Fat Tuesday with Jesus at a Coffee Shop

About two weeks ago my husband started calling me Sassy Cat. We saw a sign that said “Cow Dog and Sassy Cat” for a pet grooming business and for some reason it made us laugh harder than we have laughed in a very long time and the nicknames stuck. I changed my Facebook picture to a picture of a cat with an afro and started saying things like “Sassy Cat out” when I was done talking to people. It was weird to anyone who wasn’t my husband, but that really isn’t a new experience. Ever since the day that he got off the plane from Iraq in 2008, we have been in our own world. Until the Epic Life Disaster happened a little over a year ago. Well, it started before that, but that is when it was apparent that it was Epic.

That put a wedge between me and my husband that I was scared we wouldn’t survive. Somehow when we read that sign, a part of that wedge came down. And then yesterday happened. 

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to be falling apart? Where life feels like a sinking ship with holes you are trying to plug as other holes appear? That was my day yesterday. I woke up with a list of fires that needed to be put out. I prayed for God to please help me because I had absolutely no idea how I was going to deal with any of them. He answered me (of course) with the help from great people who take their life as Catholics serious. Serious enough to help out a sister in Christ, no strings attached. And off I went to put out fires.

Then the bank was closed. Then the line at Time Warner was long. Then they wouldn’t take a check and the bank was closed. Then I paid the light bill at the grocery store because they wouldn’t take a check online and the bank was closed. The bank was closed so the money a friend gave us wasn’t put in right away and checks were the answer to the fires, but then they weren’t. Then the phone company that my son’s phone was with upgraded their system, soooo his phone is no longer compatible. I had enough to pay that bill, but not enough to get a whole new phone. Which means, the child has no cell phone. Have you ever dealt with a 16 year old who doesn’t have a cell phone? It’s not cute. I’m not scared of my kids, but I hate dealing with pissy teens. And THEN the traffic…. more lines to try and put out fires that couldn’t be put out because the bank was closed and nobody takes checks anymore. By the end of the day I was exhausted and completely depressed. I had meltdowns so my eyes hurt, my head hurt and my heart hurt.

There has never been a time in my life when I have tried this hard to do the right things. To do what God wants from me. To seek His Will and follow it. Even if I fail constantly, I still seek it. Yet I have never had a time when things were so hard. Granted, I was drunk for most of the other hard times in my life. It just all seemed to be pointless. I went to sleep begging God to help me understand why everything sucked. Then this morning when I woke up I saw the pictures of the 21 men who were martyred this past weekend and my angel reminded me that no matter what I faced yesterday it does not compare to laying down your life for Christ. These men died a brave death and professed Christ to the end. Could I do that? I would like to answer yes, but go ahead and read the beginning of this post again and remember that I sat in a parking lot sobbing because I couldn’t get a cell phone turned on… go ahead, I’ll wait.

The answer is no, no I couldn’t do it. I meltdown over the inconvenience of not having WiFi. What are the chances that I would be all “oh yes, Jesus, I would be brave and get beheaded for you!”? That would be a lie and I try to make it a goal not to lie to Jesus. So, Sassy Cat died a slow and painful death yesterday.

On the bright side: Sassy Cat has 8 more lives. Also, I am thankful for the struggle because I do believe that God is teaching me a valuable lesson on suffering so that I can be stronger in my faith.Maybe when the time comes, I will be able to say yes to laying down my life for Him. Lastly, I realized that I had not done one thing for myself in about two weeks. I have been working so hard to be a good wife and mother that I completely forgot to refuel. For me, refueling means writing. It means sitting in a coffee shop with people around me talking as I watch them and write a blog post.  It’s what I have been doing for the last 4 hours and it is awesome. It’s Fat Tuesday and I’m at a Coffee Shop in a comfy hoodie instead of getting smashed and showing my boobs for beads. (which I was doing in my 20s)

There are a lot of good things to focus on in my life. The great people who extend help when I need it without asking for anything in return, the people who support my writing and my radio show, the wonderful husband who is feeding kids that aren’t his so that I can sit in a coffee shop and refuel, my grand daughter who loves me while my kids go through their teen years which means that I don’t really feel the love from them as much as I do from a 2 year old who just learned how to give kisses and God who is always my rock, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2

Be my protector, O God, a mighty stronghold to save me. For you are my rock, my stronghold! Lead me; guide me, for the sake of your name

It is Good to Enjoy Sex

Today on my show (which you can hear at 10pm est. time)  I am really going to try hard to explain what my issue is with all the Christian/Catholic blog posts about 50 Shades of Grey. But because I am a crazy person who rambles and rambles, I figured that I should probably write up a blog post first to try and help make myself a little bit clearer.

