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!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Entitled

Following is the bulleted list of things that I am entitled to:














That's it. That's the entire list. I roll my eyes at our culture of entitlement sometimes, but I forget just how deeply I am embedded in it myself. I sometimes get angry that I don't get to experience some of the things that "everyone" gets to experience. Yes, it hurts. No, it is not good to be alone. And yet I am still entitled to nothing.

I used to feel like if I did everything that God asked of me, OF COURSE He would finally answer my prayers. OF COURSE it would all work out and it would be so much better because of all the waiting and it would be as perfect as anything in this world could be. And everyone could see why you work through the hard stuff: because if you do it right, it all works out in the end.

The thing is, it isn't so. Sometimes it does work out, but heartbreak of one sort may give way to heartbreak of another sort. Sometimes you do it all right, and you check all the boxes, and it still doesn't work and it still won't happen. Sometimes it doesn't work out because you are intent about doing things a certain way (think trying to date in a hook up culture when you don't hook up, or trying to get pregnant but you won't use artificial technologies). You know why you're doing what you're doing, you know why it's worth it to you, but you also have to fully acknowledge that the very fact of doing it may cost you your shot at what you want.

We are not entitled to something because we went about all of the "right" ways of getting it. Entitlement, prosperity gospel, whatever you want to call it, I do it sometimes without realizing what I'm doing.  I can be called to a certain vocation (marriage) but I am not entitled to that fulfillment.  I really do hope that singleness will not always be my story, but if it changes, it is not because I deserved it or earned it. There are many who deserved it every bit as much as I did, but it never happened for them. Each day, and each breath is a gift. Even the things that feel unfair are a gift. I think surrender is often realizing that nothing belongs on the list above. I don't think it's wrong to desire good things, I just think sometimes we put them on that list where they don't belong.

Following is a bulleted list of just a few of the gifts that I have received that I am thankful for:

  • For an outspoken priest whose homily was a good reminder today that I am not entitled to anything.
  • For a great talk with my sister today.
  • For a job that I love that challenges me to stretch, whether I like it or not.
  • For an opportunity to become more aware of how I spend my money, so that I can make more deliberate choices.
  • For wonderful people in my life.
  • For all your wonderful responses on my last post; thank you, it really meant a lot to me.
  • For an opportunity to visit an amazing place this weekend.
  • For each new day that gives us the opportunity to do better and start over as needed.
  • For the joy of riding my bike.
  • For the joy of beautiful September days.
  • For honesty and authenticity opening doors in friendships.
  • For a relaxing weekend.
  • For books that give me a glimpse outside my own little world.
  • For the fact that this list could go on and on.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grace

Okay, as I have said before, one of the things that has slowed down my writing on this blog is the fact that I keep re-hashing the same old things related to singleness. You have to be sick of it. I know that I am. In other words, feel free to skip the heck past this and move on. I sometimes have to write about it, as tired as I am of it, because it is my life and it helps me to figure some things out.

It's hard to describe the mix of feelings/experiences lately. It's pretty pathetic to list some of it out, but as pathetic as the list is, it doesn't fully cover the feelings that go along with all of this. Then there's some amazing grace that has been present in the last months, that doesn't sound all that amazing in words, but the difference that I notice in the reality is, well, amazing. (I can see that this post is going to be REALLY outstanding grammatically and otherwise.) I guess I should try to explain what I mean instead of speaking in vague generalities. That will be difficult, but here's a quote from St. Francis de Sales that might help.

Make sickness itself a prayer.
Desire to be cured that you may serve Him,
but do not refuse to continue to be sick,
that you may obey Him.

Thankfully, I am not actually sick (unless you count the allergies kicking up my asthma- come back, oxygen, I miss you!),  but it's a nice shortened version of a way to describe the state of being in my life. In a little conversation with a fellow blogger, we were discussing the states of singleness and infertility and how that worked with the call or vocation of marriage. My opinion is that much of the time singleness is not a vocation, and virtually all of the time infertility is not a vocation per se within marriage. Lemme 'splain. While I do think that it's possible and does happen that God may call some people to consecrated single life, for the most part I think singleness is not a particular vocation. I believe that I am called to marriage. I fully understand that I may never get married, but that doesn't negate what my calling is. I think that within marriage there is the call to fruitfulness, specifically through new life and children. I understand for some couples that will never happen, and that in no way negates their calling to marriage in general, to each other in particular, nor does it lessen the importance of their family unit as the two of them. 

The fact that I have asthma does not mean that I am a sick person; in fact, I am one of the healthier people that I know (again with the grammar!). However, it does mean that in this imperfect world, I have some limitations. It means that I have to make choices sometimes that annoy me sometimes in their necessity. Do I take medication for it? When do the side effects outweigh the benefits and vice versa? Yes, I want to open my windows or do an extra long hike, but is that the best choice in this moment? Okay, sure work out, but maybe I need to modify my workout for that limitation, etc. It is a part of my life that I have to deal with. Being single while called to marriage is another one of those things that happen in an imperfect world that we don't fully understand. 

