Friday, June 27, 2014

My Blisters Have Blisters (And Other Unhappy Moments)

It's been a rough (checks calendar) almost three weeks. This stretch started June 8, when a 2 ww ended, reaffirming my infertility on the day I was having Mass said for all couples suffering from infertility and miscarriage. (Was it ironic or just appropriate? I have yet to decide.) On top of that, a family with five children, where the wife/mother looked almost a decade younger than me, came in late and sat in the pew right in front of us. At the end of Mass as they were filing out, the mother left first with the first couple of children, then the dad and the other two older children; it almost looked like they were leaving the baby behind. (Of course they didn't.) Normally I prefer not to bawl in public, but there was no stopping it. I just turned and buried my head in Husbandido's chest, sobbing. It wasn't pretty, and boy did I need to clean myself up afterwards. The one semi-redeeming moment came as we were leaving; an older couple that we had met during the Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues program during Lent came up to talk to us. To have them truly grieving with us, offering comfort, made a world of difference on a difficult day. As the young family that had sat in front of us walked out, this older couple approached them, let them know that we had requested the Mass, explained that them sitting in front of us was difficult, and asked them to pray for us. It's certainly not something I would have done; they did absolutely wrong (in fact, Husbandido later commented on how good of a job they are doing; the kids were following along, mostly paying attention [no snacks, toys, etc]), but it felt so good in that moment to not be invisible, to have someone acknowledge and recognize our suffering. And it never hurts to have more people praying. (How many people bother to read the bulletin for the Mass intentions, I do not know.)

Around that same time, my aunt caused a whole bunch of drama by announcing (less than two weeks in advance) that the Saturday picnic at the family reunion would be potluck. And by the time I got the e-mails (we had been at a dance class), there were already more than 10 e-mails, claiming all the easy stuff. I was pissed off to no end because attending this family reunion was already costing us a lot, and I had to bring my own food for much of it. Now, I was being asked to also bring food for 24 that somehow would not spoil or melt despite the fact that we were traveling 10 hours, spread out over 2 days. It would probably be accurate to say that I threw a gigantic hissy fit. To be honest, I was not enthusiastic about going in the first place. At a previous gathering my grandmother had explicitly commented on how seeing the little ones was the most important part. (Mmmmkay, so I'm traveling 10 hours and spending hundreds of dollars why? Yeah, yeah, yeah... good old guilt. My grandmother turned 89 this year, so there is not guarantee that she will be around much longer; I would feel horrible if she died, and we hadn't seen her in over a year.)

Somewhere in there, Husbandido's sister caused a stir on that side of the family by suggesting, a week before Father's Day, that there should be a fishing trip for Father's Day and that her husband was out of town for work, so somebody else should organize it. Oh and that there should be going out to eat, never mind that we had previously arranged with Husbandido's parents that we were making enchiladas. Yeah... Eventually that got scaled back to bowling, but all the last minute decision making was driving me bonkers.

In the midst of all that, I managed to get royally mixed up about when our follow-up with our FCP was, missing the appointment and effectively doubling the cost. (No, I didn't have anything else I might have wanted to do with that money, really.) It didn't help that my phone and computer weren't playing well together with my calendar, which still haven't completely fixed.

Father's Day itself seemed like it might not be too bad, except I wasn't feeling very well. Queasy just doesn't do good things to my patience levels. And of course that would be the day Husbandido's oldest brother's wife (one of these days I really will put together a cast of characters post, to better keep track of who is who) brought up politics and then tried to bait our MIL about the Pope changing everything, especially with regards to gays. Needless to say, my patience for such things was nonexistent. I kind of injured Husbandido digging my nails into his hand about the political discussion, but totally erupted over the whole "the Pope is changing everything" thing. Yes, the Pope did say "Who am I to judge?" but that was in the context of someone who is genuinely seeking God and trying to live a holy life. (I get really sick of people playing gotcha games with what the Pope has said, speaking off the cuff.)

Last Wednesday we were scheduled to have someone come in and fix our bay window, which  keeps fogging up; of course the only time he could come was the first time in 5 months that I was scheduled to have my hair done. I initially canceled the appointment, then got into an argument with Husbandido because he didn't want me to cancel the appointment. He ended up calling the salon back to see if I could have my appointment back; I felt bad for the poor receptionist. He took a half day, and I had my hair lopped off (and colored). I do mean lopped off; it was past my shoulder blades, and now it's short. Not chin-length, not a bob, but short short. It's taken me a little while to get used to it, but Husbandido and everyone else has liked it. (And really, why does it take longer to style short hair than long hair?) 

