Jaded

Ever since I grew to adulthood,

I hear the echoes

of everyone who told me,

“That’s not real.

That’s a fantasy.”

Most of the time, I silence them

With a wave of the hand,

And maybe a deep breath,

But then,

Sometimes, a wave of grief comes,

My heart begins to ask,

“Were they right?

Does God give us dreams to take them away?

Does He dangle hopes of a beautiful future,

Just to laugh when you are in pain?

There are times in my life when I believe them,

When the hope that God is listening grows as faint as a fading heartbeat,

The ache swells until my chest begins to cave into itself.

I cease to breathe in in terror of reality,

I force myself to breathe and anger overtakes me that God has turned His back.

But He hasn’t turned His back.

He is here when hundreds have told me He doesn’t hear me.

He is waiting for me when I can hear Him through the despair.

He hears me when I cry out in the pain of the skepticism that is our world.

Cast behind you the words of those who condemn you for belief in hope.

Cast behind you the belief that grief will win.

Cast behind you the grief that God doesn’t hear you,

And doesn’t love the real you.

There is a place for you.

Just because you haven’t found it doesn’t mean you won’t.

Use your wounds to heal others until you escape the chains,

And then free the slaves.

Sometimes God answers no, but not when it’s His promises to you.

If you are called to something, He will bring you to it somehow, I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

Even here in the darkness.

I believe.

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The Problem with Gazelle Intensity

I should begin this with letting you know we are a low income family with a lot of big graces from God and our family right now. We are rich in so many ways, but when it comes to money, we are in a hard season.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling guilty over every single purchase I made. We set aside a small amount of fun money, and I spent it and my leftover Christmas money on gifts for my daughters birthday. I did go a little over budget, but I corrected it immediately when I got home. After that for a while, every time I spent money I felt arrested in a terrified state of “what if I spend it on the wrong thing, what if I spend too much, what if I buy the wrong thing?” And the worst question I asked myself, and I asked it the most, “Am I being gazelle intense enough?”

It was a constant refrain in my head. When I was cooking dinner, when I burnt dinner, when I cuddled with the kids instead of going out to earn extra money, when I watched a tv show, when I had to buy gas, when I made menus for dinner, when I worked on my writing instead of making money, it repeated over and over in my head, a sea of despair waiting for me around every corner.

Our lives right now are crazy, I know a lot of people’s are, but my husband is working full time, and in school full time, I stay home with our 2 kids one and two, who have been sick, teething, and not sleeping. I have a side hustle, but both of our cars broke so I couldn’t get to it for a while, and it’s hard to find time for it anyway. There are big sacrifices we are making for me to be able to stay at home with the kids, especially living with my parents, who have been gracious enough to allow us to do so.

Living in a basement has its challenges, we don’t have a standard kitchen set up, our storage is all makeshift and not built in, we don’t have a ton of space, cleaning and organizing and trying to figure out what to cook and trying to keep things from getting dirty so we dont have to clean take up a ton of time. Those things take money too. I couldn’t stop feeling guilty for the extra money spent on making sure we didn’t make a mess when we cooked, or staying home to clean instead of finding a way to make money, or forgetting to do VIPkid because I was caring for sick littles.

This last paycheck was tight, and then it was full of unexpected expenses. We got a really good look at being as Dave intense as possible, and it did not go well. I ended up in the hospital thinking I was having a stroke because I had the worst panic attack I had ever had. My husband and I started fighting constantly. We started resenting each other, the kids, and everyone else around us. We were miserable.

The thing is, that the baby steps are, for some people, a marathon, not a sprint. A tired, weak, broken gazelle cannot run at full speed ahead, they can only limp forward as fast as they possibly can. Yes, I know we need a bigger shovel(for Non Dave Ramsey people that means we need a higher income) and we are working on it, but we are not willing to sacrifice these early years with our babies to work every minute and lose this part of their lives when we are meant to be loving on them. We lost babies before, and I will not lose this time holding them, and snuggling them, because I know what it feels like to never get to hold your baby, and I never thought I would get to hold the ones I have.