Here's the the thing: It is not good for man to be alone. Those are words at one point that I didn't fully understand, but it becomes more and more apparent to me. I think I have talked before about the ways that being single in this current world does not just mean that I lack a partner in life (though that seems the greatest part of the tragedy to me). It also means that there is the loss of community in so many ways. I have barely rock climbed lately and I miss it like crazy. One of the reasons for this is that a lot of the people that I used to climb with are now climbing with their significant others, and sometimes they'll go in groups of couples, but I have been gradually forgotten. Not on purpose, and there are some other factors there, too, but it has happened. Not only have I missed the company of these people, and the joy of rock climbing, but I rarely get to join them on other excursions either. Also, I am not in the Mom's Club. Some people are fantastic about recognizing that even though I cannot fully understand what it is to be a mom (no one can without the experience) that I still have some capacity for empathy and understanding (and those of you that read this blog definitely fit that category!) However, many- and I would say most- that are in the Mom/Parent Club* will not always tell me about their experiences, or they will say things in dismissive ways like I could never possibly begin to understand. It's a million little slights that are hard to explain or understand if you haven't experienced them, but I would bet that almost anyone who has experienced it knows exactly what I'm talking about. 

Then there's this hyper sexualized world that makes any great friendship something suspect. In my case, I feel the pressure to not do much reaching out to my guy friends once they are in relationships and of course they're guys, so they sure as heck don't try to keep in touch! So there's another loss. Not having a boyfriend or a husband, I miss out a lot on simple male companionship as well. Though one thing that helps with that is that when I am with girlfriends and their significant others, I do get a little more balance. Still, it makes it hard to go out and meet others in a friendship way as well. Now, hyper sexualized or not, I do think it's really important to have some good boundaries with friends of the opposite sex who are in relationships with others. I think it's only right to respect that and to make those efforts, so it's not all external pressure, some of it is making proper boundaries that respect the relationship. I don't begrudge that, but I do recognize how it interferes at times with friendships. 

You add some of these factors plus the fact that some of my closest friends here have moved away in the last few years, and even things like blogging not being what it was, and these last couple of years have been a season of intense loneliness. Not just as a single person, but as a person who can't seem to find community. Now, for those of you who would like to comment on how I can fix things, please don't. If you're convinced that you obviously know how to do things better because things are working out for you, know that I am happy you don't have to deal with this, but I can about promise that kind of "help" will not be helpful in the slightest. Of course I have activities in church and in the community that I try to be involved in, of course I go to things where I can meet new people, of course I've tried the online dating thing at different times and on different platforms. Of course I try to reach out to other people in need. Could I do better? Sure. I'll keep working on that. But while I respect and appreciate your desire to help, I don't need you to help. Believe me, I know it's work for everyone and not just single people. Having gone through seasons where I have had great community, I do know how to build that, but it is partly about what you do and partly about how the circumstances are working out at the time. If you want to help, just listen. That's all I ask. Listen by reading this post, sure. Listen to people in your life that are hurting and just need someone to be with them where they are.

Anyway. The point being is that this whole thing about singleness has just gotten worse. I am no longer at a point where I try to say, "here's what my life is, let me try to get the best I can out of my circumstances". I have no strength left for that. I'm tired. I can't do it alone. We aren't meant to be alone. (Again, not strictly meaning that marriage is the only answer for this; community and family- broadly speaking, not just blood relatives- are a huge part of the answer. I will go so far as to say that even if I met the perfect guy this weekend, that without that kind of community and family, I would still have some of the same problems. Know how I know? Because a lot of married people do have some of those same problems with loneliness.)

In my desire to not be pathetic, I avoid the uncomfortable topic of how awful it is at times to be single; to come home to an empty house, to sometimes spend holidays or parts of holidays alone when family is too far away, to be sick and have to balance whether it's safe to drive to get food when you don't have any, and on and on. (Okay, I don't avoid that here. Here I talk about it ad nauseum. So sorry! When I avoid it in most parts of my life it comes spilling out somewhere.) I don't want to be seen with pity and have people start asking me how many cats I plan to get. On the other hand, I think that bottling it all up is what makes the crazy cat ladies crazy! My opinion is that singleness sucks, in an objective sense. Obviously, my views are not objective, but returning to the statement: It is not good for man to be alone, I think that we have to acknowledge the truth of that. 

Now, what does that mean when there is this God, who is supposedly all good. Supposedly all powerful. Supposedly all loving. How would He call someone to marriage or children (or fill in the blank to any other of the bad things that happen- death, disease, tragedy) and let it not turn out. Seriously, we all have something of a prosperity gospel view, because we all assume that eventually it will somehow work out. If nothing else, we will eventually accept our fate and find the good in it. Right? Well, I can't speak to the eventualities of the coming decades, but I can tell you this. I am not used to being single. I think I hate it more every day. I think it gets harder every year. And I know that does not necessarily mean that God will swoop in and grant me the perfect life partner tomorrow. And I know that God is all good, all powerful, and all loving. This is the grace in the last few months that I barely know how to explain. How can I describe how I seriously just can't even; plodding through the days and the nights are difficult and sometimes seem impossible. Going to Mass is not exactly a joy. It's work to get myself to confession, and I'm failing on the Adoration front. I do pray, but I can't speak to the quality of said prayer. I go through my days, and there is good and there is hard. There is numb, which I hate, and pain that is at least better than numb. Yet, under it all there is no question that God is good, powerful, loving.

