Posting a gratuitous Monty Python clip. Because apparently I can.

Just downloaded the audiobook of Michael Palin’s “Diaries 1969-1979.” I should get the actual book, but I find Palin’s voice at once soothing and compelling. He’s fine company as I keep trying to escape work with muscle and stomach cramping that’s been ailing me since midday.

In a pandemic, being a good parent "isn't really an option"

When you’re already deeply insecure about the job you’re doing as a parent – pandemic or no pandemic – it doesn’t help to see friends on social media who seem to go to great lengths to show you how shiny-perfect they and their kids are doing. “Muting” and “unfollowing,” rather than unfriending, come in handy. I’ve done more of that since the whole COVID-19 thing hit.

In between moments of railing about Ted Cruz, writer Dan Sinker makes me feel a wee bit better when he reminds the rest of us deeply flawed parents that we’re doing the best we can:

Every parent wants to be a good parent. And every parent, every day, fails at that because, right now, being a good parent is literally impossible. A fine parent? Maybe. An OK one? Possibly. But a good one? We’re eleven months into a pandemic that sent all our children home, laid waste to jobs, killed a half-million people in this country, and sickened many millions more. Politicians like Ted Cruz ensured it would hurt as much as possible by fighting against public health measures and relief efforts that would have made a difference. So no: a good parent isn’t really an option. We’re all just barely getting by.

Not that I disagree with him about Ted Cruz; it’s just that (a) I don’t want to spend my Lenten time fuming about anybody, let alone Ted Cruz; and (b) that’s not my takeaway from all this.

(Hat tip for this link and quote, by the way, goes to the wonderful Austin Kleon, who blogs even further and far more eloquently today about being a “good enough parent.”)

My takeaway: Let’s go easy on ourselves, parents. And let the shiny-perfect families be shiny-perfect in muted, unfollowed limbo.

I heard birds singing outside our window this morning. That made my whole day, and I hadn’t even been out of bed yet.

Nothing says “holy Catholic witness” on social media like using your Instagram account to call out people as “heretical donkey clowns.” 😐


The losing battle, Week 6: “You’ve got this!”

Checked in with the bariatric doctor today. I’m now down another 2.5 pounds, making the total weight loss at 18.3 pounds since January 11.

The doctor was pleased and encouraging: “You’ve got this!” he told me. He also got me to change pharmacies for the phentermine after I told him how much I had to pay out of pocket for it last month. Ended up paying less than half the price tag from last month.

Then he gave me a few tips on YouTube exercise videos, told me to get some sun once things warm up, and sent me on my way.

So, I’ll keep going the way I’ve been going and see him again in May.

Stripping away the anger and frills for a basic -- but late -- Lenten start

It’s taken a while, but I think I’m finally on the Lenten train.

The divisive, angry wing of the Church – the one that increasingly condemns Pope Francis, holds up the Latin Mass over even reverent vernacular Mass as the optimal (if not the only true) liturgy, considers abortion the only pro-life issue that matters, and traffics in conspiracy theories and far right politics – has left me thoroughly disgusted. Unfortunately, that wing has touched “mainstream” Catholic sources, including some I had followed semiregularly (like EWTN, Relevant Radio, and Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire operation); even the Catholic bookstore that has been a mainstay for me has fallen to it. So, I’ve had to cull the spiritual supports in my social media and reading to ease the rage that has blinded me for weeks.

I don’t agree with everything that lives at the center-left end of the Catholic spectrum, especially some of the more New Agey spots (cough – Richard Rohr – cough) where it veers from orthodox theology. But the vindictive, holier-than-thou far right spirit that has clouded my vision lately is notably absent, and I feel like I can see God again.

Anyway, so much has clouded my spiritual vision that Fr. Daniel Horan’s suggestion to “go back to basics” for Lent really spoke to me. I’ve gone with one of Fr. Horan’s ideas for the season:

Why not set aside some time each day during Lent to read a portion of the Bible, perhaps start with one of the Gospels and read, reflect and pray with the passage? If we allow ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, sayings and narratives we thought we understood could inform or challenge us in new and timely ways.

