Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Need of a few Prayers

I have to admit, I have been struggling quite a bit lately, off and on, mostly on, this winter and spring. I feel like I give and give... I give the my patients at work then I come home and give to two toddler boys. And I feel bad because after work I am either too exhausted to give to the boys or just simply don't feel like it. Everyone tells me I'm a good mother, but inside, I know I short change them. At work, people come to see me looking for answers. Why do they hurt? Why can't they do this or that? What is wrong with their shoulder, knee, back, etc? What can they do to get better? When is it going to get better? Overall, I like to answer these questions. It's like putting together a puzzle... like a mystery that needs to be solved. I enjoy being analytical. But sometimes I can't come up with the solutions. And I know that's ok. And sometimes I get tired of being so analytical. Sometimes I get tired of hearing about other people's pain. And when I'm struggling myself with exhaustion, I can't let that on. Work is not about me... it's about the patient. Which is fine.

But I want answers myself. I know joy lies in giving. If I give more to my boys, will I be happy? Or am I already giving too much and draining myself? And the same questions my patients ask: why do I hurt? What is wrong? What do I need to do to feel better? When will I feel better? Will I ever really feel better?

What I enjoy so much... reading and writing. I felt so alive when I was writing last summer. I felt so close to God while I was writing. Ever since Andy started school, I haven't been able to do much of that. There are too many things that need to be done around here. We're always behind. And Andy has 17 credits. He's having a hard time and has less patience with the boys. Even now as I'm typing this, I hear his patience growing thin with them. I can't leave for long. And when I do try to write, the words don't come anyway, so what's the point? I stop at church to pray and spend some time with Our Lord, often feeling better for much of the day, but it doesn't take long to lose that. I believe in trusting in God, that He helps us through it all. I know He is here with me, though I feel so far away from Him now and am having difficulty praying at times. Sometimes I wonder if having a job in which I need to have "all the answers" is of detriment to my soul. In life, God does not expect us to have the answers. We are not God. My analytical nature works both for me and against me. But I think my analytical nature is also why I enjoy writing so much, and writing for me is prayer.

Sorry about the huge "splat" of complaints (especially since I had giving up complaining for Lent). Just want to be honest. This is what I'm going through. I hope I don't sound crazy. I am grateful for any prayers. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It is Jesus

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts you most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

-Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day, Rome 2000 (quoted in Theology of the Body for Teens, Ascension Press, p 14)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Laetare, Rejoice

Please forgive me that this post is not timely. I should have posted it this morning.

I bless the Lord who gives me
in the night also my heart
instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because He is at my right hand, I
shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my
soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see
the Pit.

You show me the path of life.
In Your presence there is fullness
of joy;
in Your right hand are pleasures

(Psalm 16:7-11)

This Sunday, Laetare Sunday, marks approximately the halfway point as we journey through our desert experience of Lent. During Lent, we do well to keep in mind that we are a people in need of redemption. We are people in need of the grace of God since, left only to our own devices, we would likely fall deep into sin. And no matter who we are, without God's grace, we could not reach eternal life. But Laetare Sunday gives us a chance to remember, within our desert experience, that we do have a God who has redeemed us and who always longs to reconcile us to Himself and to draw us closer to Himself. Laetare means "rejoice." On Laetare Sunday, we have a chance to celebrate the gift of our redemption, the works that God is performing within us this Lent, and all that He has given to us.

Rev. Christopher M. Mahar has a wonderful reflection on what this means on his blog:

"This Laetare Sunday we are reminded that even in the midst of our desert experience, even in the middle of Lent, we have great reason to celebrate and rejoice: Jesus Christ has come, He has suffered and died for us, and is risen from the dead. Even now we anticipate that joy of Easter."


"Christ comes from heaven to earth, into this icy world, to suffer and die on the cross and to break the curse of sin and death which has touched us all. He has come to reconcile us to God and to each other. He comes to inaugurate what St. Paul, in our second reading today, calls the Ministry of Reconciliation. He says: 'God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation'(2 Corinthians 5:19).... That’s the reason we rejoice this Laetare Sunday: because we have received and been given the Ministry of Reconciliation. That’s the reason we can sing for joy in what God has done and in what He is doing in the world around us."

Thank you for the goodness You are producing within us this Lent. Help us to stand afresh this second half of Lent, giving You our sacrifices, trusting You will continue to create good from the sacrifices we give to You. May we allow You to reconcile us to Yourself and give us the opportunity to make use of Your Sacrament often during this season. Let us rest secure, knowing that You have redeemed us and do love us, and knowing that You will teach us to walk by the right paths and will help us on the way.

