Sunday, April 5, 2015

Moving On

So, I decided to close this blog and start a new one. There were various reasons for this decision, but the gist is that I felt a need for newness, for starting fresh.

Here is the link to the new blog:

I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Further Up and Further In

On Sunday morning I missed church again, in spite of my best intentions. That afternoon and evening I had to work. My work schedule is all in the evenings, so I knew that my favorite liturgy of the year, the Easter Vigil, was out. As I researched service schedules of both Catholic and Episcopal churches in town, it looked as if I would miss out on Good Friday and Maundy Thursday as well. 

This made me think wistfully of my old parish, which I still tend to think of as "my parish," in D.C. The last two year's I've sat in the front pews for the Easter Vigil, once as a candidate for confirmation, and once as a sponsor. Twice I've been to the front, stood before the bishop's seat, held a candle and walked (terrified that I'd drop it) up and down the aisle as the choir chanted a litany of the saints. That first year I saw a dear adult friend be baptized, and I knelt beside her at the altar rail as the priest put communion in her hand for the first time and said "The Body of Christ." I felt that the world could not contain our joy. 

As I compared the years, I felt empty and cold. I forgot to hope.

By God's grace, within twenty-four hours I found that there was a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service for me to attend, as well as Easter Sunday. I also found a parish providing a Adoration. Yes, this year I will miss the Vigil. But think what riches I have!

Around the world, Christians are grateful if they even have the chance of meeting together in church once a year. They may go without priests for months. They may not have a full Bible among them. They would give anything to worship in safety. And even they are full of joy: they know how this story ends. 

I found an article about Lent that quotes a child about Lent and Easter. She says, "Mom, I wasn't sure that I LIKED Lent. But, when we're all here together, it's like we're on a mission all together. But, we know how it ends up... It's kind of exciting!" 

Yes! It's the excitement of a mission with all its dangers, except we laugh them to scorn. What can we fear, when God has already been dead and in hell and confounded them both.

"The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

Friday, March 20, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Songs I Don't Listen to Anymore


My poor mom fought an uphill battle with me about music since I was eight and singing "if you wanna be my lover you gotta get with my friends." As a kid growing up in the 90s and 00s (what's it called again?), my music choices were less than stellar. Some of it was harmless embarrassment, like the Hansens and Aqua, and some of it was.... not stuff I'd want my future children hearing. And some of it I've decided is best left in the dustbin of teenage bad decisions.


If you're young enough, do you remember those Ja Rule duets that were so popular in the early 2000s? He did one with Ashanti called "Always On Time" that my friends and I thought was killer. You know, "Baby, I'm not always there when you call, but I'm always on time, and I gave you my heart, now baby be mine." When it came on the radio we cranked it up and sang at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down, to the chagrin of anyone nearby. 

My mom once overheard this particular song and decided to have a Serious Talk. It went like this: 

"I listened to a horrible song on that 101 station you and your friends like. The guy was saying that he keeps, um, women, drugged up on ecstasy. Do you listen to that song?"

"Oh mom, I don't even know what song that is. I don't listen to the lyrics, just the beat." As a connoisseur of 60s-70s tunes, I went on the offensive. "Besides, your generation's music was pretty bad too. What about that song that talks about giving head and how he was a she?" 

"What? There wasn't a song like that." 

"That's in Take a Walk on the Wild Side."

"Oh. Well, at least it doesn't talk about drugs." I watched the wheels turn as she realized that the 70s were mostly about drugs and decided to drop the subject.

Fast forward to last month. While putting on makeup I listened to Pandora and this lovely ballad came on. I found myself singing "Bitch you know better, we live M-O-B, Money over bitches, Murda I-N-C. I got two or three hoes for every V, and I keep them drugged up off that ecstasy." And then I switched to De La Soul. Sometimes moms are right. 


Another rapper we loved was Ludacris. He was from the Dirty (that is, the South), which made him a hometown boy by proxy. One of the "hardcore" songs we loved was "Move Bitch." Yep, that's all I need to say about that one.


P.I.M.P. by 50 Cent was another radio hit. I was under no illusions that it was crap music - not with a title like that - but I had forgotten how awful the lyrics were until I heard it the other day: "Man, this ho you can have her, when I'm done I ain't gon' keep her.... Put my other hoes down, you get your ass beat." All righty then.


I was just a little too young to get into 2Pac while he lived, so I made up for it later. He's still one of my absolute favorite rappers - but not every song he did is good for the soul. I loved "I Get Around" for its "beat" and rhythm. And then I actually listened to the lyrics. Nope. 


In college we liked to bang our heads to Korn's "Freak On A Leash," And while I laugh at people who think rock is devil music, there is something decidedly... evil about this one. It's also one of the most depressing songs I've ever heard, and while that darkness spoke to me then, it's best not to wallow in that kind of thing. 


Not all my poor choices were contemporary either. I love the Rolling Stones, and for Christmas one year I was given their 40 licks double CD. There was one song that always made me slightly uncomfortable, but I told myself not to be a prude. 

Sometime in grad school I decided that if being a prude means not listening to Jagger declare that "Under my thumb, her eyes are just kept to herself, under my thumb, well I can still look at someone else," then I'm happily a prude. 