So, I’ve been spending some quality time with the Gospel of Mark, using The Message paraphrase of the Bible. It’s been deeply absorbing and eye-opening, more than I expected. It is awfully refreshing to strip away all the ritual, relatively peripheral devotions, church politics, culture wars, and theological preening, and get to the basis of Christianity: Jesus himself.

From there, I’ve only taken up a few other things for Lent:

  • Read and reflect on two other books this season: “Learning to Pray” by Fr. James Martin and “The Hidden Power of Kindness” by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik.
  • Give up YouTube binging on mindless, time-wasting entertainments like “Big Bang Theory” clips.
  • Avoid constant indulgence in news – stop constantly checking the Washington Post, The New York Times, and other such sites – especially stuff that leads to anger, gossip, and detraction.
  • Avoid gossip and detraction. This goes for work and home conversations about everything and everybody: news figures/celebrities; colleagues; friends, acquaintances, and neighbors; church people; and each other. Change the subject when others try to draw me into such chatter. (I have already failed at this numerous times since Wednesday.)
  • I had a semi-grand idea to forego VitaminWater Zero for the season and set aside my spending on that for alms, but I’ve already failed at that. I’ve given up there and I’m just setting aside alms for the archdiocesan COVID-19 relief effort and our local food bank.

Usually I get ambitious about things like Lent. This year, I’m too tired to be ambitious: tired of religion (but not God), tired of the pandemic, tired of life. If only a few steps – beginning with getting reacquainted with Jesus – can rebuild my spirit even a little, I will be overjoyed.

A weirdly Chicago moment: viewing the Sunday Mass from Holy Name Cathedral and finding Bulls announcer Chuck Swirsky handling lector duties.

Whoa. I didn’t realize Rush Limbaugh died yesterday.

My Lenten avoidance of news apparently is working.

I know yesterday was Ash Wednesday.

Finally had some time to reflect on the Lenten season ahead. It’ll be another day or two before I write about it. A “hot take” on a holy time is not something to strive for.

Five years later, I finally noticed the Franklin Pierce coin at the bottom of this. He looks like Bill Gates. Or Larry King.

Putting the “Fat,” kind of, in Fat Tuesday

Final Fat Tuesday carb count: 148 grams of carbs. I’m supposed to consume less than 100 grams each day, as prescribed by my doctor.

(But I was under my protein, fat, and caloric limits, as prescribed by the MyFitnessPal app.)

This carb overload marked only the second or third day in more than a month that I’ve gone over my limit. It was by far the most carbs I’ve consumed in a single day since I saw the bariatric doctor last month.

Splurged on 1.75 paczki — that’s 0.75 more paczki than I planned to eat. Plus I had sips of Chris’ frozen hurricane and bottled mojito.

But I still opted for half a plate of steamed veggies, a “stick” of chicken satay, and a couple of spoonfuls of basil chicken — which included a generous amount of green beans — at dinner. I was short about 2 servings of vegetables (not counting the greens powder in the morning smoothie), but I still avoided the brown rice and noodle dishes.

Frankly, I didn’t want to eat the rice and noodles; I’ve gotten used to the healthier, carb-free eating, plus the dinner I had was much more satisfying (and guilt-free). And I’m delighted that I have a decent strategy now for our local Thai takeout place.

Starting Lent without a “Bang”

It’s the eve of Ash Wednesday, and I still haven’t nailed down how I’ll observe Lent.

I did spend some time this afternoon tinkering with YouTube to remove suggestions for “Big Bang Theory” clips from my feed there. It dawned on me recently that I’ve frittered away an awful lot of time the past few weeks mindlessly clicking on “Big Bang” clips to distract me from my various anxieties. The show has become comfort food for me, with particularly empty calories. And I’ve gained a lot of suffocating weight.

So, I’m done with “Big Bang” on YouTube for Lent. There’s that. It’s not much. But it’s a start.

The grease spots make Paczki Day official. The spots also tell me that Fat Tuesday means I can throw carb counts to the wind today. (And just today.)

The losing battle, Week 5.1: A corrective measure

As I suspected, the enormous weight loss logged yesterday was wrong. As of this morning, I’m only down 2 pounds. That makes a lot more sense, given how I haven’t done anything drastically different with my eating and activity habits.

