Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bits and Pieces

Three weeks in; how's your 2017 going? This post would be a perfect "7 Quick Takes" sort of a post, but I'm not about to be organized enough for that. So instead, a random number of brief thoughts on a random day.

1) I did not attend any marches this weekend (unless you count snowshoeing, but that's apolitical). I did feel rather torn about it, though. On the one hand, I strongly disagree with certain held beliefs and ways of demonstrating them that were talked about so much. On the other hand, there are definitely things that I feel strongly about that need to be kept in mind. I am so grateful for those women that went and stood up for the good, while vocally stating their pro-life beliefs. Tough position to be in when there are those that don't want you there because you disagree with them, and others that think you shouldn't be there because some think differently than we do. I'm being too vague and general, but I love this post about it.

2) I don't think I ever said on here, but my holidays were fantastic. Simple and enjoyable. Lots of cooking, relaxing, and being outside. What more can you want? Okay, obviously there's a lot more I want, but given my current situation, it was everything you could ask for.

3) My spending fast is honestly not going too terribly well. I've been hungry! Then I eat what I planned for later in the week, and then I have to go to the grocery store. I'm trying to plan better, but it's hard sometimes, because I never know exactly how much food I'll need.

4) That's okay, though. One of the things that I was thinking of a lot in the last few weeks is that I didn't fail enough in 2016. Sometimes you can only move forward from trying and learning things both about what does work and what doesn't work. I'm seeing some areas that aren't working great for me, I'm going to try to adjust some things this week, hopefully do a little better. Then I'll try again in February! There are a couple of other things that I am working on as well. When it feels like it might not be perfect or successful in the way I would like, I'm just reminding myself that it's an opportunity to fail, which is a good thing, because it means that I'm trying.

5) I'm also trying to focus more on doing one thing at a time. Multi-tasking has never worked well for me (or anyone, really). It really is amazing how much less stressful it is and how much more I get done. I've had a few days that just seemed to have SO much going on, and I despaired of getting it done. But, one thing at a time, I was able to knock a lot of it out.

6) I love taking time to enjoy the simple things in life. I don't think I posted anything about here, but I recently read a book called "Suffocation". Interesting read, and I sort of agreed with some of what he said, but had some problems with his conclusions. Not that he was wrong, but that it would help us out of the morass we're in. Materialism is falling more and more out of style, and his thought is that experientialism is taking over. I think he may be right, and there is good in that, but one of the experiences that he talked about was a marketing launch that involved bizarre foods (like pig's ear soup) and an even more bizarre movie that was made with a lot of LS.D influence. Sure, that may be where we're heading, but those kinds of experiences will not give us any more lasting satisfaction than stuff does. It's about learning to savor the simple things in life.

7) Speaking of the simple things, this weekend I spend a lot of time re-watching Sherlock. So well done in so many ways that I can't say enough good things about it! Not that I have to, pretty sure you're all pretty well acquainted. I haven't gotten to Series 4 yet, but I will start it soon.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mini Spending Fast

I am currently working on a mini spending fast. You know my current obsession with minimalism, I trust, and I am also getting into a bunch of different things on how to try to make some progress on my school loans. Admittedly, I do not have the "gazelle focus" championed by Dave Ramsey, but I'm trying to figure out what I can do that works for me. Yes, I know that the only real way to get rid of debt quickly is to ruthlessly and relentlessly only put extra money towards debt. Yet, (and maybe it's all rationalization) I keep finding things that are hard for me to define in terms of "want" vs. "need".

One example is food. I eat a lot of food. (It made me laugh earlier this week when I went out to breakfast with a friend; she knows I eat a lot, but I don't think she's ever seen it. Her eyes got pretty big at the amount of food I could eat at one sitting!) I also have allergies and intolerances that mean that I respond better if I eat organic food, etc. While groceries are a growing expense for everyone as food gets more and more expensive, there are things that can be done to make the grocery bill cheaper that I am not willing to do. I don't really need to lose weight (okay, I'd like to drop a few pounds that I've regained in the last 1-2 years, but 5-ish is more maintenance than true weight loss), so eating when I'm hungry really is about fueling my activities. I'm not going to cut down amounts. As to the health difference I feel, even though I don't like having to be a princess about the quality of my food, that is not even a consideration.

