Link Love is BAACCCKKK and we are ABD!

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Thoughts on this week: It's been one hell of a summer and I can't believe it's almost over. This summer, I have gone through a lot of stuff, but I'm starting to feel a little more solid. My exams are over (I'm ABD!) and Gary and I are preparing to write our prospectus. 

There are a lot of articles on here and I have a file on my computer of many more I'm trying to work through that I saved this summer, so be prepared for LOTS of link love in the weeks to come! 

What I’m Reading in real life: White Rage by Carol Anderson (I'm reading this one because the author is coming to speak to us about teaching race at UNT. I'm also reading So Far From God by Ana Castillo, which I started but didn't have time to finish before my exams. I'm loving it. 

What I’m watching: My friend Megan got me into the Bachelorette, which will surprise most of my friends. We just watched the finale. I'm also making my way through Elementary for the first time and rewatching Leverage

What I’m listening to: I'm still really into the RSVP podcast. 

What else I’m digging: Working for Rover. Getting paid to take care of people's dogs is like the best thing ever. 

What I've been reading online:

Favorite Article of June: The Kids Are Alright: How Two Artists Built a Goat Farm into a Viable Business (Modern Farmer): I want to highlight this one because LIFE GOALS MAN.  

Favorite Article of July: She thought she was Irish — until a DNA test opened a 100-year-old mystery (MSN): This is a super cool story. 

Favorite Article of August so far: Art Every Day – Everything I Painted in June (Little Blue Boo): I have to admit, I find Ashley's aesthetic absolutely perfect. I really admire her and I wish I had time for something like this. 

Popery (Catholicism/Spirituality/Religion):

  • From Groans to Glory (She Reads Truth): A dear friend shared this with me and I want to share it with you. I especially relate to this line: "In the first chapter of his epistle, James tells us to “consider it a great joy” whenever we face trials because the testing of our faith produces spiritual endurance (vv. 2-3). Trials are accompanied by hope. Hope is a gift. Hope is critical, and the gospel gives it to us in unending supply... One day our groans will give way to glory. While we wait, we place our hope in Jesus." It is particularly difficult for me to hold on to hope. What do you do to remember to have hope in Christ?

  • How (Transgressive) Beauty Will Save the World (Experimental Theology): This makes a good point. We say that Christ is the epitome of beauty, but we still seem to be turned off by the transgressive quality of that beauty. 

  • The Politics of Inhospitality—Genesis 18:1-15 (Political Theology Today): I think a lot of people could benefit from reading this. I particularly appreciate the following: "What the United States desperately requires is a reorientation of our ethical imagination, a rediscovery of hospitality as a principal ethical category. But radical hospitality will require much from our risk-averse culture. It will require, as the philosopher Jacques Derrida was wont to insist, both a preparation and the impossibility of preparation. “It must even develop itself into a culture of hospitality, multiply signs of anticipation, construct and institute what one calls structures of welcoming, a welcoming apparatus.”" How can we better foster a spirit of hospitality?

  • The Language Trap: Otherness and Reality (Experimental Theology): I appreciate this: "Economists like to trump conversations by saying that the language of economics is simply describing "the real world," the world "as it is." This gives the language of economics epistemological power, as "reality" is the ultimate trump card. The person who describes "reality" is the one who is telling the truth. But Mark's comment was this: "Economic language isn't descriptive, it's performative. It doesn't describe the world, it creates the world."" How do we allow language to create barriers or support injustice and call it "reality?"

Pens/Pencils/Stationery:  

Paperbacks (Reading, Books, and Writing):

Movies and TV:

Life in General:

Tough and Awkward Topics: 

To Make You Laugh:

Art and Other Pretty Things:

Academia, Education, and Teaching: 

Environmentalism, Farming, Food, Health, and Nutrition:

Dogs:

Link Love 6.14.17

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Thoughts on this week:

What I’m Reading in real life: SO MANY COMPS BOOKS. 

What I’m watching: I'm really into the new tv show Downward Dog. Watching it on Hulu. 

What I’m listening to: The Sacred Ordinary Days podcast

What else I’m digging: These super delicious gluten free chicken strips, my bullet journal (blog post still in the works), working for Rover, and snuggling Gary. 

 

My Writing

Two years ago: 

Three years ago: Let It Go (Spiritual Uprising)

Six years ago: The tale of my travels and the start at Notre Dame (PP&P): I kind of can't believe it's been that long. 

 

What I read this week:

Popery (Catholicism/Spirituality/Religion):

  • Prison Diary: From the Revivalistic to the Ethical (Experimental Theology): This talks about the struggle of shifting from justification to sanctification, perhaps one of the most difficult shifts in our daily life. 

  • For the sake of our democracy, go back to church (or synagogue, or mosque) (Dallas News): I love this line: "It's like belonging to a family. The enduring genius of that primeval institution is that in families we learn to live with people we didn't choose. Similarly, in churches and synagogues and mosques (when they are healthy and diverse) we learn the same lesson." I think that this is an important and challenging part of being religious. I noticed that the author is Catholic. I don't think that's a coincidence. It's all too easy for Catholics to feel like we don't belong or to not get along with their parish culture (ahem) but we still have to go. 

Paperbacks (Reading, Books, and Writing):

Technology:

  • How Billionaires Stole My Mind (Raptitude): So, I'm not sure that I could really handle a technology detox because it's part of how I get my work done (okay, a huge part of my distraction from work, too), but I like this idea: "For the next 30 days, I will not be waking up to a torrent of images, opinions, jokes and fears from around the world. The first step was to get the most addictive apps—Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, for me—off my phone. I still have accounts, and will still use them, but I’ve set them up so that I can’t reach them from my bed, or from waiting rooms, coffee shops, and sidewalks. And they can’t reach me in those places. All my social media use will be done “2007 style”: when I want to use one of these services, I have to go to my desk, and manually “log on” by typing in my username and password. At least for the next 30 days, social media will no longer have an all-day, or even everyday, presence in my life. I want to use them like the tools they used to be, picking them up when I need to use them and putting them down when I’m done." I don't have a lot of these apps on my phone, but I will admit I've given in to the app addiction more lately. Might give this a try! 

Life in General:

  • A to-do list trick (Modern Mrs. Darcy): This looks like a great idea!

  • Bad at remembering to take care of yourself? These 25 tips can make it almost automatic. (Upworthy): I struggle with this a lot and hope that this will help others like me!

  • We Really Need to End the Stigma about Introversion in the Workplace (Introvert, Dear): This reminds me of one of my most frustrating moments as a campus minister interacting with another campus minister. I was at Naz Farm and made a comment about how I'm an introvert--I was telling my duckies I was going to go get introvert time and they could come get me if they needed me. Another CM turned to me and said that I couldn't be an introvert because I was so bubbly and friendly. I had to explain what introversion really means (not shy), but I really wanted to punch him in the face and be like, well, our job REQUIRES us to pretend to be extroverts, but all the best CMs are introverts underneath!

  • The Best Walking Workout for Non-Exercisers (Fitbit): Kind of obvious, but a good reminder!

  • The Disease of Being Busy (On Being): Oh my gosh, I had forgotten this phrase that I used to use all the time with students. How fitting to be reminded that I am a human being, not a human doing right now: "Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence." 

To Make You Laugh:

Academia, Education, and Teaching: 

  • 8 Tips for Teaching With Mentor Texts (Edutopia): In our program, sometimes we struggle with mentor texts that don't match our learning objectives. I'm spending a lot of time thinking about this as we prepare for the next term. 

  • At Northwestern, Not Just Adjuncts Voted to Unionize (Chronicle of Higher Ed): Good information here. I'm glad that others are standing up for adjuncts!

  • Rebooting Industrial Era Seating (Edutopia): This is something I think about, too. At UD we had tables that allowed us to sit in a circle. Now, I have to take time out of every class period to have my students move their high school-sized desks into a circle. We need a new norm. 