I do feel that if God were to allow my vocation to marriage to be fulfilled, I would perhaps be able to serve Him better. I feel that without someone close in my life I become sometimes more selfish and less loving. I feel that I need someone to challenge me and help me; and I need to have someone in my life that I can help. I would like so much to get more involved with other people around me, but some of it is not only not easy to do as a single woman, some would be inadvisable and not particularly safe. Perhaps that's all pie in the sky, but I ask those of you in a relationship; how much of what you do, do you think you could do without the support of your spouse? 

Even though this post is already far too long, I feel like I'm cheating some of the nuances of what I mean, but the gist is this. I think being single when called to marriage is objectively bad. Just like bad health, death, disaster, and a whole host of other things are objectively bad. In a fallen world, they happen. They happen and there is not always an answer, there is not always a cure, even for those that love God the most. I do not think that God actively wills these things for our lives. He could not be all good if He did. But I do think that in the context of a broken world, He does will to permit these things, not because they are good in and of themselves, but because of the good that He can bring out of them. In the last few months, I have realized that I don't have the strength to make the best of this situation. I can't figure out the why of it all, and I certainly don't have a clue how to go on or what will happen in my life. But I also can't quite describe the grace of being helpless and being beyond the ability to persevere or do things the "right way". Because God is still there, and you realize even more how much it was all grace, how this right now is grace, and how whatever comes of this in the future is grace. 

WAY  back up at the top with that quote from St. Francis (which sums it up; you could've stopped reading then if only you had known!), that helped me to see some of that balance today. It's okay to recognize that this is not the optimal thing, but you also have to accept wherever God wants to lead. And, thankfully, (because it is entirely beyond me right now) there is the grace there to pray for the change and to accept the lack there of. And I love that thought of allowing that pain to become part of the prayer.

Blessed be God.

*As a female, I focus on the moms, because that's what I would be if I had children.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

My Two Cents

So, there's an election coming up in a few months. You may have heard something about it, just a few thoughts and opinions. Do vote for this person, don't vote for that person, or my favorite and the one that's most personal to me: don't waste your vote!

Here's my opinion to add to the mix. To me, a wasted vote is a vote that you didn't show up for. It's a vote for Donald Duck or Pedro (though believe me, I've been tempted!) Showing up to vote for a real person, and especially one that's actually on the ballot is NOT a wasted vote! Personally? I can't get behind the platforms of either of the two major parties right now, and let's not even get started on their candidates. I haven't been able to for a while, and this election is bringing that to the forefront even more. I am well aware of some of the reasons that I should think about doing that anyway, but to be honest, I'm not sure that I can. This isn't about personal distaste or dislike, it's about candidates that are fundamentally opposed in various ways to truths that I hold dear.

I have been hearing lately that we HAVE to vote for one particular candidate because the other candidate is so bad. That reasoning is okay by me. Given the situation, I think it's something that we absolutely have to consider. (I'm not leaving out names to be coy, I've heard the arguments in both directions.) What I am not okay with is the fear mongering that is starting to happen along with those arguments. You know the ones, where the opposite candidate is terrible and will destroy the nation. If you haven't noticed, I think either one has a decent potential of doing that. The other thing that will turn me off faster than anything from whatever point you want to make is when you try to justify your particular candidate's misdeeds. NOT okay. Both candidates have done some absolutely inexcusable things. One particular candidate is not merely some "opinionated person that says it like it is." No, no, no. He may say it how he sees it, but that's what scares me. If you tell me, "Yes, this candidate has done this, that and the other that is wrong, and it is a detestable choice, but here's why I may have to consider for voting for them anyway," I will listen to you.  The minute you try to say that some of the things that they have done is okay and even possibly a good thing in some ways, I will stop listening immediately.

What I want to say to all voters is simply that first and foremost, get out there and vote. This is too important not to. Second, do not be afraid! Do not cast a vote based on fear, but based in what you believe to be the right way to vote. Study the issues and ALL the candidates and speak out with your vote. I do think 3rd party votes matter, because if we absolutely have issues with 2 parties, we need to let them know that we are looking for change. However, I also understand that the 3rd party is not likely to win, and that's an important situation to consider as well. (Though this article is FANTASTIC and definitely some important things to think about, especially the last couple of paragraphs.) Those of faith also need to add in some serious prayer. And please be charitable towards others who feel that they absolutely have to vote differently than you are! There is a lot to consider this election and I don't think there's a "good" or obvious option here, so people can only go based on what they feel is best.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

After 12 Weeks...

