2015 – Hope

I’ve never really had a “word for the year” or whatever that theme word concept is called. In fact, I only know about it from blogs. I’m not sure that I’ve ever met anyone who talked about using a mantra word for a year offline. Normally words fit better with goals and seasons that have little to do with calendar years.

Still. No, “still” isn’t my word, still is the interjection that I need to remind myself of the existence of hope this year. I’m not going to try to force myself to hope, I’m simply going to cultivate awareness and remembrance of hope when I am able.

In a wry moment of numbness the other day I realized that even thoughts of suicide can be an expression of hope. After all, there is no point in contemplating drastic measures without the hope that finally at least death will end the agony.

With a standard like that it’s rather impossible for me to fail at hope this year, no?

Hope is a funny thing- so insidiously personal. I realized recently that a friend thinks I don’t care if she fails at a certain goal when, in fact, the thought of her failing had never occurred to me since the goal is far below her objective ability. Yet she struggles without the hope that this goal could be blissfully achieved, and I wonder whether I am similarly blind.

Is there a chance that I could be far better at certain things in my life than I dare to believe, and that even if I do fail at certain initial steps I should laugh it off as a fluke? Rationally I know that is reasonably likely, but it is so much easier to see in the life of a much more talented friend. It feels like a ridiculously boisterous act of hope for me.


I went shopped on Black Friday last year for the first time and it was a very positive experience. I got great deals while hanging out with family, including a sister who could not work on Thanksgiving night because too many of her coworkers volunteered for the overtime.

Since July I have had specific items that I have waited to buy on Black Friday because I knew the deals would be worth the wait.

It turns out that I won’t be shopping tomorrow.

Josh asked why. After all we’re usually pragmatic about boycotts, and this one is really insanely broad.

I told him that the protests are the only reason there’s any hope of people paying attention enough to bring justice (see the ABA’s comments). If this boycott worked, it would bring a lot more attention. Of course it was only announced a few days ago, so it can’t possibly get enough attention, but that’s all the more reason that I have to join in since not everyone knows.

It feels very much like a typical religious penance. I am denying myself in a way that doesn’t strictly make sense, but at the very least serves to remind myself that I believe in something more. It may not change anything other than me, but I am obligated to do what I can to change the world starting with myself.



Four years ago I wrote that slow cookers are stupid.

I recall that Joy and Alison (among others) corrected me.


I am here today to say that they were right and I was wrong.

Slow cookers are incredibly useful when you can only guess at your ability to take food out of the oven within a few hours of it being completely cooked. Slow cookers are good for legumes and meat and making me eat my words.

Not In Kansas Anymore

One of the more pervasive American myths I have encountered is the idea that everyone gets an equal opportunity to take in the advantages of this great land.

I once sat in a community college class and waited until the professor finally arrived… 48 minutes after the class was scheduled to begin.

There was very little talk of leaving because we all knew that this is a community college in an, um, under served area. The professor had been very late before, and most likely will be late again.

Earlier this semester I watched in astonishment as this same professor admitted to having grabbed the wrong stack of paper, and thus given the class the wrong exam. I was shocked not so much by her mistake as the fact that she so openly admitted it. Back in the America that I come from a professor would have had to cover by any means possible in order to avoid students outrage.

We can tell ourselves that everyone can achieve success in America, if only they put forth the effort, but that only reveals our own willful ignorance of the many places that all get to claims to be the same country.

Why Mommy Wars Make Sense

It has been over two years since I wrote this, so if you wrote about mommy wars recently… This is only directed at you in a prophetic sense. ;-)

Okay, so I’m not a mother, but any outsider with the least bit of common sense can see that the so-called “mommy wars” are entirely reasonable and will not be going away any time soon.

Yes, I am serious.

Every mother participates in the mommy wars because she feels either unhappy, guilty, resentful, insecure, or some combination of the above. Our culture is set up to stretch and stress mothers by showing them all that they cannot have, and continually demanding that they be more. If you want to understand the extent of the mommy wars, look first to the women who despise them and seek to end the war by being kind and understanding instead.

Inevitably the women who most stridently declare their antipathy for the mommy wars are the quickest to take offense when another mother seeks to simply share her story. Any story which might alternately provoke jealousy instead arouses ire because the anti-war mother feels “judged” by the one who has a different experience of motherhood.

While many might dismiss this as women being irrational and emotional, it is actually the most rational response to the situation in which the mothers find themselves.

