminal cancer. Mom chose to bring Grammy to live with them for what time remained to her. I can't imagine what strength it must have taken, to care for her own mother in the last days of her life. And she did it with love.
     What I keep coming back to is how brave she is, though she has a hard time seeing it. She carries on in spite of all of her fears, putting the needs and best interests of those she loves before her own. And not once have I ever received the impression that she was some sort of a martyr for doing so. It is just who Mom is, and I am proud to be her daughter. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Made To Serve

     I am a servant. You are a servant. Whether we like it or not, we are all servants. We can't help it; it's built into our nature, and there is no escaping it. Everyone is a slave to something, whether it be our passions, our jobs, our families, what have you. The only question is, who do you choose to serve? Christians are often ridiculed for choosing to give up their "freedom" when they choose to serve Christ, but the reality is no one is free from service. The self-serving man is still just as bound to serving as the one who chooses to follow Christ. The only difference is in the masters they choose. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Eight Weeks

     It has been so long since I've written. I don't know what to write. While I haven't had a good opportunity to sit down and put my thoughts onto "paper", it doesn't mean that I have stopped thinking. On the contrary, I've been thinking even more, and now cannot decide on a subject. So I guess I'll stick with what we've been doing lately. 


Baby, lots of baby. Though this is only the third (and worst) blow out I've had to deal with. She is going to be 8 weeks old tomorrow. I could not have asked for a better baby. So calm. So content.
I love her smiles. I love that she's starting to "talk". I love her complaining cry; the one where she cries and closes her mouth and it sounds like she's saying "Meh meh meh meh". I love the little happy laugh she does when I pick her up after she's been fussing. I am so in love with my baby girl, it's amazing. 


Juanito is roughly 21 months. He's fantastic, though really fussy and whiny lately. I think it has more to do with his age than with the addition of Little Miss. He is a figure-er-outer. He likes trying to put things together and taking them apart. He is very rough and tumble, but oh so snuggly still. As much as Jose liked to be held, he never really snuggled. Juanito is also very much in the monkey see, monkey do phase. He adores Jose, and pretty much follows along with whatever Jose comes up with. Except when he doesn't. Then there are problems.


Jose turned three today. He, too, is a thinker, though I think more of a speculative type. His vocabulary is pretty outstanding, though some of the things he comes up with leave me wondering. He loves to be a helper, and to have his way. Which is why there are problems when Juanito doesn't want to play whatever game happens to be "mandatory" at the moment. He is currently interested in gymnastics and working out, though his form leaves a bit to be desired. Still on the sensitive side, he is quickly growing to be more outgoing. I'm still shocked by how friendly he is, considering how shy he used to be. 

As for myself, I'm doing alright. Recovery has been phenomenal. I can't believe it's only been 8 weeks, mostly, since I've given birth. The only things I did differently were stay in bed longer, and take my placenta pills. Yeah, I was skeptical too, in the beginning. But hearing how the placenta has worked wonders for Post-Partum Depression, I figured it was worth a try.
Because I *do not* want to end up in that place again. Oddly enough, whether it is the pills, or just not being pregnant anymore, I've felt so normal. Yes, there were a couple bad days a few weeks ago after I decided to stop taking my pills to see if there was a difference, but since resuming them I have felt so calm. Clear. Like some mental fog has lifted, and I can see again. Yes, I still get low blood sugar induced anxiety attacks, and I still don't do terribly well when there are three people crying at me, but my fuse is longer and the explosion is milder and over much more quickly. I don't know what it is, but I'm really glad for it. 

I should probably go, before Little Miss wakes up. I think her current schedule is nap from 8 or 9 til 10:30 or 11, then up for a bit and down for the rest of the night by 1. But I still have stuff to do that is best done without holding a baby. Like empty the dishwasher. Email the family and friends an update, since I haven't actually done that since, like, April. Or take a shower. Sometimes she surprises me and sleeps for what seems like ever. Anyway, there you have it. If this sleep trend does continue, though, I hope to blog more.

































Sunday, August 23, 2015

Continued Humility

     As promised (for once), I continue the story. The lessons in letting go didn't stop with varicose veins. At our 38 week appointment there was cause for concern regarding preeclampsia. I had some tests run that weekend, and the results were not promising. At my next appointment, the midwife was strongly suggesting to try and induce labor. I was upset. This was not how it was supposed to be, a week early. I had things that needed to get done before Mary arrived. Code Monkey had a project due that weekend. Things were just not how I wanted them to go. I reluctantly agreed to take the midwife's advice, and left the appointment with a kit to try and induce labor naturally. I honestly was hoping that it wouldn't work; this was not how I had planned it. God had different plans. After taking different herbal tinctures and homeopathic remedies every 15 minutes for 4 hours, there was some cramping but nothing consistent, so I went to bed. Around 2 a.m. I started timing the cramps, which were 2-3 minutes apart, and called the midwife around 3 a.m. We packed up the van, headed to the birth center, and Mary Ryan was born at 6:02 a.m. on the 14th. All things considered, it was the best birth experience yet, though I don't think labor will ever be anything remotely enjoyable for me.
     At any rate, it has taken me three births to finally allow myself the "luxury" of taking time off, and actually resting. Three times my body has been pushed to its limits, and it is only now that I am fully acknowledging that, and allowing myself to recuperate without guilt. But even now it is hard to let go of the control, to admit my inability to do things, or to force myself to say "no" to things I really shouldn't be doing, especially when I can see how hard my absence has been on the boys. Particularly in regards to not holding them. I ought not be picking them up, or anything heavier than the baby, really; and it is so hard because Juanito doesn't understand. Jose is able to comprehend that Mama has a boo-boo in her tummy, and can't do X yet, but Juanito only knows that Mama isn't holding him. I know I have a responsibility to take care of Mary, and take care of myself so I can get back to doing things again, but it breaks my heart to have to tell them no, we can't do that thing because I am too broken at the moment. 
     *sigh*  I know it will get better; I know it won't be like this forever; that it's been just over a week, and I'm halfway to the slowly getting back to normal stage; but sometimes that knowledge doesn't make it any easier. 

