Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Suffering Heart

As long as I've been teaching yoga, I've ended my classes with the following sanskrit mantra:

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Tranlation : May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Today we spent our practice doing twists of increasing difficulty and by the end of class, everyone was feeling wrung out, physically and emotionally.  As I brought them out of shavasana, I said the following:

"Because it has been on my mind, and the collective consciousness of our country, I invite you to bring to mind someone who may be in pain.  Maybe someone who is suffering from depression.  Maybe even yourself.  I invite you, as you hear or sing these words to send them like a love letter from a friend."

I did as I invited others to do.  I could clearly see the beautiful faces of several friends who I know suffer from depression and mental illness.

And as I began my chant, I started to choke up.  And as I heard the class repeat after me, I heard the same.  The pain.  I could hear, feel, taste the sadness and the pain in the song.  The heart of the chant.  The hearts of that room.   I could taste the suffering, bittersweet on my tongue. 

Namaste.  We bowed to one another.  We opened our eyes.  Every one of them had tears in them.  Tears for someone we loved.  Tears for our own suffering.  Tears for a crazy comedian we spent decades with, but most of us didn't know personally. 

So if you are suffering today, if you have suffered before, or should you suffer in the future, I pray you feel this beating heart of love.  I pray you hear this love letter from a friend you may never know. 

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Such A Pretty Face

Have you heard it?

You have such a pretty face.  It's the pseudo compliment told to fat girls and women around the world.

You have such a pretty face.  But the rest of you?  Well, clearly, that needs some work.

People's reactions and responses to my weight loss, especially since the last blog posts, has been interesting.  For the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive with lots of encouragement and understanding.  Thank you for all your positive words.  But with a few people, I seem to have struck a nerve.  I really do trust that people mean well, that they have the best of intentions and maybe there is no "right" thing to say when something like this makes you uncomfortable.   

Mostly, it's a brand of feminism that pumps our female fists in the air and says that women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful.  I wholeheartedly agree with this statement.  I am not here to judge you or your beauty... there are plenty of people who will do that for you.  But then these same women would turn around and tell me I have such a pretty face.  I know what that really means.  All fat girls know what that really means.  You would be such a knock out if...

And then I lost some weight.  "There was nothing wrong with you." One woman told me.  I never said there was.  Would you say this to me if I decided to change my hair colour?  "You were beautiful before.  You have such a striking face."  This I only heard as another version of such a pretty face.  I know both were meant as supportive compliments.  I really do.  But it's the kind of compliment that cuts a little bit, even if the giver doesn't mean it.  I couldn't help but notice that I heard these comments from naturally thin women who had never really struggled with their weight.  (Of course, I know even thin women can struggle with body image, and a whole host of food and weight issues, but from what I know of these women, they had not.)  This led me to believe that, clearly, they just don't know what it's like for the rest of us.  

I don't have to answer to anyone but myself as to why I decided to do this.  I've explored the depths of using food as comfort.  I've explored not loving myself enough.  I've explored being a feminist.  I've explored not caring for my body because I didn't think I'd live anyway.  I've explored that I just love chocolate a little too much.  I've explored massive amounts of cardio.  I've explored bulemia. I've explored deeper self love.

But the bottom line is that I simply didn't feel comfortable in my own skin, so I decided to make a change.  Whether or not I SHOULD have felt comfortable is really none of your concern.  Maybe I SHOULD have loved the body I was in more.  Maybe I SHOULD have pumped my fist in the air with plus size pride.

I'm too old to give a shit about what people think I SHOULD have felt, thought or done.  Believe me, I've spent a lot of years thinking this way, and it did me no favors.  It occurred to me recently that I've spent a lot of energy wondering if people liked me or what they thought about me, without asking myself if I liked them.  Turns out some of the time I don't. 

I have curly hair and I happen to love it.  I know a lot of women with curly hair who hate it and straighten it whenever they are able.  I don't tell them they SHOULD love their hair, embrace their hair.  I nod my head and say, "Do you have a good stylist?"  I never assumed that because these women didn't like their curls that they hated themselves.  They simply didn't like the way their hair grew out of their heads.  I felt the same way about my body.  Yet, many assumed that because I didn't like my body the way it was, I didn't like myself.  The inverse was also assumed.  I was fat because I didn't love myself enough.  I call bullshit on both.  