Do you have songs from your past that make you cringe? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Favorite Reads on Narnia, Confession, Star Trek, and More


In light of a recent tragic event, the Episcopal church has been having a long-needed talk about alcohol addiction. Before converting, I knew the jokes about "whiskey-palians," such as "where there's a fourth there's a fifth." After converting, I was astounded by the amount of alcohol consumed at Episcopalian events. Granted, some of this was baggage from my evangelical days: I knew people who wouldn't even buy alcohol to cook with because it would "be a bad witness" (that's evangelical talk for "give scandal.") However, I do think that the culture in Episcopal churches makes it unnecessarily difficult for alcoholics in recovery. This article has excellent suggestions for how pastors and other leaders should handle this problem.


While thinking and reading about confession, I came across two excellent pieces. The first, from the National Catholic Register, has a great Q and A with a priest about common problems and barriers to confession. 


And the second references a booklet written by Pope Francis as a guide to confession! I really love the questions for examining one's conscience, especially "Do I want to be served?" 


Also from the Register, I was pleased to see someone explain the proper order to read the Narnia series. Since I own the maligned publication pictured on the post, I read them all out of order. As reparation for this act, I offer you the definitive guide to reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Hint: don't do it in the order that they're numbered.

Hint: don't read this one first


While it's doubtful that the Michael Brown shooting was just a racist act, the Ferguson justice department report makes it clear that racism is a widespread problem in their police force. This Rachel Held Evans post nailed it when she asks "Tell me how it's not about race again?


Speaking of Rachel Held Evans, I was pleased to see that she made the jump to the Episcopal church! Welcome, sister. I know firsthand how hard that decision is, especially when your friends and family think you're siding with the whore of Babylon or something. This is a great Q and A that she did about her conversion. Best quote:

"Millennials have finely-tuned B.S. meters that can detect when someone’s just trying to sell us something. We’re not looking for a hipper Christianity. We’re looking for a truer Christianity. Like every generation before and after, we’re looking for Jesus—the same Jesus who can be found in the places he’s always been: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these. No fog machines required."


On a light-hearted note, I'll round it out with a lovely post at Darwin Catholic on aging sci-fi. My husband was a fan of sci-fi before it was cool. While the rest of my generation watched All That and Rugrats, he was watching Zena Warrior Princess and Hercules. When he tried to introduce me to some of his favorites, I was derisive, even though I enjoy contemporary sci-fi like the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Firefly. I think Darwin is spot on about how quickly futuristic fiction looks retro. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why God Gives Commands

On Sunday, I overslept and missed every service but one, an evening Mass at an Episcopal church downtown. I almost didn't go because I wore jeans and t-shirt to volunteer with my husband at Gnome Con that afternoon (it's a nerd thing). Protestants are much more into being dressed up for church than Catholics; as a child I don't even remember wearing slacks or denim skirts, so I was embarrassed to go to mass in jeans and a shirt with cartoon sheep on it. But I figured that was my pride talking, and went anyway.

Lo and behold, my confessor was celebrating the Eucharist, even though he's not normally one of the priests at that parish (not sure what the story is there). After the service I asked him about his Monday schedule, and he said to come by anytime that morning. So I did.

About an hour before leaving for confession, I wrote down everything I could think of. However, after receiving absolution and returning to my car, I remembered something, and it was a mortal sin. Part of me felt so awkward about going back in, even though he was not yet in a meeting with anyone else. Thankfully, the Spirit would not let up until I walked back inside and shared my heart. He said "I'm so glad you came back." So was I. My shoulders literally felt pounds lighter, and I almost skipped back to my car, spending the rest of the day in a happy glow.

One thing the priest told me is that often times we humans seek emotional release in ways that are inherently harmful: cutting, gluttony, etc. At the time it feels so good, and seems self-medicating, but in fact we are damaging our souls and bodies. After this appointment for my soul, it seems so obvious that God wants only the best for us always. He never gives commands that would harm our souls, and what He does command is for our good and the good of others. Growing up, I used to think that the only reason to try to "be good" was to get to heaven, and since Jesus died on the cross we were redeemed, so why try? Now, the question doesn't make sense. You might as well wonder why an appendicitis patient needs surgery, or why an asthmatic should quick smoking. God longs for our healing - not for Himself, but because He loves us and hates to see us harm ourselves.

Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Quick Takes of Epic Fail


Since I started observing Lent in college, it's followed a typical trajectory: 

Ash Wednesday: the most awesomely reverent and beautiful but simple service evah that makes me feel both penitential and loved and in touch with God all at once. Individual churches can mess up other services - I've seen it done - but no matter where you go, at least in the Episcopal church, Ash Wednesday is done right. (Maybe because the very nature of it discourages liturgical "experimentation"?)

The first week or so: is also awesome, in so far as Lent can be awesome. The penance is fresh and novel and doesn't feel too terrible yet. Except that one year I did a caffeine fast while in college; not one of my more prudent decisions. 

As my Catholic readers know, about half way through Lent becomes a drag. Forty days seems a lot longer than it did on Ash Wednesday.

And then comes Holy Week, which in my experience is jam-packed with services and enough kneeling and calisthenics to prepare you for a burpees contest. 


This Lent has not followed that trajectory.