Been a while! I'm honestly not sure that anyone will read this, but I'm going to write it. Minimizing this blog for a few weeks was really helpful to me. It helped me to see that this little space still has a part for me. This is just a good place for me to think through certain things that I can't really bring up in other places. I am not promising regular posts or anything crazy like that, but I am not ready to give up this space.

I will say, however, that I was reminded immediately one of the reasons that I had trouble writing posts even before taking a break. I don't know if it's Blogger, or my internet or my computer or what, but getting on here can be a ridiculous undertaking sometimes! It'll take forever to load, if it ever does. It doesn't like to save my draft if I finally do get on here, and it's very difficult to get pictures loaded. In general, sometimes it will take so long that if I have a few minutes to type out a few thoughts, those minutes will be rapidly eaten by glitches in the system.

Anyway, if the silly site will let me, I will still try to blog occasionally. I'm still going to keep my hiking blog (which would also be updated more if Blogger wasn't such a pain in the butt!). I did like switching to my email being forwarded and following blogs through my other email. It means that I only have to log into this one if I actually want to blog. And it allowed me to weed out blogs that I am no longer following. I would be better about following and reading, but see above for issues with Blogger loading! Hopefully, I will be able to do a little catch up soon.

Other than that, I am just sitting here trying to recover from a crazy backpacking trip. My mosquito bites are making me crazy! I have a topical cream to help with the itching and it kind of does, but then they just start itching all over again. I hate it!  Okay, more later. Just because I am behind, what am I missing? What have you been up to?

***
Grr! Just to cement my frustrations, after clicking "publish" 10+ times, it refuses to actually publish! This is why I rarely blog anymore!

Friday, April 22, 2016

7 Quick Takes

1) It's been a LONG time since I've done one of these, but I've tried writing several posts in the last few weeks and then I get into too many tangents. Therefore it seemed like a post that is basically tangents was the perfect format for today! I don't have a lot of time at this moment, but hopefully will have a chance to come back and link up properly later.

2) There are things about adulting that I am not a fan of, but today I decided to have seasoned sweet potato waffle fries for breakfast because I wanted to and I found a kombucha that tastes like Dr. Pe.pper. Adulting has its moments!

3) I am getting really excited for this minimalist course that I'm taking. De-cluttering, simplifying, whatever you want to say. This interview (with the person that has designed the course) has a quote that sums it up perfectly:  I want people to know that they were designed to accomplish more significant things than filling a big house with a lot of stuff.

I have to admit that there are times that I have felt like a bit of a failure because how is it that I've been in the "real world" so long and am still so far from some of the trappings that we seem to see as necessary. I know it's ridiculous, but I feel that way sometimes. This whole idea is just freedom not to worry about any of that and define my life by what fits for me.

4) In other news, here's how simplifying worked out for me yesterday. I had a plumber coming over to the house in the morning. First, I did some reading. One book sucked me in, so I read more than I intended to. Then I made myself a nice breakfast, while leisurely watching a show. Then I finally got around to cleaning the house. It took about 40 minutes, including doing my dishes and putting away my laundry (which I use as a way of increasing the amount of movement in my life, so it took me a while as I put things away one at a time and included ducking under a barrier- yes, I'm a huge nerd.) Then my house was cleaner than it used to be after an hour and a half of cleaning, and I made lunch and then went for a walk. I was going to go for an hour, but it was a beautiful day and I couldn't make the argument that my other things on the to do list where THAT important, so I went for 3 instead.

No, my life is not nearly this relaxed all the time, but I'm noticing a few more hours and days where I feel able to make some of those decisions. I know it looks differently when you have a family and especially with kids, but I think extra time for playing with kids instead of dealing with the accumulation of stuff is even more of a benefit.

5) Okay, I really have to hurry now. In case I haven't said it enough on here, BAREFOOT IS AWESOME!! I'm working on doing that more and more outside and I LOVE it. I stick to trails, though. Dirt, mud, rocks are pretty nice. Asphalt is much less exciting.

6) Joining in the Mary, Undoer of Knots novena (starts today if you're interested). I am praying about work and living situations for myself, as well as continued learning to surrender it all and trust in God (need to do a post about everything I've been learning there!), but also for all those feeling alone and not part of a family. Pope Francis had an awesome tweet about that:

To form a family is to be a part of God’s dream, to join him in building a world where no one will feel alone.

I feel like that includes both the most obvious way, but also to form family in community as well. No one, single, divorced, widowed, infertile, and all the other things that can tear down the dreams of the "normal" family is excluded. And even when you do have the stereotypical "ideal" family, we are not immune to loneliness when we don't have that family in community as well.

7) Gotta run! Pretty flowers for your weekend! Have a great one!


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Gift of the Moment

I've been a little frustrated with myself and some of my past choices. Why didn't I do better? Why do I keep making mistakes? And what do I do about some current problems? It seems so overwhelming at times.

And yet.


I love sentiments like these.  Cliché as they may be, I can get pulled in every time. Whatever mistakes I've made in the past, they are past. Whatever things I've repeatedly made mistakes doing, they don't define me. I do not need to be concerned that I am not yet where I should be. Of course I'm not, it is not the nature of living on this earth to have it all in order and all figured out. It is a journey that starts here and now. Moving forward from here.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Taking It Too Far...

