Category Archives: Her Royal Mommy-Ness

The privilege of a white, Christian fundamentalist childhood

I often view my childhood through the lens of abuse. But recently, I’ve been challenged to examine it through the lens of privilege.

This is uncomfortable. It’s hard to to see the privilege when you’re being spanked everyday. Stockpiling for the Apocalypse. Pretty much living in terror.

But last week I also got to listen to a friend give a lecture on social theories, especially as they pertain to education. My friend is a professor at a local college. Twice she’s invited me to come speak to her classes about my book; specifically what it looks like when religious fundamentalism frames the whole of a person’s existence.

Before I gave my talk last week, I listened to her lecture.

And this was my epiphany: in many ways, my fundamentalist upbringing WAS privileged.

In order to staple down my ADD brain, I made a list explaining why:

  1. We Read Books (lots of them): on the radio in SoCal right now, there are PSA’s about the importance of reading to your child for 30 minutes a day. When I heard that, I laughed. THIRTY minutes? That’s IT? As a fundamentalist, it was more like 2-3 hours per day. I read SO MUCH as a child–and still do, as an adult. I never realized it–but the fact that I read so much (and had parents who reinforced the importance of that) afforded me a huge leap ahead of other children my age. My extensive childhood reading directly contributed to my ability to write well. THAT is privilege.
  2. Family Dinners: We ate meals together almost every night. Homecooked meals. With proper table settings, candles and cloth napkins. At the time, I resented having to “wash and dress” for dinner. But now I realize how those meals afforded me the privilege of learning proper table manners, the art of conversation, the ability to ask questions and disagree while remaining civil.
  3. Limited exposure to TV and commercial advertising: To this day I still don’t know the popular TV shows of the 80′s. But I can remember my favorite heroes and heroines from books. I remember long, quiet hours of sustained concentration while completing an art project. Instead of TV, my parents took me to classical music concerts and ballets. I developed an appreciation for art, music and dance. THAT is privilege.
  4. Slow Things Mattered: I absolutely hated the hours spent practicing the piano or learning proper penmanship. But looking back I realize that I can still read music (which counts as a second language). I have beautiful handwriting. I know how to sew. Even though I don’t like cooking, I can put together a well-balanced meal without really thinking about it. I can just DO these things, rather easily. THAT is privilege.
  5. Critical Thinking: As a child, I chafed under Scripture memorization, copying long passages into my journal, breaking down Scripture passages into “chapter summaries” and then writing reflections on what we’d read. But now I realize that these exercises helped develop my critical thinking skills: examining, investigating, processing and synthesizing what I’d read. Ironically, these skills helped me think my way out of fundamentalism and into Catholicism. The ability to think? THAT is privilege.
  6. Socialization & Conversing with Adults:  the average American kid is socialized with kids her own age. Not me. Our “one room schoolhouse” afforded us interaction with children of all ages. Additionally, there were lots of BIG families (4-10 kids per family) and this meant I was in constant contact with babies, toddlers and little ones. I knew how to expertly diaper, feed and care for little ones by the time I was 8. And because we had so many people living with us, I spent a lot of time talking with adults, hearing their life stories and engaging in discussion with them. All this interaction meant my world was actually BIGGER than most American kids my age. I also knew how to do my own laundry, cook, clean, care for babies and speak with adults. THAT is privilege.
  7. Travel: even though our travel was “for the sake of the Gospel,” I still got to visit almost every state in the nation. And also traveled to Canada, the UK and Mexico. I saw and talked with all different kinds of people. Hiked the Grand Canyon. Snorkeled in San Diego kelp beds. Kayaked among sea lions in Northern California. Spent a sweaty summer in Lincoln, Nebraska. Toured the old mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. Visited all the national monuments in Washington, DC. Even though most of my travel was limited to the United States, I still got to see and experience much more than the average kid my age. THAT is privilege.

I have childhood friends who say their view of my life was one of privilege. More than once I’ve been called an “Assembly Princess” because my family was the founding family, the “royalty” of our church. I used to be surprised (and rather offended!) when I heard this.

I mean, my life never felt privileged to me as a kid. It felt terrifying and abusive. I suffered every day.

But perhaps it was BOTH.

I never “felt” rich because we didn’t have the typical markers of wealth: owning homes, luxury vehicles or boats. We didn’t have stocks, retirement or savings accounts. But we did rent homes in nice neighborhoods and drive new cars (paid in full cash through “gifts” from Assm. members). I also had access to life experiences (travel, exposure to the arts, extensive reading, piano lessons) that are typically inaccessible to the poor.