But back to the point of the post, the problem with gazelle intensity, is that it looks different for everyone, and it can sometimes be hard to see your progress if all you can see is how slow you are running.

Last night, my husband sat down with me, and told me that our credit card is down $1000. All I knew before that, is that the payment just isn’t going down like it used to. We talked about the fact that we are cash flowing things that we never could have before. We talked about how many sacrifices we have made, and we talked about times in our lives when we made bad decisions, but for once, we also talked about the times we made good ones, and really, some of the bad ones we made as carefully as we could, and minimized damage.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have room for improvement, or that other people shouldn’t be working as hard as they can, or that YOU don’t need to be more gazelle intense. What I am saying is that it is important not to get so caught up in where you’re going and how fast you are or are not getting there, that you miss what you are becoming and what you are experiencing along the way. Gazelle intensity is important, but it is not everything. Your health and happiness still matter, so do your best, be as gazelle intense as you can, but breathe, and take care of yourself along the way.

Sex Rebel: Being a Catholic Who Likes Sex

I was once Chastity Team president. I advocated chivalry and gender roles and how God rewards those who follow Him. Then, I took Pre-Cana, and almost left the Church over it. Then, I had a miscarriage. I lost a baby girl right after I got married. I was one of the only people I knew who stayed a virgin until marriage, and that includes some of the most vocal chastity advocates in my life. I never really fit in with the Chastity Team crowd, even when I led it, but now I felt ashamed of my title and any association I had with it. I told my husband that I wished I had never advocated Chastity because I thought it was just until marriage, I didn’t realize sex would be a nightmare for my whole life. Some time has passed, and I have come to terms with the issues I had, but I have had to come to terms with some big truths that I never thought I would learn.

  1. Just because someone is a respected Catholic teacher does not mean that what they teach is official Church teaching.

I will never forget the moment my husband and I read our assigned pages from Christopher West from our marriage counseling. As I read the list of sexual acts that were forbidden in any circumstances, my head swam. I was nauseous. I had always been a very sexual person, and I had been so excited for marriage. I believed I was saving all of my beautiful, spicy, sexy self for one person. Turns out, I was just not supposed to be that person at all. Everything I had imagined had some rule attached to it, and most of them, I had never heard before. My now-husband and I had a huge fight, because he didn’t want to follow the guidelines, and neither did I, but I thought we had no choice. I was so angry. It combined with all of these different beliefs I had never been taught about the Church(and I was not raised liberal Catholic at all) to make me hate the Church and her millions of impossible rules, and ruining sex and anything else good for everyone. Finally, I sat down with actual Church teaching. I had the Catechism, scripture, and all the official doctrine documents I could find. Half of what we were taught in pre-cana was nowhere in those documents. The things I was going to leave the Church over were the exact opposite of what the Church teaches. Now, I rarely trust a Catholic teacher because they are usually wrong.

2. Priests need some sort of counseling in this area in seminary because they don’t know what they are doing.

This is really just a sub-set of #1, because we spent hours talking to our priest about all of this and he did not have a clue how to help us.

3. We have to stop teaching Chastity the way we are right now.

Sex is both not as big of a deal as people are making it, and way bigger. Christians are making such a huge thing about saying no to sex, and how virginity is so important, that we are ignoring that sexuality is a natural and important and wonderful part of life. We are creating this monster of evil, and then turning around and demanding people understand how sacred it is. On top of that, we are not educating people about sexuality because we are so busy teaching them not to have it, which backfires into people hating sex, wishing they weren’t having it, wishing they were having it with someone else, or worse. We act like talking about sex is evil, and that backfires in a whole host of ways.

 

Living with these three truths is incredibly uncomfortable for someone who also wants to be a good Catholic/Christian. Jason Evert primed a whole generation with how wrong it is to even ask “How far can we go?” We all know the analogy of getting as close to the cliff as possible. You know what though, sometimes it is AWESOME to get as close to the edge of a cliff as possible, and it doesn’t mean you want to die. Christians are being primed to live with a terror of the edge, that makes it impossible to live your life. Every single action must be analyzed thoroughly to make sure that it is not putting yourself or anyone else in danger of sin. Guess what? That’s not God. But I thought it was.