I realized today that maybe I'm taking minimalism a little too far.


Okay, I didn't really try to minimize the stuff in my fridge, this just happens to me on a semi regular basis (as those of you on FB already know). Being single, and with food issues, I have to try to plan my meals so that I can use everything up within a few days. I have to try to stick with meats and fruits and vegetables, and if I get too much in advance, I throw a LOT out. I can't afford that. Plus, I eat a lot. Food in my house doesn't stick around long, so I make frequent trips to the grocery store. It's always a good opportunity to take two minutes and clean the refrigerator!

Now, just because people get a little worried when I show them what happens sometimes, here it is after my trip to the store:


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

That Day Wherein I Reflect

Admittedly, that title is a little off, because I'm an introvert and reflect on a lot of different days. However, April 5th has become a special wake up call to me to look at where I am and where I am going. (Just like New Year's. And my birthday. Etc.) Most of you have heard it all before, so you can skip if you like.

April 5th six years ago was the day that my life took a sudden and dramatic turn. I woke up with plans to see a friend and hang out. I did not have any notion that I would make significant changes in my life's direction. The plans fell through, and I had a ridiculous reaction to that, which made me consider why. The "why" was that everything in my life that seemed to be working was no longer working.  My job, my friends, my church were all changing with seasons in life, and those were the things that were holding me where I was. There was a sudden dawning that this may be it... This may be the time to consider moving to Colorado.

Looking back, it doesn't sound that dramatic, but in that moment, it felt a little like the world was shifting on its axis. I figured that I would stay where I was, and in my current job indefinitely. That idea occurred to me and I did a quick job search where I found my new job within about 5 minutes (though of course I didn't know that it was my new job at the time). Five minutes that started me in a whole different and unconsidered direction. Five minutes where I turned from the path that seemed straight for the foreseeable future onto a whole new path and I had no idea where it would lead. I seriously didn't. The things that I have experienced, the personal and professional growth in the last 6 years are something that I never could have conceived of in that 5 minutes.

It hasn't been easy. There are certainly drawbacks to living so far from my family. I miss my friends from back there. Things are not perfect out here. I have no regrets, however, to grabbing hold of the crazy train and jumping on board. I didn't know that day where I would end up. I figured I would pursue the idea until it actually happened, or until it became clear that there was a red light. After greens all the way, here I am. I didn't know that there was an adventurer, a climber, a cyclist, a competitor, an outdoor enthusiast, and a photographer wannabe in me, but it turns out that they are essential to who I am. I'm glad I got a chance to discover that! I didn't know that there was such a drive in me to push beyond the constraints of the boxes imposed by insurance and short-thinking healthcare options. I love how I've developed professionally, and I hope that I can still continue to grow in ways that lead to better movement and real healthcare in my little area of the world and beyond.

I can't guess (nor do I want to!) where life will lead from day to day. I do know that I want to take some time and more formally explore what I want from life. I saw an assignment to write a mission statement, and I will probably try to take that on. It's not something that helps you plan out the details in life, because that's impossible. However, having a clear idea of where you'd like to end up, broadly speaking, helps determine how you deal with the many various things that life brings your way.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

2,016 in 2016: March

I have a rough goal of getting rid of over 2,000 things in my house this year. At the end of last month, I was quite a bit ahead of the pace. This month, I'm behind. Not much purging has happened this month, obviously. I'm not too worried about it. I wanted to use this loose goal as a push to be a little more drastic in purging, but I'm not completely tied to it. I'm at a loss of where to go next with the getting rid of things, so I haven't been doing much right now. I am going to start a 12 week course for the price of a book (more here if you're interested).

Now, let's talk about the downsides of downsizing. I figure if I'm going to talk about how much I love it, I should also be honest about those times where it pinches a bit. So far it's been books and movies. I wasn't sure which book I was in the mood to read, and when I went to the shelves to decide, I was surprised at just how few books I had left. I felt like I should have a much greater choice. Same thing happened this week when I was home sick for a couple of days and wanted to watch movies. I still had plenty of choices, but I wanted more choices. This is the thing that everyone who is reluctant to get rid of stuff talks about. But what if I want that stuff someday?

Want to know what happened? I picked something from what I had. It was the go-to stuff that I usually gravitated towards anyway, even when I had more choices. (And my choices are still ~70 movies and TV shows, I haven't been exactly stringent in my cutbacks.) I have an e-reader, I could have gotten a library book if I needed something new to read. I didn't miss any specific things that I had gotten rid of. Overall, it was a momentary pang that was swiftly gone. Believe me, the freedom of less stuff is far more important to me than fewer choices. I like that it means I am getting better use out of what I have or else utilizing something like the library, rather than having large amounts of extra stuff.

I don't want to say that there is never any regret involved with cutting things out, but it has been so little compared to the satisfaction of having my house become easier and easier to clean, and the things in my house be things that I am actually using rather than things that are just in my way. So far, I still have no regrets, and the pain is so minimal it barely counts.