I was one of those people who lived a very sexually “free” lifestyle. I slept with who I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted. I did a lot of things that even made non-religious people uncomfortable. Not only did I do them, but I liked doing them and bragged about it. There were plenty of people who would try to talk to me about having some self-respect, both Christian and non-Christian alike. I didn’t care what they had to say, I was having really good sex and they weren’t. I honestly felt as if they had no idea what they were missing even though I fell asleep every single night feeling more alone than the night before.

My entire life was centered on one thing: having that split second of pleasure that canceled out all the pain. I didn’t even realize that was the goal in my life at the time. Had anyone asked me if I was in emotional or spiritual turmoil, I would have laughed and said “No. I am living my life!”.  The truth is that I was at war with myself. I was willing to go through whatever I had to go through to feel love, even if it was for only a blink of an eye. I was prepared to live like that for the rest of my life. I had given up on the idea of finding true love, but who cared because the orgasms were mind blowing.

When I began RCIA in 2009, I never intended to change my mind on sexuality. I was not planning on leaving the swingers lifestyle. I was waiting for my boyfriend to come home so that we could go back to the club and pick up where we left off. I knew what I was doing and I liked it. I was never going to be convinced by some religious nut that orgies where immoral, “what the fuck did they know about any of that?” went through my mind every time the subject about sex was brought up.

In His true fashion, God surprised me. The priest who I went to for my first confession was this innocent looking guy so I went full blast with all my sexual sins trying my best to get him to show me some kind of shocked face or to tell me to leave because I had gone too far. I never meant to be sorry for any of the things that I was confessing, but by the time I was done I was in tears and asking Father if there was any way that God could love someone who had done all those things.  From that point on Fr. J told me about Theology of the Body and other things for me to learn about what the Church taught on sexuality.

A few months later in Rome I was sitting on the floor in my hotel room and I read about Marriage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and that is where I found the love story that I had always longed for. I have written about all of this many times because it was a turning point in my life. It is also the story of how God pursued me and loved me in a way that I had dreamt of since I was a little girl.We all want to be pursued by Love because we are each made to be pursued by God who IS Love. We all have the desire to be united to Him.

It is not the S&M or even the sex that attracts most people to 50 Shades of Grey; it is idea of having Love find and seduce them that is attractive. That is what we should be talking about. When we continue to talk about the perversion of love and spit at the ground at the idea that someone feels pleasure in being tied up, we lose an opportunity to talk about the longing embedded in each of our souls for Love.

I have a serious problem with how Christians speak about sex because it always is whitewashed and made to seem as if the only acceptable sex with your spouse is missionary position sex that isn’t enjoyable and doesn’t involved passion and multiple orgasms. (Or dogmatic statements about vibrators that are not true. The Catholic Church has yet to issue an infallible teaching on the morality of vibrators. She probably never will either.)  That is just not the truth. There is a lot of room between that idea of sex and the objectifying and degrading acts of sex that are promoted as “good” in our culture.

Saying people’s desires are disgusting does nothing to help them see why using another as a means to an end is not love, it only shuts their ears off. There is so much to be talked about on this issue, just like any other issue, but the one thing that I really want to stress is that nobody who is living a happily promiscuous lifestyle of any kind gives a crap about “the beauty of sex”. I get it, people who understand that sex is beautiful get it, but never in a million years are those words going to get the attention of people who are on the 50 shades of Grey bandwagon. What they want to hear is that enjoying sex with their spouses is a good thing. That is what 50 Shades gives them permission to do: enjoy sex. That is something that Catholics agree with; it is ok to enjoy sex. We can start there and then go into the purposes of sex and the beauty of it, but first we have to start somewhere and if there is anywhere to start it is with the idea that being pursued by love and enjoying sex is something that Catholics do not disagree with. God is the One Who made sex enjoyable!

**Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry  wrote this great piece at Patheos Catholic that I think is the best post on the subject that I’ve read so far.

Sometimes Prison isn’t Punishment

I have been to jail many times for things like hot checks, tickets and a DWI. The longest that I have ever been in jail was 2 weeks in a city jail that had no yard, TV or radio. The only thing to do was read and nap. The food was horrible, using the bathroom in front of everyone was awful and being treated like I was subhuman was humiliating. One thing that I had plenty of time to do was to talk to other people who were in jail with me. Some of them were hookers, crack addicts, and women on the way to prison who had to first sit out their tickets before going on down the chain. I learned so much from these women, which may sound weird to people but had it not been for the conversations with them I would not have ever known that my ex-husband was smoking crack. I never liked drugs and everyone in my circle knew that. People wouldn’t even smoke weed around me because they all already knew that wasn’t my thing. I was a slut, not a druggy. I had no idea what the signs were until I talked to women who smoked crack and then it clicked.