I lived that way for years, and I lost so much of myself. Now, I work hard to know what is ACTUAL Church teaching, not trending doctrine, I very sparingly trust priestly advice on anything they don’t know about, and I recoil against the way Christian’s currently teach sexuality(so I made a sex group to teach it better ;-)) It is terrifying because people often include me, condescendingly, in the catch-all term of “cafeteria catholic,” or “liberal Catholic,” and I thought they were right for a while there, but they aren’t, or maybe they are, but differently than they think. We all have to be “cafeteria Catholics” if it means discerning which teachers are right and which are wrong.

What my Miscarriage Taught me About Being Christian

Rachel Hollis said, “Everything does NOT happen for a reason, but you can FIND a meaning in anything.” My first miscarriage is the first thing that came to mind. Every time I read “everything happens for a reason,” my heart hardens and grows colder, the hair on the back of my neck stands up, and I become a little bit nauseous.

Why? You ask.

If you are asking, it is because you haven’t experienced something that painful yet.

I am not saying that you have not been through something painful, or that you have never been hurt or understood pain. I am saying that there is a kind of pain, a brand, if you will, that defies reason. It is the kind of pain that your entire body revolts at the fact that it could possibly exist. It is the kind of pain that teaches you what it feels like to question everything.

For me, that was losing my baby girl. For you, it could be failing a test that was really important. For someone else, it could be actually dying. I am not judging levels of pain, but experience of it. It doesn’t matter how big or small the pain is, but what it does.

A couple of months ago, I read a Facebook status of mine from college. It was something about how everything is in God’s plan. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and about how much I have learned.

Christians. You. Can. Not. Say. That.

Not everything is in Gods plan, and that is very very very important.

Christians believe that death was NOT the original plan. Eve ate the apple and so did Adam and the snake screwed up too, but this was NOT the plan. This was ALLOWED, but it was not the plan.

God did not plan for us to watch babies die at the hands of the Nazi’s, or for us to suffer from any number of hormonal issues. He did not plan for us to shoot each other in malls, and schools, and churches. He did not plan for us to be too prideful to apologize to our friends, or to hold grudges. He did not plan for us to be sick for months on end.

God planned paradise for us. He planned a blissful life of lounging amidst a beautiful garden eating all the best the world has to offer. He planned a life of luxury and goodness to each other and ourselves. He planned a life of peace with Him and contentment with everyone else. He wanted us to swim in waterfalls of joy, not to sink in rivers of tears.

It took me a long time to realize this. I had to learn that these every day platitudes were wrong, or at least, not fully right. There were a million things along the way that helped me to learn it. I had to learn that God loves me, that God wants me to be happy(although that’s a daily struggle,) that God hates sadness as much as I do, and I had to let go of my pain enough to see a way forward through it.

That doesn’t mean I’m healed, I’m not convinced anyone ever is. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect, no one is that either. It does mean that I have learned something from who I was and who I became later, and it means that I can bring some good about because of my miscarriage. I can be kinder, I can defend those who are being hurt, I can hold space for those who need it, I can tend to my own wounds.

Most importantly, I have learned two things.

1. Do not tell someone who is in pain that it is in God’s plan, because it may not be, also included in this is never ever say “everything happens for a reason.”

2. The second is a prayer I say now when I am angry at God for something that has happened. “This is not what He wanted either.” I repeat it like a mantra over and over until I can breathe and I can love Him again.

What the New York Abortion Bill Means to Me

When I found out I was pregnant with Emma, my husband walked away from me, went upstairs and blared slipknot. I trembled downstairs in fear.

When I was pregnant with Emma, my husband and I fought every single day. These were not little, meaningless spats. They were screaming arguments, “How are we going to pay for that? How are we going to take care of her? What are we going to do?” We would scream at each other for hours and break down into the kind of sobs that take over your whole body, and your guts come out through your eyes.