I'm not going to assume what every overweight woman is thinking and feeling, but I can speak from years of my own experience of being fat.  (By the way, the word FAT still makes me cringe a little.  I've thought about saying having fat, blah, blah, blah, but I am fat in the way that I am tall.  I don't say I have height.  But, FAT is a loaded word and I fully recognize that.)  One, us fat girls rarely talk with one another about being fat.  It is some sort of unspoken taboo.  We are supposed to pretend to love our body while secretly hating it.  I commiserate with my curly haired friends all the time on products or frizzy head days.  Aside from a self depreciating comment, my overweight girlfriends and I have never mutually acknowledged that maybe, just maybe, we weren't happy with our weight.  Never.  I am not pointing a finger at ANYONE because I was as much a part of the silent pact.  And it is a painful, lonely silence.  

First there is the world of being a fat kid.  It sucks.  I was put on my first diet somewhere around 8 years old.  I had major food issues from a very young age.  I wasn't old enough to explore and learn about the world of nutrition, and exercise and the internet didn't exist yet.  Adults did that for me and I was told a lot of contradictory things.

But, being a fat kid is nothing compared to the hell of being a fat teenager.  Shopping with my friends was miserable as I didn't fit into the clothes at most of the teenage stores.  This was a world before Lane Bryant and Torrid, and I wouldn't have let my friends see me shopping in there anyway.  Finding dates for all the dances was enough to send me into a panic attack.  There were several times that my gut told me that some guys liked me as a person, but would never date me because I was fat.  This was never told to me, but it did not take a genius to figure out.  I heard the pretty face comment a lot.  A LOT.  

This is what I can tell you.  I didn't like my body.  Maybe I should have, but I didn't.  If you are fat (have fat, are overweight, plus size, etc, etc,) and you love your body, more power to you.  I applaud you.  I honestly do.  You are a stronger person and a better feminist than I.  But, just because I didn't like my body, does not mean that I didn't like myself.  It also doesn't mean I don't appreciate my body and all the amazing things it can do.  Which, by the way, is the perfect time to brag that I can now lift myself into a full wheel.  Guess what else I did?  I hit 50 pounds.  Despite too much Halloween candy (which, is really not as tasty as I remember!).  And I'm damn proud of myself. 

I fully recognize that I am more than my body.  This body will get wrinkles and will probably continue to jiggle for decades more.  And that's okay.  But in this moment, I am finding a way to be at home in my skin.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Losing It: Part II

Because so many people have asked how I am losing the weight, I thought I'd post here some of the nuts and bolts that worked for me.  I refused to give any more money to the diet industry.  I read two books that changed things for me, then created a plan I knew I could work with.  No one is paying me, I didn't even get a free book!  I simply checked them out at my local library.  I'm a big fan of free. 

I know you want to know.  How much have I lost?  So far, I'm down 47 pounds in about 6 months.  I really, really, REALLY wanted to say 50, but I knew that would be lying and this journey was truth in all numbers for me.  I'm not so brave to tell you my starting and ending weight, but maybe someday.  I want to post before and after pics, but just haven't gotten around to taking one lately.  I still have another 40-50 pounds to lose.  I'm not sure what a healthy weight is for me, but I think I'll know it when I feel it.  I've gained significant muscle, so I don't think BMI is a very good indicator.  

Where I was before I started: I was on a mostly vegetarian, pretty high carb diet.  (Not as a DIET, but that is what my diet consisted of).  I taught yoga 2-3 times a week.  I did about 1-2 hours of cardio a week.  I did weight training 2-3 times a week, but not with very heavy weights (what I now call Barbie weights).