Will the Real Isaac Please Stand Up?

The boys had finished their bath, and it was time for them to get out. The problem, of course, is that they did not think it was time to get out. I had already given the two-minute warning ("Two minutes until you get out") about 5 minutes earlier.

Me: Time to get out. Who wants to get out first?

Blaise (3 1/2): Isaac does! (points to his younger brother)

Isaac (2, and unable to say Blaise's name, so he regularly calls him Isaac): Isaac! (points to Blaise)

Blaise: No, Isaac! (points to Isaac)

Isaac: Isaac! (points to Blaise)

etc, etc.

Me: Alright, Isaac, you first. (I scoop up the real Isaac since Blaise is being more insistent than he is and since Isaac is usually the more happy-go-lucky one. He more often than Blaise gets the short end of the deal for that reason, I'm sure.)

Still me, to Isaac: You can pick which towel. Do you want to be a puppy or a froggy?

He quickly picks the favored puppy with the big floppy ears.

Blaise, jumping out of the tub: No, I want to be the puppy! No! Isaac be frog! I be puppy!

I wrap him in the frog towel. I should have known. This is very typical of Blaise.

Me: Blaise, next time you get out of the tub first and pick the puppy towel.

Blaise continues to kick and scream as I carry them both to their room to dress them. I momentarily think about switching the towels but don't do it since Isaac does have the right to the puppy towel and would be upset if I take it from him and since Blaise needs to know that Isaac does have as many rights to things as he does. I can't help but laugh to myself, though, as I dress them. I love how Isaac calls his brother Isaac!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wanting advice on layout

How do I further customize the layout/colors/wallpaper on my blog beyond using the sample layouts Blogger gives us? Is there a good way or a good place to look for pictures to accompany my posts? Are there any other fun things I can do with the look of my blog, or any other advice on attracting readers to my blog?
Thanks in advance!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Grateful for Lessons Being Learned

I started Lent giving up complaining. Lately, I have had a greater tendency than usual to complain, whether with my words, with my actions, or with my simply moaping around and general impatience. I can't say giving up complaining is always easy, especially when the boys acted up during Mass on Sunday and completely zapped my energy... is that complaining? I hope not! Let's see... they were teaching me patience and love. And they also afforded me an excuse to go back to church to pray that afternoon, since I needed to let go of my frustration. Thank you, God, for difficult children!

As you can see, this is not easy for me, but I am TRYING! But I gave Christ an inch in this, and when you give Him an inch... He'll make use of it! He is teaching me not only to not complain about my circumstances but to instead find JOY within them. He is teaching me not to look for the hassles and difficulties of my life but to instead look for the ways in which He is present in my life and in my family, to look beyond that which is not perfect to Him, who is perfect, and to the beauty He creates. He is teaching me to trust Him in all circumstances, that He has a plan and will bring about good from anything and everything. He is teaching me not only to be grateful for the gift of today but to REJOICE in that gift and to CELEBRATE the little things given to me each day. He is teaching me not to put off my joy until Andy graduates and the kids are old enough to pour their own milk without spilling and dress themselves, but to be joyful NOW.

Lord, I am so very grateful for this lesson of joy. May we all forever look to You for all that we need, remembering that You are the source of all that is good and all that is holy. May we remember that You are present in our lives at each moment of every day and look for your presence, rejoicing and celebrating when we see Your beauty shining through into our world. Help us to shift our focus from the problems and difficulties we encounter and keep our eyes set upon You, handing over those problems to You that You may help us through them and perhaps even create joy in the midst of our struggles.

Are we too busy?

Tonight, I asked Blaise, 3 1/2, if he wanted to read a book before bed. So he picked up his Thomas computer and a book and sat on my lap, handing me the book. He turned on the computer and started playing. He insisted that I read the book as he was playing his games. He would look over at the pictures as I finished each page then turned back to his computer. Is this what he sees Andy and me doing? What am I teaching the boys with all the multi-tasking? To be as busy and constantly working as what I am?