Now, I'm curious how many more things I will get rid of when the "Uncluttered" course starts. I think it starts in May. Anyone want to join me?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Joy

Okay, I can't find it, but I read this fantastic article about joy on Good Friday. In the last few months, at some of the more difficult moments of depression, some that I had talked to were trying to help me "choose happiness". I can no more choose happiness at that point than I can choose flying. Happiness is a feeling, and while depression may be magnifying things, at that moment, being alone and the emptiness in life that results from that were beyond where I could make any choice for happy feelings.

In my heart, I always make a distinction, that instead I choose joy. My problem was that I couldn't articulate the reason that I felt they were different. I've tried to explain it here before, but not sure that I've really gotten it. The dictionary basically defines "joy" as "happiness", so why would one be okay and the other not? I can only give you what is my own subjective take on it, and the article was what helped me to be able to give words to this thought.

To me, joy is an attitude. It is not denying the pain, or fear, or grief that is present in your life at that moment. Like Mary at the foot of the Cross, this is not okay and it is okay to mourn, to weep, to feel the pain that is inherent when something in your life is broken and objectively not the way that things should be. However, the author of the article pointed out that Mary did so with hope, knowing that this was not the end. That, to me, is joy. In the midst of brokenness, acknowledging that this moment has meaning and value. Of knowing that there is hope for a better tomorrow, in this world or the next. Of holding on to the knowledge that this, too, has an end, and that because of Christ there is new life waiting on the other side of whatever our suffering is. I would add, beyond choosing hope, it is also choosing gratitude. To be thankful, on some level, for what is good in the midst of suffering, though it does not make the pain go away.

And of course, when the new day dawns, and Christ is risen and our suffering is a memory, then we also embrace the happiness that comes along with that.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Joy in Surrender

It's Holy Week! It seems like Ash Wednesday was just the other week, and Lent itself has been kind of a blur. How is my Lent going? I admit that I have failed on some level with everything that I have attempted for Lent. I honestly don't care. That probably is coming off wrong, but it's true. I don't care. Grace is not dependent on my perfection, but His. Grace in my life is not about being perfect so that He can come and dwell in my perfection, but turning to Him in my emptiness and brokenness so that He can fill it with His perfection and healing.

These last couple of weeks of Lent, the call to joy has not gone away, but I have been feeling a strong call to surrender. I admit that in the loneliness and depression of the last several months, there has been some bitterness. I honestly don't always want to surrender. However, I can't fully participate in joy if I don't surrender it all. There have been numerous things lately coming up to remind me of that (ok, God, I hear You!)  To find joy in Him there has to be surrender to whatever He is allowing in life, to His will in that moment.

I have definitely found joy in the reminder that in all my failures during Lent and even before, grace is not dependent on me, but Him. There have been at least a couple of Masses that have been a terrible struggle to get through. Far from receiving comfort, it was the last place that I wanted to be and I couldn't wait to get out. But the joy is that the grace of the Mass transcends whatever my crazy emotions are for the day. There is joy in accepting those emotions, those failures and recognizing that I can't do one, single thing without Him. Anything in these last few years where I have found myself able to live in the moment, move forward, try to live life to the best of my ability, I can't do one single bit of that without grace. The depression and emotional and spiritual fatigue of these last months has helped me see that, if nothing else. And there is joy in understanding that on a deeper level. It's all grace, it's not me.

In the last few days, the joy has been on a little different level. I don't know why, nor do I much care, but the shadow suddenly lifted. In depression there are good days and bad days, but there is always a shadow. For the last 4 days, the shadow was suddenly gone and I feel like me again. It was a joy to be in Mass this week and to be entering into the holiest time of the year. It is a joy to feel like I can reach out again to people around me. It was a joy to simply get on the bike at the gym and ride as hard as I could because being alive is grand. It is a joy to realize the amazing grace that God has been pouring into my life when it didn't feel like it. I don't know if this is a short term thing or long term, but at the moment I don't much care. I just want to soak it up for however long it lasts.

In the ongoing Scriptural dialogue, here is the psalm from the Magnificat last night (psalm 20) speaking directly to my thoughts and feelings right now:

May the Lord answer in time of trial;
may the name of Jacob's God protect you.

May he send you help from his shrine
and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings
and receive your sacrifice with favor.

May he give you your heart's desire
and fulfill every one of your plans.
May we ring out our joy at your victory
and rejoice in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all of your prayers.

I am sure now that the Lord
will give victory to the anointed,
will reply from his holy heaven 
with the mighty victory of his hand.

Some trust in chariots or horses, 
but we in the name of the Lord.
They will collapse and fall, 
but we shall hold and stand firm.

Give victory to the king, O Lord,
give answer on the day we call.

Tell me, how is your Lent going? Is there anything in particular that I can be praying for for you during this Holy Week? Prayer buddy, I will be continuing to pray for you this week, as well!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Joy in the Dialogue

I admit that joy has been the last thing on my mind most of this week. My emotional state was definitely what we can call less than robust (because I don't want to outright say "fragile", except that's the word for it). There are many contributing factors (PMS not being the least of these).