  • Detours and Diversions — Do Open Access Publishers Face New Barriers? (The Scholarly Kitchen): Interesting thoughts. OA is a big topic in lit crit circles. 

  • Double-Edged Sword of Dual Enrollment (Inside Higher Ed): I have a lot of opinions on Dual Enrollment classes and community colleges, both from the perspective of a current instructor at a large research university and as a former dual enrollment student and the daughter of a former community college student. I think that there's a lot of room to improve a system that should be serving both its instructors and its students better. 

  • I'm Never Assigning an Essay Again (Inside Higher Ed): I'm in love with this essay and can't wait to see how I can adapt his ideas to my student's work. 

  • How Acaddemia Uses Poverty, Oppression, and Pain for Intellectual Masterbation (Racebaitr): This article is very challenging for me, as a white woman studying Chicana and Native literature. I was struck by this statement: "One of the tragic consequences of a traditional system of higher education is working with colleagues who claim to have expertise on the topic of social activism, but who have never experienced any form of intervention. I am referring here to those academics who have made careers out of the pain of others by consuming knowledge obtained in marginalized communities." I think it's good to consider these perspectives as I go forward with my dissertation. 

Simplicity and Minimalism:

Money, Budgeting, and Finance:

Environmentalism, Farming, Food, Health, and Nutrition:

Dogs: 

Link Love

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Thoughts on this week:

What I’m Reading in real life: This weekend, I read five books of poetry for my reading list. At least I'm making some good progress! If you want to see what I'm reading, check it out on my instagram feed. 

What I’m watching: I just finished the latest season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I thought it was good. I'm also rewatching Young and Hungry to prepare for the Netflix launch of the new season later this month. 

What I’m listening to: I'm still listening to podcasts. RSVP is my latest favorite. 

What else I’m digging: Dog sitting for Rover! Dudes, if you have a dog and need someone to care for them, check out my dogsitting page.  

 

My Writing

Two years ago: I want Stan Lee to be My Adopted Grandpa and other musings on Dallas Comic Con 2015 (Popery, Pens, and Paperbacks)

 

What I read this week:

Popery (Catholicism/Spirituality/Religion):

  • The Politics of Traversing Difference—Acts 2:1-21 (Amy Allen) (Political Theology Today): I hate to spoil this wonderful article, but I have to share with you the very end in case you don't click through (but do, it's a beautiful story)."This, I believe, is God’s wish for the Church as a Pentecost community—not that we settle upon one common (or colonized) way of doing or communicating things, but rather, that we recognize the one power, the true Power, is broader than any one (or group) of us. I believe that God’s will for the Pentecost community is that we live together in our diversity (not in spite of, or overcoming it). To the colonial, homogenizing force of the Roman Empire, this must have been quite a threat. To the post-colonial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural churches in Namibia in the early 2000’s, I heard this message proclaimed and celebrated with hope. For us, today, in 2017, what do these politics mean? How might we live together and grow together across our differences, with God’s Holy Spirit as our guide?" What a great reflection on language and the Gospel message!

  • How to See an Old Church (Experimental Theology): I loved doing this when I was in Rome. 

  • Paving the path to social change guides the life of young Indiana sister (Catholic Herald): Loving this article shared by my college spiritual director about my sister and friend, Tracey, who she didn't even know. Tracey and all my sisters inspire me daily. <3

  • What Would Jesus Resist? (Historical Jesus Research): Read this. 

  • Prison Diary: How To Stay Cool (Experimental Theology): Why does no one care about this very important pro-life issue?

Pens/Pencils/Stationery:  

Paperbacks (Reading, Books, etc.):

Writing

  • How To Connect With Your Writing Tribe (The SITS Girls): I'm still looking for a writing tribe, but this is a good article!

  • When It’s Hard to Maintain Your Focus (Writer Unboxed): I found this article really helpful because it's sooo hard to focus right now on writing, reading, anything. But we have to keep going! 

  • Surround Yourself With Success (Writer Unboxed): This is a really great tip for writing and academia, and it's weirdly harder than you would think. Academics get burned out so easily that they spend more time complaining than really talking about each other's craft. I'm blessed to have one really good friend who talks with me about her dissertation and I talk with her about my reading. It's been so helpful!

Life in General:

  • Why a Pets at Work Policy Is a Good One (Fitbit): I'm blessed to have a dog who can go everywhere with me. I wish that everyone was able to bring dogs to work!
  • What makes you switch your ways? (Unclutterer): One of the things about recovering from what happened to me over Christmas break has been figuring out how to change my life, my habits, and everything else that fell apart or contributed to my life falling apart because of the sociopath. It's good to think about methods of motivating ourselves (and others) to change. 

  • There's an Important Reason We should be Having More Meaningful Conversations (Introvert, Dear): I really appreciate this great article and the ideas for how to go deeper in conversation with people. 

  • Critical Thinking Series: Reading as the Arena of Critical Thinking (Decolonize All the Things): I'm seriously thinking about giving this to my students on the first day of class in the fall. "If you don’t understand the benefits of reading or why it is useful to you and crucial for your own self development then you aren’t likely to take advantage of reading lists which are crucial to sustaining an anti-colonial political awareness to then apply to your actions.  Below  I discuss the importance of reading to critical thinking and praxis.  One of the greatest benefits of the methods of critical inquiry is NOT so you can argue with others but for you to argue with YOURSELF. " So important!

  • Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them (NYT): A great article. 

  • The Real Problem With Being Child-Free and Unmarried In Your Mid-30s (Huffpost): So, I might not feel the same way about my future as the author, but I do relate to this: "I realize I should probably sound more apologetic when I tell people I’m not married. Perhaps I should try a bit harder to make those around me less embarrassed when they meet me. I’m a disgrace. I’m a single lady. I was about to get drunk on lots of prosecco. I’m always the wedding guest — not the bride. And I don’t even own a cat." I guess I'm doing better than he because I don't drink a lot and I have a dog, but still. Stop judging!

Tough and Awkward Topics: 

To Make You Laugh and Smile:

Academia, Education, and Teaching: 

  • Accreditation Is Broken. Time to Repair It. (The Chronicle of Higher Ed): So, accreditation organizations are also running out of funds because they ARE LITERALLY NOT PAID for the work they do. "Why is the accreditation system falling down on the job? Because, as my research shows, by and large accreditors don’t have the budgets or staffing to do their job properly. Despite the tremendous burden of guarding the roughly $120 billion awarded each year in federal student grants and loans, a review of tax filings shows that the 12 main accreditors spend a shockingly small amount on measuring quality — just $75 million in 2013. For comparison, Corinthian raked in $1.3 billion in taxpayer money in one year. That is 17 times more than the combined sum that all 12 accrediting agencies spent monitoring quality at nearly 7,000 campuses over the same period." So, why are these people the ones harassing us into submission for preposterous accreditation requirements while our students can barely read at an 9th grade level?
  • Who Defines What Is Racist? (Inside Higher Ed): This is problematic all the way around. I would hate to be in that atmosphere right now. 

  • Analyzing Black Lives Matter Without Black People Involved (Inside Higher Ed): Ummm??? Who made this decision?

  • When Things Suck and You Still Have a PhD To Do: 7 Tips to Get Stuff Done (Academic Mental Health Collective): This line particularly spoke to where I am: "There is no shame or failure in being realistic about what you are capable of in this current moment. The amount of work you do is not a reflection of you as a person – whether that amount is high or low. It can be hard to believe this and drop the self-judgement. But if it’s going to make life easier for ourselves, doesn’t it make sense to do so?" There was a lot of shame involved in changing the dates of my exams, but I had to be honest about what I could do in that moment. I'm so grateful for a director who understands. 

