Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Pope & Letting Go

I didn't want Pope Francis to go home. The feeling reminds me of the times my grandparents would come to visit me when I lived in Columbus, and I would be so sad when they left. Once my husband found me sitting on the couch crying, and I realized then how very much I missed them. There was an elderly couple living around the block from my house, and they were so kind to me and Beezy, always inviting us to sit on the porch or come in for ice cream. It made me wish it was that easy to spend time with my own grandma and grandpa. So I moved. I did what some people thought was a crazy thing, to leave the culture of the big city for my humble hometown.

We had to let go of many things. For example, virtually nothing is open here on Sundays. That is as it should be. But in the beginning it was hard to fathom not being able to go to a coffee shop, book store, the mall, or the movies. In fact, you have to look harder for any sort of entertainment or social activity in our area. I'd have to drive an hour one way to even shop at a decent mall. But I am creative. Between thrift stores and Ebay, I manage to clothe myself reasonably well. What I have learned is that when most of the toys are taken away, you find out what you're really made of. Without so many of the distractions, the search for meaning in life becomes crucial.

Some days I am extremely annoyed by what is lacking. I want to shake people until they wake up. This could be a much more vibrant community. It was once a self-sufficient, thriving railroad town, a happening village. Today it's as if the ghost of all those yesteryears moans in the alleyways like an orphan. Yet the characteristic independence of the place stubbornly clings, and so there is hope for revival. And if it comes, it will be something new. My part in that transformation may be small, but there is power in a mustard seed.

I have to let go of how-things-used-to-be, because now is all we have. Pope Francis was here while he was here, and it was glorious like Christmas morning, but he had to go home and prepare for the next thing. Like Jesus' apostles who saw him transfigured in his heavenly glory on the mountain top, we have to descend again and press on with the task at hand. I don't have to go looking for my purpose in life. It is here, all around me. I'm sitting in the middle of it. I have a home and a family to care for, a book and blogs to write, and seeds of contemplation to sew. I am needed in non-earth-shattering ways, but my presence matters nonetheless. I am blessed to have my grandparents to visit, only a few minutes away. There are things unseen that come into sharper focus in the melancholy, fading fall light.

I think the Pope came to America to help us step up where we need to step up, and to let go where we need to let go. The trouble lies in discernment between the two. But I'm a little closer to Wisdom than I was before he came. Thank you, oh Francis, my Francis.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Soul Searching

A situation occurred in one of my Facebook groups which required me to reactivate. I'll reflect on that in a moment. One good thing about being back "on" was that a friend had been looking for me, and we had a nice chat. She relayed how she had struggled with Facebook herself and found a solution by unfollowing most of her friends. So there is another suggestion for simplifying the process. You can still be active on social media, but you can take control of what you see. I don't personally know this awesome woman, but she is a fellow Catholic, and she told me that she has been doing a lot of soul searching. I'm right there with her.

Pope Francis is visiting the United States right now for the first time in his life. And this morning he addressed a joint session of Congress, the first pope in history ever to do so. I was in my car trying to catch his speech on the radio, but the reception wasn't great, and combined with his accent, he was difficult to understand. I'm certain it will be available to listen to or watch another time. I decided to focus as much as I could on Francis' voice, on his tone, even more than on what he was actually saying. I noticed how slowly he spoke, with such care. And although they were supposed to hold their applause, his audience members could not contain themselves. From what I heard afterward, politicians from both sides of the aisle were very moved. Francis wants America to become a land of dreams once again.

Indeed. My country seems a long way from the land of the free and the home of the brave that she once was. The small town I live in provides little opportunity for gainful employment. Many empty store fronts line its main street. People here are very brave. They try to get a restaurant, or a boutique, or an arts center going. It's discouraging to see these efforts take off, then struggle, then ultimately fail. And some people are very, very sensitive to any criticism of the village. How can we form a vision for where we wish the community to go if we refuse to see the truth? The run down houses, the drunks, the meth labs, the abused and neglected children, the profanity heard loudly on the streets. The pope sees all of it and shines a spotlight on the stark realities.