A Lesson in Humility

     Two weeks ago, I confessed the sin of pride. It struck me, as I was waiting in line, that I could not remember confessing it before. Which is kind of a huge oversight on my part, considering how proud I am, as those few who are close to me can attest. This past year, and definitely this last pregnancy, have been one really long lesson in humility, and I'm afraid I haven't been learning as quickly or as well as I ought. 
     As much as I may seem to be a go with the flow kind of person, deep down I really like, and on a certain level need, to be in control. Not of everything, mind you, but of certain things. I guess that's not really saying much, since it seems to be part of the human condition. Anyway, losing control of those things causes me to feel like my security blanket has been stripped away, that I'm left drowning with no hope of recovery. The feeling is made that much worse when the control was so attached to what seemed like your very essence.
     My two major points of pride were my ability to govern (i.e. hide) my emotions, and how physically capable I was. This past year has derailed me on both counts. Admitting to myself that I could no longer control my emotions was extremely difficult, and admitting that to even close friends was nearly impossible, but somehow I managed. Looking in the mirror, seeing my body deteriorate, even if only a little, nearly broke me. My identity has been so tied to strength for so long that I have lost sight of who I am. In some ways it has been a good thing, being broken down like that; it has lead to some deep soul searching, trying to figure out how I came to identify the way I did, but I am still sort of at a loss for where to go from here. Not that I'm done examining myself, there are still a few more posts that need to be added to Ashamed & Afraid, which will eventually happen some day. 
     What I realized while waiting my turn for confession, though, is that I am still so proud. In spite of being broken down, and even admitting how broken I was, I was still too proud to accept help. Even though I've blogged about it multiple times (here, here, here), I'm still really bad at taking care of me, and I think that stems from a mix of being too proud to allow people to help me out and do things for me, and not considering myself worth taking care of. If I'm not doing the things I usually do, and am instead taking "time off", then it feels as though I am useless, and not pulling my weight. I forget that my worth and value does not come from how strong I can be, how well I do my work without help, but rather from the fact that I am a daughter of God, made in His image and likeness, and that is enough. 

As this post is long enough, I'll continue the subject briefly in my next one. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Called To Be Simons

     I had my first real, in person chat with an online friend today, and it was wonderful. It isn't often that I get to have conversations with people older than 2, let alone conversations that don't revolve mainly around mothering of some kind or another, and this man is just a wealth of information, resulting from both his academic background and life experience in general. As the conversation flowed, it came up that we, as Catholics, are not meant to sequester ourselves away in avoidance of the world, but are called to be missionaries to it. In addition, all people need someone that they can feel safe being themselves with, in all of their woundedness and vulnerability, because everyone, at some level, is broken. It got me thinking again, how we are all called to pick up our crosses and follow Christ. What we often seem to overlook, however, is that Christ did not carry his cross alone. Even He had help. Granted, Simon of Cyrene didn't exactly volunteer for the job of assistant cross carrier, but he helped shoulder Christ's burden none the less. So, too, are we called to help each other bear the burdens that we are struggling to bear in life. Often, like Simon, we end up having other peoples issues sort of thrust upon us. How do we handle it? Do we try to wriggle our way out, saying "It isn't my problem?" Or do we decide to will to take what part of the burden that we are able, and help them carry this cross? I don't know what Simon's reaction was, as it doesn't seem to be recorded anywhere, but I do know that a willing heart usually makes a heavy load much more bearable. This is an area I know I need a lot of practice in, but thanks to people like the Janaros, I am not lacking in good examples to follow. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

9 Tips for 9 Months

     I was recently inspired bythe American Recall Center's new project called "9 Tips for 9 Months" and decided to join in. The goal is to provide future expecting mothers with tried and true suggestions for managing common pregnancy ailments, hopefully resulting in happier, healthier mamas and babies. :)  
     Unfortunately, I've been struggling to come up with 9 things that I have tried and have worked, mostly because I have a tendency to just put up with things rather than put effort into doing things about them. Or I don't think to try things until it is too late, and there isn't anything that can be done about them until next time. Which actually works out well, because there are a few things that will be on my list that I am definitely doing next time!
*Disclaimer:  I am not a licensed medical professional; these suggestions are not meant to take the place of medical advice.*

1. Morning Sickness:  While I have experienced it with all three of my pregnancies, I do need to admit that it hasn't been bad enough to require medication. Which I am thankful for, after reading that Zofran, a popular medication for morning sickness, hasn't been approved by the FDA for pregnant women and even has been known to cause birth defects! My pregnancy nausea is usually the result of an empty stomach, or waiting too long to eat, which snowballs into not knowing what to eat because nothing is appealing at all, and then I end up moping and wallowing on the couch in a pity party. What I have found, though, with each successive pregnancy, the nausea is more manageable when I A. Just pick a thing and eat it (much easier to do when caring for a child who also needs to eat) and B. Keep moving (also pretty easy to do when chasing after a toddler). 

2. Exercise:  This definitely would have helped a lot with the nausea I had with #1, had I actually done it. #2 was my most active pregnancy, in so far as I walked a lot of places to get out of the apartment and to keep Jose entertained. I should have been better at exercising this time around, and am really kicking myself for not. My suggestion here, and one I am definitely going to do ASAP post-partum, is Focus on strengthening your core and pelvic floor. Find a program or gym or trainer that you trust and work with them. I recommend checking out Jessie Mundell and her Core and Floor Restore program. I personally haven't tried it yet, but if I'm super lucky I might get it as a "push present" (though I already have 2 workout programs I've begged for and then not used... kinda guilty about that). I think the most important thing when looking for a prenatal or post-partum workout is to find something that works to help heal your body, instead of inadvertently making it worse (did you know that crunches and sit ups could be making your tummy pouch worse?). I also love the Girls Gone Strong community for workout advice in general. 

3. Food:  Food is your friend, even when it seems the thought of it will make you sick. That being said, Don't stress about it. With  my first two, I was on the measuring small, not eating enough side, and the pressure to eat more caused unnecessary stress. Listen to your body, don't ignore it when it is hungry, but if eating that thing will just cause you to get sick, don't worry about it. Focus on nutrition, but don't freak out about the occasional junk food cravings or binges. Another thing I love about Jessie's posts (I follow on Instagram, and get her email updates) is how much she emphasizes that It's just food, and moderation is key. Focus on good protein, healthy fats, and veggies, and everything else will fall into place. 

4. Water:  Drink lots of it, from the very beginning! I shoot for at least a gallon a day, though often times I can tell I need more. Start early on, so as to develop the habit by the time the third trimester comes around, and your insides feel like they are too squished to hold both food and drink. Now that I'm in that stage, I find it helpful to have at least one protein shake a day to help with the "Should I eat or drink right now? I only have room for one" dilemma. Nutrition and energy while hydrating is a win-win situation in my book. Staying hydrated is also supposed to help lessen swelling and varicose veins, though I haven't noticed much difference in either of them; but I'm also not going to stop drinking to see how bad they would be otherwise, either. 

5. Swelling and Varicosities:  As mentioned above, water is supposed to help with both of these conditions, but I'm not going elaborate on my experience in regards to water a second time. Many people know that varicose veins in the legs occur often in pregnancy, but in 10% of women they can occur in a more sensitive area. Pregnancy support belts are your friends. I have a V2 Support Belt for those 10% veins I have, and a Baby Belly Band with support for that area as well that I use. The belly band is also supposed to help with leg varicosities by helping to relieve the pressure the uterus is putting on the veins. Putting your legs up above your heart also helps with both the veins and the swelling, but make sure your head is also higher than your heart lest too much blood flows to it. 