Thursday I got up horribly early to drop Husbandido off at work, then come home and finish packing. An accident on I-79 meant I was late for picking him up from work and thus late for our rescheduled follow up. Fortunately our FCP didn't mind too much. Then our journey took us to Columbus, in anticipation of an 8:50 doctor's appointment. After not much sleep, we got up and headed to the doctor's office, only to find out that he was tied up with a delivery. Our appointment was moved to 10:00; I made sure that they now had my cell phone number, and we went for a walk. While we were walking around I got a call saying that the appointment would have to be moved back to noon. I wouldn't have minded quite so much except we had stayed overnight to be able to make the appointment (traveling for 3 hours before a 9:00 am appointment was not going to happen) and we had 7 hours drive to get to the family reunion afterwards. I think I ended up getting a bit sunburned as well as developing blisters in our three hours of walking around. Graeter's Ice Cream was wonderful, as always. Somehow it seems like every appointment we have with our doctor there is a bombshell dropped. This time he announced that he thinks there is a 60 to 70% chance that I have endometriosis, and it's time to schedule surgery. Part of me is resistant to the idea that have endometriosis; I have no family history of it, and I don't really have any of the symptoms (except infertility and possibly long periods). This will be my fifth surgery total, and I'm not particularly enthusiastic about getting cut open again. It doesn't help that I tend not to do well with anesthesia or strong pain meds. (It would be an understatement to say that I dislike throwing up.) 

We didn't get to my grandmother's in western central Illinois until late in the evening. I will say that I ended up making something of a dramatic entrance; my mother asked if I had had my doctor's appointment (she hadn't listened to any of the 5 voice mails I had left), and I promptly announced that I was having surgery in early August. I'd call that an entrance. Plus there was the whole lack of hair thing, too. Saturday was the picnic, which went well despite the heat and humidity. We had brought charcoal and bought sausages at the local grocery store. I had been volunteered to run the gag gift exchange, which most people enjoyed. It wasn't until Saturday dinner that I ran into problems. It started with my aunt mishearing something my oldest cousin's wife had said. My aunt then asked for clarification, wondering if she had missed that my oldest cousin's daughter was getting married. His wife answered not with a "no," but with "She has all the time in the world." Having just been told that my age was a risk factor for endo, as well as freely acknowledging the decline in fertility that comes with age, I took issue with that. Sure, if she doesn't want children, she has all the time in the world. But if she wants children, she would do well to be aware of the strong correlation between age and infertility. I got a bit heated about the topic, especially since my cousin's wife seemed to have sympathy for our plight (and yes, I got into the doctors, costs, surgery, that insurance covers next to nothing). Now granted, some of that may be related to the fact that cousin and his wife wanted to borrow money from my parents; my parents would have lent it to them, but they would have had to learn about managing money and get better at it. Said cousin and his wife have been pissed off at my parents ever since, and that happened several years ago. Walking around after dinner Saturday was when my blisters grew baby blisters. Sunday lunch was the final event of the family reunion, and the focus was clearly on the great grands. It's getting a little easier for me as they grow and develop more distinct personalities. The drive back was long, but spending roughly 22 hours in the car between Thursday and Sunday will do that to you. (And of course, in the midst of all this, Sunday was peak day.)

Oh, and to top things off Husbandido's family has a huge family and friends cookout on the Fourth of July, and of course, the little ones are always the center of attention.

Thank you for putting up with my whining for so long! I'll try not to complain so much next time.