  • Clinging to the Core (Inside Higher Ed): It's not often that my awkward little alma mater makes a large academic site, but when it does, it's because there's a huge hullaballoo going on that common sense could have stopped. "The university’s president, Thomas W. Keefe, acknowledged the idea has been enveloped in drama. But he said that Dallas needs to explore new ideas" Yes. Like getting a new president who doesn't refer to alumni as brats or students as dogs. Ahem. 

Simplicity and Minimalism:

  • A different kind of childhood (Restoring Mayberry): I have often enjoyed reading the posts at Restoring Mayberry, but this one, perhaps, more than any other, connects with my soul. He describes the friends he sees when he comes back to the states in this way: "One way or another, they grow angrier every year; they know in their bones that something has gone terribly wrong. Most of them know they’ve lost something, and search for it in different ways. Some of my friends build things in their shed, or cook, or in some way find pleasure in creating something. Some read books about people who lived more traditional lives, anything from Amish romances to medieval fantasy. Some drive off on weekends to hunt or fish, something to get them back to nature, and draw far more from their surroundings than from the animal. ... Some of these approaches do more good than others, but I don’t mock any of them; all these people, I think, are trying to fill the same void." What do you think about this article? I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Here's How I (Painlessly!) Purged 80 Percent of My Closet (Apartment Therapy): So, I really enjoyed this. I've been getting rid of A LOT of things lately, and hoping to get rid of even more in the future!

  • I Planned My Wedding in 5 Days. You Could, Too. (NY Times): THIS. IS. AWESOME. 

Money, Budgeting, and Finance:

  • How To Stretch Your Dollars (Living Well, Spending Less): As usual, there's nothing truly enlightening in this, but it's a great reminder. 

Environmentalism, Farming, Food, Health, and Nutrition:

Dogs: 

Link Love for Memorial Day

Thoughts on this week: So, the last week has been a busy one for sure! Gary was sick on Thursday, so we ended up at the vet. I've joined Rover, a dog walking and care app (for $20 off your first booking, use the code GARYTHECUTEONE). I've been reading and writing a lot this week, and am still not caught up with my reading list. But all in all, it's been great. My friend, Heidi, is back from Mexico. Dayna and I spent a lot of time working before she went out of town, so now I have double pup snuggles with Berk here. Life is good...

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#kaitreadsforcomps Mini Reviews #4-5: Shifts in Drama and Feelings of Instability: the Beginning of the Cold War Fear

 

#kaitreadsforcomps #4: Shifts in Drama

This reflection will discuss several plays of the 40s-60s:

  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, 1949
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, 1955
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee, 1962
  • Deliverance by James Dickey, 1970

To be honest, I didn’t actually enjoy a single one of these plays. I can see how they were working to change the way that the average theatre patron thought of drama by discussing topics often left out of polite conversation, but at the same time as a resident of the 21st Century, I have a hard time appreciating it. For me, the ideas of families falling apart and the clash between “civilized” and “barbaric” cultures (shown through rape, no less) aren’t really dynamic, new, or interesting. I see enough of this in reality. Outside of their importance in terms of a shift from propriety to a more open discussion (which I admit is very important), I see no reason to ever read or watch these again. That’s all I have to say about that.

 

#kaitreadsforcomps #5: Feelings of Instability

This reflection will discuss four texts:

  • “The Morning of the Day They Did It” by E.B. White (1950)
  • Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron (1951)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill (1956)

Really, this list could be broken down futher into realistic instability (Styron and O’Neill) and early dystopian instability (White and Bradbury), but I’m keeping them together because I think they’re participating in the same conversation.

“The Morning of the Day They Did It” by E.B. White is one of the texts on my list that I had read many times before. I love it. It’s a super short story, so you all should check it out. It was published in The New Yorker in 1950 and is honestly pretty prophetic. White discusses both the dangers of nuclear war and the problems of genetic modification in this short fiction. While I’m sure it’s not the absolute earliest piece of dystopian environmental fiction, it’s certainly up there. This text certainly indicates that there were feelings of instability about the environment and the dangers of war earlier than I had imagined.

Of course, everyone is well aware of the 1953 great, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Again, we find the fear of instability expressed this time concerning the dangers of censorship and illiteracy as well as the loss of knowledge of the humanities. Perhaps all the people in our political administration should consider this as they cut the funding to all humanities grants—or perhaps they already have.

Lie Down in Darkness and Long Days Journey Into Night are like the connection between these dystopian texts and the plays mentioned above. Here we are discussing the taboo, but it is not simply for the sake of discussing it, but out of an acknowledgement of the culture of fear.

I think that all in all, what we see here in both of these sections is the beginning of the Cold War narrative of fear. The downfall of the family, the suspicion of knowledge contrasted with the necessity for it, the general degradation of culture—Cold War culture.

#kaitreadsforcomps Snippet#1: "The Man Who Planted Trees"

So, this text doesn’t really fit in with any of the others, but I LOVE IT. It ended up on my list rather on a whim. This story was recommended in a list by a dear mentor of mine who passed away during the first year of my doctoral program, Dr. Karl Maurer. It fits in with my theme of agrarian texts, so I kept it in the final version even though I was trying to cut down my reading. I’m so glad I did.

The main idea is that the narrator is out on a walk and comes across a man planting trees. This man, who has lost his family and cares more about leaving behind a real legacy than making money, has devoted his life to planting trees and wishes to do so anonymously. The story follows the narrator on his many adventures and through the two world wars. Every once in a while, he comes back to visit the man planting the trees.

This is such an endearing story. You should check it out for sure.

#kaitreadsforcomps #3: Black Literature leading into and during the Civil Rights Movement

In this reflection, I will talk about:

  • A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945)
  • If He Hollers, Let Him Go by Chester Himes (1945)
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin (1953)
  • Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes (1955)
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)
  • The Dead Lecturer by Amiri Baraka (1964)
  • Dutchman by Amiri Baraka (1964)
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Link Love--May 23

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!


My Writing

One Year Ago: Unbreakable Willy Women: With Love to our Littlest on your Graduation (Popery, Pens, and Paperbacks): I wrote this almost a year ago for my little cousin on her graduation. It's so good to be part of a long line of strong women. 

Two Years Ago: My Thoughts on the UD Commencement Speaker (PPP): As we go through yet another hullabaloo at UD, it's good to remember that we have often made asses of ourselves before the world... 

Three Years Ago:

What I read this week:

Popery (Catholicism/Spirituality/Religion):

Pens/Pencils/Stationery:  

Paperbacks (Reading, Books, and Writing):

Life in General:

Money:

 

Academia, Education, and Teaching: 

Simplicity and Minimalism:

Parenting and Kiddos:

Animals

Link Love: A Little Reading for Finals Week

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

So, this week I thought I'd start the week with some link love for my friends who need something to distract them from finals. 

What I read last week:

Popery (Catholicism/Spirituality/Religion):

Pens/Pencils/Stationery:  

Paperbacks (Reading, Books, and Writing):

Life in General:

Money:

Academia, Education, and Teaching: 

Simplicity and Minimalism:

  • Clutter Blindness and How Doing This One Thing Can Make all the Difference (Organizing Junkie): I definitely suffer from clutter blindness, but I have noticed lately how when everything is picked up and put away that my small space seems so much larger. I have been thinking about getting rid of more tchotchkes, but I haven't acted on it because most of the tchotchkes that I have were gifts with sentimental value (I don't buy those kinds of things myself). Some good thoughts here. 

Environmentalism, Farming, Food, Health, and Nutrition:

The Three Types of People

Image by Timothy Muza

Image by Timothy Muza

On Sunday at Mass, I started thinking about the same thing that has been on my mind for months now: how could people who I loved so much and who said they loved me treat me the way that they did? Even though I know the answer is simple (they were using me), I am still stumped at the thought of what would lead someone to treat another person like this. I mean, it was serious stuff. They encouraged me to kill myself. Humans don’t do that.

But I’m trying not to be angry—or at least not to be bitter. I’ve forgiven them, I’m praying for them.

