Friday, August 28, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXIV)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you seven quick takes from my world this week. 


Our parish is using Symbolon as a video series to provide discussion for high school students, young adults, and even adult converts.  We have been watching videos at our young adult group.  While some of them seemed really elementary and like it was attempting to be another version of Fr. Barron's Catholicism series, it seems like the discussions about Catholic morality and love were much better, more in depth.  Has anyone else used this series?  I think it might be okay for a younger crowd or people who have no idea about the Catholic faith.  It works for our group only because we discuss afterwards and go to a deeper level.


I've been trying to ease into the low-carb, high-protein diet this week without any real guidance to go on.  So, I ordered yet another book on the topic of Why We Get Fat, which contained more recipes and practical suggestions.  (I'll talk about the book by name once I read it and form an opinion.)  I don't own a scale, so I can't tell you if I've lost weight this week.  (That wasn't really the goal, even though my doctor has so lovingly told me to lose weight every time I've seen her this year...I'm a size 8-10 and put on a few pounds after our wedding, but all my clothes still fit.  I'm not obese by any standard, and yet, these "friendly" reminders basically make me feel like crap.)

The goal with all of this is to find a way of eating in which I feel good generally, in which I step off the roller-coaster of blood sugar highs and lows, and in which I feel less lost in the world of the grocery store, the kitchen, eating out, etc.  Just based on the reading I've done, I'm fairly confident that going carb-free or low-carb will accomplish this.  I just need to do it correctly, or in a way that is sustainable.  Right now I'm kind of shooting in the dark.  If I lose weight, great.  But, again, that's not the point.

I think for many women, weight is a constant struggle and battle.  I'm short, so 5-10 pounds on me is noticeable, no matter if those pounds are coming or going.  I was raised in a family that said women should be beautiful, but seen and not heard.  I was also fat-shamed by my calorie-obsessed mother. Looking back, I was never fat.  I was about the size I am now.  It was the '90s.  Wearing baggy flannel and grungy outfits didn't do anyone any favors.  But, my mom has always treated us girls as if we were morbidly obese, mocking certain body parts specifically or chiding us for eating snacks, counting our every calorie for us with a huge dose of judgment.  My parents are not overweight.  To them, they'd rather be thin than healthy.  Being "fat" is a moral judgment in their world, and women are more at fault than men if they're fat.

Needless to say, along with the way my body actually processes sugar, I have some psychological food issues to overcome too.  I'm hopeful that this way of eating is the answer.  Something I don't have to think about constantly, but a new normal.  



The past several weeks at work have been so stressful that I am really really looking forward to the weekend.

Stranger Danger Update. 

I posted last week about an event I was going to that brought together Catholic women.  So, I went.  It was nice to meet everyone.  We had a good time.  While we all added each other on Facebook and other social media, I'm not yet sure if I have a "new best friend" out of the deal yet.  I didn't have that 100% "click" with anyone there, but several moments of connection with several people that could be developed.  I was the only married person there without children.  There were some unmarried ladies with no children.  It didn't make me feel too out of place.  We all connected on just what God is doing in our lives, and how we fit into this culture while trying to live the faith.  I was glad I went, even though it required putting myself out there, as all social situations do.  Still taking applications for BFF.


So, I have discerned that my vocation is to be married.  Maybe someday, I will add mother to that list, although I have one godchild and several nieces and nephews that I could be a "spiritual mother" to.  However, I am discerning how best to use my gifts and where I am called.  I want to be open, but sometimes I need God to write something in the sky before I pick up on what I'm supposed to do.  My husband told me this week that the things I know I need to do that are pressing (such as clean out the study, organize the kitchen) is the place where I should start.  If that is continually bothering me (and it is) as an unfinished piece of business, then I should start there and resolve it.  In some senses, work in the home is never done, but the big projects that stress me out even to think about (ahem, guest bedroom closet)...that's where I should start.  Then I will be more free to consider bigger calls or vocations.  That guidance helped give me peace for this week.