Friday, June 6, 2014


I was 17; it was my first trip outside of the U.S. I was with a group from my high school, partnered with students from two other American schools. Of course we saw Paris, Versailles, the Loire Valley, the Bayeux Tapestry, Mont St. Michel, Monmartre, and Notre Dame de Paris. As much as I loved the churches and castles, full of history and intrigues, what struck me the most was the American Cemetery at Normandy. Words cannot begin to describe the sight of row after row of white crosses, almost as far as the eye can see. An occasional Star of David interrupts the rows of white crosses. Even pictures struggle to capture the enormity of the cemetery. According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, 9,386 Americans are buried in the Normandy cemetery; 14,000 others were originally buried in the area, but their bodies were returned home at the request of their families. At the base of the monument there was a slip of paper encased in plastic listing the names and ages of young men who lied about their ages in order to be able to enlist; the youngest was 12. It was just two weeks after the 50th anniversary of D-Day; the welcome the people of Normandy gave to even American students was humbling. As we visited the D-Day beaches, museum, and cemetery, we encountered a few veterans, their memories and pride clear on their faces. 

Twenty years have passed, and I am still very much in awe of those young men, most them younger than I am now. Though they were scared, they followed orders, did what needed to be done. How can we not be humbled by their sacrifice?

Would You Be A Grandfather Today?

Fifty years ago you took these beaches,
From the Nazi Germans who had taken France,
You died here, in Normandy, so very far from home.
My grandfathers fought this war, too,
But they survived, returned home, raised families.
Would you have done this, too?
Standing here, looking at your marble crosses, 
I realize that had they not survived, I would not be here today.
If you had survived the D-Day beaches,
Would you be a grandfather today?                        

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Right Number

When you stay up until 4 am, as Rebecca and I did not so long ago, you're prone to 'solving' the problems of the world (or at least thinking you have, assuming the world would actually listen to you). One of the many topics that came up during our wide-ranging conversation (seriously, you can cover a lot in that many hours of talking) was that of family size, the mythical perfect number. 

Our Western secular culture adamantly insists that one, maybe two children is the right number, if you must have children at all. (Don't you know that humans are a scourge on the planet and there needs to be vastly fewer of them? [please note that this is a real attitude that some environmentalists have developed]). If you have more than that, how can you possible give them all the attention that they need? Besides, it is so very expensive to raise children (especially in proper style, with smartphone by age 12... or is it 8 now?), not to mention the insane cost of college. And you need to make sure that you can afford the occasional luxuries for yourself, a massage, pedicure, something to relieve the stress of dealing with those little tyrants day after day. (Please note that I am in no way, shape or form arguing that parents do not need to take care of themselves; I am only arguing against the way our culture insists that caring for oneself must be done in a consumeristic manner.) Granted, this cultural pressure is far better than what women face in China, where a permit is needed for each pregnancy, and unlicensed pregnancies are subject to forced abortion. The one child policy has so permeated the culture that in areas of China where families are being encouraged to have a second child, surveys show that most couples prefer to have only one, desiring to lavish all their attention and material goods on a single child. Yet even the cultural pressure in our own country towards having small families can feel oppressive. 

Perhaps to counter the materialistic pressure towards small families, as well as to emphasize the importance of openness to life, Catholic culture has at some times and places, gone too far in the opposite direction. How often has the statement "Big is good, small is bad," spoken or unspoken, reared its ugly head in Catholic circles? How often has someone said "So-and-so has 10 children; she must be a saint?" How frequently are assumptions made about those of us who have few or no children? For that matter, how often do we have to argue that yes, we are a family, even if we have no children? How often do we listen to a homily discussing child-rearing as the experience of learning sacrifice and suffering for another? Unintentionally, while arguing that every life has value, our Church sometimes devalues a life without children; in continually emphasizing the need to be open to life and be fruitful, the Church more often needs to acknowledge that "open to life" does not always mean children. In seeming to say that bigger is better, do we not inadvertently push couples towards the ART industry? If they are constantly fed the lie that children are the only or best fruit of a marriage, how much harder is it to resist the temptation to have a child at any cost? 

Better that we should change our message: the right number of children for a family is however many God sends. For some families, that will be 10 or more, for others perhaps 2, and yet others that right number will be none, as heartbreaking as it may be. Being open to life is not a guarantee that we will have a set number of children, or even any; being open to life means acknowledging that God could heal us and grant us a child, while still accepting that it may not come to pass. It is being open to whatever mission God has planned for us in this life, whether it involves children or not. It was beautiful to see that Pope Francis separated those dealing with infertility from those giving in to the "culture of comfort" (see here). Of course each and every one of us has our own hopes, dreams, and plans, including how many children we desire; some will see those plans come to fruition, while others will be lead to a different path. Let us not fixate on some perfect number, but endeavor to trust God and His plans.