But such brokenness—how do we get so broken?

Well, I started thinking about something that my good friend and mentor, Mike Brooks, always said when I was in high school. He phrased it as a lesson (or a warning) about boys for us girls in youth group, but in all honesty I think we all know it’s true about all humans. And certainly I have learned that we sometimes need to be warned (or at least reminded) about other humans.

So, Mike would tell us that there are three types of people. And in order to understand the three types, there’s something you need to know about humans (or, as he would say, boys): we’re all defective. Call it broken, sinful, fallen, human, etc., but it all comes down to the fact that we’re defective. Mike used to talk about the “defective male chromosome,” but in reality it’s the defective human tendency to sin, to harm others or ourselves or to act against the greater good in our own selfishness. It’s that darn original sin getting to us, and there’s no way to escape it. We’re just defective. As we grow in life, we can choose to become more like Christ, but we’ll never escape our humanity.

So, of us defective humans, there are three different types. Mike refers to them simply as the ones, the twos, and the threes.

Ones are the people who are defective but they don’t know they’re defective. A one can become a two or a three or just stay a one for life. These are the emotionally immature people who are like a bull in a china shop with other people’s emotions without even realizing it. We’ve all met a one. Heck, we’ve all been a one. As Mike used to say, “You can date a one, but you can’t marry them.” A one is never going to be mature enough to make commitments or to be a good partner or friend. They have to grow up first.

Ones are like the classic C. S. Lewis example in Mere Christianity where he talks about the child who plays in the mud, making mud pies, not knowing that there is a feast set for him by a king. They don’t know. This means that there’s always hope that they will someday leave the mud pies behind and sit in their rightful place at the feast.

This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” There is the opportunity still to know fully the goodness of God.

Then, there are twos. Twos, unlike ones, know they are defective. They relish their defectiveness, enjoying every minute. Now, here’s the thing: a two will never become anything other than a two. You can’t change them. This was something Mike used to stress (as a high school teacher, principal, and youth minister, he saw a lot of this): “Girls, you can’t save a two and make him a three. You can’t stay in a relationship hoping to change them.” As obvious as it sounds, I had the same conversation with a 29 year old maybe three days ago. We want to believe that we can change people. We see their potential. But we can’t. That’s not in our power.

Twos are like a child making mud pies knowing that there’s a feast and preferring the mud. Even a pig will choose to be clean over lying in the mud, but a two will stay defiantly (even happily) in the mire.

I’m sure we’ve all met people like this. There are the gossipy girls whose greatest pleasure is in tearing down another—not because of insecurity (a one), but because they really think it’s fun. They’re the people who plot and scheme for no real personal benefit other than the satisfaction of hurting another person. I think some people want to see the good in them, want to believe that these people aren’t really a two. How many times have I heard someone say, “Maybe they’re just a one and they’re insecure and I can fix them.”?

No, you can’t. You can’t fix a two. They are happy broken. They do not want to be whole. Maybe the Lord can heal them, but remember: they know the Lord. They just don’t want him. They have already turned against Him. And while it’s easy to see twos as being these evil archetypes and scary monsters, the best image is probably Satan in Dante—perpetually frozen in tears being turned to ice by the beating of his own wings.

Twos are the kind of people who others will make excuses about them being “only human,” but in reality they are the least human people you will meet. To be human is to be what we were meant to be—to go against that humanity, that’s what makes us broken. Twos are happy to go against their humanity. They’re pitiable, but you shouldn’t waste your time trying to change them or endanger yourself trying to love them. I made that mistake.

Lastly, there are the threes. I think we all want to be a three, but I wonder sometimes if people who think they’re threes are really just ones. It’s a solid question, but I’m afraid I’ll have to be enjoying the beatific vision to find the answer. Then I might not care.

A three is someone who, like the two, knows they are defective, but a three will spend the rest of their life trying to overcome their defectiveness. Whether they realize it or not, they are seeking to become fully human, fully like God, fully in imitation of Christ. A three can never become perfect or overcome their defectiveness, so sometimes they will sin. But they will try, each and every day, to get as close to perfection as they can.

Now, Mike never told me this, but as I was thinking about this on Sunday it occurred to me that it’s sort of like a spectrum. I think threes sometimes forget and slide back towards being a one. That's sin. But the farther you go on the spectrum towards being a two, the more lost you are and the less able to approach the three end. It’s like there’s a point of no return. I even drew a picture to show what I mean. 

Three types of people_edited-1.jpg

So, those are the three types of people. And I think that, as much as I feel anger towards the people who hurt me, only one was a two. She took pleasure in it. The others are all ones. They’re just too easily manipulated. Maybe it’s the aspie in me or maybe it’s because my primary strength is context, but being able to label it, being able to classify the difference, it helps. I hope it helps you. 

Image by Suhyeon Choi

Image by Suhyeon Choi

On Depression and Anxiety: How to Support Those Who Struggle

Image Courtesy of Glenn Carsons. 

Image Courtesy of Glenn Carsons. 

I think I’ve been writing this in my head for weeks, the words clawing at my brain, trying to get out. I’m one of those people who has to find meaning in every evil thing, a lesson that God is allowing me to learn the hard way because I need to learn it. My grandmother always says that the best lesson is the bought lesson if you don’t have to pay too dear. To be honest, I almost did pay too dearly.

Maybe that is why I have to write this. I want to be clear: I’m not writing this to punish the people who did these things. I’m not writing to get attention or to talk about the horrible things they did to me. The people who love me already know what those people did, as do the people who did this. And to be honest, they are so proud of their actions that I don’t think me talking about their actions would be a punishment—more like another victory.

I want to share with you what I have learned about the best ways to help a person going through depression, anxiety, and/or emotional abuse. I want to share this because I encounter people every day who have experienced or are experiencing these things. I work closely with students in my classroom, coworkers in my office, and friends in my life all of whom have experienced some degree of what I have experienced over the last five months. And for the people who haven’t experienced it, I have seen that they often want to help and don’t know how.

I chose to live my experiences openly not because I needed attention (as the main abuser has repeatedly claimed), but because I needed a community and trusted that if I reached out, one would form. I was right. People I hadn’t spoken to in years (some, a decade) reached out to tell me that they had a similar experience or that even if they hadn’t, they wanted to support me because they cared about me. This is so important. We are communal creatures. We cannot survive alone.

Image by Annie Spratt. 

Image by Annie Spratt. 

 

Before I begin, there are a few things you have to know and accept in order to help someone suffering from depression and anxiety:

1.     Depression and anxiety are real. They are scientific facts that involve chemicals in the brain and hormones in the body. Depression/Anxiety is not their imagination, is not someone seeking attention, is not something that anyone wants to experience. It is real and can permanently impact a person’s life.

2.     External stressors (a parent with cancer, dealing with an illness, work/school related stress, abuse, and many other things) can make depression and anxiety worse, or can even cause it. This means that another human being’s actions, whether intentionally or not, can cause or worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. There is an intimate relationship between our psyche and our body—as Christians we accept this because the body and soul are intimately connected. If you harm someone’s body, it can impact their soul. If you harm someone’s soul, it can impact their body.

3.     While some people will harm another accidentally, there are actually people who will harm them intentionally because it brings them pleasure. Unfortunately, this is not as rare as people would like to think. A large group of these people are Narcissistic Sociopaths.

4.     There are external indications that a person is suffering from anxiety or depression. Sometimes the external indications are the side effects of the illness (anxiety attacks, exhaustion) and sometimes they are the coping mechanisms that person has learned to deal with their illness (addictions to alcohol, drugs, or even an unhealthy addiction to exercise; self harm).

5.     People with depression and anxiety need a community to support them. People who have been emotionally abused are particularly in need of support, but will be more hesitant to ask for it. Be aware. No one can survive this alone.

