Thursday, September 24, 2015

Where's the Pope Love?

These days, all I see all over Facebook - from Catholics and non-Catholics alike - is talk about Pope Francis. Yet, amongst my actual Catholic friends, it's radio silence. None of my favorite blogs have written about him either. Only my politico-Catholic friends are covering his visit.

I've seen some non-Catholics insisting, why is that? Isn't this your leader? What - you don't like him cause he's liberal?

So I thought I'd answer the question: where's the orthodox Catholic pope love? 

I fully admit I struggle with Pope Francis. I struggle with him because it seems that he's constantly misspeaking about our teachings, saying things that make the Western world go wild with speculation about us changing our beliefs - which seems to many to be inevitable. I struggle with him because I think he often acts/speaks first without thinking - a trait that is usually problematic, but is catastrophically so when you are the world leader of a much-hated religion. I get angry that he gives fodder to people who insist that Catholicism is shades of grey, that I can choose to live my Catholicism one way and they can live theirs another way because the Pope said so. It grieves me that his papacy is so often hailed as the complete opposite of Pope Emeritus Benedict's - because I saw Benedict three times in person and fell in love with him more each time.

But he also endears himself to me regularly. Some of his most oft-repeated quotes are seared in my brain: "a shepherd should smell like his sheep" has been something I have reflected upon repeatedly since I read it; and "the Church is a hospital for sinners" has stopped me in my tracks more than once, especially during Mass. I love the fact that he so clearly loves people, I love that he has such a big heart that sometimes he trips over it. I love that he makes Catholics who have mistaken their religion for a political party uncomfortable - I am so glad that he makes the West uncomfortable when he talks about the poor and the marginalized, especially immigrants. To my delight, he defies categorization as left or right and seems to annoy everyone. I think that is a good thing, because we all run the risk of making our Catholicism small - making it about our pet issues when really it's so much bigger and holistic than that.

The thing about Pope Frances is that when you talk of him, you can never really be sure what to say. There's so much to love and so much to confound; much to celebrate and to mourn. When he speaks, we always want to believe the best - but it's so rarely clear that's what he means. Perhaps that's why we're silent - because, just like the rest of the world, he's simply giving us a lot to think about.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Waking Up

Sometimes I look at my life, and my behavior, and my choices and I wonder: who have I become?

What shocks me most about myself post-marriage and babies is that I haven't changed in what I would perceive to be big ways: what I believe, how I behave, what's important. What has changed are aspects of myself I would have always classified as minor: my organization, drive for self-perfection, type-A tendencies. I didn't think that could go away - I thought it was a (huge) part of who I was.

Enjoying real seasons while in grad school

If I'm being honest, it was eroded slowly before I got to where I am now, even if it's taken me until now to really put my finger on what has been 'off.' First I didn't do as well as I thought I would in law school. I wasn't at the bottom of my class, by any means! But I hadn't ever not been in the top - not when I tried, anyway. But I wasn't, and I blew it, and it's not the kind of thing you can get back. I navigated that okay, but then I had the tornado which made me feel so out of control and it made me feel like law school never happened. So then I got married and I thought, well....what now. I tried to just throw myself into making a home and a baby, but it turned out both were harder than they looked on paper. I took the Bar (and failed).

Former house

Law school graduation

All this time, these successive failures and struggles with these huge issues that felt so out of control, I didn't realize they were changing me. But here I am now, seven years later, and I realize I am really not who I was. So much of my personality was taken, molded, changed, adapted, or maybe just buried by all of that stuff.

But I know those parts of me are still there, because I get furiously angry if I get out of bed later than 8am. A day where I get very little 'done' leaves me feeling defeated and resentful. And yet now my entire life feels out of control - feels unorganized - feels not me. It feels like I've taken a nap from life and I'm waking up thinking, how the hell did I get here? I'm angry. I'm angry a lot. I'm mad at the condition of my house, the lack of systems to run it efficiently, and my general flakiness. I'm mad and hurt that I am no longer known as a powerhouse of efficiency and planning.

I get the sense that many friends or family think I should be working, or that my frustration lies in my education going unused. It's not true - I love my work. I love to be at home and with my children. I just want to do it as me, instead of whoever I've been acting like.

I know I can't envy who I was - I know I can't hold myself to the same levels of efficiency now that kids are here - I know that I should "waste time" with my children - but I have to find some way to regain a sense of myself before I end up blaming everything that I love for taking it from me.