What about something like massage? I know that there is no way that the financial gurus out there would consider that a necessity. It's a luxury item if ever there was one! Yet, I do not find it to be so. I am a movement and body worker. Not to mention the fact that I have been known to play hard outside. There is is huge difference in how I move and feel if I keep my muscles from getting too tight. Yes, I have learned a few tricks to self treat as much as possible, and I certainly spread them out as much as I can to save some money, but I do not feel that it is strictly a luxury. Again, maybe it is a rationalization, but I do feel strongly about this.

Then there are doing things with friends. I have been working on this category. Thankfully, most of my hiking and such can be done for the price of gas. But there's cross country skiing and the occasional weekend trip, as well as maybe a vacation. Yes, I know that these are luxuries, but as a single person with not a lot of family in the area, I have a hard time ignoring this stuff as well. I know how I get if I spend too much time alone in my house, and it is not pretty.

Ahem, now that you know about all of the things I feel guilty about and keep rationalizing to myself, here's one of the things that I've decided to do to start to address some of it. I keep hearing about people who have done year long spending fasts and the way that they have knocked out huge chunks of debt as a result. Granted, they had that "gazelle focus" and didn't rationalize the way that you see here. I can't quite bring myself to do that, but I did decide that I would try for the month of January to only spend money 2 days a week (as much as possible). One is on my day off, because that's when I have to get errands done, and it's a good day to get bills paid and so forth. The other is on Saturday, because that's the day that I'm usually going to go do something with friends. The exceptions to this is if I legitimately run out of food (that is, there is NO food, not just that I'm not in the mood for what I have or it's a weird meal that uses up leftovers), or if I'm meeting with a friend on a different day of the week. Hey, in the last year or two, I let my social life dry up a bit because I stopped working so hard on it and as people moved away and got busy with other things, I got left behind. I have to rebuild, and that is definitely a priority!

As I write this, I'm about a week in (because why wait to start in January when I could start now?), and it is crazy to me how even this little move, even with all of my rationalizations and exceptions, makes a
 difference in my approach to things. It's even crazier how it helps me to address a number of goals all at once!

Financially

Okay, this is the primary goal of doing this. Here's what I'm finding. So far, I am too early into it to have much of an idea of what it may be saving me in terms of actual dollars and cents numbers. What I do notice is that I have a tendency to run to the grocery store for any little excuse. Maybe I'm a little extra hungry, so I eat some of my snack food because I figure I can replace it before I need it. Or, I go to the grocery store when I am in a low willpower situation anyway (hungry and/or tired) so I make extra impulse buys. Knowing that I am not going to the grocery store for a week makes me really stop and think about how hungry I am and what I choose to eat. For example, I do have a lot of snack food on hand because I need it to get through my work day. When I'm home, it makes me not choose my work snacks but maybe eat leftovers instead.

There's also a matter of food waste. I got a spaghetti squash one Thursday with a plan to make a recipe with it later the next week. Squash can sometimes last for a good month or two.  Well, not this one. On Saturday, I noticed that there was a small, localized soft spot. If I made the squash that day, I could probably use most of it for my recipe. If I waited, I would likely have to toss it. Prior to my little spending fast, I would have taken note of all the stuff I had to do that day and decided to pick up another squash the next time I was at the store. This time, I knew I had to make time to make the recipe, because otherwise I was out a squash. (By the way, it was this recipe, and I thought it was pretty tasty!) So, not only would I have spent a few more dollars on another squash, but I would have probably picked up some other things that I didn't need that much.

Beyond food, I have found that there are a couple of other purchases that I have needed/wanted to make recently, and having an extra couple of days before I could go get them helped me make a little smarter choices. For example, instead of just going out and buying a couple of things, I realized I could get them on Amazon, and while I sometimes like avoiding the giant, I happened to have some rewards points that I could redeem for making those purchases with something that felt like free money. It's also a great way to help weed out a few impulse buys. If it's not still on my mind and list a couple days later, I really didn't need it!