It's not because God is melting my heart with humility - although the humiliation part of humility has been pretty non-stop. It's because I can't get my shit together. 


And by that I don't mean that I can't do the fasts - although that is true! I haven't kept a single ONE of the promises I made in my previous post, not consistently. I'm doing much better about the shower thing, but the "I'm sorry" thing went out the window in 10 minutes flat after hitting publish. 


Nope, it's that a car won't run without fuel. And I haven't been to a Eucharist service since the Christmas Midnight Mass. Moreover, I haven't taken communion since... I'm honestly not sure. Because somewhere in the fall I knew I needed confession, knew I couldn't take communion while harboring bitterness towards people in my own denomination and my own town, but couldn't get serious enough to go. While my beliefs about confession and Eucharist are not exactly Roman Catholic, I do take Jesus seriously when He says to leave your gift at the altar and reconcile with your brother. And while I've gotten much better about forgiving people in the distant past, there are people in my life right now who have made our (mine and my husband's) lives much more difficult in the past year, financially and otherwise. And when you're still living with the consequences of someone else's actions, forgiveness is hard. And how can I honestly say that I firmly intend to stop harboring bitterness when I can't seem to let go? 


I do know that I could go to church without partaking. I've done it before plenty of times. The reason I haven't has mostly to do with the sin of sloth. For various reasons I've been mostly without a car the past few months, and my husband leaves for his church's first service (and stays until the second one's over) at about 7:30 a.m. There is no bus that comes by our apartment on Sundays, and no churches within walking distance, Episcopal or otherwise. But of course these are excuses, and I know perfectly well that if I cared enough I would have found a way. 


The good news is that now I DO have my car back. No more excuses. I've called the priest for a confession appointment, he called me back, and I need to call again. And I need to go to church on Sunday. Without the sacraments I have no fuel, and I have never known that more than now. 

Please pray for me.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What I'm Doing for Lent this Year

They say that it's easier to stick to something if you tell someone else about it. And since I would feel funny telling most people I know in person about my Lenten plans, here goes. 

(I know that technically we're not supposed to brag about what we're doing. That's not what this is about. This is about hoping that making my plans public will help me keep at it). 

My goal for this Lent was to do something that would be beneficial for those around me, especially my husband. After deciding that forgoing sweets would help my waistline but little else - and might well increase my temper - I went with tackling my poor (as in, horrific) bedtime and morning habits. Aristotle said that the way to grow in virtue is by forming good habits. So if I want to develop the virtue of self-discipline, Lent is a great time to form new habits which, hopefully, I can carry with me after Lent is over. The way I picked these particular habits was that each of these are things that my husband has said time and again that he wishes I would do - and that I've said I wish could do if only it wasn't so inconvenient.

Habit Number One: Get up when the alarm clock goes off, as opposed to hitting snooze eight times.

Habit Number Two: Leave my phone off the bed, as opposed to playing Words with Friends when I'm supposedly "trying to sleep." 

Habit Number Three: Take a shower right after getting up, as opposed to moving my lurching body from bed to couch with little additional change.

Habit Number Four: Stop saying "sorry." 

The fourth one will actually be the hardest. I've gotten into the bad habit of saying "I'm sorry" reflexively, the minute I think someone might be the tiniest bit annoyed with me. The thought of fasting from it began in January with Laura's post about how saying you're sorry can be a sign of pride. (Guilty). This bad habit does damage in a lot of ways: to my marriage, to my self-perception, to my career, to my friendships. Best to nip it in the bud. 

What are your plans for Lent this year?

Seven Quick Takes: Should Protestants Do Lent?


The first time I ever heard of someone "giving something up" for Lent was in college. Before that, I didn't know any Catholics, and I also didn't know any Protestants who "did Lent." (If I sound sheltered, I was, at least religiously. Most of the time I was surrounded by Presbyterians and Southern Baptists and Pentecostals, none of whom are known for their Catholic devotions). In fact, the only times I heard of Lent were in Bible studies or classes in which we were meant to feel sorry for those poor, benighted Catholics who thought they could work their way to heaven because they didn't know any better. Until just a few years ago, I honestly thought that Lent was what Catholics did because they thought they could win enough good points towards heaven that way. 


That's why it's so surprising to me to see so many Protestants - and not just Episcopalians - doing Lent. It's like an explosion happened in the last ten years, and all of a sudden evangelicals started having Advent calendars and Ash Wednesday services. All of which is pretty cool, but I bet some of the older evangelicals feel a little... lost. Like, how on earth did my solid evangelical church start looking so Catholic? And while even my Presbyterian church back home has an Advent wreath, hell would freeze over before they started recommending Lenten practices. Somehow Lent still has a Catholic edge to it, even if all the cool kids are doing it. 


So what's a Protestant to do? Is Lent Biblical? Is it earning salvation? Is there any point to Lent now that we're not under the law?

I'll try to answer these questions with my old evangelical hat on, knowing what I know now. This isn't coming from the current me, the heretical "prays to Mary and the saints and thinks the Eucharist is Jesus so why listen to her" version. This is coming from the mindset of one who is still very solidly evangelical, if I could go back in time and give that Caroline the factual knowledge I have now....