Is it possible for a “princess” to live isolated and abused inside her ivory tower? Is it possible for someone to be both privileged AND deprived? Yes.

My privilege came at a high personal price: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse. I still struggle with the effects of a cult upbringing.

But I also have tools available to me that I wouldn’t have were I not privileged: the ability to read, write, express myself. I am white. I speak fluent, “privileged” English. I have good health. I have a college education. THAT is privilege.

What are some other areas of privilege within fundamentalism? Or American evangelicalism?

Do you think it’s possible to live a “privileged life” while also experiencing abuse?

Do we have a responsibility to examine our privilege and seek ways to broaden our viewpoint and develop empathy for those not as fortunate as ourselves? WHY?

Gonna live like I’m dying–a list of what I’d do/not do if I my time was almost up

 

My ballerina dances like how I want to feel

My ballerina dances like how I want to feel

Growing up at the end of the world (read my book about it HERE!), I kinda hate the whole “live like you’re dying” thing.

I mean, I’ve been living like that since I was a kid and all it gave me was PTSD.

Still, I can see how important it is to seize the day (or, as I said in my book: carpe ALL the diems!) because we humans seem prone to getting off track, getting distracted, procrastinating, letting time slip through our fingers—and then we sorta “wake up” one day and say: “Where did the time go?”

I like summer because life slows down. I have a chance to pause, catch my breath. Do inventory. This summer I’m taking stock of my life, asking myself if I’m really LIVING the kind of life I WANT to live. 

So far in my 37 years I’ve survived a cult, overcome a lot of pain from my past, rebuilt a new life, had five kids, wrote a book…now what?

Oddly enough, thinking about what I would do/not do differently if I knew I was gonna die soon is actually putting things into perspective. Last night I started jotting down a list of things I would do/not do if I knew I only had a short time left.

I like lists. They help staple my ADD brain into one place.

What I Would Do/Not Do If I Knew I Only Had a Short Time Left to Live:

  1. Listen to live music more; go to concerts
  2. Take my dogs to the beach at least once a week
  3. Exercise at least 4x a week (I know, right? Who wants to exercise if they’re gonna die anyway? Well, I do. Because exercise makes me FEEL better!)
  4. Spend more one-on-one time with my children and write down what we talked about or did.
  5. Try to be more accepting of my Dad and think of ways to engage him that will let him know I love him
  6. Write funny stories and perform them for the kids
  7. Teach catechism to 2nd year faith formation kiddos
  8. Preach on the love of God
  9. Go to Paris, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Greece
  10. Meet Pope Francis
  11. Host dinner parties more often
  12. Run more 5ks
  13. Run outside more often, find new trails
  14. Journal every day
  15. Pray the Rosary every day + Adoration
  16. Have friends over at least once a week
  17. Play cards with friends
  18. Print pictures instead of keeping them hidden on my hard drives
  19. Send my nieces & nephew birthday presents more consistently
  20. Text my sister encouraging words
  21. Stop seeking affirmation from people who can’t/won’t give it to me; affirm MYSELF more often
  22. Let go of obsessing about all the ways I’m not perfect. Just let things be what they are.
  23. Quit worrying about my weight, my body, my stretch marks. Love and appreciate my body the way it is.
  24. Hand write an encouraging note to a friend at least twice a week
  25. Keep my gratitude journal up to date with at least 5 “gratitudes” per day
  26. Work on my Spanish
  27. Take piano lessons again
  28. Learn how to cook Greek food
  29. Be intentional about saying kind, encouraging words to my husband
  30. Get a pig, a goat and a miniature horse.
  31. Build a “writer’s cottage” in my backyard
  32. Become an NYT bestselling author
  33. Use Charmin toilet paper exclusively
  34. Get my graduate degree in English so I can teach at the junior college level
  35. Write more inspiring books
  36. Memorize more Catholic prayers
  37. Floss every day
  38. Stop imagining worse-case scenarios
  39. Allow others to love me
  40. Lay off the self-deprecating talk
  41. Drink more good wine
  42. Be gentle with myself
  43. Weekly massages
  44. Stop apologizing for things that aren’t my fault
  45. Surround myself with people who make it safe for me to say “no”
  46. Let go of pursuing friendships with people who just aren’t interested
  47. Plant a vegetable garden
  48. Adopt more rescue dogs
  49. Go on picnics
  50. Spend time in the woods.

What about YOU? What would YOU do if you only had a short time left to live?

I met him online. It was love at first pixel.