I have been exchanging letters with someone in jail who is accused of doing something that had people calling for this person’s head on a silver platter. In fact, when the case first became public, I was one of those people. But since I have begun to get to know this person and hear their story, I have realized why exactly Jesus said that we should visit prisoners, because it is humbling to get to know someone who you want to make a monster. It is Catholic to see the human person in someone who has done the unthinkable and see all the wounds that led to the place that they stand now. This person was raped by their father at the age of 4, sold for drugs and has never had a parent that loved them. They have no clue how to love or be loved, yet they long for love. I know that turmoil. It is only by the Grace of God that I never ended up in this person’s shoes.

I have known a few people who have been in and out of jail and prison for their entire life and I wondered why that is. Why would anyone ever go back to prison after they have been freed?  I was watching Orange in the New Black when it hit me. Sometimes jail can be the only home that anyone ever knows with a family that they never had on the outside.

When someone comes from chaos and a broken home where nothing is stable, not even food, and they have no attachment to anyone because they have never really felt like they belong: prison/jail isn’t a punishment. It’s a place they are with people like them, where they can find their place, go to school, have 3 stable meals and structure in their life. Something they have never had in their life. The violence is really minimal if you mind your business, which most people do. Not to mention the number of people who are behind bars who have been sexually abused already, so it’s nothing new for them to grin and bear it if it happens. It isn’t the worst thing to ever happen to them in jail, it happens on the outside.

If the goal for those on the outside is to punish them, then I think people need to realize that when your life hits that point where you are locked up, your life has already been punishment and being incarcerated is really a step up in some cases. The goal should be to start helping people heal so that they don’t end up back behind bars. That would take mercy and understanding instead of wanting to dish out revenge.

I am not naïve enough to think that some people shouldn’t be locked up or that everyone who commits a crime has the excuse of having a crappy childhood to hide behind. What I am saying, is that it is possible that a lot of the people in jail could become productive members of society if they were given some love, therapy and education along with personal accountability.  I honestly think that it needs to begin way before they end up in prison. Our justice system, like so many of our systems, is jacked up. It is understaffed with people who are tired just trying to keep up with what they have to deal with and suffer from burn out. We have a society that is so hung up on punishing others and seeking revenge while upholding the idea that there is no objective truth and we shouldn’t judge the way any other person chooses to live their life. That makes no sense unless you buy the idea that some people are just evil.

I do not buy that at all. Not just because I am Catholic, but because I have sat down and talked to some of these people. The father of my children is in prison as I type this. He is not evil. He lacks a lot of things, but he is not evil.

The idea that anyone can live as they wish and then when they mess up they should be locked up and forgotten or put to death is the most unmerciful and careless philosophy to live by. And yet that is the philosophy that so many in this country live by today. It makes no sense.

Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

because he has anointed me

to bring glad tidings to the poor

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free

We are Called to Love Each other, Not be Besties

I have not been writing very much lately for so many reasons. One of them being my new radio show which has taken up a lot of my time and energy. And also because life has been rough and I have really been working hard on trying to find my way in this life as a Catholic. I had a lot of my blog posts attacked recently and I began to fear putting myself out there in this space because it seems like there is always someone trying to say something negative about me as if they know anything about my life, my faith or who I am.

It is impossible for anyone to know all there is to know about me just by reading a blog post. I don’t even know everything about myself. Part of my walk with Christ is learning who I am. Who God made me. That takes a lot of shedding of sins and healing of wounds. It also takes a lot of courage because I always fear that I am going to say something that will get me kicked out of the Catholic Church. It took a long time for me to feel at Home here and there are still so many times when I think that maybe I don’t. I don’t belong here because I am a certain kind of person. I belong here because I belong to Christ and this is His Church. Regardless of what kind of music I listen to, TV shows I watch, celebrities I like, how I talk, if I read or not, if I like Christian music or not or anything else, I belong here because Jesus died for me.

I do not need the approval of anyone to be here. Not one person. I am a sinner and have a lot of short comings but I love Jesus. And I was Baptized, Confirmed and Married in the Catholic Church. This is my Home and nobody is going to kick me out of it. I have a right to my struggles, my writing about those struggles, my freedom to listen to Lil Wayne and to have dance parties with other Catholic women or have my nose stuck in a book. I refuse to get put into any kind of box. I am not a nerd or a cool kid. I am a Catholic woman.

I am so in love with who I have become in the last 38 years of my life. All the good times, all the bad times, all the tears, heartbreak and dance parties are all part of this beautiful tragic life of mine. All of it is part of the light that Christ gives me to shine in the darkness that is so common in this world. He gave it to me, nobody else.

I love my kids who are each their own light and bring me such happiness that I had the Grace to bring them each into this world and my grand-daughter who is the sunshine who makes everything else in this world disappear when she smiles at me and gives me a kiss. And my husband. My marriage has been so hard. I have never suffered for another human being the way that I have suffered for this man who I married. Because of that suffering I have come to look at Christ hanging from a Cross is a whole different way. There is no love like the love that someone has for the ones they will suffer for. It is powerful and it is full of Grace that I can’t even explain. I love my husband more than I ever thought that I could love another human being.