For starters, you don't have to "give up" anything for Lent, or even "add something on." Lent is a time for facing tough realities. Realities like: everyone dies. Everyone sins. Everyone needs forgiveness. Everyone needs the Cross. Fasting, giving up sweets, working in soup kitchens - these are all ways of reminding oneself of that reality. In my experience God gives us plenty of non-chosen sacrifices to fill up our Lents. This year, I had two friends die within weeks of each other, and one of them died the day before Ash Wednesday. It's not healthy to fixate on death, but you can't ignore it either.


But shouldn't we be doing this all the time? No, not necessarily. "To everything there is a season, and time to every purpose under heaven." We're human. It's not in our nature to do All The Things All The Time. We can't always, every day, be thinking of our mortality for one hour, then meditating on the Incarnation, then remembering about the resurrection, then trying to think what other Big Ideas are most important.... It's not healthy or reasonable. It makes sense to set aside a certain time of the year to contemplate sin and death.


But why a specific date chosen by an institutional church? Doesn't Paul warn us against having special days and seasons? Isn't that following the law when we're now under the New Covenant? Well, it depends on how literally you take that. Should we never celebrate birthdays? Never commemorate the dead? Again, we are humans. It's not that you have to do XYZ during Lent or you'll go to hell. After all, God doesn't need us to keep Lent. WE need us to keep Lent. It serves a spiritual purpose that works with the New Covenant of grace, not against it. You don't have to do it exactly as the church does, but before you dismiss it, consider that the church might have good reasons for choosing this time.


Why chose some arbitrary 40 days? The number forty is hardly arbitrary; it's packed with spiritual and Biblical significance. Consider the 40 days of Noah in the ark, the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, the 40 days that Nineveh fasted and repented, the 40 days of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted.... Consider this a time that you can wander in the wilderness, exploring the tough realities that we like to put aside. And remember: Easter is coming.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Bioethics, Makeup, and Destiny's Child


I never changed my location on Pandora after I moved: the zip code is still for a northern Virginia (NoVa) address. This means the ads are Washington-area specific, which can be both funny and irritating at times. In November and December, they ran an ad that sympathized with homes overrun with visiting relatives and reminded listeners "Thank goodness you're in Virginia!" Because in Virginia, everything is going on, all the time. This is less than useful when you're hosting parents in the Deep South. 


Another perennial favorite is for Dominion Fertility, which strives to make IVF and frozen embryos sound heartwarming. One funny thing about pro-life Protestants is that most are pretty chill about IVF, if they know what it is. This confuses me, since the idea of scientifically making babies, discarding those that didn't make it, and freezing the leftovers seems inherently distasteful. Instead of convincing me that it's wrong, you'd have to work into overdrive to convince me that it's morally licit, simply due to the ick factor. In addition, I grew up on futuristic literature, most of which is a big red warning sign saying "Don't Mess with Life Creation and Destruction," so there's that.


This got me thinking: when is our innate moral compass right, and when is it wrong? (I can hear my Catholic readers already typing about natural law. Hold your horses). For instance, babies can tell the difference in ethnicity according to research.  Human history is a long slog of intolerance and war based on outer differences, and many Christians used to defend slavery by appealing to both the Bible and arguments from nature. In other words, we have a "natural" inclination to racial prejudice, but that doesn't make it morally right. So why do I heed the natural distaste for creating human life in a test tube?


One might answer that, in the case of IVF, there are also arguments from reason against its morality. We aren't dependent on our instincts when reason can ascertain the problems with creating individual human beings, losing many, freezing some, and only implanting the few that survive the process. 


It gets stickier when you talk about recent developments in the UK, where Parliament recently approved technology for creating an embryo using three "parents." One of the parents only gives enough DNA to keep certain mitochondrial diseases from occurring in the child, and otherwise the child is simply derived from the genetic materials of its two "main" parents. The U.S. is considering this as well. Besides from the obvious problem of not knowing what genetic effects may occur, especially in future generations, I wonder how this will impact the future of those with disabilities, and of parents of children with disabilities. It's not hard to imagine a world in which parents are denied health insurance because their child has a "preventable" disease, if only they had consented to such pre-birth treatments. It's not hard to imagine when we already live in a country where 1 of 10 babies with Downs Syndrome are aborted.


Meanwhile in Canada, assisted suicide is now legal. My atheist friends are celebrating this development on Facebook as a triumph of science, for the ability to "die with dignity." As someone who has struggled with suicidal ideation, this feels especially horrific. What do we mean when we say that someone died with dignity? Would you say this of someone who killed herself due to bipolar disorder? What about poverty? Being handicapped from the waist down? It's not just about free will: if a cop sees someone about to jump off a bridge, they are taken to the hospital and put in emergency care. In other words, mental health is a bad reason to kill yourself, and you still have worth as a human being. Physical health though? Hmm....


Lost in thoughts of bioethics, I was yanked back to the present by the end of a Beyonce song. After belting out that "I'm a survivor" she transitions to the next song on the track with "And bootylicious." Right, keep representing feminism Beyonce. You go girl, I mean womyn.