Those eyes. Those chiseled features. That vaguely-aloof-yet-vulnerable expression. And, of course, the missing leg. Amputees are hot, am I right?

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Photo Credit: Donna Edman Photography

The more I got to know him, the more I fell in love. Rico had been through hell and back. Last year, he was hit by a car. Bloodied and broken, he was taken to an animal shelter. This is where his story could have ended–this is where the story ends for many dogs like him.

But Rico’s story didn’t end. Because there are good people in this world. Real, true heroes. And one of them is my friend, Tiffany.

Tiffany is a veterinarian who started CARMA (Compassionate Animal Rescue for Medical Aid), an animal rescue organization committed to saving animals who need medical attention. Last November, Tiffany busted Rico out of the shelter and brought him to her animal hospital where she performed surgery–a complete amputation of his right leg.

And then another angel showed up. Michelle is a “foster mom” and she took Rico in during his rehabilitation. She nursed him back to health, took him on walks and encouraged him back into an active life.

Eventually, Rico began attending adoption fairs and looking for his new, forever home.

A month ago, I saw Rico’s picture on CARMA’s Facebook page. I gasped when I saw him. I just knew he was The One. 

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Photo Credit: Donna Edman Photography

Well, OK. Rico was My Second One.

My first rescue, Penelope, is a pit-bulldog mix who was found pregnant and wandering in Costa Mesa. Tiffany took her in and helped Penelope give birth to ten (yes, 10!) huuuge puppies. After nursing her pups and watching them all get adopted out, Penelope was left alone in the animal hospital. That’s when I came along.

I was SO nervous about Penelope. I’d never had a Big Dog–let alone a pit bull. I’d heard so many horror stories about pit bulls. But Penelope was nothing like the stereotype. She was calm, submissive and eager to please. The moment I met her, she rolled over on her back, begging for a tummy scratch. Pitbulls, I discovered, have a horrible reputation that is NOT at ALL like their true nature. The reason a pit bull is “mean” is because a mean OWNER has forced them to be that way.

Anyway, we took Penelope in on a trial basis. Two weeks later, we were head-over-heels in love with her. And so was Darby–our tiny little King Charles Cavalier. So, we adopted her. Two years later, my Instagram feed is pretty much ALL dogs ALL the time. :)

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I can’t help it. My dogs have taught me so much about unconditional love. My heart could just explode.

And that’s why I needed Rico. Because my heart was so full of love and I was ready to love more–but in a deeper way, in a more helpful way. I already had a snuggle dog (Darby) and I had my Big Family Dog (Penelope). It was time for me to give back and help a dog that wasn’t easily adoptable.

Rico was that dog. He’d been to lots of adoption fairs, written up in a newspaper and gotten close to adoption multiple times. Everyone loved him but nobody adopted him.

Photo Credit: Kevin Chang, Daily Pilot

Photo Credit: Kevin Chang, Daily Pilot

I met Rico at Tiffany’s animal hospital. He was alert, watchful but oh, so gentle. I knew he’d be a good fit for my other two dogs. So, I brought Darby & Penelope to meet Rico for a walk in the park. The dogs were immediately friendly, casual and relaxed with each other.

I was thrilled. The kids were thrilled.

Matt was not.

“No way,” he said. “Absolutely not. 100% NO.”

“Please. He’s calm. He’s mellow. He sleeps most of the day!”

“NO.”

Experience has taught me that this is when I’m supposed to shut up. So, I did. Also, I prayed. Lots of desperate prayers like: “GOD, PLEEEEEASE” and stuff like that. Also, I may or may not have texted Matt cute pictures of Rico. Because Valentine’s pictures of dogs are worth a thousand words, anyway:

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Photo Credit: CARMA

At bootcamp, I told one of my friends about Rico. She laughed and shook her head: “I mean, how do you say NO to a three-legged dog? Matt is NOT that guy. Just wait.”

This gave me hope. And a little more patience for waiting.

But then….Rico was adopted. By someone else.

I cried the whole entire day. I mean, I was happy for him. Really, I was. I wanted him to be in a good home with a loving family–and it had finally happened for him,

But Rico was mine, you know? He had my heart. How could I just let him walk away, leave without a trace? He’s the only one who really knew me AT ALL.

SO TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOOOWWWW, THERE’S JUST AN EMPTY SPACE!

Ahem. Please excuse my inner Phil Collins.

So, there I was. Crying. Karaoke-ing to old love songs. You know, the usual.

It took a few days of melancholy love songs, but eventually I let Rico go. I moved on.