 

Now, what you will have to know and accept about me in order for this to have meaning for you:

1.     I am a devout Catholic whose knowledge of the faith is both personal and academic (I have an MA in Theology from Notre Dame). My perspective is intrinsically Roman Catholic, although I hope it’s accessible to all Christians. I think, though, that even non-Christians can understand what I am saying and relate accordingly.

2.     As a child, I was emotionally abused by an older relative. One of the most painful parts of this is that I was told on a daily basis that I was unlovable, a burden, too much, and that I should never have been born. Those wounds still impact me on a daily basis.

3.     I have suffered from depression and anxiety for my whole life, largely as a result of being abused, but also because depression runs deep on both sides of my family. I have dealt with these things in numerous ways, including going to counseling both as a teen and as an adult. I am currently on medication to provide the missing chemicals that my brain needs to help me maintain emotional health and lead a normal life.

4.     When I was a child, I learned that self harm would help release the emotional pain and although I gave that up in my late teens/early 20s, I had a relapse a little over a year ago that my closest “friend” was aware of and this put me in a terribly vulnerable position.

5.     While I am unable to diagnose another person because I do not have the training, my research in this has led me to refer to the main abuser in my situation as “the sociopath.” As a Catholic, I sincerely hope that person does have a mental disorder because in my faith tradition, we believe that mental illness takes away a person’s free will to commit mortal sins and therefore frees them from the threat of hell for the actions they take because of their illness. Either way, this person and the people who have helped her are in need of prayers. I have forgiven them, although I still suffer from the repercussions of their actions.

 

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how to help.

I will do this in four parts.

The first part is “how to respond in a human way.” I put this first because there are some responses that are NOT acceptable. Most of you will find these obvious, but in the last five months I have experienced every one. While I know that those people are made in the image and likeness of God, their responses/actions were absolutely not acceptable and not human. Hence, the section title. Many of these will be negative actions—meaning “don’t do x” instead of “do x.” The reason for this is simple: please, for the sake of being human, do anything other than x.

The second part is “how to respond as a friend.” Here is where most people will want to be and those who reached out to me in this way are forever in my heart.

The third part is “how to respond as a good Catholic/Christian friend.” Here is where Christians and Catholics will want to be. I am amazingly blessed with many such friends.

The last and final part is “how to respond as a good Catholic/Christian community.” Here you will find the ways that I think parishes, churches, and organizations can better help their congregants to deal with mental illness and support others.

 

1.     How to Respond in a Human Way

Photo by Timothy Meinberg. 

Photo by Timothy Meinberg. 

Do not, under any circumstances, tell another human that the world would be better off without them. I should not have to tell you this, but apparently that’s a thing people do. If someone is already suicidal, this is an invitation. If they are not, it’s encouragement to think about it.

On a personal note, after months of what I have started to term psychological warfare, I blocked the sociopath from being able to email me because she was harassing me via email. In the block message, I took the five worst things she said to me and applied them to her. (I know, this wasn't kind and I am ashamed that I did it.) This line was one that made my stomach churn just writing it to another person, even someone who had done me so much harm. If you are someone who can say this to another person and think you’re right to do so, please get help. This is not okay and you are not okay.

Do not use information entrusted to you in confidence to hurt another person. Again, I shouldn’t have to say this, but the sociopath using her knowledge of my childhood abuse to hurt me was not a human thing to do. Humans don’t do that to each other. Sociopaths, incredibly broken humans who need severe emotional help, actual demons—that’s who does that.

Do not tell another person they are a burden, “too much,” etc. Humans are not burdens. While no person should be expected to carry another through life, we are all responsible for each other. Additionally, it is common knowledge (if you watch any American television at all) that people who consider suicide often do so because they think they are a burden to those around them. Just like the paragraph above, telling another that they are a burden is an invitation to take their own life.

Do not compare this person’s illness to another’s or in any way indicate that an unhealthy coping mechanism is acceptable. I already told you about my coping mechanisms. Want to know when I started having panic attacks for the first time since college? The day after one of the sociopath’s other friends said they had a relapse in cutting. She had known I was doing this for over a year and was okay with it, but this other person’s relapse was so urgent that our entire weekend trip became all about this other person. When we got home, I started waking up screaming because my best friend was telling me that it was okay to hurt myself because I’m not as important as someone else. That is direct causality.

Do not refer to another’s mental illness as “drama” or otherwise indicate that they are doing it to get attention. One of my best friends responded to the fact that I was suicidal by telling me he didn’t want my drama. In the same vein, the sociopath called up a bunch of people (including my mother) telling them that I was threatening to kill myself because I wanted attention. There is so much wrong with this. One, you are writing off another person’s suffering by saying that it’s not real, that they are choosing it, or that it’s all in their head. Two, you are simultaneously claiming that they are doing it specifically for attention. When people do things for attention, the best way to help them is to ignore them, right? So everyone that she reached out to who believed her chose not to offer help because that would be the “best” thing for me. For any narcissistic sociopaths reading this, this is how you start the process of manipulating another person to commit suicide. For normal people, do you want that?

Never tell someone they are a waste of time. Human beings are not a waste of time. No one who is a human would say this. It’s the same as saying that you have no value. Being told that everything we had ever done together was a waste of time was so heartbreaking. Here, I had thought we were friends, but it turns out that we weren’t and that I was just a waste of time.

Don’t spread rumors about people with mental illness. Not only did the sociopath call up random people and gossip about me, her friends did too. I have had multiple people approach me about them talking shit. If you don’t want to be my friend, fine. Don’t take what you know about me and spread it around. Definitely don’t spread around things that aren’t true! (No, I did not threaten to kill myself because I wanted attention.)

 

2.     How to Respond as a Good Friend

Image courtesy of Matthew Henry. 

Image courtesy of Matthew Henry. 

Believe them. Whether it’s believing that they are suffering or believing that another is abusing them, people in this situation need to be believed. Tell them that you hear them, you believe them, and that you care. SO important!

Reach out to the person, tell them they are important to you. It’s hard to fight off the belief that we are unimportant, especially if another person is telling us that we are. Having friends, family members, and even acquaintances reaching out and affirming that you are valuable can help with the process of fighting depression or anxiety. It’s not that your reaching out will fix them, it’s that you might give them the motivation to be fixed.

Give specific examples of the things about that person that you love or appreciate. I really appreciated the emails and messages that I received after the initial event where people were telling me the good things about me. It helped me to fix my perspective. When another person (or your own psyche) is telling you that you have no value as a human being, it’s easy to start to believe that’s true. The people who reached out to me and gave me specific things about myself to look at and appreciate were really helpful in helping me snap my brain back into place. “Hey, that’s right: I am valuable and people appreciate me because x, y, and z!”

Offer to help. Specific things are best. Whether it’s bringing them food, offering to help them move out of an abusive home, or even just saying, “hey, call me anytime,” we notice the things you offer. Still, even saying, “Let me know how I can help you” is just so helpful in and of itself. It’s good to know who is willing to help you move out of this dark space. There are so many things that come up: from needing a rescue to advice to just needing someone to sit with. I am so grateful to the people who helped me and even just offered to help me. I received so many offers for phone calls or chats that it made me feel less alone. Thank you! However, please note: Just because they never take you up on it, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate it or that the offer wasn’t helpful. For instance, I received probably twenty new phone numbers as a result of all this and people reaching out to me, but I have phone anxiety and don’t talk to anyone but my parents on the phone. Just knowing those people were there, though, was so helpful because I knew I could reach out if I wanted to.

Offer resources. I don’t mean money (although sometimes that’s helpful, too), but instead resources to help them. I was lucky to know that the psychologists on campus were there already, but my friends were quick to encourage me to go. One friend offered a spiritual counselor I could see, several others offered their homes. Several superheroes offered to help me pack and move. Friends who were far away supplied legal advice, including doing their own research on legal clinics in my area that could potentially help me get out of my lease. 