Remember that Carpe Diem post by the lovely Glennon Melton? Anyone not currently hating her life can see that Glennon is making the best of the stressful, often unhappy situation we call American Motherhood. Perhaps Glennon genuinely believes that this is just the way that everyone’s life is because her husband is equally stressed by his role in providing for their children financially. But as an outsider it is easy to wonder how sharing the misery around is supposed to make it better.

Here’s the thing: the average American does want to enjoy live and live every day to its glorious fullest.

When Josh was dragging himself to work rather than loving every day I looked at his situation as an outsider who loved him and told him that something needed to change. He did NOT need to take on more responsibility, he needed to reshape his life so that he could enjoy his work.

I put the question to the Twitterverse in the form of: “Ladies, if your hypothetical husband complained a lot about his work, would you just empathize or encourage him to look for a new job?” And the vast majority of them declared that they would do both. They wouldn’t just pat his back and tell him that tomorrow would be a better day and that eventually retirement would come, they would encourage him to change his life now.

Not only do Americans want to pursue happiness, it is especially nice to think that those who spend the most time shaping the next generation should themselves enjoy life. But this simply isn’t reality, and no one seems to want to admit that there is something uniquely messed up about the current culture of American motherhood.

So we alternate between telling mothers to enjoy these swiftly-passing years (easy for you to say when you’re not the one changing the diapers!) and acknowledging that babies are a royal pain so just hang in there and know that one day your children will take you out for brunch every second Sunday in May.

And somehow mothers don’t seem to find that especially satisfying. And so they tear motherhood apart looking for something to justify their ongoing misery. They bristle defensively at anything that indicates that other women have it easier in a way that might just be better. They compete in playgroups and read books about how French Tigers mother best.

They may savor a few blissful moments, but when you are both unhappy and incredibly stressed… well, lets just say that a full night’s sleep may seem more appealing than trying to remember what it was like to enjoy life in a way that did not require fighting for survival.

I could give a zillion examples from the incredible rate at which we perform major surgery unnecessarily on new mothers and call it a “life-saving Caesarian” to the employment situation of mothers of college students. But if you read this far and aren’t yet inclined to fight with me then maybe I don’t need to convince you that not only is our cultural setup for parenthood eating women alive, motherhood uniquely demanding under any circumstance. And if you’ve also dealt with a three-year-old long enough to watch your eyes roll circles back into your head then you probably agree that sometimes this uniquely challenging role is unlikely to feel uniquely satisfying much of the time.

And if you know all of that, then you can probably see why the Mommy Wars make sense: it is all about survival and holding yourself together in a world you feel is shredding your last chance at sanity.

Target Miracles

Two months ago I gave Josh a list of perhaps 15 items to get at Target. I’m not really sure how many items because as he headed out the door I kept telling him things that I’d forgotten to put on the list. Like coffee. I haven’t been a coffee drinker in years, but I intend to remedy that shortly! Ehem.

Anyway, Josh texted me about 15 minutes after he arrived to confirm what brand I wanted for something or other. And then texted just moments later that he had found the item and was checking out.

I know that Josh can be much more efficient than me, but this was an unorganized list of items that required one to traverse the entire store. I have Target memorized, thanks to the fact that the layout matches the one I used to visit daily. Yet apparently Josh is still a zillion times faster.

This may be a case where hating something makes you better at it. In any case, I clearly need to up my shopping game. While I can go to the store without overspending money, time is a different story.

I trust that I’m not the only one who requires an hour to buy 15 items from Target. You know someone else like me, right?

Don’t Vote

It’s Election Day! Go vote!
Vote Haiku
Or maybe not.

Many people whom I highly respect take the view that simply showing up to vote is a duty and this urge people to vote regardless of how they might vote. This has always seemed odd to me. If voting is all that matters, then we’re admitting that those who sacrificed for our right to vote sacrificed for a game with no purpose other than bringing a community together in a political ritual.

But I still think that on some level maybe voting maters. Thus I believe that you shouldn’t vote unless you are going to vote well. If I believe that one candidate is better than her opposition, then I don’t want you to simply show up to vote for the inferior choice.

Voting without careful thought and research into the candidates and questions is an insult to those who care passionately about the issues at hand an serves to reduce the value of their votes. Please only “just show to to vote” if you are trying to make a statement about political apathy or something of that sort.

I’m not voting today, and I find relief in that. Perhaps it is the recent reminders of Faithful Citizenship at my parish the past month, or just memories of passionately voting for a candidate that I later regretted, but I am happy to not overimagine the importance of my absences from the polls today.