I didn't meet my summer goals for finishing some projects, but I did make progress.  Progress, not perfection, I remind myself.   But, I hope to get my daily life and practical elements of it more under control.  Right now, they are a constant source of stress (the morning routine, the commute, meal planning, mail, etc.)  I think I mentally consider those things as "unimportant," but because I have not dealt with them properly, they are actually holding a place of more importance than they should because of the disproportional stress.  Is this how being an adult is?  Did everyone else learn how to clean, run a household, form a morning routine, etc., besides me?  Or, is this all just because I'd rather be sleeping, reading a book, or doing a host of other things?  God, help me in the little things.


I had two dreams this week that turned out to be prophetic, in the sense that I had a dream about a friend who turned out to be in need and called me the next day.  Then I had a dream about a real life situation (not profound, but an unusual "situation") that ended up happening just as I had dreamed the very next day.

Maybe I'm getting a tad more sleep and can remember my dreams now.  Maybe I'm listening to God more,... or maybe it was that cumin in the tacos.



I don't want to be a doomsday Negative Nelly, but it does seem as if this world is getting darker. Maybe I am just more aware of the darkness than before.  Maybe I just see the darkness for what it is.  I feel a deep concern for many loved ones - those who are seeking God, those who are interested in Catholicism, those who are openly living in sin for a multitude of reasons (some repentant/struggling and some not), those who may be in abusive relationships, those living in war zones or captivity...There is so much pain, and I feel called to pray.

I know that Christ is our answer.  We must prefer him to all else.  And, I know that only in the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church is the fullness of God's grace available to us.  The pain of disunity with our Christian brothers and sisters is so disheartening to me.  And the absolute rejoicing and reveling in the culture of death and sin that our world is experiencing is so scary.  It has gotten worse in my lifetime.

Catholics are often misunderstood and lumped into groups or labels that aren't quite accurate.  We often agree with Evangelicals on certain moral issues, but usually based on very different reasoning.  We sometimes overlap with one political party or another, but our view of the human person is comprehensive and incomparable to a political system.  We are the universal Church.  The universal salve to all that ails us.  I wish more would seek the truth, and come home.

Lately, as more news or personal situations bother me on a deep level, I feel a call, not to start a debate, comment, or form an opinion...but a call to pray.  Sincerely and deeply.  These are deep wounds, and Christ is the answer.  I know that he is my only hope, and I know that I found Him in the Catholic Church more assuredly than in any other place.  I cannot separate Christ from his Church.      

What about you?  Do you feel this deep call to prayer as you look around the world?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~   

"Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ." ~ St. Benedict  

Friday, August 21, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXIII)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you seven quick takes from my world this week.


I thought last week sucked was rough, but this week has been equally difficult.  School starts next week for our college freshmen.  They were born in 1997.  How's that for feeling old?!  I'm just so tired that I ache inside.  Maybe I can rest this weekend.  


Stranger Danger.  

I'm putting myself out there tomorrow to meet a group of Catholic women.  I'm hoping to meet/needing some friends, especially like-minded individuals.  Plus, one of my only friends here moved about a year ago, and she has yet to be replaced.  Even though I'm an introvert, I love people.  I'm excited and nervous at the same time.



One of the reasons the last few weeks have been so awful is that my job is increasingly becoming a toxic environment.  I feel like I need to spend a lot of time praying about everything, and yet, the thought of really, truly contemplating it all is pretty overwhelming.



I finished reading Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before, as well as Getting Things Done by David Allen, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and Do Less by Rachel Jonat.  Whew.  Long list.

What I took away from it is that, you have to figure out what matters to you, and at the cost of things that don't matter as much, pursue what matters.  Also, you have to set up a lifestyle, through organization, habits, mindset, etc., that make it easier to live your best life, live a life that is "better than before," or live a life that is intentionally aligned with your values.

Am I doing that?  No.  I am organized in some ways, and a disaster in others.  For instance, I could really use some habits in the morning routine, as well as the meal-planning arena.  I have some good habits in place, like regular exercise and weekly church attendance.  I also have some bad habits in place, which inevitably make me feel ragged, depressed, and out of control.