So I've started going to the gym. It's a weird microcosm of a habit: I'm trying to make myself do this one thing every day. If I do this one thing, then I will have the schedule the rest of my day in order to get it done. I am making myself go - even on days when Zuzu is whiny or David hasn't napped. Even though right now, it feels like this habit is causing MORE chaos in my home as I get used to having more being required of me. I am trying to relearn my favorite virtue of self-control and hope that it carries over into the rest of my life, because it seems the alternative is being out of control and I'm not sure how much longer I could live like that.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

According to Z

Yesterday, as I was trying to get her ready to head to the babysitter's so that Tom and I could have a much needed date night...

Me: Oookay, please go grab your shorts so we can go.
Me: Uh huh. Please go grab your shorts.
Zuzu: FLEEK.
Me: ZUZU that word doesn't mean anything! Please listen to me!
Zuzu: It DOES mean something! It means I'm very hungry and I need to eat right away!
Me: ...well. Ok. I will get you food. First please get your shorts.
Zuzu: Oh-KAY!


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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Making Room for Change

When we had Zuzu, I was pretty firmly in the 'crunchy' mom camp. I don't know how it happened - I'm really not a hippy. But since I knew I wanted to have a natural birth outside of a hospital, everything else came rushing in - like it was a package deal.

Natural birth -> breastfeeding -> bedsharing -> attachment parenting -> cloth diapering -> amber teething necklaces -> baby wearing

Happily, it really worked for us. That first year of Zuzu's life was great! Breastfeeding went well, she was a happy baby in adorable cloth diapers, and I loved wearing her. Great. Good.

But...after a year, some things started to wear on me. On our family. Overnight, she'd always leak out of her cloth diapers, so I was changing the sheets a lot. I had a ton of women telling me how to fix the diapers so it would work better, but...we just switched to disposables for overnight. Then, she was having some issues with diaper rash. When I went into my local crunchy mama store to ask for diaper creams that were ok to use with cloth diapers, the store's clerk first response was "oh wow, we really don't carry anything because babies who wear cloth diapers don't get diaper rash."

Oh wow, really - want to see my baby's bum?

It went on from there. We weren't getting a lot of sleep at night because my daughter liked to nurse all. night. long. I didn't get out a whole lot without her because I was the one who nursed her down for naps and bedtime, and she woke frequently to nurse. Sometimes it felt like she was a little TOO attached - it was hard leaving her with Tom, or my mom, or anyone. It was hard to parent her without using nursing as the main parenting tool. To be fair, I didn't want to get out much - I loved being with her all of the time. But I'm not sure it was really good for me - I wasn't taking care of my health,  cultivating a spiritual life, or investing in my friendships. My world was Zuzu and you know what the Bible says about idols.

All of this information about nursing, but I had no idea how to go about weaning, what age was okay to do so, or how to do without just doing it cold turkey.

It started to feel like attachment parenting or crunchy-ness or whatever - was this train that once you got on, you couldn't get off. It worked great when she was a tiny squish, but as she was getting to be an older toddler, I wasn't happy. The advice I got from that community was, try harder, override your gut feeling, ignore your own needs, don't be selfish.

I felt lost about how to run my family or my household sometimes, like I couldn't make certain decisions because it would hurt my child. I was so worried about hurting her by: weaning too soon, not letting her bedshare anymore, spanking, setting nursing limits, doing pretty much anything that made her cry (because letting/making your children cry makes you a monster, in some communities). I felt powerless.

And that's bollocks.

Parenting shouldn't feel like that. And if there's a parenting philosophy that is making you feel that way, it's probably not a good fit for you right now. If something worked when your child was young, but doesn't work now - you can stop. Right now! I'm giving you permission. If it worked for number one, but not number two? Cool, change it. Worked for numbers 1-4, but not 5? Change that too. I realized that I had put all these rules in place in my parenting, but hadn't made room for me to change my mind with experience. That's crazy! Experience will be the best teacher, always. I couldn't ignore the lessons I was learning and more frighteningly, if I stayed rigid, I realized I'd break.

I have another baby now. He hasn't ever slept a night in my bed. Sometimes I let him fuss in his pack and play, when I know he's really tired and not really hungry. He's 5 months old and we just started cloth diapering. I weaned Zuzu from night-nursing nine months ago and it's been GREAT. We've started talking about weaning after her third birthday and she seems cool with it, but even if she's not...I'm ready. And that can be a good reason to make a parenting choice too.

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