Friday I even skipped the gym. I never do that unless I'm ill or injured, but it just wasn't right. I can't explain it other than that. Instead, I ended up in Mass. More than a good trade, I'd say. I was late walked in just in time for the psalm: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted...those who are crushed in spirit he saves...The Lord redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him."

Later I was reading the meditation for the day in the Magnificant. It was talking about the heart that is numb to God has gradually allowed itself to become hardened, and is mortally sick. I admit to feeling a fair amount of numbness in the last few months. "A numbed person deludes himself into believing that he cannot hear the inner voice that calls on him to shake off this numbness and rise out of himself... he is incapable of entering into the dialogue." I don't think that I've made it quite that far, but I definitely felt the call to enter more deeply into the dialogue with God.

There are a few more Scriptures through morning and evening prayer and Mass that are striking to me. "He is happy who is helped by Jacob's God, whose hope is in the Lord his God...it is the Lord that raises up those that are bowed down."

"He heals the broken-hearted, he binds up all their wounds."

"He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted."

"Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed."

"Behold, I make all things new."

"We had accepted within ourselves the sentence of death, that we might trust not in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. He rescued us from such great danger of death, and he will continue to rescue us; in him we have put our hope that he will also rescue us again."

Here's one that especially spoke to the whole idea of feeling barren in the desert:
"I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise."

"See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers."

"The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy."

This post may not be of much interest to anyone besides myself, but I wanted to put it out there anyway, to remind myself if nothing else. I have fallen so short in the midst of this, but by his death and resurrection there is mercy and grace waiting. The day to day is sometimes impossibly hard, but he is in the midst of that as well. There is joy in the words that He has been speaking through the Scripture in the last few days.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

I Should Be Doing Stuff

And by "stuff", I don't mean blogging. It's okay, though. I don't mind. ;)

I was going to come home today after hiking and get some extra stuff done. And maybe I will, in a minute.  I'm enjoying a few minutes of quiet right now while not being hungry. And I mean hungry. Do you want to know what I ate today? (If you don't, click away!) I know this is the epitome of those boring blogs, but I want to tell you because everyone always acts like I'm hungry because I don't eat enough. You tell me!

5 sausage links
2 potatoes fried in butter with an onion (one of those was quite a large potato)
3 eggs cooked in coconut oil
kombucha
an apple
10 oz of turkey
2 guacamole packs, the 100 cal. ones
a chia pod (chia pudding snack)
2 fruit strips
a pumpkin snack that involved some butter and a whole can of pumpkin and some coconut flour
5 more sausage links

It's not supper yet, but the way I'm feeling, there probably will be supper. It's not a given, because I really do try to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, so I do sometimes skip supper when I've eaten enough and I'm no longer hungry. I am seeing that I should be eating some more vegetables, but usually I try to cook those into the foods I'm eating. Supper, if it happens, will probably be spaghetti with spaghetti squash, so there will be some there. Anyway, my point is, I do eat enough. I thought maybe too much, so I tried to snack less this week, and not go to the grocery store as often so I wouldn't buy all the food! That led to the scale being down 2 pounds, me being a step away from crazy last night with the hunger, and of course today's ridiculousness. Because even I don't always eat this much! No wonder my grocery bills are so over the top!

Anyway, food is about all that's been on my mind these last few days, so that's what you're stuck reading, if you made it this far. Also, I should mention that part of my problem is that I had a really hard workout yesterday, and did a 7 mile hike in the mountains today. I'm sure those didn't help!

I do think that food is interesting. If I avoid added sugars, wheat, dairy, nuts and limit certain other things, I can eat when I'm hungry (even when it's crazy) and not have a huge problem on the scale. Before I realized the problem that I had with those, my weight stayed sort of okay, but I'd have to be kind of hungry sometimes to avoid gaining. I currently sit about 10 pounds lighter than I did then, and I eat more. Now, I'm not saying this is the "diet plan" that everyone should do. My body has issues, and a lot of that extra weight and stuff was inflammation and I was much too tired to do as much activity as I do now. I miss a lot of foods, but not too bad, since I do NOT miss how they made me feel!

I'm sorry, there's no particular point to this blog post, other than I was too hungry to do my to-do list, and then I was already on the blogs and decided to say what was on my mind. While it's not all bad to have a high metabolism, don't go wishing you were me. I'm serious about that grocery bill! Because my body's so sensitive, I end up eating the expensive foods and a lot of it. Most people could easily feed a family on what I eat. I am thankful and blessed to have a decent job, but every time I try to cut down a bit of spending, I can't do it.

Now I'm going to go shower and maybe start my to-do list... Partly because I'm starting to get hungry again! I think it's the real deal, but I'm going to go for the distractions first in case it's just because I was writing a post about food. ;)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Minimalism... But Then What?