6. See a Chiropractor:  I'm pretty sure I have symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), and seeing the chiropractor has definitely helped with that. I wasn't too sure until my most recent appointment, because my pelvis bothers me, especially at night even with seeing the chiro, though it pops more on it's own than it did with #2. I had been going every other week for a bit, and last week my pain was really bad. Rolling over in bed and getting up in the morning were really bordering on excruciating. There were even a couple of days that I couldn't even hobble the 10 or so feet to the bathroom without assistance, it hurt so much. After my appointment yesterday, though, I was able to roll mostly pain free, and getting up this morning I hardly felt a thing! There are exercises I probably should be doing, but my 10% veins have left me a little wary of anything that stretches like a squat does. 

7. Prenatal Depression is a Real Thing:  Don't be afraid to ask for help if you think something is wrong. There is a certain amount of ebb and flow emotionally that seems to come with being pregnant, but if you or someone close to you feels that what you are feeling is not normal, don't be afraid to ask your care provider about it. You are not alone, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Hormone imbalances can do awful things to people, and it is not your fault that you are feeling and acting this way. My midwife recommended an amino regimen from the book The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross, some of which helped, though I'm still narrowing it down to exactly what. I have also found that working to center myself spiritually is also helping. The human psyche is so complex that it may be a multitude of things causing the imbalance. But you can't get better if you don't acknowledge something is wrong.
On a related note, this article says acupuncture may be more effective than antidepressants for prenatal depression.

8. Constipation:  I have found Magnesium to be extremely helpful in this area. Plus, it is helpful for muscle cramps and general relaxation as well. I've read that it is best absorbed through the skin in some sort of lotion, but haven't gotten around to making my own magnesium lotion, or buying one someone else made. However, I have been taking Natural Vitality's Natural Calm as often as I can remember, and it seems to work well. I use the original flavor, and put it in my pregnancy tea. I usually make a quart of tea and drink it throughout the day. 

9. Have an Open Mind and Trust yourself. You really are the best judge for what is best for you, your baby, and your family. Growing up, I always thought babies were born in hospitals, and that was it. My husband's family, however, used midwives, and he suggested we check some out when we were expecting #1. I said ok, why not, and decided to go with an out of hospital birth. While we did end up in the hospital (story for a different day), I was pleased enough with our midwifery experience to continue choosing them for subsequent pregnancies. As for breastfeeding, that was my husband's suggestion as well. While it took a bit for #1 and I to get the hang of it, I'm really glad I kept it up, as it was the best fit for us. There is a lot of information out there, and sorting through it all can be extremely difficult and stressful. Don't let fear paralyze you. Try to keep things in perspective. There are a lot of scary stories out there, like how it is possible to get listeria from cold cuts, or that GBS contracted by a baby is more often than not fatal, it is also true that most accidents occur within 5 miles of home but we don't let that stop us from going about our business. Use your judgment, and try to find the middle ground. You are strong, you can do this. 





Saturday, July 4, 2015

Damage

     Well, I guess it is about time for a little update on how I am doing, and since there are actually things to report. But first, I want to link to a link up that my friend Katherine hosted about a month ago, about maternal depression. I confess that I haven't read all of the contributions yet, but the ones I have read have helped me to accept my own struggle, and hopefully they will help you as well. 
Hope For The Future:  A Blog Hop on Post-Partum Depression and Anxiet
     Ok, so I decided to sit and read them. A Knotted Life pretty much describes my struggles, though it's only been a year instead of 5. And reading the others nearly made me cry, too, because I know what it's like, and as much as I wish I could say I am better, it isn't true. 
     Roughly three weeks ago I had an absolutely fantastic week. It was the best week I have had in a really, really long time. And the next week, it was back. That Wednesday, I found myself mired in the darkness, the feeling of failure, the desire to leave, because everyone would be better off with an absent wife and mother, instead of an angry depressed one. The return of the depression coincided with the return of a few first trimester issues, like an over sensitivity to sugar, and feeling like being sick if I waited to long to eat but not knowing what to eat to get rid of the nausea. I am pretty much convinced much of my depression is related to hormones. 
     Aside from the depression issues, this pregnancy has been my best so far. The idea of being pregnant didn't bother me much when we found out, and I've been really ok with it mentally, which is more than I can say for Juanito's, and even some of Jose's. I haven't been stressing about eating or not eating, because both boys were absolutely fine when they were born, and stressing about counting calories and making sure I was eating enough only added unnecessary stress. 7 lbs 10 oz and 8 lbs 10 oz are decent weights for babies, and considering we are measuring the way we ought, I'm expecting no less from Mary.
     Physically, this pregnancy has in many ways been better than the others as well. I haven't gained much weight yet, and the boys keep me moving enough that I at least look like I'm pretty fit, even if I might not be all that fit in actuality. Oftentimes I almost forget that I am pregnant, because I haven't been feeling her as much as I felt the boys, due to the placenta being located in front instead of the back. I'm not complaining about that, considering how uncomfortable it often feels to have little sharp knees and elbows poking around inside you. 
     Unfortunately, though, my pelvis feels like it is going to split in two whenever I try to roll over in bed. Extremely painful. And...there are these. Varicose veins. The faint of heart might choose this time to look away. 

  
No, they aren't as painful as they look, thankfully; at least not when I'm up and about. The most painful time is when I get out of bed in the morning and I can feel the blood pooling in them. Very unpleasant. They also occur in other more, um, sensitive areas in 10% of women, which I happen to be a part of. Yay me. 
     The fact that my legs look like they have taken a beating from a baseball bat doesn't really bother me much. The one in the top middle even looked kinda pretty, when it first showed up. No, what upsets me is the damage to my body they represent. Permanent vascular damage. Damage that will only become worse and more pronounced with each subsequent pregnancy. Damage which could lead to blood clots and ulcers. Damage. Irreparable brokenness is a new thing for my body. And I nearly cry every night as I get ready for bed because of it. Only 49 more days, then postpartum recovery. I am so ready to not be pregnant right now. 



Friday, June 12, 2015

Ashamed & Afraid: Mean Girls

(Disclaimer:  I've been putting this off for a while now; I know it needs to be written, but I'm still not sure how to go about it. There is just so much; so many little things that all mashed together to create a really big thing. There will more likely than not be follow-ups, and this one will most definitely need to be re-written.)

     When I turned six, I was going to be a boy. At least, that is what Mom tells me. I don't remember; there's actually very little that I do remember in detail from when I was younger. Anyway, my birthday came and went, and I was still a girl; but I wasn't too upset about it since I had forgotten about it by the time my birthday had come.