Remembering Reality

Late one Friday afternoon, back in the day when I worked for a property management company, a woman called because she needed us to unlock a door to give the electric company access to restore her power. It had been turned off due to her failure to pay her bill, and she said that it absolutely had to be reconnected before she was back home for the weekend. The management company would not typically send a guy out until the next week, and she ended up agreeing to pay $100 in cash to a maintenance worker, in addition to whatever feel the electric company charged.

I was baffled by her poor decision making. One of the things she said was that the power had to be turned back on immediately because she had hundreds of dollars of groceries in her refrigerator and freezer. I could not understand why she would fail to pay her bill, spend a lot of money on groceries, and then spend even more in order to get the power back. Why not budget and pay the bill on time, and then perhaps cut costs on unnecessary groceries?

It did not make sense.

Less than a year later I had my power turned off because I had not paid the bill. I thought of the woman with the groceries a day later as I went to the power company to pay both the bill and the re-connection fee in the hopes that the power would be back on before the weekend.

I was able to pay the bill because my parents had sent me $100 as an “early birthday gift.” Five months early.

My parents don’t ever** give out money to their children. I certainly had not told them about the reality of our financial situation. But there it was. So I paid the bill.

I had spent $30 on groceries that month, to feed three adults largely on split peas and bread made with flour, salt, and water. There was no fear for the groceries when the power went out, but Josh needed it to work.

Work. Ha.

Josh worked constantly, but bigger clients weren’t paying, and the smaller projects that he did ended up taking years to pay off.

I spent more effort job hunting than I ever have at a real job, but staffing agencies had next to nothing and no fast food restaurant, pharmacy, or Walmart wanted me with my lack of appropriate experience.

This post originally had some moral about maturing and not judging, but it languished in my draft folder for years. Presumably I could not complete it because of the intense shame of not being able to hack life, combined with the fact that I received criticism when I dared to hint in other posts at how hard that time was. I’ve since learned in a hundred ways that most Americans don’t see the incredible safety nets they’ve been given.

I need to revisit this time in my life because I haven’t cut myself off enough to not know others in that same position still. I need to remember how munch of a difference $25 would have made a week sooner.


**This is the only time it ever happened to me, and when I asked one sister about her experience, she said that our parents gave her $20 when she was 19.

I am thankful 11/2/2014

For swimming. I made it to the pool yesterday for the first time in almost three months. It was so very wonderful to be able to exercise without fear of hurting myself. The timing was perfect because it revealed yet another, um, issue that I need to talk to a doctor about and I have an appointment on Tuesday.

For snark. I read an advice post where the author was rather hesitant to reassure the questioner that yes, of course it is fine to breastfeed in church. I compiled a snarky alternative answer post in my head, and while I’ll probably never actually type it, it helped immensely to have Josh laugh at the gist: it violates Catholic sexual ethics to have sex with a man who will complain about you feeding your baby in church. I know that others hate snark, but it frequently makes me happier than directly confronting pernicious stupidity.


For plants. Particularly ones that I am not responsible for keeping alive.

Good Things

We moved to Louisiana in February, and although I’ve spent most of this spring (February in Louisiana is totally spring, I don’t care what they say!), summer, and now summer part II (autumn? A joke) in a daze. Being in a new place forces me to see things I wouldn’t otherwise notice.

Like lizards.


Josh notices blue jays. He really sees them. I don’t. I grew up with lots and lots of blue jays, and while I noticed them as a child, eventually I stopped seeing them.

But now the tables are turned, and I see lizards. Josh thinks they are normal. I think they are incredibly ridiculous, especially climbing on windows. Josh’s sisters told me that as children they would put lizards up to their ears, to bite their ears… so that they would have lizard earrings. Now that is something I wish that I had been around to see!

.  .  .

I think that yesterday someone on Twitter suggested that I just think about myself. I’m not really sure if that is exactly what she said, because after verifying that she was randomly lashing out with no context, I muted her account. But I thought about it a little, and realized that it is blessedly true.

I don’t think of myself as having many friends, but somehow there are so many wonderful people who have entered my life so profoundly that their pain is mine, and that shows even to random thoughtless people on Twitter who apparently really need a nap.

If that isn’t the fullest grace of friendship, I don’t know what is.

.  .  .

Back to delightful things about living in The South, legal fees appear ridiculously cheap.

I told Josh that it is now or never if we are to get divorced since I hate to pass up a good deal.

It is, I suppose, an incredible gift to be able to joke about divorce. I know that my eyebrow would go up at someone else seeming so focused on it.


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