** This post has not been approved by Pandora, Dominion Fertility, the state of Virginia, or Destiny's Child.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Relationship with Mommy Blogs: It's Complicated

Last night, my husband and I watched a new movie called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. As you may recall from high school English class, this was originally a short story by James Thurber, of The New Yorker fame in the early-mid 20th century, about a forgetful and imaginative man who escapes from his nagging wife and boring life into fantastic daydreams. (If you haven't read it, you're missing out. You should also read other James Thurber pieces, such as Nine Needles and The Night the Bed Fell on my Father. They don't write like that anymore). 

The movie took artistic liberties, with beautiful results. Walter still escapes into his head, but he's now running from the new boss at LIFE magazine who is managing the "transition" to an all-online magazine - mostly by being a dick to everyone except his few favorites. The film's Walter, however, is triumphant; for most of the film, you wonder if these fantastic events are really real or just in his head, and you'll be cheering for this mild-mannered, balding "negative assets" man whose job is being phased out. 

In a phone conversation with "Ted" from eHarmony, who becomes his shrink by default, Walter learns that "people who daydream lack contentment." For Walter, these dreams ranged from tiny verbal victories, perfectly timed jokes that socially destroyed his cynical boss but that never actually happened, to a Spiderman-style rescue of a dog in a burning skyscraper. I don't even have to exercise the imagination anymore - just open the laptop and gaze on the (mostly Catholic) mommy blogs, with homemade king cakes and Advent wreaths and lots of children and housework but also - and here's the kicker - the financial stability to stay at home with them. 

Oops, guess I wasn't supposed to say that out loud. It's Not the Done Thing to say that stay-at-home moms require husbands with full-time jobs and sufficiently lucrative paychecks. Politicians learned this to their chagrin, not knowing that of course, these moms can only stay home because they make homemade broth and save pennies on homemade detergent and don't have to pay for professional wardrobes or day-care. "It's not a privilege to stay at home" was preached from the rooftops. Some moms just exercised choice differently. The upper-middle class family life of four-eight kids, home-schooled, perhaps on a few acres of land with gardens and chickens, is attainable by all.

Yes, I know that all stay-at-home moms aren't like that. My own mom hasn't had a full-time job - or even a steady part-time job - since before I was born. Her jobless state was sanctioned and approved by her old-fashioned mother while I was growing up, even though I was an only child who went to school, even though we desperately needed the income from even a regular part-time job. An aunt who once hinted to her that maybe she would be happier with a part-time job was told off in no uncertain terms by my father, who said that if my mother "wanted to stay at home and raise her child, that was her choice." The "child" in question was about 15 and rarely at home, because it wasn't about me at all. It was about my mom's severe depression which made her incapable of managing the most basic household tasks, much less a job on the side. Having a stay-at-home mom was less about homemade baked goods and more about waking her up at 2 p.m. on a Saturday because I worried about her health. 

As a child, I idolized working mothers. They always had clean hair, polished nails - their fingernails fascinated me - makeup, high heels. Their kids went to after-school programs that looked fun to me, more fun than waiting thirty minutes to an hour for my perpetually-late mom to pick me up from school. They had a briskness and efficiency that I admired. 

I grew up in the 90s, before the internet really took off, before Facebook and social networking, before blogs. My mom only had to compare herself with the working moms in suits or scrubs who were up at respectable hours and making money, or with her own idolized mother who raised five children on a large piece of property in the 50s-60s and never succumbed to something so embarrassing as depression. Thank God she didn't have the extra burden of mommy blogs. Even homeschooling wasn't big in our area yet - the Deep South is a little slow on the uptake when it comes to fashion, and people I knew bought chemical-laden shampoos and conventional medicines and cooked with condensed soup.

Well-meaning people always told me that "little girls turn into their mothers and marry their fathers." Do yourself a favor and never say this to anyone, ever. You never know whose mother is clinically depressed or whose father is emotionally abusive, or what other skeletons they hide safely at home. I escaped the second downfall, but now I'm the one sleeping in, staying up until 2 a.m., only working part-time, lacking motivation. Sure, there are differences: I'm on medication, and I see two therapists weekly. I'm not in denial about what's going on, and neither is my husband. Still, there are days when I look in the mirror and imagine a few more wrinkles, thinner hair, glasses. It's getting easier.

Like Walter Mitty, my fantasies increase as my contentment decreases. Unlike the old Walter, the internet is always here, always ready with a new fantastic vision of what another life could be. And how harmful could it be, anyway, as long as it's wholesome. 

**I want to make it clear that I don't mean to disparage all mommy bloggers, or moms who just happen to blog, or stay-at-home moms, or non-working women with disposable income. Some of you I wish I could know in person because you seem like the bees' knees. These are my own personal demons.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Every Treatment Has a Price Tag

My journey with depression began at 14. At least, that's what I've always told therapists on the first day. I have what's called "major depressive episode disorder" which means that my life is a roller-coaster ride of ups (which means "basically functioning") and downs that go way down, sometimes down to suicidal ideation. My first depressive episode was at 14, which was also the year I started my period. Completely coincidental, I'm sure.