I think reading all these books, juxtaposed with the stress at work has really made me have a, "what does it all mean?!" and "what is this worth to me?!" moment.  I don't know if a big change is coming, or a big attitude change, or just a big dose of contemplation.  Either way, I'm glad I read all those books.  I'd recommend Better than Before and Do Less the most.



I'm now reading a book, Why We Get Fat.  I've known for years that I don't process sugar well, and that carbs (not burned) turn into sugar.  I'm giving myself until the end of the book, but I truly think it's time...time for me to truly, once-and-for-all give up sugar and carbs.  I know I would feel better.  I would probably lose weight, and I'm hoping that I wouldn't have the horrible roller coaster of blood sugar if I ate this way.  I'm sure it would be difficult, but if it had the benefits that I think it would, the difficulty would be worth it.  



I can feel it in the air, see it in the sunset, and there's no way of avoiding the academic calendar...summer is coming to a close.


Interesting links this week:

Stephen Colbert's Catholic faith (a little bit of language, but a WHOLE LOT of wisdom)
My take away was the very Ignatian viewpoint he presented:

“So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn't mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

Elizabeth Esther's take on the newest Josh Duggar scandal

Was Jesus nice?

Spiritual warfare tactics

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I would like to pray for all marriages, all who struggle with same-sex attraction, all who have left the Catholic faith, and all who seek truth.  That's just what's on my heart.    

"For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. " 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Over It

I never knew good boundaries growing up, and I continually struggle with what healthy boundaries are.  This includes my personal life, my professional life, my married life, my religious life, my social media life...all of life.

We were taught that we were to respect all adults, our "elders."  And, as females, we were taught to be subservient to all men, but mostly our father until we were married, then our husband, once married.  It's easy to reject those two rules now (respect all elders and males, no questions asked), but at the same time, the overall concept of boundaries has been difficult for me.  Do I allow my parents to stay in my home when each time they do, they directly violate our "rules" and cause conflict?  Do I keep up a facade of contact with a person who has not been respectful of my beliefs, no matter what the context, in order to keep the greater peace within my family?  Do I forge relationships with people at work, even though their topics of discussion make me uncomfortable?

One thing I've learned over the past several years is that I am a sensitive person.  Highly sensitive, even.  I am emotional, and those emotions are valid.  I am deeply affected by certain things, and, in order to maintain my own health (mostly mental health) and sanity, I have to avoid certain activities.  I was told all my childhood that feelings were not valid, that I was not a "feeler," (more of a "thinker"), and that boundaries were "silly" or being "hyper-sensitive."  My boundaries were continuously, constantly violated - my parents went through our trash, my parents read all mail sent to us, my parents read our diaries, my parents listened to our phone calls with friends.  No joke.  It sounds extreme, but that's just how it was.  A closed door was never greeted with a knock, just barged in.  If you were a child, or a female (lucky me, I was both), when you spoke it might be ignored, disregarded, spoken over, laughed at, or shushed...never respected.

Some rules that work for me... I do not watch the news.  I am aware of current events via printed media or the radio, and I pray for our world, but I do not watch the news.  I also do not watch/listen to/read anything violent.  I hate violence.  I hate the images that promote it or advertise it or glorify it.  They stay with me for years and bother me.  I can't take it.  I do not ingest any form of "celebrity gossip" or news.  I don't care about that stuff.  I don't have TV (not cable, not bunny ear, not TV).  I am only vaguely aware of the latest of those stories, and I don't follow the fashions.  I wear what works for me, and I don't care what celebrities are up to.  These rules work for me.  

Lately, I've realized I need to add another limit to my boundaries list.  I used to follow, read, and listen to Protestants as a way of promoting ecumenicism, as a way of knowing what the pulse of the Christian world thought, and as a way of engaging in religious discussions.  I have found that I basically need to stop that all together.