I have been obviously all over the minimalist idea lately. Toss all the stuff! I have a goal of getting rid of 2,016 things in 2016. I needed to toss 336 things by Monday to be on track... I'm at 391. I'm not hard and fast stuck on the idea of 2,016 things. It's a good goal, but if I reach a certain point where I have nothing else that I really want to toss, I'm not going to keep going. Still, I like it. I like that the more I get rid of, the stuff that I keep becomes more useful and enjoyable. Like everything, I think you can take it too far, but so far, it's still a lot of fun exploration for me.

I was reading this article, however, and it reminded me of something important. If you are going to create a void, why are you creating it? What are you going to do with it? It's great to create space, but one of the big things with minimalists is that they want experiences rather than stuff. Not that that's all bad, but sometimes we then end up chasing the experiences with all the fervor that we were consuming things before. The article tries to suggest a couple of reasons that experiences are more fulfilling than things for several reasons. I like experiences, but I can tell you right now that chasing experiences is no more satisfying that having all the stuff you can dream of.

The draw of minimalism for me is getting rid of some of the excess clutter and noise to create the space for me to be the best version of me. First off, that means not chasing things OR experiences, but rather having the room and the space in my life to seek God. It allows me to be more detached from things so that I can realize Who it is that I actually need to rely on. The things and the experiences that we chase will not make us happy. In my case, not even finally finding a spouse or having a family will fill that hole. Rather, if we look at it as a way of trusting Him to supply our needs rather than that we keep all of that stuff in case we need it someday, then I think it can be really beneficial.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Finding Joy in the Desert

I admit to being a little skeptical about the idea of focusing on joy during Lent. I mean, it's Lent. We're talking barrenness, dryness, penance... Anyway, I still think it's there. There was a time that I thought that the desert was just barren, arid and kind of terrible. However, if you've spent any time there, you realize it has it's own beauty as well. It's just different than what we're used to.

The joy that I found this week was in the first reading on Thursday:

"Thus says the Lord:
Cursed is the who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose hope is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its root to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit."

There was a little more, but that's the part that really stuck out to me. I have definitely been feeling like the barren bush that has no change of season. Just plodding through the same exhaustion. I recognize myself in that first part. I think in the fatigue, I have gotten to the point that the only way out seemed like finally having the circumstances of my life change. That is definitely putting my trust in human beings, and thus away from the Lord.

The joy that I am finding in Lent is in the mercy. Yep, I'm not doing it right. Yep, I'm all out and can't do it anymore. But that's okay. Notice in the second part, the tree is green in the midst of the drought. It's not about life being easy, it's about knowing the source of Life. It's about not getting those priorities mixed up.

Yes, I have been (and likely will keep on) begging God to be able to share my life. I am not going to lie, I am past the point where I can try to make the best of it. But I am finding joy in the fact that I can't take pride or credit for any good any more because it's obviously all Him. It was before, too, but I can see it so much better now.

The desert can seem barren at first, but it has it's own beauty. Once you've seen it, you can certainly appreciate that life in the midst of the harsh environment. Sometimes the very fact that things are a little more sparse makes the beauty that much more impressive. I admit that though I love the desert, I don't want to live there (either literally or figuratively) but I do want to soak it up while I'm in the midst of it!


(When I wrote the title for this post, I accidentally wrote "Joy in the Dessert", which I actually think is quite easy to find!)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Word for Lent

It's Lent, and while I initially started with the whole "what should I do for Lent and what should I give up, etc.",  I did eventually get around to what should have been my first started point: "Lord, what about Lent this year?" I'm feeling a pull in a very odd direction this year, at least it feels odd in connection with Lent. It started with confession last week, but I'm feeling like a focus should be joy.

It's Lent, right? Desert, fasting, ashes, penance? That Lent? Nonetheless, the pull is toward joy. Which is kind of funny when you think about the fact that I couldn't muster up much joy all Christmas season, and that is kind of what that whole season is about! Now, here in Lent, there is the draw in that direction. Don't get me wrong, I'm not fighting it, I'm just trying to explore what that means in this particular season.

I love the wisdom of the liturgical seasons for keeping the overall balance in our lives. I don't want to confuse the idea of exploring joy in this fasting season with treating this as a season of feasting. The joy is meant to be found in the fasting, not in ignoring it.

Actually, it fits well with Pope Francis' year of mercy. In confession, there is joy in forgiveness. In our weakness, there is joy in Christ providing strength. In the simplicity of the desert, there is joy in finding a clearer focus on God and the things that really matter. In hunger, the reminder that we are made for more than this life.

I think it's much like the joy I am finding in getting rid of so much extra stuff in my house. As I pare down to the things that are more meaningful to me, I realize that the extras were not making my life better, but getting in my way. Lent is that time to do some of the same thing on a more spiritual plane. Letting go, dumping off the extra. It is a time to recognize sin and find forgiveness, but also a time where the fasting should open a little space for us to explore what is really working for us and what is not. Even things that are not sinful may be in the way of a greater joy of deeper communion with God.

On an unrelated note, any particular prayers that you have for me to take to Adoration tonight?