I am not a theologian. Nothing said on this blog should ever be taken as having any kind of authority, everyone needs to read the Church’s documents and teachings before every taking the word of anyone on anything. My only intention is to write things that someone else can read and see that someone else is going through the same thing. I am not the only one who struggles with things and maybe my writing can help others see that neither are they.

At the end of the day, I am a sinner who loves Jesus and is scared to death of what He is going to ask of me to be one of His saints. That is my greatest struggle and that is what I work at every single day of my life. God is good. God’s plans are greater than any I could come up with. I do not have to be everyone’s cup of tea and they don’t have to be mine. We are called to love one another, not be besties.

Taking Time to Fall in Love Again

I feel like it’s been a year since I wrote a blog post! I’ve been really busy……Um… that’s a lie, I took Christmas vacation to sit with my husband and binge watch Netflix. It was fabulous. We haven’t taken time off like that is so long that it was really nice. We didn’t go anywhere or doing anything. We just sat and watched hours and hours of Grey’s Anatomy. Well, I did, my husband did get up and put on pants to go check the mail and get some food. He can’t sit and do nothing for too long. I can. I can sit and read or watch TV for days and days. Especially when it is cold.

That is one of those things about marriage, living with someone who is completely the opposite of you in some ways. I had forgotten just how much I loved all those things about my husband that make him who he is. It may seem weird but watching Grey’s really reminded me of how lucky I am to be married to my husband. It also reminded me how important friendships are. For the past few years I have secluded myself in my house only talking to the friends of mine who live in the computer and not making a real effort to get out with friends in real life. I hate making friends. I sometimes say that it’s because of my age but the truth is that I don’t like rejection and there always comes that point with someone where one of you doesn’t like the other. Sure you love them as a human beings and you wish them well, but you just don’t want to hang out with them. It’s an awkward moment like dating and it gives me hives. The truth is that it comes in marriage too. Most people think that is a sign that it’s time to get a divorce but what I learned this Advent and Christmas is that isn’t the case. That is when it is time to get to know your spouse again.

In the daily grind it is easy to lose sight of who the person you are married to is. They change. You change. Life changes. And when you are busy just trying to get by and keep your head above water, get the bills paid and dealing with the crises of the children (and there is always a crisis with one of the children, even when they are grown and don’t live in the house anymore) that you forget to look at the new things in the life of the person you married. When you are dating it is easy to know those things because everything is new and you can’t wait to talk to them and tell them about it all, but in marriage it is hard.  You are so busy working and living that you just assume you know what is going on with them. Then they start to get on your nerves and you think that maybe you have fallen out of love. Honestly, I had started to fall for that lie with everything going on this past year.

I know in my head that love is a choice but I had failed to really understand that sometimes it is a hard choice and when that happens we have to take time to fix it. That time will not magically appear, but it is something that needs to be carved out of life. Purposely and without apology because marriage and our spouse are worth it.

Watching the love story on the show play out reminded me of how me and my husband’s love story unfolded. How handsome he is and how much I love that he can’t go more than a day without putting on pants and going to check the mail. He needs coffee and cigarettes when he wakes up and he has to shave to feel like he’s not rotting away. He is still my husband even if some of his tastes and habits change. He is still the love of my life even if the last year has really brought out the worst in both of us, it has also brought out the best in us. Like the part of us that forgives the other so we can be deeper in love than we were on our wedding day. Life is hard, love is hard, happily ever after is full of tears, but it’s worth it to wake up next to a person that God gave you to help you get through it all.

Love requires us to give ourselves to another person and being open to that person hurting us. If that isn’t a possibility then there isn’t real love because love is total and that requires handing over that part of yourself that is capable of being wounded. Jesus set that example for us when He was born in a manger, used to feed the animals, as a helpless newborn only to grow up and hand Himself over to us again to nail Him to a Cross. He loved us so much that He let us kill Him to save us. That’s what love is. In marriage we have to do that time and time again. It’s painful, bloody, messy and the most beautiful thing all at the same time. I have no idea how that works, but I know that for the first time in 12 months I have a peace in my soul that I haven’t ever had, even right after my conversion. I have found the greatest peace in no longer fearing being hurt. I kind of think this is what the Saints talk about when they say nailing our sufferings to the Cross with our Lord is what how we redeem them.

I know who I am, I know where I am going , I know that I love my husband more than I love myself and that my children have my prayers and their angels to help them get back to the One their hearts are made for. I am not scared. I am not worried. I am God’s and He is good. If Jesus died on a Cross to save me then what wouldn’t He do for me? Nothing. The only thing I have to do is trust Him and love Him back.