What I knew I needed: 
Flexibility.  I have three young kids and I live in a world of pizza parties, birthday cake and the occasional trip to ice cream.  I'm not going to cook multiple meals for myself and my family of 5.  Plus, I want to ENJOY food and life (note- not USE food), and food is always a part of celebrations and events.
Workouts.  I was committed to the gym 6 days a week, but since I teach yoga 3x/week and kickboxing 2x/month, I knew I only had space for 2-3 more workouts a week.
Food.  I needed accountability to myself.  I wrote it ALL down.  I did it via an app.  I found that I liked compared to My Fitness Pal, but that was just personal preference. I made it as simple as possible otherwise I knew I wouldn't do it.  I was completely honest down to the last bite.  I was done with lying to myself.  

I decided a few things.  I would take this slow; this was a marathon, not a sprint.  I had been fat for 37 years, I cannot expect it all to come off by tomorrow.  Plus, I am breastfeeding, and rapid weight loss is never recommended because I can risk my milk supply or dump toxins in my milk.  I also learned it's much easier to make one small change every week rather than overhauling it all on some arbitrary Monday.

Using food was going to have to be faced.  Growing up, sweets were strictly guarded in my household so when they were available, if I missed out, I completely missed out.  Now I'm an adult and I still have this restricted mentality.  I forget that I can go get a milkshake any damn time I want.  Now that it's not forbidden, it's not as tempting.

I used to teach high school sex ed and I often said to my students, "It's just sex.  It's not going anywhere.  It's not like you're going to turn 25 and suddenly sex will no longer exist."  I took the same attitude with food.  Want to stop for a donut on the way home?  Were donuts going to disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow?  Yes? Then by all means... ENJOY!  But, if a donut is just a donut and will be just a donut tomorrow and the day after that, then who cares?  Now, this a different story from my salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes that I made for an event earlier this year.  THOSE were gone in a few minutes as soon as word got around.  That I enjoyed and savored every last bit.  Please don't misunderstand me.  I still struggle.  If there were no consequences, I would eat an entire box of cookies in one sitting.  But, there are consequences to my body, my health and my mental state of hating myself afterwards for using food to avoid an icky feeling that is still there anyway.

I approached weight loss like I do religious beliefs.  Take what resonates or works, and gently let go of the rest of the craziness.  So, as a disclaimer, this is all WHAT WORKED FOR ME.  It might work for you too.  It might not.  But I'll add that I had NEVER been truly successful at weight loss before this, despite Jenny Craig, Nutri System, Weight Watchers and working out 6x/week.  

What I read:

The Four Hour Body by Timothy Ferris

Cliff notes: Timothy Ferris advocates for the slow carb diet.  In a nutshell, each meal should have a veggie, a meat/protein and a bean/legume.  No dairy.  Limited nuts/nut butter.  No fruit.  No grains.  Breakfast is 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking.  But then, one day a week you get a BINGE day, where all "cheats" are not only allowed, but encouraged.  He says you will drop 2-3 pounds of fat a week on this plan.  For further weight loss, he also suggests a few body weight exercises and kettle bell exercises.  Cardio isn't really necessary.  There is a lot more in the book, some tips crazier than others, like a cold compress to the back of the neck to speed up metabolism, (nope, didn't do it, except when I hurt my shoulder), but this is the "meat" of the plan.

What I took from it: I need more protein.  I need to lift heavier. I need to limit grains and carbs.  My body is my own "experiment".  If I think I need to give up dairy, try it for a week and see what happens.  No change in the weight loss tells me that maybe giving up dairy isn't necessary.  Every "diet" is only as good as you are able to comply to it.  It you know you can't comply, then don't even bother.  

Why I couldn't be strict about it: I'm not willing to give up fruit or dairy 6 days a week.  I need more flexibility because sometimes I want to take my kids to ice cream on a Tuesday rather than my "cheat" day.  Eating out isn't too hard, but eating at some one's house is very difficult.

New Rules Of Lifting For Women by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove

I don't say this very often, but THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE.