     As long as I can remember, I've always preferred the company of boys. I preferred they types of games that boys usually play, the rough and tumble ones, the sports-like ones, to those of baby dolls and house that most girls are inclined towards. I was outdoorsy and didn't mind getting muddy and playing in cold puddles. While perhaps a little on the smaller side, I was never particularly dainty. 

     There was more to it than that, though - you see, the girls I knew were mean. And I don't mean just a little bit mean, I mean really mean. Mom tells me of a time when I came home from first grade in tears, because the girls were teasing me for "flirting" with one of the boys. I was six; I didn't even know what flirting was. Somewhere between 6 and 8, though I'm inclined to think closer to 6, I was at a birthday party for a girl, and the other girls teased her so much she left her own party in tears. My parents stopped allowing me to sleep over my "best" friend's house because they were tired of the midnight call saying that I wanted to go home, because she teased me so badly. Perhaps I was an overly sensitive child, but it does not change the fact that I was affected deeply by my experiences. 
     
     I was (and still am) afraid of girls. Oh, there were some that I got along alright with, but we were always the odd ones out, the rejects of the girl cliques. The meanness was still there, even as I got older, even among the more rough and tumble sports minded girls. There was one time, at a soft ball game, where on of my team mates asked me what it was like to be home schooled, and not even a second into my answer she turned her back and started talking to someone else on the bench. I was excited that someone was actually taking the time to get to know me, but a person learns quickly to to keep to stick to herself after such encounters. 

     Boys, on the other hand, were cool. And much nicer, in comparison. I don't remember ever being teased by the boys I knew and hung out with. Oh, there was the typical pick the girl last for the team stuff (which I will address in another post), but it was sort of expected and only made me try harder at whatever game it was, so maybe next time I wouldn't be dead last. Boys were so much easier to get along with, to talk to; and they still are. Even now, in mixed gatherings it takes pretty much all of my willpower not to join the menfolk and listen in on whatever it is they are discussing. Granted, having the boys to watch makes not doing so a little easier, but the temptations is still very much there. 

     Ugh. It's getting late, and my brain is foggy. The basic gist of this post, if you've made it this far, is that females of the human race terrify me, and have done so for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately for me, I am one, which makes things rather complicated, because most everything (sports, the bathroom, etc.) requires that I be in close proximity to others. Plus the fact that I don't like girls but am one kinda messes with one's head. Anyway, as much as I could, I chose the company of males, which proved to pose it's own problems, which will be the subject of my next post one of my next posts.  (I really need to stop promising things like that....) 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Club: Beyond The Birds And The Bees

  (Disclaimer:  This is not a very well put together post, and I missed a lot of the points I originally wanted to make, so at some point I will be re-writing it. Apologies.)
   
     So, for our second Book Club review, I have Beyond The Birds And The Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids by Greg and Lisa Popcak. I found it to be eye opening and a bit healing for me, due to my issues in regards to my own femininity, which will be the subject of my next post, if not more. The most striking thing for me is the idea that sexuality is more than one's sexual orientation, who one is sexually attracted to; that it involves the whole being of a person as a representation of who they are at the core and informs their interactions with the world around them. The idea that sexuality has more to do with femininity and masculinity than what one does with one's genitals is revolutionary to me. The idea that a person who follows all of the prescribed rules regarding chastity and modesty yet is ashamed of, say, their femininity actually has an unhealthy sexuality is mind boggling to me. Turns out I've been doing it very wrong. 
     Anyway, for someone who doesn't remember any sort of sex talk, and has been ashamed of herself and her body for so long, the advice was much welcome and needed. Giving examples of how parents can speak of the body and sex in respectful, matter of fact ways is extremely helpful. Showing how chastity and modesty are positives and not negative mandates is brilliant. But it really all boils down to teaching parents how to help their children grow up as well integrated people, people who know their worth and the worth of others, and are willing and able to do what it takes to preserve their dignity and that of other. 
     I dunno. I guess that wasn't really much of a book review. But I highly recommend this book to everyone, whether they have children or not. At the very least, it gives a different perspective than what is commonly held and heard today, even by those in the Church. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Compulsory Gift Giving

     The Christmas season. The most wonderful and magical time of the year. Unless you are contemplating not doing Santa, or shooting for a minimalist Christmas gift-wise, or not actually doing presents on the 25th at all. Then you are vilified, because children need magic and imagination and special things in their lives, you horrible old Scrooge.
     Valentine's Day. The day where if you don't go out of your way to do something uber-duber romantic, you are thought of as an unfeeling, cold, and insensitive person.
     Easter. A time where we welcome the long awaited spring, with bunnies, chicks, flowers, and chocolate. Unless you don't want the children to inadvertently focus on Easter baskets and their contents instead of Jesus rising from the dead. Then you're a horrible magic killer, too.
     Ah, Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day. If you don't give your parents a call, send a card, order flowers, then you are an ungrateful, insensitive child. Don't you know what they went through, all they gave up in order to make sure you made it to adulthood alive?
     Finally, birthdays. The idea of not having a large party, let alone not actually celebrating much at all, is faint-worthy to most people. Looking for a good way to ruin your child's life? This might be it. 

     As the tone of the previous paragraphs might imply, I am not a big fan of what I call compulsory gift giving. Each of the cases above are examples of times where society expects, if not demands, the giving of things to and doing of things for people, regardless of whether or not such actions correspond to your personal beliefs and circumstances. Even if you are inclined to not follow the crowd, more likely than not you will do so out of fear of being publicly shamed for all eternity. Well, not me, not anymore. 
     I've been thinking on it for a while now, and I've decided, at least where I giving/doing/acknowledging me is concerned, I would rather you didn't. Receiving presents on Christmas or my birthday or Mothers' Day means very little to me, because they are perceived as obligatory. I would much rather gifts and acknowledgement be given whenever, out of genuine desire to show love and appreciation, just because. Why should "special" things be reserved only to certain socially mandated occasions? If  you see something you think someone would like, don't save it for a "special occasion" like birthday or Christmas - let them know you love and were thinking about them as soon as possible. I'm willing to bet they'd appreciate more. 
     Perhaps this is just me. Of the five love languages, gift giving is my weakest. I don't do it well. Add to that the expectation of giving and receiving gifts around certain times of the year, and it's all over. To be honest, it didn't really bother me too much, until I read a blog last Advent season, which said things which really bothered me. I can't find it now, and yes I've tried googling it, so I'll do my best to summarize what I remember. It was in response to the "We aren't 'celebrating' Christmas" viewpoint, and the writer was of the opinion that it is a horrible thing to not celebrate Christmas with the whole shebang, because children need it, etc., and there was a family at her church that had recently lost the mother, and what she wouldn't give to be able to give those little kids a bit of the magic of Christmas that they were used to, so how dare you deprive your kids of it willingly. Right, so that isn't verbatim, but it is pretty much the gist. What irked me was the tone and underlying idea that Christmas is the only time that could be considered magical, without any consideration to what a family might do the rest of the year. The thinking that if families choose not to celebrate whatever holiday according to society's standards, that those families don't celebrate anything nor do anything special at all, ever. 
     It struck deep, most likely because I don't like to celebrate big or in a manner which everyone else would consider celebrating at all. I wasn't going to have a party for Jose last year at all, maybe not even cake. I don't want to do presents on Christmas, and would prefer to focus on Jesus being born as much as possible.  Sunday was Mothers' Day, my third, and I really didn't want to be acknowledged at all; none of this "It's your day" junk. But my not celebrating those days in no way implies that I don't ever do special things for the people I love. Far from it! I do random special things all year round, and more often than not I get the question "Why? Today isn't special."
     And it bothers me. The idea that doing special things for people should only be reserved to special occasions has been so ingrained in us bothers me. Because you know what? You are special; you are special to me, all of the time. Every day is a special day because you are special to me. And you shouldn't have to wait until a socially acceptable time to be shown that, nor should such seasons be the sole measure of the affection our loved ones have for us, or any measure of that at all for that matter. We deserve better than compulsory affection. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Best Cookies EVER