I do not have the time or the energy to devote to lots of Protestant thought anymore.  We start most discussions from very different viewpoints.  I end up feeling either preached to (as sort of a "you are going to hell, you Mary-worshipping-Catholic" or, conversely, "you are so closed minded, you not-contracepting, not LGBT-affirming-Catholic"), sometimes ridiculed, and often misunderstood. While I do believe that religious liberty is increasingly under attack in our culture (something people of all faiths should address), I think that the process of relating to Protestants is largely unhealthy for me, these days.  I often find it easier to relate to people with no belief, who are at least respectful, or people of vastly different beliefs, but whose spiritual approach is similar (i.e., value silence, see God in nature, respect others, etc.)  I find the underlying premise of Sola Scriptura doesn't work, doesn't make sense to me, and isn't a good way of "discussing" issues with someone else.  God bless Protestants.  I learned a lot from them.  I just don't get anything out of our dialogue anymore.  The more dogmatic, theological debates are hard for me to take because I feel like I'm being brainwashed and back in childhood.  The random sprinkling of out-of-context Bible verses is enough to make me run screaming.  I would rather close my mind with intention, as our priest explained once.  For me, that means limiting my spiritual intake to what works for me.  That is...Catholic authors and sources.  There is a huge variety in the Catholic category.  I'm not saying I get something out of everything, nor do I agree with it all.  But, I don't have to worry about the basic premise being one of disagreement.  It won't trigger me to horrible childhood memories, and I don't feel like I am doing battle against people I should be in some sort of agreement with.

Another category that I need to avoid all together is the perpetually negative.  Fighting negative thoughts is something I need to do for my own mental health.  I have enough on my plate without having to address the negative thoughts and words of others.  This mainly comes into play with a particular family member and with coworkers.  I want relationships with them, but when the majority of their conversation is negative, complaining, criticisms, situations out of their control, I know I need to keep my distance.  It is exhausting to be the "Devil's advocate" in that situation...even if the "Devil" is the positive viewpoint.  I know people need to express themselves, but it is unhealthy and draining for me to be in close relationship with Negative Nellies.

Elizabeth Esther posted about healthy boundaries recently.  It was a rebuttal/rewrite of someone that said she thought leaving the church because of being hurt by those in the church was an invalid reason.  Elizabeth's response was very balanced, and reminded me of the healthy boundaries that I have learned to set in my life.

"I've been hurt by the Church" is one of the most UNDERSTANDABLE reasons I've heard for not going to church.
I've been hurt by advertising—so I choose to spend my money with more ethical companies.
I've been hurt by colleagues—so I go to HR departments to make sure my work place is a safe place for myself and others.
I've been hurt by friends—so I choose my friends wisely and no longer associate with people who disrespect my boundaries.
I've been hurt by social media—so I block unsafe people, delete harmful comments and create email filters that prevent strangers on social media from contacting me directly.
I've been hurt by family—so I set and enforce boundaries because forgiving someone doesn't mean I have to let them hurt me again.
I've been hurt by entertainment—so I avoid consuming entertainment that compromises my mental, emotional or spiritual health.
I build my life and make my choices based on my real, lived experiences and the wisdom I've learned from them. I've been hurt but I don't hurt people and that begins by not hurting MYSELF—which sometimes means not attending church. God is big enough to find me anywhere. Love always. xo. EE.

For those of us who come from abusive or controlling environments, I think our boundaries and ways of healing can vary.  It may look different for different people.  I am of the WW philosophy - Whatever Works.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I really got a lot out of Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth when I read it a few years ago.  It is a new age book, and there are probably some ideas in there to be avoided.  However, when I read it, it really broke through to me and spoke to me on a deep level.  I was able to let go of a situation (sexual harassment at work) that was in my past.  I was so angry about it, and I couldn't let it go, even when I had switched jobs, not once, but twice.  A New Earth helped me regain my sense of the present moment and accept what is. 

I am a faithful, practicing Catholic.  I was a little more new age and rebellious at the time I read this book.  So, I can't recommend a book that goes sometimes against our Catholic faith.  But one quote from Eckhart Tolle continues to come to my mind a lot. 

A point he makes is that people tend to spend time regretting the past, telling themselves that things would be different now if certain things hadn't happened in the past.  If another person hadn't done X, Y, or Z.  If something hasn't happened yet that you "deserve" or think must happen for your current happiness.  It's basically a problem of acceptance.  You must accept what is, not what you want to be, not what you think should be. 