Eating Well

I've already given you the boring details of my food issues. (In this post and too many others! Sorry!) However, like everyone, I don't eat as well as I should. There are always things that I can clean up a little. For one, there are certain processed foods that fit my dietary restrictions, and because they are easy, I eat them more than I should. By knowing that I can only shop about once a week, I get enough for the week, but not enough for the impulse moments when I'm hungry and they're easy and they just sound good. Instead, I have to turn to leftovers, or a bag of apples. It makes me eat better.

This also helps with my weight maintenance goals. While I am not trying to actively lose weight, the impulse eating may be a big part of the extra couple of pounds. Sometimes if there's too much availability of comfort food, I may want it due to hunger, but I may also want it due to the fact that it tastes good or that I am tired or bored. I am much more likely to be okay with the leftovers if I am truly hungry, and I eat less of them than the food that just sounds good.

Conservation

My sister and I slowly worked our way through "Laudato Si" last year. I loved everything about it, but it does make me think about and challenge some of the ways that I do things. Realizing how much I consume in general and how that affects my humanity throughout the world makes me want to find even small things that I can do to make progress. This is definitely one of the reasons that I feel so good about minimalism in general. Once a week grocery store purchases make me be very mindful of what I buy, I tend to get more fresh foods that I will have to cook (again with avoiding the excess snacks and all their excess packaging!), not to mention the gas I save from going once and being a little more organized about my errands to fit them all into the day. Not to mention something like that squash that I ate instead of throwing it out.

Time

I recognize that I have more time as a single person than some people do, but I still want to use time the best I can. There are a lot of things that I want to do that I say that I don't have the time to do. That's silly. To be honest, I have plenty of time if I am better about using it. It takes a lot of time to make several extra trips to the grocery store each week!

Enough

This is one of the things that I love the most about this little experiment. I can't tell you the number of times that I've had a long day at work, so I feel like I "deserve" whatever impulse buys sound really good at the grocery store that day. Or I'm a little down, so I feel like I deserve that extra snack, etc.  It turns out that I don't need or deserve those things at all. What I am finding is that when I don't gratify every little desire every time it comes to mind is that I am enjoying what I have so much more! When I am truly hungry, I am grateful for those apples or leftovers that wouldn't have been my first choice.   And, yes, I still do buy those treats, but knowing I can't just run to the store and replace them means that I wait for the appropriate time to eat them, and I enjoy them so much more as a result! Yes, some people have enough will power that they do this anyway, but I am not one of those people.


There you have it. Even with all my exceptions and rationalizations, recognizing that I could do more, this little plan is still doing something significant.  The fact that it is a bit of a challenge, but still feels very doable means that I should be able to at least keep it up for January, and possibly beyond.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Can't See Christmas

It is December 22nd, and I don't know what Christmas is going to look like this year. I had a plan, and it was a good one. Some good friends and I were going to go into the mountains and do some cross country skiing. Believe you me, despite the fact that it is not what I would plan for my Christmas if I had the choice, it would be more than enough to make Christmas magical. Mountain air, gliding over snow, always magical. (For the record, if I could plan MY perfect Christmas, it would be with a husband/family... And would probably be spending it in the mountains with good friends ;).) All I had to do was survive Christmas Eve without too many special traditions to share with someone, and then Christmas could be really fantastic.

Then the weather forecasts started to come in. I haven't checked the most recent ones, but it's not looking good for my plan B. We may be able to go on Saturday, but the temperatures do not promise to make for the best skiing. Sunday, skiing sounds perfect, but the roads to get there will most likely not be worth the risk. So, it's quite possible that I will go Saturday, be home in time for the worst of Christmas Eve, and have little (if anything) going on Christmas Day. I rarely admit these things to anyone, because I feel like it's too pathetic for words. The reason that I decided to come out and say it is because I've read a couple of blog posts in the last few days from people struggling with infertility and singleness, and it was really good, partly just because I was reminded that I am not actually alone in the fact that holidays are not the easiest this year (or for several years...)