It never stopped. Every single day we erupted in terror at the only person we could talk to about it.

We were Catholic. There were no options. We were stuck, and we were screwed. We had no insurance because we couldn’t afford it, but because we were paying rent we couldn’t get Medicaid. We didn’t have our own house. We were living in a tiny bedroom, sleeping together in a twin bed as I grew enormous in a matter of weeks. My mom has always said that using NFP meant that you didn’t really trust God, and I had had virtually no sex education so it didn’t occur to me how quickly you could get pregnant, if you were married(obviously you get pregnant if you even think about having sex if you aren’t married.)

Our marriage was ruined, we had no idea how we would survive, or how she would. I was terrified of hospitals, and we couldn’t afford one anyway.

I had fleeting thoughts of wishing I would miscarry, but I could feel her. She was present in me and I knew her, but I couldn’t stand the pain of knowing that she would always be afraid because we couldn’t provide for her.

It got so bad that I considered abortion. Not fully, not seriously, but for a second, I thought about it. It is almost impossible for me to admit that as a Catholic.

Later, I don’t even know how it happened, but one day I realized I was reading a how-to on committing a natural abortion. I think I may have been searching for vitamin safety during pregnancy, and then saw this article and was so shocked it even existed. I had been taking a ton of vitamins that weren’t safe to stay healthy while I was so run down, and again, for a split second, I thought, “What if I just kept doing it?”

It couldn’t be a sin right? It’s just taking a vitamin, for my health. It’d be an accident. I’d like to think I didn’t mean it, but I was so scared.

We lost her a week later.

In the most horrifying, tragic moment of my life, I miscarried our honeymoon baby.

I don’t know if it was the vitamins I was taking unknowingly, the lack of sleep, the exhausting work I was doing, the stress, or just my body’s inability to form the baby correctly, but whatever it was she was gone. She IS gone.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel some repercussion of losing her. She is my butterfly effect proof. She is everywhere. She was all over my periods every time I questioned whether they were miscarriages or not. She was there every step of my pregnancy with my rainbow, and my double rainbow. She is there when I check my babies breathing at night. She is there when I hear stories of women losing their children. She is in me still, even though she’s not for anyone else.

I cannot believe now that there were moments I did not want her. Now, I would give anything to take those moments back, to have her back. I was so scared, and I try not to blame myself, but losing a child, whether it is your fault or not, is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It is the greatest pain that you can imagine, and it isn’t healed by time. The thought fades, thankfully, but the grief never does.

In the face of the New York bill, what I want to say to you, is that you do not know what these women are feeling. A woman who is losing her child, has lost her child, or could lose her child, is in a kind of pain that you cannot imagine if you have not been there. There are women who are pro-life who have held their own children lifeless in their arms, and they cannot stand the idea of another child being lost. There are women who are pro-choice who have faced the worst nightmares and had to ask “what do I do?” No matter who you are, you do not know what is in the hearts of who you are against. You do not know what drives them.

So? You ask. What do I do with that information? Find out. Learn from the pain of others how to address problems in a way that helps everyone. Ask the mom who is contemplating abortion what she needs, and help her find it. Start a fund for women who are struggling. Be compassionate. If you are pro-choice, ask the pro-life women what are they worried about, what is wrong with the bill? What do they want?

More than anything, tell your story, tell it as loud as you possibly can, until you are heard. Stop telling everyone else what’s wrong with them, and speak your truth.

Ecstasy

Have you ever felt so much pleasure that you thought your entire body might explode?

Have you ever stopped being intimate because you were afraid you might not be able to handle what was coming?

Have you ever submitted completely only to be racked by a painful pleasure that just won’t stop?

If you haven’t, you haven’t experienced all that the orgasm has to offer.

If you haven’t, you can’t understand Teresa’s expression in the statue called Ecstasy.

If you haven’t, then you haven’t yet had the best sex of your life.

I know, because I told an older married woman that I didn’t like sex, and I didn’t believe her when she told me:

“It gets better.”

A Blog About Sex

So the other day,

A friend asked on a Facebook group,

Some questions about sex.