     Yes, so that title there might be a bit of a hyperbole, but I recently discovered some pretty amazing cookies that I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO SHARE. Now, before you all get too overly excited, I do have to warn you:  They are not traditional cookies. You might be hesitant, or even a bit repulsed perhaps, when you read the ingredients, but I promise you, these are revolutionary cookies. Revolutionary

     So for a brief bit, I was going gluten free, and that usually means no fun treats like cookies, etc., because traditional flour is just loaded gluten and is the easiest way to produce baked goods. But I wasn't going to let that stop me from satisfying my sweet tooth, which isn't actually very sweet, but that's sort of beside the point. Anyway, Pinterest is a wonderful source for all sorts of things, gluten free recipes among them. I had decided that I wasn't going to put the money or effort into things which require multiple types of flours, or generic gluten free flour, so most of the recipes I pinned called for ingredients which one does not normally associate with baked goods. Such as chick peas, black beans, or, um, sweet potatoes. While I'm not continuing with the gluten free thing (not sure I noticed a difference), I am really kind of smitten with the idea of cookies that are actually healthy and good for you. Okay, so the gluten free ones that basically consist of only a nut butter and sugar might not be all that great for you, but these sweet potato ones are.

Yes, those are my slippers. 
Original recipe found HERE.

     The basic gist of the recipe is mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, almond butter, and cinnamon. Yup, that's it. You can stop making that face now. Mix it all together, plop on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, bake @ 350* for roughly 15 minutes and cool on a rack. Boom. Healthy cookies.

     I've discovered that I'm not really a follow the recipe exactly kind of person, so I ended up modifying the recipe a little. I used leftover sweet potatoes that had coconut oil and a little cinnamon mixed in; opted for peanut butter instead of almond, roughly measured; and added in dark chocolate chips, because I like them. I highly recommend using the parchment paper - even with spraying my sheets the cookies stuck a bit. The original recipe recommends flipping the cookies between 10-12 minutes, but I think I'm going to skip that next time. 

     Taste? Great! I didn't notice the sweet potato at all, thanks to the peanut butter. Of course, the chocolate helped a little too. Consistency was like that of a very moist cookie, and I opted to store them in the fridge, which helps blend the flavors better, I think. And the best part? No guilt about eating ten at a time! Because it is basically like eating a serving or two of sweet potatoes, only yummier! Not that I've been one to fret about eating as many cookies as I wanted, but it is nice to know that these are actually a healthy choice when I want a treat. Check out what The Paleo Mama has to say about the awesomeness of sweet potatoes in her post about her version of sweet potato cookies (also on my  list of cookies to try):  
  • Have massive amounts of beta-carotene, an important antioxidant
  • Contain twice the amount of fiber as white potatoes
  • Have high levels of B6 and Potassium
  • A potent source of manganese (helps stabilize blood glucose levels)
  • Are rich in vitamin C and E
  • Contain iron, magnesium, and vitamin D
Yeah. Basically guilt free cookies. The best thing ever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stress Eating

     She sat, looking at the cinnamon roll on her plate. It was a good one, gooey with cinnamon, topped with a cream cheese frosting. Well, not really a frosting - it wasn't thick enough for that - but neither was it the thin consistency one typically pictures when thinking of a glaze. She shrugged her shoulders; ultimately, it didn't matter. This was her favorite kind, and it little mattered what the topping was called. 

     It had been a long day, she was tired and just needed a break from it all. She picked up the roll and began to dissect it. Some people like to eat them from the edge on in, but not she. No, she preferred to find the edge of the roll and unroll it, eating it one piece at a time, savoring the buttery blend of cinnamon and sugar that comprised the filling, plentiful on every bite that way. As she popped the first piece in her mouth, she could feel her body relaxing, releasing the built up tension from the day. 

     "When did it come to this?" she asked herself. "Finding solace in food?" She sighed, thinking back on her life. It wasn't always like this. The food was healthy enough growing up. When there were treats, they were just that, treats, and more often than not home made ones at that. Even now, grown woman that she was, she still had ingrained in her that three or four cookies was the "limit". Excess wasn't the problem, thankfully. 

     College didn't change her eating habits too badly; if anything, it made them slightly better as a result of the not so great food served up at meal times. Eating what many would consider non-filling junk for so long leaves one longing for real food. She smirked at the memory. Marriage hadn't changed her diet much, either. So what was it? 

     "Children," she breathed, "it was the children that did it." Only it wasn't that simple. It wasn't the children, necessarily, that caused her so much stress - it was the food. Silly, yes, but that was how it was. Mostly dinner. For some reason, she was finding it difficult to merge the boys' dinner time with what would be her husband's dinner time, due to the early bed time that the boys had. Oh, and the fact that dinner prep time coincided nicely with super fussy time, which made even the easy, quick, healthy recipes seemingly impossible. 

     "Who has time to actually prep things?" she asked, nearly aloud. "Clearly not someone with little people tugging at their pant legs, crying because who knows why." She sighed, and her head dropped. It started because trying to cook real food was stressing her, so she opted for quicker, not so good for you food in order to keep her sanity. Then it somehow snowballed, going from 'food is stressing me, I want comfort food', to 'I am just stressed, I need comfort food'. 

     Her eyes started to moisten; her current bite of cinnamon roll stuck in her throat. She hated that she felt this way. She hated leaning so unhealthily on food. She hated her inability to stop, even though she knew it was just a vicious cycle. Stressed, comfort food, guilt about comfort food, stressed, repeat. 