Cliff notes: Women have been scared away from heavy lifting and told they would bulk up if they lifted heavy weights.  Ladies, we've been lied to about this for a long time and wasted a lot of time doing 5 lb bicep curls to get arms like Michelle Obama.  Lift heavy weights, doing multi-muscle exercises designed to mimic everyday movements (think picking up your kids or heavy boxes).   They give you several workouts, complete with pictures, sets and reps.  Food is pretty basic, focusing on higher protein for muscle building.  And this is what I LOVE about this book.  They do NOT advocate for cutting calories.  WHAT?  If you are working this hard to build muscle and not getting adequate calories, you won't build muscle.  It's that simple.  They have THE BEST equation for figuring out your caloric needs based on your age, activity level, current weight, and if it's a lifting day or not.  Bottom line: when you build big muscle and keep reasonable calories, you will lose fat.  Muscle is more dense than fat (people often say it weighs more, but that's not an accurate description).  Muscle also revs up your metabolism, so you are burning more fat when you're not working out (commonly referred to as after burn).  Less emphasis on cardio, though he does include some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in some of the workouts.

What I took from it: I need more protein.  I need to lift heavier weights doing more multi muscle exercises and not worry about the calorie counter on the cross trainer.  The workouts are excellent and there were very few that I needed to modify.  But, they are not for sissies.  I feel like a confident bad ass now in the weight room and want to tell the ladies to put the barbie weights down.  

Bottom line: While I took pieces from 4 hour body, in terms of a plan that I could be compliant with, New Rules was it.  The workouts, while difficult, stuck to a hour time frame 2-3 times a week.  It offered me enough flexibility in my diet for calories.

My Plan:

The Competition
I am VERY competitive by nature.  My family can tell you stories of monopoly cars being chucked at their head.  I thought I'd use this to my advantage.  I posted an invitation to a weight loss challenge on my Facebook page.  There were 9 of us, who each put in $50.  I was the big winner!!  Posting my weight every week and knowing I was also going to win some money kept me pretty motivated.  It was a great way to start off this journey.  There are also sites where you can bet on yourself (what a nice concept).  For me, it was helpful to be in this with friends rather than some random people I didn't know.  Although, it was a bit awkward when it was time to take their money... but I got over it. 


I knew I needed to add significant protein.  New Rules encouraged a 1:1 ratio of gram protein to lean body mass (think approximate goal weight).  I've read that .86:1 is also sufficient, but that math is harder!  Rather than thinking of deprivation, I focused in on what I was adding to my diet.  I started with breakfast.  4 Hour has a long discussion of eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up.  When I first started, my baby woke me up, which meant that he got to eat first, so I tried to eat within an hour of waking.  I was already doing eggs, but had to cut out my beloved orange juice (too much sugar in the morning).  Every week, I watered down my OJ, and now I drink lemon water and coffee with my breakfast.  Typical breakfast is a tomato, 2 eggs, 2 slices turkey bacon, coffee with cream and lemon water.

Every meal, I think, plants and protein.  Then the craziest thing happened.  When I had adequate protein, my sugar cravings dissipated.  Both books explain why this happens, but I almost didn't believe it.  I'd always had such a sweet tooth then *poof* gone.  Now I can enjoy sweet treats without feeling like my skin is crawling because I need some chocolate.  I'm also not getting crazy blood sugar spikes sending my mood and my kids running. 

On lifting days, I ate roughly 300 calories after my workout in the form of protein.  I do whey shakes, a protein bar with horrible ingredients but it's just so tasty and convenient I can't stop (don't judge me), or cottage cheese.  I tried making my own protein bars, but they all tasted what I imagine whale poop to taste like.  But if you are a foodie, there are lots of recipes online to make your own protein bars.  

I'm not going to give you a meal plan, because I don't have one.  Plus, whenever I saw other meal plans, all I thought was, those aren't things I eat, so I chucked it.  But, I will tell you a few things that I enjoyed, kept me feeling satisfied and never hungry.  Hunger is our bodies way of telling us it needs fuel.  I don't advocate ignoring it.