One of the posts did a fantastic job of looking at the holy family on the first Christmas. Mary traveling, feeling large and uncomfortable with a very difficult road and way to travel. Joseph, who nearly had to divorce Mary a few months before, leading the way. A child born, not in a warm, safe environment that had been lovingly prepared by a nesting mother, but in a stable, surrounded by livestock. Something clicked for me in looking at that post. Somehow I have gotten a picture of Christmas embedded in my mind and I can't seem to get it out. It's Christmas trees and glowing lights, maybe candles for ambience. It's baking Christmas cookies as a family. It's watching Christmas movies together, going to Mass together, and spending the day in some way that's meaningful to all. All of this, of course, with a smile on everyone's face while we are overjoyed with Christmas spirit.

The reality is that candles are best done without small children around, and calm feelings invoked by Christmas tree lights can only go so far with the chaos of family. I can't even eat Christmas cookies anymore. The rest might be nice, but likely punctuated by a lot more fit throwing from sugar highs and everyone being ramped up with excitement than what occurs in anyone's thoughts or dreams. While most people DO walk around with a smile on our faces during Christmas (at least at gatherings and for photos) there are plenty of people who have pasted them on, because that's what's expected of them.

There is nothing wrong with those things, and I am so excited for those who do get to celebrate whatever iterations of those things as are meaningful for their families. I am especially excited for those that get to experience it after many long years of NOT having it! There are lots of people for whom the reality of Christmas means drowning in credit card debt to try to attempt the "perfect Christmas". There are people that have family gatherings that are made stressful by the built up baggage of the years, some overt, and some festering beneath the surface. Some families will be celebrating around one of the many bugs and viruses that spread so rapidly this time of year. Many people will have days full of gatherings, but each one painful as they work around questions and comments that poke at deep, hidden hurts, such as the grief of infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth, singleness, mental illness, and so much more.  Or there is one family that lost their husband/father in a bike vs. vehicle accident this summer. Many others that have lost loved ones and have to face the holidays with a gaping hole that can't be filled. Even concerns about politics and many other things loom large in ways that can't completely be put to rest and are sometimes even exacerbated by all of the celebrations.

The point is not to become mired in the dark side of the holidays. These are just the every day realities that we all have to think about. These things do not always keep people from truly celebrating, and sometimes it means people choosing joy that is so much more meaningful because of their struggles. It's just that there is no such thing as perfection in this life, not even in a perfect-looking Christmas.

Speaking of the "perfect Christmas". Let's get back to the holy Family. How perfect was their first Christmas? I would say that if we can step back from the familiar details long enough to see the real suffering that is inherent with those circumstances, we might see things a little differently. I can't see Christmas this year, because I don't know what it will look like. I don't know exactly what my plans will be. I may spend some of it with friends, or I may have a quiet day at home. It may be difficult, or it may be peaceful and sweet. I never know how the emotions will go. (I do know that I have some good ideas for food that I am excited to enjoy!) The point is, maybe I'm going about this wrong, being in search of a perfect Christmas, or lacking the perfect Christmas, the next acceptable alternative. I'm feeling like what I need to go in search of is Christ, whether in the Mass (which may not feel great, but He is always there, no matter how it feels!), whether in the quiet or in the people that I spend time with. Know that whatever your circumstances are, the ones that you are thrilled about and the ones that you are dreading, the ones that you can see coming and the ones that take you by surprise, in the people that make your Christmas special and in the special people that make your Christmas difficult, and whatever else, I will be praying that you will also find Christ this Christmas.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fresh Start

I admit it. I went through a few years hating Advent. It feels like my whole life is Advent, so I wasn't that interested in a liturgical season of waiting. There's something about it though... Somehow, lately, hope has crept back into Advent. Not necessarily hope that the major life circumstances will change (like marriage and children), though that hope is sometimes there as well. Maybe it's more about the transformation of waiting.

The other day, I was talking to someone about how our Thanksgiving went and I was telling her that I got to see my super sweet niece and nephew (one year old twins, and seriously, ridiculously cute!) Her response was, "Does that give you any ideas?" She knows I'm single. She knows that I would not want kids on my own. What she apparently does not know is that the lack of spouse and kids in my life is not by choice. That I would like nothing more than that and one of the most painful, crushing things in my life that wears me down day after day and year after year is the fact that none of that seems to come together for me. Mostly I can brush stuff like that off in the moment, but I don't know if she caught that time that there was a pause before the shrug. The shrug was supposed to indicate some sort of socially appropriate "what will be, will be" attitude. It would go along with the assumption that I apparently just haven't decided to settle down yet, and if I ever do, it will happen. Because that's a lot less pathetic for public consumption than the fact that I have failed at making that happen in my life. I'm not sure if the truth cracked open for a moment in my eyes, but I know that I was frozen for a second by reality crashing down before I could pull off the public charade.