     She sat, looking at the gooey center of the cinnamon roll, her absolute favorite part. The frosting had melted down, nearly covering the entire morsel, mingling with the syrupy cinnamon which was also concentrated there. "My favorite part," she thought, as a tear slid down her cheek, landing with a soft plink on the edge of her plate. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

And #3 Is...

     So, we found out who is arriving in August, and were waiting for Easter to announce uber-publicly. Well, Easter has come, and here it is!
Mary Ryan
     Mary Ryan will be joining us in August! This is the best picture we could get of her; the placenta is in the front, so it was a little difficult to get to her. Which is good information for me to know, since I wasn't feeling her as much as I had by this time with the boys, so I was getting a little worried that something might be off. Like, missing limbs and stuff. 

     The pregnancy has been going pretty well, now that we are out of the morning sickness stage. The mood swings could very well have been due in large part to the fact that we have a girl coming. Extra unstable female hormones, flooding the system, you know. 

     Excited? Um, sometimes. Scared mostly. But that is the subject of multiple posts, I think. 


     And I think that's about all, except for my exciting discovery of varicose veins in the back of my thighs. Huge ones. I'm not pleased with this discovery, in and of itself. But is nice to know why my legs have been feeling bruised and sore for the past few months. Trying a blend of cypress, lemon, orange, and lavender essential oil on them to see if it helps any. It is supposed to. A friend also gave me a trial version of Arbonne's Seasource Detox Spa Renewing Body Gelee, which she says helps hers since it contains ingredients that are anti-inflammatory. 

  And I thought I lost this whole thing, and spent some time typing up a second, only to find out that this one was saved. Urgh. I think it's time to stop the typing now. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Via Dolorosa That Is Motherhood

        Pain. Heartache. Agony. Not words which one typically associates with motherhood. I, however, am coming to realize how fitting they are, at least for me. Now, before you get all huffy, hear me out. Perhaps I am doing it wrong. I don't know. But it hurts, deep down to my core. Yes, the sacrifices I have to make in order to be the kind of mom I want to be hurt; but that is to be expected. The guilt I feel for failing so very hard (at least to my thinking, at times) cuts deeply. The pain and confusion that comes, when trying to "research" what is the best way to raise children only exasperates the problem. The times when you are tired and at your wit's end, and it isn't even lunch time yet and you just want to throw in the towel, because no one is listening to anything you say, and you just feel crushed inside. When you lose your temper with children who are pretty much angels, and it leaves you so wounded you wonder if you'll ever heal. 
     It isn't just the tough, hard times that pain me, though. It's when marveling at your two and a half year old, who refused to even hold the mail, because his hands were chocolatey and needed to be washed first, without any prompting from you. It's when the 14 month old insists on hugging during a story, again and again and again. It's their faces when you get them up in the morning. It's the fact that you are still completely their whole world, in spite of the times you've messed up. It's watching them learn and grow and develop, and you realize that one day you are going to lose them to the world of grown ups, and your heart aches at the thought but feels like it's going to burst from pride at the same time. 
     The weight of the responsibility of teaching these little ones about God. Teaching them how to be more than you are, when you are so very lacking. Being the whole world to two little boys, but having to split yourself between them. Wondering how you are going to manage when Number 3 comes along, knowing you cannot be all things to all children. Knowing how weak I am, how I cannot do it all, on my own. There is so much heartache, so much pain, so much agony. 
     This is the part where, if I were really good, which I'm not, but if I were, I would tie it all in nicely with it being a fitting crucible for sanctification, and other lofty thoughts of that nature. But, I'm not that good; my brain is empty of deeper thoughts, which is weird. Pregnancy messes with the proper functioning of pretty much everything. 
Image found HERE

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Club: "The Mood Cure"

     Well, here I am, finally writing an update. I haven't been sticking to my nightly schedule so well, as I'm sure you might have noticed by now. The time change isn't helping any. We decided to keep schedule with the boys' body clocks rather than the analog one, so bedtime is now 7 p.m. rather than 6 p.m., and bedtime hasn't really started before 7:30 p.m. at all since Sunday. That means we aren't done with the "Good nights" until 8 p.m. at the earliest. Oh, and supper time has been thrown off due to Code Monkey having longer days at the office due to looming deadlines. So it's pretty much been 1. eat all together and start bedtime at 7:30 or later, or 2. do bedtime earlier, and do dinner after. Either way, 8:30-9 is late for me to start things, when I'm supposed to have an ultimate bedtime of 10 p.m. *sigh*

     As promised, here is a little review of The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, accompanied by a general update on how my moods seem to be doing. The basic premise of The Mood Cure is that our brains are being deprived of the necessary building block, amino acids, required for proper functioning. This is the result of stores being depleted and insufficient diets which are not replenishing said stores due to being nutrient deficient. In addition, there are certain foods which mess with our ability to regulate hormones, which further disrupts things. 
     Julia Ross is a psychotherapist who has been counseling people with emotional and mood disorders since the 1970s. In 1980 she began to wonder if the food people were eating had any effect on their moods and began working with nutritionists to see if there really was a connection. Turns out, the people who changed their diets from highly processed fast food to a more whole food, more veggies one had significantly more success in therapy than those who didn't. In the mid-80s, Ross was researching and found the research of neuroscientist Kenneth Blum, who had success treating addicts with the use of amino acids, which were able to help them come off the drugs and alcohol they had been using to give themselves emotional boosts. 
     There is a quiz, of sorts, which one takes to determine which particular mood areas need work, and I failed with flying colors. My midwife, who recommended the book, has given me an amino protocol which I have been using for a few weeks now, and also recommended following the nutrition advice in The Mood Cure in regards to going gluten free and ramping up veggie and protein intake. I've been gluten free for almost two weeks now, and plan on continuing until Easter because Lent, before reintroducing to see if I notice any change. Overall, my moods have been greatly improved, though not perfectly. When I have had my down times, though, I've been able to break out of them much more quickly than before. But because I am trying to attack from so many angles, it is difficult to tell exactly which ones are working, and which are not. 
     I started a daily journal last week, writing mostly about how I felt and reacted to the happenings of the day, and I am becoming more aware of what my triggers are. This is particularly helpful, because once I identify situations that are going to be troublesome, I can prepare for them, and have a reason for my moods, rather than them being completely random and unpredictable. I know that is a really bad sentence, but I'm not sure how to say it. How about this:  It gives me hope, seeing that I can control them, that there are real reasons why I react the way I do, instead of being a victim of my "random" mood swings. 
     As I mentioned above, I'm not sure if it is specifically the amino regimen or not, but overall I feel better, more balanced emotionally and calmer physically. That being said, I do recommend The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. It may not be the self help book you need, but it does have a lot of interesting info, and many, many citations giving the studies the information is based on. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Taking Care Of Me