- Cottage cheese with fruit and/or cinnamon
- Plain Greek yogurt with peanut butter, a dash of vanilla and a few chocolate chips
- Chicken with roasted veggies
- Protein pancakes (my kids love these!) - 5 eggs, 1 TB sugar, 1 cup cottage cheese, 1 cup oats.  Add some milk for thinner pancakes, or more oats for thicker.  I originally saw a recipe like this on pinterest as "Biggest Loser Pancakes", but those just called for egg whites, and I prefer the whole egg
- Shrimp taco bowl (just leave out the shell or tortilla).
- Loaded taco salad
- Roasted chickpeas
- Mango -- I now have a weird mango addiction. 

I learned to make what I now call "carb choices".  The taco bowl above I mentioned, I used to put in a tortilla, but I also really love tortilla chips.  I decided I loved the crunch more than the tortilla so I choose chips.  And then I do what I hate the most, I count them.  Seriously.  I now drive my husband crazy, because I make him buy chips (he does most of the shopping in our house) then only eat 10, and they eventually go stale and he can't stand to waste food.  I just shrug my shoulders and laugh at him because there was a time in my people pleasing life that I'd really take this on and eat the bag even if I didn't want it!  Oy vey!

I make sure what I eat is worth the calories in both taste and nutrients.  If I'm going to eat a treat, I'm not going to waste calories on a sad store bought cookie.  I'm going to make and enjoy some real homemade cookies and share them with my kids and friends.  Or I will treat myself to a bakery cookie, if that's what I really wanted.  I had to learn what I really wanted and what I just thought I wanted because it was there. 

Workout schedule: 

This is a typical week, but of course, there are weeks where I can't get to the gym every day I want because of a field trip, or illness or just plain life.  I did my best and didn't stress about missing a few days or even a week at times. 

Mondays: Teach Yoga
Tuesdays: 10-15 minute cardio warm up & weightlifting
Wednesdays: Teach 2 yoga classes
Thursdays: 10-15 minute cardio warm up & weightlifting
Fridays: "Free" day.  Something active that I enjoyed.  I enjoy swimming and would typically do that.
Saturdays: Taught kickboxing & weightlifting.  If I didn't teach, then just a warm up and weights.
Sundays were off (unless I couldn't get there on Saturday, then I might go on Sunday)

Every 2 months or so, I take a week off from lifting.  New Rules advocates this, and when I just plugged ahead, I kept getting injured.  So, I finally listened.  During those off weeks, I still stay active, swim a little more, go for a bike ride, or something else I enjoy, but I let the muscles rest.  

If you have any unanswered questions, please feel free to let me know.  I'm happy to talk about my experience. Plus, I'm still on this journey.  Things changed for me when my baby started eating more solids and nursing less.  Things also got harder when I got my cycle back.  It's harder to tell now what is water weight and when I gained.  When I went a couple weeks without any weight loss, I would then take my measurements (waist, thighs, arms, hips) and always saw inches lost.  This way, I knew I was losing fat while gaining muscle.  My clothes fit better (or were way too big!) and this was most important to me. 

This post ended up being much longer than I had planned, and I'm sure I'm leaving things out.  If you are looking to lose fat, I highly recommend you check out the books or others and then make a plan that you know you will comply with. 

After this ridiculously long post, I'll make it short and simple.  Build muscle.  Eat plants and protein.  There you go. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Losing It

Earlier this spring, I decided I had had enough.  My weight has been a life long battle.  I've swung the pendulum of hating my stupid body for not working with me, for always being so fucking fat, and telling myself I just need to love myself as I am.  I've cursed the media for putting the expectations of super model airbrushed anorexic women in every corner of the universe.  I've shrugged my shoulders, eaten my mostly healthy diet, continued to exercise, practice yoga and told myself that I just need to accept that this is my body, no matter what I do.  Then, last spring, I made a decision that changed my life. 

Aside from pregnancies, my weight has not dramatically fluctuated over the years.  Just simply, consistently fat.  Sometimes a little more fat than other times, but never, ever slim in any way. I've written on here about how I am an emotional eater.  While I may have a glass of wine after a stressful day, food is really my drug of choice.  Exercise has not been an issue for most of my adult life, but it hasn't helped me lose weight.  So, I knew I had to make some changes to my food.  I'll get into the nuts and bolts of WHAT exactly I did to lost the weight in another post.  What I really wanted to write about here are the surprising things that arose as I was losing weight.