Just be there, even if you can’t “be” there. One of my best friends skyped me from Korea. Another texted me every day to check in (which was sometimes the highlight of my day). My friends who just sat with me, watched movies/tv with me, and distracted me by talking incessantly about their research (love you) were a huge part of me beginning to heal. For the first few weeks after the event, I studied in Denton almost every day. Just having someone to sit with who knew me, knew what was going on, and loved me anyways was a huge help. Thank you.

Never tell someone that they ask too much. In my experience, it’s usually the people who really do ask too much that claim another is asking too much. You have the right to say no when someone, even your best friend, asks you for something. You have the right to kindly say, “Hey, I need more time for x” or “Hey, I need to prioritize myself right now.” If you’re not willing or able to help a friend human at the moment, you need to recognize that it’s not really about them, it’s about you. The fact that the person who assumed I would cook, clean, organize, get the mail, pay the bills, and take care of her every whim, turned and told me I was asking too much when I needed a little support (because my dad had cancer and I had just been diagnosed with PCOS) is pretty indicative of how well I was valued in that relationship. If you care about someone, you don’t tell them that they’re asking too much. If you truly love someone, there’s no such thing as asking too much, so long as there is mutual give and take.

If someone calls you up to gossip about them, shut that shit down. I’m so grateful for the people who said that it didn’t matter what anyone said about me, they knew who I was and wouldn’t listen. I’m even more grateful for the people who have told me that so and so called them or messaged them, but they shut them down. If you respect another person, you won’t believe rumors about them and won’t allow them to be spread if you can stop it.

Don’t defend the abuser. I did not need anyone to tell me that the sociopath didn’t “mean” to hurt me. (Really, how do you accidentally tell someone that the world would be better without them?) If you find yourself defending the abuser, just be aware that you’re slowly being manipulated into agreeing with them.

Don’t be silent. There are a few friends who believe me and know what happened, but have stayed silent because it’s easier that way. No. A good friend will stand up for you. Would you want me to be silent if this happened to you?

On taking sides: In an abuse situation, there is no such thing as being neutral. Just by remaining friends with someone who is abusive, you are indicating that their behavior is acceptable on some level. I know this is hard to hear because we are so ingrained with the belief that if we don’t take sides, we are able to escape the discomfort of making a decision. But the thing is, staying friends with an abuser is making a moral decision that most people shouldn’t be comfortable with.

In an ideal world, we would be able to stay friends with the abuser while condemning their actions (love the sinner, hate the sin). But in reality, it doesn’t work that way. This isn’t a coincidence. The abuser will demand that you not accept their actions as real. The sociopath demanded that they take her side by lying and manipulating the situation. In the end, it was easier to believe her lies and say that I’m just “crazy” instead of believing the inconvenient truth that I was telling. 

 

3.     How to Respond as a Good Catholic/Christian Friend

Image by Ben White. 

Image by Ben White. 

One of my biggest struggles in my friendships now is that I was formed in community. I went through intentional communal formation for two years in my graduate program and again in discerning with the Sisters of Providence and later as a Providence Associate. In community, we are all about right relationship. Right relationship is often never easy (ask anyone who lives in community). We always say that living in right relationship sometimes is like living with a mirror three inches from your face: you become aware of your own imperfections, your own weaknesses. I think that is why it’s so easy for good Christians to avoid good Christian friendships, because a good Christian friendship challenges us to be better, which is hard, painful, and generally uncomfortable. I grew used to doing that uncomfortable work. When you live in a house with nine other people, there’s no space for passive aggression or repressing problems. This is part of what went wrong in my friend group.

If you want to be a helpful, good Christian friend, reread 1 Corinthians 13 before you begin.

Remind them that they are loved by God, made in Her image and likeness, and that they have a purpose ordained by heaven. To non-believers, this seems cheap, like a throw-away statement that means nothing, but to people who truly believe in the Gospel, this is something that we need daily reminders of. If another human says I have no value, it should not matter—and will not matter if my faith life is strong. Depression often puts a block between us and God that makes it hard to believe in our value as His children.  Reminding people who are suffering from depression, anxiety, or abuse that God loves them is the most basic thing you should do as a good Christian.

Remind them, and yourself, that the Lord’s ways are not our ways. Again, it seems cheap—but the reminder that our suffering is really God breaking us down to put us together in a more whole and healthy way will help the one suffering.

Tell them that you love them. They need to hear it.

Actually love them. Remember that love is patient and kind. Love is also protective. Remember “Love always protects, always trusts, always perseveres.” Think of how the Lord loves his people, the way he defends Israel. If you love someone, you cannot be silent when they are being abused. You have to speak up and condemn the sin. This leads into the next one.

Love the abuser. Speak up and condemn the sin. This is also a way to love the abuser. Love does not ignore imperfections, but invites us to grow closer to God. Friendship is a sacrament—its aim is to make both persons holier. The mutual friends who were bad friends to me were also bad friends to her (and I told them so). A good friend would hold them accountable for their actions. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.”

Offer to pray for them. Then, actually pray for them. Again, this may seem like a throw-away statement, but I live my life so much more comfortably with the knowledge that I have like 300 sisters who pray for me regularly. There’s a confidence that comes only from knowing that there is a community of people who are asking God to provide for you. And besides, when someone you love is struggling with mental illness, you will often feel like there’s nothing you can do. You can pray. God has it all in Her hands.

A note: Prayer is not a punishment. I get so sick of people saying, “I’ll pray for you,” like it was a nice version of “f*** you.” Praying for another person is not really praying if you’re hoping they will a)stop telling the truth, b)become exactly who you want them to be, or c)actually get worse. This is not okay. You actually have to have someone’s best interests and entrust them to God. That’s part of what this whole Christian thing is all about.

Pray for the abuser. Even though I wasn’t strong enough to pray for her at the beginning, some of my friends were. This not only helped because she needs prayers, but also because it reminded me that I needed to do the same.

Offer resources. Just as a good friend offers resources, a good Christian friend will offer good Christian resources. As I said before, a friend recommended a spiritual counselor. Others recommended prayer books or scripture passages. Still others recommended saints to pray with. When I was told I wasn’t welcome at my usual Mass, a dozen people recommended Churches and even offered to go to Mass with me. That leads me to the next one.

Offer to go to Mass with them. Losing your friendgroup is rough enough, but losing your regular parish is horrible. It’s scary to go to a new place alone when you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, or desolation. I’m so grateful to the friends who offered to go to Mass with me or invited me to their Church. I’m still hoping to take you all up on that.

Offer to pray with them. Maybe it’s just me, but having a friend sitting and praying with or over me is so calming and comforting. Sometimes when you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, you want to talk to God but don’t have the right words to say. Having another person praying with you helps a lot.

Sit with them in the garden of Gethsemane. Like Christ, I sat there begging the Lord to take this cup from me. It took me a long time to accept that it was what it was and I had to accept it. I’m so grateful for those who sat with me during that time.

Make space for them: in your home, at your table, in your heart. No one can get through this alone. Sometimes the most Christian thing to do is just sit and be Christ to the other.

 

4.     How to Respond as a Good Catholic/Christian Community

Image by David Beale. 

Image by David Beale. 

Never take the side of the abuser. Everyone needs God and everyone deserves access to the sacraments. However, if the abuser is threatening the person or preventing them from attending Mass, that needs to be dealt with immediately. If the abuser is not actually a member of the faith group (not baptized or confirmed), this should be doubly so. The person who told me I am no longer welcome at the parish I worked at for four years is being confirmed there on Easter. I feel like that’s the church giving me the finger in the biggest way possible. No wonder people leave Catholicism.

Don’t deny the reality of mental illness. It’s so easy to write depression or anxiety off as someone just being sad or not having a good enough prayer life when the reality is that God made some people with a brain that can’t produce the chemicals to give them emotional stability. I’m sure there’s a reason for this. But you can’t help someone if you don’t admit they’re real.