     I don't know if my last post made much sense, but here is what I am planning on doing to try and help take care of me. I'm going to be trying some diet changes, upon the advice of my midwife and after having read The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. Code Monkey is skeptical about it being the magic cure that it claims to be, and is right in his thinking that I need to change my behaviour in order to get the best results. If my mood issues are a part of my not taking time for myself, then no matter what else I change, it isn't going to work if I don't make and then take the time I need to recharge. 
I've brainstormed the things that make me happy, and re-ground me when I need it. Here is my list, just in case you can't read the picture:  Adoration - I like the quiet and the peace, literally being close to God. Listening to music I like. Being alone in nature and Walking in the woods could almost be the same thing - the quiet and the peace again, feeling close to God. Singing. Reading. Cross stitching. Blogging. A clean kitchen, so nice, even though I don't like cleaning it. Basketball, or active sports in general. Animals/Pets could be combined with Chickens and Horses - I really like chickens, though horses might not be the best idea. Learning - I really miss all the intellectual growth that happened at school. Grown up conversation - talking with someone old enough to understand complex thoughts. Physical labor - I like hard work, it is a good medium for thinking, and keeps me fit. The stars - peace and quiet again. My Family - though seeing them keeps becoming more complicated. Routine, and knowing what is going on. Contact with my Byrdz. Dragon's Bane. Actual clothes - getting dressed in clothes that make me feel put together. Showering. Running - good for contemplation. Confession, because peace. 
As for routine, I really don't have one yet. I've been putting off trying to make one, but finally wrote a rough one down today. Though exhaustion seems to be coming back, and my weekly nightly routine has been a bit off because of it. It's hard to do stuff when you feel the need to be in bed only an hour or so after the kids are in bed, and that's all the time you have for yourself and your spouse, sans ninos. Which is why the 6 a.m. rising time for me is so laughable. Oh, I just noticed I forgot to write in Thursday and Friday before I took the picture. I had decided to switch them around, because Thursday seems to work better for adoration than Friday does, so Friday will be cross stitching instead. Dragon's Bane will also be moved to Thursday, maybe. Unless I make it Friday, and try to stitch for a bit on a                                               weekend afternoon. 
I am also keenly aware of how it can seem like I don't really do much of anything, and that feeds depression, so I've started writing down the "productive" things I do on the calendar, so I have something sort of tangible to prove to myself that I am capable of getting things done. Chores are blue, appointments and things are in black, birthdays, anniversaries, and minor feasts are green, and major feasts are red. At least for this month. 
     I'll be going gluten free for two weeks to see if there is any improvement in my mood. I think I will also start journaling, since writing is definitely one of the better ways for me to process and decompress when stressed. Hence why blogging is on my list of things that make me happy. Also, my ultimate bedtime, which I am past, is 10 p.m., and that nap at 1 p.m.? That's meant for me, because I am a much nicer person when I eat well and am well rested. Since I am late for bed, I think my next post will be more about The Mood Cure, which will be the first in my new Book Club series. 


.
     

Taking Care Of The Self

     So, it is once again Lent. The super penitential season for Catholics, where it is traditional to give up things which are not bad for you, as a way of developing discipline and mastery over the self. Unless you're me. This is the 4th Lent in a row, that I've either been pregnant, or breastfeeding. Both of those conditions exempt one from fasting, and depending on which site you look on, abstaining from meat too. Except non-meat sources of protein are pretty easy to come by, so I do abstain. But I digress. For the fourth year in a row, my Lenten goals have been "take better care of me". So instead of giving stuff up, I've been all "actually eat more", "go to bed when I'm tired", "sleep in if possible", "eat that cookie, because for goodness sake you're feeding two people". And I've felt guilty about it, because it seems to go so against the point of the season, and even the point of Christianity. "Taking care of me" seems like the opposite of "give of oneself selflessly". Thanks to a couple of homilies and much contemplation, I have come to understand that it isn't really selfish at all. I hope I can explain in a way that makes sense. 

     Our first priority is to get ourselves to heaven. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. Fleeing from temptation, making sacrifices, prayer, the Sacraments, and other spiritual practices easily come to mind as ways that we are able to cooperate with Christ's redemption of our souls. The needs of the body often get overlooked, I think to our detriment sometimes. What do I mean? Well, have you ever been hangry? Crabby and grouchy simply from low blood sugar, but as soon as you eat you're back to your normal self? Now, I'm not saying it is a sin to be crabby, but it certainly is a lot easier to lose one's patience when irritable, believe you me. Think how many situations like that could have been avoided, had we only eaten breakfast* (or snack, or lunch, or whatever)? Or when we run ourselves to the ground, taking care of everyone but ourselves, because it is the "selfless" thing to do, yet lose control of ourselves in the process? 
     Sometimes, I think, we try to be like the great saints, but forget that we are not actually at their level of sanctity yet, and wonder why our constant giving of self without time to recharge doesn't seem to be bringing us any closer to holiness, and perhaps causes us to backtrack. At least, that was the conclusion I came to a little while ago. For many, many years I've been saying "no" to myself and the things I like, in part because we're called to be selfless, and in part because I don't like conflict and desperately want to be liked. I've been denying myself those things which I need to recharge, and it all finally came crashing down before my last post. After all that time, I'm no closer to heaven, and in many ways much farther from it than I ought to be. "But the great saints didn't need to recharge!" I hear you say. That's because they were at a level of personal holiness where being an instrument of the Divine Will was for them a recharge; and all of them made sure to carve out copious amounts of time for prayer, which also renews the spirit. 
     I'm not there yet. It took a breakdown for me to realize that I can't really take care of anyone else, if I don't take care of myself. Since it is my vocation to take care of others, I need to do what it takes for me actually be able to do that, and do it well, even when it seems so counter-Christian, counter-sanctification. My vocation is to be the best wife and mother that I can be, and where I am in my journey toward heaven that means taking time for me to recharge, even if it seems selfish. Because one cannot give what one does not have. 

*The two homilies:  The first was given by Fr. Gee at Christendom a while ago, and he started it by giving the example of a person who decided to give up breakfast for Lent, but ended up a horrible person by the end of the day, with the basic premise of not choosing penances that end up making us worse people instead of better ones. The second was given by Fr. Fasano a couple Sundays ago, where he likened venial sin to a spiritual cold, and said that any reasonable person who actually has a physical cold would do what he could to help heal the body quickly, and we should act similarly with our "spiritual colds" and frequent the sacrament of confession to help heal our soul. Because I had been thinking about it, my mind easily made the connection that perhaps some trials would be avoided if we took care to make sure our bodies were in decent shape, because matter does effect the spirit. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Stifling Cries For Help

     After my last post, Into Temptation, a friend mentioned how we need to be careful to not let our weaknesses and failings depress us. He's right; while weak is not a place which ought to be sought out, it also shouldn't cause us inordinate pain to realize and acknowledge our weaknesses. Unfortunately, though, sometimes it does. Even more unfortunately, the way our society mocks and belittles those who are "weak" or "failures" is often a huge stumbling block for those who really do need help, whose issues at whatever time in their life are just too much for them to bear alone. All too often, people are met with "Toughen up! Quit being such a pansy! Just grow up, will you?", when what they really need to hear is "How can I help? Is there anything I can do?", or, even better "It's okay. I understand." What's more, I think, is people need to hear the stories of others who have made it through, who have been able to face the ridicule and ask for help. I know how important those stories are, first hand, so tonight I'm going to tell a bit of mine. 