The second diagnosis on my chart is PTSD, which is a fairly new addition. It's been called Bipolar II and Generalized Anxiety Disorder before we figured out when it started. Finally, we were able to trace the crazy panic attacks and psychosis and fear of men to the year and a half that I volunteered at a rape crisis center in college. It took us forever to figure out because I was never personally raped, but during and after that time I exhibited the signs of someone who has been assaulted. Apparently, some people empathize so strongly with those they help that they suffer PTSD themselves; it's a common problem with those who work in hospitals, prisons, etc. It's why detachment is so vital for first-responders, therapists, ER doctors, and anyone else who works with trauma survivors.

To make things even more complicated, I experienced a semi-constant level of anxiety and fear - mini-traumas if you will - during my childhood. When I think back on my childhood, I remember feeling afraid, a lot: of our crime-ridden neighborhood, of burning in eternal hellfire, of emotional abuse at home, of being too poor to eat. Experiencing this high level of stress and fear as a child wore down my defenses, so that when I spent over a year listening to women who had just been raped and watching rape kit exams and sitting with survivors while they were interrogated by police, something in my brain went snap. 

Due to my not-so-happy childhood -  and the fact that my mom is severely depressed all the time - I have a hard time knowing what "normal functioning" looks like. Maybe that's why it took me so long to get help, and why my husband was the one pushing me to get it.

Over the last three years, I've experienced multiple kinds of mental health therapies: marital counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), EMDR, in-patient emergency care at a mental health ward, and group therapy, not to mention the cornucopia of drugs. Let's see, I've tried Zoloft, Welbutrin, Lamictal, Ambien, Prozac, Effexor XR, Lunesta, Klonapin, Xanex, and probably other things that I've forgotten. Out of the entire above list, the things that have helped the most are Effexor and EMDR. Thus far I've only done one session of EMDR, and it's done more good than hundreds (not exaggerating) hours of regular talk or CBT counseling. Which makes sense, since PTSD isn't something you can talk yourself out of.

These years have taught me things about the illness through trial and error, mostly error. For instance, Effexor is more "effective" (heh) because it targets norepinephrine as well as serotonin, and most medications only target serotonin. (Wellbutrin is also different because it targets dopamine). Apparently my brain needed more norepinephrine, and all the Zoloft in the world wasn't going to help it. This also ties into PTSD because norepinephrine is regulated by the amygdala, the part of the brain effected the most by PTSD. This is what controls the fight-or-flight response, along with other kinds of vigilance, concentration, and response. All of which go hay-wire when you have PTSD. 

Some of the treatments were effective, in their way, but had unacceptable side effects. For instance, Wellbutrin did wonders for my energy and depression, but it also upped my anxiety, which was already at ridiculously high levels. Maybe with the right drug combo I could take Wellbutrin again, but I'm not willing to try it until I've done more EMDR. 

Twice now I've tried Lunesta for insomnia. Oh, it does wonders for my sleep, without the horrible headaches that some medications give. However, I recently stopped taking it again because I remembered why I stopped last time: it makes my poor memory even worse and decreases my (already poor) concentration. But without it I can't seem to sleep until 2, 3, or even 4 a.m. I haven't figured out how to help this situation yet. 

There's not really an end to this post, because I could go on all day about medications and therapies and treatments. At a certain point I get depressed just thinking about it, which doesn't help. I want to write about it though, in the hope that someone who sees it will feel... not so alone. Solidarity. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: The Expert's Guide to Laziness


I come from a long line of women who would rather read than clean. Isn't that everyone you say? No, it is not. One of my aunts who married into the family does not own a single book - not one! - and her house is spotless. As an in-law she suffers with the family's laissez faire attitude about clutter, and she is not the suffering in silence sort. As hard as it might be to believe, there are women (and men!) who would rather mop floors and organize the pantry than read a book or a magazine or a blog. There are even some who find it hard to sit still when there are things to do. 


Gentle reader, might you be one of these women? Might you suffer agonies at others' homes when you notice the dust coating on every wooden surface? Do you fight the urge to rip off those decades-old cartoon-clippings and bent school photos and expired coupons to reveal the fridge? Do you run into the bathroom and scream into a hand-towel when your friends' small children leave toys strewn across the floor - and the mother just sits there? 


Well suffer no more! I am here to teach you, in just four easy steps, how to embrace that inner slug. I know you have it in you. If you dig down deep you can relinquish the need for clean and discover that sticky, cluttered mess that lurks within. 


First of all, what do you drink? Not diet Coke silly: we're all friends here. What would you drink if you could be three sheets to the wind without some small person dying? That drink is what you need. Do you have to be sober? Then make something hot: a good hot cocoa or apple cider or tea. Do NOT brew coffee; this will have debilitating ramifications in about half an hour, when you find yourself cleaning the fan blades and sobbing "I just couldn't say no!" Don't let that happen to you. 

The best option, of course, is a hot toddy. 


Now, lazy weather can be one of two options. First, it can be broiling hot. We Southern girls understand why the South has a reputation for laziness: NO ONE goes dashing about with a duster when it's 100 degrees in the shade and so humid that your glasses fog up. The humidity is a crucial element. Y'all from out west cannot imagine how hot 90 degrees can feel when the humidity is 85%. That's why the heat index is what we check in the morning, not the actual temperature. When the heat is this bad, cleaning is hazardous to your health unless you can afford a gargantuan electric bill. So go ahead and wilt, preferably on a cushioned porch swing holding a mint julep.  