I was talking with one of my patients today. He grew up "before the war," as he says. Things were simpler then, he tells me. People went visiting after church on Sundays. They had 10 cows rather than 200 or rather than jobs with long hours, and they spent their time after dinner sitting around and talking or playing cards around the lamp until they decided to turn it off. People were not so busy. They kept in touch. They knew their neighbors. There was not so much busy-ness and less worry and stress. What has happened??? And why is it so hard to live that way today?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prayerful Ponderings

As a mom, I wish to give all I can to my kids. But sometimes they take it all from me before I can give it to them, draining every last ounce of energy from me. I wonder if this is how Christ felt as he hung on the cross. But, unlike me, He gives of Himself so willingly and unreservedly, no matter how much we continue to take. Yet, I need to remember that I am not God. I do not have an unlimited supply of patience or energy; I need to continually allow Him to refill me so that I can continue to give, and to give so lovingly as Christ gives to us.

Depression often occurs when we look to the things of this world for our happiness rather than looking to God for our joy; when we look through eyes expecting to meet hassles and difficulties rather than through eyes expecting to see the works and grace of God; when we look to ourselves to provide the answers rather than looking with trust and confidence to God for all we need.

My hope is in the joy I find in giving all to Christ and in learning from Him as I look to Him and place His yoke upon my shoulders; my hope is in the love He so abundantly pours out; my hope is in the promises He gives us that He will be with us always and in His promise of salvation. My hope is in Christ Jesus.

When I ponder the life of Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus, and especially their escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23), I wonder what Mary's reaction was to their fleeing to Egypt. To flee with an infant to a place where they know no one, are unfamiliar with the language and customs, and flee to escape harm to God's Son could have been such an occasion for fear. Yet I can only believe that Mary, in her beautiful faith in God, trusted and found joy in His providence all the same. What a role model! Through everything, her faith never wavered, even when she saw her only son being hung on a cross. When I have run into snags in my life this week and have been led to do things I don't necessarily want to do, I have been looking to the Holy Family's trip to Egypt, remembered my faith, and attempted to find joy all the same.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Follow up to "Prozac Nation?"

I've had several wonderful replies to my last post, and so I'd like to follow up with them.

My wonderful friend, Katie, said in her reply: "I have one thought regarding your points 3-7: all these are factors which can (but not always) affect brain chemistry. I think that what keeps these factors into play is that our society acts as though or believes that there is no sense in suffering; that nothing can be learned or gained from it. As a result, the first response is to medicate to change the chemical imbalances and naturally working to adjust the chemical imbalances or deficiencies is completely overlooked because it takes effort, time, and discipline. (examples of naturally changing brain chemistry: changing behaviors, eating habits, thinking patterns, etc.)"

I completely agree. I do believe, primarily through experience (so correct me if you know otherwise), that stress from such things as being too busy, expecting too much, trying to do too much, having too many expectations placed on us, being too tired, arguments and fall-outs, etc triggers some kind of response in our brains and contribute to feelings of depression and/or anxiety.

I do also believe that some people are more prone to stress and that, given similar circumstances, two different people will react completely differently. One will take everything in stride, while the other will become so anxious he/she will be unable to sleep. There may be chemical reasons for that as well as personality differences. Some people are more prone to depression and/or anxiety for whatever reason (like me :) ), but even those people don't need to be as symptomatic as they may be; I believe societal influences push them further into depression or anxiety than they would otherwise be. With all its hardship and stress, I wonder if the Great Depression produced so many people who had depression as these decades are producing.

Take this week, for example. On Monday and Tuesday, I was so incredibly anxious. On Monday, I was running late to work because the boys were not cooperating... and, I'll admit it, because I was being my own disorganized self. Then at work, both days, I was trying to do too much, putting too many expectations on myself to give everyone I worked with 120%. When I came home on Tuesday, I had nothing left to give my family, and I was a BEAR! I spoke with a friend of mine who helped me to put things in perspective and, like others have done, encouraged me to take time for myself and to allow myself to give what I can to each person but no more, etc, and also gave me a daily devotional book, for which the lesson today (the first day) happened to be about finding joy in everything we have been given NOW... not in a few days or a few years, a message I really needed to hear (I'll explain in my next post). I also enjoyed my day off yesterday with the boys and went back to work today with a new perspective, putting no unnecessary expectations on myself and taking everything in stride, with joy and gratefulness in my heart. I came home from a 10 hour day with energy to spare and with a positive attitude and gratefulness for my life and my family! What a gift! I have learned how to put that kind of pressure and those kinds of expectations on myself through the society and environment in which I grew up and no live, and I hope to unlearn that. But I also have a personality in which I am prone to that. And I live with another factor that makes me prone to that.