Offer faithful education to the parish/church as a whole in how to better support members with mental illness. Every Sunday for the last three years (up until I was stopped from attending Mass), one of the parishioners has come up to my mentor (who I was always sitting next to) to give him an update on how her son, who lives in a mental institution half the time, is doing. I know that she, as a family member, could use more support from her community. I know that I, as someone who suffers with mental illness, could use more support. I know that some of my friends or fellow Catholics could use more information or faithful training in how to work with both people with depression and people who love people with depression.

Offer support groups and counseling or support organizations that offer these things. Did you know that 18% of the US adult population experiences mental illness? That’s not counting the prevalence of depression and anxiety in teenagers. Speaking as a Catholic, both as a devout member and as a former Catechist, if someone looking for this kind of support can’t find it here, they will find it in a Protestant Church. If you don’t want to support people, don’t complain about those people leaving. Note that my current spiritual counselor is Protestant. She’s amazing and kind and so very wise. If I were looking for a similar relationship in the Catholic Church, it would be much harder. I had a wonderful spiritual director in college and during my time in Indianapolis, but the fact is there are not enough spiritual directors to go around. And the ones who are trained are often associated with a subgroup that has an agenda. If you’re Catholic, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve been incredibly blessed in that God has provided someone every time I have searched, but I know others who can never find someone that fits because the SD is either too conservative, too liberal, too racist, too obsessed with particular devotions and closed off to others, etc. And because you have to go to privately owned retreat centers, they are all too expensive for a graduate student to afford.

Every parish or diocese should have something in place to support these members of the community. Remember that when we say we are called to protect the most vulnerable, it doesn’t just mean the unborn. People who suffer mental illness and those who love them are incredibly vulnerable.

Photo by Daniel Seng. 

Photo by Daniel Seng. 

 

In conclusion

There are probably a lot of things I left out that would also be helpful. I’m not a psychologist and, because I’m not yet 30 (the general required age for training), I am not a trained Spiritual Director. I have done Spiritual Direction and I have, both as a minister and as a professor, worked closely with students who suffer from mental illness. Moreover, I am living with depression and anxiety and have just escaped an emotionally abusive relationship. This is just my reporting on my experiences: what hurt, what helped, and what I wish I had.

 

I have a few more pieces of advice for dealing with people with mental illness, or really, people in general:

Remember: Not every joke is funny. For the last three years, I have been the butt of every joke in my former friend group. I was the youngest and I’m not good at humor, so it made me an easy victim for jokes about how innocent I am or how inexperienced. It made them feel superior and I seemed to take it all in stride, so they thought it was okay. However, our friends would often laugh when the sociopath was really saying/doing something that she knew would really upset or hurt me. She had a tendency to say things to really upset me right before we would meet up with friends so that I would be quiet or reserved and she could have fun with others. She would then make a joke about me that the others would laugh at, thinking it was all in good fun. I know that the others didn’t realize what was happening, but it added to the strain.

Even if you have known someone for literally their whole life, you still don’t know everything that has happened to them. Because I am a generally cheerful person and tend to love everyone around me, it was easy for my friends to forget that I am a survivor of abuse. There are things about me that few of them were aware of and there are things about me that none of them were aware of. The sociopath knew almost everything and was able to use that to hurt me. The people around us could sometimes have no idea what was happening because they simply didn’t know.

Just remember, human beings are ineffable mysteries. Even if you think you know someone well, you will never know everything. Act accordingly. Err on the side of kindness.

And to all of those reading this who are suffering with depression and anxiety: Remember, you are valued. You are loved. You are not a burden or a waste of time. The world is better because you are in it.

Photo by Gaelle Marcelle. 

Photo by Gaelle Marcelle. 

##KaitReadsForComps Mini-Review #1: Dust Bowl Fiction and Drought Narratives

About #KaitReadsForComps: I'm trying to blog about every section on my reading list to help me process through what I've read. I'm going slowly, but running out of time. I hope this is interesting to you! 


Texts included:

Steinbeck, John. To a God Unknown (1933).

Johnson, Josephine. Now in November (1934).

Babb, Sanora. Whose Names are Unknown (pub. 2004, written 1938).

Steinbeck, John. Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Before reading: I’ve always been interested in the Dust Bowl and my interests were renewed when researching for a paper on the movie Interstellar. I’m fascinated by the intersection between science fiction and food sourcing and the movie felt particularly meaningful in light of the current monoculture epidemic in the U.S.

Warning: spoilers ahead. If you want to read these texts on your own, don’t keep reading. Honestly, though, these are things you can just read my summaries of and not ever waste time reading!

 

To a God Unknown

My Summary: Six years before he wrote Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck wrote this narrative about the Wayne family who leave their homes in the east to go to California and establish a homestead. Like most of the literature of this era, the main character, Joseph, and his brothers, Thomas, Benjy, and Burton experience calamity after calamity. Their farm is successful at first, but as the rains stop and the soil dries up, they are incapable of making a living. Beset by disease, addiction, poverty, and hunger, slowly every family member leaves until Joseph is alone.

My thoughts: The title comes from the story’s one truly unique quality: whereas most of the novels, stories, and legends coming out of the Dust Bowl era are definitively Christian, this narrative allows for native deities (unspecified beyond there being a “spirit” or something that the more devout brother curses) to play a role in the life on the farm. Believing the spirit of the ancient tree on the property to be his father, Joseph becomes enamored with the tree, making offerings to it and spending time speaking with it. When Burton realizes exactly what is happening, he eventually cuts the tree at the roots, effectively killing the tree and causing the drought. The drought is only ended when Joseph offers himself to the rock in the middle of the grove, which his wife had fell to her death on years before. A weird novel, I can’t imagine doing much with it in terms of research or teaching, but it’s definitely an alternate drought narrative.

 

Now In November

My Summary: Yet another truly depressing Dust Bowl narrative, Now in November is uniquely told entirely from a woman’s perspective (at least, for novels actually published at the time). This is a story of a family that moves to the Midwest to live on land after they have problems “in town” (unspecified). While he tells his wife that they own the land outright, it is actually mortgaged land, meaning that they are chained by debt and will have to make a real profit (unlikely) to get free.

The parents and the oldest child, Kerrin, feel no attachment to the land, but the narrator, Margaret, and the youngest, Merle, love it. They start out with a hired hand, but when he moves to town, Father hires Grant. Margaret quickly falls in love with him, but he falls first for the eldest and then for the youngest. This group of five makes up the main cast of characters for this short and depressing story.

Kerrin is a deeply melancholic character and suffers from an “illness” which can only be depression. She works at first as a teacher, but is fired when her illness becomes more unmanageable.

With the drought, it becomes hard to pay rent and neighbor after neighbor lose their farms. The family hangs on, although it becomes much harder after the loss of Kerrin’s pay from teaching, but one day there is a fire and Mother gets burned. Kerrin commits suicide with Grant’s knife, mother dies the next day, and Grant leaves the farm. Margaret is convinced that she and Merle will somehow continue on and keep the farm.

My Thoughts: As you can see, this is a fine, uplifting text (not really) with a complex plot (nope) and is likely to be very helpful for my research (probably not). But I’m glad I read it. It just frustrates me that the only one of these narratives published at the time by a woman is basically plot-less and involves zero character development on the part of the characters. Father stays angry, Mother kind, Grant generous, Kerrin selfish and increasingly depressed, Margaret quiet and unwilling to stand up for herself, and Merle the baby. There’s a lot left to be desired.

 

Whose Names Are Unknown

About this Book: So, you know how I kept talking about Now in November as being the only narrative by a woman published at the time? Yeah, that’s because Sanora Babb wrote this novel and was all set to have it published when Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was released (seriously, like days before her book was to be printed). The publisher pulled the book because they thought another book about so similar a story wouldn’t sell. Unfortunately, it probably should have been the other way around. Babb lived as a farmer in the Dust Bowl and combined her own experiences with research. In fact, this novel is a story meant to be a narrative companion to Arthur Rothstein's photo, "Fleeing a Dust Storm." Babb combines her correspondence, memories, and historical documents found during her research to tell a story about the Dunne family, living in a one-room hovel when the rains failed to come. With a plot very similar to Grapes of Wrath, Babb tells the stories of families fleeing Oklahoma for the California working camps. Of course, it’s a Dust Bowl narrative, so nothing can go right (because at the time, nothing did).