The trajectory is still downward – I’m now down 15.8 pounds, or 5.6 percent of my weight when I began all this – so I’m fine with even the smaller loss. A 10-pound drop within a week at this point was alarming.

(I thought about deleting the post with the errant reading, but I’ll leave it. Doesn’t hurt to keep a record of oddities like that, and there’s an update on it, anyway.)

I may well blow any readings out of the water today, as it’s Fat Tuesday and I’ve already logged the calories and carbs for anticipated paczki consumption. Just having one half of two different packzis; the total will account for nearly half my carbs today.

But then tomorrow being Ash Wednesday, I’ll be minimal and meatless with any food intake a day later. Maybe it’ll all even out, God willing.

Welp, a quickie look at the scale this afternoon said I’m closer to last week’s weight after all. I’ll check it again tomorrow morning; if it turns out I’m vastly different than where I allegedly was earlier today, I’ll tweak the weight progress in my app.

When you pick up dog paczki in the dead of winter, you come across dachshunds carved in ice.

“Frannie, you don’t have to wear your mask in the car.”

“I know. But it keeps me warm.”


The losing battle, Week 5: I should be happy

The scale says I lost another 10.6 pounds this past week. It seems odd, I know, to be on the verge of complaining, but I am wary of this amount of loss for two reasons: (1) I don’t feel like I did anything that different last week, and (2) A sizable weight loss like this 5 weeks in seems a little alarming.

Before this morning, I had weighed myself sporadically during the week and saw a 1- or 2-pound loss here and there. My daily step count still rarely goes past 2,000. (I’m supposed to be aiming for 10,000 steps per day.) And I’ve only worked out a couple of times, mainly over the weekend, this past week. So, today’s scale reading is a surprise.

This amounts to 24.2 pounds gone since the doctor limited me to 100 grams of carbs a day, among other things.

Maybe treating myself to a little paczki tomorrow for Fat Tuesday won’t be that big a deal after all.

Update (5:38 p.m. Central): I weighed myself in the afternoon and found my weight much closer to last week’s numbers. I’ll weigh myself tomorrow morning; if I end up at a vastly different weight than the one I saw this morning, I’ll tweak my records.

CCD was canceled today; the schedule conflicted with a medical appointment for the teacher.

Given my mindset lately, part of me was kind of relieved. But it’s also unfortunate to not have church class for F just before Lent starts.

I’ve been on a low-carb regimen since early last month per doctor’s orders. And I’ve been following it pretty faithfully.

My next appointment with the doctor is later this month. I hope he’ll forgive me for calling in a paczki order today for Fat Tuesday.

Today’s social media memory.

Maybe for Lent, I can give up social media. Maybe instead, I can write here every day.

Forty-plus days away from Catholic Twitter and Catholic Instagram, among other platforms, could only be restorative.

I moved to North Carolina in 1993 because of what ultimately was an ill-advised relationship. I got a new newspaper job, moved on to one of the first dedicated news sites on the Internet, and left in 1996 for Chicago.

In many ways, my years in Raleigh were awkward, but I appreciated many of the old school journalists there. One was Mike Yopp, who I learned passed away recently. He taught me a lot about newspapering in North Carolina, and gracefully endured my California transplant ignorance of the South.

When I edited a Sunday section and suggested running a wire story about Alabama in it, he frowned and shook his head. “No, that’s the DEEP South,” he said with a hint of disdain about the topic. “We don’t cover that.”

It’s people like Mike who made Raleigh memorable, and I’m grateful for that.

Ezra Klein in The New York Times about our home state:

There is a danger — not just in California, but everywhere — that politics becomes an aesthetic rather than a program. It’s a danger on the right, where Donald Trump modeled a presidency that cared more about retweets than bills. But it’s also a danger on the left, where the symbols of progressivism are often preferred to the sacrifices and risks those ideals demand. California, as the biggest state in the nation, and one where Democrats hold total control of the government, carries a special burden. If progressivism cannot work here, why should the country believe it can work anywhere else?