Ok, wait. DO WE EVER REALLY “MOVE ON”? Because I hate that phrase. The answer is no. No, we do NOT move on. But we adapt. We make do. We look at our amputated heart and we say: “Ah, well. At least I’ve got three hearts left.” Or one leg. Whatever. WHO’S MIXING THESE METAPHORS ANYWAY?

The point is, a piece of my heart was lopped off and there is no MOVING ON from amputated. There’s just sort of gluing it back together somehow.

So, I was limping along and stuff when last Thursday happened. Mainly, this text (and yes, that’s my IMMEDIATE response in blue):

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Did I mention I responded BEFORE I talked to Matt? Ahem. But then Tiffany saved my bacon by asking if we could just “foster” Rico temporarily.

Ahhhh. Yes. TEM•PO•RAR•I•LY, from the Latin ‘temporâius” meaning impermanent, passing, a TRANSIENT CONDITION.

In other words, ding-ding-ding!

So, me and the kids waltzed down to the animal hospital and brought Rico home for a TEMPORARY stay. You know, cuz the kennel was FULL. And Rico’s original foster mom was gonna be out of town. It’s all TOTALLY LEGIT is what I’m trying to tell you, MATT! And I’m NOT trying to ADOPT him, this is  a TRANSIENT CONDITION. This is TEMPORARY–as in! From the root word TEMPORÂRIUS!

Five minutes later, Matt was love–on the inside. He doesn’t SHOW these things in recognizable human facial expressions or words. But! I know the signs. I knew it the moment he was all: “Hey, let’s buy Rico a bed. Oh, look! Here’s an ORTHOPEDIC bed that’ll be good for his shoulders.”

I tried to be all demure: “Good idea, Matt. That’d be nice.”

But inside I was SHRIEKING with joy because hee-heeeee-victory is miiiiiine! I mean. You do not buy an ORTHOPEDIC bed for a dog who is on a TEM•PO•RÂR•I•US stay. Do you? No, no you do not.

What I’m trying to tell you is: if it’s meant to be, not all the 100%-absolutely-nots can stop it. Not time. Not circumstance. Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers….er, please excuse my KJV.

*shakes head* *clears throat*

Maybe sometimes you have to let go for awhile. Make do. Mend your broken heart by finding a way to be of loving service to others. 

Love, if it’s meant to be, will be.

Which is to say, this is my boy Rico. We’re keeping him.

Love is all you need.

Love is all you need.

In defense of the pretty, staged, lifestyle Mommy blogs because I like them now, ok?

These days it’s cool to be uncool, hip to be nerdy and good to be bad. These days, a mess isn’t messy it’s….authentic. For the most part I like this trend because I like brutal honesty. But I’ve also experienced a massive reversal of opinion regarding super-pretty-stagey-Mommy-blogs. I used to secretly despise these lifestyle Mommy bloggers. Well, maybe it wasn’t such a secret, oh look! I blogged about it . Now? These lifestyle people kinda save my life.

Because My Brian needs pretty things.

If you live inside My Brian (INSIDE JOKE! read yesterday’s post!), you need pretty things to keep you sane. I say this as someone who has been to rehab and needed pretty pictures from lifestyle magazines to give her hope that Beauty Existed. I needed to believe there WAS such a thing as tidy kitchens with frilly curtains on the windows and ripe, homegrown vegetables artfully arranged on pretty vintage plates.

It didn’t matter if it was fake. It didn’t matter if it was staged. It was the IDEA of beauty that kept me from wanting to hurt myself. Just the IDEA that maybe, someday, I’d be sane enough to want to plant my own vegetable garden like the one I saw in Sunset magazine helped me survive another day inside My Brian.

Sometimes you hang onto those ideas and even if it’s fake, even if you KNOW it was STAGED by like twenty designers, you just don’t care. You look at that picture in Pottery Barn magazine or on your favorite lifestyle blog and it saves your life a little bit. At least for the next twenty minutes. Or maybe the whole day. Which is really saying something when you’ve been trained to believe that the world has been ending since 1988.

My point is, can we give the lifestyle bloggers a break? They are doing awesome work in this world and so what if their vintage-only-upcycled kitchen never REALLY looks like that except when they stage it that way for a blog post. Good for them. Good for them for being so EARNEST about seeking beauty.

I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t need more cynicism. Or mess. Or ugliness.

But more pretty pictures? Yes, please.

When depression hits me like a black tidal wave, where do I go? To the pretty pictures. To the extra-optimistic-pretty-lifestyle blogs. To Pinterest.

I don’t go to the REAL, AUTHENTIC, PAINFUL stories and pictures. Which is to say, I don’t read people who write like me, har-har. And I certainly don’t listen to the news.