(Super hopeful, right? It's going somewhere else, I promise!)

The thing is, I don't even know what it is that I'm waiting for anymore. The desire to share my life is something that I don't think will ever go away (as evidenced by the fact that it gets harder in some ways each year, never easier). Yet, there are no guarantees that it will ever happen for me. That is the reality of life. My point being that I can hope for that to change, but waiting for it like it's just a matter of time is a little absurd.

One little glimpse that I am starting to get into Advent is the actual liturgical meaning of the wait. (I know! Who would have seen that coming?!) There is the wait for the birth of the Christ child. The recognition that God became man for us to be redeemed. Whatever suffering we have, big and small, is redeemed. Whatever parts of us that we can't fix, can't heal, can't seem to change, He can redeem.  Our past, the ways that we have been broken and the things that we have broken, He redeems. When we wait, we wait for Him. When we need healing and meaning for our lives, it is coming and has come. Certainly we have certain prayers and dreams and desires that we hold most dear and wait for more than any others, but whether or not we see the fulfillment of those the way we would like, we will see redemption in them. That is the joy of Christmas.*

This also refers to the next coming of Christ, whether in a general way at the end of the world, or at our own deaths. While God does bring a lot of redemption and healing into this life, it is all partial until we fully experience eternal life. It is a reminder to me that even if I do someday get to live out the fulness of my vocation, it won't be perfect. There will still be more that I ache and long for. That is the reality of the fact that we are created for heaven, but live right now on earth.

The night that I came home after my acquaintance's innocent question, I was broken. I had a lot to do, but I honestly cried on the couch instead, because all the wounds were exposed, and there wasn't much to be done. It was one of those dark nights, but. It was also one of the first few days of Advent. The reminder that the "dawn from on high" is coming. The idea that I don't know what it will look like, but there is healing for all brokenness for every single one of us. The next morning was the perfect day to start fresh. For me, waiting in this moment is understanding that the darkness of our struggles and uncertainties is going to be followed by morning, when the dawn from on high will break upon us. Someday it will all make sense. Someday, I will once again know what it is that I am waiting for.  Today I will do my best to do the little things that I can.

*Joy at Christmas is something that is available to all. Joy, I think, being trustful confidence in the Redeemer, gratitude in all things. This is not the same as happiness; Christmas is one of the most painful as well as the most joyous times of the year for people. Such is the way of this life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

It's Coming for Real Now!

Somehow, the holidays started early for me this year, with All Saints' Day. Obviously, it's going to get real in the next week. I made the mistake of trying to do a quick stop at the grocery store after church today... Dang! Turkey Day preparation is underway!

Most of you already know how I feel about the holidays. I love them. And I hate them. They scare the crap out of me. Talk about emotions all over the map at any given moment! Even things like FB's current profile picture frame "Thankful for us" is a little cringe-inducing for me. Not that people shouldn't celebrate and rejoice in their families! I think it's a good thing. It's just not an easy thing for me.

Then, this weekend, just before I left work, I found out that I may be losing a lot of hours at work. It may not be long term, but I have limited ability to hold out with a small paycheck for even the short term. It's scary and uncomfortable because I like where I work, and I love the people that I work with, and I don't want to change any of that. The reasons behind it also make it feel like my one boss doesn't appreciate the current people. I know that's not it, but it feels that way.

In a few days, I get to go spend time with my family, and there's some tension and drama, not to mention politics. Should be an interesting weekend!

However, this is not really a "woe is me" post. (It would have been on Friday night, but this is Sunday, so we're good.) So far this month and these holidays have been peaceful. While it will be a day by day thing, I have hopes that this may continue. In terms of the family, things haven't been easy, but it has made me do some learning, particularly in regards to listening. I've been reading a book about it, and I hope I can continue to keep learning and applying things! I have been trying to start to apply this, and while I have a long way to go, I am realizing some common shortcomings that I have and continue to perpetuate. It's exciting to try to change some of them and how people respond to my imperfect attempts to be a better listener.