The second option, which might be more applicable for readers in January, is freezing cold. This is a relative term, by the way. Savannah closes down when there's a possible chance of sleet 40 miles north. Moreover, some of us simply cannot stand the cold. In DC I was basically catatonic for four months out of the year; it took at least 15 minutes just to put on all those layers of clothing. So you Michigan people can trudge in the snow all day long and feel proud of yourselves, but the rest of us will bundle up under an electric blanket when the thermostat says 30. 


Third, consider the worst that could happen. What if you DON'T do the next thing on your list? Did someone die? No? Well then. 


Find something you like to do that involves sitting. No judgement here: I've found ceiling fans riveting at the end of a long day. Knitting is an option if you absolutely must be industrious at every waking moment, but why? That's what Netflix is for. Pets are great for this, by the way. Only cold-hearted witches can push a sweet cat or dog off their laps. 

Happy Friday y'all! Be sure to check out the rest at This Ain't the Lyceum

** On a completed unrelated note, I didn't manage to get this published until after 5 p.m. even though I wrote it yesterday. Also, I took Benadryl last night - for allergy reasons this time - and had an even worse time getting up. Apparently this is my Friday tradition, and my work hours are late, which keeps me from improving myself. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's Sheenazing!

.... That I was nominated for this award. Since I have, like, four regular readers, y'all are the shit. Mainly because this is the only time my tiny blog will be in the same list with ANN FREAKIN' VOSKAMP for any reason whatsoever.

Mainly though, I'm happy at the chance to find so many new (to me) blogs. I skipped right over the life-style category because it makes me depressed and self-loathing. First I checked out my fellow non-Papists (snort). And that's when I discovered New Wave Feminists.

Whatever you're doing next can wait. Go check them out ASAP. I'm not sure how they're non-Papists - it looks like at least one of the writers is Catholic, but maybe they aren't all Catholic. In any case, they are the bee's knees.

If you clicked on my tiny blog from Bonnie's page and want to know who I am (and why I picked an obscure name like The Inklings Etc.), here are some posts that tell you what's up.

          - Why Lord of the Rings is awesome and deserves to be read at least twice

          - Why I pray the Rosary even though I'm Protestant

          - How his wife Joy saved C.S. Lewis from his misogynistic ways 

          - Why I usually hate sermons and wish church didn't have them

          - How Anglicans are the red-headed step-child of both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox

          - How that "does not rejoice in evil" verse gets twisted and makes me see red

Mixed in with a bunch of random nonsense. I'm not a mommy blogger, or a lifestyle blogger, or even a Catholic. I just like to read Catholic blogs - and some mommy blogs - and have some Catholic leanings in spite of my Calvinist background (that sound you hear is my grandmama flipping somersaults in her grave).

Happy reading!

Friday, January 16, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Benadryl-Induced Fog Edition


I'm in a funk yo: I took Benadryl at about 1 a.m. to help me sleep. And, um, it worked. 


Plus, I just got done with an EMDR therapy session a couple of hours ago - more on that when the hamster wheel starts turning again. So now my emotions are weird too. I've been really good at self-care recently too, doing all the stuff my therapists tell me I should do: lighting lavender candles at night, drinking more water, upping the vegetables and good fats, walking and exercising more, etc. I've even been doing those super-annoying-but-ultimately-magical breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. The result is that I feel both awesome and emotionally fraught at the same time; my poor brain doesn't know what's going on. 


Eventually, I'll post the 5 or 6 brilliant (sort of) posts that are percolating. I've got a 7QT on rap, a 7QT about periods, a regular post on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and EMDR, and one on body image/sexuality. Woohoo! Yeah.... eventually I'll get to it. 


Have you ever taken a Myer's Briggs personality test? It's probably not very good based on more recent research (what, you expected a link or something? What part of Benadryl-Induced Fog did you not understand?). However, research be damned, it's awesome. Once you take it, it's hard not to obsessed with looking at yourself and friends through its lens. The idea is that there are four parts that make up a personality, and two possibilities per part. Everyone knows about extroversion vs. introversion, but there's also intuitive/sensing, feeling/thinking, and judging/perceiving. Here's a link to the test. 


When I took the test I came up as ISFP - introverted, sensing, feeling, perceiving. One of the quirks about it is that it shows how "hard" on the extremes you are. For instance, I am a very hard introvert (no surprises there) but more in the middle when it comes to sensing vs. intuition. My husband is ENTP, so we're almost complete opposites. We both live by the seat of our pants, which makes life... interesting.


The difference between judging and perceiving types


And that brings us to seven!! Have a good weekend lovelies!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pictures Around Savannah

Sunset in November

Happy Graffiti 

The work of 2 people. First one says "Vaccines cause cancer and they know it." The response: "Just like you're mom."


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Note: there will be spoilers, but you know that already. It's a review.

Drawing from XantheUnwinArt

Oh Peter Jackson. What to say. 

Against my better judgement, I went to see the final Hobbit installment with my husband and a couple of friends. Since my expectations were so low, I liked it more than I anticipated. There was a definite improvement from the first Hobbit movie (I didn't see the second one because the first traumatized me). That said, the usual Jackson problems were in there in abundance.