I watch crochet videos on YouTube.

I follow the Instagram accounts of women who make hippie-jewelry and take pictures of flowers and give out balloons to random people just to be nice. I like to know those people exist. I like to see their daily outfits. I like to see their bowls of artfully arranged quinoa.

I like to know that somewhere, some awesome human being is organizing her blog’s editorial calendar six months in advance. With pretty pictures and giveaways. THESE PEOPLE INSPIRE ME.

I don’t CARE if this lifestyle blogger has a whole bevy of paid staff and virtual assistants who do her laundry and reply to her emails while she blogs about her Paleo-Attachment-Hobby-Farming-Vintage-Upcycling-Fashion Life and picks out a pretty, coordinating outfit.

Because the lifestyle blogger is giving me an incredible gift: she believes in BEAUTY. And she puts effort into it. Props to that, man. PROPS TO THAT.

Even if the pretty lifestyle blogger had to fake it ’til she made it, that gives me hope, too. I can fake it ’til I make it, too. 

Look. My Brian? It’s no joke. There are days when I wake up and pain from my past has decided to show up and beat me down. My Brian is yelling at me so loud that all I want to do is scream. But I breathe in and I breathe out and then I pin a few pretty pictures on Pinterest.

My PTSD brain needs to know that beauty EXISTS SOMEWHERE in this world and if that means looking at staged pics of some Mommy Blogger’s living room, well, thank God for her.

Thank you fake, pretty lifestyle blogs. Thank you for healing my Brian.

The SUPA-glam life of a writer {waitressing, carpools & FOR THE LOVE, CAN WE QUIT WITH THE CUTE, MATCH-Y SOCKS ALREADY?}

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I have SEVEN–yeah, S-E-V-E-N–carpool pickup and drop-off times today. Five kids, three different schools not to mention trips to and from the dance studio. You know, JUST YOUR AVERAGE DAY.

Did I mention I also waitress two nights a week? Oh, yes, I pour a mean bottle of Greek wine. Would you like hummus with that?

I actually love being a server.

I like the noise and the hustle-bustle of a busy night, chatting with the regulars, laughing with my coworkers. Also, being a server is pretty much like getting paid for what I already do at home: feeding hungry mouths, chatting non-stop and making peoples happy. Doesn’t get much better than that.

I mean, sometimes there are Difficult Customers but I’ve found most problems can be solved with a genuine smile, a gentle voice and good, old-fashioned effort. 

The funny thing is, I get my best writing ideas when I’m not Focusing.On.Writing. Several key insights in my book came to me literally in THE MIDDLE of a shift at the restaurant. I scurried into the kitchen and jotted the ideas down in my servers notepad. Then I tucked it away in my purse and went back to my customers.

I used to wish I had All Kinds of Time dedicated to writing. I used to compare myself to Big Time novelists who had writing cottages and writing cabins and took long “Writer’s Retreats” to write.

I don’t have that luxury or privilege. I write from the trenches. I write in the margins and liminal spaces of my life. I carry notebooks everywhere I go, make audio messages for myself on my iPhone, scribble ideas in my little day-planner (YES I LIKE PAPER PLANNERS WHAT OF IT?). I’m constantly trailing bits and pieces of paper, sticky notes, scribbled-on envelopes.

My writing process is messy and in-between-all-the-betweens.

And somehow, that’s OK. I’ve come to realize that I’m ALWAYS writing–even when I’m NOT. I work at writing by not working at it. Does that make sense?

In fact, when I TRY to sit down and WRITE FOR REALS, I get stuck. I get bored. Distracted. I can only sit still for two hours before going out of my mind. I have to move. Walk. Do Other Things.

Like laundry.

I’m not kidding.

More writers should love laundry. I’m serious. I turn on NPR “Fresh Air” or “All Things Considered” or “The TED Hour” and I fold laundry. I can’t tell how you HOW MANY ideas have come to me while folding laundry.

Yesterday, I did like 80 million loads of laundry. Or something like that. I lost track after 50 million, if you MUST KNOW. Apparently, the five children require clean underwear and socks everyday WHO KNEW?

Speaking of socks, I feel a MASSIVE TANGENT COMING ON: Does anyone else HATE matching socks? OK, good. For reals. WHAT THE HECK PEOPLE WHO MAKE SOCKS. Can’t we just have White-One-Size-Fits-All Socks??

But no. We must have Cute Socks. We must have “Day of the Week” socks that require MATCHING days. Because you can’t wear a THURSDAY sock on the left foot and a Sunday sock on the right foot because ALL THE WORLD WILL END if we don’t wear two Thursday socks. On a Thursday.