I was SO excited.

I love sex.

I am good at sex.

It’s cool.

I had answers for questions,

I had all kinds of things to say,

And then I said,

Haha maybe I should start a blog about sex for Catholics.

And then I meant it.

But like really?

Little miss goody two shoes?

Talking on the web about sex?

Teaching women how to commit to their orgasm?

Me?

That does not make any sense.

But you know what?

It makes me crazy excited.

Like bouncing up and down,

Laugh,

Feel joy,

Excited.

About writing about sex.

Yep.

Yep, that’s a thing.

When Morning Sickness is not just Morning Sickness

Dear Reader,

I am so tired. I am here to talk to you about something that not many know about, and those who do know about it know it all too well. Morning sickness is an often joked about part of pregnancy. Women on television daintily vomit into a trash can and go on about their day. Then, second trimester they are fine. There are women for whom this is a reality, and I am so happy for them, but there are others who laugh at the term ‘morning sickness’ for its inept description of their 9 month personal hell. These women suffer from something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which means severe morning sickness, and I am one of these women.

I am lucky as far as HG sufferers go. Many spend multiple days in the ER getting fluids to keep hydrated enough to survive, let alone nourish their growing baby. I have only one HG related scare that I may have to go into the ER, but I experience enough of the symptoms to tell you that HG is no joke.

Imagine the first day of the flu, you are weak and nothing seems to sit well. You gag at every smell and food is the worst thing you have ever heard of. What if told you that was your life 24/7 for 9 months? I am on medicine for my HG and I still have at least one day a week when every inch of my body is in pain and I can’t even imagine eating. Part of the curse of HG, though, is that this is not just a couple days. You can’t let yourself not eat because you and your baby will starve. So I force down whatever seems like it might not make me nauseous, and not just nauseous like a tummy-ache, but I literally have to sit in a certain position all day and chew ice chips to keep myself from vomiting.(Though I recognize I am lucky that I don’t experience uncontrollable all day vomiting like so many women do.)

What’s worse is stress makes my HG worse. This means that the struggle of trying to figure out what food won’t make me nauseous, just makes me sicker, and feeling the nausea makes me sicker, and having an uncomfortable conversation makes me sicker. I hate myself sometimes for the loss of patience this causes in me with the daughter I already have. She is precious and so well-behaved, but her cry releases cortisol in me which makes me feel like vomiting. So instead of selflessly worrying about what she needs, sometimes I just want to scream at her to stop because it just hurts so much when she cries, and it won’t stop hurting for hours after. I have less patience with other members of my family too, people who normally mildly irritate me, make me furious because my short stressful conversations with them result in a whole day of mindful breathing and panic attack management from how exhausted I am, and again trying not to vomit.

People often say to HG sufferers, “Oh just get someone to help you.” Well, unfortunately our culture has created the do-it-all woman, so now we are expected to do it all. While this may be great for women’s advances in business and careers, family members and friends no longer crowd around any pregnant woman to help her with anything she needs. There are lucky women, and I am lucky in many ways, but there are moments when I hide in the bathroom sobbing that I can’t go on, only to do it again the next day.

I feel so much guilt because I should feel grateful for the help that I have, for not working during this pregnancy(HG at a new job is a nightmare) for family who helps when they can. I am grateful for all of these things. Incredibly grateful. It is impossible to have enough help though, when one spends every day in so much stress and discomfort. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, but just, be there for your pregnant friends and family. Be kind to them, you don’t know what they might be going through silently.

“Grab her pu***”

Ok, I am not a political person. If you know me at all you know this. I avoid the news like some people avoid horror movies, I have never voted for a candidate who was republican or democrat, I tend to either become silent or leave a conversation if it becomes political even remotely. My husband is the only person who knows many of my political leanings or ideas because I think it sours people and relationships to get into the kind of debate politics tends to spark. However, something came up in my personal life today that I just have to comment on. It is completely irrelevant in some ways because the conversation centered around Trump and whether he is good or bad he is in charge. In some ways, however, it is more than relevant, and will be at any time in any culture.