That brings me to reply to the second post. There are physiological issues that also lead to depression. The one I am most familiar with is hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone contributes a significant amount to our bodily function, especially in energy levels, metabolism, and brain function. Tiredness, cloudiness of thought, and depression often occur, as to a number of physical symptoms. Hyperthyroidism (too much hormone) can also affect energy levels and mood. I have congenital hypothyroidism, which means I was born without a thyroid gland. Luckily, I was born the year neonatal testing was first done in Wisconsin and was diagnosed on day 1 or 2 of my life and was placed on thyroid hormone immediately. Otherwise my life would be completely different than it is. I am so grateful that I was diagnosed when I was. God is good! Even so, I am sure this contributes greatly to my tendency toward depression, though I am learning ways of lessening that. I would be happy to explain if anyone is interested (but this post is getting too long already).

God bless you if you read all of this (and God bless you if you didn't!). I'm going to bed!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Prozac Nation?

A friend of mine had several ladies over to her house last Wednesday evening. It was a very enjoyable time. While there, I caught the tail-end of a conversation about Prozac and other antidepressants, as a group, being the most-prescribed type of medication in the U.S. Having chronic depression myself, I have often wondered why depression and anxiety are so common in our society and have been thinking about that again since Wednesday. While there may be a link between a chemical deficiency in the brain and depression or anxiety, I have a difficult time believing that is the primary reason for such a large number of cases of depression and anxiety, and I wonder if a chemical deficiency may be often caused by the stressors our society daily subjects us to.

Just in brainstorming on this topic, here are some of my thoughts as to what contributes to the large numbers of people with depression:

1) Lack of faith in God. This is a theme that will come up in many of my arguments. As a society, we are eliminating God, whether directly or indirectly, from our daily lives. Praying is now outlawed in schools, and most people rarely mention God in their conversations. "God bless you" is commonly shortened to "Bless you." Indirectly, our busy-ness is also eliminating God from our lives. We do not have time to pray. Many, if not most, people on some level feel that God is not a large part of their lives. Even if we have faith, we often live as if we don't.

2) Lack of hope. If we do not have God in our lives, what do we hope in? And what more is despair than the lack of hope? Hoping in things ultimately leaves us feeling empty. A new house, a job promotion, a vacation, while great things, cannot satisfy us. It is not long before the vacation is over, the newness of the house wears off and maintenance becomes mundane, or the job promotion leaves us busier and more worn out than we had been. And all things are passing away. The only thing that truly remains is our God and our hope for eternal life. We also cannot put our hope in other people. As wonderful as a good friend or a loving spouse is, they are only human and cannot satisfy every need we have. Our only true hope is in our God.

3) Our fast-paced lives. We generally don't have time to sit back and enjoy what we have been given and to enjoy the simple things in life. We don't have time to take care of ourselves. We don't have time to pray. As soon as we are done with one thing, we are moving onto the next, if we're not multitasking already. And even when there's nothing pressing to do, we often find ourselves so accustomed to hurrying about that we feel we are forgetting something and that there really must be something we need to get done. I think this is especially difficult for people who are introverts, who need quiet time to think, reflect, and recharge more than others do, for we run out of steam quickly and soon find we have given so much that we have nothing left to give. We live in a world that values productivity and does not value time for reflection, often seeing it as a waste of time and, sometimes, as a sign of weakness.

4) Living up to expectations. As I said above, we live in a society that values productivity. Jobs often require us to make a certain quota or to maintain productivity standards. People also have higher expectations for products bought or services rendered and are able to shop around to find the "best bang for their buck." Instead of just doing the best we can and building on that "best" at a self-managed pace, we push ourselves to, and sometimes beyond, our limits as our competition does the same in order to win over the consumers. This then begins to drive us, rather than the joy and "pride" of providing the best products or services to the benefit of those we serve. We also become exhausted and, again, give until we have nothing left to give. Internalizing these high expectations can also quickly lead to depression. When we develop such high standards for ourselves that we are unable to live up to them, we can see ourselves as failures whether we really are or not. When we don't look to God, we can get a hopeless view of ourselves and our situations. We know that God will not give us anything that we can't handle and will help us through the difficult times. We also know that He doesn't expect any more from us than for us to use the gifts and resources He has given us to the best of our ability, with His help as well. But it is easy to lose sight of this in the middle of our busy-ness.

5) Our own expectations. When we look around us at what other people have, it is difficult not to want much of that for ourselves as well. From the outside, another's house or family may look perfect, whether or not it looks that way from the inside. We may also expect our own future to look a certain way and spend much of our time and energy looking forward to the future only to find a few years down the road that the future is not as perfect as we had hoped. We don't appreciate what we have when we are so busy thinking about what we don't have. We don't live in the joy of the moment or express thankfulness to God when we feel we are missing something. But God gives us what we need when we need it. God provides, especially when we put our trust in Him, though He may provide in a way different than we may have wanted ourselves.