My thoughts: I enjoyed this book and the narrative style. I’m not sure I would say the actual writing is better than Steinbeck, but I think the story and the craft of the writer in basing her text in real-life experience deserves an equal space in our canon with Steinbeck’s absurdly long tome.

 

Grapes of Wrath

Overall Assessment: What Whose Names Are Unknown lacks in written elegance, Steinbeck’s great novel possesses in droves. However, unlike Babb, Steinbeck is giving into the popularized narrative of the Dust Bowl, ignoring several facts and scientific research as he tells about the Joads and their problems. The oversymbolism isn’t really my style.  

 

Dust Bowl Narratives, Conclusion: I really enjoyed the first of the Steinbeck novels and Babbs, but could have done without the others. 

What I'm Thankful for This Year

So, I missed making a Thanksgiving post by 30 minutes, but I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving.

This year, in spite of all the bad, I am so aware that I have so many things to be thankful for.

Image credit: Morgue File

Image credit: Morgue File

 

Here’s just a few:

  • I am thankful for an apartment with heat and ac for the first time in two years.

  • I am thankful for friends who are supporting me (especially Cole, Elizabeth, Tim, Virginia, and Ruby, who have put up with a lot of crazy Kait lately).

  • I am thankful for my perfect new baby niece who I am madly in love with and for my two wild and wonderful three year olds whose parents graciously let me hang out with them and pretend I'm being helpful by doing so.

  • I am thankful for the framily who have taken me and Christina in--the Cases, the Mechs, the Hornsbys.

  • I am thankful for my students and the opportunity to teach them, which really gives my life meaning.

  • I am thankful for a supportive committee and dissertation director as well as professors and administrators who support me and challenge me.

  • I am thankful for "John the Greater" and "John the Lesser," my two mentors and dear friends to whom I owe so much.

  • I am thankful that John Sommerfeldt’s book is coming out soon and that I have a copy and that he not only acknowledged me, but included me in the dedication.

  • I'm thankful for my Butler kids and all the people who have gotten me to this point.

More thank anything, today I am thankful for my dear friend, Cole, and his wonderful family who took me in and gave this lonely little orphan a place to go this Thanksgiving. I have never felt so warmly welcomed and so loved. Thank you with all my heart.

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Link Love: The last week before school begins

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

Every week, I curate a list of the best links and articles to make you think and keep you informed. Enjoy!

This is the last Friday before school starts up again. I'm in the midst of so many projects that I wanted to have done before school began. Alas. How is your back to school time going?

My Writing

Two years ago: Wild and Precious (Spiritual Uprising Blog)

What I read this week:

Popery (Catholicism/Spirituality/Religion):

Pens/Pencils/Stationery:  

Paperbacks (Reading, Books, and Writing):

  • Jane Austen Films and Onion Headlines: A Perfect Match (Flavorwire): My favorite? "Woman A Leading Authority on What Shouldn't be in Poor People's Grocery Carts." Lady Catherine would be that person if she were alive today (and, you know, real). 

    • There is no Secret to Writing About People who do not Look Like You (Literary Hub): This article is interesting and engages a problem evident in the book world. I love the last two paragraphs, excerpted here: "When a story does harm by presenting a limited view of a group of people, then the author’s craft has failed them in some crucial way. It isn’t that every character belonging to every marginalized group must be perfect and without conflict. It isn’t that an author must present an example every kind of person. Rather, it’s because you present only one side to that person’s life, a side that has often been fabricated and perpetuated by the larger public. It’s because your character doesn’t ring true, has none of the mess that makes a person real on the page. A writer’s work begins and ends with empathy. Without it, there can be no writing, at least not good writing, and if the author cannot enter into the lives of those unlike himself, then he must, I think, hold the work about himself up for closer scrutiny. The distance between the self and the other is never as great as we imagine it to be—the two are often twinned, and it’s this relationship that empathy reveals. The best writing, the writing most alive with possibilities, is the writing that at once familiarizes and estranges; it’s writing that divorces us from our same-old contexts and shifts our thinking about ourselves and the world around us." As a scholar of literature that is not from my own culture, I recognize the difficulties in writing about people who do not look like you. I think that this article is really helpful in engaging this. 

Life in General:

  • You're Not Responsible for Other People's Feelings (Introvert, Dear): Oh my gosh, this is so me: "I was stunned, and speechless. That was allowed? I could ask other people to modify something because it was causing me a problem? Rationally, I understood this concept. But emotionally, it felt like my entire world had shifted." I struggle to speak up for myself. I also appreciate the author's affirmation of communicating via writing. It is SO hard for me to do in person confrontations. I think so slowly that I can't process one thing before the person I'm talking to has moved onto the next. It makes it easy to be taken advantage of. 
  • Why I won’t buy a Fitbit (The Art of the Simple): While I love my fitbit, I really enjoyed this reflection from Art of the Simple. I think we are too numbers based these days. 

  • Why Representation Matters (Edutopia): I think it's really easy for people to roll their eyes when they hear about groups of persons being underrepresented. I know that as a kid, I struggled to find female characters to relate with. This article is really good for addressing the problem with potential answers. 

Environmentalism, Farming, Food, Health, and Nutrition:

  • Don't you dare teach my daughter to fear the forest (Woman Running with Wolves): I love this: "If the time ever comes when my daughter should feel that life has worn her down, I will show her that in the soul-forest, there is always life teeming under the surface. Like an owl stalking a mouse in the moonlight, some part of her somewhere is always awake and bustling peacefully in the silence; alert, watching, waiting.So, don't you dare teach my daughter to fear the forest. You know those stories that speak of the wolf in the wood? I will teach my daughter that she is the wolf – free, primal, and connected to the moon." I never thought about how the stories about kids getting attacked in the woods teach us to fear the forest. I'm so glad it didn't work on me. 
  • These 5 Museums Put the “Culture” in “Agriculture” (Modern Farmer): I would love to visit some of these. 

Academia, Education, and Teaching: 

  • Creating an Ecology of Wonder (Edutopia): I don't think it's any secret that I love being a teacher. Even though things like this are harder to accomplish at the University level, I consider my vocation to be no less creative than that of a kindergarten teacher. I love this quote: "Our job as educators is to make our primary resource -- wonder -- the essential learning incentive and outcome. This precious resource of wonder will feed our students, and in turn, our students will enrich their communities when they graduate with future public projects, businesses, cultural opportunities, and the exchange of ideas that in turn will foster wonder and curiosity for future generations. Our students and communities will pass on wonder in much the same way oxygen, water, and nutrients cycle through a well-balanced ecosystem." I think this is a great way to put the job of an educator. 

  • With Dartmouth professor's push, NH veterans finding that 'Homer gets it. Homer knows' (New Hampshire Union Leader): I love this article. Sometimes the Classics seem so far away for my students. They feel like what happened in Ancient Greece cannot possibly impact them. But reading Homer helps us to realize that more than anything, the human is human. The same pains we experience today were experienced then. That gives a certain amount of humanity to suffering, doesn't it?

Parenting: 

  • When satan steals your motherhood (Letters from the Nest): I have to admit that I know some people might not trust parenthood posts that I share, given that I'm not a mom. But, I love this post and I think all my mom friends should read it. I'm like this with other things, and I can only imagine that I would be like this as a mother. It's so easy to lose the joy of the thing that you "must" do (that really, you have chosen to do) and to let that joy be stolen in exchange for anger, frustration, and self deprecation.