With that in mind, it helped me to see where my boss might be coming from in making some of her decisions. It does not mean that I agree with her decisions. I may still have to do something different, as I do have bills to pay. But it does help me to see how I can have a more respectful conversation and response to her in the moment.

I'm a little nervous for the family gathering, but also excited to perhaps begin to change some of our same old conversations that lead to the same old hurts building up further and further. I'm excited to see if I can listen in a situation where it seems that most of the tensions are coming from not being heard. I know this is a situation that needs a lot of prayer, but I really do feel like it is an opportunity as much as it is a bit of a cross right now.

Then there's this trust thing. I really love the way that God asks for our trust. We want control, even if that just means that we need to know what's coming next so that we can prepare ourselves. In reality, He seems to be asking for us to accept enough for today and let tomorrow take care of itself. (Sound familiar? I know we hear it in the Bible, but I guess I don't always listen very well!) I was a little worried about my hours earlier this year, and then I have had better hours than  I have had in a long time. It may go down really soon, but I have at least another good week or two before that happens. In the meantime, there are some things that I can do outside of my comfort zone to try to work on things to increase my hours. Some of these are things I've been wanting to do but haven't had the time for, so this is also an opportunity. If, in the end, none of that pans out, we'll see where God leads next. Whether things change or things stay the same, it really doesn't matter as long as I am doing what I can, and leaning into Him for the rest. Just one step at a time. It may keep going straight or take a turn on another road, but either may be a great opportunity.

Not only that, but I may get to do a little more climbing in the next month or so!! I am so excited that I can't even tell you. It's a part of my life that I have really missed over the last couple of years, and I have been praying for a way to get back into it. It'll be all indoors this time of year, but I don't care. I'll take what I can get! Not that that really has anything to do with the previous parts of the post, but it is just a part of my current feelings of contentment.

There it is. Here come the holidays, and I am currently excited and optimistic for them. I don't really care that that could change shortly, because if I am only going to take one step at a time, all I have to do now is rejoice in this moment of contentment. I do have two prayer requests, if you think of it. One is for my family to be able to sort some things out, and the other is that I wouldn't have to go to another Mass alone on a high holy day (so, Christmas). As we head into Advent, please let me know in the comments or email (catholicmutt@gmail.com) if there's anything that you would like me to pray about for you!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sleep!

Okay, I have to type quickly, which is going to be hard because I have so many different things that I would love to talk about, but so little time. Maybe I should think about getting on here a little more often, eh? Of course you're right.

The reason that I have to hurry is sleep. Yes, it's only 6:22. But I don't care. I will be off the computer (and all the other screens I have) by 7:00. Because sleep is amazing. I love it so much I can't even tell you. I have always loved sleep. I never pulled all nighters, even in college, because SLEEP! I have tried for a long time to make sure that I tried to leave a good 7-8 hours for sleep. But, y'all, seriously! My sleep game has leveled up and I can't even tell you how freaking awesome it is! You know me, I'll try to explain how great it is, but it's really one of those things that you have to experience. I didn't know it could be this great!

A few months ago, I saw a title of a podcast that was talking about how good sleep starts in the morning. I don't love listening to podcasts, but I do love sleep, so I was intrigued. The podcast was with the author of "Sleep Smarter" (absolutely recommend the book, but unfortunately I can't remember his name right now!) He was talking about how in order to get our cortisol levels going in the morning, we needed to get up and do some activity or movement fairly early, as well as expose ourselves to natural light as soon as we can. (Sheesh! Not like that. Just get outside if you can, or be where there is natural light in the room.) Cortisol, of course, sounds bad to us, because we have chronically high levels of it. However, in the natural circadian rhythm, it is important and necessary at certain times in the day. Morning is one of them. Having cortisol then makes us more ready to produce melatonin in the evening.