Real conversation:

Me: “Jorie, at least these are TWO THURSDAY socks. They are matching! Yay!”

Jorie: “But it’s not Thursday.”

Me: “Well, it’s gonna be Thursday tomorrow so just pretend. Can we pretend? Can we? CAN WE PRETEND OMG???”

Jorie: “No.”

Jasiel (chiming in): “Jorie. Put on the socks. See? I wear mismatchy socks because I’m ALL FOR Fashion.”

Me: “Fashion! Yes! This is TOTALLY about fashion.”

Jorie: “No. I caaaaan’t!”

Cue weeping and wailing.

This is when I pull out the “when I was a little girl” card.

Me: “This is not the end of the world, Jorie, wearing mismatched socks. Is NOT. The End. I should know. I LITERALLY lived at the end of the world. Is it 1988? No. It is not. Is the Anti-Christ coming to arrest your parents? NO! SO PUT ON THE MISMATCHED SOCKS.”

Jorie: “Ok, but can I climb into the Sock Bin and just see if there’s matching socks? One more time?”

 

You know you have a lot of kids when you have a SOCK BIN. Not a sock drawer. A BIN. A veritable Mount McSockery that the children can actually CLIMB.

Me: “Yes, go climb Mount McSockery. But I’m only giving you three minutes and if you can’t find matching socks then you are wearing the Thursday socks. Today. On Wednesday.”

And that, my friends, is my life.

Now, please go buy my book because IF YOU WANT ME TO WRITE A SECOND BOOK, Imma need to hire some help again. I need YOU. And I need you to tell all your friends. Because I don’t have $200,000 like Mark Driscoll to BUY MY WAY onto the NYT bestseller list, mwah-ha-ha. But I have socks. I have THURSDAY SOCKS!!!!! YIPEEEEE.

The Girl at the End of the World

 

When was the last time you felt loved?

Today. 12:35pm. I’m lying sick in bed with a head cold and my twins are loving me by bringing helpful things like a broken doll’s head, a sticky penny and a picture that says (roughly translated from the text below): “Mom, you forgot to finish the story, Mom.”

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She’s right. Last week, I was telling them a story about twins who were lost in the woods–and I said I would finish it the next day. But I never did. I’m thankful for sick days and letting my children love me. And for reminders to finish the story.

Tell me: when was the last time YOU felt loved?

$120 million dollar uterus

photoI am done having babies and this reality is making me crabby. Every time I see a baby–which is EVERY SINGLE DAY, OMG, WHERE DID ALL THE BABIES COME FROM??—my uterus aches. A baby cried in Mass this morning and I thought my breasts were gonna leak milk. It was sorta like when you leave your iPhone at home but you feel those “phantom-vibrations” in your pocket anyway? I was having a “phantom-let down” right there in Mass and suddenly I was that weird old lady cranking her body around to smile at the young mom and whisper really loud: “OH, HONEY, JUST ENJOY EVERY SINGLE MINUTE, OK?? THEY GROW UP SO FAST.”

This is called Empty Uterus Syndrome. It is also called Approaching Mid-Life. It is also called I AM TURNING 37 SOON WHICH IS THE SAME AS SAYING I’M 40.

Clearly, I need a new project.

To ease my aching uterus, I began watching how-to videos on YouTube for things I will never do. Like build a cornice board. Upholster a headboard. Sew a swag. #YOLOSWAG, as the young people would say.

I’m not wasting my old age, friends. I’m learning new words. Example: jabot. Pronounced: JAA-BOW. You’re welcome. What is a JAA-BOW? Pretty much it’s a fancy word for ruffles. Or, as it pertains to curtains, precisely FOLDED pleat-thingies.

I also now understand the difference between a waterfall valance, a balloon valance and a scallop valance. BECAUSE IMPORTANT. If my YouTube history is any indication, apparently I am studying to be a seamstress. My long-abandoned sewing machine is laughing at me right now.

Another radical distraction of mine is to attempt Appreciating Football. I don’t like this sport. I find it barbaric and inhumane and cultish. BUT. My husband expresses his emotions primarily through football analogies and since I don’t even understand the most basic lingo, I’m trying to LEARN SOMETHING about stupid football.