A person in my life and I were arguing today, honestly I’m not even sure what the argument was about. I thought it was whether or not I had reason to believe Trump was a bad person, but later she said she agreed he was bad but kept defending her side, so I have no idea. The important part of the conversation, however, was that I told her about what Trump said about it being ok for a man to “grab her pu***.” Her immediate response was to tell me that she saw a post on Facebook of women in plunging necklines and she couldn’t help but think “What did they expect?”

Ok. For those of you who already understand why this is an issue, I’ll let you just sit with that for a second.

Imagine the screams that wanted to emerge from me. Suffice it to say, that any true emotion(that disagrees with hers) is not accepted by this person, however, so I was required to keep my calm.

Here we go.

IT IS NEVER OK FOR A MAN TO SEXUALLY ASSAULT A WOMAN.

You may say, “well, duh of course not, but what did they think was going to happen?”

No.

“Don’t you think they are inviting it?”

No.

Just. No.

It is infuriating to me that this kind of ignorance is touted as a real teaching in Christianity. Modesty, which by the way does not mean “Cover every inch of your body, you are disgusting and a temptation,” is taught as if it does. Women are encouraged not to be alone with men, because then we are encouraging them. If a woman wears something too tight, too low, too loose, then we are tempting them. I grew up traditional Catholic with weekly if not daily lectures on modesty, do you know how often I heard men talked to about respecting the wfemale body? Exactly never. I don’t count anti-porn addiction because the way that is taught is really as just another thing for men to blame their bad behavior on.(Not saying porn is ok, in fact that is a huge post for another time.)

I never heard anyone talk about how to respect a woman’s body and boundaries.

[I should note, before I go on, that while I never heard this talk to men growing up, I did have a fantastic college professor who discussed how men should view women, and he helped me to understand what I am talking about in this post.]

Now, first of all, this is a teaching that is not really even necessary for most women, because women have not been taught that anything we do is excused by the clothes that men wear.

Second of all, the example far too frequently used “if you put a great dessert on the table, do you expect people to eat it?” is laughable and demeaning. A woman’s body is not food for a man to take as he wishes. I don’t care if I put cookies out on the table and you eat them. Cookies are not a part of a human being, they do not have consciousness, they do not (as far as we know) have an opinion as to whether or not they are eaten. I could go into the Christian argument that woman’s body is made in the image of God and is therefore sacred, but I’d rather simply say, a woman is a PERSON, not an object.

Those who talk about how women “objectify” themselves by dressing in a certain way, need to reflect on what they are saying. A woman who is a PERSON makes herself an OBJECT because she wears something that does not fit into your guidelines of what is appropriate.

Is that true? Can we accuse a woman of doing that? Women in Africa go topless everyday, are they objects now or still people? When a baby is born naked, are they only an object because they are not wearing clothes? No. And it would be ridiculous to say so. But, you say, these states of dress are appropriate in their culture, or their situation. Back to the Facebook comment, what is and had been for some time the culture of Hollywood? Revealing, provocative styles designed to make a statement are the cultural fashion if you will. A plunging neckline is frequently the mildest of these things, but even a piece that pushes boundaries farther still fits into the culture of that situation.

Those who argue that women are objectifying themselves, are basically saying that a man can treat this kind of woman however he wants because she has made herself an object. No matter what a woman is wearing she still has the basic reasoning and consciousness of self that is the typical way of recognizing personhood. She is and always will be a person, and can NOT be treated like an object.

The argument itself is actually degrading in a deeply sinister way if you think about it. No one argues that a man is compromising his personhood if he wears no shirt, but if a woman wears a deep v, she is no longer a person?

Take a second to think about that.

Why do women only possess personhood if you deem their outfit appropriate?

Honestly, I feel that there’s nothing I can add to that.

Why am I only a person, therefore deserving respect, if I wear what you say I should?

Note: This isn’t meant to be a philosophical essay, or I could have gone into the definition of personhood and argued more academically my points. My point is to say my thoughts on the issue today, and these are them, do with them what you will.

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