He says that if you listen to people's stories, the stories they tell themselves, they could almost all be entitled, "Why I Cannot Be at Peace Now."  

I have found this to be true, and often true of myself.  It's a good warning.  It also lines up with cognitive behavioral therapy, which tells us that trauma happens to us, not just in events, but in our reaction and response to the events.  We often re-traumatize ourselves by re-playing situations, growing our outrage.  We criticize and complain with no healthy end, no goal in mind.  And "letting off steam" in a vague way like that tends to have the opposite effect desired - it makes things worse.  

I have compassion on others.  I try to listen deeply.  I also try to be very careful about the words I speak.  I think there is much wisdom in recognizing the stories we tell ourselves.  Are we telling ourselves that happiness, peace, love, kindness, etc. are somewhere in the future because of circumstances beyond our control?  In truth, they are waiting for us here - in the present moment - even with all of its imperfections.  It's our choice to see the good, to embrace reality, to accept what is.  It's very hard, and it's a battle I continue to fight. 

One of my favorite quotes from Viktor Frankl reminds us of our ultimate freedom to choose how we respond to life: 

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Friday, August 14, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXII)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you seven quick takes from my world this week.



The first week back after a vacation from work is always hard.  It was especially hard this year because I work in higher education, and our students will be returning next week.  Activity is ramped up this week in preparation.  I had a huge deadline today, which resulted in me staying really late yesterday and coming in early today.  That rarely happens at this job, so things will go back to normal.  I'm just tired.



There are always those difficult people that ruin an otherwise-good situation.  Just before I left for vacation a few weeks ago, my toxic and horrible big boss unleashed on me, for whatever reason.  He wanted me to make a change in a software system I oversee.  When I informed him that I already made that change, based on a directive from him several months ago, the *stuff* hit the fan.  So, he accused me of violating policy.  He copied my boss (direct boss, he's the big boss of the whole office) on at least four emails.  He was basically creating a paper trail that suggested I was in the wrong.  Not only was this over a trivial matter, but I did what he told me to do months ago.  But, apparently, that email wasn't "authoritative," this second email was. (?!)  It made no sense to me, still doesn't.  It felt like an exercise in his authority.  I get the general feeling he hates me.  I don't know why.  It's hard for me to trust and respect him when I feel that I'm not at all trusted or respected.

I felt 100% attacked.  I don't want to go into more detail, but it was really out of nowhere.  I truly did not do anything wrong, in my estimation.  No amount of reassurances, proving my reasoning, etc. was enough.  In fact, everything I said seemed to provoke him, so I eventually stopped responding.

My boss apologized to me for the big boss's behavior.  I've never heard him admit wrongdoing for anything, so of course he hasn't apologized for this.  I dreamed about this situation every single night on vacation and had the worst case of Sunday evening blues before returning to work last Monday.  It has made me rethink my presence here and dust off the old resume.  I feel too old for this level of BS. Too many mind games.

I know there are difficult people everywhere.  I know I'm not perfect.  But this kind of thing is just so disheartening.  It makes me want to throw in the towel.



I'm a major introvert, but I'm not anti-social.  I actually like people.  I just get really sick of the loud and disruptive office environment I work in.  Today we had a potluck meal.  I appreciated the effort to bring together the staff, and I'd love to have a work friend.  But, due to my big boss and all the drama that recently unfolded, I didn't feel comfortable sitting around and shooting the breeze with everyone.  I couldn't put aside the disgust I feel, and I didn't want to be phony.  I ate lunch alone in my cubicle.  I wasn't the only one who did that.  I hate that I couldn't use this opportunity to socialize, but I just didn't have it in me.  I believe I have forgiven him, but I don't want any more togetherness than necessary.  The environment has gotten so toxic for me that I think I might need to move on.