That was just one of many things that he talked about. Another thing was the sleep routine. I started a routine and it really does help a lot. I turn off my screens at least 2 hours before I go to bed (and I go to bed early because I get up freakishly early). That means no TV, no internet, no noise (besides my rather loud refrigerator; I better clean the coils soon). I admit that was a little scary to me. TV and/or internet was my way to wind down! I wasn't quite sure what I would do without it. It turns out that there ARE options. My routine involves starting with the dishes, then picking up, then doing some reading (fun stuff only), stretching and the teeth brushing and all of that. As I get to the reading, I start to turn down the overhead lights and read by lamp. Then when I do a little stretching, I usually just have a candle. The gradual darkness also helps. I usually only get a few stretches in before I'm sleepy enough that I go to bed. I'm not so tired I can't move, it's just that my body is ready for sleep. So I listen and go to bed.

My brain winds down better without lots of outside stimulus right before bed. Who would've thought? I do not sleep very many more hours than I did before (except that I wake up a lot less and go back to sleep a lot faster if I do wake up), but the quality of sleep I get! I didn't know it was possible to feel that refreshed after sleeping. And to spend most of the day wide awake and ready to go, until about 30-40 minutes before I go to bed, because my body knows what's coming.

Hmm, I guess it was easy to type quickly. Initially, I thought I had a lot of different stuff to say. I do, but I didn't realize that I was going to talk about this for so long. I guess all I can say is that you should read the book! Your ways of finding routines will likely be different than mine, and some people are like, "that's nice, but I have kids." It's okay. What is good for you will be specific to you. As for the kids, they can benefit from all of this, too. I'm not saying that it will make bedtime perfectly easy (or easy at all), but it's really nice stuff to be aware of, because whatever you can incorporate into your life can potentially make a big difference.

6:44. Not bad. I guess I can stop for now. SLEEP IS AMAZING!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I Got Angry at Mass Today

Raise your hand if you are beyond worn out and fatigued with the farce that is this election cycle. (Both hands HIGH, over here.) I just don't even know what to say right now. I don't know how to discern the truth of the various claims anymore. Let me tell you this, though. This election has yielded some interesting insights for me personally. Things I have never noticed quite this much. It's like everything being stretched out to such an exaggerated point of ridiculousness has made it so that I can see some things about myself and my thought processes that I was unable to see before. And I am grateful for that. It is also part of the reason that I got angry at Mass today.

This election is the first time that I have been able to agree in many ways with almost EVERYone to at least some degree when it comes to politics. I could find some common ground most of the time when it was brought up. Sure, it was mostly because we were agreeing about how terrible the options were, but it was kind of nice not to feel like there was "my side" and "their side". Now, what we were all choosing to do about that was different, and I certainly didn't go in depth with that, but it led to some interesting conversations and to me being in a different place to hear it than I have been at other times.

This it the first time that my political affiliations (or lack thereof) have come to have a much greater meaning in my life. I have not registered with a party for years, because I couldn't truly stand behind either one. Because of my background, I identified more strongly with one than the other, but now I reject both of them with about equal fervor!

This is the first election in my life that I voted FOR someone. That was weird. Yes, I know all the arguments about third party votes. When considering things from all angles, it felt like the only option that I could make in good conscience. That does not mean that everyone should make that decision. This is truly a vote where you need to educate yourself about what is important (and from a Catholic standpoint, that means informing your conscience about what the Church teaches and why), and make the best decision you can. To me, there is no obvious choice this year. I could see the argument from a number of different directions, and none of them end up with us in a great spot. I know that my decision was made with a lot of thought, with prayer, and with peace that I did what I had to do. I do not say this with a relativistic mindset. There IS right and wrong, but since none of us know how all of this is going to turn out, I don't think that you can argue that there is only one choice.

I feel like this has been instructive about history. I always wondered how Hitler and the like got elected into office. I feel like I'm watching it happen. Stir up fear, stir up anger, get people beyond the point of seeing reason. (You want to know which candidate I'm referring to? In this climate, it really doesn't matter. I would say both.)

I feel on the outside. I disagree so completely with supporters of either major party candidate.* But the outside looking in can also be very instructive.  Do you realize how much both groups sound alike? You could just about switch the names interchangeably, and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Bullying, corruption, wrongdoing seem to be rampant. It's not just the candidates, it's ALL OF US. We are doing it to each other right now!