Here’s what I’ve learned: “sacking a quarterback” means smashing a guy to the ground. I got very interested in this “sacking” thing and started researching it. I discovered Brett Favre received a record 525 sacks in his career. Last week he talked about how this has negatively affected his memory. For example, he did not even remember his daughter played soccer. Whoops. I’m trying to learn to APPRECIATE football and instead I’m just confirming my old prejudices; ie. football is barbaric, inhumane and speaking of money: DID YOU KNOW THIS ONE GUY –a Joe Flacco–signed a $120 million contract for 6 years with the Ravens???? Yeah. $120 million.

My uterus just exploded with jealousy because–because WHAT IF I got paid a million bucks every time I “made a touchdown” by delivering a healthy baby? I know, I know. But a uterus can dream, can’t she?

One more update: remember how I wanted chickens? Well, good thing I didn’t get chickens. Because that would have been a lot of WORK and I’ve discovered I prefer sitting here on my ever-expanding booty, watching YouTube videos about sewing drapery swags. You only live once, people. #YOLOSWAG.

 

When there are no more babies….

Messy, happy babies

Messy, happy babies

Even from the youngest age, I wanted to be a mother. Or a pediatric nurse. I loved babies. I loved nurturing. I made elaborate, cozy nests for my stuffed animals, played with my baby dolls for hours.

I dreamed of having at least six children–my favorite number was 8: Mommy + Daddy + 6 babies.

I intuitively knew how to tuck in deep to a baby’s heart and imprint that little soul with love. I still do. Which is why, I guess, I burst into tears the other day.

I found a baby sock under some furniture and it was a jarring reminder that I don’t have babies anymore.

There are no more Littles for me to rock to sleep, to breastfeed, to nurture…..They are all growing up–my youngest are five, now. My oldest, fourteen. That stage of my life is over. I can feel the childbearing years ending, the season of my life changing.

I don’t mind growing older, necessarily. I don’t mind surrendering to the natural course of life. After all, it was exhausting raising all those littles. I got PPD and whacked-out menstrual cycles. My immune system went down and I caught every cold and virus that came within 20 feet of my house.

I’m much healthier now. I have my body back. I’m strong and fit. But still, I’ll never be “done” with children. I am a born nurturer. And inspirer. Sometimes it seems like the world doesn’t really want or need a nurturer. I mean, can you make a living being a nurturer? I have all these nurturing skills and these writing skills and somehow, I’m not sure how to bring them together…..

So, I just volunteer wherever there’s room for me. I help in the twins’ kindergarten classroom. I teach a Sunday School class. I lector at Mass (because reading the Word aloud nurturers the soul of the listener). I hold writing workshops for kids at my dining room table.

Maybe I’m just feeling lost because I’m done having babies and I finished writing a book and I need a new project? HEY! Maybe I could be a “lifecoach” and nurture YOU?!

I don’t know.

Do I just rest (I hate resting!)? Do I just wait it out (I hate waiting!)? Do I go back to school and become a nurse (but I’m horrible at math–at least, I think I am!)? I guess I could pray about this. There’s a thought!

Housecleaning my soul

photoIt’s been a few days since I journaled and my internal alarm system is blaring. Something is building up inside me and I need to slow down, check in, listen to what my still, small voice is trying to tell me.

I make myself a strong cup of coffee and settle down with pen and paper. Journaling is my meditation. It helps me go inward. When I journal, I don’t think. I just start writing wherever I’m at and write my way to insight. Sometimes it takes a full page, sometimes several. Usually, I have some pre-cleaning to do. My soul gets cluttered with emotional post-it notes, an assortment of mismatched feelings, a thin layer of memory dust.

I have to write through all of that, sort of like cleaning house. I have to pull up the old carpet, remove all the tacks and staples, sweep everything clean. It’s not until the floors are swept and the wood polished that the gleaming insight reveals itself. 

Today it wasn’t until page three that the idea I was looking for surfaced and spilled itself onto my page.

I sat there for a moment in the still morning quiet and sipped my coffee. I let the insight sink in. I waited for the yes and amen of my spirit.

As I’ve read your stories and thoughts over the past couple regarding our relationship with food and feeling fat, I’ve struggled to understand what is driving my self-loathing. I mean, I know where my self-hatred comes from. But I don’t know how to change it, how to heal it.

I’ve tried cutting myself off. Deprivation only makes the desire stronger. I’ve tried fasting and cleansing and confessing. For me, this leads to self-rejection and deeper feelings of shame. And then I end up falling off the wagon with a huge crash, gobbling up junk food in the parking lot of Taco Bell.

So often I function from a place of scarcity, greedily snarfing up any leftover crumbs because I’m convinced the full meal isn’t coming my way. My default mode is to operate from fear–to believe that time is running short, the end is near and there’s not enough to go around.