6) Our need for control. Because of much of the above, we often feel out of control and attempt to influence the path of our lives or attempt to control our spouses, children, employees, co-workers, or other people in our lives. When we find we cannot control those things adequately, we feel more hopeless and more as if our lives are out of control. What we can forget easily is that God is in control. He has a plan. When we are trying to control our own lives, we are taking control out of God's hands.

7) Poor diet, inadequate exercise, etc. Good diet and exercise can act as natural antidepressants. And, yes, I do believe that there are some cases in which chemical deficiency does play a primary role in depression and anxiety.

Any other thoughts? I welcome any discussion or comments on this topic.

God bless you all!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hockey Pics, continued

The boys are in bed, so now I can concentrate just on folding laundry and writing my post, though my husband is also trying to hold a conversation with me about the old "whaz up?" Bud comercials. Don't worry, I'm not neglecting him. :)

Since I was at a pond HOCKEY tournament taking pictures of the team as the "official" photographer, I should probably include some action shots in my collage of pictures. In no particular order:

Hopefully it wasn't too painfully obvious who my favorite subject is for my pictures. The number of pictures for each player was actually mostly even, though I think my husband's pictures overall turned out better than the others, and I don't believe I did that on purpose. Of course, I am a bit partial to pictures of my husband. I'll admit it. :)

Just a bit more history on his team, just in case anyone is wondering what RC stands for, etc. They came together as fans of a local college hockey team. They and others formed a fan base called the "Rowdy Crowd" (RC). Though they have passed their high-spirited cheers and traditions onto a younger student group, they maintain the name Rowdy Crowd for pond hockey purposes. The colors they wear (yellow and purple) are also from this hockey team, as are the beautiful socks they wear. They have been participating in this pond hockey tournament since its beginnings 4 years ago and have seen it grow from 40-some teams to 220.

I am looking forward to getting back to writing blogs of a more religious theme, though they often take some more time and thought. But hopefully you will see that again soon.

May you have a blessed Lent!

Odds and Ends, Hockey pics

It's been a while since I've posted, mostly because I've been busy but not really with anything worthy of posting about. I am, however, discovering that I need to take more time for myself, in prayer or in quiet, to keep my sanity amidst the busy-ness of working and home life, taking care of others constantly in both places. I have a bit stressed and anxiety-filled for the last two weeks.

Though I have been busy, I do plan to continue my blog, posting and reading your blogs, as often as I am able. Please continue to check back.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, I will post a few of the pictures I had taken at the pond hockey tournament my husband and his team participated in. Apparently, I took 2200 pictures. My husband's friend weeded them down to 615. Here are a couple of my more favorite ones (though I do not have the time to go through 615 pictures at the moment, before the 2 year old wakes up, and amidst folding laundry and keeping a 3 1/2 year old adequately satisfied):

The team, me, and the Stanley Cup. Alright, so I didn't take this one, but it's the only pic with all of us. The guys were definitely more excited about seeing and touching the Stanley Cup than I was. I suppose some hockey fans may be amazed by the fact I came soooo close to the Stanley Cup and did not lay a hand on it. Let me tell you, there was not even a temptation to touch it. Never really thought about it until just now. :)

Some of the rinks. I believe there were 16 rinks in all on the small lake in northern Wisconsin. There were around 220 teams of 6 players each, ranking from novice (my husband's team) to teams consisting of players who have playing on college level teams, as well as a couple women's divisions.

The guys are oh so proud of these socks. They are gotten from the college team they all follow... the team that brought them together. The current coach did not want to use them. He thought they were hideous. I wonder why?

The mustache was new this year as well. The brain child of my husband, I believe. They make quite the team, with the addition of "Coach," below:

My brother-in-law. He found the suit in his dad's closet. I think there are two others like this one hanging there.

I have to go... Blaise is attempting to swing from my arm as I am typing. :) I will finish this later.

By the way, an acknowledgment of Lent is in order. May all of you have a very blessed Lent and discover our Lord through special prayer and fasting this Lent. Through Barbara's post , I have finally settled on something I will be giving up for Lent. I am giving up complaining about my sufferings and difficulties. I will offer them to God and bear them with more humor and gratefulness. So if anyone sees me complaining, please feel free to point it out!

God bless you all!