So the moderator I put in charge of one of my groups while I was taking a hiatus from Facebook voiced a concern regarding two girls she personally knew who had broken an arm during recess at school, both within a week. This was in fact the third girl she knew that this had happened to at the same school, and while the discussion was going on, she found out about two more broken bone incidents since the last two. One happened on the way to school, and the other occurred while a child was playing near the school on the weekend. While my friend acknowledged that these events could certainly all have been a bad luck coincidence, it seemed very odd in such a small town. She wanted to know if others might have some insight into the situation.

This moderator simply questioned whether the recess accidents might have occurred due to insufficient supervision. She also shared her experience as a teacher. Most group members were polite, but a couple attacked her and accused her of bashing the school. Absolutely no one consented that it was even a remote possibility that the kids aren't being watched well enough on the playground.

This is a little thing compared to abortion, war, terrorism, and hunger, but bear with me. These angry folks want to censor others who say anything they don't like. They jump all over anyone who brings a problem into focus. I won't allow the censorship. I won't allow bullying. And even if not a single soul sees things one person's way, that doesn't mean that person is wrong. It isn't wrong to question, to be concerned, to hold our public servants accountable. It's perfectly okay, and even necessary, to keep a watch on those local institutions to which our taxpayer dollars go. If we can't be realistic about one little town, if we can't have civilized conversations and disagreements on social media, if all we want is to have perfume blown up our you-know-whats, then how on earth can we be effective as a citizenry when it comes to monumental national issues?

People don't want honesty and sincerity anymore, unless you are singing a Snow White happy song surrounded by turtledoves. But the Christian Faith is the narrow road. It ain't gonna make you popular to sound your horn of justice. To say, hey look, there's an ogre living next door who tears babies apart and eats them for breakfast! (And sells the leftovers for profit.)

I was amazed that during the recent GOP debate, the topic of education was not addressed at all, except for a brief mention by one candidate, in a tone of disdain, that another was a fan of Common Core. The unconstitutional, federal Department of Education and its liberty robbing agenda needs to be faced like a fearless bullfighter against a brutal beast. I hope the next president has a red cape and a spine to drape it across.

Expect me to be even more frank than usual. My soul is melancholy. My heart hurts. The evil in the world is overwhelming. Jesus didn't pussy foot around. He was kind, healing, humble, loving, and compassionate. He also turned over the market tables in the Temple. He broke man's laws when they were not in harmony with God's. He did not mince words or endeavor to be politically correct or falsely diplomatic. His own hometown people tried to throw him off a cliff. Luckily I live in a very flat land.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.

A popular slogan used in 12 Step groups is keep it simple. This is great in theory, and so many of us would love to simplify our lives, but we don't know how. Recently I've taken some steps that have made a difference, so I'll share them with you.

I went through my email inbox and removed myself from several mailing lists. So my first tip is, unsubscribe. If a blog sends you notifications of new posts too often, it can be overwhelming, and you may feel obligated to read each post. So you keep them in your inbox to read later, and soon you have several accumulated messages. If you really love the blog, you will go there without reminders. Jennifer Scott posts to "The Daily Connoisseur" every Monday, so I visit her blog each week without being notified. I only post here at Organic Mothering 2 or 3 times a month, so I promise not to clog your inbox if you do wish to follow me via email!

One of my biggest hassles was an overabundance of emails, with numerous attachments on each, that I received several times a week from the Catholic school where Beezy takes a la carte art and gym classes. It suddenly occurred to me to ask the principal to take me off the list. I told her it would be fine to send a paper copy of the weekly newsletter home with my child, and that would serve our purposes. I am now receiving hardly any email messages at all, and it's wonderful!

You can do the same thing with paper magazines. If you don't absolutely adore the publication, cancel the subscription, or do not renew it when it runs out. I have so many magazines that have accumulated in my home that it's difficult to know where to begin, but I am paring them down. Donate old issues to a thrift store or to your local library. Make sure that you also deal with snail mail immediately. File any bills and recycle the junk. Do not allow piles to grow.