Today, I think I may have found something different.

Healing and recovery isn’t about cutting myself off.
Lasting change happens in small steps.

If I feed myself well, I won’t be tempted to eat junk.

When I am fed and satisfied with good things, the Cool Ranch Doritos just aren’t appealing. It’s when I wait until I’m hungry! Starved! Stressed! that I reach for the quick-fix.

And this isn’t just about food. It’s about my spiritual and emotional health as well. So often I’ll just dive in headfirst, make 110% commitments, go whole-hog, gung-ho and then wonder why I’m feeling stressed, starved for love and reaching for the quick-emotional-fix.

This is a whole new way of living for me. It’s gonna take some practice. I simply don’t know how to slow down, listen in, exercise moderation. But I’ll start by making a list of Good Things To Feed My Soul. Here’s my list so far:

  1. Journaling
  2. Gratitude list
  3. Writing encouraging notes
  4. Teaching faith formation classes to kids
  5. Teaching writing classes
  6. Eucharistic adoration
  7. Lectoring at Mass
  8. Reading aloud to my children
  9. Reading a good book
  10. Baking cookies
  11. Helping my children pursue their dreams (Jewel will be performing a ballet solo this year!)
  12. Tending my roses
  13. Walking my dogs
  14. Making soup
  15. Decorating for the holidays and seasons
  16. Memorizing poetry
  17. Listening to classical music
  18. Contributing to neighborhood get togethers
  19. Participating in book clubs
  20. Volunteer work
  21. Visiting the sick

How about you? What Good Things fill up YOUR soul? 

When I look in the mirror, I see a fat girl

But this is what the camera sees:

photo

The thing is, I can look at this picture and understand that what I see (fat girl) doesn’t match up with reality (not fat girl).

But so what? KNOWING THAT in my mind does NOTHING to change how I feel about my body.

Yesterday, one of my friends Voxed me and was like: “Whhhhyyyy are you doing this Paleo???”

And so I thought about that.

And here’s why: I feel ugly and fat unless I can fit into this size 2 dress:

IMG_5617

Looking at these two pictures together, though, maybe I’m the only one who can see the difference? In other words, the girl in the first pic is not as OUTRAGEOUSLY FAT as I imagine
her to be?

I’ve never had an eating disorder, PER SE, but one thing has always remained: I always feel fat. I always feel not good enough.

And there is the core issue: I’m Not Good Enough. 

So, if I’m going to be extremely honest, here: I’m “dieting” not because I want to be healthy. I’m dieting because I want to be skinny again. Skinnier than size 2. I want people to say: “Wow, you’re so skinny!” Oh, god. Let me just be 100% honest: I want to disappear. I want to be waif-y. Because somehow, when I look in the mirror, being skinny makes me Feel Like A Good Person.

There it is.
Excuse me for a moment while I bawl my eyes out.
*LOUD SOBBING NOISES*

OK, I’m back.

I’ve done enough therapy and recovery work to know where this comes from. MY CHILDHOOD. Of course it does. Godly women were tiny, weak and very quiet. And I was never, ever tiny enough. 

In my church, a diet trend would sweep among us like a flu epidemic. Dieting was the new holiness. If you were “on fire for God,” then you were earnest about fasting and doing juice cleanses and–especially if you were a woman, you tried to fast yourself down to a size zero; which is pretty much the same as saying you whittled yourself down to invisibility. 

Here’s the thing I never learned: moderation.

I mean, you never just ate this way 80% of the time. You went cold turkey.
All in.
You gave 110%.
You cut yourself off.
IF YOUR RIGHT HAND OFFENDS YOU, CUT IT OFF!!!

Pretty much you attacked everything in life this way.
There was no such thing as pacing or moderation.
“Burning out for Jesus” was a virtue!

Alright, so. Here I am. Day 3. Gluten-free/Paleo. I *do* need to lose a few pounds just so I can fit back into my regular jeans. BUT. I don’t need to be ALL FUNDAMENTALIST about it, do I? No, I don’t. I can be gentle with myself. I can ease back a bit. I can have some frozen yogurt at night.

Most of all, I will LOVE MYSELF just as I am right now. I will not WAIT until some point in the future to love myself. I can accept and cherish my body with all it’s stretch marks and kinks and “imperfections” right NOW.

Because here’s the dirty secret: even when I was a size 2 and the “skinniest” I’d been since highschool? I STILL FELT FAT. Also? I wasn’t any happier than I am today.

All Together Now: I am beautiful. I am lovely. I am perfect just the WEIGHT I am.