Based on the incidents that transpired in #2, I needed to go to confession.  So, I went last Saturday. Among other things, I confessed my anger at my big boss for this.  It really was out of control...more like rage.  (I don't mind sharing, as this is basically an anonymous blog.)  Anyway, the rage I felt at the email exchange (at least 8 in total) which falsely accused me of all this stuff was really overwhelming.  If I had the financial means, I would have walked out and quit the job that day.  I was shaking with anger.  I have to admit, some horrible thoughts and words came out of my mouth (but not in the email exchange.)  When I get this mad, it scares me.  I don't know what I might be capable of.  I know it's out of control and irrational.

When I confessed this, the priest said that I shouldn't let anger control me or get out of hand because it can lead to other sins.  I know he's right.  I hadn't thought of it that way.  I just knew that I had gone too far, even though I was falsely accused and rightly angered at the injustice of it all.  It wasn't right to overreact.

No matter how big or small the sin, confession is such a miracle to me.  God meets me there in a real way that I have never experienced before becoming Catholic.  There is no other context in which I can feel the love of God so intimately.  He really truly is the great Healer.  


Family Vacation.

Last week was my big vacation.  Our family rented a beach house together and celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.  I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my husband, away from it all, and with my family.  It was not without its difficulties.  I left with a deep concern for one of my siblings, who seems at the very, very end of their rope.  I also left with somewhat of a wound from my parents.  The way they talked about their marriage and family life is just so strange.  It is all focused on them, specifically on my father, not my mother.  It is all about their dogma and theology, not in a "we want to leave a legacy of love and make sure you know that we and God love you," but more in a "if you don't believe just like we do, you're doomed."  I just get so sick of it.  They are literally preaching to the choir.  We have heard this stuff our entire lives.  At every prayer before every meal.  At every church service.  Peppered unnaturally into SO many conversations.  WE KNOW WHERE THEY STAND.  We got the memo already!  But, that doesn't stop the preaching at us, their kids.

In the course of less than 24 hours of their arrival to our home (before we left together for vacation), my mother had gone through drawers, books, writing, private materials in our study and master bedroom (which were rooms specifically closed off to them for this very reason), my dad had tried to proselytize two clients of my husband's against our will and without our knowledge, and I found out that my parents had invited a non-family member to the family vacation - a person who is extremely difficult to deal with, and who is like them in many ways.

Anyway, as I told one of my sisters, my parents are so emotionally messed up themselves that we cannot expect for them to fulfill our emotional needs in the way we want.  It's like asking someone in a wheelchair to climb a flight of stairs.  They are our cross.  I hate to say it, but it's true.  My relationship with my parents is hands down the most difficult relationship in my life.  It has been a defining factor in my adulthood, insofar as dealing with them has created an added layer of difficulty to literally everything.  

When it was all over, while I did enjoy myself to some extent on vacation, I collapsed into tears.  I can't explain why.  I just felt like this was a milestone event in our family.  I get the sense that things will be very different at the next milestone event.  I feel the time passing and see the family issues getting worse in some ways, not better.  I long for healing, and I long for peace.  The pain of our childhood still hurts in the times you least expect on a beach vacation with your family, when everything should be perfect.

I don't want to ruin the present moment.  I am learning to acknowledge the pain and offer it up to God, even if I don't understand it.  I can't wallow in it, but I have to truly feel it to move on.  I also can't pretend it's not there.  I have to forgive, yet, I have to admit that it hurts sometimes.  


Currently Reading.  

I'm about to read the book Why We Get Fat.  I'm excited to see if I can implement this lifestyle, essentially it's low-carb (or low starch).  I have major blood sugar issues, so I am sure I could benefit from this way of eating.  As much as I would hate to give up bread and sweets, I know it would make me feel better.  But, I'm going to read the book before I give it a try.



There was a great article in the New York Times that expounded upon the "I'm too old for this" mantra.  Although I'm only in my thirties, I loved it.

I find that I have less tolerance for BS than I did before.  I also find a longing for healing right now.  I don't want to waste my life or live in a way that doesn't correspond to my values.

For deep wounds, we need deep healing.  We need a rich prayer life.  We need an even closer relationship with Christ to deal with it all.  That's my goal in all of this.  Not just to "get over it," but to "get it."  To get the lesson.  To be transformed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Within thy wounds, hide me..."