Ridiculous, gravity-defining Orlando Bloom stunt that looked like a rip-off from Mario Cart? Check. 

CGI bunny sled of doom that rushes in to save the day? Check.

Galadriel going all Satanic-eyes on us before fainting? Check. 

Plus, this time we had an absurd dwarf/elf/dwarf love triangle. I already knew about that one going in; however, it was worse than I thought possible. The love interest couple wasn't drawn too poorly (although, the dwarf was sexier than a dwarf has a right to be). But when Tariel cries over her beloved's dead body, she asks her elf brother Faren why love has to hurt so much. Faren, who has spent the entire film mocking Tariel and her love for a mortal, has a sudden change of heart and says "because it was real," and the emoting fairly seeps onto the audience. At that point I started rolling my eyes.

In general, however, the film fails because it elicits the exact opposite desired emotion at every turn. The battle scenes, which are supposed to be awe-inspiring in all their CGI glory, are unintentionally hilarious because every other minute another troll or orc trips on his own feet or runs headlong into a stone wall. The emotional love scenes are embarrassing, not just for the kids in the audience, but for adults who have seen good acting and directing. The scenes where Thorin screams about gold are so obvious and overplayed that it gets tiresome rather than thought-provoking. Jackson has a hammer called "thou shalt not be greedy" (unless you're stretching one book into three movies) which he swings at every opportunity. I've heard revival sermons that were less dogmatic. 

What annoyed me the most, however, was his treatment of women. As a feminist, I have no problem with a film without women, especially if the source material calls for it. Truly, it would not bother me in the slightest if Jackson had left out his elf-love creation and let Galadriel stay in the earlier films. Instead, he puts women into the script at random intervals, as if checking off boxes on his feminist sheet, with no regard for the actual plot. 

What's worse than a film without women? A film in which Bard's teenage daughters cower and shriek at every turn while his young son heroically climbs to the tower where Bard faces off with Smaug. A film in which a lady character is created out of nowhere to form an insipid love triangle that no one cares about. A film in which the unfunny "comic relief" character shows how cowardly he is by dressing in drag, while a group of brave women tell him to "be a man" as they rush into battle. Because courage is what men (and a few tomboyish women) have, and the best way to show a man's cowardice is to show his slip. 

There were positives too though. On the whole, it had more get-up-and-go than the first Hobbit movie and did a better job of engaging the audience. Benedict Cumberpatch was splendid as Smaug, as everyone expected: those scenes were by far the best. Some have criticized Martin Freeman for his lack of emotion, but that misses the point. Hobbits are known for their stolid, practical nature, for combining tough-as-nails interiors with plump, comfortable bodies. In a film loaded with excess, Freeman's Bilbo was a breath of fresh air. I also liked the ending, with its comfortable return to Hobbiton and gentle humor. I feared that Jackson would mangle the concept of "There and Back Again," but it was nicely done. 

Tolkein, be glad you weren't there to see it. RIP, old friend.

Friday, January 2, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday: Happy New Year from Savannah!

Happy third anniversary to me! 

My husband and I got married three years ago on December 31, 2011. Since then we've lived in two states, been through his seminary program, had some crazy good times and a lot that were just crazy. We celebrated at a Thai restaurant and then met up with friends on River St. in downtown Savannah with all the crazies to bar hop and look at fireworks over the water. 

Can introverts like crowds?

Sometimes I do. It's got to be a good natured crowd, and it's got to be outdoors. It cannot involve shopping. It's best when we're all there together, celebrating, possibly tipsy or even drunk, at night. Strangers say happy new year, cheers go up when couples kiss, and the general atmosphere is one of good will. I didn't see any fights (though I'm sure they happened somewhere), but I saw a lot of friends having fun. It was a good way to start off the year. 

I'm finally getting bored with the internet.

God heard my plea and knew that the only way that I'd stop being addicted to clicking mindlessly like a monkey on crack would be to get bored. And bored I am. I don't want to look at Facebook anymore.    I've taken every quiz that mankind can devise, from the intellectual to the inane. I still like watching videos, but only if I'm watching them with someone else who can share in my joy. 

Political exhaustion

One reason for this is sheer exhaustion. If I never read another sentence about Ferguson or abortion or feminism or religious freedom or gun control or ebola or police shootings or waterboarding or Supreme Court decisions it will be too soon. This is not to say that keeping up with what's going on isn't important, or that I regret writing about these things. It's simply that you can't live on it without suffocating. It's to the point that the social media, especially, surrounding events is so predictable that you can play Chose Your Own Adventure with particular writers or speakers. I'm gasping for air and groping for something that can't be split along party lines.

Cuteness Addiction

Is there such a thing? If so, I have it. The one thing on the Internet that never gets old are babies and baby animals. I think it's just longing to be pregnant, but I have baby radar that roars into play whenever someone under 2 is within a 5 block radius. Is this a problem? 

Which is distinct from Beauty Addiction

I'll talk more about this soon. I have a real thirsting and longing for beauty, and when I'm in the presence of the truly beautiful or awe-inspiring it's like getting a hit from a drug. It's probably to the point of idolatry. 

My patron saint for the year is Saint Jude

You know, lost causes and all that. There are several lost causes in my life right now, but I'm not giving up!