My first 20 pounds were all baby weight.  Not too surprising since I was only 4 months postpartum.  This weight came off quickly, as my baby weight usually does.  What surprised me was the emotional response.  As I let go of this body weight, I let go of the baggage of having a third, unplanned child.  I quit cursing the 4 am feedings (ok, sort-of), and began to cherish the quiet time with my last baby.  I accepted the reality of the situation and, quite frankly, sucked it up.  I snuggled in closer to my little surprise and made more space in my heart for love.

I realized, as I lost this weight, that I'd be traveling through time and the events that put on the pounds.  I didn't have an overwhelming amount of baggage (maybe 5 pounds worth) from my middle child.

But, when I started to work on my postpartum depression weight after my firstborn, it was waterworks time.  Memories came flooding back to me.  I remembered wanting to sleep all. the. time.  Not just, my baby was up all night and I need to get some sleep.  But, if I sleep, then I can escape.  Then I can close my eyes to what my life has become.  I remembered obsessively counting the amount of breastmilk I had stored up, and how many days it would last, should something happen to me.  I remembered imagining my husband feeding my son the last bottle of my milk and mixing the first bottle of forumla.  Because at that time I was more committed to breastfeeding than I was to my own life, that image, of my husband mixing formula saved my life.  I never imagined or had thoughts of killing myself, but of disappearing, or running away, of just, *poof* gone.

I continued to work through the past, to dig myself out from the layers I had physically created on my body.  And then, I asked myself -- why now?  I've been overweight my entire adult life.  I had half heartedly started weight loss plans several times and had never been successful.  What was different now?  What made me compiliant to this particular plan?  What made me ready?  It wasn't necessarily because it was easy, although it was easier than it had ever been before.

Then, like a flash, the answer came to me and it was so obvious that I had to smack my own head.

I am now 37.  My mom died when she was 38.  I never thought I'd make it this long.  I never thought I'd live this long.  Even though I was never aware of it, I thought  I didn't need to take care of this body in the way it needed to be cared for because I would die anyway.  I'll be turning 38 in about a week, and I have no plans to go anywhere any time soon. 

I still have work to do.  Yes, I still have more weight to lose, but I'm not afraid of that anymore.  As long as I am breathing, I will be working on my baggage, on all that weighs me down.  Each time I think I can chuck a suitcase in the attic, because I "dealt" with that, another bag comes tumbling onto my head and heart, demanding to be dealt with.  I thought, by now, I'd have things more figured out, but I'm seeing now that this unpacking is a lifetime of work.  I've barely unzipped the suitcase.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Women Priests

Good God, why am I Catholic?  (I know, I know, I've asked this several times before!)  Last week, we received our diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Voice.  It's usually light lunchtime reading... what the pope is up to, who the bishop is oppressing these days, and the forum letters as to why I'm a horrible person going to hell for disagreeing with Catholic Teaching YET AGAIN.  One thing I do appreciate and respect about the paper is that they seem to publish all the forum letters they receive, so I have read several letters that disagree with current church teaching.  I have finally written one of those letters, and am sharing it with you here.  It's a response to an article written by Francis Rocca titled, "Why not women priests?  The papal theologian explains." 

Here is the letter I wrote, which I am sure will guarantee that I never get hired in the Catholic Church ever again.

Did you hear that thunk? I think Jesus just fell off the cross after reading Francis Rocca's article about Rev. Giertych's justifications for why women are not priests. What a ridiculous argument he made! He said, “Men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogism.” What a gross assumption and stereotype of women! I must insist that stereotypes are not particularly logical nor based on scientific reason. But, what do I know of logic? I'm just a silly female with a Master's Degree in Spirituality. While priests go on and on about how women in the church do not hold an inferior place in the church, the Church's disdain for women is quite obvious.