     Hi. My name is Jennifer, and I need help. This is my story. I mentioned a few of my struggles briefly in Please! Just LISTEN! back in February of 2012. This time, I'll go back to the beginning. 
     The first time I remember being really depressed, I was around 16 or so, I guess. I was a lazy home schooler, unmotivated, and feeling like there was nothing to live for. My friends, the first ones I'd had in a real long time, were all prepping for colleges, and I was stuck in 8th grade (one of the grades, anyway), simply because I refused to do my work. I felt like a failure, like I would never amount to anything, like life was not worth living anymore. I felt alone, because I didn't know who I could talk to that wouldn't give me a "You're just being silly" kind of response. I felt abandoned, because I cut myself off from people. I wanted to die, to just have it end. And I probably would have, had it not been for Church teaching that unrepentant suicides go to Hell. I know many find that to be a harsh teaching; but for me, it was a saving grace. In that period of darkness, I was, in a sense, already in Hell, and God granted me the grace to understand it. Most people think of the fire and brimstone aspects of Hell, and overlook the being eternally separated from God part. Eternally separated from God, means eternally without hope; eternally feeling abandoned; eternally loathing both the self and God; eternally desiring the end, but there will be no end, no escape. Hell is a lot like being trapped in an eternal depression. I decided that was not something I wanted to risk, so I blundered through the blackness and found the light eventually. 
     Spring of 2008, the blackness came back, though without the suicide aspect. I was more angry this time, but still depressed, and feeling like nothing was worthwhile. Thankfully, I had friends I was comfortable talking with, and they helped immensely, though it was still rough on everyone. But it would have been so much worse without them. 
     Fall of 2009 the darkness and anger came back with a vengeance. Spring of 2010, it turned to tears, oh so many tears. Things improved fitfully through the next year, only to relapse the closer August of 2011 drew. August 2011 through sometime in 2012 was really rough, and it's a wonder Code Monkey has stuck with me through it all. 2013 was mostly alright, but Summer of 2014 brought with it a rage I have never known before, and last week brought an episode of depression a depth of which I have not felt in a long time. And it was then that I knew I needed help. That there was no way I was going to be able to really beat this on my own; otherwise it would no longer be a problem. That my only options were give up, give in, and claim victim, or dig deep for what little strength I have left, and do whatever it takes to reclaim control. I'm choosing control, and it is knowing the stories of others who have made it through that gives me the hope and inspiration I need to ask for help. 

     I'm in the process of working on a game plan, and once it's all figured out I'll share it with you, in hopes that others might garner inspiration as well, if they need it. I know I haven't been taking care of me very well, so many of the changes will focus on that. In the meantime, I leave you with a book that my midwife recommended for me, The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross. The basic premise is that our neural mood pathways have been crossed, and need to be reset, then maintained, and it should help. It involves a change of diet, and the addition of supplements, which I know I really could use anyway. I will be writing a book review, with an update, when I get past the reading stage. A friend has also recommended counseling, which I will be looking into as well. 

     There is hope; together we can get through this. My name is Jennifer, and I need help. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Into Temptation

     I am terribly afraid of being perceived of as weak. I know I'm not alone in this, and I dare say that at the very least I am joined by the vast majority of the male population, who also suffer from this anxiety. While it seems like this is just part of the Human Condition, I think we Americans are almost proud of how driven we are by our fear of being perceived of as weak. After all, only the strong survive and thrive, right? And if fear of weakness helps you get there, then by golly, why not use it to full advantage? That's all fine and dandy, until you stop to consider all the things you did, in spite of not wanting to or liking it, simply because you were teased for wanting to quit? Because you didn't want to be called a loser, a quitter, weak? Ponder those things for a moment. Are you really stronger and better for having done them, or are you more bitter, angry, or disgruntled because you let peer pressure keep you from staying true to yourself and what you actually like?

     Unfortunately, and to worse effect, this happens in the spiritual realm as well. As Catholics, we are called to avoid temptation and near occasions of sin, even to the point of maiming ourselves. (Mt. 5:29-30**; Mk. 9:43-48) but how often have we convinced ourselves, or worse, others, to persist in near occasions of sin, saying that the only way we can get stronger is to stick it out? How often have we facilitated our own downfall, again and again and again, for fear of being weak? "It is more virtuous", we tell ourselves, "to not eat pie when it is for the taking, than to not eat pie when there isn't any around." Only to find ourselves picking away at it, tiny piece by tiny piece, until we have, indeed, eaten it all? Would it not have been better, to have put ourselves in a position where there was no pie to be had at all? To put it in more serious terms, it would be better for the porn addict to have filters on his computer, than to put himself in a near occasion of sin by using the Internet without any. Or in the case of an recovering alcoholic: it would be better for her to be in a place without access to alcohol than to live with the constant temptation a fully stocked bar. In these cases, we would applaud them if they were successful at living clean in a completely temptation free environment. Why do we not do the same for lesser things? Venial sins won't send us to Hell, but they certainly are not helping us get to Heaven.

     Further, how much frustration do we cause ourselves, trying to fight spiritual battles that we are not yet strong enough to win? We push the limits of our spiritual strength out of 'desire' to practice whatever virtue; how often is this desire real, and not, in actuality, a manifestation of Pride? "Weak!" the Evil One whispers in your mind, "You're just spiritually weak, that's why you want to flee this temptation. What will your family, your friends, think, if they hear of your lack of Faith?" Maybe you console yourself with "I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13), so you plow on, only to stumble and fall, wondering where God's strength was. He gave it to you, all that the "I" could hold, but since you were attempting more than you were spiritually ready to undertake, you failed.

     There should be no shame in fleeing any and all temptations which we are able to flee, no matter how trivial. Quite the contrary, it takes great humility and meekness to know when we are facing something which we are unable to handle. In spite of popular opinion, the meek and humble of heart are the strongest around, for they have a proper understanding of themselves, and are in control of their passions and desires. Those who are in control of themselves have no fear of being controlled by others, and that is strength enough.

** So, in this reading, I was struck by how this verse also applies to the Mystical Body of the Church, providing a biblical basis for excommunication. I had never thought of it that way before.