One of the weird things is that I finally saw some of the arguments against what I believe... And realized they were right. Not that I think their answers to the problem are right, but that they're completely correct in they're criticisms of my way of seeing certain things. Let's take the pro-life issue. To me, that is always the most important one. In no way am I trying to argue that we need to lessen our work to protect the most innocent and most vulnerable. However, in the exaggeration of seeing someone who claims to be pro life, but is so disrespectful of the lives of anyone outside themselves, I am offended when someone tries to say that behavior is pro life. That is the epitome of being anti-abortion only. Now, I will take someone that is anti-abotion over someone that is pro-abortion and also devalues certain other lives, but don't call it pro-life! It is decidedly not!

This is probably what made me angry at Mass today. We call ourselves pro-life, and yet the deacon was telling us how we convince women that it was not just a clump of cells or tissue. That's right, as far as it goes, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. If we are truly pro-life, we have to find a way to help support that woman; her life, the life of her child. If we truly value life, we need to care about her and not assume that she is simply selfishly trying to rid herself of a mess that she got herself into. You want my opinion? (Probably not, but I'm not forcing you to read this post!) I think that there are so many complex factors that go into these decisions. Yes, some of it is certainly selfishness and a lack of understanding that that baby really is a person. But I also think that some of those rationalizations resonate so well with people because they really don't feel they have any options. They feel they are doing what they must, so those rationalizations help them make a decision. I'm not saying that's right. It's not. I'm saying that there are deeper issues going on. I feel that pro choice folks are misaddressing the issue by saying that abortion is okay. I feel that people that are pro life are sometimes simply ignoring that part of the issue.

Please keep in mind, there are lots of people that are truly pro-life in every sense. They have been working tirelessly both to do the needed education that the child IS a child, but also trying to help and support the mother and support life in all its phases. But I think that it has helped me take an even closer look at the fact that I myself have probably mostly only performed actions that are anti-abortion. It has made me look at the fact that while voting is important, what else am I actually doing to respect life in the best way that I can?

Sorry for the long, rambling post. Just know that if you have taken the time to educate yourself, tried in some way to cut through the thick biases in all directions, have voted or will vote, whatever that vote is, I respect you and I respect you trying to make the best of this situation. If you have not yet voted, I would say, do not be afraid! This is what JPII taught us, and he came from a regime of political repression unlike anything we have known (at least not yet). Voting is important. But no matter who ends up in office, it is not the president who can make America great again. Nor can the president make us stronger together. If we want to be strong together, WE have to stop bullying each other. If we want our country to be great again, WE have to have the courage to look at what we are doing as individuals that is not supporting that and move forward from there. Yes, I know there are a lot of things that stand in the way. Yes, some of it will have to come down from the government. But the government can't fix it. Until we are willing to see each other as people, equals deserving of respect, even those that disagree with us (and all "sides" tend to only listen to their own people and not others, so no need to point fingers), then this problem will continue. I'm not suggesting that we start to be relativistic. That has not helped us at all. I'm saying that when I take the time to listen, I usually hear some truth in the passionate voices all around. It may be obscured by emotion, it may not turn into a useful or appropriate direction, but until we can hear the good and realize that most people really do want what's best,** we are not going to stop trying to destroy each other and in the process, destroy our country.

Okay, that's enough rambling and enough politics. I am not naive enough to think that there are easy answers to any of this and that we don't have a long hard road, regardless of what happens. What I am saying is, I don't see any improvement unless we start to change how we interact with the problem. And by "we", I mean primarily "me".

*This is not the same as the people that feel that they have to make the impossible choice of one or the other, but actually support neither.
**I do believe that a lot of people do want what's best, even though there is a lot of error out there. Consider someone treating an illness with bloodletting back in the day. They truly wanted to help cure the person, even though they may have been killing them in the process. Unfortunately, I think we sometimes have the tendency to go around trying to spend all our time educating bloodletting is wrong, without recognizing or addressing the actual illness and pain that led to the treatment. Someone who is desperate will turn to whatever might be available, if no one else is offering any other options. I want to keep strongly opposing the bloodletting AND start to find other answers and solutions for people, rather than saying "bloodletting will kill you, but good luck with that fever."

Okay, seriously, if you made it this far, thank you for the attention. Not sure this rambling deserved it, but know that I appreciate you!!