Here is what men are more likely to do, based on actual facts, not stereotypes. Men are more likely to sexually abuse children than women. (Hmm, has this been a problem in the Catholic Church? Remind me.) Men are more likely to abuse their partner than women. Men are more likely to murder. Men are more likely to rape. Men are more likely to cheat on their vows, including vocational vows (yes, airing dirty church laundry here!).

Does this sound like Jesus and the men he chose? Jesus also chose Jewish men. Who was the last Jewish priest you met? Yes, Jesus made many choices that were not conventional at the time, and it is possible that if he wanted to choose a woman to be an apostle, he would have. But, since Jesus was fully human and fully divine, I'd like to suggest he was also bound by that full humanity. He was bound by the cultural norms of the time, just as we are bound by ours. This was all at a time in history when men were not even allowed to touch a woman on her period. This was at a time in history that if you came face to face with an “unclean” woman, you would need to cross to the other side of the road.

Jesus also first appeared to a woman after the resurrection, not to a man. Jesus was born and fed from a woman's body, not blinked into existence.

I'd like to suggest that none of us can truly know the will of God, although male hierarchy certainly likes to claim that it does. If you don't want women to be in the priesthood, it would be refreshing if the hierarchy could at least be honest about the reasons why, rather than insulting our intelligence with illogical and offensive excuses for repressing women.

I worked for the church in different arenas in my adult life. I worked as a JVC volunteer. I worked as a youth minister in a parish. I worked as a Religious Studies teacher. And you know who I saw in every ministry of the church, save the priesthood? Women. Women are teaching in our schools. Women are running our parishes. Women are cleaning our churches. Women are baking our bread for Eucharist. I've always wondered what would happen to the Catholic Church should all the women one day refuse. Refuse to be a part of that which oppresses us. Refuse to prepare for the ritual we are not allowed to lead. Refuse to bake that bread for said ritual. I believe, the church would fall apart.

When the church continues to ban women from the priesthood, you are not only telling women that we are less than, that we are not good enough, not logical enough, not intelligent enough, not holy enough, not human enough; you are also depriving the congregation from hearing women's voices.

But of course, according to you men, this “teaching is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.” Yet, according to church teaching, the pope is only infallible when he is speaking Ex Cathedra, which this teaching is not. This is much akin to in the scriptures when Paul kindly told women to shut the hell up in the church. Oops. Guess you need to kick me out. I debated.

Monday, December 10, 2012


My little boy was born 15 days ago.  It's all very blurry right now as I make my way through this haze of sleep deprivation and juggling three kids.  It's been a beautiful, blessed, wondrous chaos.  There have been moments where my heart is so filled with love, I'm sure it is about to burst.  There are also moments where I am so overwhelmed with frustration at trying to get the little bugger to latch that I am brought to sobbing tears.  Several times, I simply think there are not enough adults or enough hours in the day to get every one's needs met.  So, I give myself small goals, which become huge, lofty goals with a newborn, 3 year old and 6 year old in the house.  A shower every day.  As much sleep as possible.  Eat when I'm hungry.  Cry when I'm overwhelmed.

And then last week, we got a phone call that my husband's 94 year old grandmother was being transferred to the hospital from her nursing facility.  She was bleeding and they didn't know what was wrong.  After some tests, they knew there is some sort of mass in her uterus which was causing the bleeding, but they will not be doing anything to treat it.  She has been moved to hospice care and they are making her comfortable in her final hours and days.

We went to visit her last May, and I am so very thankful we did, as they are on the other side of the country, and I know we won't be making it back for the funeral.  I'm grateful we got to see her when she was still cognisant of us, still sharp, and still able to enjoy the children's smiles and playfulness.  

I am hoping my 6 year old will have some memories of her, as I did of my great-grandmother.  I think of my mother-in-law, and what a sacred time this is for her.  Difficult, trying, exhausting, no doubt, but also sacred -- to watch a new grandchild come into this world within weeks of witnessing her mother leave this world.

I simply breathe and try to hold space for it all.  Space for the wonder, the birth and death.  Space for the sadness, the joy and bliss.  I said to a friend recently, that the older I get, the more I learn to live with cognitive dissonance.  I'd say now that the same is true for spiritual dissonance, how there is space for birth and death and all the mess in between.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Serenity, Fuck You

I've been praying for acceptance.  I started with the whole serenity prayer.  In case you're not familiar with it...