I deactivated my primary Facebook account. A couple of years ago I had deleted it altogether, but after my grandma died last year, I wanted to be able to stay in touch with family members. That has been a great thing, but to be honest, most of what I see in the newsfeed is uninteresting. Not the personal stuff, but all of the "cute" animal videos, asinine memes, and general nonsense. It's too easy to get sucked in and waste valuable time. There is also the issue of being offended by what someone wrote, or feeling obligated to respond to someone else's offense over something I've posted. It's just not worth the stress. Real life throws enough curve balls at us, like when I was at the park yesterday and desperately needed to use the restroom. It was locked up for "painting," though I saw no signs of painters. Then when I hurried to the outhouse, I discovered it was out of toilet paper. Thanks be to God that I noticed this before I went ahead with my business. We don't need Facebook on top of daily life. Really.

I do still have a pseudonym FB account in order to remain active in a particular group that is important to me. Even here, I find myself getting too caught up in my advocacy for Charlotte Mason homeschooling and spending too much time thinking about what to share and how to get others involved in edifying conversation. The idea of letting go of my "baby" is almost unthinkable. But I'm thinking about it. I have caught myself designing posts in my mind, and this can become habitual. I know you know what I mean. This is no way to live.

So there you go! Consider just one thing that you can do today to simplify your life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Fat Chic" Reactions

I know it isn't politically correct to even use the word "fat". Just like you can't say that you don't believe in same-sex "marriage" without being called a homophobic or gay hater. Just like you can't say that you are against abortion without being accused of conspiring with the "war on women". People, there was also a time when you didn't dare say cancer out loud. It had to be whispered. Folks didn't talk about it in polite society.

Now it has been suggested that I'm not being a good, humble Catholic because I called the media out on the carpet for glorifying and glamorizing obesity, and that I am "fat shaming". I pointed out that children are helpless victims of the unhealthy and alarmingly growing trend in American society of being grossly overweight. I shamed the media, not fat people. Magazines and runways feature mostly models who are a size 0, but recently a size 22 model has been celebrated, and such examples of portraying obesity as sexy have become more prevalent. Where are the examples of real women with imperfect bodies who are not at either end of the extremes? What we need are models who are of various ages and body types, who are all beautiful in their own, unique ways.

Anorexia is an eating disorder which leads to death. So are the disorders that lead to obesity. As I wrote in "Toxic Accumulation", I am exploring those areas of life in which we tend to have too much. In which we desire to pare down and simplify our lives. In which we want to be more joyful and purposeful in the way we spend our time. Being overweight drags me down. It adds to the pain of my torn spinal disk. It makes it almost impossible to be comfortable in a bra, or without one. My belly fat is the most dangerous kind. As long as you are not underweight and eat a nutritious diet and get adequate exercise, don't smoke, etc., it is always healthier to be slimmer rather than fatter. That's just the truth, dear readers.

I'm not shaming myself or anyone else for the state their bodies are in. But I do want to encourage all of us to treat our bodies well, like the temples of the Holy Spirit that they are. To stop the toxic accumulation of junk food. To learn what real food is, to move our bodies creatively, to take good care of our children, to tell the media that we are tired of the way it makes an idol out of the body.

So to Hades with political correctness. If you are offended by what I wrote, it's because you choose to be. Take a closer look at your reaction. I was writing about me and about the worldly temptation to allow myself to lead a lifestyle that ends in sickness and an early death. I can't be the person God has created me to be if I have no energy to serve him. Being fat weighs us down, in more ways than one. I choose to celebrate life and health. I will not say, "Good for you for proudly being a size 22." I will ask instead, "Is this really how you want to live?" And I will ask, "What can I do to help?" The first thing I can do to help is to get rid of my own toxic accumulation. I will love myself enough to clear my clutter, including the excess inches around my waistline. The bird with it's head stuck in the sand will never fly. I say, let's fly!