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Then it occurred to me, that every time I said the second line in my head, I immediately started to imagine how I could change, no control, no manipulate, the situation.  Wisdom?  Who needs wisdom when you believe you can control the universe?  (Or your family, or getting pregnant, or going into labor?). I mean, am I really asking for THAT much, just control over my little corner of the universe.  So small when compared to the world, really.  As my husband said to me last night, "You like to be in control and you don't like change."  I responded, "I'm perfectly fine with change if I'm in control of it."  Control issues?  I know not what you speak of.  So, I started to simply repeat the first line in my head.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Over and over again, until I felt like a repentant child at the blackboard.

Then I started to cry.  In the dark.  At 4:17 am.  On my due date.

Good Lord, there is so very much I cannot change right now.  I cannot change that I am pregnant and need to give birth any day now.  Don't get me wrong; I'm not afraid of birth.  I had amazing, powerful birth experiences, and I know without a doubt my body can do this.  But, I'll be honest, it hurts, it's major bodily work, and I just don't want to do it.  I know there is no choice in the matter, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.  The weekend I found out I was pregnant, I said, "Oh crap, I have to give birth again."  It's like my friend who always wants to win at Words and I told her, "You can't win them all."  And she said, "No, but I can want to."  When I confessed these thoughts to my doula and friend a few weeks ago, I was afraid she would try to tell me to change my mindset, embrace birth, blah, blah, blah.  Instead (I love her so much!), she told me,"You don't have to like it.  You just have to do it."  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

And then there is the fact that giving birth will joyfully end this pregnancy, which is causing more than its share of back pain, insomnia (not that sleep is going to be my friend any time soon), and headaches in my life.  But giving birth also results in having a newborn I will be responsible for taking care of, in addition to my two little boys.  I think I am having the hardest time accepting this reality.  I know, it sounds ridiculous to still be in denial on my due date.  But I am.  Even feeling this babe squiggle inside of me, I'm still in denial that I will have a newborn in a matter of days.  I can't help feeling like my life is about to be over, like having this baby is a kind of death.  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Then, there is Christmas.  Like most Americans, I have a complicated blended family, with step brothers who have half sisters, and a blood brother who has partial custody, and a partridge in a pear tree that is probably related by marriage in some way.  Yesterday, after a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, we talked about  Christmas plans.  Usually some day surrounding Christmas, we all gather at my Dad and stepmom's house.  They go overboard on presents every year , even though they say they will cut back every year.  The cousins runaround like banchees and we have a large family dinner together.  One of us (usually me) drinks too much and loses her filter, and a great time is had by all.

Well, even though we are only a couple hours drive away from my family, we realistically cannot travel this year with a newborn and two small kids on Christmas day.   My Dad and Stepmom will come here one day before or after the holiday to exchange presents and spend time with us, but we will likely be missing the big extended family Christmas.  And it breaks my heart, for me and my kids, who love their cousins.  I have all these thoughts about holding Christmas hostage and making everyone travel here.  And it hurts.  A lot.  This is where I want to tell serenity and acceptance to fuck off.  I generally don't consider myself a selfish person, but it would be nice if the world revolved around me this one time.  Just this once.  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. 

Anne Lamott says that the two best prayers she knows are, "Help me and thank you."  In her latest book I read, where she seems almost a crazy as me, trying to keep tabs on her adult son, she added the prayer, "Whatev."  And that's what I'm trying to pray.  Whatev that I can't be with my extended family for Christmas.  Whatev that I was left out of friends plans because I'm pregnant.  Whatev that I didn't plan on getting pregnant.  Whatev that I can't control when I'll have this baby.  Whatev, take it God, I can't deal with it.  Whatev, I hand it to you because these people are simply not in my control.  Whatev, just let me cry and get some decent sleep.  Whatev, take it, I let it go.  I surrender.

Whatev, God, grant me the serenity.  Oh, and put me into labor.  Please?